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Thursday, January 28, 2016

US Air Force: Cyperspace weapon system operational

by Mark Ollig

The ability to protect and defend this country’s military data networks against global cyberwarfare infiltration has been greatly improved.

The Air Force Intranet Control (AFINC) Cyberspace Weapon System is now up and running.

Jan. 7, this new cyberspace weapon system achieved “Full Operational Capability,” or FOC.

It’s armed and ready for action; so beware potential evil-doer, cyberspace hackers out there.

As we know, cyberspace is better known as the Internet.

The Internet is also known as the cloud.

What name it will be known as next, is anyone’s guess.

The AFINC Cyberspace Weapon System’s “battles” will be conducted against those attempting to deceptively gain access, or illegally retrieve information from US military online data networks via a cyberattack.

Instead of physical military artillery, this new cyberspace weapon system’s gateway array uses the power of advanced computer-generated software programming code, written and controlled by its human “cyber warrior” operators.

This cyberspace weapon system will defend all informational data traffic arriving into the Air Force Information Network, from being compromised by unfriendly, cyberspace attackers.

The AFINC is the top-level access gateway into the Air Force Information Network.

The 26th NOS (Network Operations Squadron), located at Gunter Annex, Montgomery, AL, operates the AFINC.

All network traffic which comes into the AFINC via this top-level boundary and entry point, will be defended using the AFINC Cyberspace Weapon System.

Additionally, all internal and external data-traffic operating through the classified AFINC network gateways, will now be centrally managed.

To put my readers’ minds at ease; this humble, cyberspace-writing columnist isn’t disclosing any top-secret military information.

I learned about this reading the public news release from the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) website:

“AFSPC’s mission is to provide resilient and affordable space and cyberspace capabilities for the Joint Force and the Nation,” proclaims its mission statement.

Over 35,000 people are serving the AFSPC, in 134 locations throughout the world.

The new AFINC cyberspace weapon system includes a collection of 16 network entrance/access points, or gateways.

What started at 100 entrance/access points was re-configured; through consolidation and replacement of 84 regionally-managed network entry points, there are now the 16 which the AFINC cyberspace weapon system oversees.

A world map posted by the AFINC, shows 10 of these 16 network entrance/access gateways located within the continental US, with one in Hawaii, Japan, South Korea, England, and two in Europe.

This new system also is equipped with 15 nodes (data connection points) for the DOD’s (Department of Defense) top-level and highly-classified data network called: SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network).

DOD information and messages designated as classified, or at the SECRET level, are transmitted over the SIPRNet.

SIPRNet uses the same TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) as the regular Internet we use.

However, this network encrypts its data information, and is separated from all other public networks and communications systems.

To access this highly confidential US government network, one would need to obtain a SECRET, or higher level of clearance.

“Appropriate credentials and two-factor authentication are required. When using the SIPRNet, you must not leave the workstation unattended,” states the Defense Human Resources Activity website located at:

As much as I would like to see it in action, yours truly won’t be accessing the SIPRNet anytime soon.

It was reported over 1 million Air Force users, at 237 sites throughout the world, are now being served by the new AFINC Cyberspace Weapon System.

With this new system, the mission operation of the 26th NOS has been updated to include: “intelligence gathering, cyberspace surveillance and reconnaissance, interdiction, and security.”

Perhaps with some futuristic cyberspace foresight, George Washington said the following 260 years ago; “There is nothing more necessary than good intelligence to frustrate a designing enemy, and nothing requires greater pains to obtain.”

“This is a great achievement for the Air Force and the first cyberspace weapon system to achieve FOC. We look forward to continued rapid progress and maturation of the Air Force Cyberspace mission,” said Brigadier General Stephen Whiting, HQ AFSPC Director of Integrated Air, Space, Cyberspace and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Operations.

He added; “As we all know, our mission is to fly, fight and win in air, space, and cyberspace.”

The Air Force Space Command, which began operations Sept. 1, 1982, is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, CO.

A fact sheet covering its space and cyber systems, launch and space vehicles, and the AFSPC organization list, can be seen at:

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Twitter crashes: Sufficient online mayhem occurs

by Mark Ollig

Early last Tuesday morning, I stopped by the local coffee house to pick up my usual large depth-charge, light roast, with a splash of heavy cream.

While waiting at the counter, I tapped the Twitter app on my smartphone to catch up on the latest messages.

I was surprised when greeted with the following: “Something is technically wrong.”

My eyes narrowed, while looking fixedly at the cartoonishly drawn Twitter personality shown below the message.

This comedic caricature had both arms raised high in the air as if saying; “It wasn’t me!”

“Twitter crashed? Wonder what’s going on,” I thought.

Yours truly wasn’t the only one puzzled.

As I looked around the coffee house, I noticed a lot of frowns on the young millennial faces, as they sipped their beverages and stared at their smartphones in disbelief.

It was four months ago when the other online social media giant, Facebook, crashed.

Millions of its users fled to Twitter; posting their frustrating tweets about the outage.

Traffic on Twitter surged, as throngs of Facebook-deprived users went there to satisfy their hunger for online social media.

Just about every other Twitter message included the hashtag: #facebookdown.

Last Tuesday morning, we had the reverse. Facebook users were typing messages about Twitter being down, using the #twitterdown hashtag, and posting Twitter-related news links.

Indeed. Many were suffering from Twitter withdrawal.

Not only was Twitter down in the US, but Twitter Europe also confirmed their site was down, as were Twitter sites located in Brazil, South Africa, Russia, and in the Philippines.

One website, used for Twitter status reports, said users were experiencing issues accessing Twitter via mobile device apps, and computers trying to reach its webpage.

Twitter first went online nearly 10 years ago, and currently has around 320 million active (some might say addicted) users, world-wide.

Having over 300 million subscribers upset because their service isn’t working, probably wasn’t what the head of Twitter anticipated dealing with last Tuesday morning.

By mid-Tuesday morning, a number of users were beginning to successfully log back on.

Twitter Support (@support) posted this message for those who could see it: “Some users are currently experiencing problems accessing Twitter. We are aware of the issue and are working towards a resolution.”

The Associated Press Business News (@APBusiness) succeeded in getting out this tweet; “Users in Europe and in the US were having problems with service.”

As folks regained access to Twitter, they made known their frustration within the 140- character word limit, along with posting some amusing “Twitter is down” photos.

I noted the hashtag “#twitterdown” was trending, once I finally was able to access Twitter.

The following are some of the #twitterdown hashtag messages posted.

“The most frustrating thing about #twitterdown is you couldn’t tweet about it,” messaged @Stuart_1992.

The BBC News World (@BBCWorld) posted; “If you can see this post, you’re one of the lucky ones.”

Another user, @BillionaireJ, tweeted; “almost formatted my phone thinking it was the cause of #twitterdown.”

One tweet by @obicatnobi, said; “This certainly is the work of the Dark Side.”

Twitter user @Schrodinger, posted; “The fall of Twitter was as if suddenly everyone goes at once.”

One of my favorites was from @jordyjayTV, who tweeted this observation; “When Twitter goes down, and you have to reluctantly socialize with people in real life.”

Of course, I needed to post something too.

My (@bitsandbytes) photo contribution to the #twitterdown diatribe can be seen at:

By noon Tuesday, Twitter had sent out this status update: “The issue [crash/outage] was related to an internal code change. We reverted the change, which fixed the issue.”

Yes indeed, one must always be careful when making those code changes.

But I digress.

Let’s nostalgically end this week’s column by envisioning how legendary newscaster Walter Cronkite might have reported this Twitter outage:

“Good evening from the CBS News Control Center in New York. This is Walter Cronkite, reporting. We are receiving numerous printed teletype bulletins into our news room confirming the popular online social media site; Twitter, is currently unreachable by millions of frustrated Internet patrons. We will bring you the latest updates as we receive them. And that’s the way it is, Tuesday, January 19, 2016.”

There was indeed (tongue-in-cheek) “sufficient online mayhem” last Tuesday morning.

To view the status of Twitter, visit:

Monday, January 18, 2016

Future 'Internet of Things' includes cognition

by Mark Ollig 

Not too long ago (alright, it was long ago), when my generation thought of computers, the first three letters which came to mind were: IBM.

What began as a mechanical tabulation record-keeping company, and a business using rigid, paper punched cards, IBM evolved into the world’s largest maker of mainframe computers used by government and business.

Mainframe computers from the mid-20th century weighed a lot, as they were comprised of heavy, physical supporting hardware; in addition to their electronic components.

And yes, they did take up the space of a large room; I can vouch for this: I’m a former telephone cable-installer who worked in a few of those “computer rooms” back in the day.

Other heavy hardware included early CRT (cathode ray tube) display terminal stations, which were cabled to a mainframe computer in order to access its processing power.

Some of those terminals weighed over 90 pounds.

In contrast, today’s computing devices are lightweight, and their means of handling data is evolving as we speak.

“The future of the Internet of Things is cognitive. The cognitive IoT,” said Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM, during her keynote address at the recently-held Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in Las Vegas.

Two years ago, I described IoT as being “ . . . how the Internet will evolve from connecting computers, cellphones, tablets, and smart devices, to also having interconnection with other devices – or things.”

These devices collecting digital data and communicating with the Internet (or cloud), are known as the Internet of Things, or IoT.

She spoke of how the Internet of Things is all part of the phenomena of digitalization of products, services, and companies.

I noticed the words “digital” and “digitalization” were repeatedly used during her address.

Whenever I hear the word “digital,” I think about technology.

I learned digital technology (binary code) in the late ‘70s, while working for the telephone company.

In order to operate and maintain the new digital telecommunication systems we wanted to install to replace existing legacy analog systems, yours truly needed to take classroom courses to learn the technology.

Fortunately, I passed all the tests, and obtained the needed certifications.

Today, “being digital” in addition to its technical definition, can also be termed as a business approach.

Being digital can mean having a pro-active manner of doing things from both a technical and business perspective, in order to attract and keep customers.

Rometty asked members of the CES audience to raise their hands if they work for a digital company, or are trying to become a digital company.

She smiled while looking out at the many raised hands.

“When everybody becomes digital, then what?” Rometty said.

She used an analogy of how “being digital” is not just a destination for a company, but more of a foundation.

Digital data, or “big data,” is being collected from devices such as: wearable technology, security sensors, utility monitors, and IoT devices in our homes, industry, and even from our cars.

According to IBM; “Big data is arriving from multiple sources at an alarming velocity, volume and variety. To extract meaningful value from big data, you need optimal processing power, analytics capabilities, and skills.”

Increasingly huge amounts of data are being collected all around us in a growing number of new IoT devices.

According to Rometty, a surprising 80 percent of newly stored IoT digital data is not recognized.

She emphasized understanding this digital data will differentiate businesses.

“It is cognitive. To think, to learn, to understand,” she stated.

Is IoT the dawn of a new cognitive era? Rometty asked.

We are seeing “digital business” and “digital data” merging into a new IoT cognitive paradigm.

This new paradigm is gaining speed; business will need to become pro-active in order to learn how to best use IoT data.

For me, the IoT cognitive era has already begun.

IoT devices are communicating data on what it is designed and programmed to monitor.

Its data is being run through today’s analytical software.

The information gleaned from an IoT device, which would have normally existed in a static state, is not only monitored, but sourced for determining actions.

Future IoT devices will probably become part of a “collective,” obediently contributing its “big data” to be analyzed via AI (artificial intelligence), or some other, yet-to-be known, sentient decision-making process.

Reprogrammable for future operating system platforms, IoT devices will prove flexible in how the smart-sensors, and other technology embedded into them, are used.

Eventually, I believe IoT devices will incorporate some type of intelligence.

They will become, to some extent, an autonomous device; yet still (hopefully) managed by humans; or perhaps, an artificial intelligence.

You can watch the complete, one-hour long 2016 CES keynote address by Ginni Rometty, on the IBM YouTube channel:

The science-fiction part of me is asking; “Will humans ultimately end up becoming part of the Internet of Things; transforming the IoT cognitive era, into a “Star Trek” Borg-like assimilated reality?

Stay tuned.

Friday, January 8, 2016

2016 CES doesn't disappoint

Chatter over the online social networks was constant; thousands of folks were posting tweets to the Twitter hashtag #CES2016.
The eyes of the tech world were keenly focused on the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) recently held in Las Vegas, NV.
Over 150,000 excited tech-enthusiasts (and geeks) attended this event to see what new gadgets and technologies will be available for the new year.
Those attending got a close-up look at some interesting technology.
This year’s CES was, in a word, huge.
Covering over 2.4 million net square feet (about 50 football fields), this showcase extended across Las Vegas and was contained within three separate venue locations: Tech East, Tech West, and Tech South.
Over 3,600 exhibitors from around the world introduced and demonstrated some 20,000 new products, technologies, and services to the multitudes of people thirsting to discover what the latest and greatest would be for 2016.
This event was well covered by the media, as there were over 1,200 members of the press in attendance.
I downloaded the 2016 CES web software app (application) onto my Android smartphone, so I was able to stay up-to-date with the latest news and information while on the go.
This year’s CES demonstrated enhanced augmented VR (virtual reality) technology being used with immersive-gaming console systems.
This year’s showcase demonstrated the simple, but ingenious, Google Cardboard VR viewer you can easily make (yes, out of cardboard) and use with software apps on your Android or iPhone.
VR rendering software has become a practical use in real-world medical applications for generating 3D images for study and analysis of human internal organs and systems.
Coincidentally, the Google Cardboard VR viewer was recently used by a doctor in Miami to save the life of a baby.
Using the cardboard VR viewer to see 3D virtual reality images of the baby’s heart, the doctor was able to diagram an operation that saved the baby’s life.
Learn more about the Google Cardboard VR viewer at:
Much attention was given at this year’s CES to the various models of unpiloted, flying aero systems; or as we commonly call them: flying drones.
Some 26 exhibitors presented a variety of flying aero systems, most of which are controlled via a smartphone app.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was also at CES, and had a UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) information booth for answering drone enthusiasts’ questions.
Most flying drones have a video camera attached. In addition to being a lot of fun recording the landscape venue from the air, drones provide very useful services.
Camera and microphone equipped drones are being used in search and rescue situations, and in disaster relief environments by law enforcement.
Commercial real estate companies are beginning to use them for showing how properties look from the air.
We’re seeing drones flying overhead during sporting events, as they are able to provide unique aerial viewing angles of the action.
People traveling are recording scenic locations and outback locales using drones.
Of course, one needs to be aware of the local, state, and federal laws when it comes to flying a drone.
We’ll also need to register our drone or UAS, with the FAA registration system.
There are three types of UAS classifications:
• Public Operations (Governmental).
• Civil Operations (Non-Governmental).
• Model Aircraft (Hobby or Recreation only).
Register your drone online with the FAA here:
The FAA’s government website: Unmanned Aircraft Systems provides answers about the legalities of drone usage:
Robotic technology was also popular at this year’s CES.
The LEGO Company presented their LEGO’s WeDo 2.0 robotics kit, designed for students involved with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) courses in school.
Students, using 280 different building elements, learn basic robotic engineering, programming, and building skills.
“Drag-and-drop” software applications are available for creating and connecting a wireless Bluetooth hub with the LEGO robot’s enhanced motors, and various motion sensors.
Programming is accomplished using software apps installed on an iPad, other smartdevice, or desktop computer which sync with the student’s robot.
With 17 separate building projects, and a design library to use for ideas and reference, students learn how to build robotic solutions, analyze data, and share their discoveries.
LEGO Education US recently uploaded “Introducing WeDo 2.0” video to YouTube at
More information about LEGO’s WeDo 2.0 robotics kit can be found at LEGO’s education website:
Sept. 1, 2008, yours truly wrote a column titled “Students will need ‘STEM’ for their future careers.” This column can be read at:
This year’s CES also focused on creating a more “digitally connected” home linked to the Internet that we can monitor and control from a central location: such as our smartphone, via software apps.
I foresee anything electronic: vehicles, appliances, machines, gadgets, and apparatuses of the future, evolving towards a complete digital conversion as IoT (Internet of Things) devices, and thus become immersed inside an ever-growing cloud we call the Internet.
Highlights from this year’s CES can be seen on their official YouTube channel:

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Looking back 100 years

by Mark Ollig

Are you settled down with a nice cup of coffee? Good.

Instead of looking ahead, today let’s look back at a few Minnesota-related stories from days gone by.

Our friends at the Minnesota Historical Society boast of having “the largest single collection of Minnesota newspapers, with publication dates ranging from 1849 to the present day.”

Their searchable webpage; Minnesota Digital Newspaper Hub, allows one to view archived newspapers online.

I typed the search term: “1916,” and viewed the results.

There were several newspapers listed; such as The Minneapolis Journal, and The Twin City Star.

A University of Minnesota student-directed paper, The Farm Review, caught my eye.

I opened their Vol. 21, Sept. 30, 1916 paper.

One column featured a story about an article in the Sept. 16, 1916, Moving Picture World magazine, mentioning a new learning course the university was offering.

“Teachers and principals of consolidated rural schools in Minnesota attending university summer sessions are taking a special course on ‘How to Operate Moving Picture Machines,’” the article read.

Imagine the astonishment those Minnesota teachers and principals from 1916 would have, if they were shown how we use the camera/recorder app on our smartphones today.

It seems mosquitoes were also bothersome for folks back in 1916, in an article titled: “Harney Wages Mosquito War.”

This article talked about Malachi Harney, saying: “Single-handed and with no weapons but a spade and a can of kerosene, he had killed more mosquitoes than a whole army could.”

This mosquito war was waged in St. Paul “against the disease carriers in the Twin Cities.”

Some of you may be surprised that boxing (yes, pugilism) is one sport I have followed over the years with great interest.

I still enjoy watching old boxing films, and reading about the sport’s history.

Grant this indulgence, as I use my writer’s prerogative, and pen some paragraphs about a Minnesota boxer from long ago.

Besides Malachi Harney’s mosquito war, another war of sorts was being waged in 1916.

This one involved two giants. “The Rochester-Minnesota Giant” Fred Fulton, and World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Jess Willard, better known as the “Pottawatomie Giant.”

Willard stood 6 foot 6 1⁄2 inches; the same height as Fulton.

Fulton boxed from a southpaw (left-handed), and reportedly conventional stance, using his 84.5-inch reach.

He was also known as the “Rochester Plasterer.”

A Jan. 8, 1916 poster ad from The Moving Picture World, showed Fulton in a classic boxer’s stance.

This poster said Fulton was to meet Willard for the World’s Heavyweight Championship.

When I looked up the professional fight record for Jess Willard, it shows he never officially fought Fulton for the title.

However, the two did meet at Rochester, MN in May 1915, while Willard was heavyweight champion and traveling with a “Wild West” show and circus company.

Fulton and Willard boxed a four-round exhibition match.

Without a doubt, Fulton surprised a few folks when he knocked Willard down during the contest.

“When we boxed at Rochester last summer, he nailed me in the mouth and it hurt, but I knocked him flat,” said Fulton in a December 1915 Rochester Post and Record newspaper article.

Because of Fulton’s good showing against Willard, many were eager to see a boxing match promoted between the two for Willard’s heavyweight title.

Instead, the proposed Willard-Fulton fight card was replaced by a Willard-Moran boxing match held March 3, 1916.

Willard won a 10 round decision over Frank Moran, and retained his title.

Fred Fulton fought Frank Moran Jan. 25, 1918, and won the fight by a knockout in the third round.

When Willard learned of Fulton defeating Moran, he considered fighting Fulton with the heavyweight championship title on the line.

Unfortunately for Fulton, the planned July 4, 1918 fight never happened.

July 27, 1918, the 27-year-old Fulton took on a hungry, young, 23-year-old fighter named Jack Dempsey – yes, that Jack Dempsey – “The Manassa Mauler.”

As some of you know, Jack Dempsey was one of the most formidable boxers of the early 20th century.

He also operated a very popular restaurant in New York after he retired.

Fulton lost that fight to Dempsey, when he was knocked out in the first round.

Jack Dempsey was then matched against Jess Willard, whom he easily defeated, winning boxing’s world heavyweight championship, July 4, 1919.

Fulton ended up never getting a shot at the title.

Fred Fulton was 82 years old when he passed away July 3, 1973, in Park Rapids, MN.

The Minnesota Historical Society has an in-depth story about Fred Fulton at:

Thus ends this column’s digression into one of many boxing anecdotes with a Minnesota connection.

Other stories from 100 years ago include World War I, and the US Presidential election.

The November, 1916 US presidential election results in Minnesota showed 179,544 votes for Charles E. Hughes, and 179,152 votes for Woodrow Wilson, who was re-elected President.

To search through hundreds of thousands of pages from Minnesota newspapers of yesteryear, go to:

The 1916 poster of Fred Fulton can be seen here:

It’s time to turn this boat right full rudder, and sail into 2016.

Fred Fulton (left) touches gloves with Jack Dempsey before their fight July 27, 1918.