Riding the Technology Wave

The old¬†adage,” The more things change, the more they¬†stay¬†the same” is meant to describe the (non-) effect of technological, political, and social change on human nature. The original author¬†intended this to mean that while the world today is very different from the world of the past, the people themselves are the same. If you were to use a time machine to pick up a baby from the 16th century and raise him today he would have all the same advantages and foibles of any modern man. Similarly, many of the obstacles¬†we encounter as a society:¬†bureaucracy,¬†intolerance, and selfishness are present in every era of human civilization.

But it is a mistake to confuse the fact that human nature never changes with the reality that human behavior almost never stops changing. This is the cardinal mistake that industries and people have made for hundreds of years. The printing press changed the reading and learning habits of people around the world while early industrialization changed buying and¬†manufacturing¬†behaviors. At each turn, those advantaged by the old ways fought tooth and nail, ultimately¬†unsuccessfully¬†to prevent these changes. While human nature remained unchanged the actual behaviors: patterns of activity, methods of¬†accomplishment, and ways of¬†achieving¬†success were fundamentally altered. The are some recent examples of this phenomenon that can help us understand where we might do better. (more…)

The Drive to Make the Dumbest Smartphone

You’ve probably heard the old joke or some variation by now: “If cars were more like computers we would all be driving twenty-five dollar cars that got 1000 mi/gal, but for no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.”

Well, if your car was more like a smart phone:

  • It would do absolutely everything faster except its primary purpose: driving. That would be exactly the same – maybe a little worse.
  • All tolls on the road would go up and you’d be limited in how much you can drive in a given month.
  • It would have really sleek lines and a polished look that¬†you would never get to see because you needed to cover it up¬†at all times to avoid constant scratches, dents, and smudges¬†from normal use.
  • It would only work on certain types of roads and only in your own country¬†unless you’d wanted to swap out all the tires.
  • It would come with dozens of accessories you don’t want or need, but would be missing key features like a radio or air conditioning. But don’t worry, you can add these on later for an extra fee.
  • If it ever broke you couldn’t get it repaired or replace a part, the dealer would just swap it with an identical car.
  • The manufacturers would be competing with each other about who has the largest number of aftermarket add-ons, but if you install them anywhere by the dealership you void your warranty.
  • The interior would be many times smaller than¬†your old car, but¬†the windshield is¬†five times larger.
  • It’s so simple to use.¬†The manufacture didn’t want you to have to worry about little things like seat position, cup holders, window visors, or leg room so they made it one size fits all.
  • It will easily replace all your other modes of transportation unless you need to leave the road and then you have to get out.
  • You would have to fill up the tank at least once a day.
  • From the outside¬†your car¬†looks exactly like every other car on the road.
  • All the car manufacturers would be suing each other claiming they have exclusive rights to features like: “turning right”, “parking”, and “lockable doors”.
  • Even though you car works perfectly well for¬†how you drive¬†you’ll get a new one every couple of years when your lease runs out because the new one has a slightly better dashboard layout. (more…)

Mobility Growing Pains

About three months ago I was considering a blog post about how the diversity and fragmentation in the mobile operating system environment was going away. Nokia and¬† Microsoft were getting together, Android was growing by leaps and bounds and even Blackberry was planning to run Android apps, Apple seemed rock solid, and WebOS was purchased by a big player with deep pockets. Now? Not so much. Oh what a few months can mean . . . (more…)

Avoiding the Meltdown

melted-animation-sculpture by Cecilia Fletcher, on Flickr
Image by Cecilia Fletcher, on Flickr

You need to learn from your mistakes in order to survive, but you need to learn from other people’s mistakes if you want to succeed. I recently had the occasion to research the nuclear power tragedies at Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi. Each disaster came about for very different reasons but both highlighted several common mistakes, both in preparation and in response. While very few organizations are going to have issues that are literally life and death, we can still take the key lessons to heart. These two nuclear catastrophes together have taken the lives of many dedicated and brave individuals and the communities and nations around the affected locations are still today trying to recover. Without callously pointing blame in any particular direction we will take a sober look at some of the commonly accepted missteps that occurred to produce these two terrible events and examine how the lessons that can be learned from them. (more…)

Social Networking in the Enterprise: How to Make Friends and Influence Customers

Social Media Guru by scott_hampson, on FlickrTo say that social networking is the current trend on the web is like saying it gets colder in the winter. The top social¬†media¬†companies: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all fighting for¬†position in the market with varying levels of¬†success.¬†¬†Other big names in technology are struggling to find their piece of the pie with products like Google+, Apple’s Ping, and Windows Live Messenger. Even relatively smaller application developers and service providers are following the trend and putting social media tools or integration hooks into¬†their¬†product offerings. But from an enterprise perspective, what does social networking mean for you? Here are some suggestions. (more…)

The Next REALLY Big Thing

Webb Telescope Mirrors Arrive at NASA Goddard
Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Chris Gunn

The NASA shuttle program ended this month. Now, as NASA turns from government-funded¬†space exploration to private corporation space commerce the future of space-based technology is (sorry for the pun) “up in the air”. Whether you believe that the capitalization of the space market is going to create a brighter, better future for space-based innovation and travel or you feel that the end of the shuttle age marks a new low in mankind’s more and more unlikely quest to conquer the stars you would almost have to agree that without the shuttle program and many of¬†NASA’s other programs such as: Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury, space, and how we use it, would look nothing like it does today. Those programs and the technological innovations¬†they helped bring to fruition cost the US government staggering amounts of money and never returned any¬†direct monetary¬†profit for NASA despite decades of continued investment. No matter how you look at it, only a government could pull off something like that. Some things are just so monumentally, enormously big that no private company could, or would, ever attempt, let alone succeed at them. Yet they make it possible for private industry to flourish¬†in a way that would not have been possible before. So now that the era of government-funded space exploration is over, what will be the next really big thing? (more…)

FYI – Blog Migration

We’ve just completed the migration from our old blogging service to WordPress.¬†There was no way to import our old blog entries so they had to be recreated by hand. Unfortunately, this means:

  1. The old URLs won’t work. You may need to use the search tool to locate the post in the new system.
  2. The date and time stamps associated with the blog entries are all off. We did get them put in the correct order though. UPDATE: we’ve corrected the dates!
  3. I’m listed as the author for all of the migrated posts even though Brett actually wrote¬†many of them. UPDATE: we’ve corrected the authors!

We’ve tried to correct all cross-links within the posts, but if you find any broken links, please leave a comment on the appropriate post.

Power Play

LTA, BALLOONS, USA, CIVIL WAR, LOWE, GAS GENERATORS & COOLERS by public.resource.org, on Flickr
Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

Mobile device manufacturers have made some incredible innovations in the past few years. It is even more fantastic when you consider that they have been working behind a major roadblock for the past decade. While microprocessors, radio receivers and transmitters, hard drives, RAM, LCD screens and other mobile device components have been getting steadily smaller and at the same time dramatically improving their performance, once particular component has basically stagnated: the power source. Now the largest, heaviest, and often most expensive part of your mobile device is the battery, without a dramatic revolution in power technology mobile devices may been coming up on an innovation wall. But there may be hope. (more…)

Gamers Did That

online role playing games by Combined Media, on Flickr

Illustration by Michael Whitehead for Livewire - Green Guide

Love your new, super cool smartphone? Being extra productive on that blazing fast laptop? Surfing the net faster than you can click your mouse? Thank a gamer.

When the first personal computers came out they were nothing more than a curiosity for technophiles. Few, if any, people saw any real-world advantage and certainly business owners weren’t going to shell out the thousands of dollars per machine to bring them to every desktop in the office. Then VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program, came along and suddenly everyone understood what this new computer evolution meant. Later hardware would lead the charge with the introduction of the mouse. For the first time desktop publishing and digital design were feasible. But through it all, there was one group of users who constantly pushed the envelope and forced hardware and software makers to improve and innovate and they are still doing it today. (more…)

Browser War II – The Desktop Front

The Internet, April 14 РDuring this lull in the flighting our brave corespondents, from battlefields around the world, take a moment to collect their notes on the conflict, its combatants, and its origins. In the first part of this series, we examine the battle for the Desktop Browser, a conflict that perhaps has seen more brutal fighting in this war and in wars of the past than any other in the history of the digital world. As journalists it is not our place to promote any particular side of this struggle over any other, although as patriots we surely do have such bias. We have attempted here to keep such feelings from expression.

Browser War II