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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

US House: 'The Internet of cars'

by Mark Ollig

If you told me 20 years ago automobiles connected to the Internet would be the topic of a dual US subcommittee hearing in 2015, I would not have been surprised.

In 1995, I predicted telephone and television would eventually be carried over the Internet – how many remember that?

Well, some of you might.

But I digress.

The US House Oversight and Government Reform committee held a hearing Nov. 18 with the Information Technology and the Transportation and Public Assets subcommittees.

They met to discuss issues concerning automobiles’ computing systems being connected to the Internet – and with each other.

Officially, this hearing was called: The Internet of Cars.

Yes, having our cars technically connected with each other, and the Internet, has now become a political issue.

This hearing defined “connected-vehicles” as cars that: “access, consume, create, enrich, direct, and share digital information between businesses, people, organizations, infrastructures, and things.”

I loved how they added “things” at the end of this definition.

It appears cars will become just another electronic “thing” which will make up the Internet of Things (IoT).

The hearing was chaired by US Congressman John Mica, and focused on issues concerning intelligent automobiles, their being linked to each other, and other things, via the Internet.

Testimonies were made by automobile makers: General Motors, Toyota, and Tesla Motors.

Congressman Mica opened the hearing with; “It’s interesting the age that we live in of new technology and communications . . . we have all of the incredible technology that we see and take for granted every day. We’re entering a new era in transportation technology.”

He then joked about how some of the “older” panelists and members of the audience would remember when opening the hood of your car meant you could take out the various parts and identify everything.

I guess more of us are falling into that category now.

Congressman Mica continued, suggesting we almost need to have a PhD degree just to figure out the capabilities of our automobiles.

He said the technical abilities of today’s automobiles are “astounding.”

There is so much new technology in today’s cars we did not have years ago.

I have come to learn this from personal experience.

When I bought my new 2013 automobile, I was amazed by all the technology inside it.

“With all the advanced technology inside this new car . . . I feel I’m driving an iPhone down the highway,” I wrote in my Sept. 2, 2013 column.

When I first took the new car for a test drive, I asked the salesperson where the ignition key was.

She promptly said I didn’t need to start the car with a key – I just needed to have a “fob” (frequency operated button), and press the car’s start button.

Right then and there, I knew driving for me would never be the same again.

Back in the hearing, the members of the subcommittees were presented with circumstances involving vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

Benefits mentioned on having “smart automobiles” communicating with each other included: fewer accidents, lowered fuel consumption, and improvement in commerce.

The concern about having connected-cars was their vulnerability to cyber-attack.

Stark questions arose about the probabilities of computer hackers gaining control over automobiles.

Today’s smart, and connected-vehicles, equipped with electronic capabilities connected to the Internet, can, and I will add; “already have been hacked into.”

A recent car-hacking was into a Jeep made by Chrysler.

This past July, 1.4 million Chrysler automobiles were recalled when it was determined hackers gained control through the Jeep’s Internet-connected entertainment system.

These hackers took over control of a Jeep Cherokee’s computer system by accessing it through the mobile data network the Jeep was networked to.

Using off-the-shelf electronic components and typing out the right programming code, a dedicated hacker had found a way to remotely take control of a vehicle over the Internet.

This is scary stuff, folks.

Now, imagine yours truly happily driving his new, high-tech, Internet-connected-car down the freeway, and preparing to take an exit ramp.

Unbeknownst to me, there’s a small, glowing red light on my GPS display screen.

As I begin to steer towards the freeway exit ramp, the car’s speaker system activates and says; “I’m sorry Mark, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

The car’s computer-control system has been hacked into, and taken over by the HAL 9000 computer from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Indeed. What a nightmare that would be.

On a more serious note; there’s no doubt having verifiable consumer protections installed in vehicles connected to the Internet, or other things, will become a vital necessity.

These protections will need to instill consumer confidence, and ensure safe guarding of our automobiles from hackers.

In fact, our friends at the US Department of Transportation (DOT) were to have a report about enacting safety standards for connected-cars this past July.

During the hearing, it was learned they had not completed it.

This did not sit well with an impatient Congressman Mica.

With measured words, he tersely told the DOT representative; “You can, you will, and will have it [the report] here within 10 days.”

All of us can look forward to reading the DOT’s report very soon.

I felt the question regarding specific government involvement with these car makers during this first Internet of Cars hearing was not fully answered.

The automakers did express their need for freedom to innovate and create the new technologies customers will desire, and have confidence in.

They also stated the importance of working with government agencies to ensure the safety and security of connected-automobiles.

Congressman Mica ended the hearing with; “We want to do the right thing at this important juncture.”

To visit the US Oversight government link to The Internet of Cars hearing, use this shortened URL link I created:

Here is the complete, two-hour long, joint-subcommittee video (the hearing begins at the 11:44 minute mark):

The Bits & Bytes column: “It’s like driving an iPhone” can be read at:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The father of digital logic

by Mark Ollig

Its first introduction was in his 1847 book: “The Mathematical Analysis of Logic.”

George Boole is the person we are to thank for Boolean algebra.

The zeros and ones used in binary coding are part of the Boolean sphere recognized as the false value known as “0,” and the true value known as “1.”

Working with digital electronics while attending school (more years ago than I care to remember), I learned to associate the “0” as an absence of voltage, and the “1” as a presence of voltage.

Logic gates are used to control input/output combination possibilities for performing logical operations using digital circuitry, and to act as electronic switches.

Inputs of either a 0 or a 1 are used on electronic digital logic gates, such as: NOR, AND, OR, NAND, and ENOR.

For example, when using an OR gate with two inputs (A and B) a 0/A 0/B input would result in an output of: 0.

Having a 0/A 1/B input would result in an output of: 1.

A 1/A 0/B input would equal a 1 output.

The last input combination possible for an OR gate is a 1/A 1/B input; would produce a 1 output.

Sounds logical, doesn’t it?

Binary logic was, and still is used in our digital computing systems.

Yours truly has written prior columns about some of the earlier 20th-century electronic digital computing systems.

The “Giant Brain” or Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), was unveiled in 1946. It was constructed at the University of Pennsylvania.

Our British friends across the pond began building the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC), in 1946. It was running computing programs in 1949.

The US Army also had need for computing power. Their binary computer was called the Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer (EDVAC), and was in operation in 1949.

My favorite is the 1951 Universal Automatic Computer, commonly known as the UNIVAC I.

It was a large electronic digital mainframe computer, manufactured by the Remington Rand company.

This computer became famous for its appearance on CBS television, where it predicted the winner of the 1952 presidential election.

Yours truly watched an archived video showing CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite reporting from his anchor desk, on the evening of the presidential election, Nov. 4, 1952.

A teletype machine was set up nearby to send information back and forth from the UNIVAC.

At around 7:30 p.m. CST, the UNIVAC determined the presidential winner would be Dwight Eisenhower – even though only a small percentage of the votes had been counted.

The UNIVAC had calculated 100-1 odds in favor of Eisenhower winning the election over Adlai Stevenson.

The accuracy of the UNIVAC’s prediction was less than 1 percent – which stunned the news folks at CBS.

In fact, they delayed in disclosing this prediction until later, because at the time, public opinion showed Stevenson was leading.

CBS had feared the UNIVAC was wrong, and thus CBS, too, would be wrong.

However, the UNIVAC’s prediction was indeed correct.

“We saw it as an added feature to our coverage that could be very interesting in the future, and there was a great deal of pride that we had this exclusively. But I don’t think that we felt the computer would become predominant in our coverage in any way,” Cronkite said about the UNIVAC.

I now digress back to the subject of this column.

So, we have the Boolean sphere, looked at the OR gate, and some vintage computers.

Let’s talk a little about George Boole.

It has been said Boole is the person responsible for the logical processes used in modern computing calculations.

He was born Nov. 2, 1815, in Lincoln, England.

Boole specialized in differential mathematical equations and algebraic logic.

He was an English mathematician, and Professor of Mathematics at the University College Cork, Ireland.

In his 1854 book: “The Laws of Thought,” he wrote about algebraic logic, probabilities, and explained logical equations in great detail.

The basic principles in this book became the foundation of what would become the modern “information age.”

In chapter 22, on page 318 of his book, the following thoughts by Boole gave me reason to pause and consider.

“The distinction between true and false, between correct and incorrect, exists in the processes of the intellect, but not in the region of a physical necessity. As we advance from the lower stages of organic being to the higher grade of conscious intelligence, this contrast gradually dawns upon us,” he wrote.

Boole was only 49 years old when he passed away Dec. 8, 1864.

He is buried in the village of Blackrock, within Cork City, Ireland.

The Project Gutenberg organization was kind enough to archive Boole’s book, “Laws of Thought” here:

Boole’s “The Mathematical Analysis of Logic” can be read at:

A diagram of the OR gate, with its logical input/output combinations, is here:

I encourage you to watch a short video about George Boole, uploaded by the University College Cork, at:


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Could you give up using Facebook?

by Mark Ollig

How can we improve the quality of our lives, and become a little happier?

One method is by giving up Facebook for a week.

This was the conclusion of an experiment our friends at Denmark’s Happiness Research Institute discovered.

How has being an active user on Facebook affected our lives?

Personally, I now find myself routinely scanning through Facebook first thing in the morning, during the day, and in the evening.

I’m checking the latest messages by friends, family, acquaintances, news sources, fan group pages, and pastime interests; such as NASA’s Facebook page.

I also find satisfaction in seeing how many Facebook “likes” my comments, posted photos, web links, and videos receive.

Sometimes I get a bit impatient if one of my posts doesn’t receive any “likes” over the span of a day.

I’ll usually delete the post, and then try to find something else that might be liked by the Facebook community.

Starting around 2006, I was using what was then, a popular online social media site called MySpace; however, in 2008, I noticed a lot of users were leaving it and switching to Facebook.

In February 2009, my oldest son was going to be visiting Italy for an extended period.

I asked him what the best way to stay in contact with him was.

He told me; “Join Facebook, and request to add yourself as one of my Facebook “friends.”

Since then, the amount of my online social media time spent using Facebook has steadily increased.

Most of my friends and family members now use Facebook.

A couple years ago, I joined a fan-based, Minnesota Lynx basketball Facebook page.

During the WNBA season, I, along with other Lynx fans, posted comments about the games, players, and coaches.

The Facebook app on my smartphone is set to notify me when anyone instant messages me, directs a comment my way, or “likes” one of my posts.

My smartphone produces a low audible “buzz” notification whenever there is activity on my social media accounts: Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, and AOL email.

I have my smartphone charger on the stand next to my bed; and yes, sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night, I reach for my phone to check for any new Facebook, Twitter, or email messages.

I’m probably not the only one who does this.

One of these social media, middle of the night experiences occurred at 2:00 am.

I was wide awake; so, out of habit, I logged into Facebook.

Suddenly, a message popped up from a Facebook friend asking; “Is anyone else awake?”

I quickly texted that I, too, was awake.

In about five minutes, there were four more replies from other Facebook users saying the same thing.

With so many others awake at this hour, I posted we should start a Facebook insomnia page.

I have learned folks can and do become addicted to Facebook.

To be honest, I am finding myself spending more time not only on Facebook; but on my other social media sites, as well.

“The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens” is a study released last week by Common Sense Media.

In this report, they concluded teenagers are spending an average of nine hours a day immersed in social media, including listening to online music.

Would your life be dramatically affected if you gave up your favorite social media site?

An answer to this question was the focus of a recent research trial experiment conducted by the Happiness Research Institute.

Their study involved 1,095 Facebook users living in Denmark.

They asked half of them to give up using Facebook for one week.

The other half of these Facebook users were told to continue using Facebook as they normally do.

The requirement here was both groups needed to assess their current satisfaction with their lives before – and after – the one week research trial period.

Let’s cut to the chase: the results found those who were off Facebook for one week reported “a significantly higher level of life satisfaction.”

The study showed taking a week-long absence break from Facebook increased happiness, offline social activity, and concentration levels.

The group which continued to use Facebook reported no major satisfaction changes in their lives.

Most people will continue to use online social media, according to Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute.

If I suddenly stopped using my online social media, such as Facebook; cold-turkey, I would probably begin experiencing social media withdrawal pains.

Today, I was going to announce this columnist’s one-week sabbatical from Facebook, and write a future column on how the absence from it affected my life.

However, as I thought this through, I concluded, for the time being, I would not be abandoning my currently most prized (and visited) social media site.

Give up Facebook?

Sorry, not today.

The Denmark Happiness Research Institute is located at:

Common Sense Media’s website is:

I need to end this column now; my smartphone’s Facebook app is buzzing.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Someone impersonated my Twitter account!

by Mark Ollig 

Most folks are understandably curious about what the great-and-powerful Google Oracle knows about them.

I’m not (remarkably) vain, but I do admit to googling my name every so often.

When I do, the usual social media footprints indexing my online life appear; nothing too embarrassing, mind you.

A couple of weeks ago, for no specific reason, yours truly typed his name inside the Google search box.

The typical results appeared: links to my newspaper columns, to my blog, LinkedIn mentions, images, articles, and comments from my social media sites.

There were Facebook references, messages from my Twitter account, and other gleaned data about me.

While looking through some 1,860 Google search results, I noticed something very odd about the ones containing my Twitter username.

“What the heck is this?” I said out loud.

I saw a number of search results with links and attached messages saying: “Mark Ollig (@bitsandbesty) Twitter. The latest tweets from Mark Ollig (@bitsandbesty) – Freelance technology journalist. Telecommunications engineer. I blog and provide social media content to print and digital news outlets. All views are my own.”

The information was correct – except for one glaring error: the Twitter username for Mark Ollig was wrong.

You see, my Twitter username is: @bitsandbytes not: @bitsandbesty.

“Oh, I am so going to find out what this is all about,” I tersely said to myself as I quickly logged into my Twitter account.

I immediately went to the Twitter profile page for: @bitsandbesty.

My eyes widened in disbelief: @bitsandbesty was the Twitter user name of a “Mark Ollig.”

Their personal Twitter profile photo was of me when I had climbed up a telephone pole; the same one I use on my Twitter account.

The Twitter background image I posted of the historic Burden Water Wheel, and my personal profile description; all had been copied from my @bitsandbytes Twitter page.

The realization slowly sank in: I was the victim of Twitter Impersonation.

Someone created a new Twitter account using my name, Twitter photos, and profile user information.

This charlatan was unable to steal my @bitsandbytes Twitter username, as it is unique; so they came up with a very close name, one which could be easily mistaken for mine.

The impersonator Twitter account was sending out tweets from what would appear to anyone viewing them as being from my @bitsandbytes Twitter account.

Their tweets had my Twitter profile photo attached to them.

The only way for someone reading these messages to know they were not mine, would be to look closely at the username; but this is easily overlooked, as the impersonator’s Twitter username blended so closely with my authentic username.

The only thing I could do was to embark on a glorious quest to reclaim my uniqueness in Twitterville.

Using what I considered reasonable logic, yours truly visited the Twitter Help Center, at:

I typed: “Impersonation Policy” in the search box.

Here is the link for Twitter’s Impersonation Policy:

While reading through their policy, I noticed: “Twitter users are allowed to create parody, commentary, or fan accounts.”

What? Could someone think I was popular enough to warrant a fan-made parody account?

While considering this intriguing possibility, the sobering answer yours truly came up with was: “Um, no.”

Twitter states: “Impersonation is a violation of the Twitter Rules. Twitter accounts portraying another person in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under the Twitter Impersonation Policy.”

“Ah-ha,” I thought. This account is definitely trying to portray yours truly “in a confusing or deceptive manner.”

I emailed Twitter Support, and explained to them why I felt my Twitter account was being impersonated.

Twitter replied; they needed to first confirm my identity with a valid government photo ID.

They provided a special Internet link for me to upload my ID proving I was who I said I was; even though I already knew who I was. Of course, they have no idea who I am. This makes sense, right?

Using my smartphone, I took a picture of my driver’s license, and uploaded it to Twitter.

I waited.

A few days later, I received another email from Twitter saying; “We’ve removed the reported account for a violation of Twitter Rules, and specifically our rules regarding impersonation on Twitter.”

Victory! I did a fist-pump into the air.

With confirmation the impersonator’s account had been suspended, I logged back onto Twitter.

Carefully, I typed @bitsandbesty inside the Twitter search box, pressed “enter” and then clicked the highlighted @bitsandbesty link.

I smiled.

On my screen, in large, bold-print type, it read: “Account suspended.”

Yours truly had fought the good fight against the Twitter impersonator – and won.

Here is a screen-capture of the Google results showing my impersonated Twitter account link references:

I saved the correspondence Twitter sent to me. You can see it here:

The Twitter online justice system does work; if you take action.

What should you do after discovering an account on Twitter is pretending to be yours?

Start by reporting it at:

Visit my official Twitter account page at: