Thursday Jul 24, 2008

HP folds Vodoo into its mainstream

It seems that HP are merging their Vodoo line of games PCs into the mainstream. I wonder if Dell will follow with Alienware. The human synergies aren't so compelling. HP still knows how to design systems and possesses an engineering capability, this is not as obviously true at Dell, and the relative brand values are different.

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Thursday Apr 17, 2008

Revolutionary business, revolutionary I.T.

My colleague, Ambreesh Khanna, presented on how the growing use of Microfinance, is changing IT architectural requirements, and the risk management criteria. [There's a number of references on google, or exalead, but the Guardian reported on how Mohammed Yunus won the Nobel Peace prize 18 months ago.]

So while it costs a bank a certain amount to manage a customer, if its liabilities to its customers are small, then the risk can be managed in a different way. If a bank has 1000, € 500K loans in its book, only a small number of defaults cause a problem, whereas, if  its portfolio is reversed with  ½ million, € 1000, then many more defaults are required to cause a problems. It also changes the nature of the traffic. Many low volume payments, mandate an IT and banking efficiency that will need to borrow from the web 2.0 architectures. Ambreesh also wrote about microfinance on his blog.

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Monday Mar 31, 2008

A word from our sponsor

Ms Viviane Reding, the sponsoring commissioner spoke to the conference via a video cast. This isn't yet available, but I'll post a link when I can, hopefully to streaming video.

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Friday Mar 21, 2008

Public Data should be free

A government study has concluded that it would best to stop charging for public data, reported in the Guardian yesterday. In the 80's the UK Government established 'trading funds' for a number of its statistical and data management bodies including the ordnance survey (Maps), DVLA (Road Vehicles and Users), Companies House, the Land Registry, Met Office and Hydrographic Office, and required them to charge for access to data that had either been payed for by the taxpayer, or it was mandatory to provide to government.

This research, conducted by a team from Cambridge University, discovered that freeing the information creates greater value in the economy than would be lost through charge income.

The campaigners for free information argue, firstly that consumers have payed already for the information through their tax payments, and secondly that the government is often in a monopoly position as the only body capable of collecting some of the data through its power of compulsion. The state monopoly makes it very hard to determine a market price, particularly as the marginal cost to supply is zero. The report also denies the argument that participation in a market encourages innovation in the supply chain, because of both the lack of regulation, and the monopoly position of the government. It should be noted that some of the government's "income" is paid with taxation, since the government agencies cross charge each other.

The release of this public information would in all probability lead to innovation in the use cases as more people seek to add value to it, with different approaches and use cases, and its this innovation that will crete real economic value. This is a very real case showing that welfare optisation occurs when information and knowledge is charged at marginal cost, which for digital information is zero or virtually zero.

We'll have to see what the Treasury does.

You might also want to see the Guardian's Campaign Page, Free our Data and the Open Knowledge Foundation's web site.

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Tuesday Mar 18, 2008

Saving the Planet

Richard Barrington, who doesn't blog as often as he should, Sun's Green Lantern, introduced the day's keynote speaker, Craig Bennett, from Cambridge University's Programme for Industry. He spoke about the science of climate change. He used a combination of his own slides,and Al Gore's which reminds me I still haven't seen "an inconvenient truth".

Greenhouse gases are at an all time historical high. Unless we stop producing them, this will continue. Some natural (and a few human) processes consume carbon. The amount of green house gases in the atmosphere determine the temperature of the earth. The Stern Report talks about the potential effects of changes in the average temperature and argues it is possible to restrict the growth in green house gases, but the world needs to act in concert.

Craig's web site states that he led CPI’s work on the Bali Commuiniqué which brought together 170 global companies in support of a comprehensive, legally-binding United Nations framework to tackle climate change and generated global media attention, Sun was a signatory and is an active participant in the CPI's activities.

He also repeated Gore's slides about how science and journalists treat the issues, by comparing the weight of scientific peer reviewed papers versus the balance of media coverage. There were no scientists arguing that the level of green house gases are not dangerous. Science has agreed that green house gases cause climate change, and that human activity contributes to the danagerous level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The majority of press coverage was oppossed to this view. (2006).

When asked his opinion about what might be done, he firstly suggested that the politicians havn't really got to grips with the importance and inexorability of climate change and that another major western city will need a New Orleans style disaster before they take it seriously, but his other, possibly more low key suggestions were

  • there is no silver bullet, we need silver buckshot
  • tax bad things not good things i.e. can we discriminate between clean & dirty energy, its a bit tricky with a 17½% VAT on everything
  • government procurement should prioritise low carbon goods

This is what the Guardian said about the Stern Report, when it was first published.

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Tuesday Mar 04, 2008

Python

Tim Bray noted that two of Python's leading developers are joining Sun. I'm pleased, along with all the others that have welcomed them. You can read what they have to say on their own blogs at Ted Leung, and  Frank Wierzbicki.

When deciding to re-invest in my scripting skills last year I choose Python. I didn't do this for necessarily the best of reasons but I need to look inside planet planet and also a 3rd party plazes script, both of which are written in Python. I also spent several hours getting lost inside Red Hat's apt-get when I failed to install it properly a couple of years ago.

I bought  the O'Reilly book, Learning Python but have got stuck on the exercises on method inheritance and overlays. I must get them finished this week, so I can read the next chapters on my next plane journey.

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Wednesday Feb 20, 2008

And in Italy

Meetings with my italian colleagues where I talked about my new role, the opportunities that "Red Shift" offers to Sun, why we still bother with Solaris and also talked about Web 2.0. We discussed the localisation of the italian economy which while large (the 5th in the world) has language as a barrier to entry and while the US economy is no longer the definition of scale, the italian economy ceased to be such a long time ago.

Despite this, Sun Italia has a number of good relationships with leading companies in Italy and have some exciting project successes under their belt, paricualrly in the software field, where a number of the italian government's web portals are based on Sun's technology. In addition to being hosted by Giussepe Russo, the Chief Technologist in Italy, I met with Carrado di Bari and Danilo Poca who both write about their work here at blogs.sun.com, albeit in italian.

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Thursday Jan 31, 2008

Microsoft & Yahoo!

Microsoft and Yahoo to merge? Here's the Reuters story on it! It values Yahoo! at $44.6 bn which is a  62% premium on yesterday's price. The deal will be effected by a cash and shares offer.

What does it mean? Obviously its a defensive move against Google's competitive position, and I am being constantly persuaded by friends to try Google's new services. Market success in Google's business is based on keeping its users looking at their sites, they do this by doing things well and by innovating to attract new users (or at least new usages). Will a Microsoft/Yahoo! merger help them or me? I am not really sure.

A sub story at Reuters is that EU refuses to comment, although the story really doesn't say much more, apart from to name the spokesman.

Its interesting to check out their combined network services, games, MMORPGs, chat,  groups, bookmarks and pictures. Yahoo! has had a habit of picking up the social service providers I'd chosen, I know it'll impact me. I wonder if it will or should impact my search for a new internet client.

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Tuesday Dec 11, 2007

Spanish Medicine

After the coffee break, Dr Joan Bigora spoke about IT adoption in Barcelona City Hospital.

He is the Managing Director and has an interesting view on what he needs to know about IT as the MD of a hospital. I was speaking the day before to a Sun colleague, about CEO's saying suppliers need to talk their language; they are not interested in IT. It's clear to me that IT is the business of a growing number of CEOs. Unless they understand both the problems it can solve and the capability of the technology, they'll get their key investments wrong. So when I say he had an interesting view, he obviously felt he needs to know this stuff.

Medicine is the obvious ultimate knowledge industry. IT can thus add tremendous value in many areas. This is the third presentation I have had from spanish people about IT in healthcare, specifically examining the success of remote healthcare systems, using new age monitors and video conferencing for case care work and even remote diagnosis. They may have something, and it is remarkable how simple some of these initiatives are. I expect that third wave medical systems will need to deal with massive scale and some very interesting provisioning and change management problems, and even the spanish seem not yet to be at this point yet, which Dr Bigora acknowledged.

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Software, economics and society

We have just heard from Dr. Frans De Bruïne and Ken Ducatel, the former talked about the need for Security, to guard against global warming and the demographic time bomb; Europe is not just interested in health care because of the socialists. The ageing population is a jeopardy to the wealth engine of work and the various governments and commission all have different responses (Oh Boy!).

He stated that for instance in Holland, they're playing with a government 'Facebook' page. Will this lead to you having to document your car insurance, child support liabilities and private pension provision on-line in a government portal. The latter might help keep track of what the insurance companies owe you, but do you really want this hackable, or publishable at the will of politicians and civil servants? Despite these fears it is a possible first step to a real EU Web 2.0 and user created content, I am not sure what value one can create through communities in such a portal. It would also need some serious investment in reaching all the EU's citizens, both in the network and server infrastructure to reach everyone, but also in client access ubiquity. Not everyone has access to a computer, although most have phones and the ipod touch with its wi-fi is an interesting and probably popular innovation of the internet hand held device. Wi-fi is neither as ubiquitous, nor as cheap as in the US yet, and I suspect it varies massively with the EU.

He also spoke about how in Germany, networked medical care systems in the home allowed patients to be discharged earlier, thus saving money. Presumably the IT reduces the number of relapses.

Ducatel argued that the US uses its its (minimal, except for defense) public requirement to seed ICT innovation. I wonder if this is because US business has a greater appetite to build its own code. The flip side of this is that "Europe under uses Software". Its an opportunity for growth, and an opportunity for supply, but commercial stove piping inhibits the growth opportunity.

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Monday Dec 10, 2007

Hi Tech in Europe

And back to Brussels for a bit of EU politicking. Last time I traveled through Heathrow and the journey home was terrible. This time I travel through Southampton and the journey out is fine. I get to the Sun Office on the airport estate, do my meeting and have an easy ride into the hotel in the city centre.

I am attending the NESSI AGM. I wrote about it last time I visited Brussels in November, but it is having its AGM over the next two days. I will be commenting on it, but the slides and AV files will appear on its web site.

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Sunday Oct 28, 2007

Another look at Seville

Over the weekend, the Guardian Travel Section revisited Seville. In an article called "You want Moor!", they review things to do and see, places to stay, drink and dance.

 

Patio de las Doncellas, Real Alcazar

 

The Patio de las Doncellas in the Real Alcazar, taken on my visit last year.

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Sunday Oct 14, 2007

Open Solaris users in London on Wednesday

OpenSolaris: Innovation Matters The next meeting of the London Open Solaris User Group (losug) is due to be held  this Wednesday, Oct 17th at Sun's Customer Briefing Centre, Regis House on Lower King William St. The agenda has been posted at their site, and is about LDOMS. Once again, I have been unable to give people both a two week and two day notice of these meetings, and since two days notice would be tomorrow, I shan't bother as its too close to this notice to be useful.

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Tuesday Sep 18, 2007

EU 10, Microsoft 0

An exciting day in many ways yesterday! The European Court have confimred the European Commissions fine on Microsoft for ant-competitive activities. The Guardian have reported it with the head line "European appeal court opens Windows to the world and shakes the superdominant". A headline only imagined in the Guardian business section.

Most interestingly they indirectly quote the competition commissioner, Ms Neelie Kroes,  as saying that this ruling strengthens the commissions determinatio to put consumer benefit above innovation. This would be worrying if it wasn't for the fact that only "Author/Publishers" need copyright/patent protection to inhibit competition. There are many other business models that drive innovation in the economy.

 This article at vnunet.com, called "Copyright harms the economy" is further evidence that bit by bit, people recognise that ideas cannot be exclusivly owned and that exclusive ownership is not in the public interest.

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Wednesday Aug 15, 2007

Microblogging

And then there were micro-blogs. I have just a finished a conference call about Consolidation with a customer, and hooked up with a colleague Lou Springer with whom I had a quick chat about Twitter. If you don't know what this is, then you'll have to go there.

It's been best described to me as micro-blog site, that delivers to a number of clients, but potentially most interestingly to the phone by SMS. (This means that the article length is limited, you're not publishing essays there!) Lou's not the first to suggest I subscribe, but its quite popular with the people that persuaded me to start out at facebook and there is a facebook integration application so I joined up and bumped into the people who'd invited me.

I've spent two days playing with it and was deciding that I wasn't keen on yet another application that I could use to tell people where I am. However,

  • it seems more popular than plazes, so I get more feeds from from more people, and some from the same
  • it has a phone & IM publication interface, although it uses AIM and is allegedly having difficulty in making the latter work.
  • it can be set to read your feeds on the phone, which is good for days when one doesn't connect to the internet by computer, (I wonder how I'll feel when I'm on holiday), however, this could be the killer justification .
  • Lou says its great for home workers as for him it becomes one of the technology equivalents of people walking past your desk/office, so this might also apply to geographically dispersed teams as well.

I also feel that my del.icio.us feed is a micro-blog, since I always try and comment the URL's and you get some view of what I think of the page, or sometimes why I was reading it. I also gather everything together (except this blog feed) at Planet DaveLevy, which includes the blog entries from my bliki. (These aren't very exciting but it is another window on to my life, although most of this content is just documenting stuff, its facts I want on the internet.)

I think, I'll keep my correspondence at twitter to micro-blogging stuff of relevance to my followers (thats the word they use, I'm not starting a cult), and use it mainly as a reader. If you want to know where I am, you'll have to find me at plazes, and I need to wait for them to fix my outstanding niggles.

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