A Razor to Apple’s Throat

I love Razer’s Project Christine – a completely modular PC.

There is a stand and you simply attach the components you want: Central Processing Units (CPU), Graphic Processing Unit (GPU), Power Supply Unit (PSU), Solid-State Drive (SSD) storage, and so on.

By making the architecture open and plug and play–just jack in a new module– and change out whatever you want, whenever you want. Obsolescence be gone.

This is a challenge to pure standardization, and a way to make customization cost-effective.

The cooling is done with mineral oil that is pumped throughout from the bottom reservoir.

At the top, you see a module for a command center for adding operating systems, adjusting configurations and settings, or monitoring performance.

A subscription model is planned where for a annual fee you can get the latest and greatest upgrades.

Project Christine PC is the epitome of simple, useful, scalable and beautiful.

Watch out Apple, you have a Razor at your throat–it’s time to seriously up the innovation game. 😉

Appropriate Technology For All

For July 4th, we headed down to the D.C. Folk Life Festival today on the Washington Mall.

The Peace Corps had a number of exhibits at the festival, including one on what they call “Appropriate Technology.”

Appropriate technology is about being user-centric when applying technology to the local needs and realities on the ground around the world.

There are 3 key rules in developing and implementing appropriate technology:

1) Affordable–technology has to be affordable for the people that are going to use it. Even if it saves money in the long-term, it has to be something that can be acquired by people without access to traditional financing in the short-term. 
2) Local–the material must be available locally in order to make it accessible to people living in remote and even dangerous parts of the world. 
3) Transparent–the design of the technology must be transparent with the assembly instructions available to the local people, so that it can be maintained indigenously. 
One company that is helping needy people around the world using appropriate technology is Global Cycle Solutions.
Two products from this company that attach to your bicycle were on display and one was actually being demonstrated:
1) Corn Sheller–For $75 plus shipping this attachment to your bicycle shells corn from the husks in pretty amazing speed. According to the supplier, you “can fill a 90-kg sack of maize in 40 minutes and 10-15 sacks per day…[so the] machine pays for itself within a month.” (Pictured you can see the exhibitor from Peace Corps loading the corn into the device and the husk coming out the other end; a little girl is pedaling and powering the device in one, and a little boy is spinning the wheel in the other.)
2) Phone Charger–For $10 plus shipping this bicycle attachment charges your phone as you pedal from place to place or as you spin the wheel in place. According to the website, it “charges as quickly as using a wall outlet.” (Pictured is the bike and charger on display.)
Since bicycles are routinely found around the world, these add-on devices that help in food preparation and communications are practical and cost-effective. 
Appropriate technology is not a technical term and the concept is not rocket-science, yet if we just keep in mind the people we serve–what their needs are and what constraints they may be living under–we can make solutions that are functional, cost-effective and sensible, and we’ll can help a lot of needy people in the world, bells and whistles aside. 
Appropriate_tech_1 Appropriate_tech_2 Appropriate_tech_3 Appropriate_tech_4

>Apps for Mobile Health Care

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Talking about apps for your phone…this one is amazing from MIT Media Labs.

Attach a $1-2 eyepiece (the “NETRA”) to your phone and get your eye prescription in less than 2 minutes.

What’s next?

I wonder if they will come out with more apps for health and wellbeing that check your vital signs such as temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and more.

I can envision the smartphone becoming our personal health assistant for monitoring and alerting us to dangerous medical conditions.

This will increase our ability to get timely medical care and save lives.

This is a long way from “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” and that’s a great thing.

>EA Can Do It

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A number of weeks ago, I was at a CTO Event in DC and got to hear from colleagues about their thoughts on various technologies and IT trends. Overall the exchange was great, and as always, I was deeply impressed with the wisdom and experience of these IT leaders.

However, one particular set of comments set me back in my chair a little. And that was on the topic of Enterprise Architecture. Apparently, a number of CTOs (from a relatively small number of agencies) had not had great success in their organizations with EA and were practically questioning it’s very existence in our IT universe. Yikes!

I believe some of the comments were to the effect (and this is not verbatim—I will put it euphemistically) that these individuals had never seen anything valuable from enterprise architecture—EVER—and that as far as they were concerned, it should be discontinued in their organizations, altogether.

In thinking about the stinging comments from some of the IT leaders, I actually felt bad for them that they had had negative experiences with a discipline like EA, which is such a powerful and transformative planning and governance framework when implemented correctly—with the value proposition of improving IT decision making and the end-user as the focal point for delivering valuable and actionable EA information and governance services—generally what I call User-centric Enterprise Architecture.

Right away after the negative comments, there were a number of CTOs that jumped up to defend EA, including me. My response was partially that just because some EA programs had not been successful (i.e. they were poorly implemented), did not mean that EA was not valuable when it was done right—and that there was indeed a way to build an organizations enterprise architecture as a true beacon for the organization to modernize, transform, and show continuous improvement. So please hold off from dismembering EA from our organizations.

Recently, I was further reassured that some organizations were getting EA, and getting it right, when I read a blog by Linda Cureton, the new CIO of NASA who wrote: NASA CIO: How to Rule the World of IT through Enterprise Architecture.

In the blog, Ms. Cureton first offers up a very nice, straightforward definition of EA:

“Let me step back a bit and offer a simple definition for Enterprise Architecture that is not spoken in the dribble of IT jargon. In simplest terms, it is a planning framework that describes how the technology assets of an organization connect and operate. It also describes what the organization needs from the technology. And finally, it describes the set of activities required to meet the organizational needs. Oh, and I should also say it operates in a context of a process for setting priorities, making decisions, informing those decisions, and delivering results called – IT Governance.”

Further, Ms. Cureton draws some parallels from a book titled How to Rule the World: Handbook for an Aspiring Dictator, by Andre de Gaillaume, as follows:

“· It is possible to manage IT as an Enterprise.

· You can use the Enterprise Architecture to plan and manage the kinder, safer, more cost effective IT world.

· Transformational projects will successful and deliver desired results.

· IT can be a key strategic enabler of NASA’s [and other organizations] goals.”

Wow, this was great–an IT leader who really understands EA and sees it as the tool that it genuinely is for–to more effectively plan and govern IT and to move from day-to-day organizational firefighting to instead more strategic formulation and execution for tangible mission and end-user results.

While, I haven’t read the dictators handbook and do not aspire to draw any conclusions from it in terms of ruling the world, I do earnestly believe that no organization will be successful with their IT without EA. You cannot have an effective IT organization without a clear vision and plan as well as the mechanism to drive informed decision making from the plan and then being able to execute on it.

Success doesn’t just happen, it is the result of brilliant planning and nurtured execution from dedicated and hardworking people.

Reading about NASA’s direction now, they may indeed be looking to the stars, but now, they also have their eyes focused on their EA.

>It’s Time to Invest in The Cloud

>Cloud computing is “shorthand for centralized computing services that are delivered over the Internet (a.k.a. the ‘cloud’).”

Cloud computing is to traditional computing as electricity is to rubbing two twigs together to make a fire. Ok. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.

Years ago, people made a fire in their home or workspace which they continually fed to get warmth, lighting, and cooking; now they get these from centralized utilities that distribute it to them on an as needed basis. It’s a lot more efficient that way!

With cloud computing—it’s very similar. Currently, we have our own computing resources (like a hearth and firewood) that we must purchase and regularly maintain to do basic information technology processes for transaction and analytical processing, information sharing and collaboration. Now, we can get these functions from centralized computing facilities or data centers that distribute them, as needed on a subscription or metered basis. This gives us a predictable, stable source of computing at reduced prices, delivered via the Internet, when we want and need it, and without the hassle of having to purchase and maintain the hardware and software infrastructure. It’s a user-centric model!

Most of us with very busy and already complex lives inherently understand and are drawn to a model that is convenient and cost-effective. Flip on the switch and voila—lights/heat in one case or email, e-Commerce, and online entertainment in another.

To me, if its not a mission-specific or highly sensitive application, the question is why shouldn’t it be in the cloud?

Fortune Magazine, 2 March 2009, on the rise of cloud computing juggernauts like Salesforce “a public company with a market capitalization of $3.5 billion, generates revenue of more than $1 billion a year—a 60% five-year annual growth rate—all from providing software subscriptions to business.”

Marc Benioff, their CEO says “We’ve always believe everything’s going into the cloud.”

Even detractors, like Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle, has helped fund Saleforce and another major cloud computing vendor, NetSuite. Moreover, “Oracle at the end of January lauched a new version of its online sales-management product…CRM on Demand” —so you see where Mr. Ellison is strategically placing some of his chips.

What about the other major application vendors?

“SAP said it would be releasing a software-as-a-service product in May…and Microsoft also has customer-management software available. IBM just named a cloud computing czar, and Google and Amazon are launching ambitions initiatives.”

So what’s holding up the transition?

Generally, the biggest cited obstacle to moving to cloud computing is security. Yet, “Salesforce has recorded only one security breach, a phishing attack in November 2007.” Moreover, because of the scope, scale, resources, and expertise that these vendors have, they can actually deploy and maintain a level of security that other organizations may only dream of.

Never-the-less, “companies remain committed to owning and hosting their own software and despite the tough economic times, they are loath to try something new, especially if it means making additional investments, however meager.”

But in the end “cost cutting and convenience are expected to prompt more firms to rent software that will be delivered over the Internet cloud.” IDC projects that by the end of 2009, “76% of U.S. organizations will use at least one web-delivered application for business use.”

Further, according to research firm, Gartner, “of the approximately $64 billion spent on business applications in 2008, about 10% or $6.4 billion, was spent on applications housed remotely and delivered via the Net.”

The writing is on the wall or should I say in the cloud!