Top 20 IT Mistakes

InfoWorld: offers a list. One of them:

2. Dismissing open source — or bowing before it

For better or worse, many IT shops are susceptible to religious behavior — a blind, unyielding devotion to a particular technology or platform. Nowhere is that more true than with open source.

On the one hand, the most conservative IT shops dismiss open source solutions as a matter of policy. Thats a big mistake: Taking an indefinite wait-and-see attitude toward open source means passing up proven, stable, and scalable low-cost solutions such as Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. On the other hand, insisting on open source purity in your IT operation can delay progress, as developers are forced to cobble together inferior or unwieldy open source solutions when more appropriate commercial software solutions already exist.

Open source software is not inherently better than commercial software; it all depends on the problem to be solved and the maturity of the solution being considered.

IBM’s Cell

WSJ writes about IBM’s new chip for the home-entertainment market:

Sony and IBM are expected to announce that next year they will start selling the first Cell-based product — a high-performance workstation designed for use by videogame designers and Hollywood animation houses. Pricing and marketing plans haven’t been determined. IBM said a version of the workstation mounted in a rack with multiple Cell processors will be able to perform 16 trillion mathematical operations a second. That speed would theoretically make it faster than all but a dozen of the world’s supercomputers, although much of its power is dedicated to graphics processing rather than to general-purpose computing.

Tom Starnes, an analyst with Gartner Inc., who has been briefed on the chip, said that “they’re hinting at stuff that is indeed very impressive.” While the processing power in videogames “all gets used by 12-year-old boys,” Cell also is designed to handle video streams from cable and satellite systems, decompressing encoded information and expanding it for display on big, high-definition, plasma screens.

Analysts said the processor might be able to reorient digitized video as it is received to provide views from above or an end-zone view. In other applications, the processing power of Cell might permit a viewer to take a TV character and place him in a videogame, or interact with a commercial to see how a dress would look on an image of herself stored in the system.

Intel’s Challenges

The New York Times writes:

Next week in one of his first official acts as the designated chief executive, [Paul Otellini] plans to present his strategy to Wall Street analysts. He may have a lot to answer for, including the 25 percent decline in Intel’s stock price this year.

Mr. Otellini will tell analysts that he plans to focus on four areas for growth: international markets for desktop personal computers, mobile and wireless applications, the digital home, as well as a new initiative aimed at large corporate computing markets that Intel is calling the Digital Office.

The strategy is a significant shift – a “right-hand turn,” as Mr. Otellini likes to say – from Intel’s long-term obsession with making ever-faster computer chips. Instead, the company is now concentrating on what he calls platforms: complete systems aimed at both computing and consumer electronics markets.

Mr. Otellini insists that the recent missteps, including the premature introduction he himself made of the digital project, are simply a result of over-optimistic marketing.

Smarter Phones

The Register writes:

Going beyond the calendar feature common in many current mobiles, the “smarter smartphone” learns about people’s preferences by logging calls and noting when application like cameras are used. Location-based functions allow the phone to keep record where you work and socialise. The phone also makes note of Bluetooth pairing bonds, in theory allowing it to build a profile of who you socialise with. This information would be sent to a server which processes data and returns suggestions or reminders.

Beyond predictive texting the phone is touted as a device that predicts what you will do. The New Scientist reports possible applications include reminding you not to drink too much the night before an important presentation. Some people might balk as the idea of being monitored – and nagged – by their personal technology. But US scientists reckon they’ve hit on a winner.

The technology is the brainchild of Nathan Eagle and Sandy Pentland of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The system is based on mobile messaging software called Context, written by developers at the University of Helsinki and Helsinki Institute of Technology led by Mika Raento. The software build a profile of user’s routine by asking them what they’re up to when they come into range of a new mobile mast.

TECH TALK: Tomorrow’s World: Happenings (Part 2)

Consider what Verizon is doing in the US it is getting rid of the public-switched telephone network to put in place an IP-based network. Technology Review writes:

[Verizon is building] a new network that makes more efficient use of its switching stations and physical wires by working more like the Internet, and that wires up customers homes with high-capacity fiber-optic lines. With such an infrastructure in place, the theory holds, the longtime supplier of plain old telephone service can change into a new kind of company, one that can compete in a world where media giants like Comcast are blending services such as television, telephone, and Internet access.

Listen to people like the Jacobys [of Verizon], and its easy to imagine that in a few years Verizon customers may not even have phones, or at least not ones that only make phone calls. Instead, theyll have devices that surf the Web, transmit video phone calls and still pictures, and deliver TV programming, TiVo style. Customers will use their cell phones to instant-message their kids TV screens that its time to stop playing video games and start doing homework. Theyll control what their phonesor rather, their personal telecommunications networksdo in a way thats simply impossible today.

Or at least, thats what Verizon executives hope. The company astonished Wall Street and telecom insiders in January when it announced that it would spend $2 billion over the next two years to move to Internet-type switchinga far more ambitious overhaul than those planned by its sibling phone companies, such as SBC and BellSouthVerizon managers admit theyre spending the money without a full understanding of how the new network will be used or what services consumers will want most. According to Paul Lacouture, president of Verizons network services group, its an investment the company has to make simply to survive in a fast-changing industry. Moving to packet switching now, he says, means we future-proof our network.

Verizons Waltham Lab is where tomorrows world is being prototyped.

Software developers created the Universal Media Communicator, a program for desktop PCs that lets users seamlessly transfer calls from cell phones to wireless PDAs to traditional landlines to IP phones, without ever putting anyone on hold. One of the programs myriad features represents separate phone calls as icons that users can drag and drop to initiate conference calls. The idea is to let the customers control their phone servicewhere calls reach them, say, or when and whether their phones ring.

A lot of people think you want to blow up the public switched telephone network. But what you really want is this evolution to Internet Protocol, says Michael Weintraub, director of converged services at the lab. It isnt that the current network is so badits just that packet-switched networks make everything faster, cheaper, and easier to use. And they turn the tables on who has control.

But will people pay for the new features enabled by packet switching? Come to think of it, what will people pay for, once voice calling is simply one entre on a vast menu of potential services?

SBC, another of the American Baby Bells, is also building out the future. Its CEO, Edward E. Whitacre Jr, according to The Wall Street Journal, aims to transform SBC into a state-of-the-art communications and TV giant that will have a dominant presence in consumers’ living rooms. He plans to challenge cable companies head-on with a full slate of video services that SBC will bundle with Internet access, wireless calling and traditional phone service — all for about $100 a month. He said in an interview:

[In the living room of the future,] you can be watching television, probably on a thin screen plasma screen. If you get a phone call, the number displays on the television screen, doesn’t interrupt the picture — and it will tell you who’s calling. If you wish to take [the call] you can take it by pushing a button on your remote.

You can sit there and view content off of your computer — maybe it’s family pictures. Or, somebody sent you an e-mail; it will pop up on the screen while you’re watching TV in the left-hand corner. If you are watching a basketball game and you would like to have an overhead view, you’d click a button and you change the camera angle. If you’re interested in what everybody else is watching at that time, or maybe what’s hot on TV, you can push a button and it will tell you who’s watching what across the nation.

Landline and wireless are certainly melding together. More people have wireless phones, more people have broadband, they’re on the Internet, they can get that at home, they can get that on the cellphone. Video is now a part of the equation.

A good example of convergence is something we have out there now called unified communications, where with one device you can get your e-mails, get your faxes, your messages — either wireline or wireless messages — just by calling one number. So, it’s all converged.

Tomorrow: Happenings (continued)

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