part 1: Internet of Things (IoT), big data, privacy and security

Internet of Things (iot) is a big thing right now. But what is it really?

There are a lot of definitions and misconceptions:

The internet of things (IoT) is the internetworking of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data. (en.wikipedia.org)

The internet of things refers to the situation wherein man controlled devices will be outnumbered by embedded systems, internet-wise. (nl.wikipedia.org, translated)

The Internet of Things revolves around increased machine-to-machine communication (wired.com)

Sure, it is conceptualized as the internet of things. On the surface it’s presented as communication between man and machine or machine and machine. It’s made to make life easier. Cars that communicate with each other to prevent collision. Watches that give us feedback about our physical activity.

But iot, currently, has downsides. One story that describes this very well is an article on howtogeek.com. It’s about a smart fridge turning into a , well uh, dumb fridge

Even if you think smart fridge features sound great, there’s one big problem: You have no guarantee the fridge will still be getting updates in a few years, or even a year from now.

they could no longer connect to Google Calendar on their fridge. Google announced a new way to connect to Google Calendar, but Samsung never bothered updating the fridge. After two years, that fridge was apparently out of date and “no longer supported”.

Tech is evolving fast. Most People don’t own a blu-ray player or Netflix. In comes 4K television. Oh wait, HDR is hot right now. Have to buy a new TV.

You can’t blame people for expecting things to keep working. My 90’s something cd-player still works. It doesn’t need updating or performing a hard or soft reset. I can safely predict that most people don’t know the difference between a router and a switch. And for all we know, most routers still have the standard fabric login credentials. Oh wait, you can change the password of a router? Do I own a router, someone asks on Facebook.

Big data, now that’s a hot item. Let’s be clear: internet of things is about data, it’s about privacy and last but not least: about security.

Internet of Big data

Let’s revisit the car example. The near collision will be recorded and stored. The department responsible for road safety will pinpoint areas vulnerable for collisions and try to make them safer. We don’t need to address the car example. Google, anyone? Data is big money these days. Custom made commercials because you visited an electronics store is daily reality.

Internet of Privacy

We don’t even bother, it’s not a hot topic anymore. I have a customer card of a grocery store I visit often. To get discount they have to scan the card. But simultaneously they register my other purchases. They send me commercial brochures on a regular basis. No card, no discount. Card, discount, no privacy.

Internet of Security

I come from a time where only the big company sites were victims of hacking. Nowadays every site is vulnerable. Most sites are hacked for spam or data collection purposes. Big data for big money.

Don’t get me wrong: the prospect of iot is exciting for me. We just have to be aware of the consequences before they get real.

 

Part 2: Multitasking, is it a skill or does it slow us down?

In part 2 of the series Thoughts in the daily life of an IT professional I want to stress the effects of multitasking on our work. I have a Master in Clinical Psychology and thus an interesting viewpoint on this subject.

Wikipedia defines multitasking as

Human multitasking is an apparent human ability to perform more than one task, or activity, over a short period of time. An example of multitasking is taking phone calls while typing an email and reading a book.

Indeed, this is a popular definition of multitasking. For me multitasking is serial: doing your tasks one at a time, continuously switching between them. Parallel multitasking is doing different tasks at one time, much like Wikipedia defines.

Really, I find that multitasking IS serial in our job as web developers. You can’t edit a css-file and a  html-file at the same time. You can switch from one to the other at high speed but cannot handle them at the same time. That’s why I think multitasking is serial in nature, at least for web developers. There is a lot of research that backs it up: parallel multitasking is a myth.

Everyone knows the feeling of switching back to a previous task and thinking ‘where the hell was I at?’. The effects of multitasking include a loss of efficiency and performance. There’s even evidence that someone who is new at multitasking and likes to do one thing at a time outperforms someone who is ‘skilled’ at it. The effects take over and become automatic in nature.

Most employers demand multitasking skills of their employees. This implies that the effects of multitasking are not well known. It’s important to keep this in mind: multitasking will have a negative impact on your work. Try to be assertive and protect the outcome of your work.

Try to find a balance between your schedule and unexpected tasks. Keep your boss, but most importantly yourself, happy.

 

 

Part 1: Being a good developer or being the best developer

In this series Thoughts in the daily life of an IT professional I’m going to write down thoughts on my developer experience.

In Part 1: Being a good developer or being the best developer?
I’m going to explore the question Do we need to push ourself to be the best developer or do we have to be satisfied with being a good developer?

I’m reading a book written by John Z. Somnez, Soft Skills. It has the all-embracing subtitle: The Software Developer’s life manual.

thomas_coucke_soft_skills_software_developer's_life_manual_john_somnez

This is what caught my attention (the first paragraph I read):

To all developers who strive for continuous self-improvement… .

Who are not satisfied with good enough

Who always seek every opportunity to expand their horizons and explore the unknown.

Whose thirst for knowledge is never fully quenched

who believe that software development means more than just writing code

Who know that failure is not the end, but merely a step in the journey

Who struggle at times, and sometimes fall, but always get back up again

Who have the will and determination to seek the harder path in life

And, most importantly, who are willing to help others along the way

Needless to say: this also concerns web developers.  Our profession demands that we keep up with knowledge that is continuously under development.

I see a lot of information like modules, PHP libraries, repositories and other passing by. With it comes a feeling of I want to be able to do that! Let me learn it!  Let me work on it.

My work requires a different set of skills. Don’t get me wrong: my primary function is backend developer. But as senior developer I have to undertake different tasks:

  • Switching hard drives, iMAC and PC
  • First line support with supervising
  • Supervising the junior developers
  • DNS management
  • Inhouse support
  • Network administrator

If it has a source of power, it is my responsibility to maintain it and keep it running, sort of speak. FYI the office where I work has 10 employees.

I have to skip a lot of things I want to learn. Mostly I take it home with me and gets my attention if it is really interesting. There’s a course to be launched in September. Cisco Certified Network Associate. Yep, I’m in.

We have to select our own expertise. That’s what changed over the years. I remember the time of GeoCities. It was so simple, html was simple. Everyone could be an all-round web developer.

These day we have to accept that we are just human beings and cannot keep up with every new item in our work field. Just focus on the parts that you feel at ease with. Make your own expertise, don’t worry too much about the things you see passing by and of which you think you don’t understand.