The Mainframe Computer Isn't Going Anywhere - Except Maybe to Mars

 by Steve Moore, Senior Story Strategist, IBM

We'll admit it - some of us at The Computing Center are science and space geeks. So this article about how Mars exploration will essentially require taking mainframe level computer systems along with human spacefarers caught our eye. Also, look at the author's title - definitely cool!  If you're like us - read on! 

 

At the International Astronautical Congress in September, Elon Musk announced a vision to build a base on the moon in addition to his famous plans to build a permanent human colony on Mars. The announcement came with images of rockets, landing pads, refueling tanks and structures for human habitation. It’s an inspiring vision — but it can be easy to forget the individual steps it’ll take to realize the dream.

As Musk makes clear, long before SpaceX sends humans to the moon or Mars, they’ll have to send unmanned missions to establish the early infrastructure. In addition to propellant plants and solar panels, the early missions will almost certainly require systems for receiving, storing, analyzing and transmitting huge volumes of data. And with no humans on site to intervene, those systems will have to be incredibly robust, highly automatic, adaptive, self-monitoring and self-healing.

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Staying on Top of Your Email Inbox

We've all been there. You return from vacation or a holiday and what do you find - hundreds of unread emails! It's tough to sift out the relevant emails from the spam.  And you might miss an important work emails from your employees, co-workers, or clients.  So, what to do?

Here are some tips on how to cut out the spam, irrelevant emails, and other detritus clogging up your inbox. A lot of this junk comes from years of giving out your email address when you sign up for accounts and services, ranging from your email address being sold, to mailing lists you once signed up for but are no longer interested in now.

Try these tips for a few weeks and see how your inbox looks then.

  1. First, start unsubscribing. Look for the unsubscribe link or button on any repeating emails that you don’t want to be on. Multiple emails every day from that vendor that sold you software years ago? Unsubscribe. Never actually read that newsletter you signed up for? Unsubscribe. (Yes, even from our eNewsletter if you don't find our information useful!)

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Remember Holiday and Travel Safety

Many of us start traveling and have guests in town during the holiday season. Schedules get scrambled, everyone is busy and stressed.  So, now, before it all starts,  is a good time to take a few minutes to prepare for a safe holiday season.

In the office, remember to notify clients ahead of time of closures and support hours.  The Computing Center is traditionally closed the day after Thanksgiving.  We'll be open and available every other working day through the end of the year and will be open on January 2, 2018!

And at home, consider these winter holiday safety tips. Turn off lights at night, water your Christmas tree to reduce flammability, keep an eye on what's cooking, and more. And finally, during this time when we see our friends and loved ones, consider creating and discussing a family emergency plan.

 

SSN For Authentication is all Wrong

There is much being written about digital identity these days.  This article, although a bit hard to follow, does a good job of explaining the difference between "identification" and "verification".  All important in our digital age.

Unless you were stranded on a deserted island or participating in a zen digital fast, chances are you’ve heard plenty about the massive Equifax breach and the head-rolling fallout. In the flurry of headlines and advice about credit freezes an important part of the conversation was lost: if we didn’t misuse our social security numbers, losing them wouldn’t be a big deal. Let me explain: Most people, and that mainly includes some pretty high-up identity experts that I’ve met in my travels, don’t understand the difference between identification and verification. In the real world, conflating those two points doesn’t often have dire consequences. In the digital world, it’s a huge mistake that can lead to severe impacts.

Isn’t it all just authentication you may ask? Well, yes, identification and verification are both parts of the authentication whole, but failure to understand the differences is where the mess comes in. However, one reason it’s so hard for many of us to separate identification and verification is that historically we haven’t had to. Think back to how humans authenticated to each other before the ability to travel long distances came into the picture. Our circle of acquaintances was pretty small and we knew each other by sight and sound. Just by looking at your neighbor, Bob, you could authenticate him. If you met a stranger, chances are someone else in the village knew the stranger and could vouch for her.

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Why Bother with Upgrades & Updates


"If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" That saying applies in many places, but NOT to computer hardware and software. It’s clear that many of today’s cyber attacks prey on vulnerabilities present in old software and hardware. This is especially true for operating systems such as Microsoft Windows.

It may not be “broke”, but it’s still old and very likely out-of-date. “Working” does not mean “secure”. Old software and hardware simply do not have the latest defenses like security patches and advances in firmware to keep you safe from new and ever-evolving threats. And depending on how old, some products are no longer supported or able to be upgraded at all.

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