Gone fishing

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

A hot summer sun beat down on the city. Just a few days and I will be on holiday. In that time, the only thing I will have to do is talk with the people I care about.

I have been thinking about what I would do next on this blog. I thought I would write some more for a while. I would write about how the grass felt like a fine shower of rain on my body and how the sounds of insects, animals, and the wind never startled me. I would write about how I learned to speak the language and how to negotiate trades with the owners of the shops and taverns. I would write about growing food or gathering it from the bushes that lined the river. I would write about making friends who changed as often as the wind in the trees. I will not do those things, though.

A few weeks ago, I found that I do not want to write on it for some time.

I will take a break from writing for a while.

I will crawl into bed with the covers pulled up to my chin. The weight of my book will comfort me as I read, and only when sleep comes over me will I lay it down, my hands aching from holding it open. I will listen to the rain falling on the roof and lull me to sleep. It will be as if the rain is describing a world outside this one, where we never face our fears or the pain of our actions and never understand that we do the best we can given what we have.

Finally, I need some fresh air. I don’t like what I read in newspapers, LinkedIn, or other sources. Everything has become so convoluted and, sometimes, inexplicable to me. I need to step back for a while and go back to the basics.

I think it is about time to stand up with more strength, personally and professionally. I can do it, but I need some distance for a while.

I will see you in September.

Dead by smart working

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We had a hall-hands meeting yesterday afternoon. We gave a few updates on what’s going on together with a glimpse of our financial status after the first semester.

While I put together the presentation, I looked at the Profit and Loss, which was pretty good.

We are running smoothly as a company. The usual slowdown is because of August, but we will recover in the last quarter. I have been there and seen that.
From a General Manager’s perspective, there’s not much to worry about.
That’s a typical case where figures do not tell the whole story. We are indeed okay from a financial standpoint, but what happens inside the company?

I headed to our main dashboard and looked at working reports from Harvest. Plenty of overtime.

That’s not good.

I started thinking about that and thought about a few weak signals I got from the endless calls I have every day. I heard people saying they did not have lunch, and it also happened to me a few times. I heard people who could not go to the bathroom because of conference calls. I looked at my email inbox, and the number of emails I received after 6 pm was too high.

So from where is overtime coming?

I think there are two main reasons. Sometimes you have very demanding clients that may lead you to overtime. In other cases, it is just not being strong enough to enforce boundaries.

Both of the cases do not depend on people suffering from them.

In the first case, you want to retain the client, make him happy, and avoid conflicts.

The second case is just a side effect of smart working, remote working, or working from home.

I have read dozen of definitions of smart working and remote working. I do not find any of them satisfying.

I will generally talk about “working from home.”

Working from home is like placing a marble on a slightly inclined plane. You start establishing some well-defined boundaries between work and personal life. The marble starts gaining speed and kinetic energy. It’s a slow process; you do not notice it until it’s too late.

You quickly find yourself in the situations I was talking about before.

It does not happen when you work in the office because there are well-defined breaks that you can’t avoid—commuting to and from the office, lunch, and coffee breaks. Those things impose a break, even if it is a boring break like commuting is.

It is not easy to set those boundaries when you work from home. You jump out of the shower and sit in front of the computer. After a few days, you are entirely sucked up.

Again, that’s no good at all.

As a General Manager, I have to work on this during my holidays to get it fixed when we come back. It is imperative. It is not sustainable in the long run.

All senior people in the company must commit to this. We must protect our people from clients and themselves when they cannot. As senior managers, we have to take the hit. It is our responsibility to bring that overtime if needed.

Being a senior manager means staying in the front line.

It’s not you, it’s me

Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

As some of you know, Sketchin has been part of the Business Integration Partner group for the last three years.

There are a lot of interactions between us. We exchange documents, spreadsheets, reports, pitch decks, case studies, etc.

BIP lives in a Microsoft world, which is fine. Sketchin lives in an Apple and Google world, which is fine. Different views on different ecosystems. Lucky us, we were not forced (yet 😉 ) to change.

Yesterday I had to work on a pitch deck where Sketchin is marginally involved. Just one slide.

I received a link to the shared document on Teams, which redirects me to a Sharepoint resource. No way. I did not have permission to view or edit the file. Hours were lost trying to get the permission fixed.

Finally, I was able to access the document online with my browser. Yes, PowerPoint in a browser. I can’t imagine a worse nightmare. As the title says, it’s not you; it’s me. I tried to design my slide for quite a long time, but it was not coming along well with the interface. I did not find a way to do what I wanted to do. I tried to copy data from an existing Powerpoint presentation and paste it into the browser presentation with no luck.

Yes, I gave up.

I edited my slide locally on my personal computer, and then I sent it as an attachment to an email message. Someone will have to spend time integrating my contribution to the master document.
Incredibly inefficient.

At the very same time, I had to edit another presentation in Keynote for another client while collaborating with other people online. I did it directly in Keynote since the deck was shared over iCloud. It was a breeze. Half an hour and I was done.

Working on the same ecosystem makes things easier. Conversely, the Microsoft Office suite is below par compared to its Windows equivalent.

Every time I have to deal with a native Microsoft application on my Mac, I have to spend three times the time I would estimate to do the same thing on my Mac.

I can’t get into the Microsoft workflow. Powerpoint is what causes me the more significant pain. Again, it’s not you; it’s me. Spending so many years on Keynote must have sculpted a particular workflow in my brain, which is extremely difficult to change.

Again, and again, and again…

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

I headed to the newly announced website with great hope under my fingers.

Alessandro, I told myself, this time they will surprise you. They will have done things right!

Ehm, no. It was not the case.

In the early hours of today, the site was marked as non-private. A new and valid SSL certificate was issued a few hours later to solve the problem.

I hit a couple of 404 errors here and there.

I tried to register my mobile phone number, but I could not even reach the page with the form to fill out.

The Public Administration has not made it again.

Very sad in 2022.

There are two other options to register. You can download a document, fill it and
send it to a specific email address. Not for me.

Finally, here’s the best shortcut: give a call to the number 06.42986411l, listen to what they have to say for a minute or two, and press 1. Done

Guess what I am talking about?

P.S. I guess this makes sense only to my Italian readers.

Unknown numbers

Photo by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash

In the last three years, I have never answered phone calls from unknown numbers.

With a few exceptions, they are all robocalls. They found my mobile phone number in some legit way, or, I guess, in some less than legit way. I’m not too fond of that.

I never missed an important call from a client or a colleague.

Sometimes I answer and try to be as polite as possible. On the other side of the phone, a highly educated young guy is usually trying to earn money in a bloody labor market. You can tell from their tone that they are frustrated. Not everybody behaves like me. I am sure they have to deal with angry and bad-mannered people. It’s not an easy way to make a living.

That’s the reason why I respect them. I listen to the script and then say I am not interested in what they sell. I then thank you and salute them.

Some of them are frustrated, and I know the feeling. I just let it go.

Finding an actual human on the other side of the line is always rare. Most calls are automated, and a charming voice plays some script before you can talk to someone.

Efficiency and cost reduction. That’s the mantra.

Overall it is unfortunate.

In the next few weeks, a new registry will accept mobile numbers that do not want to receive robocalls. I am not sure it is going to work. As I said, there are legit ways for marketers to have my phone number in my database. My fault was that I should have been more conscious when I agreed to share my data for marketing activities.

Nevertheless, I think that these young guys on the other side of the line will have harsh times.

It is quite sad.

Flipper Zero

Flipper Zero

I love playing with Software Defined Radios, or SDR. Over the last few years, I owned many of them, ranging from cheap USB sticks to the pricey HackRF.
You can do a lot of exciting things with them. Well, exciting if you are a nerdy type like me.

You can listen to ADS-B from aircraft flying over your head. You can determine how many cellular base stations you have around you. You can trick your phone GPS into making him think you are on a Hawai island and a lot of other interesting stuff.

Sometimes you can use out-of-the-box software, or you may need more specialized software to do what you want.

On a marginal note, you must be careful since you can easily slip into illegal operations. If you stick with “listening” to radio waves and don’t transmit anything, you are on the safe side.

Here is a simple example of something that in some countries is illegal. If you buy a couple of high-end SDRs and you use the right software, you can build your own home 3G cellular network. Doing that is illegal; that spectrum is highly regulated, and you can’t just jump on airwaves and transmit.

When I saw the Flipper Zero Kickstarter campaign, I could not resist and decided to fund it. A few months later, my Flipper Zero device arrived home.

From a technical standpoint, the Flipper Zero is less versatile than other SDRs. I am simplifying the discussion here. The Flipper Zero is something less than an SDR and something more.

The frequency range it supports is much more limited than other SDRs. The HackRF One supports frequencies from 1 Mhz to 6 GHz, while the Flipper One is limited to sub GHz frequencies.

On the other side, the Flipper Zero natively supports RFID 125 kHz, NFC, Infrared, iButton, and Bluetooth LE. All of this with native hardware support. Other SDRs can do the same thing from a radio frequency point of view, but you need additional hardware to make it work with the external world.

Flipper Zero is self-contained in a nice case with an LCD and can operate autonomously without the need for additional hardware.

I love that.

I think they were able to simplify access to this kind of technology, even if they had to sacrifice a lot to make it happen.

You can still have a lot of fun with this device. It’s powerful, and it’s easy to operate.

You can flash custom firmware that enables some functions that may not be open in your country. As I said before, be careful. It may be illegal to operate on some frequency in your country.

Apart from that, you can also do nasty things that are illegal. There is a replay attack that forces Tesla cars to open their charge port. Fun, but not legal.

Avoiding complexity

Photo by John Barkiple on Unsplash


When you grow up as a company, two things usually happen.


First, complexity rises over time. It looks like a real-life application of the second law of thermodynamics.


Second, a more or less thin layer of politics starts to build up.


Organic growth should try to fight these two highly toxic phenomena.


We have always tried to stay lean in our processes over time. We wanted to be able to change processes, where needed, in a fast and effective way. Does it work? Yes. Fine, let’s keep it. Is it a failure? Yes, throw it out of the window. Staying lean keeps things running smoothly.


What happens is that with the segregation of functions, it gets more challenging to understand what is happening inside every single process running the company. People want their job done and may lose simplicity by following that path. Something that makes your work easier is creating significant hurdles for other people in the company. 

Complexity increases.


Sometimes you must stop, put all the people in the same room, and harmonize everything from the ground up.

It is a painful process; the thicker the political layer is, the more challenging the harmonization process.

Nevertheless, you can’t avoid it if you want to stay successful and fuel your next growth step.

Tyrants

Photo by Marija Zaric on Unsplash

Every democracy in the known world hates tyrants.

The very essence of a democracy is being able to avoid tyrants and work for the people, which it represents.

What is a tyrant?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says:

 an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution.

 a usurper of sovereignty.

 a ruler who exercises absolute power oppressively or brutally.

 one resembling an oppressive ruler in the harsh use of authority or power.

Political parties in Italy accused our latest Prime Minister of trying to gain absolute power above the Parliament. The Prime Minister gently but firmly replied that that was not the truth. I agree.

Looking at the tyrant’s definition I wrote above, there is something subtle that we need to understand. A tyrant is someone who works for his personal gain despite other people’s interests.

If I look at what’s happening in Italy, it seems we have plenty of tyrants.

Iliad, one month later

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

One month ago, I moved my contract from Vodafone to Iliad. I wrote about this when it happened and described the experience from a client’s perspective. Everything was smooth.

It is time to write about the experience after the move.

Well, honestly, I do not regret the move at all.

Radio coverage of the place where I live is excellent, and the same is for the areas I am in most of the time—no problems with phone conversations. Somehow I felt that the audio was crispy, but that’s just a feeling, and I do not have any proof.

Data connections were also perfect. I found myself under 5G coverage more often than with Vodafone. When I used my iPhone as a hotspot, I had no issues.
I had to visit our Lugano studio a couple of times this month, and there I had a few glitches.

The iPhone correctly roamed from Iliad to Salt when crossing the border. Not all areas of the studio have great coverage from Salt. That is not an Iliad issue, though. No big deal.

The only thing I did not like is that if you want to initiate a phone call to another mobile, you need to put some money in your account even if you already have a payment method in your Iliad account.
I am sure there is a rationale, but I don’t get it.

I can say that everything Iliad kept the promise they made on their website.

So far, so good.

Age of decadence

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I rarely write about politics. It is such a personal topic that a fight is always around the corner. I am usually willing to fight and enjoy it, but this is not the case. This is not a post about politics.

Two things happened in the last few days.

The Italian Prime Minister resigned, and we are heading to elections in September.

A couple got married. Two girls and one of them is serving in the Carabinieri corps. As in every military corp, you may get married wearing the uniform, and if you like it, you may have a guard of honor.

Two news that made me crazy yesterdays.

Here’s my point:

  • The Prime Minister resigned because the personal interest of private parties prevailed over the country’s interest.
  • I wonder why, in 2022, the marriage between two girls has to make into the news. Come on, guys, seriously? Do you think we must consider that news? If you want to write about it, you should write about every single marriage in the country.

My grandfather was a Carabiniere; my uncle was in the military, serving as a senior officer for NATO. I know the culture.

How are this two news related to each other?

I went through the comments about the marriage on social media. Those comments are a clear explanation of what caused the resignation of our Prime Minister.

Those who wrote those comments have voted for the political class that forced our Prime Minister to resign, and they will vote for the next political class in September.

The problem here is culture, tolerance, and vision. The problem is not the political class but the people who will vote to elect them.

We entered an age of decadence a long time ago.

I am really sad about the country I am leaving to my sons as a heritage.

Readers are like magic

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A thousand posts have passed through these hands, collecting moments, thoughts and emotions. A thousand posts have crossed the world wide web and entered into the minds of thousands of readers. In these thousand posts I have explored new ideas and rethought old ones, written in anger and in joy, and sought out that elusive process of self-discovery in the midst of the heavy, oppressive weight of accumulating middle-aged years. I have made mistakes and tried again. I have questioned myself and others. I have wondered about our political system and our educational system. About my family, my friends, and my enemies. About love and about hate. About dreams and about nightmares. About what ails the world and what can heal it.. 

I was thinking about people reading what I write. I would love to know what moves them, but I don’t. 

I don’t look very often at statistics, but I am sure that a lot of people’s time has been spent reading my words. 

I just wanted to say thank you for that. 

You, readers, are like magic.

You make me feel like a wizard, even if only for a few minutes.

I hear that there are people who read this blog and then they take a break and listen to music, or audiobooks, or radio and they hear a song and it relates somehow to what they read.

A song that comes from nowhere, the love I feel for you.

When you click on a link and it takes you to a page with words that you can read, that’s more than magic.

The letters on the keys of the laptop seem to move, rearrange themselves. The white blur of the screen disappears. The voices of the world, imaginary or otherwise, disappear from my head.

Curiously, you can see magic. And it’s like what they say. The more you look, the more there is. The magic is infinite.

This blog is mainly a personal exercise, but I will continue to write.

When I write something here and I click on the ‘Publish’ button, I feel like a magician.

It’s not because of the power to fire up correntedebole.com, but because the words I have written have now been transformed into images in someone else’s brain.

And who knows what the magic of that can bring.

Location data

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Are you aware of how many applications you granted access to your location data?

I gave a quick look at my iPhone privacy setting for localization. It was a surprise. A bunch of applications always have access to my location data. Some are strictly related to my home automation system, and some are not. Many applications only have access to my location data when in use.

This permission thing is something that builds up over time. You download an application and give it access to your location data because you think it’s a good idea. Months later, you find you granted access to a truckload of applications.

Am I fully aware of how these companies are using this location data? No, I am not. I never went through the Terms and Conditions of each application I use.

Guilty as charged.

Yes, but I have some rights as a user. Well, it seems that it is not the case.

Considering how the Constitution covers user rights in the United States, we know that the Fourth Amendment protects people.

Here’s what it says:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

United States citizens may consider themselves safe.

No, they can’t.

There are companies out there that sell location data to law enforcement agencies without the need for a warrant. They spent a massive amount of money to get this data.

The question is: how do these companies get this data?

We don’t know. We deliberately gave users the right to collect, use, and sell that data. It was our mistake.

Some companies may fraudulently collect this data. We don’t know if this is the case.

My take is that if the Constitution is not able to protect our rights efficiently, there is something horribly wrong in the system.

In some way, we Europeans are a little bit more protected, thanks to GDPR regulations, but I think abuses may still exist.

We are not safe.

Did you notice it’s 2022?

Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

After more than two years, I had to access our corporate banking portal. Usually, it is managed by our CFO and finance people, but I had to approve a couple of transactions beyond their approval limit.

I logged in, and I found myself back in the 80s. In these two years, nothing has changed. The User Interface is still the old interface meant for a 1024×768 screen resolution.

I connected to the portal using Safari on my Mac. Bad idea; it’s not working. I can log in, but the home page is blank.

I had to switch to Chrome to be able to do what I wanted to do. Well, at least the portal didn’t ask for Internet Explorer.

Come on, guys. Did you notice it’s 2022?

VPNs

Photo by Petter Lagson on Unsplash

Recently, I wrote a lot about privacy, and for that reason, all of the recommendation engines think I need a VPN.

No, I don’t need a VPN, at least not because you are luring me to buy one.

VPN providers tell me that I need to protect my privacy, that I need to browse the Internet anonymously, and that they will protect my identity online. All of that is false.

Let me say it straight: a VPN is just like a proxy.

You say you provide me with all the above features for ten bucks a month. You also state clearly that you are not keeping logs of my connections.

I don’t buy that. You will always know from where I am connecting to your service, and I don’t think you are not logging that information. If law enforcement authorities ever question you, I am sure that you will quickly give them that information. You want to avoid any legal threat to your company, and my ten bucks a month will never be able to pay a good lawyer to represent you.

You are not protecting my privacy. There are much more advanced technologies to keep track of my behavior on the Internet apart from exposing my actual IP address. Browser fingerprinting, cookies, and many more.

A VPN is not protecting your privacy at all. It is intended for a different use, even if it is now marketed for another use case. Here is the magic of marketing.

There is just some actual use case for a VPN:

  • Use it for the intended purpose. Create a private and secure connection between two endpoints.
  • Protect your connection when you are in a rogue environment (e.g., WiFi at an airport or a bar)
  • Protect your data when you live in a hostile country.

That’s it.

So, why is everybody trying to sell me a VPN? The answer to this question is simple: it’s easy money.

So, no, you don’t need a VPN.

Ringing the bell

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Yesterday I wrote about the value of personal data and how the value of data may change over time depending on law evolution.

A few days ago, Amazon revealed it has provided Ring footage to law enforcement without a warrant or asking for permission from the Ring owner.

The Ring is a smart doorbell. Someone comes close to your doll, and Ring notifies your smartphone about the event. You can remotely look at the visitor and decide what to do. The video streamed to the phone is recorded on the Amazon cloud.

The first reaction is anger. Why is Amazon giving my footage to law enforcement without my explicit permission?

You agreed to that when you accepted the Ring Terms of Service. It’s your fault, not theirs. If you forgot to read the document or you want to have a look at it, you can find it here: Ring Terms of Service

Here is the crucial section: In addition to the rights granted above, you also acknowledge and agree that Ring may access, use, preserve and/or disclose your Content to law enforcement authorities, government officials, and/or third parties, if legally required to do so or if we have a good faith belief that such access, use, preservation or disclosure is reasonably necessary to…

You agreed to share your content without permission.

Apart from agreeing to share your personal data with a vendor in exchange for a specific service, you should also be aware of the usage of that data.

We all subscribe to dozens of online services. Do we read the Terms and Conditions of each one of those services? No, we just click and move on to the next steps. I do the same every single time.

You have your new gadget ready to use, and you don’t want to spend literally hours going through a legal document. You want to start playing with your new toys.

Terms and Conditions and End User License Agreement are written in a way that is not understandable by most people. Not everybody is a lawyer.

Nevertheless, these documents are critical to understanding which degree of freedom on your data you are giving to the service provider.

They must be read and understood.

I remember working for a client that was building a service requiring users to accept the sharing of some of their personal data from a mobile phone. We received the End User License Agreement from the legal team, which was the usual twenty pages document. We went to the Product Owner and told him: “Look, you need user consent to make your service work. We must be clear with him about what we will use and why.”

We designed a page with the legal terms on the left and an understandable translation on the right. The “Accept” button was on the left side of the page.

This approach indeed implies total transparency from the service provider. Not every service provider may be willing to do so, especially if they plan some gray use of the data they collect from you.

There should be an Artificial Intelligence powered online service where you paste a legal document and get back a human-understandable version of the paper.

The only option is to read the original document thoroughly, which we should always do.