Citronium is NOT Ibex

In 2014, I had a client named Todd. Todd was a friendly but socially awkward guy and we had done a fair share of business together in the past. He came to me with a new project that sounded interesting and we accepted the work. It was a civil issues project, focusing on local city ordinances and elections, allowing citizens to “upvote” issues that were important to them, all done via a mobile app. Todd would sell the reports back to the city, then the county, then the state. The project was partisan neutral and the reports would be available to anyone interested in purchasing a copy.

My company’s role would be to harvest massive amounts of data from various city and county websites and provide a back end to the mobile interface to collect user data and their upvotes for any given topic. We would also generate the reports. It was a lot of work because city websites are generally awful, without standards, lacking quality or any consistency whatsoever. At least back in 2014.

Another company would be creating the mobile app. They were known as Citronium. I interacted with their owner and a couple of their lead developers and engineers throughout the project. We were all making progress and were looking towards the impending launch date. Things were going well.

Not long before the launch date, Todd ran out of money and stiffed my company for more than a few thousand dollars. He did the same to Cintronium. The project halted and we all eventually went our separate ways.

The owner of Citronium contacted me a few months later and we chatted about collaborative projects as well as our options for what we could do with the existing codebase of the Meocracy project we essentially “owned” (my contract is crystal clear in this department) and we bounced a few ideas around.

Citronium asked if Ibex Data would represent them contractually here in the U.S. because they were losing sales by not having a domestic presence. You see, Citronium was based just outside of Moscow. Keep in mind this was still 2014.

I respectfully declined the invitation. Ibex has always been about hiring U.S.-based developers, engineers and designers. We have never hired offshore. This has always been a key tenet of my company so I couldn’t make an exception.

That was the last I heard from Citronium, at least until this weekend. I discovered while doing some “research” that Citronium had been using the address and one of the mobile phone numbers associated with my company as their own. While I’ve never received any mail or calls for them, their search engine presence along with my company’s information was nothing short of an alarming discovery. This was mostly SEO tactics, but if Russia-located Citronium appeared in search results above Ibex Data for our contact details, my company’s reputation was very likely damaged. It may have cost us any number of contracts over the years. It might also explain a few of the mysterious “thanks, but no thanks” declines I’ve received recently because my name is personally tied to both address and mobile details.

Now I have the miserable task of dealing with Google to try to disconnect their names from MY company and the reputation I’ve spent 10+ years solidifying.

The irony of the project and its participants in 2014 – in light of current political discussion – is not lost on me. I’m really glad I stuck to my guns and our core standards. But, damnit, I’ve got more important things to do today.

CNC for Fun and Profit

I walked into an aerospace manufacturing shop back in 1996 and introduced myself. I spent the next 8 months developing a paperless software solution for managing every detail of every part the shop built. From inspection reports, routing, treatments, to inventory. It was my first comprehensive solution that unexpectedly turned my career 90 degrees in a different direction.

I’m still helping them today. And 22 years later, their entire operation is still relying on what I built for them (with major updates along the way, of course).

As I was sweating buckets on their shop floor today, I recalled back when I worked at Boeing in Long Beach, managing all of the desktop computers for the C-17 division, as they were likely using the parts my client was manufacturing. There is a stark difference between the filthy, hot, shrapnel covered machine shop environment compared to the Foreign Object Damage (FOD) prevention obsession of the pristine assembly space for those aircraft with shiny painted and immaculate concrete floors and organized work spaces.

They are two sides of the same coin. I love both environments. I’m totally comfortable in either, minus the heat. Just need to step up my game on hand-coded CNC instructions to the skill level my client demands. You know, if I needed to go mill some robot parts.

Fun shit.

Bizarre interview moment, #38

Sitting in the conference room with the in-house recruiter who is whispering secrets about the company to me when the CEO enters. I stand, we shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and he then stares at me, emotionless, for 1…2…3…4… seconds, then sits.

I sit and smile, looking to the recruiter to direct the conversation or at least make the first move. Instead? Silence. I guess this is my meeting to run, then. Ok, I launch with my understanding with where the product is at and the short term upscale trajectory that needs to deliver in nearly 60 days.

The CEO sat and just looked at me, mostly without emotion, for nearly 30 seconds. He scratched his nose (there’s a tell), rolled his head to look at the recruiter sitting next to him, and said nothing. Then he rolled his head back towards me and waited for at least another 10 seconds and said, “You look different than your picture.”

After 30 minutes of rambling questions that were really nothing more than an opportunity for the CEO to speak, he departs and another gentleman enters. A COO of some sort. Suddenly, we’re engaged. Hard hitting questions with no nonsense answers about leadership, tough decisions and managing the unique personalities of a diverse development team struggling with an antiquated code base. This is my realm! Yes!!

At one point he asked how comfortable I would be doing a code review of software written in PHP v4. I deadpanned my expression and paused while waking up some neurons from 15 years ago.

“Bring it. That’s ancient but so am I.”

We talked for nearly 2 hours. He had to run having gone grossly over schedule. The recruiter had been fighting to stay awake throughout it all as we went deep on the tech. Once the COO left, the recruiter asked me, “you know who he was, right?”

“Yeah, James, the COO, right?”

“No,” he whispered, “That was James, this company’s founder and original developer.”

You Have the Gullible Virus

An associate of mine – who is not a technical person by any means – just called to let me know that Apple called him alerting him of a virus on his computer. The story just goes south from there in flames.

If you get a call like this, even if the number appears to come from Apple or Microsoft or Dell or anyone else, you are being scammed, victimized. Here’s what to do in the event someone says you have a virus and needs access to your computer:

Step 1: hang up.

End of scam.

Take Back Your Social Network

Start Taking Back Your Social Network in 3 Simple Steps:

1. Disable Notifications AND Location services – unless you’re using social media for your business, you do not need to be reminded to look at your mobile every 10 minutes, despite what advertisers think. Nor do you need to broadcast your location even while you’re not using an app. Your phone is already doing that for you.

2. Uninstall Messenger – this is the worst application and demands far too much access to your personal details. I installed it briefly and its constant nagging for access to my contacts list and demands to send me notifications just means that its gone, gone and gone.

3. Click the Remove button on every single “People You May Know” referral – I will write extensively about the problems with this part of the system later, but ultimately it does nothing to serve you.

There are further steps that can help ensure the best experience for you online, but these are the most significant to start reducing the noise that is flooding your feed and preventing you from connecting with the friends and family you came here for.

Mentor.

I’ve been approached by a friend who has asked if I would mentor her teenage son in tech, development, hardware, etc. I really like the idea but I’m not sure yet where to start.

I put it to a group of friends to see where they’d recommend beginning. At first I struggled with tasks as if he was an intern, but that’s not what a “mentor” means to me. I had a mentor when I was in my 20’s, and he’s been a life long friend, but that relationship began when I became his employee.

When I began in tech, I had already grown up around computers throughout elementary school. That was unusual in the early 80’s and definitely gave me an advantage over time. Starting with Apple Basic in 4th grade helped me to understand coded logic, the difference between files and folders, the internals of computers. That all worked to my advantage shortly after I graduated high school and started building desktops and servers for myself. Then my second bench tech job introduced me to the industry in greater detail, in sales, customer service, margins, more complex systems and the consequences and vulnerabilities of our data over time.

For this fine young man, whom I met for the first time last weekend, I’m recommending that he start off in two areas: installing Linux on his desktop, and Arduino projects for remote data collection (sensors, mostly). Since desktop and server hardware are a thing of the past, the ability to collect and aggregate data in the cloud is where I see the next series of trends continuing. He’ll never have to swap out a video card or exchange a SCSI drive (yeah, I’m that old) unless he choses to tear apart his laptop… even their days as user-configurable systems are numbered.

Looking forward, I’m excited. This could be a new direction for myself, my kids and our future.

Broken Things

For the record: broken things like cars are just that… things. Meaningless, vapid, decaying and expensive things. As much as it was inconvenient today, my priorities weren’t the thing of the broken car insomuch as the important people it transported. Thankfully, none of them were in the car when it broke. It was entertaining to make fun of the inconvenience, but it was just silly inconvenience.

Things have been tight here lately. I’m just glad the insurance was up to date when it was needed. I don’t want to be on the flip side where things that matter aren’t attainable because so many things that shouldn’t matter get in the way. Too many of my friends and our families are on that cusp, and I would give anything to rid them of those stresses.

Hug the kids and kick the DVD to the curb.

I’m reminding myself tonight to ignore the dent and embrace the texture you can wear, chin held high.