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.

- 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.