Hyper X – Not!

Confession – I’m what you would call a Hyper Connected person. I’m constantly connected to my Note 4 mobile phone, I check my mail on a regular basis at least once an hour, my phone constantly beeps with Instant messages and information being delivered directly to my device.

Professional tend to describe Hyper Connectivity as a state called FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. According to wikipedia, FOMO is:

Fear of missing out or FoMO is “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”.[2] This social angst [3] is characterized by “a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing”.[2] FoMO is also defined as a fear of regret,[4] which may lead to a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event.[2] In other words, FoMO perpetuates the fear of having made the wrong decision on how to spend time, as “you can imagine how things could be different”.[4]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear_of_missing_out

Now, Hyper Connectivity has its associated costs to your life – You are constantly at anybody’s reach, if you are sometimes out of reach – people take it as being rude and eventually, it starts hitting your health and productivity.

So, about 2 weeks ago, I started my own little social experiment – and I decided that everybody on my contact list should be part of this experiment. I’ve done the almost obscene thing to do, I’ve turned my mobile device notifications off. No more SMS beeping, WhatsAPP groups are now muted, e-Mail no longer beeps like crazy.

Initially, for the first two days, I thought I was going mad. My phone was quite, suddenly, I was fully capable of doing the work and having the life I wanted. I was able to concentrate on my tasks, apart from a phone call here and there, I was fully capable of actually getting stuff done – without being interrupted every 15 minutes. Can you imagine living your life in 15 minute intervals? that was the story of my life for the past 5  years.

One of the amazing results of this experiment was that the feeling of “rudeness” was purely in my head only. When people sent me an email, or a text, and I didn’t respond within 30 seconds, or even 30 minutes, people acknowledged as: “ok, he’s probably busy and will return the minute he can”. That had two very interesting impacts: first, when I did reply, I spent enough time thinking about what was asked from me, and I was able to respond in a highly comprehensive manner. The second one was, and that was the shocking bit, I was conversing less by email and text, as things became clearer.

Imagine this, I “communicate less” and “converse more” – amazing!

It also made me realise something else – really productive people aren’t hyper connected, they are hyper engaged. The are fully engaged with what they do, not with the means of communications. The engage their tasks in a dedicated manner, able to focus completely on one task – and getting it done the right way. I also noticed that some of the people on my contact list, the highly successful ones, actually take a fairly lengthy time to respond – not because the are rude – it is because they are respectful. They respect themselves by allowing themselves the time to focus, and they respect their colleagues by focusing on their requirements in a devoted and centred manner.

If like me, you are Hyper Connected, I urge you to try and disconnect for a bit – it will change your world and perspective on how to get things done.

Open Source, Philanthropy and Asterisk

Tux, the Linux mascot

Image via Wikipedia

When I started using Open Source software, it seemed like all Open Source projects are driven by philanthropic agendas. We were all focused on “sticking it to the man” – showing all these would be software vendors that community driven projects can do just as well – if not better.

"When I was a child I spoke as a child I 
understood as a child I thought as a child; 
but when I became a man I put away childish 
things." - I Cor. xiii. 11.

Well, I’m not claiming that Open Source is childish – absolutely not, however, when you are a student you tend to look at things in one way, when you have a family to care for – you start looking at things differently. You remember these days in life when your dad said: “When you’ll have children you will understand” – well, now I do.

So, what am I rambling about exactly? I’ll tell you. The day before Passover I attended several meetings, which when I came back home had pissed me off immensely. I feel an urge to write all about these meetings, including who I met exactly, however – I won’t do that. However, I will give a rough idea of these.

Meeting 1 : A world recognized Mobile application player

I came into the meeting with this company, where the CTO of the company explained to me that they are looking to create an Asterisk based solution for their application’s users. My initial question was: how many users? what is your concurrency level? – The answer that I got was: “Oh, we don’t need something major, just a few lines of configurations in Asterisk config files in order to make this work”.

I left the meeting slightly pissed off, thinking to myself: “You bloody inconsiderate prick! You bring me to a meeting, spend my time – and then telling me that this is just a few lines of configuration. If it is that simple, why don’t you do it yourself? you have 20 developers in there, 4 IT people and god knows how many outsourced workers off-shore – if it was that simple, you would have done it already – so probably it isn’t – right?”

Meeting 2 : A well established IVR services vendor

The second meeting was with a well established IVR content vendor, this company runs around 16M minutes of inbound IVR traffic every month. They invited me in order to talk about expanding into new countries, wishing to get premium based access numbers in various countries. So, we started talking, and the guy indicates that he wants a certain kick-back payout, which I know is impossible – at least without charging the user more. Actually, the guy indicated that out of the interconnect fee, he wants to get almost 90% as a kick back.

Meeting 3 : A start up rendering IVR content

The third meeting was the most amazing one – these guys wanted to build an Asterisk system to server around 4000 concurrent channels – outsource the entire development to my company – and pay as a revenue share. When I asked for their business model, marketing plan, investors, profiles – I got a response of – we don’t yet have all of these, we only have an idea at this point that we want to implement.

Garage based companies are built by people who can do the work themselves, not the other way around.

Photograph of Mark Shuttleworth by Martin Schm...
Image via Wikipedia

At this point, you are probably asking yourself: “What does this have to do with the title?” – Well, all of these meetings had one thing in common. The people I met were under the impression that Open Source is some form of philanthropy. Or to be more exact, people who deal with the Open Source market are philanthropists. My question is this: “Why are we perceived as philanthropists? don’t we have families to care for? don’t we need to pay mortgages and bills just like everybody else?”. I guess when people read about the various Open Source entrepreneurs, such as Mark Shuttleworth – the immediately associate Open Source with Big Exists – this is not the case.

At some level, this is purely our fault – we educated people that Open Source is a highly economical methodology of solving technical challenges. No where along the way, had we educated the public that behind the model there are people, people who need to make a living.

If you are an Open Source consultant, developer, evangelist or just someone who may have an opinion on this, I’d love to read what you say.

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Call Analytics – Beyond CDR analysis – Part I

“Oh, just get me the CDR‘s and I’ll take it from there” – how many times have I heard these words before? I can’t even imagine the number of times in the past 15 years of IT/Telecom’s work that I’ve done and in the last 8 years of Asterisk in particular – when it comes to billing and fraud management, it would appear that the CDR’s are the Rosetta Stone of the industry.

Over the past 6 months, several of my friends and I had been asking ourselves this question: “Is there more to billing, fraud management and profit leakage? does it really all begins and ends with the CDRs?” – so, here we were, a group of 3 engineers dealing with telecom system and billing systems – we knew that the answer is a definite YES, however, how come most companies and system aren’t even aware of this, in such a way that causes them to leak telecom profits and waste their hard earned profit margins on simple accidental mis-interpretation of CDR records.

So, we’ve decided to sit down and start analyzing calls in real-time, trying to evaluate not only the CDR record that is received upon the completion of the call – but also understand the traversal path of the call, analyzing it in real time and evaluating it profit leakage potential. At the mean time, we’re concentrating our work on Asterisk, as it is the simplest for us to implement – however, we’re not focusing it only on that – we’ll looking at adding it to FreeSwitch, Yate, OpenSer/Kamailio, OpenSIPS and the various varients.

So, what have we done so far? well, one thing we never really had with any of the existing systems was a clear view of what’s going on “right-now” on our systems, so we said: “it would really be great if we could know how many call hits we’ve received during the past 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes” – so here is what we made:

Inbound call statistics for 30 minutesThe above image shows our top 10 inbound DID numbers, as you can see these are in the 972 and 447 country codes (yes, we work mainly in Israel and the UK). At the backend, our servers are analyzing the data in real time, generating an active alert in the case a DID number’s statistics change in a somewhat drastic change, thus, establish a traffic anomaly. Another thing that interested us was our usage across multiple servers, which we are exhibiting in the below graph:

Traffic by server spread

Now, as you can see, the top graph shows a discrete anomaly:

Discrete traffic anomalyThis anomaly indicates something went wrong on all our servers between 00:45 and 1:15, which gives us a fairly discrete period of time to seek for a problem in the system. What happened was that one of the guys updated a portion of the data traversal API – basically deleting it 🙂 [we resumed full work after about 40 minutes].

So, where is it all going to? well simple, a new Open Source based service that we’ll be launching within a few months from now. Our intention is to provide a means for simple, straight forward, highly reliable, call analytics, fraud management and profit leakage analysis service. A service which is based upon a simple to use API on one hand and Open Source based data gathering agents. Our belief is that by analyzing large amounts of data, from multiple sources around the world, we’ll be able to ascertain the fingerprint of a telecom bound attack – being able to alert the respective users of the service and maybe in the later future, also provide a means to block the attack as it advances across the world.

I’ll be updating about our advancement as we go along, but for the time being, this is something I felt would interest you.

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Chinese Domain Scam Alert!

Over the years I’ve seen many scams running on the net. Ranging from the ever annoying chain mails to the ever popular Nigerian Sting – Internet fraud is all around us. Lately, I’ve been hit by a new type of fraud attack, a domain registration fraud attack – mainly located in China and Hong-Kong.

As you may know, I’m the owner and CEO of a company called GreenfieldTech, dealing with Asterisk and VoIP application and platform development. Now, we operate world wide and render services to some of the world biggest brand in the telecom industry. So, we take our copyright and brand very seriously, when we receive an indication that someone is or may be infringing our copyright or brand, we take a stand for it.

So, today I’ve received this email:

Dear CEO, 

We are a domain name registrar centre in HongKong,and in charge of the registeration in
Asia, We have something important need to confirm through your company. 

We received a formal application from a company called "Hempus International Holdings
Ltd" applying to register 

Internet keyword :     greenfieldtech 

Domain names :

 greenfieldtech.asia    
 greenfieldtech.cn    
 greenfieldtech.com.cn    
 greenfieldtech.hk    
 greenfieldtech.in    
 greenfieldtech.mobi    
 greenfieldtech.net.cn    
 greenfieldtech.tw

In China and also in Asia on January 21 2010. During our auditing procedure we find out
that the alleged "Hempus International Holdings Ltd" has no trade mark,Intellectual
property, nor patent even similar to that word. As authorized anti-cybersquatting
organization we hereby suspect the alleged "Hempus International Holdings Ltd" to be a 
domain grabber. Hence we need you confirmation for two things:

First of all, whether this alleged "Hempus International Holdings Ltd" is your business
partner or distributor in China.

Secondly, Whether do you need to protect the intellectual property right which should have
belonged to you?. (The alleged "Hempus International Holdings Ltd" will be entitled to obtain
a domain not needed by  original trademark owner.)
If you are not in charge of this please transfer this email to appropriate dept.in order to
deal with this issue better, please let someone who is  responsible for trademark or domain
name contact me as soon as possible.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________
 Confidentiality Notice: This is a letter for confirmation. If the mentioned third party is
 your business partner or distributor in China please DO NOT reply.  We will automatically
 confirm application from your business partner after this audit procedure.we have to notify
 you,and our registration organization are  not responsible for any dispute questions about
 trade mark,intellectual property nor patent after they succeed in registration.hope you can
 understand.thank you.
 ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Sincerely,
  kaka.xu

Sponsoring Registrar:sk holdings company ltd 
 Web:www.sk-dns.org/www.asia-gov.com
 <a href="tel:00852-95660489">Tel:00852-95660489</a> / 00852-95660103 
 Fax:00852-30696940

Email:kaka.xu@skdns.org/

Address: 3A, Units 20/F, Far East Consortium Bldg, 121 Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong
<hr size="2" />
kaka.xu

2010.01.21

So, this is obviously a scam, as when I searched the alleged company, I couldn’t find anything. However, the term “International Holdings Ltd.” had produced many scam alerts and related information popped up everywhere. Now, bear in mind that this is the 10th time them past 2 months that I’m receiving such emails. So, I’ve formulated the following response to them, and you are welcome to use it:

Dear Kaka,

Thank you for contacting us in regards to this matter, to be completely frank with you,
we’ve received over the past 2 months a similar request/demand from various Asian registrars
in China/Hong-Kong. Through our contacts in the far-east, we’ve concluded that your
request/demand is fraudulent, and that the company you indicated doesn’t even exist.
Please note that your approach to us claiming that someone wants to infringe our copyright
and brand had been noted and passed to our legal department. In addition, we’ve forwarded your
email and general company information to various SPAM, Abuse and Security teams that are in
contact with us around the world (mainly, [Mention your really BIG business partners and
large customers here - also through in some ISPs in the far-east, specifically China). Should
your company register ANY of the below mentioned domain names or keywords, following this email,
we shall be forced to follow legal actions in accordance to the laws of the state of [Put your
country here] and other countries where our company has representatives or local business
engaged partners.

P.S.

[Always add a personal note - and refer to something in the mail they sent, for example]

On a personal note, when sending emails to anyone in Israel, I would suggest that you choose a
different name, other than Kaka. Kaka in Hebrew is directly related to the bodily function of
purging waste – also known as taking a dump in the toilet.
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Astricon 2009 – Glendale, AZ – Part I

Well, as some of you know, I’ll be speaking at this week’s AstriCon convention, being held in Glendale, AZ. I guess that in normal days I wouldn’t be starting to write about it prior to the actual convention, however, this time I decided to write about it earlier. I guess the title of this post can be changed to: Tosche Mark Spencer.

In order to understand what I’m talking about, we need to take a trip down memory lane, to be more exact – 2.5 years back memory lane.

Date: January 2007, Location: Tel-Aviv, Israel. Mark Spencer along side with Schuyler Deerman of Digium are on their way for their first time visit to Israel. Both of them are flying to Israel together after spending their Christmas holidays in the Middle East, mainly Egypt. Back at that time, I used to work for a company called Atelis – we were the Digium Israeli distributor. To make a long story short, Mark and Schuyler got held up at the airport for almost 4 hours, by Israeli security. The only thing that helped was for me to call my brother in-law, back then at the NY Israeli consulate, to try and find out what happend to both of them. Aparently, they were held up for questioning – without notifying anybody on the outside – who were waiting for them – what is going on.

Fast forward…

Date: October 2009, Location: Philadelphia, USA. I’m being held for a seconday inspection and the immigration control at the US border. The funny thing is, this is not my first trip to the US this year – I was here last February. The immigration officer looks at me and decideds that I’m a candidate for an illegal worker for some reason. Maybe the fact that I came in on an e-Ticket and didn’t have my itenirary printed throw him off, maybe the fact that I looked somewhat young to him, or maybe the fact that I’m continuing to Phoenix flagged me – I don’t know, in any case,
I’m now being held in secondary inspection, while I have only 50 minutes to get to my connecting flight – talk about turning up the heat. So, here I am, infront of this immigration officer, who I had to admit does his best to be polite and correct about the way he does his job. I gotta hand it to these guys, I guess they come across some of the worst scums in the world, and yet, they are able to sustain a professional and polite manner at all times – brava. Any way, he starts questioning me about my travel to the US, who paid for it, where am I going, where do I work, etc, etc. So, I
start explaining to him what AstriCon is, giving the guy the 5 minute “Asterisk is” introduction, and for some reason, it doesn’t really cut it with him. So, I decide to pull out the ultimate weapon – The Internet. I ask him if he’s able to logon to www.astricon.net and see that my picture is on the website. He looks the site up and indeed my picture is on there. The guy is now convinced that I’m here to lecture and nothing more – thank god. I get my passport back, pick up my stuff and run like the wind to my connecting flight – getting to it right before they close the boarding doors.

So, although I didn’t get the same 4th degree Mark/Schuyler did, I understand what they must have felt like in there. I guess it could have been worse, another guy that was in there with me got deported back to where he came in from (don’t know where that was) – not a very pleasent scenario.

Points for travelers

  1. You’re coming to the USA, have your itenirary printed and ready
  2. Have you flight invoices printed and hotel reservations printed – it may be required
  3. If you are staying with friends, not at a hotel – state that when asked, don’t hide it.
  4. If you had memorized your answers, these guys will pick up on it really easy – they know their job.
  5. If you are lecturing in a convention or tradeshow, make sure you can point the officer to an online mention of your talk – this helps smooth things faster.

Tomorrow’s update – AstriCon Cloud Computing class