Making a Difference

My Personal and Professional views

Letter to a Son

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

A few months ago I wrote a letter to a dear friend entering the Marines. I have scrubbed it somewhat to protect the innocent but the central meaning remains in tact. If you are sending someone into the military it may be worth a read.

RCT John Doe

MCRD Parris Island, SC,

Dear John,

Are you feeling Semper Fidelis? Has basic met your expectations? Do you feel today the way you felt before enlisting? While you think about that I will tell you what is going on over here.

Last night the Mrs. and I went to see American Sniper. It made me think of you and who I was when I was your age. We now live in very complicated times. Like you I grew up without a Dad and I had a certain affinity for the military, probably from military school. I, like you, felt like I did not have a whole lot of options when I was 18. I felt it was a good thing to support Reagan in his quest to destroy the USSR. I felt I was being patriotic to a degree. I can completely relate to that sort of thinking.

Now I have a much broader perspective. In thinking about all of the atrocities that are taking place in the world I can understand how you or Chris Kyle may want to get involved and help to right some wrongs. What you, or Chris may not see is what is behind it all. What is behind ISIS are a bunch of lunatic power hungry barbarians who have nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with taking power and ruling as despots. They come from a place where they did not have a lot of options, they feel that they are either doing the work of Allah (idiots) or they know they are self-interested assholes that are conducting a power-grab. There will be thousands of well intentioned, naïve young men who think they are going off to the crusades for some righteous reason. They will be corrupted or killed or most likely both.

Our soldiers, like theirs are following the belief that they are righting a wrong. We are in the Middle East because Bush and his cronies are deeply buried in Oil and the production and sale of it. We have a long history of allowing Big Business to direct our foreign policies. In this case they made a huge error. Picking a fight with the worlds most populace religion is a no win situation for either side.

So what does this mean to you and me? It has been said that if you are not a liberal as a young man you do not have a heart. If you are not a conservative as an old man, you do not have a wallet. I think you can also say that if you are not willing to fight for a cause as a young man you do not have a heart. If you are willing to fight for a cause without understanding it as an old man you do not have a brain.

I would not fight this fight for the US. We are sending our precious young men either to their death or to their future mental disability. You have read enough war literature to understand that men, and now women, never come back with the soul they left with.

So where is all this going? I want you to be selfish. You get this one chance to write your story. One chance to create the life you ultimately want to lead. I expect you will disagree with me. The Marines are very good at teaching men how to go to war and how to feel good about it. However, I believe you can see through it. I think you can understand they are doing their jobs. They are doing what they need to do to look in the mirror and believe in themselves. It would be hard for you to become a recruiter and agree with me. It would be hard to convince men to make the tough decision if you did not believe in the cause.

We will send men to war. We will bomb the shit out of Isis and Boko Haram and eventually even have boots in the dirt. Do you want to put a bullet in a man who, just like you, is a pawn in a game they have no stake in?

In American Sniper Chris Kyle’s father said there are three types of people: Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs. He would say that Isis is the wolf, the innocents are the Sheep and the Marines, in this case, are the sheep dogs. I think he is missing a critical player. He is missing the Shepherd. In my story the Shepherd is the US government or Isis leadership and the sheep are actually the men and women they are willing to lead to slaughter to get to what they want,

I think that at some point in our lives we need to figure out what part we are playing in the grand scheme of things, whether we are a pawn or a king, a sheep or a Shepherd. I am not confused about my part. For most of my career I have rented my intellect and labor to men who are looking to make a buck and get ahead. Some times we were aligned and I was well rewarded, sometimes I was merely a pawn and I used this experience to move me forward to the next one. Today I am still a pawn but I am receiving fair compensation and I may be able to move to the back of the chessboard and have more control of my destiny and compensation. Even when you are a CEO you have a board of directors. Even when you are a chairman you have investors. Bob Dylan said “Your gonna have to serve somebody.” The question is, do you know whom you are serving and what their real agenda is? Are you walking into the deal with eyes wide open and getting a fair return on your investment?

I cannot imagine too many American men who have come home from battle really feel like they have made the world a better place. You have but one life to give, shouldn’t you give that life to yourself and to the people that you love?

You are embarking on a long journey. It is hard to know when you are standing at the beginning of a long road where that road will take you. You can only see so far and sometimes the road can become dark and foggy. What will ultimately guide you when you come to difficult intersections is understanding what you are ultimately after. Knowing what milestones you want to reach on that road and seeing them clearly. This ability to imagine or simulate the future is what separates the human brain from all others. Your ability to achieve a clear vision is what will separate you from your peers.

I think the Marines can do a great deal for you. What I do not want them to do is to cloud your vision or corrupt your reality. If you look at what you can learn from the marines and how you can apply that knowledge when you leave you will be working toward a better future. Think of your credentials in 8 years. A distinguished career in the marines focused on (pick one) Intelligence, logistics, electronics, public affairs, legal, can lead you directly to an amazing college and professional career.

Can you imagine what a cake-walk college will be after you finish four years of real on the job experience in the Marines? Pick a job that demands that you become a master sergeant or officer and teaches you a skill that is worth something in the real world. Meaning, from where I sit as an older man, the military, while very real, may not be where you want to be 20 years from now. Choose a path that allows you to make the decision that is best for you. Please do not carry a gun and go to war, that is a road that many, even those who come back, never fully recover from.

What I think, and believe today: You must have a passionate heart as a young man. You want to make a difference and you should. You just need to pause and ask if the mission you are on is a fair one to you and to the rest of the world. Is it honest? Do you have a say in where it takes you? Are you a sheep or a shepherd, a pawn or a king?

You are a fine young man with amazing qualities. You are kind, dedicated, witty and intelligent. You can do whatever you set your mind to. Just be mindful enough to truly know what that is, where it will lead you and what it will cost.

I know this may feel or sound a little preachy and I do not mean to do that. I simply wanted to share with you where my head is these days. I listen to and read the news daily. I am convinced things are fucked up and I know that there is little I can do to change it. Instead of diving deep into the morass our country has created I am focused on building a company that can make a positive contribution to the security of the connected world. This company can do well with my help and they can reward me for the effort. I can then take these rewards and create a life for my family that most Americans only see in movies and fairy tales. I want this for my family and friends. I am building a house in Concord that can be off the grid and survive the Zombie apocalypse, next energy crisis, climate change or whatever else the world throws at us. Why? Because I want to. I want to have a place my family can go and feel safe. I will do my part in my job to make the world better but you can be damn sure I am going to be selfish about it. There are a lot of people suffering in this world. If you can do something that makes the world a little better, do no harm, and not be one of the sufferers, well then I think that is a life well lived.

I am confident that you will make the choices that are right for you. Only you should make these choices, take care not to let others make them for you, for when they do they make them not for you but for themselves. Know where you want to go and you will always take the proper turns on that long journey.

I love you John and wish for you all the success that you deserve and will earn for yourself. Never lose faith in who you are or who you can be. Keep moving forward and keep smiling. In the end, the meaning of life is to be happy. The hard part is really knowing what it is that brings you lasting happiness. In summary what I am saying is don’t be a wolf or a sheep-dog, be your own shepherd.

All the best to you and Semper Fi.

Your Friend,



Written by Jim McNiel

July 5, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Is the Connected World a Werner Herzog Film? Yes

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It is the REAL DEAL

There has been a good deal of healthy cynicism regarding Werner Herzog’s involvement in the film Guardians of the Connected World. Some people are stating the NETSCOUT is conducting a farce and that the trailer currently running on YouTube is not actually the work of Werner Herzog.

I am writing this to inform the unbelievers that Mr. Herzog is indeed producing and directing this film and I will tell you why he is. When I first spoke with Werner regarding this project he expressed skepticism and stated the he does not do commercial work. In fact Mr. Herzog turned down the project entirely.

The next day Century Link experienced a vandalized fiber optic cable resulting in huge Internet service interruption in Arizona. I shared this story with Werner and explained to him that if the internet were to go away we would not go back to the 1980s rather we would go back to the 1880s for the simple reason that so much of what we do today relies on our new Connected World and the old processes and approaches are obsolete and laid to rest. The fact of the matter is that the Connected World is a valuable and precious asset and we are substantially dependent upon it.

Now to many of you this may seem obvious but until you really stop to think about what happens when it gets interrupted you really have not thought about it. This is where Werner comes in.

He gets it. While he is not a cell phone carrying, Twitter using, Internet slave, he does not even use the Internet, he understands how pervasive it is and how critical it is to the everyday function of global society. He knows what is at stake and he sees a story. There is a story here. Like Danny Hillis says in the trailer, “the internet was not designed to be the infrastructure of society.” but it is.

So I applaud those who are suspicious of Werner’s involvement in this project. It is wise and advised not to believe everything you read, however, in this case it is true. Werner Herzog is making a film about the Connected World. We at NETSCOUT are sponsoring his work because we believe this is a story that needs to be told. Filming began in March and should be concluded at the end of July. Editing will take place in August and we hope to have something to share with all of you in September.

So too all of you healthy skeptics you have my word that this is the real deal. It is a wonderful project about our industry by one of the world’s greatest storytellers. It celebrates the dedication of all of you who design, build, manage and propel the Connected World. It is an important topic and I for one cannot wait to see how Werner presents and explores what has become one of the most impactful inventions in human history.

Written by Jim McNiel

July 4, 2015 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Death By Network – Are Stupid Connected Devices Placing Us At Risk?

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Making a Difference

We all understand that lack of network security can result in economic loss. In the case of identity theft it can destroy your financial stability and take a serious bite out of your well being.  However, did you ever consider that poor network security might result in your death?

I was just reading about car hacking when I stumbled upon the below Motherboard video explaining how car hacking works.

Digg How to Hack a car:

I then thought, while it is certainly possible to do, how likely is it too happen? You would really need to upset some very well connected people to have them go to the trouble of digitally stomping on your accelerator at just the wrong time.

That’s when I found the Huff Post article on the untimely demise of journalist Michael Hastings.  It seems that his car was speeding out of control at 4:20 AM…

View original post 668 more words

Written by Jim McNiel

July 4, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Can the GOP #TellTheTruth ?

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Can the GOP #TellTheTruth

I am a Republican. I canvassed for Richard Nixon before I knew what the word canvassing meant. I believe in the fundamentals of states rights, smaller government and the separation of church and state. I feel that we should have a tax system that taxes everyone fairly and does not allow the wealthy to exploit loopholes and tax shelters that can only be discovered by accountants and lawyers. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, equal rights and that every American citizen should receive a decent education and be healthy enough to take advantage of it. I think it is a crime that even though we are the wealthiest nation on earth we fail to be one of the top 20 nations when it comes to Math, Reading and Science scores.

I am over 50 years old and I know that our nation’s future success will come from the hard work of our youth and the immigrants who come here to find the American dream. I do not support organizations that preach hatred and, while I believe in the importance of our Bill of Rights and the right to bear arms, I do not think this should include the right to carry assault weapons or handguns.

I think marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and I applaud the states that are legalizing it. I believe that with 10% of our population behind bars we have too many, not too few people incarcerated and we need to seriously address this issue and take the profit out of running penitentiaries and courts.

I believe that climate change is real and that it is the result of human activity. I believe we can and need to do something about it now and this does not include drilling or fracking for more petroleum resources. I believe we need to prevent deforestation and other big business actions that enrich the few at the expense of the many.

I believe in all of these things and I believe in science and Evolution. I believe my Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish friends and neighbors have the right to worship their God and the right to keep these activities separate from our local and federal government.

What I do not believe is how most of our current presumed GOP presidential candidates lack the will to state what I have stated, one way or the other, without ambiguity or obfuscation. I think honesty and candor amongst our elected officials should be table stakes. If we are to choose the government we wish to govern, do we not deserve to know what they truly stand for?

Lastly, I think that the Citizens United bill has sold out our political process to the highest bidder and I will not be surprised when big business and the Koch brothers control our future government.

This took me all of 20 minutes to write, and while it may not qualify me for our nation’s top office, at least you know where I stand. I do not think it is asking too much to demand the same candor and honesty from the next man or woman who wishes to be seated in the most powerful office in the world.

All I want is to demand that our political candidates #tellthetruth, is that too much to ask?

Written by Jim McNiel

February 15, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Posted in Politics

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Record a Death or Avoid it?

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It is certainly sad that Tracy Morgan was injured and tragic that his friend, James McNair (62), was killed by an allegedly sleepy WalMart trucker, Kevin Roper. What is even sadder is that these accidents happen every year and no one seems to pay attention until a celebrity is involved.

NY Senator Charles Schumer, citing the Tracy Morgan accident has pushed for a bill requiring “Black Boxes” to be installed in commercial trucks in order to record driver time and behaviour.

While that serves some purpose it is certainly not the best solution. We now have autos that can consistently avoid uncontrolled lane changes or potentially lethal collisions. Wouldn’t it make more sense to avoid the accident in the first place rather than be able to point fingers at the guilty party post mortem? If we can afford to install these systems in Subaru’s we certainly can afford to install them in Mack’s, Peterbilts and Kenworths.

I think WalMart and other large trucking concerns would save money in the long run by investing in safer transportation systems. They would save lives, save equipment and avoid costly legal battles.

What do you think Chuck? Wouldn’t it make more sense to use technology to prevent disaster rather than record it?

Written by Jim McNiel

June 16, 2014 at 11:12 am

Death By Network – Are Stupid Connected Devices Placing Us At Risk?

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We all understand that lack of network security can result in economic loss. In the case of identity theft it can destroy your financial stability and take a serious bite out of your well being.  However, did you ever consider that poor network security might result in your death?


I was just reading about car hacking when I stumbled upon the below Motherboard video explaining how car hacking works.


Digg How to Hack a car:


I then thought, while it is certainly possible to do, how likely is it too happen? You would really need to upset some very well connected people to have them go to the trouble of digitally stomping on your accelerator at just the wrong time.

That’s when I found the Huff Post article on the untimely demise of journalist Michael Hastings.  It seems that his car was speeding out of control at 4:20 AM when it blew through a red light, jumped a median, and exploded after colliding with a palm tree.  According to Huff and New York Magazine, Hasting’s had just the type of enemies who could remotely end his life.


Huff Post:

New York Magazine: 


Since our cars are now largely computer controlled, connected to the wireless network  and drive by wire, it is possible to meddle with the serious business of driving your car. While it is comforting to know that OnStar can unlock your car when you leave the keys inside, it is less comforting to think that some evildoer can step on the gas and steer you into a wall.

Like so many innovations, the engineers driving to connect with the automobile remotely did not take the time to seriously consider the potentially negative consequences. We are moving into an era where we are surrounded by the networking of things. While some of these things are fairly harmless and benign others have the power to seriously affect our physical safety.


What people typically worry about when they think about technology gone wrong is the rogue robot or thinking computer turning on us. For this reason any robot builder has reads Asimov’s iRobot and is aware of the three laws of robotics:

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

  1. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  2. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.


From where I sit it seems that the robot, in fact worse, the un-thinking, ignorant device, is among us. You can be sure that when Google is programming the Google Care they are keeping these things in mind after all this is a true robot. Knowing that the car will self operate with humans on board compels the developers to follow the 3 rules and protect its passengers and fellow travellers and pedestrians at all costs. The Google Car knows the difference between a child in the street and a dog and can act accordingly in microseconds to make the correct choice.


What about Ford, GM, VW,  Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Toyota and Mercedes? Do they appreciate that they are delivering products that can fall into the control of outsiders? Have they developed safeguards to allow an operator to over-ride external controls? Not to my knowledge.

Now that we are getting in to the Internet of things I think it is time to appreciate that a stupid device can be far more dangerous than an intelligent one. Perhaps it is time that we move the three laws down the computation food chain and applied this thinking at all levels of things networked.

All things networked includes office copiers that can be remotely overheated and set-afire, to deregulating pacemakers that con be accessed from a distance and jump start a failing heart or overstress one to the point of failure.  In time our door-locks and thermostats will also be on the net. It is no longer adequate to be concerned with just the behavior or “robotic” things. It is time to think of all aspects of the technology stack and make sure we design in the safeguards to avoid unwanted outcomes.

We may never actually know what happened to Michael Hastings. We do know that the scenario of a remotely controlled auto homicide  is plausible and we should take this tragedy as a wake-up call to design safeguards for all things networked and for the well being of all of us interacting with them.




More details on Hastings Fears:

Hastings brother is not buying the conspiracy theory:


If you think hacking a car is bad, how about hacking a pacemaker?



More details on Hastings Fears:


Remote controlled Cardioverters:























Written by Jim McNiel

June 4, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

You Need To Be Faster Than Light To Prove Einstein Wrong.

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Anyone who has ever taken the time to read Mein Weltbild (My World-view) Albert Einstein (1931), knows that Albert E was a lot more than just a gifted physicist. One person who would never be surprised If Einstein was wrong about quantum physics would be Einstein himself. He was a profoundly thoughtful and self-effacing man and I know he would be thrilled to learn that we are toying with the idea of faster than light communications.

A Brief Histiry of Quantum Mechanics

Physicists at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, part of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, report that they sent quantum data concerning the spin state of an electron to another electron about 10 feet away.

The basic idea is that these electrons are “entangled” albeit at a distance and the effects, or meddling, experienced by one electron will be instantly reflected in the other, what Einstein called “Spooky actions at a distance”. He was unable to prove this activity by arguing that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light.

Well, even Einstein can make a mistake and thank goodness he did. These early experiments will lead to rapid advances in quantum computing where qubits can hold multiple states and computation can take place faster than the speed of light. In addition, we may be looking at data communication that outpaces light and will remove all latency in communications, at least in this solar system.

One day soon when we are enjoying instant holographic conversations between here and Mars without a single glitch you can thank Einstein for leaving the door open.


CNET Article:

Written by Jim McNiel

May 31, 2014 at 5:54 pm