Early Greek Steganography

In my last post I promised a bit of history behind steganography and its recorded use by the Greek historian Herodotus.  Here is the first-hand account of one of the uses:

“For Histiaeus, when he was anxious to give Aristagoras orders to revolt, could find but one safe way, as the roads were guarded, of making his wishes known; which was by taking the trustiest of his slaves, shaving all the hair from off his head, and then pricking letters upon the skin, and waiting till the hair grew again. Thus accordingly he did; and as soon as ever the hair was grown, he dispatched the man to Miletus, giving him no other message than this- “When thou art come to Miletus, bid Aristagoras shave thy head, and look thereon.”  Now the marks on the head, as I have already mentioned, were a command to revolt. All this Histiaeus did because it irked him greatly to be kept as Susa, and because he had strong hopes that, if troubles broke out, he would be sent down to the coast to quell them, whereas, if Miletus made no movement, he did not see a chance of his ever returning thither.  Such, then, were the views which led Histiaeus to dispatch his messenger; and it so chanced that all these several motives to revolt were brought to bear upon Aristagoras at one and the same time.”   (Herodotus)

We do know from his writings “The Histories” which I quoted from above, that Herodotus was born in what is now known as Bodrum, in southwestern Turkey. Here is a modern statue of Herodotus in Bodrum, with some good background history on him.  (Lendering)



Herodotus. (n.d.). The History Of Herodotus. Retrieved 26 2011, Dec, from Classics.MIT.Edu: http://classics.mit.edu/Herodotus/history.html

Lendering, J. (n.d.). Herodotus of Halicarnassus. Retrieved Dec 27, 2011, from http://www.Livius.Org: http://www.livius.org/he-hg/herodotus/herodotus03.html


What is steganography?

In our security world, there is a carrier or graphic file that is used to hide messages. There is a double benefit for the confidential need. One is that you can encrypt, and the other is that it is hidden in the first place – slipped in so nobody even knows it is there. It is not really tailor-made for emailing, as there are a couple little extra steps needed in the process that would slow things down. But for top secret messages or very sensitive data that you wanted to get from point A to point B, it could be quite useful as it has been for centuries!

How old is steganography?

Our earliest documentation of this type of security was from Herodotus, the Greek historian from the fifth century BC.


I’ll provide a little history on Herodotus and and example of steganography from that era in my next post.

Experimenting with software:

I downloaded one flavor of free open source steganography software. It was extremely easy and user friendly. I wrote some secret messages and encoded them within pictures.  With a little attention to the settings I could create the picture with the hidden message so that it looked very much like the original.  Using the software one can then decode and pull the hidden message back out from the picture.  You can either write a message with the software or select a file to hide. It defaults to compressing the data with a mandatory passphrase required to decode, but… you can enable encryption as well.  Here is a copy of a picture with a hidden message, which is hidden.  Pretty cool eh.

Oh what Herodotus could have done with today’s software!



Canterbury. (2011, Dec 20). Library Subject Guides. Retrieved Dec 23, 2011, from University of Canterbury: http://canterbury.libguides.com/content.php?pid=29248&sid=1851189

Cohesive corporate data warehousing


I have been studying data warehouse implementations this week and what makes some less successful than others. Probably the initial and biggest problem is lacking ability to not only communicate effectively but to lead as one corporate entity. It is a matter of bringing together disparate data in an understandable way that can be communicated.

A couple of industry names for this need would be enterprise data management or unified data management. These deal with how to evolve into a more “cohesive corporate climate”. To keep the main points easy to remember, I came up with a formula that I will refer to as C3. Diverse silo approaches of the past have to give way to a unified presence in order for C3 to achieve its goal which is: “current creative collaboration”. Cultivating a friendly atmosphere of sharing with a unified data approach allows knowledge and strength to be leveraged for success in today’s competitive market. The term “current” applies to the data or information sharing and means we are dealing with something vital and of value to management for decision making. “Creative” means an atmosphere that allows ideas and expertise to shine. “Collaboration” within the C3 formula means both a unified data approach and an environment that allows the organization to come together to leverage and share that data. The C3 data warehouse formula:

       Cohesive corporate climate = current creative collaboration

C3 represents an approach for bringing power to the corporation through a loosening of the reigns and motivation of the masses. It must be continually refined and managed to keep it relevant and current. Columbus arrived on the shores of a new world which is here to stay, but the information world is ever changing. If you are in a dynamically changing environment with daily changes that are important, then your data warehouse may need to be refreshed on a frequent basis to meet the ever changing need.

Two other factors in a successful data warehouse are accessibility and performance. The data has to be available or it is not going to help. While talking availability, it would be wise to give adequate attention to interface needs and how information delivery will occur. Regardless of dashboards, web-based reporting, email, or whatever the medium, there should be a continual plan in place for updating the data to keep it current and vital.


Conflicting Foreign Key constraints

Oh those elusive little foreign key errors! I ran into one of these a couple months back and decided to reproduce it today to explain how it occurs and what to watch for to avoid.

In my example I have created a simple MOVIES DB with SQL Server 2008 R2. I won’t bother showing the Create Table statements, as that part of the process ran without error. Assume at this point I’ve already successfully created the MOVIES DB with the following 7 tables as follows:


I need to point out that there are constraints with foreign keys as follows:

· Shelf has a foreign key pointing to DVDCase

· Movie has foreign keys pointing to Shelf and Genre

· Filmography has foreign keys pointing to Actor and Movie

· Review has a foreign key pointing to Movie

Following are my SQL Insert commands to add rows of data to my tables.



INSERT DVDCase (CaseID, CaseName)

VALUES (1, ‘Eastwood/Westerns’),

            (2, ‘Comedy/Romance’),

            (3, ‘Mystery’),

            (4, ‘Science Fiction’),

            (5, ‘Drama’)

INSERT Shelf (ShelfID, ShelfName, CaseID)

VALUES (1, ‘Romance’, 2),

            (2, ‘Mystery’, 3),

            (3, ‘Eastwood’, 1),

            (4, ‘Bogart/Bacall’, 3),

            (5, ‘Comedy’, 2),

            (6, ‘Wayne Westerns’, 1)

INSERT Movie (MovieID, Title, ShelfID, GenreID, MovieYear)

VALUES (1, ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’, 3, 3, ‘1966’),

            (2, ‘Dirty Harry’, 3, 2, ‘1971’),

            (3, ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’, 3, 3, ‘1976’),

            (4, ‘Sudden Impact’, 3, 2, ‘1983’),

            (5, ‘Bridges of Madison County’, 3, 1, ‘1995’),

            (6, ‘Unforgiven’, 3, 3, ‘1992’),

            (7, ‘Gran Torino’, 3, 2, ‘2008’)

INSERT Genre (GenreID, GenreTitle)

VALUES (1, ‘Romance’),

            (2, ‘Drama’),

            (3, ‘Western’),

            (4, ‘Science Fiction’),

            (5, ‘Mystery’)

INSERT Actor (ActorID, FName, LName)

VALUES (1, ‘Clint’, ‘Eastwood’),

            (2, ‘Burt’, ‘Reynolds’),

            (3, ‘Lee’, ‘Marvin’),

            (4, ‘Sally’, ‘Field’),

            (5, ‘Humphrey’, ‘Bogart’)

INSERT Filmography (ActorID, MovieID)

VALUES (1, 1),

            (1, 2),

            (1, 3),

            (1, 4),

            (1, 5),

            (1, 6),

            (1, 7)

INSERT Review (Comments, MovieID)

VALUES (‘Action packed for Dirty Harry lovers.’, 2),

            (‘Josey Wales is one of his best western heroes!’, 3),

            (‘Where it all started. Spaghetti western fans!’, 1),

            (‘Really enjoyed scenery.’, 3),

            (‘Little rough for youngsters, but good movie.’, 2),

            (‘This is the classic for the man with no name.’, 1)

The above looked good, but when executing against my MOVIES DB I received the following errors:

Msg 547, Level 16, State 0, Line 15  —-  The INSERT statement conflicted with the FOREIGN KEY constraint “FK_Genre”.  —- The conflict occurred in database “MOVIES”, table “dbo.Genre”, column’GenreID’.  —-  The statement has been terminated.

Msg 547, Level 16, State 0, Line 36  —-  The INSERT statement conflicted with the FOREIGN KEY constraint “FK_Movie”.  —- The conflict occurred in database “MOVIES”, table “dbo.Movie”, column ‘MovieID’.  —- The statement has been terminated.

Msg 547, Level 16, State 0, Line 44  —-  The INSERT statement conflicted with the FOREIGN KEY constraint “FK_Movie2” —- The conflict occurred in database “MOVIES”, table “dbo.Movie”, column ‘MovieID’.  —- The statement has been terminated.

I went back and forth attempting to build in my foreign keys within my CREATEs and within ALTER commands, but that had no bearing upon the errors. I looked at Line 15, 36, and 44 to see exactly where I was having the problem. The lines were the INSERT commands for Movie, Filmography, and Review tables. I’ll show these lines again below:

Line 15:    INSERT Movie (MovieID, Title, ShelfID, GenreID, MovieYear)

Line 36:    INSERT Filmography (ActorID, MovieID)

Line 44:    INSERT Review (Comments, MovieID)

The Confusion:

This confused me because I also had the Shelf table which also used a foreign key, but it was not getting the error. I finally stepped back and took stock of what the tables had in common. I was able to see that Filmography and Review both used MovieID as a foreign key to tie it back to Movie table. So this was the common thread. I then inspected Movie table attributes one by one. I was able to isolate the problem down to GenreID by process of elimination. What was wrong with GenreID?

The Problem:

The problem that I had all along was that I was trying to assign a GenreID value into my Movie table, but I had not yet loaded the Genre table! Look above at my SQL script and you will see that I’m trying to use GnereID as a foreign key in line 15 (the INSERT statement for Movie table) before I ever establish this attribute in the Genre table INSERT. What that did was blow up the load of the Movie table, and that in turn (the darn sneaky trickle down attack) corrupted my Filmography and Review tables, because they were in turn trying to load in MovieID from the Movie table which never got loaded.

The Solution:

Once this dawned on me and I moved my INSERT of the Genre table ahead of the Movie table, all was well. The Movie table then loads fine, as do the ones dependent upon it. I hope this may help someone who might run into this same problem. Be careful to establish values for your attributes in your tables before you use them as foreign keys in other tables. Again, simply putting my INSERT for Genre table in front of the INSERT for Movie table fixed all the errors.


From Farenheit 451 to Intelligent Agents

What do you think, Linda?

If Linda thinks it’s all right, it must be.

Do you have the answer, Linda?




Linda, you’re right, you’re absolutely fantastic.

A look at yesterday…

Remember Farenheit 451, written by Ray Bradbury in 1953, or the movie by the same title starring Julie Christie? The main character Montag has a wife that gets most of her reality out of her wall-screen TV.  Bradbury is giving us his predictive modeling on one aspect of Intelligent Agents (IA) before such existed. The movie shows us interactive TV where the actor states issues or problems, pauses, and turns to Linda (Julie Christie) to ask for her advice.  Her TV will flash a red light (shown above) while it beeps and the actor turns towards her to let her know they are waiting for her valued input.  What the movie was getting at is a type of interactive TV that would pull the viewer in completely.  Bradbury was concentrating on psychological aspects relating to mind control and a zombie like existence. The technological application of Intelligent Agents was not born yet. I’m not disagreeing with the message Bradbury presents, but he leaves off where all of the benefits of IA begins.

A look at today…

Los Angeles is looking into immersive interactive film making which will bring about virtual reality on demand.  It will get into more abilities than Bradbury had foreseen with abilities like being able to look around more than the camera would normally have provided.  We will be able to control where we look to some degree with a mouse, keyboard, or controller, for example.   There will be clickable content that can take us into the lives, history, or background of characters, or perhaps deeper into a scene when we want it to.  This is what I’m seeing anyways as coming on the horizon with the help of intelligent agents.  Pretty cool, and thanks to Ray Bradbury for giving us some early vision!

Last week I talked about the progression from Data to Information. This week I’m focusing on progression from Information to Intelligent Agents. A very basic definition of an intelligent agent would be a program that gets information or does an automatic scheduled service.  Here are some more advanced definitions:

“An intelligent agent is a software system that can send information to and receive it from other agents using appropriate protocols (sensing and communication).  Such intelligent agents learn multiple objectives, create action plans, process the information received, and perform reasoning through AI techniques.  To manage activities, an agent has a controller function. The controller manages the agent’s interaction with the environment and selects the task to be performed according to the agent’s goals and capabilities” (Akerkar & Sajja, 2009).    What is described here is a system where agents can carry out a process on information as well as dealing with objectives and plans, much of which can become dynamic and automated.

Another higher level definition is found here: “Intelligent agent is an abstract noun that can represent all intelligent entities whether they are of natural intelligence or artificial intelligence. It is therefore used to describe a wide range of entities, such as human beings, robots, intelligent devices, and intelligent software.  In a certain environment an intelligent agent can sense the environment through sensors and affect the environment through effectors” (Zhou, Wang, & Lou, 2010). This gives us the sense that we are talking both hardware and software solutions.  There is a wide variety of intelligent agent application. 

Intelligent Agents are used in a large variety of application areas, and one very successful one is in e-commerce.  “The internet has experienced a rapid shift from information and entertainment to electronic commerce.  The amount of information available on the web, as well as the number of e-businesses and web shoppers has been growing exponentially and the influx is difficult to process.  Intelligent agents empower both buyers and sellers to accomplish e-commerce transactions by enabling efficient, precise, and comprehensive searches on the vast web community and information repository.  By operating in the background in lieu of user intervention, intelligent agents also circumvent problems related to slow internet access and free up prohibitively expensive surf and data mining time” (Sinmao, 1999).   So we are seeing a strong trend towards utilization of IAs with e-commerce.  The advantages of remembering (learning) a user’s transactions, shopping cart, and even wish lists, is powerful for making the shopping experience a friendly efficient one.

If we take a look back about a decade ago, some views on IA were a bit progressive to say the least.  I thought this was kind of like reading George Orwell or the like, where we may need to wait a bit longer for some things to evolve.   We were making great strides ten years ago but not quite as fast as what CNET News portrayed as occurring “within a year or two”:  “Whether by voice…or by typing, I think agents are going to be helping more people use the Internet,” said Ted Kunzog, analyst and editor for Internet Stock News. “Within a year or two you will not need to use a computer to use the Internet. Instead people will be speaking into a phone or a wristwatch, and some little software product will bring back what they’re looking for. That’s the promise of agents” (Festa, 1999).  The timing may not be exact but we are indeed starting to get here!

A look at the future…

Looking into the future is always difficult to predict and often not quite what we anticipate.  We can, however, safely say that ES, ANN, IA, and all the technological means to automate, learn, and advance our processes will continue.   “Our future work will look at the exploration of how new technological paradigms will affect the perceived quality of experience in pervasive interactive multimedia systems. These paradigms include hybrid artifacts, use of biotechnology, advanced interaction modalities, new forms of content and novel intelligent environments, immersive environments such as collaborative virtual environments and multi-user environments.”  (Lumsden, 2008)

If you research the phrase “advanced interaction modalities” you will likely find advanced research going on in usability and interface design. One very positive example is CURE, the Center for Usability Research & Engineering. The ways in which this kind of work and research can help in the future is practically unlimited and full of potential. CURE is a leading European organization in usability engineering that is making inroads into this field of technology: “We study users to gain deep insight in how users can interact with advanced interaction spaces covering 3D spaces, augmented reality, mixed realities and virtual reality with careful consideration of the context of use. Advanced interaction techniques incorporating intelligent agents, information visualization (e.g. focus and context) and multimodal aspects are investigated. Interaction with ubiquitous and pervasive systems as well as ambient intelligence in the office and the home domain are a research priority that deals with the disappearing user interface.” (Cure)

Today’s topic briefly touched the surface of multimedia IA. I will return in later weeks to other IA issues that will show the positive forces of change that can make a difference in our world. Multimedia IA is not limited to the psychological vision of science fiction authors, and is certainly showing vast potential for good. As with all advancements, resulting positive or negative impact is influenced by humanity.


Akerkar, R., & Sajja, P. (2009). Knowledge-Based Systems. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers .


Festa, P. (1999, October 28). Intelligent Agent technology staging a comeback . Retrieved June 29, 2011, from CNET News: http://news.cnet.com/2100-1023-232110.html

Lumsden, J. (2008). Handbook of Research on User Interface Design and Evaluation for Mobile Technology. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Sinmao, M. (1999, November 24). Intelligent Agents & E-Commerce. Retrieved June 29, 2011, from CIS.UDEL.EDU: http://www.cis.udel.edu/~wchen/Sinmaom.htm

Zhou, Z., Wang, H., & Lou, P. (2010). Manufacturing Intelligence for Industrial Engineering. Hershey, PA: IGI Global .


I concluded on June 18 that knowledge is something of value to someone somewhere. It takes on even more meaning when we discuss Knowledge Management. I’ll address some of the questions posed by “JK” on June 23rd.  Thanks JK.

From Data to Knowledge                             

When does data turn into knowledge?  It is the IT journey that starts with the raw data, gets processed into information, and is utilized as knowledge to address challenges or problems facing us.  When we talk knowledge management we are talking value and value comes in part from its relevancy to the entity using the knowledge.  This means that the information must be selective and therefore useful, and it also needs to be current or of a timeframe we need.  When data moves to knowledge, it becomes something that management can act upon and use in decision making.

If we look at KMS Cycle we see the following flow:

Raising Knowledge

Create & Store –>  Viability –> Availability 

This process is on-going and resembles a living process that grows and ages.  I guess we could think of our knowledge as a part of us or our organizations.  We can invest in it and care for it, or neglect it.   The amount of data is going to get unwieldy without KM process, and it can become out-of-date if not kept current.  

Origin of Knowledge 

Where does knowledge come from?  In the context of our Knowledge Management topic we are likely looking at system or human generated information, and often both.   JK, you mentioned research or experience, and I presume you had both in mind.  Both can input into this process and both become valuable pieces of the process. 

Intellectual Capital

“Collective knowledge (whether or not documented) of the individuals in an organization or society. This knowledge can be used to produce wealth, multiply output of physical assets, gain competitive advantage, and/or to enhance value of other types of capital.  Intellectual capital is now beginning to be classified as a true capital cost because (1) investment in (and replacement of) people tantamount to investment in machines and plants, and (2) expenses incurred in education and training (to maintain the shelf life of intellectual assets) are equivalent to depreciation costs of physical assets.” (Phoenix)

So we can see where value comes into play.  Knowledge coming from either technical sources or from human experience can amount to considerable value to the organization.   The question of cost vs. value is a good one.  Even if we are talking knowledge coming from the experiences of employees, it can often take planning to harvest it. 

Psychology of Knowledge

Not all employees will see the value in knowledge sharing and they might instead feel that knowledge they possess brings them a certain level of job stability.  This is commonly known and nothing new.  The challenge for competitive companies of today needing this knowledge is to find ways to bring employees on board with the proper mission and goals.  Perhaps incentives, perhaps education, perhaps realization of how this benefits the company they work for will help bring motivation to the knowledge sharing process. 

Accessibility – Availability – Viability

For Knowledge Management to flourish it must have not only the willing cooperation but the ability for employees to share.  This means providing an easy to access collaboration system, and giving them adequate time to perform needed sharing and documentation tasks.  There are risks that will always be present which the KMS can help with.  There will have to be support to foster knowledge sharing, and a system put into place for efficient collaboration.  As knowledge repositories grow they must be accessible and they must be kept current so they are meaningful and relevant to the needs of the organization.



Phoenix, U. o. (n.d.). Intellectual Capital. Retrieved 25 2011, June, from BusinessDictionary.Com: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/intellectual-capital.html

From KM to Folksonomy



I do enjoy good folk music on a regular basis, but that is not quite what folksonomy is about.  Folksonomy applies to knowledge management and collaborative techniques.  Let’s explore an example:

Knowledge management (KM) is about getting knowledge where it needs to go, so collaboration is part of this process.  KM helps enable collaboration in an effort to help an organization reach objectives.   There are all kinds of ways that knowledge can move between individuals, groups, or companies.  In our world today we have many tools available to help get this job done.  Most of us have used blogs, Live Meeting, IM, SharePoint, and social networking.   Why is all this important to business today?

The marketplace today is one of fast moving competition.  Organizations need to learn quickly and be able to disseminate the right information to the right people at the right time.  We might call this Right Info3, but it already has an industry name called knowledge management (KM).  The idea here is that knowledge can be learned, stored and leveraged with the aim of using it to improve and gain competitive edge.            

There are many examples of KM successes. One that I read about was a school system in New South Wales, a suburb and urban center of Sydney, Australia.  The Catholic Education Office of Parramatta needed a way to centralize all documentation for its office, schools, and records for 41,000 students.  SharePoint 2010 was chosen and utilized what they call folksonomy functionality.  Here is a little bit on folksonomy: 

“Folksonomies are generally used to organize information and support information retrieval (IR). The public face of many folksonomies is often a tag cloud, with tags usually listed alphabetically and weighted by popularity.  Users might navigate the folksonomy by following tags they’ve used, related tags, popular tags or recent tags. In many cases folksonomies are also used to support search. A site with a huge database of photos like Flickr, for example, might rely almost entirely on a folksonomy for search since there is no full text to fall back on.”  (Morrison, 2007)

So just how does a Catholic school system in Australia use folksonomy, and how does it apply to KM?  Basically, the school staff and teachers at Parramatta can create their own classifications and tags making this a quick and efficient system.  An interesting part of their decision was based on the fact that they were split just about down the middle between PC and Mac technology and systems.  SharePoint 2010 with support for Safari browser was a viable solution for Mac as well.  As of late 2010 the first phase of a document management system rolled out.  It began providing benefits right away with rapid search ability and user friendly design.   “The managed metadata service is easy to use and allowed us to develop a structured hierarchy of documents based on existing classifications … staff can also configure particular parts of the knowledge management system to their own taste, skills and priorities…This helps to make the way people work more open and flexible, and means they are not restricted. It means that everyone can add material where they think it’s important.” (Microsoft, 2010)

I hope this helped to shed a bit of light on what folksonomy is, and how it relates to KM and not guitars.



Morrison, P. J. (2007, November). Why Are They Tagging, and Why Do We Want Them To? . Retrieved June 16, 2011, from Special Section Bulletin: http://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Oct-07/Morrison_OctNov07.pdf

Microsoft. (2010, November 14). SharePoint 2010 Empowers Knowledge Management in Catholic Education System. Retrieved June 16, 2011, from Microsoft Case Studies: http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Microsoft-Sharepoint-Server/Catholic-Education-Office-Parramatta/SharePoint-2010-Empowers-Knowledge-Management-in-Catholic-Education-System/4000008687