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The Actuator - January 25th

Level 17

Had a wonderful time in Austin last week for the 50th Labiversary, as well as the Austin SWUG. Thank you to everyone that could attend in person and online. We are fortunate in that we get to have fun with our work, and I think you see that come through in the 50th Lab.

Anyway, here's a bunch of links I found on the Intertubz that you may find interesting. Enjoy!

The 13 Future Technology Trends That Will Shape Business And Society

Some of these, like personalized food and 3D printed houses, are worth a conversation. Such discussions about the future of tech are more fun than the reality: 3D food malware.

Why you should standardize your microservices

Wait, why wouldn't you standardize whatever tools and services you are using?

Peloton – The Self-Driving Database Management System

I've seen this promise of a self-tuning database for over 20 years. Maybe the tech finally exists to make this happen, but bad code will always bring the best hardware to its knees. Face it: you can't fix, or predict, stupid.

RethinkDB: why we failed

"... because the open source developer tools market is one of the worst markets one could possibly end up in." Wait a minute—you built a business around an entire ecosystem that wants and expects software to be free, and then you are shocked they wouldn't pay for your software? I guess not everyone graduates top of their MBA class.

DeepTraffic | 6.S094: Deep Learning for Self-Driving Cars

Because I haven't written about autonomous cars in a while, here's a simulator that lets you train the car yourself.

Why You Should Consider Changing Your Echo's Wake Word From Alexa

Because defaults are an easy attack vector, that's why.

Stolen USB Drive Leads to $2.2 Million HIPAA Breach Penalty

Articles like this remind me how far we need to go to help people understand the value of their data. Too many people are taking the most critical asset for any company (the data) and treating it carelessly. You never know the true value of data until it is gone.

If anyone doubts how wonderful our video team is, I'm just going to show them this image:

Screenshot (45).png


I need to think of something clever to swap out for "Alexa" Suggestions welcome.

Level 9

Gene editing could be a good thing, however it has great potential for misuse.

Level 14

I agree.  Could be a very slippery slope.

13 Trends:

This is an interesting set of ideas, first and foremost of which discusses customizing babies through gene splicing/editing.  Another word used for this has been eugenics.  And folks have discussed the pro's & con's of eugenics for centuries.  Building babies that are less susceptible to diseases sounds good.  But once you have that ability, you may also have the ability to sterilize babies that have something you personally don't want to persist in the species--and if that something is based on eliminating a race, you just dropped off into moral and ethical quicksand.  Like every invention, something designed for beneficial and innocuous purposes may be twisted and re-engineered for negative uses.  See Alfred Nobel's inventions, and discover why he secretly willed his riches to promote positive social outcomes and research.  


Standardizing Microservices:

Standards, when applied consistently and successfully, enable you and your customers / users to predict performance and reliability.  With great performance and reliability you'll probably be able to charge for your product, expand its coverage, and leverage scale to increase profit AND customer satisfaction at the same time.  Now, how are you going to enforce something that's effectively Open Source, like Uber drivers?

Peloton's Achilles' Heel:

I suspect human ingenuity, and possibly bad morals, may result in Peloton becoming worse than anyone ever expected.


Simple OpenSource Funding Logic:

Expecting to make money on OpenSource projects may not be the best business decision.  You'd need to move from a Linux point of view to a Red Hat Linux point of view, and get folks to pay for your time & efforts.  Maybe this might have been better done through a Go Fund Me solution--at least you'd know if you had enough paying / interested customers to cover your development costs.  When building a better mouse trap, folks have to be willing to buy your product.  No matter how wonderful it is, no matter how awesome your support team may be, if no one pays for their use of the product, you won't be able to pay the rent or the Star Bucks coffee bill.

Self-Driving Cars:

This is sort of like relying on Open Source for security solutions.  Should anyone trust a program (in part) designed by the public to operate self-driving cars? It may be OK for a game, wouldn't you suspect this is a way to leverage gamers' abilities and eventually create a program for the public operation of cars?

What's Wrong With Alexa's Defaults?

The same thing that's wrong with leaving anything at its default security configuration--other people can and WILL use it without your permission.  In the case of Alexa, it'll cost in security vulnerabilities AND in unauthorized purchases charged to your accounts.

HIPAA and USB's:

We disable USB drives, and use ACI to track/report/prevent flows from resources to USB drives.  Losing the ability to leverage the flexibility and convenience of USB drives is the price we pay for not being vulnerable to security compromises associated with Thumb Drives.


The 50th Labiversary was very well done as is usually the case. Huzzah! Huzzah! And the screenshot, for me, was the highlight of the entire episode. Brilliant!

The 13 Future Technology Trends is just a sobering premonition of things to come. Does anyone else watch Black Mirror? I think we're getting a little too ahead of ourselves sometimes. <shudder>

I enjoy the cartoon caricatures; thanks for the art work, whoever has the talent. 

Level 13

^ I agree!

I don't know the Head Geeks well enough to know their stories, so I'll ask:

  1. What does the star over Leon's left should indicate?
  2. What does the half-star above the trio of Geeks mean?
  3. What's the story behind the parrot?

that Scooby-Doo video segment was brilliant, although Leon as Vela was moderately disturbing

The genetic manipulation thing is scary.

If Stephen Hawking's parents editing his genome would he have been supergenius.

If Elon Musk's parent had edited him, would he have been quite so driven

Good intentions very rarely consider all the consequences.

Level 14

Trends: Zager and Evans tune "in the year 2525" keeps playing in my head!

RethinkDB: These guys missed the "internet bubble" and certainly didn't study or learn from it. Concept and theory are one thing.... practice and profit a totally different animal.

Self driving cars: If anyone can figure this out it's the folk 30 miles to my north at MIT.... although the DeepTraffic title sounds like a video game.

Alexa: "Alexa... am I becoming too lazy?"

HiPAA and USB's : When are we going to learn that portable storage of any kind is a 60 Minutes moment waiting to happen?

Level 13

stolen USB? that's why we only use encrypted ones.

Level 13

I love it when I'm watching tv and a Amazon commercial come on for the Echo and mine activates when they say "Alexa".  Freaky!!!!!!! 

Level 13

so now we have to protect networks and devices against other VERBAL threats!!! if my life wasn't complicated enough.




hmm...someone on speakerphone has a remote execution of alexa attack be the person on the other end of a phone call.

phone prankster yells out "Alexa, order 10 large pepperoni pizza's from pizza hut for delivery".

Goes back to basic security, change your default stuff...

Just think the mayhem of the amazon commercial caused an order to be placed say for amazon prime or who knows what.


Level 13

would you trust a self-driving car?

Today self driving cars are not completely ready, but the advancement in building them is impressive. I think soon I will trust them.

Level 14

As a cyclist, the self-driving cars are appealing.  No more distracted drivers.  Their models already account for bikes quite well.

The 13 Future Technology Trends That Will Shape Business And Society

Some of these, like personalized food and 3D printed houses, are worth a conversation. Such discussions about the future of tech are more fun than the reality: 3D food malware.

While potentially Orwellian, our city has gone to cameras supplementing shortages in deputies and with surprising success.

Level 8

Thanks for the reads. I enjoyed the Stolen Thumb drives and HIPAA report. =^.^=


they are supposed to start some testing with self driving cars here in Arlington (TX) this year.

Level 13

I wonder how they'd fair in northern ontario with all the snow and ice...

I recall a Netflix show about a tow truck company located in B.C.  Those steep and icy and twisting roads were a nightmare for truckers.  It seems a self-driving vehicle wouldn't be feasible in those conditions and in that environment.

I'd say use multiple words instead of one, ala password complexity style.

Level 20

Geesh when are people going to realize that all data removed from any network should be encrypted?  Laptops included with full disk encryption!!!

Level 20

Sounds like that ICE Trucker reality show that was on!  It was mainly the roads up in Alaska I think during the worst part of the winter when the trucks drive across frozen lakes and such.

Level 14

when bad things happen to them!

Image result for steve urkel did i do that

Level 13

I.T. realize that...try to get users on board.

Level 17

It's a still shot from the 50th Lab episode, so the stars don't mean anything they are just in the background. I believe Kong is a Seahawk, because of his affinity for the Seattle Seahawks.

Level 17

Yes, I would trust a self-driving car, especially if all the other cars are self-driving.


Thanks for the reads. I use Snowboy on my homemade Raspberry Echo to use any wakeWord I want. Maybe Amazon could offer something similar.

It's apparent that picking a unique keyword to activate a voice interface system is not sufficient.  It must also perform voice recognition.  Even Star Trek dealt with that vulnerability nearly 20 years ago in the episode called "Brothers", where Data hijacked the Enterprise by mimicking Picard's voice and installing a long password for controlling the ship.

Level 10

I'm on the fence about self-driving cars.  Can't see myself riding around in this...

Self driving car.jpg

Level 10



Level 10

Me too!  The Scooby Doo Solar Winds artwork makes me giggle every time.


The word between the wheels makes me wonder how one exits this vehicle.

Level 10

Ha!  Didn't notice that.  I'm guessing it flings you out the front of the car.  Reminds me of an Isetta.


I believe catapults have a bit more of an arc than a forward trajectory per Hooke's Law, no?


Good point. Maybe it can delivery you to the second or third floor?

Level 13

hmmm...I wonder how safe and SECURE those cars are? Maybe they were designed by the same manufacturers of IoT devices.

We've found it takes this three times before they realize. First time is a one off, second time they are unlucky, third time, we should probably do something about this.

I would trust a self driving car, if I was in the car. Outside the car when it makes that decision, the occupant or the cyclist, who will get hurt........

Thanks for that, I'll look out for it. ST:TNG is next on our Trek re-watch before Discovery.

I'd say make it as Star Trek as possible. "Computer"

Designed for ideals rather than reality?

USB drives, one of the biggest and one of the most convenient security holes.

Most companies I've worked with have these disabled as default.

Level 14

Would have loved to attend that one

About the Author
Thomas LaRock is a Head Geek at SolarWinds and a Microsoft® Certified Master, SQL Server® MVP, VMware® vExpert, and a Microsoft Certified Trainer. He has over 20 years experience in the IT industry in roles including programmer, developer, analyst, and database administrator.