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3 May 2001

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From The News Desk.   [from the news desk continued.]

More OpenForum upgrade information

Posted 05/03/2001 - 9:05am EDT [Discussion]
The upgrade process is likely to begin around 1PM EST. Please keep in mind that this will be an OpenTopic beta test and features and descriptions will change. Indeed, all will change for the better with your feedback! So, what's new? Well, the big news has to be the ability to subscribe to topics, and receive notifications via e-mail, or a special, private bookmark page that you can visit. Check out this beta FAQ for more information. The first bit of testing will take place in the News & Discussion forum, and in the OpenTopic Feedback and Suggestions forum. I encourage everyone to join in the various discussions in the Feedback forum, as several OpenTopic representatives will be hanging out there participating in the discussions. -Cæsar

Major OpenForum upgrade coming

Posted 05/02/2001 - 10:19pm EDT [Discussion] [Updated]
Ars is lucky in many ways, and tomorrow afternoon we'll be lucky enough to be one of the first testers of the next big version of OpenTopic (2.0.0). There's too many improvements to mention right now (back- and front-end), but let me say that many of your suggestions have come true. Some of the front-end stuff will be rolled out bit by bit, and only in certain forums at first. During this roll-out, you'll also get to look at and use some of the new, highly cool features that will eventually be reserved for Premier Subscribers. More information is forthcoming, and in the meantime, please hang with us while this important rollout develops. As always your feedback is very, very important. [Update: also, please note that until the database is upgraded, we've held off on assigning benefactor status. We will be processing all of that soon. Thanks!] -Cæsar

MS watermarking

Posted 05/02/2001 - 9:00pm EDT [Discussion
This Wired article reports on the results of a security workshop at which MS Research demoed a new audio watermarking scheme that they've been developing. 

Kirovski said the watermark is embedded between 2 kHz and 7 kHz and showed that it could not be removed through standard techniques like reverb, echo, hiss reduction and noise reduction. He said even a desynchronization attack -- that varied pitch by up to 5 percent and time by up to 10 percent, and included cutting and pasting chunks up to 100 milliseconds -- was unsuccessful. The paper he co-authored with Malvar concludes: "We built a data hiding system able to detect covert messages in audio with very high reliability, even in cases where soundtracks are modified by a composition of attacks that degrade the original characteristics of the recording well above the hearing threshold."

The article also mentions another interesting watermarking scheme for applications. This approach uses graph theory to embed watermark information in the flow of a program. If you're interested, go here to read Bruce Schneier's take on digital watermarking, and here to read the response of one of the Princeton researchers who was involved in the SDMI challenge. Props to Julius for the link. -Hannibal

The new iBook is out

Posted 05/02/2001 - 9:00pm EDT [Discussion
In case you've been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, you should know that the new iBook from Apple is out. It looks real nice, but I have to say that I personally feel that the base model is underpowered. I've seen OS X choke one of the new Titanium G4s (suhweet!) with loads of memory, so I expect that a 500MHz G3 with 64MB RAM will go catatonic and start drooling and sputtering if you rapidly jiggle the mouse around over the OS X dock. OS X needs Altivec, and it needs lots of RAM. Yes yes, I know that you'll probably tell me that at some point in the future the OS will be optimized, Quicktime will be optimized, and it will all be blazingly fast--even on an embedded processor like the G3. If you've been reading Ars since the beginning, though, then you know that our policy for evaluating hardware is to talk about how it runs with the software and drivers that are out there now. So, in that spirit, I have to say that the new offering doesn't really do it for me. (I haven't actually messed with one yet, so I may yet change my mind. I doubt it, though.) Of course, it'll run OS 9 pretty well, so if that's your bag then this might be the toy for you.

Update: I know Apple claims that the new iBook is OS X ready if you upgrade the RAM. Fine. You buy it and run OS X on it, then. I'm sure if you turn off all the eye candy then you can use it. Whatever makes you tingle... -Hannibal

Game.Ars is not hungover

Posted 05/01/2001 - 10:40pm EDT [Discussion
Sure, the Boston bash was huge, but Carl would never partake of any activity to such an extent that it might interfere with his rigorous gaming schedule. So, he's back again with another report, and this time he's got good news, and some disturbing news to boot. Get this:

Last week, a lawsuit was filed by families of victims in the 1999 Columbine school shootings. The multi-billion dollar suit, alleges that violence in games was in part responsible for having effected the young attackers to committed the crime. Some of the game companies targeted in the suit include Atari, Sega of America, Activision, Nintendo of America, Sony Computer Entertainment, Id Software, Virgin Interactive Media, and GT Interactive. Other entertainment companies outside the game industry are named as well.

We all knew this was coming, but will you look at this list?! I don't know the details, but let me say that I hope Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man have moved to a nice independent island in the South Seas. -Cæsar

Microsoft is runnin' the numbers again

Posted 04/30/2001 - 9:00pm EDT [Discussion
Apparently, the MS marketing department can't make up their minds.  Do they use letters or numbers for their products?  News.com is here to let us know that they plan to do both.  The XP moniker goes with their desktop/workstation line, but the server software gets labeled Windows 2002.  Note that number there.  The other part of the announcement is, obviously, that we shouldn't hold our breath to see it arrive this calendar year.  And why the return to the year-based scheme?

For Windows 2002, Microsoft decided to stick with the calendar-based naming convention because of its familiarity to corporate computing personnel. "It seems prudent to continue with a similar naming paradigm," Bob O'Brien, group product manager for the Windows .Net server marketing program, said in a statement.

Shouldn't corporate computing personnel be more familiar with the lettering schemes?  Weren't they all supposed to be using NT for a long time?   Well, if I can't have plain old version numbers back, I can see the value in naming server products differently from desktop ones. -Ator

Ars isn't going anywhere

Posted 04/30/2001 - 5:15pm EDT [Discussion
Thanks for all the great e-mail, guys. Yes, although we haven't received official word, the rumor on the street is that Imagine is shutting down the Maximum PC Network (and most of their other online plays). We've talked alot about the various problems that networks have been having, and this shouldn't really come as a surprise. The important thing to note right now is that Imagine and MaxPC (or anyone else, for that matter) do not own Ars Technica. So, while we'll probably be out of an advertising solution for a while, the site will still be here. Ars is owned by Ars, so until we shut it down, it'll be here. And, we have no intention of shutting it down!

That being said, I hope our audience will thus appreciate the efforts we're making to transition Ars from a totally-free site to a totally-free site that also offers bonus features for subscribers. We're working on many exciting things right now, and we'll keep you posted. In fact, we should be rolling out some very cool things on the OpenForum soon. -Cæsar

Ars Boston, Part III

Posted 04/28/2001 - 1:10pm EDT [Discussion
Today's the day. Just to reiterate, we'll have tables and food from 3pm to 6pm, and after 6pm we may re-locate, or just hang there for however long. Note: before 6pm it's 18+, and after 6pm it's 21+.  As you can see from this map, Boston Billiards is near Fenway, so parking will be non-existent. Take the T. Hope to see you there! For all discussion, hit this thread. If you're trying to coordinate after-party stuff, we suggest you use that thread as well--at least everyone will know where to look. -Cæsar

Thanks for the memory

Posted 04/27/2001 - 1:11am EDT [Discussion
This is a big, big drive. Wow. If you're a home user and you can fill this 180.6GB monster, then you have a problem. Get help now. Even bigger, though, is this 1,000GB, 1cm glass memory cube. If you can fill this up, then you and your roommates have a problem. Links courtesy of John T and Roj, respectively. -Hannibal

IBM and carbon nanotube semiconductors

Posted 04/27/2001 - 1:11am EDT [Discussion
From the "three to five years away" department, IBM has recently announced a breakthrough that might let them mass produce products that use carbon nanotubes as transistors in (you guessed it) three years. 

IBM researchers said they've found a process by which they can form batches of nanotube transistors, which are as small as 10 atoms across. Until now, nanotubes had to be positioned one at a time or by random chance, IBM said. The achievement was seen as a step toward eventual mass production of computer chips using the technology -- making it a contender as a possible replacement for silicon.

The article gives a decent amount of detail for a Reuters piece, but if you want more then check out the EET's coverage. One quote that struck me from the EET article is this one: "Carbon nanotubes are but one of a plethora of molecular devices that researchers worldwide are developing to overcome the squeeze being put on silicon as design rules resist further shrinkage." Reader George Costanza suggests that ice cold water can be used quite effectively to induce "significant shrinkage," so IBM may want to consider including it in their fab process. Reuters link by Kenneth M. -Hannibal

Game.Ars: What day is it again?

Posted 04/25/2001 - 12:53pm EDT [Discussion
Wait, it's not Saturday or Sunday!  It's Wednesday!  Well, we've got a Game.Ars for you anyway.  Better late than never, and all that...  Carl's got your usual dose of gaming love, including expansions for Everquest and Sudden Strike, and a game based on The Weakest Link (a [British, I'm told] game show that, if you're like me, you haven't actually heard of...guess I'm out of touch).  And, as a special bonus the best(?) software "deal" you'll ever see... -Ator

Ars Party final details

Posted 04/25/2001 - 12:38pm EDT [Discussion
I just got off the phone with Boston Billiards, where we had this past September's Ars party. They're going to host it again this time, so we're all set. (There's a Red Sox game at Fenway this weekend, so Jillian's wouldn't reserve us any tables.) I've arranged for us to have tables and food from 3pm to 6pm on April 28th. Why this early time slot, you ask? Because before 6pm it's 18+, and after 6pm it's 21+.  We had a decent number of folks in the forum threads who were worried about the age thing, so this is to accommodate them. However, since a number of people are coming from far away to be at the party, I'm certain that at 6pm we'll just pack it up and move somewhere else so we don't have to shut it down too early.

As you can see from this map, Boston Billiards is near Fenway, so parking will be non-existent. The Sox game starts at 1:30, so we'll be out there right in the thick of things. I'd suggest parking somewhere else and taking the T in. Anyway, those of you who need directions, transportation, or parking tips can ask in the discussion thread for this post and some of our native Bostonians will be glad to help you out. So we'll see you this weekend! -Hannibal

More on Russian hackers

Posted 04/25/2001 - 11:11am EDT [Discussion
Hacking efforts from the East are rapidly on the rise, to the consternation of Information Security folks. The worst thing about the situation is that there is almost no general awareness about it. Script-kiddie website defacements can make the mainstream news, but real hacks (that go beyond defacing the web server) get little or no coverage at all. My article on recent hacking from the eastern block attempted to illuminate the situation.

The FBI (along with the Secret Service) have gotten very serious about the situation. The FBI has greatly stepped up its efforts to catch and stop malicious hackers. Recently, in parallel to the Russian hacking I spoke of, the FBI pulled the advisories on their website and took a new approach. They created a 'human honeypot':

"Alexey Ivanov, 20, and Vasiliy Gorshkov, 25, were arrested after the FBI established a bogus Internet security firm called "Invita," let the men hack into it and then lured them to the United States to apply for jobs, according to a 20-count federal grand jury indictment."

There's good and bad in this. I'm very impressed by the measures the FBI is taking to deal with InfoSec Warfare. I've also heard some not-so-nice tales from people about the FBI's efforts, so clearly I think we all need to keep an eye on what they are up to (read: Carnivore). Unfortunately, since the mainstream media won't cover the real hacking going on, they aren't likely to cover all the efforts being made (by the FBI, SS, NSA, etc.) to deal with it.

To learn more about honeypots, The Honeynet Project is unquestionably the best effort to date on honeypots. The project is established primarily for the purpose of understanding the blackhat community. They also have really sharp Honeynet Project shirts that don't shrink, that you can steal from Lance Spitzner if you ever catch him out in rural Seattle with a few spares. (You may have to hit him a few times.) -Arian

E-conomy post mortem

Posted 04/25/2001 - 12:11am EDT [Discussion
(I'm on a streak with the cheesy headline titles, here.) The Economist recently took a step back and looked at the whole tech slump in a thorough but reasonably brief overview article. The article takes a look at infrastructure companies like Cisco, which were thought to be immune from the inevitable dot-com crash, and tries to understand why they've proven as vulnerable as everyone else. The discussion of Cisco's supply chain problems is illuminating, as it gives you a feel for just how interconnected the different tech industry market sectors are. (Everybody talks about this "interconnectedness" in the abstract, but the article's strength is that it lays it out for you). The article also moves outwards a bit from infrastructure and talks about the problems faced by other allegedly "recession proof" sectors, like data storage and enterprise software. -Hannibal

Fiber 2 U

Posted 04/24/2001 - 11:39pm EDT [Discussion
Ok, I couldn't pass up the chance to spell a news blurb title the way that Prince would spell it if he wrote 4 Ars. Anyway, this article on fiber to the home had some info on the economic aspects of fiber that I wasn't aware of.

Ponder has taken up the fiber crusade, toting around a slide show that clearly shows why fiber is the wave of the future. I caught him in action two days ago at the Next Generation Network Ventures conference in Burlingame, Calif. Ponder flashed a slide that compared the capital expenditures required for a telecommunications service provider to install and activate a hybrid fiber-coaxial cable (HFC), a digital-subscriber line (DSL), and a fiber-optic line at a person's home. The HFC is the cheapest, at $1,907 per home. Second is -- you guessed it -- fiber, at $2,385 per home (vs. $2,484 for DSL).

The author not only talks about how fiber is cheaper than some broadband alternatives like DSL, but he also lays out why he and others think that telcos aren't going to replace their existing infrastructure with fiber any time soon. -Hannibal

Infiniband @ the EET

Posted 04/24/2001 - 12:31am EDT [Discussion
The EET has a special feature on the next-generation I/O spec, Infiniband. This is a nice piece, because it's a collection of stories that outlines the development of Infiniband and the technology behind it. I haven't read through all of these yet, but I plan to. Some of this stuff may seem a bit dry, but it's coming up and it's pretty important, so it pays to be up on it. Also, some aspects of Infiniband, such as it's switched fabric nature, are cropping up all over the place. So in some respects Infiniband is a good indicator of future trends in general.  -Hannibal

 

To the News Archives...

 

Articles

Game.Ars

Nanotech and Quantum Mechanics

Win2k Memory Tweaks

Great Hack Attack

BeOS versus QNX RTOS

Napster Settlement

Windows Product Activation

Updated System Guide

Jade goes to Metreon

Ask Ars!

ABIT KT7 RAID

The Longest Journey

Ars Awards 2000

MacWorld SF

Über Game of the Year

No One Lives Forever

Rune

Baldur's Gate II

Comdex Report

Lian Li PC-12 mid-tower

/etc

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