NASA needed help earlier this week from Russian ground stations to restore communications with the space station after a three-hour outage during a routine software upgrade.
The disruption occurred at 9:45 a.m. EST. “Flight controllers were in the process of updating the station’s command and control software and were transitioning from the primary computer to the backup computer to complete the software load when the loss of communication occurred,” NASA reported.
As the space station flew over Russia, Mission Control Houston used the Russian ground stations to instruct the Expedition 34 crew to connect to another computer and begin restoring communications.
“The station is still flying straight and everybody is in good shape,” Commander Kevin Ford reported during the pass over Russia, according to audio posted on the NASA website.
Communications were fully restored at 12:30 p.m. EST.
The crew — two Americans, three Russians and one Canadian — then went about conducting the day’s scientific tasks, which included some medical tests on themselves.
Earlier in the morning, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, the flight engineer, had tweeted, “Good Morning, Earth! Today we transition the Space Station's main computers to a new software load. Nothing could possibly go wrong," Computerworld reported.
Posted on Feb 22, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments
If proof were needed that going mobile boosts government productivity and reduces costs, a new study, “Gov on the Go,” from Deloitte University Press, makes a convincing case.
Among other things, the report cites a 2012 MeriTalk study that calculated that if workers were just 10 percent more productive using smart phones, the federal government could gain an additional $2.6 billion in productivity.
In fact, mobile technology also has huge potential as a learning platform, government educators say, although it too faces a slow rate of adoption.
The Deloitte report cites three key areas where mobile technology is a productivity enabler for both government and citizens. Mobile technology:
- Offers great promise in making interaction with government easier, requiring less of citizens’ time, money and effort.
- Allows government to shift from one-way service delivery to a more collaborative, co-designed and co-created model.
- Helps front-line workers not only do more with less due to shrinking budgets and reduced staffing, but also allows them to do their jobs better.
For example, the Air Force Mobile Command purchased 2,725 Apple iPads as “electronic flight bags,” saving $1.7 million in printing costs for the paper equivalent and another $3.2 million annually for printed maps and charts, the study reported. The iPads also cut $770,000 in fuel costs by reducing the weight of the paper onboard the aircraft and reduced by 90 percent the number of staff hours needed to create and update the charts and maps.
“Government, with the notable exception of the military, has been a late adopter of new technologies and business models,” the Deloitte study says. “Nevertheless, it does eventually adopt them.”
That appears to be the case. A Gartner government survey cited by Deloitte forecasts an 8 percent rise in smart-phone usage and a 12 percent increase in tablet usage this year, with federal enterprise spending on mobile “expected to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 4.48 percent through 2015.”
Posted on Feb 21, 2013 at 9:39 AM1 comments
The Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) is leapfrogging from mainframes to the cloud, using customer relationship management software from Microsoft to manage 49,000 inmates in 26 correctional facilities as well as 28,000 parolees, the company has announced.
Microsoft’s Offender 360, released last July, is based on its cloud-based Dynamics CRM platform. The system replaces a 1980s, green-screen mainframe system and 41 separate offender management applications that had become outdated and costly to use and maintain.
With the agency’s Cobol programming workforce retiring and a lack of available replacements in the hiring pool, "we were fast approaching a period where there was no one to do support and maintenance," Taylor told Computerworld.
Budget and ease of use were two other reasons for the switch. The new system “will save Illinois’ taxpayers millions of dollars while increasing public safety throughout the state,” Gov. Pat Quinn said in a release. Illinois DOC expects to see lower costs via paper reduction, improved staff efficiency, and lower recidivism rates, Taylor said. Unlike the old system, Offender 360 allows staff to generate their own reports.
Offender 360 is the state’s first cloud initiative, said Steven Matthews, the DOC’s chief information officer. "Our ultimate goal is to reduce the recidivism rate," said Gladyse Taylor, assistant director of the DOC, reported InformationWeek. The department is using the software to track the behavior of inmates, as well as vocational and educational programs, she said.
The system is about 40 percent deployed. About 5,500 of the department's 10,500 employees will be using the system by this summer, Microsoft said. Illinois DOC plans to add disciplinary tracking and managing sentence credits within the next 30 days. It also is migrating information on sentence calculation, risk assessment, medical records and commissary operations. Once the system is fully up and running the mainframe will be shut down, she said.
Other states are also adopting Microsoft's CRM platform, Dynamics, to speed service and cut costs, although Illinois may be the first state to move to a cloud-based CRM solution to manage its criminal population. Virginia’s executive branch agencies moved to Dynamics last year. Other government entities using or installing Microsoft's solution include the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and Interpol Washington, Microsoft said.
Posted on Feb 20, 2013 at 9:39 AM1 comments
Sandia National Laboratories, like many government agencies, gets thousands of visitors each day searching its websites — some human-generated traffic coming through browsers, and some Web crawlers or bots that could be up to no good.
In order to protect the network, analysts have to sift the bot traffic, which can contain various threats, from legitimate human-directed browser traffic.
But even the best security system can be defeated by a gullible user taken in by a spear phishing attack, one that targets specific e-mail addresses that have something the sender wants.
Sandia computer science researcher Jeremy Wendt wants to reduce the number of visitors that cyberanalysts have to check by identifying the bots. He has developed algorithms that separate robotic Web crawlers from people using browsers, according to the lab. Wendt said he believes his work will improve security because it allows analysts to look at the two groups separately and then identify the possible sources of spear phishing.
According to Sandia cybersecurity's Roger Suppona, the ability to identify the possible intent to send malicious content might enable security experts to alert a potential target. “More importantly, we might be able to provide specifics that would be far more helpful in elevating awareness than would a generic admonition to be suspicious of incoming e-mail or other messages,” he said.
According to its Web logs, the lab said its site traffic is about evenly divided between Web crawlers and browsers. Wendt is looking for a computer that doesn’t identify itself or says it’s one thing but behaves like another, and trolls websites in which the average visitor shows little interest.
Some of the differences between bots and browsers include:
Range: Crawlers tend to go all over; browsers concentrate on one place, such as jobs.
Volume: When bots try to index a site, they pull down HTML files far more often than browsers do.
Identification: Browsers often give their browser name and operating system information. Crawlers identify themselves by program name and version number.
Behavior: Browsers go after only one page but want all images, code and layout files for it instantly, or as Wendt calls the behavior, "bursty." Bot requests, on the other hand, are not bursty, and none of the bots identified had a high burst ratio.
Now Wendt needs to bridge the gap between splitting groups and identifying targets of ill-intentioned e-mails. He has submitted proposals to further his research after the current funding ends this spring.
“The problem is significant,” he said. “Humans are one of the best avenues for entering a secure network.”
Posted on Feb 19, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments
The U.S. Postal Service is ready to try just about anything to reduce its massive deficit, stay competitive with private delivery services and still deliver the mail – although not on Saturdays in future.
Now it’s turning to the public for technology ideas on how to build a “dynamic routing” system that will better speed deliveries, according to the Reuters news agency.
In January the service posted a solicitation on FedBizOpps calling on companies and individuals to create such a routing system that would “offer a more innovative approach to deliver mail given the potential changes in the present rigid delivery structure, without inordinate complexity or lengthy implementation requirements.”
Mail volume has dropped by about 25 percent over the last decade as more Americans use email, the news agency said. A new advanced routing system based on the latest technologies, including GPS, would allow the Postal Service to introduce new products, find better routes for delivery and in the process increase revenue.
"There's an upside and a downside to the Internet," USPS spokeswoman Sue Brennan told Reuters. "It has decreased our first class mail, but what it's done is that people are shopping online and they need someone to deliver these packages."
She said the Postal Service wants a system that will expedite package delivery beyond regular carrier routing that makes the best use of postal resources, its employees, time and fuel, among others.
Posted on Feb 13, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments