Tech at Work

Alan Turing: Cracking Codes and Taking Names

Every time you see a ridiculous movie scene where someone cracks a complex code, think about Alan Turing. He was born 100 years ago today and he's left an impressive legacy. He helped design early computer circuits, including his own Automatic Computing Engine (ACE), which was one of the fastest in the world. Famously, it helped to perform the many precise measurements needed to analyze plane wreckage of the time. He helped cracked the German Engima codes to hamper communication between our enemies in World War 2.

Just in case the machines that he helped design happen to take over the world, Turing also designed his own test to help distinguish between artificial intelligence and human intelligence. If we have a text only interaction with a human and a computer, would we be able to distinguish the two from one another? We incorporate Turing's ideals unconsciously whenever we delete a spam email message for looking too robotic.

Besides, if Google does a Doodle about Turing, he has to be something, right?

Old School Tech: The Train is Overrated

Since I'm a Jersey boy, I love public transportation. It's one of the best technological advancements that has practical applications for a number of people. Even if you didn't grow up using public transportation, you know what it looks like from movies, television, and other media.

I grew up taking the bus to the mall, the movies and into NYC. As i've gotten older, that love has lessened as my work commute on the Philadelphia trains (SEPTA regional rail) is ground to a halt what seems like every other day due to an obstruction or mechanical problem of some kind. I just don't remember having this many problems as a kid in the 80s!

Frustration with tech can often lead to a low tech solution. Apparently, I like the foresight of a few gentlemen in the NYC area who got fed up and decided to kayak across the Hudson river from NJ to NYC for their daily commute.

Sometimes they leave their kayaks with a friend on the West Side, but other times, they just take them to work.
“We’ll carry them from the water all the way to our office and then we store them right next to our desk."

The funniest image in my head is of these gentlemen calming walking through the door of their business with a dripping wet Kayak. I guess I've seen crazier things in New York ...

Tech & Politics: Melissa Harris-Perry

Many TV shows are using Facebook and Twitter to further engage their audience. One great example is the Melissa Harris-Perry show, which airs 10am - 12pm on MSNBC on Saturdays and Sundays. The political show is very active on Twitter with its own hashtag #nerdland. Also, video of the show is available on the website soon after it airs - and it's iPad friendly!

She recently had a fantastic section on technology and how it's affected the political process. The panel talks about a recent Federal Elections Committee decision to allow donating to political campaigns via text message, the fact that women only account for 24% of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) jobs, and the wonderful organization Black Girls Code by Kimberly Bryant. Please support their Summer of Code fundraiser, which has a goal of teaching computer programming to more than 300 boys and girls from underrepresented communities, in 90 days, in more than 7 cities across the United States.

Check out the video of the and fantastic discussions below!

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Slow Down and Enjoy your Tech!

Tech comes out every day. The early adopters among us will grab new products only to dismiss them when the next hot thing comes out. My advice? SLOW DOWN a bit and enjoy what you have!.

I'm a victim of this when it comes to the iPhone and the iPad. I always sell the old version and get the new version, even if the feature set isn't quite justifiable. I've seen this most recently with my incremental upgrade from the iPhone 4 to the 4S. In retrospect, the 4 was perfectly fine for me - why didn't I stay with it? I'm missing out on forming the same relationship that haberdasher with my Double Dragon Tiger electronic game from the late 80s? My TI-83 calculator from 95? My minidisc player from 2000?

Podcasts that cover tech tend to suffer the most. They tend to be practically disposable, even ones that are incredibly funny and / or interesting. One of the most fascinating sites I've run into on the net is Previous Pod, a site that reviews old episodes of the Engadget podcast. I follow any of the former Engadget editors at The Verge, and it's interesting to go back in time to see their views on products that have since become obsolete, such as the Palm Pre.

Is it that current tech is made with this disposal culture in mind, so that they only last a few years (I'm looking at you, Dell Computer)? Or is it that we are throwing out perfectly good products for little reason? Whatever the reason is, SLOW DOWN!

Tech in the City: Public Transportation



I posted a question to my Google+ profile asking folks about the state of public transportation in their area.  I receieved a miriad of responses that pretty much criss-crossed the country.  Here are a fewbelow (link to the actual post is here)


Romeo Rosado - In Chicago riding a bus or train is a way of life for everyone. Especially in a city where on street parking is so expensive. $80 gets you a monthly for the Cta (city bus and train) then there's Metra which runs from downtown to the various burbs all around the city. And its like in NYC, everybody rides. From the ceo, to the server at the country club.


Simeon Weinraub - I live in Los Angeles.  Where we have a bus with a (yes, I said a as in one)dedicated lane, people use it. The rest of our system is over-crowded buses, stuck in the same traffic as everybody else. They are building more light rail now, but the construction costs are astronomical, and the securing the right-of-way is a constant political struggle.

Meanwhile, simple and cheap solutions are ignored for prestige projects. We have two large streets that run parallel from the beach to downtown, that all studies show would reduce traffic if they were made one in opposite directions, but some how people have blocked that. We are spending billions widening the 405 freeway, but just to add a high occupancy vehicle lane (2 or more people), not a bus lane, nor light rail (we currently have two train lines that run on the existing right-of-way of a freeway, and those trains get used, they never get caught at crossings, they are never blocked by traffic, and nobody had to have their house knocked over to build them.)

I can say that the two newest rail lines are great! The Gold line runs from Pasadena to East LA in arc through Downtown LA, through all kinds of neighborhood, in a way that is actually useful. And the new Expo line that is opening this year will go from Downtown LA, to the beach in Santa Monica, in a paththat actually stops where people need to go.


Lark Fleming - In LA middle class people in general don't use public transit. It's becoming more common among people who are younger, but people in the 30ish range and older it is pretty rare. In LA pt is viewed as something gross. It's getting better in regards to perception, but it's still rare to be like me (have the money to buy a car and maintain a car) and to not own a car.

Also it's easier to take public transit's more desirable mode, the train, if you live in the more gentrified higher priced neighborhoods. In LA public transit is not exactly a choice, because the poorer neighborhoods and less desirable neighborhoods have very limited transit or very unfavorable transit. In LA if you''re a poor single mom you can't afford to take public transit. Many working class jobs in LA require you to own a car in order to apply.


Laya White - Baltimore's public transportation is somewhere in the middle - not as great as larger cities but not the worst either. The one subway line and the one Light Rail line are primarily for commuters traveling in and out of the city. We also have the Marc Train, which runs between Baltimore, DC, and WV. If you're traveling within the city it's primarily by bus, and the bus system has come a long way in the last 10 years.  Getting around the city is one thing but if you're trying to get to or around many of the suburbs and nearby communities, or to and from DC on the weekend, you are SOL.


darren keith - St. Louis fails to realize that in order to grow a city sometimes you have to spend money. St. Louis and labor has always wanted something for nothing when it comes to wages. This city fails to realize that we are all in the same boat. It just irks me that this country of ours has one of the worst public transportation in the world.


Erin McCargar - Nashville's system is pretty much bus only, with one commuter rail line from satellite city into town that stops in one suburb. While they finally created a decent bus depot downtown, the buses themselves are of highly varying quality, and from all reports are a pain to use, usually adding 4-5 hours to a trip of any real length.


Jasmine Lee - I live in Houston and public transportation here is a mess. The bus system has an okay route system in the city and limited routes outside the city limits. If you live in the suburbs there are park and ride stations here and there (so you still need a car to ride the bus if you live in the 'burbs). We finally got a train that goes from downtown to the medical center, but unless you work or live in that area, you still need a car. I would love to have the option to ride a train or bus to work.

Derek Arnold In Cleveland and Akron (where I was raised and where I currently live, respectively), as in a lot of the midwest, the "mass transit is for poor folks" mantra is often repeated. I spent the first 33 years in life without a car because of industrious use of transit (I could get most of where I wanted/needed to go but it put some jobs/opportunities out of touch without some help). I would certainly take mass transit to/from work but because I live in the core city (Akron) and work in a suburb of another core city (Solon, OH--suburb of Cleveland), it would take several hours a day to commute.
Raphaela Weissman - Seattle transportation consists entirely of semi-reliable buses. A lot of the goings-on in the city are catered to drivers (sample conversation at a new job: Employer: "Now, parking can be tricky..." Me: "I don't have a car." Employer: "Okay. Well, just so you know... [10 minute speech about parking].")