Uncharted Waters

December 4, 2012  11:29 AM

Getting People to Throw Money At You

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

So earlier in the week I was on craiglist, looking at gigs.

Yes, gigs. Not jobs.

Part-time, temporary, and flexible, gigs represent a different lifestyle, different risk profile, and different rewards.  You can start them with a day job, and have the best of both worlds … there is just one small problem.

They don’t pay much.  Or at least, they often don’t pay much.

This article is about how to change that — to get the high-paying gigs,  while doing good, ethical work, that you can tell your family about with pride.

Continued »

November 26, 2012  3:46 PM

The IT Department in the Sky

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

The German FlagI am in Germany!

or … almost.  I started the article on the way to Germany.  Now, on the way back, I am interested in something else.

I want to talk about the plane.

Better yet, how smart IT is turning itself into a profit center on my airplane.

You see, it wasn’t an airplane.  Not really.

It was more like a flying data center.

Continued »

November 14, 2012  1:19 PM

The Petraeus Principle

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

David Patraeus sworn in as director of the Central Intelligence Agency by Vice President Joe Biden

When the director of the Central Intelligence Agency quits fifteen months into the job, that is news.

When that director is a retired Army general and former commander of US and International Forces in Afganistan, something is going on.

When the whole issue is due to email security and privacy … we are in unchartered waters.

The Quick Back Story

According to the Associated Press, general Petraeus had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, that began shortly after his retirement.  While showing incredibly poor judgement and opening himself up to blackmail, this act was not illegal.

Again, according to A.P., Petraeus wanted to avoid a paper trail, so he and Broadwell shared an email account.  They would create draft messages and share them with each other, then delete the message, eliminating the trail of evidence.

Then things get weird.

A Tampa, Florida socialite named Jill Kelly starts receiving anonymous, harassing, private emails and complains to the FBI.  The FBI takes the investigation seriously, and, after a series of events, Petraeus resigns.  The primary theory is that Broadwell logs into Patraeus’s other accounts – perhaps they have the same password, perhaps he leaves gmail logged in – and finds email to Kelly, creates an anonymous account, and begins the harassment campaign.  The FBI works this backwards and eventually Petraeus is forced to resign.

Whew.  With me so far?

General Petraeus’s successor in Afganistan is Marine Corps General John R. Allen, about to be appointed to the position of supreme allied commander Europe … except the FBI found a bunch of “flirtatious” emails from him to Kelly as well, and his appointment is on hold.  (The New York Times referred to it as “hundreds of emails“.)

Now let’s talk about IT policy.

Implications on 21st Century Technology

When known for some time that What Happens In Vegas is unlikely to stay there – thanks to the smart phone, everyone has a camera and an internet connection.

One thing this new wave of technology gives us is the ability to melt down incredibly quickly.  Anthony Weiner, for example, sent an explicit photo and some inappropriate emails, and his political career was over.

Yes, Weiner was doing … other things, the real things that killed his career.  Twitter and the iPhone didn’t do him in, but they made it incredibly easy to create evidence in seconds – where a polaroid and a hand-carried letter might not.

A second surprise around the Petraeus scandal is the expectation of privacy.  By creating an anonymous account, our email harasser expected anonymity   Once the FBI got involved, all pretense of that was gone.  If anything you do online is trackable to an IP address, you might do well to consider it public.

There is at least one more unexpected twist to the story, because the investigation went wherever it found evidence.  By contacting the FBI, and giving them access to her computer, Kelly allowed the FBI to get access to all her email – including the records of General Allen.


I have no easy answers; records you thought you deleted have a way of showing up in system caches.

Except, perhaps, that this situation might be a good chance to take a look at your company’s policies about internet use, separation of personal and work email, about information retention and lifecycle management, or as a good story to use to encourage people into right behavior.

Or, perhaps, just perhaps, the Petraeus Principle will come to be about how to deal with failure with integrity – by admitting mistakes and taking responsibility for our actions.

November 12, 2012  3:23 PM

The Singularity Signal – III

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

 I just got into Sweden for a conference, and I am immediately struck by how efficient the place is.  My room, which might be described as a small American room, had two additional roll-away twin sides beds in it.  When I asked the front desk what they were, the one person on duty (that is the standard shift size) explained that the room is so big that it usually fits three. The hotel had some extra space available, so they gave me a free upgrade.

There is also no storage space.  No dressers, just a one-foot-wide desk-like surface that goes the length of one wall, and a space wide enough for shirts with six inches of depth, a bar, and four hangers.

Most of the lights in the hotel are motion-sensitive; they waste no power.  In order to turn on the lights in my room, I have to insert my key-card.  If I want to get back in the room, I need to take my key-card out — making it impossible for me to accidentally leave the lights on.

Assuming you made your reservation right, sign-in is with a kiosk, not a person.

All of these efficiencies  make it possible for the company to have more guests per employee, to compete on price.

In a sense, that is a wonderful thing. The Swedish people are hard-working and view efficiency as a virtue.  The waste-basket is tiny because they don’t waste — these are the people that invented IKEA.

The downside is that this drive for efficiency destroys jobs.

That’s not new either; the luddite riots, when the “machines are taking our jobs away”, actually happened in 1812.

Unlike 1812, though, I do see some  forces at work that are a little troubling. Continued »

October 31, 2012  5:59 PM

They Live

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Someone told me once that you can describe a software tester (my own tiny branch of IT specialty) as someone who “imagines the world could be different.” Not the world is different, but that it could be.  The tester imagines, and asks questions to confirm if, say, reality deviates from the project plan.

If you will, for just this blog post, please, imagine along with me.

Let’s start with the first debate, between president Barak Obama and Mitt Romney.  At 46:41 exactly, there was a strange ‘blip’ in the communication protocol.  Here’s the clip; you can skip the ads after five seconds:

What was that?

You may want to rewind back to 46:41 and watch it again.  Alternatively, here’s a screen capture:

Notice the only thing that changes in the instant is the face; the digital signage is fine, the suit, the shirt, the tie, everything is fine.  There is just some sort of signal problem with the face.

In that instant, It looks remarkably like someone else, not the president, is giving the speech, and the presidents image is projected overtop.  Or perhaps the opposite.

Or perhaps this is just some digital ‘fluke'; a problem with the codec, the algorihmn that compresses the pixels to form a real-time transmission.

And, If that were the only problem with the debate, that might be it.

But there’s more.

Continued »

October 12, 2012  1:32 PM

My Jerry Maguire Moment

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Many of us are familiar with the movie Jerry Maguire, which begins with Jerry writing a mission statement for his business.  He writes about how the company had lost its way, how to change it, prints out a copy for every employee, comes into the office early, and leaves it on their desks.  (If you haven’t seen the movie, the video is on youtube.)

And, as you expect, within a week, he gets fired.

I hadn’t seen the movie, or even heard the story.

And so, when our company was pursuing a process improvement odyssey” (whatever that was) and I was heading up the committee on quality assurance, I took a page from Karl Wieger’s “Creating a Software Engineering Culture” that differentiated what we really want (improvement!) from some of the things we do to get there (paperwork! metrics!).  I made a hundred copies and put it in every mailbox in the IS department.

Yes, I was that guy.

Continued »

October 4, 2012  11:13 AM

Who can you trust?

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

TSA OFficer Caught in ABC News StingI’ve been running a blog series for 21st Century IT on about how new technology can change the very concept of employment, hiring, and ‘work.’

At the same time, a few things have been happening that give me pause.

Take last week, for example, when ABC News caught an  airport security agent stealing an iPod in an Sting Operation.  In another segment the same week, ABC News interviewed a  former TSA officer, Pythias Brown, convicted of stealing over eight hundred thousand dollars of personal electronic equipment.

How was Pythias caught?

It turned out that he didn’t bother to remove the CNN labels off some cameras he was reselling on eBay.

Continued »

October 3, 2012  7:51 AM

Bring Your Own Identity Is Here! (Mostly).

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Back in March, I wrote post called “Bring Your Own Identity” where I suggested that the next step in device management was to take these generic identity management tools (Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon) and allow users to log on with them inside the organization.

Bring Your Own Identity (BYOI) just arrived for business.

It is called “Identity”; it is Windows Azure Active Directory, and yes, it is from Microsoft.

Here’s why you might want to use it — how — and what.

Continued »

October 1, 2012  11:31 AM

What happened with maps in iOS 6?

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

As you probably know by know, when Apple Computer Corporation released the newest version of their mobile operating system, iOS 6 last week, the mapping application was broken.  Spectacularly broken.  Loses train station, shrinks tower, and creates new airport broken.  Slideshows of ridiculous glitches broken.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple apologizes broken.

How did this happen?

Continued »

September 26, 2012  9:46 PM

Troubleshooting the 1% / 99% Argument

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Anyone with more than a few months in IT knows that troubleshooting is an art form.  For simple tasks, you guess at what the problem might be, then conduct an experiment.  For more complex tasks, you aren’t experimenting to find out the problem, but instead to narrow down the problem.

For example, if I think the problem might be the network, I can yank out the ethernet cable and turn off the wireless.  If the problem persists, I can stop worrying about the network and look elsewhere.  If the problem goes away, then I have to find a new experiment, to narrow the cause down further.  The great skill of troubleshooting is coming up with the cheapest experiment that is most likely to narrow the problem.

Today I’m going to apply this kind of systems thinking to the “occupy / 1% / 99%” discussion – to use troubleshooting skills to understand and pin down a movement that Mad Magazine parodied with a protest sign that read “We demand sweeping, unspecified change!”

Continued »

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