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...

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Dislocation of the Workforce Known for Decades

Knowledge workers can work wherever is needed, as the communication infrastructure and information management systems support the workforce. Working from home (wherever that might be) is not limited to only when the weather kills your commute. With today’s internet, ever-evolving collaboration tools, and forward-thinking leaders, remote work is becoming the norm.

See this interview with the head of Intel, from 1981.

Productivity is enhanced. From a 2014 study, in which the travel website CTrip enabled a subset of  workers to work remotely on a regular basis, they then compared productivity to office-bound counterparts. With all other factors being equal, the remote workers ended up making 13.5 percent more calls than their comparable office workers. According to a 2016 survey of American remote workers, about 91 percent of people who work from home feel that they’re more productive than when they’re in an office.

Working remotely can make a worker more productive; according to studies, as long as the job is one that can be performed in such an environment, most people are more productive. Of course, raw productivity isn’t the only benefit. Having employees work from home can save businesses thousands of dollars per month (per employee) depending on office expenses, and could also raise employee morale, improving retention and collaboration. On top of that, remote workers take fewer sick days and less vacation time, giving them more work days overall.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

UBI Could Work... with Tweaks

From SlashDot,
...the idea of universal basic income. Many in the tech elites tout it as the answer to job losses caused by automation, if only people would give it a chance. The idea is that all citizens receive a set amount of money from the government to cover food, housing, and clothing, without regard to income or employment status. This minimum stipend can be supplemented with wages from work. Advocates say it will help fight poverty by giving people the flexibility to find work and strengthen their safety net, or that it offers a way to support people who might be negatively affected by automation.
 "Basic income could work -- if you do it Canada style." We talked to the people on the ground getting the checks in Ontario's 4,000-person test and saw how it was changing the community. Then, just two months later, it was announced that the program is ending in the new year rather than running for three years. The last checks will be delivered to participants in March 2019. 
The article complains that in addition, Finland's test program ended this year after its initial trial period, while Y Combinator's experiment "has also faced more delays, pushing the experiment into 2019," saying these programs illustrate the three basic issues faced by basic income tests. First, there's political disagreements. ("The Ontario program was shut down by the province's newly installed Conservative government.") Then there's also concerns about funding -- "As you might imagine, giving away free money is expensive" -- and also fears about disrupting existing benefits "To avoid that, they've had to work with municipal and state agencies to get waivers for pilot recipients. But getting those waivers takes a lot of time and bureaucracy...."The only way the idea can ever be embraced on any sort of large-scale, meaningful level is with more data and bigger tests. Without that, no matter how much support it gets from Silicon Valley, it seems unlikely that the public, at least in the US, will ever come around."And MIT has more, as well...

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A New Year, Time to Take the Temperature of... DevOps

Sometimes adoption of DevOps results in chaos -- perhaps because of the evolving relationship between development and operations? When taking a shared approach to accountability for application life cycle, many still lack processes, tools, and monitoring needed to know who is ultimately responsible for addressing and fixing issues.

As the lines between development and operations continue to blur, perhaps one should focus on adopting tools that deepen visibility into applications?  It seems that clarifying ownership of applications and services avoids the "since everyone owns this, nobody does" model.

Read more about the state of DevOps