Millions of Internet addresses are unused

There are millions of unused Internet addresses in the current IPv4 protocol, and it  might be possible to reclaim those addresses ahead of the planned switch to the IPv6 protocol, a research team found. The findings are significant because IPv4 is expected to run out of available addresses  in 2010, and efforts to get ISPs to switch to IPv6 (which increases the available addresses exponentially) have been slow. In a paper titled “Census and Survey of the Visible Internet,” a team from the USC Information Sciences Institute detailed how they used pings to explore the Internet’s topography, including remote locations called “edge hosts,” and adjusted the results to account for hosts hidden behind firewalls. Whether those unused IPv4 portions are usable is debatable, because reclaiming addresses would be time-intensive and costly. “Reusing address space poses many, many challenges:  locating the space, proving it’s unused, moving it smaller blocks, etc.” associate professor John Heidemann said. “These challenges turn into real costs to manage IPv4 more efficiently.” But Heidemann also noted that there  hasn’t been an exhaustive survey of the Internet since 1982, and his research should help people decide whether to salvage parts of IPv4 or push ahead with IPv6. (Technology Review)

FCC tentatively approves use of white spaces

The use of “white spaces” for wireless broadband access could be realized by February after the US Federal Communications Commission gave its initial approval Wednesday for wireless devices to use that area of the spectrum. White spaces are unused portions of the spectrum held by television networks, which proponents say can be used for broadband access. Broadcasters oppose the use of white spaces, saying that it could interrupt their digital signals and reduce quality. But the FCC supports the idea, and the agency gave its approval to geolocation devices, which use GPS to ensure that they are on vacant frequencies. The FCC wants the use of white spaces to begin at the same time that television broadcasters begin their mandated switch to digital signals — February 17, 2009. However, the US Congress introduced legislation Wednesday to let broadcasters postpone the deadline, and it isn’t yet clear how that might affect white spaces. (PC Magazine)

Digital television switchover could be postponed

Acting on a survey showing that the US is unprepared for a mandated switch to digital television, Congress introduced legislation Wednesday that would let broadcasters  postpone the deadline, BetaNews reported. According to survey results from Nielsen Media Research, more than 21.5 million households aren’t ready  for DTV by the February 17, 2009 deadline. The bill would push back the deadline  “only to provide additional time for consumers to be educated about the DTV Transition and receive emergency information.” (BetaNews)

Botnets a threat to cell phones

Cell phones are next in line to become unknowing hosts for botnets,  researchers said at a security conference Wednesday. “At this point, mobile device capability is far ahead of security,” said Patrick Traynor, an assistant professor in the School of Computer Science at Georgia Tech. “We’ll start to see the botnet problem infiltrate the mobile world in 2009.” Smartphones could be attractive to botnet operators because they’re typically always on and have more security vulnerabilities – limited battery power prevents effective antivirus software from being placed in the devices. (The Associated Press)

Progress made in manufacture of 3D stacked integrated chips

Researchers at Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre in Belgium have made progress in developing 3D stacked integrated circuits using die-to-die technology, a significant step for  next-generation  semiconductors. The 3D IC circuits contain two chips that are stacked and vertically bonded into one chip, increasing speed and functionality. According to Eric Beyne, IMEC Scientific Director for 3D Technologies, the research center reduced the yield involved in rapid production of the stacked dies on silicon wafers, which is a “key aspect for the cost of the technology.” Beyne estimated that 3D ICs will get to market by 2012. (ScienceDaily)

Storm’s lull could mean the end

The Storm Worm botnet has been inactive for a month and its operators might have abandoned it, according to reports. Although previous reports of its demise proved to be premature (Microsoft claimed to have crippled Storm in September of 2007), the massive botnet is no longer attempting to infect machines for its network and is steadily shrinking, Dark Reading reported. One security researcher found a TCP server message that read: “Go away, we’re not home.” (Dark Reading)

Internet use shown to increase brain activity

Middle-aged and older adults who use the Internet show an increased amount of brain activity, according to a study by a UCLA neurologist slated to appear in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Participants in the study searched the Web and read books while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging scans. “Our most striking finding was that Internet searching appears to engage a greater extent of neural circuitry that is not activated during reading — but only in those with prior Internet experience,” said lead researcher Gary Small, who is also the director of UCLA’s Memory and Aging Research Center. Using a brain-activity measurement called a voxel, scientists found that Web-savvy people used 21,782 voxels when using the Internet, compared with 8,646 voxels for those with less Internet experience. (Newsweek)

US could get free wireless Internet

The US Federal Communications Commission determined Friday that a proposed wireless network that would provide free broadband service wouldn’t interfere with T-Mobile communications in a neighboring spectrum. The report paves the way for the FCC to auction off the 2155–2175 MHz band, known as AWS-3, with the stipulation that the winning company’s network must reach half the nation within five years and 95 percent in 10 years. M2Z Networks, which approached the FCC in May with a proposal for free wireless Internet, is expected to bid. M2Z says it would offer the filtered network at speeds of 512 kbps, taking in revenue through advertising and by offering a premium, unfiltered service at 3,000 kbps. (PC Magazine)

Digital picture recorded of zebrafish’s first stages of life

Scientists in Germany have developed the Google Earth of the microbiology world, creating the “first complete development blueprint of a vertebrate.” Using a digitally scanned laser light sheet microscope  and a large-scale computing pipeline, researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory created a digital embryo of a zebrafish, tracking how the organism’s cells divided and formed tissue in its first few hours of life. “Imagine following all inhabitants of a town over the course of one day using a telescope in space,” researcher Phillipp Keller said. “This comes close to tracking the ten thousands of cells that make up a vertebrate embryo – only that the cells move in three dimensions.” The microscope uses laser scanners to generate a sheet of light that  creates a 3D image. (ScienceDaily)

Company emerges to produce black silicon

Black silicon, a new photonics material made from silicon wafers, could soon see commercial use with the creation of a venture-backed company, SiOnyx. Cofounded by James Carey, a scientist who helped discover black silicon as a graduate student at Harvard, SiOnyx plans to manufacture the material as a far more light-sensitive replacement for silicon in a wide range of applications, including x-ray machines, surveillance satellites, and digital cameras. Discovered during catalytic-reactions research by Harvard physics professor Eric Mazur, black silicon is created when a high-intensity, femtosecond laser is flashed on a silicon wafer in the presence of sulfur hexafluoride. According to the SiOnyx website, “the result is a highly doped, optically opaque, shallow junction interface that is thousands of times more sensitive to light than conventional semiconductor materials.” (Xcomony)

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