Innovation and Technology Weekly – No. 33, 2002

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Issue 33, 2002

This week's headlines:

EU allows firms to share 3G network infrastructure
September 10, 2002

Europe's embattled mobile phone operators received good news Tuesday when European Union regulators provisionally agreed to allow them to share the costs of building fast third-generation data networks.

The European Commission said it intends to allow Deutsche Telekom's subsidiary T-Mobile International and Britain's mm02 to build base stations and other infrastructure in Britain and Germany. The announcement allows companies to share the base stations and antennas and also permits them to share so-called radio-access networks, which include the actual switches that complete mobile phone calls.

Final EU clearance still depends on regulators considering comment from competitors or other interested parties.

Full story: Nando Times / AP Back to top

HP unveils nanotech breakthrough
September 09, 2002

Researchers at HP Labs announced that they have created a new kind of extremely minute circuit for computer chips using nanotechnology. These new circuits measure less than one square micron and can be used to create memory chips or to augment processors, the researchers said. More than 1,000 of these circuits can fit on the tip of a human hair.

HP created the circuits using a new approach with molecular grids. Molecular grids lay out the features inside each circuit in an alternating north-south- and east-west-facing pattern, creating a gridlike appearance.

Similar to flash memory, which is used in cell phones and networking equipment, the circuits created by HP are rewritable. This means that data in them can be stored, erased and replaced many times. The circuits are also nonvolatile, allowing them to retain their data when power is turned off.

Full story: ZDNet Back to top

Intel new chip to help curb movie copying
September 09, 2002

Intel revealed that its next mainstream PC microprocessor will include a potentially controversial security technology that will enable the movie and recording industries to control content on users' PCs. The chip, code named Prescott, will be out in the second half of next year, and will succeed Intel's current Pentium 4 microprocessor.

The decision to include the security technology is a response to complaints by Hollywood and the recording industry about rampant illegal copying and distribution of copyrighted content by PC users. However, Intel said the security technology, called LaGrande, will provide PC users with some controls. For example, it will not disclose the identity of users - a feature that content copyright holders have asked for in their fight against illegal piracy.

LaGrande can also be used to protect PCs from an epidemic of computer viruses and hacker attempts to access sensitive data.

Full story: Financial Times Back to top

AMD developes 'smallest' double-gate transistors
September 12, 2002

AMD has claimed a breakthrough that could lead to a chip with one billion transistors. AMD said that it had manufactured the smallest double-gate transistors to-date, using industry-standard technology.

Double-gate transistors could create a chip that holds a billion tiny transistors instead of the 100 million currently used. AMD explained that its laboratory demonstration of a 10-nanometre Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor Fin Field Effect Transistor (FinFET) is the outcome of collaborative research between AMD and the University of California.

Meanwhile, Intel said this week that it is already developing a processor for server computers that will have about a billion transistors.

Full story: VNUnet UK / Reuters Back to top

Tricks of the light promise record data speeds
September 07, 2002

British and Swiss researchers have shown that a new combination of techniques for manipulating light can increase the amount of data squeezed through fibre optic cables by more than 100 times.

The cables used by the scientists usually connect computers a few kilometres apart and carry about 10 gigabits of data per second. But with the new techniques, this could be increased to up to two terabits. The techniques are already used to send vast floods of data through higher quality transatlantic fibre optic cables.

Researchers first managed to double the amount of data sent through older, lower quality, cables by using a subcarrier frequency of light as well as the normal one. This second frequency can be used to transmit information on top of the first. Other researchers went further by using a number of lasers to send different wavelengths of light simultaneously. These were, in turn, split into different frequencies of light. The group's latest work involves altering the polarisation of light. Light waves can then be sent at different angles to encode more information.

Full story: New Scientist Back to top

Single atom memory device stores data
September 10, 2002

A workable atomic memory that uses individual atoms to store information has been developed by physicists at the University of Wisconsin. The new technology could be used to create storage disks with a density equivalent to 250 terabits of data per square inch.

The atomic memory drive mimics a conventional hard drive, meaning it can be formatted and data could be written to it and read from it. During a demonstration, each single silicon atom was added or removed from a block of twenty others using a scanning tunnelling microscope. The microscope was also used to read these 'bits' of data. All of the atoms are kept in place using a lattice of dimples created on the surface of a wafer of silicon by evaporating a layer of gold.

However, it took minutes to write a few hundred bits of information. The scientists showed that working with individual atoms is unlikely ever to match the speed of current memory technologies, because of the low energies involved at the atomic scale.

Full story: New Scientist Back to top

Computer mouse for the blind developed
September 09, 2002

Scientists at Glasgow University have developed a mouse that goes bump and combined it with sound representations of graphs that would otherwise be inaccessible.

The mouse vibrates every time it meets a line on a graph, giving a blind operator a tactile tip-off. Reinforcing the tactile jolt of the mouse the researchers have developed sound graphs that can be combined with the mouse. Lines on a graph are represented by tones that will vary in pitch according to whether the line is rising or falling. Several such tones can be used to represent different lines of the same graph as the user enters a 'soundscape'.

The researchers think that the technique could even be of use to sighted people such as share traders who could be alerted on their mobile phones by a tone representing a move up or down.

Full story: CNN / Reuters Back to top

PHP overtakes ASP on the web
September 12, 2002

PHP, a server-side scripting language that supports applications in webpages, is now the leading web scripting language, according to Wick Hill. The UK-based company is the first distributor in Europe for Zend.

Zend specialises in tools for companies using PHP in business. Although PHP itself is open-source, Zend's tools are commercial and they allow users to build commercial products.

Visible to users in pages which end in the .php extension, PHP started life as an extension to the Perl script language. It has gained functions and is now used on many commercial sites. Around 65 per cent of the servers on the web use Apache, and 46-50 per cent of those use PHP, which has overtaken Microsoft's ASP as the development environment of choice, according to Wick Hill.

PHP 5 is expected in 2003 and will be more easy to use on different platforms, working with Apache 2 and IIS, according to Wick Hill.

Full story: Yahoo / ZDNet Back to top

Kazaa and Gnutella hog the internet
September 12, 2002

Two file-sharing companies may account for between 40 to 60 per cent of all internet traffic. A report by networking company Sandvine argues that the full impact of peer-to-peer (P2P) systems on the internet has never been properly assessed because it has not been measured properly.

P2P networks have to find and then connect to four or more other computers directly, send out repeated messages to all of them, and send out and process search requests. They then have to field connection requests from other computers, offer up search results of shared folders, and generate other computer communication that is best described as 'network chatter'. The traffic increases geometrically for those who have programmed their software to act as a 'supernode'.

By testing open ports and writing some network mapping software, Sandvine was able to survey some 16,000 residential subscribers on several internet service providers. It found that 15 to 30 per cent of them were using Kazaa or Gnutella clients at one time or another.

Full story: VNUnet UK Back to top

Personal junk mail worse than spam
September 10, 2002

Every week employees receive up to 30 chain letters, jokes, video clips or similar junk email messages from people they know, blocking up their corporate networks and slowing them to a halt, according to a survey.

The survey of 1,000 adults in the US with internet access, conducted for SurfControl by Market Facts, showed that junk email from friends causes just as many network headaches as commercial spam.

According to the survey, workers deal with more than 1,500 pieces of junk email each year from friends, family and colleagues. But spam, the much-reviled commercial email sent by strangers, is not set to reach the proportion of 'friendly' junk email until 2006.

Internet research firm Jupiter Media Metrix predicts that by 2006 consumers will be receiving an average of 1,400 pieces of commercial spam each year, or about 26 per week.

Full story: VNUnet UK Back to top

Microsoft to hire Xbox hackers
September 10, 2002

Over the weekend it emerged that Microsoft may be trying to get its sworn enemies onto its payroll. A job advertisement recently posted on Microsoft's website shows that the company is looking for Xbox hackers to help in the fight against ... Xbox hackers.

The job spec says that the person hired will be responsible for collecting, evaluating and conducting analysis on mod chips as well as tracking information and feeding it back to the company. Successful candidates will also have the task of reviewing the security technologies on the Xbox hardware and software and will assist in designing hardware detection code for future versions of the console.

Modified Xboxes, available on the black market, allow users to play imported and copied games on their consoles. Some Xbox hackers have even started a development project on Sourceforge to get Linux running on the Microsoft console.

Full story: VNUnet UK Back to top