Tag Archives: working

For Sale – AMD Ryzen 9 3950X Retail Boxed, ASUS ROG X570 Crosshair VIII Hero (Wi-Fi) Motherboard, Zotac 2080Ti

On the basis that it’s working at the moment, I don’t see any reason why it would break.

I probably should try to knock that £25 back off but I’m happy to take at asking.

(it’s not as if I’m going to build it for a couple of weeks anyway as I need to sort out the rest of my watercooling kit).

Go to Original Article

For Sale – 8TB HDD’s

I have the following 8TB drives for sale, warranty is up on all of them but all working as they should.
Reason for sale is I upgraded to 14TB drives.

Seagate ST8000DM002 No Warranty (ended August 2018) Power On Hours
Seagate ST8000VN002 No Warranty (ended April 2019) Power On Hours 18579
Seagate ST8000VN002 No Warranty (ended April 2019) Power On Hours 18584

£125.00 each shipped RMSD mainland UK

Have a 6TB WD Red potentially to list once I get around to it.

I have a 14TB Western Digital Red drive for sale, it came out of a external duo drive but it’s a red label with 3 years warranty (will get exact warranty date)
Reason for sale is I upgraded all of my NAS drives and this one was left over/not needed, opened but unused.

£280.00 shipped RMSD mainland UK

Sold to alitech £440
Seagate ST8000DM002 No Warranty (ended August 2018) Power On Hours 926
Seagate ST8000DM002 No Warranty (ended August 2018) Power On Hours 939
Western Digital WD80EFZX No Warranty (ended July 2019) Power On Hours 973
Western Digital WD80EFZX No Warranty (ended July 2019) Power On Hours 953

Go to Original Article

Customer service agents, chatbots dial up empathy in pandemic

Contact centers are finding that customer service agents working from home and the chatbots that assist them need to keep up with rapidly evolving customer needs in order to maintain quality of service.

Pandemic customer service means discussing financial hardship with customers 2.5 times more frequently, according to data collected by AI customer service cloud vendor Tethr, spanning more than a million calls across many verticals for two weeks in March. These and other conversations companies scored as “difficult” have doubled during the pandemic, and account for 10% to 20% of call volume, depending on industry.

These calls stress human customer service agents and take longer to resolve. Relaxing stringent payment policies for companies such as utilities, or easing cancellation and rebooking fees for travel companies can reduce agent stress and the time they take to solve customer issues, said Matt Dixon, Tethr chief product and research officer.

If those avenues aren’t available to agents, he added, retraining them to frame answers more sympathetically can make both customer and agent feel like they’re making the best out of a bad situation. One example would be to say “Let’s see how I can help you,” rather than giving customers bad news outright.

“The issues themselves aren’t unique [to pandemic customer service],” Dixon said. “There’s just a big increase in them, and there’s a lot of friction created where the policies themselves haven’t been adapted to reflect the current environment.”

Accenture COVID-19 international consumer pulse poll data
The shifting circumstances of consumers greatly affect customer service during pandemic times.

Examining call data first priority

Figuring out what’s changing in pandemic customer support begins with collecting contact data. AI-powered speech analytics technology for call centers can help customer service agents analyze trends across multiple channels such as voice, chat and even interactive voice response (IVR) automated answering systems, said Nancy Jamison, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

“If you’re using speech analytics, you’re going to start seeing things pop up,” Jamison said. “You’re going to get your word clouds, it’s going to show you what people are talking about, and you can do trend analysis.”

During the pandemic, customer service automation can help agents and chatbots adapt to changing customer needs and maintain quality of service by keeping hold times down and more quickly answering customer questions, Jamison said.

None of this is rocket science. We have different tools to enable us to know how to change.
Nancy JamisonAnalyst, Frost & Sullivan

Companies that have equipped agents with unified desktops and assistive technologies that analyze speech in real time and suggest content, alter call routing and update scripts to help solve customer issues will be several steps ahead of those that haven’t. Those using AI in chatbots and agent-assist tools can adapt fastest.

Consider the touchy example of debt collection: Using speech analytics and sentiment analysis, a contact center might see that more people are reporting financial difficulties due to job or health disruptions since COVID-19 began to spread. Changing to a sympathetic tone and offering help through extended payment plans or other forms of relief changes the tone of the calls.

“It takes the burden off the agent,” Jamison said. “None of this is rocket science. We have different tools to enable us to know how to change.”

Keeping chatbots on point

Accenture clients fall into three categories when it comes to deploying and adjusting messages to meet the needs of customers affected by COVID-19, said Dawn Anderson, a senior managing director at the professional services company that is based in Dublin. The most proactive are in sectors such as banking and travel, whose call centers are swamped with calls since the pandemic and must quickly determine how to best handle it.

“Suddenly, they got this onslaught — some was normal volume, some of it to deal with COVID-19,” Anderson said. “They were empathetic before, but in that situation they have had to become even more empathetic in terms of how they’re handling those interactions.”

A second category, she said, includes companies getting more business — and therefore, more customer support tickets in general — as the world has shifted to remote work en masse, such as in the telecommunications sector. Those companies don’t necessarily need to layer extra empathy on to their messages, but instead need to automate and streamline as many workflows as possible to provide the most efficient pandemic customer service.

A third group, the public sector and healthcare, are just getting started with virtual assistants as they realize they need automation to best deliver their services while needs increase among patients and constituents, yet with social distancing and safety in mind. Those groups require empathy mixed with straightforward, unvarnished information in their messaging.

Adapting AI to pandemic times is complicated by changing business models, too, Anderson said. Accenture clients are working to add more human-sounding language to their virtual assistants, which can sometimes take away from the efficiency of the conversation.

Speed of deployment of virtual assistants is of the essence, said Athina Kanioura, Accenture chief analytics officer. The services firm advises companies that need to set up new virtual assistants to keep it simple as possible and build in features later.

“Clients want to set up something extremely fast,” Kanioura said. Numerous Accenture clients have set up customer service chatbots that can answer frequently asked questions, and plan to add analytics, AI frameworks and other data tools when customer contact volumes subside and the world returns to business as usual. “We probably haven’t slept for three months because of the demand in this space.”

Go to Original Article

For Sale – PC Specialist Ultranote Laptop 14″ 1080p, i7 8550u, 8gb, 500gb

Great laptop. Perfect for working from home. It’s nice and light too so easy to take out and about with you – once we’re out of lockdown!

Here’s the spec:

i7 8550u processor
8gb ram (upgradable)
500gb HDD (upgradable)
14″ 1080p screen

snappy little laptop

Good condition, there are some scratches to the top of the lid which I’ve tried to show in the photos and a couple of super minor marks on the edges. No impact on use and price is reduced to reflect them. Screen is lovely, no marks, and the keyboard is super nice to type on. Really like it.

Reason for sale, person I got this for has decided they prefer a desktop.

I’d like £300 for it

Go to Original Article

Companies bolster endpoint data protection for remote work

With more people working from home due to the coronavirus, some companies have had to adjust how they handle backup and business continuity.

The spread of COVID-19, which is the disease caused by the new coronavirus, created a unique challenge for data protection experts. Instead of threatening data or applications, this disaster directly affects personnel. Because of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, many employees must work remotely. Not all businesses’ IT infrastructure can easily accommodate this shift.

In recent months, MDL AutoMation, based out of Roswell, Ga., has been testing a business continuity plan for when its employees can no longer come to work. This includes Carbonite software installed on all laptops, Dell DDPE encryption and Absolute DDS for asset tracking and security. This level of endpoint data protection is largely unnecessary when everyone works in the office, but MDL AutoMation manager of infrastructure Eric Gutmann said they may not have that option for long.

“We will be able to continue functioning as a company with all our employees working remotely as if they were in the office,” Gutmann said.

MDL is a software company that sells car tracking capabilities to car dealerships. It has a client base of about 250 dealerships and manages 1.4 TB of data gathered from IoT devices.

Gutmann said he has VPN and remote desktop protocol (RDP) ready, and the switch to remote working and enhanced endpoint data protection is meant to be temporary. He is prepared to implement it for two months.

No going back

Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting, said it’s highly unlikely that any business that implements endpoint data protection will want to go back. Endpoint data protection is a separate investment from workstation data protection and involves extra security measures such as geolocation and remote wiping. Businesses that do not already have this will need to invest time and money into such a system, and will likely want to keep it after making that investment.

Many businesses may already be in a good position to support remote work. Staimer said organizations that use virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) do not have to worry about backing up laptops, and less data-intensive businesses can have everyone work off of the cloud. Bandwidth is also much more abundant now, eliminating what used to be a roadblock to remote work.

With SaaS-based applications such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google Docs and cloud-based storage such as OneDrive and Dropbox, teleworking isn’t complicated to implement. The difficulty, according to Steven Hill, senior analyst at 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence, comes from making sure everything on the cloud is just as protected as anything on premises.

Unlike endpoint data protection, using the cloud is more about locking down storage being used than protecting multiple devices. Whether it’s Dropbox, OneDrive or a private cloud NAS, an administrator only has to worry about protecting and securing that one management point. Aside from native tools, third-party vendors such as Backblaze and CloudAlly can provide data protection for these storage environments.

“Rather than storing business information locally, you could dictate that everything goes to and comes from the cloud,” Hill said.

Staimer said the pandemic will make many businesses realize they don’t need all of their workers in a single location. While some organizations won’t treat the coronavirus seriously enough to implement any of these systems, Staimer expects that for many, it will be the impetus to do what they should’ve been doing.

Coronavirus is going to change the way we work — permanently.
Marc StaimerPresident, Dragon Slayer Consulting

“Coronavirus is going to change the way we work — permanently,” Staimer said.

For some businesses, the biggest challenge will be accommodating workers who cannot perform their jobs from home. They may include partners or customers, as well as a company’s employees.

KCF Technologies, based in State College, Penn., which manufactures industrial diagnostic equipment, is already invested in endpoint data protection. Myron Semack, chief infrastructure architect at KCF, said the company is cloud-centric and many of its workers can work from anywhere.

However, the business would still be impacted if it or its customers go into lockdown because of the coronavirus. Not only would KCF be unable to produce its sensor products, but any installation or project work in the field would have to be suspended. This isn’t anything IT can fix.

“Our manufacturing line employees cannot work from home, unfortunately. If they were forced to stay home, our ability to build or ship product would be impacted,” Semack said.

Go to Original Article

Workspot VDI key to engineering firm’s pandemic planning

Like many companies, Southland Industries is working to accelerate its virtualization plans in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The mechanical engineering firm, which is based in Garden Grove, Calif., and has seven main offices across the U.S., has been using the Workspot Workstation Cloud virtual desktop service. Combined with Microsoft Azure Cloud, Workspot’s service enables engineers to build design-intensive work at home and enables Southland to keep pace as technology advances. When COVID-19 emerged, the company was transitioning users in the mid-Atlantic states to virtual desktops.

Israel Sumano, senior director of infrastructure at Southland Industries, recently spoke about making the move to virtual desktops and the challenges posed by the current public health crisis.

How did your relationship with Workspot first begin?

Israel SumanoIsrael Sumano

Israel Sumano: We were replicating about 50 terabytes across 17 different locations in the U.S. real-time, with real-time file launches. It became unsustainable. So over the last five years, I’ve tested VDI solutions — Citrix, [VMware] Horizon, other hosted solutions, different types of hardware. We never felt the performance was there for our users.

When Workspot came to us, I liked it because we were able to deploy within a week. We tested it on on-prem hardware, we tested it on different cloud providers, but it wasn’t until we had Workspot on [Microsoft] Azure that we were comfortable with the solution.

For us to build our own GPU-enabled VDI systems [needed for computing-intensive design work], we probably would have spent about $4 million, and they would have been obsolete in about six years. By doing it with Microsoft, we were able to deploy the machines and ensure they will be there and upgradeable. If a new GPU comes out, we can upgrade to the new GPU and it won’t be much cost to us to migrate.

How has your experience in deploying Workspot been so far? What challenges have you met?

Sumano: It was a battle trying to rip the PCs from engineers’ hands. They had a lot of workstations [and] they really did not want to give them up. We did the first 125 between October 2017 and February 2018. … That pushed back the rest of the company by about a year and a half. We didn’t get started again until about October of 2019. By that time, everyone had settled in, and they all agreed it was the best thing we’ve ever done and we should push forward. That’s coming from the bottom up, so management is very comfortable now doing the rest of the company.

How did you convince workers that the virtualization service was worthwhile?

Sumano: They were convinced when they went home and were able to work, or when they were in a hotel room and they were able to work. When they were at a soccer match for their kids, and something came up that needed attention right away, they pulled out their iPads and were able … to manipulate [designs] or check something out. That’s when it kicked in.

In the past, when they went to a job site, [working] was a really bad experience. We invested a lot of money into job sites to do replication [there].

[With Workspot,] they were able to pick up their laptops, go to the job site and work just like they were at the office.

The novel coronavirus has forced companies to adopt work-at-home policies. What is Southland’s situation?

Sumano: We have offices in Union City [California], which is Marin County, and they were ordered to stay in place, so everyone was sent home there. We just got notice that Orange County will be sent home. Our Las Vegas offices have also been sent home.

Our job sites are still running, but having this solution has really changed the ability for these engineers to go home and work. Obviously, there’s nothing we can do about the shops — we need to have people on-hand at the shop, [as] we’re not fully automated at that level.

On the construction site, we need guys to install [what Southland has designed]. Those are considered critical by the county. They’re allowed to continue work at the job sites, but everybody from the offices has been set home, and they’re working from home.

We hadn’t done the transition for the mid-Atlantic division to Workspot. We were planning on finishing that in the next 10 weeks. We are now in a rush and plan on finishing it by next Friday. We’re planning on moving 100 engineers to Workspot, so they’re able to go home.

How has it been, trying to bring many workers online quickly?

Sumano: I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve implemented large virtual-desktop and large Citrix environments in the past. It’s always been a year to a year-and-a-half endeavor.

We are rushing it for the mid-Atlantic. We’d like to take about 10 weeks to do it — to consolidate servers and reduce footprint. We’re skipping all those processes right now and just enacting [virtualization] on Azure, bringing up all the systems as-is and then putting everyone onto those desktops.

Has the new remote-work situation been a strain on your company’s infrastructure?

Sumano: The amount of people using it is exactly the same. We haven’t heard any issues about internet congestion — that’s always a possibility with more and more people working from home. It’s such a small footprint, the back-and-forth chatter between Workspot and your desktop, that it shouldn’t be affected much.

What’s your level of confidence going forward, given that this may be a protracted situation?

Sumano: We’re very confident. We planned on being 100% Azure-based by December 2020. We’re well on track for doing that, except for, with what’s happening right now, there was a bit of a scramble to get people who didn’t have laptops [some] laptops. There’s a lot of boots on the ground to get people able to work from home.

Most of our data is already on Azure, so it’s a very sustainable model going forward, unless there’s a hiccup on the internet.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Go to Original Article

Remote work shift may boost SaaS management platforms

In Milan, Ivan Fioravanti, CTO at CoreView, is working from home, like so many others because of the coronavirus. In Italy, the outbreak has caused a rapid shift to remote work. His firm makes a SaaS management platform for cloud-based SaaS systems, including Office 365, something that may gain HR’s interest, especially as remote work increases.

Features include workflow management and administration, but a SaaS management platform like the one from CoreView, which has dual headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., and Italy, can also help HR departments and business managers get a better understanding for the productivity of employees.

SaaS applications connect through APIs into the cloud-based management platform to provide application usage data. This can include anything from companywide usage to employee-specific data on applications such as Outlook, Skype or Teams, whether the employee is in the office or remote.

This monitoring capability may appeal to firms new to remote working, said David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc, an HR consulting firm in Norwalk, Conn.

Firms are now adopting remote work that “were not interested in it before,” Lewis said. “And that breeds a certain lack of sophistication about remote work.”

Indeed, he said, the coronavirus will have a major impact on how work gets done. “The number of companies that will have people working remotely will outnumber the number of companies that don’t,” he said.

Employees may see this type of monitoring as big brotherish, Lewis said. But it may “calm the concerns and paranoia that tends to creep in to most managers” about remote workers, he said. Managers may be concerned that employees working from home are distracted and not giving the job the time it needs, he said.

Ivan FioravantiIvan Fioravanti

This shift to remote work is happening quickly in Milan, Fioravanti said. The coronavirus problem is “really becoming worse day after day,” he said. Italy this week closed schools until March 15. Universities are closing as well, and the government is urging seniors to remain at home.

“Very few people are going to the office,” Fioravanti said. “If you go outside in the city, you see very few people around.”

SaaS management platform functions

Firms that are shifting to remote work and have invested in a SaaS management platform can decide on the level of monitoring they want, whether it’s a department, team or individual usage, Fioravanti said. Individual level monitoring can tell whether an employee is responding to such things as emails and chats and is engaged with co-workers and thirds parties, he said.

Along with providing insights into how an application is used, usage data can tell whether a firm needs all the seat licenses it is paying for. Workflow features can be used to speed up onboarding, and SaaS management platforms often provide embedded learning tools, such as short videos for ongoing training, on specific applications. The platforms also include licensing management and IT security functions, such as role-based access controls.

If there is fear of an employee backlash, or legal restrictions in some countries about employee monitoring, the system can be configured to anonymize users, Fioravanti said.

It’s the team’s productivity that matters more than individual metrics.
Manjunath BhatAnalyst, Garnter

Gartner analyst Manjunath Bhat said SaaS management platforms “are increasingly becoming important to manage, govern and secure SaaS applications.”

“It’s less about measuring individual productivity, and more about ensuring that employees are making use of the productivity tools at their disposal — and doing so in secure and compliant ways,” he said.

Bhat advised against using SaaS management platforms to monitor individual employees.

“Organizations will see employee backlash if the tools are used to target and penalize individuals for not using productivity apps,” Bhat said. What’s important to measure is the application’s “contribution toward business outcomes and not individual output,” he said.

“It’s the team’s productivity that matters more than individual metrics,” Bhat said.

Go to Original Article

What’s new with PowerShell error handling?

Hitting errors — and resolving them — is an inevitable part of working with technology, and PowerShell is no exception.

No one writes perfect code. Your scripts might have a bug or will need to account for when a resource gets disconnected, a service hits a problem, or an input file is badly formatted. Learning how to interpret an error message, discover the root cause and handle the error gracefully is an important part of working with PowerShell. The development team behind the open source version of PowerShell 7 has improved PowerShell error handling both when you run a script and when you enter commands in a shell.

This article walks you through PowerShell error handling in a simple script and introduces several new features in PowerShell 7 that make the process more user-friendly.

How to find PowerShell 7

To start, be sure you have PowerShell 7 installed. This is the latest major release for the tool that had been called PowerShell Core up until the release of version 7. Microsoft still supports the Windows PowerShell 5.1 version but does not plan to give it the new features that the project team develops for open source PowerShell.

PowerShell 7 is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. The latest version can be installed from the PowerShell GitHub page.

On Windows, you can also use PowerShell 7 in the new Windows Terminal application, which offers improvements over the old Windows console host.

Error messages in previous PowerShell versions

A common problem for newcomers to Windows PowerShell 5.1 and the earlier PowerShell Core releases is that when something goes wrong, it’s not clear why.

For example, imagine you want to export a list of local users to a CSV file, but your script contains a typo:

Get-LocalUser |= Export-Csv local_users.csv

This is what you would see when you run the script:

PowerShell error message
Before the PowerShell 7 release, this is the type of error message that would display if there was a typo in a command.

The error code contains critical information — there’s an equals symbol that doesn’t belong — but it can be difficult to find in the wall of red text.

A longtime variable gets new purpose

Did you know that PowerShell has a preference variable called $ErrorView? Perhaps not because until now, it hasn’t been very useful.

The $ErrorView variable determines what information gets sent to the console and how it is formatted when an error occurs. The message can vary if you’re running a script file as opposed to entering a command in the shell.

In previous versions of PowerShell, $ErrorView defaulted to NormalView — this is the source of the wall of red text seen in the previous screenshot.

That all changes with PowerShell 7. There’s a new option for $ErrorView that is now the default called ConciseView.

Errors get clearer formatting in PowerShell 7

When we run the same command with the error in PowerShell 7 with the new default ConciseView, the error message is easier to understand.

ConciseView option
The new ConciseView option reduces the clutter and highlights the error location with a different color.

The new PowerShell error handling highlights the problem area in the command with a different color and does not overload you with too much information.

Let’s fix the typo and continue testing.

Shorter errors in the shell

Another error you might encounter when writing to a CSV is that the target file is locked. For example, it’s possible the file is open in Excel.

If you’re using PowerShell as a shell, the new default ErrorView will now give you just the error message with no extraneous information. You can see the length of the error from Windows PowerShell 5.1 and its NormalView below.

Windows PowerShell error message
The default error message in Windows PowerShell 5.1 provides a lot of information but not in a useful manner.

In contrast, PowerShell error handling in the newest version of the automation tool provides a more succinct message when a problem occurs due to the ConciseView option.

PowerShell 7 error message
The ConciseView option provides a more straightforward error message when a problem with a command occurs.

You can much more easily see that the file is locked and start thinking about fixing the problem.

Learning how to explore error records

We’ve seen how PowerShell 7 improves error messages by providing just the information you need in a more structured manner. But what should you do if you need to dig deeper? Let’s find out by continuing to use this error as an example: “The process cannot access the file … because it is being used by another process.”

Taking the terror out of $Error

Every time PowerShell encounters an error, it’s written to the $Error automatic variable. $Error is an array and the most recent error is $Error[0].

To learn more about the your most recent error in previous versions of PowerShell, you would explore $Error[0] with cmdlets such as Select-Object and Format-List. This type of examination is laborious: You can only expand one property at a time, and it’s easy to miss vital nested information contained in a handful of properties.

For example, look at the output from the command below.

$Error[0] | Select-Object *
$Error automatic variable
The $Error automatic variable in PowerShell before version 7 stored errors but was not flexible enough to give a deeper look at the properties involved.

There’s no way of knowing that a wealth of valuable data lives under the properties Exception and InvocationInfo. The next section shows how to get at this information.

Learning to explore with Get-Error

PowerShell 7 comes with a new cmdlet called Get-Error that gives you a way to survey all the information held within a PowerShell error record.

Run without any arguments, Get-Error simply shows the most recent error, as you can see in the screenshot below.

Get-Error cmdlet output
The new Get-Error cmdlet in PowerShell 7 gives you an easier way to get more information about errors.

You are immediately shown the hierarchy of useful objects and properties nested inside the error record. For example, you can see the Exception property isn’t a dump of information; it contains child properties, some of which have their own children.

If you want to reuse the error message in your code to write it to a log file or the Event Viewer, then you can use the following command to store the message:


Use ErrorVariable to store error records

The Get-Error cmdlet also accepts error records from the pipeline. This is particularly handy if you use the -ErrorVariable common parameter to store errors for later inspection, which you can do with the following code:

# +myErrors means "add error to $myErrors variable"
Get-LocalUser | Export-Csv local_users.csv -ErrorVariable +myErrors
# Inspect the errors with Get-Error
$myErrors | Get-Error

By using Get-Error, you can see that an ErrorVariable holds information somewhat differently than the $Error variable. The error message is present in several places, most simply in a property named Message, as shown in the following screenshot.

ErrorVariable parameter
Using the ErrorVariable parameter gives a more flexible way to log errors rather than using the $Error variable, which saves every error in a session.

Bringing it all together

You’ve now used Get-Error to inspect error records, both from your shell history and from an ErrorVariable, and you’ve seen how to access a property of the error.

The final step is to tie everything together by reusing the property in your script. This example stores errors in $myErrors and writes any error messages out to a file:

Get-LocalUser | Export-Csv local_users.csv -ErrorVariable +myErrors
if ($myErrors) {
$myErrors.Message | Out-File errors.log -Append

If you want to get serious about scripting and automation, then it’s worth investigating the PowerShell error handling now that it got a significant boost in version 7. It’s particularly helpful to store errors to a variable for later investigation or to share with a colleague.

Go to Original Article