Oct 20 – 26

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This week’s headline story: Whitehouse Software Epic Fail

bridge-collapseEvery major software developer knows what it’s like to be the victim of an epic software release bomb. Consider Apple Maps, Google Wave, and Microsoft Windows ME. But we don’t typically associate epic software fails with politics, that is until this past week. This month the Whitehouse has launched HealthCare.gov — a website where consumers can purchase a policy online through a health insurance exchange in their state. Creation of the exchanges is a key element of the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. To say the rollout did not go well would be an understatement. The huge number of visitors to the websites created Internet traffic jams resulting in delays measured not in hours but in days, according to administration officials. The new service failed so terribly that President Obama himself felt compelled to address the situation in a live White House Rose Garden address. “The problem has been that the website that’s supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance is not working the way it should for everybody, and there’s no sugarcoating it,” Obama said. “The website has been too slow, people have been getting stuck during the application process.”

Healthcare.gov has been called one of the most complex IT projects ever initiated by the federal government. Coupling the complexity of the project with a tight implementation timeline and informational delays has clearly strained state capacities to complete their exchanges on time and as originally scoped,” explained Brett Graham, partner and managing director at Leavitt Partners. Those who oppose Obamacare are quick to blame what they call the over-complexity of the law as the primary culprit. There have also been concerns expressed over privacy and the requirement to create a user account to access the system. Still, it’s not too late to fix the problems and get the program back on track. The March 31 deadline for consumers to sign up is months away. The Whitehouse is urging patience as it works with big tech companies to fix the issues.

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • Managing the Deluge of ‘Big Data’ From Space [NASA]
    NASA says first space Internet test ‘beyond expectations’ [Computerworld]
    NASA receives hundreds of terabytes of data an hour from rockets, satellites, and drones scattered across space. Unfortunately that data must travel over radio waves, which are much slower than the Internet speeds we have become accustomed to here on earth. Those slow radio waves have become a bottlneck for researchers gathering data for everything from predicting weather on Earth to monitoring ice caps on Mars to searching for distant galaxies. To address the problem NASA is testing out a new networking technologies for space that utilizes laser beams rather than radio waves. A recent test of the new technology between one of NASA’s Earth stations and a lunar-orbiting spacecraft proved to transfer data six times faster than traditional radio wave technology, using instruments that are half the mass, half the weight and use 25% less power.
  • IBM unveils computer fed by ‘electronic blood’ [BBC]
    You may recall when IBM’s smartest computer, Watson, beat two champions of the TV quiz show Jeopardy. IBM is now admitting that the competition wasn’t really fair to humans since the human brains ran on only 20 watts of energy, and Watson needed 85,000 watts. Taking that fact to heart, IBM is working on a computer architecture that mimics the human brain by utilizing an electrolyte blood-like fluid which carries power into the system and carries heat out. The goal is to create denser more efficient computers so that a one petaflop computer that would fill half a football field today, will fit on your desktop.
  • Group Creates 3D Digital Models of Historical Sites [NewsFactor]
    A non-profit organization named CyArk is endeavoring to scan and digitally preserve 500 of the worlds most famous heritage sites, including Mount Rushmore, Roman ruins, the Sydney Opera House, and the Tower of London over the next five years. Explaining the purpose of the project, CyArk cofounder Barbara Kacyra stated that in case our civilization cannot physically save one of our heritage sites, “the next best thing is to digitally preserve it.”
  • Court Rules Warrant Required for GPS Tracking [NewsFactor]
    With all the recent news of government online surveillance, its nice to hear that a court has ruled that a warrant is required for police to track people using GPS.

and in Information Security news this week..

  • Does DARPA’s Cyber Challenge Go Far Enough? [NewsFactor]
    Perhaps you recall previous DARPA Challenges where millions of dollars of prize money was awarded to researchers who developed the best racing robots. The Challenges served to motivate research that ultimately contributed to US defense. Now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has announced what it calls a Cyber Grand Challenge – a tournament, to develop fully automatic network defense systems. DARPA is putting up a $2 million prize to motivate researchers to create automated systems that will compete against each other to evaluate software, test for vulnerabilities, generate security patches and apply them to protect computers on a network.
  • NSA Website Attacked, Knocked Offline [NewsFactor]
    The U.S. National Security Agency’s website, nsa.gov, was knocked offline by a DDoS attack Friday afternoon, and remained offline through Saturday evening. Ironically, the top story featured on the NSA site, when it was returned to service was “General Alexande’sr Statement Regarding Cybersecurity Awareness Month.”

and in Tech Industry news…

  • Apple Unveils iPad Air, iPad Mini with Retina [NewsFactor]
    OS X Mavericks Here with a Few New Features [NewsFactor]
    Apple unveiled updated versions of its iPad and iPad mini, new Mac Pro laptops and desktops, and its new OS X Mavericks – a free update for mac users. The full-size iPad has become thinner and lighter, and now sports a new model name — the iPad Air
  • Video Ads Come to Facebook Mobile [NewsFactor]
    Facebook will soon start embedding video ads in its news stream for mobile users. The ads will require a tap to play.
  • Nokia Goes Big with Lumia Tablet, Smartphones [NewsFactor]
    At Nokia World in Abu Dhabi, the Finnish handset maker took the cover off six new mobile devices including the company’s first Windows tablet, the Nokia Lumia 2520, as well as two large-screen Lumia smartphones and three new Asha models.

and finally…

  • Firefox Plug-In Shows Who Is Tracking You [NewsFactor]
    Firefox users who are interested in finding out who is tracking their online activities might want to check out Mozilla Lightbeam. Lightbeam works within Mozilla’s Firefox browser as a plug-in and reveals who is tracking you, and which sites they are monitoring.

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