Category Archives: rant

The Difference Between Work & Life

TL;DR: My opinions are my own, but sometimes I gotta pay the bills. I’m also not willing to win a flame war only to lose my job.

Henri Ducad/Ra’s Al Ghul: Mind your surroundings, always
Bruce Wayne: Yield!
Ducard: You haven’t beaten me. You just sacrificed sure footing for a killing stroke.

In “Batman Begins” Bruce learned that maintaining a focus on one’s surroundings is sometimes more important than the actions of one’s opponent or goal.

For sure, one cannot focus on surroundings to the exclusion of the opponent or goal, but rather it is a constant juggling of attention, or (for the technical readers) rapid task switching if not true multi-tasking.

The reason I bring this up is because now, more than ever, I have to mind my surroundings.

My job as SolarWinds HeadGeek – my dream job, I might add – affords me the chance to write articles in a wide variety of publications, to speak at a variety of conferences, and to be active on social media as part of my job. 

I mean, how cool is that? I get PAID to tweet, blog, like, follow, pin, instagram, and more!

BUT… it comes with a pricetag – I’m expected to be professional. Which most of the time is not a big deal. I *like* being professional. I think being polite, kind, positive, encouraging, insightful, introspective, self-deprecating, and (when I’m lucky) funny is kind of my jam. 

Never the less, there are things that push my buttons. It could be an act (whether personal or corporate) that I see as un-just; or an event that touches on a cause that is important to me; or a technical choice that rubs me the wrong way. 

Or maybe I’m just ornery that day.

The challenge is that the trade-off for getting to write and speak and tweet is that I represent more than just me. If I lose my cool and call someone a flaming jack-wagon on Facebook, it’s not just Leon’s opinion (no matter how many “opinions are my own” disclaimers I put in my profile). Effectively, I and the company I represent have just called someone a flaming jack-wagon. 

And that is what we call in IT circles a “Resume generating event”. 

SO… this is a reminder (which I will link to on social media from time to time) that:

  • I am me. A person with opinions about life, religion, politics, food, operating systems (Linux!), tabs vs spaces (SPACES!), and whether it’s the network’s fault (it’s never the network)
  • I am also (and, I should add, PROUDLY) a HeadGeek for SolarWinds

Sometimes my public activity will be part of “paying the bills”. In the middle of a social event you’ll see me tweet about the next episode of SolarWinds Lab. Or I may be strangely silent about the thing everyone is talking about. 

That doesn’t mean I’m a shill for the man, or that my account is operated by a soul-less corporate robot. It just means that I have to mind my surroundings, and make sure that I’m not sacrificing the sure footing of my platform and support for the fleeting glory of a temporary victory.

Negative Reaction

I’m watching the replay of the Windows 10 announcement (here:, and I’m horrified. Having worked with Windows since 1989, when you could get a copy of Windows 286 for free when you bought Excel 1.0, I am no stranger to the Microsoft marketing machine. I have seen, used, and supported Windows in every incarnation from the best (95, XP, 2003) to the worse (Bob, Vista, Windows8).

But what I saw today was just plain muddled, confusing, and disconcerting – even by the standards that I use for Microsoft announcements. Yes, I realize it was the consumer announcement. Yes, I realize it’s the IT world’s version of “Fashion Week” and that everything we see should be taken with a grain of salt. And a lime and triple shot of tequilla. But even so, I have some huge issues. Here they are, with time markings so you can keep pace with me as you watch (or re-watch) the video:

  • Terry Myerson kicks things off. 5 minutes in, and he hasn’t said anything that can’t be summarized as “we’re working hard to develop the software. You know, like a software company does.”
    “More personal computing”?!? Why not call it “More gooder stuff for them there interwebs”?
  • 11 minutes in and we STILL haven’t heard what features or capabilities will be IN the OS. I’ve heard what they believe a computer should do, but nothing about how 10 will deliver that wish list.
  • 14 minutes in – free upgrades from 8.1: smells like desperation.
    • Free upgrades for windows 7 – ok, this is the first thing that I cared about. But what about 8? Oh that’s right. Everyone dropped that version like girls dropped my hand during 6th grade square dancing class in gym.
    • But you know what? You want to impress me? Offer free upgrades to stuff BEFORE windows 7. Prove that you really REALLY want users on the same platform. And yeah, hardware won’t make it, and that’s the user’s problem, not yours (Microsoft’s). You offer the free upgrade and let the customer deal with meeting the requirements if they have to.
    • edit: and now it’s come out that the upgrades are for consumers, not companies. While I understand the concept, I’m not particularly impressed with their committment to getting people onto the latest version of Windows. Companies are traditionally the biggest holdouts. If they really don’t want to support a code base, enticing corporate (and government, and non-profit) users would be the TOP priority. In My (not so) Humble Opinion.
  • 18:00 – Joe B takes the stage.
  • 20:00 – Camera man runs up to catch what’s happening on the keyboard. Wait, what? Viewers want to see what is ACTUALLY HAPPENING ON THE COMPUTER? Crazy talk. Good thing they ran a camera man up there. Too bad it’s clear this is completely unrehearsed so the camera work is reminiscent of “The Blair Witch Project”
    • Marilyn Manson? Dude, you are soooooooo hardcore. Can I be like you?
  • 23:00 – “a small tablet docked to a keyboard and mouse”? Ummmmm because Bluetooth is too far-fetched?
  • 25:00 – “Hey Cortana”. Why didn’t you just hire ScarJo to read these lines. Or a dummy on his knee. He didn’t do the “drinking from a glass of water trick”.
  • 34:00 – Microsoft needs to be told that ignoring the existence of Siri, “Ok Google”, and DragonDictate doesn’t mean I need or want to sit through an explanation of what they are. Just because yours answers to a different name doesn’t make it different.
  • 38:00 – you couldn’t get a longer cord??? And why do you need a cord? For video? You mean it doesn’t have chromecast or something?
  • 40:00 – a microphone icon on the phone’s keyboard panel you can use instead of typing? Wow. Just like… well, EVERYONE ELSE.
  • 44:00 – Windows integrates with Office. Wake me in another 10 minutes when he goes on to tell me that Windows 10 has full mouse support.
  • 47:00 – so he finally cops to why he’s on a wire (“because we have lots of people on wireless right now”). Uh… I am still confused. You couldn’t set up a separate AP for your demo boxes? I smell bullshit. I’m betting it doesn’t work well with the buffering associated with wireless.
  • 49:00 – “the Lorem” function?!?! Really??? That’s what you want to show me?
  • 54:00 – photo handling. Is this really an OS function?
    • De-cluttering (don’t show duplicate images) means I’ll use up all kinds of disk space without knowing why. Auto-enhancing is going to create confusion when you email images to other people. And yet I still don’t care.
  • 57:00 – maps and whatever. So that Microsoft can be “just like Google” too.
  • 1:05:00 – Cortana is built into every interaction? That sounds just as wonderful as clippy.
  • 1:10:00 – Gaming on Windows 10. Wake me when it’s over.
    No really. I know that having gaming support integrated into the OS (whatever that means. That smells a little BS-y too.) may be interesting to consumers. But every corporate IT pro just added “Auto-remove game support” to their list of things that have to be supported before they will adopt this OS. Unless you are going to have 6 different versions of Windows 10. Like you did with Windows 7. Because that wasn’t totally confusing.
  • 1:28:00 – Terry is back, telling the audience “we’re looking forward to feedback from insiders – how cool, how fun, how…” etc. Yeah, I’m sure that’s EXACTLY what feedback you are going get.
  • 1:30:00 – actually detected me when I came to the screen? No, that techie in black detected you and turned the screen on.
    • Also, a 48 and 80-inch screen? $10 says the first workplace injury from someone throwing their shoulder out comes in the first day.
  • 1:35:00 – I get it, I get it, you have a huge honking computer, that you can use just like a little computer. You can whiteboard (like you do in Lync). You can cut and paste between different apps (like you do in Lync). You can show all the apps running on it (like you do in Lync).
  • 1:43:00 – we didn’t needs years of study to catch a ball? I seem to recall early childhood development classes saying differently. Actually, the fact that you don’t regard that as “learning” tells me a lot about how Microsoft understands (or doesn’t) the learning process and what natural learning versus forced learning looks like.
  • 1:45:00 – holograms only I can see. Yay. Now I can look like I’m having spasms in front of my friends in new and exciting ways.
  • 1:47:00 – “available in the windows 10 timeframe”. So sometime before Windows 11. Vaporwear. I’m done listening.
  • 2:05:00 – Satya Nadella is batting cleanup, and says the first thing that makes sense “It’s now about the mobility of the experience, not the mobility of the device.”
  • 2:16:00 – Internet of things. So glad you worked that in. Not that you actually SHOWED anything that qualifies, but good work on buzzword bingo.

Overall, I give this “2 black turtlenecks” (out of 5) in terms of engagement, value, and interest. I can only hope that the announcement for Windows 10 server will have more depth.

Walking Away

I deleted my Facebook account today. I didn’t just close that tab in my browser; I didn’t go on a 5 day “technology cleanse”; I didn’t suspend my account.

(You may now clutch your pearls and gasp dramatically. I’ll wait.)

Now that your shock and horror have passed, I wanted to explain why, and why this is not an act worth emulating, and why it is absolutely something I think you should consider emulating.

First the boring reasons:

  • My original reason for getting onto Facebook was to keep track of my kids. They aren’t on Facebook any more (possibly because I *am*.)
  • Meanwhile, I found myself spending an inordinate time hitting “refresh” waiting for something interesting to show up.
  • When something interesting DOES show up that I want to comment on, it fails the 3-point checklist I use to keep me from embarrassing myself (more than usual):
    • Is it kind?
    • Is it true?
    • Is it necessary for me to respond?

AND THEN there’s the whole privacy piece, which has been recently (and in my opinion, best) summarized here. Reading my texts? NSA impersonation? data leaks? Fraud? It’s a security hit-parade.

I’ll have to admit, the whole ‘turning on my microphone when I’m doing a status update” thing is just a step too far for me. I deleted the FB app off all my mobile devices immediately.

And then this announcement that FB is selling my information to advertisers. Taken on its own, this would be a yawner. But for me it was one in a growing list of concerns.

I am completely clear that FB isn’t the only offender. The other social media platforms have similar problems. In fact, it’s still worth having the discussion on whether “social media” should come with any illusions of privacy at all. But FB currently seems to have the most egregious flaws. And (for me at least) very few benefits.

That’s not going to be true for everyone. When I made the announcement that I would be shutting down my account, many people told me they couldn’t survive (read “stay in touch”, “keep up to date”, or even “while away the boring hours before/after/during work”) without it.

And that’s fine. My decision to delete my Facebook account is not something you should feel compelled to emulate.

On the other hand, FB is acting less like a social media platform and more like a corporate entity looking to monetize any way they can. I don’t begrudge them that, and I appreciate the fact that they made an announcement about selling my information. This time. Because people are looking.

It’s clear that Facebook is really not interested in your privacy in any meaningful way, and as a user you simply can’t expect it.

So, while this isn’t an action you should feel compelled to emulate, you may want to consider it never the less.

This just makes me nuts. What gets me is that there’s an actual human involved in this. If it was just a robot-spammer, I could shrug it off.

It’s an email one of my customers received recently. I’m listing out all of this bozo’s information so you (or your customers) don’t get scammed:

Dear Manager
We are a professional intellectual property rights consultant organization, who mainly deal with the global domain name registration and internet intellectual property rights protection.

12th,3,2012 we received an application from Matas export trade Limited. They want to register () internet brand and CN domain names. But after checking it, we find this name conflict with your company name or trademark. In order to deal with this matter better, it’s necessary to send email to you and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner?

Please let me know whether you let they use or register them by yourself. Waiting for your reply.

Kind Regards,
Jerry Lan
Brand Registration Department Manager
HongKong Newname Net Service Co., Limited
Tel: +00852-8193 0858, Fax: +00852 8193 2728
4A, Units 19/F, Far East Consortium Bldg., 121 Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong

My customer was (understandably) agitated and, believing this to be a real situation, responded. This is what he received back:

Dear Sir,

Since you have no relationship with this company, we assume that they have other purposes to obtain these domain names. Matas export trade Limited want to register the following Domain name:
Internet brand:(<yourdomain>)

If your company do not want other to register them, and need to protect by yourself. I will send you an application form to fill out. Then we will use it to reject Matas export trade Limited’s application and help your company to register it. If you think that it is not influences your company and give up it, we will help Matas export trade Limited to register it according to the registration procedure.

That’s when my customer got me involved. Here’s my response to him, and my take on the entire situation.

“My opinion is that the best way to deal with this is to ignore it. It’s meant to scare you into hasty action. Note the wording. He’s contacting you with an offer to PROTECT you from this other company infringing on your brand. What’s that sound like? Yep, Vinny and his cousin are standing in your store, saying what a shame it would be if there was a fire.

Those domain names are – in my not-so-humble opinion – less than useless to someone UNLESS they are going to actually develop it into a website.

If I just buy “.biz” and stick a single web page on it, it’s not going to show up on the search engines and it’s not going to do any good (or harm).

My advice is to either:

  1. let it drop.
  2. buy up all those domain names at $15 per name per year. It’s not THAT much if it’s really going to concern you. If you do, I would only buy the .net, .org and .biz variants. The ones he’s listing – .cn (China), .hk (HongKong) and .tw (Taiwan) are really less than less than useless.