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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 49 declined, 23 accepted (72 total, 31.94% accepted)

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Submission + - Copyright ruling on calculated results

bfwebster writes: During the past few years, I served as an IT expert witness in BanxCorp v. Costco et al., in which BanxCorp sued Costco and Capital One for citing (with credit) its web-published national averages for CD and money market rates in their advertising. Judge Kenneth M. Karas issued his summary judgment opinion last fall, finding that BanxCorp's published averages are "uncopyrightable facts" due to the simple calculation involved and the lack of ongoing human judgment in what banks were involved. Here is my summary of his findings, along with a link to the actual ruling.

Submission + - 30-40% of Healthcare.gov (backed systems) yet to be finished

bfwebster writes: In testimony today before Congress, Deputy CIO Henry Chao indicated that 30 to 40 percent of the overall Healthcare.gov systems — primarily the payment, accounting, and back-office systems — are not yet complete. Note that payments must be made by December 15th in order for insurance coverage to start on January 1st. (Note: Chao seems to say at first that 60-70% still needs to be completed, but later clarifies himself that 30-40% needs to be completed.)

Submission + - New concept -- the Peter Pinnacle -- inspired by Ballmer? 1

bfwebster writes: Michael Swaine — long-time, well-known and very prolific author/editor in the programming and personal computing worlds — has just devised a new twist on the Peter Principal: the Peter Pinnacle, 'meaning to get promoted so high and to be so unqualified for your job that the company tells you that you can name your price just to go away.' I'm sure the timing of the neologism is just a coincidence.

Submission + - Book Review: Too Big To Fail: The Business Case for Big Data

bfwebster writes: [NOTE: I can't find any 'drop-down menu' for book review formatting. I have this saved out on my own laptop as text, so I can re-enter it if you can point me in the right direction. ..bfw.. (bwebster@bfwa.com)] Suddenly more timely than ever in light of the US Government's own Big Data projects, Too Big To Ignore provides a quick-read introduction to Big Data for both managers and technical types. The book's subtitle sets forth its scope: this is neither a technical work on Big Data, nor a "how-to" primer, nor a comprehensive survey of the field. Instead, Phil Simon seeks to explain why a given organization of any size — small, medium, or large — might want to give serious thought to initiating a Big Data strategy relevant to its mission. He gives an overview of Big Data concepts, current solutions, case studies, and a path to get started. Too Big to Fail: The Business Case for Big Data Author: Phil Simon Pages: 231 Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2013 Rating: 8/10 Reviewer: Bruce F. Webster ISBN: 9781118638170 (Hardcover) Summary: Why businesses should consider a Big Data strategy Disclosure: I reviewed Simon's first book (Why New Systems Fail) here on Slashdot four years ago and became friends with him as a result. Following the success of his first book, Why New Systems Fail, Phil Simon has carved a publishing niche for himself in focusing on key issues in the intersection of technology and business, then explaining those issues to business types (as well as technical workers seeking a general introduction). Successive titles include The Next Wave of Technologies (various emerging technologies relevant to business), The New Small (using key technologies to allow small businesses to compete with large ones), and The Age of the Platform (the emergence of platform-based business models). His newest book, Too Big to Fail, seeks to do the same for Big Data. As with his prior books, Simon's audience is primarily managers and business decision makers, though his books also provide a quick overview for technologists as well. Big Data, as Simon uses the term, refers primarily to the massive amounts of unstructured data that organizations now have access to, either by tapping into various external data sources or capturing data directly via platforms and other hosted environments. In that sense, Big Data contrasts with traditional internal data stores, such as relational database systems and data warehouses. Big Data is, of course, very much in the news right now, given the on-going revelations of the US Government's PRISM project and other data gathering efforts, which may well be the largest Big Data project to date. This book — which came out in March — clearly does not address those revelations, nor does it touch upon government analysis of Big Data (beyond one or two passing comments). What it does do — as per the subtitle — is make the business case for exploring a Big Data strategy within your organization. The book has an introduction and eight chapters, but really comprises three major sections.The first section — the introduction and Chapters 1 & 2 — covers, in effect, "What is Big Data, and why should I care?" Simon talks about the massive growth in unstructured data over the past 10-15 years and the impact it has had on various businesses. He also The second section — Chapters 3 and 4 — provide an overview of Big Data techniques and current solutions. While the techniques — including data visualization, semantics, and predictive analytics — are timeless, the discussion of specific current technology solutions runs the risk of being dated within a few years, though there is probably no way to avoid that beyond future edition updates. The final section — chapters 5 through 8 — seeks to explain what Big Data looks like in a business environment (including three case studies), how to get started on a Big Data project for your organization, and what the future is likely to hold. As someone with a strong technical background who has not had any dealings to date with Big Data, I found the book a very useful introduction and overview to the business concepts and realities of Big Data. A few times I wanted a deeper technical dive and had to remind myself that this is not written as a technical overview of the subject, but is intended primarily for a business audience. Simon's writing style is readable and informal (occasionally perhaps a bit too informal). But it is a fast and easy read — I read it in one sitting — which is essential for Simon's target audience. In light of PRISM, the subject is perhaps more relevant than ever for all of us, and some organizations may now see Big Data initiatives as a defensive move. However, the real long-term relevance of Big Data — and the corresponding issue, opportunity, and challenge — is underscored by a sidebar in the book written by Brad Feld (Managing Director at Foundry Group, a VC firm):

Twenty years from now, the thing we call Big Data will be tiny data. It'll be microscopic data. The volume that we're talking about today, in 20 years, is a speck....We are at the very beginning of a Cambrian explosion of data. (pp. 132-133)

And that is why Big Data will impact us all.

Submission + - More warnings about high-frequency trading (HFT)

bfwebster writes: "From The Big Picture (a great finance/econ blog) comes a link to this New York Times article on some of the risks and problems of high-frequency trading on financial markets and a couple of "gadflies" who are pushing hard to get some changes and reforms in how Wall Street handles HFT. Key question: when is fast trading too fast?"

Submission + - iGoogle is going away in Nov 2013 (google.com)

bfwebster writes: "iGoogle is my browser home page, for all my browsers on all my computers. I use it many times a day to check mail, manage my calendar, track the weather forecast, and, yes, see the latest stories on Slashdot. So it is with a bit of puzzlement and not a little dismay that I see that iGoogle is vanishing late next year. Google's stated reasoning, "You have better options on your mobile devices" — but I don't use it on my mobile devices. I use it on my laptop and my three desktop systems, which is where I actually, you know, do work. iGoogle can't be terribly expensive to support, which suggests that Google has other motives (big shock) for killing it off."

Submission + - NYPost goes app-only for iPad users (paidcontent.org)

bfwebster writes: "Browsing the web this morning, I discovered that the New York Post is blocking iPad users from reading its website via Safari. Instead, iPad users must download and use the NYPost App instead. That app previously required a paid subscription (which is one reason I didn't use it); however, the version I downloaded this morning isn't making any demands for payment. Yet."

Submission + - Lefty activists want to manipulate search engines

bfwebster writes: Over at the Daily Kos, Chris Bowers lays out the groundwork for Grassroots SEO, with the up-front goal "to get as many undecided voters as possible to read the most damaging news article about the Republican candidate for Congress in their district" via "search engine optimization". He lays out the plan, then says, "Once we get the articles we can start working to push them up search engine rankings. We need to launch the campaign early next week, so let’s gather these articles as quickly as we can."

Submission + - HP hardware problems with Windows 7? (brucefwebster.com)

bfwebster writes: Since November of 2009, I have bought three multi-core 64-bit systems with Windows Home Premium (64-bit) preinstalled: an HP Pavilion desktop (model e9237c, bought 11/09); an HP Pavilion Entertainment laptop (model dv7, bought 03/10); and a Gateway desktop (model SX2802, bought 04/10). All three were upgraded to Windows 7 Professional at the end of May. During the time I have had these systems, I have had dozens of blue-scree-of-death (BSOD) crashes on the HP desktop; hundreds of BSODs on the HP laptop (which I suspect are related to the wireless adapter, since they mostly go away if I disable it), including multiple BSODs that occur at the log-in screen with no-one touching the laptop; and exactly zero (0) BSODs on the Gateway desktop. I am curious if others have noted similar problems on HP systems or lack thereof on Gateway systems. (Yes, I'm planning a factory restore and, if necessary, a return of the laptop; I've been on the road heavily since the end of March and haven't been able to lose use of the laptop until now.) More details here.
The Courts

Submission + - Does cheap technology undermine this court ruling? (volokh.com)

bfwebster writes: Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor who focuses on legal issues regarding information technology (I own a copy of his book "Computer Crime Law") raises an interesting issue about a 2001 Supreme Court decision (Kyllo v. United States) that prohibited police from using a thermal imaging device on a private home without a warrant. (The police were trying to detect excess heat coming from the roof of a garage, as an indication of lamps being used to grow marijuana inside.) The Court made its decision back in 2001 because thermal imaging devices were "not in general use" and therefore represented a technology that required a warrant. However, Kerr points out that anyone can now buy such thermal imaging devices for $50 to $150 from Amazon, and that they're advertised as a means of detecting thermal leakage from your home. In light of that, Kerr asks, is the Supreme Court's ruling still sound?

Submission + - An analytical critique of the Sessions paper (brucefwebster.com)

bfwebster writes: Roger Sessions released a white paper in which he claims that annual IT failure costs amount to $6.2 trillion. However, his reading of information sources and his resulting estimates are profoundly flawed. For starters, he misreads the US Federal Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Analytical Perspective document from which he extrapolates so much and ends up nearly an order of magnitude off in his estimate of the percentage of the US Federal IT budget that is "at risk" (his term, not the government's). Likewise, his estimate of a 65% failure rate for government IT projects is not supported anywhere in the document he cites and is, in fact, contradicted by it. The flaws in his extrapolation from the US Federal Government to the rest of the world merely compound the errors.

Submission + - Google autosuggest blocking 'climategate'

bfwebster writes: Despite the fact that a Google search on 'climategate' now yields over 10 million hits, the Google autosuggest feature appears to be deliberately ignoring 'climategate'. If you type 'climategate' in, letter by letter, you never get it as a suggestion, even when you've typed in 'climategat' (or, for that matter, 'climategate'). What you get instead is "climate guatemala". Bing, by contrast, autosuggests 'climategate' as soon as you type in 'cli'.

Submission + - Video games: threat to the great outdoors (eurekalert.org) 1

bfwebster writes: Randall Parker, over at the always informative FuturePundit, calls attention to a study that claims that video games are a threat to support for the conservation of nature. The argument goes like this: people who play video games are less likely to be involved in outdoor activities, such as camping, hiking, and so forth; most support for conservation comes from people who are heavily involved in said outdoor activities; therefore, the more people who play video games, the fewer people who will support conservation. QED. Logical fallacies are left as an exercise to the Slashdot reader.

Submission + - HR 3200 considered as software (brucefwebster.com)

bfwebster writes: "Independent of one's personal opinions regarding the desirability and forms of government-mandated health care reform, there exists the question of how well HR 3200 (or any other legislation) will actually achieve that end and what the unintended (or even intended) consequences may be. There are striking similarities between crafting software and creating legislation, including risks and pitfalls — except that those risks and pitfalls are greater in legislation. I've written an article (first of a three-part series) examining those parallels and how these apply to HR 3200."

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