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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

'Star Trek' first aired 50 years ago this week

by Mark Ollig

Copyright © 2016 Mark Ollig

A futuristic, science fiction television series, Star Trek, premiered Thursday evening September 8, 1966 on NBC-TV.

It began as a five-year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations; however, it boldly fell short by two years.
The series lasted three seasons, turning out 79 action-packed episodes, and creating a whole new science fiction fandom subculture called “Trekkies.”
Yes, I was a Trekkie.
Todays preferred description is Trekker, which I also favor.
Canadian actor William Shatner played the heroic protagonist, Captain James T. Kirk, who was born in Iowa during the 23rd century.
“It was just a television show,” Shatner said shortly after the series ended, during an appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”
We Trekkers knew it was much more than a television show.
The science fiction series ignited the imagination, and provided encouragement to the younger generation, who faithfully watched each week’s episode.
Some of these young viewers went on to become astronauts, engineers, scientists, doctors, nurses, and computer programmers.
“Star Trek” also influenced this moonlighting columnist, whose day job is in telecommunications.
The series reassured us things would turn out alright for humanity, that we would set aside our warring differences and work together; not “blow ourselves up with nuclear weapons.”
We could take a break from reality, and immerse ourselves inside each adventurous, hour-long “Star Trek” episode.
The show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry envisioned a “wagon train to the stars,” and hired excellent actors and writers with creative and imaginative minds to bring his dream into fruition on television.
After spending time over the years watching William Shatner speak and take questions during Star Trek conventions, reading the books he wrote, and seeing the independent films he created about “Star Trek,” I think he finally understands why the series was so popular.
In addition to the action, camaraderie, and relationships between the leading characters, some young viewers were inspired by the futuristic technology used onboard the starship USS Enterprise.
Many of these young minds worked to make “Star Trek” technology a reality.
For example, in the starship’s sickbay, a patient on a hospital bed would have their vital signs continuously monitored and shown on a display screen on the wall above their bed.
There were no physical arm cuffs, tubes, or wires connected to the patient.
Information on the display screen instantly informed Dr. McCoy or Nurse Chapel of the patient’s vital signs, and if they were within acceptable medical limits.
Recently, I discovered a medical device company called Hoana Medical located in Honolulu, HI, which makes the LifeBed Patient Vigilance System.
The LifeBed continuously tracks respiratory and heart rates – without direct physical contact to the patient lying on the bed.
A patient’s vital signs are monitored via sensors embedded in the LifeBed’s mattress cover.
The medical vital signs are shown on a display screen positioned on the wall above the head of the patient – just like on “Star Trek.”
If the patient’s heart or respiratory rate drifts outside of (adjustable) medical limits, the LifeBed will immediately alert medical personnel using the hospital’s notification system.
The LifeBed can also inform medical personnel whether the patient is in bed.
“To use the system, the patient simply lies on the bed. Within seconds, sensors embedded under a mattress coverlet start capturing signals generated by the patient – even through bed linens and multiple layers of patient clothing. By tracking these signals, the system provides continuous vigilance, observing the patient when the nurse is away from the room,” According to Hoana Medical’s website.
The LifeBed with its display screen looks amazingly like the one used in the sickbay on “Star Trek.”
The website for the LifeBed is
This is just one of the many examples of “Star Trek” technology which have become a reality.
During a “Red Alert” condition on the bridge of the USS Enterprise NCC 1701, Captain Kirk, when fighting the Klingons or other hostiles, would occasionally give the order to: “Fire phasors!”
Today, the US Navy has successfully installed and operates a laser (phasor), called Laser Weapon System (LaWS) onboard the navy ship USS Ponce (AFSB (I) 15).
“We ran this particular weapon, a prototype, through some extremely tough paces, and it locked on and destroyed the targets we designated with near-instantaneous lethality,” said Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, chief of naval research.
The US Navy expects the laser to be used on guided-missile destroyers and combats ships by 2023.
The laser will also be used with airborne and ground-based weapon systems – fighter jets may be using them by 2020.
LaWS operates using electrical power.
The US Navy released an impressive video demonstration of LaWS in action at
We will need to wait a while for the transporter and warp drive to be invented; although sources tell me they are being worked on.
Congratulations “Star Trek” on your 50th anniversary.
I also want to shout-out a “happy birthday” to my brother, Mike.
Follow my journey through cyberspace via my @bitsandbytes Twitter user name.
LifeBed Patient Vigilance System
(Photo used with permission from Hoana Medical)

Image result for U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Multi-gigabit speeds using 'wireless fiber'

by Mark Ollig

Copyright © 2016 Mark Ollig

While searching for “the next big thing” in technology, yours truly’s attention was directed toward what’s being tested by a few Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

AT&T, Verizon, and Google are performing tests to deliver extremely fast, high-capacity broadband data transmissions from their respective networks, wirelessly, to buildings without a direct fiber optic cable installed.

Today’s home and business Internet users are more mobile – they’re moving away from using a laptop or desktop computer tethered to a router via an RJ45 Ethernet cable.

Providing reliable, high-speed, high-capacity broadband Internet into the homes and businesses located in remote rural areas, or “the last mile” has been challenging for ISPs.

These remote areas are not always served by fiber optic cables, or receive adequate signal strength from a cell tower.

Cellular towers providing Internet access shares its data bandwidth with cellphone users.

It’s not a direct, or fixed broadband dedicated connection to each wireless computing device.

In my experience, Web browsing, downloading video, and using social media from the Internet works well on my smartphone – as long as it receives excellent cellular signal reception.

Some folks living in rural areas obtain Internet service by use of an antenna atop their house which “sees” their ISPs’ radio tower.

The ISPs’ tower’s facilities are usually connected to the Internet via a high-capacity fiber optic cable.

One person I know living in a rural area, is accessing the Internet by means of a “direct line-of-sight” radio antenna attached to the roof of their house.

This radio antenna is pointed towards the ISPs’ radio tower located eight miles away.

A twisted-pair Power over Ethernet (PoE) cable runs from the radio antenna, to inside the house, where it terminates into a power module box.

This module box is plugged into the commercial AC, and provides power for the radio antenna.

The module box also has an RJ45 jack/outlet with an Ethernet cable plugged into a wireless Wi-Fi router.

Wi-Fi is used to connect his wireless computing devices with the Internet.

He is currently participating in a beta test with a broadband mobile radio ISP (new ISP in his area), where the data speed is not “throttled down” or restricted in anyway.

I was shocked when he told me he was seeing nearly 70 Mbps of unrestricted download mobile/radio data speed.

He had plugged his laptop directly into the module’s jack (bypassing the wireless router), and performed several speed tests using the website.

After his beta testing period expires, he will go back to his originally selected Internet plan: 5 Mbps; fast enough for Web browsing, video, gaming, and television viewing.

He told me this plan is less expensive.

I learned his ISP will be offering a 50 Mbps plan, which of course, costs more.

The “wireless fiber” expression was aptly named because the wireless connection the technology provides has all the bandwidth capacity of a direct fiber connection; without the need for a fiber optical cable to be physically connected to your home or business’s building.

It’s analogous to using a Wi-Fi router inside your home for wirelessly extending your cabled Internet connection to your mobile iPad or cellphone.

Wireless fiber technology would allow Internet service providers to extend their broadband networks, without incurring the costs of physical cable or fiber installation to the building, which will be a big money-saver.

Wireless fiber will provide “multi-gigabits that represent an orders-of-magnitude improvement over today’s typical home Internet services,” according to a recent Washington Post article.

“Users of wireless fiber can expect speeds that are 50 to 100 times greater than what mobile users currently get on 4G LTE,” said AT&T, who is conducting field tests of wireless fiber in Austin, TX, later this year.

Future 5G LTE (available by 2020) will provide speeds 30 to 50 times faster than 4G LTE.

Verizon is planning wireless fiber tests near its facilities in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Texas.

Google is seeking federal permission to use high-frequency airwaves, reportedly in the 3.5 GHz frequency band, for wireless fiber testing in conjunction with its Google Fiber Project.

Wireless fiber industry standards and norms still need to be established.

I read, it may be five years or longer before wireless fiber is being commercially used by the public.

For now, I feel having a direct, fiber-optic cable connection (where available) is the fastest and most reliable way to go for one’s Internet, phone, and television services.

We’ve come a long way from accessing the Internet by dialing a telephone number from our computer’s modem.

Today, we’re able to send text messages via Internet social media sites to other folks around the world within seconds.

Looking back, the first message to travel around the world was sent July 4, 1903, and was composed by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Roosevelt’s holiday memo was the first round-the-world message transmitted using undersea and above-ground, copper telegraph cables.

The message wished “a happy Independence Day to the US, its territories, and properties.”

This presidential “priority status” message took nine minutes and 30 seconds to travel around the world.

Rest assured, your messages sent to my @bitsandbytes Twitter username will be received in less than nine minutes and 30 seconds; however, a reply might take a bit longer.

(Photo licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Canadian city using ‘game changer’ progressive web app

by Mark Ollig

Copyright © 2016 Mark Ollig

An improved method for citizens to engage with all segments of their local community is why this Canadian town created its own unique software web application, or app.
“Tecumseh launches new progressive web app, the first municipality in North America to do so. The app was created with InspireHUB Technologies to boost public engagement and allow residents and visitors a unique way to communicate with the Town.” This message was on the website of the Town of Tecumseh, in Ontario, Canada.
This new, specially coded app is compatible with any web browser used on smartphones and other smart computing devices.
Karolyn Hart, chief operating officer of InspireHUB Technologies, described what a progressive web app is, and why this technology is so exciting.
A progressive web app is not like the typical app you download from an online app store.
The real difference between a Progressive Web App and other technology is its piece of technology called the Service Worker.
The Service Worker runs behind the scenes of a progressive web app.
It collects information, and allows a user to access and use features of the app, even when offline.
This ability to collect information offline is the key differentiator between progressive web apps and all the other technologies currently on the market.
Progressive web apps are very new, and they are attracting much attention.
The first progressive web app summit took place at the end of June, and participants included: Google and Microsoft, and web browser companies Mozilla and Opera.
“There are a lot of great and exciting things going on with this brand new technology,” Hart revealed.
Complementing their existing website, the Town of Tecumseh’s progressive web app; IHUBapp, allows a citizen to quickly access and give input to items of interest within their local community.
One logs into the IHUBapp program using a name (pre-registered email address) and a password.
This humble columnist registered, was verified, and granted approval to use the Town of Tecumseh’s new web app.
Participating in city surveys, real-time polls, volunteering and fundraising management tools, registering for community events, along with citizens uploading content to share, are just some of the features being used in the city’s new web app.
The app’s icon can be easily added to the home screen of an Android or Apple mobile user’s phone for quick access.
“Web push notifications” or alerts for city channels, events, or other town news and information a citizen wants timely information on, is easily set up, and will activate even if the user devices’ web browser is closed.
“The Town of Tecumseh is always looking at new ways to reach residents and continue to communicate the work we do for them. We have three main priorities to engage our residents: communication, compliance, and reach,” said Mayor Gary McNamara of Tecumseh.
As a former duly-elected city councilmember, I reached out to the Tecumseh’s City Council channel.
The city council channels available included: The Town Mayer, Town Deputy Mayor, and the Ward 1, 3, and 4 Councilor channels.
The channel for The Town Mayer took me to a dedicated channel showing a photo of Mayor Gary McNamara, and a link to his video greeting.
“Hi, I’m Gary McNamara, Mayor of the Town of Tecumseh. I’m very excited to welcome you to my IHUBApp channel, where you can learn and receive updates about the Town of Tecumseh - a town that takes pride in offering access to big-city amenities along with the convenience and friendliness of a small waterfront community. Tecumseh features lovely neighborhoods, a healthy agricultural community with wonderful schools, strong business sector, and numerous recreational alternatives. Thank you for visiting my channel!” cheerfully said the mayor on his video.
Below the mayor’s greeting is a comment section, where folks can leave their thoughts and opinions.
“Great to see our town using technology to communicate with residents. Thank you Town of Tecumseh,” commented resident Mark Halbish.
Comments did not show up online immediately, as a “pending approval” message appears.
I did type a very nice message to the mayor – which was “approved for posting” via an email I later received from the “Town of Tecumseh.”
“When we learned about the IHUBApp and saw that residents controlled their app experience by joining the channels they are interested in, we felt that was a game changer,” Mayor McNamara said in a news release.
The population of the town of Tecumseh is 23,610 according to the latest Canadian census.
The town of Tecumseh’s website is:
Their IHUBApp is:
To learn how to code your own Progressive Web App, go to Google’s Codelabs Developer’s webpage:
Google’s free “Your First Progressive Web App” course was updated Aug. 13, and will guide you on building a “weather web app” using progressive web app techniques.
Inspire HUB Technologies can be reached at:, and followed on Twitter using @Inspire_HUB.
I don’t have my progressive web app built yet; however, you can still follow me via @bitscolumn on Twitter.

Above is my account! :)

Friday, August 12, 2016

Netherlands 'Internet of Things' rollout begins

by Mark Ollig

Copyright © 2016 Mark Ollig

The largest provider of information technology and telecommunications services in the Netherlands recently made a big announcement.

Royal Dutch Telecom, known as KPN, has finished installation of their LoRa (Low-data Rate) wireless network.

The LoRa network, now accessible throughout the Netherlands, is the transport for connecting electronic devices or “things” to the internet.

These particular “things” are known as the Internet of Things, or IoT.

IoT consist of smart electronic components, physically connected to normally non-networked “stand-alone” electronic or mechanical devices.

The Netherlands IoT devices are wirelessly connected to the LoRa network, which has connections to the internet.

The IoT devices are gathering data, and communicate with the LoRa network and the software applications collecting their information.

This data can be used by people, analytical software programs, or other devices monitoring the performance of a specific electronic or mechanical device.

LoRa can be defined as a wireless Wide Area Network (WAN) developed for processing low-data rate communications over long distances.

It is also known as LoRaWAN.

A LoRa network consists of IoT endpoints (devices) and the network gateway nodes receiving IoT information.

This information is sent to the network servers managing the packets of data coming into the system.

The network is functioning as the data-packet transport management ‘highway’ system, if you will.

A networked computing system is controlling the endpoints, and is collecting their data.

IoT devices/sensors monitor, acquire, and transmit the data of the device they are attached to.

This data is sent to the LoRa network, where it connects with the internet.

The IoT devices’ data is processed using various analytical and logistical software programs.

IoT provides people with detailed information and control over every device within their home, business, or other venue that has an IoT smart connection.

For example, today you can purchase IoT-equipped flower and plant pots with sensors monitoring the condition of the soil, and the plant growing in it.

This IoT pot automatically waters and provides nutrients to the plant, per individual (human) settings.

Yes, we can now program a flower pot.

A person can remotely access the IoT flower pot over the internet, and obtain online reports on the plant’s growing condition, soil moisture content, room and soil temperatures, remaining water supply and nutrient resources, and other details about flower and plants one would like to know.

In a press release from their website, KPN announced: “The KPN LoRa network is available throughout the Netherlands. This makes the Netherlands the first country in the world to have a nationwide LoRa network for Internet of Things (IoT) applications.”

I sensed their excitement, as KPN stated there has been “substantial customer interest.”

This must be true, as I learned KPN contracted 1.5 million devices to be connected to their LoRa network as IoT.

In fact, KPN seems optimistic, saying this number will “grow rapidly now that the network is available in the whole of the Netherlands.”

Venue examples of IoT using the Lora network include the Schiphol Airport, where LoRa is transporting logistical processes, such as baggage handling and airport facility services.

Also, the Utrecht Central rail station is using LoRa to monitor its rail switches.

Depth sounders at the port of Rotterdam have been recently equipped with IoT smart devices, and are connected to the Internet via the LoRa network.

One application, called Smart Public Space Management, is operating on the LoRa network for the benefit of citizens living in the Netherlands.

Advantages of this application include: enhanced street signage, improved waste management in public spaces, and intelligent street lighting.

“Last year, we identified an increasing demand for low-power network technology for Internet of Things applications. We are responding to this by choosing LoRa, so millions of devices can be connected to the internet in a cost-effective manner,” said Joost Farwerck, chief operations officer and member of the Board of Management of KPN.

The Netherlands’s KPN Dutch website is located at:

Coders: it’s time to get busy writing programs for creative IoT apps, and IoT analytical and logistical software packages.

Follow me on Twitter via my @bitsandbytes user name.

There, you will discover me pontificating about the future of IoT, and other topics.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Is it time for another CNN/YouTube debate?

by Mark Ollig 

Copyright © 2016 Mark Ollig

YouTube took center stage during the 2008 Democratic Presidential Debate July 27, 2007.
Many of us will remember watching CNN and their little countdown clock inserted in the lower right-hand corner of our television screen.
This clock was ticking down the hours, minutes, and seconds to the start of the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate broadcast.
The anticipation felt like a NASA Apollo rocket was about to lift off from launch pad 39A.
This upcoming “first ever,” and “revolutionary” citizen participation video experiment used YouTube, the fourth most daily visited website on the Internet (in 2007).
Today, YouTube is ranked second, behind Google (who owns YouTube), per Alexa, an Internet analytics company owned by Amazon.
In 2007, I needed to explain what YouTube was, since it was only two years old at the time.
“YouTube, located at: is an online video sharing website where users can upload, view, and share audio-video clips,” I wrote.
Presenting videos created by everyday citizens, who uploaded them to YouTube for use as candidate questions was noteworthy.
It’s the first time this was done.
This type of participation seemed to be of interest to many of the young people (millennials), based on the number of their submitted videos.
By creating a personalized video, folks were actively participating in the political process.
Over 3,000 people posted video questions for the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate.
Of these 3,000 videos, 39 were shown and commented on by the candidates.
According to a story on the CNN website; “Though CNN vetted [examined] the question; it was the first time that a journalist or a professional has not dictated what is asked of the candidates.”
So, was the CNN/YouTube debate a new form of electorate “video democracy?”
“Tonight is really something of an experiment,” CNN’s moderator Anderson Cooper told the audience at the start of the debate.
After the debate was over, CNN interviewed some of the people who provided YouTube video questions, and aired their reaction to the candidate’s answers.
Many of those video questions included political and social topics occurring in 2007.
There was one amusingly presented, although serious, question about global warming asked by a snowman in a stop-motion claymation video by “Billiam the Snowman.”
This video was sent in by two brothers from Minnesota.
The 2007 video question asked by Billiam the Snowman is here:
Yours truly is writing this modified column during the first week of August, with high humidity and temperatures in the upper 80s.
I hope the thought of a frozen snowman cooled you down a bit.
The complete 2008 Democratic Presidential Debate, which took place in South Carolina on July 23, 2007, can be viewed here:
The Democratic candidates participating during the debate were: Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Maurice Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama.
Hillary, Joe, and Barack sure looked a lot younger back then; of course, we all probably did.
C-Span online also has the complete July 27, 2007 Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate archived.
C-SPAN offers closed captioning, text search, and text filtering by all speakers, including the CNN moderator.
Here’s a shortened link to the C-Span video:
The concerns from 2007 being raised in the questions shown in the videos and asked by the moderator, along with the candidates answers; gives one pause to reflect upon the current state of our country and world events.
Let’s hope there are citizen video questions asked of this year’s presidential candidates during the upcoming debates.
Follow me on Twitter via my @bitsandbytes user name.
This column originally appeared July 30, 2007, and includes recent modifications by the writer (Me!). :)