The Buzz


Apr 12, 2011

Trust That URL? Think Again.

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

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

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?

Jan 04, 2011

Fueling the Future

I frequently come across information about being green, specifically when it comes to computing and the energy it takes to cool traditional data centers. I was particularly interested to read an article (“Fuel Cells Provide Campus Power”) about the University of California at San Diego installing a fuel cell that recycles the methane from wastewater into electricity.

Now, I’m not an energy expert, but a college friend of mine is actually a senior engineer with a national utility-supplier company. I went to him for his insight on this technology and what possible implementations it might spur. He says:

“Using methane gas for power production isn’t new. What's particularly unique about this installation is that it truly is a fuel-cell arrangement. The process won’t actually burn the methane and use the heat to boil water and spin a turbine–the traditional method of generating electricity. This will result in lower emissions, higher efficiency and a more portable model for energy production.

“Fuel cells have been around for a while but they are just starting to edge into the realm where the cost is within reason for someone wanting to make a statement. There are much more economical alternatives out there, but as installations like this one become more commonplace their cost will be driven down by efficiencies and technological developments.”

Indeed, this method should reduce energy expenses and increase energy efficiencies. According to the article, UCSD predicts the new fuel cell will generate electricity with about 60 percent efficiency, compared with about 33 percent efficiency for coal- and oil-fired power plants. With this new implementation, the university expects to generate 95 percent of the campus's electricity.

The most interesting thing about this fuel-cell arrangement, as my engineer friend points out, is the other implementations that may result. He says this model could be employed at office towers or retails centers; the 2.8-MegaWatt fuel cell at UCSD is comparable to the amount of power a typical retail superstore consumes. I'll be looking forward to seeing this technolgoy fueling data centers and other high energy-consumption environments.


Nov 02, 2010

Mainframe Users Predict Growth

Last week, BMC released the results of its fifth annual survey of mainframe users worldwide. It found that even in a challenging business environment, the mainframe continues to be the trusted platform for critical business-transaction processing.

According to the survey, 84 percent of respondents expect to see growing or steady MIPS usage on the platform–a figure that has remained consistent over the past several years. As previous surveys have found, respondents see availability, security, a centralized data-management system and transaction speed as the primary reasons for continued MIPS growth.

In addition, almost 60 percent of respondents indicated the mainframe will attract new workloads over the next year. This can no doubt be attributed to the new zEnterprise System, which enables users to deploy and intelligently manage workloads across mainframe and distributed technologies. In fact, the survey shows monitoring and event automation was cited as an important cross-platform tool by 74 percent of respondents, with similarly high responses for system/task automation (73 percent), workload/batch management (69 percent) and performance tuning (66 percent).

Reducing costs was one of the top four priorities for 65 percent of participants, even though almost half of the 1,700 companies surveyed have revenues in excess of $1 billion.

A full summary of the report findings is available online.