Flying down the highway – a dream come true?

flying car

How many times have we been stuck in traffic and wished there was a way to get around the gridlock? If you’ve ever driven (or tried to) on GA 400 around Atlanta, you know what I mean. During the busiest commute times, you creep along in traffic so slowly that your GPS goes into pedestrian mode. But never fear.. help is on the way.

Several companies are coming close to launching their answer to the traffic frustration. Yes, it’s the flying car. No longer just some wild fiction from “The Jetsons” or “Back To the Future”, Airbus and Terrafugia are two companies that have prototypes in testing to take us where no one has driven before.

This new mode of transportation has the backing of some tech leaders. The founder of Google,Larry Page, has invested millions with two start up companies to develop this technology. Even Uber is getting in on the action. The company has been eyeing self driving cars so it is logical that they’d be interested in being one of the first to use flying cars in their taxi type service.

While it might seem like the answer to easing congestion on our roads, it does have issues of its own. I’ve seen how crazy people can drive on current roads. Can you imagine trying to direct traffic in the air with no lanes or traffic signals to keep everyone in check? And how do you get a speeding ticket in the air? I wonder if there will be places to pull over if you get stopped for a traffic violation in the sky.

So now that you’re all excited about parking one of those in your garage, let me give you the bad news. Airbus plans to test their Vahana prototype by the end of 2017. It appears their vehicle will be geared more towards mass transit rather than personal use. But don’t lose hope, Terrafugia had over 100 orders and expected to start shipping orders of their Transition “car” in the second quarter of 2016.

I hope you’ve been saving because the Transition comes with a price tag of $279,000. For your money you get a two-seat vehicle that can fold up its wings, just like putting the top down in a convertible car . It will fly with a cruising speed of 100 miles per hour or driven on the road at a highway speed. You’ll be able to park it in a single car garage just like your car. When you need to refuel, you can use automobile gasoline. Can you imagine the looks you’ll get when you pull up to the pump?

One would think that special training would be needed to fly one of these vehicles. To fly the Terrafugia Transition, you’d need a sport’s pilot’s license which requires at least 20 hours of flight time to obtain. For those who want to avoid all that, you might want to wait for the TF-X . Operators will mainly need to know how to interface with the vehicle, whether it’s to safe to take off or land and what to do on the event of an emergency.  If there was an emergency, operators would be able to activate a parachute system for the entire vehicle by pulling a handle.

For most of us this will be something to dream about. Unfortunately, the TF-X is about 8-12 years away from launch so for now it won’t go on the Brendan Spaar wish list. Until then, keep your eyes on the road…and the sky!

What we can learn from the hitchBOT social experiment

[schema type=”person” name=”Hitchbot” jobtitle=”the hitchhiking robot” city=”Philadelphia ” state=”PA” ]

Those that say that Canadians are too nice and trusting were proven correct over the weekend when a social experiment conducted by a Canadian group came to an end in the United States.  This group of Canadian researchers developed HitchBOT, a hitchhiking robot, that was designed to travel from one destination to the next with the help of strangers.  Along the way it would carry on limited conversations, take pictures, and keep fans informed of its journey on a Twitter page.  This experiment had been successfully completed in Canada, the Netherlands, and Germany.  Unfortunately hitchBOT never made it across the United States as planned.

Over the weekend, hitchBOT arrived in Philadelphia and was transferred to a pair of vloggers for a YouTube channel called BFvsGF.  These vloggers took hitchBOT to see the Liberty Bell but soon grew tired of the “freaky” robot and left it on a park bench.  The next day someone discovered that hitchBOT had been destroyed, its technology (albeit probably inexpensive) stolen.  The Twitter-verse immediately exploded in condemnation of the unfriendly people of the United States.  After all, how could someone harm poor little hitchBOT.

Brendan Spaar feels that there is a bigger message here than a vandalized robot.  The real story here is that two people were entrusted to be the guardian of a vulnerable individual (ok, robot) and failed in that duty.  This would be no different than if they discovered a lost child in the street.  Would they only help a boy or girl until they grew tired of them?  Brendan Spaar believes that the only reason that this did not happen in Canada or Europe is because people there took their duty seriously and made sure that the robot was in capable hands.  These vloggers abandoned the robot and the rest is history.  Instead of pointing the finger at the criminal behavior that ended the journey, maybe we should look at the lack of responsibility that allowed it to happen.


Supernatural tech support is actually a high paying job

Have you ever felt like your computer was possessed?  Many computer users, including Brendan Spaar, sometimes get the feeling that glitches in their gadgets are outside of their control.  Some users go to great lengths to protect their data from corruption or theft including placing bible verses on their computer screens, saying a prayer before starting work, and even shaking a gris-gris bag when working on important documents.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, and feel that your technology is possessed, you should look up Reverend Joey Talley.  Reverend Joey is a self proclaimed Wiccan witch with a specialty in supernatural tech support.  Brendan Spaar knows that you may be thinking that this is just a fairy tale but major tech companies like Facebook, Salesforce, and Apple have used the Reverend to ward off evil spirits living in their technology.

For those of you who have solved the unsolvable tech problems where the only explanation is divine intervention, your skills command a high salary.  Reverend Joey charges clients $200 an hour for removing evil spirits from technology.  There is no word if she needs to come back monthly for “update patches” to keep the spirits at bay.


Cloud computing killed the Infrastructure star

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If you  have been following technology trends for the last 3 years like Brendan Spaar has, you will notice that companies are outsourcing all of their infrastructure into the cloud.  Outsourcing once was a term used to describe moving labor overseas for cheaper more competitive cost.  Now it is not only the labor that is going away, but the physical hardware that the labor once supported.  It will not be long until there are only a few major players in the server infrastructure world.  Those major players currently are AT&T, CenturyLink, Amazon, Google, and Oracle.  Should Systems Engineers fear for their jobs and jump ship to one of these companies?  Not just yet says Brendan Spaar, technology expert from Atlanta Georgia.  Many companies are just starting to get their first taste of infrastructure outsourcing in the lower lifecycles of their organizations.  Very few companies are actually moving production applications into the cloud at this time.  This is mainly because they are uncertain of how to ensure that customer data is secure and passes strenuous regulatory audits.

For now, if you are a systems engineer and don’t have some experience with public cloud technology, you had better start learning, fast.  Yamaha has already moved all of its data, servers, and applications to Amazon Web Services.  Brendan Spaar sees manufacturing companies like Yamaha making this move first with financial and health care being the last industry holdouts.  This is all in an effort to virtualize and automate the data center.  If someone else can do it faster, better, and cheaper than you can internally, it makes more sense to outsource it.  It’s time for Systems Engineers to sharpen their skills and become more like architects and less like admins if they want to keep their jobs in the post cloud world.


Boeing Dreamliner 787 software could cause a software plane crash

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brendan spaar warns about airplane crashes on facebookEveryone is afraid of a terrorist crashing an airplane that they are flying on.  While this is a real threat, we should also be mindful of the software that controls these same airliners.  Brendan Spaar has learned that new airplanes rely on software now more than ever to control their flight.  Some pilots merely babysit an autopilot system and are mostly in the cockpit in case something goes wrong.  With all of the advances in technology, we still must remember that computers are only as smart as the people that design and program them.  The FAA has recently alerted that due to a programming mistake in the Boeing Dreamliner 787’s software, the buffer for instructions sent to the plane’s  generator control units would fill up in 248 days, causing the electrical system to revert to a “fail safe” mode.  This could result in a loss of control to the engines by the pilot.  Luckily this issue was discovered before any plane crashes occurred.  Boeing says that they will fix the software defect in an upcoming patch.  Until then, airlines are advised to reboot their planes before 248 days.  Brendan Spaar never would have thought that you had to reboot a plane!


Samsung Galaxy may use retina authentication technology

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Brendan Spaar has used retina scan technology

Do you remember how last year both Apple and Samsung wowed everyone with the ability to log into your phone using your fingerprint?  Well shortly after the Apple iPhone 5S was released hackers figured out how to trick the fingerprint scanner and all bets were off.  This year Samsung is toying with technology that would allow you to access your phone just by looking at it.  The technology would scan your eyes and recognize that it was you and not some bad guy trying to access the phone.

Brendan Spaar has used retina scanning technology to access data center facilities in the past.  Your retina contains a fingerprint that is rather hard to duplicate or remove from one’s body.  The easy way to trick a fingerprint scanner, as we have all seen done in the movies, is to lift the fingerprint from a glass surface.  You could also chop off someone’s finger but that is a little drastic.  It would be very difficult to recreate the human retina but with today’s 3D printing, Brendan Spaar is not putting anything beyond the capability of determined hackers.


Live long and prosper Leonard Nimoy

[schema type=”person” name=”Leonard Nimoy” ] Science fiction geeks all around the world are in mourning today as they learned that Leonard Nimoy aka Spock is dead.  You may remember Nimoy playing the role of the pointy-eared half Vulcan in Star Trek.  He reprised his role in the recent JJ Abrams directed sequel movies.  What some of you may not remember is that Leonard Nimoy released several albums including one where he sang songs from JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books.  Before acting, Nimoy served in the Army for two years and spent 18 months at Fort McPherson in Georgia.

Brendan Spaar had no idea that Leonard Nimoy had been sick and was shocked when he heard the news.  There’s one thing that is certain, many fans will be watching Star Trek movies this weekend.


Albertsons hacked. Credit card info stolen.

[schema type=”organization” orgtype=”Organization” url=”” name=”Albertsons” description=”These days, we know you are also concerned about the security of your payment card data, and we work hard to protect it. Unfortunately, like many other retailers over the past few years, Albertsons has recently learned of an unauthorized access to credit and debit card payment information in some of our stores. The appropriate federal law enforcement authorities have been notified, and BANNER has been working closely with data forensics experts and its third party IT services provider, SUPERVALU, to determine if customer credit or debit card payment information was actually taken. Based on our current investigation, it appears that the unauthorized access may have started as early as June 24, 2014 in our stores, and on July 17, 2014, action was taken to contain the incident. From information we have at this time, there is no evidence that any customer data was taken. The investigation is ongoing.” ]

As if the widely known hack involving Target stores last year wasn’t bad enough.  Now Albertsons and SuperValu grocery stores are reporting that they have been hacked and about 228 stores were impacted.  The security breach occurred between June 22nd and July 17th and only impacted stores in in Southern California, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and Southern Utah.  The grocer says that the security hole has been plugged but if you live in one of the impacted states and shopped at Albertsons during those dates, Brendan Spaar recommends that you watch your credit and bank accounts very carefully over the next few months.

Should we go back to using cash only at stores?  It would seem that even with compliance standards like PCI, retail stores are not immune to attack.  Hackers are centering their attention on the payment terminals at these stores more than ever.  So far no one has been arrested or charged with the Albertsons break in and it is doubtful that anyone ever will be.  Brendan Spaar advises everyone that he knows not to use a debit card except for at an ATM.



Texas Grandmother allegedly threatens construction workers with shotgun

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And now for a little low-tech news.  A grandmother in Channelview Texas, a suburb of Houston, was none too pleased with the construction going on near her home.  Construction workers called 911 when she came out of her home and allegedly threatened them with a 12-guage shotgun.  Eleouise Adcock, the 90 year old great-grandmother, was not arrested but was put onto a stretcher and taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation.  Brendan Spaar cannot believe that the SWAT team was called to respond to a 90 year old great grandmother.  Even more amazing is that the standoff lasted more than 4 hours.  Brendan Spaar wonders if the woman was lonely and decided to tell the negotiator all about her grandchildren.  There may be a new song to sing this Christmas season and it won’t be about grandma getting run over by a reindeer!



Did Microsoft just kill TechEd?

Tech enthusiasts around the globe were in shock today as Microsoft announced that it will no longer host its annual TechEd conference.  In a blog posting on the company’s social hub, Channel9, Microsoft says about the termination: “you talked and we listened.” Brendan Spaar wonders who actually asked for the end of TechEd.  In place of TechEd, Microsoft will host another event called the Unified Technology Event for Enterprises.  Rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?

This unified event will feature Windows, System Center, and Developer tools as one giant conference.  Brendan Spaar attended TechEd North America 2014 and noticed that all of these technologies were represented.  Microsoft has since updated the blog post to say that TechEd will, in fact, live on.  This was probably due to a lot of negative feedback.  Do whatever you want with the conference but to call it anything other than TechEd is just plain wrong.