Showing posts from 2008

Six "Must Have" IT Skills

The skills required for technology jobs vary widely from one position to another, but are some technical skills worth acquiring, no matter what your area of expertise?

Absolutely. That’s clear from a review of Monster job ads for various technical positions. Listings for network engineers sometimes call for HTML skills. Help-desk jobs may require documentation skills. Programmers often need to know how networks operate. And just about any tech job may require proficiency in Microsoft Office.

Employers want techies who demonstrate versatility, says Matt Colarusso, branch manager of national recruiting and strategic accounts at IT staffing service Sapphire Technologies. “They're looking for a more well-rounded individual," he explains.

With that in mind, here are six must-have tech skills:

Quality Assurance

The quality assurance (QA) process is central to developing software and systems. While QA can be a job in and of itself, many organizations rely on developers, support prof…

Internet Rumors: Harmless Gossip or Dangerous Lies?

October 9, 2008 (VistaNews) In last week's editorial, I rambled on a bit about how the economy can affect our technology. This week, I want to turn the tables and talk about how the technology can affect the economy and other aspects of our lives. We saw an example of that last Friday (October 3), when a CNN "citizen journalism" web site published an item reporting that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had been rushed to the hospital following a heart attack.

Apple's stock, which had already dropped along with many others, immediately took another plunge, going to under $100 per share for the first time since early 2007. Sure, the stock came back after Apple spokespersons denied the story, but it shows how information - or misinformation - posted on the Internet can have an impact. At this point, no one seems to know whether the post was an honest mistake, a practical joke, or an attempt to manipulate the markets, but the SEC is investigating.

It's obvious, though, how a per…

Science Debate 2008

Science Debate 2008 worked with Scientists and Engineers for America, the AAAS, the National Academies, the Council on Competitiveness, and the other organizations listed to craft the top 14 questions the candidates should answer. These questions are broad enough to allow for wide variations in response, but they are specific enough to help guide the discussion toward many of the largest and most important unresolved challenges currently facing the United States.

Sarah Palin's Hacked E-Mail Account: Lessons for Business

September 20, 2008 (PC World) If you needed any more reminders about why it isn't a good idea to use external mail services to conduct critical business, the recent break-in to US Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo inbox should be it. Of note is that following the disclosure of the inboxes the compromised address and another address,, have been suspended.

US politics has been stung by a range of inappropriate email usage incidents, including the use of non-government email accounts to conduct official business. From the images presented as proof of email compromise, it seems that Sarah Palin was also doing this.

Various Information Security mailing lists have from time to time been filled with claims of inbox compromise, usually for free webmail services and it is always two parts voyeurism, two parts fear that it could be you next whenever someone has had their email exposed so publicly.

Some companies have decided …

How Wall Street Lied to Its Computers

Everyone is trying to figure out what went wrong over the last few days. Many experts have weighed in and offered their opinions. Perhaps the best analysis from the technical side that I've seen comes from the New York Times.

"Dilbert's" Economic Poll on McCain and Obama

"Dilbert" needs no introduction to anyone who is likely to read this blog. While we aren't fortunate enough to have Dilbert himself running for president, his creator Scott Adams, has hired a polling firm to survey economists on which candidate is best for the economy. You can view the results at CNN.

IT and the Wall Street Meltdown

By Ed Cone

Wall Street spends heavily on IT, and Wall Street firms have been seen as innovative users of technology, so what does the financial services meltdown say about the efficacy of computer systems in areas like risk management?

Clearly, IT wasn't enough to save these companies from themselves.

And just as clearly, the technology was deployed in an environment where many other factors were in play. Regulatory failure and human nature seem like bigger culprits than faulty software in the current unpleasantness.

The smartest risk-manager I ever interviewed relied on some basic technology, along with news, anecdotes, common sense, and his gut.

But this report from the Counterparty Risk Management Policy Group says financial services technology is not up to speed. The CRMPG is an industry group that includes representatives of the largest banks; the report came out in August, back when that designation still included Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers -- both members of the team.


RealDVD Review

By Edward C. Baig

San Diego, California (USA Today) You're schlepping the kids on a family trip and will do anything to keep them occupied. For better or worse, many parents stick them in front of a video.

Were it only that easy. The discs the youngsters want to watch are too often lost, scratched or broken; somehow your smallest child hasn't yet distinguished a DVD from a Frisbee. Besides, you are trying to pack light.

This week at the Demo tech conference in San Diego, RealNetworks unveiled a neat solution for just such a family scenario, or for the business traveler who loves movies. It's called RealDVD, and the basic idea is appealing: You can copy, organize and play your DVD movies and TV shows on a laptop while leaving the physical discs at home.

It's similar to when folks first copied music CDs onto their computers.

I've been testing RealDVD for more than a week, and for the most part it measures up to its coming attractions. I did encounter jerky playback issue…

Interview With Kevin Mitnick

Reformed hacker-turned-security-consultant Kevin Mitnick served five years in federal prison for breaking into phone and software company networks. He talks about his past hacking exploits, computer security, and how he turned an illegal hobby into a useful career. In the August 15 issue of CIO magazine, he shares his experiences with Jarina D'Auria:

Hacking wasn't always illegal. I started off in what they call "phone phreaking" in the late 70s. This is the same hobby Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had. At this time, 1978, there were no laws against hacking. The first law that criminalized hacking was passed in 1980 in California. I was doing this before it was illegal. And my interest was entertainment—the pursuit of knowledge, challenge and the trophy of the stolen information. There was no motive for money or malicious intent to use, disclose or destroy the data.

Learn the rules before you play the game. I knew hacking was sneaky when I started, but I …

12 Unnecessary Vista Features

Is your computer running too slow? Does it take forever to boot? Do you love or hate the Aero interface? Read this Computerworld article to discover what you can do get Vista to run faster.

Designing the Future of Business

By Marty Neumeier

Imagine a crazy wonderland where most of what you learned in business school is either upside down or backward. A land where customers control the company, jobs are avenues of self-expression, the barriers to competition are out of your control, strangers design your products, fewer features are better, advertising drives customers away, demographics are beside the point, whatever you sell you take back, and best practices are obsolete at birth. Meaning talks, money walks, and stability is fantasy. Talent trumps obedience, imagination beats knowledge, and empathy trounces logic.

If you've been paying close attention, you don't have to imagine this scenario. You see it forming all around you. The only question is whether you can change your business, your brand, and your thinking fast enough to take full advantage of it.

Designing the Way Forward

Until now, companies have used design as a beauty station for identities and communications, or as the last stop in …

Large Hadron Rap

EAST LANSING, Michigan (Associated Press) Who says science doesn't turn people on? Kate McAlpine is a rising star on YouTube for her rap performance about high-energy particle physics.

This magnet at the Large Hadron Collider may help physicists explore new properties of nature. Her performance has drawn a half-million views on YouTube.

The 23-year-old Michigan State University graduate and science writer raps about the Large Hadron Collider, the groundbreaking particle accelerator that has been built in a 17-mile circular tunnel at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland.

McAlpine raps that when the collider goes into operation September 10, "the things that it discovers will rock you in the head."

The $3.8 billion machine will collide two beams of protons moving at close to the speed of light so scientists can see what particles appear in the resulting debris. Take a closer look at the collider »

"Rap and physics are culturally miles apart," McAlpine, a scie…

Defining Video Game Addiction

1Up has a feature discussing where the line should be drawn when it comes to game addiction. The author speaks to researcher Neils Clark about some of the common characteristics of addiction, and how the high level of immersion in many modern games contributes to the mind's ability to drown out mundane tasks. We've discussed game addiction many times over the past several years.

"If we're not all dribbling addicts, then why are we playing so much? Clark puts this down to a theory proposed by The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien — primary and secondary worlds. The primary world is our own real life. The secondary is the fictional world: literature, film, videogames, and so on. 'It used to be that the imagery and artistic intent had to be fully available before you could really "find" yourself in a written story,' Clark says. 'Immersion has progressed to the point where entering a world [inside a game] is almost automatic. At the point we…

Can Seinfeld Make Microsoft Cool?

Jerry Seinfeld will headline a $300 million advertising campaign for Microsoft, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ reports that Seinfeld will appear with Microsoft founder Bill Gates in the ads. According to other sources, Chris Rock and Will Ferrell had also been considered. The ads are apparently a bid to counter the success of Apple’s Mac vs PC campaign which has recently been targeting Vista.

Wireless Recharging

August 23, 2008 (Associated Press) Imagine juicing up your laptop computer or cell phone without plugging it into an electrical socket.

That's a luxury that could be provided by wireless power transmission, a concept that has been bandied about for decades but is creeping closer to becoming viable.

Building off work unveiled last year by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, Intel Corp. demonstrated Thursday how to make a 60-watt light bulb glow from an energy source 3 feet away.

The Intel team did it with relatively high efficiency, losing only a quarter of the energy the researchers started with.

"That, to me, is the most striking part about it: transmitting 60 watts at 75 percent efficiency over several feet," said Intel's chief technology officer, Justin Rattner.

"The power pack for your laptop isn't that efficient. ... It's one of those things that's almost too good to be true."

Wireless transmission of electricity makes use of so…

10 Worst Web Glitches of 2008

1. Amazon S3
When: February 15

What happened: These massive infrastructure services, Amazon's S3 especially, underpin many Web 2.0 companies. When these services fail, big sites go down. When the sites go down, they lose money.

Corporate coping behavior: Amazon CTO Werner Vogels banished to the lecture circuit to explain why S3 is still more reliable than any servers you could run yourself.

The damage: Companies forced to re-consider their reliance on "cloud computing."

2. Twitter
When: April, May, June. July too? Who cares?

What happened: Twitter began to get unreliable. It's up, then it's down. Repeat.

Corporate coping behavior: During the bad spells, Twitter turns off key features of the service -- like access from Twitter helper apps, or the "replies" tab on the site -- to decrease the load. Twitter also buys the search engine Summize, which adds a new level of utility to the service.

The damage: Twitter was becoming part of the social fabric of the t…

Fix It or Trash It?

By Dan Reilly

If your iPod or digital camera just stopped working one day, don't just assume it's finished. As we reported a few weeks ago, many gadgets are returned without being truly broken. Sometimes, a flaky gadget can be attributed to a loose battery or an improperly inserted wire, so check the your owner's manual or the manufacturer's Web site for troubleshooting tips, or just poke around the Internet. Sites such as or feature reports about or solutions to common problems folks have with their gadgets, but a quick Google search with the gadget name and the problem in the search field often yields some of the most exact answers. Also, give the manufacturer a call -- chances are they've heard about a gadget's issue before, or, if you're lucky (or friendly), a replacement device (even after the warranty has expired). Of course, if you put your iPhone in the microwave, this step doesn't apply.

How Old Is Your Gadget?

When di…

Slower Computers?

August 14, 2008 (Fortune) Could faster chips translate into slower computers? That's the sales-threatening prospect furrowing brows in every corner of the PC business, from industry titans such as Intel, Microsoft, and Apple to major centers of academe.

For decades the PC industry has juiced performance - and sales - with a regular two-step dance. First, chipmakers jacked up the speed of their latest offerings. Then the software brains figured out how to turn all that processing power into faster operations and cool new functions.

But the latest generation of chips, known as multicore, are so complex and so qualitatively different from their predecessors that they have flummoxed software developers. "We've gone through changes in the past," says Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer. But this one, he says, is the ,ost "conceptually different" change "in the history of modern computing."

The change was set in motion four y…

One Dollar Gasoline

While discussing where we all went over the summer, a few of my colleagues were trying to remember when gasoline was last under $1.00/gallon. I decided to do a little research and came up with this graph in Excel 2007:

As you can see, the last time was in early 1999. Also the last complete year of data available was 2007, so the $4.00 levels of this summer are not included!


Delayed Olympic Broadcast Foiled by Online Fans

By Brian Stelter

August 8, 2008 (The New York Times) NBC, which owns the exclusive rights to broadcast the Olympics in the United States, spent most of Friday trying to keep it that way.

NBC’s decision to delay broadcasting the opening ceremonies by 12 hours sent people across the country to their computers to poke holes in NBC’s technological wall — by finding newsfeeds on foreign broadcasters’ Web sites and by watching clips of the ceremonies on YouTube and other sites.

In response, NBC sent frantic requests to Web sites, asking them to take down the illicit clips and restrict authorized video to host countries. As the four-hour ceremony progressed, a game of digital whack-a-mole took place. Network executives tried to regulate leaks on the Web and shut down unauthorized video, while viewers deftly traded new links on blogs and on the Twitter site, redirecting one another to coverage from, say, Germany, or a site with a grainy Spanish-language video stream.

As the first Summer Games of…

Web Trend Map 3: Get it now!

Featured in The Guardian, WIRED, Le Monde, Corriere, kottke, Boingboing, Techcrunch, Mashable, Valleywag and literally thousands of blogs across the web, the current version of the Web Trend Map pins down nearly 300 of the most successful and influential websites of the Internet. You can download a 1600 x 1024 wallpaper for free or purchase the full sized poster version here. A great gift for your favorite geek or a terrific resource for a business or marketing class!

AOL to End Dial-Up Service

Tuesday, August 5, 2008 (Washington Post) AOL is finally in a position to shed the dial-up-access business that once offered tens of millions of people their first glance at the Internet.

In April, parent company Time Warner promised to make clear its plans for AOL's future by its second-quarter earnings call, scheduled for tomorrow. And it "won't disappoint," a source close to the situation said yesterday.

Time Warner had already indicated earlier this year during public discussions over restructuring the struggling AOL that it would consider spinning off the dial-up business. The unit, which turned AOL into the nation's leading Internet company in the 1990s, has hemorrhaged subscribers for years.

AOL has financially isolated the dial-up business, said sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the company is in the quiet period before earnings are announced. The separation would make it easier to sell the dial-up business outright or sell a piece of i…

Ancient Greeks Used Computer to Set Olympics Date

LONDON (Reuters) A mechanical brass calculator used by the ancient Greeks to predict solar and lunar eclipses was probably also used to set the dates for the first Olympic games, researchers said on Wednesday.

The Antikythera Mechanism was retrieved from a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera in 1901, an example of the technological prowess of the ancient Greeks. Researchers reporting in the journal Nature said they had now discovered that the device, made at the end of the 2nd century BC, used an intricate set of bronze gearwheels, dials and inscriptions to set the games' date.

The ancient Olympic Games, which marked the start of a four-year timespan called an Olympiad, began on the full moon closest to the summer solstice, which meant calculating the timing required expertise in astronomy. Using three-dimensional, X-ray technology, researchers deciphered tiny inscriptions buried inside the device's fragmented brass pieces that pointed to its Olympic role.

The name &quo…

NASA Finds Water on Mars

August 1, 2008 (Associated Press) The Phoenix spacecraft has tasted Martian water for the first time, scientists reported Thursday. By melting icy soil in one of its lab instruments, the robot confirmed the presence of frozen water lurking below the Martian permafrost. Until now, evidence of ice in Mars' north pole region has been largely circumstantial. In 2002, the orbiting Odyssey spacecraft spied what looked like a reservoir of buried ice. After Phoenix arrived, it found what looked like ice in a hard patch underneath its landing site and changes in a trench indicated some ice had turned to gas when exposed to the sun.

Scientists popped open champagne when they received confirmation Wednesday that the soil contained ice. "We've now finally touched it and tasted it," William Boynton of the University of Arizona said during a news conference in Tucson on Thursday. "From my standpoint, it tastes very fine." Phoenix landed on Mars on May 25 on a three-month…

10 Cool Spy Gadgets

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) celebrated its 100th anniversary this month. Since July 26, 1908 the FBI has been hard at work protecting our nation, often employing advanced technology. For most of us this stuff is off-limits but here is a list of the coolest spy gadgets and gear you can buy.

Videoconferencing Product Review

With fuel prices at record highs, travel has become prohibitively expensive. Videoconferencing technology has improved over the last few years and can offer cost effective, real-time, face-to-face solutions for business. Check out some of the latest products here:,2806,4836,00.asp

Black Hat Security Conference 2008

August 2-7, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, USA

This August, The Black Hat Briefings return to Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino for another installment of the premier North American technical information security conference. Every year the lineup of presentations helps define the security headlines for the following year and 2008 will be no exception.With a brand new lineup of presentations and tracks, this will be the security event of the year.

Visit the Black Hat USA 2008 main page to learn more about our upcoming conference.

Online Registration is now open.

Economy Pushing Users to Open Source

July 28, 2008 (eWeek) Results of a recent poll show that the stagnant economy may be leading more organizations to adopt open-source software to save on licensing fees, according ot the Open Solutions Alliance. Customers also are concerned about interoperability between open-source software and Microsoft Windows.

In the first annual survey of its membership and other open-source software and services companies, the OSA (Open Solutions Alliance) found that the stagnant economy may be helping to push open-source adoption.

In a survey of more than 100 of its member organizations, the OSA found that 83 percent said they expect to see a year-over-year increase in revenue in 2008 from open-source related software and services.

About 78 percent reported that the affordable price of open-source software is motivating their customers. "We see that the market for commercial open-source software and services is growing and growing fast. And I see the economy contributing to that because of the…

Windows Vista Service Pack 1

Windows Vista SP1 includes improvements that address many of the most common reasons for which Windows stops responding. Many of the reliability improvements in SP1 are in response to issues that customers reported by using the Windows Error Reporting tool.

Other reliability improvements in Windows Vista SP1 include improvements in wireless computer-to-computer (ad hoc) connections, better peer-to-peer connections, such as using Windows Meeting Space, and many more.

Windows Vista SP1 includes many changes that can improve your computer's speed and performance. Here are some of the areas that are improved:

Faster copying or extracting files from a compressed mode.

Better use of network bandwidth when browsing file shares over a network.

Improved performance from Windows ReadyBoost in reducing the time it takes for Windows to wake up from Hibernate and Standby power modes.

Better power consumption when your computer screen is idle for a long time.

Improved logon experience when using a cor…

Linux Vs. Windows Vista: The Battle For Your Desktop

This is an excerpt from an InformationWeek article posted over a year ago. You can read the full review here.

By Serdar Yegulalp
In this feature, I'm going to compare the newly-released Ubuntu 7.04 with Microsoft Windows Vista in a number of categories. To keep the playing field as level as possible, I'm looking wherever I can at applications -- not just in the sense of "programs," but in the sense of what the average user is going to do with the OS in a workday. Sometimes the differences between the two OSes are profound, but sometimes the playing field levels itself,, for instance, is installed by default in Ubuntu, but adding it to Vista isn't terribly difficult.
I tried to stick whenever possible with preinstalled software, although this rule sometimes had to be bent a little -- for instance, to see what backup solutions were available for Ubuntu through its own software catalog.
Also, while I was tempted to compare Vista's Aero interface to t…

10 Hottest IT Jobs in Demand

July 25, 2008 (Baseline) Even in tough economic times, employees with the right skills will always be in demand in the IT industry. Baseline analyzed recent employment studies and interviewed several technology recruiters and industry professionals to find the hottest IT positions today. Although there is still consistent demand for the “old-reliable” jobs such as network administration and help desk positions, these picks reflect the current gaps between supply and demand.

1. Senior Level Java/J2EE and .NET Developers

Most headhunters agree that finding lead developers with Java/J2EE or .NET proficiency and management experience can be a tall task in today’s market. “If they're software developers and they have Java/J2EE or any of the .NET skills, they're very hot right now,” says Janet Miller, president of the recruiting firm Computer Management.

2. Application Development Managers

Dan Martineau of Martineau Recruiting Technology says that the need for application development ma…

Cloud Computing 101

April 7, 2008 (InfoWorld) As a metaphor for the Internet, "the cloud" is a familiar cliché, but when combined with "computing," the meaning gets bigger and fuzzier. Some analysts and vendors define cloud computing narrowly as an updated version of utility computing: basically virtual servers available over the Internet. Others go very broad, arguing anything you consume outside the firewall is "in the cloud," including conventional outsourcing.

Cloud computing comes into focus only when you think about what IT always needs: a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT's existing capabilities.

Cloud computing is at an early stage, with a motley crew of providers large and small delivering a slew of cloud-based services, from full-…