SysAdmin – Quick & Dirty File Encryption For Online Storage

April 21, 2015

It’s tax season and I like to backup my tax files to Dropbox. That way I’ve got offsite storage. To mitigate the fear of putting sensitive information on the cloud I encrypt it using the OpenSSL software available on all OS X Macs via Terminal.

Archive All The Files

I’m old school and use tar to create an archive of all my files.

> tar -cvf taxes-2014.tar taxes-2014-dir/.

this creates a file named taxes-2014.tar that contains all files in the directory taxes-2014-dir

Use OpenSSL to Encrypt and Decrypt

> openssl des3 -salt -in taxes-2014.tar -out taxes-2014.tar.des3.pwh

> openssl des3 -d -salt -in taxes-2014.tar.des3.pwh -out taxes-2014.tar

I like to append a Password Hint (pwh) to these filenames. They only get accessed once a year so I add a 1 to 2 character suffix as a memory jogger.


OSX daily has a brief discussion of OpenSSL file encryption/decryption.

“Book Crush” – The Spiritual Universe by Alan Lightman

February 15, 2015

2015 01 16 Accidental Universe  Iain

I loved the “The Accidental Universe” by Alan Lightman. I found it in a list of The Best Science Books of 2014 by Brain Pickings and it is available at my local library.

My favorite essay is “The Spiritual Universe — Does God Exist?”. For some reason this essay made me feel very happy. You can read the first half of this essay here.

In the last essay “The Disembodied Universe” he talks about how science has helped us dig deeper into nature and then talks about how we have become dependent on machines for our experience of nature. Very interesting. It’s not all bad, and it’s not all good. Here are some excerpts from this essay

page 128 Since Foucault, more and more, of what we know about the universe is undetected and undetectable by our bodies. What we see with our eyes, what we hear with our ears, what we feel with our fingertips, is only a sliver of reality. Little by little, using artificial devices, we have uncovered a hidden reality. It is often a reality that violates common sense. Is is often a reality strange to our bodies. It is a reality that forces us to re-examine our most basic concepts of how the world works. And it is a reality that discounts the present moment and our immediate experience of the world.

page 136 It is an irony to me that the same science and technology that have brought us closer to nature by revealing these invisible worlds have also separated us from nature and ourselves. Much of our contact with the world today is not an immediate, direct experience, but is instead mediated by various artificial devices such as televisions, cell phones, iPads, chat rooms, and mind-altering drugs.

page 137 But the psychological change accompanying these technologies is more subtle, and perhaps more important. Consciously and unconsciously, we ahve gradually grown accustomed to experiencing the world through disembodied machines and instruments.

More – Links

There is a lot written about this great book. Here are a few places to explore. /enjoy

Technology Sales Manifesto – Zero to One – by Peter Thiel

February 10, 2015

2015 02 10 ZeroToOne
I really enjoyed Peter Thiel’s Zero to One.

Right from the beginning he focusses on a startups job being creating new things instead of copying things that work. I was hooked right there. I also like he that recommends hiring people you actually want to work with.

I was not expecting it to be a manifesto on technology sales. It provides good context for techniques discussed in Dan Pinks To Sell Is Human.

I was going to pass on this book, but then it showed up in Andrew Schmitt’s Books in 2014 list. Thanks Andrew.

Random Quotes

  • page 120 We set out to hire people who would actually enjoy working together.
  • page 131 “The Sales Dead Zone = Small Business”
  • page 139 “EVERYBODY SELLS”
  • page 160 The best sales is hidden. There’s nothing wrong with a CEO who can sell, but if he actually looks like a salesman, he’s probably bad at sales and worse at tech.


Blake Masters CS183 Essays

What’s Happening with Peter Thiel’s Dropout Club

I Have A Passion For Entrepreneurship, GREAT Program Showcase (Slides & Script)

February 4, 2015

Update – Sept 19, 2015 – the live video of this talk is available here.

Here are slides & script for the “I Have A Passion For Entrepreneurship”, Pecha Kucha Presentation, I gave on January 29, 2015 as part of Genomics Entrepreneurship UBCs GREAT Program Showcase.

note: The text for each slide is shown in the notes section of slideshare.

Full Text – 20 seconds per page/point

  • #1. I have a passion for entrepreneurship because it’s about people. And I care about people. It’s people, like you & me, who buy stuff. We, and our wallets, are ultimately the judges of entrepreneurial success. Entrepreneurship is about New Ways of serving people. Today and in the future.
  • #2. In Existing Markets, we want to be served with “Better, Faster, and Cheaper” versions of products, and services, we already know. For example, I have an iPhone 4s and I want and need the iPhone 6 because “it’s better, faster, and cheaper.”
  • #3 This is an Existing Market. It’s the place to be, and there is tons of money in Existing Markets. So it sounds like, if you’re an entrepreneur, all you need to do is make the iPhone 7. Super Easy. Right?
  • # 4. Well no. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs rarely succeed in Existing Markets. “Better, Faster and Cheaper” is not what entrepreneurs do. The big companies, like Apple, get to make their own sequels.
  • #5. Entrepreneurs create New Market Segments like Apple did with the original iPhone and iPod. These did not exist before. That means Entrepreneurs build version 1 products with the hope that people will want versions 2, 3, 4, 5, …
  • #6. This sounds very risky. Yes, It is. Most entrepreneurs fail. Even with Apple’s immense success few people bought version 1, or 2, of the iPhone and the earlier iPod. Raise your hands if you bought version 1 of the iPhone. {delay} Yah, I didn’t. It’s my experience that most people bought in with versions 3 or 4 ( like I did).
  • #7. The trouble with Creating New Market Segments isn’t the technology. It’s the people. Very few people buy version 1 of anything. The entrepreneurs real job is finding people who care, developing a relationship with them for versions 2, 3, 4, 5. … and so on. The sequels. That’s where the money is.
  • #8. And now the Sad Part. This is a lot of work and takes time. Most evidence suggests that it takes 3-to–5 years for a New Segment to become a money making Existing Market. That is a long sentence “3-to–5 years” … So … You’ve got to have an noble goal & lots of passion for it to get through that time.
  • #9. Many people will agree that this is realistic, and some of you will disagree. But many of you will ask me, “but Iain why do most of BC’s Billion Dollar successes like Botox, QLT, Westport, MDA, and your PMC-Sierra all take more than 5 years to become part of Existing Markets?”
  • #10. Because, Brand New Markets have a huge “People Problem”. It takes a long time for raw technology to connect with people. For example, people don’t want “transistors”, people want a transistor radio to listen to music and dance.
  • #11. In 1989, I was making chips for data communications at PMC-Sierra. One one hand that was genius. We were building chips for the Internet. On the other hand, the Internet didn’t exist yet. In fact the word Internet didn’t exist yet. (There was no market yet.) We were 5 years to early. What a stupid idea {laughing} We were in for a long journey.
  • #12. It was not straight-forward. The journey had no map, no boat, and no oars. We had to build everything from scratch. We messed up thousands of times. It was fun and many times it was TERRIFYING. But it was worth it, in the end.
  • #13. Yes. Entrepreneurship can be terrifying. There is a lot of anxious self – dialog – Will anyone care about my new idea? When will someone care? No understands what I’m talking about! My parents think I’m crazy to work on this. My friends think I’m crazy to work on this. I’m beginning to think I’m crazy.
  • #14 And then the “Rays of Hope” appear {laughing}. The entrepreneurial “New Segment” becomes an “Existing Market”. That’s when entrepreneurs can finally explain to their friends and family what it is that they really do.
  • #15. One of my favorite conversations was with my mom around 1996, that was about 7 years into PMC-Sierra, because I could finally connect something she that was doing in the real world with the products that our company was making.
  • #16. I got to say, “Mom that e-mail that you love so much. I’m actually a part of that. Your e-mail hits one of my ”chips“ every time you hit send. In fact every person on earth hits my chips when they send an e-mail.”
  • # 17. That was such a great moment. I made a difference for her. An entrepreneur made a difference for a real person in the real world.
  • #18. Our company survived and by 1998 we finally cracked $100M in sales. It took ten years. {wow}
  • #19. That journey started with new technology and a “New Market Segment” called The Internet. It took many years for the world to learn what the Internet was. The more we learned, the bigger the Internet market grew. And today we want it “Better, Faster, and Cheaper”, …. and on a mobile device. Wow. It’s amazing what the Internet has become.
  • #20. So, what’s next? The question for the future entrepreneurs in the room is, “Whose problem are you going to solve?” because that is the first step on your entrepreneurial journey. Thank You. {smile}

Collection – Steve Blank Life Science Blog Posts for 2014 and 2013

January 5, 2015

Steve Blank ran a Reinventing Life Sciences Lean LaunchPad in the Fall of 2013 and refined it in 2014. Here are all the blog posts associated with it.



Introduction — Reinventing Life Science Startups

During Workshop — Lessons Learned — LLP for Life Science

Wrap Up — Lesson’s Learned

Reading Review – Best of 2014 – Piketty, Klein, Osterwalder, Pigneur, & Botton

December 21, 2014

Here is a quick review of my 2014 readings and recommendations. The lists, in each section, are in priority order.

(Note that many of these books are pre-2014. My criteria is that I read the book in 2014.)

Quick —”Best Of The Year”

Thomas Piketty, Capital, and Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything, blew my mind. These are mind altering books on Wealth and Climate Change.

Alex Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur’s Value Proposition Design, took entrepreneurship books to “eleven”. Great job guys.

Alain de Botton’s, Art as Therapy, provided me with a new way to view art.

Important Reads

  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty — The most important part of this book is the data on public and private wealth. In my reading there seems to be consensus that the data is the best we have and most of the stir is What to do about this data? There is no question that the data is shocking. The CBC is a good starting place.
      On the “non-political” side of things, this book has tremendous business application, especially for marketers and market sizing exercises. The data presented shows a dramatic change in demographics and projects deeper change. Companies need to actively react to this change, if they haven’t already done so. I would guess that Apple’s deepening move towards luxury goods is informed by these trends. They believe in market share measured in “$ shipped” instead of market share in “units shipped”.
  • This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate
    by Naomi Klein — If you want to know what the “Climate Change” movement is “doing and saying” in 2014 then read this. It does not disappoint. It explains the recent #blockadia movement and “First Nations” positions. If you don’t believe in “Climate Change” then you will hate this book. More here … Naomi Klein wins 2014 Hilary Weston Prize | CBC.
      My favorite part is in Chapter 9. Blockadia. It’s the story of Lummi carvers traveling ~1,300km over 16 days to 8+ communities with a 22 foot totem pole strapped to a flatbed truck. They finally permanently planted the pole in North Vancouver. more

Fun — Fiction

  • Scott Pilgrim Volume 1: Precious Little Life – Colour Version by Bryan Lee O’Malley — This is a great series. The colour version is a good reason to re-read it.
  • A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
  • The Circle by Dave Eggers
  • Wise Mans Fear by Patrick Rothfuss — this is the second book.
  • Fortunately The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fun — Non-Fiction

  • Kitten Clone: Inside Alcatel-Lucent by Douglas Coupland — There is a positive interview in IEEE Spectrum and an negative interview in the Globe & Mail. In a nutshell engineers will like this book. He knows us well, as shown before in Microserfs and jPod. I was surprised that he only dedicated a couple sentences to EDFAs. To me these “Optical Amplication” devices are pure magic. (thx M. Spooner for the tip)
  • An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield — Fantastic!
  • On Writing Stephen King — Very useful and an entertaining read. ( thx to review by Brain Pickings )
  • The Swerve: How the World Became Modern By Stephen Greenblatt — Here is review by Brain Pickings (thx T. Lawrence for the tip)

Business — Startups & Innovation

  • Value Proposition Design by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur — An instant Classic. Get this now.
  • Talking To Humans by Gif Constable — A very useful extension of Gif Constable’s blog posts discussing Customer Discovery Interviews. (thx to @denisewithers for tip)
  • Startup Boards by Brad Feld — an Awesome Resource for Young Startup CEOs ( and those in Training )
  • Brand Thinking by Debbie Millman — This is great Branding Immersion for Engineers. (It’s About People guys. )
  • To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink — This is a great introduction to sales for Scientists & Engineers or those who believe “Sales is the Dark Side”.
  • No Exit: Struggling to Survive a Modern Gold Rush by Gideon Lewis-Kraus
  • Ingenious: A Crash Course on Creativity by Tina Seelig — ( thx to @sgsblank for the tip)


  • Life Out Of Sequence: A Data-Driven History of Bioinformatics Hallam Stevens — I’ve been doing a lot of work with Genomics groups and this book really helped me get up to speed. ( thx @sgsblank. )

Health & Spirituality

  • Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong — Fascinating book. (thx Brainpickings review )
  • So Far From Home by Margaret J. Wheatley — highly recommended. (thx to B. Ross for the tip)
  • Blue Nights by Joan Didion. Not sure if I can call this fun. It is a great read wrt/ parenting.
  • Anatomy Of An Illness by Norman Cousins — If you’re living with a chronic illiness, this old book is still relevant.
  • Jewel Tree Of Tibet by Robert Thurman
  • Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor
  • Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong
  • Lying by Sam Harris

UBC SSE Kenya 2014 Final Day Presentations (All Students Mathare Small)

November 27, 2014

Mathare small kenny artHere are the final day presentations from the UBC SSE Kenya Mathare “Small” classroom. I’ll discuss one example — Super Yummy Peanut Butter. I posted the templates for the presentations here.

You will find that the Business Model Canvases are “lean”.
This is on purpose. We spent a lot of time with students honing in on their customer segments and the value proposition hypotheses for those customers. This is what the students are going to focus on for the next 12 months as documented in their Plan-of-Records. We used the Value Proposition Canvas to help them with these concepts.

All The Presentations

The businesses include — Photography (existing business), Fruit Shop (existing business), Hair Salon, Cosmetics Shop, Food Shops, Custom Jeans, Premium Peanut Butter (existing business), DVD Shop, Clothing Shop (existing business), and PlayStation Gamer Hangout (existing business).

Example — Super Yummy Peanut Butter

(You can click on the pictures to get a more detailed view.)

What you’ll see here is the planned growth of a home-based business into a small business. She has been selling directly to niche customers and has begun adding direct sales staff. Her Value Proposition of a “Premium Peanut Butter” has had “traction”. She is also looking at expanding her market outside of the city of Nairobi. The student has prepared for a loan to buy more equipment and set up an expanded shop outside her home. You will notice the 8% loan. It was challenging for us to accept that this is a good rate in Nairobi for a small business.


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