Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Importance of Bringing Manufacturing BACK to the US

I was at Boeing Tuesday evening attending an event on investigative journalism.  In Boeing's lobby they had this great model of a Boeing jet that has listed on it (in very small print) many of the companies that work together to make a Boeing jet.  The text above says it all in terms of the importance of bringing manufacturing back to the US.

It takes 10,000 American companies providing jobs in all 50 states to help Boeing build an airplane for export.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Investigative Journalism Panel With Washington, DC News Legend Gordon Peterson

Thanks to my long time friend, John Gardner of Boeing, I attended a very interesting event last night in Rosslyn, VA.   John also invited Joy Warfield and Dave Ellis to attend.  All four of us worked together at Sun Microsystems for many years.

The primary speaker was Gordon Peterson, Senior Correspondent and Anchor of ABC 7/WJLA-TV News here in Washington, DC.  Gordon Peterson is known as the "Dean of Washington, DC News Anchors" with 41 years of experience.  Jeanne Cummings, POLITICO's assistant managing editor in charge of Enterprise, was also there with Mr. Peterson.  The event was called the:

Rooms With A View

Leadership in Political Journalism 

Below is Gordon Peterson and me after the event. 

 The event went for about an hour and half with Mr. Peterson discussing in detail what happened in the Scott Brown election in Massachusetts.  As a native of the bay state, Mr. Peterson was able to bring great personal insight into what really happened in that election.  The bottom line was not a statement against President Obama, but rather Martha Coakley was a simply awful candidate who run a terrible campaign and Scott Brown was a good candidate who ran a great campaign.

Most interesting to me was the state of investigative journalism in this country. As I am known to do :-), I asked a question of both Mr. Peterson and Ms. Cummings.  The question I asked was:

Before I ask my question Gordon, I was hoping you could share with us your favorite Glenn Brenner story if you do not mind.  (Glenn Brenner was a legendary sportscaster in DC with the quickest sense of humor of anyone I have every seen).  I am curious on your thoughts on the current state of investigative journalism in the country today.  Specifically, I have an ongoing discussion with a friend of mine who believes that with all of today's social media, twitter, facebook, blogging, etc. that we are witnessing better investigative today than ever before.  He uses the Iran protests and the tweets coming from there as an example to make his point.  My counter is that those tweets from Iran could be coming from an eleven year old boy in Ashburn, VA - you simply do not know.  My primary counter is that we are seeing the death of so many local and regional papers that are not being back filled by any credible sources that true investigative journalism is taking a real hit in our country.  What are your thoughts?

Mr. Peterson said that it is very expensive to have reporters at newspapers and on TV doing real investigative journalism.  He said that even the Boston Globe is having difficulty financially.  He said there is no question that we are seeing a drop in true investigative journalism.  He did say that POLITICO is one of the new and upcoming organizations that he admires for their investigative journalism work.  Ms. Cummings said the death of the regional papers is very serious.  She mentioned a number of examples of the work that POLITICO has done.  Mr. Peterson mentioned Real Clear Politics as a site that he feels is a very good political information site.  Both emphasized their real concerns going forward.

At then end of his discussion on my investigative journalism question, Mr. Peterson said, "so, you want to hear a story about Glenn Brenner?"  I replied, "please".  Mr. Peterson started with:

OK, I have a thousand Glenn Brenner stories, so let me share one with you.  Glenn Brenner was a pitcher who has a record that still stands to this day.  When Glenn was in the minor leagues, he was and is, the only pitcher to hit the on deck hitter during the game while on the mound.  When I asked him what happened he showed me the motion and I interrupted him.  I said, wait, you pitch right handed but you are left handed?  Glenn said that he was left handed but pitched right handed.  I said to him, "well that's the problem, you were pitching with the wrong arm!"

The banter between Glenn Brenner and Gordon Peterson was amazing for 16 years from 1976 to 1992 before Glenn Brenner died of a brain tumor. 

 Glenn Brenner had one of my favorite lines of all time when talking, during his sports segment, about Mookie Wilson, a Mets outfielder. Brenner looked at Gordon Peterson and said, "Mookie Wilson?, Does anyone really believe Wilson is is real last name?"  Gordon Peterson just cracked up as all of us watching did as well.

I found the story below by Gordon Peterson at Washington DC Metblogs:
There will never be another Glenn Brenner. But there are a lot of good people out there doing sports. Let me tell you a story about the time of his last illness. He was lying in George Washington University Hospital, after the doctors had learned that he had an inoperable brain tumor. He was in a coma, and many of his friends were at his bedside around the clock. I ran home for a quick shower in the wee hours of the morning one day, and as I returned, I noticed a homeless woman sitting on a wall outside the hospital. She had a small portable radio, and as she walked by, she said, I’m praying for your buddy. I broke down on that one.
                  Former W*USA sports anchor Gordon Peterson on a Live Discussion

It was a very interesting night and always fantastic to see John Gardner, Joy Warfield and Dave Ellis PLUS getting to meet and get my picture taken with Gordon Peterson.  When I was speaking with Mr. Peterson after the event, (when I got my picture taken with him), I said to him, "hey, can I get my picture taken with you?"  He said "sure!".   I said, "great, I just went up seven points in my parents book if I can get my picture with you."  Gordon laughed.  Dave Ellis took our picture, I shook his hand and thanked him.  As I was walking away, Gordon said to me, "hey, good questions by the way."  I turned back and smiled and said thanks.  My night was made :-)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Greatest Soldiers - Good Luck, Safe Travels and God's Speed To Chris Edstrom

My cousin Chris Edstrom is headed back to Afghanistan.  He has already done two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

This will be his fourth tour of duty in a war zone.

Tom Brokaw coined the term the "Greatest Generation" - a term which represents  the Americans who grew up during The Great Depression and then went on to fight in World War II.

There is no question of the sacrifices of that generation - both abroad and at home.  Americans were asked to sacrifice at home to help those soldiers abroad.  Americans were previously asked to pay for the wars - something George W. Bush should have absolutely done.  To put ANY WAR on the credit card of our children, grand-children, and beyond was an egregious and reprehensible decision.  If we ask our young men and woman to sacrifice, then so should the Americans back home.

My personal belief is that the sacrifices we are asking our young men and woman today are greater than those of World War II.  Yes, I realize I am opening myself up for flames, but that has never stopped me before, so let me explain.

In previous war efforts, soldiers would do a single tour of duty.  More than one tour would be (typically) at the soldiers choice.  You never heard of a soldier doing four or five tours of duty in Vietnam for example.   The soldiers in Vietnam did not have the support of the American people.  Can anything be worse than being drafted to fight in a war then be spit upon when you return?  The Vietnam Vets did not get parades when they came home - the got agent orange dropped on them in Vietnam and got chronic lymphoid leukemia (CLL).

Ask my father about his two tours of duty in Vietnam and CLL...

The soldiers  in today's wars - Iraq and Afghanistan - such as my cousin Chris Edstrom - are the greatest soldiers.  These soldiers are asked to do the impossible.  They are asked to do the impossible every day and are asked to to go on multiple tours of duty.  They do not know who the enemy is as soldiers did in previous wars.  Fighting in Europe, the pacific rim or Vietnam would be considered a vacation spot (and is) versus Iraq or Afghanistan.  They have to deal with the constant pressure of never knowing where the next  IED might be found all while not just fighting a war, but being asked to rebuild nations at the same time.  

No soliders have had such adverse set of circumstances placed on them and they are doing tremendous work.  This is why Tom Brokaw was right about the "Greatest Generation", but I believe today's soldiers are the "Greatest Soldiers".

Good luck, be safe and God's Speed Chris....

Monday, February 15, 2010

MTConnect's Tipping and Inflection Point

It is coming up on four years ago, March 2006,  when I was asked by the Association of Manufacturing Technology to line up a Sun Manufacturing Executive to speak at AMT's Annual Member Meeting in October 2006.  I have twelve suggestions at the end of this post that I believe are needed to take MTConnect to the next level.

Before I jump into the title of this blog post, let me recap how we got here....

Every time I  had a Sun Manufacturing Executive lined up to speak, a few months later that Sun Exec was either RIF'd or quit.  I was running into "Murphy's Law" in terms of securing a speaker :-)   When my third contact at Sun was no longer available to speak, I called the President of AMT,  John Byrd, to apologize that we had let AMT down.   After finishing the half-hour long conversation with Mr. Byrd, Peter Eelman, VP of Marketing for AMT, called me and asked if I would like to do the keynote. While I was flattered that I would be asked to give this keynote, I explained I would need to get up to speed on the machine tool industry.  Peter said that AMT could make that happen.

To prepare for the Annual Meeting, I spent two days in Chicago at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) meeting with a number of companies in mid September.  IMTS is the world's largest trade show of machine tool companies. I was very fortunate to have Paul Warndorf, ATM's CTO, taking me through IMTS introducing me to the largest as well as the most influential hardware and software machine tool-CAD/CAM companies.

At the end of the second day I met with John Byrd, along with a number of his VPs, to discuss what I had learned.  I told them I felt the machine tool industry did not have a manufacturing problem, but a computer science collaboration problem. I told John that the machine tool industry was 12 to 15 years behind the computer industry.   When I inquired on the economics of our industry, I was told that the American machine tool companies have seen their domestic market share go from 70% in 1986 to 15% in 2006.

I made two suggestions for the machine tool industry:
1) They needed a wakeup call to start a revolution.
2) They needed to hear from someone who has led technology revolutions.

I said that, with proper preparation, I could do the wakeup call. The real challenge was that I knew of only one person who had the credentials to discuss the technology revolution that the machine tool industry CEOs would be able to fully appreciate.  That person was Dr. Dave Patterson of University California at Berkeley. I told AMT about Dr. Patterson's leadership with RISC and RAID. I said I would reach out to Dr. Patterson, but I felt the odds that Dr. Patterson would be available to do this, in a little over five weeks time, would be a long shot at best.

Fortunately, for the American machine tool industry, Dr. Patterson agreed to change his busy schedule to come to speak at our member meeting.

There were numerous emails, con calls and meetings during that brief five week period to bring both Dr. Patterson and me up to speed as well as to collaborate on the wake up call and the revolution or "moon shot" as I called it.  I worked closely with Dave and we "hit it out of the park" at the Lake Las Vegas AMT Members Meeting.

The real key turning point, immediately after Dave and my presentations, was when Doug Woods, then  Chairman of the Board for AMT and now President of AMT along with John Byrd said they would invest a significant amount of money to make MTConnect a reality.  Lots of time, money and passion has gone into MTConnect.  The real driver in all of this has been Will Sobel who is the President and CEO of System Insights.  Will's expertise and insight (pun slightly intended here) was absolutely key to reach the point where we are today.

Back to the point of today's blog:

MTConnect's Tipping and Inflection Point
MTConnect  has been a huge success by any reasonable metric.  MTConnect has seen a number of significant events in a short time period:
  • My suggestion, in September 2006, to the AMT Executives that they needed an open and royalty free machine tool standard to compete globally in the 21st century.
  • In October 2006, the "Dave and Dave" Show (Edstrom and Patterson) at the Lake Las Vegas Members Meeting was a big success and a clear inflection point.
  • Doug Woods and John Byrd investing in the creation of MTConnect.
  • In early 2007 it was Paul Warndorf who led the creation of the MTConnect Technical Advisory Group (MTAG).
  • Many meetings in 2007 and 2008 helped create MTConnect. Will Sobel worked closely with Paul Warndorf to make this a reality.
  • IMTS 2008 was MTConnect's coming out party thanks to Peter Eelman's insight into having The Emerging Technology Center as the focal point for MTConnect.
  • December 2008 MTConnect 1.0 was officially released.
  • There was a GREAT article on MTConnect in  Modern Machine Shop that is titled:  "MTConnect is For Real".
So, what is the next inflection or tipping point trigger that is needed to take MTConnect to the next level of adoption?  I think there are actually multiple areas that need to be addressed.

  • MTConnect needs a clear set of metrics for success in 2010.  My favorite quote in terms of metrics or planning is:
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
  •  MTConnect needs multiple success reference customers in a variety of geographies and disciplines.
  • MTConnect needs more end user customer involvement.
  • MTConnect needs more software ISV involvement.
  • MTConnect needs more involvement from large software companies such as IBM, HP, SAS, Google, ....
  • MTConnect needs an End User Community framework and venue.
  • MTConnect  needs a University/College outreach program.
  • MTConnect needs to brain storm on creative ways to fund future R&D.
  • MTConnect needs a Java agent.
  • MTConnect needs a full time global evangelist.  Someone who is out meeting with customers, the press, machine shops, partners, CxOs, government groups, R&D groups, software companies, hardware companies, universities, colleges, ....
  • MTConnect needs more companies like System Insights to help companies transition to MTConnect.
  • MTConnect needs to educate the cloud computing companies about MTConnect because MTConnect and Cloud Computing is the perfect marriage.  
    • When I was asked the obvious question, "why is Sun Microsytems involved with a machine tool standard?"  My response was always two words: Cloud Computing.   The reason I felt (and feel) this way is that when MTConnect is implemented throughout a plant, the data needs to be turned into information.  Manufacturing plants and machine shops do not want to spend the capital on a bunch of hardware to analyze the data.  What they want is for the data to be sent, safely and securely, to the cloud so they can analyze their plant or machine shop without incurring the huge upfront and unpredictable costs associated with large server procurements.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Water Droplets at 2,000 Frames Per Second

My father sent me this video of water droplets shot at 2,000 frames per second. This is a great example of how much we do not know about some of the most common everyday occurences we witness countless times per day....

Thursday, February 11, 2010

LogMeIn: Maybe the BEST Time Saver EVER

For geeks like me, it is typical that you are the sysadmin for family, friends and relatives.  Parents are a unique challenge shall we say.  After all, you can blow off everyone but the two people who have the ultimate trump card on you and they can play it again, and again, and again, again:  "if not for us, you DON'T EXIST! FIX MY DAMN WINDOZE PROBLEM!!!!"   :-)

The challenge in being a remote trouble shooter is that you can not see the screen and can not touch the computer, so this requires a logical set of questions:

  • What were you doing at the time of the error?
  • What exactly does the error message say?
  • What are you trying to do?
  • Why are you trying to do that?
  • Have you tried this before?
  • What was different this time?
  • What else is running on your computer?
As you can see from just a small set of questions, it is not easy being the remote trouble shooter.

Now all this has changed for me with LogMeIn.  NOTE:  I do not own any stock or have any financial interest in LogMeIn - I am just a HUGE fan :-)

I heard about LogMeIn on Leo Laporte's This Week In Tech (TWiT) podcast.  I thought I would give it a try as Leo has a great reputation in terms of his likes and dislikes regarding technology.  Cars - he should sell his new Mustang GT and get a Corvette :-)

The install really could not be any easier.  You install LogMeIn on the remote system you want to manage and install a plugin for your browser on the system you will be using to talk to the remote system.

After you login, below is an example of what you see.  This screen shows the three computers at my parents house.


The window above shows the screen after you login to a specific system.  In this example I logged into the old Dell.  As I move the mouse, my parents can see what I am doing.  When they move the mouse, I can see everything they are doing.  The response time is very good.  It is amazing how well this software works.   Please notice that the image above was when LogMeIn was providing the Pro version during a trial period.  I find the standard free version very nice and I could easily see why someone would want the Pro version.

On the window below there are many options that provide additional data on what is happening on the remote system.

Finally, LogMeIn does offer a paid for Pro packages that provide additional capabilities     These additional capabilities such as file sharing, remote printing, remote backup, iPhone client, cloud backup, additional help, .... LogMeIn does a very nice job balancing the free and premium/paid for capabilities.  Very cleanly delineated are the differences between the two classes of software.

It used to take me 45 minutes to drive to my parents house, another 45 minutes trouble shooting, then 45 minutes home.  This was if there was no traffic and the problem was reasonably straightforward.  It could easily be four hours.  Now with LogMeIn, even during this past week's multiple blizzards, my parent's three computer systems are simply a click away.  PLUS, I can be pro-active and make sure the systems are running fine whenever I want to check on them.  

Yes, there are other programs out there, but LogMeIn is the best that I have seen or used.....

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Blizzard of 2010 for Washington, DC

Snow started lightly at 10am yesterday and picked up last night.    The final snow tally was 34" here in Ashburn in this blizzard of 2010.

UPDATES on The Blizzard of 2010 in Washington, DC Area.  The Tuesday after we received 34" we got another 10" in Ashburn.  44" of snow in five days.  During the 10" second snow, the wind was gusting to 50mph with blizzard conditions.  Snow has been on the ground here in Ashburn since the December 5th five inch snow and will be here on March 5th barring the mother of all warm stretches.  Washington, DC broke the 100 year old snow record of 1898-1899 already....    We also set a record where there was snow on the ground constantly from December 5th through March 5th.....

Below is the front of our house still early on Saturday after about 22 hours of snow with another 8 hours more coming that day.

Below is a view of our backyard.

My late uncle Stanley "Tat" Thompson had a great phrase for this type of blizzard:

"The forecast is CLEAR and STILL.   Snow CLEAR up to your A$$ and STILL coming!" :-)

My youngest son Tim learned how to run my John Deere DE 924 9hp snow blower today.

Below is a picture of my beautiful bride of 26.5 years standing out in the snow in our front yard.

Below is a view out of John's window showing my over-the-air HD antenna that is mounted on our porch.

Dr. Dennis Govoni of IBM Speaks at VT's ACM Meeting

Dr. Dennis Govoni, of IBM, spoke to Virginia Tech's Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) meeting this past Tuesday evening.  Dennis did a GREAT job as he always does.  I asked Dennis if he would like to speak at VT and he agreed.  My oldest son, John, is a CS Major and President of the ACM for VT.  John is currently finishing up his BS and working on his Masters in Computer Science specializing in computer security.

Dennis and I have been long time friends from our days at Sun Microsystems.  Dennis and I were one of three individuals promoted to the level of Technical Director when the position was first created.  Technical Director was the same as a Distinguished Engineer but customer facing.  Dennis and I were somewhat [in]famous for our practical jokes and spirited discussions :-)

The students asked many insightful questions during and after his hour plus presentation.  I paid for pizza and soft drinks, which went quickly :-)  Afterwards, we took a few of them to a local restaurant where we discussed the computer industry and we offered our advice on careers.

Below is the description of the evening's event:

The world is becoming flatter, more complex, more instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent. Dr. Govoni of IBM will discuss these challenges as well as the leading-edge thought coming out of the IBM Research Labs. 

Dr. Govoni will share with the VT students a global technology outlook. IBM refers to this global technology outlook as "The Smarter Planet". "The Smarter Planet" is about taking on these global challenges all while be socially responsible. To meet these challenges, the world will be using innovation in technology, and virtual teamwork. 

The challenge for the CS students at VT is how will YOU solve these monumental problems?
Come learn, discuss and challenge Dr. Govoni all while enjoying free sodas and pizza this Tuesday, February 2nd, at 7:30pm in MCB 126. 

Bio: Dr. Dennis Govoni Executive IT architect, National Security and Justice, IBM Federal
Education: B.S. Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio M.S. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio Ph.D University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Dr. Govoni have been working with computer technology since 1967. His early work involved plant populations analysis through computerized numerical approaches for which a number of papers were published on this.   Following this research, he became Associate Professor of Biology at Virginia Wesleyan College in 1973 where he introduced timesharing computing into both the business and academic areas of the college. During his 10 year tenure at VWC, he received a number of grants to write computer assisted instruction programs for students. 

After leaving VWC in 1983 to work full-time in the computer industry, he joined Prime Computer, Inc. where he became the Networking and OS specialist for the Mid-Atlantic Area. Responsibilities were in both the government and commercial worlds. Upon leaving Prime, he joined Tandem Computers, Inc. in the Telco District as a Senior Analyst supporting the new fault tolerant Integrity UNIX line. His main responsibility was pre- and post-sales activity with Sprint, MCI, Bell Atlantic and Nynex in implementing fault-tolerant solutions. 

In 1992 he joined the Federal Area of Sun Microsystem Computer Company as a network specialist. He has worked with many Government agencies on implementing solutions in support of agency missions. 

In 2009, Dr. Govoni joined IBM Federal as an Executive IT Architect with responsibilities to help customers understand and implement IBM technologies to solve National Security problems. 
Below is a picture of the students who hung around for more time with Dr. Govoni.  Over 40 students attended this event, which was especially impressive because the weather was very nasty and it was snowing all day in Blacksburg.

Below is a picture of my oldest John and Dennis after the presentation/Q&A.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ford Fusion Hybrid Engine and Scuderi Air Engine

I went to the DC Auto Show with Steve Ferry and his son Matt.  Both Steve and Matt are car experts and just really good guys.

It is always interesting to just walk around to check out the new models.  What was most interesting this year, in 2010, is the hybrid technology.  There was an entire section devoted to a variety of green, hybrid technologies.  They called this section the Advance Technology Super Highway.  What I found most interesting were in two areas:

The video above I took showing the cutaway of the engine that really drives home the relationship between the gas engine and electric motor.

The Scuderi air engine is very innovative design and shows the benefits of rethinking the four cycle engine

Monday, February 1, 2010

My Signed, Cross Licesned Sun Microsystems Blog License

Sun Microsystems was a very, very forward looking company.  A great example of this was Sun strongly encouraging employees to blog.  I, along with a few hundred Sun employees, were regular bloggers at  I was very pleased to see Sun come out with a cross license blogging agreement for Sun's bloggers in September of 2009.   This was a win/win decision by Sun that would allow the content a Sun employee created while at Sun to be cross licensed.  I thought it was very nice and very forward looking for Sun to do this prior to Oracle acquiring Sun.  Below are both pages of my signed blog license with Sun Microsystems.  Why did I do this?  Just in case I am ever asked if I have a Sun Blogger License Agreement by Oracle, I can simply point them at this entry.