Turbotodd

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

Archive for April 2011

Royal Friday

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TGIF.

The whole Royal Wedding thing is almost over.  I think the party’s about to start for the newlyweds somewhere in London, and here I am in sunny Austin, Texas, wishing it was a bank holiday here in the U.S. as well.

If you missed all the action, fear not.  Fortunately, I caught the highlights on the DVR (thank God for technology), and no matter how hard hearted you might be, it was a sweet and beautiful ceremony, and all the pomp and circumstance, and the fact that it went off without a hitch (or was that, with a hitch), made it all that more fun.

Not so much fun, however, has been the horrors of the destruction wrought by all those tornadoes here in the American South.  Fortunately, I’ve never experienced a tornado firsthand, but I have relatives who have, and I’ve certainly come close.

I’m most saddened by the reports of so many people killed or injured, and of course, by the massive destruction the storms have wrought.

For those of you who may have been asking yourselves the question, “How can I help?,” this link from Good provides a few answers.  It provides opportunities to contribute via the United Way, Feeding America, the American Red Cross, and even several local churches.

Remember, if you’re in the area, lots of folks are also going to need food and clothing, many having lost everything in the storms.

It seems trivial to transition from the horrible storms to technology, but often the two are tied one to the other, and Amazon has certainly experienced some stormy weather of its own over the past week.

Following up on last Friday’s post about the ups and downs of the cloud, Amazon has now published a summary of its EC2 and Amazon RDS disruption from last week.  The statement includes a thorough forensic analysis of what went wrong, as well as an apology.  At 5,600+ words, that’s a whole lot of explanation.

Also with some explaining to do, Sony, whose PlayStation network was hacked last week and the hackers for which are apparently trying to sell off customer credit card lists from the attack for upwards of $100,000, so reports the New York Times Bits blog.

This was one of the largest data breaches ever, and also led to the outage of the PlayStation Network for nearly a week.  The story goes on to report that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s San Diego office is helping Sony with its inquiry into the hacking incident.

Probably not a bad idea to have the Feds helping where they can, as Sony faces global legal action over the data theft, suggests Reuters.  The breakdown has “infuriated” gamers, and Sony stock saw a nearly 5 percent decline in Tokyo yesterday.

Just in case anyone was wondering about the dramatic, and often negative, bottom line impact security breaches can have.

Me, I’m all about actionable intelligence.

If such incidences have you thinking about your own security situation, take this security self-assessment  and see what steps your company might need to take to strengthen its own security posture.

Meanwhile, winding down, and back to the bright side of life, for those of you in the U.K., here’s wishing you a nice long banking holiday weekend. ‘

Whether you’re in the royal wedding mode or not, it’s gotta be nice to have some down time to spend with family and friends.

Particularly after this week.

Written by turbotodd

April 29, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Zero Privacy, Big Data, Oxygen-Deprived Birthers

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Woo boy, there’s a whole bunch of news breaking on this pre-Royal Wedding hump day.

First, the birther movement took a shot through its bow after U.S. President Barack Obama released a copy of his long-form birth certificate.

You could almost feel Donald Trump’s personal jet decompress on approach to New Hampshire as wind of this release was announced.  After he was off the plane and in front of the microphones, he had this to say: “I am very proud of myself.”

Ooh boy, it’s going to be a long presidential campaign season, particularly as Trump tries to navigate his way through the mine fields of the global media.

But before he can claim to fire anyone, he first probably needs to get his bearings a bit, what with being on the move so much.

And what better way to do so than to buy an iPhone!

Unlike the Donald, Apple is working to get ahead of the end of the story and released this long Q&A about iPhone location data.

First question:

Q. Why is Apple tracking the location of my iPhone?

A: Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.

The Q&A went on to explain just how Apple is not tracking the location of iPhones, and that UK data scientists Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden instead found a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and celltowers that can help the iPhone quickly calculate one’s location.

We say pry-vacy, the Brits say priv-acy, you say tomato, I say tomoto.

Apple insists they will shortly be offering up a fix to minimize how much of this data is stored, and also to encrypt that data moving forward.

See, I seem to have the opposite problem.

Whenever I need to use my iPhone, I can never seem to find the darn thing. So maybe they need to offer up a software fix that allows me to locate it when I’ve once again left it embedded somewhere deep in my couch.

Good thing Apple, then, seems to be doubling-down on the practical benefits of privacy invasion.

That is to say, also found in the Q&A: Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years. 

Regardless of your own privacy paranoia (my privacy threshold is pretty moderate, and even this story didn’t get that much under my skin), Apple may have not done itself any favors waiting a week to respond, as the imbroglio has only blown all out of proportion during the interim.

But the Apple PR team seems to consistently operate on at least a one-week delay, so no new news there.

And I still love their products, Orwellian or no.

But yes, I do chuckle when I think back to their commercial targeting IBM as the consummate Big Brother in Apple’s 1984 Superbowl TV spot.  I hope Ogilvy Vice Chairman and Chief Creative Officer Steve Hayden gets a laugh from it as well.

Steve was at Chiat-Day working for Apple in those days and guided the development of that classic commercial of Apple woman freeing humanity from the IBM corporate drones (although we much prefer the work Steve and Ogilvy did for IBM on our e-business campaign.)

Speaking of loving products, according to the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo is considering spinning out the engineering group responsible for Hadoop and has apparently been in talks with Benchmark Capital about forming a company.

IBM and Cloudera are already major Hadoop supporters, and considering that Yahoo was the Hadoop dance that brung us all, would say welcome (back?) to the Big Data Analytics party.

What with all that iPhone data being gathered, and all the various short, long, medium, large and other formats of the President Obama’s birther certificates, and all the variant ways the Donald is congratulating himself for having made the President, err, blink  — well, there’s going to be ample big data to analyze for years to come.

I just wonder if it will help lead us anywhere…anywhere but deep back into the folds of my couch.

Written by turbotodd

April 27, 2011 at 4:01 pm

What’s The Big Deal?

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So, what’s the deal with all these consumer deal engines?

I went to check my Facebook page this AM, and before I’d ever read about it in the Blogosphere, I got invited to sign up for their new “Deals” service.

Having signed up for GroupOn and LivingSocial to help ensure a little competition, I figured it was the least I could do.  I would have signed up for Google’s deal service, “offers,” but it’s still in beta.

So here’s some of the initial deals I was offered from Facebook:

A photo booth party with up to 6 friends at South Austin Gallery.  Regularly $75, on Facebook Deals, only $30. 

I’ve never had a photo booth party, and so I’m not sure what goes on there.  But I’m also not sure I want to roll the dice and spend $30 to find out.

Second, Kayak on Lady Bird Lake with a Bat Tour Under the Congress Avenue Bridge with Live-Live-Paddle.  Normally $42, now only $25.  I’ll rent the video, thanks.

The targeting engine clearly failed on #3: Six Weeks of Bride-Fit Boot Camp for 6 People at Strength Through Length Pilates. Regularly $1,080, now $600.  I wasn’t aware brides had to go to boot camp to prepare for their marriages these days, but okay, I’m progressive, I can dig it.  However, I’m a guy.  Last time I checked, guys don’t go to Bride-Fit boot camps.

Facebook also offered me a couple WWE Smackdown Tickets for their May 15th event at Austin’s Frank Erwin Events Center, regularly $60, only $30 through Facebook Deals.

For the record, I’ve never bought anything from any of these deal sites.  Ever.  Not once.

Now, I’m no shopping guru, but I do spend money, and I don’t mind being offered a good deal.

But it’s hard to find a deal geared to guys (except for the wrestling tickets I just mentioned, and even I wouldn’t stoop that low), what with all the “Weekend Getaway Dog Yoga Massages” and the like.

I’m thinking nobody’s thinking when it comes to guys like myself.  I could easily see all kinds of crazy deals being offered for rounds of golf at my local favorite courses, other outdoorsmen discounts, discount movie tickets, restaurant coupons, etc.

But no, I got a group offer for Bride-Fan Boot Camp.

All that said, now that Facebook is in this business, GroupOn and LivingSocial had better step up their game, because despite the lack of effective targeting, Facebook could very quickly suck all the oxygen (and money) out of the Daily Deal milieu.

It seems it’s all now about to come down to this: Do you check your Facebook wall more often, or your personal email?  For me, it’s probably about 50/50, but man, that Facebook Wall is an awfully compelling and easy-to-see place to put something like a Facebook daily deal.  That Wall’s become the virtual bulletin board of our lives.

And whatever gets your attention on the most regular basis most is where the deal sites win (admittedly, one would imagine the mobile component also starts to get very interesting. but plenty of folks look at that Facebook wall on their mobiles as well).

But regardless of all the delivery and attention-getting mechanisms, at the end of the day, for me to buy something, it needs to be an offer I might have an interest in.

I’ll be honest: I haven’t looked good in a dress since high school, when I used to dress up in drag as Frank N Furter to attend midnight screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Uh, forget I mentioned that last tidbit…I can only imagine what the deal sites might now offer up based on that information: A celebrity segment with Donald Trump and Meatloaf on “The Celebrity Apprentice Donald Trump Presidential Pretender Roadshow,” perhaps?

Now that’s a deal I actually might pay good money for.

Written by turbotodd

April 26, 2011 at 6:53 pm

IBM Approves 15 Percent Dividend Increase

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IBM’s annual shareholder meeting just started at the Renaissance St. Louis Grand Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri.

The IBM board of directors declared a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.75 per common share, payable June 10, 2011 to stockholders of record May 10, 2011.

This dividend declaration represents an increase of $0.10, or 15 percent higher than the prior quarterly dividend of $0.65 per common share.

IBM has increased its quarterly dividend 400 percent since 2003. This is the 16th year in a row that IBM has increased its quarterly cash dividend, and 8th year in a row of double-digit percent increases.

With the payment of the June 10th dividend, IBM will have paid consecutive quarterly dividends every year since 1916.

The IBM board today also authorized $8 billion in additional funds for use in the company’s stock repurchase program. IBM will repurchase shares on the open market or in private transactions from time to time, depending on market conditions.

This amount is in addition to approximately $4.7 billion remaining at the end of March from a prior authorization.

With this new authorization, IBM will have approximately $12.7 billion for its stock repurchase program. IBM expects to request additional share repurchase authorization at the October 2011 board meeting.

Samuel J. Palmisano, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer said “Since 2003, we have returned over $100 billion to shareholders in the form of dividends and share repurchases, while continuing to invest in capital expenditures, acquisitions and research and development. Our commitment to delivering value to our shareholders remains as important today, as it has ever been.”

Written by turbotodd

April 26, 2011 at 2:58 pm

The Royal Family Social

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This is going to be a big week, particularly in the U.K.

After watching “Morning Joe’s” coverage early today from Trafalgar Square, I’m about ready to hop a Virgin Atlantic flight directly across the pond, take the Heathrow Express direct to Paddington Station, hop in a hackney, and proceed directly to Buckingham Palace for some full-on Clash style crowd surfing.

Judging from my convos with some loyal British subjects, and from Joe, Mika, and Willie’s coverage from Trafalgar, we U.S. Americans are much more enthusiastic about Will and Kates’ Royal Wedding than those in the U.K.

In fact, the British government declared this Friday yet another bank holiday, and the Morning Joe suggested up to 1/3 of the British people would be leaving London for the weekend.

Can’t say as I blame them. You remember the lyrics from that 1979 classic from The Clash?

London calling to the faraway towns, Now war is declared, and battle come down

London calling to the underworld, Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls

London calling, now don’t look to us, Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust

London calling, see we ain’t got no swing, ‘Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing

Yeah, Phony Beatlemania may have gone the way of the do do bird, but royal watching is reaching a new and fevered pitch in anticipation of April 29th.

Me, I remember the first royal wedding I ever witnessed.

I was a wee lad of 15, and it would be another 14 years before I’d make my way to Buckingham Palace live and in person.

I distinctly remember the carriage carrying Charles and Diana down the streets of London, and I also distinctly remember what looked like a few million people lining the streets, most every one of them with a smile on their face.

Putting aside for a moment the Royal Wedding barf bags and toilet seats and cheap-looking “limited edition” anniversary china, let’s not forget one small but not trivial detail about all this hooplah: Two young people are getting married!

Granted, they’re doing so in front of an expected TV audience of two billion people, but nonetheless, they’re having a wedding and they’re getting married.  That’s something worth celebrating, especially considering the lackluster last few years that Great Britain and the world have had.

We could all use a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to celebrate.

One other major difference between 1981 and this week’s royal nuptials: There was no commercial Internet in 1981 — that would take another decade plus, which means there was also no social media.

Oh how far we’ve come in thirty years.  And I’m not just referring to the royal toilet seats.

No, this time around, Prince William and Catherine Middleton will be broadcast on the YouTube Internets for all the world to see, hosted on the official Royal Channel, and everybody is going to have an opinion and perspective.  Joy.

But if you want the inside skinny, the Royal Channel includes a blog, some Twitterin’ by Royal staffers, and even a procession map so you can following the bouncing couple as they zip around in their Royalmobile after they tie the knot.

Unfortunately, the gorgeous spring weather is expecting to evolve into rain on Friday.

Hopefully not a harbinger of times to come for the pending royal couple, but certainly reason enough to take advantage of the endless and ubiquitous video and social coverage and skip the barricades and umbrellas.

Me, my game plan goes like this: I’m going to record it all on my DVR, then create my own soundtrack for a multi-hour replay featuring the best of the best music that originated in the UK: The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, The Who, Queen, The Kinks, and any other rowdy English rock ‘n’ roll musicians I can think of.

Because for me, great music that celebrates everything the British realm is, and is not, are some of the great gifts to the world by the British people over the last half century.

But I’ll gladly take a royal barf bag, preferably unused — just so I have at least one memorable souvenir of Will and Kate’s big day!

Written by turbotodd

April 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Defending The Fortress

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I believe it was Napoleon who said “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

Ron Markezich, the sales lead for enterprises and partners in the U.S. at Microsoft, apparently explained to AllThingsD earlier this week that for every dollar companies spend on Microsoft software, they have to spend $6 to get it running right.

So I went and read the interview to get the full context.

The specific question Markezich was asked centered around Microsoft’s disruption of its traditional business model that “has brought in billions upon billions of dollars is sold” and whether or not “this new model [cloud delivery] ultimately catch up with and supplant the old one?”

Here’s the latter part of his response:

…So every one of these customers, we see their total spend with Microsoft go up anywhere from 2 to 6 times what it was before. The other thing is that if you look at the total industry spend, most of it is on activities where there’s no value added. Every dollar you spend on software from Microsoft, you spend $6 trying to get it to do anything. What we’re trying to do is drive that six dollars to zero.

It was also Napoleon who explained that “the fate of a nation may sometimes depend upon the position of a fortress.”  Insert “business” for “nation” and the intent of the statement remains.

But after the last two days, some perhaps might ask if the cloud ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, either.  

Amazon’s cloud done been down, off and on, for a couple of days now.  

ReadWriteWeb’s Alex Williams is keepin’ ’em honest, and updated, which apparently Amazon hasn’t been too busy doing.

ComputerWorld describes it as an outright black eye for the “dominant player in the cloud market,” with sites like Quora, Reddit, and foursquare “left staggering or totally knocked out” because of server problems in the Amazon datacenter.

By way of example, Reddit’s site explained it was in “emergency read-only mode” because of Amazon’s degradation.

In the ComputerWorld piece, analyst Rob Enderle suggests the biggest impact from the outage may be to the cloud itself.

“What will take a hit is the image of this technology as being on you can depend on, and that image was critically damaged today,” Enderle is quoted as saying.

On the other hand, it should be noted there are lots of flavors of cloud computing, and a fully public, rentable cloud service like Amazon EC2 doesn’t even pretend to offer 100% availability.  In fact, it quite clearly states in its public FAQs that “The Amazon EC2 SLA guarantees 99.95% availability of the service within a Region over a trailing 365 day period.”

In any case, I would recommend carefully reading all the FAQs before fully banking one’s business in the public cloud.

And I would also recommend reading more widely about cloud implementations around the globe.

One size doesn’t fit all (there’s the public cloud, the private cloud, the hybrid, etc.), and the IBM Academy of Technology conducted a survey released this past October entitled “Cloud computing insights from 110 implementation projects” which explains pros and cons, the good and the bad, as well as related considerations to be thoughtfully considered before embarking upon cloud deployments.

Maybe read a little of that before the media or the blogosphere scare you back into your private data center bunker with your AR-15 and 10-day survival kits!

Written by turbotodd

April 22, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Pictures Of War

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I heard the news late yesterday that journalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington, along with his associate Chris Hondros, were killed in Misrati, Libya, after receiving wounds inflicted from a mortar attack.

Hetherington received an Academy Award nomination for the film he co-directed about the American troops at the tip of the spear in Afghanistan, in the Korengal Valley, earlier this year, “Restrepo.”  The documentary grew out of the superb book that journalist Sebastian Junger also wrote about what he saw with American troops in the Korengal.

Hondros was a Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer whose work has graced the front pages of many newspapers and magazines with pictures from war zones around the world.

I only knew these individuals through their work, but as a self-confirmed news junkie, I greatly appreciated the personal sacrifice they made to bring back the pictures and moving images that they did from the world’s most troubled spots.

It would be easy to dismiss such individuals as adrenalin-addicted war zone junkies, but the truth is these men and women are often the only people there to bear witness and document the atrocities, aftermath, and consequences of the world’s conflicts.

If you’ve not yet seen “Restrepo,” I would encourage you to do so — but be prepared, it’s a heart-wrenching look at the good and bad of life on the front lines. And when I say front lines, I mean way out front. In the Korengal, American servicemen could wait a good 30 minutes for any air support to reach them, so they were pretty much on their own.

Them and the Taliban.

No matter what you think of the situation in Libya or the Arab Spring more broadly, I think it takes a special kind of person to run into a war zone carrying only a Sony HD camera or a Nikon.

Both Hodros and Hetherington will be missed, though I suspect their pictures will live with us for a long time to come.

You can see some of Hetherington’s work here on his Web site, and Hodros’ work here.

Written by turbotodd

April 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm

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