Archive | November, 2013

IBM applies predictive analysis to IT operations

6 Nov

Turning its considerable expertise in analytics to the study of IT operations, IBM has assembled a software package to help system administrators better pinpoint potential problems and performance issues, using many of IBM’s tools for business intelligence, machine learning, and data mining.

“We’ve applied the IBM investments in analytics to IT,” said Matt Ellis, vice president of software development for performance management.

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The new product, called Predictive Insights, was designed to predict and detect anomalies in the IT environment.

Since 2005, IBM has invested $16 billion in boosting its analytics capabilities, both through acquisition and research and development. Now, the company is applying some of this expertise to helping administrators better manage IT operations.

Predictive Insights can tap into operational data from a number of areas. It can use log files, changes to configuration files, network traffic, performance metrics from application APIs (application programming interfaces), and alerts and alarms from the applications. It can also work with data from various monitoring systems, such as APM (application performance management) and event management software.

The software uses the IBM InfoSphere Streams platform to intercept traffic from these sources and establish a baseline for typical system performance. The software then can recognize and highlight emerging patterns across these different data sources, which is important for pinpointing problems across a stack of software.

For instance, a banking application may be performing slowly, but it would be difficult for a network administrator to determine the problem may be with the JVMs (Java Virtual Machines), which are executing garbage collection duties at inopportune times, slowing their output.

Predictive Insights was designed to catch such problems, Ellis said. The software also draws from IBM’s Cognos business intelligence software and the company’s SPSS algorithms for predictive analysis and machine learning. It is designed to predict when problems will occur, given past behavior.

The software also offers administrators the ability to search across data sources. In addition, it also is able to produce documentation and information for trouble tickets.

IBM is not alone in its pursuit of the emerging field of applying analysis to IT operations data. Hewlett-Packard is also planning to launch its Operations Analytics platform by the end of this year.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab’s e-mail address is

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Spotify for iOS updates with artist tour dates, new languages and more

6 Nov

Spotify, one of the leading music streaming subscription services, has today pushed out an update to its application for iPhone and iPad that among other things adds tour date listings to your favorite artists. Through a recent partnership with Songkick, if an artist is touring, you’ll now see that information presented in the app.

Spotify now also speaks three more languages, specifically Russian, Indonesian and Japanese, and search has been overhauled promising “instant results” and the ability to search through playlists and user profiles now. And of course, what would any update worth its salt be without a handful of bug fixes thrown in for good measure.

Coupled with its new, glitzy iOS 7 appearance, these latest additions continue to push Spotify as one of the worlds premiere music subscription services. Grab the latest version for yourselves from the App Store at the link below.


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A 16th-Century Ice Superhighway Helped Build China’s Forbidden City

5 Nov

A 16th-Century Ice Superhighway Helped Build China's Forbidden City

The Forbidden City in Beijing was at least partially constructed with the help of an "artificial ice path," a 70-kilometer frozen superhighway created and maintained by 16th-century construction crews to slide huge stones into Beijing.

Read more…


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Bariatric Surgery Keeps Pounds Off For Years

5 Nov

Just knowing that someone is obese doesn’t mean they would benefit from bariatric surgery, doctors say.

Weight-loss surgery is becoming increasingly popular because it’s the only treatment that pretty much guarantees weight loss.

There is very little evidence on how it will affect people’s health over the long haul. But people who had surgery maintained substantial weight loss three years later, according to a study that’s trying to figure out if it works.

But the amount of weight lost varied according to the type of surgery, and so did the effect on diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol. Researchers say that may have to do with both the type of surgery and variations among the patients. The variation also reflects the fact that there are lots of reasons why people become seriously obese, and doctors aren’t sure how treatment should be tailored to match those differences.

Very few studies have tracked people with weight-loss surgery for more than a year. The LABS study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, was launched in 2005 to overcome that problem.

The 1,738 people who had Rouen-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, which creates a new connection between the top of the stomach and the small intestine, had maintained a weight loss of about a third nt of their pre-surgery weight three years out, or 90 pounds on average.

The 610 people who had lap-band surgery, where an elastic band is used to make the stomach smaller, maintained an average 16 percent weight loss, or 40 pounds.

The death rate for both surgeries was about the same, at just under 1 percent. But the lap-band patients were much more likely to need further surgery, with 18 percent going in to get things fixed. The median weight for people in the study before surgery was 284 pounds.

Many people end up getting weight-loss surgery because they have diabetes or other weight-related health issues. In the bypass group, almost three-quarters of the people with diabetes had at least a partial remission of the disease. In patients with lap-band surgery, that number was 27 percent. The more invasive gastric bypass was also better at reducing blood pressure and improving lipid levels.

Lap-band surgery has been popular because it is less invasive and has a quick recovery time. But because of the need for more operations to adjust the band and deal with other problems, surgeons instead have been turning to vertical sleeve gastrectomy, which reshapes the stomach into a banana-shaped tube but doesn’t remove the valves at the top and bottom of the stomach. It also may not interfere with absorption of iron and other nutrients as much as does a Rouen-en-Y bypass. This study didn’t evaluate the vertical sleeve procedure.

The LABS study is big, but it’s not a randomized trial; the patients chose which surgery they would have. So that could affect the results. The results were published Monday in JAMA, the American Medical Association’s journal.

The varied response shows that more effort needs to go into figuring out what type of obesity a person has, and not treating them all the same, according to Alison Field, an epidemiologist at Children’s Hospital Boston who studies obesity. She wrote an editorial in JAMA to accompany the report.

“We don’t think all breast cancer should be treated the same — not at all,” Field told Shots. “We need to start thinking the same way with obesity.”

Current approaches to weight loss, including diets and exercise, result in only small amounts of weight loss when averaged out across the American population, Field notes. And with 70 percent of American adults and 33 percent of children overweight or obese, there are a lot of people who could do with some help. Bariatric surgery isn’t appropriate for almost all of those people, she notes. There need to be tailored non-surgical approaches, too.

“If you look at Weight Watchers, it’s focused on education and navigating social situations,” Field adds. “It works very well for some people, but not others. We need to figure who the subgroups are and how to match the best treatment to them. We have a ways to go to get there.”

The LABS study is also looking at how weight-loss surgery affects teenagers, and published a very short-term study Monday in JAMA Pediatrics. It found that 242 teenagers who had bariatric surgery did fairly well in the first 30 days afterwards. Eight percent had major complications, like needing more surgery, and 15 percent had minor complications, like dehydration. That study will continue to see how the teens fare over the next few years.

Weight-loss surgery in children is controversial because they aren’t able to give legal consent, and because any ill effects would dog them for many more years than in adults, who typically have bariatric surgery in their 30s or 40s.

Parents and doctors should think about non-medical reasons why surgery may help teenagers, according to Michael Sarr, a bariatric surgeon at the Mayo Clinic. He wrote an editorial in JAMA Pediatrics arguing that having to go through adolescence weighing 300 or 400 pounds can result in “psychosocial retardation.”

“The elephant in the closet is social ostracism and social isolation,” Sarr told Shots. “Many of these kids are markedly obese from age 10. They’re isolated. They’re made fun of. They’re excluded from things.”

That, he says, can stunt a life as much as Type 2 diabetes and other health issues in seriously obese children.

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Linux 4.0 may have only bug fixes, no new features

4 Nov

Linux operating system creator Linus Torvalds has proposed that Linux 4.0, an upcoming release of the open-source software, should be dedicated to stability and bug fixing.

Although his initial reaction to a suggestion for a separate bug-fixing release from Dirk Hohndel, chief Linux and open source technologist at Intel, was to criticize it, as “I didn’t see most of us having the attention span required for that,” Torvalds is now asking for comments on a proposal to have Linux 4.0 as the bug-fix release in about a year’s time.

Hohndel discussed a bugs fixing release at LinuxCon Europe in Edinburgh, U.K., last month. He asked Torvalds during a Q&A session whether he thought the focus of releases was too much on speed and adding new features, and maybe Linux developers should take a step back and have a release focused on bug-fixes and stability, as there was a mention that the latest stable kernel had over 4,000 known bugs.

“And the reason I mention ‘4.0’ is that it would be a lovely time to do that,” Torvalds wrote Sunday. “Roughly a years heads-up that ‘ok, after 3.19 (or whatever), we’re doing a release with *just* fixes, and then that becomes 4.0′” Torvalds was initially concerned that a bug-fixing and stability release alone would not be of interest to developers, who would do new features instead.

Linux is developed by a community of developers and companies who voluntarily contribute changes to the kernel under the oversight of Torvalds.

Torvalds has also proposed an easier numbering scheme for new releases with smaller and easy-to-remember point release numbers that would go up to the low teens. “We’re not there yet, but I would actually prefer to not go into the twenties, so I can see it happening in a year or so, and we’ll have 4.0 follow 3.19 or something like that,” he wrote.

The Linux 3.12 kernel was released Sunday. Linux 3.12-rc7, which was expected to be the last release candidate for Linux 3.12, was released on Oct. 27 with the option of an rc8. Torvalds wrote that he had debated doing an rc8 but decided against it, as he is traveling with a bad Internet connection and did not want to delay 3.12 further.

“Sure, we had a number of driver reverts, and there was an annoying auto-NUMA [non-uniform memory access] memory corruption fix series, but none of it was really worth delaying 3.12 for,” Torvalds wrote.

Earlier this month, Torvalds said that Apple’s decision to offer free its latest desktop operating system, OS X Mavericks, will not affect the Linux operating system at all, as it is not open source and needs expensive hardware.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John’s e-mail address is

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Chrome browser will block malware downloads

3 Nov

Google has developed a security feature for Chrome that lets the browser detect and stop malware downloads.

Browser hijacking and other browser-based malware infections are on the rise and Google needs to protect Chrome users with native security features, the company said. It is testing the feature in a pre-release version of the browser.

[ Find out how to block the viruses, worms, and other malware that threaten your business, with hands-on advice from expert contributors in InfoWorld’s “Malware Deep Dive” PDF guide. | Keep up with key security issues with InfoWorld’s Security Adviser blog and Security Central newsletter. ]

“Online criminals have been increasing their use of malicious software that can silently hijack your browser settings. This has become a top issue in the Chrome help forums; we’re listening and are here to help,” wrote Linus Upson, a Google vice president, in a blog post.

The security feature will trigger an alert, displayed in the download tray at the bottom of the screen, saying that Chrome blocked a malware file from being downloaded. Malicious hackers typically disguise these files as harmless applications, like screensavers and even security updates, to trick users into downloading them.

When installed, this type of malware software wrests control of the browser from users, changing settings, such as the default home page, and displaying unwanted ads.

Google has added the capability to Chrome Canary, a very early pre-release version of the browser that is intended for developers and tech-savvy end users because it “can sometimes break down completely.”

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for more details about the way this feature works. Since antivirus products often step over each other when run simultaneously on the same computer, it remains to be seen if this new Chrome functionality will trigger conflicts for people who use other security software.

Chrome already lets users reset their browser settings and alerts them when they’re about to visit a site that the company has identified as dangerous.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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iPad Air online sales begin globally, get it while it’s hot!

2 Nov

As expected for the U.S, but later than expected in Europe – no Midnight launch here – the iPad Air has gone on sale at Apple online stores. Retail stores open the doors at 8am local time, but if you’re not too keen on braving the cold you can now snag both colors in all size and WiFi or cellular variants for shipping within 24 hours in Europe, and within a few days in the U.S.

Pricing has been known since the launch event, and so far all models are available. The new iPad Air Smart Cover and Smart Case has also gone on sale on the online store if you’re looking for that official Apple way to keep your new iPad protected.

If you grabbed one from the online store, drop us a line in the comments and tell us what you got and where you are!

Source: Apple Store

iPad Air

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Apple’s full-sized iPad gets slimmed down. Features include:

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November, 2013

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