Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why NORAD Tracks Santa

 I have always wondered about this, but never got around to looking it up.

The answer, courtesy of

"It all started back in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, however, kids ended up calling NORAD’s Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.” The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, realizing that kids were relying on him for quite possibly the most important information of the year, regularly checked the radar for Santa as he made his way around the world delivering presents. All of the children who called were given updates on his location…and a 50 year old tradition was born."

It's certainly nice when mistakes lead to a happy outcome.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My dork life is now complete

Hi, @sheffus.

Leonard Hofstadter (leonardhofstadt) is now following your tweets on Twitter.

And for those who snicker and laugh?

Jealousy is bad for your karma...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lost It? You gotta come clean. FAST!

 From a article on the cost of a lost laptop

FTA: "According to Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a lost or stolen laptop PC is more than $49,000. Most of this cost is due to the exposure of sensitive data." That is bad, but not entirely unexpected. The hardware/software is 1-2% of that cost. The rest is the 'clean-up'.

but the Important Point is this:
"The study reports that if a company becomes aware of the loss the same day it happens, the average cost is only $8,950. If it takes more than a week to discover the loss, the cost jumps to an average of $115,849."

That is a serious chunk of change. Almost 13 times as much in just one week...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Govt Open Source Conf, DC

 November 5 2009
Reagan Building

Anyone else attending?

It is CHEAP ($99.00) Until 10/23/2009

Direct from the site:

Conference Overview

Be part of the open source conversation in Federal Government, and join agency information technology leaders for a day of intensive education and networking on Thursday, November 5, 2009 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

GOSCON, the premier annual government open source conference for government information technology leadership, will present a special one-day event on Nov 5, 2009, showcasing real-world open source success stories from federal agencies. Increasing requests by Federal agencies and legislative members for general education, interest moving to “Gov2.0” and the role open source plays in it, as well as a sea change in the political environment make this fall in D.C. the right time and place for an open technology event designed specifically for government managers and their key technology staff. Attendance will be venue-limited.

Special to the DC event: the new Open Techology Forum brings a deeper dive into the technology of open source, along with the Open Techology Lab.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Somebody in the US Navy 'Gets It'...

 This article shows an example of the US Navy providing Navy specific content to sailors on hand held devices. The folks over at Fleet Forces Command "Get It".

In fact, the article includes this line "The Navy IA apps, as well as Facebook and Twitter sites, are all components of U.S. Fleet Forces Command's overarching communication strategy"...

The application they have developed, titled "Navy IA", is nice. It provides good content, including videos and books on the Apple iPhone/Touch platform. That said, the application itself isn't stellar. It is functional, has a few bells and whistles (videos) and also needs some work (Landscape when reading documents is a must have).

The really important thing about this application is that it can be used when disconnected from the network AND it can be used on the sailor's schedule, which is quite different from the average employee's.

For years the Navy has struggled with how to train sailors while afloat. There has been plenty of money spent and efforts to try to deliver training content to sailors. Overall the programs, including the Distance Support efforts and the Revolution in Training programs have been successful. That said, the problem, afloat at least, has been an individual sailors ability to get to an available computer, with the required connectivity to access the Training systems.

It's not that the Navy hasn't tried. It's just a reality of an operation that relies heavily on a very limited amount of computers and even more limited connectivity.  As you would expect, the Navy ship requires that "Command and Control" systems get priority on the available computers and bandwidth. That leaves a very small amount of bandwidth available for Non-Command and Control usage.

Using the "Navy IA" application as a model, the Navy could move a considerable amount of training to the Apple iPhone/Touch platform. Imagine if the required annual refresher training for "Sexual Harassment", "Trafficking in Persons", and "Information Assurance Awareness" could be completed by Sailors via a hand held device. Imagine if it could be done without having to secure time on a very over-subscribed PC, at odd hours, when a desk is available.

Given the amount of time and effort (translated into $) spent completing these courses, my guess is that the Navy could purchase an Apple Touch for every new recruit and load it with Navy specific classes.

Later, you could also drop on all the technical manuals needed for the different specialties, weapons systems, etc.

Of course there is a logistical tale to these efforts. People break things, the devices are not at all ruggedized, you have to deal with updates, etc. But the Navy has successfully handled much more complex systems...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Attention Twitter Follow Bots

 You gotta do better than this...

Google sure is getting opinionated

 But, as usual, it is pretty accurate.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Some Peace Fingers for IRAN

 This is a .png file you can add to your twitter picture to show your support for the people who are fighting for democracy in Iran .

I can't do the work to automatically integrate it with your Twitter picture, but I'm pretty sure you can figure that part out.


Monday, June 1, 2009


Just trying this out...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009

Twitter 'going after' Google? Doubtful

 This article seems to propose that Twitter is 'going after' Google's search empire.


That seems a bit grandiose to me.

Given that the RT (Retweet) and @user (directed messaging) functions were created by twitter users, on their own, I seriously doubt the intentionality of this direction.

More like 'going that way, based on how folks are using it'.

I will agree that Twitter is great when used as a search engine for breaking news and opinions, but to say this was in the long term plans and happening completely as expected would be a stretch.

Realistically, I think Twitter will get consumed by Google in the very near future.
Google will extract all the info out of Twitter and present it as a live feed on the right hand side, perhaps even show a scrolling feed of live tweets.
Kind of a 'human based information stream'.

I know for sure that when the N Korean missile went up this weekend, I heard about it first on Twitter, then continued to look at Twitter to see what was being reported, following news links as they came in.

Monday, March 2, 2009

More than just Fun ?!?

 This twitter thing just might work!

10PM Sunday Night.
Twitter user @IsCool (Shaun Dakin) posts this tweet:
  • IsCool Reading my local community (Fairfax, VA) planning "online comments" tool. It is a link to a Word doc. #IsNotCool » link to site
I read it 8am Monday.

The tweet link is to

The 'comment form' in question is a lousy word document. It includes this gem:
Thank you for taking time to complete this survey. Please e-mail your responses to

That Is not cool.

8:30am Monday I reply to IsCool with:
  • sheffus @IsCool I'm in Fairfax also. This 'online form', aka MSword doc, is an embarrassment. How does this happen?
8:35am IsCool replies to me:
  • IsCool @sheffus it happens when the planning people want to make it as difficult as possible to make comments. So they don't get them.

8:40 My response to IsCool
10:30am Fairfax County responds
  • fairfaxcounty @sheffus and @IsCool: Thanks for pointing out the online comments form; Planning/Zoning staff will be alerted. Thx!
That is a response, from a county entity, in less than 2 hours, on a day when most of the DC Metro area is taking snow day. I'm not sure if it will make any change, but it's a step in the right direction for sure.

Maybe this twitter thing can be more than just fun!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Obama and the F-Bomb, Dance Remix Imminent

This is gonna be entertaining for those who can take a joke, and a gold mine of hate for those who can't.

President Obama created an audio book of Dreams for my Father. That book contains some 'colorful' language from one of his high school friends, Ray. Ray cursed and used plenty of racial slurs. Obama read them for the book, so... they are available for sampling.

It won't be long before the screaming starts. April Winchell blogged about this and included the clips.

How long until we hear these clips added to all kinds of fun stuff.

Update: I added the files



That Guy

My Number


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

GigaPan Inauguration image glitches

 No Fair! He went to the Inauguration twice?!?

I'm just looking at the amazing GigaPan image created of the Inauguration. It is here.

There are a few minor stitching glitches. I'm really amazed at how few there are, considering there are 220 individual pictures stitched together.

Above is the best one I saw. Note the guy with the goatee.

Somebody left their legs behind too...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Beware of the Doghouse

Yes, It's an ad. But worth the time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Settled - Obama keeps his actual Blackberry

 Today at Robert Gibbs' first press conference as President Obama's Press Secretary he finally put the controversy to rest.
"The President has a BlackBerry through a compromise that allows him to stay in touch with senior staff and a small group of personal friends in a way that use will be limited and the security is enhanced to ensure his ability to communicate, but to do so effectively and to do so in a way that's protected."
So that's it. He'll keep the blackberry. Only a few folks will have the email address. Most everything sent and received on it is subject to the Presidential Records Act.

Sounds like a clear victory compared to carrying the Sectéra® Edge™. That's a nice & secure device and all, but it's a brick...

Obama stays connected?

Problem solved, maybe.

Barack Obama may have been (as per usual, no official comment) provided a secure device that will allow him to stay connected, via email and voice. I was complaining last week about the possibility of surrender to this security problem. It appears that there was an answer available and the right people just needed to talk.
The device he is most likely to use (there are other available, but this is the closest match) is the the Sectéra® Edge™ SME PED from General Dynamics.
It offers "Secure Communications Interoperability Protocol (SCIP), allowing secure phone calls to be made with existing SCIP compatible devices. It also implements High Assurance Internet Protocol Encryptor Interoperability Specification (HAIPE® IS) to provide secure connectivity with classified networks (including the TACLANE® family of network encryptors)"

It's not an actual blackberry device, which may or may not be a big deal, but it looks pretty close in physical layout. It is based on Windows Mobile, so that will be a huge change from the Blackberry OS. Also, the device is HUGE. Based on the published specs, it is 3.2" wide, 4.9" tall and a whopping 1.3" thick. That's about a half inch taller and wider than a Blackberry 8800 and nearly three times as thick. And it weighs 12ozs, also about 3 times what an 8800 weighs. That will make the unit feel like a brick, for sure.

Here's a diagram of the components. It looks to be extremely capable.

It's expensive too. A 2 year contract (with warranty) on Sprint or Verizon is gonna cost us (we pay for this, you know) $3,350. Accessories are equally pricey. The Classified USB Cable is gonna cost us $75, the AC Travel Charger and the Vehicle DC Power Adapter are $100 each, the Desktop Charging Adapter is $250, and the Micro SD 2GB Unclassified Memory Expansion is $100. Maybe they can catch that last item on at some point though. They sometimes have a better price. ;)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Be Patriotic - Stay Home, Watch, Buy, Give

If you know me at all, you know how excited I am about the election of Barack Obama as POTUS. I am also very excited about seeing him sworn in on January 20th.

I live in the Northern Virgina area and work inside the Beltway. I would absolutely love to go to the inauguration and see the historic event first hand. That said, there is no way in the world that I would go downtown to the event.

I'm not being cynical.

I'm not being an old fart.

I just feel that if I am going to end up watching the event on a huge TV, I may as well do that in my own home.

Plus, I think don't think it is helpful to put any additional burden on the local services that are already being stretched thin by this event.

So here is my plan for making a positive impact during the inauguration.

1) I will stay at home. I will not burn gas, and avoid adding more CO2 emissions to the already ailing planet. I won't be clogging up the streets or Metro system attempting to get close to an outdoor TV. I won't be adding to the stress on the local services.

2) I will watch (and TiVo) the event.

3) I will buy at least one item that is advertised during the event. Nothing huge. Ford would love it if we could all buy a new Mustang that day, but I'm thinking smaller. If we all commit to buying a single item, made in the US, or supporting a US industry, that we had not planned to purchase anyway, how much of an impact could that have?

4) I will give to a charity directly support American needs. I am looking at Feeding America, Feed the Children, and The Salvation Army. There are plenty of charities that need help and a local small charity may be your best bet. Google is also your friend here...

So that is my plan anyway.

What are you going to do on January 20th to make an impact?

Leave a comment below...

Nick Vujicic Video

 This guy is amazing...
More info on him here

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Obama's Blackberry Security - we should be ashamed

There are plenty of reasons why President-elect Barack Obama is being advised to give up his blackberry. I fully understand the issues surrounding presidential records, but I think the security issues are just FUD.

Are we really, as IT and security professionals, saying that the President's Blackberry can't be secured? Are we saying that the best minds available can't find a way to ensure that the President can securely communicate? Are we also saying that we can't place filters and rules on the mail server to ensure that certain documents and messages don't get sent to the blackberry?

Are we, as a group, giving up on the security of that device?

Are we giving up on message security in general?

And what are we giving up?

We are potentially giving up a chance to have a president that is connected. A president that can get beyond the White House bubble that has insulated too many presidents. We are potentially giving up having a president that can truly understand the reality of life in America post "GWB, Inc." The biggest lesson we should learn from the last administration is that an insulated, out of touch President, is a bad thing. Bad ideas, bad decisions, bad consequences.

If we are giving up on this effort, then I am ashamed to be member of the community.

What does giving up say about the state of the industry?

And what does it say about the security of modern electronic communication? Should we really be promoting the use of smart phones and other devices for federal leaders? Should we be relying so heavily on devices that we really don't trust?

We need to look long and hard at this.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Waxing Poetics returning?

This is verbatim from my good friend, John... Thanks John!

Have you checked out yet? Even though it's still under development, it's worth taking some time to explore. Among other things, there is a surprising number of MP3s from Paul & Dave's NYC projects (the concept behind the Napoleon Blown Apart project is pretty amazing and funny). And also a great number of videos: many of them are pretty awful quality, but some are professionally done, such as "Jimmy Carter's Head" and "Happy Days."

Given this shiny new website, the professional videos being uploaded over the last month, the re-release of their old albums on iTunes & Amazon (not to mention previously unreleased tracks being added to Hermitage), I have to wonder if they're planning something new. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Human flying squirrels

These guys are nuts...

wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.