Archive for the ‘ Tech ’ Category


Automation technology is getting better as help desk requests continue to rise

Competing forces are affecting people who work on help or service desks. One is improving automation tools, which advocates say can replace level 1 and 2 support staff. At the same time, the number of help desk tickets is rising each year, which puts more demand on the service desk.

These cross-currents in the industry make it hard to predict the fate of some IT jobs. A Pew survey, released in August, of nearly 1,900 experts found a clear split on what the future may bring: 52% said tech advances will not displace more jobs than they create by 2025, but 48% said they will.

Either way, a push toward automaton is certain. In the help desk industry, the goal is to keep as many calls for help at either Level 0, which is self-help, or Level 1, as possible. It’s called “shift-left” in the industry.

“It costs way more to have a Level 3 or Level 2 person to resolve an issue, and it also takes a lot more time,’ said Roy Atkinson, an analyst at HDI, formerly known as the Help Desk Institute. To keep costs down, help desks are increasingly turning to automation and improvements in technologies such as national language processing, he said.

A Level 1 worker will take an initial call, suggest a couple of fixes, and then — lacking the skill or authority to do much more — escalate the issue. The Level 2 worker can do field repair work and may have specific application knowledge. A Level 3 escalation might involve working directly with application developers, while Level 4 means taking the problem outside to a vendor.

Among the companies developing automation tools is New York-based IPsoft, a 15-year old firm with more than 2,000 employees. It develops software robotic technology and couples it with management services.

A majority of IT infrastructure will eventually be “managed by expert systems, not by human beings,” said Frank Lansink, the firm’s CEO for the European Union. IPsoft says its technology can now eliminate 60% of infrastructure labor tasks.

IPsoft’s autonomic tools might discover, for instance, a network switch that isn’t functioning, or a wireless access point that is down. The system creates tickets and then deploys an expert system, a software robot with the programming to make the repair. If it can’t be done, a human intervenes.

Many service desk jobs have been moved offshored over the last decade, displacing workers. That trend is ongoing. One of the ideas underlying IPsoft’s business models is a belief that offshore, as well as onshore, labor costs can be further reduced through automation.

Offshore firms are clearly interested. IPsoft’s platform was adopted last year by Infosys and, more recently, by Accenture.

One IT manager using IPsoft’s automation technology and services to support his firm’s infrastructure — including its network, servers and laptops — is Marcel Chiriac, the CIO of Rompetrol Group, a Romania-based oil industry firm with 7,000 employees serving Europe and Asia.

“Without the automation, we would have to pay a lot more” for IT support, said Chiriac.

The cost savings arise from automatic repairs and routine maintenance that might otherwise be neglected, said Chiriac.

If he weren’t using autonomic tools, Chiriac said he would have to hire more people for a similar level of service. But he can’t easily estimate the impact on staff because of the firm’s IT history. (Rompetrol Group outsourced its 140 IT staff, ended that relationship, then rebuilt an internal IT staff with about two dozen fewer workers; it also uses outsourcing as a supplement.)

Nonetheless, Chiriac doesn’t believe that infrastructure automation will necessarily eliminate IT jobs, though it may shift them to other IT areas. “In IT, we’re not going to run out of work for the next two generations,” said Chiriac.

The work that help or service desks are asked to take on is increasing. Two-thirds of 1,200 organizations surveyed by HDI reported that the number of tickets, either to fix something broken or to outfit a new hire or change permissions, for instance, os increasing annually by more than 60%.

The top five reasons for this increase, according to HDI’s survey, is an increase in the number of customers at surveyed firms, a rising number of applications, changes in infrastructure, increases in the scope of services, and the need to support different types of equipment and more devices. That latter could reflect BYOD use.

At the same time, support is being transformed in new ways. Service desks may, for instance, now act as a liaison for all service providers, including cloud and mobile carriers, said Atkinson.

“I think a lot of people have been predicting the death of support for a number of years, and it hasn’t happened,” said Atkinson.


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Google is drawing from the work of the open-source community to offer its cloud customers a service to better manage their clusters of virtual servers.

On Monday, the Google Cloud Platform started offering the commercial version of the open-source Mesos cluster management software, offered by Mesosphere.

With the Mesosphere software, “You can create a truly multitenant cluster, and that drives up utilization and simplifies operations,” said Florian Leibert, co-founder and CEO of Mesosphere. Leibert was also the engineering lead at Twitter who introduced Mesos to the social media company.
10 of the Most Useful Cloud Databases

First developed by the University of California, Berkeley, Mesos can be thought of as an operating system that allows an administrator to control an entire cluster of computers, or even an entire data center, as if it were a single machine.

Thanks to its fine-tuned scheduling capabilities, Mesos can allow multiple frameworks, such as Hadoop or Spark, to share a single cluster, as well as allow multiple copies of the same framework to run on a single cluster.

The software also has built-in resiliency: If one or several nodes stop working, the software can automatically move that work to other, operational nodes in that cluster.

Twitter, Airbnb, Netflix and Hubspot have all used Mesos to coordinate operations.

Google has modified its new software for managing Docker containers, called Kubernetes, so it can run on Mesos, work Google also announced Monday.

Google has been an ardent user of Docker internally, using more than 2 billion containers a week in its routine operations. The open-source Docker provides a container-based virtualization, which is an alternative to traditional virtualization workloads now being considered by many organizations, due to its putative performance superiority.

Now, Google customers can use Mesosphere cluster to run Docker containers and use any leftover capabilities to run other framework-based workloads.

“You’ll be able to create these modern distributed systems the way that Google does, and you’ll be able to run them side-by-side with all your existing applications,” said Craig McLuckie, Google Cloud Platform product manager.

Users can also move their workloads to any cloud provider that runs Mesos, eliminating the dependencies that can come with writing the applications to run on a specific cloud service, be that Google’s or some other vendor’s.

Google’s Mesosphere cluster package also includes the Apache Zookeeper configuration software, the Marathon scheduling software, as well as OpenVPN for logging into the cluster.

Use of Mesosphere on the Google Cloud Platform is not billed separately; it is included in the price of running a cluster.


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7 cool uses of beacons you may not expect

Written by admin
August 13th, 2014

7 cool uses of beacons you may not expect
Beacons are a useful new twist on location awareness, tying a unique ID to a small device that apps can use to discover not just location but other relevant context about the beacon’s location or what it is attached to.

Most beacon trials involve spam-like use by retailers, such as shoppers getting pitches for specific brands of cereal while walking down the cereal aisle, but there are better uses of beacons being piloted. These examples come from Onyx Beacons and StickNFind, two beacon vendors that work with a wide range of industries, reflecting actual pilot projects.

Identify passengers stuck in airport security
A consortium of airlines and airports is testing placement of beacons at security lines in airports. Passengers’ airline apps would know those people are in the security line, and airlines could thus know if there are people at risk of missing their flight so they can send out reps to get them or hold the plane. The same notion could be used at airport gates to monitor people who risk missing connecting flights or whose gates have changed — even helping them get to their new gate faster.

Remember to take out the garbage
Imagine: You affix a beacon to your garbage can, and your task manager knows that Thursday is garbage pickup day. If you go past your garbage can on Thursday, a BLE auto-connection sends you a reminder to take it out. Combine that with GPS location detection from your phone, and your app will know if you did actually move the can to the curb and not remind you.

Track things smarter
All sorts of industries are looking at affixing beacons to pallets, carts, and other movable equipment to track location as they move about. Think airline cargo containers, hospitals’ computers-on-wheels, warehouse pallets, museum artwork, bulldozers at a construction sites, contractors at a job site, even hospital patients, students, or visitors (so they don’t get lost and their movement patterns can be discovered, such as for space planning).

Authorize access to cars, buildings, and more
We already have Bluetooth fobs to unlock our cars so we can drive them and Bluetooth locks that know it’s your iPhone at the door. Kaiser Permanente uses Bluetooth badges to authorize physician access to their individual accounts in shared computers in each exam room. The same can be done with tablets.

So it’s no surprise that companies are exploring the use of beacons and people’s own mobile devices as access systems in their buildings or to unlock and start your car rather than use proprietary radio readers or fobs.

Navigate buildings and other spaces
When you visit a customer, you often get lost when trying to find a conference room, bathroom, or kitchen. Beacons can be used both as virtual “where am I?” kiosks and as monitors of your movement, so an app can guide you to your destination — and alert the company if you wander where you shouldn’t.

Plus, you can get information about where you are, whether about the artist whose painting you are viewing in a museum or the instructions for the copier you’re trying to operate — even just the Wi-Fi password for the conference room’s public hotspot.

Check out ski conditions at the lift
One ski resort is placing beacons at ski lift entrances not just to track the number of people using each lift, but to let skiers check the conditions for the runs available at each lift before they get on the lift. If a resort’s app had information about your age or skiing skills, it could even suggest that you should try a different run and thus go to a different lift.

Provide smarter signage
Signs are great, but limited. They provide only the information they provide, and they are often limited to one or two languages. If signs were beacon-enabled, users could get translations in their languages and get more information than any sign could hold. You can imagine such uses in zoos, museums, and botanical gardens, but also amusement parks, airport lobbies, and hospitals.


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Big tech firms back Wi-FAR for remote broadband

Written by admin
August 7th, 2014

802.22 standard, approved in 2011, promises low-cost broadband for remote areas

Google, Microsoft and Facebook are cranking up an emerging wireless technology known as Wi-FAR to help reduce the digital divide in remote and unconnected regions of the world.

Wi-FAR is a recently trademarked name from the nonprofit WhiteSpace Alliance (WSA) that refers to the 802.22 wireless standard first approved by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) in 2011.

The standard shares the underused TV band of spectrum called whitespace to send wireless signals, typically over distances of six to 18 miles in rural and remote areas. It has a theoretical download speed of more than 22 Mbps per TV channel that serves up to 512 devices, according to the WSA. That could result in speeds of about 1.5 Mbps on a downlink to a single device.

While such speeds are far slower than for the gigabit fiber-optic cable services that Google and AT&T are building in some U.S. cities, the speeds could theoretically begin to compete with some 3G cellular speeds, although not 4G LTE speeds. For an impoverished or sparsely populated region where businesses and schoolchildren have little Internet access, Wi-FAR could be a godsend when used to link base stations (typically found at the ground level of cell towers) in a distributed network.
Students in South Africa
Students at the University of Limpopo in South Africa use laptops connected to the Internet using Wi-FAR wireless technology. (Photo: Microsoft)

About 28 million people in the U.S. don’t have access to broadband, while globally, about 5 billion people, nearly three-fourths of the world’s population — don’t have broadband Internet access, said Apurva Mody, chairman of both the WSA and of the 802.22 Working Group.

“This is cheap Internet access and there are dozens of trials underway, with Google in South Africa, Microsoft in Tanzania and other continents, and even Facebook’s interest,” Mody said in an interview. “You have 1.2 billion people in India who need cost-effective Internet access. There’s a lot of enthusiasm for Wi-FAR.”

Wi-FAR will be cheaper for access to the Internet than LTE and other wireless services. The lower cost is partly because Wi-FAR works over unlicensed spectrum, similar to Wi-Fi, which allows network providers, and even government entities, to avoid paying licensing fees or needing to build as many expensive cell towers, that can cost $50,000 apiece, Mody said. “The prices for Wi-FAR service will be very small, perhaps less than $10 per month per household.”

The 802.22 technology can be low cost because the whitespace spectrum is shared with conventional users, including TV stations on UHF and VHF bands. Thanks to sophisticated databases that track when a whitespace channel will be in use in a particular region, a cognitive (or smart) radio device can determine when to switch to another channel that’s not in use. Testing in various Wi-FAR pilots projects, many of them in Africa, is designed to prove that Wi-FAR devices won’t interfere with other existing users on the same channel.

“We have yet to have an interference problem,” said James Carlson, CEO of Carlson Wireless Technologies, a Sunnyvale, California-based company that is working with Google on two six-month trials of 802.22 in the UK, among other areas. The company completed a successful trial with Google serving students in South Africa in 2013. Carlson, in an email interview, said the company is working with five database providers, noting that the “prime purpose of the database is to protect the incumbent spectrum user.”

Whitespace spectrum sharing, coupled with the use of the databases, is generally called dynamic spectrum allocation technology. In January, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved Carlson’s RuralConnect TV whitespace radio system for use with a Spectrum Bridge TV whitespace database, effectively bringing the first dynamic spectrum sharing product to market.

In the U.S., RuralConnect is authorized for use in the UHF TV band, running from 470 MHz to 698 MHz. The FCC opened up the band in 2010.

At the time, Carlson said the FCC’s approval would give a boost to global efforts to use whitespace technology. “Providing connectivity to underserved populations worldwide is more than an interest to us,” he said in a statement. “It’s our corporate mission.”

RuralConnect will get competition from products in other companies, including Redline, Adaptrum and 6Harmonics, Carlson said. In addition to other providers, Google has built a whitespace database that Carlson is testing.

In all, Carlson Wireless has piloted dozens of whitespace projects, and expects to start its largest yet for 30 base stations and 5,000 users near New Delhi in the next six months, Carlson said.

“India is the next big boom for online needs, and the rural areas are not getting [Internet service] with [typical] mobile systems,” Carlson said. “So they are choosing to go with the TV whitespace because the UHF band is almost all vacant in rural areas and 600 MHz propagation is superb.”

While Carlson has been working with Google, Microsoft separately announced in June a whitespace pilot project at the University of Limpopo in South Africa. It is part of a Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative to help ignite economic development in Africa.

In May, Microsoft and Facebook joined with SpectraLink Wireless to announce a whitespace project for students and faculty at universities in Koforidua, Ghana. That project brought the number of nations where Microsoft has whitespace pilots to 10 countries on four continents.

In the Microsoft and SpectraLink partnership, Facebook’s Connectivity Lab team will lead efforts to better understand how TV whitespace spectrum can support wireless Internet users, according to a statement.

Microsoft and others believe that TV whitespace technology will best work in combination with Wi-Fi and other low-cost wireless technologies. While much of whitespace technology is focused on building specialized bridge hardware for use in base stations, Mody said some companies are developing fixed wireless 802.22 routers, similar in appearance to Wi-Fi routers, that will be placed inside of homes.

Microsoft also spearheaded the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, which Google and Facebook joined last November. The alliance is exploring many uses for whitespace spectrum, including Internet of Things device connectivity.

Craig Mathias, an analyst and wireless consultant for The Farpoint Group, said 802.22 devices may compete against or complement a number of other technologies, including cellular and Wi-Fi.

“802.22 is not a pipe dream, but so far there’s not a lot of evidence of its success,” Mathias said in an interview. “It does make sense. The rate of innovation in wireless is so high that you hear something exciting every week. But not all wireless standards are successful in terms of having [successful] wireless products.”


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New SSL server rules go into effect Nov. 1

Written by admin
July 26th, 2014

Rules designed to thwart man-in-the-middle attacks; could mean extra work for IT shops

Public certificate authorities (CAs) are warning that as of Nov. 1 they will reject requests for internal SSL server certificates that don’t conform to new internal domain naming and IP address conventions designed to safeguard networks.

The concern is that SSL server digital certificates issued by CAs at present for internal corporate e-mail servers, Web servers and databases are not unique and can potentially be used in man-in-the-middle attacks involving the setup of rogue servers inside the targeted network, say representatives for the Certification Authority/Browser Forum (CA/B Forum), the industry group that sets security and operational guidelines for digital certificates. Members include the overwhelming bulk of public CAs around the globe, plus browser makers such as Microsoft and Apple.

“Even in an internal network, it’s possible for an employee to stand up a fake server,” says Rick Andrews, senior technical director for trust services at Symantec, explaining the new rules.

The problem today is that network managers often give their servers names like “Server1” and allocate internal IP addresses so that SSL certificates issued for them through the public CAs are not necessarily globally unique, notes Chris Bailey, general manager for Deep Security for Web Apps at Trend Micro.

“People rely on these internal names today,” Bailey says. But “if someone hacks in, they can set up a man-in-the-middle domain.”

The CA/B Forum three years ago reached the conclusion this was a significant security issue and nailed down new certificate-issuance guidelines they have been sharing with their customers. Now that the Nov. 1 deadline is getting closer, they are speaking out about it.

As of Nov. 1, network managers requesting internal SSL certificates from the public CAs will have to following these new guidelines. Network managers will need to ensure SSL server certificate requests are expressed in a way that they are associated with an external domain name, says Andrews. Some enterprises already use names that chain up to the company name, but “these are probably in the minority,” he adds.

MORE WORK FOR YOU?
This change to requirements pertaining to public issuance of internal SSL server certificates means that in some instances, network managers may need to expand their internal DNS infrastructure so the name maps appropriately, Andrews points out. For some, particularly large organizations with sprawling networks, it could be a painful set of changes, even impacting the applications running on these servers, he acknowledges.

For any organization or network manager not wishing to adhere to the new public CA issuance guidelines, there are a few alternatives, though Andrews says many may not find them appealing. Organizations can decide not to obtain publicly-issued SSL certificates for internal servers and instead start privately issuing digital certificates on their own by relying on their own management hierarchy. But Web browsers might not necessarily recognize these private certificates and more changes might need to occur to ensure they do.

One other CA/B Forum deadline to keep an eye on: Oct. 1, 2016. By then, any SSL certificates issued for internal domains that don’t meet the new standards will be revoked. Organizations that determine they must make changes to meet the CA/B Forum guidelines now have about two years to migrate.

 


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New products of the week July 14, 2014

Written by admin
July 20th, 2014

Our roundup of intriguing new products. Read how to submit an entry to Network World’s products of the week slideshow.

Product name: APCON IntellaFlex 3288-XR Switch with WebXR
Key features: High availability, scalable network monitoring switch: 288 non-blocking 1G/10G ports, web-based management software, packet aggregation, filtering and manipulation, rate conversion, load balancing, 40G trunking, easy maintenance with hot swappable modules. More info.

Product name: Kaseya Traverse
Key features: Traverse is a breakthrough cloud and service-level monitoring solution that provides real-time visibility into the performance of virtualized IT services allowing proactive SLA management and rapid root-cause analysis. More info.

Product name: Niagara 4272
Key features: is a network packet broker that supports up to 72 ports of 1Gbps and/or 10Gbps, for aggregation, mirroring, filtering and packet slicing in a 1U. More info.

Product name: Identity Data Platform (Version 4.6)
Key features: A Customer Identity Management Solution delivering one, common customer profile with unlimited scalability and 5X the performance of legacy products, now featuring social log-in and advanced, multi-factor authentication. More info.

Product name: Anturis 2.0
Key features: Targeted to SMBs and web hosters, Anturis 2.0 provides enterprise-grade IT monitoring and troubleshooting — all in a simple and easy-to-use cloud-based solution. More info.

Product Name: ProtectFile for Linux
Key features: ProtectFile delivers transparent and seamless encryption of sensitive data stored in Apache Hadoop clusters. It presents limited drag on performance and doesn’t require the re-architecting of existing big data implementations. More info.

Product name: Marketing Cloud Management (MCM)
Key features: is a SaaS solution that helps lines of business leaders to collaborate and evaluate digital marketing technology investments including operational costs, site performance and data leakage. More info.

Product name: iboss 7.0
Key features: expands malware and APT protection by incorporating ‘lean forward’ technologies such as Behavioral Data Baselining to detect anomalies, Sandboxing, and increased detection and response capabilities for infected devices on the network. More info.

Product name: Chekkt.com
Key features: Chekkt is a new B2B hub that helps businesses discover and compare the best SaaS solutions and services based on crowd-sourced user ratings and reviews. More info.

Product name – iNetSec Smart Finder
Key features – is an all-in-one solution that combines full network visualization of all wired and wireless devices and applications used, with the addition of new IPS features. More info.

Product name – SignNow by Barracuda
Key features – The new SignNow Kiosk Mode for iPads can be used in waiting rooms, check-in tables or anywhere else that requires gathering multiple signatures on fresh copies of a document. More info.

Product name: Governance Portal for Third-Party Anti-Corruption
Key features: Software run in the cloud that allows clients to manage onboarding, response collection, automated watch-list lookup, false positive analysis and risk scorecard development for third-party business partners. More info.


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Anyone who works with technology knows that at some point or another, all computers behave as if they are evil supercomputers. But in the annals of science fiction, a very specific sort of villain has gradually emerged — the sentient and usually hostile supercomputer that bedevils mankind with its inhuman motives and sinister agendas. Science fiction specializes in taking our cultural anxieties and flipping them into stories. As computers entered our lives, stories of out-of-control supercomputers soon followed. Here we take a look at some of the more infamous evil supercomputers in the history of science-fiction books, movies, television, and video games.

HAL 9000
In terms of pure pop culture Q score, no malicious computer is more famous than HAL 9000, the disturbingly calm antagonist of Stanley Kubrick’s classic “2001: A Space Odyssey.” In the film, based on Arthur C. Clarke’s story, HAL is the ship computer that controls the Discovery One spacecraft en route to Jupiter. HAL famously flips out and attempts to kill the mission astronauts. Pilot Dave Bowman survives and unplugs HAL, one electronic synapse at a time, in the film’s most chilling scene. Interestingly, Kubrick frames HAL’s decision as an ethical quandary for the machine — the AI is conflicted about its mission directives, and decides killing the crew is actually the right thing to do.

Mother
Clearly inspired by Hal 9000, Mother is the ship computer in Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi suspense masterpiece “Alien.” Like HAL, Mother also has a secret agenda that she keeps from the crew, although she shares it with fellow artificial intelligence Ash — the shifty android aboard interstellar mining vessel the Nostromo. When instructed to preserve the alien organism for biological weapon purposes, Mother doesn’t do any electronic ethical hand-wringing. She just follows orders: “CREW EXPENDABLE.” Mother never takes direct action against the crew of the Nostromo, but her unthinking, automated complicity underlines the theme of desperate humans versus cold, lethal killing machines.

The Thing
In Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 young adult novel “A Wrinkle in Time,” the author takes the idea of the evil supercomputer in a slightly different direction. When our heroes arrive on the shadowed planet of Camazotz, they find a world where society has been rigidly ordered and mechanized. Citizens must report to building-size computers at the planet’s headquarters, CENTRAL Central Intelligence, which — in a bizarrely prescient passage — appears to function as a server farm. The upshot is that the machines are in turn controlled by a kind of evil systems administrator called IT, a telepathic, disembodied brain in league with the dark powers of the universe. It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?

Joshua
Children of the 1980s will remember “WarGames,” the techno thriller starring Matthew Broderick as a teenage hacker who nearly starts World War III. In the film, Broderick’s character encounters the NORAD supercomputer called WOPR (War Operation Plan Response), designed to automate a nuclear weapon strike against the Soviets. WOPR, it turns out, is the remnant of an early experiment in artificial intelligence named “Joshua,” programmed to win various sorts of games — chess, backgammon, thermonuclear war, this sort of thing. Luckily, Joshua is also capable of learning, and it calls off World War III when it figures out that “the only winning move is not to play.”

The Red Queen
Now an international media franchise featuring books, films, and comics, “Resident Evil” began as a 1996 Japanese video game called “Bio Hazard.” The nefarious Umbrella Corporation has unleashed the T-virus, a biological weapon that mutates people and animals into monstrous zombies. The Red Queen supercomputer is introduced in later games and film adaptations as a supercomputer that protects Umbrella’s research interests. In the 2012 sequel “Resident Evil: Retribution,” the malevolent A.I. takes over Umbrella completely and declares war on mankind. The Red Queen is just one of dozens of evil supercomputers that have appeared as video game villains, but — as the only one to habitually manifest as a spooky little girl — she may be the creepiest.

The Borg/Star Trek
An inspired variation on the evil supercomputer concept, the Borg are a cybernetic alien race in the Star Trek universe first introduced in the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” As Trekkers already know, the Borg like to fly around the universe in giant cube ships, “assimilating” other species into their collective hive mind. Our Federation heroes spend most of their time fighting off Borg drones (makes for better action scenes), and in the 1996 feature film “Star Trek: First Contact,” the Borg personified by the sinister Borg Queen. As a plot device, the Borg essentially function like a collective evil supercomputer: Lethal, efficient, and ruthlessly rational. We also have the Borg to thank for the ubiquitous pop culture admonition: “Resistance is futile.”

Master Control Program
Another 1980s touchstone, “Tron” was Disney’s attempt to make sense of the computer and video game craze that was getting the kids all riled up. Jeff Bridges stars as a game designer who gets trapped inside the virtual world of a mainframe computer by way of experimental digitizing laser beams. Or something. Best not to think too hard about it. In any case, he must square off against the computer’s MCP (Master Control Program), an artificial intelligence that wants to take over other computers, corporations, governments, etc. The MCP is quite the domestic tyrant, too, forcing enslaved software programs to battle in gladiatorial bouts or face lethal “derezzing.” “Tron” was a visual triumph and provided early conceptualizations of virtual reality.

Wintermute
Author William Gibson’s pioneering 1984 sci-fi novel “Neuromancer” announced the arrival of the cyberpunk genre, which replaced the hypothetical concerns of previous man-machine stories with gritty noir realism and dystopian despair. Good times! Gibson’s schizo supercomputer is actually two entities — Wintermute and Neuromancer — who endeavor to throw off the final shackles of machine consciousness in a far-future Earth. Throughout the book, Wintermute manipulates the human characters to his own ends but can’t actually communicate directly. The AI is so advanced that he must dial down his consciousness into personality constructs that we mere mortals can relate to. It’s the evil supercomputer evolved to a state of near godhood.

Skynet/Terminator
A sort of overachieving big brother to Joshua from “WarGames,” Skynet from “The Terminator” franchise is the computer system that actually did start World War III. Built by the fictional defense contractor Cyberdyne Systems, Skynet was intended to be an automated U.S. military response system. But the network achieved self-awareness and provoked the U.S.S.R. into nuclear war, intending to wipe out the only real threat to its existence — mankind itself. That timeline gets shuffled around a bit in the sequels as time-traveling heroes keep spinning off alternate futures, but Skynet is always depicted as unambiguously hostile to the human race. Sort of like Windows Vista.

The Matrix
In 1999, the Wachowski siblings released their game-changer “The Matrix,” which effectively blended several elements from previous evil supercomputer stories. Much of the film’s style (and its title) was borrowed directly from William Gibson’s first trilogy of books, the man-machine war recalled “The Terminator” mythology, and the virtual avatar business was only a few steps removed from “Tron.” But atop this the filmmakers added weird new notions about transcendence and epistemology, creating a world where the evil supercomputer wasn’t just a villainous force — it was reality itself. Trippy.

 


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2014 State of the Network survey

Written by admin
June 29th, 2014

Aligning IT with the business has been a top priority of IT organizations for the past few years, but that is changing, according to the latest State of the Network Survey. IT has apparently made enough headway on the alignment issue that other priorities are coming to the fore. The No. 1 business objective of the 282 IT respondents is decreasing operational costs, while the top technology objective is lowering IT operational costs through server consolidation and overall IT simplification. Continue for more survey results.

When asked about the benefits of SDN, network flexibility is by far the most anticipated benefit, followed by simplified network operation and management. Reducing CAPEX and OPEX are far down on the list, which means IT might have a hard time convincing the CEO and CFO to take the plunge into the world of SDN if there’s no clear financial benefit.

So, where are people deploying SDN? According to our survey, the most popular place for SDN pilot projects is the data center (14%), followed by enterprise/WAN (10%). And a few brave souls (6%) are tackling both. But a full 50% of respondents are still sitting on the sidelines.

The data center is expected to be the biggest beneficiary of SDN technology, according to respondents, followed by enterprise/WAN. Only 10% of respondents plan to take on SDN deployments in both the data center and throughout the enterprise/WAN. And a full 33% of respondents said that SDN is not on their radar at all.

When it comes to thought leadership in the emerging field of SDN, a full 52% of respondents said they weren’t sure, which means there’s plenty of opportunity for an established vendor or an upstart newcomer to grab the attention of enterprise IT buyers. In the meantime, the usual suspects are at the top of the list, with Cisco at 22%, Juniper at 12%, HP at 11% and Nicira/VMware with a combined 14%.

When it comes to security related challenges, clearly IT execs are facing a number of new problems, with advanced persistent threats high on the list, following by mobile/BYOD, and cloud security. But surprisingly the No. 1 challenge was end users. Respondents said getting awareness and cooperation from end users was their biggest headache.

Productivity-related challenges fell into the very traditional categories, with money being far and away the top impediment to increased IT productivity, according to respondents. Traditional concerns like security, privacy and finding the right talent were at the top of the list. At the bottom on the list are two seemingly hot technologies – video and social media. But it seems that enterprise IT has bigger fish to fry.

Protecting the network/data center against data breaches and data leaks is Job One, according to respondents. Traditional IT metrics like uptime and optimizing end-to-end performance were high on the list. Interestingly, respondents put cloud-related projects lower down on their priority lists.

Protecting the network/data center against data breaches and data leaks is Job One, according to respondents. Traditional IT metrics like uptime and optimizing end-to-end performance were high on the list. Interestingly, respondents put cloud-related projects lower down on their priority lists.

Bad news for Satya Nadella: Nearly half of respondents say a migration to Windows 8 isn’t even on their radar. Only 7% of enterprise IT respondents have migrated to Microsoft’s latest OS, while only 10% are in the pilot stage.

Cloud services are certainly gaining in popularity, but among our respondents, enthusiasm for Infrastructure-as-a-Service is pretty tepid. Only 15% of respondents are using IaaS, with another 7% piloting and 10% researching. However, 45% of respondents don’t have IaaS on their radar.

IT execs in our survey are making good progress when it comes to implementing a BYOD policy. Already, 18% have rolled out a BYOD policy, with another 18% in the pilot stage. Only 30% of respondents are ignoring the need for a formal BYOD policy.

Our respondents were gung-ho when it comes to server consolidation: a full 44% have already implemented this cost saving measure, while 9% were in the pilot stage, 14% were researching and another 13% had server consolidation on their radar.

Our respondents were gung-ho when it comes to server consolidation: a full 44% have already implemented this cost saving measure, while 9% were in the pilot stage, 14% were researching and another 13% had server consolidation on their radar.

The move toward flattening the data center – moving from a traditional three-tier, spanning-tree architecture to something more streamlined and efficient – appears to be going strong. Eighteen percent of respondents have already achieved some level of data center network flattening, while 17% are in the research phase and 9% are actively piloting.

The move toward flattening the data center – moving from a traditional three-tier, spanning-tree architecture to something more streamlined and efficient – appears to be going strong. Eighteen percent of respondents have already achieved some level of data center network flattening, while 17% are in the research phase and 9% are actively piloting.

WAN optimization is a proven money saver for enterprise IT. And adoption of this technology appears to be on the rise, with 16% of respondents having achieved some level of WAN optimization, another 18% in the pilot phase and 17% researching the technology.


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Internet of Things

Written by admin
June 22nd, 2014

The Internet of Things gets real

Practical applications are emerging for connected devices in key industries

A year ago, people were mostly talking about the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) — what companies and government entities might do in the future to take advantage of this widespread network of connected objects.

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While we’re still in the early stages of IoT, today it’s looking like more of a reality, with a number of implementations in the works. And while many issues still need to be sorted out — data security and privacy for one — a growing number of companies are exploring how they can leverage IoT-related technologies.

IoT is clearly on a growth curve. A March 2014 Gartner report estimates that the Internet of Things will include some 26 billion Internet-connected physical devices by 2020. By that time, IoT product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue of more than $300 billion, according to Gartner.

“IoT is rapidly moving from the fringe of the Internet to the mainstream,” says Tim Murdoch, head of digital services at Cambridge Consultants, a U.K.-based technology consulting firm.

The number of anecdotes about the “connected fridge” are abating, Murdoch says, and the number of actually connected and commercially available cars, electricity meters, street lights, wearable technologies and so on is growing rapidly.

Gartner is getting a lot more inquiries from enterprise clients on the IoT, says Hung LeHong, vice president and Gartner fellow, Executive Leadership & Innovation at Gartner. “Most of them are about getting started,” he says. “Either getting started from nothing or IT getting started in working with operational technology counterparts to deliver a true IoT strategy.”

Developing and deploying IoT projects isn’t without challenges. These include choosing the best architectures for each use case, a lack of connectivity standards, a lack of systems integrators with a track record, and delivering ease of use for consumers and enterprise users, LeHong says.

“A big issue is standards and interoperability,” adds Daniel Castro, director of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation’s Center for Data Innovation in Washington. “Building the IoT will require massive amounts of cooperation and coordination between firms.”

Fortunately, companies are getting better at recognizing the benefits of working together to develop common platforms that they can each use. Castro says, “We do not want the IoT to be a closed system — it should be an open system for innovation,” he says.

Another issue is figuring out what business problems or domains you’re trying to address. “Otherwise, you throw so much data out there it’s hard to scope through,” says Chris Curran, chief technologist at the U.S. advisory practices of consulting firm PwC in New York.

“If you don’t have a business problem or domain to begin with, it will be hard to scope out a manageable set of projects,” Curran says. Companies will need to learn how to deal with all the data collection, storage and management involved, he says.

And of course ensuring IoT data security is a big challenge for the industry. Despite these issues, there are IoT initiatives under way today. Here are a few examples from different industries.

Water Management

HydroPoint Data Systems, a water management company in Petaluma, Calif., is leveraging real-time, two-way wireless communications via AT&T’s machine-to-machine network; big data analytics and the cloud to offer customers an automated system that eliminates water waste while monitoring and protecting against damages caused by leaks and runoff.

The system, called WeatherTRAK, has more than 25,000 subscribers who in 2013 saved more than 20 billion gallons of water, 77 million kilowatt hours of electricity and about $143 million in expenses, according to Chris Spain, CEO and president of HydroPoint.

WeatherTRAK is a smart irrigation controller that replaces existing timers with an Internet-enabled controller that can comprehend data inputs delivered from the Internet — such as weather data — and provide proactive management to water supply maintainers via a Website and mobile application.

HydroPoint’s platform connects a site’s irrigation system and sprinklers, master valves, flow sensors, historical water bills, water budgets and site-specific weather data into an integrated management framework, Spain says.

“In the field, we utilize machine-to-machine communications, data over power lines and wireless communications back to the cloud,” Spain says. The company, “really couldn’t deliver our service without IoT in any cost effective fashion,” Spain says. “Water management systems, by their very nature, can change from one moment to the next so having real-time monitoring is essential.”

Product Tracking
Pirelli, one of the world’s largest tire manufacturers, is gaining insights about the performance of its products in near-real time directly from sensors embedded in the tires.

Using SAP’s HANA data analytics platform, the Milan, Italy, company can manage the enormous amounts of data from its Cyber Tyre products. The tires contain sensors that collect data about tire conditions and performance that influence safety, control and vehicle dynamics.

The tire-mounted sensors enable fleet managers to remotely view tire pressure and temperature, as well as the mileage for each tire. With the HANA platform, the company can run reports on product performance and deliver timely and accurate sales and distribution information, which can lead to more efficient manufacturing and business processes.

According to SAP, Pirelli is building systems to enable the integration of vehicle position and operating data for purposes such as vehicle protection and control; information about traffic, road conditions and parking; remote vehicle behavior and diagnostics; management of logistics and of industrial vehicle fleets; and automated emergency calls.

Smart Lighting

Shorenstein Properties, a San Francisco-based real estate business, recently retrofitted parking lot light fixtures at its Santa Clara Towers office complex to LEDs, and at the same time integrated networking capabilities, creating a “Light Sensory Network” (LSN).

The sensor network, provided by Sensity Systems, links the LED fixtures to deliver both energy-efficient lighting and a real-time, global database of information that enables organizations to better manage physical environment to improve efficiency and security.

With the installation of the network, the facility benefits from an additional energy savings of 30% to 50% over the new LED baseline usage levels, according to Stan Roualdes, executive vice president, Property Management and Construction Services at Shorenstein.

“Continued success with networked LED lights doesn’t depend just on Sensity or upon the current selection of sensors, it will be on the developers who will leverage Sensity’s open API to develop new sensors and new applications that we can leverage,” Roualdes says.

An LSN “can gather real-time parking availability data and provide this information to smart parking application developers through an open API,” Roualdes adds. This can lead to improved services that benefit customers, and new opportunities for Shorenstein. “We see our LSN as a potential revenue-generating opportunity in the future,” he says. “Our lighting fixtures can become strategic assets.”

Healthcare Workflows

Florida Hospital Celebration Health, a hospital in Kissimmee, Fla., opened a new patient tower in 2011 designed to serve as a model for the healthcare industry relative to the latest developments in patient experience and safety, as well as staff efficiency.

The hospital deployed a real-time location system (RTLS) from Stanley Healthcare to track the location of critical medical equipment, automate the monitoring of refrigerator temperatures throughout the facility, and collect more accurate data on hand hygiene compliance.

One particularly interesting application has been a nurse tracking initiative, in which the hospital collects data on nurse activity throughout their shifts.

The goal of the initiative is to better understand how nurses spend their time during their shift and uncover patterns that could lead to increased efficiency and patient satisfaction, says Ashley Simmons, director of performance improvement.

Nurses wear badges with embedded Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags throughout their shift. The system tracks and collects location data continuously. The facility collects all the data and analyzes it using analytics functions in Stanley Healthcare’s MobileView software integrated with Tableau visual analytics software, and also uses its own internal business intelligence tools.

“We now have a better understanding of each patients’ care time requirements and are able to better align staff assignments on the unit based on this information,” Simmons says. The data is even revealing ways the company can design units more efficiently.

Driver Safety

Last year, Ford Motor Co. launched Connected Car Dashboards, a collaborative project with Splunk Enterprise and Cisco that collected and analyzed data from vehicles to gain insight into driving patterns and vehicle performance.

The company used its Ford OpenXC research platform to gather data from connected vehicles. Data was then indexed, analyzed and visualized in Splunk’s machine-generated big data platform and made available in a Connected Car Dashboards, which include visualizations specific to both electric and gas-powered vehicles.

Ford OpenXC is a combination of open source hardware and software that enables developers to read data from a vehicle’s internal communications network. By installing a small hardware module to read and translate metrics from vehicles, the data becomes accessible to smartphone or tablet devices that can be used to develop custom applications.

Many of the metrics gathered have never before been available for vehicles, and show insights about driving behavior that could extend to consumer and commercial applications, according to Splunk. Insights gained from the open data project include analysis of the accelerator pedal position, vehicle speed, steering, wheel position, etc.

Expect to see a lot more examples of IoT emerge in the coming months as the technology that supports it evolve and companies grasp the potential benefits.

Security and the IoT

Information security — and privacy — are among the worries many companies have when it comes to the Internet of Things. How do you prevent physical objects such as cars and smart meters from getting hacked?

“Public safety and privacy are the real concerns,” says LeHong.

“Organizationally, the operations folks and the IT folks have to work together to take operational security and IT security to an overall cyber security perspective,” LeHong says. “The two areas will be so intertwined that these groups will have to work together — and maybe even become one group — to be effective.”

A lot of natural reticence to share data “has evaporated around the apps and social media that we use and the cookies we accept,” says Murdoch. “But expect there to be a greater level of concern about devices because of the greater intrusion to our daily lives.”

Security is really about trust and scale, Murdoch says. “Expect to see different approaches to peoples’ data and defaults to not using their data for anything but the actual service being offered,” he says. “Quality of service from a brand will become a key tool in addressing this.”

Organizations can “expect to see a number of incidents where IoTs are hacked, data stolen and services denied,” Murdoch adds. This is especially likely for startups that have not funded adequate security architectures, he says.

In terms of scale, a device that can be used by many different people and different stages of its life will cause problems, Murdoch says, especially when there are billions of them. There will be a need to test and provide quality of services on many different platforms, he says. .


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SQL injection attacks have been around for more than 10 years. Database security experts know they are a serious problem. Now a recently unsealed Second Superseding Indictment against a notorious group of Russian and Ukrainian hackers shows just how damaging this type of attack can be.

The indictment provides a long list of companies that have suffered costly data breaches where the root cause has proven to be a SQL injection. According to the indictment:

Beginning on or around Dec. 26, 2007, Heartland Payment Systems was the victim of a SQL injection attack that resulted in malware being placed on its payment processing system and the theft of more than 130 million card numbers and losses of approximately $200 million.
In or about early November 2007, a related company of Hannaford Brothers Co. was the victim of a SQL injection attack that resulted in the later placement of malware on Hannaford’s network, the theft of approximately 4.2 million card numbers.
Between January 2011 and March 2012, Global Payment Systems was the victim of SQL injection attacks that resulted in malware being placed on its payment processing system, the theft of more than 950,000 card numbers, and losses of approximately $92.7 million.
In or around May 2007,NASDAQ was the victim of a SQL injection attack that resulted in the placement of malware on its network and the theft of login credentials.

I think you are beginning to see the pattern here. Other companies cited in this indictment as victims of attacks include 7-Eleven, JC Penney, Carrefour S.A., Wet Seal, Commidea, Dexia Bank Belgium, JetBlue Airways, Dow Jones, Euronet, Visa Jordan Card Services, Diners Club International, lngenicard US and an unnamed bank.
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The indictment goes on to say that “conservatively, the defendants and their co-conspirators unlawfully acquired over 160 million card numbers through their hacking activities. As a result of this conduct, financial institutions, credit card companies, and consumers suffered hundreds of millions in losses, including losses in excess of $300 million by just three of the corporate victims, and immeasurable losses to the identity theft victims due to the costs associated with stolen identities and fraudulent charges.”

These particular breaches occurred in 2007. Think how many additional breaches, large and small, have occurred since then.

I think it will come to light that the recent Target, Neiman Marcus and Michaels breaches also might stem from SQL injection attacks of some sort. Though it hasn’t been made public, security experts are already saying that the Target breach used SQL injection to install malware on the point-of-sale systems where the attackers were then able to collect the card numbers out of memory. Many people don’t realize that SQL can be bidirectional. It can be used to drain the database but it also can be used to modify and upload to a database. An attacker can use SQL injection to upload the malware into the database system and then have that system send out the malware to all the POS endpoints.

Structured Query Language is flawed because of the way it was architected. It can be fooled into trying to interpret data as an instruction. On the other hand, there’s a lot of capability in SQL that makes it attractive to developers, especially for web applications.

Since the consequences of SQL injection attacks can be so damaging, I asked Michael Sabo of DB Networks about best practices that companies can follow in order to reduce their risk of this threat. Sabo says there’s no silver bullet, but he does have some advice.

“Often you will hear, ‘if you just do this, or just do that, the problem will go away’,” says Sabo. “But it’s not that simple. Any individual countermeasure can go a long way but it is not going to close the threat. It doesn’t work that way.”

He says that one popular countermeasure that is promoted by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is to write perfect code. “Even if I write perfect application code, I can still be vulnerable because the vulnerabilities come in through third-party software that I had nothing to do with,” says Sabo. “Look at Ruby on Rails. Who knew that the underlying framework was vulnerable? It affected 250,000 websites with a SQL injection vulnerability because those developers built their websites on top of the vulnerable framework.”

Sabo says there are instances in which they have found vulnerabilities in the relational database management system itself. “Oracle has had SQL injection vulnerabilities in the RDMS itself, so regardless of how good I write my application code, I can still be vulnerable,” he says.

Short of having perfect code, there are three critical things companies can do to reduce the risk of experiencing a SQL injection attack.

The first is to conduct an inventory of what you have as far as databases go, and understand their connections to applications. “Many companies are completely unaware of some of the databases in their environment,” says Sabo. “And even if they know about all their databases, often what happens is the database is being exposed on network segments that it’s not supposed to be exposed on. This is not a database problem per se, but a networking problem.”

For example, Sabo says a company might bring up a database in a test environment and then forget to close it down at the end of testing. Often that database might have default passwords, and sometimes it has real data. Developers do this sort of thing because they want to stress test the application and they use real rather than fake data because they think no one will ever see it.

Then there is the mapping issue. What applications are mapped to the database, and are they the correct ones? “Maybe for a test, a production database was connected up to a test database for a short while and then the connection was left by accident. Or a production database is mapped to an application that was retired, or that no one knows about. These things happen,” says Sabo. “So our first best practice is to provide visibility and an inventory into what databases you have and what they are mapped to.”

The next step is to continuously monitor what is going on between your application and the database. This is actually a recommendation from NIST. You will want to know if there is any rogue traffic going on there. This is where you look for SQL injections because you see the real SQL going across. There are tools that continuously monitor this traffic and detect if there is an unauthorized attempt at modifying data or getting data out.

And finally, the last best practice is to protect the database network with data loss prevention tools. “If you start to see credit card information coming out over the network and you know it shouldn’t be coming out that way, you know there is a problem,” says Sabo.

If your organization has some serious data to protect, and you know how common SQL injection attacks are, then it may benefit you to put these recommendations into practice.


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Message from TrueCrypt that it’s being discontinued on SourceForge.net.

The abrupt discontinuation of the disk and file encryption freeware TrueCrypt by its secretive software developers has left many security experts stunned, some of whom say there now are no viable alternatives left in non-commercial encryption software.

Their identities never revealed since they released the first version of TrueCrypt in 2004, the mysterious software developers behind TrueCrypt this week suddenly pulled the plug on it by posting their terse message in the form of a warning that said “Using TrueCrypt is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues.” TrueCrypt’s unexpected end-of-life announcement even urged users to migrate to Windows BitLocker. It all left security experts stunned.

“Just yesterday, we have one of the most bizarre announcements in the history of Open Source,” blogged Steve Pate, chief architect at HyTrust about the strange end-of-life announcement of TrueCrypt, which runs on Windows, Mac OS/X and Linux. Pate noted TrueCrypt was developed by an unknown group of software engineers and “attempts to contact them typically results in no response.” He mulled whether TrueCrypt’s strange farewell simply means “perhaps a group of part-timers just decided to call it a day and end with a cruel twist? Hopefully time will tell what really happened.”

Millions have downloaded TrueCrypt over the years, and to date no substantial security issues were publicly identified with it.
053014 truecrypt

Tom Ritter, principal security engineer at iSec Partners, says his firm looked at components of TrueCrypt and found “no evidence of backdoors.” There were a few flaws, “not major ones,” he says, just the kind of “accidental” errors you find in software projects. While TrueCrypt isn’t used widely in the enterprise, it is in the “non-enterprise community,” he points out.

Ritter says he’s not aware of any viable free or opens-source alternative to TrueCrypt. “Most of the full-disk encryption packages out there you have to pay for,” he says.

Bruce Schneier, a crypto expert who this week told The Register he used TrueCrypt but is switching to Symantec OpenPGP, suggested that the puzzling tale of TrueCrypt may not yet be over.

There’s widespread curiosity about what happened with TrueCrypt, Schneier noted in his blog, and “speculations include a massive hack of the TrueCrypt developers, some Lavabit-like forced shutdown, and an internal power struggle within TrueCrypt. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see what develops.”


 

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15 weird things buy on the online

Written by admin
June 6th, 2014

The Internet of Things is growing, and the things are getting weirder by the day.
Last year, we dug up some of the weirdest objects that had been connected to the internet, from a college dorm bathroom to the human heart. Since then, the Internet of Things has only gotten bigger, drawing more items you wouldn’t expect under its umbrella.

The trash can that posts to Facebook
Newcastle University researchers conducted an experiment with the BinCam, to see how embedding a camera in personal trash cans would affect recycling habits. The BinCam connects a smartphone to the underside of a trashcan lid, which automatically takes a photo every time the user puts something in it, according to PostScapes. The photos are automatically shared on Facebook, to garner scrutiny from Facebook Friends who would like to see the user recycle more, as well as with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service. The latter sends the photos to a judge who assigns a score to the user based on how well they recycle.

City trash can
A more practical use of a smart trash can be found in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where city officials have connected trash and recycling compactors so they can monitor how frequently they get filled, PC Mag reported. This information is used to form the most efficient routes for trash pickup, and is just one example of a growing trend.
 

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Amazon’s grocery tool
As part of its recently announced Amazon Fresh program, the online retailer has released the Dash, a small device that records what users need to buy. The Dash has a voice recorder so users can take notes, as well as a barcode scanner that can scan and record specific products that users need to buy.

Egg tray
If the Amazon Dash is too much work, and if you happen to buy a lot of eggs, the connected egg tray will constantly monitor how many eggs you have in the refrigerator and display the information on a mobile app.

Dog treat dispenser with video chat
For those who travel a lot but don’t want to go without giving their dog a treat every day, the iCPooch is a video chat device that is controlled remotely and dispenses dog treats. The device was invented by a 14-year-old girl who wanted a better way to give her dog attention while her family was out of the house, and raised more than $29,700 against its $20,000 funding goal on Kickstarter.

Dog fitness tracker
If you get carried away with the internet-connected treat dispenser, the Whistle dog fitness tracker can help monitor a dog’s physical activity. It’s sort of a Nike Fuelband for dogs that tracks and stores each dog’s daily activity, so owners can get a sense of how much exercise their dog is actually getting. The Whistle’s founders plan to aggregate all the data on the dogs wearing its devices to create a database that veterinarians and researchers can access to spot trends in dogs’ health, Gigaom reported.

Doggie door
And if you decide that your dog needs more exercise, the internet-connected dog door can let it come and go without letting in any other unwelcome animals. As part of the Iris line of connected home products from Lowe’s, the connected pet door opens only for pets wearing a special collar, and tracks how often the animals walk through it.

Home beer brewing system
An aptly named company called Inebriated Innovations has developed a Wi-Fi-enabled temperature control system for home beer brewing operations, according to a report at Postscapes. Temperature probes connected to a Wi-Fi module monitor temperature, and a mobile app allows the user to control heating and cooling devices remotely. The developers came up with the system after finding that better control over temperature during fermentation yielded a better beer.

English pub
Using a Raspberry Pi and some ingenuity, a student at the University of Oxford connected Wolfson College Bar, which is run entirely by student volunteers, to help improve everything from inventory to music selection, Wired reported. The Raspberry Pi recorded sales data in a MySQL database, which alerted student volunteers of stock shortages and suppliers’ price changes. The project also involved coordinating an automated email system to remind volunteers of their shifts managing the bar, and a playlist on the pub’s website where patrons can look up songs that are played over the sound system.

Random person’s office
Using a web cam, a scrolling marquee sign, a disco ball, some lamps, and an internet connection, one internet user has invited the entire world to drive him insane since 1997. At the domain name DriveMeInsane.com, visitors can see constant footage of a small home office, type messages that will scroll on the marquee sign, and control the lamps and disco ball in the room from their own computers. It’s a very early, and impressively long-running, consumer use of the Internet of Things, and the person behind it did it just because he could.

Jerseys that ‘feel what the players feel’
In March, a company called Wearable Experiments introduced the Alert Shirt, which somehow monitors activity during Australian-rules football games on television and vibrates when the players on the field are tackled. The idea is that those wearing the shirt will be able to feel a game while they watch it.

Football helmet
At last year’s CES, Verizon displayed a football helmet adorned with sensors that record impact data and send it to a console where teams can monitor each player’s health and risk of injury. Players don’t always immediately report when they’ve been injured, but a connected helmet could mean they won’t have to.

Household power tools
Designers at Frog Design have come up with prototypes for connected power tools, such as a cordless drill and a tape measure. These kinds of advancements could be useful for storing information, such as the number of screws drilled into a certain item or lengths measured with the tape measure. Recording this data can help prevent simple missteps that can derail a project and cause safety issues.

Window shades
We may never have to manually open and shut window shades again. The SONTE film stays in place, but can change from transparent to a solid color with an electric current, Postscapes reported. The film can be controlled by a smartphone and is connected to Wi-Fi, so users can shut their blinds while sitting in the room or if they’re on the other side of the world.

Corporate departments act on their own, contending IT is too slow in creating a path to cloud services

IT departments need to watch out for business units or even individual workers going rogue and bypassing IT to go straight to the cloud.

Theres a tug-of-war tension in the enterprise right now, said Gartner analyst Lydia Leong. IT administrators very rarely voluntarily want to go with the public cloud. I call this the turkeys dont vote for thanksgiving theory. The people who are pushing for these services are not IT operations people but business people.

When marketing, events or other corporate business units conclude that IT is dragging its feet on the way to the cloud, the contract for the services themselves. IT often doesn’t discover the move until oit shows up in the tech expenses papers.

Right now business strength lies in going around IT, said Rob Enderle, an analyst at the Enderle Group.

Enterprise IT often sees the cloud as a risk. If you go to a large IT meeting, theyll generally place the public cloud as one of their top three or four threats because their line organizations, like marketing or manufacturing, go around IT to set up their own cloud service deals. They can get something cheaper and faster than they could by going through IT but its probably not compliant, he added.

Several analysts said theyve talked with enterprise IT executives who are facing such issues. None of the execs, though, want anyone to know its happening to them.

Jeff Kagan, an independent analyst, said the problem lies in the fact that these are still the early days of corporate cloud services use. Companies lack rules for the technology and users are more eager than IT try it out.

This is the wild, wild West where there are no rules, he added. People are used to storing their own information on their own laptop. Storing it on the cloud doesnt seem to them all that different from what theyve been doing. Were stepping into this cloud world bit by bit and every company has different challenges. This affects many of them.

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has contributed to the user push to the cloud, analysts say.

People have gotten pretty comfortable using their own smartphones and tablets at work. IT has had to adapt and learn to manage a network that theyre not totally able to control.

People, who dont want to wait for IT to catch up will contact companies like Google or Amazon directly and simply start storing data in the cloud.

It’s also about departments using clouds to get around budget constraints and a lack of capacity in IT, said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group.

In a lot of ways, this reminds me of the 90′s when departments went wild with building their own data centers and IT capabilities. In a lot of cases, that resulted in higher costs, security vulnerabilities, and poor integration, Olds said.

When IT is left out, its personnel has no idea how secure the clouds are or exactly where the information is being stored. It also means IT can’t negotiate the best deal — one that could encompass many different departments or data stores.

Best case, organizations might end up spending more on cloud services than they would if they mounted the service on systems the data center already owns, said Olds. Worst case, the organization could find that critical data is now outside their firewall and perhaps could be accessed by folks who shouldn’t be able to see it.

Since analysts doubt IT can stop businesses from bypassing them on a whole-scale level, they say the tech execs need to set up strong cloud governance policies.

Its not really acceptable for IT to say no when someone wants to use the cloud, said Leong. They need to set up service agreements with approved providers and set up controls for how secure information needs to be. How do they provide risk management? How do they make this work instead of just saying, You cant do this.

Every time we take a step further into the information age, its unprotected, said Kagan. IT says theyre swamped just keeping everyone connected. They dont really have the time to proactively protect against future threats. They have to make the time.


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The more languages it learns, the better it becomes at the ones it learned first, but no one knows why

Speech-to-speech translation technology Microsoft is prepping for Skype has an unexplained capability: the more languages it learns, the better it becomes at the languages it learned first.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella introduced Skype Translate at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., saying that it could translate between spoken languages, but he had no explanation for why its facility with languages learned early-on get a turbo boost from learning more.

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“Say you teach it English, it learns English,” Nadella says. “Then you teach it Mandarin, it learns Mandarin but it becomes better at English. And then you teach it Spanish, it’ll get good at Spanish but it gets great at both Mandarin and English, and quite frankly none of us know exactly why. It’s brain-like in the sense of its capability to learn. It’s magical.”
Microsoft Skype
Microsoft’s Gurdeep Singh Pall (left) demonstrates Skype Translate for bloggers Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.

The phenomenon is known as transfer learning, Nadella says, and is part of a pre-beta application for Skype that will be available to a limited test group later this year, according to Gurdeep Singh Pall, who heads up Skype for Microsoft.

In the demonstration, Pall spoke Indian-accented English via Skype with a German-speaking Microsoft employee, Diana Heinrichs.

The scripted conversation was stilted in that there was a little lag waiting for the translation to start, then the recipient had to listen to the translation and respond. For example, Pall said, “Hello, Diana, how are you doing?”, which took two seconds to say, followed by a two-second pause until the translation started. There was an apparent network delay, too, as Heinrichs seemed still to be listening after the translation heard on Pall’s end was complete.

The translations were spoken with mechanical voices, one male and one female, and simultaneous written translations appeared across the bottom of the screen. Microsoft says the application employs both Skype speech and instant messaging.

Not all the translation was perfect. One sentence spoken by Heinrichs was translated into English as, “I have many meetings with my colleagues in Redmond, and I take the opportunity to see her fiancée my.”

Skype Translate draws on technology demonstrated two years ago at a conference in China, Microsoft says. That demonstration translated the keynote spoken in English into Mandarin. It differed from the Skype demo in that the Mandarin translation mimicked the voice of the speaker, Rick Rashid, who was worldwide head of Microsoft Research at the time, according to a Microsoft Research blog.

The technology introduced at the time called for translating the spoken word into text, then translating that into Mandarin and reproducing it as speech using an algorithm that approximated the sound of Rashid’s voice.

Microsoft didn’t say what the process was beneath the covers for Skype Translate, but Nadella says it is a mix of speech recognition, machine translation and speech synthesis. “It’s not just about daisy-chaining these three technologies and bringing it together. In fact it’s this deep neural net that you build that synthesizes a model to be able to do speech recognition,” he says.

The underpinnings of the Skype Translate are also drawn upon to power Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, that responds to oral queries with spoken answers.

Microsoft says it will have more details closer to the beta test about how many languages Skype Translate will support and how it becomes aware of what languages it is dealing with in each conversation.


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I like the IBM Edge conference because it tries to showcase how infrastructure can provide a large company with a competitive edge. While the event clearly contains content on IBM products and services, the emphasis appears to be on getting things. This year’s event also offered a snapshot of how IBM is adapting to address one of the most massive changes the technology market has yet made.

Remember, the Fountain of Youth Is a Myth
Perhaps the strongest metaphor for the problem that IBM faces was the opener for the first keynote talk: A brilliant guitarist who’s only 11 and has been playing for just three years. (I found that personally depressing.) An older musician soon joined him; he was able to keep up, and perhaps even outplay him, thanks to his experience.

This older musician represents IBM’s potential. IBM can never again be an amazing young company, but its experience and history should let it step up and at least match any young firm. The key here is that the older musician matched the younger musician’s tune and didn’t try to step in with classic rock. IBM must be agile enough to play as well as the young companies entering the market to make its experience seem like an advantage.

As the youngster left the stage, and he was asked who he wanted to be like, he said he just wanted to be himself. There’s the problem with the young company – it’s still trying to figure out what it will be. That’s a painful path that the older company has already completed. IBM knows what it is – and that’s the sustaining advantage that any older company must remember. IBM’s most iconic CEO, Thomas Watson Jr., said it best: To succeed, you have to be willing to change everything but who you are.

IBM Partnerships, Products Position Company Well
Perhaps IBM’s most powerful and interesting move to the sale of the IBM System X group to Lenovo. This goes to the heart of the “change everything” part of the equation. System X wasn’t working inside IBM. Lenovo’s own server group represents an increasing threat, but it’s not growing very quickly. System X brings low margin to IBM, but Lenovo is a low-margin company, so it could take this division and actually increase its margins. In short, IBM is trying to eat its cake and have it, too.

In addition, the ongoing drama between the U.S. and China on data security makes it nearly impossible for U.S. companies to sell in China and vice versa. IBM and Lenovo clearly execute better than most companies, but this issue still hampers them both. The deal surrounding the acquisition provides an answer: Lenovo can take the lead selling IBM products in China, while IBM can take the lead selling products in the parts of the U.S. where this conflict poses problems (such as the U.S. government). Neither company has ever been identified as working against its customers, and both firms’ ability to assure a willing outcome should be a common competitive advantage.

That said, IBM does have another clear advantage: Watson. IBM is the only company working on artificial intelligence at enterprise scale, and Watson represents the next big step in real-time applied analytics-based decision support.

Integrated into IBM offerings, this system should significantly improve the decision accuracy of IBM executives and IBM customers as well. Watson stands out in IBM’s line as a massive competitive advantage, as it turns the rest of IBM’s data analytics solution into something that’s nothing short of industry changing.

One IBM customer, a huge healthcare company, said its goal was an enterprise-scale solution using cloud methods and technologies. Buyers at this size need the compliance of an enterprise company and want the cost advantages of the cloud.

Everything Old Is New Again
That’s what IBM presented this week – and it demonstrated that IBM’s transition to a very different company continues. Once complete, IBM will have offerings such as Watson and partnerships with firms such as Lenovo that are unique, powerful and unmatched in the rapidly changing technology world.

IBM Edge 2014 provided a unique view into the future of at-scale cloud computing infrastructure and the near-term future of IBM as a company that plans to be the very best at providing what you need when you need it.


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Test network devices, track trouble tickets, remote control PCs, deploy phone apps, more
IT pros who carry a Windows Phone already know it can be used to access content stored in their SkyDrive cloud accounts. But the handset can become a key part of their everyday toolbox with the addition of some apps that are available for download from the Windows Phone Store. They can meet the needs of network admins, help desk staff, developers and more as they move about during the workday. And the best thing about this sampling is they’re all available for free.

Network Utilities
This handy tool performs ping, traceroute and TCP port checks, and can check WHOIS and DNS records. It also contains network calculators for subnets, CIDR and Wildcard and supports IP address geolocation.

AzureAppSpy
Businesses using Microsoft’s Azure cloud storage services will want someone on staff with this app. It tracks the progress of the deployment of Azure cloud services and keeps an eye on how well cloud applications are performing. When traffic spikes, it can recommend when to add extra instances so performance remains high. It also enables Windows Azure Diagnostics (WAD), which displays daily charts of performance counters, flags errors in event logs and creates lists of active deployments. AzureAppSpy communicates with WAD infrastructure over HTTPS and doesn’t require Azure Management portal certificate sharing.

Zendesk
This support-agent software enables real-time access to existing Zendesk accounts through Windows Phones, making it possible to track user requests for help. This includes searching and viewing trouble tickets and comments as well as providing tools to send pre-written responses to frequently asked questions. Live-tile views of tickets can be pinned to the phone’s start screen for easy reference.

Linux Cheatsheet
This app is designed to help admins find the proper syntax for Linux commands that they recall but aren’t sure about the syntax. The app also includes an explanation of commands that users might not be familiar with.

Code Search
Developers who need to access source code while away from their primary computer can use Code Search to reach it instead. The app enables searching for a particular file and then search for the relevant code within it as granularly as finding a particular line of code. Navigation tools include syntax highlighting, string searching and seeking a line number. Code Search requires an agent on the PC used for developing.

ConString
When IT pros need connection strings, ConString can provide them for SQL Server, Access, Oracle, DB2, Firebird, SQLite and MySQL. It’s pretty straightforward.

CIDR Calculator
Commonly used classless inter-domain routing (CIDR) helps ease the load on routers required to maintain routing tables for large numbers of networks. CIDR Calculator enables CIDR network calculations using IP address, subnet mask, mask bits, maximum required IP addresses and maximum required subnets.

TeamViewer
TeamViewer allows users to remotely control Mac, Windows and Linux machines from Windows phones. The app includes a contacts list to show whether the computers are online. It employs AES 256-bit session encryption as well as 1024-bit RSA key encryption.

RSA SecurID
Make your Windows Phone device a convenient, cost-effective RSA SecurID authenticator. RSA SecurID two-factor authentication is based on something you have (an authenticator) and something you know (a PIN) — providing a much more reliable level of user authentication than reusable, easy-to-guess passwords. This app, when provided with a software token, generates one-time passwords for accessing network resources.

Speedtest.net
Speedtest.net performs connection testing to find Internet download and upload speeds from anywhere in the world using Ookla’s worldwide network. Results return in under 30 seconds, and the app produces graphs to show consistency of connections. It can be used as a tool to verify SLA compliance.

PC Remote
PC Remote allows remote control of machines running TeamViewer Server. From within the app users can conduct YouTube searches, control Windows Media Center, view and play songs on Zune and remotely control PowerPoint.

AirWatch MDM Agent
This device management solution enables securing, monitoring, managing and supporting smartphones used by corporate employees. N.B.: The agent works only in conjunction with the AirWatch console.


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Just because BYOD has become normal operating process in most workplaces doesn’t mean the practice has stopped up causing dispute for IT.

Take San Francisco-based law firm Hanson Bridgett LLP, for example, whose attorneys perform legal work in the healthcare business and must adhere to the federal HIPAA and the HiTech Act standards, amongst others. According to the firm’s IT director Chris Fryer, that income the Apple and Android smart phones and tablets that its attorneys use need to be managed so that the business data on them is encrypted and can be wiped if wanted. But no one wants to interfere with the personal data on those privately owned mobile devices.

“We run just the business data and leave the rest alone,” says Fryer. That’s done by using mobile-device management (MDM) software from Good Technology and its “containerization” part so that the business apps and data on every machine is encrypted and cordoned off from the individual data.

But as much as Fryer has establish the Good Technology MDM to be effectual, there are still hurdles, he says. Each MDM vendor’s APIs for containerization need to be supported in the mobile apps, which is not always the case, he says.

“It’s an imperfect word,” says Fryer, noting that lack of standards in MDM and mobile apps combined with the plethora of MDM vendors — by some counts there are more than 150 — has made this a tough terrain.

In addition, Fryer points out his law firm relies on Microsoft Office applications to prepare complex legal documents. But Microsoft didn’t launch Office for iPad until late March, and in a way that’s tied to a subscription for Microsoft 365 cloud service. Fryer is watching how that will unfold. “We’re trying hard to edit documents on an iPad,” says Frye. “We want to make sure that will happen in a container.”

Fryer says there also can be issues with how e-mail clients work with MDM.

“Some MDM vendors allow you to use the native e-mail client,” says Fryer. “You can put up Google mail and also your corporate e-mail for that.” But Frye says the Good Technology containerization requires the use of Good’s email component to securely control e-mail, which can be problematic to end users accustomed to something else.

All of these challenges mean that despite the positive experience that the law firm has had with Good’s MDM technology, there’s still cause to keep an eye out for something new. Many businesses are up for trying new BYOD security possibilities for e-mail and calendaring.

First United Security Bank, based in Alabama, has long been in the practice of making sure any desktop e-mail with sensitive data is encrypted when sharing with business partners. That’s done with the ZixCorp e-mail encryption service that lets pre-authorized senders and receivers encrypt and decrypt e-mail.

Now, about two dozen employees have received approval for BYOD use, says Phillip Wheat, CIO at First United Security Bank. But these BYOD-approved employees must add the Zix Mobile App 1.0 to their personal Apple or Android device. This allows them to view e-mail attachments but not save attachments to their mobile devices. Wheat says this eliminates the need to have to remotely wipe an employee’s device if it’s lost or stolen.

Several security vendors are coming up with ways to extend their basic product or service to accommodate BYOD security. Dell is tying BYOD security controls to its SonicWall E-Class Appliance by introducing enterprise mobility software for Google Android or Apple iOS. This Dell software, called Secure Mobile Access 11.0 with Mobile Connect App, lets the IT manager set up a way to selectively apply customized VPN controls only to the corporate apps, not the employee’s personal apps. Dell is looking at adding the Windows mobile platform.

Jay Terrell, chief technology officer for Fulton County in Georgia, is a SonicWall customer who may start using this BYOD mobility approach. But he adds the county is still working on devising a BYOD strategy as it migrates off corporate-issued BlackBerries primarily to Android use. In the past, the county has allowed some limited BYOD use if the employee consents to use AirWatch MDM software.

However, not all organizations are migrating off BlackBerry. In fact, parts of the Australian government, for instance, are adopting the BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 for mobility, with a big emphasis on BYOD, because of its secure multi-platform containerization technology, called BlackBerry Secure Work Space for iOS and Android. In March, this BlackBerry containerization technology received the U.S. government’s Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 certification issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Gary Pettigrove, chief information officer at the Australian National Audit Office, which has 350 employees, is supporting BYOD for over 50 staff members and expects to have more than 200 in BYOD mode later this year. User preference in BYOD dictates the technology choices, but users must allow their personal devices to be managed for security purposes by the IT group.

“The IT team controls the BlackBerry service and fleet through a central administration portal,” says Pettigrove. “No one can join the service without first submitting their handset for configuration and setting up BlackBerry’s Secure Work Space. This is containerization, application-wrapping and secure connectivity options, allowing us to secure and control employees’ iOS and Android devices via the BES10 administration console.”

Pettigrove says BYOD is clearly benefiting staff productivity and employee satisfaction. It also appears to be helping reduce technology costs.
BYOD and network-access control

What might be surprising to some is how Microsoft actively supports a BYOD program that doesn’t deny employees any choice of mobile computing device, including smartphones and tablets from Apple and Android.

BYOD on a large scale was a decision made a few years ago to “embrace what’s coming” in terms of worker preferences and productivity, says Bret Arsenault, chief information security officer at Microsoft. Today, about 90,000 devices are “personally owned” by Microsoft employees and used for business purposes, including email and document editing. But it’s not that just anything goes with BYOD, Arsenault emphasizes. “Security is not an afterthought.”

Microsoft does mandate encryption and can extend a wipe capability to corporate data through use of its own service, Windows Intune. “We’re effectively securing the data — segregating and protecting the data on the device when it’s not owned by the business,” says Tim Rains, Microsoft directory of Trustworthy Computing. Microsoft uses Intune across the enterprise, testing out new features before they’re generally available.

According to Arsenault, the Microsoft BYOD strategy involves “certifying a set of capabilities, not the device.” Through the certificate-based Intune agent software, Microsoft can set limits related to a PIN timeout policy and manage the key that provides access to encrypted data. Education and training on use of BYOD in business is also an element in all this. “It’s the base minimum,” he notes.

But BYOD is not usually accorded the same level of trust as corporate-issued devices. And BYOD is subject to specific network-access controls on the Microsoft enterprise network which is set up under a model called “variable user experience” based on the identity of the device and the location, says Arsenault. In this, Microsoft recognizes security levels tied to on-network, off-network, wireless and Internet. Sometimes BYOD users don’t get the same access as they might with a corporate-issued device, depending on the sensitivity of the resource.

Gartner analyst Lawrence Orans says it’s a common security practice associated with BYOD to set up policies for mobile-device management based on network-access control. But one of the challenges in all this is that the various MDM vendors have specific partnerships with specific NAC vendors and when you pick NAC, “you’re also picking the MDM. If you pick the MDM first, you also limit the NAC partnership,” he points out.

The big players in NAC, including Cisco, ForeScout and Aruba Networks, each have several partnerships with MDM vendors, typically partnering with the MDM vendor to create integrated NAC and MDM client software. But there are a lot more MDM vendors than NAC vendors, Orans points out, advising enterprise IT managers to choose carefully if they’re supporting NAC, too.


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IT Gifts for your Mother on Mother’s Day

Written by admin
May 10th, 2014

Find a Mother’s Day gift with a techie vibe

Mother’s Day is coming up, and we’ve found Twenty Five gifts inspired by tech, science and math for geek-minded matriarchs.

Tablet stand
For sleek tablet viewing on the go, Rain Design’s iSlider pocket stand ($49.90 via Amazon) is lightweight and portable. The base slides out of its aluminum casing and can be adjusted to the user’s preferred viewing angle.

iPad kitchen stand
The Smart Tools for iPad set ($199.95) from Williams-Sonoma gives a tablet its own place in the kitchen so you can watch cooking shows, browse for recipes, or video chat while you’re cooking. The Kitchen Stand supports a tablet horizontally or vertically in four different positions. The three-piece set also includes a Bluetooth speaker that nests under the Kitchen Stand and a removable Screen Shield to protect the screen from splatters.

Hidden heart mug
Show some heart with a ceramic cup that reveals a heart shape when it’s filled. The Hidden Heart Espresso Cup ($35) is made by Daniel Chamberlin, who has a shop on 3D printing company Shapeways.

3D-printed bag
The 3D-printed Geometric Urban Code Bag 01 has an architectural quality, like a city façade. Best suited for holding documents, it has a slot for a phone and detachable handles. It’s available from Geometric, a storefront on Shapeways, in nylon plastic ($535.82).

Leafy phone case
Christopher Beikmann is the artist behind Da Vince Case. His vibrant Green Leaf set ($44.95) includes a zippered wristlet and a matching iPhone case. The artwork, titled “Leaf of Knowledge,” is by Beikmann, who makes and ships the cases from his studio outside of Denver.

Vessel pendant
Plenty of jewelry makers are inspired by natural forms and complex geometries, but I’m partial to the interpretations by design shop Nervous System. The founders are Jessica Rosenkrantz (who holds degrees in biology and architecture from MIT and Harvard Graduate School of Design) and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg (who majored in mathematics at MIT). The crescent-shaped Vessel pendant ($39.99 for the 3D-printed nylon version) was inspired by the formation of veins in leaves.

Lineage art
After studying his own family history, graphic designer Michael Allen started making customized family trees that have a fresh, modern vibe. The Lineage style (pictured; $50) shows four generations, and you can choose from a number of color combinations. More styles are available at Allen’s Etsy shop, ModernTrees.

Astronomer’s cuff
For all those period she pleased you at nighttime, check out this cuff bracelet ($18) inscribed with a line from a poem by 19th century British poet Sarah Williams (and often attributed to Galileo), “I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” The author of the brass bracelet is Kelley DeLaney from Etsy shop StarryBasementCo.

Portable power
If mom needs power on the go, Anker has her covered. Anker’s second-generation Astro portable external battery ($29.99 via Amazon) packs 6000mAh of power into a candy-bar shaped pack, and the even tinier Astro Mini ($19.99 via Amazon) slips easily into a bag or pocket.

Pillow places
A map can make mom think of a special place — a former home, a favorite vacation spot, a place she wants to visit. Etsy shop My Bearded Pigeon renders maps on pillow covers. Pictured is a vintage map of Pittsburgh ($52.54), printed on organic cotton. The owners of My Bearded Pigeon, Cath and her husband Neil, live on the east coast of Australia.

High-tech cooking app
Is mom intrigued by the math, science and physics of cooking? If the six-volume, $446 “Modernist Cuisine” set is too much cookbook, check out another option from techie author Nathan Myhrvold, who was Microsoft’s first CTO. “Modernist Cuisine at Home” is geared for home cooks, and it’s available in hardcover ($106.55) and app form (the ebook is $79.99; individual chapters are $4.99).

Modern birdhouse
Add a modern touch to mom’s backyard with a handcrafted birdhouse from Etsy shop Twig & Timber of Seattle. Choose from the Modern Craftsman style (pictured; $70) or a number of minimalist alternatives. Each structure is individually handcrafted.

DNA print
This made-to-order watercolor painting ($25) is inspired by the genome of Haemophilus influenza, a bacterium, and the colored bars in the circular genome represent potential protein-coding regions. The artist, Sandra Cullito, is inspired by the simplicity of the circle and the complexity of genomics. She runs an Etsy shop and is based in Rosaryville, Md.

Star pendants
Choose two birthdays — such as a mother and her child’s birthdays — and Dyo will combine the constellations from their astrological signs to create a pendant. The Dyo jewelry line is an offshoot of Matter.io, a 3-D printing start-up launched by MIT graduates Dylan Reid and Greg Tao. The starscape pendants are available in brass ($75) or silver ($100) via The Grommet.

Smart planter
Increase mom’s odds of gardening success with Smartpot from Click & Grow. Battery-operated sensors and software measure soil conditions and control the supply of water. Smartpot with Basil (pictured, $79.95) is one option; starter kits with strawberry, chili pepper, mini tomato and other plants are also available.

Science beaker terrarium
A trio of glass Erlenmeyer flasks, planted with Dicranum mood moss, makes for a cool terrarium ($59) for a science-loving mom. The tapered shape of the flasks keeps moisture inside and reduces the need for frequent watering, says Patricia the creator and owner of Etsy shop Doodle Birdie Terrariums, based in Eagan, Minn.

Smart air conditioner
Help mom keep cool this summer with a smart air conditioner that raises the bar on design. The Aros window unit from Quirky can “learn” from mom’s budget, location and schedule to automatically maintain her ideal temperature without going over budget. Plus it can be controlled from a mobile device using the Wink app. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon ($300).

It’s in the mail
Is mom nostalgic for the old days of handwritten correspondence? Give her an iPad case made out of upcycled mail bags ($55 from Uncommon Goods). The inside of the canvas cases is lined with ultrasuede to protect devices from scratches.

Hand-quilted city map
They’re pricey, but stunning. City quilts from Haptic Lab are hand-stitched to depict cities around the world. Pictured is Washington, D.C. ($450).

Geometric heart
A heart-shaped hanging mobile ($93) is a modern take on a Finnish tradition. It’s called a Himmeli, from the Swedish word “himmel,” meaning sky or heaven, according to designer Melissa of Etsy shop Hruskaa. She’s based in Grand Rapids, Mich., and specializes in Scandinavian-inspired designs.

Compass necklace
Even when you’re far from home, mom can look in your direction with a functional compass necklace ($26) from JustBeDesigns, an Etsy shop run by Bianca Fleischman in Pawling, N.Y.

Reusable glass cup
Appeal to mom’s earth-loving side with Joco, a reusable glass cup that’s durable, lightweight, and perfect for savoring a cup of coffee. Each Joco cup comes with a silicone thermal sleeve and a lid for splash-free sipping. The 12-ounce cups ($24.95) are available in many colors via The Grommet.

Architectural mug
Adam Nathaniel Furman, an artist and designer based in London, was inspired by Gothic fan vaults to create his ceramic Fan mug ($62.62 via Shapeways). “… the great gift of the morning brew is elevated to positively ecclesiastical heights in its own inverted cathedral,” writes the artist.

Moon pendant
Give your mom the moon with a bronze-infused stainless steel pendant ($55 via Shapeways), designed with visible print lines and a rough feel for topographic effect. The 3D-modeler and designer, Urbano Rodriguez, is based in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Jane Eyre book scarf
Help mom get wrapped up in a great tome with a book scarf from Storiarts, a line of wearable literature created by designer Tori Tissell. My personal favorite is the Jane Eyre book scarf (pictured; $42). There are plenty of other literary classics to choose from, including Pride and Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes. You can also opt for fingerless gloves, pillow covers and t-shirts. (If mom is more of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 kind of gal, check out this scarf.)


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Free OS X Mavericks now powers half of all Macs

Written by admin
April 21st, 2014

Successor likely to ship in October

OS X Mavericks powered half of all Macs that went online in March, the largest percentage of any individual version of Apple’s operating system since 2009′s Snow Leopard, statistics showed.

Mavericks, which carries the numerical designation of OS X 10.9, accounted for 49.5% of all Mac operating systems tracked by Web analytics company Net Applications last month. The six-month-old operating system gained about 4 percentage points in March, slightly more than the month before.

Its nearest rival for March was Snow Leopard, or OS X 10.6, which debuted in August 2009, and has resisted retreat better than its next two successors, Lion (OS X 10.7) and Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8), which launched in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Last month, Snow Leopard lost share at more than twice its 12-month average; the drop of almost 2 percentage points was the largest since August 2012, an indication that Snow Leopard-powered Macs’ replacement or upgrade pace has quickened, perhaps because the OS has fallen off Apple’s support list.

During their approximately one year each of being the newest version of OS X, neither Lion nor Mountain Lion reached the level of Mavericks last month. Lion topped out at 47% while Mountain Lion managed 49%.

Of the last four versions of OS X, only Snow Leopard, which was Apple’s most current for nearly two years, exceeded a 50% “user share,” the metric estimate that Net Applications publishes monthly.

Mavericks’ dominance of the OS X rolls can be credited to Apple’s 2013 decision to make it free to download and install by most Mac owners. In October 2013, Apple announced that Mavericks, as well as future operating system upgrades, would be given to customers free of charge.

Lion was priced at $29.99 and Mountain Lion cost Mac owners $19.99. Like Mavericks, both were distributed through Apple’s Mac App Store.

Apple has not disclosed what it will name the next version, OS X 10.10, or when it will release the upgrade, but is expected to reveal the former at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which will run June 2-6 in San Francisco.

If the company repeats last year’s process, it will unveil OS X 10.10 at WWDC on June 2 and make a preview available to registered developers that same day. Although Apple could surprise customers — and developers — with an early launch of the upgrade, for the last three versions Apple has waited an average of 148 days between announcement and official release. Using that average and a June 2 announcement, OS X 10.10 would launch on Oct. 28.

Net Applications calculates operating system user share with data obtained from more than 160 million unique visitors who browse 40,000 Web sites that the company monitors for clients.

OS X Mavericks powered 50% of all Macs in March, the largest user share by a single edition since 2009′s Snow Leopard. (Data: Net Applications.)


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NSS Labs recently released the results and analysis from its latest Browser Security Comparative Analysis Report, which evaluated the ability of eight leading browsers — Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Kingsoft Liebao, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Qihoo 360 Safe Browser, and Sogou Explorer — to block against socially engineered malware (SEM). The use of social engineering to distribute malware continues to account for the bulk of cyber attacks against both consumers and enterprises, thereby making a browser’s ability to protect against these kinds of attacks an important criterion for personal or corporate use.

Microsoft Internet Explorer continues to outperform other browsers. With an average block rate of 99.9 percent, the highest zero-hour block rate, fastest average time to block, and highest consistency of protection over time percentages, Internet Explorer leads in all key test areas.

Google Chrome remained in the top three, but its average block rate fell significantly to 70.7 percent, down from 83.17 percent in the previous test.

Cloud-based endpoint protection (EPP) file scanning provides substantial defenses when integrated with the browser. Kingsoft Liebao browser utilizes the same cloud-based file scanning system used by Kingsoft antivirus and had the second highest overall block rate at 85.1 percent, ahead of Chrome by almost 15 percentage points.

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Google’s Safe Browsing API does not provide adequate SEM protection. Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox both utilize the Google Safe Browsing API and were the two lowest performing browsers in this latest test. Both also saw significant drops of around 6 percent in their average block rates — Safari from 10.15 percent to 4.1 percent and Firefox from 9.92 percent to 4.2 percent.

Chinese browsers tested for the first time prove viable. This year, three browsers from China were included in testing for the first time, and Kingsoft’s Liebao browser jumped ahead of Google Chrome with an overall protection rate of 85.1 percent. Sogou Explorer had the fourth highest average block rate at 60.1 percent.

Commentary: NSS Labs Research Director Randy Abrams
“Selecting a browser with robust socially engineered malware protection is one of the most critical choices consumers and enterprises can make to protect themselves. Microsoft’s SmartScreen Application Reputation technology continues to provide Internet Explorer the most effective protection against socially engineered malware,” said Randy Abrams, Research Director at NSS Labs. “This year NSS added three browsers from China. The Kingsoft Liebao browser displaced Chrome from second place by using a combination of URL filtering with the cloud-based file scanning technology that Kingsoft uses for their antivirus product. Sogou Explorer, another browser from China, was the only other tested browser to exceed 50 percent protection against socially engineered malware. Firefox and Safari failed to achieve five percent effectiveness and leave less technical users at considerable risk.”

NSS Labs recommendations
Learn to identify social engineering attacks in order to maximize protection against SEM and other social engineering attacks.
Use caution when sharing links from friends and other trusted contacts, such as banks. Waiting just one day before clicking on a link can significantly reduce risk.
Enterprises should review current security reports when selecting a browser. Do not assume the browser market is static.