Archive for March, 2009

TMI Overload?

TMI is Too Much Information, for those of you who have not yet jumped on the information super highway. And that little piece of information is over in the breakdown lane. Watch this for sense of what we are facing. and be reminded that since this video is a year old, this information is even truer today.

Problem is not all the information is even information and most of the information is irrelevant or redundant. So how to find what you really need? I don’t actually have the answers, I am curious though. What are your ideas? What do you use to filter the information overload? Let me know.

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Remembering Ada – Women in Technology

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March 24th is remembered by some as Ada Lovelace day. For those of you who have no idea who Ada Lovelace is, let us get acquainted. Ada Lovelace was the first child of famous poet Lord Byron and as he was disappointed in her gender and took no real interest in her, her mother took to schooling her in mathematics and science to prove her worth to both her father and society. Born in 1815 to high society where women were not expected to have a career or even a higher education, Ada was something of an anomaly. It is said that her mother exposed Ada to mathematics and science to root out the madness that Lord Byron was purported to show. Lord Byron clearly given to whatever proclivity overcame him and famous for many affairs and improper sexual relationships of the day, was not necessarily mad, but one can see why his wife might claim him to be.

But why a day to remember the scorned child of a famous author? Because Ada was famous in her own right and many say 150 years ahead of her time. Ada befriended inventor, philosopher and mechanical engineer Charles Babbage. Charles Babbage conceived of a machine to help with mathematical calculations called the Analytical Engine . Ada is best remembered for writing a translation and annotation to a paper describing the Analytical Engine that was so detailed and included a way to calculate numbers using the Engine, that many proclaim was the foundation of programming and she is credited with conceiving of the idea of software 100 years before it would be required.

And so on this day we are encouraged to remember women in technology as a way of honoring those who come before us.

I want to recognize two amazing women I have had the privilege to know in my amazing accidental career in high tech.

intel_logo-thumbJoanna, whom I met in my most recent job, is in the very unsexy high tech field of capital equipment. Joanna is about 15 years older than me. I can remember the first time I saw a computer, it was in a very large room at my university and we had to feed it cards to get our statistics data out of it. This was closely followed by the arrival of brand new Apple Macintosh personal computers that our school was testing. Before I even laid eyes on the giant Vax at school, Joanna was working in a lab at Intel hand processing 2 inch wafers that would become the precursors to the 8086 processor chip technology. She has the most amazing stories to tell about the early days in Intel. And the most fascinating mind who loves to discuss things like Jazz music and early California history.

netscapeAlison is almost her complete opposite. 15 years younger than me, Alison never really knew a life without computers. Finishing high school in 3 years with one abroad in Argentina, she graduated valedictorian but was not admitted to Stanford because she did not have 4 years of high school class work. She instead chose NYU and entered the medical program but quickly discovered she didn’t really want to be a doctor. Switching to computer science, she let her analytical skills run wild. Employed by Netscape pre IPO, and having served a stint at a major cell phone provider bought out by one the largest cell phone companies in France, Orange. She most recently serves as head of technical support for a large email security provider. Alison is the most intelligent and yet compassionate (they are sometimes mutually exclusive) woman in business I know. She completely understands what technology can bring our a crazy over connected lives and utilizes it to the fullest but not at the expense of personal relationships and personal fulfillment.

These two very different ladies bookmark the opposite ends of an amazing time in our history and technological advancement that I like to compare to a life spanning the invention of electricity. There are some many wonderful things that computer technology has unfolded for us and many more that I cannot even dream of. So thank you Ada, for giving us the ideas that helped spawn a tech revolution and for being in a woman in technology far ahead of your time.

Some day more people may know who Ada Lovelace is than know her famous father. She left us a far more valuable gift and today in her honor I say thank you.

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Reincarnation TV – When Cable is Screwy

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Okay a little background to explain why we have what we like to call ‘reincarnation TV’.

In 2007 we decided to make a major life change and ditched cable. It was a somewhat monetary decision but was primarily based on an experiment to see how our lives would change.

We LOVED it. The most amazing thing was after just a few months of no cable, Christmas rolled around. Our lovely children deprived of endless commercials had a completely amazing gift wish list. There were tons of the useless things that were on endless commercials that they were no longer aware of. We loved it. They read more books, we read more books. We played family games together almost once a week. It wasn’t that we never turned the TV on, we did. Of course we still used it for watching DVDs, our Netflix cue was finally under control. We even plugged in the occasional video tape. We could get a few channels from the attenae, which meant we could still watch SNL whenever we got the urge. And perhaps most importantly we turned to places like CBS, ABC, and NBC online and then with great relish we discovered Hulu and other streaming television. We were in 7th heaven.

Fast forward to Feb 2009 and FCC had been pushing hard for a transfer of all broadcast stations to move to a digital format. And even though they pushed that plan out to later this year, one of our local stations (the one with Nascar on it) already made the move to digital.

Now even though we had made a major move away from consuming tons of TV we had upgraded our set to a flat panel HD. So we were ready and set the TV up to receive a digital signal. Now unbeknownst to me, the Mattman had negotiated an upgrade to our internet service with Comcast and since the price was cheaper to bundle faster download speeds with cable, we had signed up for cable again but never connected it to our TV.

Converting the TV to it’s digital input gave us amazing images and this led the Mattman to wonder if we would get any other new channels with our HD setup. He then remembered we had some cable service (we assumed the most basic kind) and he plugged the cable in.

And alas reincarnation TV was born. We get some basic local networks, most of the PBS stations and here is the weird part. No other typical basic cable channels, like CNN or TNT, Discovery, etc. We get MTV and Cartoon Network. But the best part is we get a bunch of channels that are either premium or pay per view. This past weekend we have confirmed the following movies:

Twilight

Twilight

Milk

Milk

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

Australia

Australia

Madagascar 2

Madagascar 2

Changeling

Changeling

Mamma Mia

Mamma Mia

Now we call it reincarnation TV cause we will start watching one of these movies and then all of sudden it will rewind or fast forward or switch to some other movie or network like CSPAN. It means that whenever we turn on the TV we never know what we are going to get or for how long. At first we were confused but I think we have decided we kind of like it. It lends a certain amount of adventure to watching TV that you just don’t expect.

I assume we are somehow connected to someone else’s system, either their dish or DVR set up and so we are at the mercy of what they are into (for example today the Handmaid’s Tale was on and it kept forwarding to the naughty parts). We had called Comcast to come and sort us out the first week but since they came on the wrong day and we missed them, we have decided we like this and we don’t want them to fix it.

And there you have it, reincarnation TV, because one show will die and another will come and take it’s place. It’s fun. Too bad you can’t try it.

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