Review of TED talk “How great leaders inspire action”

Inspirational leadership begins with what you believe (the why), not how or what. After listening to this podcast, I started looking at things I always felt were not quite right and have to hand it to Simon Sinek. I think he got it right. Quotable: “The goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe. … Hire people who believe what you believe. … People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

“Why are you bringing a paper map?”

My brother in-law said to me as we prepared for an 8 hour cross-Canada journey. “Why not just use your smartphone?”  I said a cheeky “You will see” but felt guilty and proceeded to explain that reality does not match expectations. That is, most rural areas are little connected… if at all. During that journey we relied exclusively on the paper maps and were without cell phone service for at least 3 hours of that journey.

The fact of the matter is, our expectation is that connectivity to the Internet is a utility. But it is not formally assigned this distinction by our governments and the corresponding policy. So the delivery of the internet, or broadband as it is more truly called, is not up to par. It’s not that we don’t have the technology, or the money, it’s that the game is not setup to win.

Here are two fun stories of rural broadband challenges that you probably never thought of from the UK (the problem is a global issue):

Boaters left high and dry in broadband rollout?

Rural broadband: Microwave radio link brings fast connection to remote village

Global average internet speed has surpassed 4Mbps

Akamai, reports that the Global average internet speed has surpassed 4Mbps, which is the threshold for the definition “Broadband”. Broadband is the term used to describe the basic level of service required to realize economic prosperity in the coming digital future. If your speed is below this you are now below the global average, not just your country average. 83.58% of people in Canada are at or above Broadband speeds.

Akamai State of the Internet maps:


Geographic Smartphone Use

In your city, how many users are iPhone, Android, Blackberry? Twitter use has revealed geographic usage patterns The statistician in me always questions this though. Maybe Blackberry & Android users are less likely to use twitter? (of my extended family, who has ~ 2 iPhones & 5 android – none of us tweet from our phones) However, it’s better than nothing. Here’s the city of Calgary:

Contrarian Views Matter – A lot

We humans have certain innate traits that often get us in trouble and they are the reason why people who approach an issue from a thoughtfully contrarian point of view are important in contributing to progress.

Abraham Maslow famously described the situation via his famous quote “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” (Maslow’s Hammer)  This essentially tells us that we tend to see the world through our own history and perspective, desperately trying to reduce all information to bits we can understand in our own frameworks and this often leaves us astray.

Along the same lines is the parable from India that discusses blind men and an elephant: Each man touches the elephant in one spot — the trunk, the tail, the belly, etc. — and comes away with a different description of the creature. Every man is both right and wrong at the same time. All of them failed to see the entire elephant, and none accepted the points of view of the others.


Why fiber (to the X)?

Much touted for increased bandwidth speeds the detractors say smaller locations such as residential housing do not need that kind of bandwidth. I think they are both wrong. The real reason to use fiber (single mode – SMF) is to prevent cable changes. SMF is the only communications technology that has no theoretical limits which effectively future proofs it and means you never have to re-trench that cable. Think of it as a storm sewer pipe that never has to be upgraded. Instead of a large expenditure to upgrade the pipe, it might cost something between 5-20% of the complete replacement cost to increase the capacity of the fiber.

Podcast Review: The Economist’s Guide To Drinking While Pregnant

For some reason health advice is black and white but the research it’s based on is anything but. Example: You’re not allowed to drink while pregnant. Turns out that most of the studies this is based on, most of the participants were on cocaine. Of the people not on crack, they were heavy drinkers – 5-6 beverages per day, every day. Turns out, it’s hard to tell if there is any effect for someone who occasionally drinks (less than 1 a day). But doctors are pre-disposed to be more cautious since they can get sued if they take a liberal approach.  This podcast speaks to Economist Emily Oster and how she used economics to approach her own pregnancy and pregnancy related health research.

802.11 wireless – install easy / performance hard

Wireless can be easy to install but getting wireless performance is not. An easy installation is convenient yes, but does it work for every application? It can but doing it the right way could be difficult and/or expensive. Often times, the cheapest & most effective answer is a wired connection.

However, the trend in easy consumer access to inexpensive 802.11 devices has made it the “duct tape” of the networking world. This logic is dangerous. Why? Wireless is an open system, unlike wires (closed system) which means that the variables affecting performance in a specific location can only be estimated. 802.11 itself, in an effort to make wireless more accessible has made many trade-offs that make it often useless for anything but the least demanding applications.

Since we can only estimate conditions, there is a standards body (ITU-R) that provides models to help with accuracy. Model updates in the last decade have made drastic changes. The P.452 model update from revision 14 to 15, for instance, impacted the model calculations less favourably by 20dB. Decibel math is a way to do logarithm base 10 math (exponential) in your head using simple addition & subtraction. For example, a 3dB difference is double, whereas 10dB difference is 10 times. So 20dB means 10×10 worse or 100 times worse than the older revision. For the engineering types, wireless propagation modelling and the different models available are discussed in this whitepaper:


Fuel Efficient Cars = Under Maintained Roads

Who knew fuel efficient cars would lead to under maintained roads? This is because taxes are collected on fuel use but we’ve gotten more miles from the same fuel – meaning road wear is double. This doesn’t even consider the fact that the taxes are not indexed to inflation. Either mileage based user fees get collected (charged by the miles you drive, instead of fuel consumed) or we accept that our roads are going to look post-apocalyptic.

A Passion for Quality

I confess, I really like stuff that works. I don’t appreciate bugs and workarounds. Computers and software are particularly bad offenders. That’s why if I can’t control component quality myself (I build my own desktop computers), I’d rather trust vertically integrated products (e.g. Microsoft Surface, Google Nexus, Apple products). Vertical integration in its purest form is where the supply chain of a company is owned by that company. From a consumer perspective that means a greater focus on quality for all components of a service. In the computer world the Open System Interconnection (OSI) model describes all the components required to function optimally for services to work well. My passion for quality also happens to be why I have found my career focus on telecom (layer 1) and telecom engineering (layer 0), especially in a rural environment. If telecom does not work, not much else does.