Wednesday, January 31, 2007

WildCharger Launches Wireless Power Pad - News and Analysis by PC Magazine

PC Magazine reports: "Wireless power is officially fashionable. Hot on the heels of eCoupled Technologies' intelligent induction charging strategy for handheld devices comes word of the festively-named WildCharger flexible charging pad from, naturally, WildCharge Inc."

There are two type of wireless charging technologies that are now available. One charges by sending out energy ways through the air, the other requires you to put your electronics on a special charging pad.

Both are awesome ideas, but they both face a major uphill battle of being adapted by manufactures and consumers. I am not sure if either technology will go mainstream, unless manufactures really start to support one of the technologies.

Article: Ray guns and plastic ice: Pentagon looks to sci-fi weaponry reports: "The space-age weapons of Star Wars are not beyond the imagination of researchers at DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the US Department of Defense. ... The agency sponsors research into numerous aspects of military operations, particularly technology, it says, 'where risk and payoff are both very high and where success may provide dramatic advances for traditional military roles and missions.' "

What are OLED Displays?

There has been a lot of buzz about OLED Displays over the last few years. They're only now finally starting to go mainstream and becoming available in products that you can purchase.

The term OLED is an abbreviation for Organic Light-Emitting Diode. What makes OLED displays special is the fact that they can be manufactured to be flexible, transparent and very thin. They're also brighter and consume less power then traditional LCD displays with a back light, which means that you get greater battery life from your electronics.

These displays are being used in everything from electronics (including: cellphones, MP3 players, etc.) to clothing. Plus both regular consumer based manufactures and the military are exploring uses for this technology.

Check out the following Wikipedia article for more information on this subject.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Article: Battery Breakthrough?

Technology Review reports: "A secretive Texas startup developing what some are calling a 'game changing' energy-storage technology broke its silence this week. It announced that it has reached two production milestones and is on track to ship systems this year for use in electric vehicles."

I hope this new battery lives up to it's hype. The company claims to have developed a hybrid battery-ultracapacitor based on barium-titanate powders, that's supposed to drastically outperform the best lithium-ion batteries. Read the article for more information.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Next Generation Hard Drives

Hard drives have been around for over 50+ years, and during that time they have evolved significantly but their core technologies (i.e.: rotating magnetic disks, with heads that read the data) stayed the same.

For example: there have been some major advances in hard drive technologies, such as Perpendicular Recording which compresses more and more data into smaller spaces. There have also been significant advances in head design (Giant Magnetoresistive [GMR]).

Modern hard drives are far superior to their predecessors, their faster, cheaper, higher quality, more efficient, have greater storage capacities, and easier to use. Modern hard drives can store up to terabyte of data, have fast spindal speeds (7200 and 10K, and 15K RPM), have larger caches, and have faster drive interfaces such as SATA, and SCSI. Compared to other storage medium hard drives are one of the cheapest forms of storage.

The problem with modern hard drives is they're still mechanical, and no matter how fast they make them their still a bottleneck to the computer's performance. The magnetic medium in which they store data can have defects from the factory. The solution to this problem is using solid-state NAND flash memory, which is used by all USB flash drives.

Flash memory has several technical advantages when compared to traditional hard drives, but it also has a few disadvantages. The two major disadvantages of flash drives are the price per GB and storage capacity (when compared to mechanical hard drive), but these problems should be solved as it becomes more of a mass market device.

Below is a list of the technical advantages of Flash memory:
  • Its faster then any mechanical hard drive.
  • It can be formed into just about any shape or size.
  • There are no mechanical moving parts, so its no subject to shock.
  • It consumes less power, so the battery will last longer.
  • Storage capacities and access speed are constantly being improved.
Like all technologies it will have to evolve, and get better. The first generation of these drives are going to be expensive, and the capacities are going to be lower then traditional mechanical hard drives. Although overtime, they may one day surpass traditional hard drives in price and capacity.

The biggest market for these drives will be highend notebooks and workstations, because people who purchase these computers are willing to pay a premium price to have the latest technology. Although, eventually this technology will come down in price and start to show up in more traditional computers.

If you might be wondering how long it will be before you see the first flash based hard drives become available? The answer is you don't have to wait because they're already here. Below is a recent list of how flash based hard drives technologies are already being implemented:
  • SanDisk recently announced an all flash memory based hard drive.
  • Microsoft Windows Vista supports a hybrid hard drive technology known as ReadyDrive that uses a combination of traditional mechanical technologies, that is augmented flash memory.
  • Windows Vista includes support for a Microsoft technology to increase system performance called ReadyBoost. ReadyBoost uses a high-speed flash drive to read/write the Virtual Memory file.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Video: Next Generation Computer Interface

Watch the video here...

Here is an excerpt from an article by about the technology in the video: "Jefferson Han, a pale, bespectacled engineer dressed in Manhattan black, faced the thousand or so attendees on the first day of TED 2006, the annual technology, entertainment, and design conference in Monterey, California. The 30-year-old was little more than a curiosity at the confab, where, as its ad copy goes, "the world's leading thinkers and doers gather to find inspiration." And on that day, the thinkers and doers included Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) gazillionaires Sergey Brin and Larry Page, e-tail amazon Jeff Bezos, and Bill Joy, who helped code Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:SUNW) from scratch. Titans of technology. It was enough to make anyone feel a bit small."

Video: The Dangers of Misspelling Google

Sorry I have not posted in about a week, but I have been on vacation. I am currently trying to catch up with all the e-mail, and other stuff that I have to do that has been ignored while I was gone.

Below is an interesting video that shows a simulation of what could happen if you visit a rogue web site that can take advantage of known security holes in your applications if you don't patch your system regularly. The attacks shown in this video are plausible, but exaggerated

This video is unbalanced in that it focuses on Internet Explorer, but a security hole is a security hole. Every OS (including Linux and the Mac OS) and applications can be affected by these programming bugs.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Video: Rube Goldberg Contraption Made using Sticks and Stones

Here is a video of a Rube Goldberg type contraption made of sticks and stones, plus a bell. If you don't know who Rube Goldberg is, here is a Wikipedia article.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Article: LG to End HD Format Wars - CES 2007

PC Magazine reports: "Could the HD-DVD vs Blue-Ray wars end with a whimper instead of bang? It sounds like a distinct possibility now that Korean-based electronics manufacturer LG announced that it will unveil the world's first dual-format high definition disc player next week at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas. That's right, Blu-ray and HD-DVD living in perfect harmony. ... It unclear right now if LG has the blessings of Blu-ray camp (Sony and its partners) or the HD-DVD camps (Toshiba, Microsoft, et al), but the introduction of this drive could be good news for consumers and the movie industry, which has been scrambling to fill both format platforms with new content."

Personally I believe this is the best possible solution for both formats. By having a multi-format drive, you don't have to worry if it will play on your computer or component system.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Vista, OS X, Linux Operating System Smack Down

Which is truly the best OS out there (Windows Vista, OS X, or Linux)? This is a tough question to answer to because they're all great operating systems. Vista and OS X are great commercial operating systems. While Linux is a solid open source platform that has a lot of things going for it, and it's free.

I need to be balanced here by saying in the past (pre-Windows XP SP2), Windows track record for stability and security fell short of its competitors. Also by using a Window's platform you need to be diligent about keeping your system and your applications up-to-date with the latest patches. Although, to be fair there are a good number of updates (security and bug-fixes) that are constantly being made available for the OS X and Linux system and application.

Windows Vista is fighting an up hill battle against all the malicious software (i.e.: viruses, spyware, rootkits, etc.) that is out there. Because Windows is the most popular OS, you have more people looking for flaws in the OS that they can use to steal your personal information. Linux and OS also have some malicious software available for those platforms, but its just not as prevalent.

Windows Vista has hardware requirements that exceed its predecessor, Windows XP. The OS now requires an accelerated graphics card to fully take advantage of the new features. Macintosh OS X, runs on top of custom hardware that Apple designed. So it has certain speed and compatibility advantages. Both of these OSes also require a lot of RAM for the OS to run smoothly.

Linux is great for running on older hardware, in fact it runs better on it. It doesn't have the same system requirements as Vista or OS X. Although, Linux is no slouch, it has been ported to run on mainframes and supercomputers and neither of the other two OSes can say that about themselves.

So which is the best OS, the answer is all of them for different applications. Windows Vista is a great general purpose OS for doing just about all things, and shines as a gaming platform. The Macintosh OS X is a great easy to use OS, with some great applications from Apple and 3rd party developers. OS X also has some amazing video, audio creation and editing software. Linux is an awesome OS has been geared in the past for the more technical users, and its development community is trying to make it easier to use.

OS Scoring Matrix
Below is a matrix that I used to score the different operating systems in several key areas. I tried to be as balanced and impartial as I can, but I will be the first to say that I am primarily a Microsoft OS user. I have used OS X and Linux, but they're not my primary OS.

My scoring system works by giving each OS 5 points in different categories. I try to justify my score based on the notes that provided. The higher the points means that the OS is better in that category.

Total Score 30 27 22

Windows Vista Mac
Ubuntu Linux
Graphical User Interface 4 5 2

Note: Hands down the OS X has the best GUI, but Microsoft is catching up with Vista. Although, the OS X GUI still superior in some ways. Linux is about three to five years behind OS X, and two to three years behind Vista.

OS Stability 4 5 5

Notes: OS X and Linux have great OS stability, both of their kernals are based on UNIX which is about 35+ years old. Microsoft has made some major strides in making its OS more stable. Although I believe my Windows 2003 SP1 servers and Vista desktops are just as stable as other computers running OS X or Linux.

OS Security 4 5 5

Notes: The Mac OS X and Linux have been known for having really good security for a long time. Although starting with Windows XP SP2 Microsoft has made some major strides in making their OS more secure. Windows Vista is the most secure OS that Microsoft has ever produced. Although there is still room for improvement

Software Library 5 3 2

Notes: Hands down Windows has more commercial application support then any other platform. The Mac has some great commercial multimedia applications and some very cool custom applications from Apple, but the commercial application support for this platform is limited. On Linux some large companies have ported some expensive applications, but other then that this OS relies on open source software.

Hardware Support 5 2 2

Notes: Again another of Windows strengths is its hardware support from its vendors. Even Apple has been forced to port some of their technologies (i.e.: Quicktime and iTunes for the iPod) to gain broader acceptance of their software. Although there is better commercial hardware support for the Macintosh then there is for Linux. Linux does have some pretty amazing hardware support considering that most commercials developer don't write drivers for it.

OS Install 4 4 4

Notes: Linux has made some major strides simplifing the install of their OS over the years, but its still not perfect and can very from distribution to distribution. Windows Vista now has an all graphical install that is really easy to use. The Mac OS X always has had a really good OS install process, because Apple designs and maintains all the core hardware.

Application Install 4 3 2

Notes: Installing most applications on Windows or OS X is easy when compared to Linux. Linux is seriously hindered by not having a uniform framework for installing applications, every application I installed under Linux has always been difficult. This is also complicated by the multiple distributions that are available. Although I will say that things are getting better, but they still have a long way to go.

Article: SanDisk rolls out flash hard drives for laptops

CNET reports: "SanDisk wants to replace the hard drive in notebooks with flash memory, a swap that it says will make thin laptops faster and more reliable. ... The switch, however, will cost you a few hundred dollars more. ... SanDisk on Thursday released a 32GB drive for commercial notebooks that stores information on flash memory chips rather than the magnetic platters that make up a traditional hard drive. The drive is available only to manufacturers, and the company declined to give out pricing or identify any notebook makers that will adopt it, but SanDisk said notebooks sporting the drive could come out in the first half of 2007."

This will be the most important technological change for laptops and other portable computing devices in a long time. I imagine it might take a few years to go mainstream, but when it does prices should drop.

Article: A shotgun marriage for Blu-ray and HD DVD?

CNET reports: "The key number in the battle between the Blu-ray and HD DVD camps is 250,000. ... That is the number of players for both formats that the Computer Electronics Association has said likely shipped in 2006, the first year of global sales. Earlier, the organization had anticipated 750,000 players would ship for the year."

They said that it would not happen (i.e.: single player that can play all formats). We its looks like it will. Let's cross our fingers.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Article: Security Flaws Haunt PDF, OpenOffice Users

eWeek reports: "Serious security vulnerabilities in two desktop applications could allow malicious hackers to plant malicious code on millions of computers, according to warnings from the U.S. government's computer emergency response team. ... The more serious of the two is a cross-site scripting bug in Adobe's ever-present Acrobat Plug-In, which fails to properly validate user-supplied data. "

The flaw as been patched in Adobe Reader 8, and Open Office v2.1. If you are not running these versions of this software, you should upgrade soon. For more information about the vulnerabilities read the article.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Venice Project (Up and Coming Site)

There has recently been some buzz in the websphere about 'The Venice Project'. The project is about distributing TV and other video content over the Internet using P2P technology. It consumes about 250MB per hour, and is suppose to provide standard TV resolution.

Here is an excerpt from there site: "We're working on a project that combines the best things about television with the social power of the internet - a project that gives viewers, advertisers and content owners more choice, control and creativity than ever before." Read the home page of the site for a little more information.

Article: Useful cloaking device is one step closer to reality

Ars Technica reports: "Last October saw a major breakthrough in an area of research that, until very recently, was squarely in the realm of science fiction—cloaking technology. An article published in Science by a team of researchers at Duke University discussed how they had created a device that was able to cloak simple objects from microwave radiation. While this was a stunning announcement, it wasn't what many Trekkies would think of off the top of their head. The Duke team used metamaterials—synthetic materials whose physical structure interacts with electromagnetic (EM) waves in ways that natural materials do not—to essentially guide microwave radiation at a given frequency around a cavity that held the object. If one looked at it, they would still clearly see the entire setup as microwaves have a much longer wavelength than visible light."

Read the article for the rest of the information.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Article: Plastic may spell the end of the silicon microchip

Financial Times reports: "By using a cheap and simple set of processing operations to build up layers of circuitry on plastic "substrates" – the material on which circuits are formed – rather than silicon wafers used in conventional microchips, the developments promised to slash the cost of making semiconductors. ... That was potentially a step forward of enormous significance: over the past 50 years semiconductors have grown into a huge industry fundamental to just about every form of economic activity."

Article: Diagnosis: Identity Theft

BusinessWeek reports: "When Lind Weaver opened her mailbox one day in early 2004, she was surprised to find a bill from a local hospital for the amputation of her right foot. Surprised because the 57-year-old owner of a horse farm in Palm Coast, Fla., had never had worse than an ingrown toenail. After weeks of wrangling with the hospital's billing reps, Weaver finally stormed into the facility and kicked her heels up on the desk of the chief administrator. 'Obviously, I have both of my feet,' she told him."

Criminal have come up with a new way to steal your identity and this one can effect your health if your medical records get messed up.

Article: Coming in January: Month of Apple Bugs

eWeek reports: "The hacker behind the MoKB (Month of Kernel Bugs) plans to take a big bite out of Apple Computer's insecurities. ... As first reported by Brian Krebs, LMH is teaming up with Kevin Finisterre of Digital Munition on a month-long 'Month of Apple Bugs' project that will expose unpatched Mac OS X and Apple application vulnerabilities."

If you own a Macintosh, make sure that you keep your system updated. There has already been an QuickTime exploit released.