Word of the Day: Tech Definitions from WhatIs.com

May 6, 2009  2:06 PM

Shareware – a demonstration of faith

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
My wife said I was “a foolish old man” if I thought even one person would voluntarily send me money for the program. I was more optimistic. I suspected that enough voluntary payments would come to help pay for expansions to my personal computer hobby – perhaps several hundred dollars. Maybe even a thousand dollars (in my wildest dreams!) But my tiny post office box was too small to receive the responses from a wildly enthusiastic public.

Jim Knopf, The Origin of Shareware

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is shareware. Jim Knopf, a man who’s widely recognized as “the father of shareware” is retired now.  Lucky for us, he’s posted his story.

Is shareware dead? No. You might know it by other names though — crippleware, demo-ware, trialware.  They all describe a distribution model where the software is given out for free with the understanding that if the user likes the software, he will eventually pay the developer for it.

Shareware’s in the news again because of Microsoft’s Windows 7 Release Candidate.  From now until July 2010, you can get a pretty-close-to-final version of Windows 7 for free. The  understanding is that if you like it, you’ll pay for the upgrade when the trial period runs out.

May 5, 2009  6:53 PM

Location-based service – SMS text ads coming to a cell phone near you

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
Google has been teaming up with hardware makers to build cellphones with the Mountain View, Calif., company’s Android software, part of its strategy to accelerate mobile Internet access and generate more revenue by selling mobile ads.

Scott Morrison, Mobile Ads Seen Picking Up As New Google Phones Hit Market

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is location-based service (LBS).  Imagine going shopping at your local big-box grocery chain and as the electronic doors whoosh open, your cell phone dings. Who is it? It’s an SMS text message from the grocery store letting you know what’s on sale (forget those old-timey flyers). Or maybe it’s a text coupon, letting you know that your favorite snack food has a two-for-one offer today.

Even as I speak, one of our local New York chains is working to make this happen.  What’s it going to take?  They’re not sure yet, but one thing’s for sure — it’ll take my co-operation.  You see, location-based services are permission based. I’ll either have to download their new iPhone app or register my GPS-enabled cell phone with their loyalty card program.

Interpublic is one of the world’s largest advertising companies — so like E.F. Hutton of years gone by —  when Interpublic speaks, the publishing industry listens.  And according to a new report released by Magna, (the unit of Interpublic that – among other things – provides research and market intelligence to all of Interpublic’s buying operations) mobile ad spends are expected to grow to $229 million in 2009.  That’s down from their original forecast before the economy tanked, but it’s a number that’s still impressive.

Most interesting to me is what kind of ad Magna says will pay off best:

Text messaging platforms represents the best near-term potential for advertisers who want to use mobile devices to support broad-reaching marketing campaigns.   This contrasts with slower growth rates for other more narrow-reaching types of mobile media (such as mobile search, in-call media, mobile video, mobile coupons and mobile gaming).

Tie that in with what Nick Brien’s been recommending about traditional vs. emerging media and one thing’s pretty clear — if you haven’t already been asked to opt-in for SMS ads on your mobile device, you will be soon.  The grocery store is just the tip of the ice berg — and location-based services have definitely reached their tipping point. Nick Brien, a senior executive at Interpublic, says:

In other words, if companies are cutting advertising budgets, they would be well-advised to take money out of traditional TV commercials, while maintaining funding for web search ads; or they should abandon a newspaper campaign, but keep spending to zip-targeted  text ads to cellphones.

May 5, 2009  5:03 PM

Video – The pros and cons of LBS marketing

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

CNN reporter Susan Candiotti explains how LBS marketing will work.  (LBS stands for location-based services.)

Segment Title: Somebody’s watching me (approx 5 mins.)

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/NwuW5BCaj-I" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

May 4, 2009  2:46 PM

Windows 7 – Get your free ‘release candidate’ tomorrow

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“The promise of Windows 7 is that laptops may be transported to work, become ‘business PCs,’ and be enrolled with all their enterprise-level Active Directory privileges; then be taken home, become ‘home PCs,’ and be open to all the family’s shared files, aggregate libraries, and other conveniences; and ne’er the twain shall meet.”

Scott M. Fulton, III, Top 10 Windows 7 Features #10: Homegroup networking

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is Windows 7.  Microsoft is making the Windows 7 “release candidate” available to the general public tomorrow.  That’s about five months earlier than expected!

A release candidate is a ‘tween’ version  — it’s between the first Beta and the final release — and it’ll probably be the last version of Windows 7 that we’ll see before the final product ships in October.

The reviews for Windows 7 seem to be pretty good. Two features we’ll be adding definitions for in the near future: Windows 7 Homegroup and Windows 7 XP mode.

The Windows 7 RC license will only be available until July. The license will expire in June 2010, so that means you can have a pretty-close-to-final-version of Windows 7 free for a year.   Here’s a link to the official Microsoft 7 homepage.  And Ed Bott’s put together a great QnA for those of us who want to learn whether we have the right stuff to try it out.

May 1, 2009  12:54 PM

Spoliation – how virtualization can complicate e-discovery

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“Regarding virtual machines specifically, there are many possibilities for inadvertent or malicious destruction of electronically-stored information (ESI).”

Jason Briody, How Virtualization Affects EDD Collection

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is spoliation. It’s legaleze for “destroying evidence.”  Jason Briody’s written an EXCELLENT post about how virtualization has mucked the e-discovery waters. He says:

Virtualization can affect your case in three main ways:

1. Increase costs and collections: Virtualization means the end of the “one computer per box” generation. If you get a rough estimate of an electronically stored information collection by merely counting the physical computers or servers, virtualization can throw your estimates way off. It is now commonplace for multiple computers to run on the same hardware that used to be reserved for one.

2. Cause you to overlook evidence: If certain forms of virtualization have been implemented, and an examiner is not made aware of it, they might miss crucial evidence. When searching a user’s hard drive, for instance, certain files contained within encapsulated virtual machines may not respond to keyword searches. The virtual machine files may have to be “opened” prior to the search to ensure accurate results.

3. Increase the risk of collection issues and/or spoliation: Virtualization involves separating computers and data storage from its physical hardware. This new technology brings with it new features that may increase the possibility of losing or destroying ESI. Examples include the ability to:

  • “roll back” a computer to a previous “snapshot” and inadvertently lose newer data;
  • move computers and data from one piece of physical hardware to another and accidentally misplace or compromise data; and
  • delete entire machines with a single click and completely erase data.

April 29, 2009  3:55 PM

VM escape – using the hypervisor as an attack vector

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
posey Granted, no virtual machine escape hacks exist today, but if the IT security experts are right and this type of attack is eventually developed, then virtualized servers in the DMZ are basically sitting ducks.

Brien M. Posey, Virtual servers no escape from IT security management concerns

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is virtual machine escape.  In theory, an attacker could get access to the hypervisor (if it was mis-configured or had some other vulnerability) and use it to control all the other virtual machines on the host.

Bob Plankers explains more in What is VM Escape?:

Since the hypervisor controls the execution of all of the virtual machines, an attacker that can gain access to the hypervisor can then gain control over every other virtual machine running on the host. Because the hypervisor is between the physical hardware and the guest operating system, an attacker will then be able to circumvent security controls in place on the virtual machine.

Can you image the power of a zombie army that included an almost infinite number of virtual machines?  An army that once established, had the power to create new soldiers (VMs) which one click?  Holy moly.  Big money there.

April 27, 2009  12:41 PM

IP Surveillance system – so big brother can watch from home

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
IP-based cameras connect directly to IP networks, record at higher frame rates, and generally have better resolution then Webcams. They can pan, tilt and zoom, and many have one-way or two-way audio capabilities. They also come with monitoring and management software that lets you trigger alarms and e-mail alerts when certain events occur.

Phil Dunn, How to Set Up an IP-Based Camera Surveillance System

Today’s WhatIs.com word of the day is IP surveillance.  Control rooms filled with monitors are quickly becoming a thing of the past and closed-circuit TVs are being replaced by IP cameras. Now when you’re in a store shopping, the person who’s watching you might be sitting in their own living room.  Phil Dunn writes:

Since these systems are IP-based, you can monitor, store, and archive video, audio and associated application data over the Internet or across private data networks. The video can be carried anywhere the IP network extends, as opposed to closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems that require proprietary equipment and dedicated coaxial cabling. Anyone with the proper security clearance and a standard browser can monitor video, and control and configure the cameras on the network.

The tricky thing is that the new IP cameras kind of look like lights. What’s the difference between a light and an IP camera? One helps you to see better, the other one helps someone to see YOU better.

April 24, 2009  3:01 PM

Kanban – a way to visualize bottlenecks in your software development project

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
A Kanban Board shows the current status of all the tasks to be done within this iteration. The tasks are represented by cards (Post-It Notes), and the statuses are presented by areas on the board separated and labeled ToDo, Doing, and Done. This Kanban Board helps the team understand how they are doing well as well as what to do next and makes the team self-directing.

Kenji Hiranabe, Visualizing Agile Projects using Kanban Boards

Today’s WhatIs.com word of the day is Theory of Constraints.  It’s an approach to systems management that can be used by anyone in just about any type of management field.

Let’s say you have a very simple system where components  A + B + C + D = Output.   In the 1950s, the conventional American approach would be to make sure that each component in the system was optimized to its fullest so that the total output would also be optimized to its fullest.  (Component A would be optimized, componenent B would be optimized, etc.)

The Theory of Constraints proposes that you should forget about trying to optimize each part of the system.  Instead, you should look at the system holistically and identify the weakest component in the system.  The weakest component — the constraint — will determine, ultimately, how successful the entire system is.

A constraint is a bottleneck.  It impairs or stops throughput.  Because the bottleneck ultimately rules the sucess of the entire system, THAT is what you should place your attention.  The Theory of Contraints proposes that every working system has at least one bottleneck but no more than three (or the system wouldn’t work at all).

So the question becomes, how do you identify the bottleneck?  In a manufacturing plant, you might be able to physically see the bottleneck — it might be a machine that’s backed up.  But what if the system is distributed or the one you’re managing is knowledge-based?  That’s where Kanban comes in.

Kanban is Japanese for “card.”  In manufacturing, it’s a sign or signal in an inventory control system. As supplies are used up, new supplies are requested simply by sending a re-order Kanban card to the supply point. The new supplies are being “pulled” instead of being “pushed” a la Lucy and Ethel at the candy factory.

Agile software development teams have adopted kanban as a way to track progress and identify bottlenecks in the development process.  It’s a pretty common practice to see big sticky-note charts on a wall of a project room.  Now you know the name for those charts — kanban.  And the part of the chart where the sticky notes are jammed up together and overlapping? That’s a visual representation of a constraint.

David J. Anderson explains how he uses kanban to identify bottlenecks and manage software engineering projects.

April 23, 2009  5:03 PM

Loyalty cards – a way for retailers to get into their customer’s heads

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
Attention, grocers: Get rid of the cards and just put stuff ‘on sale’ again. Then you’ll get my loyalty.

Justin McHenry, Not a Fan of Supermarket Loyalty Cards

Today’s WhatIs.com word of the day is loyalty card program. Justin McHenry says:

“The only point of the card is to hold me hostage, in the sense that I don’t get the “savings” unless I’m willing to let them track my every purchase and willing to take on the extra hassle of carrying the card on my keychain or shoving it into my overflowing wallet.”

Justin is annoyed at having to carry the card to get the discount — but a lot of people are more focused on how opting in to use a loyalty card gives the retailer way too much personal data.

After all, the data that’s collected from those cards could be shared with “partner” companies.  Or the cops in Arizona might come knocking at your door because you’ve been identified as someone who purchases a large number of sandwich baggies — a sign you might be a drug dealer. (True story)

I have to remember that the plastic loyalty card from my big-chain grocery store is not the same as my local farm store’s loyalty punch card.  My farm store issues a  little paper card that I hand in when the card is filled with “X”s to get a $10 gift certificate.  Punch cards reward the faithful.

Today’s loyalty card programs are not designed to reward the faithful — they are designed to help retailers gather incredible amounts of data about their customers.  They use the data for supply chain management, for marketing and to figure out ways to change customer behavior.  A loyalty card program is expensive to run.  It requires a lot of storage for all that data and sophisticated data mining tools to pour through the raw data and turn it into useful information.

The next step will be adding RFID to the cards. Some stores are already testing it out.

Here’s a scenario from Information Week:

The RFID-enabled loyalty card can identify a customer as he or she walks through a store. The chip in the loyalty card transmits to a nearby reader when the customer is within 8 feet of the reader, triggering an avatar to appear on a nearby computer screen. The RFID reader identifies the information in the loyalty card and feeds the data to the avatar, which welcomes the customer to the store in an animated fashion. Based on the customer’s historical purchases, the computer will send a Short Message Service message with store coupons to the customer’s phone.

It kind of boggles my mind how much information I’ll be giving away freely in exchange for seeing “-$4.25” on my grocery receipt.

April 22, 2009  4:46 PM

PUE – Power usage effectiveness

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
A typical data center facility spends almost half of its energy consumption on the systems powering and cooling the computers inside — and not on the computers themselves.

Google, Efficient Data Center Summit

Last October, Google disclosed details about its data center energy usage, saying it was averaging a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.21 across its six company-built data centers. To put that into perspective, a PUE of 1 means every watt goes to computing machines. A PUE of 1.5 means that half the power goes to non-computing functions like cooling or lights.

Six months later, Google says it’s got that number down to 1.19.  So how is the search giant doing it? For a long time, nobody knew.  Google’s infrastructure was top secret. But then in early April, Google held a summit and gave everyone a peek behind closed doors. Surprisingly, what they seem to have done was follow the KISS principle. Relatively speaking, they are keeping things simple.  They have their own proprietary servers and the data centers themselves are just about as lean as you could imagine. Google’s made several tours available on YouTube — and this one (below) of a data center built out of shipping containers is just amazing.  There are over 45,000 servers housed in 45 containers.  Talk about utility computing — this container tour sure looks like a utility plant to me!

At the summit, Google reps shared best practices, saying:

The best practices we’ve presented here are the main reason we’ve been able to achieve our PUE results and can be implemented in most data centers today.

  • Measure PUE (Circuit transformers)
  • Optimize power distribution (High efficiency transformer and UPS)
  • Manage airflow (Close-coupled cooling — Eliminate hot/cold mixing)
  • Adjust thermostat  (Raise cold aisle temp)
  • Use free cooling  (Chiller bypass, water-side economizer)
  • Use free cooling  (Chiller bypass, water-side economizer)

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/zRwPSFpLX8I" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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