Irish Environmental Technology

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They say everything is bigger in the United States. Cars, food portions, the list goes on. In many ways, these are true statements.

One thing that has really stood out to me over the last week here in Ireland, is how much bigger and better environmental technology seems to be.  Especially compared to the US. As good as we are, at so many things, we also seem to lag behind many other countries in areas I would expect us to be better.

Here are some examples of prevalent environmental tech across the Emerald Isle.

Automobiles – By and large, they are smaller than in the US. Given how narrow some of the roads are, this is not a bad thing at all. However, more so than their size, it’s their environmental features that stand out. Most vehicles are diesel and diesel is generally less expensive. You find it at every petrol station. What I find most impressive is that the Diesel engine shuts down whenever you stop, saving fuel and emissions. As soon as you take your foot off the brake, the engine starts. It makes a ton of sense.

Hot Water – Hot water systems in many houses and apartments are optimized for utilization. For example, at the apartment we are presently staying in, the hot water system heats overnight so it’s ready for hot showers in the morning. It’s calibrated to deliver two hot showers a day. If there are more than two showers needed, you simply press a “boost” button to deliver enough hot water for one or more additional showers. It’s far more efficient than keeping a water tank continually heated 24×7.

Wind Farms – Many of the power plants I have seen also have wind farms on their grounds. Makes it hard to make the argument that the wind turbines are unsightly when they are standing alongside the large buildings and stacks of a traditional power station. I have also seen a number of free standing wind farms and they don’t look at all out of place or imposing.

Switchable Outlets – Every wall outlet I have seen has a switch adjacent to it.  When you plug something in to an outlet, you have to also switch the outlet on for it to deliver power to what’s plugged in. This helps conserve power by stopping the trickle effect where most devices draw even a small amount of power when plugged in, even if the device itself is off.

Solar – Many buildings have small solar panels on them to help reduce their reliance on the traditional electric grid. This is an area we are doing considerably better with in the US as well.

Food and Agriculture – Ireland has a rich farming history and that history has laid a strong foundation for continued local sourcing for the food supply. What I noticed, almost immediately, is that chicken is quite different from at home. My son loves wings and orders them whenever he can. The wings in Ireland are like they were when I was young, not the enlarged ones we see in the US now. That’s because these are truly free range chickens and there is considerably less fat and less waste because the portions make sense.

Air Quality – Other countries are generally considered to be far more accepting of smoking than the US, but I would contend that is not the case in Ireland. Smoking is clearly prohibited in nearly every building, private and public. Coupled with other initiatives around emissions and other air quality concerns, Ireland is a leader, not a follower.

Water Conservation – Most of the toilets in Ireland have two flush settings.  One that uses less water, for when there is only liquid waste to flush and second setting to use more water, when flushing solid waste.  I have seen this in the US, but very sparingly.  It’s fairly widespread in Ireland and keeps water conservation front and center and for everyone.

Advancing environmental technology is a national priority in Ireland. All aspects of technology seem to be front and center in terms of educational opportunity as well. I have seen numerous advertisements that encourage students to pursue technology education.  Ireland seems to be doing a much better job training their workforce in technologies for today and the future. As an example, I came across this government statement that seems to capture he national call to action: “The Government’s Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) has set out a vision to make Ireland internationally renowned for the excellence of its research and to be a leader in using new knowledge for economic and social progress.”

I’d say that’s not just an impressive vision, it’s a reality taking shape in a small country on an Emerald Isle that has called upon the entire world to embrace green technologies for a better future. Well done Éire!

Travel Tech in the Emerald Isle

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We are traveling around Ireland over the next two Irelandweeks, so I thought I would blog about my use of technology while traveling.  For this first installment, I am sharing the tech I am using to keep us connected and on the right course as we travel from Dublin to Killkenny, Killarney, Doolin, Galway, Westport, Portballintrae, Belfast and back to Dublin.  We are ringing the Emerald Isle.

We rented a couple of cars and are off, on our own, across the countryside.  To be sure we get to where we are going, I’m using my iPhone with Waze for voice guided navigation.  Wave has become my trusted navigation tool over the years.  When at home, I use it to know where the speed traps are and to get rerouted around traffic jams.  Here in Ireland, it’s my GPS of choice and has been absolutely perfect.  Now driving on the left hand side of the road is a story for another time, maybe.

To keep Waze in my line of sight while not distracting me from the task of driving on the other side of the road for first time in my thirty six years of driving on the right hand side of the road, I’m using Scosche‘s awesome MagicMount system.

At home, I use the MagicMount Dash/Window mount.  This innovative suction mount Dash MountMagic Mount Vent1will grip to your dashboard without the use of any adhesives.  When traveling, I use the MagicMount Vent that grips the air vent in the car.  The mount has prongs on the back that are spaced to grip slim or thick vents, so it will work in any vehicle.  Here is a picture of my iPhone mounted in our rental Ford Galaxy.

What makes the mount work is a small metal plate that you attach to the back of your smartphone.  The mount itself, has strong magnets, so when you place your phone to the mount, it sits in place nicely, even over the occasional bump in the road.  It’s the easiest and most reliable phone mount I have ever had.

Waze

The phone sits perfectly on the vent on the right hand side of the steering wheel.  This is just below my line of sight and also keeps me oriented to the right side of the vehicle, which I have learned the hard way, helps keep you from coming in to unwanted contact with things on the left hand side of the road.

I use Scosche’s boltBOX retractable lightning cable to connect my phone to a car charger to keep powerboltBOX flowing.  This great little cable retracts neatly into a small box and extends up to three feet, making it a perfect travel companion.

When traveling with lots of people in a vehicle, competition for the USB plug and any chargers becomes fierce.  The RapidX X-5 is the absolutely perfect car charger when you are traveling with a full car.  This innovative charger has five USB ports, allowing you to charge up to 5 smartphones and tablets from the device.  What makes it so unique, is that the charger that plugs in to the outlet in the car contains two USB ports, like most auto chargers do these days.  However, these ports are on the side and off the top is a five foot cord that connects to another piece with three additional USB ports in a clip that is designed to clip on the pocket on the back on most vehicle front seats.  This provides three charging ports for anyone seated in the rear of the car.  All the USB ports are 2.4 amp capable.  Here are some pictures of the unit in our rental car.

Put together, these travel gadgets have made for easy navigation and happy passengers as we moved from Dublin to Killarney and now to Doolin.  I’ll be posting more updates on tech I am seeing in Ireland and what I’m using to stay connected and productive.

Front Seat Charger

Front half of charger with 2 USB ports and cable connecting the rear section.

 

Back Seat Charger.jpeg

This is the rear section of the charger, clipped to the seat back pocket.  You can see the cable heading back to the front piece.

What a Great Open House

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Today we had the pleasure of welcoming customers, prospects, friends and special guests to our Open House at our new state-of-the-art headquarters office in North Andover at the West Mill on High Street. What a fantastic evening. Everyone was wow’d by the new office. Our NOC wall in our Network Operations Center was a big hit. Had not to be with sixteen seventy inch monitors. Here are some photo’s from the event. Thanks to everyone who stopped in over the course of 3+hours into the evening. 

Yes, we put the Red Sox game on at 7 PM.


The NOC Wall, minus any customer information.


We were packed with guests for well over three hours.


The kitchen was a popular spot, as always.

Summer Power Outages – Reason for Concern?

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Summer is finally taking hold across the northern hemisphere.  Here in the United States, the advent of summer often also means power outages.  These outages can be caused by pop-up thunderstorms due to the increase in humidity or the drain on the electric grid, often related to the increased use of air conditioning during periods of extreme heat.

However, there could be another reason for an outage this summer and it’s one thatmalware-power-grid-attack cybersecurity researches have warned about for years.  The power grid has been an infrastructure of concern for quite some time now and many contend that it is borderline irresponsible that some of these concerns may not have been addressed. Personally, it is my hope that the vulnerabilities have been addressed.

That said, reports began coming out late yesterday about malware that specifically targets power grids and has proven itself to be effective.  The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, US-CERT issued an alert as well.  The so called “Crash Override” malware successfully took down the Ukraine power grid in 2016.  The outage did not last long, but is considered by researches to be a dry run to see the malware’s effectiveness.  Similar to the Stuxnet malware that damaged centrifuges with the Iranian nuclear program, Crash Override is able to run on its own and does not need an active Internet connection to be effective.

The concern with this particular malware is that it was successful and its design, as reported by security firms ESET and Dragos, Inc., appears to be engineered for adaptable and multiple use, meaning it is not a one time attack tool.  It is designed to be repurposed and reused, theoretically allowing it to be used to attack electric grids in several countries, including the United States and possibly multiple simultaneous attacks.

This builds on a post I wrote back in April titled Technology, Terrorism and Modern Conflict that was based, in part, on an FBI Infragard meeting I had attended, during with risks to the electric grid were discussed.

So, the next time the power goes out, it may not be due to a passing storm or heavy loads on the grid.  It may be hacker.

What to Get Your High School Graduate

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This article was published in yesterday’s Seacoast Sunday.

It’s graduation season across the Seacoast and the country.  As these new grads head out to make their new futures, what makes a good gift to set them on their way?  Anything techy if you ask this writer.

For those kids heading off to college to further their education, they need a portable computer that will take them through their four years and further into their futures.  Depending on what they major in, their technology needs may be more specific than others.

CollegeAll colleges and universities have their books stores and most of these stores have technology centers to help your student decide on the right computer for their college career.  Some have dedicated computers stores.  I recommend that you or your student spend some time online, researching what the school they are attending recommends and then reviewing all the offers the school has available for hardware and software.

It’s important to know what will be required for the given major.  However, if your student in undeclared, look in to a good all-around computer that they can use in any major.  Map your decision making toward the most specific requirements of a major the student is likely to consider, so that you won’t wind up needing the replace the computer after the first semester or year.

Here’s the good news when shopping for a computer for an incoming college or university student.  Schools have negotiated pricing with the various manufacturers and also have on-campus support arrangements with most of the manufacturers products that they sell in their on-campus and online stores.  Because of this, I recommend purchasing your students computer from the school store or purchasing the same make and model as the school sells.  That way, your student will be able to get support for their hardware on-campus, without having to send the computer out for service, should it need it.  Let’s face it, if anyone in the family is likely to damage their computer, it’s the kid who is always on the go.

Most schools have these relationships with the major vendors; Apple, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Microsoft.  Across any of these five vendors, you have an incredible breadth of choices.  A laptop is the way to go, as many of your student’s classes will want them to have their computer with them.  Students also will not want to be tied down to their tiny desk in their equally tiny dorm room and will not just want, but need the portability a laptop offers.

When it comes to selecting a laptop, the choices are many.  From traditional laptops to tablets, take the time to let your student try a few different types of computers out, so they can make a decision that will serve them well throughout their college career.

In the Apple world, it’s the MacBook Pro or MacBook Air that rule the roost.  The Air is thinner and lighter and the Pro will have more options for computing power, storage and size.  If your student will not be majoring in applied sciences and engineering, an Apple laptop should serve them well.  For anyone in applied sciences and engineering, a PC laptop from Dell, HP, Lenovo or Microsoft will be the way to go.  While writing and the arts have wide support on the Apple platform, it’s Microsoft’s Windows that rules the roost in science and engineering, primarily due to the various applications students will work with.  While you can run Windows on an Apple computer, it will be more expensive for essentially no tangible benefit aside from the light up Apple logo on the case.

Give serious consideration to a convertible or tablet model.  Microsoft’s Surface Pro is really a laptop in a tablet design.  If weight and portability are the most important factor, this is an excellent option.  Other manufacturers and Microsoft itself, also offer several model that are convertible.  These devices can be used like a traditional laptop or a tablet, in various ways and offer a lot of flexibility.

In addition to the computer, don’t forget about a printer.  A good multi-function that also supports scanning and copying will serve your student best.  These have become very affordable, to the point that it really does not make sense to send them off to school with just a print only printer.

A good site to do some research is Barnes & Noble’s thinkedu.com web site.  You select the state in which you will be going to school and then your school.  You will then be taken to a site with all the offers available to students attending that school.  Some of the discounts are substantial, but still take the time to shop around to be sure you get the best deal available.  Most manufacturers, retailers (both brick and mortar as well as online) offer student discounts.  You simply need to show proof of enrollment.

Enjoy graduation, congratulations on your accomplishments and embrace the opportunity your future holds.

Have You Been Pwned?

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You probably think I misspelled the word “pwned” in the title of this post.  Believe it or not, I didn’t.  It’s Internet Slang.  Yes, there is such a thing.  Pwned is slang for being “owned,” “dominated,” or “perfectly owned.”  It’s origin is widely thought to be from an online gamer who simply misspelled the word owned.  We may never know, but for the purpose of this post, it is a reference to the website https://haveibeenpwned.com/.

pwned

This site is the creation of Troy Hunt, a Microsoft Regional Director and blogger.  What Troy has created is a great public service.  From his About page:

“I created Have I been pwned? as a free resource for anyone to quickly assess if they may have been put at risk due to an online account of theirs having been compromised or “pwned” in a data breach. I wanted to keep it dead simple to use and entirely free so that it could be of maximum benefit to the community. ”

From one technology professional to another, thank you Troy!  The world needs more people like you.

This is a great site where you may enter your email address to check to see if it has ever been publicly disclosed as part of a breach.  At current count, the site is tracking exposed email messages from 220 breached websites and 3,805,757,030 breached accounts.  Yes, that is three billion with a B!  The site also lets you know if your account has been “pasted.”  This is when a breached account is made available on a public forum of breached data.

You may even subscribe for updates whenever your email address or addresses are found to be breached.  I highly recommend you sign up for this as there is presently no better way to proactively watch to see if you account information may be exposed.  If it is, you will want to immediately change the password on the site where your account was breached, as well as on any other site where you used this email and password for your login.

Check it out, you’ll be glad you did and hopefully it will tell you “Good news – no pwnage found!”

Takeaways from the 2017 CyberEdge Report

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The CyberEdge Group has released their 2017 Cyberthreat Defense Report CyberEdge 2017 CDR - 3D-Leftand the takeaways are pretty interesting.  The CyberEdge Group is an award-winning research, marketing and publishing firm serving the needs of information security vendor and service providers.

This report is based on responses from 1,100 IT security professionals from larger enterprise companies with more than 500 employees.  These companies represent 19 industries and 15 countries.  Some of these key takeaways apply to all businesses and provide good reference points of focus.  Of particular interest are the following:

  • Attacks are on the rise.  Nearly four out of five respondents had a successful cyberattack last year.  One third experienced six or more successful attacks over the course of the year.
  • There is optimism in the market.  Though this is not a good trend.  Too many organizations do not think they we will be the victim of a cyberattack.  This concerns me that businesses are not taking the threat seriously enough.
  • Mobile devices are the weakest link.  Not enough companies are deploying mobile device management.  This is not just about finding a lost device or erasing it, this is about appropriate control over company data…what is allowed on the device and what apps on the device can access that data.
  • Need to focus on secure apps.  This is especially true for organizations that develop their own apps.  There needs to be a renewed focus on security for these apps, as well as user training on cyber risk.
  • Failure to monitor privileged users.  Very few organizations have the right tools in place to monitor the activity of users with administrative rights.
  • Patch management concerns.  This was validated by the recent WannaCry outbreak.  Companies need to do a better job keeping their systems updated.  Known and unaddressed vulnerabilities are the most common attack vector.
  • Cyber insurance pulls its weight.  Seventy five percent of organizations feel they have a good level of cyber insurance.  The insurance industry has done a good job addressing this need, which also helps drive awareness and action.

A few other key findings that are worth noting are that ransomware remains the largest concern.  Most companies feel they are most likely to be attacked through malware like ransomware.  This again points to need for user education, to understand the risk and their role in protecting the business.  As more systems move to Cloud hosted options, like Microsoft Office 365, concerns about the security of these systems grows.

In many organizations, security budgets are getting the most resources.  I know one large organization that allocates more to their cyber security budget than to the entire IT budget.  Another concern lies with the massive volume of security related data that even the smallest business generates.  Parsing this information for actionable intelligence can be a daunting task.  In addition, the volume of data requires ample and adaptive storage capacity that most business do not have.  This leads to the deletion of data that could be critical in identifying the validity of an attack and it’s potential source or method.

You can read the entire report on the CyberEdge Group web site at https://www.cyber-edge.com/cdr.

Source: 2017 Cyberthreat Defense Report, CyberEdge Group, LLC.