Introducing a new game, IT Jenga.

The easy button. It’s a great TV commercial, but in the technology world, it isn’t something IT professionals consider. First off because we are talking about, well a Television commercial. Secondly off because it just isn’t plausible.

Things get messy pretty quickly when you are building something. The other day I was driving to work, and I went a direction I don’t usually go. It isn’t that I was trying something new, it was that the usually (fastest) route was having roadwork done. My GPS said it was an hour delay, or I could take the alternate route and shave 45 minutes off my delay. Still a delay but less of one than otherwise. Anyway, I wandered through an area where there were a lot of buildings under construction, both new and renovations.

It struck me as I drove by that construction projects and IT projects are remarkably similar. For example, when you are building a new building, the most important thing to do regardless of building size is to make sure the foundation is solid. When renovating a building, the most important thing to ensure is the integrity of the foundation.

I cannot tell you how many projects I have been on, that I started building the foundation first. At the same time, how many customers looked at me like I was crazy. You can start at the base and work up, or you can start in the middle and build a collapsing tower. That is what I have told every customer that ever asked me, why build from the base up.

It’s not a goal to have a solid foundation. If you don’t your system will topple. IT shops doing migrations, upgrades and transitions are not unlike construction in that if you don’t have a solid base your system will fail. So today I am introducing a new game for all IT professionals out there. The Information Technology game “IT Jenga.” Can you build an IT tower taller without the base becoming so weak the system topples?

clip_image002Authors note Jenga is a game with a tower built of blocks. The goal is to remove blocks from the existing tower and make the tower, taller. The image is ©Lewo Wooden games for kids.

If we consider the reality of IT shops today, there are distinct pressures forcing decisions of the IT team. The first is the reality of cloud computing. Yes, the cloud offers opportunities that haven’t been available before. But it also offers new risks, and since we are taking blocks from our Jenga tower and moving them, the wrong block will destabilize the entire tower. In the game, you roll dice, in the IT world the game doesn’t have dice it just has many more moving pieces.

Going back to the concept I started with a foundation, what is the foundation of IT today? One of the things I have written about, discussed and shared for more than ten years now its he reality of networks. In fact, I would argue that the network is not the foundation IT should hang its hat on. Not that we have better foundations lying outside the network, just that the network probably isn’t the best foundation to use. It is most likely a tootsie pop. Hard outer shell, soft inner candy. Except we are taking the soft, inner candy and pushing it outside the hard candy shell. We are reversing the network that was designed 30 years ago and pushing traffic in new directions.

By the way, in IT Jenga once you remove the one block you have to remove, you will have to put three blocks back on the tower at the top.

Yes, that is the rule for IT Jenga. You take one block out of the existing IT portfolio and replace it with three on top. It means you have to go back to the foundation of your IT systems. You need to know what your base is, how it is built and if possible start making it wider. Cloud computing, SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS are wonderful. They can reduce your cost. They can also drive your IT team crazy.

The Museum for devices that made it to the finish line, but sadly the finish line had moved.

Recently, when things have not worked as expected, I’ve been putting them back in the box and instead of selling them as I did for many years (I am kind of anti-eBay right now) I am saving them. I think I am going to create the first museum of IoT devices that never made it off the ground floor. Not failures because all of them were funded but projects that were interesting, just didn’t quite fulfill the dream. My museum will have several wings by the time I am done.

Wing number 1, the dream of 3d. Let’s throw VR in there as well. The number of VR solutions and additions would probably fill one wall of my museum. I chased VR for a long time. I was an early backer of the Oculus Rift system (it works and is very adaptable). We also added the Sony VR and a few others I won’t name. You’ll see the others in my museum. The Sony VR and Oculus you won’t see, we are using those! I will probably add a Microsoft Kinect on that wall as well. It was a very good idea that just wasn’t ready at the time it was shipped.

2Beyond VR and 3d will be the cameras. I love digital cameras anyway, so adding the ability to film underwater and in 4k plus add 360 degrees of imaging and you had me at the camera. Still, there are a lot of wannabes in the category. 360-degree imaging requires a mix of software and hardware, so the number of points of stress in the system is pretty high. So far Bubl remains the leader for both software and technology of the camera. Plus it just looks cool. But there are a couple of newcomers to the market that is pretty interesting. Camorra is one I find interesting. In part because their initial shipment includes an underwater case. Once boating season starts, I will try it and share the video on my YouTube channel.

Weather devices will, of course, be featured in my IoT museum. Remember this is a not a museum to shame those who didn’t quite get to done. It is more a conversation piece so that people understand the path taken, and the destination arrived at. It is not intended to make people or innovators feel bad just to show the inspiration! Based on that there are two types of weather device snow on the market that are interesting. I think the weather devices will be broken into two distinct categories. Those that push data to your mobile device, and those you connect to your computer. The power of each is pretty amazing, with the push to the mobile device market gaining a lot of share in the past two years. The issue, of course, with a push to your device systems is that they are an always on and b exposed to a hacker seizing control of the processing of the weather station and using it for something else. The stand alone, connect to your computer and share stations aren’t as vulnerable unless you leave them connected all the time. Plus, that always on, always connected weather station does chew up the bandwidth of your home network. It is time to create segment sin your home network!

3I think I would be a friendly museum owner and have everything on the ground floor. Perhaps a library on the second floor for those who still remember books. Or a mix of a bookstore, library and coffee shop on the second floor to mix two that were and one that is.

The name of my museum is going to be the “Swing, connect down the baseline, Foul Ball Museum.” For those not baseball fans it is a swing of the bat that connected with the ball but didn’t keep it on the field of play. In soccer it is like a shot on goal that hits the upright. Good shot, right direction just not quite the right placement of the ball.


The Museum of almost nearly there…

Cool Tech Wander project Issue 10

As we head down the cool tech post, I have a couple of projects that I think are amazing. First off, Popslate’s demise left me feeling frustrated. Particularly with the abrupt way, there was no communication, and then they went bankrupt and shut the doors of the company. It didn’t stop me from considering crowdfunding, but it did make me sad.

Then I found superscreen. Ok, so the whole screen as a service concept is one I am not going to let go of. There are times, however, when I need a bigger screen than my phone provides. In particular, in the reality of weather, you need to be able to see the entire screen of information. I am scrolling through the Kickstarter new projects when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a screen that replaces what Populate would have brought and more!

Good morning and meet my little friend, who isn’t so little Super Screen! They have this concept of wirelessly expanding the available screen size for my phone. So 1, I have a larger screen available. 2 I have a screen as a service device that lets me replace the things I was planning on PopSlate for. 3. I can now do other things with my phone that I haven’t in the past. I know I can download Kindle books to my iPhone. I have always used either a Kindle or an iPad for that, however. The screen of the phone is too small to read comfortably. Now, that is no longer the case. Plus these guys were funded in their first hour after launch! I am once again a really happy crowdfunding!

crowdfunding2The next Kickstarter project I am excited about is a little smaller market play. The product is called Snapmaker. Let me start off my cool tech wander here with a reality check. Once upon a time, I would have told you that everyone would have 3d printers in their home. Lately, I think that number remains smaller, in fact, 3d printers will remain with hobbyists for a long time. But this all metal 3d printer offers two things that are beyond amazing. First, off a high-quality 3d printer, which costs less than 1000 dollars is beyond amazing. Add to that the cost is less than 500 dollars and it is interesting. Now throw in a laser engraving module, and now we are talking a beyond fantastic product!

The next two are from Indiegogo. I know I wasn’t going to fun projects there anymore, but these two were well amazing! I had to fund them. In part, because they fit in an extended mad scientist plan of mine to slowly remove the need to get off the couch to control the world around me.

Our first project is TitanNote. A device designed to take notes for you automatically. It fitted my long quest for better, more useful and managed note taking. From the Livescribe Pens to notes on an iPad and every pen in between I have struggled to find the perfect match of the pen, paper and taking notes. I am not sure this is it, but as I said this one fits my path and trajectory!

The next campaign from Indiegogo is a home automation system called Hayo! It combines the reality of VR and the reality of home control. This means you can create VR buttons in your home, that you can use to interact with the room. All, while sitting, so it fits into my long term goal of exercising, and then when I am done, being relaxed on the couch. That also means not getting up. It, Hayo combines two trends, home automation, and virtual reality. Giving you a product that fits not only into improving your interaction experience but also helps you move into the virtual future!

holiday relaity for social mediaI will note, crowdfunding is a risk. If you take the plunge, then get over it. Gambling is where you bet on something that has an element of chance. Crowdfunding is gambling in the sense that you will never know if things are real. There is a risk here. So far I am at nearly 20% failure rate on Indiegogo (and about 9% on Kickstarter) with the IndieGoGo/IBM partnership I can only imagine the numbers decreasing and some creators moving to a new platform other than Indiegogo. It is a risk, and you have to be aware of that risk.

Don’t be that person.

You know who you are. You start off every post on the crowdfunding sites in one of two ways. You threaten the creator (give me a break), or you threaten to Sue.

Don’t be either of those “that person’s.”


Crowdfunding fan

Travelers in an ancient land came across a computer…

Over the course of my schooling, there were a few poems that stuck with me. Early in my writing career, I wished to be a poet. To stand and deliver my poetry out loud. I did, for a long time, chase that dream. There are bits and pieces of poems that fit into my lexicon now because of that time and that dream. The two that I most often use when talking to technologists is Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle…” and probably even more iconic and applicable to the world of technology in which I speak and most often converse is the line from Percy Bysshe Shelly’s immortal Ozymandias. “Look upon my works ye mighty and despair.”

The latter often used to explain to people that there are no great works if they can be forgotten. There is no statues that stand between us and our destination. Technology, as it exists today, is a way station, a moment in time. A river that flows beside us near us, but stays ever in its banks. As long as we respect the river, it will not jump its banks and wipe away what we are building.

This technology age in which we live has many possible outcomes that are exciting. Analysts and experts say we are in the information age. But too much information resides in places we cannot search for it to be an age of information truly. Or perhaps the analysts aren’t telling us of two information ages. The initial creation age where information is built, systems are built to store information and us as humans move from the reality of Fake News to the reality of verification. Then rises the second information age, where information is verified and ubiquitous. More available information leaves this initial information age as the statue of Ozymandias was. Up to its base in sand, a barren desert without nothing to be seen by the travelers. On the base on inscription “Look upon my works ye mighty and despair.” The first instance of Fake News. For there is nothing to be seen.

I wonder if 100 years, or 500 years from now, archaeologists won’t be standing, in front of some ancient computer reading analysts proclamation of this is the dawn of the information age. We have arrived, and now information is everywhere. Laughing, they turn around to welcome future 8-year-olds, who having already memorized the entire history of humanity up to the point we are now, look at the fluid, bending screen and ask polity. What is this that you are showing us, teacher? The archeologists are smiling and gently step to one side so the teacher can speak. “Class, this is the excellent analysis of 100 years ago. That they were in an information age.” The laughter ripples through the group of students. One young girl raises her hand.

IMG_0386“Yes, Millicent.” The teacher says the child’s hand in the hair.

“They thought that information was stored and then consumed?” The child asked.

“Yes,” The teacher answered. The children, the class, the teacher and the archaeologist all hung their heads for a moment. All of them realizing that the glorious statue in front of them, the mighty past age of information, was not. It was the mighty Ozymandias. Standing there, in all the glory of greatness, revealing behind him a barren desert with nothing to be seen.

There are two poems that to this day resonate and echo in my heart. Sadly, they also echo and resonate with my profession. Rage, Rage against the declaration of the information age. We should know, we should understand, that declaring this an age of information will only cause presentations to future 8-year-olds who will, upon seeing our great information age laugh. Let’s stop now, before we as the great future joke, build our statue in the desert. Let us not be a cautionary tale that is told as a reminder that no one is greater than time. That information as it is isn’t an age yet. Do not fall into that good trap, which lost cause. The information age lies there ahead of us. Let us not build roadblocks. Let us not rage now that the information age is here. Let us instead go gentle into that good future. Go gently into that good age that lies ahead of us. We are preparing information now. Someday let’s not be a joke.

“What did you learn at school today son?” A mother asks gently.

“Well, the best part of the day was when we heard an ancient computer, something called a podcast where great analysts rose out of the desert and proclaimed 100 years ago the information age. Our class laughed for a long time mother. It was a funny joke.”


Ancient traveler…

Of What, and why, and finally how?

For the past few years, I have blogged every day (roughly ten years of blogging every day). In doing that I have missed a few days overall. But I have managed to amass more than 5000 total blogs. If I could all the places, I’ve posted to, roughly ten different blogging sites overall. I started out on the Windows Live blog (that was ported to WordPress when Windows Live shut down its blog spot). I will not say I am driven to blog, but I love to write, and it is the best possible mix for me.

There are however technology changes to the blogging process overall that have made the process easier for me. The first is the k8000 keyboard and mouse from Logitech. It allows me to lean back and relax as I type out my blog. Plus, it is rechargeable, so I don’t have to change the batteries. I cannot tell you how many times before, I would be typing along as my keyboard ran out of batteries, and I would sit there dumbfounded. Why is the keyboard not working? I know I wasted a few hours over the years trying to fix a problem that was just a new battery away from being solved.

3Another innovation that I leverage heavily is my desk chair. I have had some office chairs over the years. I realized last year that having a comfortable desk chair was the single most important thing I could do for my home office. So I got a great ergonomic office chair. It is comfortable and lets me put the keyboard in my lap and type like my hands are on fire. Although in thinking back to what I just wrote, would you type with hands that were on fire?

There are other innovations that I use all the time as well that are less technology and more comfort. My office now has a ceiling fan. In the past, I always had directional fans in my offices but never a ceiling fan until we moved to Maryland. Yes, I am stuck in the corner of the basement, mostly to keep the mess contained (Spluge it is called by those who relegate me to the cellar). Having a ceiling fan reduces the heat in the basement office by 5 or so degrees in the summer. That is a nice addition. I also have a fan that moves the air around and is useful. But that is only turned on the hottest days.

The last thing that isn’t technology but helps me considerably is routine. Now, after all these years I am used to writing every day. It is something I learned many years ago when adding the writing institute at Indiana University one summer. Write every day, don’t stop, just write. I always think, when I write something like that about the Carpenters song “Sing, sing a song.”

Consistency in writing every day has helped. The cool technology helps me as well. Having the ability to scan and convert all the old family pictures into digital files helps me. It is fun to be able to wander through all the many things that have happened over the years. The more you share, the more the universe returns to you!

It has grown beyond what I started with. To think 12 years ago now, in 2005 I was very frustrated with the customer service provided to my family by Vonage. I wrote about that a few times in those early posts, in fact, I think it dominated my first five posts overall. I have shared serial stories that went from day to day until they were finished. I have shared the poetry of Sandler Boggs. I have pulled the tendril of family memories since my father passed away. Scanning the nearly 40,000 slides and pictures he left me. We also converted the films of my grandfather, hours of the old film now digital video files that share our family history all the way back to the massive snowfall in Cambridge Wisconsin in 1946.

Sitting in my comfortable office chair, pounding on my second K8000 keyboard (I wore the keys off the first one!) and sharing my ideas with the world. I can say that there are many things I’ve shared now, that I wish I could rewrite and redo. Things that I have pushed out into the universe that I wish were a little better. Stories, which told me were of incredible beauty, but my retelling was of average beauty. Images I have shared that were taken by photographers that I cherish. Not always the greatest pictures overall but the greatest to me, for me. A path to being one with who I was, and who I am yet to be!


cool tech dreamer

Cool Tech Wander Issue 9

Yesterday I was starting for the 200th time to clean a bit of my office. I am focused this time on organizing the chaos. So this week I started by removing all the hard drives that I have had connected but haven’t used in more than a year. In part, because I want to create drives for additional media backups and in part because, well, I need to clean my office.

The next thing is organizing cameras. I have a few that I will keep duplicate functionality for because they (the cameras) offer underwater filming. My goal this year is to explore more under the Chesapeake Bay than I did last year. So, underwater cameras add another level.

But I do want to declutter a little. One of the problems I have right now is we sold our old boat last year and bought a newer boat. That meant we had to take the stuff off the old boat and move it to the new boat. But we only had time to move about ½ the things. What that resulted in is additional material both in our garage and in our basement utility/furnace room. I need to get that stuff out and to the boat so that I can understand exactly what I need to clean.

We also decided to not return to Port Annapolis this year (they raised their rates way higher than anyone else in the area), so we are also looking for a new marina! There are a couple we are considering will report back on those when it is closer to boating season.

One of my saddest things this year was we got a monster snow blower. We took it out, started it and haven’t used it all year. The storm we had last week wasn’t worth firing up the mean machine; the boys had the driveway cleared in less than 40 minutes.

I guess we will move it to the back of the garage and figure out what else we can do to reduce the clutter in the garage. Some of the stuff is used once a year on the boat stuff, so I think most of that will be stacked neatly in the garage. I am also thinking about taking the kayak to the vessel this year. We don’t use it around the house, might as well get some use for it. Perhaps we could tow the kids behind the boat in the Kayak!

20170314_082728000_iOSWhen I look back over what I have just written, this morning, two things come to mind, and neither is submit this text for a Pulitzer. The first is that cleaning my office is hardly fitting for a technology post. The second is the old George Carlin routine about stuff. You buy a bigger house so you can fit all your stuff into the house!

(I love the light sin the windows).

On the cool tech front, some interesting things are flying around that offering a new interaction system for you and your computer. SingleCue, Myo are both motion systems that allow you to interact with your computer via motion. Myo works well. SingleCue is a little harder to setup, but it has some interesting IoT integration capabilities!

Another cool tech thing to consider is the eight-bed cover. Eight allows you to track your sleep, but it also allows you to heat one side of your bed or both sides. In our house there is someone that is always cold, so that side of the bed is warm. The other person doesn’t like to wake up sweating, so that side of the bed is cooler. So far it has worked well. The software continues to improve as well.

So motion systems and sleep systems are today’s cool tech. Motion, while you are sleeping, is something that eight will rate you on. If you move too much, your sleep isn’t as good. I keep looking at the tosses and turns graph, and it made me realize why I felt tired all last week. I did not have a good week of sleep. Next step is figuring what-what I can do to fix the problem.

Motion sensors also, by the way, include the LEAP system. All three are available now. Myo attaches to your forearm. Leap sits in front of you on a flat surface. SingleCue uses a Kinect-like device that has an integrated camera to see what you are motioning!

Onward and upward! Time to figure out how to sleep better.


tech wanderer

Cool Tech Wander project Issue 9

First off, as an ardent, or avid crowdfunding advocate it is always sad when an idea bursts onto the scene and then dies. Popslate2, the recreation of the PopSlate product for the new iPhones met a double end yesterday. Not just that they would never be shipping the product, but the company was forced into bankruptcy. The information saddens me. It is part of the crowdfunding process, however, and you move on.

20170225_130808000_iOSI think the concept and idea of PopSlate is one that may have come and passed. There are many entrants in the field, but smart watches seem to be moving past all of the secondary screen offerings now. I may be wrong (I kind of hope I am), but that is what seems what now.

The fickle finger of fate sometimes points earlier than you expect. Or worse, it points right at you directly and what do you do then? You cannot hide from the fickle finger, that is in fact fate. It will find you no matter where you hide.

Indiegogo had problems before the recent deal with IBM. Popslate2 was another project from IG that not only failed to deliver but ultimately went out of business. I tried to help IG over a year ago with a better model of how they could do projects; they rejected the idea. Now, they struggle. I have 21 projects now that haven’t delivered and are more than five months late. That isn’t a good record. Plus add one to it is never going to be provided (that makes three, one announced and two where the creators just disappeared with the money.

How many backup copies of family photos do you have at home right now? How many are in the cloud? I know I have recommended Carbonite sometimes, it is a fantastic product that I am euphoric with overall. The reason I am pointing this one out again is that frankly, far too many people struggle with not having backups of critical files.

At least two copies of your digital files at home and at least one copy in the cloud is my recommendation. Overall more is better. One of the things I realized the other day is that I have a few old drives that are slow. I was going to donate them to Goodwill when I realized, I could just copy pictures to them, and then put the drives in a safe place. Make sure if you are following this recommendation that you put a post it on your drive (tape it on) that notes the day you backed up your pictures to it. That way you have a rotating safe copy of your family history at home.

As I wander all the old pictures, we’ve scanned and the old video we’ve converted, I am reminded of why I thought PopSlate was a great idea. A second always on screen would be extremely valuable, at the very least in reducing the churn on the batteries as I use my phone. One of the things that often happens for me is the reality of running out of battery because my iPhone is always on.

I know it is applications I have on my phone that are notifying me, that chew my battery. My iPad lasts four, five or six days between charges. So I know it is all the notifications I get. But in the almost-nearly information age, you need the information. I am willing to last 5 hours or so on a charge (or 10 hours if I carry my add-on battery pack). The information I get is critical.

That said, I could turn off a few of the notifications I suspect, and still get what I need. I have cut down on a few already (I turned off ESPN notifications). I do want to know the various other warnings. Canary lets me know about movement inside the house (99.9% of the time just the dogs, but you can never be too sure or too safe!). Control4 lets me know about activities outside the house (again, normally people walking by the front of our house). Skybell, recently upgraded to the HD version notifies me of people at the front door, both visually and with an audible ringing on my phone! That way I can see who is there, without going to the door!

Overall the future of moving from the pre to the post information age period will be the ability for the device to handle the information flow without chewing up your battery. Personally, I thought to PopSlate had the right idea, so I am sorry they didn’t make it.


Cool Tech Wanderer