Rich Crocco

Demystifying Cloud Computing

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I recently attended a talk on cloud computing by Dana Edberg of the University of Nevada, Reno. Although the talk was geared towards accountants, as the audience were mostly CPAs, I am interested in the general concepts of cloud computing effectively presented by Edberg.

First thing is to demystify the concept of cloud computing. The buzzword ‘Cloud’ has led to inaccurate characterizations of just what cloud computing is. Basically, the cloud represents servers accessible through the internet. This means you don’t need servers and other IT infrastructure to create, develop or operate computer applications. All you need is an internet connection. Currently there are three major forms of cloud services available (there are more on the way):  IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. I will explain each one in a little more detail.


IaaS stands for Infrastructure-as-a-Service.  By the way, each one of these acronyms represents which part of the overall computing power has been out-sourced to the cloud, or provider. In this case it is infrastructure only. This is the most basic form of cloud computing and is for the most part reserved for larger companies requiring large amounts of storage and computing power. With IaaS basically all hardware is out-sourced but none of the software. If you develop all your own software and/or have large storage needs requiring large climate controlled rooms and buildings to house servers and other infrastructure, then IaaS may be a good option. Read more…

The Meaning Behind a Michelin Rating

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I spent this past weekend in Napa Valley and enjoyed some great food along with the fabulous wine the area has to offer. One restaurant my wife and I dined at was named Auberge du Soleil which sported a one-star Michelin rating. I knew that was a good thing however I didn’t understand any of the details behind the rating. I thought I would explain this rating system a bit here.

The Michelin Guide brand is owned by Michelin, yes the automotive company, and has been published since 1900. It was originally a guidebook for French motorists but slowly expanded during the 20’s and 30’s. In 1936 the ranking system was published which is still in use today:

One Star– “A very good restaurant in its category”

Two Stars – “Excellent cooking, worth a detour”

Three Stars – “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”

Now these descriptions seem a bit common to me, in practice I think it’s a little more like one-star = absolutely amazing, two-stars = off the charts and three stars = not even a normal restaurant, more like a tour of cuisine! Read more…

The Future of Healthcare: Big Data & IoT

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Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) are poised to redefine many industries including retail, automotive and healthcare among others. Healthcare is the sector I want to focus on here. How will IoT affect doctors, healthcare administrators & patients in the coming years? Do we like these changes?


Big Data

The healthcare industry has always been a form of Big Data center. Look behind the counter at your doctor or dentist’s office and you will see thousands of files invariably organized alphabetically and taking up rows of valuable space. What these industries lacked was sufficient technology to organize and use that data effectively. For instance, if you changed doctors your information had to be manually transferred to your new doctor. All that is changing with the use of Big Data techniques and IoT.

Companies such as IBM are working on “a solution that connects every single data source and analyzes structured, unstructured and real-time data.” Solutions like these are meant to pull together information from multiple sources including data from sensors (Fitbit, Apples Watch, etc.), public health records, insurance claims, family health history, etc. If all this information is pulled together and effectively analyzed, the patient would ultimately benefit. Imagine a healthcare database which included all possible relevant data to help with the diagnosis and care of a patient. The patient’s access to expertise just went from the local doctor’s office to worldwide. Read more…

You May Be Closer to ‘Driving’ an Autonomous Car Than You Think

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Self-driving vehicles have evolved from seeming like a futuristic movie into a legitimate reality in just the past year. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, is “gunning to put autonomous cars on the road by 2023.” Delphi Automotive recently completed a cross-country trip in an autonomous vehicle in nine days. Let’s get a little perspective on what we mean by self-driving, or autonomous, vehicles and what it means to us.

There is a good article in Newsweek Tech & Science named “How will the Transition to Self-Driving Cars Work?” which explains three stages of technology related to autonomous vehicles.

     Stage 1 – Limited autonomy that doesn’t depend on data sharing.
     Stage 2 – Semi-autonomy that utilizes shared data.
     Stage 3 – Full autonomy with shared data, advanced sensors and (perhaps) high-resolution mapping.

Stage 1 is basically improved bells and whistles in normal vehicles to assist drivers. Features include lane keeping assistance, cruise control radar, etc. We are used to seeing upgrades in all the technology we use so this is not too surprising. Some of these features are already on the market and we can expect to see more of them in the next few years. Read more…

Cuba is an Untapped Market for Many American Companies

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Coming from someone who hadn’t been born yet when the Bay of Pigs invasion took place, U.S. relations with Cuba has always maintained a kind of surreal quality. It seemed like a concept having no beginning and no end. It just existed. Cuba was a strange place that supposedly had really good cigars. Now, with the Obama administration departing from the status quo Cuba takes on a new presence in our lives. Now it’s a real country two hundred miles off the coast of Florida. What can this country offer us? Should we have a relationship with a country having such a checkered past as well as real questions regarding the treatment of its citizens right up to the present day?

Cuba’s current leader, Raul Castro, replaced his older brother Fidel Castro in 2006 (who stepped done due to health problems). However this change didn’t represent much of a departure from the communist regime in place since 1959. After all, Raul was a leader of the Cuban Revolution right along with this brother. Last December however, the Obama Administration went public with an agenda to restore full diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. An idea which has drawn the cautious support of Raul.  This change in U.S. policy has culminated in a face to face meeting between Obama and Raul Castro this past weekend at the Summit of the Americas in Panama. The most substantive dialogue between the two countries in more than 50 years. Read more…

Cybersecurity Follows Net Neutrality on National Agenda

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A month after Net Neutrality regulations were approved by the FCC, President Obama took aim at another major internet issue, cybersecurity. Cybersecurity, or the lack thereof, has been receiving plenty of attention lately, from credit card hacking at Target and Home Depot, to theft of medical information at Anthem, to the Sony hack which was powerful enough to alter the release of a Hollywood movie. The internet is showing its growing pains as we all figure out a way to handle a technology the connects half the people on the planet.

Obama issued an executive order declaring a national emergency due to the threat posed by cyber attacks. The order gives the US Treasury the power to sanction “foreign actors who threaten critical infrastructure, seek to steal financial data or trade secrets, or launch distributed denial-of-service attacks.”  Denial-of-service attacks are characterized by nefarious agent(s) directing large amounts of web traffic towards a specific site or server with the intention of overloading and therefore disrupting service to that site or server. GitHub, an open-source code repository, was recently the victim of a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) and was one of the preceding events leading up to the executive order. Read more…

Jaron Lanier: Helping Us Remember to Question What We Know About Tech

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I recently made a conscious decision to integrate myself into the tech world. This meant going back to school for a second Master’s degree (MBA in IS), becoming a participant in social media platforms, and reading and writing about new tech products and fields. I found it quite easy to accept the winners in Tech (companies like Google, Facebook, etc.) and adjust my thinking accordingly. However, whenever I start drinking the cool-aid too much I invariably come across an author named Jargon Lanier. First on the Charlie Rose show, then his book “Who Owns the Future” (which I purchased after seeing the Charlie Rose interview), other articles and most recently an article named “The Myth of AI: A Conversation With Jaron Lanier.”

Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, author and musician whose career dates back to Atari and who is considered to be one of the pioneers of virtual reality, in other words he is a big player in the tech world. What Lanier represents to me is a Philosopher of Technology. My Bachelor’s degree is in Philosophy so I am no stranger to philosophical arguments and ideas. There is little I enjoy more than listening to a good philosophical lecture. Lanier does it in the tech world. What he is able to do is take ideas we take for granted and turn them on their head. It is interesting to note some of these ideas have only been mainstream for approximately ten years. Amazing how quickly we do drink the cool-aid. Read more…

Apple Pay Has Company: Samsung Pay, Android Pay

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With the recent flurry of media surrounding Apple Pay, I decided to look farther into the product, see the details behind how it worked, how it might change customer behavior, etc. It didn’t take long to figure out that Apple Pay is not alone. Not only has Google Wallet existed since 2011, two more products are on the way: Samsung Pay & Android Pay. Let’s take a look at all these products to see how they compare.

Apple Pay
Some say this product will revolutionize the way we pay for products and services. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc. said 2015 is “the year of Apple Pay.” Apple Pay takes the upcoming Credit Card transition from Mag strips to chips (set for October 1st, 2015 in the U.S.) a step further by getting rid of the physical card altogether.

With Apple Pay your credit card information is securely stored in the iPhone Passport App and your iPhone effectively becomes your wallet.

To start making purchases with Apple Pay you do the following:

1) Input your credit card and/or debit card data into the Passport App on your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus (this data is encrypted and device specific).
2) Set up the Touch ID function on your iPhone. This feature allows you to sign-in to your iPhone and execute other functions such as Apple Pay with your fingerprint as authentication.
3) Simply hold the iPhone near an Apple Pay compatible reader, or contactless reader, when settling a payment. The iPhone will communicate with the contactless reader through ‘near field communication’ technology and will send an encrypted one-time use only code that represents your credit card information. The Touch ID will be used as authentication. Read more…

5 Things You Need To Know About Chip-Enabled Credit Cards

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Chip-enabled credit cards, or ‘smart cards’ will be making their official U.S. début in only six months, on October 1st, 2015. This is the date of the so called ‘liability shift’ where banks and credit card issuers will be shifting the liability created by fraudulent credit card activity from themselves to merchants. Now this shift really only takes place when a merchant fails to upgrade to POS technology capable of processing chip-enabled cards. Nevertheless, this deadline allows for a credible line in the sand where the U.S. is officially following the footsteps of the Europeans in fighting credit card fraud.

With the deadline approaching I thought I would explain five of the major questions on this issue:

1. What benefit comes out of chip-enable cards?

The benefit of using a chip-enabled card (also known as an EMV card for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) is the increased security that comes from the chip imbedded in the front of the card rather than the traditional mag stripe on the back. What the chip offers is unique coding for each transaction processed with that chip. Information held in the traditional mag stripes of credit cards is static, that is if someone steals that data it can be used to make fraudulent purchases over and over again until the card is turned off. With chip-enabled cards each transaction is unique. Therefore if the information is stolen, when the card is used again the transaction will be declined because the unique code that was stolen cannot be used again. Read more…

The Internet of Things is Coming, Like it or Not

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The Internet of Things (IoT) craze has grown to the point where the government is getting involved. Recently the U.S. Senate passed a resolution calling for a National Strategy on the subject. It was only months ago that I was hearing the term Internet of Things, but didn’t have a clue what it meant (not to mention the funny little acronym IoT. Now I’m seeing tech events popping up around the country utterly dedicated to the subject. Maybe I’m just late to the game here but it seems like IoT is gaining a lot of momentum.

So what to make of this craze? Some experts are saying it will be the next major shift in how the internet affects our daily lives. Some experts also say IoT is the largest reason the internet will be shifting from the traditional IPv4 protocol to the more robust IPv6. With IPv6 the number of IP addresses the internet can handle multiplies exponentially. The exact number is 3.4 X 10^38 if that means anything to you (not much to me!), the point is we won’t be running out of addresses anytime soon after the transition. The World Economic Forum projects by the year 2020 there will be 5 billion people on the internet along with 50 billion ‘things.’ Right now there are approximately 3 billion people connected along with 14 billion ‘things.’ The ‘things’ part of that statistic represents a 250% increase in five years. Read more…