Eat, Write, Dance… Create

Gary Hilson, September 2013I eat, write and dance, but not necessarily in that order. I spend most of my time creating.

I write. A lot. In many formats.  My specialty is taking complex concepts and translating them into plain language for target audiences with flair and creativity built on a foundation of journalism and an out-of-this-world imagination with a dash of project management.

I eat, so I find it helps to enjoy cooking. I’m not a gourmet chef, but I will knock your socks off with a slow cooker or casserole recipe. I generally follow a Paleo diet.

Rehearsing and performing this fox trot is one of the best experiences of my life.

Here I showcase my work and blog a little about everything and anything, including recipes, Lego construction, comic books and the odd rant about something or other. I am an amateur photographer and aspiring author.

You can e-mail me, if you like.

5 Key Books for Your Star Trek Discovery

5 Key Books for Your Star Trek Discovery

There’s been lots of chatter about the production problems and delays affecting Star Trek: Discovery. But the latest series in the franchise is no different than its predecessors. What’s new is the existence of social media.

Star Trek productions have always been fraught with challenges to varying degrees over the past fifty years. Reading about the development and filming of the various series is part of the fun of being a fan. I discovered Star Trek more than 30 years ago when I was not even a teenager, and I’m still learning new things about the franchise.

Discovery is no doubt going to prompt new fans to investigate the series that began it all and the ones that followed it. There’s no shortage of books chronicling the voyages of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future, but there are several that stand out in terms of detail and thoroughness that should be at the top of anyone’s list.

These Are The Voyages

Star Trek: These Are The Voyages
Marc Cushman’s These Are Voyages provides an incredibly balanced view of the original Star Trek while shattering many myths about the series.

In fact, there is a book for each of the original Star Trek’s three seasons for a total of nearly 2,000 pages. They are the best proof that Discovery is not unique when it comes to growing pains. Social media would have had a field day with the tumultuous production of the series in 1960s.

Authored by Marc Cushman, These Are The Voyages pull together detailed production documents, memos and interviews that actor Walter Koenig has described has the definitive story of the making of the original Star Trek. In provides an incredibly balanced view of the first incarnation while shattering many myths about the series.

For fans of classic Trek, These Are The Voyages are a must-read, and those interested in TV production would find them fascinating as well.

The Making of Star Trek

This book is often mentioned by fans and writers of later Trek series as being a treasure trove of information and insight. It’s hard to come by now, and for some reason I let myself part with my copy, but if you can find it, hold on to it. It’s considered the first of its kind in terms of Star Trek reference books thanks to the multiple points of view from a wide range of contributors, everyone from studio executives to fans.

Inside Star Trek: The Real Story

Inside Star Trek: The Real Story
Inside Star Trek: The Real Story debunks many of the myths that had arisen about Star Trek over the previous 30 years.

Written by Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, both executives who worked on the series, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story is the first book I read that didn’t sanitize the making of the original series the way most official reference books published at the time.

It’s a fascinating book from two insiders that complements Cushman’s series and is full of production art and behind-the-scenes photographs, primarily from Justman’s personal collection. And like These Are the Voyages, the book also debunks many of the myths that had arisen about Star Trek over the previous 30 years.

Star Trek: The Fifty-Year Mission

The Fifty-Year Mission
The Fifty-Year Mission is described as an “oral history” of the Star Trek franchise.

Like These Are the Voyages, The Fifty-Year Mission is more than one book. Authors Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman split 50 years of Star Trek history in two. The first volume is dedicated to the original series through to its feature film era, and the second covers the subsequent series and the J.J. Abrams films.

Described as an “oral history” of the franchise, it pulls together decades of interviews by Gross and Altman, who as journalists wrote about Star Trek for more than 30 years for publications such as Starlog. It’s a no holds barred look at 50 years of the franchise from the many cast, crew and writers involved in its many incarnations.

The Star Trek Encyclopedia

When it comes to books that pull together everything about the Star Trek universe, there’s no better tome than Mike Okuda’s Star Trek Encyclopedia, updated and re-released for the franchise’s 50th year.

Make no mistake, this is an encyclopedia in the truest sense, split into two heavy hardbound volumes, assembled by someone who worked on four of the series and continues be a steward of Star Trek continuity, most recently with his wife Denise on the Star Trek: The Next Generation BluRay remastering and documentaries.

It’s not something you can carry to the beach with you, that’s for darn sure.

Star Trek Lives!
Star Trek Lives! Tells the story of how a canceled TV series became a cult classic in the 1970s

They are many more books that are well-worth reading. Allan Asherman’s Star Trek Compendium is a great companion while watching episodes of the original series. Larry Nemecek’s Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion does the same. Writer David Gerrold dives into the making of his well-loved “The Trouble with Tribbles,” in a single book, and takes a broader look at the original show with The World of Star Trek.

Star Trek Lives! tells the story of how a canceled TV series became a cult classic in the 1970s and the rise of Star Trek conventions, while many of the biographies and autobiographies of cast members over the years provide differing perspectives. The relatively recent Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History by Robert Greenberger is a great visual and chronological overview of the franchise.

Star Trek: Discovery will both enjoy and endure a great deal of scrutiny in real-time thanks to the Internet, but eventually it too will be the subject of many books that dive deeper into its production, and hopefully its longevity and success.

Under A Yellow Sun proves comic books’ literary value

The first publication to print my work was the Ottawa Citizen as part of its “High School Confidential” section. Nine of my articles were published from 1993 to 1994. Two decades after writing this review of a Superman graphic novel, I took a course on writing comic books.

To most of us, comic books are a medium best left to youngsters.

Since their creation, comics have been very much maligned — both as children’s entertainment and as a form of literature. It is only recently that comics have proven to be popular to an “adult” audience — although loyal readers will tell you that this has been the case for quite some time.

Under a Yellow Sun was a prestige graphic novel published by DC ComicsAs recently reported by Michael D’Acosta here in the Citizen, “adult” is not meant in a lewd sense. It merely describes a mature readership that wishes to read thought-provoking and complex stories in a comic book format. Examples of these comics are such titles from DC’s Vertigo line as Sandman and Shade, The Changing Man, and independent titles such as Madman Comics.

Of course, the majority of comic books are still Action/Adventure Super-Hero books, but there are also a few that fall in between. Superman has been at the forefront of the action titles for years, but interestingly enough, the Man of Steel recently appeared in a story that wasn’t just an “action/beat-the-villain” story.

Entitled Under A Yellow Sun, this prestige graphic novel from DC Comics is presented under the guise of a novel by Clark Kent, reporter with the Daily Planet. Clark is desperately trying to finish his second novel, which his agent expects to be completed in a week. The story line of the novel concerns an ex-marine named David Guthrie, a man so desperate for work that he unknowingly takes a job working for a crooked businessman manipulating the politics of a small South American country.

While Clark struggles to resolve his protagonist’s situation in the novel, he also faces difficult decisions on other fronts. As Superman, he has been doing his best to stop street gangs from terrorizing Metropolis. These street gangs have been discovered to be using some very sophisticated weaponry which can be traced to Lexcorp. Superman confronts Lex Luthor, but of course, Luthor feigns ignorance.

Under A Yellow Sun proves comic books' literary value
“Under A Yellow Sun proves comic books’ literary value” was published in the Ottawa Citizen in the summer of 1994

As Clark becomes increasingly frustrated with both fiction and reality, he begins to question the values he was brought up with. What follows are the parallel stories of Guthrie and Superman as each tries to win their battles without sinking to the level of the enemy.

Under A Yellow Sun should not be dismissed as just another super-hero comic aimed at kids. The story and the morality play presented contain universal concepts and values that can reach many people at different levels. It is the type of story that you can let your children read and hope they learn from. At the same time, the story can be enjoyed by an adult audience, and it will no doubt give them food for thought.

Under A Yellow Sun is a tale of significance, and it demonstrates that comic books are not always a corrupting influence on young people’s minds, and are in fact a legitimate form of literature.

Written by John Francis Moore with art by Eduardo Barreto, Kerry Gammill and Dennis Janke, Under A Yellow Sun is available at comics specialty shops for $8 from DC Comics.

Gary Hilson is entering first-year journalism at Algonquin College.

IBM Simulates Complex Chemistry with Quantum Computing [Portfolio]

TORONTO — A novel algorithm developed by IBM scientists is improving the understanding of complex chemical reactions and optimizing quantum computing.

The scientists have developed a new approach to simulate molecules on a quantum computer using a seven-qubit quantum processor to address the molecular structure problem for beryllium hydride (BeH2), which is the largest molecule simulated on a quantum computer to date, according to IBM. The results are significant as they could lead to practical applications such as the creation of novel materials, development of personalized drugs and discovery of more efficient and sustainable energy sources.

In a telephone interview with EE Times, IBM quantum computer research team member Abhinav Kandala outlined how they implemented an algorithm that is efficient with respect to the number of quantum operations required for the simulation. Using six qubits of a seven-qubit processor, they were able to measure BeH2’s lowest energy state, a key measurement for understanding chemical reactions. The results were just published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature, which Kandala co-authored.

Read the full story on EE Times.

MRAM Momentum Poised to Disrupt Memory Workhorses [Portfolio]

TORONTO — Last year could be described as a tipping point for the magneto-resistive random access memory (MRAM) market. Up until then, Everspin Technologies was the only company shipping commercial MRAM products. But as Spin Transfer Technologies (STT) CEO Barry Hoberman is always quick to acknowledge, Everspin’s success has helped to pave the way for other MRAM players.

The genesis of STT goes back as far as 2001 with technology originally developed from research conducted by New York University Professor Andrew Kent. STT was formed and incubated by Boston-based Allied Minds in 2007. In September 2016, the developer of orthogonal spin transfer MRAM technology (OST-MRAM) announced it had fabricated perpendicular MRAM magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs) as small as 20nm at its development fab based at the company’s headquarters in Fremont, Calif.

Since then, STT has delivered samples of its spin transfer torque MRAM to customers in North America and Asia, a milestone that’s significant in that it’s one of several emerging memories considered to be a next-generation candidate to replace DRAM and NAND flash, which face scaling challenges as the industry moves to smaller nodes. STT is one of a handful of firms developing MRAM, so the delivery of samples is an important proof point validating both MRAM in general, and STT’s technology in particular.

EE Times recently spoke with Hoberman about the company’s ramp up, and the opportunities for MRAM as more players go to market, including where it might be a viable replacement for incumbent technologies.

Read the full Q&A on EE Times.

NASA Increases Happy Landings for Drones [Portfolio]

TORONTO – Statistically, flying is the safest way to travel. We don’t worry about airplanes dropping from the sky. But drones are another thing altogether.
If a drone runs into mechanical problems, there’s no Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger to land it on the Hudson River. To keep unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from landing on our heads, NASA is trying to make them smarter.

Dubbed Safe2Ditch, the technology is aimed at allowing drones to continuously run self-diagnostics during flight to anticipate problems. If something goes wrong, the system could make changes to how the drone is flying and estimate how much longer it could stay in the air.

Since a drone with mechanical problems would need to set down quickly, Safe2Ditch would immediately begin to search its database for safe landing locations and autonomously land at the closest spot. Safe landing options would include fields, parking lots or parks, said Lou Glaab, assistant branch head for the Aeronautics Systems Engineering Branch at the NASA Langley Research Center. Worst case scenario, a drone might have to land in a dense forest to avoid people, but the goal is to keep avoid damaging the drone in an emergency landing.

Read my full article for EE Times.

Avoidable IoT security vulnerabilities are unacceptable—period [Portfolio]

It seems like just yesterday everyone was gearing up to secure their organization for the anticipated BYOD deluge. Today, IoT security has quickly evolved to become the new front line in our connected world.

In early February, a grey-hat hacker compromised as many as 150,000 printers using an automated script that searches for open printer ports to send out rogue print jobs. He was able to affect printers of all makes and sizes at both large enterprises and small town restaurants. This hacker claimed he didn’t intend to cause harm, according to reports. Instead, he was educating people to the dangers of exposed devices and holes in IoT security. The reality is that the consequences of a single, exposed device can be far worse depending on what networks it’s connected to.

Read my full story on Tektonika.

Are Self-Charging Batteries a Decade Away? [Portfolio]

TORONTO – The onus of improving power efficiency in smartphones has often been placed on other components such as the memory or flash storage, but within the next decade they may have self-charging batteries, thanks to researchers at a Canadian university.

In collaboration with provincial power utility Hydro-Québec’s research institute, IREQ, Montreal’s McGill University may eliminate the frustrating experience of being without use of a phone after forgetting to recharge it. In an interview with EE Times, professor George Demopoulos, the university’s chair of mining and materials engineering, said that while lithium-ion batteries have enabled the proliferation of all kinds of mobile devices, they still require frequent recharging because of their limited energy density.

Read my full story on EE Times.

Faster Networks Push Interface Development [Portfolio]

TORONTO – As Ethernet speeds get faster, Rambus is looking to make sure memory and interfaces can keep up with the recent launch 56G SerDes PHY.

The analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and (DSP) architecture of the 56G SerDes PHY is designed meet the long-reach backplane requirements for the industry transition to 400 GB Ethernet applications, said Mohit Gupta, senior director of product marketing at Rambus. This means it can support scaling to speeds as fast as 112G, which are required in the networking and enterprise segments, such as enterprise server racks that are moving from 100G to 400G.

“Ethernet is moving faster than ever,” Gupta said. “The pace has picked up substantially due to big data, the Internet of Things (IoT) and other trends putting high demands on communication channels. There is already a forum for 112G SerDes speed which will drive the 800G standard.”

One clear usage case, said Gupta, is data center deployment by the “big four” — Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Google.

Read my full article on EE Times.

Canadian CIOs value gamer grads

I’m not a gamer, unless you count the hours lost playing Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri on my PC or video pinball on my Atari Flashback. But if I were working in IT as opposed to just writing about it, new research suggests it would behoove me to play more video games.

A new survey by Robert Half Technology of more than 270 Canadian CIOs suggest they may value the time spent on gaming by entry-level IT job seekers as well as hackathons and website development. Technology leaders also see backgrounds outside of IT as beneficial to professionals in the field, including math, psychology, and business and marketing.

Web site and app development was the top stand-out skill for IT grads cited by respondents at 72 per cent, followed by hackathons at 46 per cent. Video game playing and development came in at 28 per cent. These interests as well as non-IT backgrounds are indicators that to CIOs that IT grads still have the drive and skills to succeed even if their relevant work experience is limited.

By highlighting a range of interests and abilities can help new grads stand out as being versatile and interested in developing their careers. Robert Half Technology recommends that hiring managers consider more than just work experience and academic achievements when evaluating IT grads for entry-level roles.
Meanwhile, grads should be sure to draw parallels between their pastimes and how they will add value as an employee. Managers are drawn to professionals who are naturally curious and want to learn, according to Robert Half Technology, so these traits should be emphasized in job interviews. They should also showcase their soft skills as hiring managers look for people with exceptional interpersonal abilities, such as problem solving and communication.
Turns out playing Tetris is not only good for improving dishwasher stacking skills.

4 Reasons Retailers Love NaaS [Portfolio]

Just as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has made inroads into retail as a means of shifting IT responsibilities for applications to a third party, a similar model for networking is gaining popularity. The Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) paradigm reflects the reality that deploying a network in a store, regardless of size, adds complexity to IT — both in terms of installation and ongoing management.

Not only does NaaS support scalability and flexibility for businesses prone to seasonal fluctuations, but it also provides a platform to capture customer insights that drive revenue growth.

Read my blog post for Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions.