We was robbed!*

(yep, literally, like with burglars)

*and we may have been hacked as well

TMI WARNING: The below is the Industrial Strength Rant version. For the executive summary, click here.

October '09

Man, what a nuisance. We have two hours a week where Kinetic is particularly vulnerable to burglary, they’re breakfast and lunch on Fridays. We’re not terribly at risk at night--even though our business computers (a pair of laptops) sat on the desks in plain sight, they’re old and easily replaced, and while the information on them is critical, we back up the data once a week. Our critical business paperwork (current check registers and the like) goes home in our secretary’s briefcase every night, and what little design/development/engineering work isn’t computerized goes home in my blue-collar briefcase (a Makita tool bag). So we’re pretty safe for 166 hours a week, and those other two hours? Well golly, you’d have to be pretty nervy to break in in broad daylight during working hours, and awfully observant to know just when we take our food breaks.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. On Fridays I bring our off-site hard drive in to work to back up the laptops, and we don’t take work with us at mealtime. On October 9, somewhere between 9 and 10 AM, while we were enjoying our oatmeal at a nearby restaurant, somebody got past our front door padlock (there are impact marks on the padlock, but neither the police nor the local locksmith can say exactly how they got it open) and took our two laptops, our backup drive, and our briefcases.

What they gained from this theft is a mystery to me. I presume they knew what eight year old laptops are worth (approximately zero zip nada) since they didn’t even bother taking the power supplies. Did they want our software? I guess that depends on how many smash-and-dash computer thieves want legacy versions of FileMaker Pro, or Rhino-to-G-Code converters so they can drive their CNC 3D pattern routers. Did they want to sell our designs to our competitors? Uh, who would that be?--seems to me we have our market niche all to ourselves. Access to our banking data? We closed all of our accounts before noon, as one might expect. Our customer and vendor lists? Not likely, but if you hear from the villains, please let us know.

The local police theory is we have an enemy, since this burglary was so worthless to the perps and so damaging to us. On the other hand, a detective friend from out of town thinks it was a crime of opportunity by person or persons dumber than dirt (probably drug users, and apparently strung out on stupid pills) who assumed computers were valuable but were so unhip they didn’t even know how to unplug them from the wall, who grabbed the briefcase because it had a handle, took the hard drive because it was shiny, and grabbed my Makita bag because it, too, contained shiny things.
I’m inclined to go with the latter theory. I doubt the planning was any more sophisticated than watch to see when we left, break in, and spend thirty seconds in the office, stealing stuff that was handy--in the words of Lawrence Block, Burglars can’t be choosers. If so, then hitting us on Friday ‘twixt 9 and 10 was just bad luck for us, as was the selection of loot.

But if it was indeed motivated by malice, man, they hit the trifecta on this one; business records, specialized software, and all our design and development data--everything from test documentation to computer generated bodywork files, every digital photo, every GPS log, every story not yet published, everything--is gone gone gone.

So I’ve been all gloomy and doomy for a couple of weeks, and I couldn’t think of anything positive until the day I was writing my Mother Earth News blog about the incident, and I realized I was being given the opportunity to work from a clean slate. Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch, but it’ll have to do.

The first beneficiary of the clean slate policy will be the rear fenders. Those were the next bits to be whittled out, and based on me getting smarter in recent years (if such can be imagined) I’m inclined to use bigger corner radii, a shallower angle from the top of the seat back to the stern of the car, and steeper side angles from the wheel wells back...and while I’m at it, might as well completely enclose the rear wheels.

November '09

It gets worse. Wednesday, November 4, at 7:47 PM, our Inbox/Saved e-mail box was emptied or purged or something; our Internet Service Provider doesn’t know what exactly but they know it didn’t happen to any of their other clients. Our e-mail isn’t stored on our computers, it stays with our ISP, on the same equipment that hosts this web site. One moment we had about 1000 messages in it, the next moment, poof! Good thing our ISP does an automatic backup of everybody’s e-mail once a day. Bad thing that we have no way to contact the management after hours, that the once-a-day moment comes at midnight, and that the automatic backup overwrites the previous backup. Sure wish they’d had a once-a-week backup, or two backup files that saved on alternating days, or any number of things that seem obvious in hindsight, and, well, they’re doing things different now and this shouldn’t happen again. However, it did happen, they backed up the emptied mailbox and any e-mail you sent us previous to the evening of 11/4/09 is lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry, Clementine.

All I can say is it’s a good thing we don’t ask for deposits on the things we make and sell, so none of our customers’ money is at risk. The bad thing is, with our sales database and check register gone in the burglary Oct 9 and our e-mail orders gone in the what-the-heck-happened Nov 4, we don’t know what we’ve sent to who, or who’s already paid for what we sent them and who’s waiting for us to send them a bill.

Fortunately UPS has records of everything we’ve shipped through them--what they weighed and where they went--so we’ll be mailing some very unbusiness-like letters to those addresses and asking folks what was in the box we sent them. So far so good; the Locost community is taking this all with good humor and sympathy, and the support we’ve experienced is carrying us through this difficult time, but...our ISP is wondering, the local police are wondering, and now we’re wondering too: is this a remarkably unlucky coincidence of random theft and random internet hackery, or does somebody out there not like us? If it’s the latter, the Dali Lama would see this as an opportunity to practice tolerance.

Here’s some good news. We replaced our database program (thank you, you fine folks at FileMaker) and I knew I’d used a thumb drive to transfer our database data between computers this summer, so we checked every thumb drive in the shop and there it was! So if we processed your order before August 27, 2009, invoice #242 or earlier, we have a record of it. If your order was later than that or earlier than October 9, you’ll likely be getting one of our what’s-in-the-box letters.