November 28, 2015

How to stop IT woes hurting your M&A plans

If you allow what I like to call ‘the right of infinite appeal’, where the decisions keep getting questioned and nothing gets implemented, that can kill an integration project. It’s the nature of the beast that you typically have two great CIOs, their hand-picked lieutenants, great employees and they can’t all keep the same jobs that they had in the standalone company. In some cases, the team of the company doing the buying will tend to end up in the roles, but there are also cases where part of the allure of the acquisition is an extremely strong team that can fill holes in the parent organisation, essentially where they are also buying a management team. When the best person is selected for each position regardless of where they came from, it can send a very positive message to the rest of the employees and help to retain the best and brightest.

In-Memory Graph Database API for .NET

Data is represented as a directed acyclic graph of “datums” connected by “is” links. Because DatumTron API represents data at such a fundamental level, we are able to manipulate data in generic ways. We discuss how inheritance, time, and code are represented in the graph. We explain how to import an SQL database (Northwind) into memory as a DatumTron graph database. Then we show how to query, and mine the database in a fast in-memory graph using a simple set of operators. In DatumTron, finding all rows that have the same column value is achieved in constant time. For example, a query to get the customers who live in Paris is written in the following C# statement. Where CustomerCity is the datum representing the customer city column in the graph.

Online tracking by news organizations is excessive, say researchers

"The surprising extent to which news organizations subject readers to third-party tracking deserves closer attention," write Pickard and Libert in this The Conversation commentary. "As a society, we often hold news organizations to higher ethical standards. They're not just businesses; they are supposed to provide a vital public service, and they depend on public trust." With a nod towards Apple's recent decision, the two authors mention, "While the ethics of readers unknowingly 'paying' for content with their privacy are certainly questionable, the practice is also indicative of the precarious situation in which the news industry finds

How IT Plays a Critical Role in Health Care

By investing in IT, we are now able to offer patients a level of engagement and involvement in their own care that just wasn’t possible before. Whether it’s orders and results flowing seamlessly between our clinics and hospital, or their entire patient health summary being viewable to them in near real-time on our new patient portal, one of our biggest goals has been to make it easy and intuitive for our patients to be involved in, and informed about, their own care. We don’t just make it easy for the patients to get their own information, though, we also make it easy for that information to get to other outside providers who need it for that patient’s care as well. When you’re dealing with the kinds of geographic distances between facilities that we have to, the ability to get potentially life-saving information to another provider at the click of a button is a real game changer.

Eight tips for working more efficiently in the Visual Basic Editor

Office uses Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), an application development language, to extend functionality beyond its standard features. You might write a simple printing macro or use more complex procedures to perform custom tasks or even apply business rules. To add VBA code to a project, you use the Visual Basic Editor (VBE), a built-in interface. It's adequate, but some tasks seem harder than necessary. Here are some tips that can help you fine-tune your coding sessions. You'll spend less time with routine tasks and more time actually coding. The VBE, shown in Figure A, is essentially the same across all of the Office products, and there's been little to no change for several versions.

Fighting Frauds using Big Data Visibility and Intelligence

Organizations are struggling hard to find significant and effective methods to combat frauds happening internally in these enterprises. To give you a better idea, we are talking about a small fraud in an organization that has an enormously huge amount of information- a little fraud-search can be compared to searching for a needle in a haystack. It can turn out to be time and effort consuming. Traversing through such huge information is cumbersome. This type information is usually a sum of complex correlations and aggregations and as such, ‘little’ mistakes can be very crucial. With this blog, we will stress how big data analytics can help in overcoming the frauds happening within various type of organizations.

Cyber Monday Is Dead. Long Live Cyber Friday

"Cyber Monday is dead," said Steven Skinner, senior vice president of Cognizant Technology Solutions in Teaneck, New Jersey. "People are no longer waiting until they get back to work to shop. I have a better connection on my phone right now than I do at my desk at work."More than three-in-four consumers have smartphones and 41 percent will use them to make online purchases this year, according to a holiday survey by Deloitte University Press that predicts the Friday after Thanksgiving will surpass Cyber Monday as the most popular online shopping day this year. The shift shows that holiday spending is alive and well even as some consumers and retail employees grumble about consumerism overshadowing family time.

When your ‘Agile’ Team Moves at Snail Pace: 5 Key Roadblocks and How to Overcome Them

The best way to avoid this situation is to have a trained and experienced Scrum Master at helm, who is able to visualize and predict future requirements, prioritize effectively, and create an optimized plan for product engineering.  ... Only when all the parts of development – design, JPGs, HTML, code, middle layers and DB – are joined together, can the product owner get a clear view of an actual useable product. Teams can deliver a functional, interactive product each sprint. The product is built layer by layer, giving a clearer picture to the product owner with every iteration. This helps deliver the MVP on time, reducing major changes in later stages of development.

The Role of KPIs in Managing Big Data

KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – are vital to help businesses, and especially CFOs, optimise performance. They provide insight into the here and now, and how it is directing what is to come – unlike a report on how you did in the past. As the example shows, these KPIs have a dynamic relationship – information from one set of performance indicators can suddenly draw attention to the key role of another indicator – so we need to access them in real time, not in a historical report. According to a KPI is: “A set of quantifiable measures that a company or industry uses to gauge or compare performance in terms of meeting their strategic and operational goals”.

FileUtilities - a library for reading flat files into POCOs

Whilst many modern applications exchange data in well defined standard ways (such as XML or JSON) the reality is that a great deal of data is still packaged in flat files (by which I mean comma separated values, or fixed width text files).  This library is concerned with turning these files into arrays of type-safe objects and using semantic meaning in those objects to validate the files concerned. The use of attributes to tag properties of your classes is quite common in both Entity Framework and also in System.Runtime.Serialization. This library very much follows that model but if you are not familiar with it then I recommend reading this article to start with.

Quote for the day:

"If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it." --@elonmusk

November 27, 2015

How Robots Can Quickly Teach Each Other to Grasp New Objects

Tellex says robotics researchers are increasingly looking for more efficient ways of training robots to perform tasks such as manipulation. “We have powerful algorithms now—such as deep learning—that can learn from large data sets, but these algorithms require data,” she says. “Robot practice is a way to acquire the data that a robot needs for learning to robustly manipulate objects.” Tellex also notes that there are around 300 Baxter robots in various research labs around the world today. If each of those robots were to use both arms to examine new objects, she says, it would be possible for them to learn to grasp a million objects in 11 days.

Mobile Cyber Security: Minimizing Loss and Maximizing Profit

Another very realistic threat that’s emerging recently is mobile botnet. Pierre-Marc Bureau, Security Intelligence Program Manager from ESET explains what we’re dealing with here: The word botnet is made up of two words: bot and net. Bot is short for robot, a name we sometimes give to a device that is infected by malicious software. Net comes from network, a group of systems that are linked together. A botnet is a network of infected devices, where the network is used by the malware to spread. One potential advance in security currently being developed as a response to the number of cyber attacks rising 100% between 2013 and 2014, is the creation of artificial intelligence (AI) platforms.

Big Data Analytics: Unlock Breakthrough Results - Step 2

A set of tools and platforms which are ideal for Centralized Provisioning are usually terrible and completely unsuited for use within a Decentralized Analytics operating model. Critical capability essential to Embedded Analytics is very different from Governed Data Discovery. Yes there are some capabilities that cross operating models (e.g. metadata), and some that are far important than others. In general this is a truly sound way to determine where your investment in capability should be occurring – and where it is not. Along the way you will surely stumble across very clever professionals who have solved for their own operating model limitations in ways that will surprise you. And some just downright silliness; remember culture plays a real and present role in this exercise.

Many embedded devices ship without adequate security tests, analysis shows

Costin presented the team's findings at the DefCamp security conference in Bucharest on Thursday. It was actually the second test performed on firmware images on a larger scale. Last year, some of the same researchers developed methods to automatically find backdoors and encryption issues in a large number of firmware packages. Some of the firmware versions in their latest dataset were not the latest ones, so not all of the discovered issues were zero-day vulnerabilities -- flaws that were previously unknown and are unpatched. However, their impact is still potentially large, because most users rarely update the firmware on their embedded devices. At DefCamp, attendees were also invited to try to hack four Internet-of-Things devices as part of the on-site IoT Village.

The Definitive Q&A for Aspiring Data Scientists

Know what you are good at and what you care about, and pursue that. So, you might be good at math, or programming, or data manipulation, or problem solving, or communications (data journalism), or whatever. You can do that flavor of data science within the context of any domain: scientific research, government, media communications, marketing, business, healthcare, finance, cybersecurity, law enforcement, manufacturing, transportation, or whatever. As a successful data scientist, your day can begin and end with you counting your blessings that you are living your dream by solving real-world problems with data. I saw a quote recently that summarizes this: "If you think your scarce data science skills could be better used elsewhere, be bold and make the move."

The Target breach, two years later

Two years later, Target has largely recovered from the breach in terms of both consumer trust and financial impact. But no matter how grand its remediation efforts were, Target will be forever associated with the data breach and its lasting repercussions. "Target remains the most significant breach in history because it was the fist time the CEO of a major corporation got fired because of a data breach," said John Kindervag, vice president and principal analyst on risk for research firm Forrester. "You can't underestimate that in terms of getting people's attention. People started taking credit card security seriously -- before that, it was just a pain-in-the-neck compliance issue."

An Engineer’s Guide to GEMM

I’ve spent most of the last couple of years worrying about the GEMM function because it’s the heart of deep learning calculations. The trouble is, I’m not very good at matrix math! I struggled through the courses I took in high school and college, barely getting a passing grade, confident that I’d never need anything so esoteric ever again. Right out of college I started working on 3D graphics engines where matrices were everywhere, and they’ve been an essential tool in my work ever since. I managed to develop decent intuitions for 3D transformations and their 4×4 matrix representations, but not having a solid grounding in the theory left me very prone to mistakes when I moved on to more general calculations.

Ambient Intelligence: What's Next for The Internet of Things?

It could manage mass transit for optimal efficiency based on real-time conditions. It could monitor environmental conditions and mitigate potential hotspots proactively, predict the need for government services and make sure those services are delivered efficiently, spot opportunities to streamline the supply chain and put them into effect automatically. Nanotechnology in your clothing could send environmental data to your smart phone, or charge it from electricity generated as you walk. But why carry a phone when any glass surface, from your bathroom mirror to your kitchen window, could become an interactive interface for checking your calendar, answering email, watching videos, and anything else we do today on our phones and tablets?

Investing in Impact - Portfolio Management for Agile Deliveries

Rightly or wrongly, the role of Project Manager remained in place in some companies, the role was re-introduced by some others, particularly larger companies working with bigger bodies of work - programmes involving many ‘agile’ feature teams for example. Companies forgot to update the Project Management toolkit though and in lots of cases we’ve seen companies also forgot to update the people, by which I mean train, educate, inform them about the key principles of agility, how to support it and how to take advantage of it. This resulted in many Project Managers applying traditional thinking and tools into agile projects. This included things like tightly managing scope and trying to fix it down early on; managing project progress and success based only on scope and time; requesting very precise estimates; measuring just velocity or worse, effort.

Rant: Cloud applications are s-l-o-w. Too s-l-o-w.

Chances are the offline office suite will have been faster than the online one. In some of my tests, working offline is three to five times faster. That's mainly due to the overhead of running code in a browser. Then there's the issue of internet connections, which are rarely perfect. They should be, I know. This is 2015, after all. But we don't even have perfect video-conferencing yet, as highlighted by this humorous article (NSFW). A lost connection can be infuriating when you're halfway through updating a document using a cloud-based application. If you're outside a 20-mile radius from Silicon Valley, this will be a factor. Microsoft has the right idea here. Its office suite lets you work online if necessary, but the offline software remains the primary productivity tool. So you can work in a fast, internet-independent office suite for most of the time, only using the online version when you need to.

Quote for the day:

"Don't look for ideas to confirm your thinking, rather look for trends that will disrupt your thinking." -- Rich Simmonds

November 26, 2015

Google Kubernetes Is an Open-Source Software Hit

Kubernetes is technically a cluster manager that’s able to take containers and automatically add or delete resources. A container encloses a program (or a piece of one) in a layer of software that connects seamlessly to the operating system and other computing resources. One advantage is that it can be moved easily from one computer or server to another. If traffic to a certain application spikes, Kubernetes is able to automatically replicate containers and expand capacity without manual intervention. The software can schedule containers, allocate them and make sure the computing environment has enough memory, disk space and storage, David Linthicum, senior vice president of Cloud Technology Partners told CIO Journal.

Building a big data technology framework? Focus on business differentiation

"When you're telling a decision maker -- in this case, a farmer -- that they should apply this much fertilizer to this piece of land on this day, it is very helpful to answer the question, 'why,' when it's asked," he said. The key to explanatory analytics may be models. He pointed to two techniques that can help with this: Structural modeling, which he said is "used to illustrate statistical connections between the environment and crop outcomes," and mechanistic modeling, which he said is "used to capture physical phenomenon when the underlying physics are well understood or can be captured directly." ... "We need multiple techniques because there is no 'free lunch' and, typically, one technique will not work for every problem," he said after the event via email.

What are the best qualifications for a career in cyber security?

Most senior careers (with higher salaries) involve becoming a manager or advising others about management. The role may be managing a technical team of specialists or managing all of the people, processes and technology associated with ensuring effective information security. The latter requires a thorough knowledge of asset and risk management and the controls required to mitigate the risks to an organisation. This is where the knowledge and skills associated with ISO 27001 qualifications such as ISO27001 Foundation and ISO27001 Lead Implementer have the greatest influence. For the first cyber security management qualification I always recommend people in the UK to consider obtaining the Certificate in Information Security Management Principles (CISMP).

Cyberwar Part 2: Government Hacks Threaten Private Sector

"Contrary to a popular belief, fingerprints are not unique, and out of 5.6 million fingerprints compromised, there can be quite a few people who have fingerprints similar enough to be accepted by the biometric authentication system," said Igor Baikalov, chief scientist for security-intelligence company Securonix. "Now, if there is someone with access to top-secret information, and his fingerprint data can be matched to someone else with a known gambling problem -- known from the background checks also leaked by OPM -- the attacker has a way to potentially circumvent biometric authentication. Far-fetched? Probably. But not impossible," he added. As a result, IT and InfoSec professionals are going to have to come up with additional user authentications to mitigate these risks, and perhaps create a few new ones.

Neo4j 2.3 Graph Database Features and openCypher Initiative

As of now, Neo has an official Docker repository that we officially support for our customers. As far as best practices: perhaps the most important tuning parameter is memory. The underlying hardware must provide sufficient memory for the containers running on it; the Neo4j image allows memory usage to be configured as appropriate. And the Enterprise Edition of Neo4j, which in contrast to the Community Edition is primarily commercial, has quite a few operational features that aren’t in the Community Edition, including clustering. Docker containers are essentially ephemeral, but Neo4j needs durable storage for its data. The underlying hardware must include a disk which is mounted into the container for this purpose. Docker containers are isolated from one another by default.

Analytics team structure can work without data scientists

There's no shortage of promise when it comes to streaming analytics and unstructured data analysis, but the issue Cunningham raises is how that ties into the business. "In reality, there has been little effective integration of good data modeling against complicated data at the business level," he said. As a result, Cunningham is more focused on structuring his analytics team to derive tangible value from specific data analysis projects. Currently, he said, the team is working to build better analytical models to predict which medical benefits claims should be paid by insurers and which shouldn't. The goal is to shorten the time it takes to get an answer on coverage when a healthcare provider submits a claim on behalf of a patient.

How to Safely Manage Personal Health Information

Partners and business associates of healthcare that sign HIPAA or PHI related agreements will need to ensure the protection of PHI data, as they are legally bound to handle the patient data as per the rules and regulations. The rules were [originally] limited to paper records but with the advent of technological advancement this rule is extended to the various forms of electronic media, [and] any information that the companies would want to solicit will require approvals from the patients. Organisations will also be subject to audits to ensure processes have been followed with regards the PHI. Despite the regulations and stringent processes, there have been data breaches that have been plaguing the healthcare industry, and “potential cost of breaches for the healthcare industry could be as much as $5.6 billion annually,” one study noted.

Feeding Forward: Using tech to help feed the hungry

Advancements in technology will make it better for everybody involved. Ahmad gave me the example of a time when she was still a student at Berkeley. The dining hall manager called her about 500 sandwiches left over from an event. Dealing with perishable food was extra challenging in Feeding Forward's early days before the cloud, mobile apps, and real-time technologies. "I called the entire list of recipients for all the non-profits in Berkeley and Oakland and even as far as Richmond, California," Ahmad said. "A third of them don't answer the phone, a third of them are like 'No, we are good for today' and the last third are like 'No, we can take up to about 15 sandwiches, or 10 sandwiches. I think, 'Awesome, now I have 485 sandwiches, I have five hours of reading and I'm on the side of the road.'"

Dell security flaws reignite debate on pre-installed software

"The news that some Dell laptops are shipping with at least one, and now likely two, rogue root certificates represents a potential security breakdown in the process of laying down the factory operating system image on new laptops for consumer use,” said Tod Beardsley, security engineering manager at security firm Rapid7. He urged users to contact their support representatives for instructions on how to remove these rogue certificates. “Users rely on factory images of operating systems to be reasonably secure by default; the act of re-installing an operating system from original sources is often beyond the technical capabilities of the average end user,” said Beardsley.

Disruption and Emergence: What does it mean for Enterprise Architecture?

The domain of the enterprise architect is changing, as more and more “enterprise” architecture components are sourced externally. Social and environmental architectures are as important to an enterprise architecture as the components that remain within the enterprise boundary and under the direct control of the EA team. Emerging technologies and digital disruption will transform the enterprise, but they will also transform the ways in which we architect. What will this mean for enterprise architecture in general, or for the role of the enterprise architect? How will EA help enterprises to collaborate with one another? What will these changes mean for the nature of the enterprise and its architecture?

Quote for the day

"Great leaders know they can never communicate enough. Greedy leaders use information as a tool to gain more power." -- @JamesSaliba