Word of the Day: Tech Definitions from WhatIs.com

March 23, 2009  3:04 PM

Overheard – Military COTS are not for sleeping

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
David Braue Military training rooms that once would have housed purpose-built, machine-based systems now resemble internet cafes, with up to 100 standard desktop PCs in a line networked together to let trainees explore the boundaries of collaborative training scenarios.

David Braue, Behind Pretend Enemy Lines

Every once in awhile I come across some marketing term that pushes some button and I feel compelled to talk to a vendor and ask “What were you thinking?”  Case in point: Microsoft’s Hailstorm.  (Ironically, Hailstorm was probably Microsoft’s first venture into what we now refer to as cloud computing.  I have to say, they did a much better job picking their new name, Azure.  I’d rather have blue skies than hail stones ruining my garden and denting the hood of my car any day.)

But I digress.

Last week when I was posting a new BigDog video from Boston Dynamics,  I went to their corporate website and saw a large graphic image for their military simulation COTS.  (COTS is just an industry term for custom commercial-off-the-shelf software.)

Now, my son just entered the military and one of the things I’m interested in learning more about is how the military is using virtual worlds and simulation games for training.

I’ve seen some video clips of how the military has been using video games and 3-D simulation in centers called The Army Experience, so when I saw that Boston Dynamics had developed a COTS for training, my first thought was to read more. I was actually kind of excited.

That is, until I saw that their product is called DI-Guy.

What an unfortunate name. It pushed some button deep inside me that I didn’t even know I had.

I wrote to the company, asking why they would name their military simulation COTS DI-Guy (DIE GUY???) and a very nice man named Marc Raibert wrote back — almost immediately — to inform me that the product’s name is pronounced D. I. Guy and that D-I is a military acronym for dismounted Infantry.

I understand the name better now — but I still don’t like it.

The military is notorious for its use of acronyms.  I find it hard to believe that the only good fit was DI. But what do I know? I’m just a mother.

March 20, 2009  3:36 PM

Overheard – New BigDog video

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

Boston Dynamics has released a new video of BigDog, their military transport quadruped.  This is one robot you want to keep an eye on — very cool.  According to Boston Dynamics PR:

BigDog is a quadruped robot that walks, runs, and climbs on rough terrain and carries heavy loads. BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog’s legs are articulated like an animal’s, and have compliant elements that absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/W1czBcnX1Ww" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Here’s LittleDog -- I think it looks like a bat. [kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/JYptK21vAgQ" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

March 19, 2009  9:03 PM

Overheard – Roadable aircraft, meet George Jetson!

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

Glenn Pew has posted an interesting video on the first test flight for the Transition, the “flying car” that’s currently causing a blogswarm.   As a kid, I spent my summers at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Fly-In out in Rockford, Illinois.  My dad was a pilot and he loved home-builts, restorations and prototypes.  He would have flipped for the Transition!

My favorite quote about the Transition? “They spent months proving that it could drive. Earlier this month, with little fanfare, they proved it could fly.”

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/EHXnLCIgNug" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

If you’re interested in  learning more about the prototype, here’s a peek inside the cockpit from AVWeb.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/VyR2E1QGTCk" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

March 19, 2009  3:02 PM

Overheard – IBM and Sun, a marriage in the cloud

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
cloud Earlier this week, Sun made its entrance into cloud computing with plans to offer compute and storage services built on Sun technologies, including OpenSolaris and MySQL. IBM has been pursuing a different strategy, building the infrastructure for cloud computing, but not yet offering to host a cloud.

Bill Snyder, Why we should all hope IBM buys Sun

Rumors abound that IBM is in negotiations to acquire Sun Microsystems. Dana Gardner says “Sun wanted this out to prop up its stock or is in talks with another party and is using this to drive up its price,” but I’m going to agree with Bill Snyder and say that it’s the real deal.

IBM and Sun together make a lot of sense. They both spend tons of dollars on R&D and their approaches to cloud computing are complimentary.

As the consolidation wheel keeps on turning, the interesting question is “If IBM provides the infrastructure and Sun provides the compute and storage services, who will provide the software”?

March 17, 2009  1:34 PM

Overheard – The IT department decides what data you get to see?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“We had the data, but we did not have the information.”

Forrester analyst Boris Evelson, quoting a bank CIO

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is predictive analytics. It’s the crystal ball part of business intelligence.

Pam Baker has a two-part overview on the issues facing Business Intelligence. Now that we’re in this economic mess, everyone is looking around saying “With all this data we’re collecting, why didn’t we see this coming?”

Ummm…maybe it’s because 20% of the CIOs and IT managers that Forrester polled last August said they are running six or more BI tools running on disparate systems?  Yikes!

And even worse — 75% of them said most of their reports and dashboards are created by their IT departments?  DOUBLE and TRIPLE yikes!  (See one of my favorite Paul Graham quotes.)

I’m thinking this economic downturn might be a good time to be a startup BI company — a vendor who can help business analysts connect the dots, see relationships more clearly and identify areas for growth. Definitely a vendor who makes the application simple enough that the end user can create his own reports or dashboards.  One who can bring the mythical self-service BI to life.

Maybe even a vendor who offers services on-demand, like Birst or Cloud9 Analytics. If I were a VC, it’d be something I’d be watching.

March 16, 2009  3:19 PM

Overheard – “Just in Time” everything

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“The Depression is good for the country. The only problem is that it might not last long enough in which case people might not learn enough from it.”

Henry Ford

Today’s Word of the Day is just-in-time manufacturing.  The goal of JIT is to produce and deliver product at the required time in the required quantity to fill specific orders.  (The opposite is tying production to a theoretical forecast or schedule.  It’s called just-in-case manufacturing or buffer manufacturing.)

So I’m reading about Henry Ford and thinking about his quote — and wondering how JIT correlates with cloud computing. The goals of cloud computing are pretty much the same as those for JIT.   Be efficient.

It seems to me that cloud computing is very much just-in-time computing.  Rumor has it that the original name for Amazon’s EC3 (Elastic Compute Cloud) was originally  “elastic computing capacity.”   (The cloud came in when they were marketing the idea and used the cloud symbol on flow charts to represent the Internet.)

Would we be embracing the concept of cloud computing quite as willingly for anything more than testing if the economy was healthy?  I’m not sure sure adoption would be as swift.  It would take more time to convince IT administrators to give up control if we weren’t in dire straights.

So back to Henry Ford and his quote — what lessons will we learn as we plow our way through today’s depression?  As IT departments look for ways to streamline their architectures, they’re going to be creative.

So next time you turn on the news and hear how the sky is falling, look up.  It’s just new ideas filtering down from the cloud.

March 13, 2009  3:42 PM

Overheard – Privacy and Google Street View

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
Google’s Street View can be a helpful tool, but it is meant to help Google sell ads and make money, not protect your privacy.

Brian Cooper, Google Street View Continues to Raise Privacy Concerns

So how can you protect yourself? First, check your address using Street View. To report a concern with Street View imagery, enter the address you desire and click “Search Maps.” Then, click “Street View” in the thought bubble that appears on the map. Once the “Street View” image appears, click “Report a Concern” in the bottom left corner of the Street View image and enter the details of your complaint.

March 11, 2009  2:07 PM

Overheard – Mike Hammer

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
hammer I’m saddened and offended by the idea that companies exist to enrich their owners.  That is the very least of their roles; they are far more worthy, more honorable, and more important than that. Without the vital creative force of business, our world would be impoverished beyond reckoning.

Mike Hammer, as quoted in his New York Times obituary

March 10, 2009  1:20 PM

Overheard – When won’t IKE work?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
IKE negotiation sends and receives messages using UDP, listening on port 500. This can be a problem if you have a firewall in front of your VPN router or are trying to establish an IPsec client connection through a firewall.

Michael J. Martin, IPsec VPN router configuration: The ISAKMP policy

I wish I had read this earlier — Michael says “Remember that IKE is a protocol that supports ISAKMP — ISAKMP makes the rules, and IKE plays the game.”

If you’re thinking about implementing a VPN, be sure to read Lisa Phifer’s excellent breakdown on IPSec VPN clients.  Our newest sister site also has some good resources — SearchEnterpriseWAN.com.

March 9, 2009  3:16 PM

Face-Off – Do you really have the right to expect privacy on the Internet?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
Privacy, the Internet and the workplace — should boundaries exist?

Dave McMahon and Margaret Rouse take sides on whether or not employees have the right to expect privacy on social networking sites.

Dave McMahon

“Be very careful of what you put on the Web. Anyone can see it.”

I hear these words over and over again. I go out with friends on Saturday evening and on Sunday morning I urgently call them and ask them not to tag certain pictures because I’m afraid that my boss will see them.

I’m lucky to have a good job and I would be foolish to risk it. It isn’t fair that I can’t let my friends post pictures of the fun time we had, or tell stories on my blog about our antics.

It’s unethical of my boss to browse my personal life and use it to judge me as a professional.

Twitter, professional blogs and even Facebook accounts are being recognized as useful resources among corporate teams — that is until I want to use my account for social purposes.

It becomes a professional trap when employers utilize the same forums to monitor social lives and take disciplinary or discriminatory action.

We don’t always choose which photos of us are tagged on Facebook and I find the intricacies of some Web 2.0 applications make it easy for private conversations to become public knowledge quickly and, often times, accidentally.

It is wrong to punish promising professionals for a conversation they thought was private.

Employers justify monitoring with claims that watching employee blogs or Facebook accounts is an excellent way to catch them in a lie. Last week’s “sick day” was actually spent on the beach with friends?

However, I think these practices create more problems than they solve — like mistrust and more dishonesty.

I believe these monitoring practices make a respectful and clearly understood separation between personal and professional lives nearly impossible.

Putting an end to these monitoring practices is the first step toward creating a more comfortable and more productive workplace.

Dave McMahon is an aspiring writer and literary professional. He is currently an Editorial Assistant at Tech Target while finishing a degree at Northeastern University.

Margaret Rouse

“You have zero privacy anyway. Just get over it.” – Sun Chairman Scott McNealy 1999

In 1993, the New Yorker published a cartoon by Peter Steiner. Two dogs were sitting in front of a computer workstation. One dog was sitting in a chair typing and the other dog was sitting on the floor. The dog that was typing turned and explained “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

The cartoon quickly became a classic, in part because the dog spoke the truth. In 1993, the Internet was anonymous. Nobody used their real name. Like with the CB radio fad of a generation before, early Internet adopters had handles — only this time around they were called screen names. We weren’t Bob Smith or Nancy Jones. We were Bulldog123 and ByteMe99.

What changed? The Internet evolved from a text-based medium to become a multi-media environment — and we started to shop on the Internet. And the dollars brought marketers. And marketers, who needed to see what we were doing on the Internet so they could market to us more effectively, brought cookies. And although some of made a fuss, most of us accepted their little bits of code, gladly trading privacy for a smoother user experience.

And then the Dot Com bubble burst. Which made us all get real. Literally.

Although the sock puppet from Pets Dot Com was looking for a new job, it was clear that the Internet itself wasn’t hurt. It just wasn’t a place for ByteMe99 anymore. The party was over.

Thankfully, a certain search engine’s growing popularity helped us adjust to using our real names. We even got a new verb out of it – googled. We googled our friends and business contacts and found there were benefits from using your real name. People could find you. You could find them. And then social networking sites came along and boosted the whole thing up a notch.

Today, everyone not only knows you’re a dog on the Internet – they know what breed of dog you are, how old you are, where you live and whether your master is a fan of “Ceasar’s Way” or “It’s Me or the Dog.”

Ok. I’m exaggerating. Maybe.

My point is that as the Internet matured and proved to be more than just an interesting diversion, it also became a public place. And because it’s public, there’s no such thing as privacy.

If you were at a football game and you spotted your boss across the field and didn’t want him to see you, you wouldn’t say “Hey, you can’t look at me because I’m not at work,” would you?

No. That would be ridiculous. Instead, you’d do what any normal person would do in that situation. You’d hide.

I’m not kidding.

How do you hide on the Internet? First, take the time to manage your privacy settings. Use private posts on Twitter. Limit what co-workers and friends of friends can see about you on Facebook. Uncheck the box that says anyone can tag you in photos or write on your wall. And don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times.

Or do what we all did back in 1999. Use a screen name for your personal networking. Because there’s no such thing as privacy on the Internet.

Margaret Rouse is a technical writer with more than twenty years experience.

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