Rise of the Ballbots

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 6/14/2012)

It’s All About Apple – This week is the 2012 edition of Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference, or affectionately known as WWDC. Typically, Apple uses this event to introduce its new products. In typical Apple fashion, the announcements were shrouded in secrecy up until Monday’s keynote. Was Apple finally going to announce Apple TV?
Alas, no. WWDC 2012 biggest announcement focused on the MacBook, a neglected product line that has been woefully in need of a refresh. Prior to the conference, speculation centered around the combination of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro products, and while that didn’t happen, the two product lines continue come together.

The MacBook Air features only modest processor upgrades over the prior models. The new models support the Intel Core i-series processor, providing modest improvements in processing speed and battery life and significant improvements in graphics processing. Two new models were introduced, an 11-inch screen and a 13-inch screens. Each model is configurable with either a Core i5 or Core i7 processor and up to a 512 GB solid state hard drive.

The next-generation MacBook Pros featured the most significant changes with the availability of a 15.4-inch Retina Display. This 220 pixel per inch display was introduced last year on the new iPad and gives the MacBook Pro an astonishing pixel count of 2880 x 1800. In addition, Apple has reduced the width of the MacBook Pro to 0.71-inches, making it the lightest MacBook Pro ever made. (Writer’s Note: I’m feeling a twinge of envy as I sit here typing on my 1.4-inch HP Compaq 6715b. I fear I might pull a muscle if I have to pick it up.)

Apple also made a couple of ho-hum announcements. The new iPhone operating system, iOS6, was introduced. Facetime will now work over cellular networks, which is fine except that you will go through your Verizon or AT&T data quota in about 17 seconds (Thanks, guys). Siri will be available on the iPad, she will make Facebook posts and start Apps for you, and via “Eyes Free”, she will be integrated into next year’s line of automobiles. That’s nice. Siri is fun to play with, after all. But I’m still waiting for the day she can wash the dishes, fold the laundry and cut the grass.

The Good Stuff – So, yea, fun, that’s WWDC this year. Now for the interesting stuff. For those unfamiliar, Ted.com is a non-profit forum dedicated to “Ideas Worth Spreading”. Leaders from all fields are invited to take 10-15 minutes and share their ideas. I highly recommend this site to anyone…the stuff here is just cool. (If you are looking for a place to start, try watching anything by Hans Rosling.) This week I ran across the coolest idea for a robot that I’ve seen in a while. It’s called a Ballbot, and it’s name is Rezero. The novel feature on this little guy is how it gets around. The robot sits on top of a single ball with a computer maintaining stability. Obviously to get the full impact, you have to see the robot in motion. Go to Ted.com and search on Rezero to see the video. (Or just click here)

(Very!) Shameless Plug – CMA Technology’s Face-to-Face IT and Cloud Services have proven to be a great fit for the Augusta market, and we are looking for new faces to provide responsive and personable services to our business partners. All inquiries are welcome, but we have an immediate need for a mid-level (5+ years experience), MCITP that understands the importance of customer service. (If you are the typical arrogant IT know-it-all, don’t bother to apply – you will be weeded out!) Send resume to HR@cmaaugusta.com.

Until next time, I’m off the grid. @gregory_a_baker

When the Government Comes Knocking…

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 6/7/2012)

When the Government Comes Knocking – We all trust our internet activity, whether it’s online conversations, thoughts, locations, photos, to companies like Google, AT&T and Facebook.  Usually, we don’t give much of a thought about what is out there.  Recently we’ve seen a heightened awareness of the government’s demands for information and the privacy policies of the companies that hold your data.  This week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released its “When the Government Comes Knocking, Who Has Your Back?” report tracking service providers commitments to their users’ privacy and security.  The report documents and rates 18 major service providers on four separate criteria regarding privacy:

  1. A public commitment to inform users when their data is sought by the government.
  2. Transparency about when and how often companies hand data to the government.
  3. Fight for users’ privacy rights in the courts.
  4. Fight for users’ privacy in Congress.

Overall, the report shows improvement from last year, with Sonic.net, Twitter and Google leading the field in championing privacy rights.  Verizon, MySpace and Skype were at the bottom of the list.  For the full report, go to https://www.eff.org/pages/who-has-your-back.

Senate Takes Up Privacy Legislation – In the wake of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) passed by the House, the U.S. Senate has started considering so-called “cyber protection” proposals.  The first one up is the Lieberman-Collins Cyber Security Act.  Here’s some quick facts on the proposal:

  • Companies can share with the government any data that constitutes a cybersecurity threat indicator.  The definition of a threat indicator is ridiculously broad – data that contains “Any other attribute of a cybersecurity threat” – but it does contain on privacy provision.  “Reasonable efforts” must be made to remove identifiable information for persons unrelated to the threat.
  • Any information provided to the government is exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests.
  • The proposal does not contain any provision preventing the release of information to the NSA or other military organizations.
  • Like CISPA, the Senate proposal permits sharing of data with law enforcement if the data “appears to relate to a crime” either past, present or near future.  Yes, that’s right – FUTURE crimes.  We are opening the door to a society where police can scan your internet activity for the potential that you might commit a crime.

You will need to contact your Senator to fight against this bill.  The links are below.

Saxby Chambliss (GA) – http://www.chambliss.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Email

Johnny Isakson (GA) – http://www.isakson.senate.gov/contact.cfm

Jim DeMint (SC) – http://www.demint.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=ContactInformation

Lindsey Graham (SC) – http://www.lgraham.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.EmailSenatorGraham

Source: news.cnet.com via Greg on Pinterest

200 Days and Counting – This past week we moved within 200 days of the end of the Mayan calendar.  Of course, this day (December 21, 2012) is generally recognized as the End of the World.  If you have not started your preparations for the pending apocalypse, time is running out.  There is probably not enough time at this point to construct and stock your own zombie-proof shelter (yes, I still believe that it will be zombies).  However, don’t fear.  Developers are converting some of the most impenetrable and secure facilities on the planet into apocalypse-proof sanctuaries.  At survivalcondo.com, you’ll find information on a converted Atlas F missile silo in north-central Kansas.  Originally constructed to withstand a nuclear explosion, this silo, built in the 1960’s at a cost of $15 million in 1960 dollars, features concrete walls between 2.5 feet and 9 feet thick and includes over 45,000 sq. ft. of hardened space.  Full-floor residential layouts have approximately 1,820 sq. ft. of living space and is provisioned with 30-man years of freeze-dried and survival food.  The facility includes redundant water supply, redundant power, redundant air filtration for nuclear, biological and chemical particulates and military security systems.  Of course, being more than the standard survivor shelter, each luxury living space includes stainless appliances, washer and dryer, and the facility includes an indoor pool and spa, library, first aid center, theater, bar/lounge area and more.  Pricing: $2 million for a full-floor layout.

Unfortunately, Survivor Condo is filling up fast.  If you can’t swing $2 million in the short term, other options are available.  Hundreds of missile silos were built around the United States.  Some have already been turned into homes, and many more are available for sales on sites like www.MissileBases.com.  Best of luck!

Until next time, I’m off the grid.  @gregory_a_baker