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Best content from the best source handpicked by Shyam. The source include The Harvard University, MIT, Mckinsey & Co, Wharton, Stanford,and other top educational institutions. domains include Cybersecurity, Machine learning, Deep Learning, Bigdata, Education, Information Technology, Management, others.

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    Big data focus on behavioral profiling in 2015




    Behavioral profiling and modeling will be the most common objective of big data and analytics in the coming year, according to IDC.
    This will result in the creation, capture, and processing of unprecedented scales of data. Leading categories of data will be from direct actions including purchases, payments, text messages, travel, and web searches.
    These actions take on a much larger context when paired with location, time, and the relationship to other events. This is the big data that must be processed for profiling and modeling.
    IDC believes Asian organizations will face a unique challenge in this space, in that they will absorb significant costs in the collection of this data, at the same time that they increase their exposure from amassing highly personal information about individuals. This will drive policy decisions around deployment models, use of customer data, risk, and compliance.
    IDC expects three drivers to push the market forward in 2015 — mass acquisition of customer data through mobile apps and shared data platforms, regional availability of cloud infrastructure, and changes to privacy legislation and enforcement.
    Also, the research firm made some predictions that will impact organizations implementing their first big data projects in 2015, which include the following.



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    So you wanna be a data scientist? 


    A guide to 2015's hottest profession

























    Are you good at math? Like, really good at math? Do you also know Python and, oh yeah, have deep knowledge of a particular industry?
    On the off chance that you possess this agglomeration of skills, you might have what it takes to be a data scientist. If so, these are good times. LinkedIn just voted "statistical analysis and data mining" the top skill that got people hired in 2014.
    Glassdoor reports that the average salary for a data scientist is $118,709 versus $64,537 for a programmer. A McKinsey study predicts that by 2018, the U.S. could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 "people with deep analytic skills" as well as 1.5 million "managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions."
    The field is so hot right now that Roy Lowrance, the managing director of New York University's new Center for Data Science program says he thinks it has peaked. "It's probably in a bubble," he says. "Anything that gets hot like this can only cool off." Still, NYU is looking to expand its data science program from 40 students to 60 over the next few years. The current school year won't be over for another five months and 50% to 75% of its students already have firm job offers.
    Why the explosion? Linda Burtch, managing director of Burtch Works, a Chicago-based executive recruiting firm, notes that while tech firms like Google, Amazon, Netflix and Uber have data science groups, the use of such professions is now starting to filter down to non-tech companies like Neiman Marcus, Walmart, Clorox and Gap. "All these are companies looking to hire data scientists," she says.
    The hope is that such professional will unearth new information that will prompt new streams or revenue or let a company streamline its business. Pratt & Whitney, the aerospace manufacturer, now can predict with 97% accuracy when an aircraft engine will need to have maintenance, conceivably helping it run its operations much more efficiently, says Anjul Bhambhri, VP of Big Data at IBM.
    Though IBM just released its freemium, cloud-based Watson Analytics program this month, most often data scientists have to create homegrown software programs to analyze unstructured data, which is one reason that programming skills are required.

    Schooling

    Lowrance says there are basically three skills that a data scientist needs to possess: math/statistics, computer literacy and knowledge of a particular business domain (like autos, for example.) NYU's program teaches those so that each area of expertise builds on the other. When you graduate, you're sort of a jack-of-all-trades for data crunching. "When working on data science projects in coursework they have to do all the jobs," he says.
    Not everyone has to go through a college course to become a data scientist, though. A company called Metis, for instance, started offering a 12-week data science boot camp in September. The program, in New York, costs $14,000 and admission is highly competitive. Metis Cofounder Jason Moss says that about half the students come in with a Master's or PhD.
    Just a couple of weeks after the first boot camp ended in early December, Moss said six of the class's 15 students had job offers.
    "I don't think it's a replacement for college," Moss says of his program. "I think college is about more than the fastest path to getting a job. I also don't believe that you have to have gone to college to be successful as a data scientist," he says. "There's a personality type - innately curious, has grit, wants to figure things out — that does well."
    Anmol Rajpurohit, an independent data scientist and consultant, says being a fast learner is most important attribute for this line of work. "Generic programming skills are a lot more important than being the expert of any particular programming language," he says. "Living in an age of rapid technology advancement, we see languages quickly becoming obsolete and new languages quickly getting popular. Thus, a fast learner will go a lot farther than an expert."
    Lowrance says that he believes boot camps and online-based courses can be helpful for candidates strong in some skills, but weak on others. One virtue of NYU's program is that it teaches the skills sequentially so that they build on each other. "We give you everything you need in an order that makes sense," he says.
    What data scientists do?
    "On an average day, I manage a series of dashboards that tell our company about our business — what the users are doing," says Jon Greenberg, a data scientist at Playstudios, a gaming firm. Greenberg is a manager now, so he's programming less than he used to, but he still does his fair share. Usually, he pulls data out of Apache Hadoop storage and runs it through Revolution R, an analytics platform and comes up with some kind of visualization. "It may be how one segment of the population is interacting with a new feature," he explains.
    Greenberg got a Master's degree in statistics six years ago. He expected to go into government work, but was surprised to see that data scientists were so in demand in the private sector. "It was definitely not as hot a field then," he says. Now, he says he gets about one call or email a day from a headhunter. "It's not me," he says. "They probably bother everyone else [with this expertise]."
    For Greenberg, employability is a plus, but he loves the work itself. "I think it starts with, you have to have an analytical mind. You have to be curious," he says. "You have to be flexible and creative and think of a different way to solve problems." The only downside of the job, Greenberg says, is the time spent "cleaning" data — pruning it to remove irrelevant findings. "That part's not that exciting and you spend a lot of time doing it," he says.
    Rajpurohit says he spends a lot of his energy cleaning data, but also researching. "A significant part of my time is spent on research, because I often come across absolutely new problems and thus, have to study the latest literature on research in that particular field or reach out to experts on those topics for advice," he says.
    "Despite its name, data science requires a good mix of both art and science. The science part is obvious –- mathematics, programming, etc. The art part is equally important –- creativity, deep contextual understanding, etc. Both the parts put together make one a great problem solver."
    That said, Rajpurohit acknowledges that 'working in Data Science is not even remotely as sexy or glamorous as it is being perceived these days. This field is definitely gaining significance (and seeing high pay offers) across organization, but there is a lot of not-so-exciting tasks that a data scientist needs to work on almost daily basis."

    Is this the career for you?

    If the idea of spending much of your day programming and analyzing dashboards for relevant information appeals to you, then you might have the makings of a computer scientist. If you're merely motivated by the salaries, though, you may have a tougher time. Consider: People who fall into this line of work often spend their spare time writing programs and analyzing data just to amuse themselves.
    Adam Flugel, data science recruiter for Burtch Works, recalls a recent candidate, a PhD holder, who he placed at Electronic Arts this fall. "What really stood out was the work that he was doing for fun in his free time," Flugel says. "He was involved in the online multiplayer game World of Tanks and led a “clan”, basically a team of players. He created a utility to scrape data from the game server and then ran analytics on that data to evaluate his clan’s performance. He used this info to figure out how to adjust their strategy, what types of players he should recruit to improve the team, etc."
    If you don't love data for its own sake, then you will find it hard to compete with such candidates. Burtch, however, says everyone should learn to love data, if only for the sake of their career. "Within 10 years, if you're not a data geek, you can forget about being in the C-suite," Burtch says.
    But what about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and other such visionaries who saw the big picture and didn't get bogged down in the minutiae of data science? "That was 30 years ago," says Burtch. "I'm talking about the next 10 years."

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    The New Analytics Imperative

    Cisco today announced a data and analytics strategy and a suite of analytics software that will enable customers to translate their data into actionable business insight regardless of where the data resides.
    With the number of connected devices projected to grow from 10 billion today to 50 billion by 2020, the flood tide of new data — widely distributed and often unstructured — is disrupting traditional data management and analytics. Traditionally most organizations created data inside their own four walls and saved it in a centralized repository. This made it easy to analyze the data and extract valuable information to make better business decisions.
    But the arrival of the Internet of Everything (IoE) — the hyper-connection of people, process, data, and things – is quickly changing all that. The amount of data is huge. It’s coming from widely disparate sources (like mobile devices, sensors, or remote routers), and much of that data is being created at the edge. Organizations can now get data from everywhere — from every device and at any time — to answer questions about their markets and customers that they never could before. But IT managers and key decision makers are struggling to find the useful business nuggets from this mountain of data.
    As an example, take the typical offshore oil rig, which generates up to 2 terabytes of data per day. The majority of this data is time sensitive to both production and safety. Yet it can take up to 12 days to move a single day’s worth of data from its source at the network edge back to the data center or cloud. This means that analytics at the edge are critical to knowing what’s going on when it’s happening now, not almost 2 weeks later.
    The case for analytics at the edge is not solely driven by bandwidth constraints. In many cases the data being analyzed simply has a useful life shorter than the time it takes to send the data to a central place for analysis. Location-based information is a perfect example. When someone (or something) is on the move, location-based information is only valid for a brief point in time.  Much of this data today is never analyzed at all because centralized analytics can’t provide insight quickly enough.
    This scenario – repeated continuously in companies around the globe – has led to what I call “the Analytics Imperative” – the ability to extract meaning and outcomes in a world where 99.5% of the data collected is never analyzed.Infographic_AnalyticPNG2
    Organizations need new strategies for analyzing these massive data sets. It is no longer viable to move 100% of your data to centralized data stores for analysis, as the examples above illustrate. Instead, customers today need solutions that enable real-time analysis to take place anywhere from the data lake or data warehouse to the edge of the network, including data in motion. The reality of IoE is that turning massive volumes of data into useful information will require analytics from the cloud to the data center to the very edge of the network.
    Data and analytics will be the means by which value is extracted from the Internet of Everything. This explains why Cisco has entered the business of data and analytics in a big way with the introduction of Connected Analytics, pre-packaged analytics software ready for integration into existing Cisco infrastructures to enable powerful industry solutions. Why Cisco, you may be asking.
    • Connected infrastructure: Only Cisco has the connected infrastructure from the cloud to the data center to the edge to enable analytics everywhere
    • Agile pervasive data access: market-leading data virtualization capabilities  to leverage even the most distributed data
    • Real-time, streaming analytics at the edge: streaming analytic capabilities built right into our industrialized routers
    • The ability to leverage your existing infrastructure:Distributed analytics can be done either in NEW infrastructure or in EXISTING infrastructure. Using the intelligent Cisco infrastructure already in place dramatically reduces deployment and ongoing costs and significantly decreases time to deploy

    • Deep domain infrastructure expertise:  Nobody can understand network data better than Cisco; pairing that data with enterprise data can provide insights that aren’t possible without the network data, and THAT is where Cisco has created strength in our analytics.
    • Intercloud integration of private/public
    •  clouds:
    • Enables organizations to draw insights from data stored in both private and public cloud environments
    • Broad ecosystem of partners: 
    • Strategic partnerships have been critical to Cisco’s success over the past 30 years and continue to be so in the data and analytics space; from Hadoop partners to analytics partners, our customer solutions leverage a full stack of best-of-breed technologies from Cisco and our partners
    Cisco approaches big data and analytics in a way no other company can, leveraging our strengths in hardware, software, services, and partnerships to embed powerful analytic capabilities from the data center to the cloud to the edge, providing insights across the most distributed and remote data.
    The Analytics Imperative? We get it. And we are here to help you extract value from your data in ways no other vendor can. To learn more about Cisco Connected Analytics for the Internet of Everything, visit this site.

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    A picture about tech addiction won National 

    Geographic's 2014 photo contest

    This year's National Geographic photo contest winner highlights humans in the wild (read: public transportation) doing what they do best: staring at their cellphones.
    The winning image, titled "A Node Glows in the Dark," was taken by Brian Yen in Ocean Park, Hong Kong.
    "I feel a certain contradiction when I look at the picture," Yen told National Geographic. "On the one hand, I feel the liberating gift of technology. On the other hand, I feel people don’t even try to be neighborly anymore, because they don’t have to."
    Yen's image also happens to recall London-based photographer Babycakes Romero's "Death of a Conversation" photo series, which went viral earlier this year.
    A photo of migrating wildebeests in Tanzania, taken by Nicole Cambre of Brussels, Belgium, won the nature category and Triston Yeo, of Singapore won the places category with a photo of Budapest thermal spas.
    National Geographic pored over more than 9,000 entrees from 150 countries to choose the winners of its annual photo contest, whose pictures will be published in the magazine.

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    NASA has emailed a wrench to astronauts in space





    Talk about throwing a wrench into the works.
    Responding to International Space Station (ISS) astronauts’ need for a wrench, NASA solved the problem by emailing a digital file to the ISS. The astronauts then 3D-printed the tool.
    In a post on Backchannel, Mike Chen, founder of Made In Space, explained how the process worked. Made in Space is a Silicon Valley startup that built the 3D printer that was shipped to the ISS in September. In November, the first-ever 3D-printed part was, yes, made in space.
    “My colleagues and I just 3D-printed a ratcheting socket wrench on the International Space Station by typing some commands on our computer in California,” Chen wrote in his post. “We had overheard ISS Commander Barry Wilmore … mention over the radio that he needed one, so we designed one in CAD and sent it up to him faster than a rocket ever could have. This is the first time we’ve ever ‘emailed’ hardware to space.”
    ISS Commander Wilmore reaches into the 3D printer to retrieve the wrench.
    Above: ISS Commander Wilmore reaches into the 3D printer to retrieve the wrench.
    Image Credit: NASA
    Known alternatively as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is a process in which materials are slowly applied, one layer after another, based on a digital file. Normal manufacturing involves either filling a mold or cutting material out of larger pieces.
    The wrench job goes right to the heart of what Made in Space’s technology — and 3D printing technology in general — is all about: letting people or institutions make just what they need, rather than carrying unnecessary inventory or having to wait around for order parts to arrive, a particularly slow process for those aboard the ISS. Instead, astronauts on the ISS, or sailors on, say, Navy ships, need only to carry enough materials to print what they need. And although the technology is likely not up to the task of manufacturing large numbers of production-quality items, it is ideal for making prototypes or one-offs of things like non-precision tools.
    “What I’m really excited about is the impact this could have on human space exploration beyond Earth orbit,” Chen wrote. “When we do set up the first human colonies on the moon, Mars, and beyond, we won’t use rockets to bring along everything we need. We’ll build what we need there, when we need it.”
    3D printed parts in space
    Since the first 3D print job on the ISS in November, there have been 19 others. All 20 of those parts were designed on Earth prior to the printer’s trip into space. The wrench, however, was the first designed after the fact and sent up digitally.
    The design process is fairly simple, especially for government work. First, Chen explained, the part is modeled in a CAD software program like Autodesk’s Inventor. Then the file is sent to NASA. Next, the space agency transmits it to the ISS via its Huntsville Operations Support Center. Finally, the 3D printer receives the file and generates the part, layer by layer.
    The work being done by Made in Space and on the International Space Station is a perfect example of the partnership between a purely Silicon Valley startup and the government. Made in Space was one of the first companies to spin out of Singularity University — a private nine-week course held at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. that covers exponentially growing technologies like nanotechnology, biotechnology and bioinformatics — and is now among the current crop of companies in the Valley’s most prestigious accelerator, Y Combinator.
    Working with NASA could mean big business for the startup, although if the quality of the printouts are too low for NASA standards, it could be a big setback.
    “On the ISS, this type of technology translates to lower costs for experiments, faster design iteration, and a safer, better experience for the crew members who can use it to replace broken parts or create new tools on demand,” explained Chen. “But what I’m really excited about is the impact this could have on human space exploration beyond Earth orbit.”


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    How an economist trains for a marathon


    Reproduced from Chicago Booth's Capital Ideas













































































































































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    How Venture Capital and Crowd Funding Can Be Mutually Beneficial





    Image credit: Tiz | Flickr






    In the wake of success stories such as Coolest Cooler, which raised more than $13 million on Kickstarter, I’m starting to hear talk that crowdfunding is making traditional financing less relevant. I question this logic—and not just because I’m part of the traditional financing world.
    There are a number of reasons. First, not every product can be explained in a five-minute video (think: your next advanced iteration of carbon fiber). Nor can every product be built for prices the average Joe is willing to risk (for example, the next Tesla automobile), or be brought to market for
    less than $10 million (e.g., the next generation of cholesterol drugs).
    What’s more, I’m not willing to concede that venture capital is irrelevant for financing cool new consumer gizmos or, more important, that it can’t work in conjunction with crowdfunding. In fact, an increasing number of venture-backed startups are choosing to launch products on Kickstarter, in a symbiotic relationship that works for both the startup and the investors.
    VCs are not blind to the advantages of crowdfunding. Successful campaigns provide validation—and connections. I backed a Kickstarter product, the OneBowl, a bowl-strainer combo that raised about $60,000. (A nice sum, to be sure, but anyone who knows about delivering plastic-injected widgets is aware that the mold and tooling alone will probably cost $60,000 to set up.) 
    As I followed OneBowl’s post-campaign updates, it became apparent that the founder was getting inquiries about financing, manufacturing partners and even sales and distribution based on the success of the campaign. Those connections would ordinarily take years of pitching and road shows to put together. OneBowl did it in months.
    Even if your company is well-funded, it is hard to find a more exciting and cost-effective way to launch a product than through a crowdfunding campaign. Where else is there a built-in audience of people so intent on finding the latest and greatest stuff that they are willing to help fund its development? This is why venture-backed firms like Misfit Wearables and cosmetics-maker Julep turn to crowdfunding to launch products.
    VCs are sourcing deals via crowdfunding platforms at an ever-increasing rate. According to venture capital database CB Insights, nearly 10 percent of all crowdfunded projects that pass the $100,000 mark land some level of formal venture capital funding after the campaign ends. More than $300 million in venture capital had been committed to these companies as of mid-2014, according to the same report. 
    As these worlds collide, there may be some concern that VC-backed products are diluting the creative “specialness” of Kickstarter. But I believe that VC-funded players should be transparent about their backing, spinning their products to the crowd as less risky bets to fund. Conversely, VCs should stop pretending that crowdfunding is for amateurs and embrace its ability to lower the risk of finding the next big thing. 
    In the end, I hope we can all play nice. My new pasta dish depends on it.


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    6 Potato Salad-Tested Crowdfunding Tricks That Work

















    Image credit: Pixabay


    Zack “Danger” Brown ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10 so he could make potato salad. Thirty days later, the campaign was funded at $55,492.
    With so many worthy causes seeking money, it seems like a hoax that almost 7,000 people put theirs toward potato salad. But was it?
    Brown had a well-thought-out strategy in place before launching his campaign, and the fact that he succeeded in raising that much money means there are several lessons to take from this “fluke.” Luckily, they’re easy to replicate and can work for anyone willing to put in the time and effort.

    1. Choose your platform wisely.


    Kickstarter blogged about the potato salad campaign and supported the project, though it was outside the norm. It’s important to pick a crowdfunding platform that’s geared toward your audience and supportive of you.
    Your campaign site should enable you to draw a crowd and brand yourself and your project. Whether you’re developing a video game, a virtual sandbox, a book or potato salad, utilize this space to show your idea off. I compare it to your home: You want to make it a fun, welcoming place where people want to hang out.

    2. Shake things up.


    For most, routines get old. When something comes along that’s random, bizarre or just different, we jump at the chance to experience it. This offbeat factor is the appeal behind flash mobs, Dollar Shave Club’sviral videos and -- you guessed it -- crowdfunded potato salad.

    3. Don’t just ask for money.


    Brown engaged his audience with compelling videos that kept supporters up to date. He communicated new ingredients and T-shirt creations in a whimsical way that made people want more.
    These videos went beyond getting people to visit his site -- they gave them a reason to stay. Crowdfunding isn’t just asking for money, it’s giving supporters a sense of accomplishment and gratification. When they experience the final product, they know they’re receiving something they helped create.

    4. Get supporters before reporters.


    Three days after his campaign went live, Brown appeared on the local news to spread his story. He had 200 backers at that point and ended with nearly 7,000. What people often forget is that those first 200 supporters have to come from somewhere.
    The most successful campaigns have supporters before they launch. The Veronica Mars Movie Project met its goal within the first 10 hours and raised more than $5 million because the cult TV series had a loyal fan base hungry for more.
    You don’t need support on that scale, but you do need 20 to 50 people to build momentum before you launch. Identify and nurture your audience, share your story and get people excited so when you launch, you already have a following with organically grown relationships.

    5. Offer simple, cheap and creative rewards.


    Brown’s reward levels gave everyone the opportunity to participate. He included ridiculous things such as “I will say your name out loud while making the potato salad,” and 5,664 backers out of the total 6,911 supported Brown at $10 or less.
    Do you think that many people are passionate about potato salad? Probably not, but the rewards made this hilarious concept one that people wanted to be a part of.
    Follow this creative example when designing your campaign, and offer experiences that are available in limited quantities or are exclusive. Writing a book? Make one reward level “dinner with the author.” Building an app? Create user avatars after your top backers.
    Don’t forget to create a sense of urgency. Once the campaign ended, backers knew they’d never get another chance to hang out with Brown while he made potato salad.

    6. Say "thank you."


    Brown kept people engaged throughout his campaign and followed up with videos thanking his supporters. Backers want attention and acknowledgment for contributing.
    We can’t know Brown’s motives, but his tactics worked. If you’ve struggled to raise funds for something meaningful, it may be infuriating that this guy raised so much money for potato salad.
    But don’t let it upset you. It’s a success story you can learn from. While there’s nothing serious about potato salad, the $55,000 it raised should certainly be taken seriously.


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    How to Launch a Business in the Sharing Economy



    As a tech executive who often traveled on business, Aaron Easterly was constantly asking friends and family to care for Caramel, his beloved Pomeranian. “I would never take her to a kennel, so I’d go frantically down the list of family, friends and neighbors every time a business trip came up,” he says. “This was just one of those areas that felt frustratingly broken.”
    Intrigued by the growing popularity of peer-to-peer platforms like Airbnb and Uber, Easterly sensed that there was an untapped market for other dog owners who didn’t wish to utilize commercial kennels or daycare services.
    In 2011 he launched Seattle-based Rover, which connects pet owners needing boarding or sitting services with a network of prescreened dog lovers for hire. Today, Rover has roughly 25,000 approved sitters in more than 5,000 U.S. cities.
    Easterly is not alone. After seeing how Airbnb and Uber can turn any house into a hotel and any car into a cab, many entrepreneurs have been hoping to discover the next peer-to-peer market—one they can leverage to enable members to monetize not just their possessions, but also their resources, talents and passions. 
    Beth Buczynski, author of Sharing Is Good. How to Save Money, Time and Resources Through Collaborative Consumption, credits the growing popularity of sharing-economy startups to a consumer base that’s fed up with corporate domination and has shifted its values toward more mindful choices.
    “We’re choosing to support people-minded companies and products that provide real value, prioritize efficiency, slash waste and cultivate solutions,” she says. “We’re finding this in peer-to-peer models that cut out the middle man and allow us direct access to each other and the goods or services we need.
    “We realize we don’t each need a cordless drill sitting on a shelf in the garage gathering dust,” she adds. “What we do need is access to that drill for the 30 minutes when we’re putting a bookcase together. In the meantime, why shouldn’t it be available to others?”
    Two essential elements of successful peer-to-peer ventures are community and density. “[These businesses don’t] work without people who care, are committed to the behavior and trust each other,” Buczynski says. “And sharing is easiest when the space between us is smallest. That’s why cities like San Francisco and New York have become hotbeds of peer-to-peer sharing.”
    Think you know what will be the Airbnb of fill-in-the-blank? Relying on independent contractors to deliver the experience and service you need to succeed takes careful planning and execution—much of it different from that of traditional businesses. Whether it’s dog-sitting or car rental or handyman services, the launch of a successful peer-to-peer platform depends on sharp screening, extensive training and streamlined delivery. 
    “Take the time to look for real problems that need real solutions—problems that can be best solved by communities themselves,” Buczynski advises. “Then provide the infrastructure so they can.” 
    Here are some factors to consider.

    1. Start with supply.

    While many entrepreneurs assume that identifying (or creating) robust demand is the first requirement of a viable peer-to-peer launch, it’s equally important to cultivate a ready stable of suppliers, says Jamie Viggiano, vice president of marketing at San Francisco-based TaskRabbit, which enables users to outsource household errands.
    “You need to get the supply infrastructure in place before you can push the demand side, and make sure the market is in equilibrium,” Viggiano says. Her company targets prospective suppliers (known as “Taskers”) through Facebook and Google advertising focused on the company’s core demographic and ZIP codes.
    The same principle applies to scaling, she notes. Before TaskRabbit considers expanding into a new city, it ensures that the necessary suppliers are there.
    “We typically have hundreds of interested Taskers who have signed up for the service prior to launching in a city, and we make sure in every ZIP code the supply and demand are at an equilibrium,” she says, noting that since TaskRabbit captures email addresses and ZIP codes from interested and potential participants, it’s a fairly easy process.
    Kevin Petrovic, president and co-founder of San Francisco-based FlightCar, hasn’t found it so easy. His service, which allows outbound car owners to rent their cars to incoming travelers at the same airport, markets differently to each side of the equation.
    Since launching in 2013 in Boston and raising a total of $20 million in venture capital, Petrovic and his team have discovered that paid acquisition is the best avenue for securing renters, whether it’s through search and display advertising or through third parties like rental search aggregators. To build a supply of car owners, however, FlightCar seeks public relations and press opportunities, as well as word-of-mouth through referral programs.
    “Building the peer-to-peer component is all about understanding different ways to market to people so you can feed the marketplace on both sides,” he says. 
    What's Mine is Yours
    Sit! Aaron Easterly of Rover takes a client meeting.
    Image credit: Rover

    2. Conduct extensive screening and training.

    As inclusive and socially positive as the sharing-economy ideology may seem, not everyone who applies will be a good fit for your business. Even though they’re not your employees, your providers are the face of your business, so it’s crucial to train them accordingly.
    Rover uses a multitiered review and onboarding process that includes references, optional background checks and verification of social media accounts; online training and exams; and a manual review that determines whether every
    applicant has a good plan and environment for dog-sitting, as well as whether they have the personality and experience to maintain an appropriate level of customer service. 
    Once sitters are accepted into the program, Rover collects data on responsiveness, repeat assignments and photo shares to confirm the sitters are representing the business in a way that aligns with its mission. 
    Another company, Bellhops, a moving service that contracts students, targets potential movers via reputable student organizations such as ROTC and sports teams, says co-founder and chairman Cameron Doody. The Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company has a network of 10,000 movers operating in 136 cities.
    Once recruited, prospective candidates complete an online application with both written and video components, which are then screened and, if approved, forwarded to company headquarters. There, the candidates are reviewed again and, upon approval, receive a confirmation email asking them to log in and build their profile. After that, they must view 12 online training videos and take tests on what they’ve learned. 
    “They’re on the front line, so it’s all about integrating our culture and what we expect from our Bellhops,” Doody  says. “As soon as they complete that process, they get access to the job board and can begin receiving invitations to start picking up jobs.”

    3. Foster trust.

    It can be difficult to build trust with customers via an online platform. To ease pet owners’ worries about their four-legged family members, Rover offers 24/7 veterinarian consultations, premium pet insurance and the ability to share photos and music videos of sitters interacting with their canine guests. 
    “We do that to make sure the user experience is phenomenal and make sure that people get updates showing their dog is having a good time, which puts their mind at ease,” Easterly says.
    Positive online reviews and ratings are also crucial for gaining consumer trust and generating leads. Indeed, transparency is everything in the peer-to-peer world. The Rover website even has a live-feed “RoverCam” showing all the action at the dog-friendly company headquarters.
    It’s also key to generate trust on the supply side. Unforeseeable factors combined with the remote nature of peer-to-peer businesses make extensive commercial insurance a must, insiders agree.
    FlightCar has $1 million in liability insurance for the owners of the cars rented through its platform to protect them against any damage that might occur while the car is being rented.
    “When you have cars and people driving, you always have to account for the worst-case scenario,” Petrovic says. “That’s what insurance protection is all about.” 
    What's Mine is Yours
    Making the grade: Bellhops' network of student movers is 10,000 strong.
    Image credit: Bellhops

    4. Keep payments simple.

    Nothing makes Doody cringe quite like dealing with paperwork and cash. In addition to being a crucial part of Bellhops’ mission of reducing the cost and pain of small-scale moving, he contends that a hassle-free payment process is critical to the success of any sharing-economy operation.
    “It’s all about automation, so you’re going to want to streamline it as much as possible,” Doody says, noting that Bellhops does not accept cash. “If we were to take cash, how would we handle that cash, and how would we get it back to the company? All of that paperwork can be mitigated through technology today.” 
    The entire process is paperless and automated. Customers book with a small deposit on their card; the Bellhops arrive and clock in on their smartphones, then clock out when finished.
    Immediately after the move, the customer receives a text or an email with a link to verify the reported time, allocate tips and give quick performance reviews. After verifying, anything owed past the initial deposit is automatically charged to the customer’s card, and wages for the Bellhops are created. “Closing everything out takes about 10 seconds,” Doody says.
    Rover keeps payments equally simple for customers with a flat fee—no tipping—that’s paid through the online platform. Sitters receive their wages via PayPal, credit card or check.  

    5. Focus on brand-building.

    By nature, a successful peer-to-peer service has a built-in community of people who are engaging with and talking about it. Smart entrepreneurs will harness this momentum to develop a more robust brand, enhanced by the availability of compelling content.
    “People build our brand for us almost a thousand times a day around the world when they drop the #besomebody hashtag,” says Kash Shaikh, founder of Austin-based Besomebody, a “platform for passion” that connects people based on their shared passions. “Content can build a brand for you and can also help you scale that brand,” says Shaikh, who launched the company in June 2014 after receiving $1 million in seed funding from the E.W. Scripps Company. 
    Besomebody creates video and photo content of its so-called “Passionaries” unleashing their passions in areas ranging from fitness to photography to hip-hop; users can explore this content on curated topic feeds and connect with others who have similar passions for information or monetized lessons and instruction from local Passionaries.
    Shaikh says Besomebody reaches almost 5 million people per month in 180 countries through 12 social media channels. “We curate and create the best high-quality content that’s motivating and makes people feel inspired,” he says. “And that builds the brand for us.”  

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    Bringing ethics in leadership discourse is imperative: Dr. Himanshu Rai




    In this interview, Dr. Himanshu Rai, Dean of MISB Bocconi (the India campus of Bocconi University, Italy) discusses his thoughts on leadership and HR management.

    Dr. Himanshu Rai was appointed as the Dean of the Mumbai-based MISB Bocconi, the India campus of Universita Bocconi, Milan, Italy, in September this year. Dr. Rai will drive the strategic development and management of the academic and executive programmes of MISB Bocconi. An alumnus of IIM, Ahmedabad, his core area has been human resource management, wherein he focuses on negotiation, mediation, arbitration, strategic HRM, and leadership.

    Before joining the academia, Dr. Rai had been with Tata Steel for more than eight years, where he played a pivotal role in developing quality systems for his departments and the communication policy of the company.

    He works on the principle that academics cannot afford to limit its reach and effect on young minds only to the development of skills and training relevant to the demands of the market economy; it must enrich the individual, to the greater aim of serving the society. Dr. Rai has developed a unique, creative approach to teaching, with the introduction of courses such as FIRE (Framing Identities and Roles through Exploration) and JEM (Justice, Ethics, and Morality). These courses are aimed at helping students become more inquisitive, more open, and more aware.

    In conversation with Rakesh Rao, Dr. Himanshu Rai discusses growth plans for MISB Bocconi and his thoughts on leadership and HR management.

    What are your priorities as the Dean of MISB Bocconi?

    At present, I have two important priorities. First, I want to make MISB Bocconi, the India campus of Italy’s Bocconi, one of the leading business schools in India. Bocconi has a history and we want this to be shared with the people of India. Currently, the institute is in the third year of post graduate programmes and we aim to grow this with more students enrolling for these programmes. We will continue our efforts to improve these programmes and make them more attractive for students.

    My second focus will be on executive programmes. I see tremendous opportunity as well as a gap in executive programmes in India. There are several areas, such as finance, leadership and negotiations, etc, in which Bocconi has huge strength. In addition, it has lot of competencies in various sectors such as luxury, fashion, family businesses, etc, Here I see a huge gap in India. I intend to plug this gap by providing executive programmes in these areas. Work has already started in this direction with programmes on family business, business analytics, and negotiations to be launched in next 2-4 months.

    What are the USPs of MISB Bocconi?

    One of the strengths of MISB Bocconi is that our faculty comes from SDA Bocconi, which is one of the well-known business schools globally. SDA Bocconi is ranked third in terms of return on investment (RoI) among the business schools outside the US. Hence, we have world class faculty which spends quality time with students during their visit to the India campus and are always accessible to students throughout the year. Faculty acts as a mentor to the students, which is our biggest strength.

    Second, SDA Bocconi has humungous amount of study materials that is available for the students in India. We have huge repository of knowledge that our students get access to.

    Third, we give global education through international experts in India. Our students spend about four months in the mother campus, i.e. SDA Bocconi in Milan, where they do their specialisation. While programmes offered are of global standards, students are also presented the Indian perspective during the courses. So, this entire experience gives a unique advantage to our students.

    How can the government encourage the growth of business school education in the country?

    There are many business schools in India, but very few can match the international standards of business education. Hence, the government should support good institutes, organisations, etc. who are willing to invest in higher education sector. Be it in terms of FDI investment, pre-conditions to open a new school, etc. norms should be pragmatic. Conditions pertaining to the land ownership for the business schools should be flexible. Most of the leading global business schools operate through a location which is on a lease and is at the heart of the commercial hubs or cities. And this is the reason why we started Bocconi’s India campus in Mumbai, the financial capital of the country. The location helps students and executives attending our programmes to feel the pulse of business activities in their vicinity. I believe the best learning happens when you are in the middle of where you are eventually going to work.

    Third, the government should also standardise norms to measure the quality of education. Any institute that does not provide quality education are doing a great disservice to the nation. The biggest challenge that most of the B-schools face is the quality of faculty. The government should take initiative for faculty improvement programmes to enhance the quality of education.

    What are the skill-sets required to become a successful leader?

    There are two skill-sets very critical for leaders to succeed. One is the ability to read situation and visualise. Second is integrity – means there has to be a consonance between your word and action. Your actions should be for the betterment of the people around and not just for your own gains. If you have these two characteristics you can become a good leader.

    The shortest definition of a leader that I have come across is ‘Leader is a good person who speaks well’. To become a good person you have to be a good visionary as well as a good human being. Speaking well means the communication skills (verbal and body language) should be in line with these characteristics of the leader.

    Now a days corporates are giving due emphasis on ethics and morality. Why are these two critical today?

    Ethics and morality are two distinct words. Morality deals with good or bad. Ethics is morality in action or a given context. By this, I mean it is not necessary that what is good is always right. For example, while speaking truth is good, there may be conditions when it may not be right. So as a corporate leader you have to be concerned about ethics – i.e. what is right or wrong?

    Second, as a leader you will always face a situation when you have to pick an option from multiple alternatives. More often than not some of these choices are wrong while others are right. So, to pick the right choice you have to have a sense of ethics. If you make a wrong choice (which may fetch you short-term gain) it will not offer sustainable solution. Also, you are setting a wrong precedence. Hence, bringing in ethics in leadership discourse is imperative.

    How has the role of HR department evolved over the years?

    The role of HR has changed immensely. Initially, HR personnel were interested in looking at the satisfaction level of the employee because of the notion that if an employee is satisfied then he/she will be extremely productive.

    Things began to change a bit when employees started becoming more ambitious. HR started to look at ways to motivate people. So it changed from ‘satisfaction’ to ‘motivation’.

    Now, people are becoming more entrepreneurial and they wanted to be part of the decision making processes. Total quality management (TQM) is very good example of it. People started enjoying responsibility and using it gainfully. So the paradigm changed again. Today it is not just motivation, but also about ‘engaging with the employee’ – that is aligning employees’ aspirations with the strategy and vision of the company.

    So, the role of HR is now to be a part of the strategy of the organisation. The entire gamut has changed.

    Is there a need for companies to re-look at their communication strategy, given the changes taking place in the market?

    There is no doubt about it. The question is how. For this, first, language has to change as people today appreciate more personalised communication. Second, the choice of media also matters a lot. For example, routine information can be routed through conventional media like notice board or email, but for non-routine information company should look at interactive media like video conferencing, Skype, YouTube, etc.

    So do you believe that increased usage of social media is having an influence on today’s organisations?

    Certainly. Brand is created and destroyed on social media. It is a double-edged sword as nothing is verified on social media. For the social media to mature and become self-censoring in nature will take some time. Till that companies will have to find ways to see how best to utilise social media. Companies are doing it, but I do not think they have adopted comprehensive strategy for social media.

    With rapid changes taking place around us (in terms of technology, business processes, etc), how can corporates continuously harness the skills of their employees?

    Content of knowledge is changing quickly, so continuous training is the only answer. Training and development are the two requirements for employees. While training can be a tool to fill skill-set gap in the short-term, equipping employees to handle new responsibilities in future requires thorough planning and development programme.

    Hence, corporates have to engage with employees to figure out training requirements and also development programmes to enhance their skill-sets to make them future ready.

    How India can contribute to modern management philosophy?

    India can offer a lot. First, it can offer wisdom contained in our literature. In my earlier stint at IIM Lucknow, and even now, I conduct a course on ‘Leadership through literature’. Literature presents myriad situations which can be used for training by visualising and enacting those situations in today’s business environment, and drawing lessons from them, as well as the protagonists therein.

    Businesses globally have moved from “intelligence quotient” to “emotional quotient” and now we are talking about “spiritual quotient”. It is believed that spiritual people are more likely to be better negotiators, leaders, etc. More often for spiritual quotient, global leaders and management gurus look towards East, and India, with its vast spiritual knowledge, can be a torchbearer.

    Third, India’s vast and varied market not just offers huge business opportunity but also provides an ideal location for carrying out market research studies, which can be a useful teaching tool for businesses across the world.




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    Bots Now Outnumber Humans on the Web




    Diogo Mónica once wrote a short computer script that gave him a secret weapon in the war for San Francisco dinner reservations.

    This was early 2013. The script would periodically scan the popular online reservation service, OpenTable, and drop him an email anytime something interesting opened up—a choice Friday night spot at the House of Prime Rib, for example. But soon, Mónica noticed that he wasn’t getting the tables that had once been available.
    By the time he’d check the reservation site, his previously open reservation would be booked. And this was happening crazy fast. Like in a matter of seconds. “It’s impossible for a human to do the three forms that are required to do this in under three seconds,” he told WIRED last year.
    Mónica could draw only one conclusion: He’d been drawn into a bot war.
    Everyone knows the story of how the world wide web made the internet accessible for everyone, but a lesser known story of the internet’s evolution is how automated code—aka bots—came to quietly take it over. Today, bots account for 56 percent of all of website visits, says Marc Gaffan, CEO of Incapsula, a company that sells online security services. Incapsula recently an an analysis of 20,000 websites to get a snapshot of part of the web, and on smaller websites, it found that bot traffic can run as high as 80 percent.
    People use scripts to buy gear on eBay and, like Mónica, to snag the best reservations. Last month, the band, Foo Fighters sold tickets for their upcoming tour at box offices only, an attempt to strike back against the bots used by online scalpers. “You should expect to see it on ticket sites, travel sites, dating sites,” Gaffan says. What’s more, a company like Google uses bots to index the entire web, and companies such as IFTTT and Slack give us ways use the web to use bots for good, personalizing our internet and managing the daily informational deluge.
    But, increasingly, a slice of these online bots are malicious—used to knock websites offline, flood comment sections with spam, or scrape sites and reuse their content without authorization. Gaffan says that about 20 percent of the Web’s traffic comes from these bots. That’s up 10 percent from last year.
    Often, they’re running on hacked computers. And lately they’ve become more sophisticated. They are better at impersonating Google, or at running in real browsers on hacked computers. And they’ve made big leaps in breaking human-detecting captcha puzzles, Gaffan says.
    “Essentially there’s been this evolution of bots, where we’ve seen it become easier and more prevalent over the past couple of years,” says Rami Essaid, CEO of Distil Networks, a company that sells bot-blocking software.
    But despite the rise of these bad bots, there is some good news for the human race. The total percentage of bot-related web traffic is actually down this year from what it was in 2013. Back then it accounted for 60 percent of the traffic, 4 percent more than today.

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    What is Growth Mindset?



    For Little Voice, the concept of growth mindset is a means of defining the encouraging message and belief that is embedded throughout our very story.

    This message encourages our readers to believe in themselves, to work hard and to chase their dreams with the confidence that they can be accomplished!
    For Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’, this concept can be further defined as a self-perception that people hold about themselves. Dweck defines growth mindset as a belief in which the most basic human abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. As Dweck notes, “this view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment”.
    The Glossary of Education Reform further expands on this belief by stating that “students who embrace growth mindsets – the belief that they can learn more or become smarter if they work hard and persevere – may learn more, learn it more quickly, and view challenges and failures as opportunities to improve their learning and skills”.
    Dweck’s book also considers the opposite of a growth mindset, a fixed mindset which many people do adapt. A fixed mindset, as Dweck notes, is a belief in which a human’s basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success – without effort”. A fixed mindset more often than not discourages students to achieve what they may feel is beyond them; as Dweck’s findings suggest, they make excuses to rationalize their failure.
    this one
    Teaching students to adopt a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset, is a way of changing the way our students and children think. A growth mindset reinforces positive thinking but also positive behaviour. It pushes students to work hard to attain their goals, as opposed to creating an excuse why they simply can’t attain them.
    Little Voice is a great classroom tool to reinforce this idea of growth mindset. It teaches students to set goals, to be creative and to chase their dreams; but more importantly, it offers an underlying message of encouragement, inspiration and perseverance that reminds students to believe in their ability to reach for excellence and to never give up!

    Sometimes all it takes is a little book to encourage us to adopt this way of thinking and to bring us on a path that inspires us to work hard and reach our fullest potential.



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    NASA explores inflatable spacecraft technology (Update)

























    This May 14, 2012 photo provided by NASA Langley shows the inflatable structure of a Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, background, made up of high-tech fabric rings, similar to those seen in the foreground, at NASA Langley research center in Hampton, Va. When Orbital Sciences resumes sending supplies to the International Space Station, its Antares rocket will carry an experimental inflatable spacecraft technology that engineers at NASA's Langley Research Center have been working on for more than a decade. (AP Photo/ NASA Langley, Kathy Barnstorff)

    Devising a way to one day land astronauts on Mars is a complex problem and NASA scientists think something as simple as a child's toy design may help solve the problem. Safely landing a large spacecraft on the Red Planet is just one of many engineering challenges the agency faces as it eyes an ambitious goal of sending humans into deep space later this century.

    At NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, engineers have been working to develop an inflatable heat shield that looks a lot like a super-sized version of a stacking ring of doughnuts that infants play with. The engineers believe a lightweight, inflatable heat shield could be deployed to slow the craft to enter a Martian atmosphere much thinner than Earth's.

    Such an inflatable heat shield could help a spacecraft reach the high-altitude southern plains of Mars and other areas that would otherwise be inaccessible under existing technology. The experts note that rockets alone can't be used to land a large craft on Mars as can be done on the atmosphereless moon. Parachutes also won't work for a large spacecraft needed to send humans to Mars, they add.
    Hence the inflatable rings. The rings would be filled with nitrogen and covered with a thermal blanket. Once deployed for landing, the rings would sit atop the spacecraft, somewhat resembling a giant mushroom.
    "We try to not use propulsion if we don't have to," said Neil Cheatwood, the senior engineer at Langley for advanced entry, descent and landing systems. "We make use of that atmosphere as much as we can, because it means we don't have to carry all that fuel with us."
    NASA's leaders acknowledge that getting humans safely to and from Mars as early as the 2030s will poses extreme challenges. The agency's scientists acknowledge they also must design new in-space propulsion systems, advanced spacesuits, long-term living habitats aboard spacecraft—even communication systems for deep space.
    Work is proceeding, sometimes fitfully.













    In this April 27, 2012 photo provided by NASA, engineers check out the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) following the complete inflation system test under vacuum conditions in the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. When Orbital Sciences resumes sending supplies to the International Space Station, its Antares rocket will carry an experimental inflatable spacecraft technology that engineers at NASA's Langley Research Center have been working on for more than a decade. (AP Photo/NASA Langley, Sean Smith)
    When an unmanned private rocket destined for the International Space Station exploded in October soon after liftoff from Wallops Island, Virginia, numerous scientific experiments went up in flames with it. But one NASA experiment that Orbital Sciences Corp. originally invited aboard—for a second-generation inflatable spacecraft—never made it for lack of time to get it together, NASA officials say.
    That experiment calls for testing how second-generation inflatable spacecraft technology performs upon re-entry in Earth's atmosphere. The test is important because NASA officials believe an inflatable heat shield could be what helps them land astronauts on Mars and return larger loads of supplies from the International Space Station. The experiment is now scheduled to go up on the next Antares rocket in 2016.
    Engineers at Langley have been working on the inflatable technology for about a decade, and believe it is close to being ready for operational use. "If I had the budget and we had the funding to do it, I think we could get as large a scale as needed for humans in five to ten years," Cheatwood said.
    He said the same inflatable technology could also be used for spacecraft to explore other planets or objects with atmospheres, such as Venus, Jupiter and Titan, Saturn's largest moon.
    Because the inflatables are made of lightweight material and filled with nitrogen, more room is left aboard a spacecraft for science experiments and other things astronauts will need. The inflatable is covered by a thermal blanket of layers of heat-resistant materials.
    "The idea is that you would have something that could be packed up, put in a very small volume and then deployed into a very large size," Anthony Calomino, principal investigator for materials and structures for hypersonic re-entry at Langley.
    He said in a statement in April: "Think airbag, something we could pack into compressed volume that will fit the size limits of a launch shroud, but allow for a much larger aeroshell."
    Smaller scale, inflatable experiments have been launched on rockets before, but never into orbit. That work was recently part of a NASA review in October. The information gathered from those earlier projects will be applied to the upcoming, larger-scale experiment in 2016.
    It still won't be large enough to protect a spacecraft carrying astronauts, but NASA scientists believe the technology is sound.
    "When you first tell people you're going to do an ... inflatable spacecraft, they have in their minds something really floppy like a jellyfish and it's really not that way," Cheatwood said. "They're very durable ... This is a technology that I think is ready to use, whether it's for humans in 20 years on Mars or whether it's a large robotic mission sooner than that."

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    After Orion launch, big steps lie ahead for Mars trip, NASA says


































    Valles Marineris, Mars. Credit: NASA

    If creating the new Orion space capsule or developing a new deep-space rocket are complex and critical breakthroughs, NASA's remaining challenges to send humans to Mars are no less daunting, officials said Tuesday.

    NASA's next-generation capsule, Orion, is ready for its maiden launch Thursday at 7:05 a.m. from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Space agency officials call it the first step for a human journey to Mars.
    "It is truly a beautiful planet. It has fabulous vistas. It has a number of resources that we are finding out about, and we are planning to move toward human exploration of Mars," Jim Green, NASA's Planetary Science Division director, said during a news briefing held jointly in Washington and Kennedy Space Center.
    Yet the Orion, and the Space Launch System rocket being developed for a 2018 launch, are only the first steps. Development of human life support, fuel, communication and Martian landing systems are in much earlier development. Those challenges and budget concerns leave NASA officials saying they hope to reach Mars sometime in the 2030s.
    The overriding challenge is that it would take astronauts more than a year to get there, so they'll have to take everything they need or have it waiting for them along the way, said Jason Crusan, director of NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems Division.
    "We describe it as ... going from an Earth-reliant to an Earth-independent phase," Crusan said.
    Among the challenges:
    -The agency thinks it impractical to carry enough liquid or solid fuel. So NASA is exploring high-powered solar-electric engines to propel Orion through space. That could be viable by the end of this decade, said James Reuther, NASA's deputy associate administrator for space-technology mission programs.
    -NASA's current communication systems are radio-based and only carry a tiny fraction of the information necessary. The agency is working on laser-based optical-communication technologies. It could be workable by the early 2020s, Reuther said.
    -To land on Mars, NASA plans to adapt technologies used to land the Curiosity Martian rover two years ago. Scaling that to handle a far-heavier human craft may not happen until the early 2030s, he said.
    -NASA must develop living quarters for the astronauts' long journeys and for stays in orbit around Mars and on that planet. The agency is considering sending up habitats in advance, placing them in orbit near Earth's moon, in orbit around Mars and on Mars' surface. Orion astronauts could use them on the way, Crusan said.

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    Cool NASA animation beautifully details every step of Orion's first launch
























    Orion atop Delta 4 Heavy Booster. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

    It's not Science Fiction! It's Not Star Trek!

    No. It's a really, really big NASA Mission! It's Orion!
    In fact, it's the biggest and most important development in US Human Spaceflight since the end of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.
    Orion is launching soon on its first flight, the pathfinding Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission and sets NASA on the path to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.
    Watch this cool NASA animation beautifully detailing every key step of Orion's First Launch!
    Orion is designed to take humans farther than they've ever gone before. Even farther into deep space than NASA's Apollo moon landing which ended more than four decades ago!
    We are T-MINUS 4 Days and Counting to the inaugural blastoff of Orion as of today, Sunday, November 30, 2014.
    To learn even more about the 8 major events and goals happening during Orion's EFT-1 mission be sure to check out my recent story with NASA's fabulous new set of infographics – here.



    Every aspect of the final processing steps now in progress by engineers and technicians from NASA, rocket provider United Launch Alliance, and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin is proceeding smoothly and marching towards launch.
    Orion will lift off on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on its inaugural test flight to space on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission at 7:05 a.m. EST on December 4, 2014, from Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.














    Orion’s move to Launch Complex-37. Credit: Mike Killian
    The two-orbit, four and a half hour Orion EFT-1  around Earth will lift the Orion spacecraft and its attached second stage to an orbital altitude of 3,600 miles, about 15 times higher than the International Space Station (ISS) – and farther than any human spacecraft has journeyed in 40 years.
    EFT-1 will test the rocket, second stage, jettison mechanisms as well as avionics, attitude control, computers and electronic systems inside the Orion spacecraft.



















    Here’s how Orion EFT-1 Launch will look! Delta 4 Heavy rocket and super secret US spy satellite roars off Pad 37 on June 29, 2012, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA’s Orion EFT-1 capsule will blastoff atop a similar Delta 4 Heavy Booster in December 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer
    Then the spacecraft will carry out a high speed re-entry through the atmosphere at speeds approaching 20,000 mph and scorching temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit to test the heat shield, before splashing down for a parachute assisted landing in the Pacific Ocean.
    Orion is NASA's next generation human rated vehicle that will carry America's astronauts beyond Earth on voyages venturing farther into deep space than ever before – beyond the Moon to Asteroids, Mars, and other destinations in our Solar System.


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    Learn to Embrace the Digital Detox


    From meditation that lets you shake it off a la Taylor Swift to unplugged weekends that help you deal with smartphone withdrawal, our guide to the digital detox. 




    I’M IN A SMALL ROOM, surrounded by total strangers, shaking my body. It’s not a nightmare but my eyes are definitely closed. My knees are also slightly bent as I move my arms and upper body to the rhythm of the instrumental New Age music.
    I used to think meditation was all about staying still—until today. Joining in everything from gentle swaying to meditative walking, I find the five-hour introductory course at London Meditation (£95;london-meditation.co.uk ) both bizarre and entertaining. But with my phone locked away, I actually manage to let go at times, forgetting about the world outside and the incessant urge to check email,Twitter and Instagram.
    “With body shaking [meditation], we let go of tension and discomfort in our bodies,” says Susann Herrmann, our teacher and the founder of London Meditation. “Let the body decide what it needs.”
    A group session of 'laughter yoga' at Unplugged Weekend in Wales. ENLARGE
    A group session of 'laughter yoga' at Unplugged Weekend in Wales. PHOTO: GARETH IWAN-JONES
    Caldey Abbey in West Wales offers a respite from the vicissitudes of the modern world.ENLARGE
    Caldey Abbey in West Wales offers a respite from the vicissitudes of the modern world.PHOTO: ALAMY
    As I let my body shake and shake and shake for over 10 minutes, I start to question my decision to attend. How will I survive five hours? “The mind makes comments like ‘this is not meditation,’ ” says Ms. Herrmann, who was a banker in her native Germany before eventually starting London Meditation with Albert Tobler in 2005. “Shake your thoughts out, drop back to the body and feel.” I’m trying.
    New years are new chances to try the things you never thought you would and the things you always said you would. Increasingly, those include ways to incorporate a little more peace and quiet into our busy lives. But if shaking it off a la Taylor Swift isn’t quite your thing, you can still find ways to step back from this digital world without ever missing a beat.



    After attending a retreat in the Sahara last year, Lucy Pearson and Vikki Bates came up with the idea for Unplugged Weekend (£250;unpluggedweekend.com ). At their three-day retreats in the British countryside, participants trade smartphones for smarter life choices: exercise, art and face-to-face conversation, as well as tips and tricks on regaining balance. Life hacks include weaning yourself off social media by logging off sites on multiple platforms and turning off notifications to minimize distractions.
    A typewriter at Camp Grounded.ENLARGE
    A typewriter at Camp Grounded. PHOTO: BLAZENHOFF INDUSTRIES
    “People don’t think they are addicted to technology because it’s so ingrained in our everyday life,” says Ms. Bates, who sets specific times for checking email. In California, Camp Grounded (campgrounded.org ) offers similar experiences.
    Niall Campbell, an addiction consultant at London treatment center Priory Hospital, says those concerned about the amount of time they’re spending on technology should ask themselves a key question: How are the things you’re doing impacting your life?F INDUSTRIES


    “People don’t often recognize the effect their behavior has on them and those around them,” says Mr. Campbell. He concedes that identifying an addiction to technology is difficult, but adds that “as the access to technology becomes easier, it will become more apparent.” At Priory, Internet addiction treatment for those with significant issues includes an individual rehabilitation program that costs around £1,500 for 10 to 15 sessions. ( priorygroup.com )
    monastery might be your ticket to unplugging this year. In Wales, Caldey Abbey’s St. Philomena guesthouse ( caldey-island.co.uk ) offers a respite from the vicissitudes of the modern world. Open from Easter until October, the retreat center on Caldey Island keeps in line with Cistercian practices: visitors are asked to work, helping clean up and making their beds, and payment is by donation.
    At Assisi Retreats in Italy, you can sign up for six-day guided or self-guided retreats at the four-star country villa. The program includes morning and evening meditation, with time in the day to head into town, where reminders of that great contemplative, St. Francis, abound. The four guest rooms are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and meals aren’t included. (From €635 for guided retreat with accommodation; assisiretreats.org )
    But you don’t have to travel miles to reassess your relationship with technology. Some of the most effective ways to digitally detox are, not surprisingly, the simplest: Buy an old-fashioned alarm clock, take a bath, switch to paper (remember those things we call books?), play a game.
    Assisi Retreat in Italy offers six-day guided or self-guided retreats at the four-star country villa.ENLARGE
    Assisi Retreat in Italy offers six-day guided or self-guided retreats at the four-star country villa. PHOTO: ANDREA ANGELUCCI
    After attending Unplugged Weekend last summer, Berni Britton says she’s cut back on the time she spends on her phone. “I don’t text people straight back,” she says, “and we play board games or talk more in the house.”
    Back at London Meditation, I haven’t heard the ding of a text arriving in hours. But I’m feeling less anxious about the lack of constant updates. I find the silent break, where we eat snacks and drink tea on our own, utterly refreshing and my fears of five hours becoming an eternity have faded. In fact, I’m surprised at how quickly time passes as we’re guided through this taster course on meditation. As we get ready to leave, Ms. Herrmann sends us off with some advice: “You shouldn’t do body shaking in public.” No worries there. The second I’m out the door, I check my phone. No messages.
    Addicted to Technology? Four Classic Types of Over-Users
    ENLARGE
    PHOTO: ILLUSTRATION BY PIERLUIGI LONGO
    THE OVERSHARER
    Diagnosis: My dog just barked! My cat just meowed. :) ;) <3 The oversharer seems to have no internal filter, posting anything and everything that crosses their mind almost instantly. They are also very fond of sharing the results of the latest online quiz they’ve taken, from “What country should you live in?” to “What ‘Frozen’ character are you?”
    Remedy: Out of all the online addicts, these need the most help. Remove smartphone and other devices—prying them from their hands if necessary—until they seek medical attention.
    THE LIKER
    Diagnosis:Liking everything on Facebook and Instagram, or favoriting tweet after tweet can become an addiction. It’s just so good and so easy! From a link about the latest burger joint to open to random posts from childhood friends they haven’t seen since 1981, the liker will like it every time.
    Remedy: Every time you hit that Like button, put aside a dollar. At the end of the week, give all the money to the person you like the least.
    ENLARGE
    PHOTO: ILLUSTRATION BY PIERLUIGI LONGO
    THE REFRESHER
    Diagnosis: In a constant state of expectation, the refresher can’t help checking their work inbox incessantly. At home, it’s no better; phone in hand wherever they are, they tap Mail, Twitter, Instagram and news feeds in an endless cycle. Online, they refresh and refresh pages as if some big news or something out of this world is about to happen. The sad reality is it rarely does.
    Remedy: Stop, in the name of love, before you break your phone. Think it o-o-over.
    THE COMMENTATOR
    Diagnosis: Can’t see a Facebook post without adding a comment? Feel the need to be the first to made a witty statement about that cute cat dressed like a giraffe? Just HAVE to share the best video in the whole entire world? Then we’re talking to you. Sadly, you’re too busy commenting to notice.

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    10 Reasons that Smartphone Addiction Make Life Miserable



    Today we all are around many gadget. Those gadgets are invented to make life better. But instead of this we all depended on them much. 

    Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, career or economic status, everyone probably packing a smartphone right now. In fact, 56 percent of all total population of Americans own smart smart phone.

    Today the phone, computer, tablet and other high tech devices have now become not just an object, but for many a best friend who stay together all time. 
    Does this smartphone really helpful for us??? I guess no.

    Here are 10 reasons which spoil your life- 

    1) highly dependent on phone - 

    With every passing day, technology is overtaking our daily lives. for each small task we are dependent on phone. Very few fellow remember the phone number of others as we forgot to dial. Average number of people are wearing watch for name sake as mobile has its own watch.

    For news or information we are highly dependent on phone....

     Most suffer from anxiety if they lose their phone, even for a few minutes. We rely on mobile so much that do everything from saying "I love you" to breaking up, from checking bank balances to investing, from sharing photos of the grandchild to sexting. 

    It is like  carrying out a plethora of daily tasks, right from the palm of our hand. 




    2) Distrub to Personal life - 

    Don't so shocked when I say this to you . most of people behave very annoy at the dinner table by constantly check for texts, emails, tweets and Facebook updates. even checking phone is become so important that in darkened theater, there are several who are multi-tasking while watching the movie.

    This is not with men...even  women who used  to go to the Ladies' Room in pairs, they now take their phone instead.... 

    This become very common over dinner, in religious function, while driving, at one of our kid's performances and even when we talk to face to face conversation the smartphone is also involved to keep you in tune and in touch. 

    3) Threat to Privacy 

    This is very shocking but very true story, Now many smarty are carryings their smartphones into the bedroom and texting while having sex.

     This is amazingly annoying but it show in recently released study indicated one in ten participants admitted to having used their phone during sex. 

    The bedroom isn't the only place where smartphone is making its presence but most used their smartphone all where they can.... 

    The 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits found 12 percent use their beloved devices in the shower. Worse still, more than 50 percent found that they still text while driving, which is six time more dangerous than drunk driving .... 

    Many divorce case is filed just because of smartphone. It is kind of third person in life. Couple found cheating each other as they have virtual life too which keep disturbing their personal life too.. 

    Ok. Do we really have to talk, text, tweet or post while taking a shower or having sex? i guess no... Why dont u understand it stolen your privacy.....

    4) Mobile Phobia




    Smartphone dependency make you numb day by day. Your all task now carried forward by smartphone. This lead to new kind of phobia. 

    The term mobile phobia is now a days on trend. It is fear of being without your phone: nomophobia -- as in no- mo(bile) phone-phobia------ that rush of anxiety and fear when you realize you are disconnected- out of the loop with friends, family, work and the world. 

    Condition such as no connection, a dead battery, no minutes, losing your phone. make you distrub and feeling like lost in world. 

    According to research from Versapak, 41% of British feel anxious and not in control when detached from their smartphone or tablet and 51% says to suffering from "extreme tech anxiety" at one time or another. Leon Edwards of Versapak stated: "Being disconnected from technology is surprisingly stressful. There's often a feeling of missing out, as we worry about what's going on … without our knowledge." 

    According to another poll by SecurEnvoy, 70 percent of women have phone separation anxiety, as opposed to 61 percent of men. Now, I doubt we're going to see this phobia in the DSM anytime soon, but the anxiety revolving around smartphones (or lack thereof) is very real. 

    Smartphone addicted people often has following symptoms - 

    # Feeling anxious whenever you are away from smartphone. 

    # Constantly checking smartphone phone for new texts, WhatsApp, Facebook update etc. You will feel looser if u missed to like, share or comment. 

    # Did you feel that your phone just vibrated, and you felt it. Yet looking at the phone, you realize it's a false alarm. Phantom cellphone vibration syndrome is real, and it's a symptom of addiction.

    5) Disturb to Pofessional Life

     Another interesting aspect here is it's not so important that the boss wants that report on his desk by 10 a.m. But it is very important to know that friends's friend just gave birth to a new prince. 

    Than lots of sharing and wishes and here at office you missed deadline too.. 
    We continuous watching phone for some new update. this actually distract focus on job and we keep doing error again and again. 

    Continuous use of smartphone during office hour can stop your appraisal too. 
    Many use smartphone during meeting and this send wrong message to speecher and difficult to build reputation on boss. 

    You're not listening or responding to colleague. In fact, you have no idea what other person in front of you is talking about and Why he is sitting on your head? Because you keep checking your Facebook page, tweets and texts.

    6) Spoiling Love relationship 

    Yes!! Your addiction to smartphone can spoil relationship between couple, friends and groups. Through WhatsApp, Facebook and twitter you can connect many new people this make your partner jealous and create the doubt on your character too. 

    Through social media many fake friend keep annoying your personal life. 

    The comparison between two people oftenly happening. During personal text exchange if partner find his loved one also involve in other chat than this hurt n spoil trust between couple. 

    Most of time due to technical error message either missed or late delivered can create doubt. WhatsApp online status can spoil relationship. 

    7) Poor skills development 

    Due to high dependence on smartphone, person get lazy and his brain was stop thinking .. New ideas are blocked. 

    All dependency on apps make you fool like monkey who dance as master instruction. 

    Victim of mobile phobia can lears to distrub brain and neurological disorder 

    8) Access to unwanted information 

    Smartphone unlock the grey world of internet. Pronography gambling and cheating text are easily shared and access. This spoil character and leads to crime.

     Kid are not suppose to use smartphone as it block their growth. They are new to grey world and easily fall in prey of internet world. 

    9) Nothing is private 

    Yes it is absolutely true statement. Smartphone steal all your data and store to server. As you know android required gmail to access further.

    By this it steal all data store under that Id. Your images data and video are acknowledge privately. 

    These data are sold to multinationals marketing company for market research. 
    Through GPS it detected your location and flash those ads for more sales. 

    10) Myth is smartphone user are smart

     Yes it is myth that smartphone user are smart enough. As survey show only 15% of smartphone user utilize phone 80% for day to day activity. rest smartphone user are only limited to few application. Just like in India WhatsApp and facebook user are increasing very high speed. Among them 99% and 70% users are using smartphone to get login respectively. so this show smartphone user are now buying phone for Facebook and WhatsApp only..it doesn't mean that WhatsApp and Facebook is great networking tool but this is just because people are now looking more connection and friends virtually... 

    Smartphone is capable to do so many things and can make your life amazing but the users are so clueless that they buy phone without their usages...

    Threat to Nation

    Due to radio signals and mobile phobia Health and human thinking disorder are raised. The phone are invaded to communicate with known person but smartphone change it definition to communicate with any people by any mean. Instead of calling we do game, play and chatting.

    The smartphone are also threat for developing country like India where mass believe more on WhatsApp or Facebook false post more than national channel DOORDARSHAN... 

    It easily spark dissatisfaction and anger on group of people. The hate message,vulgar post, nude content are share in speed of light.... And it easily spoil anyone image.. this also harm the unity of society as people more believe in messages passed by people. no one has time to go theater but new released movie are shared and viewed in local train in group. 

    It limited to our thinking power. Restrict creativity and fade away our cultural value. 

    Although Smartphone successfully connect many people but at same time it increase dependency also..the value of relation is loosing due to multiple relation. Cheating in marriage, friendship are become common. The privacy of people are violated. The user data are used and shared by many ecommerce website. 
    It is very true that smartphone make your life miserable. smartphonr invation is make life better and easy. But this is not going to happen. 

    Smartphone can be use for everything or nothing, choice is your...but please make note that poor maintained relationship can make you actually alone though you have many virtual friends but wont help you as your true relationship is not virtual...




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    2014 in Computing: Breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence


    The past year saw progress in developing hardware and software capable of human feats of intelligence.



     The holy grail of artificial intelligence—creating software that comes close to mimicking human intelligence—remains far off. But 2014 saw major strides in machine learning software that can gain abilities from experience. Companies in sectors from biotech to computing turned to these new techniques to solve tough problems or develop new products.
    The most striking research results in AI came from the field of deep learning, which involves using crude simulated neurons to process data.
    Work in deep learning often focuses on images, which are easy for humans to understand but very difficult for software to decipher. Researchers at Facebook used that approach to make a system that can tell almost as well as a human whether two different photos depict the same person. Google showed off a system that can describe scenes using short sentences.
    Results like these have led leading computing companies to compete fiercely for AI researchers. Google paid more than $600 million for a machine learning startup called Deep Mind at the start of the year. When MIT Technology Review caught up with the company’s founder, Demis Hassabis, later in the year, he explained how DeepMind’s work was shaped by groundbreaking research into the human brain.
    The search company Baidu, nicknamed “China’s Google,” also spent big on artificial intelligence. It set up a lab in Silicon Valley to expand its existing research into deep learning, and to compete with Google and others for talent. Stanford AI researcher and onetime Google collaborator Andrew Ng was hired to lead that effort. In our feature-length profile, he explained how artificial intelligence could turn people who have never been on the Web into users of Baidu’s Web search and other services.
    Machine learning was also a source of new products this year from computing giants, small startups, and companies outside the computer industry.
    Microsoft drew on its research into speech recognition and language comprehension to create its virtual assistant Cortana, which is built into the mobile version of Windows. The app tries to enter a back-and-forth dialogue with people. That’s intended both to make it more endearing and to help it learn what went wrong when it makes a mistake.
    Startups launched products that used machine learning for tasks as varied ashelping you get pregnant, letting you control home appliances with your voice, and making plans via text message .
    Some of the most interesting applications of artificial intelligence came in health care. IBM is now close to seeing a version of its Jeopardy!-winning Watson software help cancer doctors use genomic data to choose personalized treatment plans for patients . Applying machine learning to a genetic database enabled one biotech company to invent a noninvasive test that prevents unnecessary surgery.
    Using artificial intelligence techniques on genetic data is likely to get a lot more common now that Google, Amazon, and other large computing companies are getting into the business of storing digitized genomes.However, the most advanced machine learning software must be trained with large data sets, something that is very energy intensive, even for companies with sophisticated infrastructure. That’s motivating work on a new type of “neuromorphic” chips modeled loosely on ideas from neuroscience. Those chips can run machine learning algorithms more efficiently.
    This year, IBM began producing a prototype brain-inspired chip it says could be used in large numbers to build a kind of supercomputer specialized for learning. A more compact neuromorphic chip, developed by General Motors and the Boeing-owned research lab HRL, took flight in a tiny drone aircraft.
    All this rapid progress in artificial intelligence led some people to ponder the possible downsides and long-term implications of the technology. One software engineer who has since joined Google cautioned that our instincts about privacy must change now that machines can decipher images.
    Looking further ahead, biotech and satellite entrepreneur Martine Rothblattpredicted that our personal data could be used to create intelligent digital doppelgangers with a kind of life of their own. And neuroscientist Christof Koch, chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, warned that although intelligent software could never be conscious, it could still harm us if not designed correctly.
    Meanwhile, a more benign view of the far future came from science fiction author Greg Egan. In a thoughtful response to the sci-fi movie Her, he suggested that conversational AI companions could make us better at interacting with other humans.

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    IBM Chip Processes Data Similar to the Way Your Brain Does





    New thinking: IBM has built a processor designed using principles at work in your brain.
    A new kind of computer chip, unveiled by IBM today, takes design cues from the wrinkled outer layer of the human brain. Though it is no match for a conventional microprocessor at crunching numbers, the chip consumes significantly less power, and is vastly better suited to processing images, sound, and other sensory data.
    IBM’s SyNapse chip processes information using a network of just over one million “neurons,” which communicate with one another using electrical spikes—as actual neurons do. The chip uses the same basic components as today’s commercial chips—silicon transistors. But its transistors are configured to mimic the behavior of both neurons and the connections—synapses—between them.
    The SyNapse chip breaks with a design known as the Von Neumann architecture that has underpinned computer chips for decades. Although researchers have been experimenting with chips modeled on brains—known as neuromorphic chips—since the late 1980s, until now all have been many times less complex, and not powerful enough to be practical (see “Thinking in Silicon”). Details of the chip were published today in the journal Science.
    The new chip is not yet a product, but it is powerful enough to work on real-world problems. In a demonstration at IBM’s Almaden research center, MIT Technology Review saw one recognize cars, people, and bicycles in video of a road intersection. A nearby laptop that had been programed to do the same task processed the footage 100 times slower than real time, and it consumed 100,000 times as much power as the IBM chip. IBM researchers are now experimenting with connecting multiple SyNapse chips together, and they hope to build a supercomputer using thousands.
    When data is fed into a SyNapse chip it causes a stream of spikes, and its neurons react with a storm of further spikes. The just over one million neurons on the chip are organized into 4,096 identical blocks of 250, an arrangement inspired by the structure of mammalian brains, which appear to be built out of repeating circuits of 100 to 250 neurons, says Dharmendra Modha, chief scientist for brain-inspired computing at IBM. Programming the chip involves choosing which neurons are connected, and how strongly they influence one another. To recognize cars in video, for example, a programmer would work out the necessary settings on a simulated version of the chip, which would then be transferred over to the real thing.
    In recent years, major breakthroughs in image analysis and speech recognition have come from using large, simulated neural networks to work on data (see “Deep Learning”). But those networks require giant clusters of conventional computers. As an example, Google’s famous neural network capable of recognizing cat and human faces required 1,000 computers with 16 processors apiece (see “Self-Taught Software”).
    Although the new SyNapse chip has more transistors than most desktop processors, or any chip IBM has ever made, with over five billion, it consumes strikingly little power. When running the traffic video recognition demo, it consumed just 63 milliwatts of power. Server chips with similar numbers of transistors consume tens of watts of power—around 10,000 times more.
    The efficiency of conventional computers is limited because they store data and program instructions in a block of memory that’s separate from the processor that carries out instructions. As the processor works through its instructions in a linear sequence, it has to constantly shuttle information back and forth from the memory store—a bottleneck that slows things down and wastes energy.
    IBM’s new chip doesn’t have separate memory and processing blocks, because its neurons and synapses intertwine the two functions. And it doesn’t work on data in a linear sequence of operations; individual neurons simply fire when the spikes they receive from other neurons cause them to.
    Horst Simon, the deputy director of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and an expert in supercomputing, says that until now the industry has focused on tinkering with the Von Neumann approach rather than replacing it, for example by using multiple processors in parallel, or using graphics processors to speed up certain types of calculations. The new chip “may be a historic development,” he says. “The very low power consumption and scalability of this architecture are really unique.”
    One downside is that IBM’s chip requires an entirely new approach to programming. Although the company announced a suite of tools geared toward writing code for its forthcoming chip last year (see “IBM Scientists Show Blueprints for Brainlike Computing”), even the best programmers find learning to work with the chip bruising, says Modha: “It’s almost always a frustrating experience.” His team is working to create a library of ready-made blocks of code to make the process easier.
    Asking the industry to adopt an entirely new kind of chip and way of coding may seem audacious. But IBM may find a receptive audience because it is becoming clear that current computers won’t be able to deliver much more in the way of performance gains. “This chip is coming at the right time,” says Simon.

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    2015 is getting an extra second and that's a bit of a problem for the internet




    On June 30th at precisely 23:59:59, the world’s atomic clocks will pause for a single second. Or, to be more precise, they’ll change to the uncharted time of 23:59:60 — before ticking over to the more worldly hour of 00:00:00 on the morning of July 1st, 2015. This addition of a leap second, announced by the Paris Observatory this week, is being added to keep terrestrial clocks in step with the vagaries of astronomical time — in this case, the slowing of the Earth’s rotation. And it's a bit of a headache for computer engineers.
    WHAT CAUSES LEAP SECONDS? EARTHQUAKES, TIDAL DRAG, THE WEATHER
    Leap seconds are like the Y2K bug in that they threaten to throw out of sync time as measured by computers and time as measured by atomic clocks. But while Y2K was a single instance (computer systems that were used to abbreviating the year to two digits were confused by "2000" and "1900"), the addition of leap seconds are a regular problem. The first was added back in 1972; this year’s will be the 26th, and they're not likely to stop coming. They're also broadly unpredictable: earthquakes, tidal drag, and the weather all affect the rotation of the Earth, and it’s up to the scientists at the International Earth Rotation Serviceto keep an eye on things and call the changes as they come.
    Unfortunately, when the last leap second was added back in 2012, more than a few sites had trouble keeping pace. As reported by Phys.org, Foursquare, Reddit, LinkedIn, and StumbledUpon all crashed when the leap second ticked unexpectedly into place. 
    In the case of Reddit, the problem was eventually traced back to a Linux subsystem that got confused when it checked the Network Time Protocol only to find an extra second. Speaking to Wired about the problem back in 2012, Linux creator Linus Torvalds commented: "Almost every time we have a leap second, we find something. It’s really annoying, because it’s a classic case of code that is basically never run, and thus not tested by users under their normal conditions."
    GOOGLE SOLVES tHE PROBLEM OF THE EXTRA SECOND BY CUTTING IT INTO MILLISECONDS
    Instead, companies have been forced to create their own workaround, with Google’s "leap smear" perhaps the best-known example. As the company’s site reliability engineer Christopher Pascoe explained in a blog post, the usual fix is to turn back the clocks by one second at the end of the day, essentially playing that second again. However, says Pascoe, this creates problems: "What happens to write operations that happen during that second? Does email that comes in during that second get stored correctly?" Google’s solution is to cut the extra second into milliseconds and then sprinkle these tiny portions of time into the system imperceptibly throughout the day. "This [means] that when it became time to add an extra second at midnight," says Pascoe, "our clocks [have] already taken this into account, by skewing the time over the course of the day."
    COULD WE DETACH OUR CONCEPT OF TIME FROM THE SOLAR DAY?
    Of course, not every website or company has the sort of engineering resources needed to implement something like a "leap smear," and when June 30th rolls around in the summer, you can expect to see the odd outage or two. Beyond clever engineering though, there's not much to be done. As The Telegraph reports, there are some factions in the US that would like to drop the leap second altogether, but doing so would mean unmooring our concept of time from one of the most fundamental timescales, the solar day, and setting civil time on a path forever diverging from time as measured by our planet. Would it be worth the trouble? We'll get another chance to find out on June 30th.

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