Code Writer is a Metro Windows 8 app that allows users to create and edit documents without even leaving the Modern UI, while also benefiting from helpful tools such as syntax highlighting and tabs.
“The app has been built from the ground up with Windows 8 design principles in mind. It’s fast and fluid, and gives you the power to edit documents with features you’d normally only find in desktop apps. Code Writer is perfect for editing any text-based file, doing code reviews, or giving presentations with code samples,” developers explained in the official description.
It can be installed not only on the desktop version of Windows 8, but also on Windows RT devices, such as Microsoft’s own Surface RT.
AMD has debuted the first commercially available 5 GHz CPU processor, dubbed the FX-9590. These 8-core CPUs are targeted at gamers and high-end users looking to power their rigs with some of the fastest silicon available.
“At E3 this week, [we] demonstrated why [we are] at the core of gaming,” explained AMD exec Bernd Lienhard.
“The new FX 5 GHz processor is an emphatic performance statement to the most demanding gamers seeking ultra-high resolution experiences including AMD Eyefinity technology.”
According to Lienhard, both the 5 GHz FX-9590 and 4.7 GHz FX-9370 feature the “Piledriver” architecture, are unlocked for easy overclocking and pave the way for enthusiasts to enjoy higher CPU speeds and related performance gains. Additionally, the processors bost AMD Turbo Core 3.0 technology to dynamically optimize performance across CPU cores and enable maximum computing for the most intensive workloads.
As you may recall, AMD was the first to break the 1 GHz barrier in May of 2000 and continues to roll out innovative silicon, including the first Windows compatible 64-bit PC processor and the first native dual-core and quad-core processors. Oh, and yes, AMD also introduced the first APU (unifying CPU and Radeon graphics on the same chip) as well as the first x86 quad-core SoC.
The new AMD FX CPUs will hit the streets this summer in two configurations:
* FX-9590: Eight “Piledriver” cores, 5 GHz Max Turbo.
* FX-9370: Eight “Piledriver” cores, 4.7 GHz Max Turbo.
U.S. tech firms who have built their business on a free-flowing Internet just got a huge smack in the face. Leaked government documents seemed to reveal the existence of a top-secret program with the capability to mine their users’ data at will.
Right now, the debate is over exactly what data’s being collected and how—and whether the companies were complicit in letting it happen.
But that misses the real impact of such a program. Regardless of the details, it will damage the reputations of the U.S. as a technology marketplace.
There are many operations that will feel the hit, but the biggest one may be in cloud computing. After all, what foreign company would want to host its data in a cloud that could be rifled at will by the U.S. government?
What We Think We Know
Leaked documents from the National Security Agency and the FBI have revealed an apparent secret government program, code-named PRISM, that is “extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time,” according to the Washington Post.
The data was pulled from the servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple. Dropbox, the Post reported, is supposedly “coming soon.”
The NSA does not monitor every piece of data, the story reports, only targeted individuals. But the capability to monitor the target within all of the companies’ data is there, according to the slides obtained by the Post.
All of the companies named in the leaked slides have categorically denied being involved in PRISM, which is pretty much the only answer they can give: if such a program exists, they are likely bound by court order from revealing their participation, and if it doesn’t exist, then they are truthful in denying it. The U.S. government, for its part, acknowledges that such programs do exist, but that the documents published by the Post and the U.K.’s Guardian contain “numerous inaccuracies.”
Which, alas for the U.S. tech industry, isn’t exactly a “no.”
Perception-wise, the firms named in the leaked slides are screwed. If PRISM doesn’t exist, it will be very hard to prove otherwise in a climate where distrust of government is at an all-time high. If PRISM does exist, then the perception of these companies will either be as lying co-conspirators in a massive breach of user privacy – or incompetent morons who don’t know that the U.S. government can get into their data whenever it wants.
The most likely scenario here is that the tech companies are being very, very literal: they can deny ever hearing of a program called PRISM because they may have really never heard of it. Ars Technica spoke with Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Attorney Kurt Opshal, who outlined what’s probably going on with these denials:
“Whether they know the code name PRISM, they probably don’t,” [Opshal] told Ars. “[Code names are] not routinely shared outside the agency. Saying they’ve never heard of PRISM doesn’t mean much. Generally what we’ve seen when there have been revelations is something like: ‘we can’t comment on matters of national security.’ The tech companies responses are unusual in that they’re not saying ‘we can’t comment.’ They’re designed to give the impression that they’re not participating in this.”
In Cloud We Trust?
Successfully pulling off that impression would seem to be nearly impossible and the nine tech companies named in the PRISM documents are in for a world of pain. Already, U.S.-based users, individual and corporate, are up in arms about the perceived breach, even as the U.S. government insists that it is not spying on its own citizens, but is targeting non-U.S. citizens in its quest to maintain national security.
US companies may end up becoming more active participants in cyber/national security related activities anyway, depending on how Department of Defense cyberwar rules of engagement play out.
Bit for public cloud users who reside outside the U.S., the statements about non-U.S. targets are sure to have a chilling effect. Especially in the European Union, which has been critically examining their data relationship with the U.S. for some time. That relationship, once precarious, may have just gotten pushed off the cliff.
Currently, data generated by European companies is bound by the strictures of the E.U.’s 1998 European Commission Directive on Data Protection (ECDDP), which, among other things, blocks data from being transferred to outside the European Economic Area unless the E.U.’s strict protection guidelines were followed.
The problem is that U.S. laws and policies let data like names and addresses be handled in ways that were way outside the ECDDP comfort zone. This would have effectively prevented any European data from being stored on U.S.-based clouds and data centers, were it not for Safe Harbor.
Established in the Fall of 2000, Safe Harbor is a compromise that would allow data interchange to take place. Safe Harbor requires that companies follow a certain set of privacy practices, such as informing individuals that their data is being collected and how it will be used. If Safe Harbor rules are followed by U.S. companies, which self-certify themselves to be Safe Harbor compliant, then E.U. data can be stored in the U.S., which is handy since many of the world’s biggest public cloud services are located in the U.S.
All of the E.U. nations, with the exception of Germany, are participants in the E.U.-U.S. Safe Harbor agreement. This is why in Germany, corporate workers are prohibited from using services like Google Docs to store and work with company information. (One has to wonder if the Germans didn’t have an inkling that something like PRISM was going on.)
The Europeans have had some qualms about Safe Harbor already. Last July, an independent European advisory body, the Article 29 Working Party, recommended the existing Safe Harbor agreement between the U.S. and E.U. is not enough to provide true security for European organizations’ data. Their argument? That self-certification was nowhere near enough to assure adequate protections.
“…[I]n the view of the [Article 29] Working Party, sole self-certification with Safe Harbor may not be deemed sufficient in the absence of robust enforcement of data protection principles in the cloud environment,” the recommendation stated. “The Working Party considers that companies exporting data should not merely rely on the statement of the data importer claiming that he has a Safe Harbor certification. On the contrary, the company exporting data should obtain evidence that the Safe Harbor self-certifications exists and request evidence demonstrating that their principles are complied with.”
In other words, don’t take U.S. tech companies at their word that they will comply with Safe Harbor rules.
Safe Harbor At Risk
Fast forward to today, when suddenly the Article 29 Working Party’s non-binding recommendation has some teeth to it. European companies and lawmakers are very likely going to look at the events surrounding PRISM and wonder how safe their data would be if stored in a U.S. system.
Amazon and Rackspace, two large U.S.-based public cloud providers, were not named in the PRISM slides, but Microsoft and Google were. While no one knows if the U.S. intelligence services can and were accessing cloud-based data hosted by Microsoft and Google, the integrity of their cloud hosting services will probably be called into question now, especially by companies outside the U.S., which – by the U.S. government’s own insistence – are valid targets for national security investigations.
The E.U.-U.S. Safe Harbor agreement may be the one of first casualties of the leaking of PRISM – even if PRISM turns out to be fictitious. Just the hint that something like PRISM could exist could evaporate a large amount of trust and business for U.S. cloud vendors – even ones not named in the PRISM documents.
Public cloud infrastructure is under serious threat, as users domestic and international start seriously questioning public cloud security and integrity. This may bring a large shift towards private cloud or virtual data centers deployments, as companies seek to protect their data from government’s prying eyes.
Users of Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices got their first look at the company’s newest operating system, iOS 7, earlier today. Not only has Apple given iOS an entirely new look and feel, courtesy of head designer Jonathan Ive, but it has also revealed a revamped suite of core apps like Photos, Camera, Calendar, Weather and others, added new services like iTunes Radio and features like AirDrop, while also making it less lucrative for would-be thieves to steal your iPhone, and much more.
During this morning keynote’s, company execs walked users through some of the biggest changes arriving in iOS 7, which launches in beta for iPhone developers today, with a larger public release expected this fall.
Here are some of the best new features and updates you can expect when iOS 7 ships later this year.
A More Modern Design
Let’s get this out of the way first: love it or hate it, the biggest change is the one we knew was coming – skeuomorphic design is dead. The new operating system has been redesigned from head to toe in a flatter — but not a totally flat — design as some had feared. Instead, there’s a transparency effect in place in many screens, and when you move the device in your hand, iOS now tracks the motion, allowing you to see behind the icons. This is great for background wallpapers, for example, as you’ll get to see more of your favorite homescreen photo previously hidden behind the apps.
Overall, the look is cleaner and simpler in many ways — the ugly green felt is gone from Game Center, for example. It is one of the most-hated apps in terms of being representative of the older, “skeuomorphic” design, which attempted to make apps familiar to users by coating them with elements from the real-world (like leather stitching, felt or yellow-lined notepad paper). The company took several digs at the old style in the process of introducing the new, as well. To be sure, there was no “evolution” at play here — this was murder.
iOS Gets A Back Button (Sort Of)
With an idea borrowed from several third-party iOS apps and BB10 (if you can believe it), the new version of the operating system now has a “back button” of sorts. Except it’s not a button really, it’s a gesture. Unlike on Android, where devices offer a dedicated software or hardware button for the function that means “go back to the previous screen,” the iOS back function is there when you need it but doesn’t clutter up the screen when you don’t.
Instead of a button, you swipe in from the left side of the screen (bezel to screen) to invoke the feature. It works in places you would expect, such as the Safari web browser, as well as in apps like Mail, and elsewhere.
Upgraded Default Apps
Apple has responded to the growing number of apps meant to serve as an alternative to Apple’s default set (think Calendar, Weather, Mail, Messages, etc.) with an overhaul of all its apps that ship with iOS devices out of the box.
Many of these seems inspired by some of the more popular applications in its own App Store, too, if not directly built by third parties, as the new Yahoo-powered Weather app is. Though not identical to the Yahoo Weather app in iTunes (which is arguably one of the highest-rated weather apps of all time), the new native Weather app shares a lot of the design elements, but replaces Flickr photo backgrounds for those of weather animations like rain or snow — also much like Android’s live weather widgets allow for today.
The native calendar app, now clean and white (and a lot like Sunrise), lets you swipe between days, turn to landscape to see a week in advance and zoom out to see your month or year.
Mail, meanwhile, offers big, edge-to-edge photos when used for photo-sharing and lets you take action on inbox messages with a swipe, which is a feature that earlier earned third-party app Mailbox an exit to Dropbox for around $100 million.
Safari got a big revamp too, with fancy 3D-esque tab-switching behavior, improved bookmarking, one-tap access to favorites, and even Twitter integration which lets you see which links your Twitter friends are reading and sharing.
The camera, meanwhile, has been updated with built-in Instagram-like filters, and the ability to swap between the different camera modes like “panoramic” or the new “square” camera view.
Photos & iCloud Photo Sharing
Though technically another default app update, the revamped Photos app deserves a deeper look because photo-taking is one of the iPhone’s (and all smartphones, really) most-used features. The Camera Roll itself has now been improved, organizing photos into “Moments” based on location and time – again, a feature inspired by the work of a number of third-party apps including Cluster, Moment.me, Flock, Tracks, flayvr, and others.
These collections will be auto-labeled with locations you visit. In the demo, that included venues like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Palace of Fine Arts, as well as your home and your kid’s elementary school, for example. But as you zoom out to take a broader view, the locations merge together by date, letting you zoom all the way out to the year view where you can scroll and scrub through the photos, then tap to go into any one.
Built-in to this new experience is something called Air Drop, which is a new way to share photos with other iPhone users. (The poke at Android users: “there’s no need to wander around the room bumping your phone.”) Instead, photos and videos can be shared peer-to-peer over Wi-Fi connections with nearby users on newer iOS devices; they can also be shared via Facebook, Twitter, email, and into iCloud photo streams.
The photo stream was one of iOS’s lesser understood features among mainstream users, but the update makes it more accessible, allowing multiple users to contribute both photos and video, as well as comments to a shared stream.
Everyone had been calling it “iRadio” ahead of today’s announcement, but the feature’s official debut is worth noting even if the surprise was spoiled. As expected, iTunes Radio is very much a Pandora-like experience built on top of the iTunes music catalog and forged through new deals with the major record labels. Like most streaming music apps on the market, you can play pre-loaded stations by genre or create your own “artist radio” station, skipping and favoriting songs to teach the service your own likes and interests.
What Apple’s iTunes Radio does differently is that it also ties you back to the iTunes store, allowing you to “wishlist” your favorites, and purchase those tracks you want to hear on demand. The app is free and ad-supported, but ads are removed for iTunes Match subscribers.
Siri Gets Smarter
There wasn’t as big a focus on Siri as is needed (at least in the keynote demo), but the feature has gotten new male and female voices, which can now speak French and German with more languages coming “in time.” Notably, the service can now control more of your device, including playing back your voicemails, turning on or off things like Bluetooth, increasing or decreasing screen brightness and more.
It has also now integrated Twitter, Wikipedia and search results from Bing, so it can do things like read you Wikipedia entries or pull up web results.
The iPhone’s popularity and high resell value has led to it being one of the most stolen devices, too, but Apple’s new security upgrade is meant to make at least petty crime involving stolen iOS devices not worth criminals’ time and effort. Apple said that hundreds of millions use “Find my iPhone,” but as we know, thieves simply turn off devices and wipe them before re-selling them.
With a new “Activation Lock” setting, a thief won’t be able to reactivate an iPhone without hacking your iCloud user name and password, too. Although no security mechanism is bullet-proof, this makes it just hard enough to deter casual criminals or crimes of opportunity — like the phone that gets left behind at a bar, maybe?
A Better Notification Center
The notification center drop-down has also gotten a makeover, but considering how often users check this screen it’s surprising it didn’t get more show time this morning, when its new feature set was revealed. That being said, the center now splits your notifications more intelligently between top-level categories like “All,” “Missed,” and “Today,” the latter giving you a day-at-a-glance view into your To-Do’s, plus Stocks, Calendars, Weather and a small preview of Tomorrow at the bottom.
Easy Access Controls
A new gesture — a swipe up from the bottom of the screen — will now launch a “Control Center” interface which is like an easier-to-access Settings area. The ability to quickly dive into your Settings is a feature that Android phones have had forever, and iOS users have been clamoring for. Here, you can quickly tap things like “Airplane Mode” or access your Wi-Fi controls, for example, as well as a built-in flashlight (hooray!) and media player controls.
Before, the multi-tasking interface accessed by a double tap of the home button brought up a small rack of app icons running in the background. Today, it displays large windows showing the app’s interface in action instead. More importantly, multi-tasking has gotten smarter without damaging battery life, Apple claims.
Now all apps are able to run in the background, and iOS 7 learns from your patterns of app usage which ones deserve a more regular update. For example, an app you check often like Facebook will be updated more regularly than one you check once or twice per day. In addition, the apps update this information based on other factors, too, like whether you’re in an area with good cell coverage or whether or not you tend to respond to that app’s push notifications. All these things tie in to train iOS 7 to learn which apps are most important to you.
There are a number of new features which Apple didn’t have time to go through today, including FaceTime and iMessage blocking, per-app VPN capabilities for the enterprise, and more, but these are “icing on the cake” type of features on top of those given special attention today. In the weeks ahead, we’ll know more about some of these minor upgrades, as developers begin their beta tests of the new operating system and other details emerge.
The Android version of Chrome has begun carving a niche for itself in the mobile browsing market.
In May, usage of the mobile version of Google’s browser on smartphones and tablets accounted for an all-time high of 3.2 percent, according to Net Applications’ usage statistics. That figure may not sound like a lot, but the browser only crossed the 1 percent threshold in November 2012, and it’s now surpassed Microsoft’s IE at 2 percent of mobile browser usage.
At the same time, Google’s unbranded Android browser, which predates Chrome, appears to be waning. Its usage dropped from 22.9 percent in April to 20.7 percent in May, Net Applications said.
Apple’s Safari continues to dominate mobile browsing, whose growth is outpacing the more mature and stable situation with personal-computer browsing. Even though Apple faces a serious competitive threat from Android phones, Safari still cleaned up with 60 percent of mobile browsing activity in May, Net Applications said.
Chrome is only available on devices running on Android 4.0 or later, which means the large number of phones running version 2.3 of Google’s mobile OS can’t use it. However, Firefox and Opera both work on the earlier versions of Android, and indeed now Opera now is based on the same browser engine as Chrome, offering Chrome fans with older phones something of a lifeline.
Firefox, which isn’t a default browser on any mobile OS shipping today, has very small usage on mobile devices — less than 0.1 percent, according to Net Applications. To try to get a mobile foothold, though, Mozilla has launched Firefox OS, a browser-based operating system due to ship on lower-end phones this year in developing countries such as Brazil.
Although Opera is pushing its overhauled browser for Android devices, its top browser actually is Opera Mini, a much older product that runs on many more phones. Its share of mobile browser usage increased from 9.9 percent in april to 10.5 percent in May, but its fortunes have waned in recent years with the arrival of iOS and Android.
Mobile browsers account for a small but growing fraction of overall browser usage. Mobile browsers accounted for 11.2 percent of browser usage compared to 88.3 percent in May, Net Applications said. That’s short of the all-time high in January of 13.2 percent.
Net Applications measures daily usage, meaning that a single person visiting the same site many times per day counts as much as a different person visiting only once. It also attempts to correct for differences between traffic its own network of Web sites and actual Web traffic. And it screens out page views that result from Chrome’s loading Web pages before they’re actually requested, a performance-boosting feature called prerendering.
By those measurements, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer remained king of the PC browser market in May, with 56 percent of usage. Next is Firefox, at 20.6 percent, then Chrome with 15.7 percent. Bringing up the rear are Safari with 5.5 percent and Opera with 1.8 percent.
Net Applications’ trends show Firefox holding its own for the last year and a half, Microsoft clawing back a bit of usage after years of declines, and Chrome’s growth halted.
Net Applications said IE8 is the most-used version, at 23 percent. IE9 is at 15.4 percent, and IE10, which ships with Windows 8, is at 9.3 percent.
Counting Web usage isn’t a simple matter, though, and different methods can mean different winners and losers.
StatCounter, a usage-tracking site with a different methodology, shows very different results. It tracks every page view and doesn’t attempt to adjust its data for global traffic patterns, but it has begun screening out Chrome’s page prerendering.
StatCounter’s statistics show Chrome as No. 1 and rising in global usage even as IE and Firefox decline.
Google said in May that 750 million people use Chrome each month, statistics that include mobile, PC, and Chrome OS devices.
StatCounter, which uses a different methodology for measuring browser usage (for example, counting each page view rather than a single page view per person per day) shows Google’s Chrome as the top browser by far.
Despite Google Android’s long market-share rise against Apple iOS, developers continued to stick with iOS as their first deployment target. While Android offered superior volume, that volume was fragmented between different versions of the OS and disparate hardware. Meanwhile, Apple offered better development tools plus clearer, more profitable revenue options. Even open-source developers tended to congregate on highly proprietary iOS.
Something changed in 2012, however, and Android-related open-source development exploded.
According to new research from Black Duck Software, new Android-related mobile open-source projects outstripped open source iOS projects by a factor of four in 2012, growing by more than 96% each year since 2007. New iOS project growth, on the other hand, was just 32% from 2011 to 2012.
To be clear, the bulk of developers still prefer iOS, as Appcelerator’s Mobile Developer Survey highlights:
This makes sense, given the target audience for mobile applications: consumers. Even though open source now permeates server-side computing, and drives industry trends like cloud computing and Big Data, it has had a negligible impact on the desktop, where mainstream users don’t want access to source code and simply want polished products that work. Hence, despite the impressive efforts to clone Microsoft Office with OpenOffice and now LibreOffice, the world still happily gives Microsoft billions of dollars of Office profit each quarter.
It’s easier to stay on that beaten path.
Hence, while I don’t expect open-source developer affinity for Android to squash iOS anytime soon, it’s still a troubling sign for Apple. Even on the desktop, many mainstream applications are open source, including Adium (IM client for the Mac), VLC Media Player, Handbrake, and more. And if Android is the place open-source developers target for their innovations, we’re likely to see the next Big Data-like trend emerge on Android, not on iOS, just as Linux is the home of cloud computing and Big Data on the server.
You can’t have a conversation about Big Data for very long without running into the elephant in the room: Hadoop. This open source software platform managed by the Apache Software Foundation has proven to be very helpful in storing and managing vast amounts of data cheaply and efficiently.
But what exactly is Hadoop, and what makes it so special? Basically, it’s a way of storing enormous data sets across distributed clusters of servers and then running “distributed” analysis applications in each cluster.
It’s designed to be robust, in that your Big Data applications will continue to run even when individual servers — or clusters — fail. And it’s also designed to be efficient, because it doesn’t require your applications to shuttle huge volumes of data across your network.
Here’s how Apache formally describes it:
The Apache Hadoop software library is a framework that allows for the distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers using simple programming models. It is designed to scale up from single servers to thousands of machines, each offering local computation and storage. Rather than rely on hardware to deliver high-availability, the library itself is designed to detect and handle failures at the application layer, so delivering a highly available service on top of a cluster of computers, each of which may be prone to failures.
Look deeper, though, and there’s even more magic at work. Hadoop is almost completely modular, which means that you can swap out almost any of its components for a different software tool. That makes the architecture incredibly flexible, as well as robust and efficient.
Hadoop Distributed Filesystem (HDFS)
If you remember nothing else about Hadoop, keep this in mind: It has two main parts – a data processing framework and a distributed filesystem for data storage. There’s more to it than that, of course, but those two components really make things go.
The distributed filesystem is that far-flung array of storage clusters noted above – i.e., the Hadoop component that holds the actual data. By default, Hadoop uses the cleverly named Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS), although it can use other file systems as well.
HDFS is like the bucket of the Hadoop system: You dump in your data and it sits there all nice and cozy until you want to do something with it, whether that’s running an analysis on it within Hadoop or capturing and exporting a set of data to another tool and performing the analysis there.
Data Processing Framework & MapReduce
The data processing framework is the tool used to work with the data itself. By default, this is the Java-based system known as MapReduce. You hear more about MapReduce than the HDFS side of Hadoop for two reasons:
- It’s the tool that actually gets data processed.
- It tends to drive people slightly crazy when they work with it.
In a “normal” relational database, data is found and analyzed using queries, based on the industry-standard Structured Query Language (SQL). Non-relational databases use queries, too; they’re just not constrained to use only SQL, but can use other query languages to pull information out of data stores. Hence, the term NoSQL.
But Hadoop is not really a database: It stores data and you can pull data out of it, but there are no queries involved – SQL or otherwise. Hadoop is more of a data warehousing system – so it needs a system like MapReduce to actually process the data.
MapReduce runs as a series of jobs, with each job essentially a separate Java application that goes out into the data and starts pulling out information as needed. Using MapReduce instead of a query gives data seekers a lot of power and flexibility, but also adds a lot of complexity.
There are tools to make this easier: Hadoop includes Hive, another Apache application that helps convert query language into MapReduce jobs, for instance. But MapReduce’s complexity and its limitation to one-job-at-a-time batch processing tends to result in Hadoop getting used more often as a data warehousing than as a data analysis tool.
Scattered Across The Cluster
There is another element of Hadoop that makes it unique: All of the functions described act as distributed systems, not the more typical centralized systems seen in traditional databases.
In a database that uses multiple machines, the work tends to be divided out: all of the data sits on one or more machines, and all of the data processing software is housed on another server (or set of servers).
On a Hadoop cluster, the data within HDFS and the MapReduce system are housed on every machine in the cluster. This has two benefits: it adds redundancy to the system in case one machine in the cluster goes down, and it brings the data processing software into the same machines where data is stored, which speeds information retrieval.
Like we said: Robust and efficient.
When a request for information comes in, MapReduce uses two components, a JobTracker that sits on the Hadoop master node, and TaskTrackers that sit out on each node within the Hadoop network.
The process is fairly linear: The Map part is accomplished by the JobTracker dividing computing jobs up into defined pieces and shifting those jobs out to the TaskTrackers on the machines out on the cluster where the needed data is stored. Once the job is run, the correct subset of data is Reduced back to the central node of the Hadoop cluster, combined with all the other datasets found on all of the cluster’s machines.
HDFS is distributed in a similar fashion. A single NameNode tracks where data is housed in the cluster of servers, known as DataNodes. Data is stored in data blocks on the DataNodes. HDFS replicates those data blocks, usually 128MB in size, and distributes them so they are replicated within multiple nodes across the cluster.
This distribution style gives Hadoop another big advantage: Since data and processing live on the same servers in the cluster, every time you add a new machine to the cluster, your system gains the space of the hard drive and the power of the new processor.
Kit Your Hadoop
As mentioned earlier, users of Hadoop don’t have to stick with just HDFS or MapReduce. For its Elastic Compute Cloud solutions, Amazon Web Services has adapted its own S3 filesystem for Hadoop. DataStax’ Brisk is a Hadoop distribution that replaces HDFS with Apache Cassandra’s CassandraFS.
To get around MapReduce’s first-in-first-out limitations, the Cascading framework gives developers an easier tool in which to run jobs and more flexibility to schedule jobs.
Hadoop is not always a complete, out-of-the-box solution for every Big Data task. MapReduce, as noted, is enough of a pressure point that many Hadoop users prefer to use the framework only for its capability to store lots of data fast and cheap.
But Hadoop is still the best, most widely used system for managing large amounts of data quickly when you don’t have the time or the money to store it in a relational database. That’s why Hadoop is likely to remain the elephant in the Big Data room for some time to come.
As cloud computing services become ever more popular, you might begin to wonder how much you can really trust them to perform when you need them? I decided to find out – by testing the top file-transfer/file-storage/file-backup services.
In many ways, getting a file from one computer to multiple computers is the most challenging task for the cloud. And because I like to use multiple computers running multiple operating systems, including Linux, Windows and the Mac, that function is particularly important to me.
Cloud Services Can Lag
I am pretty agnostic when it comes to cloud providers – as long as they are free or close to it. However, as I was moving files around while preparing my most recent book A Week at the Beach The 2013 Emerald Isle Travel Guide I was a little surprised at the lags I sometimes experienced using the big-name cloud-based file-transfer services.
More than once when I wanted to use a file from one computer to another, I was disappointed by my cloud services. There were a few times that I got so tired of waiting for a file to show up on my other computer’s cloud drive that I resorted to sneakernet using a USB thumb drive.
After my book was published, I decided to go back and run some simple tests to see just how long the four best-known file-transfer/backup services actually take to put the files where you want them.
To compare Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon Cloud, and Microsoft’s SkyDrive I started by exporting a 500K JPEG test image from Lightroom on my Windows 8 computer directly to each of the four services.
Fighting The Randomization Factor
After running the tests a few times, I noticed what can only be described as random operating system differences. Sometimes the file would pop up first on my Mac and other times it showed up first on my Windows 7 laptop.
In order to eliminate the operating system differences, I restarted the tests and this time stopped the timer when the file showed up on either my Mac running Mountain Lion or my Windows 7 laptop. I also reran my tests with a variety of sizes and types of files. In all I ran twenty-five sets of tests.
The differences were significant, if not overwhelmingly huge. The fastest synchs took less than 3 seconds, while a few others took several minutes. The biggest chunk of tests clocked in between 10 seconds and one minute. A few synchs never completed. But which service recorded the best times with the fewest problems?
Dropbox ended up being fastest 56% of the time. Even more importantly, it was slowest only 4% of the time.
Skydrive brought up the rear. It was fastest on 12% of the tests, but but slowest on a whopping 80% of the tests. It also had two files that never showed up on the Mac and one that never showed on the Windows 7 laptop.
The Amazon Cloud slightly outpaced Google Drive – which had one file that never showed up on the Mac and another that took a very long time to complete.
If my tests convinced me of anything, it is that Skydrive is a work in progress and has a long way to go. I even had trouble setting up the tests on Skydrive.
My tests also revealed a number of odd results. When testing files saved from Word, strange extra files sometimes showed up on all the cloud drives except Dropbox. The file names always began with the characters “~$”. Sometimes the mystery files disappeared and sometimes they hung around.
Cloud Drive Recommendations
So here are some quick recommendations:
- First, do not treat your cloud drive as one huge dumping ground. Create folders and try to force a little organization on yourself.
- If you save a file to the cloud in order to work on it from another computer, quit the application or close the file on the first computer after you have saved the file to the cloud drive.
- Make sure you have a local copy of important files in your documents folder – not just the replicated cloud folder on your computer. Interesting things sometimes happen when cloud files get updated or deleted from another computer. When you come back to the computer where you first created a file, you could be in for a nasty surprise.
- If you cannot get a cloud folder on your computer to update, trying quitting the cloud application or rebooting your system.
Dropbox and Amazon appear to be the most reliable solutions with only occasional delays. Google isn’t far behind, and I can’t imagine that Microsoft won’t work hard to improve Skydrive – the company’s subscription model depends on it.
While both Google and SAP shared a 1980′s music sensibility at their respective conferences this week – Billy Idol performed at Google I/O and U2′s Bono walked the floor at SAPPHIRE – the two companies see the future of computing very differently. Even when the two companies agree on the importance of cloud computing, their strategies couldn’t be more different.
For one thing, SAP’s new cloud isn’t even a cloud. But then, SAP’s Bono wasn’t really Bono, either, but merely an impersonator.
Forrester analyst Stefan Ried takes SAP to task for getting cloud wrong in its new HANA Enterprise Cloud:
“The Hana Cloud is a very careful move to a new business model. It is not disruptive and will NOT accelerate Hana usage to the many more customers who have been struggling with Hana on-premises because of its licensing.
“The announced Hana Enterprise Cloud follows the ‘Bring Your Own License’ paradigm. While this is great for customers that already have a Hana license and would like to relocate it into the cloud, it is useless for customers that might have largely fluctuating data volumes or user numbers and might specifically use a cloud because of its elastic business model.”
In other words, it’s not really a cloud.
Amazon, more than any other cloud vendor, has insisted that such “clouds” don’t deserve the name, as they fail to live up to the very premise of cloud computing: truly elastic, on-demand software. But while Amazon normally reserves its ire for private cloud vendors, SAP’s HANA Cloud is even less of a cloud because it requires you to bring your own HANA license to the party.
Meanwhile, over at Google I/O, Google introduced improves to Google Cloud Platform and made Google Compute Engine available to all. Like Amazon, Google is making a powerful array of infrastructure technologies available on-demand, and totally elastic.
Google, like Amazon, realizes that the future of computing is not going to be won by the vendor with the prettiest device or even the best user interface: it will be won by the company with the best cloud services. As Redmonk analyst Stephen O’Grady pointed out, summarizing Google’s first day announcements:
“[Google is clearly telegraphing that] the war for mobile will not be won with devices or operating systems. It will be won instead with services.”
SAP must see this, too, but appears hamstrung by its past, in true “Innovator’s Dilemma” fashion. It has so much revenue tied up in legacy deployments of legacy software that even releasing a kind-of, sort-of, not-really cloud offering is the best it can do.
This is not to suggest that HANA is bad technology. By most accounts, it’s quite good. But as Ried argues, “The SAP Hana Enterprise Cloud is version 2 of the initial Hana in-memory database, but the cloud offering based on ‘Bring Your Own License’ is more version 0.1 of a cloud business model.”
Which is to say, it’s no cloud at all. While this may not seem like a big deal, enterprises are barreling into true clouds for a wide variety of needs, and no longer merely for development and test workloads. If SAP wants to participate in the future of enterprise computing, it should learn from the companies that are inventing that future: Google and Amazon.
BlackBerry(R) Messenger (BBM(TM)), available to iOS(R) and Android(TM) users this summer, with support planned for iOS6, and Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or higher, all subject to approval by the Apple App Store and Google Play. BBM sets the standard for mobile instant messaging with a fast, reliable, engaging experience that includes delivered and read statuses, and personalized profiles and avatars. Upon release, BBM customers would be able to broaden their connections to include friends, family and colleagues on other mobile platforms.
In the planned initial release, iOS and Android users would be able to experience the immediacy of BBM chats, including multi-person chats, as well as the ability to share photos and voice notes, and engage in BBM Groups, which allows BBM customers to create groups of up to 30 people.
“For BlackBerry, messaging and collaboration are inseparable from the mobile experience, and the time is definitely right for BBM to become a multi-platform mobile service. BBM has always been one of the most engaging services for BlackBerry customers, enabling them to easily connect while maintaining a valued level of personal privacy. We’re excited to offer iOS and Android users the possibility to join the BBM community,” said Andrew Bocking, Executive Vice President, Software Product Management and Ecosystem, at BlackBerry.
BBM is loved by customers for its “D” and “R” statuses, which show up in chats to let people know with certainty that their message has been delivered and read. It provides customers with a high level of control and privacy over who they add to their contact list and how they engage with them, as invites are two-way opt-in. iOS and Android users would be able to add their contacts through PIN, email, SMS or QR code scan, regardless of platform. Android users would also be able to connect using a compatible NFC-capable device.
BBM has more than 60 million monthly active customers, with more than 51 million people using BBM an average of 90 minutes per day. BBM customers collectively send and receive more than 10 billion messages each day, nearly twice as many messages per user per day as compared to other mobile messaging apps. Almost half of BBM messages are read within 20 seconds of being received; indicating how truly engaged BBM customers are.
Today, BlackBerry also announced BBM Channels, a new social engagement platform within BBM that will allow customers to connect with the businesses, brands, celebrities and groups they are passionate about. BlackBerry plans to add support for BBM Channels as well as voice and video chatting for iOS and Android later this year, subject to approval by the Apple App Store and Google Play.
If approved by Apple and Google, the BBM app will be available as a free download in the Apple(R) App Store(SM) and Google Play store. Additional details about system requirements and availability will be announced closer to the launch.
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