I wanted to write a piece about the wisdom of crowds for a long time, but I needed a clip from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" to make it work. After a lot of procrastinating, I went to YouTube, did the hard work of reviewing all of the Python clips and found the right one. There is no limit to the effort I will make to write a piece -- this research was physically demanding and my sides still ache. If you are a Python fan, you might want to review the clip for sheer fun, and even if wacky British humor is not your cup of tea, watching the clip will enhance your understanding of what I am going to say. So, go ahead, take a look. I will wait. Really, it's OK -- there's a recession on and I have the time. It's a little over four minutes. OK, welcome back. If you cheated and just forged ahead without the benefit of Michael Palin and the gang, the clip is a medieval mob scene in which the mob, convinced that a woman is a witch, asks permission from the local knight to burn the witch at … [Read more...] about Crowd Wisdom
There are some basic rules that both humans and robots should be aware of when it comes to not being seen, and Monty Python only scratched blew up the surface. Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Laboratory has been developing a robot designed to operate around humans without being detected, and not just by being small and quiet: it listens for humans, guesses where they might be looking, and then finds itself a nice dark hiding place when it needs to. Lockheed's robot is equipped with a 3D laser scanner that allows it to build detailed maps of its surroundings. It also has an array of acoustic sensors, which allow it to localize footsteps and voices. It can then combine the locations of humans with its 3D map to guess what areas the humans might be able to see, and then does its best to stay hidden. Keeping to the shadows, the robot always maintains an escape route, and if it senses a human approaching, it will look for the deepest darkest corner it can find and then hold its … [Read more...] about Lockheed Martins Spybot Knows How Not to Be Seen
Steven Cherry: Hi, this is Steven Cherry for IEEE Spectrum's "Techwise Conversations." Earlier this month, The New York Times published a charming profile of an idiosyncratic Australia book publisher, James Morrison. The article, by Times blogger David Streitfeld, contained two irresistible quotes, one by the writer, the other from his subject. Streitfeld wrote: "Now books can be efficiently printed in small quantities, like one copy. Amazon, meanwhile, is happy to do the job of fulfilling orders. The stage is set to allow everyone to become his own Alfred Knopf." Knopf was a prominent publisher in the '20s and '30s. The quote by Morrison was about a particularly idiosyncratic book he had published. It went like this: "The audience for an 1850 book-length Monty Python-style doggerel poem about a socially aspirant sea serpent is probably just me." When I say I found these quotes irresistible, I mean I started down a rabbit hole of wondering two things. First, how exactly do you go … [Read more...] about Is Micropublishing the Death of Publishing-or Its Salvation?
Weather forecasts calling for bright sun today across Europe drove up tensions in advance of the partial solar eclipse that blocked the sun's rays and plunged much of the continent into a brief period of darkness this morning. Grid operators were bracing for record swings in solar power generation because of the celestial phenomenon. Some power distributors in Germany had warned of fluctuations in frequency, notifying customers and suggesting that they shut down sensitive equipment. In the end, while clear weather made for some excellent eclipse viewing, the electrical story ultimately felt more like Monty Python's radio coverage of the 1972 eclipse. As if audio coverage of a quintessentially visual event isn't absurd enough, the Pythons closed their fictitious report in the ultimate anticlimax, as a sudden rainstorm swept in to spoil the solar spectacle. Europe's interconnected power grid brought about an equally anticlimactic ending today by delivering rock-solid stability throughout … [Read more...] about European Grid Operators 1, Solar Eclipse 0
The title of this week's column is stolen from an item I've just posted to my Weblog, with apologies to Monty Python. It's been an interesting week. On Tuesday of last week, I began an experiment to coordinate two sets of Web services: online bookstores, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and online libraries, in particular my own local libraries. The LibraryLookup project, as I'm now calling it, took on a life of its own. On Wednesday I discovered that a simple bookmarklet would do the job. It can parse the ISBN number from the URL of an Amazon, or B&N, or isbn.nu, or other book-related site; issue a query to your local library; and open a new browser window onto the result of that query. I found a list of the addresses of almost 900 libraries that use the same Web-based system that my libraries do, and blogged the corresponding bookmarklets. At a single stroke, one-click lookup from a central book site to the local library was made available to potentially … [Read more...] about Nobody expects the spontaneous integration
It's that time again: Time for a new storage format war. Did I hear a collective groan? I bet you can't wait to put all your eggs in one technological basket only to have the format you've chosen fall by the wayside, screaming like the armless, legless knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the Round Table knights to come back and fight. I remember that movie well because I had it on Betamax, then on VHS tape, then laser disc and now DVD. Speaking of DVDs, front and center on stage this week at the Consumer Electronics Show will be the next generation of DVD systems and the contenders are Blu-ray and the High Definition DVD or HD-DVD. As with previous format wars, each side has its supporters. Blue-ray is supported by Philips Electronics, Sony, Hewlett-Packard and Dell. According to Philips, Blu-ray can burn and play CDs and DVDs in three formats and store up to 50 GB of data on a single disk. The opposing group is led by Toshiba and Sanyo. The HD-DVD standard has slightly … [Read more...] about Blu-ray, DVD and the Holy Grail
A new musical opened on Broadway recently: Spamalot. No, it's not the story of the e-mail plague that continues to bedevil IT managers; it's a musical version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a film about the search for the holy artifact, knights, maidens, shrubbery, and a vicious rabbit with a mean streak a "mile wide." Between this musical and spam's association with e-mail, I wondered if today's theater patron realizes Spam is the name of a spiced meat product developed in Austin, Minn., in 1937 and apparently popular during World War II. [ Roger Grimes' free and almost foolproof way to check for malware. | Discover how to secure your systems with InfoWorld's Security Report newsletter. ]Either way, a year ago Congress passed the CAN-SPAM Act. Not bad for a name as far as government humor goes, but it's not Monty Python funny. The act can hardly be said to have been a rousing success. According to some recent data collected by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, e-mail … [Read more...] about E-mail on Broadway? InfoWorld
The other day, my friend Ned's cousin asked Ned what he thought was the best first language for new programmers. The cousin didn't have much computing experience, but at 15 years old the future was looming fast, and he thought programming seemed interesting and that it might be something he could get into. "So naturally," Ned explained, "I told him to learn Scheme." [ What's your take on the best first programming language? Join our discussion. | Also on InfoWorld: "My kid could code that." | Cut straight to the key news for technology development and IT management with our once-a-day summary of the top tech news. Subscribe to the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. ] [ Here are 6 skills a solid IT generalist should master, no matter where your life in IT leads. ]Huh?! Scheme? When Ned first opened up the can o' worms of "which programming language is the best," it seemed like a fine opportunity for an argument, Monty Python style. He'd say Perl, someone else would say C++, a third would … [Read more...] about What’s the best first language for a programmer?
Looking to hide a body or locate a strip club? Desperate to find someone with whom to reenact Abbott & Costello's classic "Who's on First" routine? Want to know how much wood a woodchuck really can chuck? Look no further than Apple's iPhone 4S -- or more specifically, its new Siri Intelligent Assistant, which answers questions in a humanlike voice and with humanlike sass. Siri has taken on such a life of its own that it dwarfs all other aspects of the iPhone 4S. (Yes, it has taken me this long to figure out that the S in 4S stands for "Siri." I thought it was for "Steve." Duh.) [ Want to cash in on your IT experiences? InfoWorld is looking for stories of an amazing or amusing IT adventure, lesson learned, or tales from the trenches. Send your story to [email protected] If we publish it, we'll keep you anonymous and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ] [ Give yourself a technology career advantage with InfoWorld's Deep Dive technology reports and Computerworld's … [Read more...] about Apple’s Siri is AI with an attitude
Remember the "Bring out your dead" scene in the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"? Where the old man argues that he's not dead yet as the local body collector passes through the medieval English neighborhood? Well, Research in Motion, in its pursuit of developers for its BlackBerry platform, wants everyone to know that it is not dead, despite perceptions that the mobile device battle these days has narrowed down to just Apple's iOS and Google's Android. In pitching the RIM platform recently to a roomful of Silicon Valley-based Android developers, RIM's Larry McDonough, from platform product management, acknowledged faults that he says the company has fixed. As you would expect, he also played up RIM's supposed advantages and downplayed the perceived advantages of iOS and Android. RIM is making a renewed effort to court developers as it moves to replace the current BlackBerry platform with a new one based on the QNX operating system used in the RIM PlayBook tablet. Spinning RIM's … [Read more...] about RIM to developers: BlackBerry is not dead
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is halfway toward becoming law after the House passed the bill by a vote of 288 to 127 yesterday, rejecting several amendments that would have limited the amount of personal information private companies could share with Uncle Sam. Hey, no big deal, right? In February, CISPA's primary author Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich) shared his views on why CISPA is no threat to personal privacy: We're talking about exchanging packets of information, zeroes and ones, if you will, one hundred millions times a second. So some notion that this is a horrible invasion of content reading is wrong. It is not even close to that. [ For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. | Get the latest insight on the tech news that matters from InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog. ] [ Give yourself a technology career advantage with InfoWorld's Deep Dive technology reports and … [Read more...] about The CISPA circus: Send in the clowns
September 17, 2013 06:00 PDT | 09:00 EDT | 13:00 UTC Not a TechBrief subscriber? Sign up for a free subscription. >>APPLE FALLS: Apple quiet on iPhone 5c pre-orders as stock price slides 3.2 percent, by Chris Welch: "Just days ahead of launch, Apple is today breaking a trend; it's not providing any indication of how well iPhone 5c pre-orders are going. For three years running, Apple has been quick to boast about early consumer interest in the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5... Last year, Apple's update came on the Monday after pre-orders began, but the company's PR team has been mum today. And Wall Street may have noticed the silence." The Verge>>>> China Unicom reservations for new iPhones pass 100,000 units, by Edmond Lococo, Michael Tighe: "China Unicom may follow its smaller rival in taking a less aggressive approach to iPhone subsidies." Bloomberg >>>> Apple quiet on iPhone 5c pre-orders as stock price slides The Verge >>>> Preorders … [Read more...] about Bad to worse for APPLE — BOX (and everyone else) takes on Office — Inside CIA’s SPOOK VC — MOZILLA’s touch-based browser delayed — BRYAN GOLDBERG gets New Yorker treatment
While the world waits for that puff of white smoke and the announcement of a new Defender of the Windows faith, I wanted to take a few minutes of your time and explain how things really look from the trenches. No, I'm not going to tell you how to run a bazillion-dollar company with 130,000 employees and a bewildering array of products. You have enough folks with green eyeshades running around already -- no doubt with a nasty propensity to tell you, "Yes, sir!" [ Windows 8 left you blue? Then check out Windows Red, InfoWorld's plan to fix Microsoft's contested OS. | Microsoft's new direction, the touch interface for tablet and desktop apps, the transition from Windows 7 -- InfoWorld covers all this and more in the Windows 8 Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay atop key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ] [ The InfoWorld review: Microsoft's Nano Server offers mega advantages. | The best new features in Windows Server 2016. | Stay up on key Microsoft … [Read more...] about An open letter to Microsoft’s next CEO: 12 wishes from the Windows faithful
by Erin Monaghan Originating with a small Monty Python sketch, the term Spam is no longer synonymous with an undesirable mystery meat in a blue tin can; it s become undesirable junk mail that clutters your email inbox, cellular phones and other electronic devices. If you don't construct your campaigns properly with your choice email marketing services, the newsletters you worked so hard on are going to end up in the junk mail folder. The CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003) is a law passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2003, requiring national standards for sending commercial emails. The CAN-SPAM Act was prompted by the overwhelming flood of Spam infiltrating people s email. During the 90 s inboxes were inundated with sexually explicit, misleading and deceptive email marketing campaigns selling everything from pornography to lawn furniture. All legitimate email marketing services require their clients to abide by … [Read more...] about What is the CAN-SPAM Act?
Back in my days as a magazine editor, I published a story about the supposed death of mainframes, wonderfully titled in a steal from Monty Python, “I’m Not Dead Yet.” And whadya know, mainframes still aren’t dead. I was reminded of the whole idea of “not being dead yet” as I started looking at how carriers were making the move to SDN and NFV. I would have thought that the carriers would be wholeheartedly into the prospect of network virtualization. But while there’s a lot of announced commitment, there’s also some hesitation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Carriers have invested a lot into creating highly reliable telecom networks, and no one would blame them if they didn’t want to declare those components dead yet. Let’s start with the optimism, brought to us as always by the research firms. As Sean Michael Kerner reported in Enterprise Networking Planet earlier this month, network-focused Infonetics Research is … [Read more...] about Are Carriers Really Leading the Charge to SDN?
Trouble is brewing in cloud land. Maybe AWS chief Andy Jassy started it all, deriding the private cloud as “archaic” and not really cloud at all. Then Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst told me that public clouds like AWS become “obscenely expensive at scale” -- which, of course, sent public cloud advocates into a frothing rage. [ Cloud computing shares resources never shared before, creating new risks and demanding new security practices. Learn those new security measures from Cloud Security Digital Spotlight PDF special report. | Also on InfoWorld: Mobile app development in the cloud | Stay up on the cloud with InfoWorld's Cloud Computing newsletter. ]But not an unstudied rage: As CSC’s Simon Wardley, Google’s Miles Ward, and others argued in response, public clouds like AWS are not, nor need not be, more expensive than private clouds. The opposite is true, they maintain. Expensive mistakes Embedded in Whitehurst’s argument is that while public cloud … [Read more...] about Red Hat’s CEO is dead wrong about the cloud
At its re:Invent conference this year, Amazon made a pair of announcements that should alarm cloud APM (application performance management) providers. Two of Amazon's new AWS offerings, AWS X-Ray and Amazon Pinpoint, provide insights into distributed and mobile applications running on Amazon. With them, Amazon may not have put a stake through the heart of third-party APM offerings, but it might well mean limbs lopped off a la Monty Python's Black Knight. [ Download the public cloud megaguide PDF: Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM, and Joyent compared. | Stay up on the cloud with InfoWorld's Cloud Computing Report newsletter. ]Lifting the lid X-Ray is arguably the bigger of the two, since it allows requests to be traced for applications as they run across various parts of AWS's infrastructure, such as Elastic Beanstalk or Amazon API Gateway. Developers insert into the app a snippet of code that provides the needed request-tracing functionality. Data collected from the request tracer is … [Read more...] about Now AWS wants to be your cloud APM provider, too
In a region where trust is parcelled out with exquisite care, usually only among family and friends, I’m getting used to ‘jokes’ that I’m a British spy. To establish some trust quickly with only limited French and barely any Arabic, I’m deploying an unusual weapon: Monty Python clips on my iPhone. There are enough clips from The Life of Brian sub-titled in French on YouTube to connect these 1960s British cultural revolutionaries to the 21st century ones in North Africa. In a world where there are suddenly dozens of post-revolutionary parties in the mix, the People’s Front of Judea splitters is popular with all, while activists relish this example of revolutionary planning. Graffiti artists - and victims of religious rote learning - also relate to this lesson. Meanwhile hardcore anonymous hacktivists understood how not to be seen; while Egyptian bloggers facing disproportionate responses - including military trials and jailing - from the Supreme … [Read more...] about Play it Again, King Mohammed
The ever-increasing density of computer chips has opened up the possibility of countless technological breakthroughs – from an online catalogue of all the world’s great art to monitoring global weather patterns. Oh, and why not also create a PC-like device that will record everything on TV automatically? At least that’s the idea behind a challenge issued in the research and development labs at the BBC, which has led to the unveiling of a prototype personal video recorder (PVR), called Promise TV, that successfully recorded and stored all the shows running for a week on all 12 channels in the UK. With each new development in digital video recording (DVR) – DirecTV, TiVo, and the like – more intelligence has been built into software and guides, allowing for easier navigation and better software-based estimates of what a user might want to watch. But the Promise TV device removes even that modest level of work, since it records every single program on every … [Read more...] about What’s (not) on the Telly?
The hazy images of Kyle Cassidys Toy Soldiers (1996) evoke faint childhood memories. This short film expresses the hopes and anxieties of a small boy as he awaits the next news from his father who is serving in Vietnam. Adult concerns shape his everyday rituals as he plays in the backyard with his green plastic army guys and reflects on the fate of those who have been run over by the lawnmower, as he watches the flickering television newscast with his mother, and as he awaits the next letter. Toy Soldiers has the intimacy of a home movie, even though it is re-created decades later from the directors own memories. Cassidy made the critically acclaimed film with his Pixelvision 2000 camera, which has a plastic case and plastic lens, runs on six AA batteries, and records its images on a regular audiocassette tape. The Pixelvision camera was marketed from 1987 to 1989 by the toy company Fisher-Price. At $100, it was the cheapest self-contained camcorder ever made. The Pixelvision camera … [Read more...] about Taking Media in Our Own Hands