Monday, February 27, 2017

Jon Oliver Cuts Through The Republicans Obfuscated Obamacare Replacement Talk

Jon Oliver has a well justified reputation for taking a very detailed look at real problems.  He cuts through obfuscated crap that the Republicans are trying to sell in terms of a replacement to the Affordable Care Act.  Jon Oliver does something that President Trump should try - using facts and data to explain the challenge.  This is a must watch.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Most Important Difference Between MTConnect and OPC - *HOW* You Get The Data

There are some key differences between MTConnect and OPC UA where many folks get confused that I am going to clarify.  I have had this conversation countless times and had one this past Friday and thought it was time for a blog post on it.  Let me make sure everyone understands that MTConnect and OPC are working together and this is an educational blog to clarify the key differences between the two and not a battle cry. 

Here's the net/net or punch line. 

THE single MOST important difference MTConnect and OPC UA is HOW you get the data which came about directly because of HOW the MTConnect Institute organized the MTConnect Technical Advisory Group (MTCTAG) to create the COMMON dictionary of terms.  Don't worry, I will expand on this :-)

First some background.  In general, OPC is used for process manufacturing and MTConnect is used for discrete manufacturing.   Process manufacturing is where a big bale of coffee beans comes in the left end of the plant and small k-cups come out the right end of the plant.  Discrete manufacturing is where larger pieces of metal go in the left end of the plant and smaller pieces come out the right end of the plant and those smaller pieces are called finished parts such as landing gear for a jet.

Sometimes it is easy to get caught in the low level technical details of MTConnect and OPC UA and miss the most important differences. 
The MTCTAG  was modeled after how the computer industry works on standards where companies in the same market come together to work on the standard.  The idea is that the companies work together on a common standard (interface for example) so they can compete on the best implementation.
Specifically, the MTConnect Machine Tool Working Group had/has companies such as Mazak, Okuma, Doosan, DMG Mori-Seiki, FANUC, MAG, Makino, GF AgieCharmilles and many others that came together to create a COMMON dictionary of terms they ALL would agree on.   What is a common dictionary and why does it matter?  Think of a plant floor as the United Nations of machine tools with each speaking a different language.  MTConnect is the common language, but EVEN more importantly it has the common definition of terms that is the dictionary.  WHY is this so important?  Because the companies listed ALL agreed on WHAT the terms will be CALLED and EXACTLY what they MEAN.  For example, there are not 11 different versions of spindle speed -- there is ONE.  This is a BIG, BIG deal! This means that applications can be written to MTConnect and NOT worry about what the machine tool is or what device is on the plant floor.  
Most importantly for manufacturers MTConnect means I have CHOICE.  When a shop floor monitoring software speaks to a machine tool or a device using MTConnect, it is the equivalent of using Bluetooth.  Both the machine tool/device and the application speak MTConnect and it just works.  Since MTConnect is based on http and XML, which is the linga francua or the standard language of the Internet, any software package that was not written in a cave can easily speak to a MTConnect enabled device. This is why the catch phrase (created by Doug Woods President of AMT) for MTConnect is, "Different Devices, Common Connection".
The single question to ask those who say, "OPC is the same as MTConnect", is "MTConnect has a Machine Tool Working Group, please tell me about the same working group at OPC?"  
The answer is that there  is NO Machine Tool Working Group in OPC that has agreed upon a COMMON dictionary.
Let me repeat this fact.
The answer is that there  is NO Machine Tool Working Group in OPC that has agreed upon a COMMON dictionary.
It is always a challenge coming up with the appropriate analogy.  In this case I will use a simile to hopefully explain the differences and illuminate where the confusion can occur either on purpose or by accident by those on the OPC side of the house when they are comparing MTConnect to OPC.
The photo below is a box with 12 gauge wire coming out of it.  There is a copper wire, a white wire and black wire.  This is OPC.  OPC provides the plumbing or the wiring, but it is up to you to determine exactly how things will be put together.

 The photo below is your typical electrical outlet in a house in North America.  Behind the outlet cover are the same copper wire, a white wire and black wire that you see in the electrical box above.  The MTConnect outlet INCLUDES a NEMA 5-15R (receptacle) that provides 120 volts at 60 hertz with a max of 15 amps.  This is MTConnect.  MTConnect provides the plumbing or the wiring, but in addition, it CLEARLY defines WHAT you will get when you plug into it. 

The applications are what you "plug" into an MTConnect machine tool or sensor.

 This is where folks in the OPC world can purposely obfuscate what is really going on or they simply do not understand what is going on with MTConnect and muddy the waters.   Someone from the OPC side of the house can say, "well, we provide electricity (machine tool data) so why do you care HOW you get it as long as you get it?"   It is the classic false choice version of black and white logic.

The reason manufacturers CARE is because they want MORE than just the wiring.  They do not want to figure out what type of plug, voltage, amperage and AC or DC current (machine tool or sensor data ) they need to use, they simply want to have a common standard they can easily plug into to speak to their many electrical appliances (applications).

Can I use OPC for the world of discrete manufacturing?  It begs the question, can I create my own outlets to use for my own appliances that are wired my unique way?  Sure, but WHY when MTConnect is elegant in its simplicity and is the de facto standard for discreet manufacturing interconnectivity? 

Let me say it again, there  is NO Machine Tool Working Group in OPC that has agreed upon a COMMON dictionary.

The goal of MTConnectOpcUa is to have a companion spec to ensure interoperability, but let's not forget MTConnect's secret sauce - the machine tool industry companies and others who came together to create an open source, free to use and free to deploy interconnectivity standard WITH a COMMON dictionary.
NOTE: For a 10 minute webinar on MTConnect with more details on exactly how this works, please go to my blog entry here called The Three "A"s of MTConnect - the Adapter, Agent and Application and watch the video I created.
It is worth noting that MTConnect is also extensible so that companies have the ability to add their own dictionary where they have capabilities which are outside of the standard dictionary.
ALL of these groups were led by the MTConnect Institute which has been funded for many millions of by AMT - The Association For Manufacturing Technology as well as other important companies.
I wanted to make sure everyone understands the most important differences between the two connectivity standards, but please do not take this the wrong way as I am a big fan of OPC and the OPC Foundation, as well as Tom Burke, but again, there are key differences.  

Below is information on MTConnectOpcUa - the companion specification for both organizations.

On September 16th, 2010 the MTConnect Institute and the OPC Foundation announced MTConnectOpcUA:

 "Chicago, Il. … Today, September 16, 2010, at the International Manufacturing Technology Show, the OPC Foundation and the MTConnect® Institute are announcing a joint Memorandum of Understanding. OPC and MTConnect will cooperate in developing standards called MTConnectOpcUa. MTConnectOpcUa is a set of companion specifications to ensure interoperability and consistency between MTConnect specifications and OPC specifications, as well as the manufacturing technology equipment, devices, software or other products that implement those standards.

Tom Burke, President and Chairman of the Board for the OPC Foundation, stated, “MTConnect & OPC collaborating will provide the necessary infrastructure to revolutionize interoperability for the complete spectrum of manufacturing technology, by leveraging the standards of both organizations, evolving the technology that has already been well accepted and adopted by the suppliers.” Dave Edstrom, President and Chairman of the Board for the MTConnect Institute has stated, “This is not just a win for MTConnect and OPC, this is a huge step forward for manufacturing interoperability around the globe.”

Any questions or comments, please use the comment section to share your thoughts.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

MEMEX Inc. announces MERLIN Tempus™ and MERLIN Tempus Enterprise Edition Available for First Customer Ship (FCS)

I was very  pleased to see the announcement below that MEMEX is shipping MERLIN Tempus and MERLIN Tempus Enterprise Editions (EE)!   These products were announced and IMTS 2016 and in December MEMEX received 2016 Global Machine Monitoring System Product Leadership Award as well.

Below is the announcement at MEMEX's homepage.

Customer Beta Trial Feedback is Encouraging

BURLINGTON, ON–(Marketwired – Feb 21, 2017) – Memex Inc. (“MEMEX”) (TSX VENTURE: OEE) is pleased to announce the official release of MERLIN Tempus and MERLIN Tempus Enterprise Edition (EE), the next generation of our award-winning MERLIN Manufacturing Execution System software platforms.

Dave McPhail, President and CEO of MEMEX Inc., stated, “Following our Tempus debut at IMTS last September, we received significant interest in the platform’s next-generation, machine monitoring / analytics capabilities. Several of these inquiries led to beta tests with a number of clients and prospects, and their feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

With MERLIN Tempus and MERLIN Tempus EE, MEMEX is again redefining what it means to truly know what is happening in your manufacturing operations, regardless of industry vertical served. MEMEX has long been recognized as the leader in both shop floor monitoring, as well as providing MTConnect software and hardware solutions for any piece of manufacturing equipment on the plant floor. These new products will further differentiate MEMEX from the competition.

MEMEX’s entirely new software and hardware platforms build upon the success of the current award-winning MERLIN software suite and connectivity products, which has enabled manufacturers to achieve upwards of a 50% increase in productivity, a 20% plus increase in profit on just a 10% increase in OEE and payback in less than four months, which all equates to an Internal Rate of Return greater than 300%.”

About MERLIN Tempus and MERLIN Tempus Enterprise Edition:
MERLIN Tempus is an open and extensible Manufacturing Execution System (MES) platform that offers the next generation of tools and a dynamic configurable dashboard that provides a complete customizable view of shop floor operations. Tempus is Latin for time. MERLIN Tempus measures and analyzes manufacturing time. MERLIN Tempus tells manufacturers exactly how time is being used on their shop floors, with operators, with sensors and with any type of manufacturing asset. Developed using state-of-the-art software engineering technologies, including .NET and RESTful API’s, MERLIN Tempus delivers green-light metrics and analytical capabilities to effectively reduce downtime while increasing throughput and profits. MERLIN Tempus EE extends the capabilities of the MERLIN Tempus platform with full Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and integrated job scheduling. MERLIN Tempus supports MTConnect, Fanuc Focas, Fanuc I/O link to MTConnect®, OPC and other software protocols.

MERLIN Tempus and MERLIN Tempus EE are highly scalable, extensible and are open Manufacturing Execution System platforms. This is significant because it greatly simplifies and truly enables customers and partners to build upon the countless features and services MERLIN Tempus has to offer.

About MEMEX:
MEMEX, the developer of MERLIN, an award winning IIoT technology platform that delivers tangible increases in manufacturing productivity in Real-Time, is the global leader in machine to machine connectivity solutions. Committed to its mission of “Successfully transforming factories of today into factories of the future” and encouraged by the accelerating adoption and success of MERLIN, MEMEX is relentlessly pursuing the development of increasingly innovative solutions suitable in the IIoT era. MEMEX envisions converting every machine into a node on corporate networks, thereby, creating visibility from shop-floor-to-top-floor. MEMEX, with its deep commitment towards machine connectivity, offers solutions that are focused on finding hidden capacity by measuring and managing Real-Time data. This empowers MEMEX’s customers to effectively quantify and manage OEE, reduce costs and incorporate strategies for continuous lean improvement. For more information, please visit:

Media Contact
Memex Inc.:
David McPhail
Phone: 519-993-1114

Rashi Rathore
Marketing Manager
Phone: 905-635-3040 ext 103

Investor Relations
Sean Peasgood
Investor Relations
Phone: 416-565-2805

Friday, February 17, 2017

Mark Albert of MMS Excellent Article -- "Who's Your CTO?"

Mark Albert, long-time friend, manufacturing expert and Editorial Director of Modern Machine Shop wrote an excellent article titled, "Who's Your CTO?"

Perhaps I am biased being a CTO, but I really like that Mark is emphasizing the importance of the CTO in manufacturing.  Mark starts the article off with a nice overview.  I absolutely agree with his assessment that ALL manufacturing companies should have someone who can play this role.

"In many discussions of corporate management structures, you will find the new title of chief technology officer (CTO) appearing. The CTO is usually an executive-level position tasked with addressing technological issues within an organization. Big corporations seem to be more likely to have a CTO than small- or medium-sized companies. However, all manufacturing companies ought to have a CTO, or at least a person designated to play this role."

 Below Mark brings out the importance of having someone who is forward thinking.

"Because manufacturing technology is currently undergoing a period of rather rapid and profound change, companies of all sizes should consider establishing this role (and perhaps giving it the title) of CTO. This role is important because manufacturers must plan for and carefully manage the adoption of new technology. To be clear, this adoption is not an option. Companies that don’t keep up with new ways to move work through the shop, new ways to motivate workers and improve their skills, new ways to please customers and so on, will lose out in the marketplace. They will be forced to close. Here is my thinking on the duties of a CTO."

Mark later goes into specifics that are well worth reading.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Becoming Warren Buffett - The Gates/Buffet Single Answer To Success

I watched the excellent movie Becoming Warren Buffett on HBO.  If you have never read a biography on Warren Buffet, this is well worth watching.  If you don't fall in love with Warren Buffett, you must not have a heart :-)

I love Warren Buffett's quotes and one of my favorites is:  "Bulls and bears do fine and hogs get slaughtered."  Which means, have a plan.

He also restates classics such as:"The Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken."

Having read, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, and numerous Warren Buffett articles, the movie did not shed a lot of new insight, but there was an interesting Bill Gates and Warren Buffett story which was shared.

The story goes that Bill Gates Warren Buffett were somewhat forced to meet each other. 

"Greenfield — a family friend of the Gateses — was cruising through Seattle with Katharine "Kay" Graham, the Post publisher who presided over Watergate, and Buffett was along for the ride since he was BFFs with Graham and Berkshire Hathaway held a stake in the Post.

The plan was to hang out with Bill Gates Sr., his wife Mary, and that software mogul son of theirs, Bill Gates.

Buffett was nonplussed.

"While we're driving down there, I said, 'What the hell are we going to spend all day doing with these people? How long do we have to stay to be polite?" he tells the Financial Times.

Buffett thought he'd want nothing to do with the younger Gates — computers were like Brussels sprouts to him.

And Gates remembers complaining to his mom about meeting Buffett.

"What were he and I supposed to talk about, P/E ratios?" he recalls in a Fortune column. "I mean, spend all day with a guy who just picks stocks?"

But Gates was excited about meeting Graham — he was intrigued by the Post and its history.

Resigned to his fate, Gate said that he would stay for a few hours to chat with his elders, and then he'd helicopter back to the Microsoft headquarters to crush it at the office.

Then Graham, Greenfield, and Buffett arrived.

After a few introductions, Buffett and Gates started talking about the changes in the newspaper business. Then Buffett started asking Gates about his industry.

"If you were building IBM from scratch, how would it look different?" he asked. "What are the growth businesses for IBM? What has changed for them?"

Then Gates told Buffett to buy two stocks: Intel and Microsoft.

They were immersed in conversation. The bromance was blooming.

In recalling that first meeting, Gates says that he was struck by a few things. First, Buffett "asked good questions and told educational stories." Second, he'd "never met anyone who thought about business in such a clear way." Third, Buffett taught him a fun mental exercise."

What is interesting about the movie is that after Buffett and Gates were friends, they were separately asked to write down the key to being successful in business.  Both of them wrote down the same answer - focus.  I thought that was fascinating and absolutely true.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Is Oracle Dumping SPARC and Solaris?

wrote an article for NETWORKWORLD titled:  Game over for Solaris and SPARC?

The subtitle is:  "Oracle kills Solaris development, lays off Sun hardware workers. The conclusion is inevitable."


As Mr. Patrizio states:  "When Oracle purchased Sun Microsystems in 2010, the company inherited a venerable Unix solution that was already in decline. The Solaris operating system on Sun’s SPARC hardware was losing ground to x86 running Linux (or Windows Server) already, and IBM was cleaning its clock by stealing away SPARC customers to its Power series of servers. " 


As stated at Wikipedia: "The Scalable Processor Architecture (SPARC) is a reduced instruction set computing (RISC) instruction set architecture (ISA) originally developed by Sun Microsystems. Since the establishment of SPARC International, Inc. in 1989, the SPARC architecture has been developed by its members. SPARC International is also responsible for licensing and promoting the SPARC architecture, managing SPARC trademarks (including SPARC, which it owns), and providing conformance testing. SPARC International was intended to open the SPARC architecture to create a larger ecosystem; and SPARC has been licensed to several manufacturers, including Atmel, Cypress Semiconductor, Fujitsu, and Texas Instruments. As a result of SPARC International, SPARC is fully open, non-proprietary and royalty-free."

For those of us who spent decades at Sun, this is a sad day, but certainly not unexpected.  I am surprised it took seven years.  What hurt Solaris was the false start of open sourcing Solaris and then pulling back on it.  Sun could not figure out how to open source Solaris, have an x86 Solaris offering and keep making lots of money of the big SPARC Solaris servers.  It was the classic innovators dilemma.   Solaris had so many incredible innovations.  I really feel that Linux never would have made it IF Sun would have open sourced SunOS and then Solaris.  When Oracle purchased Sun, they then stopped the open source Solaris as well.  The mixed messaging was a killer.


When SPARC first came out it in 1987, it was 2.5X the performance of what you could find on an equivalent  Motorola 68020.  It was able to do this because it optimized for what was the most used instructions - aka RISC - Reduced Instruction Set Computing.  I was at Sun Microsystems prior to the SPARC release, as as well as prior to the Intel line of Sun computers.  SPARC was a kick a$$ microprocessor in its day.  I was one of Sun's first "SPARC Ambassadors".  This meant that we would show up at customers, partners and Sun offices to talk in detail about the technical and business advantages of SPARC.


While SPARC was the first open architecture instruction set, the problem was the we talked a little bit out of both sides of our mouth when it came to the marketplace. What  I mean is that we encouraged companies to create SPARC processors and systems based on SPARC.  However, sales had to compete with these new companies and of course, Sun's sales reps did not want to lose SPARC or Solaris sales to Sun clones, so they would cut to the bone on discounts.  


The next obvious step for these companies was to feed around the edges and not go right after Sun's business.  That worked out for awhile, but then the cost to create the next new microprocessor was growing exponentially.  I remember the first time I heard a Sun microprocessor designer say, "We will spend $200 million to find out if we have a SPARC chip or an expensive coaster."


Solaris was and is an amazing OS.  I remember being part of the first three System Engineers from the field to go to corporate to do a month worth of engineers using Solaris 2.0  In order to appreciate Solaris, you really had to have an understanding of what makes a great operating system.  Sun had the best developers starting with the legendary Bill Joy aka wnj.


One of my favorite phrases is, "while you date your hardware vendor, you marry your software vendor."  This applies to the ubiquity of Intel PCs where the question of, "does it really matter if we buy Lenovo or HP PCs?"  versus "let's switch from SAP to Oracle for our ERP vendor".   If you are a CIO, then who cares if you buy a brand-x PC, but try converting to a new software platform or you will likely lose your job if it fails. 


When people ask me about Sun I always tell them that it was the best 23 years of working life.  I could go on and on about how great Sun Microsystems was to work at and how incredible its employees were. 


It is still tough to swallow that Sun, and now it sounds like SPARC and Solaris, will be relegated to an entry in wikipedia.  However, what is nice is that those relationships with Sun employees continue to this day.

Monday, February 13, 2017

What Makes The Corvette Such A Great Race Platform?

I ran upon this article by Jonathan M. Gitlin at arsTECHNICA titled:

Consulting the engineers on what makes the Corvette C7.R such a good race car
The article is summarized by "This front-engined American racer has notched up over 100 wins since 1999."

The article by Mr. Gitlin starts off:

"The latest-generation Chevrolet Corvette is a wonderfully good sports car, thanks in large part to the long-running Corvette Racing program. The team—a partnership between Chevrolet and engineering firm Pratt and Miller—debuted at the 1999 Rolex 24 at Daytona, campaigning a pair of C5-R race cars. The wins started the following year and haven't stopped; 102 to date, including eight class wins at Le Mans.

But the Internet lately has been abuzz with increasingly fever-pitched rumors and spy shots of a mid-engined Corvette. While we think it's increasingly likely that an 8th generation 'Vette will indeed have its engine behind the driver, the old-fashioned front-(mid)engined, rear-wheel-drive layout of the C7.R hasn't done too badly the last few years. Competition has gotten particularly fierce in the Corvette's class; 2016 saw the arrival of the Ferrari's 488 GTE and the Ford GT, an all-carbon fiber affair purpose-designed for winning on track."

This is well worth reading to appreciate the amazing engineering by the Corvette Race Team!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Lessons Learned From My Home Theater

I was recently asked by long term (notice that at my age I no longer use the term OLD friend :-) and SUNW buddy Mike B about my home theater.  Mike is building the mother-of-all lake houses and after seeing my home theater (HT), he had some great questions that I thought might be worth sharing.  Note, I will add more specifics to this as time goes on and friends (I am sure npg will give me some things I did not think of) share their thoughts with me.

First the high order bits:

  • Size of the HT is 14' wide and 18' long.
  • The distance to the raised platform is 12'.
  • The depth of the single step to the raised platform is 1'
  • The depth of the raised platform is 5'.
  • The ceiling height of the raised platform is 81" which was barely inside the limits for the county I live in.
  • We have a v-shaped leather couch that can comfortably seat 6 adults.
  • We have a v-shaped table that raises for ALL of the folks sitting on the couch to have their plates.
  • We have three fully reclining.
To give you an idea, my projector is a:

Optoma HD141X 1080p 3D DLP Home Theater Projector

which is $880 and I LOVE it.

Here's how I view balancing your technology purchases.  Projector technologies and AV receivers will continue to get better over time.   Moore's Law definitely applies here.  You can certainly get a very nice AV receiver for less than a grand.  You can get a nice BluRay player for less than $120.  Speakers will stand the test of time IMHO, because I have 1975 Radio Shack Mach Ones in our bedroom that I guarantee you will rock the house.
I would be willing to bet that you can get a VERY nice setup for less than $5,000 these days.  The big cost will be the number of speakers that you want and how much of a sub-woofer that you want.  Personally, if I had that budget and was FORCED to spend it, I would put it into the HT itself (nice walls, sconces, framed posters of you and Sandra's favorite movies) and the furniture.  Those two categories will stand the test of time.

Probably need some photos at this point:

I put in three big recliners in the rear.  I wish I would have gone with room for four, but we went with three.  Four would be better because when you have another couple over, one person has to sit on the couch.  This is obviously not a big deal, but if you are building an HT from scratch, this is something to consider.

This is 104" screen.  Buy a really good screen and it will last you forever.  Notice on the right hand side that I made my own custom rack and hid the rack in the area below the stairs that go to the basement.

This V-shaped table raises and lowers and is a GREAT addition.  It means you do not need a bunch of tray tables and you can hide the temporary gaming consoles that your sons friends bring over.  Having the electrical, wired ethernet and AV connections back to the AV rack ALREADY there was a very smart move on my part as I knew my sons would want this capability.   Note, I also have HDMI and audio cables hidden behind the recliners in back, as well as I have a ChromeCast on my HT AV receiver for projecting from my MacBook Pro.

This is  the view from the side of the theater near the AV rack.  Notice the v-shaped couch and table. The table raises up and down which is great when people bring their plates full of food into the HT.  Also, notice the closet on the right.  This was a very smart move to store blankets, the vacuum, leather cleaner, pillows, trays and everything else.  Keeps your HT looking clean.  Also, I put in theater sconces in as well.

A MISTAKE I made was NOT insisting on multiple vents in the HT.  I brought it up to the company that did the sheet rock and the said I would be fine. WRONG!   You can see I needed to add a few fans in the rear corners when the room is FULL.  This is something that I could add another vent, but our sons our fully grown and the number of times that we have 10+ people is rare.

This is the view from the door.  A big question is always dimensions of your HT.  Here is home theater calculation site with a link worth checking out with a spreadsheet.

I am sure that I likely break "the rules" in terms of some distances, but I have had this HT for 13 years and it works for us.  My 7.1 system was balanced (the AV receiver comes with a microphone) for where I sit - which is the middle recliner. Shocking :-)   The closest anyone is to the screen is 6 feet.  I have a 1080P projector and that works out fine.

 Floor lighting is REALLY important if you have your 80+ year old parents over, or anyone really because you do NOT want your HT totally dark.

I also put in sound insulation in the ceiling and the inside walls - the outside walls had insulation.

I am anal and believe in labeling everything.  It is the old "of course I will remember where this wires runs to" bites you in the rear three years later when you forget.

Something I did below is put in my HT AV rack and my Gaming/Bar AV Rack BOTH below the stairs.  This was suggested by another long-time friend Neil P (HT god) and was a GREAT suggestion.    Notice that I did what are called home runs.  A home run is where you wire EVERYTHING to one home location to make life easy for changes.

Above are the photos I took when I did all the wiring myself. I saved $1,800 by doing my own wiring.  If you look at the 3rd photo from the left on the lower set of photos you will see where I built the mounting area for my projector.  You could literally hang an engine off this mounting I put into the floor joists.  As my father once (OK, many times), "boy, you REALLY do not understand the terms OVERKILL do you?"

This HT was designed to be part of a multi-function basement.  By multi-function, I mean that I have a separate gaming area, music area, poker, billiards, foosball, mini kitchen area, full bathroom, work out area, work bench, filing area and furnace room.  I wanted to have as many different groups doing different things at once.

Something I did was make it brain-dead easy to simply duplicate what is being seen in the HT into TVs I mounted in the other parts of the basement so folks could come and go from the HT and not feel they are missing anything.

One of the areas that I did do the right thing was planning on new technology.  For example, when I built my HT, component AV technology was state of the art.  When HDMI came along, I had already made it very easy to pull the HDMI cable for the new projector.  I put in 100 pound fishing line to pull the HDMI cable through as well as I put in panels to make it easy to snake the new cable through.  I also did it from the outside in - which was also very smart.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Vacation In Arizona - Uncle Luverne and Lavonne - Segway Tour

Julie and I flew out to Phoenix to visit my godfather Luverne and his wife Lavonne - who are also my uncle and aunt. We also were able to spend some time with my cousin Kristin and her family which was really nice.  We had a GREAT time!  Thanks Luverne and Lavonne for letting us come visit!

Above we are enjoying a snack at at the Lake Saguaro Restaurant with a great view before we headed into Old Scottsdale.

Above is a photo of Luverne and I at the Rusty Spur Saloon where the singing cowboy literally rode his horse on to sing a song.  Luverne loves westerns, so I thought this would be cool and it was.

Julie and I went on a Segway tour of Old Town Scottsdale.  This was our first time on a Segway and we had a blast. It took about 3 minutes to get comfortable with a Segway.  It is interesting that there are seven gyroscopes on a Segway.  You turn by using the handle bar, and you go forward or reverse by the pressure on your feet.  They key is to stand straight up and lean either forward or backward like you are a statue.  Where people get into trouble (per our guide) is to forget how wide you are with the wheels, run into the person in front of you and most importantly, do not crouch or complicate the pressure on your feet.  The ability to confidently stop going down hill at 12.5mph is an important capability to master early on :-)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Best Life Lesson My Mother Ever Taught Me

The year is 1966 and we are living in the Philippines at Clark Air Force Base.  It was a very interesting time and an incredibly interesting place to live.  My father was stationed there and spent a lot of time going back and forth to Vietnam.  He had already done one tour of duty and would do another year tour in the early 1970s.

It is my second grade in 1966 and it is the Christmas break.  My teacher gave us one assignment which was to read 19 chapters in this small paper book and answer the questions at the end of each chapter.  Each chapter was maybe 3 pages at most and there was an average of 4 questions at the end of each chapter.

I came home and was freaking out over the assignment.  I said I was going to have to spend the ENTIRE last day of my vacation working on this.

My mother went through the following with me.

"David, there are two ways you could do this.  You could wait until the day before you go back to school and then spend all day doing it, or you could do a little bit every day.   Here is what you should do when you have a big problem - divide the problem into smaller pieces and do enough so that you get everything done when it is due. "

She then took me through it in a very logical fashion.

First, you look at when you need to finish, divide what you need to do into smaller pieces and do just a little bit every day. 
  1. This 19 Chapter book is due your first day back to school.
  2. Between now and your first day back there are 21 days.
  3. If you do one chapter per day starting tomorrow, you will be done the day before your vacation break ends.  After breakfast, read a chapter, answer the questions and then go have fun on your break.
I followed her instructions and got it done just as she told me to.  Every since then, it was a lesson I never forgot.  

As a side note, in Latin this is called "divide et impera".


Monday, February 6, 2017

Glad To See The Tech Companies Take On Trump

I remember sitting in the 4th row at the January 11th, 2006  Sun Microsystems Founder Panel.  One of the many cool stories told was between Scott McNealy and Andy Bechtolsheim.  Scott was driving home the importance of immigrants to our society.  Here is how the conversation went that night:

Scott:   "Andy, you many jobs do you think you have personally created?"
Andy:   "Over 100 thousand jobs."
Scott:    "How much have you paid in taxes in your entire career?"
Andy:   "Probably over a billion dollars."
Scott:    "Well, you have been one HELL of a drain on our society!"

We HEAR politicians state that we should staple a green card to every advanced diploma a US university and college - which of course would be BRILLIANT, but the politicians are not that insightful to actually do it.

FINALLY, the tech companies are taking ACTION on Trump's idiotic travel ban!  I have always felt the tech companies did not have the amount of lobbying resources necessary to properly influence government.  I remember working with our lobbyists when I was at Sun Microsystems and you could count the number of our lobbyists on a few hands.  The tech companies working together is CRITICAL to keeping Donald Trump from doing even more damage than he has already done. 

Below are snippets from an article by Elizabeth Dwoskin titled, "Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and 94 other tech companies call travel ban ‘unlawful’ in rare coordinated legal action" that appears in the  The Washington Post:

"On Sunday night, technology giants Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, Uber and many others filed a legal brief opposing the administration’s contentious entry ban, according to people familiar with the matter. The move represents a rare coordinated action across a broad swath of the industry — 97 companies in total— and demonstrates the depth of animosity toward the Trump ban."

I thought it was strange that Amazon did not join the other tech companies as stated in the article below:

"Companies backing the filing also include Lyft, Pinterest, Yelp, Square, Reddit, Kickstarter, Github, Glassdoor, Box, Mozilla, Dropbox, Twilio, Zynga, Medium, Pinterest, and Salesforce, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the filing was still being finalized Sunday.

Notably, it doesn't appear that Amazon is party to the brief. Amazon's founder, Jeffrey P. Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, recently said that he supported the lawsuit filed by the Washington state's attorney general against the executive order on immigration and refugees."

Below is an amazing statistic:

"Immigrants or their children founded more than 200 of the companies on the Fortune 500 list, including Apple, Kraft, Ford, General Electric, AT&T, Google, McDonald’s, Boeing, and Disney," it said. The briefing also notes prominent immigrant and refugee writers, scholars and Nobel Laureates."

The obvious point that Trump does not get is the importance of immigrants to our economy and in particular, the tech economy.

Below is another snippet from the article:

"Long-term, this instability [caused by the executive order] will make it far more difficult and expensive for U.S. companies to hire the world’s best talent—and impede them from competing in the global marketplace," it says.

"The problems that render the Executive Order harmful to businesses and their employees also make it unlawful," the brief said.

An estimated 37 percent of the workforce in Silicon Valley is foreign-born, according to the think tank Joint Venture."

Lord help us if Trump does not wise up on basic economics and how the country works.