• cause analysis,  information technology,  lifestyle

    The CDC’s COVID-19 Test Design Failure as a Lesson for IT Pros

    David Willman, writing for the Washington Post on December 26, 2020, in an article titled: The CDC’s failed race against covid-19: A threat underestimated and a test overcomplicated:

    “We at the CDC also have the ability to do that today, but we are working on a more specific diagnostic,” Messonnier said, indicating that the agency was seeking a more sophisticated test.

    “We had a conversation with [Stephen Lindstrom] and [Julie M. Villanueva] and asked, specifically: ‘Lots of members are asking if we can drop N3 and just keep N1 and N2,’ ” recalled Kelly Wroblewski, director of infectious diseases for the professional association, based in Silver Spring, Md.

    “And their response at that point was: ‘FDA isn’t going to go for that.’ Both of them were like, it’s a non-starter.’’

    Government officials later told The Post that the FDA would have considered proposals to remove N3.

    Some CDC scientists also were questioning among themselves the need for N3.

    “Why are we trying so hard? . . . We know there’s a problem with it,” one of them recalled asking.

    Instead of dropping N3, the CDC set about trying to manufacture a new batch of reagents in hopes of eradicating possible contamination that had caused the false positives.

    What I find most interesting about this article is CDC’s insistence on keeping the N3 test as part of the testing protocol to see if a patient is COVID-19 positive or not. As I kept reading the article, I was thinking about my own blind spots and biases when working on complicated information technology solutions. Can IT’s insistence to have a complex solution, such as a PowerShell script, C# code, or a SQL stored procedure, cause a CDC-style 46 day delay in testing when a more streamlined WHO-style solution is readily available? Can technologists, like the scientists in Willman’s article, get caught up in the “we are going to solve this” tide? When we get swept up in a fast moving production issue, do we have the wherewithal to take a step back and decided that “good enough” is indeed good enough to solve the issue? Or do we take extra time to take a deep dive into the issue to develop an overly complex solution?

    As information technology professionals, we all need evaluate our unique production environments. What tools are available to us? How much time is available to diagnose the problem and identify a most probable cause? How much time will it take to test and evaluate the performance of the fix? Often times, there is no one size fits all solution. The key takeaway from this article for IT professionals is to be mindful the problem we are trying to solve and to balance “good enough” verses “perfection” when developing technology solutions.

  • 1src,  centro,  palm

    Here Comes Centro Claus

    Palm Centro Holiday Ad Campaign 2008

    With the holidays just days away, I am listening to many of my favorite classic and modern Christmas albums. As a nerd, my favorite tech holiday album, hands down, has to be Claus Remixed: Santa’s Gone Centro. Centro, as in the Palm Centro – the smaller Palm OS sidekick to the larger Treo 755p. For the youngsters in the room, or for us old geezers who may have forgotten, 2007’s Palm Centro was the iPhone 12 mini of the day.

    Palm Centro Holiday 2008 Ad Campaign

    In an attempt to convince people how cool the Centro was, in December 2008, Palm put together an over the top social media campaign. As part of that campaign, several videos were posted to Facebook and a promotional CD was released with funky holiday themed tracks. The included tracks were:

    • Christmas In Hollis – Rondo Brothers feat. Motion Man
    • Jingle Funk – Breakestra
    • The First Noel – Donavon Frankenreiter
    • Winter Wonderland – Johnny Mercer
    • Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah – Erran Baron Cohen
    • Samba Dreidel by Pacha Massive

    Of the tracks on the album, Christmas In Hollis is my favorite and I would use the first few seconds of the track in a few of the 1SCR.com Palm Powered Podcast episodes in December.

    There is not much archived online from this popular Palm ad campaign for the Centro smartphone. For those who want to put this campaign in perspective, Steve Hawley still has a short video posted to Vimeo that highlights the positive outcomes from the campaign.

    Palm Centro Unlocked GSM edition
  • gadgets,  sony

    Selling Chinese Gadgets in the United States

    While skimming through some YouTube videos, I stumbled across Ashley Carman’s video for The Verge titled The challenges Chinese gadget creators face about some of the struggles that Chinese gadget makers face when trying to sell products into western markets, specifically, the United States.

    As an American technology enthusiast, I tend to follow the products that are developed by domestic companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Twitter. Sony, a Japanese company, for me at least, does not bring up feelings of a negative view point. In fact, it has a nostalgic feel to it. There is something special about Sony hardware design that resonates with me. The 1979 Sony Walkman and the unabashedly yellow Sony Sports Walkman, and the Sony Discman D-20.

    When when I think about Chinese gadgets, I unfortunately conjure up negative feelings that Sony does not. Chiefly among these China detractors are the Chinese government itself, censorship from the Internet and the Great Firewall, and the vast amount of counterfeit goods that can be found on Amazon, eBay, and others.

    However, as Carman points out, these negative US-centric biases can create significant barriers for Chineses companies that what to expand outside their home market. And these barriers can keep new innovative products out of consumer’s hands. You should watch the piece. All of this to say, I found the video to be both informative and, more importantly, made me think about Chinese companies as individual entities to be considered on their own merits.