Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Toaster world

The commoditization of technology is what will drive the move to the cloud.

As a geek/techie/etc., I love the control of having my own systems, but the truth of the matter is, we Geeks are a minority and we are losing the war. The truth is, technology is becoming commoditized. This is a good thing, but it means changes.

First, we will see people start to expect technology to become like we have appliances. We already are starting to see this. We want to have connectivity. We want to have sharing. We expect it all to simply work. We want to have others make this occur. We want an internet of toaster like simplicity and reliability and we are close to being there.

The NAS of the future will be an online store (as in storage system). People do not care about the tech, they want to have the functionality. What is behind it maters little. The thing here is, Net-gen cares even less than my generation of techies did. They may have the skills to use it, but the skills to control it are actually diminishing (think Assembly coding if you doubt this). Net-gen knows how to mash up an app but fails to know what the base protocol really is in most cases.

Right now, we have slow (but increasingly fast) connections to the net and we are moving more and more to mobile and wireless. Soon, wireless will be anywhere and at 30 frames per second many times over for HD. This means remote desktops will work faster than we are used to local ones on our PCs.

When all is available, backed up and secured, who will want or care for a USB device?

In a few years, 100Mb/sec or even Gb/s wireless will be a utility function. At these speeds and when we no longer worry about having the endless drops and black-spots, the net will be something like the electricity grid, we will expect it always to be there (and lament it dropping with a gusto).

This is something in the next 5 – 10 years (some locations are nearly there).

We are already moving this way. We are already close. As the base infrastructure manages to surpass the level of allowing this (and also adds a layer of redundancy to those connections)  we will see the cloud become the everyday.

Soon, there will be little more than a nebulous net we are all connected into.

Prepare for change as it is the only constant.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Education, it is for life… Not just Christmas.

It is all too common to hear about a group of workers that are being left behind with the requisite cries of government and those of the left to call for their protection. With new technologies generating more and more labor saving functions and a future of new technologies we have not even started to dream of, we are seeming manufacturing jobs go by the wayside.

Nothing new, the Luddite movement and several movements in the 1950’s and even at the turn of the 20th century have called for more protection of workers and the creation of new manual labor positions.

It is all too common to see calls for protection. This is a way of avoiding personal responsibility. In calling for others, and in particular government to save us, we are avoiding the cost of freedom and free will, responsibility. We are making a society that is not responsible for itself. This is one that expects others to prop it up.

Teach a man (or woman) to fish…

It is no good protecting industries whose time has come and past. We did this for Kodak. This was a company who could have road the wave of technological change and that was at the forefront of camera technology, but one like Emperor Vespasian who decided to opt for protectionism and watch the inevitable slow collapse as funds are drained to protect a dying entity with the result that it starves the infant technology and all fails.

We need to make people know that they are responsible for their own education. No other is nor can be.

We have a signaling device for this already, the market. We pay high wages for at times easy work (though one that requires knowledge) for many IT people. We pay a lot for these groups, for engineers, for technologies and others as they are in demand. When a group is in demand, they are paid more in proportion to what they do than they would if the market was in an equilibra (even a transitory one).

Education is not something you do and then sit upon for the entirety of your life. It is a start in a life long process that ends when you retire or die. Personally, I prefer the later with the option of education until I pass.

Rather, that degree you completed in 1996 or whenever is but a stepping stone to the next and fur4ther effort you need to make. In this world, we are moving away from manufacturing. This will be the role of the machines with humans fulfilling the creative side of existence. If we cannot accept this role, we will lose for we cannot fight the forces posed against us. Economic reality means that more efficient and effective measures will prevail – as they should. We all win if we can have more for less.

Shoes are already being printed using 3-d devices. These lights out factories will need less and less people allowing more and more per dollar. What people need to understand is that simple repetitive jobs are done better by machines and algorithms and if you do not start to learn to create, to be artistic in your role, then you will be less and less effective.

We can pour more and more into protecting manufacturing, but the end is a mirror of the punishment of Danaides[1]. We pour money into an endless hole in an attempt to prolong the inevitable demise of long past industries. We could do the same now for many that have failed to survive, blacksmiths, farriers, turnip hackers, etc. But we have bypassed these roles as we have grown into a more prosperous society.

We need to start seeing responsibility as something we have to engage in and education as a responsibility we all owe.

We need to start seeing our own development not as a chore, but as the means to creating more and a way to enable us all to fit into society. There are many roles unfulfilled now. There are unemployed but try and find a skilled programmer and there is still a dearth.

Education is a duty we all owe.

It does not end in college, trade school or anytime. We have a world were the end is knowledge and we have a duty to learn.


[1] Thsee are the fifty daughters of Danaüs with all but one being punished by Hades. Hypermnestra was the only of the 50 who was not involve in the murder of their bridegrooms on their wedding night. The other 49 women murdered their bridegrooms and were punished in Hades. This punishment involved having to pour water perpetually into a jar with a hole in the bottom which emptied into the sea. One of the many endless and fruitless tasks in Hades we see to want to emulate through modern protectionist government.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Endnote and better referencing

Teaching and marking at a post graduate level in a university has definitely taught me one thing, students do not reference and maintain document and research notes well.

As such, I have created a small video tutorial on using EndNote. This is a program that manages references and research notes.


Happy referencing.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

War, espionage, and the term of the day

Right now there is a hell of a great deal of FUD stating that the US has instigated cyber-war using “Flame” and with the release of information on op. Olympic Games.

What we first need to step back and see is that:

More, spying is not and has never been war. Yes, there are uses for intelligence in the theatre of war, but this does not make the act warfare. There are cooks and mechanics deployed in warfare as well, but we would be seen as fools to state that the deployment of a cook is an act of war.

Yes, I have a level of bias. I have been engaged and still work with groups in the Australian and US governments. At the end of the day however, this also does nothing to change the fact that spying is not war.

First, we should note that we all spy on everyone. It is well known and documented that the UK and USA each spy on one another. There are GCHQ agents for the CIA and CIA agents for the CGHQ. Nothing new. In fact, we all do. This is the nature of nations. In many cases, we have "covert human intelligence sources" deployed more widely in “friendly” nations than in enemies. There are reasons for this, first, it is simpler and less risky. Next, it is economically more feasible.

Industrial espionage also forms the  backbone of spying in many nations. We see this everywhere and should not be surprised. It is nothing new. It has been a fact of state to state interactions for millennia. Sun Tzu talks of espionage.

More critically, electronic operations are effective. They also collect more information than a pure HumInt (Human Intelligence) operation.

In operations against terrorist groups (such as AQIM), an officer can gather far more intel than any agent could provide and the information is less likely to be tainted.

It can be estimated that the number of reported cases represents less than 5 to 10 percent of the known industrial espionage events. When we take all events, the figures are lower.

To the point…

Cyberwar is an attack. It is not a simple act of espionage or even a simple targeted operation designed to safely remove a particular installation with minor damage to personal. A REAL cyber war can have dire consequences (in contradiction to what many still believe).

Espionage is both intelligence gathering as well as small covert operations. They are not the same thing. When we see a Cyber war, we will; know the difference. So far, we have not seen cyber war on any scale.

The raison d'être of espionage is not that of armed conflict.

Most important, espionage is not and has not been a reason for armed conflict. In the laws of war, criminal actions are not an act of war, nor is espionage.

Cyber attacks and cyber exploitations are the two forms of hostile
actions that may be taken against a computer system or network (Herbert, 2010 ).

Cyber exploitation is a clandestine event. It differs for this reason from a cyber attack.

When is it legal for a nation to use force against another nation?

Or… Jus Ad Bellum and Jus In Bello.

Articles 2(4), 39, 41, 42, and 51 of the UN Charter provisions most applicable to jus ad bellum cover the acts against Iran.

Even reconnaissance in preparation for later conflict is not an act of war. Thus it follows that reconnaissance and espionage events are not acts of cyber war.

More, when we see acts taken against AQ, AQIM, FARC and others, we are seeing nations taking actions against terror groups and not states. Actions against illegal groups is never war by definition.

We should also see that the damage of kinetic armed conflict is far greater and economically more destructive for all sides, including the “victor”. At the end of the day, it is better to maintain good intelligence networks than to maintain an ostrich effect and away an end we cannot forecast without the knowledge gained though these actions.

So, these points stated, I have to again state:


Herbert S. Lin, (2010).Offensive Cyber Operations and the Use of Force, 4 J. NAT’L SECURITY L. & POL’Y 63, 63