Tico Byte, January, 2008

Happy New Year, PC Club members. Welcome to a new year of fun and games with computing in Costa Rica. We hope you all learn and grow with the rest of us this year in what is happening in the world of computers and stay up with how to best interface with all the changes that will certainly be coming our way.

The next meeting will be at the Pan American School, Belen, 9AM, Saturday, January 19th. Come and bring a friend; or make one there.

Now on with the Byte:

Item 1: With the upcoming multiple core chips that are coming to computers in the future, there arises a discussion of how manufacturers will be able to turn off a certain number of cores to fit the needs of computer users. The first article is from HP Wire and talks of a recent university study: "With all major chipmakers committed to the multicore path, it seems only a matter of time before manycore (processors with greater than 8 cores) becomes the standard architecture across all computing sectors. The 128-core NVIDIA GPUs, the Cisco's 188-core Metro network processor, and the 64-core Tilera TILE64 processor are three early examples of this trend. The 80-core prototype demonstrated by Intel is an indication that even the most mainstream segments of the computer industry are looking to enter the manycore realm." This article can be found here: http://www.hpcwire.com/hpc/2013733.html.

However, a more interesting discussion can be found here: http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/01/15/0322207&from=rss, especially in the follow up comments by the readers. Such as "So the vendor can set its own price, and squeeze as much money out of each customer as possible by making variable prices that relate to your ability and willingness to pay, rather than to the cost of manufacturing the equipment.

In a competitive market where 100-core processors cost $100 to produce, a company selling 50-core crippled ones for $101 and 100-core processors for $200 would quickly be pushed out of business by a company making the 100-core processors for $100 and selling them, uncrippled, for $101. I expect the Intel-AMD duopoly leaves Intel some scope to cripple its processors to maintain price differentials (arguably they already do that by selling chips clocked at a lower rate than they are capable of). But they couldn't indulge in this game too much because customers would buy AMD instead (unless AMD agreed to also cripple its multicore chips in the same way, which would probably be illegal collusion).

Item 2: Computerized shopping carts by M/S. "Later this year, at ShopRite supermarkets in the eastern US, Microsoft will be rolling out computerized shopping carts. These carts will allow people with a ShopRite card to enter their shopping list on the ShopRite site from home, and then pull up the list on their grocery cart when they swipe their card. The new carts will also display advertisements depending on where in the supermarket the cart is, using RFID technology to help locate it. "Article here: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/01/15/0159249&from=rss.

Always read the readers comments as they often contain the interesting stuff; such as: As for grocery stores, we have always realized that kid cereal is on the bottom, bargain cereal is at waist level and receives limited shelf real estate, and that premium cereal is highlighted with "sale pricing" (also known as standard mark-up) and is at shoulder level, as far as the eye can see. Frankly, grocers endure painfully low profit margin percentages, but thankfully for them, humans cannot live without food (particularly for rural markets, the choke price for milk and bread can get pretty ridiculous). Closely examine the items in the advertisement from week to week. When ground beef is on sale, regularly priced hamburger buns are generously placed right in the meat market, with a slammin' pyramid of regularly priced ketchup and pickle slices opposing; lettuce and onions are not on special either. The same gas station methods are employed at the registers, and it is no accident that toys and school supplies come right after cereal, aisle-wise.

Item 3: Do you understand what copyright is for? There are some good discussion of this issue lately. Let's start here: "One of the more amazing things I've discovered in discussing copyright, patents and trademarks with people is that very few people seem to know what each of those three sets of regulations are actually intended for. It certainly makes reasonable discussion and debate on any sort of reform difficult when a large percentage of people involved in the debate (or, tragically, writing the laws around those regulations) seem to believe the purpose of them is entirely different than it actually is." You can find this article here: http://techdirt.com/articles/20071230/233138.shtml.  It contains a video about what others think copyright is for. Again the interesting stuff is found in the reader's comments.

There's a complete book available (if you have the time and interest) from a university professor here: Pimps and Ferrets: Copyright and Culture in the United States, 1831-1891 http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd/view.cgi?acc_num=bgsu1193529137. And as this article talks about: "The more you look, the more you realize that many of the big "problems" people insist are happening today in the intellectual property world really aren't all that different than things that happened in the past." Also: "Defoe quickly realized that obscurity was a much bigger threat than "piracy" and by encouraging these "pirates" to sell copies of his work, it built up his own reputation and allowed him to go around the cumbersome publishing process of the time. The rest of Defoe's career was then built off of his name recognition since that poem was so widely distributed, allowing him the ability to make much more money off of future works. In other words, even the original "victim" of "piracy" quickly recognized how it could be used to his advantage, rather than worrying that it was a threat." The discussion is here: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20071127/215734.shtml.

Item 4: Macbook. By the time you read this, the world may already know the truth of most of this rumor. "An Apple insider told Wired today that the company's new ultraportable, expected to be seen in public for the first time tomorrow, has an extremely thin profile and is shaped like a teardrop when closed thicker at the top behind the screen, tapering at the bottom behind the keyboard." Steve Jobs is widely expected to reveal a new MacBook at Macworld on Tuesday morning, and with the rumored name being "MacBook Air." Most people are expecting a conventional sub-notebook a super-thin, lightweight laptop that ships without an optical CD/DVD drive. The MacBook Air may also dispense with a wired Ethernet port, according to rumor. It will be a purely wireless device, relying solely on Wi-Fi or other wireless technology for its connectivity hence the "Air" moniker. Article here: http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2008/01/breaking-macboo.html. Check out the pictures. Wow.

Item 5: Always good to keep an eye on the bad guys. The SANS Institute on Monday released its take on the top ten cyber security threats for 2008. Leading the list is a rise in the number of attacks on Web browsers, a growing amount of botnets, and sophisticated cyber-espionage.

Article is here:

http://www.informationweek.com/software/showArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=L54U1W3LSFJFIQSNDLOSKH0CJUNN2JVN?articleID=205604722. They say: "Attacks on Web browsers, particularly plug-in components like Flash and QuickTime, represent the top threat. The reason these browser components are being targeted is that they're widely distributed and they're not automatically updated when the browser is updated, leaving a longer window of vulnerability on affected systems." (Remember, remember, which operating systems we are talking about here.)

Item 6: Wireless security. If you have a wireless router or access point and still don't know how to make your connection secure (and need to; otherwise, it's mute), here is an article in which you can learn what you need to know. Article at: http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1697,2249040,00.asp.

Item 7: The best of the best. You will find the best of friends, the best of computer information, the best donuts, the best conversation, the best free advice, the best time you ever had at: the PC Club, this Saturday. Come one and all.