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Celebrating Claude Shannon

February 27, 2015

A certain website dedicated to knowledge and discussion, Edge, poses a question each year in the hope of provoking a thoughtful conversation. This year’s question, for example, is “What do you think about machines that think?” Very timely. However, I’m here to recall a nugget from 2012, when journalism professor and author of The Wikipedia Revolution Andrew Lih penned an answer to that year’s question, “What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?”

Lih’s response is titled “Information Is the Resolution of Uncertainty.” I suggest you read the whole post—it isn’t that long. It traces the beginning of the information age to 1948, when under-sung mathematician, engineer, and cryptographer Claude Shannon coined that definition: “Information is the resolution of uncertainty.” Shannon’s perspective was informed by his experiences during World War II, when then-new technologies vastly complicated issues of protecting, and eavesdropping upon, critical information. Lih writes:

“As long as something can be relayed that resolves uncertainty, that is the fundamental nature of information. While this sounds surprisingly obvious, it was an important point, given how many different languages people speak and how one utterance could be meaningful to one person, and unintelligible to another. Until Shannon’s theory was formulated, it was not known how to compensate for these types of ‘psychological factors’ appropriately. Shannon built on the work of fellow researchers Ralph Hartley and Harry Nyquist to reveal that coding and symbols were the key to resolving whether two sides of a communication had a common understanding of the uncertainty being resolved.

“Shannon then considered: what was the simplest resolution of uncertainty? To him, it was the flip of the coin—heads or tails, yes or no—as an event with only two outcomes. Shannon concluded that any type of information, then, could be encoded as a series of fundamental yes or no answers. Today, we know these answers as bits of digital information—ones and zeroes—that represent everything from email text, digital photos, compact disc music or high definition video.”

It does sound simple, but this binary approach to information was a unique and startling perspective. Lih traces the development of every digital invention that shapes our modern world to this extensive thought experiment. Claude Shannon went on to influence his students as a professor at MIT, many of whom later built such things as digital modems (and later wireless communications), computer graphics, data compression, and artificial intelligence. Lih laments that Shannon does not get the credit he deserves, and would like him to be widely remembered as the father of the information age.

Cynthia Murrell, February 27, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

IBM and the Functioning Assumption

February 26, 2015

I read “Could IBM Really Function with Tens of thousands Fewer Staff?” I think this is an interesting headline. It contains an assumption that IBM is indeed functioning with its present staffing levels.

The write up moves blithely forward offering up:

According to a recent report from India, IBM reduced its India-based workforce from about 165,000 in 2011 to 113,000 in 2014. The report quoted sources close to IBM’s plans who said this number will fall to 100,000 in 2015. The introduction of modern technologies that make services less labor-intensive is reducing the need for staff in lower-cost locations. At the same time, IBM, like much of the industry, is trying to move away from linear business models based on the provision of full-time equivalents. And talk of IBM cutting swathes of staff is nothing new. In 2010 a senior HR executive at the company told Computer Weekly’s then sister publication, Personnel Today, that IBM was looking into the possibility of cutting its workforce by almost 300,000. He said the strategy would involve making people redundant and rehiring them on a project-by-project basis. It would have reduced IBM’s 399,000 workforce to 100,000 by 2017.

Bloomberg reported:

IBM’s global employee count fell for the second year in a row, the first two year decline since 1993-1994. Even before the 2015 firings, IBM reported 379,592 employees at year end 2014, down 12% year on year (3.9% excluding divestitures). But there are allegedly 15,000 job openings, IBM claims.

Lots of figures. Lots of people. But let me go back to the word “functioning.” IBM, like HP, has been around a long time. The company’s notion of agility is to market wild and crazy ideas with zest. I see Watson as an example of the new IBM. Open source technology and home brew code. The search system is presented as a “basket brand” into which many different and discrete products and services have been gathered.

The challenge remains. The company has to generate sustainable revenue that yields a profit. So far that seems to be very difficult. I struggle with the “functional” assumption. Perhaps Watson has the answer?

Stephen E Arnold, February 26, 2015

Big Data: Gartner Writes about Gartner Predictions

February 15, 2015

I want to make sure that you are sitting down. Take a deep breath. Okay, now you are ready to enter the twilight zone of predictions generated by a mid tier consulting firm. You can read the modern Michel de Nostradamus’ prophecies in “Gartner Predicts Three Big Data Trends for Business Intelligence.”

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The heir to Nostradamus may don a more stylish type of garb when making predictions.

Here we go.

Prophecy I. Big Data will goose reinvention of business processes and products. I, for one, am looking forward to a new type of air travel. My recollection is that it has been unchanged for decades.

Prophecy II. Data brokers will thrive. Okay, intermediaries. Sounds good in except that disintermediation seems to be the trend if the research for CyberOSINT is on the beam.

Prophecy III. I am not sure what this means. Here’s the sentence which caused my personal Yugo’s wheels to spin.”By 2017, more than 20% of customer facing analytic deployments will provide product tracking information leveraging IoT [the Internet of Things].”

Here in Harrod’s Creek, we don’t think too much about prophesies. The future is a slippery fish. For Gartner, their “experts” wear Glacier Glove Ice Bay Fishing Gloves. I wonder if this prophecy was left on the floor of the fish prep room:

Volcanic fire from the center of the earth
will cause trembling around the new city:
Two great rocks will make war for a long time.
Then Arethusa will redden a new river. Source.

Stephen E Arnold, February 15, 2015

Short Honk: Impressive WiFi Signal Analysis

February 15, 2015

Navigate to this Imgur link. There are visualizations of a WiFi signal. Fascinating. I had no idea that the best signals were found on tops of wave “clouds.”

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Excellent idea and work.

Stephen E Arnold, February 15, 2015

Ross Delivers a Digital Lawyer

February 11, 2015

Text mining and predictive analytics are hailed as the best technological advances to hit law practices since paralegals. What is the next big thing for legal firms? Powered By Ross might have the answer to “The Future Of Legal Research.” Powered By ROSS is a spartan Web site that is following the current designs used by many Internet businesses. It begs to wonder if the product is legitimize, especially with very little contact information. Reading the product’s description, though, is another story.

ROSS is an artificial intelligence attorney that improves research. It can understand natural language questions and respond with citations and suggested reading. How can ROSS do this? Read more of the description below:

“ROSS is built upon Watson, IBM’s cognitive computer. Almost all of the legal information that you rely on is unstructured data—it is in the form of text, and not neatly situated in the rows and columns of a database. Watson is able to mine facts and conclusions from over a billion of these text documents a second. Meanwhile, existing solutions rely on search technologies that simply find keywords.”

It was only a mater of time before Watson was used for legal research. It still remains suspicious, however, that ROSS has not been talked about more, even by IBM. IBM is looking for all the positive publicity it can get to increase sales. ROSS pushes it a little hard with a JFK quote about the future. While ROSS might be real, it is light years from the systems described in cyber osint at www.xenky.com/cyberosint

Whitney Grace, February 11, 2015
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Bridging the Gap between Policy and Technology

February 10, 2015

To many organizations, SharePoint installations can be more of a challenge than an asset. To help negotiate some of the most common challenges, webinars and other trainings can be valuable. Sys-Con Media covers a new training opportunity in their article, “Free 5 Feb Workshop Explores Using Sharepoint to Bridge the Gap Between Policy and Technology.”

The article begins:

“As technology executives, we’re often challenged with managing policy requirements and keeping up with technology to support them, while working with limited budgets and a shallow pool of qualified staff.  DataPoint Solutions is hosting a free workshop to address these challenges in the form of four briefings, outlining how processes can be automated and streamlined by leveraging SharePoint and mission-critical systems to help capture organizational knowledge, automate processes, and ensure compliance with policies.”

Stephen E. Arnold also offers another resource for finding SharePoint training opportunities on his Web service, ArnoldIT.com. His SharePoint feed in particular is helpful for managers and end users alike. SharePoint will always be a large installation with lots to manage, but good training and a plan can go a long way toward easing a lot of the common struggles.

Emily Rae Aldridge, February 10, 2015

Deconstructing the Glass Deconstruction

February 6, 2015

You know about Google Glass. The glasshole thing.

I read “Broken Glass” or “Why Glass Broke.” You may be able to locate this deconstruction of Google Glass at this link. If you have to pay or the  link is dead, don’t complain to me, gentle reader. Cast your aspersions elsewhere.

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Google sunGlass. Handy.

The write up appears in the Style section of the New York Times. I assume that the subject (Glass) is not appear to be a business story. The write up contains 12 “I” statements. These refer to the author’s “being there,” but not in the Jerzy Kosinski sense. There are anecdotes about the happenstance of Google X Labs. Well, the company creating Glass is Google. There is an intriguing fact: The super secret headquarters of Google X Labs is or was 1489 Charleston Avenue which does not appear in my instance of Google Earth. Perhaps the address is “Charleston Road”?

The write up provides an insight into Google’s technology management processes; for example:

At the time [2011], unknown to anyone outside X, an impassioned split was forming between X engineers about the most basic functions of Google Glass. One faction argued that it should be worn all day, like a “fashionable device,” while others thought it should be worn only for specific utilitarian functions. Still, nearly everyone at X was in agreement that the current prototype was just that: a prototype, with major kinks to be worked out. There was one notable dissenter. Mr. Brin knew Google Glass wasn’t a finished product and that it needed work, but he wanted that to take place in public, not in a top-secret lab. Mr. Brin argued that X should release Glass to consumers and use their feedback to iterate and improve the design.

I want to credit the New York Times’ Style editor for including information about the alleged Brin Rosenberg interaction. A factoid or two may have slipped to the cutting room floor. Anyone know anything about an alleged suicide attempt?

Glass is, of course, not dead. For style lovers, Glass will live on in the history of head mounted computers with an ever so brief battery life. But, as a fashion forward person said, “This was the first time that people talked about wearable technology.”

Did you know that, Jaron Lanier?

Stephen E Arnold, February 5, 2015

Solcara Founder Speaks to the Benefits of Open Systems

January 28, 2015

The article titled How to Force Giants to “Stop & Listen”- The Legal Tech Entrepeneur Prising Open “Closed Systems” on The Legal Review examines the rewards available for those firms and entrepreneurs willing to take risks. The story of Solcara, the “federated search” technology company that started up just after the .com bubble burst in 2001. The article explains,

“Using Solcara, firms would be able to search legal content buried deep within the likes of “Lexis Nexis, Westlaw UK and Practical Law from Thomson Reuters…using a single search interface. Unsurprisingly, legal publishers who were used to a “closed system”, where they could print and sell entire libraries of bound books to clients, were initially uncomfortable with Solcara’s cherry-picking innovation. ..”The only way Solcara was able to successfully achieve [federated search] was working directly with the law firms… such as Norton Rose.”

Eventually Thomson Reuters acquired Solcara as well as Practical Law, leading Solcara’s co-founder Rob Martin to suggest that something similar needs to happen soon in law firms or clients will force a change on their own. Martin firmly believes that taking risks on innovation and being prepared to change direction is the only way to thrive in a market that fluctuates so easily.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 28, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

ZyLAB Publishes File Analysis Market Guide

January 27, 2015

If you need help finding file analysis solutions, Nieuwsbank published this press release that might help you with your research, “Gartner ZyLAB in ‘The File Analysis Market Guide, 2014.’” File analysis refers to file storage and users who have access to them. It is used to manage intellectual property, keep personal information private, and protect data. File analysis solutions have many benefits for companies, including reducing businesses risks, reducing costs, and increasing operational efficiencies.

The guide provides valuable insights:

“In the Market Guide Gartner writes: ZyLAB enter this market from the perspective of and with a legacy in eDiscovery. The company has a strong presence in the legal community and is widely used by governments and organizations in the field of law enforcement. ZyLAB emphasis on activities such as IP protection and detection, fraud investigations, eDiscovery and responsibly removal of redundant data. ZyLAB supports storage types 200 and 700 file formats in 450 languages. This makes it a good choice for international companies. ‘”

ZyLAB is a respected eDiscovery and information risk management solutions company and this guide is a compilation of their insights. The articles point out that companies might have their own file analysis manuals, but few actually enforce its policies or monitor violations. Gartner is a leading market research and their endorsement should be all you need to use this guide.

Whitney Grace, January 27, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

PC Sales: Expert Estimates Do not Agree. A Surprise?

January 26, 2015

Numbers are supposed to be cold, hard facts that prove the truth without a doubt. While numbers can be fudged, they can also be interpreted in different ways. Neowin tells us that two respected market research companies are arguing over a specific number sets. Read the article, “Gartner Reports PC Shipments Went Up In Q4, But IDC Says Otherwise.”

PC’s have faced steep competition in the past few years with people switching over to the Apple camp, tablets becoming more prevalent, and a small percentage building their own machines. PC’s still remain a huge staple in the computer market, but sales are declining.

Gartner says 83.7 million PC units were sold, while IDC says 80.8 million units were sold. IDC does agree with Gartner that the fourth quarter saw a rise in sales, but there was a 2.4% decrease in sales compared in 2013 numbers.

The reason for the difference in numbers relates to how the market research firms gather their information:

“The different results reported by IDC are easy to explain since the two research firms have different ways to define what constitutes a PC. IDC for example doesn’t count Windows tablet/hybrids such as the Surface Pro 3 but includes Chromebooks, while Gartner excludes any portables other than Windows tablets.”

It is not a surprise that number experts cannot agree on the numbers, especially when they are pulling data from different sources. This means both are right and both are wrong at the same time. The numbers do not lie, but the humans interpreting the data can read it wrong.

Whitney Grace, January 26, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

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