Blogging for IBM

16 September 2015 » Cloud, Community, IBM, Writing

Hello all, it’s been a while since I posted content here on my own blog, but I do regularly write for several other blogs, including IBM developerWorks Open, IBM OpenTech, Bluemix Dev, and Thoughts on Cloud.

Here are a few recent entries:

If you’re interested on my take in various areas of cloud computing – particularly in the realm of open source – add those feeds to your reader.

Predictive analytics for football play outcomes

30 April 2012 » Football, IBM, Writing

Inspired by the NFL playoffs in January, I wrote an invention disclosure on how to merge player statistics with current field conditions to yield a visual probability of how a play might turn out.

The end result I envisioned was that you could watch the game on television as a spectator (or in real time as a competing coach) to see what the outcome the system predicted at the start of a field goal or 3rd down pass, for example.

As a sports fan the technology adds value to what broadcasters currently provide with digital first down markers and 3D play analysis.

As a coach, you could confidently plan what your next play would be. If the likelihood of scoring a touchdown was high, you could more quickly decide whether to kick the extra point or go for a two-point conversion ahead of time.

Beyond American football, the technology could be applied to many other situations, such as ice hockey, as well as non athletic events.

  • Example Embodiment #1: Field Goal
    In the NFL, a place kicker lines up to attempt a field goal. Using statistical data about the player (his history of successful field goals from this distance in this stadium) as well as sensor or other real time data about conditions on the field, the system overlays a heat map onto the image on the television screen, showing solid orange where the kick is likely to go (and fading opacity farther away from the center based on the probability). This provides a good indication where the kick will end up, and whether it will be successful. (Figure 1)

    Figure 1: Likely outcome of field goal attempt in this context
    Example Embodiment #1: Field Goal

  • Example Embodiment #2: Pass Play
    In the NFL, a quarterback has his team lined up in a pass formation. Using statistical data about the player (his history of passes from this field position in this stadium) as well as sensor or other real time data about conditions on the field, the system overlays a heat map onto the image on the television screen, showing orange where the ball is likely to go (and fading opacity farther away from the center based on the probability) and yellow highlights the probable receiver. This provides a good indication where the pass will end up, or to which player he will pass. (Figure 2)

    Figure 2: Likely receiver of the pass and field position of the catch in this context
    Example Embodiment #2: Pass Play

  • Example Embodiment #3: Hockey shootout
    In the National Hockey League (NHL), a hockey game has goes into overtime and comes to a shootout to determine the winner. Using statistical data about the player (his history of one on one shots against this goalie in this venue) as well as sensor or other real time data about conditions on the ice, the system overlays a heat map onto the image on the television screen, showing orange where the puck is likely to go (and fading opacity farther away from the center based on the probability). This provides a good indication where the player will shoot.

IBM decided not to pursue a patent, but published the idea to protect the intellectual property. The full article is available behind a paywall at IP.com.

Would be interesting if this serves as prior art for any later invention that gets implemented.

Migrating PHP applications to DB2

08 March 2012 » DB2, developerWorks, MySQL, PHP, Writing, Zend

IBM developerWorks has just published the final part in our series on migrating a PHP application from MySQL to DB2.

Learn why to move a PHP application to DB2, how to plan the migration, how to execute it, how to support it, and how to handle potential risks based on the experience of an IBM intranet application case study. This four-part series shares lessons from a successful MySQL-to-DB2 migration for a mission-critical PHP intranet application used by 4,000 global users within IBM to support content production for ibm.com.

In addition to sharing our own experience, the series highlights the number of resources available to you to carry out your own migration.

Everything old is new again

05 August 2010 » Opinion, Thoughts, Writing

The New York Times has published two articles recently about the perception of a rise in plagiarism in the current school-age, digitally native generation:

In a highly technologized culture where information is cheap and easily copied, students can no longer be trusted or expected to make the effort to be creative, critical and original thinkers.

It’s far too easy nowadays to remix what’s already out there and in so doing, not to properly attribute a source.

Laziness and unoriginality
In the latter Times article, Sarah Wilensky – a college student herself – decries what she sees as both laziness and unoriginality in her peers. Institutions that don’t stridently enforce the rules only accelerate the disturbing trend.

“…Relaxing plagiarism standards “does not foster creativity, it fosters laziness… You’re not coming up with new ideas if you’re grabbing and mixing and matching,” said Ms. Wilensky… in a column in her student newspaper headlined “Generation Plagiarism.”

“It may be increasingly accepted, but there are still plenty of creative people — authors and artists and scholars — who are doing original work… It’s kind of an insult that that ideal is gone, and now we’re left only to make collages of the work of previous generations.”

Combining old elements
But it’s very interesting to contrast this urgent, modern lament against some thoughts from a 1965 book on advertising, “A Technique for Producing Ideas” by James Webb Young, in a chapter titled “Combining Old Elements”:

With regard to the general principles which underlie the production of ideas, it seems to me that there are two which are important.

The first of these has already been touched upon in the quotation from Pareto: namely, that an idea is nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements.

This is, perhaps, the most important fact in connection with the production of ideas…

The second important principle involved is that the capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships.

Here, I suspect, is where minds differ to the greatest degree when it comes to the production of ideas. To some minds each fact is a separate bit of knowledge. to others it is a link in a chain of knowledge. It has relationships and similarities. It is not so much a fact as it is an illustration of a general law applying to a whole series of facts…

The point is, of course, that when relationships… are seen they lead to the extraction of a general principle. This general principle, when grasped, suggests the key to a new application, a new combinations, and the result is an idea.

Consequently the habit of mind which leads to a search for relationships between facts becomes of the highest importance in the production of ideas.

Prior art is everywhere
Young argues that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with leveraging work done by others, in fact it’s the only sensible way to make progress in a society (and run a successful ad campaign). He doesn’t ever consider attribution of these newly forged ideas in his essay.

Moving from abstract ideas to a concrete example, consider a beautiful and unique building near you. It’s largely created from well accepted architectural patterns, common construction tools, and zoning standards. You don’t see attributions on these edifices. They’re not in the blueprints or on the cranes either.

Maybe educating students and aspiring authors to properly credit their sources is the wrong approach altogether. In many ways, it’s a distraction from original thought and pure innovation.

A proposal for a read-mostly society
I believe it should no longer be the burden of the student or writer or speaker to quote his source… it should be assumed, by default, he is building on the work of others and attempting to convey a new idea built on those foundations.

Instead, it should now be up to the reader to accept that the work is derivative and take on the responsibility to vet the work.

Current plagiarism software should instead help suggest attributions… it does, in fact, rely on the same technology to check content against an existing pool of sources. With networked e-book readers and smartphones paired to efficient search algorithms, this should become ever easier.

How can you tell if a piece of work contains original research, legitimate sources or draws reasonable conclusions? Use the reader technology, find the sources and judge for yourself.

Beyond lifting the burden on authors to free them to focus on their original idea, this shift would empower readers to engage their critical thinking facilities through constant and simple source checking. This approach could also neutralize writers with an agenda who may decide to remix ideas selectively to skew a point.

In a technological society formed mostly of passive content consumers and relatively few active content producers this can only be a good thing.

Footnote
Oh, and as far as the unoriginal title to this blog post. Who should I attribute it to, Duke University or the Barenaked Ladies?

I’ll let you and Google decide.

Upcoming WebSphere and PHP book reviews

04 December 2009 » Java, PHP, Web architecture, WebSphere, Writing, Zend

With several vacation days to cash in through the end of 2009, I hope to catch up on some reading and learn more about the latest developments in the two areas where I do most of my work as a Web application developer – Java EE Web applications built on IBM WebSphere and PHP Web applications using various Zend products.

About a month ago I performed a technical pre-publication review of the second edition of the MySQL to DB2 Conversion Guide that was just released this week, but the following books will be covered from an end user point of view, after general availability.

IBM WebSphere eXtreme Scale 6
First up will be IBM WebSphere eXtreme Scale 6 by Anthony Chaves.

Packt Publishing – who have sent me a free review copy – have made “Chapter 7: The DataGrid API” (PDF) available as a free download.

WebSphere eXtreme Scale is an in-memory data grid used to cache objects and improve both performance and scalability in Java EE applications. It’s analogous to memcached.

I’ve read the first chapter so far and am looking forward to diving into the rest shortly, particularly as I continue to tune a high-volume WebSphere application set to launch an update later this month.

Pro IBM WebSphere Application Server 7 Internals
My next review will be a related middleware title, Pro IBM WebSphere Application Server 7 Internals by Colin Renouf. Apress also sent me a review copy of this book, along with the next title.

I’ve read a few chapters so far, and am quite intrigued by how the author has exploited the modular Eclipse (didn’t know that!) underpinnings of WebSphere 7 to produce some interesting system administration plug-ins.

Of most interest to me about this book is that the author is neither an IBMer with access to WebSphere’s source code, nor writing to sell the reader on IBM middleware, but rather a seasoned pro with lots of practical experience getting the most out of WebSphere.

Zend Enterprise PHP Patterns
Finally, I’ll have a look at Zend Enterprise PHP Patterns by John Coggeshall with Morgan Tocker, also from Apress.

Rather than a catalog of architectural, object-oriented software patterns, this book describes several techniques for developing effective and efficient PHP applications using best practices based on Coggeshall’s years at Zend working on several large scale projects for enterprise customers.

I’ve read two of the chapters in this book that are of prime interest to me, “Web Application Performance and Analysis” and “Data-Caching Strategies in PHP.”

The former looks at diagnosing whether an application is CPU, memory, or I/O bound. This server level approach moves beyond profiling PHP code and looking at the hardware itself. Even for applications moving to the Cloud, this should remain extremely relevant.

The latter chapter has much in common with the WebSphere eXtreme Scale product above, so it will be interesting to learn more about the state-of-the-art in both PHP and Java EE Web application performance techniques.

So far so good
Stay tuned for the more complete reviews in the coming month or two. Right now it seems that all three titles are solid additions to any Web application developer’s library, but I’ll hold out my final verdict until I have a chance to evaluate each more thoroughly.

Updated draft MySQL to DB2 migration guide

05 November 2009 » DB2, IBM, MySQL, PHP, Writing

Update: The final Redbook has now been published.

Whei-Jen Chen and Angela Carlson have prepared an updated and more comprehensive draft of the venerable MySQL to DB2 Conversion Guide to cover migrations from MySQL 5.1 to DB2 9.7.

The original version of this IBM Redbook published five years ago looked at migrating database applications from MySQL 4.0 to DB2 8.1.

Chapter 6 of Developing PHP Applications for IBM Data Servers extended the first edition three years ago by showing the changes required to migrate from MySQL 5.0 using the PHP mysql_* and improved mysqli_* extensions to DB2 8.2 using the Unified ODBC (odbc_*), the new IBM DB2 driver (db2_*) and PDO_IBM.

This new draft edition is still undergoing review – I’ve already sent along some comments and contributions from my field notes – and the authors are still accepting suggestions and reviews before they produce the finalized version.

So have a look a the draft, and get your comments to the authors. Otherwise, if you think it’s perfect as is, you can just rate it 5 stars all around. :)

Quotas for Women in Politics

11 March 2009 » Politics, Writing

My sister Mona recently published her first book, “Quotas for Women in Politics: Gender and Candidate Selection Reform Worldwide,” just in time for International Women’s Day.

And it seems to be out of stock on Amazon already :)

Mona Lena Krook

Cat, my parents, and our family friend Mikey Ward took a trip to The Coop at Harvard for her book signing last week and posted a few of the pics on Flickr.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t record her entire talk on video which is a shame because Mona summarized the book concisely for a general audience.

While the book focuses on the various tactics and strategies that parties and legislatures have followed to achieve better representation for women, I think the end goal is what’s most important:

“A society that is without the voice and vision of a woman is not less feminine. It is less human.” – Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland

So, give it a read… it’s just over 200 pages and has great reviews. While you’re at it, buy a few copies for your friends and relatives too!

Up and Running with DB2 on Linux

16 July 2008 » DB2, IBM, PHP, Writing

The second edition of “Up and Running with DB2 on Linux” was published in June. This IBM Redbook gives readers the latest information they need to exploit DB2 9.5 for Linux.

I performed a technical review of this book, recommending updates here and there to the introductory section and the chapter on using the new Eclipse-based IBM Data Studio tool. I also provided the short section on using DB2 with PHP in chapter 8.

The editor took my suggestion to include a link to planetdb2.com in the online resources list, to give readers a way to keep on top of day-to-day news about DB2 from the experts who blog about it.

The entire review process was a great way to learn about the latest developments in the DB2 for Linux world. I hope the book provides you with the same insight.

Have a look and submit your feedback to help improve the next edition.

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