Sunday, December 30, 2012

Carbon Tax Works to Make Ireland More Green

Using tax to get people to change behaviors works -- Germany has reached a tipping point with the installation of solar and other renewables by consumers. And using tax to dis-incentivize is not a new idea. Ireland, in the face of economic down-turn, set up taxes on most of the fossil fuels used by homes, offices, vehicles and farms, based on each fuel’s carbon dioxide emissions. While this drove up prices for oil, natural gas and kerosene, the result was reduced usage (economizing, as it were). Household trash is weighed at the curb, and residents are billed for anything that is not being recycled.

But the results are impressive: considered one of the E.U's highest per-capita producers of greenhouse gases, with levels nearing those of the United States, Ireland has seen its emissions drop more than 15 percent since 2008. The Irish love their cars almost as much as Yanks, but being a small country with a large urban population, curbing use is a no-brainer.

Read more here at NYT

Friday, December 28, 2012

High-Speed Rail Gets a Longer Route

In China, the almost-1,500 mile trip from Beijing to Guangzhou now takes almost half the time -- a not-insignificant cut, with the trains reaching upwards of 300kmp on some stretches.

Ministry officials have called the new line “one of the most technically advanced in the world”, and Zhou Li, head of the Ministry’s science and technology department told reporters they had “developed a full range of effective measures to manage safety”, according to Reuters.

Read more here...

But food service is not a priority. Only one food service car, boxed lunches, and high prices. Oh, well, the price of 22 hours reduced to 8. Brown bag it, I guess.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

This Internet Thing Might Just Catch On

Need more proof that the internet changes, well, everything? Again? Still? Not just the internet, but how we get to it -- smart phones and tablet, for example.

Mary Meeker, of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, published her latest summary of useful data, the “2012 Internet Trends Year-End Update.”

-- Meeker’s data show 2.4 billion Internet users worldwide, a number that’s still growing eight percent yearly.
-- There are 1.1 billion smartphone subscribers worldwide — but that’s still just 17 percent of the global cellphone market.
-- 29 percent of adults in the U.S. now own either a tablet or an e-reader.
-- Mobile devices now account for 13 percent of worldwide Internet traffic, up from 4 percent in 2010.
-- Mobile app and advertising revenue has grown at an annual rate of 129 percent since 2008, and now tops $19 billion.

Read more at VentureBeat

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Consider Total Cost of Ownership with Cloud Deployments

What are the cost savings associated with a move to the cloud? Sometimes it is not the external costs (readily apparent in the contracts or service level agreements) that unbalance a cloud migration, but the internal costs one seeks to reduce. For example, a reduction in force clearly saves money. But divesting the organization of knowledgeable workers can have long-term detrimental effects. As total-cost-of-owbership includes all direct and indirect costs of owning a particular asset, labor associated with the asset might or might not be captured as a cost center. Further, making a decision to buy services on a pay-as-you-go basis as a capital expenditure, versus operational expenditure, is one way to amortize the use of cloud resources over in-house data center maintenance. Keeping computing off the balance sheet has pros and cons, of course, based on complex financial and strategic goals best managed by a company's board, or an institution's financial controllers, not the IT department. This article sums up a recent U.K. study. In it, we read that the study advises government agencies to ensure they are not locked into a relationship with a cloud vendor beyond the duration of the contract, and to look at any exit costs. If cloud vendors offer multi-tenanted infrastructure services, where clients co-locate their computing cloud with others, then there may be hidden costs, if arrangements change.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Recording... Life... Through the Lens...

Recently controversy surrounded the photographing of a victim of a crime -- in progress. The subject was a man, pushed in front of a New York City subway train. And caught on camera by a bystander. Why he didn't help is the issue of the day. But the fact that a huge number of us walk around with cameras today, and take millions of photos, is the most startling side-effect of smart phones. In this article, Thomas Beller of The New Yorker comments on how parents spend so much effort to be with their children, only to be behind the viewfinder, capturing a moment in digital format. He recognizes that the iPhone fetish itself might contribute,
It has occurred to me that this picture-taking might in some ways be an excuse to touch and pet and hold the iPhone itself, which has a weirdly calming effect on people, as though it were an amulet or maybe a small living animal. I am guilty of all the smartphone sins—in essence, staring at the phone when you should be staring at life.
Beller asks, "Because if you are taking a picture of your children, which is to say if you are holding a camera (in the form of a phone) and snapping a picture, then are you, in that moment, looking at them?" The question, it seems is, should they be "in the moment", in the Buddhist sense? This is the idea one should establish mindfulness in one's day-to-day life maintaining as much as possible a calm awareness of one's bodily functions, sensations or feeling), and our mental state, consisting of thoughts and perceptions.
Many see value in "lifecasting," where every moment is recorded for posterity, or research, or some other use. An auxiliary memory. Or, perhaps the ultimate in social media, an always-on view into your personal life, like Qik, a mobile-based live video-sharing website and two-way video conferencing application that allows users to stream live video from their cell phones to the internet.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Never too early for Xmas gift ideas...

George Takei is, in a word, awesome. His new book, Oh Myyy! (There goes the Internet), is his take on a late middle-aged man embracing with the internet. Of course, this former Star Trek star is, fundamentally, a geek, so we should expect he'd be comfortable in the new media world. From the Amazon description,
How did a 75-year old actor from Star Trek become a social media juggernaut? Why does everything he posts spread like wildfire across the ether, with tens or even hundreds of thousands of likes and shares? And what can other sites, celebrities and companies do to attain his stratospheric engagement levels, which hover or top 100 percent while theirs languish in the single digits?
Takei is a proponent of gay rights, active in politics, and has won several awards and accolades in his work on human rights and Japanese–American relations, including his work with the Japanese American National Museum. His story as an young internee in the shameful WWII camps in the U.S. is worthy in its own right.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Platform as service - cloud for developers, or something more?

Many CIOs wonder what Platform as a Service -- or PaaS -- really all about. Saugatuck CEO William McNee says, "PAAS all the developer tools and services for creating and/or customizing IT and integrating software for folks who want to use hosted computing rather than own it. PaaS might be the whole spectrum of activity that falls between simple turnkey multitenant apps and a pure developer lab for building and bridging something substantial from ground up."

My view is that PAAS is simply meant to be a means to develop, deploy and integrate cloud-based applications, whether public or private. Virtualization was the first cloud platform initiative; just move your apps and databases to virtualized servers. PAAS provides the tools to truly cloud-enable the enterprise. But that requires re-thinking your IT model. As I tried to capture in my book,Zen of Soa

it is this "re-think" that makes cloud such a world-shifting change. No longer tied to your data catner, you can focus on enabling the workforce with a way to collect and combine (in a boundary-free enterprise) an over-arching architecture where business processes are the primary focus, and the business rules that support them.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Seeking Economic Growth? Make Transit Free!

For municipalities interested in jump-starting economic growth, making public transportation free is one avenue to success.

Local governments are considering paying for public transport out of taxpayers receipts, making travel free. Such an incentive might take cars, and congestion, off roads, and help the environment. Many people think it's an idea worth considering, but the costs need to be considered.

In Belgium, local government made public transport free, and with success. Lots of money was saved by all parties; the transport companies, the government and particularly the customers.

Busses often make sense, unless they are underutilized -- then they can actually contribute to more pollution. We see diesel power systems undergoing revolutionary technological advancements that have already achieved dramatic reductions in emissions for urban buses and highway engines. Advances in emissions-control systems and ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD) are helping clean diesel engines achieve emissions performance equivalent to compressed natural gas (CNG) and other alternatives. But if ridership isn't maintained, the advantages of the bus and bus lane vanish.


Read more...

- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Friday, November 23, 2012

Health care giver information access expands with a SAAS offering

Here's a software-as-a-service (saas) that meets the growing need to share health care information when being a care giver. If your parents are growing old, or you have a spouse who needs your attention, this could be a good way to share the data, and burden. CareZone addresses the need for a safe place to keep information about doctors, diagnosis, and medicines. CareZone lessens the burden when sharing among a select (and trusted) group -- your spouse, your immediate family and trusted neighbors. The service was introduced last February with little notice, and is growing.

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/the-anti-facebook/


- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I like the Surface -- signed, iPad

Oprah tweeted about the new Microsoft Surface. Using her iPad.

Of course, the reviews are positive about the Surface. The tile GUI and wide aspect ratio make the tablet stand out. And people love the idea of the integrated cover/keyboard.

I am still waiting for the larger version, so I can get my game on...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Blackberry turning sour for DHS

As many users are BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), even government CIOs have to be responsive. One ramification -- BlackBerry suffered a serious setback as the de facto mobile device in federal government, when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement chose the iPhone as its new mobile platform. Pushed by end user demand, and a lower Total Cost of Ownership, the government is seeking alternatives that bring quality smart phone capabilities to civil servants. It doesn't help when Blackberries have problems, as well. Over at Apple, the options for the federal sector are manifold. Technorati has a good brief on government use of iOS devices.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Avoid Stormy Clouds -- and Outages

There are some easy steps to avoid outages from your cloud provider. Here are six...

- SLAs are the cornerstone of your protection. THink of them as your insurance policy.
- Spread risk around, by deploying among various providers.
- Data at rest should be protected -- by encryption.
- The right technology can mean success -- for example, go with a VM approach, or web services?
- Build to the strengths of the cloud, by leveraging providers' available services.
- Define metrics that assess your capacity needs will keep you from overages.

Understand what your provider is capable of, and the services they offer. Amazon's AWS, for example, can be structured to comply with in-shore data storage requirements, if you are a government customer. Google's app hosting is friendly for some languages, less so for others. Find the right tool for your needs, before launching your cloud migration strategy.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Guest Blogger Sets Us Straight on the Broken Window

I made a point to a friend about hurricane Sandy *not* serving to boost the economy, in net. I pointed to the "Broken Window Fallacy" as how spending to 'repair' doesn't really boost overall growth. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window

In the example, Frederic Bastiat presented a parable in 1850 of the broken window to illustrate why destruction, and the money spent to recover from destruction, is actually not a net-benefit to society. The story demonstrates how opportunity costs, as well as the law of unintended consequences, affect economic activity in ways that are "unseen" or ignored.

Guest blogger Phil responded to my position thusly:

I did see mention of this in the link you sent, but it occurs to me that the repair of Sandy's destruction of power lines could result in not only money exchanging hands to benefit the linemen of the world. It could also eliminate the danger of loss of electrical power in the future, and the improvements could also benefit areas that were unaffected by Sandy.

Suppose that the "repairs" to the power grid included the elimination of telephone poles and placed the "repaired" lines beneath ground with the transformers placed in underground bunkers? Then not only would the repairmen receive funds for their work, but society would benefit from reduce risk of power outages in the future. Once the repairs in the damaged areas was complete, undamaged lines could be ultimately replaced without a disruption in service. The power would continue to run along the poles while the new underground system was constructed in those areas undamaged in the storm. Then once the new system was complete the power delivery could be switched to the underground system and the poles demolished. That would lower unemployment, provide a net benefit to society and with the multiplier effect increase the GDP. Not so sure that there is a fallacy, only a lack of forward thinkers.

Granted there is a weakness in my argument. That is expediency. The residents in the areas damaged by the storm would never stand for the time it would take for a new system to be built before power was restored.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Cloud + Mobile = Better Use of Resources, Happier End Users

Telecoms -- part of my core customer base when I launched Bluedog -- have an integral role in cloud computing. Those cloud services have the highest need to have always-on access and users expect a flawless network experience. Verizon's acquisition of private-cloud provider Terremark, for example, highlights the importance of cloud to telcos. Jason Young, vice president of product strategy at T-Mobile USA, during a panel discussion at the Open Mobile Summit remarked, “What we spend a lot of time thinking about, from a network standpoint, is that we’re a highway to the cloud." He went on to explain that basically means just connecting customers to the cloud-based services they want to use. The convergence of cloud and mobile was the topic of discussion at the OpenMobile Summit. With the iPhone and other smart phones becoming ubiquitous, the iPad continues its rapid growth and internet access becomes standard in everything from a TV through to cars, fridges and a host of other devices, the mobile economy is ramping up. As teleco carriers continue to redefine business models and new entrants continue to disrupt existing markets -- and make new ones -- the focus of the role of cloud on mobile will sharpen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Have You Been a Victim of Cybercrime?

After my ex stole my identity to get credit cards, I went into full-on personal data protection mode. It seems having someone you know rip off your critical credit-related information isn't uncommon. And, on the Internet, there are many opportunities to have your good name besmirched.
This graphic from Tech News tells the story.




Cybersecurity is a rising concern globally -- for individuals, businesses and even governments. Unfortunately, many either don't take the threat seriously or aren't doing enough to protect themselves from cybercrime.
- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Monday, November 5, 2012

Only 22? The British Empire Really Was World-Spanning

A new study has found that at various times the British have invaded almost 90 per cent of the countries around the globe. The analysis of the histories of the almost 200 countries in the world found only 22 which have never experienced an invasion by the British. Among this group of nations are such small and out-of-the-way places as Guatemala, Tajikistan and the Marshall Islands, as well some European ones, such as Luxembourg. Read more here...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Post-hurricane New Yorkers Turning to Bicycles

With subway service spotty at best and long lines forming for buses, many inner city commuters in New York are opting for the reliable bicycle. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and with key commuting options crippled, a surge in cycling has resulted.

As East Coast residents assess the damage from the hurricane, many are seeking alternatives to get around in the coming days. Streets are flooded, tress are down, roads are blocked by debris, gas stations are powerless, and public transit is shut down. In New York City, the subway won’t reopen for a week, and the bus system is slowed down by cleanup efforts.

If you are looking for suitable routes, there are plenty of options.

Read more at CNBC...
- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bicycles at Google, Apple Help Reduce Congestion, Pollution

It is not just an individual's efforts at Bike Commuting that make a difference -- organizations can step up and pave the way for less cars on the street, and more people-powered conveyance.
Bikes Make Life Better Co-Founder Amy Harcourt says, in a Fast Company article, "...we plan, design, and implement and support any kind of program related to bikes in an organizational setting." If a company is in need of bikes, Harcourt's company consults on the best model, options and branding. Yes, branding. Bikes can be about the organization's public image, after all.
Google is even into "version 2.0" of their bicycles, with a re-design.
The company got about three dozen designs, every thing from a BMX-style bike to a modern take on the old Penny-farthing high-wheel bike from the 19th century. It chose a far more conservative model -- something of a beach cruiser with coaster brakes and hand brakes. The steel bike comes with a basket and bell. And it features fenders to keep spray off cyclists' backs in the rain, and a case covering the chain to protect their clothes from grease.

Naturally, the bikes at Apple's Cuppertino campus are, well, minimalist and cool, and as Wired writes, "the bike is as well suited to its task as an iPad is to its own market." Read more at Fast Company...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Single chip for digital broadcast in Europe?

In Europe, there is a move to use a single transceiver chip for digital radio broadcast. This would ensure interoperability of all new digital radio receivers in European countries where broadcasters are using DAB, DAB+ or DMB, and/or analogue AM and FM.

It's the Future, at least for Now

So, are you as confused about which i-thingy to get as I am? I mean, what's the difference between the iPad mini and the iPod touch? Besides the size of the display... which is a Retina display on the iPod, but not on the Mini. Oh, and the camera. Or was that the processor? Maybe this leaked video will help clarify what device to buy -- until the next device comes out.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

SkyNet is in development, so why not a Terminator?

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Robotics Challenge, launched Wednesday, will bring together some of the nation's top robotics engineers in a bid to develop some of the most advanced robotics yet built.
Among the humanoid robots, some have hands, or claws, and most with the ability to use tools. A few have eyes; all have four limbs.
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Teams come from Carnegie Mellon University, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Washington.
With Wikipedia nearing completion (the rote memory behind our version of SkyNet is the "little data" found on the inter-web), it won't be long before H-Ks and T-300s are on the prowl.
- Posted by Tom/Bluedog





Friday, October 26, 2012

Bicyclists Protest U-Turns in D.C.

Washington DC (and Dublin) is one of the best cities for bicycling. More bike lanes, decent enough weather year-round. Terrain that is mostly reasonable. But the drives... much like Ireland's capital) leave something to be desired. In this DCist post, we learn that organizers are looking to protest, specifically the abuse of designated bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue -- America's main street. So stay legal, DC drivers, and don't run over unsuspecting cyclist!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Followup: cloud computing in US federal agencies

InformationWeek reports,

More government agencies are plugging into the cloud, finding savings and exploring new uses, according to InformationWeek's survey of federal IT professionals. View this complementary report to learn why the question isn’t so much whether there's been progress since the Office of Management and Budget introduced the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy in February 2011, but how much progress there has been
.

As I reported in Government CIO Magazine, the cloud is an integral part of the government's streamlining efforts. But can agencies expect to save millions, as the IW article posits?
GSA's inspector general recently released an audit of the General Service Administration (GSA) move from Lotus Notes to Google Apps for 17,000 employee. Unisys is the lead on that aspect of the project; GSA awarded a multi-year contract to Salesforce.com to support Notes migration. The audit found some of GSA's projected cost savings couldn't be verified, and performance measures were unclear or otherwise lacking. And GSA hadn't done an inventory of the applications being moved to the cloud. As a result, the inspector general was "unable to verify whether adequate progress is being made toward the projected savings goals." That's disheartening. Clearly, when considering a migration to the cloud, agencies should include in their roadmap a set of metrics. After all, to show progress, one must measure against valid criteria.


- TT/Bd

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Star Trek Replicator? Not yet, but 3D printing is hot!

Until recently, 3-D printing was limited to only those who could afford the industrial machines. The typical 3-D printer works layering melted plastic with a nozzle, controlled by data from a computer program, creating three-dimensional objects. Some printers can build objects made of other materials, including glass and metal. The less-expensive personal devices and open-source nature of many designs (files you download off the inter-webs) to allow users to customize their own things -- think personalized iPhone cases and jewelry or those shoe gewgaws kids like.
Sites like this are popping up to help the hobbyist or budding engineer design and print prototypes or even finished products. You can create and share 3d models at sites like this.
A variants on the plastics "toner" is selective laser sintering (SLS). This builds objects by laying down a fine layer of powder and then using the laser to selectively fuse some of its granules together -- and output objects using a wide range of powdered materials, such as wax, polystyrene, nylon, glass, ceramics, stainless steel, titanium, aluminium and various alloys. During printing, non-bonded powder granules support the object as it is constructed. Once printing is complete, almost all excess power is able to be recycled.
3D printers capable of outputting in color and multiple materials will continue to improve to a point where functional products will be able to be output, one at a time at home, downloaded from the net. Not quite downloaded coffee, but pretty darned cool!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Two Brothers Take Old-School "Ahead of the Curve"

Since its early days, Computex has always been out in front of the changes in how enterprises use technology, and was a virtualization expert long before CIOs knew what VM meant. Staying ahead of the curve the company a widely respected solution provider in the U.S. Fortune 500 executives and solution provider peers have reached out to brothers Sam and Jason Haffar repeatedly in order to take on the next big technology challenge. With cloud computing vastly reconfiguring the world of technology, the two Computex founders decided to work with Stratos Management Systems in Atlanta,Georgia to become an operating unit and shareholders of a new, merged entity. One lesson Sam Haffar relates: one of the things that doesn't change with cloud computing is the need for strong local customer relationships. Read more...

Who is Spying on You? Worse, Who is Spying on Your Organization?

In the internet age, industrial spying is alive and well. The means to grab a company's proprietary information is no longer a janitor going through the bins after hours. Now, automated tools enable infiltration and compromise. While governments may be actively engaged in cyber snooping, few CIOs and other decision makers realize the extent to which criminals and other maleficents will go to get secrets, and not just ones about national security. Recently a worm, ACAD/Medre.A, showed a big spike in Peru on ESET’s Live Grid (a cloud-based malware collection system utilizing data from users worldwide). ESET’s research shows that the worm steals AutoCAD drawings and sends them to email accounts located in China. ESET has worked with Chinese ISP Tencent, Chinese National Computer Virus Emergency Response Center and Autodesk, the creator of AutoCAD, to stop the transmission of these files. ESET confirms that tens of thousands of AutoCAD drawings, primarily from users in Peru, were leaking at the time of the discovery. In another case, McAfee, security firm now part of Intel, released a report that presents the details a single criminal's successful attack, lasting several years, against at least 72 organizations. The compromised companies took far too long -- sometimes years -- to fix the problem, and it is unclear if any knew the extent of the breach when they sanitized corrupted computers. The Economist says, "The goal seems to have been retrieving massive quantities of proprietary and confidential information, whether for purposes of duplicating intellectual property or, in the case of the World Anti-Doping Agency, finding out which athletes might be tested next, or even modifying test results." Interception of communications is another vulnerability many fail to address. The recent row over Blackberry encryption capabilities in the context of Internet and communications technologies and free speech are not new -- but this front in the war between those who know secrets, and those who want to know, expands to cover services such as Google Talk and the telephone and video services provided by Skype and other SIP-based Voice-over-internet (VOIP) providers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What Can You Learn from Pirates?

When it comes to ensuring uptime, reliability and service, we can learn alot from pirates. Not the Somalia kind, but the clever founders of The Pirate Bay. The site, notorious as the premier search engine for torrents on the internet, nevertheless serves a large and discerning clientele. Reasons cited for the move to the cloud centered on making the site less vulnerable to outside threats (and DDoS is not the only threat to your infrastructure), but also hosting in the cloud also makes the site easier to scale, reduces downtime, and is less costly. The Pirate Bay is hosted at cloud hosting companies in multiple countries where they run several Virtual Machine instances. The setup also makes the BitTorrent site portable -- it can move elsewhere without too much work. “Moving to the cloud lets TPB move from country to country, crossing borders seamlessly without downtime. All the servers don’t even have to be hosted with the same provider, or even on the same continent,” The Pirate Bay told these reporters. "If one cloud-provider cuts us off, goes offline or goes bankrupt, we can just buy new virtual servers from the next provider. Then we only have to upload the VM-images and reconfigure the load-balancer to get the site up and running again.” While this model de-centralized most of their infrastructure, not everything was moved to the cloud: load balancers and transit-routers are still maintained by The Pirate Bay, enabling the site to hide the location of the cloud provider and secure the privacy of users. All-in-all, a very reasonable strategy for a high-volume site.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lanthanum? Unubtanium? What's the Most Valuable Resource.

As readers may have come to realize, my position on the most valued commodity is, in fact, not a commodity at all. I see knowledge workers as the key to success, at the micro-economic level (talented staff, discerning customers), and, as The Economist reports, at the macro level:

THE world’s most valuable resource is talent. No country grows enough of it. Some, however, enjoy the colossal advantage of being able to import it. Rich, peaceful countries can attract clever immigrants. Unlike other useful imports, they cost the recipient country nothing. They come, they study, they work, they set up businesses, they create jobs: 40% of the founders of Fortune 500 companies are immigrants and their children. Yet they are only 23% of Americans.


I've consistently advocated for immigration, both in the U.S. and in the Republic of Ireland, as the secret sauce to boost entrepreneurialism. My grandfather arrived illegally in New York, and made his way to being a successful baker, in spite being an "enemy of the state" during the 2nd World War. He, like many others, chose to be American (nobody chooses their heritage/nationality) -- the hallmark of civilized human rights is the freedom to migrate. And these two countries remain magnets for the talented, the motivated, the (learned or not) quick-witted.





- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Monday, October 15, 2012

Has the Newton Come Full-Circle?

Are you eagerly awaiting the iPad Mini? An alternative to those so-called dedicated e-readers, with full Apple functionality. Is the Newton re-born?
The Newton was Apple's personal digital assistant (PDA) developed as the precursor to tablets of today. You may remember Palm and others (I had a fascination with the Newton, as well as Sony's own PDA, non-Export ones which I hunted for during many a trip to Japan). Development of the Newton platform started in 1987 and was officially ended by Steve Jobs Jon his return to the mothership in 1998. (I have a Newton-SJ story, see post script below).
During its heyday, the Newton was the benchmark for tablet-like devices. But it was ahead of its time. Famously lampooned, the device didn't live up to its hype. But true believers have been rewarded with the iPhone and iPad, legacy of the lofty goals of the device Steve Jobs loathed.




See the rumors at Apple Insider...
P.S.
When I and my compatriots launched Bluedog as an Application Service Provider (we were partnered with S.A.P. to deliver their offerings in the hosted model, a precursor to the software-as-a-service model we utilize now), we needed a key piece of technology from Apple, a specialized adapter for SAP that worked with WebObjects.
We had a meeting with Steve Jobs and Fred Anderson (arranged by our investor in Dublin), to ask to use the proprietary technology. On the elevator ride up to the conference room at One Infinite Loop, Steve's assistant noticed my Newton MessagePad 2100 (equipped with a Metricom 128kb (!) wireless modem). "Get rid of that thing," she demanded, "Steve loathes them!"
Needless to say, because, back then, the cloud and the ASP model did not "move hardware," we were unsuccessful in our quest for the elusive WO adapter from Apple. In the end, we built our own solution.
Other Steve Jobs stories and tales from the long road of a tech entrepreneur in my forthcoming book.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Need Cloud Expertise? Who Ya Gonna Call?

While Amazon and Google have pressed ahead with cloud offerings, the ability of large organizations such as government agencies, Fortune 500s or non-government organizations to leverage this vast set of resources is constrained by finding trustworthy experts to help guide and shape the future.

Architects and engineers who fill these new hybrid jobs -- as well as the set of skills needed to execute them -- are still morphing, both substantially and semantically. Some, like cloud architect, cloud software engineer or cloud developer, cloud systems administrator, do obviously pertain to this lofty new environment.

But the skills transfer for most technicians and others remains murky. At the early stages of adoption, organizations should seek out thought leaders who understand service oriented architecture (SOA), the role of mobile computing, and who can bridge the gap between techno-jargon and clear language, so CIOs, CFOs and business strategists can find the right path.

Read more at InfoWorld...

- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Location:Washington DC

Friday, October 12, 2012

Yes, adverts on the web pay off - for Google and Facebook

It should be obvious to anyone surfing the net that all those web pages we enjoy at zero cost are being ad supported (or otherwise subsidized by goodwill or some other contribution). In many cases, the data from users/readers is what is valued -- companies are able to take user data, sell it to advertisers, and make money. That data you're giving away online is worth something, but have you ever wondered how much? A privacy add-on for Firefox gives captures some metrics to help.

Read more at Ars Technica
- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Thursday, October 11, 2012

One effective way to tackle document workflow headaches -- Ademero Document Management Software

This post brought to you by Ademero. All opinions are 100% mine.

 

In my experience (as readers of Intellectual Capitalist may recall), three major challenges confront the enterprise with regard to document management: the ability to collect, then migrate, and finally deliver large-scale document management to end users. In my opinion, a solution from Ademero addresses this quite handily. In reviewing their offering, I have found tha Content Central does a great job of tackling this tripartite calling, resulting in a kind of "one-stop shop" for document management. Ademero's Content Central Ademero_ContentCentralfixedsets the bar for document management and workflow solutions, where users access and interact with the application with whatever preferred web browser is handy. All document interaction (from upload, meta data classification, etc.) occurs within this browser-based interface. I like that users can interact with Ademero's offering for capturing, indexing, and retrieving documents in a familiar environment. The workflow aspect -- from approving and distributing documents -- maintains this consistency.

Within an organization, the content and documents, made up of various types, can be categorized as incoming and outgoing (in process or completed), coming in as paper or electronic files. For many organizations, such documents include letters, notices, legal documents, faxes, payments, standard surface mail and electronic mail. Even emails may have attached items. Sources of such documents are  clients or customers, constituents, end users, reporting sources, financial institutions and governmental agencies at the local, state and federal levels.document management software

Traditional methods of storing and managing documents are the ubiquitous filing cabinet for paper documents and servers for file shares. Let's not forget e-mail systems for electronic documents. But these methods are a source of headache due to the inefficient use of physical and virtual space, the inability to quickly search documents, or locate ones based upon some ad hoc selection criteria (such as author name, client, or other contents)/ This has proven, in the 21st century, to be a flawed and inefficient process to capture, store and retrieve the documents.

I've long worked with designing and implementing document management systems can eliminate these problems and provide the capability to transform work flow into automated processes. Scanning paper documents into electronic formats, convert the archaic retrieval of documents into a simple but robust search mechanism and leverage existing data management process, systems and tools housed within large organizations' information technology infrastructure is one of my areas of expertise.

I have long been a proponent of the advantage of a browser-based application, including quick deployment, access and audible access, and remote connectivity. With Ademero, administrators install Content Central on a single Microsoft Windows server or across multiple servers for performance. After user accounts have been defined, users connect from available Windows, Mac, or Linux computers on the network.

Inside Content Central users can create documents using PDF-based electronic forms. Documents and other files can be captured from document scanners, network folders, e-mail accounts, or user interaction. It is a huge advantage for Content Central in that it converts scanned images into fully searchable PDF files, and all documents can be retrieved using content keywords and other index information based. Because this is based on the type of document, users are assured of flexibility in their search, a key need Ademero satisfies. I found that the app uses integrated e-mail and fax tools -- this enables teams to distribute documents without requiring external helper software. A powerful workflow engine can manage information behind the scenes based on system events or schedules.

I think it's worthwhile to condiser Ademero for those readers interested in content or document management suitable for the enterprise, so check out Ademero.Ademero_logofixed As every feature included in the price-to-play, there aren't any confusing add-on modules to tackle. A fine way to deliver document management software, without a doubt.

 

 

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Friday, October 5, 2012

So how's the internet working out for you, these days?

Alex Cocotas and Henry Blodget at BI Intelligence have put together a nice summary of the "state of the internet," for this year. Their organization is a research and analysis service focused on mobile computing and the internet.
The insightful presentation includes such tidbits as: new media stock value is three times bigger than old media; Television is still king of advertising revenue; and new digital accounts account for about 20% of advertising dollars spent. Their analysis also includes interesting information about mobile tech, e-commerce and social media. See the whole report here...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Want more cyclists on the road? Forego helmets

While wearing helmets when bicycling is accepted as a given, some experience suggests that if a city wants bike-sharing to be more popular, going without helmets may be necessary. A two-year-old bike-sharing program in Melbourne, Australia — where helmet use in mandatory — has only about 150 rides a day, despite the fact that Melbourne is flat, with broad roads and a temperate climate.
On the other hand, helmet-lax Dublin — cold, cobbled and hilly — has more than 5,000 daily rides in its young bike-sharing scheme. Mexico City recently repealed a mandatory helmet law to get a bike-sharing scheme off the ground. But here in the United States, the politics are tricky. —New York Times article
It would seem bike share programs in Montreal, Washingon and Minneapolis show that, while helmet use among people using these programs is lower than cyclists in those cities using their own bikes, the accident rates are also low. A new fact sheet by the European Cyclists' Federation (in PDF) Safety In Numbers claims that higher rates of bicycle use result in lower numbers of casualties. The reason is that cycling is safer for each cyclist when more people do it. So perhaps the trade-off in health benefits from helmet-less riding to in aggregate increases in ridership are worth it?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

If you think downloading movies is a problem, what about Starbucks coffees?

Well, the digital revolution continues unabated. Many ripple effects have been felt -- and the movie / music industries will tell you, ease of copying digital content has wreaked havoc on them (or not). What if physical objects could be replicated, and, if an original object, without the permission of the designer? That's not such a "what if" -- the advent of three-dimenstional printing is upon us.
The basics of 3d printing – and digital fabrication in general – is that the printer takes a digital model and turns it into a real, physical object. The designs are represented as files which describe the surface geometry of a 3D object. Sort of an AutoCAD-on-sterioids approach to describing something. There are a couple of ways of getting a file to print with: use an existing file; design a model yourself in CAD software; or scan a real-life object. But what if you replicate something someone else has rights to? Over at The Economist,this article captures the essence of the conundrum. While you peruse it, download a cup of Starbucks coffee, and enjoy. Or at least the mug to hold your double-tall, extra foam latte.

Recent network threat averted -- good thing I had protection

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bitdefender for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

 

I had a recent scare on my home computer, but it was handily intercepted by BitDefender, part of a line of 2013 security solutions. Since I run a multi-computer environment, including behind a secured LAN and ones that are connected to the Internet. 

 

I was glad for Bitdefender Total Security, which keeps my local network secure and blocks threats to sensitive information, since, as we have all experienced, outside threats can worm their way into a home network when least expected. I was glad the user-friendly proactive protection was there to counter virus, spyware and phishing attacks. As a parent, I will certainly be putting parental controls to use, and probably social network protection.

 

I liked the BitDefender Safepay, with the need to work through my kids' holiday wish list to get ahead of the Xmas curve. Since the Autopilot feature keeps the software working unobtrusively, I don't even notice. And when one of my Facebook friends sends me a bogus link, BitDefender is there.

 

I check out PCMag and CNET, and discovered BitDefender is ranked #1 in antivirus software, earning both sources' Editor's Choice awards. That confirms my recent experience with BitDefender; I am going to check out the opportunity to win a new computer (always worthwhile) since mine has BitDefender installed.

 

I am going to check out BitdefenderBitDefender's increased focus on useful services, such as Safebox, Device Anti-Theft, and Parent Control. I looked over the improved dashboard, and this kind of computer protection integrates well with my mobile devices.

 

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Kaizen for knowledge work




My efforts at bringing Kaizen to knowledge workers is not my only interest. In the new millennium, remote work (telework) is the future. Obviously some workers will have to man the walls, turn the sprockets, oil the gears. But for the vast majority of creatives, programmers, and other thought workers, enabling remote work, according to many sources, will increase the overall productivity by 22%. And small business owners can adopt mobile and cloud technology with little expense.


Indeed, the benefits are manifold with the trends showing that going mobile is the way to access the internet. With upwards of 3o% of the global workforce already telecommuting, the cloud and mobile computing will boost those numbers.

Here's more...



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Not jet packs yet, but..l

Google's self-driving car wins approval in California. this is a helpful move forward -- reduce congestion, eliminate drunk driving, and boost productivity.

Other aspects of autonomous driving are making their way slowly to us. Volvo has ideas in the works, as does BMW.

What i like about google -- works with any car, anywhere (no road enhancements needed).


- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Power Demands of Cloud Data Centers

Microsoft built a data center in its own backyard in 2006 when it bought about 75 acres in central Washington to build a giant data center to support various Internet services. The facility's appetite for electricity would be fed by hydroelectric generators that work off the flow of the nearby Columbia River, and Microsoft pledged to operate the data center with a focus on energy efficiency and environmental sensitivity. But for neighbors, the high-tech neighbor's shine wore off quickly. A citizens group initiated a legal challenge over pollution from some of approximate 40 giant diesel generators that Microsoft’s facility need for backup power. Worse, in an attempt to erase an approximate $200,000 penalty the utility said the company owed for overestimating its power use, Microsoft proceeded to simply waste millions of watts of electricity, and threatened to continue burning power in what it acknowledged was an “unnecessarily wasteful” way until the fine was substantially cut, according to documents obtained by The New York Times. The former Microsoft data center chief who had pledged to operate in an environmentally sensitive way, said he was surprised by the company’s response to the penalty, “those types of decisions would not have been part of the program’s initial inception.” In response, a Microsoft spokeswoman said the company remained committed to the environment, “Microsoft’s focus on efficiency and resource utilization has not changed.” Environmental concerns seem to take a back seat compared to recent economic turmoil, and carbon omissions and electricity usage has dropped from the list of priorities for many. But as businesses start to recover, and the global economy as a whole picks up, the costs associated with running infrastructure and their environmental impact will again become important. Gartner’s Research Vice President Simon Mingay says,
Sustainability is no longer a ‘soft’ and tangential aspect to organisation performance. A sustainable approach to business activities is generating tangible business benefits for organisations today, through a combination of operational efficiencies and market growth opportunities.
Julian Box sees a refocus on the need to be greener will create a new breed of cloud platforms from both established providers, and a new a breed of providers

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cloud BoostsProductivity for SMEs

Small to medium size enterprises can see a boost in productivity with the cloud, according the an article in Forbes--

For small to mid-size businesses, the cloud represents opportunities to level the playing field with larger companies with tremendous IT assets. Cloud computing is a natural solution for smaller businesses that can’t make the investments in rooms full of servers, development teams, and data center infrastructure
.


- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Monday, September 24, 2012

Apple is... without Jobs...

Think back to the last time Apple was without Steve Jobs. After leaving Apple, Jobs founded NeXT Computer in 1985, and its flagship product, NeXTStep, is now OS X and iOS. In 1996, Apple announced that it would buy NeXT for $427 million -- bringing Jobs back to the company he co-founded, who was formally named interim chief executive in September 1997. But in the dark interregnum when SJ was absent, Apple almost expired. I find myself agreeing with Paulo Santo,
For now this is just a harbinger of possible change. I believe the iPhone 5 will be a huge commercial success nonetheless. But as it stands, a red flag was waved. A feature decidedly lacking in quality was let through because of corporate considerations, which clearly overrode the customer's interest. This is not a good sign.
Other parallels are out there -- without Steve Jobs, some say Apple will slide into mediocrity just as Sony did after the death of founder Akio Morita Of course, there are many naysayers for Apple -- always have bee. Some companies surpassed the expectations of the founder, even in the tech arena. IBM is a fantastic company, long after Thomas Watson expired. We shouldn't forget he was a leading self-made industrialist and one of the richest of his time when he died in 1956. But without the sometimes draconian secrecy around products, will Apple lose its edge? Microsoft has coasted a long time without Bill Gates. But the basis of its business is still the operating system, and MS's internet plays have famously not worked well. Microsoft said it cut advertising and marketing positions as it "works to align the business to key priorities." And it announced a $6.2 billion accounting charge in its Internet division; an admission that Microsoft's online businesses aren't living up to the company's expectations. But Tim Cook is no slacker; he is 180 degrees off of the domineering, artistic Jobs. But Cook is no less a perfectionist, having built the Apple version of the Toyota method into the company's supply chain. One thing Cook does very well, others have said, is that when he presents a number he wants listeners to care about, he puts it into a meaningful context. For example, when Cook wanted to convince the audience at a 2010 event that the Mac business is still very important to Apple, even though iPhones make a lot more money, he didn't just say that it makes $22 billion a year. He characterized the numbers in terms of the Mac business as a standalone company, which would make it number 110 on the Fortune 500 list. So there's still hope for Apple. For now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Open Source Challenges Commercial in the Cloud

An open source alternative for the foundation of cloud services is coalescing around OpenStack:
The new OpenStack Foundation is taking shape as a potentially potent force in cloud computing. Its governing board has been elected, and working groups are accelerating development in eight technical areas. Perhaps more important, it has organized itself on a self-sustaining basis and now has $10 million in the bank to pursue its goals....
An early impetus behind OpenStack was to form a broad, united front on behalf of a competitive open source cloud stack before the market was swamped by VMware, a proprietary software vendor. That's why it was somewhat surprising, as the group got organized, when VMware applied to become a member.

Read more...
- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quantum cryptography commercialized

Over at Ars Technica, another excellent article, this time regarding quantum cryptography,

Quantum cryptography is one of those amazing tools that came along before anyone really asked for it. Somehow there are companies out there selling very high end, and "provably secure" cryptography gear, all based on fundamental principles of quantum mechanics. Yet, despite being fundamentally unbreakable, there have been quite a few publications on more-or-less practical ways for Eve to eavesdrop on people whispering quantum sweet-nothings in darkened rooms.






- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Thursday, September 13, 2012

HTTPS (SSL) Vulnerability -- hijacking of sessions

Ars Technica has an article on a flaw that allows hijacking of secure sessions by decrypting certain cookies.

Researchers have identified a security weakness that allows them to hijack web browser sessions even when they're protected by the HTTPS encryption that banks and e-commerce sites use to prevent snooping on sensitive transactions.

The technique exploits web sessions protected by the Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security protocols when they use one of two data-compression schemes designed to reduce network congestion or the time it takes for webpages to load. Short for Compression Ratio Info-leak Made Easy, CRIME works only when both the browser and server support TLS compression or SPDY, an open networking protocol used by both Google and Twitter. Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Google's Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox browsers are all believed to be immune to the attack, but at time of writing smartphone browsers and a myriad of other applications that rely on TLS are believed to remain vulnerable.




- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Monday, September 10, 2012

When the streets were for everyone...

Fast Company has a good article on DC's bike share:
The District piloted the country’s first bike share in 2008 and then launched Capital Bikeshare--or CaBi--two years ago as the large-scale prototype for systems that later spread to Boston, Miami and a dozen other towns, and that will come next year, finally, to Chicago and New York City. For reasons that Washington officials did not count on at the time, the nation’s capital may well have been the right place to kickstart the program.
This is comparable to the one Dublin launched in September 2009, known as Dublinbikes. With an initial 450 bicycles, the plan reached 1 million trips very quickly. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Division of Transportation Engineering (DTE) has the responsibility to plan and construct bikeways, as well as provide maintenance for approximately 100 miles of bike facilities -- a network of shared use paths, bike lanes and shared roadways bike routes primarily located within the road rights-of ways. Read more here... And, remember, decades after the first "share the road" signs popped up, Maryland drivers could be fined as much as $500 if they pass within three feet of a bicyclist.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Getting the Most from the Cloud — Prototypes

Part of the agile philosophy is to build quickly, then revise, re-think, re-invent. The proliferation of cloud options can support your efforts to get a solution — any solution — in the hands of users quickly.

During my tenure on detail to MITRE, I was fortunate enough to be able to construct not just the cloud architecture for the Affordable Healthcare Act federal data hub and subscriber eligibility exchange, but to manage a team of multidisciplinary Java developers. My team built a prototype of the service connectors, the ESB and monitoring infrastructure (Nagios-based), and portal interfaces. One great thing about MITRE -- being able to take a vision for a solution the Government is asking for, and run with it. At the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the CIO was able to hand over the architectural guidelines and sample code to get the CMS-led effort moving forward quickly.

From past experience, I found my previous "lessons learned" borne out: my team was able to find potential points of failure early -- and inexpensively. While service oriented architecture (SOA) is not new by any stretch, such a large-scale implementation as a services network to support millions of U.S. citizens is tought, and real innovation always includes a risk of failure. By building the prototype, we sorted through many approaches that didn't work well, and focused on a few, early in the dev cycle.

Working with some really smart people at MITRE and at CMS, I was able to gather more accurate requirements. Traditional requirements gathering techniques such as interviews and focus groups sometimes come up short because non-techies may find it difficult to conceptualize a solution before seeing it. By developing a working prototype, we were able demonstrate the functionality, and help coalesce requirements for the final approach.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Java Vulnerability is for the Web Client Variety, not Server-Side

A Java security hole is something to be taken seriously. But, as usual, clarity is important -- the Java vulnerability affects users of Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Safari. Exploit code targeting it was tested on Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 as well as Ubuntu Linux 10.04 and Mac OSX 10.7.4.



The ComputerWorld article is breathless in its admonishment of Oracle,



For businesses that absolutely must use Java, he recommended that users "do not access untrusted Web content with Java enabled," and also that they use Web browser extensions such as NoScript for Firefox, which can "implement whitelisting of websites that can run scripts and access Java," meaning that only sites explicitly granted the use of Java will be allowed to run it. Finally, he said, "think of Java 6 as an alternative."



Download the patch from Oracle here. But, if you are an Enterprise user of J2EE technology, review the information carefully, as JVM exploitation is a different hued horse.

- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Madrid - Still a City of Opportunities

I was fortunate to be able to visit and do business in Madrid when on task for the Group of Thirty. They are a club-like organization whose members are central bankers and private bankers from large institutions such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and others. Established to consider the impacts global banking regulation and macro-economic policy, the g30 is a link between private and central bankers, with a mission to have an impact on global regulation. I was fortunate enough to work for Guillermo de la Dehesa in Madrid, Chairman of the Network for Economic Research on Electronic Communications (NEREC) as a consultant to the g30. I enjoyed reading his regular columns in the El PaĆ­s. Of course, if I were to go for an extended stay, I'd recommend renting an apartment in Madrid. This is the best way to stay nearby, to experience Spanish culture, and to really save some money. Besides, you can't beat an espresso and a 'small plate' at 8am by the counter of a cafe, on your way to work.

Cloud computing puts CPU horsepower in anyone's hands

In a decade, the infrastructure to build awesome new services has become widely affordable. Amazon’s efforts are just the start of a global competition among many -- Google and Apple have major cloud initiatives, and there are hundreds of platform or software-as-service offerings.

Daniel Gross, Cue’s 20-year-old co-founder, concedes that “I don’t even know what the ballpark number for a server is — for me, it would be like knowing what the price of a sword is.”

Cloud computing -- such as Amazon's offering -- is now powering all kinds of new businesses around the globe, quickly and with less capital.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Apple-designed Robots Would Be Cute. And Probably Homicidal

Patrick Thibodeau over at ComputerWorld writes, "Imagine that Apple will develop a walking, smiling and talking version of your iPhone. It has arms and legs. Its eye cameras recognize you. It will drive your car (and engage in Bullitt-like races with Google’s driverless car), do your grocery shopping, fix dinner and discuss the day’s news.... Will [Apple] argue that these cognitive or social robots deserve rights of their own not unlike the protections extended to pets?" Sounds intriguing. Of course,our pets don't get much more protection than our iPhones, as it is. But the idea that the smarts in our smart phones is pretty close to what we could be using as service robots does hold merit. There's already a movement afoot to have your average tele-commuter show up at work, via a robot. That is an idea that we should wait and see if it pans out -- I'm not sure having a strange robot with your co-worker's face on it bugging you at your cubical will really improve productivity. But who knows? Video conferences have made tele-commutes much shorter. So machine rights may be in the cards, perhaps modeled on corporate rights? Maybe at the intersection of "created beings" such as the corporation, and animals who merit being treated more than just as cat food and a nuisance to weapons systems testing?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Occasionally, competition yields savings. At Least in the case of the failed AT&T - TMobile Merger

Sometimes a little competition is a good thing. From a leading blog on telecom: The biggest thing that has happened to improve the competitive landscape is that T-Mobile has now finally acquired enough spectrum to build out a nationwide 4G LTE network. Before the AT&T merger died off, T-Mobile didn’t have nearly enough spectrum to remain competitive with its rivals in the LTE space, which was a big reason why parent company Deutsche Telekom wanted to sell it to AT&T in the first place: if T-Mobile was doomed as a national carrier anyway, Deutsche figured it might as well get some money for the carrier while it still could. The Federal Trade Commission recognized the fact that a joining of AT&T and T-Mobile would reduce competition, ending up with a wireless leviathan of over 125 million customers -- more customers than Verizon, and three times as many as Sprint Nextel, and control about 42 percent of the U.S. mobile market. In theory, consolidation isn't itself may not be bad eventuality. But it is unusual that in such a market with such high barriers to entry, protected with the assistance of government and regulators, would get any more open. We don't need the current oligopoly, much less a duopoly.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Telework - the future. And more productive

(Tom paraphrasing/citing here...)

Many firms are uncertain about what policies on home working to adopt. As a result, firms in very similar industries adopt extremely different practices. For example, in the U.S. airline industry Jet Blue allows all regular call-center employees to work from home.

The trade-off between home-life and work-life has also received increasing attention as the number of households in the US with all parents working has increased from 25% in 1968 to 48% by 2008 (Council of Economic Advisors, 2010). These rising work pressures are leading governments in the US and Europe to investigate ways to promote work-life balance. For example, the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) published a report launched by Michelle and Barak Obama at the White House in summer 2010 on policies to improve work-life balance. One of the key conclusions in the executive summary concerned the need for research to identify the trade-offs in work-life balance policies, stating:

“A factor hindering a deeper understanding of the benefits and costs of flexibility is a lack of data on the prevalence of workplace flexibility and arrangements, and more research is needed on the mechanisms through which flexibility influences workers’ job satisfaction and firms’ profits to help policy makers and managers alike” (CEA, 2010)


First, the performance of the home workers went up dramatically, increasing by 12.2% over the nine month experiment. This improvement came mainly from an 8.9% increase in the number of minutes they worked during their shifts (the time they were logged in taking calls). This was due to a reduction in breaks and sick-days taken by the home workers. The remaining 3.3% improvement was because home workers were more productive per minute worked, apparently due to the quieter working conditions at home.

Second, there were no spillovers on to the rest of the group – interestingly, those remaining in the office had no change in performance.

Third, attrition fell sharply among the home workers, dropping by almost 50% versus the control group. Home workers also reported substantially higher work satisfaction and attitudinal survey outcomes.

Finally, at the end of the experiment the firm was so impressed by the impact of home-working they decided to roll the option out to the entire firm, allowing the treatment and control groups to re-choose their working arrangements. Almost one half of the treatment group changed their minds and returned to the office, while two thirds of the control group (who initially had requested to work from home) decided to stay in the office. This highlights how the impact of these types of management practices are also ex ante unclear to employees.

Read the full report here...


- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

If it rains, does Amazon Web Services flood? Lots of people think so

According to a recent survey, many people are confusing the clouds in real life with The Cloud. The survey sponsor, Citrix, points out that the good news is that even those that don’t know exactly what the cloud is recognize the economic benefits.

One in five Americans (22 percent) admit that they’ve pretended to know what the cloud is or how it works -- so keep that in mind when hiring Architects to design for your organization.

When asked what “the cloud” is, a majority responded it’s either an actual cloud (specifically, a “fluffy white thing”), the sky or something related to the weather (29 percent).

Only 16 percent said they think of a computer network to store, access and share data from Internet-connected devices when thinking about "the cloud."

“This survey clearly shows that the cloud phenomenon is taking root in our mainstream culture, yet there is still a wide gap between the perceptions and realities of cloud computing,” said Kim DeCarlis, vice president of corporate marketing at Citrix. “While significant market changes like this take time, the transition from the PC era to the cloud era is happening at a remarkable pace. The most important takeaway from this survey is that the cloud is viewed favorably by the majority of Americans, and when people learn more about the cloud they understand it can vastly improve the balance between their work and personal lives.”


- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Deconstructing the Xerox - Apple Myth

In the aftermath of the Apple patent lawsuit, there's a lot of misinformation making its way around the inter-web. This is a detailed deconstruction of the "Steve Jobs Stole Xerox's Secrets" myth may help readers understand the complexities, spanning decades. A salient chunk:

Here is the first complicating fact about the Jobs visit. In the legend of Xerox PARC, Jobs stole the personal computer from Xerox. But the striking thing about Jobs's instructions to Hovey is that he didn't want to reproduce what he saw at PARC. "You know, there were disputes around the number of buttons—three buttons, two buttons, one-button mouse," Hovey went on. "The mouse at Xerox had three buttons. But we came around to the fact that learning to mouse is a feat in and of itself, and to make it as simple as possible, with just one button, was pretty important."

So was what Jobs took from Xerox the idea of the mouse? Not quite, because Xerox never owned the idea of the mouse. The PARC researchers got it from the computer scientist Douglas Engelbart, at Stanford Research Institute, fifteen minutes away on the other side of the university campus. Engelbart dreamed up the idea of moving the cursor around the screen with a stand-alone mechanical "animal" back in the mid- nineteen-sixties. His mouse was a bulky, rectangular affair, with what looked like steel roller-skate wheels. If you lined up Engelbart's mouse, Xerox's mouse, and Apple's mouse, you would not see the serial reproduction of an object. You would see the evolution of a concept.

The same is true of the graphical user interface that so captured Jobs's imagination. Xerox PARC's innovation had been to replace the traditional computer command line with onscreen icons. But when you clicked on an icon you got a pop-up menu: this was the intermediary between the user's intention and the computer's response. Jobs's software team took the graphical interface a giant step further. It emphasized "direct manipulation." If you wanted to make a window bigger, you just pulled on its corner and made it bigger; if you wanted to move a window across the screen, you just grabbed it and moved it. The Apple designers also invented the menu bar, the pull-down menu, and the trash can—all features that radically simplified the original Xerox PARC idea.

The difference between direct and indirect manipulation—between three buttons and one button, three hundred dollars and fifteen dollars, and a roller ball supported by ball bearings and a free-rolling ball—is not trivial. It is the difference between something intended for experts, which is what Xerox PARC had in mind, and something that's appropriate for a mass audience, which is what Apple had in mind. PARC was building a personal computer. Apple wanted to build a popular computer.




- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What's on the horizon for cyber-attacks

Organizations around the Pacific rim are having to stave off more security breaches than others, with not enough staff to shore up the bulwarks.

Businesses in the Asia-Pacific region are having to fight off more security breaches than the rest of the world, according to the ISACA 2012 Governance of Enterprise IT survey, which looked at over 3,000 businesses, including ones from Australia and New Zealand.





Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Last Ninja

It seems a shame, but this fellow seems to be the last ninja.

Jinichi Kawakami is a 63-year-old former engineer who may not fit the typical image of a dark-clad assassin with deadly weapons who can disappear into a cloud of smoke -- but Jinichi Kawakami is reputedly Japan's last ninja.

Kawakami first encountered the secretive world of ninjas at the age of just six, but has only vague memories of first meeting his master, Masazo Ishida, a man who dressed as a Buddhist monk.

"I kept practising without knowing what I was actually doing. It was much later that I realised I was practising ninjutsu," he says.

It is difficult to pin down the emergence of the first ninja, more properly called shinobi. As long as there has been political intrigue, there have been spies and assassins.

Japanese folklore tells us that the ninja descended from a demon that was half man and half crow. The ninja evolved as an opposing force to their upper-class contemporaries, the samurai, in early feudal Japan.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Fed is getting something right

Since the end of Bretton Woods, the reality that money is intrinsically useless is widely known (currency is used only as a medium of exchange). The value of money is set by the supply and demand for money and the supply and demand for other goods (including gold) and services in the global economy. At the start of the Great Depression, investors began trading in currencies and commodities. Gold prices rose as more people demanded the element to replace dollars . When banks couldn't meet the demand, they began failing. The US central bank kept raising interest rates, trying to make dollars more valuable and dissuade people from further depleting gold reserves. Later, when the Bretton Woods agreement fixed the price of gold to control fluctuations in currency exchange rates, the dollar became the de facto replacement. The strong dollar led to inflation and a large balance of payments deficit in the U.S. which in turn helped to create stagflation. The U.S. started to deflate the dollar in terms of its value in gold to curb double digit inflation. In 1971, gold was repriced to $38 per ounce, then again to $42 per ounce in 1973. As the dollar devalued, people were anxious to sell U.S. dollars for gold. In late 1973, the U.S. government decoupled the value of the dollar from gold altogether. The price of gold quickly shot up to $120 per ounce in the free market. At present we see gold at an astronomical price -- buying gold is a standard fall-back during a recession, so no surprise. But a collapse in gold prices could signal further turmoil. Daily reports of countries bracing for the end of the Euro don't help.

Make Stuff, Don't Waste Energy on Fighting

San Francisco Chronicle says it best: stop wasting energy (and lots of money. Lots.) on court cases. Invest in the future.
The problem is that neither company seems to have any idea what to do with its riches. The very act of cash hoarding suggests as much. If either company had projects deemed worthy by corporate execs holding the purse strings, the money would be spent.

The author continues,
Rather than invest in technology that might be commercially viable a decade or two down the road, Apple seems content for now to amass an ocean of cash, defend its 50 percent profit margins with an army of lawyers, and focus on incrementally adjusting - and protecting with a bulwark of broad patents - its current product designs. Sleek and user-friendly designs to be sure, but society-changing technological innovations comparable to the transistor or disk drive they are not.
- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Monday, August 20, 2012

Use of metadata is driving the growth in effectiveness of the web as a tool for knowledge workers. In my role as cloud architect, I've been charged with re-designing enterprise content management systems. Designing a reasonable hierarchical classification structure -- a taxonomy -- for an organization’s intellectual capital (see what I did there?) is central in the evolution of information systems. Without the implementation of a comprehensive taxonomy, effort will undoubtedly be wasted searching for content "the old fashion way." Lack of informational architecture alone should drive stakeholders to implement a robust, standard vocabulary for labeling or tagging business critical content across their organizations. I've focused on the Dublin Core for the basis of many a project.

The word "metadata" means "data about data". Metadata articulates a context for objects of interest -- "resources" such as MP3 files, library books, or satellite images -- in the form of "resource descriptions". As a tradition, resource description dates back to the earliest archives and library catalogs. The modern "metadata" field that gave rise to Dublin Core and other recent standards emerged with the Web revolution of the mid-1990s.


Creating a concise taxonomy will also improve overall communications within the bounds of the organization and enable staff to better implement procedures and practices. Thus, creating an intuitive taxonomy can be both a team building exercise and an investment with additional dividends. Data quality is driven by a common set (and common understanding) of data standards, domain standards, and business rules. If data is located in one or more locations , Duplication and the need to re-create it are reduced or eliminated. Finally, by using a metadata repository and enforcing common standards, reports and dashboards will reflect the correct data.

Metadata is key to building intelligent and high-performing enterprise solutions. The benefits cascade to many facets of the organization, including business process management, business intelligence, IT management. Better business performance, staff efficiency and stakeholder satisfaction are compelling enough reasons to mesh metadata development into IT strategies.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Being connected - people really like it

Regular readers know that I place a high value on communication, the essence of which is the transfer of information. Throughout history this has been a key element in the evolution of civilized societies, and is a requirement of organization and planning.
The advancement of communication technology has addressed unique aspects of information transfer:
- the speed and distance at which information can be transmitted,
- the permanency of the information, and
- the volume of information that can be transmitted.
Throughout history, technological innovations have allowed for the steady improvement of all three aspects. However, in the last three decades, advances and globalization has made complicated and convoluted these once unique qualities as factors that were once limiting began to disappear.
In the results of this Time Magazine poll, we can see that people are attached to their mobiles. Of course, humans evolved and came to dominate this planet because of our ability to communicate, coordinate, and negotiate.
Some interesting tidbits: around one in four people check their mobile phone at least once every half-hour. People ages 25-29 sleep with their phones. Seventy-six percent of Americans think that being constantly connected is a mostly good thing. This contrasts others around the world, where, in South Korea, for example, mobiles are considered a distraction from responsibility by over sixty percent.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Harry Harrison - prolific, imaginative. Via con Dios

I'm sorry to see one of my favorite sci fi authors has died... Harry Harrison was an awesome writer. Read a decent obituary here...


- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Monday, August 13, 2012

Smaller devices that do more, because of software based radio

Free up radio communication from hardware-specific needs with software -- that's the dream of many an electrical engineer.
A software-defined radio (SDR) is a radio device where components that have been typically implemented as hardware (tuner, filters, amplifiers, modulators/demodulators, etc.) are instead implemented by means of software.
Think of a mobile phone that could support multiple cellular technologies and frequencies at the same time and can be modified in the future without any hardware changes. Apple's upcoming iPhone will likely support this model -- reducing the need to build separate CDMA and GSM versions. When mass-customization meets remote software update, we see Apple's profits shoot up (lower unit production cost = higher margins), and the flexibility of devices explode.
Near-field communications, for example, is a useful tool to enable consumers to make credit card purchases with their mobile phones, based on a chip embedded in the phone chassis. But what if you could use many vendors' chip readers, without supporting the actual hardware antenna and other components? That's the beauty of an SDR.
Around the globe, SDRs could boost mobile operators in less-developed countries. The flexibility to combine different grades of hardware and software to strike the right balance between cost and network resiliency would be more opportunities for more people to be connected, at a lower cost.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission loves SDR -- such software-defined radios enable the sharing of limited airspace and prevent interference.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What is the cloud? It is...

...alot of things. As Chenda Ngak says in his post over at TechTalk,
Think of the cloud as a disk drive that is owned by a company like Google or Apple, which stores all of your files in a remote location - typically at a server farm...

But the cloud is more than that. The idea of the "cloud" may have been spawned with drawings of the internet extended network (a so-called "wide area network") depicted as a cloud, rather than all the routers and nodes and connecting pathways. These days, consumers think of the cloud as that place where your photos go to live (iCloud), or where you connect to your friends (FaceBook), or check your email (Google's Gmail).
But the cloud can also be the unseen infrastructure that hosts these kind of services. Amazon and Google famously have such platforms. Software developers build solutions using these systems. The underlying working bits are transparent to the user, but there is a significant shift -- your local computer, phone or iPad longer has to do all the heavy lifting, running applications. The network of computers that make up the cloud handles all the processing. Hardware and software demands on the user's side decrease; all you need is an on-ramp to the info superhighway services, which can be as simple as a web browser. The cloud takes care of the rest.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The 21st Century Employee Model - distributed workforce

Dan Pink chronicled the growing ranks of people who work for themselves in his 2001 book, Free Agent Nation. Many people may have started their own shops to become a part of the freelancer nation, even larger organizations can use freelance workers or others in alternative employment arrangements to help meet some of staffing needs.

In the multimedia/video/film world, experts come together to create, write, shoot, edit and distribute products. Such ad hoc teams form the basis of knowledge work that is creative, and profit-focused.

Such ad hoc project may involve work that requires less than a full complement of staff to complete and has immediate benefits. The work may involve frequent discussions between client (requester) and the team. One of the difficulties of having unaffiliated exerts work in groups on a project (software development, a video, a research paper, etc.) is that there are always a few who do not get fully involved in the project. This is an easy trap to fall into. Usually, one or two of the team members know much more about the topic, tools, or subject matter, and so end up putting the majority of the project, document, proposal, or whatever, together. Others are more adept at creativity, spreadsheets, running the software tools, etc., so these people end up doing a few specific tasks. Problems arise when one or two do all of the work. The rest of the group, with a lack of activities to keep them busy, often end up left out, underutilized, and even put off. Shortly, the stakeholders get frustrated with disorganization and the 80/20 rule kicks in: one or two people do the lion's share. For most, this lessens the benefit of such ad hoc cooperatives.

This can be easily avoided.

Staring out with a strong plan, and getting participant buy-in upfront makes the way forward clear. Providing an easy-to-understand project plan (perhaps with a GANTT or other visualization) and schedule keeps everyone focused on the goals. Assigning and tracking tasks, with everyones' input, results in measurable progress. If you have chosen your team members well, self-motivation will be evident.

It is not uncommon for many of us work regularly with colleagues based in different buildings, cities, countries, and even continents. Members of the work group may be in different time zones, speak different languages, and be of different cultures. Providing feedback and encouraging communication -- in real time or off-line via comments, discussion forums, email or even texting -- promotes bonding and ensures team members know they are valued.