Data network connectivity developments, networking business news, and related computing items.
Ken Novak's Weblog
Friday, October 31, 2003
Genetic programming and IdeaLab: This review of GP quotes Bill Gross of IdeaLab. "Instead of defining your part or your circuit board, define your objective and let the software evolve the answer. .. you tell the software, OK, you've got bars, beams, screws, bolts -- make the best thing you can at the lowest cost. .. Let's say you give the software access to the entire McMaster-Carr industrial supply catalog. They have 400,000 parts in stock: screws, bolts, hinges, everything. So you've got the whole gene pool of those parts available." Somewhere in that mix is the machine you're dreaming of, and simulated evolution may well be the fastest way to find it."
IdeaLab is assembling and selling the parts lists via Partsearch Technologies; from a press release in early 2003, "the database stood at 15 million SKUs, with CE models dating back seven years on average, and some major appliance models dating back as far as the 1950s and '60s. To develop the database, Partsearch compiles data from disparate sources, such as materials lists, tab-delimited spreadsheets, data feeds from CADD/CAM systems and even postings from corporate FTP Web sites. Partsearch then aggregates the data into its cross-referenced database, taking a total of about 60 days to process it, run it through quality assurance checks and post it live in the master parts catalog. " 10:58:56 AM
Tsunami Research - Hive Computing
: "a comprehensive and integrated approach to the development, deployment, and management of custom, transaction-oriented mission critical applications." A different take on grid-style computing, where commodity machines running their OS can distribute all functions on any machine. "HiveCreator
is a software toolkit that enables large numbers of dedicated, commodity computers to form a mission critical computing environment .. a Hive is unique in being Self-Healing, Self-Organizing, Self-Maintaining" 10:46:32 AM
"Omnilux Mesh Technology is a point-to-multipoint "fiber extension" solution .. using a repeating mesh topology over free space optics links" 10:23:03 AM
Thursday, October 30, 2003
Drawing PC, TV and Stereo Into an Entertainment Loop: Review of wifi links to TVs and stereos. Key points:
- all do pictures and audio ok
- 802.11b has problems with video streaming, 802.11g should be ok
- equipment reviewed:
- Linksys WMA11B Wireless Digital Media Adapter (about $150)
- Hewlett-Packard ew5000 Wireless Digital Media Receiver ($200)
- Prismiq Media Player ($250), with optional $50 wireless keyboard for surfing the web on the TV and $70 802.11g upgrade PC card. With TV picture-in-picture, you can type chat into a window while watching TV
- Gateway's Connected DVD Player ($200)
- Service upgrades from Tivo and Microsoft XBox
- the author used a Microsoft MN-700 802.11g Wireless Base Station ($89), noting other wireless "g" routers from Netgear and Linksys
- "All the devices I tested, except the Linksys Media Adapter, forced me to give up some network security to make the wireless hookup work.
- none played all the popular computer music, photo and video file formats. Apple's AAC music files, for example, were not supported by any of the devices, few can play video file formats like Real that are commonplace on computers."
Sunday, October 26, 2003
Ubiquity Breeds Utility
: "In the late 1980s, Dartmouth College was the most wired campus on the planet, running 10Mb Ethernet into every dorm room. Today, Dartmouth is the most unwired campus on the planet, with 560 access points covering 200 acres. .. If you wanted to know where wired communications were headed in the late 1980s, all you had to do was go to the Dartmouth campus.. I looked for similar insights regarding wireless networks on the Dartmouth Campus." 8:43:18 AM
Saturday, October 25, 2003
Winning the War on spam: Comparison of 2 Bayesian spam filters: "
- SpamBayes is currently the best solution to the spam problem. In fact, after I started using it I hardly notice there is a spam problem at all.
- POPFiles' support for multiple buckets can actually be a very useful feature for sorting your normal mail.
- both function as POP3 proxies "
Monday, October 20, 2003
The End of Spectrum: "There are two basic problems with the rules governing the radio spectrum: there is no such thing as spectrum, and we don't need any rules."
Nice technical summary, listing spectrum sharing methods other than frequency division: "Wireless technology has come a long way since Marconi's day. For example, many systems now use spread-spectrum as an alternative to frequency division. WiFi and CDMA cellular networks are two examples. In both cases, devices share the "same" frequencies, using computational intelligence to distinguish one signal from another. The ultimate form of spread-spectrum is ultra-wideband (UWB). UWB systems can transmit at extremely low power, so low that they appear invisible to licensed systems operating in the same bands. .. Other novel forms of wireless sharing include angle-of-arrival (for example, distinguishing a satellite transmission coming from overhead and a terrestrial wireless signal moving horizontally); mesh networking (relaying signals from other users); and cognitive radio (sensing the environment to find temporarily open "holes," and moving out of the way once another signal appears)." 10:25:23 PM
Friday, October 17, 2003
VSAT services finding new customers: 2002 summary of changes in satellite IP markets:
- 90% of new customers request IP support
- "By supporting IP and standardizing certain parts of the technology, [service providers] can deploy two-way VSAT networks with [customer-premises equipment] that costs $500 to $600," Baugh says. He says this would be the floor of the market with users paying about $70 to $200 per month, per site for service for perhaps 128K bit/sec worth of bandwidth.
- Gilat's Spacenet Connexstar costs $119 per month for 128K bit/sec upstream and 500K bit/sec downstream with a one-time equipment cost of $1,000.
- Hughes is the leading provider of VSAT services in North America with Directway. Starband and Tacyon also sell VSAT Internet access services to individual users. These offerings [appeal to new customers "such as real estate agencies and veterinarian offices"
- In the past, most VSAT service providers were interested only in deployments that reached thousands of sites, but there has been a change of philosophy within many providers. Traditional VSAT networks are built based on the amount of bandwidth a company needs and the number of sites that will share that bandwidth. Classic app: reduce the time credit for card authorization, eg "from 15 sec down to 3 sec... A group of 500 stores could share a 128K bit/sec satellite channel and not experience any delays because of the small amount of traffic that's being sent over the network, even though it's regularly used." Price: for 4000 stations, perhaps $60/mo/station, for hundreds of sites, perhaps $100/mo/station.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Business Maps The Way Wind Blows:
Truewind is an "Albany-based partnership that makes wind maps for companies seeking the best spots to erect electricity-generating wind turbines. Such maps can be crucial for determining how much electricity — and how many dollars — turbines will produce. TrueWind hit on the idea of using parallel computing — that is, solving a problem with the simultaneous use of multiple computers — to crunch a crushing load of meteorological data to figure out wind patterns.
TrueWind considers all sorts of historical atmospheric data on a given area, from temperature to moisture levels to more generalized wind measurements. Year-round data is randomly sampled over a 15-year period through a process Bailey likens to polling. Contours of the land are represented by topographical maps. Satellite images provide important details about land cover such as whether a piece of land is covered by trees or crops. "We let the model then say, 'Given these larger conditions, what must be happening on the small scale based on what we know about physics and the topography and the surface characteristics?'" said physicist Michael Brower.
TrueWind's computer model is designed to give a high resolution picture — down to about two-thirds of a mile in their large area MesoMaps and around 330 feet for "micrositing" maps of smaller areas.
The data — much of it culled from such federal agencies as the National Weather Service — is fed into more than 100 parallel computer processors. But even with that sort of firepower, it can take weeks to produce a map. Thresher calls TrueWind the leader among wind mappers in the United States, but noted there are other dominant players in Europe.
TrueWind does about $1.5 million annually in sales, Bailey said. .. Bailey estimates that 80 percent of TrueWind's business is in mapping and the rest in the related field of wind forecasting. TrueWind is starting a contract with the California Independent System Operator for hourly forecasts of the wind projects in that state. TrueWind has mapped out 30 states so far, as well as Brazil, Sri Lanka and other countries under a contract with the United Nations. "We want to map the world in the next two to three years," Bailey said. " Example: Utah has potential to generate wind power to meet state's electricity needs 10:06:39 AM
Monday, October 13, 2003
: "Buzz2Talk is a Push to Talk demo application for use with services such as FreeWorld Dial up. " Works on a GPRS-enabled Symbian device*." 11:51:37 AM
ZoneEdit.com provides a growing list of domain management services:
- round-robin DNS resolution for server load-balancing
- failover monitoring, automatically supplying backup IP or URLs when servers fail
- dynamic DNS, for servers running with DHCP addresses
- free test DNS page
- URL redirection, including "cloaking" the destination URL in a frameset
- mail relay, including aliases, duplication of mail, and wildcard redirection
- backup MX spooling
- rebranded zoneedit for resale
- API for program control of services
Monkeys Control Robotic Arm With Brain Implants: The details are fascinating (emphases mine): "Scientists in North Carolina have built a brain implant that lets monkeys control a robotic arm with their thoughts, marking the first time that mental intentions have been harnessed to move a mechanical object. The new work is the first in which any animal has learned to use its brain to move a robotic device in all directions in space and to perform a mixture of interrelated movements -- such as reaching toward an object, grasping it and adjusting the grip strength depending on how heavy the object is. ..
The device relies on tiny electrodes, each one resembling a wire thinner than a human hair. After removing patches of skull from two monkeys to expose the outer surface of their brains, Nicolelis and his colleagues stuck 96 of those tiny wires about a millimeter deep in one monkey's brain and 320 of them in the other animal's brain.
Then came the training, with the monkeys first learning to move the robot arm with a joystick. The arm was kept in a separate room -- "If you put a 50-kilogram robot in front of them, they get very nervous," Nicolelis said -- but the monkeys could track their progress by watching a schematic representation of the arm and its motions on a video screen. The monkeys quickly learned how to use the joystick to make the arm reach and grasp for objects, and how to adjust their grip on the joystick to vary the robotic hand's grip strength. They could see on the monitor when they missed their target or dropped it for having too light a grip, and they were rewarded with sips of juice when they performed their tasks successfully.
While the monkeys trained, a computer tracked the patterns of bioelectrical activity in the animals' brains. The computer figured out that certain patterns amounted to a command to "reach." Others, it became clear, meant "grasp." Gradually, the computer learned to "read" the monkeys' minds.
Then the researchers did something radical: They unplugged the joystick so the robotic arm's movements depended completely on a monkey's brain activity. In effect, the computer that had been studying the animal's neural firing patterns was now serving as an interpreter, decoding the brain signals according to what it had learned from the joystick games and then sending the appropriate instructions to the mechanical arm.
At first, Nicolelis said, the monkey kept moving the joystick, not realizing that her own brain was now solely in charge of the arm's movements. Then, he said, an amazing thing happened. "We're looking, and she stops moving her arm," he said, "but the cursor keeps playing the game and the robot arm is moving around." The animal was controlling the robot with its thoughts.
"We couldn't speak. It was dead silence," Nicolelis said. "No one wanted to verbalize what was happening. And she continued to do that for almost an hour."
At first, the animals' performance declined compared to the sessions on the joystick. But after just a day or so, the control was so smooth it seemed the animals had accepted the mechanical arm as their own. "It's quite plausible that the perception is you're extended into the robot arm, or the arm is an extension of you," agreed the University of Washington's Fetz, a pioneer in the field of brain-controlled devices.
"Once you have an output signal out of the brain that you can interpret, the possibilities of what you can do with those signals are immense," said Donoghue, who recently co-founded a company, Cyberkinetics Inc. of Foxboro, Mass., to capitalize on the technology. ..
Asked if the monkeys seemed to mind the experiments, Nicolelis answered with an emphatic "No." "If anything, they're enjoying themselves playing these games. It enriches their lives," he said. "You don't have to do anything to get these guys into their chair. They go right there. That's play time." 1:44:10 AM
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
VeriSign Sitefinder suspended:
"E-mail spam blockers [were] one of Site Finder's casualties. The blockers bar mail from nonexistent Internet domain names, but Site Finder makes it look like all domain names exist, rendering a key blocking mechanism useless, Schairer said. He also said that devices that allow blind people to read Web pages rely on specialized error messages that can be circumvented by Site Finder. Similarly, non-English-speaking web users were diverted away from error messages in their own languages onto an English-only Site Finder search page. Chinese authorities actually took steps to disable Site Finder on their national networks because of this problem. " Verisign returned to previous operation after multiple ICANN requests, but says it retains the rights to return it to service. 5:11:23 PM
Monday, October 06, 2003
Spam Fighters Turn to Identifying Legitimate E-Mail
: Partial summary of standards-based anti-spam efforts. "Put simply, these efforts are trying to develop the Internet equivalent of caller ID, a technology that will let the receiver of an e-mail message verify the identity of the sender. As with caller ID for telephones, senders will be able to choose whether to remain anonymous. But also like caller ID, recipients may presume that those who do not identify themselves are sending junk. The loudest calls for such a system are coming from the banks, travel companies and online stores that are finding that much of their e-mail is getting caught in spam filters." Per-message and per-MTA authentication methods compete for attention. 10:30:06 AM
Korean Housewives Want Speedy Net: "Most [S Korean homes] pay about $33 monthly for an 8 megabit-per-second connection. Wireless access, which allows subscribers to access numerous public Wi-Fi networks, costs an extra $8.50 a month. Koreans spend an average of 16 hours a week on the Internet -- compared to 10 hours for Americans and four hours for the British ..
Such broadband vitality didn't come out of nowhere. The Korean government sank over $1.5 billion into helping create the world's most advanced telecommunications network, according to a report from Britain's Brunel University. The government also offered a range of "soft loans" -- very low-interest loans -- to operators ready to build out infrastructure. ..
"Initially Internet traffic went overseas, 98 percent of it," Son said. "There was no Korean content. But this has changed completely. Domestic traffic is now about 85 percent, and overseas, 15 percent. However, this does not mean that overseas traffic has decreased. Instead, domestic traffic has increased." ..
"So many people are trying to see first what the killer application will be for broadband. In our experience, broadband itself is the killer application," Son said" 2:56:46 AM
Saturday, October 04, 2003
Back to the Future: New Wi-Fi Bridges Use 1999 Standard [Aug. 28, 2003]
: Technical description of WDS bridging that is simple and effective. Summary
from the author: "Apple and Buffalo, to name two, allow their access points to work as APs and bridges simultaneously, which can let you create a cloud of access instead of a little pool. It also reduces costs. In a shocking discovery, which I write about in this article, you can use Buffalo and Apple equipment together in WDS mode. Buffalo's roughly $100 access point (WLA-G54) pairs with Apple's $200-$250 AirPort Extreme Base Station, which has all the gateway features you need." 10:48:47 PM
Thursday, October 02, 2003
Power to the Edge:
300 page PDF book from DoD on changing patterns in information and power: "Power to the Edge is the latest book in the Information Age Transformation Series, and in a sense it completes the articulation of a vision of DoD Transformation and an approach to achieving it. " 9:30:18 AM
Ray Ozzie's Weblog
: "If you're doing a critical process in e-mail now, you won't be doing it there for long." 12:32:09 AM