The energy transition at home - from the idea to operation. Experience with SENEC, Home 4 Storage, Home Assistant, and much more.

I'll start the description of my adventure into independence from oil and gas at the end. The PV modules are on the roof, the battery storage system is installed, everything is integrated into Home Assistant. And I'm delighted every day to see how cool it is to cover a very large part of my energy needs from the sun (the picture in the article shows the time curve with energy generation and consumption). The integration into Home Assistant was actually the easiest, but more on that later.

I already set out on this path when we were planning our new home in 2018. It was already clear to me at the time that I no longer wanted to be dependent on oil and gas in the foreseeable future. That's why we planned a geothermal heat pump (with appropriate subsidies). The drilling, house connection, heat generation (underfloor heating), hot water, etc. also went very smoothly. Just a quick note here: the heating circuit valves are KNX-capable and can therefore also be controlled via Home Assistant.

All those years I found the charm of PV systems ... rather suboptimal, but that has changed with the new regulations. The subsidy is right, availability has halfway normalized again after Corona, so I requested a consultation with SENEC at the end of 2022 after looking at various providers. Why SENEC? My thought was: they belong to EnBW and will certainly still be around tomorrow and should know how to do something like this. And the "SENEC Cloud", i.e. accessing energy from an account that you can call up again via your own feed-in, also makes an electric car interesting for me for the first time.

Fast Forward: everything has been running since February 12, 2024. Electricity is produced by the sun, the battery is charged and supplies electricity to the house again after sunset. But not at all as it should be. SENEC is currently throttling all storage systems to 70%, which is quite annoying. This is probably because the battery modules currently installed are not safe. And should therefore be replaced. The question is: when?

I will gradually be writing more articles about the various phases of this project and, as always, I look forward to the exchange. Let the sun shine!

Why Asathor?

Sometimes, people ask me, what Asathor means for me. It's very simple - I'm a big comic fan (both DC and Marvel) and I liked the Thor character since I was a kid. Thor, the god of thunder, is also called Asathor. In the mythological Edda writings he was the protector of Midgard, the world of mankind against the giants from Jötunheim. A nice analogy to protecting mankind against cybercrime these days.

New Year's resolutions

An article with good intentions - end of March?` Well, I've been pretty lax about writing articles here. It's not that I haven't been doing anything - on the contrary: there's a lot going on in all the areas I'm dabbling in here. But: I lost track of blogging a bit, especially because I had no concept what I write where (I've changed that now - all details here, abstracts e.g. on LinkedIn). I want to change that now, just in time for the end of the first quarter.

In my annual review, I found that many things are going well and others need more focus. Here's my sharpened list, first on the business topics I write about here:

  • Successful Business (Coaching): as a former owner and CEO in the cybersecurity environment, my goal is to share my experience, help avoid mistakes and support decision makers in small companies (50-300 people) on their way. In the last 1-2 years it has become very clear to me what is important to me: mutual respect, communication at eye level and a good team. This sounds simple, but it is by no means always the case (then we don't fit together). I've also found that I prefer working with software vendors - because that's what I do best and where I can contribute the most.
  • Successful Business (Consulting): another level is the technical experience I can bring as a long-time (SAP) cybersecurity expert. I stopped diving into the depths of bits and bytes here a long time ago, but rather focus on helping IT decision makers make good decisions. Why does what need to be done? Who can help? What can happen if nothing is done? Etc. Once the "WHY" question is answered, the next steps are much easier to determine.
  • Successful Business (Investment): the third and last dimension in business for me is to invest in ideas. Not with huge sums of money (which I don't have), but helping an idea to the next level with small injections of money. Here, contact with the entrepreneur behind it is important to me. Is it really an entrepreneur? Is he on fire for his idea? If so, let's talk.

I will write about the other main topics of my blog, health and having fun, in the coming weeks.

My new rocket: Mac Mini 2014

As I have written before, I don't really care which computer I use. I can be an Apple, a Windows machine, or something else. I have an old Mac Mini from 2014 that I use for managing my music library, for some playback, and minor audio editing stuff. Lately, I was more and more frustrated, because the machine seemed to get slower and slower. I took ages until it started and was usable. Also, there was a lot of dead time when the machine seemed to be idling.

So I started to do some research whether I can fix or whether I need something new. The hardware is still good for a Mac Mini: 2.6 Ghz, 16G of RAM, and 1TB hard disc. How to unleash this power again on an 8 year old computer?

I found this step-by-step guide that contains many useful links like cleaning up autostart items, removing slowing down settings with the free tool KnockKnock, cleaning up the hard disc, etc. I found that I have already applied some of these tips but some not. I went through the entire exercise but the results were not that promising. Startup time was better, but responsiveness not.

During my research I have also found some commercial tools helping you to clean and speed up your Mac. You can find a comprehensive description of "CleanMyMac X" here. The software is very powerful and goes much deeper than anything you can do yourself. Besides an initial "get clean" scan, it can be used to "stay clean" and stay happy. My Mac Mini feels like a new machine and the tradeoff is great: 50 EUR for a perpetual license (break even of subscription in 2 years) vs. re-installing the OS and the apps vs. buying something new.

ADDENDUM: after a few days working with the Mini, I still can't believe it. It feels like a new machine and is all fun again. Thanks to the IT god for the healing.

I did it: Upgrade to Windows 11

I am quite dispassionate about operating systems and hardware. I use macOS, iOS, Linux and Windows. Windows has actually been around the longest - since release 2.1 in 1988.

Today, it's important to me that it shouldn't matter which computer I'm sitting at. The data is in my own or a public cloud and the typical office software is also available everywhere. Only a few specific programmes (e.g. for sound, image or video editing) run only on certain machines.

And yesterday, the time had come for my Windows computer (an Intel NUC): the upgrade to Windows 11 was available.

This is always a special moment, as there is the not unjustified worry that it will somehow go wrong. Keyword: "never change a running system!". But hey, he who dares not! The data is not on the machine anyway, system reset point created and off you go ...

... and an hour later I could log in again. That feels like a small IT miracle. Now it's time to get familiar with the new features. Here's to your upgrade going as smoothly.

We are the best. Why (not)?

At the end of 2021 I was asked to conduct a market analysis of German companies in a certain IT domain. During that project I have screened 200+ websites and corporate data of potential target companies. And one key finding was that many companies fail in telling their visitors what they really do for them.

Let's drill that down.

These days, a companies website is usually not only the first touchpoint of a prospect, it's also the place where people try to find out as much as they can before they really get in touch (note: I write this from B2B perspective). Accordingly, I would expect that the content focuses on the need of the prospect. Need means: how do we deliver value for you? What's your benefit? What's a positive outcome for you if you use our stuff or work with us? etc.? The focus should be on the WHY.

Instead of taking a customers view, many companies focus on their super technology, their great service, or themselves and why they are so great. This is an ego thing only. Even if all of that is true, why should a potential customer care? They don't know you. Accordingly, they wouldn't dive deeper if you don't explain to them the WHY.

While I understand the inner need to speak about great things in and about your company (I felt into that trap many times, too), I like to encourage you to turn the storytelling upside down: First the WHY- this is so much more important than technology, etc.. Then the HOW (the rationale), then the WHAT (the proof).

My 2021 in Review - on Success, Failure, and the big C.

Last year was a special year for me. In summer 2021, I have started this blog around topics that inspire myself and fill my days: business, fitness, and fun stuff. Since that time I had 15.000 visitors on my blog and a lot of personal exchange around "my" topics. Thanks to everyone for this joyful experience.

A few thoughts on each focus topic:

  • I consider myself being successful reinventing myself as an advisor for several companies. I was looking for environments where respect, loyalty, and passion are not only words, but core values for growing a business. I really enjoy each of my assignments and I'm particularly happy having executed an M&A market analysis (I have learned a lot around that and will share some thoughts soon) at the end of the year. It's great to use my own experience for such projects, it's really big to share insights, and being part of something bigger.
  • The fitness side of my life was more disappointing. Year on year I set some personal goals, but I failed on all of them in 2021 due to an injury. My key lesson of life here was and is: if you cannot reach your goals anymore, adjust them, make alternative plans, and execute on that. That's how I found new ways (for example working with fitness ropes and digging into Yoga again) to keep a healthy body (as foundation of a healthy mind).
  • The fun stuff side of life was also very rewarding. For example, I made a lot of new contacts just by driving that nice '66 Mustang convertible. You meet all flavors of society at car meetings and that's another experience that I really like. Everyone shares the same passion for one thing and colour of skin, religion, politics, gender, etc. are not important at all.

The biggest impact on our life is for sure the global pandemic. It has changed every aspect of living on every scale. While I enjoyed business travel so much, that came to a complete hold. I like to go to public music events, that came to a complete hold. I like to meet friends personally, that was at least much more difficult. And I have talked a lot about that also before/during/after my business sessions - mostly on Video these days. I know that the pandemic can bring individuals down and make them depressive. We don't hear and read a lot about that. Even more importantly, I'm grateful for everything that I can give and that I receive on my mission of life.

Have a great and peaceful 2022.

The Mandalorian, the 13th Warrior, or: learning SAPanese

I smiled when these thoughts came to my mind again. I have evaluated Disney+ for the kids (could also be that I need to see The Mandalorian) and stumbled over a movie that I really liked when it was released. The movie was broadcasted in 1999 and one of the coolest moments was when the protagonist, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, all of a sudden spoke the language of the northmen. That didn't come over night but was the result of listening to this strange language and adopting it piece by piece.

When I joined SAP a few years later in 2003, I felt a little bit like that. I couldn't understand what the guys were talking about. All of those 3 or 4 letter acronyms, all those different concepts, this very special architecture. Just one example: an RFC was not a "Request For Comments", but a "Remote Function Call". It took a while digging into this new world but finally, I could join most of the discussions with confidence.

As a security academic that I was by that time, I can say that it's possible to learn SAP. As an entrepreneur and founder of a company offering SAP Security solutions, however, I found it easier bringing people with SAP background on board. It's quicker teaching them key security concepts than teaching a security professional all of the alien SAP concepts. Who (dis)agrees?

Partnerships in Business - the Win:Win:Win triangle

"Hey, we need partners" is something I have heard throughout my entire career. I haven't heard a sound answer on why partners would be needed. Consequently, people started to get as many partners as possible - not surprisingly with little to no effect. Have you experienced the same? If so, this is an article for you for sharing thoughts and some insights.

So, why do we want to partner`? My say would be: to provide more value to the customer (win #1), to provide benefits for the partner (win #2), and of course provide a benefit for own company (win #3). Value and benefit and "the win" depends on the type of a partnership. Understanding the envisaged type of a partnership helps you to manage expectations for all stakeholders and also to define goals for what you want to achieve (I'd say: no goals, no success).

Selling software products (that's what I did in the past 1.5 decades) is typically suited for the following types of partners:

  1. Sales Partnership: in such a partnership, the partner is ideally listed as vendor for the customer which is already a win for all since it reduces time and complexity in the procurement cycle. It's key that the partner's sales team gets targets for the product, that the vendor support the partner's sales team, and that you team up for non-standard sales situations (like a company licence).
  2. Hosting Partnership: the partner can sell the solution, but also install and run it for a customer. Since many organisations go away from manual technical work, this is a service adding even more benefit. For the partner it's an additional offering in his portfolio making him a better choice for customers.
  3. Managed Service Provider (MSS): such partners can do all of the above but also use the product (on behalf of the customer) and feedback the results to the customers organisation. This is particularly valuable in expert domains where experts are not easy to find and hire.

For sure, there are more types of partnerships like technical partners that offer complementary components. But that is a different story told on another day.

I have seen things going wrong in establishing a partner model. 1) it's about quality, not quantity. As mentioned in the beginning, many partners don't help you if the partnership is not alive. 2) Consequently, a partnership will silently die if nobody cares. You need partner managers, a mutually agreed go-to-market approach, and regular working together situations (maybe every day!). 3) I have seen partners asking for exclusivity - you don't want that because it adds too many restrictions on everyone. The customer decides which route to follow, not a partner agreement. Non-competition and non-solicitation clauses can be accepted. 4) In cases where one partner is small and the other is big, discussions are often not at eyes level. I'd say that size doesn't matter but being fair and polite. If this is not the case: next one, please.

Ultimately, a first, joint win is the driver for success. So setup a team with exactly this goal, win your first deal together and take it from there. Nothing is a better motivation than success.

In a followup article I will write about a "partners only" model which is particularly suited for product companies.

Blackout. Back to nature.

Yesterday I had one of the many online meetings. One of my network components installed an update and suddenly nothing worked. I was very annoyed at first, but it was a coincidence: apparently the internet went down for several hours in the whole of southern Hesse. It takes a while to find out - until more and more messages arrive in the social media, in Messenger, etc. that nothing works anymore: somehow a blackout and obviously something bigger.

But it's not like nothing works any more. Yes, you can no longer edit emails and the video calls don't work properly either. But instead of getting angry, I grabbed my bike (a Stevens Sonora 2.0 with Shimano Di2 - I'll write about that one day) and rode up the mountain. The weather was changeable, but that wasn't bad either. There are rain jackets.

It was a great experience to spontaneously be outside for a few hours and experience nature. The world didn't end because I wasn't at a few meetings. And I simply caught up on the work that had accumulated in the evening. I know that doesn't work in every case, but if it does - take the opportunity for a "digital detox" and go out whenever possible. It's great out there.

519 metres in altitude - no one on the road. Wonderful.