Tiny Deathstars of Foulness

I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in about the 5th or 6th grade. I didn’t get good at it for awhile. And once I got good at it, I didn’t play much longer (insert reference to “The Best Days of My Life” here). Along the way, I learned a few lessons that until I got older, I didn’t realize were great life lessons. I also learned a lot that helped me later in life in the business world. Here’s a few you may or may not agree with (and yes, the image is of a box sitting on my table at home:).


  1. Build a great campaign and then if the game is good, expect your players to totally break it. In business, you create a situation where customers give you money. You build processes, procedures, marketable packages, and teams. These prepare you for the massive onslaught of all the moneys that are going to come in. You need to be able to build a product, sell the product, and potentially service the product long-term. Maybe you sell it, maybe you don’t. But if you’re not ready for the sales to happen, you won’t sell that much. How much work do you put into building a campaign, or game, in Dungeons and Dragons, if the characters are just going to go right off your script? How much effort do you put into building a business if the customers are just going to buy something from you that is completely different than what you thought you were going to sell? These are the same questions, and there’s no right answer to either (although there are tons of wrong answers). But understanding that when momentum strikes in a game and if you don’t have a good campaign built that is flexible, you won’t maintain that momentum, is key.
  2. If you have to stop the game to look up the rules, your momentum is lost. Games got way more fun as we better understood the rules. When you have to stop and look something up, the attention of the gamers can get lost on things like potato chips. Similarly, the attention of the market is lost when you have to stop a business transaction to review contracts, train employees, rebuild processes, and reengineer product. The better all employees are trained, the more likely they will respond quickly and appropriately to the market and not have their attention wander when you have to look up how to properly figure out what saving throw is required to keep from getting crispy from the breath of a red dragon.
  3. Have fun! There’s not much reason to play Dungeons and Dragons alone. If the game isn’t fun, you will invariably not have many people come back for a second or third campaign. In business, employees need to be engaged. Products and companies these days need to have a personality. Sure, you might make a great widget, but if it isn’t fun to come to work and make, sell, or support that widget, then you’re going to have a much harder time getting those things done. Fun brands, like fun games, drive engagement – and engagement amplifies your spend.
  4. You gain experience incrementally, but it shows in bursts. In Dungeons and Dragons, you gain experience points for doing things. When you accumulate enough, you go up a level. At that point, you might get a higher score for an ability, you might pick up proficiency with a new weapon, or you might get more hit points. Heck, according to your character class, a lot of cool stuff can happen. I find that in business, we slowly work our way towards a new level. We learn lessons along the way (like a Level 1 Cleric learns not to tackle a blue dragon alone). I was recently in a meeting where someone said that a department had reached a new level. In business, you kinda’ work your way there, learning lessons, training staff, expanding, contracting, etc. But all of a sudden, you realize “holy crap, we can now cast fireball spells!” When did it happen? Sometimes you don’t even know… But it’s usually obvious to everyone that a gap was closed, a threshold crossed, and it’s time to start building momentum for the next level, tackling more difficult monsters, arming up with better weapons, and maybe even picking up some new NPCs along the way!
  5. To sell, you need to be confident. When it’s your turn in a game, you may talk as your character would (I’ve heard some of the worst accents ever in these games). The more confident you are, the more the game is immersive. Without confidence, a Dungeon Master is likely to get walked all over. Most jobs in a company have way more of a sales component that most employees want to admit.
  6. Some players are just going to be more engaged than others, no matter what you do. Different people want different things out of a game of Dungeons and Dragons, their jobs, and this life in general. When I was taking MBA classes at Cornell, they referred to this as different people having their own motivators. These motivators influence how impactful various initiatives are. For example, some respond well to financial incentives. Others to social interactions or pats on the back. Some players have a math test the next day and are going to miss a game. Others are ridiculously into the game. Just because you put a lot of work into developing a campaign doesn’t mean that others are going to be into each and every game. Everyone will have more fun if the expectations for engagement with a given initiative are tempered and any involvement is looked at positively.
  7. Don’t dominate the game. Everyone should have a say in how games go. There’s going to be natural alphas in any group. But try and give everyone ample time to play and talk about what their character is doing. And if some people don’t have that much to say, that’s fine. Just routinely return to them and give them the opportunity. This is how a game, meeting, brainstorming session, town hall, etc can be run. If one player is dominating the game, it’s a great idea to step in and keep them from doing so. How you go about doing so will become a skill that you hone for decades. And try not to be that person. Another skill you may hone for the rest of your life…
  8. When the 20 sided dice goes missing, it was probably the paladin that took it. Yup, stop blaming the thief. The person who prefers to play a Lawful Good paladin might just be living vicariously and might not be the eagle scout everyone thought they were. Don’t jump to conclusions when things happen in the professional world. Gather all of the information. Especially when there’s an accusation to be made. When you’re trying to isolate a problem with a process or product, perform your due diligence. Root cause analysis, etc. Of course, you’ll need that 1d20 back eventually the game is to go on…
  9. You are invariably going to outgrow the game. People don’t stay in the same position forever. You need to build a growth path. You don’t want your level 5 Drow Elf Ranger to stay level 5 forever. You want to be prepared for how the game will play out with higher level characters, and maybe even keep a funnel of lower level characters and employees who can work their way up into higher positions. And when a player decides to leave the game, you need a succession plan. It’s easier in Dungeons and Dragons than in business. Sure, you can switch classes, just like employees can switch departments, but it’s a pretty linear path for most in the game. In the real world, everyone will have something different they want out of a job and it’s the job of a servant leader to help them get there, even if it means helping them soar to new heights at another organization. It’s best though, if you can provide a growth plan that keeps your awesome people in house, of course… But sometimes a player’s going to go off to college. Maybe they’ll come over and take over as the Dungeon Master when they come home though. So stay in touch. Also stay in touch because you just plain like them and want to be friends…
  10. Morale is optional in Dungeons and Dragons, but not in the business world. Morale was a slightly more advanced feature for Dungeon Masters. Basically, if a creature or retainer fails morale check (2d6), it will disengage from a battle and retreat. If it sucks to work at your company, or on your team, your employees will do the same. If you don’t work on morale, you won’t find yourself with talented employees for long.
  11. What happens when you turn a bag of holding inside out? Some things, you’ll never know. But, you can’t wait until you know every detail in business. You see, the cost to gather tooooo much intel can outweigh the opportunity cost of jumping into something. Every now and then you have to trust your gut. But, when you do, maybe turning that bag of holding opens a black hole and ends the game, or maybe it takes you to a whole new level.
  12. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Sure, you could rush through a dungeon, or a forest of kobolds in record time. But why? Killing all the kobolds is going to get you experience points, which add up until you get to the point where you can tackle golems and orcs and dragons. At work, try and be thorough. I find that I can get 90 percent of a project done in no time. That last 10 percent is the hardest, and where I learn the most. It’s also where the polish can be seen by others. You obviously need to complete projects, but it’s the journey towards all of your goals (the projects, the learning, etc) that really matter. And if you’re rushing through everything, it will show. Plus, there’s usually a low chance you’ll get some kind of magic item off a kobold…
  13. Eventually, your fighter has to work on more traits than just strength. The easiest character to play is usually a fighter. You’re just kindof a tank. You can walk into a room and fight and kill monsters. In Dungeons and Dragons, each character has a number of different abilities. These include things like Dexterity, which helps a thief to pick locks and all characters to avoid getting hit. There’s also intelligence, wisdom, constitution, charisma and strength. Each class of character will need different abilities to be higher than others. And as you level up you receive adjustments you can add to abilities. Naturally, a player will work on the abilities for their class first. For example, if you have a fighter, you’ll increase strength and constitution (which gives you more hit points), or if you have a thief you’ll work on dexterity. But, as the character progresses, you’ll invariably work on different abilities to unlock more advanced features of your class. The same is true at work. Let’s say you write code for a living (which many consider the magic-user of the business world these days). Eventually, you may choose to manage a team, become a scrum master, or manage products. For each of these, it will greatly help if you’ve dedicated a little time to working on your charisma ability. So while public speaking and management classes might not seem all that awesome for a code monkey, well, they will suit you well later in the game of your career.
  14. The more junk you have the slower you move. Each item that your character finds in the game will weigh you down a little. Eventually, when you find items, you’ll have to choose what you carry and what you leave behind. And sometimes, you’ll find yourself leaving behind things that you fought huge battles with monsters to attain. It’s hard to let go of things, but sometimes you have to. At work, you might have projects that you want to continue with but have to let them go to move into a new position. You might have equipment that you love but can’t keep. You might have data on your computer (or phone or iPad) that’s just wasting space. Keep in mind, that there’s a weight to that data, even if only mentally. Learn to let things go. Sometimes the character simply can’t move to the next room with a massive bag of treasure on their back.
  15. Energy draining monsters are the worst! As mentioned earlier in this article, once you reach a certain number of experience points (pretty much double from the previous level up) you get to move up in levels. However, occasionally you find undead monsters that can drain experience points from you. Ghosts, ghasts, ghouls and other monsters are the total suck. They can set you back pretty far. And sometimes permanently. We all know people that just suck the life right out of you at work. They always talk about how they tried an initiative and the initiative didn’t work, so they don’t want to try anything else. They always go back to the good old days and these days everything sucks. These energy draining attitudes must be vanquished. Regrettably, in Dungeons and Dragons, that often requires magic items. Positivity and strategy are the magic weapons in the corporate world. Results speak for themselves, so they are the vorpal sword of the board room!
  16. The best business happens in a pub. Yup, you’re not gonna’ buy that crazy Staff of Wielding in a regular-old blacksmith’s shop. Instead, sometimes you do your best business in a bar. Or a golf course. Or at church. When you’re in these places, be you, but don’t be afraid to let business happen where it happens!
  17. Teams need to be diverse. A party of 6 fighters really isn’t going to make it far. Nor 6 clerics. You need a couple of fighters, a cleric (to heal everyone), a magic user (maybe an elf), a thief (likely a halfling), etc. A well rounded adventuring party is key to the success of a campaign. The same is true for many teams at work. Different experiences and different backgrounds bring different ideas and perspectives. And bring everyones game up a notch. Of course, sometimes your half-orc rogue will spar with your paladin. But the team is better for having everyone together.
  18. Sometimes you have to retreat. A 4th level barbarian walks into a bar… It sounds like a joke, until it ends “and get shot with lightning by a level 36 drow lich-king. A/B testing, pivoting, fail fast. Have an open mind. Be creative, but if your initiatives aren’t working out, get out of the bar, before you get lit up. Having said that, let things play out. Sometimes the lich-king just hits you with a riddle and might give you treasure rather than have you dual it out. Modern business acumen is to try things, let initiatives play out, but be prepared to change course. Don’t be afraid to admin that you were wrong. This is a common trait of people who are right a lot.
  19. The best loot is free. I guess it’s according to how you define free. Organic growth is always best when possible. Buying customers, buying products, buying teams, etc are all problematic in their own way. Sometimes you do those things so that you can get to market quicker. But when you go into a dungeon and try and take on a stretch goal of killing yourself a giant spider, you’ll get rewarded by great loot. That +2 longsword will do you well. And it’s better to get it that way than to get it in a store.
  20. Sometimes you get a critical miss, sometimes you get a critical hit. In Dungeons and Dragons, if you’re trying to stab a monster, you roll the dice to see if you hit it. There are certain numbers on a dice that might have your character inflicting extra damage, because you hit an artery or something like that. There are other numbers that might cause you to actually stab yourself. There’s a certain amount of chance to everything we do. Maybe a critical miss is to get fired by your biggest customer for something you had no control over. Maybe a critical win is to have your largest deal ever come in during the last couple weeks of a year so the year ends historically awesome sauce. Maybe you ship software with a huge bug. Maybe you have some widgets made and they fall off a cargo ship on the way from China. I’ve seen it all. Sometimes things backfire. The best plan, have a backout plan. And be prepared for the critical hit pushing your business forward a year or two with one deal. If you don’t try, you might not get it!

January 26th, 2016

Posted In: Business

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SimpleMDM has updated their Mobile Device Management solution (my original writeup is here) to now include the ability to manage apps. The apps functionality really comes in two flavors. The first is the ability to load up an app. This is handled handed by clicking on Settings in the right hand navigation bar and then at the Settings pop-over, clicking on Apps. Here, you can load up an internal, enterprise app or an App Store app.

Once you’ve loaded an app you can deploy it to devices by clicking on a group and then using the contextual menu to “Assign Apps.” Simple, as the name implies.

The second aspect of SimpleMDM is to white and blacklist apps. Doing so is done by clicking on the contextual menu and then clicking on Rules. Here, you can Allow or Disallow any app that has been loaded into the app catalog.


November 20th, 2012

Posted In: iPhone

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Now that we’ve looked at what you get and what you don’t get in Mountain Lion Server, let’s take a little while to look at what the upgrade path itself looks like. Before we start, let’s just say that upgrading to Mountain Lion Server is probably one of the fastest, easiest and most boring upgrades you’ll ever get to do. And I say this more to the credit of the engineers that made the process so simple. Apparently there are bonuses to your Server just being an app. There is a catch, some of the services are gone. Another catch, you’re gonna’ need to have a system that meets the following specs:

  • Capable of booting a 64-bit kernel, means a 64-bit Intel Core 2 Duo or better
  • The graphics just keep getting better, so you’ll need an Advanced GPU chipset
  • The more memory the better, although 2GB is the bare minimum
  • The more CPU the better, although 8GB of space is required
  • An Internet connection, or a cached Install Mac OS X Mountain Lion, Server app and Server package – much easier to just have a connection to the Internet…
  • You should plan on using an Apple ID, although if you don’t supply it at install time, the server can still run
  • The source computer needs 10.6.8 or 10.7.x

Apple’s official specs are here, outlining the models that Mountain Lion can run on. If Mountain Lion can run, OS X Server can run on it. Next, make a clone of your computer. I use Carbon Copy Cloner, like most sane people, but YMMV with other tools that you may be in love with. Once your clone is done, I personally like to do both an archive and an export of user accounts from Workgroup Manager as a final safety net. You should also have a book. Preferably one of mine, although given that the merging of two such boring topics can create a black hole of boringness (which is similar to turning a bag of holding inside out, btw), you might choose to bring something a bit livelier than either of the two, like some Dostoyevsky or the Chem 111 textbook I used in college.

Next, let’s go to the App Store. Search for Mountain Lion or OS X and then click the Install button for the Mountain Lion app. The button will then say Downloading, as follows:

Buy OS X Mountain Lion from the App Store

Buy OS X Mountain Lion from the App Store

Once downloaded, make sure your users won’t chase after you with pitchforks for being down for a couple of hours and then run the installer, following the defaults until the download begins and the system reboots. The installation will take a little while. From the time you start the download to the time that the files are unpacked and replaced on the system can be about an hour or two. This is a good time to grab that book, a bag of Doritos and a Dr. Pepper. Once the Doritos are gone, wash your hands and check the progress of the installation. Read some more. Once that’s done, check the progress again. If you think about a second bag of Doritos, stop – it’s not worth it… A second Dr. Pepper is fine though, I hear it helps you write articles about upgrading to Mountain Lion Server in a way that makes optimal sense.

Once the system reboots again, you should be ready to open Server app. Except for the fact that it isn’t there, which is obvious by the fact that it’s got a big annoying white circle over it in the Dock. Remove the Server app (and Workgroup Manager or Server Admin if they’re in there) and then it’s time to install Server itself.

Go back to the App Store and search for & buy Mountain Lion Server (or install these from Purchases if you’ve already purchased them). Once installed, Server appears in the Dock. Use the following command to verify that the IP address and hostname match:

sudo /Applications/ -checkhostname

Provided that the name of the server checks out clean, click on the Server app in the Dock to be guided through the installation process.

Set Up Your Server Screen When Installing Mountain Lion Server

Set Up Your Server Screen When Installing Mountain Lion Server

At the Setup Your Server screen, click on Continue.

Agree to the Mountain Lion Server Licensing Agreement

Agree to the Mountain Lion Server Licensing Agreement

Agree to the licensing terms (assuming you do agree) by clicking on the Agree button.

Provide Administrative Credentials When Installing Mountain Lion Server

Provide Administrative Credentials When Installing Mountain Lion Server

Provide the administrative username and password to give Server and services permission upon installation and then click on the Allow button.

Configure The AppleID for Push Notifications

Configure The AppleID for Push Notifications

At the Apple Push Notifications screen, provide the Apple ID and password for a valid Apple ID and then click on the Continue button.

Congrats, You're A SysAdmin!

Congrats, You’re A SysAdmin!

After a time, you should see a Congratulations screen. Click on Finish and the Server app should automatically open (or the process fails but Server opens anyway, just without some of the stuff working out of the gate).

At this point, you should see the services that were running prior to the upgrade running. Check the logs to verify that there’s nothing out of the ordinary. If you were running a firewall then the rules will be migrated and continue running. To disable if you’re going to move your rules to pf, then use the following command to disable the rules and reboot:

sudo mv /etc/ipfilter /etc/ipfilter.OLD

You don’t need to disable these immediately, although a lack of control over them might cause you to want to… Next, install Workgroup Manager, available at You’ve now got a functional server, provided that the entire process went smoothly. In my experience so far (there hasn’t been a ton of this at this point), the service migration is far smoother than from within the Lion Server point releases (e.g. 10.7.2 to 10.7.3, etc). Profile Manager, for example, worked like a charm on upgrade, as did Calendar and Contacts services, which had been a bit persnickety at times previously.

Now, you can get back to that book and instead of a 3rd Dr. Pepper, switch to Jägermeister!

July 28th, 2012

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Mac Security, Mass Deployment

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

There are certain aspects of Mac OS X Server that it just isn’t that great at.  One of them is acting as a router.  It’s just a fact that an appliance by SonicWALL, Cisco, Watchguard and sometimes LinkSys will run circles around the speed and feature set of Mac OS X Server.  So with that in mind, let’s look at how you would go about configuring a basic port forward on OS X Server if you decided not to listen to me on this point…  😉

You can use the /etc/net/natd.plist.  The key you’ll want to edit is the redirect_port, one per port or a range of all in one key…  Basically the array would look something like this assuming you were trying to forward afp traffic to from a WAN IP of

















You could also use the route command or ipfw depending on exactly what you’re trying to do with this thing.  Route is going to be useful if you’re trying to respond to network traffic over a different interface than the default interface.

August 12th, 2008

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac Security

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