dannyman.toldme.com


News and Reaction, Technical, Technology, Testimonials

FAQ: Should I Change All My Passwords!!??

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2014/04/11/faq-should-i-change-all-my-passwords/

As a SysAdmin, people ask me how much they need to worry over the heartbleed vulnerability. Here’s my own take:

heartbleed

Google were known to be vulnerable. They co-discovered the vulnerability and deployed fixes quickly. I like to believe they are analyzing the scope and likelihood of user password compromise and will issue good advice on whether Gmail passwords should be updated.

For everything else, my small opinion is “don’t panic.” Not every web site would have been affected. The Ops folks at each site need to patch their systems and assess the extent to which credentials may have been compromised, then take appropriate steps to mitigate compromised data, which might include asking users to set new passwords. But if they’re still waiting on some patches, then submitting a new password could actually put both passwords at risk.

For other important passwords, like your bank, check up on what they’re recommending that you do. If a site is important to you and they offer two-factor auth, go for it: that typically means that if you log on from a new computer they’ll text a one-time pin code to your mobile phone to double-check that it’s you.

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Linux, Technical

Quick and Dirty Upstart

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2014/04/02/quick-and-dirty-upstart/

I want to launch a service which has its own complex start/stop script at boot, and I want to launch it as a non-login user. So, I dig into upstart. The cookbook … is not a cookbook. So, here’s is my little recipe:

# /etc/init/openfire.conf
description "Run OpenFire Jabber Server"
start on runlevel [2345]
stop on runlevel [!2345]
setuid openfire
setgid openfire
pre-start exec /opt/openfire/bin/openfire start
post-stop exec /opt/openfire/bin/openfire stop

All this does is, run /opt/openfire/bin/openfire start or /opt/openfire/bin/openfire stop at the appropriate time. Allegedly, this is suboptimal, but it works for me.

I tested with:

sudo start openfire
sudo stop openfire
sudo reboot # :)

Thank you, htorque on askubuntu!

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Technical, Technology

Phishing: Chinese Domain Registration

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/11/20/phishing-chinese-domain-registration/

Here is a new phishing attack that made it through to Gmail about the domain name dispute around tjldme . . . ?!!

Dear Manager,

(If you are not the person who is in charge of this, please forward this to your CEO,Thanks)

We are a organization specializing in network consulting and registration in China. Here we have something to confirm with you. We just received an application sent from “Global Importing Co., Ltd” on 20/11/2013, requesting for applying the “tjldme” as the Internet Brand and the following domain names for their business running in China region:

tjldme.asia
tjldme.cn
tjldme.com.cn
tjldme.com.tw
tjldme.hk
tjldme.net.cn
tjldme.org.cn
tjldme.tw

Though our preliminary review and verification, we found that this name is currently being used by your company and is applied as your domain name. In order to avoid any potential risks in terms of domain name dispute and impact on your market businesses in China and Asia in future, we need to confirm with you whether “Global Importing Co., Ltd” is your own subsidiary or partner, whether the registration of the listed domains would bring any impact on you. If no impact on you, we will go on with the registration at once. If you have no relationship with “Global Importing Co., Ltd” and the registration would bring some impact on you, Please contact us immediately within 10 working days, otherwise, you will be deemed as waived by default. We will unconditionally finish the registration for “Global Importing Co., Ltd”

Please contact us in time in order that we can handle this issue better.

Best Regards,

Wesley Hu

Auditing Department.
Registration Department Manager
4/F,No.9 XingHui West Street,
JinNiu ChenDu, China
Office: +86 2887662861
Fax: +86 2887783286
Web: http://www.cnnetpro.com

Please consider the environment before you print this e-mail.

I assume they’ll need a processing fee. I wonder if they munged toldme.com in an effort to avoid Phish filtering . . . ? The URL at the bottom is blocked by our firewall.

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Sundry, Technical, Technology, Testimonials

A Computer Telephone Without a Keyboard!?

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/11/15/a-computer-telephone-without-a-keyboard/

At long last, I retired my old T-Mobile G2. It was the last in a long line of phones I have owned for the past decade with a physical keyboard. (I think I owned every Sidekick up to the 3 before going Android with the G1 and the G2.) I like the ability to thumb type into my phone, but the G2′s old keyboard had long ago gone creaky, and it had lacked a dedicated number row besides.

Obligatory picture recently taken with my new computer telephone.  Featuring a cat.

Obligatory picture recently taken with my new computer telephone. Featuring a cat.

They don’t make nice smart phones with keyboards any more. Market research seems to indicate that the only remaining markets for keyboard phones are horny teenagers who need a cheap, hip Android-based Sidekick, and those legions of high powered business people who will never abandon their ancient Blackberries.

Anyway, the new Nexus 5 is here. The on-screen keyboard is okay slow and inaccurate. Like moving from a really fantastic sports car to a hovercraft piloted by a drunken monkey. I mean,the monkey-piloted hovercraft is undeniably cool technology, and I can eventually get where I need to go, but . . . its not the same, you see?

So, lets explore Voice dictation! It works . . . well, about as well as the monkey hovercraft, but with the added benefit that you don’t have to keep jiggling your thumb across the screen. But how do you do new lines and paragraphs? Where’s the command reference?

I asked Google. Google: android voice dictation commands?

Yup. If there is a reference somewhere, Google doesn’t know about it. How sad.

There is one humorous and not overly annoying video demonstrating how to do voice dictation. Various forum posts have users saying they can’t find a reference, but simple punctuation seems to work, and sometimes you can say “new paragraph” and sometimes you can not.

I have to wonder, at times.

The other thing that excited me about the Nexus 5 was that on the home screen you can drag apps right up to “Uninstall” . . . unless they’re Google apps! “Way to not be evil,” I cried. Until a Google colleague pointed out that it was just a bit of UI funkiness on Google’s part, owing to the applications coming bolted into the UI, there is at least a method to disable them.

Anyway, this is useful knowledge that helped me to vanquish the Picasa sync thing that has been hiding images from the gallery for the past few years. I have another project where I’m testing out BitTorrent Sync to pull images off our phones and then sync a copy of the family photo archive back down to the phones. If that works out, I’ll write it up. I may pursue that further to see if I can’t replace Dropbox, which, unfortunately, does not (yet) offer any sort of a family plan. Also, if I can host my own data I needn’t share as much of it with the NSA.

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JIRA, Technology

Notes From Atlassian Summit 2013

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/10/15/atlassian-summit/

Two weeks ago, I attended Atlassian Summit 2013 in San Francisco.  This is an opportunity to train, network, and absorb propaganda about Atlassian products (JIRA, Greenhopper, Confluence, &c.) and ecosystem partners.  I thought I would share a summary of some of the notes I took along the way, for anyone who might find interest:

At the Keynote, Atlassian launched some interesting products:

As time passes, the ticket gets crankier at you about the SLA in real time.

As time passes, the ticket gets crankier at you in real time about the SLA.

Jira Service Desk

Jira Service Desk is an extension to JIRA 6 oriented around IT needs.  The interesting features include:

The first thing helps people get their work done, and the second is manager catnip.

Confluence Knowledge Base

Confluence 5.3 features a shake-the-box Knowledge Base setup:

Other Stuff I looked into:

REST and Webhooks

There was a presentation on JIRA’s REST API, and mention of Webhooks.

REST is really easy to use.  For example, hit https://jira.atlassian.com/rest/api/latest/issue/JRA-9

There’s API docs here: https://docs.atlassian.com/jira/REST/

Another feature for tight integration is Webhooks: you can configure JIRA so that certain issue actions trigger a hit to a remote URL.  This is generally intended for building apps around JIRA.  We might use this to implement Nagios ACKs.

Atlassian Connect

I haven’t looked too deeply as this is a JIRA 6 feature, but Atlassian Connect promises to be a new method of building JIRA extensions that is lighter-weight than their traditional plugin method.  (Plugins want you to set up Eclipse and build a Java Dev environment in your workstation… Connect sounds like just build something in your own technology stack around REST and Webhooks)

Cultivating Content: Designing Wiki Solutions that Scale

Rebecca Glassman, a tech writer at Opower, gave a really engaging talk that addresses a problem that seems commonplace: how to tame the wiki jungle!  Her methodology went something like this:

As they better learned user needs and what sort of knowledge there was, they built “The BOOK” (Body of Opower Knowledge) based on a National Parks model:

(I have some more notes on how they built, launched, and promoted The BOOK.  The problem they tackled sounds all to familiar and her approach is what I have always imagined as the sort of way to go.)

Ad Hoc Canvas

The Ad Hoc Canvas plugin for Confluence caught my eye.  At first glance, it is like Trello, or Kanban, where you fill out little cards and drag them around to track things.  But it has options to organize the information in different ways depending on the task at hand: wherever you are using a spreadsheet to track knowledge or work, Ad Hoc Canvas might be a much better solution.  Just look at the videos and you get an idea . . .

The Dark Art of Performance Tuning

Adaptavist gave a presentation on performance analysis of JIRA and Confluence.  It was fairly high-level but the gist of this is that you want to monitor and trend the state of the JVM: memory, heap, garbage collection, filehandles, database connections, &c.  He had some cool graphs of stuff like garbage collection events versus latency that had helped them to analyze issues for clients.  One consideration is that each plugin and each code revision to a plugin brings a bunch of new code into the pool with its own potential for issues.  Ideally, you can set up a load testing environment for your staging system.  Short of that, the more system metrics that you can track, you can upgrade plugins one at a time and watch for any effects.  As an example, one plugin upgrade went from reserving 30 database connections to reserving 150 database connections, and that messed up performance because the rest of the system would become starved of available database connections.  (So, they figured that out and increased that resource..)

tl;dr: JIRA Performance Tuning is a variation of managing other JVM Applications

Collaboration For Executives

I popped in on this session near the end, but the takeaway for anyone who wants to deliver effective presentations to upper management are:

The presenter’s narrative was driven by an initial need to capture executive buy-in that their JIRA system was critical to business function and needed adequate resourcing.

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JIRA, Python, Technical

Jython: Timezone Manipulation and Meeting Invitations vs Outlook

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/09/23/jython-timezone-manipulation-and-meeting-invitations-vs-outlook/

As part of a project at work I’ve built some Jython code that builds iCalendar attachments to include meeting invitations for scheduled maintenance sessions. Jython is Python-in-Java which takes some getting used to but is damned handy when you’re working with JIRA. I will share a few anecdotes:

1) For doing date and time calculations, specifically to determine locale offset from UTC, you’re a lot happier calling the Java SimpleDateFormat stuff than you are dealing with Python. Python is a beautiful language but I burned a lot of time in an earlier version of this code figuring out how to convert between different time objects for manipulation and whatnot. This is not what you would expect from an intuitive, weakly-typed language, and it is interesting to find that the more obtuse, strongly-typed language handles time zones and it just fricking works.

Here is some sample code:

from java.text import SimpleDateFormat
from com.atlassian.jira.timezone import TimeZoneManagerImpl
tzm = TimeZoneManagerImpl(ComponentManager.getInstance().getJiraAuthenticationContext(),
    ComponentManager.getInstance().getUserPreferencesManager(),
    ComponentManager.getInstance().getApplicationProperties())
# df_utc = DateFormat UTC
# df_assignee = DateFormat Assignee
df_utc = SimpleDateFormat("EEE yyyy-MM-dd HH:mm ZZZZZ (zzz)")
df_assignee = SimpleDateFormat("EEE yyyy-MM-dd HH:mm ZZZZZ (zzz)")
tz = df_utc.getTimeZone()
df_utc.setTimeZone(tz.getTimeZone("UTC"))
df_assignee.setTimeZone(tzm.getTimeZoneforUser(assignee))
issue_dict['Start_Time_text'] = df_utc.format(start_time.getTime())
issue_dict['Start_Time_html'] = df_utc.format(start_time.getTime())
if df_utc != df_assignee:
    issue_dict['Start_Time_text'] += "\r\n                   "
    issue_dict['Start_Time_text'] += df_assignee.format(start_time.getTime())
    issue_dict['Start_Time_html'] += "<br />"
    issue_dict['Start_Time_html'] += df_assignee.format(start_time.getTime())
# Get TimeZone of Assignee
# Start Time in Assignee TimeZone

Since our team is global I set up our announcement emails to render the time in UTC, and, if it is different, in the time zone of the person leading the change. For example:

Start Time: Mon 2013-09-23 23:00 +0000 (UTC)
Mon 2013-09-23 16:00 -0700 (PDT)

2) I was sending meeting invitations with the host set to the assignee of the maintenance event. This seemed reasonable to me, but when Mac Outlook saw that the host was set, it would not offer to add the event to the host’s calendar. After all, all meeting invitations come from Microsoft Outlook, right?! If I am the host it must already be on my calendar!!

I tried just not setting the host. This worked fine except now people would RSVP to the event and they would get an error stuck in their outboxes.

So . . . set the host to a bogus email address? My boss was like “just change the code to send two different invitations” which sounds easy enough for him but I know how creaky and fun to debug is my code. I came upon a better solution: I set the host address to user+calendar@domain.com. This way, Outlook is naive enough to believe the email address doesn’t match, but all our software which handles mail delivery knows the old ways of address extension . . . I can send one invitation, and have that much less messy code to maintain.

from icalendar import Calendar, Event, UTC, vText, vCalAddress
# [ . . . ]
event = Event()
# [ . . . ]
# THIS trick allows organizer to add event without breaking RSVP
# decline functionality.  (Outlook and its users suck.)
organizer_a = assignee.getEmailAddress().split('@')
organizer = vCalAddress('MAILTO:' + organizer_a[0]+ '+calendar@' +
    organizer_a[1])
organizer.params['CN'] = vText(assignee.getDisplayName() + ' (' + assignee.getName() + ')')
event['organizer'] = organizer

You can get an idea of what fun it is to build iCalendar invitations, yes? The thing with the parentheses concatenation on the CN line is to follow our organization’s convention of rendering email addresses as “user@organization.com (Full Name)”.

3) Okay, third anecdote. You see in my first code fragment that I’m building up text objects for HTML and plaintext. I feed them into templates and craft a beautiful mime multipart/alternative with HTML and nicely-formatted plaintext . . . however, if there’s a Calendar invite also attached then Microsoft Exchange blows all that away, mangles the HTML to RTF and back again to HTML, and then renders its own text version of the RTF. My effort to make a pretty text email for the users gets chewed up and spat out, and my HTML gets mangled up, too. (And, yes, I work with SysAdmins so some users actually do look at the plain text . . .) I hate you, Microsoft Exchange!

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JIRA

Jython: Render Wiki Text in Jira

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/07/18/jython-render-wiki-text-in-jira/

I’m building out a simple template system for our email notifications, so of course I want to support multipart, text and email. But, hey, we have some text fields in JIRA that can take wiki markup, and JIRA will format that on display. So, how do I handle those fields in my text and HTML message attachments?

https://answers.atlassian.com/questions/191567/in-a-jira-script-how-do-i-render-wiki-text-fields
https://answers.atlassian.com/questions/135084/method-to-convert-jira-wiki-format-to-html

So, some sample code to render the custom field “Change Summary” into a pair of strings, change_summary_text and change_summary_html, suitable for inclusion into an email message:

from com.atlassian.event.api import EventPublisher
from com.atlassian.jira import ComponentManager
from com.atlassian.jira.component import ComponentAccessor
from com.atlassian.jira.issue import CustomFieldManager
from com.atlassian.jira.issue.fields import CustomField
from com.atlassian.jira.issue.fields.renderer.wiki import AtlassianWikiRenderer
from com.atlassian.jira.util.velocity import VelocityRequestContextFactory
 
# Get Custom Field
cfm = ComponentManager.getInstance().getCustomFieldManager()
change_summary = issue.getCustomFieldValue(cfm.getCustomFieldObjectByName("Change Summary"))
 
# Set up Wiki renderer
eventPublisher = ComponentAccessor.getOSGiComponentInstanceOfType(EventPublisher)
velocityRequestContextFactory = ComponentAccessor.getOSGiComponentInstanceOfType(VelocityRequestContextFactory)
wikiRenderer = AtlassianWikiRenderer(eventPublisher, velocityRequestContextFactory)
 
# Render Custom Field
change_summary_html = wikiRenderer.render(change_summary, None)
change_summary_text = wikiRenderer.renderAsText(change_summary, None)

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Technical

Perforce: Move Files to a Subdirectory

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/05/22/p4-move-files/

Some quick notes. I wanted to move my existing *.py files for JIRA to a subdirectory. I had a bit of a time figuring this out, so maybe this will help someone when googling on the issue:

p4 sync
mkdir -p jython/workflow
p4 edit *.py
bash # I use tcsh
for f in *.py; do
 p4 move $f jython/workflow/$f
done
exit # Back to tcsh
p4 submit

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JIRA, Technical

Embed Page Refresh

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/05/13/embed-page-refresh/

Feature request that certain JIRA dashboards should reload more frequently than every fifteen minutes. So, I cooked up some JavaScript to hide in the announcement banner:

<script type="text/javascript">
 
function gup( name ){
name = name.replace(/[\[]/,"\\\[").replace(/[\]]/,"\\\]");
var regexS = "[\\?&]"+name+"=([^&#]*)";
var regex = new RegExp( regexS );
var results = regex.exec( window.location.href );
 if( results == null )    return "";
else    return results[1];}
 
function reload() {
 window.location = window.location
}
 
var refresh = gup('refresh');
if ( refresh > 0 )    window.setInterval(reload, refresh*1000);
</script>

Now users can add refresh=nn and the page will reload every nn seconds. This ought to work in most cases where you can sneak some HTML into a Web App.

Function gup stolen from http://stackoverflow.com/questions/979975/how-to-get-the-value-from-url-parameter.

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Linux, Technical

VMWare Workstation: Excessive Key Repeating in Ubuntu guest

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/04/19/vmware-workstation-excessive-key-repeating-in-ubuntu-guest/

I like to virtualize my workstation using VMWare Workstation. Lately, my Ubuntu (kubuntu) 12.04 guest would exhibit really annoying behavior whereby it would insert lots of extra letters as I typed, seemingly at random.

I cast about a few times for a fix. I tried VMWare KB 196, and a few solutions offered in an abandoned blog. But what did the trick is good old xset.

I added this to my .bashrc:

xset r rate 500 20

As I understand it, this means “key repeat only happens if you hold a key down for at least half a second, and then not for more than 20 times.”

My workstation has been way more pleasant to deal with ever since.

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About Me, News and Reaction, Technical, Technology

With Google, You Can Not Trust the Cloud

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/03/21/with-google-you-can-not-trust-the-cloud/

Mike Loukides strikes a chord:

How can I contemplate moving everything to the cloud, especially Google’s cloud, if services are going to flicker in and out of existence at the whim of Google’s management? That’s a non-starter. Google has scrapped services in the past, and though I’ve been sympathetic with the people who complained about the cancellation, they’ve been services that haven’t reached critical mass. You can’t say that about Google Reader. And if they’re willing to scrap Google Reader, why not Google Docs?

An excellent point.

I recall the first time I adopted a “cloud” service for my technology. It was Flickr. I had managed my photos with my own scripts for years. Others had installed Gallery, which always struck me as limited and ugly. Flickr was new at the time, and I really liked the aesthetic. But, upload all my photos there? They had just been bought by Yahoo. How long is Yahoo going to support the service? I still keep local archives of my photos, but I have thousands of photos shared on Flickr, and how do I know that all those captions, comments, geotags, annotations, sets and collections, that all that data might not one day go down with the slowly sinking-ship that is Yahoo?

What reassured me was the Flickr API. Worst case, I should be able to write a script to pull all that data to a local place somewhere and later reconstruct my online photo archive. If Flickr were going down, someone else would probably write that script better than I could. It is a grim thought, but at least when Flickr dies, there is an exit strategy.

That is one reason why I can sort of trust Google. They’re pretty good about supporting APIs. They’re killing Reader? That’s dumb. But in an instant, Feedly was able to take over my subscriptions from Google for me, and I just had to spend a few minutes learning a somewhat different interface.

It would be nice, though, if, when software was retired, especially cloud software, that it could be open sourced and available for the die-hard users to keep it running on their own servers somewhere. Admittedly, cloud services especially are vulnerable to further external dependencies . . .

You would think, though, that it shouldn’t take much effort on Google’s part to announce that a service has been retired, but they’ll keep it running indefinitely, at least until some point where the vast majority of the users had wandered on to more compelling alternatives. They still keep the Usenet archive around.

And, yes, I rely on DocsDrive. This killing Reader fiasco sounds like an advertising ploy for Microsoft. I rely on DocsDrive, but maybe Excel is a more trustworthy option for the long term . . . ?

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Technical, Technology

2013-02-27, Indeed!

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/02/27/2013-02-27-indeed/

Okay, I just have to say, Amen, XKCD and ISO!

The correct way to write dates is: 2013-02-27 ...

If you are naming files on a computer, please use this format. The beauty is that if you list files in “alphabetical order” then these dates get listed in chronological order, because as far as a computer is concerned, the “0″ comes before “1″ and so forth. (And a year is more significant than a month is more significant than a day of the month . . .)

It is important to have that leading zero! Why? Because we have more than 10 months! Allow me to demonstrate:

0-11:32 djh@noneedto ~$ (echo "2013-02-27" && echo "2013-12-27") | sort
2013-02-27
2013-12-27
0-11:32 djh@noneedto ~$ (echo "2013-2-27" && echo "2013-12-27") | sort
2013-12-27
2013-2-27

If you are interacting with strftime() then what you want to remember is %F!

0-11:38 djh@noneedto ~$ date +%Y-%m-%d
2013-02-27
0-11:38 djh@noneedto ~$ date +%F
2013-02-27
0-11:38 djh@noneedto ~$ date +%Y%m%d%H%M # I sometimes use this for file timestamps but dont tell Randall Monroe
201302271138

For my photographs, I have a directory hierarchy of %Y/%m-%B:

0-11:43 djh@noneedto Photographs$ find . -type d | sort | tail
./2012/08-August/Costa_Rica/Santa_Teresa
./2012/08-August/Costa_Rica/Ziplines
./2012/09-September
./2012/09-September/Sonogram
./2012/10-October
./2012/11-November
./2012/12-December
./2013
./2013/01-January
./2013/02-February

This gives me the human convenience of seeing the month name on my folders, but the computer sorts those folders in chronological order.

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About Me, Biography, News and Reaction, Technical, Technology

Yahoo Mandates 19th Century Commuting

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/02/25/yahoo-mandates-19th-century-commuting/

I have been excited to see what might come of Yahoo! with Marissa Meyers at the helm. I am really glad to see that, after years of stagnation, Flickr has been improving. Free food and smartphones for employees? Sounds swell. But the buzz now is that there shall be no more remote work. The only way to be productive is to come to the office and feel the buzz and bounce ideas off coworkers.

I am happy to point out that, while we don’t get free smartphones or free food, my employer does issue remote employees with a hardware VPN device that provides corporate wifi, and a videophone. And we are hiring.

In my experience as a non-management technical professional, there is some virtue both to working from home, and to working at the office. The office presents great opportunities for collaboration: working through ideas and solving problems. Working from home, for some people, provides an excellent space to focus on getting some work done without interruption. You can get more hours of productive work when your commute is shortened to a walk across the dining room, and when there’s no pressure to quit at a certain time to appease the demands of the train schedule or traffic.

For some people, there’s no place like the office . . . some people can do better work from home, some people do not. Managers and executives, the bulk of whose work is meeting with others to make collaborative decisions . . . it seems that they may take several meetings from home and when they get to the office they feel uncomfortable that the busy hum of productive creative energy isn’t located there. I believe that managers who can structure the working and communication practices of their teams to effectively collaborate and track work progress without requiring a physical presence have an advantage over those who can not.

I live near the office and frequently collaborate with my manager, so most days I make the trip in. Sometimes when I need to focus on a project, or work with a remote time zone, I’ll commute to the home office. I have been with Cisco for over five years, now. I spent one of those years in New York, and my tenure here would have been much shorter without the flexibility to telecommute.

David Fullerton makes a good case for effective remote work.

1 Comment


Technical, Technology, Testimonials

SAQ: Is a DSL Modem Actually a Modem?

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/02/19/saq-is-a-dsl-modem-actually-a-modem/

This question came to mind the other day. “DSL modem” sounds dumb, because as any geek over the age of 30 knows, a “modem” is a device with MODulates and DEmodulates a digital signal over an analog network. Thus a “Digital Subscriber Line” has no need for modulating and demodulating.

modem and phone

THIS is a modem!
CC: BryanAlexander

Except, DSL is actually an overlay on the analog telephone network. So, wait . . . what?

Wikipedia wastes its time on a pointless distinction:

“The term DSL modem is technically used to describe a modem which connects to a single computer, through a USB port or is installed in a computer PCI slot. The more common DSL router which combines the function of a DSL modem and a home router, is a standalone device which can be connected to multiple computers …”

Yeah, really helpful. But as geeks know, you need to check the Wikipedia talk page:

The usage “DSL Modem” is not erroneous. A DSL modem does indeed perform modulation and demodulation. It uses either Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) or Phase Shift Keying (PSK) modulation. Multiple modulated subcarriers are then combined into an OFDM stream. The distinction between this type of modem and a traditional one is that the traditional one modulates audio frequency signals whereas the DSL modem is upconverted to an RF band. But they both perform modulation and demodulation. The digital signals are not sent as baseband digital signals.

I do not know what all those words mean, but I read that as “a DSL modem is still a modem. It modulates and demodulates a digital signal into the RF band of a telephone line.”

I made my own contribution to Wikipedia’s Talk page:

The distinction between whether your “DSL modem” connects via USB, ethernet, wireless, or provides NAT, sounds like a spurious distinction to me. I interpret and interchange “DSL modem” and “DSL router” as “the network device that bridges your local computing resources to your network service provider.”

But if I have learned anything about nomenclature disputes on Wikipedia, it is that they are not worth the effort.

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News and Reaction, Technical, Technology

Our Future: Autonomous Cars and Transit

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/01/04/our-future-autonomous-cars-and-transit/

My opinion, one of many, as left in a comment:

The current Google Car can operate on city streets autonomously, but it needs someone doing the backend work of getting all the streets mapped out perfectly, figuring out exactly where the lanes are. Then in order to do a truly autonomous taxi service, you’ll want a two-way video linkup for the dispatcher to pilot the car if it gets stuck in some situation like the fire department blocking the street, or to monitor security.

For that reason, the current livery model works really well: a small, local company will service its fleet and its IT needs. The biggest expense, the driver, will be eliminated. This will serve an evolutionary role of a taxi service within a limited service area. This will be mostly shopping trips for car-less people, and “last mile” services to transit connection points, like Taxis serve now. The evolution comes with lower cost: short-haul, off-peak commuter needs, more “last mile” transit service where an autotaxi will be faster and more convenient than the local bus service, but also cheap.

What happens next? “Roaming” agreements among carriers sharing a common technology platform. The service areas of the autotaxi companies grow larger: your local autotaxi can drop you off on a shopping trip to a regional big-box store two towns over and the local autotaxi there can bring you back cheap. Expanded mobility, less reliance on transit.

This doesn’t mean the end of transit. Individual automobiles still require more energy and infrastructure to operate. The autotaxi will dominate short trips, but especially at peak demand, we will need to rely on higher-capacity transit backbones.

The biggest driver of the need for peak-period transit handoff is the capacity limitations of the autotaxi carriers. You simply can not carry everyone, but you want to be a part of the picture. So, yeah, the service gets you from your house to the transit hub, maybe work out relationships with local transit agencies so thaty “last mile” can be served by auto-taxi as a part of the transit fare itself.

The other limitation is for longer-range travel, even a fully autonomous rubber-on-pavement highway system will not be able to match the speed of rail-based or air travel. The autotaxi might drive you fifty miles to the high-speed train station, but then you’ll board the bullet train for LA which will be faster and charge a lower fare.

Anyway, the roaming evolution will mean that we go from local taxi service to regional airport shuttle service, and this will be great for those who live some distance from a long-haul transportation hub who want to make it to/from the airport, &c.

I think autonomous cars are a very reasonable evolution on human-piloted cars, which were a very reasonable evolution on horse-drawn carriages. In the twentieth century we evolved from horses to humans, and in the twenty-first we will evolve even more seamlessly from human to computer.

Our streets didn’t change much from the carriage to the automobile era. They’re wider and too dangerous for people to walk in. I doubt the streets will change much in the autonomous era, except they’ll narrow again and it will be safe to walk, bike, and play in them again.

My other prediction is that the autotaxi will make getting around so convenient, that car ownership will continue to decline. You will see a winners-and-losers scenario in the auto industry: the losers will realize too late just how badly they are in trouble. They will try to spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt as to the safety and wisdom of reliance on autonomous vehicles, just as they try to sell some. The winners will have identified the coming trend and geared their business to serving the needs of autonomous fleet operators, and to those niche consumers for whom autonomous vehicles are not appropriate, or who just love driving their own car. Other winners will include pedestrians, cyclists, the young, the elderly, people with disabilities, suburbanites, night life, and very likely the environment.

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