The Mil & Aero Blog
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
  Battlefield tours: a new twist on the golf game to build business relationships

Posted by John Keller

GETTYSBURG, Pa., 29 Sept. 2010. The golf game is a tried-and-true way for business associates to get to know one another and strengthen their relationships. Few doubt that a lot of business is conducted on the golf course.

Still, I think we've discovered a way here at Military & Aerospace Electronics to put a new spin on the outdoor business meeting as an alternative to the venerable day on the links -- battlefield tours.

I spent the day yesterday with Adam Vasquez, director of global e-business and marketing at Tyco Electronics in Harrisburg, Pa., and his wife, Susan, tramping over fields and trails at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pa., touring and re-living the struggles of soldiers during the Battle of Gettysburg in well-known places like Cemetery Ridge, Culp's Hill, The Peach Orchard, Devil's Den, and Little Roundtop.

I'm no golfer, myself, so I'm not really in a position to say, but I think this battlefield tour approach as an alternative to the traditional golf game has real potential. Adam and I discovered we have many interests -- and much historical knowledge -- in common as we trod the hills and valleys of the Gettysburg battlefield, trading stories of what we know of this monumental event, and of our various trips there in the past.

It was a day well spent. We got to know one another on a more personable level than we could on a trade show floor, discovered common interests, and even conducted a little business. I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful tradition.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
  Freescale may be rethinking its commitment to AltiVec technology in its latest QorIQ family of processors

Posted by John Keller

The aerospace and defense embedded computing industry is buzzing with rumors that Freescale Semiconductor Inc. in Austin, Texas, may be rethinking its commitment to AltiVec vector processing technology and its provision for floating-point processing in Freescale's latest family of QorIQ high-performance microprocessors.

AltiVec technology had been an extremely popular part of Freescale's venerable PowerPC processors, which for years had been the de-facto standard for aerospace and defense signal processing applications. The PowerPC processor was unique in that it was able to perform general-purpose processing, as well as digital signal processing (DSP) in an era when these two computer tasks typically were performed by separate processor chips.

Freescale had disappointed the aerospace and defense industry, however, when its leaders decided not to include AltiVec technology in its latest QorIQ processors. The company's decision to abandon AltiVec in its QorIQ family has led leaders in the aerospace and defense embedded computing industry to embrace the latest processors from Intel Corp. for high-performance embedded signal-processing applications.

Intel moved to fill the void when the company announced support in its latest microprocessors aimed at embedded systems applications for the kind of floating point processing that aerospace and defense systems designers need most. In recent months designers of high-performance embedded processing, such as Mercury Computer Systems of Chelmsford, Mass., have announced their commitments to the Intel processor roadmap.

The coming week may hold some interesting announcements, not only from Freescale, but also by some well-known embedded signal processing companies concerning the QorIQ and AltiVec. Stay tuned.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
  Ada is not nearly as dead a language as Latin

Posted by John McHale
The Ada programming language has been said to be an obsolete language for years. However, it is still used throughout the defense and avionics communities and still taught in the schools, although it is not as popular a course selection as C or C++.

Ada is mostly a higher-course level subject at universities, Greg Gicca, director of safety and security at AdaCore in New York, told me during the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston last week. It would be nice if it could be offered as a 101 course to students because it would give them a better understanding of software fundamentals, object-oriented programming, etc., than say C or C++, he adds.

Adacore works with many colleges and universities across the country, educating new students in Ada code, Gicca says. The military and avionics world keeps Ada alive and provides a steady revenue stream for companies like AdaCore, he adds.

It is the professors who are driving the ada course load, but there is plenty of interest from students as well, Gicca says.

DDC-I, a designer of Ada products in Phoenix, also provides education services to universities such as Georgia Tech, says Greg Rose, vice president of marketing at DDC-I.

The Ada language was created for the U.S. Department of Defense about 30 years ago to better handle safety-critical programming in mission-critical military systems and since then has also become a staple of commercial avionics software programs.

According to Wikipedia it was named after, Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace also known as Augusta Ada Byron, daughter of the Poet Lord Byron. She is considered by some to be the world's first computer programmer after writing what is considered to be the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine -- for her work on an early mechanical general-purpose computer, designed by Charles Babbage, according to her Wikipedia entry.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
  Archie Bunker, counter-terror expert

Posted by John McHale
On a JetBlue flight to Phoenix this week, I took a break from a story I was writing on software defined radio and the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) and caught a couple episodes of "All in the Family" playing on JetBlue's in-flight entertainment system.

You only see shows like that on cable or premium channels like HBO, the language and Archie's very un-PC rants scare networks away. Exemplified in the first episode I watched on the flight where Archie was arguing with his son-in-law Mike (Meathead), about gun control. They had just seen a local TV station manager give a speech on gun control and Archie demanded equal time.

Archie's premise was that if more people had guns there would be less crime. Then he delivered this bit of counter-terrorism advice: "you could end sky-jacking tomorrow by arming all the passengers. The airline would hand out guns at the beginning of the flight, then collect them all when they land."

Just as he said this the flight attendant was coming by with headphones... weird.

Some 88-year-old woman had a break-in at her house, and Archie argued it wouldn't have happened if she had a gun.

Mike: "How would 88-year old walk around carrying a gun?!"

Archie: "I don't know, maybe put in her stocking next to her varicose vein!"

Some more lines: Archie's daughter, Gloria, shouts out statistics about how many people are killed by guns. Archie: "Would it make you feel any better if they were pushed outta windows, little girl?"

Mike mentions Supreme Court rulings in favor of gun control. Archie responds with "the Supreme Court ain't got nothin to do with the law!"

Fun stuff, although I left out the more ethnic-oriented comments from Archie -- thought it best to stay away from those. However, there was some funny dialogue from the other episode on the flight, which had Archie and his wife Edith visiting cousin Maude (Bea Arthur). Maybe this was the episode that launched that show -- "Maude."

Some exchanges:
Maude: "I happen to be a Hubert Humphrey Democrat."
Maude's daughter Carol: "What does that mean?"
Maude's husband Walter: "It means she's not against anything."

One more!

Walter to Carol: "Why are you wearing white for your wedding?"
Maude chimes in: "Because white has always been a symbol of innocence and purity in marriages."”
Walter: "Married before ... multiple affairs ... so how did she manage that tricky u-turn back to innocence and purity?"

Those shows made the flight ... lotta laughs.
Friday, September 17, 2010
  September 17: It's still known as America's bloodiest day

Posted by John Keller

On this date, September 17, more Americans were killed, wounded, or missing than on any other single day in American history -- not on 9/11, not in the Argonne Forest, not even at Pearl Harbor. It was outside of a sleepy little town in Western Maryland called Sharpsburg, along a meandering stream locally known as Antietam Creek.

The year was 1862, and this quiet place -- as relatively unpopulated today as it was then -- was where two great armies of the American Civil War crashed into each other in dawn-to-dusk bloodshed that produced 22,717 casualties on both sides -- 3,650 killed, 17,300 wounded, 1,770 captured or missing -- in an epic fight that ultimately resulted in the Emancipation Proclamation that freed Americans held in slavery.

It was America's bloodiest day.

Why it happened along Antietam Creek was largely an accident. Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, for the first time, was invading the North, largely to relieve Virginia, which had been under prolonged Union attack for more than a year.

Mountains and Rebel cavalry screened Lee's movements from prying federal eyes, and Union commander George Brinton McClellan had no idea where the Confederate army would strike ... until five days before the battle when a Union private from Indiana found in the grass where he was camped a piece of paper wrapped around three cigars.

The brand of cigars and who got to smoke them is lost to history, but the paper containing them turned out to be General Lee's Special Order 191, which detailed the Southern army's entire plan for the invasion. It didn't take long for that lost order to make its way to General McClellan, who managed to get his lumbering blue-clad army moving to intercept the Confederates, on a course for Antietam Creek.

The sun rose that September 17 with the Union and Confederate armies facing each other over terrain that came to have ominous names -- the West Wood, the Cornfield, the Bloody Lane, and the Burnside Bridge. When fighting ended, the Confederate army was still intact, but damaged so severely that General Lee ordered it back across the Potomac and into Virginia, ending the invasion.

The next time these armies would face one another on Union soil would be less than a year later around a small Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
  Executive layoffs at Boeing, Lockheed Martin signal tough times ahead

Posted by John McHale
Boeing and Lockheed Martin leaders call it re-aligning, focusing on core competencies, better positioning for the future, empowering the younger generation, yadda, yadda, yadda... but what they really mean is that the Obama Administration's next Department of Defense budget is likely to be a lot smaller than in years past and the big primes want to hoard their cash now by eliminating high-level executive salaries -- about 600 in the case of Lockheed Martin.

I'd heard rumblings in my travels this summer from defense electronics suppliers that there could be trouble in the defense market. These recent announcements from behemoths -- Lockheed Martin and Boeing -- are probably only the beginning. It's not that hardware and software solutions won't be needed it's just that there will be fewer opportunities.

The growth areas will continue to be unmanned systems and electro-optics for unmanned and other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms. Electro-optical companies should still see steady growth. A sign of this might be the recent acquisition of electro-optical systems and multispectral sensors specialist OASYS Technology LLC in Manchester, N.H., by BAE Systems.

As one system integrator told me at the AUVSI unmanned systems show this summer in Denver "we know there will be unmanned platforms getting funding, but guessing the right one will be the trick."

Do not fear Lockheed Martin and Boeing are not in trouble and they are still cash cows, but they are letting go of some experienced good people and that is unfortunate to say the least.

This reminds me of something someone once told me when there were layoffs at a publishing company I'm somewhat familiar with. A long-time manager was let go not due to cause or because his property was performing poorly, but rather to maintain the property as a cash cow -- that at the end of the day it's all about maintaining cash cowness.

I hope that someday I find my own cash cowness...
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