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Steve Cassidy

Formula 1: what a difference virtualisation makes

Friday, July 4th, 2014

Dell CaterhamHere at Silverstone the preparations for the British Formula 1 Grand Prix are well under way. While the weekend will be full of headlines surrounding Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and the various other British hopefuls, it’s intriguing to see how important the background technology is; and in particular, how virtualisation is giving Caterham Racing a time-saving edge. (more…)

How to lose a business customer on the web

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

OverworkedPeople talk about Net Neutrality a lot. The fear is that a two-tier (or four-tier or six tier…) internet will develop once the floodgates are open, so that internet businesses can develop cosy preferential relationships with their most profitable partners, relegating all others to less well serviced, lesser performing backwaters that don’t get the offers or find themselves cut out of all sensible forms of communication.

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CeBit 2014 diary: Cameron comes to town

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

IMG_1539

How can one link together rural broadband, Big Data and enterprise resource-planning software? By including a pair of EU leaders in the mix, of course. An early start on the stand of sponsor Software AG at this year’s CeBIT put me in a very unaccustomed position among the scrum of paparazzi, as German chancellor Angela Merkel and British prime minister David Cameron walked up behind a fearlessly simplistic diorama of Smart Big Data at work.

As you may be able to tell from my wobbly picture, the perfectly sensible explanation of how cargo-tagging and inventory management makes shipping more efficient may not have exactly kindled the perfect spirit of European allegiance that both Merkel and Cameron would have preferred as a takeaway message for the assembled press-pack. It certainly fired up Software AG’s Karl-Heinz Streibich, whose German flowed much faster than my talent for translation; I got the idea, in as much as an appraisal of the use of Big Data in an Internet of Things around a container port can be made in a three-minute speech with two impatient heads of state waiting their turn with the microphone.

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HP cuts off upgrades to spite its loyal customers

Monday, February 10th, 2014

No updates for HP servers

If you have an HP ProLiant server, or a ProCurve switch, then you’d better set some time aside before February 19th to download the drivers, BIOS updates, patches and fixes for your model from the HP support website. Because after that date, unless you have a current warranty or a Care Pack Service Agreement, you will be unable to get your download.

In a startlingly brief five-paragraph blog post entitled, with no obvious sense of irony, “Customers for life”, senior HP staffer Mary McCoy lays out the company’s rationale for this move and slips in various interestingly chosen phrases, such as that this “aligns with industry best practices” and that HP is “in no way trying to force customers to purchase extended coverage”.

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How to cancel recurring PayPal payments

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Coins and notes

On almost exactly the first working day after Christmas, I was irritated by £39.99 being spirited out of my bank account by PayPal, sent on my behalf to Microsoft – with absolutely no trackback or narrative to the transaction at all.

This type of transaction is a modern plague and whole lifetimes of reading material on ultimately frustrating and self-indulgent Adventures in Billing stories can easily be found on this subject, starring pretty much every major brand you can think of: Microsoft, PayPal, Google and more. The most commonly cited bad guy in this field is Netflix, whose free startup offer collects your payment details and then seamlessly slides into charging you, by way of PayPal’s repeat-payment system. The email notifying you of the transfer only ever comes after the money’s been sent, not before.

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Stupid Windows 8.1 tricks (or how not to upgrade your PC’s hard disk)

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Business laptops 428There has been a bit of a burst of action lately with engineer’s utility updates. No, come back! This is important.

You may think that “engineers” are a vanishing species and it’s all about just unwrapping the latest Chromebook, which will immediately solve every computing problem you ever had, but it’s not: despite the dire forecasts of the death of the PC, other forces are at work, including both the growing demand for data storage and the relentless pace of hardware improvements.

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IBM Watson meets Willy Wonka

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Question key

Forgive me for a bit of speculation here: I’ve spent a couple of hours in the company of the IBM team behind Watson, the cognitive computing brontosaur which, in 2011, famously won the US game show Jeopardy against two human competitors, in what had all the appearance of a fair fight.

This represented a reasonable test of an entire suite of processes, for breaking down a human language question into a search and then marshalling multiple potential answers into a ranked set of probabilities of being the answer, if not necessarily the one the human was expecting.

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Michael Dell’s reasons to be cheerful

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Michael Dell TechCamp

In retrospect, I should have seen the signs way back. Dell Tech Camp, which has been a largely UK and Ireland-based event in the past, suddenly upped sticks and took itself off to Paris, foregoing the previous offbeat locations for a distinct – if overcrowded – up-tick in the shape of the mysterious Maison de X, which was variously described to me as a “technical college” , “founded by Napoleon”, and “tres chic”.

The press corps was unusually extensive, and packed unusually tightly together on tres chic little gold-painted chairs, so that the head honcho for Tech Camps past could take the stage for only a few seconds and say “who better to tell you what’s going on than… Michael Dell”.

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VMworld: I like Gelsinger when he’s angry

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Pat Gelsinger VMware

I’ve said before that people’s experiences with virtualisation vary wildly. I get on with the whole concept very comfortably, but I know people who still suck their teeth and shake their heads every time it comes up.

The most blogworthy moment of this year’s VMworld conference in Barcelona came when one of the greatly expanded corps of European press came out as a fundamental virtualisation sceptic. One of the problems of being a long-term techie in events that cross several language barriers at once is that the “footprint” of the invites can be spread remarkably wide: I didn’t catch the nationality or publication of the (evidently, lone) sceptic, but there was no mistaking VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger’s reaction.

The sceptic’s perspective was that virtualisation – the whole thing – was just another layer of inefficiency: a software stack that keeps people away from the basic performance of the hardware, which should really be avoided. Surely, he argued, network virtualisation was merely a case of more of the same?

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Windows Server 2012 R2: what businesses have been waiting for

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Microsoft cloud computing briefing

Apparently it rains a lot in Seattle. I wouldn’t really be able to verify that, because I was inside a training suite for the entirety of my visit last week, sitting with the Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 development & marketing teams, working through the new features in Server 2012 R2 which, as you will see in Satya Nadella’s blog post qualifies as the Swiss Army Knife of business server operating systems.

It’s worth a read, because Nadella is the head of the Enterprise and Cloud division at Microsoft. In the past everyone’s been used to thinking “Gates said” or “Ballmer announced”, but this is the new Microsoft, and the degree of autonomy in the Server group is easily measurable by the increased confidence of their presentation.

As always, the weight of the tutorial sessions wasn’t quite the same as the emphasis of the press releases. You may be unsurprised to hear that we didn’t spend very long looking at the new Azure US Government Cloud. Conversely, we spent plenty of time discovering how the new features in Windows Intune combine with non-Microsoft devices to let corporate administrators set up their own, tame App Store-like lists of applications, remote desktop sessions and approved resources.

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