January, 2019

Bluetooth chooses its ultrawideband future

Bluetooth SIG has announced that it is adopting the WiMedia Alliance version of ultrawideband (UWB) as its future standard, over that of the competing variant proposed by the UWB Forum. The group had previously announced that it would be embracing UWB, which is considered the next stage of short-range wireless technology. UWB can theoretically provide data transmission rates of several hundred Mb/s over short distances with very low power consumption.HangZhou Night Net

UWB works by sending out extremely quick pulses (on the order of nanoseconds) across a very wide bandwidth. The technology can be used not only for Bluetooth-style devices, but USB and TCP/IP protocols as well. It should be pointed out that the technology can also be used for wired data transfer, although wireless is obviously the area where Bluetooth SIG will be concentrating its efforts.

UWB has turned into a fairly quarrelsome issue between the two competing technologies, and with at least one analyst predicting 1 billion Bluetooth devices being produced annually by 2010, the Bluetooth SIG’s decision gives a big shot in the arm to the WiMedia Alliance. Depending on who is doing the talking, either proposal provides technological advantages over the other. The smaller UWB Forum—backed by Motorola and Freescale—has been looking to beat the competition to the marketplace, with the first products due in just a few months. However, Motorola aside, many of Bluetooth SIG’s member companies are also members of the WiMedia Alliance, making the Bluetooth decision largely inevitable.

Industry standards group IEEE had originally planned to accept either WiMedia’s MB-OFDM proposal or the UWB Forum’s DS-UWB proposal as a standard, but that organization was unable to muster the 75 percent vote among its own task-group members required for endorsing either technology, and it finally backed away from the issue completely in favor of letting the decision be made in the open market. An ongoing series of attempts to unify the two groups and their technologies also crashed and burned earlier this year.

Bluetooth has become very popular over the last few years as—among other things—one of the primary points of convergence between the computers and mobile phones. It is planned that the current Bluetooth standards will continue remain in place for lower-speed devices like mice, with the UWB version becoming available for devices that require faster data transmission, such as streaming video from a camera to a computer or television.

The FCC has reserved an area of the spectrum between 3.1 and 10.6 GHz for UWB, although parts of that region could prove problematic as some of it is already reserved for different uses in Europe and Asia. For that reason, Bluetooth SIG and the WiMedia Alliance plan to focus their efforts on the region above 6 GHz, which should streamline licensing issues around the world.

Bluetooth SIG says that the first products using Bluetooth UWB are likely to arrive in 2008.

Purchasing a new PC? Make sure it’s Windows Vista Capable

Microsoft hasn't been too specific, or specific at all for that matter, on what type of specifications that PCs will require in order to run the different versions of Windows Vista. The company plans on using the next few months to go into detail about what will be required of a very Vista-capable PC, but for now it has released a document that covers what constitutes a Windows Vista Capable computer. But don't get too excited because "Windows Vista Capable" only means two things: the PC can definitely run Home Basic Edition, and it gets to sport a pretty logo. HangZhou Night Net

The Windows Vista Capable program is intended to be used as a way to entice customers into performing an early upgrade to Vista. If a customer sees the "Designed for Windows XP—Windows Vista Capable" logo, then he knows that he can purchase that PC and safely upgrade to some version of Vista in the future. But what exactly are the minimum requirements for a capable computer anyway?

PCs must meet these requirements in order to display a Windows Vista Capable logo:

Be able to competently run Windows XPA modern CPUA minimum of 512MB of RAM A DirectX 9 class graphics processorOptionally support Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) to take advantage of Vista's improved graphics

Still, the requirements just mentioned are required for "good" performance. Nobody is happy just being "good." People want only the best, right? Here's what that's going to take:

DirectX 9 class graphics hardware that supports WDDM and Pixel Shader 2.0A minimum of 32 bits per pixelAppropriate graphics memory for specified monitor resolutions expressed as total pixels (X dimension multiplied by Y dimension)Graphics memory bandwidth, as assessed by Windows Vista’s built in system assessment tool WinSAT.EXE, of at least 1,800MB/s at 1,310,720 pixels on a desktop and at the native resolution on a mobile PC

With those features in hand, Microsoft says that you should be able to run Aero. According to a Microsoft spokesman, even if the hardware is able to run Aero, that still doesn't necessarily mean that it can run any version of Windows Vista.

"The Windows Vista Capable program does not represent minimum hardware requirements for the different versions of Windows Vista – we look forward to providing additional information regarding minimum hardware requirements for Windows Vista and the Windows Vista logo program in the coming months."

Like I said earlier, Microsoft is only intending to use the Windows Vista Capable program to inform its customers that a PC currently running Windows XP could be upgraded to Windows Vista in the future. While most of us don't need a logo to tell us if a PC can run Vista, this program can come in handy for plenty of other users.

As for Microsoft, the move is brilliant. Average PC users won't want to buy outdated equipment, so they will pick up a Vista Capable PC. At the time, they may not even know what Vista is. But mark my word, when Vista is released, it will be all over the news, and there will be that Windows Vista Capable logo staring all those average users right in the face letting them know that their PCs are now outdated. They'll start hearing phrases like "improved security", "tiered graphics experience", "anti-phising filter", and "stay connected." And then they'll grudgingly get their computers upgraded to Windows Vista.

Oh, and by the way, you don't have to wait a month to see the Windows Vista Capable logo in person. You can pick one up right now on eBay.

Ad Pomum: My favorite OS X apps

You know you're officially a member of the Cult of Mac when you have a roster of small, third-party applications that you just can't live without. In true Mac fashion, these are always apps that do exactly what you want in a simple, straightforward manner with no feature and interface bloat. HangZhou Night Net

Here's my list of favorite apps, followed by a nod to another few apps that I've recently discovered and am impressed with. Admittedly, this is a short list, but I'm not someone who loads the interface up with tweaks and Finder replacements and whatnot. I can't stand that stuff. (Heck, I even use the standard Apple desktop wallpaper. My one concession to customization is that my Dock is positioned vertically on the left, NeXT-style.)

BBEdit, by Bare Bones Software: Of the non-Web and non-email time that I spend on my computer, BBEdit probably accounts for at least 60%, if not 70% of it. Every single piece of my Ars content over the past six years or so has been written with BBEdit. It's like my right arm. In fact, of all the Mac apps that have gone through my life—from the other apps on this list to major software suites like MS Office, Adobe Creative Suite, Apple's iApps, etc.—BBEdit has been the one constant of my Mac experience since I bought my first PowerBook. I discovered in my first week or so of OS X usage, and I've used it daily ever since.

Chronosync, by EconSoftware: This program just works. It does exactly what it's supposed to do, without a hitch. It's also very easy to use, and even doing more involved stuff like scheduling and setting rules is a snap. Most importantly for me, Chronosync has always handled my usual SMB-based backups to FAT- and NTFS-formatted network drives with total ease. Chronosync would be complete perfection if it only had support for encrypting the destination folder. At any rate, I've been using it since its very earliest incarnation, when it was just about the only Cocoa-based backup tool for OS X, and I plan to keep using it. Besides, Econ never charges for upgrades, so you pay only once and you get free upgrades for as long as the company is in existence.

Mellel, by RedleX: If you're a classicist or someone who works with Semitic languages, you owe it to yourself to check out Mellel. I use both Hebrew and Greek regularly in my doctoral work, and this word processor is absolutely fantastic for that. I'm a fairly advanced Word user, and I have a lot of legacy document templates and workflow in Word, so I still haven't transitioned completely to Mellel for all my work. Nonetheless, I look forward to the day when I use it exclusively.

Minuteur, by some French guy: For about two weeks now I've been using David Seah's task progress tracker sheets to great effect. These sheets have progress bubbles to fill in in 15-minute increments. Thus I needed a good timer to track my progress. Some googling turned up Minuteur, which fits the bill.

I recently discovered xhead software, and I plan to purchase their bundle tomorrow. I definitely want their little recorder app, and some of their other stuff interests me so I'm just going to get all of it. I plan to use their Crypt.xhead tool to make up for the aforementioned lack of built-in encryption in Chronosync.

So what are the OS X apps that you just can't live without? Post links and mini-reviews in the discussion thread, and I'll check them out.

iTunes and the Sons of Martok mini-series

In an apparent move to save face after the warp drive engine stall that was Enterprise, Paramount Pictures has announced that they will be releasing a few things to coincide with Apple's 30th anniversary celebration. Every ODD NUMBERED Star Trek episode, a 34 year franchise, will be released on iTunes starting this morning with its first (technically, the fifth) episode "The Man Trap," available as a free download. When asked for a comment, Paramount responded by stating that "even numbers are evil," and "Voyager plot lines actually flow better this way." HangZhou Night Net

As I said before, every other episode of the original series as well as Star Trek: The Next Generation, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise will be available for purchase and playback on your computer or 5g iPod. That's enough to wet a few tighty whities, but there's more. Michael Dorn reprises his role as Worf and joins his son Alexander Rozhenko in an Internet-only 20-minute 15 episodic adventure titled Sons of Martok: Take my wife please! Alexander is played by James Sloyan, who, if you remember, portrayed an older Alexander from the future to advise his younger self to embrace his Klingon blood. The long held rumor that Klingons' rapid growth from child to adult has been confirmed, but it seems as though Alexander's maturation has become too fast, forcing Worf to find his son a suitable wife. The unruly pair steal a runabout from Earth and fly to various planets, scopin' chicks and gettin' digits.. all in the name of Love.

See how your new favorite knobby-headed duo travel the deepest reaches of space only to find out that the truth was really inside their hearts all along. Episodes will be priced at three bars of gold-pressed latinum, negotiable of course. This Trekkie will be checkin' it out and taking ancient Klingon pick up lines fo' sho.

I love you baby. Urkuk lu Stalga.

Duke Nukem Forever

It’s been a long wait

Duke Nukem Forever
Developer: 3D Realms
MSRP: $49.99 (shop for this item)
Platform: PC, Mac OS X, Linux
Rating: Not yet rated (my money says AO)HangZhou Night Net

What a long, strange trip it's been. I wasted away most of my junior high years playing Duke Nukem 3D. Our own Opposable Thumbs writer Rodney designed any number of maps for it and we would be sending pipe bombs down the elevator shaft into the wee small hours of the night. The game was great, you got your teleporting, your freeze ray, your strippers, everything you could want. The level design was almost as good as Doom 2, and I don't say that lightly.

The original computer game got a few expansions, and then turned into a long string of terrible console games. Does anyone really remember Planet of the Babes fondly? The original PC title needed an update, and soon one was announced. That was around ten years ago. The game has since been stuck in unending development hell ever since it was announced in April 1997, the butt of jokes that would make John Romero blush. Of course, the silence had to be broken at some point.

And Duke Nukem's time is now.

One of the perks of writing for a site as big as Ars is the fact that sometimes you get stuff in the mail. It's not a ton, but it's always nice to get a free game or two in the mail. Oftentimes it's just a matter of getting a disc filled with videos and demos. It helps them get the word out on games, and it helps me keep up on what's coming down the pipe. A few days ago I received a few DVD-ROMs from 3D Realms containing some old E3 footage of Duke Nukem Forever, and I was shocked to find there was a playable demo spread across the four DVDs. Would I be one of the first people to actually play this game?

So I installed the demo, but thought there had to be more. I took a peek around the discs and found there were a lot more files than there needed to be for such a brief demo (one level set in Las Vegas). I wrote down the names of what appeared to be map files and pulled down the console. I futzed around with some commands before I nailed it. I could actually play around 12 maps of the game, complete with the enemies and (what appeared to be) the final scripting!

From the ReadMe.txt file, I also found out why we've been waiting so long for Duke Nukem Forever. Wanting Duke Nukem Forever to run on all platforms, but not wanting to bust a nut writing three different versions (not to mention having to come up with both PowerPC and x86 binaries for Mac OS X), the developers came up with a clever solution. Duke Nukem Forever has been rewritten as an Ajax application written using the Ruby on Rails framework. What it means is that Duke Nukem Forever has skipped a generation and is the first true Web 3.0 application, and it runs entirely in your web browser. Any web browser, on any platform… well almost.

System requirements

Keep in mind that these are far from final and are more or less our best guess.

Minimum system requirements Test system OS

Windows, Mac OS X, LinuxWindows XP Pro SP2, Mac OS X 10.4.5, Ubuntu Linux

CPU

The faster the betterAthlon 64 3000+, Core Duo T2400, PowerPC 970

RAM

The more the merrierAt least 1GB

Video

ATI Radeon X800 or better, NVIDIA GeForce 6600 or betterNVIDIA GeForce 6600GT (256MB)

Sound card

Sound card with speakers or headphonesTurtle Beach Santa Cruz

Hard drive

10.5 GB Sufficiently large

Input device

Keyboard and mouseKeyboard and mouse

Optical drive

DVDDVD

Networking

Broadband requiredSufficiently fast
This guy is actually a boss character. No joke.
There's an alien in him. And not the parasitic way

This whole demo thing is kind of weird, but there's certainly precedent. I remember getting a copy of the leaked Doom 3 code from an E3 show a few years ago and being able to see a few levels using the console. More recently the Empire at War demo had many more maps in the files than you could select in-game without getting creative. Sometimes this content just slides through.

This is going to be a hard review, as I'm not sure how much of the game I have. It has taken me about 6-7 hours to play through everything a few times, but I have no clue how long the final game is planned to be. For all I know I barely have half of the content. It may be almost all of it. There's so many unknowns I'm not even really going to hazard a guess.

Would you install a Windows security update that is in beta?

With security companies releasing Windows patches weeks before Microsoft, the Redmond giant is starting to feel some pressure to get updates out faster. The company typically waits until "Patch Tuesday," the second Tuesday of the month, to release updates to its customers. "Patch Tuesday" works well in most cases, but highly critical patches need to see the light of day as soon as possible. Microsoft knows this, but what can it do? HangZhou Night Net

One possible way that the company could speed up the release of highly critical patches is by providing them to the public early in a beta fashion. According to InfoWorld, the company has mulled over the idea but isn't ready to go that route. Stephen Toulouse, a member of Microsoft's security response center, said, "that's not to say that we're not examining some ways that we could … have an accelerated or maybe a less tested update, but we haven't made any determinations on that."

Toulouse identified a few of the challenges that Microsoft faces when attempting to release a patch early, namely quality control and the possible early disclosure of secret information. If Microsoft were to release a patch that was not thoroughly tested but was flawed, the results could be disastrous. Even with a warning sign attached to a premature patch, users expect a fix to, well, fix the problem and not create a new one.

The early disclosure of information is another problem with a beta patch. Toulouse wasn't sure how Microsoft could describe the inner workings of a fix if parts of it should be private.

"There might be privately reported issues that end up being in that update that haven't been disclosed yet. When we put out the bulletin, we talk about the information in the vulnerabilities … with a beta, how does that work exactly? Do you put out a kind-of-a-bulletin?"

Would you be willing to install a beta patch on your system? The risks of installing a less-than-perfect patch could outweigh the risks of running an unpatched system. Do you think that Microsoft should even consider going down the beta path with its security updates?

Saturday morning .NET links and hahas

This week brings us plenty of great links, plus a Microsoft April Fool's Day caper. HangZhou Night Net

If you are a Sudoku fan like me, then you'll find this link to be very cool. Microsoft has put some code out on the MSDN that covers how to createSudoku using the .NET Framework. It's designed for ultra-mobile and Tablet PCs, but the code could easily be ported to another environment.SQL Server 2005 Report Packs have now been officially released and can be downloaded for free. The packs include sample reports and databases that do a decent job teaching developers how to use the product.Like any developer, I'm always looking for ways to speed up certain tasks. In my quest for speed, I have come across a list of Visual Studio 2005 keyboard shortcuts that can be an asset to anyone who uses Visual Studio. I had no idea that this many shortcuts existed.Over at Queensland University of Technology, the creators of Ruby.NET are looking for a new name for the project. If you are a master of creative names, give them a shout with your idea.Why does the MSDN publish more managed code than native code information? MSDN Program Manager Tom Archer has the answer. In a nutshell, managed code information is in more demand due to marketing, product teams, and target audience. Customers want to see more information on managed code than they do on native code. Here's what Archer said: Like any other company we stay in business by meeting the needs of our customers. If customers weren't asking for and responding favorably to this, we’d be going in a different direction. Therefore, it’s simply inaccurate to say that we’re forcing anything on anyone. We’re the ones reacting to what the masses have requested and right now that’s managed code and tools for developing advanced UIs in the fasted time possible.Register these two links in the Microsoft complaint department. First, Chris Sells is looking for "what 'pain points' you experience when configuring, deploying and maintaining distributed .NET applications." Complaints range from having to install the rather large .NET Framework for very small applications to managing configurations. The second complaint deals with reporting bugs to Microsoft. The story is rather comedic as the author goes through several hoops just to report a bug/feature request.Finally, since it is April Fool's Day, Microsoft has made its Coding4Fun website a big joke, literally. It has articles like "When AutoCorrect Goes Bad", "Where did that sound come from?", "Randomly Opening CD Tray", "Persistent Error Messages", and "Shattering Screen Saver!". It also has some links to past April Fool's Day jokes that Microsoft has run on MSDN. I got few yucks out of this.

Laserless laser surgery may get the green light

Lasers, once called a solution looking for a problem, are now ubiquitous in our society. They have found application in almost every human activity from recreation to heavy industry and especially the medical industry. The laser is generally employed in these applications in favor of ordinary light because of a property called coherence, which is an inherent property of a stimulated process. Coherence basically means that each light emitter in the laser (i.e., atoms, molecules or electrons) emits a photon that is exactly in phase (i.e., the wavefronts are all aligned) with the other photons making up the light. When this is combined with amplification by reflectors then a beam with high temporal and spatial coherence is formed. HangZhou Night Net

For medical usage it is generally the spatial coherence properties, combined with high intensity, which is important. These properties allow lasers to burn very specific areas of flesh. For surgical applications that are not on the skin or eye, such as removing small tumors, the laser light is delivered through a fiber optical cable attached to a catheter. However, most lasers that are suitable for surgical applications emit light whose wavelength is strongly absorbed by water, which limits the tissue penetration depth, making internal surgery a difficult task. Furthermore lasers are expensive so it is often cheaper to use other forms of surgery.

It has long been recognized that the coherence properties of laser are not necessary for the removal of most tumors, but the high intensity is. The development of new high intensity light sources, based on arc discharge lamps has allowed researchers to show that internal surgical procedures may be possible without using an expensive laser. The problem with arc lamps is that the light is emitted in all directions and must be collected by mirrors and sent down an optical fiber. However, an optical fiber will only accept light within a relatively narrow angular range, resulting in a large amount of light going to waste. Even with this loss the researchers were able to show that there was sufficient power available to burn lesions inside chicken livers. A further advantage of this surgical system is that the light emits a large fraction of its power in the visible range, which just so happens to be nearer to the minimum absorption of water, thus allowing the light to penetrate deeper into the tissue.

An interesting aside to this story is that the researchers used sunlight to power their initial experiments, which works really well when you live in a place like Israel. However when they discovered how dank the rest of the world is, they realized that sun power was not an optimum choice and decided to use arc discharge lamps.

Blinded by the light

Sometime ago cosmologist started making measurements of how
galaxies rotated and they discovered an interesting problem. Galaxy rotation characteristics didn’t
correspond to the amount of luminous matter in the galaxy. More accurate measurement techniques allowed
researchers to pin down the amount of normal matter in galaxies quite
accurately, however, this still did not agree with the measured rotation
characteristics. After much debate, it
was decided that there must be some sort of matter that doesn’t interact with
electromagnetic forces (i.e., it can not glow), dubbed dark matter. Since then dark matter has become an
integral part of our description of how the universe evolved and evidence for
its existence has appeared everywhere, from galactic clustering to the
anisotropies of the cosmic microwave background. As has been noted here in the past not everyone finds dark matter a satisfying solution to the problem, and some consider it more a justification than a solution. HangZhou Night Net

Thus it came as something of a surprise to Piers Forbes-Hamilton of the Keck observatory to find that the visible mass of galaxy an21250 exactly predicted its rotational characteristics. This is the first galaxy ever observed to have rotational behavior predicted accurately by gravitational calculations without the addition of dark matter and if it stands will be remembered as a landmark observation. The observation is so controversial that before announcing the discovery they had their results independently confirmed by other observatories.

This situation, where a galaxy's rotational behavior is exacly predicted by gravity – without additional dark matter – is completely unprecedented. These observations have been checked numerous times and we are confident that the data is good. However, this implies that our understanding of the big bang, gravity and dark matter are incorrect and will have to be revised.

This finding has completely shocked the physics community, with some calling it the greatest discovery in the last 100 years, and others calling for the telescope calibration to be checked. Such a finding implies that all the recent sky maps will have to be rechecked and perhaps performed again in order to recalculate the amount of ordinary matter in the universe. Particle physics too is affected, since many of the supersymmetry models predict the presence of dark matter, which may now not be neccessary. We live in interesting times.

Gravity wave mash-up

The conference proceedings and full papers from the Sixth Edoardo Amaldi Conference on Gravity Waves have just been published by the Institute of Physics. Instead of producing a whole bunch of articles with very similar topics, I decided to do a mash-up. For those of you not in the know already, gravity waves are one of the predictions from general relativity that we have not been able to verify yet. The detection of gravity waves will allow us to observe the universe in new ways. For instance, the early universe was optically opaque and the accurate detection of gravity waves will be necessary to gather data relating to this period. However, gravity waves are also very difficult to detect, requiring us to observe miniscule changes in the distance between widely separated locations. This article contains a summary of the performance of one of the latest gravity wave detectors, and a look at one of the more fascinating suggestions for improvement. Finally, we take a look at some of the rampant speculation on what sort of stellar objects might emit gravitational waves strong enough for us to observe. HangZhou Night Net

read on

The researchers (over 100 authors from 23 institutions) who run the light interferometer gravitational wave observatory (LIGO) reported on the latest results produced from the three interferometers. Although they have not detected gravity waves, their failure has also placed some limitations on the types and frequencies of astrophysical events occurring in the universe. They now have LIGO operating near its design sensitivity and are looking at both minor and major upgrades to improve its sensitivity.

Researchers at Australian National University (ANU) are pursuing a very interesting alternative to the laser light sources used in LIGO and other interferometers. They would like to replace the laser light with squeezed light. Light from a laser has a well defined phase and amplitude, however, the uncertainty principle tells us that the both must have a certain amount of noise. Squeezed light simply removes noise from the phase of the light, increasing the amplitude’s noise. Thus the sensitivity of observatories like LIGO can be improved by using two light sources, one that has been squeezed and has reduced phase noise and a normal laser, which has very little amplitude noise. ANU has a long history of research on methods for generating squeezed light and they have demonstrated a device which fits most of the requirements for LIGO and other observatories.

Benjamin Owen from Penn State discussed some aspects of neutron stars, which point towards what sort of events LIGO (or other similar observatories) could detect at present or with only minor increases in sensitivity. On reading this paper my first thought was “These are stars, but not as we know them Jim.” First up; neutron stars that contain a torriodal rather than an earth-like magnetic field. Such fields can be generated when a neutron star has a solid crust and a liquid interior, allowing the core to rotate at a different rate to the crust. The generated field is such that it tries to squeeze the star about the middle, however this counteracts the oblateness caused by rotation so it is not stable. The result is that the orientation of the torriodal field rotates until it is aligned with the axis of rotation. During this migration the outer crust of the star is under immense strain, which should result in the emission of gravity waves. Such stars will probably not be detected by LIGO because if the magnetic field is strong enough to generate gravity waves strong enough to be detected then those waves will occur outside of the designed detection frequency range.

Further star shaped weirdness occurs when a neutron star has a companion. In this case the neutron star will rip matter away from the companion and it will begin to accrete on the neutron star surface. The strong magnetic field of the neutron star will encourage matter to “follow” the field lines onto the surface, thus creating mountains of matter on the star’s surface. These lumps at the magnetic poles cause ripples in the gravity field that depend on the rotational period. Under extreme circumstances these might be detectable, however, it is expected that they will not be detected, because the neutron star will through gravitational forces become round again.

The weirdest of the weird are the neutron stars that aren’t quite neutron stars. These stars have a solid crystalline core made from a mixture of e.g., quarks and baryons, resulting in a very stiff star which will hold onto irregularities. Thus, should such a star be accreting matter from a nearby companion, the very high stiffness may be sufficient to prevent the star from becoming round again. These stars might well be detectable given a minor, already planned, upgrade to LIGO.

Even though NASA is probably not going to put a space based interferometer up anytime soon, the future of gravity wave observatories is not bleak. They are now reaching the level at which positive results might be expected. Current results, though negative, still serve to constrain what type of astrophysical events might be going on out there.

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