Cloud Computing

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, June 22, 2011)

The other week at the Jones Creek-National Hills swim meet, the group of parents I was sitting with got into a discussion about Cloud Computing.  Apparently, there are a number of questions still remaining about cloud services.  Here’s some of the discussion that I think might be helpful.  Enjoy!

  • When you put your data in the cloud, is it protected by angels?

While I’m not a theological expert, I do know that there are many references to clouds in the scripture.  One verse that comes to mind is Job 37:16, “Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?” I’d have to pass this question along to my pastor at Wesley UMC for a more knowledgeable response.  Rev. Porterfield, could you address?

  • We have a friend whose computer often gets knocked out by power surges.  Why do Google and Microsoft put so much power in their clouds?

As your friend correctly observes, cloud computing harnesses a great deal of energy.  If not applied correctly, things have the potential to get out of hand.  The old ways don’t hold up well when you hook into the cloud.  I would recommend that your friend seek professional guidance.

  • When I apply patches, will that help close holes in the ozone layer?

Very astute question.  Keeping systems patched can directly mitigate the atmospheric impact of greenhouse gas emissions.  Viruses resident on infected computers unnecessarily burn a tremendous amount of CPU and bandwidth as they systematically search, download or destroy your data.  Patch your system and save the world from global warming.

  • Does rain fall through memory leaks?  I guess fixing them wouldn’t be good for farmers.

Memory leaks are a problem, but other cyber meteorological phenomena can cause greater impact on internet usage.  For example, I recently heard about a bit coin mining operation that was wiped out by a broadcast storm.  Simple rain through memory leaks isn’t a problem.  Unless of course it turns into a bit torrent.

  • If it’s a sunny day with no clouds, is my bandwidth going to suffer?

Not at all.  Internet providers have their own weather teams, each with the internet equivalent of Live Doppler radar.  If the forecast is for clear skies, proprietary algorithms kick in to ensure clouds are always available.

Tweet your cool tech story to #AugustaIsCoolBecause, and follow me @gregory_a_baker.

 

Cool Factor

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, June 15, 2011)

Did anyone listen to any of the talk about the cool factor over the past week?  Personally, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.  From a technology perspective, Augusta has very long and rich history of being cool.

For example, have you ever noticed the historic marker in front of the Wells Fargo building commemorating the first railroad in the state of Georgia?  May not seem important today, but in the 1830’s this was a big deal.

About the same time period, Henry Cummings bulldogged the effort to build a 7-mile canal through the city.  Again it may not seem like much, but this was as high tech as it got in pre-Civil War America.

The railroad and canal defined Augusta as one of the very few industrial centers in the South.  These two components of high tech infrastructure fueled Augusta’s economy for the next 100 years.

Pretty cool, huh?

Did you know that in early 1911, the Wright brothers established their first commercial flight school at what is now Daniel Field.  Augusta historian, Dr. Ed Cashin, commented on this milestone in the Augusta Chronicle (December 17, 2003):

“This was a period when we had great optimism about the future,” [Dr. Cashin] said, noting that skyscrapers such as the Lamar Building were constructed around the same time.

Neat.

Now I know your saying, “That was so long ago.  Augusta today is different.”  OK…Let’s take a look.  Just off the top of my head…

  • The new reactors currently under construction at Plant Vogtle are the first new nuclear reactors to be built in the US in over 30 years.
  • All Army information technology and communications training and a large portion of the IT management for the U.S. infrastructure is performed at Fort Gordon.
  • Columbia County is crisscrossing the county with fiber optic cable to improve communications within the county and establish a high-speed data backbone to drive economic development.
  • And just to pick a few on the medical side, there’s the Level 1 Center for Traumatic Brain Injury for Wounded Warrior Care at Eisenhower, the incredibly innovative burn treatment at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center, the electronic healthcare record upgrade at University Hospital, and the many research breakthroughs at GHSU (see their website and take your pick).

In addition, there are numerous businesses in the area that are implementing technology make their business better and become more relevant to more people.  Those that are successful will be sought for their ability to create value for their customers.  Making life better.  Now that’s cool.

The Augusta Canal created an enormous amount of value for the City and continues to make life better for Augustans.  It has the cool factor.

I wonder what Henry Cummings would think has the cool factor today.

Read Dr. Azziz’s Cool Factor Blog at http://azziz.georgiahealth.edu/archives/272.

Until next time, tell us how you are making Augusta is cool.  Tweet to #AugustaIsCoolBecause.  Follow me @gregory_a_baker.

 

Computer in Disguise

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, June 8, 2011)

Computer in Disguise

Last week our family bought a new television from one of the big box stores over at Augusta Exchange.  It was a 52” 1080P LED to replace the 50” HD rear-screen projection set we bought years and years ago.  (If you can convince my wife, it could be yours.  Tweet me your best offer.)  Of course we were excited to get it home!  One of the great selling points for us was the integrated Netflix.  (BTW – LOVE IT!!!)  Netflix has executed a brilliant strategy by getting their service integrated into every device possible.  I first saw the TV integration a few months ago, and I was always curious how they could get Netflix into a TV set.  Well, now I know.

You see, when we unpacked the device and turned it on, we discovered that we hadn’t bought a TV set at all.  We had actually bought a computer.

Honestly, I have to admit that I am a little embarrassed to have been so naïve.  Of course it had to be a computer!  How else could you support the advertised internet connectivity and supported applications?  And sure enough, when we “booted up” the television, it prompted us to connect to our WIFI and proceeded to download updates.  Now we build a couple of dozen systems a week at CMA, and the progress bar for an initial software update is unmistakable.  This behavior is undeniably computer related.

Here’s what I think happened.  Some adventurous little computer started its life cycle wanting to be an Apple.  Fate dealt a cruel blow and put that computer on the Dell assembly line.  It escaped.  After wondering the internet for many gigaflops, that little computer is now sitting in my living room disguised as a HDTV waiting for an opportunity to transform into an Xbox.  (Coincidently, my birthday is next month.  Do you think it could be possible?  Hmm…)

Now I know many of you will think that I’m just being silly, but if you look around you’ll begin to realize that these little adventurous computers are hiding everywhere.  Just last week the City of Augusta announced its adaptive traffic signal system along Wrightsboro Road.  Columbia County also has a similar adaptive system along Washington Road.  According to the Rhythm Engineering web site, this technology utilizes “video detection and adaptive loop detection to optimize traffic signals”.  Do you really believe that an old school traffic light could do that?  Seriously, there’s a computer hiding in there somewhere.

Before signing off, I want to give a shout out to my good friend, Abu Khan of Comcast!  Let’s give Augusta’s technology vote to Abu in the Alzheimer Association’s Dancing Stars of Augusta on June 10!

Until next time, tweet your Augusta Tek story to @gregory_a_baker, or send an email to augustatek@cmaaugusta.com.

 

Social Networks

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, June 1, 2011)

Social Networks

Social networking sites are the mainstream of the internet.  Recent advances in smartphones and tablets have only increased their utility.  Why?  We love real time updates on what’s up with our friends and neighbors, our churches and our government.  Social networking sites enable us to increase our social productivity.  We can see more, we can hear more, and we can stay connected with more people.

How do these social networking sites play out in Augusta?  As it turns out, we’re not very different from everyone else.

Any discussion of social networks has to begin with Facebook.  It is the quintessential social site, and it is certainly the number one site in Augusta.  We all know how Facebook started on college campuses, but it didn’t take long to graduate.  I joined Facebook in the months leading up to my 20th year high school class anniversary.  Amazingly, it seemed that about half of the Evans High Class of 1986 had the same idea at the same time.  Within a couple of months, friends and acquaintances that hadn’t seen each other in years were instantly connected back to each other, time and geography notwithstanding.  With new services such as Facebook Places, it gets even better.  Do you know who’s donating blood at Shepeard, or who’s at the Lady Antebellum concert, or who’s eating at Chik-fil-a?  Well, I do!  Yes, a bit a creepy, I know.  But that’s life in the real, virtual world that is Facebook.

Linked In is rapidly gaining popularity among the business community in Augusta.  For those not familiar with Linked In, think Facebook for Business.  How is it used?  Pretty much the same way as Facebook, just with an emphasis on building a business and referral networks.  Take Carolyn Newsome’s profile for instance and you can see how Linked In highlights her background and experience in business communication systems.  (You could look at mine, but Carolyn’s is better.)  Warning!  Keep the personal stuff to a minimum on Linked In.  It’s great to hear about new happenings at your business, but it’s probably not the right place to whine about how many changes of the light it took to get through the Bobby Jones-Washington Road intersection.  Stay on FB for that.  (Or just keep it to yourself!)

Quick social network faux pas.  When you request to friend or connect with someone, remember that this is an extension of a relationship in real life.  (Social networks are not video games, and FB is not Frogger.)  The other day at a Chamber event, I had a gentleman come up to me and introduce himself, apparently not recognizing me even though he sent a friend request the week before.  After a couple of minutes, he realized the mistake, and well, it was a bit awkward.

Of the big three social networks, Twitter is the one that hasn’t seemed to catch on in Augusta.  That’s disappointing in some respects.  If you need to spread the word quickly, you can’t beat Twitter.  (For example, tweets about the raid on bin Ladin occurred as the mission was in progress.)  The news organizations tweet regularly.  But beyond that, Augusta doesn’t seem to be tweet happy.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!  Tweet your Augusta technology success to @gregory_a_baker, or send me an email at augustatek@cmaaugusta.com.  Until next time, follow me @gregory_a_baker!