Archives for the month of: January, 2015

I am not an Apple fan. They build great stuff, or so I am told. And the fact that they are now the most profitable company on the planet makes them even less likeable in my book. (I am generally speaking, an underdog kind of guy).

My gut instinct tells me if something is really (really) popular – as in popular culture – then chances are the product/experience has been munged so far out into the mainstream that I know I am not going to like it. Brittney Spears. Rhianna. Taylor Swift. Mainstream. Apple. Drek.

I will say no more about Apple. I don’t own any of their products and never intend to.

Google. Sorry. But I am no longer a fan. The company has both some design and operational ideologies that I find dishonest to the point of being deal-breakers. First, the only reason that they created Android to begin with was to keep Apple from taking over the world. The Android phone was their shoe in the door to keep them from being totally locked out of the mobile market.

Oh? You thought Google/Android was all about democratizing the smartphone? Like providing the same functionality as the iPhone but at a lower price point? While that might have happened (kind of) in some instances, the real story has nothing to do with that.

Anyway, Google made a brilliant play and it worked. Now, Android smartphones outsells iPhones. But Google essentially gives the OS away. Why? Again, to keep the door open to the mobile market.

So what do Google, Amazon, and Facebook all have in common? Cloud Services. And that’s the direction to where all mobile devices ultimately point.

Which brings me to the second thing – another inexplicable and largely unaddressed aspect of their design ideology that pisses me off is the combination of tiny onboard storage and lack of connectivity.

And no, it’s got nothing to do with the respective size of the devices. Case in point – the Raspberry Pi style micro-computers.

You have to kind of reason your way through it like I did to begin to understand why all their phones and tablets have that annoying combination of limited storage and no real means of connecting them to external devices like thumbdrives and SSD. And yes, I am aware of USB-OTG but it is both limited and a pain in the ass.

So why didn’t Google build a better file manager into their OS? One that could see the file structures of external attached devices? Simple. They want you to use their Cloud Service, Google Drive for storage. Why? Because it helps close the ecosystem.

Note: everything stored in Google Drive is seen by Google; it’s part of those Ts and Cs that you didn’t read. And as such they can target marketing towards you based upon what they can begin to perceive as your likes and dislikes. Which all makes it easier for them to ask ‘if you want fries with that.’

Why do you think Amazon introduced their own phone? All about tightening the noose my friend.

Oh yeah, and there is another thing that’s grinding on my ass about Google and that’s how f***ing sloppy their OS updates and releases are. Everything that they’ve ever released has been majorly buggy. Majorly buggy. But hey, it’s free, right?

Now Microsoft – unbeknownst to a lot of those doomsayer analysts out there – actually have an opportunity to pick up the ball that Google has fumbled. First, Microsoft actually tests their OSs and applications. And their stuff works. Windows 10 is going to be a game changer.

A Windows 10 phone will be my next phone. And Windows 10 will be on my next workstation. And don’t kid yourselves, workstations and PCs aren’t going anywhere. Why? For two reasons, one – because mobile devices as productivity tools can’t bench their own weight and two, gamers and the whole electronic game industry is keeping the big iron relevant.

PS – If I ever buy another tablet, there is a strong chance that it will be running Windows 10 too.

Android, you’re dead to me.

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I am headed back to the US next month for a short visit. I’ll be there mostly to continue work on my Mexican visa applications. But because electronics there are so much less expensive than here in Mexico I’ve been considering and winnowing my critical purchase list.

I am after all running on some real old technology. My smartphone (the original Google Nexus One) just turned five years old. And both my netbook and workstation are about the same age.  Everything is running fine but entropic forces continue their grind.

I replaced the batteries in both the netbook and my phone about a year ago. Those were the pieces – given their age – that were most likely to further degrade and fail. I continue to be unimpressed by the current new releases of phones so I see no reason to upgrade until such a time as there is something or some feature that I truly need.

My netbook (a nice old Lenovo) – in light of my workstation and 30″ monitor – I view merely these days as another data back up device that also conveniently has a CPU, monitor, and keyboard attached. I did upgrade the OS from XP pro to Win 7 pro 32-bit a few months ago not long after Microsoft pulled the plug on XP in April. I also upgraded the speed by enabling ReadyBoost via an inexpensive 8 GB SD card.

So that leaves the almost 5 year old workstation for me to critique, where believe it or not, the bootdrive on it is a tiny 40 GB SSD. It holds Win 7 Ultimate 64-bit and the entire Microsoft Office suite as well as some other applications. Surprisingly, those only take up 28 GB of storage. But Windows, the way it manages updates, likes to write the older, replaced versions to this root drive so I have to be ever vigilant with disk cleanup as otherwise the remaining 10 GB of free space slowly disappears with each new update.

The workstation has 3 other drives – HDDs – that all add up to 4.5 TB of storage. One of those is bound to fail sooner or later as the average life expectancy of an HDD is 5 years. But if a drive did fail anytime soon there would still be sufficient storage to support my needs.

All that said, it seems to me that weakest link of my data network is the SSD powering the workstation. It’s not imminently prone to fail anytime soon but it was a compromise – the size – that I made back when I was building the system and SSDs were so expensive.

So the plan is to buy a Samsung 850 EVO 500 GB SSD which on Amazon cost about $230. I am buying the 850 (instead of the 840 model) because the 850 features Samsung’s latest technology by way of what they call 32-Layer 3D V-NAND. It utilizes what I imagine is the same technology that Intel has been using since 2012 in their latest generation CPUs. The improvements that come with 3-D are smaller form factors, increased reliability, performance, and smaller power consumption.

So when I get this new 500 GB SSD back to Mexico I will immediately image it to look exactly like the 40 GB which will effectively make it a hot swappable drive should the 40GB fail.

And because it is in a 2.5″ package, it could just as easily slot into my next laptop that I intend to buy in Jan. 2016. That will be when the magic forces of Windows 10 will combine with Intel’s mid-2015 release of their Broadwell quad-core laptops.

Oh yes, my friends. Windows 10 running on an Intel Broadwell quad-core laptop.

PS – And if you buy before Jan. 2016, you’ll be just throwing away your money.

PPS – Know your Intel CPUs

Intel CPUs

 

I apologize to anyone who finds these posts on the “Internet of Things” boring and/or slightly repetitive. I have found myself in some ongoing discussions with some of the EEtimes columnists and I have thought it to be useful to post some of those comments to this blog of mine so that I can keep track. For example, when I reread my first IoT post I see how limited my knowledge was – not to mention my vision – of how I perceived the emerging IoT to be; which was then confined only in terms of consumer applications.

This blog was/is/and will continue to be my diary of sorts. Blogging, as I have been discovering, has been a great tool for me. I get a chance to continue to practice the craft of writing. When my fiction writing gets stale – I am working on novel #2 – then I switch over to this blog which is lighter, easier and sometimes more pleasurable. But whatever/wherever I am writing; I am working. And that’s good.

And writing about technical things or my opinions on politics or my thoughts on the modern condition are great organizational exercises. I find that writing this blog helps me to be more articulate in framing my arguments.

That preface said, here is my latest (of 3) comments to the writer (Larry Mittag) of the EETimes article, ‘The IoT Landscape Needs Mapping‘:

 

Thanks again for your thoughtful reply. And I had to go back and check on the FCC/IoT security related article that I read and you were right; FTC is was.
And yes, being a left-hander I am slightly dyslexic, but when did communications security become the realm of the FTC? Okay, security (read privacy) but still?

I haven’t read the FTC’s charter (nor do I intend to) but their concerns over privacy issues surrounding personal information being transmitted by IoT sensor like devices sounds like gratuitous – if not malicious – meddling/snooping to me. (If our personal information privacy is so important to them then they should have started their discussions with the NSA some time ago).

And I agree with your recent comment that chirping sensors are/will be/should be isolated as well as gatewayed into the internet. That only makes sense.

And yes, I agree that the new emerging world of the IoT will not be black and white and that is the reason why I originally responded to your well-written (and aptly titled) article. Meaning, the IoT is not merely just the continuation of the evolution of the present internet, in that the IoT infrastructure is by general consensus defined as machine to machine (m2m) – the Internet of Things – seen as bolted onto (or gatewayed into) the existing internet.

But more importantly, I also do not believe that the IoT was the intended consequence of IPv6 – which again brings me back to the purpose of my original reply to your comment(s) that the IoT needs mapping.

The only place where I guess that you lose me is when you talk about core sensors. Coming from a petro-chem background (before switching my EE career to electronics and communication systems in the early ’90s), I do not understand what could/would comprise a core sensor. The old petro-chem paradigm was that sensors talked to controllers. There were no core sensors.”

I have been limping  around with a stomach ache for the last 2 days. In the doing, I lost my appetite and must confess – being a lover of good food – I almost lost my will to live.

There is a small amount of exaggeration to that last bit but the fact is I’ve been sick. Couldn’t eat or sleep. Not even reading or watching a video could take my mind off how miserable I felt.

So I got to ruminating on it this morning and asked myself, why is it when you reach a certain age that every illness feels mortal?

Contrast that to the immortality of youth.

I remember once when I was 18. I was staying with my grandmother. It was summer. And I woke up that morning feeling out of sorts. I unenthusiastically ate breakfast then headed off to the beach. I took a dive into Little Traverse Bay (Lake Michigan) and the shock of hitting that cold water was just that, a shock. I lay around on the beach the rest of the day and could not summon the energy to go back into the water.

Even though I felt like pure unadulterated crap, I still made plans to go out drinking with my buddies that evening; 18 was legal back then (as if that would have mattered).

My buddy, Behan dropped me back at my grandmother’s house. Riding on the back of his 650 Triumph Bonneville just plain hurt for some reason – the jolts, the cold air, the noise – all sent unfriendly harmonics through my body. My bones even hurt. But still I told him that we’d meet up at the Park Garden’s at 8.

My grandmother took one look at me and decided something wasn’t right. She asked me to stick out my tongue, frowned, then went to the medicine cabinet and got out her thermometer.

I had a temperature of a 105. Meaning, as I learned, pretty seriously sick. And I look back on that now and know with great certitude that without my grandmother’s intervention and her taking my temperature – or short of lapsing into a coma beforehand – I would have gone out drinking that night.

PS – However, confronted as I was with the facts, I went straight to bed and didn’t get up for two days.

 

The British paper, The Independent this morning featured an article recounting some of the more famous gaffes of Prince Philip. Now at the age of 93, he’s had lots of time to practice his particularly querulous and acerbic form of British humor.

This is one in particular stood out.

[Prince Philip] To a wheelchair-bound Susan Edwards, and her guide dog Natalie in 2002: “Do you know they have eating dogs for the anorexic now?”

 

Interesting goings on in the Middle East. I wouldn’t have pictured a non-nuclear Iran as being a serious contender but I got to say that the Israeli papers: The Jerusalem Post, Israel National News, and the Times of Israel have all got me rethinking the entire game board. Even Fox News weighed in with a corroborating story this morning.

So the short story is, if any of these news stories are to believed, as in Iran is arming/advising and on the ground supporting the victorious Shiite rebels in Yemen then they’ve mostly got Saudi Arabia (and Israel) – for all practical purposes anyway – surrounded.

If so, Iran has now got troops on the ground in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and quite possibly Iraq.

So how is all this new? Well, Assad was able to keep their ally, Iran at arms length until ISIS showed up. The ISIS crisis opened the door for both Iran and their proxies, Hezbollah to get in country.  Now if Iran is in fact in Yemen then that gives them entree into the southern border of Saudi Arabia as well.

And if you haven’t been following the news – or aren’t a student of history – Iran (Shiite) and Saudi Arabia (Sunni) are enemies. And two, Saudi Arabia with their low oil prices, have been undermining the revenues of Iran (not to mention Russia, another regional player).

Saudi Arabia, as of yesterday, got a new king. Although he is supposedly going to maintain the existing status quo, e.g. low oil prices, and their existing relations with their existing allies, this change of command poses yet another variable in the region.

Saudi Arabia has been less than happy – so the stories go – with Obama’s lack of action concerning shutting down Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And now, to add insult to injury, the Kingdom of Saud is now surrounded by its number one enemy, Iran.

My guess would be that Iran isn’t going to do anything directly. I expect that they’ll continue to do two things. Continue increasing their grip on the region, squeezing like a boa constrictor. And two, let their eager proxies continue to do the heavy lifting. Hezbollah, armed with both a fresh grievance against Israel and so they say, the means – 150,000 projectiles – to prosecute said grievance, then it could be that they would begin a larger agitation from the north.

And the Shiite Yemeni rebels to the south, courtesy of their recent local victory, just freed up a bunch of resources to escalate their ongoing 5 year long military sorties into southern Saudi Arabia.

Now I am not a conspiracy theory kind of guy, although simplistically speaking a conspiracy is really nothing more than two or more guys plotting mayhem. Emphasis on the word, plotting.

No. What we got here are multiple events that have gone way beyond the conspiracy phase and now are deeply ensconced in actively pursuing the actual mayhem.

By my calculation, there are twenty-odd variables that are presently at play in the Middle East. And my guess is that one of those shoes is going to drop before Obama leaves office. Why? Obama is perceived as weak. Obama has in so many recent actions and words, reneged on the only real ally the US has in the region, Israel. Saudi Arabia is justifiably convinced both through the present administration’s treatment of Israel and their equal hand-jobbing of the Iran nuclear crisis that they are on their own.

So If I were the one up to re-landscaping the Middle East into a caliph-color of my own choosing then I couldn’t see a better possible time than now.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get anymore complicated.

An article in this morning’s British paper, the Independent, reported that the US is fighting a two front war smack dab in the middle of the ongoing Yemeni civil war. It seems the US is fighting both the Al-Qaeda faction as well as another faction, the Shiite rebels who are battling the Yemeni government. Why both? Because Al-Qaeda are old enemies that threaten to destroy the US and the Shiite faction threatens the northern neighbor of Yemen, Saudi Arabia (with whom they’ve had an on again off again shooting battle with for the last five years).

And the US as we all know is fighting in Syria against both the Assad government (Shiite) – mostly using spies and propaganda – while all the meanwhile running air sorties against their enemy, ISIS (Sunni).

So militarily in Syria you currently have the Assad regime, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, ISIS, and the US. And kind of sort of Israel.

Over this past weekend the Israelis graduated from the periodic bombing of munitions depots in Syria to destroying a motorcade on their border with Syria, killing 6 senior Hezbollah and 6 senior Iranians officials; one being an Iranian general.

Hezbollah (Shiite), in case you’ve forgotten, are the Lebanese based proxy for Iran (Shiite). And Lebanon, just so you don’t have to look at a map, sits on the northern border of Israel. So if this story is true, Hezbollah with it’s 150,000 missiles – advised by Iran – are/were planning mischief with Israel and the Israeli helicopter gunship disrupted what was reported as a senior level scouting mission.

So there is Iran (Shiite) fighting along side Hezbollah (Shiite) against ISIS (Sunni) in Syria.  ISIS, whom Saudi Arabia (Sunni Wahabi) quit supporting once ISIS made it clear that they wanted the whole Middle East pie (their own caliphate) which unfortunately, as it turns out for the Kingdom of Saud, includes the entire Saudi Arabian peninsula.

Russia is involved because they have substantial investments in Syria and would stand to lose those should Assad fall including their port facility in Tarsus which is the only direct Mediterranean access for the Russian Navy. And then of course, Russia is allies with Iran.

The US is dicking around in Syria because ISIS is a threat not just to our sort of ally, Saudi Arabia but also to the entire region. So the US is helping Assad (kind of) by fighting ISIS while also trying to undermine him because Assad is buddies with both Putin and Iran.

It is all infinitely more complicated than the 19th century’s ‘The Great Game’ where Russia fought the British Empire for dominance in Central Asia.

In keeping with the game metaphor – as I believe it was the Persian’s who invented the game of chess – then it should come as no surprise that the US State Department is being intellectually outgunned by the Iranians (not to mention the Russians, who are also avid players).

So while the US is dithering, the Iranians are developing nuclear weapons to destroy Israel. And that nuclear advantage – used or unused – will also give them hegemony over the entire Middle East. Which of course will lead to a regional nuclear arms race as Saudi Arabia (at the very least) will need nuclear weapons too, just to avoid getting their asses kicked by the Shiites.

All the meanwhile Turkey dreams of a resurrected Ottoman Empire.

Then there is Putin and his regime trying to survive $50/barrel oil prices brought upon him by the House of Saud in collusion with the US. (If I was Putin I’d be thinking of how I could restrict the flow of oil to drive the prices back up).

And Turkey to the north is letting ISIS kill Kurds because their take is somebody has to do it.

And US foreign policy being as f***ed up as it is means that no one in the current government has any real idea how to stop the shit from spiraling out of control over there. John Kerry? Right.

So the real issues are: Shiite vs. Sunni, hegemony (caliphates): Turkey, Iran, ISIS. And all the meanwhile Saudi Arabia is squeezing Putin by the balls which is probably not the most prudent thing to do considering the kingdom is surrounded by hostile neighbors and has mostly a single flaky ally who goes by the name of Obama.

And the irony is if it weren’t for the oil, no one would give a shit.

How is all this going to turn out? I am guessing that there will be lots of pieces taken before someone eventually loses their king.

PS – As of later today, the Associated Press announced that the Yemen President resigned and that the Shiite rebels “effectively control the capital Sanaa, several other cities and state institutions, but their writ does not extend to vast areas of the country that are predominantly Sunni, where its recent encroachments have fanned fears of a sectarian conflict.”

And from the Times of Israel, Jan. 23, 2015 – “Even if a new regime rises in Yemen that includes Sunnis and Houthis (the Shiite rebels), the latter are likely to run the show and are expected to allow the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to operate in the country.”

PPS – And then there are the Yemeni Al-Qaeda who just recently took credit for one of the two terror attacks in Paris.

And there are more variables. Unstable Pakistan. The Palestinians. Hamas. Gaza tunnels. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The fight over Jerusalem.

But the best player of all will turn out to be the one who has the most to lose. Who else? Israel. But fortunately for them – they are the smartest, toughest bastards on the planet.

At 95 years of age, he is the last surviving member of Sir Winston Churchill’s cabinet. I read an article this morning in the British Telegraph concerning some of his reminiscences of Churchill and found his comment on President Obama to be particularly thought provoking.

He said, ”I think he’s (Obama) doing rather badly. I said to Henry Kissinger – an old mate of mine – what he thought of him, and he replied: ‘He makes the most wonderful speeches, very thoughtful. The trouble is: he thinks having made the speech, he has solved the problem.’ And I agree.’’

PS – He had other enlightening comments on the subject of other foreign leaders he had met over the years. Ronald Reagan was ”the most delightful man — funny, not clever but full of common sense’’. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was ”clever, but rather grand. He tried to patronise Margaret, which didn’t go down well.’’ Mitterand? ”Not a very upright man’’; Jimmy Carter “left an awful mess behind’’.

With these IoT discussions I am like a dog with bone. I find it maddening that most commentators make what I consider to be one or more of the following four very erroneous assumptions: 1) the IoT and IPv6 are part and parcel of the same thing and 2) said in a slightly different way, that IPv6 was the mandate for the IoT and 3) the IoT is just another name for the evolving, growing internet and 4) the entire IoT all needs to have the same architecture.

So my latest reply to a EETimes article was as follows. (Oh – the article was entitled ‘Namesdropping: The Many Names of the Internet of Things’).

“Entertaining article – thanks, but I feel as if it were somewhat misleading.

First, IPv6 was conceived  – as I recall – not to provide the addressing scheme for the coming IoT but rather as an end all/be all answer to the limitations of IPv4.

Second, the IoT – to my way of thinking – was not just another dreamed up name to speak to the evolution of the internet as imagined through the lense of IPv6 but rather was to speak to the upcoming (100’s of billions) of things in the form of [mostly commercial/industrial] sensors that would take their places – in some yet to be determined fashion – on the internet.

Third, these things – these, sensors things – do not (if taken in a commercial/industrial setting) necessarily fit the same communication paradigm as those smart computing devices utilizing TCP/IP. I refer to daCosta saying that most sensors will/could use mostly unidirectional ‘chirps’.

You didn’t speak to the following but I would like to finish my argument and say in conclusion:

Fourth, these ‘chirping’, mostly unintelligent sensor devices will not have (aka not need) the requisite memory or processing power to carry the IP protocol stack or need to/want to participate in processing packets where the addresses are 128 bits.

And fifth, it seems myopically illogical to architect the [industrial/commercial side] of the IoT based on IPv6 just because it is easier to envision everything – industrial sensors and all – on the same flavor of internet.

I mean think about it in the following context. An agro-business with thousands of moisture sensors. Sporadic chirps consisting of a few bits (the size of the data payload) of moisture information; this as related to a data header size that might be a 100 times larger.

Packets on the network where the data headers consistently have sizes something like two orders of magnitude larger than the data payload? That’s not good engineering.”

I usually see this old woman sitting out in front of her house in the mornings soaking up the sun as she watches the world go by. She lives just up around the corner on Melgar St. and is half way down the block to where my little parrot buddy, Mateo spends his day doing pretty much the same thing.

Today I saw her walking down the hill on the arm of her son and I didn’t recognize her at first as she had her back to me. All I saw was a very stooped ancient old woman with a cane in her right hand leaning on her son with her left.

I was headed down the hill and my next observation was how adroitly she was moving for a woman her age. Her steps were confident and she walked – not shuffled. And it seemed possible that her cane and her son were mostly just there for companionship and insurance.

When I caught up to them we recognized each other and we exchanged warm pleasantries and she told her son that I always stopped to say hello every time I passed her house and saw her sitting outside.

This woman radiates health, kindness and love. I couldn’t stop myself from asking how old she was and she happily replied that she was 96.

And with great sincerity I said to her, “Eres Agradable.” Meaning, “You are very pleasing, very beautiful.” She smiled at me with happiness. And her son thanked me and then they both wished me the best of all possible days.

PS – I see these old people here every day. Lots of people in their ’80s and ’90s who still manage to live full lives. Happy lives. Joyful lives. And it seems to me a great blessing to be here among them.