Thursday, March 30, 2023

Automating ETL = DataOps

 In the 1980s and 1990s, software engineers developed software and then a different group manually operationalized it by either putting it on floppy disks/CDs or deploying it to a server. With the advent of cloud computing, this manual process became automated and the best practices were defined as DevOps. 

With the proliferation of data, and the large amount of information that can be generated even from metadata, the consumption of it can no longer be done manually, in the form of ETL (Extract, Transform, Load), to remain competitive. So, similar to DevOps, DataOps is a key part of automating the process of ETL which enhances data analytics. 

Monday, March 20, 2023

How Will Education Adapt to AIs like ChatGPT?

It's so very interesting to see how society adapts to technology. I'm sure, a hundred years from now, people will look back at us and say, "What was the big deal about AI?" since they would have grown up with it.

When the camera was invented, it was thought that a photo couldn't be copyrighted because there was nothing "created." Obviously, that legal opinion has changed.

We teach Driver's Ed in school, because teens need to learn how to drive in society, but we don't teach "horse maintenance" because we no longer use horses as out primary means of transportation. I'm sure our grandparents were looked down upon by their grandparents for learning to drive and not riding a horse.

Public education teaches personal hygiene, like how to brush your teeth. Now they teach digital hygiene like how to pick a strong password or not leak private data.

It'll take some trial and error, but I'm sure K-12 will eventually figure it out, but only after society, as a whole, figures it out.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Encryption: Air Force One & the Police

Most people don't realize that, for general communications, Air Force One and the police don't use encryption when transmitting over the radio. 

While Air Force One certainly has encryption capable radios on board, it still has to communicate with civilian air traffic controllers (ATC). So anyone can listen in.

In 2012, when I was flying my plane from NJ to San Diego, I ended up on the same frequency as Air Force One while flying by Columbus, OH as the president was landing while on a campaign trip. My copilot, who was a commercial pilot, commented that that was a first for him.

Civilians can purchase police scanners to monitor police activity. However, police departments are now moving to encrypted communications to maintain the privacy of citizens. Imagine being pulled over, in another state, and the cop can't run your license on his squad car laptop. So, instead, he has to call it in over the radio, reading your name, home address, etc. Encrypted communications for law enforcement is probably a good idea. 

Monday, March 13, 2023

Entrepreneur Syndrome

Over the past 25 years, I’ve personally noticed something that I now call entrepreneur syndrome.

In a nutshell, these are wannabe entrepreneurs (nearly always solopreneurs) who spend all of their time going through the motions of entrepreneurship without ever generating revenue by bringing a product or service to market. 

Instead of selling, entrepreneur syndrome sufferers end up being very "busy" working on things they like doing and telling people about it, especially through social media. They have the title of CEO on one or “companies” with no employees, no marketing plan, and certainly no revenue. They love to work from wherever they want, like coffee shops, never earning a single cent. 

In the end, what they're doing is OK, but what they're really doing is called a hobby, not a business.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Silicon Valley Bank

Tomorrow, the FDIC will allow access to Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) accounts up to the insured amount of $250,000. FDIC insurance is something that's not available in the crypto world (just ask SBF and FTX). I'm guessing that all of SVB bank accounts will probably recoup at least 80% of their deposit when the dust settles. This is why billionaires buy many obscenely expensive homes since those investments can be insured to 100%.

Last week, the CEO of SVB sold $3.6 mm in stock as part of a trading plan. I don't think there's much to see with the CEO's stock sales if the cash ended up in SVB, not some other bank. If not, he'll have a tough time explaining that. 

Although I haven't had any personal experience with SVB, a good friend of mind did when he, as CEO of a startup, raised $2.5 mm about 15 years ago. Part of his fund raising deal was that SVB would loan his company $500K provided that all the funds were kept in a SVB account, which he did. In 2009, when times became tough, my buddy's startup had $600K in cash. This wasn't a problem until SVB invoked their MAC clause (material adverse change), swooped in, and pulled his $500K. Unfortunately, the corporation's fellow board members didn't want to fight SVB because they had other deals with the bank. In other words, these directors put their own business interests ahead of the corporations. But what can you do?

My buddy didn't have kind words for SVB when I asked him for comments on Friday. 

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Depth-first Recursion with AI in 103 Seconds

Once, when I was interviewing with the iTunes U team at Apple, I was asked to write a depth-first search, using recursion, in a language of my choice. I chose Java and proceeded to sketch out a tree on the whiteboard while keeping track of my stack on the side of the board.

It took about 10 or 15 minutes. Then the hiring manager and I walked though the code and I was thrilled that I passed, especially since recursion is not my strongest area of coding.

Today, I used ChatGPT which was released eight days ago. It came up with three different solutions in less than two minutes. This is fascinating.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Cloud Computing Services Defined

What is the cloud, both qualitatively and quantitatively and why is it called the cloud? 

It's simpler to answer the second part of that first, why is it called the cloud? Simply put, it's called the cloud because, like an electron cloud, you won't not know exactly where an item is located, such as a single e-mail. In other words, like there isn't a clear boundary similar to a the edges of a cloud in the sky.


This segues into a qualitative description of the cloud. In the 1990s, before the cloud, it was simple to point to a single, on-premises, server to identify where a single e-mail resided. Nowadays, with services like Gmail, there's no single server one can point to where an e-mail resides. This is because the subject line of a Gmail e-mail message might be on one server, while the text body of the e-mail is on a different server with each attachment residing on their own servers. A single e-mail is spread out across multiple servers. 


Qualitatively, the cloud model is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models defined by NIST.

Five Essential Characteristics: 

  1. On-demand self-service. A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.
  2. Broad network access. Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations).
  3. Resource pooling. The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. There is a sense of location independence in that the customer generally has no control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources but may be able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (e.g., country, state, or datacenter). Examples of resources include storage, processing, memory, and network bandwidth.
  4. Rapid elasticity. Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time.
  5. Measured service. Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service. 

Three Service Models:

  1. Software as a Service (SaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure. The applications are accessible from various client devices through either a thin client interface, such as a web browser (e.g., web-based email), or a program interface. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application capabilities, with the possible exception of limited user- specific application configuration settings.
  2. Platform as a Service (PaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created or acquired applications created using programming languages, libraries, services, and tools supported by the provider. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, or storage, but has control over the deployed applications and possibly configuration settings for the application-hosting environment.
  3. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to provision processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications; and possibly limited control of select networking components (e.g., host firewalls).

Four Deployment Models:

  1. Private cloud. The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a single organization comprising multiple consumers (e.g., business units). It may be owned, managed, and operated by the organization, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.
  2. Community cloud. The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a specific community of consumers from organizations that have shared concerns (e.g., mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations). It may be owned, managed, and operated by one or more of the organizations in the community, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.
  3. Public cloud. The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for open use by the general public. It may be owned, managed, and operated by a business, academic, or government organization, or some combination of them. It exists on the premises of the cloud provider.
  4. Hybrid cloud. The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities, but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load balancing between clouds). 

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Veterans Day for Marines

Every Marine knows the date, 10th of November, which makes the following day, Veterans Day, a bit different.

Veterans have Veterans Day to commemorate their military service on the 11th of November. And the Marines have the Marine Corps Birthday to commemorate their roots, one day earlier. All active duty and former Marines will wish each other a happy birthday on the Marine Corps Birthday. Marines will also tell you that the timing of these two back-to-back American holidays is ideal since it gives Marines a day off after their Birthday Ball celebrations and festivities.

America’s military is a unique breed of people who are called to serve, not only to protect their country, but, more importantly, they’re called to serve through their oath: to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The distinction between country and Constitution is vital because it prioritizes the principles spelled out in the Constitution ahead of the desires of our citizens or the values we codify in laws.

A Unique Breed

U.S. Marines are a unique breed of America’s military. While each of the military branches have different missions and specialties, one key fact that makes Marines different from the rest of the U.S. Armed Forces is that all Marines are combatants. They are all basic riflemen trained to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or repel the enemy's assault by fire and close combat. More specifically, the Marine Corps does not have doctors, dentists, chaplains, etc. However, since the Marines work so closely with the U.S. Navy (a separate military branch) they receive health and spiritual services from Navy doctors, medics (called corpsmen), chaplains, etc.

Additionally, the Marines are a small, tightly integrated military corps with both tactical fixed-wing (fighter jets) and rotary-wing (helicopters) to support their ground troops. The U.S. Army only has tactical helicopters to support their ground troops. If the Army needs fixed-wing combat support, they’d call on the U.S. Air Force.

Celebrations and Observances

Veterans Day is officially observed with two minutes of silence at 11:11 AM PST to commemorate the ending of WW I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. (It’s celebrated at 11:11 AM PST instead of EST so that all time zones in the United States can celebrate it simultaneously.) Additionally, dozens of parades and ceremonies are held, throughout the country, along with deals, discounts, and freebies, to honor our Veterans.

While Veterans Day is marked with two minutes of silence, the Marine Corps Birthday is observed with two hours of pageantry, throughout the world, at Marine Corps Birthday Balls. The highlight of the Marine Corps Ball is the cake cutting ceremony which follows a basic script where the first piece of cake is presented to the guest of honor. The second piece of cake is given to the oldest Marine present who then presents the youngest Marine with the third piece of cake to symbolize the passing of experience, knowledge, and tradition from the old to the young.

Even though active duty Marines aren’t yet veterans, they greatly appreciate having the next day, Veterans Day, off from work to rest up from the previous night’s celebrations. 

Semper Fi and thank you for your service. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

My First Quantum Computer Program

I ran my first program on a quantum computer, today.

I've run programs on quantum computer simulators in the past, but today was the first time I ran a program on an actual quantum computer. It wasn't anything special – my program simply simulated a coin flip. I guess that's the Hello World equivalent on a quantum computer.

About a year and a half ago, I gave a presentation on quantum computing, which has always fascinated me. However, quantum computing is a lot like nuclear fusion or bitcoin in that it's not yet practical. We can see that these technologies are real and feasible, but they'll require some more engineering, both technically and socially, for them to be in widespread use.

Currently, quantum computers are at the stage that personal computers were in the early 1970s. The design and engineering involves circuits. Next step will be programs and then practical applications.

What I Did

Today's program simulated a coin flip by passing a qubit through a Hadamard gate which puts the qubit into a superposition state. A Hadamard gate takes a qubit as input and its output has a seemingly random 50/50 chance of being |0> or |1> when measured. But what's fascinating about a Hadamard gate is that, if you take the output of from a Hadamard gate and pass it through another Hadamard gate then the qubit will always return to its original state.

My code snippet: Simulating the flip of a coin on an actual quantum computer

How I Did It

Like a true script kiddie, I followed a YouTube tutorial. I literally stopped the video when Toby showed her code, took a screen shot, imported the screen shot into the Apple Photos app, and then I copied and pasted the code from the photo into my web based text editor on IBM's Quantum Lab. The code I wrote was in Python utilizing the Qiskit SDK and it was free to run on IBM's system; a bargain at twice the price.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Stolen Catalytic Converter

My exhaust pipe, sans my catalytic converter

My catalytic converter was stolen two months ago.

I immediately knew it when I started the engine on my Honda Accord – it sounded like a Harley at red line. Coincidentally, my sister, who lives nearly 3,000 miles away, had her catalytic converter stolen from her Accord a few weeks later.

Thieves steal catalytic converters because they're easy targets under the chassis – there's no alarm or cage around them and they contain valuable precious medals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium. A replacement catalytic converter typically runs around $1,000. When you add in the labor, the price ends up over $1,500. My insurance company's bill came in over $2,000 out of their pocket when including the towing and car rental.

Replacing a catalytic converter isn't as simple as replacing other car parts, especially with California's anti-smog requirements. (If you've ever smelled the difference between the exhaust from a modern car and one made before 1975 then you've noticed the smog filtering effects of a catalytic converter.) New catalytic converters replacement parts are scarce because of the increase in thefts.

In California, catalytic converters have to be approved for different car models. Every two years, I have to pay about $60 to have my Accord smog checked. This was never a problem until today when the smog inspector told me that my catalytic converter was "illegal in the state of California." The new, aftermarket, catalytic converter installed on my car did not match the approved family of catalytic converters according to the "Vehicle Emission Control Information."

In order to rectify this discrepancy I had to "Ask the Referee" if my catalytic converter was a suitable substitute. This entails making an appointment, typically two weeks in the future, for a free inspection to see if my catalytic converter passes muster. While the appointment is free, the penalty for missing an appointment is a 60-day delay until I could reschedule my next appointment; a very unfavorable situation since my registration expires in 42 days, which requires passing a smog check.

Fortunately, I lucked out when I called the referee since I was able to get an appointment, due to a cancellation, 90 minutes later today, with the stringent warning to not be late and the understanding that same-day cancellations would cost me a 60-day delay in rescheduling.

Although the inspection site was difficult to find because it was on a college campus which, like a military base, doesn't have buildings with GPS'able street addresses. But, in the end, it all worked out for me. That wasn't the case for the car owner ahead of me whose catalytic converter wasn't a suitable substitute. As soon as I received the sticker on my car door approving my catalytic converter, I returned to the same smog inspection station from earlier in the afternoon and passed my inspection. Now, the last step is for the California DMV to send me my new vehicle registration.