Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Want a Better Way to Do Things? Start Fresh with Zero Based Design

Want to achieve radical changes in your business? Have you become distracted from long-term goals? Are you too busy putting out fires to look past short-term tactics? Perhaps it is time to consider a shake-up

Zero-based design (ZBD)encourages people to cast aside assumptions to expand the scope of discovery. It comes from the term “zero-based budgeting,” an accounting principle that implies every line item in a budget is to be reevaluated on an annual basis, under the assumption that nothing should be sacrosanct.

The name was first coined by Paul Polak and Mal Warwick in their 2013 book, The Business Solution to Poverty. The authors delineated their methodology for building a business from a frugal, grass-roots “Zero Point,” that grew to deliver economic value on a societal scale.

While ZBD has evolved since 2013, a few activities stay central to its approach:


  • Defining the Zero Point: More than a fictitious “blank slate,” the Zero Point is the suite of capabilities, systems, and processes you would keep if you were to rebuild your business all over again.
  • Designing the North Star: A clearly articulated and accepted description of the ideal target state is given for the business, its people, and their customers.

With ZBD, it is necessary that the North Star is visionary. It frames the ambition for business and informs the roadmap of labor required to succeed in this best target state. It helps to elevate the thinking within the business and stimulate the proper designing and activity within the short and medium term.

ZBD starts with an observation, then looks for the simplest and most likely explanation. As a result, it can appear foreign to those familiar with the traditional inductive or deductive thinking that permeates business management. It some ways, it resembles the Lean (Toyota) Method for problem-solving.

For example, ZBD practitioners tend to observe human behavior and distill the most likely insights from what they have witnessed. Abductive reasoning is a form of logical inference which starts with an observation or set of observations then seeks to find the simplest and most likely explanation for the observations, and the resulting insights, then inspire designers to generate game-changing ideas and then pose the question “how might we” rather than ask “why can’t we.” Such priming questions are crucial, as they foster the belief that innovative outcomes are achievable and that we can overcome obstacles that would otherwise be considered insurmountable.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

What is Kubernetes?

The rise of technology called containers, popularized by the company Docker, has helped spread virtualization of apps by simplifying building VM images for deployment. This approach lets a developer package their app or micro service with everything needed to run, so it works the same way the development sandbox as it does in Amazon's or Microsoft's cloud. While Docker's containers provide the tools for making code portable, developers needed a way to coordinate these containers to work with each other across servers and clouds, at massive scales — and Kubernetes, an open-source software project that started at Google, is the most popular approach. It has exploded in popularity, now being used by at more than 54% of the Fortune 500.

Kubernetes (an ancient Greek word for "pilot.”) was started by a group of Google engineers based on an internal project to help manage the search giant's massive infrastructure, but it is now an independent open source project that anyone can use or contribute to — and it has grown faster than the creators ever imagined. In a nutshell, Kubernetes helps developers run their applications at massive scales, taking advantage of lessons learned at Google. Because Kubernetes is open source, the code can be used, downloaded, or modified by anyone for free.

Just in the last year, we've seen some major acquisitions that signal how seriously tech giants are now taking Kubernetes: IBM spent $34 billion to purchase Red Hat; VMware's acquired Heptio. Both these moves have a lot to do with Kubernetes.

There are three typical ways of using Kubernetes: most popular is to run it from a major cloud provider like Amazon, Microsoft or Google, all of whom offer hosted Kubernetes services. Or, enterprises can buy a customized, fine-tuned version of Kubernetes from a company like VMware's Heptio to install on its own servers. The third way is to just download and run the free project and create an environment in a hosted private cloud or datacenter.

Kubernetes is able to manage all these clusters at once, and keep the code running continuously even as it organizes and re-organizes these containers on the fly. The end result is that developers can build, test, host and run large-scale applications on the cloud, with the Kubernetes software doing much to keep everything running smoothly.

As an added benefit, Kubernetes users get one more key advantage from all of this: Because Kubernetes runs on just about any kind of server, and most of the major cloud platforms, it's easier for users to take their application and move it from one to the other, or just write their software to run on multiple clouds at once.

Read more here...


Friday, January 25, 2019

Bicycles for the Older Generation

Cycling isn't just for young people. From this article in the Guardian, we read, Rowntree says her range is intended for “people who want to ride under their own steam for as long as possible, and then might switch to an e-bike when they need to....”

"Islabikes came about after friends and relatives asked their resident cycling expert – Rowntree is a former UK cyclocross champion – for advice on bikes for young children..."


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

From SlashDot: “It's as dystopian as it sounds," opines The Verge:

Chinese schools are now tracking the exact location of their students using chip-equipped "smart uniforms" in order to encourage better attendance rates, according to a report from state-run newspaper The Global Times. Each uniform has two chips in the shoulders which are used to track when and where the students enter or exit the school, with an added dose of facial recognition software at the entrances to make sure that the right student is wearing the right outfit (so you can't just have your friend, say, wear an extra shirt while you go off and play hooky). Try to leave during school hours? An alarm will go off.... 

There are additional features, too, according to a report from The Epoch Times: the chips can apparently detect when a student has fallen asleep in class, and allow students to make payments (using additional facial or fingerprint recognition to confirm the purchase). The uniforms are being used in 10 schools in China's Guizhou Province region, and apparently have been in use for some time -- according to Lin Zongwu, principal of No. 11 School of Renhuai, over 800 students in his school have been wearing the smart uniforms since 2016.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Proof of Concept Super-Secure Quantum Cable

A fibre optic cable is in use that harnesses a new kind of quantum computing power:

The cable's trick is a technology called quantum key distribution, or QKD. Any half-decent intelligence agency can physically tap normal fiber optics and intercept whatever messages the networks are carrying: They bend the cable with a small clamp, then use a specialized piece of hardware to split the beam of light that carries digital ones and zeros through the line. The people communicating have no way of knowing someone is eavesdropping, because they're still getting their messages without any perceptible delay.

QKD solves this problem by taking advantage of the quantum physics notion that light -- normally thought of as a wave -- can also behave like a particle. At each end of the fiber-optic line, QKD systems, which from the outside look like the generic black-box servers you might find in any data center, use lasers to fire data in weak pulses of light, each just a little bigger than a single photon. If any of the pulses' paths are interrupted and they don't arrive at the endpoint at the expected nanosecond, the sender and receiver know their communication has been compromised.

Encryption is worthless if an attacker manages to get the digital keys used to encode and decode messages. Each key is usually extra-encrypted, but documents disclosed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 showed that the U.S. government, which hoovers up most of the world’s internet traffic, can also break those tougher codes.

Read more here...