'Big Data' needs 'Big Questions'
By Ian GRAYSON
I've been spending time of late delving into the rapidly evolving trend dubbed 'Big Data'. It's threatening to topple cloud computing from its spot atop the IT industry hype tree and if proponents are to be believed, will deliver big benefits to the world of business.
At its essence, big data is about finding clever ways to analyse the ever-increasing volume of information the world is generating - everything from web searches and social media posts to loyalty card programs and traffic sensors. The thinking is that, by slicing and dicing this data in different ways, insights can be found that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. Those insights can then be used to predict future trends and get a head start on the competition.
It all sounds very promising and, if handled in the right way, has the potential to deliver rich pickings from those organisations that use it effectively.
One thing I've learnt already is that the 'right way' must start with questions rather than answers. Crunching huge data stores is all very well, but you won't know what you're discovering unless you first start with an appropriate question. It's like setting out on a journey with the world's biggest map but no idea of where exactly you want to end up.
The big data trend is only just starting and it's clearly going to provide some fascinating and potentially lucrative insights for organisations.
But before diving into to the latest IT 'hot spot', be clear on exactly what it is that you're trying to find.
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DLNA, AirPlay, WiDi, Miracast - do we need a wireless streaming format war?
By Adam TURNER
Hardware makers are jostling for control over the way we stream video from the couch to the television.
Handheld gadgets are obviously a convenient way to watch video, but when you're sitting on the couch sometimes you want to go old-school and watch videos on your big television. Bridging the gap between your gadgets and your television is getting easier but, as usual, there's a looming format war to contend with.
In theory DLNA should meet all of our home media streaming needs, but if you've ever spent time setting up DLNA servers and clients you'll know that the results can be hit and miss. It can take some tweaking to get your DLNA server to play nicely with your various DLNA clients, especially if some of them have limited video format support. In my experience DLNA often doesn't match the picture quality of playing video straight from a Samba share (assuming your playback device supports this).
If you live an iCentric lifestyle then Apple's AirPlay might be the best streaming format for you. You'll also find Android apps which can tap into the AirPlay ecosystem for streaming music, but streaming video to an Apple TV from non-Apple gadgets is more of a challenge (unless you want to hack the Apple TV to support DLNA (see wiki.awkwardtv.org).
Of course anything Apple can do everyone else thinks they can do better. Intel developed the WiDi standard for streaming video from Intel-powered notebooks, built on the WirelessHD standard, but so far we've only seen a handful of compatible set-top boxes and televisions. Belkin and Netgear also offer gear based on WirelessHD. Meanwhile competing chipmakers such as NVIDIA, Marvell and Texas Instruments are throwing their weight behind Miracast, which is backed by the Wi-Fi Alliance.
The chipmakers have a lot riding on this war if they want to stay relevant in the post-PC era, especially Intel. So it looks like we're in for another lounge room format war, whether we want it or not.
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Lion DiskMaker simplifies creation of Lion and Mountain Lion reinstallation drives
By Stephen WITHERS
Once upon a time, the Mac OS X installer came on a DVD which you could use as a startup disk if necessary. That changed with Lion, which introduced the Recovery partition and - on newer (ie, mid-2010 onwards) hardware - Internet Recovery.
But if the internal hard drive gets seriously fouled up, it may not be possible to start up from the Recovery partition. And whether you start up using Recovery or Internet Recovery, reinstalling OS X requires either feature to download the Lion or Mountain Lion installer, which is a time-consuming and bandwidth-heavy process.
So there's a lot to be said for creating a bootable drive that contains the installer. It's not difficult to do manually, but since computers are intended to make life easier, why not let your Mac do the work?
Guillaume Gète's Lion DiskMaker takes care of the job with minimal interaction, and caters for USB (8GB and up, but you shouldn't need to pay more than $6-$8 for a branded thumbdrive), FireWire, SD card and DVD storage, though DVD is not recommended due to its poor performance as a startup device.
Despite its name, this donationware utility works with Lion or Mountain Lion.
One issue is that you do need a copy of the relevant OS X installer. If you didn't make a copy before it deleted itself, you'll need to download it again from the Mac App Store. At least you can pick a convenient time to do so, such as during your ISP's off-peak hours and during a month when an extra 4GB download isn't going to blow your quota. If your Mac came with Lion or Mountain Lion preinstalled, Gète provides a link to instructions for capturing the required disk image file.
Another is that if you're using the free CleanMyDrive utility to remove Mac-specific detritus at the time external storage devices are ejected (especially convenient when moving files between Mac and Windows via sneakernet), be sure to turn the function off for the drive that you're going to use as the boot disk. If you don't, Lion DiskMaker will interpret the short delay as a failure to unmount the device, which brings the process to an abrupt halt.
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Can Windows 8 Touch Apple's iPad Market?
By Alex KIDMAN
There's an expectant air around Windows 8, and especially Microsoft's efforts to make an operating system that's actually touch friendly, as distinct from the many touch-enabled versions of Windows that it's delivered to date. Sure, even as far back as Windows XP there were "touch" versions of Windows, but to put it frankly, they sucked.
They were woeful to use, and while there's a small market of those with particular physical needs where a keyboard just doesn't cut it, that's a small market. The only way Microsoft was going to take the wider market (and especially those parts of the wider market that have moved from Windows laptops over to tablets running Android or iOS) was to get serious about touch, and that's what it's done with Windows 8, by way of what it's worked out about touch via Windows Phone 7.
So far, so good; anyone who's spent a bit of time with the preview code has come away impressed with how Microsoft's reworked the Windows world into a touch-friendly one, although equally as many bemoan the demotion of the classic Windows desktop.
Still, it's clear that the one big stumbling block for Android tablets hasn't been the hardware -- there have been many technically excellent Android tablets -- it's been the underlying app ecosystem. That's been Apple's ace in the hole for some time, as the iPad app experience, even with the somewhat bloated state of the iTunes app store, is the one to beat. Microsoft's got the wealth of Windows apps that already exist plus whatever they can get from developers working on the interface once known as Metro to counter the iPad juggernaut. Microsoft may be able to pull that off; I've got to admit I'm curious to see how well I could marry something like a Surface tablet to my daily working needs, given the ability to multitask, run regular applications and (admittedly) drop down to the desktop and underlying folder structure with ease.
But there's still one other part of the puzzle to contend with, and that's hardware.
So far there's been mutterings from the likes of Lenovo and HP, but no announced release plans. Other OEMs have been less than enthusiastic about Microsoft's Surface initiative, and it remains to be seen whether Surface is exactly the kick that Windows 8 on a tablet needs, or a diversion that'll stop other companies from seriously investing in Windows 8 tablet devices.
History shows that if Microsoft gets keen on an idea, it's got the cash to spend to make it happen (see: Xbox), or at least to burn in an amusing fashion (see: WebTV). Still, in order to take on the iPad, you're going to need some spiffy looking hardware. The first Android tablets really weren't anything that spectacular, although we're now seeing some genuinely interesting hardware in that space some years on. If Microsoft wants to succeed in the touch space by taking on the iPad, it's going to need some excellent hardware -- and fast. Not just Surface, which is likely to do as much to muddy the profit waters for other OEMs, but a choice of tablets at a range of price points. Whether that'll happen to a level that'll make everyone, from vendors to consumers happy will be vital in determining where Windows 8 sits in the wider tablet market.
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I have a loaded Dragon and I am not afraid to use it!
By David HAGUE
There is an old adage that when you get a disability such as deafness or blindness that other senses improve to compensate. I have had reason to test that of late and it’s true!
You see I have somehow managed to mangle a radial nerve in my left hand (so I am told) and cannot at the moment type with it. As a writer that is a tad limiting as you can imagine. A bit like a drummer in a rock band breaking an ankle or a basketballist an arm.
So what is a man to do? In effect I get paid by the number of words I type, and the pay rates in this biz are bad enough as it is.
The solution was to break out the Plantronic headset that has been packed since moving here and fire up Dragon Dictate.
I have used DD many times in the past, and even go back to a “you-speak-it-types” package put out by Creative back in the early 90s. They have all worked more or less, and although I have tried to go the whole hog with them, at some point I break the habit – either due to the profile crashing (and I can’t be bothered building a new one) or the environment has not been conducive to voice dictation (people around etc).
This time though it has been forced on me and it still works. Sure I am not yet using it to full capacity and doing the full Picard, but it’s a start and at least is getting me out of the barbed wire canoe in the cess pit.
Oh and the compensating sense? Budweiser the dog’s bodily functions smell worse!
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