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One of the recurring themes I'm hearing at tech conferences this year is in-memory computing. At the core of these discussions is the need to make data-informed business decisions more quickly. Instead of taking a snapshot from your data sources and loading the data into a data warehouse for analysis, which can take hours or days to get a a number of solutions are promising analytics side-by-side with your transactional workloads in the form of in-memory computing.

What exactly is in-memory computing?

Instead of working with data stored to disk, in-memory computing is centered around data stored in RAM or the CPU cache, which gets the efficiency of the direct access to the system bus you simply can't get from reading from storage.

The speed of access isn't without it's challenges. Memory is notoriously volatile, though purpose built systems designed for in-memory computing help mitigate some of the risk. The other potential challenge of in-memory computing is the tendency for data sets to grow over time. Some of the in-memory solutions currently on the market require memory to increase as the database increases in size.

One of the more interesting approaches to in-memory computing is IBM BLU Acceleration, which combines columnar data storage with a unique approach to data compression that means you don't need the entire database in memory in order to get the full benefit of real time analysis.

What is IBM BLU Acceleration?

BLU Acceleration is a database technology designed for DB2 that converts row-based data to columns for faster processing. BLU combines a mechanism to prefetch the data you need with CPU acceleration to make working with the data faster than traditional methods. BLU Acceleration performs operations on compressed data to further speed analytics. Using a metadata management layer, BLU Acceleration skips any data not needed to perform data processing. All of this comes without the need for indexing or tuning.

How can you take advantage of BLU Acceleration?

If you already use DB2, BLU Acceleration is available for version 10.5. If you're already extracting data in order to gather business intelligence or analytics, this seems like a no-brainer. Being able to move from the ETL world of providing analytics far slower than real time to making business decisions on data that's close to real time means it's easier to spot trends as they happen rather than finding out after the fact. The case studies provided on the IBM BLU website suggest that many different industries are benefiting from making a move to in-memory computing. Beyond working with DB2, there's also integration points for your SAP environments as well.

For some additional information on how DB2 Blu Acceleration utilizes columnar organized datasets, check out this video:

Going digitally dark and giving up my phone for 24 hours extended to something between 36-48 hours. It was actually pretty easy. I did make note of all the times I thought about reaching for my phone, to check the score of the Mariners game, or to look up a restaurant, or to kill time while waiting in line. I do a lot of using my phone as a pacifier when I'm waiting - I'm guessing I'm not alone on that one.

It was much more difficult to get into a mindset of worrying about where my device might be. Because I knew that I had simply turned off my phone and stored it, I wasn't worried. Since I couldn't manufacture a sense of dread, I started to document the various things someone might have access to if they had my phone. I did a video montage of some of the highlights.

If you take anything away from my going digitally dark, it's that you should have a plan for protecting your data should your devices go missing. Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail all let you log out your device remotely, for instance (I'm sure there are other services with a similar feature). By logging out, you reduce exposure.

If you take the extra step to configure automatic data backup to cloud services for things like photos and data, you could use a remote wipe feature to completely remove your data, knowing that you could easily restore the data when you get your device back. At that point, something like Absolute LoJack helps you locate your hardware, but you don't need to be in a constant panic about what someone might be doing with your data.

Absolute LoJack Challenge

To close out the Absolute LoJack Challenge, I'm doing a giveaway. I lucky individual will receive a family pack of five 1-year Absolute LoJack Premium subscriptions. To participate, you need to do to simple things. First, leave a comment on my video about going digitally dark (this video). The second thing you need to do is like the Absolute LoJack Facebook page. Do both of these things no later than 29 June 2014. A random selection will be made from all participants on Monday, 30 June 2014.

If you're one of those folks who prefers to avoid Facebook, YouTube, or both, feel free to skip the giveaway. You can still save 30% on a 1-year Standard or Premium Absolute LoJack Subscription for the device of your choice by visiting the Absolute LoJack Challenge page and using the code DARK30 when you checkout.

BlueMix was one of the most talked about topics at IBM Impact this year. In a nutshell, BlueMix is IBM's platform as a service built on Open Cloud Architecture and Cloud Foundry, with the intent of simplifying many of the commonly repeated tasks facing developers on a regular basis.

BlueMix provides the building blocks to quickly deploy things like commerce solutions, reduce application and infrastructure provisioning, as well as scale with compute and storage as needed for the application. As BlueMix was being described to me by several different people at IBM Impact, I couldn't help but think of it as being something akin to Heroku.

You can find out more about IBM BlueMix in this interview with Stephen Kinder from IBM Impact.

Remote controlled drones were everywhere at NAB earlier this month. At IBM Impact this week, the Drone Zone is showing off just how easy it is to write code to control drones. During the conference I spoke to Josh Carr about how he wrote code that enabled multiplayer control of a drone using Node-RED in just over 22 minutes. Find out how he did it in this video interview:

Node.js is one of the most popular frameworks for people building controllers for the Internet of Things. Node is lightweight and flexible, but it's not the only option. At IBM Impact, Technical Evangelist Tom Banks demonstrated a remote control car powered by Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards that was also running WebSphere Application Server Liberty Profile. If you aren't familiar with WebSphere Liberty (as it's known for short), IBM developerWorks offers a great intro to Liberty Profile. The key thing here is that IBM wanted to demonstrate how Java EE can be used to power the Internet of Things. IoT doesn't require you to necessarily change the way you do application development and maintains all the power and flexibility you have in other development environments.

Watch the interview with Tom Banks for a closeup on the technology in the RC car and his view of the IoT.

This afternoon I had the chance to interview Kris Borchers, Executive Director of the jQuery Foundation. Kris talked about how jQuery became one of the most widely used JavaScript libraries on the planet as well as explaining the role the jQuery Foundation plays in advocating for open standards on the Web. He also talked about the work the foundation does to help make browsing better for everyone. Watch the interview below.

I had the chance to try out Oculus Rift at IBM Impact last night. The virtual reality platform is a highly immersive approach to gaming that should have a lasting impact. Oculus Rift is one of Internet of Things devices showcased in the IBM Impact Social Lounge where developers can interact with sensors, Raspberry Pi, and a number of implementations of sensor technology.

You can see my interaction in the video below.

I also had the chance to chat with technology journalist Gintautas Degutis about his thoughts after trying out Oculus Rift.

I'm headed to IBM Impact tomorrow. It's my first year attending what looks to be a great conference for developers and business process-focused folks like myself. Throughout the next few days, I'll be attending sessions, crossing my fingers for a chance to meet keynote speaker Kevin Spacey, and documenting every step of the way both here on the blog as well as on Twitter and my Google+ page.

Stay tuned for more. And if you attend conferences in Vegas, be sure to check out these conference survival tips.

Audio and Video conferencing solutions help make our world smaller. When traveling isn't practical, a video conference can be the next best thing to meeting face-to-face.

LifeSize, one of the companies doing interesting work in the video conferencing space is looking for your help to make high-definition video conferencing even better.

If you can take 5 minutes to share how you use audio and video conferencing solutions in your workplace, you will automatically be entered in a giveaway for one of five $200 Amazon Gift Cards. Complete the 5 minute survey now.

Recipients of the five gift cards will be randomly selected from all completed entries between received between April 7 - April 18, 2014.

LifeSize video conferencing camera

"My computer only has a VGA connection for video, is there anything I can use to go from VGA to HDMI for my HDTV?"

Purchasing a video card with HDMI or DVI-out, rather than using your current VGA card is a better suggestion if your computer is a desktop system you can upgrade. If you have a laptop that only includes VGA output, a VGA to HDMI adapter is really your only viable option. The reason I recommend a new video card is partly because the new card will also have additional video RAM, as well as being able to support native HD resolutions. If you really need a VGA to HDMI adapter, such components do exist. My favorite source for HDMI cables and other cabling needs, Monoprice, is a good place to get what you are looking for.

Monoprice sells a VGA+RCA to HDMI solution that allows you to take both the video from your VGA connection and your sound card output, passing them through a converter box and outputting HDMI on the other side for about $40. I haven't personally used this device, but similar devices have been known to end up with audio and video slightly out of sync, so it should work well for displaying your computer screen, but might not be ideal for playing video from your PC.

VGA to HDMI Adapter

If you don't need an adapter that connects both audio and video to the HDMI port on your TV, another great alternative is the AmazonBasics VGA to HDMI adapter from Amazon.com.