Why don’t education reporters ask Charter schools these five questions?

Education reporters write articles like the one below, which complaining about large class sizes, but don’t ask Charter schools how they manage to keep their classes small. They complain about schools not having enough money for IT and teachers not being paid enough, but don’t ask Charter schools how they do it despite tight budgets and less money than a State school of the same size.

Growing class sizes, pay levels for teachers and an increase in technology are the top concerns for Kiwi parents, a survey has revealed.

As the school year begins, almost half of respondents to an unscientific Herald on Sunday survey of 160 parents of primary-aged children, were concerned about the high number of pupils in each class. Three-quarters said teachers were not paid enough and 80 per cent were concerned that their children spent too much time focused on screens.

Some parents the Herald spoke to said class sizes needed to be limited and they feared further growth would lead to stressed teachers and poor academic results.

-Herald on Sunday

I would like education reporters to ask the following questions of the three Auckland Charter schools that I visited last year.

Read more »

A reader emails about Auckland Council’s IT blow out


A reader emails their thoughts on the Auckland Council IT debacle and predicts that it won’t be the last we hear about the wasteful and idiotic IT spend.


“An Auckland Council IT project originally budgeted to cost $71 million should be delivered for the new cost of $172 million”, says a senior council executive.

I just love how committed they sound…

This is absolutely bloody disgusting.  That is an overrun of $65 for every man woman and child in Auckland.

The council only has staff of 8000, meaning the number is $12,500 for every employee.  You could almost build a brand new infrastructure for that in the private sector, in fact it is basically the baseline average private sector IT cost per employee per annum gone out the window in one project overrun; this is $13164USD in a recent Gartner study.

Perversely over here one of the main guy’s responsible for it is being lauded as the next top future CIO:

“To try and achieve a world class IS transformation with a limited budget is of course a new challenge for me,” says Holtzhauzen.”

Quite.   Read more »


Labour in 2011 & National in 2002, Ctd

Yesterday I released Labour’s ICT policy, after mocking their Gay policy for not being able to say “Gay Marriage” or “Gay Adoption” last week.

Labour may not have noticed but National don’t actually have any policies released yet, let alone policies on Gays or ICT. All they have at the moment is seven hoardings with slogans. They have nothing about Gays or ICT on the slogans. Maybe National will release policies but going on the past two elections they wont be releasing policies on Gay or ICT or anything like that.

In 2002 National had 72 policies, mostly not released by the leader, and we all know Bill lead National to its lowest poll result ever. Labour are doing the same as Bill, releasing policies that voters don’t care about, and not having Phil front the launch.

Way Cool from Adidas

from Mashable

If you’re Adidas and you’ve got a Star Wars-inspired collection rolling out in January, what better way to promote it than by using social media? Adidas, however, has taken its online marketing initiative one step further integrating Facebook and Google Maps to create the Star Wars Death Star Superlaser.

The Adidas Originals application uses Facebook Connect to personalize the application experience, even granting you power over the Death Star control deck so you can blow up your Facebook friends’ streets with help from Google Maps.

The application experience is straight out of a Star Wars movie, and on the first go around you’ll notice that your location is the first target of the superlaser. After your street is blown to smithereens, however, you can target a friend’s location by selecting any one of your Facebook friends to attack. This is where the Google Maps integration comes into play; you can even fine tune the laser’s exact target using Street View if you so desire.

I took out the Pinko Blogger from Wellington.

Targeted DPF at Beehive with Deathstar

Targeted DPF at Beehive with Deathstar

Beehive and DPF gone

Beehive and DPF gone


What is going on at Waikato DHB?

I have received some correspondence about a massive snow job at Waikato DHB. On Thursday NZPA reported that a major computer virus outbreak had essentially shutdown all of the DHB’s 3000 plus computers. On Friday it was  reported that the DHB was now restarting all their PC’s after the incident, so far I haven’t heard how it all went.

My correspondent is a Senior IT person and is livid at what has gone on. The explanations given by spokes people at the DHB are laughable in the face of even basic knowledge of major IT systems. Anyway here is their take on issue, I couldn’t have written it better myself and I think a few judicious OIA requests may go in after the dust settles.

The problem with this incident in the Waikato is that it’s an identical incident to that of the MOH last year and must be indicative of a truly bizarre display of barrel scraping IT Management skills.  Despite what is said in the last part of the first article this is in no way caused by a lack of complex passwords nor will implementing them actually help prevent further outbreaks of similar worm or malware type attacks.
The point of infection must have been introduced by some numpty on an infected USB key and given that it was during some “systems upgrade” in the early hours of the morning, that person was in IT.  However the root cause which they’ll be trying hard to hide is that some utter utter fool allowed 3000+ PC’s to not have installed two very simple antivirus and Microsoft operating system patches that have been available for over 15 months.
“Retard” in the Paul Henry sense does not even begin to describe the managers responsible for letting this happen.  As if the MOH cluster f*ck this time last year wasn’t enough of a paint-by-numbers example of what not to do they’ve reproduced it perfectly at WDHB.  Those responsible at MOH got given the arse as soon as it was tidied up and I will expect the same again here.
But the loss to the public and the greater Waikato region is that grandma’s hip op is going to have to wait another month or so to happen and Uncle Jimmy’s hernia op may get cancelled due to the cost of the cleanup of this coming from somewhere.  MOH’s episode got buried in PR spin and legal threats to staff to never speak of it again.  I’d rather this one get a bit more visibility.
Also don’t read much into the “Microsoft called into help” bit, they’re not to blame, they’re there to help as part of the unique opportunity for them to negotiate new licensing and support terms for the next decade at exorbitant prices.  WDHB will be paying whatever MS ask for just so they can try and pass the blame by throwing the word Microsoft together with worm or security exploit in the media for the public to join the dots to for a diversion.
Like the MOH debacle I’d say they’re in lockdown facing disciplinary action if they comment on anything.  They must host their own website (as it’s utterly dead) so at this stage all we can go on is what is in the initial news report unless their comms team starts answering media enquiries.
From this  you can assume that A) they have an XP desktop environment which had conficker patches release by MS in Oct 08 and the major AV companies in Nov 08, that B) the benefits of their “Connected Health Network for Waikato project” haven’t quite played out as the small satellite health offices would have expected and that C) Alan Grainer will be having quite a different Christmas holiday than planned.
Maybe worth finding out how the average health clinic in Huntly is getting on with their PC’s if they’re part of the DHB WAN.  They’ll be waaaay down the priority list yet probably able to do nothing today if the infection was not stopped at the local DHB HQ subnets.
The CIO seems to have previously been a Programme Manager at Unisys and a variety of other roles so theoretically should know his arse from his elbow.  Although there’s a coincidentally unfortunate linking of him to Alan Hesketh CIO at the MOH here on page 12\13 of this.  I’d say they’ll certainly be on the phone together  sharing tips on things other than leadership today, perhaps virus cleaning, PR strategy and CV updating.
Anyway my rage is aimed at criminal incompetence in letting their site be so vulnerable, the process of infection and how it is actually translated to the public via the media.  Picking out statements from the Stuff and Herald articles so far:
“Waikato District Health Board has been crippled by a computer worm which has seen every PC in the organisation shut down”
Ok so over 3000+ PC’s are either infected or at risk of infection.   This means that identical to the MOH debacle in Dec last year, they have for some reason, either through oversight or genius leadership choice, not deployed a basic Windows update that was available in October 2008.  This patch was one that was flagged by MS and all  major vendors at the time as a must have due to possible exploit, not to mention the first 6 months of this year where we had Conficker paranoia frenzy in the media.  Even my grandmother was asking if her phone needing patching to prevent “these conficky worms”.
This patch is easily centrally deployable and took us all of 15 mins through automated policy at windows startup to get on every PC in a large PC environment with hundreds of PCs.  With a few weeks of network scans double checking every PC in the place to ensure they successfully received and installed it.  It’s a regular standard part of IT, this is not unusual, this is not hard, this does not cost additional taxpayer money, it is core operational work.
“Ms Gill said DHB technicians were working on a computer upgrade overnight when things started to go awry.”
Go awry???  Upgrading your HRIS system and then noticing your clever use of an infected USB key has spread a malicious worm throughout your 3000 PC network is not what I’d term “going awry”.  Thats what I’d term as brown trouser material and I’d have serious thoughts about a sudden new life of sustainable living in the Urewera’s…

“We brought in Microsoft and have been working with them through the night.”

Really! Bringing them in is of no real use for fixing this.  Any vendor like Gen-i, Datacom or Axon could assist just as well and likely better given that there isn’t a huge MS presence on the ground and each of those have sizeable presences in the Tron.  All Microsoft are involved for is as a PR stunt. Being able to hint at the ” Don’t worry we’ve called in the pro’s”, “its a microsoft security hole so we called them to sort it etc etc” type connotations.

All MS are going to do is sign them up to a long term and expensive support agreement as a pre-requisite to take part in this shambles.  Some form of OIA to MOH should show up the various MS deals that were signed there during and after that shambles as they did the exact same thing.  It’s not MS’s fault and they’ll accept no blame but they’ll put on a helpful display for it and make out like a bandit at the WHDB for a long time to come for this.

Conficka has been identified as the culprit.

Well yes and no.   A stingray was the culprit but Steve Irwin giving it a hug was more the reason.

“It reconstitutes itself as fast as you can fix it. It’s particularly virulent,” Ms Gill said.

It’s malicious SW, that’s what it does, that’s not new, that’s not unexpected.  You don’t clean a virus and then not expect it to return.  You have to patch the hole it came through then you clean it.  And the second problem with all this is the

“small pamphlet explaining the problem had been printed off-site “and people are running around distributing them” at the hospitals, Ms Gill said.”

Fantastic result if you are unable to clean and connect a small set of PC’s and a printer to manage this task then the liklihood of things being operational by days end is lets just say optimistic….

“Ms Gill said the shutdown would probably result in an “even more robust password system” being introduced.”

Huh??  Brain explosion here.  If I try and think this through they’re suggesting that the virus itself is cracking their authentication so they should increase the complexity of the passwords to make that task more difficult for the virus.  Not, that perhaps they should ensure the equipment is patched to prevent the hole the virus used to propagate in the first place or address the no brainer requirement that the Antivirus SW should be up to date so as to be able to clean the virus from any location it has spread to…..

“It has millions of computers now under it control in more than 200 countries, according to the New York Times”

I’m assuming the Herald etc added this as that’s somewhat ridiculous.  I would not be surprised if my porn surfing cousins PC became infected by conficker, I would however be concerned if my own home PC did and I am in a state of bubbling rage that any large government organisation could be in the situation that the WDHB finds itself.

I have been an IT Manager for quite a while and lurk in the public sector currently.  There’s good and there’s bad, but there’s always several key things that you know will get you fired (and so they should!).   Not mitigating risk by not patching your gear, be it pc’s, servers whatever, is one of these.  It requires several levels of decision making and process failure and I am very sick of it being made out by the organisations concerned as “just one of those things” and an accepted part of IT.  Heads should roll and sector wide audits need to happen.  Audit NZ gets involved in the financial aspects of our organisations, why isn’t DIA (which seems to house the all-of-govt IT initiatives now) tasked with preventing these events and pinpointing the failures when they do so that accountability is upheld.
If it goes like the MOH there’ll be a further series of bollocks press releases creatively interpreting the situation.  Like the MOH debacle I’d say they’re in lockdown facing disciplinary action if they comment on anything.
Agent “X” in the public sector