Apple VS Big Brother

Apple has taken a public stand against the FBI's demand for a backdoor tool to circumvent the encryption which protects our data from friend and foe alike.

 

This isn't a hard scenario to see through to its natural conclusion.

Say the tool gets created. The tool is a digital file that will live on a computer system run by the government - the same institution whose agencies are constantly being broken into and plundered (just google 'government hack' for a rude awakening). It must be understood that if the tool is created, it will get into the hands of our enemies, at home and abroad.

Providing a backdoor is so shortsighted that it appears insidious - a mess of pottage in exchange for a birthright.

John Adam's warned:

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.
— John Adams, Notes for an oration at Braintree, Spring 1772

Apple's world famous Super Bowl commercial from 1984 becomes a prescient symbol for the currently unfolding drama. The protagonist is once again Apple, only this time Big Brother is literally a governmental entity striving for Orwellian powers.

"But this is for a good purpose, the phone belongs to a known terrorist!" So what? The good intent of a purpose means nothing if the actual consequence is evil.

John Adam's reminds us, “Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws.”

Thank goodness that Apple still considers itself a uniquely American company. So do I, and in my view they are proving it now.

Update: Apple, please RE-RELEASE the 1984 ad!

If I was Apple I would re-air the famous 1984 commercial, replacing the ending title card teasing the Macintosh with an updated clip. Alternatively, I would shoot a narrative sequal to the 1984 commercial. No, not the Lemmings flop that Apple actually did at one point, but the actual story sequal. What happened to the hero? What happened to Big Brother? Show us why the future won't be 1984 again... or perhaps show us how what is happening now is in fact the prequel to the 1984 ad.

Todd Hopkinson
Swift Shortcut: ??

Before the ?? operator was added to Swift, you would use a ternary conditional operator and forced unwrapping to assign a default value if the expected value is nil.

let bossMonster = (monster != nil monster! : defaultMonster) 
// this code says that if monster is not nil then force unwrap monster to get its value, otherwise use defaultMonster

?? provides a shortcut to the above.

let bossMonster = monster ?? defaultMonster

Short and simple! The ?? is known as the nil coalescing operator.

Todd Hopkinson
Dedicated to the ideals, dreams, and hard facts that created America

“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here, age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

- Walt Disney, July 17th 1955

Today marks the 60 year anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney's now world famous (and world changing) theme park, Disneyland.

The event was filmed (video). Ronald Reagan introduced Walt at the dedication (@ minute 12:18 in clip), who then read his dedication speech. Also notable were three military chaplains present to represent the Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish faiths. Following the dedication speech a prayer was offered, the governor spoke, bells tolled, a flag was also dedicated and raised. 

Chaplain:

I have known walt disney for many years and have long been aware of the spiritual motivation in the heart of this man who has dreamed Disneyland into being. Let us join with him then in dedicating these wonder filled acres to those things near to his heart and our hearts: to understanding and good will among men; laughter for children; memories for the mature; and aspiration for young people everywhere. And beyond the creeds that would divide us, let us unite in a silent prayer that this and every worthy endeavor may prosper at God's hand. Let us bow in prayer. <Silent moment, Walt, dignitaries, and attendees bow heads> Amen.

Governor Goodwin Knight: 

Today is a wonderful day as all of America is proud as we open Disneyland. This is a wondrous community with all of the charm of the old world and all of the progress and ingenuity of the new world. Yes this is a wonderful place for children and grown ups alike. There are replicas of every town and city in America. Stores, libraries, schools, just like your home town. All built by American labor and American capital under the belief that this is a God fearing and a God loving country and as we dedicate this flag now we do it with the knowledge that we are the fortunate ones to be Americans and that we extend to everyone everywhere the great ideals of Americanism, brotherhood, and peace on earth, goodwill towards men.

A flyover and parade ended the dedication ceremonies. The following day the doors were opened to the general public (though much of the park was still under development.)

The pace of the building of Disneyland is remarkable. For a variety of reasons, including our abundant regulations and red-tape bureaucracy, it would be nearly impossible to accomplish such a feat today, and it would be exceedingly more costly. The land was undeveloped in 1953. Opening day was in July 1955. The cost was $17 million (today that is probably over $150 mil. in 2015 dollars.)

Remember, Disneyland is more than the place. Even if the park itself and company were to disappear overnight - it is a way of thinking and the spirit to which the place was dedicated: the ideals, dreams, and hard facts that created America.

"Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." - Walt Disney

 

References:

Read the Biography recommended by those that knew him best, including Walt's daughter: Walt Disney, An American Original.

Disneyland Opening July 17 1955
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuzrZET-3Ew

The Walt Disney Family Museum
http://www.waltdisney.org

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay,
My, oh my, what a wonderful day!
Plenty of sunshine, headin’ my way,
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!

Ray Gilbert, © 1945 Walt Disney Music Company.

http://thehistoryofdisney.blogspot.com

Todd Hopkinson
iOS Debugging Skills
In the film Taken, Liam Neeson has a particular set of skills. Using said skills, Neeson deftly resolves his one major blocker (a kidnapped daughter). In like manner - minus the mayhem - a software developer's debugging skills pay off in the field - thus, the worthy developer will value what enhances his debugging powers.

Dancing in the Debugger covers potent debugging skills for the LLDB command line; the good stuff appears about 3/4 into the article.

To summarize: Have you ever wanted to pause your running iOS app in Xcode to manipulate and better understand all the visual elements on screen, or conveniently change variable values and see results without stopping, recompiling, and running the app again?

Chisel is the Bruce-Lee's-nun-chucks-compliment to your LLDB bug-fu. Some fine Facebook folk are sharing their commonly used LLDB debugging commands in the form of python scripts so that you can type (in the LLDB debugger command line)...

pviews” 

instead of 

"po [[[UIApplication sharedApplication] keyWindow] recursiveDescription]” 

...to see your app’s current UI hierarchical tree print to the console! 

BOOM!

Or, let’s say I have just run the above command and printed this big hierarchical list of UI elements. Instead of sorting through this big dump of objects for a UISegmentedControl I can just type...

(lldbfv segmented
0x7fd72ac3ba90 UISegmentedControl

Now just grab that address and go to town…

e id $mySegmentedControl = (id)0x7fd72ac3ba90

That just created the convenience variable $mySegmentedControl. Here is the current control:


Let's change a color...

(lldbe (void)[$mySegmentedControl setBackgroundColor:(UIColor *)[UIColor redColor]]
(lldbcaflush

...the background color changed to red without even resuming in the debugger!



A single tear runs down your cheek. Try it out! Just read the article and install Chisel - you’ll be glad you did.

By the way, to grab those controller images just above, all I did was type:
(lldbvisualize $mySegmentedControl
The Preview app opens up showing your snapshot of the object. BOOM!
Todd Hopkinson
Write The Code: Swift and the Xcode Playgrounds & WWDC
*

This week Apple surprised everyone by introducing Swift - a brand new programming language for Cocoa and Cocoa Touch - along with a tool called Playgrounds, which lets you to explore your code through realtime feedback, without having to build and run the app. These were the most unexpected WWDC reveals I've seen in 4 years of attendance and many more years of observation.

Months ago I was watching a video by Bret Victor, formerly of Apple, promoting paradigm changing ideas on programming with visual and realtime feedback.

When Apple introduced the Xcode Playgrounds feature, I thought I saw Brett Victor's signature all over it. Chris Lattner, who started working on the Swift language in 2010, put the puzzle pieces in place for me - his homepage states that the Xcode Playgrounds feature was heavily influenced by Brett Victor's ideas (among others). Lattner also explains that a personal passion of his is to make programming more interactive and approachable.

Swift is available right now in Xcode 6. It's an exciting time, for one, because Apple is totally invested in Swift, and in making things better for developers at a time when our developer community, in many ways, thought they already had it pretty good.

*As is often true with Apple, in hindsight things seem obvious. Before the WWDC Keynote, nobody expected a new language. The time leading up to WWDC always feeds speculation around what secret message lies hidden in the conference's branding imagery and tag line. With Swift's announcement, "Write the code" obviously becomes all the more clever.
Todd Hopkinson
The Science And Art Of Things That Move
I watched this fascinating talk on bionics given at TED by Hugh Herr who heads the Biomechatronics research group at MIT Media Lab.

Now I'm wanting some spring jumping stilts. Strap on a pair and you'll be running 20 mph and jumping over objects 6 feet high.


Robotics Unlimited's OutRunner remote controlled running robot gets 20 mph as well. Just remember, robots that run can chase.

Robots that can chase call to mind perhaps one of the coolest of all - Boston Dynamic's Cheetah will overtake you and your jumping stilts by at least 9 mph.

Syd Mead's illustration of huge robot dogs visualizes a future with very large running robots.
"Running of the Six Drgxx"
Swedish House Mafia's Greyhound video appears to have been inspired by Mead's well known illustration - these mechanical hounds appear much smaller than the 120 foot tall "drgxx."

Ray Bradbury's mechanical hounds were punishers programmed to enforce societal rules by violence, having been outfitted with poison-injecting four inch steel needles projecting from the snout.
glenn kim's depiction of Brandbury's mechanical hounds

Cross breeding various weapon systems with any one of today's real-world autonomous robots conjures up some mighty fearsome combinations:

Imagine the Boston Dynamics Cheetah saddled with an MK19 grenade machine gun

Something very similar (though fitted on a track-based robot) has been around since at least 2005 in the Talon robot with a Metal Storm grenade machine gun.

How about a Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System plopped on top of a Big Dog?


While we're at it, might as well integrate TrackingPoint style precision firepower technology into something like Atlas





For as much destructive potential as this stuff has, the productive potential of autonomous moving robots is at least as awesome!

Flight Assembled Architecture
Quadrotor drones are building a tower of bricks!
For a thought experiement, scale the size of these machines up or down to extremes and imagine what could happen! Apply the concept to space and underwater.

Speaking of extreme scale robots, the people that brought us Siri (and a ton more - SRI International) are working on Magnetically Actuated Micro-robots - watch them construct nano-tube structures:

Seeing these micro robots actuated by novel means of locomotion brings to mind another robot called Cubli, which achieves locomotion through a combination of jumping up, balancing, and controlled falling.

A conceptual cousin to Cubli is our favorite ball of commercially available robo-sweetness Sphero

To be continued...
Todd Hopkinson
Top Innovator of 2013

Who did Fast Company name Top Innovator of 2013?

Nike.

“Apple is up there with Nike, Disney, Coke, and Sony. But even the best brands require care and investment if they are to retain its energy and vitality. To me, marketing is about values. The Apple brand has clearly suffered from neglect in this area in the past few years. We need to bring it back but not by speaking about speed and feeds, not about pros and cons or why we are better than windows. Nike never talks about the price they instead honor great athletes. That is who they are and what they are about." -- Steve Jobs
Todd Hopkinson
Good Todd's Notable Quoteables
Once upon a time I worked at a financial services company on a software team with another Todd. Before long we came to be known as Good Todd and Bad Todd. I had a collection of quotes I liked and posted for myself and team-members to keep in mind and glean insights from - I especially appreciated the quote-digs against over-abstraction, "lasagna-code", and Alan Kay dissing C++.

Here are a few from the current collection of Good Todd's Noteable Quoteables...
“The most effective debugging tool is still careful thought, coupled with judiciously placed print statements.” - Brian Kernighan 
“Premature optimization is the root of all evil (or at least most of it) in programming” - Donald Knuth
“First make it run, then make it run fast.” - Brian Kernighan  

“...innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea... And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don't get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We're always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it's only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” - Steve Jobs
“Everyone knows that debugging is twice as hard as writing a program in the first place. So if you're as clever as you can be when you write it, how will you ever debug it?” - Brian Kernighan
“Interface matters to me more than anything else, and it always has. I just never realized that... People change the world by using things. The focus must be on the "using", not the "thing.” - Brett Victor
“I invented the term ‘Object-Oriented’, and I can tell you I did not have C++ in mind.” - Alan Kay
“First, solve the problem. Then, write the code.” - John Johnson
“Do you not realize I have had diarrhea since Easters?” - Senor Ramon, Nacho Libre
“I don’t want to get paid to lose. I wanna WIN!” - Nacho, Nacho Librepage1image14928
“Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later” - Fred Brooks
“However little television you watch, watch less.” - David McCullough
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.” - Steve Jobs
“The public should always be wondering how it is possible to give so much for the money.” - Henry Ford
“Brevity is the soul of wit.” - Shakespeare
“In the one and only true way, the object-oriented version of ‘spaghetti code’ is, of course, ‘lasagna code’. (Too many layers).” - Robert Waltman 
“Measuring programming progress by lines of code is like measuring aircraft building progress by weight.” - Bill Gates
“Don’t study the idea to death, with experts and committees. Get on with it and see if it works.” - Ken Iverson
“...A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” - Steve Jobs
“There is a level of abstraction beyond which people don’t want to go. Take a good look at what you want to do, and try to come up with the long-term lazy way, not the short-term lazy way.” - Larry Wall
“All problems in computer science can be solved by another level of indirection.” - Butler Lampson
“...but that usually will create another problem.” - David Wheeler
“All problems in computer science can be solved by another level of indirection...Except for the problem of too many layers of indirection.” - David Wheeler
“Indeed, indirection and layering add space and time overhead, and can obstruct the code's comprehensibility...the effect that indirection has on the comprehensibility of our code is a very important concern, because over the last 50 years...the ability of humans to understand code hasn't improved much. Therefore...be especially wary when introducing layering to handle some vague, unspecified requirements we imagine might crop up in the future rather than today's concrete needs.- Beautiful Code ch. 17
“Layers are for cake, not for software.” - Bart Smaalders
“...sometimes you get a little feeling. And this is not an idea; it's just a feeling. It's like an odor of perfume. But the fun thing is that little feeling can actually lead you to look in the past in different places than you normally do, and you can bring those up to that feeling. And once you do that, that feeling starts expanding into a vision, and the vision expands into an actual idea...”
“Some of the most creative people I know actually operate this way. This is where those ideas come from that are not just incremental to the present. They come out of vague, even muscular sensations, that you have to go chasing to find out what they are. If you try to get the idea too early, it can only be in terms of the present.” - Allen Kaypage3image17976 page3image18136 page3image18296
“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” - Steve Jobs
“That’s been one of my mantras -- focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” - Steve Jobs
“If you think C++ is not overly complicated, just what is a protected abstact virtual base pure virtual private destructor and when was the last time you needed one?” - Tom Cargill
“Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability.” - Edsger W. Dijkstra
“Complexity kills. It sucks the life out of developers, it makes products difficult to plan, build and test, it introduces security challenges and it causes end-user and administrator frustration.” - Ray Ozzie
“Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.” - Douglass Hofstadter
“If we'd asked the customers what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses’” - Henry Ford
“When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” - Buckminster Fuller
“For a sucessful technology, honesty must take precedence over public relations for nature cannot be fooled.” - Richard Feynman
“The most important single aspect of software development is to be clear about what you are trying to build.” - Bjarne Stroustrup
“I object to doing things that computers can do.” - Olin Shivers
“Complexity has nothing to do with intelligence, simplicity does.” - Larry Bossidy
“It is not that uncommon for the cost of an abstraction to outweigh the benefit it delivers. Kill one today!” - John Carmack
“Premature optimization, that's like a sneeze. Premature abstraction is like ebola; it makes my eyes bleed.” - Christer Ericson
“So much complexity in software comes from trying to make one thing do two things.” - Ryan Singer
Todd Hopkinson
Create Or Die

Creation is in our DNA. Humans are makers. We explore. We play. We discover. We build. We create. We invent. Yet too often we lose it, we change:
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” - Pablo Picasso
The fact is this creative spirit can be snuffed out almost as soon as it begins. It can be programmed or educated right out of us. The precious flame of curiosity and discovery sparking our creativity can be extinguished almost without a second thought.

SCHOOL MISTRESS
What about you, Truman?
                          
TRUMAN
I want to be an explorer
...like Magellan.

SCHOOL MISTRESS
(slightly condescending)
I'm afraid no one's going to pay you do that, Truman.  You might have to find something a little more practical.
(glancing to a pulldown wall map behind her head)
Besides, you're too late.  There's really nothing left to explore.

The class roars with laughter as the crestfallen Truman takes his seat. 

-- The Truman Show, Screenplay by Andrew M. Niccol

Despite the soul-crushing assault on the little Leonardos and Magellans in all of us, we live in a time of unparalleled personal creative capacity. The information, the opportunities for learning and doing, and the resources available to even the most common of us would astonish history's most eminent figures.

What an exciting time to be alive!

You can view world-class lectures and courseware from MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Berkley, Carnegie Mellon, and a hundred more institutions, all for free.

Explore the world, the solar system, and galaxies on your computer.

You can explore Math, Physics, Chemistry, now Computer Science, and much more at Khan Academy

You can use Khan Academy to review concepts & form the mathematical bridge you need while taking courses like 6.002: Circuits and Electronics from MITx at edX, again, all for free.

You can build an autonomous multi-rotor drone, a space balloon, or an automated sentry gun using low-cost components along with a simple Arduino "prototyping platform" and free software.

You can fabricate toys, objects, or almost anything you can imagine right on your desktop using 3D additive printing machines.

You can prototype your own circuits on a breadboard or with software, hone it, and then have it printed as a one-off or mass produced.

You can launch a startup business or project that previously would have required big money, connections, and resources, just by having a great idea, the ability to execute, and sharing it with others. If people like it, they fund it, and you might do something like this (raised $10 million).

You can build your own Rally Fighter in 6 days (of course you'll need $75,000).

You can build applications, program whatever you can imagine, and maybe even change the world

The surface has barely been scratched. Truman's teacher was wrong. There is much more left to explore.
Todd Hopkinson
Drone Days of Yore
What do you do when you break your drone? When mine bit it hard, the central cross cracked rendering it uncontrollable. Parrot offers a replacement central cross component for $25. So, like the cheapskate I am, I disassembled the drone, fired up the hot glue gun, and went to work.

She never did fly as true again. Now she lays around reliving her glory days under the hot sun. Soon after the hot glue repair I took her back up. The wind was gusty; The pilot was fearless (and poorer for it.) She took to the cement hard and would never fly again... or would she?



Todd Hopkinson
edX
A summary mashup from the FAQ:
EdX is an enterprise of MIT and Harvard University. EdX is building an open-source online learning platform and web portal for online learning; HarvardX, MITx and BerkeleyX currently offer classes online for free.
learners who demonstrate mastery of subjects can earn a certificate of completion. Certificates will be issued by edX under the name of the underlying "X University" from where the course originated, i.e. HarvardX,MITx or BerkeleyX. For the courses in Fall 2012, those certificates will be free. There is a plan to charge a modest fee for certificates in the future.
I'm signed up for 6.002x, Circuits and Electronics from MITx and CS169.1x, Software as a Service from BerkeleyX.

169.1x starts Sept 24 and ends Oct 26th, with an estimated required effort of 12 hours a week. Course staff is Armando Fox and David Patterson. CS169.1x teaches the fundamentals for engineering long–lasting software using highly–productive Agile techniques to develop Software as a Service (SaaS) using Ruby on Rails.
Todd Hopkinson
A Mac On Mars?

WALL-E was a Mac, but he never went to Mars. You know he was a Mac by the famous startup chime you hear when he is fully recharged. Unlike WALL-E, NASA's Curiosity rover did indeed make it to Mars, and it just so happens, uses a PowerPC processor based on the original iMac's processor. The PowerPC was developed by an alliance between Apple, IBM, and Motorola. Many Macs featured PowerPC processors until Apple switched to Intel processors in 2005.

For good reason, many automatically think "Mac" when the PowerPC is mentioned. The original iMac's processor was the PowerPC 750 [1]. Curiosity uses a radiation-hardened PowerPC based on that, called the RAD 750. Unlike the Mac, Curiosity does not run a Mac OS version of any kind. Technically, Curiosity is not really a Mac; So, that famous startup chime will not be heard echoing across the barren scape of the red planet... at least not yet.


Curiosity is still a fascinating machine. It's onboard Operating System is called VxWorks. This realtime OS is also used on other systems such as the Apache Longbow attack helicopter, BMW iDrive, several spacecraft, some printers and routers, and more.


Curiosity is powered by a "nuclear battery", otherwise known as an RTG (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator). Basically, it uses a nuclear material and some thermocouples to generate voltage from the temperature difference between the martian cold and the heat from the nuclear material (Plutonium-238). It will generate 110 Watts of continuous electrical power for years.


It communicates with the Mars Orbiters using its UHF Electra radio. But it can also communicate directly to Earth with an X band transmitter and receiver.


Curiosity recently received and returned the first "interplanetary voicemail" via the rover's broadcast capabilities. But what would really get the Martian population excited would be to include Siri on the next rover, and let them ask questions in very deliberate and pronounced English. Maybe that's how WALL-E got his start.

[1] The PowerPC family of processors was not exclusive to Macs. PowerPC architecture has been used by other hardware, such as video game consoles like the Wii, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3.


Todd Hopkinson
114 MPG Car Developed In 3 Months Using Agile
Joe Justice and his team built wikispeed, a car that gets 114 MPG, using agile software development methodologies, and they did it in 3 months. Notice the Scrum task board on the wall in the factory in the TED video below. Justice isn't shy about touting Scrum, or his team's ability to redesign any component of the car and have it implemented on the actual car in 7 days or less.

Todd Hopkinson
Rally Fighter

I took my boys over to Local Motors right here in Phoenix off of I-10 a few miles south of Chandler blvd to see the legendary (in my house) Rally Fighter.
Rally Fighter was designed by Sangho Kim, who entered his design for the car into a competition created by Local Motors. The Local Motors community voted, selecting Kim's design as the winner. Kim was awarded $20,000 and takes the title as the designer of the Rally Fighter. Kim attended the renowned Pasadena Art Center College of Design, and it shows in the incredibly cool car he helped create.

You can acquire your own Rally Fighter for $75,000, and you'll get to spend 6 days with a partner and an expert guide at the Local Motors facility building your vehicle.

This car, and the community builder concept that brought it about, are killer ideas. This is pure collaborative innovation. How great that it's happening right here in the Valley of the Sun.

more refs: here, here, and here 


Todd Hopkinson
The Van Halen Software Development Test
Van Halen is responsible for the ingenious brown M&M's clause in their contract rider.
"the band developed the M&M's demand as a means of checking whether the venue was properly honoring the terms of the contract to their satisfaction. Subsequently, if the bowl was missing, or if there were brown M&M's present, the band members would have reason to suspect that the venue might have cut corners or not properly honored legitimate technical and safety concerns listed within the contract." wikipedia (David Lee Roth tells the story here)
Van Halen's brown M&M's test is applicable to software development groups, from programmers through to the rest of the Development Abstraction Layer. But instead of brown M&M's, the fitness of conference room presentations will be our barometer.

Take any random presentation, preferably a demo of a software product. Is the presentation fraught with technical problems and foreseeable distractions, such as projectors not working, sound not working, sound being too low, projection images being too dim or washed out, missing cables, incompatible technology, screens not working, and most glaringly of all, consistently failing or poor connectivity? If so, you've flunked the test. If you can't pull it together enough to deliver a basic demonstration how can you be trusted to make anything more sophisticated, such as software?

It's like a fitness trainer; You don't look to an overweight trainer to help get you into shape. Or a pilot; You don't want the guy who continually crashes during basic maneuvers on a flight simulator to fly you around in a real plane.

But, I think an even simpler M&M's test, before we even enter the conference room, is the fitness of your connectivity itself. Do you have stable and sufficient connectivity, or does your solution hinder you? If it hinders you in doing and presenting your work, then you have just failed your brown M&M's test. The bowl is full of brown M&M's and Van Halen is disappointed in you.

Why be a roady when you can be Van Halen? Now's the best time for your team to become rock stars, not wanna-be roadies who can't even weed out the brown M&M's.

Note: I don't need to state the obvious, but I will anyway - this M&M's test doesn't mean you fail for unforeseen glitches and problems - these are bound to happen no matter what - but I am saying that there are obvious, easily foreseen, fixable problems that are considered total failures unless they're dealt with. A mature team sees them and fixes them. Less mature or less capable teams will fail to see the problems, or just look past them and not care, like bad roadies setting up for a concert disaster.
Todd Hopkinson
Hopkinson's Law
Hopkinson's law is a counterpart to Ohm's law used in magnetic circuits. The law is named after the British electrical engineer, John Hopkinson. It states that[1][2]\mathcal{F}=\phi \mathcal{R}_m,where \scriptstyle \mathcal{F} is the magnetomotive force (MMF) across a magnetic element, \phi is the magnetic flux through the magnetic element, and \scriptstyle \mathcal{R}_m is the magnetic reluctance of that element.
Here's where I pretend I truly understand what this means. But I really posted this because I share a surname with the law's discoverer and I like the ring of it - Hopkinson's Law. Although, what if I too discover my own scientific law by some curious turn of events? What will mine be called?
Todd Hopkinson
Call Me Trimtab

"Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary—the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there's a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.
It's a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it's going right by you, that it's left you altogether. But if you're doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go.
So I said, call me Trim Tab."
—Buckminster Fuller

Todd Hopkinson
Eco-Roof
I recently visited Biosphere 2. Near the end of the guided tour, after exiting the giant atmospheric "lung" at the heart of the Biosphere system, we emerged back out into "Biosphere One" to an outdoor area set up with little 2 to 3 foot tall miniature box houses with flat roofs, capped with rooftop gardens. The guide said that this project, run by local U of A students, was showing results of cooling the spaces within these garden-topped box houses on average by 4-6 degrees.

The Eco-Roof project by Japanese firm Daiwa House Industry brought to mind that student project over at Biosphere 2.

The ACROS Fukuoka building in Japan is another application of the green roof concept
Watch this video on the Daiwa green roof project Eco-Roof.
"Eco Roof is roof-top greening system for corrugated steel roof, which is consisted of tray boards made of recycled plastic raw materials. With intention to have light-weight roof-top system, we adopted the plant sedum sarmentosum bunge, which grows with no frequent watering and maintenance. It not only lowers surface temperature of the roofs, but is an indispensable mechanism to prevent the Urban Heat Island (UHI) phenomenon in metropolitan area."

Todd Hopkinson