Put your phone away. Save a life.

COMMENTARY, INFOGRAPHIC, VIDEO

distracted driving

Let this picture soak in. A woman and her mother-in-law were crushed to death in the back seat by a texting, inebriated driver.

 

I hate wasting my time. So my first thousand words are that picture above. 

Telling young people anything these days is often a waste of time. They are always sure they know better than every adult around them. They are always sure they can do everything better than you can and there is nothing you can teach them.

Don’t let this be one of those times.

If this should come across your screen and you are under the age of 30, heed the messages I have included here. I believe in offering people multiple ways of learning things, so you have my personal testimonial, a documentary created which describes the lives of victims of texting and driving, an infographic bearing out in a visual format why texting and driving don’t mix, some statistics after that and a video from the mouths of young people who were involved with or affected by texting and driving.

No. You don’t have to care. Yes, you won’t make those mistakes.

Everyone of the people interviewed in these videos said the same thing. Don’t talk about it. Be about it.

A Family Missive

I received a letter from a relative a few years ago about a family member who was killed in a car accident while texting and driving. She included the police report with the line “It is the officer’s opinion that cell phone usage contributed to this accident.” There was something about that sentence that has always struck me as distancing and even a bit cold. Then I did my research and realized why it seemed that way.

Officers see far more of this than they should and from their perspective, it is one of those things that is both traumatic and yet completely avoidable. I accept that we will all die one day. If you live long enough, you have time to get used to the idea. But if you live long enough, you also realize you don’t want to risk your life because you slip in the bathtub because you were too cheap to spring for a floor mat, or have your brakes go out because you couldn’t be bothered to have your vehicle serviced at the right time. You become inclined to try and live longer and part of that is better planning. You cannot plan for other people’s behavior, however.

My cousin was a good driver, smart, a college graduate, a capable person who like so many today thought he could avoid the consequences of texting and driving.

Not anymore.

I was once told, “To be a good member of society, you have to give back more than you take.” No truer words have ever been spoken. Texting and driving is one of those problems created when technology and humanity intersected in a way that produced an unexpected consequence.

Driving requires focus, concentration, attention to detail and good reflexes. Texting requires focus, concentration and attention. Combine these two things and you realize there is a problem. How much focus, concentration and attention can you give to these two mentally challenging things at the same time? Not enough.

A car moving at 60 mph will cover 88 feet per second. The average time spent looking at a phone for texting is 4 seconds. For 352 feet or the length of the average football field, a driver may as well be wearing a blindfold. It only takes 88 feet or one second to change a person’s life forever — yours and theirs.

Share this video with everyone you know. Don’t text and drive. If you can’t do it for you, or for the person you might kill, then do it because THERE ARE OTHER SELFISH PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO YOU MIGHT WANT TO BE AWARE OF WHILE YOU DRIVE.

From One Second to the Next

Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog directs this film. It focuses on four accidents and the lives affected by this phenomenon. http://youtu.be/_BqFkRwdFZ0

DWI: Driving While Intexticated

intexticated-teens

Texting and Driving Statistics

Texting while driving is a growing trend, and a national epidemic, quickly becoming one of the country’s top killers. Drivers assume they can handle texting while driving and remain safe, but the numbers don’t lie.

Texting While Driving Causes:

1. 1,600,000 accidents per year – National Safety Council
2. 330,000 injuries per year – Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study
3. 11 teen deaths EVERY DAY – Ins. Institute for Hwy Safety Fatality Facts
4. Nearly 25% of ALL car accidents

Texting While Driving Is:

1. About 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated
2. The same as driving after 4 beers – National Hwy Transportation Safety Admin.
3. The number one driving distraction reported by teen drivers

Texting While Driving:

1. Makes you 23X more likely to crash – National Hwy Transportation Safety Admin.
2. Is the same as driving blind for 5 seconds at a time – VA. Tech Transportation Institute
3. Takes place by 800,000 drivers at any given time across the country
4. Slows your brake reaction speed by 18% – HumanFactors & Ergonomics Society
5. Leads to a 400% increase with eyes off the road.

Research Articles

E-waste Explosion Continues…

metrofax-growing-concern-of-ewaste-lead

Having talked about E-waste in past articles on Open Salon (Forget About Saving the Earth… and on the Good Men Project in Gadgets: A Perfect Storm of Wrong) this recent info-graphic embodies more up to date information from the EPA reinforcing the idea we are not handling the development of technology in a responsible manner for the simplest of reasons: No one is being held economically culpable for the development of new devices without concern for the disposal of the old technology.

What should happen from the development of any portable technology is a disposal fee built right into the cost of the device. The provider pays a part and the customer pays a part. When it’s time to dispose of the tech it is sent to a facility to maximize its safe disposal rather than shipping it overseas and allowing the lowest paid labor to handle the disposal in the most toxic method possible, usually by burning it, releasing long-lived and deadly dioxins into the atmosphere.

Remember, this info-graphic only discusses e-waste produced in the United States. As other countries ramp up their production, these numbers will continue to skyrocket. The only thing we know about e-waste for sure is eventually it will be coming to a landfill or garbage disposal facility near you. You won’t have a choice unless we start handling this problem today.

The Overblown Death of the PC (part 2)

Stop Predicting the Death of the PC.

“The PC Market is collapsing.” –Business Insider

“Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have taken the world by storm. Apple launched theiPhone six years ago. Three years later came the iPad. Google sold its first Android phone in 2008, five years ago. Is the PC dead yet?” –Yahoo Finance with the Business Insider

In Part One of The Overblown Death of the PC we talked about the reasons people believed the personal computer to be on its way out. I disagreed with almost all of them.

But that conversation on LinkedIn continued and the overall message shifted to virtualization, thin clients, and the much ballyhooed “Bring Your Own Device” or BYOD premise of bringing whatever you prefer and just connecting it to the company network.

Bring Your Own Device is not a silver bullet. BYOD is just one of a new strain of network security concerns which continue to abound in our modern age. Malware and other denial of service attacks continue to increase and are working on more sensitive integrated systems every day. As the technology for smarter devices continues to develop and as fast as new apps are being developed, malware is just as quickly propagating across this new interconnected and completely open environment.

What I hear far too little of is an understanding of the new technological ecosystem being developed. In addition to the growing iOS and Android playgrounds where few if any environmental monitoring is being done, almost no malware protections are being enacted and neither security processes, nor human awareness have kept pace with the potential for hackers to invade the privacy of billions of potential devices which lie unprotected for the most part.

Adding to this tech-soup of potential vulnerability are the complexities of virtual computing and remote desktop environments, as well as thin client systems are all becoming dependent on cloud computing technology, wide area networks and client-managed environments. Few are discussing the increasing complexity of these environments where hardware is centralized but use is distributed through a multitude of virtual environments without concern for operational capacity, network stability, and Internet connectivity.

We are seeing more outages of the Internet daily, so much so, there are applications which monitor traffic to let you know which services are currently available:http://www.isitdownrightnow.com/ . Though this tool is primarily for popular web services, Amazon has a version which is also accessible through the internet:http://status.aws.amazon.com/ . Each tool like these is predicated on the idea that no system of computer operation is infallible and the more interconnected we become the more likely we will find the opportunity to see first hand:

For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a nail.

The death of the desktop computer is built around the idea we have managed to supersede what the tool has given us.

  • That we have managed to secure our environments, to create infrastructure which will support wireless technologies, metropolitan area networks, and the inevitable planetary-area networks we are designing.
  • That we are able to effectively isolate and route around failed areas of the largest network which connects us all, the internet. The jury is out.
  • That we have greater control of our soon-to-be completely necessary planetary network in such a way, hacking vulnerabilities are a thing of the past, every system which is put on that network is aware of how to deal with potential threats, without human intervention and will do so in a fashion so humans can simply be informed without having to worry about restorations of a failed environment, first.
  • That scrupulous use of said planetary network ensures no one will be using it to unlawfully monitor its users, manipulate the users or their data, socially engineer user behavior for profit, perform acts of vandalism or terrorism, using said network as part of a control system and structure for acts of military warfare or sabotage.

So, is the desktop dead? Is that even the right question?

Perhaps the question should be: Is the desktop computer being killed by corporations who want to manipulate users into a cycle of:

  • Regular planned obsolescence – creating underpowered devices which need constant upgrade to deal with software bloat, development issues and a constant need for upgrades.
  • Consumerism – the technology is really being structured around pushing products, dependence and reliance on said devices (extending the reign of television advertising in the new medium).
  • Development Control: by getting rid of users ability to create information this creates a more passive audience waiting for new “products” and “fees” for receiving them. 
  • Health issues: The long-term effect of using said devices in terms of user health (eyestrain, inattention, psychological distress) and destroying the environment to feed the engine of gadget production.

Is the death of the PC being artificially hastened to sell portable digital technology, even when financial, economic, social, and technological safeguards for that technology are not currently in place? Oh yes, I would say so, just from watching the industry and its lust for profit.

The PC is not dead. But we are sealing it up alive in the coffin for profit’s sake. Think of how much money can be made while new interfaces are being developed. Think of all the planned obsolescence inherently built into each device, replacing it after only 6-12 months. Imagine all of that technological churn being done, the billions spent on advertising new versions of old devices with only minuscule differences making corporations like Apple some of the most profitable agencies on Earth. Think of the ever-expanding app industry estimated to grow to $25 billion dollars in 2013 and continuing to grow. There is so much money to be made by Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, and other device manufacturers I can’t see them NOT promoting the device/gadget over desktops. The potential profitability is absolutely astounding. Charge as much for a handheld device as you do for a laptop with 1/10 the functionality, but call it mobile. “Make a gadget cool, and the sheep will follow.”

If the PC is dying, I suspect someone is killing it; for a profit. And it’s not the butler.

See Also: Gadgets: A Perfect Storm of Wrong – Where I discuss the environmental issues around the constant proliferation of gadget/device technology.

The Overblown Death of the PC – Part 1

USIEb

A month ago Regina Pilkington posed the question “Do you envision desktop computers as obsolete in a few years?” on LinkedIn and I waited before I answered, curious what others would say. I didn’t have to wait long. What I heard surprised me. And my response will surprise you.

Most of what I heard was:

  • The PC is dead or so in decline, it may as well be dead.
  • It has no future, it is being replaced by digital devices.
  • The PC is a dinosaur and is being replaced by BYOD and virtualization.
  • In a decade or less, there will be no market for PCs, look at their inevitable decline in the market.
  • Apple is getting out of the business, Dell is shifting markets, HP is foundering, the PC’s reign is over.

There were a few more moderate voices:

  • “The obsolescence of the desktop in my opinion is held back by the effectiveness of the desktop interface.”
  • “The form factor will survive over the next 5 – 10 years. The ease and size of the system is not possible in the tablet for now.” 
  • “My feeling is it will never be obsolete, it will be one of many different ways (just not the only one) to compute.”

And then one other voice rang out with the question, I think everyone was dreading:

  • “How long ago did that dinosaur called the mainframe disappear?” (He clarified saying he was being facetious because mainframes are still not dead.)

This question irks me when I see it making the rounds on the tech journals and publications because of the weak premise and lame assumptions used to prognosticate the Death of the PC and as if to make it worse, these tech pundits want to make predictions as if they were any better at predicting long-term technology trends than religious leaders are at predicting the end of the world. Let me save you the trouble. Manufacturers are scrambling and technology is changing but it is safe to say, the personal computer will be around for quite some time to come even if it doesn’t look quite like you remember it.

My response: No. The PC era is not over. Not by a long shot. Not even in a decade.

No matter what form it takes, no matter what it will look like, (smartphone, tablet, head-up display) the era of the PC (Personal Computer) is not over and not likely to be any time soon. If it is based in silicon, it is still a personal computer.

“Big boxes of mostly air” (as they are known by PC technicians) may fall from grace for those people who think smaller and more mobile is better, but those are the same people who will be complaining when network connectivity and data transfer rates can’t keep up with the increasing demand being placed on networked devices and the networks that serve them.

Add to this equation the varying reliability of the cloud infrastructure and people who depend on their portable device for computational ability will be sorely disappointed as more devices means interruptions in service due to demand load, poor design of software and hardware, incompatibilities of design and infrastructure, malware, viruses and good old-fashioned human error.

Despite the Microsoft and Apple compulsion to squeeze out new OS every two years or less, the software infrastructure for PCs is still more robust, stable and better defended than the portable OSs being used right now.

Those portable OSs are ripe for attack because they are being developed faster than they are being protected. Yes, someone will get around to writing tools for protection, but since there is little agreement on standards and protocols, hackers and their ilk will have a field day while such agreements are being forged. If you think the transition to portable devices will be smooth and seamless, you will be disappointed, no matter what pundits predict.

On top of everything else, those more portable devices are still not as powerful, not as expandable, not as configurable as a current desktop or well-made laptop, nor do they offer as many options for use.

  • They cannot be used in tandem, compounding their power and effectiveness. 
  • You will not see a server farm made with iPhones any time soon. 
  • They cannot be programmed or developed from, easily, if at all. 
  • They are primarily tools of data use, information viewing and consumption 
  • Devices are the digital equivalent of a television, a phone, and a piece of paper. 
  • Until they get an interface which integrates voice and gesture into an effective interface, they will always be substandard tools to do any advanced work such as design.

What smaller devices offer flexibility and portability. They are still PCs, now more personal than ever. They will still require powerful servers to coordinate their data, access search engines, and store data for use by these smaller RPC (remote personal computers). The PC era is not dead and will not likely be dead until such time as we are producing computers that are biological in nature and do not require the use of any technologies which currently resemble anything we do today.

The PC is transformed (again) it is now the Remote Personal Computer, it is the Server Computer, it is the distributed computing system (another aspect of ‘the cloud’.) This penchant for imagining the death of the PC is the same as when cars appeared and the death of the bicycle or the train were predicted. I still see trains and they are as vital a technology as they have ever been. I am still running over bike messengers on my way to work.

Instead of alarmist (and futile) predictions of the end of the PC as we know it, let’s instead predict how the PC will be transformed into a tool of greater utility and diversity, how we will make it easier to store, utilize and share information effectively without creating larger, slower, less efficient networks. Then we can talk about creating the next generation of computers which might truly lay the PC as we know it today, in all of its iterations, to rest.

What happened to funding real innovation?

apps

Is real technological innovation being overshadowed by gimmicky social media sites and apps posing as real advances in technology?

A post from the Red Shoe Agency asks the above question and then follows with the following statement: Now, before you answer this, think about it. Everything works in cycles and eventually leads to a bubble. The tech industry is no different. It seems, per media reporting, that all you have to do is create some silly app (like send a fart to your enemy or something of that nature) or set up the next Facebook killer social media site and you’re a tech darling who’s innovating and getting tons of VC money thrown at you. But are those really “tech” companies?

I can understand why this would make some techies a bit resentful. Granted, Facebook is one of the creations that changed the way we communicate. But if it shut down tomorrow, lives would not be lost (I hope). There are some real companies creating real products that qualify as tech. 

Will technology ever shift back to innovation and creation that actually contributes to changing the world, situations, lives? Why does it seem that VC is willing to continue throwing money into gimmicks?

My response: 

Yes, technology has jumped its own shark and instead of being a boon to humanity, we have become caught up in the “development” of toys (apps) which cater to the venture capitalists need to make money without actually providing society with any useful developments.

Yes, technology developers will say I am avoiding the most important part of this idea, which is the making of money. And to them, I say, nay, you are missing the most important part of this equation, innovation which moves the species (humanity) along the path toward actualization.

I suspect in this, the final century of humanity we will have to make difficult choices. One of them will be to decide what we want to develop in terms of our technology. We can continue to fritter away intellectual capacity (which seems to be stagnating overall) on toys, apps and gadgets which, while often profitable, using social conditioning to create need, do not address any real issues in our society.

We have no problem finding money for gadgets and less useful software but true research, of the kind which once allowed NASA to create a variety of technologies we use without even being aware of it, becomes harder and harder to secure. (NASA’s spin-off technologies - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spin-off_technologies).

Venture capitalists will say the creation of money is the most important endeavor humans can make today and software development of the kind we are seeing may certainly be profitable, but in a world with a plethora of problems, what people are focusing their time and energy on will only be significant if we resolve the greater technological and sociological issues surrounding our society first.

What issues? Here is a quick and dirty list:

  • reasonable and affordable health care,
  • a collapsing economic structure that needs a complete retooling,
  • reducing military interactions in foreign countries,
  • feeding and caring for the disenfranchised members of our societies,
  • our failing education system and improving its quality,
  • economic disparity between the rich and poor,
  • the digital divide all over the world and in all layers of economic strata,
  • effective socio-economic relationships with other sovereign nations,
  • global climate control and management,
  • toxic waste and overall waste management,
  • desertification of our food producing areas on our planet,
  • destruction of our planet’s rain forests at 20 square miles a day,
  • eradication of cancer,
  • HIV, AIDS, and management of growing list of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, 
  • renewable energy development,
  • loss of fossil fuels and what that means to our lifestyles,
  • failing infrastructures of power and roads and
  • corporate malfeasance just to name the few I could think of in about 30 seconds. 

There is nothing wrong with making money. Except when making money overshadows making anything else. As sea levels rise, 200 million people all over the Earth will be forced to move, causing the greatest mass migration in human history. Find any shoreline or island, find a city within 25 miles and you can see the scope of just this one thing (climate change, rise of the seas) can cause. I can assure you, there is no app for that.

Technology can solve problems or cause them. It’s how you use it, develop it, adapt it, utilize it and innovate it that makes the difference. Choose wisely.

Thaddeus Howze
A Matter of Scale

The New Age of Malware (courtesy of BYOD)

BYOD: We can't repel malware of that magnitude! -- Admiral Ackbar

As I have mentioned in other articles, [http://exm.nr/x8dv4p] malware is not going away. If anything it is going to explode in the coming years due to the continued erosion of IT standards in the workplace. Technologies such as cloud computing, social media and memes such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device [to the workplace]) are prepared to compromise enterprise security by:

1. Allowing devices that cannot be managed or secured into the workplace environment and allowing users to store company data on those devices. Such devices can easily be lost, stolen and the information vulnerable due to a lack of viable security measures or even the ability to be wiped remotely.

2. Devices such as smartphones or other mobile technology often has limited wireless security or protection, making grabbing data from such technology the next logical step from the cracking community. Do you remember Firesheep? A tool that allowed a remote hacker to grab information from Mozilla browsers in unsecure environments such as coffee shops. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firesheep]

3. As the rise of BYOD continues and resistance to standardization grows, malware will continue to be a rising threat for Android and iDevices alike, [http://zd.net/w20FMG - Android users hit by scareware scam], for the simple reason that apps created for both devices, while monitored loosely, are not absolutely guaranteed of being without sinister purposes in addition to providing whatever resource information they APPEAR to be providing. So while it may be providing you a map to downtown Boston, it could also be monitoring your credit card or online bank information at different locations as well.

4. Social media has not stopped being both a productivity time sink, costing the nation billions in lost productivity (neither commenting for the good or the bad of this, noting it, nothing more) and a vector for virus transmission, personal information gathering, and credit information hacking. Facebook, Twitter, Sony, Google and Amazon have all experienced theft, leaks, loss or outright sale of personal data in 2010-2011 and this trend show no sign of slowing.

5. While the cloud offers the option of being a means of creating virtual environments that are claimed to be safer than your current environment, it means relying increasing on an internet whose services are either being turned into commodities (allowing their prices to be changed, usually higher, without warning or recourse) or those services will be subject to powerful new government interventions such as SOPA or Protect IP [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act], which may make working with materials and providers who will be forced to increase the costs of their service to offset their increases caused by having to improve monitoring of their technology for copyright infringement. This cost is always directed at the user of the technology.

6. Nor does SOPA actually ensure you are any safer from hacking, indeed it may simply be another way such activity is lost in the shuffle as hackers are far more agile in their ability to develop their responses to technology than mainstream users. During the transition to SOPA standards, systems will be more vulnerable than ever.

7. It appears IT is losing the battle for standardization as a means of protecting the enterprise. New technologies such as virtualization promise the ability to deliver the PC experience to any device but most of those are also dependent on the Internet as the deliverer of service. This only means one thing. The cost of protecting your enterprise will increase as the vectors — devices, browsers, clients, cloud, virtualization, continue to proliferate.

In summary: Our enterprise networks have never truly been safe. The threats ranged from:

  • Inadequate layered defenses against attacks: There are still numerous environments especially in small to medium size businesses that do not have firewalls of any kind, any sort of data protection, backup, or redeployment procedure in case of equipment failure, anti-malware, or anti-virus technology in place.
  • Social engineering: manipulating users in an environment to release information about the systems they use to make hacking easier
  • Poor Password Management: Not creating standards for the effective use, configuration or dissemination of difficult to crack passwords
  • Poor standardization of environments: reducing the number of potential holes in the environment by reducing the number of different versions of operating systems, programs and infrastructure support systems
  • Poor policy management: The inability of environments to create usable, enforceable policies designed to make repair, replication, storage, service agreements, backup and responsible use of the office technology to protect company assets from theft, loss, or accidental erasure.

There are many other threats, but our environments have been safer than before many of these ideas were enacted, but the truth of the matter has been our virus software is always at least one day behind the release of any new virus, malware or exploit. Indeed, the zero day release of a virus or exploit could allow thousands or even millions of devices to be infected before anyone is aware the problem has occurred.

In days to come, the already existing suite of issues will only be added to with the continued threat of cloud computing downtime, legitimate accessibility as well as unwanted attacks from outside sources, rising costs both in terms of energy use and costs from service providers and the increasing vulnerability BYOD will bring to the enterprise as hackers/crackers begin to exploit the weaknesses of said devices while under-staffed, overworked and under-appreciated IT departments attempt to stem the tide while providing these new and highly desired services and technologies users feel empower them, without understanding the consequences of that empowerment. It empowers the Dark Side as well. [http://www.csoonline.com/article/print/696325]

@ebonstorm – Thaddeus Howze Atreides

Blacks In Technology podcast episode 18

In this podcast Greg Greenlee talks with Thaddeus Howze AKA @ebonstorm.

Thaddeus has over 25 years of experience in the I.T. field. He is an expert in Business I.T. Development, digital design and educational technology. He’s worked as a network administrator, an IT instructor, an IT manager, CIO/VP of IT for JFK University and is now working as a small business technology consultant in northern California. Thaddeus is also an author. He writes science fiction and also for several blogs including A Matter of Scale, and The Examiner. He is also a host on several Blog TalkRadio shows: WaveFront, and Afterthoughts.

We talk about Cloud computing, science fiction writing, comics, and much more. You can follow Thaddeus on twitter @ebonstorm.

Greg Greenlee, the webmaster and entrepreneur of Blacks in Technology interviewed me on his podcast. It was one of those general interest kind of interviews where we talk about a variety of topics including politics, writing, science fiction, autism and our personal passion, technology. While it is not completely tech related, it is definitely a no-holds barred conversation about the future of Blacks in technology and may not always be politically-correct, but I stand by everything I said. The only way to know if you agree, is to listen for yourself. This is an unedited opportunity to hear my thoughts about a myriad of topics. If you read my blog though, you won’t be too surprised, after all, you know there is no cow so sacred I can’t be convinced NOT to shoot at it.

Thank you for the interview Greg, I enjoyed giving it as much as I enjoy our casual conversations. Always spirited and in good fun. When I am done with my novel, I will be back.

Thaddeus Howze featured on Black Enterprise

Featured on Black Enterprise

IT experts Thaddeus Howze (@ebonstorm) and Kevin Michael (@kevinvmichael) to faced off on BlackEnterprise.com with their two differing perspectives on cloud computing.

I am not opposed to cloud computing. Computers connected together tend to be more useful and more capable than computers isolated. But with every technology paradigm there are things you do not expect. Networked computers gave rise to spam, malware and botnets, three of the greatest scourges of the networked world today. They are such problems they absorb billions of dollars in performance lost, damaged or destroyed technology and time wasted by employees worldwide. But we do not abolish networks despite these things because the network is simply too useful and too profitable to be without.

The cloud, one day, may offer similar benefits to businesses and people everywhere. But we are not there yet. There are hurdles that need to be addressed and issues people need to understand to make informed decisions.

Reliability

The ‘cloud’ is being sold as a mature technology that is robust, trouble-free, easy to use, easy to configure, and far less expensive than owning your own platform for the service. While this may be true for certain applications like, Salesforce, it does not mean it is all of those things for every application of the cloud technology.  The underlying Internet infrastructure is, in my mind, far less reliable, stable, or capable of supporting this glut of technology which includes:
•    phones and internet capable devices,
•    the increasing burden of millions of new sites,
•    billions of new users and exobytes of constantly moving data
•    video streams, dedicated connections, torrents, botnets, spam and malware generation and propagation.

As China and India (and to a lesser extent Africa and South America) adopt new technology and enter the Internet, how will this affect this over-stretched behemoth of technological wonder?

Security
Security is one of many issues underlying the configuration of the Internet. The Internet was designed as an open environment. Now we are trying to secure an environment designed to be open, and as such there will be unintended consequences to layering security measures. For example, the ever-increasing complexities of these new security measures add to the already unstable configuration of the Internet protocols. Do these security technologies complement each other or do they compete with each other?

Business Autonomy
There was a time when IT was a utility and providers like WANG and Intel provided you with your technology choices and you liked it. You paid and that was it. Once companies have you where they want you, they don’t ever try and take advantage of you and jack up their rates to unreasonable levels, or do they? They certainly do; think Comcast, AT&T, and Pacific Bell for examples.

With Cloud computing that ‘utility-style’ of business is trying to be make a comeback and I don’t think I like it. If you use cloud computing, you may be required to use tools recommended by your service provider which may make it impossible for you to move your data at a later time. I dislike the idea of losing control of my applications, data, software and information regarding my business.

Thaddeus Howze is an IT consultant with thirty years of experience working with all forms of technology including the military, advertising, banking, financial and educational sectors.  He is A+, CCNA, and MSCE Certified, and currently working toward a Project Management Certification (PMP). He is the owner and founder of Ebonstorm Media and Have Flash Drive, Will Travel and provides technical development and consulting services in the San Francisco, Bay Area.

You can read Kevin Micheal’s point of view on Black Enterprise’s site.

The Cloud Conversation No One Is Happy Having

Don’t kid yourself, it’s the money

We live in a wondrous age of technological sophistication. Even in this age of wonders the idea that you can do a thing does not necessiate that you should. No where would this thinking be more appropriate than with cloud computing. Cloud computing  is an excellent idea, caused by a convergence of outstanding technologies, but it does not mean everyone should rush out and put themselves in the cloud, no matter how many vendors are telling you it is a good idea, and I am astounded by the number of vendors who talk about the inevitability of our approach to cloud computing. It is unstoppable and inescapable, so you had better embrace it.

The operative word here is vendors. They are selling something. They want you to buy it. So they are certainly going to tell you about every amazing asset and attribute with as little information as necessary for you to make an informed decision. Now let’s be real about one thing. No one but IT people like to talk about IT. In most cases, only IT people have any true understanding of how their technology works and depending on their experiences, the thoroughness of their training, the size of the mistakes they have made during their career and their ability to focus on the issues at hand, will truly prepare them for the complexity inherent in their job; both the human issues and the technological ones.

So let’s couple a vendor’s need to sell you IT and the overall complexity of IT and you have the perfect storm that is “Cloud Computing.” A technology that promises you will not have to keep IT people in house confusing you with their jargon and expensive toys you do not understand and they are unable to do without. Cloud computing will move your IT needs to a remote location that is backed up, redundant, staffed by the best IT people on Earth, in a location that has power, back-up power, and surrounded by fifty feet of solid bedrock, cooled by being three thousand feet underground to an ideal temperature of 58 degrees. Nothing short of a nuclear device will even affect this site because a Service Level Agreement (SLA) says so. So give us your money, and your data, and we will take care of the rest.[1] [13]

Technology simplifies life, Doesn’t it?

It is amazing to me how often I have heard about the technology that is available for the cloud today. And how many different flavors of cloud computing you can have. Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service, I am waiting for Ice-cream-as-a-Service and I will know the cloud is truly ready. What strikes me strange is how often people want to claim this is a technology we should be putting in place to support our businesses, our lifestyles and our way of doing work in the future. All of the people supporting this technology are always fond of talking about how robust the technology is and how nothing can possible go wrong so it would be okay to place our most important data into the cloud, now.

Contrary to what is believed, it IS possible for a technology to have existed for a long time and still not be a mature technology. Longevity should not be mistake for maturity. The Internet has existed for quite a long time now and is still evolving, looking almost nothing like it did as little as fifteen years ago. I would call the Internet a perfect example of a long-lived but still maturing infrastructure technology. The fact there are highly available clustered servers, clustered storage subsystems, redundant networking infrastructure did not stop what I call the Great Amazon Cloudburst from occurring. Surely no one can say there was insufficient access to great technology and highly skilled technical staff at Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud service centers. But the functionality of their clients websites were lost for tens of thousands of people for at least 4 days. All of the support and technology was available and yet did nothing to mitigate the loss of service. Read their explanation about the event for yourself and see if you can understand what the problem was. I am betting if you are not an IT person, you will not have a clue. Reading it will not make you any happier. [2][7]

In the common fashion of this nation, the event is brushed under the rug and everyone returns to business as usual. The promotion of a service that is still too complex and growing more complex every day. The ever-increasing level of complexity of the systems in question has begun to plague all of our networks no matter where they are. Our phones systems have already begun to show signs of being overwhelmed by the complexity of the systems required to control them. Upgrade servers, remote access servers, game servers are all plagued by the increasing complexity of legitimate networks. This does not take into account illegal, illegitimate or poorly-configured network such as botnets which affect users all over the globe.[3][4]

Security isn’t a problem anymore for the Cloud

Pundits and supporters of the cloud say its secure even though we see news every day about the latest internet security breach from one company or another. Can you say the PlayStation Network and its estimated 70 million lost IDs? And these breaches grow larger and more data is gathered with each assault. I read a dozen IT trade magazines and see new security breaches happen that rarely make the evening news. I suspect that more companies do not voice their security issues but have them nonetheless, giving people a false sense of security. There is recent news indicating the PlayStation Network attack may have originated from Amazon Cloud Server environment. [12]

The truth of the matter is companies ARE loathe to let you know how often their systems are penetrated by any number of methods, including inside attackers, social engineering, system failures and security intrusion by outside attackers. If you knew, you might be less willing to put your personal information out there so easily, you might not be willing to bank online, or shop online or do all of these things our society has convinced you that you can no longer live without, because it creates profit for vendors, banks and finance agencies. This is about money, make no mistake. If you want to see information regarding security breaches you can look in The Register, a UK tech trade publication. Symantec mentions in their own literature, the increasing need for security software, potentially worth billions in the coming decade. [5][6]

The technology vendors want to tell you they are increasing reliability by adding virtual servers, virtual workstations and hypervisors which allow them to restore services easier after they are lost or have to be scaled to deal with companies that are growing and need ever-increasing performance. But the real reason this technology is being created and promoted is to send work and the systems required to do it overseas, reducing the need for internal IT infrastructure. No. I cannot substantiate this. It is my impression of the industry and how outsourcing has continued to dominate the landscape. How I arrive at that is another debate, but work with that premise and consider the following.

Outsourcing Considerations

We’re back to money again. Outsourcing for the win!

Corporations are outsourcing their services in record numbers. Human Resources departments, finance services, manufacturing inventory, company records, databases and now IT services are all being moved into outsource models reducing their cost to companies everywhere. But the question begs to be asked if after outsourcing these services, we also store the company’s data in the cloud, what we have said is, in the event of a catastropic emergency, even with a well-provisioned, well-equipped, highly trained service provider, a company will have limited to no access to its records, its databases, its human resource information, its healthcare records, its finance information, or any of it’s IT infrastructure including its virtual workstations, or virtual domain services or virtual telecom systems.

And I know, you are all thinking, this could never happen. But if you remember the Northeast Blackout of 2003 which left a large portion of the Eastern seaboard without electrical power and affected 45 million people in at least 8 US states. During this time, cellular, cable and telephone services were disrupted and the internet services of Advance Publications went offline, affecting three online news services for days. The nation was reduced to using amateur radios to pass emergency communications. [8][9]

The issue I worry the most about is how will the nation perform when hundreds or thousands of corporations are sharing the same series of servers and lose their infrastructure in a foreign land that is affected by a quake or tsunami or monsoon or any other of a number of catastrophic events outside of human control, what will your corporation do while it has placed more than fifty percent of its manpower and resources in virtual form, unable to be accessed for a day or week or a month. Can your business survive when all of its vital support services are unable to be accessed? You will lose even the ability to make even a simple phone call if your virtual network includes your digital telecom and voice mail services. Virtual domain services? Good luck being able to connect to your email, voicemail, VPN, SharePoint, file servers, clustered data services that you may have kept locally.

And yes, for all of you who are saying, there are failover technologies in place to allow redundant services to pick up the slack in case of an emergency. Amazon said that too, especially in hindsight, they were unhappy their failover technology did not operate as expected.

Did you test that? Prove it.

This is the kicker. Once you start aggregating clients into your environment, you come across a curious dynamic. How do you test your environment for failover to be sure it actually works. Anyone who has worked in an IT environment remembers how difficult it is to test your failover for your domain servers, or your remote email servers when it just YOUR company that you have to deal with across two or three timezones and you want to test to see if your email services will fail over to that redundant server cluster you are paying a princes wages to in Singapore. You are only affecting a few thousand people’s ability to work whenever they want. What happens when you are a Cloud Provider and you have five million different people scattered across the world and you want to test your failover services. Someone, somewhere WILL be inconvenienced. But it will need to be done, because if Amazon had done this test, they would have known something was incomplete in their process and would have pre-empted this problem which took them four days to correct.

This is not about painting a picture of worst case scenarios. But someone should ask the question, what DO we do in the event of a major failure when tens of thousands of companies have moved to this sort of infrastructure service and are unable to simply walk away because too much of their company is invested in that provider. Companies promise they will always maintain a certain level of performance, but history has shown as companies grow, their ability to maintain their level of agreed upon performance has suffered while they grew. Dare I mention, AT&T, Comcast, AOL, Time Warner and Enron just to pick a bunch out of a hat?

What we are really saying is ultimately, we are prepared to risk our entire livelihood on the development of cloud technology which we are doing our damnednest to get everyone possible to participate in every cloud provider we can find, whether they be public or private clouds. This means in fact, we are aggregating our businesses and their infrastructure into collective pots of provided services and depending on those services to be completely bulletproof, resistant to external hacking attacks and penetrations by unlawful persons. We are expecting it to be perfectly configured with thousands of companies sharing IP4 and now the new IP6 services, sharing switches, firewalls, shared servers, clustered resources, virtual environments and of course done by the company who offers the lowest bid and claims to have the best trained people in the industry. [10][11]

Single Point of Failure. You.

It seems a tall order to put the entire infrastructure of a nation into consolidated single points of failure without addressing what Plan B is supposed to look like, just in case Plan A, the world of the perfectly actualized, completely failure-proof, infrastructure that we already have, which never fails when we need it most, and isn’t staffed by over-worked, under-rested, hypercaffinated gearheads should happen to go offline for a month or two.

I am not a Luddite. I have worked with IT for thirty years at all levels of it. I have a healthy respect for technology and its seemingly supernatural ability to wait until it has the most people it can possibly have dependent on it and then unerringly to fail when you need it most. With that kind of perverse nature, do we really want our places of industry to be complete dependent on something that could simultaneously have us all conducting business on Post-its in our paperless offices? Can we find that happy medium that will not have the nation clutching our collective tuchas while we simultaneously wait for the same five or six cloud providers to figure out what went wrong today and how long America will be sitting in neutral until it can be fixed.

To quote Spongebob Squarepants: Good Luck with that.

Look through the references, read the articles and if you still disagree, please feel free to comment right here. Don’t bring me some vendor talking about how wonderful the cloud is. Bring me a real reason we cannot live without the cloud and what we need to be doing to mitigate some of the things I have mentioned in the article and that are in the articles listed in the references. We need to address this sooner rather than later. I am sure vendors will read this and dismiss everything I say and tell you to do the same. When the next cloud outage affects one million people rather than the twenty thousand this outage did at Amazon’s EC2 center, you remember who told you it was an inevitability. Remember, I am not trying to sell you anything, that vendor can’t look you in the eye and say that. He has a vested interest in making sure you bite.

References:

[1] FAQ: Cloud Computing Demystified; Network World; http://mediasphere.tumblr.com/post/5475321981/faq-cloud-computing-demystified [May 18, 2009]

[2] Summary of the Amazon EC2 and the Amazon RDS Service Disruption in the US East Region; Amazon Web Services Site; http://aws.amazon.com/message/65648/ [May 9, 2011]

[3] When the Cloud Fails: T-Mobile, Microsoft Lose Sidekick Customer Data; GigaOm; http://gigaom.com/2009/10/10/when-cloud-fails-t-mobile-microsoft-lose-sidekick-customer-data/ [October 10, 2009]

[4] Sidekick lightning-struck but complexity is the real issue; Examiner.com; http://www.examiner.com/information-technology-in-san-francisco/sidekick-lightning-struck-but-complexity-is-the-real-issue#ixzz1MJWZj94l [October 12, 2009]

[5] Update on PlayStation Network and Qriocity; Playstation Blog; http://blog.us.playstation.com/2011/04/26/update-on-playstation-network-and-qriocity/ [April 26, 2011]

[6] Playstation Network Breach: It’s Really, Really Bad; Technologizer.com; http://technologizer.com/2011/04/26/playstation-network-breach-data-stolen/ [April 26, 2011]

[7] Cloud failover a challenge for Amazon competitors, too; Network World; http://www.networkworld.com/news/2011/042711-cloud-failover.html [April 27, 201]

[8] List of Power Outages; Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_power_outages [Last Updated: May 1, 2011]

[9] Northeast Blackout of 2003; Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_Blackout_of_2003

[10] Cloud computing providers: Clueless about security?; Network World; http://www.networkworld.com/news/2011/042811-cloud-computing-security.html [April 28, 2011]

[11] Survey: Cloud security still a struggle for many companies; Network World; http://www.networkworld.com/news/2010/093010-survey-cloud-security-still-a.html [September 30, 2010]

[12] Amazon Server Said to Be Used in Sony Attack; Bloomberg News; http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-13/sony-network-said-to-have-been-invaded-by-hackers-using-amazon-com-server.html [May 13, 2011]

[13] Dolcera Public Wiki on Cloud Computing; Dolcera.com; http://www.dolcera.com/wiki/index.php?title=Cloud_Computing

iPad2 = Macintosh SE-30

Macintosh se30: Remember when this was state of the art?

Big business is out to steal your PC from you. You may not realize it but if you are a real consumer, you have a plethora of technological gadgets at your disposal: digital camera, digital camcorder, cellular phone, smartphone, desktop computer, laptop computer, digital reader, digital handheld (iPad, Xoom) devices.

Have you noticed the trend in the industry to convince you to consolidate your devices? They tell you its about you having the convenience to carry only one device or less devices. Hence your digital camera and your cell phone became a single unit. Now it takes crappy pictures and can barely hold a decent call while you are moving faster than a walk, but you only have to carry one device. Then they wanted you to believe your cell phone could double as a computer interface giving you access to the internet and your email, and your Facebook and your Twitter account.

So, now you have a crappy camera, connected to a barely usable cellphone that also allows you to connect to the internet at dialup speeds (Wheeeee!) and can surf the overburdened telephone network with your supersized web pages that have long since ditched any level of simplicity and instead download scripts, and php pages and database files and viruses to your handheld that does not have any anti-virus protection and they tell you its a good thing because you don’t have to wait until you get back to your computer to use Facebook or Twitter or email or whatever services they are pushing off onto your bank account next.

Lets not forget the constant push toward the cloud, and the constant need to convince you the cloud is good. “To the cloud” is the watchword for Microsoft ads these days. Does anyone watching these ads have any idea of what “the cloud” is? Do they have any idea of the fact they are simply doing what we have done for the last thirty years as distributed computing. If the word “Wang” means anything to you, you have dealt with distributed computing before. And if it doesn’t, you are likely paying for a service you don’t need or know enough about to be giving money away before you find out what it is. I am not trying to cause anyone to be concerned, per se. But I am tired of hearing about how the cloud is going to save us. Let me tell you what is really going on.

Big business has only one agenda. To separate you from your cash. If you work for corporate America, their second agenda is to make sure you aren’t make much cash to begin with, the better to keep you coming to work tomorrow. The best way to separate canny consumers from their cash today, because let’s face it, you are going to be more frugal than you have been in the past, with the economy the way it is, so you have to be convinced, okay, let’s keep it real, tricked, into giving big corporations your hard earned money.

3G, 4G, 5G: no standards for any of them, so when will you know you have it?

So the three card monty goes something like this: Big business wants more customers to pay more fees for services they don’t need so they need to convince people to use something they don’t need and create a non-existent need so people will feel they are being left out if they are not able to participate. The predicted market for smartphones is estimated to be sixty million devices by the year 2014. There are a lot of fees associated with smart phones. Phone purchase, check, service activation, check, data transfer fees, check, peak hour fees, check, non-subscriber connection fees, check, the purchase of apps for your smart device, check, antivirus (not yet available, but coming soon to a smartphone near you,) 3G or 4G or 5G network connection fees and any miscellaneous fees they can hide inside of the fine print you are too damn busy to read, check.

So what does this have to do with your computer? Glad you asked. Smartphones suck. They are, for all of their technological wonderfulness, simply inadequate for you to do anything significant on. Hence the creation of the laptop, notebook, notepad, iPad, Xoom devices designed to cost less than a desktop/laptop, in theory, and offer you access to a computer-like interface so you can be away from home and work on ideas while you are sipping your latte at Starbucks. And they sell them, like the second coming of Jesus, and if they were as wonderful as they are made out to be, they might be worthwhile, but in comparison to a good desktop, they are simply inadequate to the task.

Underpowered, overpriced, sleekly designed, and marketed with a level of cool that would make liquid nitrogen jealous, they are the most useless devices on the market today. They have all of the failings of smartphones, only bigger. Pitiful CPUs, slow performance, laughable network speeds, slow loading browsers, in some cases, incomplete or poorly performing operating systems (no Flash? Come on, only one of the most important developments since video came to the computer) No keyboards, no mice, no connectivity to printers (in earlier iterations) and most importantly, no real reason to exist except someone said they should. They are designed to required a variety of external peripherals, wireless interfaces, specialized keyboards, stands, covers, bags and the list goes on. When you are finished equipping the device with the tools necessary to be useful, you would have been better off with a laptop that you could actually work on.

Which brings me to the ultimate idea here. When you have been convinced to give up your desktop for this underpowered interface device, you are basically being told, Go Back to Being a Consumer of Content. We want to sell you access to the internet and its services. Anything you used to get for free, we expect you to pay a pretty penny for, in some cases more than you did when it actually cost twice as much to create. This is another fee you have to pony up for and you are losing your ability to create content easily because none of the interface devices: smartphone, iPad, Xoom, etc make it really easy to create content worth looking at, with the power, speed, facility, and connectivity you get from your computer. So the real message here is stop trying to make good or complex content. Just sit back and consume. Take your Soma and go to sleep. We will handle anything worth reading, creating or doing.

All of these smart devices are a menace to the internet, they are simply adding addresses and using resources, utilizing bandwidth and providing nothing useful for anyone, while big corporations lap up the network resources and leave you reading CNN and ESPN and the Wall Street Journal in 720dpi and thinking how cool you look reading while you drink your latte and drive to work at the same time. When the internet, overburdened with crappy, underpowered devices turns into the cyberghetto, you can expect that big corporations will have crafted a new internet with better security, better interfaces, more friendly tools that works better than the Internet they just corrupted and you can join them on the NewerNet for a fee equal to three times what you used to pay on their previous network. And you will pay it. The difference will be the NewerNet won’t have any means for you to create content without paying THEM.

One day, a great idea. Today, a well-designed, overpriced reliquary.

No, I am not a Luddite, or advocate running away from technology. My point of this essay is to make you question, WHY you buy technology or the company line and have you considered the ramifications when hundreds of thousands or millions of these devices, whichever they are, being created, designed and sold without any consideration for the future or the unintended consequences of those devices on everyone using the Internet. How many new devices can we create before we collapse the Internet in a twittering, social media orgasm of video feeds of cute kittens and American Idols as common as houseflies.

I don’t ever intend to give up my computer. They will get my computer and my ability to create content when they pry it from my cold dead fingers.

Soma and Lattes are counter-indicated.

If at this point, the title doesn’t make sense to you, I will help you out. In my personal belief, the iPad and all of these underpowered pieces of technological balderdash are, except for their video output a step backwards in terms of capability, usability and functionality. One day, they may grow up and be more useful or powerful but right now, we are heading backward, mesmerized by pretty video displays while we struggle to post an email using that damn touch screen.