Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Scientists Standing Side By Side With Athletes and Entertainers"

These are words from President Obama yesterday in his announcement of a new Educate to Innovate Campaign to improve the participation and performance of America’s students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Most of us know excelling in STEM, when compared to the rest of the world, has not been something we've been very good at recently in the United States. Our kids currently rank 21st in science and 25th in math compared with students in other countries. The new campaign will include:

  • A two-year Sesame Street math and science push;
  • An after-school robotics program;
  • A national hands-on scientific learning "lab" day, and
  • An annual White House science fair that will publicize top scientists and their achievements.
The President said so far the private sector has committed $260 million to the campaign, and corporate giants, including Intel, Xerox, Kodak and Time Warner Cable, have signed on.

I'm not a big golf fan but am impressed with golfer Phil Mickelson's ExxonMobil Teachers Academy where, each summer, 600 third- through fifth-grade teachers from school districts across the country attend Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academies. The Academies offer a five-day program, with camps in New Jersey, Texas and Louisiana, designed to provide third- through fifth-grade teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to motivate students to pursue careers in science and math.

President Obama's initiative looks like it will provide an opportunity for more professional athletes and also entertainers to get involved. It would be nice to see some of them sign on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Technology Trends for Small to Medium Businesses

The New Media Consortium (NMC) has a new report out called the Horizon Report: 2009 Economic Development Edition that is a short, consise and very imformative read. The report explores the landscape of emerging technologies as it pertains to small to medium-sized businesses which account for a large part of the private-sector employment and revenue growth in our economy.

For the report, the NMC Advisory Board reviewed key trends, examining current articles, papers, interviews, and published research for the report and discovered some interesting patterns that are affecting business and industry. The five trends listed (in priority order) here as those the board believes will have a significant impact on small to medium businesses over the next five years.

  1. Employees increasingly expect to be able to work flexible hours and to work from locations other than an office building.
  2. Modern consumers expect that the content in which they are interested will be available in a variety of different forms.
  3. Gaming is an increasingly universal phenomenon among those entering the workforce.
  4. Increasing globalization continues to affect the way we work, collaborate, and communicate.
  5. Technology is increasingly a means for empowering employees, a method for communication and socializing, and a ubiquitous, transparent part of their lives.
You can read/download the full report linked here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

21-28 Mbps In Your Pocket Soon

Martin Sauter has a nice post titled HSPA About to Overtake Wi-Fi 802.11g. He points out 802.11g, with a theoretical data rate of 54 Mega bits per second (Mbps) but a practical throughput of only about 20 Mbps, will soon be obsolete when compared to coming to HSPA+ data rates of between 21 and 28 M bps.

If you are not familiar - HSPA+ is also referred to as Evolved High-Speed Packet Access and is basically an enhanced 3G wireless broadband standard formally known as 3GPP release 7. It's just starting to take off - according to GSM World, there are currently 20 HSPA+ networks running at 21 Mbps and two running at 28 Mbps in the world today.

I think I'm already finding myself making the transition on my iPhone 3GS. When I'm away from my home I usually don't have the WiFi radio turned on, running off the 3G network connection. I do this to save battery and also have some concerns about security on open WiFi networks that I may end up attaching to. I usually don't notice a difference in performance and sometimes find myself checking the top of my screen to see if WiFi is turned on by mistake. What kind of bandwidth am I getting? Here's an iPhone screen shot that seems pretty typical - 1.265 Mbps downstream and 348 Kbps upstream. Not bad for a device I carry around in my shirt pocket (as a comparison a T1 connection runs at 1.544 Mbps) and.... it's going to get a lot better.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Green High Performance Computing: Ping, Power and Pipe

On October 21 I was at our National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education annual conference in Washington, DC. Green was the theme of of this year's conference with sessions on everything from bio-fuels, wind power, photovoltaics, computer virtualization and storage. Back at home there was another green event happening in Holyoke, MA that I had to miss. Governor Deval Patrick came out to Holyoke Community College to discuss his continued support and announce the go ahead for the planned construction of the regions first high performance computer center in a new "innovation" district located in Holyoke, MA. Partners in the project include Cisco, EMC (both companies also in attendance at our NSF conference in Washington, DC), MIT, Boston University and the University of Massachusetts.

If you are not from Massachusetts maybe you haven't heard of Holyoke. If you are from the area you probably think of Holyoke as an old New England mill town. What you may not know is 160 years ago Holyoke was the first planned industrial city in America. Here's a brief historical overview summarized from the city website:
  • In 1847, taking advantage of the broad plain and the 57 foot drop in the Connecticut River at South Hadley Falls, work began on a planned industrial City. Construction of Holyoke's first wooden dam began in 1847 under the Hadley Falls Company.
  • As Holyoke matured, it began to diversify industrially. Four and a half miles of canals were dug by pick and shovel through the lower wards, and all types of products were manufactured along their banks.
  • Textiles were the first major product of the City, quickly followed by paper. Within 30 years, Holyoke would become known as the "Paper City of the World".
  • From its highs of the 1920's industry showed a gradual decline in overall employment. Many labor and energy intensive firms followed the national pattern, and moved to the South and West, to be nearer raw materials and cheaper labor. The remaining industries took advantage of Holyoke's unique resources, especially her highly skilled labor force and plentiful water for power and process uses.
  • Although many of the paper mills left, many specialty paper producers have remained.
Manufacturing, textiles, speciality paper,,,,, what does that have to do with a green high performance computing center? A recent post at MassTech.org referred the attraction to Holyoke as ping, power and pipe - the city has a high-speed network in place with fiber connections to major research universities, low cost water-power generated electricity and the required cooling infrastructure.

There is still considerable work to be done with the next step over the next couple of months an executed purchase and sale agreement. According to the MassTech.org piece, 80 different sites in the Holyoke canal district are being considered for the center.

I live across the Connecticut River in South Hadley and drive through the canal district every day back and forth to work at Springfield Technical Community College. The canals and old buildings are beautiful and I love the ride - I'm looking forward to the watching the center, innovation district and area transition and grow.