Computing Now Exclusive Content — October 2009

News Archive

July 2012

Gig.U Project Aims for an Ultrafast US Internet

June 2012

Bringing Location and Navigation Technology Indoors

May 2012

Plans Under Way for Roaming between Cellular and Wi-Fi Networks

Encryption System Flaw Threatens Internet Security

April 2012

For Business Intelligence, the Trend Is Location, Location, Location

Corpus Linguistics Keep Up-to-Date with Language

March 2012

Are Tomorrow's Firewalls Finally Here Today?

February 2012

Spatial Humanities Brings History to Life

December 2011

Could Hackers Take Your Car for a Ride?

November 2011

What to Do about Supercookies?

October 2011

Lights, Camera, Virtual Moviemaking

September 2011

Revolutionizing Wall Street with News Analytics

August 2011

Growing Network-Encryption Use Puts Systems at Risk

New Project Could Promote Semantic Web

July 2011

FBI Employs New Botnet Eradication Tactics

Google and Twitter "Like" Social Indexing

June 2011

Computing Commodities Market in the Cloud

May 2011

Intel Chips Step up to 3D

Apple Programming Error Raises Privacy Concerns

Thunderbolt Promises Lightning Speed

April 2011

Industrial Control Systems Face More Security Challenges

Microsoft Effort Takes Down Massive Botnet

March 2011

IP Addresses Getting Security Upgrade

February 2011

Studios Agree on DRM Infrastructure

January 2011

New Web Protocol Promises to Reduce Browser Latency

To Be or NAT to Be?

December 2010

Intel Gets inside the Helmet

Tuning Body-to-Body Networks with RF Modeling

November 2010

New Wi-Fi Spec Simplifies Connectivity

Expanded Top-Level Domains Could Spur Internet Real Estate Boom

October 2010

New Weapon in War on Botnets

September 2010

Content-Centered Internet Architecture Gets a Boost

Gesturing Going Mainstream

August 2010

Is Context-Aware Computing Ready for the Limelight?

Flexible Routing in the Cloud

Signal Congestion Rejuvenates Interest in Cell Paging-Channel Protocol

July 2010

New Protocol Improves Interaction among Networked Devices and Applications

Security for Domain Name System Takes a Big Step Forward

The ROADM to Smarter Optical Networking

Distributed Cache Goes Mainstream

June 2010

New Application Protects Mobile-Phone Passwords

WiGig Alliance Reveals Ultrafast Wireless Specification

Cognitive Radio Adds Intelligence to Wireless Technology

May 2010

New Product Uses Light Connections in Blade Server

April 2010

Browser Fingerprints Threaten Privacy

New Animation Technique Uses Motion Frequencies to Shake Trees

March 2010

Researchers Take Promising Approach to Chemical Computing

Screen-Capture Programming: What You See is What You Script

Research Project Sends Data Wirelessly at High Speeds via Light

February 2010

Faster Testing for Complex Software Systems

IEEE 802.1Qbg/h to Simplify Data Center Virtual LAN Management

Distributed Data-Analysis Approach Gains Popularity

Twitter Tweak Helps Haiti Relief Effort

January 2010

2010 Rings in Some Y2K-like Problems

Infrastructure Sensors Improve Home Monitoring

Internet Search Takes a Semantic Turn

December 2009

Phase-Change Memory Technology Moves toward Mass Production

IBM Crowdsources Translation Software

Digital Ants Promise New Security Paradigm

November 2009

Program Uses Mobile Technology to Help with Crises

More Cores Keep Power Down

White-Space Networking Goes Live

Mobile Web 2.0 Experiences Growing Pains

October 2009

More Spectrum Sought for Body Sensor Networks

Optics for Universal I/O and Speed

High-Performance Computing Adds Virtualization to the Mix

ICANN Accountability Goes Multinational

RFID Tags Chat Their Way to Energy Efficiency

September 2009

Delay-Tolerant Networks in Your Pocket

Flash Cookies Stir Privacy Concerns

Addressing the Challenge of Cloud-Computing Interoperability

Ephemeralizing the Web

August 2009

Bluetooth Speeds Up

Grids Get Closer

DCN Gets Ready for Production

The Sims Meet Science

Sexy Space Threat Comes to Mobile Phones

July 2009

WiGig Alliance Makes Push for HD Specification

New Dilemnas, Same Principles:
Changing Landscape Requires IT Ethics to Go Mainstream

Synthetic DNS Stirs Controversy:
Why Breaking Is a Good Thing

New Approach Fights Microchip Piracy

Technique Makes Strong Encryption Easier to Use

New Adobe Flash Streams Internet Directly to TVs

June 2009

Aging Satellites Spark GPS Concerns

The Changing World of Outsourcing

North American CS Enrollment Rises for First Time in Seven Years

Materials Breakthrough Could Eliminate Bootups

April 2009

Trusted Computing Shapes Self-Encrypting Drives

March 2009

Google, Publishers to Try New Advertising Methods

Siftables Offer New Interaction Model for Serious Games

Hulu Boxed In by Media Conglomerates

February 2009

Chips on Verge of Reaching 32 nm Nodes

Hathaway to Lead Cybersecurity Review

A Match Made in Heaven: Gaming Enters the Cloud

January 2009

Government Support Could Spell Big Year for Open Source

25 Reasons For Better Programming

Web Guide Turns Playstation 3 Consoles into Supercomputing Cluster

Flagbearers for Technology: Contemporary Techniques Showcase US Artifact and European Treasures

December 2008

.Tel TLD Debuts As New Way to Network

Science Exchange

November 2008

The Future is Reconfigurable

Optics for Universal I/O and Speed

by George Lawton

Intel has demonstrated new technology, code-named Light Peak, for connecting PCs and other devices using fiber optic lines. The company expects the technology to find its way into a variety of consumer electronics devices such as printers, storage devices, TVs, and media players. Light Peak promises a universal connector that will support various existing protocols including USB, FireWire, Digital Video Interface (DVI), and High-Definition Multimedia Interface.

The first-generation technology supports data rates of 10 Gbits per second in both directions, which is significantly faster than USB 2.0 (480 Mbps), the proposed USB 3.0 (4.8 Gbps), FireWire (400 Mbps), and DVI (3.96 Gbps). Light Peak will be able to carry multiple protocols simultaneously, which would let a single fiber connect to a hub that can support video and ports for various external devices. The link will scale to 100 Gbps bidirectionally in the next decade, said Jason Ziller, director of Intel's Optical I/O Program Office. 

Building Market Momentum

Thus far, Sony is the only consumer electronics manufacturer to publicly support the technology. However, several optical component vendors have announced plans to make Light Peak components, including Foxconn, Foxlink, Avago, SAE, Iptronics, Corning, Elaser, and Ensphere. The first products are expected by fall of next year.

Intel is also working to finalize a standard, which Ziller expects will drive higher volumes and broader use. But the company is still exploring avenues for standardization. "We want to determine the best way to standardize this technology, but there are no concrete plans," Ziller said. Working with the IEEE is one possibility under consideration. Other approaches involve organizations such as PC-industry special interest groups.

Richard Doherty, research director of the Envisioneering Group technology assessment company, said optical makes sense for faster interconnects because traditional copper technologies can't cost-effectively scale up to faster speeds. "The optical industry as a whole has demonstrated the ability for fast lasers and sensors to handle these data rates," Doherty said, "and Intel has a lot of experience in silicon. The only missing link is having an optical interconnect that’s easy for consumers and businesses." He sees Light Peak reaching consumer scale quickly, leading to connectors that cost "pennies instead of dimes and dollars."

The practical speed and length limits for traditional copper interconnects arise from issues associated with electrical losses and electromagnetic interference (EMI). These issues don't affect optical technology. Light signals can travel long distances with minimal optical losses, and they're immune to EMI. High-end optical transceivers and fibers can carry terabits per second across thousands of miles. Light Peak will operate over much shorter ranges so it can use significantly cheaper components.

Making Fiber Consumer Friendly

The Light Peak technology consists of a controller chip and optical module that can be built into devices. Intel plans to supply the controller chip and is working with optics vendors to deliver the other components. 

Fiber-optic connectors are already widely used in high-end audio equipment with Toshiba-Link (Toslink) technology. Toslink operates at a wavelength of 655 nanometers. It originally supported a data rate of 3.1 Mbps and was later expanded to 125 Mbps. It uses an LED and has a range up to 10 meters over plastic fiber.

Light Peak uses a vertical-cavity, surface-emitting laser operating at 850 nm. It was designed to support a range up to 100 meters over glass fiber. This will extend the range of the different protocols it supports, which are limited to 3 to 15 meters over copper. Ziller said that vendors will likely include power on the cable, which might restrict the distance.

Intel balanced available technical alternatives to optimize for mainstream devices that ship in high volume. The technology had to be cost effective and durable enough to withstand consumer abuse. Glass fiber-optic cables are generally less durable than plastic, but Ziller said the Light Peak design works even when tied into knots or wrapped around a finger.

Doherty sees the possible early ramp-up of a high-speed wireless technology as the only real competition to Light Peak becoming a universal interconnect. New 60-GHz networking technology has this potential, but it hasn’t yet penetrated the consumer market. 

George Lawton is a freelance technology writer based in Monte Rio, California. Contact him at