Consulting, Outsourcing, Cloud? COTS or tailormade?

LOTR One Ring to rule them all

A friend last week seriously compared the Corona vaccine research with the need to use their cloud-based solution (Source). But is “The Cloud” a panacea? And what does that question have in common with consulting? Or with outsourcing? COTS or tailormade, DIY or expert job? Consulting, outsourcing or cloud?

The Value of Experience
click images to enlarge

The Consulting Rule

My mantra for many years has been that consulting is a short-term (high paid) business. Either you have a short-term, a peak demand in a certain know-how, then you hire a consultant. Else, you better have or develop your own expertise. To which a consultant may contribute. Most (not all) consultants being in a company for more than a year without helping the company to develop the necessary know-how are leeche(r)s.

Outsourcing

Always listen to the experts! They tell you it is impossible and why you can not do it. When you know that: Go Ahead!For outsourcing, it is very similar. If you have little need for a certain specialization, you outsource to experts and consultants. That can be i.e. tax management in small companies, HR, IT, etc. In this case, it is less about consulting, but about consolidation.

One common example would be the ground handling at your base (should be in-house) or at an outstation (outsourced). Though even at your base, if uncommon in your geo, you might outsource i.e. deicing to the airport, not serving just you, but all airlines operating at that airport using a central deicing pad.

Anything vital to your business, you better have the expertise in-house.

Cloud Computing

Dilbert - Lost CloudCloud computing is another area of (IT) outsourcing. It follows the same rules. So if you are a very small airline, you will likely take Commercial of the Shelf (COTS) IT-solutions. You use some passenger service solution (PSS), an OPS system, the airports’ check-in management system, etc.

But this comes with a benefit and a burden. The benefit being “commonality”, you can likely find experts that learned those tools in their previous company. You don’t need to bother about installation, server-management, etc., you entrust this to the partner. But that can also backfire, if that partner does not have sufficient infrastructure. Most major airline-wide groundings in the past years were not weather, but IT based. A single “outsourced” system not functioning as it should, such taking down the airline’s IT.

Further, you entrust your vital data to “someone else”. And I have seen that against all agreements, how that data was and is being used to do “own analysis”. You give someone else insight in mission critical information. Yes, if you are small, this might be your only choice. If you’re big, why would you do that?

Information Silos

Data SilosThe main reason, I see consulting, outsourcing and cloud computing critical is the development of information silos. Not you own the important information, but “someone else”, someone outside your company. It can be a consultant, it can be a service company or an IT-system.

The second reason is that this information in all my experience is not seamless available to others, be it your own people or other IT-systems used. Especially on IT-systems, even the large players in all my experienced failed on system-independent interfaces to all data. In case of problems, most systems do not allow you an export of the raw data for your own use, much less an interactive data exchange with custom software of your own.

Researching for KOLIBRI.aero about IT infrastructure for an airline, I did not find any given integrated combination of PSS, ops system, CRM, accounting with a common, instant BI (business intelligence) analysis. Speaking to several airlines, their IT managers expressed their own frustration on that situation. Airlines having developed their own solutions, investing big secondary money into interfacing their different added “licensed systems”.

The Cloud Computing Cage Model

SaaS AssimilatedMy first experience with cloud computing was Sabre, Amadeus, but SAP was my personal experience with the SAAS model and it’s most negative repercussion. Good for the software provider, bad for the user. You bind yourself to the ecosphere of the software provider. For good or for bad. To change later is being made so difficult and expensive, it’s virtually impossible. Where the data might still be available, the computing “rules” are mostly not, you have to reengineer from scratch – there is a big consulting industry out there, specializing on such jobs, usually not talking about thousands in cost but millions.

This ain’t a marriage, it’s an “adhesion contract”. Be very aware who you bind yourself to.

One Size Fits All – Does It?

With a hat size of 63 cm, I can tell you that one size does not fit all. A simple truth. If you buy COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf), you get something developed for others. It might do the job, but it’s like Micro$oft Office, a panacea. Remember how long it took until they supported PDF export? Bill Gates took the bet on “America Online” and “Microsoft Network”, rejected the Internet until it was almost too late – they’ve spend a fortune to catch up. And many users could live with Wordpad, never use the abilities of Word. Or use other text editors, Google Docs, Libre Office, … Just an example.

COTS? Or Tailor Made?

Do you need a COTS suit? Or a tailored one? Can you afford the tailored one? Or will COTS be more reasonable?
Can you afford to try yourself or do you need an expert? Temporarily or strategically long-term? There is no black or white.
The choice is yours.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Cloud Computing – Truth or Dare?

Dilbert Lost Cloud

Dilbert - Lost Cloud

This week, I received three calls asking me about some new tech. Eventually, all three questions boiled down to one thing: Cloud computing. Food for Thought. I started a blog to address it, when I found I addressed this two years ago in Cloud vs. Security. And the Internet of Things.

Then I got some input about conferences where speakers promoted the need for exchanging data. An issue I addressed as “Open Data” in the same article two years ago.

Same topics obviously resurfacing, but nothing new? So here’s an “update”.

Recent Airline IT Failures

Just to mention recent developments, the first needing mentioning: The latest large IT outages causing thousands of flights to be cancelled were attributed to failures of minor cloud systems, cascading into disaster causing the aviation IT systems to fail, leaving thousands of passengers stranded – not good for reputation.

The CIO of two airlines admitted that their main headaches result from such “SaaS” (Software as a Service), being not controlled by their company. But by some external IT experts who often do not understand the real-world impact of their “ideas”. And lousy interfaces of such “solutions”. Cheap to buy, expensive to manage.

Voice Assistants

Virtuoz Virtual AssistantAnother development is the “voice assistants” at home. To give the example of Alexa. As you know, my beloved daughter is called Alexsandra, so if I would use such device it would listen in, as soon as someone addresses her. Also the Echo Dot alternatives of “Amazon”, “Echo” and “Computer” are not much safer. And meanwhile, press reported how extensive Google, Amazon and others use “their” devices not to just provide a service, but filing your commands and conversations for analysis. An intrusion to my privacy causing me to caution and not buying into them.
Aside, my Android phone has been set up to not react to voice activation, but I found it to react and switch on voice recognition without my doing. I did like Siri and now Android’s voice recognition to send messages from the car to home. But not on voice activation. I do want some privacy left.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Voice Assistants. My friend Alex developed the first Internet Assistants at his company VirtuOz, later sold to Nuance. His next project WIT.ai was about voice recognition and later acquired by Facebook, the basis for their solutions. What I am concerned about is simply the privacy invasion, if those tools file away my communication for unspecified further use. I may talk about confidential issues.

To make it worse, there have been, are and will be attempts – and successes – by governments to access i.e. Alexa and her companions. Privacy? I’m not a criminal, but no, I do quite some thinks to secure my private life. 1984 anyone?

Alternative Cloud

Aside having my “own” Internetserver, I use Nextcloud for two years now (thanks Jens!). To use it properly, like Dropbox, Google, Apple or Microsoft, you need a client program that integrates into your file manager (i.e. the Microsoft Explorer). I neither trust Dropbox not the others (except on encrypted storage), we’ve all learned from Edward Snowden.

In the end, it is a trust thing. I trust my friend who maintains “my server”. Totally. My family trusts me that I have other things to do than sneaking into their mailboxes or files they have in their own Nextcloud on my server.

Cloud Security

HackerMeanwhile and especially with the current president who seems to lack the moral values required for someone elected into such power, the “United States” in my opinion turn from friend to foe for Europe. Or at least someone who doesn’t care about our (common) well-being. Doing the wrong things for the wrong reason. Get me right. As everywhere there are good and bad people. Listen to Billy Joel’s Leningrad if you’re thinking different. And the Merkel-government is not any good either. From shining example for development and engineering, “Made in Germany”, we deteriorated into a “back midfield” in comparison to other states and sell out pioneering developments to China and America. And our corrupt government (it’s called “Lobbying”) strangles personal freedom with laws under the umbrella of “fighting terror”. But as I said about the U.S. – it is good to have a global sheriff, but I’m afraid what happens if the government changes and becomes “bad”. Do I entrust atomic warfare to someone like Trump? In honesty, I have more faith in Putin in that aspect than the lunatic in the White House.

So with governments applying the thumb screws on the IT industry, how save is your data in the cloud?

Privacy

Big Brother watches us and all governments (including the German) undermine privacy and invest heavily into technologies and change the laws to enable further invasion of privacy and inside your own four walls. You trade in convenience with privacy.

The DHS in it’s early days seized the computer of the top-level representative of a large European aircraft maker. In direct competition to date with that U.S. aircraft maker. When the manager denied giving the password, he ran into major trouble, missing his connecting flight. Not given a written confirmation that the content of his laptop wouldn’t make it to the U.S. competitor… That was “friendly” America – not Russia, where I never experienced “security issues”. My computer is secured, my data is not on the computer, only what I need enroute and that’s encrypted on the drive.

Summary

My personal summary is what my friends at ASRA called me paranoid upon my presentation 2007 (a dozen years ago). I am not, but careful. I am a public persona on the Internet. But thinking about governments hacking, falsifying and abusing data, who do I trust my data to? Think about the discussions about Huawei and 5G, do we trust them? If we would use encrypted data communication by default, Tor Browser, SSL, encrypted mails, Huawei would be a no-issue. But I still know too many companies first hand, not using contemporary anti-virus software on their mail servers and mail accounts. Trust Microsoft Onecloud? Apple, Dropbox? No, not really. Trust my own cloud? No, any system can be hacked. Can I protect myself 100%? No. But I can make it more difficult.

SaaS AssimilatedCommercially, I believe it a step back to use SaaS, which is another word for “cloud computing”. If you use SaaS, better be prepared and test what happens if the “outsider” provides corrupted data, what happens in case of a link failure – and recovery. Using different computer systems, often lousy connected increases the dependency on “others”. I can’t tell you, how often I was fighting with SaaS-companies to get access to my own data. Or how they imply that “their” data is always superior to anyone else. A-CDM anyone? CRM tools anyone? I am sure you can sing that tune along…

SaaS, Cloud is like a consultant. You use them in two situations. To cover something to complex and specialized needed for a short time that it does not make sense to develop your own know-how on it. Or to train your own to become better on such. Other issues can be to get an outside view – or to outsource blame or the risk of such. In all other cases, I strongly recommend to hire an employee. Hire software companies to provide a solution that fits your own “cloud”. Your IT environment. Use cloud to back up data into encrypted data vaults. But make sure, you have complete access to your information and raw data.

And don’t believe the SaaS-sales people when they tell you that you have all the access to your data. It’s their interest to fix you to their “environment”. And never let you off their hook. And “real time data integration” with other systems is in reality very low on their priority list. Again that question by SITA about the “source of the most common truth”. If data is in conflict most those SaaS, they assume that “naturally” they are right. And ATC, airline, ground handler, airport, government or whoever comes up with conflicting data is wrong…

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

Side note: I use a licensed Dilbert comic – for private and single use in a blog they charge $35 plus $10 “processing fee”, totaling to $45. I find that rather expensive and counterproductive, sorry that I don’t promote them…

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Cloud vs. Security. And the Internet of Things

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

The Travel Industry and the Cloud

GDShosteddistributionBack in 2000, in my presentation at ITB Travel Technology Congress, I addressed the changes e-Commerce brought to our distribution. Aviation and travel have a very strong history in what we today experience as “new”, call “cloud computing”.

Aviation has been a pacemaker in pre-Internet e-Commerce. Since the invention of the first “computerized reservation systems” (CRS), based on American’s ground-breaking development of the “Semi-Automated Business Research Environement” (Sabre). Read the Sabre-History for more. Thanks to the global SITA communications network (yes, those guys I temporarily worked for last year after they acquired my employer), aviation appreciated near instantaneous communication ever since I started working in aviation back in the late 80s. What we call e-Mail today, we called “Queue Messages” back then. To date, bookings, called “Passenger Name Records” (PNR) are created and maintained “in the cloud”. Whereas the “cloud based server” is either one of the Global Distribution Systems (GDS) and/or the airline’s own CRS.

Airline IT-managers celebrating this as the next big thing simply sell you old wine in new barrels. In the mid 90s, just about 20 years ago, the last “dummy terminals” were taken out of service, replaced by PCs with more sophisticated interfaces. Which were meanwhile very much replaced by web-clients working in standard browsers. The only difference being that those browsers often still use closed networks (such as SITA) for data transport instead of the Internet. Aside the obviously more reliable and stable data speed, this directly leads to the next question:

Cloud Security

amadeus 4 tiersWhere the GDS and CRS frequently work in a closed environment reducing the danger of hacking and other insecurities, recent developments make those services available through Internet links. Being a commodity, this is much cheaper. But it also opens the communication to a number of security issues. It needs complex security layers to avoid hacking or other unintended communication disrupting those large host systems. And this is also important to understand. “working in the cloud” is “clouding” (disguising) reality with fuzzy, hip wording. All it is is communicating through the cloud (word used to disguise “the Internet”) with servers that are not local but “elsewhere”.

Amadeus Datacenter Munich
Amadeus Datacenter Munich

The cloud servers of Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Amadeus, Worldspan or Sabre. Where the “Sabre” computers have been sold to HP and Sabre uses “commercial services”, Amadeus still has it’s own and also publishes quite some diagrams and images I frequently refer to.

But a fact in all such cases: If you believe it’s your data, this is a self-deception. You got to trust the company where you store your data to be trustworthy. Whereas recently there are quite some concerns about governmental insight into data. As I mentioned back in 2008, it’s questionable if a national government demands access to data without guarantee that this confidential commercial information does not reach the company’s competitor in that country. The example was not Russian, but American. Who watches the watcher?

owncloudAs I mentioned in my ITB presentation 2004, there’s possibilities to use alternate services from the Open Source developments. With cloud computing, you’re no longer required to use commercial services: I recently shifted all my personal data, especially calendar and contacts from Google into my OwnCloud. I trust my friend maintaining my own server. It’s in a huge computer center but my friend secures it against “unfriendly” or unauthorized access. And I hope what I have is not interesting to the server center operator to have someone physically accessing my server to steal data. A theoretical possibility. It’s a (semi-constant) assessment, on who to trust.

I also mentioned in my 2013 blog about Big Data, “The first, Big-Data-experts came up with, have been personal profiles, coming from a variety of different sources. That Google and Facebook still offer me young Russian ladies for marriage is a good sign that they are way off even that goal.” It’s a simple question on big data. From the same post: “And as the amount of data grows faster than the processing power, the real problem is predictable.”

Open Data

As much as you want to keep your personal and commercial data in some areas private, there was a mantra in the 90s “My data is my capital”. It was the time the Internet started to make data available to everyone and who “owned” the data could sell it expensively. To date the value of the GDS, the OAGs, Albatross, CH Aviation and other such data collecting companies. Whereas it is relatively easy to process aviation data as most of it is very clearly standardized. But as much as the data processing adds some value, it’s life cycle is ending. More and more “common data” becomes available openly. Where that i.e. started with OpenStreetMap, meanwhile the basic cadaster (land registry) data like street data, administrative boundaries, etc. are made openly available. Others still try to charge horrendous amounts, but they become a minority and will become extinct soon. The value is no longer in “owning” the data, but in meaningful analysis and use of it.

NextVue2Having been pacemakers in e-Commerce, aviation today is light years behind other industries. U.S. tools showing aircraft in-flight on maps like Harris Corp. (Exelis) NextVue does not have access to Canadian data as NAV Canada wants to sell it. Expensively. Not exchange (to also have access to U.S. data). It’s mine. Such, planes not traveling to/from the U.S. airspace simply don’t show. And the NAV Canada data is very often “a problem” for webservices providing such information in other markets. Dear NAV Canada, this is your wake-up call. The same for many other government owned “businesses”. Open Data is here. If you don’t come along, you will find yourself bypassed before long.

The same experience I had in my past years working on Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM). As long as our industry does not learn that it is in the benefit to the entire business and industry to share work data at reasonable cost. Base data is freely available today. But it’s fascinating how much of the base data we get from the “official sources” (like IATA, ICAO and the likes) is of lousy quality requiring manual review and updates.

That’s aviation. Believe me, working with data from 33 countries in Europe so far, basic data like population on municipality level, associating that to commercial or openly available map data from the same country’s cadastre … It’s a challenge. Many countries where the name of a city is not unique, but a municipality may have three four different names in the country. Not to mention that there are duplicate municipality names even within the same state. Open data is needed, but I think it might be something if a country could decide on unique naming for a given municipality and if EuroStat and the national statistics offices could agree on a unique identifier. And make sure their data matches. Else, a lot of people in the world will have a full time job to repeat the stunt we did. And other such data correcting others did. Again. And again. And again again.

The Internet of Things

Big Data is like teenage sex. Everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it...The last weeks the messages on LinkedIn, hyping the “Internet of Things” (IoT) are “exploding”. At this point, it’s very much like “Big Data”. Because just like big data, the concerns mentioned above apply. As long as everyone does something different and there is no common understanding about how to connect the IoT, it’s a lot of smoke and distracting noise, but not too much on real results. No matter if it’s global players announcing their understanding of IoT. As long as they don’t agree and establish open standards, IoT is a buzz word with not much substance.

As an example from another industry, more common to us all: For many years I have a look at “house IoT”. It would be so nice to be able to have the thermostats and blinds being programmable. Unfortunately, all makers of “intelligent” thermostats have their own “standard”, making it impossible to mix them. So if you want to buy, you got to select the system. And you’re stuck with it… That’s like the times of VHS vs. Betamax or DVD±R, where you usually selected the wrong technology…

Babelfish
Babelfish

Just as “video tape” or “DVD” came, evolved a standard and then became household normality, the IoT will need to develop common standards to allow common tools to exchange information with them in a default way. And not have 150 different “interpreters” trying to talk to all those devices in their language…

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Check-in 2020

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

Aside other sources, I copy the content of that news with kind approval of Momberger Airport Information:

Picture: Dailymail.co.uk
Picture: Dailymail.co.uk

Passengers travelling with British Airways through London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 have begun to test the personalized digital bag tag being developed by the airline. Microsoft Employees have been chosen to take part in a month-long trial, using a specially adapted version of the British Airways app, to provide essential feedback that will help shape the final product. The digital bag tag, which contains all of a passenger’s baggage details, could eventually replace the need for a new paper tag for every flight. Comprehensive testing of the tag has already taken place to make sure that it works in a live airport environment and can stand up to the rigours of airport baggage systems and everyday travel. Customers on the trial will use a Nokia Lumia Windows smartphone to check in, chose their seat and obtain their mobile boarding pass. Each will be equipped with a specially adapted version of the British Airways app, which automatically updates the digital bag tag with a unique barcode, containing new flight details and an easy-to-see view of their bag’s destination – just by holding the mobile phone over it. They can then save time by quickly dropping their bag off at a dedicated bag drop desk, before going straight through security. The personalized digital bag tags have been specially developed by British Airways, in partnership with Densitron Displays, and Designworks Windsor. #963.AIT4

Image R.Kollau
Image R.Kollau

These news upset me as much as the one I read about Amadeus trying a bag tagging based on 3G-technology. Or Air France and other airlines introducing “home-print” bag tags.

As I mentioned two years ago in my little article about a possible check-in-scenario for 2015, I would see a far more reasonable approach (and easy/fast to bring to market) by the aviation industry to use established standards. Why do they use a QR-code with a modified layout? Anything to hide? Or simply to do it different? Which by the way equals “more expensive”, faulty and slow. And – worse of all: Incompatible like VHS and Betamax…

RFID: Q-Bag-Tag
RFID: Q-Bag-Tag

Why do they try to implement and sell expensive, non-industry-standard-compliant stuff here? Why not using existing and proven technologies like RFID or the newer (but to be standard) NFC? Why force me to use an “App” (and where can I get online when being abroad?) or even worse, an expensive 3G-Network technology?Which Network???

In addition to my (somewhat delayed) prediction about Check-in 2015, I’d also like to see a common free airport WiFi system; wherever an airport offers free WiFi, it’s a common log-in worldwide. Maybe even the same for inflight, just a quick cost note if not free. Or at least a common log-in-process. Enabling to register “globally” is an added value for the Jet Set. And would encourage safer WPA2-connections. “CDM” in action – across aviation industry stakeholders 😉

I’m allowed to dream, right?

Food for Thought
Comments welcome
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What is ‘Big Data’?

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

A new hype shakes up the business world. Everybody talks about “Big Data”. But what is that all about?

nsa
Source: AP Photo/Google, Connie Zhou

Basically it’s an utterly normal issue. More and more data is collected, increasingly larger amounts of data have to be analysed and made “usable”. And this is the crux of the matter, even NSA faces problems with. Because you can’t see the wood for the trees. And to call for the example of the Needle in the Haystack… As I showed years ago, that “problem” is none, but can be solved quickly with the right tool (a strong magnet)…

But what the “experts” try here, is to find from a randomly found pine tree needle from the forest, all the other needles that originally belonged to the same tree. And the forest grows!

Source: Microsoft, 123RF
Source: Microsoft, 123RF

The first, Big-Data-experts came up with, have been personal profiles, coming from a variety of different sources. That Google and Facebook still offer me young Russian ladies for marriage is a good sign that they are way off even that goal. It makes their life not any easier that I don’t work at German Mail in Bonn, neither being the treasurer of Kassel.

Big Data is simply a reality, no “hype”. But it remains a “problem”. To manage “big data”, I need the matching technology on the one side, on the other intelligent and fast fitering algorythms. And as the amount of data grows faster than the processing power, the real problem is predictable. Either I filter the large amount of data very rough, or I filter smaller amount of data very detailed. A question of width and depth of information. So what does NSA do with the data? First, filtering it by catch words and phrases. Then have a highly paid analyst try to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Two dangers:

George Orwell 1984, NSA 2013
George Orwell 1984, NSA 2013

1. False Positive. This defines information that is incorrectly assessed. I.e. in Spam an important message the computer considers Spam. Is it about people and the NSA, a “false positive” can have devastating repercussions, such as the denial for totally innocent people trying to enter the U.S. (such happening).

2. Privacy Protection. It’s being compromised and I keep lately quoting the former U.S. Presidents Franklin und Truman:

“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” [Benjamin Franklin]

“we want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him”. Ersetze FBI durch NSA… Und was, wenn die “Teaparty” tatsächlich an die Macht kommt (vergleichbar bei uns der NPD)? [Harry S. Truman]
Replace FBI by NSA… And what, if the “Tea Party” in the U.S. really get’s to power (comparably our NPD)? We call it something falling into the wrong hands.

In aviation, we also work daily with “big data” and not just British Airways develops ideas to merge their customer profiles with the public profiles of their clients from the Social Networks… We also have to think about how far we want to go. Or if there are other areas of “big data” of interest, such as operations management.

Food for Thought
comments welcome

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Alexei Navalny vs. Edward Snowden

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

NavalnySnowdenTo make this very clear… This is not against U.S. or Russia or Germany, we have enough problems everywhere. It is a case to point the mirror to the U.S. and Russia.

Is it truly necessary to prosecute Edward Snowden and to mess internationally (not just with some South American President) on all diplomatic levels to catch someone who has done what he believes to be right at the risk to never see his home again? “Exile” was a punishment in the past and exile is what Snowden chose.
Snowden obviously had a point, even in the United States, many citizens think he did “the right thing”. And is that not what America claims to be all about? Spying friends is certainly not what it is all about and even as a historic friend of the United States and it’s people, I don’t like the witch hunt I see here.

Now comes Alexei Navalny and the United States, in the midst of a global diplomatic crisis expresses their disgust with the court ruling? As wrong as it is, I think the United States currently has to start looking into a mirror. Dear Michael McFaul, Ambassador of the U.S. in Moscow: “We are deeply disappointed in the conviction of @Navalny @Snowden (and @Manning) and the apparent political motivations in this trial.”
What did become of that “Land of the Free and the Home to the Brave” I love so much? Big Brother? I liked Tom Clancy’s “NetForce”. But Prism goes far far beyond it!
A country that supports such control of citizens and friends alike has to allow the warning cries from Germany – we have a history that tells stories about abuse of information and publicity. Not just Gestapo, the East German Stasi has tried just the same. What makes you better? The government? The Weimar Republic was not a bad government, but do you know what comes tomorrow? There are stories about one J. Edgar Hoover, about whom Wikipedia says:

Pres. Truman + J. Edgar Hoover
Pres. Truman + J. Edgar Hoover

Late in life and after his death Hoover became a controversial figure, as evidence of his secretive actions became known. His critics have accused him of exceeding the jurisdiction of the FBI. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. Hoover consequently amassed a great deal of power and was in a position to intimidate and threaten sitting Presidents. According to President Harry S Truman, Hoover transformed the FBI into his private secret police force; Truman stated that “we want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI NSA is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him”.

In the wrong hands, who knows what might have become of the United States? Listen to Truman. Mr. Obama, today you are the president.

On the other side, we have some Alexei Navalny who dares to threaten Putin and to research and make public illegalities in Russia. It takes a lot of bravery and civil courage to do so in Russia, even more unfortunately in a Russia of some Vladimir Putin. Whatever good he may have done for the country in his past, he sticks to power too much to my liking at the risk to not end up an icon just as one Nelson Mandela (as he still could I believe), but closer to one Joseph Stalin. At the same time ruining what one Mikhail Gorbachev and the people of Russia had achieved with Glasnost. Though with greedy politicians and industry managers in the “West”, there is not much danger, anti-democratic countries may suffer from commercial repercussions, right? And Putin might have a “good reason” for his doing, though even with good motives, I think he’s in danger of messing it badly.

The question is also more of a Christian dimension: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

JesusSin

Who is the United States, with a war in Iraq based on the lie of “weapons of mass destruction”, with Guantanamo and witch hunts against Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden, with an NSA mass-trampling on privacy concerns that the illegal attempts of data collection by Google, Microsoft or others become a child-game in comparison?

Who is Germany, recently having delayed again ratification of the signage of the United Nation Convention against Corruption? The country that does not take a stand for what’s good but who’s government yields to the lobbies?

But being “bad kids on the block”, we are still democratic countries. The ones who can make a stand is us. The people. I can decide to dislike and talk about Edward Snowden. I can condemn the NSA, no matter how much I do believe Barrack Obama to be a “good man” or how much I do love America. We have the saying: Power Corrupts. Absolute Power corrupts absolutely. But we, the people still can raise our voice, we can blog and talk and discuss and stand for what we believe in. And in the end of the day, we make mistakes as anyone else. But at least I can look into the mirror and say: “I like this guy”. And if we are lucky, we do what you Barrack Obama said you would want to become the President for: To make a Change.

And I don’t think Angela Merkel is in a good position to do that right now. Slave to the lobbies, pampering Putin for Russia’s natural resources and wealth and, as she does for China, not any more democratic than Russia these days. Neither is Obama, for what I am immensely sorry!
But I am. And not throwing any stones, I can beg: Obama: Stop the Witch Hunt! And I can beg: Putin: Don’t end up the man who reinstated dictatorship in Russia!

You’re both good, decent men! Show it!


This article today calls me to pull out my favorite Lazarus Long-quotes once more:

Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something.
Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again, too. Who decides?

Any government will work if authority and responsibility are equal and coordinate. This does not insure “good” government; it simply insures that it will work. But such governments are rare–most people want to run things but want no part of the blame. This used to be called the “backseat-driver syndrome.”

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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A Road Warrior’s Dream

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

These days, I just thought about all that new technologies and gadgets and why I use some and some use others.

Smoke Signals for Communication
Smoke Signals for Communication

Working with a company, I was faced one day with the fact that they used Laptops for their management and sales people, but these laptops were not set up to work outside the company’s own cabled network. WLAN? A risk. UMTS? A risk. Internet? A risk. What they never considered was the fact that a road warrior, an employee meant to travel and not be in the office may need the laptop to access mail and files in the company’s environment. Instead to providing professional solutions, the company’s IT-manager shut down the network and opened Internet only with greatest reluctance. That was and is the one side of the issue.

In fact, being a road warrior, I am quite happy, to be once in a while “offline”. No mobile phone, no internet. Vacation, spend concentrating only on my company. Not the employer, but the two-legged walking, sitting next to and talking with me. Internet inflight? I know many road warriros hoping it will never truly work. It will, but it will also take of some relaxation out of the stressful enough business trip.

So sometimes, I dream of the good old days, when it was rather normal to reach the secretary, but there was no mobile phones and people were a little more patient about being called back 😉 And I hope that triggers quite some comments… 😀 Come on people, don’t you sometimes thing the same? 😉

Food For Thought

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The Threat of IT and the Internet

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

threemonkeysLately I had quite some discussions about IT security. Is it the right thing to cut yourself off the hostile Internet? Corporate data security, data integrity?

As I have mentioned in these posts before, there is a valid risk of corporate spying, data theft, etc. But… Trying to shut yourself out of the Internet is not a solution. Your consumers expects you as much to be on the Internet as they expected you 20 years ago to have a telephone or fax machine. Yes, the Internet is potentially hostile and it is not only reasonable, but also advisable to secure confidential data. But then I must refer to e-Mail encryption. There are other options, such as different file servers for internal data and external access to Internet and e-Mail, firewalled and secured.

A recommendation I lately read said to type off a URL when you get it by e-Mail. That is simply short sighted. Such an idea will simply be ignored by any user for convenience reason. If he does not understand the threat, he will not follow that requirement. If he understands, there is no need for such as the user will be aware and apply the necessary care. There is an impression in IT-support called PEBKAC – the “Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair”. The user is the “problem”. There simply is no 100% security in this world. It is a constant risk and value evaluation. So instead of trying to hold back the development of your company, evaluate your risks, reduce them by technical means, as well as by properly training your IT-users.

trojanhorseIn 2004, I heard a presentation that questioned the normal user to be simply ignorant to viruses, trojan horses and the most basic other means of Internet security. To date, I get hoaxes forwarded with the best of intentions. What’s a hoax? A fake threat warning. The “best” one saying “There is a virus – to delete it do this and this” and if you do this, your Windows-PC is no longer operating.

Shall I use Internet Explorer? Why is it that even IT security experts keep that browser with known security problems as the standard company browser and not use alternatives like Firefox? There are sometimes good reasons, but that is the exception. Why is it that companies keep sending out Word- and Excel-documents and not PDF? If they’d use Open Office instead of Microsoft’s expensive commercial solution they’d not only save a lot in license fees, they could also immediately “export” into PDF (and with the free PDF import extension Open Office allows even to open and to some extend edit PDSs!). Why don’t companies incorporate S/MIME?

What truly frustrates, even agitates me is short-sighted if not even blind activism. Shut away the Internet, it is hostile. Yes. Don’t breathe, there’s all that dangerous pollution stuff in the air.

The solution is to be careful and increase user awareness. In a time of constant changes in IT, I run quite well when applying simple security measures. But it is part of our daily life and here to stay. Don’t restrict usage and application of new technologies, but emphasize your users to be careful and explain them the risks. But don’t try to shut out life, it won’t work…

Food for thought…

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eMail Encryption

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

seal_wotsxc900568-email-encryptI was asked to address this in the blog as well. Since 2001 I use a digital e-Mail-signature provided in a cost-free web-of-trust organized by Thawte, one of the leading providers of digital server signatures for websites.

I also voluntarily confirm the idendity for the user(s) with 35 points. 50 points are needed to have a personalized digital signature (with your name), having 100 points you become a “Thawte Notary” yourself able to provide such points to others.

Using such a signature with S/MIME is rather easy to use with common e-Mail-programs like Thunderbird, Outlook or Notes. Once both sides have such a signature, it is very easy to encrypt mail – Good Bye Big Brother…

Similar signatures or “qualified” signatures are commercially available (for money). If you want to know the difference, want to know more or are simply interested, please feel free to contact me at your convenience.

sxc833767_sneak_a_peek_1A new project in Germany is DE-Mail, said to enable “secure communication” with administration, implying “security” that simply is not there. First of all, the servers are to be maintained by German Telekom T-Systems. Second the encryption is not controlled by the user, but this is just a “secure e-Mail-address”.
What my own Internetserver requires for years is SSL-encryption, the same used by banks and said to be very secure. This is all such service can provide, except it allows “trusted partners” to have secure server-to-server communication. Such partners sure pay for such service. And big mama government sure has access to it – as have tons of T-Systems people. And don’t we have enough examples of data theft?

Sure: Food For Thought…
And please share yours…

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Social Networking

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

Social MediaAs Blogs are a part of “social networking” and as I follow several blogs like the German Tourismuszukunft, I thought to share some thoughts. As usual, I do appreciate your feedback. This blog is meant to trigger thoughts and make you ask me. My statements are thoughtful, but not necessarily the only truth. Often enough, I do learn better from the exchange with you.

In November, I finally signed up for Facebook and Plaxo, finding old and new friends active in these networks. As of my “troubled history” with Xing and as a majority of my friends are international, I moved my private activities to Facebook and focus professionally on LinkedIn. Oh yes, and my reviews I add to Qype, though I did not have much time for that either lately. I publish once a week in this blog, try to think a bit about the philosophical blog on Sapphilosophy, try to answer on LinkedIn and communicate with my friends and update them on Facebook. Now I want to install WordPress on my website to move my blogs away from Big Brother Google, and my website needs some updating too… Information Overkill…

In an interview, I was just questioned that I do so much “business related activities”. But don’t we all have our hobbies? Business Development, Aviation and Hospitality are my business. And my hobby. My life. But we need to find the time first we can then invest into business and hobbies alike. On- or offline. And in honesty: I appreciate being a lot easier in touch with you than 20 years ago. And I appreciate a phone call (Skype?) and e-Mail. But isn’t a personal meeting definitely more valuable than any electronic exchange. Isn’t that, why we all appreciate opportunities like ITB to meet face to face with many in a short time? Isn’t that the same true for Sales? Yes, once a contact is established, e-communication is okay. But it does not forever substitute for personal meetings.

Food For Thought! (Share your thoughts with me)

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