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Current Affairs

Apr 12, 2011

Trust That URL? Think Again.

By Natalie Boike

The IBM X-Force recently released the full 2010 Trend and Risk Report, which details experience and insights gained from managing 4,000 client environments worldwide, as well as analysis of every publicly disclosed vulnerability.

One tidbit I found particularly interesting: 90 percent of spam is classified as URL spam, or messages that include URLs that a person clicks to view. This surprises me because I would think this would be the least-effective spam method; people are more cautious of emails that ask them to go to an outside website. However, the X-Force reports the majority of those domain names are well-known and trusted, such as Internet service providers, image-hosting websites and URL shortening services.

According to the report, “Not only do these legitimate websites provide a recognizable (and trustworthy) web link to the end user, but spam messages using them may also successfully evade some anti-spam technology because they only use legitimate links in their spam emails.”

It’ll definitely make me think twice before clicking a link from what I think may be a trusted site.

Of course, the X-Force report has much more significant and business-relevant findings. Get the full report online, follow the X-Force blog for further analysis or even interact with the data from the past several years. What findings do you think are most interesting?

Feb 15, 2011

Auto Correct Sets us Back

By Natalie Boike

You may be surprised to learn that I am a notoriously bad speller. While I love words, language and grammar, somehow spelling just seems to get in the way. I have, for years, blamed the auto-correct feature of word-processing programs, which were just emerging in my formative educational years. I never learned to recognize spelling errors by sight, because the indicative red underline always told me if I made a mistake.

I recently discovered a website that hosts screenshots from iPhone text conversations. The premise is: People send in examples of auto correct gone bad. I think everyone has experienced this. Frequently, my text-message auto correct will even make the same mistake when I try to send a subsequent text for clarification, furthering the hilarity. Here’s just one gem of a conversation spotted on the site:

Texter A: My mom just got me the softest sheets everrrr.

    They’re plaid flannel.

Texter B: Oh! I’m jealous. I love the feel of flatulence in bed!

    Omg omg omg omg


Texter A: I am dying. That was epic.

As text-message lingo makes its way into our vernacular, I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to think that features like auto correct on our phones will do for today’s generation what word processing programs’ auto correct functions did for me. The use of this abbreviated speech has a name: Internet slang. (Even this has been shortened to netspeak.)

Not familiar with all of the abbreviations? The website will translate an entire conversation for you.

In a New Jersey newspaper opinion column from 2003, “The Lost Art of Writing,” Silvio Laccetti and Scott Molski predict drastically reduced chances of employment for students who use Internet slag. They write, "Unfortunately for these students, their bosses will not be 'lol' when they read a report that lacks proper punctuation and grammar, has numerous misspellings, various made-up words, and silly acronyms."

So what do you think? Have you seen this casual vernacular make its way into your conversations? What are some of your favorite auto-correct experiences? I can’t wait to ROFL.

Feb 07, 2011

I’m Impressed

By Natalie Boike

If you’re one of those people who actually uses a computer to access Facebook (as opposed to a mobile device) and you manage a page, you’ve likely noticed the new impressions counter beneath each of your wall posts.

According to Facebook, impressions count the number of times the post has been viewed on your wall and in your fans’ news feeds. As an example, the average number of impressions on the magazine’s Facebook pages, range between 350 and 400 for the Mainframe edition and 200-300 for the Power Systems edition.

But really, what are these impressions worth? According to Ned Desmond of, Facebook has an Edge Rank algorithm, which determines how often your posts are seen in each person’s news feed. Desmond evaluates the effectiveness of impressions when compared to print, online and e-mail advertising. In most all cases, he rates Facebook as more useful.

Today, post Super Bowl XLV, one particular advertisement tells a strong story about the effectiveness of social media. Two days in advance of the football game, a version of the Volkswagen commercial featuring a young boy in a Darth Vader costumer was leaked on the Internet. Before the game, an estimated 30,000 people viewed the commercial. Now, total online views are estimated at 16 million. The ad has been linked to from Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube accounts and even news websites. (And now, even in this blog.)

It’s hard to imagine a similarly popular advertisement receiving as many views a mere five years ago, without the hype created by today’s social media outlets. I wonder if Volkswagen knew they would be getting 16 million impressions from a 60-second commercial. What do you think that impression is worth?

Oct 19, 2010

Wanted: Your Thoughts on Magazine Design

By Evelyn Hoover

I don't watch much TV but Project Runway is one of my must-watch shows. I love to see the designers receive a challenge from Heidi Klum, spend some time sketching and thinking, purchase fabric and start bringing their design to life with the help of Tim Gunn. It's not the sewing that attracts me (I can't sew to save my life). It's watching the creative process unfold that captivates my attention each week.

In many ways creating a clothing design is a lot like creating a magazine. We assign and acquire the articles, edit them and design the magazine pages. It's this last step where the creativity really comes in. And where the angst sometimes begins.

On Project Runway, Michael Kors and Nina Garcia often remind contestants to edit their creations. This kind of comment got me thinking. It's been 10 months since we launched the redesign of IBM Systems Magazine. And we may need to edit down the design a bit. Or perhaps readers feel the design overall is good. I'm hoping to receive some feedback from readers about the various design elements of the magazine including cover imagery, headline usage, etc.

Please contact me via e-mail, [email protected], if you're interested in sharing your thoughts on the magazine with me. I appreciate, in advance, your assistance.

Jul 30, 2010

Big Announcement, Small Changes

By Natalie Boike

I recently read an article in the New York Times about IBM’s reorganization of its senior executives. I soon learned  some additional changes were made on the Systems and Technology Group team. At first I was worried about what this might mean for IBM’s server line and its customers. After speaking with the new General Manager for both Power Systems and System z Tom Rosamilia, I am assured this is mainly an organizational change.


Formerly System z general manager, Rosamilia was promoted to the unified System z and Power Systems brand teams at the same time he was sharing news of the zEnterprise System with customers in London. (For news on the announcement, read "Reinventing IT".) Rosamilia says the individual product areas will remain in tact; Greg Lotko has been named the VP and Business Line Executive (BLE) of System z and Colin Parris has been appointed VP and BLE for Power Systems. Lotko most recently worked as VP of Warehouse Solutions in the Software Group and Parris was VP for Systems Software Development and has additional experience on the Systems and Technology Group.


Each platform has unique characteristics and provides different values to customers, so the realignment will impact marketing, development and go-to-market processes, Rosamilia says. “While we feel this is a good move in making us more effective, it does not change our product plan at all,” he adds. “We have always had plans to leverage as much of the technology as possible like power, packaging and cooling, and the chipset themselves – to continue to deliver innovation to clients.


Ross Mauri, who was General Manager, Power Systems, has been appointed vice president, Enterprise Process Transformation. In his new role, he will be responsible for supporting of IBM's 2015 roadmap. Mauri has been a regular contributor to IBM Systems Magazine, Power Systems edition. While we will miss his involvement with the magazine, we’re excited to see what he’ll do next. I look forward to working with these executives and I’m sure you’ll see their names on the pages of IBM Systems Magazine soon.


It should also be noted: Similarly new positions have been announced in the marketing and global sales teams. Doug Brown–who is also from the Software Group–will now serve as VP of Global Marketing for Power Systems and System z. Karl Freund (System z) and Scott Handy (Power Systems) will remain VPs of their respective platform marketing groups. A vice president of global sales for Power and System z has yet to be announced, but Global Sales VPs for System z Paulo Carvao and new appointee Power Systems Tony DeVore will support this position. DeVore was formerly VP of System Sales for the US Federal IMT.



Apr 13, 2010

Power Community Rallies to Bring Books to Impoverished South African Students

By Evelyn Hoover

Many of the readers of this blog rely on books and other media to keep their skills fresh. But if you had to make a choice, how many of you would buy books instead of food? I'm willing to bet not many. But that's just what a dedicated group of learners in South Africa was willing to do.

In response to the need for IBM i and RPG skills of some key clients in South Africa, IBM sent an instructor to the area to work with the clients to develop the needed skills. That project led to the IBM Academic Initiative partnering with South Africa's Vaal University of Technology (VUT) to provide an instructor, equipment and facilities for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds who were interested in working on IBM i and AIX systems. Many of the students used their small travel allowance to buy the required books and went without food in some cases.

When Marinus Van Sandwyk, founder and CTO of Tembo Technology Lab and COMMON Africa volunteer, discovered that some students were willing to forgo food to spend their money on textbooks, he knew he had to help. Rather than go it alone, he sought help from the generous Power community.

Van Sandwyk appealed to 29th Street Press and MCPress to provide a set of textbooks and establish a lending library so the students can check the books out as they take their classes. Both publishers provided deep discounts and the authors of the textbooks donated their royalties to further decrease the cost. Finally, the Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professional Association user group donated some funds to help defray shipping costs.

"This is a great example of the entire Power community coming together to help increase skills," says Linda Grigoleit, worldwide program manager, Power systems Academic Initiative, IBM.

Mar 15, 2010

Employing the Net Generation

By Natalie Boike

At the SHARE Technology Conference in Seattle, Don Tapscott, author of “Grown Up Digital”  spoke of the impact of the “Net” Generation on the future. By his own definition, the Net Generation is composed of people, younger than 30 years old, who are “bathed in bits.” “They aren’t afraid of technology, just like you aren’t afraid of the refrigeration,” he explained to the audience.

Tapscott says this generation learns, plays and communicates differently than previous generations. Additionally, he believes the way members of this generation work is changing talent, collaboration and management for the better. He says the Net Generation doesn’t distinguish between networking, collaborating, working and having fun.

“The current employment-management style is to recruit employees, put them in a cube, treat them like Dilbert and take away their tools [e.g. Facebook, wikipedia and other online resources,” Tapscott says. The Net Generation, however, thrives on collaboration and constant performance feedback and has the ability to multitask more than older generations. He suggests, instead of banning social media from the workplace, companies can leverage those tools to achieve new business insight and improve customer satisfaction, citing Best Buy’s BSN (Blue Shirt Nation) as an example. Concerns with social media and other Net Generation tools can be easily mitigated with technology, Tapscott says.

As a member of the Net Generation, Taspcott’s message is exciting to think about. Many business processes continue simply because that’s the way things have always been done. What if, as Tapscott suggests, work could be fun? Does your company employ anyone who could be classified as a Net Generation member? How do they fit within your existing work structure? Are they shaking things up for the better?

Jan 19, 2010

The Work-Life Intersect

By Natalie Boike

When I started working on IBM Systems Magazine last fall, I never imagined that one day IBM servers would constantly be on my mind. While many people may take their work home with them, this may verge on neurotic.

For example, when I am out shopping, I look at the computer systems retail companies are using. Often there’s a classic IBM logo on the cash register or credit-card tablet. I’ll make a mental note for when I get home to check if the company is using an IBM Power Systems or System z server. This isn’t always a simple task, but it’s all in the name of a good success story to share as a case study in the magazine.

In the wonderful world of Twitter, I came across a user who you could consider just as neurotic as I am. (I mean this in the most polite way possible!) Kim Moutsos, who tweets @MainframeComm, has been compiling movies, TV shows and books that feature a mainframe. Not only did I find a kindred spirit through this post, but also in the user replies she received. For example, movies that mention a mainframe include “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “The Matrix.” And who can forget the classic “War Games?” Even today’s popular television shows like “Chuck” and “24” feature heavy-duty computers.

So how big is the intersection of your work-life Venn diagram? I challenge you to add to the list at And, if you have any suggestions for a case study, send them my way at [email protected].

Aug 04, 2009

It’s Cool to be Green

By Natalie Boike

Green Peace has been working to protect and conserve the environment since 1971. One of its more recent campaigns, the Cool IT Challenge, recently caught my attention. According to their Web site, the information and communications technology sector creates 2 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions. However, its services and products have the potential to cut the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent.

The self-proclaimed goal of this project is to “turn IT industry leaders into climate advocates and solution providers.” In its May assessment, the site ranked IBM’s CEO Sam Palmisano one of the most environmentally friendly corporation executives, but he received a ranking of only 29 out of 100.

Some of the good things IBM is already doing fall under the umbrella of its Smarter Planet initiative. From food and energy to public safety and healthcare, IBM has many ideas about how companies can make operations more efficient and productive.

One of the best side effects of going green is that it can save you some green as well. Upcoming issues of IBM Systems Magazine focus on environmental sustainability. Stay tuned as we showcase some of IBM’s initiatives and implementations and illustrate how you can make your IT infrastructure greener and save a little money too.

Jul 20, 2009

Move Over Shaq, IBM Systems Magazine Is Now Tweeting

By Evelyn Hoover

Social media. Some of it I get, some not so much. I'm on Facebook and LinkedIn. I  understand, somewhat, the benefits they bring to my personal and work lives, respectively. When it comes to Twitter, I admit to being something of a humbug. Facebook, for instance, enables me to keep track of the goings on in the life my friend Sean who I don't often see because of the busyness of our lives and the distance between our homes. LinkedIn keeps me in touch with people I work with or have worked with in the past. There's certainly value there.

But Twitter? I just don't get it. I don't need to know the status of everyone on an hourly or more frequent basis. "I'm at Starbucks enjoying a latte" read a recent tweet. I was tempted to reply "Who cares." I decided not to. So, yes, I have a personal Twitter account, which I've tweeted with a total of two times. Feel free to follow me, but don't expect much activity there.

Still I find it an interesting medium that may sometime prove valuable. This house tweets notifying its owner of water usage, electricity usage, mouse activity (yuck). Might this someday become ubiquitous much as security systems have become in recent years? Maybe.

While I remain skeptical, I recognize that Twitter is a sign of the times, growing at an astounding 1,382 percent, according to quoting Nielsen Online. IBM Systems Magazine is joining the ranks of Ashton Kutcher and Shaq. We have set up Twitter accounts for all three publications: Power Systems--IBM i edition: IBMimag; Power Systems--AIX edition: AIXmag; and Mainframe edition: Mainframemag. We've already begun tweeting and are just starting to build our following.

We plan to use the medium as a way to keep readers informed about articles as they are posted online, keep readers up-to-date about activities at conferences the editors attend (e.g., COMMON, SHARE, IBM tech conferences, etc.) and generally build awareness for our Web site.

Like all things social media, Twitter is meant to encourage conversation. So it won't just be the editors tweeting to you. We hope it will evolve into a dialog. We'd like to use Twitter as a way to solicit article ideas and reader feedback and find sources for articles.

I hope you'll follow us on Twitter. Let us know what you think we should tweet about. Tell us how we're doing. Give us some article ideas. We'll do our best to tweet back. In the meantime, I'll put my skepticism aside and join the conversation.