Tools and their uses

“Information technology”: This sounded good once. Today, we have more functions available than we can consume, ingest and digest. We have opened ourselves up to unnecessary complexity.


The biggest problem with technology is the dependency on electrical energy. Technology generates tools. These tools facilitate the execution of a task, but on the other hand, they require energy. There is no miracle. Even information technology, light and loose, which no longer seems to be technology but seems to be part of us, integrated, accepted (if we like it or not), consumes a lot of energy.

A little time ago I saw a poster with an advertisement for printers. The picture showed a woman in the supermarket with her cell phone in her hand with the following wording underneath: “When you get home, the recipe will already be printed. You can send it using eCloud.”

Is it serious?

A housewife who sends the recipe from the cell phone to the printer at home. Why does she do this? To save time? For fun? To frighten the dog that stayed at home? Or maybe she doesn’t even do this; it is just a publicist who found something she would like to do? We are surrounded by thousands of products and functions of technology, along with their appeals that they facilitate our daily lives. And this increases the amount of decisions we make and, without even realizing it, it wastes a lot of energy.

It is always possible to simplify a task […] But sometimes, with this change, other tasks become more complex.

In this example of the housewife, we have: a cell phone (an indispensable device for modern people) as the emitter, we have the printer (a large device that cost a lot of energy to be produced) as receiver and we have cloud computing (eCloud, iCloud, xCloud, etc.), a novelty of technology vocabulary. The instruction, in our case “print the recipe”, is transmitted from the cell phone to a server (computer inside a network) and from the server to a printer at home. But where is the cloud? The server is now called a cloud. This is the novelty. A pretty, light and clean word. In this case the publicist worked well!

Wolke Cloud Nuvem

„Cloud computing“, which has nothing to do with clouds, means: using third-party data-storage space, which I can access via a network, normally the internet. They are large computers that waste energy. Yes, energy. They need maintenance, and need security. They are also called „servers“.

This is the challenge for technology companies: to equip us with toys (gadgets), pastimes and ‘gain times’ to make us forget the mountains of used cell phones and batteries, spoiling the soil, computers with coolers, which waste energy, production lines that produce what we don’t need. Waste. A lot of waste! So far we talked about hardware (machinery). Here are two events that attracted my attention, involving software (code that can be executed by machines):

Computers communicate amongst themselves: There are transactions on the stock-exchange market that are done totally by computer systems, which interact, analyzing data at a very high speed and quantity and “making decisions” using algorithms (rules that must be executed in certain cases). Among many functions, like making predictions, they try to take advantage of minimum oscillations of amounts to make profits without any risk. “High Frequency Trading”! The problem is that there may be errors, networks that can be fed with incorrect data, generating a “short circuit”, as happened in May 2010. When will the next bug (programming error) bring panic to the stock-exchange market?

Another episode that attracted my attention in 2011 was „Egypt’s Internet shutdown“. The country simply shut itself down from the Internet. And that was without cutting any cable or switching off the server. The alteration of a simple protocol (in this case the BGP – Border Gateway Protocol), which defines how data is transmitted by Internet and between countries, was enough. One detail, returning to the stock-exchange incident: the government left only one server in operation, the one connecting the Egyptian stock exchange to the Internet. The stock exchanges are very important!

In fact, I would like to point out another tool in this article: the SCRUM. I came across this work method, which includes rules for the management of projects, especially for software development projects. If you want to develop a software, application or product, the SCRUM can help to structure the day-to-day of your team, between 7 and 12 people, and organize your project, but it does not guarantee success. I see the quality of SCRUM in the various rituals associated with the motivation of the team: intensive communication, teams without hierarchies, teams responsible for the targets established. If you want to know more: search for the word “SCRUM”.

Two positive aspects to conclude, related to project management. To remember that tools are important, but not that much:

  • The most important factor for the success of a project is the team, a group of people aiming to achieve goals.
  • Before anything else, you must ask yourself if the project resolves the problem in question. It is always possible to simplify a task, a Human Task, decreasing the storage space and execution time. But sometimes, with this change, other tasks become more complex.
Published in SWISSCAM Magazine, Edition 67 (pages 28,29), december 2011. Download PDF (100kB):