Word of the Day: Tech Definitions from WhatIs.com

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" /]

April 21, 2009  2:25 PM

Overheard – The wit and wisdom of Walter Chrysler

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“Whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing it.”

Walter Chrysler

Today’s WhatIs.com word of the day is finite capacity scheduling. It’s one of several new definitions we’ve been posting for our newest sister site, SearchManufacturingERP.com.

Right now I’m reading about Walter Chrysler.  He was truly an amazing man whose management skills are just as relevant now as they were during the Great Depression.   Like his IT counterparts Admiral Grace Hopper and Steve Wozniak, Chrysler learned best by doing.  After borrowing a hefty chunk of money to buy his first automobile,  he didn’t drive it around town and show it off.  He parked it in the barn and took it apart. (His wife was not thrilled.)

Chrysler started out in the railroads and then in 1919 became production chief at Buick, where he was known for his ability to cut costs and still produce a better product.  With Chrysler in charge, daily production numbers moved from 40 cars per day to 550 cars per day.  Six years later, he took what he learned at Buick and went on to found the Chrysler Corporation.

The thing that strikes me most about Walter Chrysler — besides his flamboyant, enthusiastic personality — was that at heart, he was an artist. In some ways, he reminds me of Paul Jr. from Orange County Choppers. If you look at the Chrysler building in New York, there are automotive architectural details over the place. The eagle gargoyles are modeled after hood ornaments. The crown of the building is a layer cake made out of hubcaps.

If you’re looking for a good read — one that will surprise and delight you — pick up a used copy of
Chrysler: The Life and Times of an Automotive Genius.  You don’t need to know anything about cars. You don’t even have to like them. You just need to like technology, art, people, a peek into the mind of a management genius — and a good story.

April 17, 2009  1:17 PM

The Pirate Bay — Nobody thinks pirates are funny anymore

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
The key is that as soon as you have downloaded even a small fraction of an album or a TV program, someone else can upload it from you, without waiting until the file is complete.

BBC News, Q&A: Pirate Bay verdict

Today’s WhatIs.com word of the day is Bit Torrent.  It’s the technology behind P2P file sharing sites like The Pirate Bay.

The Pirate Bay is in the news because a Swedish court just sentenced four men who run the site to one year in jail and gave them a $3.6 million dollar fine for helping users commit copyright violations.

Defense lawyers argued that The Pirate Bay just indexes the files and doesn’t host any copyright-protected material so their clients were not guilty.  The judge didn’t buy it.  The site brings in ad revenue while facilitating copyright violations and that’s what did them in.

According to an article on Wired:

The attention brought by the highly-publicized trial has only made The Pirate Bay more popular. The site has swelled to some 22 million users. And thousands of Pirate Bay fans have flocked to sign up for its new $6 anonymization VPN service, which allows torrent feeders and seeders to conduct their business in private without leaving a trace of their internet IP addresses.

April 16, 2009  2:03 PM

Top level domain names – too confusing for the average Joe

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
Mainstream Internet users will probably see the new custom domains as too complicated, like 9-digit ZIP codes.

Paul Boutin, Latest plan for domain names is as doomed as .coop and .mobi

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is top-level domain (TLD).  It’s in the news because Paul Levins, ICANN’s vice president of corporate affairs has been the subject of a blogswarm. Not Paul himself, mind you, but something he’s been talking about — unlimited generic top-level domains.   They’re sort of like vanity licence plates for your website.

Here’s an example — instead of TechTarget’s website being TechTarget.com, the company might pay extra money and ask ICANN’s permission to change their top-level domain to something they want to be known for.  TechTarget.ROI for example.

There’s a lot of buzz about whether generic domains will bring us back to 1997 and create a gold rush where speculators register generic domains in hopes of selling them.

Shawn McCarthy points out that ICANN says it will cost $185,000 to set up a new top-level domain name and associated registry.  McCarthy says “That alone should weed out a lot of riff raff .”

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