Technology and Government: A Management Challenge for the 21st Century

August 15, 2018

Throughout history, government funding has led to some of the greatest technological advances known to man. Thank NASA next time you strap on your Velcro shoes or sip some Tang. Recently, some voices in Silicon Valley spoke out to try and repair the rift among tech and government. We learned more from a recent Washington Post Op-Ed, “Silicon Valley Should Stop Ostracizing the Military.”

According to the story:

“The world is safer and more peaceful with strong U.S. leadership. That requires the U.S. government to maintain its advantage in critical technologies such as AI. But doing so will be difficult if Silicon Valley’s rising hostility toward working with Washington continues. In June, Google…announced that it would not renew a Pentagon contract for an AI program called Project Maven when it expires next year.”

The biggest concern is that Russia and China are rapidly advancing their AI weaponry and leaving behind the US. This, they argue, weakens the freedom-loving world, so it is time for these often diametrically opposed organizations to make up for the good of the planet.

With the Department of Defense moving toward a decision about the $10 billion cloud procurement, Beyond Search anticipates more employee-management tension at the high technology giants jockeying for US government contracts.

Should employees expect a company’s Board of Directors and senior management to go in the direction employees want?

MBAs and high school math club thinking may create administrative friction. Whom does a tech slow down benefit? Electric scooter riders?

Patrick Roland, August 15, 2018

Google Contributes to the History of Kubernetes

August 15, 2018

It is time for a history lesson; the Google Cloud Platform Blog proffers, “From Google to the World: The Kubernetes Origin Story.” Anyone curious about the origins of the open source management system may want to check it out. The post begins with a description of the 2013 meeting at which the Kubernetes co-founders pitched their idea to executive Urs Holzle, which only happened because one of those founders (and author of the post) Craig McLuckie found himself on a shuttle with the company’s then-VP of Cloud Eric Brewer. To conclude the post, McLuckie notes Kubernetes is now deployed in thousands of organizations and has benefitted from some 237 person-years’ worth of coding put in by some 830 contributors. In between we find a little Star Trek-related trivia; McLuckie writes:

“In keeping with the Borg theme, we named it Project Seven of Nine. (Side note: in an homage to the original name, this is also why the Kubernetes logo has seven sides.) We wanted to build something that incorporated everything we had learned about container management at Google through the design and deployment of Borg and its successor, Omega — all combined with an elegant, simple and easy-to-use UI. In three months, we had a prototype that was ready to share.

We also noted this statement:

“We always believed that open-sourcing Kubernetes was the right way to go, bringing many benefits to the project. For one, feedback loops were essentially instantaneous — if there was a problem or something didn’t work quite right, we knew about it immediately. But most importantly, we were able to work with lots of great engineers, many of whom really understood the needs of businesses who would benefit from deploying containers (have a look at the Kubernetes blog for perspectives from some of the early contributors).”

McLuckie includes links for potential users to explore the Kubernetes Engine and, perhaps, begin a two-month free trial. Finally, he suggests we navigate to his Kubernetes Origins podcast hosted by Software Engineering Daily for more information.

History is good.

Cynthia Murrell, August 15, 2018

Applique Logic: Alex Jones and Turbo Charging Magnetism

August 9, 2018

I am not sure I have read an Alex Jones’ essay or watched an Alex Jones’ video. In fact, he was one of the individuals of whom I was aware, but he was not on my knowledge radar. Now he is difficult to ignore.

Today’s New York Times corrected my knowledge gap. I noted in my dead tree edition today (August 9, 2018) these stories:

  • Facebook’s Worst Demons Have Come Home to Roost, page B1
  • Infowars App Is Trending As Platforms Ban Content, B6
  • The Internet Trolls Have Won. Get Used to It, B7

I want to mention “Rules Won’t Save Twitter. Values Will” at this online location.

From my vantage point in rural Kentucky, each of the writes up contributes to the logic quilt for censoring the real Alex Jones.

Taken together, the information in the write ups provide a helpful example of what I call “appliqué logic.”

Applique means, according to Google which helpfully points to Wikipedia, another information source which may be questionable to some, is:

Appliqué is ornamental needlework in which pieces of fabric in different shapes and patterns are sewn or stuck onto a larger piece to form a picture or pattern. It it commonly used as decoration, especially on garments. The technique is accomplished either by hand or machine. Appliqué is commonly practiced with textiles, but the term may be applied to similar techniques used on different materials.

Applique logic is reasoning stuck on to something else. In this case, the “something else” are the online monopolies which control access to certain types of information.

The logic is that the monopolies are technology, which is assumed to be neutral. I won’t drag you through my Eagleton Award lecture from a quarter century ago to remind you that the assumption may not be correct.

The way to fix challenges like “Alex Jones” is to stick a solution on the monopoly. This is similar to customizing a vehicle like this one:

Image result for outrageous automobiles

Notice how the school bus (a mundane vehicle) has been enhanced with what are appliqués. The result does not change the functioning of the school bus, but it now has some sizzle. I suppose the appliqué logician could write a paper and submit the essay to an open access publisher to explain the needed improvements the horns add.

With the oddly synchronized actions against the Alex Jones content, we have the equivalent of a group of automobile customizers finding ways to “enhance” their system.

The result is to convert what no one notices into something that would make a Silicon Valley PR person delighted to promote. I assume that a presentation at a zippy new conference would be easy for the appliqué team to book.

The apparent censorship of Alex Jones is now drawing a crowd. Here I am in Harrods Creek writing about a person to whom I previously directed zero attention. The New York Times coverage is doing a better job than I could with a single write up in a personal blog. In the land of “free speech” the Alex Jones affair may become an Amazon Prime or Netflix original program. Maybe a movie is in the works?

Back to appliqué logic. When it comes to digital content, sticking on a solution may not have the desired outcome. The sticker wants one thing. The stickee is motivated to solve the problem; for example, the earthquake watcher Dutch Sinse has jumped from YouTube to Twitch to avoid censorship. He offered an explanation about this action and referenced the Washington Post. I don’t follow Dutch Sinse so I don’t know what he is referencing, and I don’t care to be honest.

But the more interesting outcome of these Alex Jones related actions is that the appliqué logic has to embrace the “stickoids.” These are the people who now have a rallying point. My hunch is that whatever information Alex Jones provides, he is in a position to ride a pretty frisky pony at least for a a moment in Internet time.

Why won’t appliqué logic work when trying to address the challenges companies like Facebook, Google, et al face?

  1. Stick ons increase complexity. Complexity creates security issues which, until it is too late, remain unknown
  2. Alex Jones type actions rally the troops. I am not a troop, but here I am writing about this individual. Imagine the motivation for those who care about Mr. Jones’ messages
  3. Opportunities for misinformation, disinformation, and reformation multiply. In short, the filtering and other appliqué solutions will increase computational cost, legal costs, and administrative costs. Facebook and Google type companies are not keen on increased costs in my opinion.
  4. Alex Jones type actions attack legal eagles.

What’s the fix? There is a spectrum of options available. On one end, believe that the experts running the monopolies will do the right thing. Hope is useful, maybe even in this case. At the other end, the Putin approach may be needed. Censorship, fines, jail time, and more extreme measures if the online systems don’t snap a crisp salute.

Applique solutions are what’s available. I await the final creation. I assume there will be something more eye catching than green paint, white flame decoration, and (I don’t want to forget) the big green horns.

For Alex Jones, censorship may have turbocharged his messaging capability. What can one stick on him now? What will the stickoids do? Protest marches, Dark Web collections of his content, encrypted chat among fans?

I know one thing: Pundits and real journalists will come up with more appliqué fixes. Easy, fast, and cheap. Reasoning from the aisles of Hobby Lobby or Michael’s is better than other types of analytic thought.

Stephen E Arnold, August 9, 2018

Factualities for Wednesday, August 8, 2018

August 8, 2018

Beyond Search noted these factualities in the last week. Believe ‘em or not:

  1. TGI Fridays, The home of the loaded baked potato, allegedly doubled business and grew
    “engagement” by 500 percent with… artificial intelligence. Source: Venture Beat
  2. Machine learning is like medieval alchemy. Source: Guardian
  3. According to Internet Live Stats, Google conducts 40,000 searches per second. No data about relevance was provided. Source: CBS
  4. There will be 90% fewer attorneys in the next 5 to 10 years. No word on what happens to these proud professionals. Source: Egypt4U
  5. Google and Facebook  together controlled about 61 per cent of all online advertising revenues in 2017 and cornered a 25 per cent share of all media advertising revenues…Google earns around 85 per cent of its revenues through ads, for Facebook that figure is close to 98 per cent. Source: Rediff
  6. 50 percent: The number of people who purchased electronic gadgets for their pets. Source: Shinyshiny

Stephen E Arnold, August 8, 2018

Understanding Google: Site Reliability

August 6, 2018

There are few mysteries we never thought would be answered: Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone? What happened to Amelia Earhart? And how does Google marketing work? The first two will probably never find a satisfactory solution, but the third might, after we stumbled upon a recent page and book “The Site Reliability Workbook.”

According to the site:

“The Site Reliability Workbook is the hands-on companion to the bestselling Site Reliability Engineering book and uses concrete examples to show how to put SRE principles and practices to work. This book contains practical examples from Google’s experiences and case studies from Google’s Cloud Platform customers. Evernote, The Home Depot, The New York Times, and other companies outline hard-won experiences of what worked for them and what didn’t.”

While this doesn’t prove to be the Rosetta Stone we were hoping for, it’s always good to get a better understanding of the mechanics at play in these situations. However, the jury is out about whether it is a smart use of time. Some critics say Google is a mess that could experience an outage at any minute, while others are celebrating the search giant and its marketing chops. Either way, we’ll have a slightly better understanding about why after reading this workbook.

Patrick Roland, August 6, 2018

Periodic Table of Technology

August 4, 2018

Get ready to redistribute your retirement funds or plan your career. A Periodic Table of Elements with two letter mnemonics, brief descriptions, and more is now available. The work is an output of Imperial Tech Foresight. I scanned the table, focusing on technologies which are likely to come along in the near future. I noted three:

  1. The balloon powered Internet. Yep, that’s a Google thing.
  2. Computerized shoes. Yep, but I think I saw a young skater with sneakers which flashed secret messages.
  3. Human bio hacking. Yep, but I thought one fellow who was doing self DNA modification has moved on to another realm.

One interesting inclusion in the chart is a listing of companies engaged in these technologies.

One or two will produce financial home runs. Start investing.

Stephen E Arnold, August 4, 2018

Institutionalizing Good Enough

July 26, 2018

The question is, “When is it a good time to fix bugs?” The answer is, “Not too often.” The reason, as I learned from an alleged whiz kid who was speaking at one of the German tech conferences, was, “Software just has to be good enough.”

I was on the program too, but I was advocating an opinion less popular than a lecture about sediments in the Ruhr Valley in 1615.

As it turns out, the whiz kid is absolutely correct. Try and search YouTube for live streams about the Hawaii volcano. How’s that working out for you? Need to locate the phone number of person in your neighborhood via Bing? Let me know if you too long for the long gone white pages directory. Need information from a Russian blog? Give a whirl. Helpful, right?

I read “Not All Bugs Are Worth Fixing and That’s Okay.”

That’s a special title. We have the “all” word. A categorical affirmative. Logical. I also like the psychbabbley “That’s Okay.”

Good. I’m okay. You’re okay.

The write up explains that flaws are not really a problem. Maybe a missile guidance system has a glitch and takes out a primary school. Hey, no biggie.

I learned:

You may feel a strong pull to fix every software bug in your application. This is almost always a bad idea.

Obviously the children at the aforementioned school were of little consequence.

The author makes clear:

“The truth is sustaining high availability at the standard of five-nines costs a lot of money.” It’s a similar story with stability—at a certain point, it’s too expensive to keep fixing bugs because of the high-opportunity cost of building new features. You need to decide your target for stability just like you would availability, and it should not be 100%.

Okay, flaws are in.

The idea is that “good enough” is now institutionalized.

Interesting. I wonder what happens if that smart software has some issues which surface in unexpected ways.

Good enough, I assume.

Stephen E Arnold, July 26, 2018

Geo Map Pricing

July 20, 2018

In the market for maps for your application? If so, you may find the pricing data in “Farewell, Google Maps” useful. Current information about the costs of real time, cloud based data services can be difficult to get for a specific use case. Here’s the segment which I found helpful:

  • Google Maps – $7 for each 1000 map loads irrespective of map size or zooming/panning by the user ($5.60 with discount for high volume)
  • Mapbox – $0.50 for each “map view”, which despite the name is not a map view, but request of 4 or 15 map tiles (depending on map type), rounded up
  • Azure Maps – $0.50 for 1000 “transactions”, where transaction is equal to 15 map tiles
  • TomTom – $0.50 for 1000 “transactions” ($0.40 with highest volume discounts), each transaction is equal to 15 map tiles
  • HERE – pricing is by bundles, Standard bundle amounts to  $0.50 for 1000 “transactions” (15 tiles)
  • MapTiler – $0.05 for each map tile
  • Apple Maps – so far is in beta and offers a generous free usage allowance, no commercial pricing available.

The write provides other helpful information; for example, data density. I would point out that the illustrations used make another point; specifically, low contrast maps are very difficult to read.

Stephen E Arnold, July 20, 2018

Changing How Electronics Are Done

July 18, 2018

I read “DARPA Plans a Major Remake of US Electronics.” The write up reports that the US government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding activities to “radically alter how electronics are made.” The idea is to make an engineer skilled in the anticipated art to become more productive. If the funding generates innovation and applied research deliverables, “the effect could be to make small groups of engineers capable of feats that take 100 engineers to achieve today.”

There are some interesting observations presented in the write up. These are attributed to Bill Chappell, who is the DARPA directors for this initiative. The write up is important because the stated objectives are one that will allow some technical and process roadblocks to be removed; for example, acceleration of innovation, increasing productivity, and stepping up activity for open source hardware.

However, there are several ideas percolating in the statements in my opinion.

First, the US is not producing what we call in Harrod’s Creek “home grown electronics engineers.” In part, the initiative is to increase US activity. China and Russia, two cite two nation states, are creating more technical professionals. Now the US has to do more with less.

Second, big picture problems are not what some US projects accomplish. The way innovation works is to make incremental advances within often quite specific scopes of interest. This new initiative is more big picture and less improving the efficiency of an advertising server’s predictive matching in silicon or some equally narrow focus.

Third, the program suggests to me that some insightful US government professionals are concerned about the US electronics industry. The idea that technology from another nation state could create an unknown vulnerability is sufficiently troubling to warrant this big picture program.

In short, the failures of the US electronics sector have become a concern. One hopes that this project will address, in part, this significant issue. In my DarkCyber video news program to be released on July 24, 2018, I comment about the forthcoming Chinese made blockchain phone. I ask one question, “Does this device have the capability to phone home to the manufacturer? Could the device be monitored by an entity in the country of origin?”

Stephen E Arnold, July 18, 2018

The Spirit of 1862 Seems to Live On

July 2, 2018

Years ago I learned about a Confederate spy who worked in a telegraph office used by General Henry Halleck and General US Grant. The confederate spy allegedly “filtered” orders. This man in the middle exploit took place in 1862. You can find some information about this incident at this link. The Verge dipped into history for its 2013 write up “How Lincoln Used the Telegraph Office to Spy on Citizens Long Before the NSA.” Information about the US Signals Corps and Bell Telephone / AT&T is abundant.

Why am I dipping into history?

The reason is that I read several articles similar to “8 AT&T Buildings That Are Central to NSA Spying.” The Intercept’s story, which struck me as a bit surprising, triggered this cascade of “wow, what a surprise” copycat articles.

Even though I live in rural Kentucky, the “spy hubs” did not strike me as news, a surprise, or different from systems and methods in use in many countries. Just as Cairo, Illinois, was important to General Grant, cities with large populations and substantial data flows are important today.

Stephen E Arnold, July 2, 2018

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