Saturday, February 26, 2005

Whiteknight, SpaceShipOne, Melvill to Appear at EAA Airventure in Oshkosh this July

As we say in aviation, I was a little behind the power curve in not posting this sooner.

While at the time I watched the test flight and later the X-Prize flights on TV I guessed that they would make the visit, this is the first I knew for sure. And to top it off, are they trucking them there? No, they are flying them in for a grand arrival!

Hey Jack, ever gotten a reward for reading the EULA??

It Pays To Read License Agreements!

Via Slashdot
"OK, let's be honest. You didn't really read the EULA. How do I know? Because hardly anyone does. To prove that point, PC Pitstop included a clause in one of its own EULAs that promised anyone who read it, a "consideration" including money if they sent a note to an email address listed in the EULA. After four months and more than 3,000 downloads, one person finally wrote in. That person, by the way, got a check for $1,000 proving, at least for one person, that it really does pay to read EULAs." -Larry Magid

Broadband over power lines set to take off, say proponents

I found this very interesting article about BPL (broadband over power lines) while perusing EE Times.

BTW, if you have never read EE Times (or in this case one of its sister sites), some of the articles go way beyond what a non-engineer can understand. Then again there are some real gems that are readable by anyone who has an interest in technology.

Economics Fuels Linux Consolidation

Paris-based Mandrakesoft is buying Brasil's Connectiva for 1.8 M euros. This brings together two profitable companies who expect to be more able to market successfully against the big dogs, Red Hat and Novell's SuSE.

A shock to the Linux egalitarians, the consolidation of the Linux market based on simple economic rules should not be a surprise. It takes profits to open up the claws of capitalist investors, and cash to pay the electricity bills. Alas, there is and can not be a Marxist software utopia.

Peter S. Kastner

Itanium Has a Bad Week

The Register reports that Intel has killed Tukwilla, an 8-core Itanium server microprocessor scheduled for the 2007 timeframe. That may leave Intel behind the multi-core server introductions of IBM and Sun.

In what looks like a bad week for Itanium futures, CNET reports that the X3 Hurricane chipset for xSeries announced this week (see separate post) will not support the current generation of Itanium processors. More on this story here.

The only industry player who cares alot about Itanium is HP. Note that Intel employed HP's Itanium designers in Q4-2004, ending the Itanium co-design regime that had both companies grumbling. It's too early to see what -- if anything -- the HP engineers can to the Itanium roadmap. Meanwhile, you can bet HP's chipset engineers are working overtime.

Peter S. Kastner

Friday, February 25, 2005

Will EMC Make the iSCSI Market Successful?

Integrated storage leader EMC finally jumped into the iSCSI market with versions for its midrange Clariion product line, which Dell also rebadges and sells.

iSCSI uses I/O over Ethernet instead of very expensive -- and short -- fibre channel cabling and adapters. But iSCSI is a technology that has been trying to gain market traction since 2000, with modest success. It has half the throughput of fibre channel, and costs have not declined as fast as volume-believers would have liked.

My take is that EMC will help but not ignite the iSCSI market. But a hail-mary volume play by Dell could change the forecast. EMC surely wants to see iSCSI take off as high demand for fibre channel disk drives is constraining EMC's revenue this quarter.

Peter S. Kastner

Dell Stops Dating AMD, Goes Back to Steady Intel

In a surprise to almost no one, Dell said it would continue as the biggest Intel-only PC manufacturerer. Long-time suitor, AMD, which looked like a better bet last summer, will have to go back to being a possible instead of likely microprocessor supplier to kingpin Dell. Dell says, with all the expected caveats about keeping options open, that Intel has recovered from its stumbles last year and has a good roadmap for 2005.

Peter S. Kastner

IBM leads 2004 server market with solid growth

IBM's 6.5% growth in server revenues tops the overall market growth of 6.2%, according to market-watcher IDC. IBM's growth was driven by strong showings by the industry-standard xSeries and the Unix/Linux RISC-based pSeries.

Linux servers grew 35% Y-Y, and now top 9% of total server revenues, as of Q4. Since almost all Linux shipments are on lower-cost industry standard servers (e.g., Intel), the Linux units are well above the 9% level.

Windows server shipments were up an impressive 15%, while Unix servers were up a pedestrian 2.7% -- helped by a very strong 4th quarter. It will be interesting to see if Q4 was a one quarter blip, or the start of a Unix server replacement cycle. Watch closely as IBM, HP, and Sun announce their calendar Q1 numbers in 45 days or so. A solid Unix uptick would be great news to the bottom lines of HP and Sun, while IBM continues to gain Unix market share and would not complain.

Revenue leaders for 2004 in order are IBM, HP, Sun, and Dell.

See IDC market numbers competitor Gartner Group here on this story.

Peter S. Kastner

Apple iPod Software Update

A busy week from Apple on the iPod front, with new models out earlier this week. See separate posts this week on these models and using an iPod without iTunes.

Don't miss the software update to effect all iPod models (as far as I can tell).

iTunes for Windows stays at version 4.7.1

Peter S. Kastner

Firefox dusted down with security upgrade | The Register

The bugs fixed are listed here

I immediately went to Tools | Options | Advanced |Checked for updates, and nothing showed up for firefox, though I had just manually updated all my extensions...
Here's the direct link to the firefox page
and here's the bittorrent page


Four Tape Alternatives Put To The Test - Backing Up To Disk

I found this Tom's Hardware article about tape backup very interesting.

Floater Ads, the Cousins to Pop-Ups, Evade the Blockers

WARNING: NYTimes is a subscription site.

This is a great article about "floaters". I agree that the higher click throughs are just attempts to close the danged thing.

Of course you can turn off all Flash, or you can selectively block using something like "Adblock" in Firefox. I haven't seen one of these annoying things for a long time, but I agree that when I have seen them they were very, very annoying. They certainly do not give me a warm fuzzy about the sponsor.

Intel and AMD Up the Server Processor Ante

Intel's Irwindale versions of Xeon are up to 18% faster at the same clock as their Nocona predecessors -- and at the same price. These server microprocessors have the same power management, anti-virus (i.e., NX bit), and 2 MB L2 cache as the Prescott desktop chips announced last week. Some sources say the 90 nm cores between the new server and desktop chips are the same, which would be an interesting convergence.

AMD's Opterons move to a 90 nm process at 2.6 GHz, with the front-side bus clocking up to 1 GHz. Cache stays at 1 MB as AMD focuses on memory bandwidth while Intel needs cache bandwidth to keep the pipeline full.

Peter S. Kastner

Tip: Faster Windows Startup

Good article on how to systematically speed up your Windows XP re-boots.

Peter S. Kastner

Adware maker joins federal privacy board | CNET

Thanks to JohnG for forwarding this to me. As he asked, "Is this just the poster child for the fox guarding the hen house?"

Text copy of that FBI masquerading virus

Fortunately, I have a way to view these things plain text, so I thought I'd share this with you all. I have not included the attachment, so there's no danger in looking at this. I've also lightly munged my e-mail address in the header, but you all can probably guess what it is :-).


Received: from [] by
(ArGoSoft Mail Server Pro for WinNT/2000/XP, Version 1.8 (; Fri, 25 Feb 2005 09:20:19 -0500
Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2005 13:47:33 GMT
Subject: You visit illegal websites
Importance: Normal
X-Priority: 3 (Normal)
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary="=====5aebe98.6d34e7c6f"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
This is a multi-part message in MIME format.



Dear Sir/Madam,

we have logged your IP-address on more than 40 illegal Websites.

Important: Please answer our questions!
The list of questions are attached.

Yours faithfully,
M. John Stellford

++-++ Federal Bureau of Investigation -FBI-
++-++ 935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 2130
++-++ Washington, DC 20535
++-++ (202) 324-3000
Content-Type: application/octet-stream;
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64
Content-Disposition: attachment; filename=""

Tips: iPod Without the iTunes

Like 91% of all hard-disk music player owners, I have an iPod. It took a while -- months really -- to begin to appreciate all the things you can do with it...and play music too. However, iTunes is not the most friendly tool for managing a growing music, especially a large one. For instance, it has limited metadata support, which means you cannot mass tag a sub-directory by genre. And it is slow, even on a recent Pentium 4. This frustration led me to look at alternatives to iTunes for Windows while keeping and expanding the use of my iPod.

This blog is not about all the alternative non-iPod mp3 players, or the many fine software products that do not support iPod. That's for another day.

Nullsoft's Winamp 5.08 is a marvelous, free music player. It has a vibrant user community and a product with lots of plug-in extensions. I like the sound quality on my stereo driven by an AC97-grade PC sound system. However, I chose MediaMonkey, which is built around Winamp but uses the Microsoft Jet database found in MS Access applications. If you have north of 10,000 music tracks, you ought to be thinking about a database and all the database backup activities that go with critical data. You don't want to rate and tag all those songs again in this lifetime, do you?

Winamp and MediaMonkey will play mp3s and Windows WMA songs. They will also play some Apple iTunes mp4 files. However, you should go here and get the file, which should be installed in the Plugins sub-directory of Winamp or MusicMonkey. This plug in allows the Winamp and MediaMonkey players to manage and play Apple m4A lossless recordings (see below).

CD Ripping -- Use iTunes and Apple Lossless MP4 (.m4a)
Everybody has a CD ripper: iTunes, Windows Media Player, Winamp, MediaMonkey, Nero, the list goes on. After evolving my thinking -- whole disk drived prices have plummetted -- I concluded the only way to go is to rip CDs with a lossless codec. The reason is that you only want to rip your CDs once, even if technology changes down the road. With mp3s, you are losing sound quality with the mp3 "lossy" compression. A lossless codec takes up more space than an mp3 but does not lose any sound quality in the process. You can Google the subject and be into the bits immediately, or read this article which sums things up. My conclusion is that while Apple has a proprietary lossless codec, it's not a bad one and it sure as heck works with iPod. And I ought to be able to convert form Apple's lossless .m4a format to something else down the road without losing sound quality.

In short, the plan going forward is to rip CDs with iTunes using , then import the tags into the MediaMonkey database, which is about a two-click process. In iTunes, choose Edit/Preferences/Importing and set Import Using to Apple Lossless Encoder. That's it.

Use your preferred player, Winamp or MediaMonkey to manage your playlists as .m3u files. Then File/Import the playlists into iTunes. Alternatively, see Ephpod below. Or you can drop tunes directly into your iPod from the player if you have configured Windows to recognize your iPod as a disk. (In which case, you can even defrag your iPod :-)

Metadata Tags: Your Data, Your Way
Sooner or later, depending on how anal you are and how big your collection of tunes gets, you'll want to do some serious tagging. Adding album, date, and genre information, for instance, to keep track of the dozens of versions of "Hey, Joe" on your hard drive. Players have crude tools for doing this, even iTunes. But if your music is spread across lots of directories, you have lots of it, you rip Internet radio streams, or time is precious, you'll want to get a software application that specializes in "mp3 tagging".

I downloaded and tried several. The one I close is mp3 tag studio.

Ephpod, the non-iTunes
Ephpod (pronounced Eef-pod) is a Windows applet that substitutes for the iPod synchronization functions of iTunes. It's free, and for some, allows one to cut the ties to iTunes completely.

Filling Your iPod
Got an iPod and a collection of six CDs? No, don't go to some peer-peer network, get infected with spyware, and end up with a subpoena. Do it legally. Rip Internet radio stations into mp3 files, and you can fill that iPod with the genres of your choice in just a few weeks. First, get familiar with Internet radio at Shoutcast. There are thousands of Internet radio stations playing 24/7. Listen in as free background music. To capture Shoutcast radio, you need an Internet radio recorder application. I like StationRipper. You can capture multiple, simultaneous streams with a broadband connection. Songs get dropped into a separate directory for each radio station, which is helpful because while you can use the mp3s in your player and iPod immediately, I recommend you use the mp3 tagger to extract the artist, title, album, and your choice of genre, and write the mp3 file name and the internal metadata tags consistently.

I find that an Internet radio station has a useful ripping life of 1-2 weeks before the playlist just repeats itself. Some stations are different, but I have never found one that played a new tune every three minutes without repeats! But do the math: at four minutes a song, you'll rip 360 songs a day per stream. By carefully selecting the stations to your music tastes, you can fill that iPod in a month.

I recommend choosing stations that broadcast at 128 kb for MP3s. The quality is noticably better, particularly if you are a finicky listener or plan to crank the tunes up on a stereo. Note that 128 kb WMA streams will have better quality than mp3 at the same rate, but you'll have to import the .wma files into iTunes before they can be downloaded to your iPod (unless you use Winamp, MediaMonkey, or Ephpod to manage your iPod). That said, I have had good experiences with 96 kb MP3s at ClassicalJunk, a light classics station.

Automatic Tagging
MoreTunes is a program that goes out to the web and grabs metadata for tracks playing on Winamp, MediaMonkey and some other players. If you have a bunch of mp3s with just artist-title info, this program can easily allow you to update and expand your metadata while you're listening to music on your PC and reading the Sunday paper. I find MoreTunes is fast, caches its data well, and makes a choice. Other taggers such as MusicBrainz require more work to ferret out the album info.

MP3-Tag Studio provides another useful function: track trimming. Some streaming stations add a few seconds of promo or DJ lead-in to a song. That gets included in the recorded .mp3 file. MP3-Tag Studio can trim off those added seconds with a couple of clicks.

Peter S. Kastner

Microsoft Kills Two Birds With One Activation

Starting next week, the world's top 20 PC OEM's will activate Windows XP at the factory. That cuts the activation hassle for consumers, and reduces call center traffic for Microsoft from irate customers who have activation problems. The other, more hidden benefit to Microsoft is a built-in revenue protection program. This scheme makes it virtually impossible for an OEM to ship a system without paying license fees to Microsoft.

Peter S. Kastner

Thursday, February 24, 2005

IBM - Lenovo Deal Security Concerns Answered?

Bloomberg and Reuters report that by keeping foreigners from two of twelve buildings at IBM's Raleigh, NC PC division headquarters, IBM may be able to soon meet concerns by Congress and a government technology transfer watchdog agency. The two buildings are deemed "sensitive" by some government types.

Peter S. Kastner

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

U.S. appeals court debates anti-piracy TV technology

This small victory may be hollow if the libraries and consumer groups who are challenging the FCC are found to have no standing to bring suit. Arrrgh! Still it seem to me to be a courtly warning shot across the FCC bow.

Eden Redux: IBM Offers Cell to Apple

Interesting speculation on what Apple might be in for with a Cell-based machine running Mac OS X. Short answer: Lots of tuning and maybe not that much bang compared to the G5.

Peter S. Kastner

Spyware Snags Blogger Users

Here's one that hits close to home. Of course your On Computers team will not be installing spyware on this blog... EVER!

Lawsuit Says HP Printer Cartridges Die Before Use

In my opinion, this lawsuit has been a long time coming. Then again, it can be argued that consumers know that they are buying printers that used "chipped" cartridges. Yep, this one has consumers seeing red... ink (groan).

I always have believed that the chip was for one reason and one reason only -- to separate consumers from their money. So why do folks buy these "chipped" printers anyway? One reason is that these printers are often highly reviewed. Second, these printers may also be offered a very good price and may have some wonderful features. And last but not least, the printer may have been part of a computer bundle.

I have long voted against chipped printers with my wallet. Some of the best photo and general purpose printers are made by a company that does not "chip" and does not void the warranty if third-party cartridges are used. The name of this "obscure" company: Canon. Somehow, my printer accurately notifies me of empty cartridges without chips and since the cartridges are clear, a visual inspection easily confirms that the cartridges are truly empty. In fact, I have separate cartridges for each color so I never waste ink. I just change each cartridge as needed. If I use bad ink and have a bad result or need to replace a printhead because of my own folly -- hey my problem. That's fair. ($60 in my case for a printhead due to normal wear and tear, they need to be replaced about every 2 years in any case -- user replaceable)

I think that this issue really does need to be adjudicated. Right now, the makers of "chipped" ink cartridges hold all the cards and are making a rather obscene profit in the process. Seems that Canon is doing alright without resorting to this nefarious "chipping" practice. Sure, I understand the razor and blades idea, but that still doesn't mean that a printer company has a license to steal. Rendering a cartridge useless on an date hidden to the consumer at the time of purchase is just plain wrong, as is designating a cartridge as empty when it is not really empty.

Apple Enables iPod Addictions

More iPod models and iPod pricing news.

Yahoo Instant Messenger Security Flaw

Used by the On Computing broadcast team, Yahoo IM could execute a nasty program. Install the updated version!

Peter S. Kastner

FBI Issues Warning About Computer Virus

This one operates on the theory that you will open anything that looks like it came from the FBI. Read to find out how they get you to open the attachment with the virus.

Google plans web page links. Good or bad?

Google's plans to overlay its own links onto search-result web pages is in beta. Like Microsoft's aborted SmartLinks, web users may consider this "feature" more intrusive than helpful.

Peter S. Kastner

Wireless voice mail isn't safe

Wired News: Paris Hilton: Hacked or Not? [I'm posting this despite my distaste for the gossip ;)]

But, until all the details are released, its difficult to tell exactly where T Mobile was hacked... was it a server intrusion, individual account, etc, etc ???? has more info.

One must be active in securing your info and I discovered that some cell providers' voice mail systems validate the source via caller id. So, if the caller id can be hacked , so can your voice mail.[ Ironically, just yesterday I found the setting to do that on my cell phone, then when I checked voice mail, I still had to put in my password, and I thought to myself, another bit of technology that doesn't work, as advertised. Little did I know, this is one thing that will actually keep me more secure. Whew! :D ] Therefore, even on cell phones, one should practice "safe passwording" (did I just make that up?), is the lesson that I get from the articles.

Be secure!


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

IBM uses x3 chipset to differentiate in commodity x86 server wars

Sending mainframe architects into the Intel server labs for the past three years, IBM today introduced the X3 architecture for x86 servers -- eServer xSeries in IBM parlance.

The "Hurricane" chipset builds on IBM's Summit architecture, combining off-processor cache, I/O, and RAS (reliability, availability, and serviceability) functionality. Already the 8-way x86 market share leader, IBM intends to use the x3 to lower prices in the 4-way Xeon sweet spot -- just as that market is juiced up this spring with 64 bit operating systems and dual-core microprocessors. In short, IBM intends to take market share by adding value to what has become a crucial piece of the server market.

Note that the xSeries 366, the first x3 product which is due next quarter, sets a new commercial performance record for 4-way Intel Xeon servers with 141,504 TPM-C and 7,731 queries-per-hour on a TPC-H 300 GB database. The ability to address up to 64 GB of memory and intelligent memory caching are critical technologies to achieving these high-throughput benchmark results.

With a 4-way server priced in the $12,500 range, IBM is likely to drive demand that will continue its strong showing in the mid- to high-end of the x86 server market. This is a product the competition will examine very carefully.

Over time, however, a mainframe-quality chipset, large memory addressing, and strong I/O will only drive more mainframe workloads onto x3-enabled xSeries due to the ever-widening gap between mainframe and xSeries price-performance.

Peter S. Kastner

Intel delivers new 64-bit desktop processors

Intel announced a new Extreme Edition and four 6x0 series desktop uniprocessors yesterday. These will hold down the low-to-midrange "volume" range of corporate desktops for the rest of the year. The high-end performance chips will be dual processors, and are expected in May.

The 6x0 sequence is a continuation of the single-core, 90-nanometer "Prescott" architecture that launched in Q1'04 and has been marketed under the Pentium 4 processor 500 numbering scheme. Like the 500 sequence, the 6x0 sequence features Hyper-Threading (HT) technology, an 800 MHz front-side bus and the Execute Disable (XD) Bit, which works in conjunction with Windows XP SP2 to deter certain types of virus attacks by preventing buffer overruns and corrupted memory.

In addition, the 6x0 sequence goes beyond the 500 sequence with several new features:

-Enhanced Intel SpeedStep™ technology (EIST), which dynamically lowers the processor's frequency and voltage based on its workload. This can help keep the system cooler and reduce fan noise. For example, if you are just doing e-mail, your 3.6 GHz 600 sequence processor could scale down to 2.8 GHz, keeping your system very quiet but not impacting your experience. When you switch to video editing, for example, you automatically kick back up to full speed for maximum performance.
-Extended Memory 64 technology (EM64T), which brings 64-bit extensions to Intel's mainstream desktop product line. EM64T provides headroom for future 64-bit operating systems and applications when Microsoft ships 64-bit Windows XP later this spring.
-Double the L2 cache compared to the 500 sequence, for a total of 2MB. The additional cache can boost performance on most memory-intensive applications or multi-tasking environments by keeping more data close to the processor. Unlike the above features, the 2 MB cache is a feature that AMD is unlikely to counter anytime soon.

The 6x0 sequence processors are compatible with the current family of 915 and 925X chipsets, and will also be supported on the upcoming 2005 chipsets, the Intel 945 "Smithfield" and 955X.

The performance increase of a 6x0 sequence processor to a 500 sequence processor at the same frequency depends largely on the sensitivity of the benchmark to the larger cache of the 600. Benchmarks that aren't cache constrained, like SYSmark, show small, single-digit performance gains. On the other hand, highly taxing operations such as computational physics can see ~30% gain. As a rule of thumb, the additional cache gives a boost about equal to a typical frequency bump (mileage will vary depending on the benchmark).

Initially, there are four SKUs of the 6x0 sequence. All feature 2MB of L2 cache, Enhanced SpeedStep, EM64T, HT, XD bit and an 800 MHz FSB:
Pentium 4 processor 660 3.6 GHz $605 (qty 1000)
Pentium 4 processor 650 3.4 GHz $401 "
Pentium 4 processor 640 3.2 GHz $273 "
Pentium 4 processor 630 3.0 GHz $224 "

The lowest priced 630 and 640 are targeted squarely at mainstream $800-$999 corporate desktop price points. Some 6x0 machines will show up in consumer, but expect the 500 series chips to take up the "value" slots in Intel's roadmap, as the 500 chips have a smaller cache, lack EIST, and may not have EMT64. This makes the higher-price-for-the-same-frequency 6x0 generation a feature play by Intel, and an attempt to raise prices.

The new addition to the Pentium 4 Processor Extreme Edition family features a core frequency of 3.73 GHz, a 1066 MHz front side bus and EM64T. The new part also moves its 2MB cache from L3 to L2, which decreases cache latency. As usual, the $999 Extreme Edition microprocessor is positioned for gaming and media enthusiasts, as well as workstation-class business applications.

See the Tom's Hardware review here.

Peter S. Kastner

Microsoft Exchange 5.5 sunsets December 31st

The first generation of enterprise-quality Exchange is in its last year of support. It is still in operation at thousands of sites. Exchange 2003 is the preferred upgrade path.

Exchange 5.5 migrations will contribute a modest amount to IT activity this year, but this is not a mega-change.

Peter S. Kastner

Wikipedia down

Just a notice, and a reminder that redundancy on top of redundancy
is good protection and practice.


Monday, February 21, 2005

Intel Desktop Processors Get 64-Bit Support

It's official. Read the Intel press release here.

Google toolbar move raises online ire

This is one of the stories I should have posted over the weekend. The good news about the Google Toolbar is that the "autolink" (think smart tags) feature is not turned on by default. However, I can see the concern. Google really is the big Internet player now and needs to handle its power carefully.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


This is the On Computers podcast for 02-20-2005. If you prefer, you can download the same file here via ftp.

Recall on Xbox power cords,

A brief explanation about the recall of Xbox power cords is
available here

The url in the title is where you can put in your serial number and
manufacturing date, any before 10/2003, and shipping info, and one will be sent to you.
I don't know which will be faster... the SP2 CD or the power cord :)

Well done to MS for recalling all of them!