Tuesday, March 23, 2010

MTConnect Technical Advisory Group Meeting at CU-ICAR

Last Monday the 15th, through Wednesday the 17th I was at Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) attending the MTConnect Technical Advisory Group Meeting (MTAG) in Greenville, South Carolina.  I flew down with Paul Warndorf, Vice President of Technology and CTO for AMT.  I always learn a lot traveling with Paul.

The MTAG was hosted by Dr. Thomas Kurfess who is the Director of the Campbell Graduate Engineering Center at CU-ICAR.  Dr. Tom Kurfess was a very gracious host who gave us a tour of CU-ICAR as well as arranged for private tour at BMW's Assembly Plant in Spartanburg, SC where they build the X5 and X6 models.

The MTAG meetings were the best ever.  I believe that is because of the passion and expertise of the MTAG members as well as the rapidly increasing adoption of MTConnect with machine tool builders, software companies, integration companies and MOST IMPORTANT customers.

Below are some photos I took at the BMW Assembly Plant Tour.

Above is me standing in front of a BMW V-12 aircraft engine at the BMW Museum in Spartanburg, SC.

Above is the description of the aircraft engine I was in front of in the earlier photo.

Above is a 1,400 HP 4 cylinder BMW race car engine.

As the text states, this is a photo of BMW's diesel engine that is listed as the sportiest and most efficient in the world.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mac OS X Backspace and Delete For Old Unix Geeks Like Me

 Below is a picture of my toolbar:

As you can tell, this is not your typical toolbar on a MacBook Pro.  I have demoted the standard Apple apps and promoted applications such as:

  1. Terminal
  2. Console
  3. Network Utility
  4. System Profiler
  5. Activity Monitor
  6. Techtool Deluxe
  7. VirtualBox
  8. Spaces
  9. Time Machine
  10. Opera
  11. Chrome
  12. Firefox
So, I am not your typical Apple Fan Boy user is my point.  I like the power tools of life.  I like saving time.  I love that my MacBook Pro runs Unix underneath.  I am more and more impressed with Mac OS X until I ran into the no damn BACKSPACE key on the MacBook Pro.  That was a stupid design decision.   Please don't tell me how Steve Jobs is god and that whatever decision he makes are great.  I will show you the Apple Lisa in my father's basement.  I will show you pictures of the Newton.  Even Apple can make mistakes.  Don't get me wrong, Steve Jobs is a marketing genius, but he is not god.

I am an old Unix guy.  I have been using Unix since 1981.  That is a lot longer than most, but not as long as some.  What I love about Unix is its simplicity.  It is elegant in its simplicity.  Everything is a file with Unix and that makes it very extensible.  It is exponentially extensible.  I love power tools that just work.  I am a vi person and up until recently a Pine person for email.  Why?  Huge capabilities with absolute minimal key strokes.

Bill Joy used to send his emails with lower case only because he calculated that he saved something like 27% by avoiding the short pause to hit the shift key at the beginning of sentences.  I think he is probably unique in that style :-)   If you look at vi, you see an extremely powerful editor.  Speaking of vi, there is a long standing story about Bill writing vi in a weekend.  He did not.  See below.
Below is a short snippet from an interview with Bill Joy on the creation of vi that was reproduced by SoftPanorma which was reproduced from Linux Magazine November 1999 FEATURES onThe Joy of Unix: 
Linux Magazine: So you didn't really write vi in one weekend like everybody says? 
Bill Joy: No. It took a long time. It was really hard to do because you've got to remember that I was trying to make it usable over a 300 baud modem. That's also the reason you have all these funny commands. It just barely worked to use a screen editor over a modem. It was just barely fast enough. A 1200 baud modem was an upgrade. 1200 baud now is pretty slow.
9600 baud is faster than you can read. 1200 baud is way slower. So the editor was optimized so that you could edit and feel productive when it was painting slower than you could think. Now that computers are so much faster than you can think, nobody understands this anymore.
The people doing Emacs were sitting in labs at MIT with what were essentially fibre-channel links to the host, in contemporary terms. They were working on a PDP-10, which was a huge machine by comparison, with infinitely fast screens.
So they could have funny commands with the screen shimmering and all that, and meanwhile, I'm sitting at home in sort of World War II surplus housing at Berkeley with a modem and a terminal that can just barely get the cursor off the bottom line.
It was a world that is now extinct. People don't know that vi was written for a world that doesn't exist anymore -- unless you decide to get a satellite phone and use it to connect to the Net at 2400 baud, in which case you'll realize that the Net is not usable at 2400 baud. It used to be perfectly usable at 1200 baud. But these days you can't use the Web at 2400 baud because the ads are 24 kilobytes.
Back to the point of this blog post where I am admittedly jumping into some historical rat holes :-)  I have been using Unix since 1981 and have always used the DELETE key as the Unix intr and the BACKSPACE key as the erase key.   What does this mean in English?  The DELETE key interrupts or basically kills what you were doing on a command line.  The BACKSPACE key will backspace to the left of where you are on the line and remove whatever it backspaces over.  Some individuals use CONTROL-C as the Unix intr function.  I never liked that because that involved pausing and hitting the control key then the C key.  Like Bill Joy, I believe shorter is better.

On the MacBook Pro there is no BACKSPACE key.  This is stupid.  Apple easily could have put a BACKSPACE key on the keyboard.  Why do I need only one FN key, one CONTROL key, but I need TWO COMMAND keys and TWO ALT/OPTION keys?  I realize that the Apple Fan Boys and Apple Sycophants will go nuts over this heresy, but it makes no damn sense....

BUT, there is a solution.  After googling my brains out and going down many, many wrong paths, I have found a solution that works for me.  Now, for the average Apple user, this may not be the solution, but for old Unix geeks, it is a very clean solution.

You need to do three things:

  1. Turn off the keyboard shortcut for the F12 key that pops up the Dashboard.  You do this by going into System Preferences--> Keyboard --> Dashboard & Dock then deselect the Dashboard F12 function.  See below.

    2.  Select the Use all F1, F2, etc. as standard function keys.  What this means is that to use the functions that are represented by icons on your upper row function keys, you MUST first hold down the FN key.  No big deal to me, because these keys are not used that often for a typical Unix geek.  Your typical Apple user might freak out though.  Your typical Apple user is not using a Unix terminal all the time like I am though either.   You do this by going into System Preferences--> Keyboard --> Keyboard then select the Use all F1, F2, etc. as standard function keys.    See below.

   3.   Redefine the F12 key by going into the Terminal Settings--> Preferences --> Settings --> Keyboard  and redefine the F12 key to be a CONTROL-H which shows up as a \010  as you see below.

   3.  Then make sure your  stty looks like the following in your .cshrc file   stty  intr '^?'
         The system defaults to having CONTROL-H as the backspace key.  In other words, the system puts in the equivalent of     stty erase '^H'

Now, when it hit the DELETE key it will operate as an intr and when you hit the F12 key it will operate as the erase function as all of us old geeks are used to.   Three easy steps.....

NOTE:  A question I received in early August 2010 asked me, "I've just switched from a PC to MAC, and this is also my only complaint. I'm just a regular user though - how the heck do I access my .cshrc file so that I can follow your above instructions? Thanks so much." 

The answer to the question is that the terminal app is located in the Utilities Folder inside the Applications Folder.  The purpose of this post is for those individuals who are using a terminal window and want the  DELETE key it will operate as an intr and when you hit the F12 key it will operate as the erase function.


Friday, March 12, 2010

When Big Parts of Your Past Are Closed Down

This past week it was announced that the Kansas City, MO School System will close down 29 of its 61 schools.

In this group of closures is the High School I went to Hickman Mills.

What is interesting about this is the following about my youth:

        Westridge Elementary School CLOSED
        Baptiste Junior High School CLOSED
        Hickman Mills High School CLOSED

The numbers are devastating:

  * Kansas City has 61 schools
  * 29 schools will close by fall
  * 700 jobs will be lost
  * 25 million dollars will be spent on the transition
  * KC had 75,000 students
  * KC now has less than 17,000

I went to 6th grade at Westridge, all three years at Baptiste and one year at Hickman Mills during a five year stint my father was assigned to Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base which is also CLOSED.   The shopping center near our house had so much crime that ALL THE STORES CLOSED.

When I took my family on a trip about ten years ago, I took them to Trenton, Illinois and Kansas City, Missouri to show them where I lived.  We did this during the summer.

In Trenton, 30 years after my parents left, NOTHING HAD CHANGED.  The people who purchased my parents house were still there.  All the neighbors were still there.  The population of 2,100 had not changed. It was simply surreal to go back to a small town and it was as if time had stopped.

We go to Kansas City, Missouri.   I take them to Westridge Elementary School and it is closed.  I take them to Baptiste Junior High School and it is closed.  We go to Hickman Mills High School and it is open.  I decide to take my family inside.   One of the stories that my boys did not believe was that teachers were allowed to hit you with a board in Kansas City, MO.   So, I asked some of the older teachers to tell my sons that it was true that you teachers used to be able to hit kids.  The teachers at Baptiste Junior High called hitting kids with a board "swats".   The number of "swats" you would get was typically 3 or 5 depending on the "crime".   Mr. Bennett, the music teacher, used to pull kids out and give them one swat if they were not singing loud enough.   I witnessed this many times.

The swats I got were for fighting in gym class with my best friend.  He did a power drive on me and nearly knocked me completely out and I got swats for it.  The other time I got swats was for refusing to speak to the Principal Mr. Shipley when he asked me to identity who the smokers were on a field trip.  I got three swats for both crimes from Vice Principal Mr. Hamm.   Mr. Hamm was a large man who probably was about 230 pounds versus Mr. Shipley's 165 pounds.   When I got swats in gym class, I was wearing shorts that had less thickness than a kleenex.  Mr. Hamm did not hit me on my zero percent fat rear end, but instead on my ham strings.  I have to be honest, it hurt like hell.   Many of the teachers had their own paddles.  I remember Mr. Cox, the science teacher, had a custom paddle with holes in it.  He said it allowed him to swing it faster.  He kept this big paddle on his front desk every day just to remind everyone to not screw around.   What Mr. Cox did not know is that we paid attention because he was a good teacher, not because we were afraid of his paddle.

I did watch Ron Britt's father throw Mr. Hamm up against a wall when he came in to school to clearly send the message that if Mr. Hamm ever touched his son again that he would "kick his sorry A$$".   Ron Britt's father was absolutely right.

Anyway, back to the scene at Hickman Mills High School.   The teachers there looked at my three sons and said, "Absolutely kids used to get swats if they were misbehaving.    It was very common.  They no longer hit kids in Missouri, but Missouri was the last state to outlaw corporal punishment."

What is interesting regarding Corporal Punishment is that according to WikiPedia:

Corporal punishment used to be prevalent in schools in many parts of the world, but in recent decades it has been outlawed in most of Europe and in Canada, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand and several other countries (see list of countries, below). It remains commonplace in a number of countries in Africa, south-east Asia and the Middle East (see list of countries, below).
In the United States, the Supreme Court ruling in Ingraham v. Wright (1977) held that school corporal punishment does not violate the federal Constitution. Paddling continues to be used to a significant extent in a number of Southern states, though there has been a sharp decline in its incidence over the past 20 years.
 That night I went to a bar in Kansas City with my best friend when I lived there.   There was no one in this bar and pool hall.  It was a large bar and pool hall so I asked the person behind the bar, where was everyone.  I will never forget her answer, "Two people were kill last night next door, so attendance is down.  Can I get you a beer?"

There  was an article in the paper that listed the neighborhood that we lived in was ranked #2 in total crimes for the 180+ districts in KC.

The best summary line of that trip was my middle son Michael who said about Kansas City, "this explains a lot about dad...."  :-)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Virtual Photons in Quantum Biology

I was reading an interesting white paper (it is posted as a white paper but appears to be available in book form as well)  at Global Quantum Quest titled "An Advanced Treatise in SUBSPACE and QUANTUM ASPECTS of BIOLOGY" and specifically Chapter 6 on Virtual Photons.

The excellent white paper is written by Professor William C. Nelson, The College of Practical Homeopathy, London England.

The explanation of what happens with an MRI was particularly well written:

"The detection of particular body-made photons has become another paramount science in the utilization of magnetic resonance imagery (MRI). In MRI, when the body is exposed to a large magnetic field, the protons of the hydrogen inside the water molecule, the two protons next to the oxygen, will move with their magnetic moment, to parallel the magnetic field. When the magnetic field is removed these protons will jump back to their original state, and in so doing, will release a photon. The photon that is released is vibrating at 64 megahertz, and has a wavelength of approximately 3.8 meters. The magnetic resonance machines will then intake this photon and, through sophisticated computerized processes, be able to describe the amount of water and the location of the water via the triangulation theory used within the computerized software."

Above is just one example of the clarity of Professor Nelson's writing and the entire white paper that is posted is very well written.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Fine Line Between Clever and .... Stupid

OK, so the actual quote by David St. Hubbins in the movie Spinal Tap is "It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever. "  Now that I have addressed the hard core Spinal Tap fans :-)

What I am referring to is a security issue that some people don't even think about.  The social networking sites and activities are extremely popular as we all know.  Millions of people are on facebook, twitter, myspace, LinkedIn, Flickr, or insert your favorite site here.  Everyone likes to share in in an open way.  

The problem is that the average user either does not know know or has not taken the time to think through some of these seemingly innocuous actions.  For example, you are on vacation and keep sending out tweets on what a great time you are having with a bunch of long time friends. You have turned on geotagging on your twitter account because you feel it adds to the personal nature of your tweets.   You think, what's the big deal, geotagging simply means you add your location to your tweets by automatically using the location feature built into your smart phone.

Now, before you think that websites should do a better job of warning the user - many already do. If you check out the warning twitter.com on geotagging, it is very clear, for example, just one part of the twitter site states:

When using Tweet With Your Location, please keep in mind:
Your exact location will be stored with your Tweets, and your exact location or place information may be publicly displayed based on your application settings.
Once you post your location, it’s public. Even if you delete it later, it can remain in third-party applications or other external sources, like search results.

twitter makes it very clear.  Twitter makes it extremely clear and shows exactly how your tweets will appear with your location.  This is also an "opt in" decision, so the default is to not have geotagging turned on.  However, this does not mean that the user reads the warning, nor that the user understands the warning.  This is not twitter's fault.  This is not the users fault, but it is just a fact of life with new technology.

To show how this information can be used in ways that most users would not not suspect, you only have go to a site call RobMeNow.com 

When you go to RobMeNow.com, it has a very succinct message:

Geotagging is a fun way to show burglars when your not at home.  Think before you geotag 

RobMeNow.com really drives home the point that you need to think about the possible secondary and tertiary affects when you make social networking decisions. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds

My wife sent me this TED video on a Temple Grandin who is a lady with autism.   This is a must watch as is the HBO movie titled Temple Grandin.

TED brings out the following:
"Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind works -- sharing her ability to "think in pictures," which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids."
 My wife teaches autistic children is how she came upon this very interesting and fascinating person.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How The Daily Show Finds All Those Clips....

I was listening to This Week in Tech (TWiT), (thanks npg for turning me on to Leo Laporte and friends) which, IMHO, is the best podcast on the net.

Leo was told on this Sunday's podcast that The Daily Show uses SnapStream to find all of those snippets.  SnapStream allows you to enter text then searches TV streams for occurrences of that search string.  For they have a free test  example, this is a search of "Health Care".

They have both consumer and enterprise products.   I thought this was interesting to show what tools that the comedy writers at The Daily Show likely use on a hourly basis.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Investing In a Clear and Compelling National Security Strategy

This past Sunday, Mike McConnell wrote an article titled: To win the cyber-war, look to the Cold War.   Mr. McConnell is the former director of NSA and the former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) during President Bush's second term.

Mr. McConnell brings out the point:

"The problem is not one of resources; even in our current fiscal straits, we can afford to upgrade our defenses. The problem is that we lack a cohesive strategy to meet this challenge"

I am personally not convinced that resources are not an issue.   I think we have a severe lack of security experts in this country in the commercial world.   I would like to say a lot more invested in colleges and universities in terms of security courses and better collaboration between the three letter agencies, industry and academia.  Security must be baked in from the beginning, because if you do not, you can never go back and insert it later with any real success.  Java is a great example of designing security in from the beginning.

A very interesting topic that Mr. McConnell brings up is the Cyber ShockWave simulation at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

I was disappointed that Mr. McConnell did not discuss the importance of open source in security.  Security through obfuscation never works.

A statistic to put this in context was brought out at the Wall Street Journal's blog page by Sarmad Ali is the following:

"There were 54,640 total cyber attacks against the Department of Defense in 2008, according to the report. In the first half of 2009, the number of attacks targeting the department was 43,785. The report maintained that if the influx of incidents continued for the rest of the year, it would represent a 60% increase over 2008"

As devices get smarter and smarter, devices will be suspect to attacks as well.