Technology Can’t Solve This

Technology Can’t Solve This (reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 8-28-14)

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been working on a concept for a science fiction story.  It’s set in the standard sci-fi universe.  You know, the typical long-time-ago-in-a-galaxy-far-far-away kind of place.  The story is coming together well, but I’m not sure how to resolve all the conflicts.  This column seems like a great place to solicit some feedback, so here’s what I have so far.

  • ·      The lead male character is living on an underdeveloped planet with a 3rd world economy.  The planet is in the midst of a deadly plague that threatens to wipe out the entire population.  The lead character works for the Star System Directorate charged with providing relief.  Unfortunately, while news of the outbreak reaches the more affluent systems, popular opinion is more concerned with quarantine measures rather than the provision of medical assistance. 
  • ·      The lead female character begins with her childhood in a tribal village next to desert oasis.  The traditions on her planet go back many thousands of years and form the bedrock of a peaceful and productive community.  One day before she was of age, off-worlders dressed black arrived from above and invaded their town.  These off-worlders declared that the planet’s traditions were an abomination to the true god.  The citizens are given a choice: convert or die.  Through a series of fortuitous events, our female lead escapes the village.  As she leaves, she turns back one last time and watches in horror as her father and brother are savagely killed.
  • ·      The characters cross paths as they visit a planet known as a gateway between the affluent systems and those ridden with poverty and disease.  For whatever reason, this planet is largely ignored by the star patrols.  As a result, the planet hosts the largest black markets and organized crime syndicates in the sector.  The planet is also home to millions upon millions of refugees looking to buy their way into a new life. 

So, that’s what I have so far.  What do you think?  While I hope that you like the concept, I suspect that most of you recognize the gimmick.  These characters don’t exist on a far-away star system.  These scenes play out much closer to home.  As a matter of fact, anyone can watch just by turning on the evening news.

It begs the question – Why does science fiction so often portray degenerate societies co-existing with technologically advance populations?  Wouldn’t it seem the opposite?  How could it be possible that a civilization capable of interstellar travel wouldn’t know how to put an end to sickness and poverty and greed?

The truth is, and science fiction writers understand this better than most, there are some things that technology cannot solve.  Robotics can make us stronger and more productive.  Computers can bring untold information to our fingertips.  Starships can take us to places unknown.  But at the end of the day, no technology can change the way we think, or resolve the conflicts that we experience in trying the live with one another.  The technology can only amplify what is already there.

It’s our inherent human nature that, if left unchecked, will turn any utopia into a tyranny, whether it’s in the form of a corrupt government, a faceless corporation or a religious fanatic.  No matter if it’s a thousand years in the past or a thousand years in the future, people will still manage to act like people.

If you don’t believe me, go check out what they are putting on YouTube.

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

Appointment TV is Dead

Appointment TV is Dead (reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 8-21-14)

[Sometime in the future]

It’s always humorous when you read the crazy, archaic headlines written long ago.  I mean, today they seem completely unintelligible.  But at the time, you know that the writers believed the story to be some sort of grand revelation.  Did they really think they were going to save the world or something?

For example, last week my classmates from Keg Creek High School and I worked on a project.  The assignment was to explore Augusta as it was in the early 21st century.  As part of the research, Mrs. Daniels suggested that we look up some of the old written media that were called “newspapers.” Newspapers were a real strange thing.  Apparently, every day or every week, they would create a whole new media microsite, print the whole thing out on hard copy and then physically hand it out to everyone.  Personally, it seems like a lot of trouble.  But I guess it worked for them.

In the early 21st century, Augusta published a couple of different newspapers.  The first one we looked at seemed better suited for my dad.  Sure, it was kind of interesting reading about the opening of the old Kroc Center and how James Brown gave away turkeys at Christmas.  Also, we were all surprised with the amount of drama in local politics back then.  We thought that the local political drama was a new occurrence.  To think that it’s been going on during all this time….that’s crazy!

But we wanted to see something else, something that told us more about Augusta’s personality.  That’s when we ran across a stack of old papers buried in the back of the city’s public data center, almost like they were to be thrown out.  Metro Spirit.  All it took was a quick skim of the Whine Line to know that we were getting A’s on our project.

We spent the rest of the afternoon reading the stack of papers.  For whatever reason, I kept getting drawn to the “technology” column.  I guess the columnist was considered an expert of the time, but to be honest, some of his ideas weren’t any more advanced than rubbing two sticks together to make fire.  And some of his columns just seemed completely incoherent.  Take for instance this one titled, “Appointment TV is Dead.”

I have no idea what Appointment TV was.  I think that TV was short for television, but why would anyone want to have an appointment with his or her TV?  From what I gathered in the column, everyone would anxiously wait for new media files to be published.  Then, each week at a specific time, the new media files would be streamed to their TV.  While the media stream could be saved, the preferred action involved gathering other individuals around the TV at the appointed time and viewing the media as a community.  Weird.

Apparently, media services were going through a transition during this time period that must have been pretty exciting.  Up until the first decade of the century, all media was distributed using the Appointment TV model over this thing called cable.  The only option for on-demand media involved purchasing a streaming device called a DVD and going to this place called “Blockbuster” to obtain media.  By 2010, several Internet companies provided streaming video services, but they were still relatively small.

In this column, the columnist cites a report stating that cable companies now have more Internet subscribers than cable subscribers.   Of course, we know that that trend continued, and it wasn’t much longer before all media moved to the Internet.  That’s the way it’s still done today.

That is, unless you are stuck in the back of a data center rummaging through stacks of old newspapers.  I have to admit, being able to hold paper in your hands and to read printed words is not entirely unpleasant.  It reminds me of this thing they also used to do called writing.  If I only knew where to buy something to write with, I might just give it a shot.

Until next time…

@gregory_a_baker

 

The Best Experience Using Office 365

The Best Experience Using Office 365

In order to get the best experience with Office 365, it is recommended that you upgrade to the latest version of Internet Explorer. Office 365 may continue to work with versions of Internet Explorer other than the current and immediate previous versions for some time after the release of a new version on Internet Explorer, but Office 365 cannot offer any guarantees.

If you are using Office 365 with an older Internet Explorer version, you may experience issues and limitations depending on the versions.  For example, if you access Office 365 from Internet Explorer 8, you may have problems sending and receiving emails with the Outlook Web App.  Office 365 does not offer code fixes to resolve these problems.

Give us a call to learn more…

HIPAA Email Compliance Tips

HIPAA Email Compliance Tips

1. Be an expert on the topic of HIPAA compliant email on behalf of your patients.

In other words, make sure you include appropriate notices both online and in the office, warning patients about potential security risks of transmitting PHI (protected health information) using email over a non-secure portions of the. Internet

2. Document the patient’s consent to receive communication by email.

Don’t assume a patient understands that when he requests PHI or shares PHI that he understands the risk of sending and receiving such emails. Make sure you communicate that once they have entered information they may receive email reminders of appointments, etc.

3. Use an EHR system with a patient portal function.

If using an EHR system, encourage patients to use the portal’s capabilities for secure communications.

4. Consider signing up for a secure, HIPAA compliant email application.

This will protect your communications by using secure channels to send emails.

5. Manually encrypt transmitted files.

If you do not have a patient portal and don’t want to use a secure, HIPAA, compliant email application, don’t use PHI in the text of any email and encrypt any files that may contain PHI that you are sending to patients.

Cuddles: The Feline Hacker

Cuddles: The Feline Hacker (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 8-14-14)

Ah, the great outdoors.  The fresh air.  The sunshine on my face.  The feel of the fresh grass underneath my paws.  You heard me right.  I said, My paws.  As much as humans refer to us as being part of the family, I’m always astounded that they don’t think of us as people.  Oh, well.  To heck with them.  The little female child left the door open today, and I am free!

Let me introduce myself.  My given name is Kit Carson San Angelo of the Pines, but my family just calls me Cuddles.  I am a 5-year old female Siberian born in Colorado, number 2 in a litter of 5.  Or at least, so I’m told.  I don’t remember being born.  I don’t even remember becoming part of my current family.  But I do remember when we moved to Georgia.  Forty-eight hours trapped inside the car.  I’ll be just fine if I never have to get into another car again.  Cats just aren’t meant for traveling like humans.

Today, however, we get to do things the cat way.  As soon as I saw the wide open door, I knew I had to move.  An uncontested path to the outdoors cannot be ignored.  Just a quick jaunt through the garage, and…ah, yes, the sun! 

 You know, it’s the small things that make life worth living.  Sometimes I don’t think the humans get that.  They seem obsessed with these rectangular moving picture things.  There’s one in every room of the house, and they even carry smaller ones around with them.  Not me.  I’m an adventurer!  There’s no time to sit still…

Hey, what’s that?  A butterfly!  Hey, come back here!  I’m going to get you…

Dang!  Missed again!  One of these days I’m going to catch a butterfly.  I just have to remember to be more sneaky.

Last time I was outside, I was very good at being sneaky.  I was exploring the yard three houses over when a small movement caught my attention.  It was in the bushes, about halfway buried under the pine straw.  A dirty little rodent with beady eyes, just sniffing around and causing problems.  I was outside pouncing distance, but I immediately went into sneaky mode.  I got close to the ground and took a few steps forward.  Slowly, slowly.  Closer, closer.  Stay sneaky.  Wait for it…

Pounce!

It was a beautiful pounce, one of those magical moments when everything comes together.  I still don’t understand why Mom was so upset when I bought home my pouncing prize.  At least the boy child thought it was cool.

I wonder if there are any more pouncing opportunities over there.  Let’s go find out…

_____________________

“So did you put that new collar on Cuddles?” asked the boy child.

“Yes,” answered the Dad.  “And it looks like it’s already picked up some signals.”

The Dad had read an article on Wired.com about a man creating a cat collar that detected Wi-Fi signals.  The concept was pretty straightforward.  Spark Core provides processing power.   A integrated Wi-Fi card and a GPS module provides the wireless tracking capability.  The device is tucked nicely into a cat collar to provide sneakiness in exploring the environment.

The boy child was curious.  “How’s the security?”

The Dad gave him a questionable look.  “This one’s encrypted.  You know, I didn’t make this so you could hack into the neighbor’s network.

“Yeah, Dad.  I know.”

Until next time…

It was a pretty simple device really. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Try This at Home

Don’t Try This at Home (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 8-7-14)

One of the nice things about owning a technology company is that everyone automatically thinks that you’re a computer expert.

On the flip side, one of the bad things about owning a technology company is that everyone automatically thinks you’re a computer expert.

Especially your family.

This past Saturday, I awoke to the chorus of my children gathered around my bedside.  “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” they called.  In my half-awake state, I thought that they were cheering my praises like they used to do when they were younger.  They used to jump and cheer when I got home from work.  Like all Dads, it just warms your heart to sees your kids look up to you with that adoring glow in their eyes.

Yeah…this wasn’t one of those times.

“Daddy, when are you going to fix the Wi-Fi?  Our Internet doesn’t work.”

It’s 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning.  My first thought is why in the world would they need to be on the Internet this early in the morning.  Does the Internet even work this early on the weekend?

So, like many other Dads faced with the same situation, I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Yeah…bad decision.

“Honey, didn’t you promise the girls that you would fix the Wi-Fi today?”

Huh?  The wife?  What is she doing awake?  When it comes to burying herself in the pillows and fake sleeping when the kids come calling early in the morning, she would win the world championships.  The denial of anything-related-to-the-morning is one of her hidden talents.  (Excepting brunch, but that’s a different article.)

Long story short, yes, our Wi-Fi has been running stupid slow.  I tried to blame it on our Internet provider, but when I called support, the help desk dude wouldn’t take my word for it.  We dutifully went through the standard checklist.  Is it plugged in?  Yes.  Is it turned on?  Yes.  Please reboot.  OK.

(In all honestly, I don’t begrudge him for going through the stupid stuff.  When you work in remote support, you have to go through the fundamentals.  It’s amazing how often checking the stupid stuff will lead you to a quick fix.  And if you don’t run through the checklist, the call will inevitably end with the user asking something like, “Should this cord be plugged in?”)

So, toward the end of the call, the help desk dude gave me one more test to verify that the problem was on the provider’s side.  He asked that I plug the computer directly into the modem.

Well, duh?  I kind of do this everyday.  When searching for a problem, the secret is to systematically eliminate potential causes.  In other words, you have to figure out what it isn’t.  By plugging the computer directly into modem, I remove the $700 of high performance, home networking gear from the equation and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that our Internet service stinks.

So one month later, at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, with a laptop and Ethernet cable in one hand and a mega-cup of coffee in the other, I head down to the basement to obtain the evidence needed to convince help desk dude that we have a problem.  I plug the laptop into the modem, browse to speedtest.net, hit test, and…

Well, how about that.  It worked perfectly.  It looks like help desk dude was right after all.

After two more mega-cups of coffee and a couple hours of troubleshooting, I was able to isolate and resolve the problem.  Apparently, my brand name, business-class wireless access point has a firmware/hardware issue that throttles download bandwidth to an unacceptably low rate when configured for 802.11n.  No fix is available, but you can work around the issue by upgrading hardware or setting the wireless to 802.11g. 

Needless to say, I configured the access point to wireless-g.  After a quick bite to eat, I was ready for a nap.  I walked to the living room and lay down on the couch.  My daughters were both there, heads buried inside their Kindles.  I wasn’t even sure they noticed me walk in the room.  But before I drifted off, both of them came over and offered just a little be of hero praise.

“Thank you, Daddy!  We love you!”

Until next time…

@gregory_a_baker