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One week last June, rather than running one of my usual tirades, I used this space to suggest some inventions that I thought would be of great benefit to humanity and, in turn, would allow their inventors to reap rich rewards. Much to my surprise, as far as I can tell, no one has yet begun to carry my recommendations forward. It occurred to me that some of the items I proposed back then, such as Star Trek-like medical tricorders, might be too difficult to develop given our current level of technical sophistication, so I'd like to use this week's column to suggest a few more gizmos, ones that will be a little easier to build.

First, let's look at vacuum cleaners. People have been using them for decades, but one small enhancement would significantly boost their service to humanity. Rather than running on electricity, vacuum cleaners should employ a self-contained fuel cell that is powered by dust bunnies instead of hydrogen. That will conserve electricity. In some homes (mine comes to mind), the devices might even be able to harvest enough fuel to feed excess electricity into the grid. Because many regions currently depend largely on fossil fuel-powered generators, this will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. At the same time, this innovation will eliminate the need to send all of those vacuumed dust bunnies to our already overflowing landfills.

If vacuum cleaners were more environmentally friendly, I might even change my own domestic hygiene strategy. Currently, rather than wasting electricity on vacuuming, I allow my dust bunnies to scurry under my bed where they blissfully breed like, well, bunnies. I find it cheering to know that at least something is having fun in the vicinity of my bed.

I don't want to pretend to be especially environmentally noble. The truth is that I'm only a seasonal environmentalist. In the summer, when my hometown of Toronto can get exceptionally hot and humid, I rail against global warming. In the winter, I run a hose from the nearest gas station to my car's tank and leave my vehicle running continuously in a desperate attempt to pump as much greenhouse gas as possible into the atmosphere. And Toronto is not the coldest city in Canada. If I lived in, say, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, Whitehorse, or Tuktoyaktuk, I'd buy a second and possibly a third car. As far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as too much greenhouse gas in those places during the winter.

Moving on, I think we need someone to take television technology to the next level. I'm not talking about high definition here. I can already see the dust on my coffee table. I'm not particularly interested in being able to spot it on a table on the set of my favorite sitcom, if I indeed had a favorite sitcom that hadn't ended its original run more than seven years ago. No, what I'm talking about are really smart televisions. I want a TV that can download a full program before I watch it, analyze it and, if it's crap, immediately delete it so that I wouldn't have to waste my time viewing it.

The storage required to make this smart TV work shouldn't be expensive. I figure it would only need enough memory to store the show it's currently analyzing. If the smart TV's inventor gives it artificial intelligence, it will eventually recognize that all shows are crap. Then it can turn all of its memory over to storing Aunt Ethel's recipes and donate its central processing unit to science. A word of advice to inventors: Don't program emotions into the TV's brain. Otherwise, it will commit suicide after being forced to watch all of that garbage before it ever gets to the point where it realizes that it can just ignore everything.

What else? I want a telephone that recognizes telemarketers, takes those calls itself, and keeps repeating "I'm sorry, but I'm not interested" until the callers finally believe what the synthesized voice is telling them. I find that when I do that manually it can take a half hour or more to reach that point, which is a rather extreme waste of my time.

On the flip side of the telemarketer-handling gadget, every minute I'm not using my telephone, I want it to automatically dial the customer service line of a randomly selected company. My phone should then arbitrarily choose a valid sequence of numbers in response to the inevitable "press one for..." string of menus. Once it gets a live person, it should play, in a continuous loop, a recording of an insipid voice saying, "My call is important to you; please hold the line for the next available customer." If another call comes in before the customer service representative hangs up, my phone should transfer the new call to another line, pick it up, and determine who's calling. If it's a telemarketer, my phone should automatically connect the telemarketer to the customer service representative and let the two of them waste each other's time for as long as they want.

Here's an item that should be exceptionally easy to build because it doesn't need any new technologies. All that's required is to merge an existing high-tech gadget into a very common, decidedly low-tech, age-old product. Someone should make socks with built-in GPS tracking devices. That way, we'll easily be able to find all of those single socks that we invariably lose. They could then find true happiness reunited with their sole mates, which, until now, have lived lonely existences in our sock drawers.

The only possible complication I see in the GPS sock idea is that I've become convinced that either washing machine drains or drier vents, or possibly both, are, in fact, portals to a parallel universe. It's my theory that our lost socks have been randomly falling through those portals and adding greatly to the mass of the other universe. The problem is that I don't think GPS works across universal boundaries.

This next one is specific to Canada right now, but it will, at various times, be useful throughout the free world. We're in the midst of a federal election campaign here. Choosing the best candidate is difficult because each party's platform has a number of planks. Furthermore, candidates don't always agree with their parties on 100% of the issues, although getting them to admit that can sometimes be difficult. I don't agree with all of any single party's ideas, but every party has made at least one promise that I agree with. Sorting it all out is a nightmare. The parties have all committed their platforms to paper, so I think technology should be able to help me to make a rational decision.

Here's what I have in mind. I want PC-based software that will help me make the best possible choice for me and my country. (Note to readers: In this case, PC means personal computer, not politically correct or Progressive Conservative, the latter being a perfectly good, oxymoronically named Canadian political party that officially merged itself out of existence a little over two years ago.) Because I'm such an altruistic person, I'll provide the algorithm, at no charge and under no obligation, for any of you enterprising programmers who want to code and market the software. It should work as follows:

  1. Use a multiple-choice format to discern my opinion on each salient issue in the current campaign.
  2. Have me assign a rank to each issue, on a scale of one to 100, indicating how important I think that issue is relative to all other issues.
  3. For each party, look at its written platform and, for each issue, compare my response to the party's response. Assign the issue a value of one if we agree and minus one if we disagree. If I don't have an opinion on that issue or if the party didn't make its stance clear, assign a value of zero.
  4. Multiply each value by the weighting that I assigned to each issue.
  5. Total up all of the weighted values for each party.
  6. Because I sometimes base my decision on the candidate rather than the party, repeat steps three through five for all candidates running in my riding. ("Ridings" are what we call electoral districts here in Canada. Don't ask me why. I think it has to do with the fact when the term was derived, people were less urban and used horses for recreation much more than today. Riding is probably what they would much rather have been doing than voting. But I could be wrong about that.)
  7. Add the total score for each candidate to the total score for his or her party.
  8. Look at my voting patterns in past elections and use that to determine whether I have any ingrained party allegiances. If so, adjust the scores somewhat to recognize the fact that parties usually stand for broad ideologies beyond the specifics of the issues of the day.
  9. After completing all of the above, use a random number generator to pick the party I should vote for because none of them are going to keep a single one of their promises, so there is absolutely no rational basis for decision-making.

Finally, I mentioned the SETI@home project in a past tirade. (SETI stands for Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence.) Using a grid computing model, it employs spare cycles on people's home and office computers to analyze signals taken from a radio satellite. What the SETI@home people are looking for are patterns that suggest that the signals were generated by intelligent extraterrestrial life. The project has been running for some time now and still has not come up with anything that conclusively indicates that there's intelligence up there. I think it's time to give up. The people who developed SETI@home should turn their talents to something more useful. Instead of wasting their time looking for intelligence in the heavens, they should develop technology that will search for intelligence, any intelligence whatsoever, down here on earth. The program could be made more efficient by ignoring our nations' capitals and this column.

OK, people, I've done the hard work of coming up with the ideas. Now it's up to you to make them happen.

Joel Klebanoff is a consultant, a writer, and president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc., a Toronto, Canada-based marketing communications firm. He is also the author of BYTE-ing Satire, a compilation of a year's worth of his columns. Joel has 25 years experience working in IT, first as a programmer/analyst and then as a marketer. He holds a Bachelor of Science in computer science and an MBA, both from the University of Toronto. Contact Joel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If someone invented an automated idea generator for these tirades—preferably, but not necessarily one that runs on dust bunnies and soap scum—he would also appreciate that, as long as it works only for him.

Joel Klebanoff

Joel Klebanoff is a consultant, writer, and formerly president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc., a Toronto-based marketing communications firm. He has 30 years' experience in various IT capacities and now specializes in writing articles, white papers, and case studies for IT vendors and publications across North America. Joel is also the author of BYTE-ing Satire, a compilation of a year's worth of his columns. He holds a BS in computer science and an MBA, both from the University of Toronto. Contact Joel at joel@klebanoff.com.


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    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.