Someone may be watching YOU!

IMGP0001Eye in the sky. It is a great song by Alan Parsons. It comes from his release as part of the Alan Parson’s project. I am the eye in the sky is the line in the song. It is a haunting song, not because of anything that happened while I was listening to the song, rather because of the words and how true they ring now. There are eyes in the sky.

Everywhere, in fact, looking at you’re a larger and larger percentage of your day, every day. Of the 12 billion (which I think is low) deployed IoT devices today a chunk of them (may 20% give or take a couple of points) are cameras of some form or another. The average home today probably has one camera deployed. Some homes have more than one deployed. But if we do the math there are between 3 and 3.5 billion cameras deployed in the world today. Personally, I know of 26 cameras on my way to Arlington Virginia from Maryland. That is not counting any cameras I pass in my neighborhood, only traffic, red light and speed cameras that I pass.

I won’t argue the issue that I think is huge here. That being who owns my image. I won’t even mention the responsibility of authorities to remove the faces of innocent people when showing crimes to Juries or when investigating events. Both of those are arguments I’ve had before, and ones that require action but not the point of today’s thinking.

Rather today I am interested and intrigued by the changed in cameras in the past 24 months. HD is nice but not necessary for security cameras. 360 is nice and adds value for security cameras, but most are mounted in ways that 180-degree visibility is enough. No today I am interested in the reality of deploying cameras.

IMGP0022You have two real options for cameras. The first is a wired system. The risk of wires is that they can be cut unless the cameras are mounted way above ground in hard to reach places. Then someone can shoot the camera out, but in so doing they announce their intent to do wrong. At the very least they can be arrested for discharging a firearm inside the city and destroying public or private property. The other option is wireless.

Wireless presents many changes and issues, however, as well. The easy one is I can overload your home network and therefore your home security, or your business network and your business security system fairly quickly. Cameras that are wired don’t get overloaded, they pass their data to the system and as long as you don’t mount them at ground level you really haven’t as much risk. The quick and dirty solution is to knock down the cameras but the risk there is being seen.

The reality of cameras is the numbers. I mentioned early on in this piece that I know of 26 cameras between my house and where I go when I have to go to the office. 26 are the cameras I know. I am pretty sure there are much more I don’t know about. Every single ATM you pass has a camera pointing outward. It isn’t the best camera but it is a camera. There are many buildings that have entrance camera and side cameras as well. Many traffic cameras are mounted on poles and waiting for you. Red-light cameras monitor people turning on red, but they show more field of view than that.

As I said, there are roughly 3 billion (give or take a few) cameras deployed. There are some cities in the world where there are probably cameras way more often than you realize (New York, Washington DC, London, Paris etc). Each of them watching not just for their deployed issue (red lights, traffic) but also watching.

Plus you can, per Alan Parson’s put an eye in the sky. There is a song from the 70’s that while I didn’t like the song I am going to borrow a couple of lines. The song was about trucking and was called Convoy. They talk about a bunch of trucks breaking speed limits etc. One of the lines in the song is a “bird in the air.” Which is slang for a police person in a helicopter watching?

IMGP0026With the reality of drones, you may not even see the eye in the sky. It just may be there, on the horizon watching you.

As I said, 26 cameras that I have counted in the 28 miles from my house to Arlington Virginia.

Images today provided by Dr. Hans O Andersen (and not by the eye in the sky).

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Someone may actually be watching you. You aren’t paranoid, your just driving.

Screen Estate, or that moment tech envy becomes tech need (or does it?)

IMGP0085Screen estate. That moment you realize that you don’t have enough real estate on the screen you have and need a bigger screen. Or as I like to call it Tech Envy. You go into someone’s office, or their home office and there, on the desk is a 42-inch monitor for their computer. Or three monitors, four monitors all neatly connected and you look upon their works and you think, I wish I had that.

There are a lot of I wish I had that moment. The measure of the impact of a technology is millions of I wish I had that. Every single Crowdfunding campaign I’ve ever worked with has that envy as they start their new project. They want to move their cool technology from the wow that is real to the wow, I have to have that.

Wound around all of that is the reality of technology. Many projects that I think are sure-fire, fail. Many that I think might fail, are sure fire. My percentage (hit versus miss) is about 60%. It is a good percentage of hits.

Technology is and remains a phenomenal toolset. For example, you can get technology that lets you watch your TV shows anyway if you want to. It isn’t hard (DirectTV, most cable providers and of course Dish Network) can provide the service quickly. Or you can cut the cord and go to the new Sling TV offering which is Internet only TV. I still like to watch the evening news from my local station (my favorite in the DC area is channel 7, the local ABC affiliate).

But the reality of technology is a need rather than want. For example, if you are out on a boat, in the Chesapeake Bay, you really care if the barometer drops a lot, suddenly. That means it is time to power up the engines and get a lot closer to shore. If you can find a cove, drop anchor and ride out the storm that is coming. Boating tech that knows when the Barometric pressure is dropping suddenly is good to have!

IMGP0088In your car, you care about objects that are nearer than they appear, as you look in the mirrors. Having radar in your car (sometimes called collision prevention or obstacle avoidance) is valuable. You are less concerned in a car, about rapidly dropping barometric pressure unless that is coupled with a tornado warning then you are concerned.

The context of the technology and the reality of its implementation is critical. How, when and where you are using something determines a number of factors including moving the item from want to need and then back to want again. A good flashlight is a need. One that is waterproof to 10 feet is a want until you drop your good flashlight into the water, then the waterproof flashlight goes from want to need.

As a technologist, there are things you know you have to have. If you travel a lot, there was a time when you wanted to have a portable GPS. You don’t need that anymore with your smartphone, but you should consider adding one of the downloadable apps for mapping. Google and Apple maps are great, but Co-Pilot, Tom-Tom, Garmin and others also add other features that are valuable when you are in a strange place late at night. The Google product Waze is a great traffic tool to add as well. Knowing what is around you makes all the difference.

It is funny, where once I carried three or four devices, now it is all on my smartphone. What once took sleeves and PCMCIA cards for my PocketPC, can now be done natively in software. The fewer things you carry mean more room in your suitcase.

IMGP0090It all goes back to that initial concept, Screen Estate. Or you can call it screen envy or green eyed tech wants! It isn’t that wanting new tech is a bad thing. Nor is feeling like the want is really a need. It is important though to make sure your need is really a need. While a huge TV in your media space is nice to have, it is not a need by any means. Sometimes we have to stop and realize that Tech Envy is just what I called it, Envy!

Digital images today courtesy of Dr. Hans O Andersen

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Tech Envy is only Envy is you don’t need it!

I wonder and I worry about the impact of technology on information….

IMGP0052With that, well it is that. We can via technology solve most of the today’s problems. We can sadly, as we are seeing now, also use technology to push past news and reality, into the new augmented and changed the reality of what is “is” and frankly is …

Distortion and alternative facts appear now as if they should exist. When did social media become the source for news? When did we stop using verified information sources and suddenly began relying on what the friend, of a friend of a friends cousins uncles brothers son, said as fact? What changed that we suddenly no long have valid news sources.

Perhaps no longer having Walter Cronkite changed things. I remember him from my childhood, you knew what he said was a fact. What he said was the truth. It was nuanced or modified to fit a different agenda it was fact. Did we lose our way?

I keep coming back to these questions, I know as a technologist there is blame here. I know as someone that blogs every day I am part of the problem. I work very hard on my blog to keep the rules that I have set. I don’t mention people’s names often. I only mention company names that offer exceptionally good or exceptionally bad customer service by name. Otherwise, I try not to mention the names of companies.

There is a line from a TV show “Just the facts ma’am.” That is relevant but isn’t relevant. It isn’t relevant until the writers and producers of the show Dragnet get credit for the line. Then it becomes more relevant but now we look at the facts we have and suddenly spin doctors do more with less. I don’t need facts. I need the alternative facts. What after all is the difference between being off 1 foot, and being off by 223 feet? Or knowing that the wind is blowing from the North and is between 0 and 200 mph. The actual speed, the actual fact isn’t relevant, is it?

IMGP0053Over the course of the 10 years, I have blogged I haven’t logged too many political posts. This one isn’t political although I am poking fun of the current spokesperson for the White House with the alternative facts. I think she meant to say the alternative view of the facts. A secondary look, another angle, another thing that could be considered. A lens if you will. But Alternative facts came out. That one is bad. So sadly are all the different things throw about by the other side as well.

It is time for a fact.

Not nuanced, or alternative fact. It is time to return to facts. Look sometimes facts are horrible. It is fact that our climate is changing. It is fact that it is changing because of human activity. It is a fact that less than 100% of the people that could vote did vote in this last election.

Facts are verified. There are two distinct forms of verification to consider. The first is the publication of facts by news organizations either in print or broadcast (Radio/TV/Internet). If CNN or NBC, CBS, ABC Fox news or some other organization spews something that isn’t true they can be sued. Winning might hard but you can. Facts are nuanced by news organizations, however. Not with intent or malice rather it is the reality of the human perception. John Boyd’s OODA Loops show us where the nuance occurs, between the observation and the orientation. The second form of verification is someone you trust telling you that. Sharing something they found or discovered.

It used to be that the first mode of news was sacrosanct. It would not portray false information. The second, registered of the status of your friend, was always suspect. Now, if your friend was directly involved din the event, then that increased the likelihood of truth. But for the most part, the news presented information fairly and reasonably. That changed with the split between various news organizations who began presenting political rhetoric as fact, on both the liberal and conservative front. That coupled with the technology enablement that is social media, allowed for the new creation of news. The friend of a friend’s uncles, brothers, sons, pet monkey saw this happen live. So it is a fact. It gets the same value as we used to give the great Walter Cronkite.

IMGP0056I listen to people leap to conclusions and using facts and alternative facts, throw opinions around like they are facts. I worry that we rush to judgment based on things that are not real. But once in action, we cannot stop.

I worry that as a technologist, as someone that has built and shared information for years, that I am responsible for this now. I worry that I am the author of the very thing I don’t like.

Images today from the digital collection of Dr. Hans O Andersen.

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Sad technologist.

Updates and wonders…

DSC00176I had a great conversation on Friday with a very smart person. It got me thinking first off about meeting smart people, and secondly why it is fun to talk to them. As we move along the path that either is or isn’t our goal, we have the opportunity to meet smart people. I think that makes that day a little better, a little more interesting.

A year ago we were buried in snow (2016). We ended up overworking our poor snow blower, so we upgraded to a new beast. I now understand the logic of winter. Upgrade your snow blower to one that can go to 34” of snow, and mother nature won’t put more than a ½ inch on your driven. Not even enough to power up the big boy. Maybe more is coming later this season.

The other thing we were doing a year ago was wandering around boats. It is funny how much fun you can have wandering around boats. In part because it is interesting to see how people present themselves on boats. It is also fun just to wander around and see the art of the possible.

My rationale for talking about a year ago, is that I started reviewing both the Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects I was backing then, but also what I thought would be hitting the ground soon. A year ago I was still touting my Screen as a Service concept. Hololens was coming (and frankly it exceeded my expectations) as was Oculus Rift (also exceeding my expectations.) Two “home” robotic projects were also interesting. While those two, Keecker and Jibo haven’t shipped yet, they will ship soon. Maybe even this first quarter 2017!

02_02The good news for me is that they are coming. The really good news is the rise and increase in cool robotics projects that are out and about. I find it interesting not only that the art of the possible continues to expand but that what we can do with automation continues to expand as well. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the interesting product Microsoft Flow. I have seen a number of other things over the years, including both Chef and Puppet. Where they offer (chef and puppet) tremendous power they just aren’t as easy to use as the flow is.

Of course, there are more things of interest coming this year! There are a number of interesting projects in the 3d and 360-degree camera world releasing this year. There are ROV’s coming that will let you dive beneath the surface of the water and see what is below you. There are interesting devices that help you swim faster, but actually pulling you through the water (Bixpy). All of these things will be in my hands soon and I can’t wait.

The first thing I am going to do this spring as things arrive is done more reviews. I have a stack of reviews that I haven’t gotten to, and I need to do so. In part because there are a number of technology projects that promise interesting options for people. Gotenna and Beartooth Radio both offer interesting new ways to stay connected. One of the things I suspect will happen is the appearance of GoTenna and Bear Radio clubs you can join. Over time that will expands your network. Both of the devices allow your cell phone to connect (via the device) to other devices directly and communicate. So in places where cellular signal is weak, you can still connect and talk to other people with the Gotenna or the Beartooth systems.

04_04I did say goodbye to some technology (and technology companies) in 2016. The first one was hard at first, but I realized it was no longer either a company I could deal with nor was it technology I did or would use again. The first was both technology and a company. I have been a loyal Delorme customer for more than 10 years. From there wonderful handheld GPS systems to the mapping software that I have used for a long time, I’ve had both. I will no longer ever deal with the company again. So I got rid of everything of theirs I used to own. I also retired my last HP printer. I am all canon in the house now and will continue to use and leverage canon printers.

Images today courtesy of Barbara Andersen.

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Techno wizard

Do not go gentle into that red flashing light…

In the IT world, there is only one thing to do when you see a flashing red light. It is pretended that the light wasn’t flashing. Or, if it was a red light, consider it an invitation to open a saloon. There are many saloons in the red light district of Amsterdam.

It is not now or will it ever be the Harbinger of a problem. That is a fact, jack. There is no way that flashing red light is a problem. In fact, as long as you do not (I mean it, do NOT) look at the LCD panel there isn’t an issue, there isn’t a problem.

Well except that no matter what happens there is a natural human response to that flashing light. Danger, warning, come closer, come closer and now LOOK. It happened to me yesterday. I don’t know why I let the blinking red light take over. I don’t normally you know. But, well actually let’s be honest, I don’t like red lights flashing. So I looked. First, at the red light plaintively flashing at me. Then sadly yes I looked at the LCD. It said Fan not operational. It, I call it now, even though it wasn’t always it. It was once my friend, my backup device my NAS for network storage. But now it is not that, it is a device with a dying fan. Oh no, not a dying fan a dead non-operational fan.

So how do you say goodbye to a friend like that? Someone that has faithfully stored backups and copies of pictures for most of the past 3 years? How do you say goodbye to a backup of a backup? Do you, I mean properly say goodbye? Do you, order a 21 gun salute and wrapping your NAS in a flag inter it in the ground in your backyard. Full technology honors in the burial?

IMGP0048I wish I knew.

What is the proper protocol to say goodbye to old technology? Well, first I reached out to the vendor but was told I was out of warranty. We cannot replace the system because it is out of warranty. That seems harsh. But it has all my pictures I wanted to shout. Well, it doesn’t have all my pictures and the drives are fine, just a dead NAS. The pictures on it are copies of copies. So I can recover from this. Still, I would have liked a warranty replacement. That seems so much cleaner.

How do you move on from that? How do you bury your old friend and move on? Well, for one thing, the new box is a lot faster than the old box. That bodes well, faster transfers mean easier for me to get data in and out of the NAS (NAS is Network Attached Storage).

How many copies do you need of the digital pictures of your children? The easy answer is three. Two inside your house and one that is thousands of miles away in a lonely data center with an Engineer named Jim who slays dragons by night (Ok he plays Dungeons and Dragons) but he is ever vigilant watching the drives that spin with your data.

He walks up and down the rows of the remote data center. Calling out names to co-workers. Do you have Scott’s data on one of your drives? Do you? Good. Take him off the naughty list. Does anyone have Jim’s data or Sue’ pictures?

IMGP0049I know I am poking fun at something that isn’t, in the end, funny. But that nagging red light reminded me of the fragility of things you depend on. Yes, it was a copy of a copy but now I am limping along on only four copies. It feels risky to me. It feels like I need another copy of my digital copies. It took us 11 months to scan roughly 34,000 slides and pictures. I would hate to have to tell my kids that we have to start over. That all is lost.

Plus I think I have a minor case of data OCD. OR as my daughter says correct CDO. If you truly have the disorder you want things in their proper order.

Trapped, just because I looked at a light. Blinking in my office, forlornly reminding me once again of the failure of systems. Again into the breech.

Oh well.

Images today from the digital collection of Dr. Hans O Andersen.

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Flashing light avoider

It is OK To fail!

bag001It is important to note, yesterday I talked about the butterfly that I chase, new technology. I didn’t go with any of the other eastern metaphors, such as the monkey mind or others. Why was that? Because I believe that in fact, it’s ok to chase your butterfly.

Each of us has one. A butterfly. Mine, as noted yesterday is technology, but in particular the reality of technology that isn’t in the consumer market yet. New or cutting edge technology. Contrary, by the way to rumors started by some people I know, I didn’t buy a boat just to have a whole new Avenue of new tech to explore.

New tech is an interesting butterfly. I gave a talk on innovation yesterday. The audience was high tech professionals, so I was speaking to an audience that understood the topic. I wandered around what I perceive to be the huge change in innovation in the last five years. The rise of crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is interesting because frankly, my butterfly loves to be in the space. There are more interesting technologies proposed on crowdfunding. Today, what was is no more. It used to be that innovators would join the R&D department of a large company and then bide their time. Or, working on another idea the company is interested in, make an accidental discovery. That was how post it notes, and many other things appeared.

bag008Now they go out on their own and start a company. They don’t, however, have the built in knowledge of how manufacturing works. Or how to make sure their timeline is correct. Many crowdfunding projects fail in that area. They estimate 1 year to complete the project and then 2, 3 and 4 years later they are struggling. The reality of innovation is a failure.

I had the fortune of speaking to a couple of professionals I greatly admire (3 of them in fact) and all three talked about the glory of failure. It is ok to fail. Now, once you have taken money, failure isn’t an option but it is ok to fail to meet your original timeline.

The sue birds appear but ignore them. They are the drivers who cut you off on the highway. Speed ahead and get into an accident later, and they give you the finger as you drive slowly by. It was your fault they cut you off. When those folks back projects that are a day late, they post comments and send messages threatening to sue. I call them sue birds, because once one posts the rest of them flock in and start posting.

Innovation takes time.

Imagine for a moment this conversation. (it is an in-person conversation because the phone doesn’t exist nor will it in this alternative universe.)

“Alexander, Tom glad the two of you could stop by. First off great work both of you so far. But listen I am really sorry but you haven’t delivered and frankly, we are pulling the plug so to speak on your projects. Alex, we just aren’t sure people are going to walk to talk to disembodied voices so we are killing this project you call Telephone. And Tom, the light bulb, a bit disappointing that we can’t see you here in this dark candle lit room, but we are canceling the light bulb also!”

butterfly 2It is ok to fail.

It is also ok to chase your butterfly. Don’t ever catch your butterfly. That isn’t the goal, the goal is to on a summer’s day, with a warm breeze around you to follow your butterfly where it may lead. You never know what you may see along the way to following your butterfly! I think my butterfly talks to my inner child. I have loved technology since I was tiny. I love how things come together and work! I am going to stop now and see what my butterfly is looking for.

Images today provided by Henry O Andersen

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tech fan, butterfly chaser!

On chasing butterflies and what comes next!

crowdfundingA post by a writer I follow got me thinking this morning. I have for many years been a technologist. As someone in the technology field, there are two things that happen. The first is the reality of integration, I know the pain of start down a path, and then stopping and starting over. It means that everything you did, has to be undone and then redone in the new system. I also understand the competition that is new and shiny.

Balancing the desire to chase the butterfly (we all to some degree want to stop and chase the butterfly) against what is there now and requires attention is hard. The butterfly in the case of technology represents the cool new thing. The reality of what we have is much harder than what the butterfly offers. No matter what we do, the alluring butterfly will always pop in front of us when we are not ready.

For me the butterfly is gadgets. I acknowledge that as a technologist I am a butterfly chaser. Not because I can or should, but because I do and have. The reality of the butterfly for me is more that it is part of who I am, and part of what I do. There is an identity in chasing the butterfly. For many years I have been the person with the device in the meeting, not the person asking about the device. I realize however that makes it hard for me to approach life in the way I desire.

maturityI wish to be a minimalist, but I know the allure of the butterfly for me, won’t let me. So I struggle internally with the reality of who I am, what I do and ultimately how I perceive myself. I am the contradiction.

Accepting who we are is a difficult thing. I am a technologist. I believe technology can still change the world. I know this because technology has changed the world. But I also understand now, that the butterfly isn’t always the right answer.

I have at least 35 cables within arms distance of me, as I write this blog. But if I need a specific cable I cannot often find them. I have them, but wouldn’t know where they were. I can show you a 360-degree video of my office, it is a mess. But that is more or less, it is not my problem. My concern, my fear is more of loss than of finding.

I collect manual typewriters and toys from the old animated Christmas show Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. At the same time, I removed thousands of slides and pictures from my life and converted them to digital. Clutter went, and clutter added. My butterfly seeks always to find something new, something just beyond the horizon.

Does my butterfly, in fact, chase me?

I wonder that sometimes, as I sit here in my quiet space. Alexa playing classical music, and Google answering my questions about what is cool what is hot. My butterfly has a name, it isn’t OSCAR, but when borrowing from a commercial for a line, you think about both the line and the concept. The name of my butterfly is not Alexa or Siri.

The reality of my butterfly is not that it is just out of reach. All butterflies are just out of reach. Just out of our ability to see, and touch. It is not that I never catch my butterfly, nor is it that like many others, I always seek my butterfly. Dancing there, in the distance, taunting and encouraging at the same time.

“Come chase me,” my butterfly says, it is good to get up and move not being at a desk. My #Fitbit, rejoicing that it is finally able to track something other than the dancing of fingers on a keyboard. I am alive, my #Fitbit says. The siren call of the butterfly of no concern to wearable fitness trackers. Why, when it promotes motion, would they care?

My butterfly is two sided. The one side is the many things that could have been but never were and the flipping it, the next big thing.

I cannot stop chasing my butterfly. It is part of who I am. It is part of what I do. Someday I will see the color of my butterfly.

What color is your butterfly?

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Chasing Butterflies and charging my Fitbit!