TCP/IP is 40 years old

In honor of the critical technology that underpins everything, not least of which is this little blog, there’s a TCP/IP party on Saturday.

Tickets are $25 and can be obtained here.

There is a great list of speakers:

Vint Cerf – with Bob Kahn, wrote the TCP spec, published in the IEEE Journal May 1974
Yogen Dalal – co-authored the first TCP Specification (RFC 675, INWG 72)
Judy Estrin –  worked on the initial TCP project at Stanford
Charles Goldfarb – Markup Languages
Dan Lynch – Founder of Interop, worked on TCP at SRI with BBN
Nancy Shepherd – Mayor of the City of Palo Alto
John Shoch – PARC Universal Protocol, PUP an important predecessor to TCP
Marc Weber – Internet Historian, Computer History Museum
Sean Askay – Google Earth Outreach

The team will be launching the “Conceiving the Internet” that is collecting stories about how the Internet began.

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Internet of Everything: Part 3: Data is the new oil

Internet of Everything
Device Data Decision

Edward Snowden would have us believe that everything is online already so worrying about how much personal information is out there maybe a quixotic fear at best.

And it is true, since Snowden’s and Assange’s revelations, we now realize just how much data is out there that comes from the telemetry of our daily lives. And we are suspecting there is much more than anyone cares to say.

Our phone tells the world so much about us. This strikes fear some people who think the government is planning to subjugate them by force. If I were planning to do something very bad, I too would be fearful of the reach of the state into what I am doing. But I am not planning to do something bad, and so I am not worried if the NSA knows I went to the gas station on Saturday and that I called my daughter in Florida who was also at the gas station at the time.

In my view everything, the IoE, cannot be online soon enough! I have so many questions and I want the answers now! Big Data means we can dream big.

Storage is cheap
The coolest thing about the IT industry is the pace of change driving down the cost of technology. Thank goodness the barrier to entry is low in high-tech. Imagine how much progress we might have made if Tech behaved like Pharma and protected its secrets for decades at prices that bear no relationship to the cost of production.

With the cost of online storage fast approaching zero (and for many consumers with cloud-based storage the cost is already zero) the price of storing everything is insignificant. Think of the complexity and difficulty of piecing together one’s family tree back more than a handful of generations. Compare that to our grand-children’s ability to reconstruct our histories down to the daily level as they read through the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn archives 20 years from now.

All technology that is conceived today must make it a foundational principle that it reports its telemetry to the cloud. Who knows what insights we’ll get from our internet-connected refrigerator: a correlation between our ice-cream consumption and relationship status perhaps or a warning that the package of burger patties in the freezer has been recalled for containing donkey-meat? But not having that telemetry means not being able to get these insights.

The trend for wearable devices has been a giant consumer success. With these devices connected and delivering to the cloud we have yet more insight into who we really are.

Soon every wearable device will be part of the IoE: hearing aids that stream the TV and Radio sound and translate foreign languages, glasses that see and hear and record and upload (already here), pens that record what is written (already here) and pedometers that remind us to get up and stretch out legs (already here).

It’s all about the questions we ask
The new hot job title is going to be CQO, Chief Questioning Officer. This person will be responsible thinking of the right questions to ask and for creating the technology to answer them.

Every business, great and small, will be more successful if it delivers better goods and services with greater margins than its competitors. The IoE makes this possible. With all that data out there and with everything connected to every other thing creating more data new truths are awaiting discovery.

The IoE matters because it collects data about us and what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. It does so when we are asleep, driving, at our desk, whatever our activity. That data reveals more about us than we know ourselves. It means that organizations can see trends emerging in real-time and it means organizations can tailor products and services to individual needs (a la The Long Tail).

Why do we sell more flowers on Mondays than on Tuesday? Which cities should we stockpile the flu vaccines in this year? Where should I locate the electric car charging stations in London? And the answers are: correlate with Facebook status updates, compare with Google search results of flu symptoms and track the electric car owners paths through the city using the Congestion Charge camera data. Someone’s data contains your answers.

Data is the new oil: extract it, refine it and fuel your business with it.

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Internet of Everything Part 2: Nostalgia

Internet of Everything
Nostalgia is so yesterday

In part two we’re looking at the winners and losers in the Internet of Everything (IoE).

Movie theaters will become as anachronistic as libraries are today.
Producers will cut out the supply chain and deliver direct to the consumer’s TV and Laptop and Tablet and Car and keep them synchronized across all platforms by viewer. The better-than-movie-theater-quality-TV-and-sound-system will recognize the user and bring all the content to the screen ready to resume from where it left off. The infrastructure provided by the movie studios is so commoditized already that producers and directors can assemble what they need without the studio.

House of Cards on Netflix never aired on broadcast TV: it went straight to streaming. And there is more to come. I am one of a rapidly increasing segment in the US who does not have a cable provider. What I want to see streams to my iPad/Roku/Apple TV/Chromecast/Amazon Fire. My kids stream to their Xboxes. Cable providers who bundle 300 channels you don’t want with the dozen you actually watch will also go the way of dodo.

National boundaries will become increasingly meaningless because ex-patriots want to see their home TV shows and sporting events live in the language of their home. Restrictions about transmission out of country will disappear as artists and performers realize they have access to a global community.

7 billion people paying 1 cent is the same as 70 million people paying 1 Euro.

Content providers will have more direct connection to content consumers and the networks will be the big losers. Just like the movie studios and theaters.

Content providers will have more direct connection to content consumers and the networks will be the big losers. Just like the movie studios and theaters.

Ereaders and iPads are already the paper of the future. Most people get there news by device already today. Look at any commuter train carriage. The people with the newspapers are the older generation. Everyone else is locked into their tablet reading, listening and watching the news. Even the cross-word puzzle and Sudoku are an interactive online experience.

Print media cannot compete with Internet’s ability to let us see what our friends and colleagues are reading, to cross-reference and correlate stories with live information, make a multi-media experience.

A colleague said to me only this morning, “I used to love to read the newspaper but, by the time I pick it up now, I already know how the story turned out from my Google news feed.”

Newspapers and books will also continue as a piece of yesteryear, a living incarnation of a distant memory. And there is something to be said for the feel of a book and smell of the newspaper but it is only nostalgia that keeps us going there.

I’m sure, a century ago, the horse and buggy were seen as a technology that would soon pass into memory as the technological wizardry of the automobile began to dominate. We still take horse and buggy rides, they are not gone completely, but it is for special occasions and for the nostalgia.

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Internet of Everything: Part 1: Kitchen Politics

Internet of Everything
Change brings opportunity, opportunity brings profit

Check out the excellent post here on what is next for the Internet of Everything at PurpleWifi.

In the US, there is a fear that technology is eroding our civil liberties and powerful forces are at work trying to stifle innovation. Soon we will see that small countries, with more progressive societies and legislatures with a willingness to do something, will start to pull away from the US and Northern Europe in the Internet of Everything (IoE).

The IoE is changing how we see the world and interact with it. It continues to improve our lives and makes possible our wildest dreams.

Where there is change there is opportunity, where there is opportunity there is profit.

Far from infringing our civil liberties the IoE give us unprecedented access to information making it possible for us to choose a path in life that is both more fulfilling and more productive. Our ability to be more informed about the politics and the economics that govern our lives is unprecedented. And it will get more so.

There will be some change that people will resist. Full employment may be something we have to forget as a goal. Wealth may have to be redefined and redistributed so our societies can grow culturally, artistically and educationally instead of materially. Contribution to society may have to be measured in new ways that are not based on currencies.

Every walk of life (and even death) already has an app. In the IoE these apps join forces and assist each other in their tasks. The boundaries of the Internet expand to embrace more of our lives. Even the parts of our lives we thought were devoid of technology.

In the kitchen the refrigerator and the pantry will talk to doctor’s office and will recommend the dinner menu based on what ingredients are available and what the doctor has to say about one’s dietary needs. The fridge and the pantry will collaborate and order the food to be delivered so that we never again run out of milk. The oven will pre-heat in time for your arrival home which it will calculate by tracking your location on your commute. By reviewing your calendar the kitchen will know when Aunt May is coming to stay and order in her gluten-free flour and special brand of syrup for the pancakes she always makes. Even the dogs will be fed when your working late without you needing to worry. Irregularities in water and electrical consumption will be monitored and the plumber and electrician called before an appliance fails. When you hold a dinner party the menu planning app will know about everyone attending and their food preferences and allergy concerns.

Even politics is at risk. National boundaries, especially in Europe, are almost meaningless today. National governments provide a 19th century, centralized solution to the needs of a society where communication was slow and the population largely uneducated. In the 21st century communication is instant and all the world’s knowledge is in the palm of our hand. Why do we still insist on these arbitrary lines on maps that do not reflect who we are but who we were. Why do we need representative government when we can all vote by phone on the issues of the day as they happen? Why do we continue to place our faith in politicians who spend half of their time running for election and the half of their time raising the money to run for election. When do they ever do the business of the state. All politics is local, said Tip O’Neill, former Speaker of the House, in the future that can be literally true.

Basques can vote on Basque issues, Kurds on Kurdish ones irrespective of what the lines on the map say.

What will politicians do when the influence money is channeled to the voters instead? Will lobbyists be another anachronism that we look back at with nostalgia?

More nostalgia tomorrow.

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Change is changing

Wise advice

Wise advice

“People don’t look at their watches to see what time it is,” someone once told me “they look to see what time it isn’t.” Ever since then I have been surprised how true this is. In the same light I recently realized that “People don’t worry about how much work they have to do, they worry about the difference in the work they have to do.”

Luckily few people live in a micro managed world today. Perhaps the closest we each get to that state is when we are under the sway of our GPS-based navigation system. I find that when I am driving along I am relaxed and enjoying the journey but once the GPS speaks I become anxious and worry I might make a mistake and get on the wrong road. I don’t remember that being the case when I followed a paper map.

Why should it be that technology designed to improve the quality of life adds more stress than it relieves? It is the realization that the common, familiar practices are something we do not fear because we have already mastered then.  Any change, however, introduces uncertainty and demands a higher order of awareness and decision making.

As I look at what we use technology for today I see that it is the job of automation to take the tedium out of our daily tasks. Leaving us, the ones with the most adaptable, creative and effective processor to deal with exceptions. Yet there are many, and many people in IT, who see automation of IT as a job killer. Whereas automation is really a job enhancer: it does the repetitive for us so that we can do the interpretative and exceptional things computers cannot.

So let’s strive to automate everything in IT. We should be the paragons of technology exploitation and show the business world how it should be done! Are you up for it?

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Why are we running the debug code?

Dead weight

As every developer will tell you, when you build the application you can create a debug-version of the app. This has extra code added in that provides ongoing telemetry so that, if the application fails, the developer can see where, why and when the crash occurred.

Before the application is delivered to the users the debug code is removed making the application smaller, faster and it consumes fewer of those precious cpu-cycles.

That is the code debugger. What about the human debugger?

A big chunk of every application is code that will never be executed. This is code that is designed to help the users when they make an error. This code is the validation statements and actions and the compensating code to unwind changes that now cannot be committed.

A customer told me recently that they have to complete a form with six entries, one of which is pre-filled. They have to fill in this form, perhaps, once a month. The data is usually the same each time it is completed. This, to them, was tedious and in need of automation. Processing thousands of forms might seem as though something was being achieved but the real work is in dealing with the exceptions.

So what does this mean for computing?

Here is a the first program I ever wrote. It is in FORTRAN. It calculates the area of triangle using the semi-perimeter method.

      PROGRAM main
C     This program calculates the area of a triangle using 
C     the Semi-Perimiter method
C     By Kevin Parker 
C     Area = SQRT( SP (SP - A) * (SP - B) * (SP - C) )
C     SP   = (A + B + C) /2                                                          
C     Variable definitions                                                           
      REAL sidea, sideb, sidec, sp, aot
      INTEGER n

C     Get the lengths of the three sides
      WRITE (unit=*, fmt=1001, advance="no")"Enter length of A: "
      READ (unit=*, err=91, fmt=1002) sidea
      WRITE (unit=*, fmt=1001, advance="no")"Enter length of B: "
      READ (unit=*, err=92, fmt=1002) sideb 
      WRITE (unit=*, fmt=1001, advance="no")"Enter length of C: "
      READ (unit=*, err=93, fmt=1002) sidec

C     Validate the data  
      IF (ABS(0.0 - sidea) < 0.000001) THEN
        PRINT *, 'Invalid triangle: length of side A is zero'
      END IF

      IF (ABS(0.0 - sideb) < 0.000001) THEN
        PRINT *, 'Invalid triangle: length of side B is zero'
      END IF
      IF (ABS(0.0 - sidec) < 0.000001) THEN
        PRINT *, 'Invalid triangle: length of side C is zero'
      END IF

      IF (sidea < 0) THEN
        PRINT *, 'Invalid triangle: length of side A is negative'
      END IF

      IF (sideb < 0) THEN
        PRINT *, 'Invalid triangle: length of side B is negative'
      END IF

      IF (sidec < 0) THEN
        PRINT *, 'Invalid triangle: length of side C is negative'
      END IF

      IF (sidea > sideb + sidec) THEN
        PRINT *, 'Invalid triangle: A is > than lengths of B + C'
      END IF

      IF (sideb > sidec + sidea) THEN
        PRINT *, 'Invalid triangle: B is > than lengths of C + A'
      END IF

      IF (sidec > sidea + sideb) THEN
        PRINT *, 'Invalid triangle: C is > than lengths of A + B'
      END IF

C     Calculate the area
      sp = (sidea + sideb + sidec) / 2.0
      aot = (sp * (sp - sidea) * (sp - sideb) * (sp - sidec)) ** 0.5

C     And the result is
      WRITE (unit=*,fmt=1003) "Area of triangle ", sidea, ", ", sideb, 
     & ", ", sidec, " is ", aot


91    PRINT *, 'Invalid data entered for side A'
92    PRINT *, 'Invalid data entered for side B'
93    PRINT *, 'Invalid data entered for side C'
1001  FORMAT(a)
1002  FORMAT(f6.2)
1003  FORMAT(a,f6.3,a,f6.3,a,f6.3,a,f8.3)
1004  FORMAT(a,f9.6,a)
1005  FORMAT(a,i8,a)

      END PROGRAM main

Notice how much of the code is in red? All that code is code that, in the normal course of events, will never be executed. Once the user knows how to use the application they don’t make data entry errors so why validate the data.

In fact in this simple application the extra code increases the executable size by 10% and the run time by 40%. And the cpu cycles consumed to run are also increased by 40%.

Imagine telling your boss you can save 40% of the cpu cycles on your processors. And what if everything ran 40% faster. How much would that improve the user’s satisfaction with the system?

So am I advocating ripping out the validation code? No, not really. What I am proposing is that we might design the application such that it detects the user and determines if the user is an advanced one or a novice. If the user is an expert skip all the validation, if they’re a novice test everything until they become an expert.

Just a thought.

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DefenceIT 2014 Conference in the UK

MOD in peacetime

The annual DefenceIT conference concluded two weeks ago at the Defence Academy in the UK. More than 250 uniformed and civilian technology leaders gathered to talk about the intersection of business solutions and battle-space technology needs. Once again I was honored to be invited to participate.

I took as my theme this year the idea that the very nature of “change” is itself changing. Here is the presentation (hosted on SlideShare). It was a very interactive session and so the slides don’t quite do justice to the actual live presentation. This presentation will be reprised in London in June. Contact me for details.

This conference is, with doubt, one of the most interesting events I get to attend each year. This year was no exception. Top of mind for most attendees was the realization that, come December of this year, there will be no UK armed forces deployed in a hostile environment. That has not happened since 1914. Consequently the UK government is looking at what modern defence posture and priorities should be.

Defence spending reductions are already underway and forcing the reshaping of priorities in the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD). This is leading to rebrigading (reallocating brigades resources into fewer organizational units) which has the most immediate impact on the armed forces. However this has the potential to move the focus away from preparing for future mission profiles Her Majesty’s armed forces may be tasked to do.

The massive effort of repatriating war-fighters and their materiel from Afghanistan is well underway. However with billions of pounds worth of equipment and only a few months to complete the redeployment before winter comes, the logistical complexity is huge. Ensuring that vital, sensitive and strategic materials are shipped with priority and shipped securely is just as much of a challenge as shipping the more mundane. The added complexity of an uncertain outcome to the current Afghan elections brings a special frissance to the expression “mission critical.”

Technology is at the heart of solving these problems and the intersection between the business solutions and military need has greater congruence than ever before. Just like commercial IT users, the pace of change in the “diplomacy … by other means” business and the imperative for compliance and accountability has reached the point where accountants and politicians measure success by financial metrics as well as military ones. Technology underpins both peacetime and wartime effectiveness and the MOD is constantly in need of commerical-off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions to support the men and women serving around the world who keep the peace and establish global security.

If you have stories around how technology is helping make the world a safer, more secure place, please share in the comments.

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