Stories by Tom Yager

  • AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Getting past 1984

    Last week I wrote about the need for a voluntary, verifiable digital ID for Internet-connected computerskis. That’s controversial, but not nearly as polarising as the concept of wireless IDs. That brings to mind government-mandated tracking implants that turn us all into moving blips on a giant screen in Washington.

  • Apple’s playing in the big league now

    It’s easy to get sucked in by Apple’s “wow” factors — the appealing design of Mac hardware and the unparalleled enthusiasm that CEO, Steve Jobs, injects into everything he pitches. Apple’s combination of strengths adds up to a great PR strategy, and Apple has a compelling technology story to tell. That has always brought the tire kickers and window shoppers out in droves.

  • AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Identity theft: It’s not about you

    Technology is a real time-saver for criminals. They can scam thousands of less-savvy Internet users by sending legitimate-looking PayPal or AOL queries. Mail promising recipients incredible mortgage rates must rake in piles of Social Security numbers (SSNs), driver’s license numbers, and bank account information. The height of criminal gall was a message I received earlier this month. It warned that some of my Internet provider’s customers had been victims of identity theft, and I was directed to a well-crafted website ostensibly set up by my provider. I checked it out through a cloaking gateway. The site walked me through a maze of harmless questions and “please wait — checking our records” delays to gain my trust, then it asked for my SSN for account verification.

  • Microsoft’s platform play hits big time

    With each new release of Microsoft’s server operating system, pundits are moved to declare that this one is the first Windows truly suited to the enterprise. And it is especially tempting to hang that tag on Windows Server 2003.

  • AHEADE OF THE CURVE: Modelling human behaviour: Insight won’t compute

    Since the rise of data processing in the ‘50s, efforts have been made to apply technol­ogical models to human thought and behaviour. Scientists have drawn direct associations between thought and calculation, human memory and storage (temporary and persistent), telecommunications, and interpersonal contact. What mysteries of humanity might we unravel if we treated the three volumes of Donald Knuth’s The Art Of Computer Programming as psychology textbooks?

  • AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Vendors can’t afford to wait

    Within a couple of weeks of each other, Sun and Eastman Kodak announced disappointing sales of their signature products. Demand for Sun’s servers isn’t keeping pace with projections, and Kodak is having an increasingly hard time milking its old cash cows — photographic film, paper, and chemicals. Neither company is hoisting the white flag, mind you. But as Paul Simon sang in his famous ode to the finest and most fickle slide film ever made, I can read the writing on the wall.

  • AHEAD OF THE CURVE: IBM’s new fab is absolutely fabulous

    Driving around the dreary, identical buildings on IBM’s campus in Fishkill, NY, you’d never imagine that world-changing work is being done there. Hidden inside one of those buildings is IBM’s new 140,000 sq ft chip-fabrication facility. The fab gleams like a diamond in a gravel bed.

  • AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Getting down to business

    For the first time, Apple Computer’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) featured an enterprise IT track this year. It was a gamble; reading mainstream IT publications you get the clear message that the media and analysts are determined to keep Apple in its old box.

  • AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Tape’s last legs

    I’m not inclined to declare something dead just because it’s been around a long time. (I hope no one does that to me). I have defended tape as a backup medium, pointing out to colleagues that whatever else can be said about it, tape works. Moreover, large companies have racks and boxes full of tapes in climate-controlled storage, so they have to keep tape drives to read those archives. To do otherwise would be foolish.

  • AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Now isn’t soon enough

    The needs of transaction-oriented businesses — whether they’re in telecommunications, finance, or retail — are poorly met by most off-the-shelf software. The shortcomings of mainstream database management systems are reflected in posting delays and data lifetime limitations.

  • Vendors need to follow Microsoft's playbook

    Want to put me to sleep? Show me a story about how company X used product Y to solve problem Z. Tales from early adopters often yield vicarious thrills for technologists at more conservative companies, but they never did anything for me. The photo of the confident-looking executive, standing in some hallway, is like an icon inspiring me to turn the page.

  • AHEAD OF THE CURVE: The spirit of Unix

    Several readers took me to task for referring to Linux, BSD, and OS X as Unix. Lighten up, folks — I’m on your side. No one feels more protective of Unix’s heritage than I. Unix has a rich legacy that deserves to be preserved and accurately conveyed to new generations of computer scientists. It rattles many of us to see that the operating systems that best exemplify Unix traditions today aren’t Unix at all.

  • Microsoft’s platform play hits big time

    With each new release of Microsoft’s server operating system, pundits are moved to declare that this one is the first Windows truly suited to the enterprise. And it is especially tempting to hang that tag on Windows Server 2003.