Sunday, 29 September 2013

BMC Software’s mainframe user survey

BMC Software, which recently lost a $13 million tax dispute with the US Internal Revenue Service, and which has recently ended its privatization process, has just published the results of its mainframe user survey.

On 25 September, BMC Software released the findings of its 8th Annual Worldwide Survey of Mainframe Users, which revealed that even though Cloud technology is on the march, a majority of companies are planted firmly on the ground with the mainframe.

The survey of nearly 1,300 mainframe users found that that mainframe technology will continue to play a critical role in delivering crucial computing power and take on an increasingly important role in today’s enterprise IT environments. So, that’s got to be good news and the kind of thing that mainframe users like to hear.

Other highlights were:
  • 93 percent of respondents consider the mainframe to be a long-term business solution, although just half of all respondents thought it will attract new workloads.
  • 85 percent said that keeping IT costs down is their top priority, which is an increase from 69 percent in 2012.
  • 76 percent of large shops expect MIPS capacity to grow as they modernize and add applications to address business needs. BMC suggests that this highlights the need for software that exploits specialty engines. I wonder whether they had any products in mind!
  • Perhaps not surprisingly, 75 percent of respondents are concerned about the shortage of skilled mainframe staff. Again, BMC concludes that this makes the need for automated, self-learning software greater than ever. If only there were products out there that could do that!
  • 46 percent of mainframe budgets are spent on software.
  • 66 percent of respondents said availability is a top priority, but 40 percent reported unplanned outage.
  • 66 percent said that mainframe will be incorporated into their Big Data or Cloud strategies.

Jonathan Adams, general manager of data management at BMC Software said: “The unprecedented pace of technology evolution and the consumerization trend only solidify the need for a platform with superior availability, security, and performance capabilities.”
The full results of BMC Software’s Mainframe Survey can be found at:

Just for completeness, the private investor group is collectively known as the Investor Group, and is led by Bain Capital and Golden Gate Capital together with Insight Venture Partners, GIC Special Investments, and Elliott Management.

And that US Tax Court decision stems from 2004’s corporate income tax repatriation holiday. The Court said BMC owes taxes on a portion of its foreign profits brought into the United States under the 2004 tax break, which allowed multinational US companies to bring foreign profits into the US at a 5.25 percent tax rate, rather than the then current 35 percent rate.

Going back to surveys – if you want to have your say about what’s happening on your mainframe, I have some good news. The Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2014 will be inviting mainframe users to complete its survey towards the end of October.

For vendors, as usual, there will be opportunities to advertise or sponsor the Yearbook. More information will be coming soon.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Tips on giving a presentation - part 2

Last time we were looking at why some presentations and speeches can leave you feeling sad or proud or ready to right some injustice, and other speeches just leave you cold – we were looking at what the Greeks called rhetoric. We looked at those musketeers: logos, pathos, and ethos. And we looked at the components of a successful speech: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. And we even looked at the six parts of arrangement: introduction, narrative, partition, confirmation, refutation, and conclusion.

This time I want to look more at ‘figures of speech’, the ‘tropes’ and ‘schemes’. I want to examine the verbal tricks you can use to have an audience eating out of your hand (or to watch out for if you think someone is using these dark arts against you). It’s amazing that they all have names! Here are a few examples to begin with:

Anthimeria – using a different part of speech to act as another, such as a verb for a noun, or a noun for a verb, or an adjective as a verb, etc, eg “I should cocoa”.

Aporia – talking about not being able to talk about something, eg “I can't tell you how often writers use aporia”.
Aposiopesis – breaking off as if unable to continue, eg “it was so awful, I can’t go on”.
Apostrophe (not the punctuation mark) – this is addressing someone or something that is not physically present, eg “Einstein, you’d be proud of my discovery”.
Catachresis – a completely impossible figure of speech, eg “Nick will have kittens when he sees this”.
Erotema – asking a rhetorical question to the reader, eg “Why should you read this?”.
Hyperbole – over exaggeration, eg “I’ve told you a million times”.
Meiosis – understatement (the opposite of exaggeration), eg “I was a tad concerned when I saw the psychopath advancing with a chainsaw”. Litotes (my favourite) – a type of meiosis which uses a statement in the negative to create the effect, eg “Newton wasn’t bad at physics”,
Metaphor –saying one thing is another thing, eg “my daughter’s room is a disaster area”.
Metonymy – using a physical object to embody a more general idea, eg “the PEN is mightier than the SWORD”.
Onomatapoeia – words that sound like the thing they represent, eg “buzzing of innumerable bees”.
Oxymoron – using a contradiction in a manner that oddly makes sense, eg military intelligence.
Personification – giving human qualities to inanimate objects, eg “the brown lawn begged for water”. It’s used a lot in poetry. For real geeks, look out for prosopopoeia. This is a form of personification in which inanimate objects speak! Ecologists might describe things from the point of view of the Amazon rain forest.
Puns – a pun twists the meaning of words, eg “the violinist was as fit as a fiddle”.
Simile – saying something is like something else, eg “her skin was as cold as ice”.
Synaesthesia – this is mixing one type of sensory input with another in an impossible way, such as how a colour sounds, or how a smell looks.
Synecdoche – using a part of a physical object to represent the whole object, eg “have you seen his new wheels”, meaning his new car.
Zeugma – one verb with different objects, eg “I blew my nose and the fuse”.

There’s full list of these (schemes and tropes) on Wikipedia at

You may like to know, in passing, that all these figures of speech can be grouped into four fundamental operations or categories of change, and they are: addition, omission, transposition, and permutation. 

So, if you have to give a talk or a presentation, or you want to persuade just one person, this is the stuff for you. It’s what media gurus teach their clients – business people and TV execs and politicians. Now you know about it, keep your eyes peeled for it in speeches and adverts and when you buy a second-hand car. But make sure you use it when you give a presentation.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Tips on giving a presentation

Ever wondered why some speeches can leaving you feeling sad or proud or ready to right some injustice, and other speeches just leave you cold – you either give up listening or start to hate the speaker? What’s going on?

Well, the answer is verbal trickery – or, to give it its Greek name, rhetoric. Since the time of the Greeks, people have spent ages studying why some talks persuade you to take action and some leave you completely indifferent. They have even named these tricks – and there are lots of them – and some of those names we use every day without thinking about it (like paraphrase and parenthesis, like analogy and anecdote, like hyperbole and innuendo).

We talk about ‘figures of speech’, and, although we don’t say ‘tropes’, which is Greek for ‘turn’, we do say ‘turn of phrase’ and ‘twists in the plot’. The third member of this family of tricksters is called schemes. It’s not a forgotten art, it’s something that we all do quite naturally – almost without noticing it. But if you’re hoping to persuade someone, or a group of people, of something, it’s worth using some of these techniques. Or, if you’re listening to a political speech or an advert or someone else’s presentation, you might want to spot the techniques they are using to cynically manipulate us.

Rhetoric has nothing (necessarily) to do with the truth. There’s nothing for Mr Spock in rhetoric. It’s all about how the speaker can make us feel – it’s an emotional response. If you can get the rhetoric right, you can make a crowd of people (I nearly said mob) feel that any action is the ‘right’ one to take. Powerful stuff eh?

Let’s take an historical perspective for a moment. Medieval universities taught three subjects (called the trivium), and they were grammar, logic, and rhetoric. This study prepared students for the quadrivium – geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and music. No media studies in those days. And it was Aristotle who identified three ways of appealing to an audience, which he called logos, pathos, and ethos (and which everyone thinks must be the names of the three musketeers!). You’ll notice, yet again, that the word ‘truth’ doesn’t appear in the list.

Ethos is where you show the audience how qualified you are to give your opinion on the matter. Think of Troy McClure in the Simpsons, who started every advert by saying: “Hi, I’m Troy McClure. You may remember me from such films/TV shows/etc as…” This, although done for humorous effect – and bad rhetoric is painfully funny – illustrates an appeal to a higher authority.

Pathos is an appeal to the emotions of your audience. You talk about kittens, puppies, very young children having dreadful things done to them – surely we can’t let that happen? And you use the language of the people – you’re one of them – make them empathize.

Logos is the snake in the grass because you think this must be the logical reasoned argument. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s the ‘nine out of ten doctors agree that’ approach. You had to search far and wide to find those ‘nine’. I’m not saying it’s untrue – I’m just saying that logos allows facts to be spun, whichever way you want, to make your argument seem truthful and logical. Remember Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal? He had his own special definition of what was meant by the word ‘sex’. That’s the use of logos.

By the time of the Romans, the design for a successful speech or PowerPoint presentation had been set out. There are five components and they’re called: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery (although they were given Latin names at the time!).

Invention is finding arguments that support your case and arguments to knock down your opponents. Arrangement is pretty much how you would have been taught to write an essay at school – although they may not have used the names. This comes in six parts: introduction, narrative, partition, confirmation, refutation, and conclusion. We’ll come back to these.

Style is how you use words, structure your sentences, and what figures of speech you use (going the extra mile, moving the goal posts, etc). You need to choose between the plain style for instructing an audience, the middle style for moving an audience, and the high style for pleasing an audience. And you can dodge around a bit during your speech to include all three.

Memory includes tricks to help you remember what you plan to say. Nowadays our PowerPoint slides do the work for us. Delivery refers to the management of the voice and the gestures we use. It’s the theatrical part, and it really is the most important part. Great speakers need to have great delivery or else everything else is pretty much a waste of time. Appropriate jokes are good. If someone is laughing with you, you’ve got them on your side. This is the part that many presenters (you know who you are!) need to work on. And remember, audiences read your body language too.

For those of you still awake at the back, let’s pick up on those six parts of arrangement. The introduction (exordium) should draw in listeners and introduce the topic. The narrative provides background information. The partition tells the audience which parts from the narrative will be discussed further. The confirmation gives reasons to agree with the speaker. The refutation shows why you shouldn’t disagree with the speaker. And the conclusion (peroration) pulls all these arguments together. If it’s done properly, you not only agree with the speaker, you want to do something about it!

Next time we’ll have a look at some of those tricks that can be used to wow your audience, get them on your side, and get them to agree to whatever you’re proposing!!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

How are you?

In the past, if someone asked, “how are you?”, you would politely reply that you were fine and ask them how they were. The conversation would then move on. But now, there are apps for your phone and tablet that can actually tell you how are and can make suggestions about how you could be better! Let’s have a look at what’s available.

Apps like Instant Heart Rate from Azumio Inc let you place the tip of your index finger on your phone’s camera and in a couple of seconds your heart rate is displayed. A real-time chart shows your every heartbeat. It uses your phones built-in camera to track colour changes on the fingertip that are directly linked to your pulse. This is the same technique that medical pulse oximeters use.

iPad apps, such as Cardiio (from Medgadget) and What’s My Heart Rate (from ViTrox Technologies), measure your heart rate by detecting the micro colour changes in your face caused by your heartbeat. The increase in blood volume as the blood vessels in the face expand with every heartbeat causes more light to be absorbed, resulting in a decrease in the amount of light reflected from the face. The iPad’s camera can pick up these changes, thereby allowing the app to calculate a person’s heart rate.

There are also apps like Blood Pressure from Klimaszewski Szymon that allows you to keep a record of your blood pressure readings. You can record and describe your readings, view them on interactive graphs, study generated statistics and trends, or filter selected data.

Similarly, apps like Monitor Your Weight from Husain Al-Bustan allow you to enter your weight on a regular basis and monitor it using statistics and graphs. It allows multiple users to be monitored. The app also suggests your ideal weight and, for slimmers, recommends the amount of time needed to reach a target weight, based on your current weight, height, body frame, gender, and age.

Other slimming apps available include Weight Watchers Mobile (from Weight Watchers International Inc), which has an extensive library of over 30,000 foods, includes restaurant meals, and gives a WeightWatchers point value for each entry, as well as calculating your daily point allowance and how many points you have remaining; My Diet Coach (from InspiredApps (A.L) Ltd), which acts more like a supportive friend than a calorie counter; Nutrino (from ComoComo Ltd), which builds a personalized menu for you, taking into consideration how many calories you should be eating each day to reach your goal; and MyFitnessPal (from MyFitnessPal LLC), which works out how many calories you can consume each day to hit your slimming target in the timeframe you specify. You might also like Superfoods (from Chourishi Systems) and Low Fat Recipes (from App Cookies).

Of course, you probably want to start doing some exercise. Your first choice of app might be something like MapMyWalk GPS Walking from MapMyFitness Inc. This allows users to track the route, time, distance, speed, pace, and calories in real-time for their fitness activities using GPS. And soon you might be upgrading to running apps such as MapMyRun GPS Running, which helps runners, joggers, and walkers easily track pace, distance, calories, and time, with audio alerts and much more. Other similar apps include RunKeeper - GPS Track Run Walk from FitnessKeeper Inc, My Tracks from Google Inc, Nike+ Running from Nike Inc, and Sports Tracker from Sports Tracking Technologies Ltd. And once you can run, you may want to go out on your bike. There are apps for that too – Strava Cycling - GPS Riding from Strava Inc, MapMyRide GPS Cycling Riding from MapMyFitness Inc, and Runtastic Road Bike from Runtastic.

There are also lots of daily workout apps available such as Fitness Buddy: 300+ Exercises from Azumio Inc, 7 Minute Workout from mphan, or VirtuaGym Fitness Home & Gym from VirtuaGym. Or you might prefer Daily Yoga (All-in-One) from IMOBLIFE Co Ltd.

How you’re sleeping has a huge impact on how you’re feeling, so you might be interested in SleepBot - Sleep Cycle Alarm from SleepBot. It includes a smart cycle alarm, movement tracker, sound recorder, sleep debt log, data analysis, trend graphs, sleep help, auto-Wifi/silence/aeroplane modes, export, and sync to Other sleep apps are available, of course.

If you want to check your eyesight, you could try Vision Test 2.0 from 3 SIDED CUBE or Specsavers Sight Check from Specsavers.

If you want to relax, you might look at iZen – Art of Zen Meditation (from IMOBLIFE Inc) or even Buddhist Meditation Trainer from Spacebug. iZen works by providing Zen music to help the mind achieve tranquillity and peace. The app has a timer for how long you want to meditate. Calming Music to Tranquilize (from IMOBLIFE Inc) gives you several choices of tranquil sound tracks. Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson (from HiveBrain Software) gives you guided meditation, designed to relax and clear your mind to get you to sleep. Relax Melodies (from iLBSoft) lets you mix your favourite sounds to create and save tracks. It comes with 41 ambient sounds.

Hypnosis – (Free) Relaxation from Nimue uses guided meditation with a voice that speaks throughout the session. It claims to help relax the mind with the use of voice audio and music tracks. Relax Completely from Hypnotherapist Direct Ltd provides a hypnosis meditation session for deep relaxation. Self-Hypnosis for Meditation (from IMOBLIFE Inc) provides sound tracks designed to help the mind find its way to different states of meditation and relaxation. Metaphors and suggestions are also used by the app

And obviously there are lots more apps that you can use to monitor how you are at the moment and help you to take steps to become who you want to be. So when someone asks how you are, you’ll now be able to give them a statistical answer!