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  • Cutting Through Data Science Hype

    An anonymous reader writes: Data science — or "big data" if you prefer — has evolved into a full-fledged buzzword, thanks to marketing departments around the world. John Foreman writes that part of the marketing blitz has been focused on how fast big data analysis can be. Most companies offering some kind of analytic service try to sell you on how it'll make it easy for you to quickly find and fix the problems with your business. But he points out that good, robust models need a stable set of inputs, and businesses often change far too quickly for any kind of stable prediction. He takes IBM's analytic services as an example, quoting Kevin Hillstrom: "If IBM Watson can find hidden correlations that help your business, then why can't IBM Watson stem a 3 year sales drop at IBM?" Foreman offers some simple advice: "Simple analyses don't require huge models that get blown away when the business changes. ... If your business is currently too chaotic to support a complex model, don't build one."

    94 comments | 2 days ago

  • The Mainframe Is Dead! Long Live the Mainframe!

    HughPickens.com writes The death of the mainframe has been predicted many times over the years but it has prevailed because it has been overhauled time and again. Now Steve Lohr reports that IBM has just released the z13, a new mainframe engineered to cope with the huge volume of data and transactions generated by people using smartphones and tablets. "This is a mainframe for the mobile digital economy," says Tom Rosamilia. "It's a computer for the bow wave of mobile transactions coming our way." IBM claims the z13 mainframe is the first system able to process 2.5 billion transactions a day and has a host of technical improvements over its predecessor, including three times the memory, faster processing and greater data-handling capability. IBM spent $1 billion to develop the z13, and that research generated 500 new patents, including some for encryption intended to improve the security of mobile computing. Much of the new technology is designed for real-time analysis in business. For example, the mainframe system can allow automated fraud prevention while a purchase is being made on a smartphone. Another example would be providing shoppers with personalized offers while they are in a store, by tracking their locations and tapping data on their preferences, mainly from their previous buying patterns at that retailer.

    IBM brings out a new mainframe about every three years, and the success of this one is critical to the company's business. Mainframes alone account for only about 3 percent of IBM's sales. But when mainframe-related software, services and storage are included, the business as a whole contributes 25 percent of IBM's revenue and 35 percent of its operating profit. Ronald J. Peri, chief executive of Radixx International was an early advocate in the 1980s of moving off mainframes and onto networks of personal computers. Today Peri is shifting the back-end computing engine in the Radixx data center from a cluster of industry-standard servers to a new IBM mainframe and estimates the total cost of ownership including hardware, software and labor will be 50 percent less with a mainframe. "We kind of rediscovered the mainframe," says Peri.

    164 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Chicago E-Learning Scheme Embraces Virtual Badges For Public Schoolers

    theodp (442580) writes "Over at the Chicago City of Learning, children are asked to join the CPS Connects initiative and instructed to provide their Chicago Public School (CPS) student ID to "connect your learning experiences in your school and around the city". Doing so, explains the website, will allow kids to "earn digital badges that unlock new, related opportunities and can give access to live learning experiences throughout Chicago from program partners," which will serve as "an indicator of achievement to colleges and employers." The initiative aims to "get 80% of all 3rd-12th grade students to claim their accounts by January 30th." Before you scoff at the idea that a child's future could depend on his or her Digital Badge collection, consider that the supporters helping government make it happen include the MacArthur Foundation, Gates Foundation, and Mozilla, and a number of business and education partners have made public pledges committing to help accelerate the spread and scale of digital badges for learning. Digital badge-based employment has also earned a thumbs-up from the White House. It's unclear, but might make sense that Chicago kids' digital badges will be collected and shared in the citywide data warehouse being built by the 'cradle-to-career' Thrive Chicago initiative, which is working with the Mayor's Office and CPS to develop a "data system that integrates data from multiple partner agencies, links program participation data to other youth data, and provides a web interface where partner agencies can access youth data targeted on improving youth outcomes at the individual and aggregate levels." After all, the data collected will include "student demographics, school attendance, grades, student behavior, out of school time program participation, and progress to graduation." Not only that, Thrive Chicago's Leadership Council includes the interim President of the MacArthur Foundation (as well as Microsoft and IBM employees)." Update: 01/12 15:52 GMT by T : An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the MacArthur Foundation, which has now been corrected.

    46 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Big Names Dominate Open Source Funding

    jones_supa writes: Network World's analysis of publicly listed sponsors of 36 prominent open-source non-profits and foundations reveals that the lion's share of financial support for open-source groups comes from a familiar set of names. Google was the biggest supporter, appearing on the sponsor lists of eight of the 36 groups analyzed. Four companies – Canonical, SUSE, HP and VMware – supported five groups each, and seven others (Nokia, Oracle, Cisco, IBM, Dell, Intel and NEC) supported four. For its part, Red Hat supports three groups (Linux Foundation, Creative Commons and the Open Virtualization Alliance).

    It's tough to get more than a general sense of how much money gets contributed to which foundations by which companies – however, the numbers aren't large by the standards of the big contributors. The average annual revenue for the open-source organizations considered in the analysis was $4.36 million, and that number was skewed by the $27 million taken in by the Wikimedia Foundation (whose interests range far beyond OSS development) and the $17 million posted by Linux Foundation.

    32 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Ask Slashdot: What Tech Companies Won't Be Around In 10 Years?

    An anonymous reader writes: It's interesting to look back a decade and see how the tech industry has changed. The mobile phone giants of 10 years ago have all struggled to compete with the smartphone newcomers. Meanwhile, the game console landscape is almost exactly the same. I'm sure few of us predicted Apple's rebirth over the past decade, and many of us thought Microsoft would have fallen a lot further by now. With that in mind, let's make some predictions. What companies aren't going to make it another 10 years? Are Facebook, Twitter, and the other social networking behemoths going to fade as quickly as they arose? What about the heralds of the so-called 'sharing economy,' like Uber? Are IBM and Oracle going to hang on? Along the same lines, what companies do you think will definitely stick around for another decade or more? Post your predictions for all to see. I'll buy you a beer in 10 years if you're right.

    332 comments | about a month ago

  • Apple and Samsung Already Working On A9 Processor

    itwbennett writes According to a report in Korean IT Times, Samsung Electronics has begun production of the A9 processor, the next generation ARM-based CPU for iPhone and iPad. Korea IT Times says Samsung has production lines capable of FinFET process production (a cutting-edge design for semiconductors that many other manufacturers, including AMD, IBM and TSMC, are adopting) in Austin, Texas and Giheung, Korea, but production is only taking place in Austin. Samsung invested $3.9 billion in that plant specifically to make chips for Apple. So now Apple can say its CPU is "Made in America."

    114 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • Bank Security Software EULA Allows Spying On Users

    An anonymous reader writes Trusteer Rapport, a software package whose installation is promoted by several major banks as an anti-fraud tool, has recently been acquired by IBM and has an updated EULA. Among other things, the new EULA includes this gem: "In addition, You authorize personnel of IBM, as Your Sponsoring Enterprise's data processor, to use the Program remotely to collect any files or other information from your computer that IBM security experts suspect may be related to malware or other malicious activity, or that may be associated with general Program malfunction." Welcome to the future...

    135 comments | about 1 month ago

  • Apple, IBM Partnership Yields First Results: 10 Mobile Apps

    itwbennett writes IBM and Apple have unveiled the first results of the enterprise IT partnership they announced in July: 10 mobile applications aimed at businesses in six industries as well as government users. One of the apps, for example, allows a flight crew to personalize a passenger's in-flight experience. An app targeted at the banking industry allows a financial advisor to remotely access and manage a client's portfolio. And police officers can use iPhones to view video feeds from crime scenes with an app for law enforcement.

    53 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Using Discarded Laptop Batteries To Power Lights

    mrspoonsi sends news of an IBM study (PDF) which found that discarded laptop batteries could be used to power lights in areas where there's little or no electrical grid. Of the sample IBM tested, 70% of the used batteries were able to power an LED light for more than four hours every day throughout an entire year. The concept was trialed in the Indian city of Bangalore this year. The adapted power packs are expected to prove popular with street vendors, who are not on the electric grid, as well as poor families living in slums. The IBM team created what they called an UrJar — a device that uses lithium-ion cells from the old batteries to power low-energy DC devices, such as a light. The researchers are aiming to help the approximately 400 million people in India who are off grid.

    143 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Big IT Vendors Mostly Mum On Commercial Drone Plans

    alphadogg writes: Word that the Federal Aviation Administration might take a very hard line on commercial drone use has those with designs on such activity nervous. But as for big enterprise IT vendors, it's really hard to tell what they think because they're keeping any plans in this field very hush-hush. More consumer oriented companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google are active, but companies like IBM and HP are quiet, while Microsoft affirms it has nothing doing. A former FAA lawyer says sitting on the sidelines even during this unsure regulatory period is probably not a great idea. "I have a hard time believing they don't have some sort of programs in place," attorney Mark Dombroff says.

    22 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Alva Noe: Don't Worry About the Singularity, We Can't Even Copy an Amoeba

    An anonymous reader writes "Writer and professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley Alva Noe isn't worried that we will soon be under the rule of shiny metal overlords. He says that currently we can't produce "machines that exhibit the agency and awareness of an amoeba." He writes at NPR: "One reason I'm not worried about the possibility that we will soon make machines that are smarter than us, is that we haven't managed to make machines until now that are smart at all. Artificial intelligence isn't synthetic intelligence: It's pseudo-intelligence. This really ought to be obvious. Clocks may keep time, but they don't know what time it is. And strictly speaking, it is we who use them to tell time. But the same is true of Watson, the IBM supercomputer that supposedly played Jeopardy! and dominated the human competition. Watson answered no questions. It participated in no competition. It didn't do anything. All the doing was on our side. We played Jeopordy! with Watson. We used 'it' the way we use clocks.""

    455 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Microsoft Azure Outage Across the Globe

    hawkinspeter writes: The BBC reports that overnight an outage of Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform took down many third-party sites that rely on it, in addition to disrupting Microsoft's own products. Office 365 and Xbox Live services were affected.

    This happened at a particularly inopportune time, as Microsoft has recently been pushing its Azure services in an effort to catch up with other providers such as Amazon, IBM, and Google. Just a couple of hours previously, Microsoft had screened an Azure advert in the UK during the Scotland v. England soccer match."
    (Most services are back online. As of this writing, Application Insights is still struggling, and Europe is having problems with hosted VMs.)

    167 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Does Watson Have the Answer To Big Blue's Uncertain Future?

    HughPickens.com writes: IBM has recently delivered a string of disappointing quarters, and announced recently that it would take a multibillion-dollar hit to offload its struggling chip business. But Will Knight writes at MIT Technology Review that Watson may have the answer to IBM's uncertain future. IBM's vast research department was recently reorganized to ramp up efforts related to cognitive computing. The push began with the development of the original Watson, but has expanded to include other areas of software and hardware research aimed at helping machines provide useful insights from huge quantities of often-messy data. "We're betting billions of dollars, and a third of this division now is working on it," says John Kelly, director of IBM Research, said of cognitive computing, a term the company uses to refer to artificial intelligence techniques related to Watson. The hope is that the Watson Business Group, a division aimed making its Jeopardy!-winning cognitive computing application more of a commercial success, will be able to answer more complicated questions in all sorts of industries, including health care, financial investment, and oil discovery; and that it will help IBM build a lucrative new computer-driven consulting business.

    But Watson is still a work in progress. Some companies and researchers testing Watson systems have reported difficulties in adapting the technology to work with their data sets. "It's not taking off as quickly as they would like," says Robert Austin. "This is one of those areas where turning demos into real business value depends on the devils in the details. I think there's a bold new world coming, but not as fast as some people think." IBM needs software developers to embrace its vision and build services and apps that use its cognitive computing technology. In May of this year it announced that seven universities would offer computer science classes in cognitive computing and last month IBM revealed a list of partners that have developed applications by tapping into application programming interfaces that access versions of Watson running in the cloud. Big Blue said it will invest $1 billion into the Watson division including $100 million to fund startups developing cognitive apps. "I very much admire the end goal," says Boris Katz, adding that business pressures could encourage IBM's researchers to move more quickly than they would like. "If the management is patient, they will really go far."

    67 comments | about 3 months ago

  • Khrushchev's 1959 Visit To IBM

    harrymcc (1641347) writes In September of 1959, Nikita Khrushchev, the premier of the Soviet Union, spent 12 days touring the U.S. One of his stops was IBM's facilities in San Jose, which helped to create the area later known as Silicon Valley. The premier got to see the first computer which came with a hard disk, which IBM programmed to answer history questions. But what he was most impressed by was IBM's modern cafeteria. Over at Fast Company, I've chronicled this fascinating and little-known moment in tech history, which will be covered in an upcoming PBS program on Khrushchev's U.S. trip.

    54 comments | about 3 months ago

  • Slashdot Asks: Appropriate Place For Free / Open Source Software Artifacts?

    A friend of mine who buys and sells used books, movies, etc. recently purchased a box full of software on CD, including quite a few old Linux distributions, and asked me if I'd like them. The truth is, I would like them, but I've already collected over the last two decades more than I should in the way of Linux distributions, on at least four kinds of media (starting with floppies made from a CD that accompanied a fat book on how to install some distribution or other -- very useful in the days of dialup). I've got some boxes (Debian Potato, and a few versions of Red Hat and Mandrake Linux), and an assortment of marketing knickknacks, T-shirts, posters, and books. I like these physical artifacts, and they're not dominating my life, but I'd prefer to actually give many of them to someplace where they'll be curated. (Or, if they should be tossed, tossed intelligently.) Can anyone point to a public collection of some kind that gathers physical objects associated with Free software and Open Source, and makes them available for others to examine? (I plan to give some hardware, like a pair of OLPC XO laptops, to the same Goodwill computer museum highlighted in this video, but they probably don't want an IBM-branded radio in the shape of a penguin.)

    46 comments | about 3 months ago

  • 16-Teraflops, £97m Cray To Replace IBM At UK Meteorological Office

    Memetic writes: The UK weather forecasting service is replacing its IBM supercomputer with a Cray XC40 containing 17 petabytes of storage and capable of 16 TeraFLOPS. This is Cray's biggest contract outside the U.S. With 480,000 CPUs, it should be 13 times faster than the current system. It will weigh 140 tons. The aim is to enable more accurate modeling of the unstable UK climate, with UK-wide forecasts at a resolution of 1.5km run hourly, rather than every three hours, as currently happens. (Here's a similar system from the U.S.)

    125 comments | about 3 months ago

  • Ballmer Says Amazon Isn't a "Real Business"

    theodp writes According to Steve Ballmer, Amazon.com is not a real business. "They make no money," Ballmer said on the Charlie Rose Show. "In my world, you're not a real business until you make some money. I have a hard time with businesses that don't make money at some point." Ballmer's comments come as Amazon posted a $437 million loss for the third quarter, disappointing Wall Street. "If you are worth $150 billion," Ballmer added, "eventually somebody thinks you're going to make $15 billion pre-tax. They make about zero, and there's a big gap between zero and 15." Fired-up as ever, LA Clippers owner Ballmer's diss comes after fellow NBA owner Mark Cuban similarly slammed IBM, saying Big Blue is no longer a tech company (Robert X. Cringely seems to concur). "Today, they [IBM] specialize in financial engineering," Cuban told CNBC after IBM posted another disappointing quarter. "They're no longer a tech company, they are an amalgamation of different companies that they are trying to arb[itrage] on Wall Street, and I'm not a fan of that at all."

    283 comments | about 3 months ago

  • Sale of IBM's Chip-Making Business To GlobalFoundries To Get US Security Review

    dcblogs writes IBM is an officially sanctioned trusted supplier to the U.S. Defense Dept., and the transfer of its semiconductor manufacturing to GlobalFoundries, a U.S.-based firm owned by investors in Abu Dhabi, will get U.S. scrutiny. Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John Adams, who authored a report last year for an industry group about U.S. supply chain vulnerabilities and national security, said regulators will have to look closely. "I don't want cast aspersions unnecessarily on Abu Dubai — but they're not Canada," said Adams "I think that the news that we may be selling part of our supply chain for semiconductors to a foreign investor is actually bad news."

    95 comments | about 3 months ago

  • IBM Pays GlobalFoundries $1.5 Billion To Shed Its Chip Division

    helix2301 writes with word that Big Blue has become slightly smaller: IBM will pay $1.5 billion to GlobalFoundries in order to shed its costly chip division. IBM will make payments to the chipmaker over three years, but it took a $4.7 billion charge for the third quarter when it reported earnings Monday. The company fell short of Wall Street profit expectations and revenue slid 4 percent, sending shares down 8 percent before the opening bell.

    84 comments | about 3 months ago

  • Outsourced Tech Jobs Are Increasingly Being Automated

    Jason Koebler writes Yahoo announced [Tuesday] it would be laying off at least 400 workers in its Indian office, and back in February, IBM cut roughly 2,000 jobs there. Meanwhile, tech companies are beginning to see that many of the jobs it has outsourced can be automated, instead. Labor in India and China is still cheaper than it is in the United States, but it's not the obvious economic move that it was just a few years ago: "The labor costs are becoming significant enough in China and India that there are very real discussions about automating jobs there now," Mark Muro, an economist at Brookings, said. "Companies are seeing that automated replacements are getting to be 'good enough.'"

    236 comments | about 4 months ago

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