USMC Commandant’s Innovation Challenge

In September 2016, the USMC announced the the first Commandants Innovation Challenge, sponsored by Marine Corps Combat Development Command/Deputy Commandant Combat Development and Integration (MCCDC/CDI), and hosted by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab/ Futures Directorate (MCWL/FD).  The purpose of this challenge was to solicit innovative ideas from Marines, Sailors, and government civilians from across the Marine Corps. The most promising ideas will be selected for one of several possible pathways towards a potential fielded capability. Challenge winners will have the opportunity to directly partner with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory to further develop their ideas into reality through, prototyping, experimentation, and possibly Marine Corps-wide fielding.

The Challenge:

  • Identify missions or tasks assigned to your unit that currently requires a Marine(s) to accomplish, and that could/should be replaced by a robotic or autonomous system.  Missions or tasks that are prime candidates for autonomous solutions are typically dull, dirty, or dangerous in nature.
  • Identify systems or technologies that will make you or fellow Marines more effective, efficient, or safer

Continue reading

ISIS Propganda Analysis Published on Yahoo! Finance

While many experts say the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria is on the decline, you wouldn’t know it from the organization’s public narrative.

ISIS aggressively promotes the attacks it directs, supports or inspires. The extremist group recently took credit for attacks in Orlando and Brussels, reinforcing its image of being an unstoppable and legitimate network. And it has built that image through a troublingly savvy combination of traditional and new media.

ISIS’ propaganda engine yields four key marketing insights that highlight why the group’s messaging is so resilient. Check out my latest take in Yahoo! Finance breaking down ISIS’s propaganda strategy and identifying insights useful for any modern day marketing campaign.

The piece, titled “Here are the disturbing reasons ISIS marketing is so effective,” was published at Yahoo! Finance on August 27th.

Continue reading

Review of “Venture Deals” by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson

Review and Notes from "Venture Deals"

Book Overview

The book “Venture Deals” is co-authored by Brad Feld (from the Foundry Group and TechStars) and Jason Mendelson (also of the Foundry Group). Prefaced by the tag line “Be smarter than your lawyer and venture capitalist,” the book aims to provide a general overview to the venture capital fundraising process for startup founders and employees, lawyers, and other venture capitalists.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. I read this book coming from a fairly limited understanding of finance and the basics of venture capital fundraising so I felt this book provided a solid understanding of the key players, vocabulary, and issues while also serving as a good reference document for the future. The book is fairly short, including a fairly extensive Appendix with example documents such as terms sheets and letters of intent. It was a relatively quick read and I’m sure I will re-read specific sections, if not the entire thing, again in the future.

A significant portion of the book focuses on various aspects of the term sheet, while the remaining sections detail topics such as alternative fundraising options, venture capital fund operations, negotiating tactics, and basic legal guidance. The book gets fairly technical in some portions in order to reinforce key concepts with detailed examples, however, these details aren’t overwhelmingly complex. In addition to the author’s perspective on the fundraising process, they also added comments from Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path in separate text boxes called “The Entrepreneur’s Perspective.” These are pretty useful as a summary of the key points and have some valuable additional insight.

 

Book Notes

For the rest of this post, I’m just going to highlight some of the quotes or concepts I found interesting or relevant as I progressed through the book. Some commentary is added where I felt it was relevant, but a lot of the content can stand alone.

Continue reading

FPV Quadrotor Operation – DRS120 Flight Controller Configuration

This post follows the DRS120 Kit & Additional Components and DRS120 Hardware & Electronics Assembly posts. This post describes the steps necessary to install Cleanflight Configurator, flash the Betaflight firmware, and configure the flight controller software before operating the quadrotor.

DRS120 Flight Controller Configuration

After assembling the DRS120 FPV quadrotor, the next step is to install the autopilot software and calibrate the Remote Control. We will use the Cleanflight flight software to program the flight controller board.

Cleanflight is an community project that develops flight controller firmware and related tools. Cleanflight can be used on both multirotor and fixed-wing aircraft. The flight controller software is open source and is also a 32 bit version of the original 8 bit MultiWii software. Therefore, this software can fully leverage the 32 bit ST micro processor on the Micro Scisky flight controller board. Cleanflight consists of two primary pieces of software. The firmware is the code that runs on the flight controller board. Cleanflight also has a GUI configuration tool for updating the flight controller settings that runs on Windows, Linux, and OSX.

The first step is to install the the Cleanflight Configurator. It runs as an app within Google Chrome so you will need to install Google Chrome if you don’t already have it. Once Google Chrome is installed, install the Cleanflight Configurator application. Open up Google Chrome and access your application page at the following link and click on the Cleanflight icon.

Continue reading

FPV Quadrotor Operation – DRS120 Hardware & Electronics Assembly

This post follows the post DRS120 Kit & Additional Components and describes the process for assembling the frame, installing the motors, flight controller, propellers, and FPV camera, as well as connecting the electronics.

DRS120 Construction

Once the complete list of parts is purchased and available, it is now time to assemble the quadrotor. The first step is to install the motors on the frame.

  1. Insert the (4) rubber motor grommets into the motor holes on the frame
  2. Place each motor into one of the ABS motor feet and wire protectors
  3. Referencing the below image, insert each motor/protector pair into the rubber motor grommets. Note that the motors with the red and blue wires spin in the clockwise direction while the motors with the black and white wires spin in the counter-clockwise direction.

Quadrotor Plus and X Motor Configurations

FPV Quadrotor Operation – DRS120 Kit & Additional Components

This post documents the components in a DRS120 quadrotor kit as well as some required additional components sold separately. This micro quadrotor is intended to be used for First Person View (FPV) flight. It’s small size makes it easy to transport, maneuverable indoors, and the quadrotor is not currently required to be registered with the FAA since it weights less than 250 grams. This quadrotor, fully constructed with a camera and 750mah 1S battery is only 62 grams.

The construction and autopilot software are fairly simple on this quadrotor making it ideal for beginning pilots. Learning the fundamentals of quadrotor maintenance, programming, and piloting will enable pilots to transition to larger platforms with advanced features and sensors such as a camera gimbal, GPS navigation, or obstacle avoidance.

DRS120 Kit and Additional Components

This quadrotor comes available as a kit from the Drone Race Shop. The kit contains the basic items needed to build the quadrotor including the kit, motors, propellers, battery, and flight controller. A few additional pieces of hardware are required to turn this quadrotor into an FPV racer. The kit is shown below and each of the major components will be described in more detail.

Continue reading

WordPress & Heroku – Securing Your WordPress Database Connections

This post follows the post Heroku & WordPress Website Deployment which details how to create and publish a website using WordPress and Heroku. This post details how to secure the connections between the website administrator, the website database, and the website application.

Securing Your Login Domain

Each application also has a free SSL endpoint for the applicationanme.herokuapp.com domain.The code below will protect your login credentials by setting the SSL domain in the configuration variables for all logged in sessions.

We can also update the “WordPress Address (URL)” setting which is the address where your WordPress core files reside. We will update it to include the https Herkou domain name. This can be updated in the WordPress settings page as shown below.

Continue reading

WordPress & Heroku – Custom Website Development & Deployment

This post describes a rapid and flexible way to create, deploy, and maintain a website for free. I used WordPress to create and organize the website content, and Heroku to host and run the website.

WordPress

WordPress is a free and open-source Content Management System which is arguably the easiest and most popular blogging system on the internet today. WordPress can be hosted off of the WordPress network or off of an alternate internet hosting service. We will be using Heroku to host our WordPress software.

We will also be taking advantage of the extensive theme and plug-in ecosystem to customize the website. WordPress themes allow users to change the look and functionality of a website quickly and without altering the website content. The plug-in architecture allows users to tailor a website with custom functions an features.

Continue reading

WordPress & Heroku – WordPress Database Optimization

This post follows the post Heroku & WordPress Website Deployment which details how to create and publish a website using WordPress and Heroku. This post details how to clean-up and optimize your WordPress database using plugins and WordPress features to minimize your Heroku database requirements.

Using WordPress Optimization Features

As you add more content to your website, change things, and activate plugins, your database entries are modified and the database increases in size. This could make your website slower as it takes longer for the server to retrieve information from the database. Also, the ClearDB add-on for Heroku has a free tier which is capped at 5MB. If your database passes 5MB, you will no longer be able to write to the database and will have to pay for the next higher tiered plan. Therefore, regularly cleaning and optimizing your database is a good idea to keep the database size at a minimum. Check out the database description page on WordPress.org for more information about WordPress core tables.

One way is to used a database management tool to interface with your database. phpMyAdmin is the most common way to manage a WordPress database. If you are not using cPanel as your hosting control panel, your hosting plan may be using a different MySQL management tool to phpMyAdmin. This is fairly technical and detailed so if you would like to explore this option, see this page for more information.

WordPress has a native tool that allows you to repair and optimize your database. More information about this tool is available in the Automatic Database Optimizing section. To activate this tool, you must first add the following line to your website wp-config.php file.

Continue reading

WordPress & Heroku – Website Integration With CloudFlare

This post follows the post Heroku & WordPress Website Deployment which details how to create and publish a website using WordPress and Heroku. This post details how to integrate your website with CloudFlare for performance and security services

Importing Your Website to CloudFlare

CloudFlare is a company that provides a Content Delivery Network (CDN), distributed domain name server services, and internet security services. CloudFlare works by positioning its servers between the website hosting provider (Heroku in our case) and the website visitors. This is done by transferring the domain to CloudFlare’s name servers so CloudFlare can handle the DNS records. As a result, CloudFlare’s network protects, speeds up, and improves availability for our website. They accelerate the website’s content by edge-caching and other techniques while also offering additional availability and security features to automatically handle DDoS and other real-world problems. Finally, they also a free SSL certificate so all of our visitors can have a secure connection the our website. Since website speed and secure connection availability are used in Google’s page rank, these services also improve the SEO of our website.

The first step is to create a CloudFlare account and import your domain using the importing tool. More details on this process are available at this CloudFlare article.

Continue reading

WordPress & Heroku – Custom Domain Name Configuration

This post follows the post Heroku & WordPress Website Deployment which details how to create and publish a website using WordPress and Heroku. This post details how to setup a custom domain name registered through GoDaddy and integrating it with Heroku.

Custom Domain Name Configuration

By default, Heroku assigns each application a URL resembling applicationname.herokuapp.com. However, some users may prefer to use a custom domain name, like example.com instead. Heroku has written a detailed blog post titled “Custom Domain Names for Apps.”  The relevant portions are below with specific details regarding GoDaddy domain name hosting.

Heroku allows the users to add custom root domains and subdomains using the Heroku CLI. Examples of the code are shown below.

To verify the domains are added, run the following command.

Continue reading