Archive for RB

Is Toshiba Screwed?

http://www.toshiba.com/tai/The tortuous auction of Toshiba’s coveted NAND chip fab has finally started to wrap up. You would think that after over nine months of bidding and 2 trillion yen ($17.7 billion) the victors would like to gloat. A win of that size would be celebrated, but nooo….

The winning partners lead by venture capitalist Bain Capital and Apple can’t even agree on when to hold a presser to announce their purchase. The consortium had planned a presser for 09-28-2017, which was abruptly cancelled just minutes before it was due to begin according to reports. Reuters reports that “…the consortium could not form a consensus on whether to brief media.”

PangeaOne wrinkle may be that Apple (AAPL) has demanded new terms on its chip supply for the new iPhones. In addition to Apple, Bain’s consortium “Pangea” includes Japan’s Hoya Corporation, South Korea’s SK Hynix, and U.S. investors Kingston Technology (KINS), Seagate Technology (STX) and Dell Technologies Capital.- all of which want access to NAND technology.

Under the deal, Toshiba will have 40.2 percent of voting rights in the chip unit and Hoya will own 9.9 percent. The four U.S. tech firms will not have voting rights.

Western DigitalBesides internal strife, the sale also faces legal challenges from Western Digital (WDC), Toshiba’s chip venture partner and rejected suitor, which is seeking an injunction to block any deal that does not have its consent.

Western Digital, one of world’s leading makers of hard disk drives, paid some $16 billion last year to acquire SanDisk, Toshiba’s chip joint venture partner since 2000. It sees chips as a key pillar of growth and is desperate to keep the business out of the hands of rival chip makers.

Bain has also announced that it plans to take Pangea public by 2020.

Is China Trying to Kill Bitcoin

Is China Trying to Kill BitcoinCryptocurrency Bitcoin has been on quite a roller-coaster ride the past weeks. From an all time high of $4,950.72 to $3,537.79 during the first 14 days of September 2017 in four days. That is a loss of nearly $1,413.00 which is over 9 shares of Apple (AAPL) or nearly 19 shares of Microsoft (MSFT). Not only am I skeptical about the value of Bitcoin at these levels, but apparently the Chinese government also is skeptical about cryptocurrencies.

CNET reports that the People’s Bank of China, the central bank of China banned initial coin offerings where bitcoin entrepreneurs and speculators raise funds by launching new digital tokens. ICO’s allowed blockchain startups to raise nearly $2 billion from investors worldwide in 2017. There was no mention of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or its rival Ethereum, but the announcement sent stocks sliding anyway.

CNET says PBC ruled that ICOs are a form of “unauthorized and illegal public financing … (which) seriously disrupted economic and financial order” in China. To that end, the country has banned all sales and currency conversions involving digital tokens, and prohibited all financial institutions and non-bank payment organizations from offering any services to ICOs.

The American Banker speculates that the Chinese government may be trying to kill Bitcoin. In a recent article they lay out the case for Chinese regulators putting an end to cybercurrencies.

They point out that the Communist government of China is known for its strict capital controls and sweeping regulatory judgments. This attitude has spilled over to its relationship with cryptocurrencies.

Some observers are quick to point out that China has a long history of using the “Great Firewall of China” to block Western web sites, from Facebook to YouTube to WhatsApp and even VPN’s.

According to AB, the Chinese regulators have instructed all domestic cryptocurrency exchanges to shut down this month, effectively choking off one of the largest markets for the commercial buying and selling of bitcoin and other digital assets.

Further, cryptocurrency exchanges in China must work closely with authorities as they wind down their operations. AB says four major Chinese exchanges—Huobi, ViaBTC, OKCoin and BTC China, at one time the world’s largest by trading volume—have already announced their shutdown.

The moment could be a pivotal one in the evolution of financial services. It could easily be misread both by traditional bankers who could be disrupted and fintech entertainers who see a profit in disrupting the status quo. Bitcoin skeptics such as JPMorgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon who called bitcoin a “fraud” that would soon “blow up.” American Banker believes Mr. Dimon has grown annoyed at the cryptocurrency’s staying power even though his firm is experimenting with blockchain technology—and filed a patent in late 2013 for a bitcoin-style digital payment system.

Next on the chopping block could be bitcoin miners. Bitcoin miners use tremendous amounts of computing power to verify and record transactions on the bitcoin network. In return, they receive new bitcoins which are minted at a predetermined rate. Some 80% of the world’s bitcoin mining takes place in China, the article claims the bottom could fall out of the business if miners have no way to turn their digital gains into fiat currency.

China is doing this “just to show their power,” Oleg Seydak, CEO of the marketplace lender Blackmoon Financial told AB. “They will temporarily close all of these companies, introduce strong regulations and keep the industry and the sector under their control.”

This approach makes sense if Chinese leaders do not want to be seen as falling behind in a new and growing market. In 2016, China accounted for the majority of global bitcoin trading activity. But with the government clamping down, China’s share has dropped to less than 15% of global volume. Japan now holds the top spot, with the  U.S. and South Korea close behind.

Sasha Ivanov, CEO of Waves, a blockchain platform believes the Chinese ICO ban is a positive development for the industry. Mr. Ivanov told AB that most ICOs were nothing but scams. He says Chinese regulators “finally lost patience, as more and more companies tried to raise millions for nothing.” China, he said, “has a reputation of being a harsh regulator that makes abrupt decisions,” but he feels confident that ICOs will be allowed by Chinese authorities once they have put in place an adequate regulatory framework.

“Fundamentally it all comes back to control, and right now the party’s all about control, especially around the 19th” Communist Party Congress, Bill Bishop, head of The Sinocism China Newsletter told CNBC.

Paul Triolo, practice head, geo-technology, at Eurasia Group, told CNBC, “the cyrptocurrency problem has gotten exponentially more difficult for them to get their head around and regulate.”

“Definitely bitcoin and cryptocurrencies’ free [reign] is over. But the issue of how this will affect the blockchain industry is still unknown,” Mr. Triolo said. “China doesn’t want to be left out of that. They’ll probably still end up allowing some parts of blockchain to survive. The financial piece of bitcoin and the blockchain industry is what they’re after.”

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Seems to me that China wants to reign in cryptocurrencies rather than kill them off. The free-wheeling de-centralized nature of bitcoin makes the centrally controlled Chinese beureartes nervous. However they will probably adapt bitoin to meet their internal needs which is counter to the stated goals of bitcoin.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Guestimating

Since the dawn of time, one of the questions most likely to strike fear into the heart of even a seasoned project manager is, “So how much is this project going to cost?” In fact, at Brightwork says there are hieroglyphs on the wall of the tomb of the great pharaoh Khufu, depicting the pharaoh asking Vizier Hermiunu, the pyrmid’s project manager, this very question about his burial pyramid and, a few walls down, a second depiction of the project manager being thrown into a nest of crocodiles in the Nile after the project overran its budget by a few thousand debens.

As evidence of how little project management progressed, Mr. Kreha relates how he sat in an questioning-techniques-in-training estimation meeting and watched an agile” project team assign “points” to “stories” in a vain attempt to estimate how much work they might get done in the next two weeks, aka the next sprint. And inevitably, a new team member would ask at some point, “so how many hours are there in a point?” Immediately, this agile novice is mocked mercilessly! “You don’t understand,” the scrum master and other developers say, “points aren’t convertible into hours or dollars. We use a Fibonacci sequence – you know, 1,2,3, 5, 8 and 13 – to estimate how much effort a story is. It has nothing to do with hours or money.”

And so we project managers are still left holding the bag for estimating projects, often early in a project’s lifecycle, and then being held accountable for them as if we were clairvoyant. What can be done?

Brightwork’s Kreha offers some hints on how to stay out of the croc pond. Start doing them, that might help:

  1. https://www.rmagreen.com/how-much-does-environmental-compliance-costSeparate ‘hard costs’ from softer costs when you’re estimating. Hard costs are things like license fees. Once you have a quote from a vendor (stall until you have one) you can be pretty confident that’s what the cost will be. Hourly labor, and time and material contracts in general, are obviously softer, since you’re funding time and not deliverables per se.
  2. For softer costs, use burn rates’ to look at low, likely, and high ranges for labor costs. For example, if you have a team of 10 with an average bill rate of $100/hour and they will be working on your project more or less full time for the next 5-6 months, you’re looking at $860k to $1M if I did the math right. Don’t get suckered into estimating hours without thinking about time, because things ALMOST ALWAYS take longer than you planned.
  3. Use ranges wherever possible. Early in a project, it at least helps to subliminally communicate to stakeholders that the project costs are still a bit squishy. I am sure we’ve all seen estimates that have line items down to the dollar. Like $365,750.00. That’s a terrible thing to do – it implies a precision that just isn’t there.
  4. Don’t EVER leave out contingency! At the project outset, make sure it’s 25% of the total project estimate. And try your best NOT to tell anyone it’s there. That’s YOUR insurance policy to keep you out of the croc pond…
  5. Get estimates from multiple sources if possible. Have a technical team do an estimate. Have a trusted project manager do one. And maybe even ask the stakeholders what they think the project should If the numbers you get back are wildly variant, you have a lot of work to do to rationalize them down to something plausible.
  6. Relentlessly track your actual costs as you incur them! And more importantly, once you see them drifting away from the estimate or any underlying assumptions you made, TELL someone right away. Delivering financial bad news is one thing; delivering financial bad news 75% through a project is PM malpractice.
  7. Figure out who, if anyone, is likely to be joining you in the croc pool. Trust their numbers more than someone who will skate out the side door faster than Usain Bolt if the project costs start going sideways.

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We have all been there, in the croc pond, under the bus or in front of the train. Some one didn’t complete their task on time or misunderstood a requirement or just screwed up. These suggestions can help insulate you from some of the inevitable problems that are part of being a project manager.

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Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Why Your Brain Craves Coffee

Why Your Brain Craves CoffeeFor a long time, the man has held us down. They used their science and medicine to tell is that ingesting coffee, or more accurately the caffeine in coffee, was bad.

Freddie Mercury drinking coffeeTimes they are a changing we no longer have to justify drinking coffee to anybody. Recent research carried out by many free-thinking independent medical professionals from universities and health care institutes has shown that actually, caffeine has many benefits to our bodies and minds.

The caffeine present in our daily coffee can help us to live longer, have more mental ability and focus, fight depression and even help us to lose weight. What’s not to love about the nation’s favorite drink?

Fed up of justifying your coffee freedom to the man? This infographic from Dripped Coffee gives use 13 reasons why our brains carve coffee.

Dripped Coffee - 13 Reasons Why Your Brain Craves Coffee

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Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

 

Don’t Know Much Security

Don’t Know Much SecurityWith apologies to Otis Redding, Americans don’t know much about security. They don’t know much privacy, or the SPAM they took. A new Pew Research Center survey, “What the Public Knows About Cybersecurity” quizzed 1,055 adults about their understanding of concepts important to online safety and privacy. The results of the Pew survey are unsettling.

questions about cybersecurityThe Pew Research survey asked 13 questions about cybersecurity. The median score was five correct answers. Just 20% answered eight questions correctly. A relatively large percentage of respondents answered “not sure” to questions rather than providing the wrong answer.

Most Americans don’t know how to protect themselves. Only 10% were able to identify one example of multi-factor authentication when presented with four images of online log-in screens.

Most Americans still unknowingly allow themselves to be tracked across the web. 61% of those surveyed were not aware that Internet Service Providers can still see the websites their customer visit even when they’re using “private browsing” on their search engines.

Internet securityA slight majority (52%) of people recognized that just turning off the GPS function on smartphones does not prevent all tracking of the phone’s location. Mobile phones can be tracked via cell towers or Wi-Fi networks.

Only 54% of respondents correctly identified a phishing attack. For cybercriminals, phishing remains a favorite trick for infecting computers with malware. Phishing schemes usually involve an email that directs users to click on a link to an infected website.

phishing attackComputer security software does a good job of blocking most phishing schemes, Stephen Cobb, security researcher for anti-virus software firm ESET told told Phys.org, including many advanced spear phishing attacks targeting people with personalized information.

Retired Rear Adm. Ken Slaght, head of the San Diego Cyber Center of Excellence, a trade group for the region’s cybersecurity industry told KnowB4.

It is probably our No. 1 concern and No. 1 vulnerability … These attackers keep upping their game. It has gone well beyond the jumbled, everything misspelled email.

cybersecurity2/3’s of Americans tested, could not identify what the what the ‘s’ in ‘https‘ meant. The article explains that the ‘s’ stands for secure, with website authentication and encryption of digital traffic. It is used mostly for online payments. Security researchers often suggest computer users check the website addresses – known as the URL – as a first step before they click on a link. ESET’s Cobb said, “You wonder if people know what a URL is … Do they know how to read a URL? So there is plenty of work to be done.”

In the most puzzling finding to me, 75% of participants identified the most secure password from a list of four options. And yet followers of Bach Seat know that year after year passwords suck. Could it be that Americans just don’t care about the online security?

Insecure passwordsFortunately some Americans also recognize that public Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t necessarily safe for online banking or e-commerce. The mixed security results highlights that staying secure online is not a priority for Americans at work or at home.

The Wall Street Journal also covered the Pew findings and quoted Forrester: “The percentage of security and risk professionals citing “security awareness” as a top priority rose to 61% last year, from 56% in 2010.”

In the enterprise,Heidi Shey, a senior analyst at Forrester, told CIO Journal that security awareness training isn’t always effective, since it’s often conducted once a year as a compliance issue and involves lists of dos and don’ts.

The human element is important in safeguarding a firm against cyberattack, since it’s both a first line of defense as well as a weak link. Successful awareness efforts are focused on enabling behavioral change, and typically customized and specific to an organization, its workforce, and relevant risks.

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The data from Pew says that enterprise and home users need to be more security aware. Technology can’t solve stupid so users have to be the last line of defense.

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Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.