Data network connectivity developments, networking business news, and related computing items.
Ken Novak's Weblog
Sunday, February 29, 2004
The End of Spectrum Scarcity: Excellent summary of current wireless developments and basic industry impacts. "New radio transmission and networking technologies can squeeze more and more capacity out of the same spectrum. Some of the improvement comes from the shift from analog to digital transmission. ..
Even greater improvements in spectrum usage will come from a family of technologies that use the computational intelligence of today's wireless devices to allow multiple systems to "share" the same spectrum. The first of these, spread spectrum, replaces ancient high-power, undifferentiated narrowband transmissions with modern low-power, coded wideband signals .. A newly permitted method of using spectrum, ultrawideband, takes spread spectrum to its logical conclusion, operating at such low power that, subject to appropriate safeguards, it can underlie existing licensed services. That is, preexisting users of the same spectrum bands won't even know the ultrawideband transmissions are there. ..
Smart antennas can focus adaptively to "lock into" a directional signal. Instead of radiating a signal in all directions equally, they figure out where a user is located and direct the radiation accordingly, reducing effective interference with other transmitters. Now, too, novel coding algorithms can take factors that traditionally hampered transmission, such as physical obstacles and motion, and use them to generate information that increases capacity.
Perhaps the greatest technological gain in wireless capacity, however, will come from systems that work cooperatively. In a network architecture called a mesh, each RF receiver also acts as a transponder, retransmitting data sent by other devices in the network. In other words, every new device uses some of the network's capacity but also adds capacity back. ..
Software radios are a key enabler for all these advances. A software radio can receive and transmit across a broad range of frequencies.. In principle, a software radio originally used for cellular telephony could, for example, download new software and begin to receive broadcast television signals, or, more likely, access a network that uses a new cellular transmission protocol. Even more sophisticated "cognitive radios" would work cooperatively, analyzing other nearby radios and adapting on the fly to avoid other transmissions. "
Combined with these technical advances are regulatory changes that will open up more raw spectrum to new uses. 8:06:12 PM
Spam Producing Nations and Drones
: " Security firm Sophos on Thursday named a "Dirty Dozen" list of countries that produce the most spam. .. The U.S. took the dubious honor of top place, with 56.7 percent of the spam that Sophos trapped originating here. In comparison, the next worst nation, Canada, was the originator of a paltry 6.8 percent of the spam. Other countries on the list were China, South Korea, the Netherlands, Brazil, Germany, France, the U.K., Australia, Mexico, and Spain, in that order.
The rankings may be misleading, however, said Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos in a statement. "Our intelligence suggests that a large amount of spam originates in Russia, even though it appears at only number 28 in the chart," Cluley said. "Hackers there appear to be breaking into computers in other countries and sending out spam via infected PCs," he added. According to Cluley, more than 30 percent of the world's spam is sent from computers compromised by worms and Trojan horses which turn unsuspecting users' systems into spam proxies.
Several of the most virulent worms of late have been accused of just that tactic by security analysts. MyDoom, for instance, which holds the title as the world's fastest spreading worm, created backdoors on infected machines that some theorized would lead to a huge army of spam-ready systems. " 1:01:45 PM
The Disruptive Nature of Skype
: "No it is not free telephone calls that are Skype's disruptive punch but free conference calls that obsolete current networks. " Interesting speculation on the impact of free conference calling with presence and buddy lists. Rather than substituting for telephony, some new function may be what brings voip to mass use. 12:00:05 AM
Saturday, February 28, 2004
Will IM be the next security culprit? "IM-based attacks present particular danger because they would not cause the changes to machines or networks that make an attack visible. In fact, compared to past attacks, they would need very few connections for full infection. Today's worms take time to spread because they must find hosts to infect through scanning, e-mail distribution and file sharing--in the process creating a lot of unproductive traffic. .. In contrast, an IM-based attack eliminates nuisance traffic almost completely. Once it has infected a machine, the code gains direct access to your buddy list and learns who is currently online. Once it has infected a machine, the code gains direct access to your buddy list and learns who is currently online. The code needs only to send a few small requests to the online users.. This would not raise alarms because the Internet would not be clogged with useless attempts at infection or propagation. Also, the infected computers would not suffer poor performance or change their behavior in any way."
One early example is reported, "Trojan horse advertising program, called BuddyLinks, masquerades as a news Web site with a story on [Osama bin Laden's] capture in an attempt to fool users of America Online's instant-messaging program into downloading software and receiving advertising." These invitations to websites could leverage browser vulnerabilities in disturbing ways. 11:48:46 PM
Shirky: The RIAA Succeeds Where the Cypherpunks Failed: "For years, the US Government has been terrified of losing surveillance powers over digital communications generally, and one of their biggest fears has been broad public adoption of encryption. If the average user were to routinely encrypt their email, files, and instant messages, whole swaths of public communication currently available to law enforcement with a simple subpoena (at most) would become either unreadable, or readable only at huge expense. ..
The RIAA is succeeding where the Cypherpunks failed, convincing users to trade a broad but penetrable privacy for unbreakable anonymity under their personal control... encryption is now becoming a background feature of collaborative workspaces. Because encryption is becoming something that must run in the background, there is now an incentive to make its adoption as easy and transparent to the user as possible. It's too early to say how widely casual encryption use will spread, but it isn't too early to see that the shift is both profound and irreversible.
People will differ on the value of this change, depending on their feelings about privacy and their trust of the Government, but the effects of the increased use of encryption, and the subsequent difficulties for law enforcement in decrypting messages and files, will last far longer than the current transition to digital music delivery, and may in fact be the most important legacy of the current legal crackdown. " 10:49:51 PM
Monday, February 23, 2004
Spam zombies on home broadband: "Spammers increasingly are exploiting home computers with high-speed Internet connections into which they've cleverly burrowed...
Steve Atkins, chief technology officer at the anti-spam consultancy Word to the Wise LLC, said some ISPs continue to be plagued by open-relay techniques, but spammers generally don't bother with them anymore because it's so much easier to have success with home machines. Where much of the spam previously flowed through China, South Korea, Brazil and other countries whose ISPs left many relays open, it's now being hastened by a North American trend: more high-speed cable and DSL connections at home. "
The Register reports on a ring of zombies: "German magazine c't says it has evidence that virus writers are selling the IP addresses of PCs infected with Trojans to spammers. Spammers use these infected systems to unlawfully distribute commercial email messages, without the knowledge of their owners.
The Trojan involved was spread by a virus called Randex. This small program contacted its 'master' through the chat protocol IRC. It was programmed to look for CD keys of games, or secretly load additional software. The Trojan was also able to install a proxy server which can be used to relay spam through the infected PCs.
A college student managed to track down the distributor of a computer virus in the UK, and the editorial staff of c't was then able to buy access to the infected machines. c’t passed on all the information to New Scotland Yard and several individuals in different countries have been arrested, the magazine claims."
It is also worth remembering that MyDoom installs a trojan that could be applied for this. 6:15:09 PM
Sunday, February 22, 2004
US Online Shopping Set to Hit Another Record Year
: "It's safe to say that 2004 will be the year that consumer e-commerce breaks through the $100 billion threshold," including travel but excluding auctions, said Daniel Hess, senior vice president at comScore Networks Inc. Last year online retailers booked $93 billion in sales, an increase of 27 percent from 2002. "The growth we've seen in online sales in the year to date is in line with the strong levels at which 2003 ended -- around 35 to 40 percent," Hess said. " 1:19:42 AM
Friday, February 20, 2004
ABO - an improved compressor: A Singapore company, MatrixView, claims to have developed a technique of compressing files far smaller than conventional methods. It's called Adaptive Binary Optimization (ABO). "The year-old firm is working on a pilot project with the KK Women's and Children's Hospital in Singapore to digitise and store its videotape library of ultrasound images. These are images of fetuses inside the womb, taken with an ultrasound scanner. ..
"Arvind Thiagarajan, the firm's founder and chief technology officer, said that ABO can achieve compression rates far higher than commonly used methods, such as JPEG. "With JPEG and JPEG2000 the compression ratio is six to seven times, with a lot of errors. With lossless JPEG the ratio is four to five times," he said. But with ABO, he said a compression ratio as high as 32 times can be gained for image files. ..
Users can select compression ratios that range from mathematically lossless, for files that are byte-identical to the original, to higher ratios, for files that are visually identical with the original, but with visually unimportant data discarded. .. The company plans to license the technology as plug-ins for other document, image and audio-video editing programs"
Another interview reports "we have developed actual "technology demonstration" products for the medical industry called EchoViewTM (for ultrasound archival) and DocuMatTM (for document imaging and digitization where ABO is able to optimise a raw TIFF file to beyond 154 times compression versus existing technologies of 20 - 25 times." 10:34:36 AM
Thursday, February 19, 2004
Wi-Fi HotSpot International Directory
: Certainly not the only directory, but a useful one. Currently lists 44 countries with public hotspots, including many developing ones. 11:06:37 AM
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Phishing attacks up 50% in January:
"Attempted email fraud and phishing attacks went up 50% in January compared to the month before. There were an average of 5.7 new and unique phishing attacks each day in January, according to research by the Anti-Phishing Working Group
. There were 176 unique attacks in January, of which only 13.6% were 'repeats'. eBay was the most targeted company with 51 different emails purporting to come from the online auction house. Citibank and AOL were next with 35 and 34 attacks each. Financial services account for 40% of attacks; 34% appear to come from retailers; and 24% from ISPs" 9:30:58 PM
: Anatomy of an e-scam. A spam sent widely invites users to visit a supposed greeting card site. Once there, security holes in IE are exploited to cause many strange things to happen as a smokescreen. Then, "this program attempts to hijack the user's personal login information as they log in to various popular Internet banking services." Great detective work -- by a high school student. 9:27:18 PM
Monday, February 16, 2004
You Can Take It With You: "With a few gigabytes of stage, a mobile phone becomes a multipurpose information appliance. For businesspeople, it becomes the tool for carrying Powerpoint presentations and word-processing files, rather than lugging around a laptop. For the consumer, it becomes the repository for photos, movies and music. You'll send copies of that content to a network server for backup or to share it with your friends, but you'll still carry copies with you everywhere. .. We'll also see much more powerful location-based services. A two-gigabyte microdrive can hold an entire continent worth of mapping data. The phone's wireless connection would only have to come into play for telemetry and occasional updates.
Projects in the lab today could make today's mobile storage look puny. For example, an IBM research project called Millipede uses micromechanical systems to burn massive numbers of tiny depressions onto a medium, supporting storage densities in the hundreds of gigabytes per square inch. " 10:38:07 PM
Sunday, February 15, 2004
US software labor market info: "After two years of slight declines, the number of professional software developers rose in the United States last year to 2.35 million, according to IDC, a research company. Today, America has more than four times as many software developers as India, and nearly seven times as many as China. "
From a review in NYT, "such jobs are not about to disappear from the United States. Statistics on the current job flight are estimates. Forrester Research in a frequently cited study, predicted in late 2002 that 3.3 million services jobs in America would move offshore by 2015, about 500,000 of them in computer software and services. For all the alarm that report generated, a shift of that size over the next 11 years would be small, given that the American labor force has more than 130 million workers and normally creates and destroys millions of jobs every few months. " 11:12:15 PM
Instant message spam package:
"Some users of the popular AOL Instant Messenger program were bombarded Wednesday with messages seemingly from friends that linked to a humorous Osama bin Laden game. Downloading the game, however, installed a piggybacking program that broadcast the advertisement from the infected computer to all correspondents on its AIM buddy lists.
The software, called Buddylinks, is not technically a virus because users must accept its terms of service before it's installed. The small-print legal disclaimer states what's being installed, though users tend to click through such legalese without reading it. And that's one of the keys to its success.
The program is also clever in its use of social engineering to spread, extending a personal invitation that appears to come from what is typically a trusted friend. ..
Anti-virus expert Ken Dunham at iDefense called Buddylinks a worm, for its self-propagating properties, and said it was "gaining ground in the wild and may prove to be a serious pest over the next few weeks."
On Wednesday, Buddylinks' Web site contained a message denying the program is a virus. The home page also makes no mention that the program would in the future send out additional advertisements using the same method. "Our games interact with instant messengers by promoting the game among the user's network of buddies," it reads. "Please understand, our flash games are in no way a virus. We simply combine peer-to-peer, social networking, and instant messaging into one spectacular technology." 10:55:24 PM
Solar wireless road devices: "There are "wireless applications that are also emerging that aren’t personal, but may eventually constitute as important a market—self-powered, embedded, networked, wireless devices. Like the ones that SPOT Devices Inc is bringing to market. ..Road Spot, their product, integrates high-efficiency solar cells with ultra-bright light emitting diodes (LEDs) to create a completely self-contained inroad light that flashes brightly upon activation. Unlike existing inroad lighting solutions, Road Spots install easily without trenching or saw-cutting road surfaces. Furthermore, since Road Spots do not need wiring or external power, they can be used in a multitude of locations. All of which makes them dramatically less costly than existing solutions. .. provide pedestrians about to enter a crosswalk with warning of [They can] approaching vehicles, and can give motorists advanced warning for road crossings, stop lights..
Road Spots communicate with a controller, and with each other, over 2.4GHz, which makes them easy to control, customize, and upgrade—without ever having to dig up the roadway. Even more importantly, wireless communication provides alerts about battery changes or replacement, as well as providing a copious database of operational statistics, such as how often each unit flashes, and how traffic varies by day and by time of time—data that’s otherwise extremely expensive to obtain."
Once on the net, why not these apps: "as part of automated farming solutions, for municipal airports who are currently limited to daylight hours of operation because they can’t afford to install runway lighting, concert venue traffic control, automated parking meter payment, and many more. Not to mention many potential military and homeland security and surveillance applications."" 10:49:59 PM
Grid computing project hones smallpox research: "the Smallpox Research Grid Project harnessed the idle cycles of 2.5 million PCs in 190 countries. The grid effort, after 39,000 years’ worth of donated CPU time studying 35 million molecules, resulted in the identification of the most-promising 44 drug candidates that could be studied further in traditional laboratory experiments. Each of the 35 million molecules had at least 750 different shapes, resulting in more than 26 billion combinations that had to be studied, said Scott D. Kahn, chief science officer of Accelrys Inc. of San Diego." On an average day "176 years worth of CPU processing was utilized. It took roughly 13 hours to generate the results for each of the 35 million molecules evaluated."
The project ran from Feb to Oct 2003. "When United Devices announced the smallpox project in February, the company already had 1.75 million computers using its screensaver to search for cancer and anthrax remedies. Another 100,000 computers downloaded the screensaver in the first 48 hours after the smallpox announcement" 9:38:40 PM
Grids in a computing hierarchy: "Researchers at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., have a hierarchy of distributed computing resources, with supercomputing at the top, six 48-node Intel/Linux clusters in the middle and a 2,300-PC grid running on United Devices software at the bottom. The goal, says David Moffett, associate vice president for research computing, is to move jobs down the hierarchy, where computing is cheaper.
"I have very high hopes that we can move the whole stream of jobs out of the cluster space down into the United Devices space," Moffett says. Although the PC grid requires a United Devices software license and two dedicated grid servers, "those are close to free cycles," he says. Moffett plans to expand the grid to include PCs in faculty and administrative offices. And he says he'll make the compute cycles on research computers that have been freed up by the existing PC grid available to business applications. "We've cleared off enough resources high in that stack that they will run up there". 11:17:33 AM
Europe Exceeds U.S. in Refining Grid Computing
: Concerns are cited about European research establishments being able to deploy large scale grid computing faster than the US, because it is more centralized. Also mentions, "Novartis used software by United Devices of Austin, Tex., to link 2,700 desktop personal computers to help create drugs. This summer the company said that it had discovered several promising new chemical molecules with its grid and it planned to expand the system to its entire corporate network of 70,000 personal computers." Elsewhere
, it is reported that "the Novartis drug research software is loaded onto the desktops by way of a server running Grid MetaProcessor software from United Devices Inc. in Austin. By investing $400,000 in grid technology, Novartis avoided spending $2 million on a new Linux cluster. .. [Novartis found] 5 trillion floating-point operations per second of unused capacity in 2,700 desktop PCs at its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland .. to run number-crunching supercomputer applications that model the interactions between proteins and other chemicals that might be used in drugs. " That works out to about $160 per PC. 11:15:04 AM
Friday, February 13, 2004
Activist Ads Dumped from Google: Google "has banned the ads of an environmental group protesting major cruise line Royal Caribbean’s sewage treatment methods, drawing interest to the editorial policies that control the popular Google AdWords program.
Last week, Oceana placed two advertisements with Google, the first describing Oceana’s mission and linking to the organization’s website, http://www.oceana.org, the second focusing on Oceana’s well-known campaign to stop cruise pollution. Google removed the ads after two days, citing the cruise pollution ad for “language that advocates against Royal Caribbean,” and the general ad for using “language advocating against the cruise line industry and cruisers.” ..
If anything, Oceana has drawn more interest to their cause via today’s news than they normally would buying a limited amount of Google AdWords. When I search for “cruise line” on Google now, the top result shown is a Google News result for this same story in an online newspaper. Perhaps Oceana planned this…. if so GENIUS! If not, well… excellent way to capitalize on the story! " 11:25:36 PM
MPR: Future Tense
: 5-minute NPR technology show has a good site with transcripts and recordings of the interviews. 4:29:21 PM
Why 802.11 is underhyped: "One clear lesson in the history of technology and business is that once an open standard gains critical mass, it is extremely hard to derail. The x86 computing architecture and the Ethernet networking standard are two salient examples of this truism. Once a single interoperable standard gains the acceptance of multiple vendors in a marketplace, a consumer bias toward compatibility and scale economics create an increasing-returns phenomenon that is nearly unassailable. Open standards obtain a high "stickiness" factor with customers as a result of compatibility. Once customers invest in a standard, they are likely to purchase more and more supporting infrastructure. ..
In five short years, a backwardly compatible 802.11g chip began to offer about 25 times the performance at about one-twentieth the price of the first-generation radios in this market. ..
802.11 will not sit still. Before you know it, the performance gap--especially on a value per dollar basis--will quickly narrow. The x86 processor has doubled its MIPS (million instructions per second) performance every 18 months. Ethernet performance has increased tenfold every three years. The same will happen with open-standard radio, and those that promote the weaknesses of the standard are merely writing the feature list for future innovation on top of the standard. ..
Make no mistake about it: 802.11, or one of its backwardly compatible descendants, will dominate the wireless communications sector over the next 10 years the same way the x86 architecture dominates computing and that Ethernet dominates networking. " 8:26:01 AM
Thursday, February 12, 2004
Folding@Home Distributed Computing: Another public resource distributed computing grid, with 500,000 registered hosts. This compares to 4m for SETI (see CACM paper) and aboug 40,000 for climateprediction.net. Google's compute function profides many subscribers to the Folding network. Nice maps of users available. A paper paper measuring Folding@Home's performance impact on PCs shows negligible impact (for most apps under 1%). Security was designed in, incluing "extensive measures to check all of the data entering your computer and the results we send back to Stanford with 2048 bit digital signatures. If the signatures don't match (on either the input out the output) the client will throw away the data and start again. This ensures, using the best software security measures developed to date (digital signatures and PKI in version 3.0), that we are keeping the tightest possible security." Result is that the engine is more secure than a browser or other general purpose networked app. 11:23:58 PM
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Do It Yourself Venture Law
: "Over a year ago a group of lawyers
from throughout the venture community got together to create what they collectively believed were the model financing documents. After innumerable hours of drafting and arguing, they came to agreement on the documents and have now made them available to the public
." 11:12:59 PM
Sunday, February 08, 2004
The SWIPE Toolkit
"allows you to determine what your data bits are worth on the open market... For instance, a typical cellular phone company will ask for your address, date of birth, phone number, Social Security number and driver's license to open a new account. Consult our data calculator and that will be $13.75 please! .. (A downloadable data calculator for Pocket PCs is on the way.)
We used the following sources to determine the worth of your individual data bits: Accurint
, Merlin Data
, and Pallorium
. " 5:10:28 PM
Sunday, February 01, 2004
John Koza's sites for academic work and commercialization of GP: "Genetic programming (GP) is an automated method for creating a working computer program from a high-level problem statement of a problem. Genetic programming starts from a high-level statement of “what needs to be done” and automatically creates a computer program to solve the problem. There are now 36 instances where genetic programming has automatically produced a result that is competitive with human performance
15 instances where genetic programming has created an entity that either infringes or duplicates the functionality of a previously patented 20th-century invention, 6 instances where genetic programming has done the same with respect to a 21st-centry invention, and 2 instances where genetic programming has created a patentable new invention." 10:25:40 AM
Imagination Engines, Inc.: "IEI's bleeding edge neural network technology represents "AI's best bet" at creating human level intelligence in machines. " The principle is to introduce noise in a rigid rule-based neural network. This noise disrupts the connections and helps generating new ideas. Inventions include the Oral-B CrossAction toothbrush and some industrial materials. There's an uncritical article from his local paper, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "The machine that invents." The company website and FAQ lists several applications, many military or intelligence.
Stephen Thaler's words make him sounds like a bit of spacer. But he does have a grid vision: "I am actively proposing and developing what can only be called a true world brain, wherein the TCP/IP nodes of the Internet are converted to neurons, forming a global neural network cascade that can then introspect on human-originated content. In this system, [the] numbers of interconnects exceeds that of the human brain.."
Also, it does self-improvement: "Probably the most noteworthy accomplishment of the Creativity Machine Paradigm was the invention of a new neural network scheme called the “Self-Training Artificial Neural Network Object” (STANNO), a totally autonomous self-learning system that may clone itself ad infinitum to produce swarms of independent neural networks that may exhaust all potential discoveries within a targeted database. In this case, we have a prime example of a neural system inventing another neural system." (Once again, thanks for the tip, Roland.) 10:07:57 AM