A rite of passage, and a discussion of automated kitchens!

I sold my smart for two on Friday. It was a great car (had it for year) and really enjoyed both the quality of the car and the dealership. But, driving in DC, I didn’t feel safe on the highway in the smart car. Sad, but because it was so small people routinely cut me off I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. When you are zipping around town or zipping around the suburbs it is a phenomenal car.

Cars are coming with more and more sensors enabled. From collusion radar to 360 degree cameras and blind spot sensors the world will soon be in your cockpit. I remember as a child flying to Europe. I got to go into the cockpit of the airplane. I wanted all those instruments. Cars are available now that have have much of the insturments, from GPS, in car entertainment and the ability to control the environment of the car. The car as a rolling CPS sensor is nearly here.

That got me thinking about automating the kitchen.  Don’t ask me how selling a car got me interested in kitchen automation. It is the sad reality of how my brain works. (or doesn’t work as my sons often say). Kitchen appliances are moving towards smart appliances first. Ones that are aware of when they are needed and when they can be off completely. You can now buy cooktops with induction systems and convection ovens for your home. I was the head cook at Bloomington Indiana’s fanciest restaurant in college. We had a convection oven in the kitchen and I have been waiting for affordable convection ovens ever since.

That Kitchen automation is coming. Mostly because there are so many things you can automate that will help people. For example if you are making Spaghetti and pull a jar of sauce form the pantry then why wouldn’t everything in the kitchen start preparing for that? Like you have garlic bread so automatically turn on the Oven.

That got me thinking about a post I wrote for Safegov more than two years ago. Does your refrigerator know too much. First off it probably doesn’t today. But in an automated kitchen of tomorrow is it possible that your appliances know more than they should? I would say no, there really isn’t a lot of risk in knowing that I like to drink a green drink (veggies and fruit mixed) for breakfast. Or that my children open the refrigerator 200433 times a day. Everyday. And often stand in front of it looking for something to jump out and bite them.

From an automation perspective you could make the job of making dinner easier by having things ready. A QR or bar code reader embedded in the pantry that knows what you are taking out. A control panel in the kitchen that pops up and says you’ve gotten the following out, the last time you got that out you made X. Are you making X today? You click yes or not and everything starts preparing. Pre-heated ovens, etc. ready for you to start.

Perhaps then your kitchen would know too much. If it were hacked it would reveal that no one is in the kitchen (and by extension the house) from 11 am to 4 pm every day. That you like to drink milk but often waste a 1/2 gallon because you forget you have milk. Or that tin December you buy egg nog. That if you have a pork roast in the refrigerator you have cranberry sauce in the pantry. Yes devices that may know too much. Possible. But how much easier would cooking be?

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Future Kitchen Fan

Returning to the simple architecture movement. Remember those who built what’s there…

I had the original Apple Wireless keyboard for my office mac. I managed to break off five of the keys, so I replaced the original with the new Apple Wireless keyboard. First off, you either like the chicklet keyboard or you hate them. If you hate them, then you won’t like the new Apple Keyboard. But, what you will like is the setup and install. Easy. Simple. No Fuss.

Now, in fairness I can quite quickly pull my Lenovo Helix off its keyboard base, and then reattach it and it works. It remembers what USB devices were connected and reconnects them. So that isn’t an Apple only feature. It is however something that people forget. Forget in that once upon a time your computer wouldn’t boot without a keyboard attached to the keyboard slot. That we had custom keyboard slots. That USB and wireless keyboards didn’t exist.

In fact, before there was USB we had the LPT and Serial ports on everything. In the case of Macs it was the AppleTalk port. All of these custom ports required custom cables and careful planning. You could buy Appletalk switches or LPT switches so you have have multiple printers attached. At work we had network print queues. Not a printer capable of handling remote or network printing (scanning and coping also) but simple a queue. You printed to the Unix based, Novell based or Windows based print queue. Now the printer can handle that.

Universal Serial Bus (USB) has had three distinct iterations since release (1.0, 2.0 and 3.0) each with a different connector. That by the way is a huge contributor to the massive pile of cables I have in my downstairs storage room. The reason I am bringing this up has to do with trouble shooting.

As a long time IT professional (kind of sad actually to say that I don’t feel old) I remember the days of old. When you were troubleshooting a physical box. As we transition to this new world you need to make sure that the overall structure for problem solving captures the old knowledge. While the LPT port is no longer, the concept of how you troubleshooting printing issues is the same. The network printing queue may be on the printer itself now, but trouble shooting issues shouldn’t be forgotten.

My solution sits in a cloud. I can no longer simply reboot the physical hardware. But I can still follow all the traditional troubleshooting steps.

  1. Is your Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Cellular connection active and actually connected to a network or device?
  2. Can you ping the IP address (originally it was are all the cables connected)
  3. Can you connect to the IP Address
  4. Can you, after connecting log in with your credentials

The tribal knowledge that we may lose is why the first few steps. That has to do with the days of cables bent and cables knocked out of ports and power failures making it impossible to turn on computers. That knowledge and understanding of the how in the works is critical. Bluetooth is limited to 7 active connections. Interesting so was SCSI. Token rings used to beacon when they hit too many nodes – now the internet just slows down when there is too much traffic. No beaconing but no Netflix Smile.

If you forget history, you are doomed to repeat it.

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old technologist

The change that has to come. Regulated internet data costs, seriously its time…

Transactive Energy or the destruction of energy production to many more levels than it exists at today, is an interesting topic.

First off taking a system built for one way transportation (inbound) and making it two way (both inbound and outbound) is strikingly familiar with the birth and expansion of SaaS and Cloud computing. Where once the hard outer shell of the organization allowed data to be retrieved, with the primary traffic pattern being inside the network first, to the internet second is now reversed.

TE and Cloud are changing the way things are to become more the way things will be. Two way systems that once were one way systems. Of course the reality of change is it isn’t that easy. You don’t just flip the polarity of the magnet and say go the other way now.

Today there is money to be made. At every level of both systems. TE (Transactive Energy) supports leased home solar production (Vivent and Solar City are two examples) as well as purchased home solar equipment. This requires the installation of a digital meter from your power company (that supports inbound and outbound traffic). During the day (unless there is 30 inches of snow on the solar panels) you produce electricity at your home, and pay a lower rate to the company leasing you the equipment. The same is true for cloud, the only difference being that cloud encompasses one more component than most solar implementations do today that of storage. You pay in the cloud world for inbound and outbound network data. You pay for the connection to the internet and you pay to store your information in the cloud service providers infrastructure. You will also pay for compute services.

As I said there is money made at many levels in this system. Honestly at this point I worry that too much money is made at every level. I have over the years worked with many small businesses. In that time I have always told them “don’t make your year in one deal.” Mostly that was me as a larger vendor not wishing to be overcharged, but also from a risk perspective not wanting that company to be the future on a single deal.

What worries me is the fact that so much money is made at every level of the network world. Less so in the regulated power industry but still a little. Today the problem is the reality of the connoted internet. The providers make money. Enough money that they can effectively spend millions on ad campaigns proclaiming themselves un-carriers or non-standard providers.

The COGs (or cost of goods sold) is regulated and not regulated. Power companies are bound to specific delivery rules. Based on that they factor in the growth rate of consumption and then add a fee to every house for building new power plants. The shift to local or home production changes the traditional equation. The power company is still bound to provide power to the home when the sun goes down. The same applies to network providers. Where regulation needs to change in the Telco world is the world of data.

First off internet data is way over priced in the US today. Significantly over priced. Even more over priced if you roam outside the US. Tariffs alone drive the price of data higher. But the actual cost of moving the data is a lot less. The same is true of power, but as I’ve explained part of that is the need for the power company to increase capacity. Let’s see what happens to pore prices from power companies when Solar Home installation reached 30% or more of the market. If they go down, then it is a fair system. If they stay high, then its profits. The same is true for internet data providers today. Except they profit massively.

So the reality of cloud and TE is that the potential for overcharging is great. The reality of profits isn’t however that they trickle down. The reality is the economy bears the cost of the tax. Because in this case the profit is ultimately a tax. Unfairly applied to those with less resources.

The time for net equality and net fair pricing is here.

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TE and Cloud geek

What could make the lights go out on the path to VR?

I have a good friend who once gave a technology talk about chosen paths. He said “sometimes the path you choose isn’t the path you wanted.”

Someone turned off the lights on the path. That was the line we teased him with after his talk. That it was the path you wanted, somebody just turned the lights off while you were walking. He didn’t laugh at the time. I still think it is funny. We also told him not to put a book on every slide but he didn’t listen to that either.

Simple. Brittle. Those are the only words on the slides I have talking about Brittle Computing and the Simple Architecture Movement.

Sometimes as a bleeding edge technologist someone turns off the lights on my path. I know because suddenly what was clear isn’t. Clarity comes in the light and from the light. So like moths technologist, as well as everyone else, seek the light. When the light is off it is harder to see the path you started on.

The path that I see clearly right now is VR in conjunction with CPS (Cyber Physical Systems CPS) where the CPS devices present the components that make up the Virtual Reality. Real time physical security would be greatly improved by VR. If you have a VR system that combines the virtual space with the physical sensors you can use the tracking mechanism in the humans eyes to determine motion. Humans aren’t built to take down elephants, we like dogs and other smaller predators were built to catch smaller creatures like rabbits. Our sensors are drawn to small movement. A virtual map of a physical environment would allow people to scan with the integrated human tracking system and see motion.

3d camera are already on the market with impressive pre “VR” capabilities. Personally I am a huge fan of the Bubl camera. It allows the initial 3d view, a view of reality that can be quickly converted to VR. As the optics improve in these devices there are many possible VR environments that can be captured. Easier to move the physical to the virtual than it is to recreate the physical in the virtual. 3d cameras are the first step in that process (again Bubl rocks in this space!). Photosynth from Microsoft is another interesting tool in the creation of VR. You can take 100 pictures of a space and merge them into an interactive view. The same can be done with cellular video of an event. (see my blog on smart cameras).

So what turns the light off on this path? What will derail VR? First is the cost of the 3d cameras. Today to do a true VR environment that represents exact dimensions and exact placement will require cameras that cost 3000 and more. Really the best way to build the Virtual recreation of reality is to use 3d Laser Mapping cameras. Those tend to start around 20,000 dollars and up. They are also very specialized and limited to indoors (part of exact measurement is bouncing off walls I guess).

Or something new will turn off the VR light. The expansion of what is possible for VR beyond what we consider VR is the easy answer here. But something new and different will also turn off the virtual lights on our path. 3d TV’s were the rage four years ago. Now its 4k TV’s (or Samsung’s UHD). 10 years ago it was all about getting to thinner TV’s. I have an 8 year old plasma that weighs 100 pounds. I have a two year old LCD UHD TV that weighs less than 20 pounds. So something new could derail VR. VR has taken a long time to make it to the consumer market. That is always a directional concern.

So for now, the path I am on is VR. That may change, as path’s sometimes get dark!

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VR Path Futurist

Technology for parents to know where there children are, right now!

I have reached the point of my life where half my life has been in a major city (Chicago Illinois, Bangkok Thailand, Cincinnati Ohio, Indianapolis Indiana and the Washington DC area. The other half my life was spent in a more rural location, Bloomington Indiana. When I was young after moving to Indiana I enjoyed the freedom of getting up at 7 am in the summer and being outside. Either in Bloomington or visiting my Grandparents in Wisconsin. I would and could be outside whenever I wanted to be. That is different not only for kids today but for parents as well.

It is why I love GPS’s and maps. It’s a little harder to read a GPS plot on the ocean or large lake, but you can learn. Knowing where you are in relation to where you are going is important. Early in my consulting career I used to carry a portable GPS with me. 10 car rentals paid for the device (rather than renting a less reliable GPS from the car rental place), Why? Because it is disconcerting to have to stop and read printed directions when you are in a new or unfamiliar place. In fact, depending on the highway it can be dangerous to stop.

When you live in a large city the GPS function of your car and phone get used all the time. I can tell you the best route from Maryland to Virginia depending on where you want to end up and the time of day you are leaving. GPS systems in your car today are connected to traffic systems so they can automatically reroute you to the least traffic congested way. Unless you are taking a route that only has one bridge over major water then you are well, screwed.

All of this leading to some of the new technology parents have at their disposal. The ability to say “where’s Johnny?” and simply connect to an app on your phone that tells you exactly where Johnny is. It kind of destroys the old game Hide and Seek. There is no longer a need to scream Ollie, Ollie, in come free. You open your phone and one by one find the hidden children. Simple. Easy. No longer a game simply improving your skills at reading a map. You can tap into video feeds in your home and in your yard. Watch Johnny playing.

The modern concept becoming the hovering Helicopter parent. Always just out of range, but always there. I can understand that. I felt the same way when my kids were little. They are a precious gift.

Two of our dogs have chips in their shoulders. That way if somehow we were separated from them, scanning the chip tells you where they live and they can be brought back to us. Not that either would stray far from us, they like the meal schedule. But the painless safety and security offered by that chip is reassuring.

Not that I am advocating chipping children. That would go horribly wrong in more ways than I would care to even talk about. Just that it is a different world. So growing up in a rural environment I was outdoors a lot as a child. We dug forts and played games outdoors from dawn to dusk.

Now you have to worry. So you get a GPS chip and put one in every single garment your child has. Yes, the shedding of parent mandated coats still happens today just like when I was little. So you put tags on more than just their coats. You know that coat is coming off.

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Parent

Attribution, the rule that drives copyrights.

First off – got an email notifying me yesterday that we had potentially violated the copyright of an entertainment company. If, because I am still searching for the truth on this one, but if we did then by all means we will purchase the movie in question. This house does not support copyright infringement in ANY FORM! Its why in the tags of this blog it always says Copyright Creative Technology & Innovation. I believe in copyright law. It protects the intellectual property of the company that created the movie in question.

That got me thinking about all the reality of the digital media world and the changes they have undergone in the past 10 years. Bloggers release ideas into Cyberspace. To a degree we are protected by Copyright law, and of course have an easy to prove reality if someone copies the exact idea. But I find at times that I get inspiration from ideas. I always credit the blog I got the original idea from when that happens. I also really try hard to credit movies and other media when I am inspired.

A great example, for nearly 30 years I have had a music device in my office. My first office was literally the living room of an apartment but it was my space. I have had something that produced music in my space since I first had that office space. For the past 3 years I had a Sonos speaker in my office, but recently with the new Alexa or Amazon Fire system I now have a speaker connected to Prime Music in my office. I like being able to change music with my voice.

How much inspiration do I get from the music I listen to? Today it is prime classical music – all of which is in the public domain so my ideas are free and clear today. But sometimes I listen to copyrighted classic rock or music that isn’t in the public domain.  Music that is still covered by copyright law.  Now we get into the tricky reality of copyright law. What I imagine based on the emotional and intellectual response I have to movies, music etc. is new and not reusing copyrighted material. If I however, actually use lines from a movie I have to quote that movie. I have to quote the song I pull a line from and I am very careful about that.

I went to every person in my house yesterday to verify that all of them understood the severity of stealing copyrighted material. I would hope, as the children of an author my children would understand that value of IP and the value of that copyright. They do, the problem is none of them apparently downloaded the infringed content. So that makes me a little nervous. Who downloaded the content.

1. I can change my Wi-FI password (and wander around the house resetting all the devices in the house reconnecting them and so on) and I may do that if I can figure out how someone jumped my signal. Right now, if you go to the edge of my property you can’t get my Wi-Fi signal. If someone has trespassed onto my property to steal Wi-Fi to illegally download a movie that one is an easy fix. I just unlock the dog door and let the dogs out to bark at anyone who isn’t where they should be.

2. I will not tolerate anyone stealing copyrighted materials. I have and do produce a lot of material. I respect the right granted by the copyright and as such if someone from my home violated copyright law I accept any fair punishment. First off its either a TV show or a Movie that was copied. At the very least even though I would never watch the movie in question we will buy that movie or the DVD copies of the TV show. This house does not condone copyright infringement.

Lastly as I end this I wonder. I’ve talked about the growing CPS concept (Cyber Physical Systems) of my image not being my image any longer. There are 100’s of devices that take pictures. They take them all the time. With or without my explicitly permission. As the owner of my image, that still bothers me.

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Copyright supporter

Fishing is more than sitting in a boat waiting…

Fishing is a process of learning, understanding and being able to repeat what is successful. For example, I grew up and learned to fish on a small to medium sized lake in central Wisconsin. I was taught fishing by a person that had lived and fished on that lake for 35 years by the time I wandered along. He knew where the fish were. Why? He had studied the lake and conditions as well as the habits of fish. I attempted to recreate that on a lake in Indiana (much larger large) and failed. Why? Lack of tools and knowledge.

I lacked the knowledge and understanding of the type of fish, water conditions and flow within the lake. Later, when I was older I spent item studying the lake. Lake Monroe has three distinct water flows in it. Those distinct water flows are favorite by different types of fish. Out of that study years ago, I wrote a book called Danny and the Corporate Ladder. It was the story of person who hated his job. But he loved fishing. He managed to win the Crapiethon on Lake Monroe and was able to for a time, become a professional fisherman.

That book was never published. Parts of it (two chapters) were published in the Society of Dead Teachers journal “Kindle the Flame” but as the editor in chief of that publication I am not sure it counts that some of my fiction was published. We did have over 100 people subscribed at one point so a few people actually read the work.

Fishing is about patience. As a young adult fishing was about beer. We discovered once at Lake Lemon that catfish won’t bite a hook soaked in beer. But we didn’t care. The goal of the trip was to sit, watch the moon rise and relax. Catching a catfish at that point would have been somewhat messy.

It is, however, also about knowledge. Knowing the flow of the lake, temperature of the water and the preferences of various types of fish. You don’t go surface fishing for catfish and you won’t catch Bass in the middle of the lake. They each have specific habitats and environments they like.

Fishing can be fun. It can be relaxing. It can be competitive. It can be boring. But you have to engage and try it to find out which it is for you. Learning to fish in Wisconsin I grew to love fishing. Later with my dad, talking and fishing early in the morning I loved fishing for different reasons. It was time with my dad, as fishing in Wisconsin was time with my grandfather. I caught more fish in Wisconsin than dad and I ever caught on Lake Monroe. In fact I was more successful camping and fishing on the feeder streams of Lake Monroe than I ever was fishing the lake itself.

It is also a metaphor for life. What we don’t try remains unknown. The unknown is always something we worry about. It scares us and based on that we react in fear.

Open to experiences means that on the path you’ve chosen you don’t reject things because you haven’t tried them. You simply say “my path is different. But I am happy for you.”

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Ready to fish the Chesapeake!