Tuesday, April 28, 2009

IBM Memory Faster and Cheaper

IBM Racetrack MemoryMemory is one of the biggest things people have to deal with in their computers. It seems everytime you turn around you are needing to upgrade your memory because you ran out or your computer crashed. This is a particular problem due to the price of some memory.

But the new memory from IBM plans to change everything we know about memory. According to England's university of Leeds physicist Christopher Marrow, "Racetrack memory will be a vast improvement over today's leading computer memory technology - flash and hard disk - which each have serious limitations." IBM shows it's new Racetrack memory, as it has been named, has been more reliable in recent tests than hard disks which hopefully will make frequent computer crashes obsolete.

Racetrack is also said to be cheaper than the current prices for hard disk memory. According to Marrows, "This technology will have the best of both worlds - cheap nano-size with huge memory in 3G phones, MP3 players, camcorders, and other devices. But more importantly there will be more sites that will be able to give away storage for free like YouTube and Gmail."

The main point of racetrack is speed, hence the name, and reliability. In hard disks, a motor-operated head, like the ones seen in record players, has to move to the data to read it. Data stored on the Racetrack is moved around on a wire which is pushed by spiraling magnetics. The moving parts in the hard disk makes it very susceptible to crashing. "Hard disks are so good because they are so cheap. But they are bad because of the moving parts." says Marrows.

The other memory device, flash memory, was created in 1980 by Toshiba. But, like hard disks, flash memory has its own problems as well. On the good side, flash memory has no moving parts and is a solid-state storage device. This makes it more reliable and faster than disks. However, on the flip side flash memory has a limited number of erase-write cycles it can perform before the memory capacity begins to deteriorate.

The thing for Racetrack is to have the speed and durability of flash memory combined with the hard disk affordability. According to Stuart Parkin, IBM fellow and inventor of Racetrack, "Racetrack will have cheap memory with the possibility of being one million times faster than hard disks without the risk of wearing out." Unlike hard disks, there is no need to search for information. According to Parkin, this will allow computers to boot up almost instantly.

And, like everything else in the world, Racetrack memory will use less energy making it green. Parkin says, 'The tremendous amount of storage, faster performance, and reduced energy requirements make it a nice green and smart technology."

One of the biggest, and smartest, innovations of Racetrack is that it is designed vertically which allows it to take up less room than the current memory. This will make it extremely less expensive due to the fact that the price of a chip is based on the space it uses. This design makes Racetrack the first 3-D memory allowing it to obtain more bits per transistor. According to Parkin, "This will allow us to take a chip and increase the transistor size 10 to 100 times, breaking Moore's Law." Moore's Law was founded by Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of Intel. In 1965, Moore observed that the number of transistors per square inch on a circuit board will double every 18 months.

Some experts believe that Moore's law will hold true for another couple of decades. However, Parkin is hoping that his Racetrack will quash that ide in about 5 to 7 years. It is at this point Parkin hopes the Racetrack memory will be fully operational and available. Zeljko Zilic, associate professor of the Department of Electrical Computer Engineering at Montreal's McGill University, says that, "As technology enabler, racetrack fits within the 'universal memory' concept, where one type of memory could be used across the full spectrum, replacing the need for multiple types of internal memory. Currently, flash memory comes closest to the ideal, but disadvantages of flash will become more and more apparent."

The goal of IBM is not, in any way, to improve current technology. Their goal is to absolutely replace it all together. Racetrack has the potential to replace both hard disk and flash," Parkin says. "Our goal is to replace all flash memory as it will get rid of the concept of trading performance for cost."

While there are still a few years before Racetrack comes out, people are already waiting with high anticipation. The thought of completely replacing the memory system we have used for the past 60 years is no small feat. But with the brains at IBM, we can bet that they will give it their all to give us the best quality tehy can.

Friday, April 17, 2009

HP Firebird with VoodooDNA 803

HP Firebird with VoodooDNA 803Voodoo was recently purchased by HP and this union has resulted in the Blackbird 002 and the Voodoo Envy 133 subnotebook, both of which are Editor's Choice-winning gaming computers. The newest computer to arrive from the company is the HP Firebird with VoodooDNA 803.

This high powered gaming desktop has some unique attributes to it. On interesting thing is that the guts of this desktop have many characteristics similar to those of a notebook. The rig has switchable graphics, the first ever seen on a desktop. It has a distinctive style about it which also incorporates a resemblance to the HP?Voodoo family. This computer comes with a Intel Core 2 Quad processor with 4GB of RAM and and 640GB of storage space. The Firebird runs the nVidia GeForce 9800S SLI graphics card which delivers powerful graphics quality. However, this computer does have a few things that might turn away a serious hard-core PC gamer.

First off, the performance of the device has been a little disappointing to some users. Also, the Firebird has limited upgrade ability which means you better be satisfied with what you get because you are not going to be able to do much to it. There are only two DIMM slots both of which are filled. This means you will need to swap the current 4GB of memory if you want to add more. The Firebird does have two innovative hard drive sleds. Considering they are compact and built well, you will be able to connect and disconnect multiple times. However, both of these slots are filled as well with 320GB drives. This system also lacks a set of PCI/PCIe connectors. This computer kind of resembles a gaming console. All the internal components are permanately attached, except for the memory and the hard drives.

One great thing about this system is that is completely free of anything annoying. For example, it does not come with any trialware programs or ads. The only things that occupy the the hard drives is HP total care for one year, a one year subscription to AVG Professional Anti-Virus Software, and a copy of Cyberlink DVD for the ability to play DVD's and Blu-ray. This computer also comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse.

The graphics setup for the Firebird is really innovative. It has the NVidia nForce 760s motherboard chipset. Which allows you to switch between power saving intgrated graphics and the two nVidia GeForce 9800s graphics cards. It has a save power mode for video viewing but if you want all the features in Nvidia's PureVideo HD, the discrete graphics need to be turned on.

This computer isn't your average gaming computer. It is a top-of-the-line gaming computer for a reasonable price. It has a nice, sleek design to it and the energy saving capabilities will save you a few needed bucks, especially in today's economy. And the incredible graphics can be turned up whenever you need it to. This computer was going to set you back around $2,099 but is on sale now for $1,299. If you are in the market for a good gaming desktop, the HP FireBird with VoodooDNA 803 is definitely worth a look at, especially if you are looking to save a few bucks.

Monday, April 13, 2009

US Electricity Grid Compromised

US Electricity Grid Comppromised
How safe is the United States from an electricity grid take over? It all depends on who you ask. There are reports out now saying cyberspies have hacked into the U.S. electrical grid, leaving behind damaging software that could be used to disrupt the system.

The cyberspies are believed to be from China, Russia and other countries and were also believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. In the past China has tried to map our infrastructure, such as the grid said a senior intelligence official.The Russians have also atempted this.

There was no specific company or region targeted in the most recent attack. A former Department of Homeland Security official said, "There are intrusions, and they are growing," the former official also said, referring to electrical systems. "There were a lot last year."

The U.S. intelligence agencies detected the majority of the breeches in the grids security. Intelligence officials worry about cyber attackers taking control of electrical facilities, a nuclear power plant or financial networks via the Internet.

Software tools have been found left behind, authorities investigating the intrusions believe that they were left there so the hackers could come back and turn them on in a time of war.

Specialists at the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a nonprofit research institute, said attack programs search for openings in a network, much as a thief tests locks on doors. Once inside, these programs and their human controllers can acquire the same access and powers as a systems administrator.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Conficker Worm: Panic Passes

Conficker CI posted early about the intended Conficker C virus that was set to wreak havoc on computers across the world yesterday, April 1. Well I am pleased to announce that the doomsday affects that were reported to take place didn't happen, yet.

But even though it didn't happen like predicted, doesn't mean it won't happen at all. People should be aware that this nasty virus is still out there and could attack at any time. This worm was no small disruption. It was supposed to disrupt the internet, has already worked its way into 12 million computers, and was feared worldwide. The virus is no actively looking for instructions on the internet. Either its creator hasn't delivered harmful instructions yet or the attempts to raise awareness has scared of the creators. Whatever the cause, the full effects of Conficker C have yet to be experienced. Conficker has infected anywhere from 12 million to 15million computers since early 2009 which includes everything from Windows 2000 to the Windows 7 Beta and Windows Server 2000 and 2008.

Things even got so bad in Europe that the French Air Force, Royal Navy Warships and submarines, the Sheffield Hospital network, the UK Ministry of Defense, the German Bundeswehr, and Norwegian Police saw affects from the virus which shows the severity of the worm.

The worm is programmed to evolve into multiple versions and has a sophisticated way of avoiding eradication. However, Conficker is not likely to cause massive internet crashes for one specific reason: it would be counter productive to its programming and the creator, who more than likely is out for money. It is designed to infect multiple windows based computers and create a botnet. The botnet would then function in concert to work as a supercomputer. From here it could do anything like generate large amounts of spam emails.

Although Conficker hasn't unleashed its fury yet, people should still take precautions. The most at risk are small to medium sized businesses that rely heavily in their computers but may have poor disaster prevention strategies. People should take as many precautions as possible to prevent infection from the virus. They should update everything related to their operating system and do everything possible to update their anti-virus and anti-spyware protection.

Since we were all in a big worry about this hitting on April 1, it might be safe to say that most of us are prepared. But even though the events originally set to take place yesterday didn't happen, doesn't mean they won't. Conficker C is still at large and ready to attack, so do like the Boy Scouts do and "Always Be Prepared."