Unrigging the Internet of Things

Gadgets, Rant
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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.

Raspberry Pi AirPlay Enabled Speakers

Uncategorized
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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.

Nobody knows how good you are..

Friends, IT Business
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Until you hand them your best selling book with your face on the cover. Expert. Author. That is credibility you can touch.

Except you didn’t really write that book, you co-authored it with a dozen other people. And you’re not really an expert, you’re a small business IT owner who paid someone thousands of dollars to round up other people who wanted to be in on the same project. But did you even write your chapter or did you just make corrections to a body of text that someone else wrote based on the interview they did with you? Does it matter that what you are promoting as a best selling book is just a matter of Amazon manipulation – as advertised by the people that put your book together? Indeed, nobody knows how good you are, until you pay into a deceptive marketing practice that misleads people into trusting you.

But does integrity really matter if nobody is being hurt? What if you have to lie a little bit if it gets you in the door where I’m sure you’ll do a great job? Should honesty play a part in business at all, after all this is business not a marriage. 

Does integrity really matter in small business?

I should note that I know all of the above as a fact because a few of my friends actually threw money into this project. I also called the company that creates these. Their explanation, in a nutshell:

“It gets the foot in the door. The content is OK and nobody is getting hurt, how is this any less legitimate than anything else that is out there?”

And you know what – I can’t really blame them. On a certain level, you gotta respect the hustle. And given that, people often ask me why I’ve become the Ralph Nader of the SMB IT shining a spotlight on the crooks and frauds that are threatening our industry? Why aren’t we getting together and pushing for more legitimacy on these things through CompTIA? I could probably write hundreds of blog posts that nobody would read on this but I’ll spare you and sum it up:

My entire job at Own Web Now / ExchangeDefender / Shockey Monkey is to help partners succeed. I spend time talking to our partners and even to people that we don’t do any business with. When you get screwed by someone and taken to the cleaners you really don’t want to advertise that and promote a blog post. Nobody likes looking like a jackass, nobody wants to admit they were stupid enough to be taken advantage of. So, friends, I’m happy to discuss it in the open.

Crooks, Thieves & Fraudsters Know This

There is no repercussion for lying and blatantly defrauding massive amounts of people in SMB IT. You just have to be really nice – that is the only requirement. Steal with a smile on your face Mr. Nice Guy. Because so long as you’re seen as a nice guy everything else can be wiped out and looked the other way. Size doesn’t matter.

You can say you’re making a strategic investment in an unrelated company that is in no way going to impact your partners. Then a few years later your API craps out, you ban people from your conference and fully integrate things end-to-end to block competition. But it’s OK, you throw a hell of a party.

You can say you’re promoting the IT industry and everyone in it. While taking big $ donations from massive IT companies and using it to lobby Washingon DC to increase H1B Visa count that does nothing but decimate IT employment in US and endangers everyone in IT. But it’s OK, you throw a hell of a party.

You can claim to be the greatest MSP coach alive before you get fired from a MSP coaching company for incompetence. The said company then goes on to defraud hundreds of people in a fake marketing scheme, goes under and has to change names 6 times and hide for years before resurfacing again. You go from coach, to CxO, to VP, to unemployed in a span of a year and then back to coaching. You are an MSP. Then you aren’t. But it’s OK because you’re all smiles, shots and beach parties and can talk sports with anyone, except people you put out of business.

You just need to be nice. Integrity and honesty are an attitude to be interpreted in a social “he’s cool” context, not a track record we can all point to.

In the end, it doesn’t matter.

I brought this up on Facebook and I asked.. does integrity matter?

Without exception – everyone said yes. Integrity and honesty matter when someone is going to screw you over. But does it matter otherwise? And why the hell do I care?

One of the commenters pointed out that “…I wish I had a coach when I made some mistakes in my business…” and aside from it reeking of a lack of personal responsibility, it underscores why I am willing to take a shot when someone crosses the line: I have failed in business many times. That’s my fault. That’s on me. That doesn’t bother me, that’s work. Some you win, some you lose. But you know what I wish I had back then – a lawyer. For all those scenarios in which a much bigger business screws a much smaller one simply because they can. It takes a ton to succeed in business, to beat your competitors, to overachieve for your clients, to provide for your employees – and the last thing you need going against you is fraud. And in order for any of us to build a long term successful business in SMB IT we cannot look the other way and allow these nice guys to continue to decimate us.

So let me wrap up this meaningless post: Nothing I say or do is going to make a difference either way – I am not suing nor beating up the fraud I see out there. There are no names in this post. All I am exposing is the behavior and the patters that ought to be disturbing you.

If you don’t want it done to you, don’t do it to others. Don’t support it. Don’t encourage it. Don’t engage in it. Otherwise, friends, there is no bottom. Take it with a grain of salt as well: I’m a multimillionaire, if all this blows up tomorrow I’m gonna be alright. If that’s not the case for you then read this post again and again until it sinks in.

Work On Your Business, Not In Your Business

Boss, Humor, IT Business
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Every January my readers eagerly await annual predictions and for the first time ever I got several emails about things “not to do, things that won’t matter” and I figured it was time to something funny. But before I get to that.

“Work on your business, not in your business”

I first heard this bit of brilliance at a trade show where four MSP masterminds unanimously agreed this was the key to success. Welcome to 2016, none of those four own their business anymore.

So, on to the funny, here is what you must do in 2016 to make it great:

1. Buy as many books as you can.
What are the odds that they are filled with the same common sense Business 101 nonsense you’ve read a thousand times already and didn’t implement fully. Fear not, 2016 is going to change all that. The next book you buy and throw on that bookshelf is going to change it all. All you need is to believe.

2. Attend as many trade shows as possible. You have to work with your vendors!
Cause you can’t just pick up the phone and call people, or invite them to deliver presentations to you – no, shell out thousands of dollars, take time away from work, away from your clients, away from your business and make sure you go to the bar and after hours parties where you can’t even hear the other person because that’s where real business gets done.

3. Volunteer for industry giants
Cause what a multimillion dollar org that lobbies congress on behalf of really large technology companies (and against your interests and interests of your clients technology departments) needs is your time and effort. Not only is it going to give you brilliant insight into people looking for their next job, you might even look for a leadership position and waste even more of your precious time away from work. You know, for the good of the industry.

4. Peer up, Peer down, Network your face off
No successful business exists without a peer group or a wolfpack of genius masterminds – make sure you commit to the one that takes you away from your business the most so that you can build that extra bit of industry leadership and channel prowess. Your clients, if there are any when you come back, will be far more impressed by who you know than by actually working with you in person. Businesses hire trailbrazers, not deliverables, work is for suckers and techs and you sir are better than that!

Unfortunately, your opportunity to help your business with a coach is gone because those guys have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have had to get a real job away from scamming. Some more enterprising ones have managed to get themselves fractually unemployed, chanalized if you will but tough luck there.

Cynical enough?

To make it through 2016 and grow you only need to do one thing and that is focus on your game plan. I have talked to a ton of partners last year, ton that didn’t have a good year, and many had a good plan. They just didn’t do the work, they didn’t put in the effort and just kept on searching for that magic blueprint to millions of dollars from people who disparage hard work. Wake. The. Hell. Up!

I have a lot of partners who have grown by double and triple digits last year. People always ask me what we’re doing that’s new and as I go into all the services they doze away – folks, business IT is mature, there is no new huge thing that’s just going to blow things up. Forget about the buzz words and emerging tech everyone wants to dream about, small business IT (and much more so for medium sized and large businesses) are very set, have tons of money in the existing infrastructure – they need someone to service all of that. Not fix it with the next gadget. You will need to find a way (hint: my business) to get more work hours in a day and deliver more services without doing more work directly on your own (or through your employees).

Focus on running and building your business. Leave the noise, distractions, championing, leadership, chanalizing, coaching, peertarding and ConferenceAsAVacationing to someone else and take their clients.

If you want to know how we’re doing that – call me.

Big Things In 2015

Boss
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It’s the time to look forward to 2016. What’s going to be big in 2016, Vlad, what do I focus on going forward?

I’ll get to that in about two weeks because I know everyone loves those posts but right now you ought to be focused on everything that went right and wrong in 2015. If you own or run a business odds are you aren’t getting paid any more just for showing up, there are no attendance and participation trophies in business (unless you’re an employee and even that’s more of a question with outsourcing). It’s time to take a long, good (or ugly) look at the year you are wrapping up and look at what went well and what went poorly.

Simply put: Your biggest opportunity to succeed immediately is to correct the problems and bad habits you’ve developed in your business over the year, rather than finding a new product, service, agenda or task you could pursue. And no time for doing that like the last two weeks of the year.

Here are things to go over:

– Is everyone happy?
– Why isn’t everyone happy?
– Are you up/down on the year? Why?
– Where are you wasting time?
– Are you utilizing your talent efficiently?
– If not, do you need new talent or new tasks?
– Are your clients happy? Have they all heard from you?
– Anyone stagnant? Cut/remove/repurpose.

ouchofficeThose should get you started. Explain your results against your agenda and see where you came short. This should be an ongoing process anyhow but we all know things tend to slip off the plate from time to time – so no excuses.

Sometimes people get caught up in the positive vibe around the holiday season and refuse to look at the ugliness during the seemingly only calendar convenient time of the year with some breathing room. If you put that off, your problems continue to linger, you don’t make as much progress and this same time next year you’re wondering why you aren’t making more money. This is not about being the Grinch and ruining your Christmas, it’s about looking at things that didn’t play out in 2015 – finding out why – and correcting it so that next year is more prosperous.

You cannot have it all. And the competition has never been tougher while making $ has never been less certain or predictable. I always say on Facebook “times is tough” and with fewer and fewer things being given, easy and simple the more you have to step your game up to be successful in the long term. Everyone can get lucky briefly, long term success takes long term commitment.

You can’t look at 2016 until you’ve looked long and hard at 2015. Hope it was a great one – and to those of you that work with us at ExchangeDefender, I hope we were a big part of your success so far!

Oversimplified IT

Boss, IT Business
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One of the most difficult things to discuss with my partners is the obsession with process and details. As a former techie and a developer, I understand, you want to bring the same sense of analytics, control and testing to your business development. You want to anticipate problems, solutions to those problems, document and prepare for even the most remote of unlikely scenarios…

And inevitably you will fail.

Business is not about that. Business development sure as hell isn’t.

Business moves fast. This is why spending enormous amounts of time discussing and anticipating issues is counterproductive in business – you are in front of a potential client to solve a problem, not introduce them to every other problem down the road that they may encounter. Would you like to know why? Because they see the existing, current, real problem as an issue that is a bottleneck in their business.

Business outcomes can be unpredictable. Marketing for example. What you put in is not always going to be what comes out. We’ve spent a better part of the year on our 2016 marketing plan where we do events for our partners – we could have thrown it together in a quarter but we didn’t want to wing that commitment – and in the end it might be a flop, which is why we don’t only do one thing.

Business is all about service. Do not overthink it – the only reason someone is paying you in IT (don’t kid yourself, your skills aren’t universal you’re not a doctor or a lawyer or anyone with a shred of regulatory approval/control) is because you are willing to do something they don’t want to do themselves.

I’m not encouraging people to be reckless.

I am encouraging you to move faster. If business is fast, with unpredictable outcomes and is all about how you can serve your client – spend less time imagining problems and more time asking people what else you could do for them. Ditto for those of you working for someone else as an employee – nobody ever got fired for wanting to do more work. #initiative

And if you doubt me here is some dream crushing as a CEO of a software business: It’s still going to be shit. If you were good at anticipating problems you’d work in QA not in business – stuff is going to crash, cloud is going to go down, Internet will get slow and random things will fail. It’s a race – get more faster. It’s Friday, get to it.

Profiting vs. Commoditizing

Cloud, GTD, IT Business
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Email is a commodity as far as IT goes. Has been for a better part of a decade and with the few exceptions (compliance, audit, disaster recovery) not a highly profitable task without massive scale.

Two years ago we started offering migrations as a part of our hosted email model, then extended that with migrations of compliance archiving products as our competitors started going out of business, started piling on support, billing, etc to get our partners a profit profile that is consistent and virtually eliminates the costs associated with email support entirely.

As you may imagine, this is something that appeals to small business IT the most as they have the least amount of time and flexibility to provide these services around the clock profitably, consistently and effectively. And, much like myself, you’d be completely wrong in that assumption.

Here is what my typical SMB partner discussion goes like:

Vlad: So here is what we do [… blah blah …] does any of that seem like it would help.
Partner: We resell Office 365/Google Apps/Appliance X but we don’t make much margin there.
Vlad: Right, so (repeating) here is what we do that eliminates the cost structure of it all..
Partner: But that costs more.

Sometimes it gets tiring trying to convince people whose business model is convincing other businesses to outsource IT to outsource the most expensive and least profitable piece of that business. But that’s my job and here is the other part of it..

As I’ve been talking here for the past year or so, this is the gold rush moment for SMB IT – and we’re doing all we can to help partners all over the spectrum to get to the cloud faster and more profitably. The more clients you have the larger market you serve the more services you can provide. We’ve spent better part of the year developing those and we’ll be launching them in 2016.

Here is how I see it: The only thing that matters at the end of the day is the service, not the price. We’ve raised the price in 2014 and will likely do so in 2016 and we’ve grown right along with it – people don’t sit around trying to knock $1 off the price (some, like me, might try to do so just as a sport) but they go livid when things don’t work. That’s how we continue to build the business and how we view the future – yeah, we’ll lose people to Outlook.com or Gmail but I can show you the numbers of our archiving, encryption, compliance and services that come on top of it that people love to pay for.

I used love for a reason, mostly because I hear it a lot. When things go well and when things go wrong. “I love you guys because you have to deal with that stuff and I hate it.”

I am always asked about “What’s next?” yet the response is rather boring and strategic: Find out what I can build scale at, generate profits, outsource annoyances and keep delivering services that others hate being accountable for. Some folks consider commodity as something that lacks value – but if people need it and rely on it who am I not to profit from it? You think the Walmart heirs are crying themselves to sleep?

What this simple eye test says about your values and IT salary potential

Boss, Humor
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There is an entire pseudo-science dedicated to telling managers just what kind of potential employee they might be hiring. Are you a leader or a follower? What personality type are you? What four letters does Briggs Myers spot you as? What’s your DISC profile?

In reality just about everyone that can figure out an iPhone can figure out what the right answer is for the role they are applying for. These things become somewhat of an astrology, palm reading, biorythm, ora glow, horoscope, etc – utter nonsense that’s true enough if you believe hard enough and are refusing to consider every other time when those things are just dead wrong.

But… I, Vlad Mazek, Certified Life Coach & Nutritional Expert, have come up with a fool proof way to determine if you should fire your staff and replace them with someone new.

wowclickhere

Step 1: Post the image above to your Facebook wall.

Step 2: Most of your employees will ignore it. Smart. If your employees like your link, they are probably harmlessly wasting time. If they comment on the link they are likely bored, reassign them to data entry. If, god forbid, they share the link as something profound fire them immediately and sue them for theft of company resources (that way you don’t have to worry about being called for references and employment checks as Google will just turn up the case details).

I call this the Mazek-Goldegg Social Media Profiler. You can read all about it in my 240 page book that will be coming out in January. Do you want to find the hard working, ethical, driven, considerate and reasonably intelligent workforce that will thrive with an in your business serving your best interests each and every day, guaranteed? If you read that run on pile of garbage more than once and thought it made perfect sense there is a marketing toolkit I’d like to sell you. Only $999 if you pay right now, breaks even with the first employee you shitcan through the proven peer group reviewed process.

</rant>

Joke aside, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and have closed November on a high note. I wish you lots of success, happiness (and less idiots sharing bullshit on your feed) in December and hope you are working hard on your plans for 2016.

How to close 2015

IT Business
1 Comment

Now I know these sorts of posts aren’t popular (after all, everyone wants uninformed predictions about 2016 ala Nostradumbass of IT) but they are necessary. As you know, I’m a huge fan of not fighting the calendar and doing business every single day – but towards the end of the year you need to kick into a new gear because people with big budgets and decisions that need to be made are making them as things slow down – December. So here is a quickie checklist that I go through. Hope it works for you.

Focus on company
– Sit down with the CFO, CPA, another CPA and discuss new tax strategies, rules, etc. If you employ people in multiple states (or do business on multiple continents) it’s time to look over the new rules.
– Once you know what the rules are… design a game plan around it. At ExchangeDefender we are launching 3 major new products and one large line of business, all of which we need to let people know about before the 1st.

Focus on staff
– What do you need to do in order to keep them employed? My people never believe me when I say “I am the most thankful for you because without you, I’d have to do your job” – But I used to, after all this at one point was just me. And every day that I don’t have to think about something is a day in paradise city. Here are some things to consider:

– Not everyone is the same

– Everyone doesn’t get motivated by the same benefits

– It’s usually something stupid that they need/want that you never would have imagined. But that’s sort of the thing, when you have a grain of sand in your shoe and you have to deal with it every day.. it’s a big deal

– “What do you want to do next year” – Everyone has projects, ideas, kids, life issues, etc. Sort them out.

Focus on clients
– Thanks. Thank you for all your money.
– What can we do better? It’s clear you keep on paying us for some reason, what else can we do better to make your life easier. Just like employees, everyone you deal with has a relationship with you and it’s on you to make everyone happy.
– How is business? What sort of issues are your clients facing? How can you help?

WAYWO

This is pretty much a boss shirt at OWN but “What are you working on?” is an ever present thing if you’re in IT – our field changes all the time and if you keep on doing the same thing one day you’ll lift your head up from the desk and be out of a job.

The last part of the last month of the year is an inward look to evaluate what you are doing to drive your business forward, to make your employees more fulfilled and what your clients need you to do. What are you doing to make people happier? More successful? More effective? More valuable?

I always shake my head during the partner calls when people say “Nothing new, just busy” to me. Business is an evolution of your service – to your staff, to your clients, to your community. You need to be moving, not busy. Really busy all of a sudden – outsource, contract, chop, sell: You shouldn’t be busy. You should be profitable and valuable. Busy is the word people who stuff envelopes for $7.75/hr do at home because they looked at classifieds in the newspaper at the low point in their life and ended up in a job about to be nuked by a robot. It’s for telemarketers. It’s for burger flippers during lunch rush. It’s not for IT. If you’re busy, you’re screwed.

Close 2015 like 2016 will be the best year of your business. For ExchangeDefender, Own Web Now, Shockey Monkey, etc it has been and it will be – and I thank you all for that. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Is strong encryption a fundamental civil liberty

IT Culture, Rant
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For a moment let’s ignore political affiliations. Let’s ignore whatever you may feel towards Snowden’s brain dump that exposed just how much the US government violates your privacy. Let’s ignore that our government is thoroughly incapable of preventing terrorist attacks: From commander in chief holding his dick and reading kids stories (while passenger aircraft are slamming into WTC and Pentagon) to the tens of thousands of TSA agents that continue to let stuff slip. Let’s even ignore the nationality, religion, motive, mental health – We live in a nation where we are getting murdered without regard for the color of our skin or the content of our character. It’s sad.

There are widespread calls from our politicians, lobbyists and virtually every other scared mouthpiece on TV to further violate your privacy by putting loopholes and backdoors into encryption products and services you use every single day.

The argument is as follows:

(paraphrasing) “These terrorists are using strong encryption to go dark and we have no ways or means to monitor or track them. We are asking companies like Apple, Microsoft, etc to create backdoors in their systems so that government can break encryption and help protect the country by spying on the terrorism suspects”

Sounds seemingly harmless, right?

Except when those backdoors go in, it’s just a matter of time till they are hacked, exposed and used to violate your right to privacy.

Except that there is literally no oversight over who has access to these systems, for what purpose and under what terms.

Except that government already has access to tons of this information already and is incapable (or unwilling to act on it).

Think about what is sitting in your iPhone right now – your bank accounts, your pictures, your home surveillance system (alarm, camera, thermostat), your travel patterns and your location data everything down to your blood pressure and whether you had a nightmare last night.

Giving government the right to break that encryption on demand, without oversight, without due process and without accountability – when they have proven that they cannot prevent disasters even when they have full intelligence, plenty of warning and time – should give you pause to hopefully ask yourself for what purpose they actually want all this data for if it’s not for catching criminals and preventing mass murders.

Digital Jihad

Now for a moment allow me to get more specific on the subject of sophistication of planning a terrorist attack in plain sight. ISIS, ISIL, IS or whatever you call them are not hiding: They are publishing stuff using their Twitter accounts, just like you and me. They even have a magazine.

Why isn’t our government shutting those accounts down? Why aren’t they taking their Youtube channels and videos down? Why are their forums still online? Why does the US government – through extreme threats, subpoenas and law enforcement force Internet Service Providers to keep these sites up even after they violate terms of service and cause the said company a public black eye as a terrorism supporter – because the government needs to be able to track them.

So aspiring terrorists, in the third world are granted more civil liberties and free public hate speech but US citizens are being asked to forgo their right to privacy in order to do what?

We live in a free country. We pay a huge price for that.

Let’s not allow handful of would be terrorists half the world away to take away our rights, our liberties and our privacy. If the US government feels so strongly about censorship, privacy violations, curbing free speech and so on may I recommend the following: Go after Youtube. Go after Twitter. Go after Facebook (WhatsApp). Go after Snapchat. All of these are for profit corporations based in United States – shut off the terrorists access to social media, to their funding – which they are doing in public.

As we have seen after 9/11, government is very quick to take civil liberties away (Patriot act) and very slow to give it away. It’s quick to detain, harass and intimidate citizens (TSA) but remains completely unaccountable and begging for even more.

And just one final observation:

If terrorists truly hate America, our freedoms, our way of life – then they are doing a marvelous job of helping our government take them away from us.

Terrorist state, half the world away, which there is lots of evidence was set up and funded by us (along with pictures of their leadership with Senator McCain) launches a small scale terrorist attack and all of a sudden US citizens should give up their privacy?

Think about it. Then go download PGP.