Success starts with making the bed

As the weather is changing and cooler climates become the norm, here is a quick, simple note to make your day better and your night rewarding. It is as simple as making your bed. Have you ever thought about the benefits of making the bed when you roll out to start your day? The value of something so trivial can be the start of a successful, positive, and fruitful day.  I know your thinking right now “how can making the bed be so important to my day?”

Well, it’s the first task of the day you completed most likely in under 2 minutes.  This will give you a sense of accomplishment.  It’s something small and trivial but think of it as a stretching exercise before you jump into a full workout.  This task sets the precedence of the rest of the workday.

Another benefit to making the bed is the benefit to yourself coming home to a freshly made bed, bringing a sense of reward and comfort that a task you accomplished hours ago, is there for you to enjoy. Climbing into a nice looking, and clean bed brings a zen of comfort and clarity.

If you bring someone home and they happen to walk past your room, you will feel a sense of pride and confidence in them seeing you are structured at home just as well as you are at work.

The unbiased T-Mobile vs Verizon Wireless report

T-Mobile and Verizon are at WAR with each other.  It reminds me of the days back in California where the gangs were fighting for turf.  Both carriers claim they are better than the other with one carrier throwing around they have deep pockets and invest heavily, while the other seems to be spending in the social connection between customer and company, and while they are investing in infrastructure, they are also investing in their customer base.

I have been using both services now for the last several years because of the industry I have been in and the need to be available 24/7/365.  For me, I would grab one phone and talk, if I lost the call, I would simply grab the other phone and continue the call.  I didn’t judge one provider over the other when it came to coverage.

T-Mobile though has become my primary device in which communications take place.  I provide that cell number to all and they call my T-Mobile number.  I also use that device for my Internet browsing, tethering my computer for access when away from home, I’ve even used T-Mobile when my InterNET connection went down to stream between two TV’s that had AppleTV’s and they worked effortlessly as if connected to my fiber optic service at home.  I have on occasion surpassed the 28gb now 30gb limit by 20gb which only happened because I was testing Google photos and it was uploading my 150gigs of photos through the cellular network and the wifi over a couple of days.   Did T-Mobile slow me down?  If so, I didn’t notice.

Verizon has been my backup service always there when T-Mobile was not.  Ironically this only seems to be the case when traveling outside of the city on one of my hiking adventures.  Verizon was always there ready to work and allow me to stay connected.  I felt safe and confident that Verizon Wireless was able to be available for those trips where the T-Mobile service would simply not be available.

This is only the baseline, though, and T-Mobile has in my opinion, beat Verizon Down in so many ways when navigating through my usual circles of day to day life.

  • My local grocery store Verizon would go from LTE to 1x barely voice and no data while T-Mobile was almost full bars and LTE.
  • My Verizon Phone would update from Apple’s App store extremely slow while T-Mobile didn’t waste my time and pulled those updates down ASAP.  I would run the updates at the same time over two identical iPhones.
  • Verizon would kick butt in signal when going underground in the Seattle area. However, T-Mobile just seems to work better in buildings and around town.
  • T-Mobile’s unlimited service has been amazing, fast, and reliable in the majority of areas I need it to work.
  • T-Mobile gives you unlimited Voice, Text, and Data in Mexico and Canada while Verizon limits you to 500 Megs per day.
  • T-Mobile’s 600mhz spectrum is going to be a game changer
  • T-Mobile is investing in towers which only increases their service offering
  • T-Mobile has Digits which allows me to make/receive calls and texts from my Verizon Phone as if they were being made from my T-Mobile phone.

I recently started a new Consulting Gig. My first day I happen to have my Verizon Phone with me, so I have been using that number since it was provided to people I work with on day one, however, with digits, all my T-Mobile calls are coming in, and no one has any knowledge that the call is happening over Digits.

Global Systems and Network Engineer by day, Small Systems and Network Engineer at night.

Reminiscing on the late 90’s I started thinking about how I love what I do and do what I love.  I remember the first time I got to walk through a Microsoft Datacenter and see thousands of servers connected providing services to users all over the world.  It was awesome to think that a machine sitting in Redmond, can be rendering a service to someone sitting in India, Fiji, or Germany.  How electrical current on a wire or pulses of light on a Fiber Optic cable, moves information from one point to the other point instantly.

I was a work-o-holic back in the late 90’s when my then manager Changhui, hired me to work in this new secret team at Microsoft.  It was a small group, but we grew very fast.  The team was still trying to figure itself out, and we had many roles to fill, giving me the opportunity to put on several hats.   Not only was I a Software Engineer, but I also participated in operations, and became the Team’s Lab Manager.  We minimized how many teams at Microsoft we interfaced with since the product we were developing, directly competed with other vendors who were on campus.  We didn’t want the news of what we were doing, getting back to the vendor/competitor.

The Lab Manager role suited me well being a fresh transfer from the Microsoft Windows Division and the team needed someone that could build Windows Server’s, setup test domains, create trust relationships with Microsoft internal domains, etc.

Building a network inside Microsoft was fun, and I had an annual budget of 65 million to spend.  These were the days when Compaq Computer Corporation still existed and had not yet merged with Hewlett-Packard.   We built a Lab it was awesome and provided all the infrastructure we needed from inception/vision to architect, development, testing, and pre-production.   I was quite proud of myself and the accomplishments I made here.  To put this into perspective, this is the Windows 2000 days.  I did have a couple of NT4 machines I built in our test environment, and that was fun.

So what did I do, I went home, spec’ed out four servers and created a Windows 2000 Domain in my closet.  I wired the entire house, connected the several workstations throughout my house to the domain, and even connected it to this new service called @home.  This was the Cable Internet service in the beginning of time.  RCA provided the cable modems. And I found a picture I’m sharing which shows you one of the first models of modems.

In the world of Windows 2000 and Active Directory, your domain was what we call fqdn or fully qualified domain name.  I was thinking and thinking of what to use. In the end, I came up with omeganet.org which was available, cheaper than .com and in those days domain names cost north of $80.00 per year.  This was super exciting.

I built my Domain Controller, Exchange Server, Files Server, and backup Domain Controller, integrated the printers in our house within the domain sharing them out to all computers, etc.  I could walk upstairs into the kitchen, login to the computer in the kitchen, read my email, log off, walk downstairs to my office bedroom, and log in, and have access to all the same resources.   This was just brilliant.

My wife, on the other hand, tolerated it.  While she thought it was cool,  having just a couple computers in the house in her mind was sufficient instead of several.  In these days, most people had one computer maybe two.   I know we had around ten.   I wish Hyper-V or VMWARE were around back then.   In any case, I would go to work and play in a global network, and then come home and play on my little network.  Both needed management and maintaining.

It’s not every day someone can say they go to fun and not to work.  I got to go to fun every day, and it was fantastic.

Respectfully,
William J. Nelson

Starbucks – The new office for today’s workforce

I find myself traveling here and there when working on consulting projects.  In the past, I would find a cubicle, office, or conference room at the client’s location I could setup in and go to work.  Other times, I would hunt down a Regus office and pay the pricey fee. I had to pay an additional fee for awful coffee and unhealthy snacks such as snickers, kit kat, etc.  Today’s millennials are social bugs, enjoy being in an active environment, sit in front of a screen and zone out all the noise focusing on their objective of getting work done.  I had a few millennials working for me at my previous company, and I couldn’t understand how they would work well away from the office at a coffee shop plowing through the work in our ticketing system.   Sometimes they would call me, or I would call them I could hear all the noise in the background but to them it was music, they were good, and were very productive, happy, and achieving more than being at the office.

I have had an opportunity to experience this environment more, and at first, it was very distracting, it has become an option for me when choosing a work environment. I cal always escape to my home office where I have a large screen, desk, TV and other quiet or noise options should I need to adjust my environment.

 

The millennials simply put on headphones, and escape into their music, chat away through Instant Messenger, iMessage, Hangouts, or another chat platform as the baristas are there ready to serve their food and drink needs. They dislike email, voice calls, and prefer instant messaging apps instead.  They would prefer email over voice and will happily respond knowing the next option from email is a voice call.  If I called them, they would respond back in a Text or Email with “What’s Up?  Do you need something? I missed a call from you?” Never would they call me back on voice unless I responded back “Please Call”?

I have adopted the new working environment and believe that companies really should take a look at this new form of a workspace.  The office can be smaller, and dedicated spaces for employees can be limited or even eliminated providing an enclave time solution such as first come first serve, or using Microsoft Exchange room option to reserve spaces just like you would reserve a conference room.

Employees can self-address potential conflicts by shifting themselves around office drama or even avoiding it all together. For example, If they do not like someone, they can choose to sit somewhere else in the office or work at a Starbucks where the personality conflict can be minimized or avoided completely.   In my opinion, employees having the ability to choose their working environment in many ways limits the potential liability a company may have if the employee chooses his or her environment outside of the direction of the company.  I was chatting up an individual today, and she mentioned that she likes to come here instead of going to the office.  She says she gets eighty percent more work done by avoiding the office drama, constant interruptions of people coming by to discuss nonwork-related topics and the commute from her home to this particular Starbucks in 5 minutes vs. 60 minutes.   She also dresses down which allows her a little more sleep in the morning.  All in all, as a Salaried Employee she would work about 6 hours a day driving into the office as she felt if the company is forcing her to come into the office, they should cover the commute time she suffers through.   Working at Starbucks, the time flies, and she says she unintentionally gives her employer on occasion more than 8 hours a day because she is in her element, wants to finish something up and isn’t worried about ten more minutes turning into a two-hour commute vs. a one hour commute.  She is just a two-minute drive away from her child’s school which minimizes the concern of her being so far away from her child.  As a single mom, she invests a lot of time and energy in work, and her child, leaving little for herself.  This work environment gives her a boost not available to the working class single mom or dad of the past.  I find executives have adopted the Starbucks office as well.  You see them sitting on their phone or iPad just managing people.

 

As I was typing this article, the Police Department came in here and started planning the route for a funeral escort from the funeral home to the cemetery.  That was awesome to hear how they wanted to avoid construction areas and make the journey as painless as possible for everyone.  They were discussing options, verifying the military branch the individual served in, and putting a lot of effort into the plan.  After taking the photo, several other police officers showed up, and they discussed the final plan before heading out.  In closing, the office environment, and benefits of the past are not as important to today’s workforce.  I think today’s Executive and Middle Management need to be open to alternative work environments capitalizing on amazing talent that would otherwise go elsewhere to an environment that gives them their individuality and more control of their working relationship. I remember a good friend of mine his name is Dean.  He is a Chiropractor in California.  When the day was over, he didn’t want to stick around the office; he wanted to jump in his car and get out of the office ASAP.  It wasn’t that he didn’t’ love what he did, he just wanted a change of scene, put the top down, windows down, and drive away from the same four walls he just spent the last 10 hours in.  This was 1990, and he was the business owner.  On the flip side though, there are employees that want the cubicle, office, and will function better in that type of environment.   Before choosing one over the other, I would discuss with management a hybrid solution that accommodates both types of employees, so you do not lose talent over corporate policy.   Setup office spaces and cubicle that can be assigned and if someone chooses that, there is an expectation that they are at the office the majority of the time.  Then setup cubicle/office spaces and call them something like ENCLAVE.  They can be rented by the day, week or some schedule.  You can leverage Microsoft Exchange to manage the corporate resource.

In closing, don’t lose talent or create stressful work environments unintentionally.  If or when you deploy a new policy, do not forget the middle management.  I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days over a global cloud-based file sharing service.  Their staff has the flexibility to work from home or come into an office environment that has several floors of themed spaces, restaurant with free food, gym, etc.   While their policy allows for people to work from home or offsite, the expectation was that managers and or executive staff be at the office every day.   This policy is going to cost them some great talent if a change isn’t done in the next six to ten months.   They are looking at losing some key personnel that do not want to create conflict or complaint, they simply are going to jump ship to another opportunity that will afford them the same flexibility allowing them to be close to home, kids schools, minimize commute, etc.

Regards,

Will

 

SUSE the BMW of Linux Operating Systems

 

 

 

 

Many of us drive around in BMW’s, VW’s, and other German engineered cars.  Why?, Because they’re built with perfection in mind.  Not just good, or great, but perfection to detail.  When I entered the world of Linux, I was introduced to Red Hat and SUSE at the same time.  Everyone was pushing me to Red Hat, while I was being drawn to SUSE.  SUSE was built beautifully, everything was clean, from the command line or terminal interface to the GNOME Desktop GUI.  The SUSE team spent a lot of time on this distribution such as customizing the OpenOffice application, so it fits in very cleanly in SUSE giving it perfection. You can see the effort invested into everything overall.  It reminded me of the difference between a Honda and a BMW.  Both cars are built well and built to last, have excellent safety mechanisms in place to protect you from an accident, but BMW just has that attention to detail that is very aesthetically pleasing, looks beautiful, makes you want to get in the driver’s seat and just drive.

Red Hat has yum, and that’s great, but SUSE has yum as well. Over the years yum was replaced with zypper on SUSE but, it’s the same thing when you get down to what it does.  yum install mtr, or zypper install mtr provides the same outcome.  SUSE also has YAST, and this is where you start to see the difference between Red Hat and SUSE.  Yast is a command line or terminal graphical user interface that provides a powerful tool for adding, removing, and configuring your SUSE Linux machine.  This is great for beginners in the Linux world.

A lot of time and effort has been put into the bash shell to make it aesthetically pleasing, implementation of visual design by using various colors as key indicators of what you’re looking at such as a file or directory is the file executable, etc.  The font is clean and crisp.

When I decided to write this post, it didn’t surprise me to find out that BMW is using SUSE Linux to power its data centers, and infrastructure.  They also are using the SUSE + OpenStack as the core.  I also noticed when performing an update to my iDrive; there were Linux files in the zip file I downloaded.  I can’t confirm, but I would guess iDrive was given birth from a fork of SUSE Linux.

I found this article that briefly provides some background on how BMW is using SUSE.

SUSE has several significant partners and clients that leverage this incredible distribution.  I have listed just a few below.

  • Amazon Web Services
  • Cisco
  • Dell
  • Fujitsu
  • Hitachi
  • HP
  • IBM
  • Intel
  • Lenovo
  • Microsoft
  • SAP
  • VMWARE

You cannot go wrong with SUSE Linux.  With all this said, there are a couple of drawbacks.  While much work has been put into this distribution to create the attention to detail, you may find it difficult to modify or heavily customize the distribution without breaking some of the work put in to make it great.  If you want to customize SUSE completely, there are options out there that allow for this.  Just know that one of two things can happen,

  1. You break some of the integration and simplicity that SUSE Developers built such as YAST
  2. YAST or other SUSE apps may overwrite your customizations if you decide to modify files outside of YAST.

In these cases, it may be a better idea to go with another distribution such as RedHat where you have to do more of the hands-on under the hood work.   Replacing the radio in a Honda or a Chevy truck is pretty easy but replacing one in a BMW is almost impossible without sacrificing a lot including your warranty.  Just keep this in mind when deciding on deploying a Linux OS.

Both RedHat and SUSE have Community versions of their Commerical Operating Systems.  RedHat has CentOS and Fedora.  SUSE has OpenSUSE Tumbleweed and Leap.

CentOS is an exact copy of the commercial code base minus the RedHat logo and references to RedHat.

Fedora is their bleeding edge OS where Redhat test technology and updates that will eventually end up in Redhat and CentOS.

OpenSUSE Leap is an exact copy of the commercial version of SUSE.

OpenSUSE Tumbleweed is where SUSE team test technology and updates that will eventually end up in SUSE and OpenSUSE Leap.

So when it comes to Linux, I like SUSE Linux.  I also use CentOS or even Ubuntu depending on the circumstances and who I am working or partnering with.  Everyone has a preference, and I like to be open to other people’s choice.  When it’s my choice to choose a Linux distro, SUSE Linux is my primary choice many times but not always…

Check out SUSE Linux

Check out OpenSUSE Linux

Cloud or OnPremise Infrastructure? Stop being Manipulated!

The Question:

All too often, I’m asked should I go cloud, should I stay on-premise, should I go public or private cloud? This is not a new question in today’s technology decision-making process, its just more people in an organization are becoming aware of the cloud as it invades our personal lives and provides some fresh products, services, features and convenience to our private lives.   For example, I have iCloud which is Apple’s Cloud Services.   I take a photo with my iPhone, within 10 seconds, that photo is on my iPad, Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, iMac, and even my PC. It’s also available on any device with a web browser and Internet access.  If I create a document and place it on my desktop on my MacBook Pro, it’s automatically available on my other desktops within seconds.  My perception of the cloud is changing subconsciously because of how this technology is assisting me behind the scenes making decisions that make my life more convenient.  Microsoft and Amazon are the big players among thousands out there that offer cloud services.  You can spin up a Windows, or even Unix machine, by clicking a few buttons and then the software goes to work accomplishing the task for you.  This automation makes cloud-based services look cool.

What is Cloud?

Let’s start off by breaking down what lies under the hood of this word Cloud.  Cloud is a buzzword, a subliminal message, a very successful marketing ploy that the world fell in love with.  The illusion and magic that has been created with this word draw’s people into the idea or subconscious belief, their data is floating above their heads safe, secure, and available anytime.  Well, let me tell you something that may diminish your excitement or fantasy about the cloud.   The Cloud is a building or buildings with rows of racks, full of servers, serving up applications, storing files, providing email, sync your contacts, folders, and files.  The Cloud has been around for a very very very long time.  The marketing people just repackaged the product they are selling and gave it a cool name.  The world over time adopted it.  The cloud is not without its flaws, risks, and even rewards.   But the idea it’s something new or a game changer, it’s not.   Cloud Providers buy servers from the same places you can buy servers, put them in data centers, and provide you a service over those computers.

Why Use Cloud?

The next question I am asked:  “should I use the cloud or should I have servers onsite?  Well, that’s a loaded question that requires some thought, discussions, review or risks vs. reward, cost, etc.  There is also two cloud offerings out there that need a review when looking at Cloud Solutions. Most people are unaware of this.  They are Public Cloud and Private Cloud.

 

Public Cloud:

Public cloud in its simplest terms is sharing space on a server that several others use at the same time.  Think of it as a rental car that you pay to use for a particular amount of time when you were done, you drop it off, and someone else uses that car for a specific amount of time, then drops it off.  So the Public Cloud is NOT dedicated to you, and all consumers share the resources on that cloud   There could be hundreds of other companies using that machine, and each has to share the resources.

Private Cloud:

Private cloud in its simplest terms is a dedicated server or servers in a rack at a data center/colocation facility that is set up, configured, and dedicated to your organization.   These servers are yours, and you can use them in almost anyway you like.   This is like leasing a car for a term, and at the conclusion of the lease, you turn the car in and walk away after removing your personal items from the car.  The advantage here is, this car is yours, and no one else can schedule to rent it out.  You are in control the server and how its resources are allocated. Furthermore, your data, applications and Intellectual Property is not sitting on a server shared by several others.

 

NOTE: FBI/Police subpoenas could take your infrastructure offline in a shared environment or open you up to being part of an investigation, or lawsuit, that you did not sign up for simply by sharing the virtual real-estate.  It’s no different to being subject to search if you’re in a vehicle and the police find probable cause to search that vehicle you become an unfortunate victim of circumstance.


On Premise:

On Premise in its simplest terms is a server or servers located onsite at your place of business, you install the operating system, applications, etc.   Some people build what I call OnPremise Private Cloud.   They take the servers and add a HyperVisor to the server allowing them to run several Virtual Machines on a single piece of equipment.  There are several HyperVisors out there.  A couple of popular ones are VMWARE ESX and Microsoft Hyper-V.  OnPremise solution doesn’t always mean the servers are onsite at your facility.  You can also purchase or lease servers; they arrive, you then rent rack space from a DataCenter/Colocation facility, and install these machines yourselves, sometimes they can be located in a facility serving up Private and Public Cloud solutions.

Hybrid:

What I’m generally not asked, but I offer up as an option is looking at a Hybrid Solution where you use a combination of Cloud and OnPremise options based on what’s best for the business.

 

Recap:

So what we have learned so far is Cloud is merely a buzz word for servers in a datacenter that some intelligent marketing people conjured up, repackaged, and sold to the world.  There are a few different types of cloud options primarily a private cloud where you are leasing the servers. It’s dedicated to you, and, you maintain some control over them.  A public cloud is a server that is sharing its resources with several subscribers at the same time, and you have no control over how the allocation takes place.

Pro’s vs. Con’s:

As with each solution, there are Pro’s and Con’s that need to be considered as we move through the checklist to determine the best option. Here are just a few of the Pro’s and Con’s that were on the top of my mind while writing this article.  This is not a complete list and should only be used as a guide to building a list. Let’s start out with the Pro’s of a Public Cloud Solution

Pro’s of a Public Cloud Solution:

  1. Easy signup
  2. Quickly order the resources needed and spin them up fast
  3. Inexpensive initially
  4. No commitment can turn on and off anytime (most of the time)
  5. Adequate support for the basics
  6. Basic level of backup typically included
  7. No need to manage and maintain physical hardware
  8. No colocation or data center type responsibilities or expenses

Con’s of a Public Cloud Solution:

  1. Shared resources can become unreliable, slow, inaccessible
  2. You are not in control
  3. Someone else maintains and has access to your data
  4. Costly support beyond the basic support needs
  5. Backup limited.  Restores for other users could impact your data unexpectedly.
  6. Risk of potential search and seizure
  7. The danger of being hacked or attacked simply by being a neighbor of another client that shares the same resource you are on.

Pro’s of a Private Cloud Solution:

  1. Hardware dedicated to you
  2. Resources in some cases can be added relatively quickly in some instances within 24hrs
  3. You’re not sharing the space with others, so security and privacy and intrusion protections are in your favor.
  4. Backup data on your terms your way and restore on your terms your way
  5. Participate in hardware choice, configuration, deployment procedures
  6. Lease or Own the hardware
  7. Gain console access to the physical hardware
  8. Move physical hardware from one cloud provider to another or even bring on-premise
  9. Control the length you use, retire, replace the hardware.

Con’s of a Private Cloud Solution:

  1. You now are in the business or owning or leasing hardware
  2. Hardware can fail, and you may be responsible
  3. The need for extended support contracts with hardware vendors such as 4x24x7 (4-hour response 24hours a day, seven days a week) which cost up front but save your bacon in a hardware failure scenario.
  4. The need to have multiple physical machines and use high availability or fault tolerance technologies to minimize or eliminate your downtime.
  5. Backup is now your responsibility.  Procuring, managing, and maintain a backup strategy is part of having a private cloud. (Some providers that offer private cloud solutions will do this for you for a fee.)
  6. The need to go onsite depending on the need for physical console connection or lack of an IP-based KVM that allows for remote management of console.

 

These are just some of the things to think about.  Obviously, each scenario has its pro’s and con’s and every situation in a disaster isn’t going to happen, it’s just a possible scenario.  We haven’t even dived into the pro’s and con’s of having an on-premise solution.  There is merit for this type of situation however given the availability of high-speed Internet pipes; I usually recommend people look at renting colo and moving those physical machines into a data center.  Data centers are many-time referred to as physical cloud facilities or just plain old cloud.  If you think about it, the word cloud as I mentioned previously is merely a marketing buzz word.  Calling a data-center or collocation facility a cloud facility makes complete sense.

Many data centers offer collocation space and also have a  À la carte menu of options for other services that you can select from to maximize your investment in IT Infrastructure.  It’s good to talk to them and see what they can offer.  I will say, many of them want you to sign up for their Public or Leased Private Cloud solutions.  This is where they make the most margins for their services.  If you’re looking at owning your infrastructure and leasing a rack from the facility, just let them know that’s your intention.  If they are respectful and care about what’s best for you and your decision process, they will focus on your vision and not their bottom line.

I feel like I have only glossed over this topic. I believe an entire mini book could be written about this topic and even then there is much to be considered.  If you have questions, need guidance, or recommendations, don’t hesitate to post a comment or even reach out to me directly.

I wish you the best in your endeavor and future success.

Regards,
-Will

Microsoft adding co-authoring to the office lineup starting with excel

Yesterday Microsoft announced co-authoring is coming to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  Microsoft is starting with Excel on the Windows platform for users set up on office insiders fast.  Co-Authoring feature allows you to see who else is working on the spreadsheet you are working on in real-time and see the changes seconds after they made them.

Microsoft enthusiast should be excited to see this coming to the office suite.   Google pioneered this functionality with Google Apps, and it has been a feature that pulls users over to the Google platform.  I have used the Google platform with other users that have invited me to collaborate with them on docs they have developed on Google.  I have been a loyal Microsoft Office user.  This is an exciting move for the loyal Microsoft Office suite user.   I use both MAC and PC with MAC being my primary interface in office.  I’m hoping the availability of this on the MAC platform will not be far behind the Windows platform.

 

Apple says no to advertising price in app title

Apple is cleaning up the App Stores.  Developers can no longer call out the price in the title of apps published.  For the last thirty days, Apple has been blocking submissions to both the App and Mac store when the metadata includes pricing information according to VentureBeat.

This change I feel is a step in the right direction.  Developers who publish apps for free may feel pain from this change. However I almost always personally skip over the apps with free in the title assuming the app is crippled, or limited in some way.

This is not a new policy, Apple has been actively discouraging developers from this practice and only recently started enforcing it.   If a developer has an app that has the word free in it, they will get an error message as shown below

The error message displayed:

Your app’s name, icons, screenshots, or previews to be displayed on the App Store include references to your app’s price, which is not considered a part of these metadata items.

Please remove any references to your app’s price from your app’s name, including any references to your app being free or discounted. If you would like to advertise changes to your app’s price, it would be appropriate to include this information in the app description. Changes to your app’s price can be made in the Pricing and Availability section of iTunes Connect.

Apple has always been about quality.  Apple has been cleaning up house or “App Store” by removing apps that users have been complaining about, the publisher has abandoned, etc.   I wish Apple would allow a trial option where users could download a fully functional app or a trial version that is limited giving a user the ability to try before they buy option.   I believe one of the biggest downfalls with the app store now is purchasing an app only to find out it’s not what you expected and you are now stuck with a useless app.

A simple command gives CIA/FBI/NSA full access to your Cisco Equipment

Cisco Systems recently announced that over 300 models of switches manufactured by Cisco contain an exploit that allows hackers to use a relatively simple command gaining complete and full control of the affected unit.

They found this exploit recently by analyzing several documents believed to have been stolen from the US Government which that itself is another scary thought on how safe and secure our government has been with protecting our national secrets.   Cisco notified the world of this vulnerability March 17, 2017, on the Cisco Security Board.

How does this work? Well, the attacker can obtain the access by sending a malformed CMP command through the telnet protocol during the connection process, the affected device will essentially give the user privilege 15 level access to the unit.

Cisco said there are no work-a-rounds to address this bug. Cisco further indicated this only works when the unit is setup to accept incoming telnet connections.  So in my mind, I would immediately disable the telnet protocol altogether, and that essentially fixes the issue.

You can disable telnet on your Cisco Device by logging in and typing the following commands in privileged mode.  If you want to leave “SSH” access on, then leverage option one. If you want to turn off all remote access completely, then follow option two.

Option one (telnet only disabled)

  • line vty0 15
  • transport input ssh

Option two (all remote access disabled)

  • line vty0 15
  • transport input none

I would also suggest that you consider changing your crypto key as well if you feel that you have been exploited, and, verify the user accounts on the device are legitimate.

You can read the security announcement from Cisco here.

Enterprise gear is for home users too…

 

 

 

 

I live in a friendly community, and many of my neighbors fall in one of two categories:

  1. Retired
  2. White Collar Employee

When I head on downstairs in the morning, open the front door for my little dog Ayden to do his morning thing, I often connect with my neighbors.  They are walking, jogging, and running around our community. Retired people are always looking for a good deal, something that will outlast them, add value to their day to day life and provides the best bang for their buck.

Recently my neighbors across the street from me both retired were extremely frustrated with their Cable bill skyrocketing to an unprecedented monthly expense.  I couldn’t agree more with my neighbors, I had recently experienced that drama myself and took corrective action to resolve this issue.  I explain that in my post titled Bye Bye DirecTV hello Tivo feel free to read it for details.

My neighbor Paul, a retired Boeing Exec, inquired on how he could save money.  Well, I brought him over to my house and showed him my Tivo setup.  He was impressed, went home, performed some additional research, discussed with his wife Kirsten who is a retired lawyer, and they pulled the trigger on ordering Tivo.   A few days later he called me up and asked me if I could help him set up the Tivo.  He listened to everything I had mentioned as he had been down to Comcast, picked up the self-install kit which included a cable card, and was ready to go.

I headed over there installed the Tivo, connected it to the WiFi, and performed a little re-wiring removing them from Frontier Fios TV and onto the Comcast TV service.  Everything started working just great except the InterNET connection was spotty.  After investigating the InterNET issue and hearing it has been an on-going problem in their house,  I determined that the router/wap they were using was not good enough.  It was located on the opposite side of the house.

Paul’s son Evan had been recommending to his parents the Netgear Nighthawk which was $499.99 and promised the world.  While I’m sure this would have improved their service, I still believed they would have been challenged by the fact that, the router/wap was on one side of the house, while the Tivo was on the other side.

Ubiquiti Networks:

I told Paul that I do not recommend they purchase the Netgear Nighthawk at 499.99 as its just too expensive. I brought him back over to my house, took him to the center of my house, and had him look up.  He didn’t know what he was looking for.  I showed him the Ubiquiti Unifi Access Point (AP) which is pictured here.  He mentioned it looked like a smoke detector and I responded with exactly.  It doesn’t look out of sorts.  I also explained you could disable the blue light though I prefer to keep mine on as it works out to be a great nightlight in our hallway upstairs.    I went on to explain this one device provides excellent wireless service to my entire house.  On average, I have about 25 devices always connected to wifi.  He went home, shared my knowledge with his wife and son.  Evan, his son, is a gamer and was quite concerned about my proposal and how it could affect his gaming experience. He also had a hard time believing that an 80.00 WAP, would outperform the 499.99 Netgear Nighthawk he has been recommending to his parents.  I assured him it would not affect his gaming; I didn’t promise it would make it better or worse, I simply said, he should have the same gaming experience he is currently enjoying.  I provided them a list of parts they needed as I was also recommending they lose the Frontier Router, we move it to the garage, convert them from HPNA (Frontiers way of handing The InterNET to you through coax like Comcast) to Ethernet handoff.  Each Frontier ONT can deliver the Internet through Coax or Ethernet.  Well they ordered the equipment which was the following

  • Unifi Security Gateway ($110.00)
  • Unifi Wireless Access Point ($79.00)
  • 500ft Cat5e cable (39.00)
  • I provided the rest from my inventory

So after all gear was onsite, I started out by running the ethernet cable from the garage to a center point of their house which happens to be a hallway near the entrance of their house.  I climbed through the attic pulling the ethernet cable through following the alarm cable runs.  We then drilled a small hole from below that allowed us to fish the ethernet cable down into the living space.  I was done in the attic.  I then headed back down, and we terminated the cable by putting an RJ45 jack on the end, mounting the ceiling bracket near the exit point where the cable was egressing from, and then proceeded to plug the cable into the AP, and twist the AP onto the mount finishing that part of the project.  We then moved to the garage where I had pulled the other side of the ethernet to, drilled another hole and fished the ethernet cable through that hole into the garage.  Next, we went outside where the ONT (Frontier FiOS box) is located and ran another cable from there through another hole we drilled in the exterior wall and the inside garage.  After that was done, I put an RJ45 jack on that end, plugged into the ethernet port of the ONT, and stapled down the cable to it was clean and secure.  Inside the garage where we decided to terminate this equipment,  I climbed on a ladder and began to mount the various pieces of equipment as you can see illustrated in the picture below.   In essence, I landed the two-port ethernet biscuit with one port going to the Frontier ONT, and the other port running to the Unifi AP. We proceeded to mount the Unifi Security Gateway, power strip, POE adapter and power adapter for the Unifi on the wall.  We then powered everything up, programmed it all into the Unifi Controller which we installed on one of the machines in the house and started testing things out.   Everyone in the house was amazed at the difference this equipment made, the interface is beautiful and detailed, providing a lot of insight into their Network such as Netflow Graphs, most active device, etc.   Evan was quite pleased with the Interface.  He then proceeded to test his games for the next week.  I had traveled out of state after completing this and was gone for a week.  Upon my return, I stopped by my neighbor’s house to check in on them.  They were just amazed at everything and could not be happier.   All this happened back in January of 2017.  Fast forward to March 2017, and they are still pleased and amazed with the recommendation.   Google, Linksys, Netgear are all coming out with new Router/Firewalls with WiFi built in.  I have seen the pricing on these devices 200.00 and up.   I would seriously look at the Ubiquity gear not just for work but home use too.  Its price, quality and feature functions are on par with the enterprise competitors such as Cisco and others.  They also have an online portal that you can manage your infrastructure from the cloud at NO ADDITIONAL cost.   Cisco charges an annual fee for this cloud feature.  A client of mine I was consulting for recently, just paid Cisco $1,700.00 to renew it, they ordered another AP for expansion that ran them $1,100.00 not including the cabling, and labor costs.   All in all, Unifi may be cheap, but don’t judge a book by its cover.   This is a fantastic product.