Gelezen: Big Data

Tom Breur heeft met “Big Data” een formaat van een boek geschreven!

Je hoort inderdaad niets anders van Big Data de laatste tijd. Welja, Big Data is écht BIG hé. Het is de Nieuwe Goudkoorts, zoals Breur het verwoord. Toen het boek van Academic Service uit was, had ik een AHA-moment. Big Data gaat helemaal niet over technologie alleen.

Breur schetst onder andere wat de relatie is tussen Big Data en NoSQL, Hadoop, Business Intelligence en data-science respectievelijk. Zo beschrijft hij ook wat de voor- en nadelen van NoSQL en traditionele RDBMs‘en zijn. Het boekje leest heel vlot, maar omdat het eigenlijk niets dan paragrafen en alinea’s is, het je zeker als beslissingsnemer niet de middelen zoals een raamwerk om bijvoorbeeld afwegingen te maken. Er is ook niet echt een toolbox beschikbaar zoals dat in Business Logic Management wel verwezenlijk wordt. Waarmee ik uiteraard niet wil zeggen dat er verder geen structuur in zit. Integendeel! Elk hoofdstuk is goed opgebouwd met achteraan tips aan de hand van handige to do’s en not to do’s. Bovendien leest het boek ook heel aardig, met veel beeldspraak (navelstaren) en zegswijzen (bijv. mosterd na de maaltijd) en zalige zinspelen. Ik houd wel van die stijl. Nog een pluspunt is dat het allemaal ook heel wetenschappelijk onderbouwd is. Zo haalt Breur er ook regelmatig de statistiek bij, met doel- en responsvariabelen, be it binair van aard of continu. En voorbeelden uit het dagdagelijkse leven uit zijn rijke werkervaring.

Je krijgt niet alleen inzicht in de eisen vandaag rond performance (snelheid/rekencapaciteit), kostenstructuur (te duur, en onvoldoende schaalbaar) en opslagcapaciteit en de relatie die NoSQL-platforms moeten innemen ten opzichte van zowat alles wat relevant is.

Neen, het gaat allemaal veel verder!

Breur toont aan wat bedrijven met die schat aan informatie (bijv. RFID-verwerking, locatie-en telecomgegevens en opslag van internetgegevens) allemaal kunnen. Ik moet wel zeggen dat het hier voornamelijk op marketing gericht is, zoals bijvoorbeeld clickstreamanalyse. Maar High Frequency Trading is ook een onderwerp.

Maar dan heb je ook een uitgekiende datastrategie nodig. En daarbij is data goverance een must. Dat is een nieuw gebied dat naast corporate governance moet staan. Het gaat immers niet om de controlling van de boekhouding, maar om toezicht over gegevens die bedrijfsbreed zijn. Door de aard van mijn werk kon ik mij meteen inleven in de materie en besef ik ook hoe gevoelig en politiek discussies kunnen worden.

Verder maakt Breur nog een scherpe analyse over het feit dat boren op olie niet zonder risico’s is. Privacy is hierbij een belangrijk aandachtspunt! Er komt trouwens een mooie uiteenzetting aan bod over de verschillen tussen de Amerikaanse en Europese wet- en regelgevingen rond privacy en welke gevolgen dat dan weer heeft hoe met persoonlijke gegevens wordt omgegaan. Ik kon plots de dingen beter kaderen (een AHA-moment alweer!). It’s all about context, zoals Peter Hinssen onlangs nog zei.

En tenslotte, Big Data lijkt een compact boekje van 143 bladzijden. Het is compact, maar het is verdorie volledig!

 

 

Receiving duplicate messages

Something strange happened to my phone when I was out for work in Fribourg last week.

I kept almost constantly receiving the same text messages. First when I arrived in Geneva’s airport and then once I entered Fribourg’s soil. Sender: 50. Content: GENEVA AIRPORT! GENEVA AIRPORT! GENEVA AIRPORT! FRIBOURG! FRIBOURG! FRIBOURG! FRIBOURG! NATIONS OUEST! NATIONS OUEST! NATIONS OUEST! NATIONS OUEST! Ok, I got it.

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I’ve tried to restart my phone multiple times, but there was no change. It really drived me crazy up until the point that I switched off the phone because I didn’t have another choice I thought.

Fortunately I know a few things about how telecom systems operate. If your mobile phone is turned on, it sends out messages multiple times per seconds to GPS towers (and other smart phones too!) nearby. If you move, new connections are established and old ones disconnected. All of this data are relevant to the carrier as they may want to know where you are located at specific points in time. Actually this is how the police would be able to track you based on your IMEI numer too.

As I was in the train mostly and on the move, I think the data got lost somehow and my position became very unreliable for the carrier, which was Swisscom. The messages showed up with a very high frequency then. On the other hand, when I was in the hotel in Fribourg there was a high frequency of duplicate text messages too. So I’m not sure if this is a good explanation.

There’s an option on Android that allow you to enable or disable the receipt of Cell Broadcast messages. I thought that would fix the problem. It did for the carrier messages, but when I returned back to the airport and I had my check-in requested from the Brussel Airlines Customer Service, the same story unravelled.

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I’m quite sure the problem is network related as it is gone now that I’m back on Proximus. But what is the root cause? The weak signal strength perhaps or is it related to the software on my HTC One itself? Or a combination of the two maybe? I came across an interesting forum topic on the same.

 

HTC Sense Toggle on and off

When you swipe down on one of the more recent Samsung devices, you’ll see that there are buttons for switching on and off your data connection, WiFi and Bluetooth. This is a very handy feature and doesn’t ship out of the box with Android. HTC’s Sense skin does not include this functionality. You basically have to swipe and then go to your settings and do everything from there.

A workaround for this is that you add a widget to your homescreen.

1. Customize your home screen

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2. Select your widget and add it to the panel you like.

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3. Taa-daa!

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Meanwhile: iOS 7 upgrade

So Apple launched iOS 7 tonight. The servers do not seem to be able to handle the loads and the sentiment on Twitter says it all:

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Check out @cstross’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/cstross/status/380400458114015232

Check out @WintersJan’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/WintersJan/status/380388887845433344

Check out @fdenkens’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/fdenkens/status/380398635735085056

Check out @librarianbe’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/librarianbe/status/380400861790224384

But Charles Stross nailed it: @cstross: Has anyone succeeded in installing iOS7 on their dead cat? If so, did it bounce?

Here’s my message:

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For the record, note that I am an Android user with a MacBook pro 🙂

ConflICT

Some time back there was an IT director that told me: “tomorrow’s IT workers are increasingly becoming lawyers”. I thought that was a quite bold statement.

But I have to be honest: it’s not funny, it’s bloody true.

The world is becoming more connected, but also increasingly complex. A lot of our IT services have become commodities, and are utilized in a pay per use model, just like water, gas and electricity. Platforms work based on agreements between a supplier and beneficiary.

There’s much more communication between machines than ever before and all happens in cyberspace. Many parameters then come in to the picture. For transactional systems, contracts discuss aspects like what are the cut-off times for transactions, how the provider will ensure an appropriate sizing on peak days, what are the service desk opening hours, availability rates, recovery time & recovery time objective and maintenance windows for instance. What are the termination conditions? You not need to be only technically savvy, but increasingly a juridical wizard too. And yes, understanding the papers can become very complex too.

Another thing I want to draw your attention to is Cloud Computing. One of the important considerations with cloud computing is the location where everything will be hosted. Not an easy choice, as globally different rules apply with regards to privacy and data protection. In 2001 the US government established the so-called “Patriot Act”, which gives them far-reaching powers.

Even within Europe itself, different rules apply but opting for a location in Europe usually gives corporations enough guarantees. The contract then stipulates that the cloud provider should commit itself to the privacy laws that are governed in the beneficiary its headquarters.

Unfortunately, there is still no specific law with regards to cloud computing yet. What makes things more complicated is that legally not all data have the same meaning. For example, customer and personally identifiable information are more sensitive than other data.

Because on a global scales laws are incompatible, countries have a different view on systems. That’s why the US National Security Agency thinks it is okay to track devices all over the world, without prior consent and then even goes a step further to intercept them based on criteria like “Al Qaida”. It is the idea that knowledge is power. Israel spies on US, Brazil looks to break from US-centric Internet and so on. Government agencies don’t always agree with each other, but the one that has the most and powerful resources wins. This is another topic, but a structural problem.

But I hope you see why legal and compliance matter, and why IT folks need these skills too.

I can ramble on even more, if you will.

Aviation Sunday

Yesterday I was at the International Sanicole Airshow.

I had never really heard of this airshow, let alone that I had ever been to one. But this 37th edition was already spectacular to me. You could call it a festival for the aviation crowd. There were participants from all over the world!

All aspects of aviation are basically covered in the airshow: colorful teams, fast jets, old-timers, breathtaking aerobatics, helicopters, gliders, parachute demos, … it’s all in there.

The dreadful weather from last week was suddenly gone. The sun was shining, the commentators were funny and the catering was delicious.

But the main point were the planes and the pilots of course. In fact, there were all sort of aircrafts: general propeller-driven planes, alpha jets, attack helicopters, old-timers, fighters and even a commercial airliner. Headliners such as the Patrouille de France and the Super Constellation were unique. The first one stood out in terms of acrobatics and elegance, while the 1939-built first cross-Atlantic old-timer is just so much nostalgia. The French also have some real fighter planes, such as the Dassault Rafale. It performed tremendously well, showing a high level of agility and the light flares are just so much fun.

The team’s all had their specialisms. It’s interesting to see how the captain leads the teams of mostly stunt pilots. And oh boy, did they show what they are capable of! Some teams formed very elegantly, others were better at acrobatics and others were all about precision and timing.

The Belgian airforce brought their A-109 Augusta. I made a short video of that.

The Red Devils were also present and others I recall are the Red Bull Matadors, Breitling Wingwalkers and Royal Jordanian Falcons. Oh, and the Dutch airforce showed off their AH-64D Apache helicopter.

I really loved the Swiss Airforce’ PC7 Team. They delivered an amazing performance and I was impressed by their precision, elegance and formations they could handle. Here’s another video.

Worth a visit, even if you don’t know much about aviation like me. You’ll definitely learn a few things!

HTC One — The verdict

I have been using my still new HTC One for a few weeks now. Here a few points.

Let’s start with the hardware.

  1. The phone has a metal uniform design, which makes it durable! It only weights 143 grams. On the other hand, with the leather SwitchEasy Flip case for the HTC One, the phone becomes quite heavy though.
  2. Since its only 9,3mm thick, the phone with its curved backing, fits perfectly in my hands.
  3. HTC One uses a 2300 mAh battery. It’s quite powerful and I don’t have to recharge the battery every single day. For me the battery life is quite ok.
  4. The 1,7 Ghz quadcore processor is fast as anything! With 2 gigabytes of RAM, the phone works swiftly.
  5. The 4,7 inch Super LCD screen is good and usually bright, but outside in full day light its often difficult to see the screen properly.
  6. The 4.3 MP camera is quite average. It is known that only in the dark it performs better than its competitors like the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the iPhone 5. Also, a friend of mine recently had to get hers repaired because the sensor was showing grained pixels all over the place.
  7. The front speakers are just amazing and the phone is already replacing my radio with its superior Beats Audio sound system.

On the software front, there’s a lot I discovered:

  1. Runs Android 4.2.2 and comes with a ton of apps. Graphical intensive games also work flawlessly for instance.
  2. I love HTC’s revamped sense skin. It’s much more evolved if you compare it to my HTC Hero days. The BlinkFeed is just great. It’s basically an aggregator of news and social network content. It allows you to add topics and services which you like, and customize your home screen to a large extent. Important updates will then be shown on your home screen, including a picture. A very interesting feature, however the only think I don’t like is the fact that the services are pre-defined and all is under control by Mobile Republic. Alternatives like FlipBoard and Feedly are available of course, but how do you get them on your homescreen? This I still need to figure out. In overall BlinkFeed still works nicely and will enable you to not miss any important Facebook, Twittter or Google Calendar updates either. Highlights flow like a river when you scroll along the grid, and well yes, and pictures tell a thousand words isn’t?
  3. The Power saver feature is handy too. It will conserve CPU usage, reduce screen brigthness, turn off vibration feedback and automatically put to sleep your data connection when the screen is off. Allows you to save so much battery when you don’t need to use your phone intsensively.
  4. One thing I dislike is the fact that you cannot disconnect from the WiFi or turn off your Mobile data instantly. You need to first go to the settings screen, then only you can get things done. There’s a workaround here.
  5. Four shortcuts to frequently used applications can be stored on a dock at the bottom of the screen. Now a very handy thing is that you can also group applications under one “button”. I did this for all my social media apps, like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Availabe now too at the ease of a click in the right bottom corner.

The verdict is a great score of 9 out of 10!

I’m a happy user.

Personal analytics for Facebook

One of the coolest features in Wolfram|Alpha are the personal analytics for facebook.  It allows you to gain unique and personalized information on yourself and your social network by its custom generated reports. Wolfram|Alpha uses its expert-level knowledge and algorithms to accomplish this.

Based on your friend community network, friend statistics, it will show the groups of friends that make up your network, where your friends are living, how popular they are and so forth.

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This gives great insights about your network and your friends, e.g. their genders and relationship statuses.

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And to get a whole new perspective on your friends, you can click anywhere where you see a name pop up to generate a similar report for them based on what they share. Or you can just insert “facebook user: [ID]” in any Wolfram|Alpha search box.

Your daily posting activity gives an idea what you talk about on Facebook, when you are most active and what are your most popular photos.

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That’s pretty awesome isn’t it?

The good thing about these analytics is that it loads your current data from Facebook and then shows a lot of great insights. Your data is cached on the Wolfram servers for one hour, and after that the personal identifiable data is deleted, completely in line with HIPAA standards. However, as time passes you may want to know the relevant changes in your network. For this to work, your data needs to be archived. And yes, there’s an option to enable historical analytics too! As Worlfram states: “The data will be kept private and will only be used to generate reports for you”. If you still have security and privacy concerns, go and read the privacy policy. Some data might be more relevant in the short term than others, like your most popular photos. But it would be interesting to see how relationship status evolve over time and your daily posting activity for instance.

Over a million of people already used the tool, and recently, in addition to collecting some anonymized statistics, Wolfram|Alpha launched a Data Donor program that allows people to contribute detailed data to them for research purposes. This gives insights like how many friends people typically have on Facebook. It turns out this is 342. By donating your archive to Wolfram’s research collection, imagine the possibilities this gives for research on personal analytics and sociometrics.

I’m just so much impressed 🙂

Business Logic Management

Business Process Management (BPM) en Information Management (IM) ineen wordt Business Logic Management (BLM). Het is onder die titel dat Piet Koorevaar en Peter Noordam een boek hebben uitgebracht. Beiden hebben ze jarenlang ervaring opgedaan in de advieswereld en worden ze beschouwd als “thought leaders” in enkele vooraanstaande executive management-opleidingen. Business Logic Management is een echt kurkdroog management boek geworden, maar is wel enorm verrijkend: it makes sense. Ook wordt er niet echt rond de pot gedraaid. In a nutshell: het gaat er in feite om dat het HOE van de organisatie (business logic) het nevengeschikte moet worden van het WAT (producten en markten).  Het dus niet zo dat IM en BPM technisch in beeld worden gebracht, integendeel. In de eerste hoofdstukken wordt er een stevige theoretische onderbouw meegegeven, met onder andere een korte terugblik op de geschiedenis van zowel IM als BPM. Gaandeweg echter wordt de samenhang, ontwikkeling en vereniging van IM en BPM duidelijk. Er is aandacht voor het groeipad naar volwassenheid van deze onderwerpen, en zelfs de organisatorische plaatsing van deze onderwerpen bij verschillende typen bedrijven komt aanbod. Tevens wordt aandacht besteed aan implementatie en besturing van BLM en de samenhang met innovatie, controlling en ICT-services. Voor slechts 180 bladzijden is het enorm diepgaand, maar toch to the point en beknopt. Ik denk dat de auteurs er als geen ander er in geslaagd zijn om aan te tonen dat Business Logic Management een structureel vraagstuk is en een volwaardig, gewenst en waardetoevoegend  managementgebied binnen de organisatie kan zijn. Het boek is bovendien ook heel praktisch. Je kan er in feite meteen mee aan de slag. In bijlage zijn er groeimodellen naar volwassenheid voor zowel informatie als businessprocesmanagment, hulp bij het uitzetten van een integratiepad naar BLM en het gaat zelfs zo ver dat er ook een checklist is voor het toewijzen van taken en verantwoordelijkheden van BLM. Het boek geeft dus een handreiking aan iedereen die vanuit de invalshoek van organisatie en management bezig is met het vraagstuk van het positioneren, het inrichten en functioneren van de combinatie van informatie- en procesmanagement in zijn of haar organisatie, maar kan evengoed gebruikt worden als hulpmiddel voor consultants en eigenlijk is het ook een perfect handboek voor studenten. Voor een management boek geef ik het een 8 op 10: leest enorm vlot en zit vol met referenties naar andere delen waar relevant. Een absolute aanrader als je geïnteresseerd in het gecombineerde managementgebied dat BLM is.

The Age of Big Data

Recently Canvas broadcasted their version of BBC’s “The Age of Big Data”. The premise is that over the last few years, we produce more information than 2000 years ago. Social media, Internet search results, scientific experiments, the stock market are just a few examples of our immense databases and information treasures. But this information first has to be mined before you can leverage. The key to every database that is beyond our imagination is the algorithm.  In the documentary, a few clear examples were given of our ability to process huge amounts of data.  In Los Angeles, crimes are predicted before they occur, in the City the mathematician is the most wealthy, and in South Africa scientists are listening to each and every star in the universe. In overall, it was a good screening. The focus was algorithms, and hence The Age of Big Data failed to address other concerns like how data is extracted, integrated and loaded in a target database. Another imporant idea is privacy and security. Then again, my world is biased of course.