Word of the Day: Tech Definitions from WhatIs.com

May 28, 2009  4:19 PM

Moblin – Reinventing the Linux desktop

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“Moblin may be plain old Linux under the hood, but the Intel-backed project for netbooks has managed to pull off the unthinkable: it’s made Linux look cool.”

Gary Marshall, At last! Moblin has made Linux look cool!

Allow me to introduce you to Gary Marshall. Here is a perfect example of why I like him so much.

“With most technology, looking into it is like shopping for a new and exciting car. We’ll happily spend days scanning brochures, reading reviews and coming up with increasingly imaginative and expensive configurations.

With Linux, though, it’s more like shopping for a new central heating boiler. You know it’s going to be worthwhile and you know it’s going to save you money, but it’s hard to summon up much enthusiasm. Oh look. It’s a boiler. Oh look. It’s another boiler. Oh look. It’s a slightly different boiler. Oh look. I’ve wasted my life.”

May 28, 2009  3:53 PM

HTML 5 – The browser is a Web platform

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
HTML 5, whose most recent draft from the HTML Working Group was published in mid-April, is attractive to developers because it allows them to write for open browser standards instead of operating systems.

The ChannelWire, Google Says HTML 5 Tools Leave Microsoft In the Dust

There’s a lot of buzz this week about HTML 5.  It’s not radically different from HTML 4, but adoption does mean the end of codecs and plug-ins for rich media. In his keynote at the Google I/O developers conference, Gundotra talked about the importance of five main HTML 5 concepts: canvas tags, video tags, geolocation, application caching/database and Web Workers.

The <canvas> tag defines graphic, such as graphs or other images.

The <video> tag defines video, such as a movie clip or other video streams.

Geolocation is an API that provides scripted access to geographical location information associated with the hosting device.

Application caching/database – HTML 5 contains several features that address the challenge of building Web applications that work while offline. The HTML 5 specification provides two solutions to this: a SQL-based database API for storing data locally, and an offline application HTTP cache for ensuring applications are available even when the user is not connected to their network.

Web Workers is an API that allows Web application authors to spawn background workers running scripts in parallel to their main page. This allows for thread-like operation with message-passing as the coordination mechanism.

The whole idea of “the browser is the operating system” was buzzed about when Google released Chrome. It was a difficult concept for me to wrap my head around — but if I think of it as “browser as a Web platform” it makes more sense.

“The Web has won,” said Google Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra. “It has become the dominant programming model of our time.”

May 27, 2009  6:06 PM

Government tech – President Obama, tear down those walls!

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“When Vivek Kundra became the federal government’s chief information officer, he talked about the value of using standard off-the-shelf computer systems instead of the custom-built ones that government agencies are inclined to buy.  With the new government site Data.gov, Mr. Kundra is showing off the value of standard data formats as well.”

Saul Hansell, Data.gov: Unlocking the Federal Filing Cabinets

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is National Information Exchange Model (NIEM).  Basically, it’s a framework for ensuring that different government agencies can share information more effectively while still being able to maintain their own proprietary databases.

Much to my amazement, standardized technology in the US government is becoming more than just a wish.

Remember back in 1983 when the United States government invaded Grenada? There’s a famous story about an Army officer in Granada who needed air support and wanted to communicate with a Navy aircraft carrier he could see offshore.  The radios that each branch of the military had purchased operated on different frequencies, so the officer ended up using his telephone calling card in a public phone booth to call Fort Bragg, Virginia and get his message relayed to the Navy — who forwarded the request for air coverage to the ship.  The story reached the ears of Senator Barry Goldwater and he pushed for the Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 (more commonly known as the Goldwater-Nichols Act).

Anyway, it looks like those days of government technology silos are going the way of the Berlin Wall.  Data.gov is another step in the right direction.

A primary goal of Data.gov is to “improve access to Federal data and expand creative use of those data beyond the walls of government by encouraging innovative ideas (e.g., web applications).”  Think of it as Government Information Technology 2.0.  Thank you, President Obama. Tear down those walls!

From the newly launched Data.gov site:

Data.gov includes searchable catalogs that provide access to “raw” datasets and various tools. In the “raw” data catalog, you may access data in XML, Text/CSV, KML/KMZ, Feeds, XLS, or ESRI Shapefile formats. The catalog of tools links you to sites that include data mining and extraction tools and widgets. Datasets and tools available on Data.gov are searchable by category, agency, keyword, and/or data format.

May 26, 2009  11:17 AM

Cloud economics – budgeting for the cloud

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
There are two key areas in which companies should consider the economics of cloud computing: (1) how much an organization can save if it consumes cloud computing as an outsourced utility computing service and (2) how much it might save if cloud computing principles successfully reformulate data center strategies.Tom Nolle, Gaining cost savings from the cloud


Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is cloud computing.  In a memo  released last week, the Feds propose cloud computing and  telecommuting as ways to make the federal government leaner.

Cloud-computing and “work-at-a-distance” represent major new Government-wide initiatives, supported by the CIO Council under the auspices of the Federal CIO (OMB’s E-Government Administrator), and funded through the General Services Administration (GSA) as the service-provider.


May 22, 2009  6:18 PM

Terabyte – two terabytes in the news

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
The National Archives lost a terabyte disk drive filled with sensitive data from the Clinton administration, including Social Security numbers and Secret Service procedures.  Had this data been on a self-encrypting drive, we would not have heard of its loss.

Pete Steege, The National Archives lose a terabyte drive filled with sensitive data

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is terabyte. A terabyte (one trillion bytes) is in the news today for two reasons — a terabyte of data of data from the Clinton administration is missing from the National Archives and Amazon has announced a new cloud service called Import/Export for moving terabytes of data to the cloud.

The interesting thing about missing data from the Clinton administration is that it was on a 2-terabyte hard drive that was left sitting on a shelf for a couple of months. And guess what? The data on it was not encrypted. What the heck???

The Amazon announcement is another WTH.  The Import/Export service is being promoted as a way to move large datasets to and from the cloud (meaning Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).)

A terabyte is a lot of data and trying to push it up to Amazon over the Internet takes a lot of bandwidth.  With Amazon Import/Export, you can move the data by off-loading it to a portable storage device and then shipping the device to Amazon.  Amazon has a handy-dandy calculator for estimating the cost of service.  They will charge you $80 for moving the data from the portable device to the storage you’ve purchased at Amazon (along with a $2.49 per data-loading-hour surcharge) and then they’ll ship the device back to you.  It might sound pricey until you consider that uploading a terabyte of data over the Internet with your T1 line is likely to take 82 days.

And oh yeah,  you may want to take a lesson from the National Archives and encrypt that data before you ship it out.

May 21, 2009  5:00 PM

Hadoop – just a storage and batch data processing system

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
hadoop “Hadoop is a massively scalable storage and batch data processing system.”

Christophe Bisciglia, 5 Common Questions About Hadoop

May 13, 2009  5:36 PM

PCI DSS – protecting your credit and debit cards

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
The poker game continues. Get set for an all-nighter.

David Taylor, Raising the Bet: A National Payment Security Standard

Friday’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, better known as PCI DSS. If you’ve ever had your debit card replaced without your asking, you’ve been affected by PCI DSS. The standard is managed by a consortium of credit card companies. David Taylor explains how (and why) merchants are hooking up to promote a new standard.

From its humble beginnings as an effort to rationalize and harmonize the Visa, MasterCard and AMEX security guidelines and turn them into a single standard, the PCI SSC continues to raise the bet by launching more and more standards to address different aspects of the payment security business: Payment application security (PA-DSS), PIN entry device security (PCI-PED), Hardware security modules (PCI HSM), Kiosk and ATM security (PCI UPT), etc.

Even though these standards are emerging through a participatory process, some merchants and vendors clearly see this game as “rigged” – run by the card networks, enforced by the card networks, with fines imposed by the card networks. The merchants and vendors may be allowed to offer advice; they are not “players” in the game. But now this could be changing.

May 13, 2009  2:33 PM

Open textbook and open content — two names for low-hanging fruit

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has an ambitious plan to reduce the cost of education in California. He intends for the state to develop digital open source textbooks for high school math and science classes. The books will be available for free and will be used at public schools across the state.  Schwarzenegger has tasked California Secretary of Education Glen Thomas with making sure that the new textbooks are ready for deployment in fall 2009.”

Ryan Paul, California open source digital textbook plan faces barriers

There’s a fair amount of buzz about how California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is leading a state-wide initiative to put open content in classrooms by providing students with free digital open source textbooks for high school math and science.

I’ve read through the California Open Source Textbook Project (COSTP) website and have learned that open source digital textbooks are intended to supplement printed textbooks (not replace them, cough cough) and that sometime down the road, the open source textbooks could provide a revenue stream because the state could license the textbooks to educational organizations outside the state.

According to COSTP, the benefits of open source textbooks are:

1) The complete elimination of the current $400M+ line item for California’s K-12 textbooks
2) A significant increase in the range of content afforded to California’s K-12 textbooks
3) A permanent end to California’s textbook shortages
4) Creation of fully portable content holdings database that scales with classroom technologies as they are introduced.

The COSTP website says that they have begun a pilot program — in cooperation with Wikipedia — for a World History textbook for 9th graders.  The book will be tied to California State Curriculum Standards.

This is brilliant — the state of California is tired of paying out money to textbook publishers, tired of quibbling over whether or not publisher textbooks meet state standards, so the state of California has decided to publish the books they need themselves!

When it comes to cutting something out of the budget, textbooks are low-hanging fruit. They are expensive and they need to be replaced fairly often.  It’d be much cheaper to appoint a state “Board of Textbooks” and pay teachers and administrators already in the educational system to build the books digitally.  (They should pick another name though; I just realized it sounds a lot like “bored of textbooks.”)

The idea of having a closed community use a wiki or some other type of collaborative software to create a textbook isn’t even new.  What’s new is the idea that a state-level Department of Education is trying this out!

It makes perfect sense. The state has the resources to gather the right people from around the state together (in person or virtually) and pay them for their contributions.  The state has the resources  to be able to publish and distribute the textbooks digitally and if need be, in printed form.  The state has the clout to set standards for the content and for the formatting (maybe this will end the format wars) AND the state has powerful motivation to make an initiative like this happen.  Money.

But as Ryan Paul points out, there are a lot of ways State Ed could mess this up.

I think the first way is by not taking the time to educate taxpayers about how the books are being built.  If people start thinking that an open source textbook means that every teacher — or heaven forbid  — every student — has the power to edit his or her textbooks, they’ll be a lot of push back.  But if the state stops and takes time over the next three months to teach the public about how the books will be built and everyone knows which parts can be edited or annotated and which parts can’t, what’s not to love about the idea?

P.S.  I keep wondering if we should call this type of textbook build “open source.”  Maybe going back to David Wiley’s idea of “open content” might be a better fit.  Or maybe we should just drop the “open” altogether and replace it with collaborative or just plain old “digital.”  That way the focus is taken off how the books are built.

May 13, 2009  12:56 PM

Open source – When free is really not free

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“It might look cheaper on paper, but if you look at what you want to do with it and it requires a substantial engineering effort rather than a commercial product, then it’s not necessarily the most effective solution.”

Adam Honoré,  as quoted in Wall Street Opens Doors to Open Source Technologies

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is open source.  Open source describes a software program whose source code is made freely available for use or modification.

The poor economic climate has given the open source movement a boost as budget cuts force IT departments to look around for the most cost-effective way to get projects done.  You might think that “freely available” is the same thing as “free” — but most of us don’t know how to use that free code.  We’d either end up paying a distributor like Red Hat to help us out — or we’d need to keep people in house that can work with the source code.  Either way,  we’d be shelling out money.

May 12, 2009  1:42 PM

Voice dialing – coming to an iPhone near you

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
Sources speaking to Ars have discovered evidence of new voice control features coming to iPhone OS 3.0. Apparently going by the code name “Jibbler,” it looks like it will provide not just voice synthesis, but also voice recognition for the upcoming iPhone OS 3.0.

Chris Foresman, iPhone OS 3.0 to feature voice control and feedback

I can’t wait for the 3.0 upgrade!!!

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