Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dilbert panic over…

Thought I was suddenly in an alternative universe when looking at today’s Dilbert cartoon…

Different look Dilbert (7 Mar 16 cartoon)

…but now all is revealed; Scott Adams has gone on holiday and there are guest artists drawing the pictures for six weeks.

http://blog.dilbert.com/post/140211504101/dilberts-changed-look-explained

Google patents smart ‘toys’ that could spy on children and control home | Daily Mail Online

This sort of patent concerns me about the overall principle of patenting stuff: 1. Have Google actually made these toys they are patenting or jut an paper idea?, 2. Is this actually a concept worth a patent at all as it does not seem particularly novel and more like an obvious piece of engineering?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3092988/Google-patents-creepy-internet-toys-control-home-listen-conversations-spy-children.html

Did removing lead from petrol spark a decline in crime?

Did removing lead from petrol spark a decline in crime? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-27067615

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This suggests that by the law of averages, marketing automation generates no benefit

Uh-oh: One-third of companies adopting marketing automation are not hitting ROI goals http://www.news-republic.com/Web/ArticleWeb.aspx?regionid=4&articleid=20319142

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Perils of technology investment

Two interesting themes underlying this article: 1. Clever technology doesn’t always make a great business, 2. The Innovators Dilemma at work in big corporates strangling the babies , “The smarter news apps are, the dumber they get…” at  http://www.news-republic.com/Web/ArticleWeb.aspx?regionid=4&articleid=19972244

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Valley of the Blahs: How Justin Bieber’s Troubles Exposed Twitter’s Achilles’ Heel – NYTimes.com

There is a tipping point when the cost of monitoring the volume of status updates exceeds the benefit derived.  For me the limit is about 50 items, anything beyond is just noise or unnoticed ripples in the life stream.  Same reason I signed off Usenet 30 years ago.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/bits/2014/01/25/valley-of-the-blahs-how-justin-biebers-downfall-exposed-twitters-achilles-heel/?hpw=&rref=technology

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3D food printers debut at CES

Yup, that might start to fill the bill for “mass customisation” envisaged by Alvin Toffler

3D food printers debut at CES http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25647918

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The Bluetooth Boy is now powered by WordPress!

Bluettoth_Boy_has_moved

After some thought and consideration, the Bluetooth Boy and the 6log blog have now moved to a new blogging platform.

6log used to run on the Simple PHP Blog, which was, well, simple, indeed, one of its best points.  But alas, some of the fancier features of the blogging world have passed it by, like mobile access, social network sharing and such sorts of goodies.  And with pressure of life and stuff I have been finding that the hand-cranked way I was loading HTML formatted blog posts, was just too time-consuming, so that my blog-rate had reduced to a crawl.

 

So, Single Retail Banana, Unhappy Voucher and the Crunchy Octopus have now found a home on an upgraded service based on WordPress 3.5.1.  The migration was aided by various bits that other people have left lying around the Web after their own efforts, mainly a migration script by Miguel Herrero (with significant mods to cope with the new WP term tag/category structure), and an SPHP permalink plug-in from Florian Klien.

So we shall see now, if I can fight my way through the comment spam…

comment spam seems to be endemic to WordPress linked blogs, compared to good old SPHPBlog – the first arrived as I was writing this post!

…and post a bit more frequently

 

Up like a Rocket, Down Like a Stick

The collapse of 2e2 – a classic case of up like a rocket and done like a stick – was one of those occasional industry news-quakes that will no doubt make an interesting MBA case study, and to be sure, be the subject of a thesis and dissertation or two.

One of the big things that was reported was that 2e2 had “breached its banking covenants”.

Covenant . n. a mutual agreement…an engagement entered between God and a person or people…Chambers 20th Century dictionary

“Breaching convenants” is a phrase that tickles me as a somewhat odd mix of ordinary commerce with a flavour of the biblical,  and a slight smell of pretension. Makes me think of some others …What about:

  • Did you hear Gwynnie’s canticles at the Oscars…
  • You must heed the the Digital Security commandments…
  • I am looking forward to hearing the epistles from Corporate Communications…
  • Health and Safety officials took down witness testaments after the accident…

I think these are probably all examples of  “paradoxical heterologisms”, but don’t quote me on that!

So we shall see if time brings any more useful diagnoses of the underlying issues around the “borrow-to-buy” model.  Difficult enough to do when you make scads of profit, but even harder to execute in the low margin sectors of the IT Services market.

Anyway, having been silent on my blog for quite some months, the event triggered me to dig out a couple of pictures that have been lurking in my capacious back pocket for some time (well since about 2008, in fact).

The diagram below is one of those hardy perennial consulting charts depicting the “Extended Enterprise” network organisation model  which underlies most outsourcing:

Outsourcing_model

There are undoubtedly many good reasons to outsource various activities in a business, and structurally, it creates something looking like this, across a number of clients for an outsourcing company:

Outsource_interlock_1

The outsourced component for the clients is provided here, I posit, by a chunk of critical infrastructure belonging to the Service Provider.

As in the case of 2e2 with its Patni helpdesk relationship, some service providers deliver chunks of their service offering by outsourced from another.

As also with CSC in times past, where the man that turned up to service your PCs arrived in an SCC van – no, not a spelling mistake, just a supply chain decision, and a bit of margin on margin…

So you end up with a variant thus for a sub-contracted helpdesk, for example:

 Outsource_interlock_2

And of course, it gets much more complicated than that..

puzzle

So it can create quite some tidal waves when one of the jigsaw parts falls out of bed (or otherwise mixes its metaphors).

Alas poor 2e2, we knew you well !  Gone but not forgotten…

Technology and the Zone of Uselessness

They let me out for a short trip to the shops today, and whilst I was waiting to pay, I watched an old geezer struggling to put his chip'n'pin card in the right way round.  Which set me off thinking about what happens when you get old, and at what point does the pace of technology evolution overtake and you are left in the dust, a crumbly, fumbling, useless old curmudgeon, no longer able to function properly nor interact sensibly with the environment.

To further the analysis we can consider this table of the evolution of user interfaces (keeping a fairly tight scope to cover mainly electronic means)…

Primary Mode
of Interaction
Examples Era of invention
Tap Telegraph key (button) Late Georgian
Shout Candlestick phone Victorian
Rotate Rotary phone, Wireless with Bakelite knobs, steering wheel (drive by wire) Victorian
Bash / Prod  QWERTY keyboard, keypad Victorian
Look Eye tracking Early Miss-Marple
Wiggle Joystick Wilson-WhiteHeatian for electrical (although Early Edwardian/La Belle Époque (for mechanical)
Blow Typing aids,
Blow controlled mobile phone, ignoring the Captains speaking tube…
Flower-Power
Waggle Mouse Engelbarto-Xerox PARCian
Scribble GridPad, Apple Newton, Palm, Ipaq, Tablet PC Yuppie-time
Fondle & Stroke Smart phone, tablet SonyEricssonian-Jobsian
Wave Nintendo Wii, Xbox Kinect, data glove TomCruisian
Shout 2 Speech Recognition Rock and Roll, but it hasn't really happened yet properly, maybe JeremyClarksonian, when it does (JC is famously unable to use any voice operated equipment)
Think emotiv EPOC neuroheadset Yuppie-time

…and whilst you can see that a lot of stuff was actually invented a long time ago, having been around for over 100 years in some form, there has been quite a rush of invention in more recent years, hanging on the cot-tails of the primary evolution of computing technology, no surprise there, I suppose.

One of the more interesting insights, for me as an analyst and connoisseur of number crunching, is that whilst many of the newer inventions have been for various methods of computer control,  there is a paucity of newly invented data entry methods, beyond the humble and ancient keyboard.  

With the dominant design of the QWERTY keyboard to the fore, there have been really no successful disruptive plays, and most inventions have focussed on just reworking the layout (e.g., DVORAK, frogpad, FITALY and their kin).  Chord keyboards made a bid, but, of course, like any shorthand method you need to learn a new language, and they never took off.

The FITALY keyboard is a nice design that fits well with modern joy-pad units like xBox and smartphone touch interfaces, as it minimise the amount of clicks, or finger movement movement to type a letter so is quite fast , however at $49 for a tablet computer it is never going to amount to much

Extending the idea of chord keyboards and use of non-verbal language, there is undoubtedly some scope for non-keyboard data-entry devices using gesture control  to recognise sign language (and that hopefully avoid Gorilla-arm that afflicted early days vertical touch screen users).   Although, the new “language” learning problem still exists, and Babel will always be an issue, unless we all adopt Ameslan or Microsoftlan, or AppleJobsLan.

Now I believe that I can rightly consider myself  pretty well up on the world of technology and there is very little that fazes me.

In fact, many pieces of broken equipment will just fix them in my presence, or so it seems, when my family call the DadHelpdesk, and I just lean over languidly and in my calming presence, and the recalcitrant kit just bursts in to life (maybe with a judicious key press or two)

But don't ask me about *&^$*^%ing plumbing – compression joints, meh!

So I do think that my threshold of uselessness is likely to be pretty high (or do I mean low), and consoling me today, my elder son told me that “people don't get dumb, they just get old” (i.e, if they were stupid to start with, they will be stupid, old people), so maybe there will be some hope…

However, like VCRs, which kids can programme with ease whilst their parents just fumble, the evolution  of new technologies and UIs in particular, is much influenced by the volume of fluent, capable users, which itself flows with the generations.

To this, one area of technology that I do not really bother with is computer games beyond a half-finished PC version of Dune in 1992, I'm just not interested in playing them (I can feel my life slipping away).  Therefore I am not particularly adroit when it comes to using a joypad, and have not built up great dexterity and flexibility in my hands and fingers (unlike most teenage boys) for that type of device.  The one time I played Castle Wolfenstein, I spent the whole game bumping into walls whilst staring at the floor or sky!  And Second Life, oh so bad!

More so, I  have never been able to make the three-fingered boy scout sign – I never was a boy scout, also just not interested – my hands just don't bend that way.

And finally, I have a very highly tuned embarrassment inhibitor which tries to stop me doing things that would cause a red face (it doesn't always work, even with my personaility type…)

So what is my old-age technology nightmare scenario?

  • having to visit Castle Wolfenstein to get my pension…
  • …electronically bruised after a long, slow, meandering (virtual) walk from the entrance of the Cyberspace Business Park…
  • …inputting my data by waving my arms wildly whilst holding my walking stick trying not to fall over…
  • …and making complex mudra with my crippled and twisted old hands.

Ye gods!  Build me a Bluetooth neural uplink, and make it snappy!