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When the holidays come it's all about family. At this time of year, I can't help but get a little misty-eyed when I think of my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and those in the distant past who made me what I am.

Hawaii has some tough problems: traffic congestion, the rail controversy, energy costs, the ravages of obesity and shrinking disposable income. Bicycles could be a broad solution, right under our noses.

We've all seen them around town: groups of young people (or not so young people) in animated conversations at Starbucks, Coffee Talk or other caffeine-fueled gathering places. They are there for the Wi-Fi and the java, but often it's not just a social event. In the tech world it can be serious business.

The East-West Center is under attack, and there are those in Congress who would like to see it eliminated. Our delegation defends the center, but what will happen when our senior senator isn't there?

Tony Stanford gets around. As an information technology consultant, he primarily works with smaller companies that have outsourced their IT needs. He describes his work as "putting out fires." "If one of my client's network goes down or a server is out of commission," says Tony, "I'm the guy that shows up on the white horse."

The recent “hacking” of a Fox News Twitter feed set the world abuzz with its false reports of serious injury to President Barack Obama. The Secret Service continues to investigate the exact methods by which the hacking was conducted. The fact of the matter, however, is that the hacking was probably facilitated by exploiting people as opposed to technology.

Big Wind is the central part of the Clean Energy Initiative rolled out by former Gov. Linda Lingle in 2008 and continued by current Gov. Neil Abercrombie. It would deliver a capacity of 400 megawatts of wind energy from Lanai and Molokai to Oahu by an undersea cable. It's critical to our future but has become a magnet for activists.

For those of us of a certain age, it's hard to escape the trend in digital books.

A couple of weeks ago the Federal Trade Commission quietly gave its approval to a background checking company that screens job applicants based on their online presence(s).

In the late '90s, together with a retired general, a prominent attorney and several professors from the University of Hawaii College of Business, I became a partner in an IT startup, East-West Telehealth.

In his recent remarks to the Hawaii Economic Association, Richard Lim (banker, venture capitalist and director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism) said something that should have been said, and done, a long time ago.

For those of you who follow financial news, a few weeks ago Microsoft acquired Skype (a company that provides free Internet phone service) for $8.5 billion.

Many of us in Hawaii are well aware that June brings the start of hurricane season.

Increasingly, community benefits packages have enabled big projects in Hawaii. CBPs are also emerging as a way to enable energy projects.

A few weeks ago, Honolulu was treated to an electrical storm of luminary extravagance.

As we progress through the great recession, technology manufacturers are looking for ways to cut costs.

The Big Wind project is the keystone of our Clean Energy Initiative. Castle & Cooke was to build a 200-megawatt wind farm on Molokai, and First Wind was to build one on Lanai, both to be connected to Oahu by an undersea cable.

A recent Star-Advertiser headline proclaimed, “Rail work ramps up this week — relocation of utility lines could disrupt traffic flow along Farrington Highway.”

On Oahu the simple act of holding a cell phone while driving has been against the law for more than two years now.

The birth of Hiki No, the new statewide (and nation's only) student news network, was achievable because a few pioneering educators, equipped with little more than creativity and willpower, wanted their students to succeed.

Although it’s hard to get a bead on the economy these days, for many of us the sea change seems to be trending down. Unless we can somehow jump out of the pot, like the proverbial frog we’ll be unwittingly boiled in this recession.

As more and more folks consider cloud computing services, the question gets asked, “How do we evaluate this deal?” After all, cloud computing is relatively new on the landscape, so peer comparison can be tricky.

It was hard to miss the tsunami alert on March 11. Sirens were wailing all over Oahu. TV screens endlessly repeated footage of wreckage-filled floodwaters destroying everything in their path on the Mi­yagi prefecture coast. Meanwhile, Hawaii people were stunned by the losses and human suffering unfolding for the Japa­nese, while facing the stark reality of a powerful surge racing toward the islands.

One thing about Hawaii is that we seem to have a bad memory. We set out visionary initiatives, then get distracted and forget about them.

For years, computer scientists and information technologists have been trying to make computers easy to use. While there has been some success, we're still trying to teach people how to use computers. Many of us find this vexing.

Over the last few months I've looked at Google's mobile Android platform as an option for both business and consumers. I've learned there are tons of great apps, free of charge, to put on that new phone.

Everyone knows our state, like others, is in a fiscal and economic crisis. We need to revitalize our sagging economy, and fast. The governor has made this an absolute priority, and he's right — we all have to work together to improve the economy, and that frankly includes all three branches of government.

At the recent VMWare Partner Exchange conference in Orlando, Fla., one of the main focal points was VDI. While VDI sounds like something you might pick up in a foreign land, it is actually another in a long line of IT-related acronyms and stands for virtual desktop infrastructure.

ATLANTA » A few weeks ago a dinner guest's face contorted into something between amazement and disgust as he looked at my coffee table and noted: "My gosh — you have six remotes."

Many of us in the IT industry like to think that we are solely responsible for figuring out how best to apply technology to further organizational needs. The fact of the matter, however, is that innovative technologies are implemented by a wide variety of folks in a diverse number of professions.

Two anti-open-ocean fish farming bills have been introduced in this legislative session. Both reflect a profound lack of knowledge of the subject, especially the strategic importance of the budding aquaculture industry to our economy.

It's that time of the year again. Hawaii has just hosted the annual Pacific Telecommunications Council meeting — a who's who of every telecom expert from the Pacific Rim. I had a chance to speak with John Hibbard, CEO of Hibbard Consulting, a Sydney-based company.

The new year is here, and that little voice always tells me it's time to get organized. I took a poll of colleagues and compiled some tips on what you need to get the new year off to safe and prosperous start.

Geothermal is a proven, firm source that could keep us going for thousands of years. Will geothermal be the next big renewable in the development of our statewide energy initiative, or will it be constrained by present limitations?

This past Christmas, the smart-phone wars raged on. Their rise in popularity has been a big driver in the demand for bandwidth in Hawaii as both consumers and businesses utilize mobile "cloud" applications, such as Web browsers, video and Web mail, and social media.

In October, 26 surgeons and operating room nurses traveled from Hawaii to Dhankuta in eastern Nepal. They went there planning to do as much surgery on the townspeople as they possibly could, in a word, to "reach the unreached."

As the year winds down, we pull out our crystal ball (yes, there is an app for that) and try to predict what we'll see with respect to technology in 2011. A couple of hot topics come to mind.

Yes, it's time for our annual Christmas column. If you're trying to figure out the right gift purchase for that special someone, stay close to home, says Denise Lint, store team leader for Target, the big mainland retailer that set up shop in Hawaii last year.

Due to the introduction of new TSA security procedures, many travelers have been filled with angst and concern this holiday season. Many of us in the information technology industry, however, have let out empathetic chuckles at the response of the traveling public.

During the past year I've written about Hiki No, a statewide, student-run news organization that will begin producing a half-hour show for PBS Hawaii in February. It will grow to six shows a week in 2011.

Don't let anyone fool you about the economy -- we have some very pressing economic problems, and we haven't yet addressed them. Actually, the election could not have come at a better time. The economy was central in the election and will be central in the administration to follow. We have lots of work to do.

It's a given that technology makes a lot of things easier. So we continue to be confounded when we see folks not taking advantage of some very basic technologies to make their lives easier. The single biggest example of this is the astounding numbers of folks who, in spite of well-publicized laws preventing it, continue to press their cell phones to their ears while driving.

Health care is front and center on the national agenda these days, and the Aloha State is no exception. There's also a quiet IT revolution going on in Hawaii medicine that's changing the way docs connect with patients. One of the companies behind this is TeamPraxis, a locally grown technology firm that's been around for 18 years and now has 150 employees.

More and more, Hawaii's natural energy resources will be developed not by utility companies, but by energy entrepreneurs.

Industry experts have predicted for some time now that data storage requirements will continue to increase exponentially. Innovations in storage technology, however, have been few and far between. This is finally beginning to change with the maturation of solid state drives, abbreviated as SSD.

My recent column on digitizing family photos received a lot of attention, and a number of readers wanted more information on how to get started. Here are more tips:

It's Energy Awareness Month in October, but some say Gov. Linda Lingle's clean energy is moving too slowly, not only to meet her goal of having 70 percent of Hawaii's power generated from clean energy by 2030, but to stay ahead of peak oil. Recent events, however, give us some points of light.

At the recent VMWorld conference in San Francisco, conference organizers from VMWare Inc. were close to being overwhelmed, with attendance announced at 17,000. With businesses and government agencies slashing travel budgets, this is further evidence that virtualization technology has cemented itself as a cornerstone of any serious IT strategy.

Without a doubt, Apple's iPhone has garnered more attention than any other model of mobile phone in the history of the technology.

Recently our family visited the home of an elderly uncle who regaled us with hilarious stories accompanied by fading photos of cousins, aunties, school friends and war buddies who have long since died.

Although it may have caught us by surprise, there's a significant tech event coming Aug. 30 through Sept. 2: the Asia-Pacific Clean Energy Summit at the Hawai'i Convention Center.

The Internet has become so pervasive in many businesses and government organizations that folks need ways to ensure 24/7 connectivity. A popular way to facilitate such a connection is with a secondary, or backup, connection from someone other than the primary provider.

Recently this newspaper ran a front-page story about more than a half-million dollars that had been paid by drivers defying the year-old mobile-device ban.

ATLANTA » If batteries could go to a party, they'd wear blue suits and brown shoes and stand in a corner while the HDTVs and PCs whooped it up.

Cloud computing is progressing quickly beyond simple e-mail and backup solutions for personal use to more sophisticated software applications for businesses and government agencies.

The rail transit system continues to be a colossal issue in our community in many ways. I'm not here to speculate how many automobiles the proposed transit system will take off the roads.

A few years ago we thought never we'd say this, but spam, the e-mail variety, has actually improved. More accurately, the process around which spam is delivered and managed has improved.

I've written a great deal about cloud computing, but I'm still getting loads of questions on the subject. Yes, it's a bit confusing, especially when geeks start throwing around jargon that floats right by nontechies. The issue I want to clarify is what precisely we mean when we refer to doing things in "the cloud."

Those of us in high-tech industries often like to claim that new technologies will be adopted by the masses solely on the basis of technical superiority.

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