Overheard: Word of the Day


November 12, 2008  1:19 PM

Overheard: How will power-line broadband work?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
rural.jpg International Business Machines Corp. said it has been hired to work with rural electricity cooperatives to provide high-speed Internet service over power lines. The project is a sign that using the electricity grid for communication — a technology utilities have long been interested in — has finally matured.

William M. Bulkeley, IBM Hired to Develop Power-Line Broadband

The system works by using standard power lines to carry a radio-frequency signal in the magnetic field that surrounds the wires. The signal is continuously amplified by low-priced repeater boxes clamped to the lines. When an electricity customer signs up for broadband services, the supplier mails out a special modem that is plugged into the wall outlet where the computer is plugged in.

UPDATE 8-03-09: IBM IBM and an ISP called International Broadband Electric Communications announced they have begun to establish broadband over power line (BPL) networks for nearly 200,000 rural customers served by 7 electrical cooperatives in Alabama, Indiana, Michigan and Virginia.

November 12, 2008  12:43 PM

Overheard: The future of SaaS is in appliances?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
mayank_sharma.jpg Today, virtual appliances are becoming a de-facto means of software distribution and have spawned a new type of business — the virtual appliance vendor.

Along with software vendors and virtualization software companies, appliance vendors are putting in the extra effort to streamline the distros that power the apps. So, for example, Bugzilla, the popular bug tracking app, is available as a 2.4MB download tarball from Mozilla, as well as a 150MB appliance from appliance vendor Jumpbox. Mathematically, this is 62.6 times the size of the app, but in 150MB you’re also getting an operating system, stripped to the bone and optimized to run only that particular app.

Mayank Sharma, A virtual appliance primer

Am still trying to figure out why we won’t be using virtual appliances for just about everything and how the distribution model fits in with SaaS.


November 12, 2008  2:38 AM

Overheard: Using fast flux for nefarious purposes

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
skoudis3.gif Since the summer of 2007, there has been an explosion of large-scale fast-flux botnets. With this technique, bad guys can leverage thousands of disposable drone machines as intermediaries, rapidly switching between different systems, confounding investigators who try to trace back a constantly fluctuating set of targets.

Ed Skoudis, Thinking fast-flux: New bait for advanced phishing tactics


November 12, 2008  2:24 AM

Overheard: Hardware level encryption and EPO

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
elinor_mills2.jpg A hot area for encryption right now is full disk encryption, in which every piece of data on a hard drive is encrypted. With all the laptops that get lost and stolen, there’s really no reason not to encrypt the hard drive.

Elinor Mills, To encrypt or not? That is the question

Dell announced that they will be the first computer maker to ship a laptop with Seagate’s 160GB self-encrypting FDE hard drives.

In plain English, full disk encryption (FDE) means that all the data on your hard drive will be automatically encrypted.  To access data on the hard drive, you need a password.  If no password is provided, the hard drive stays locked down.  Encryption at the hardware (firmware) level is supposed to be less expensive and more efficient.

So what happens if you forget your password?

Well, Seagate teamed up with McAfee to create an enterprise-level security management software they’re calling ePO (enterprise policy orchestrator). If you’ve got a company laptop, your self-encrypting laptop can be unlocked by your IT department. If you’re a consumer, you’re on your own.


November 11, 2008  7:33 PM

Overheard: A virtual appliance isn’t something you buy on Second Life

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
josh_suereth.jpg So what is a virtual appliance? A virtual appliance is a virtual machine that can be distributed (like any file) and deployed onto some hypervisor (a server that runs virtual machines). Because a virtual appliance is an entire virtual machine, the appliance developer has control of the entire aspect of the machine, from operating system to window themes to startup procedures.

Josh Suereth, Virtual Appliance – Not a Toaster on Second Life


November 11, 2008  2:51 AM

Overheard: Cognitive radio will change wireless fee structures

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
radio-wave.jpg The potential for cognitive radio technology to redefine existing wireless services becomes clear when one considers their economics. A monthly cell-phone service bill, for instance, contains charges for leasing radio spectrum, renting cell towers and purchasing the handset, as well as the amortization of the hardware at the cell base site, the cost of interconnections among cell sites, billing expenses and network operator profit. These fees pay for the investments that cellular service providers make to create and operate dedicated RF networks.

Steven Ashley, Cognitive Radio


November 10, 2008  4:46 PM

Overheard: The big buzzword for 2009 is going to be “sustainable”

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

Every night after the news, my husband and I watch HGTV for half an hour before Jeopardy comes on.  On the East Coast, that means we watch “My House is Worth What?”  It’s a show hosted by Kendra Todd of Apprentice fame, where viewers get to virtually meet three homeowners who want to know how much equity they have in their house.  As the realtors critique and crunch numbers, my husband invariably sighs. You see, we don’t have granite countertops or stainless steel appliances and our bathrooms are very 1990.

What’s that got to do with information technology?

I’ll tell you. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying buzzwords that marketers are going to pick up, slap on everything and beat to death — until the term either becomes meaningless or the rest of us learn that the idea behind the term is great but the technology just isn’t there yet.

This year I’m going to predict that since cloud computing and its variations have been watered down to mean just about anything marketers want it to mean (as long as the Internet is somehow involved), cloud computing will soon enter the buzzword graveyard and lay its weary bones down next to middleware and application service provider.

That’s right. For those of you who finally understand that cloud computing got its name from the symbolic cloud that’s used to represent the Internet on charts and diagrams — and that as mysterious as it once sounded, cloud computing is just an updated version of life on the Internet as we imagined it in 1999 — the idea that cloud computing is already “old school” is shocking.

Get over it.

Cloud computing is out. It’s too fluffy and ephemeral. The NEW buzzword for 2009 is going to be “sustainable computing.”

Sustainable computing. Doesn’t it sound kind of soothing? Calming?  That’s what we need right now. We need a grown-up sounding buzzword that sounds stable and mature. Sustainable computing. A term for our times.

Google has been pushing the term for awhile now.  ComputerWorld tooted the horn way back in 2006. But it took HGTV to really start the ball rolling.

If you watch HGTV, you know what I mean. The word sustainable has been sneaking in on shows during the last six months on a regular basis.  The worse the housing market gets, the more it seems to be popping up. Bamboo flooring. Recycled glass countertops. They’re not called “green.”  They’re not called “environmentally friendly.”  They’re called sustainable.  Granite countertops and hardwood floors are still king, but if you’re smart enough to put something  in your house that the realtor can describe as sustainable, you’re ok.  It’s not only cheaper, it’s politically correct.

So what does that have to do with IT marketing?  Everything.

Social networking was exciting, but the only people to make money off it were the ones who put together conferences about how to leverage social networking. And green was good as long as there are tax incentives to go green — but nobody’s seriously counting on tax cuts in today’s economy.  We’re living in an IT world filled with layoffs, virtualization and promises of clouds.  Marketers  desperately need a new buzzword to hawk their goods and services. One that’s comforting and inspires us to part with our dollars.

Sustainable is the perfect word for a shaky economy. It’s legacy without the outdated overtone. It’s green without inviting a conversation about Sarah Palin or Al Gore. It’s cloud computing without the ambiguity — which reminds me, did you every notice how much a cloud symbol looks like a bubble? It’s scalability with a fresh twist. It’s risk management without that scary word risk.

Mark my words and add this to your next secret Buzzword Bingo game. Sustainable computing.


November 10, 2008  1:42 PM

Overheard: Peltier effect

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
jean_charles_peltier1.jpg In 1834, a clockmaker named Jean Charles Peltier found that if you take two wires of dissimilar metals and apply an electric current, there will be a change in temperature at the junction of the wires. Depending on the direction of the current, the temperature will either rise or fall.  One practical outcome of this discovery is a small solid-state heat pump used for semiconductors that’s known as a thermoelectric cooler.

Today’s Word of the Day is thermoelectric cooling.


November 7, 2008  2:08 PM

Overheard: Browser wars, mobile-style

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
baby-fennec-fox.jpg With the iPhone, Apple showed how to surf the Web on the small screen. Now, it seems, a modern version of the browser wars of the 1990s could be shaping up, with the battleground being the mobile phone.Kate Greene, Firefox on your cell phone

Last week, Mozilla, the nonprofit organization behind Firefox, released an “alpha” version of Fennec, just as the desktop version of its browser reached 20 percent of the market for the first time. This early release lets programmers play with the interface, catch bugs, and write add-on features, says Jay Sullivan, vice president of mobile at Mozilla. Fennec (named for a type of small fox) is hardly consumer ready: it currently operates only on the somewhat bulky Nokia N810 Internet tablet, and there are plenty of bugs and interface challenges to iron out, says Sullivan. But by the first part of 2009, Fennec could be ready to run on consumer phones.

The name is brilliant. Who could resist a cute little Fennec? Like ferretts, they’re legal in some states to be pets. Neutered males are supposed to be more sweet-natured than females. Like dogs, they’re omnivores. Like cats, they can be litter trained. Which would you rather interact with on a daily basis? Chrome, Opera or cute little Fennec?


November 6, 2008  9:35 PM

Overheard: Your grandchild’s car might be made of buckypaper

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
buckypaper.jpg Buckypaper is similar in concept to papier mache – layer it up thick and it gets stronger. So strong, in fact, that aeroplanes and rockets and even common household chairs could all be made from buckypaper in some distant future world. We are therefore calling it papier mache 2.0.

Gary Cutlack, World about to get lighter and stronger thanks to “buckypaper” and the magic of nanotubing

Buckypaper forms when a suspension of carbon nanotubes is forces through a fine-mesh filter.  Like a lot of great inventions, it was found accidently; researchers were trying to find out how stars created carbon.  Scientists and engineers are trying to figure out how to produce the material in bulk. Right now it takes several hours to make a single sheet of buckypaper.


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