Mansplaining Women in Tech

My manager at my first engineering job after college was a woman. In my second engineering job, my coworker was a female engineer. Years later I worked for a company where one of the two owners was a woman and she provided my first real training as a sales engineer. The other owner of the company, a man, handed me a stack of technical manuals and just said “read these.” However the woman trained me by example, setting a high bar for ethicality, professionalism, and technical expertise. Based on these experiences (and at the risk of “mansplaining”), here are a few of my thoughts on the situation.

It is 2017 and it is still pathetic how male-dominated the tech world is. My third job was working for a “progressive” engineering company. That environment demonstrated gender issues more typical of the high tech world where the few women employees were in “Marketing / Order Entry / Human Resources” roles while Product Development, Management, and Sales (everything else) were male. There were a few women though in technical roles, but they never had it easy as the only females in rooms full of dozens of men. Situations like these were a rude shock after working in environments for years where gender issues weren’t issues at all.

Most men would find it hard to imagine getting dressed in the morning and having to consider whether the clothes they were planning to wear were going to “send the right message” to the group of women they would be working with that day. “Is this suit too form fitting?” “Should I button one more button of my dress shirt?” The challenges would continue throughout the workday where they would have to monitor every comment to make sure they were coming across professionally and not “as a man.”

In my opinion, the solutions to deep seated gender prejudices start with both men and women not allowing thinly veiled sexism to gain acceptance in any way. Sexist jokes can be met with silent disapproval and “mansplainers” can gently be coaxed into more reciprocal verbal exchanges. The Taylor Swift trial is another example of how powerful women can use their influence to confront serious gender based abuse. However, despite her win, prominent news sources still published negative headlines such as Reuters’ “Despite losing trial to Taylor Swift, DJ insists he never groped her.”

It is also possible to not support companies that clearly violate gender equality standards. We now use Lyft instead of Uber. Uber is well known to have an openly hostile environment toward women. If you would like to take a deeper dive, the Accidental Tech Podcast discussed “women in tech” in a recent episode (at 45:34). Unfortunately, it was a couple of guys discussing it so if you would like to hear a discussion from female executives in high tech, then look no further than Kara Swisher, Executive Editor of ReCode, and Lauren Goode, Senior Technology Editor at The Verge, interviewing Niniane Wang and Joelle Emerson. It is over an hour of in-depth discussion on topics ranging from harassment in “hyper-masculine environments” to “Broflakes.” A Broflake is a man who has no trouble criticizing women, but then says he’s afraid to participate in an honest conversation about gender issues.

Ok, enough for now and we didn’t even get to the infamous “Google Manifesto.” However, so you don’t feel unsatisfied, here’s a link to the Vox article, “I’m a woman in computer science. Let me ladysplain the Google memo to you” written by a woman who “is a lecturer in computer science at Stanford,” “taught at least four different programming languages, including assembly,” and has “had a single-digit employee number in a startup.” Fascinating!

Gloria Steinem speaking with supporters at the Women Together Arizona Summit at Carpenters Local Union in Phoenix, Arizona.
Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Watch Out Google! – 303 Links to Acoustics and Vibration Companies

Of course you could always do a detailed Google search and get millions of results, use Google’s Custom Search feature to create you own list, or even use the Duck, Duck, Go search engine if you don’t want to end up with tons of ads for custom acoustic foam fabricators for the rest of your life, but isn’t this list just a bit handier? Besides, these are from a website I created with Chip Doyle almost 20 years ago called It was a big deal back in a time when Google was still “in beta” with only 60 million pages indexed and Lycos ruled the search engine world. Interestingly, over 70% of the companies from the original list are still around today!

The list is broken down into five categories:

Consultants – 80 links
Educational Websites – 31 links
Enclosures, Barriers, Panels, and Chambers – 23 links
Materials – 66 links
Test Services – 17 links
Test Systems, Equipment, and Sensors – 76 links
Other (Trade Magazines, etc.) – 10 links

If you have any additions or corrections, please let me know, but in the meantime there are several gems in here that won’t be found until page three of a Google search like Acoustical Systems Inc. and Environmental Noise Control. Enjoy!

The Magic Behind Apple’s Notification Sounds

Now that the 13 part series “Online Security” is done, it’s time to get back to other interesting topics like Sound and nobody does Sound like Apple. Even the earliest Apple II computers had sound generation. I remember my amazement when I heard Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” played on the Apple Music Synthesizer in 1978.

Fast forward to 2001 and the first iPod was released. Then in 2002 Apple was the first computer manufacturer to own a music software company when they purchased Emagic, the makers of Logic Pro. From this, Apple created the super popular consumer version, GarageBand. In 2003, the iTunes Store opened, selling tracks for $0.99 and seven years later Apple was the world’s largest music retailer.

Mostly recently in November 2016, I wrote the post, “Acoustics – Apple’s Future is ‘Ear’” refuting the negative publicity around the new AirPods and sure enough six months later, they are another smash hit. However even with these successes, Apple is still a relentless innovator and will soon release the HomePod, “a powerful speaker that sounds amazing, adapts to wherever it’s playing, and together with Apple Music, gives you effortless access to one of the world’s largest music catalogs. All controlled through natural voice interaction with Siri.”

So what do humble Notification sounds have to do with these blockbuster products? To me, they are the true measure of a commitment to excellence and form an integral part of the “personality” of iDevices. Keep in mind that at one point during the Super Bowl, over 380,000 text messages were sent EVERY SECOND. That’s a lot of “Note” notifications. Apple even dedicated a session at their recent World Wide Developers Conference to “Designing Sound.”  In a fun twist, the presenter actually played “Note” live at 15:25 in the video.

He also played the “Chord” notification used in the Calendar at 16:45. Spoiler alert, it’s a Kalimba! The entire presentation is fascinating and demonstrates how serious Apple is about the high quality of its design ethic.

At 18:30, he also goes on to provide an introduction to creating your own appropriate notifications using simple tools such as iOS Voice Recorder and GarageBand including how to avoid the pitfalls associated with improperly created sounds like noise and truncated endings.

If you have a few free minutes, capture sounds that catch your attention and make notifications from them. My wife and I heard a wonderful ringtone while we were in Cuba and now it is her iPhone ringtone. It’s a fun, creative way to personalize something that quickly becomes a part of your personal soundscape!

Online Security Part 13 – Summary and Final Thoughts

After almost five months, we have arrived at the last part of this series and what a long, strange trip it has been. If you’ve made it this far, I hope you found this series interesting and useful. There are literally thousands of other suggestions for staying safer online, but the best seem to stay just short of paranoia while implementing reasonable security methods. For example, it’s worth providing one final reminder that ALL emails are insecure and links in them should be considered unsafe. Use bookmarks; type the site name; Google the site name (but don’t click on the ad please); etc. Think before you click! Never open attachments from unknown sources or click on suspicious looking pop up messages. Even if you recognize the name of the sender, if the email seems to come from “out of left field,” check the email address of the sender to see if it is real. You can protect yourself from many attacks by staying aware.

As far as anti-virus programs go, if good, layered security practices are used, the basic software that comes with a recent computer can be sufficient, i.e. Windows 10 Defender + Firewall and MacOS Internal Security + Firewall. The Wikipedia article on Anti-Virus software points out in the section “Issues of Concern” that anti-virus solutions can be as bad as the viruses they are supposed to be protecting against.

Where can you get help that isn’t a scam in itself? Malwarebytes seems to be one of “the good guys” and their forums are a VERY active source of support. Piriform also seems to be legit with good software for removing malware called CCleaner. When a strange message pops up, doing a Google image search for “fake virus warnings” can also be helpful.

Again, the key is to not be too paranoid or too complacent. People who write articles about security make money when others click on their links, so it literally pays to scare people into clicking and reading. Keep in mind that most people are not important enough to get hacked and if they were, a dedicated hacker, like a professional burglar, would be able to do it. The risks are in opportunistic hacking, i.e., leaving the back door open. The hacker thinks, “If I infect 1,000 computers and one person pays, great, that was a success.”

Finally, if you’re reading this and still don’t have a backup system in place, just remember “To go forward, you must backup!!!” $60 is a small price to pay or maybe you want to retake that photo of you with your dog from 20 years ago. You could borrow the neighbor’s dog and regrow those sideburns…

Online Security Part 12 – General Scams

If the wide variety of threats from malware, weak passwords, public Wifi, and mobile security weren’t enough, there are now scammers taking advantage of people by offering personalized service. For example, while ransomware was discussed in Part 2, some crooks distribute malware that includes a “tech support” number to call. Other criminals call users proactively, especially targeting the elderly and non-tech savvy, offering “free” support. This support includes stealing credit card numbers and installing additional malware at no extra charge. By the way, “Windows technical support” is never going to call with a warning about a virus!

“Social engineering” scams are not limited to malware. Here is a short list of the worst ones lately (and they’re changing all the time):

  • Job Offer Scams – A $75k / year job working from home based on an email interview! Wow! Oh, but they need $472 to cover the cost of (fill in the blank) or they need your banking information to setup direct deposit.
  • Reshipping Scams – Getting paid to reship products, but the goods are stolen and the payment never arrives.
  • Payment / Overpayment Scams – That ugly velvet painting of Elvis sold online for $50! But the stupid buyer accidentally sent you a check for $500… “Please refund the balance. Here’s my Western Union account.” When you refund the overpayment, they reverse the original payment.
  • Shipping Scams – A “valuable package” is stuck in customs, just send $100 to “release it.” PayPal has a whole page of their FAQ devoted to these crazy schemes.
  • Friend Help Scams – If a 90 year old relative is stuck in Venezuela and needs $500 to get home, that’s probably a hacked email account.
  • Mystery Shoppers, Free Vacations and All “Too Good to Be True” Scams – If it sounds too good to be true, then it is.
  • Technical Support Scams – Your browser cannot tell that you have a virus. It can however tell you that you have visited a “malicious site.” That is a legitimate warning.
  • App Store Scams – Signing up for a free trial of X triggers a prompt to subscribe. Tap the button to approve it by mistake and… “You will pay $99.99 for a 7-day subscription starting Jun 9, 2017.”

By the way, Robocallers are at the core of many of the scams above. I’ve started using Nomorobo, which is a great service to prevent Robocallers from getting through (there are many other options though).

Despite the length of this post, almost all of these scams boil down to using common sense: please send $500 to this Western Union account and you too can own the Brooklyn Bridge! LOL