The Retiring Mind, Part 1: Clouds

goghcloudsI’m setting my LinkedIn and Facebook status to retired on 11/30 (a month later than planned, alas). Retired isn’t completely accurate since I will be in the earliest stage of a new startup in cognitive computing, but I want to bask ever-so-briefly in the sense that I am retired, disconnected from the circuits of organizations, and able to do absolutely nothing from day-to-day if I so desire.

(I’ve spent some serious recent cycles trying to combine Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” as an intro to the Grateful Dead’s “Terrapin Station”…on my Line6 Variax. Modulate B-flat to C, then D, then E. If there is anything more engaging for a retiring mind, I can’t think of it.)

I recently pulled the original kitenga.com server off a shelf in my garage because I had a random Kindle Digital Publisher account that I couldn’t find the credentials for and, in a new millennium catch-22, I couldn’t ask for a password reset because it had to go to that old email address. I swapped hard drives between a few Linux pizza-box servers and messed around with old BIOS and boot settings, and was finally able to get the full mail archive off the drive. In the process I had to rediscover all the arcane bits of Dovecot and mail.rc and SMTP configurations, and a host of other complexities. After not finding what I needed there, alas, I compressed the mail collection and put it on Dropbox.

I also retired a Mac Mini, shipping it off to a buy-back place for a few hundred bucks in Amazon credit. It had been a Subversion server that followed-up for kitenga.com, holding more than ten years of intellectual property in stasis. And I mean everything: business records, PowerPoints, source code, release packages, artwork, manuscripts, music. The archives were recorded to a USB drive and then tarred and dropped into Dropbox. A few of the more personal archive collections were transformed into Git repositories and stored on a OneDrive account.

And the new startup will exclusively use Microsoft Office 365 for email, calendaring, and productivity (yes, I tried Google Docs). Yammer will help with internal knowledge management. Atlassian’s Confluence, JIRA, and Bitbucket will support code development. Lync and Skype are collaboration tools. Products will launch in Amazon EC2 instances. Financials, HR, and talent acquisition will go to WorkDay. Then we have LegalZoom for legalities, USPTO.gov for trademarks and patents, GoDaddy for domain registration, iPage for WordPress hosting, and so on. And the absolutely critical 1Password for keeping all these credentials straight across dozens of web properties and online systems (I have 178 separate logins stored in 1Password!), with the 1Password archive encrypted in Dropbox and accessible from phones or laptops as needed.

What an incredible change. In just a few years we have erased or reduced to a trickle the frictional costs of doing a modern software business. Even travel has become easier with TripIt Pro. I just forward any itinerary I get from any airline or online booking service and it gets incorporated into a master itinerary. I check in for flights online and the boarding passes appear on my Apple Watch for scanning. I’m taking off for two weeks of backpacking and trail running in New Zealand as some kind of psychological commitment to the concept of retirement so travel optimization is weighing on me right now.

Cord-cutting for cable and landline (except broadband) is coming soon. Television is bad enough that surfing it should not be an option. Also, one of the interesting consequences of cloud everything (including installed software assets in the Apple App Store, Steam, music, movies, etc.) is that the compute platform can be swapped as needed. I keep disposing of compute platforms and I’m now down to just an iPhone 6 and 2015 Macbook with a curved 34” LG 4K display. The Macbook might get swapped for a next-gen Air within a year, or something else (I’ve tried every gen of iPads and also forced myself to live with a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, but ended up selling each because of non-use). If and when I swap platforms, it just takes a day or so to get everything synced up and working again.

The flexibility of the operations back-end of this new startup world demonstrates an odd fact about Silicon Valley: we are getting close to being able to turn ideas directly into tangible products with little or no capital investment. Our OPEXs become predictable and manageable ($12/month per user, for instance). We have no CAPEX. With Obamacare even the mind-numbing opaqueness of the health insurance market breaks open for independent contractors and contributors.

It’s feeling very warm and comfortable in the clouds.

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