Tuesday, February 24, 2015

From Trojans to Ransom Notes: Protect Yourself!

Don't let this Trojan Horse come in and attack your protected work.

Remember the Greek mythology story about the Trojan Horse? During the Trojan War, Greek soldiers hid inside the Trojan Horse to trick the Trojans into letting them inside their city walls. Well, it worked and there was destruction.

Hidden dangers still occur today in our digital society only with what is called a Trojan-ransom virus (ransomware) which infects your computer, through files, data, programs. Once you've been hit, here is no way to retrieve all your important information unless you have the encryption key. How do you get that encryption key?

You guessed it, by paying a ransom. Typically, it's $100, sometimes more.  Obviously there is no way of knowing if the cyber criminals will actually release the key to you. Usually there is a timer which pops up and counts down the hours, minutes until your files are lost forever. 

This type of reoccurring infection is nothing new. Sure, there are new viruses which pop up and have different algorithms associated with them all the time,  but this type of illegal electronic activity has been going on for awhile. It still surprises me when I hear about friends, students, and colleagues being infected because it can be avoided easily. If your computer has been attacked you will need to remove it or seek professional help. Honestly, many times there is no way of retrieving the lost files.  

What can you do? Use common sense and be proactive. You may have heard these types of tips before, so review and remember!
  • Make sure you have anti-virus software on your computer. Duh. There are many households which do not purchase anti-virus software, or don't install it properly or don't keep it updated. This is important! You wash your hands all the time, don't you? Doesn't take that long, neither does keeping your anti-virus program current by running the updates.
  • Don't open email attachments or click on website links that you are unsure about. Again, common sense, but this is one of the fastest ways to spread a virus and people keep doing it. Just like you wouldn't open your door to some unusual stranger or share openly private information with someone you don't know or trust, don't open or share anything you are suspicious of.
  • Block the pop-ups! They are annoying anyways. Sure, some of them are from advertisers, but many contain malicious codes that when clicked take you to a corrupt link. You're not going to win $1 million by clicking on that pop-up, so don't do it.
  • Use a firewall. If you don't know what that means, here's a basic explanation: a network or program which inhibits or blocks unauthorized access to your computer whether you have a Mac or Windows system.
  • Back it up, back it up! There are many ways you can back up your important files, data, etc. You can use programs such a Google Drive, external hard drives and One Drive. Beware of Dropbox and programs like Dropbox,it is not completely protected from viruses either. 
  • Don't download anything (programs, files, emails, etc) unless you are absolutely sure it is safe. No need for further explanation, right?
Protect yourself and don't spread any viruses!

Still curious how it works, check out this video.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lent (Part 1): Breaking Bad [Habits]

You think you have some bad habits? 
Probably don't even compare to these boys.

What are you giving up for Lent?  How did you choose? Gotta plan?

Did you know that the word Lent literally means springtime? An obvious time for growth and renewal. As Catholics, we view Lent as a time of breaking bad habits and giving up something. What if we started something new? Perhaps starting a good habit? A way to better ourselves and reconnect with God.

We are all human. We make mistakes. We try to correct them, then get discouraged by our own failures at doing so.  During Lent we are encouraged to: break bad habits as we decide to give up something in our life which is not healthy (spiritually or physically), this then enables us to sacrifice ourselves to God.

It's difficult to give something up, especially something you have really enjoyed and loved. This has a different meaning for everyone. Reflecting on our lives and taking a deeper look inside, we know what we must give up.  Many times it's right there in front of us and there's not even a reason to over analyze it. Yet, there's that voice inside our heads which reminds us the importance of 'live and learn'.  Allowing ourselves the freedom to live life, live in the moment, live and appreciate those around us. So are bad habits bad or can we use them to teach us something good?

When you give up something, there is the feeling of loss. Replacing it with something positive seems the most logical, but can be overlooked.  I think too often we overextend what we can promise and sacrifice to God and others. He is a loving God and he wants us to be our best. So, think about what you want to sacrifice, be realistic. How do you want to grow as person? Change is difficult, so focus more on forming good habits instead of the bad habits that drive you crazy. And you know what? If you mess up, there's a new day tomorrow.

The journey of life.

Perhaps you are this Christian who believes, personally, it is better to focus on forming good habits rather than breaking bad ones. Huh? Isn't that what happens when you break a bad habit, you transform it into a good habit? Not necessarily. It's all how you approach the issue.  Lean towards taking a positive spin on the whole experience. I saw this quote awhile back and it's stuck with me.

Sacrifice doesn't have to mean giving up something we must have, but a way of bringing more goodness to our lives. Perhaps spending more time reflecting alone, or focusing on having more quality time with your family, thinking about volunteering with those in need.  You will have to sacrifice what you would normally spend your time doing if you want to spend more time with your family or volunteering. For example, you might sacrifice your favorite TV show so you could play a family game once a week or sacrifice extra sleep to get up early and volunteer at a soup kitchen.

This notion of forming a good habit or two has always made more sense to me.  After reflecting about it, I have decided to form a good habit of reading an inspirational quote via The Lent App. from the Bible each morning or at dinner with my kids. I'm hoping to spark some great convo with them about God and what the Bible can teach us.

Growing up, my mom and dad would read "Our Daily Bread" at breakfast or dinner. I remember this little booklet filled with short personal stories from Christians and Bible verses for each day.  Sometimes my parents would read the whole short story, sometimes just read the scripture verse.  Some days we would talk about it, other days nothing was said, I'm assuming to let me think about it on my own. Which, looking back, I did more often than I realized.  I'm inspired by quotes and short stories of other people's lives. The good, the bad and the ugly. I think it's fascinating how some people will let you in, even for a snapshot of their life journey as they share how they have grown as a person... as a Christian. 

Share your story, help those around you, especially during Lent. It might just turn into a habit, a good one!  I think we forget how a simple smile, a genuine pep talk or even a warm hug can make all the difference. 

There is a great deal we can learn from each other about God.  I wish you all the best on your journey this Lent season. Whatever path you choose: to sacrifice in breaking a bad habit or focusing on forming a good one, remember it is all about feeling God's love and sharing that love with others.

The Lord has your back! Be a light for others and let them be a light for you.

Some helpful apps and websites for Lent:
Whether you are a rap fan or not, 2Pac (Tupac Shakur) lyrically had some interesting things to say:
"It's time for us as a people to start makin' some changes.

Let's change the way we eat, let's change the way we live

and let's change the way we treat each other.

You see the old way wasn't working so it's on us to do
what we gotta do, to survive...."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Kindergarten King: Artist John Bukaty Creates A Buzz

How would you respond if you were asked to work with 42 Kindergartners on an activity over the course of an hour?

A. "You talking to me?"
B. "I'm allergic to children under 6."
C. "Oh....thanks for asking, but I have this...um, thing...I have to do."
D. Run for the hills.


Exactly the opposite of what the incredibly talented, New Orleans Artist John Bukaty did.

A few weeks ago, I contacted Mr. Bukaty to pick his talented creative brain about integrating more art into the science, technology, math and engineering aspect of STEAM. Obviously, I'm not an artist, but I have had success reaching out to other professionals in the areas of STEM, so thought I would see what he could offer. We spent about an hour or two on the phone over the course of a few weeks. He shared great ideas, direct insight and helpful tips for ways we could weave the arts into our program more naturally, effectively at the STEAM Studio. 

We talked about exposing kids to the big picture of art. Expression. Confidence. Creativity. Vision. Integrating the science and math beyond it would come. He suggested exposing them to Sacred Geometry. I was excited! Most kids love shapes, but you mention the word geometry and they quickly fade away.  How cool to show them the math beyond some incredible ways to design patterns, review symmetry, and introduce hexagonal figures, toroids, fractals, and 3-D imagery in a variety of ways. Nature, all natural.

At the end of one of our conversations he said, "I would love to come help when I'm in town." Little did he know I would quickly take him up on that.

Last Friday, 42 Kindergartners buzzed into the STEAM Studio for three hours.  They came in like a swarm to the STEAM Studio, all excited and ready for some action. We had four stations for them fly around to throughout their time. Originally, I had asked John to come by for about an hour. I thought he would get his fill,  and more, in about that time. But, he did what most would not have done...

Came early, stayed late.

When he arrived, we set up a slide show of his paintings to give the kids some ideas and examples of what they could do. He spend time explaining his thought process when creating art and what it meant to him. After the slide show, he continued on and not in the typical presenter fashion, more like the Kindergarten fashion.

He got down on their level.

He raised their confidence by giving them ideas on how to do more.

He gave them positive feedback.

He give them hugs, high fives and chilled with them.

He modeled for them, but encouraged them to do their own thing.

He got out of their way

He showed them how to have fun.

What did they do?

They buzzed around, like busy bees do, they were humming, collecting what they needed, moving to their own beat and making their own honey...their own sweet art.

One thing I have realized since the opening of the STEAM Studio, the importance of finding the right professionals related to the areas of STEAM to share their expertise and talent. Artist John Bukaty not only shared his time and talent, he shared his heart to this swarm of Kindergartners. He planted a seed. A seed that will grow, blossom into a flower, only to attract more busy bees.

Please check out John Bukaty's one of kind art pieces and support him! Go visit his studio in New Orleans, a great reason to take a trip to the French Quarter ~ Mardi Gras is around the corner!

John Bukaty made the Terminator look like a "girly man"...here's a clip from the unforgettable Kindergarten Cop.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cavern Technologies: Digital Age Batcave

Cavern Technologies take the word "Batcave" to a whole new level!

You don't have to live in Gotham City to experience the technological advancements in keeping the city safe from jokers who want to steal your data. At Cavern Technologies, KC has their own modern day Batman, John Clune, who is focused on protecting and securing the most important information out there. I had the pleasure of visiting this underground futuristic environment recently. Here are the amazing things I learned about this incredible company...

"Bam Pow Zap!"

1.      Why underground? Is this something sweeping the country? How and why does this set you apart?

Under 125 feet of limestone in Lenexa Kansas is the beating heart of the silicone prairie. Over 100 of the country’s leading banks, hospitals, law firms, and technology companies run their highly sophisticated mission critical data center operations from what was once a limestone mine. Cavern Technologies was founded in 2007 by John Clune his father Pete Clune Jr.

Located in a 3M square foot Energy Star Rated, GSA approved underground at 95th and Renner, Cavern has become the largest Data Center Colocation provider in the Midwest with 125,000 square feet of purpose built, state-of-the-art Data Center space.

 John’s vision was to design and build the most secure, reliable, efficient infrastructure possible, and give customers the peace of mind of knowing their Data Center is protected and connected with all the cooling and electric redundancies to handle any scenario, including a Zombie Apocalypse. Beyond protection from Zombies, Tornadoes and Ice Storms of the Midwest, customers come to Cavern for their low cost, abundant and reliable power through KCP&L, and the multitude of telecom network providers that connect Kansas City at light speed to the rest of the world.

The planets must align for an Underground Data Center to work.  Rock strata must be stable, and a safe distance from fault lines. Locations must be above the flood plains close to an urban core and have access to abundant power from multiple substations.  Redundant bandwidth providers must be built into the facility, and enter the location from multiple entrances. Other large players in the underground Data Center Space are Iron Mountain in Pennsylvania, and Green Mountain Data Center in Norway.

Cavern’s specialty in the market is giving customers private data center suites.  While most colocation tenants are expecting huge, anonymous, cage filled rooms, Cavern gives their customers (large and small) their own custom room, with their own 4 walls, their own biometric access controls and surveillance cameras.

"Holy cooling caverns, Batman!"

2.      How specifically is better for the environment?
With an ambient temperature of 68 degrees, Cavern’s cooling systems have a distinct advantage over cooling systems that are battling the extremes of weather (-10 to 100+).  Customers typically see a 30% saving on their cooling costs.

With an adaptive reuse of underground space Cavern does not take up space on surface.  Cavern is one of the few data centers in the world with trees, grass and deer on their roof.

"Riddle me this..."

3.      I'm obsessed with the finger and face recognition, how does that work? Why is it important?

“Every face has numerous, distinguishable landmarks, the different peaks and valleys that make up facial features. Each human face has approximately 80 nodal points. Some of these measured by the Facial RecognitionTechnology are:
  • Distance between the eyes
  • Width of the nose
  • Depth of the eye sockets
  • The shape of the cheekbones
  • The length of the jaw line
  • These nodal points are measured creating a numerical code, called a faceprint, representing the face in the database. “ 
Cavern’s customers have multiple options for access control of their private data environment. Some customers utilize thumbprint biometrics, retina scanners or facial recognition. By only having approved personnel with access to their private data is essential for insuring the integrity of their private Data Center’s integrity.

 "To the Batcave!"

4.      Is this future? How do you know? What is to be learned, tech wise about how you operate in this unique way.

Technological advances drive the evolution of the Data Center.  Moore’s Law states that processing speeds and data densities should double every two years.  While footprints have shrunk, the power and cooling needs have grown as our creation of data reaches mind boggling proportions.

Eric Schmidt of Google stated an astounding statistic. “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003. That’s something like five Exabyte of data.”

We are still in the early years of the Data Center.  (Although some teenager, tinkering in her garage could change the world of data storage as we know by discovering a way to put all the data in the world onto something the size of a dime.)

Cavern is bullish about the future.  They are not everything for everybody, but instead focus on becoming the facilities partners for the most technically savvy customers who want to manage and grow their IT resources in house. More and more companies are getting out of the construction business or selling their data centers and moving their private clouds to colocation facilities and sometimes moving their cloud underground.

"The Batsignal goes on, he shows up."

5.  How do you give back to the community?

Corporate citizenship is important at Cavern.  Giving Back is KeySome of the organizations that Cavern Supports on an ongoing basis include: Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Children's Mercy, Ozanam, Bishop Sullivan, Spofford¹s Horse Power Program, F.I.R.E.,  Sisters of Charity in LeavenworthFather Waris's Romero Community Home Building Initiative in El Salvador, and Cristo Rey Corporate Work Study Program.

The planets have aligned for Cavern, and John.  Beyond the well designed and built infrastructure, John continues to see amazing annual growth by giving his customer’s world class customer service, and never compromising on his mantra of “Operational Excellence.”  

The proof is etched in stone:  In his 8th year in business, Cavern has 100% uptime and 100% client retention.

See for yourself what Cavern Technologies is all about: