Can Analytics Be Cloud Friendly?

August 24, 2016

One of the problems with storing data in the cloud is that it is difficult to run analytics.  Sure, you can run tests to determine the usage of the cloud, but analyzing the data stored in the cloud is another story.  Program developers have been trying to find a solution to this problem and the open source community has developed some software that might be the ticket.  Ideata wrote about the newest Apache software in “Apache Spark-Comparing RDD, Dataframe, and Dataset.”

Ideata is a data software company and they built many of the headlining products on the open source software Apache Spark.  They have been using Apache Spark since 2013 and enjoy using it because it offers a rich abstraction, allows the developer to build complex workflows, and perform easy data analysis.

Apache Spark works like this:

Spark revolves around the concept of a resilient distributed dataset (RDD), which is a fault-tolerant collection of elements that can be operated on in parallel. An RDD is Spark’s representation of a set of data, spread across multiple machines in the cluster, with API to let you act on it. An RDD could come from any datasource, e.g. text files, a database via JDBC, etc. and can easily handle data with no predefined structure.

It can be used as the basis fort a user-friendly cloud analytics platform, especially if you are familiar with what can go wrong with a dataset.

Whitney Grace, August 24, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

The Decline of Free Software As a Failure of Leadership and Relevance

August 18, 2016

The article on Datamation titled 7 Reasons Why Free Software Is Losing Influence investigates some of the causes for the major slowdown in FOSS (free and open software software). The article lays much of the blame at the feet of the leader of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), Richard Stallman. In spite of his major contributions to the free software movement, he is prickly and occasionally drops Joe Biden-esque gaffes detrimental to his cause. He also has an issue when it comes to sticking to his message and making his cause relevant. The article explains,

“Over the last few years, Richard Stallman has denounced cloud computinge-bookscell phones in general, and Android in particular. In each case, Stallman has raised issues of privacy and consumer rights that others all too often fail to mention. The trouble is, going on to ignore these new technologies solves nothing, and makes the free software movement more irrelevant in people’s lives. Many people are attracted to new technologies, and others are forced to use them because others are.”

In addition to Stallman’s difficult personality, which only accounts for a small part of the decline in the FSF’s influence, the article also has other suggestions. Perhaps most importantly, the FSF is a tiny company without the resources to achieve its numerous goals like sponsoring the GNU Project, promoting social activism, and running campaigns against DRM and Windows.

Chelsea Kerwin, August 18, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link:


Superior Customer Service Promised through the Accenture Virtual Agent Amelia

August 17, 2016

The article titled Accenture Forms New Business Unit Around IPsoft’s Amelia AI Platform on ZDNet introduces Amelia as a virtual agent capable of providing services in industries such as banking, insurance, and travel. Amelia looks an awful lot like Ava from the film Ex Machina, wherein an AI robot manipulates a young programmer by appealing to his empathy. Similarly, Accenture’s Amelia is supposed to be far more expressive and empathetic than her kin in the female AI world such as Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. The article states,

“Accenture said it will develop a suite of go-to-market strategies and consulting services based off of the Amelia platform…the point is to appeal to executives who “are overwhelmed by the plethora of technologies and many products that are advertising AI or Cognitive capabilities”…For Accenture, the formation of the Amelia practice is the latest push by the company to establish a presence in the rapidly expanding AI market, which research firm IDC predicts will reach $9.2 billion by 2019.”

What’s that behind Amelia, you ask? Looks like a parade of consultants ready and willing to advise the hapless executives who are so overwhelmed by their options. The Amelia AI Platform is being positioned as a superior customer service agent who will usher in the era of digital employees.

Chelsea Kerwin, August 17, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link:

The Surprisingly Diverse Types of Cybercriminals Threatening Your Business

July 29, 2016

The article titled BAE Systems Unmasks Today’s Cybercriminals- Australia on BAE Systems digs into the research on the industrialization of cyber crime, which looks increasingly like other established and legal industries. While most cybercriminals are still spurred to action by financial gain, there are also those interested more in a long-term strategy of going after intellectual property and selling the data on the black market. The article states,

“Some cyber criminals are becoming even more professional, offering skills and services, such as “project management” to other criminal organisations. They are writing their own software that comes with service agreements and money-back guarantees if the code gets detected, with the promise of a replacement. This ‘industrialisation’ of cyber crime means it has never been more important for businesses to understand and protect themselves against the risks they face,” said Dr Rajiv Shah, regional general manager, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence.”

The article pinpoints six profiles including career criminals but also internal employees, activists and, and what they call “The Getaway,” or underage criminals who won’t be sentenced like adults. Perhaps the most insidious of these is The Insider, who can be a disgruntled employee or a negligent employee with more access than is good for them or the company they work for.


Chelsea Kerwin, July 29, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Salesforce Blackout

July 27, 2016 is a cloud computing company with the majority of its profits coming from customer relationship management and acquiring commercial social networking apps.  According to PC World, Salesforce recently had a blackout and the details were told in: “Salesforce Outage Continues In Some Parts Of The US.”  In early May, Salesforce was down for over twelve hours due to a file integrity issue in the NA14 database.

The outage occurred in the morning with limited services restored later in the evening. Salesforce divides its customers into instances.  The NA14 instance is located in North America as many of the customers who complained via Twitter are located in the US.

The exact details were:

“The database failure happened after “a successful site switch” of the NA14 instance “to resolve a service disruption that occurred between 00:47 to 02:39 UTC on May 10, 2016 due to a failure in the power distribution in the primary data center,” the company said.  Later on Tuesday, Salesforce continued to report that users were still unable to access the service. It said it did not believe “at this point” that it would be able to repair the file integrity issue. Instead, it had shifted its focus to recovering from a prior backup, which had not been affected by the file integrity issues.”

It is to be expected that power outages like this would happen and they will reoccur in the future.  Technology is only as reliable as the best circuit breaker and electricity flows.  This is why it is recommended to back up your files in more than one place.


Whitney Grace, July 27, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Google DeepMind AI Project Makes Progress

July 25, 2016

For anyone following the development of artificial intelligence, I recommend checking out the article, “How Google Plans to Solve Artificial Intelligence” at MIT Technology Review. The article delves into Google’s DeepMind project, an object of renewed curiosity after its AlphaGo software bested the human world champion of the ancient game Go in March.

This Go victory is significant, because it marks progress beyond the strategy of calculating different moves’ possible outcomes; the game is too complex for that established approach (though such calculations did allow IBM’s DeepBlue to triumph over the world chess champion in 1997). The ability to master Go has some speaking of “intuition” over calculation. Just how do you give software an approximation of human intuition? Writer Tom Simonite tells us:

“Hassabis believes the reinforcement learning approach is the key to getting machine-learning software to do much more complex things than the tricks it performs for us today, such as transcribing our words, or understanding the content of photos. ‘We don’t think just observing is enough for intelligence, you also have to act,’ he says. ‘Ultimately that’s the only way you can really understand the world.’”

“DeepMind’s 3-D environment Labyrinth, built on an open-source clone of the first-person-shooter Quake, is designed to provide the next steps in proving that idea. The company has already used it to challenge agents with a game in which they must explore randomly generated mazes for 60 seconds, winning points for collecting apples or finding an exit…. Future challenges might require more complex planning—for example, learning that keys can be used to open doors. The company will also test software in other ways, and is considering taking on the video game Starcraft and even poker. But posing harder and harder challenges inside Labyrinth will be a major thread of research for some time, says Hassabis. “It should be good for the next couple of years,” he says.”

The article has a video of DeepMind’s virtual labyrinth you can check out, if you’re curious. (It looks very much like an old Windows screen saver some readers may recall.) Simonite tells us that AI firms across the industry are watching this project carefully. He also points to some ways DeepMind is already helping with real-world problems, like developing training software with the U.K.’s National Health Service to help medical personnel recognize commonly missed signs of kidney problems.

See the article for much more about Google’s hopes and plans for DeepMind. Simonite concludes by acknowledging the larger philosophical and ethical concerns around artificial intelligence. We’re told DeepMind has its own “internal ethics board of philosophers, lawyers, and businesspeople.” I think it is no exaggeration to say these folks, whom Google indicates it will name someday soon, could have great influence over the nature of our future technology. Let us hope Google chooses wisely.



Cynthia Murrell, July 25, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on July 26, 2016. Information is at this link:

Coveo Wins a Stevie. Congrats Coveo. What Is a Stevie?

July 21, 2016

The article titled Coveo Sweeps Early 2016 Awards Programs on Coveo promotes some of the many honors and recognitions that the Coveo company and its apps have earned. Among these is the Gold Stevie Award they earned for Sales and Customer Service through Coveo Reveal. The article details the competition for this prestigious yet unknown award,

“More than 2,100 nominations from organizations of all sizes and in virtually every industry were evaluated in this year’s competition, an increase of 11% over 2015. Finalists were determined by the average scores of 115 professionals worldwide, acting as preliminary judges. More than 60 members of several specialized judging committees determined the Gold, Silver and Bronze Stevie Award placements from among the Finalists during final judging.”

Coveo Reveal is the first cloud-based, machine leaning search platform for the enterprise. Its main users are customer service professionals, who are able to gain a stronger understanding of areas that can be improved in the overall search process. No surprise that it is winning awards, but we are unfamiliar with this Stevie recognition. According to the American Stevie Awards website, the award has been around since 2002 is named Stevie as in Stephen after the Greek derivation: “crowned.”


Chelsea Kerwin, July 21, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark
Web meet up on July 26, 2016.
Information is at this link:


Finding Information Takes a Backseat to Providing a Comprehensive User Experience

July 20, 2016

The article titled An Intranet Success Story on BA Insight asserts that search is less about finding information than it is about user experience. In the context of Intranet networks and search, the article discusses what makes for an effective search engine. Nationwide Insurance, for example, forged a strong, award-winning intranet which was detailed in the article,

“Their “Find Anything” locator, navigation search bar, and extended refiners are all great examples of the proven patterns we preach at BA Insight…The focus for SPOT was clear.  It’s expressed in three points: Simple consumer-like experience, One-stop shop for knowledge, Things to make our jobs easier… All three of these connect directly to search that actually works. The Nationwide project has generated clear, documented business results.”

The results include Engagement, Efficiency, and Cost Savings, in the form of $1.5M saved each year. What is most interesting about this article is the assumption that UX experience trumps search results, or at least, search results are merely one aspect of search, not the alpha and omega. Rather, providing an intuitive, user-friendly experience should be the target. For Nationwide, part of that targeting process included identifying user experience as a priority. SPOT, Nationwide’s social intranet, is built on Yammer and SharePoint, and it is still one of the few successful and engaging intranet platforms.


Chelsea Kerwin, July 20, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark
Web meet up on July 26, 2016.
Information is at this link:

Stepes: Human Translation at Your Fingertips

June 24, 2016

Though today’s machine translation is a convenient way to quickly get the gist of a foreign-language passage, it has its limitations; professionals still turn to human translation services when it counts. A new platform, Stepes Translate, can bridge the gap (at least until algorithms catch up). Its chat-based format makes it as convenient as machine translation, but there is an actual, multi-lingual human at the other end. BusinessWire reports, “Stepes Extends Google Translate Model to Live Human Translation.” The press release explains:

“Stepes Translate uses the familiar side by side interface of machine translation platforms like Google Translate. Anyone requesting translation simply enters their text into the source field. Next, Stepes immediately identifies an appropriate translator from its network of more than 60,000 in-country translators through mobile notification. The translator begins to translate immediately on his/her smartphone while the requesting user can see their progress live. For most requests, the translation is completed within minutes and appears in the target field for the requesting user to see. … Whereas traditional translation software is overly technical and thus not easily accessible to many translators, Stepes’ mobile technology makes translation tools intuitive.”

Stepes can translate more than 100 languages, and offers a 3-tiered pricing based on quality. If you don’t mind a few awkward passages and humorous phrasings, there is the Basic, 10-cents/word plan. If you need to make a good impression, or the document has legal implications, you’ll want to spring for the Premium, 16-cents/word option.

A project of localization firm CSOFT, Stepes Translate is also known as the Social Translation Experiment Project and Eco System. The acronym is also a nod to the European steppes, the region from which sprung hundreds of the world’s major languages. Headquartered in Beijing, CSOFT (or Communications Solutions Of Foreign Trade) was established in 2003. The company attributes their global success to a strong emphasis on customer service.

Cynthia Murrell, June 24, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Change Is Hard, Especially in the User Interface

March 22, 2016

One of the most annoying things in life is when you go to the grocery store and notice they have rearranged the entire place since your last visit.  I always ask myself the question, “Why grocery store people did you do this to me?”  Part of the reason is to improve the shopping experience and product exposure, while the other half is to screw with customers (I cannot confirm the latter).  According to the Fuzzy Notepad with its Pokémon Evee mascot the post titled “We Have Always Been At War With UI” explains that programmers and users have always been at war with each other when it comes to the user interface.

Face it, Web sites (and other areas of life) need to change to maintain their relevancy.  The biggest problem related to UI changes is the roll out of said changes.  The post points out that users get confused and spend hours trying to understand the change.  Sometimes the change is announced, other times it is only applied to a certain number of users.

The post lists several changes to UI and how they were handled, describing how they were handled and also the programming.  One constant thread runs through the post is that users simply hate change, but the inevitable question of, “Why?” pops up.

“Ah, but why? I think too many developers trot this line out as an excuse to ignore all criticism of a change, which is very unhealthy. Complaints will always taper off over time, but that doesn’t mean people are happy, just that they’ve gone hoarse. Or, worse, they’ve quietly left, and your graphs won’t tell you why. People aren’t like computers and may not react instantly to change; they may stew for a while and drift away, or they may join a mass exodus when a suitable replacement comes along.”

Big data can measure anything and everything, but the data can be interpreted for or against the changes.  Even worse is that the analysts may not know what exactly they need to measure.  What can be done to avoid total confusion about changes is to have a plan, let users know in advance, and even create tutorial about how to use the changes.  Worse comes to worse, it can be changed back and then we move on.


Whitney Grace, March 22, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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