Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts

May 28, 2019

Robots In Rockville


Had some fun driving around this cool little Robot in Rockville Town Center.

I like to try out the latest gadgets. 

It's funny people's reactions when they see these. 

They're still not quite sure what to make of these. 

Robots on the street.

Drones overhead.

Submersibles in the water.

Soon they will all be autonomous, ubiquitous, and essential.

And people will be the side attraction. ;-)

(Source Video: Dossy Blumenthal)
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May 3, 2019

What Are The Chances for IT Project Success?

So I was teaching a class in Enterprise Architecture and IT Governance this week. 

In one of the class exercises, one of the students presented something like this bell-shaped distribution curve in explaining a business case for an IT Project. 

The student took a nice business approach and utilized a bell-shaped curve distribution to explain to his executives the pros and cons of a project. 

Basically, depending on the projects success, the middle (1-2 standard deviations, between 68-95% chance), the project will yield a moderate level of efficiencies and cost-savings or not. 

Beyond that:

- To the left are the downside risks for significant losses--project failure, creating dysfunction, increased costs, and operational risks to the mission/business. 

- To the right is the upside potential for big gains--innovations, major process reengineering, automation gains, and competitive advantages. 

This curve is probably a fairly accurate representation based on the high IT project failure rate in most organizations (whether they want to admit it or not). 

I believe that with:
- More user-centric enterprise architecture planning on the front-end
- Better IT governance throughout
- Agile development and scrum management in execution 
that we can achieve ever higher project success rates along the big upside potential that comes with it!  

We still have a way to go to improve, but the bell-curve helps explains what organizations are most of the time getting from their investments. ;-)

(Source Graphic: Adapted by Andy Blumenthal from here)
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April 28, 2019

Rockville Science Fair - 30th Year!















(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 12, 2019

Gotta Love FANUC


I love FANUC industrial robots. 

They are made by a secretive company in Japan and they are #1 in workplace automation worldwide! 

They have over half a million installed industrial robots around the world.

Their robots are on assembly lines making everything from "cars and smartphones to beverages and drugs."  They also are in Tesla and Amazon...so you know they are pretty much everywhere. 

FANUC has customers in 108 countries supported by 263 service locations. 

Their robots are made by...that's right other robots...80% is automated

These robots are strong, fast, and precise, and they can do dangerous work. 

This company is the future of jobs, productivity, efficiency. 

But of course, people are still the brains behind the brawn.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 9, 2019

Solving Computer Problems

Funny T-Shirt on solving computer problems:

Does it work?

Did you screw with it?

Does anyone know?

Can you blame anyone else?

This little flowchart seems to capture so many issues in the office like:

- Accountability

- Problem-solving

- Doing the right thing

Oh, maybe that's a different flowchart. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 24, 2019

Take Your Head Out of My Shopping Cart

So this was funny today at Harris Teeter. 

I'm checking out on the express line with a few things. 

First some tofu.

The lady at the cash register goes:
Hmm.  Healthy!

Then some Meal Mart Buffalo Style Chicken Wings.

Again, the lady at the cash register comments:
Have you tried that?  Is it good?  It looks good!

Politely, I replied:
Yes, they are really good.

At the same time I was feeing smart-alecy, like what the heck, should I open the package on the conveyer belt and let you taste one--right here, right now.   

Sure privacy is a big issue when it comes to technology, social media, and all sorts of surveillance these days

But even when one simply goes to the grocery store--there is the very basic privacy about what one is buying. 

Yes, I see people looking into my cart, with eyebrows raised eyeing my goodies.  I can hear them thinking:
What is he buying?  Is it marked Kosher? (Uh, actually it is!]  That doesn't seem like a balanced diet!

Another time, the checkout person asked me when I was buying a bunch of something:
Oh, are you having a party? What's the occasion?

While I appreciate the good-natured banter and people being friendly, it seems more than weird in a way to be discussing what I'm buying, why, and for whom.  

Not quite Big Brother, but maybe that's the leftover small town feel in our lonely urban and high-tech living.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 10, 2019

Hyundai's Great All-Terrain Concept Car


Very impressed with the Hyundai concept "Walking Car."

It can drive, walk, and climb. 

I heard that this thing can even climb over walls and jump over gaps!

(Ah, I'm not going to say anything about border security with this--let's just hope the bad guys don't get this). 

This is the closest that we've come to Hollywood's Transformers.

This is much more than a vehicle for search and rescue--this is ALL-TERRAIN!

Great job Hyundai--I'd love to test drive this beauty!  ;-)
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November 28, 2018

Don't Just Sit There

Really liked this robot (Cubebot) in the store.

Love the colors and that you can change the pose in all different ways. 

This robot is pretty darn cute!

It's funny in this sitting position though.

Just want to say: 
Don't just sit there, do something!

Probably not that long before robots will be all over the place.

We'll wish for just a little privacy from the darn things, just like from our 24/7 computer gadgets that we can't let go of now.

Yes, we're hopelessly dependent on the technology--it's so helpful and we love it, but we can't turn it off. 

They won't be sitting for long. 

Robots--big and small, alone and in swarms, male and female, strong and intricate, smart and simple, worker and homemaker, doer and helper, companion and lover, where will it stop--it won't. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 12, 2018

Israel To Space

Please see my new article in Times of Israel, "Israel's Ladder To Space."

So proud of Israel's planning to join the Big 3 countries (U.S., Russia, and China) to land on the moon.

Amazing what even a relatively small in size and new nation like Israel can set their sights on and please G-d accomplish with G-d's help.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 26, 2018

Super Cool Military Wheels



The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has come up with a Reconfigurable Wheel Track (RWT). 

The tires can switch shape from round tires for flat terrain to triangular tracks for soft or rugged terrain in just 2-seconds!

You can see in the screenshot the rear wheels in tire formation and the front wheels changed to tracks. 

The agility of this technology makes for better maneuverability and survivability for our troops and their transports and combat vehicles. 

I wonder if someday soon, they will commercialize this technology so rather than all season/year tires or snow tires on our cars, we have these gorgeous ruggedized military grade babies.

I for one would gladly pay extra! ;-)

(Source Screenshot: Andy Blumenthal from here)
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June 19, 2018

Terrible TV

So we bought a new big screen television. 

That's exciting, right?

We brought it home from Costco. 

And we gave our prior model away to a family member. 

It was a shlep to move that $2,000 Panasonic behemoth from 2007!

By the time we got back home and connected our new LG TV, oy vey what a disappointment. 

It had this brilliant display in "test mode" that when hooked up to the cable box looked dark and worse than lackluster. 

Even when fidgeting with the settings to offset the dark screen, the gorgeous test display mode still came out looking like crap in actual tv mode. 

But the worst part was that there was a black line down the middle right of the screen. 

When we looked it up on the Internet, it was a known error. 

The instructions said to call LG and make a service appointment. 

WTF!  To heck with this sh*tty TV--it's supposed to be brand new and actually work--so it's going back to Costco where this crappy product came from. 

I dragged this widescreen TV back to the store and put it on one of their flat wide carts. 

The problem was that the wheels on one side of the cart were busted, and it kept turning into the fence, store shelves, and wall.

When the lady behind the returns desk called me for my turn, I tried to push the cart and it wouldn't move. 

Not being able to budge this thing,  I gave it shove forward and the TV went flying from upright to horizontal--SMASH!

The lady behind the returns counter goes to me sarcastically:

"So what was wrong with it BEFORE you just knocked it over???"

Well to make a long story short, I returned the lousy LG television and got a refund. 

And instead ordered a new Samsung curved TV from Amazon--hope this one works!

As for the horrible quality control of today's electronics--it's a shame that they can't seem to make them without problems--they've only been making televisions for like 100 years or so. 

In fact, we recently bought a Dell laptop and within like 5-6 weeks, the motherboard died.  

As you can see, the vendors are wringing profits from the products they are making at the customer's expense. 

There is no quality control to speak of--instead be ready to return the junk electronics to the garbage vendors that make them. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 31, 2018

Trace Amounts of Cocaine

So this is a funny story from today.

I had a wonderful opportunity to tour a couple of labs at NIST today.

One of them does work in contraband detection.

The scientist asks if anyone has any money in their wallet.

I pull out a dollar and hand it to him.

I ask him what happens if he finds any traces of bad stuff on the money from me.

He says, "A cage will fall from the ceiling" and I'll be in big trouble.

Uh, we all laugh a little.

He unfolds the money and puts it into the machine that looks for the contraband.

Oh sh*t, it comes up in the "red"--positive for cocaine.

Someone else says jokingly, "A little leftover from the weekend?"

I joke back, "Na, It's from this morning before work!"

Ha, ha, I think. 

It turns out the scientist explains that 90% of our currency actually tests positive for cocaine

I'm wondering whether this is a commentary on drug use and even the opioid epidemic in America.

The lab director explains a theory that the automated money counters spread traces of the drugs from bills and contaminates the other currency.

Aside from this little experiment today, I got to learn so much about creating standards for contraband detection systems and equipment and in another lab about magnetism. 

It is unbelievable how smart these scientists are--they are so unique and of the best in the world.

I am so happy to be able to learn from them even if it's contraband on money. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 7, 2018

Weaponizing Your Privacy


So this was the funniest War of the Roses on the Kane Show that I ever heard. 

They use the Alexa personal assistant from Amazon (voiceover) to call the cheater. 

In this skit, we really see the potential power of these home computing devices. 

Alexa hears and knows everything that goes on in the house (including the cheating).

Alexa confronts the cheater and calls him a few descript names for his infidelity.

Alexa punishes the cheater by going online to purchase items with his credit card. 

Alexa betrays him by calling his girlfriend and telling her about the cheating. 

Cheating aside, maybe this is a great lesson how we should all be considering our privacy in our homes and on our persons before we install Alexa, Siri, Cortana, the Google Assistant or any other personal or home surveillance systems. 

With all the bad actors out there and people that want to steal everything from your money, identity, secrets, and maybe even your wife--these devices are a direct line into your personal life.

This is called weaponizing your privacy!

Tell me, do you really believe that no one is listening or watching you?  ;-)
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April 27, 2018

Space-Age Mouse

Just wanted to share my new futuristic ergonomic computer mouse. 

Thumb sits on the left.

Rest of the hand sits fully supported and swoops down towards the right. 

No wrist movement up and down. 

Left and right clicks buttons are at the top.

No bending of the fingers and no reaching.

Mouse helps protect against repetitive movement disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome. 

The HandShoe Mouse fits like a glove. 

It's made by Hippus in the Netherlands. 

Comes in wireless or wired. 

Choose right- or left-hand model. 

And make sure you order the right size: small, medium, or large. 

Until we have full voice recognition or gesture control like in Minority Report, I like this space-age mouse. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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April 20, 2018

Understanding Genius

So working in a place with scientific geniuses and even a history of Nobel Prize winners is serious business. 

I see things that I don't know what they are. 

I meet people that I don't understand what they do. 

But in all cases, I am in awe of the smart and good people and the work they are doing to advance us. 

Here was an example this week in randomly meeting someone and starting up a conversation:
Andy:  Hi. I'm Andy.  What do you do here?
Him:  I'm [so and so].  I do neutron scattering.
Andy: [Gulp followed by big smile] I know absolutely nothing about that.
Him:  Well, what do you do?
Andy:  I'm doing process engineering and enterprise service management.
Him: [Smile] I know absolutely nothing about that. 
Get the picture.

One for the books right.

In another instance, when asked what their group does, someone leans into me and goes:

"We fix sh*t."

I could tell he meant it. 

And you know what--I absolutely believed him.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 19, 2018

Net-Zero Energy House

Today, I had a wonderful opportunity to explore the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Net-Zero Energy House.

As its name implies the residential home makes as much energy as it uses. 

It is run by one of NIST's 7 laboratories, the Engineering Lab's Energy and Environment Division.

The 2,700 square foot home is super-insulated and hyper-energy efficient.

It runs on only 12,000-13,000 Kilowatt per year compared to a typical home that guzzles 40,000 KW. 

You can see the array of solar panels on the roof and there is a two-way exchange of energy to/from the grid as available/needed. 

There is also solar thermal water heater. 


The home simulates a family of 4 living there cooking, bathing, watching TV, etc. 

There are 600 sensors inside the house that monitor everything. 

The garage maintains the computers and controls for the research. 

Overall, I was very proud to see the wonderful scientific research being done here. 

It was truly impressive and good for the nation and the planet.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 14, 2018

Who You Calling Ugly Baby?

So in multiple organizations, I have heard systems referred to as ugly babies!

Whether or not it's true, it certainly doesn't make the IT folks that develop, run, and support that system feel very good. 

Are some of these (legacy) systems ugly?

Well, of course, they are. 

Many of them work despite themselves. 

What I mean by that is they are awkward to navigate and use. 

The functionality is flawed or outdated.

The workflows are unnecessarily complex.

The user interface is inconsistent and sloppy. 

The user experience is punishing. 

I told someone recently in using a particular system that was so convoluted:
"Is this system what they give to prisoners and make them use over and over again to punish them for hideous violent crimes?"

Seriously, that's how it felt, even as I knew it was still lightyears ahead of what a paper process still used in other organizations looks like.

Generally better than the waterfall methodology for the systems development life cycle, I understand that one dilemma with agile development is that requirements can be spotty from sprint to sprint and instead of doing the hard work and thinking it out upfront, users are made to expect a nearly endless series of enhancements and tinkering, which isn't practical functionally or financially either.

Even an ugly baby is still ours, and we love it and nurture it, and even help it change for the better--that's part of our responsibility. 

Whether we parented a real baby or an IT system, we have pride of ownership and a sense of accountability to the person, system, and future. 

My father always taught me never to throw out dirty water until you have clean water. 

Similarly, we shouldn't throw out the (ugly) baby with the bathwater. 

We need to work together--technologists and system users--to make truly functional systems and a user experience more like gaming where the players are so happy, attached (and even addicted) to it that they sometimes don't even get up to eat or go to the bathroom. 

We should love what we have and use, and we should, therefore, work hard to make these things great.

And an ugly baby can be made gorgeous again. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 28, 2018

Technology and Human Capital--They Go Hand-In-Hand

So there are some mighty impressive places to work that really shine in terms of the technology they use and the constant desire to upgrade and improve their capabilities. 

Usually, these are also the places that value and respect their human capital because they view them as not just human pawns, but rather as strategic drivers of change. 

Then there are the places that are "so operationally focused" or just plain poorly run that they can't be bothered to think about technology much at all or the people that make up the organization and its fiber. 

In many cases, the wheel may be turning, but the hamster is dead: 

There is no real enterprise architecture to speak of. 

There are no IT strategic or operational plans. 

There are no enterprise or common solutions or platforms. 

There is no IT governance or project/portfolio management. 

Even where there are some IT projects, they go nowhere--they are notions or discussion pieces, but nothing ever rolls off the IT "assembly line."

How about buying an $800 software package to improve specific operations--that gets the thumbs down too. 

Many of these executives can't even spell t-e-c-h-n-o-l-o-g-y!

It's scary when technology is such an incredible enabler that some can't see it for what it is. 

Rather to them, technology is a distraction, a threat, a burdensome cost, or something we don't have time for.

Are they scared of technology?

Do they just not understand its criticality or capability?

Are they just plain stupid? 

Anyway, organizations need to look at their leadership and ask what are they doing not only operationally, but also in terms of technology improvement to advance the organization and its mission. 

Look to the organizations that lead technologically, as well as that treat their people well, and those are ones to ogle at and model after.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 21, 2018

Measurement And Standards Are Our Friends

So I learned that Metrology is the science of measurement. 

And measurement is the foundation of scientific research and creating standards. 

Scientific research and measurement are about exploration, discovery, and innovation.

Further, it is about finding the facts; it is objective; it is truth; it is essential to maintaining integrity. 

Standards also help to ensure dependability, because there is a common reference and you know what you are getting. 

A great true story that demonstrates the importance of measurements and standards is the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.

This was the third worst urban inferno in American history. 

It destroyed over 1,500 building across 140 acres. 

Fire engines responded from as far as New York and Virginia. 

But the problem was that they invariably could not help. 

Why?  

Because their fire hose couplings could not fit on the Baltimore fire hydrants--they were not standardized.

Without standards, we don't have interoperability. 

We don't have a reference that everyone can go by. 

It's as if we're all working on our own desert islands. 

This defeats the power in numbers that make us together greater than the sum of our individual parts. 

Science and technology help us advance beyond just ourselves and today. 

Measurement and standardization help us to build a better and stronger society. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 3, 2018

QC + AI = S


Quantum Computing (QC) + Artificial Intelligence (AI) = Singularity (S)

Quantum Computing - Computers using subatomic particles to superprocess atincredible speeds and with less energy--it's similar to massive parallel processing, but in the case of Qubits, they can store more than just 1s and 0s (bits--a binary state), but rather can be both o and 1 at the same time (a "superposition").  So for very large problems ("exponential scaling"), instead of processing (computing one step at a time), you can process all options simultaneously to find the very best ("optimized") solution by eliminating all options that don't fit the algorithm.

Artificial Intelligence - Computers simulate intelligence, using language, perceiving their environment, reasoning to draw conclusions, solving problems usually done by humans, being creative, and where they can actually learn and self-improve!

Singularity - A state of runaway hypergrowth from the attainment of computing superintelligence, where computers are able to autonomously build ever smarter and more powerful machines that surpass human understanding and control leading to unfathomable changes to human civilization. 

The Information Age is giving way to the Intelligence Age, and it is all ready to explode. 

We are getting to the point of no return...

(Source Photo: Screenshot from YouTube with attribution to the move, Lucy")
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