Sunday, August 28, 2016

Blockchain -- The Next Internet

When bitcoin gained some notoriety in 2013, I did a little research and then put it away to work on it later.  This summer I decided to dedicate part of my vacation to bringing myself back up to speed on “Blockchain” and “Bitcoin” by reading the book by Don and Alex Tapscott titled “Blockchain Revolution -- How the technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and The World”.  

I’m now leaning toward the thought that the blockchain has the potential to impact society in a way that might surpass the birth of the internet.  Core to this impact is the “disintermediation” that it will bring.  The millions of people that intermediate transactions and profit off of the exchange of wealth will largely be removed.  Entire industries may be shoved into upheaval.  What Apple did to the phone industry, music industry, application industry, gaming industry, etc... blockchain has the potential to transform financial industry, real estate industry, securities and stock markets, music industry (again), government voting, corporate governance,  and more.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Getting Organized with Trello

I’ve been looking for a way to do personal task management for years.  I tried a paper in many forms multiple times (I don’t have it with me when I need it, its not searchable, etc).  I’ve tried all kinds of todo list apps on iOS.  I’ve tried Outlook multiple times with complete failure. I even tried a mind-mapping app.  Oh yes, and there was that time I used a white board which was really hard to carry around.

I like the "agile / scrum" approach that uses a "backlog" of things to do.  You drag things from the backlog list to some level of To Do this week or in-progress, work on it, then drag it to QA or Done. When I think of my own approach to managing my task list it really works well.  I can toss a whole bunch of things on the backlog and then by dragging them into a "start working on this list" to work on for the week (my sprint), it helps me focus on the stuff I really want to get done. It also helps me stop procrastinating.  My rule is that I need to start the first step for everything in the "ToDo this week" list.

I setup a Jira project for personal task management, complete with a scrum board and it was Kanban style.  I didn’t like Jira for personal because there is way too much overhead and no connection to my personal phone (and it was slow).

I had a quasi requirements list but finding the right package really helped me better understand my needs as well.  Here's my simple requirements:
  • Fast and easy
  • Web & iOS
  • Offer something like the Jira Scrum plugin with the visual kanban style of tracking stuff.
  • Ability to get a little more fancy (dates, attachments and more), but only if I need it.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Improving your Security Posture

Everyone, including the author, has plenty of room for improvement in regards to computer, network and operational security.  As people become more computer savvy (or your adversaries know someone that is) users are more exposed to computer security related threats.  There are many tools that make hacking your systems easier for the less skilled, and with very little skill, thieves can access stolen hard drives in minutes.  We rely on computers for everything from banking, commerce and running entire businesses. Laptops contain enough processing and storage to hold years of client and other confidential data.  

One of the biggest problems comes from malware, and the fact that virtually any website or email attachment can silently put your computer under the control of criminal gangs, usually in other countries.   Often these gangs are from Russian speaking countries with sketchy cybercrime enforcement.  These gangs make billions each year compromising the computers and bank accounts of unsuspecting users all over the world. Most business owners are unaware of a compromised system.  If that system is used for online banking, hackers drain the business account which has fewer of the protections afforded to consumer accounts.  This can kill a business and cause personal financial ruin overnight.  Dave <last name redacted>, a security expert in San Diego, has a small document on how to prevent this scenario provided below in the “operational security” section of this.

This article is applicable to everyone but if you are a small business owner, it’s wise to take a look at this article and get your security house in order.  According to a 2012 report from Symantec, the largest growth area for targeted attacks were businesses with fewer than 250 employees, acounting for 31 percent of all attacks targeted.  In some cases, it may become a legal issue if a business isn’t conducting some basic due diligence in regards to security.  If a business isn’t taking what may be considered basic precautions to protect client information, that attorney, accountant, or social worker may have significant legal exposure.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Zynga Returning to AWS Part 2

In my last cloud article, “Zynga and the cost of agility”, I referenced an article about Zynga’s return to AWS  While at at AWS re:Invent 2015, I had a chance to hear first hand from Zynga’s CIO, Dorion Carroll, why Zynga left AWS in the early days and why they’re back.  It was an excellent presentation and the story is a real lesson as to why a CIO should think real hard before they start buying infrastructure (even if you are going to deploy in a co-location facility).

Sunday, January 17, 2016

DIY NAS + Plex Server Build

I’ve been running a network attached storage (NAS) device for many years.  I’ve really enjoyed the Netgear ReadyNAS product as an  easy to use reliable appliance.  I started out with a ReadyNAS NV+ and upgraded about 5 years later to a ReadyNAS Ultra.  I’m still happy with the unit but I need to add more storage and I want to use my NAS box to also serve movies and other media.  To do that I need a lot more storage and I need more processing power.  The Plex media server that I’m going to use transcodes the movies to the target viewing platform on the fly so it’s fairly CPU intensive, a lot more than the ReadyNAS is designed for.  It’s time to build a custom NAS and media server.