Show of 9-29-2007

  • Profiles in IT: Lawrence Joseph Ellison
    • Lawrence Joseph Ellison He is the co-founder and CEO of Oracle Corporation.
    • On August 17, 1944, Ellison was born in New York City to Florence Spellman, a 19-year-old unwed Jewish mother.
    • At his mother’s request, he was given to her aunt and uncle, Lillian Spellman Ellison and Louis Ellison, who adopted him when he was nine months old.
    • He left the University of Illinois at the end of his second year. He attended the University of Chicago for one term, where he first encountered computer programming.
    • During the 1970s, Ellison worked for the Ampex Corporation.
      • One of his projects was a database for the CIA, which he named "Oracle."
      • Ellison was inspired by the paper written by Edgar F. Codd on relational database systems named "A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks."
    • He founded Oracle in 1977, putting up a mere $2000 of his own money
      • Original name Software Development Laboratories (SDL).
      • In 1979, the company was renamed Relational Software Inc.
      • It was later renamed Oracle after the flagship product Oracle database.
      • The initial release of Oracle was Oracle 2 ? there was no Oracle 1. The release number was intended to imply that all of the bugs had been worked out of an earlier version.
    • In 1990, Oracle laid off 10% (about 400 people) of its work force because of a mismatch between cash and revenues.
      • This crisis, which almost resulted in Oracle’s bankruptcy, came about because of Oracle’s "up-front" marketing strategy, in which customers bought the largest possible amount of software up-front.
      • The sales people then booked the value of future license sales in the current quarter, thereby increasing their bonuses.
      • Ellison would later say that Oracle had made "an incredible business mistake."
    • Although IBM dominated the mainframe relational database market with its DB2 and SQL/DS database products, it delayed entering the market for a relational database on UNIX and Windows operating systems.
    • This left the door open for Sybase, Oracle, and Informix (and eventually Microsoft) to dominate mid-range and microcomputers.
    • Sybase’s 1993 merger with PowerSoft resulted in a loss of focus on its core database technology. In 1993, Sybase sold the rights to its database software running under the Windows operating system to Microsoft Corporation, which now markets it under the name "SQL Server."
    • In 1994, Informix Software overtook Sybase and became Oracle’s most important rival. Once Informix and Sybase were defeated, Oracle enjoyed years of industry dominance until the rise of Microsoft’s SQL Server in the late 90s and IBM’s acquisition of Informix Software in 2001 to complement their DB2 database.
  • DHS Networked Hacking Investigated
    • In the 2006 attacks on the DHS systems, hackers often took over computers late at night or early in the morning, copying and sending out data over hours — in one case more than five hours, according to evidence collected by the committee.
    • The FBI is investigating Unisys for criminal fraud.
    • Homeland Security’s Internal Affairs division is conducting a probe as well.
    • The House panel said its investigation has yielded the following results:
      • It is not clear how the hackers breached the DHS systems.
      • But once inside, they used special software to crack a user account password for a network administrator.
      • Attackers installed malicious software on dozens of computers that not only masked the intrusion but also copied and transferred files to an outside Web site.
      • In July 2006, a Unisys employee detected a possible intrusion but "downplayed it and low-level DHS security managers ignored it.
      • It was not until Sept. 27, 2006, that two DHS systems managers noticed that their machines had been accessed with a hacking tool.
      • Unisys information technology employees discovered the breached reached back as far as June 13 that year and had continued through at least Oct. 1, eventually reaching 150 computers.
    • Unisys Intrusion-detection failed
      • Among the security devices Unisys had been hired to install and monitor were seven "intrusion-detection systems," which flag suspicious or unauthorized computer network activity that may indicate a break-in.
      • The devices were purchased in 2004, but by June 2006 only three had been installed — and in such a way that they could not provide real-time alerts
      • Unisys spokeswoman said that Unisys had installed five network-intrusion devices and added a sixth in September 2006.
      • Unisys said, DHS elected to stop paying for security monitoring services because of funding shortfall.
    • The Cover Up
      • The House committee obtained documents indicating that Unisys was trying to "hide gaps" from the government in an apparent attempt to obscure the scope of the network security breaches, an aide said.
      • Unisys also failed to disclose to DHS that the data were being sent to the Chinese-language Web site,
    • The techniques and tools used in the DHS break-ins were similar to incidents at the Defense and Commerce departments.
    • The intelligence and computer-security communities remain divided over whether the intrusions were carried out by state-sponsored cyber-spies.
    • The Chinese government has vigorously denied the charges of cyber-espionage and Chinese officials have leveled their own allegations of cyber-hacking against the United States.
  • Linux and its identity crisis
    • Linus Torvalds and his followers squaring off against Con Kolivas and the mainstream Linux fanatics.
    • Linux is at a crossroads.
      • Stay geeky and appeal to the advanced tech guru.
      • Go mainstream and advanced functionality and reliable kernel behind to compete with Microsoft and Apple.
    • Many fear that a "civil war" that could lead to total Linux annihilation.
      • Torvalds and followers say that Linux is "the best" because it sticks to its core values and doesn’t sacrifice usability to appeal to everyone.
      • The mainstream group thinks Linux is in a unique position with Ubuntu to capitalize on the consumer market and make it a more viable alternative to Mac OS X and Windows for the average user.
    • The Linux community is an interesting group. Linux is dominated by two factions with entirely different ideas, much like Republican versus Democrat.
      • The conservatives want Linux to stay Linux
      • The liberals want to make money.
  • Biomimicry
    • Biomimicry is a new discipline that studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems.
    • Biomimicry Institute: http://www.biomimicryinstitute.org/
    • Fastener. The classic example of biomimicry is the Velcro hook and loop fastener, which Swiss inventor George de Mestral devised more than 50 years ago after he and his dog came home from a walk covered in burrs. The two sides of the fastener mimicked the way the hooks of the burrs clung to the loops of de Mestral’s clothing.
    • Comparative physiology in sensors and optics
      • Quarter-wave filters in scallops
      • Self-focusing optics in underwater imaging
      • Three lens triplet with optical correction
      • Sensor match filtering to reduce processing load
    • Lightweight Ceramic. Lightweight ceramic based on underside Red Abolone shell (Mother-of-pearl), which is composed of alternating layers of calcium carbonate and Lustrin-A protein.
    • Underwater adhesive. Cloning five mussel proteins for use in a natural, waterproof adhesive.
    • Butterfly-inspired pigment-free color. The feathers, scales, and exoskeletons of iridescent birds, butterflies, and beetles have structural features that cause light to diffract and interfere in ways that amplify certain wavelengths. Thin-film interference can create color that is four times brighter than pigment, never needs repainting, avoids the toxic effects associated with pigments.
    • Fog water collector. A fog-catching device patterned on the Namibian Beetle’s water harvesting abilities captures ten times more water than existing fog catching nets.
    • Optimized fan design. A three-dimensional logarithmic spiral is found in the shells of mollusks, in the spiraling of tidal-washed kelp fronds, and in the shape of our own skin pores, through which water vapor escapes. Liquids and gases flow through these forms with far less friction and more efficiency. Fans, propellers, impellers, and aerators based on this shape can reduce energy requirements in fans and other rotors from between 10 and 85%, depending upon the application.
    • Efficient solar cells. Plant biologists and engineers at many labs are looking to leaves to help them make smaller and more efficient solar cells. A leaf has tens of thousands of tiny photosynthetic reaction centers that operate at 93 percent quantum efficiency, producing energy silently with water, sunlight, and no toxic chemicals.
    • Termite-inspired air conditioning. Architect Mick Pearce designed a mid-rise building in Zimbabwe that has no air-conditioning yet stays cool. The Eastgate building is modeled on the self-cooling mounds termites that maintain the temperature inside their nest to within one degree of day and night.
    • Whale-inspired aircraft wings. The leading edge of humpback whale flippers are scalloped with prominent knobs called tubercles. In wind tunnel experiments conducted, the scalloped flipper proved a more efficient wing design than the smooth edges used on airplanes. The scalloped flippers have 32% lower drag, 8 percent better lift properties, and withstood stall at a 40 percent steeper wind angle.
    • Water-repellent paint. Based on the way lotus leaves repel rain. But in the lotus plant, the actual structure of the leaf causes water to form spherical droplets that pick up dirt and roll off, leaving the leaf clean and dry.
  • Vonage on the Ropes
    • A federal jury yesterday ordered Vonage Holdings to pay Sprint Nextel $69.5 million in damages for violating six of its patents. Vonage must also pay Sprint a 5 percent royalty on future revenue.
    • In March Vonage lost another patent infringement case and was ordered to pay Verizon $58 million in damages and 5.5 percent of its future revenue.
    • Vonage shares fell to $1.30, and trading was halted after news of the verdict.
    • Traditional telcos want to kill voice-over-IP and are winning in this case. But Skype keeps matching on.
  • Chinese Hacker Gets Job Offers
    • A network company in eastern China has offered a job paying a million yuan (US$133,155) a year to Li Jun.
    • Li Jun created, worm.whboy (so called panda worm).
    • Li, a 25-year-old Wuhan native, received the four year jail sentence for writing and profiting from the panda worm that infected over a million computers countrywide and caused huge losses.
    • Jushu Technology Co "the company can offer a good platform to show his talents."
    • So far, about 10 network companies across the country have offered jobs to Li, whom they regarded was a "precious genius."
    • Li’s worm , which earned him about 145,000 yuan after he sold it to other hackers from December 2006 to February this year. The worm can prevent infected computers from operating anti-virus software and all programs using the "exe" suffix.
    • The worm could also steal users’ online game account information and passwords for accounts with online instant communication tools.
    • Computer owners learned that their systems were infected when their executable file icons turned into images of pandas with burning joss sticks.
  • Crazy Questions at Google Job Interview
    • Google asks some interesting questions at their job interview. Here are a few that have leaked out.
      • How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?
      • You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and your mass is proportionally reduced so as to maintain your original density. You are then thrown into an empty glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?
      • How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?
      • Explain a database in three sentences to your eight-year-old nephew.
      • How many times a day does a clock’s hands overlap?
      • You have to get from point A to point B. You don’t know if you can get there. What would you do?
      • Imagine you have a closet full of shirts. It’s very hard to find a shirt. So what can you do to organize your shirts for easy retrieval?
      • If you look at a clock and the time is 3:15, what is the angle between the hour and the minute hands? (The answer to this is not zero!)
      • You are at a party with a friend and 10 people are present including you and the friend. your friend makes you a wager that for every person you find that has the same birthday as you, you get $1; for every person he finds that does not have the same birthday as you, he gets $2. would you accept the wager?
      • How many piano tuners are there in the entire world?
      • You have eight balls all of the same size. 7 of them weigh the same, and one of them weighs slightly more. How can you find the ball that is heavier by using a balance and only two weighings?
    • Do you make the grade?
  • Sharing could use community to provide free Wi-Fi
    • The recent collapse of San Francisco’s plan to provide free Wi-Fi has spawned a new, community-based effort that could provide a model for other cities that have found themselves in the same situation.
    • FON, a Spanish company, has given away thousands of free routers, including hundreds last year during a promotion in San Francisco’s Union Square.
    • The company counts more than 450,000 users worldwide who have plugged in the device and agreed to share their wireless signal with neighbors and visitors.
    • By connecting to the FON network, users not only can help create a larger system of Wi-Fi hotspots, they can easily use other FON networks around the world.
    • The company makes its money by selling routers for $29 and $39 and by charging visitors a small fee for using the network.
    • AnchorFree of Sunnyvale also is trying to create shared networks through business owners by donating more than 200 routers to restaurants, cafes and small businesses, allowing them to create Wi-Fi corridors that customers can use.
    • Companies like FON and AnchorFree said they provide a level of security to ensure users are safe while on their networks. FON, for example, uses encryption as well as a member log-on to prevent abuse. AnchorFree offers a virtual private network application that allows users to create a secure connection.