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.....technobabble .....for the week of March 19, 2001

.....technobabble.....Sony is a company that often frustrates me. They make very good products, but have a bad habit of not following standards. They like to invent new formats and technologies in an effort to be a "market leader". Sometimes this works well, but often it just causes a lot of confusion and incompatibility. Well, they are at it again, this time announcing a new double-density CD-RW drive that holds 1.3 GB of data by packing the bits closer on media similar to CD-RW disks. The technology is planned to fit in the market between standard CD-RW media, and the larger writeable DVD disks--for which there is still no universal standard. Great idea, right? Well, technologically it is. The problem is the same one that always occurs with these Sony inventions: compatibility and standardization. Regular CD-ROM and CD-RW drives can't read the new format, and Sony is the only company that will be making the new drives. Only time will tell if this new format will sink or swim, but it would be nice if Sony could try to put together an industry group for once when they come up with these new doodads. It would also help the new formats succeed, and thus improve their own bottom line.....

.....Intel has released the 1 GHz mobile Pentium III and new notebooks using the chip are hitting the market as well. Of course, the new launch is accompanied by a healthy heaping of hype, you know, all the stuff about us entering a new era of computing and all that. Ho-hum, it seems like we enter a new era of computing every six weeks. :^) Well, it's certainly a nice step up, but really won't make a sizable performance difference compared to the 850 MHz chips that have been around for months. I want to see 1.5 GHz or higher before my next upgrade.....

.....well, it seems that Rambus's efforts--or rather Rambus's lawyers' efforts--to take on the entire memory industry are in serious jeopardy. Yes, everyone please get your hankies out..... not. :^) In a pre-trial ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Payne has drawn a distinction between the architecture used in Rambus DRAM and that used in conventional SDRAM, which means that the attempts by Rambus to extract royalties for SDRAM and DDR SDRAM may now fail. As you probably know, Rambus has become "public enemy #1" of many in the computer industry, as a result of their legal tactics and also due to allegations that they used information from the JEDEC open standards development process in their patents. Many more chapters remain to be written in this book, but you can bet that few are unhappy with the way the case is shaping up thus far.....

.....now, another Napster update. :^) In the wake of the ruling that the company must work to stop the sharing of copyrighted material, the music-swapping service has installed filters to block the transmission of materials owned by commercial record labels. According to this report, the filters are starting to have a significant impact, because the number of files traded on the service has dropped dramatically. A lot of Napster's users are very unhappy with the filters, which as far as I am concerned is good evidence that they are doing a good job. :^) I have to wonder why Napster didn't do this right from the beginning, don't you? Remember how they went on for months about how filtering would be "impossible".....?

.....and in a related story, the efforts to circumvent the Napster filters are well underway, with such creative entries as software that converts MP3 file names into Pig Latin. Very amusing! :^) You can be sure this is only the beginning.....

.....last week, one of the items I mentioned was the recent advances in nanotechnology, particularly as they relate to semiconductor technology. This week I received an email from one of the regulars on The PC Guide Discussion Forums telling me about a related article about a similar nanotechnology that is also very cool. By processing carbon monoxide at high pressure and in the presence of a metallic catalyst, the carbon and oxygen are separated and the carbon atoms join into hexagons that roll into long cylinders called carbon nanotubes. These molecules have both conductive and semi-conductive properties, and researchers are still in the early stages of figuring out what they can do with them.....

.....speaking of cool, WorldCom Inc. and Optisphere Networks (a division of giant Siemens) claimed to have achieved an amazing 3.2 terabit transfer rate on a single optical fiber. If you don't know what a "terabit" is, then you understand exactly how significant this achievement is. :^) A terabit is either 1,000 or 1,024 times as large as a gigabit, depending on if you mean binary or decimal terabits. Either way, that's a pretty astonishing figure. There are some cynics who say that the achievement is more about bragging rights than anything else--even if so, I do think that's a pretty neat thing to be able brag about.....

.....that's it this time. See something you liked? Disliked? Give me your feedback, please!

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