Word of the Day: Tech Definitions from WhatIs.com

October 10, 2007  6:40 AM

Overheard: VARs are the R of R&D

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
vlad_mazek.gif “In the long term, our VAR partners will give us feedback, feature suggestions, be our front line of support, our support lead, our go-to direct managers and our R of R&D.”

Vladimir Mazek, Why doesn’t anyone care about us?

October 9, 2007  6:37 PM

Overheard: Apple, the iPhone, Von Hippel and The Clash

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
iphone_att.jpg “I think what’s very interesting is the fact that thanks to blogs and the popularity of the iPhone, we’re starting to see platform hacking become a spectator sport for the masses.To be sure, hacking as a spectator sport has existed for years now, but this seems to be the first time that I can recall that the audience has gone beyond video game users or deeply geeky folks. I imagine that iPhone hacking is now common conversation in churches, coffee shops, and around the water cooler.”

Alex Hutton, New iPhone Exploits
Image by Falon

As economist Eric Von Hippel teaches in Democratizing Innovation, real product improvement comes from users.

To celebrate the mighty end user, let’s all join in and sing that Rock-the-Casbah song by The Clash that nobody knows the real words to anyway. Ready?

Von Hippel has a theory
About product improvement
He says it comes from users
Because they’re the ones most interested
Von Hippel wrote a book about it
Democratizing In-no-va-tion
Apple didn’t pay attention
And now “unlocking” is a buzzword


A. T. and T. don’t like it
HACK the iPhone
HACK that IPhone
A. T. and T. don’t like it
HACK the iPhone
HACK that IPhone

Alex Hutton added to the song — it’s too much fun to leave it buried in the comments.

By order of Steve Jobs
You better lock that iPhone down
“We have to play the cat and mouse game”
To sell it to the crowds

AT&T wants exclusivity
and to give us revenue
So we’ll play ball with Ma Bell
And the hackers we will screw

But as 2 weeks after update
the hackers did their thing
3rd party apps are running
and ringtones they did ring!


A. T. and T. don’t like it
HACK the iPhone
HACK that IPhone
A. T. and T. don’t like it
HACK the iPhone
HACK that IPhone

October 8, 2007  11:51 PM

Overheard: What the heck is computing in a cloud?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
steve_lohr.jpg “The two companies [Google and IBM] are investing to build large data centers that students can tap into over the Internet to program and research remotely, which is called “cloud computing.”

Steve Lohr, Google and I.B.M. Join in ‘Cloud Computing’ Research

Steve Lohr’s New York Times story started a buzzfire. The trouble is, even as I was reading it, I had no idea what Steve Lohr was talking about.

It’s not his fault.

“Computing in a cloud” is something Jeff Bezos name-dropped like crazy a year ago at MIT. Now here it is again.

What the heck is it?

Allow me to explain, Graszhoppa.

Many years ago, way back in 2003 or so, a computing model called “distributed computing” was being shopped around by The Open Group.

In this model, a big processing job gets split up into lots of little jobs and distributed out to different computers. The objective? To get super-computer power without having to build or buy a super-computer.

Clever eh? The University of Illinois thought so back in 1979.

So did SETI.

SETI stands for “Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.” Because looking for ET requires a lot of computing power, scientists running the project asked for volunteers — ordinary people — to sign up on the Internet and donate their their home computer’s extra processing power. All this extra power could be harnessed over the Internet and coordinated to make a kind of virtual supercomputer. The project was called SETI@home. Lots of people signed up, including me.

Still following? Good.

Jump forward to 2007. Today, Wikipedia, Facebook and Google use this same distributed computing model — without the volunteers at home. It’s what you need for applications that are so big that you could never build them on a single server.

It’s what the future is going to look like when we don’t have to install our own software anymore. That’s right, Grazshoppa. Pretty soon we’ll access all our software applications over the Internet. Google and IBM Adobe are betting on it. So is Microsoft.

Now here’s the important part. For some reason the name “distributed computing” never caught on with the press. I’m not sure why. It seems to be a perfectly logical name, but it was kind of dull and well…ordinary. It never really got the attention it deserved. The name “Web computing” was vague and equally dull. It too, quickly faded out of the headlines.

So techies, being the patient persistent type, thought up a different name and promoted the model again.

This time they tried calling it “parallel computing.” It sounded important. But the name confused people. Parallel computing sounded too complicated, like it might have something to do with the inside of a computer.

So the techies changed the name once again — this time they decided to call it “grid computing. ”

Grid computing was a friendlier name. It even sounded like it might have something to do with football. It looked good in headlines. Unfortunately, it made headlines right around the same time green computing did and people got confused, thinking it something to do with power grids and saving money on electricity.

Cluster computing didn’t work either. Somehow, it sounded vaguely sexual — an orgy of processing, cables and cords entwined in a hot server room. Nah. People felt embarrassed talking about cluster computing.

They considered “hardware as a service” but that brought up images of suits and budgets and contract negotiation. Better to avoid anything that smacked of service contracts. Big business likes to have control.

And anything with “outsourcing” in the title scared the hell out of people in the U.S. — so they wanted to avoid that word.

What to call it? Hmmmmmm.

Frustrated with stupid media people who were unable to understand and get behind a concept that is really quite simple (dividing up work and distributing it out) — those clever techies got together and thought up a name that:

1. Didn’t sound too complicated.
2. Would be easy to remember and look good in headlines.
3. Wouldn’t scare anyone.

They decided to call it “computing in a cloud.”

How clever! Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

IBM marketers thought so. They jumped right in and created a Blue Cloud.

No? You still don’t understand what “computing in a cloud” is?

Here’s a way to understand it: SETI was the only example of the distributed computing model that tech media people seemed to understand and SETI looks for intelligence in outer space — up there in the clouds.

By choosing this name, they’re joking that they’re looking for intelligent life.

So the new name they’ve invented for the press and hope we’ll finally accept and promote like crazy is “cloud computing.”

Get it? The intelligent life they seek is us, the media.

Those techies are so amusing.

It’s just distributed computing, young one.

October 8, 2007  6:34 PM

Overhead: Unconferences, like all social media, must be controlled and monetized

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
douglas_welch.gif “Organizers are afraid that the unconference won’t come together, that it will be boring or unproductive. They lack trust in the attendees to produce a conference that meets their own needs.”

Douglas E. Welch, When is an unconference not an unconference?

I’ve always been a fan of Douglas Welch. Today I not only tip my hat, I give him this month’s “But the Emperor Has No Clothes!” award. Douglas writes:

Some of my best experiences this year have been the “unconferences” I have attended. These ad hoc events allow for a sense of spontaneity and serendipity that regular life often denies us. Unfortunately, I am starting to see a disturbing trend that threatens to suck the life out of unconferences — too much control.

Organizers of unconferences need to control where and when the conference will occur, sponsors for meals and other perks, bathrooms, etc., but more frequently now, I see organizers pre-scheduling the events more and more tightly. Instead of the typical “sign up wall” of a more open unconference, I am seeing schedules completely decided long before the event occurs.

Douglas has bravely asked what the rest of us have been thinking, “What’s happening to the unconference?”

I’m afraid the answer is marketing.

It was probably only a matter of time until the unconference, that underground ultra-hip name Dave Winer came up with to describe a “tech happening” where the attendees determine the agenda, would grow up.

And by grow up, I mean sell out.

Literally. Continued »

October 8, 2007  4:36 PM

Overheard: Blade servers, those hot little power suckers, not a GMOOT item

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
blade1.gif Blade server adoption has been discussed for a number of years now, but the form factor hasn’t been embraced in the way it was initially expected. One of the main reasons is that they are often referred to as “hot little power-suckers.”

Thoughtput, Bring Blades Back From The Future

GMOOT = get me one of those 

For most, the tried and trusted 1U and 2U rack mounted servers have been reliable and familiar workhorses, dramatically reducing the urgency of blade adoption.

October 6, 2007  2:07 PM

Overheard: What other industry calls the people they work with “users”?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
jimmy_guterman.jpg “As has often been noted, there are only two industries that refer to their customers as users: high tech and illegal drugs.”

Jimmy Guterman, Don’t Call Me a User!

October 5, 2007  6:00 PM

Overheard: The SAPanese take Web 2.0 seriously

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
timoreilly.jpg “Surely SAP is a big, boring enterprise software company, about as far from the furious consumer innovation of Web 2.0 as you can imagine. Yet it’s been clear to me for years that SAP takes the ideas of Web 2.0 very seriously.”

Tim O’Reilly, SAP as a Web 2.0 Company?

Tim writes: By my definition, a web 2.0 company is one that uses internet-fueled network effects to build services that get better as a direct result of user interaction. Figuring out all the clever different ways to do this is the heart of Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 started out as the name of a conference! And that name had a very specific purpose: to signify that the web was roaring back after the dot com bust! The 2.0 bit wasn’t about the technology, but about the resurgence of interest in the web. When we came up with the idea back in 2003, a lot of programmers were out of work, and there was a general lack of interest in web applications. But we saw a resurgence coming, and designed a conference to tell the story of what was going to be different this time.

[kml_flashembed movie=”http://www.youtube.com/v/nsa5ZTRJQ5w” width=”425″ height=”350″ wmode=”transparent” /]

October 3, 2007  2:35 PM

Overheard – Nanotech future so bright even a housefly has got to wear shades

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

Teeny tiny shades. This housefly is sporting a pair of two-millimeter-wide eyeglasses, engineered with fast-pulse laser technology.


According the the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, there are now almost 600 consumer products made with nanotechnology, including computer processors by Intel and AMD, high capacity hard disk drives, battery pack systems and memory. Even the iPhone uses nanotech manufacturing. Got a minute? Browse the product list.

Photo courtesy of Micreon GmbH

October 2, 2007  5:15 PM

Overheard – Influencing “The New Influencers”

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

Who says the blogosphere is nothing but a hall of mirrors?

the-new-influencers.jpg “Peggy Rouse of whatis.com read the entire draft and provided me with valuable feedback, particularly some early advice that led me to completely restructure the order of the chapters. Her team also wrote the book’s glossary. Whatis.com was Wikipedia a decade before there was a Wikipedia. It is still an incredibly valuable source of technology knowledge.”

Paul Gillin, The New Influencers / acknowledgements

From the Wall Street Journal review: Some two in five Internet users in the U.S. read blogs, according to a 2006 Pew survey, giving citizen-commentators the potential for more influence than ever.

How, then, should companies deal with the world of blogs, as well as podcasts, social-network sites such as Facebook and other “social media”?

That question is at the center of “The New Influencers,” written by former Computerworld editor Paul Gillin.

October 2, 2007  1:57 PM

Overheard – In the game of scissors, rock, paper — XP beats Vista

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
david-risley.gif “In the Windows world, Vista is the current rage. And you can define “rage” in a couple of different ways.”

David Risley, Why I Downgraded to Windows XP From Vista

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