Ken Conklin
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Ken Conklin

Ken Conklin is a business development consultant who works with small to mid-sized technology companies and design teams, helping them secure R&D funding from U.S. Government SBIR programs, grants and industry sources. Ken also prepares strategic and tactical go-to-market plans for clients, including establishing sales channels. Previously, Ken was the general manager of the Cobham GaAs products operation. Prior to joining Cobham in 2005 (then M/A-COM), he held business development and product marketing positions with Hughes, IBM, and RFMD. During his career, Ken has introduced RF, microwave and millimeter-wave devices and components for AESA, GPS and terrestrial/space system communication applications. He is a frequent guest columnist to the Roanoke Times, contributing “slice of life” commentaries.

Hey, babe, get off my cloud

December 17, 2015

Last year, I publicly stated I wanted a drone for Christmas. Fortunately, I did not get one. My wife did not think it would serve my personality well, even though I work with the technology industry. She was right — she always is — as I am realizing this year all I want is to be unplugged, away from the madding cloud, so to speak.

In spite of this self realization, I recently upgraded my wife’s and my cell phones from the out-of-date contraptions we each took possession of way back in 2011. Not to promote or go negative on any particular brand, let’s simply refer to our archaic devices as EyeFours, one for her and one for me.

One morning during the summer, over coffee, I became aware of my wife sweetly delivering some coded verbal hints while I was scanning the fine print of The Roanoke Times sports section, looking for information on my Los Angeles Dodgers. It took me several months to decipher what she was saying; but, fortunately, our long established couple dynamics provided the key for breaking the code. It was difficult, but I finally got it when she said each morning “I would really like a newer cell phone such as an EyeSix-s, so I can watch Doc Martin anywhere I want to.”

Then, in mid-October, when the Dodgers got knocked out of contention by the New York Mets and with the birthday season for Scorpios approaching, I started thinking about what my wife might like for her birthday. Thoughtfully, I came up with the perfect gift: An EyeSix-s.

Bursting with confidence, I showed up at a store whose name rhymes with horizon. I say confidence because, during my technology career, I have developed and take pride in my ability to verbally communicate with geeks. I am fluent in “db.”

I honed my geek-speak skills on such interesting projects as the millimeter wave radiometer for NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), which earned the principal investigator, Dr. George Smoot, a Nobel Prize for physics. Later, I participated in several meetings with Gary Burrell and Min Kao (the Gar and Min in Garmin) to discuss incorporating the entire GPS receiver functionality onto a silicon chip.

So, as I was saying, upon entering the store, I confidently approached a person whose speech pattern invoked images of a scene from the Big Bang Theory. I told him I wanted to trade my wife’s and my EyeFours for EyeSix-ses. With eyes looking full of excitement, he said “I hope you have backed up your phones to the cloud. As you know, the integrity of the data could be affected by the current migration to IPv6 by the domain name system and dynamic host configuration protocol, which play critical roles in assigning IP addresses.”

I mustered up a concerned look on my face while nodding knowingly, not wanting to admit I did not have a clue what he was talking about or why it was important. Fortunately, our phones were actually backed up to a cloud. This happened, I think, when I inadvertently selected “yes” when asked to accept terms for one of many incessant notices to update the EyeSong software on my computer. I recall those terms included a complicated legal sounding sentence with the word “cloud” in it.

Several days later, I impressed my wife by intuitively knowing what would delight her for her birthday. The first thing she did with her new phone was to call my new phone. Not only did my device ring, so did her EyeFad tablet. At around the same time, one of my golf buddies texted a message to me that was absolutely meant for my eyes only. My wife’s phone and tablet received the same message. Uh oh — I realized this new phone setup was definitely not going to work for me.

A return visit to the geeks immediately followed. I told them how dark and stormy the cloud had become, after they informed me my wife and I are sharing the same cloud space. But, several sound bites of verbal mumble jumble and mouse clicks later, we each had our own individual uniquely protocoled clouds (hopefully).

I set out each day to learn something new. Not only did the process of upgrading my phone improve my intuitive skills, I also learned IPv6 permitting hierarchical address allocation methods that facilitate cloud assignments can be unplugged by selecting the "off" switch on my Eye device.

Originally published in The Roanoke Times.

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