Our Latest Discovery


February 19, 2010  4:31 PM

More data security breaches from attacks than human error



Posted by: Ivy Wigmore

Although human error has traditionally been the cause of more data breaches than attacks, the tipping point has apparently been reached.

Marcia Savage reports on the changing trend:

According to a new report, in 2009, malicious attacks accounted for more of the reported data security breaches than human error, a trend that has not been seen in the past three years.

Hacker attacks or theft by nefarious insiders made up 36.4% of 354 reported data security breaches last year, compared to 27.5% caused by accidental exposure or lost data, according to the 2009 Identity Theft Resource Center Breach Report, which was released Friday. The San Diego, Calif.-based nonprofit ITRC, which collects publicly available information about data security breaches, has been tracking how breaches occur for the past three years.

“It isn’t surprising,” said Linda Foley, ITRC founder. “We’ve been saying for a long time that the thieves are becoming more sophisticated.”

> Read on…

February 12, 2010  5:32 PM

Geeky Valentine Goodies



Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
geeky fun, quizzes, trivia, Valentines

As I mentioned in my 2008 Valentine’s Day post, scientists are the geek’s real heartthrobs. David Friedman put together a great collection of printer-ready Valentines featuring Carl Sagan, Einstein, Marie Curie and many others.

You might also like to check out our former Assistant Editor Alex Howard’s Valentine’s advice for Geeks. It’s also from 2008 but its appeal is timeless. Especially that original Internet Love Song.

Then, check out your Latin Lover quotient with our quiz. Will you be able to say “Veni, vidi, vici?”

We’ve also got a special Valentine’s grammar post about affect vs. effect and amorous cats and a little Valentine’s trivia. Do you know what famous writer composed the first Valentine’s verse?

Some of the comments on the Valentines page are priceless too. I especially liked the guy who said he didn’t think that any of them were likely to help him further his DNA (if ya know what he means).

You never know, though some of us really like geeky guys with a sense of humor. Serious smarts + corny jokes = we heart you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


January 18, 2010  2:13 PM

Save money and go viral (or “How to get the blogosphere to market your product better than you ever could have.”)



Posted by: Ivy Wigmore

On the Digital Frontiers blog, Allan Long writes about the canny marketing behind the MacBook Air:

Jobs has a strong understanding of how the web has changed the game; he knew that blogs and journalists had endlessly speculated about the product he would reveal and Apple built up the anticipation even further with banners hinting at “something in the air”. Tech blogs created tags for the Air and anticipation continued to ratchet up – modern consumers were rabid for news about a product they actually had to wait for. Jobs’s keynote at Macworld was masterful. Using his informal style (he knew he was also speaking to nerds in their boxer shorts across the world) and a simple presentation that emphasized the visual wow factor of the Air’s design (what tech bloggers and their readers were most likely to drool over), Jobs nailed the big reveal. Having the Air be the last product in the last speech mirrored the secretive feel of the product and lathered up tech writers even more. Apple wanted people to know about their product – but by making it seem like they were trying to keep it secret they made it more enticing.

So did the product live up to the build-up?

The Air really did not live up to its hype, but its hype was groundbreaking in its magnitude. Google trends shows the Macbook Air never again came remotely close to the level of interest they manufactured around that keynote address.

The Whatis.com Word of the Day today is MacBook Air.


January 7, 2010  4:53 PM

For Auld Lang Syne — Alex Howard weighs in on tech stories of the decade



Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
Apple, Bill Gates, botnets, Facebook, Google, iPhone, Microsoft, social networking, tech stories of the decade, YouTube

Former WhatIs Associate Editor and top-ranked technophile Alex Howard sent us his list of the top tech stories of the decade, bless him!

Here’s what Alex had to say:
As the year ended, many tech pundits and publications naturally made lists of the “Top Tech Stories of the Decade.” My colleague Barb Darrow said good riddance to a bad decade.

IDG/Macworld made a similar list, putting Google’s rise to the top at #1.

The iPhone: Apple redefines a market, again
Gates moves on … baby boomers, move over!
The rise of the botnets: Security tops Web worries
The battle over Facebook: Social networking hits prime time
Vista delays …. and launches
Google superstar HP ties the knot with Compaq
Apple launches the iPod, and gets back on track
Microsoft is busted Dotcom deathwatch

CNET (at CNN)

Slideshow of same:
1. Google launches Adwords and becomes tech’s most important company

2. Apple unveils iTunes

3. Microsoft and the feds make a deal

4. Pffft goes dotcom bubble

5. Apple releases iPhone, changes mobile tech

6. Yahoo plays Hamlet with search

7. Craigslist & slow fade of newspapers

8. Google acquires YouTube, legitimizes social media

9. Gates retires

10. HP acquires Compaq

Discovery – focused on tech, not just IT:

10. iPod Crushes Internet Music Piracy (Wrong! -me)

9. YouTube Goes from 0 to 60 in a Click

8. Wi-Fi Takes to the Skies

7. Laptops Get Smaller and Super Cheap

6. Humans Meld with Machines

5. Stem Cells Found in New Sources

4. People Take Action Via Social Networking Web Sites

3. Scientists Create First Synthetic Bacterium

2. Google Becomes a Verb

1. Human Genome Mapped

ZDnet’s list was shorter and gave the nod to Google as well.
1. Apple was big, but Google was bigger.
2. The Apple renaissance.
3. Larry Ellison is a genius: bought PeopleSoft, Siebel, BEA and Sun.
4. Social networking
5. Software as a service emerged

My list? if we limit it to IT, then the top stories are clear. (If we include technology, then Discovery’s list deserves more consideration.)

10. YouTube changes how we watch video

9. Craigslist breaks down e-commerce barriers, disrupts newspapers

8. Mobile broadband and wifi move users closer to pervasive computing

7. Tech gets SaaS-sy, moves into the cloud at Amazon, Google, Salesforce.com

6. M&A: Oracle grows by acquisition, HP-Compaq merge, IBM goes shopping

5. Microsoft settles antitrust suit, finally releases Vista, then Windows 7

4. Dotcom bubble deflates, replaced later by Web 2.0 bubble

3. Social networking redefines how people relate, do business online

2. Apple redefines mobile computing, media and software distribution

1. Google emerges, finds a business model, organizes the world’s info. And more…

******************************************************************************************

We just about crossed emails. In mine, I asked Alex what he saw as the top tech stories of the decade. And in his, he said he’d already prepared this list. Synchronicity and auld lang syne — what could be nicer?


January 7, 2010  12:35 PM

More on optimism as a people skill



Posted by: Ivy Wigmore

Kate Nasser responds:

“Glad you liked my suggestion of aka “people skills”. I read your reply and saw you asked what would I classify “optimism” etc… You call it intrapersonal which could work as a label. I see it this more an “attitude” which translates into skills that you use with other people. So something like optimism is an outlook/attitude and when you use it to lead, serve, communicate etc… then those are people-skills.”


January 6, 2010  4:44 PM

From the virtual mailbag: Should “soft skills” be called “people skills?”



Posted by: Ivy Wigmore

We had a note from Kate Nasser responding to our definition of soft skills:

a)Bravo for having this message out there b)Love your analogy that soft skills are skills you use everywhere yet hard skills tend to be focused on one area/task c)SUGGESTION – you might considering an “also known as” “Soft skills also known as people-skills are mechanism for living and succeeding.”

Over time if we can change the common name from soft skills to people-skills — people will see these skills as inherent to daily living. “Soft” will always have a comparative meaning and some will therefore see these skills as less important than hard skills. Also soft can be a tough word for certain personality types (e.g. Drivers) and (some) men to accept.

Clearly, there’s a case to be made for using “people skills” rather than “soft skills” — at least for the interpersonal ones, like friendliness. What about intrapersonal skills though — optimism, for example, helps you get along with people, but indirectly. Is optimism a people skill? What do you think?

Kate Nasser is a people skills coach. You can follow her on Twitter.


December 30, 2009  5:14 PM

Like X-ray specs — except the technology actually works



Posted by: Ivy Wigmore

“With backscatter, when you scan, you’d see a silhouette of the body. You could see  whatever was on the outside of the body, on the surface of the body or anything sewn into the lining of your coat. It would show up as kind of a gray mass.”

In an interview for the Detroit Free Press, airline security expert Douglas Laird dismisses privacy concerns. “I believe we have to give up some rights for the safety of everybody,” he said. At the same time, however, he realizes that not everyone sees things the same way. “It’s a real nerve that you touch when you mention that.”


December 28, 2009  8:37 PM

MiFi my eye! Why when I was your age…



Posted by: Ivy Wigmore

“Someday, we’ll tell our grandchildren how we had to drive around town looking for a coffee shop when we needed to get online, and they’ll laugh their heads off.” ~ David Pogue

Like others of his generation, Pogue marvels at the idea of a portable wireless broadband connection although he knows that the gol-durned kids of the future will take such wonders totally for granted.

As is only fair, I guess, for the way we laughed at our parents’ fascination with the paper shredder.

Pogue bemoans the pre-MiFi state of affairs:

Getting online isn’t impossible, but today’s options are deeply flawed. Most of them involve sitting rooted in one spot — in the coffee shop or library, for example. (Sadly, the days when cities were blanketed by free Wi-Fi signals leaking from people’s apartments are over; they all require passwords these days.)

And explains, rather nicely, how MiFi operates and what your best options are.

I’m going to get one. If I have to sell my Victrola to do it.


December 21, 2009  9:43 PM

Why Windows 7 is not called Vista Service Pack 2



Posted by: Ivy Wigmore

According to Ron Herardian, chief systems architect of Global System Services Corp. (a Microsoft partner in Mountain View, Calif), Windows 7 is what Vista should have been. Heradian was quoted in this article about the competition between Mac Snow Leopard and Windows 7:

“Vista was an enormous blunder — a disaster. Windows 7 is Vista, fixed, but Microsoft was smart enough to not call it ‘Vista Service Pack 2.’”

Not to mention the fact that you can’t really charge for service packs. My work computer came with Vista installed and during each of my frequent sessions with our tech support, I find occasion to say “I hate Vista,” to which the tech support guy says “I hate Vista, too.”

First, Vista screws up your computer and sets defaults you’d never choose in a million years. Then, when you dig around enough to find out what you should be able to do to fix your problem, you find out that Vista won’t let you do it. I hate Vista.

I’m hoping Santa will bring me Windows 7, since Microsoft is charging for it. But, really, I think they should just call it SP 2 and give it to Vista users — with apologies.


October 8, 2009  2:29 PM

If a virus can be in two states at once, can I?



Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
experiments, physics, quantum theory, Schrodinger's cat, Schrodinger's virus, science, superpostion

When you work from home, no one hears you sneeze.

Which is kind-of too bad, because if I had to be in the office to work right now, I would be home lying on the couch in my PJs. As it is, of course, I’m home slumping on the couch and tippity-tapping away on my laptop keyboard.

So, here I am sniffling, whining, and reading email. And in the MIT Technology Review newsletter, I see a link to Schrodinger’s virus.

Here’s the scoop, in a nutshell: Science has already demonstrated that single particles can be in multiple locations simultaneously. Now Doctors Ignacio Cirac and Oriol Romero-Isart are looking at demonstrating the same thing with the flu virus, which is a living entity. And if that works, next up is this little guy, a tardigrade arthropod.

Can cats and editors be far behind?

Some years back, I wrote a bunch of definitions for the site related to quantum theory, including Schrodinger’s cat. Fascinating stuff — I was thrilled to get the chance to research an area like that and write about it, if not a little daunted.

I think it was at the point where I first heard of superposition that I reared back from the page, carefully put the book down and leapt up to pace frenetically for an extended time period, occasionally clutching my head and giving it a shake. Pretty much the way you see ubergeeks and mad scientists do in the movies, on the threshold of some great discovery.

Except, in this case, the discovery’s been made and demonstrated — we know that superposition actually occurs at the subatomic level, because there are observable effects of interference, in which a single particle is demonstrated to be in multiple locations simultaneously.

All I had to do was grasp the implications. For example, as demonstrated in the double-slit experiment:

“What actually occurs is that each photon not only goes through both slits, but also simultaneously traverses every possible trajectory en route to the target. Research into this phenomenon has demonstrated that other elementary particles, such as electrons, exhibit the same behavior.”

So. We’re back to single entities being in multiple locations, simultaneously: Photons > molecules > viruses > arthropods > cats > me?

An alternate state of being flu-less right now would be nice — or even taking an actual sick day… can someone show me how to switch between dimensions? I’ll be in flannel, watching Mary Tyler Moore reruns before you can say “Oh Lou!”

~ Ivy Wigmore


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