Saturday, March 19, 2005

Wired News: Blank Discs Not Created Equal

Because of a comment made by a friend, I thought this might be of interest to anybody with a burner:
"....Blank media still possess an air of mystery, at least to some people. When you buy a stack of shiny new platters packaged by Fujifilm, TDK Electronics, Ritek, Verbatim, Imation, Hewlett-Packard or another recognizable brand, you cannot count on the name that appears on the label to reveal the whole story. In fact, most of this blank media is manufactured by a short list of companies: India's Moser Baer, Japan's Ricoh and Taiyo Yuden, and Taiwan's CMC Magnetics, Prodisc Technology and Optodisc Technology...."

Friday, March 18, 2005

Microsoft Details How Their Anti-Spyware Works

Information Week has an interesting article on the MS anti-spyware application, along with a link to a seven page white paper by MS.


In Asia, Microsoft sees slow start for budget XP

Just how is Windows XP Starter Edition doing? Not that well evidently. This article explains some of the reasons why, but the number one reason seems to be cheap, bootleg copies of XP Home and XP Pro are readily available.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Commerce: MSN Launches Sponsored Ads on Search Site

The use of data from Hotmail users to target ads is an interesting component of this search site. Of course, you have all given Hotmail absolutely true and accurate information about yourself, right?

MIT Backs Brazil's Free Software Over Microsoft

Every once in a while I have to sneak in a positive open source story here. I agree -- a full open source OS is a better option on computers for the poor than a scaled down proprietary OS.

More on Microsoft's Discontinuation of Free Support for Visual Basic 6

I posted about this a few days ago. has a more detailed article, including links to the fundamental details of the controversy (differences in the languages involved themselves). This is likely the most complete statement of the problem and the controversy yet.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Spammer Sues Spam Victim, Continues Spamming Him

Is this the future of CAN-SPAM? You request, under the rights of CAN-SPAM to be removed, but instead of being removed from the mailing list, the owner sues you?

I ran into this one on

IE 7 Details Are Coming Out

A short read on what to expect.


AMD goes after thin-and-light notebooks

Thin-and-light is a category AMD has abdicated to Intel. New processor models will put AMD squarely in the most profitable notebook segment.

However, I doubt AMD's claim that 51% of the notebook market will be thin-and-lights by 2007. There are too many corporate cruisers -- not to mention consumers -- who have much heavier (and sometimes more powerful) notebooks to lug to meetings.

AMD Jumps on Processor Number Bandwagon
Note the new model numbers AMD has chosen, which identify the feature class and relative speed. Looks like AMD is imitating Intel's 2004 switch to the same (applaudable) idea: get rid of gigahertz as the main identifier of processor performance.

Peter S. Kastner

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Intel QUIETLY Pushes Desktop Linux

Intel is formally, though very quietly, supporting Linux on the desktop. MS must be pretty unhappy with them. Anyway, the details can be had at the link above.

My wife recently partitioned her laptop and installed SuSE 9.2, all by herself, which certainly shows that a user of average competance can now easily install Linux. Laptops used to pose special problems, but not any more. It may be that the time of Linux on desktops is come. It surely has in our home.


Microsoft to Abandon Passwords in Longhorn?

Vnunet has an intriguing article quoting a Microsoft representative as saying that Longhorn will rely on some unspecified form of two factor authentication, rather than passwords.

The scheme is not detailed at all, but right away it raises questions like who will provide the database for authentication? Microsoft? I can hear the howls now from many quarters about entrusting MS with one's identity. The article makes the point (and I concur) that such authentication, whatever form it takes, has to be openly held and accessible from any and everywhere, lest myriad problems arise.

Still; passwords are rarely used well and something has to change. At least this will begin a (hopefully) constructive debate on the subject.


SHA-1 Hash Flaw Draws Serious Industry Response

Last month, news reports that academic researchers in China had found a flaw in the widely used SHA-1 hashing algorithm raised a few eyebrows but quickly passed from the headlines.

Fast forward a month, and today's Wall Street Journal has a front page story about raising red flags over this story.

SHA-1 hashes a 160-bit "key" that was thought to be unique for each message. That would ensure a recipient, for instance, that an e-mail had not been tampered with. SHA-1 is widely used in Internet commerce (e.g., money) and in a number of authentication systems built into commercial products such as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

What a difference a month makes. The Wall Street Journal story paints a different story from the initial blase reactions. Security specialists and product developers looked at the evidence from the Chinese research and found an exploitable flaw. The security industry will jettison SHA-1 as soon as it can -- and hope a hack that exploits the flaw dose not appear first.

Bottom Line: In this case, last month's smoke becomes this month's fire. The SHA-1 flaw is serious and deserves attention by vendors and enterprises which use it in their customer- and partner-facing applications.

The unstated fear is that the bad guys will find an unpublished flaw in some other critical Internet security feature, and create chaos through lack of trust in online commerce. Should the $20 billion Internet commerce market lose consumer and business confidence, it could crash overnight. Not my Cassandra scenario, mind you, but it's very sobering to realize that the world is coming to depend on fragile technology -- and may not know how large the risk is.

Peter S. Kastner

Open Source Servers is a Dumb Idea

Timothy Prickett Morgan is a writer and analyst whom I usually respect. He is off base with a proposal to rid the world of proprietary servers and replace them with Open Source Servers.

Morgan writes, "IT vendors are in the business of selling what are still largely point solutions to customers who have holistic problems that include myriad legacy systems. The vendors and the consumers of servers, in particular, have been at odds with each other from the beginning. The vendors control the introduction, maturation, and death of any technology in the servers they control, often to the chagrin of their customers.

There is another way to make and support servers, one that is more flexible, yet allows companies to absorb change in the way they want to, not the way that vendors want them to."

What Morgan wants is a myriad of interchangeability standards that would allow enterprises to allow -- well, there is no other way to put it -- do-it-yourself (DIY) servers. I agree it is sometimes frustrating to be unable to plug an IBM Power server into an HP rack, or have to pay a big price for the sheet metal and screws on hot-plug disk drives. But that's the way the industry works -- and has always worked.

No New News
First, Morgan is wrong. Open Source hardware has been around in many variations for years. You can go to Tyan or any number of Taiwan server-motherboard makers and buy the features you want. Exactly like a DIY desktop PC. Enterprises can easily negotiate with the Taiwanese or Chinese to procure disk drive enclosures, racks, and all the things Morgan rants about. But, gee, that would mean having F1000 enterprises designing their own variation on Open Source computers. I trust at least a few CEOs will decide that computer design and on-site assembly is not the core competency of most enterprises (and certainly not the government). On the other hand, resellers have supported the small- medium-business market this way for years with OEM parts they assemble.

Peter's "Make a Buck" Argument
CIOs for years have had the delusion they should receive the low -- as in free -- price of open source software. They just expect the free software to come with enterprise-class support on a 24x7 basis. What is wrong with this thinking? Software and Morgan's target hardware companies have to mark up the products they sell to cover the support and warranty they provide. They also are expected by shareholders to make a profit. All those on-site vendor pre-sales calls to help scope the project requirements get added into the gross margin needed on disk drives enclosures. And almost all enterprises need that support and help, whether it is a paid service or built into the price of the server rack.

Open source Enterprise Won't Fly
Sorry, Timothy Prickett Morgan, your idea won't fly in the real world of enterprise computing. The choice to do open source has been there for a decade in many ways and the market has spoken with a resounding "no thanks". Enterprises may grumble and groan about prices, but they keep paying and paying. In fact, when faced with the end of a hardware platform (think HP 3000), they roar with displeasure.

Peter S. Kastner

Microsoft Converges Business Solutions Business

"At its Convergence 2005 conference in San Diego last week, Microsoft unveiled its ERP product roadmap, including details of its "Project Green" initiative to gradually unite the five core products sold through its Microsoft Business Solutions (MOBS) division. Project Green will be delivered across two waves, the first of which has already begun. Microsoft also announced a new five-year support policy for all MOBS products, replacing the previous three-year support policy."

Microsoft as a whole set revenue and profit records for the last quarter, but the MOBS segment grew revenues only five percent, to $206 million, and its net loss grew to $23 million -- a loss approaching 10% of sales. This is obviously a disappointment for Microsoft, which trails predictions it would leverage Great Plains, Navision, Solomon, retail POS, and CRM applications into a juggernaut to challenge SAP and Oracle applications -- at least in the mid-market.

Convergence will (eventually) cut costs because fewer support resources will be needed five-plus years from now. More importantly, Microsoft needs to rationalize its sales channel: five products now use five channels to go to market. This is not efficient for Microsoft or for the resellers who are competing at the local level.

Bottom Line: Will not help customers, channel partners, or Microsoft any time soon. But it's the right thing to do in the long run. Potential customers will have to consider a migration somewhere down the road -- but Microsoft is not alone with the prospect of migrations down the road!

Peter S. Kastner

Monday, March 14, 2005

Microsoft Extends Office "Presence", Buys Groove

Anyone thinking Microsft's venerable Office suite is out of new features to add has missed the boat. Microsoft has an active -- and maybe visionary -- program to extend the concept of Office and workplace to remote, mobile, and disconnected workers. This is a long-term effort which Microsoft believes is strategic to its long-term growth and prosperity.

Last week, Microsoft purchased Groove, a Massachusetts company headed by Lotus Development luminary, Ray Ozzie. Ozzie will become one of three Microsoft "chief technology officers", working with chief architect Bill Gates.

Groove's Virtual Office complements Microsoft's collaboration solution offerings:

  • Real-time collaboration solutions such as Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2005 and Microsoft Office Live Communications Server that enable in-the-moment one-to-one and one-to-many collaboration
  • Server-based collaboration solutions such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server and Windows SharePoint Services that allow businesses to create and manage collaborative work spaces online or on a company's internal IT system
  • Peer-to-peer collaboration solutions through Groove's Virtual Office, which let any Windows-based PC user instantly create ad hoc, virtual work spaces that securely and easily span organizational, geographic and network boundaries, and allow information workers to be productive whether they're online or temporarily disconnected from the network.

Gates talked last week about "presence", the ability with forthcoming technology to instantly create the appropriate meeting environment for collaboration. E-mail, telephony, video conference, instant messaging -- all will tie together. Given Microsoft's strong push with this initiative into Voice Over IP (VoIP), we reiterate our prediction that VoIP is going to see enormous growth this year. On the other hand, Microsoft's technology will make it harder for workers to get private or personal time as instant meetings could be no more than a mouse click away.

Peter S. Kastner

Peter S. Kastner

Pi Day Gives Math Mavens Something to Celebrate

Take a little break from your manic Monday, geeks, and contemplate Pi and Einstein's birthday all rolled into one!

Storage: Show Me the Money

Market counter IDC reported last week "Worldwide external disk storage systems factory revenues grew slightly in the fourth quarter of 2004 (4Q04), posting just 1% growth over the same quarter one year ago to $3.8 billion, according to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker. The total disk storage systems market grew at a slightly higher year-over-year rate of 1.8% in the fourth quarter, as internal storage revenues grew faster than external storage. Demand for disk storage systems capacity picked up considerably in the fourth quarter, however, resulting in 57.7% year-over-year growth in external disk storage systems petabytes. For the full year 2004, the external disk storage systems market posted 4.7% revenue growth over 2003 to $14.2 billion."

EMC and EMC partner Dell are growing fastest, while HP lost several market share points last year (see separate blog entry).

Where's the Money?
There is a real disconnect between the piddling 1% revenue growth noted by IDC and the widespread belief that storage growth is 40% - 50% a year. I believe growth is at the 40% - 50% a year range. My research last year at Aberdeen Group with F1000 users showed statistically significant results at the 40%+ level for planned gigabytes of enterprise storage added (e.g., datacenter, not desktop). To this add EMC CEO Joe Tucci's complaint to analysts last month that EMC could not get enough fibre channel disk drives to meet demand this quarter. And it's not just me: EMC states storage industry growth is 50%, so many smart people are drinking the 50% growth Koolaid.

The question I pose is this: since no one is suggesting that enterprise storage prices have declined 40% - 50% in the past year, how can revenues be up only 4.7 percent as IDC claims while gigabytes shipped is up over 40%? The arithmetic just does not work! One answer is that IT is budgeting and planning for 40% growth but buying far less -- 35% less growth than planned. Another could be a fundamental flaw in the methodology used by IDC (and others) which understates storage spending growth as a share of the entire server/storage/software/services pie.

I'd like the answer, please. Post your thoughts.

Peter S. Kastner

Privacy advocates frown on Amazon snooping plan

Anyone who has an account knows how their system works. If you are logged in, Amazon presents you will all kinds of "suggestions", based on your browsing and buying habits, that it thinks you might like to buy. Sometimes it is kind of spooky. Most of the time to me, it is wrong and annoying. I want to look at what I want to look at, and I don't want to be bombarded with a bunch of stuff related to things I bought in the past every time I log in.

While Amazon does give you the chance to fine tune the "suggestions" by deleting things, well, that's not my job or where I want to spend my time. I once bought a country music CD and for years Amazon must have thought that I really wanted to buy mass quantites of country music. Every time I went there, I got another "suggestion". My interests are so varied that no automated system can get it right, and Amazon's routinely gets it wrong.

Now this "suggestion" business may only get "better" with this new Amazon patented gift tracking system.

Amazon, listen! There are 2 useful features your tracking system gives me. One is keeping track of things I've looked at during a session (and no longer). That way if I'm comparing stuff I can easily find the things I've already scoped out. The other is when I put something in my shopping cart, Amazon offers me a deal on that and a related item I might want -- a possible savings. Possible savings are good, especially if I really want that other item -- I'm likely to buy.

I realize that other shoppers may have other needs. What Amazon really needs to do is let us, their customers, choose from their tracking features those which are useful and allow us to leave the others behind. The ones that are offensive to me personally, will actually cause me to spend less time at the Amazon site which means that I'm less likely to see something that I want to buy. I have never bought something from Amazon that I didn't want to buy before I went to the Amazon site. Perhaps I am atypical, but it is true.

After that rant, why do I even buy from Amazon? A couple of reasons. They often have good prices. They often have what I want in stock. They usually get the order right. When they get the order wrong, they have fixed the probem in a timely manner. There are so many things I like about Amazon, but it is possible to drive a loyal customer away if the browsing experience gets too spooky. What is described in this article is, in my opinion, spooky. Not to mention the child safety issues involved, which is a very huge concern.

So Amazon, please patent the "let the customer turn off the parts they don't like" buttons. And please, please go very carefully with this next step and its potential for child exploitation.

Corel WordPerfect Gets Some Justice

Back in the late 1980s when word processing on a PC became de rigeur and companies like Wang and Data General began the long slide to oblivion, WordPerfect Corporation was the market share leader. WP could do an awful lot of page layout once you learned the secret codes that control text and paragraph attributes. The alternative was using very tedious and unfriendly programs with a graphics user interface like PageMaker on an Intel 286 16MHz processor. But as Windows and Microsoft Word rolled out in ever-improving versions from Redmond, WordPerfect lost share in the 1990s and was eventually sold off to Corel Software in Canada.

One of the strong vertical markets for WordPerfect was legal, primarily because WordPerfect listened to lawyers and did things like line numbering pleadings and making legal document formatting easy.

So it is with some justice (pun intended) that WordPerfect wins a 50,000 seat order at the Big Lawyer, the U.S. Department of Justice -- which respects the first amendment rights of bloggers should they be reading this. Corel bid $40 a seat per year for 5 years, plus services and training to bring the contract value to $13M. At one-third the bid price of Microsoft, the accountants at Justice saw a good deal.

Peter S. Kastner

Is Google Quietly Leading a revolution in Open Web Programming?

Take a look at Google Suggest. Watch the way the suggested terms update as you type, almost instantly. Now look at Google Maps. Zoom in. Use your cursor to grab the map and scroll around a bit. Again, everything happens almost instantly, with no waiting for pages to reload. What's happening? This isn't your father's static web page circa 1996!

"Google Suggest and Google Maps are two examples of a new approach to web applications that James Garrett at Adaptive Path has been calling Ajax. The name is shorthand for Asynchronous JavaScript + XML, and it represents a fundamental shift in what’s possible on the Web.

Defining AjaxAjax isn’t a technology. It’s really combining several heretofore standalone, standards-based technologies together in powerful new ways. Ajax incorporates:
  • standards-based presentation using XHTML and CSS; dynamic display and interaction using the Document Object Model; data interchange and manipulation using XML and XSLT;
  • asynchronous data retrieval using XMLHttpRequest;
  • JavaScript binding everything together.
Old Way
The classic web application model works like this: Most user actions in the interface trigger an HTTP request back to a web server. The server does some processing — retrieving data, crunching numbers, talking to various legacy systems — and then returns an HTML page to the client. It’s a model adapted from the Web’s original use as a hypertext medium, but as readers of The Elements of User Experience know, what makes the Web good for hypertext doesn’t necessarily make it good for software applications.

Ajax Way
Instead of loading a webpage at the start of the session, the browser loads an Ajax engine — written in JavaScript and usually tucked away in a hidden frame. This engine is responsible for both rendering the interface the user sees and communicating with the server on the user’s behalf. The Ajax engine allows the user’s interaction with the application to happen asynchronously — independent of communication with the server. So the user is never staring at a blank browser window and an hourglass icon, waiting around for the server to do something."

1. The architectural balance between "fat client" and "this client" continues in a yin-yang seesaw. Probalbly thus it will always be. The rush away from fat (e.g., client-server mid-1990s) clients to "thin" web clients with a mere sliver of HTML cum Java Script left many wide-area network users frustrated while the web-load bars slowly move from left to right. There are too many client-server interactions in the unpredictable web response time world to make the current thin client model last in a web services world.

With fast machines loafing along, it makes sense in the Ajax model to place more of the local work on the desktop (or laptop) so the user gets more rapid response to what they are looking for. Mousing to the place on the map and zooming in are a good example.

2. Interesting that Google is quietly playing with fire. They just throw this technology out there without so much as a press release, Larry Ellison would have a migraine if that happened at Oracle. The technology is a open as it gets, so it runs on all kinds of browsers -- a not so subtle jab at Microsoft's browser hegemony.

3. The more combinations of open technology take root, the lower the revenues of the software industry. Microsoft, IBM, Macromedia and a host of other software tool companies have much to lose when premier web sites like Google go pure-white with standards based code. And if Google can do it, so can General Motors and other technology-savvy enterprises.

4. You will add Ajax to your lexicon. Ajax will be a big deal in the world's development community inside six months.

5. This will drive the "premier supplier of janitorial and cleaning industries software" absolutely crazy. :-)

Peter S. Kastner

OC Podcast

This is the On Computers podcast for 03-13-2005. If you prefer, you can download the same file here via ftp.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Links from the show


What Memory is Best?
DDR on Pentium4 (old)

DDR versus DDR2
Anand Tech on DDR2 and X-Bit Labs also on DDR versus DDR2 memory performance
Game PC on DDR benchmark and tests of 3 high-end DDR2 memory products suggests DDR2 is starting to pull away in performance with DDR2-600. And the cost differential between premium DDR memory and DDR2 memory is not large. [Peter S. Kastner]

Ways to tell what hardware you have Belarc and Everest
Google Converts Your Phone Number Into a Map to Your House from the blog.
Ageia Physics Processing Unit Improve Photo Realism of games!
Interview with ageia developers

Mozilla stopping Mozilla suite development

Why we don't allow comments on this blog...

How to Remove NAV2003 and earlier

Regcleaner link

VIA DP 310 Dual Processor, mini ITX and here are the specs

Free typing tutor
*nix Seti unit cacher here

Th-th-that's ALL folks, have a good week

Sun Rises in Redmond

Scant evidence from a blog, but the photos are not likely faked. It sure makes sense for Microsoft to sell its forthcoming Windows 64 on Sun's AMD Opteron-based servers. My nose tells me this unannounced story will come true.

Sun sells hardware: the cynic in me says let the customers decide whether they want Linux, Solaris, or Windows. And Sun needs to move tons of Opterons to make up the revenue dollars for slow-growth/declining big-iron SPARC Unix servers.

Peter S. Kastner

AMD Skips DDR2 in 2005

AMD is seeing no real performance gains in DDR2 -- and DDR2 costs more -- so AMD is not respinning its Athlon 64 processors to support it. I cannot fault AMD's logic.

Peter S. Kastner

My 1st time

Recently got my first KVM switch.

Please use

Joe's link if you decide to get one too.

I have 3 main computers. Up to now i have been using seperate keybords, Mice, and monitors. Needless to say this took up a whole bunch of space. After hearing most of the rest of the folks here talking about their KVM switches, I finally decided to try one of my own. After seeing what compgeeks had to offer, I got the one above. Looked like it had everything and was cheap. So, when i got it, I deciphered the 3"X4" instuctions in about 45 minutes.

After 3 attempts at hooking everything up. I crossed my fingers and powered everything up. Well, no video. Turns out I didn't have my main computer hooked into the #1 postion. So, switched a few more cables and TA DA. I got video. Fired everything else up. tried my first switch (scroll lock, scroll lock, computer #), that took a few attempts. Finnaly got switched over to #2 and the #3. It will also scan for computers if you hit space instead of the number. Now I am a switching fool (LOL). Just last week I think I got a bit too fast. I was ghosting one computer onto another over the LAN. while I was listening to oncomputers. Well, video went funky and scrunched up. I was going nuts could not get anything. Had to shut everthing down. I heaved a sigh of relief when everything came back.

So, to sum up I cleared out a great deal of space, extra montors, keyboards and mice. Saved myself allot of moving from computer to computer. All for $35 plus shipping.