Cyber-yesteryear – pt. 6: talking to the media.

Last week I realized I’d been in lockdown-isolation-quarantine for a full quarter-year. Three months sat at home, with only a couple of brief trips to the deserted office, plus every weekend at the dacha with the similarly isolated family. Like for everyone – a very extraordinary daily existence. For me – no planes/airports, no hotels, no meetings or speeches: in short – very little travel.

However, everything’s relative: in three months we’ve all traveled 230+ million kilometers (a quarter of a full orbit of Earth around the sun)! And that’s without taking into account the fact that the Solar System itself travels at some crazy speed. One thing that hasn’t changed much since lockdown began is business meetings – they’ve simply all moved online. Ah yes – and all our business in general is carrying as usual, unaffected by biological viruses ).

But enough lockdown talk; you’re probably tired of hearing anything in connection with it. Accordingly, herewith, I continue with more of my tales from the cyber-past side; this time – interviews with newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, plus assorted other public performances. (I was reminded of my ‘media relations’ activity while recalling my week of interview-hell at CeBIT long ago the other day when compiling my CeBIT recollections (Cyber-yesteryear, pt. 4). And it turns out I’ve plenty to relate to you about interesting experiences talking to the media and public speaking and all that – plenty that’s fun and unusual, plus of course a few (brightened and polished) photos too.

And there’ll be all sorts of different sizes and flavors of media-tales coming up too: from speeches in practically empty halls – to rammed stadiums! From unknown tiny local media publications – to top-tier global media household-name conglomerates! From professional lectures at leading universities and/or with specially tech-equipped audiences – to informal lectures about the wonders of arithmetic on a ship sailing to… Antarctica via Drake Passage! Eugene is the name; variation is the game ).

Right. I guess the logical place to begin is right at the start…

Read on…

Cyber-yesteryear – pt. 5: 1996 (game-changer year).

Herewith, more tales from back in the day about how our company went from humble beginnings to what we are today. And this cyber-yesteryear series – it’s all thanks to… lockdown! I’d have never found the time for such meanderings down cyber-memory lane otherwise…

Just in case you missed them, here are the previous installments:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

All righty. Part 5: 1996. Truly a fateful, watershed year…

First, at KAMI, where I was still working, the owners decided to break away. As a result KAMI was split up into several independent organizations. And in the following year – 1997 – we broke away too.

Second, we signed an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) contract with the German company G-Data to supply them with of our antivirus engine. That contract ran for a full 12 years – up to 2008! – when we became No.1 on the German retail market. That’s just how it went. Our original-tech prowess was unstoppable! But what were we to do? But, anyway, it was G-Data who’d approached us (we weren’t able to actively seek out tech-partners back then), offering Remizov – boss of KAMI – cooperation, culminating in the signing of the contract at CeBIT, as described in Part 4. And that was how our technology-licensing business took off.

After the Germans (in 1995) came the Finns – F-Secure (in 1996), then known as Data Fellows. Let me tell you about how our cooperation with them started.

In August 1995, the first ever macro virus appeared, which infected Microsoft Word documents. It turned out that writing macro viruses was very straightforward, and they were being spread at alarming rates among a great many unsuspecting users. This caught the attention of other virus writers, and very quickly macro viruses became the biggest headache for the antivirus industry. Detecting them was far from easy, since the format of a Word document is most complex (who knew?:). So for several months AV firms played shamen using various methods, until when, in early 1996, McAfee (the company:) announced the ‘correct’ disassembly method for the format of Word documents. That news was latched onto by our colleague Andrey Krukov (who’d joined our collective in 1995), and he quickly came up with a most elegant and effective tech solution. I put the word out about this, and pretty soon companies started approaching us with offers to buy our technology. Having garnered several such offers, we arranged a meet with them all – at the upcoming Virus Bulletin Conference in Brighton, UK, where Andrey and I traveled to in the fall of 1996.

In Brighton, things hardly went to plan: none of those meetings ever came to anything! However…

Read on…

Flickr photostream

Instagram photostream

Cyber-yesteryear – pt. 4: CeBIT.

Finally, summer’s arrived. Took it’s time! But I’m not sure it’s the blessing it normally is, since we’re all still sat at home working remotely. Sure, there have been ‘easings’ here and there around the world, but we here at K are in no rush to… rush things. I think that goes for other IT companies too that will be working from home till at least fall, while some have signaled they’re on for staying home until the end of the year. And of course business trips are still being cancelled, as are exhibitions and conferences and Olympic Games and Cannes Festival and a whole load of other large-scale events. Some countries still have closed borders too.

So yep: we’re all still cooped up, not getting out much, and getting a bit stir crazy with the cabin fever. At least that’s how things are for many, I’m sure. There are others who are taking advantage of all the extra time and getting more exercise than ever, the devils! I’m somewhere in-between. Sometimes tired of Groundhog Every-Day, but staying busy. And that includes dusting off and delving into my archives to dig up some old photos, which lead to fond memories (plus reminders of how quickly the world is changing), which lead to… my next cyber-yesteryear post!

Yes, this series combines cyber-nostalgia, plus various personal and business insights I’ve picked up along the cyber-way, which I hope will be useful to some, or just interesting to others. Accordingly, I continue here today with part four, and I continue my tales, begun in part three, about CeBIT

CeBIT – we loved it to bits! It was just sooo new and different and massive and…

Read on…

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Whether still locked-down at home or free – must-read books, part 3!

Looks like I’m just in time with the third and final part of my book recommendations series: stay-at-home restrictions are easing seemingly everywhere. Still, staying home looks like what many will continue to do anyway, so this part-three isn’t too late really. But, even during ‘normal’ times, reading is totally must-do, surely? It’s not like these recommendations have an expiry date! Ok, enough intro; here are my recommendations – category: science fiction!

Yes, I’m a science fiction buff, and have been since I was a kid. I remember looking forward to our regular visits to some friends of my parents who had a really impressive (for the times) collection of sci-fi on their shelves. I’d just disappear for hours, fixated by a work like those by Jules Verne (Captain Nemo), H.G. Wells (The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man), and Alexander Belyayev (Amphibian Man, Professor Dowell’s Head), which I’d get through in a few hours! Later came Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics and I, Robot, Arthur C. Clarke’s A Fall of Moondust, Simak’s parallel worlds (proto-multiverses), Ursula K. Le Guin‘s Earthsea stories, and much more.

I could dig endlessly on this topic, but here, for brevity’s sake, I’ll stick to my top-3 all-time fave sci-fi writers; rather – top-4, as two brothers wrote together (the Strugatskys). Btw – I have the complete works of the Strugatskys, and also of Kurt Vonnegut in hardback! (Yes, I prefer actual books; we stare at screens enough IMHO:). 

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

The master-maestros of the genre. They started out in the 1950s writing utopian-heroic-communist texts, but later changed their tune big time – their heroes changed, as did the problems they had to deal with.

There are a great many super sci-fi writers, but these two are to me the very best. Deeper, more emphatic, more audacious – the thinking person’s sci-fi: more ‘literature’ than sci-fi!

Later in their careers they became all the more philosophical, and conducted literary experiments on identity and society.

I remember clearly my first Strugatsky novel: Beetle in the Anthill, published in 1979 in a Soviet magazine – one chapter per edition (waiting impatiently each month for the next chapter). 

Read on…

Lockdown or not – read these books, you ought! Part 2.

I hope you liked the first part of the ‘greatest hits’ on my bookshelves – business books. Time now to turn to another category: about how the world ‘ticks’: the history, societies and governments of human beings, and more…

On China, by Henry Kissinger

For those who find a few Wikipedia pages ok but insufficient on detail to satisfy their curiosity and quest for learning more about China – this is the book to go for. In it you’ll learn all sorts about the country’s ancient history, its economy and more. There’s the estimation that the GDP of mediaeval China was something like a third of world GDP (!), there’s all the treachery of the opium wars, there’s the Communist past, and the country’s renaissance. Highly recommended. But be warned: there’s a TON of detail in there. Some pages I just scanned. So let me adjust my recommendation: I highly recommend you read… the best bits sections of this book ).

Read on…

Lockdown at home? Read a tome! Part 1.

Working remotely is one thing. Learning a new hobby or even profession – also remotely: super. But you need to take a break now and again otherwise that learning suffers. Also – since you’ve no commute, your free time of an evening tends to be a bit longer. What I’m getting to is… it’s high time – to read!

But read what?

Well, I personally read all sorts. Just as well, as I’m often asked what books I might recommend to others. Fine by me – as I’ve plenty of recommendations. That many, in fact, that when I decided to put fingers to keyboard and come up with a list, there were just too many. Accordingly, I’ve split my recommendations into three separate posts. Today’s post: business books I highly recommend.

Good to Great, by Jim Collins

I reckon that if I had to line up the business books I’ve read on my bookshelf in order of importance from left to right, this one would be first – furthest left. But might it be outdated already? After all, it was published in 2001, and given that our world is changing at dizzying speed, sure, that seems like a fair question. Actually – no. For the main topics in the books are somewhat timeless and are as relevant today as they were back then. In plain language and with lots of practical examples, the author convincingly analyzes the traits commonly found in various types of leaders (manager-leader, team leader, company leader). It’s one of the few good books, IMHO, on how to build a great business.

Read on…

Cyber-yesteryear – pt. 3: 1992-199x.

Just in case you missed the first two, this is the third episode of my cyber-yesteryear chronicles. Since I’m in lockdown like most folks, I have more time on my hands to be able to have a leisurely mosie down cyberseKurity memory lane. Normally I’d be on planes jetting here, there and everywhere for business and tourisms – all of which normally takes up most of my time. But since none of that – at least offline/in person – is possible at the moment, I’m using a part of that unused time instead to put fingers to keyboard for a steady stream of personal / Kaspersky Lab / cyber-historical nostalgia: in this post – from the early to mid-nineties.

Typo becomes a brand

In the very beginning, all our antivirus utilities were named following the ‘-*.EXE’ template. That is, for example, ‘-V.EXE’ (antivirus scanner), ‘-D.EXE’ (resident monitor), ‘-U.EXE’ (utilities). The ‘-‘ prefix was used to make sure that our programs would be at the very top of a list of programs in a file manager (tech-geekiness meets smart PR moves from the get go?:).

Later, when we released our first full-fledged product, it was named ‘Antiviral Toolkit Pro’. Logically, that should have been abbreviated to ‘ATP’; but it wasn’t…

Somewhere around the end of 1993 or the beginning of 1994, Vesselin Bontchev, who’d remembered me from previous meet-ups (see Cyber-yesteryear – pt. 1), asked me for a copy of our product for testing at the Virus Test Center of Hamburg University, where he worked at the time. Of course, I obliged, and while zip-archiving the files I accidentally named the archive AVP.ZIP (instead of ATP.ZIP), and off I sent it to Vesselin unawares. Some time later Vesselin asked me for permission to put the archive onto an FTP server (so it would be publically available), to which I obliged again. A week or two later he told me: ‘Your AVP is becoming really rather popular on the FTP!’

‘What AVP?’, I asked.
‘What do you mean ‘What AVP’? The one you sent me in the archive file, of course!’
‘WHAT?! Rename it right away – that’s a mistake!’
‘Too late. It’s already out there – and known as AVP!’

And that was that: AVP we were stuck with! Mercifully, we (kinda) got away with it – Anti-Viral toolkit Pro. Like I say – kinda ). Still, in for a penny, in for a pound: all our utilities were renamed by dropping the ‘-‘ prefix and putting ‘AVP’ in its place – and it’s still used today in some of the names of our modules.

First business trips – to Germany for CeBIT

In 1992, Alexey Remizov – my boss at KAMI, where I first worked – helped me in getting my first foreign-travel passport, and took me with him to the CeBIT exhibition in Hannover in Germany. We had a modest stand there, shared with a few other Russian companies. Our table was half-covered with KAMI transputer tech, the other half – our antivirus offerings. We were rewarded with a tiny bit of new business, but nothing great. All the same, it was a very useful trip…

Our impressions of CeBIT back then were of the oh-my-grandiose flavor. It was just so huge! And it wasn’t all that long since Germany was reunified, so, to us, it was all a bit West Germany – computer-capitalism gone bonkers! Indeed – a cultural shock (followed up by a second cultural shock when we arrived back in Moscow – more on that later).

Given the enormity of CeBIT, our small, shared stand was hardly taken any notice of. Still, it was the proverbial ‘foot in the door’ or ‘the first step is the hardest’ or some such. For it was followed up by a repeat visit to CeBIT four years later – that time to start building our European (and then global) partner network. But that’s a topic for another day post (which I think should be interesting especially for folks beginning their own long business journeys).

Btw, even as far back as then, I understood our project was badly in need of at least some kind of PR/marketing support. But since we had, like, hardly two rubles to rub together, plus the fact that journalists had never heard of us, it was tricky getting any. Still, as a direct result of our first trip to CeBIT, we managed to get a self-written piece all about us into the Russian technology magazine ComputerPress in May 1992: home-grown PR!

Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the dollars of Englishmen!

My second business trip was in June-July of the same year – to the UK. One result of this trip was another article, this time in Virus Bulletin, entitled The Russians Are Coming, which was our first foreign publication. Btw – in the article ’18 programmers’ are mentioned. There were probably 18 folks working at KAMI overall, but in our AV department there were just the three of us.

London, June 1992

Read on…

Six simple brainteasers.

Brainteasers, riddles, conundrums – they come in all sorts of types: from easy to ~impossible, those requiring logic, math, geometry, and/or plenty of other skills and competencies. But those tricky types – requiring higher mathematics, complex space, and formulas several pages long – you won’t find any of those in this blogpost. Here, they range from real simple to average-hard, since the last one – the Sudoku – was rather tough. So, without further ado, here are the six…

Poser No. 1

You have two pieces of string of differing lengths. If burned from one end, they both burn for exactly one hour. The speed of the burning varies all the time: for example, half may burn in almost the full hour, then the other half burns up in minutes; or the other way round. You have at your disposal only the two lengths of string and one cigarette lighter, nothing else. What you need to do is determine when 45 minutes is up.

Poser No. 2

You have some graph paper with 10 by 10 squares on it. You cut out the square in the top left and top right corners; that is – one square from two opposing corners. Now the question: how do you cover the whole of the surface with 2×1 dominoes? That is, how do you place (100-2)/2 = 49 dominoes on the graph paper (with just one level of dominoes) so that everything is covered?

Poser No. 3

One night I dreamed of a number – a very unusual number. It was a 10-digit number. The first digit is equivalent to the number of zeros in the number. The second digit = the quantity of ones in the number, the third – the quantity of twos, … , and the last = the quantity of nines. Like I say, a very unusual number. The problem is – I forgot the number once I’d woken up! Question: what is the number?

Poser No. 4

This one’s to test the quickness of your wits. There’s symmetry here – almost:

30 – 33 = 3

One numeral needs to be moved to make the symmetry perfect. Which. And the ‘-‘ and ‘=’ don’t count. 

Poser No. 5

You have a cylinder, around which some thin wire is carefully wound. The wire was sufficient for four windings round the cylinder – from one end to the other – as in the pic. The length of the cylinder is 12 centimeters, the circumference of the cylinder is 4 centimeters. What is the length of the wire?

Poser No. 6. 

You have a huge cake for you and 100 of your colleagues (before/after lockdown). The colleagues line up for a slice. The first colleague takes a mere 1% slice, the second – a 2% slice: 2% of the remaining cake. The third – 3% of remaining cake, and so on, until, the last colleague – the 100th – takes all that’s left. Question: who cut themselves the largest slice?

 

All these brainteasers are doable in your head. You can of course use a pen and pad, but they won’t really help.

All righty – good luck!

And the most precise, witty, unexpected and other ‘most, mostest’ answers will get a prize: some serious antivirus protection – a boxless (contactless) version ).

Sudoku… for bored, locked-down boffins.

What? Bored? Surely not! Surely you’re reading those novels you kept putting off, that autobiography; fixing that faucet, finally getting round to that long-overdue spring clean, no?!

Ok, let’s say you’ve done all such things (or not). And now it’s back to ‘bored’. Well here’s something a bit different to end that boredom – at least for… a few days: a particularly tricky spot of Sudoku!

Now, before the knee-jerk groaning and eye-rolling, just let me explain. This isn’t your usual easy Sudoku you get in those Sudoku magazines. Oh no. This one was sent to me with the comment: ‘The most difficult Sudoku there is!’. Fine by me – the harder the better!

Thing is, I’d never done a Sudoku before. Talk about ‘in at the deep end’! Still, I had plenty of time to focus on it, and only it – on my long-haul flight from Australia in March after the Tasmanian tour. And I seemed to pick it up fairly quickly. Well, relatively: as I was an absolute beginner it actually took me… around the whole flight; i.e., about a day! So, be warned – this isn’t something you’ll get done in minutes, even hours. And for the beginners among you, I recommend reading up on the rules first, and then to do some simpler ones first to get some practice in and get up to speed.

Meanwhile, for you pros out there, here you go; knock yourself out! ->

Cyber-yesteryear – pt. 2: 1991-1992.

Herewith, I continue my tales from the cyber-old-school side. You’ve already had the first installment – about when I caught my very first fish virus, about our first antivirus utility, and about when I decided to go it alone to become a member of a profession that didn’t really exist back then (as a freelance antivirus analyst).

So, after a few weeks as a freelancer – which was basically a few weeks of doing not much at all as I couldn’t find any customers – I decided I needed to get a regular day job again with a company. So what I did was organize a ‘tender’ between three private companies that had offered me work.

One of them (KAMI) deserves a separate post of its own, so here I’ll just go over its main features. It was a rather large, and very multifaceted import-export-and-a-bit-of-everything-else company, which had a computer department that eventually broke off from KAMI to become independent. Its boss was Alexey Remizov, a great guy who believed in and helped me for many years.

But, back to the tender. Now, if two of the companies told me something like: ‘Sure, drop by next week, let’s discuss your offer’, Alexey suggested I come to his office the following morning, and the day after that he was showing me where my desk and computer were, putting some money in my hand as my first advance, deciding on a title for my ‘department’ – the ‘Anti-Virus Department’ (or something like that), and providing me with two employees.

My first work task – firing both employees! They just weren’t right. And I managed this first task ok – no hysterics, no conflicts: I think they agreed with me they weren’t the right ‘fit’.

Now, a bit more about KAMI (remember – in 1991)…

The computer department of KAMI was made up of around two dozen folks. But there was literally no money to be spent on computers! Therefore, the start-up capital came from sales of shoes imported from India, chocolate biscuits, the manufacture of a car alarm system, and systems of encoding TV signals (for paid TV). The only actual computer IT projects were my antivirus department and also a transputer department, which happened to be the most successful departments of KAMI back then.

What else can I recall from this time?

Actually, not a great deal, as I was too busy working 12-14 hours a day: I didn’t have time to take much notice of anything else, including politics. Still, let me think…

We rented our first office in… a kindergarten (!) in Strogino, a northwestern Moscow suburb. Later we moved to some premises in the Polytechnic Museum, then in Moscow State University, then a research institute, then another. We used to joke: in our early days the company went through all levels – besides high school ).

Our very first ‘office’ in Strogino

Read on…