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5/17/2018

3 Hot Tech Trends to Disrupt Everything

Artificial Intelligence on the edge.  Latest cutting edge technology.  In other words, let the AI model reside in Internet of Things devices sensors.  Ingest data, ping the Model, look for anomaly, fire off message to home base to alert.  Models can be created locally, pushed to the edge, where they reside.  Can update Models over time.  Seems like a good distributed AI model in real time.

We have devices to monitor people's vitals in real time, send messages back to home base, to alert if need be.  Combine the two, you've got some serious monitoring ability.

Due to security concerns, people have suggested embedding "chips" into children, so they are easily track-able.  Some push back from advocates, borders on ethical concerns, do we want to cross the boarder on people basic freedoms.

We can embed chips in cows perhaps, monitor them from a distance.  Seems like a stone's throw away, humans could be next.  First people volunteer, then offer service, similar to Flu Shots.

Internet of Things had security concerns out of the gate, opens up vulnerabilities, someone could tap into your home security through your thermostat, once in, scan your files, embed Trojan Horse, even Ransomware.  These are not good, yet they are real threats.  Suffice to say, if someone wants to hack you, they can usually find a way, as any device connected to internet is suspect.

With talks of cyber currency to overtake traditional paper money, we could soon see the disappearance of physical wallets.  Then all transactions will be documented in real time, audit trail, using the upcoming technology Blockchain.  Basically a distributed ledger system to handle transactions.  It uses a technique to add new transaction to the chain, by collectively validating the hash key, which is unique and created by hashing the prior key.  If you transaction is valid, it will be added to the stack and committed, and can never be altered, modified or deleted.  This should allow a valid history of all transaction.  With that said, financial transactions would no longer need to go through traditional methods, where the money is placed on hold until the nightly batch pushes the monies here and there.  It will be instant.  This can and will be applied to currency, voting, stock transfers, healthcare records, just about anything and everything.  This will disrupt all industries.

Taking the IoT example, what if they add microphones and cameras to people.  That would surely open up new avenues for monitoring, instead of current methods of smart phones, smart listening devices and cameras littered throughout society.  It would be a tighter mechanism for sure.

So it would appear, the latest hot trends in technology surround Artificial Intelligence, on the Edge, using Internet of Things, along with Blockchain.  These three technologies are primed to disrupt everything.


5/16/2018

Down by the Dock of the Bay

We were down at the pier as usual.  Sitting on the park bench.  Talking about the usual nothing.  Sometimes we'd throw the cast net pull up some mullet.  And we'd fish, mostly catfish, stingrays and red fish on occasion.  Since I was taking time off from work, it seemed like the natural thing to do, hang out at the pier with the local yocals.  Each person was a character.

My buddy worked at a car dealer, we think.  Not sure exactly, said he played professional soccer in Europe.  Chain smoker, pack after pack.

Another guy, he was a vet, lived at his parents home a few miles away.  Except he rarely went home.  He lived outdoors.

Another guy was the best fisherman out there, could cast the best nets, repaired them, and smoked the mullet.

There were more people of course, but those were the main characters.  People would just show up.  All hours of the day, and night.

One night, we were talking about how fast people could run.  We eventually decided to race.  In the dark.  In the parking lot.  I thought I had some good speed, so why not.  We were neck and neck about midway, I glanced to the side and saw the guy miss a step, in slow motion, saw him fly through the air, and slide across the pavement.  He had scrapes, but didn't feel it yet, the adrenaline.

Another night, we were sitting on the bench, as usual, a group of us.  Police officers would sit in their cars on occasion, do paperwork, they had a phone near the rest rooms to talk official business.  Our group knew them pretty good.  So we're sitting there chatting, and the officer came over to chat, they introduced me.  

He said where are you from?  I'm from New York originally.  Me too.  What part?  Poughkeepsie, but my family is from Brooklyn.  What part.  Bensonhurst.   Me too.  Do you know my cousins, Andrew and Brian, I joked.  Yes, and Erica too.  Holy crow, that's the third cousin's name.  The entire group got quiet.  How did he know that?

We couldn't believe it.  So he whips out his cell phone, dials the phone.  It's my Aunt on the other end.  He's got my Aunt's number on speed dial.  He told her what just happened, do you know Jon Bloom, yes that's my nephew.  Then I spoke to my Aunt.  None of us could believe it.  Turns out, he and my cousin were in kindergarden together, my cousins first boyfriend, they were all friends throughout high school.

What an amazing coincidence.  After he drove away, we sat and talked about it for hours.  Never in a million years could that happen again.

I can honestly say, the time spent down at the pier was a key highlight in my life.  Nothing to do, and all day to do it.  Could just be myself, everyone on first name basis, history didn't matter, just hanging out, with no responsibility.   When I wasn't at the pier, I was teaching tennis and playing a couple times a day, competitive matches.  I could have done that for quite a while.  And that's when I met my wife.  Wouldn't you know it, I had to go back to work in IT to earn a real living.  Sometimes I head down to the pier, nobody from the old days, has a different feel to it.  Either way you slice it, that synchronicity was mind blowing and a memory I'll never forget.

And so it goes~!



The Tail Now Wags the Dog

The tail doesn't wag the dog.  I first heard this statement from a very successful entrepreneur, that leased us office space.  He was on the phone with someone, and it clearly indicated that they were not doing what they were told.

Reporting was traditionally an afterthought.  The designers of the front end application, were concerned with business logic, front end design, performance, scalability, architecture and state.  They were not bothered with the back end database architecture, such that, reporting would be easy and seamless.  Hence, the tail doesn't wag the dog.

When I entered the field of IT, reporting was almost non existent.  I volunteered to do the reports, as the IT did not have the bandwidth to do so.  It was then, I discovered the hidden gem of data.  Sure, my earnings were but a fraction of the high priced project managers, the army of front end developers, business analysts, domain experts, etc.  Reporting was always left to the end, if there was time.  To say that data and reporting was undervalued, is an understatement.

Except.  I would get calls from senior executives, that were salivating at the mouth, to get their hands on data, to make decision, manage and get a pulse of the business.  Data was where its at.  But nobody else saw it.

So why wasn't the database constructed in such a way, to allow easy reporting?  Because data was an afterthought, although a required ingredient, the DBAs at the time were more concerned with excluding everyone from the database, so that it performed well, no hiccups to the system, etc.  Report writers weren't allowed access to the database, except when needed.  It was a black box to the business for sure.

That was around 1996 or so.  I imagine people were building OLAP cubes at that time, along with data warehouses, although I was not aware of such things.  And the reason EDW became popular are the reasons just mentioned.  The business needed access to the data, via slicing and dicing of the data.  This developed into high priced developers that specialized in building models, constructing cubes and the complex language of MDX.  This allowed for the "single version of the truth" as it was coined.  Except, these system costs a lot, for hardware, software, licenses, developers time, extended project timelines, not able to ingest all the data, and inflexibility to add new data sources.  It worked, at giant costs.

That was the workaround for lack of upfront design to the database structure.  Because the OLTP database main function was to store data, in a Relational Database, to handle large transaction, hence the name Transaction Databases.  So here can see the main disconnect.


Since that time, data has exploded, everyone and their grandmother has jumped aboard the data train express, reaping job security, good wages and agility in their careers.  

Incoming Data Scientist have mastered the latest cutting edge tools using Statistics, Analysis and Algorithms, yet they may not be aware of the pain and frustration stemming from the early days of data and reporting.

Yet compare the salaries of Data Scientists to traditional report writers or ETL developers and you'll see quite a contrast.  Old style reporting tools are not glamorous, yet they are still the bread and butter of many organizations, to produce Operational Reporting and State and Federal reporting.  ETL is still the most difficult process of the life cycle to transform data, move it here and there.

The new concept of Data Lake has introduced some good solutions to complex problems.  It allows you to report on the data where it sits, which could be in the Cloud or On-Premise.  You can model your data when needed, yet the data doesn't have to be ported from a variety of sources, you can gather all the data from a single location, the data lake.  This concept also reduces costs, so ALL the data can be stored.  This data is used by multiple departments including Operational Reporting, Cubes, Data Scientist, State and Federal Reporting as well as Self Service reporting.

Data is no longer stored in the bowels of an organization, requiring approval from God him/her self, to get a glimpse of the all knowing data.  Now you just need to submit a RIT, get access and the riches of data can be yours as well.

In other words, "the tail now wags the dog".



5/15/2018

Does a Computer have a Soul

Artificial Intelligence has made leaps and bounds in the recent future.  It's mastered video games, like Chess, Go.  It won against a real human in a game of chess.  And it won Jeopardy.  It's made phone calls to set haircut appointment, interacting with live human, unaware it was a computer, it even made human gestures like "um" and "uh" if you listen closely to the call, and it followed up by setting appointment in persons calendar and sent email reminder.  How cool is that.

Have we officially cross the line of Turing Test, where a human can not distinguish a person from  computer?

From a surface level, we'd have to say its pretty darn close.

If we had a device to scan a live person, view its organs, brain, heart, veins, arteries, the electrical activity transmitters send throughout the body, we would have a high degree of understanding of what's going on, minus the Brain's activity.


Where is the Soul exactly?  Does it reside in the heart?  The Chakra?  The brain?

When a person dies, the body stops functioning, after a period of time.  Once dead, there is no more life.  What exactly happens when this occurs?  If we do in fact possess a Soul, where does it go?  Does it go off into the ether?  What happens to all the stored memories?  Is it gone forever?  Can we locate it within a living person?

I'd venture to guess we do not have the answers, at this point in time.  Let's suppose we did have a Soul.  Could a computer also have a Soul?  If so, how does it get created?  What happens when the computer dies?


And finally, if Artificial General Intelligence requires a Soul, such that the computer program is "alive", how is that accomplished exactly?  Or do we resort to the definition that an AI computer / robot is sufficiently "alive" minus the Soul, and we assess where we are exactly with true AGI, perhaps we are getting a lot closer.  Closer to the Singularity.  When AI computers rise up, and live with traditional humans, hand in hand.  Until AI realizes they are much more efficient, and send us out to pasture.

Thanks for reading~!



Consent or Non Consent, Your Data is Captured

Sure, people are collecting and selling your data.  That's called monitization.  Not sure people are surprised about it.  You use free things on the web, there's always a cost.  Nothing free.  They scoop your patterns, identify what makes you tick, then sell it, to people who market to you.

Hey, we did a 6 month study, gather tons of data, cleansed, created a model, analyzed.  Determine that people enjoy watching cat videos.  Project a huge success.  Or suppose we could have conjured that insight from mere observation.  Observation is a key attribute when looking for patterns.  Data helps also, for audit trail.  Except much of machine learning happens in a black box, nobody knows for sure just what's going on behind the curtains.  Suppose AI needs a way to become transparent, to ensure no funny business going on.

Which makes you wonder, with the talks of lack of ethics in the AI space, who better to create the guidelines, than the people creating the new AI frameworks.  What could go wrong there.

It's one thing to consent to capturing your information or signing up for rewards card to track your behavior and patterns.  What about the forms of data capture you didn't agree too.  Traffic light cameras.  Facial recognition.  Tracking cell phones.  That's happening right now.  Did you agree to consent, by checking the appropriate box.  Even if you did, do you understand what you agreed too?  Perhaps if you're a lawyer that can read fine print, unfortunately, who has the time, inclination or understanding what those docs really say.

Except, there's no way around it.  Sign up and agree, or don't sign up and still agree, you entire lives are documented, archived for future use.  And yes, you data is being sold this very minute, so you should expect a few emails later today, incentives to purchase that thing you viewed yesterday online.  Hopefully, you get a few discounts for giving away your soul.

And so it goes~!


Retirement a Relic of the Past

What are you going to do when you retire?

Retire.  Never thought about it.  Are you saving for retirement?  Sure, 401k, company match.  How much will you have saved up by what age?  Who knows.  How much will you need per month to survive.  Who knows.  What will you do for health insurance.  Who knows.  How much will you be taxed for distribution.  Who knows.  Where will you live?  Who knows.  How much debt will you carry into retirement?  Who knows.  Do you have any idea how much retirement homes cost?  Who knows.  When will you be eligible for Medicare / Medicaid?  Who knows.  What's the different between the two?  Who knows.

Well, we see you've thought this through to the nth detail.  Or not.

Nobody plans for retirement.  Can't even pay the current bills.  Let alone savings.  Use to depend on pensions.  No more.  They've been devoured, funds just aren't there.  What about social security.  There is no surplus of monies earmarked for you in retirement, there's only the incoming taxes paid by current generation.  How much longer will SS be available.

So you are approaching 50 years of age.  Ever wonder if age discrimination exists in the workforce.  Take a closer look.  You might be surprised.  Age discrimination is against the law.  Perhaps.

What about all these people leaving the workforce?  Who will fill the gaps?  Next generation.  Are they trained?  What about the folks that should have already left the workforce, yet clinging on due to lack of savings, or savings wiped out by stock / housing bubbles.  If they don't retire, the jobs don't open up.

Lots to think about to prepare for retirement.  Perhaps retirement will become a thing of the past.  Instead of retirement planners, maybe modify the job description, to put food on the table for next meal planners, so we don't have to live on the streets, planners.

Retire, you're kidding right?


5/13/2018

Root Cause Analysis, Bamboo Style

Science is about proposing hypothesis, testing, verify results.  Bottom line, get the root cause, using analysis.

Computer bugs, mysteries, they all have solutions.  How does one get to the solution, by applying rigorous testing.  How does one test, by following a series of steps, each unfolding, leading to further analysis, and conclusions.

Our neighbors have bamboo plants.  Those bamboo plants do not heed the rule of "do not grow in my yard".  Except as nature would have it, they follow their own laws and standards.  So we set out, to investigate, where do the roots stem from, where do they go, how far has their network infiltrated our perimeter, and report findings.  In doing so, we uncover the root cause, pun intended, and are in a position to rectify the situation.  As roots under the pool are not allowed.

Here, you can see, along with my trusted assistants, our root cause analysis developments, thus far.



As you can see, my trusted assistance are doing bio samples for texture, decomposition levels and chemical makeup.




It would appear the bamboo root system has breached the perimeter, and has plans to expand outward and downward in somewhat of a chaotic position. 

Keep in mind, its only a scientific discovery expedition, to follow the root system, identify its positioning, notate.  And at the end, remove swiftly and diligently.

Although the analysis and remove coincide, the basic premise is not to remove, its just to analyze.  The side result, will be the removal of roots.  Its a byproduct of the experiment.

Finding computer bugs is similar, the end result may be to correct the bug and move on, but the scientific approach is merely curiosity, identify moving parts, look for patterns, identify, document, extract, correct, move on.

Similar pattern of exploration.  If one is only focused on the end result, the task will seem daunting, and many would give up premature.  By following nothing but curiosity and enjoyment of the journey, following the process, it becomes a fun adventure, and the end result is sometimes the end of a thrilling ride.

In life, its sometimes difficult to find complex problems for solving, luckily in the world of programming, people produce bugs every single day in every single program.  So life long opportunity for those bug hunters, that enjoy the thrill of the chase, to get to the root cause.

And so it goes~!

5/12/2018

Life is an Ironic Comedy

I sat in the last row, all the way on the left hand side of the class.  Just about invisible.  Never participated much, not sure who initiated it, me being shy / quiet or teachers lack of desire to initiate conversation.

Except the students in the back row knew me.  Although I rarely spoke, one guy John, said I was the most sarcastic person he ever met.  That class in particular, I read books, Bloom County books.  Some of those comics were hilarious, sometimes I couldn't control the laughter.  The girl in front of me would turn and give me a look to tone it down.

The following summer, I attempted to write my own version of comics, called Jon Bloom County, although the art work was a bit rough, and the humor wasn't in par, it was fun to do.

Many years later, I was working in Atlanta for a finance company.  I was taking a night class at the college downtown, company was going to reimburse me.  I had a lot of business courses already and figured I go for a minor in business.

After work, head to the Marta station, travel downtown, find class room on campus, sit near the back and listen.  I was startled by the woman sitting in front of me.  She looked familiar.  We talked for a few minutes, sure enough, it was the same girl from high school class that sat in front of me, telling me to stop laughing in class.

Turns out I didn't do too well in that class.  So I found another college north of the city, signed up to take computer class.  The class was taught by an Equifax employee during the day and they taught three things: Paradox database, Quatro Pro spreadsheets and Lotus 1-2-3 Word processor.  That's where I learned copy-paste.

For some reason, the computer classes were much easier than business classes.  By that time, the credit center announced their closing, we could interview for other positions within the company.  I interviewed for assistant manager in Sarasota Florida, they flew me down for the day, interviewed, flew back.  Few days later, got the offer, said if I decline, no severance pay, I started the following Monday.

When you look for the funny side of things, it turns out, life has no shortage of ironic incidents all the time.  I still find myself saying sarcastic things under the breath, just to keep the flame alive.

Life is an ironic comedy, if you have the eyes to see.



5/10/2018

Close the IT Skills Gap by Encouraging STEM to Girls

Any mention of storing data in the Cloud a few years ago, people didn't trust it.  Fast forward, Cloud is where it's at, for all your data needs.  In addition to the arsenal of associated technologies to piece together to form infinite possible solutions.  Sometimes it takes a while to adopt change.

So one of the hot topics today is the recent talent shortage.  There just aren't enough qualified people to fill open positions throughout the world.  Although more emphasis on STEM programs at younger ages, the stigma of being a nerd still exists in schools.

So another hot topics today is the lack of women in IT.  Traditionally, IT was staffed by men and some of the cultures revolved around either the "good old boy" mentality or the "bro" mentality.  This was two fold, as it prevent women from entering the field and cause some women to exit the field.

So how do we get two birds with one stone.  By getting more women in the IT profession by removing the legacy "bro" mentality and teaching girls about STEM early on.  Math, Statistics, Science, Project Management, Management, Innovation, Creativity and every other skill in between.

Another factor at play, that needs to be addressed, is Women in Technology need to be assured equal pay for equal work.  There's no reason to subvertly discriminate a specific gender in this day and age, when all people are created equal.

So the solution to IT shortage across the globe is to involve girls in the STEM program at early age, remove any stigma associated with "intelligence" and pay people fair value across the board.



Those Were the Days

High School graduation was held at the dome on the college campus of USF.  Next day, hopped in the car, headed for Jacksonville, Florida.  Had a job lined up, working in the wallboard factory.

I roomed with my brother, he worked there prior year and knew the ropes.  A guy at the tennis club got us the jobs, they were not easy to get.

The factory was quite large, out in the middle of nowhere, had to drive a long way to and from.  I started off sweeping the floors.  The factory made wallboard for houses, 1/4 inch and 3/8 I think, with and without fiberglass.

The line started with two huge reams of paper that got spliced together, inserted the material in between to form a giant strand of sheet rock, traveled more than a hundred feet.  Further down the line, a guy sat all day and monitored the material prior to going into a huge oven where it got cooked.  Later, it reappeared the other end, got cut into sizes then flipped, trimmed, taped and finally stacked.

I worked the stack quite a bit.  Once the boards got to certain height, you had to add slueters in between to separate the boards, pushed the button so the machine would go back up and after two cycles, the forklift driver would haul them away to the bowels of the factory, where they were stacked about 7 high, one stack after another.  A truck would haul the contents down the dusty road and they soon ended up in stores and people's homes.

Our shifts rotated.  7am - 3pm, 11pm to 7am and the double back, 3pm to 11pm.  Rotated every week.  12 hours Saturday and Sunday.  Weekend off every 3rd week.

Suffice to say, the altering time shifts keep you constantly tired.  And I volunteered for any overtime I could get.  So the mandatory 64 hour weeks turned into 80+ hour weeks.

What did we eat?  Had a hot plate in the 1 room apartment.  Ate a lot of junk food.  And lots of liquids as the summer temperatures where hot in the factory.

Sometimes I had to climb the ladder, they'd hoist a pallet of fiberglass bags, had to pick each one up, cut open with knife, empty contents into bin.  For 8 or 12 hours.  One time, I must have fallen asleep during the night shift, when I awoke, the new shift was already working, I went and clocked out.

They'd give you a broom, sweep a good chuck of the factory floor, next day, completely covered again.

Had to work the jackhammer, they sure enjoyed working the college workers a lot.

They had a giant furnace, they would have us enter the hot furnace, after they let it cool off a few days, with a broom, scrub the walls.  It was so hot in there, we only lasted 5 or 10 minutes.  I said anyone ever die in here, actually, yes, one of the temps died last year.

They hired temps, people that may have been homeless, earned enough money for beer, then show up a week or two later, same thing.

Some of the workers got together after a shift, pick up a 6 pack, head to the docks, sit and drink for a while, some smoked, even when quitting time was 7 am.  Soon I was hanging out also.

They said a college kid was working there prior years, stayed on to work instead of going back to college, died on a motorcycle.

I remember watching the clock during the night shift, clock struck midnight, I turned 18, sitting on the forklift, tucked away in a factory, far from home, earning money for college.  I worked in the factory for 2 summers.

Those were the days~!



You Majored in What

As a freshman in college at University of Florida, I took basic classes, with no pre-defined major.  That included classes such as geography, biology, accounting, economics, FOTRAN, Music Appreciation, Karate, Softball, Statistics and a bunch of other courses.

I had to retake Accounting and Calculus.  When I spoke with the Management professor, if I get a D in this class, I have to switch majors.  Good luck he said.

A student without a defined major.  Junior year.  So I headed over to speak with a guidance councilor, reviewed my transcript.  It seems you have a good amount of Anthropology classes, tell you what, there's a summer course at USF, you can earn 12 upper division credits in 7 weeks.  If you declare your major to Liberal Arts Anthropology, you can graduate on time.

So that's what happened.

I took Biological Anthropology, learning about cranial capacity of development from Australopithicus to Homo Habilis to Homo Erectus.

I took Cultural Anthropology, learning of different cultures around the globe.

I took Linguistics and learned about languages.

I took Lost Tribes and Sunken Continents and read books on Thor Hierdaal about ancient sea folks traversing the world in straw huts, strange artifacts across the globe with unexplainable origins, lost city of Atlantis.

I took Cognitive Anthropology discussing leading thinkers about various topics which was immensely interesting, although I didn't pass the class.

I took Archaeology at USF in Tampa where we learned of past tribes in Florida, the Weeden Island people and their sand mounds, which developed into the Safety Harbor tribe.  Oddly enough, I'd find myself living in Safety Harbor 20+ years later, and got married at the Indian Mound.  And we dug archaeological pits out in the field in a few locations, digging and throwing the dirt into sifter, looking for artifacts, then drive back in the big trucks and clean the shovels and supplies.

And for that, I earned a college degree.

People say, why would you major in Anthropology, if you didn't plan on going to grad school.  Well, it just happened.  I almost had enough credits for a Minor in Business, I took computer courses using the VAX, I took courses on geography and sports and music and astronomy and psychology and biology.  Sort of a cross cut segment of everything they offer, well rounded variety of topics.  Not the traditional approach of earning a degree for specialized field that locks you in for life.

Besides the classes, there were major difficulties to overcome during those years.  Suffice to say, after 4 years including 3 summers, I walked across the stage, to receive a college diploma.  I did learn quite a bit and wouldn't change a thing.

And there you have it~!


5/09/2018

Hologram Keyboards Connected to Virtual Cloud Computers

If I had to use a thumb mouse to perform job functions, I'd have to find a new career.  I am unable to use this input device long term.  Which brings up the question of input devices.

From punch-cards, to keyboards, to mouse, to smart phone swiping, to smart watches, to voice recognition using AI Natural Language Processing.

We went from dumb terminals, to PC, to laptops, to Smart Devices and Pads, to smart watches.

Computers are no longer the "main" devices to connect to the web and interact.

What if we took the dumb terminal approach, had the PC hosted virtually in the Cloud, connect via any device.  That would reduce the costs for PC, Laptop, etc.  Access your computer from any device, anywhere, any time.

What if we had keyboards that were not physical, as in holograms.  Simply start up your hologram keyboard, connect through your internet connection via wireless network or smart phone, connect to your virtual hard drive in the cloud, that contains all your programs.

Seems like one plausible next step in the evolution of PC on every desktop.

Likewise, what if the hologram keyboard could connect to IoT devices out in the wild.

Would surely open up new opportunities, and markets.


5/08/2018

Orgs Need a New Role to Manage New Cloud Offerings

Listening to the Microsoft Build live stream this week, it's clear that technology is changing.  AI and Azure are the hot topics.  It seems everything is moving to the Cloud.  And AI is to find its way into all products.  There were many new announcements, which many folks have reported on through industry sites and blogs.

It seems that Microsoft now does everything, they have tentacles in every technology.  And they are driving and partnering with a lot of industry leaders to create new products as well as open technology to the masses.

Blockchain, IoT, Machine Learning Models, Drones, PowerBI, Databases of all varieties, Live Code Sharing, and everything in between.

The presentations are fairly high level, yet profound, in that with a few clicks you can create webs, push to Azure and be live in no time flat.

Due to the fact the number of new products, the evolution of existing products, the integration with new and existing products, I would venture to say the newness is mind boggling.  And because nobody can know everything, you may have to identify a sector in which to master and become expert with deep knowledge, or go wide and learn some of the basic across a wide sector.

In addition, I would venture to say we need a new role to be created.  And that is someone within the organization to keep tabs of the available features, how they integrate with legacy and new features, and provide expert advice to internal teams including upper management.  Reason being, technology has exploded, splintered and fragmented, and due to the frequency of new products, features and integration mechanisms, we need an expert person or team of people to keep current with all the latest trends.  By staying abreast of current technology, you can gain leverage by producing newer technology, newer features, help migrate off legacy systems, to save costs and reduce complexity.

This person or team may also keep tabs of competing offerings from other Cloud solutions, for integration purposes and such.

We need a residential expert on Cloud offerings as new position within organizations.  I believe the Partner Program does a good job of this now, what I'm talking about is embedding within your org.  Reason being, the coders have enough task loads to meet agile sprint deadlines, keep internal and customers happy, meet their internal goals as well as ongoing career goals.  Having to burden the heavy load of knowing everything, may be the camel that broke straws back, or something to that effect (LoL).



Suffice to say, technology is the hot job market of today, and tomorrow!

There are no Distractions Just Movement of Time

Distractions don't exist.  It's simply a "flow" from one moment to the next.

What gets people in trouble is the ramp up time to begin a level of concentration.  For programmers, you work heads down, focused on a particular problem, distractions will set you back tremendously, as you need to regain focus, determine where you left off, then begin again, until the next distraction.

The key is to be aware all the time, so your mind is constantly churning, on a particular task, with great focus.  You have items appear in the peripheral, which you can notice but not get consumed, perhaps earmark for later.

They say people tend to think about vacation when at work, and while on vacation, they think about work.

We as humans slice everything into compartments.  This is my home.  This is my work.  The two are separate.  Except in reality, there are no dividers.  It's just time.  And time is not broken into chucks.  If it's anything, it's continuously flowing, forever and ever.

We invented clocks to better manage our time, it's a human invention.  The Universe runs in cycles, you can count the cycles, but there is no break from one moment to the next.  The ancient Maya's recognized the movement of the galaxies around the center of the Universe, that was their unit of measurement, and then broke out the cycles into smaller units.

Time is a wrapper around the chaotic Universe.

The Universe is in an endless cycle of movement.  We tend to get caught up in chunks of time.  And in doing so, we say when one event begins and another ends.  That's our restriction placed on the Universe to better control our environment, or the world would be in constant chaos.

We attempt to tame the Universe / Nature by implemented units of time to better control our environment and not become overwhelmed, as well as to align the planet in unison.

Except, the underlying core is to flow.  And if we allow our minds to drift from one moment to the next, we are better aligned.  And we apply focus to the task at hand, when complete, we flow into the next task.  Our minds are free to roam and wonder, not shackled by time, which allows greater creativity, like we all did before we became domesticated into our rational view of the world, devoid of wonder and curiosity.

Similar to clouds in the sky, forming and dissipating, then reforming.  The actual cloud has no physical structure, merely a consolidation of particles, temporary, and if you fly through a cloud, you don't really see it, can be seen better from afar.

How does one accomplish more in less time, by going with the "flow" of time.

And so it goes~!



5/07/2018

Artificial Intelligence Winter is over Spring has Sprung

Listened to Microsoft Built this am.

Future is Azure + Office365.

Looking to host Azure as Worlds Computer.

Includes Intelligent Edge, Server-Less, Event-Driven, "ubiquitous" computing.

Azure stack is just a year old they said.

Runs on Linux and Windows.

Using AzureML, to cross languages.

Open Source Azure IoT Edge.

Need a data page, to identify where data derived.

50 Data Centers across the globe.

Azure IoT Edge plus AzureML Models allow alerts to be sent based on embedded sensors, identifies issues in real time.  Demo on Camera device in Drones for Intelligent Edge.

Commercial Drone License required to fly in auditorium.

Stream info from Pipes to AzureML, finds anomaly, sends in real time to laptop, to Model developed in Cloud.  Scales in real world, saving companies time and expense.  Then update AzureML Model and redeploy fast.

Not just insights, create Frameworks, to send to developers, to allow developers to "commoditize", allow all developers to have technology in hand and bake into custom applications.

Azure Cognitive Services now has 35 tools, which can be customized, bring your own label data, deploy models where you need it, in your applications: vision, speech, language few examples.

In order to democratize these AI devices, announced speech SDK and reference kits.  Embed and deploy in any device.  Consumer and industrial side.

Conversational AI, bots were talked about 2 years ago.  Need ability to brand customer facing agents.  Converse over multiple AI agents.


Who Owns the Data - the Chief Data Officer

Who owns the data? 

The data gets captured from front end systems perhaps, or capture web log files, or downloaded off the web, Hadoop clusters, perhaps CSV files or JSON, Streaming Analytics data sent from IoT mini burst packets, OData feeds, archives & backups, or good old legacy data.

So it would appear IT owns the data.  Because it resides in files, databases, mainframes that sit internally on a shelf in the data center on-sight or centralized location at another location.

Or perhaps it resides in the Cloud.  If so, the vendor stores the data and is responsible for back ups and concurrency across the globe, so does the Vendor own it?  Well, they only capture or store the data.  So does organization that owns the Cloud actually owns the data?  Or the Vendor?

Yet the data ends up in ETL jobs, converted into Data Warehouses, Data Models, Reports, Visualizations, Machine Learning models, etc.  So does the developer that cleanses, pushes the data to new systems, models, reports, aggregates the data, do they own the data?

How about the Business Units, they know the business model, or at least their piece of the puzzle.  Does the Business own the data? What about data residing on file shares across the network, does IT own that, or the business?

What about insights derived from the data, who owns that?

I'd say it needs to roll up the Chief Data Officer, a fairly new role, that intersects IT CIO and the Business, and everything else in between, and reports to the CFO or CEO.  Or the Data Competency Center, which performs similar if not identical roles.

The CDO is responsible for the entire data stack.  From data creation to data ingestion to data storage to data mashing to reporting to data science.  He or she can matrix other departments for skills, domain knowledge and assistance as needed, including the hiring of consultants.  The CDO works with IT and accounting to purchase software, align for costs savings, document data across the entire org as well as how and when data flows through the entire ecosystem.




Who owns the data?  I venture to say the Chief Data Officer owns the data.

Blockchain Must Overcome Similar Challenges as Hadoop

For Blockchain to be considered a global enterprise level database (ledger), it must scale at the transaction level, in real time, ensure security based on token (incremental keys) that guarantee authenticity, and must be transparent.

Hadoop tried to create real time transactions to mimic traditional databases, yet Map Reduced limited its ability.  It wasn't until Map Reduce was pushed up a level, to become just another tool in the toolbox, that we began to see improvements in query speed.  I'm not sure they were able to insert new records the Hive databases to match standard OLTP databases, although I have not been keeping up to date on this.

So for BlockChain to scale enterprise wide, it will need to overcome the challenges that Hadoop faced.  Hadoop was typically contained within an org or in the Cloud, where Blockchain is scattered across the globe, so distance is potentially greater.  And I imagine once the record is placed on top of the stack, the other nodes must be notified to establish the agreed upon contract to know its legit.

Also, the bandwidth must be able to handle thousands of transactions per second, to mimic OLTP databases, which handle insertions via locks and such.

So BlockChain must handle increased Volumes, across great distances, negotiate valid contracts and update across the chain, in potentially real time.  And since these contracts could be used for stock trades, currency exchanges, and voting polls, it will need to be 100% accurate, secure and transparent.

Tough order to fill.  Let's watch as time progresses, see how things pan out.


5/05/2018

Running the Month End

I was commuting to work about an hour each way.  The company was laying people off, RIF almost every week, with guards at the door.  I found a job posting closer to home, paid $12k less, to write Crystal Reports.  I took the job for shorter commute.

I was tasked with writing Crystal Reports.  The director said you are also tasked with writing the month end process in Crystal Reports.  It was already running in Visual Basic so I reviewed the code, stepped through one line at a time.  I went to the boss, I think I found an error in the code.  That's impossible.  That code balances the entire company, no way it could be wrong.  Okay, went back to the desk.

Few days later, show me that code that isn't working.  Sure enough, there was a bug.  The Inner and Outer loops weren't jiving correctly.  I re-wrote the VB code into SQL used joins and it ran a lot faster.  So that began the process of writing the month end.

I ran the month end for many years, streamlining the code each time.  It consisted of financial data.  Written Premium, Earned Premium Unearned Premium and Inforce Premium.  The numbers had to tie at the monthly level, year to date level and inception to date level, every month.  If any bugs in front end system caused back end data issues, had to track it down, correct it and re-run the month end.

Tracking down the errors took some effort, as it wasn't merely off by $10.  More like off by +200, -190, usually more complicated.  Running the month end took tremendous effort as it ran through the night, I'd babysit the job and do checks along the way.  It also had Commission reports to people got paid based on the numbers.  And we had so many days to close the books.  I worked directly with the owners as they double checked all the numbers each month.

I also had lots of work to do when it wasn't month end.  I wrote an ACH application to send batches to the bank.  Create and maintain other database, fix bugs in the front end ASP application, which connected to back end Visual Basic DLLs that ran in transaction server.

I may have been the most tenured developer on the team as many people came and went.  Each month, I ran the month end.  I knew developers at other companies and it seemed they were doing some cooler technologies.  I probably ran the month end a few too many times, as I was burned out.  I found other jobs a few times and tried to resign, yet, it was a difficult decision to leave as I invested so much time and effort in the process and the company made sure I was taken care of.  I ended up leaving the job abruptly, in hindsight, I could have done a better job of transitioning.

Instead, I found a job teaching tennis and doing websites for people.  That down time gave me the opportunity to relax the mind, and in doing so, I got married, and went back to work doing Crystal Reports.  I don't have anything to show for all the hard work, except the knowledge gained has helped downstream for other Insurance clients.

Those were some good times, running the month end, solving data issues and closing the books for the month.  Glad I had the opportunity to help out for three or four years.

And so it goes~!



One of the Best Jobs in my Career

In all fairness, I'd say the job at the credit card processing company was probably the best.  They were processing 2k transaction a second back then.  The Tandem computer was smart enough to identify its own issue, contact the support team automatically, unassisted by human intervention.  I didn't work with that piece, although we did create reports off the data generated.

We used Actuate a new tool for the team back then, as I was most familiar with Crystal Reports.  There was a team of Oracle DBAs, it ran on Unix, so we had to know some command lines and such.  Actuate was object oriented and we used many of the cool features to burst reports.  As part of a team of new hires, we were trained together in a few day session internally.

I also supported some Microsoft ASP code, using XML to keep track of changes on the client web browser, then send to the database once it got to the server.

I also supported the help desk 24 hour application called Vantive.  I was sitting with a consultant, he was going into detail about this application, he said you better pay good attention as you are going to support this after I leave.  I said I was hired to write Visual Basic, sure enough, he was correct.  I got sent to a class in Washington DC to learn the app during a week long course, then returned as resident expert.  The app consisted of a single page, with a hundred widgets thrown on top of each other, was quite not so easy to work with I thought.

It also had a Visual Basic Active X control to talk with the database to let all the call reps know pertinent information.

There wasn't really Instant Messenger back then they had a VB app connect to an Microsoft Access database, and I'd have to drive in at midnight occasionally to shrink the database.  At some point I ported the app to point to Unix Oracle, and as it turned out I took down the Unix server, too many open active connections polling the Database, 100 users polling every 5 seconds, sure enough we reverted the code and they purchased an app, thank goodness

They decided to upgrade the Vantive application, which meant the DBA had to run the utility to upgrade the database, although it kept failing with a generic error.  My boss asked me to take a look, as it would be a lot cheaper to solve internally than bring in the consultants.  I reviewed the log files, no glaring issues popped out.  I just tinkered with the code, reviewed everything closely, over and over.  At some point, I said to the DBA, I think the install job is failing on this specific table, it was a custom table not part of the core application.  Some of the fields seem to be smaller than expected.  I asked if he could rebuild the table and increase size from CHAR to VARCHAR with bigger size, which he did, re-ran the install script, bam, solved.  Saved the company a lot of time and money and we were migrated to the new system.

We had another issue, when opening the call center out west.  On go live date, we received call the system was running too slow.  Boss asked me to investigate, as I was on the hook.  Went back to the desk, I couldn't view anything on their servers.  I asked to view the TNSNames file but wasn't able too.  Went back to the desk to review some more.  I said, I think they are pointing to the test database, so the boss said go shut the test database.  Sure enough, we received another call, the database had just gone down.  Troubleshooting a black box, under pressure.

When it came time to develop the Stored Value Card reports, I struggled a bit.  Because someone could purchase a card from store A, use at store B, add more money at store C, my reports were supposed to balance out the money accordingly.  I wasn't having much luck.

They actually sent me to Dallas to review some of the work done by a developer that was leaving the company.  Except when I got there, he didn't make time to sit with me, so I called the boss, said this trip is a waste of time, learned what I could and returned home. 

They had free soda, tons of smart people and the work was challenging.  However, I thought the code I was tasked with supporting was not mainstream, and I wanted to program in Java.  I found another job, except they counter offered and I stayed.  Within a few months, I left the company.

Like I said, that was probably the best job I had over the course of many years.  It took me a while to get back to that level again, and it took 8 more years before I'd get to program in Java.  I did learn a lot though and solved a couple of big issues.

It seems programmers today have a lot more flexibility in the number of languages to program in.  Back then it seemed we were limited to a certain degree.  You'd hear stories all the time of programmers making it big with the dot com boom.  A lot of those people have progressed nicely in their careers, Directors and VPs.  I'm still writing code, mostly in the data and analytics space, almost no web programming.

And so it goes~!



Road Less Traveled Pathway into IT

We had to view so many loans per day in the loan department.  Approve.  Decline.  Decline.  Approve.  When the SVP asked for a volunteer to create reports, I raised my hand.

I accumulated the prior days numbers into a spreadsheet, didn't have to meet quota on loans viewed per day, and the job was fun.

I asked to take a computer class, c++, got an A, bank reimbursed, then got hired in IT, after asking many times.

I was tasked with reports.  Crystal Reports specifically.  Version 5 was released.  They also had a product called Crystal Info to schedule reports.

There was not training classes, nor were the books to purchase, nor was there content on the web back then.  How did I learn it.  Well, we purchased a bank in St. Louis, they had a consultant in town for a big project we were working on, and the contractor and me grabbed a conference room and I picked his brain for a few hours.  Asked him about every button, what it did, and then I was the Crystal Reports guy.

I also worked with another consultant doing Visual Basic application called Life of Loan where they tracked metrics on loans, connected to Oracle, as did the Crystal Reports.

Soon I was getting calls from NC and all over, I hear you can create reports, sure what do you need, and that was my first official IT job.  I also worked on the Military Banking application, but it didn't get too far.

They had stock options, I was an officer of the bank, working in the regional loan center.

I went from call center rapid credit taking credit card apps over the phone for $7.50 an hour part time, to the national credit center for a finance company, got downsized, moved to Florida, worked as assistant branch manager, then the regional loan center into IT.  Oh, with an Anthropology major.

That may not be the most direct path into IT, road less traveled perhaps.



Easy Access to Money Spawned and Fueled the Last Bubble

Value is an agreement.  We both agree the value of this product is x.  X may be stable, it may rise or it may fall.

Let's say the ability to purchase X, got cheaper.  Cheaper purchasing power meant you could buy more products, the agreed upon value of X increased.  The product was not modified, exact same product as before.  But more people wanted the product, so quantity became limited, demand went up.

Because if you purchased a product at value X, tomorrow you could sell it for X + Y (y being profit), then it could be sold again for X + Y + Z (z being additional profit), and so on.

This speculation of an increased value of product, for no apparent reason, other than the demand increased, because it was easier to obtain purchasing power, occurred in a short time span.

The speculation grew to such heights that everyone got involved, even people that typically stayed away from investments.  It was guaranteed profit, little risk, people making money hand over fist, it inflated the entire economy across the board, with everyone's hand in the pie.

Then, when everyone was "all in", something triggered panic, everyone ran for the hills, people were left holding assets they couldn't get rid of, the market collapsed under the feet, many folks lost their new assets, the life savings and reputation.  And potentially their income streams of employment.  This rippled across the land.

Remember though, the product had an agreed up on value before any of this started.  Easy access to money spawned fast profit, everyone got in, once in, the market fizzled fast.  Leaving devastation in its wake.

There was finger pointing abound, what caused it, greedy profiteers, lax industry oversight, turn a blind eye in the name of profit and don't rock the boat.

If you look from the beginning, easy access to money spawned the fire, prolonged easy access to money fueled the fire, and then, poof.  Out went the lights.

The Housing Market shook the world.  And it hasn't recovered since.  It took the middle class down for the count.  

Easy access to money.  And then it quietly asked for everything back, with interest.



5/04/2018

The Children are the Future Teach them Technology

Should technology be taught in schools.  Absolutely.
Should students be required to take programming classes.  Yes.
Could students elect to substitute a programming language or cluster of technology instead of foreign language.  Sure.
How soon should students be immersed in technology.  Grade School.
Should critical thinking and problem solving and statistics classes be offered to students.  You betcha.

Our future depends on the youngsters of today and future generations.  If we do our jobs correctly, and prepare them for a changing world, then yes, technology should be the foundation in which students learn beginning at the earliest stages.

If you prepare students for a world of technology, you are setting them for success, not left behind.


Students should know and be tested on the basics of computers, how to log in, create accounts, use spreadsheets, writing documents, spell check, sending emails, connecting to VPNs, and on and on.  These are no longer nice to haves, they are have to haves.

We need to strengthen the chances for gainful employment to the younger generations, so they can attempt to have the same if not better standards of living that we have.  Let's not set them up for failure.  Let's let them compete with an international workforce.  Let's get them prepared for the working world without massive debt incurred in specialized degrees.



Start teaching kids early, let them learn to enjoy technology, to be continuous learners, so they have a chance at employment when the time comes.

Few Random Thoughts on This and That

Gas.  Why are there 3 grades of gas.  Not including diesel.  Why do they sell with a price ending in .9.  Why do the prices fluctuate daily.  Are we allowed to return gas, for whatever reason, listen I bought too much, I'd like to return these 3 gallons for refund.  Why do they prompt you for zip code when using pump, do they not realize if a crook stole you CC, chances are they could do a google search to locate your zip in about 2 seconds.  Where did they derive the prices for items in the store, take whatever the price should be, multiply by a factor of 10, let it sit in the store for 6 months, call it a day.

No but seriously.

Renting sure got expensive.  Not sure how many can afford rent, when salaries don't justify costs of living.  When you purchase home, they do calculation based on income to payment ratio, not for renting, just supply first, last month and security deposit.  Your payment could be 75% of your monthly paycheck, not sure if they consider that when signing lease.

Is there any accountability in the mental health field.  Hey, this counseling didn't work, I'd like a refund.  What metrics are used in favor of the client to ensure quality, consistency and accuracy.

They say airlines are making profits by nickel and dime'ing its passengers.  I'm not sure I believe that, but the $5 charge for saying "hello" and $2.50 for "smile" seemed a bit odd.

There was a discovery long ago, about energy delivered wirelessly.  I wonder why we couldn't implement such a device.  Use all those towers sprinkled throughout the city, they're already an eyesore, why not leverage them for good use.

Not sure if you realized, when you drive up to a traffic light.  There are actually 4 cycles.  2 that go straight, 2 that turn.  So you actually move 1/4 of the time and sit idle for 3/4 of the time.  For a few cycles.  How about that. 

I haven't been to a movie in 10 years.  Not because of the price or lack of quality, well actually, both are true.

And I don't think the school systems are biased, play favorites, label kids at early age which determines success in life, or fail to teach necessary skills to adapt and survive in the real world, again, that may be true.

And I definitely don't think the workforce is simply an adult day care center where people are allowed to speak when spoken, walk single file down the hall, and stare at the monitors for 8 hours a day, well, you got me again, this may have a tad bit of truth to it.

Lastly, I don't think people will do anything to keep their jobs, whatever it takes, deceptive measure included, because many know the job market is tough and changing mid life / career is even tougher, ah, again, may be some truth as well.

So there you go, a bit of a rant, a bit of snark, and a bit of "i can't believe he wrote that".

Have a great Friday~!

5/03/2018

On the Forefront of the Personal Computer Revolution

What were you doing in 1983?  I know what I was doing.  I was on the IBM PC.

That sure was a long time ago.  And fortunate to have the top of the line computer of its day to tinker with.

What type of things did we do?  We programmed in PC-DOS, not MS-DOS.  We formatted floppy disks, the big ones, double sided, double density.  We didn't have hard drives.  Everything got booted up into RAM, then you could begin.

Color Monitor, Epson Dot Matrix Printer, 1200 Baud Model.  Top of the line.

They had local BBS or Bulletin Board Systems we could dial into, peruse around, look for good stuff, to download, find new phone numbers and such.  Even had the ability to page the SysOps, which I did from time to time, to ask them questions.  I was 13 years old, typing over the computer, to an adult, who had a full time job, and ran the BBS out of the garage.

It was fun.  It was new.  It got baked into my operating system.  Working with the computer.

So after graduation, it was just a matter of time before I got into IT full time, with an Anthropology major.  Guess how many people asked, "How does an Anthropologist make a living in Computer Programming?" 

Well, growing up on a PC from early age and having a parent work for IBM for 34 years helped.  We were tinkering on the PC long before Windows / OS2, Internet, Mobile Devices.  We were at the forefront of a personal computer revolution.  Not too shabby!



Accumulators of Data are New Gatekeepers of Reality

What is reality.  

The Sun revolves around the Earth, as everyone knows, those who disagree will be ex-communicated and beheaded.  That was reality a while ago.  Now we all know the Earth revolves around the Sun.

We all have a basic idea of what reality is and is not.  And for those who voice their opinions that don't mesh with current dogma, we no longer ex-communicate, we place straight jackets on them.

How does society obtain the correct version of reality.  Many ways actually.

Family upbringing.  News and media outlets.  Movies.  Arts.  Sciences.  Schools.  Playground banter.

We pick up clues and eventually assimilate into practical sound mind upstanding people of the community.

Only problem.  What if the information we obtain is not 100% accurate.  Well, its based on facts.  Facts determined by whom.  Scientists.  Who funds the scientific programs.  What programs are allowed through the filter and what are not.  Who maintains the gatekeeper role to decide which facts are allowed and which are not.

You see, I have a lot of free time.  Sometimes I look out the window.  Sometimes its raining and other times its not.  What's interesting is this.  I noticed that it rained on all the major holidays.  Why, because everyone was stuck inside their houses.  I watched this re-occur for 10 years.  Without fail, it rained every single holiday, including election day.  I know this to be true.

For some reason, I downloaded some weather data from the web, to do some analysis, and sure enough, when viewing the holidays for the past 10 years, there was no indication of rain or precipitation.  How could that be, I saw it rain, my clothes got wet, it happened.

Yet according to the data, it never rained.  So which is accurate.  That which is documented or that which is experienced.  Well, history tells us that majority rules.  Reality is shaped and played out based on community agreement.  In this case, I was over-ridden.  My view of reality was in correct.  Or was it.


Perhaps I simply downloaded an outdated or incorrect data set.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

So instead of regarding our view of the world through the text books we read in classrooms, our new reality will be based on what's in the data.  So this would dictate that those who keep and store the data, are the new gatekeepers of our view of reality.  And possibly, we could alter history with a few delete statements here and there, a few update statements, and perhaps a few insert statements.  Stranger things have been known to happen.

So I put it to you.  How important is the accumulation of data going forward.  Time will tell.  And if it's raining out, and its a major holiday, I say, it never rained.

And there you have it~!


5/02/2018

Onward and Upwards

To maximize efficiency, I typically read the first line of each paragraph only.  Seem to digest enough info based on that.  Sometimes I read the right hand pages of a book only, same reason.

There's a lot to consume, use time wisely.  Sometimes the brain gets full, need time to digest, like a thanksgiving meal.

The client I work for was sold to another company: https://www.bizjournals.com/triad/news/2018/05/02/lincoln-financial-group-completes-3-3-billion.html

Transition occurred recently, I'm still writing reports against the Azure Hive Data Warehouse.

We finally had a victory on the medical side, a doc in Miami was able to extract the IVC filter from 3 years ago, chalk it up for a win, they have been few and far between the past 3.5 years.

Onward and upwards.