March 29, 2015

Springtime in Minnesota

Springtime in Minnesota
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for March 29, 2015

Spring rolled in this week with a pleasant reminder that we live in Minnesota.  We had one of our largest snow storms of the year with more than 8 inches of snow landing in Prior Lake which filled our yard again.  We just love winter weather.

Sunny has been just dying to go swimming and has no hesitation about jumping in the water the second there's a hole big enough for him to fit.  I don't know how he does it without freezing to death, but he seems to be impervious to the cold.

We always love watching the unique birds that wander through our neighborhood and this big guy stood out to us.  I think he's a hawk, but I'm sure someone will point out that I'm wrong.  

On Friday night, we met up with our good friends Jason and Jen for a trip to Mystic Lake Casino.  We go there because we get tired of carrying around that heavy money all week and this place seems to be a good way to get rid of it.  They're nice that way.

On Friday nights they always have interesting dance competitions going on.  One of these days, I'm going up there again and I'm bringing Miss Sheri with me.  I just really want to see her dressed this way.

Luke hasn't been able to drive for the past couple of months since he received his pacemaker.  So now he's back on the road and I'm sure the cops will be back in our lives again soon.

On Saturday night, our good friends, Jen and Dan, came over so we could play dress-up games.  We like to wear the same clothes.

Then we go and take a bath and start over again.  Some people might think it's a weird game, but we like it.

On Sunday, Miss Sheri's Aunt Mary and Cousin Mary were in town so we met them at Fuddruckers for lunch.  Mmmmm.  Fuddruckers.

Hard Drive Malware Hack Opens A Pandora's Box, But Storage Vendors Have Been Closed Off On The Implications

Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Minneapolis-based Equus Computer Systems, told CRN that customers have yet to ask about the malware. 

"Maybe people are now used to being spied on," Swank said. "It's creepy." 

The response to the malware will have to come from the hard drive manufacturers, Swank said. 

"For now, it's hard to see how the system and storage manufacturers could be at fault," he said. "But it's pretty crazy to think someone has been able to spy on us all this time."

Read The Full Article Here:

Intel Acquisition Of Altera Would Further Drive It Into IoT

Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Equus Computer Systems, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based system builder, said buying Altera would be a great move for Intel, particularly as the vendor looks to take more steps to capitalize on the rising Internet of Things opportunity.

Swank said that while Intel continues to be a leader on the client side of the PC business, the excitement for channel partners is around the Internet of Things. This will allow them to play both sides of the field, he said.

"Intel continues to be a leader in that space and this is a really interesting move for them. ... I think Intel is smart, they know where the marketplace is going, they know where technology is going," Swank said. 

"They're a leader in the space right now, but I think an acquisition like this is going to help them leapfrog where they are today. Bringing the two organizations together is just going to be a win-win for Intel's partners and customers to be prepared for the new devices coming."

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March 24, 2015

Get Ready For Windows 10

Microsoft bet big that Windows 8 would ride the tablet wave to prominence, but the company lost. A return to business as usual, or at least a familiar business desktop design, should reassure users frustrated by the new interface, apps, charms, and widgets of Windows 8. Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing for Equus Computer Systems Inc., a Minnetonka, Minn.-based custom PC maker, says, “Microsoft almost threw out the baby with the bathwater when they wanted to be so focused on the mobile touch world and abandoned the traditional keyboard, mouse, etc., world.”

 Microsoft has yet to finalize the hardware requirements, but all indications are that any system that runs Windows 7 or 8 will also run 10. In fact, says Swank, “The past couple of releases have seen hardware requirements almost become more lenient.” During in-house testing, Equus engineers have had no hardware issues caused by the early releases of the new operating system.

But Microsoft’s announcement of free operating system upgrades to Windows 10 from Windows 7 and 8 caught Swank by surprise. “Five years ago they would have laughed if you asked for a free upgrade.” He assumes the change of heart has to do with Microsoft trying to keep people in the Windows environment and away from iOS and Android. “Future revenues won’t be as tightly tied to the OS,” he says. 

Being a PC maker, Swank notes that Intel and Microsoft seem to be converging new product releases. “Intel’s new Skylake processor architecture doesn’t have an official release date, but the timing should be right for the new OS and CPUs for desktops to appear together.” The successor to the Broadwell architecture, Skylake will be fabricated using a 14 nm manufacturing process and will fit into LGA1151 sockets.

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March 23, 2015

2015 FRC Robotics Wisconsin Regional in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Published on Mar 22, 2015
These are some clips of a few qualifying matches that occurred during the 2015 FRC Robotics Wisconsin Regional in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Our team is # 2169 KING TeC out of Prior Lake, Minnesota so much of the video is focused on them. It also has a few good clips of tournament champion team #2826 and the impressive robot they built.

March 22, 2015

2015 FRC Robotics Wisconsin Regional in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

2015 FRC Robotics Wisconsin Regional in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for March 22, 2015.

This weekend, we traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the Wisconsin regional FRC robotics tournament.  

It was held at the UW-Milwaukee Panther arena.  They also have roller derby there some times.

We stayed at the Milwaukee Hyatt Regency across the street.  I always get a little freaked out with these hotels with the open hallways all overlooking the lobby far below.  But they are really cool as long as you can contain your fear of heights.

The best part of the hotel was the glass elevators.  All sorts of photo possibilities were available to me.

We ate at George Webb restaurant for breakfast which was really good.  I like bacon!

At night, we hung out with a whole bunch of really cool parents of other robotics kids.

We wandered through downtown Milwaukee and stumbled across this bronze statue of Fonzie.  Aaaaayyyyy!!!

We went to an underground bar called the Safe House which is a spy bar that's hidden in the shadows of an alley.  You have to know the secret password to get in otherwise they make you perform several humiliating acts to be admitted.  Little do you know, that your performance is being recorded and displayed to the people inside the bar!  This is a photo of the monitor while our friend, Guy, is doing his best "Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" dance to get in to see us.  He's very talented.

Of course, the reason we were there was to support the Prior Lake robotics team, KING TeC.  Their robot did marvelous at this tournament and they literally missed going to the finals by less than a point!  But they ended up with a third place finish out of 60 teams and then surprised us all when they were awarded with the Engineering Inspiration prize for the team.  This award celebrates outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering within a team's school and community.  With this award, they are sponsored by none other than NASA to go to St. Louis, Missouri for the FRC Robotics World Championships!

Needless to say, the kids were pretty excited about their good fortune!

We're pretty proud of these guys as well as the entire KING TeC team!!

Google, Intel Pair Up To Challenge Apple Watch With Luxury Wearable

"It's good to see Google and Intel working together ... it's a natural partnership that makes sense to both companies," said Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Equus, an Intel partner based in Minnetonka, Minn. "Google's done amazing things with Android and opened up doors in a variety of different places, and Intel needs to work with the top software provider out there to continue to bring innovative features to the table and gain market space."

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March 15, 2015

Spring of Golden Puppies

Spring of Golden Puppies
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for March 15, 2015

On Tuesday night we went to Luke's band concert.

Luke's performance was quite striking.

On Wednesday night I went out for sushi with three of my good friends from Intel Corporation, Max, Scott, and Adam.  As usual, we had a very inspiring conversation about what's happening in the computer business and discussed ideas for capitalizing on advancements in technology.  The next morning, Intel reported an expected shortfall in their upcoming earnings report which caused a negative reaction to their stock price.  I don't think the announcement was any result of our dinner together, but if it was related in any way than I'd like to apologize to everyone who was affected.

On Friday night, my good friend, Jason Hornbuckle, came over for a visit.  He was so excited to see me.

On Saturday morning, we went to our neighbor's house for a special treat.  Their 10 year old golden retriever got frisky with their 10 month old golden retriever and now they have 11 new puppies in their house.  Talk about a barrel of fun.

Luke was so excited to go see the puppies.  But I was even more surprised to see how much the rest of the family was into it as well.  These little cuddle bunnies draw you in like nothing I've ever seen before.

So now the big debate at our house is should we get a new puppy.  I really didn't think Miss Sheri would let us even entertain the idea, but she fell in love with them as much as anyone.  It will be another six weeks until they're ready to be adopted by new families so we have some time to think about it and convince our 10 year old Golden Retriever, Sunny, to not get jealous if we do.

On Saturday night, our good friends, Karl and Tina Zitzewitz, came over for a competitive game of bean bag toss.

The stakes of the game are that the winning man gets to spend the rest of the night in the hot tub with the ladies while the loser has to stand outside the tub and fetch water.  I'll get you next time, Zitzewitz!

I had to include these awesome new photos of Luke and Avery in their robotics gear.

The photos were taken by our friend, Melissa, who is a professional photographer and the owner of Monkey Brain Photography.  She does great work!

March 12, 2015

Partners Bullish On PC Sales Despite Intel's Revenue Slash

"This is part of the natural business cycle for upgrades," said Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Equus Computer Systems, a Minneapolis-based custom system builder. "We saw a spike in sales last year when consumers had to upgrade their PCs for Windows XP, and so now there's no catalyst for desktops today driving the upgrade cycle. But this coming fall, when we see Microsoft's Windows 10 launch and Intel's new Skylake CPU, I think we'll see another spike in demand."

Read Full Article Here:

March 8, 2015

A Trip To The Farm for Grandma's Birthday

A Trip To The Farm for Grandma's Birthday
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for March 8, 2015

On Friday, we drove over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house to celebrate her birthday.  Actually, we kind of drove next to the river and I don't remember a lot of woods, but we did go to Grandma's house.

We had the joy of starting the day watching our niece, Karli, plan in a volleyball tournament.  Her team did really well and placed second in the tournament after an exciting final set of matches.

It was a fun way to spend a Saturday cheering along with Miss Sheri's side of the family.  Except for Avery.  He wasn't in a real Cheering mood.

Avery did brighten up a bit when we went back to the farm and I told him we wanted to give Luke's pacemaker a good test run.  It's been three weeks since it was installed, so I wanted him to chase Luke around the fields for awhile on the 4 wheeler.  It seemed to work pretty good and he nearly stayed out of the way for the whole hour or so that he chased him.

Luke seemed to enjoy things more when he got to drive.  

We spent much of the day in Rock Rapids, Iowa which is also known as the City of Murals.  There are beautiful paintings like this all over the town which is pretty cool.

For supper, we went out to the Pizza Ranch for Grandma's birthday celebration.  These guys have great pizza and chicken!

All of Grandma's grandchildren are starting to outgrow her, but part of the problem is she's sitting down and they're not.

Powered Up: Intel Delivers New Line Of Mobile Chips

"Hopefully this release will put [Intel] back in the game," said Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Equus Computer Systems, a Minneapolis-based custom system builder. "Intel has traditionally been focused on high-performance chips for desktop and server platforms, and then competition shifted as the mobile platform rose in popularity. Intel has been hard at work coming up with solutions for the mobility level, and we're seeing some well-thought-out plans here." 

 "It all comes down to market share. … Intel's had a lot of issues competing with ARM in the past," said Swank. "Intel's been hard at work, and it's interesting to see the LTE advanced solutions they've come out with. Their new chips have some great new features, and it’s proof that they've started to adopt to the mobile space."

Read Full Article Here:

March 2, 2015

Video of the 2015 FRC Robotics Northern Lights Regional in Duluth, Minnesota.

Published on Mar 1, 2015
These are some clips of a few qualifying matches that occurred during the 2015 FRC Robotics Northern Lights Regional in Duluth, Minnesota. Our team is # 2169 KING TeC out of Prior Lake, Minnesota so much of the video is focused on them. It also has a few good clips of tournament champion team #525 and the impressive robot they built.

March 1, 2015

2015 FRC Robotics Northern Lights Regional in Duluth, Minnesota

2015 FRC Robotics Northern Lights Regional in Duluth
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for March 1, 2015

At work this week, 5 of us suddenly discovered we all wore the same outfit.  And no, it wasn't planned!

On Friday, I drove up to Duluth to join my family at a robot tournament.  I always get tempted to climb up this thing when I'm there, but it's dang cold outside.

We were there to cheer on the Prior Lake High School robotics team, KING TeC, as they competed in the Northern Lights FRC regional tournament.  This year's game is called Recycle Rush and this is how it's played:

The game leaves a pretty messy playing field after each match!

We really like to see our boys pretending like they like each other at events like these.  It doesn't happen that often.

The kids spend a lot of time in the stands, singing songs, doing cheers and generally rooting on their team as well as other teams.   We parents try to do the same.  Some parents do it much better than others.  I'm one of the others.

It was exactly 2 weeks to the day that Luke had went through his pacemaker surgery, so we were a little nervous when we came back from lunch and discovered he was volunteering to help with the tournament by carrying flags back and forth to the field.  He did this for about 3 and a half hours straight.

It might not seem like a big accomplishment to carry flags back and forth, but we were really proud of him.  

Going to these tournaments is a great experience for the kids.  They get to stay in hotels for 3 nights with no parental supervision and get to eat out at nice restaurants with their friends every meal.  I'm surprised we can get them to come home when it's all over.

We also had the treat of going and spending some quality adult time with other team parents.  These are some fun and interesting folks to hang out with.

I came to discover that Dave isn't really keen on getting his picture taken.

We didn't stay out too late, but we did have the chance to engage in some great talks with a lot of fun people.

The next day, our good friends, Jen and Dan Walters, arrived.  Since it was so cold outside, Dan and the ladies stuck together pretty closely as we walked to the restaurant.

The team did very well in the tournament making it to the quarter finals and winning the Industrial Design award.  Coach Volm was so excited he could hardly contain himself.

KING TeC 2169.  This is a great team!