Listen to this
Give your eyes a rest.
Quote of the Week.
Another "return to our roots..."
Be Concerned. Be
Instant cyber-warfare now proven
The Library of Congress in a
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Do For You!
Find out how I can further help
"Make It So,"
This is not going to lead where
The New "Age of
We're not beyond the Age of Myths
-- at all.
Old + New =
This would look at home on James
but it's real!
About "The Harrow
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saw an ad in the past few days that I now can’t find
--it was for a flat-screen TV that connected via
Wi-Fi [802.11]. Have you heard of this device?
interesting return to our roots -- I seem to
remember when all TVs were “wireless,” except for
the power cord and a connection to the rabbit ears."
Reader Don Lyle
An intriguing "back to the
(And no, I had not heard of
this device -- can anyone help Don out? His address
Back to Table of Contents
It was January 25th, and it
started as a day like any other day. But it was
about to turn into a very "Dark and Stormy Night."
The severe, global storm about
to be unleashed was not going to be of traditional
wind, rain, or snow. Instead, it was a storm of
photons and electrons. Yet in some ways, this
insubstantial storm packed far more of a punch than
Read this through, because the
results of this storm have touched us all, and they
portend even more serious "cyber-weather" in the
Quoting (and paraphrasing, and
commenting upon) this initial section from the Feb.
9 Stavance R&D Newsflash
Sapphire ('Slammer') Worm was the fastest computer
worm in history.
began spreading throughout the Internet, it doubled
the number of infected systems every 8.5 seconds.
worm achieved its full scanning rate (over 55
million scans per second) after approximately three
minutes. The rate of growth then slowed down
somewhat because significant portions of the network
did not have enough bandwidth to allow it to operate
infected more than 90 percent of vulnerable hosts
within 10 minutes!
picture below shows how the world looked just ten
minutes into this worm's life, with the blue
circles actually under-representing the density of
the infection to reduce visual overlap:
just ten minutes!
happened was that the worm began to infect hosts
slightly before 05:30 UTC on Saturday, January 25.
Sapphire exploited a buffer overflow vulnerability
in computers running Microsoft's SQL Server or MSDE
2000 (Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine).
weakness in an underlying indexing service was
discovered in July 2002, and Microsoft released a
patch for the vulnerability before it was
announced. But obviously many system administrators
did not install the patch (even within Microsoft),
since the worm infected at least 75,000 hosts;
perhaps considerably more. And because of the
"business critical" nature of many of the
applications that use this database service, this
worm had effects FAR beyond simply slowing
down Internet surfing and Email:
This worm caused network outages and such unforeseen
consequences as canceled airline flights,
interference with elections, and ATM failures!
can find all the gory details at
The most significant thing that
we can learn from this event, other than the
incredible 10-minute global infection rate (which
was helped by the worm's having to send only a
single packet to infect a system), was that
THIS WORM DID NOT CARRY A MALICIOUS
Most damage resulting from this
worm was caused by database servers going (or being
taken) down, and by local network congestion caused
by the worm's proliferation. But this cancelled
plane flights; it interfered with elections; and it
kept people from their banking. (Does anyone now
doubt that the Internet is mission-critical to the
According to U.S. cybersecurity
czar Richard Clarke in the Jan. 31
"With slight modifications, the results of the worm
would have been more significant. More sophisticated
attacks against known vulnerabilities in cyberspace
could be devastating."
Imagine if this worm HAD been
malicious. Imagine what will happen when one is.
Could it be ten minutes to 100% data loss, or to
100% blocked access to infrastructure services, on
75,000+ business and government systems around the
globe? To your systems? Or to those that provide
the Internet-related services on which your
business, directly or indirectly, now rely?
Not to be an alarmist, but Jan.
25 has proven beyond any doubt that the viability
and the potential speed of such attacks are reality,
not fiction. Our businesses ARE in the Internet
Age, with no real way of turning back. Yet this
type of worm and similar methods of cyber-warfare
are now being accepted as "normal" weapons of war
even by the U.S. According to a Feb. 7 AP story at
, President Bush has signed a secret order
titled the "National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace,"
"... the government to develop guidelines under
which the U.S. could launch cyber-attacks against
foreign computer systems."
Which clearly implies that such
cyber-warfare will be a two-way street.
Prepare For Tomorrow.
For these and other reasons, it
certainly seems clear that we'd all best recognize,
and address, the vulnerabilities of our
increasingly-connected electronic infrastructure.
Not doing so is like hanging an
"Open" sign on the vault door, advertising the
opportunity for a single malicious person to create
dramatic economic chaos. In ten minutes. Around
Which is not a pretty
Back to Table of Contents
We can certainly store a pretty
penny's worth of data on our magnetic disks -- 80
gigabytes is common, 120 gigabytes is affordable and
even 160 gigabytes and higher can be had today if
the need justifies. But as we keep learning in
Storage Updates seemingly every month, new
techniques are being born that hold the very real
promise of making today's hundred-or-so gigabyte
disk drives seem like the .01 gigabyte (10 megabyte)
RL02 disk drives that were the cat's meow just 20
Brought to our attention by
readers Rodney Jones, Ryan Erickson and others, the
Feb. 3 NewsFactor.com
reports that Harsh Chopra, a scientist at the
State University of New York, has developed sensors
that can detect individual magnetic fields
1,000-times smaller than the magnetic ones and zeros
used by today's best disk drives.
developed "microscopic whiskers of nickel only a few
atoms wide at room temperature... That degree of
sensitivity means terabits of data -- or trillions
of bits -- could be crammed into a square inch of
disk space. About 160 terabits comprise the entire
contents of the Library of Congress."
Or, as an NSF press release
"This could enable the storage of 50 or more DVDs on
a hard drive the size of a credit card."
phenomenon is called "ballistic magnetoresistance,"
or BMR, which utilizes a form of "spintronics"
(where not only the "charge" of an electron, but
also another of its attributes -- it's "spin" -- is
exploited.) Because the "whisker" is only a few
atoms wide, it channels electrons along its length
with little chance for diversion (which creates
noise). So this sensor can cleanly read the far
smaller magnetic domains on the disk that enable
this impressive density.
Estimates are that such technology takes about seven
years to commercialize (if all goes well), but its
uses may go far beyond "storage" -- it may also be
possible to use these techniques to rapidly read the
footprint of biological molecules, making them much
easier to identify in small quantities (think new,
more sensitive tests and sensors, and further
exploration into the as-yet unknown).
This development is also a
great reminder that, especially as we delve into the
worlds of atoms and molecules and purpose-built
structures at that scale, we aren't nearing the end
of the technologies we know and love; we're only
beginning to learn how to use them in ways that will
make today's techniques look "stone-axe-crude" by
After all -- this kind of
innovation is what we've been doing, slowly at first
and now ever-faster, since we first learned to paint
the cave walls, and to use fire to light the
Back to Table of Contents
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Back to Table of Contents
This is not going to lead where
Last issue, we explored the
growing universe of ways to turn fancy into reality
by "printing" solid -- and even electrically and/or
biologically active "devices" -- on-demand.
Thinking about this, reader C.W. Holeman II suggests
that, in a sense, such "make it so" services are
ALREADY available for certain things!
This all began when he was recently in Wal-Mart,
where he noticed the Kodak self-serve kiosk that
let's you scan a photo (or input one via disk,
camera memory card, etc.) You can then manipulate
the image and print-it-on-demand at a cost of
48-cents each. Nothing spectacular yet (although I
have used one, and Kodak did a really nice job of
bringing photo-power "to the people.")
C.W. then noticed another kiosk, which allowed him
to "upload" his pictures from floppy or memory card
directly into the store's big photo processor, which
would then hand him one-hour prints for 26-cents
When he got home, he did some investigating and
found that he could also upload his camera's images
to Wal-Mart's big photo processor directly over the
Internet, and they'd still be printed for 26-cents
each. More convenient yet.
Dissolving The Line...
It's only when he thought about
how often he sends his printed pictures to his dad a
continent away, that he realized the "make it so"
power of this combination of Internet access to
Wal-Mart's photo processors, plus the widespread
physical network of "bricks-and-mortar" Wal-Mart
stores equipped with photo processors.
These days, C.W. uploads his
pictures to Wal-Mart from home, but he designates
that they should be physically printed at the
Wal-Mart down the street from his Dad! Essentially,
he can call his Dad as he's uploading the pictures,
and by the time Dad arrives at his local Wal-Mart
(across the country), C.W's bits have been turned
into inexpensive physical pictures to warm a heart.
This isn't the first or the
only "upload and print" service available, but
because of the ubiquitousness of Wal-Mart's stores
and their Internet access for this purpose, it's
probably the only service today that makes it so
easy to (essentially instantly) deliver
newly-created physical goods to almost anyone,
regardless of distance.
(This doesn't count Emailing
pictures to someone who prints them herself, because
Wal-Mart provides an end-to-end service that does
not require the recipient to have any special
hardware, software, or expertise.)
Now -- suppose that instead of
a photo printer, Wal-Mart installed an advanced
stereolithography "printer" (such as we discussed in
each store. Combine that with easy-to-use 3D
development software that would let kids create
their own solid toys (or business prototype parts,
etc.), and suddenly they could share their creations
with their friends and relatives and associates
anywhere, and anywhen. Not just a PICTURE of
their "toys," but the real thing!
And what if these "printers"
can eventually also print biological things and/or
active semiconductor circuits within an object, such
as this concept of a cell phone being built from the
bottom up, layer by layer, complete with its active
components, as in the illustration below?
Imagine the unexpected (and
perhaps also the chilling) results.
Make My Meal Just-So.
Or consider another potential,
if such "printers" ever become capable of
manipulating and then "printing" individual
molecules: could we have the Star Trek Food
Replicator? As you're about to see, this isn't
entirely blue-sky sci fi!
Brought to our attention by
reader Doug Brooks, Linguagen Corp.
is quietly unraveling just how our taste buds work,
and how to molecularly "fool" them.
For example, imagine you're
drinking a cup of coffee laced with cream and sugar
(to hide its inherent bitterness and to add the
"body" and texture nuances that go with the real
thing). If you're in Linguagen's offices today and
you choose to partake of their product, you'd
actually be drinking black coffee with a dash of
their special molecule. And you'd be fooled,
believing that this thin dark coffee was "...as
smooth as a milky double latte."
It's "a blending of
chemistry, molecular biology, and genetics." It
won't modify the food we eat, but it will
dramatically modify how we perceive what we eat,
according to the Feb. 1 Globe And Mail
good-for-you bland oatmeal will taste (to you) like
the granddaddy of all brownie, hot-fudge, and
whipped cream sundaes.
Or kids might eat their veggies
because they taste exactly like their favorite candy
('yuck' to me, but...)
Or, as Linguagen's first
patented compound already does, it's now possible to
change your taste perception (NOT changing
the food) by "turning off" or "enhancing" different
taste sensors on your tongue while you're eating
that item. Which makes both Doug and I wonder if,
eventually, we might use such techniques to change
our taste perceptions so that an inexpensive
nutritional "gruel," "printed" on-demand to add
shape, texture, color, etc., might taste and feel
and smell exactly like the work of a four-star
chef... (I'm skeptical of this level of success,
and I think I'd continue to prefer the "real
thing." But if our global population continues to
grow and outpace agricultural production, this could
be a lot better than some of the alternatives. And
-- my skepticism has been proven wrong before...)
None of these capabilities are
commercially viable -- yet. The stereolithographic
printers, their molecular and other "inks," and the
end-user software will have to mature dramatically.
Yet this is JUST the direction (if not
specifically for these reasons) where this field of
"stereolithography" is headed as the convergence of
Nanotechnology, Biology & medicine, Information
sciences, and Cognitive sciences (NBIC) makes many "impossibles,"
On the other hand, as we think about the dense
synergistic swirl of ideas that will result,
remember too "The Law of Unintended
Consequences." It won't necessarily all be
Again, Don't Blink!
Back to Table of Contents
The "Age of Myths" is far from
past. A new age of myths persists in how we breath
life into our PCs, how we get them to do special
Herculean (and mundane) tasks -- "stand on one leg,
jump three times, and spell "Bill" backwards..." --
and more. But few electronic-age myths are as
entrenched as those associated with using, storing,
and recharging the batteries that power out
notebooks, cell phones, and the other electronic
detritus that proliferates with our pocket lint.
One reason for the
proliferation of battery myths is that battery
technology keeps changing, and each battery
chemistry demands its own version of tender loving
care. For example, most of us have experienced the
relatively short shelf life of fully-charged Nickel
Cadmium (NiCad) batteries, plus their infamous
"memory effect" that demands that NiCads be fully
discharged, and then fully re-charged, for maximum
capacity. If you use just half of the battery
charge each day and then put it into its charger,
the battery will eventually come to believe that its
total capacity is only half of what it actually is!
Therefore, we've been trained not to "top off" our
batteries (even though this is impractical in
can find a tremendous amount of apparently objective
technical information about Nickel Cadmium and
Nickel Metal Hydride batteries through links in the
left-hand box at
But NiCad's are long-gone from
most high-end electronics, replaced by the
better-suited Lithium Ion battery. And thanks to
similar information from Panasonic
we can now put Today's battery myths to rest.
Lithium Ion batteries have
excellent shelf life characteristics. If you store
a fully-charged battery at room temperature, it will
still retain 88% of its charge after seven months.
They typically will endure over 500 charge-discharge
cycles before their capacity begins to deteriorate.
And they have no "memory effect." Charge 'em when
you will. Don't feel guilty!
only charge 'em with the correct charger -- a
"constant current/constant voltage" charger
specifically designed for your batteries.)
If you plan to store the
batteries, charge them to between 30% and 50% of
full charge, and then recharge them once per year,
since "over-discharge" is hard on their health.
(You can't over-discharge the battery in normal use
because a circuit within the battery shuts things
down when it reaches that threshold voltage; if you
then recharge the battery, all is well.)
Of course, battery technology
is not standing still, even if it sometimes feels
that way as we keep paying for a never-ending stream
of cylindrical and rectangular packages. Some of
the offshoots of NBIC (the convergence of
Nanotechnology, Biology and medicine, Information
sciences, and Cognitive sciences), as pointed out by
reader Dana Hoggatt and the Feb. 5 UCLA News
may be batteries composed of millions of ultra-tiny
3D structures. These are designed to improve the
performance of the batteries we use for our "macro"
devices (such as portable electronics), while in
smaller form they may also provide "nano-power" for
the growing number of nano-scale "machines" that lie
in our NBIC future.
Even so, unless the promise of
tiny fuel cells or other portable power technology
is met, I fear that "the future" will continue to
include a never-ending stream of batteries passing
through our hands, to our devices, then into our
trash cans, and finally ending up in our landfills.
We still do need a 'better way...'
But then, that's what
Innovation is all about!
Back to Table of Contents
Finally, speaking of things in
our pockets, we find that an act of rather dangerous
creativity by parties unknown has created cell
phones that carry quite a "punch."
A very real "22 caliber punch,"
that is, since this retrofitted cell phone holds
four bullets and fires them out of the barrel
masquerading as the cell phone's stub antenna! (Per
a Feb. 7 Reuters report at
Hummm. Some people have always
considered cell phones dangerous in certain
situations, but this takes things in an entirely new
direction. A for-real James Bond "toy?"
Check out the video of this phone making its, er,
very strong point, at
Just be careful of that Send key!
"The Harrow Technology Report" explores the innovations and
trends of many contemporary and emerging technologies, and then draws some less
than obvious connections between them, to help us each survive and prosper in
the Knowledge Age.
"The Harrow Technology Report" is brought to you by Jeffrey
R. Harrow, Principal of The Harrow Group.
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