Hindsight is 20/20: Evaluating 2017

Keeping up with tradition (you thought I was going to say Kardashians there, didn’t you?), it’s time to evaluate 2017.

My list of goals for 2017 and the verdict is as follows:

  • Get that VCAP6-DCV Design exam out of the way
    Done and dusted (for 6.5 that is, not 6.0). I’ve also updated my VCP to 6.5, and I’m currently waiting for the VCAP6.5-DCV Deploy exam.
    Score: 10/10
  • AWS Associate Certifications
    Didn’t happen. Haven’t done any of these, nor really studied for any of them (yet). Other certifications or time sinks have completely eradicated these.
    Score: 0/10
  • Learn something new
    This one is hard to gauge, but 2017 has definitely been a learning experience in many ways. Not all that much tangible and measurable items here, bit I’ll still rate it as medium. This category needs to be easier to assess for 2017.
    Score: 5/10
  • Attend an industry conference
    VMworld 2017 in Barcelona was awesome, as I expected.
    Score: 10/10
  • vNinja.net
    Well, the In The Bag series didn’t last that long, which was one of the main goals. I have kept posting whenever I feel like it, without any pressure, and in total I’ve posted more in 2017 than I did in 2016. I have a theory as to why there isn’t as much technical VMware posts though, but I’ll keep that as a separate post for later. All in all, not bad.
    Score: 5/10
  • Photography
    I’m still not really happy with the amount of photography done in 2017, but I’m really happy with a few of the shots I did manage to take and publish. Huge improvement from 2016.
    Score: 8/10

As far as my more “soft” goals for 2017:

  • I need to get better at planning things out — I think I’ve managed to do this, to a degree. I’ve become much better at breaking larger tasks into smaller ones, and follow them through. Productivity is always an ongoing process, but I notice that compared to many I interact with, I seem to have a better grasp of the tasks I need to complete, and don’t forget nearly as much as I used to do. It’s an ongoing process, but I’m definitely moving in the right direction.
  • Clearer focus — Close correlation to the point above, but I’ve improved in this area as well.
  • Get more sleep — I still sleep less than I think I should, but it’s better than it has been for years.

All in all that gives me a personal score of 38 of a possible 60. Not quite what I wanted, but it’s an improvement of the 28 rating for 2016. One of the major categories did get a 0/10, which really puts a dent in the score. I should have put in a general certification category instead, that would have helped bring the score up as I did a few ones I didn’t plan on initially.

All in all, 2017 has been pretty good both professionally and personally. Now it’s time to breathe, relax and make sure 2018 will be even better.

PSA: Protect Your Email with DMARC

In the last few months, I’ve seen an uptick in spoofed emails being sent with my own personal email domain. Not only is this extremely annoying, but more problematic is that recipients receive spam and phishing emails from what seems to be my personal mail account, simply by spoofing the from address. I don’t know why domain and email address has been “chosen” for this, but I guess this is fallout from the LinkedIn breach way back in 2012.

I didn’t think there was much I could do about this, but a recent tweet by my friend Per Thorsheim sent me down the rabbit hole.

So, obviously there are options available to me that I was completely unaware of. I haven’t managed any public facing email services for 6-7 years, so I’ve not kept up with whatever has been happening in that particular space. Also, my personal email domain has been hosted by Google since 2008, so I haven’t really managed that either. Set and forget, right? Well, not quite.

So, what is this DMARC thing? It stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance, and is a way to try and validate that emails from a given domain is being sent using one of the valid mail servers configured for that domain. In order to be able to use DMARC, you first need to first have Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) configured for you domain.

Here are the resources I used to get all of this configured for my domain:

  1. Configure SPF records to work with G Suite
  2. Authenticate email with DKIM
  3. Add a DMARC record

Less than 24 hours after configuring everything, I received my first DMARC Aggregate Report which is basically an XML file showing what has been going on.

Since this file is a bit hard to read on it’s own, I uploaded it to DMARC Analyzer, and even though I knew a lot of email was being send with my email address as the reply to address, I was quite surprised to see that in less then 24 hours after I set up the DMARC DNS records, a total of 295 emails had been rejected by mail servers all over the world, most of them sent from mail servers in Vietnam. I do not send 295 emails a day with my personal email account, and absolutely none of them from Vietnam. In fact, during the time-frame of this initial aggregate report, I sent zero emails – as seen in the screenshot from the report.

I have now configured my DMARC DNS txt records to send emails directly to  DMARC Analyzer, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these numbers add up over time. I’m currently on a free trial plan, and looking to evaluate which of the available DMARC Analyzers out there I want to use permanently.

At least now receiving email servers have a fighting chance of rejecting fake emails from my domain, since it’s now possible to verify that they are sent through a valid source.

Even if you don’t have problems with someone spoofing your email addresses, please spend 10 minutes configuring this for your domain as well. You never know when something like this might occur, and it’s better to build your defences before you get attacked. That way you stand a chance of stopping it before it gets as ugly as it did in my case.

And Per, you are a gentleman and a scholar. Even if I did manage to investigate and set this up on my own, cake and coffee is still on me!

Accountability 101: 2017 — You Better Deliver

Considering it’s mid-january 2017 already, it’s time to do my annual goal list for the new year.

My goals for 2017:

  • Get that VCAP6-DCV Design exam out of the way — I did the beta in march 2016, but missed the mark by a small margin.
  • AWS Associate Certifications — Not sure how many of the three exams I want to do yet, but I’m going to at least give the AWS Certified Solutions Architect exam a go.
  • Learn something new — This ties into the previous goal a bit, but I will try to allocate time to learning something new every month. Some times it might be tech, some times it might be soft skills. I’ve purchased a few Udemy courses with this in mind already.
  • Attend an industry conference — Most likely VMworld Barcelona in September.
  • Continue to build the SDDC practice at Proact — The foundations laid in 2016 were awesome. 2017 is the year we have to start executing and delivering on it.
  • vNinja.net — Keep posting whenever I feel like it, but try to keep the “In the Bag“-series going.
  • Photography — Take up photography as a hobby again, I’ve been quiet on that front for quite a while and I miss the creative outlet it provides. With upcoming trips to Liverpool (Liverpool FC vs Arsenal) in march, Radiohead concert in Oslo in June, and the Secret Solstice festival on Iceland also in June, there should be plenty of opportunities in 2017.

I also have a few other personal goals for 2017 that are not listed here, but I’ll keep myself accountable for those as well. Some of them were posted in my 2016 review post:

  • I need to get better at planning things out, not just adding a todo item and think that somehow magically makes you more productive. Having a lot of todo items doesn’t really help, unless you plan out how to accomplish them. This is one thing I aim on improving in 2017; breaking bigger tasks into smaller ones to make them manageable and attainable.
  • Clearer focus. This is a continuation of the previous point, but must get better at channeling energy into the tasks at hand, not on everything all at once. Set up time slots, and use them.
  • Get more sleep. I sleep way to little, and that needs to change drastically.

So, bring it on 2017. I think I’m ready for my closeup now.