Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for December 2010

The Skype Videoconferencing Chicken Dance

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What day is it?

What month is it?

Is it still 2010?  I thought we were moving on…

Oh, wait.  It is still 2010.  Sorry, vacation brain lingers.  It’s all turned to mush up there.  Not that it wasn’t pretty much mush already, but you know what I mean.

And my brain may not be the only thing turning to mush.  Soon, video communications could get downright mushy, as Skype has announced its bringing video calling to the iPhone.

Of course, Apple already brought video calling to the iPhone with Face Time.  But I guess this is video calling for everybody else (although if you already have an iPhone, you have Face Time, which begs the question, why would you need Skype?).

Hey, Turbo!  This is the tech industry!  It’s not supposed to make sense, and after their recent holiday outage, Skype needs all the help that Santa and his Christmas telecom elves can bring them!

So here’s the rundown:

With this new version of Skype for the iPhone, you can make video calls to people on thier computers as well as other iPhones (that answers that question).  You can also make free audio calls to anyone else on Skype.

And, you can make great value calls (their words) to landlines and mobiles around the world (great value meaning at a cheaper rate than many of the primary providers).

The new app will be compatible with the iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS, and the iPod Touch 4th gen with iOS 4 or above.

You’ll also be able to receive video calls on the iPod Touch 3rd gen and the iPad (although your caller won’t be able to see you with the current iPad, because there’s no frickin’ camera!)

Look, I work from home, people.  I think video conferencing in general could be the end of telecommuting as we know it, and now we’re going to make it portable? Do you really want to be seen wearing those leopard pants and Brett Favre jersey when you’re on the phone with your team in India, just as you’re arriving at the stadium?

Although, if enough people adopt this new technology, I could see a whole new set of fashion trends breaking out that even Malcolm Gladwell might have difficulty finding the tipping point for.

You think I’m joking? Watch the Skype iPhone app promotional video and let me know which chicken dance you’ll be doing when you get this sucker downloaded?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Written by turbotodd

December 30, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Posted in iPhone, mobile internet

Leo And The ‘Droid

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I am arising briefly from my blogging coma.

First, for those of you on the East Coast, Happy Blizzard!

I used to live in and around the New York City area and, in fact, was there for the Great Blizzard of 1996, during which I saw more snow in a two-day period than I had previously in my Texas lifetime.

Speaking of Texas, it’s been wicked cold down here for us, but no white stuff this Christmas in Tejas (after we got a rare blizzard ourselves last holiday season).

So what’s been catching my eye during the Holiday lull?  First, this NY Times piece on Leo Laporte and his podcasting empire.

I’ve been a regular listener to his foundational podcast, “This Week in Tech,” nearly since its inception.  Laporte is a pod-/videocasting madman, and it’s great to see he’s turned his enthusiasm into such a unique brand and viable business concern.

Long live the podcasters!

This also just in, Fortune’s Seth Weintraub’s post suggesting that 2011 will be the Year that Android explodes.  He reasons that with improved 3/4G networks and commoditization of some of the key components, Android-based smartphones will go way down in price and way up in volume.

I’ve long believed Android would be the ultimate smartphone OS victor, primarily because it’s more open than Apple.  But that still didn’t prevent me from making a shorter-term decision to go with the iPhone.

And aside from the AT&T network woes (for me, the woes have been more voice-centric than data), I’ve been very happy with my decision.

In any case, Android software developers will likely be in even bigger demand in 2011.  Glad to see something growing in our industry again!

For now, I have to hit the highway and head back to Austin.  More from the holiday bunker soon!

Written by turbotodd

December 27, 2010 at 4:38 pm

The Mouseless, Keyboardless Tablet

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With the holiday lull rapidly approaching, it’s time to visit some of those technology issues that have either been backburnered or pushed to the side in favor of more pressing tidings.

First on the agenda is the whole tablet v. laptop debate.

My take is, the whole thing’s a non-starter.  There is no debate.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like typing on a keyboard.  The real deal, physical keyboard.

Way back, it was those old clackety-clack IBM keyboards that you could hear and feel the letters being impressed.

Before that, it was my first Compaq luggable.

And before that, it was an old-timey Remington Rand portable. On those, if you didn’t hit the key with a good, committed stroke, nothing appeared on the paper.

Paper, the young whippersnappers ask?  What’s paper?

That’s the stuff we used to write to one another on before there were iPhones.

Of course, I have an iPad.  I’m an early adopter, curmudgeon though I can be.

And you’ll have to pry my cold, dead hands away from my iPad.  I love the thing.  It’s a true Renaissance device.

I use it now for a variety of things.

I play NFL Madden 11 on it (which I bought on sale for $.99 at the Apple store the other day!).  I also play Angry Birds along with the rest of Western Civilization.)

I read and respond to emails.  I surf the Interwebs.  I chat with people.

I make Skype calls on it.  I watch Netflix.  I read The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

I check and update my calendar.  I download and read PDFs.

I even use it to blog on occasion.  But typically only when my Apple wireless keyboard is nearby.

Maybe I’m too tactile for my own good.

I’ve tried using the Apple virtual keyboard (the “software”keyboard included with the iPad).  It’s fine for a quick two-line email.

It’s useless when I’m trying to write a long blog post.  My brain can’t seem to reach through my fingers into that glass surface.  The keystrokes just can’t find their way back into the blog post.

I don’t know how to explain it.  It’s a tactile thing.

I’ve also found the iPad useless for doing some of my basic everyday work, like building presentations and updating documents.

It’s not that the iPad couldn’t do it.  But when I try, I miss my mouse too much.

I find myself reaching for a mouse that’s not there, to do something on my iPad that I can’t do.

And why shouldn’t it be that way? I’ve been using a mouse for 20-something years!  It’s like an extension of my person.

And then suddenly, you want me to do real, productive work without a real keyboard and a mouse?

You might as well tell me to try and hit a 325-yard drive with my Odyssey putter!

I will say this: I recently discovered a phenomenal and simple word processing application for the iPad.

It’s called, simply, “Writer.”

It cost me $5 on the iApp store in iTunes.

In Writer, you can’t change the fonts.  You can’t do any bold or italicizing.  There are no windows or drop down menus.

You can work in one document at a time, and then save your work up into the Google Docs cloud. And it works beautifully with the Apple wireless keyboard.

It’s kind of like working back in Wordperfect 5.1 for DOS (which you’ll remember from a previous post, was my favorite software application of all time).

Because ultimately, the “Writer” application lets you focus on the one thing you need it most to do: To write.

Imagine that, a software application that lets you focus on the thing it was originally written for.

Now, if I can just keep from switching back and forth between it and Angry Birds I might actually get some real work done.

Blogger’s Note: Turbo’s taking some time off through early January to visit with friends and family, and to generally catch his breath.  He reserves the right in his holiday solace to blog as frequently or as little as his boredom and inspiration demands.

Written by turbotodd

December 22, 2010 at 3:18 pm

First Down And Ten Million

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It wasnt exactly the best sports weekend of the year.

Golf season has ground pretty much to a halt

The English Premier League big game of the weekend (Chelsea v. Manchester United) was snowed out.

Thank Heavens for the Philadelphia Eagles.

No matter what you might think about Michael Vick, his performance on the football field this year has been nothing less than stellar, and the comeback victory he and the Eagles served up on the New York Giants yesterday on the Giants’ home turf was downright embarrassing.

How often in the NFL do you see a team come back from a 31-10 defict in the fourth quarter only then to win 38-31?

Not very frickin’ often, and nothin’ like yesterday.

As for DeSean Jackson and his humbling 65-yard punt return for a TD at the end of the game, all I have to say is “wow”…and someday, dude, those end zone antics are going to cost you six more points…but it sure is fun to watch.

On the sports marketing front, I just saw an article (and for the life of me can’t find it again) which indicated that NFL football, particularly on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday evenings, is nearly the last thing big left in appointment television, and that the networks, though not making beaucoup bucks from NFL advertisers, are using it as a massive venue to promote the rest of their TV schedule.

Rock on, NFL.

Just don’t look to find anything to watch soon on GoogleTV, which The New York Times joked earlier had Google making its first programming cancellation.

Next month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, Google was expected to have a major coming-out party for Google TV on a range of TV sets, but according to the Times piece, Google has asked the TV makers to delay their introductions.

In other words, wait for Google TV, Version 2.0

Me, I’ve learned my early adopter lessons, over and over and over again.  My Apple TV is still collecting dust, although Netflix on the Wii has found a place close to my heart…and my remote.  Maybe because it (mostly) works???

Being the Texas boy that I am, I’ve also been on the hunt for a bird hunting game for my Wii for some time now, and lo and behold, where do you think I finally found one?

At an Academy sporting goods retail store here in Austin in the checkout line.  I was purchasing some AR-15 and .40 caliber ammunition for a weekend trip to South Austin’s Red’s Indoor Gun Range in Oak Hill to shoot the real thing, and there it was, product placement galore, staring at me from the check-out line bin.

I loves me some marketing that works!

The price for the bird shooting game and the Wii plastic imitation shot gun was $25.00 (after the nice checkout guy gave me a $5.00 coupon break), which, for the record, cost about the same as two boxes of .243 ammuntion.

Put another way, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to shoot at your TV screen (virtually speaking) than it is an AR-15…and almost as much  fun.

The game’s branded by Remington, no less, the great American firearms manufacturer (although “Mastiff Games” seems to have done the actual development).

The game title?  “Great American Bird Hunt,” of course.

You can see it in action here.

Finally, speaking of good shots and the NFL, Dallas Cowboys’ interim coach (and long ago former QB) has now gone 4-2 since taking over for Wade Phillips and is a possible candidate to take over the ‘Boys on an ongoing basis.

I’d like to think it’s true, but that means Jerry Jones would have to have made a good decision.

Written by turbotodd

December 20, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Natural Language Processing For $500, Alex

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I recently provided a personal remembrance of the Kasparov v. Deep Blue chess matches of the late 1990s, the IBM “John Henry” contest between a Russian chess grandmaster and an IBM supercomputer.

At the end of the post, per the custom of American TV game show Jeopardy!,”I posed the answer with a question: “What is Watson?”

Here’s your expanded answer: Watson is a new supercomputer, named after founder Thomas J. Watson, and programmed once again by a set of IBM Researchers, this time to compete on the longstanding game show Jeopardy! against the show’s two most successful and celebrated contestants — Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

The first-ever man vs. machine Jeopardy! competition will air on February 14, 15 and 16, 2011, with two matches being played over three consecutive days.

Watson was built by a team of IBM scientists who set out to accomplish a grand challenge –- build a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence.

The Jeopardy! format provides the ultimate challenge because the game’s clues involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles, and other complexities in which humans excel and computers traditionally do not.

Competing against Watson will be two of the most celebrated players ever to appear on Jeopardy! Ken Jennings broke the Jeopardy! record for the most consecutive games played by winning 74 games in a row during the 2004-2005 season, resulting in winnings of more than $2.5 million.

World-class Jeopardy! players Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter will test the mettle of IBM's Watson supercomputer in February 2011.

Brad Rutter won the highest cumulative amount ever by a single Jeopardy! player, earning $3,255,102. The total amount is a combination of Rutter’s original appearance in 2002, plus three Tournament wins:  the “Tournament of Champions” and the “Million Dollar Masters Tournament” in 2002 and the “Ultimate Tournament of Champions” in 2005.

Artificial Intelligence That Could Save Humanity For $300

The grand prize for this competition will be $1 million with second place earning $300,000 and third place $200,000. Rutter and Jennings will donate 50 percent of their winnings to charity and IBM will donate 100 percent of its winnings to charity.

“After four years, our scientific team believes that Watson is ready for this challenge based on its ability to rapidly comprehend what the Jeopardy! clue is asking, analyze the information it has access to, come up with precise answers, and develop an accurate confidence in its response,” said Dr. David Ferrucci, the scientist leading the IBM Research team that has created Watson.

Dr. David Dr. David Ferucci is the principal investigator and team lead for the DeepQA/Watson system that will be challenging the world-class Jeopardy! champions.

Beyond our excitement for the match itself, our team is very motivated by the possibilities that Watson’s breakthrough computing capabilities hold for building a smarter planet and helping people in their business tasks and personal lives.”

“We’re thrilled that Jeopardy! is considered a benchmark of ultimate knowledge,” said Harry Friedman, Executive Producer of Jeopardy!. “Performing well on Jeopardy! requires a combination of skills, and it will be fascinating to see whether a computer can compete against arguably the two best Jeopardy! players ever.”

Watson: Spars In More Than 50 Games To Prep For The Best

This past fall, Watson played more than 50 “sparring games” against former Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions contestants in final preparation for its television debut.

In addition, Watson has taken and passed the same Jeopardy! contestant test that humans take to qualify to play on the show, giving Jeopardy! producers confidence that the match will be both entertaining and competitive.

You can see highlights of those sparring matches here.

Real World Applications for Watson’s Technology

One of the criticisms that emanated during and after the Deep Blue chess matches was that IBM didn’t demonstrate the real-world applicability of the technology behind the chess moves.

This time around, IBM is working to answer more of those kinds of questions up front.

To be sure, beyond Jeopardy!, the technology behind Watson can be adapted to solve problems and drive progress in various fields (I’m already trying to understand how we could leverage it on our Web site!)

The Watson computer has the ability to sift through vast amounts of data and return precise answers, ranking its confidence in its answers. Such technology could be applied to a whole range of industries: healthcare, to more accurately diagnose patients based on empirical data; tech, to improve online health desks; tourism, to help provide tourists with information about cities; customer service, to improve prompting and directing customer support inquiries via phone and web…the list goes on.

Yes, But What Is Watson?

Watson is a breakthrough human achievement in the scientific field of Question and Answering, also known as “QA.” The Watson software is powered by an IBM POWER7 server optimized to handle the massive number of tasks that Watson must perform at rapid speeds to analyze complex language and deliver correct responses to Jeopardy! clues.

The system incorporates a number of proprietary technologies for the specialized demands of processing an enormous number of concurrent tasks and data while analyzing information in real time.

About Jeopardy!

Jeopardy!, the winner of 28 Emmy awards since its syndicated debut in 1984, is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most awards won by a TV Game Show. The series is the #1-rated quiz show in syndication with nearly 9 million daily viewers. Jeopardy! is produced by Sony Pictures Television, a Sony Pictures Entertainment Company. It is distributed domestically by CBS Television Distribution and internationally by CBS Television International, both units of CBS Corp.

For more information about Jeopardy!, visit www.Jeopardy.com

To learn more about Watson and to view a video series about the DeepQA technology powering Watson, please visit www.ibmwatson.com.

You can also join the social discussion about Watson (be sure to include the hashtag #ibmwatson in your Tweets!)

If you want, you can also become Watson’s friend on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ibmwatson.

Even supercomputers need friends.

Written by turbotodd

December 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Corpus Christi, Texas: A Smarter City By The Bay

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The City of Corpus Christi, Texas, is situated right at three hours down the interstate from me here in Austin and has a rich and diverse history, serving as a strategic trading post during the Mexican-American War and today as the home of the Corpus Christi Naval Station.

It has also delivered several noteworthy Texas thespians, including Eva Longoria and America’s once poster sweetheart, Farrah Fawcett.

But today, Corpus Christi took a bold step forward in another manner, signing on with IBM as one of our Smarter City customers so that it can continuously improve efficiency and sustainability for the city’s more than 280,000 residents.

The Backdrop: The Texas City By The Bay

Before partnering with IBM in this deal, each city department had its own process for handling incoming work requests and ongoing maintenance, typically in a reactive manner and using paper-based processes.

Because there was no central system for tracking issues, budgeting and managing city resources was difficult. In this new system, the city of Corpus Christi will be using IBM Software to measure, monitor, and improve the way it manages city water, roads, parks, utilities, and the airport.

With this greater intelligence and holistic view of its operations, the city will be able to more quickly evaluate and respond to issues, anticipate and prevent problems.  It will also be able to improve the quality of life for its citizens because city departments and managers will know what is happening across the city, when, and who is handling the situation in real time.

“Corpus Christi is evolving into a more sustainable city — one that has intelligence, foresight and accountability built into the way we manage the services we provide our citizens,” said Steve Klepper, an administrative superintendent for Corpus Christi. “Working with IBM, we have the real-time status of city services, automated work orders and an overview of city infrastructure to better manage our resources, as well as better maintain the city’s mission-critical assets.”

Tourism And Education: Key To Corpus Christi’s Growth

As one of Texas’s largest cities on the Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi relies significantly on port industries, tourism and higher education to drive its economy. The city strives to improve the quality of life for citizens while keeping operating costs low and maintaining high levels of service.

“Corpus Christi is setting the bar for how municipalities can use technology to gain intelligence into their departments and systems to operate more efficiently and provide residents with a better place to live,” said Guru Banavar, IBM CTO for Smarter Cities. “Working with IBM, Corpus Christi city managers are operating smarter and managing their work and crews better.”

The city manages and analyzes the status of tens of thousands of physical assets such as its water mains, traffic lights, bridges, park lawns, fire hydrants, garbage trucks and storm water ditches with IBM Maximo Asset Management software.

Many City Services–One Call Center

A critical component of the Corpus Christi service strategy is the city-wide “One Call Center.”

Using IBM software, the call center can speed responses to issues more efficiently and better optimize city resources. For the fiscal year of 2009, the call center generated more than 45,000 electronic work-order requests from across the city.

When residents call with complaints or service requests, the city creates a work order connected to the address. IBM software provides the city with a bird’s-eye view of existing maintenance requests using mapping software from IBM Business Partner Esri.

This allows the call center manager to see all existing problems — coded in color by urgency — and determine scenarios such as entire service area being affected or the existing location of assigned field workers in order to make management decisions.

Previously, citizen calls were routed to the appropriate department and recorded on index cards before being entered into a spreadsheet. Given the manual nature of this process, staff could not accurately track how long it took to respond to and fix problems.

The staff had no way to view the work history for each site, making it difficult to identify recurring problems. Although the city had already established a geographic information system (GIS), work orders were not interfaced with this system. As a result, departments couldn’t spatially analyze work requests to determine whether a customer request represented a site-specific problem or an area-wide issue that would require more extensive support.

Smarter Water Management

As a coastal town, more than two-thirds of the city’s 460 square miles is water. IBM software is helping to manage six wastewater treatment plants, two reservoirs, approximately 1,250 miles of wastewater gravity mains and a water treatment plant with a 170 million gallon capacity. The system ensures safe, clean water to the community while conserving city resources by providing faster and more efficient maintenance.

Urgent requests for critical water work orders that can impact residents, such as pipe main breaks or water quality problems, are now received as e-mails on the smartphones of designated Water Department first responders. Field crews get real-time work order updates and directly update the work order status on their phones without having to go through a dispatcher. This increases the time crews can work in the field maintaining the city’s assets rather than in the office submitting paperwork.

A city worker in Corpus Christi, Texas, uses IBM Maximo software on his BlackBerry as he goes about his water maintenance work in the field.

The software provides analysis into overall water and wastewater projects to guide water main replacement and capital improvement strategies in order to continuously improve the reliability of the water systems. For example:

  • During one period in the past, the wastewater staff found that nearly 33 percent of the department’s effort was spent resolving problems at just 1.4 percent of customer sites. With this information, the city developed and implemented a repair plan that resolved these ongoing issues and ultimately reduced costs.
  • Analyzing data behind the city’s 3,843 water main breaks during a three-year period revealed that smaller diameter mains represented a disproportionate share. The four-inch mains comprised 3 percent of the total water distribution system but more than 15 percent of all breaks. While the department continues to analyze factors such as pipe materials and age, replacing the four-inch mains with larger diameter pipes may be a cost-effective tactic.

Smarter Utilities and Roads, Greener Parks

IBM software is helping better manage the transportation — traffic engineering, roads, vehicles, traffic lights, airport — and parks to improve the quality of life for Corpus Christi citizens.

Working with IBM, all city departments address their work more efficiently and more intelligently by providing real-time information, history of prior work, and geographic location. The Solid Waste Department, for example, uses IBM software to keep track of the garbage routes as well as to track customer complaints on garbage.

Using laptops connected to the city’s WiFi system, public utility gas crews in the field can access the exact pipe locations before digging, get a history of repairs in area and update work orders from the field.

Park Maintenance crews track all work performed, or needed, on each of the 300 city parks, ensuring that park lawns are mowed according to target frequencies and maintained according to standards, and that public playground facilities are inspected and maintained as needed to provide safe recreational areas.

The city-operated airport uses the system to ensure the customer-facing facilities are maintained according to standards and for better inventory control. With more than 1,100 miles of public roads to maintain, the Streets Services Department tracks work performed on streets, including labor and materials costs. Traffic Engineering is able to track locations of citizen complaints and work needed to traffic signals.

Aided with this intelligence, the city can better schedule proactive replacement or maintenance of assets before they break as part of its managed work schedule. This planning allows the city to properly allocate staff and resources in line with urgent or unforeseen circumstances.

IBM Smarter Cities

IBM has been helping cities across the U.S. and the globe become smarter by designing strategies for collecting, sharing, analyzing and acting on data. In addition to the projects in Corpus Christi, IBM is working with 300 cities including London, Stockholm, Sydney, Dublin and Amsterdam.

For more information visit the IBM Smarter Cities website.

Written by turbotodd

December 12, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Deep Blue Redux

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Flashback: May 3, 1997

Where: The Equitable Center, New York City

What: Deep Blue v. Kasparov, The Rematch

Garry Kasparov prepares to make a move against IBM's Deep Blue supercomputer during the May 1997 rematch in which IBM's Deep Blue was ultimately victorious.

It was classic Man v. Machine.  World champion chessmaster Garry Kasparov had agreed to a rematch against the IBM Supercomputer, Deep Blue, after Kasparov had taken Deep Blue 4-2 in Philadelphia in their first meeting in February 1996.

This time, Deep Blue was out for…well, if not blood, then certainly revenge.  And Kasparov was out to show he could beat the machine once again.

Game 1 that day went to Kasparov.  Lest you were wondering how long things stick around on the Internet, you can go back and read the play-by-play coverage from the IBM Website for the event that day.

I was living up in Mount Kisco, New York, at the time, in Westchester County, and I remember trying to get onto the Website via dial-up modem and use a Java applet IBM had developed in partnership with Poppe Tyson so that people around the globe would be able to follow the action online.

For those of you were still in diapers, this was at a time when not everyone had a broadband connection into their home.

For the next match, I decided to head into the city and go to the Equitable Center in person to see for myself.

Well, not directly.  The Deep Blue computer, the IBM Research team programming Deep Blue, and Kasparov were all situated some 34 floors above the auditorium, where the “play-by-play” was being called.

Now, I’m no chess grandmaster myself.  Not even close.

But I knew enough watching the play-by-play (with several grandmasters calling the action onstage, including Maurice Ashley) up on the video screen to know this was some serious chess.

You could almost watch the IBM computer “thinking” through the moves, as seconds ticked off between moves — although on most moves, it didn’t take very many seconds.  Not for nothin’ did they classify Deep Blue as a supercomputer.

People in the Equitable Center audience would cheer when certain moves occurred, particularly those by Deep Blue, which often seemed to surprise the chess-savvy audience with the depth of Deep Blue’s chess acumen.

That was something I thought I’d never see in my lifetime: Spectators cheering on a chess game.  But it was terribly enthralling.

Because there was more to cheer about than the game itself.

One had to step back and remind oneself this wasn’t a Bobby Fischer/Garry Kasparov match.  This was Garry Kasparov playing chess against a computer.  In real-time.

This wasn’t a situation where humans were making the decision.  This was the computer in the driver’s seat, responsible for it’s own fate, but also devoid of the trappings of human emotions and frailty (which by the end of the tournament, Kasparov certainly was not, as he demonstrated in a number of his post-match temper tantrums.)

You couldn’t blame the guy.  You wouldn’t like being beaten by a computer, either!

Which is why I had the feeling I was watching history being made.  And apparently I wasn’t the only one.

IBM garnered an estimated $100M worth of free public relations exposure through the course of the rematch, but in so doing, captured the imaginations of people from around the world.

And, their attention online.

Up to that point, Kasparov vs. Deep Blue, the Rematch, was one of the most popular live events ever staged on the Internet. The Website, designed in partnership with Web design shop Studio Archetype, received more than 74 million hits during the event, which represented some 4 million users from 106 countries.

All the fanfare, all the publicity, all the hoopla…it was fun.  But you can only stretch the Man v. Machine, John Henry analogies so far.

However, the implications of the technology were…well, endless.

Dr. Mark Bregman, at the time the general manager of IBM’s RS/6000 division, wrote a guest essay for the match Website, and this is what he had to say about the match:

“Think about it. Playing chess requires knowledge of countless possibilities — quickly providing answers to any number of ‘what if’ questions. That’s what business people and members of the scientific community have come to expect from massively parallel computer systems.”

The evolution of those possibilities continue.

In June of this year, The New York Times magazine ran a cover story featuring the next move in that evolution.

If the answer is an attempt to build a computing system that can understand and answer complex questions with enough precision and speed to compete against some of the best Jeopardy! contestants out there…well, then, the question, of course, is:

What is Watson?

Written by turbotodd

December 9, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Help Desks In The Clouds

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More IBM clouds are on the horizon.

Today, IBM announced the availability of some new online software services from our Tivoli business that will help provide improved automation and control of IT Service desk functions.

The new solution, which will be offered as a monthly subscription offering, can help organizations large and small with their help desks, which often deal with labor-intensive services like onboarding new hires, fixing laptops, and resolving IT issues.

Many companies struggle with slow, inefficient service request handling because the the core their application support, networking, facilities an IT assets aren’t integrated and depend on manual updates.  Yet IBM estimates that only 5 percent of service and support issues are resolved by self-service, making automation and integration crucial for service management.

To help meet this demand for automating IT service functions, IBM Tivoli Live – service manager will allow clients to start small with IT Service Desk functionality and grow into more extensive IT automation services as a company’s needs change.

Since IBM Tivoli Live –service manager is delivered on the IBM Cloud and based on a subscription model, the service reduces the complexity and management required by on-premise deployment.

There is no need to purchase hardware, software licenses or engage in extensive software configuration. This software-as-a-service is based on IBM’s on-premise, enterprise software that hundreds of clients use today.

In addition to choosing which IT processes clients want to automate first, they can also choose which ones they want to access through the cloud or deploy on-premise.

Unlike competitors, IBM offers software-as-a-service that integrates IT Service Desk with monitoring services that manages the health and performance of IT resources, including operating systems, virtualized servers, middleware and software applications.

This is available by integrating Tivoli Live – service manager with Tivoli Live – monitoring service, offering clients a fully integrated service management environment.

You can learn more about this new offering here.

Written by turbotodd

December 7, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Turn Out The Lights

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Been a busy no-blogging Monday, but it’s towards the end of the day and I wanted to stop by and check in so I don’t get “blogstipated” at the start of the week.

First, another sad goodbye, this time to “Dandy” Don Meredith, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and “Monday Night Football” announcer.

Meredith passed away at the age of 72 this past weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and for those of us who remember his Southern wit from “Monday Night Football,” it’s sad to think that the lights this time were turned out on Meredith.

He was not only the groundbreaking quarter for Dallas, but also a groundbreaker in bringing sports coverage to primetime when MNF debuted in 1970.

Referring to turning out the lights, Meredith used to start singing Willie Nelson’s “Turn Out the Lights…the Party’s Over” when he saw no hope for a fledgling Monday night team.

He also paved the way for no end of celebrity sports endorsements, when he early on pitched for Lipton Tea in a series of TV spots.

Meredith was from Mount Vernon, Texas, the same vicinity of East Texas where much of my family hails from.  Our thoughts certainly go out to his.

Otherwise on the sports front, it was exciting to see Tiger Woods almost win his first tournament of 2010.

Ironically, it was his last chance, but Irishman Graham MacDowell took the Chevron trophy away from Tiger in a nail-biting playoff after an even more nerve-wracking several holes of the final round.

This weekend witnesses “The Shark Shootout” in Tiburon, and then the end-of-year lull before the 2011 golf season commences in Kapalua.

Completely changing subjects, anybody see the interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last night on “60 Minutes?”

Leslie Stahl gave him a pretty good grilling, but compared to his abysmal first interview there three years ago, Zuckerberg passed this Q&A with flying colors and introduced a new Facebook release that began rolling out today.

Inside Facebook tells us it’s all a “natural way to get users to share more.”  What, you mean they didn’t already know everything about me?

You can see what a new and revised profile looks like here.

Brilliant a ploy though it is to elicit more information from us all, I like the design and (mostly) had no trouble making the updates.

Feel free to comment and tell us about your own experiences making the update (should you decide to accept that particular mission).

Written by turbotodd

December 6, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Bon-Ton: Better Shopping With WebSphere

with 2 comments

The IBM e-commerce juggernaut continues.

Today, we announced that the Bon-Ton stores website experienced a double-digit increase in sales using IBM software to advance the company’s online and mobile commerce initiatives.

Bon-Ton Stores represents seven brands (including Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, among several others), all which sell leading brands in apparel, cosmetics, and home furnishings.

Each of these are now using IBM WebSphere Commerce software to enhance their customers’ online shopping experience by proposing relevant products and automatically providing coupons and discounts based on customer preferences.

By way of example, when a shopper puts a sweater in their online shopping cart, Bon-Ton’s new site is able to identify shoes, accessories, and pants to complete the order.

Here’s my question: Can I also identify somebody else’s credit card to pay for it all?!

Just kiddin’.

Furthermore, loyal customers can receive coupons and discounts automagically during the checkout process.

This holiday season, online sales are outpacing all other retail sales channels. Within a few months of launching, Bon-Ton’s new online store became its top-selling location in several merchandise categories, a trend they expect to expand over the next twelve months.

Bon-Ton, Inc. is using IBM WebSphere Commerce in several of its stores to enhance the mobile and social capabilities of its retail experience.

“We see our new eCommerce capability as one of our most important growth initiatives. The growth in our customer’s use of the Internet for finding product information and making purchases is a key driver behind making significant improvements to our websites,” said Jimmy Mansker, Senior Vice President, Internet Marketing, The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. “We are experiencing very favorable results using mobile coupons and online social networks. This is one step of many that we are taking to develop a richer online shopping experience.”

By using IBM WebSphere Commerce software, Bon-Ton has also been able to streamline day-to-day back office functions such as managing inventory and shipping.

Bon-Ton is making more merchandise available to customers with faster delivery methods. Now 30,000 more SKUs are available to online shoppers easing the store’s burden of carrying excess inventory. Improvements in distribution methods allows Bon-Ton to reduce items on back order and quickly ship merchandise to customers directly from the manufacture, another Bon-Ton store or from distribution centers which serve their area.

Bon-Ton expects other marketing campaigns such as using email marketing, advancing its recently launched Facebook page, in-store events, mobile coupons and content-rich video demonstrations to drive store traffic and deliver customers with a more personalized shopping experience.

Written by turbotodd

December 2, 2010 at 8:57 pm

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