Wednesday, March 27, 2013

TIme machine alert - what the internet looked like in 1995

This is one freaky video, from the Computer Chronicles, a PBS show back in the last millennium. Here is a cool info graphics that gives some nice comparisons, as well.

Netflix seeks to advance use of the cloud

Earlier this month (March), Netflix announced $100,000 in prize money for the developers who do the most to improve its open source tools for controlling and managing application deployments on cloud computing. Before spearheading this contest, Netflix's cloud architect, Adrian Cockcroft, released many internal Netflix tools as open source. Currently, 8 cloud-architecture-specific tools are available from Netflix, and their architect has open in sharing his and Netflix's knowledge in the public arena.

Some find Netflix' reliance on Amazon Web Services a mixed bag. It is clear Amazon's offering was out in front early (beating out Google), and few others have the core offerings necessary to build comparable applications -- streaming services, multiple data center in other time zones, and an enterprise service bus and backend databases with snapshots and quick restores.

Netflix responded to customer demand by moving services to the cloud -- for the classic reasons. Netflix could not build out data centers fast enough to match their growth rate, and a global roll out. They leveraged Amazon’s ability to build and run large-scale infrastructure. Netflix works with three “terabit-scale” content delivery networks -- Level 3, Limelight, and Akamai -- who stream films to the end customer. If there is too much latency with one edge content router, traffic automatically switches to another.

When consumers think of the most popular internet services -- and they don't typically associate the term "cloud computing" with services they use -- they are tapping into cloud computing. Amazon, Google, Apple, Netflix and others have built huge enterprises on this concept.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What is the Central Bank of the U.S. -- The Federal Reserve System

THis info graphic from Mint gives an awesome overview. The Federal Reserve System, often referred to as the Federal Reserve or "the Fed," was created in 1913 by the Congress Signed into law by Woodrow Wilson) to provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system. This system of ten regional institutions implements the nation's monetary policy by influencing money and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of full employment and stable prices. The Fed regulates and supervises banks and other important financial institutions. The Fed tries to craft stability of the financial system and contain systemic risk that may arise in financial markets.Finally, the Fed provides financial services to the U.S. government, U.S. financial institutions, and foreign official institutions, and playing a major role in operating and overseeing the nation's payments systems.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Silly Americans, You Already ARE Socialist

I aim to be more on the laissez-faire / free markets kind of guy, but I do believe there are plenty of people who need our collective help. Isn't that why we have government? To set the rules of the road, to make sure the needs of the few are taken above the needs of the many.

This article makes a reasonable argument: when one evaluates the data on: 1) federal business regulation, 2) federal and state government subsidies, 3) corporate taxation, and 4) the level of “economic freedom” that exists in the United States, the palette paints an economic landscape with much greater government interference in business than the myth of “cowboy capitalism” would suggest. A factual analysis of these four areas reveals a modern-day America that is much closer to a European socialist-style economy – like Germany, Denmark, or Sweden – than to a capitalist frontier. And by some measures of government intervention, the United States is actually much more “European” than any country in Europe today.

Food for thought, this lovely Spring morning.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Your Rights -- A Little Less Constrained

Item #1. Readers may recall all this writer's opposition o illegal search and seizure as it pertains to your digital privacy at the U.S. border. Border (ICE) agents are able to search the contents of electronic devices, such as computers and phones at the border, without any reason. The 4th Amendment only allows reasonable searches, usually with a warrant. Up until now the typical argument has been: when you are at the border, you are not in the country -- and the 4th Amendment doesn't apply. This rule has been loosly interpreted at times, including the ability to take your computer and devices into the country and search it there, while still considering it a "border search," for which the lower standards apply.

Only a month ago, it appeared that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security saw no reason to change this policy. Well, now they might have to. In a somewhat surprising 9th Circuit ruling (en banc, or in front of the entire set of judges), the court ruled that the 4th Amendment does apply at the border, that agents do need to recognize there's an expectation of privacy, and cannot do a search without reason. Furthermore, they noted that merely encrypting a file with a password is not enough to trigger suspicion.

Item #2. The Obama Administration has filed a brief in support of a Maryland photojournalist who says he was arrested and beaten after he took photographs of the police arresting two other men. The brief by the Justice Department argues that the U.S. Constitution protects the right to photograph the actions of police officers in public places and prohibits police officers from arresting journalists for exercising those rights. Context: 'Garcia says that when Officer Christopher Malouf approached him, Garcia identified himself as a member of the press and held up his hands to show he was only holding a camera. But Malouf "placed Mr. Garcia in a choke hold and dragged him across the street to his police cruiser," where he "subjected him to verbal and physical abuse."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Springtime (well, meteorological spring) Means Cycling!

Today's info-graphic comes courtesy of Green Living,

Of course, DC boasts some of the longest commute times. Why not enjoy the benefits of cycling, as this report summarizes, to get the most out of spring?
I love being out in the fresh air. Most bicycle paths are placed near trees which provides oxygen. Being out in the sunshine also provides the body with Vitamin D. And many studies have shown cycling improves cardiovascular fitness by up to 7 percent. Some experts say cycling can cut your risk of coronary heart disease in half. You can even create an interval training routine by pedaling faster and then taking a break at regular intervals.
With long travel time comes more stress -- and other studies show driving to work causes a tremendous amount of stress. People who have a long commute end up gaining weight. If your commute is long, you will just get in better shape by commuting on bike.
Cycling, I've found, has a meditative effect that relaxes me -- although I have to pay attention to traffic and safety, bicycling does allow my mind to wander.
When you commute to work by bike, you are guaranteed to have two exercise sessions a day. Lack motivation? You still have to ride your bike home at the end of the day. One study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed biking is associated with less weight gain in middle-aged women. Riding a bike burns plenty of calories, although exactly how many depends on pace.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

So You Want to Run Your Business in the Cloud? What About Integration?

Ellyn Phenea rightly points out the difficulties of an integrated view of IT systems for organizations relying on software-as-a-service (SAAS).
As small and midsize businesses (SMBs) leverage software-as-a-service (SaaS) to scale more quickly, they can end up with disparate applications that do not integrate. This gives rise to security issues as companies will bypass security protocols governing these software, and result in data residing in silos in different cloud services.

It seems to be true that IT policies around governance and identity management could become harder to enforce in a dispirit environment, where differing vendors supply back-office solutions. But careful planning with an eye towards security can avoid this pitfall. For example, maintaining control over the central user identity credentials -- in an LDAP or Active Directory -- goes a long way towards maintaining vigilance. For many, their FaceBook account is the easiest way to log into Internet-provided services.
Authorization and access are the first station stops on the journey to SOA. Instituting An OpenID or other solution can give users a similar experience, but sometime revocable policies are difficult to propagate. Read more about this concept here.
Data sharing becomes easier when the SAAS solutions you choose have web services APIs to "open the door" to accessing information. While one could consider a simple solution to "publish" data from one service (perhaps via Atom, RSS or some other XML format), real application integration requires a lot more than data mapping. A Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) can be more readily realized when you implement such as content-based routing, process flow control, exception handling, and messaging. Finding SAAS offerings that provide such tools can be challenging, but worth the effort, to help you avoid the need to understand complex APIs when developing web services. Look to deploy into cloud offerings with SOAP or REST interfaces, so you can link systems across the Internet. Open data storage is the next stop on the journey to SOA in the cloud, and many options are available to accommodate large or small data sets.
Security and Integration are achievable with SAAS, because many offerings are designed with SOA in mind.
- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Why High Speed Rail Won't Be Pulling into the Station Anytime Soon

High speed rail in the US is, unfortunately, unachievable, for many reasons, but one important one stands out: there are hundreds of thousands of at-grade-crossings. Too many roads and rail lines intersect, requiring crossing gates and slow transversal by trains. In Japan, the entire Shinkansen system resides behind concrete walls and high fences so pedestrians and automobiles don't have to be negotiated.
The culture of trains in other countries stems from a history of adoption of said transport method. Train evolution occurred simultaneously worked with the Industrial Revolution in England in the nineteenth-century, and served to play a crucial part in the lives of Victorians and urban development during this era. The impacts trains produced were unseen in relative terms as the technology pioneered was unlike anything previously.
This chap has an excellent discussion around the British culture is infused with rail technology -- at home and around the empire.
Unlike the poopy and slow horse that preceded this technological wonder, the railways enabled transportation times to dramatically decline. The debut of the steam locomotive of the 1830s turbo-charged the already booming British economy. The cultural impacts that took place due to the augmentation of the train and railways were visible almost immediately.
In Japan, a similar affectation for trains is infused in the culture. Love of all things transport-related is obvious to visitors to Japan, but trains are one if the most visible aspects of Nippon infrastructure loved by its people.

In the US, freight is the true winner for train traveling. Freight on railroads is the critical application for this surface transport. According to this, trains move 42 percent of the county's freight (measured in ton-miles) -- everything from lumber to vegetables, coal to orange juice, grain to automobiles, and chemicals to scrap iron -- and connect businesses with each other across the country and with markets overseas.
Rail contributes billions of dollars each year to the US economy through investment, worker wages, purchases, and taxes.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sequestration Finally Happens - World Not Over

So the President of the U.S. signed the "sequestration" process into action last night. And the world did not end. Some of my associates who are federal employees are unhappy at the dual prospects of a pay reduction and not being able to fully do their jobs.

And many of my teaming partners are gritting their teeth over contracts canceled, not awarded, or just in limbo.

But, at the end of the day, this austerity program may impeded the operations of government, but it isn't the end of everything. Although, as I've pointed out in the past, no country implementing budget cuts has emerged from recession.

President Barack Obama pressed Congress on Saturday to work with him on a compromise to halt a fiscal crisis he said was starting to "inflict pain" on communities across the United States. If left in place without legislative remedy, government agencies will have to hack a total of $85 billion from their budgets between Saturday and Oct. 1, cuts that over time could cause economic harm, slash jobs and curb military readiness. "These cuts are not smart," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "They will hurt our economy and cost us jobs. And Congress can turn them off at any time - as soon as both sides are willing to compromise." --HuffingtonPost

But austerity can mean prolonged contraction, but, on the up-side, one should remember that an increase in government spending does not add to aggregate demand. Every dollar or euro the government spends must be taken first from individuals or companies. In the U.S., research dollars displace private sector spending or investment. In addition, since individuals are better at spending and investing their own money than elite public servants, every dollar of increased government spending leads to less than a dollar of additional output.

So don't be too down-in-the-dumps: there is a good possibility reduced government spending will free money up for private spending and investment. Maybe.