Tag Archives: familiar

IBM blockchain apps starter pack targets developer disparity

Blockchain has emerged as one of the hottest trends in IT, and as such, it suffers the familiar plight of other big IT trends. There just aren’t enough developers to meet the demand to build blockchain apps.

To help boost the number of blockchain developers, Big Blue recently brought its blockchain platform released last summer to new developers, such as beginners with no previous knowledge of blockchain. The IBM Blockchain Platform Starter Plan helps individual developers, startups and enterprises build blockchain proof of concepts quickly and affordably. The package includes samples, tutorials and videos to help developers learn the basic concepts of blockchain and then build blockchain apps.

For $500 month, the IBM Blockchain Platform Starter Plan includes access to the IBM Cloud compute infrastructure, the open source Hyperledger Fabric blockchain framework and Hyperledger Composer developer tools — to run the blockchain ledger. IBM also offers a set of development, operational and governance tools to make it simpler to set up and run a blockchain network. Starter plan customers also get $500 in IBM Cloud credits when they sign on, said Kathryn Harrison, IBM Blockchain offering director.

Kathryn Harrison, IBM Blockchain offering directorKathryn Harrison

Blockchain is a distributed database ledger that manages transactions and tracks assets. It can enable a network of users who wish to securely record, verify and execute transactions. That security is what draws everyone’s interest, but few blockchain application developers have the skills to match.

“While there are a lot of developers that want to get in this space, there aren’t a lot of developers qualified to work on the core of a lot of these protocols from a security perspective,” said Chris Pacia, lead backend developer at OB1 based in Centreville, Va., at the recent QCon New York 2018 conference. OB1 is the parent company of OpenBazaar, an online marketplace that uses cryptocurrency.

Blockchain apps: The ‘cloud’ of the 21st century

Blockchain expertise is the top request among more than 5,000 skills on Upwork,  the organization, based in Mountain View, Calif., that matches freelance workers with employers. Demand for blockchain expertise on Upwork surged more than 6,000% year-over-year in the first three months of 2018.

In a recent Gartner study of nearly 300 CIOs of organizations with ongoing blockchain initiatives, 23% of respondents said that blockchain requires the most new skills to implement of any technology area, and another 18% said blockchain skills are the most difficult to find.

While there are a lot of developers that want to get in this space, there aren’t a lot of developers qualified to work on the core of a lot of these protocols from a security perspective.
Chris Pacialead backend developer, OB1

New York City-based Global Debt Registry (GDR), a fintech provider of asset certainty solutions, adopted the IBM blockchain starter plan to build its collateral pledge registry, which enables lenders to check the collateral positions of the institutional investors to which it lends money. For example, if Goldman Sachs lends money to a hedge fund and that hedge fund pledges a set of assets to them, that fund may also approach JPMorgan Chase & Co. and try to pledge the same set of assets. GDR’s registry would check to see if those assets are double-pledged, said Robert Brown, CTO of Global Debt Registry.

Brown’s team saw blockchain as a good fit because it’s essentially a set of data shared among a group of companies in an ecosystem. GDR, which started with no blockchain expertise, evaluated different blockchain options and selected Hyperledger because it was built from the ground up as a private blockchain. “We have a set of institutional investors and banks, and they don’t want to have their data in the open,” Brown said.

The IBM blockchain starter plan’s tools helped GDR developers build blockchain apps and get up and running quickly on the IBM Cloud, he said.

“Hyperledger Composer let us write our smart contracts in JavaScript, which is a language we’re familiar with,” Brown said. “The API was straightforward to deal with. Composer also has a modeling language that lets you define your data structures and signatures for the objects you create. The tools make it easy to get going.”

OB1’s Pacia said he is hopeful for projects like IBM’s starter plan approach but worries if it will be enough to overcome the low number of people with blockchain expertise. “I’ve seen other efforts to kind of like train people and slowly bring them along so that they can contribute at that type of high level. But it does take a high level of training to do this securely,” he said.

Voice assistants present new challenges for call clarity

As consumers, most of us are familiar with voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, to help us find information, make calls and order groceries using just our voices. In fact, a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers found as owners of voice assistants become more familiar with their devices, they are “speaking more and clicking less.” For example:

  • Nearly 90% of respondents use their intelligent voice assistants every day.
  • Nearly 60% use them to accomplish tasks they previously would have done on their smartphones via typing and swiping.
  • Nearly one-quarter of respondents reported they were making more calls to businesses than they previously did. And 35% reported making more calls to friends and family with their virtual assistants.

Ease and convenience are two of the main factors driving the use of voice assistants to place phone calls, as the popularity of virtual assistants continues to rise among consumers and businesses. Consumers are increasingly using virtual assistants to place calls they would have previously done on their smartphones, tablets or landline telephones.

Despite many pundits forecasting voice is dead, it’s actually undergoing a modern renaissance and becoming more critical than ever — especially for businesses.

Voice assistants should initiate clear calls

Al Castle, vice president of product and engineering at FlowrouteAl Castle

Clear and reliable call quality — regardless of the device a caller may be using — is imperative for today’s businesses. Voice assistants can present unique challenges in terms of audio quality. Issues such as background noise or having multiple voices speaking concurrently can affect audio quality.

Being able to deliver reliable connectivity and strong audio quality when a call request is made through a virtual assistant can make or break a customer service interaction or an important sale, which places a direct correlation between call clarity and a company’s bottom line.

While many businesses have worked to make the customer service process faster, efficient and easier, customers usually want to interact with a live human when they have a personalized or complex customer service question. As this Forbes article noted, “While companies are using AI to address customers’ basic questions and requests, like a change of address or checking on a bank balance, it has not gone to the level of replacing people for handling higher-level questions.”

In this scenario, whether a phone-initiated query comes to a business from a landline or a virtual assistant, customers simply want their calls connected flawlessly. The call audio should be clear and strong, and the call shouldn’t drop during the interaction. Actual issue resolution becomes secondary if customers can’t reach a business in the first place, or if they can’t hear clearly during their call.

Ensure high-quality voice connections

In an age of voice assistants, smartphones and other intelligent devices, the role of voice and call quality is regaining its importance for businesses.

In an age of voice assistants, smartphones and other intelligent devices, the role of voice and call quality is regaining its importance for businesses. As consumers and businesses adopt smart speakers, this new technology will emerge as a viable alternative to traditional telephony devices.

Therefore, businesses should work closely with their communication service providers to ensure a clear, reliable and high-quality voice connection, regardless of the devices used today and in the future, as technology companies continue to innovate and offer new advancements for call connectivity.

Al Castle is vice president of product and engineering at Flowroute, a cloud-based communications provider based in Seattle.

Organize Active Directory with these strategies

It’s a familiar refrain for many in the IT field: You start a new job and have to clean up the previous administrator’s…


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handiwork, such as their Active Directory group configuration.

You might inherit an Active Directory group strategy from an admin who didn’t think the process through, leaving you with a setup that doesn’t reflect the usage patterns of your users. Administrators who take the time to organize Active Directory organizational units and groups in a more coherent fashion will simplify their workload by making it easier to audit Active Directory identities and minimize the Active Directory attack surface.

Here are some practical tips and tricks to streamline your Active Directory (AD) administrator work and support your security compliance officers.

The traditional Active Directory design pattern

To start, always organize individual user accounts into groups. Avoid giving access permissions to individual user accounts because that approach does not scale.

Figure 1 shows Microsoft’s recommendation to organize Active Directory user accounts for resource access.

AGDLP model
Figure 1. Microsoft recommends the account, global, domain local, permission security model to organize Active Directory user accounts.

The account, global, domain local, permission (AGDLP) model uses the following workflow:

  • Organize users into global groups based on business criteria, such as department and location.
  • Place the appropriate global groups into domain local groups on resource servers based on similar resource access requirements.
  • Grant resource permissions to domain local groups only.

Note how this model uses two different scopes. Global groups organize AD users at the domain level, and domain local groups organize global groups at the access server level, such as a file server or a print server.

Employ role-based access control principles

Role-based access control (RBAC) grants access to groups based on job role. For example, consider network printer access:

  • Most users need only the ability to submit and manage their own print jobs.
  • Some users have delegated privileges to manage the entire print queue.
  • Select users have full administrative access to the printer’s hardware and software.

Microsoft helps with some of the planning work by prepopulating RBAC roles in Active Directory. For instance, installing the Domain Name Service role creates several sub-administrative groups in Active Directory.

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How to set up users and groups in Active Directory

Instead of relying on prebuilt groups, think about the user population and how to design global and domain local groups. Try to organize Active Directory global groups according to business rules and domain local groups based on access roles.

You might have global groups defined for each business unit at your organization, including IT, accounting, legal, manufacturing and human resources. You might also have domain local groups based on specific job tasks: print queue managers, print users, file access managers, file readers, database reporters and database developers.

When you organize Active Directory, the goals are to describe both the user population and their resource access requirements completely and accurately while you keep the number of global and domain local groups as small as possible to reduce the management workload.

Keep group nesting to a minimum if possible

You should keep group nesting to a minimum because it increases your administrative overhead and makes it more difficult to troubleshoot effective access. You should only populate global groups with individual Active Directory user accounts and only populate domain local groups with global groups.

effective access tab
Figure 2. The effective access tab displays the effective permissions for groups, users and device accounts.

The Windows Server and client operating systems have a feature called effective access, found in the advanced security settings dialog box in a file or folder’s properties sheet. You model effective access for a particular user, group or computer account from this location. But analyzing multiple folders with this feature doesn’t scale. You have to run it multiple times to analyze permissions.

In a multi-domain environment, nesting is unavoidable. Stick to single domain topologies when possible.

cross-domain resource access
Figure 3. A cross-domain resource access configuration in Active Directory offers more flexibility to the administrator.

I recommend the topology in Figure 3 because while global groups can contain Active Directory user accounts from their own domain only, you can add global groups to discretionary access control lists in any forest domain.

Here’s what’s happening in the topology in Figure 3:

  • A: Global groups represent marketing department employees in the contoso.com and corp.contoso.com domains.
  • B: We create a domain local group on our app server named Mktg App Access and populate it with both global groups.
  • C: We assign permissions on our line-of-business marketing app to the Mktg App Access domain local group.

When you need to organize Active Directory groups, develop a naming convention that makes sense to everyone on your team and stick to it.

You might wonder why there is no mention of universal groups. I avoid them because they slow down user logon times due to global catalog universal group membership lookups. Universal groups also make it easy to be sloppy during group creation and with resource access strategy.

How to design for the hybrid cloud

Microsoft offers Azure Active Directory for cloud identity services that you can synchronize with on-premises Active Directory user and group accounts, but Azure AD does not support organizational units. Azure AD uses a flat list of user and group accounts that works well for identity purposes.

With this structure in mind, proper user and group naming is paramount. You should also sufficiently populate Active Directory properties to make it easier to manage these accounts in the Azure cloud.

When you need to organize Active Directory groups, develop a naming convention that makes sense to everyone on your team and stick to it.

One common group naming pattern involves prefixes. For example, you might start all your global group names with GL_ and your domain local group names with DL_. If you use Exchange Server, then you will have distribution groups in addition to the AD security groups. In that instance, you could use the DI_ prefix.

FS: Intel 5820k CPU, MSI X99a mobo, 16gb (4x4gb) Corsair DDR4 & DDR 3 RAM, Asus Essence STX

I’m selling my Core i7-5820k (if you’re not familiar with Intel’s enthusiast range of CPUs, this doesn’t have an in-built GPU) with an MSI X99a SLI plus motherboard and 16gb (4x4gb) of Corsair Vengeance RAM (the RAM is a warranty replacement direct from Corsair and is still factory sealed). It’s been water-cooled since I got it in early 2016 and very lightly overclocked to run at 3.5ghz since then (which it did at very low temperatures). Looking for £300 all in, delivered. I’d…

FS: Intel 5820k CPU, MSI X99a mobo, 16gb (4x4gb) Corsair DDR4 & DDR 3 RAM, Asus Essence STX

For Sale – Intel NUC i3 – 6gb Ram – 120gb

I have decided to sell my Intel NUC DC3217BY due to lack of use.

If you’re not familiar with these, this is a fully featured Windows micro PC in a form factor no bigger than a typical android TV box.

It’s in excellent condition, still has the protective film on the top casing. Complete with original power supply, but sadly I no longer have the box it came in.

Intel Core i3-3217u
6GB Ram
120gb MSATA
Windows 10 Pro x64

Here is a link to a review for more information:
Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC – DC3217BY) Review

£125 posted.

Price and currency: £125
Delivery: Delivery cost is included within my country
Payment method: PPG or BT
Location: Towcester
Advertised elsewhere?: Not advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

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