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Alison Skratt

Pages: pp. 12-15

Mobile and Wireless Computing

Network Magazine,

April 2005

"Planes, Trains Make Wi-Fi Pay," by Andy Dornan

To keep their business model from becoming obsolete in the face of expanding open Wi-Fi networks, hotspot providers are turning to venues that free networks can't reach. T-Mobile is experimenting with a paid hotspot service on trains in the United Kingdom, connecting the moving access point with WiMax base stations along the tracks. In the US, GoRemote's service now includes a database of free Wi-Fi networks, and the company has established a tie-in with Connexion, a Boeing service that's built into planes and uplinks to satellites.

May 2005

"UWB: Too Much Competition?" by Andy Dornan

Generally, when rival groups push for divergent protocols, one wins or they compromise. Not so with Ultra Wideband. The UWB standard, known as 802.15.3a, will transfer data wirelessly at very high speeds over short distances of even just several feet. Over the long term, proponents hope it will replace the tangle of wires connecting PC and television components. This vision is complicated, however, by the fact that the two groups working on UWB standards couldn't agree and submitted separate protocols to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which approved both earlier this year. The two standards promise similar results: speeds of roughly 500 Mbps within a few feet. However, they differ on both the MAC and physical levels, thus making them incompatible. The UWB Forum — led by Motorola — showed a working system and received FCC approval first. The other, more influential group is the WiMedia Alliance, which includes Intel, Nokia, Sony, and Hewlett-Packard.

PC Magazine,

7 June 2005

"Beyond WiMax," by John R. Quain

Manufacturers are already looking ahead to the next generation of wireless broadband service, even though the IEEE Working Group on Broadband Wireless Access Standards only recently finalized the first official WiMax specification. Mobile WiMax, or 802.16e, would let consumers roam without interruption between wireless hotspots. South Korea will probably be the first to offer WiMax roaming, perhaps by April 2006 thanks to government legislation that forced carriers to cooperate. The most likely technologies to use the service will initially be Mobile WiMax-compatible cell phones and PC cards for laptops, which feature maximum speeds of 15 Mbps.

"On Call via Wi-Fi," by Sebastian Rupley

A California hospital has found a way to keep in touch with its doctors and nurses wherever they are in the medical center without using cell phones, which interfere with patients' medical equipment. The solution for Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City is a wireless LAN with Wi-Fi phones. The system uses a Cisco-based 802.11g wireless network throughout the entire campus and SpectraLink NetLink Wi-Fi phones that use 802.11b. The gateways that interface with the phones are located in the hospital's central data center, and the Wi-Fi access points are sprinkled throughout the campus.

Technology Review,

June 2005

"Brown Goes Bluetooth," by Tom Mashberg

Not every enterprise that uses barcodes sees radio frequency identification (RFID) as the answer to its productivity challenges. Officials at the United Parcel Service say the company watched RFID R&D for 15 years but ultimately decided to invest US$120 million to hire Symbol Technologies of Holtsville, N.Y., to create a customized technology that combines Bluetooth and 802.11b technologies in one system. Deployment of Symbol's Bluetooth-equipped Emerald scanners, which are worn like rings, began in July 2003 and will reach all of UPS's 55,000 sorting workers by the end of 2006.

The ring scanner, paired with a Windows CE-based terminal worn on the belt, can handle up to 60 scans of shipping data per minute, twice the rate of the hardwired scanners UPS was using previously. Symbol addressed one of the biggest challenges — that both Bluetooth and 802.11b technologies send signals across the 2.4-GHz radio frequency — by outfitting scanners and terminals with special software to prevent information packets from colliding. UPS expects Symbol's system to pay for itself within 16 months with increased productivity, reduced equipment repairs, and fewer spare-equipment purchases.

Programming and Development

Dr. Dobb's Journal,

May 2005

"Naïve Bayesian Text Classification," by John Graham-Cumming

Graham-Cumming outlines how to create a naïve Bayesian text classifier — so-called because it also includes strong assumptions that usually have no basis in reality — that can automatically create metadata about a document, thus helping with activities such as spam filtering. Although spam filters are the most common use, naïve Bayesian text classifiers have other uses, such as email classification to identify malware, viruses, and even mutated versions of worms. Graham-Cumming claims that his 100-line classifier can outline a set of possible categories that a document might fall into and also learn from its work. "Feed it samples of spam and nonspam email, and it learns the difference," he says.

Network Magazine,

April 2005

"Sourcefire's Real-Time Network Awareness," by Andrew Conry-Murray

Conry-Murray explains how Sourcefire's Real-time Network Awareness (RNA) software reduces false positives associated with intrusion detection. RNA uses passive monitoring, in which sensors analyze traffic, build profiles of every host that communicates through its network segment, track new hosts by their MAC addresses, and fingerprint those hosts' operating systems. The result is a more detailed picture of how the user's architecture is handling traffic and its security status. Conry-Murray says RNA's vulnerability-correlation system can be "clumsy and imprecise," however, and its ties to the Sourcefire intrusion-detection and prevention platform prevents users with other widely deployed IDSs from using it.

PC Magazine,

7 June 2005

"Web Graphics Overhaul," by Karen Jones

The Opera and Firefox browsers will soon support Scalable Vector Graphics. SVG support has been available for all browsers as a plug-in and is already integrated with the latest generation of mobile phones. Embedding the XML-based graphics language into browsers could improve users' Internet experience and raise the bar for online graphics, Jones says, by making figures dynamic and interactive. If, for instance, users visited a mapping site without SVG, they'd type in an address and get a map. To zoom in or look to the left, they'd submit requests that would go back to the server, which would create another map while the user waited. With SVG, users can zoom in or move around without waiting. The language also allows for adding overlays — to outline areas of interest on a map, for example.


PC Magazine,

24 May 2005

"Dealing with Dynamic IP Addresses," by Craig Ellison

Until recently, it was difficult for search engines to find links to personal webcams or other applications hosted by home users that allowed for remote access, given that these applications' IP addresses change regularly. A new set of protocols called Dynamic DNS (DDNS) could rectify this dynamic IP address dilemma. Currently, three major providers —, Tzolkin, and — are offering the technology for the same annual fee of US$24.95. When users sign up for service, they turn DNS control over to one of these providers, who puts a small program on the users' computers; the application regularly sends an update packet to the provider outlining the user's current IP address. When someone tries to connect to the application via the Internet, his or her ISP contacts the root server with an inquiry. The root server then sends the ISP to the DDNS provider, which redirects the user request to the correct address.

Network Magazine,

May 2005

"Wiki Wars," by David Greenfield

The open, group-editable Web format called wiki is an Internet tool designed to make it easier for people to collaborate on Web site content and then modify it for individual industries. Niche users such as software developers who want to post or document changes to their products have been using this format for some time. Recently, however, the firms JotSpot and Socialtext introduced wiki platforms that target enterprise collaboration. JotSpot's offering lets users transform editable Web pages into simple application-development platforms that include applets for tools such as calendaring and threaded discussions. Socialtext relaunched its Socialtext Enterprise as an appliance with directory, storage, and monitoring integration.


PC Magazine,

24 May 2005

"Linux Lasts Longer," by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

An international nonprofit security organization, the Honeypot Project (, recently launched a study to determine why no one is hacking Linux anymore. As an unintended result, the organization found that unpatched Linux systems can exist on the Internet for months without being successfully attacked, whereas Windows systems are usually breached within hours. Project members set up 12 "honeynets" in eight countries, each with two or more "honeypots" — systems that don't do any work, but sense and track any interactions with them (that is, attacks, scans, or probes). Possible explanations for the dramatic difference between Linux- and Windows-based honeynets range from crediting Linux's security features to the simple fact that more Windows-based machines exist, which makes them statistically more likely to be attacked.

Technology Review,

May 2005

"Cell Phone Viruses: One of 10 Emerging Technologies that Will Change the World," by Stu Hutson

As people increasingly use cell phone technology to address their everyday needs, the dangers associated with successful malware multiply exponentially. Last year's Cabir worm, which spread through Bluetooth wireless connections, was one example that led research firm IDC to predict an increase in mobile security spending from roughly US$100 million in 2004 to almost US$1 billion by 2008, with a significant portion dedicated to antiviral protection.

Elsewhere in the IEEE Computer Society


April 2005

"Will Binary XML Speed Network Traffic?" by David Geer

Because XML allows data interoperability between applications on different platforms, research firm ZapThink predicts that XML, which accounted for 3 percent of global network traffic in 2003, will make up 24 percent of network traffic by 2006 and at least 40 percent by 2008. However, because XML files are so big, that increased popularity could cause slower networks. Proponents say that's where binary XML comes in. Current XML uses plaintext format, which results in large files. At least two groups are working toward creating more efficient binary XML formats: the W3C's Binary Characterization Working Group and Sun Microsystems.

The W3C group has issued three recommendations. The first, XML Binary Optimized Packaging (XOP), makes files smaller by removing binary portions, such as images, and sending them separately. The second, the Message Transmission Optimization Mechanism (MTOM), uses XOP's methods for SOAP messages. The third, Resource Representation SOAP Header Block, gives an application receiving XOP- or MTOM-altered files the necessary tools for retrieving the files' binary parts. In a separate effort, Sun has launched the Fast Infoset Project (, an open-source technology that reduces an XML file's size by encoding its information set as a binary stream and then substituting number codes for its metatags.

Some in the industry worry that these efforts could produce more than one format or spawn proprietary implementations, which would hurt XML's valuable openness. However, binary XML might offer the best solution to the XML dilemma because efforts to streamline the language itself are outpacing the other way to solve the problem — improving processor speeds.

"Overcoming the Internet Impasse through Virtualization," by Thomas Anderson, Larry Peterson, Scott Shenker, and Jonathan Turner

Although widespread agreement exists that the Internet needs significant architectural upgrades to meet users' future needs, the disparate parties currently providing that architecture are unlikely to ever agree about what those upgrades should be. Anderson and his coauthors suggest one possible way around this impasse — constructing a virtual test bed to support multiple architectures simultaneously and provide all the communication needs of standard clients and servers.

A virtual test bed, they say, would meet all three of the requirements that could break the architecture standoff: it would let researchers experiment with new architectures on live traffic, create a "plausible deployment path" for putting validated experiments to use, and address the broad range of problems facing the Internet today. The authors describe how the test bed would work, particularly its two crucial aspects: nodes that treat an overlay as if it's the native network, and letting many overlays simultaneously use the same underlying overlay infrastructure.

May 2005

"Using Topic Maps to Improve Searches," by Linda Dailey Paulson

Topic maps — indices that categorize subjects based on their relationships to one another — are one way to deal with the numerous irrelevant responses generated from Internet and database searches. Topic maps use metadata, text, or text-mining technologies to remove and organize information from files. Users can enhance the map models through actions such as outlining a plan for extracting data, managing exceptions, or inserting information. The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards ( is studying ways to standardize topic maps. It has also become a clearinghouse for the development of new approaches to topic maps, which are widely used in Europe but not yet as common in the US.

"Companies Agree on Mobile Intellectual Property Protection," by Linda Dailey Paulson

The Open Mobile Alliance (OMA;, a consortium of mobile phone makers and service providers, has agreed to standards to prevent the unauthorized sharing, recording, or distribution of digital multimedia designed for cell phones. Unlike digital multimedia for PCs, which involves several proprietary and incompatible digital rights management technologies, the DRM 1.0 standard for cell phones lets systems that deliver content distribute product providers' software for enforcing usage rights either with the products or separately. The mobile phone industry hopes the OMA standard will spur software, film, and music providers to sell products for use on cell phones without fear that they will be routinely pirated.

IEEE Multimedia,

April–June 2005

"ISMA Interoperability and Conformance," by Harald Fuchs and Nikolaus Färber

The Internet Streaming Media Alliance (ISMA; is a nonprofit international corporation founded more than four years ago by Apple, Cisco, IBM, Kasenna, Philips, and Sun Microsystems. Its goal is to help make streaming rich media a reality by fostering interoperability and conformance among products that would seamlessly deliver video, audio, and data to consumers via IP networks. Fuchs and Färber describe how ISMA creates end-to-end specifications that yield interoperability as well as conformance. For instance, they say, ISMA specifications are usually "implementation agreements" that let both its members and others develop streaming products knowing that they'll be compatible. ISMA also uses existing standards — and contributes to those still in development — to complete those specifications. Fuchs and Färber point out that ISMA efforts are already starting to produce dividends as a growing number of ISMA-compatible products — from ISMA-enabled projectors to professional servers — are reaching the marketplace.

IEEE Pervasive Computing,

April–June 2005

"Enabling Pervasive Computing with Smart Phones," by George Roussos, Andy J. Marsh, and Stavroula Maglavera

Mobile phone success in Europe in the early 1990s led to dozens of research projects aimed at exploring what architectures might be appropriate for providing information services to cell phone users. Roussos, Marsh, and Maglavera were involved in some of those projects, and they outline lessons learned from them and how efforts in pervasive computing might also benefit from those lessons. They say, for example, that it's important to consider what services might likely become available if the network access model for pervasive computing follows that of today's cellular networks. They also argue that pervasive computing developers must focus on protecting consumers' private information and remember that, as developers, they move from one generation of technology to the next much faster than the ordinary consumer can integrate those technologies into their everyday lives.

IT Professional,

March/April 2005

"Semantics in Service Discovery and QoS Measurement," by Chen Zhou, Liang-Tien Chia, and Bu-Sung Lee

As the number of Web service providers grows, consumers need a way to compare services, by first determining exactly what each provider offers and then selecting which provider is best suited to meet the users' needs. The Web Ontology Language for Services (OWL-S; is designed to automate this "Web service discovery" process. However, Zhou, Chia, and Lee say that the ontology designed to accomplish the second part of the comparison process fails to provide a detailed set of classes and properties to represent quality-of-service (QoS) metrics. To solve this problem, they created their own ontology, called the Darpa Agent Markup Language for QoS (DAML-QoS), for the second phase of Web service discovery. In addition to being a complementary ontology that gives detailed QoS information for DAML for Services (DAML-S), they say DAML-QoS also measures QoS and covers a system's "nonfunctional" aspects, including pricing information, service levels, and contracts between Web services and their users.

About the Authors

Alison Skratt is a freelance writer based in Oakville, Conn.
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