Thursday, September 11, 2014

Computer brain surgery or How to performa a RAIDectomy

I have an old 2010 Mac Pro in my home office that is my main photo editing machine (using Adobe Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5). It also serves as a remote desktop terminal to my office PC. It has 2 Intel Xeon CPUs with 6 cores each running at 2.93 GHz and 32GB of RAM, so even by today's standards, 4 years later, it is quite a powerful machine.

At least in theory it should be. Back when I bought the machine I thought it would be a good idea to get the Apple RAID card and 4 drives with 2TB each and set them up in a RAID 5 array for data protection, giving me a total usable 5TB of disk space, which I  set up as a 2TB boot drive and a 3TB drive for data.

Apple RAID Card and Drives
Apple RAID Card and Drives

That RAID card, however has been giving me nothing but trouble in those four years, and it got so bad this summer that it was time for a radical move: RAIDectomy!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The (Broken) Promise Of Wearables

This week the Moto 360 became available and sold out in record time. Next week Apple is rumored to introduce their iWatch along with the next generation iPhone. And Samsung just announced their next generation Gear watch last week that is expected to ship at the same time as the Galaxy Note Edge.

It is clear that Wearables hold a lot of excitement and a lot of promise, and obviously capture people’s imagination. But let’s pause for a moment first, and talk about past experiences with Wearables:

Wearables on a table

Friday, November 8, 2013

Isis Mobile Wallet silently goes nationwide

It appears that without much fanfare the Isis Mobile Wallet has just expanded from the initial test markets of Austin and Salt Lake City to a nationwide rollout - at least for AT&T and American Express customers.

Originally announced on July 30 this year, the nationwide rollout of this NFC-based mobile payment system was revealed to be planned for "later this year". Apparently that day is today, since I was able to go to an AT&T store in New York City this morning and replace my original SIM card with a new SIM card with "Secure Element", which is a prerequisite for the Isis Wallet app. Once that SIM card was installed in my Samsung Galaxy Note 3, the Isis Wallet App (downloaded from the Google Play Store) allowed me to add my American Express card to my mobile wallet:

Galaxy Note 3 w/ Isis Wallet

Registering a new account with the Isis wallet app took a few minutes, as did activation of the credit card in the wallet, which required logging into my American Express account, but once that one-time setup process is complete, starting up the app is fast and you can secure the app with a customary PIN code and can pick how many minutes the app will allow access until the PIN code is required again.

You can also use the Isis website to find out where you can use the Isis wallet today and it is pretty much any cashiers' credit card terminal that shows one of these contact less payment symbols:

Contactless payment symbol

I was pleasantly surprised that in Manhattan there are literally thousands of stores already supporting the Isis wallet and I did my first test purchase at a Walgreens at Union Square. The checkout process worked smoothly, I just waved my Galaxy Note 3 at the contactless scanner while the Isis app was up, and the NFC chip in my phone transmitted the payment information to the checkout terminal, which processed my payment.

I've waited for NFC chips to be available in our smartphones for quite a while and it is a great pleasure to see mobile payments finally becoming a reality! Now we just need more stores to use contactless credit card terminals so I can finally leave my real wallet at home and use my mobile wallet everywhere!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Power of RaptorXML - now available in XMLSpy 2014

The RaptorXML Story

As you probably know by now, RaptorXML, our new 3rd generation high-performance XML, XPath, XSLT, XQuery, and XBRL processing engine, was a little over 2 years in the making. When we embarked on this mission in 2011, we set out to create a new processor that was highly optimized for multi-core CPUs, high throughput, and a reduced memory footprint. As part of that redesign we incorporated all our experience with the evolution of XML over the last decade and focused on adding support for all the latest standards, including XML 1.1, XML Schema 1.1, XPath 3.0, XSLT 3.0, XQuery 3.0, XBRL 2.1, XBRL Dimensions, XBRL Formula, and many others.

Our decision to first launch the new RaptorXML engine as a stand-alone server product in June rather than waiting for our annual product release in the fall was certainly not an easy decision to make. We knew that all our existing XMLSpy and MissionKit customers were eagerly awaiting support for XML Schema 1.1 as well as the 3.0 versions of XPath, XLST, and XQuery.

At the same time we knew that the engine was ready for large-scale production use, while the refactoring of our existing tools and integration of the new engine would still take another 3-4 months, so we decided to introduce RaptorXML as a stand-alone server product first. The initial RaptorXML announcement happened at the XBRL International conference in Dublin, Ireland, in May this year and commercial availability of the server followed in June, when RaptorXML joined the growing family of Altova Server products.

And it turns out we made the right decision. At this time RaptorXML+XBRL Server is already being used by over 50 customers, including a major banking regulator in Asia, to validate large amounts of XBRL data on high-end servers using XBRL 2.1 and XBRL Formula validation.


Altova MissionKit 2014 Launch

Now the long-awaited day has finally come and we are very excited to introduce our new Altova MissionKit 2014 product line that incorporates the RaptorXML engine in XMLSpy and many other MissionKit tools. This means you get immediate access to XML Schema 1.1, XPath 3.0, XSLT 3.0, XQuery 3.0, and XBRL Formula validation - in addition to all the previous standards - right from within the new XMLSpy 2014 XML Editor and you get a huge performance boost for all your projects due to the faster engine.

And we have, of course, extended our graphical XML Schema editor to include support for XML Schema 1.1 as well as adding the powerful SmartFix validation to the schema editor, so XMLSpy will now make intelligent suggestions on how to fix common XML Schema errors directly in the graphical schema editor.



Monday, August 19, 2013

CNN beta-testing a new look

Very interesting. When I visited CNN.com this evening, the site informed me with a friendly message that I had been selected to beta-test their new re-designed site: "Hi! You've been selected to check out our new look."

CNN.com Screen Shot 2013 08 19 at 20 19 35

Imagine my surprise, when clicking on this link brought me to the following 403 error message:

BETA CNN.com Screen Shot 2013 08 19 at 20 19 56

Guess the new site is really still in beta...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

America's Cup AC72 vs. Kite Surfer

As a boating, technology, and performance enthusiast I've been following the America's Cup preparations pretty closely. And I've always liked Red Bull since my college years. Imagine my delight when I came across this video today of Red Bull kite-surfer Kai Lenny racing the Team Oracle AC72 from the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz:

Now if the kite-board only had also been a hydrofoil design, such as the Carafino

Monday, July 15, 2013

Big Data analysis applied to retail shopping behavior

Everybody knows that online retailers like Amazon track customer behavior on their website down to every last click and then analyze it to improve their site. But when it comes to regular retail locations collecting detailed customer data by tracking their every move, people seem to be surprised, and sometimes even outraged…

Tracking Shoppers in Retail

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Zero-day exploits, spies, and the predictive power of Sci-Fi

Reading the NY Times over coffee this morning, I noticed the article "Nations Buying as Hackers Sell Flaws in Computer Code" which details how nations (and, in particular, their secrete service organizations) are now bidding for and buying zero-day exploits from hackers and security experts worldwide.

Certainly a very timely article, as the world still comes to grips with the evolving role of the NSA and what we've learned in the aftermath of the Snowden leaks. It also reminded me of a Science Fiction series I read in the late Nineties and turn of the century: Tom Clancy's Net Force.

TomClancy's Net Force

Friday, July 12, 2013

The end of an era: PCWorld magazine stops print circulation

It seems logical that computer magazines would be the first to go. After all, computer geeks are the proverbial early adopters and have long since moved on to consuming news in a more timely fashion: online magazines, technology blogs, and up-to-the-minute real-time news on Twitter. Personally, I stopped reading print magazines and newspapers over three years ago. In an always-on always-connected world, where your smartphone provides you with instant access to everything, a daily print publication brings you yesterday's news. And let's not even talk about weekly or monthly print publications.

12123313

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bye bye, Instagram

I deleted my Instagram account today due to their new overreaching terms of service that essentially promise to violate my copyright in any photos posted to the service.

The NY Times Bits Technology blog has a good summary of the new terms and their impact on customers, so I won't repeat the detailed analysis here, but it boils down to essentially these huge privacy red-flags:

  1. Instagram can share information about its users with outside affiliates and advertisers
  2. Instagram can use your photos in advertising and promotions without your consent
  3. If you want to opt-out, your only option is to delete your account

Thanks, I went ahead and just did that.

In terms of mobile photo-editing on my smartphone or tablet device I've long preferred using SnapSeed anyway, because it has tons more powerful and customizable features.

For more blog coverage on the new Instagram terms see Techmeme