Since 2012 I have published PKI status updates here, trying to answer the question 'Do you still do PKI?' (or IT). I have re-edited them often, and my responses were erratic - I was in a Schrödinger-cat-like superposition state of different professional identities.
Now and then I still get these questions. Can I answer it finally? I am still in a superposition state - I don't expect the wave-function to break down any time soon. I enjoy this state! But my answer to IT-related requests is most often no.
So yes, I am still 'working with IT' and 'with IT security' professionally. Not necessarily 'in IT'.
I am supporting a few long-term clients with their Windows PKI deployments and related X.509 certificate issues (after having done that for more than 10 years exclusively). Those clients that aren't scared off by my other activities, and clients I had always worked with informally and cordially. But I don't have any strong ties with specific PKI software vendors anymore, and I don't know about latest bugs and issues. So I don't present myself as a Windows PKI consultant to prospects, and I decline especially requests by IT security partner companies who are looking for a consultant to pitch or staff their projects. I am also not interested in replying to Request for Proposals for PKI or identity management and 'offering a solution', competing with other consultants and especially with other companies that have full time stuff doing business development (I hardly did this in my PKI-only time). I am not developing software anymore that might turn into an 'enterprise solution'.
Today I am working 'with IT' more than 'in IT' in the sense that I returned where I came from, as an applied physicist who was initially drawn into IT, armed only with experience in programming software for controlling experimental setups and analyzing my data: I call myself the 'theoretical department' of our small engineering consultancy - I am developing software for handling Big Monitoring Data. I am also tinkering with measurement technology, like connecting a Raspberry Pi to a heat pump's internal CAN bus.
Security is important of course: I have fun with awkward certificates on embedded devices, I sniff and reverse engineer protocols, and I could say I am working with the things in the Internet of Things. But I am not doing large-scale device PKIs or advising the IT departments of major engineering companies: My clients are geeky home owners, and we (the two of us) are planning and implementing our special heat pump system for them. An important part of such projects is monitoring and control.
So every time I feel that somebody is searching for 'a PKI consultant' I am the wrong person. But if somebody stumbles upon my CV or hears my story at full length - and absolutely wants to hire me just because of the combination of this - I might say yes.
But it is no good rationalizing too much: Finally it is a matter of gut feeling; I am spoilt or damaged by our engineering business. Our heat pump clients typically find our blog first - which has been mistaken for a private fun blog by friends. Prospects are either 'deflected' by the blog (and we never hear from them), or they contact us because of the blog's weird style. Having the same sense of humor is the single best pre-requisite for a great collaboration. So whenever I get any other project request, not mediated by a weird website, I try to apply the same reasoning. Years ago I a colleague I had not met before greeted me in the formal kick-off meeting, in front of all others, with: You are the Subversive Element, aren't you? (Alluding to my Alter Ego on subversiv.at). That's about the spirit I am looking for.
Global corporations have their brand names tested for potentially unwanted connotations in different cultures and languages. Now I understand why.
One minimum requirement is perhaps: Being able to get it across on the phone.
...That's my surname, in German it's pronounced like [Add phonetic cryptic signs here]. But never mind, I will spell it out...
That's Latin and means Roots. It is a bit similar to radicles. Well, I realize now it differs just by a single letter... that may be unfortunate, sorry!
All our domains have their issues, also in German. This is the only one that causes no troubles in German. But in English you need to stress:
It's the German translation of Subversive, just remove E at the end!
Wow - that works well in English! You just have to mention the dash!
It's just a non-sensical acronym, I'll spell it out... Yes, name really is a top-level domain!
Now we enter the realm of business - and we have obviously tested the domain with utmost diligence:
That's an artificial German word, Punkt actually meaning Point or Dot. Hadn't I mentioned that it might have been less confusing in English than it is in German. But I'll spell it out for you...
To make it more confusing in English, we could create better sub-domains and e-mail addresses - to convey the spirit of the German confusion:
I wonder if the US Department of Transportation has similar issues.
... and first post published to the new site, live and public now :-)
For a short time, the old sites are still available in parallel to the new site.
Looking back, I mainly struggled with:
- My flat-file database - accessing content and all meta information stored in text files, using standards SQL queries.
- Redirect strategy: Existing loads of redirects, temporary ones, permanent 301 ones, nice URLs without physical files...
- Migration of the actual content, uniting what was separated in different sources - asp files, RSS feed, CSV file databases
See also my latest blog post. Which also contains the expected meta-musings on The Web.
Lest we not forget - these were the old sites:
In the past weeks since the last update I've added the following features:
- XML sitemap including English and German posts - URLs and last changed date.
- Make yearly archive URLs 'hackable', thus using just /[lang]/[yyyy] as archive URL.
- Population of meta tags, using also open graph tags.
- Adding 'breadcrumb' / 'where am I' information by highlighting the item just clicked in the menu and side bars: Current category, current post, current tag.
- Assign an optional image to a post via related attributes: Image source, image size or full image tage (for embedding Wikimedia images plus copyright information). If an image should be displayed, but no source is given, add a standard image.
- Display the image automatically on the bottom of the post and use it in the open graph image tag, to be used as a preview image. Calculate height and size from the image's physical size and intended width.
- Create thumbnails of these images, to be shown in the list of posts in the category pages.
- Store all global configuration settings such as tagline in a config file that uses the same [name:] [value] parsing logic as content files.
- Migrate all existing posts on the sites e-stangl.at, radices.net, and subversiv.at, and keep track of where the content came from. (One former .asp page contained one or more 'posts').
- Use one default.aspx for all applications, differences depend on the app name. Example: Don't show post archive for the business page, but show latest posts from Wordpress blog feed instead.
- Clean old content: Replace relative references (../) by absolute ones, replace CSS classes in tags. Move meta infos from content to new file attributes.
Web Server Settings and DNS
- Tested the IIS URL rewrite module with a key map, to be created from Excel documentation. In case of issues with rewriting: Fall back to redirecting in a main ASP file.
- Configure new host names and subdomains in DNS as primary URLs of the new applications. Add new host names for testing to reflect the already existing redirects plus the migration redirects plus the future standard redirects.
- Modify the existing main default.asp, global.asa, and main asp script creating all pages to work with the new redirects (some duplicate code in asp and .net could not be avoided)
- Host name determines application name: One main host name for each (of the 3-4) application. I will use a subdomain of subversiv.at as my new primary host.
- Check if the application has been migrated, as per config parameters. If not the existing redirect logic and existing asp code kicks in - which sends the user to a subfolder depending on host name. This is for historical reasons as I had only one virtual web host in the old times, so e.g. e-stangl.at/ redirected to e-stangl.at/e/
- If the app was migrated, redirect all attempts to use a 'secondary' host to the new one. So e.g. accessing e-stangl.at will be recognized as calling the elkement app and redirect to my new primary name.
- Configuring the application as 'migrated' does not yet redirect any attempt to access one of the old articles. I will have to turn on my rewrite map or code for that.
- Complete all features for all applications before taking 'elkement'
- Feed parser for punktwissen,
- 'image database' for z-village (using small posts with images effectively as entries in a table of images), add an option to show the large version of the image inline.
- Maybe: Ordering of posts in category by changed date, not by created date.
- Limit number of posts on main page and on tag's pages, number = global parameter.
- Replace internal relative URLs to pages in the same virtual directory by absolute ones.
- Maybe: Replace parent path (../) URLs in old code, to turn Parent Path in the ASP config off as soon as possible.
- Migrate all content from side panes, header, and footer. Add images used before to new posts, re-use descriptions from old image database (TXT).
- Take elkement live and test redirects and preview images (social networks).
- If OK: Take the other apps live.
- Fix bugs
- Turn on redirects for old ASP pages.
- Watch results in web master tools.
- Inform Google about new URLs (Web Master Tools)
I've built the underlying 'flat-file database' (Details in this post), and my not yet public site has these features now:
- Menu bar from pages.
- Show all postings on home page
- Recent posts and archive in left bar.
- Tag cloud in right bar, tags created by grouping all posts' meta data.
- 'Tag page': Show all posts tagged with a specific tag.
- Indicate category of current posting by highlighting category in the menu.
- Highlight currently clicked article in archive.
- Menu page contains custom text plus automatically created list of all postings in this category.
- Automatic creation of RSS feed.
- CSS stylesheet and responsive design.
- 'Nice' URLs - ASP.NET Routing.
Currently I am painstakingly migrating snippets of content to new counterparts / articles / text files.
For testing I am using a layout similar to my Wordpress.com's blog design now:
This site contains a messy collection of allegedly original creative texts which are most likely unintended plagiarisms of really subversive thinkers. This might be true for all pseudo-subversive websites but I do admit it.
The investment in the domain subversiv.at was found to correlate unambiguously with the exposure to a subversive business book: The Cluetrain Manifesto.
I am now plagiarizing myself:
The website – and the book is a call to the people of earth and puts forward 95 theses, the first of them being Markets are Conversations.
You might say: Yawn. That’s web 2.0 – so what? And the site exhibits HTML design from the last millennium.
But bear with me and remember (people of earth) that this was 1999. Back then I was in charge of “managing” some of those infamous web projects and of operating “compliant” corporate web sites. That is: Theoretically I should have disciplined anarchic web site builders and force them to use the corporate CI. Above all, they should refrain from ordering a domain and web space elsewhere, circumventing “corporate” and setup their subversive departmental website. On the other hand I should have – theoretically – motivated people to add some content to the zombie corporate content management system nobody wanted to use.
But dictatorial directives – “All Web pages must be formally approved by the Department of Business Prevention” — throw cold water onto all that magic-mushroom enthusiasm. (Quote from Chapter 1)
Markets are conversations, and conversations between genuine human beings are at the heart of business. Corporation that ignore this are doomed.
In a nutshell that’s the message of the book, and in contrast to its deceptive simplicity, this is not one of those business books (if it is a business book at all) that make you think that an article in a magazine would have been sufficient to cover it all. The reason is that Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger tell their stories instead of stating a message. This makes the book remarkably self-consistent.
Continue reading here: Burn the Org Chart – if Not the Organization – Down to the Ground
These are the preliminary results of the Website Resurrection Project. In spring 2012 rotten web pages have been de-linked. Those have been polished in a clandestine fashion in our steam punk web page manufacture and are gradually re-linked since autumn 2012.
The Subversive Newsletters published in German in 2004-2005 have been linked again!
The Elkement is going to analyze those and comment in English. Note that this will not add any new content. Not even the original newsletters had conveyed anything resembling 'content'.
The following newsletters have been analyzed:
In the meantime have a cup of coffee and some alien cupcakes:
The Elkement has recently put forward a theory: Its life is cliché and some googling does prove that.
It has been proposed that there is a huge community of people (Netizens) who would share the following characteristics / properties / hobbies:
- IT security
- Interested in the history of science
- Star Trek fan
- Douglas Adams fan
- Douglas Coupland fan
We are now going to challenge this, and we will ask Google. As Scott Adams has pointed out correctly the internet is nothing else than the consciousness of an omnipotent being, once splintered and now reassembling itself.
- Searching for "physics" "IT security" "Star Trek" yields 5 out of 10 hits on page one that can be associated with The Element. Actually 2 more elemental links have been pushed down to page three since I wrote the German version of this article two days ago.
- "physics" "IT security" "history of science" yields 6 elemental page 1 hits.
Similar results can be achieved with nearly every combination of key words listed above.
So my advice is: If you are frustrated about being cliché:
- Write an article about those attribute
- And enjoy your page 1 Google hits.
Online since the early 90s. Yet The Subversive Element might be an impostor netizen.
I have never discussed in Usenet, learned programming on a C64, or compiled a Linux kernel. Even worse, I used Microsoft Word instead of LaTex with all my scientific publications, and the first website of my own was a commercial one.
Yet I feel I have the right to call myself a netizen. The vague definition of this term allows for misuse anyway.
I probably turned into a true netizen again because of my trepid (non-)adoption of the interactive web 2.0. So I could have been an avid open course keep-the-internet-free-of-commercials activist.
The Element has instructed the Element to post on that more frequently. I am using Web 2.0 as a platform for discussing why I am so not fond of web 2.0 unequivocally.
A netizen is an inhabitant of the internet. Everybody knows that today. Back in the golden times of the internet a netizen had to be an expert. A navigator through a new world, a world that existed only for the technologically adept. It comprised dark corners and caves.
Dark corners do still exist today. If you want to explain to paranoid technophobes why the internet is cute and harmless despite cybercrime you ought to say: It is just like the real world.
So everybody is a netizen. If the Know Everything oracle (Google) does not find any content related to you - you might be something special.
You might be a Realizen probably.