A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Friday, June 30, 2006

Mosquito deterrent becomes secret ringtone 

Compound Security, a firm of two people based in Wales developed the Mosquito
ultrasonic deterrent system to combat anti-social behaviour by "encourganing" teenagers to move away from an area. The Mosquito works on the principle that the high pitch tone (18 to 20 kHz) can only usually be heard by people under the age of 20.

The fact that the tone can't normally be heard by adults has spawned a whole new use for it - as a ringtone on the mobile phones of schoolchildren so that teachers are unaware that pupils are texting each other in class.

Banning mobile in school would seem to get round that problem.

You can hear (or not) the tone courtesy of the NYT.
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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Where Have I been and what have I been doing? 

It's been a while since I've posted on EcoblogIT. The whole NY IT move to Active Directory has been consuming my time.
I have also been beta testing alot Microsoft and Google are beta crazy these days. I've been playing around with Vista beta 2 and its a very stable and a neat O/S. Office 2007 is really nice I like it alot. Microsoft Live mail is just Hotmail w/ 2GB storage nothing special. I did beta Microsoft Live for Domains. If you own a domain and want free email then just point your RX record to microsoft and then you can have name@yourdomain.com and read it through a hotmail login page. After setting up accounts for my family and using it for two months Google e-mails me saying they are now beta testing the same but through a gmail account. So I repointed my RX to gmail and started using that. I have more controll w/ the Gmail then Microsoft and plus the shared calender is always a plus w/ two kids and trying to figure out where they are each day for the summer vacation.
Google also asked me to beta Picasa Photo Album online which is nice to share photos w/ frienda nd family. I tried the Google spreadsheet online but Office will always blow away any online office suite.

Some links if people are intrested:


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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Web 3.0 

You heard it here first.... (see the second comment to the linked post)
(via Susan Mernit's blog)
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100Mbps internet cafe 

An internet cafe has just opened, with each computer having a 100Mbps connection, possibly because it's connected diretly to the UK portion internets backbone, as Goonhilly satellite station in Cornwall: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cornwall/5123118.stm

Does beg the question however, why would anyone in an internet cafe need such access? I guess it may become a mecca for gamers...
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Dell demo Misssion Impossible technology 

This laptop will self-distruct in five minutes....

The Inquirer has the pictures.

Looks like you ought to take Dell's recall program seriously if you have a Latitude D410, D505, D510, D600, D610, D800 or D810,an Inspiron 510M, 600M, 6000, 8600, 9200, 9300, XPS Gen 2 or a Dell Precision M20 or M70.

Look up Lithium-ion batteries on Google/Wikipedia for more info on the chemistry and the potential hazard.

BTW, the Inquirer looks uncannily like the Register because it was set by Mike Magee, who founded the Register.
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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

BlackBerry 'kill pill' not marketed well 

I realised a while ago that RIM have done a very poor job of marketing the functionality of the BlackBerry service to corporates. In their haste to target the consumer directly, they push the look of devices and assume that techies will go ahead and implement.

The fact is that us geeks have been looking for something that does exactly what the BlackBerry Enterprise Server does for ages - that is, allow easy secure management of handheld devices.

As proof of this marketing hole, despite the functionality described in this article existing for the BlackBerry, the author seems unaware of the fact.

Oh, and it works.

As a sideline to this story, I chuckled when a colleague who is a fervent non-BlackBerry user tried recently to send an e-mail and failed. Whatever you think of the BlackBerry, it does mail pretty reliably. RIM now need to set about convincing the unconvinced of the superiority of their product and ensuring that they stay ahead of the pack.
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Monday, June 26, 2006

Why cool is a hot topic for IT infrastructure 

So, Bill Gates is "transitioning" out of Microsoft. He admitted long ago that he couldn't be as hands on as he used to be - with products like Vista and its 50 million lines of code that's understandable. Apparantly Sergey Brin and Larry Page are trying to do things differently and continue to do what they think that they do best - that is, come up with new ways of solving problems. One of the things that they are said to be working on is how to reduce Google's biggest cost - power.

Gartner reckon that the cost of electricity for a server over its lifetime will approach its purchase price as hardware costs come down and electricity costs go up. A typical dual processor server consumes around 1kW without a monitor but including cooling (a lot of that power gets converted to heat). With electricity costs of around £40/MWh for large organisations, this puts the cost per server at around £350 per year.

When you consider that the likes of Google who use relatively cheap hardware because they have massive redundancy, you start to see the problem. Brin and Page have looked at whether they could manufacture their own units without graphics processors, for example, as they don't need their boxes to drive displays. It also seems likely that they'd take a real close look at the cost of electricity when deciding where to build new data centres.

An article on Byte.com describes an interesting initiative at a Sun facility to test whether direct current can be supplied direct to equipment and thus save on power loss from conversion from AC to DC.
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Friday, June 23, 2006

Novell in a mess, man 

From CNET News.com: Novell ejects CEO, CFO
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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

MIcrosoft's Visual Studio 2005 campaign is cool! 

My favourite clip (I haven't watched them all...yet) is number 144. A bit like Morrison's reasons campaign, but better.
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BBC & ITV trial multicast 

I hadn't seen anything about the BBC's multicast technical trial, but then again my reading/browsing is not that structured. I found the BBC's trial through their Backstage mailing list.

I'm sure that you all know what multicast is (see Wikipedia) and what interests broadcasters like the BBC is that it massively cuts down on the bandwidth that is needed at their end as they only need send one stream of data (rather than a stream for each end viewer). The downside is that it relies on routers along the way propogating the multicast and that doesn't happen automatically. I remember Reuters wanting to do this 10 years ago and Cisco pushing the fact that their carrier grade routers could handle it.

Trouble was (and is) that the technology tends to be proprietary to each vendor.

For these reasons, the BBC trial only works on some ISPs networks, but is now available for most of their output (in the UK only) which is a big step up from their trial of the Olympics two years ago.
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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Think twice before downloading Angolan screensaver ! 

If this BBC article is anything to go by, you should be careful if you're trying to download a screensaver featuring your favorite Angolan World Cup superstars.
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Monday, June 12, 2006

A new kind of coach 

Nike and Apple cooperate to create a new must-have (they hope) for runners:

Maybe they've found a way to make money off of those nanos after all.

Commentary on this from the thrilling world of business process management:
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Dan Brinklin and "the long tail" 

Dan Brinklin, the co-creator of VisiCalc (the first PC based spreadsheet), maintains a site that I've referred to before and I came across his essay prompted by Chris Anderson's characterisation of the internet's "long tail" (basically the internet allows you to reach a wider audience more easily meaning that previously unsustainably low demand can be sustained commercially).

Dan's is an intersting take on this because rather than just saying that the long tail makes some things sustainable when previously they were not, he says that when designing a product the long tail must be considered if you want it to be a success.
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The Observer 'fesses up to a Google moment 

The Observer admitted to a Google moment this week.

A "commissioning editor" had used Google to find an expert on MRSA. What they actually found was a Dr Malyszewicz who as well as not being a microbiologist was not even a medical doctor, having a "correspondence course" PhD from a non-accredited distance learning institution in the US (although in the UK the title of doctor is not a protected one and anyone can legally use it - just beware if you're on a plane and they need one).

The alarm bells should have been ringing for the sub-editor when Dr Malyszewicz said in his advice in the article in question that "Finally, Manuka honey does work as a treatment for MRSA, but only after infection."

This is classic fodder for Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column, which regularly debunks articles in popular newspapers that quote dubious or non-existent "scientific research" generally to support quack cures.

And here's the funny part (not for the said "commissioning editor", though). Ben Goldacre has raised the dubious nature of Dr Malyszewicz's qualifications on no fewer than five occasions in his column that happens to appear in The Guardian, The Observer's sister paper.

The admission by The Observer illustrates the dilemma for web publishers; the original article does not contain any reference to the subsequent admission, even though it could do. Similarly restaurant reviews usually only get updated when the restaurant is re-visited by a reviewer rather than when the establishment changes hands (should that happen). This is the problem when content is merely republished on the web - should such content remain untouched as it reflects what was originally published or should it be updated and the original content lost?

The answer (if resources permited) would be to have two views of the content - one which faithfully reflects what was printed at a particular point in time and one which merely updates what already exists. (In fact publishers often already take the latter approach when stories change as later or different editions are printed.) This blurring of the nature of online content has got to change because readers will increasingly get fed up with the dis-service that publishers are doing them just because their systems aren't up to making the distinction possible.

Finally, if you were worried about your mother contracting MRSA would you write to a magazine or speak to your doctor?
sounds like an excellent opportunity for the wiki approach, allowing readers to go backwards in time and see what has changed since original publication.
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Friday, June 09, 2006

Wikis as a compliance tool? 

Who'd have thought that a Wiki would at some point become the thing that we all use in a corporate environment to meet compliance and audit requirements? It would certainly be an interesting step because most people's exposure to Wikis is with Wikipedia with all the doutbs about the trustworthiness of its content.

As I've been saying, things often end up being a killer app in an area that's most unexpected. Is the audit trail built into Wikis their killer feature? Michael Arrington of TechCrunch hints at this with the announcement by Dan Brinklin, who created VisiCalc, that SocialText will get exclusive distribution rights for his wikiCalc software.

This thought has legs, as they say.
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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Step one: admitting you have a problem 

Hotel Offers BlackBerry Detox
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Microsoft launches vapour-hardware 

This is what happens when you underestimate demand.

Speaking of which, most commentators seem to think that Carphone Warehouse's "free" broadband offer was a good business decision despite the fact that demand was underestimated and call centres are swamped. Charles Dunstone said "What has surprised us is the success of it. More people resented how much they paid for broadband than we ever imagined". Really?

Well I guess that we'll just have to wait and see, but Bulldog found that not having enough staff to deal with the public was pretty humiliating in the end.
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