Ethics, Faith, Nationality & Business
Posted: 10:27 am
May 25th, 2016
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Boss, IT Business

There is a saying: It’s just business.

Yet most people do not see their own values as separate from their business. It’s even more ridiculous among the millennial managed organizations who start with the social contract first (“Part of profits goes to X”) and put a business plan last. Do no evil. Connect the world. Nice catchphrases but for every multibillion there are millions of failed enterprises who failed to focus on the only important thing in business:

Value.

In business, it’s about the value you deliver – not about who you are.

Even more importantly, it’s illegal to discriminate based on your convictions. That doesn’t mean you don’t have them – it just means they aren’t a part of what you do.

So how do you reconcile that with an invoice that has a bible quote on the bottom? And have you ever noticed how it’s never Timothy 6:10? What about the jews, muslims or atheists that were a part of that service or that got that receipt? Do they share those beliefs?

It gets even more touchy when you run a global business. We make a lot of $ in Australia – what is our social responsibility to the people of Australia? How much should we be spending there? Or as someone misunderstood on Facebook recently:

Vlad, if you feel so strongly about Christians, how could you possibly work with them?

Substitute anything you want for religion – vegetarians, foreigners, immigrants, competitors – you can make anything seem to be at odds with something else. And in business, it’s not about creating conflict or likeability, it’s about delivering value.

Business Performance

People are smart enough to know that when they do business with you it’s not how much fun it would be to go drinking with you. I know this because I’m not a billionaire yet.

When people consider working with you, employing you, outsourcing to you they consider two things and two things only:

1. How likely is it that you’ll do the job well?

2. How many issues/problems am I going to have?

That’s it.

When you go out and market yourself or promote your business values or try to get that next job… focus less on your personal values and focus more on your professional ones. Because those are the only ones people actually care about.

Oh, and one more bit of mindcrack: Some of your best friends don’t see eye to eye with you. 

P.S. We’re currently on a hiring binge which is what compelled this post – folks always seem to focus on saying the right thing, having the right answer and projecting the right “personal brand” – and this is going to be hard for some of you to swallow and accept – the only person any of that stuff matters to is you.

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Learning and why some never will
Posted: 2:26 pm
May 9th, 2016
1 Comment | Post a comment
IT Business

It takes quite a bit of confidence to go out and start a business. Not just in yourself but in your idea, in the longevity of that idea, in a plan that is hardly more than a dream built on unproven confidence. There is no such thing as a sure thing. Most people lose this quality the longer and further they get from their dream.

Why? Because running a business is hard. The more successful you become at it the more problems you will have – with vendors, with clients, with employees, with partners: the bigger things get the more complicated they become. Mo money, mo problems.

Critical mistake: “Working on your business instead of working in your business”.

I’ve seen this misguided slogan from many people that have crashed and burned in business. You become successful by focusing on your business – you make your business successful by focusing on your clients. Most folks, just as they make some level of success, pull way back and pretend they are Warren Buffett: no phones, no meetings – “I’m all strategy. Guided and kept accountable by my peers. And these consultants” – You can guess where things go from there but chisel this into your monitor:

“The most important person, anywhere, is the one that is giving you money.” –me, now.

Earn it. Thank them for the opportunity and their money.. cause they could always give it to someone else.

Now that you know the minor details of why client cash is king

IMG_3758There is a reason why really successful people are always reading and always studying. Experience. You know you’ll make mistakes and you know you’ll survive them so you study all the time to learn how to deal with and overcome mistakes.

But not to avoid mistakes.

This is huge I’ll write it again because it goes for employees as much as it does for employers: you will make mistakes – it’s not about not making them. It’s about overcoming them. It’s about how quickly you can move on. It’s about how quickly you can embrace the next idea/task – it’s about always moving forward and making progress.

It’s why I run so many marathons.

There is an epic misunderstanding (mostly fed by misleading lies) in success being a matter of doing something remarkably simple consistently – it’s not. It’s the process of taking a chance and being able to cash in on an opportunity.

I’ve talked to so many people that spent so much time trying to analyze every single possible way of doing something, doing peer review, thinking about it, thinking about it, thinking about it. Hi Eddie! That in the end never pulled the trigger and lived to regret it.

Listen, I get it. Comfort is nice. I want things to be easy too. I want predictable stuff.

The question is if you’re cool being safe and comfortable and working till you’re 104. And even if you’re that fearful of risk and taking chances – what you should really be afraid of is not the opportunity but the threat that someone very smart and very resourceful is working extremely hard to replace you.

And that to me is all the motivation you’ll ever need.

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How to grow old services in a Millennial age
Posted: 2:03 pm
April 14th, 2016
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ExchangeDefender, IT Business

In business, you have to look forward in order to grow. Just because what you have now is selling well doesn’t mean the fast shifts in technology and demand won’t make you tomorrow’s dodo bird. And this is something I’ve been blogging about for years but it’s finally being noticed by IT shops out there in the SMB:

In a way, selling IT services during late 00’s and this decade has been simple mostly due to the demographics: People starting and managing companies were older, had previous jobs and careers in larger corporations that were consumed by standards, licensed software and IT departments. It was easy to sell them a PC, it was cake to get them on Windows and Office and for the most part the job security was guaranteed by your ability to be cheaper than IT staff and be able to keep it from going down.

Enter millennials.

No previous career.

No allegiance to Microsoft, apart from what they were forced to learn in school and would be shocked to know the cost of where an entire generation was raised on “things that just work” and “cost less than a few bucks, if at all.”

No fondness to “solutions” that don’t hook into their already established suite of services where all contacts, documents and data can be pulled into and out of.

They aren’t cheap – but unfortunately for the industry that specialized on selling and pushing their “supported” solution – they aren’t stupid either.

The Growth Challenge

The challenge for the MSP/VAR/ITSP folks, many of whom are significantly outside the new generation, is to figure out a way to embrace the world of services and mobile applications with the grownup (or old way) world of laws, regulations, restrictions, standardization and change management.

To a millennial, BYOD isn’t an acronym that makes sense – their entire professional life has existed in their pocket. They don’t think about “the cloud” – and judging by the people that come in for job interviews in our office looking to work for a cloud company – many don’t even know what it is. You can imagine the disillusionment that comes with compliance requests, document holds and data loss.

It’s clear that “I’m a Microsoft ______” is no longer a winning strategy (yeah, you might get the crumbs in the meantime while they figure out “mobile first, cloud first” deal but in the long run Microsoft and cheaper trunk slammers will crush you) and it hasn’t been for many for a really, really, really, really long time.

So what do you do and how do you grow in a world where the new business opportunities are coming from folks who manage their entire accounts and billing from their iPhone? I have no idea, I’m still happily cashing in on you geezers that think selling someone M$ Surface and hosted Exchange is a great way to get off a server.

But what I can tell you, and what I would love to share with you, is how my partners are able to get into this brave new world with the services and solutions we offer. If you currently work with ExchangeDefender, please join me for an hour long webinar next Thursday and if you don’t then maybe you should be.

ExchangeDefender, IT Business | Comments Off on How to grow old services in a Millennial age


Two Simple Rules For Success
Posted: 10:25 am
April 5th, 2016
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IT Business

The more I hang out with entrepreneurs and stable business owners (yes, there is a difference between the two beasts) the more I become aware of things I need to be doing as my business grows. Unfortunately, nobody has written a book on “How To Avoid Becoming An Axe Murderer At Work: Leverage Alcohol & Pain Pills To Keep Calm In A Chaotic Workplace”

One of the biggest things I’ve learned from successful people over the years is that the key to staying sane is a commitment to simplifying things.

image

Everyone is different. Some people thrive on checklists. Others live by pomodoro. Others micromanage away the stuff big and small. The key is to know what you’re doing, be aware of what is going on and recognize mistakes. The catch there is that to get that 6th sense about things that are about to go to shit in a big way is that you have to experience those mistakes first.. but details.

For me, business is a marathon. Things are going well or poorly but they are going. I’m going in the right direction. If stuff starts to hurt, slow down. If things feel great, drop the hammer on it. Yeah I’m tired but there is beer at 5pm.

Whether you’re doing great or you’re doing poorly in business right now remember that it’s a race – compose yourself, get some water, find out where you are, where you need to go and then take it step by step. One of the biggest mistakes people do when things aren’t going well is they “keep problems in their mind” and play all sorts of worst case scenarios that typically lead to bad decisions which then creates new problems. Slow down. Take a breath. Write it out. Blow up outcomes in their own bubbles, consider all options, see who can help with what and where. Then start moving in the right direction with hopefully a clear mind instead of crap that is stressing you out and annoying you and slowing things down.

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Lose your illusion: Why inability to focus and embrace of distractions will leave you confused and unemployed
Posted: 9:43 pm
March 26th, 2016
2 Comments | Post a comment
Boss

Hat tip to Axl Rose. Before I start this motivational rant, let me tell you where I’m coming from. These days I spend most of my OWN/XD time talking to partners and helping them build sustainable, growing businesses. Most of it involves figurative beatings with a dusty copy of E-Myth Revisited because even thought things are going great for some.. it’s just not easy. It requires discipline, it requires mentoring, it requires focus, it requires effort – and some of you old timers are probably dropping your forehead in your palm thinking “These whipper snappers – back in my day software and hardware didn’t even work, what the heck is your excuse?”

So earlier this week I remarked (in one of my Facebook trolls) that MSPs are dying. That is a fact, while the revenues from managed services are going up there are fewer MSPs out there this year than there were last year and there will be less of them next year. My best and fastest growing MSPs are doing so by picking apart their competitors – it’s hard to pick up new business when virtually every vendor, supplier, software manufacturer and so on already provides the monitoring bits while the hardware, software and solution purchases are being rolled up in a bundle that few can compete with for the essentials. The end result: no new blood is coming in and many people are (privately) looking for a way out.

I got into an argument over this fact earlier this week. According to email surveys one dude splices together to justify his employment: things are great – never been better. Yet all of your major MSP vendors are getting bought for pennies on the dollar or getting rolled up into other VC collections of disappointing investments. Few years ago all these companies were going to be giants heading for Wall Street – none have made it – and the excuse is that the environment just isn’t right (if you can’t sell your company during the 7 year bull cycle in which everything doubles that notion doesn’t hold water). Instead for an IPO these companies are heading abroad, heading away from MSPs and into other areas of IT. Conclusion: MSPs are dying.*

And the reality is – many MSPs are doing phenomenally well. If you know how to run a business and know how to focus you’re benefiting at the expense of those that don’t. I love you guys, I don’t want any of you to have to go and get a job. So the rest of this post is about losing your illusion of missing out (#fomo – fear of missing out) and giving you some fool proof steps on how to focus on what works. Fair warning: I am not an MSP coach, I am not a best selling author, I am not a thought leader, I am not a channel chief. So take the following advice with a grain of salt from a humble multimillionaire.

What Should An MSP Do?

Buy and read every book you see published. Ditto with every vendor solution available to fix your problems. Attend every conference you can. Hire coaches cause you don’t know all the answers. Read every blog, spend your day on LinkedIn and Facebook networking. Most importantly, join a peer group where you can be kept accountable by other like minded people that will keep you accountable every step of the way towards your long term goal.

If you need others to keep you accountable then you shouldn’t be in business you low expectation motherfucker. Stop your bitching and get back to work, motivate your people, thrill your clients, try working har..

joepaI’m sorry, I’m sorry. Totally didn’t mean that. Here, let me introduce you to my friend Joe, who is a much better blogger than I am, who can better explain this #fomo factor of determining how you should prioritize and best spend your time. Here he is in 2009 at MSP Mentor, questioning business leaders whether MSPs will be able to make money in the cloud. The big takeaways are that you need to pick the right vendors and surround the cloud with profitable services only you can deliver.

My bad. My bad. I had the wrong picture. No, that’s Joe from Penton Media in 2013 questioning a panel of experts for the insights into how MSPs are best positioning their services around the cloud.

I’m sorry. Ok, this is just embarrassing. Windows 10 update, my files are all over the place. Sorry. No, that’s Joe from Channel e2e last week getting high level conversation on monetization and security in the cloud world.

As you can see, Joe has beaten the damn cloud thing to death over the past decade one panel after another, one blog post after another. He has a fantastic blog I encourage you to follow at www.channele2e.com.

But let me ask you: what has changed in the decade? For $1, anyone want to guess what sort of mastermind secret will come out of the next conference/cloud panel? What sort of life altering motivational speech will finally push you to actually build a multimillion dollar IT business around the cloud? instead of running off to the next event looking for even more motivation and accountability peering like a derranged crackhead.

Here is a tip: aspiring rich IT folks wanted, hard work not included but here is a binder full of crap you won’t follow through on™.

Where does an MSP actually make money?

Since the very origin of the managed services in the early 00’s it’s pioneers always tried to explain that the model wasn’t going to make you rich, it will just give you predictable revenues so you can keep the lights on and make the right investments.

Where does the money come from? Consulting. Projects. Specialized solutions developed in house that hit large distribution.

What do you need to do that? Time. People. Hard work. Motivation. Mentoring and constant investment in staff, training and accountability. Seven day work weeks. Sixty hour weeks. Skipping long vacations for years and only stringing a few days off together when possible. Persistency. Consistency. Long term strategic implementation and monitoring of your plans. You know, difficult shit. The kind of shit that doesn’t sit in a panel because everyone in the audience would cry because that’s what they are trying to get away from and that’s what’s waiting for them upstairs at the hotel room. The sort of stuff that nobody writes books about, the sort of a thing your coach failed at and became an unemployed consultant, the kind of thing they don’t hand out shiny awards for.

Hard work. And since you’re not going to find it in panel, book, conference, this blog post or anywhere else but down in your own self determination.. what’s the threat, what’s the fear?

Threats

I’ll make this quick.

Everyone and everything is an adversary to your success in business. But you know that already otherwise you’d have a job instead of a business. You have to work hard. Threat there is that you’ll miss out on other stuff. But eventually you’ll have employees and now not only will you have to work hard but you’ll have to work even harder trying to mentor and motivate them to do their best job for your clients because nobody will ever love their money like you do until they see how it happens. So you’ll work even harder till you’re so successful you keep on finding out new ways in which you can get taxed. Nirvana. But yeah, it’s not a pretty road up to the top of the mountain.

So what is the actual threat that you need to be worried about?

Is it that you’re working with the wrong vendors, or that you’re not working with them right, or that you just don’t have the right tools? No.

Is it that you’re not staying on top of the industry developments? No. You can get all of Joe 2007-today for free every day for free on your smartphone after the morning post-coffee bathroom break.

Is it that you’re not connected to the right people, not in the thought leadership, not recognized as a maverick and not member of the right crowd? No. Your clients have never heard of these circlejerks.

The only threat you have to fear as an MSP is the threat you pose to yourself by not focusing on managing and growing your business.

Read that a few more times until it sinks in. Then print it out, tape it to your wall and slam your head against it hard whenever you think about distracting yourself from what you actually started your business for. Repeat as often as necessary. May cause concussions and brain damage but in the end it’s still going to be less harmful than spending hundreds of dollars to travel somewhere for a free tshirt and vendor beer. Just email me, I’ll mail you a f’n shirt. Get back to work selling my @#%.

Dying, Consolidating, Diversifying

I sincerely hope this is helpful.

I sincerely cannot be any less angry about this to put it into any more polished words because it sucks seeing your friends have to wrap up their dreams and go get a job because they didn’t feel like working. Don’t be that guy.

Likewise – nobody knows more about how to succeed at your business than you. If your coaches, peers, like minded business owners, etc were such geniuses what in the world would they be wasting their time with your dumb ass for? Think about it. You already know the answer: It’s going to be hard and it’s going to take a lot of work. I know, shitty slogan to put on a trade show backdrop.

But you can take that attitude and the outcome of it to the bank. Dedicate the next 8 months we have left in 2016 to actually doing all the things you halfass right now and see where you’re at in January.

There is no such thing as a fear of missing out. There is just an illusion that someone else, somewhere else, is doing things so much better and smarter than you and they are going to show you how out of the goodness of their heart instead of sipping drinks on some tropical beach. Wake up from the Facebook fantasy, look around at the wasteland of broken MSP IPO vendors, close this f’n window and get back to making your business great.

You’re welcome.

Boss | 2 Comments


Keeping Raspberry Pi Alive
Posted: 1:42 pm
March 3rd, 2016
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Raspberry Pi

As I mentioned previously, having a ton of fun with home automation and Raspberry Pi. So far I have Nest cameras, August locks, Kiwi, Amazon Echo, Smartthings, Zwave switches and outlets rocking back and forth.

Amazon Echo has a fantastic and very wife/kid friendly interface to all the home automation, Wikipedia, music requests and more. But it has nothing allowing it to receive notifications and alert them to you. This is where Raspberry Pi comes in – it can both listen to you and talk to you notifying you of all the awesome things happening in your house and beyond. 

rpiTouchscreen

I have added a touchscreen to my Raspberry Pi devices just to make all the changes and on-demand management faster. Adafruit sells one for $100 that is seemingly always out of stock, so I ended up ordering a “Made in China” one for $26. I’m sorry Donald Trump. You can get it here.

At this point things get kind of ridiculous because now you need a second power injector and an HDMI cable and/or Raspberry case. But for the sake of the argument let’s just assume this will be one of those “in the wall” things eventually. Or at least that’s the lie I tell my wife.

The problem with it is that rpi doesn’t detect the correct resolution and here is how that’s fixed by editing /boot/config.txt and adding the following:

# Force 800×480 res and output via HDMI
hdmi_force_hotplug=1
hdmi_group=2
hdmi_mode=1
hdmi_mode=87
hdmi_cvt=800 480 60 6 0 0 0
 
max_usb_current=1

Raspberry Wireless constantly going offline

I use wireless on all of my rpi’s and they constantly power down. Even when the power management stuff is disabled (and iwconfig shows that the power management functionality is Off). On Debian Jessie you have to create the following file and put the following text in it:

sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/8192cu.conf

options 8192cu rtw_power_mgnt=0 rtw_enusbss=0

That’s it. Haven’t lost connectivity to it once. AirPlay never misses a beat.

Next

I’m currently working/fighting with Google text to speech (and otherwise) services to replace espeak which is frankly terrible. Voice alerts, music, wikipedia, birthdays, schedules and so on.

I’ve also ordered an IR receiver/blaster so I can make RPI control the TV, DVR, Xbox and a million other devices and remotes we are constantly losing or that our dog mistakes for a chew toy.

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Shit Pizza Management
Posted: 12:00 pm
February 11th, 2016
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IT Business

badpizzaBy now everyone is familiar with a shit sandwich approach to delivering really bad news – you start with the compliment, deliver the bad news and close with another piece of good news. It makes everyone walk away from the conversation thinking that things are OK but some changes need to be made.

Sometimes you need to make changes that are quite minor on the surface but can trigger more work, meetings and unnecessary work to address something that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

Shit Pizza Management

Ever had a really bad pizza? The toppings were bad but hey pizza is better than the salad. So you want to complain but hey you’re eating it. Then you get to the crust and – screw it – just throw it away.

Managing by this process delivers mildly inconvenient news as the topping and the crust of it makes everyone throw away any arguments they would have had.

For Example

Today I had to make some scheduling changes and that’s the last thing that anyone ever wants to hear. But in the pizza topping I basically asked them to come up with the suggested changes as the schedule as it is just can’t stand.

Now here is what happens when you ask people to change anything: I really don’t want to. So they have a choice: be unhappy and it’s my problem or come to my office and waste my time with why they don’t want to change. Either way, everyone is unhappy. But is that the worst part?

Nope. The crust is. The crust being: I make the change for you.

Please let me know what you all come up with, I’d rather not make these adjustments for you.

No matter what kind of change someone is asking you to make, you’re not going to like it. But at least you get the option of finding something that works for us both.  

You don’t have to eat the damn crust.

IT Business | Comments Off on Shit Pizza Management


There is something about Bobby
Posted: 1:07 pm
February 9th, 2016
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Boss, IT Business

One of the best thing about my business is that it gave me the opportunity to travel all over the world and meet some great people. And no matter how nice, many that get to know me eventually say something that pisses me off to no end:

“Vlad, How can you get along with $X, s/he is such a prick / dick / asshole / jerkoff”

(for the sake of brevity, let’s just call this person Bob)

The short answer to the above is that most people are really, really nice to me.

The slightly longer answer is that my definition of “nice” is probably slightly different than bullshit and butterflies fake personality people often project in business.

The even more elaborate answer is that any person that has become even moderately successful in business has had to put up with a ton of assholes, deal with a lot of “nice” people disappointing them, has heard the same excuses for failure a million times that they don’t even acknowledge the rerun sob story when they hear it, etc. So you could say that on a level I see eye to eye with my asshole brotherin’. But there is more.

On Likeness In Business

These are overwhelming generalizations. I apologize. Not really, but take it with a grain of salt. Deep breath:

Saints: Lot’s of really outwardly nice people, even to the point that they consider scripture their daily hobby, have actually turned out to be the biggest pieces of shit I have ever encountered.

Politician: Lot’s of people that say little or are rarely available are obsessed with managing their personal brand. You know em – never more than one drink at the party but live on LinkedIn.

Online BFFs: Never form your opinion of someone as you see them act on Facebook. The guy that’s always there commenting when you’re visiting his place but you never see or never see pick up a friggin check? He looks great on FB but people in real life are much less accomodating – I’ve driven people across the state, helped bail folks out, I’ve had people take a day off work to take me / my kid to a zoo 2 hours away from town or pick me up from an airport and treat me for a three day tour of Yorkshire. Appearances are deceiving and the more someone comes off managed the less genuine they actually are.

What really gets me is how quickly people form opinions and likeness based on really superficial and limited information. And as usual, it’s the scumbags that are leveraging it to their advantage. But what does the likeness get you?

Personally, it’s better to be Bob. Bobby is an asshole – great. Nobody is calling him for help installing Exchange service packs a decade after it came out. Nobody is calling him for a loan. Nobody is wardialing at 2AM to cry about how mean people are to them online.

The choice is yours: You can either become obsessed with building up a buddy personality online and hope nobody sees through it (in my experience: they do; quickly; to the point that they have to disappear) until you make it.. but then, really, life is much better when people are afraid that you’re going to write a blog post about their shit. is it better to be fake nice or fake Bobby? Make your choice wisely.

Boss, IT Business | Comments Off on There is something about Bobby


Unrigging the Internet of Things
Posted: 12:35 pm
February 1st, 2016
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Gadgets, Rant

If you’ve ever heard someone overly excited about the Internet of Things you’ve likely talked to one of the two groups of people: idiots or people trying to sell you IoT. There is no other subset of IoT enthusiasts out there so if they aren’t asking for money you can tell with certainty that they are an idiot.

On behalf of idiots everywhere, I would like to introduce you to the world of Internet of Things and break down some basics and myths surrounding it. First the basics, let’s discuss the basics of IoT.

Three groups of Internet of Things:

1. Expensive stuff. Nobody knows if it works because nobody has it but the web sites look incredible!

2. Cheap shit made in China that doesn’t really work.

3. Mostly unreliable stuff in between.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll only discuss group #3 because it is the largest group and one you are most likely to see out in the wild. Your smart door locks. Your intelligent lights and thermostats. Enabled gadgets that reorder cereal at the touch of a button, garage door that closes itself if it detects rain, etc.

The premise of the Internet of Things is that all the devices, home appliances and things you have in your house will get a wireless connection and become smarter. All these things will interconnect with one another and web services to make for a smarter home.

The reality: Things that used to be reliable now have a layer of unreliable software running on top of them creating another set of things that will break.

Yes, one day your fridge will know you’re running low on milk and will automatically reorder it for you. Which is amazing considering your current fridge just beeps at you when it isn’t closed completely. And that replacing a water filter on it takes minor surgery – but don’t worry, managing it’s wireless connection is going to be a breeze.

The biggest myth about IoT

Everything will interconnect and work together.

The only thing standing in it’s way is every single corporation going out of business to be replaced by the single corporation in charge of all software and all appliances. Because here is the dirty little IoT secret: Nothing works with stuff from other manufacturers. They all insist on owning their own proprietary way of handling things. Oh yes, they can agree on RFID and IEEE specs but when you actually want to use things with services you already have — oooo, slow down, that’s not supported yet.

I have lights, alarms, sensors, power switches, power cords, light sensors, cameras, RFID tokens, zwave stuff, SmartThings, Apple friendly appliances – virtually none of that works with any of the other stuff. Unless you consider this integration:

I have no way to check the real status of my August smartlock – unless I launch the app which lies to me (remember what I said about it being unreliable). But I can use my Dropcam to view the door and tell if the bolt is in. Marvelous IoT.

So yesterday I wrote about rewiring my house audio system to run on Raspberry Pi. I was immediately asked why I didn’t use the Apple Airport Express. Or Google Chromecast. Or <insertsomethingelse>. Succinctly put: they are all shit. I cannot stream from Youtube to my Chromecast from my iPhone. I can send it to my Airport Express but I find it incredibly unreliable and slow. Sending a library not in iTunes to it – forget about it.

The future of IoT is no different than the late 90s audio towers where you had your DVD, receiver, amp, VCR, TV, Aux and literally all of them needed a different remote. That is the future of IoT – you will have one set of apps for your lights, one set of apps for your cameras and sensors, one set of services for your security and presence tracking and then a soup of IFTTT triggers that may or may not fire.

That’s all assuming your home WiFi doesn’t crap out with all these devices connected to it. Which, you’ve guessed it, it will.

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Raspberry Pi AirPlay Enabled Speakers
Posted: 7:09 pm
January 30th, 2016
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Uncategorized

Raspberry Pi is an awesome little single board computer – and it’s cheapness (under $50 with power, wifi, case, sdcard) and extensibility is making it a favorite for hobbyists that are doing all sorts of awesome things with it. In my case, I wanted to create series of AirPlay connected speakers throughout my house along with a lot of other automation.

Long story short, this simple task made me it’s bitch for 2 hours (most of it going back and forth between the living room and master bedroom, connecting/disconnecting everything back and forth). It’s January 2016 and I’m building a Sharport enabled speaker on Raspbian Jessie.

Problems:

1. Streaming music to my Raspberry was choppy, sound was dropping out.

2. Sound level was way too low, even though both iPhone and amp were maxed out.

3. After adjusting the sound level the sound card disappeared after reboot.

If you’ve run into any of those, scroll down to the next block. There is an excellent guide on how to build this little beast at Make: Magazine but just in case that link dies here are the steps in a nutshell once you get your Raspberry Pi configured to your liking:

sudo bash

Yeah, I know, I know. Anyhow, let it rip:

apt-get install git libao-dev libssl-dev libcrypt-openssl-rsa-perl libio-socket-inet6-perl libwww-perl avahi-utils libmodule-build-perl

git clone https://github.com/njh/perl-net-sdp.git perl-net-sdp

cd perl-net-sdp
perl Build.PL
./Build
./Build install
cd ..

git clone https://github.com/hendrikw82/shairport.git
cd shairport
make
make install
cp shairport.init.sample /etc/init.d/shairport
chmod a+x /etc/init.d/shairport
update-rc.d shairport defaults

./shairport.pl -a AirPlayPi

At this point you should be able to see it on your iPhone and stream to it. It will be very quiet.

nano /etc/init.d/shairport
DAEMON_ARGS=”-w $PIDFILE -a AirPlayPi”

Reboot and enjoy. If you’ve run into my problems, read on:

Streaming music to my Raspberry was choppy, sound was dropping out.

No idea how to fix this, other than to overclock it using sudo raspi-config; It worked for me, modest overclock without overvolting did the trick for me. Your mileage may vary.

Sound level was way too low, even though both iPhone and amp were maxed out.

Apparently this is a precaution with Raspberry Pi and the output is intentionally set rather low. First to force the audio output to the 3.5mm jack run:

sudo amixer cset numid=3 1

Now, run sudo alsamix and turn up the volume to 100 (hint: press up). It will be effective immediately.

After adjusting the sound level the sound card disappeared after reboot.

Steps above basically stopped my system from loading the sound card module after the reboot. Don’t know why but according to a little bit of Googling this happens often because drivers are experimental, etc. You’ll have to force it to probe for the specific driver on boot. Just add the driver name to the bottom of the /etc/modules file and it will load it up every time it boots. If you just want it for this session run sudo modprobe snd_bcm2836

sudo nano /etc/modules
snd_bcm2836

Other thoughts

According to the forums, the sound card that comes with the Raspberry (Broadcom 2836) is not the greatest and many recommend a USB enabled on. Again, this is a matter of taste. I spent about 10 minutes on Amazon going through reviews and it seems that even the cheapest $4 USB card is better than the onboard one. Some people recommend SoundBlaster X-Fi Go ($40) and others are using an I2S PiHat DAC+ topper card so you don’t have to go through USB decoding – not sure what they are listening to but it sounds serious.

If you’re running Raspberry Pi 2, your module is snd_bcm2836. If you’re running anything earlier than that, the module you’re looking for is snd_bcm2835.

As for why this? Why not Sonos? Why not Airport Express (I have two) when it’s $50 on eBay? etc, etc. We have a mix of devices, services, large collection on the NAS that we’d like to be able to stream all over the house on-demand and selectively so DIY is what sold it. That and the ability to do a lot more with the Raspberry when there is one in every room in the house.

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