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Here are the thoughts i have a on a specific topic.


DNA data storage: 100 million hours of HD video in every cup

I first read about using DNA as a storage device a few months back, DNA data storage: 100 million hours of HD video in every cup.  This article amazed that the technology was already available to do this.  A few months later I was reading about the Monsanto case in front of supreme court.  These two things were swimming around in my head when the new policy concerning 6 strikes for downloading copyright protected content started to makes waves in the news.  

I started wondering about a few of the legal ramifications of putting data on DNA.  According to the most recent Monsanto cases companies can patent DNA. They have defended this protection vigorously at the expense of many farmers’ livelihoods so as to dissuade other farmers from using their genetically modified seeds. Monsanto’s tactics have also turned farmer against farmer as Monsanto uses its customers to spy on neighboring farmers in their pursuit of intellectual property protections.

Big Media has taken a similar tact in their pursuit of individuals who they feel have violated their copy rights. In many instances they have taken regular people to court for exorbitant amounts of money. Recently via there 6 strike agreements with broad band providers they have enlisted other companies to be their spies in the war against piracy.

Those two things led me to do some thought experiments on how legal protections for DNA storage could play out.  Firstly if you take Monsanto as the example modified DNA is covered under patent protection.  Secondly if that data happens to be music or a movie it is also covered under copyright protection.  Could the combination of these two forms of protection give individuals more than enough legal support to cancel each other out? ie. What if mega uploads was using DNA based servers.  If they stored a movie on their DNA a media company could claim copyright infringement. But megauploads could also claim patent protection for the DNA it created….

I am sure there are some legal beagles out there who could add some support to such an argument.  But it will be interesting to see how big business reacts.  I think DNA patent protection may have just met the straw that breaks the camel’s back. 


Crowd Sourced Engineering part 2

I posted about crowd sourced engineering last week and have had another thought on that topic.  Last week’s post focused on projects where the team was made up of individuals from the crowd.  However there is a different kind of crowd sourced engineering model that has been around for a while, the competition, where the crowd is made up of teams. 

I think one of my favorite engineering competitions was the Netflix user recommendation system optimization competition.  It was supposed to leverage the ideas of thousands of scientists to increase the user experience of its customers.  It’s my favorite because it made a lot of sense to me at the time and should have been easy to implement.  Unfortunately, the Forbes article above talks about how incorrect that perception was in so much as NetFlix never implemented the winning solution.  I still have an optimistic expectation that NetFlix still earned enough value from the competition to make the expense of it worth it.

My next favorite competition  family are the X prizes; Ansari X Prize, Archon X Prize, Automotive X PrizeGoogle Lunar X Prize, Tricorder X PRIZE.  These prizes have definitely forced people to imagine new things and challenge the limit of current thinking.  However, if you look at just the Ansari X Prize you see that the first and last commercial human space flight took place in Sept 2004.  Outside of Dennis Tito via the Russians there have been zero commercial space flights in almost a decade. Based on this single experience you can easily argue that competitions can only serve to improve an industry and not one single team. Need to see if future X-Prize competitions bear more fruit. 

I have found many other examples of professional and government level competitions that follow the same lifecycle; team competes, team wins, winner tries to commercialize success and ……. crickets while the industry grows.  

One bright spot is the spinoff type businesses that leverage some of the advancements developed to achieve the full competitions goal.  High school and collegiate level competitions appear to do this quite a bit.  One good example is the number of businesses that have been created in and around the student robotics competition known as FIRST.  FIRST robotics teams across the country have created over 50 businesses ranging from machine shops to circuit board suppliers to prosthetic limb companies. One such business sprung from team 357 out of Upper Darby Pennsylvania who started fabrication business for specialty robotics parts.  

All in all I think this form of crowd sourced engineering will be more productive at both completing the goal and creating business when compared to the ones I discussed last week.  I will be watching to see if my predictions are correct.

Could This Robot Save Your Job? Probably Not.

I really like the Roomba.  It is the first real robot that started to be accepted as part of daily life.  The folks behind the Roomba are trying to make a similar stride forward in the workplace with their next creation, Baxter. Baxter is a semi fixed robot that can be easily compared to legacy production robots with one key difference.  In addition to being able to be programmed in a more traditional computer language it can also be programmed by recording actions.  This would be most comparable to the two ways you can create a macro in excel; you can write a macro or you can record your button clicks and have excel write the code for you. Baxter autorecorded programming is the feature that they are touting as the game changer. 

In some ways I can see how this will make the human to robot interface more open to people who are not coders or roboticists. The price point also makes this type of automation more accessible to a wider array companies.  But this is still a fixed robot that will be doing a single task somewhere in a company’s value stream.  I understand that it can be more easily repurposed than other more traditional assembly robots but, if a company was looking at an employee or a robot I am not sure that Baxter changes the current business case assumptions. 

In the end I think this is the next step forward for an industry that by its very nature is shifting jobs away from low skilled to high skilled and along the way reducing the total number of people needed to accomplish any given task.

Microsoft’s integrated devices vision vs reality

I have always liked the vision that Microsoft creates for the future.  And the video they released this week continues to show how they are bringing that vision to life. 

This is not the first video like this they have released but this is the first one with real devices taking the place of CGI as they demonstrate the connectivity they think is coming. 

I have a problem how Microsoft is implementing the future they describe. The individual devices and software Microsoft puts flounder and do not directly support the vision in the second video.  What I mean by that is the video give the impression of super convent, super user friendly devices that work everywhere, all of the time.  But in reality their track record usually ends up on the opposite side of the tracks when compared to its rivals.

I would guess that Microsoft is not using this video to communicate this uber convenient vision to all of it employees, but to its customers.  And there is where I feel that Microsoft, like many large companies is falling down big time.  This type of vision needs to be integral to every project, every employee and every budget discussion.  If it were I believe Microsoft would be fielding devices that would be more successful.  The same goes for other large companies I see that are struggling to be innovative and successful today.

3D printing hits another milestone

Additive manufacturing also known as 3D printing is really starting to get amazing.  Several applications have started to impact how I do my job at the military aerospace level.

Firstly, 3D printing with metal that can be heat treated to high strength aerospace grade parts.

NASA recently used a technique called selective metal melting (SLM) with great success to build rocket motor components out of steel. NASA’s engineers have been able to produce parts with complex geometry only previously imagined, and with dimensional accuracy beyond that possible with traditional fabrication methods.

The SLM process uses a high powered laser to fuse fine metal powders together layer by layer direct from CAD data to create functional metal parts. After each layer a powder re-coater system deposits a fresh layer of powder in thicknesses ranging from 20 to 100 microns. The SLM system uses commercially available gas atomized metallic powders to produce fully dense metal parts in materials including Titanium, Stainless Steel, Cobalt Chrome and Tool Steel.

Secondly, printing large complex structural components for aircraft composite bonded assemblies.

honeycombSandwich composites are innovative advanced materials. Adding a core between two facing skins increases stiffness dramatically over composite laminates while adding only a minimal amount of weight. Increasing the thickness of a sandwich composite part by a factor of two typically raises the stiffness by a factor of 12 and bending strength by a factor of 6.  Traditionally these cores have been fabricated flat and then bent and crushed to meet the complex profiles.  Going forward companies are looking to 3D print the ores with the profile and the honey comb cross section. This eliminates the potential for core crush and cell deformation while increasing the overall strength of the bonded panel.


Additive manufacturing is or will be impacting just about every industry.  Here is a cool example I stumbled upon this week.  They are using 3D printed bone to repair a man’s skull.  Way Cool.

3-D printed skull

Automated Job Systems?

With all of this job searching I am staring to get extremely frustrated with the state of automated job application systems.  Each company has their own system where you need to manually enter your info into forms that vary in detail, complexity, speed and automation.  And to make things almost worse I was initially applying for jobs in two cities: Columbus, OH. and Washington DC.  The Job systems in Columbus were significantly more user friendly than those found at DC companies.  The Columbus job applications systems were more likely to be integrated with or Linkedin than those in DC.


Not to name specific companies, but I felt like the systems I am encountering in DC are a joke.  I understand that there is a glut of applicants and that the leverage is on the side of the company, so they do not need to update their system.  But these systems represent their companies, their brands and their workers.  And in many cases I am instantly annoyed by extremely un-user friendly systems that I am not applying for the job because entering the data in their system just isn’t worth more annoyance.


To add insult to injury, the reason many companies have turned to these systems is so they can do macro level filters, key word searchers and use other techniques to easily cut through the proverbial “chaf” of applicants and get to only the worthy resumes.  I started looking up articles on how effective these systems are and it shows that these automated systems may actually doing further damage to these companies by filtering off worthy candidates.


Articles I went through include:


These and many more articles talk about a class of systems that in my mind make a mockery of the hiring process. 


But what can I do, I need a Job.  Looks like I will be doing some optimizing here soon.

Cleaning up My Online

In the past I have worked to clean up the environment, clean up engineering processes and have even tried to clean up my house.  But now as I look for a job in DC I am looking to clean up my online persona.  Here is a top 10 list I found online that relates to cleaning up your online reputation.


1. Make sure that your profile picture is of YOU.  Not a logo or your cat.

  • Completed. Thanks to a family friend Katie McMenamin I have some pretty snappy head shots

2. Make sure that your profile picture shows your eyes so that your clients and potential clients can connect with you.

  • Makes sense.  I think my eyes look “professional” ha ha

3. Make sure that your profile picture is consistent with doing something that somebody in your field would be doing.

  • Hmmm this one might be a bit hard.  How do I look engineeringish?

4. Be mindful of your comments online.

  • I have separated my various twitter, facebook, and web pages to silo comments of different types.  The reasons I started this webpage and twitter account was to have a place to be more professional on the web.

5. Update awesome professional accomplishments, events and speeches with favorable pictures.

  • This will be a work in progress. I will try to get more shots of me doing work and community activities that would be fitting for a more professional crowd.

6. Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date.

7.  If you have a personal twitter or facebook account, make sure that you have your privacy settings high so that you are not easy to locate by those who you do not wish to find you.  Do not forget to remain mindful of your post even when your updates are protected.

  • Since I have 5 twiiter accounts I needed to do some cleaning here.  I have since used nicknames at all but the professional account so as to make finding other info about my social sharring will be a bit harder.

8. Blog, I know that this may sound strange, but if you Blog and Blog often, your personal brand will have positive content to push up to the front of Google to push down the negative ranked info on Google.  This will be so helpful and it will help to establish you as an expert in your field!

  • I run three blogs, again each for a different public image.  This blog as it gets updated will be dedicated to more of the Nerdy stuff I think about.

9. Post Videos.  This also helps your google ratings especially when posted on YouTube, but people will also get to know you so it will be easier to relate to you.  You will acquire more clients from people who like your personality!

  • This is going to be hard.  I have only done videos for fun so making the switch to more professional content will be a trial and error process I will be working on over the next few months.  I plan to create at least to videos for this site to help with finding a job.

10. Truly be yourself.  While Business is all about being professional, not being yourself is just way too much work!  Professionalism is required, but be uniquely yourself.  Speak in your own language, offer value and remember that the interenet is where MANY people get MOST of there business.  So it IS Real and how you behave online can have a considerable effect on your business and its bottom line!

  • This is easily said but not so easily done.  I like to speak my mind and have a stranger sense of humor than most.  So on this site I will be self censoring a lot more than on my other outlets.