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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

A NEW DIGITAL DIVIDE

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 7, 2018

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– What will be its effects?

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

I have frequently discussed the addictive powers of technology on the human personality, but something new has come to my attention which I never considered before. Whereas everyone from the Greatest Generation to the Millennials are generally aware of computers in the traditional sense, e.g.; the processing unit, screen, keyboard, mouse, etc., we now have a new generation, “Z”, which is unfamiliar with such concepts. In a recent report from Japan, the members of Generation Z, who grew up with smart phones, have no concept of basic computing, nor how to use it.

What is emerging is a new “digital divide” among the generations whereby Generation Z is losing the sense of how to use a simple keyboard and mouse. Consequently, the use of such things as spreadsheets and other programs designed around the keyboard and mouse are becoming nebulous concepts. For example, they are at a loss as to entering data or formulas into a cell in a spreadsheet.

Beyond the effective use of classic computers, you have to wonder what other effects we can expect from the excessive use of smart phones. First, we must remember the smart phone may be fine for watching videos, listening to audios, and looking at graphics and photos, but as an input device it has definite limitations. This is a situation where ergonomics has been sacrificed for the sake of miniaturization. Consequently, most of us are now content sending small text messages using a sort of shorthand. This may be fine for basic communications, but not a professional way to write letters and agreements with customers, vendors and employees. In other words, it is having an adverse effect on our ability to communicate professionally.

In the Japanese report, they claim young people have learned to write reports for school on their smart phones. This is a bit mind-boggling when you consider the small screen size. You also cannot help but wonder how much text is cut/pasted from other sources, which implies an increase in plagiarism, thereby affecting our morality. It would be nice if voice-type dictation was more effective, but it has not made significant progress over the last few decades.

Without the aid of a keyboard, I am at a loss as to how programmers will write the precise and voluminous source code for software. This might signal a slowdown in technology improvements.

Also, because of the screen size, you have to wonder about the future of books and lengthy news articles as it is unlikely people would actually read such voluminous items on smart phones.

This digital divide may also have a significant impact on education. For example, whereas the personal computer made typing classes obsolete, the smart phone may very well do the same thing to Personal Computers.

What happens though when the smart phone has run its course and a new, even smaller device, is introduced, perhaps even a chip in the brain? Will we have to simply “think” to compose a letter? If so, will we know how to effectively write for people or will it just be gibberish?

No matter what happens in the future, the days of the lengthy novel and storytelling appears to be numbered. So much for the likes of Hemingway, Poe, Clavell, Dickens, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Tolstoy, Salinger, Rowling, Kipling, Lawrence, Hardy, Twain, et al. As Margaret Mitchell would have said, they represent “A civilization…Gone with the Wind.”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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Posted in Social Issues, Society, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

THE TEN COMMON MYTHS OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 31, 2018

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– Have you heard any of these?

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Whether you are in the Information Technology field or not, you have likely heard these excuses before. They particularly arise whenever quality work is required or when organization and management control is imposed. Of course, I’m talking about the ten common myths of I.T. Ten common rationalizations people in the Information Technology world turn to whenever their authority or professionalism is challenged. They are neither new or limited to a specific geographical location. They have been around as long as the modern computer and they transcend all cultural and industrial boundaries. What’s worse, they have proven to be effective.

The following is the ten most popular myths in the field. Obviously, it is not all inclusive. It is simply the ten most commonly used. Let’s look past the facade of each of these for a moment and see what they really mean.

#1 – “OUR PROBLEMS ARE UNIQUE”

This is perhaps the most popular of the myths and is probably used to pacify the ego of I.T. Management. I discovered it several years ago when I happened to do some consulting for three separate companies from the United States, Japan and Brazil. In all three instances, the I.T. Managers insisted their problems were unique to their company. They pointed at the overwhelming pressure they operated under, uncooperative users, insensitive management, and some cultural constraints. The parallelism was incredible. Here were three separate companies, geographically separated by thousands of miles, all of which describing the same problems, yet viewing themselves as unique.

In studying this further, I discovered most companies share the same problems, such as:

– A substantial backlog of user requests (three to five years seems to be the norm).

– Poor communications internally within the I.T. staff and externally with end-users.

– Project cost overruns and slipped schedules.

– Employee dependencies to maintain and support systems.

– Hardware/Software dependencies; systems are tied too closely to a particular vendor, making upgrading difficult.

– Redundant data throughout an organization (we know of one state government who conservatively estimated NET-PAY is calculated at least 100 different ways).

– Lack of adequate documentation (thus providing job security for the staff).

– High staff turnover.

– Design inconsistencies.

– Systems personnel clash with data base personnel.

– Information Systems do not meet users needs.

And so on, and so forth. Bottom-line, I.T. organizations suffer from low productivity and poor performance.

Inevitably they end up in a “fire-fighting” mode of operation constantly patching problems. However, the problem here is the chief fire-fighters are also the principal arsonists. It is unfortunate the “fire-fighters” enjoy higher visibility than those who work quietly in a methodical manner. This is a situation where the guilty are promoted and the innocent are prosecuted.

Instead of imposing management discipline and control, I.T. managers resign themselves to a life of chaos. It is no small wonder their average tenure in office is less than three years.

#2 – “WE NEVER SEEM TO HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO DO THINGS RIGHT”

This implies “we have plenty of time to do things wrong.” There is an interesting relationship between the quality of a product and the speed by which it is developed. This phenomenon is true of any product being built.

The faster the delivery of a product, the greater the chances are for inferior quality. The slower the delivery, the greater the chances are for superior quality. Neither extreme is acceptable; an even balance must be maintained to assure one doesn’t have an adverse effect on the other.

Instead of developing a long range plan that incorporates an information strategy, management nurtures the problem by saying they need everything “yesterday.” Software vendors prey on companies like this by offering miracle products promising to accelerate development while producing quality results. Without the appropriate management environment, they deliver neither and compound problems further. These tools concentrate on efficiency, not effectiveness. Before you can streamline your operation, you must first know what you are doing.

#3 – “YOU ARE STIFLING OUR CREATIVITY”

This scapegoat is a favorite among the “techy set.” It is a defensive expression that springs up whenever discipline or change is mentioned. What is ironic is these same people do not hesitate to reorganize a user’s department. The hypocrisy is incredible. Systems people, who are supposed to be the agents of change in an organization, are the most resistant to it.

#4 – “SYSTEM DESIGN IS AN ART FORM”

Closely related to the “stifling” myth is the view of system design as an exotic art form. Most systems developers like to be viewed as free-spirited souls who do not like to be encumbered with organization, discipline and accountability. The fact is, many of these so-called “Rembrandts” are nothing more lousy house painters. They hide behind the mystique of their technology in the hopes it will conceal their poor performance.

Systems design is a proven and teachable science. This is not to suggest science lacks creativity. For example, there is considerable creativity in the sciences of architecture, engineering, music, etc. Science simply establishes the governing principals and rules to be observed in your work.

#5 – “TECHNOLOGY WILL SOLVE OUR PROBLEMS”

This is more of a train of thought as opposed to an actual expression. It is based on the belief that hardware and software will correct all of the ills of a company. The belief that technology, not management, will solve problems is just as prevalent today as it was when the computer was first introduced.

It is fascinating to watch companies throw millions of dollars at solving a problem through technology, yet balk at spending money for management, a sort of “penny-wise and pound foolish” mentality. Corporate management genuinely believes that I.T, management controls and tools can be developed inexpensively, if not free.

To some companies, technology is purchased more as the latest status symbol, as opposed to its practicality. It is purchased more to “keep up with the Jones'” than anything else. What they don’t realize is the Jones’ are in as much trouble as they are.

#6 – “A DBMS IS A PREREQUISITE FOR DATA BASE”

I remember meeting an I.T. Director from a large regional bank from the U.S. southwest who insisted his company didn’t have a data base. What he meant to say was he didn’t have a Data Base Management System. With the propagation of DBMS packages in the field, most companies now sincerely believe a DBMS is a prerequisite for data base. Although DBMS software offers tremendous leverage for file management, it is far from being a mandate for data base.

All companies have a data base, some are managed, most are not. A data base is nothing more than a collection of all of the data required to produce information. Obviously, this definition transcends the computer. It is a recognition that data is a resource which must be managed like any other resource; e.g., money, people, materials, etc.

A DBMS offers great capability when managing data stored on mass storage devices. But it must be realized that data is used throughout an entire organization, in manual and computer applications, in a variety of files (manual, tape, microfiche, disk, etc.). Data Base Administration activities typically cover only the data used by a DBMS. What is necessary is a higher level position that manages all of the data, regardless of where used or how stored. The Data Management function should behave in a manner similar to Materials Management, Financial Management, and Human Resource Management. This is the Achilles’ Heal for most I.T. organizations, the failure to recognize data as a valuable and re-usable resource.

To compound problems further, even when DBMS technology is introduced to a company, it is rarely used effectively. Instead of utilizing a DBMS to share data among applications, most apply it as an access method only.

I conservatively estimate that less than 5% of all I.T. organizations in the world have successfully implemented a managed data base environment, DBMS or not.

#7 – “THERE IS AN INFINITE AMOUNT OF DATA IN AN ORGANIZATION”

Some people would have you believe there is an inordinate number of unique data elements used in an organization and to catalog and control them is a mammoth undertaking (therefore, they believe they shouldn’t waste their time). Instead of documenting a data element and re-using this intelligence, people typically redefine data with each application. This leads to inconsistent definitions and redundant work effort. But worst of all, it makes implementing a change to a data element extremely complicated.

In reality, there is a finite number of data elements in any given organization, probably in the neighborhood of 3,000 to 5,000. And although it is no small effort to document the data, it is a wise investment in the future. Once it is defined, a data element can be re-used in multiple applications, which leads to a shared data base environment. Capturing this intelligence must evolve over time with each application, it cannot be captured over night.

#8 – “OUR COMPANY RUNS ON DATA”

This is one of the most naive statements in the business, one rooted in ignorance. The person using this expression obviously doesn’t grasp the inherent differences between data and information. They are not synonymous. The differences are simply too numerous to list here but essentially Data by itself is meaningless; it is the representation of a fact or an event. It is the raw material by which information is produced. Contrary to this, Information is the intelligence or insight gained from processing data to support specific business functions.

A company runs on information, not data. In fact, information is the most important asset a company has. All actions and decisions are predicated on information. Organizations progress when the impact of good actions and decisions outweighs the impact of bad actions and decisions. Information gives us the means to make these actions and decisions.

Those who do not understand the differences between information and data are probably the same people who do not understand the differences between an information system and computer software.

#9 – “USERS OWN THE DATA”

This is a typical attitude found in companies who do not understand the concept of managing data as a resource. In this situation, data is jealously guarded by each user. As a consequence, redundant files and applications are the norm. The sooner you get past this stage, the better off your organization will be.

Does the Controller “own” the money? Does the Human Resources Manager “own” the employees? Does the Materials Manager “own” the parts? Of course not; they simply administer the resource. A comparable position to manage data resources must also be created.

#10 – “USERS DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY WANT”

Translation: “I don’t know what I’m doing so I’ll just keep hacking away at the problem.” This type of comment is a sign the person is not properly trained in Systems Analysis. Users didn’t get their job by default; they must know a little bit about their end of the business, otherwise they are not going to have it for long. The problem typically stems from the analyst’s inability to define business problems, specify information requirements and to effectively communicate with the user. Instead of asking how the user wants to view their screen, try to understand their problem first. An elegant solution to the wrong problem solves nothing. Only when the Systems Analyst can walk in the moccasins of the user, does the analyst have the right to build a system for the user.

IN CONCLUSION…

You would think after forty years of promoting these myths, we could invent some new ones that are a little more imaginative. The fact they have survived this long is indicative that management is not facing up to their problems and are still baffled by technical gobbledygook.

“Beware of your fire-fighters, they may be your chief arsonists.” – Bryce’s Law

First published: June 02, 2006

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Software, Systems, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

HELLO? IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 24, 2018

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– Human contact deteriorates with the proliferation of technology.

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Every time we introduce new technology to business, we see it as a way to accelerate sales, improve customer service, and lower costs. I wonder if this truly happens or are we only training the human spirit to accept a new way of operating. I find today’s technology very dehumanizing and is causing us to lose the common touch. It seems all of it is designed not necessarily to improve communications, but to avoid human contact.

We started seeing signs of this years ago when voice mail was introduced. Instead of someone talking to a client and taking a message, it was stored on a machine and conveniently forgotten, much to the chagrin of the frustrated customer. This has only gotten worse over the years, and “voice mail jail” is now a natural part of our way of life. We have acclimated. Even though it was claimed to improve customer service, it has only made it worse.

There are, of course, many other examples we are all familiar with now:

Banks and financial institutions want you to communicate through their web page, not with a teller. They also want you to process all of your transactions by computer, so they do not have to be burdened by paper any longer, such as printed checks, deposit slips, and mailing monthly statements.

The processing of travel tickets and hotel reservations is now left to the individual, not a travel agency, and frankly, it is not as easy to navigate as they would have us believe. After all, they are all produced by programmers who are more in tune with technology than the human being.

Newspapers and magazines will soon be a thing of the past as there is a push to transmit news and information exclusively over the Internet, not in paper form. Mark my words, there will come a time when someone will make a posting on social media saying, “Does anyone remember what this was?” (showing a picture of a newspaper).

Finding a job is now void of human contact. Even if you go to a store and ask for work, they point you to a small kiosk where you can post your application on-line. They frankly do not want to be bothered by physically meeting a person in order to size him/her up.

Projects are now managed by analyzing numbers, not by human contact. Studying numbers is important as it acts like the speedometer and odometer to an automobile, but they are certainly not a substitute for driving.

This to me is all rather sad as it means we have lost the common touch. In a way, it reminds me of a story told by the late Les Matthies, the legendary “Dean of Systems,” who told me the story of a little old lady who received an invoice from a company stating she owed them $0.00. Naturally, she assumed this way a mistake and discarded the bill. Next month, she received another invoice from the company stating, “Second Notice! Our records show you have not yet made payment in the amount of $0.00.” Again, she thought it was inconsequential and destroyed the bill. Another month passed before she received the next letter from the company, “THIRD NOTICE! Our records indicate you have not yet paid your bill of $0.00. If you do not make restitution, we will have no other alternative than to turn it over to our collection agency for handling.” This strongly worded letter disturbed the lady as she didn’t want to get into any trouble. Wanting to solve the problem, she decided to send a check to the company in the amount of $0.00. “There, that should solve the problem,” she said triumphantly. Unfortunately, another letter came from the company one month later stating, “Thank you for your payment of $0.00. Unfortunately, you forgot to pay the late fee of $0.00. Please remit promptly. Thank you.”

This story seems to sum up our feeling on technology in our lives today. Instead, of reaching out to people and talking with them, we prefer to go on autopilot and avoid human contact altogether.

It has long been a Bryce’s Law that, “As the use of technology increases, social skills decreases.” By avoiding human contact we compound the problem of interacting with others. Progress has never been a bargain; you have to pay for it. We may have invented some new and imaginative ways to communicate and access data, but the price is the loss of common sense and being able to work effectively with people.

Technology may improve efficiency in some areas, but may cause crippling problems for those whom it was intended to support, be it the prospect, the customer, the vendor, or the employee; you know, the human-being.

Keep the Faith!

P.S., Be sure to see my video, “The PRIDE Renewal Tour,” on YouTube.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A QUARTER-LIFE CRISIS?

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 20, 2018

BRYCE ON MILLENNIALS

– Another indication of our changing times.

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It used to be, you might experience a mid-life crisis in your late 30’s, as you approached the mythic age 40 milestone. This would result in erratic behavior, and cause people to change their lives personally and professionally, possibly even resulting in divorce. However, according to a new report from the United Kingdom, this crisis appears to have moved up in years and is now plaguing our Millennials.

Although the study was aimed at Britain, their conclusions are likely applicable to all Millennials, including those in the United States. The report was produced by First Direct, an on-line banking service in the UK, to study, among other things, Millennial financial habits. To do so, they teamed up with Dr. Oliver Robinson, Senior Lecturer for Psychology at the University of Greenwich.

Remarkably, 56% of 25-35 year-olds in the study claimed they were experiencing a quarter-life crisis which left them feeling “stressed,” “overwhelmed,” and “struggling to cope,” the same type of anxieties as people experiencing a mid-life crisis.

Top causes behind Millennials having a crisis episode in the last 12 months:

Causes by Age Group 25-29 30-35
Financial difficulties 59.89% 47.63%
Your living situation 37.91% 34.41%
Working in a challenging job 30.40% 26.18%
Lack of romantic relationship 25.27% 27.93%
Trying to find a job 25.82% 20.45%
Being in a challenging romantic relationship 23.63% 26.06%
Trying to get on the property ladder 21.61% 9.48%

Source: FirstDirect

Notice the differences between the two age groups. The figures for 30-35 age group suggests more stability than the younger group, more confidence, and maturity.

First Direct produced a report describing these problems and how to address them, “How to turn your Quarter-Life Crisis into a Quarter-Life Catalyst,” which is available for free at their web site. In it, they explain how to use this crisis to spark change in your life. This is a good read, not just for Millennials, but for their parents as well.

Personally, what I find interesting about the report, it hints at a stunting of the maturation process of Millennials due to declining socialization skills. To me, this is likely caused by our growing addiction to technology, where young people now prefer texting as opposed to verbal communications. This is enforced by the report’s encouragement for young people to network socially, something that has been declining in recent years.

Some will make light of the concept of “quarter-life” crisis. I do not. I interpret it as another indication of our changing world, a decline in our culture, and the dangers of technology.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Life, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

STUNTING THE MALE MATURATION PROCESS

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 19, 2017

BRYCE ON LIFE

– Is it being driven by technology?

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I have described the adverse effects of technology on numerous occasions, such as its addictive powers and effect on the human brain. However, something recently occurred which causes me to believe it also affects the maturation process, most notably in males.

I recently visited a hospital for some tests (nothing serious, just routine). While sitting in a waiting room, I happened to meet three black ladies who happened to be talking about football. Their personas and banter reminded me of “Diamond and Silk” of Trump fame, who all seemed to be of one mind and possessed an acute case of common sense.

I happened to join their conversation and we discussed everything from high school football, to college, and the NFL. I found their candor refreshing. As Floridians, they were well versed in college football in our state, including Miami’s recent loss to Clemson. We discussed the pros and cons of the college playoffs and who we thought would win the national championship, but they were also keenly aware of the need for effective coaching, both on and off the field. One of them made the observation that college players were often supervised by the coaching staff and disciplined accordingly, but in the pros there were no mentors or supervisors to keep these young men in check, which explains why it is easy for them to get into trouble. The other ladies agreed.

I happened to mention my recent essay, “Understanding the NFL’s Problems,” whereby I noted the players unpatriotic conduct and how they are prone to get into trouble. They agreed with my observations and were frustrated the players were acting immaturely.

Afterwards, I thought about their comments carefully and considered why this phenomenon with young men is occurring. We always knew women tended to mature faster than men, but it appears men are becoming slower in the maturation process. For example, studies show they are less inclined to marry and remain at home longer as opposed to just a couple of decades ago. Men at this age also have trouble managing their money. “Sports Illustrated” performed an analysis of spending habits of NFL players and found 78% of them are bankrupt, or nearly so, just two years after their athletic careers are over. As they break into the league, most go on an insatiable spending spree and develop financial habits which haunts them later on.

To top it off, it appears men are more inclined to become addicted to personal technology than women, not just via computers and phones, but through game consoles as well. This then begs the question, “Does technology stunt the male maturation process?”

Although there is considerable evidence to indicate it does, there is no concrete proof. However, years ago, when a man completed college or a stint in the military, it was assumed they were mature enough to leave home and lead a productive life independently. However, business managers today are spending more time with young people mentoring them and performing what I call “Parenting Management.” In other words, teaching them what their parents failed to do by performing the role of guidance counselor.

All of this explains why the ladies I talked to regarding football are right, the players need to be supervised to keep them out of trouble. Unfortunately, the young men are not mature enough to make proper decisions for themselves. By failing to offer them guidance, morality suffers, not just by the players, but by the younger people who want to emulate them. This is a major failure by the NFL which needs to be addressed.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  WHAT IS BUSINESS? – Sounds like an innocent question, but do we have a consensus understanding?

LAST TIME:  WHERE DOES YOUR TIME GO?  – How it adds up.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Life, Social Issues, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

ROBO CALL HEADACHES

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 26, 2017

BRYCE ON LIFE

– Are they really necessary?

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

It seems I do not receive too many telephone calls from humans anymore. Rather, most are from computers (aka, “Robo Calls”) either soliciting something or informing me of the schedule of a maintenance worker. Like a lot of you, I am not immune to the absurd spam calls. One of my favorites is, “Stop what you’re doing and listen carefully…” Yea, like I’m going to drop everything and listen to some dolt trying to sell me something. I can usually hang-up on such calls within one second.

Health insurance companies use robo calls, as do travel agencies. Many companies just want to get you on the line so they can transfer you to someone in Tibet who reads a script to sell you something. I take pleasure in hanging up just as the person is getting on the line.

During political seasons, it is not uncommon to be bombarded by robo calls from various campaigns. My friends complain about it, but rarely do I get any. Maybe it’s because I’ve told them all to go where the sun doesn’t shine so many times, I’ve been blackballed by both Democrats and Republicans alike. Quite often, these political calls are soliciting donations for campaigns. To my way of thinking, they wouldn’t need more money if they simply stopped using this obnoxious form of communications.

Service companies like to use robo calls, such as for deliveries or to keep you abreast of when their people are going to be working at your home or office. For example, my lawn service, which applies fertilizer and pest control, dutifully calls me early in the week to let me know when an appointment is made. I then receive another reminder the day before. Interestingly, there is nothing for me to do or respond to, which makes me wonder why they don’t either send an e-mail or text message instead. Maybe they believe we need to be reassured by the soothing voice of a recorded message. Frankly, I find it to be a colossal waste of my time.

Following one of Florida’s legendary storms which knocked out power and cable, we naturally had trouble contacting both companies. We had to traverse voice mail jail and wait in queue a long time to talk to a representative who would only say their people were “assessing and evaluating” damage as opposed to fixing the outage. I became so frustrated with my cable operator I decided to switch companies again. As an aside, it seems I have to do this every two or three years.

My latest cable operator scheduled an appointment to install the service. From then on, robo calls took over. On the morning of the day when the technician was to arrive, I received my first call…

“This is Tampa Cable (fictitious company) calling to remind you that one of our technicians is scheduled to be at your home at (address) at …2 to 4pm… today. It will be necessary for someone with a photo ID to be present for work to be performed. We estimate this work should take no more than …1… hour.”

Okay, fine, I get the idea. However, at 1:00pm I received robo call number two:

“This is Tampa Cable calling to remind you that one of our technicians is scheduled to be at your home at (address) at …2 to 4pm… today. It will be necessary for someone with a photo ID to be present for work to be performed. We estimate this work should take no more than …1… hour.”

It didn’t end there though. My third and last call said:

“This is Tampa Cable calling to let you know your technician is on his way to your house at (address) and will be there in less than 30 minutes.”

Now they had crossed over the line of obnoxiousness. I realize they are trying to keep the customer informed and their technicians on time, but it occurred to me what would happen if something went wrong along the way thereby causing a delay. Maybe I would get a robo call like this:

“This is Tampa Cable calling to let you know your technician has been delayed. He ate a burrito supreme at the Clearwater Taco Shack at …1236 US-19… and has had to make a stop at a gas station at …1457 US-19… and will be delayed …15… minutes. We thank you for your patience in this matter.”

Frankly, I don’t need too many reminders. Just make the appointment and keep it. Simple, right?

The one sad thing about all this, robo calls are normally more articulate and understandable than the average customer service rep.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  WHY WE LISTEN TO RUSH & COMPANY – Maybe because they are “right”?

LAST TIME:  EASTER ISLAND STATUES  – “If the mind really is the finest computer, then there are a lot of people out there who need to be rebooted.” – Bryce’s Law

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Communications, Life, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

IS SOFTWARE HARD?

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 20, 2017

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– “Systems are logical, programming is physical” – Bryce’s Law

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

For something that is supposed to be “soft”, computer software exhibits some pretty “hard” characteristics. The original premise behind the COBOL programming language was to devise a language that could be easily ported to several computers. This never truly happened due to computer manufacturers who tweaked the language to suit their particular needs. What ran on an IBM machine, for example, didn’t necessarily run the same on Honeywell, UNIVAC, or the rest of the BUNCH. Consequently, software developers had to maintain different versions of source code to suit the particular needs of the various computer compilers. This plagued all third generation languages until Sun introduced JAVA in the 1990’s. The JAVA premise that a programmer should “write once, run everywhere” was the right idea and the language began to gain momentum, until it ran into Microsoft who didn’t want to turn the operating system into an inconsequential afterthought. JAVA lives on, but not to the extent it should have, and developers are back to managing separate versions of source code.

The point is, software does in fact exhibit some very “hard” characteristics as it is married to the host computer configuration which doesn’t make it very portable. As mentioned, this creates headaches for those of us, particularly commercial software vendors, in terms of maintaining consistency in the different versions of our products.

What to do?

Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s our company was faced with the dilemma of managing a single product on over a dozen different computer platforms. We quickly came to the realization we would go stark raving mad managing multiple versions of source code and came to the conclusion we had better come up with a solution pretty quick. Because of our experience in converting software, we became well versed in the nuances of the various compilers and devised a Repository (we called it a “filter program” at the time) which maintained the rules of the various compilers. We were also very disciplined in writing code to specific standards and embedded certain switches in the base source code. When we were ready to produce a new release of our product, we would feed the base code into our “filter program” which would then create the different versions of the source code ready for compilation. This saved us an incredible amount of time and brought consistency to all of the versions of the product. In other words, our programming staff worked with only one set of programming code (not multiple variations). The “filter program” then analyzed it and created the necessary permeation for a targeted platform. As compilers changed, we would update the “filter program” accordingly.

We also learned to maintain print maps, screen panels, messages and help text separate from the source code, which greatly enhanced our ability to create a new version of the product to suit a foreign language and culture; see “Creating Universal Systems.”

Let us take it a step further, for years we have touted there are logical and physical dimensions to Information Systems. We look upon Systems and Sub-Systems (business processes) as logical constructs, and Procedures and Programs as physical constructs. Further, data components such as inputs, outputs, files, records and data elements can be specified logically and implemented physically many different ways. Let me give you an example; back in the 1980’s one of our customers (a large Fortune 500 electronic conglomerate) bought into our logical/physical concept and decided to put it to the test. Working from their headquarters, they designed a complete Payroll System which they wanted to implement as the corporate standard across all of their divisions and subsidiaries. They completed the system with a recommended programming solution they wrote themselves (no packages were used) which I believe was an IBM MVS solution using COBOL. However, they recognized this implementation wouldn’t work across the board in the company. Consequently, they gave the system specifications to all of their divisions who would then program it themselves in-house. The project turned out to be a major success and the company ended up with multiple implementations of the same system under IBM MVS, VM, Honeywell GCOS, UNIVAC Exec, HP MPE, DEC VAX/VMS, and Prime; all working harmoniously together. Other customers experienced similar successes, particularly in Japan.

All of this drives home the point that systems are logical in nature, and that programming is physical. If systems are designed properly, there is no reason they shouldn’t behave identically on whatever computer platform you come up with. Better yet, it allows us to easily migrate our systems from one configuration to another. Uniformity and consistency in execution; and portability to boot. Imagine that.

First published: January 24, 2005

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  FUN WITH HAIR BLOWERS – How to kill a few birds with one stone.

LAST TIME:  LESSONS LEARNED FROM IRMA  – A lot of the problems were our own doing.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Software, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

ARE I.T. WORKERS BLUE COLLAR?

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 11, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Good question. Do programmers act like professionals?

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“Are I.T. Workers Blue Collar?” Interesting question. I was recently asked this by some executives who were concerned with improving the productivity of their I.T. departments. I asked them to explain why they thought this way. They contended their I.T. people (e.g., analysts and programmers) exhibit a lot of blue collar characteristics, e.g., repetition in types of work performed, they do not dress or act like professionals, and regularly punch in and out of work with little interest in going above and beyond the call of duty.

I countered there were two other aspects to consider: first, blue collar workers tend to perform manual labor, and; second, they are nonexempt workers who are paid an hourly wage. Also, they tended to be less educated than white collar workers.

They told me I was being naive; that blue collar workers can perform technical tasks as well as manual tasks, such as those found in manufacturing and assembly; and although they are classified as exempt workers paid a salary, they tend to behave like hourly workers instead. Further, there are plenty of blue collar workers who were just as educated, if not more so, than a lot of the programmers and analysts on their staffs. One executive even went so far as to tell me about a couple of craftsman machinists he had with MBA degrees.

Frankly, I had a hard time refuting their arguments. This is actually an old concept, one which I haven’t heard in quite some time, back to the 1980’s when there was talk of unionizing programmers. Nonetheless, it should cause us to pause and think how I.T. people are regarded in the board room. To me, it suggests a credibility gap between management and I.T. and helps explain why a lot of jobs are being outsourced.

In recent years I have met a lot of people who have abandoned corporate I.T. shops and have opted to become consultants instead. Its not that they didn’t like their companies, they simply became disenchanted with how I.T. departments were being run, read the writing on the wall, and figured it was time to bail out before they were outsourced. So who is at fault here, management or I.T.? If management truly perceives I.T. workers as blue collar, than there will be a great temptation to give the work to shops overseas at greatly reduced costs.

There are those in the I.T. field who believe unionization is the route to take. As far as I’m concerned, this would be the kiss of death to corporate I.T. shops as executives would rather outsource than be held hostage to a union.

Instead, I believe I.T. workers should do some soul searching and ask themselves how they can differentiate themselves from their foreign counterparts. Technical knowledge alone will not do it any longer. Outsourcers have already demonstrated their technical skills are on a par with ours. No, the answer is they must demonstrate how the I.T. department adds more value to the company than an outsider can. This means they have to become more serious about their work and produce better I.T. solutions more quickly, correctly, and less expensively. Anyone can apply quick and dirty Band-Aid solutions. What is needed is a higher caliber of professionalism and improved skills in management. The I.T. workers have to work both harder and smarter. In other words, job assignments have to be performed in a more professional and craftsman-like manner (methodically with a quality consciousness). This requires a more disciplined, organized, and professional attitude which is the exception as opposed to the rule in a lot of I.T. shops today.

If I.T. can demonstrate they behave more like white collar professionals, executives will become dependent on them and will be less likely to outsource their jobs. Ideally, you want to hear executives say, “I can’t live without these guys (the I.T. department).” But if executives perceive you, the I.T. worker, as nothing more than a blue collar worker, than your story is told.

Think I’m kidding? Consider this, I know of a large manufacturing company in the U.S. Midwest who had a pressing I.T. project not long ago. Knowing he was short on staff, the CIO appealed to the executive board for additional funding for more personnel. Basically, the board gave the CIO carte blanche to hire as many people he wanted at generous wages, with whatever job title the workers wanted. But the CIO was explicitly told, “When the project is over, fire them.” Do you think these executives had a high regard for I.T. people?

So, are I.T. workers “Blue Collar”? Look in the mirror and you tell me.

“How we look and act speaks volumes.”
– Bryce’s Law

First published: June 4, 2007

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  EMPTY NESTS – What happens when your children finally leave home.

LAST TIME:  BEWARE OF BAITING  – Do not allow yourself to be baited in debate.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Management, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

IS PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY A DRUG?

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 21, 2017

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– If it behaves like a drug, and possesses the same characteristics of a drug, then it may very well be a…

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As many of you know, I have discussed the adverse effects of technology on numerous occasions. Specifically, I am talking about such things as mobile phones, video games, tablets and personal computers, those devices we embrace in the daily affairs of our lives. I have argued there is no documented proof it improves productivity (at least not with the U.S. Department of Labor), and that it affects our socialization skills particularly in the area on interpersonal relations. Such technology may allow us to express our creativity faster, to quickly access information, to communicate with anyone on the planet and share such things as notes and photos, but there is nothing to substantiate it enhances our ability to think. If anything, it diminishes the use of the brain. For example, many people can no longer perform basic math without the assistance of an automated calculator; We cannot communicate except by constant text messaging; We no longer believe we can compose letters or essays without a word processor, etc. It should come as no small wonder to watch an average office come to a complete standstill when the power is cutoff. Studies have also shown that extensive use of such devices actually lowers IQ. As Hicks points out in his book, “The Digital Pandemic,” technology has the ability to alter our minds; that it can assume the same robotic mannerisms as the technology we use. This means we are subliminally adjusting our lifestyles to adapt to technology.

We tend to think of drugs as chemicals or substances that are either used for medication or as a stimulant or depressant affecting the central nervous system, thereby causing changes in behavior. Under this paradigm, drugs are absorbed into the bloodstream orally, injected or smoked. In contrast, personal technology is absorbed through our senses particularly sight, sound and touch which, in turn, stimulates and arouses the brain, and provides a convenient venue for escapism. If used in moderation, there is little problem, but when used on a prolonged basis it leads to addiction and can alter moods, perceptions, and thinking patterns which leads to both positive and negative side affects. One obvious positive side effect would be a sense of accomplishment as in winning a game or successfully completing a task. The negative effect though comes from extended use whereby people become dependent on their technology to perform a variety of mental functions, such as math and writing. Further, we become impatient for results; as we grow accustomed to instant information, instant cash, instant photos, instant food, instant everything, and as a result, we become less tolerant of any form of delay which increases stress levels and leads to anger.

I contend our extended use of technology leads to an increase in violent behavior. This is a proposition that is hard to prove as it is difficult to locate reliable data tying technology to violent behavior. Also, such things as road rage, sports rage, work rage, bullying, anger management, animal cruelty are relatively new phenomenons and weren’t very prevalent just a few short decades ago. Consequently, finding reliable data over an extended period of time is very limited. The closest thing I could find was data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (its “Arrest Data Analysis Tool”) which revealed an increase in assault, sexual abuse, and threatening communications over the last ten years (the period when the use of personal technology soared). However, there is no direct connection to technology being the cause. Because there is no hard data, my premise will remain a theory until sufficient data can be assembled tying the two together.

In terms of addiction, technology exhibits the same type of powers as chemical dependency or, at the very least, gambling which also does not require drugs in the usual sense. Actually, the parallel between technology and gambling addiction is quite remarkable, and can be just as devastating. One interesting report that attests to the power of technology addiction is “The World Unplugged,” a global media study led by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (ICMPA), University of Maryland. As part of their conclusions, the report comments on how students in the study handled the lack of media (meaning electronic devices):

“Going without media during ‘The World Unplugged’ study made students more cognizant of the presence of media – both media’s benefits and their limitations. And perhaps what students became most cognizant of was their absolute inability to direct their lives without media.

The depths of the ‘addiction’ that students reported prompted some to confess that they had learned that they needed to curb their media habits. Most students doubted they would have much success, but they acknowledged that their reliance on media was to some degree self-imposed AND actually inhibited their ability to manage their lives as fully as they hoped – to make proactive rather than reactive choices about work and play.”

Like anything, if used in moderation, technology holds no ill-effects. However, we have turned it into an 24/7 extension of our lives and can no longer imagine living without these devices. Because it offers instant gratification, it has become a new form of pacifier which we scream for when it is taken away from us.

The “pushers” of this new drug, of course, are the entertainment and electronic industries who keep refining their technology and content, making it even more enticing with each new release. They truly understand the addictiveness of this drug and how to use it for their benefit, as do politicians.

Let me leave you with one last thought; Life doesn’t emulate art, it emulates technology. Think about it, are we becoming more robotic in our thinking? Is our imagination and creativity limited by our technology? Can we live 24 hours without such products? The subjects in “The World Unplugged” study had trouble living without them and exhibited genuine signs of withdrawal, and if you are honest with yourself, you’re hooked too. So, is technology an extension of us, or have we become an extension of our own technology? Either answer is unsettling.

It may not be a chemical or powder, but make no mistake, personal technology is just as addictive and can alter the human spirit like any other drug.

First published: December 19, 2011

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE – What we can learn from Lincoln’s bid for election.

LAST TIME:  TAKE HIM AWAY FOR REGROOVING  – What happens when you find yourself out of step with the times.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

THE ABSENCE OF ELECTRONICS

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 23, 2017

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– “Imagine no cell phones, it’s easy if you try, no PC’s or TV’s, above us, only sky.”

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

While I was driving home one night, I was stopped at a traffic light and began to imagine what life would be like without the many electronic conveniences we enjoy. Hmm…

As a Floridian, we are accustomed to losing power due to tropical storms and hurricanes, which tends to annoy us by living without such things as air conditioning and television, as well as the loss of food maintained in the refrigerator. Schools close in such situations and are often converted to shelters. Other than this, life basically goes on as usual, but what if it turned into a permanent condition? What if some sort of electronic virus infiltrated all of our computers, phones, and other electronic gadgetry, and somehow shut them all done?

Our first concern would be whether our military could continue to defend our country effectively, that our hospitals could properly function, and that we could feed the populace adequately. It would be like the premise used in the movie, “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” except it would be for an extended period of time. Assuming we could accommodate these situations though, what would life be like without electronics?

For starters, you might think that automobile traffic would snarl up as all of our traffic lights would be out of commission. Inevitably, traffic cops would have to be dispatched to key intersections and we would actually get some intelligent traffic control in place (better than the preprogrammed lights). For minor intersections, we would have to start practicing basic driving courtesy again and, God forbid, cooperate with and respect other drivers. I suspect traffic accidents and fatalities would actually go down.

So far, so good.

If televisions and computers were knocked out, people would be forced to read, write and speak again. Kids would have to come out of their caves and into the sunlight, pick up a ball and get a little exercise and socialize. We would all still be craving some form of entertainment and, because of this, you might see more picnics, concerts in the park, and other civic functions. Attendance at school functions, such as the PTA and SAC, would be stimulated, and parents would become actively involved in the welfare of their children again. Participation in other nonprofit groups would undoubtedly flourish as well. Basically, our socialization skills would improve and we would become more conscious of our civic duties.

As mentioned, food would be a problem; we would have to learn to shop more frequently and prepare meals differently, and we would have to learn the lost art of baking and cooking. No doubt, we would miss all of those highly nutritious microwave meals and snacks. “What, no more Hot Pockets??!”

We would become healthier as we would have more time for exercise and play games like tennis, golf, softball, or whatever without Wii. This should cause health insurance rates to go down.

Since computers would be out of commission, the unemployment rate would go down because we would need more clerical people for such things as filing, typing, preparing graphics, processing orders, etc.

Our personal debt would probably go away as we would be unable to process credit cards and, as such, we would be wiser in the use of our cash.

Our sex lives would improve as evidenced by the power outages of New York. The only downside is it would probably result in a population explosion if we don’t properly promote birth control.

Due to a change in our diet and having to be forced to improve our socialization skills, maybe we can finally get people off of drugs like Prozac, Xanax, and Valium.

And finally, the cost of living would go down as we are no longer having to pay for all of the electronic luxuries we are accustomed to.

All of this illustrates our addiction to electronics and their manipulative powers. Life would be cheaper, more healthy, and perhaps more industrious, but it would certainly not be as fast-paced or complicated than what we are familiar with, but then again, would this be a problem?

Maybe the rallying cry would be a variation of John Lennon’s song, “Imagine” –

“Imagine no cell phones, it’s easy if you try, no PC’s or TV’s, above us, only sky.
Imagine all the people, living life in peace.”

Yes sir, the best thing that could happen to this country is to have a virus that knocked out our technology…

Then the light changed, I snapped out of it, and drove home.

Also published in The Huffington Post.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  IS WAR INEVITABLE? – Will the Union survive?

LAST TIME:  BEWARE OF THE WHIZ KIDS  – Why you should keep a tight reign on your young Mustangs.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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