Thursday, November 29, 2012

Analytics in Columbus?

I read something rather interesting in the paper this morning. It would seem that IBM is putting a new analytics center right in my backyard here in Columbus Ohio. This is big news for the city as it's supposed to bring in around 500 new tech jobs as well add credibility to the region as a tech center. Data/Business Analytics is a fascinating field, and is certainly worth a gander as it represents something significant for the future of the technology sector.

You see right now all the talk is about 'big data' and how it is stored, where it is served from, how its collected. But the lingering question that a lot of companies are now answering is 'what do you do with it once it's there?'. Companies such as IBM are taking this data boiling it down and using it to formulate strategies, see patterns of behavior that might be uncouth, and where consumer interest is going. This trend has caused a new type of IT job to exist that is an interesting mix of both technological, and business savvy.

What all of this means for those of us here in the Midwest is that its a step toward breaking the assumption that all of the IT talent is on either the east or west coast of the US. So all in all this should be a positive sign for the economy here, plus I must add it will be interesting to see the sort of talent that Ohio State is able to churn out for this field. To that end the Fisher College is opening up a new Graduate program for it, and the college itself is looking into something in the undergrad arena.

There should be some interesting times ahead for the Tech sector in Columbus.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Deficit Hawk: A cool federal budget app

So due to my being a bit of a public policy nerd on top of my enjoyment of technology I started playing around with an app on the Google Play Store called 'Deficit Hawk'. A friend of mine had suggested it, and I must say its a neat little app. It takes CBO projections, and possible choices that cover new revenues as well as cuts and allows you to attempt to set a budget plan. It's incredibly easy to use, and gives you a nice graph so you can see how you are doing.

The plan I created when messing around with it is below:


$-88.0 billion over ten years - Add a Public Plan to the Health Insurance Exchanges

$-88.5 billion over ten years - Apply the Social Security Benefit Formula to Individual Years of Earnings

$-112.0 billion over ten years - Base Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustments on an Alternative Measure of Inflation

$-2.0 billion over ten years - Charge transactions fees to fund the Commodity Futures Trading Commission

$-4.8 billion over ten years - Drop Wealthier Communities from the Community Development Block Grant Program

$-20.8 billion over ten years - Increase Fees for Aviation Security

$-26.5 billion over ten years - Increase Guarantee Fees Charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

$-241.2 billion over ten years - Increase the Basic Premium for Medicare Part B to 35 Percent of the Program's Costs

$-85.6 billion over ten years - Limit Highway Funding to Expected Highway Revenues

$-62.4 billion over ten years - Limit Medical Malpractice Torts

$-84.6 billion over ten years - Link Initial Social Security Benefits to Average Prices Instead of Average Earnings|Implement progressive price indexing

$-124.8 billion over ten years - Raise the Age of Eligibility for Medicare to 67

$-119.9 billion over ten years - Raise the Full Retirement Age in Social Security

$-642.0 billion over ten years - Reduce Growth in Appropriations for Agencies Other Than the Department of Defense|Freeze Funding at 2011 Level

$-610.7 billion over ten years - Reduce the Growth in Appropriations for the Department of Defense|Freeze Funding at 2011 Level

$-112.0 billion over ten years - Require Manufacturers to Pay a Minimum Rebate on Drugs Covered Under Medicare Part D for Low-Income Beneficiaries

$-3.6 billion over ten years - Transfer the Tennessee Valley Authority's Electric Utility Functions and Associated Assets and Liabilities

----- NEW REVENUE -----

$309.5 billion over ten years - Accelerate and Modify the Excise Tax on High-Cost Health Care Coverage

$96.1 billion over ten years - Expand Social Security Coverage to Include Newly Hired State and Local Government Employees

$241.4 billion over ten years - Extend the Period for Depreciating the Cost of Certain Investments

$70.9 billion over ten years - Impose a Fee on Large Financial Institutions

$456.8 billion over ten years - Increase the Maximum Taxable Earnings for the Social Security Payroll Tax

$1.2 trillion over ten years - Limit the Tax Benefit of Itemized Deductions to 15 Percent

$48.7 billion over ten years - Raise Tax Rates on Capital Gains


In any case if you have an interest in public policy, and you enjoy playing around with neat apps on your phone or tablet I suggest giving this a go.

Monday, November 5, 2012

What is data protection really?

Data protection is a vague term that I've seen being thrown about. I've observed it being used in reference to data backup software, security software, network security devices, and well really to all sorts of software and hardware platforms and devices. I've come to the conclusion that data protection is some bit of all of these things and ultimately is about three factors: protection from loss, protection against leak, and the ability to ensure the data can be trusted.

Data loss is perhaps the most fiscally costly, and best known portion of data protection. It is here that you have your nightmare scenarios about all the customer data being gone, and your IT staff is rung up in the middle of the night to rush around to save what they can. These days most are conducting some form of data backup to cover themselves here, and the wiser of us are doing so to off site locations. Obviously this one is something that every organization should have covered at the minimum, though if you aren't sure this is taken care of go ahead and take a look at this post that kicks off a series on backup solutions, and this one which is a webinar about backup solutions.

Data leak is perhaps equally dangerous, though not as often thought about. This area of data protection involves the act of a malicious party gaining access to your sensitive information for some sort of nefarious purpose. A leak can harm not only those of whom the data belongs to or references, but also the reputation of the organization that has been breached.

The risks of leak are present in three stages, transmission, storage, and actions by the internal users themselves. It is important then that all transmitted communications have some form of encryption enabled, be they emails, backups, or other web transactions between customers or internal users. Sending anything across in plain text is just asking for a breach. These days most sites and services provide this, and just about every email service be it hosted or self hosted is capable of some level of protection here. Encryption of stored data is also rather important, and is increasingly so for those with laptops on the road. I can say that I've had my personal information exposed to the world on two occasions due to a laptop being stolen. It's a frustrating circumstance, and can cause all sorts of havoc for a business. It's important to do some for of encryption on your laptops, and its easy with the free solutions out there (like truecrypt).

Trust is important as well. When you are backing something up, or interacting with a web service how can you be assured that you are accessing data that is without malicious content. There are solutions that do this in some sort of piecemeal format be it scanning your computer to make sure it's up to date, or doing general scans to ensure OS integrity, but I'm not aware of a true comprehensive point to point solution. When interacting with questionable web services I might suggest running some sort of sandbox utility, such as that offered by avast, or sandboxie.