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From the Newsstand

Alison Skratt

Pages: pp. 10-13


Internet Media

PC Magazine, www.pcmag.com

4 Oct. 2005

"Net Video for the Masses," by Sebastian Rupley

Video over IP reached several milestones in recent months thanks to wider broadband adoption rates, improved technology, and cooperation from broadcasters. On 2 July, for example, AOL used Windows Media to broadcast the Live 8 concerts over the Internet. Coverage of the concerts peaked at 5 million viewers using 175,000 simultaneous streams, making it the largest Internet video audience ever for a live event. On 26 July, NASA's broadcast of the space shuttle launch netted 433,000 simultaneous streams. Also, CBS News, which has long focused only on radio and television, opted to create a 24-hour Internet news service. And Time Warner Cable is running trials in San Diego using RealNetworks' Helix technology and media players to measure consumer interest in cable content delivered to PCs.

Mobile and Wireless Computing

PC Magazine, www.pcmag.com

6 Sept. 2005

"Unwired City," by Sebastian Rupley

A new contender has entered the already-crowded landscape of emerging wireless technologies. The radio-based xMax technology is designed to deliver broadband speeds over the frequencies used by radio and television stations. xMax inventor Joe Bobier asserts that a single US$350,000 xMax base station could potentially bring broadband speeds of up to 40 Mbytes to an entire city, given that the signals can be delivered to both desktop and mobile users.

xG Technology, the company behind xMax, hopes to be able to serve the majority of users in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, via a single tower at a base station it's building between the two cities. The company expects to unveil xMax in November and have products available by mid-2006. However, no standards group is waiting to ratify this technology.

IT Architect, www.itarchitect.com

September 2005

"DSL: Deregulated to Death," by Andy Dornan

WiMax technologies could become the beneficiaries of the US Federal Communications Commission's August 2005 decision to reclassify DSL from a telecommunications service to an information service. As a result of the FCC's decision, the regional Bell operating companies will no longer be required to carry traffic from competing ISPs as of September 2006. If the Bells choose to reduce the number of competitors they carry, the displaced ISPs are expected to start searching for alternative technologies, such as WiMax. The same FCC decision also relieved DSL providers from having to pay into the Universal Service Fund — which helps provide telecommunications services to rural areas and low-income individuals — as of May 2006.

Peer-to-Peer

PC Magazine, www.pcmag.com

23 Aug. 2005

"P2P Shifts," by Sebastian Rupley

The US Supreme Court sent shockwaves through the peer-to-peer (P2P) marketplace in June with a landmark decision. The court ruled in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. that Internet file-sharing services can be held liable for copyright infringement if the intent behind them lets users swap copyrighted material. The decision has called into question the business models behind firms such as Kazaa and Morpheus as well as Grokster. Harry Wang, a research analyst at Parks Associates, says he expects P2P services to begin experimenting with new business models that aren't solely based on ad revenue. "Adding digital rights management control to P2P networks should be the end goal," he says.

Programming and Development

C/C++ User's Journal, www.cuj.com

October 2005

"Asynchronous I/O Streams for TCP Connections," by Claus Tøndering

According to Tøndering, programmers are often frustrated when they learn about C-based sockets, put off by the set of tasks required to set up a server. They must create a socket, bind a port to it, and put the socket in "listening" mode before they can finally accept incoming connections.

The author points out the need for a set of C++ classes to provide an interface to the sockets mechanism, but most of the socket class libraries that exist are just "thin wrappers around the underlying C library functions."

He also describes a platform-independent C++ library created at the Danish Technology Institute (DTI). The DTILIB library gives I/O streams an interface to compressed files and TCP sockets, as well as provides a way to handle asynchronous I/O streams on top of C++ I/O streams. He also explains how to use C++ I/O streams to read and write TCP sockets, and how asynchronous I/O streams can be built on top of the I/O stream mechanism of C++.

PC Magazine, www.pcmag.com

23 Aug. 2005

"Who's in Charge?" by Sebastian Rupley

The White House recently announced that the US will "maintain its historic role in authorizing changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file" — effectively heading off potential challenges from other countries to exert greater authority over the Internet's domain name system. Several nations have requested more decentralized management of the Internet. Currently, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) oversees much of the Internet's technical aspects, but the US government oversees ICANN. The Bush administration's announcement made it clear that it intends to continue this oversight.

"The Net's Next 10 Years," by Sebastian Rupley

In light of how essential the Internet has become to our social fabric since Netscape went public 10 years ago, PC Magazine decided to look into its crystal ball to predict important Internet milestones that might occur in the next decade.

Those milestones include the development of Internet2, the private, high-speed network connecting research and educational institutions; the deployment of IPv6, which will make it possible for virtually every person and every device to have its own IP address; a fading of the digital divide as more people gain access to the Internet; and the as-yet-unknown implications of the mobile Net's broader use. On the cautionary side, Rupley mentions the widely feared "big one," a devastating attack on the Internet or the US power grid. Doug Van Houweling, CEO of Internet2, predicts that advances in authentication efforts will head off many of today's more common security concerns. Showing particular promise in that regard, he says, is the Shibboleth authentication software, which is currently being used on Internet2 and at colleges such as Penn State.

Technology Review, www.technologyreview.com

October 2005

"Killer Maps," by Wade Roush

In June, Google introduced its Google Earth service, which uses satellite photos of the Earth to complement mapping and other queries. Soon after, Microsoft and Yahoo jumped into the fray with mapping services of their own. The three are now in a race to turn this technology into full-blown browsers that organize information on the basis of geography rather than keywords in an effort to "annotate the planet."

Contributing to the technology's success is that each company has released APIs that let outside programmers build their own online applications using the mapping services, as long as they're not for commercial purposes. As a result of these "mash-ups" — applications that combine information such as crime statistics and cultural activities with maps — the array of services available to users has grown exponentially.

As Roush points out, however, the marketplace has only begun to embrace the location-technology arena. Many details remain to be worked out, including which service might be endorsed by cellular carriers and firms that make other mobile technology devices.

Security

Dr. Dobb's Journal, www.ddj.com

October 2005

"Reestablishing a Trust in the Web," by Amir Herzberg and Ahmad Jbara

Web spoofing (creating fake sites to collect user passwords and other personal information) and phishing (using fake emails to direct users to spoofed sites) remain major security threats to online users. Herzberg and Jbara contend that current browser user interfaces (UIs) aren't working because the icons are either too small for casual users to notice or can simply be faked on spoofed ones. In an effort to help users differentiate between trustworthy sites and spoofed ones, the authors created the open-source TrustBar browser extension for the Mozilla and Mozilla Firefox browsers ( www.AmirHerzberg.com/TrustBar/). This article details the TrustBar UI and how it addresses current browser UIs' weaknesses in identifying sites' safety.

PC Magazine, www.pcmag.com

4 Oct. 2005

"Is It Spyware?" by Larry Seltzer

Semantics is one of the many challenges involved in the antispyware business. Each company creates its own definitions and standards for the types of programs it will identify as spyware and the steps it will take to deal with them.

In addition to being confusing, such proprietary definitions have led to larger problems. In July, for example, Microsoft reclassified several notorious adware programs as lower threats, claiming that its own definitions of spyware required the reclassification. Many users were outraged at the new threat ratings, which recommended, for example, that users ignore rather than remove Claria's GAIN, which monitors Web browsing activity to deliver online ads to users.

In an effort to help standardize the situation, the Anti-Spyware Coalition ( www.antispywarecoalition.org), a consortium of software companies, academics, and consumer groups, has compiled a list of suggested definitions and supporting documents. As Seltzer points out, however, it's difficult to see what the efforts will accomplish given that adware vendors will have the chance to manipulate their products to suit the consortium's standardized definitions.

Technology Review, www.technologyreview.com

October 2005

"Virus Hunter: Mikko Hyppönen Defends the Web Against Mischief," by Duncan Graham-Rowe

Graham-Rowe profiles one of the most respected virus hunters in the industry: Mikko Hyppönen, now the chief research officer at the Finnish computer security company F-Secure. Hyppönen and his team were at the forefront of fighting the outbreak of the Slapper worm, which exploited a loophole in Linux Web server software to affect tens of thousands of computers in 2002, and the Sobig.F worm. He is also credited as the first to send out warnings about the Sasser worm's spread in 2004.

Hyppönen's strength is in predicting new threats before they happen. For example, he warned about the possibility of mobile phone viruses and macroviruses infecting documents years before they actually occurred. Hyppönen says virus writers are largely interested in money over notoriety these days. He expects the next big target will be the Skype peer-to-peer Internet phone service, which Hyppönen says is attractive because it's designed to get around firewalls.

Elsewhere in the IEEE Computer Society

Computer, www.computer.org/computer/

August 2005

"Search Technology Goes Mobile," by Linda Dailey Paulson

Major Web search providers such as Google, Yahoo, and Fast Search & Transfer are pushing new mobile search services, enabled by improved speeds in mobile networks and advances in device technology.

Despite initial hurdles such as figuring out the best way to present search results on small screens and waiting for adoption of the faster 3G network, mobile search services are slowly navigating the consumer marketplace using technology that's much the same as that used on desktops. Paulson outlines the technology used by the three largest mobile search providers and the challenges that lie ahead for them.

"System Uses Wi-Fi to Provide Location Services," by Linda Dailey Paulson

Global Positioning System (GPS) technology is assumed to be accurate to within a few hundred feet, but it doesn't work well inside structures or in urban areas where buildings block the satellite signal. To address this limitation, US-based Skyhook Wireless has developed software called the Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS), based on the IEEE 802.11 standard, which can pinpoint a signal to within 20 to 40 meters, even in a building or crowded area.

WPS-enabled devices search every 0.1 second for access points (APs) and then compare the results to a database of public and private APs created by the company for 25 major US cities. The system reads each AP's media-access-control (MAC) address and uses the database and a proprietary algorithm that gives greater weight to stronger signals to locate the user's position. WPS's effectiveness is generally limited to urban areas because it relies on Wi-Fi deployment, leaving less-populated areas to rely on GPS services.

September 2005

"Vulnerability-Assessing Worms May Be on Their Way," by Linda Dailey Paulson

A new type of worm is slowly rearing its head in internal networks. Vulnerability-assessing worms survey computers for weaknesses and then send their assessments back to their authors, who can then opt to attack or take over a system and use it to attack other computers. Although these vulnerability-assessing worms appear infrequently now, experts believe they will soon become more common because virus authors appear to be choosing longer-lasting malware that's hard to trace.

These worms enter a computer as bots and scan the network for the most vulnerable computers by looking for specific weaknesses such as buffer overflows. The worms report their findings via Internet Relay Chat, setting up IRC servers on infected computers to access information by jumping from one machine to another.

IEEE Distributed Systems Online, http://dsonline.computer.org/

August 2005

"Blinkx Ups the Ante in the Search and RSS Markets," by Benjamin Alfonsi

Blinkx, a privately held firm with offices in San Francisco and London, has upped the ante in the search-and-find marketplace by adding a new way for users to receive its Blinkx TV offerings: SmartFeed. Reportedly the first product of its kind, SmartFeed uses Real Simple Syndication (RSS). SmartFeed uses context prediction and clustering algorithms, as well as speech recognition and transcription technology, to deliver search results from non-text sources such as audio and video content based on a user's preferences.

Allen Weiner, research vice president at the Gartner IT research firm, says that RSS might mean the end of the Web browser in the long run. "RSS could allow content creators of all types to create widget-like services that sit on a consumer's screen and live outside the Web browser paradigm," he says.

SmartFeed's debut follows Blinkx's June announcement that it has added fully searchable podcast and video blog channels to its Blinkx TV service.

September 2005

"Groups Hope to Avoid Mesh Standards Mess," by Greg Goth

Mesh networks, in which each node is both a receiver and a transmitter, have yet to receive IEEE standardization, but efforts in the works to change that are expected to be completed by mid-2008. By next year, the two groups at the forefront of the standardization process, both of which are geared toward different network sizes, hope to have narrowed the IEEE 802.11's standard down to a single proposal for consideration. The larger of the two groups, the Wi-Mesh Alliance, includes Nortel, Accton Technology, ComNets RWTH Aachen University, InterDigital Communications, NextHop Technologies, Thomson, and Philips Electronics. Its strongest competitor is SeeMesh, a group that's backed by Intel, Nokia, Motorola, Texas Instruments, and NTT DoCoMo.

In the long term, proponents of the standard hope it will complement WiMax to help deliver high-speed, long-range data to roaming users. Because every node in a mesh network receives and transmits data, other nodes can compensate for the loss if one node goes down, making it an attractively robust option. In the short term, however, the most likely use of the standard in wireless networks will be extending high-speed Internet access through a metro or campus configuration.

IEEE Pervasive Computing, www.computer.org/pervasive/

July–September 2005

"Audio Networking: The Forgotten Wireless Technology," by Anil Madhavapeddy, David Scott, Alastair Tse, and Richard Sharp

In today's wireless technology arena, audio networking has "fallen off the radar" in favor of protocols such as Bluetooth and infrared. But audio networking, which uses audible sounds as a low-bandwidth data channel, can be a valuable tool in improving efficiency in mobile devices. For example, it can be used to help current smart-phone components send data more reliably and simply, and with less power than Bluetooth and infrared, according to Madhavapeddy and his coauthors. This article describes an array of modulation schemes the authors have worked with in audio networking, detailing security issues and explaining how to transfer data to nearby smart phones. To illustrate their points, the authors outline a case study in which they applied audio networking to solve real-world problems with teleconferencing.

IEEE Software, www.computer.org/software/

September/October 2005

"Open Source Libraries for Information Retrieval," by Vesna Hassler

How can programmers include customized search functionality in applications and systems to let users retrieve information as they do in browsing the Internet or desktop? Several open-source libraries exist for indexing and information retrieval (IR) and can offer greater flexibility to programmers than commercial products. Hassler lists the five most popular open-source IR libraries — Xapian, Apache Lucene, ht://Dig, Swish-e, and DataparkSearch — and outlines their features on query structure, matching, ranking, Web robots, and index storing. Open-source IR libraries generally have the same security concerns as other Web applications, according to the author, who also offers advice on installation.

About the Authors

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