Monday, September 28, 2009

Great Calendar App on iPhone - Informant

I have been using this calendar app called Informant for a few months now and
with the recent upgrade it now falls in the category of one of the best
calendaring apps I have ever used on any smart phone. 
It has tons of very
useful features.

The other thing that really impressed me was how quickly I got answers back to
my questions and could put in RFEs.  I would send an email late at night or on
a weekend and get an answer back in minutes.  Maybe it is just one person on
the other end :-) but it was certainly very responsive in my case.

The only gotcha to be aware of is Apple's control of the SDK that does
not allow for any background processing.  As they state:

         "We do not sync directly with the iPhone Calendar or support off-line
         alarms due to lack of access to that functionality by the legal iPhone

The simple workaround is that you simply sync back to the iPhone's calendar
and/or get remote push alarms.  I use Informant to sync to Google's Calendar
and then sync to iPhone's calendar.  Yes, it sounds like too many steps, but it
just works.

Just as an FYI I have no financial or other interest in Informant - I just like
the product and thought I would pass it on  :-)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fifth Annual IT Security Conference in Baltimore October 26th-29th

I am attending an IT Security Conference in Baltimore the end of October.  The details and agenda look quite interesting.

There are a number of sessions discussing Secure Content Automation Protocol (SCAP).

The net/net is that this looks like a great conference and I will report back after attending.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

SunCLONE Sun April Fools Prank 2001

As I mentioned, I will point you to some of the contributions to Sun that a few of us made over the years that made it to this site, specifically some April Fool's Pranks :-)
This was the same team that was responsible for Govassic Park: John Meyer, Neil Pierson and Dave Edstrom. 


John Meyer wrote this up as well for TheNetworkIsTheComputer.COM.

Pulling an April Fool’s Day prank on your Area Vice President is a tricky thing, but one that the Southern Area pulled off marvelously in 2001. The team of renegade engineers responsible for Govassic Park did it again, this time to Sun VP Gary Grimes.
The prank involved Java, cloning, a spit-and-polish mint-condition Corvette engine, and robots, and must be seen to be believed.

Oddly, we put the web page on my external site, where an industry analyst stumbled upon it some days later.   I immediately received a frantic phone call from a worried Sun Analyst Relations person who said the analyst was speculating that the joke was in some way related to discontent within the Sun employee community around Sun’s then-newly-announed SunONE software initiative. Gimme a break, it was an April Fool’s joke!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Govassic Park - Sun April Fools Prank 1997

As I mentioned, I will point you to some of the contributions to Sun that a few of us made over the years that made it to this site, specifically some April Fool's Pranks :-)

Govassic Park

John Meyer wrote the text below for TheNetworkIsTheComputer.COM:

Dr. Dennis Govoni was the Sun Southern Area’s senior network engineer (later Chief Technologist for Sun Federal) and one of the most satisfying people in the world to torture. Dave Edstrom, Southern Area Systems Engineer, Neil Pierson, Federal Region systems engineer and multimedia ambassador, and yours truly, John Meyer, Federal Region systems engineer and technical systems ambassador, hatched a plan for April Fool’s Day 1997 when we found out Dennis would be in California for two weeks starting March 31st.

Dennis has his Ph.D. in Botany and our first thought was to turn his office into a miniature rain forest, complete with flora, fauna, waterfalls, and so forth. But the expense and difficulty in locating appropriate materials for the goof ruled this out. Then we hit on the idea: let’s use a Jurassic Park theme. This was just what we wanted. It was cheap, easy, and fun. Dave and Neil had five boys under the age of eight between them, so stocking the office with dinosaurs, Jurassic Park paraphernalia, and toys was certainly no problem.  I spent most of Easter Sunday preparing a “Govassic Park” logo and web page, while Dave collected toy dinosaurs and Neil set up two live video feeds on Sun’s world-wide internal network that would tie into our web page. This meant that anyone in Sun could see a real-time picture of Dennis’ office and anyone who walked into it for two whole weeks and there was nothing Dennis could do about it. Remember, this was 1997: real-time video on the Internet (let alone Sun’s wide-area network) was unheard of at the time.

When all was in place around 9 AM on the 1st, we sent out an e-mail to just about every Sun employee in the world, inviting each and every one of them to visit our web page.    Meanwhile, Neil collected some very interesting statistics on who visited, when they saw the page, and where they were from.

See the pictures and reminisce at

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Network Is The Computer - Sun History Site

As Sun winds down and is likely completed absorbed by Oracle, there is a tendancy of the long time employees to reminisce.  A sign of getting old I guess :-)   A very cool site is Sun's The Network Is The Computer

I blogged about this history of the phrase, "The Network is the Computer" a few weeks ago.

Next few days I will point you to some of the contributions to Sun that a few of us made over the years that made it to this site, specifically some April Fool's Pranks :-)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Humans Do NOT Have Not Multiprocessing, Multithreaded Brains Stanford Study Says....

While having lunch with my long time and good friend Brian Raymor in Seattle, the topic of human multitasking came up.  Brian was kind enough to send me the Multitasking Stanford Study done by study conducted by Stanford researchers Eyal Ophir, Clifford Nass and Anthony Wagner.  The article written by Adam Gorlick and Jack Hubbard.

It is a GREAT study!   The link above also has a video with it.  This is a must read article in my opinion.  There is a great statement made in the video, "multitaskers are lousy at multitasking."

Here  are a couple of points from the article: 
"High-tech jugglers are everywhere – keeping up several e-mail and instant message conversations at once, text messaging while watching television and jumping from one website to another while plowing through homework assignments. But after putting about 100 students through a series of three tests, the researchers realized those heavy media multitaskers are paying a big mental price.
"They're suckers for irrelevancy," said communication Professor Clifford Nass, one of the researchers whose findings are published in the Aug. 24 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Everything distracts them.""

This backs up several, ok many, conversations that I have had with my sons about multitasking:

                        "Sorry, you're not multi-threaded with multiple CPUs in your skull,
                         *no* humans are - turn off the damn TV, iPod,
                          video game and concentrate on ONE TASK AT A TIME!"


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Apple, Let Google Voice in the App Store!

The Washington Post has an article today stating the "FCC is looking into Apple's block on Google Voice App as part of a bigger investigation into how wireless industry practices affect consumers."


While I like my iPhone, I can not stand that some of the best apps out there are either blocked by Apple or that some software vendors simply do not even port to the iPhone because they know Apple will either not allow their app in or worse, Apple has such a hold on multi-tasking in their SDK that it makes true business apps almost a joke.  This is why you see businessmen carry a Blackberry and an iPhone.  There is no reason that the iPhone could not be a serious business tool.  I had better calendar and email on my old beatup Treo 650 than I do on my iPhone.  That is just ridiculous.  Yes, my Apple fanboy friends (not npg BTW)  like to say things like, "but Dave, while all the business apps are lousy individually, together they are fantastic and beat anything out there."  OK, I was never great at math, but a bunch of  "C-" apps do not add up to an "A+" smart phone.   

I want my google phone number and it should not take the FCC to get involved to get it for me on my iPhone.  I really hope Android takes off in a huge way.  We need an open source alternative in the mega-proprietary Apple iPhone world....

Friday, September 18, 2009

NYS Forum IT Corporate Roundtable on September 30th

I am speaking at the following event:

NYS Forum IT Corporate Roundtable
MetroNY Program Launch
September 30, 2009
8:30am  10:30am

NYC Human Resources Administration
180 Water Street, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10038

Below is the description of what I will speaking on:

Dave Edstrom has worked in the computer industry for 31+ years in the Washington, DC area.   Dave meets with countless government agencies who are implementing open source with the goal of increasing the quality of services while reducing costs.  Dave will share the good, the bad and the ugly of open source initiatives in the government with an emphasis on applying these lessons learned not only today, but also into the future of the cloud.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Alan Turing Receives a Posthumous Apology from Prime Minister Gordon Brown

"It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe's history and not Europe's present. So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work, I am very proud to say: we're sorry. You deserved so much better" 

Alan Turing is recognized as true genius whose works during the war can not be overstated.  It is nice to see this apology and I hope that the next step of knighthood for Alan Turing will happen.  It is not an overstatement to say that without Alan Turing, the world could be a very, very different place today.

The Turing Test is still the canonical human intelligence test today and probably for a long, long time.

 While the human race has progressed, we are still a long ways off in terms of some of our stupid biases.  If Alan Turing was born 45 years later, he would have been a multi-millionaire today as his genius would have been recognized and he would have his pick of companies to work for.  However, if Alan Turing was born 45 years later, the number of free countries on planet earth would likely be much, much less than today....

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My $1Million 1994 Ford Taurus Is Gone....

In April 1995 I exercised 4,000 options at $4.45 a share (split adjusted) to purchase a fully loaded 1994 Ford Taurus.  Those 4,000 options gave me $17,800 to purchase the car and I took a little money out for some other minor things.  Most of the money went for the 1994 Ford Taurus.

Below is a picture of the Taurus before it was put on the trailer.  I gave it to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and they sell it. I guess they let me know how much they sold it for and it is a tax break or something like that.  I really don't care since I doubt I could have gotten $300 for it.   It failed only one test by .10% for CO% at 15mph.   I tried BG44K and that helped some, but not quite enough.  It would have required too much diagnostics and electrical work as well as fuel work that simply did not make sense with John and Mike at VT and Tim not yet driving.

It was a good car, good tires, good brakes, but no A/C, ripped interior and I had this cable you had to pull to get a better connection from the battery to the starter.  Both John and Michael (my sons) learned how to drive on the Taurus.  I once pulled a deer head out of my neighbor's trash and mounted it to the Taurus before John left for school his Senior year during the Holiday Season.  He was not as thrilled as I was :-)   When the A/C went Michael asked what he would do when it got hot out with no A/C.  I told Michael that growing up we had 455 A/C.  I told Michael that 455 A/C is open four windows and drive 55mph :-)

 Below is my custom tag that no one ever figured out, including Neil Groundwater :-)  My wife Julie said, "NO ONE WILL EVER GET YOUR LICENSE PLATE!".  I said, "you're wrong, Neil Groundwater will get it first try."  Neil is brilliant, but Julie was right about this one :-)   John and Michael HATED the fact that the Taurus had custom tags.  I remember John came home one day after driving the Taurus home as a Junior and said some Senior girl said to him, "hey John, the only custom tags you should have on your car is POS!"  I felt it was important for my boys to appreciate cars by starting out at the bottom - plus it was cheaper to insure :-)
Anyway, back to the story.  On August 28th, 2000 SUNW was trading for $255.62 a share (adjusted for splits).   Sooooo, my 1994 Ford Taurus was worth $1,022,480  (which was 4,000 * $255.62)

I told the story back at a Sun meeting and the funny part of it was  once (years later) I was at a large Sun meeting and this Sun VP gets up there and tells MY STORY.  I raise my hand and say, "I'm the guy.  I STILL OWN that Ford Taurus."

The Taurus was still worth $36,880 when I gave it away.  Do you think I can write it off on my taxes this year? :-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Reality of Data Transfer - Pigeons :-)

There is a great example of data transfer challenges done in a humorous way:

As Engadget stated:   "Unlimited IT, so exasperated by South Africa's leading supplier of slow internet connectivity that it pitted a Telkom ADSL line against a real-live homing pigeon in a 60-mile data transmission race. The pigeon arrived with the 4GB memory stick in just over an hour with another hour required to load the data onto the computer. As for Telkom? Well, after 2 hours it had barely reached 4%."

The canonical example of moving lots of data is the truckload of DVDs or the 747 full of DVDs is faster than wirelines.

Monday, September 14, 2009

MTConnect Institute and MTConnect Technical Advisory Group Meetings

I am on the Board of Directors for the MTConnect Institute and I am a member of the MTConnect Technical Advisory Group (MTAG).  Last week we held meetings for both groups in Latrobe, PA at NCDMM.    The meetings were very successful and the MTConnect open and royalty free standard continues to gain momentum.

The National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) was established in 2003 to address and support the broad manufacturing and machining needs of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and its Suppliers.  NCDMM's Headquarters in the same complex with Kennametal.   As stated on Kennametal's homepage, Kennametal has engineered innovative metal-cutting products and techniques for nearly 70 years using complex metallurgy and materials science in tungsten carbide, ceramics, high-speed steels and other materials.

One of the great things about staying involved with MTConnect is that opportunity to visit such great organizations such as NCDMM and great companies such as Kennametal.   The President of NCDMM, John VanKirk, was kind enough to take us to the Latrobe Golf Course that Arnie Palmer owns and where Arnie learned how to play golf.   It was Arnie's 80th birthday the second day of our MTConnect Meetings which was September 10th, 2009.

Mr. VanKirk was kind enough to arrange for a tour of Kennametal and allowed us to take some pictures that were in the public area.  Below is a photo that I took:

What you are looking at above is the classic V twin from Harley Davidson.  What Kennametal does for Harley Davidson is an extrude honing process to clean up the interior passages.  Extrude honing is essentially forcing a liquid that has abrasives in it that is forced through passages to clean up internal passages.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

PC Control Irritrol Software and Support ROCKS!

I am using a young person's term for great software and support because I think it most accurately reflects how a top notch piece of software and support should work.

The definition of a great software, great hardware, a great car or just great technology is if you appreciate or like it better after having used it the first six months. A great piece of software is PC Control's Irritrol sprinkler control software.

When I was looking at a sprinkler system three years ago I realized that I wanted a nice interface and not the typical box of dials in my garage.  I found exactly what I was looking for with PC Control's Irritrol sprinkler control software.

Below are some of the features I find very useful from PC Control's Irritrol homepage:

  • Software provides simple, drag-and-drop zone scheduling from a home computer
  • Two-way handheld remote allows system checks and manual operation of zones from up to 1,000' line of sight

  • Photos of the homeowner’s actual home and yard make zone identification simple
  • Web connectivity allows schedules to be sent over the Internet to and from the contractor or Irritrol for suggestions or changes

  • Scheduling Advisor™ saves water by adjusting zones according to online weather forecasts
  • Scheduling simplicity makes it easy to customize a schedule to comply with local watering restrictions
  • Rain Sensor compatibility means system can shut off automatically when it rains

This sprinkler control software makes life so much easier because you make
all of your changes on the computer screen as opposed to going to the garage and turning some dials.  I really like how they architected the system that has the two way remote that allows you to walk around the yard and control your sprinklers directly if you choose to.  Your changes on the screen are tranmitted from the two-way hand held remote to the controller in the garage.  The controller in the garage has a 9V battery as backup in case you lose power.  This way you do not lose your sprinkler schedules.

The support is FANTASTIC as well.  Whenever I had a question, I was always amazed how quickly and thoroughly my questions were answered.  My questions had nothing to do with the great user interface or software, but rather how I could more easily move all the data from one PC to another after I have created sprinkler configuration files.

I would strongly recommend anyone who is buying a sprinkler systems to check out PC Control's Irritrol software.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Microsoft's Great Intern Program

I would be remiss if I did not thank Microsoft for a fantastic intern program that my oldest son John participated in this summer.

John spent the summer in Redmond working on the next version of Windows.  Microsoft provided a fantastic experience both during the work day as well as nights and weekends.  As a parent and someone who has been in the computer industry for 31 years, this is the best intern program that I have ever heard of.

As theodp wrote yesterday on Slashdot    "Despite layoffs and a blip in earnings, the Chicago Trib reports that Microsoft's summer interns still enjoy the VIP treatment. Although there were 20% fewer of them this year than last, still 85% of the interns are offered full-time jobs. In addition to being paid $4,600-$6,000 a month, a housing stipend, and relocation costs for the summer, the 600 or so Microsoft apprentices enjoyed other perks — such as a police escort to speed their way to a private museum party where they screened the most recent Harry Potter movie and were given a free Xbox 360. 'You feel like royalty to be escorted by police,' said Joriz De Guzman, an intern working toward his MBA at Wharton. BTW, before he got mixed up with those MBA-types, De Guzman earned some fame as the Doogie Howser of computer science."
Julie, Michael, Tim and I visited John and we spent time with my wife's relatives. Julie's relatives live on Lake Washington not to far from Bill Gates house.   They have done well :-)  It went so well at Microsoft that John is considering doing it again next year after he graduates from VT and before he enters the Masters Program at VT in Computer Science.

Thanks Microsoft!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering September 11th - 9/11

My thoughts and prayers go out to those families and friends who endured loss on this day eight years ago. Living five minutes from Dulles Airport, I will never forget watching two military fighter jets making large circles around Dulles with no commercial flights in the skies. I also remember driving buy The Pentagon the next day to see the damage done there as well.

I just read in the Washington Post that they still have not started construction at ground zero. According to the Washington Post:

"Eight years later, the site known as Ground Zero remains mostly a giant hole in the ground. A projected completion date has been pushed back years, if not decades. The project has been beset by repeated delays, changing designs, billions of dollars in cost overruns, and feuding among the various parties involved in the complex undertaking.

"It's just one big political nightmare," said Jim Riches, a retired New York deputy fire chief, who lost his firefighter son, Jimmy, on 9/11 and who has attended meetings on the progress of the construction. "I think it's a national disgrace," he said. "I really think it's horrible. We can put a man on the moon, but we can't get all the politicians in New York . . . to build the World Trade Center back up again."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Corvettes at Carlisle 2009 with Mike Geldner

This year was another fascinating Corvettes at Carlisle. It was fascinating for a number of reasons.

I went with another Corvette fan - Mike Geldner. Mike and I used to work together and share a common interest in Corvettes. Mike owns multiple Corvettes and is a huge ZR-1 fan and expert. Mike took a lot of great pictures.

Mike Geldner and I had a chance to spend some time with Tadge Juechter, Corvette Chief Engineer. Tadge is just brilliant and it was a real pleasure to speak to him for about a half an hour. That is me above with Tadge on the right.

  • That is me above in a new ZR1 that my wife wants me to trade up to. It is only $117,000 :-) The ZR1 is tremendous bang for the buck. My first house was $89,000, so this is still a chunk of change in my mind, but it relative to the other super sports cars, this is a steal.

That is Mike Geldner in the ZR1 above. Mike looks more at home in the ZR1 than I do since he has had three of them.

Mike and Stever Ferry were also at Carlisle this year. Steve is who first told me about Corvettes at Carlisle. It is always interesting to talking to two real experts on Corvettes such as Steve and Mike.

We found the most amazing Corvette I have ever seen. It is a 1963 Z06 that was completely restored with current Z06 parts and customized. Above is the interior that was just perfect. The owner used nine cow hydes of leather just for the interior.

Above is the under carriage of the 1963 Z06 - simply amazing amount of work went into this Corvette.

Checkout all of Mike's photos here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The story behind "The Network is the Computer"

I had the privilege of having dinner with both John Gage and Bill Joy on a number of occasions. Sun Microsystems famous tag line, "The Network is the Computer" was created by John Gage on a train in China with Bill Joy. How do I know this? John and Bill told me the story on separate occasions.

On January 10th, 2006, I happened to be out at Sun's Headquarters in Menlo Park, CA when I heard about the Sun Founders Panel to be held the evening the next day at The Computer History Museum. Like any long time Sun employee or geek in general, I wanted to be there live. When I went there in the afternoon of the 11th, I was told there were no more tickets left. I asked the nice folks at The Computer History Museum what could I do in order to get in. They said that there would be a waiting list that they would start at 6:00pm taking names. I asked if I purchased a very nice Computer Museum polo shirt would I be #1 on the list. They smiled said, "I think we can do that." Luckily for me, I was one of the few on the waiting list who did get in that night.

It was a fantastic night that was hosted by John Gage with all four of Sun's founders there - Andy Bechtolsheim, Vinod Khosla, Scott McNealy and Bill Joy. I learned about Vaughn Pratt and the huge contributions that he made to Sun Microsystems. Vaughn designed the famous Sun logo, which features four interleaved copies of the word "sun"; it is an ambigram according to wikipedia.

At the end of the evening, there was time for question and answer. I thought this was a great time to permanently capture the story of "The Network is the Computer". I went to the microphone and asked Bill and John to retell the story, which they did. Watch Sun Founders Panel and here the story behind the best company tag line of all time.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My /etc/motd file I have had forever

To measure is to know.

If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.

"In physical science the first essential step in the direction of learning any subject is to find principles of numerical reckoning and practicable methods for measuring some quality connected with it. I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of Science, whatever the matter may be."

Lord Kelvin - Sir William Thomson

Saturday, September 5, 2009

SunDC Sunset Party at Clyde's in Tysons Corner, VA

On Thursday the 27th, 2009, we held a SunDC Sunset Party for former (and some current) Sun Microsystems employees. We were hoping to get 20 to 30 to show up since it was a Thursday, it was a prime vacation week and it was simply a get together. This was not Sun sponsored and Sun did not pay for anything. We were shocked and thrilled to have over 300 Sun employees (past and some current) show up.

Below was the invitation:

Cynthia Renshaw Lion
Clyde's Tysons Corner
8332 Leesburg Pike
Vienna, VA 22102 US

Thursday, August 27, 5:00PM
"It ain't over 'til its over"! And Sun's game is definitely not over! But as the ninth inning closes in, lets take the opportunity to celebrate 27 years of Sun! You are cordially invited to the SunDC Sunset party! Do you remember the days of Friday beer busts, June 30 New Year's Eve parties, $12M DISTRICT goals, the $1B company-wide celebration? Come on, dig out your oldest Sun Ts, dust off that Sun paraphanalia, and come join your fellow Sun and Sun Alumni for one last chance to Kick Butt and Have Fun!!!!

As you can see this invitation list is quite long! Special thanks to Kathleen Fox, Dave Edstrom, Donna Walker and Bob Ebling for helping to assemble it. Hard as we tried, though, there are names missing! So please pass the word!!

Finally, Dave Edstrom has created a DC Sun Alumni group on Yahoo. Please take a minute to join, whether you can attend the party or not:

Group Name: SunDC-Alumni
Gorup home page:
Group email:

Look forward to seeing everyone there!

Crenshaw, Rebling, Kathleen, Dave and Donna

*Disclaimer: This is NOT a Sun sponsored event. Sun Microsystems is not liable for any expenses or other claims resulting from attendance.

It was the most fun I have had in a long time. I have never seen so many people smiling, laughing, hugging and kissing in my life!

Every person that showed up said that Sun Microsystems was the best company that they ever worked for. Sun was a very special place to work and it was great to see so many long time friends in one great night.

We plan on doing it again next year......