Monday, January 30, 2012

First 'Super Wi-Fi' network goes live in North Carolina

New Hanover County becomes the first to utilize white space spectrum

By Brad Reed 
Lucky residents of Wilmington, N.C., will be the first in the nation to have access to a "Super Wi-Fi" network.
Officials from New Hanover County, N.C., announced today that they had become the first in the United States to deploy a mobile data network on so-called "white spaces" spectrum that the Federal Communications Commission first authorized for unlicensed use in 2008. The county was able to make a quick transition in using the spectrum for a mobile data network because it was the first to successfully transition from analog to digital television.
"Super Wi-Fi" is essentially a buzzword created by the FCC to describe mobile data networks that run over the white spaces spectrum. The spectrum band's low frequency allows for signals to travel farther and penetrate more walls than traditional Wi-Fi networks.
Television "white spaces" are pieces of unlicensed spectrum that are currently unused by television stations on the VHF and UHF frequency bands and that have long been seen as prime spectrum for unlicensed wireless Internet services. In 2008, the FCC, then headed by former Chairman Kevin Martin, voted to let carriers and other vendors deploy devices in white space spectrum that operates unlicensed at powers of 100 milliwatts, as well as on white space channels adjacent to existing television stations at powers of up to 40 milliwatts.
This past fall the FCC removed the requirement that devices operating on TV bands have built-in sensors that would automatically shut down the devices if they came into contact with an adjacent television signal. Instead, the FCC now says that giving devices geolocation capability and access to a spectrum database will be sufficient to protect broadcasters' spectrum from interference. The spectrum sensor requirement had originally been put in place to satisfy concerns of television broadcasters that were worried that unlicensed use of white spaces could interfere with their broadcast quality.
The debate over white spaces has been a contentious one, with tech companies such as Google and Microsoft pitted against all the major broadcasting companies, as well as major telecom carriers such as Verizon. Proponents of unlicensed white space use have often argued that opening up the spectrum would help bring mobile broadband to underserved regions and would help close the so-called "digital divide" between many urban and rural areas in the United States. On the other side, the National Association of Broadcasters has argued that mobile Internet devices cannot operate on unlicensed spectrum without clashing with broadcasts on nearby frequencies.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Five apps for crapware cleanup

Takeaway: You don’t have to put up with the aggravation of crapware. Here are several effective tools for removing it from your Windows PC.
If you buy new PCs from OEMs, you are probably all too familiar with the plague known as “crapware”: the useless applications that come installed with Windows. Crapware wastes space, often ties up your RAM and CPU power, and can be a major hassle to get rid up. Luckily, there’s a solution. These five applications will help you deal with the crapware quickly and safely.
Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: The PC Decrapifier

Well, it should be pretty clear from the name what The PC Decrapifier does. This zero-install application, shown in Figure A, easily removes the most common pieces of junk that clutter up a new Windows PC. You can run it from a USB drive (great for desktop support technicians), and it has two low-priced purchase plans, one for commercial use and one for individuals.

Figure A

The PC Decrapifier

2: SlimComputer

SlimComputer (Figure B) doesn’t just remove crapware. It also performs basic performance tuning, such as disabling services and reordering startup items. It can remove some of the less intrusive items, too, like links to trial offers. SlimComputer is interesting in that users can give feedback on what applications should be included in the scans, and it uses a cloud-based system to get this crowdsourced data when you run a scan.

Figure B


3: WinPatrol

WinPatrol (Figure C) is not nearly as automated as some of the other tools on this list, but what it lacks in automation, it makes up for with control. WinPatrol provides extensive lists of the applications on your system and gives you the choice to disable or remove them. There is a feature-limited free edition as well as a paid version. Read TechRepublic’s interview with WinPatrol’s author.

Figure C


4: Revo Uninstaller

Revo Uninstaller (Figure D) is an app in the tradition of the uninstallers that were popular in the Windows 9X era. It can show the installed applications on your system and remove them, of course. But more important, it can look at applications that are already gone, find the traces of them that were left over, and give them the heave-ho as well. In addition, it can monitor what occurs during an installation and use that data to completely uninstall an application. Revo Uninstaller has free and paid versions.

Figure D

Revo Uninstaller

5: CCleaner

After you have uninstalled the crapware, use CCleaner (Figure E) to make sure that no traces of it are left behind. CCleaner can also perform the basic tasks of uninstalling software and detecting what runs on startup. It comes in a free edition, a “home” edition, and a commercial user edition. There is also a portable version for running from a USB drive that does not require an installation of its own.

Figure E


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mobile Fuels Africa's Economic Growth

    Mobile Fuels Africa's Economic Growth

  • The mobile explosion in African countries is producing a number of benefits to businesses and the people of the continent.While China gets most of the attention, African economies are growing at some of the fastest rates in the world. Today, the continent is poised to transform the global economic landscape. Interestingly, mobile is seen as both a key enabler to sustain immediate and future growth, as well as a way to leapfrog ahead of many established economies in the use of new technologies.
    To understand the role of mobile in Africa, one need only look at the raw numbers. Nearly 90 percent of all phones in Africa are mobile phones. And by the end of 2012, there will be 735 million mobile subscribers, according the GSMA, a group that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide.
    Across Africa, mobile technology is becoming a cornerstone for industries such as health care and agriculture. And for millions of people, it is making banking truly accessible for the first time. For example, mobile payments have exploded in Kenya. In fact, the use of mobile payments is bringing a small revolution to everyday life in the country where many people do not use a regular financial institution—and fewer than 10 percent have everyday access to the Internet. (So logging in to an e-bank account to transfer funds is not usually an option.)
    Today, close to 18 million Kenyans use mobile phones as a bank account, depositing and transferring money remotely to avoid excessive travel and wait times. Total African mobile money transfers are expected to exceed $200 billion in 2015, accounting for approximately 18 percent of the continent’s GDP, according to Pyramid Research.
    Africa’s leading mobile network providers are helping to fuel the growth of the entire continent by equipping people with the tools they need to improve their lives and livelihoods in ways never before possible.
    The mobile explosion in African countries is producing a number of benefits including:
    1) Providing improved communication capabilities to people without computers or Internet access;
    2) Empowering business owners with real-time market information;
    3)  Helping manage the response to natural disasters;
    4) Connecting people to health information and services;
    5) Making banking services more accessible to more people.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Schedule of 2012 trade shows and conferences in the U.S.

Takeaway: Interested in attending a trade show or conference in your area of IT? Here’s a list of some of the top ones and the information you’ll need.
Despite the grumpy headlines coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show this year, it’s easy to get excited about the prospect of hitting Vegas and checking out all the hip new gadgets, along with the occasional useful new piece of business technology.
For those of us who do tech for a living, there are of course a world of more focused and vertical-specific trade shows and conferences that are a little easier to rationalize in the expense budget. If you are considering attending a conference or two in 2012, here are some candidates where you can share ideas with peers and get courted by tech vendors. Oh yeah, there probably will be some neat chachkes, too.
We’ve broken the shows out by category, for review by your team. We’ve included only shows occurring in the United States, and some obvious candidates (such as Gartner’s Symposium/ITXPO) have yet to set their 2012 dates and locations. And of course this is only a small sampling of what continues to be a lucrative trade show industry. If you know of or are involved with a show you think would be useful to your peers, please add basic information and a link to the show’s site in the comments section of this post.


Jan. 17-26, New Orleans
A wide range of SANS Institute training programs are available in the Crescent City, ranging from Intrusion Detection to locking down virtualized environments. There’s also a “boot camp” if you have team members who need an overall refresher course.
10 Regional Sites in the U.S; two-day events in the Spring and Fall
This show promotes itself as being “:at the intersection of Information Security, Physical Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Computer Forensics, Enterprise Risk Management, Business Continuity and Security Management.” The focus is at the managerial and policy level, but the full range of security issues is covered.
February 14-16, Las Vegas
Tailored specifically for the federal credit union sector, this show obviously will take data security measures and operational lockdown more serious than most.
May 20-13, San Francisco
The 33rd installment of this “flagship” conference promises once again to be about as serious as you can get about security. Much more about research papers and engineering updates than vendor pitches, this is a no-nonsense conference.

Business Design and Innovation

Jan. 23-26, Miami
Most companies know they must develop strategies around mobile, the Cloud and Big Data, and this show promises to help you tie these technologies together in an overall game plan.
Feb 13-16, Santa Clara, Calif.
Sept. 10-13, Chicago
“The Cloud” is here to stay, and this show will focus on key issues such as security, ROI, compliance and governance, and the continuing emergence of the “private cloud.”
March 29-31, Chicago
Gadgets (such as tablets and mobile tech) tend to be the focus at this event, but other issues such e-Discovery and the legal implications of social media are on the docket, as well.
March 6-9, Las Vegas
This show focuses on retail kiosks, interactive advertising and other commerce-oriented technology. Breakout sessions will focus effective digital content strategies.
May 10, New York
Nov. 8, Los Angeles
This one-day networking event spans every aspect of small business operations, but of course there will be a focus on technology - businesses spend a lot of money on technology, after all. “Innovation,” as always, is the keyword.

Networking and Infrastructure

Jan 26-28, San Francisco
Apple enthusiasts love to talk Apple, and there’s no better place than the venerable Macworld Expo (re-branded as iWorld). Topics and products range from consumer innovations (which always grab the headlines) to business applications.
Jan. 31-Feb. 3, Miami
This show will focus primarily on networking issues related to IP-based communications, such as Telepresence, Convergent Billing, Broadband Wireless VoIP and QoS. Vendors and manufacturers offer seminars as well a peer-group events.
Feb. 20-24, Las Vegas
More than 330 exhibitors are expected on the trade show floor for this established event, most focused on convergent and mobile technologies.
March 18-22, Las Vegas
This show, presented by a professional association of data center managers, focuses on both technological and physical challenge of managing data farms, which just keep on growing.
March 19-21, Santa Clara, Calif.
Get hardwired at this leading conference for engineering and design for semi-conductors and other backbone technologies.
March 21-April 1, Denver
This regional show promises a business-centric focus on Apple technology, including round-table discussions with solutions developers and coverage of virtually every business vertical.
March 26-29, San Jose
An extention of the well-established Embed Systems Conference, this umbrella of various shows will focus on education in a variety of arenas, including embedded hardware and software design, total systems integration, power management, android and embedded security. There also will be a Black Hat security breakout.
March 27-29, Dallas
Efficiency is the catchphrase for the broad range of technologies - from virtualization to cooling systems - that will be discussed at this show.
April 15-18, San Francisco
Oct. 7-10, Dallas
This networking event is targeted for communications companies and their suppliers, with a traditional show floor as well as in-depth seminars and peer groups.
April 24-27, Orlando, Fla.
Tech services providers get highly targeted content in a promised 80 break-out sessions. VPs and analysts are on the suggested attendee list, as well as contact center professionals - the full gamut.
May 6-10, Las Vegas
October 1-5, New York
If it’s tech, it’s probably at Interop. The venerable trade show (this year is the 26th edition) remains largely devoted to serious business tech, and so this year’s menu includes the Cloud, Desktop Virtualization, Enterprise 2.0 and “Future of Work” - whatever that means.
June 10-14, San Diego
The networking giant offers a series of educational programs for developers all the way to executives at its annual conference. An IT Management Program promises to focus on the business impact of tech decisions.
June 11-14m Orlando, Fla
Face it - everybody is a Microsoft customer or partner on some level, and TechEd (this year in its 20th edition) is a one-stop bonanza to get informed on what is coming next for the tech behemoth. Sessions range from hind-on labs with new releases to primers on the Microsoft professional certification process.

Enterprise & Business Software

February 22-23, 2012, Miami
Best-of-breed Enterprise Resource Planning vendors will be on hand to present in-depth walk-throughs of their offerings, all in one location.
April 24-26, Las Vegas
Auditing wonks, rejoice - this show is just for you. Topics covered will include social media, building a risk-based annual audit plan, and other course a general discussion of IT Governance practices.
May 7-9, Silicon Valley
This business-to-business show focuses on services relationships in sectors including Knowledge Management and PSA tools to Customer Relationship Management solutions.
May 14-16, Orlando, Fla.
A stalwart of Enterprise Software tradeshows, this year’s SAP event again caters primarily to C-Suite-types who are serious about spending big money on big tech.
June 4-5, Los Angles
Technology will be one of the leading topics at the largest show for accountants in the Golden State. A free trade show floor is accompanied by a paid conference session.
August 13-15, New York
This show, presented by CRM Magazine, will focus on the role of Social Media in Customer Relationship Management, as well as ways to extend the payback on this sizable investment.

Software & Web Development

Feb. 14-15, Honolulu, Hawaii
As is you needed another reason to attend one of the best Web search marketing and optimization tools, this year it is moving to Hawaii. Social Media is obviously high on the agenda, as well as tactics to get on the good side of an increasingly grumpy Google.
Feb. 28-March 1, San Jose, Calif.
The art of getting found in search engines is ever-evolving, and presentations by Google and other leading search providers are just part of the value you’ll find at this show.
May 21-22, San Francisco
Sessions at this cross-platform conference will include the state of Hadoop, trends in mobile app development and HTML5, and using Open Source tools to track and mine unstructured data.
July 16-20, Portland, Or.
The O’Reilly developer show is a staple for coders in the leading go-anywhere platform. This year’s agenda has not been set, but it is sure to be packed with serious tech from folks who enjoy that kind of stuff.

Public Sector

April 3-5, Washington D.C.
Focusing on Government IT sector, this event promises “in-depth” workshops on Cybersecurity, the Cloud, Records and Information Management and Defense Innovations, among other issues.
May 15-17, San Antonio, Texas
Government officials who make or influence procurement decisions may be interested in this three-day show, which includes a certified Continuous Learning Point instructional program.

Just Plain Cool

March 7-8, Chicago
About as micro-niche as you can get, this show will focus on precision manufacturing technologies down to a microscopic level.
May 8-10, Los Angeles
Unless you have an incredibly cool job, you probably won’t be able to justify putting this show in your budget, but how cool would it be to attend a conference about launching satellites and space planes?
Oct. 8-10, San Francisco
This global conference will cover a wide range of municipal topics, from mobility to 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

12 effective habits of indispensible IT pros

Ditch the slackers, take on dirty work, do it with data -- here's how to get the inside track on a highly rewarding career in IT

By Dan Tynan
How do you keep your job -- or get a better one -- in an era when hiring is in a freeze and budgets are perpetually squeezed? Follow these 12 maxims and find out.
Some of these ideas are practical advice you've probably heard before (and ignored). Being familiar with the business objectives and how technology can improve the bottom line is more important than ever. But so is expanding your portfolio of IT skills. Mastering cloud services or data management will help ensure your relevance in a rapidly changing work environment. You'll also want to reach out and communicate with your colleagues across the aisle and the organization, and take on dirty jobs nobody else wants. Eventually it may even mean leaving the comfort of a big organization and branching out on your own.

But remember: Becoming "indispensable" can be a double-edged sword. Get too indispensable and you might find yourself unable to move beyond your niche.
Effective IT habit No. 1: Get down to businessYou may be your organization's most talented developer or dedicated systems administrator. But if you don't know what the business is selling or what service it's providing, you're an unemployment statistic waiting to happen.
First step: Learn as much about the business as you possibly can, advises Mark A. Gilmore, president and co-founder of Wired Integrations, a strategic technology consulting firm.
"Ask yourself, 'How does it make its money? What are its strengths and weaknesses?'" Gilmore says. "Once you understand how the company works, you can use your IT knowledge to improve the company -- thus making yourself more valuable and less dispensable."
It helps to have a deep understanding of the company's critical infrastructure and to keep abreast of tech trends, he adds. But this may also require broadening your worldview.
"Don't look at things from strictly an IT perspective," he says. "Widen your vision to see how things relate to the business world around you. That will make you more valuable than 20 technical certifications and a master's degree."
Effective IT habit No. 2: Keep your eye on the bottom lineYour job isn't just to keep the lights on and the data center humming. It's to help your organization use technology to improve the business -- especially by trimming costs and increasing efficiency.
Servers running at a fraction of their capacity? If you haven't already virtualized your data center, now's the time. Software licenses dragging down your budget? You have an increasingly broad choice of low-cost cloud-based apps that let you pay only for what you use and only for as long as you use it. That's barely scratching the surface.
"IT professionals need to focus on areas which either drive down costs, such as virtualization, cloud computing, and converged networking, or on areas that help to generate revenue, such as social media, mobile marketing, and SEO," notes Rick Mancinelli, managing partner for IT consultants Cloud Computing Concepts. "Ultimately, those IT professionals that have a positive impact on the bottom line will be the most valuable to their employer."
Effective IT habit No. 3: Keep your head in the cloudBecause so many traditional IT functions are moving to the cloud, which any business user can procure with a phone call and a credit card, your company may no longer need you to flip switches, connect cables, or troubleshoot machines. But they will still need someone who can tell them what services are available, which ones are worth looking at, and which ones they should avoid.
"If your organization plans to rely more on public cloud providers, especially for basic infrastructure needs, you may find you need fewer in-house operations people to maintain, patch, and upgrade systems," says Mark White, chief technology officer of Deloitte Consulting's technology practice. "But you'll still require people with expertise in managing a catalog of cloud services, handling subscribers, brokering agreements with cloud providers, and intervening when problems arise.
"The cloud puts greater demands on both your technical and your business-of-IT skills. If you're CIO, it's an opportunity to take your capabilities up to the next level."
Effective IT habit No. 4: Broaden your tech horizonsBesides mastering their own tech domains, savvy IT pros broaden their skill sets to include other areas of expertise. If a crisis arises in one of those areas -- and the persons responsible for handling it aren't available -- you may be able to step in and save the day."This helps employers view them as valuable team players who can easily branch out to handle other jobs," says Dr. Issac Herskowitz, dean of the Graduate School of Technology at Touro College. "And an employee who has more than one area of expertise is more valuable when a department is downsizing."
The easiest way to develop new skills (and impress your boss) is by volunteering your services to other areas of IT and to stay on top of emerging tech trends, Herskowitz adds. The more you know about the latest and greatest tech, the more likely you'll be invited into the conversation when those technologies are being considered for adoption.
Effective IT habit No. 5: Teach your co-workers to speak geek (and learn to talk biz)Want to break down the walls between IT and the business side, as well as earn a little goodwill in the process? Start a series of casual teaching sessions where you bring less savvy coworkers up to speed about the latest in tech, suggests Ben Dunay, founder of Sixthree Technology Marketing, a consulting firm that helps facilitate sales of technology to the military. You might also learn a thing or two about the business along the way.
"Even if you start small and informally over brown bags in the break room, it is a very cool way to step outside the norm and boost your career," he says. "By making the technical terms clearer to the business people, and by making the business terms clearer to the technical people, you can quickly become the go-to guy for your boss when he needs something technical explained to save the day," he says.
The opposite is also true. By meeting with the business side, you'll grow more familiar with their needs and concerns, as well as how they communicate, says Jay McVinney, CEO of DBA in a Box, a provider of on-demand support for Microsoft SQL Server databases.
"The most common failure of technical people is the lack of understanding of the business side," he says. "To be effective in the future, a technical person must learn key business concepts, learn the industry language spoken by their business units, and be able to translate freely and fluently between technical and business units."
Effective IT habit No. 6: Ditch the slackers, find a mentorHanging with a crew that likes to take long lunches and knock off at five (or earlier)? You're not doing your career any good, says David Maxfield, author of "Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success," a book about alter your career-limiting habits.
"The habits that hold you back are likely enabled, tolerated, or encouraged by others," he says. "Use positive peer pressure by surrounding yourself with hardworking friends who share your career goals. Distance yourself from the office slackers."
Instead, Maxwell advises you seek someone with more experience to steer your career in a positive direction. "Find a trusted mentor," he says. "That will help you navigate the career development opportunities that exist within the organization."
Effective IT habit No. 7: Do it with dataIf your business users aren't drowning in information now, they will be soon. Taming the data deluge will make you invaluable to any organization.
"IT people who can make sense of business data, safely store it, categorize it, retrieve it, and especially analyze it are highly valuable," notes Scott Lever, a managing consultant with PA Consulting Group. "These are the people who are using customer data to help drive business decisions."
George Mathew, president and COO of business analytics platform vendor Alteryx, predicts one of the hottest jobs in tech over the next few years will be the "data artisan," a hybrid role that mixes data analysis with business savvy,  pulling market insight, competitive information, and customer data into business intelligence systems.
"Data artisans will be asked to pull from structured and unstructured sources to drive the most important decisions within an organization -- like where it should open its next retail location, whether to pursue a new market, and which products to push," he says.
Effective IT habit No. 8: Take on jobs no one else wantsSafe, predictable jobs won't get you into trouble, but they won't earn you any glory either. It's the tough jobs where you can prove your value, says John Paul Engel, principal for Knowledge Capital Consulting, a boutique management consulting firm.
"The best career advice I ever received was from then president of Citibank California who told me, 'Look for the biggest problem and solve it because there in lies your greatest opportunity'," he says.
Take on a project that's already going well, the best you can hope for is that it will continue to go well. Take on something that's a disaster and turn it around -- even just a little better -- and you get a reputation as somebody who gets things done, Engel adds. "If you make a problem even a little bit better, you are making progress."
Effective IT habit No. 9: Don't be a jerkYou might be the world's most brilliant coder or the industry's leading expert on user interface design. But if nobody likes you, your head is on the chopping block. Given the often challenging personality types drawn to technology, this is especially true for IT.
"Personality goes a long way when it comes time to make cuts in an organization," notes Nathan Letourneau, director of marketing for PowerWise USA, makers of PC power management software. "Companies prefer people with positive attitudes and a good work ethic, even if they aren't as highly skilled as another. Don't be a pain in the butt or overly negative. This isn't to say you shouldn't speak your mind, but just make sure you're respectful when doing it."
Ultimately, managers like to get rid of the troublemakers and malcontents first, says Engel: "At the end of the day, it's the person that makes the work environment of the other coworkers better that gets promoted and is the last to leave in a layoff."
Effective IT habit No. 10: Go publicThat doesn't mean issuing your own personal IPO (though if you could pull one off, more power to you). The more people who know and rely on you -- especially outside your department or organization -- the harder it is to fire you, notes Engel.
If you have a client-facing job, you're less likely to feel the ax on your neck because companies don't generally like to fire people who have relationships with key accounts, he says -- provided, of course, you obey Rule No. 9.
If your job doesn't bring you into regular contact with clients, you can strive to become well known across different departments, especially in larger, more siloed enterprises.
"Look for projects and opportunities that cut across departments because this builds your internal network -- thus making you more valuable to the company," he says.
Effective IT habit No. 11: Don't become literally "indispensable"The problem with being labeled indispensable is that it can become a trap. Your talents can become so critical to an organization's survival that you can never leave or rise to a new position within your company, says Steven A. Lowe, CEO of Innovator LLC, a consulting and custom software development firm.
"A friend of mine is an excellent developer who has created a few critical software systems for the company that employs him," Lowe says. "No one else can step in and do what he does, and the company can't 'afford' to promote him to a more senior position or pay him much more money. So he's frustrated and miserable -- but he's certainly indispensable!"
The way to avoid this trap: Don't hoard information or expertise. Delegate responsibility. Start training your own replacement now, or find ways to outsource your current responsibilities so that you can take on more challenging assignments.
"I have been both indispensable and dispensable, and I had better job security and was happier when I was dispensable," says Jen Hancock, author of "The Humanist Approach to Happiness: Practical Wisdom."
Hancock says, "When I was indispensable, things fell apart. If I tried to take a long weekend I came back to a mess I had to clean up. The longer I was away, the worse the mess. When I finally got my act together enough to manage the work and delegate it out properly, everything ran more smoothly."
Effective IT habit No. 12: Know when to fire yourselfSometimes the best way to become indispensible as an IT pro is to step away from a stifling career path, even if that means branching out on your own.
"I boosted my career by starting my own company," says Lowe, of Innovator LLC. "I doubled my take-home pay immediately, set my own hours, and got to work on really interesting things with highly motivated people."
The notion that a "successful career" implies a steady progression of higher-paying jobs within a company or industry just doesn't apply any more, he adds.
"A successful career today is a journey on which you discover and do what you love," he says. "If that happens to be offering businesses innovative ways of changing their work flow to achieve new levels of productivity and efficiency, that's great. If that happens to be giving guided tours of canyons in Utah (instead of applying the advanced math degree you earned at university), that's also great."
When you're out on your own, being indispensable means solving problems and letting others reap the rewards, Lowe says. "That's pretty much the essence of my consulting career. I innovate, they prosper, we both win. The next time the client has a challenge, they call me first."