SOLVED Time Machine volume not mounting in OSX

I use an external USB drive to store my Time Machine backups, as most people do. The drive is split into two partitions; one for  Time Machine, the other for general data. Every few weeks/months, OSX will no longer mount the Time Machine volume. The volume appears in Disk Utility, but greyed out. The Mount option in Disk Utility is also greyed out. Overall, it appears that OSX can detect and identify the volume, but does not present any option for actually mounting it (at least through the GUI)…

The issue is caused because my Time Machine volume is encrypted. Encrypting your Time Machine backups prevents malicious people who gains access to the backup image will be unable to view the data (or at least it will take them quite a long time to break the encryption). The encryption option is available through the Time Machine area in System Preferences, and is highly recommended.

For whatever reason, OSX ‘forgets’ how to decrypt the volume in order to mount it. The solution is pretty straightforward, but will require use of terminal.

To find the UUID of the encrypted Time Machine volume, execute this command in a terminal:

$ diskutil cs list

Within the results returned, find the UUID of the logical volume used for Time Machine. Look for the LV Name field that matches the name of your Time Machine drive.

To unlock the volume, execute this command in a terminal:

$ diskutil cs unlockVolume UUID -passphrase PASSPHRASE

where PASSPHRASE is the password/key for the volume.

If this command executes successfully, OSX will unlock and mount the volume. You can then resume Time Machine backups as normal.

The Importance of Product Design

Customers love products with great design. A product may work great and provide real customer benefit, but will struggle to gain momentum and marketing ‘buzz’ if it looks unappealing. Therefore, the design of a product (or service) is just as important as its functionality and the value it provides to a customer. In fact, many customers presently expect products to be just as beautiful to look at much as they are reliable and functional.

Over the past two decades, companies such as Apple and Tesla have used product design to create competitive advantage. Furthermore, these companies discovered that customers are willing to pay a premium for a more attractive product. For example, compare two canister vacuum cleaners; a Dirt Devil and a Dyson. Without looking at the specifications of each, it can be agreed that both products perform a similar function (floor cleaning) and are constructed from similar materials (plastic). The significant difference is the design and attractiveness between the products. The Dirt Devil resembles a standard modern canister vacuum. The Dyson, however, looks like something used on a spacecraft. The standard two rear wheels are replaced by a single orb. The filter was crafted to mimic a jet turbine. Clearly, the Dyson team spent significant time crafting the look of the product.

The effect of product design is reflected in the price difference between the two vacuums. The Dyson ($599) is priced approximately CAD $400 more than the Dirt Devil (CAD $199). Of course, Dyson may have some higher internal costs, however one can expect that a retail price difference of 200% provides Dyson a much healthier margin than Dirt Devil.

Read this article from Entrepreneur magazine to learn more about how product design affects the emotion of the customer, and can either persuade (or dissuade) someone from purchasing a product.

Don’t Waste Time Choosing a Programming Language for your Software Startup

A client recently asked me for some technology advice regarding his startup. His team is developing software for physiotherapy patients and was curious on whether switching from MySQL to a no-SQL database (MongoDB) would be advantageous. Their development team is intelligent and capable of learning, but had no previous experience with both Mongo and no-SQL databases. The advice I provided to them is the same that I have told countless startups asking such technology questions:

Early phase software startups should build their product using whatever language their team has the most experience with.

The early days of a software startup, or any startup, is about Customer Development. The focus should not be the technical or performance elements of the product. Instead, software founders must find potential customers, understand their needs, and get feedback on their product. Founders must then use this feedback to modify the product based on what customers tell them. The key to success is speed of iterations; the faster the technical team can modify the product, the quicker the team can engage customers so that even more feedback can be given on the changes.

Using a language, framework, or libraries that the team is unfamiliar with means they will spend more time learning rather than building. In this situation, making a high number of pivots in a short period of time will be impossible. The impact will be costly delays in time-to-market, preventing the team from getting the customer feedback necessary for success.

Once some initial sales/beta testers/traction is achieved, the team should only then discuss the chosen technology platform, looking at other relevant factors such as security, performance, reliability, scalability, and cost.

So, stick to what you know best at first, and re-evaluate once you’ve captured some customers.

Avoiding ‘permission denied’ errors when running find command

Spotlight in OSX is not good for finding files on your Mac. It will return things like documents, videos, and songs, but the tool is not useful for finding things like basic text files in non-user directories. Enter the find CLI command.

When find tries to enter a directory the current user does not have access to, it will return a error like find: /.Trashes: Permission denied. These error can quickly take up all the space on your terminal screen, making valid results difficult to see. One can get around this by executing find using sudo, but why elevate privilege when you don’t need to?

The solution is to run the command with the -print option. Using this option, the command can be instructed to toss out all the error messages in stderr by directing them to /dev/null.

An example to run a case-insensitive search for items with iTunes in their name:
$ find / -iname iTunes -print 2>/dev/null

Issues with Seti@Home on Raspberry Pi

The Seti@Home package published by Daniel Carrion no longer appears to be compatible with BOINC on the PI. From my searching the internet, I found some information stating that some people may have had some success when compiling both BOINC and the Seti@Home binaries from source, but the results were not consistent.

I still wanted to do some BOINC’ing on my Pi and looked at other projects. I first looked at Einstein@Home, but the project required more RAM than was available. Other Pi users reported the same problem, and were directed to use Asteroids@Home as the RAM requirement was much smaller. Not only was using Asteroids@Home less RAM intensive, the project offers a project that can be directly attached to the Pi; no additional downloads or tweaking necessary.

After a few hours troubleshooting a few issues, I was able to get Asteroids@Home running on my Pi. Here is the link to my instructions for anyone also interested.

Director’s Responsibilities in Canada

For the last 25 years, the law firm Osler, Haskin, & Harcourt in a joint effort with the Institute of Corporate Director’s have published an excellent guide to Canadian corporate governance called Director’s Responsibilities in Canada. The document is quite lengthy, but provides detailed information about the roles of shareholders and corporate boards in Canada, and how corporations are governed the decisions made by board members. I recommend this document to any venture preparing to form a board. As always, consult a lawyer before taking action.

I this corporate governance is a topic that most entrepreneurs neglect. In the early days of the venture, when the founders are focused on prototypes and engaging their target market, governance structures are the last thing on their minds. Of course, at this point in the startup, a board of directors consisting of the founders (who are typically the only shareholders) is sufficient. However, as the venture matures and begins seeking outside investment, a board is needed. In most cases, the investor will require a seat on the board as part of their investment in order to closely monitor their investment.

#Role of a Board

In addition to providing investors with an avenue for monitoring and participating in

Kerberos Authentication

Kerberos is an authentication technology used by Microsoft Active Directory. It allows client to access network resources (e.g. file servers, print servers) without having to authenticate (or send a password) to the resource. Instead, clients authenticate against a Key Distribution Center (KDC) (aka Domain Controller in Active Directory-world), which grants individual reusable tickets that the network resource can consume and authenticate against the KDC.

Here is a great link to a Youtube video explaining the process and architecture better.

NAIT Study on Early Stage Financing

This article is the first of a multi-part series covering the findings from the Early-Stage Business Financing in Alberta study published by NAIT.

In October 2014, NAIT released a report describing the reality of how Albertan start-ups raise early stage equity financing and what challenges both entrepreneurs & investors face when trying to make deals. This report only crossed my desk recently, and I admit that I only consumed the abstract (as the entire report is over 200 pages), but it contains several interesting pieces of information applicable to all start-ups.

Talent, Not Technology, is Primary

A technology entrepreneur would likely expect that an investor in primarily interested in the functionality and ingenuity of the product/service/invention being pitched. In reality, the opposite is true. Investors are first and foremost evaluating the individuals doing the pitch.

Investors place greatest emphasis on the perceived quality of the founder/management team.

Investors realize that start-ups offering new products to new markets are highly risky. New ventures are likely to fail. A smart investor will bet on the team rather than the product, knowing that in all likelihood, the team will smartly pivot and change the product multiple times responding to feedback from the market before it is successful. In fact, the product that finds success in the market may be completely different than the one investors learned about during the initial pitch. A competent management team knows and expects failure, and as a team, has the creativity and intelligence to overcome these hurdles.

Coach-ability is Crucial

Coach-ability is another core characteristic that investors seek. Not only do investors provide capital for the venture, they also share years of business experience in key markets and understanding of regulatory, technical, and market challenges that the new venture is likely to experience. Investors also usually have a great network of industry contacts built over years of running their businesses. A savvy entrepreneur will take advantage of access to this wealth of information and personal contacts.

A good investor wants to help the ventures they invest in by providing advice and guidance. This is in the best interest of both the investor and the entrepreneurs as both are motivated by the financial success of the venture. To their own detriment, some entrepreneurs are overconfident in their abilities and are uninterested in listening to a wise mentor. For whatever reason, these individuals are interested solely in the cash an investor can inject into the venture. Ironically, a closed-minded entrepreneur will likely discourage investors. After all, would you feel comfortable giving your cash to someone who refuses your council? The best course of action is to think of investors as partners in your business; individuals who can provide both financial and intellectual capital to your start-up.

Do Not Neglect the Business Side of your Venture

After team quality, investors look at the quality of the market opportunity presented to them. This is pretty self-explanatory; after all, investors are ultimately seeking a strong return on their investment (although there are cases where investors fund new ventures mainly for personal interest, lifestyle, or “fun”). The rule of thumb that I tell my clients is that early stage start-up investors are looking for a 500% to 700% return on investment within 5 to 7 years. In some cases, the time period expectation is shorter. At a recent NACO conference, many investors stated they are now expecting a return within 2 to 3 years. For an entrepreneur, this means an investor must be convinced of the size and growth of the market, how well-defined the market is, and the maturity and realistic-ness of both the marketing plan and the financial model.

In my experience, technology entrepreneurs typically overlook the market, financial, and business aspects of their venture. The findings of this report suggest the opposite. Investors value the business factors of the venture far more than the innovative technology itself. Therefore, technology entrepreneurs need to develop the business stream of their venture as much as the technology stream. If they prefer to focus on the technology or have little interest of knowledge in business, then bringing on a co-founder with these skills is necessary.

Have a Realistic, Needs-based Valuation

Many of the entrepreneurs that I advise create wild valuations for their ventures. When probed for details about how these values were determined, founders often describe the “major growth potential” of their venture, or the fact that “start-up x recently received $y million recently”. In fact, it is not uncommon for me to hear an entrepreneur who has sold few or no products to value their company at over $1m.

Investors know better, as stated in the report.

The number one reason for walking away from a potential investment was an unrealistic business valuation.

High valuations create uncertainty for the investor for a few reasons. First, it may reflect that the business is in poor financial shape and needs a large cash injection immediately. Second, it could mean that the entrepreneur is looking to acquire cash to spend lavishly on frivolous items. Lastly, it could mean that the entrepreneurs have no clue about the venture’s current and future revenue and costs, or the size of the market.

Determining a valuation for an early-stage start-up is challenging. While I will discuss more about this in a future article, entrepreneurs should base their valuations on current needs and realistic projections. Do not be afraid to present a small but fact-based valuation to an investor. As stated above, your goal should not only be to acquire capital for the business, but networking opportunities and seasoned business experience. If nothing else, remember these words of wisdom:

“70% of something is worth more than 100% of nothing”.

Ways to Present the Business Model Canvas

The Business Model Canvas is a fantastic method of brainstorming and documenting the business model for your startup or operating business. Unfortunately, when attempting to present a business model to stakeholders, employees, or investors, many founders and business leaders simply display their canvas and explain the content to the audience. This is a poor method of sharing information which will ultimately leave the audience confused and overwhelmed.

Benson Garner from the Strategyzer team (the maintainers of the Business Model Canvas) recently hosted a webinar describing the dos and don’ts of effectively presenting the canvas. The webinar is available online. Below I will outline Garner’s key points. For more detail, please view the 40 minute webinar. It explains these points in detail, plus offers a great example of generating and presenting a canvas.

First, presenting a business model canvas directly may be the worst way to present the content. If the audience has no understanding or awareness of the canvas or the methodology for generating one, they will be unlikely to understand your presentation. In this case, think of other ways to present the content in a more traditional style. If you are convinced that presenting the information in canvas format is best, at least give an overview of the Business Model Canvas before you present.

Presentation Killers

Or ways to sink your business model canvas presentation.

  1. Revealing the canvas all at once at the start of the presentation. Audience members will be overwhelmed and spend too much time reading your canvas rather than listening to your speech.
  2. Including too much detail and text. A common flaw amongst all presentations.
  3. Including too many ideas on a single canvas. Consider using multiple canvases to present separate ideas, and present each canvas alone.
  4. Showing elements that are not linked to other elements (orphan elements). For example, a Value Proposition for a Customer Segment, but without an associated Revenue Stream.
  5. Mixing the present and future state. As above, consider using separate canvases; one for the present business and another for the future.
  6. Sharing too much irrelevant info. The audience is likely to ask questions or for clarification. Keep answers brief and related to the information you are presenting. Avoid going far off-tangent.

Killer Presentations

Or how to properly present a business model canvas

  1. Tell the story, one element at a time. Ensure the story has a clear beginning and end, separated by rising suspense.
  2. Use arrows to show relationships between elements. For example, use an arrow to show how your business will deliver a Value Proposition through a Channel to a Customer.
  3. Use colour-coding to show relationships between elements.
  4. Use a few descriptive words, and don’t be afraid to use visuals. For example, include a picture of a smiling face in a Value Proposition of “Better Smiles”.
  5. Distinguish between assumptions and facts (i.e. what you know vs what you don’t).
  6. Bring in relevant multimedia content (e.g. videos, images, charts).