Thursday, December 17, 2009

Your Own Wealth - With a 3D Printer?

I ended up using Skype with Call Burner as an add-on to record my first innovation podcast. The idea of this exercise being the discovery that, any old phone can be used to dial in and record your thoughts. Very Cool Indeed! Thanks Lyr Lobo!

My first few tests using Gabcast turned out to be quite disastrous. One minute went by much too fast. All to render a mediocre recording at best. Clearly, the 5 minutes available as part of the introductory membership to Gabcast would never be sufficient to play around and test a few things, let alone be happy with the delivery. You'd quickly run out of free minutes!

In the true spirit of discovery, I decided to venture onto a different tool to do my recording. Gabcast would ultimately be the 3rd party delivery tool. Expanding on my favorite long distance calling program, I investigated the possibilities with Skype. There are so many extras you can add to the Skype installation, I got lost for a while, meandering among the possibilities. With the help of a 30-day trial period afforded by Call Burner, I was able to record both sides of a phone call made via Skype if I wanted. The recording quite conveniently began once the call was initiated. It allowed for much more creative juices to flow, not to mention the numerous retakes made possible to get a remotely enjoyable final product.

I ended up with a homemade studio in a matter of minutes! It was quite entertaining! Aside from taking 2 days to figure out the sampling rate was crucial for flash to work properly via the Gabcast application, generating your MP3 ahead of time gives you much more flexibility and freedom of expression. It also gives you much more latitude with Gabcast!

As if I needed reminded, the lesson learned with Animoto stood true here as well. It quickly became evident that, outside of the cool Replicating Rapid-Prototyper I would soon build for myself, copious hard work is necessary to produce a memorable sound bite.
I remember witnessing a professional recording long ago. A stout lady was invited to sit in a sound-proof room where she would be directed to, either stop and do over, or asked to read again with a particular intonation. Another striking impression I vividly remember was the softness and richness in her voice. My first impression of her had not been so flattering, in my own mind of course. Never judge a book by its cover, I told myself. Some lessons are harder to admit. This would be one of them. *grin* So much work goes into multimedia production! Thanks Karl, I learned a lot from watching you!

Here's my first rendition of a podcast, as I introduce the next project on my to-do list, via Gabcast. This one will have to wait until I finish building Karl’s FTP server and a new custom PC for myself! *smile*

Introducing RepRap:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Is it Ok to Click Here?

Introducing Animoto as a Web 2.0 tool from a personal perspective. It is very easy and quick to create a video. The web interface is really intuitive. Congrats to the Animoto team! I really enjoyed it. It is a simple, 10-minute process but !

Did you ever wonder about the effort put into those amazing documentaries? Lucky for me, I know a very talented individual who works multimedia for a living. He will spend countless hours removing the sound made when someone inhales each time a new bite of narration is read. It’s one of those things where the absence of evidence is not noticed until someone inhales very loudly.

There are times I wished I was the one collecting the images. A good final product requires hours of research for rich image contents, sometimes exposing you to very interesting or, even dangerous environments. That very difficult part hinges on the creativity of the individual. Music selection also has a great part to play in the effectiveness of media delivery.

For me, this exercise reminded me of the TED video introduced by a classmate regarding "Optical illusions show how we see" In his presentation, Beau Lotto demonstrates that even at this very fundamental level, the brain's capacity to detect differences in light heavily depends on context. This Animoto project certainly has emphasized the reality of his assertion. Thanks for the experience Lyr Lobo. I think I found a new passion.

Here's my rendition of the "Good and Evil" of technology and the Wild WWW. Images are courtesy of Communications of the ACM via screen scraping. Got your membership yet? *grin*

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Consensus Methods - Who To Believe? And Why?

While studying various consensus methods as part of our curriculum, a classmate departed from main stream discourses looking at the recently controversial news about breast cancer screening. In my opinion, her analysis merits a post on this blog.

While the full version of the US Preventive Services Task Force is quite comprehensive, it gives no indication as to the type of deliberation and consensus method used. The contents of the article I am referring to can be found here: "Screening for Breast Cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. "

As a scientist, I think of myself as one of them too *smile*, I find that tit-bit somewhat disturbing. Why? Because while there is no way for all to know everything about every thing, there are definitely many reasons to validate or, invalidate such reports. Should we trust such a panel of experts? My personal verdict is still out.

Interestingly, I found out about the "Screening Policies won’t change - US Officials say" article shortly after the initial debate on this question. When I saw the title of the article, my mind put a "case closed" stamp on this rather quickly but, it probably shouldn’t be so in hind sight.

Whether the data is scientifically valid or not, a physician worth his/her salt will find time to review such reports to make informed decisions about recommending what and, to whom. So many factors will influence a decision for or, against mammograms in this case. It heavily depends on the patient. As an example, the DELPHI method, modified or not, will likely never bring any one group to consensus on this item, not yet anyway. This is in fact, one of the biggest challenges that face the migration to EMR - Electronic Medical Records. You can read more about those problems here: "Implementing Electronic Medical Records ". I have first hand testimony on this effort. I attempted to help an Internal medicine friend with her small-practice EMR project. It was already a disaster by the time I was asked to contribute. Reading the article above from my hard copy, I ripped it out and gave it to her. I recommended she held off for a bit longer. The frustrations she experiences just aren’t worth the trouble at this time.

There is great merit to moving to such a platform nationwide, even world wide! It could become a very meaningful source of data, like in the case of the breast cancer debate. There would be some source of data to analyze. However, there are also significant draw backs.

It’s evident that the importance of breast cancer screening remains high since it is the number TWO leading cause of CANCER deaths among women. I read that lung cancer is the number one but, I'm told ovarian has the highest mortality rate. This is because its discovery is nearly always in stage three, the point of no return, usually. Ovarian gets no press because it affects a very small community of women in spite of its close-to-no-mercy status. Another fact to remember is that there are also instances of cancer in patients whose family history shows no trace of cancer at all. I know this first hand as well, unfortunately. Would there not have been reason to find this out sooner? Maybe some day, enough well-analyzed data will lead to such conclusions. For now, those relatively few cases will remain victims of unknown circumstances.

To me, this is a case scenario where a process like
"Christakis's SDP" could truly make a difference. It would remove emotions and, hopefully politics, allowing for factual contributions from various sources of experts, and non-experts alike, to prevail.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holographic Technology, Cell Phones and Holo-sexTing?

Being a Star Wars fan, I was pleasantly amused by the novel graphic montage I found on a classmate's blog. He posted comments about Infosys's prediction on holographic cell phones. You can see for yourself by clicking on the image.

I actually witnessed a live holographic imaging demo in the late 1980s, while visiting the Epcot center in Florida. I don't know how many people were lucky enough to see this but, at the time, they provided a behind-glass tour of the computer room which supported Disney’s entire inventory of attractions. The host was herself a holographic image who could jump from console to console while talking to us. VERY cool. I knew then I would forever be attached to technology at the hip. I wonder, now that security is such a big deal, if they still have that tour.

I don't fancy myself as a philosopher but, some news from MSNBC this morning has me believing that holographic imaging on cell phones is a bad idea anyway, never mind the extra boosting such devices would need to accomplish this task.

My heart goes out to a Florida family who lost their 13 years old daughter to suicide. The reason? Sexting.

If you don’t know the term, don’t feel bad. Until I read the news this morning, I had not registered what that was either. However, it has me asking myself what the breaking point will be. Kids are inherently born without wisdom. It's one of those primitive things we humans still do. We "Must Grow Up". How wise a person becomes has a lot to do with how one is raised. I’m finding this is not a proportionally direct mathematical relationship to the parents' life story. That topic in itself could be a very interesting notion to explore in Futuring. Could we/Should we genetically implant good morals into newborns? But that's for another blog, some other time.

When do we, as a society, take responsibility for the collateral damage caused by technology? The morals of society are clearly not evolving as quickly as cool toys. Technology is not only about augmented capabilities to find a lost child. It also translates to better tools for the criminals and increased impact from "Oups" moments. How responsible are we if we let kids use "Big people" tools? Traditionally, we directly supervise such usage, following gruesome coaching. How is this possible with devices such as cell phones?

Call me old school, but to me, there is No room for cell phones in the life of a teen ager. Not unless those kids begin to drive cars and are out in the evening, with a curfew I might add. Even then, carrying such a phone would be something occasional, not a day-to-day distraction in their lives. The issues with that are permeating schools as it is. There are just too many responsibilities attached to owning such a device, as demonstrated by this up-standing young student.

Remembering that laptop theft is one of the most common ways sensitive data is stolen, I am terrified by the prospects of such powerful and tiny devices, capable of storing intimate life details. Most people can't even choose a decent password. Can we conceivably and realistically expect teenagers to know how to be responsible with such technology? I don't believe so. I don't even want to extrapolate what this would translate to with holographic cell phones. Holo-sexTing?

OK, maybe I'm a border-line philosopher. The Elf has spoken.
I would like to thank my classmate for the opportunity to muse my thoughts on this.

You may find the article and video interview to this tragic story here:

‘Sexting’ bullying cited in teen’s suicide

A Famous Elf Delivers Web 2.0 Presents?

I was scouring the web to find something a bit different than what we, as a class, had seen so far. I guess you could say I hit the jackpot. I was going to verify if this site listed what my classmates had contributed thus far but, I can’t afford to do so seeing that I’m so far behind the 8-ball as it is.

In a collaborative effort to see if has a close-to-comprehensive list, I therefore invited them all to play a game. I asked that they visit the site and see if they could find their contributions there. Time will tell if anyone wants to play! An initial estimate suggests there are approximately 3000 Web 2.0 tools listed on this site.

At first glance, there are a lot of similar tools. There are a few I thought I’d share. I’m copying and pasting the write-ups, which includes direct links to the original sites. Some of my own comments are intertwined on this blog as well.

Web 2.0 for Wee-Ones

I was particularly impressed by this one, strictly designed for kids. Just don’t forget to send your kids outside to play too!

Game Platform for Kids
“Game Classroom is a one-stop web destination for accessing high-quality educational games, and homework help for K-6 students. Game Classroom offers math games, homework help, worksheets and more. It is a great site for kids, parents and teachers.”

Tired of the Same Old Fonts?
I do a significant amount of graphics and imaging. Photoshop is a great tool but it comes with a limited set of fonts. For a fee, you can augment your library of fonts significantly but why? This Web 2.0 tool offers a variety of fonts to be used for FREE on redundant servers. The subscription-based service is an added value to me.

An easy way to use Real Fonts
“Typekit is a subscription-based service for linking to high-quality open type fonts from some of the world’s best type foundries. Fonts are served from a global network on redundant servers, offering bulletproof service and incredible speed. And it couldn’t be easier to use.”

Luel Musings . . .
One ever-present question in my mind when discussing new technology is, what have we done to protect the unsuspecting web-based communities from the bad guys? I mean, here we are, enabling social networking with all sorts of cool tools, to a mass who is already at a disadvantage in terms of security and protection knowledge. Here's food for thought. How many times have you bumped into someone who had out-dated virus software? Did those same people even know what a PC firewall was? What about clicking on email embedded links?

While I whole heartedly embrace technological evolution, I'm all about doing so cautiously. I remember the days when no login was required to browse anyone's profile. Yesterday, CNN told us that Facebook is bringing about big changes in order to protect their users' social networks. Regional networks have become so big, they say, there is no longer sufficient privacy protection. Very proactive on Facebook's part. Great!

Here’s the link to the article: Facebook to lose geography networks, add privacy features

Why do I bring this up? Read on. . .

Turn bugs into Opportunity
“An online service to which you can delegate serving error pages and collecting user feedback on errors. You can customize your error pages in the browser and be friendlier to your users in case of errors.”

Sounds good right? Anybody who is anybody in IT security is probably already grimacing at this idea. Collecting error information from a web site is a traditional and sure way to find vulnerabilities. Still today, SQL injections plague us. Recent usage of combined XSRF and XSS has shown that we can now worm browser exploits. I'm not saying that bugsVoice would do such a thing, not at all. What I am saying is that it won't be long before someone phishes for such errors with malicious intents. It wouldn't take too much work for a savvy internet-bandit to build a Web 2.0 front to offer such a service. For me, anytime you open up a port for someone to execute code on your machine, you're asking for trouble. How much trouble? I suppose that depends.

But there's hope. . . with some limits. I'm not sure how this would help the lay-user at this point.

An article in Computerworld, October release, discusses a means to "Forging a Web 2.0 Shield". In 2006, instead of forbidding their employees to visit social web sites, BT Global Services saw an enablement opportunity. It became a business tool to help build new business relationships. Security, however, wasn't only about company property. I was also about employee privacy and safety. Some criminal mind might use the information to find out where someone lived or, if they would be out to a concert for example. BT's Ray Stanton and team devised a set of URL filtering and security technologies to afford a shield of sorts. The appliances they use give them flexibility to manage their users at a very granular level via policies. So far, Stanton's team seems to be staying ahead of the problems in spite of the high risks universally associated with social networking tools. I would be curious to find out about the cost analysis for such an investment. It seems hardware alone is expensive. I cringe at the additional man-hours needed to stay on top of configurations and management. This would definitely be interesting. I imagine BT finds enough value in it. Good of them to forage a new IT trend in the corporate world!

Incidentally, bugsVoice is in beta stage so, we’ll have to be a "bit" patient and see what snazzy methods they might devise to protect the innocent.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Case Study Review - Wisdom of the People Forum

It is my understanding that the average number of generated observations during a one-day SDP session is sixty-four. This is why I picked the “Wisdom of the People Forum” as my choice review of the Christakis case studies.

Anything exceeding that average in any significant way, tells us that the complexity of the problem being solved is extremely high, says Christakis. This suggests that the chances of failure are high as well, especially outside of the SDP model presented in his book.

I would be remised if I didn’t mention what I pointed out from chapter 3 at this point. The likelihood of success past the storming stage for a problem of this magnitude is next to nil, according to Tuckman’s 1965 study.

The “Wisdom of the People Forum” held in 2002 generated 79 barriers making the complexity of their proposed project hugely significant. The goal was to prepare the initial foundation to facilitate integration of traditional core cultures into the modern world. What better way to handle such intangibles but with a tool that removes social-emotions out of decision making?

In effort to identify barriers to globalization, Indigenous Leaders began their collaborative work in their well-known traditional style, sitting in a circle, sharing their medicine. At this point my mind ventured back to Second Life. I could just see a bunch of Indigenous Avatars Leaders, sitting about a 3D fire pit. They might have been sharing Lyr Lobo’s witch brew even. Just kidding! But this is the spirit of globalization, is it not?

Using Christakis' SDP, it took this group of forty Indigenous participants and non-indigenous experts, originating from the Americas and New Zealand, three days to narrow a list of 79 barriers down to 8 Consensus Action Scenarios. Nothing short of amazing in my opinion.

This first “Wisdom of the People” forum gave way to an even larger one in 2003, and yet an even larger one in Japan, in 2005. The Advancement of Global Indigeneity (AGI) continues to make progress on their list of actions to this day.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Discussing Christakis' Structured Design Process (SDP)

Christakis’ “How People Harness their collective wisdom and power to construct the future in co-laboratories of democracy.” has provided me with a new-found appreciation for consensus tools, not that I had been particularly exposed to this topic prior to my reading it. I’d like to share.

There have been common buzz words in the upper management levels that recur, such as Delphi, modified or not. It appears to be the choice consensus tool. It might be that I simply have not had sufficient exposure to know differently.

Although chapter 3 was not part of our mandatory reading, I am glad I chose to read it anyway. There, I found material that, in my opinion, sets the stage for everything else that is covered in the book... and then some. Chapter 10 details how structured design process (SDP) lessens the burdens of dialogue, especially when a variety of stakeholders convene about a problem, no matter how complex. But, chapter three explains where those burdens come from. In my opinion, that’s more important than anything else. It’s about people chemistry and those intangibles that are so challenging to work with. This is because we humans are such creatures of habits. Even our most heinous character traits plague us over the centuries.

As a native French Canadian living in the USA, nothing could strike me as more important then relieving the burdens of dialogue. I’m including a brief synopsis to revisit the salient points.

The unshakable burdens of human dialogue.

The limits of human cognition

Officially recognizing the limits of human mind capacity back in 1956, Miller established that the human working memory would generally deal with 5 to 9 items at a time. This gave birth to a notion labeled “7 +/- 2” (Miller, 1956). Ignoring these constraints, said Miller, causes us to loose the capacity to “recognize differences that make a difference”. I can envision this conclusion becoming further compounded while sitting in a meeting, among many who don’t even share expertise. Too many times I have tried to get out of a meeting because they felt so gruesome and unproductive to me. Introduce an element of linguistics and you find yourself with an even bigger mess. Never mind the problems caused by subject matter lingo.

Group Pathologies

Social-emotional problems are highly visible in any group. Logically, groups created for the sake of finding solutions to implement change in a corporate or government setting have to be no different. In 1951, Bales summed up social-emotional behaviors witnessed in a meeting with five categories:

  • Venting anger and frustration
  • Perceiving situation as threat
  • Wanting to get attention
  • Dominating the group
  • Inappropriate strategizing for self-gratification

I would personally summarize the gist of it all with even fewer words: providing protection for personal interests and ego. All are well recognized flaws of the generationally rehearsed human character.

A bit later, in 1965, Tuckman demonstrated patterns of group activities:

  • Forming the group
  • Storming – most groups do not pass this stage of discussing issues in themselves. Outside facilitators are in demand to get past this stage. This helps reach norming state but mostly for simple design situations. Otherwise performing stage is never met. OUCH!
  • Norming – consensus is reached
  • Performing – change in itself is implemented

I find this information alone rather disturbing. It’s no big surprise that effective change seems so difficult to implement, especially for complex problems.

Group pathologies are typically exacerbated by the pressures of the choice between systemic or episodic change, Christakis says. This causes the most dominant and/or powerful discourse to win in order to subvert embarrassment for not meeting deadlines. (Argyris, 1982) In other words, the wrong set of rules is used to come to consensus on “what differences will make a difference". Hmmm... This is definitely a recipe for disaster.

This brings up the next topic.

Unequal Power Relations

I don’t understand why Christakis states this pathology is the least understood. There are many examples in the armed services alone to illustrate why unequal power cannot work in a meeting. There are also times when unequal power is a necessity. This is particularly true in life emergency situations.

Dialogue is usually muted by the presence of multiple rank levels and pre-established final authority. This is possibly the most deeply ingrained social behavior of all times. I’m no philosopher but, at the very least, this problem dates all the way back to the medieval era.

It is true that upper levels are assumed to know more. I think a lot of us know better now. Nothing could have shed more light on this matter than the arrival of a highly technological society.

Also demonstrated is that, successful leaders can be classified in two clans: those who recognize they don’t know everything and, those who believe they know it all. The later type might find their career plateau at some point. There might be a third type. Those who feel they should know it all. God have mercy on their souls.

That upper management levels expect deferential treatment is merely a byproduct of social behaviors mentioned in the previous paragraphs. Anything different shows a significant level of maturity and wisdom in my eyes.

It is particularly astute of Christakis to point out that mere verbiage about social reality construction and the need for equitable power relations would simply not be enough to reach valuable consensus. That is, provided consensus was reached at all. Much like a court system, order is necessary.

Fumbled Opportunity

Lack of proper scientific practice is often at the root of disasters. Outside of organizations such as NASA, this caused the many management echelons to adopt buzz-word methods of the day. DELPHI would be one of them. According to Christakis, “assuming that bringing the parties of interest to the table is sufficient for the resolution of a complex issue is erroneous.” This assertion is based in 30 years of development in the “science of complexity”. Great! Now what?

My searches on the internet revealed a lot of variations of SDP but, none as crystal clear as the case studies in the back of his book. It may have been a not-so-lucky day for me.

“Don’t trust knowledge of experts instead of the wisdom of the people.” is another strong statement. I agree whole heatedly. “People science” in the Clinton west coastal forests debate failed because there was not enough trust in people and inappropriate science, the author says. That Clinton and his sidekick Eades had vision is one thing. That the vision wasn’t carried out is not a story solely associated with the former president. The point is well taken.

Perhaps someone in the upper echelons can shed more light as to how successful consensus methods have been, including if Christakis' SDP is being used. Case studies contained in a text book are good. But, to me, nothing could be more valuable than first hand experience shared with peers, independently from power relations.

Finally, what is clearly a superior contribution to me are the three phases and the three key roles. They are, in my estimation, very crucial to relieving the burdens of dialogue. Yes indeed, Mr. Christakis, they are unique to this process. The distinction between content, process and context is akin to separation of duties necessary in information security. If all stick to their role in the “game”, wonderful results could and, probably will, materialize.

The cartoon seen above is from Dharma Consulting's Web site. They provide leaders with tools to help implement resistance-free change. Their blog can be found at: Dharma Consulting

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Technology and the Future - Not just for the left-brainers

I thought I'd share these few links. It's rather startling to think of music in such different terms. If you've attended any concerts in Second Life, you've already experienced some of this "musical future". These guys are very much ahead of their contemporaries. Their logo is cool too!

All links will lead you to an individual YouTube recorded videos. Enjoy!

Eigenharp Alpha walkthrough part 1
Eigenharp Alpha walkthrough part 2
Design and making of the Eigenharp Alpha
A Musical Piece played with three Eigenharps

I couldn't help responding to a fine classmate who'd much rather hear a capable musician playing an analog instrument. I'm in complete agreement with him in fact.

There's nothing like a Stradivarius played live by a virtuoso to raise goose bumps on your arms and the back of your neck. The thing to remember, though, is that the musicians in these videos are more than likely showing you the baby steps of instruments of the kind. I’m no authority but, I’m sure these guys have not really rehearsed enough to sound remotely good at it. I've no background to back this claim, only rational thinking.

This reminds me of my numerical analysis professor of the undergrad days. He was adamant in his stating how the digital signal could never render the sound of the analog signal. He predicted the digital CD would never make it. Little did he know huh?

He demonstrated it all with some dramatic, irrefutable mathematical theory to justify his claim. There was no denying it. Digital signal was/is mathematically flawed, when it comes to music and a singing voice that is. I understand the limitations of the digital signal as we know it. It’s a modulation thing. The problem, I believe, is in the way we are trying to reproduce such sound.

My recent encounter with harmonic fluids has me believing that before too, too long, maybe 10-15 years, we'll be able to procure analog quality to our digital instruments and recordings. The limitation of such theory is primarily due to insufficient processing power. This will change in the very imminent future, 3-5 years, tops! Intel’s next generation chip will be released before year’s end. It is full of promises I hope we exploit. Look up “cloth physics” while you’re at it. 3D internet here we COME!!! Holographic imaging is in for a very nice ride... shortly.

Meanwhile, like Paul, I'll settle for a recording of the analog kind, or a live performance.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Seven Months into the Future of 2009

As a spin off of Hiemstra's "Seven Weeks into the Future", I felt I needed to blog about his very favorite energy-related company - Rapid EVS.

Glen Hiemstra has been asked about the business of Futuring a lot this past year, so he says. I would venture to say that current economic conditions probably have many wondering if anybody who’s anybody would pay for futuring programs. I was never a seeker of fortune tellers so this comes as a no brainer question to me. But, Glen says that the pace has indeed picked up in the last quarter of 2009. Isn’t that special? I thought. So I kept on reading.

In this article he discusses the many different conferences and meetings he has attended since the middle of September, either as keynote, guest or plain old attendee. One linked section in the article caught my eye in particular because it brushes on some of the TED talks and forum posts we’ve had on CTU’s IAS. I can’t help but smile at the “Bold plan for electric cars” comment posted by one of my peers.

See the blog he referred to here:
Electric Cars a revolutionary idea for certain. This TED talk was presented in April of this year. Already, seven months later, Hiemstra bumped into the very same idea in a real life application, for fleet owners, complete with cool props for the 2009 meeting.

At a regular session of the
Northwest Energy Angels in Bellevue, Washington, he saw four start-up companies who presented their energy-related projects. In his view, the most impressive one was out of Vancouver, Canada. Their proposal? Rapid Electric Vehicle (REV) the inexpensive way, AND to extend longevity of fleets. I'm not sure if junk yards and auto makers will be happy. We'll have to stay tuned on that front.

However, because Glen’s article described this company as the most impressive to him, and, because it is out of my native country, I quickly clicked on the Rapid Electric Vehicle link. There, I saw how the future as suggested in an April 2009 TED talk was rapidly unfolding before our eyes in mere months. The recharging infrastructure proposed by Shai Agassi in his TED talk is in the making already.

Please click the image below and visit their web site. Vancouver, Canada is going green! Mind you, this has been true of Vancouver for as long as I can remember.

Here is an interview with founder and CEO Jay Giraud:
Rapid EVS - Interview with Jay Giraud

Don't blink, you might miss it!

Monday, November 16, 2009

8 Experts Weigh in on 2009 Web 2.0 Trends

This is quite interesting resource.

8 Experts weigh in on 2009 Web 2.0 Trends

I was particularly surprised to see Wikipedia ranked #3.

This important to me because we all know this resource has no validation process for the information it stores and displays. I vaguely remember someone publishing a false biography of some notorious figure. It announced the death of a man. Suffice to say that the goal of the Wikipedia post was to see just how quickly a journalist would grab the information and then turn around to use it in an editorial. Lots of flack was had by many for failing to verify the facts with a recognized body of knowledge.


And then, there was Skype!

I was hoping to catch up with a friend who works for the NC State Information Technology Systems branch. While first attempting to reach him after a leave of absence of 2 years, his work number had been disconnected. ???????????

After finally reaching him today, he announced that they had switched from Centrex to IP phones. This is what helped me choose to present Skype as my first Web 2.0 tool.

It is the every-day, consumer means of implementing IP phones at home. This is not to be confused with Vonage service or TWC's so called digital phone where the digital signal is converted/downgraded to accommodate the phone wiring already present in most homes still today.

Unlike those services, Skype is strictly VoIP. There is no old telephone wire carrying any kind of signal. You connect your VoIP device directly to your computer.

I love Skype. I can call any toll free number free of charge without any subscription. I can call Canada for a ridiculous fee. If I choose a monthly subscription, I can make as many calls as I want, as long as I want, for no additional cost. You can configure your own number to display. There are simply too many cool features to list. It does most everything a cell phone does and more. For example, you can do video conferencing. We once used it to bring in a professor to the residency for class lectures.

For the tech-savvy home-owner, this is a really great way to get very affordable phone service with all sorts of bells and whistles, without paying a conglomerate!

If you haven't tried it yet, here's the link to the features:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thought Provoking - Sustainable World & GMO

This content is extracted from the website.
No need to add water. *grin*

Stewart Brand's 4 environmental 'heresies' says it all. The comments about geo-engineering and genetics engineering are particularly enlightening. They demonstrate how our future as an "intelligent" species is often shaped by politicians and the media who don't necessarily have the world's best interest at heart - either short or long term.

The man who helped usher in the environmental movement in the 1960s and '70s has been rethinking his positions on cities, nuclear power, genetic modification and geo-engineering.

This talk at the US State Department is a foretaste of his major new book, sure to provoke widespread debate. (Recorded at TED@State, June 2009 at the US State Department in Washington, D.C.. Duration: 16:42)

Here it is:

Cloud-based Computing & the Confusion Within.

You know? Some concerns about cloud computing from a doctoral peer are very much a big deal to me as well. Recently, however, I bumped into an article which gave me new hope, albeit with the expectations that we do well implementing what we know works in terms of IT security.

Cloud computing does offer very easily accessed, mammoth quantities of both CPU power and storage. It offers scaling like never before and this, at a very inexpensive investment price. I’m hoping that the Horizon Report 2009 is on target when it states that cloud computing might open “doors to wholly different ways of thinking about computers, software, and files.” We need it in a ghastly way.

Some of the draw backs outlined in the said report include the requirement to entrust your work and applications to the cloud. Who’s in the cloud? Who will supervise this same cloud? Do we not already have enough problems with our current cloud - the Internet? It just isn’t under any particular supervision. Cloud computing might afford us better chances of survival in the WWWW, wild-world-wide-web. The needed trust becomes widely shared with not so questionably reliable entities. This still sounds like a scary proposition to me.

I’ll try to address my peer's two questions with information I recently acquired. It raised my hopes for survival. Mind you, I still think some of our methods are too reactionary.

Q1. When will the government upgrade out infrastructure?

A1: The government seems to have a jump start on this. At least, that is the impression I get from the article I read in the October 2009 edition of ComputerWorld. Here’s the link about it:

CIA building secure cloud-based system
Posted using

The article seems to show that the government is in fact doing what it can to protect critical infrastructures while using a cloud computing approach. Not that they have much of a choice now, do they? As they state, it's been in the making for some time. We just gave it different names. It’s only a partial solution to me though. You’ll note that they do recommend that the cloud be managed very tightly and within the confines of a firewall. Still, that’s a big step forward. Fiber optic, as Barcus suggests, is a good idea since it is virtually impossible to eaves drop on that but, it is enough?

Q2. Will congress past a bill that regulates the trust factor of Cloud Computing host vs. users?

A2: I think that’s a very good question. The only down side to this is that once we create regulation, we then must enforce it. Good side effects come of this too! That is where employment is created to accomplish such tasks. Of note however, is that government regulation about network computing has been chasing its tail. Best be pro-active about everything in every way we know how, today. Wouldn't you agree?

Personally, I find the idea of trusting outside parties with my information scary no matter how it is done. If some are afraid of tagging becoming a part of the birth process, this is not going to help us one iota. I'm left with a few catch-22 questions:

  • Is anything different a realistic choice?
  • If not, how do we build litmus tests and comfort into such technology?

A Bionic Woman in OH! So Many Ways

I just couldn't resist posting this one.
It is most befitting of my blog title.

There are people who speak to my heart in very special ways.
Maybe it's because the kid in me rejects those who have attempted to narrow my scope of vision with its infinite possibilities.

My goodness! You wanna talk about busting stereotypes?

Thank God for the parents who raised me.
They did their best to prevent this type of pollution - human as they are. I’m old enough and wise enough to be grateful now. Thank God again for that.

Say goodbye to preconceived opinions and you’ll free the world in unspoken manners.

May this Ted talk inspire you as it did me.
*Big Smile to You*

The funniest of all anecdotes here is that her name, Aimée, means "Loved one" in French. Her personality makes her one of the most beautiful person in the world to me.

GPS Technology and Sky-cars - A Post Inspired by Horizon Report 2009

I wanted to contribute another Ted talk video related to GPS technology. I thought this one would hit home with everyone as well. The ramifications are astounding.

As Henry Ford in 1940, Hollywood was particularly ahead of people’s imagination, except for Paul Moller who began dreaming about a personal hover-craft at age 5, during the year that followed Ford's statement. The famous hover-cars found in the movie
The Fifth Element are just a decade away according to Moller. And this is thanks to many already found technologies, which he qualifies as “simple” in contrast to what was needed to reach the moon in the sixties.

This would be one very unique and, especially impacting application of Geo-Everything. It appears to be the navigational way of the future which Moller’s sky-car would be using. Another stunning feat for the sky-car is the multiple redundancies included in the design. Outside of the space program, I know very few applications requiring such thoroughness for the sake of life preservation. Soon, this very unique device, able to determine and record its own precise location, will allow us to travel further faster, and will forever change the demographics of modern society. This is the self-directing car suggested by some.

What is interesting to note is that the GPS technology capabilities that enable geo-everything today has a lot to do with a dramatic change in government rules that occurred in the year 2000. In January 2008, I became part of a world-wide community known as Geocachers. This geeky-outdoorsy hobby has afforded me a broad range of knowledge and entertainment that compares to no other that I am aware of. The sky is the limit - pun intended. It also introduced me to some very interesting, techno-history.

In May 2000, GPS users got an instant upgrade, not that anyone was aware of that notion at that moment. At approximately midnight on May 2nd EST, "the great blue switch" controlling selective availability was pressed. The details about selective availability can be found here: Selective Availability.

This is arguably the most significant and high impacting hardware upgrade of all times.

Twenty-four satellites around the globe processed their new orders. In an instant GPS technology accuracy improved tenfold. Tens of thousands of GPS receivers around the world had an instant upgrade, not that too many GPS owners knew about it. The very next day, GPS enthusiast and computer consultant, Dave Ulmer, wanted to test the newly acquired accuracy by hiding a navigational target in the woods. He called the idea the "Great American GPS Stash Hunt" and posted it in an Internet GPS users' group. His idea was simple and not really new: Hide a container out in the woods and note the coordinates.” The rest, as we say, is history.

Of course, another geeky-outdoorsy fellow found it. That someone happened to be a web developing enthusiast who was instrumental in founding as it is known today. If you care to visit, you will find some very interesting trivia. You’ll discover what it can do for you, your family, the community, the environment and much more.

Here are some interesting
Geocaching statistics. At the time I wrote this, there were 933,169 active caches worldwide. In the previous 7 days, there were 677,531 new logs written by 86,720 account holders across the globe. Amazing no?

I’ll be waiting in line for my first-generation sky-car.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Horizon Report 2009 - My Impressions

This is the 5th Horizon Report – Amazing!

One thing that strikes me, first and foremost, is the very recent inception of this fine idea. It’s hard to believe considering that the impact of the internet on every day life started on its land scorching momentum in the mid 1990’s. We did a pretty good job opening our “Horizons” (pun intended) by creating such a think tank, as early on as we did in the process.

For those who are interested, I found a great resource outlining the anecdotal history of the people and communities involved with the communication tool of the century. Wait, make that the millennium:
Brief History of the Internet

It’s clear that educational resources, beginning with much needed funds, have generally not been abundantly available and forthcoming. This is, as far as I know, still the case. Post baby-boomer generations have swiftly embraced technology to the point where the landscape of youth entertainment has completely morphed and been turned up on its head.

Long gone are the days of Dungeons and Dragons played on UNIX, blindly, as we drew the outlines of some obscure maze, in search of some unknown treasure. I even remember beating the original Mario game, on a black and white Gameboy back in the mid 1990s! *giggles*

Equally amusing is to note that online games such as World of War craft, Wii stations, Play stations and the like captured the newer generations much quicker than the educational system would ever be able to catch up to, in order to dispense techno-educational contents on topics related to current research and development.

As this 2009 report says: “Students are different, but a lot of educational material is not.” This is an understatement. Perhaps this is due to the formation of our educators as well. I don’t recall of a voc-rehab program for educators. Do you?

DCS3 cohort was privy to be comprised of advanced technical expertise directly associated with educational institutions. It offered a unique perspective on what is still missing today: a very short supply of especially trained rookies. You’ll find a co-authored paper related to this very topic here,
Wanted: Trained Security Specialist which highlights only one area in dire need of human resources.

Interestingly, cloud computing is helping with the traditional hurtles associated with trying to provide better and more appropriate training. That’s a topic I’d like to cover under a separate post. Certainly, Dr. Calongne has made it her mission to help facilitate such media.

Lastly, although this report addresses the needs of today for the demands of tomorrow, I’m left with a very important question unanswered. What are we doing to educate those who raised us? With an aging population, I’m interested to know what we are doing to help a generation that has given so much. How will they learn to leverage tools that could ultimately make their golden years much less lonely?

I can’t help but worry about that every time my aging parents make a support call to my 24/7 service desk.

Graphics from Qatar Foundation.

Cloud Computing - The Confusion

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Showing Off Animoto...

... as well as my doctoral cohort brothers. If there ever was a group of fine people in my life, there they were, in the form of DCS3. Without them, residencies would have been boring and, the true spirit of collaboration and cohesiveness could not have been more obvious for all to witness.

DCS3 awards honorary doctoral degree to our dear friend and cohort brother Donald Shirah, for the wittiest geeky sense of humor there ever was. Don returned to CTU's Institute for Advance Studies following a win over a brain tumor. Reevaluating his life, he opted for his family as his only focus. Happy Trails Don!

It's been a privilege knowing you all. Thanks!

Courtesy of Dr. Cynthia Calongne, aka Lyr Lobo in Second Life, as she demonstrates animoto capabilities.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bleak Future Leads to Encyclopedia of Life

“As E.O. Wilson accepts his 2007 TED Prize, he makes a plea on behalf of all creatures that we learn more about our biosphere -- and build a networked encyclopedia of all the world's knowledge about life.” ( – 29 October 2009)

I mentioned the honeybees as an endangered species in another blog but, this video on Ted talks really accentuates the gravity of the situation. Let there be no doubt that the human race is the most destructive force on earth, if not the universe.

E.O. describes us as human juggernauts, forever obliterating earth’s ancient biosphere. For those who are interested in the evolution of man kind, this video is a must-watch. He describes the force we have become with an acronym: HIPPO.

• H: Habitat destruction such as climate change
• I: Invasive species - pathogenic bacteria & viruses among others
• P: Pollution
• P: Population expansion
• O: Over harvesting of species - excessive fishing and hunting

Why are we doing this? Why is the pursuit of fortune and instant gratification driving us to destroy life at our own peril? If we were once encouraged to live for the moment, this is the extreme case where it might not be acceptable to do so.

Annihilation of the estimated million trillions of insects living on the planet would lead the entire biosphere to death within a few months. Perhaps the likelihood of this event is slim but, it leaves us to ponder about the notion that we need to respect our environment. It’s simple common sense when we stop and think about it.

Of special note, to me, is the notion that among the infinite microscopic species, there might be aliens from outer space, which have arrived in the earliest times of evolution. They have been doing what they do ever since they “landed”. However, no one knows exactly what it is they do, how they do it, and what their purpose is. In some of our savage ways, the destruction of the environment is forever jeopardizing our capability to explain the marvel we have been blessed with – life on earth. Let there be no doubt of that.

The video is a bit over 22 minutes but, the vision of this man, accompanied by his passion and humor make it a very compelling plea for humanity. One blogger states that “the concept of humans killing off 'nature' as some Greens want to portray it is simply not true.” Here is the link to his Ted talk:

"Why we're storing billions of seeds"

It’s evident to me that, overall, some have put forth the effort to help preserve what Wilson says we are destroying. The problem is, it isn’t a global effort, yet.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sherden's "Fortune Sellers" - An Eye Opener

"Welcome to reality!" is what I felt someone telling me while reading this book.

Considering that it took a century for the steam engine to be contemplated as a viable alternative to power mills, ships and carriages, it’s a wonder what paradigm shift took place to bolster so much technical evolution in the past 60 years. Human imagination certainly has flourished at an astounding rate in the 20th century. I was surprised to discover that the first sci-fi novel dated back to 1770. Another century would go by before Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days” sparked the interest and curiosity of the public.

WOW! We had a slow start but we sure have been making up for it.

Of interest to me is the rapid life-cycle turn around time now needed for companies to keep up with the Jones. The pressure to remain competitive certainly places the traditional business model in a state of flux. I’m no MBA but, I wonder how much of the development process had to be modified since paperwork and processes are usually in the way of creativity and effectiveness. I’d like to know what parameters are used today to make decisions such as what to dismiss when, how much time should be invested on any given idea, etc.

I found is amusing to discover that, sometimes, science fiction creators were able to spark innovations out of sheer originality, common knowledge and wishful thinking.
Even funnier is the dismissal of new technology ideas as mere toys by those qualified as
experts. The discovery of radio waves was itself dismissed as being “of little use” by such experts, when first announced.
This is a lesson in history we don’t seem to be able to assimilate, among others of course. *grin*
The craziest of ideas seem to have somehow materialized in one form or another.

From a 1260 medieval monk’s prediction of fast moving machines, through da Vinci’s helicopter, I recall a movie from the late 1960’s where a small team of expert physicians are miniaturized as part of a submarine crew. In this early version of “Honey I shrunk the kids”, this was a
“Fantastic Voyage” inside the human anatomy. The mission: navigate the blood stream to treat the patient. He would soon die if no one intervened. This journey was a last resort solution to save ingenuity. If you’re Raquel Welsh fan, this movie is for you. With today’s graphical capabilities, a remake of this movie could be quite educational!

Today, nanotechnology holds promises of doing exactly what some fantasized about 50 years ago. I was not even 10 years old when I watched a translated version of this movie but, the impression has been long lasting. *smile* Further, exploration and treatment of the human body is currently possible via optical instruments better known as laparoscopic surgery. So what if we can’t be navigating blood vessels ourselves!

But, stay tuned!
Please visit the following link for a status on the status of nanotechnology in the medical field.
*** Medical News Today ***
I was amazed to see the very same movie I remember being referenced today. Nano-GPS systems will soon be of this world. The forecast on this one? Only three years away they say.