ideas process technology

Keep it Simple.

Not so long ago the internet consisted of websites running on beige boxes under people’s desks and in storage closets. You’d back the drive up every once in a while if you were smart; if not you still got lucky the vast majority of the time. And if the web daemon crashed or the kernel panicked you’d restart it and life went on.

Since that magical period in the history of the internet, there has been so many cool new whiz bang ways to automate and flex and scale and recover. Load balancing, virtualization, orchestration, and other tools are all freely available to use in your personal and professional projects, offering levels flexibility and resiliency previously unheard of outside of enterprise scenarios.

But despite what you may think, you do not need whiz bang, fully automated, five-nines-grade infrastructure backing your project. You don’t need multi-region, much less multi-cloud. It adds complexity and costs in both time and resources at a stage when they serve no purpose and only slow you down.

Kelly Johnson’s 14 Rules for teams at Lockheed’s Skunkworks epitomized his “keep it simple stupid” approach . There was more than enough complexity in what their team was trying to accomplish; adding needless complexity was wasteful and potentially dangerous.

David Futcher nails it in his 2019 Medium article “You Don’t Need All That Complex/Expensive/Distracting Infrastructure“:

Your users to don’t care how your code gets onto your server. 99.9% of the time they don’t care about your fancy high availability setup either. Obviously if you’re FAANG-level or some established site where that 0.1% downtime translates into vast quantities of cash disappearing from your books, this stuff is all great. You have the funds to do things “right”. Your fancy zero-click continuous deployment system saves you thousands/millions a year. But at indie maker, “Hey look at this cool thing I built … please, please someone look at it (and upvote it on Product Hunt too, thx)” scale — the scale of almost every single site on the net — that 0.1% is vanishingly insignificant.

Or as your parent likely told you growing up: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

David went on to remind us how “Engineers get sidetracked by things that make engineers excited, not that solve real problems for users.” I know I’ve fallen into that trap plenty of times. Focusing on the outcome rather than obsessing over the tools is crucial to maximizing velocity. Build only what you need to achieve the goal, no more, no less.

So go ahead and run it on a single EC2 instance. I do. Completely meets my needs. If I get slashdotted (remember when that was a thing?) I’ll wear it like a badge of honor, just like we used to.

current events people process technology

“We accept the risk.”

“A lot of smaller communities are resource-constrained.  If you have a million dollars, are you going to fix the potholes constituents have been calling about, open parks and swimming pools for the summer? Or buy new servers and do all the things that are going to make you more secure?”

When Ransomware Cripples a City, Who’s to Blame? This I.T. Chief Is Fighting Back
New York Times, August 22, 2019

Yes. The answer is yes.

Municipal leadership, like the leaders of any organization, are tasked with balancing the seemingly endless number of competing priorities. That’s why they get paid the big bucks.

Crumbling physical infrastructure or reductions in municipal service offerings are always sure to elicit strong reactions from residents and constituencies. Technology assets and infrastructure are not as visible to their end customers. As a result, software updates and hardware refresh cycles often take a back seat because “well it still works” or “but we only bought that server 5 years ago and it’s not broken.”

But in today’s operating environment, proper maintenance and risk management of a municipality’s technology infrastructure, endpoints, and systems are as just as critical as the maintenance and risk management of its roads and bridges.

When faced with audit findings and risk assessments, far too often management takes what is viewed as the “easy” way out: just accept the risk. I mean, it’s just a checkbox or your initials, as opposed to thousands of dollars and person hours that could be used for other things, right? Quick election cycles and the tendency to kick the can down the road for the next administration makes accepting the risk even easier…let the “next guy” deal with it in the “next budget.”

But the crucial caveat that management is failing to remember in these situations is that when you accept the risk, you accept the risk.

In the case of Lake City’s ransomware attack, I look forward to seeing what comes out through public records requests and the legal process. It should be relatively easy to determine what decisions were documented and what actions were or were not taken.

It is crucial that this incident be a lesson to better understand that day-to-day actions and decisions do have consequences:

  • For management and “the Business,” ensure that you have an appropriate level of understanding about your environment. Understand its functions, life cycle and risks; look to your technical leaders and individual contributors to help educate you so that you can make informed decisions. Don’t just check a box and move on…the ass you save might just be your own.
  • For technical leaders and individual contributors, as the subject matter experts for your environment, you need to ensure your management chain, auditors, and Boards / Committees have the right information make good decisions.

Regardless of how management chooses to act, remember this invaluable advice from SANS NewsBites Editorial Board Member William Hugh Murray in reference to the Lake City incident:

Any such risk acceptance, and its acknowledgement by the leadership, must be documented. If that was done in this instance, Hawkins will have a good case. In the absence of such documentation, his case may turn upon the honest recollection of that leadership of a decision made months ago. The three rules of risk management are document, document, document.

current events process

Living the “Dream”

It was never my dream to turn on the TV and hear entitled assholes speculating about my health, my injuries, and devoting segments on their shows to discussing my medical file, guffawing their way through segment after segment about the hell I have endured. But that’s what life becomes for NFL players: reciting tired sound bites through gritted teeth and long, sleepless nights, handfuls of pills, and early-morning rehab sessions, sideways looks from coaches who want you on that field, who need you on that field, or else your ass is gone.

Nate Jackson, “Andrew Luck Got Out. I Couldn’t.” (Deadspin)
process technology

Windows 10 time format and the Welcome screen

If you’re like me, you live on a twenty four hour clock for work. And while Windows 10 is easily adjusted to display the time in my preferred format within my user account, one of my pet peeves is how the Welcome screen continues displaying the “wrong” time when I’m not signed in.

So I was delighted to learn of one more step that is available to easily update the time format on the welcome screen that I’d not seen before. Shawn Brink provides all the nitty gritty details over at Windows 10 Forums, but for the tl;dr inclined:

  1. In region settings, change your short and long time formats.
  2. Click Apply.
  3. Click on the Administrative tab.
  4. Click the Copy Settings button.
  5. Check the Welcome screen and system accounts button.
  6. Click OK.

Voilà! Now my eyes don’t twitch every time I wake my laptop and log in. Thanks Shawn!

Sharing is caring and Google is a geek’s best friend, y’all. If you’re working a problem, don’t suffer in silence. And if you learn something new, share it somewhere so that others can learn and build on your experience.

It’s the right thing to do, y’all. And I’m going to start doing more of it here.

Happy Friday!

neat stuff I come across process

Check the side door. Always.

neat stuff I come across process Uncategorized

Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke says he almost died jumping on moon – Business Insider

The Apollo program is full of incredible anecdotes about the challenges and experiences of spaceflight. And like every other NASA program, it’s also had its fair share of shenanigans.

So it’s not surprising to read about Charlie Duke was horsing around on the towards the end of his time on the moon during Apollo 16. But when he landed hard on the lunar surface:

“I learned a lesson: Never do anything in space that you haven’t practiced. And we had not practiced the high jump.

Charlie Duke

Source: Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke says he almost died jumping on moon – Business Insider

current events people process technology

The Human Factor

Horrible news today out of Ethiopia, with the loss of a second Boeing 737 MAX 8 resulting in the deaths of all aboard. I’m grateful to learn that the recorders have been recovered, though one was severely damaged. Hopeful Boeing and the authorities can piece things together quickly.

Reading the initial reporting on today’s incident, this amateur plane nerd’s first reaction was a single word: Prius.

Remember when shortly after the Prius hit the mainstream there was a series of unfortunate events involving vehicles and their occupants sailing through hedge bushes and shopping mall storefronts? Toyota did eventually issue software updates to help prevent crashes, but over time the platform also became familiar to the public. Now, we see more and more models with push button starts and unconventional shift levers and transmissions.

This is the Prius, at scale. Boeing is already working with the FAA to deploy software updates to improve safety, and I’m sure they will help prevent future events. But training and familiarity with an aircraft and, now more than ever, its software, will always win the day. Like when you hit birds and determine your best bet is to go for a swim.

Further Reading

neat stuff I come across process

Lauren Warnecke: Your life is probably more complicated than it has to be. Cut it out, already.

So figure out what’s really important, and let the rest go.

Source: Your life is probably more complicated than it has to be. Cut it out, already. | Lauren Warnecke

deep thoughts people process

…on “we are experiencing high call volume…”

If I call your company’s 24 hour support hotline at nine on a random Sunday night and the first thing that comes on the line is your front-end message announcing “unusually high call volume,” what you really are telling me is that you not only don’t care about service you’re giving your customers, but don’t care how routinely overworked your call center staff is as well.

“We are experiencing high call volume” is just like “please listen carefully as our menu options have recently changed” – they are the “under construction” clip art of the 21st century IVR system. Just don’t use it.