A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Monday, October 31, 2005

Tis (nearly) the season

I am waaay behind on reading my weekly Good Experience newsletters, but Mark Hurst has just published his Uncle Mark Gift Guide and Almanac for the year. We (The Economist, and Economist.com) get a little mention!
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Thursday, October 27, 2005

BlackBerry Jam

Research in Motion, makers of the BlackBerry,have hit the headlines twice in the past couple of days for the wrong reasons. Firstly the US Supreme Court rejected an application to put on hold a case that NTP has brought as a result of what NTP claim was RIM's stalling tactics over settlement of a patent violation by RIM. The case could cause RIM to have to stop selling BlackBerry devices.

Separately, a bug in a dot release of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server has caused the BBC to suspend use of BlackBerrys.

The company said in a statement: "RIM has developed and tested a fix for an obscure bug identified in a specific service pack release for BlackBerry Enterprise Server. The bug was isolated to version 4.02 and does not exist in version 4.03 or other earlier versions. RIM is aware of a single reported incident of the bug and responded promptly with a fix."

RIM said that the problem, whereby people seemingly got parts of messages intended for others, "did not generate any external risk".
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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Splogging Takes Center Stage

What happens when you combine spam with Weblogs? You probably don't want to know, but you should. It's called splogging, wherein unscrupulous users automate blog creation to push links upon links upon links of junk. Google recently got hit with an infestation, but more are on the way. Larry Seltzer, dives into the whole "splogging" phenomenon and offers his own personal recommendations about what to do. Some are blaming Google, some blame PubSub, Feedster and other sites. Splogs are a problem, and they are only getting worse—check out the story to learn more.
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Monday, October 24, 2005

Google need people after all

Londonist has an open letter to Google Maps.
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Sky gets its foot in BT's door

Sky (News Corp's UK satellite busines) seems to have been successful in its bid for Easynet, a UK ISP. Easynet have broadband kit in more than 200 BT exchanges. This looks like an attempt to gain a foothold in the use or the internet for programme distribution.

Believe it of not, Easynet's latest ad campaign (you can see it on Economist.com) contains the panel shown below as part of an ad. that sells the benefits of Easynet managing one's infrastructure.

Be careful what you wish for!
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Friday, October 21, 2005

Blackberry Causing Sore Thumbs

Playing with your Blackberry doesn't make you blind yet, but according to this AP story it apparently causes all types of discomfort for our friends in the colonies.
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Google: some you lose

Those fine folks that host this blog for me don't get everything their own way.

"We have been involved in a dispute regarding the Gmail trademark in the UK. Another company has claimed rights to the Gmail name. We have tried to resolve this dispute through negotiations, but our efforts have failed."

See the note at Google's site.
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Monday, October 17, 2005

What's the opposite of inform?

Inform.com is close. I agree with Rafat Ali on this one. It's messy and tries to do stuff that is just not obvious to a reader. As it's in beta, maybe it'll emerge looking different.
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Saturday, October 15, 2005

WSJ Europe relaunch showcases wsj.com

Bill Grueskin previewed the relaunch of the WSJ Europe and Asia in compact format at the AOP conference last week. As well as prominent links to wsj.com, the masthead has the wsj.com logo watermarked in it. Like with the Guardian relaunch readers will be pointed to the website for more in-depth data and analysis. A second interesting experiment is that the WSJ have partnered with 11 local newspapers around the world and link from wsj.com to the "business story of the day" in each (translating the story into english if necessary). See today's story from Die Welt here.

The session on targeting that I chaired is covered in Dan Leonard's blog.
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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

5 cool Windows XP tips

Straight from the pages of Windows XP Killer Tips, here are 5 cool tips that will save you time, change the way your desktop looks, or simply make you say, "I always wondered how to do that."
Try them yourself and then share them with your family and friends.

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Monday, October 10, 2005

200Gb Nano

Easy electronics project described on uncyclopedia!
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Friday, October 07, 2005

Fake Google Toolbars Spreading Identity Theft

Beware of guests bearing Google Toolbars. That's because a series of phishing probes are making the rounds that deliver a faked version. Install the real-looking software, and your credit cards and other personal information are captured, then transmitted to a shadowy group of criminals. Details on how the scam works, and what to look out for.
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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Supernova Office?

This Sun and Google call rumoured to be to annouce a web version of Sun Office accessible via a browser....
It was all a bit chummy with not very much substance. The only specific announcements were that the Google Toolbar will be available as a JRE download and that Google will be buying more SUN kit. Eric Schmidt hinted that some kind of Office-type web service is on the cards and that Google will be "helping" make distribution of OpenOffice more widespread.

I think that Google are really focusing on getting Google onto desktops as the start for every search. The toolbar already has a search "Current site" dropdown which renders individual site search facilities (like those on CFO.com, Economist.com etc.) redundant and now enables indexing of networked drives too. (The good thing about the latter is that you don't have to see that stupid dog that some chump at Microsoft thought would make searching your hard disk easier.)

What the Toolbar does is enable Google to monetise every search that you perform rather than just those on the web and it provides a single place to conduct any search irrespective of where the data is.
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Monday, October 03, 2005

Vapour-free on demand computing?

A visit to Savvis in the UK last week gave me an insight into real (as opposed to vapour-ware) on-demand computing. Savvis are known as comms company but also host applications. Over time they have added to the facilities that they originally owned from running Bridge’s systems through their acquisition of Digital Island’s and Intel’s hosting facilities as well as those owned by Cable & Wireless in the US.

IBM have been banging on about on demand computing for years. Their vision (a laudable one) is that you pay for what you use. So, for example, if your database gets hammered during the London day, but is unused otherwise, you would pay only for that eight hours. The flip side to this is that when more processing power or storage space is needed it is instantly available and is billed for on a usage basis. Sounds good? The only problem is implementing it. Aside from anything else, the billing would probably be more tricky than for mobile networks.

Savvis have adopted a more pragmatic approach. They implement egenera blade servers (which can be provisioned in minutes) along with 3par storage and Inkra Networks’ virtual service switch. Instead of using the one big box model (and then partitioning) that IBM seem to favour, Savvis will deploy blades as needed. Inkra’s switches allow firewall, load balancing and VPN facilities to be deployed dynamically on a single platform. Whilst not as granular as IBM’s model (in reality Savvis will probably only ramp up or down for a month at a time, mainly to simplify billing), Savvis certainly have something that works and for which there is a very real need.

Take, for example, our ongoing upgrade of PeopleSoft Financials. The physical upgrade, including migration of all data takes five days of non-stop processing. We could decrease this time by using more powerful hardware, but the cost would not be justified on the basis that the day-to-day use of PeopleSoft does not need such processing power. Unfortunately for us, Saviss’s solution came to market too late for us to sensibly take advantage of it, but next time round it’ll certainly be an option.
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