Information Age Technology

Technological advances have been good for documentation but they are less so for negotiations. Like a fine wine, some negotiations require time to come to reach their prime. Negotiating, an art, should not be rushed. There is a inherently natural pace to the process and circumventing that relegates it to base bartering.

The compressed time of today’s electronically connected world takes the finesse out of negotiating. If you want to barter, succumb to nano-second technology. If you want to negotiate, make face-to-face meetings a part of your strategy and save the time-saving technology for procedural matters.

There are times technology is helpful. Make sure you use it to your advantage. Don’t succumb to the expectations of others to do so just to make them happy. You are entitled to your privacy. Use e-mail to press matters forward. Use the U.S. Mail to buy time. Use the Internet to research your opponent. Insure you don’t have too much information on the ‘net’. Don’t scan through documents on the screen. Print and read important documents. Take your time and consider each important paragraph.

Don’t give your e-mail address or fax numbers to just anyone. Provide it only to those you want to have unfettered access to you.

Souped Up Computer Cases

Looks are probably the first thing that you would look for. At the very least you will have to look at your case, so it should look good. Many cases, even really cheap ones can come in many different colors and styles. Of course looks are important, but that is an easier thing to decide than the more unseen details that can effect the design. We will look at those in details, so that apart from a good looking case, it will be functionally good too.

Construction of the case will mean the difference in how much of a beating the case can take, how sturdy it is and how easy parts are to put in. Most cases utilise aluminum of thin steel. Very cheap cases that use aluminum are often very flimsy because the aluminum is more expensive and so they keep costs down by making it thin. Under $50 don’t expect much. Might be fine if it’s never transported or knocked. More expensive cases for $150 and up are aluminum. They are constructed from tough, thick aluminum, because of this, they are heavy, which is an easy way to tell if its strong or not. Avoid aluminum, except for more expensive cases.

Fans on the case keep air flowing through the computer, pushing cooler air into it and sucking the warmer air created by the CPU and other parts out. Modern computers have become hotter as they’ve become more powerful so they need more air passing through. Unfortunately the answer of more fans makes more noise. Cases can often take up to 4 80mm fans. This will provide enough air going through. Sometimes you can use less, if not none, for underclocked or light load computers. An option that I like is 120mm fans. They move twice as much air as 80mm fans, but with the same noise, to 2 120mm fans will move as much air as 4 80mm ones, but produce half the noise. Cases need to be made to take 120mm fans or modified yourself.

Thumb screws instead of screws that need a screwdriver are a cheap extra, but can make the opening of the computer that much less hassle, requiring one less screwdriver to be used.

Another extra to be considered are mounting brackets for hard drives and optical drives. Instead of having to open the case to take out the drives, brackets are included. The brackets are attached to the drives with the normal screws and then the drives can be slotted in and taken out without tools. Useful if you take them out a lot, I don’t, so it’s not high on my priority list.

Something that effects convenience is the positioning of the USB ports and sound plugs. There are always the standard ones on the back of the computer, but the other ones on the case can be just about anywhere. Most common is on the front, but there are some that position them under a flap on the top. On the top is okay, but if your case is in a closed area with something over its top they will be inaccessible. See if the position in convenient for where you will keep your computer.

Expert System Powered by Uncertainty

Expert Systems managed goal oriented problem solving tasks including diagnosis, planning, scheduling, configuration and design. One method of knowledge representation was through “If, then…” rules. When the “If” part of a rule was satisfied, then the “Then” part of the rule was concluded. These became rule based Expert Systems. But knowledge was sometimes factual and at other times, vague. Factual knowledge had clear cause to effect relationships, where clear conclusions could be drawn from concrete rules. Pain was one symptom of a disease. If the disease always exhibited pain, then pain pointed to the disease. But vague and judgmental knowledge was called heuristic knowledge. It was more of an art. The pain symptom could not mechanically point to diseases, which occasionally exhibited pain. Uncertainty did not yield concrete answers.

The AI community tried to solve this problem by suggesting a statistical, or heuristic analysis of uncertainty. The possibilities were represented by real numbers or by sets of real-valued vectors. The vectors were evaluated by means of different “fuzzy” concepts. The components of the measurements were listed, giving the basis of the numerical values. Variations were combined, using methods for computing combination of variances. The combined uncertainty and its components were expressed in the form of “standard deviations.” Uncertainty was given a mathematical expression, which was hardly useful in the diagnosis of a disease.

The human mind did not compute mathematical relationships to assess uncertainty. The mind knew that a particular symptom pointed to a possibility, because it used intuition, a process of elimination, to instantly identify patterns. Vague information was powerfully useful to an elimination process, since they eliminated many other possibilities. If the patient lacked pain, all diseases, which always exhibited pain, could be eliminated. Diseases, which sometimes exhibited pain were retained. Further symptoms helped identification from a greatly reduced database. A selection was easier from a smaller group. Uncertainty could be powerfully useful for an elimination process.

Intuition was an algorithm, which evaluated the whole database, eliminating every context that did not fit. This algorithm has powered Expert Systems which acted speedily to recognize a disease, identify a case law or diagnose the problems of a complex machine. It was instant, holistic, and logical. If several parallel answers could be presented, as in the multiple parameters of a power plant, recognition was instant. For the mind, where millions of parameters were simultaneously presented, real time pattern recognition was practical. And elimination was the key, which could conclusively handle uncertainty, without resort to abstruse calculations.

Voice Recognition Identification Technology

The Story: Kay woke up with a start as the alarm on her clock radio blared. Reaching across her pillow, she noticed the time, 5:15, and hammered the snooze button in the hopes of grabbing another five minutes of sleep. Tired as she was, her mind began to race as she considered the day ahead. In less than four hours she would be enroute to L.A. with an aircraft full of passengers. Slowly the thought of additional sleep became less important as she considered all that she had to do before leaving Teterboro. Quietly she slipped on her robe and slippers, poured herself a cup of coffee, and slinked into the shower.

As Kay walked across the tarmac, she saw the fuel truck pulling up to her aircraft and the caterer at the gate waiting for a security clearance. It was 6:48 and already she could feel the heat lifting off of the pavement. Another scorcher she thought; at least L.A. will be cooler.

Kay greeted Jeff who was busy overseeing the fuel delivery; she then climbed onboard the G-V and gave a similar greeting to Bob who was occupied with updating paperwork. Bob finished what he was doing and briefed Kay with the day’s schedule. Minutes later Kay turned to assist the approaching caterer with the day’s order. Within the hour, the first of the passengers began to arrive. Each sat in the lobby of the FBO waiting to be boarded. At precisely 8:00 a.m., Kay left the aircraft and walked down the ramp to the FBO. She whispered to the waiting security agent who signaled to the FBO customer service representative to make the boarding announcement. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Jet Aviation Flight #001 departing TEB for LAX is now boarding. Please present your identification card and boarding pass to the security agent. Once you are cleared, you will be boarded. Thank you for flying Jet Aviation and enjoy your flight.”

Kay turned and left the FBO and walked back to the aircraft. Both pilots were onboard completing their preflight preparations. Kay stood at the bottom of the steps leading up to the aircraft waiting for the security agent to bring the passengers to the plane. She knew that with fourteen passengers the security clearance would take a bit longer than normal.

Kay considered waiting inside the cabin to keep cool, but knew that it was important that she greet the passengers at the base of the steps in case one of them needed assistance climbing up.” It must already be 85 degrees out here,” she thought as she watched the heat vapors rise off the pavement.

After what seemed like an inordinate delay — Kay’s hair was slowly losing style in the heat — Bob poked his head out of the cockpit and said, “Sorry for the delay, but we caught another one.” Startled, Kay stammered, “You mean one of the passengers failed security clearance?” Bob replied, “Not only that but he is on the FBI’s wanted list of suspected terrorists. The remaining passengers checked out okay, but we’ll be delayed until the agents finish interviewing them to see if they knew the guy.” Despite the heat, Kay shivered as she thought of the potential chain of events a terrorist onboard the aircraft might unleash.

Her fears gradually subsided when Jeff reminded her that the VOICE RECOGNITION IDENTIFICATION TECHNOLOGY (VRIT) unit in the FBO was flawless in the nearly six months of use. Over that time, twenty-six people with a criminal element were pulled, most of whom had been charged previously with petty crimes [such as tax evasion] and were either on the run or would be in violation of their parole restrictions had they left the state. Today marked the first time that a suspected terrorist was caught and as the squad car sirens wailed, Kay knew that this day would be anything but normal.

The above account is fiction, but it pre-supposes a couple of things that could occur in the intervening years that would bring about similar results, i.e., additional and more widespread terrorist attacks being a primary consideration. In addition, a change in the way we do business, i.e., selling seats to individuals instead of selling the entire flight to a company or an individual would have to occur — no longer would you have a lead passenger who could identify all of the other passengers. VRIT is now within reach and will, more than likely, become the norm of the day. Essentially, it works this way: a person speaks into a device that immediately matches the voice pattern with one in the database. The database identifies the person and when a match is made, the person is cleared [unless the database turns up a warrant for their arrest].

Naturally, in order to get onboard a flight we would require passengers to be part of that database. This could occur if VRIT becomes as mandatory as holding a social security number or a driver’s license. Foreign nationals would have to be keyed into the same system to make it work, so the potential for a worldwide Orwellian-type system would be great.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with Russ Cooper, a managing partner with COMPUTEK, a Wall Street company that has developed the latest generation of VRIT. He shared with me that both the FBI and CIA use an older generation of VRIT and his company is marketing the current one. Their customer base potential is impressive: government agencies, security firms, airports, airliners, automobile manufacturers, you name it. Wherever a positive i.d. on a person is needed, their technology might be utilized.

According to Russ, the technology is fail-safe. When I mentioned that a voice impersonator like a Richard Little type could sneak by, he claimed that VRIT would still know who he was even with the “Richard Nixon” voice. Apparently, voice patterns are distinguishable even when disguised.

We did not discuss “price” as he was not marketing his product directly to me. I can only imagine that the costs involved would be significant, but then I began to think that they could possibly be offset by lower insurance premiums if insurance companies see the benefit of “guaranteeing” passenger security.

So what role could the flight attendant play in utilizing VRIT? Perhaps in lieu of a security agent [especially in out of the way places like Bozeman, Montana], a VRIT unit would be assigned to your aircraft — much like a cardiac defibrillator monitor — and you would greet each passenger as they boarded the aircraft. Before the aircraft could be cleared for takeoff, the passengers would speak into the handheld VRIT and be given a security clearance on the spot.

Let’s return to our story and amend it with the security check being placed directly in the flight attendant’s hands:

Kay walked down the G-V’s steps carrying her mobile VRIT device and waited as the passengers exited the FBO and made their way to the aircraft. She announced, “Welcome onboard Jet Aviation flight #001 bound for Los Angeles. Please speak your name into the VRIT unit. Once you have been cleared, you may proceed up the steps. The first officer will take your boarding pass and you may be seated. If you need additional assistance, the captain will be glad to help you.”

One by one the passengers filed by, stating their name and waiting for the green clearance light to flash. As they spoke, a signal was transferred to an orbiting satellite and then beamed to VRIT headquarters in Washington, DC. As the last of the passengers approached, Kay continued to greet each one and wait for clearance. Finally, when all passengers were cleared, she climbed the steps and had both pilots speak into the VRIT unit. At last, Kay placed the unit in the First Officer’s hands in order to have him run clearance on her. Kay cleared her throat, spoke her name, but after an extended pause, the VRIT beeped loudly and signaled red. The color in Kay’s face drained away and she turned to flee. Within moments several arms reached forward to apprehend her as sirens wailed in the background.

All she could think about was running away…

Startled, Kay awoke from her dream as the snooze alarm blared away.

Chess Computers

The Good

There are a number of benefits to owning your own chess computer. For example, you can play whenever the mood strikes you from early morning to the middle of the night. You don’t have to wait around for your friend to be in the mood. You also have the ability to use tutorials that can help you to learn to play or to increase your own playing abilities with these computers. They are designed to allow for all sorts of play, so you get to do what you feel is necessary. You can also restart a game that has gone bad 😉

The Bad

There are some disadvantages of owning these computers as well. A chess player that is not human can not make the mistakes that a human can make. Therefore, the computer is a much more difficult competitor. Not only that, but they also do not prepare you for the reactions of human play. And, of course, they can be quite an investment as well. You can find various options to choose from, though, from software programs to complete programs.

The Verdict

It’s important to weigh the advantages and the disadvantages when it comes to computers like these chess computers. For many, the goal of owning a chess computer is only a dream. You should realize that they are mainly for those who are advanced players who are playing chess at the club level. Then again, to get to this point, many will need a chess coach. The chess computer can be the chess coach that you need to take your game to the highest level it can be at. If you have the funds for a chess computer and a true love of the game, making that purchase can put you one step ahead of the rest.