Category Archives: Technology

IT management

I’ve enjoyed Robert Cringley’s recent series of blogicles on IT management — largely because it’s given me a greater understanding of a world that has, at various times, interested and frustrated me. He also draws a distinct line between management and leadership, two concepts that are often conflated but require very different skillsets.

If you get the chance, have a look at the three columns about the “Cousin IT of American industry”:

We serve the company but often don’t feel part of it. Certainly the value structures and lines of authority that function perfectly well for most of the rest of the company don’t work at all well for IT. We’re vital but at the same time, well, so different that it’s hard to imagine a CEO emerging from the IT ranks. It happens from time to time. Everyone points to John Reed, who rose from IT to CEO of Citicorp, but Reed was an exceptional case. He succeeded because his predecessor, Walter Wriston, had an unusual interest in IT and mentored Reed. Reed succeeded, too, because he didn’t really come from IT but from Data Processing, which was more hierarchical. And ultimately he didn’t succeed at all, by some measures, because John Reed was fired.

Resource wars

The US military’s latest strategy document throws in the usual ideological threats — and apparently the “war on terror” now has an acronym, GWOT — but has a very keen on eye on future practicalities: “We face a potential return to traditional security threats posed by emerging near-peers as we compete globally for depleting natural resources and overseas markets.”

An interesting phrase, “near peers”. I’m not sure if this is a subtle slight at Russian and Chinese efforts to restablish/establish themselves as world powers, or a tacit acceptance that US power faces being equalled in the medium term.

Tom Clonan of The Irish Times notes:

This thinly-veiled reference to Russia and China will, perhaps, come as little surprise given recent events in Ossetia and Abkhazia. The explicit reference in this context to future resource wars, however, will probably raise eyebrows among the international diplomatic community, who prefer to couch such conflicts as human rights-based or rooted in notions around freedom and democracy.

The document, however, contains no such lofty pretences. It goes on to list as a pre-eminent threat to the security of the US and its allies “population growth – especially in less-developed countries – [which] will expose a resulting ‘youth bulge’.”

A young, growing population would mean a corresponding growth in resource consumption. It’s valid for a military to consider these sorts of threats — its duty is to protect the nation and its citizens, and so it should be prepared for as many eventualities as possible, and however unpalatable it may seem to the observer. But this is an outline of what strategies and technologies will be needed in the future, rather than a plan of campaign.

That food and water could lead to conflict should not be unexpected. The rocketing price of rice, for instance, has prompted several Gulf states to look into buying farmland in producer countries as a means of safeguarding supplies. If we hear a country saying “Oh, that looks like a nice spot to invade and grow corn”, then we need to worry. But don’t think it hasn’t been said privately.

According to Clonan, the document also looks at hi-tech options for fight wars and conducting military exercises. The space-based perspective might sound like science fiction, but is unsurprising. Any military would want to use all the assets at its disposal — and orbit allows all sorts of perspectives and observation options.

It is also indicative of a drive to reduced US casualties. Mobile-operated drones and such have been mooted and occasionally deployed for some time, although with mixed results. However, the use of hardware over personnel is more PR friendly, as well as a possibility for reducing the used operating budget on pesky things such as food and water. We may not be in Terminator country just yet, but it would mark a major shift in military composition and operation.

If it comes to pass, of course,

Links o' the day

First OS X Trojan spotted — no need to panic just yet.

Greens means compromise. Harry’s in fine form: “As the saying goes, you say tomato, I say total and abject capitulation.”

How to educate yourself online. Sure, we’ve all been wandering the net for years, but now and then it’s good to get a refresher.

Tesco employee suspended over Facebook. He tracked a customer down and sent her naughty pictures.

And you thought you had a bad day… You didn’t get arrested after crashing your car, getting shot and stripping off.

A friend of a friend bombed Bali. That’s one way for a politician’s speech to make the papers.

Japan may track defence officials using GPS.

Links o' the day

Mulley ups the ASNO ante. 2FM dj Rick O’Shea has sworn off Facebook for the week, and is feeling the brunt of Damien Mulley’s mischief making. Send Rick your FB love!

13 strategies for breaking bad habits and cultivating new ones. We’ve all got them, now it’s time to kick their habitual asses.

Geography of barbecue in the United States. Why did I become a journalist? To find strange stories like this one and spread them across the interweb.

The future of electronic paper. And thus, the newspaper industry. Minority Report had something along these lines.

India plans to impose restrictions on foreign investors. The economy is steaming ahead but the plan almost crashed the stock market. Way to think ahead, guys!

Face transformer. Upload a pic of yourself and change it to a different age or even see how you look as drawn by one of the masters. Via Cian Boland.