Mercury Rising

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, February 23, 2012)

My first recollection of space flight was the splash landing of the Apollo vehicle at the completion of the Apollo-Soyuz docking.  In retrospect, that splash landing closed the book on several different aspects of the American space program.  The mission was the official end of the Apollo program, the massive engineering effort that united a country to put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth.  The mission signified the end of the space race with the Soviet Union that started almost 20 years before with the launch of Sputnik.  But most significantly, Apollo-Soyuz marked the end of the golden age of space flight, a period defined by engineering achievement that greatly expanded the limits of mankind’s creativity and innovation, ultimately resulting in a triumph over the forces of gravity.

This week we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first manned orbital flight.  On February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the third American in space and the first American to orbit the Earth.  At the time, the United States was trailing the Soviet Union in the space race, the Russians having posted two orbital flights prior to Glenn’s mission.  Friendship 7 put the United States back in the game and turned John Glenn into a national hero.  While John Glenn became the face of the space program throughout the successful Gemini and Apollo programs, he never again flew into space during his time with NASA.  In 1998 at the age of 77, U.S. Senator John Glenn returned to space aboard the Space Shuttle.)

As we stand 50 years distant from the Friendship 7 flight, we are confronted with one of the great ironies in our space faring history.  While the United States spent the first twenty years of the space race trying to overcome and surpass the space program of the Soviet Union, our country must now pay the Russians $60 million per astronaut to hitch a ride to International Space Station.

Closer to Earth, rumors on the iPad 3 are starting to pick up steam.  Most technology talking heads are predicting an April release of the next “Greatest iPad Ever!”  Some of the more popular rumors regarding the tech specs of the new iPad include:

  • Pictures posted on MacRumors indicate that the pixel density, and likewise the resolution, is twice that of the existing iPad.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is engaged with suppliers regarding a smaller screen.  This seems to correlate with other rumors indicating that three different tiers of iPads will be available.
  • The iPad 3 should have 4G network capability.

In an example of how natural market forces could shape internet privacy policy, Pinterest released code snippets that would allow web sites to opt-out of pinning.  The announcement addresses concerns that pinning may be in violation of copyright laws.  Of course, a pinned site references the source material and generally drives traffic to the site.  Many web site owners have embraced pinning as the next big thing and even include “Pin It” buttons on their sites.  However, if you don’t want to be pinned, add the code snippet to your web site and don’t worry about all the extra traffic that might be generated.

Until next time, I’ll see you on the internet!  @gregory_a_baker  L8R.

That’s Pinteresting

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, February 16, 2012)

Men and women are different.  It’s that simple.  You can talk about environmental influences and other intellectual gobbledygook all you want.  I’ve been married for 16 years, and I have two 8-year old daughters.  Absolutely no doubt exists in my mind that that men and women are wired differently.  If you have any lingering questions, let me send you the videos of my daughters planning their weddings.  They started at age four.

The manner in which men and women use the internet is no less different.  The typical male appreciates the low-maintenance, one-way information flow.  Get in, get the information, and get out.  Hopefully, there won’t be any pop-ups asking, “Would you like to chat?”  He doesn’t.  And by all means don’t make him “Please Call for More Information”.  He doesn’t need, or want, to talk to anyone.  Why would you want to ask for directions when Google Maps is right there?

Ladies, of course, approach the internet differently.  First of all, women are much more advanced socially.  It starts young.  While most boys are still throwing rocks into traffic, girls have begun to conduct tea parties and schedule social outings.  A quick look at Facebook illustrates the degree of social sophistication that women achieve.  Posts are generally oriented toward feelings and attitude with strong support from friends always visible.  All men can do is stick to the facts.  For example, the typical female post:  “Having best time ever at Vallarta’s with Becky Sue and Sally – BFFs FOREVER!” followed by 15 Likes.  A similar post for the male:  “Eating Tacos.”

Women also enjoy a significant multitasking advantage over men.  In short, women can.  Men can’t.  In preparing to write this article, I asked my wife, “How many different things are you currently thinking about?”  Without a second of thought, she replied, “17”, and then proceeded to list each item.  As for me, I was still back on Tacos.

Multitasking is advantageous when trying to process multiple information feeds.  This makes the latest social network particularly well suited for the ladies.  Just to clue you in guys, I’m talking about Pinterest.  Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that allows users to capture, organize and share items that they find on the web.  A quick search of the site reveals a variety of collections, from recipes to home decorating, from vacation spots to hair-dos.  Pinterest provides an ideal environment to group together your likes and your wants.  It’s no surprise that Pinterest has become a primary tool for new brides in planning their wedding.  Likewise, it a great place for getting ideas on home re-innovations, fashion make-overs or the evening meal.

Now you would think that a search of Pinterest for manly items would reveal that the ladies don’t completely dominate.  However, a search for “AK-47” yielded multiple pins of AK-47 earrings, an AK-47 necklace, a porcelain gun by Charles Krafft and a special edition AK by Louis Vuitton.  Too bad that I didn’t see this in time for Valentine’s Day.

Until next time, I’ll see you on the internet!  @gregory_a_baker  L8R.

Disruption is Good for the Soul

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 2/9/2012)

It’s been 15 years since Clayton Christensen released what continues to be the foremost reference on innovation and modern business.  The Innovator’s Dilemma focuses on Disruptive Technologies – those innovations that have the potential to completely redefine an industry.  Of course, these innovations can be identified with certainty only in hindsight.  Hence the dilemma to business:  continue with what is working today, or change to a newer, riskier, but potentially better solution.  For the reasons outlined by Christensen, established businesses are often late seeing the market change.  As a result, former industry greats such as Tower Records, Blockbuster, and Kodak fade into the history books as new leaders such as Amazon and Apple take their place.

Experiencing a disruptive technology change can be an exciting time for the consumer.  Over the past 10 years, we’ve had the privilege of experiencing changes brought about by the internet and mobile electronics.  (Does anyone even remember life before Facebook and Google?)  Fortunately for us, it’s still not over and probably won’t be for a while.  Currently, tablets are being very disruptive to desktop PCs.  While we still don’t know how everything is going to shake out, tablet makers are introducing incredible innovations into their product lines in hopes of finding the magic combination that will stick.  For example,

  • The Pantech Element features a water resistant design submergible in up to 3 feet of water, so whether it’s the beach, bath or hot tub, you’re good to go!
  • The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime features an optional keyboard dock that gives it the functionality of a laptop.  The quad core processor ain’t bad, either.
  • The Sony Tablet P utilizes a hinged design that connects two 5.5 inch displays which operate independently or in tandem.  It folds away for easy storage, too.
  • The Samsung Galaxy Tab7 Plus includes an integrated infrared sensor and remote control application that allows you to utilize the tablet as a universal remote while still racking up the points in Temple Run.
  • The Toshiba Thrive is one of the very few tablets that includes a removable battery pack.  Nice try, but I think consumers prefer a single battery that lasts forever.
  • The HTC Evo View 4G utilizes a digital stylus for writing notes and annotating documents.  Again, another feature that I don’t think will make the final cut…but ultimately it’s for the market to decide!
  • The G-Slate from LG provides a stereoscopic camera for capturing 3D video.  Very cool…assuming 3D TV becomes the norm.  (Hey, Lynnsey…you and Tim in 3D!  How cool would that be!)

Disruptive technologies exist in other industries as well.  Growing up, I don’t recall any of my neighbors owning a golf cart.  Now it seems that golf carts and other electric vehicles are the preferred method of travel within subdivisions.  Last week, Mr. Mike Tomberlin of the Tomberlin Group spoke to our Rotary Club about the growth in the Low Speed Vehicle (LSV) market.  The Tomberlin Anvil and their other LSV models utilize disruptive electric vehicle technology to create a product that is well-suited for both suburban neighborhood and high-density city environments.  Their 700 U.S. distributors and growth in international markets seem to indicate they might be on to something.

With all the advancements that disruptive technology brings, it’s amazing that many people and companies still refuse to change.  Even worse, they lobby for regulations that prevent the free market from evolving and restrict the freedom of innovators to provide new consumer goods.  The record and movie industry support for the recent Stop Online Priracy Act (SOPA) is a perfect example.  Instead of accepting the new internet capabilities and figuring out how to integrate those features into their service, the record and movie industry continue their fight to preserve the old way of media distribution.  Meanwhile, Apple, Amazon and Netflix are well on their way to figuring out the new business model and will eventually make the RIAA and MPAA irrelevant.

So the dilemma when faced with disruptive technology really isn’t a dilemma after all.  Innovation leads to improved consumer products and a more competitive position in the marketplace, whether local or global.  A little disruption is good for the soul.  Don’t be afraid to shake things up!  Until next time, I’ll see you on the internet!  @gregory_a_baker  L8R.

 

Excuse Me…Do You Mind Sharing?

(Reprinted from The Metro Spirit, 2/2/2012)

Let’s start out with the obvious – I’m not a big Facebook user.  Yes, I have an account.  Yes, I log on occasionally to check in with friends.  But when I go online, it’s usually directed by purpose.  After all, I’m a buyer, not a shopper.  Facebook is shopper’s destination.  I don’t have the patients to weed through the constant stream of posts and updates.  And please don’t get me started talking about the ever increasing violation of cyber etiquette known as “oversharing”. ( Just to be clear – I don’t need to know about anything that involves bodily fluid , oozing, transferred or otherwise , and personal drama is just that – personal!)  Even for those that “share” appropriately, Facebook privacy concerns always seem to be a topic for the technology talking heads.  Here’s the thing, though.  Facebook is a good app.  It connects friends and family in a meaningful way where no individual or group can dominate the conversation.  The barriers to participate in the Facebook community are minimal, yet each person has a world-wide audience.  Was Facebook designed specifically to embody this egalitarian spirit, or did the quest to increase the user base inadvertently create a community of free speech?  Either way, Facebook is seamlessly woven into our social fabric.

That brings us to a couple of Facebook events in the news this week.  First of all, the Facebook web site continues to evolve in pursuit of its mission to create a more open and connected world.  The Facebook Timelime becomes part of your profile page over the next couple of week.  The Timeline feature provides users the ability to navigate past Facebook activity.  You can control what events appear you your Timeline and highlight the importance of those events.  By default, all of your Facebook activity is contained in your Timeline.  After you are notified that you will be switched to the Timeline profile, you will be given a week to adjust Timeline events.  I suggest that you take a few minutes to review and remove those forgotten posts that really don’t need to be re-shared.  It’s pretty fashionable to criticize the Timeline, and several surveys seems to indicate that popular opinion is against the Timeline.  Personally, I can see why some folks are freaked out, but I kind of liked it.  For more information, MacWorld wrote a great article on the features and privacy concerns of the Timeline.  To check it out, see my Facebook page for the link.

BTW, the second Facebook news this week…it looks like Facebook is going to conduct their Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the next few months.  Early analysis indicate that Facebook will be valued between $75B and $100B with expectations that the IPO will generate about $10B cash.  I heard a report that Mark Zuckerberg will make $24B on the IPO alone.  Of course, that’s before President Obama takes his 30% and spreads it around.

While we’re talking about using the internet to share information, I came across a website this week that offers a taste of how job seeking might evolve.  The website is www.visualize.me.  It’s a well-known fact that images and pictures communicate more effectively than words.  This site translates the basic resume facts into meaningful images intended to create a stronger impact on perspective employers.  Currently, the website is very beta, but it’s good enough to be functional.  (Check out my resume at www.visualize.me/gregory_a_baker )  With HTML5, I can envision a scenario where resumes are presented electronically with embedded sound and video.  Even better, visualize.me has tapped into an underutilized resume distribution network through its partnership with resumeshirts.com.  They will print your amped up resume on a T-shirt so you won’t miss another opportunity to show that you are ready, willing and able to work.  What better way to demonstrate your initiative to future employers?  After all, you never know who’s standing behind you in the grocery store.

Until next time, I’ll see you on the internet!  @gregory_a_baker  L8R.

SOPA Stopped (For Now)

(Reprinted from The Metro Spirit, 1/26/2012)

If you are reading this, first of all, let me say congratulations.  We’re still alive.  If you weren’t aware, on Sunday night, a solar flare caused the largest coronal mass ejection since 2005.  The Earth passed through this glob of charged matter during the day on Tuesday.  In other years, this would likely cause only minor disruptions in satellite navigation, satellite communications and maybe the rerouting of flights over the poles.  However, with the Earth scheduled to meet its doom in December of this year, I suspect this storm will cause significantly more chaos.  Since we’re still here, the lead-lined walls of the Metro Spirit command center must of held and allowed the courageous Metro Spirit staff to complete their work and deliver goodness to the freshly-radiated Garden City.  No doubt that the rate of mutation will accelerate rate due to the radiation, but as for now, we’re alive.

Last week, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) got whacked for a bunch of hit points.  Last Wednesday Wikipedia, Google and other web sites staged an online protest.  For its part, Wikipedia completely blacked out its English language web site in a symbolic reference to the censorship provisions of the legislation.   The protests capped a several week push by opponents to raise awareness and mobilize opposition.  On Friday, the U.S. House and Senate leadership acknowledged the political pressure and postponed votes on the matter.

Is SOPA dead?  Unlikely.  Think about it this way.  Prior to the creation of the VCR, big media producers (radio, TV, film, publishing) dominated the consumer due to the total control they exerted over distribution.  Quite simply, when you only have a few choices, you don’t have much control over what you get or how much you pay.  Starting with the VCR, technology facilitated a transfer of power back to the consumer.  Today, virtually anyone can create content for world-wide distribution.  The provisions of SOPA fundamentally have one primary effect: To impose policing actions on website operators so that  publishing internet content becomes cost prohibitive for anyone other than the big media companies.  The voice of the consumer was heard this week, but the battle isn’t over.

I need to apologize to our loyal readers that I have been negligent in discussing one the most entertaining, yet least appreciated, technologies.  Of course, I am talking about Cooking Tech.  I can see your expression already, but be honest…who doesn’t like browsing the shelves of Williams Sonoma for the latest Kitchen gadget?  With the Super Bowl a week away, now is the time to Super Saver ship your cooking gear.  So here’s a couple of items to munch on…

The Georgia climate provides us the luxury of year-round outdoor cooking, so let’s start with the grill.  The new Char-Broil Grill2Go ICE Infrared Gas grill provides a great infrared cooking experience.  Designed to travel with 7.5” knobby tires and a built-in cooler, the Grill2Go will be there for all your tailgating, Home or Away.

Is there anything in the App Store that can help you cook great steak?  But, of course.  The iGrill Bluetooth-enable wireless thermometer connects to your iPhone to monitor your food from up to 200 feet away.  The Cooking Time Remaining feature lets you know when to put the sides in the oven so everything finishes at the same time.  Spend the rest of your day socializing, and your iPhone will alert you when it’s time to eat!

Until next time, I’ll see you on the internet!  @gregory_a_baker  L8R.