Watching For Answers

The Apple Watch finally goes on sale this month. In the days leading up to availability, we’ve seen criticisms and negative reactions fall along two tracks:

  1. What is the point of a smartwatch?
  2. And why would anyone spend $10,000 to $17,000 on a gold version of what can be had for $379?

Say what you want about the Apple wearable, but those are not the right questions to ask.

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The Big Red Dog

I live on a hill. It’s a pretty big hill, certainly one that will slow your pace and cause some heavy breathing should you walk or bike up. Especially if you are 105 years old. (continue reading…)

Qardio: Drinking The Social/Cloud Kool-Aid

A blood pressure gauge — a sphygmomanometer — has been pretty well understood since the late 1800s. It consists of a cuff to squeeze the arm, sensors to read the pulses, and a dial/read-out to display the results.

This Christmas, I got my Mom a “QardioArm” — a BP gauge updated for the modern smartphone era. It has all the requisite parts, with the main distinction that the display is now an app on the tablet/phone. And one other critical requirement that apparently medical professionals have been desperately lacking for centuries: the “cloud”. (continue reading…)

NIC Discovery on CentOS

When adding a NIC to CentOS, one normally expects to see the device appear in /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules. But things don’t always go your way.

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PowerShell Hell

Every programming language has it’s idiosyncrasies, and sometimes it seems like language authors go out of the way to be different. Enough that a seasoned polyglot can benefit from a cheat sheet for keeping track of even the simplest things like if/then/else syntax (elif? elsif? elseif? else if?).

Coming from a bash/Perl background, I am beginning to like Windows PowerShell. The object pipeline capability brings the familiarity of Unix pipes with a more modern object-oriented approach. But you must take the bad with the good, and there is some bad. There is a special hell reserved for the developer of this particular ‘feature’ that I was wrestling with today…

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CentOS/RHEL GnuTLS Dependents

Last week’s announced GnuTLS bug is a serious one, but do you know the ramifications? Many articles painted Linux with a broad brush, claiming Red Hat, Debian, etc were deeply impacted. While it is true that the GnuTLS library is included in all distros (including CentOS and other RHEL flavors), it may not be widely used.

GnuTLS is licensed under LGPL. The alternative OpenSSL library is licensed under a combined BSD(SSLeay) and Apache 1.0 license. Some distros (notably Debian-based) don’t appear to like the licensing complexity that OpenSSL brings, so GnuTLS may be preferred. But many RHEL packages do not seem to be as fearful.

The following command will show all packages that are dependent on GnuTLS. (Which is not to be confused with “yum deplist” for dependencies.)

repoquery --whatrequires --installed --recursive gnutls

For CentOS and others of similar ilk, it is likely that you’ll find that OpenSSL has more dependents than GnuTLS.

PS: a gnutls patch has already been released, so get a jump and install it. Much is made about the need for dependent apps to regression-test, but don’t wait. If all the patch did was correctly fix the goto logic that left a truck-sized hole, I hardly think the fix could be any worse.

TV Tech In Real Life #1

In this week’s episode of “The Following”, Ryan Hardy receives a threatening video via SMS on his BYOD phone. He hands the phone to an FBI tech who plugs in and instantaneously has the video play on the big screen for all in the Command Center to see.

In Real Life, they would have spent 15 minutes futilely looking for the proper cable, another 15 trying to get AirPlay or GoogleTV to sync, and ultimately they’d end up with 10 people hovering around the small screen to watch.

IT Language Lessons

In “Three Ways CIOs Can Ensure Better Communication“, Paul Mandell of the Consero Group suggests methods to improve communication between IT and partners: encourage open dialogue, build strategic relationships, and establish Finance as a common language. I don’t want to pretend that I know more than the Fortune 1000 CIOs that came up with such a list, but I don’t feel particularly enlightened after digesting it.

Don’t get me wrong, “encouraging open dialog” goes beyond the ‘duh!’ advice that it might initially appear to be. It suggests more than just a passive open-door policy, instead actively soliciting requirements, feedback, and constructive criticism for the department. Nothing wrong there.

And building strategic relationships is paramount for aligning IT to business objectives, so I can’t fault that one. I wasn’t completely convinced of the underlying sentiment, though, since the advice was about exploring “shared interests” and “mutual challenges”. Being a responsive service provider is about doing what’s right for the business, not some bipartisan compromise. But let’s let that quibble slide.

No, the one that struck a sour note was the suggestion of Finance as a common language. While I don’t dispute that IT has financial issues to deal with, the positioning as the one-and-only “bottom line” and universal language is not always true. It smacks of old-school “IT as a cost-center” rather than today’s “agile solution provider for business differentiation”.

It is far more appropriate for finance to be an attribute to consider – one of many, not necessarily a bottom line – in pursuit of a goal. If the objective is cost reduction, then obviously finance plays a major role. But maybe the key objective is security of intellectual property. Or improving communication and collaboration. Or a desire to “eat our own dog food” as a customer showcase. I’ve been in many such situations where finance was hardly a foundational language. In some cases, even the very mention of financial issues during discussions with our business partners resulted in claims that we weren’t listening.

Cost, budgets, revenue impact, and ROI always have a role to play. And partners must certainly be familiarized with IT business drivers. But when money is brought up as the primary dial-tone for the conversation, it dulls the discussion and puts boundaries on creativity & innovation. It is perceived by the customer as too reminiscent of IT as “the department of ‘no’“. Everyone in the room has had the experience of wishing for a Ferrari while only able to afford a Yugo, so there’s no need to over-do it.

So what is the “common language”? The answer was already there. In an IT organization properly aligned to business objectives, it is the business objectives themselves that provide the common language. Don’t think in terms of us vs. them trying to find some middle ground via Finance. Instead, IT needs to learn to speak in terms of “opportunity management”. What better way to be on the same page with your partners than using the most direct language possible?

The Nihilism of Deadwood’s Al Swearengen

With Breaking Bad concluded, went looking for other “quality TV”. I had heard good things (aside from being canceled prematurely) about Deadwood, so it was added to the watchlist. Highly recommended, with some excellent writing and memorable characters.

One standout character in particular is Al Swearengen, the proprietor of the town’s more earthy saloon/whorehouse, played flawlessly by Ian McShane. It was said “when he ain’t lyin’, Al’s the most honorable man you’ll ever meet”. Although not to the same degree as Walter White, he’s something of a bad guy to be celebrated.

Al is, as the Doc says, “an object lesson in the healing powers of obstinacy and a hostile disposition”. Whether acting the role of Greek Chorus narrative when talking to a decapitated head, or strategizing with his more able-bodied cohorts, he had some acerbic lines that underscored a rather nihilistic philosophy of the hard life in the wild west. “Quiet! Al’s got words.”

[Editorial note: Al is a top-flight cusser. I’ve trimmed all the f**k**g to allow the wisdom of the words to soak in. Also of interest is that these individual quotes, when taken out of episodic sequence, almost make a coherent soliloquy in their entirety.]

In life you have to do a lot of things you don’t want to do. Many times, that’s what life is… one vile task after another.

From the moment we leave the forest, it’s all a givin’ up and adjustin’.

What can anyone of us ever really hope for, huh? Except for a moment here and there with a person who doesn’t want to rob, steal or murder us?

Pain or damage don’t end the world, or despair, or beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man – and give some back.

Every beatin’ I’m grateful for. Every one of them. Get all the trust beat outta you. And you know what the world is.

Most of what happens is people being drunk and stupid and trying to find something else to blame for that that makes their lives totally [messed up].

You gotta behave like a grown man, huh? You gotta shut up. Don’t be sorry, don’t look back, because, believe me, no one [cares].

I did not shame myself. I keep an open mind in that area. Kid yourself about your behavior, you’ll never learn a thing.

Worse ways to spend a night, puttin’ shoulder to an idea.

Do not fault them for your own fears of tumblin’ to somethin’ new.

That’s the way with any new idea. Takes the hoopleheads time to adjust.

Change calls the tune we dance to.

Till the race is finished, never mark the wager paid.

Bidding is open always on everyone.

Can you say it straight out before I have a birthday?

Ever wonder if you expressed yourself more directly you might weigh less?

When given to utterances of that type, consider drinking.

An opinion solicited does not equal one freely voiced.

If I sought an echo, I’d now be addressing a mountain.

I need your truthful reply. Lie, I will know it… and death will be no respite.

What a type you must consort with that not fear beatin’ for such an insult.

To work for crumbs or to keep from the lash says maybe a slave’s what you are.

Quit a job before you fall asleep on it.

I wouldn’t trust a man who wouldn’t try to steal a little.

If I bleat when I speak it’s because I just got fleeced.

Sometimes I wish we could just hit ’em over the head, rob ’em, and throw their bodies in the creek.

Don’t I yearn for the days when a draw across the throat made resolution.

You can’t slit the throat of everyone whose character it would improve.

You might want to learn how to indicate interest in a girl other than murdering another person.

I’d rather try touching the moon than take on a whore’s thinking.

Who amongst us hasn’t wanted to shoot at women once or twice?

Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh.

Some shit’s best walked through alone.

My Top 25 Songs (2013 Edition)

A bit late, but no one else is paying close attention (or probably cares, for that matter). Here is my iPod play rankings for 2013 releases. Interesting to note that “new music discovery” can emerge from unusual circumstances, as Junip edged out the more mainstream OneRepublic “Counting Stars” and Bareilles “Brave” thanks to exposure in the commercial for the Breaking Bad finale…

  1. Lorde – Royals
  2. American Authors – Best Day Of My Life
  3. Fitz & the Tantrums – Out Of My League
  4. New Politics – Harlem
  5. Imagine Dragons – Demons
  6. Vampire Weekend – Unbelievers
  7. Smallpools – Dreaming
  8. Serena Ryder – Stompa
  9. Boy – Little Numbers
  10. Kacey Musgrave – Follow Your Arrow
  11. Haim – The Wire
  12. Delta Rae – If I Loved You
  13. Jake Bugg – Lightning Bolt
  14. Frank Turner – Recovery
  15. The 1975 – Chocolate
  16. Wild Cub – Thunder Clatter
  17. Nonono – Pumpin Blood
  18. The Dear Hunter – Whisper
  19. Jason Isbell – Live Oak
  20. Chvrches – Recover
  21. The Boxer Rebellion – Diamonds
  22. Bastille – Pompeii
  23. The National – Don’t Swallow The Cap
  24. Beth Hart – Bang Bang Boom Boom
  25. Junip – Line Of Fire

Vampire Weekend had my favorite overall album, honorable mention to Chvrches and Haim. Surprised that Lorde was Grammy-nominated for Best Song and Record Of The Year, but missed the Best New Artist trifecta, but then again, maybe it doesn’t matter

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