The Humane Society of the United States

Google App Engine Support

Why Google's $500 a month Enterprise Support for App Engine mysteriously takes a 6 hour break from 6pm to midnight (PST) might be explained by looking at a world timezone map compared to a map of Google offices around the world.

Do Google's office locations have any relation to the concentration of App Engine users? If so, this may be the least disruptive period since most of the 6 business hours affected are over the Pacific. Are there many (any?) App Engine users in Japan, New Zealand, Australia or surrounding areas?

On the other hand, it could be to provide an exclusive window for third-party support from companies like Cloud Sherpas.

But then again, maybe running an around-the-clock technical support help-desk operation is just not what Google does best.

Google is, after all, an innovator.

Google creates leading-edge software systems. Their culture is one where everyone is thought of as a superstar... or an aspiring one. Google hires and promotes self-motivated, creative, impatient, out-of-the-box personalities.

While the best help desk people are compassionate, patient, methodical, thorough personalities that enjoy the satisfaction and confidence that comes from knowing the answers (Most of the the time. If they could just get the caller to ask the right question.)

It would make sense to outsource the help desk... but the logistics can never work.

How can a third-party keep its staff up-to-date with almost daily changes?

We are rapidly coming to expect software problems, particularly online software problems, to be fixed in a matter of days (or hours). Though many fixes to application software are internal and require no help desk procedure changes, most fixes in APIs like those for App Engine will at least alter the "best" way to do things if not the "only" way.

No, the only way Google can best its rivals for support is to automate it.

Google is just going to have to do what programming language designers have been trying to do since Grace Hopper developed COBOL... They're going to have to create a truly self-documenting language.

Be it Go, Dart, or something to come that barely resembles a "language", Google needs a system that communicates how to use it automatically from the code itself.

We already have IDEs that provide syntax and other documentation to the programmer. Maybe there could be deeper levels (in a wiki?) that are automatically generated from the code itself and accessible from outside the IDE. These would then be enhanced with feedback from developers, help desk personnel and users.

I expect such self-documenting systems exist... somewhere.

If anyone can bring them to world... Google can!


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Secure Boot News - Future Day 1

Microsoft Windows Secure Boot - Then and Now
by RobertC

The newest version of Microsoft Windows finally provides some long-sought enhancements to the Secure Boot feature launched with Windows 8 a few years ago. No longer do storage devices have to be removed and slaved to another computer in order to regain access after lightning strikes, "key hijacks" or boot image corruption. Users can now login from another registered device to their account at Microsoft, the computer manufacturer or any other entity they have keys registered with, and download a new key.

After a multi-step authentication process that includes an email-reply verification and optional phone callback, a user or System Administrator downloads new keys for one or more of the registered machines and copies it to a storage device, usually a memory card or flashdrive. The downside of having to physically be at the computer remains for large data centers, but life is better than it was. At the computer, Secure Boot looks for new keys on the first boot device during powerup. (Anybody remember floppy drives and serial dongles used like this? No? Never mind...) Since the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) software in conjunction with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) allows multiple, equally valid keys to exist on a "keyring", the new key can just be added and full access restored.

Microsoft has given in after losing market share to Apple, Google, Ubuntu, RedHat, IBM and other Linux and Unix-like operating systems for several years. The "*nix" common underlying operating system architectures used by those companies made the anticompetitive approach of Windows Secure Boot a non-starter with all but Apple. However, even Apple saw the legal liability dangers of purposely locking companies out of their systems due to common events like upgrades, repairs or natural disasters. The companies and many open-source organizations hammered out procedures that greatly reduce vulnerabilities while giving people a reasonably secure way of getting back into their phones, computers and other devices.

Historical References

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