ICS/DCS Control Systems Aren’t prepared for this. Still.

An ingeniously simple control systems experimental power grid hack attack from 2007. Source:


A protective relay attached to that generator was designed to prevent it from connecting to the rest of the power system without first syncing to that exact rhythm: 60 hertz. But Assante’s hacker in Idaho Falls had just reprogrammed that safeguard device, flipping its logic on its head.

At 11:33 a.m. and 23 seconds, the protective relay observed that the generator was perfectly synced. … It opened a circuit breaker to disconnect the machine.

When the generator was detached from the larger circuit …(and)… relieved of the burden of sharing its energy with that vast system, it instantly began to accelerate, spinning faster, like a pack of horses that had been let loose from its carriage. As soon as the protective relay observed that the generator’s rotation had sped up to be fully out of sync with the rest of the grid, its maliciously flipped logic immediately reconnected it to the grid’s machinery.

The moment the diesel generator was again linked to the larger system, it was hit with the wrenching force of every other rotating generator on the grid. All of that equipment pulled the relatively small mass of the diesel generator’s own spinning components

Yup, it self destructed by reversing the logic of a safety relay. Brilliant and terrifying hack – both.

We are not prepared.

Russia – “unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages”

From the article:

“No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, said in the Justice Department statement.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-19/u-s-charges-six-russian-intelligence-agents-for-past-hacking/

Hospitality Industry Jobs Killed by COVID

Hospitality industry jobs are f’d. Big time. You care. You need us/them/we. We take care of each other.

If you have never worked in the service industry, then you might not know that a Monday or Tuesday night (it varies by geography) are called “Industry Night.” And in every town there is/are one or two establishments that stay open a bit later and focus on catering to other professionals in the service field. If you are “industry”, special pricing and special consideration is given. And thus you ALWAYS tip your compatriots 20% or more. It’s an unwritten rule we all follow.

If you have never worked in the service industry, the people, like I was and still am, who behind the scenes make everything work smoothly, then their health, safety, economics and future, might not resonate with you.

But if you have always been served, and never the server, give it another 12 months and you will seriously care. Because you won’t have a pub or restaurant to go to.

From the article: https://www.npr.org/2020/09/29/917756656/pandemic-threatens-long-term-job-security-after-hospitality-industry-layoffs

“Nationally, hotel occupancy is hovering at around 50%, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association. In urban areas, business may be even slower — in the 20% to 40% range.”

“Virtually all business travel has halted. … Conventions have canceled for the year, or postponed. Pretty much all we are seeing in hotels are the leisure travelers,” said Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association.”

I am not suggesting opening everything up and a return to the wishful and fictional recidivist memories of what makes America “great”. And I don’t have all of the answers. That’s the point; none of us do.

I am posting this as a former busboy, waiter, fill-in bartender-of-last-resort in my youth. It’s how you partially pay for college. Or at least it was for many of us.

I am proud to have kept the (your) cutlery and dishes sanitary and well rinsed, the industrial ovens and grills on giant wheels cleaned with just the right amount of industrial strength cleaners. The kind that eat into your skin if you don’t wear elbow length gloves. And again rinsed and washed so customers didn’t get sick.

You do your “industry” job “right” because it’s the right thing to do. And hey, don’t forget, we also eat and drink where we work. And we bring in our family and friends.

The food and beverage “industry” is honorable work. I’m proud to have done it for years. And I’m not too prideful to return to working in the industry of restaurants, bars, and hotels if I needed to. I bet the 6 AM prepper is still is terrified of paper cuts (tomato juice is a killer) and I bet they still slice the prosciutto last (it’s greasy so you do it last before cleaning the blade.)

In conclusion, as painful as it is to write this, we must *not* fully open the service economy back up until we solve COVID. All that will do is endanger, and sometimes, literally kill my friends in the industry.

And to achieve that, in a time of international crisis, the people in industry should not be forgotten.

For your own research: https://www.bea.gov/data/gdp/gdp-industry

The k in COVID

“…. we don’t need to know all the sufficient factors that go into a super-spreading event to avoid what seems to be a necessary condition most of the time: many people, especially in a poorly ventilated indoor setting, and especially not wearing masks.”

“As Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida, told me, given the huge numbers associated with these clusters, targeting them would be very effective in getting our transmission numbers down.” “

source: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/09/k-overlooked-variable-driving-pandemic/616548/

HHS Ads on Coronavirus

Me: clearly the country is feeling despair regarding the over 200 thousand Americans who have died from the Coronavirus. Many of our people are in quarantine, self-quarantine, unemployed, dead, sick, recovering, feeling guilt from passing the disease to others, mourning, confused, in anguish, and looking for any light.

Therefore a public relations campaign to educate the public on causes, prevention, treatment, the facts, and yes “hope” for life with and hopefully after COVID is appropriate imho.

But not like this. Copy/paste from the article:

‘It’s like every red flag’: Trump-ordered HHS ad blitz raises alarms


The health department is moving quickly on a highly unusual advertising campaign to “defeat despair” about the coronavirus, a $300 million-plus effort that was shaped by a political appointee close to President Donald Trump and executed in part by close allies of the official, using taxpayer funds.

The ad blitz, described in some budget documents as the “Covid-19 immediate surge public advertising and awareness campaign,” is expected to lean heavily on video interviews between administration officials and celebrities, who will discuss aspects of the coronavirus outbreak and address the Trump administration’s response to the crisis, according to six individuals with knowledge of the campaign who described its workings to POLITICO.


(My opinion: Perhaps the only good news is the director is undoubtably familiar with how to sway American public opinion.)


“Two HHS officials said that Caputo had spent weeks extolling Tolmor’s work, arguing that the Russian-born filmmaker — who had been nominated for an Oscar, but had no prior experience producing U.S. public health campaigns — would bring a fresh eye to the work and could execute Caputo’s vision.”

Source: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/25/trump-hhs-ads-coronavirus-421957?cid=apn

Crash of US Dollar

“… the dollar’s share of official foreign-exchange reserves has declined from a little over 70% in 2000 to a little less than 60% today, according to the BIS. That downtrend could gather momentum in the years ahead, especially with the U.S. currently leading the charge in de-globalization and decoupling. With America’s share of reserves well in excess of its share in world GDP and trade, such a correction might well be inevitable in an increasingly fragmented, multi-polar world.”

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-06-14/dollar-crash-how-will-it-unfold

My opinion: the author does not mention the supply chain. Or “purchase orders” upon which the supply chain depends. Or the incentive for other countries to free themselves from the impacts of tariffs.

Pause for a moment and ask yourself, do you think China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the EU, etc aren’t avoiding VAT and US economic sanctions using blockchain backed “purchase orders”?

Is it just a coincidence ETH, the dominant player in both “proof of work” and “proof of stake” crypto blockchain smart contracts, was created and backed by Russia, the largest energy supplier to the EU?

Forget politics and think like a Neanderthal for a minute. Maslow’s hierarchy.

Life depends on mundane stuff like food, water and energy. All of these involve complicated supply chains that can be manipulated in a trade war.

If we, the United States of America, were being controlled by a foreign currency, would we tolerate it? No.

Russia didn’t start this break towards independence from US economic hegemony, Europe did with the Euro. But they kept Central Banks’ central control so it hasn’t provided freedom.

Meanwhile China was like “heck-with-it, just pin it to the dollar and choke their supply chain.. Oh and invent BTC, let Binance flourish, etc etc…

The American-centric worldview is just that, a “world view” which by definition has built in bias and distorted perceptions. It can be blinding.

For the sake of future generations in every country, we must consider their future, not just ours. Loss of monetary influence would be a world changing event. Nobody knows how this will shake out.

It is hard for me to shake off the words spoken to me recently while on a walk. To paraphrase their words:

“Dude just accept it. We surrendered in 2016 to a history of racism and sexism. 2020 is the year America finally is starting to see what happens when you surrender to some imaginary and some real dragons. But is it a bad thing to let other countries deal with their own problems? Who made us world police?”

I don’t have an answer. It’s like the first time a child sees a horrific car accident. You can’t “un-see” it.

Our President Hasn’t Been a Unifier

“All I ask is he keep his disrespect, his foul language far away…. Our president hasn’t been a unifier.” – Justin Blake after the [redacted**] shooting of his nephew ***

“Justin Blake declared that President Trump must be defeated as he stood over the spot where a police officer shot his nephew in the back seven times.”

Source: https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-09-01/trump-kenosha-jacob-blake (Edit: As of Sept 18, 2020, this link is not working and cannot be used as verification of the quote, which I find ridiculous. The media IS definitely part of the problem.)

There are facts like America has passed 180,000 COVID-19 deaths. And that our culture, when scientifically tested by social scientists, has a proven racial bias against Black Americans. Those are facts.

There are opinions, frequently based on facts. But lately many people are forming opinions based on lies they believe to be facts.

These people have been tricked.

It is no secret that I did NOT vote for Trump. I expected, sadly, that President Trump would be an ineffective leader.

Yet by “ineffective” I was thinking corruption, tons of White House dinners with dignitaries and CEOs, grifting, illegal activity, disregard for the Hatch Act, ignoring the emoluments clause in The Constitution of the United States of America – that type of garden variety criminal stuff.

But just wow. The damage Trump has done to America, the deaths caused by his inaction, his rancor, his divisive speech and actions, the actual carnage he has left in his wake… for lack of a better phrase, bring me to the point of despair.

And let me be clear – we, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – we, still and forever want you, the Trump voter, the Trump supporters, to rejoin this great nation. You are part of our strength, ya just made one heck of a mistake. Own it, “man up”. Shake the memory of this loser off your shoulders and help us rebuild.

To those who voted for him, that was foolish, but simply put, you were tricked. This is forgivable. Everyone gets tricked at one point or another. The definition of “fool” is technically:

So you foolishly voted for Trump. And now our Nation is weaker, in my opinion, than at any time in recent history. Putin laughs at our puppet in charge.

Wait. Hang on. You now need to help us clean up this mess.

You, Trump voters, are still my fellow Americans. I love and respect you. Yes, you made a mistake, a terrible miscalculation, by disregarding the character of this fool. Yet you are not a fool, you just acted foolishly based on the data you had at the time.

Your data has changed.

And for those of you who still support and want this trickster, this loser in chief, I ask you one question:

“Do you believe, if re-elected, Trump will change course, in words and actions, to unify the country he has divided?”

YES or NO?

If you do NOT believe Trump will change course and UNIFY the people, you have to accept that you are not for the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

Donald Trump is, by far, the worst President in my lifetime. He is a loser. Period.

Yes, I agree with Justin Blake when he says “Our President Hasn’t Been a Unifier”

And I am FOR:


——- the following is an addendum in response to my error in a post on linkedin —-

[*** CORRECTION: There was an error in what was supposed to be just the “pull quote” to articulate the issue. It was discussed on linkedini and I was incorrect in my replies to a good friend. I apologize for this.

Specifically the original blog post stated INCORRECTLY one phrase from the article that I believe I screen scraped. But I’m human and possibly I just retyped it? I can’t verify as the link to the LA Times no longer works.

Regardless, Given no further proof, and the original link being broken, I must assume it is MY ERROR. I apologize Oscar.

I apologize thrice for incorrectly stating that Jacob Black had “died” from being shot 7 times in the back. The following link states Jacob is alive but paralyzed from the waste down. (source: https://www.npr.org/2020/08/25/905926959/jacob-blake-paralyzed-after-being-shot-in-the-back-by-the-police – but who knows how long that link will stay up.

All of my other thoughts in the above post still stand. I love the United States of America.

I am an independent and have voted in both primaries over the years (which is legal in Texas). I have supported and done web sites for candidates on both sides of the aisle, I worked very briefly on George W’s reelection campaign, I supported Obama, worked with Sylvia Garcia. And I’m proud to have helped John Culberson launch the first WordPress Website on the Whitehouse network when he was my representative. I believe all of the above politicians to be Patriotic and that they put country over party.

I, very unfortunately, have come to the conclusion that our current President does not understand or even have the mental capacity to occupy the office he currently holds. I do however pray (literally daily) that somehow he will step up to the task, gain the self confidence to lead this great country, and as he says “make America great again.” So far, my prayers remain unanswered. And that is why we have elections and a system for a peaceful transfer of power.

Given I don’t see Trump changing, I simply can’t remain silent and forever be on the wrong side of history as America’s hegemony slides away right before our eyes. The President needs to step up and lead, or just step aside.

Either option can be done with strength, honor and peacefully as is the American tradition.

But make no mistake about my allegiance or Patriotism. The President is our Commander in Chief, the Presidency is an Office, and I respect and would do my duty if called regardless of my concerns with his ability as a leader. My dedication to country is guaranteed because that’s how I was raised and that’s who I am.. WHOOOOP!

United Arab Emerates Officially Recognizes Israel

Part of my studies at Texas A&M University in College Station included a political science focus on China, Africa, and the Middle East. All three are incredibly fascinating.

It is from that historical perspective that I must congratulate President Trump for achieving a significant step towards stability in the Middle East and a safer path forward for the nation of Israel.


I recognize there will be radicals on both sides who will use the “slippery slope” fallacy finding something negative in an Arab country recognizing Israel as a country. But I see the opposite.

For example, previously the Arab states didn’t have diplomatic relations with Israel. In denying that acknowledgement, it left the Arab states with little leverage to negotiate regarding what will hopefully be an acknowledged state of Palestine.

It won’t be easy, the path forward will be fraught with peril. But this has been the case in the Middle East since ‘67.

The first step towards peace, anywhere, is for people to communicate with words instead of bombs. UAE is taking a leadership role here, being the adults in the room, and acknowledging Israel as a peer. And communicating formally with respect.

I view, I predict, I am hopeful that years from now we will view this as a turning point in the never ending quest for peace in the Middle East.

Today I congratulate the Trump administration for being a part of the solution on this issue.

Sunset Lightshow 4/19 & 4/20/20

The only bummer for us, Americans that is, about the date written as 4/20/2020, is that for the Europeans it’s 20/4/2020. It isn’t quite a palindrome, but it’s cool. Score 1 for European date format!

4/20/20 Sunset

Yesterday’s sunset didn’t have the thunderheads dissipating in the distance, but it was still cool.

These sunset photos from the roof of the garage reminds me of being trapped after Hurricane Harvey almost three years ago now. Same garage roof. Same feeling, same reality, same sense of being trapped.

Meanwhile, in never never land, we continued to march towards some depressing milestones today.

Soon, more Americans will have died in the first six months of 2020 from the Coronavirus, over 40k American souls to date and counting, and we will soon surpass those who died in the Vietnam war (58k.)

We’re not there yet, but that’s the course we are on. And our leaders continue to seemingly not grasp the situation.

From cnn: https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/20/politics/trump-coronavirus-all-about-him/index.html

Yet Trump insisted after his trawl for personal credit: “It’s not about me. Nothing is about me.”

This came on the day when US deaths from the pandemic topped 40,000 and raced upwards, though Trump claimed he had saved a million lives through his leadership — despite taking several months to recognize the magnitude of the unfolding disaster.

For perspective, my Father fought in Vietnam. He served his country. He lost friends to combat and more were MIA.

Vietnam Memorial DC

I ask you, what will the Covid-19 memorial look like?

No Pattern in Network Security Alerts? You tell me.

Given my blog is being constantly attacked and throwing alerts to my monitoring system, I just thought I’d put this visual out there in case anyone thought it was “fake” news.

Yes, yes, I have backups and backups of backups and backups of backups of backups offline, etc…. Plus redundant logging with IAM “write / not read” permissions, encrypted and pushed to accounts I don’t even have access to.

Recent security alerts on my blog (all blocked, but recorded) for your viewing pleasure.

Note the security legend on the lower right.

And yes I am omitting the time-frame and cropped out other specifics because that is common sense. But you get the point.

This is a continuous attack. And this is how brazen people become when you don’t defend yourself. We need to defend ourselves.

This is a a hassle. And not a good use of American minds, or anyone’s for that matter.

Trickle down economics might not work, but trickle down inventions sure as hell do (Edison? Tesla? Einstein? The kid next door? What could she be inventing if not being distracted bs?)

Wear a Damn Mask

Source: https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/06/417906/still-confused-about-masks-heres-science-behind-how-face-masks-prevent

“Two compelling case reports also suggest that masks can prevent transmission in high-risk scenarios, said Chin-Hong and Rutherford. In one case, a man flew from China to Torontoand subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. He had a dry cough and wore a mask on the flight, and all 25 people closest to him on the flight tested negative for COVID-19.

In another case, in late May, two hair stylists in Missouri had close contact with 140 clients while sick with COVID-19. Everyone wore a mask and none of the clients tested positive.”

Loneliness will kill you

“Loneliness will kill you. It’ll kill you slower than the virus, but it will also kill you,” he said. “And so as we have people isolated for longer periods of time while the virus is brought under control …we need to recognize that the status quo is dangerous as well and find ways to lessen that.”

– Jeff Johnson, the Florida director for AARP

Source: https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-07-23/a-coronavirus-death-every-8-minutes-this-florida-community-fears-who-will-be-next

Do Not Burn Our Flag

I do not care what the context is or was. I do not care if you were manipulated and weak minded enough to be influenced by “fake Facebook” or “the Manchurian candidate” or some conspiracy theory or anything else. This is tragically disappointing and a pathetic attempt at free speech.

IF that is what happened. First the image:

(Questionable photo origin, but AP ran it.)

Emotionally, and patriotically, I gotta say this image is horrific to view for me no matter how it came to be.

Just don’t. Do NOT burn our flag on American soil. Any cause you might think you are representing is immediately debased. And delegitimized. It’s so egregious, at least to me, I can’t possibly fathom someone thinking this would advance their cause.

I can’t help but notice the person holding the fire is carefully cropped out of the frame. So perhaps, like the media, I have been tricked by people seeking to divide our country.

But, just WOW, this is a real hot-button for a lot of us. It is painful to view.

As I’ve said before, the Presidency is an “office” – not a “person.” Disagree with the current office holder, as the majority of Americans do, does not justify this.

If it’s Russian propaganda by their new Emperor-for-Life seeking to further divide us – you got me. If it’s homegrown idiots, even if behind a cause you believe in, you have cemented your place in history as traitors.

Do NOT burn the flag my Father, my Uncles, my Mother, my Brother, my Greats, my friends, fought to defend. the flag is a representation of an ideal. That we are all equal. That together we are one. E

e pluribus unum

out of many, one

(the motto of the United States)

In closing, I am highly suspicious of the origin and veracity of the photo. The photographer at a protest can’t tell what is “theatre” and what is “spontaneous.”

I just know in my heart, despite everything going on in 2020, that we must stick together. Out of many, one.


Earn What?

From the proposed: “Eliminating Abuse and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technology”

“The Earn It Act could end user privacy as we know it,” said the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Tech companies that provide private, encrypted messaging could have to rewrite their software to allow police special access to their users’ messages.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jul/02/earn-it-act-online-privacy-surveillance

Say it with me again;

“any backdoor to your software WILL inevitably be discovered and exploited.”

“any backdoor to your software WILL inevitably be discovered and exploited.”

“any backdoor to your software WILL inevitably be discovered and exploited.”

And be careful of any Bill with hyperboles in its name. It’s a ‘tell’.

Juneteenth – We Must Remember History to Not Repeat It.

We must remember our fellow American’s EARNED it. And by “it” I am not speaking of their “freedom”. The Constitution makes clear that Freedom is “God Given” and “Inalienable.”

Juneteenth was not the day that ended slavery. It was the day they learned that a wrong had been righted, and the truth had been withheld. Another lie to slowed the healing of America.

“My people have a country of their own to go to if they choose… Africa… but, this America belongs to them just as much as it does to any of the white race… in some ways even more so, because they gave the sweat of their brow and their blood in slavery so that many parts of America could become prosperous and recognized in the world. ”

Josephiner Baker

– Josephiner Baker, legendary entertainer and activist

Quote Source: https://www.becauseofthemwecan.com/blogs/culture/juneteenth-10-powerful-quotes-to-remember-on-freedom-day

I believe in the power of freedom, in the power of truth, and in standing in solidarity with black Americans who to this day do not enjoy freedoms and laws that protect all of us. But are still enforced and applied unjustly and unevenly.

The next equivalent of Juneteenth in America, I predict, will be the day when White people get the news. When white people understand the news. News of what is already written, news of what is already the law of the land. We just have to acknowledge our equality and acknowledge we are far stronger as one nation.

Image source: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:JosephineBaker1964NL.jpg#mw-jump-to-license

Image description from wikimedia:

English: Josephine Baker and her 10 adopted children in a tour boat (President John F. Kennedy) in Amsterdam (the Netherlands), 4 October 1964Date4 October 1964SourceGaHetNa (Nationaal Archief NL)916-9642AuthorHugo van Gelderen (ANEFO)

Black Lives Matter – A Message from our CEO (Crosspost from Tendenci)

As a company we have a very clear vision.

To Connect and Organize the World’s People. Do Good.

With the turmoil tearing through our country as the realization of systemic racism and the physical danger black people are facing, as the CEO of Tendenci, I want to add to the dialogue. While these opinions are being typed by me, I do hope every member of the Tendenci team shares these values.

I believe in this:

Black Lives Matter

I’m a graduate of Texas A&M University, I have *not* served in the Military but I am an Army brat. Many in my family have served and I grew up on Army bases. So as we say at TAMU “Let me tell you a Story Ags!”

The Survey Questions from “Brats: Our Journey Home”.

Years ago I filled out a survey for a movie that was in Production/Screenwriting stages called “Brats: Our Journey Home“. The survey had tons of questions about my experience growing up as an Army Brat. One question was on racism in the Army.

I responded, in all seriousness, to the question that If I thought Racism was no longer a big problem in America. Literally, I said “no, I don’t think  it is.”

Truly I can’t make this up.

The next day, my phone rings. It’s either the producer or the director on the line. I’m like “what? huh?” Obviously I wasn’t expecting that. We exchange small talk and then he asks me “So Ed, you really don’t think Racism is that big of a deal in America?” 

I repeated my answer, perhaps a bit more timid, but still I replied with “no, not really. I just don’t see it.”  (stay with me and keep reading please….)

The producer asked me, and I am paraphrasing as it has been a while, the following:

Director: “Ed, can you name one place in the United States of America in 1958 where a black man could tell a white man what to do and they had to do it unconditionally?”
Me: “um… an Army base?” (Ding ding ding… the lights start to go on….)

Director: “Yes. That’s it Ed! One place! You grew up on bases all over the United States and overseas and YOU never saw how large a problem it was and still is. Because you are white, even though racism was still there on base to a lesser degree, it wasn’t visible to you. YOU grew up a white kid in a non-political environment and thought nothing of having a black family join y’all for dinner. That’s how you were raised.”

The director continued…

“Have you ever heard the saying that ‘you don’t care about the color of a man’s skin if he’s sitting in a foxhole with you?’ You have because your Father served in Vietnam.”
Me: “OK.. you make a damn good point. I learned to ride horses from Master Sergeant Willians (Ret), and played basketball, and worked out with the GIs at the gym, and I guess I just never really thought about it.”

I’ll stop there. I was wrong back then. And I promise you, if you think racism is not a big issue in America to this day, you are wrong. There ARE things we can do to change it. And we must. 

I have contributed, but more importantly, I need to recommit to ACTS of change. Not words or hashtags. 

I believe this image from twitter user x says it far better than I can, so I will let these words speak for themselves:


From twitter user https://www.instagram.com/p/CA8FEIuF3a5/


Ed Schipul
Tendenci – The Open Source AMS

Originally posted at https://www.tendenci.com/news/black-lives-matter-a-message-from-our-ceo/ on June 4, 2020

Lighting is the new Power Suit – Home Lighting for Zoom Conference Calls

When suddenly we are all on video chat much more than ever before, lighting becomes a big deal. When meeting with the boss or a client you typically want to look your best, which in the past meant wearing your “power suit” – the clothes you felt made you look your best!

In the age of Agile Meetings daily and constant Zoom meetings, you are probably “seeing” clients and your boss more than ever! So you want to look your best. The secret is pretty simple: lighting. And it doesn’t have to be expensive.

I’m no model, but for me, this is the basic goal.

Without any lighting hacks, I look like this (taken same day, same time, just without the bouncing light.

Would you want to work with this guy? He looks brooding!?
It’s just the harsh direct light from the window and the low quality camera on the laptop.

This is the concept of what we are trying to achieve. A *cheap* studio lighting setup using as many existing props as we can. Awareness of your lighting and placing a book in the coffee shop window to reflect light up for those early video conference in SOMA can make all of the difference. For now, let’s just look at your home “work spot”. This is the goal along with a few obstacles.

TOP VIEW: Our lighting goal to achieve decent video lighting in the age of COVID19 and Zoom.

For me, this is what I had to start out with. And how I managed to put together a solution using just one “flood light” reflecting off the ceiling and other readily available lighting sources, and hiding all of the actual junk that lives in my workshop/office/cave. And I have most of it out of frame even in this photo – suffice it to say I need to clean the place.

I’m not saying either photo is great, but the top photo is definitely the winner out of the two. Especially when you consider that the screen capture was taken in my workshop/office chaos, I don’t think this is a bad, non-cluttered result.

Live result – white balanced, somewhat even lighting, and definitely more reflective of the fact that I was truly listening to someone speak. The image more closely reflects the respect I was giving, and that the speaker, deserved.

While mine is attached to a studio tripod, it could just as easily be attached to the wall or a chair, whatever, as long as you can point it UP so it bounces off the ceiling and walls.

Can lighting for $8 bucks with a clamp. FLOOD light pointed up.

So there is your “can” light with the clip and the flood reflector. Now to bounce a light off of the ceiling. I’d recommend LED first and foremost. Energy efficient and MUCH COOLER. Lighting in a studio can get very hot. You want the equivalent of at least 75 watts to 100 watts. Plus most LED is much cooler and most are frosted and that is part of the goal, diffused softer lighting.

If the can light is 10 bucks, say the LED flood light is 10 bucks, you have gone from zero to being an active participant in the ZOOM meetings!

It’s a power suit. If you think lighting isn’t complementing your appearance, talk to a photographer because it just means the lighting isn’t set up properly. Or google it. But I promise you don’t need a $1000 ring light or something.

Bonus: minor details you might have missed.

  1. FILL the frame. The exception is when more than one person is on one camera. But generally “filling he frame” is the right way to go given the small size of the image in a grid display for everyone else.
  2. Keep the background simple. It can distract people and also slows down the transmission rate.
  3. Have a good “fall back photo” for those long meetings when you do need to go grab a glass of water. Just don’t ever let a green circle with your initials show up in your place. It’s unprofessional and tells everyone you don’t care AT ALL.
  4. On my chair, I use an old jacket bunched up to give me lumbar support so I sit up straight.
  5. It’s OK to get two lights and use one as a fill on one side, just use a lower power light (100 watt on the right, maybe 40 watt on the left. Although in that case I’d use a 120 watt bulb and a better reflector to save energy and keep the room cooler.
  6. Everyone’s head will reflect light. It’s OK to use makeup, even for you guys, depending on the importance of the call. I also sometimes use a napkin or a tissue over the light (ONLY LED LIGHTS TO AVOID FIRES!) But ya, just a little diffusion. Bring the light up closer and then diffuse it more with a white cloth/tissue/paper/something. Or physically move the light back and let the distance diffuse it.

Pro tip: Drink warm water. Cold water can give you frog throat. And use a good quality microphone. Don’t get a $10 headset at walgreens. Spend the money on a good headset or your voice will sound tiny and nobody can hear you.

Happy Zooming!