January 30, 2011

Computer History Museum - Check IT Out!

I am very excited about the Computer History Museum housed in Mountain View, CA. (Silicon Valley) since 2002 (although I don't think that their overview video necessarily does it justice).
The computer museum was recently revamped with a $19 million renovation in large part from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
According to BusinessWeek (Jan. 31-Feb. 6 2011), "the museum documents the rise not only of computers but also of technology over thousands of years."
The museum and nearby research warehouse include a collection of over 100,000 artifacts and describe "how we came of age" from a technology perspective.
Innovation is critical to where we are going to, but history is from where we are coming and from which we must preserve and learn--the Computer History Museum is the bridge between the two and can educate as well as inspire.
While I personally have not made it to the exhibits yet, I look forward to getting there soon.
And when I am there, I want to wander the halls and ponder at how all the "bits and bytes" from so many great minds have helped to transform our lives, and where things go next.


January 29, 2011

The iWatch Does It All

Forget James Bond gadgets or Dick Tracy 2-way wrist-watches, the new concept iWatch is the one to drool over.

This is the vision of Italy's ADR Studio, but I believe it is just "around the corner" for all of us.

Fusing the design of an iPod Shuffle/Nano with the functionality of an iTouch/iPhone and voila, the new iWatch.

Clock, calendar, calculator, and weather--that's nice, but frankly it's child's play. Think more in terms of:

- News
- Stock quotes
- Social networking
- Music, videos, and games
- Google
- 300,000 App Store downloads (and growing)

Unload some smartphone "baggage" from your belt and bag and integrate on your wrist.

There is a reason this concept keeps coming back in ever cooler ways--it makes sense functionally and feels right ergonomically.
I envision this working one day with virtual display and controls, so that physical "size doesn't matter."

We will walk on the moon again or some other distant planets, but we will always be connected to each other and not just in spirit, but with our iWatches

"Slide to unlock" now, please!


January 27, 2011

Safeguard Your Location

Nice presentation by the Army called "Geotags and Location-based Social Networking."

It offers important information on the potential dangers of leaving on Global Positioning System (GPS) services on electronic devices (such as smartphones and cameras) and using location-based social networking services.

- "Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification to photographs, videos, websites, and SMS messages. It is the equivalent of adding a 10-digit coordinate to everything you post on the Internet."
- Location-based social networking applications focus on 'checking-in' at various locations to earn points, badges, discounts" and even become mayor for the day.

Exposing your location is not only dangerous if your in the military and engaged on an operation. But rather, for all of us, broadcasting location and patterns of movement can be detrimental to personal privacy and security.

As the geotagging safety presentation advises, consider when (and when not) to:

  1. Turn off the GPS on devices such as smartphones and cameras.
  2. Keep geocoded photos offline from the Internet (i.e. Flikr, Picasa, etc.)
  3. Avoid use of location-based social networking services (e.g. FourSquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla, SCVNGR, etc.)

Sharing information--including where you are, were and are going--with family, friends, and colleagues can be a healthy and fun interchange; but sharing that information with "the wrong" people can leave you exposed and sorry.

Think twice--think about your privacy and security.


January 23, 2011

How To Cope When The Boss Is A Bully

We are living in tough economic times, and according to a recent news article, even those who have jobs are often feeling the pain.

USA Today, 28 December 2010, features a cover story called “Bullying in the workplace is common, hard to fix.

The subhead: “One in three adults has been bullied at work” – based on research conducted by Zogby International.

This reminds me of the poster “Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten,” since the old schoolyard bullying is faithfully carried over to the “adult” workspace.

How unfortunate for our employees and our organizations—because abusive leaders not only harm employees through ongoing intimating and demeaning behavior, but ultimately they bring down organizational morale, innovation, and productivity.

It’s like poison that starts with the individual bully and spreads—permeating from his or her human targets (our precious human capital assets) to chip away bit by bit at the core of organization’s performance.

According to the article, the bully often behaves in subtle ways so as not to get caught:

- “Purposely leaving a worker out of communications, so they can’t do their job well

- Mocking someone during meetings, and

- Spreading malicious gossip about their target”

To further protect themselves, bullies may exhibit the pattern where they “kiss up and kick down.” Therefore, the higher ups may close their eyes to the abusive behavior of the bully—as far as their concerned the bully is golden.

By menacing their employees, bullying bosses spread trepidation amongst their victims and prevent them from telling anyone—because their targets fear that there will be “hell to pay,” in terms of retribution, if they do.

So bullied employees react by withdrawing at work, calling in sick more, and trying to escape from their tormentor by finding another job elsewhere in the same organization or in another.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, “slightly more than 60% of bullies are men, and 58% of targets are women.” But generally, the sexes tend to prey on their own: “Women target other women in 80% of cases. Men are more apt to target other men.”

For employees who are victims, professionals offer four basic strategies, which are adapted here. Of course, none of these is ideal, but all of them give people a way to cope:

1) Talk It Out—it may be wishful thinking, but the first thing you want to try and do is to talk with the bully and at least try and reason with him or her. If that doesn't work, you can always move on to strategies two through four.

2) Fight—document the abuse and report it (e.g. up the chain, to the C-suite, to internal affairs, the inspector general, etc.). Like with the bully in the playground, sometimes you have to overcome the fear and tell the teacher, so to speak.

3) Flight—leave the organization you’re in—find another job either internally or at another outfit; the focus of the thinking here is that when there is a fire, you need to get out before you get burned.

4) Zone Out—ignore the bully by waiting it out; this may be possible, if the bully is near retirement, about to get caught, or may otherwise be leaving his/her abusive perch for another position or to another organization.

Experts point out that whatever strategy you chose to pursue, your work is critical, but the most important thing at the moment is your welfare—physical, mental, and spiritual. And your safety is paramount.

As a human being, I empathize with those who have suffered through this. Additionally, as a supervisor, I try to keep in mind that there are "two sides to every coin" and that I always need to be mindful of others' feelings.

Finally, know that challenging times do pass, and that most people are good. I find it comforting to reflect on something my grandmother used to say: “The One In Heaven Sees All.”


January 22, 2011

When My Friend Got Hacked

True story.

So an old friend of mine had his account hacked on Facebook.

And the hacker is sending chat messages to my friend’s Facebook contacts—like me—pretending to be him—with his picture and name and all his online information.

He says that he is stuck in London, just got mugged—at gunpoint—losing his money and phone and needs my help.

At first, I’m thinking oh crap; my friend is in trouble and needs me. Then, I’m like wait a second, he’s pulling my leg. So I ask “are you joking?”

The hacker—pretending to be my friend—continues how it was such a terrible experience, but thank G-d they are still alive.

I’m on the other end of this chat—and questioning now if this person is really who they say they are—despite the REAL picture and profile.

I ask who are you with?

The hacker replies with the name of my friend’s wife. Her real name!

And the hacker continues with the mugging story and how they are leaving in a few hours for their return flight to the States, but need help.

Ok, I am happy to help my friends, but I want to know this is really my friend. Behind the scenes, I am contacting other mutual friends, family and so on to verify this story and resolve this.

On the chat, I ask—can you tell me something that only the two of us would know?

The hacker starts flipping out and gives me "?!?!?!...."

I repeat my question and ask if the hacker understands.

The hacker responds that they do.

And then ignoring my questioning, proceeds with the storyline asking me to wire money and that it will be okay, because they will need identification to retrieve the wire.

Now I ignore the hacker’s request and go back to my question about who this person on the other end of the chat really is?

No response.

"U there?"

Hacker is offline...for now.


January 21, 2011

Technology To Make The Heart Sing

ABC News person of the week, Allyson Townsend--an incredible young woman!

"She meticulously dedicates her time to signing out popular hits like Taylor Swift's "Back to December" in American Sign Language for her 15,350 viewers to enjoy on her YouTube channel,
Ally ASL."

Watching her "sing" to people with hearing disabilities is so inspiring; I am deeply moved by her generosity.

Also, I am awed by the use of technology, like YouTube, for such innovative and humanistic purposes.
Here's to Allison and all the other selfless "ordinary people" out there who may never make it onto the news.
They are contributors to society above and beyond.


January 17, 2011

3 Things A Robot Can Do That Your Employees Can't

A little Monday morning humor...not that you'd necessarily want them to do these things...but if you're already shelling out, you may as well get your money's worth. :-)
1. "Stand on one foot, twist its waist and strike poses" (well, some of us can do that...)
2. "Travel 86 miles around the office without stopping."
3. Point at things in the office using a laser pointer in it's right eye.
But the best thing of all, seriously, is that the new wave of robots coming off the assembly line can "fetch lattes from Starbucks."
Make mine a double!
(Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek 17-23 Jan. 2011)

(Robots pictured: HRP-4, PR2, and Anybots QB)


January 16, 2011

"Your Brain On Google"

Amazing video called "Digital Nation."
Some great points from the interviewees at MIT, Stanford, and more:
- "We are immersed in technology all the time."
- "Technology is like oxygen."
- "Well over half our lives exist in the digital world now."
- "We are constantly multitasking and distracted."
- "The world has sped up."
- "We just want to push the pause button."
- "The Internet has changed from things one does to how one lives."
- "We are changing what it means to be human."

- "We are rewriting the rules of interaction for human beings."

- "Can we solve the alienation that technology has created with more technology?
- "Does increasing use of technology have diminishing returns at some points?"
These questions and thoughts really resonate with me.
Looking back in my own life, things seemed so much simpler 10, 20, and 30 years ago.
Then we were less connected online and maybe a lot stupider intellectually, but more connected in real ways--doing real things with family, friends, and community.
Life is certainly faster now, but are we happier as human beings?
Are we losing ourselves and becoming part of the vast interconnected cyberspace almost as half-humans and half-machines ourselves?


January 9, 2011

The Center Of Gravity Is Information

Center of Gravity (COG) is a military concept that Dr. Joseph Strange defines as “primary sources of moral or physical strength, power, and resistance.” From a military perspective, this is where we should concentrate when attacking the enemy. As Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz states, “that is the point against which all our energies should be directed.”

In “Center of Gravity Analysis” (Military Review, July/August 2004), Army Colonel Dale Eikmeier describes the framework for COG and how an enemy (your threat) attempts to exploit them, as follows:

· Center of Gravity—the organizations that do the work (e.g. the military/industrial complex)

· Critical Capabilities (CC)—the strengths of the organization—its “primary abilities”

· Critical Requirements (CR)—the supplies that a COG use—the inputs that are their opportunities, if leveraged for future plans

· Critical Vulnerabilities (CV)—the vulnerabilities a COG has—e.g. exposed or unguarded critical infrastructure

From an enterprise architecture perspective, I greatly appreciate this analysis of COG as it aligns beautifully with Albert Humphrey’s famous Strenghts, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) Analysis for organizational strategic planning.

Aside from typical SWOT analysis to develop your organization’s strategy, the COG analysis adds greater offensive analysis to SWOT--like the military, organizations using the COG model can disrupt competitors’ advantages by seeking to weaken them where they are most vulnerable.

For example, EA used in this fashion may lead a company to build a sophisticated online sales site that directs customers away from your competitor’s retail location. Similarly, acquiring a major supplier (i.e. vertically integrating) may disrupt a competitors’ supply capability, and so on. The point is that EA becomes a force for attack rather than a mere planning tool or information asset.

It is at this point that I disagree with the assertion in the article that “Information is not power; it is a tool, an enabler. It helps wield military or economic power. By itself, it is simply information.”

Far to the contrary, information is one of the greatest assets that we have. It is the way that an advanced, intellectually based society competes. Of note, our declining performance in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), which is so greatly worrisome to our leadership, is of concern because it is directly a threat to our competitive advantage, both militarily and economically, in the global environment.

Information, as embodied by the Internet, is now the center of our society. With it, we perform critical tasks of information sharing, collaboration and education. Used effectively, our military has developed robust command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance (C4ISR)—all information-based. Similarly, our industry is highly competitive and advanced because of the engineering, innovation, and people behind it.

Enterprise architecture, once a small part of the IT infrastructure, can actually play a far greater role in the information society if we allow it to. We have morphed from the industrial age of the 18th and 19th centuries to a highly advanced information society that creates new sources of critical capability, but also new critical vulnerabilities that must be defended. And we must also leverage the vulnerability of our enemies in order to stay viable. Whether it’s cyber-warfare or economic survival, information is at the heart of everything we are successfully doing today.


January 2, 2011

The Robots Are Coming

Forget waiters and waitresses, the new Japanese Hajime Robot restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand invested almost $1 million on 4 robotic waitstaff.

You order your food by touch screen computer, and there is a countdown on the screen for when the food is ready and the robot brings it out to you.

While the samurai clad robots are not the best looking—their huge eyes are a little cartoonish—they are certainly quite dexterous and able as they nimbly serve the food in this restaurant and dance for the customers in between courses without missing a beat.

Initially automation affected the jobs of blue-collar workers in manufacturing and mechanical work as robots displaced people on the “assembly line.” Now we see the trend continuing and expanding with automation entering the service industry and jobs involving customer interaction, entertainment, and retail being affected. This is happening not only in restaurants, but also elder care (like robot uBot5 being developed out of University of Massachusetts), and in major retail establishments such as in warehouse automation with Kiva Systems robots being employed by major companies like Gap, Staples, and Zappos.

Further, the expansion of robots into traditional human work is also happening in our military—think Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or Drones) like the Predators and Reapers, the robotics pack animals that can carry hundreds of pounds of gear (like Big Dog) and various bomb disposal robots. This is just the beginning.

We are witnessing the transformation of our workforce from traditional blue- and now even white-collar jobs to those with an emphasis on knowledge management (think engineers and technology professionals working at companies like iRobot, Intel, and Apple). This has obvious implications for selection of education pursuits and availability of professional opportunities in the future for our children and grandchildren.

The robots are coming. The robots ARE coming!


January 1, 2011

A House for The People

(Source for graphic: The $300 House)

National Geographic (January 2011) reports that one out of every seven people—or 1 billion people—in this world lives in slums.

Forbes (11 June 2007) predicts “By 2030, an estimated 5 billion of the world’s 8.1 billion people will live in cities. About 2 billion of them will live in slums, primarily in Africa and Asia, lacking access to clean drinking water and toilets, surrounded by desperation and crime.”

Harvard Business Review (January-February 2011) shares an innovative idea by Vijay Govindarajan to design and mass-produce houses for the poor for $300! Moreover, these units would include “basic modern services such as running water and electricity…[and] create shared access to computers, cell phones, televisions, water filters, solar panels, and clean-burning stoves.”

The breakthrough idea of the $300 high-tech house is that this is not something governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or charities would develop and deploy, but rather one that is a challenge for commercial interests who can take lead on creating mass scale, “ultra low cost, high value housing…as a mega opportunity, with billions in profit at stake.”

While I understand that the profit motive is very compelling and efficient in getting results, I would suggest that when it comes to helping the poor and downtrodden that we need to temper this as a driving factor, and let our humanity and conscience kick in as well. In other words, sure make a profit, but by G-d have a heart.

With The $300 House, aside from the notion of truly helping people—en masse—and making a genuine difference with moving them from slum houses to homes is the concept of leapfrogging them in their technology. Think about it:

- Solar power
- Walter filtration
- (Even) Tablet PCs

This reminds me of the One Laptop Per Child initiative of 2005 that sought to put $100 laptops in the hands of hundreds of millions of disadvantaged schoolchildren to advance their educational opportunities. It expands and augments it to make the change impactful to people’s lives on the ground today in terms of how people are able to care for themselves and their families, so that they can get to a brighter tomorrow and put that education to work.

While we may never be able to fully eradicate poverty, we can certainly significantly raise the status of living for the masses that need help through commercial opportunities, technological proliferation, and of course, through a charitable heart.