Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

9 most important questions to determine if a project is worthwhile

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

George H Heilmeier was a DARPA director and developed 9 questions to help the agency determine the worthiness of project being submitted to it for funding. These 9 powerful questions as referred to as the "Heilmeier Catechism" and have become a core operating paradigm for DARPA [Defense Advance Research Projects Activity] And IARPA [Intelligence Advance Research Project Activity].

These questions are so powerful, they are used in the business world day in and day out. I first learned about these questions while having lunch with a VC in San Francisco. He explained that many of his peers also use these questions when determining the funding worthiness of a proposal.

There have been variations to the questions but I recommended sticking with the original 9:

  1. What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon.  What is the problem?  Why is it hard?
  2. How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?
  3. What's new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful?
  4. Who cares?
  5. If you're successful, what difference will it make?   What impact will success have?  How will it be measured?
  6. What are the risks and the payoffs?
  7. How much will it cost?
  8. How long will it take?
  9. What are the midterm and final "exams" to check for success?  How will progress be measured?

This is a variation on the journalists who, what, where, when, why and how strategy. Obviously answering these questions will not change the world or guarantee the success of a project. They will greatly reduce the risks you take by ensuring the key concepts are thought off and understood

Plazmatic USB Rechargeable ARC lighter without butane

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

SEE UPDATE BELOW ABOUT WARRANTY CLAIM

As a frequent traveler, I had always been looking for a lighter alternative that is safe to fly (as long is it is in your carry-on) so I decided to test the Plazmatic X lighter. This is also convenient to users wanted alternatives to disposable lighters or ones that require constant refueling. 

The Plazmatic X is a well built product made from metal.It is light to carry every day (as part of your EDC) but feels solid and reliable in the hand.

Charging

The device charges with a standard USB cable and you can go from empty to full charge in about 1 hour (depending on your power source). In my testing, the device pulled 5.15V & 0.15A (from a 2.4A Capable charger). Once charging is complete, it is pulling 0 Amps, which is a good thing.

When you plug it in, the blue charging light comes on and the battery is full when that indicator light switches off. With a full charge, I was able to get about 80 "normal uses". I was able to charge the lighter with a USB wall adapter, car lighter USB charger, external battery, Biolite CampStove and 7W GoalZero solar panel.

The battery is not user serviceable and my question to support about battery cycles hasn't been answered yet. My expectation is that the battery should be able to support 300-400 cycles which means it gives you about 24000 lights (which should last 5 years or more for the average user).

Lighting

I was surprised to find that the Plazmatic X lighter was able to light anything I threw at it, as long as the item fit inside the 4 electrodes. It was able to light little twigs, cigarettes (no I don't smoke), candles, paper, and more within a second or two. 

You will have issues because larger items (like cigars) won't fit but this is the exception rather than the rule. 

The lighting mechanism is wind proof so there is no concern in high wind situations.

Uses

If you are a smoker, the use of a lighter is self explanatory. Even if you don't smoke, I believe you should carry a lighter with you all the time as part of your Everyday Carry Kit (EDC). I carry one along with a Victorinox SwissChamp. You can use it to :

  • light a fire
  • light a cigarette for a friend
  • light a candle
  • melt plastic
  • sterilize a needle
  • etc

Durability

I have been testing my device for 1 month and so far the product is working and looks exactly like it did the day I opened the package. If it breaks, I'll write an update but so far it looks like it will last

Chinese clones

I ordered a handful of Chinese clones from AliExpress (Alibaba) and found that the cheaper products were cheaply made. One refused to charge. The Other charged but gave me 20 lights per 1 hour charge. A third one was so slimy and the top fell off.

So forget about the $16 copies.

1 of the more expensive ones was a very good copy matching the performance of the Plazmatic but the price was so close, you might as well get the original from an American company.

Conclusion

My biggest issue was receiving the item. From the time the order was confirmed to the time I received the item was almost 3.5 weeks. I kept being told that they were waiting for their shipment from the manufacturer so...... I would say they need to improve their logistics processes. An item like this should be in a consumers hands within 3-4 days of being ordered. 

Putting shipping aside, I love the product and would recommend it to anyone looking for an easy to use every day carry reliable lighter than doesn't require fuel, is travel safe and not disposable (better for the environment). 

 

 

UPDATE 1-14-2017:

A day after writing this entry, my lighter malfunctioned and I send a warranty request to Plazmatic. A gentleman called Nils collected the required information and 2 days later, still no information about how they will proceed. I will update this post as the warranty claim progresses.

A free anonymous (TOR) Web browser for IOS

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

I have written plenty of articles about TOR over the years:

Is TOR really anonymous

We know that large scale government actors that control many of the TOR exit nodes have techniques to deanonymize TOR traffic, but this is still difficult to do and TOR is still the most reliable web anonymization technique available.

The Onion Browser

The Onion Browser was released ion 2012 by a developer that wanted to scratch his own privacy itch on IOS. Like many good products, the developer (Mike Tigas) built something he needed and published it at the cheapest rate ($0.99) Apple would allow [just to see what would happen].

Mike started working for ProPublica in 2016 and decided to to give up his In a blog post he says :

Given recent events, many believe it’s more important than ever to exercise and support freedom of speech, privacy rights, and digital security; I think now is as good a time as ever to make Onion Browser more accessible to everyone.
— Mike Tigas

The team behind my favorite Android TOR products The Guradian Project (OrBot and OrFox) has decided to support the Onion Browser. The most visible change will be a full app rewrite with a new interface. 

Additionally Onion Browser is the TOR project recommendation for IOS.

I would say go and download it now.

IOS 10.2 brings WI-FI Calling for Telus Customers

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Without much fanfare or pre-announcement, the IOS 10.2 update released earlier today finally enabled WI-FI calling for Telus customers. 

After installing the update, the device rebooted. I then enabled WI-FI calling by:

Settings > Phone > WiFi Calling > Toggle ON

WI-FI calling means cellular calls could be routed via a WIFI network in areas with poor cellular coverage. When the phone detect low cellular connectivity (aka reception dots in the upper left hand corner), it will route inbound and outbound calls with WIFI. 

As soon as I enabled WI-FI calling, I received an email from Telus with this new "free" option automatically added to my line.

Telus support said VoLTE (Voice over LTE) is coming but couldn't give me a date.

Free unlimited video calling when you travel

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

In November, I wrote an article that explained the new free unlimited Whatsapp offer from KnowRoaming for travellers. 

TL;DR: All KnowRoaming customers get free unlimited Whatsapp text, picture and voice messaging in any of the countries KR supports.

When you consider Whatsapp is the primary communication tool for most users and that KnowRoaming has an extensive global roaming partnership network, it was a great win for their customers.

The only thing that was not free was video messaging. Video messaging was specifically excluded but this week, KnowRoaming added it to its free Whatsapp offering. So the KnowRoaming free unlimited global use offer includes all Whatsapp services:

  • Text and picture messaging
  • voice calling
  • video calling

And it is automatically available to all KnowRoaming customers. If you have KnowRoaming credit, and you should if you travel, they will refund Whatsapp usage charges every couple of hours. 

What about competitors?

I used SkyRoam many times during my global trips but stopped when I realized their account management webpage (adding credits, storing credit card information, etc) was all being transacted in a non-secure manner. Wrote about it here. Mistakes happen but the most frustrating part of the entire SkyRoam issue is that they ignored me for the longest time then promised to fix it ASAP but didn't. Obviously customer security isn't their top priority.

The SkyRoam global WIFI Hotspot should be considered un-secure and I strongly recommend travellers find other options.

I am waiting for the GeeFi to ship but until then, I will stop to KnowRoaming.

The KnowRoaming issues

KnowRoaming works very well when enabled but enabling it isn't easy and reliable. You need an unlocked phone and I have had issues where the app couldn't connect to the internet in the remote location and thus wouldn't let me enable the KnowRoaming sticker. 

Then once you activate the plan, you have to install the KnowRoaming profile which means you can't VPN when using KnowRoaming. This VPN limitation is a major problem when using public wifi. 

The third issue is related to speed. All KnowRoaming connections are 3G even if the partner network and your smartphone support LTE. I was told this is being looked at but I haven't been given any promises or dates.

Conclusion

After everything is said and done, KnowRoaming is (in my mind) the best solution for global roaming on the cheap today. I am anxious to test the new crop of global roaming hotspots that will hit the market early 2017. 

KnowRoaming really needs to spend the time and money to completely rework its app and to make the enable/disable process easier.