Turbo Todd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

The Year Of The Hack

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The long list of publicly-disclosed hacks over the past year is a lengthy one.

The most recent and prominent, of course, was Sony Pictures.  

But there were plenty of others: Target, J.P. Morgan Chase, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus, Albertson’s, the iPhone celebrities hack…the list goes on and on.

But the damage done doesn’t end at the entity that was hacked. Plenty of consumers have been negatively impacted as well.

In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll  some 45 percent of Americans said they had received a breach notification letter from either a retailer or credit card-issuer that their payment data had been affected by a breach.

45 percent!

In terms of economic costs, CNNMoney reported that in 2012 alone, $5.3 billion was lost, $3.4 billion to banks, and $1.9 billion to retailers.

The same story also relays the perils of inconvenience with credit card hacks: 41 percent of Americans were burdened with getting a replacement card.

Why is this happening?

Largely, because we’re using ancient magnetic strip technology that is inherently insecure, and because we haven’t moved to chip-enabled smart credit cards, which are much trickier to hack.

So what’s a poor consumer to do?  

Other than bury all your cash under your mattress, that is?

CNNMoney recommends not using debit cards, because there’s no fraud limits the way they’re are with credit cards.

Change your passwords regularly, and don’t use the word  “password” as your password.  Or, even worse, 123456!

Also, consider using two-factor authentication with sites like Google, where you at least receive an added layer of protection.

If 2014 was the year of the hack, let’s hope 2015 becomes the year of the smack back, one in which companies and individuals are smarter about the measures they take with regards to cyber and digital protection.

A lot of hassle, and only a few billion dollars in lost economic opportunity, weigh in the balance. 

Written by TurboTodd

December 19th, 2014 at 6:54 pm

IBM Simplifies Cloud Computing Contracts, Boosts Speed of Signing Cloud Agreements

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IBM lawyers have clearly been working overtime.

IBM announced today that it had radically simplified and made it easier for customers to enter into cloud computing services agreements by creating a standard, two-page agreement to replace longer, more complex contracts that typically required long negotiations and reviews before a deal was signed.

In comparison, IBM’s cloud competitors require customers to review and commit to more complex contracts that commonly are at least five times longer and also incorporate terms and conditions from other websites.

In recognition of this achievement, IBM received the 2014 Innovation Award for Operational Improvement from the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM) for boldly and rapidly transforming its cloud computing contract process — an achievement that significantly improved the company’s ability to quickly serve cloud computing clients around the world.

“It’s ironic that cloud computing represents a faster and more innovative approach to doing business, yet lengthy and complex cloud business contracts from most vendors remain an obstacle,” said Neil Abrams, IBM Vice President and Assistant General Counsel. “By dramatically simplifying and accelerating how clients contract for cloud services, IBM is making it easier and faster for companies to reap the benefits of cloud.”

The award-winning operational improvement was achieved over the course of two months by a small team, and deployed globally for all of IBM’s cloud offerings. IBM’s cloud services business and clients quickly benefited from the substantially simplified cloud contracting procedure.

Clients have embraced IBM’s new and innovative two-page cloud services agreement, which is easy to navigate and understand, dramatically reducing the time required to close a deal and for clients to enjoy the benefits of cloud.

IBM is the global leader in cloud computing with a diverse portfolio of open cloud solutions designed to enable clients for the hybrid cloud era with integration, control over data and expertise. IBM has helped more than 30,000 cloud clients around the world.

Today, IBM has more than 100 cloud SaaS solutions, thousands of cloud experts with deep industry knowledge from helping clients transform, and a growing global network of cloud data centers.

Since 2007, IBM has invested more than $7 billion in 17 acquisitions to accelerate its cloud initiatives. IBM holds more than 1,560 cloud patents focused on driving innovation. IBM processes more than 5.5 million client transactions daily through IBM’s public cloud.

Written by TurboTodd

December 18th, 2014 at 5:13 pm

IBM Cloud Brings Power Of Mobile, Analytics To Diabetes Treatment

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IBM made several cloud computing-related announcements yesterday, but I wasn’t able to get quite to all of them.

Another I wanted to highlight was the fact that IBM  is working with Diabetizer, a German-based healthcare technology company, to leverage IBM’s open Bluemix platform-as-a-service to build and deploy a first-of-its-kind, cloud-based application that improves care for diabetes patients around the world.

The app allows diabetes patients to instantly access and aggregate their health data from multiple devices anywhere in the world, as well as apply advanced analytics to control their blood sugar at precisely accurate levels.

Working with IBM, Diabetizer is changing the way diabetics cope with managing their disease — many of whom struggle with handwritten plans and blood sugar logs, guessed biometric data, and manual (and often inaccurate) estimates at dosage amounts and times.

Using Bluemix, which is powered by a global cloud platform from SoftLayer, an IBM Company, Diabetizer has built a cloud-based, analytics-driven app, which moves seamlessly between mobile and web interfaces to bring new levels of flexibility and precision to patients, allowing them to:

  • Aggregate blood sugar, nutritional and health data from multiple input sources (i.e. smart phone and web apps) into one, centralized mobile portal accessible from anywhere in the world – simplifying records and doctor-patient conversations
  • Tap into the Internet of Things to directly integrate biometric data from wearable devices, analyzing physical activity along with blood sugar levels to gain a more holistic view of a diabetic’s overall health

“Cloud technology has given us the flexibility and power we need to build an app that combines patients’ most important records into one, easily usable portal,” said Robin Hrassnigg, Diabetizer’s founder and managing director. “Combining this centralized data with powerful analytics, we’re giving the millions of diabetes sufferers around the world the opportunity for greater mobility, more accurate treatment and more freedom from constant calculations and data logging.”

The myDIABETIZER  app combines a clear evaluation of blood glucose readings with professional documentation for doctors and diabetologists, automatically importing measurement data and setting key parameters based on individual patient needs.

Additionally, the app synchronizes readings taken by blood glucose measuring devices like iBGStar and GlucoDock with patients’ smartphones, enabling mobile data analysis with advanced analytics software.

Bluemix is one of the Cloud Foundry Foundation’s largest cloud platform implementations, and — since its beta launch in February 2014 — has helped numerous startups such as Diabetizer turn their ideas into mobile and web apps and products. 

“Diabetizer, one of the first Bluemix customers in the German-speaking region, is a perfect example of how young companies can take their business ideas forward with a scalable, flexible, global cloud infrastructure,” said Sandy Carter, General Manager of Ecosystem Development at IBM. “Using the cloud to quickly build and bring to market solutions such as the myDIABETIZER app brings a new level of agility to the way we develop – allowing us to build apps which can help alleviate some of our most pressing health issues today.”

You can learn more about IBM cloud offerings here, and follow on Twitter at @IBMcloud.

Written by TurboTodd

December 18th, 2014 at 3:12 pm

IBM Adds Cloud Centers In Europe, Asia, Americas, Addresses Sovereign Data Trends

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IBM today announced a continued expansion of its global cloud computing network to 40 cloud centers with 12 new locations serving a growing roster of enterprise clients looking to move to hybrid cloud computing.

IBM will reach customers in 12 new locations including IBM Cloud centers in Frankfurt, Mexico City and Tokyo, and nine more centers through a strategic partnership with Equinix in Australia, France, Japan, Singapore, The Netherlands and the US.

IBM’s agreement with Equinix provides direct access to the full portfolio of SoftLayer cloud services via the Equinix Cloud Exchange in nine markets worldwide spanning the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific, including Amsterdam, Dallas, Chicago, Paris, Silicon Valley, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Washington, D.C.

Through this partnership, SoftLayer provides customers with the ability to easily move production workloads in and out of the cloud, thus better enabling them to fully realize their hybrid cloud strategies.

The new IBM Cloud centers in Frankfurt, Mexico City and Tokyo mark the latest delivery of IBM’s $1.2 billion committment announced in January 2014 commitment to grow IBM’s cloud presence around the world to meet these local mandates with performance, security and data controls built in.

The new centers further expand IBM’s global cloud footprint which includes facilities in Mumbai, London, Amsterdam, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Melbourne, Toronto, Dallas and Raleigh, N.C., opened this year.

This effort includes IBM’s business consulting division, which features thousands of cloud experts with deep industry knowledge who are located around the globe to help clients to move to cloud. IBM consultants are dedicated to working face-to-face with clients to address all of their industry specific needs as they transform to the cloud era.

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the new facilities offer an array of solutions including proven cloud resiliency services. These services guarantee customers up times of 99.99 percent across any IT environment, including traditional IT, public, private, or hybrid cloud deployments.

In the event of an outage, the centers’ support team can recover data in minutes to ensure that is has little to no impact on business operations while going virtually unseen by customers.

You can learn more about IBM cloud offerings here, and follow on Twitter at @IBMcloud.

Written by TurboTodd

December 17th, 2014 at 9:16 pm

IBM Researchers Partner With Memorial Sloan Kettering On Cognitive-Computing Skin Cancer Analytics

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IBM today announced a collaboration with Memorial Sloan Kettering to research the application of cognitive computing to analyze dermatological images of skin lesions with the goal of assisting clinicians in the identification of various cancerous disease states.

The technology, which learns by identifying specific patterns in medical images, has the potential to increase the number of cases detected and help clinicians make earlier diagnoses.

Despite efforts to address risk factors, skin cancer is still the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States with nearly 5 million people treated for the disease every year, at an estimated cost of $8.1 billion. Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, causes nearly 9,000 deaths each year.

The automated analysis of skin imaging is one area of research that is currently being investigated by IBM Research, in conjunction with a larger international effort being led by Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Dr. Allan Halpern, Chief of Dermatology Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering, said “Skin cancer is a major public health problem. 
Treatment options exist, with the best outcomes attained through early detection. However, accurately distinguishing the earliest cancers from concerning benign lesions can be very challenging even for dermatologists, so having the aid of analytics that can recognize medical images and detect small variations over time could vastly improve patient prognoses.”

Currently, diagnostic accuracy varies widely across clinicians, institutions, and the availability of expertise. Even when the appropriate expertise is available, diagnostic accuracy is estimated between 75-84%.   Critical evidence in these images is often subtle, requiring experience and careful measurement to recognize. 

Using cognitive visual capabilities being developed at IBM, computers can be trained to identify specific patterns in images by gaining experience and knowledge through analysis of large collections of educational research data, and performing finely detailed measurements that would otherwise be too large and laborious for a doctor to perform.

Such examples of finely detailed measurements include the objective quantification of visual features, such as color distributions, texture patterns, shape, and edge information. Algorithms could also measure temporal morphological progression of lesions (such as aggressive growth over a short span of time), or deviations from what is considered normal for a single patient or sub-population.  Combinations of these types of analyses could identify for the clinicians, nuanced patterns in dermatological images that may signify disease.

Preliminary experiments have been performed using a controlled research dataset of dermoscopy images (a specialized imaging technique used by dermatologists) containing over 3,000 cases of melanoma, atypical lesions, and benign lesions. In this dataset, the technology developed by IBM recognized diseased states with a performance of 97% sensitivity, and 95% specificity.

You can learn more about IBM Research initiatives here.

Written by TurboTodd

December 17th, 2014 at 6:58 pm

A New BlackBerry. Almost The Same As The Old BlackBerry.

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BlackBerry is going back to its base.

CEO John Chen appeared on “CBS This Morning,” a U.S. morning news broadcast, this morning, and seemed to explain that the new BlackBerry was kind of like the old BlackBerry.

He clearly highlighted the device’s one-time market-leading strengths, including security and privacy, and its stronghold in the enterprise. 

Simply called “The Classic,” the new device being announced today at launch events in NY, Singapore, and Frankfurt, has its “classic” physical keyboard (which many of us who moved on miss, but have mostly gotten over), a trackpad, and the “back” and “call” buttons that had been abandoned in recent BlackBerry editions.

For the true die hards, there’s also a new version of “Brick Breaker.”  A true differentiator (that was a joke).

There are reports out that this new BlackBerry “Classic” has already sold out preorders on sites like Crackberry.com, and the device is being sold unlocked for $499.00 U.S.

Yet BlackBerry market share recently hovered around 2.3% in the U.S.  

Compare that with Android at 52% and Apple at 42% (Microsoft was just above BlackBerry at 3.5%).  Can the new keyboard climb that tall a hill?

Me, I can’t help but think there’s quite a bit of nostalgia in this “Classic.” 

Hey, I’m human, I get nostalgic, too.  I bought the Atari classics DVD a while back just so I could play Galaga and Defender and Asteroids once in awhile.  

But if I really want to get my game on these days, I crank up my Sony PS4 and enter into virtual reality worlds that make the original Asteroids look like moving stick figures.  

Which, of course, they are.

I remember that clicking sound when the 8-track tape switched from one track to the next.  These days, I listen to music on Pandora.  There’s no clicking sound. 

So it’s kinda the same with my smartphone.  

Lost my physical keyboard?  Oh wah…it’s much faster to talk to my iPhone and have it dictate and transcribe the words for me than it ever was to type it on a BlackBerry keyboard.

Although to be fair, there is a dictation app for the BlackBerry, so why do they need that keyboard so badly?

If shoring up a base of 2.3% of diehard BlackBerry subscribers with a what’s past is present keyboard is a strategy, more power to them.  

Nearly thirty years ago, Coca Cola tried to improve upon its own flagship product, what they would later call “Classic Coke,” with the introduction of “New Coke.”  

With the introduction of New Coke there were virtual revolts in the streets (and the grocery aisles), as customers began hoarding Classic Coke when they learned Coca-Cola would abandon the old for the new…it ended up being a marketing debacle, and eventually, Coca-Cola dropped the new Coke for the old Coke, which they called “Classic.”

The difference?

You can’t drink a BlackBerry, no matter how many keys it has (the new “Classic” has 35)

And you can’t type your way back to the future, no matter how elegant the keyboard.

Written by TurboTodd

December 17th, 2014 at 3:37 pm

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs To Use IBM Watson For Enhanced Care Delivery

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IBM today announced that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is using Watson technology in a pilot to assist physicians in helping accelerate the process of evidence-based medical decision making.

The VA joins leading healthcare organizations that are working with IBM Watson to help improve efficiency and quality of care being delivered. As part of the multi-year contract, the VHA will also work with Watson for a clinical focus supporting veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

According to the VA’s National Center for PTSD, there are approximately 21.6 million veterans in the United States. As many as 20 percent of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) are impacted with PTSD. Additionally, 12 percent of Gulf War veterans and 15 percent of Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD.

With the amount of medical data doubling every three years and the size and complexity associated with patient data in Electronic Medical Records (EMR), Watson will be studied to see how it can help VHA clinicians quickly make sense of an overwhelming amount of data. Watson will make it possible for VHA physicians to interact with medical data in natural language, process millions of pages of patient information and medical literature to uncover patterns and insights, and learn from each interaction.

By sifting through reams of clinical data, Watson is able to distill evidence and knowledge within seconds.

Advanced as part of a separate collaborative effort with Cleveland Clinic, IBM is applying Watson technology to an EMR environment to help clinicians navigate and process medical records, uncovering key information and unlocking hidden insights within the data.

Such an evidence-based approach has the potential to help physicians make more informed decisions about patient care. The VA will study how to use capabilities of the IBM Watson Discovery Advisor to analyze healthcare data.

Available now as a cloud service, IBM’s Watson Discovery Advisor is designed to scale and accelerate discoveries. It can help reduce the time physicians need to test hypotheses and formulate conclusions that can advance their work — from months to days and days to just hours — bringing new levels of speed and precision to research and development.

Historically, the potential of EMRs has not been realized due to the discrepancies of how the data is recorded, collected and organized across healthcare systems and organizations. Watson’s cognitive capabilities provide a differentiated approach to understanding the dynamics of the EMR environment and correlates what’s in the EMR with medical literature, research and articles, making data from EMRs more meaningful at the point of care.

IBM is supporting VHA physicians and staff in setting up their Clinical Reasoning System at the Department’s data center in Austin, Texas.

Watson will ingest hundreds of thousands of VHA documents, as well as medical records and research papers in order to help study how Watson technology can help physicians improve patient care in the clinical environment. In this capacity, the VA is evaluating the system in simulated pre-visit, visit, and post-visit situations where physicians will conduct technical, functional and usability assessments. 

Written by TurboTodd

December 16th, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Facebook To Microsoft Bing: It’s Complicated

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The Facebook/Microsoft search partnership has gone from being “In a relationship” to “It’s complicated.”

Marketing news site ClickZ is reporting that Facebook has ditched the Bing search engine as a provider in favor of its own proprietary engine.

The move to Facebook’s “social graph” as a search vehicle “will allow Facebook to focus the results on comments, photographs, and other information from the Facebook ecosystem.”

To which I say, more than ever, be careful what you write anywhere on Facebook. 

With that warning in mind, Facebook search could become quite interesting considering it’s moving away from a search algorithm to a people one. 

I just ran a search on Led Zeppelin (because it’s totally random and I’m also a fan) and the Facebook dropdown results gave me a wide variety of results: Friends who like Led Zeppelin,  a link to “The Song Remains The Same” page, to “Led Zeppelin IV.”  

So, make no mistake, people and their interests will become more prominent in Facebook’s search results.  If there’s some things you’d like to not have other people see in your likes, now would be a good time to go unlike them!

Written by TurboTodd

December 16th, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Posted in bing,facebook,search

2014: The Year In Search

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It’s that time of year again, the time when Google releases the topics that the U.S. and the world have searched for most during the course of 2014.

Considering that teen-oriented celebrities have topped the list in year’s past, it was heartening to see “Robin Williams” name at the top of both of the U.S. and Global Trending search lists.

It appears Williams was universally beloved around the world, and his untimely suicide extinguished a light of an incredible and virtuoso talent we won’t see the likes of soon again. If search queries are any barometer of our collective conscience, it’s heartening to know so many around the globe were checking up on Mr. Williams and his legacy after his passing.

Now, can you guess the number two spot? It was 2014, which meant it was a “World Cup” year. And the World Cup did not disappoint, especially where social media was concerned. On the final match game day, there were over 2.9 mentions of #ARG on Twitter and over 3.5 million of #GER (Argentina and Germany). The World Cup, too, is a global phenomenon.

Third up? “Ebola.” No great surprise, considering the vast amounts of media attention and fear mongering that went along with the spread of the virus itself.

Fourth was also another under the tragic category, “Malaysia Airlines,” which we now know lost two airplanes under mysterious and suspicious circumstances, and which left millions around the world asking questions both online and off.

Number five on the global trending searches list (and number six on the U.S. list) was the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.” What started out as a small seed of a social media phenomenon blossomed into a global movement. Over 2.3 million videos were produced and over $100 million was raised. In a 28 day period from late July to late August, that amounted to over $3 million per day.

Only one app made it to the top 10 this year: Flappy Bird. I blogged about missing this fascinating phenomenon way back in February. You can read that post here.

And you can find Google’s full 2014 “Year in Search” here.

Written by TurboTodd

December 16th, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Oculus Rift Buffs Up

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Enough of all this depressing hacking news.

There’s some new news on the virtual reality front. Facebook’s Oculus VR has made two acquisitions, Nimble VR and 13th Lab AB.

Brief Flashback History: Facebook bought Oculus Rift for $2 billion back in March. Since then, virtual reality seems to be finding its way back to real reality, with more money coming into the space.

Hey, it’s been a long time coming…Second Life was so…2006?

Nimble VR, which used to be 3Gear Systems, was so 2012 when it was founded, and does some really cool skeletal hand tracking technology using small 3D cameras mounted on top of Oculus Rift.

13th Lab is out of Sweden and uses cameras to make 3D recreations of physical environments.

Motion capture expert Chris Bregler is also joining the Facebook Oculus Rift team. According to the blog post announcing the moves, Bregler recently worked on visual tracking for movies like The Long Ranger and Star Trek Into Darkness, and spent 11 years as a professor of Computer Science at NYU.

2015 could see a big growth spurt in virtual reality technology, but I’m still waiting for those goggles to get smaller and smarter.

In the meantime, my new Sony PS4 is doing just fine in bridging the gap. I’ve gotten deep into both "Destiny" and "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare," and am still freaking out how good the graphics are. Put me into an immersive VR environment even close to that…that could be seriously freak-you-out good.

Written by TurboTodd

December 15th, 2014 at 9:10 pm

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