Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MS-DOS Mobile - Finally

Wayyyyyyy back in the early 1980's when the PC first came out I cut my teeth on a new operating system - MS-DOS. Sure there was something called CPM that ran on the PC earlier but (at least to me) it lacked in comfort, entertainment value and something else I could never really put my finger on. I do recall that when it came down to serious fun - CPM was a real downer.

Now MS-DOS on the other hand was an entertainment jackpot. So much fun right from the start. I recall so many late nights in the salad years of my mid-twenties writing code, smiling and laughing so hard I would often end up crying. The smell of the floppy disks (I'm not sure what the heck Microsoft put in them), the whirl of the drives.... it was all so very good.

Well. over the years things soured with Microsoft. Windows 3.1, 3.11 were really cool. Windows 95 - come on now that was just the best. XP was pretty good too. But then something happened. Maybe it was my age creeping up. It started for me with Vista - the laughing had stopped and it became just frustration and crying for me. Not good.

I longed for those salad days and found solace with Apple. The Mac OS's were so simple and comfortable and I found myself smiling and laughing again - sometimes so hard I would end up... yes... crying. It felt so good to be back. That Apple experience extended to other devices - phones, tablets, and in a few weeks there will be a watch.

Well - I never thought I would ever consider going back to Microsoft. That may have changed today though with the announcement of MS-DOS Mobile.

This has the potential to take me back to those salad days.... even better. MS-DOS always with me in my pocket, next to me in the car, on my nightstand. Comforting, entertaining. It sounds so nice. I'm thinking maybe I'll give it..... one more try :)

Friday, March 27, 2015

LED Light Bulbs That Repel Bugs

Most of us are familiar with those ultraviolet bug zappers. They're not as popular as they once were but I do still see (and hear) them around on hot summer nights here in New England. 

They operate on a basic principal - bugs (mosquitos, etc) are attracted to light in the ultraviolet and visible blue/green wavelengths. Once the bugs get inside they get electrocuted by making contact with high voltage wires surrounding the light source. Most of us have probably questioned the effectiveness, wondering if more bugs are being attracted than zapped.

A group of researchers at the University of Southern California Dornsife led by Professor Travis Longcore came up with the great idea of flipping things around. In a paper published by The Royal Society last week titled Tuning the white light spectrum of light emitting diode lamps to reduce attraction of nocturnal arthropods Longore and his group describe how to make LED bulbs that significantly reduce the amount of blue/green light and effectively repel insects. 

By mixing the right wavelengths, light can be made to still look white to humans while minimizing those attracting blue/green wavelengths, Longcore's group found that by doing this, approximately 20 percent fewer insects were attracted. Pretty cool stuff.

Longcore's group is doing additional testing and Longore is hoping they can further target specific wavelengths to repel even more of those pesky (and sometimes disease carrying) bugs away.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pushing Optics Closer to the CPU

There's something very important I forgot to tell you! Don't cross the streams… It would be bad… Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
—Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) on crossing proton streams, Ghostbusters

Well.... as we learned later in the movie, crossing streams is not always a bad thing.... As part of my work with the National Center for Optics and Photonics Education (OP-TEC: I've been spending a lot of time learning new technical content while still staying current in the computing and communications field. I've been reading (and tweeting) recently about pushing optics closer and closer to the processor in computing systems. Here's more.

Last week, IBM announced the integration of a silicon photonic chip on the same package as a CPU. Why is this important? A couple of reasons -  if on-chip and chip-to-chip communications can use silicon as an optical medium, processing will be significantly faster, consume much less power and produce much less heat than the copper wires used today.

Extreme Tech published a nice diagram (below and based on the IBM announcement) last week showing the current state of silicon photonics technology. Notice the optical connection is currently at the board edge. With this IBM breakthrough, designers will begin to start moving the silicon photonics array closer and closer to the CPU, eventually building the optics into the CPU package itself.

The technology will initially be limited to the world of supercomputing but it will only be a matter of time before we see it trickle down to consumer level devices like PC's, tablets and smartphones. 

I love it when streams converge.

Monday, December 22, 2014

5G? 6G?? How About 200G?!

Back in 2013, Verizon ran a successful 200 Giga-bits-per-second (200Gbps or 200G) trial in collaboration with communications equipment manufacturer Ciena. The trial was done over optical fiber using a single wavelength. Well - trials are trials - done in optimized and controlled laboratory type settings by people in white lab coats. Experts speculated whether these kinds of bit rates could be achieved in the real world. Well.... guess what?

Earlier this month, Verizon provisioned 200G technology using the same Ciena gear on an ultra-long-haul production network between Boston and New York without impacting live customer traffic on the same network and without making any modifications to the existing fiber or network infrastructure equipment. The new Ciena gear was only added on each end of the communications channel.

Significant? You bet. More information on a single wavelength over long distance without any loss of signal quality. All this without having to upgrade fiber and infrastructure equipment in the field. It opens the door for the possibilities of much higher bit rates over existing fiber-based networks. We'll see 400 Gbps soon and yes even Tera-bit-per-second (Tbps) rates over existing optical fiber infrastructure soon.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Closing the loop with IP/Optical Integration

I've spent the last 17 years focused on Internet Protocol (IP) over various transport systems - wired (copper), wireless and optical. With the explosion of video, social media and other bandwidth hungry applications we've seen fiber moving closer and closer to the end user. Wireless is the perfect example with towers back-hauled into the network by fiber. It's really just the last mile/final connection that is typically not optical fiber based for most of us.

We're seeing IP/optical integration today really ramping with these things called software defined networks (SDNs). I wrote a post defining and describing SDN's last month titled SDN: When The Hardware Becomes A Little More Soft

With the move to all-IP, SDN and cloud services, many service providers are now integrating IP routing and transport. In this short 4 minute and 50 audio clip, Arnold Jansen discusses how IP/optical control integration can help operators simplify and streamline their operations and drive better cost synergies.

 Smart, fast, efficient. Good stuff.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

Stanford Professor Robert Sutton, one of my favorite authors, has written six excellent management books.  My favorite to date was written in 2007 -  a New York Times best seller titled The No A**hole Rule. You can fill in the *'s on your own :)

In the book, Sutton lays out a dirty dozen list of common everyday actions that a**holes use and how some companies - including JetBlue, Men's Wearhouse, and Google - have created work environments where positive self-esteem is used to build a more productive, motivated, and satisfied workforce.

 Here's Sutton's dirty dozen list:
  1. Personal insults.
  2. Invading one's personal territory.
  3. Uninvited personal contact.
  4. Threats and intimidation, both verbal and non-verbal.
  5. Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult delivery systems.
  6. Withering email flames.
  7. Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims.
  8. Public shaming or status degradation rituals.
  9. Rude interruptions.
  10. Two-faced attacks.
  11. Dirty looks.
  12. Treating people as if they are invisible.
You don't have to in be a position of power or money to be an a**hole. The pic above is a good example. Most would assume the Corvette parked that way first but - maybe it was the Jeep...... Regardless of whether you drive a Corvette or a Jeep - Sutton is always a good read.  

He's published a seventh book this year - Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for LessI just grabbed the Kindle edition and will start reading the new book this evening. Looking forward to it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

SDN: When The Hardware Becomes A Little More Soft

I grew up in the dedicated hardware world. Switches and routers that – sure - included processors and a little bit of memory.  Devices with pretty basic operating systems that kept track of addresses to move content around on a network, making sure stuff gets to where it is supposed to go. Nothing fancy but it has worked pretty good with the build out of the internet over the past 20 years or so. 

Today, we’re seeing a pretty major shift to what people are calling Software Defined Networks (SDNs). You may have seen SDN also referred to as elastic computing and/or elastic networks. The idea with SDNs is to not just try and make the network more efficient but also make it flexible and scalable. The concept is pretty simple and SDN Central explains it pretty well:
Software Defined Networking (SDN) is a new approach to designing, building and managing networks. The basic concept is that SDN separates the network’s control (brains) and forwarding (muscle) planes to make it easier to optimize each. 
In this environment, a Controller acts as the “brains,” providing an abstract, centralized view of the overall network. Through the Controller, network administrators can quickly and easily make and push out decisions on how the underlying systems (switches, routers) of the forwarding plane will handle the traffic.
So, you’ve got a smart controller looking at the entire network including applications running on the end devices. The controller communicates with network controlling devices (switches and routers), adjusting and optimizing the network to real-time conditions. Sort of like a maĆ®tre d / head waiter in a busy restaurant.

For providers (Verizon, AT&T, etc) , SDNs reduce equipment costs and allow the networks to be more efficiently controlled. These networks are optical fiber-based and that has me pretty excited with my new position at the NSF-funded OP-TEC ATE Center

Centralized, programmable optical networks that dynamically adjust to changing requirements. Nice. I’ll be writing more about SDN and a number of other optics based technologies in future posts.