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  • Steven Woda

links for 2009-06-25

According to its advocates, cloud computing is poised to succeed where so many other attempts to deliver on-demand computing to anyone with a network connection have failed. Some skepticism is warranted. The history of the computer industry is littered with the remains of previous aspirants to this holy grail, from the time-sharing utilities envisioned in the 1960s and 1970s to the network computers of the 1990s (simple computers acting as graphical clients for software running on central servers) to the commercial grid systems of more recent years (aimed at turning clusters of servers into high-­performance computers). But cloud computing draws strength from forces that could propel it beyond the ranks of the also-rans.

(tags: Cloud)

While Twitter and YouTube have proven strategic for election protesters in Iran, the US Defense Department is “way behind the power curve” on social networking, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said last week. Military leaders need to get on Facebook and other social networking sites themselves, to learn how they’re used firsthand. “How do we communicate better with [young people]?” Gates asked. “How do we get reactions from them to things that we’re doing? How do we get better plugged in with what they’re thinking?” The answer to those questions, in Gates’ view, is to harness social media to enable DOD reach out to the world.

There are many ways to slice and dice data to better understand what it means. Software like Microsoft’s Excel offers a simple way to create charts and graphs, while more complex applications, such as IBM’s Many Eyes, provide more interesting ways to visualize more complex data. Specialized programming languages can do more by tweaking the design of visualizations. But these languages tend to be difficult for non-experts to use. Now researchers at Stanford are offering a suite of tools called Protovis that streamline the process of building data visualizations. The tools still require knowledge of programming but are designed to be easier to implement for someone without programming experience, says creator Jeff Heer, a professor of computer science at Stanford.

Those who think HTML tags are low-level technology should realize they can have a huge impact on the bottom line. By finding an HTML tag that allowed Google to offer ads on the right hand side of its search page without delaying page loading times, Google was able to cash in without harming the user experience, said Marissa Mayer, vice president for search products and experience, at the O’Reilly Velocity 2009 conference. There aren’t a whole lot of “billion-dollar HTML tags,” as Mayer put it, but she spent about 45 minutes Wednesday morning encouraging Web developers to focus on speed. Google laid the seeds for Mayer’s talk Tuesday with the launch of a new Web page that gives Web publishers some help in making their pages load more quickly. Expanding on ideas she presented last year at Google I/O, Mayer told the crowd that “small changes can make a big difference” in how visitors perceive the speed and quality of a Web site.

I have not written about a golf metaphor for entrepreneurship in quite a while, but the US Open from this past weekend offered an important lesson. No matter how good you are or how well you prepare, there are certain things that can happen that are totally outside of your control. The golfers who got the bad end of the weather this past weekend at the US Open experienced this first hand. Some of the golfers played their early rounds in constant rain and windy weather. Others, due to their tee times, played with little or no rain — just a soft and receptive course awaited them after the rains ended. Was this fair? That is not the point. It is, as they say, what it is.

The Oscar-winning composer behind ‘You Light Up My Life’ raped 11 women he lured to his apartment with the promise of a starring role in a movie, prosecutors said today. The women read an online ad placed by director, Joseph Brooks, applied for the audition ‘and thought this was their chance to become a big star,’ prosecutor Lisa Friel said. Instead, once the women were in Brooks’ Manhattan apartment, he plied them with wine and forcibly raped them or used threats and coercive behavior to make them have sex with him, prosecutors said.

(tags: Security)

When hurricanes Katrina and Rita passed over Schumacher Group’s multimillion-dollar data center in Louisiana in 2005, Doug Menefee, the company’s chief information officer, breathed a sigh of relief. His company manages the staffing for emergency room physicians at more than 145 hospitals in the Southeast, and if the center had gone down it could have hampered efforts to get doctors to the locations where they could care for injured patients. “It was a high risk to our organization,” says Menefee.

(tags: Cloud)

The new iPhone 3.0 OS and Configuration Utility 2.0 add several features aimed at satisfying enterprise IT departments. Some of them may be overkill for SMBs, but others will prove attractive to any business whose employees use iPhones for business. Almost lost in the hubbub about the iPhone 3GS and the slick new user features in iPhone OS 3.0–the landscape keyboard, the multimedia messaging, the addition of copy and paste–are less glamorous enhancements to the device’s role in a business environment.

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