Stories by Mark Hall

When programming for NASA, contingencies pile up

Suppose you were developing software that would run about 50 to 60 operational tasks simultaneously, including the management of multiple mechanical and digital devices. That'd be reasonably complex. Now consider that any time a task stumbled, the software would have to correct itself. That would mean thinking ahead for every possible contingency that could affect all running tasks and designing in self-healing capabilities. That's much more complex.

Giving iPhone its moment in history

There are moments in history that place one-to-many communications media in pivotal roles. These events ("Where were you when you heard...?") become elemental markers in history not just because of the enormity of what happened, but also because of how they were conveyed to the world.

SaaS slips past IT's final barrier

CIOs are loath to give up direct control of the systems that chief financial officers watch like a hawk. Billing and general ledger software come to mind as programs you'd think would never be candidates for software as a service (SaaS). But that will change. In fact, says Ed Sullivan (no, not that Ed Sullivan), it already has.

What a librarian can teach you about privacy

Librarians will go a long way to defend the privacy of their patrons' reading habits. How far will you go to defend the privacy of your customers' information and your employees' personal data?

On the Mark: Apple vs. IBM

In late October, a buddy from my MacWeek days e-mailed me with this half-joking dig: "Apple's worth more than IBM. The Mac wins!!"

Keep tabs on your web rep, your data center and your fleet

Social networks, blogs and other online forums can make or break a reputation these days, be it a company's or a product's. But the sheer volume of verbiage being posted is all but impossible to track. Unless, of course, you've got a tireless computer with clever software designed to extract meaning from content.

Overstock.com's BI Bang

Patrick Byrne has biked across the U.S. four times. On a recent journey, he pedaled a recumbent bicycle. It's better than a road bike, he says, because "unlike a road bike, where your head is down and you're looking eight feet in front of you, you're sitting up on a recumbent, and you can see everything."

Green In and Out

There are two kinds of people: optimists and pessimists. Sadly, I'm one of the latter. So I wasn't surprised when the vast majority of scientists concluded that human contributions to the buildup of greenhouse gases are a key component of global warming.

More data? Get used to it

As part of the IT team at the Virginia State Police department in the U.S., Lt. Pete Fagan's job is to ensure that criminal investigators, police officers in the field and other authorities get the most accurate, timely and detailed crime-related information possible. Crime never stops, so the data volumes are huge, dynamic and getting bigger every day.

More data? Get used to it

As part of the IT team at the Virginia State Police department, Lt. Pete Fagan's job is to ensure that criminal investigators, police officers in the field and other authorities get the most accurate, timely and detailed crime-related information possible. Crime never stops, so the data volumes are huge, dynamic and getting bigger every day. Criminal records often stretch back decades and include source material from countless systems in myriad formats. Multimedia content is a growing necessity. Metadata, a new necessity, is gobbling up precious disk space. Storage capacity, as you might imagine, is an ongoing problem for the department.

Get serious

When CIOs stop buying computers that lack public-key encryption tools, that's when companies will begin to get serious about data protection. When CIOs start using encryption communications services that permit only messages to and from whitelisted sources, that's when IT management will be seen as serious about securing business information. Until then, IT executives are merely pretending to defend their companies and their people.

Free Systems Management ...

Scot Abel, CEO of Spiceworks, says that IT, particularly at small and midsize companies, gets the shaft when it comes to systems management software, which he contends is expensive to buy and overly complex to install and manage. In contrast, Abel claims that his Spiceworks IT Desktop software offers "dramatically simplified" management capabilities.

A battle over BI

Look, The New York Times and similar news organizations are a sure bet to continue publishing stories about the National Security Agency or other government spies who are vacuuming up as much data as possible from as many sources as possible in their hunt for terrorists. And, yes, we'll learn that a good deal of the data includes private information about innocent folks like you and me. (Well, me, anyway.) I don't think any of us working in the IT industry are shocked by such revelations. Oh, a few politicians and corporate spokesmen have acted about as "shocked" as Casablanca's Captain Renaud said he was when he discovered that gambling was going on in Rick's Cafe Americain. But no one I've talked with in IT has been surprised.

WWDC - Apple touts new OS, users like new hardware

Apple Computer Monday stepped up its criticism of Microsoft's Windows operating system and revealed numerous new features to its planned spring 2007 release of Macintosh OS X 10.5, or Leopard. But it was the hardware shown here during the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote address by CEO Steve Jobs that had most people talking.

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