Saturday, July 16, 2016

Smartphone videos are causing rising racial tensions

I'm seeing comments blaming President Barack Obama for rising racial tensions. This is all wrong. It's the smartphone with its portable video camera and social media that has made the difference.

I don't think racial problems and the resulting discord are any worse than they were 10 years ago. I think, due to all the video cameras in people's hands, that racial situations are more visible with the ugliness of police brutality out there for all to see.

Ultimately, this is a good thing because maybe we can end racism, homophobia, harassment of immigrants and other evils once and for all.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Don't discriminate against anyone!

Last Friday, I saw a Facebook post that began, "I noticed a transgender man heading for the dressing room in the women’s clothing store I was shopping at." Correct me if I'm wrong, but most people wouldn't know a transgender person vs. a cisgender person unless someone personally knew the person and told them. How would this "transgender man" look any different than any of the other women in the store (assuming she really means transgender and not cross-dressing)?

Don't believe me? Watch two movies, "Victor, Victoria" and "Tootsie," and you'll see what I mean. Yes, we're not talking about actual transgender people in these movies, but it's easy for me to see how the same person could look both male and female, based on clothing, makeup and hair style.

This is no different than lesbian, gay and bisexual people: Most people have no idea looking at a person what their sexual orientation is. Yes, some people have a "gaydar," but most people don't.

So when you try to discriminate against an LGBTQ person, you may be accidentally discriminating against someone who's completely straight. So don't discriminate, take people as they present themselves, and there won't be a problem.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Watson on Jeopardy!: The end of the Microsoft/Intel computer era

On this day five years ago, IBM's Watson competed against Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings on the game show Jeopardy!, winning the competition. (The actual competition happened January 14, 2011 with the first broadcast of the two episodes on February 14 and 15, 2011.)

To me, this event marked the Microsoft/Intel computer era that we have been living in for so long and the start of the Watson era, which continues today. To my knowledge, Watson's software and hardware does not contain much, if any, Microsoft code or Intel processors.

The Microsoft/Intel computer era was an age where cheap software running on cheap hardware was king. It was an era where Version 1.0 was garbage and everyone waited until at least Version 1.1 came out. It was an era where Intel microprocessors would take arbitrary text and execute it as a program (allowing over 30 million viruses and other malware to date).

Sadly, other companies fell into this trap of bad software with bad security. Adobe Systems is a leading example of this. In the Watson era, Adobe's Flash is near the end of its life.

I graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Computer Science (College of Engineering) in 1976. Some of the best practices of that time were simply ignored by Microsoft and Intel and have only been rediscovered in this decade, some 40 years later. What if the cars of today were designed and built with the technology of the 1970s? Air bags and antilock brakes would not be included. People would be furious! But many business people didn't want to pay for good-quality hardware and software over the last 40 years, so they bought technology that was poorly designed even for the 1970s.

What is different about the Watson era of computing? IBM's Power Systems servers, like the ones running Watson, running the IBM i Operating System have multiple parity bits (including error-correcting memory) and other checks to prevent memory errors and even adder errors from corrupting the operating system, user programs or data. These processors and operating system require that programs be compiled by a compiler and will not run arbitrary text as a program. I know of no viruses or worms that run on IBM Power Systems (with the caveat that there may be malware that affects the two other operating systems that run on IBM Power, AIX and Linux). Ironically, many of IBM Power Systems do run antivirus software, but not as much for themselves: They do it to detect viruses affecting Microsoft/Intel systems which have been uploaded into their file systems by infected computers (how ironic)!

The IBM i Operating System, including its predecessors going back to 1979 (longer than any Windows Server has existed), have always more robust than Windows Server. Today they can manage multiple workloads in multiple virtual machines without conflict or crashing and dependable resource allocation. It's not unusual to have a 10-year-old Power Systems server that has never crashed. There have been cases where one IBM Power Systems server has replaced over 100 Windows and Linux servers. There are companies that have 15,000 active users working on one Power Systems server with sub-second response time.

What did the end of the Microsoft/Intel computer era and the start of the Watson era five years ago mean for the typical computer person? For many, nothing. Companies will still buy cheap: They can buy Windows 2012 R2 running on a server with an Intel processor for less than $1,000. They will still pay lots of money to load this system up with antivirus software, which is unlikely to block zero-day vulnerabilities, and pay technicians to keep this system running and to restart it when it crashes. They will continue taking the server down to install monthly patches from Microsoft. If they need another function, they will buy another server, and another, and another... I know a company that buys a skid of servers with Intel processors (at least 20 servers) whenever they have a planned power outage to replace the servers that will not boot up when the power comes back.

But there's another group of companies out there which understand the false economy of the Microsoft/Intel world. These companies will spend the money for better servers and operating systems, without the need for antivirus software for their operating system, and end up with better results with a lower cost of ownership. And many good computer people will work for these companies, because they don't want to deal with things keeping them from writing dependable programs which can run 24/7 without having to deal with crashes and glitches.

Notes: I have donated $10 in both 2015 and 2014 to Wikipedia for its operations. Have you donated?
This is cross-posted on my company blog at Netburg Services.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Shiites and Sunnis: Mutually assured destruction?

Remember Eugene Fields' poem of the Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat (actual name: The Duel)? If you haven't, spoiler alert!

We hear this talk about Muslims not liking non-believers. But, to me, it seems that the biggest enemy of the Shiite Muslims are the Sunni Muslims and vice versa. When they're all done killing each other, with the United States killing Muslims of all persuasions, will there be any Muslims left? Can't they all just get along? (Apologies to the late Rodney King.)

(Prompted by Saudi Arabia executing Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. The things that al-Nimr did that Saudi Arabia objected to sound like they would be perfectly legal in the United States.)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Don't stress out during the holidays

If you're feeling stressed out and maybe even depressed about the upcoming holidays (Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa), I can relate. (I'd include Ramadan but it was in June and July this year.)

If you realize that not a single person is coming to visit you from out of town for the holidays, I can relate.

If much of your family has moved to Florida, leaving you with four or fewer family members for the holidays, I can relate.

If you see those commercials and shows on television where 40 people show up for Thanksgiving and you just want to cry because there's no way your family could get 40 people in one place, I can relate. (Suggestion: Skip the Hallmark channel.)

If you get tired of all the car commercials this time of year because spending $40,000 or more on a car is just not you, I can relate.

If you've just realized you've gained eight pounds in the last month and it isn't even Thanksgiving yet, I can relate. (Start working on your fitness in December; don't wait for January.)

If your work situation seems to be even more hectic and pressure-packed than ever and your boss says, "Holidays? What holidays?", I can relate.

If you feel that the holidays are all about spending money on electronics to replace devices that are still working well, I can relate. (There's little 4K content yet. Just wait.)

If you see a Facebook friend's pictures where her house is all decorated up like Martha Stewart's for the holidays and your house isn't even going to have a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, I can relate. (Remember, she's retired and has time for that.)

If the shorter and shorter days make you pine for those long June days, I can relate.

If your friends are bitching because they just got four inches of snow and you wish that you could have just a bit of snow to cover up your neighbors unraked leaves, I can relate.

If you hate turning on the news because of all the bad stuff going on in the world, including this country, I can relate.

If you wish a real, intelligent, practical, middle-of-the-road businessperson, like Mark Cuban, would run for President, I can relate.

If you're worried that a recession is coming and you might lose 30% in your 401(k) funds in the next few months, I can relate.

If the holidays make you sad because you it reminds you of the grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles who have died and you miss them, I can relate.

If you've lost a spouse, close friend, brothers or sisters or children to death, I can't relate but I do sympathize. I also sympathize if you have a loved one or friend in the hospital or therapy and you really want them to come home before the end of the year.

If one of your pets died this year, I sympathize, even if it was just a goldfish.

There are a lot of things that can make you sad during the holidays. Don't let them. With a blink of an eye, it seems, the holidays will be past and we'll be celebrating New Year's Day with the promise (perhaps naïve) of a brand new year.

If you're really lonely, reach out to a friend. They may not invite you to a family celebration, but maybe you can invite them to lunch and just talk. Go to a movie, sports event or an event where there are other small groups of people where you can pick up some of their energy.

For those who live close to Cincinnati, go to the Vocal Arts Ensemble's Christmas concert. Go to church; if you don't have a church, go to one of the Crossroads Churches. If you're not Christian, look around for a church that fits your beliefs. You can also try my church, First Unitarian Church, which welcomes all faiths. Also in Cincinnati, you can always go to Fountain Square, watch the skaters and pick up good vibes there.

But be proactive. Don't let the holiday season get you down. Try to take the negatives in your life and turn them into positives. That's what I plan on doing.

(Also published on my Facebook page.)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Do-it-yourself abortions in Texas

Texas passed restrictions on abortion clinics supposedly to make the procedure safer to women. As a result of these restrictions, the number of abortion clinics dropped from 42 to 18. These restrictions are going to be reviewed by the Supreme Court of the United States. Funny, the rules don't apply to dentist's offices which have similar risks, in my opinion.

But the law of unintended consequences has reared its ugly head. It is estimated that between 100,000 and 240,000 women in Texas have tried abortions on themselves, using drugs, alcohol and, yes, punching the fetus in the womb. It is not known how many of these abortions have been successful and how many women and fetuses have been injured as a result.

Once again, the fanatics of the religious right are doing more harm than good. It's amazing that any woman today would want to have a baby with the increasing restrictions on her pregnancy and the very real chance that she will die in the process.

Here's the Bloomberg article this post is based on.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Businesses: Use Nextdoor for free advertising

Nextdoor is a social media platform for people living in your neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods. Their terms and conditions (also see below) block businesses from joining but they don't appear to be enforcing this. A business in my neighborhood has now posted for the third time. I reported them to Nextdoor the first two times for violating the guidelines but apparently Nextdoor doesn't care, just like they didn't care about the unlicensed car dealer selling cars on Nextdoor. The third time I got a post from the business, I just "Muted" them so I won't see their posts any more (and I "Muted" the unlicensed car dealer as well).

So, until Nextdoor gets its act together, it can be used by your business for free advertising. Don't post too frequently, though, or people like me will get upset with you.

Nextdoor Guidelines FAQ

(Annotation added.)