SiliconANGLE http://siliconangle.com Extracting the signal from the noise. Fri, 27 Feb 2015 05:53:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Deep-linking startup Branch Metrics takes $15 million Series A http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/deep-linking-startup-branch-metrics-takes-15-million-series-a/ http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/deep-linking-startup-branch-metrics-takes-15-million-series-a/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 04:15:35 +0000 http://siliconangle.com/?p=221114 Continue reading ]]> branchDeep-linking startup Branch Metrics Inc. has raised $15 million Series A in a round co-led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Ben Narasin, that included Pejman Mar Ventures, Zach Coelius, Cowboy Ventures and TriplePoint Capital.

The company offers a solution that promises to make app installs, sharing, and user viewing experiences that are seamless and don’t break at the app store.

The Branch Metrics platform powers links that point back to apps for shares, invites, referrals, and more. The company claims to make it incredibly simple to create powerful deeplinks that can pass data across app install, making the entire app experience better.

“Four years ago, just 3% of Internet use was through a mobile device – today the total is nearly 40%. As native application use is the preferred mobile experience, Branch links make the native app transitions much smoother for the end user and more like the familiar experience of web page transitions,” CEO and co-founder of Branch Alex Austin said in a statement.  “At the rate developers are adopting Branch links, it’s very likely that by the end of 2015, every person with a smartphone will have benefited from our technology.”

Since launching five months ago, the company has delivered 20 million links to pages inside apps across their network of app developers, with the total number of links expected to grow more than over 100 million within three months.

Current customers include HotelTonight, iHeartRadio, Instacart, Coffee Meets Bagel and more.

Based in Palo Alto, Branch Metrics has raised $18.1 million to-date including this new round.

The company said it would use the new funding for market expansion of their mobile linking platform.

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Box debuts new features and integrations for the financial services sector http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/box-debuts-new-features-and-integrations-for-the-financial-services-sector/ http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/box-debuts-new-features-and-integrations-for-the-financial-services-sector/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 00:00:02 +0000 http://siliconangle.com/?p=220357 Continue reading ]]> Box logoBox Inc. is moving another notch down its checklist for industry-specific functionality with the introduction of new capabilities aimed at addressing the strict data management requirements of financial institutions. The launch marks the latest milestone in a long-running push toward vertical integration.

The corporate file-sharing juggernaut’s journey to become more than just another horizontal storage player traces back nearly three years to the launch of its data integration service, which opened the way for partners to provide value-added functionality. The ecosystem reached 1,000 applications last March, when Box gave the first hints of its intentions to take the plan the next level.

Half a year later, the cloud giant debuted a structured effort to tackle industry-specific demands that took its strategy beyond partnerships with a build-in workflow management technology capable of automatically enforcing how information is accessed and shared. The new features unveiled this morning extend that functionality into the most compliance-conscious parts of the financial world.

The biggest addition is the ability to regulate how long records are kept around and where, a crucial requirement for heavily-regulated organizations such as banks that must meet rigid retention guidelines. Deleting a file prematurely can create critical accountability gaps that have the potential to severely backfire in the event of an audit, while holding onto data for too long often carries serious legal repercussions.

The new functionality leverages the workflow management feature that Box introduced in September to automatically label sensitives files with metadata tags describing the specific time constraints on each. Administrators can search documents based on those markers and modify them to change retention limits across a particular collection of documents with a single action instead of having to manually reconfigure each one.

The capability can also be applied to copies moved outside the original folder, which pose a major administrative challenge in enterprise environments where data is often shared among large groups often extending beyond the organization. Box intends to double down on that issue later in the quarter with the scheduled addition of a watermarking feature specifically designed to curtail leaks.

The function will provide the option to assign a unique identifier to every person viewing a document, regardless of whether or not they’re logged in, that will be prominently visible on each page. That is meant to provide organizations with the means to trace the source of unauthorized screenshots to the specific individual and thereby deter such activity.

Rounding out the controls is integration with Bloomberg Vault that provides auditing capabilities to track policy changes, which adds another line of defense against compliance breaches. Forthcoming certification for SEC Rule 17a-4 compliance will open up the functionality for trading and brokerage firms dealing in financial securities.

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Big Data winners using inline analytics to derive large ROIs from their investment http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/big-data-winners-using-inline-analytics-to-derive-large-rois-from-their-investment/ http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/big-data-winners-using-inline-analytics-to-derive-large-rois-from-their-investment/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 20:43:18 +0000 http://siliconangle.com/?p=221079 Continue reading ]]> Inline_AnalyticsA recent poll of Wikibon community members revealed that many are implementing initial Big Data systems. The vast majority of these, however, focus on an IT operational expense reduction in which large amounts of older company data is archived out of more expensive database engines into Hadoop. The unstructured data can be added to support deep-dive analytics, often accessible only to a relatively few people in the organization. These applications provide experience for IT, but on average have only yielded an ROI of 55 cents on each dollar invested.

However, writes Wikibon CTO David Floyer, a small number of respondents are realizing much higher returns. These companies have several things in common. They target business issues rather than internal IT organizational cost savings. They use inline analytics integrated into operational systems and designed to improve organizational processes. These algorithms are often, but not always, supported by data tables developed using deep dive analysis of Big Data in Hadoop. They often use databases that run either on DRAM or flash to provide real-time responses. And they eliminate traditional extract, transform and load (ETL) processes, which are too slow to support real-time analysis of large volumes of streaming data.

These new systems have radically changed the way Big Data is monetized and managed. Rather than providing insights to a few individuals, they are accessible to a large population of users who use the analytics to guide business decisions at all levels of the organization. They allow users to change the way operational systems work, and because they are real-time, they are forward-looking and predictive, in contrast to traditional backward-looking analysis of what the organization did in the last month, quarter or year. The extended use of data-in-memory and flash technologies to avoid magnetic media bottlenecks is an essential component of these systems. A small team of operational experts and data scientists use deep-data analytics to improve the algorithms.

Floyer takes a more detailed look at four of the leading in-memory database engines: Aerospike, Inc., IBM BLU, Oracle 12c, and SAP HANA. He says that based on interviews with customers and analysis of alternatives, IBM DB2 with BLU Acceleration appear to be the most mature, relatively low-cost and high-performing. But each of these systems has its own strengths and weaknesses, and these are only four of a larger group of in-memory database engines. Organizations should pick the technology that best fits their needs, skill sets and underlying technologies. Floyer also includes two case histories that illustrate how inline analytics has solved major operational business issues for two companies, eXelate, Inc. and an unnamed bottling company.

Floyer’s complete report, “Follow the Money: Big Data ROI and Inline Analytics”, is available without charge on the Wikibon Web site. IT professionals are invited to register for free membership in the Wikibon community, which allows them to post questions and comments as well as their own research, on the site, and to participate in and influence the direction of Wikibon research.

Graphic courtesy Wikibon.org
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What Morgan Spurlock left out of his Bitcoin documentary: How to steal bitcoins http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/what-morgan-spurlock-left-out-of-his-bitcoin-documentary-how-to-steal-bitcoins/ http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/what-morgan-spurlock-left-out-of-his-bitcoin-documentary-how-to-steal-bitcoins/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 20:00:34 +0000 http://siliconangle.com/?p=220817 Continue reading ]]> Morgan Spurlock, the documentarist who brought us the award-winning film “Super Size Me,” now has an investigative show on CNN called Inside Man. His recent episode dealt with living only on the cryptocurrency Bitcoin for a week, taking the opportunity to discuss Bitcoin security and the impact on the Bitcoin exchange market when Mt.Gox lost nearly a billion bitcoin to theft.  While Spurlock spent a great deal explaining how to secure bitcoins, he didn’t offer nearly as much detail on how they can be stolen from what’s supposed to be a highly protected exchange market. 

Those tracking Bitcoin news probably noticed the growing string of Bitcoin services that have recently shut down. Some have filed for bankruptcy related to the plummeting value of Bitcoin, while others have closed their doors after being hacked.

Bitcoin

Like in the case of Mt.Gox, which filed for bankruptcy in early 2014 after allegedly being hacked. The once popular exchange lost $27 million in cash and nearly a billion bitcoins worth close to $450 million at that time, and claimed that hackers were the ones responsible for the missing Bitcoins.

In a modern day twist on bank heists, hackers today are infiltrating these cryptocurrency exchanges to get the bitcoins stored by the services. Even if the value of Bitcoin has significantly dropped since the latter part of 2013, a single Bitcoin is currently equivalent to $238.66. Now imagine getting a hold of 1,000 Bitcoins; that’s a lot of money to spend.

But how easy it is to steal Bitcoins? Is hacking the only way to steal the digital currency? And is there actually a market for stolen Bitcoins?

Malware

 

Malicious software or malware can be used to infiltrate systems and obtain data covertly or make the system perform tasks surreptitiously. Malware can come in various forms and serve different purposes, including stealing Bitcoins. When installed in a computer, malware can start looking for a “wallet.dat” file or other commonly used filenames and directories related to Bitcoin wallets, and then transfer the needed files to the remote server. From there, a user’s key can be extracted from the wallet to start transferring the Bitcoins to another wallet.

Malware can also attack exchange services and steal user credentials by intercepting the login process. Another method includes man-in-the-browser malware, which waits until a user copies a Bitcoin address. The thief then replaces the copied Bitcoin address with his desired address so the Bitcoin will be transferred to the thief. A Bitcoin address is pretty complex and hard to memorize, which means users won’t easily notice if the address has changed.

Hacking Bitcoin mining pools

 

Creating Bitcoins requires large computer processing power; thus, mining pools or people contributing their computer processing power to mine Bitcoins are quite popular in the cryptocurrency community.

In 2014, it was discovered that a thief redirected a portion of online traffic from 19 Internet service providers to steal Bitcoins from mining pools. The hacker was able to perform the attack 22 times, with each attack lasting about 30 seconds. Each attack allowed the hacker to hijack and gain control of the processing power of a Bitcoin mining pool, tricking the miners to continue mining while the financial gains of the operations were redirected to the hacker.

Exploiting Tor

 

Tor is free software that enables anonymous communication. It has been used by some in the Bitcoin community to add a layer of anonymity to the use of the cryptocurrency. A report from Forbes stated that last year hackers exploited Tor to steal Bitcoins by setting up malicious exit relays on Tor.

There are three types of relays in the Tor network: middle relay, which receives the traffic and passes it to another relay; bridge relay, which is not publicly listed and used to circumvent censorship; and exit relay, which is the final relay passed through before traffic reaches its final destination. The hackers set up the malicious exit relays and blocked the legitimate exit relays. By redirecting traffic to the malicious exit relays, the hackers were able to pilfer usernames and passwords from users of Blockchain.info and LocalBitcoins who use Tor.

Are malware and hackers always to blame?

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In the case of EgoPay, a Bitcoin payments processor that ceased trading in January, there may be a ponzi scheme behind stolen bitcoins. Unconfirmed reports stated that the founders of EgoPay stole at least $500,000 from their clients. The problem started in late December when merchants began reporting having issues when the EgoPay API returned failed transaction notifications. Further investigation revealed EgoPay’s shady start. Who is the person behind EgoPay? Our own Duncan Riley has been looking into the matter. You can follow his reporting here.

 

Image source: Bitcoin Wiki

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Lenovo.com hijack raises Lizard Squad’s cybercriminal cred slightly http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/lenovo-com-hijack-raises-lizard-squads-cybercriminal-cred-slightly/ http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/lenovo-com-hijack-raises-lizard-squads-cybercriminal-cred-slightly/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 19:27:45 +0000 http://siliconangle.com/?p=221048 Continue reading ]]> lizardsquadAt approximately 4pm EST yesterday the Lenovo.com website took a turn for the strange: visitors were treated to a video slideshow of a random teens set to the tune of “Breaking Free” from High School Musical. All this courtesy of infamous Internet mayhem group Lizard Squad.

Until recently, Lizard Squad appeared to be a poor-man’s-LulzSec: taunted gaming networks from the shadows, used distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that a non-technical attacker could easily just purchase, re-purposed source-code to open a  DDoS-for-hire-website, engaged in a spat with security researcher Brain Krebs, and generally made a nuisance of themselves.

Lizard Squad’s “upgrade” in technical skills now includes domain name service hijacking, which is certainly more technical than a DDoS attack.

According to a tweeted screenshot of Lenovo.com’s DNS records the apparent defacement occurred because of a domain record hijack.

In this type of attack, an attacker injects fake domain name records between a website and visitors so that people are redirected where the attacker wants them to go. As a result, it’s obvious that the attackers of Lenovo’s website did not “break into” the site, only redirected information flowing from and to the site externally.

This is also likely why most of the apparent communications captured by Lizard Squad appear to be customer service related.

The slow cybercriminal growth of Lizard Squad

 

This event comes after Lizard Squad’s last foray of Internet mayhem, claiming credit for hijacking the front page of Google Vietnam. These acts of web page vandalism appear to be moving the group away from being a simple mayhem squad, and into the realm of effecting more vandalism similar to LulzSec.

Last year, Lizard Squad seemed content to stick to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against gaming networks. This included a massive Christmas Day siege of Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, but the group did not appear to have the technical capability to break into and deface websites or spoof and redirect DNS queries.

Lizard Squad has shown a growing interest in every segment of underground and hacker culture including openly selling DDoS-for-hire with the Lizardstresser.su website. A website which the group appears to be attempting to change into a Silk Road-style black market called Shenron.

To date, Lizard Squad’s technical (or hacker) expertise has not been very sophisticated. In fact, security researcher Brain Krebs has in the past posted scathing examinations of the Lizard Squad’s apparent incompetence, such as in January when the Lizardstresser site was hacked and its customer database leaked.

This recent foray into more complex DNS hijacks and vandalism seems to be an outgrowth by Lizard Squad that expands their cybercriminal tool belt.

Of course, those tools have simply changed from the cyber-equivalent of throwing rocks and playing loud music to drown everyone out (DDoS) to a different type of cyber-vandalism similar to defacing a billboard.

Image credit: Lizard Squad avatar from Twitter @LizardCircle
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Flexible electronics make cities smarter http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/flexible-electronics-make-cities-smarter/ http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/flexible-electronics-make-cities-smarter/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 19:00:08 +0000 http://siliconangle.com/?p=220981 Continue reading ]]> This week’s Smart City roundup features how flexible sensors can help the Internet of Things gain momentum, why Singapore doesn’t use the term ‘smart city’ and a different kind of power grid in Germany.

infrastructure smart city cloud

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Flexible sensors help the Internet of Things gain momentum

Norwegian company Thin Film Electronics ASA focuses on printed electronics that are small, flexible and are very affordable. Printed electronics can be very useful in tracking products and devices in real time to ensure an efficient approach to shipping logistics and inventory management.

Instead of silicon-based sensors, the sensors can be printed on smart labels that would cost less and can be placed on almost any product. These flexible sensors can be used in the medical field to ensure that disposable materials are properly disposed and not reused, or placed in hospital gowns to keep track of a patient’s body temperature in real-time, or placed on bandages to monitor for dampness, or even be placed on diapers so it will be easier to determine when it needs to be changed.

In the food industry, such sensors can be used to determine the freshness of the product, just like in the case of scotch manufacturer Diageo who makes the world famous Johnnie Walker Blue Label brand. Thin Film has partnered up with Diageo for the smart bottle project. The smart bottle is fitted with a printed electronics which can be paired with a smartphone app via Near Field Communication (NFC) so you can see more information about the product such as if the bottle has even been opened or tampered with or even get personalized ads. The smart bottle will be showcased at the Mobile World Congress 2015 next week.

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Why Singapore doesn’t use the term ‘smart city’

There are many smart city projects being launched around the world today with the sole purpose of connecting city infrastructure to the Internet and understand what the city needs for better services to its inhabitants. But is connecting everything to the Internet the ultimate goal of smart cities?

In an interview, Jagan Shah, Director of India’s National Institute of Urban Affairs, explains how he perceives smart cities. To him, smart cities are an enhancement of existing cities and a base for economic growth and not about building gated communities.

Shah explains that smart cities should not be something only the elite can enjoy but a right that is available to everyone. He also noted that having a smart city model is not wise since every city is different. What governments need to do is to make use of the gathered data from its inhabitants to be able to make better decisions and improve systems.

He further explains that the goal of smart cities is to create livable cities, something that Singapore is doing, and added that in a few years the term “smart cities” will be obsolete.

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Germany’s smart city knows how much power citizens need

The Model City of Mannheim is a smart city project in Germany that focuses on the proper distribution of renewable and decentralized sources of energy. What makes the project city different is that it uses an infrastructure built on top of a broadband power line, able to track and submit consumption and generated supply information to the power grid.

Each house in the Model City of Mannheim is connected to the smart energy network that is connected to the Internet. This was accomplished by adding small modems of nodes of the network to make the data available everywhere.

Thomas Wolski from Power Plus Communications, which is part of the consortium leading the Model City of Mannheim project, believes that “the power grid can become a brain for the city by all that information that is generated in the grid.”

photo credit: misspixels via photopin cc
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IBM, ARM announce IoT Starter Kit based on Freescale board but not the price http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/arm-and-ibm-provide-rival-raspberry-pi-iot-kit-for-internet-of-things/ http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/arm-and-ibm-provide-rival-raspberry-pi-iot-kit-for-internet-of-things/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 18:35:02 +0000 http://siliconangle.com/?p=220745 Continue reading ]]> clous smart cityThe IoT Ethernet Starter Kit is a new hardware development kit dedicated to the world of connected objects. This solution, proposed by ARM Holdings plc (ARM), was created with the support of IBM. The only thing missing from the announcement is the price tag.

The Starter Kit consists of a board with ARM processor, sensors, LEDs and other electronic components. It can connect to the IBM Internet of Things Foundation, which authenticates and ensures encrypted transmission of data to IBM Bluemix services. These services allow visualization and analysis of data, combined with data from other sources, and can report back to the device’s instructions. Access to it is done in the browser or from an application over a RESTful API.

Intelligent IoT apps build in the cloud

 

The kit is intended for users who are not particularly familiar with the web or embedded development. Through prototyping, they will be guided through developing with sensors and devices and connecting to Bluemix.

Apps can be created by connecting several Bluemix services. For code, programmers can choose among many languages such as Java, JavaScript, Ruby, Go, Python and PHP. Developers can also take advantage of IBM’s visual programming NodeRED. Also good for newcomers, with the development kit, it is possible to create an application within three minutes.

ARM has yet to release the price of the kit, but said it should cost less than $200. It contains a card equipped with a Freescale K64F Kinetis microcontroller with a Cortex-M4 processing core operating at 120 MHz. An Ethernet connection connects the card to the cloud service BlueMix that provides explanations on its implementation. Other components of the card include LCD 128 x 32 display, 256 KB of RAM, 1MB of flash storage, a microphone, a five-way joystick, a temperature sensor, an accelerometer and potentiometers.

The IoT board communicates directly with IBM’s Bluemix cloud service that acts as a central repository for IoT data. But ARM emphasized that cooperation with IBM was not quite exclusive and other cloud providers can use the platform to develop their own solutions.

ARM says that securely embedding intelligence and connectivity into devices from the outset will create cloud-connected products that are far more capable than today. Smart cities, businesses and homes capable of sharing rich information about their surroundings will be critical in unlocking the potential of IoT. ARM expects the Starter Kit will accelerate the availability of connected devices by making product and service prototyping faster and easier.

IBM and ARM are hoping to win the highly fragmented market for IoT solutions with this solution. The project will compete with the Raspberry Pi, a small craft board device that can be prototyped quickly by developers for cheap. To date, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has sold more than 4 million Raspberry Pi computers, which have been used to build educational computers, economic, media servers and more.

Raspberry Pi has quickly become one of the maker community’s favorite platforms because their highly-capable, low-cost boards and compute modules enable developers to bring their vison to life. Recently, Microsoft announced that it is expanding its Windows Developer Program for IoT by making a version of Windows 10 compatible for use with the Raspberry Pi 2.

photo credit: misspixels via photopin cc
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Upcoming co-op game Fable Legends will be free-to-play http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/upcoming-co-op-game-fable-legends-will-be-free-to-play/ http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/upcoming-co-op-game-fable-legends-will-be-free-to-play/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 18:15:04 +0000 http://siliconangle.com/?p=221019 Continue reading ]]> Fable LegendsLionhead Studios has announced that Fable Legends, its upcoming co-op title for the Xbox One and PC, will be free-to-play and supported by microtransactions. For some players this is exciting news, but for others the “free-to-play” label has turned into a red flag signifying money hungry studios.

The Microsoft-owned Lionhead Studios was formerly led by the notorious hype machine Peter Molyneux, but now it is run under the direction of John Needham, formerly the CFO of Sony Online Entertainment (now Daybreak Game Company) and later the CEO of Cryptic Studios and Gazillion Entertainment.

Like Riot Games’ esports powerhouse League of LegendsFable Legends (no relation) will rotate out the available free-to-play heroes while giving players the option to unlock them permanently by paying for them with either the in-game currency or with real money.

 

“No denying the similarities” to League of Legends

 

Other comparisons have been drawn between the two games, and Needham admits that League of Legends did have an influence on the new Fable title.

“There’s no denying the similarities there,” Needham told Eurogamer. “We all play League of Legends. I’ve spent a good year-and-a-half of my life hard playing League of Legends and love it. So there’s no denying that was the big inspiration of ours.”

One big difference between the two games is the 4v1 combat of Fable Legends, which pitches a team of heroes against a powerful villain.

Few free-to-play games manage to use the model well, but the handful that do are incredibly lucrative for their publishers, including Blizzard Entertainment’s Hearthstone, which gained tens of millions of players in its first year. While some gamers are wary of free-to-play titles, others say that the new model for Fable Legends will make them more likely to try it out.

“Well, now I’ll actually play the game,” said one Reddit user. “Wasn’t willing to shell out the money to buy a copy, but if its free to play I’ll def check it out.”

Needham notes that Lionhead will monitor how the new model affects players in the current beta version, saying, “We’re already starting an open dialogue with our beta community on the strengths of the game. That will extend out when we start introducing how we’re going to do monetisation in the game to that conversation in beta. We’ll have a transparent dialogue with our community.”

Image credit: Lionhead Studios (c)
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Big Data drives new revenue streams, top players align around analytics | #BigDataSV http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/big-players-aligning-around-big-data-bigdatasv/ http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/big-players-aligning-around-big-data-bigdatasv/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 18:00:19 +0000 http://siliconangle.com/?p=219671 Continue reading ]]> finalwrapbigdatasv

In the final hours of the BigDataSV conference, Wikibon.org analyst Jeff Kelly and SiliconANGLE founder John Furrier sat down to review the events of the day. They touched on a variety of key announcements, including the “fallout from the ODP.” “In general,” Furrier commented, his impression is that “the big guys are aligning.”

EMC in particular “is looking really good,” Furrier added, recounting how EMC plans to reinvent itself. The tech giant describes this strategy as “putting itself out of business” as it goes through the process of “reinventing its own future.” EMC is accomplishing their goals by dividing its efforts between two divisions: the “bread and butter” division that “pays the freight” and a new emerging tech group that fosters innovation and experimental technology.

Furrier pointed out that Hortonworks Inc. has also had a prominent presence at the conference. Despite the fusion he saw of analytics with applications, Furrier wondered whether there was any “meat on the bone.” Kelly had similar reservations, commenting, “we’re still waiting.”

Kelly also called out that there has been a greater focus on analytics at Hadoop World. Big Data, he said, “is getting to the next step.” Rather than just saving companies money, Big Data users are finding ways of “driving new revenue.” There’s a “ton of innovation happening,” Kelly said, although it “takes some time to coalesce around the application.”

Watch the full segment here, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE and theCUBE’s coverage of BigDataSV 2015.

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GW2Shinies: What games can get by opening up APIs to the developer community http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/gw2shinies-what-games-can-get-by-opening-up-apis-to-the-developer-community/ http://siliconangle.com/blog/2015/02/26/gw2shinies-what-games-can-get-by-opening-up-apis-to-the-developer-community/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 17:43:50 +0000 http://siliconangle.com/?p=220562 Continue reading ]]> gw2-shinies-logo-skritt-bagThe website GW2Shinies.com is the pet project of Sam Hemingway, a graduate of the University at Buffalo’s Computer Science & Engineering program, which gives insights to players of ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 insights into the player driven economy. It serves as an example of how, when a massively multiplayer game exposes in game data to 3rd party developers, that data can be used to build tools for the community of that game.

Guild Wars 2 has seen over two years of increasing popularity and with its first expansion on the way has had a bustling audience of players—this means not only new players, but old players who want to be able to understand and take advantage of the in game market.

This is where a website like GW2Shinies comes in by providing market data and a set of tools that provide insight into that market.

Right now, players can use the web page to look up prices, listed with in game currency costs, for buy and sell orders on the GW2 auction house. This includes anything that can be bought and sold between players in the game. Each item also comes with its own graph showing its price history (like many other market tools for real world items) tracked on windows of daily, 3 days, weekly, monthly, and even yearly. Players can also add specific items to a watchlist, in case they want to track prices long-term.

The site also provides tools that give players insights into the market itself.

With a view of the market and links leading to charts, GW2Shinies gives a lot of depth and insight. Image: Screenshot from GW2Shinies.com

With a view of the market and links leading to charts, GW2Shinies gives a lot of depth and insight.Image: Screenshot from GW2Shinies.com

Smart Find provides a list of items most likely to turn a profit by looking at buy orders, sell orders, and the apparent demand for the item. Currently, one of the best returns on investment in the game is a legendary weapon warhorn named “Howler” which is selling for almost 2,449 gold. An impressive sum for anyone playing GW2.

Shiny Salvage acts as a tool that tells players if it’s better to sell an item outright on the marketplace, or destroy it for its components (in GW2 this is called salvaging.) Sometimes the components that come from destroying an item as salvage are in more demand than the item itself.

Skill Alchemy looks at a type of crafting in the game where items can be thrown together into a thing called the Mystic Forge (MF) to craft other items. Like in real life, sometimes the whole does in fact sell better than the sum of its parts. For example the exotic scepter “Immobulus” takes 1,047 gold to make but sells for 1,699 gold. An important part of the economy with the MF is a currency players earn by levelling up called “skill points,” which are used to buy items used in the MF. The Skill Alchemy tool tracks how much each skill point is worth in gold crafting and selling a particular item.

While all prototypes all of these tools provide extremely valuable insights into the way the Guild Wars 2 economy works—this is especially useful for new players who want to make virtual coin in the game

One Guild Wars 2 market tool in many

 

This isn’t the first tool out there to help Guild Wars 2 players, the game has been on the market over two years, but Hemingway explains that he chose to go for it because he thought he could build a better website.

“I saw a multitude of functionality issues/formatting issues with other websites,” Hemingway explained, referring to why he started developing GW2Shinies.com. “My vision of gw2shinies is to be unmatched in not only speed, but also cleanness and functionality. I’m a little over a month into development and have already made great progress so far.”

Hemingway also told SiliconAngle that he feels that it takes more than just going to college “to adapt and survive in the developer’s world” and that means learning by doing. As a Guild Wars 2 player he saw a market opening and something he could do. Thus GW2Shinies.com came to be born.

gw2shinies-screenshot2

A look at how GW2Shinies does the Skill Alchemy tool.
Image: Screenshot from GW2Shinies.com

Under the hood with GW2Shinies

 

Hemingway brags that the GW2Shinies website updates its database every five minutes and has page speeds of one second or less. Curious, SiliconAngle asked what he used to construct this useful tool and what it was like connecting to the Guild Wars 2 API.

The current page is made with JavaScript, PHP, and MySQL—making this project look like it’s right out of the LAMP stack.

To get the job done, Hemingway says he used Notepad++ as a crude-but-functional development environment.

“Simpler has always been better for me (and its free!) which is why I prefer to build my projects from scratch,” he says.

As for interfacing with GW2’s API, through which the game developers expose a lot of interesting market and game data, Hemingway says, “For simple tasks, accessing the API is a breeze,” but he found a little bit of a challenge working out the kinks of running a database update every 5 minutes with a cron job on the server side.

This meant making sure that the code that ran in the cron job was elegant and mindful of memory concerns, which can become an issue with rapid-fire queries to an API for updates—because GW2’s marketplace can be a volatile place.

He says that he also went the route of a 5 minute interval in the background polling the GW2 API so that increased visitors would not stress his connection to the GW2 API. It meant that visitors would always have an at-most 5 minute local version of the data from the marketplace to look at.

Plus, having that particular update rate, Hemingway says, would help put him on player’s radar.

Did Hemingway hit his mark? If you’re a Guild Wars 2 player or not, check out GW2Shinies and see what sort of information it reveals.

Image credit: ArenaNet, Guild Wars 2, and logo from GW2Shinies.com
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