Emerging Technology

Emerging Technology

Pearson Education Measurement, which scores more than 40 million student achievement tests each year, announced in February that it would begin using computers to grade student essays. After decades scanning number two pencil dots, the machines have advanced to prose. And the key to that advance is an ingenious process called latent semantic analysis, one of several techniques that researchers and corporations are exploring to cajole machines into understanding the meaning of strings of words instead of just manipulating them.

The idea of a computer doing more sophisticated evaluations than tallying up multiple-choice answers has alarmed parents and teachers. If computers still can’t figure out that those penis enlargement e-mails in their inboxes are spam, how can they possibly assess the merits of a book report on The Sun Also Rises? As it turns out, the process of training a machine to grade essays is similar to the process of training human graders.

Traditionally, human graders are shown samples of good, mediocre, and poor essays and instructed to base their grades on those models. The computerized grader, dubbed Intelligent Essay Assessor, plots those sample essays as points in a kind of conceptual space, based on patterns of word use in the document.

Secret Geek A-Team Hacks Back, Defends Worldwide Web

Secret Geek A-Team Hacks Back, Defends Worldwide Web

In June 2005, a balding, slightly overweight, perpetually T-shirt-clad 26-year-old computer consultant named Dan Kaminsky decided to get in shape. He began by scanning the Internet for workout tips and read that five minutes of sprinting was the equivalent of a half-hour jog. This seemed like a great shortcut—an elegant exercise hack—so he bought some running shoes at the nearest Niketown. That same afternoon, he laced up his new kicks and burst out the front door of his Seattle apartment building for his first five-minute workout. He took a few strides, slipped on a concrete ramp and crashed to the sidewalk, shattering his left elbow.

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He spent the next few weeks stuck at home in a Percocet-tinged haze. Before the injury, he’d spent his days testing the inner workings of software programs. Tech companies hired him to root out security holes before hackers could find them. Kaminsky did it well. He had a knack for breaking things—bones and software alike.

But now, laid up in bed, he couldn’t think clearly. His mind drifted. Running hadn’t worked out so well.

The Enemy Within

The Enemy Within

When the Conficker computer “worm” was unleashed on the world in November 2008, cyber-security experts didn’t know what to make of it. It infiltrated millions of computers around the globe. It constantly checks in with its unknown creators. It uses an encryption code so sophisticated that only a very few people could have deployed it. For the first time ever, the cyber-security elites of the world have joined forces in a high-tech game of cops and robbers, trying to find Conficker’s creators and defeat them. The cops are failing. And now the worm lies there, waiting …
Alex Ostroy

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Mark Bowden June 2010 Issue Technology

The first surprising thing about the worm that landed in Philip Porras’s digital petri dish 18 months ago was how fast it grew.

He first spotted it on Thursday, November 20, 2008. Computer-security experts around the world who didn’t take notice of it that first day soon did. Porras is part of a loose community of high-level geeks who guard computer systems and monitor the health of the Internet by maintaining “honeypots,” unprotected computers irresistible to “malware,” or malicious software. A honeypot is either a real computer or a

Viruses Are Good for You

Viruses Are Good for You

Is it the prospect of witnessing your system’s gradual decay, one nagging symptom following another until one day the whole thing comes to a halt? Is it the self-recrimination, all the useless dwelling on how much easier things would have been if only you’d protected yourself, if only you’d been more careful about whom you associated with?

Or is it not, in fact, something deeper? Could it be that what scares you most about the virus is not any particular effect it might have, but simply its assertive, alien presence, its intrusive otherness? Inserting itself into a complicated choreography of subsystems all designed to serve your needs and carry out your will, the virus hews to its own agenda of survival and reproduction. Its oblivious self-interest violates the unity of purpose that defines your system as yours. The virus just isn’t, well, you. Doesn’t that scare you?

And does it really matter whether the virus in question is a biological or an electronic one? It should, of course. The analogy that gives computer viruses their name is apt enough to make comparing bioviruses and their digital analogs an interesting proposition, but it falls short in one key respect. Simply put, the only

Should You Surround Yourself With Multiple PC Monitors?

Should You Surround Yourself With Multiple PC Monitors?

Worrying about your PC monitor set up may seem pointless, but multi-monitor set ups are all the rage these days with the goal of significantly improving productivity

According to a from the University of Utah:

* People using the 24-inch screen completed the tasks 52% faster than people who used the 18-inch monitor
* People who used the two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster than those with the 18-inch ones.
* Productivity dropped off again when people used a 26-inch screen.

This blogger offers his assessment of the value of multiple monitors in easier to digest terms:

Let me be perfectly clear on this matter: more is more. More usable desktop space reduces the amount of time you spend on window management excise. Instead of incessantly dragging, sizing, minimizing and maximizing windows, you can do actual productive work. With a larger desktop, you can spend less time mindlessly arranging information, and more time interacting with and acting on that information. How much that matters to you will depend on your job and working style. Personally, I’d be ecstatic if I never had to size, position, or arrange

Should You Surround Yourself With Multiple PC Monitors?

Should You Surround Yourself With Multiple PC Monitors?

Worrying about your PC monitor set up may seem pointless, but multi-monitor set ups are all the rage these days with the goal of significantly improving productivity.

Al Gore Rocks Three Monitors!

According to a from the University of Utah:

* People using the 24-inch screen completed the tasks 52% faster than people who used the 18-inch monitor
* People who used the two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster than those with the 18-inch ones.
* Productivity dropped off again when people used a 26-inch screen.

This blogger offers his assessment of the value of multiple monitors in easier to digest terms:

Let me be perfectly clear on this matter: more is more. More usable desktop space reduces the amount of time you spend on window management excise. Instead of incessantly dragging, sizing, minimizing and maximizing windows, you can do actual productive work. With a larger desktop, you can spend less time mindlessly arranging information, and more time interacting with and acting on that information. How much that matters to you

Windows Home Server A Slam Dunk For Small Biz Too

Windows Home Server A Slam Dunk For Small Biz Too

The first Microsoft Windows Home Server-based system began shipping this week from Hewlett-Packard and despite the “home” in its name this nifty bit of hardware is a perfect fit for small business storage needs.

HP MediaSmart Home Server

If you haven’t heard about Microsoft’s storage play, here’s the deal: aiming to cash in on home user’s with multiple PCs and large storage requirements, Microsoft and hardware partners are delivering what amounts to the first mainstream storage area network product.

The very first WHS-based system, from HP, went on pre-order on Amazon just this week. For $569 you get 500 GB of expandable storage plus a slew of software tools for managing backup, authorized access and more. You also get some very slick hardware capabilities including the ability to “hot swap” disks without turning off the machine.

IT is used to having networked storage. Most home and small office users are not.

Other vendors including Iomega and LaCie plan to launch Windows Home Server hardware soon.

The server is getting almost universally-positive reviews, not usually the case with first-generation

Microsoft ‘Albany’ Fits Between Online Docs and Full Office Suite

Microsoft ‘Albany’ Fits Between Online Docs and Full Office Suite

Hands-up: how many small business owners have picked up a discounted copy of Microsoft Office for Teachers and Students to use in the office?

You’re not alone. The suite gives you most of what you need and you don’t *really* need to fit the profile to buy it — you can’t pick it up in a store like Costco without much fuss.

If you like your software packaged, Microsoft may soon have another alternative for you — and one that doesn’t force you to pretend you’re still a student.

InfoWorld tells the story:

Facing pressure from hosted productivity suites like Google Docs and Google Apps, Microsoft is planning a new package of low-end productivity software and hosted services through a secretive project code-named Albany.

Project Albany puts together a combination of Office, Office Live Workspaces, Windows Live OneCare and the Windows Live suite of services in one package that eventually is expected to be available in retail outlets such as Best Buy.

The Politics of Ink

The Politics of Ink
In the news today, Staples and HP are getting sued for a deal they made in which Staples agreed not to sell generic brand inkjet printer cartridge refills for HP machines.



Ink Injection!

Chances are, your small business either got a printer thrown in as part of a PC bundle or you spent a few extra bucks to get one of those combo numbers that does printing, faxing and copying.

Either way, you got a deal on the printer because HP (or Canon or Lexmark or whatever company sold you your printer) now has you as a customer for life buying replacement ink cartridges.

So it should come as no surprise that HP is scheming to come up with ways to get you to buy your ink directly from them.

The alternatives include buying generic cartridges or going to one of those new-style stores that will refill your ink cartridge (the printer I use, the very nice HP C6180, apparently will reject refilled cartridges and Cartridge World won’t even try to refill them).

(Social) Power to The Email Inbox!

(Social) Power to The Email Inbox!

Where do you live online? Chances are, if you think about it, it’s not on some Web site (even Facebook or LinkedIn, for social network fans) but your e-mail inbox.

That’s why Yahoo, Google and a handful of intriguing startup companies are hoping to use email as the linchpin for building the next generation of social networks.

The New York Times this week gets the latest scoop from Web giants Google and Yahoo:

Web-based e-mail systems already contain much of what Facebook calls the social graph — the connections between people. That’s why the social networks offer to import the e-mail address books of new users to jump-start their list of friends. Yahoo and Google realize that they have this information and can use it to build their own services that connect people to their contacts.

So what does this mean? Brad Garlinghouse, who runs the communication and community products for Yahoo, describes its so-called “Inbox 2.0” plans a bit further:

First, the e-mail service is made more personal because it displays messages more prominently from people who are more important to you. Yahoo is

Is the iPhone the Perfect Small Business Smartphone

Is the iPhone the Perfect Small Business Smartphone

If you don’t, you should. These days, smartphones are basically mini-laptops — enabling email, Web browsing and more. It puts an extension of your online business in your pocket.

With this week’s launch of the iPhone 2.0 from Apple, smartphones will get more attention than ever before.

Many of these capabilities have been available with other smartphones for some time — for instance, my Treo running on the Verizon network has everything about but GPS — but few phones are as elegant as simply as fun to use as the iPhone. Like most things Apple, user experience sets it apart.

See this video from CBS News for a closer look at the iPhone:

How should you choose a smartphone? The bMighty blog has a some good guidelines from Info-Tech Research to guide you in choosing a smart phone.

Boiled down, the advice is

Likely Top 5 Mobile Apps

Likely Top 5 Mobile Apps

For a company, mobile applications serve multifold benefits. Modern software can organizes work routines while on the go and allow corporate meetings without commuting.

 

These apps have added to the scope of communication, location tracking, learning, gaming and entertainment thereby causing a sudden boost in the mobile application development industry. They are fast gaining significance for companies who wish to promote their products and services to smartphone users.

Trend wise, it is the mobile game applications that are most popular in the mobile app stores. We expect more game applications will be created by mobile application development companies to engage users while teaching them more about business activity.

Most Popular Mobile Apps in 2013
We expect the following top applications to lead others in terms of popularity in 2013.

Facebook:
The most popular application of 2012, Facebook can be used to market a company’s products and services while keeping connected to the target market. Customized Facebook applications allow companies to launch specials, showcase products and organize polls and giveaways for all mobile users on the go. The use of a company logo and corporate colors add a corporate look and style to the mobile app.

Mobile Tracker:
Companies such as movers, cab

Raspberry Pi The Cheapest Computer to Date!

Raspberry Pi The Cheapest Computer to Date!

If we look few decades back, it was almost impossible to think of working with a computer without any proficiency of knowledge about it. Gradually, the developers made it simple by making use of a graphical operating system. Now, it is simpler yet by the invention of Raspberry Pi, it has been developed by a charity called Raspberry Pi Foundation. It is not more than the size of a credit card. The feature which makes it genuinely special is its ‘ease of use’, especially for the beginners. Another important factor is its price, which is either $25 or $35, depending upon the version. The price is good news for them who can’t afford to buy a usual desktop.

These days computers are important, as these have become important means for communicating, be it for business purpose or some personal need. We could assure you that Raspberry Pi fulfills the basic needs of all classes of people. However, you need to understand one thing clearly, from the moment you take the circuit out of the package, do not expect things to happen automatically. If you do not know how to work with Raspberry Pi, land up on Raspberry Pi’s website for online

How Seniors Can Get the Best from the Digital Age

How Seniors Can Get the Best from the Digital Age

For most of us these days, using a computer has become a daily occurrence, so much so that many of us can’t imagine life without it. Completing work projects, checking correspondence, interacting socially and shopping online have all become part of our everyday existence, but not everyone has become part of the Digital Age. There is one significant group in our society which has been left behind by events, and it’s perhaps time to include them.

A significant number of the older members of our communities have little or no experience of computers, and will not be aware of the many benefits that regular internet usage can bring. In an era when we are encouraging young children to find their way around the web and to become increasingly au fait with everything computers can achieve, it seems a shame that we are neglecting those at the other end of the age scale.

Those who were born in the 1980s and beyond have grown up in an era of technological innovation, and are therefore better equipped to understand the many gadgets and gizmos that have appeared on the shelves of our stores ever since. Although there are plenty of older people who know

Advantages of Cloud Computing for the Home

Advantages of Cloud Computing for the Home

Cloud computing not only transforms home computing, but the way we work and live. If that sounds overblown, consider how working from home and consuming entertainment have changed over the last few years. And the rise of the ‘Internet of Things’, which will co-ordinate internet connected devices, can make your home life more relaxing and enjoyable.

There are already lots of advantages to embracing cloud computing in your home, whether it’s for work, pleasure or managing your household.

Cloud Storage for the home:
One of the big early selling points of cloud computing has been the availability of cheap, plentiful storage space for photos, videos, work documents and anything else you can think of. Cloud storage providers include UK-based Memstore, along with U.S companies such as Dropbox, Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft.

It’s important to check out the various options and not just sign up to the most familiar brand names, as costs can vary depending on the storage needed. And in the UK it’s also well worth considering a UK-based provider like Memset, as they’ll be fully-compliant with UK specific laws and regulations, which isn’t the case for businesses based elsewhere.

Backing up anything valuable to you, whether its photos of your

Microsoft Continues Small Business Push With Centro Apps, Server

Microsoft Continues Small Business Push With Centro Apps, Server

First came a storage server, then online office tools, not to mention a business search engine — all with a significant small biz focus. Now, Microsoft is readying release of a version of its core business software suite specifically suited to small- and medium-sized businesses.

According to Information Week, Microsoft’s code-named Centro software — now re-named Windows Essential Business Server– will be shipped next year.

Whether you need Centro depends on how big your business is and what sort of in-house IT/admin support you have. Microsoft says the software is targeted at companies with 25 to 250 computers. You’ll have to install and maintain it yourself, which makes it out of reach for some small businesses.

The Standard Edition of the new platform will include Exchange Server 2007 for messaging, Forefront Security for Exchange, System Center Essentials for management and Internet Security and Acceleration Server aka ISA Server for firewalling and security.

Pricing isn’t available yet, but if your small business is big enough to run its own infrastructure, Microsoft servers and software are always a good option.

Tick, Tick This Email Address Will Self-Destruct in 15 Minutes…

Tick, Tick This Email Address Will Self-Destruct in 15 Minutes…

From time to time, everyone has run into this situation: you’re trying to download some software, a white paper, whatever. And you need to provide an email address. Give that Web site your work or personal address and you’re sure to get hit with follow-up emails, or worse, random spam.

What to do?

A handful of companies have begun providing “disposable” email addresses. How are they disposable? They work for a short period and then they literally self-destruct (some providers let you decide when they stop working; others just stop after fifteen minutes or so — once you’ve accomplished what you need).

Lifehacker today has a review of one of them, the aptly-named Guerrilla Mail, while in the posts’ comments section readers recommend a few more, including 10 Minute Mail, Prong, spamla and Mailexpire.

While such services can obviously be quite useful on a personal level, they could be a small business’s worst nightmare, especially one that counts on harvesting (legitimate) customer email addresses to build its business.

You think getting your customer email or promotional blast past a spam filter is a pain, what if

Even Microsoft Admits You Might Be Thinking Twice About Windows Vista

Even Microsoft Admits You Might Be Thinking Twice About Windows Vista
Chances are you might be at least considering upgrading your small business PCs to Windows Vista. It sure looks slick and it’s been around long enough for at least some of the kinks to get worked out.

But you might want to think twice about making the upgrade — according to News.com, Microsoft is now allowing its hardware partners (including Fujitsu, Lenovo, HP and Dell — to offer a “downgrade” option on new PC purchases that will let customers choose Windows XP rather than Vista.

The move is aimed specifically at helping out small businesses, which don’t have the time or IT staff to deal with a new operating system, News.com reported:

“That’s going to help out small- and medium-size businesses,” Fujitsu marketing manager Brandon Farris told News.com.

The Vista/XP choice may end soon though. Microsoft requires that PC makers stop offer XP as of January 31, though some PC makers are hoping to extend the XP “window”: “We’re all lobbying for it,” Fujitsu’s Farris said.

What do you think? Has your small business made the move to Windows Vista? Or are you holding off?

Keeping the Lights on When Mother Nature Hits

Keeping the Lights on When Mother Nature Hits

This past winter, the entire country was battered with snowstorms and ice storms, forcing closures to everything from schools and businesses to supermarkets and clinics. Small businesses were especially affected, closing doors due to a lack of power and energy – despite their customers’ dire need for cash, food and other supplies.

Unfortunately, winter may be passing but another extremely hot and sizzling summer is just around the corner. And many small business owners will lose revenue, profits and even customers from the ensuing power outages likely to occur.

Small businesses all across the country are not immune to Mother Nature, nor the effects of a significantly weakened power grid. With no means of business continuity when the power goes out, every owner faces the realistic possibility of significant revenue loss when a blackout occurs and the doors remain closed for any length of time. It’s simple in today’s global economy: If your customer can’t do business with you, they will find someone else.

For a small business owner, being prepared means ensuring a constant and uninterruptible source of power to remain up and running. Although we will always have to “batten down the hatches”

Double Your Fun With Dual Core Technology

Double Your Fun With Dual Core Technology
Here at ITSPA, part of our mission is to stay on top of the latest and greatest technology offered by the tech industry and to translate how that technology can benefit your business.

We work closely with technology consultants, also called solution providers, all across the country to keep tabs on those technologies that are relevant to small and medium businesses. One you’ll soon hear about, if you haven’t already, is dual core technology. This is a capability that you are finding in desktops, laptops and servers designed for businesses. It’s also used in high-end consumer gear designed around the heavy computing needs of gaming enthusiasts.

It’s actually a chip technology pioneered by Intel, and now also available from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), and found in gear sold by companies like HP, Apple and Dell. Earlier versions of the technology have been around for about a year, and technology trade publications report that companies like Intel are betting on the next generation of this technology. Intel intends to roll out dual core through the rest of this year and hopes to play a significant role in the computer purchasing behavior of business customers. My bet? With this