Saturday, January 9, 2010

Data vs Life.

In my opinion, data that people generate in terms of the movement of their lives should not be owned by gatherers of this data. Photographs are a separate argument but will eventually become part of this too. Google has long had an engine to connect cell phone photos to objects.

Some of my friends accuse me of conspiracy theory stuff, but I really am not. I do not subscribe to the idea of a separate little group that runs the world (I am not by definition a Republican). I do think "the invisible hand of the free market" nutjobs are being socially engineered. And experience shows there is always one more legal level to reach for.

Collecting data is one thing because we give it up of free will. If database management systems could be controlled by one entity, we are all screwed. But it is after all a brilliant business play.

Relativity theory of training and travel

Instructors that travel confront several issues and there are both good and bad. I always chose to view it optimistically. A bootcamp is just one long day at work, but then being at home is several days in normal time that I can enjoy with my family and keep my skills sharp for the next class.

But this is a relative view, since the one long work day I share with students is still 4-8 (or more) days for others in the real world. It is something that can be managed but requires specific effort.

If you are a student preparing for a bootcamp class make sure you do two these two things above all else:

1. Tell your family, friends, about it and explain the investment. You will drop off the planet for a while in their concept of time, they have a right to know why you are doing this and what you are getting out of it. They will become your encouragement and support structure if you establish expectations in advance. At work, delegate all pertinent tasks and remind your boss to leave you alone. "If he is paying for it, you want to make the most of it" it is a simple but effective argument.

2. Set a designated time to call someone at home each day. Spouse, children, friends, or coworkers. Stay connected but be in control of this communication. No emails or text messages during the afternoon lecture as that will cost you 10-15 questions on the exam at least. But if you show you are willing to make time to contact the people who are important to you, it will be easier for them to understand rule number 1.

Travel training for a living is both very difficult at times and extremely rewarding. For students that only do this occasionally, your instructor can be a great resource for how best to approach this area. Your personal comforts and family needs must be part of the equation if you are going to be able to dive into the studies distraction free.

Preparation makes this possible.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Considering Privacy and Copyrights

My friend Mark brought up one of my favorite topics "Airport Security" and this always leads to a discussion of privacy rights, another of my favorites.

It is my belief that no one should legally hold the copyright to information about personal lives or habits. Consider the following statement: "We’ve found that they might also suffer from an illusion of control bias that makes them unable to distinguish publication control from control of access to personal information"

Your credit report, and all of its contents should belong to the human subject. You shopping patterns, search patterns, and GPS patterns should also be owned by you. I don't think this the same as a photograph or sound recording, which are completely different debates.

We (I included) give up so much data in exchange for free services (such as posting on this blog), and it would be intellectually dishonest to think these products would not turn into a business model. Be careful, if we are asked to sign away licenses how far would that fine print go?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Taking Tests, Social Engineering and Acting....

My 2.6 year old daughter was approached by a talent scout in a shopping mall. The friendly man said, "She is cute, she should be in ads or movies." He gave me his card, I gave my number and a few weeks later we had an appointment.

On a lark we went. No money for this my wife and I agreed. It is either a scam or an adventure.

When we got there the agent said "Before they can read, they only go off looks and you never know what they want. But you (considering me) could be an Italian, Latin, French, Irish ..... 30% of all movies are film in Utah because its a non-union state and all they have here are blond haired blue eyes. You have a real shot.

He asked me to read a few lines but here is the good part. During this interview the agent subtly explained two things; "When they ask you to mark, say your name and the agent that represents you" the second; "Don't memorize the lines, just do the scene".

After some more small talk about what extras are paid and so on, he gave me the lines and left the room. My assignment was to look them over for awhile and prepare a short demonstration.

When he came back in he said "Mark!" I stated my name and his company. "Action when ready". He was clearly just seeing if I could follow the most basic of instructions. Internaly I laughed because so many of my students are too busy checking email or sharpening their highlighter weapons to listen. I notice this and utilize the data in every class.

I read the scene, I sucked because I was being tested. Just playing around for fun I could do that scene pretty well. I thought about students taking tests, its not much different really. During class reviews we prove this over and over that when not being tested people usually exceed expectations.

He said "Let me help you and lets try this again...." then he proceeded to create an emotional place I really didn't want to go that fit the words of the script. I did better this time, but still with hesitation and again didn't follow the second instruction. I tried to memorize and pass the test rather than just doing it.

He tried to sell me acting classes.

This is what trainers understand; some students come to learn and others come to be made to realize they already "know" and just have to be more flexible. In both cases, the mind has to be opened and challenged, made uncomfortable at times, then encouraged.

Its far easier on my side of the projector where I usually sit.

We went there on a lark because my daughter was recognized in a mall and what parent doesn't think their kid is a potential rock star? The switch happened and perhaps I was the target all along. Clever social engineering notwithstanding the price is actually reasonable. Not every risk is a threat; I might do it just for fun. If I start acting out movie scenes in my classes like my friend and mentor Larry does, you will now understand where this comes from.

What I took away from this most of all was a reminder I give to you: Next time you take a test, don't be tested, just answer the questions and see where you are. You might pass or you might fail this particular benchmark, but that is all it is. You ultimately decide your own settings and spoil in the rewards of earning having exceeded them.

But you first must play the scene and find out where you rest.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holiday wishes:

As I write this I am enjoying another Stromboli in a restaurant in Philadelphia. They claim to be the inventor, and I would not doubt them because it is awesome. I always try to eat the local food in new places. Its a benefit of the job and I must say that occasionally this is a mistake, but 9 out of 10 times this is far better than the standard chain blah.

For one thing, you get to hear a few stories.

I am in the middle of a three week 20 teaching days in 21 days (the one day off is travel) stretch of 10 hour days and the sound of my own voice is getting on my nerves. But I love the challenge. The students are always people I am happy to have met and today we completed a CISSP class. Tomorrow they will take their exams while I take a train to DC and prepare for a new set of ECSA/LPT students. I also miss my family today, and that puts me in a reflective mood.

As I wait for my order and nibble at some garlic bread I overhear a conversation between the waiter and a regular, each have thick “Jersey” accents. I enjoy accents, and this one definitely has its own special character that seems to be in touch with living through both hard and good times. The customer says he just got laid off after 40 years at the same company.

My political beliefs about what the source cause of things like this are and the many debates I enjoy with my misguided friends that disagree are suspended for this moment. I would like to think that his experience would be good for something. So I am hoping to overhear some good news in this story.

In reflection I wonder that with all of the complaining I do about things that are beyond my control there is one thing I can absolutely do as an activist, as an evangelist, and as a teacher by profession. I can tell people every chance I get; "Pardon my bias; but one way or the other, please keep learning new stuff. Change it up, expand and live. Be available for challenges, sacrifices and changes. They need it, and you need to do it".

To be fair this can be a hard thing to do sometimes. I do not feel that those who choose a simpler life should be punished for it. There is always a part of me that frankly wishes for it on some days. And this gentleman, 40 years a wise expert in what he knew how to do will either have to find a new path or he might just get a job tomorrow with the competitor. I don't know. I never got to hear the rest of the story. But I cannot help but wonder, if at some point did he just stopped growing?

I have no idea if my conclusion is at all relevant to this man's situation or a reflexive response to the predicament I find myself in. But …..

My holiday wish to all; Stay curious. Learn new things next year and never underestimate your capacity to do so. Then next year, share what you know. In this world this is your only "job security".

Monday, November 30, 2009

Whitehouse security breaches and Balloon hoaxes

The two that broke into the whitehouse have done this sort of thing before, they take the Captain Janks idea (a frequent crank caller to popular media shows and contributor to the Howard Stern show) a few steps further by actually being there. In this case, simple social engineering accomplishing a physical breach in places this absolutely should not happen is the joke.

The recent balloon hoax, where a large balloon was launched into the sky with a fictional child trapped in the basket below (he was later found safe but hiding) had caused rescue efforts to waste resources and time. The media was fixed on it in a way similar to watching OJ Simpson's Bronco glide down the road doing nothing for several hours.

Tiger Woods, popular golfer and manicured by a force of public relations people to be the perfect celebrity, showed he was human and made a "gasp" mistake. It was an interesting one, after a fight with his spouse he crashed his car into a tree. Tiger is doing the opposite of the others in controlling the story, he is trying to hide from it. He is worth an estimated Billion, and there are a lot of people that suck off his success that do not want his archetype tarnished. This only makes the media more curious.

ISOC recognizes six elements to social engineering: Authority, Scarcity, Liking, Reciprocation, Commitment, and Social Proof. Perhaps a seventh principle should be added: Entertainment.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Should Windows be Free?

There are different meanings of "free" in this conversation. As the phrase goes "Free as in speech, not as in Beer". In one case free refers to open sourcing the code, and in the other, it means being available free of cost or licencing fee.

I suppose my question could be interpreted either way. In the free of cost point of view, they did with IE back in the Netscape era, and giving away Windows would certainly impact competition with Linux and Apple.

Some argue that Microsoft's own practices propagate much of the security issues we have today for example, if Windows was free this wouldn't happen (,2817,2355982,00.asp). We would also not have to worry about Virtual Machines being considered entirely knew instances of the computer. The world would be such a simpler place if there was no need for hacked copies of Windows operating without security updates. How much of the botnet activity on the Internet can be traced to this? Consequently, I would be out of a job, as would entire research companies.

I won't get into the economic dilema's of solving problems entire industries are built around, but the term "disruptive technology" comes to mind. What would be more disruptive than an Open Source Windows OS? If Windows 7 was believed to be secure, and the average price of a laptop or desktop was nearly a factor of 10 less than Macintosh ($300 vs $3000 after hardware upgrades) how would that impact Apple? If the Open Source community were willing to use Windows would Linux be necessary?

Either way, an alternative revenue model would have to be created. Programmers deserved to be paid too. Whether this would be any better or worse than what we currently deal with would remain to be seen.