An Open Letter of Thanks to the Social Media Community

Recently, the company I was working for underwent a re-organization and I found myself laid off. While I hold zero ill-will toward them – and in fact will continue workingHands showing thanks with them in a different way – the experience was a shock to say the least. Of course, my experience was hardly unique; with thousands of layoffs happening across the technology world these days. Still, as anyone who has been through this can tell you, it sets you completely off-balance and off-kilter.

After taking a couple of days to get my brain back in order, the first thing I did was reach out to the communities I’m part of on various social media sites. Places like ThePlatform Formerly Known as Twitter and LinkedIn. The response was staggeringly overwhelming, with contacts from all over the world reaching out to both check in on me and to offer assistance. Thousands of people replied, forwarded, upvoted, and otherwise amplified my post about being laid off, and dozens of companies ended up reaching out to talk to me about a position. Even for someone who has always viewed communities online as a huge strength for any organization or individual, the sheer number of things that got mobilized within hours of my post was beyond anything I could have dreamed of.

So, I wanted to say thanks. To everyone who brought me to their HR/Hiring teams. To everyone who suggested a company to reach out to or a job posting I should see. To everyone who re-tweeted/re-posted my post so that it could reach more people who could potentially help. I cannot thank you enough, and consider myself in your debt. This experience has been humbling and inspiring at the same time, and its all because of you – each and every one of you.

The really great news is that – in no small part to everything the community has done – I am indeed employed once more. Can’t say who it is just yet, but keep your eyes on my social media streams for an announcement in the coming days. This couldn’t have happened without the reach and exposure my community gave to me, and for that I am forever grateful.

Hold off on updating to Mojave – a good rule of thumb for any new OS

MacOS Mojave has been released to the public, and everyone wants the shiny new toy, but hang on before you click update.  As with any OS, you should always wait for the first round of bugs and flaws to be fixed.

Mojave brings a lot of great security features to MacOS – like locking down Documents and other user folders most often targeted by malware and ransomware.  It also brings some cool features to MacOS outside the security realm, like Dark Mode.  In time, this OS will no doubt become the new standard for Apple’s desktops and laptops; just like High Sierra and Sierra before it.  But that doesn’t mean you should run out and immediately upgrade to the new OS today, or even in the next few weeks.

Unlike iOS, which is a much more limited (from a technical perspective) platform, MacOS is much more open.  I say this because a desktop or laptop running any OS can load and run software from thousands of sources – where an iPhone or iPad can only run software that has been at least somewhat vetted by Apple themselves before it is available in the app store.  The system isn’t perfect, but for the most part updating to iOS 12 is safe because attackers have to first find a way to execute their code on the device, and they have a really hard time doing that through a downloaded app.  iOS vendors (those that are still in business, anyway) also tend to update their stuff for the new iOS way ahead of time – since iOS typically allows for more backwards compatibility.  MacOS, on the other hand, can run Chrome, Firefox, and other 3rd-party browsers alongside Safari – all of which can easily download malware.  Since MacOS does allow non-signed applications to run, that means that a Mac-specific payload can easily find its way onto your machine.  MacOS software developers also seem to require a few weeks to update their apps to either take advantage of new features, or to just plain work on the new version of MacOS – this is even more of a problem since Mojave is starting the process of ending 32-bit applications, making many apps that rely on 32-bit components rendered semi- or totally-non-functional until the vendor moves off those bits.  So while iOS security and updating isn’t bulletproof by any stretch of the imagination, it’s far easier for a malware developer to get a Mac infected when compared to an iPhone or iPad, and for some reason more likely that your apps will be ready for a new version if iOS than MacOS.

What does this have to do with Mojave?  Simple; both security researchers and malware developers have been pouring over the betas of the new desktop/laptop OS for months.  There have already been several security holes found – and that’s before the OS officially even launched.  Since malware makers can find many more ways to trick you into launching their code on MacOS, that’s where they will focus their time and effort, and most likely already have.  A brand new OS will always have flaws that take some time to find.  This is mostly because what happens in the lab isn’t always representative of what happens on hundreds of thousands of computers out in the real world.  Developers can only check for so many things, and often they don’t even think of some of the ways that users and attackers find to break things.

Software developers have also been working with Mojave betas, but major software packages like Zoom web conferencing and others still haven’t ditched all the 32-bit code and are already experiencing major problems.  Since Apple doesn’t test these apps, it’s up to the developers – who may often be focused on Windows or other platforms – to correct any conflicts with the new MacOS, and that takes time.  In many cases, especially with enterprise apps, developers themselves may not have a full contingent of MacOS testers; and may not even realize how big the problem is until users start screaming.

When a new version of any OS (Windows, Linux, MacOS, etc.) is released, you should always wait until at least the first major patch.  That means waiting for TWO “patch Tuesdays” on Windows (the first usually squashes bugs, while the second will include more security fixes); and until the 10.x.1 update for MacOS.  It only takes 2-3 weeks, and you’re not missing out on much in the meantime.  In fact, since there are always at least a few major non-security bugs and tons of application issues in the first few weeks of a new OS, waiting will make life a lot easier for you on many different levels beyond just safety and security.

So hang in there, and stick to High Sierra for a few more weeks.  Everything still works just fine, and you don’t need Dark Mode today.  Your frustration levels will be lower, and overall security will be higher, if you hold off for just a little time now.

On Changing from We to They

Photo Credit: PicJumbo
IMG 9748 Jumping from one employer to another is never easy, but doing it after over a decade with your former employers can lead to some very interesting issues. Not the least of which, for me, is suddenly finding yourself in the very odd position of moving to knowing that people you’ve considered part of your work life for years and years are no longer “we.”

Back in my days of so-called wolf-packing from one startup to another; none of us were around one company long enough to truly get the sense of “we.” Any time you approached that level of corporate identity, you either jumped ship because your wolf-pack colleagues were building up a new startup, or because the one you were in was going under. Thankfully, those two scenarios only intersected in my career once, but that was – in the general marketplace – another common reason why “we,” never really latched on to any of us. When I found a home for so many years I found not only new technology platforms we built becoming standards but other employees who were there just as long as I was, “we” became me.

It was an odd feeling for those of my generation in technology. Other verticals, like healthcare and financial firms, do tend to have folks who sign on board and end up staying in the same company their entire careers, but tech moves and changes so quickly and so often that long tenure isn’t typically even an option, much less a common occurrence. Most people I know in the field stay at one company for a maximum of three to five years, and so many co-workers come and go during that time that a collective noun just doesn’t get a chance to stick.

So, when I did finally step out of a long-standing employment gig, and into a new one, for the first time in so long; I suddenly realized that I had become part of the proverbial “we,” and more unnervingly I had to deal with the issue of that life becoming a “they” overnight. It’s not a comfortable position to be in, and thankfully my new co-workers have mostly come from the same situation and are able to help me deal with it, but it is what it is. “We” have become “They” – and I can’t do much but hope to get used to it quickly and move on.

How do you deal with that change in your work life? How can you force your brain into wrapping itself around the fact that the internal communities, political cliques, and personal relationships that defined your day-to-day are now something you exist outside of? More importantly, how do you deal with the fact that it isn’t who you are any longer? After all, melding to become part of “we” changes you to the core, and now that core is gone.

For me, the process is on-going, but I’ve found a few ways to help hurry it along so I can move on and get on with new adventures:

1 – Acknowledge that it won’t be easy. You’ve worked with these people, places, and policies for a chunk of your life. They’ve changed you, and you’ve changed them in at least some ways. Recognize that the transformation from seeing them as part of “we” to being “they” won’t happen overnight. Beating yourself up over it won’t make it any easier, and will make the whole process take a lot longer.

2 – Don’t constantly correct yourself out loud. In your head, make sure to mentally correct yourself when you accidentally say things like “We do it this way” when you meant to say “They do it this way,” but don’t immediately and constantly re-state your statements out loud. First, it’s insanely awkward for everyone listening to you. Once in a while, it’s funny and charming. If you do it every single time, it becomes annoying. Your co-workers know you’re going through one hell of a transition, they know what you mean when you use the wrong pronouns, and as long as they can still see you’re trying to shift your mindset, they’ll let the mistake slide.

3 – Do mentally correct yourself whenever you can. I find that if I’ve said “We do X this way” out loud, a quick mental note that “THEY do X this way” in my head doesn’t break the flow of my thoughts, and reinforces the desire to get the pronouns right over time. You should mentally check yourself and correct the statement in your head, training your brain to pick the right pronoun the next time you have to make the sentence come out of your mouth.

4 – Mentally note when others do it. If you’re in a situation where there are other employees in the same boat, make sure you mentally note when they use “we” instead of “they.” This is not an exercise to see who does it more, but rather a mnemonic you can use to help yourself. By noticing when it happens to others around you, your own brain can form more concrete pathways that help you also start using the appropriate pronouns yourself.

5 – Don’t go correcting others when they do it, at least not as a rule. Again, once in a while, reminding someone that it’s “they” and not “we” can be a good thing, but don’t be that guy/girl who constantly harps on it. First, you look like a douche, but more importantly it doesn’t help either of you. I have a few folks at my new company who remind me once in a while – when it’s appropriate or funny or will break tension. That has been a huge help for me and them alike. But I’ve worked in places where someone will religiously correct the new guy who uses the wrong pronouns, and they just look like assholes.

Finally, remember the immortal words of Mrs. Hughes from Downton Abbey, “There’s no shame in feeling homesick. It means you come from a happy home.” Keeping good memories of where you came from and who you knew there and considered “we” is nothing to be ashamed of. Over time, your brain will recognize that “we” have become “they,” and in the meantime, start finding your new “we” and you can begin to move on.

The times, they are a changin’

Photo Credit: PicJumbo
Bonus IMG 5961
Many of you know that I had been with my until-very-recent employer for nearly 15 years. I’ve seen them go from a fledgling startup to a massive power in the field of High Availability and Migration software during that time, and I’ve been consistently proud of the platform, and proud to be part of the organization. But all good things, it is said, must eventually come to an end.

A short while ago, I tendered my resignation after accepting a position at another firm. While the decision wasn’t an easy one, and took a long time to come to me, it was time to make a change.

I will never forget all the experiences of a decade and a half of new technologies, new frontiers in server IT and Operations, the advent of the virtual datacenter, the advent of no datacenters (Cloud technologies), and the struggles of everyday IT and DevOps administrators in keeping up with the world blurring by. I’ll remember the day we changed the name of our company to match our flagship product, and the day we took the company with that new name public. I’ll remember the leaner times, as the economy contracted and our business was forced to do the same; but also the positive moves which positioned us to remain a leader in our industry.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the transition to a new corporate identity when we got acquired; the melding of two mindsets and ways of accomplishing goals to keep the best ideas and discard the rest. The process wasn’t easy, and wasn’t always kind – or often even fair, but it was remarkably rewarding as we strove to reach the next level in our corporate evolution.

So now, I’ll take all those memories and bring that experience to bear on a new market. Stratoscale will be my new home, and with luck the place where I spend the next 15 or more years of my career. Their technology is incredible, and their people are some of the most talented and driven I’ve ever had the chance to work with. Even as a new player on the stage, they’re already getting rave reviews and making waves in the industry.

Those who know me also know that wherever I go, those I work with change the world. I work for and with innovators, visionaries, people who shape technology and guide its evolution. This move is no different, as that’s exactly who Stratoscale is. Keep your eyes open, and see what we can do!

And to those I leave behind: Never forget who we were, what we built, and where the future can take you. I won’t be far, I won’t forget the times we’ve had, and no matter what; I will always be proud of every memory you gave me to take with my on the journeys ahead.

Fallout: The Story So Far **SPOILERS**

PowerArmorMany fans of Fallout 4 are notably still confused by the state of the world around them. The post-apocalyptic landscape is easily explained, but what exactly happened that lead up to it? This post will attempt to explain the major plot points to you.


It goes without saying that explaining the back-story of the game will give away a lot of details of previous games, so please do NOT read this if you want to avoid spoilers about the overall Fallout universe!

Divergence: Where it all went sideways

Fallout’s world is not exceptionally different from ours, up to the point of the end of the Second World War. Prior to this point in history, everything essentially went exactly as it did in our world, so the parallels are easy to draw. Sometime around the late 40’s and early 50’s, things in the Fallout world dramatically changed, and the rest, as the say, is history.

First and foremost, computers and many other electronic technology evolved much more slowly in most – though not all – categories when compared to our world. The transistor and micro-processor were both inventions that didn’t come to the Fallout world until decades later than they were discovered and put into mass production in ours. This has lead to televisions, radios, and desktop screens for computers still using vacuum tubes; and large-scale computers continuing to take up entire rooms or even larger spaces. While the overall level of technology is on par – or even ahead – of our own, it is not miniaturized, and therefore still takes up massive amounts of space.

While computer and audio-visual technology remained very large, other tech did get much smaller. Most notably, nuclear technology and the objects that use it. Portable fusion batteries (impossible in our current technological terms) are common, and power everything from televisions to laser weaponry. Micro-fission cells can power many other items (whereas in our world fission can only take place on a useful level in giant reactor chambers. Plasma weaponry is also somewhat common, meaning the Fallout world scientists managed to tame that beast and make it hand-held.

Nuclear science evolved as a massively faster pace than in our timeline overall. Cars, planes, appliances, and other equipment can all use tiny portable reactors to gain power – reactors that are still going strong 200+ years after they were last serviced and recharged. There’s a very good reason nuclear energy advanced so fast, and that reason is:

The Resource Wars

Some decades prior to the Great War, the world’s supply of fossil fuels began to dwindle. Horrific wars were fought over the last remaining oil fields – including those located in Alaska and the Middle East. While the USA fought off China for the Alaska oil fields with only conventional warfare, European nations and terrorist groups in the Middle East did engage in limited nuclear exchanges, destroying large swaths of the world outside the US. Additionally, the US annexed Canada to capture more resources and secure a land-route to Alaska directly to continue to defend the last remaining oil fields found there.

As these Resource Wars continued, industries once reliant on plastics (which require petroleum products to be made) switched instead to glass and metal. This, combined with an asthetic shift back to the styles of the 1950’s, gave the whole society the look and feel of the 50’s, but with highly advanced technologies only available to those in our timeline in our dreams. Think of it as a scene out of a 1950’s sci-fi novel or movie, and you’ll get the visual idea.

Eventually, the Resource Wars ended as there were nearly no more resources to fight over, but world tensions were still strained to the breaking point. As the USSR had not fully collapsed (how much of it became independent states is not clearly spelled out, but the USSR itself is still a world power); the US, USSR, China, and European Commonwealth were the dominant forces of the world, and on the brink of total destruction. The tensions grew and grew, until 2077, when the simmering tensions boiled over into nuclear annihilation.

And so, our story begins:

When Fallout 4 starts, you play as either a former soldier in the Alaskan Front, or the wife of the same, with a newborn son living in an idyllic suburban paradise. Your robot butler attends to the day-to-day running of the modest two-bedroom house (robotics and AI having become so common everyone could afford them) and you are beginning an average day – late October, 2077. As you go about your daily routine, a news alert is broadcast, and the visibly shaken reporter announces confirmed nuclear detonations in Washington DC and Philidelphia. You and the family immediately head to the Vault-Tec Vault 111 – an underground shelter capable of keeping 1000 people safe from the attacks going on in the outside world, ready to re-form society in about 80 years when the fallout falls to livable levels once more. Or so you’re told…

What happened just before this point:
As you and your family descend into the underground vault, none of you have any idea about the massive and intricate plan that has been going on around you – and that you’ve now become an unwitting player in.

Enter the Enclave:
Leading up to the Great War, the upper echelon of US (and possibly worldwide) leadership realized that some form of mass extinction event was going to happen in their lifetimes. Debates raged about if it wold be a massive climate shift, nuclear war, or something else, but every projection showed the utter destruction of humanity in the none-to-distant future. Planning for the worst, they formed the Enclave – a secretive group who would rebuild society based on a set of criteria known only to them. Race and social status didn’t seem to come into their calculations, as those chosen for the Vaults (a.k.a. Project Safehouse) came from every societal strata and ethnic background. These select few (about 1/1000th of the population at best) were lured into signing up for space in vast underground vaults created by a shadowy company named Vault-Tec. VT was less a for-profit corporation and more an arm of the Enclave government, and the vaults were far from what they appeared.

Each vault – with few exceptions – was actually designed to run a complex and long-running study of societal and psychological experimentation. The results of these experiments would allow the Enclave (safe in their functioning-as-expected vaults) and some control vaults to then take the lessons learned and best re-build the human race. The entire project would be monitored and controlled by Vault-Tec scientists sealed away in relative comfort and watching everything through dedicated video and audio links – as well as the personal reports from select vault controllers locked away along-side their subjects.

Some known experiments:

– Multiple generations locked within a vault with no chance of leaving and ruled by a tyrannical Overseer.

– The greatest musical geniuses of a generation slowly driven mad by psychoactive substances in the air supply

– A vault with only male residents except for one female

– A vault with only female residents except for one male

– Forced elections for “Overseer” in which the chosen candidate would server a one year term, then be killed.

– A lottery where each vault resident might be chosen to be executed

– Cloning experiments that went horribly wrong after multiple generations of clones

– Fanatical anarchists locked up with a massive supply of weapons

– Vault doors which would not function correctly, letting a precise amount of radiation leak into the vault against all efforts by the residents

– Purposely faulty equipment that would not seriously endanger the vault dwellers, but caused a continual stream of stress

– Inclusion of only very upper-class residents, but an inept Overseer and working-class support staff that all had absolute authority over them.

– Cryogenic suspension of all residents except for a very small staff to manage them for the first 180 days

The list goes on and on, with 113 known vaults, and possibly dozens more not yet reveled through the games to date. Each of these experiments were meant to allow the Enclave to observe how humanity adapted (or in most cases, horribly failed to adapt) to the pressures the experiments put them under. This allowed them to formulate the best way to handle rebuilding society when the so called “control vaults” which had no experiments going on in them opened, and the resulting humans walked out to rebuild anew.

What went wrong:

As is evident in all the games, the experiments all failed massively in different ways. Vaults with tyrannical Overseers ended up in total revolt and anarchy. Psychological experiments warped and twisted the minds of the vault dwellers, rendering them savages or sending them all into murderous rages. Societal experiments failed when no one would actually adapt to new paradigms and either forced their way out of the vault, or were driven into murderous rages (that’s a theme repeated quite often). Only a very few vaults had success:

– Vault 21 in Las Vegas was populated with compulsive gamblers, gambling equipement, and the rule that ALL arguments and disputes must be solved by gambling. While the compulsive gamblers bred successive generations of compulsive gamblers, the conflict resolution method work insanely well.

– Vault 31 where committed anarchists and xenophobes were given unlimited weapons and ammunition. Surprisingly they did not destroy each other, but went on to found a xenophobic community generations later when the vault was opened. They’re most definitely not welcoming to outsiders, but otherwise they’re doing very well.

– Vault City, where a vault opened on time, and the residents used the Garden of Eden Creation Kit (GECK) – a device used to supply food, water, power, etc. – to create a new city and are still living happily in it a century later.

– Necropolis, where the experiment to allow radiation into the vault resulted in horrible mutations, but otherwise the residents all survived and lived on (see Gouls in an upcoming post).

– Several control vaults which eventually opened to allow their dwellers to leave.

Aside from those exceptions, the Project Safehouse vaults were all horrific failures, but the Enclave still learned valuable lessons from them. As for the Enclave themselves, secret and perfectly functional vaults kept them alive and well until the background radiation fell enough for them to go out into the world and try to rebuild it.

Next time in this series, we’ll talk about what happened to everything outside the vaults after the bombs fell. Stay tuned!

Most information is taken from either official Bethesda/Zenimax sources, or from the Fallout Wiki on Wikia. Both are worth a look!

Get DownWorthy… now.


Photo Credit: Ben Brown

All of us have seen the headlines:

“Man finds literally the most amazing thing ever in his attic. Find out what!”

We all know perfectly well that this will not lead to any amazing thing at all, but just yet another filler story designed to get us to read the five thousand advertisements jammed into the fifteen individual pages that make up the “story” on some website out there. It’s frustrating, unavoidable, and – because there occasionally IS an interesting story on the other end of the link – something we do even though we know it won’t end well.

Like going on blind dates.

For those who don’t know, LinkBait is the pseudo-technical term for using sensational language designed to get people to click on an otherwise boring story just to get their eyeballs glued to dozens of ads. While helping with the blind dating situation is a bit out of my wheel-house, there is something you can do to make the LinkBait crisis a little less annoying.

Alison – a.k.a. Snipeyhead or just Snipe – has created a browser plug-in that will change the sensational into the hilarious. While the plug-in can’t totally remove LinkBait from the net, it can make dealing with it significantly more humorous and more fun to deal with. In short, the plug-in replaces words like “literally” and “most amazing” into other words like “figuratively” and “boring.” You’ve no doubt seen this done with other plugins that replace single words with other words (*cough* CloudToButt *cough*) but this one has a much broader library of specifically LinkBait-ey words to bring a little more laughter to your otherwise maddening net-surfing experience.

Give it a go at – and send @snipeyhead a thank you. She’s made it freely available for anyone to use and remix, and I think we can all be AMAZINGLY thankful for her Literally changing every Incredible One Weird Trick that can Go Viral as it blows your mind in a way You Won’t Believe.

Go ahead, grab the plug-in and then re-read that last bit with it on and off.

You’re welcome.