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.

 

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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.

Off to Kaseya Connect

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TKaseyaConnecthis week, I am attending Kaseya Connect 2017 in Las Vegas.  This is my first time attending this event, but not my first time in Las Vegas.  While Las Vegas is not one of my preferred destinations, at least the event is at Caesars Palace, which is my favorite hotel/conference facility on the Strip.

This will be an interesting event.  This is a very “product” focused conference.  Kaseya is a software company that makes several tools to help companies like Internet & Telephone, LLC service their customers in a proactive and innovative way.  We use a few Kaseya products, as well as several others, including some competitive technologies, so I’m looking forward to seeing the product roadmap and networking with peers to see how they are leveraging the technology in their businesses.  Kaseya technologies are also unique in that they are not only used by companies like ours, but in corporate environments.  I’m looking forward to listening to the various panels that are scheduled.

I’m also very interested in the security topics that are on the agenda.  There are several, each focusing on specific aspects of the security challenges businesses today are faced with.

It should be an interesting and very busy week.  I’ll blog from the event, so stay tuned.

Latest Phishing Attack: Airline Confirmations

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Our friends at KnowBe4 are warning about a pretty malicious email phishing attack that spoofs airline confirmation or flight update messages.  The hackers are getting better all the time and this latest attack looks as real as they come.

AirlinePhishHackers are researching individuals on social media and when they detect you are about to travel or planning travel, they target you with what appear to be legitimate messages from the airline you may be booking with.  They are spoofing the from address, so play close attention to verifying the from address, making sure it isn’t missing a letter or using a close, but false domain like tickets@deltaticketing.com.  I’m just using Delta as an example here.  You could insert any airline name in place of Delta in this example.  Airlines typically just use their name for their domain, so anything other than that should be an immediate red flag.

Airlines also do not attach PDF or other types of document attachments to confirmation and update messages.  Never open one, it’s surely a trick.  Once you have your ticket booked, check for updated information directly on the airline web site, even if you get an email about a change or update.  If you click the link or attachment in the email, it’s more than likely that you are allowing malicious hacker code onto your computer and therefore compromising your network.

Play it safe and don’t let the hackers take off with your personal information and ruin your trip.

Vacation Notice

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Beginning Friday evening, February 24th through Monday morning, March 6th, I will be on vacation.  I do not anticipate posting during this time.  Thanks for your follows and readership.  Looking forward to getting back to blogging in early March.

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How Do You Handle Inclement Weather?

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I know this isn’t exactly a snow storm, but it’s a nice alternative reality.

What does your company do when a Nor’easter is bearing down on you?  Do you close your business for the day or do you have plans to keep operations seamless even during the worst of weather?

Today is a great example and a good opportunity to review your capabilities and possibly make some changes.  It all starts with your back end infrastructure, be it Cloud or on-premise.  Is your infrastructure redundant and able to operate through power outages without interruption?  Are you dispersed across multiple, geographically separated data centers for both your public, private and hybrid-Cloud infrastructures?  These are all important considerations.

You want your servers to be configured in high availability clusters, so that if any one component should suffer a hardware failure or software corruption, your standby systems take over immediately and as seamlessly as possible.  This goes for your Internet connectivity as well.  It needs to be redundant, from different carriers and coming in to your physical sites via different paths, to protect against single points of failure like the telephone pole in front of your building.

Are your users versed in working remotely?  Do you have secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections available and properly secured?  Do you have Citrix or RemoteApp’s deployed for users to connect to?  It’s important that users know how to access company systems when working remotely.

It’s also important to determine your company policy with regard to working remotely.  Do you issue company laptops for users to take home or do you allow users to work on their home PC’s?  If you are allowing your users to connect from their home computers, be sure you enforce at least minimal management and security best practices on that computer, so you do not expose your corporate resources to any risk from a home computer that is unmanaged and not monitored for threats.

Don’t forget about the phone.  If you have an IP based phone system, do users have phones at their homes, allowing them to work from their home as if they were sitting in the office.  If they don’t, they should.

For me, today will be as productive a day as when I am in the office.  Actually, it may be even more productive as there will not be as many interruptions.  I have a laptop with a secure VPN that allows me to connect to all of our company resources.  I am able to work no differently than if I was sitting in any of our physical offices.  I have a telephone on my desk that also securely connects back into our unified communication system.  My extension works just as if I was at my desk.  I can call my colleagues by extension and speak with them whether they are in the office or at home themselves.  I even have softphone capability on my computer, so that if I were in a hotel or somewhere other than my home, I could still work in the same manner.  I just need to connect a headset to my computer, which can be done wired or wirelessly with Bluetooth headphones.

So, as you can see, a day when it’s not safe to travel to the office does not need to be a lost day.  In fact, it should be just as productive as any day at the office, or possibly even more so.  Enjoy the snowy day!

Proud of CompTIA

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logo-small_jpegSome of you probably know that I have been a highly engaged member of CompTIA for over 15 years at this point.  For those that may now know, CompTIA is the Computing Technology Industry Association, the leading voice for the global information technology (IT) industry.  Perhaps more simply put, CompTIA is a non-profit trade association representing all companies that contribute to the information economy.  In addition to providing a wide range of member support and education, CompTIA also is the global leader in providing vendor neutral certification training and accreditation for IT professionals and has an active Public Policy team working with Federal and State governments in support of these roles.

I have had the pleasure of serving on the CompTIA Board of Directors over the course of two terms, including three years as Board Chair.  I am currently supporting our current Chairwoman, Amy Kardel of Clever Ducks, as the Immediate Past Chair.

In light of the recent Executive Order on immigration and travel from certain countries issued by President Trump, CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux released a statement on the concerns of the industry raised by the Executive Order.  You may read it here.  I find it to be an impressively balanced and reasonable statement on the matter.