Meeting Notes - 2 December 2014

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Meeting Notes - 2 December 2014

Post by bdahm on Sat Dec 06, 2014 11:41 pm

CM Geeks - Notes

No free lunch - We’ve heard this expression time and again. It’s true. It’s equally true here. We don’t charge anything for our meetings, perhaps on the philosophy that you get what you pay for. Be that as it may, the River Market is providing us with a place to meet every week. They are providing us with parking, a projector and a screen and even a sound system for our videos (if I can figure out how it works). All they ask in return and all we ask in return is that you purchase something from the menu, even a cup of coffee or a soft drink. Information wants to be free. Food is something else. For those who may have eaten or are not hungry, a tip for the wait staff would be appreciated.

Hard Drive Reliability
We talked a bit about back-up last week. A crucial element in any such strategy is the retainability of the data. Data stored on CDs has a pretty good shelf life, though not as long as we originally thought. In addition there are storage issues. Cloud storage is pretty dependable unless said company goes out of business or changes their business model.

We pretty much take hard drive longevity for granted, until you take into account that the mean time to failure (MTFF) is roughly 3-5 years. Certainly that’s about all most are warranted for. Anything beyond that and you are living on the edge. Of course you could be lucky and that drive might last you 8-10 years.  Given that kind of calculation, your back-up could fail you just when you need it most. A drive that is making clicking sounds is not long for this world much longer. Lots of hard drives these days have SMART technology, which reports critical hard drive information so one can intervene before there’s a complete breakdown. 

Bart gave us a brief presentation on this subject and documented how Western Digital, which was one of the worst hard drive manufactures in the 1990’s, rose to dominate the industry ahead of even Seagate. WD makes 550,000 drives a day measuring and testing all of its components looking for possible points of failure. They maintain a huge database of this information. Indeed, they have “hot data” (data on-line and instantly accessible) for one year for all their products. 

A good strategy regarding hard drive health would be to monitor it’s SMART data, but not to keep it in a prominent backup role beyond 5 years. At roughly that 5 year mark, you may want to swap it out with a newer drive. The older drive can still be used, but not in such a prominent and important position.

Stefan’s Last Stand
This meeting marks the last time Stefan will be with us during his current visit. We expect to see him again on his next visit around Songkran time in April. He showed us some further video illustrations of the spyware, FinFly. It’s really scary to see how easily computers can be compromised. 

He also showed us an open-source music player called Clementine, which is quite versatile and  powerful. It is available for Windows, Linux and the Mac. Check it out.

Stefan has offered to Skype in to us from England during his absence even though the time difference is not in his favor. It will be an interesting experiment and will might just take him up on that.

Disruptive Technology
There’s no doubt about it, technology is disruptive. The Industrial Age had a very disrupting effect on agriculture. The invention of the automobile had a very disruptive influence on the horse and buggy. The contain ship has had a big disruptive effective on transportation and how and where manufacturing takes place. The e-book and especially the Kindle has had a disruptive effect on printed books and bookstore chains. The internet, the computer and mobile devices have had a profound and disrupting effect on newspaper and magazine publishing. Digital music has had a disruptive effect on record and CD sales. 

Right here in Thailand, though not Chiang Mai, at least yet, Uber and other ride sharing “taxi” companies are shaking up the transportation industry. I was recently in Bangkok for Thanksgiving and we decided to use one of the ride sharing services, GrabTaxi, and see how it performed. The other ride sharing service operating in Bangkok is called EasyTaxi. 

I chose GrabTaxi because I am not impressed with Uber’s business practices. They engaged in some “dirty tricks” in New York with another ride sharing company, which included ordering rides from the other firm and then canceling them when they arrived. There were also threats by a senior VP executive against reporters who filed unfavorably stores about them. Data obtained by Uber as results of a ride could be used to embarrass or harass them.

Here’s a story on the three companies currently operating in Bangkok.

Our experience with GrabTaxi turned out very well. We were staying on Soi Ekamai (Sukhumvit, soi 63)  and were headed for Don Muang airport. First there was a little miscalculation on my part. Though I had the GrabTaxi app on my iPhone, I had not really started using it. With my GPS on, we could see all the available GrabTaxis in our vicinity.  I was looking very nearby and there was a taxi not far from us and one at the BTS station down the block. If I had extended my view I would have seen other taxis in our vicinity.

My miscalculation was that I had not registered with GrabTaxi yet and so I could not hail a GrabTaxi. It took me a couple of minutes to go through the process and the verification code was slow in coming because I had miskeyed my phone number. After a couple more minutes I was registered and could proceed. 

Next I indicated my location and my destination. You will see that there were 130 drivers nearby. It also gave me the distance and the estimated fare. But this does not mean that 130 GrabTaxis are going to descend on my location because I submitted a request. Drivers who are nearby and free have to bid for my ride. They are not bidding money; They are just indicating their availability. Some may already be engaged. Others may not want to go to Don Muang. As I recall there were 4-5 who were willing.  Since time was a wasting, I chose the one that was the closest. He was about 7 KM away. Shortly after I made my selection, the driver called me.

He asked if I could be in front of the establishment when he got there and I said yes. We could see his name, his plate number and how far he was away. It actually took him about 6 minutes to get to us. You can see our location marked with a flag and his marked with a taxi symbol.

The taxi looked pretty much like any of the other colored taxis one sees around Bangkok except that he had big GrabTaxi stickers on the rear seat passenger windows. The other noticeable thing was that the cab was spotless on the inside and there was a fresh scent wafting around the interior. He told us that once we began we would be on the meter, and that we would pay 25 baht over and above that at our destination. That’s the way it worked. The GrabTaxi franchise got a piece of that 25 baht. He said he made more money with GrabTaxi, presumably because he had more customers, than he did just driving a standard cab. The other nice thing about Grab Taxi is that you get to talk directly to the driver rather than going through a call center. All in all it was a very pleasant experience and we gave him an extra tip.

Digital Boarding Pass
While in the US I was able to select a digital boarding pass sent to my iPhone in lieu of an email while provided a printable boarding pass. This is an option for on-line check-in, which is available 24 hours before take off. As I didn’t have access to a printer, the only reason for approaching the counter is to check a bag. That digital boarding pass was scanned at the TSA checkpoint and again as I boarded the plane. It was more convenient and quicker than with a paper boarding pass. There was nothing to tear off.

I was wondering if this kind of system was available in Thailand. So on my way back, I did the 24 hour on-line check-in using the Nok Air app on my iPhone and sure enough, it generated me a digital boarding pass. That got me through security and the boarding process. Nice going Nok Air.

Time to call this a wrap.



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