The sky is falling and the FAA isn’t ready

S18According to a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the U.S. airspace system is incredibly vulnerable to hacking and a state-sponsored hacking effort could paralyze air traffic over North America. Very scary stuff. And as a licensed pilot for 45 years, I can tell you that it’s both true and not true, that the system is horribly hackable but that very vulnerability might be what we need to stimulate real airspace innovation.

Ask any American pilot how they feel about the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and you’ll get variations on the same negative theme. It’s not that pilots love-hate the FAA: there’s no love about it. […]

Entrepreneurism and the politics of hope

I’m an older guy with younger kids so to some extent I live vicariously through my friends, many of whom have children who are now entering the work force and some of those children can’t find jobs. We’re not in a recession, the economy is expanding, new positions are supposedly being added every day, but the sons and daughters of my friends aren’t generally getting those jobs so they are staying in school or going back to school, joining the Peace Corps., whatever. Everyone is rattled by this. Kids don’t want to move home and parents don’t want to have them move home. Student debt continues to increase. Everyone wants to get on with the lives they thought they […]

The Fed suckered IBM into a failing cloud strategy?

Ginni_RomettyEconomist David Stockman, who is probably best known for being President Reagan’s budget director back in the era of voodoo economics, has been particularly outspoken about IBM as a poster child for bad policy on the part of the U.S. Federal Reserve. How this would be isn’t immediately obvious but I think is worth exploring because IBM is far from the only company so afflicted. There’s an important effect here to be understood about corporate motivations and their consequences.

So I’ll begin with a story. Almost 40 years ago there was a study I worked on at Stanford’s Institute for Communication Research having to do with helping farmers in Kentucky be […]

Bitcoin quietly goes legit

bitcoin-logo-3dThe U.S. Marshals Service doesn’t normally make economic policy but this week they apparently did so by auctioning 30,000 Bitcoins, a crypto currency I have written about before. This auction effectively legitimizes Bitcoins as part of the world economy. Am I the only one to notice this?

My first column on this subject was a cautionary tale pointing out the two great areas of vulnerability for Bitcoin: 1) the US Government might declare Bitcoins illegal, and; 2) someone might gain control of a majority of Bitcoins in which case their value could be manipulated. While number two is still theoretically possible it becomes less likely every day. And number […]

Did the NSA help kill UWB?

2-UWB-1Revisionist history is looking back at past events in light of more recent information. What really happened? And no recent source of information has been more important when it comes to revising the history of digital communications than former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. Today I’m really curious about the impact of the NSA on the troubled history of Ultra Wide Band (UWB) communication.

I stumbled on this topic with the help of a reader who pointed me at a story and then a paper about advances in secure communication. Scientists at the University of Massachusetts came up with a method of optical communication that they could […]