Sunday, May 24, 2009

TVs with internet coming soon

Berlin - You no longer need to bring your laptop over to the couch to check the weather or your RSS feeds while watching TV. Many new flat screen TVs offer an internet connection as an alternative to the old-fashioned video text option familiar to many.

That means you can play back a YouTube clip even while watching something else in the main window. Are hard times ahead for the PC as the multimedia hub? Hard to tell. The internet remains the province of high-end devices for right now, but it seems likely to move into more affordable TVs in the near future as well.

All attempts to bring internet to the television have struggled to date. Neither set-top web boxes nor receivers with web functionality made any headway, either due to a lack of features or poor reception on tube televisions.

"Set-top web boxes are too expensive, slow and unstable, and it's much more complicated to surf with them than on a computer. And on top of that, there's the bad picture quality." That was how the German consumer testing organisation Stiftung Warentest saw the landscape back in 2000.

New generation

The new generation of Ethernet or WLAN-ready TV devices offers crisp text, images, and graphics. They generally do not provide a fully integrated browser. The manufacturers instead prepare special programming and content that can be accessed via remote control.

"The new concepts are winning converts through simple, familiar controls and the kind of attractive content that catches the attention of PC naysayers as well," reads a review from Video magazine.

Philips is calling its internet service Net-TV. Devices in the 9000 series work with WLAN, while those in the 8000 series and the widescreen 21:9 models work with LAN connections. Unlike other manufacturers, Philips allows the internet information to take up the entire screen.

The user gets started by navigating to the Net-TV home page. Philips has established partnerships with content providers willing to adapt their content for the TV screen. In Germany this includes major web sites like,, and YouTube as well as MyAlbum as a photo archive. It's also possible to enter in internet addresses directly, although Net-TV is unable to work with either Java or Flash.

At Panasonic the internet mode is called Viera Cast and involves little program windows surrounding a reduced-sized TV image. These "widgets" show the weather, stock prices from Bloomberg TV, latest headlines and videos television stations as well as clips from YouTube. Viera Cast is slated to be integrated into the V 10, G 15 and Z 1 devices.

Samsung has dubbed its programme Internet@TV. It provides only one program window next to the TV image. That can be YouTube clips, as well as headlines or weather reports delivered from Yahoo. The photos section is provided via the Flickr service.

Samsung also offers a "content library," which provides space to store videos, texts or photos, allowing the TV to be used as a form of digital frame. A "widget engine" from Yahoo will allow users to integrate their own little programs. Internet@TV will be available for units in the 6, 7, 8, 7000 and 8000 series.

Sony has outfitted models in the E5, V5, W5 and WE5 series with Ethernet jacks. The manufacturer calls the new internet functions AppliCast Services. It will initially offer access to photos stored on the internet servers and reading of reports sent to the TV through RSS feeds. The TV can access music, photos, and films (MPEG 2 and AVC-HD) on a local network using the DLNA standard.


Ex-Microsoftie: Free Software Will Kill Redmond

Keith Curtis, author and former Microsoft programmer, makes no bones about his view that open source puts the software giant's wares to shame. In this interview, he discusses what's wrong with Microsoft programming, what's behind all those bugs, and what's shaping his former employer's grim future.

May 21, 2009 — CIO — Bill Gates probably will not sing the praises of Keith Curtis, a programmer with Microsoft for 11 years who's now left the fold and written a book about why the Redmond way will fail. Oh yeah, Curtis is not afraid to speak his mind as a Linux guru, either.

The mantra Curtis repeats throughout his book "After the Software Wars": proprietary software is holding us back as a society.

In the book, Curtis says that while proprietary software made Microsoft one of the most successful companies of all time, it's a model destined to fail because it doesn't let software programmers cooperate and contribute, and thus stifles innovation.

Curtis did programming work on Windows, Office and research at Microsoft and never actually used Linux, he says, until he quit his job in late 2004. The ensuing years have made him a Linux fanatic, and he is convinced that free, open-source software is technically superior. As long as Microsoft and its proprietary model dominate, Curtis says, we will live in "the dark ages of computing."

"If Microsoft, 20 years ago, built Windows in an open way, Linux wouldn't exist, and millions of programmers would be improving Windows rather than competing with it."
Keith Curtis In an interview with's Shane O'Neill, Curtis discusses the rise of free software, Linux's role in what he calls the inevitable fall of software's biggest giant and ... robot-driven cars.

In what ways will free software be Microsoft's undoing?

Free software will lead to the demise of Microsoft as we know it in two ways.

First, the free software community is producing technically superior products through an open, collaborative development model. People think of Wikipedia as an encyclopedia, and not primarily software, but it is an excellent case study of this coming revolution.

There are also many pieces of free software that have demonstrated technical superiority to their proprietary counterparts. Firefox is widely regarded by Web developers as superior to Internet Explorer. The Linux kernel runs everything from cellphones to supercomputers. Even Apple threw away their proprietary kernel and replaced it with a free one.

Second, free software undermines Microsoft's profit margins. Even if Microsoft were to adopt Linux — a thought experiment I consider in the afterword of my book — their current business model would be threatened. There are many ways for hardware and service companies to make money using free software, but these are not Microsoft's sources of revenues.

Free products like Linux and Google Docs currently comprise only a tiny proportion of their respective markets compared to Microsoft. What will it take for free software to truly catch on with consumers and businesses as you predict it will? And how long will that take?

By Shane O'Neill

Friday, May 22, 2009

Telemedicine trial cuts diabetes emergencies

A telemedicine experiment in New York has found the technology helps children with Type 1 diabetes manage their condition and led to fewer having to be admitted to hospital.

Type 1 diabetes is the most common chronic childhood disease and needs to be managed using regular glucose measurements with multiple daily injections of insulin, with frequent insulin dose adjustments.

Roberto Izquierdo and colleagues from SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, studied 41 children between the ages of 5 and 14 years with type 1 diabetes. All of the children received routine care, and 23 of the 41 children were also enrolled in a telemedicine intervention program.

During the initial six month period of use, the telemedicine group experienced improved blood sugar control and led to fewer visits to the emergency department and hospitalisations due to their diabetes. More than 90 per cent of the participants said they would use the programme again.

Izquierdo said: “Children in the telemedicine treatment group were more apt to feel better about their diabetes.”

He claimed the children who used the telemedicine program were more likely to complete the prescribed diabetes care related tasks, which can lead to improved management of the disease.

As a part of routine care, letters containing instructions for each child’s diabetes care were sent to school nurses, who also attended an annual diabetes education program. Additionally, all children visited the diabetes centre at SUNY Medical University every three months, and parents, children, and school nurses communicated with the centre via phone as needed. In addition to receiving regular care, the 23 children enrolled in the telemedicine intervention program attended video conferences with the school nurse and the diabetes centre monthly to discuss treatment orders. Their glucose readings were sent to the centre via the telemedicine unit, and the diabetes nurse practitioners at the centre made adjustments to insulin treatments as needed.

The research was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Five Boks in Namibia XV

Windhoek - Five Springboks have been selected for the Namibian Invitational team to take on a South African XV in Windhoek on Friday, May 29.

Fullback Jaco van der Westhuizen, wing Tonderai Chavhanga, centre Meyer Bosman, flyhalf Derick Hougaard and replacement centre Wayne Julies, have been called up by Namibian coach John Williams for this game.

The squad is further strengthened by experienced Super 14 players in Rory Kockott, Duane Vermeulen, Nico Breedt, David de Villiers and Richardt Strauss.

Namibia will be captained by former Bulls and Sharks prop Kees Lensing, while loose forwards Jacques Burger and Jacques Nieuwenhuis, were members of their World Cup squad in 2007.

Blue Bulls Ruan Vermeulen (prop) and Julies, and Lions lock Anton van Zyl are on the bench.

Other Namibians in the squad are wing Llewellyn Winckler and replacements Hugo Horn (hooker), Johnny Redelinghuys (prop), Jurie van Tonder (scrumhalf) and Chrysander Botha (fullback).

Namibian Invitation XV: Jaco van der Westhuizen, Tonderai Chavhanga, Frikkie Welsh, Meyer Bosman, Llewellyn Winckler, Derick Hougaard, Rory Kockott, Jacques Burger, Duane Vermeulen, Jacques Nieuwenhuis, Nico Breedt, Dawid de Villiers, Kobus Calldo, Richardt Strauss, Kees Lensing (captain)

Replacements: Hugo Horn, Johnny Redelinghuys, Ruan Vermeulen, Anton van Zyl, Wayne Julies, Jurie van Tonder, Chrysander Botha.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

SaaS Vendors Need to Get a Clue About APIs

One big obstacle to SaaS vendors getting their applications adopted more widely is that so many of them don’t offer open APIs.

Bob Brown - Wed, May 20, 2009 — Network World — LAS VEGAS -- One big obstacle to SaaS vendors getting their applications adopted more widely is that so many of them don't offer open APIs. Offering APIs is crucial for vendors to get their applications supported by channel partners and for customers looking to integrate SaaS offerings with legacy applications, said participants on the panel for a lively but lightly attended session Tuesday at Interop in Las Vegas dubbed "Herding cats: Managing SaaS sprawl."

"It's stunning to me the number of SaaS companies that don't even consider an API as part of the development cycle," says Treb Ryan, CEO of OpSource, a company that mainly helps SaaS vendors deliver their offerings to businesses but is also now extending its services to enterprises running their own clouds. "Lord knows two Web developers in a garage know to put out an API. [For SaaS vendors not doing this it's] killing them."

Panelists said providing an API that channel and integrate partners could cut the cost of acquiring customers for SaaS vendors.

"Customer acquisition is the biggest cost," said Tim Dilley, executive vice president, worldwide services and chief customer officer for SaaS vendor NetSuite. "The general notion of having a robust API to data is a critical jumping in point" for SaaS vendors wanting to play in the enterprise, said Narinder Singh, founder of Appirio, a company that helps customers exploit on-demand applications.

Still, Bob Moul, CEO of application integration company Boomi, said "channels are still evolving" around SaaS products, so there's still time for SaaS companies to find a fit with new and traditional integrators.

One difference that SaaS vendors are already seeing is that a lot of their sales go through line-of-business chiefs rather than CIOs or the IT department, panelists said.

NetSuite's Dilley said he's seen evidence over the past six months that CIOs actually are getting more aware of SaaS. This is important because overseeing a SaaS environment is much different than overseeing a traditional application environment – with SaaS, for example, upgrades might be continuous whereas traditional apps were more likely to undergo big upgrades only every six months or more, he said.

Singh said he doesn't see suites going entirely away but does foresee a more heterogeneous applications environment. "How customers get support and how stuff works together, it's unclear how that gets resolved," he said.

Among the other concerns for those in the SaaS industry is standards creep. Singh said he's concerned that new compliance and standards efforts could be used by those who are behind in the SaaS game to slow things down enough that they can catch up. "Standards…too often slow innovation," he said.

© 2007 Network World Inc.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Can Social Networking Be Secure at Work?

A new report revealed that hackers are increasingly targeting social networking services like Twitter and Facebook. Many employees who log on during the day at work might be causing information security risks at their companies. But banning the technologies would be short-sighted.

Tue, May 05, 2009 — CIO — As more workers spend a greater part of their days on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, hackers have turned their energies toward spreading their malware across those services, harming workstations and company networks.

That's the contention of a recent report measuring Web 2.0-targeted hacks that occurred in the first quarter of this year and was conducted by the Secure Enterprise 2.0 Forum, an industry group aimed at enabling the safe use of social media in the workplace.

Increasingly, hackers have turned their attentions away from e-mail, in part due to the fact people spend more of their time communicating with friends, family and colleagues over mediums like Facebook and Twitter. In addition, the e-mail environment has reached a level of maturity that makes the new frontier of social networks more attractive to hackers and spammers, says David Lavenda, a vice president at WorkLightt, a vendor that sponsored the study.

"E-mail is in a steady state," Lavenda says. "It's an electronic warfare game with spammers, filters and security tools, and it's reached some sort of status quo. With the new [social] tools, as people come online and get more involved with them, there is an opportunity to cause harm."

In the market, Lavenda says CIOs have been more willing to let employees use the tools, but have been at times reluctant, due to anecdotal stories about security breaches. The report, he says, will allow them to know what those threats are and make informed decisions about letting users access the sites.

"Forbid it or not, most CIOs know users will find a way to use these tools anyway," he says. "Even if they don't buy our product, this report moves the market forward because they know what the threats are and can see about addressing them. Once you know what the threats are, then you can go about mitigating them."

C.G. Lynch covers social and consumer applications for CIO. You can follow him on Twitter at @cglynch.

26 Ways To Know Your Software Development Project Is Doomed

December 10, 2008 — CIO — Despite all our efforts to make every software development project a success, some are cursed from the very start. Here are 26 early warning signs—all, alas, real-world experiences—that an enterprise software development project is headed for a death march.

The project name changes for the third time in as many months.

The development manager decides that it is better to write a completely separate version of the software for the U.K. rather than to internationalize a single version.

The requirements definition is begun four months after development started.

The newly hired director of R&D proudly informs the board of directors that the project will be 99 percent completed six months ahead of schedule, and assures the board that the software can ship directly to clients without going through beta testing.

You are a Web developer. You open the ZIP file with the HTML documents the client produced for the site scripts you need to integrate with the Web application. And you discover the client's HTML documents are all Microsoft Word files, saved in HTML format.

You realize the reason the company hired you as a consultant is to referee a dispute among two competing departments over which technical platform to use.

The memo says you will develop a 64-bit application using a 16-bit platform.

The developer doesn't understand the spec document and continues to develop anyway. And the QA team doesn't know how to test, but they "test" anyway.

When you see the project budget, you realize that over half of it was spent on a Web designer to create a Photoshop mock-up of the home page—with no regard to whether that design is feasible. Or with any attention to the thousands of pages of content that will exist underneath that home page.

The user or client requests new features instead of focusing on bug fixing and performance enhancements.

You find a list of 16 software development best practices and realize that not a single one of them is being followed.

You are asked to port your project from Windows to MS-DOS.

The technical project manager asks you to compose the list of user requirements—without consulting any actual potential users.

People started sending notes "to file" rather than to each other. The notes are alibis about why the sender has nothing to do with the upcoming (but unacknowledged) failure.

Status reports are seen as insubordinate.

The new CIO replaces all the people who have deep organizational knowledge with outsiders from his old firm.

It is a big project and is named Project Iceberg. Or it's the third time the company is trying to pull this off, and the project is code-named "Phoenix." Somehow, you don't believe this one can spring from the ashes.

Even the customers who got the free version are pissed off.

The manager of your mission-critical project (handling 80 percent of the company's revenue) has three months exposure to the technology of choice, and is training four brand-new developers at once. The manager is given a three-month project deadline.

You learn that management had to insist that the interface definitions be checked into version control after the first code freeze.

They change the project manager and relocate the whole project from one city to another. (You consider yourself lucky that the cities are on the same continent.)

The QA team is told, "We've only allocated three weeks for testing" (on a project that has lasted six months already). Or QA is told, "The date is fixed. We have to have all this functionality by that date."

The program manager decided to try Agile methodology "to save time."

In a previous era, pre-cell-phones and ubiquitous Internet access: You get screeching abuse from a new project manager hired three days ago in New York, after you return from three days locked in regional CIO meetings in Frankfurt. Why? Because you hadn't responded to the e-mail messages she had sent (and which you didn't get), and you hadn't updated her "project dashboard" that you knew nothing about.

Management decides to spend a million dollars on a $20,000 project. Then the managers start agreeing with computer company salespeople that the $1 million in software requires $2 million of hardware. Meanwhile, a secretary purchases an off-the-shelf PC and a shrink wrapped CD containing some new office automation packages. She implements the project during her lunch break. (Arguably, we should count this one as a success.)

The lead developer tells you that maintaining a complete history of all database updates is a requirement for the application, but he hasn't had time to (read: doesn't know how to) design a data model for it yet. So he decides to go ahead and start with the Web front end and worry about it later. And this is the lead developer.

The business line leader/project funder says, "Get creative." This happens after management reduces the project headcount by 20 percent. And after the IT team pulls out the hardware that had been slated for recycling, saying it's your project's new hosting environment.

Why Your Project Management Practices Are Failing

August 28, 2008 — CIO — IT project management practices are stuck in the mud, and they're hindering IT departments' ability to deliver projects successfully. That's the conclusion of a recent Forrester report, "Stretching Your Project Management Muscles," which was published in July.

The reason traditional project management methodologies can backfire on IT departments is because they require so much rigor. For example, says Gerush, project managers have to follow scores of pre-defined processes and steps, and they have to deliver reams of documentation at each phase of the project—all of which dramatically and often unnecessarily protracts projects.

"There's so much rigor and normally so much documentation and so many processes you have to go through to follow a methodology that it weighs you down and that you can't move as quickly as the business needs you to move or as quickly as technology enables you to move," she says.

The Remedy: Flexible Project Management
To keep pace with the business and with the rest of IT, project management offices need to make their project management practices more flexible. Gerush offers five measures project management teams can employ to improve their responsiveness.

1. Adopt a framework. A framework is a collection of various pieces of project management "functionality," says Gerush. When projects come in, the project management office can choose which pieces of the framework to use to provide just the right amount of oversight necessary for the project, as opposed to following every step of a methodology.

2. Figure out which deliverables you really need. "For projects of short duration, an informal e-mail status report may be more appropriate than a formal document, and formally documented use cases and design specifications may be overkill for some projects," writes Gerush. That's why she advises project managers to customize project deliverables according to each project's needs.