Saturday, May 28, 2005

Coming Soon: Virtual Earth at Google and MSN

Having scoped my neighborhood with the overheads provided by Keyhole, recently acquired by Google, I can tell you that digital overhead photography on the Internet has gotten way better in the past five years. With better commercial satellites, desktop software and the desktop power to run it, and cheap storage for all those terabytes of territory, digital geogpaphy is better than ever.

Microsoft and Google will soon introduce new products, partly aimed at delivering a geographic context to retail storefronts.

Oh, and beware of lying naked in the privacy your backyard on a clear day. A few years ago, you'd be a pixel to a satellite. Maybe. Not anymore.

-- Peter S. Kastner

Real Time, Online Hunting Experience

Tired of playing first person shooters on your game console? Step right up and shoot live ammunition at targets via the Internet.

OK, target shooting remotely is not my cup of tea, but it's not controversial either.

What is controversial about this site is shooting live game over the Internet. You will be hearing more about this web site as soon as (fill in the blank from a very long list) finds out about it and a Congressman calls a press conference covered on the nightly news.

Hey, you heard it here first.

-- Peter S. Kastner

First Digital Mop Debuts

If you have any doubts that twenty years from now our lives will be fundamentally changed by digital consumer products, read this article. No, you may not want to buy a digital robot mop this afternoon. But think about the very smart people with Stanford MBAs who did market research which shows that there really is a market for robot mops.

Go figure!

-- Peter S. Kastner

Dell, HP, Lenovo Roll Out Dual-Core Desktops

As we posted on May 26th, Intel's aggressive pricing for the new Pentium D dual-core microprocessors gets immediate attention from the big PC OEMs.

HP announced the dc7600, a small-form factor desktop. Moving up to a dual-core 2.8GHz Pentium D from a single-core Pentium 4 costs $81 based on my use of HP's constantly changing configurator.

Dell's XPS 9100 is not as price attractive as the HP dc7600, but they are aimed different audiences.

Lenovo (aka IBM's former PC division) will deliver the A52 and M52 next month. you won't find it mentioned at the (IBM domain) web site yet.

-- Peter S. Kastner

Pod Guides, Another Creative Use for iPods

I have been watching the ecosystem build around Apple's iPod for about a year. It is truly impressive what human invention can do.

With the link above, you can get a free software template for podguides, a hodge-podge of HTML text, JPEG photos (including maps), and MP3 audios that can create a walking tour of a city, a demo run through, or any number other creative uses. With a photo iPod, you can take the text, photos, and audio with you on you iPod alone. The rest of us will have to print out the text and photos to view while listening to the audio walk-through.

One variation, pPod, is available for the loos of London. (Click on the link if you don't get it).

With tools like this, individuals can create localized or even highly personalized content and publish it for basically nothing. Podguides, a great idea. Four stars.

-- Peter S. Kastner

The Next IT Revolution

Remember that guy who said a couple of years ago in a Harvard Business Review article that IT added no value to enterprises? Yes, Nicholas Carr is the man.

I disagreed vehemently with his conclusions two years ago. This time, we are in agreement: technology and Internet business processes are converging in a way that favors the emergence of an IT utility. Users plug into it, like a wall power outlet. It's there, 24/7. It expands capacity on demand (to use IBM's name for this game).

Anyway, it will take ten or more years to play out. Historians looking at this blog can decide whether Mr. Carr and I are right. I have no doubt on the direction. It's the timing that's hazy -- and any tech marketer will tell you that timing is everything.

-- Peter S. Kastner

Microsoft Windows Server Takes Half the Loaf

For all the ink about the growth of Linux in the enterprise, the fact is that Microsft has executed methodically but without inspiration for the past five years (since Windows 2000). As a result of this hard work, Microsoft has now achieved parity with all other server operating systems platforms based on IDC's Q1 market research. Gartner reached a similar conclusion.

Microsoft should be pleased, as I see the trend continuing towards more Microsoft market share in servers. That is also good news for the hardware ecosystem, especially Intel and AMD.

-- Peter S. Kastner

Via Offers More Performance, Less Power With C7 Chip

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Via's C7 will challenge Intel's mobile Centrino (Pentium M) with mid-range performance at only 15 watts of power. Based on my personal experience with past performance claims by Via, I will stand firmly in the "show me" column.

EU Gives Microsoft June 1 Deadline

Crunch time for Microsoft, the European Union, and litigants such as Real Networks. It will be interesting to see who bluffs, who folds, and who gets the pot. What are we talking about?

The EU is on the verge of deciding that Microsoft has not complied with its monopoly findings of some two years ago, which verdict Microsoft is appealing.
  • Microsoft was ordered, and delivered, a version of Windows XP Home without Media Player 9, a bundling no-no according to the EU. Real Networks wants a crack at getting its own player on some OEM machines. Microsoft charges exactly the same price for the media player-less version, which none of the OEMs have ordered. The EU is mulling what the price difference should be, and if it really wants to get into the price setting game, let alone the technology price setting game. My take is Microsoft is right; the value is zero as anyone in the world can download the latest Media Player free at
  • Licensing terms for third-parties who want to look at Microsoft source code and develop Microsoft-compatible interfaces. This is a big deal for companies like Apple and the Unix/Linux crowd, who need to tie into Microsoft client and server networks. Microsoft has proposed a few thousand dollars a day to look at the source code and from $100 to $800 a server for run-time licensing. The EU is mulling whether this is too stiff a tariff and non-compliant with the EU's directives.

How big is the pot? Well, the EU is blustering about 5% of Microsoft's global revenues. Before you go running for Microsoft's financials, that makes the fine over $5 million -- a day.

My bet is the EU will fold. There is no way the U.S. (president and Congress) will let the Europeans fine a U.S. company $5M a day for this situation.

-- Peter S. Kastner

Friday, May 27, 2005

10 tips for improving your wireless network: Extend the range and the strength of your wireless network

Sometimes we forget that when it comes to Windows, Microsoft is the expert. They offer a wide range of information. This article was published in February, but was recently featured from a link on the Microsoft home page. I think it gives some good advice overall, though I personally have had excellent results with "mixed" vendor networks. Still, in some cases -- expecially with some of the exotic wireless "G" variants, sticking with one vendor can be important.

Cohen disputes UK registry's legitimacy | The Register

Cohen disputes UK registry's legitimacy | The Register: "The company that runs the UK's Internet registry is not officially recognised by the government and as such has no right to decide what should be done with the millions of domains that it sells each year."
Who owns that domain? And who decides?

BT cracks down on rogue diallers | The Register

BT cracks down on rogue diallers | The Register: "BT is bragging that it's 'winning the fight against unwanted internet diallers' following the launch of its modem protection software at the beginning of May."
What will the porn sites do if that can't make your computer call off shore?

CIA plays cyberwar game | The Register

CIA plays cyberwar game | The Register: "The CIA is running a cyber wargame this week designed to test how effective authorities would be in withstanding an orchestrated hacking attack. "
Now they are playing real war games! :(

ZombieMeter keeps track of hacked PCs

If we've got to live with this stuff, we might as well have some fun with it. Now we have the ZombieMeter, a flash-based, graphical representation of the Zombie computers that plague the internet.

After looking at it, it sorta makes me want to go out and change the world, one computer user at a time. Oh yeah, that's what we are already trying to do.

Most popular downloads of the week from

Most popular downloads of the week from RSS feed.

Since I'm now a big RSS feed nut. Thought this might be of interest to the rest of you RSS feed nuts out there. You know who you are :-)
So copy and paste the above URL and start downloading.

SpywareBlaster Update Available

I'm not exactly sure when this update was released, but if you use Spywareblaster and haven't checked lately, go update to version 3.4.

Phishers get personal

Sometimes this endless war with the bad guys just gets tiring. But knowledge is power. So here's the latest information about how phishers work to ensnare you.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Microsoft security guru: Jot down your passwords

Okay, it's official now. It's okay to write down your passwords if you need to. (Unless your company disallows that). I mean for your personal computer at home or if your workplace allows. Use bettter passwords, and write 'em down so you don't forget them. It's okay. Really.

Intel Quietly Launches Dual Core Mainstream Processors

One of the bigger tech launches was made in virtual stealth mode today. I couldn't even find the press release on Intel's web site. The "Smithfield" dual core Pentium D microprocessors are out the door.
Pentium D uses two Prescott cores without Hyperthreading technology. The Intel Pentium D processors 840, 830 and 820 are priced at $530, $316 and $241, respectively, in 1,000-unit quantities. I expect machines based on the 820 chip, with dual 2.8 GHz processors, to be available in the $800 range for the fall back-to-school season. That's a lot of multi-tasking horsepower for the money.

A new Prescott Pentium 4 aimed at single-task business power users, model 670, was also introduced. The Intel Pentium 4 model 670 is priced at $851 in 1,000-unit quantities.

The Pentium D processors also harness the new 945 chipset. In various combinations, the feature set includes:

  • 1066, 800, 533 MHz front-side bus speeds
  • PCI Express with x16 in 1 or 2 slots
  • a new graphics accelerator, the GMA 950
  • High-definition digital audio
  • RAID support for RAID 5 and RAID 10 joins the current RAID 0,1
  • 3 Gbps SATA 3 disk drive support
  • Business desktops can get out-of-band management, which alows a remote tech to diagnose and re-boot a blue screen or dead machine
  • DDR2 memory, with new support for mis-matched memory chips. You won;t lose dual-channel performance if, for example, you use a 256 MB and 512 MB DIMMs in the same channel

25 new Intel motherboards were released today as well. A cursory analysis of the product sheets indicates:

  • You can run a dual core 860 Extreme Edition chip in any of the 25 motherboards. All 25 mobos are LGA 775 pin-out with support for 1066, 800, and 533 MHz front-side bus speeds; SATA 3 and ATA 100 disks, 8 USB 2.0 ports, one parallel ATA slot with two ports, and "instantly available PC" technology that allows, say, a DVD to be played without booting an OS.
  • ATX, microATX, and BTX form factors are all well represented. Pergaps BTX will now get off the ground.
  • The value mobos support the older GMA 900 graphics. Buyers would do well to look for the GMA 950 with twice the performance, since graphics requirements are going nowhere but up, and the price difference is trivial.
  • Half the boards have two PCI-E x16 slots. This means nVidia's SLI technology, which uses two graphics boards to deliver superior (and costly) gaming performance, will be widely supported by Intel -- and presumably other OEMs.
  • A minimum of 10/100 Ethernet, with options for 1 GHz and the new iAMT management technology
  • Ten boards have matrix disk technology, with built-in RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10.

If you would like my spreadsheet on the above features, e-mail peter(at)oncomputers(dot)info You know the drill.

OEM motherboard support from the usual Taiwan suspects is expected immenently with comparable features.

Pentium D will more than meet the requirements, including graphics, for Microsoft's Longhorn operating system, when that arrives in a year or two.

I do not know why Intel is not blowing its horn about Pentium D? Maybe they are miffed at the less than stellar reviews of the dual-core 860 HT chip against arch-rival AMD. My take is dual core is great for power users -- like those who follow On Computers -- who want the much better (e.g., less hour glass) performance that only comes from having two CPUs ready to handle the juggling from all the processes we have going all the time. My next desktop will definitely be dual-core. The pricing is aggressive, implying Intel wants to quickly get Pentium D into the mainstream price bands, and can meet a steep volume ramp.

-- Peter S. Kastner

Microsoft advises IE users to uninstall Netscape 8

I have no idea who is really at fault. There are suggestions that it is IE and there are suggestions that it is Netscape. In time, we will get a clearer picture of what is really going on.

So this is just a heads up. If you are using the new Netscape, you know the one that needs IE in order to work, then you may have problems with XLST files. If you have a problem with these files appearing blank, then you may want to look to this as the reason.

Deleting spyware: a criminal act?

An interesting article by Mark Rasch of Security Focus in The Register. It's a couple days old, so some of you may have seen it. Still, it's worth posting because it poses some interesting questions such as; can you be sued for breach of contract by removing the spyware from something you downloaded and clicked through the EULA for?


PGP use ruled relevant in child abuse case

For some time now, I have been telling folks to have the capability for encryption of at least their emails, and to insist those with which they correspond about sensitive matters (such as financial and medical matters) have that capability, also. It's really not too often you have to use it, but seeing as email is essentially a broadcast of it's contents, encryption is a good thing for privacy in certain areas.

Now, it appears that a Minnesota Appeals Court has ruled that having the capability of encrypting data is by it's very existence, suspicious of illegal behavior and grounds for an investigation.

There was a time when our government tried hard to suppress encryption technologies. They failed. It appears the struggle continues.

Jack -- Caution advised

I just had an e-mail from an acquaintance asking me to update his address book using A few minutes later I got a worried e-mail from him.

"Dear Friends:
I am sorry to have to write this however I received an apparent e-mail from an old friend that asks for personall data. It appeared ligitimate however it started going through my mailing list automatically. The program is called RINGO and appears to be related to Yahoo and Hotmail. If you receive any e-mail with "Ringo" or "Update my Address Book" in the subject or other part of the header, delete it. Please check out this site to get a feeling of what things people are collecting on you!"

As far as I know Ringo is not related to Yahoo or Hotmail in any way.

I did not fall for it, but it was a little out of the ordinary, so I was researching it when he notified me about it.

In the meantime, do not click on any links in any e-mails having to do with without carefully considering the consequences (I say this circumspectfully because I don't have hard evidence that they are bad guys, but their operating mode is suspicious).

Evidently the process is rather fast and you don't have any second chances as is clear from the above worried e-mail. Of course, this outfit already has my e-mail address because they got it from my acquaintance's address book, but I don't have to help the process along, nor do I have to jeapordize the information in my address book.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

MacNN | Intel CEO: Apple/Intel story "Haley's comet of rumors"

as a follow up on Peter's post, I found this intriguing, that it may have just been "a ploy to pressure IBM."
and another article at wired blogs


IPod Plug-In Sets Music Free

A plug-in for Winamp frees iPod users from iTunes, and adds some functions that Apple doesn't intend iPod users to have.

Hamming It Up at Radio Meets

I couldn't resist posting this article about hams because I am one. In the early days of personal computing the Hams were a major part of the community.

Netcraft Toolbar Now Available for Firefox

It only made sense for Netcraft to protect the IE users first, but at long last, Firefox users have a Netcraft toolbar of their own.

If you don't already know what it is, it is an anti-phising tool. When installed, you get a toolbar that gives you a risk rating (the more red the riskier); tells you how long the site you are visiting has been around; what country the site is in; and who the host is. Besides being a useful way of telling where in the Web you are, it is just plain interesting. While there have been other means to get the same information, nothing I've seen is as transparent or handy as the Netcraft Toolbar. It is well worth the screen real estate it takes in my opinion.

Get yours for free today. Note: your name and e-mail address for download are totally optional.

Firefox Users Monkey With the Web

I"m not this into it, but this is an interesting way for users to have the Web "their" way.

The Buzz Report: VoIP: what is it good for? -

The Buzz Report: VoIP: what is it good for? - "There's buzz, and then there's buzz. Right now, Voice over IP is buzz."

Do you VoIP? You all know I do! :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

FTC Urges ISPs to Crack Down on 'Spam Zombies'

The Federal Trade Commission is serious about making ISPs more responsible for curbing the flood of spam coming from compromised machines. They have issued no edicts, as of yet, though it seems a certaintly they will, eventually. Guidelines for ISPs would be a nice start.

Anyone who has dealt with a compromised machine knows well the problem. And at times it is almost impossible to convince an owner/user that the machine is infected/compromised/owned. It's like telling someone they have a social disease. They simply don't want to believe it and will often go into vehement denial.

I think that before ISPs will feel free to take such measures as cutting off infected machines until they are cleaned up, some protections for the providers will have to be put in place. Some certain percentage of those cut off will go into denial, and straight to an attorney, if the affected ISP is not legally on very firm ground. It will take legislation, and not just an edict from the FTC, to accomplish that. That makes any effective effort by the ISPs seem a remote possibility to me. In matters of technology, our lawmakers have proven themselves to be less than "on the ball".

Some ISPs now take agressive action against compromised machines, whether they are used in spamming or DoS attacks or what have you. But these are in the minority and will continue to be the exception until some legal protections and definitive listing of an ISP's responsibilities comes along.

And we as consumers of services might have to resign ourselves to some price increases for access to finance this. Personally, I'd pay some to [say] cut my spam load in half.


Move Over Plasma TVs: Nano-Screens Are Coming

Technology Review has a good article on the emerging technology of carbon nanotube displays.

I mentioned NEDs (nano emissive displays) on the show, last Sunday and the promise Motorola sees in them to increase image quality at a much, much lower price than current flat panel displays. Other companies are researching in the same area, too, though Motorola seems ahead of the bunch, at least for now.

NEDs are not the only technology being researched as an alternative to LCD and plasma displays. There will be a horse race between the various approaches and there may be more than one type of display to come out ahead enough to be produced in quantity. These are early days. It's going to be interesting to watch.


Microsoft: SP2 makes Windows 15 times safer | Tech News on ZDNet

Microsoft: SP2 makes Windows 15 times safer | Tech News on ZDNet: "Computers running Windows XP Service Pack 2 are 15 times less likely than those running XP or XP SP1 to be infected by some of the most dangerous forms of malware, according to a Microsoft security guru. "
Do you still think you don't need SP2? If so Please turn OFF your computer now to protect us from you!

Microsoft seeks protection from spyware firms

This CNet article says that MS has appealed to the Congress for protection from "frivilous" lawsuits by the purveyors of adware and spyware. Such firms have threatened or actually filed suit against a number of organizations who make removal tools, as well as Ben Edelman (who was on the show, recently).

You know; No one complains if I uninstall software on my machine. Yet these firms complain about the companies that help me remove software by providing me with tools. Seems silly, but I know the legal bills can mount up fast and it seems the shadier the operation, the more willing they are to sue.


US family defiant in tinfoil house

You realize this is right in Gailla's and Koffeebeanz back yard, right? It all makes sense now.


Swedes show solution for VOIP emergency calls

This short article at The Register (with links) says it all. US VoIP providers have been saying the solution is incredibly difficult. Apparently a few Swedes have caught them out on this one.


Yahoo! Search - Web Search

Looks like Yahoo is taking a hint from Google. Just want to search the web, go here.


Apple's Jobs says company will support Podcasts - - Technology - Business

Well, Apple is getting on the Podcast bandwagon. The next version of iTunes will support Podcasting natively.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Intel Inside Your Next Mac? Not Far Fetched.

The Wall Street Journal this morning reports Apple is well into negotiations to put its OS X operating system on Intel PC hardware to create a new line of Macintosh computers. Wow, that's a story worth a second cup of coffee.

Apple, which is at a worldwide PC marketshare run-rate of about 2% or less, has been at a huge disadvantage for years because its IBM-built PowerPC chips lack many of the applications that run natively on Intel's hardware instruction set.

My hypothetical reaction to a hypothetical move by Apple to source Intel chips for PCs, laptops, and servers:
  • The iPod is a key catalyst to the so-called digital convergence that is going on around us at an accelerating pace. Apple is on the ascendancy. Therefore, it's time to goose up the PC side of the business. To look at the Intel architecture, up to now the "dark side" to Mac fanatics, makes good business sense for Apple.
  • Apple's bastion of market strength is in the media professions. It is hard pressed to keep up, as a minor player, with the twice a year improvements of the two big graphics chip companies, ATI and nVidia. On an Intel platform, Apple could keep up with the product curve and share costs with other Intel-based PC makers. Intel-PC price-performance with the OS X operating sytem would help Apple keep its F500 customers.
  • There may be something about IBM's ability to deliver on the company's PowerPC futures that Apple wants to avoid talking about. After all, Apple CEO Jobs promised a 3 GHz Mac G5 and has not been able to deliver. Moreover, IBM is very busy working on the 2006 Sony PlayStation 3, whose volumes will swamp the Apple chip purchases. Lastly, the PowerPC as a workstation chip is a torch only carried by Apple -- with acknowledgement to IBM's non-Intel workstation products. IBM's design focus on the PowerPC has primarily been on building killer RISC server chips. Apple's needs are no longer strategic to IBM, and perhaps even to IBM's semiconductor division.
  • Meanwhile, Intel has capacity for sure, and its roadmap has enough working silicon proof points to have a low technology risk.
  • The enormous global ecosystem built around the Intel PC business could provide immediate benefits to Apple's cost structure. Some of those costs savings, ala Dell, could be passed on to customers -- making Apple a better value.
  • Intel is right in the middle of -- an industry driver in many case -- to the home digital revolution. On an Intel platform, Apple would be able to leverage a lot of R&D -- much of which is not open source. The strategic question is how can Apple leverage iPod and OS X into a greater home presence?
  • With WINE and other Windows emulators that are readily available, it will be much easier for an OS X system on Intel to run non-Mac programs. That would make the Windows-to-OS X application migration a lot less painful for potential buyers. Apple has no doubt stumbled on the market research that says Microsoft customers are not happy campers, and that Apple is a brand these disaffected would consider.
  • As Linux on the desktop (invariably on Intel) begins to gather some momentum, Apple could smother the Linux competition while being differentiated from the Wintel crowd in the commodity PC markets.
  • By putting some hooks into Intel's new soft BIOS technology, Apple could restrict Intel OS X to Apple's PCs should it choose to continue to sell integrated hardware-software "platforms" (in the latest Intel jargon). Or it could sell OS X for $189 a box at retail like Microsoft does Windows XP and make good profits from Mac cloners.

An Intel-Apple deal could be done in weeks. It could be implemented in product prototypes this year with shipping products early next year. I see no technology hurdles. This deal would be a good example of creative destruction.

But let's leave the reader with another thought to ponder: if Microsoft's xBox 360 was indeed prototyped on Apple PowerPC G5's, what would Apple's home future look like if a Mac could have the gaming and home media services of an xBox? Pretty good, I'd think.

Peter S. Kastner

Sunday, May 22, 2005

To save a BLOG to it's own web page.

If you want to save a page from the BLOG you can just click on the time stamp at the bottom of the post.
- posted by AlaskaJoe @ 4:29 PM 0 comments. That will open the BLOG in a page by it self.

OC Podcast

This is the On Computers podcast for 04-03-2005. If you prefer, you can download the same file here via ftp.

Danger Will Robinson? :-) InfoWorld on Robots

Ok, so I was a big Lost In Space fan. LOL. So, I found this interesting.