I just want to end a contract

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

Recently I had to close a contract with my Internet Service Provider. I don’t live anymore in that house, and they decided to switch to another operator.

Closing the contract has been a mess. It is impossible even if they tell you that you can do that online or with an operator. At least, I have not been able to.

I had to go with the standard snail mail in Italy we call “Posta Raccomandata.” It is the easiest way to ensure that a letter will be delivered to the intended recipient. This is funny enough. The postal service should dispatch mail to the intended recipient as the core of their service. This may be another exciting post for the future.

I had two options to send that letter: go to the local post office or use an online service. I opted for the latter. 

The letter was delivered, and my contract was terminated.

I then received an email message that told me I would be contacted by an operator to “listen to my suggestions and make the verifications needed to close the contract.”

Why do you need to speak to me? Is it just retention, or do you only want more money from me to close the contract?

In 2022 I do not understand why i can’t leave a service without any hassle. I can signup to every service in less than five minutes, and it always take ages to leave.

This is simply wrong.

Needless to say I will never answer a call from them.

Automations on my Mac

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

I write my blog posts on Obsidian before publishing them. It’s a way to safely store them on my computer before sending them out to the outer world. I love the Obsidian full-screen editor and its Zen mode. It lets me focus on my writing without distractions. It is fast and effective. Since I do not spend more than five to ten minutes writing my posts, this is a plus I can’t live without.

When it’s about time to publish the post, I head to unsplash.com to find a suitable hero image.

I open my blog page, LinkedIn, and Medium to publish my writing.

I add the image and the credits. I cut and paste the content from Obsidian on every single page I have opened.

I am now ready to push the publish button on three platforms.

It is always the same thing. It never changes.

This final operation requires four to six minutes, depending on the number of links I have to fix on the post. I could automate it.

The tools I need are available and free of charge for most of them.

– Apple AppleScript: AppleScript is a geek tool that is not user-friendly. Nevertheless, it is mighty when you master it. It comes with macOS, but most people do not even know it exists.

– Shortcuts: Shortcuts is a recent addition to the Apple arsenal. It is a user-friendly version of AppleScript, even if it is less powerful.

– Alfred Workflows: Alfred is not free, but it is extremely powerful. I use it to replace the standard Spotlight functionality on my computer. Workflows will let you do wonders.

Combining these three tools allows you to automate everything, even the most complex tasks.

Here is an example. I can automatically grab my Google Calendar events and place them on my Harvest timesheet. I can launch all of the Sketchin business dashboards with a couple of keystrokes. I can talk with my home automation system without opening the web front end.

Unfortunately, these features are not easy to master. You need to be a sort of geek to put things together in the right way.

It’s a pity. Being able to let the end user take advantage of available technology to save time should be a must.

Why I write

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Sometimes I question why I write. The next question is why I share most of what I write.

There may be different reasons for writing and posting.

Personal branding. You publish online what you write because you want to position yourself as a subject matter expert. Nothing wrong with that. I don’t feel like a big fan of personal branding. I am pretty happy with my positioning right now, assuming I have a position. I also think that personal branding may turn into a sort of cage. You are forced to write on the same subject repeatedly if you don’t want to lose your followers. No, I am not writing for personal branding.

Money. It is legitimate to write for may. There are hundreds of writers on Medium that pay their bills and more with writing. As you may have noticed, there are no ads on Corrente Debole. As I wrote for personal branding, you need to be consistent with your writing to make money on Medium or any other online publication. My revenues on Medium barely pay the premium subscription.

I want to write whatever comes to my mind—Tech stuff, personal stuff, stories, etc. 

Show off. You may want to write to show off how good you are. Even if I constantly fight my overflowing ego, I am not writing to show off.

I could go on forever.

I write because I like it and want to share my thoughts. Sharing is caring, said someone, and I still think it’s true.

Writing is also a sort of introspection, and it helps me clear my mind on the subject I am writing about. We can call it a sort of therapy if you will.

At the very same time, I love telling stories. I genuinely hope that someone may find what I find inspiring or, at least, helpful.

I am always cautious about what I write and share. Falling into the trap of giving advice is a considerable risk.

As Buz Luhrmann sang: 

Be careful whose advice you buy but be patient with those who supply it 

Advice is a form of nostalgia; dispensing it is a way of fishing the past 

From the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts 

And recycling it for more than it’s worth.

Book notes

Photo by Gülfer ERGİN on Unsplash

When I read a book, I write notes on the side of the pages, and I usually highlight those passages that I find interesting with a 2B pencil. Each time I write a note or highlight a quote, I write the page number at the end of the book. I can easily find what I wrote or what I highlighted when I look at the book at a later time. When I finish the book, I copy notes and passages on my current paper notebook.

Things have become easier with the Kindle. I can automatically sync with my Obsidian note with the Kindle Highlights plugin.

From time to time, I go back to those and start rereading them. 

Some notes end up in posts, and others turn into personal projects. Most of them remind me of what I found interesting when I read the book.

As I always said, some books are good for you at a particular point time. Something that you find exciting today may not be the same in the following years. 

This also happens with my notes and highlights. Sometimes, I ask why I did write those words or why I highlighted a specific passage. Why the hell did I find this sentence worth highlighting?

The answer is quite simple. Your situation and perception of the world surrounding you change over time. And with that perception, the way you perceive things changes.

Those notes are significant and have a meaning at that specific time. 

Time goes by, and they lose their original value. They represent a moment in your life. A moment that is worth remembering over time.

Microsoft Teams and the authentication tokens

Photo by Dimitri Karastelev on Unsplash

I have to admit that I have a hate relationship with Microsoft Teams. At the end of the day, it works like most other similar tools. As I previously wrote, it takes ages to load on my MacBook Air M1. I always launch it five minutes before any conference call to give it the time to launch properly and be on time.

I also hate the fact that it doesn’t like virtual cameras too much, even if there is a solution to solve that problem.

Microsoft applications on the Mac have always been sub-par compared to their equivalent on Windows. Excel, to name one. From a business perspective, I think it may make sense. I am sure that the Mac team is much smaller than the Windows team in Microsoft.

I was a little bit surprised when I read yesterday that Teams stores authentication tokens in plain text on the machine where it is installed. This is not happening only on the Mac platform, but also in Windows and Linux.

Honestly I don’t know why the Microsoft engineers were considering this as a good idea. I opened my terminal and looked for those credentials on my Mac. What I read was true. The tokens were stored in plain text at an unprivileged user level.

Quite funny.

Vectra is the company that found the issues and this is what they say about it: “This enables attackers to modify SharePoint files, Outlook mail and calendars, and Teams chat files,” Vectra security architect Connor Peoples wrote. “Even more damaging, attackers can tamper with legitimate communications within an organization by selectively destroying, exfiltrating, or engaging in targeted phishing attacks.”

Vectra notified Microsoft about the issue and this is their reply:

“does not meet our bar for immediate servicing as it requires an attacker to first gain access to a target network,”

This is an interesting answer, and I am very surprised.

Almost ten years

Photo by tanmay on Unsplash

While I was writing my daily post a few days ago, I realized that in a few weeks, I would celebrate my tenth anniversary with Sketchin. My first day in the studio was November 19th.

I think that at the time, we were something like 12 people or so.

I remember that I had a lot of conversations with Luca before joining the studio. I was coming from a disastrous experience with a design studio, and I was reluctant to accept the offer.

He told me about his dream, and I found him highly passionate and sincere in what he was speaking. Ten years of work together have demonstrated that he was not lying and was not trying to lure me with bullshit.

After our last lunch, I went home and took the children to the park. I spent the entire afternoon laughing and playing with them. I went to bed, but I was not able to sleep. I had to make a decision.

Around 1 am, I made up my mind. I wanted to join Sketchin.

I was sold a dream, and that dream has become chiefly a reality. 

No regrets at all.

It is worth trying to understand why I decided to stay with this company for such a long time:

  • The first and most significant reason is the dream that Luca sold me. “I want to build the best place in the world where to practice design.” I think we have always worked towards this direction. Are we there? No, we are not, and we will probably never get there. Nevertheless, the trip is still fascinating, and I work daily to make that dream a reality.
  • I am surrounded by the most talented and passionate people I have ever met in my career. People who care about what they do. Well, the vast majority of them, to be honest.
  • The ability to make things happen. Within Sketchin and with our clients and partners. Be careful that this is not happening because of my fancy job title. Everyone in Sketchin can do the same thing if they want to.
  • You can say “No” if you will. 
  • I never liked the narrative that a company is like a family. Family is a different thing and much more valuable than any company. I feel part of something valuable I want to take care of.
  • Just like everyone in Sketchin, I have been allowed to give my best to the company and other people. That does not always happen, but we always try our best.
  • Everyone is trying his best. Uncommon in other companies. Every hurdle we find down our road is addressed in the best way possible given the limitations we have.

A delinquent robot

Photo by Rock’n Roll Monkey on Unsplash

I am amazed by the evolution of robotics over the years. Have a look at what Boston Dynamics is doing to have a feeling. We have self-driving cars, medication delivery drones, and food delivery robots.

A few days ago, I read an article about Artificial Intelligence and intelligence in a broader meaning.

One of the most exciting things I read is that a clear sign of intelligence is the ability to disobey, which robots still do not have. 

When engineers program their robots, they are trying to instill what we may call intelligence when looked at from the outside. We all know it is just a bunch of highly sophisticated algorithms that mimic intelligence. Robots can’t disobey. They make mistakes because the algorithm driving their behavior has hit some edge case that the engineers did not code or code with bugs.

I laughed hard when I read about a food delivery robot trespassing at a crime scene in Los Angeles. You know, those yellow stripes that police place to keep people away from their business.

The trespassing was filmed, and you may have a look here:

An endless change

Photo by Kalei de Leon on Unsplash

I joined Sketchin almost ten years ago. It has been the most exciting ride in my career. Many things have happened during these years, but the common trait has been change. Every single year something has dramatically changed.

We are now approaching that point where we will need to consider the following year. Strategy, positioning, sales strategy, and budget are some of the things we are starting to evaluate these days.

The last few years have been challenging.

The acquisition from Business Integration Partners, the pandemic, and the war, to name a few things, have highly impacted our business. 

It requires plenty of capabilities to survive, thrive, and keep our culture intact. This is not an easy goal to achieve.

I see the design ecosystem changing. All of the most prominent design studios have been acquired over time, and we have also been acquired. There is a vast difference between our acquisition and most of the others. We have been able to maintain our independence.

Most of the other big studios have not. They are now part of an extensive ecosystem where design is just a tiny part, often sacrificed to favor the big picture of the company they belong to. This isn’t good.

At the very same time, I see a lot of boutique studios flourishing. This is good.

And then there is Sketchin, who continues to be a strange beast. We are not as big (yet) as the most famous studios, but we are growing. 

I think we are going to face some significant changes shortly, even if I am not yet able to see clearly what is going to happen. It is like being on a narrow path surrounded by fog. The fog is slowly clearing, but I can’t yet see the final destination.

It is exciting and scary at the same time.

I am approaching my tenth anniversary in Sketchin. This is my longest tenure in a company. Usually, I get bored quickly. This is not happening in Sketchin. The constant changes we have faced over the years have made this job incredibly exciting, and I think the best is yet to come if we can adapt to changes as fast as we have done in the past.

We are big now, and we need to be able to steer at the same speed we had in the past. The company’s kinetic energy is much larger now than in the past. Our decisions take a little longer to show their effects, requiring much more attention than before. I think this is my biggest challenge for the next year: making the right decisions without impacting the company’s speed and wellness.

The poo incident

Photo by Angel Luciano on Unsplash

Am I going to post something about poo? I guess so.

Traveling with Buzz is a lot of fun. Sometimes you need to face some incidents mostly related to his needs. I have heard terrible stories about dogs traveling. Some of them don’t like a long trip in a car; some miss their home environment, some bark at everything they don’t know, and, sometimes, you need to deal with the poo incident.

We were traveling on a hot day. Not a very long trip. Less than three hours. We did not find a good park close to our house, so we had to walk for a bit with Buzz and all of the luggage we had for the weekend.

I was planning to bring Buzz to do his stuff close to our home. As you can imagine, we didn’t make it.

Exactly in downtown, a critical ‘poo episode’ went by. I have tons of bags in case of need, but it couldn’t work. I had to clean up in the worse possible scenario. Buzz is almost 40 Kg, and you can imagine what he can produce as waste. Ok, I had some towels and started cleaning the street under local shop owners’ surveillance. I entered a bar and bought two water bottles to clean the road.

As I was cleaning, a butcher looked at me without saying anything but with the explicit intention of judging the quality of my work. 

After a few minutes, a fishmonger came out of his store and handed me a large amount of paper to help clean the street. I warmly thanked the fishmonger and apologized to them for what happened.

All the rest of the people were looking at the scene, and someone was laughing.

Three different approaches to someone who was in distress.

I think this is the perfect representation of people’s behavior these days. This is why poo is relevant to this argument.

I am sure you already know which is the one who will get my money in the future.

One of those days

Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

Sometimes happens, I am not able to focus as I should. Today is one of those days. Since morning it was clear it was one of those days. I take it easy if I do not have any urgent thing to do.

I go through my to-do list, and I take the first item on the list. I write it on a piece of paper and split it into microtasks. Smaller chunks of work I can easily do without losing focus. 

Four microtasks for each 25-minute pomodoros.

This is my recipe.

MacBook Air M2

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Following the latest Apple product announcements, I must confess I have wanted to reach for my credit card and buy a MacBook Air M2.

For the records, I didn’t buy one.

Before configuring my new MacBook, I wanted to check how much my old MacBook Air M2 was worth with the Apple trade-in program. I went through all the required steps to get a quote, and finally, Apple confirmed that they could give me 400 Euros. No, Apple. I am sorry, but I don’t get this quote. My machine is less than one year old and in pristine condition. It is worth more than what you are offering me. I am also thinking about you selling this machine, that will be refurbished, for much more than that amount of money.

At the very same time, I questioned myself about this purchase. Is it something that I need? Right now?

You know the answer. It was a big, sounding no.

My MacBook Air M1 is perfect. It has all that I need. His 16 Gb RAM and 512 Gb SDD, and incredibly long battery life, make it the ideal machine for my needs.

I use this MacBook to develop all of my personal projects, I use it for writing, and it is my primary content consumption device. I never felt the need for more power or storage.

One negative thing is that it cannot run the Unity IDE decently, but I have to say that my work computer, a 32 Gb Intel 16″ MacBook Pro, sucks at that. The new MacBook Air M2 would not be any better with Unity.

Once upon a time, I would not have resisted. I would have bought the new machine and sold separately the old one. That’s no more the case.

For no apparent reason, I have entered a new phase where I am less keen on spending money on new gadgets. It happened during the pandemic, and it happened without me noticing until recent days.

Again. I do not have any reason to move to the new hardware apart from the great feeling about the new industrial design. The new design is superb, and the new colors are also fantastic. Not enough to trigger a purchase. Shelling out more than 2.500 euros is not something I am willing to do.

Apple, we will catch up at the next round.

Mechanical watches

Photo by Lukas Tennie on Unsplash

I bought my first 3D printer a few months ago and started looking at mechanical watches. I was thinking about printing an escapement mechanism as one of my first experiments.

I think it would have been an interesting personal project. It would need some understanding of the printing process and knowledge of the printer to be successful. Apart from the mechanical aspect, the math behind the escapement mechanism was fascinating.

I bought a few books about mechanical clocks, and I am actively reading them. The main concepts have been the same for ages, and most books have been written in the past. This is fascinating to me. The pictures are hand drawn, and the style is quite different from what we are used to reading today. Mechanical clocks have evolved over time, and you can find some art pieces in this world—just Google for the Richard Mille RM UP-01 to understand the complication we have reached. 

I moved to YouTube to find some inspiration on the subject, and, as always happens, I found an entire universe. I looked at so many videos. People 3D printing tourbillions, people were taking apart watches to fix them and enabling me to understand the basic architecture of a mechanical watch, people were building gears for their watches from scratch, and an infinite number of artisans were creating unique watches.

I discovered a fascinating world, even if highly complicated for a hobbyist.

You can easily buy basic tools to work on a mechanical watch. If everything in the watch is ok, you don’t need a lot.

If the watch is a “no-runner, ” you must play a different ball game. Every single problem that the look has may require a dedicated tool to fix it. There is a tool for everything. These tools are high precision and high quality, and for this reason, they can be costly. Depending on the complexity, you can range from a hundred bucks to thousands. A professional cleaning machine could cost up to five thousand euros. 

I feel like it is something I would like to explore deeper.

Even if I usually wear an Apple Watch, mechanical watches have always been one of my interests. 

I also tried to approach a couple of forums, but they are not immune to the problems on other forums. It always seems that newbies are not welcome.

Buying a “non-runner” pocket watch on eBay, trying to fix it, and bringing it to new life is fascinating. If you look at some of those watch repair videos, you will notice that you need patience, attention to detail, and care. I am sure I could love the experience and the excitement. Moreover, the idea of bringing back to life something that was headed to the trashcan is essential to me. Fix other than buy a new object. 

As I said, it is not a simple hobby, and maybe, the complexity makes me feel like I have to dig deeper to understand it.

I cannot easily remember where I read this quote from a conversation:

– Why do you always choose the most uphill road?

– Because in the end, the view is better.

I think it’s just that.

Maybe some of my eleven readers are already having fun and will be able to give me some helpful direction. Sometimes even the advice not to start is good.

You are not my friend

Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

I have come back from the holidays intending to revise my digital ecosystem. I may call it digital minimalism if you will. 

I want to reduce my time on things I don’t need and services I don’t use anymore. 

I started by disabling every automatic renewal on the services I am currently using. When they expire, I will decide if I need them again or if it is time to dismiss them.

At the same time, I unsubscribed from every marketing mailing list I currently receive. Usually, I go into my inbox and delete those messages without reading them. That’s a waste of time and aggression to my time.

The funny thing is that most unsubscribe pages tell me something like, “We are sorry to see you go.” 

That’s a big lie.

That wording is something that you say to a friend, not a customer. If I have bought something from you, that doesn’t mean we have become closer. We did not become friends. You are just trying to put your hands in my purse again. 

I think this behavior has to stop, which is why I am taking action.

I am sure I will miss something I can care about, but I trust the Internet serendipity, and sooner or later, I will find it somewhere sooner or later.

Design is care

Photo by Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash

Yes, design is care.

It is caring about the people who will use your product, and it is caring about the people who will make that product run. To make a great design, you must take care of the two sides of the coin.

You need to care about design to make great design. If you don’t come from the design world but, for whatever reason, you find yourself managing a design team, you need to care about design first and business later. 

If you are a designer, you need to care about the implications of your design. Ethical, emotional, political, and business implications.

To design just for beauty is not design, art, maybe.

I see too many companies and designers that are careless. They want to get money from their users, and I hate that behavior.

A personal e-mail server will never work

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina 🇺🇦 on Unsplash

I have used the same personal e-mail address since Google released Gmail. I never changed it.

Recently I was thinking about opting out of Google for my personal stuff. I am a little tired of feeding these tech giants with my data while getting very few rewards.

Running an e-mail server is not a big deal—the hosting where CorrenteDebole is hosted offers that service by default. It would take no more than five minutes to set up a new e-mail address and start switching my communication from Google to my server. Technically is a no-brainer.

Before taking action, I investigated the implications of that choice. 

Sadly, as I suspected, that would not work at all. Technically, it would work as a charm, but in the real world, there is a massive risk that my mail messages will never be delivered.

I am hosting Corrente Debole with a very well-respected hosting company. They gave me a static IP address for my host; in the last fifteen years, I did not have any issues with them.

The problem is that many big e-mail providers have blocklists to prevent spam. A few companies are maintaining these lists, which I discovered are not public and very often contain IP address ranges. I don’t know what other services are running on IP addresses close to mine. The risk of being already on a blocklist is quite high.

There is no way out.

You can’t solve this problem in any way. The only way to have a relative guarantee that your mail messages will be delivered is to have your e-mail on one of these giants.

Frustrating.

The excellent idea of having spammers cut out of your inbox has paved the path to an oligopoly.

Anyway, it seems I am in good company, and these guys ended up with my conclusion: a personal e-mail server will never work in 2022.

I can’t find the link to the first I read on the subject, but here’s what Cory Doctorow is saying about this issue: Dead Letters

Quite sad.