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Computers and Internet

A beginners guide to infusions

So, you’re getting an infusion. Chances are that’s because you’re pretty gosh darn sick – you may have cancer, or Spondylitis (that’s what I have) or something else chronic. That probably sucks. But going to the infusion center doesn’t have to completely suck.

Here are some pointers I’ve learned over the past 9 months of infusions of Remicaid. I’m going to focus on the practical things you can do to make your experience and the experiences of those around as nice as possible.

Good nurses should rule the world
Whatever you do, you must be polite to your caretakers. The nurses in the infusion clinic are among the best, most elite caregivers on the planet. They must combine the precision engineering of phlebotomy, the care taking of oncology and the harsh reality of hospice and they crank through dozens or even hundreds of patients a week. They are a blessing and you should treat them as such, even in the rare cases when they are not as good as you’d like. Which leads me to…

Beware the substitute nurses for blood draws
Look at your nurses name tag. It should say something like “infusion” on it. If it says something like “general nursing” feel free to ask if they are infusion nurses or phlebotomists. Infusion nurses run a lot of IVs. That means they are good at that. Yes, newer nurses need practice but you don’t have to be the one they practice on it you don’t want to. They only rally bad IV I’ve gotten here at the Polyclinic was from a general nurse who missed my vein, panicked and called for help.

Pump management
My treatments take about 3 hours. I usually have to pee at least once during this time. To do this, you can ask for help, or just do what I do. First tidy up your IV line and hold it (loosely for gods sake!) in your left hand. Unplug the machine from the wall with your right and drape the cord on the giant thumbscrews on the pump so it doesn’t drag on the floor or tangle with your IV line. You might need to drape it twice if the cord isn’t velcroed up. Your IV pump has a battery so don’t worry!

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Comfort
You can ask for as many pillows as you want. I take two. Also ice water, as much as you want! Woooooo hoo! But the best thing (other than kick ass nurses) are the heated cotton blankets. They are great, and when they cool off, you can get another one.

Be respectful
The people around are sick, they are tired, they may be near the end of their rope. Some of them are almost certainly far sicker than you. The last thing they want to hear is you talking too damn loud on your cel phone. They don’t want you to unplug the headphones from your TV so your friend can listen to Judge Judy too (FFS!). We are all in this together, in spite of the curtains. Be nice, be thoughtful.

Heal
You’re here to heal. Hopefully – fingers and toes crossed – you’re not going to have to get really good at getting infusions because you’ll be better soon.

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Computers and Internet

Horsepower

This article reminded me of my one of my restaurant jobs in the late 80s.

On Sunday’s I used to help grind fresh horseradish when I worked prep at the original Jake O’Shaugnessey’s restaurant (now closed and replaced entirely by the building complex containing the Metropolitan Market on Queen Anne in Seattle – I’ve searched the web and can’t find a single photo of the place, which is frustrating!). Horseradish root is fairly benign in small quantities but sticking many pounds of the stuff it into a 2 horsepower grinder aerosolizes the juice, which in turn creates a mild form of mustard gas, which I’m sure you remember from the history of World War 1 is Not A Good Thing.

Generally speaking you can’t afford to have your restaurant patrons nerve-gassed so we used 500 foot roles of commercial plastic wrap to contain the evil inside multiple air-gapped spaces. I helped on the kitchen setup and did the peeling and prep to get the horseradish roots ready to go. We then started out building up our containment system by wrapping the entire floor-mounted Hobart completely and cut out the feed hole. This is the kind of machine we were using:

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We plastic wrapped a small room-within-a-room around that containing the horse, the chef and the Hobart. We also plastic wrapped the doors in the kitchen and then turned on all the hoods on high. After that the only person inside the entire restaurant was the head chef, who wore a hazmat suit, arm-pit length heavy rubber gloves, a gasmask and knee-high muck boots.

Fresh horseradish isn’t actually nearly as hot as the powdered stuff, so we liked to to power it up. For that we had a small brown bottle labelled with a skull and cross bones which actually said “POISON” on it. I have no idea exactly what it was an extract of but we were so wary of the stuff we kept it in the restaurant safe. According to the head chef the bottle was many years old and he couldn’t buy it anymore. He put a bit into every huge batch of horse we made and the bottle was still half full, which should give you an approximate idea of how powerful it was.

We left the restaurant until it was over and waited awhile for the air to clear via the hoods after he was done, hosed down all the contaminated surfaces as we pulled off the plastic and finally mopped the floor.

We then served the resulting horse-radish, ground through a meat grinder so that we’d get a rougher texture than a puree, to our patrons every night. Bon appetit!

 

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Computers and Internet

Picnic on the Space Needle

I’m heading to Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) later today and I’ll be there at various times throughout the w’end. In celebration of this event I’m making up the first ever ECCC Totally Bogus Theoretical (not)Death Match.

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Team Number One: Tom Douglas & The Incredibles

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Team Number Two: Teen Titans & Nathan Myhrvold

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Game: Picnic on the Space Needle – each team must cook a meal in the Space Needle restaurant and then serve it to 4 tables situated on the observation deck. Diners consist of Emerald City Comic Con attendees who will be teleported to their seats randomly.

Rules:

  • Meals must consist of any four of the dishes in the first ten dishes listed here on Buzzfeed
  • Ingredients are not supplied however each team has a budget of $1000
  • direct interference between teams is NOT allowed
  • environmental interference IS allowed – eg teams can disable the elevators, cut the power, make it rain or snow on the other team, etc.
  • any fatality results in a forfeit by the other side
  • physics and laws of nature are a combination of both universes, any absolute contradictions eliminate both factors
  • ties are broken by rock paper scissors between the chefs (fatality rule still applies)
  • winning = dinner served successfully first to all diners

So – who’s gonna win?

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Security

Sende in the Dronnes

 

On March 4th 2014 Janes Defence reports that the UK government has Released To Service (RTS) the new UK-built Watchkeeper Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). The Watchkeeper was intended for service in Afghanistan as early as 2007 however the RTS process has brought on extensive delays – brought on in no small part because of concerns over civilian safety.

The RTS greenlighting of the Watchkeeper means that it is now considered safe enough to be used over civilian populations in the UK.

“These delays largely result from the Watchkeeper being the first UAS to go through the RTS process, which follows the MoD’s rigorous safety and airworthiness reviews to ensure the system can be safely operated over the UK and beyond, with certification to the same safety standard as manned aircraft.” 

The Watchkeeper is a UK-built drone derived from the Israeli-made Elbit System Hermes 450 which the UK has used in deployment in Afghanistan since 2007. The Hermes and the Watchkeeper share some components including the air-frame, two sensor mounts and two mounts for fuel tanks under the wings.

The two sensor arrays on the Watchkeeper are a synthetic aperture radar/ground-moving target indicator (SAR/GMTI) radar and a rear-mounted electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) turret. SAR/GMTI is an active radar system (meaning it transmits radio waves and reads the reflection) that can be used to find and identify stationary and moving targets. This is a pic of what things on the ground might look like to a Watchkeeper operator via that radar:

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The turret is a passive system that uses infrared heat signatures to differentiate between objects and is particularly optimized for finding warm things like people. This is what things look like through a similar FLIR system:

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As currently specified the Watchkeeper can track targets for continued surveillance and can also “paint” them with a laser designator for targeting by weapons launched from somewhere else. The Israelis are rumored to have outfitted the Hermes 450 with Hellfire missiles (one slung under each wing from the fuel-tank mounts) although they have never publicly admitted to this configuration. Presumably the Watchkeeper could be configured the same way however there’s no indication that the UK plans to do this.

The British Army has logged over 86,000 flight hours with the Hermes 450 and has confirmed that they have crashed 8, which is likely one of the reasons that the UK decided to build their own derivation. Two documented Hermes 450 crashes in Afghanistan – one at the Bastion air base and one near Sangin (crash-landing in a mine-field no less) and another crash in Israel were all due to engine failure. The Watchkeeper has a new fuel-injected rotax engine built in France which should make it more reliable, especially at higher altitudes.

One crash per 10K hours of flight time is abysmally bad. While the British public doesn’t seem to mind terribly about surveillance in the UK nor about drone strikes elsewhere, they would likely be more upset if drones were raining out of the sky at a rate of 1 per 10K hours of flight time.

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The extensive analysis of the crash at Bastion also finds a number of supporting problem areas involving training and logistics and notes that “most of the identified factors were driven by the fact that the H450 aviation system was an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR)”. When the Hermes 450 was initially chosen the UK felt that they desperately needed a sustained-duration surveillance drone in Afghanistan so they deployed the 450 under a UOR. This means the minimum amount of testing needed for the military to feel confident that it the equipment will work (at least as well as the Israelis no doubt promised it would) but not any more, and a lack of experience in the army (as opposed to the RAF) with UORs for aircraft is noted in the report as an issue.

Another interesting observation from the MAA report is that the operators issued a command to the 450 so that it would go into a specific mode and got an unexpected (to them) response, causing the the UAS to perform a “non authorized manoeuvre at low altitude”. This meant that when the engine finally died of overheating the 450 went into a fail-safe circular glide pattern roughly where the failure happened. It didn’t try to land (which likely would have been possible) it just glided into the tarmac.

Its unclear if the UK government plans to use the Watchkeeper domestically for surveillance or if they will be flown over the UK for training only. It is clear that they felt that they needed to spend over half a decade testing and tweaking the design so that it would be suitably safe for sustained flight over the territorial UK. This could simply be a responsible government doing the necessaries to ensure that a critical piece of war materiel is safe to operate incidentally over civilians. That’s obviously true. It could additionally presage future Watchkeepers – possibly even a future armed variant – patrolling domestic UK skies but only time will tell on that account.

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Computers and Internet

The End of the Beginning

Abstract 

The Netflix and Comcast deal marks the birth of a brand new unregulated futures trading market trading in an emergent and still undefined currency called “network efficiency”. The impact of this on the web will be profound and more complex than what we may realize if we simply argue over the end of network neutrality. Good will come from this (companies will be better able to provide the best experiences for their users) while there will also be harm (eg pure market approaches can reinforce monopolies). 

Full Article

Comcast and Netflix have come to a landmark agreement whereby Netflix gives Comcast money and Comcast ensures that Netflix sucks less for Comcast subscribers. For a great description of this deal check out Timothy Lee’s article on Wa Post here. Tim does a very good job of describing the immediate and short-term issues this agreement introduces.

I could decry this simply as the 3rd and final major milestone in the inexorable death of net neutrality – and actually I think that it is. But that doesn’t say much about what the future will really hold, which is what I’m interested in.

How things kinda worked

The internet still works, right? OMFG IS TEH INTWERWEBZ BORKED? If you can read this then the interwebz are not totally borked.

Yesterday, bits on the internet were all created kinda sorta equal. (Not entirely – copyrighted bits are subject to DMCA take-downs, some countries block some bits in the name of federalism, child pornography bits live entirely on Darknets, etc…) But basically TCP/IP – the protocol that forms the spine for the internet today – is designed to treat all packets the same. It may deliver them out of order or unpredictably but it does that to all of them and generally speaking it delivers them all, albeit sometimes via some remarkably confusing routes.

Yesterday there wasn’t a lot I could do to make my bits jump ahead of your bits on the internet. I could use an independent CDN (Content Distribution Network) as a way to push copies of my bits out to optimized caches on the internet but in the end those networks still are part of the “all packets are created equal” internet dating back to DARPA. Yesterday CDNs represented a relatively small specialized market where I could spent money to give my packets a specialized advantage. There really was no effective way for me to spend money to guarantee that all of my future internet packets will perform substantially better all the time for a large number of my users.

Funnily enough, the inverse of this wasn’t true – while I couldn’t spend money for special treatment, other people could spend money (or refuse to spend money) so that my packets would be treated badly. Large network companies do this by throttling certain packets and this was ruled as entirely okay by the FCC in the US. Comcast has the technical ability to make packets go to the back of the line every time but until today I couldn’t pay them to make my packets go to the head of the line no matter how much money I wanted to spend (short of buying Comcast outright).

What changed?

Over time network efficiency has been relatively fixed while capacity is subject to significant growth. Capacity grows as investments are made in things which provide more of it (eg Google’s fiber network, 4G build-outs, etc.). Over time efficiency changes slowly because the network has specs and needs to be compatible. The specs are basically as efficient as they are. (Network smarty pants will no doubt pick at this but I think that we can probably agree on the high-level view that it’s a lot harder to change raw network efficiency than it is to change raw network capacity.)

If you are a network provider (like Comcast) and you have growth in demand for more packets you have to grow your capacity because you have no way of radically changing efficiency. In fact from a network operator perspective if may seem like your network becomes less efficient over time because demand for content is outstripping your capacity. In what might seem like a terribly ironic twist of fate the packets you deliver to your paying subscribers might be undercutting your own biz model because those subscribers have decided to pay Netflix instead of you for access to content that you used to sell them access to.

Meanwhile if you are a subscriber-funded services company on the network but you have no network of your own (like Netflix) your entire value proposition is predicated upon your paying users getting a great experience from your service on other people’s networks. Perhaps unsurprisingly you also have a highly vested interest in both network efficiency and capacity. You can improve efficiency on your side of the problem space (this is unarguably something that Netflix spends a huge % of their intellectual horsepower on) but you don’t own the network so you can’t do much to affect efficiency or capacity once your packets leave AWS and enter the network.

If you are a Comcast subscriber and you are reading this post and at the exact same time someone else in your house is watching a Netflix movie, and they are both routed into your house via Comcast, then this blog post might load slower so that the packets which are part of the Netflix movie arrive faster. Netflix pays Comcast to get their streaming packets ahead of my WordPress blog packets when we are both serving Comcast subscribers.

Okay, so what does that really mean?

Someone can now trade something of value to someone else for value in return that they couldn’t get before. Netflix (someone) is trading money (something of value) to Comcast (someone else) in exchange for network efficiency (value in return).

That’s it? That’s all that happened? That doesn’t sound very revolutionary, does it? It doesn’t sound it but I think that it’s actually vastly more disruptive when you think about it that way, not less. Why? Because until today network efficiency wasn’t really trade-able. Things that are tradeable form markets. They behave like commodities or currencies.

The implications of this are HUGE. New markets grow unpredictably and emergent behaviors define the future as they go. Weird shit happens in new markets. I think we are now looking at a future network efficiency market where companies spend money to ensure specific behaviors for the packets they care about.

A hypothetical example

Someone can now trade something of value to someone else for value in return that they couldn’t get before.

I’ll pick an obvious hypothetical example for how this might work in the future by looking at a someone called Apple.

Something of value? Apple has money – lots of it. As of today they have more than $150B in pure, spendable cash. They have more money than anyone else. More money than god. Network operators want money and they can essentially manufacture efficiency from thin air to make up for the competitive pressures they are feeling elsewhere. It’s a perfect deal!

Someone else? Comcast, Telcos, any/every one providing internet connectivity to a substantial number of users.

Value in return? Imagine a future where Apple sees value in efficiency guarantees for packets reaching an Apple device. Apple could be quite specific and use this as a way to ensure the best experiences for their users and 3rd-parties who fully embrace the iOS ecosystem by only providing efficiency guarantees to iOS apps and native Apple SW & services or they could generalize it to all packets going in and out of their devices. They may not be able to pay to have Google packets slowed down but if they put enough money into a futures trading market they can ensure that their packets are treated the best way possible, and in a futures market there are always winners.

Result? Apple buys network efficiency for their devices. Apple users get demonstrably better experiences on Apple devices. Apple enhances their extremely valuable brand. Apple users are happy. The people negatively impacted aren’t Apple customers and won’t really know to blame Apple when something works less efficiently on a competitive device. Network ops make money. The network, as a whole, no longer behaves efficiently but instead is pseudo-managed as some packets are sometimes treated as more equal than others on some parts of the network. Some packets will get screwed and will always wind up at the back of the line.

Network effects 

I’m not calling out Apple because I have any inkling of them planning on doing this and they aren’t bad guys in this narrative. I’m using them as an example of one possible future that is clearly plausible but perhaps not immediately obvious in a world where network efficiency is something anyone with enough “something of value” can acquire. Money isn’t the only tradeable currency here – imagine a crossover between the Personal Data Economy and the Network Efficiency Economy where packets that support big data analytics are more efficient than those that are encrypted and/or behaviorally masked. You can see an easy Google play here – they may not have as much money as Apple but they can counter Apple cash investments with what they do have in ads, analytics and networks.

I gotta point out that from my perspective neither Comcast nor Netflix are bad guys here either. It’s more complicated than that. What’s becoming clear to me is that we are at the dawning of a brand new unregulated futures trading market trading in an emergent and still undefined currency. The impact of this on the web will be profound and in many cases more complex than what we get if we simply say this marks the end of network neutrality. Good will likely come from this (companies can secure the best experiences for their users, we could have guaranteed QOS for first responders in a disaster, …) while there will also probably be bad (bullying, perpetuation of network effects by dominant players, …).

Prospective build outs and new technology will rush in to capitalize on new value. SW defined networks must become the norm as network HW providers must respond dynamically to participate in the new market themselves. Networks could choose to reserve QOS super-futures for use in an emergency by first responders to ensure connectivity…

As we established earlier efficiency and capacity are basically fixed at any given point in time so if someone can outbid everyone else for Network Efficiency Futures (NEF) then by necessity when that future becomes the present their packets will be ahead and the rest of the packets will be in line behind them. Because new markets have a tendency to make secondary and tertiary instruments tradeable you can imagine hedging and pure futures investments by non-service-providing 3rd-parties as well. These could be used to effectively block the best efficiency for others. Counter allocation of network efficiency – spending money to make some packets perform poorly – can become a real thing and that probably means it will.

I don’t think this all adds up to the end of the web, but I do think it is the end to its beginning. Yesterday network efficiency wasn’t a currency and tomorrow it will be.

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Computers and Internet

Peter’s Version of the Internet

I was part of a panel moderated by the excellent Heidi Wachs @hlwachs at the Pii2013 conference in Seattle. The subject was “Building Trust in the Cloud” and it was fun. We covered a bunch of ground.

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At the very end we talked about the Experiential Skewing (I think maybe I just made that term up?) engendered by ad-funded big data and I riffed on how I would like to radically increase the number of personal-data fuelled “events” in users lives while radically decreasing the ratio of the events that are tied to an ad or offer over things that aren’t. For example: 

Make me HAPPY first. Make me better. Educate me. Don’t just give me a frozen yogurt coupon – send me around the corner to that awesome place that you think (based on my data) that I probably want to visit that is free and has no offers at all.

Heidi closed with this: “Peter’s version of the internet sounds like a very beautiful place to live and it would be wonderful if we could figure out a way to get there.” This is one of the nicer things I could dream up someone saying.

Thanks Heidi!

 

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