when the postman ….. makes a mistake

This is one of the typical things – that happen and should not.

I treated myself to a new Raspberry PI earlier this week and ordered from Amazon. As pretty much standard today, I could track the shipment on DHL’s page and saw that the packages was delivered due to DHL at an agreed upon place as I was not home…..
So coming home, I looked at that place – and my parcel was not there. So the search started. Neighbors said they had seen the postman at our place. Still, the parcel was missing and no-one around had picked it up for us. So, 2 options remained:
1) somebody had stolen it
2) there was something wrong in the delivery flow
Luckily I was able to catch the postman today – who we know for a few years now and who is a great guy. I asked him and he said, he could not remember putting anything down for us – but he did around the corner and said he would check to see if he made a mistake – 10 min later he delivered my parcel.
Obviously I could have gone through the official complaint process, but I though it would be much nicer to ask him before doing so -and that clarified the whole situation as he made a mistake. No big deal.
The whole story reminds me of one important lesson I learned: It is usually not a bad thing to talk to each other before going mad at somebody else. There was an easy solution to the problem, and often there is.
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IT Security thoughts

It seems that this week a couple of IT Security related things are crossing the wire – so I really want to quickly share 3 of those to make my non-IT friends a little more sensitive about this topic…

I guess this all started with the news earlier this week that a hacker group has managed to inject code into the Firmware of Hard Disk drived – so basically the heart of what every computer uses to store data. This code can basically copy data to hidden parts of the drive and then establish a connect to upload the data. And there is no easy way get rid of this. The way to inject the code is basically build into the Disk Command specification and undocumented….. Here’s are 2 article on this, in German: Spiegel online and heise
To be really simple – once this SW is on your system, people have access to all your data!
The second things was the Lenovo incident yesterday- Lenovo had installed a tool on their laptops that basically can act as man in the middle to inject unwanted advertising into your search queries. Why is this important? Well, the ads are not really the problem – the problem is that all protected connections (for example to your homebanking) are not safe anymore. The advertising tool can decrypt the data, it is not the browser who does that. And that means that basically the ad Tool opens up the door for the misuse of data. Somebody can get your banking data – and with that your money. Even the Tan codes can be taken and sent. So you really want to monitor your banking account to see if your money transfers are correct.
The 3rd one is basically about people not configuring the environment correct. Again mentioned on Spiegel online, a student wrote a simple program that was checking if any file shares would be accessible. To explain, a file share is used to allow other computers to access a file – on computers, shared storages or other devices. Almost every computer has a fileshare, usually protected by passwords. The point of the article is that most of these shares either have no password set or very simple ones.
I don’t really know how this can be done easily, but it is easy to configure something and leave security asite as passwords are inconvenient for people. Nevertheless, no password means again everybody has access. Maybe it is worthwhile to either have tools from trusted sources that check security and help users to get it right or make better defaults.
There is even a 4th one now – Metadata tracking by our beloved smartphones. Go, check out where you have been over the last days and month.
If you are using an android phone, go here. Log in and take a look. All this google knows about YOU!
Do I want to scare anybody? Hell, no. But I am trying to explain these things in a way people can get sensitive. And think before they do things. I would say any company has one big interest – their own benefit.
I guess the first thing for everybody to do is read things on the screen – not every checkbox is good, like the one when installing Java that will also install the “Ask Toolbar”. Uncheck these things unless you really want them! So really consider if you need something installed on your computer – or not. And always use trusted sources for Software – and keep virus scanner and firewalls updated and current.
Not that they would really help against user errors – but they make it harder to cause damage!
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Ubuntu and Unity – quick hints

As those of you who work with me on daily basis know, I moved all my machines to Linux, more specifically to Ubuntu a couple of years ago. And I am a happy camper – most of the days.

Last week I had one of these things where a colleague walked up and reported that he had lost the Unity desktop and had to work through Gnome – which is not a problem. 
I went through this myself a few times on earlier versions. Ubuntu just dropped Unity at some point which makes it fairly hard to do anything if you don’t get a menue or anything else on the Graphical shell.
The problem though is relatively simple by it’s nature. After some research I found out that Compiz had simply disabled the Unity plugin – renabling solves the problem.
Now, with a useless graphical environment, that’s hard. Sure, one can go through gnome, but it should go easier than that.
As usually you get at least the desktop and it’s Icons, my first solution was a simple exacutable bash script on my desktop to at least get to a terminal – from where I can launch ccsm (compiz config settings manager) and reenable the Unity plugin.
Last week, when I was helping the colleague, I had to drill deeper into this. It would be relatively easy to solve the problem if it was just a text based file where the entry need to be made – reality is that compiz now stores it’s settings as gconf settings – so no way to easily edit a text file from a command line.
After some research and some tries – also through the graphical GConf Editor – I found the solution (I guess) 🙂
The following command reads what we need from GConf:

gsettings get org.compiz.core:/org/compiz/profiles/Default/plugins/core/ active-plugins

if you have a problem with Unity, unityshell should not be listed there – so when you turn this around and do a set instead, copy and paste what you have and add unityshell as active plugin, this should do the trick for you. For me the commandline looks like this:

gsettings set org.compiz.core:/org/compiz/profiles/Default/plugins/core/ active-plugins “[‘core’, ‘composite’, ‘opengl’, ‘move’, ‘resize’, ‘place’, ‘wall’, ‘imgpng’, ‘regex’, ‘vpswitch’, ‘mousepoll’, ‘grid’, ‘compiztoolbox’, ‘session’, ‘wobbly’, ‘animation’, ‘expo’, ‘fade’, ‘workarounds’, ‘ezoom’, ‘scale’, ‘unityshell’, ‘switcher’]”

Now you can just take this and customize it – as a simple script (that I have now stored in my home directory), this is doing the magic to fix the problem now – even from a simple terminal….

gsettings get org.compiz.core:/org/compiz/profiles/Default/plugins/core/ active-plugins
read -p “Resetting to my default [YeS/No] ” response
if [ $response = “YeS” ];
    gsettings set org.compiz.core:/org/compiz/profiles/Default/plugins/core/ active-plugins “[‘core’, ‘composite’, ‘opengl’, ‘move’, ‘resize’, ‘place’, ‘wall’, ‘imgpng’, ‘regex’, ‘vpswitch’, ‘mousepoll’, ‘grid’, ‘compiztoolbox’, ‘session’, ‘wobbly’, ‘animation’, ‘expo’, ‘fade’, ‘workarounds’, ‘ezoom’, ‘scale’, ‘unityshell’, ‘switcher’]”
    echo “No harm done ! Exiting”;

I have build in some extra security as I know how carefully I read prompts – it makes it a little harder to overwrite something I don’t want to be overwritten…
Would be happy if this helps somebody on the next Unity failure – at a bare minimum this is now my own documentation 😉
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Back from ConnectED – some thoughts and a summary

I am back from ConnectED since yesterday morning – and I think things have mostly settled for me now and I think I ordered my thoughts.

In general, I really felt the Event was good, with all the bumps it had. But we reacted to it, may it be crowded rooms, may it be the drink coupons, where IBM decided to run open bar instead.
Also, I don’t think I really share the sad feelings of people that this might be the last event. I think it was – as every year – the gathering of the community, it was a great time. And changes are always around, so are they for IBM events. We are all not sure where it goes, but as it sounded like, there will be a place to gather next year. And maybe it is even Orlando. Who knows.
So, coming to the summary – I flew out on Friday, as every year. Flight was lengthy because of the head wind, but we made it over to Disney World.
Highlight of Saturday was, as every year, the Penumbra dinner. As always it was the best dinner of the week and my hopes were also fulfilled on the main course. Boy, this was yummy!
Sunday was for me the start of the work week. We had scheduled a Round table on API’s that I hosted. Was a good discussion and a good start into some new adventures for me this year. Luckily I had no sessions to check on on Sunday so it was a rather calm day. And the weather was also a little nicer than in Germany!
Unfortunately we saw the first road-bumps of the event. Some of the masterclasses rooms were totally packed, as that was the only sessions running in the afternoon. Also people started to complain about the drink coupons that were given out with the badges. With all valid criticism, the problems got addresses rather quickly and for example all receptions were done as open bar. So, really no reason to complain here really.
Monday kicked the Conference officially of – with my buddy Scott presenting Verse in the OGS.
Really the OGS felt better than in the previous years, well structures, good customer examples and another interesting guest speaker with Philippe Petit.
I also broke one of my own Lotusphere rules to avoid Jelly Roles – I made it for the first time there on Monday and attended the Australia Party – was great evening and also a nice occasion to have a drink with a couple of people.
Also the things done to celebrate the 25th birthday of Notes was also great. For example they served a nice cake after lunch on Tuesday. Really nice idea!
Monday and Tuesday really were the busy days for me – 4 Exec meetings, 6 sessions to check upon. With a few that really did overflow heavily. It makes me as a track manager of the event absolutely proud when attendees really love the content we have selected! Also, we got Steve McDonagh to attend his first Lotusphere / Connect / ConnectED ever – and even present!
Wednesday marked the last day – and maybe the last day in Orlando for the community. The day really greeted me nicely….
2015-01-28-06.49.55.jpg 2015-01-28-16.41.14.jpg
For the rest of the day I had a lot of internally meeting – definitely our team meeting left me energized and looking forward to some great things. It will be a lot of work, but some amazing things are going to come!
The closing session was also great – especially the guest speaker who was a mathemagician. doing squares of 3 digit numbers faster than a calculator or a magic quadrant (Sudoko on steroids) on the fly – that is astonishing…. The speakers name was Dr. Arthur Benjamin. An impression of what he does from TED can be found here.
The final duty was the stop at the outback steakhouse at the airport – to have a descent dinner outside of the airplane – and the necessary “blooming Onion”.
On the flight back home, we had the first team of female soccer from FC Bayern München on the flight. Sat next to her.
So, as I said initially, I am not leaving sad – there will be change for sure, but why does it always need to be negative? As Liz Urheim said, IBM will communicate in the next 4 weeks where and how the event will be held. But I guess we will have an opportunity next year to meet up and have fun – and enjoy a few drinks together!
Talking about drinks – the highlight this year was clearly a mouthful of this. It was clearly wonderful! Thank you so much Henry for sharing!
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Backups are your friend – the story of another IT problem at home

Yesterday turned out to be one of those days – around lunch time my wife ran into some problems with her Notes client that she could not get solved herself.

After we decided to work on this later yesterday – later turned out to be around 10p due to my work schedule until 9p and other family duties, we started to work the problem. Of course her Laptop runs Windows (and is a rather old model), it took ages to uninstall and reinstall the Notes client. Heck, how much do I love my Linux Machine w/ the SSD on those days.
BTW – the problem was that when Notes started, she got prompted for her password – before Notes told us that there was a non-existing or inconsistent document.
As the machine had seen a lot of installs over the original version of Notes, the reinstall was a clean path forward.
And surely, Notes would start after the fresh install and launch into the setup process – so we got back into operation.
Moving the old files back in recreated the original error and it turned out it was the NAB that caused the problem – dumb and annoyed as I was at that point I had overwritten the clean names already witht he corrupt one and had no clean DB to use. So I ran both fixup and compact, still the same error (today I assume it might have been a problem in the design, but – so what)
This is where the backup story now kicks in: We had a backup from earlier that day – but the names.nsf has already been corrupt, so no help. But my wife had a copy of an older version that we could use – and Notes was back in operation, incl all her setup to get to her mail! Nice.
So – what’s the story: Backup’s are important and people should spend some time to think about what they would need in case of a problem. And as we can see, it is not always the earlier version of data as this might have been already corrupted….
So a descent backup of key files (especially documents) should have at a minimum 2 versions so you can go back to an older one easily if required.
But everything is better than loosing data. We ended up in the discussion around this and I guess most people do not acknowledge, that there can be incidents on computers that corrupt data, like it happend here. It might be surprising to people (at least it was to my dad) that even a Hard Disk can break suddenly and die. Most people – especially without the appropriate technical skills and experience – would panic here.
I guess we as IT experts are not always doing a good job to explain this simple things to the DAU’s of the world – but it hits us all when we get called to fix those problems. So, maybe, we need to become more proactive here.
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Saw this during shopping today

I was shopping with s buddy today in a home improvement shop when I came across this product:


It’s sand for kids sandbox…. No idea what smart person came up with this name….

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busy week currently

This week and next week are really busy – as always. 

Moving into ConnectED always is interesting as there is always a lot of things that are on the table to be completed. Meetings need to get setup and organized, and projects need to reach milestones prior to ConnectEd.
Besides that I am working on a track again this year with Gab Davis, called “Beyond the Everyday”. This is really exciting and I am looking forward to meet the speakers and come to the point that the show really starts and we are rolling.
The picture I am having in my mind sicne I came back to work in 1/7 is that this is sort of a marathon – with ConnectED being the finishing line.
But – it’s worth it and I am so much looking forward to see people in 1 week – clients, colleagues and friends!
So – to pick up the motto of the track – let’s move beyond the everyday!
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Back into Blogging

After a while trying to play with other channels, I think it is time to get back into blogging. There is just a bit of stuff I do want to be able to lay out broader – and that I do not want to show up and be owned by somebody else (referring to Facebook, of course).

So I want to get back into a different format – and actually reading Gab Davies travel blog I really got inspired to give it a shot again and publish some of my thoughts here.
I am not sure how it will turn out – and how frequently I will post stuff – again, it is more an experiment, moving away from my old website into something new here.
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Veggy food experiment

One of the things we’ve been doing for a while is trying to reduce meat (I know, that sounds weird for me) and eat more vegetarian. Coming back from a short trip to a friend, we had this dinner. Was really delicious and I must say – I did not miss meat (although I am still enjoying a nice steak or other BBQ stuff – just going higher quality if possible)


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