Time to get back in the driver’s seat of security

Sadly malicious actors are more common than most people would think and have become on of the biggest concerns of technologists and businesses throughout the world and unfortunately most of the time we are reacting instead of preventing. This week I got to dig into a new company that is looking to change all of that. IntSights was founded in 2015 by former members of an elite intelligence unit in the Israeli Defense Forces with an idea of taking the fight to the bad actors instead of waiting on them.

IntSights is a Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) that looks to prevent things like phishing attacks and domain name spoofing before it impacts the business. The concept seems simple enough, however the execution is always a different animal. Let me give you an example of why something that proactively monitors a companies digital footprint would matter and how its even more important right now during a pandemic.

Imagine you are working for a small chain of restaurants called Mid-American Restaurant Group. There is a main website MARG.com but also each restaurant has their own website like Sam’s Steakhouse (SamsSteaks.com) or Bountiful Bakery (BountifulBakedGoods.com). Each site has its own part that could be impacted. Starting with Sam’s Steaks, if a malicious actor created a website called SamSteak.com and left off the S but then promoted it on social media and web ads they could not only take web traffic but they could do things like take reservations and charge a per person reservation deposit, they would claim it would get refunded and it may or may not but either way they now have your customers credit card info. A similar things could happen if they registered BountifulBakedGood.com, leaving off the S. Now when they use an ecommerce site on the fake site they again are getting customer data. All of this could be stopped or at least caught early if domain names are being checked.

The great thing for the companies is that this is a cloud based solution with no need to install or run servers in house. After-all the companies are not in the business of running IT, they are running restaurants. They not only check the websites but also monitor social media and email phishing attacks. Once any threat is detected it can either send automated messages requesting a registrar to remove a domain or they can have manual messages sent to the IT team. The flexibility is rather broad. It pulls these possible threats from feeds they provide or even private feeds that a company might use or public feeds that IntSights maintains.

Each of these threat libraries can be looked at deeper as well to understand what they have found and what your system is trying to detect as shown below.

Overall if you are looking to get ahead of the billions of dollars in cybercrime losses over the coming years then looking at a Threat Intelligence Platform like Insights would be a great starts.

IntSights Products details can be found here:
Threat Intelligence – https://intsights.com/products/threat-command
Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) – https://intsights.com/products/threat-intelligence-platform
Vulnerability Risk Analyzer – https://intsights.com/products/vulnerability-risk-analyzer
Threat Third Party – https://intsights.com/products/threat-third-party

Note : I have been compensated for this review and commentary

The network broke my application… or did it?

The issue is always the network…

For years systems and server administrators have relied on that old adage that the issues had nothing to do with the applications or the servers but it was almost always a network issue. While in many cases this was not the case it still remained the go-to statement and Kemp Technologies just launched a product to fight that statement. The launch of their Enhanced Network Telemetry combined with their tried and true Load Balancer enables an administrator to handle proactive application troubleshooting from end to end.

The center of the new solution is the launch of their Flowmon Netflow/IPFIX Exporter, long title but what it does is enable the Kemp LoadMaster solution to collect telemetry data on all the network traffic that flows through the system then export it to a dashboard to understand whats happening. The analysis and visualization means that the admin can now see whats going on instead of assuming it’s a network issue.

Kemp says they have added not only the NetFlow info but also some new network detection and response tools that can help any enterprise looking to secure their systems from zero-day threats through app performance.

Seems like a lot in a little package but Kemp also offered up a webinar to learn more so make sure to attend this one to learn a little more on April 22nd.

Note : This blog is sponsored by Kemp as part of their product release.

Where did my Internet Speed go?

It has now been over a year since I was on a plane visiting customers, colleagues and partners yet I have talked to many of them multiple times over the past year all via some form of video conference software or service. The largest challenge has been that while I am fortunate and my home internet had GB download there are still issues with contention and latency resulting in jittery video, audio failures and a general lack of a decent view. We have all experienced these issues and for those of us that are audio and video content creators it is exasperated. Lets take a little deeper dive into three of the things that are having the largest impact.

Shared Home Coaxial Networks

Many home users are using cable based internet services from the likes of Xfinity, these internet providers use a shared coaxial network strategy that means a single large line is brought into the a service group. These service groups can have hundreds of users in it. With the uptick of work from home users there is an influx of additional users on the same main line. Many of the providers have tried to shrink the size of the service groups but it is still an issue with contention, especially as users are utilizing more video conferencing and streaming services. These heavy video workloads used to be reserved for the commercial accounts that we in smaller service groups or dedicated lines to begin with.

Lack of Broadband

Many users these days take the high speed broadband we have today as a given, unfortunately there is still a large segment of the population that either do not have fast broadband because of economic conditions or locale. The locale situation is being addressed slowly with satellite broadband and new innovations like the Starlink from Tesla however the economic issues are still of great concern.

You may wonder why this divide makes it seem like your internet is slow, well its not probably your internet, it could be on the other end of your connection. With people connecting in from their homes instead of corporate locations there is no standard to the level of internet provided to every household and with costs in the hundreds of dollars a month in some places it is cost prohibitive. Looking at the Urban-Rural divide is just one way to examine this problem but know that it is real and isnt just impacting those with slow connections or no connections now.

Data Flow and Usage

Examining data usage is something we are used to for mobile phones but many of the largest internet providers have limits on the amount of data you can send from your house. These limits were often only hit by power home users that ran their own servers in the past but now the added data transfer from video conferencing, streaming, large file uploads and downloads can quickly make a home user approach a limit. The challenge with these limits is they either charge high rates for extra data or slow your speed. That slow speed is often what many users are experiencing.

So What Now….

The next logical question is probably how do we fix all of this, sadly we cant fix everything but what we can do is be cognizant of it. Look at bills like Virginia has introduced that will help fund broadband speeds for underserved students or look to invest in solutions like Starlink that could potentially provide internet to areas that don’t have cable and fiber lines. The other key thing to realize is that the size of data today is constantly growing. When the Apollo mission touched down on the moon the guidance system was able to store 2048 words, this article alone is 679 words long. As the world creates more data it has to travel the same internet lines that have been used for years, expect upgrades, expect innovation and expect increased access. If your vendor isn’t meeting those expectations and your internet keeps getting slower, then look elsewhere and vote with your wallet.

Step into my office…

70% more employees are teleworking since the pandemic began which is resulting in large empty office spaces. As corporate leases expire or are exited what should we do with the empty space? Here’s three thoughts on ways we can turn this institutional shift into a cultural boom

Upgraded space for schools

Many of today’s school building are either aging or have been renovated so many times that you can’t tell what’s new or old. This is especially true for many schools in urban settings where the land is at a premium. Office building often already have huddle spaces and conferences rooms that would allow for more intimate small group instruction. They also have a significant networking infrastructure to allow for remote learning. The cubicle farms of yesterday are very easily converted to individual student desks with privacy to work on their activities and still open enough to have supervision.

The new farm and farmers market

Farmers markets are often a seasonal thing because of weather but if you wandered around a open space that had stalls for local vendors and farmers but were protected from the elements there is no longer a weather restriction. Having a place to sell goods only works though if you have items to sell and high rise office buildings have more than adequate size and structure to support more urban farming techniques. Utilize the existing large power supplies or add more alternative energy and lighting can be added along with irrigation. Indoor farming isn’t new but could have a new rake in office buildings.

Affordable housing for all

This one is really up to the same developers that chose to build for businesses because that’s where the revenue was. Now they have empty buildings that could be converted without too much work into multi family housing. This wouldn’t work for every space but office centric spaces could easily be converted to dormitory style living. The addition of more bathing space is one of the few additions really needed.

Combine them all

If you took all of these concepts with a single high rise office building you now ha e places to work (farms or good creation), places to learn and places to live all just riding an elevator or taking the stairs. Clearly a shangri-la but we are at an inflection point that we can reinvent the world we live in so why not…

Smart Cities: The Next Frontier of Data Management

It is projected that by 2050 over 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Similar projections show a 25% increase in total population to reach almost 9.9 Billion meaning that almost 7 Billion people will live in urban areas in the next 30 years. As these urban areas grow so will the infrastructure systems that are needed to support them. These modern systems are often part of a grander smart city initiative, collecting everything from traffic data to water usage.

smart city is an urban area that uses different types of electronic methods and sensors to collect data. Insights gained from that data are used to manage assets, resources and services efficiently; in return, that data is used to improve the operations across the city.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_city
File:Smart City.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Smart cities merge technological and social aspects of urban life while attempting to make the environment safer and more enjoyable for everyone that lives there, but the question is how….

Imagine if the heavily trafficked thoroughfare through your city was able to monitor what cars were driving on it, what the weather conditions were like, and even monitor bicycle usage. You could use this data to determine if new bike lanes were needed to reduce traffic congestion and if they should be temporary to account for winter months. As a business you could get demographic data on drivers and determine if your local shop is servicing the right clientele.

All of this is a result of the data points that are collected. This data is going to continue to grow and impact the global data sprawl. It is projected that we will have 175 terrabytes of data by 2025 growing at a 61% CAGR. If we use the same growth rate out to 2050 we will have 27,000,000 terrabytes of data in 2050.

With exponential data growth, Smart Cities are just one of the area that need to be addressed to reduce data management and storage costs. How do we address it? Well that remains to be seen, but option like data tiering and archival will play a large role along with tried and true technologies like deduplication and compression.

Delivering Lightboard Presentations from Home

Over the last few years I have been asked to give multiple different lightboard presentations, they have a very cool look of drawing on the screen while the presenter is speaking and I have enjoyed creating them, however there is a problem. The equipment to do a lightboard can be very extensive or one would think. My first one I did in a full production studio at the Lenovo US headquarters, and since then I have done them all in set up studios, including the ones that I have done for Cohesity.

Lets talk about what is setup for a true production quality lightboard, you of course need the board, in our case this would be the size of an old school chalkboard but it a large piece of glass, most likely no-iron glass also. Built on to the glass is a set of lights that make the glass “glow”. Then you will need a fully dark room, some stage or camera lighting, a microphone setup and a high end video camera. This is great when you can go to the office, but we can’t so how do you do a lightboard.

I created the lightboard you see in the video below to be able to work in my home office and simply sits on the back of my desk when I am not using it. Do you get the same fantastic production quality, of course not but is it good enough, I think so.

I created this entire lightboard for under $250 and you can use your standard webcam you already own or even your iphone to record. You are probably now wondering where you can get all the parts.. well here you go. Its rather easy to assemble but I will tell you the connectors for the LED lights can be a pain so be patient.

  • Led Light Strips – $14.99 Per Set (I used 2 sets so that I could control the brightness on me and the board separately)
  • Led Light Strip Connectors – $7.99
  • Clear Lexan Sheet 24′ x 24″ – $109
  • Desktop Whiteboard – $99.40 – You will only use the base but the glass whiteboard is very nice.
  • Neon Whiteboard Markers – $6.40
  • 3D Printer Lightboard Mounts – These were from a project done at Duke University and are great and really only need 2 of the sets of lights not 3 for the home usage. You will print these on any 3D printer, the default ones are 5″ long, I used 10 of them at 6″ and 2 at 3″ when I created mine. If you dont have a 3D printer and want to try these, I could make some more with the right offer. The do take a while to print on my printer, over a day per five pieces.

If you dont have access to a 3-D printer then you can switch out the printer light holders for the shower door liner and lights below, its does not light you up but holds the lights against the Lexan very well.

Once you have everything together, all you need is any video editing software that will allow you to flip the image, camtasia is probably the easiest but you can use any you want. Enjoy and comment on how it works for you.

Onward and Upward

Constructing a new home is one of the toughest and most tiring things a common person would be doing. Each of us considers constructing a new home as the biggest desire of our life and this excitement often leaves us making unpractical and money-draining decisions that leave us regretting afterwards. In order to make sure that we do not drain our hard-earned money into anything wasteful, we need making a proper plan before finally starting to construct a new home for ourselves.

Investigate the Area

Before you purchase the land for your future home, it is necessary to hire real estate consultant and ask for their opinion. Buy the land that is best in terms of all basic necessities of life and is situated nearby market, eateries, school, park etc. Moreover, you should ask your real estate agent to guide you about the land from the future perspective. Improve your property landscape curb appeal with New England Turf Store.

Ask Your Architect to Not Overbuild

After having done with land purchasing, it is time to interact with your architect. It has been noticed that the usual construction in Pakistan includes overbuilt houses that end up with a number of problems afterwards. So, before you finalize the home plan, you should make a comparison of it with the others in the same street to make sure that you are following the same pattern and are not overbuilding. This would also result in legal issues afterwards and would cost you a great deal to settle them down.

Hire a Construction Consultant/Builder Carefully

After a thoughtful consideration and a thorough survey, you should hire a professionally qualified, experienced and well reputed builder for your home. The analysis of a construction company or a builder can be done by having a look at their previous projects, asking their previous clients about how they were treated and how their homes turned out to be. Besides, going after big names is also sometimes not a good idea since it would drain away a major portion of your budget into the consultation fees. Look for your budget first and hire the services of a professional construction company accordingly.

Is the real future for VMware in one of its quietest releases?

VMworld 2018 once again proved to be one of the biggest technology events of the year, yes you can point out Dreamforce and OracleWorld and Microsoft Ignite as potentially larger but VMworld is still a ~20K person conference and ranks as one fo the larger ones around.  Its also no surprise that VMware takes the time to make major product announcements during the show to make it exciting and get the user base hyped for another year.  This year I heard alot about how the release of Amazon RDS Services natively in a private datacenter and connected as a custom region in AWS was the biggest news.  While I I do believe this is a great thing for many enterprises and specifically cloud first companies, I don’t think it will be the release that has the largest impact on the future of VMware.

Welcome vSphere on ARM! Yes ARM, that little processor you hear about for cell phones and IoT devices.  This was touched on in one of the keynotes and I think alot of people just thought it was a gimmick and since there is no firm release date, thats reasonable but lets for a moment take a look at a few places that vSphere on ARM could have a huge impact.

Continue reading “Is the real future for VMware in one of its quietest releases?”

The accounts of a few and guidance to many…

Every once in a while there is a day that brings together people that are from down the street, across the country and around the world with an attempt to make the world a slightly better place.  While this sounds like quite the audacious goal, The Reckoning aims to:

Do Work That Matters 
Beyond Technologist: Communicator, Businessperson
Be a Creator, Not An Operator
I have been lucky enough to be in attendance to represent Nexenta but also my history and background.  Kicking off the day with an unconference that was hosted by Cody Bunch and Alastair Cooke of vBrownbag we started with a generic list of topics that those in attendance thought were important to the community, the tech sector and hopefully others that could not attend.  I have done these before and the ideas tend not to get to flow past the group in attendance, and since the first break out, I volunteered to lead it seems only write to pass on some of the insight from those that may have been there, might want to go there or those that are just guessing but either way they are nuggets of knowledge.
Breakout #1: Making the transition from hands on tech to a business person
After a little history of everyone in the group a few main topics really jumped out, first off what does being a business person mean?  We came up with a few things but overall it is a multi-faceted role where you may manage people, you may be leading a technology or you may be selling technology.  The business role could me one or any of these and we had some random comments throughout:
  • Help to build things that remove blockers for others – it shouldnt always be about you getting ahead
  • It doesnt have to be just about making more money
  • Move to what comes from the heart
  • Actively pursue happiness or as Amy Lewis mentioned “I can’t work if I’m not happy”
  • Be the one to make the decision

As we tried to wrap up the first breakout we have a few pieces of advice to pass along in no particular order.

  1. Don’t worry about your title and role – Do the job you want to do
  2. Perception Management is key – Don’t hide your second job, that extra you do that may not get noticed
  3. If you are making your job up and your company doesnt agree, maybe that means you are at the wrong company
  4. Find something you resonate with – Follow your internal GPS
  5. Be comfortable in your lifestyle, it might not be about the paycheck but make sure you are happy
Breakout #2: Crossing the skills gap from one vendor to many

Again this one required a little bit of clarification, many of the people here had their careers revolve around VMware but how do you make sure you are not just “The VMware Guy”?  The first thing discussed was from Cody Bunch pointing out that when he mentors others he asks them to write down all the things they do in a week.  He doesn’t need to read the list but the mentee needs to recognize all the things they do.  Another version of this was to come up with a skill set pie chart.  Maybe you spend 80% of your day working on VMware, but then you spend 5% learning about DevOps and 10% of your day in project management (we all know 5% of your day is wasted at a minimum)  Now determine which of those secondary skills you want to get better at.  What will make you happy?  You have to remember that it is a choice of sacrifice, meaning what will drop, why would you drop it and are you ok if something doesnt get developed?  As you try to develop a skill though you have to remember that if you hit a wall, that doesnt always mean give up but there are times when you should potentially look elsewhere to find what you can excel at.  Are you not sure what those secondary skills are?  Ask your peers, interview for roles not exactly like yours, you will find out what your brand is and quickly learn what those secondary skill sets are.

All of this find a second things to do and the sacrifice does come at a cost, but as with every financial advisor that says pay yourself first, the same goes for your career, also if you are looking for a good financial advisor, check Metric seis tax relief.  Make an investment in the company of YOU.  While you may work 60 hours a week at your primary job, dont expect that every company sees that when they make financial decisions, often times you may be 2 or 3 or more layers removed from those looking at the balance sheet.  Those people simply see numbers and while it is always good to get visibility with them, it is not always possible and you should be prepared for what your future might hold.  That being said always make sure to balance your skill set between what is good for you and what is good for your employer.  Dont take this to mean that you should just do your own thing, but remember to stretch your comfort level and find that next thing for you, or you too will go the way of the mainframe and punchcards.

The first day at The Reckoning sure was insightful and continues with some great speakers and a group talk led by The Geek Whisperers, looking forward to seeing what day 2 holds…

 

Product Review: Bose QC20i Noise Canceling Earbuds

Traveling around the world, every road warrior I know, myself included, have a few things that always end up in their safe.  Many will say it is a laptop or tablet, maybe your passport, but one of the most important things to me when taking long flights are my noise canceling headphones.  I tried quite a few different pairs of headphones over the years.  I tried them from just about every vendor, trying to avoid what I thought was a $300 tax from Bose for their headphones.  There were pairs from $50-200 but none of them really blocked out the noise, or remained comfortable for long flights.  I finally ended up with the Bose QC15.  I have been using them for almost three years on flights, and for conference calls and I have been very happy with them.  In the three years, I have had to replace the connection cable once (I lost it on a place) and I just replaced the earpads, overall small pieces.  You are probably asking why I am reviewing something else then if I was happy. Well I was with one exception, you cant lay your head to the side and sleep with a large bulky basket around your head, much less lay flat.  So in come the QuietComfort 20i earbuds.

T2015-01-02 15.22.12o give you an idea of the size, the picture to the left is the QC15 case beside the new QC20i travel case.  To give you an idea, the earbuds case is about 4″ by 2″ or just about the size of an iPhone 5, not even the iPhone 6 plus!

Now it is time to dig into the actual headphones.  qc20iAs you can tell in the pic, they look like a normal pair of earbuds with the exception of the box attached to the wires.  This is the rechargeable battery and control module.  2015-01-02 14.42.19It using a micro USB cable to charge and according to Bose will keep a charge for 16 hrs on about 2 hrs of charge time.  This will be a big test since with the QC25, I always carry extra batteries as well.  The other part you see is the inline microphone, 2015-01-02 14.41.59just like the factory iPhone headphones, but with one exception.  There is also a button that turns off the noise canceling temporarily.  There is a version without the “i” that comes with a straight through cable as well.  This was lacking on the QC25 and until I learned about this I didnt think about the fact that I almost always slide one ear off to hear the flight attendants.

Now the question comes up for the comfort.  The QC20 comes with three different size eartips.  The medium were installed and fit my ears fine.

Sound quality on these seems on par if not better than the QC15.  You get the minimal white noise when turning on the noise canceling.  One major upgrade from the QC15 is that if the battery dies you can still listen to music!

Overall I am looking forward to a much smaller package to carry around in my carry on and the ability to sleep through nice long flights.

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