Grace Hopper For #TheNew10 Dollar Bill

Grace Hopper
Since the Treasury Department announced they will be redesigning the $10 bill and featuring a woman on the front, it got me thinking. While more obscure, Grace Hopper is the ideal candidate.

Lets go through her qualifications:

  • Attained the rank of United States Navy rear admiral. A rare feat for a woman (the first was Alene Duerk).
  • Active in the service between 1943–1966, 1967–1971, 1972–1986 for a total of approx. 41 years of service. Including during WWII.
  • Notable achievements in her field had a large influence on shaping the her industry as well as the nation as high level programming languages accelerated computer proliferation through business and eventually personal use:
    • Wrote the first compiler.
    • Invented COBOL, which is still in use over 50 years later and it’s predecessor .
  • She’s the one responsible for the term “bug” being used to describe a defect in software.
  • Responsible for some badass quotes like “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”
  • And lastly… diseased (technically relevant).

Per the Treasury Dept. website:

…The person should be iconic and have made a significant contribution to — or impact on — protecting the freedoms on which our nation was founded.

I think a Navy veteran buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors meets the qualifications as much as anyone who walked the face of this earth.

So to summarize, she’s a female veteran who climbed the ranks of the Navy who quite literally invented her field and launched and industry that’s reshaping her country and the world even years after she passed away. I’d say that’s worth $10.

AeroFarms Using Technology To Grow Food

There’s been a fair amount of research in the past few years about more scalable and environmentally friendly ways to grow food. AeroFarms is embarking on an ambitious plan to put some of technology to work with a Newark, NJ based farm in an old factory.

The basic idea is using technology like energy efficient LED lighting, carefully monitored watering and nutrition by using a mist (vs planting in soil). Space is optimized by stacking them similar to servers in a data center. The end result is you can grow edible plants in a very fast, efficient, predictable way. No more weather ruining crops, thousands of acres of land devoted to farming.

Just imagine if one day this could get deployed to places like Africa. Efficient solar powered farming could change how Africa does food. It could become much more practical to farm in desert places.

F-35 Augmented Reality Helmet

F35 Helmet

The F-35 helmet is one of the most impressive things you’ll see technology wise this year. It will take a long while, but eventually augmented reality will get better, more compact, and cheaper until it will his the civilian market. No more “blind spots” in a car. No more being unable to see the obstruction in front of the large truck ahead of you. I think there’s a good chance we’ll see this hit the market before we’ll see self driving cars prolific enough to remove the “driver”.

Glow In The Dark Streets

Wired has an interesting article on the use of glow in the dark paint on roadways. It seems like an ingenious way to cut power consumption for street lights. I’m not entirely sure I really get the point of the temperature sensitive warnings though. The road getting icy when cold is generally common sense. It seems like it would be better if cars were just required to display outside temperature and perhaps have an audible alarm when it drops below freezing. The cost of this in a modern car would be relatively low as the electronics needed are all cheap. The added benefit would be both a visible (dashboard light) and audible (tone) warning.

Simple ideas can change things.

On Hold

I’ve spent a few hours of the last few days on hold waiting for customer support representatives (CSR). It’s a task that drives everyone nuts. Services like GetHuman.com are pretty useful, but still hardly a solution.

A few companies now have “call me back” functionality where they will essentially just call you back when the CSR is available rather than make you wait on the line. It strikes me as strange that more companies don’t rush to implement this ASAP. For starters given most of these numbers are 800 numbers, they are footing the phone bill. They also need to have the capacity to have all these calls on hold for sometimes an hour. These costs can’t be trivial. I would think a system that keeps customers happier and reduces your telecom needs would be a win/win. I’m also betting some patent prevents this from being an easy to implement solution.

This is why when given the choice I prefer the online chat option. I can work with it in the background. It’s quiet, not disruptive and much more pleasant.

Microwave UI Patents

Joël Franusic has an interesting theory that the reason microwaves have so many different UI’s is because patents make it difficult for them to share a similar interface. Like Joël, I’m not totally convinced, however I do suspect this is at least part of the problem. I also think it goes way beyond just microwaves, that particular appliance is just a great example. The end result is the products created, and the users who buy and use them loose out. If you skim through some of these patents, it seems pretty obvious and hardly innovative, even for the times.

Patents will be the downfall of technology and innovation in America if it’s not reformed.

Will Touch Screens Ever Take Over?

I tend to agree with David Pogue in his latest Scientific American piece on why touch screens will not take over. Perhaps it is possible for touch screens to solve for all these problems, but I think the energy could be better spent on something superior to touch screens.

It’s not that I think touch screens are going away, I just don’t think it’s the ideal medium for larger touch screen interfaces. In my mind, the Iron Man J.A.R.V.I.S. is the perfect example of where we will eventually get. Where AI (Siri’s mature brother) and touch interfaces have merged to become a more intuitive and usable user experience.

Touch does have it’s place in interaction, both in the physical world as well as the cyber world. However just as we don’t feel our way through the world, I don’t think touch screens will ever be a solid solution for interacting with technology. We’ll find a hybrid that lets the user decide what method works for them at a given moment and a given task.

NTP Server Reverts to 2000

From the ISC Diary:

A few people have written in within the past 18 hours about their NTP server/clients getting set to the year 2000. The cause of this behavior is that an NTP server at the US Naval Observatory (pretty much the authoritative time source in the US) was rebooted and somehow reverted to the year 2000. This, then, [propagated] out for a limited time and downstream time sources also got this value. It’s a transient problem and should already be rectified. Not much really to report except an error at the top of the food chain causing problems to the layers below. If you have a problem, just fix the year or resync your NTP server.

Doesn’t look like this impacted me at all, if it did logs and graphs would look funny. This however is quite freaky. Curious if this had any bigger impacts like financial transactions. You would think they would have some sort of check for strange NTP updates as a clock drift of 12 years is out of the ordinary, but anything is possible.

I’d also be curious to know how that server reverted to the year 2000. Perhaps it was something as simple as the CMOS battery died.

US Army Is Interested In 3D Printers

From BBC:

By putting 3D printers behind the front line it hopes to be able to produce spares more cheaply and quickly than it can get them from manufacturers.

The army embarked on the project to produce its own printer as commercial devices were too expensive.

Early versions of the printer cost $695 (£436) compared to $3,000 (£1,880) for a commercial model.

It makes total sense if you think about it. One of the biggest weaknesses in Iraq for a long time were supply convoys. They were constantly being attacked and subjected to IED’s. Keeping the front lines supplied is critical to any battle. If they could refabricate just a few critical things it would reduce the impacts of this vulnerability.

Of course one also wonders why the military, especially after Iraq doesn’t stress alternative full supplies more than they do. One in eight casualties was due to fuel supply convoys. It’s apparently something they are working hard on. It would be a major strategic victory if they had such technology they could rely on. Perhaps in the future, our military on the front lines will actually be self sufficient and not relying on convoys to bring supplies. It would save many lives.

Not to mention, applying these things to other non-military uses would be a major win too. Imagine being able to deploy such capabilities to a natural disaster. First responders would be much more productive than they are capable of being today.

Logistics is expensive, and time-consuming at best. Reducing logistics makes dangerous situations better. These technologies can and likely will eventually change the world and how our military and first responders will respond to a crisis. It’s pretty impressive to see where things are headed.

Recharge Your Phone With Fire

BioLite iPhone Charger - Charging With Fire

BioLite CampStove isn’t cheap at $130, but it’s a neat way to charge a gadget when you don’t have power handy. Given the way the past few weeks have been here in the north east this thing is actually getting some attention. I personally keep a generic USB battery pack in my bag for emergency charges. I think that’s still more useful in general since I’m often places where I could use a boost but an open flame would be inappropriate or more likely: illegal.