There are numerous news articles like this one in PCMag.com reporting that accounting and tax software company Intuit suffered a massive outage beginning Tuesday night at about 2200 EDST that took down its main web site Intuit.com along with those of Quicken, QuickBooks, TurboTax and Quickbase.

Many small businesses depend on Intuit's on-line accounting services, and according to the news reports, they are extremely angry over the outages. Some 300,000 customers use Intuit's on-line services, which generated about a third of the company's revenue of $1.61 billion, PCMag.com said.

As of 1332 EDST today, Intuit announced that all of its services were back on-line and fully operational.

The explanation given for the problem was described on Intuit's blog this way:

"Our preliminary investigation indicates the outage occurred during a routine maintenance procedure Tuesday night. An accidental power failure during that procedure affected both our primary and backup systems, taking a number of Intuit web sites and services offline. While power was quickly restored, we're working diligently to validate our systems and bring them back into full operation."

Intuit also apologized saying, "We apologize for disruptions we've caused and understand the importance of our services to our customers."

How many of its customers unconditionally accept Intuit's apology will be interesting to see. I don't doubt that many will demand that they be compensated for the losses they may have occurred.

Before the BP oil spill, most companies in similar circumstances would likely say to their customers, "Sorry about that, but accidents happen, and we aren't legally responsible for the negative consequences to you that may have resulted."  In this post-BP compensation fund era, I think more IT customers are going to demand they too be made whole for IT errors, accidents or not.

Again, it will be interesting to see whether Intuit feels that it needs to do more than provide a written apology to its customers.

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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