November 09, 2015

Techno Bits vol. 47: WYSINAWYG


It's a perfect Monday morning for November in Washington, which is to say crisp and sunny (well, it was when I started), and the leaves are just turning gorgeous colors. The walk for coffee this morning was just about perfect, and after a week of hotel coffee, it was nice to be back at Zeke's. The feeling of re-entry after a conference is always about 80% brilliant excitement, 10% still tired, 10% still with your brain full. 

I appreciate the opportunity from Ed and Neil at MacTech to present, and you can grab the slides from my talk if you'd like to see them. As always, slides aren't the same as the talk, so feel free to ask questions. At the conference, I saw some really great sessions that are sticking with me days later.



Nick McSpadden's talk on disaster planning in the event of a crisis was critical. What happens when you can't trust your own deployment systems? What happens when you literally can't trust the machine you're holding? What's the plan for reconstitution if you get hacked so hard everything's a smoking crater? We'll be preparing some documentation in the next week to talk about how to get back to good. Have you thought lately about what your plan is if there's literally nothing left at work you can trust? Now might be a good time to make some deadspace backups.

Clay Caviness from Google was there to talk about how they build a secured tool chain for their management solution. They compile their own python, ruby, openssl, and other interpreters and keep them separate from the system binaries, which means they're less vulnerable to OS changes breaking things. In addition, they made my favorite point of the week: if you have a user who messes with your monitoring tools over and over and over? You have an HR problem, not a monitoring problem.

On Friday, Victor Vrantchan convinced me that I need to start learning more about Prometheus for data monitoring. The possibilities are nearly endless. In addition, Andy Ihnatko reminded us that we all need to be bored more, because that kickstarts creativity.

Though I opted out of the evening events, one for the better, one for the worse, overall the MacTech Conference was a good experience, and I appreciated all the hard work that was done to bring it off.

I spent yesterday getting my new AppleTV setup and ready. I then tuned into the DC United game on Watch ESPN and totally forgot I wasn't watching an over-the-air or cable broadcast. That's a pretty effective moment. The future of TV is the channel, but only if we can figure out how to wrest control from the cable monopolies. That's a new goal. Overall, the device is a big hit here, and especially the screen savers, which I could watch for hours. You can put those same screen-savers on your Mac, if you want, but I won't be responsible for the productivity hit. 

My one frustration point? Why, oh sweet Jesus, why do I need to enter my complex passwords with the remote? Didn't they remember to upgrade the Remote app on the phone so we could enter our passwords that way? Doing it the other way is a horrible user experience, and it makes people resent the device. I'm not one to pull this chestnut out on a whim, but I'll put it here: Steve Jobs wouldn't have let that slide.



On one of my walks in LA, I had my headphones in and I was trekking along, getting ready for the day. I'd posted an article awhile back here on understanding OFDM, and how the orthogonality of the subcarriers allows for a greater depth of signal. It hit me right as the Virginia Belles came on, those subcarriers, and their encoding is just like a musical ensemble. The stronger the signal, the higher likelihood that you can encode more data in the fast fourier transform. Each subcarrier can be a single voice, or it can be an orchestra of its own. Each subcarrier supports encoding techniques like Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) or Binary or Quadrature Phase Shift Keying (BPSK or QPSK) which changes the single sub-carrier between 1 and 256 voices per channel. These modulation and coding shifts, along with the number of spatial streams, are what make up the MCS Index, which determines the speed of your physical link.

Think of Wi-Fi this way: your data transmission rate is determined by the number of voices per channel you can come up with. Crappy signal? You're playing a string quartet. Good signal? You're playing Bach's B-minor Mass with a full orchestra and Harry Christopher's Sixteen. Great signal? William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast with double brass, full orchestra, and the company of the Metropolitan Opera. Knowledge is understanding the concept, but wisdom is understanding all the metaphors. Anyway, here is a good visual representation of the musical concepts described above.

As an aside, I used The Walk from Six To Start all week to encourage activity. The story is addicting and really well crafted, and the voice acting is amazing. It's made me keep my walking up through the last week, and I really love how they've crafted the app to do just that. I've walked almost 25 miles since starting, and I know now I can't slow down or I won't know what's happening.


There was an article, published without an author's name, in Tech Republic on Apple in the Enterprise as "forbidden fruit". Basically, this individual laments that Apple takes 30% of the revenue for all apps everywhere, while maintaining a product cycle that evolves too fast for his tortoisean pace of adoption.  Aside from being flat-out wrong on marketplace costs, this exec is the reason that our users hate us: they're imposing restrictions not based on functionality, but rather based on some other method of control. Or, it's flat laziness that says "Ugh, I don't want to test this," which is akin to saying "Ugh, I don't want to do my job."

Treat OS X like it's another app to install, and you're going to be just fine. You are introducing a complication (in the horological sense) in your environment, so pause and make sure everything works right, but this isn't something to be deeply afraid of like it's going to wreck your business. If your software vendors can't keep up with the innovation cycle, why should they continue to be your vendors? If they weren't signing their kexts, of if they were putting their files in SIP-prohibited areas, they've been purposefully ignoring what Apple has been saying for years. These people aren't your friends, and they don't deserve your money.

And if you work with a CIO like this one? Run, do not walk, to another employer, one with their finger on, or even remotely near, the pulse of reality.

Links to Read

Square vs. Round, what's in a shape? The Apple Watch uses them to differentiate alerts.
The Blue Box, A fight for control, and a rebellion of its own. Woz recalls working with Steve on blue boxes.
New Desktop Folder Created for Sad Little Creative Project is a little too close to home, Onion.
Stop saying technology is breaking down the social.
Sad Server on Why Everything Is Just the Worst
Hackers Claim $1M Bounty for 0-Day on iOS
Samsung has a Spam Filter for the Galaxy that isn't ideal.
Why you should never ever use Android.

Okay, now I'm all done. Time to go back to looping Hamilton and getting ready for a crazy winter.