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Tag: Attack

It was the Roomba in the Conservatory with the Lead Pipe

by on Oct.15, 2009, under Storage

It was the Roomba in the Conservatory with the Lead Pipe

A study conducted at the University of Washington has found that home robots may be a security and privacy leak for their owners. The authors of the study point out that it is not the case where intelligent robots will throw off their shackles and attack their owners. It&aposs a situation that some robots on the market can be hacked through the home&aposs wireless network or the robot&aposs wireless connection.

One specific problem pointed out in the press release for the study was the interception of a robot&aposs video and audio streams. If an attacker could also move the robot, I can well imagine compromising photos being shot and posted on the web or the robot could "case the joint" and discover what valuables are in the house and how the home security system might be overcome.

Depending on the model and features, it would seem conceivable to have the robot actually harm a person within the home. This could be the basis for a "locked room" murder mystery plot. The robot is controlled by an external agent to kill, clean up after itself, and then return to a resting state to await the arrival of the baffled detectives.

One would hope that such studies will alert consumers to be more cautious or mindful of the electronics that will be brought into their private lives. Simple things like changing the default passwords and encrypting home wireless networks will go a long way to give the consumer more security and privacy.

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Women, Boomers, and Growing a Careforce Through Healthcare Reform

by on Oct.08, 2009, under Storage

Women, Boomers, and Growing a Careforce Through Healthcare Reform

I’m beginning to believe that the best way to achieve true and lasting healthcare reform is to just get out of the way and let Baby Boomer women revolutionize healthcare. Baby Boomers as a cohort have been change agents for redefining the family, education, and work life, so why not healthcare as well? Boomer aged women are already–and will increasingly be–the majority on the front lines of formal and informal care. I certainly don’t mean to denigrate the role of men in healthcare or to perpetuate some kind of bio-destiny argument that women are “naturally” supposed to be the caretakers in our society. But I do think our overwhelmingly male Congress would do well to better understand the role of–and listen more to–women, who will likely be the most impacted by these health reform policies.

 

A quick story. About 9 years ago, during my first attempt to get Intel to see the social need and business opportunity for innovating technologies for personal and proactive healthcare, I was struggling to make much headway. The demographic and economic numbers were startling to some of the executives I approached, and the logic of my arguments made sense to them. But they didn’t seem to “get it” in their bones that there is a fundamental need for caregiving and personal health technologies at home. In one particular strategic discussion with a key Vice President who was skeptical and blocking my request for seed funding for a personal health lab, I showed several early concepts of caregiver assistance technologies, particularly for families dealing with Alzheimer’s.

 

After my demo, he said, “It’s kind of cool, but I just don’t see why anyone would want this.” It was clear I was going to be denied funding, and before I knew it, I just blurted out: “Can you get your wife on the conference call?” The room was filled completely with men–all were engineers and executives–and they stared at me as if I had leprosy. “Seriously, call your wife, let me explain the concept, and if she doesn’t think this is compelling, then I’ll stop pushing for it.” He went along with the gag, and fortunately for me, his wife answered the call, listened to me explain the idea, and loved it. In fact, I couldn’t have paid her for better comments as she said to her husband in front of the entire room: “Wow, honey, this is the first technology I’ve ever heard you talk about from your years of work there that I actually need…I could use that now for taking care of your mother….when can I try it out?” I won several executive champions that day as they went home and discussed what had happened with their wives.

 

I don’t believe members of Congress or the technology industry are being intentionally sexist or blatantly dismissive of caregiving as “women’s work.” But we have to admit that this work–done primarily by women–is often invisible to politicians and tech executives, who by and large, are men who simply don’t have the lived experience of caregiving to feel the need for new technologies, policies, and support for caregivers. Yes, I’ve met men who are exceptions (I work with someone who is an amazing partner with his wife as they care for their special needs daughter). But I’ve met many, many more husbands who aren’t even aware of the amount of time, money, and sometimes suffering that their wives are doing to care for their aging parents.

 

So healthcare reform needs to orient to the fact that women are the primary careforce for making healthcare work smoothly across the continuum of care. In our Intel clinic studies, nurses prove to be the seemingly tireless orchestrators of the day-to-day healthcare experience for almost everyone–they are the glue that holds the healthcare system together. Most research on the topic confirms that around 94% of nurses are women–in most every part of the world–and most of those are “boomer” age or older In our home studies, women most often serve as the primary health managers, information keepers, caregivers, and advocates in the family, whether or not children are present. There are many studies and statistics that show these gendered trends to be the norm (see the Family Caregiver Alliance summary, the National Family Caregivers Association summary, and the Kaiser Family Foundation Women’s Health Policy page).

 

Congress needs to “get it” in their bones that we need a reform plan for training, sustaining, and growing a “careforce” of women (and men) that is ready to deliver 21st century care in some new ways. Healthcare reform without workforce reform–and without broader planning for developing a diverse, flexible careforce of paid professionals, new kinds of care workers, volunteers, and informal caregivers–won’t solve the cost/quality/access problems we all face. Simply put, there won’t be enough traditional nurses and doctors to meet the demands of the uninsured and the age wave using our institution-and-professional-centric system. We need something else.

 

As Clayton Christensen shows in his great book, The Innovator’s Prescription, we need, among other things, to use disruptive technologies to skillshift–that is, move skills and expertise from higher trained professionals to less trained professionals to families and patients themselves–whenever safe and effective to do so. So much attention in the healthcare reform debate has focused on clinicians while glossing over how to better educate and empower consumers. AARP’s caregiving study points out that more than 34 million Americans are providing informal (but often full time) care at this very moment–to the tally of $375B worth of care if we had to hire professionals to deliver it instead. Again, most of these are women, and few are given the support, respect, and tools to do those informal caregiving jobs. We need to be more conscious in our reform strategy about how to skill-shift many of the things that doctors and nurses do to this huge informal careforce.

 

So what are we doing in healthcare reform to support, sustain, and enhance the abilities of this often invisible, informal careforce to deliver better quality care at reduced financial and emotional costs? How can we further offload the expensive, institutional care settings and professionals by training and skill-shifting to families, friends, and patients themselves who have to become trusted partners on care coordination teams? How are we retraining medical professionals to use new technologies and build new relationships with this informal careforce to achieve better outcomes for more patients? In short, who will make up the careforce of the 21st century that anticipates the age wave and caregiving crisis we face?

 

Outside of some discussion of how to accelerate and give more incentives to students to go to medical or nursing school, especially in primary and geriatric care, there has been too little discussion of these kinds of questions by Congress and the media. President Obama is under attack this week for supposedly being callous and carefree about the unemployment crisis in America (see the NYT op ed by Bob Herbert). Healthcare reform offers enormous opportunity (and there is certainly enormous need) to put people to work. Let’s solve one problem–stimulating the job market and the economy–by solving another: reforming healthcare. Perhaps if we could spend as much time as a nation debating ideas to develop this new careforce–and as much energy figuring out how to grow new jobs for the new healthcare system–as we are giving to Jon and Kate, town hall crazies, and Letterman’s love life, we might well find a way out of this healthcare mess, stimulate the economy, and have better healthcare for all. And maybe we would be able get this done just in time for the Baby Boomers to play a transformative role once again in our society, as they demand, create, and live out new notions of what retirement, health, and being a “patient” really mean.

 

Next week I’ll offer my top six ideas/answers to the careforce questions I posed in this entry. I want to do some more homework and thinking before I put them out here. And I’d love to hear your creative ideas on this topic here on the blog, if you are up for some homework yourself. 

 

 

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Doctor Fortran in “Revert! Revert! The End (of the format) is Nigh!”

by on Jul.01, 2009, under Storage

Doctor Fortran in “Revert! Revert! The End (of the format) is Nigh!”

Recently, a customer wrote in our User Forums that he wanted to write out the values of an array, all in one line, where the number of elements was not known at compile time.  His first attempt at this was:

write (30,&apos(2x,f8.2)&apos) array

and he was dismayed to find each element written on a new line.  He had then tried this variant:

write (30,&apos(2x,f8.2)&apos,advance=&aposno&apos) array

reasoning that the "advance=&aposno&apos" would prevent the new lines.  No good – still one element per line.

Another user suggested this:

write (30,&apos(2x,(f8.2))&apos) array

but this was worse in that the first line had two spaces before the number but subsequent lines did not.

What&aposs happening here?  What is the best way to write a format that will give a specific format to a variable number of values?

Bouncing off a hard, rubber wall

The odd behavior is due to a little-understood Fortran language feature called "format reversion".  This dates back to at least Fortran 77, if not Fortran IV, and specifies what happens when you get to the end of the format but still have items to process.  A new record is started, (technically, it behaves as if a &apos/&apos edit descriptor was processed), and "format control then reverts back to the beginning of the format item terminated by the last preceding right parenthesis… If there is no such preceding right parenthesis, format control reverts to the first left parenthesis of the format specification."

If we take the original format above,

&apos(2x,f8.2)&apos

and assume that the array has three elements, this ends up being equivalent to:

&apos(2x,f8.2/2x,f8.2/2x,f8.2)&apos

because there is no preceding right parenthesis, so control reverts back to the beginning of the format and three records will be created.  Even if advance=&aposno&apos is added, we&aposll get three records because "non-advancing I/O" is about what happens at the end of the I/O statement, not the middle of it.

Now let&aposs look at the proposed fix:

&apos(2x,(f8.2))&apos

This ends up being equivalent to:

&apos(2x,f8.2/f8.2/f8.2)&apos

as the end of the (f8.2) group is the preceding right parenthesis, so we revert to the beginning of that group. By the way, if there is a repeat count on that group, then the repeat count gets reused.

What to do, what to do

In Fortran 2003, there&aposs no really good way of generally attacking this problem.  If you have an idea of an upper limit for the number of elements, you could specify a large repeat count on the group, such as:

&apos(1000(2x,f8.2))&apos

This assumes there won&apost be more than 1000 elements, but is somewhat ugly.  And no, you can&apost put a PARAMETER constant in for the 1000.  Some people will suggest that you construct a format at run-time by writing into a character variable and using a run-time format, like so:

character(80) :: fmt

write (fmt,&apos(A,I0,A)&apos) &apos(&apos,n,&apos(2x,f8.2))&apos
write (30,fmt) array

where "n" is the number of elements in the array.

Another option is to use an extension called Variable Format Expressions (VFEs).  This was created by DEC in the 1970s and it earned the enmity of Fortran compiler writers everywhere who were pestered by their customers to support it as well.  With VFEs, you can enclose an integer expression in angle brackets and the value of the expression will be used in the format.  For example:

<![CDATA[write (30, '((2x,f8.2)') array]]>

Intel Fortran, of course, given its DEC heritage, supports VFEs, but I don't recommend their use if you have other reasonable options.

Look to the future

Fortran 2008 solves this problem with a feature called the "unlimited format item" where a * can be used as a group repeat count.  Its effect is "as if its enclosed list were preceded by a very large repeat count".  For example:

'(*(2x,f8.2))'

This lets you avoid having to write a specific large number as the repeat count and makes it more obvious what is going on.  Intel Fortran does not support this yet.

The Doctor's advice, should you find yourself in this situation, is to use the large repeat count, at least until the compiler you use supports the unlimited format item.  You may find some cases where VFEs simplify your coding, so feel free to use them if there is no reasonable standard-conforming alternative.

Got suggestions for future Doctor Fortran columns?  Let me know!

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