Our Latest Discovery

August 20, 2008  5:48 PM

Would you click a link offering to infect your computer? 409 people did.

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Security researcher Didier Stevens conducted a test last year to see what kind of a clickthrough rate you might get from an ad offering drive-by downloads. .16%, as it turns out…

Here’s an excerpt from his blog post about the test, “Is your PC virus-free? Get it infected here!”

Would you click on this Google ad?


No? Sure? Because 409 persons did!

How do I know? Because I’ve been running this Google Adwords campaign for 6 months now.

.16% clickthrough. On an ad that was unabashedly offering to infect your computer. At a cost of $23. If Stevens had actually been phishing, he could have made some money.

You’d have to think that an ad that made some attempt at subterfuge would do considerably better. And most people looking to give you a virus or recruit you for their zombie army  at least offer you something you want. Steven’s ad didn’t even say the service was free.

I think I’ve been underestimating how lucrative this whole malware thing is.

~ Ivy Wigmore

August 19, 2008  5:57 PM

The floppy hasn’t died — it’s just become virtual

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore


On Of Zen and Computing, Tom Harrison writes about the virtual floppy disk:

Floppy disks have been obsolete for a long time now, but I can see this utility coming in very handy for someone who wants to work with a set of antiquated device drivers, or perhaps relive the good ‘ol days of Commander Keen and The Oregon Trail.

I haven’t missed floppies too badly. Of the three computers in our house, only one has a floppy drive. Still we do have an antique with that capacity. Should we ever need a virtual floppy, I guess we can use it to create one.  And, what with so many manufacturers omitting the drives from computers and so many retailers no longer selling diskettes (did anyone ever call them that?), you’d have to agree that at least the physical floppy is heading for extinction.

Elsewhere on the blog, Harrison explains why the floppy deserves to be dead. Well, for starters:

Floppy Disk capacity is virtually useless

So why do away with floppies? Simply put, their capacity is a joke compared to the size of today’s files and storage mediums. A floppy disk can hold up to 1.44 megabytes of data. Just how small is that?

* The capacity of an 80 minute CD-R is 486 times larger than a floppy disk.
* The capacity of a DVD is over 5000 times larger than a floppy disk.
* The capacity of a 512mb USB drive is over 350 times larger than a floppy disk.
* The capacity of a computer with a 150 gig hard drive is over 100,000 times larger than a floppy disk.

As you can see, you’d need volumes upon volumes of floppy disks to get the same capacity as modern storage devices.

Come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time I used a floppy disk. Give me another decade and I’ll probably have gotten rid of the piles of them on my office shelves…
~ Ivy Wigmore

(Photo credit: steffenz, republished under a Creative Commons Attribution license.)

August 19, 2008  12:42 AM

Bizzwords: Business lingo describes the state and style of the information age

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

Isn’t it amazing how the business lingo of the times reflects the technologies, anxieties and energies of a period? My local NPR station, WBUR, featured a terrific episode of On Point this past June, hosted by one Tom Ashbrook, that was all precisely this topic, discussing and poking gentle fun at business lingo. You can listen to it on Odeo or head over to the New Business Lingo at OnPointRadio.org.

[Image Credit: Despotes]

There are some wonderful “bizzwords” in the show, along with some historical perspective. As the show description notes:

Every walk of life has its lingo. Its buzzwords and catchphrases. American business has its own colorful menagerie of slang, and always has — from bulls and bears, to bootstraps, and 800-pound gorillas, and fish in a barrel.

But buzzwords and catchphrases change. They turn over and make way for newcomers.

And when they do, in American business, they may tell us something about where we and our economy are headed.

If you lived through the business world of the 80s, you no doubt encountered a consultant or executive who talked about “re-engineering business processes” or finding “synergies” between different products.

Cube farmers could be depended upon to be seen “prairie dogging” when something happened around the office. Networking at cocktail parties was hot.  Blamestormers might be Dilberted. Seagull managers might fly in to observe their microserfs, make a lot of noise, poop over everything and then leave.

If you worked in technology, you probably had a PC. As a hacker, you might have laughed about clueless users needed treeware. Everyone worried about career-limiting moves (CLMs) that might result from a bad click or command, propagating in an ohnosecond.

And of course, like, ya know, everything was, like, totally rad, dude.

In the 90s, couch potatoes turned to mouse potatoes as office workers all jumped on the Information Superhighway. Wired happily documented it all in its Jargon Watch column. By the end of the decade, i-everything and e-anything created one of the great tech bubbles.

Everyone wanted to go IPO. A few years later so one of the great crashes. Dotcommers became dotgoners and dotbombers. The 80/20 rule defined actionable moments after careful cost-benefit analyses. If something could be outsourced, it was. Viral marketing zipped off into email distribution lists, moving through word of mouse.

In the late ’00s (naughts), the Web 2.0 bubble has replaced the Internet bubble, as social networkers expand their social graphs, exposed to infotisements and advertorials as they blog, edit wikis and surf the blogosphere with RSS readers on iPhones. Online marketers are accountable for the ROI of every campaign. We’ve crowdsourced many actions and processes, whereever feasible, bending to the wisdom of the crowd and selling to the long tail.

Google is both a verb and a noun, along with nearly every conceivable form in between. Despite the company’s best efforts, google has even escaped proper noun status in many communities. The President calls it “the Google.”  The senior senator from Arizona talks about “a google.” The junior senator  from Illinois (and his search committee) Googled potential vice-presidential candidates. As billions of revenue from search adverstising each quarter streaming in to the Internet giant, it’s clear we’re a culture of Googlers googling each other, egosurfing away.

We’re also frazzing, dangerously close to overload by switching from email to cell phone to IM to text messages to meetings to Twitter and the Web.

Steeped in media from satellite and cable news networks, DVRs, DVD-players, on-demand programming and Web video, there’s even a danger of what sociologist Emile Durkheim might have identified as a kind of digital anomie, colorfully described as “Dorito Syndrome” — a persistent feeling of dissatisfaction and emptiness, regardless of consumption.

No matter how much screensucking you do, there’s always more. Lisa Belkin wrote about a number of these in the New York Times in 2006 in Overly Wired.

Widgets are everywhere now, of course, and may be anything from a small gadget to an embeddable module in an iGoogle page to a downloadable desktop application or even (gasp) an esoteric mechanical device. (Guinness drinkers have their own version, of course.)

The green computing wave spurred by skyrocketing energy costs from power-hungry data centers has spawned many biologically-themed terms.

Greenwashing, astroturfing and blacksurfing have all entered the lexicon. Every product seems to live in its own ecosystem.

Freemium business models now may promote coopetition between fierce competitors, perhaps using telepresence rooms that are far too expensive for standard percussive maintenance.

Under such conditions, “matadors” (people skilled at dodging assignments or responsibility) have little chance of scraping by, as the presence technologies, pervasive computing and “status message culture” adopted by the millenials puts “slacking” firmly into the lexicon of decades-past.

And, of course, we’re all increasingly computing in the cloud now.

As we near the end of this decade, the buzzwords of the ’10s have yet to be coined and collectively sampled, savored and entered into the lexicons maintained by Merriam-Webster, the Oxford Englsh Dictionary and, of course, the best online IT encyclopedia online. (Shameless plug).

Some will end up as sniglets, humorous oddities of cultures past. Other words will always remind the culture at large of a certain time and place.

Here’s hoping we can improve on vlog, blook and webinar.

If you have an idea of what lingo might define the next decade of business, let me know at ahoward@techtarget.com or leave a comment.

August 18, 2008  11:00 PM

Jive Software’s Clearspace upgrades enterprise social software

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

As is the case with many astute creators of enterprise social software makers,  Jive Software‘s user interface designers have clearly been paying attention to the allure of the clean style, tabbed layouts and easy collaboration capabilities of Facebook.

The newest version of Clearspace, Jive’s enterprise social software platform, allows organizations to collaborate across intranets and extranets, along with extensions into the public Internet. Companies like Intel (Community), Nike (Community), VMware (Community) and Electronic Arts (Community) have all used Clearspace to provide collaborative forums for customers, end users, clients, product groups, online gamers and event-goers.

Clearspace also includes integration with Salesforce.com:

Watch a demonstration of the capabilities of Clearspace 2.5 over on Vimeo.

August 8, 2008  11:03 AM

Google helps you keep up with the Olympics

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

These days, Google isn’t just a search engine, though of course google.com is the starting point for most online searches. As Dylan Casey points out on the Official Google Blog, Google has now made it easier than ever for users to keep up with the Olympics online. In my most recent post, I linked to the various places where you can watch the Olympics online. Casey extends your options — and then some.

The 2008 Summer Games on Google, available in 66 countries and 31 languages, features event schedules and updates on results. You can even track medal counts with an iGoogle gadget. The Summer Games Google Maps is a nifty mashup that allows you to “view medal and event information based on your favorite regions and sports.”

There’s even  a 3D video of the different venues you can tour, embedded below:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/0p2cEQCsBuY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

The Google Mobile Team also has a post up that explains how to follow the Olympics on your phone.

Just head over to http://www.google.com/m/summergames and enjoy.

Thanks, Google!

August 7, 2008  4:31 PM

How you can watch the Olympics live online (and what sysadmins can do about it)

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

After years of buildup, the Olympics are about to kick off tomorrow in Beijing. As Shamus McGillicuddy reports, streaming Olympics video will drain corporate bandwidth. This year’s games are going to put substantial, perhaps even unprecedented, strain upon the Internet backbone. NBC plans to to stream more than 2,200 hours of live video coverage online.

CBS took a similar approach to “March Madness” this spring, streaming all 64 games of the NCAA mens’ basketball tournament.  Network administrators have similar challenges now in deciding where and whether to block users from accessing NBC.com, capping bandwidth use or engaging in a little proactive traffic shaping.

Personally, I like the suggestion made in Shamus’s story by Eileen Haggerty, director of product marketing with NetScout:

“An IT organization could set up a PC with a large-screen monitor in the office cafeteria that would run streaming video of the games. Instead of having 15 people sitting at their desks sucking up bandwidth individually, a savvy network administrator could bring all those people together to watch the Olympics during their break.”

Let’s assume for a moment, however, that you aren’t a bandwidth-conscious CTO and would like to be able to keep current on the standings in your favorite events or athletes. (Or that you believe setting up a few televisions is a handy low-tech hack.)

Thanks to Gina’s post on Lifehacker,Watch the Olympics Online, I found Wired’s excellent How-To Wiki for Watching the Olympics Online. (As you might expect, this link has been climbing the charts on the most popular page at delicious).

As the wiki notes, you can catch up to four different livestreams and more than 3,000 hours of on-demand at NBCOlympics.com.

World-wide, there also many other websites streaming Games footage:  CCTVOlympics.com in mainland China, BBC Sports in the U.K., Yahoo7 in Australia or CBC Olympics in Canada.

There’s a catch, however, to the livestreaming, on-demand video goodness: In most cases, users in the United States will be blocked from viewing the footage on any site but NBC.

If you’re savvy enough to follow the advice at Metafilter by setting up a proxy server or using Anonymizer, you should be able to get around location restrictions.

It’s a cinch that the millions of broadcast viewers will be recording and uploading events to YouTube on their own, of course.  NBC has tried to get out in front of the inevitable wave by partnering with Google, with plans to provide 3 hours of highlights and wrap-ups to a dedicated channel onYouTube.

As the authors of the Wired wiki note (nice work, applian, apardoe, mosesofmason and snackfight!), BitTorrent is also an option for watching events after the fact, though P2P files sharing on your corporate network may land you in more hot water than simply streaming the video, given the various serious security risks involved.

What the wiki doesn’t note is what is lying under the hood over at NBCOlympics.com. NBC has partnered with MSN to stream the Olympics using Silverlight, in what will be far and away the biggest test for Microsoft’s alternative to Flash to date.

Anyone that wants to watch the Olympics will have to download and install the Silverlight plug-in, a process that certain to test out exactly how ready for “prime time” the technology is for streaming rich media online. Of special note is the fact that Silverlight encrypts a videostream, which will make recording the events considerably harder (if not impossible).

As a result, tech pundits, geeks and network executives will no doubt be watching the race to crack the streams and distribute unauthorized video nearly as closely as the games themselves.

Enjoy the Olympics!

August 1, 2008  10:29 AM

Video: Jimmy Wales on Google’s Knol

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, talked to WNYC’s Brian Lehrer about Google Knol, a new competitor to the world’s largest online encyclopedia.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/6PYO-fN_VgU" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

July 25, 2008  3:46 PM

Company names that are Populr

SarahCortes Sarah Cortes Profile: SarahCortes

Hold your horses, blog editor — that was not a typo in the title!

So I was reading about a new magazine the other day – it’s called ELDR (http://www.eldr.com/) and its target readers are elderly and affluent. I’m sure the editors of ELDR dropped the trailing “e” as a means for conveying a new and hip title. And that got me thinking. I like to read a lot about start-ups and emerging technologies and I’ve noticed a pattern, whereby lots of new companies are dropping that trailing “e” from their name.

I guess the early adopters on this front were the Motorola RAZR phone and the photo sharing site flickr, which is now a part of Yahoo. Who else is out there? Well, with some digging into my memory bank and a large assist TechCrunch, I found the following:

  • Dopplr, which lets you share your travel plans with friends, family and colleagues
  • graspr, a site that contains a wealth of instructional videos
  • jaxtr, a service that allows you to link your phone to the web
  • Frappr, a web-based community mapper (acquired by Platial in 2007) [side note: when my friend goes to Starbucks and gets a poorly made drink, he calls it a frappr ;-)]
  • YouCastr, which allows anyone to become a sports broadcaster
  • Zapr, which allows you to take files on your PC and share them with friends

I’m sure there are others out there. If you know of one that I haven’t listed, drop a comment below to let us know!

I’m not crazy about this “populr” trend (I guess I’m “old school”). So let me give a shout out to a company who did it right: Revver!

July 18, 2008  11:40 AM

Bit.ly: A better URL shortener for developers, data geeks and microbloggers

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

The old adage about not reinventing the wheel doesn’t quite extend to Web applications. URL shorteners may have been around for years but there is plenty of room for improvement. This list of 68 URL shorteners from Honkiat.com show both the competition in the space and the need for innovation. There’s certainly plenty of demand: TinyURL.com, for instance, which has been around since 2002, purports to receive over 1.5 billion hits a month. While that seems a little high, the emergence of character-limited microblogging platforms like Twitter and long, forgettable Web addresses spit out by content management systems has resulted in a need for effective ways to simply Web addresses.

Enter bit.ly. Bit.ly was created by Betaworks, the NY-based software concern that created Summize. Summize was recently acquired by Twitter, if you’re not following the rapidly evolving Web.20 startup space.

Dave Winer used a post announcing the launch of bit.ly on scripting.net to explain why bit.ly fills a number of other needs:

“They asked what it would take for me to use bit.ly, I said: data. I need to know how many clicks each pointer got and where the clicks came from. They gave me that, and thumbnails, permanent caching of the pages I’m pointing to (goodbye linkrot) and a lot of smart stuff going on behind the scenes that we’re not ready to talk about yet. (Though we told Marshall and he explained.) Here’s the info page for this post.

And, most important, an XML/JSON interface, so I can process all that data with my own programs. Here’s the XML readout for the shortened link to this post.”You can use your own keywords to the URL, organizing your links like tags.

Winer also notes that he’s a minority investor in the service, so while you can take his words with a grain of salt, try the service out and weigh its merits for yourself.

 I will say,  however, that bit.ly is easily the best URL shortener I’ve used to date.  It accomplishes its core mission quickly and easily, converting long URLs to short ones on the bit.ly homepage or using a bookmarklet you can drag to your Web browser’s toolbar. (It’s even kinda cute; note the blowfish mascots on the right.)

If you’re a Web developer or simply a data geek, the ability to pull all of the data about a given shortened URL through a XML or JSON interface will be quite helpful for analyzing your traffic and audience behavior.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of bit.ly’s other nifty features:

  • display your 15 most recent shortened URLs below the entry field
  • tracking of both clicks on shortened URLS and referring pages
  • an API for creating shortened URLs from web applications, which is quite useful is you’re a Web developer
  • automatic creation of thumbnail images that can be displayed on a webpage next to shortened URL

If my excitement about bit.ly doesn’t move you, Marshall Kirkpatrick has posted a glowing review of bit.ly at ReadWriteWeb that thoroughly explains why bit.ly is worth a try, along with an endorsement of bit.ly’s advanced URL tracking capabilities by Lifehacker.

If you like bit.ly, please recommend it to others. The larger the bit.ly community grows, the more effective and useful this nascent index of the Semantic Web will become. That’s because bit.ly is analyzing all of the pages that its users create shortcuts to using the Open Calais semantic analysis API from Reuters. All the data gathered is available in public RSS feeds. bit.ly is also using the MetaCarta GeoParsing API to draw geolocation data out of the database of submitted links.

July 16, 2008  3:18 PM

What is the strategy behind Microsoft’s release of Hyper-V?

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

Will the virtualization wars of the ’00s parallel the browser wars of the ’90s?

Bill Gates may not be actively involved in pulling the levers at Microsoft on a day-to-day basis after his retirement earlier this month but the Redmond-based software giant is no less focused on “maximizing shareholder value.”

That has generally meant moving powerfully into new markets for software, often once other companies had proved the viability of such ventures.

In the 1990s, the threat of a network computer from Oracle and Sun and then a browser-based computer from Netscape resulted in an epic battle for the desktop.

Now, of course, Google is the Internet juggernaut that Microsoft is now confronting on multiple fronts, especially with respect to search and office productivity applications. You’ve no doubt come across the term “cloud computing” by now.

When it comes to virtualization, however, VMware is the story. VMware, easily the global leader in the server virtualization market, with more than 80% market share at the beginning of 2008, pulled in more than $1.3 billion dollars in revenue last year.

Redmond noticed. (So did TechTarget: SearchVMware.com launched in 2007.)

In June 2008, Microsoft officially released Microsoft Hyper-V Server. A chorus of industry analysts immediately noted that Hyper-V directly competes with VMware’s products.

In its initial release, however, the only non-Microsoft operating system to receive official support for virtual machine creation with Hyper-V was SuSE Linux. Xen-enabled Linux distributions can, however, be run using paravirtualization. Microsoft engineers are working towards support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux  in the next iteration. Other operating systems, like Ubuntu or Fedora, have been successfully installed by members of the development community using a variety of patches and workarounds. Unlike VMware, Hyper-V does not initially support “live migration,” a feature in which virtual machines can be moved from one server to another.

The massive install base of Microsoft users, substantially lower pricing plans when compared to VMware’s price points, integration with Microsoft products and (crucially) inclusion of Hyper-V with Microsoft Server 2008 are all likely to help Hyper-V gain traction.

Questions may linger about bundling Hyper-V with Microsoft Server 2008 if adoption soars to the detriment of VMware.

That the dismissal of co-founder and CEO Diane Greene by the VMware board earlier this month coincided so closely with the introduction of Hyper-V also no doubt reflects growing concern over increasing competition in the market, including Citrix’s XenServer.

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