General networking
Data network connectivity developments, networking business news, and related computing items.

Ken Novak's Weblog

daily link  Thursday, April 29, 2004

Using a Hosts File To Make The Internet Not Suck (as much): Clever little file to defeat ad and spyware servers, and to allow shorthand domain names for favorite sites.  10:12:52 PM  permalink  

Is One-Fourth of Your E-Mail Getting Lost?  High false-positive rates are cutting into corporate customer email.  "A new report shows that most major Internet service providers (ISPs) shunt into end users' Junk Mail folders — or simply delete — about one-quarter of the corporate opt-in communications that their customers have requested.  .. The study monitored 30,000 e-mails [in Jul-Dec 2003] from more than 100 Return Path clients, many of which are Fortune 500 companies. All of the e-mails that were counted in the statistics were either opt-in newsletters that individuals had specifically requested or "transactional messages," such as confirmations of orders, according to Return Path executive George Bilbrey. No unsolicited e-mail or "spam" was counted in the study..

The average "false positive" rate across all 16 ISPs was almost 19%, the report says. .. In a January 2004 scorecard of desktop spam filters, PC Magazine found that the best products misidentified legitimate e-mails only 1.6% of the time or less. ..


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Why Study Rome When You Can Build It?: " John Seely Brown, the media innovator who helped make XeroxPARC such a center for creative thinking in the 1990s, has interesting things to say about [online] games, narrative, and education  .."
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'Laser vision' offers new insights: "US firm Microvision has developed a system that projects lasers onto the retina, allowing users to view images on top of their normal field of vision. It could allow surgeons to get a bird's eye view of the innards of a patient, offer military units in the field a view of the entire battlefield and provide mechanics with a simulation of the inside of a car's engine. The system uses tiny lasers, which scan their light onto the retina to produce the entire range of human vision, reported the journal of the Institute of the Electrical and Electronics Engineers, IEEE Spectrum. .. The first generation product, called the Nomad Expert Technician System, consists of a wireless computer and a hi-tech monocle, costing around $4,000. "  1:01:19 AM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Send Jobs to India? Some Find It's Not Always Best: Examples when programming work was returned the US after trying India.  "Indian programmers required more detailed instructions to write the software code than would a programmer here, who would be more familiar with the customer's needs. This slowed the process, which was a major drawback because this technology is new and changing very fast. .. "Whenever the pace of innovation is very rapid," he said, "is when the work should be done closer to the client." .. [India's] Infosys announced that it would spend $20 million to set up a consulting company in the United States."  5:22:48 PM  permalink  

Nano-Hive: Nanospace Simulator: "Nano-Hive is a modular simulator used for modeling the physical world at a nanometer scale. The intended purpose of the simulator is to act as a tool for the study and development of nanotech entities." Version 1 is for a single-user desktop, version 2 is planned to be distributed, possibly using Globus.  8:59:02 AM  permalink  

Internet-based Distributed Computing Projects: Directories of active and completed projects. Among them is a designer for circuits with Built-In Self-Test (BIST), such as ones used in space or medical applications where reliability and fault detection are critical.  It uses Genetic Algorithms (GA) and Evolutionary Strategies (ES) to derive and simulate alternate designs.

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daily link  Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Giving It Away (for Fun and Profit): Music meets shareware.  "Vilhan is making money because he hosts his songs at, an Internet music distributor that replaces standard "all rights reserved" copyright language with "some rights reserved" licenses drafted by a Silicon Valley-based nonprofit organization called Creative Commons. Magnatune and its artists make MP3s available for free to play or download. But they still demand payment when the music is used for commercial purposes, such as inclusion in advertisements or in films released to theaters. ..

When composers upload songs on, they're presented with the option of choosing a Creative Commons license. The result is that nearly every song on MacBand functions as raw material for new songs. The sharing not only spurs activity on MacBand, but also builds demand for Apple software and hardware. ..

Lessig wants to integrate Creative Commons into the tools used to create digital art. The licenses now come in "machine-readable" form, which means that smart CD players can display a song's license as it plays. There is also a plug-in for Adobe's Photoshop that recognizes licenses embedded in image files. The open-source Mozilla project plans to put a Creative Commons search tool alongside one for Google in its Firefox 1.0 browser, due out this summer, making it easy to search the Web for, say, photos of the Empire State Building that are cleared for noncommercial use. A Japanese Creative Commons license is already available, and Lessig hopes to introduce 24 more country-specific versions by the year's end. A $1.2 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation should help the six-person Creative Commons staff complete the project. "  Related:  Free Culture: Lawrence Lessig Keynote, Aug. 15, 2002

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daily link  Monday, April 26, 2004

Compiling hardware from C++ code: Maxeler is a New York city company that supplies a product called ASC: A Stream Compiler for Computing with FPGAs.  "ASC is fully embedded in standard C++, and as such, ASC programs are compiled by a conventional C++ compiler. The concepts of timing and architecture of the circuit are expressed by ASC hardware types and operators. The ASC system facilitates design space exploration by providing three levels of abstraction: architecture level, arithmetic level and gate level. Since each intermediate representation is human readable C++, it is easy to optimize implementations at each of these levels and explore such optimizations within the ASC framework.  Conceptually, ASC follows the philosophy of the C programming language. The objective is to offer the capability to optimize the program for maximal performance, and at the same time provide a language interface that increases productivity. "

They claim typical 30x improvements in performance. Key factor is optimizing the data types to the bit representations to the data, rather than using standard int and float.  Varying the mantissa and exponent to fit the problem saves a lot.

"ASC provides a software-like interface to programming FPGAs and enables rapid exploration of the design space for FPGA implementations. This increase in productivity of up to 10x can result, for example, in 20-30 implementations of an algorithm in the same time it otherwise takes to develop 2-3 implementations. The advantages of ASC for an architecture that supports reconfiguration, or customizable architectures with a large number of (FPGA) nodes, have the potential to change the way we think about computing."

IP also developed: "Maxeler Technologies utilizes it's programming technology to develop state-of-the-art, flexible, parametrizable arithmetic modules and IP blocks implementing entire algorithms. Examples for our IP blocks are FFT (fixed point and floating point), Reed Solomon Code, IDEA encryption, and IDCT for video coding. "  Makes me think about linking this to genetic programming for IP generation.

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daily link  Saturday, April 24, 2004

Wi-Fi service, product news: "Public IP Services of Pine Beach, New Jersey, has developed a solution specifically designed for small restaurants, hotels, laundromats and bars that want to differentiate themselves or encourage patrons to stay longer .. The ISP charges businesses US$69.95 per month for hotspot access. The service includes Netopia's 3-D Reach 3347W ADSL wireless gateway, which features an ADSL modem, Wi-Fi certified access point and Ethernet switch on one box. ..

Rich Mironov is AirMagnet's vice president of marketing. The Framingham, Massachusetts-based company has found that high-tech, education and government sectors have been quickest to deploy Wi-Fi, followed closely by healthcare, manufacturing and telecom.  .. His company's [sells a] line of analysis and management products, which patrol Wi-Fi network perimeters for security  and performance issues. "

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Wi-Fi Networking: Fast Food Nation: "QSR Magazine has a list of the top 50 quick-service restaurants (QSR) chains by dollar volume as of 2002. Only two of these chains, Starbucks and McDonald’s, have a comprehensive Wi-Fi plan. Panera and Schlotzsky’s have Wi-Fi in some locations with plans for expansion.  The total number of chain stores in the top 50 are 117,468, a staggering number, of which about 15 percent are committed to have Wi-Fi within a couple of years."  9:37:04 AM  permalink  

34% Americans have broadband, 24% have broadband at home:  "Also, 68 million Americans - or 34% of all adults - have access to high-speed Internet connections either at home or on the job. 48 m or 24% have high-speed access at home. Home broadband adoption is up 60% since March 2003.. DSL now has a 42% share of the home broadband market, up from 28% in March 2003. For the first time, more than half (52%) of college educated people age 35 and younger has broadband connections at home. Only 10% of rural Americans go online from home with high-speed connections, about one-third the rate for non-rural Americans."  9:18:07 AM  permalink  

daily link  Friday, April 23, 2004

Cringely on search and digital archeaology:  ""MeaningMaster isn't a search engine, but a search technology.. [with a] lexicon -- a computer dictionary that is purported to understand the meanings of more than 200,000 English words IN CONTEXT..  MeaningMaster is hand-coded, a process that took 175 man- and woman-years."

I like Cringely's general observation: "What has changed is that, through the relentless passage of Moore's Law, computers are on average 16 times faster today than they were back in 1998. Today, MeaningMaster claims a server can process 50,000 queries per hour, though they are careful not to specify either the power of the server or the complexity of the query, though with modern brute force approaches like Google's swarm of PC servers, it probably doesn't matter. Where [the 1990's] Inquizit was interesting, but probably not competitive, MeaningMaster is now competitive. .. This makes me wonder, in fact, whether there aren't hundreds of promising technologies from the late 1990s that are worth another look today. It would probably be worthwhile to start a company just to specialize in this type of digital archaeology."

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daily link  Thursday, April 22, 2004

Expand compression now available as software product: "The Accelerator Server is a Linux-based software solution that ports many of the Application Traffic Management features of the new Expand Accelerator appliances like application acceleration and bandwidth efficiency tools that reduce wide area network (WAN) costs and improve application response times."  4:30:33 PM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Earthlink Spyaudit: New tool free from Earthlink.  "When you browse the Web, spyware programs can sneak onto your computer. As a result, Web sites can track your browsing habits, corrupt your data, or even steal your identity.  To scan your PC for spyware, just run a quick EarthLink Spy Audit.* This free service examines your computer and lists spyware results in minutes. It will not change or harm your system in any way."  This doesn't clean your system; you'll need some other tool like Ad-Aware for that.  They also offer anti-phish software.   8:52:45 AM  permalink  

daily link  Tuesday, April 20, 2004

TCP Vulnerable:  "The vulnerability stems from the fact that TCP sessions can be reset -- in other words, shut down, if only temporarily -- by sending maliciously-crafted RST (reset) or Syn (synchronization) packets to either end of the session's connection. Although this is an intended feature of TCP -- as in the infamous phrase, not a bug -- an attacker who spoofs the source IP addresses on the packets can terminate the session, resulting in a denial of service.

Although a denial of service attack using TCP packets has long been known as a weakness of the protocol, experts believed that a successful attack wasn't practical, since the attacker would have to guess the an identifying sequence number in the next packet; the odds of that are about one in 4.3 billion.  But researcher Paul Watson, who runs the pro-hacking blog on, has discovered that the “probability of guessing an acceptable sequence number is much higher because the receiving TCP implementation will accept any sequence number in a certain range. [That] makes TCP reset attacks practicable,” said the NISCC in its advisory..

Ultimately, router vendors will have to issue patches. Not all had done so by late Tuesday afternoon, although leading router makers Cisco and Juniper Networks had posted advisories, and provided either patches or software to mitigate the risks of an exploit.  But even those companies and organizations relying on routers for which patches are available shouldn't be completely comfortable, said Rouland. “These are pretty significant changes to the IP set, and they're non-trivial patches that will require a lot of testing,” he said.

Other tactics that enterprises could employ until patches were available and deployed, said Oliver Friedrichs, the senior manager of Symantec's security response team, include implementing their routers' MD5 Signature Option, another level of authentication that should stymie attackers.  “MD5 adds a hash to each request for BGP,” said Friedrichs, “so the attacker would have to try to calculate the hash as well. That should make it much more difficult to inject a packet into the TCP session at the router.” "

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daily link  Monday, April 19, 2004

'Spyware' Eludes Easy Answers: "Internet security firm McAfee today reported that the number of "potentially unwanted programs" on its customers' computers grew from 643,000 in September 2003 to more than 2.5 million this March.  In a survey released earlier this month by Internet service provider Earthlink and privacy firm Webroot Software, the companies found close to 30 million spyware programs on more than 1 million computers in a three-month period -- nearly 28 programs for every computer. "  It uses a broad definition of spyware.  In another report "Microsoft estimates spyware is responsible for half of all PC crashes. Dell says 12 percent of its tech-support calls involve spyware, a problem that has increased substantially in recent months. "  9:37:59 PM  permalink  

daily link  Saturday, April 17, 2004

Army Awards $32 Million Contract to Improve iRobot's PackBot:  Nifty remote control "toy-like" tank.  Uses WiFi, Linux, compact flash memory and video camera.  Soldiers use it to examine and detonate bombs or mines.  iRobot also makes the Roomba vacuum cleaner.  The military spec version (400 G of force, sand and mud, 15 mph, etc) sells for $50,000 and up.

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Creditel PowerSwipe:  "Mobile sales pros, small businesses, and flea marketeers, take note: You can now use a cell phone to take credit card payments anywhere you have access to Nextel's wireless network. The Creditel PowerSwipe is a phone-based credit card machine that frees you from needing a landline to process transactions. .. Creditel claims its security technology makes the system more secure than an ATM machine."  $250 plus $12/mo plus .15/transaction.  2:42:00 PM  permalink  

D-Link Ships Wireless Presentation Gateway: "The D-Link Wireless Presentation Gateway eliminates the cables between the projector and the PC, providing contiguous access for multiple presenters to deliver presentations in a group environment. "  Smart wifi application.  Gateway plugs into projector, costs $250.

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daily link  Thursday, April 15, 2004

Linksys, Boingo Boost Hotspots: "Small businesses can now turn on Wi-Fi hotspots to compete with better-known rivals without the hassle of setting up the whole service themselves, according to Cisco Systems' Linksys division and Boingo Wireless, which have teamed to market Hot Spot in a Box.  The feature is available immediately in the United States on the Linksys Wireless-G VPN Broadband Router. Once the router is set up on a broadband connection, the business can join the Boingo Roaming System. "

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daily link  Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Google Adsense Test Page: Nice way to find out what sorts of ads would be put on your page by google, based on its content.   12:38:07 AM  permalink  

Surgeons Who Play Video Games Err Less: "Researchers found that doctors who spent at least three hours a week playing video games made about 37 percent fewer mistakes in laparoscopic surgery and performed the task 27 percent faster than their counterparts who did not play video games.

"I use the same hand-eye coordination to play video games as I use for surgery," said Dr. James "Butch" Rosser, 49..

Laparoscopic surgery using a tiny camera and instruments controlled by joysticks outside the body is performed on just about any part of the body..  Rosser said the skill needed for laparoscopic surgery is "like tying your shoelaces with 3-foot-long chopsticks." .. Kurt Squire, a University of Wisconsin researcher of video game effects on learning, said that "with a video game, you can definitely develop timing and a sense of touch, as well as a very intuitive feel for manipulating devices."

Meanwhile, "men 18-34 devote 6 percent and teenage (12-17) males devote 15 percent of the time they spend with media each day to playing video games, may help explain the corresponding drop in TV viewing that has manifested among young males this year. "  Will Johnny grow up to be a surgeon? [Thanks to MIT Tech Review blog].

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Neopets: A phenomenon on the net. "Neopets is the greatest Virtual Pet Site on the Internet. With your help, we have built a community of over 60 million virtual pet owners across the world! Neopets has many things to offer including over 140 games, trading, auctions, greetings, messaging, and countless recipes for asparagus. Best of all, it's completely FREE".  Some facts about it:

  • In less than three years, Neopets has grown from operating on a single server to employing more than two hundred servers. Currently, the site peaks at just under a gigabit of bandwidth (the equivalent of approximately 700 T1's)
  • The number of registered Neopets accounts has risen to over 65 million by December 2003 (which is approximately 16 million individuals by Company estimates). The website receives more than 60,000 registrations daily.
  • Neopets offers its members 63 Neopian Shops (created by the Neopets creative staff) from which members can purchase Items for their Neopets.
  • Members have created more than 12 million pages of content, including more than 2 million pet homepages, 1 million guilds (clubs), and nearly 10 million members' shops.
  • The average time spent per person on Neopets is greater than any other site on the Internet, including Yahoo, eBay, MSN and AOL. Total pageviews per user on Neopets leads the entire Internet including all search engines, auctions and niche websites. Only Yahoo, MSN, eBay and Google have more total pageviews than Neopets.
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daily link  Wednesday, April 07, 2004

I fought the scammer... and I won: A Dublin internet cafe sysadmin calls the cops on a spammer in the act.  Fun techie sleuthing.  "He asks them what the problem is and is told to step away from the computer. He doesn't seem too happy about this, but does so. He's asked his name and is told that he might like to come down for a chat in the local station. He says his wallet and ID are in the booth, so he walks in, rips a USB memory stick from the side of his laptop, tries to swallow it and makes a run for it."  11:48:22 PM  permalink  

daily link  Monday, April 05, 2004

Putting 40,000 Readers, One by One, on a Cover: "Wthe 40,000 subscribers to Reason, the monthly libertarian magazine, receive a copy of the June issue, they will see on the cover a satellite photo of a neighborhood - their own neighborhood. And their house will be graphically circled. 

On one level, the project, sort of the ultimate in customized publishing, is unsurprising: of course a magazine knows where its subscribers live. But it is still a remarkable demonstration of the growing number of ways databases can be harnessed. Apart from the cover image, several advertisements are customized to reflect the recipient's particulars. ..

Rodger Cosgrove, president of Entremedia, a direct marketing firm and a member of Reason's board, assisted in coming up with a program that allows the subscriber list to be integrated with satellite photographs. He also worked with Xeikon, the manufacturer of the printer that made the endless customization possible.  ..

In his editor's note describing the magazine's database package, Mr. Gillispie left open three spots - commuting time, educational attainment and percentage of children living with grandparents - so he could adapt his message to individual readers. .."

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daily link  Friday, April 02, 2004

BBC NEWS | Technology | Simputer for poor goes on sale: "The Simputer was officially launched on Friday and the basic model costs around $240. .. Branded as the Amida Simputer, the handheld comes in three versions. The basic model has a monochrome screen, a 206MHz processor and 64MB of memory. It also has an internal microphone, speakers and a battery that lasts for six hours."  Its site promotes it as both a personal device and a business application platform.   There are 3 Models, $240/300/480, from stripped down to one with a color screen. Features in the mid and high models:

  • Linux based, with support for a few Indian scripts built in
  • integrated SmartCard reader/writer
  • 3 USB 1.1 ports (eg, for flash memory, or GPS), one as slave (eg, peripheral to a PC, for synching or whatever)
  • infrared interface , serial interface, mic and speakers
  • Amida Alchemy, an application development suite with a text-to-speech engine
  • an accelerometer that senses the wrist motion of the user, so that a flick of the wrist can advance pages in an online book, and rotating the device can change the aspect ratio from portrait to landscape
  • support for CDMA data networks (and bundles that include internet access packages from an Indian ISP)
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Gateway Stores to close: "Gateway said all 188 company-operated stores will shut down and approximately 2,500 retail jobs will go with them."  I wonder if that will mean the end of the Gateway Grid computer service.  8:04:45 AM  permalink  

daily link  Thursday, April 01, 2004

High Definition Video Surveillance System: "Delivering digital HDTV imagery at video rates across local area networks, AV2000 is designed to offer a vastly superior cost-competitive alternative to mainstream NTSC-based video surveillance and industrial monitoring systems.   AV2000 system is enabled by proprietary MegaVideo(TM) technology protected by multiple pending patents. This revolutionary technology leverages dedicated massively-parallel image processing architecture and represents a drastic departure from traditional analog and network camera designs. For the first time it has become possible to introduce to the market multi-megapixel video systems at NTSC price levels, with cameras priced below $500. ..

In addition to remote access and digital video archival functionality typical for today's network-based systems, Arecont Vision products offer unique capabilities unattainable with NTSC/VGA cameras. In sharp contrast to low-resolution systems, MegaVideo(TM) technology allows simultaneous delivery of full field of view and high-quality zoomed images at video rates, post-event zoom-in capability from archived footage, and instantaneous no-moving-parts pan and tilt required for tracking of fast moving targets. "

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Copyright 2005 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 11/24/2005; 11:32:03 PM.
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