Monday, June 25, 2007



Natural Language Processing (NLP) is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) undertaking. It aims to process sentences written in a language such as English so as to extract meaning from them and represent this meaning in a manner that a computer can understand. If you want to portray yourself as an AI practitioner, simply say that amongst all AI disciplines, you like NLP best and then go on to describe how you do it.

  • How do you make a computer understand English?

    To this, you reply, “That’s what NLP is for. You break up the sentences into parts of speech, and then parse it just as you would any other string, of course, ellipsis is one major hurdle.” (‘Ellipsis’ means an instance where the context is not available.)

  • What is ellipsis? Intimidate your audience here. “You don’t know what ellipsis is? Say you reply to a question about your name with ‘John Smith’. Here, you haven’t specified what John Smith is and that’s ellipsis.”

  • Your audience will probably ask you at this point, “So that’s all there is to NLP? Parts of speech and parsing?”

    Since you don’t know too much yourself, you launch off into unfamiliar words— “No, no, there’s actually much more. You have got to consider things like failure of substitutivity, you have to learn to use the FOPC and HMMs, construct working grammars and much more.”

  • What is FOPC and HMM?

    Remember to learn the full form—First Order Predicate Calculus. It sounds nice and AIish. Of course, you deliberately use the abbreviations in the first instance, so you can expand them later. HMM stands for ‘Hidden Markov Model’.

  • Finish off with: “Like I said, it’s basically the manipulation of the parse tree. You construct the tree and do all sorts of things with it. I can direct you to a tutorial if you like.”

tree and do all sorts of

things with it. I can direct you

to a tutorial if you like.”



Every device you buy today boasts of one or more ways to network it. however, not all of us are as comfortable with networking terms. We hope this will help...

CAT: CAT5/CAT6 are fifth and sixth generation Ethernet twisted pair cable standards defined by the Electronics Industries Association and Telecommunications Industry Association (EIA/TIA). CAT has nothing to do with felines.

Usage: Someone brought a cat to the office, but unfortunately the cat had a liking for CAT cables. Now we're planning on implementing a WLAN!

Network Address: A network address is a unique identifier for a computer on a network. Computers determine the addresses of other computers on the network and then use these to send messages to each other. An example of a network address is the Internet Protocol (IP) address, or the Media Access Control (MAC) address.

IP: An IP address uniquely identifies computers on a network. It can be private, for use on a LAN, or public, for use on the Internet. IP addresses can be assigned as static IPs (by a system administrator) or dynamic IPs (on demand, automatically, by another device on the network).

MAC: Device manufacturers permanently burn a Media Access Control (MAC) identification into networking devices, so that they can be identified easily. Using a MAC address authentication, computers can ensure that they connect to the right destination everytime, preventing fake devices from claiming to be the destination for data.

Usage: There was a hack attempt recently, some guy got hold of a networked IP address on our WLAN. He then used that address to spoof himself and identify with the WLAN and started deleting files at random. Chaos ensued, but our systems engineer used a lookup to find his MAC address, which we then traced to his internet IP address. His current address is jail!



Motherboards in our computers are reminiscent of Star Trek, the TV show from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Back then, they looked complex enough for space technology and performed complex operations.

The point we are making is the motherboard is the main man (!) as far as your PC is concerned. Honestly, everything that’s involved in running the computer smoothly or enhancing its performance is either part of the motherboard or plugs into it via a slot or a port. It’s like the “mothership” that has all other vital components on it including the processor, memory slots, and many expansion slots for add-ons such as Graphics Card, Sound Card and so on.

A motherboard contains thousands of chips and capacitors that ensure each and every component is getting optimum electric supply from the main power supply for its functioning. This physical construction of chips and integrated circuits on a base is called the “chipset”.

Chipsets have various designs; and different systems prefer different designs. Motherboards have come a long way over the last twenty years. The first motherboards held very few actual components. The first IBM PC motherboard had only a processor and card slots.

Here’s some more dope to get you through a conversation as an expert: A typical motherboard today would have a PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) slot, AGP (Accelerator Graphics Port) slot, North Bridge, Processor Socket, South Bridge, BIOS (Basic Input/ Output System), USB (Universal Serial Bus), FireWire and IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics).

Knowing names of motherboards or Graphic Cards by rote is like the MCSE of Geekiness and it would be handy to know “MSI K8N NEO4 Platinum”, “ASUS A8V Deluxe” or “ASUS A8N-E”. If you can roll these off your tongue, you’re good to go!

Microsoft .NET

Microsoft .NET

To be honest, .NET is a lot of things. Actually, we know so little about .NET that we were ourselves tempted to bluff our way through it this month!

Well, anyway, .NET is “software that connects information, people, systems, and devices. It spans clients, servers, and developer tools”—whatever that means. Just remember to use those words when talking about .NET!

Now, Microsoft .NET consists of many things:

  • The .NET Framework 1.1, used for building and running all kinds of software

  • Developer tools, such as Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003

  • A set of servers Client software such as Windows XP

Now you at least know what .NET is. So, what’s the .NET Framework? Basically, it is “an integral Windows component for building and running the next generation of software applications and Web services.”

In addition, it is composed of the common language runtime (CLR) and a unified set of class libraries.

Pay attention! The CLR is responsible for run-time services such as language integration, CLR security enforcement, and memory, process, and even thread management.

Here’s how to sound as though you know about .NET programming: just say, “I’m currently working on crosslanguage exception handling. That has a lot to do with strong typing: and runtime binding as well; .NET makes it easy for me to use class libraries to do the exception handling without having to go into the intricacies of Windows Forms.”

Of course, that doesn’t make any sense, but then again, who’ll ever know?



Linux is catching on fast, but perhaps not fast enough. Those of us who are purely Windows or Mac users sometimes get lost when a conversation involves Linux fans. Now you can at least try and hold your own end up in such situations…

BASH: The Bourne-Again Shell is the default shell (command line interface) in most Linux distributions.

Console: When you log into Linux in text mode (command line) from the X Window System, you are said to be in the console.

Daemon: A program that runs actively in the background.

GNOME: The GNU Network Object Model Environment is a Windows-style desktop window manager.

GNU: A recursive acronym, GNU stands for “GNU’s Not Unix”. It is a project that was launched in 1984 to develop free Unix-like OSes.

GPL: The GNU ‘General Public License’ is a licensing that requires software coders to make the source code (for programs they create) available freely, in order to qualify for the certification. The Linux kernel and most of the bundled applications in Linux have this license.

KDE: A window manager similar to GNOME.

Man: Short for ‘manual’, it is the user manual that accompanies most GPL software.

Open Source: Software that distributes its source codes openly, such as all software under the GPL.

Usage: “I reinstalled the Linux kernel the other day. Something happened to GNOME and KDE though, I rebooted and all I got was the BASH prompt! I looked at all the man pages available online, but nothing! Sometimes I feel Open Source isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!”

Digit >> Your Technology Navigator >>



Here are some bouncers from the vault of Linux jargon to help you leave your friends reeling.


The Linux framebuffer or fbdev is a graphics layer to show graphics on a console. It is hardwareindependent and it does not rely on system-specific binaries. It is also lightweight, unlike the X Windows system. It was originally developed for Apple Macintosh computers. These do not have a text-mode display, so it was developed so the text-mode could be emulated. It was later expanded to the IBM PC platform and became popular.


LSB is an acronym for The Linux Standard Base—a joint project by several Linux distributions. It was set under The Free Standards Groups, with the objectives of standardising the internal structure of Linux OSes. It is based on POSIX and several other open standards. It is sometimes disputed, as it promotes Red Hat’s RPM format, so Debian does not accept it. For more information, visit


Viruses on Linux OSes are rare; however, many viruses for Linux have been found, and Staog was the first of them. It was found in late 1996. Some other Linux viruses are Bliss, Devnull, Ramen, Slapper, Adore, and Kork.


An acronym for a set of free software to run dynamic web sites, it includes Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. These programs were originally not designed to run together, but they became popular because of low cost and easy availability. This term first appeared in a German computing magazine (- c’t), in 1998. Lamp is also the name of an obsolete movie player software.

IT Law

IT Law

You already know that lawyers use such terms as ‘hereinunder’ ‘wheretofore’ and so on. But what kinds of terms do IT lawyers use, under the Information Technology Act of 2000? Here’s a sampler.

Computer: According to IT lawyers, this does not refer to the box you’re so familiar with. It manipulates electronic, magnetic, or optical impulses, and for good measure, includes all input, output, processing, storage, and blah blah, that are connected—or even related—to the computer.

Access: No, this is not about usernames and passwords. Access is, as it turns out, “with its grammatical variations and cognate expressions,” gaining entry into, instructing or communicating with the logical, arithmetical, or memory resources of a computer. Phew! Actually, there’s more to it than that, but we didn’t understand it.

Time and place of despatch and receipt of electronic record: We doubt that even the lawyers understand this section of the Act. It says in the Act that the despatch of an electronic record occurs when it enters a computer resource “outside the control of the originator.” This is something related to AI and robotics: computers communicating all by themselves, without human intervention...

Penalty for damages:It turns out that whatever damage you inflict upon a computer, you don’t need to pay the owner more than Rs 1 crore. If you download a virus onto someone’s computer, expect a lawyer to refer to it as “introducing, or causing to be introduced, any computer contaminant or virus into a computer.” ‘Contaminant’?

Wonder what that means... Residuary Penalty: Whoever contravenes any rules or regulations under the IT Act is liable to pay Rs 25K to someone hurt by your activities! So next time someone makes your WIndows crash, remember to ask him to shell out.



The world’s been in love with Apple’s products since the launch of the first iMac, and after the iPod, Apple’s iCult has expanded manifold—fans are falling over themselves claiming they know what the next iProduct is going to be. Here, we present a quick guide to iProducts that exist, don’t exist, and aren’t even Apple. Of course, you’ll need to figure out which ones are which first—we sure aren’t going to tell you! Like they say, the best way to learn bluffing is to be on the receiving end once in a while.

iHome: Apple’s answer to the Windows Media Center PCs, this gorgeous iMac-based media centre came on to the scene around MacWorld 2005.

iTV: This is supposedly just a code-name for the videostreaming device. The set top box will let you watch highdefinition video on your television, and is about the size of a Mac Mini.

iWalk: Really now, the Newton debacle had to be avenged eventually, didn’t it? The iWalk PDA will even run Palm applications thanks to the emulation layer on its *nix-based OS.

iDog: This Aibo-esque pet will dance to your music at your slightest whim—and if that music comes from your iPod, even better!

iTablet: Using Apple’s patented multi-touchscreen, you can now use all your fingers to “crush” a big window, a la Minority Report!

iPhone: Is it fake? Is it real? Rumours of Apple’s “inevitable” music phone have been entertaining us for ages. We predict three new rumours between our writing this and your reading it.

Now go online and find out— iReal or iFake?



There’s something elitist about hackers, and we all seem to go through this phase of wanting to be one. Well, you can aspire to be one by talking the h4x0r talk…


A backdoor is a hole in the security of an operating system or software. It is left there on purpose by the designers of the software, so that they can get unrestricted access in case they’re locked out.


A typo in code or in settings of software that can cause chaos to the stability of a system.

Hammer / Bang

Stress-testing software or hardware to check for security and stability. In the hacker world, it can also mean attempting to gain entry into a system using brute force.


Generally an insult. Used along with the words script, packet, etc. Examples: script kiddie, packet kiddie. Used by hackers to describe other hackers who use pre-compiled software to hack. Basically, a kiddie is someone who can achieve a task like a hacker, but does not know what he is doing, or how he did it.


To flood a server or a person’s Inbox with mail or spam.

Owned / Pwned

A reaction after success. Asserting one’s superiority.


Software used by “kiddies” to hack and gain access to root privileges.

Usage: “Here I was minding my own business (just DDoS-ing a few guys), and I notice some strange network traffic. Turns out, this kiddie was trying to use a rootkit to find a backdoor into my BSD box. I mailbombed him with a couple of million messages that said “hacking people with quad-T3s is not a smart thing to do!” Then, just for good measure, I hacked his ISP and changed his cable modem config file. He thought I fat-fingered, because I gave him a speed boost from 1 Mbps to 10—sent me a cheeky “thank you f00!, lol” mail. Bet he wasn’t laughing when his ISP reported the hack to the cops—can’t wait for the papers tomorrow!”

Hack Attacks

Hack Attacks

Ever been tongue-tied thinking up explanations for why your PC has been brought to its knees? Here’s a favourite excuse/genuine reason: it’s been hacked! But how? What kind of attack is it? Were there swords involved? Take your pick:

DDoS: A Distributed Denial of Service attack is carried out by flooding servers with data till they’re crippled and can’t service genuine requests. A popular method is the dreaded Ping of Death—pinging a server repeatedly from different sources. Most Web sites are still quite vulnerable to this type of attack, and it’s a general avourite among those with malicious intent.

Trojan Horse: A program that comes disguised as something harmless, even useful, but really opens up access to a computer, making it a participant in a DDoS attack, or making it possible to use it to attack other computers.

Worm: True to their biological counterparts, worms keep consuming system resources, slowly overloading the system and finally causing it to cease functioning.

SQL Injection: Nothing like a flu shot, this is a technique whereby SQL commands are passed through a Web application so they get executed by a backend database. One of the most common application-layer attacks currently being used. To be able to perform SQL Injection hacking, all the attacker needs is a browser and some guesswork to figure table and field names.

Cross-Site Scripting: Called XSS or CSS, this is a security exploit in which the attacker inserts malicious code into any link that appears to be from a trustworthy source. When you click on the link, the embedded code is submitted as part of your Web request and can execute on your computer, possibly (and usually) allowing the attacker to steal information.



GPS stands for Global Positioning System. People mainly use it in their cars for navigation—the GPS satellite system can pinpoint where you are on the globe. The system was initially designed for, and is operated by, the US military. To pretend you know all about the system, say all the following without batting an eyelid.

  • “It's all about satellites and offsets, you know! Four satellite signals compute your position in three dimensions and the time offset in the receiver clock.”

  • “GPS is everywhere! Soon you will have GPS built into your smartphone and, you know, you'll know whether I am in my bathroom or in my bedroom.” (This is not realistic, but remember you are bluffing!)

  • “It’s a wonderful thought, all those satellites out there monitoring where I am. The GPS Operational Constellation has 24 satellites orbiting Earth every 12 hours. The orbit altitude of those satellites is crazy! And with all those orbital planes equally spaced—60 degrees apart... in fact, they're inclined at about 55 degrees with respect to the equatorial plane.” (You're got to speak fast when you're saying this. Make sure you say the keywords—“orbital planes” and so on—loudly.)

  • When someone asks you how it's all controlled, say with a wave of the hand, “It's all from Colorado. The Schriever Air Force Base is where it's at.”

  • Now if someone gets inquisitive and asks how it all works, you'll need a good memory. Memorise the following: “Position is determined from multiple pseudo-range measurements at a single measurement epoch. The pseudo-range measurements are used together with SV position estimates based on the ephemeris data each SV sends. That's how they figure out where you are.”

    Simple, eh?



Real-life heroes are few and far between, but in the gaming world, anyone can be a one. But how do you sound like one?

Listen to Our Hero’s story: He sauntered into the dark and sinister-looking dungeon with the nonchalance of a two-year old who couldn’t have known better. Not surprisingly, he soon found himself Fragged—finished by the enemy, leaving him a useless, lifeless lump of virtual human flesh. This was no ordinary enemy, either—it was a dreaded Camper, who springs out of the underbrush and tags his unsuspecting prey. Life isn’t a ball in the world of the First Person Shooter (FPS).

Retiring from the world of active warfare, our hero decides to build his army and enter the world of the Realtime Strategy (RTS) Game, commandeering his forces to wreak havoc on his enemies’ bases, while he looks upon them from a safe location.

Every once in a while, though, The Itch strikes, and he wants to feel the heat of battle once again—but not without his forces. So, in the Tactical FPS, he gets to kill some bad guys himself, and also seek his team’s help in tight spots.

For an “out of body” experience, he turns to the Role Playing Game (RPG), putting himself in some one else’s shoes. He will now fight evil, or embark upon an Adventure Game, full of cryptic clues and mythical monsters and other such hindrances to progress.

Not content with interacting with artificiallyintelligent bots , Our Hero decides to go online and take on the world of the Massively Multiplayer Online RPG, where he can interact and with other players from all over the world, brought together as a huge online civilisation.

And if boredom sets in, there is always the joy of the Arcade Racer—there are few things more fun than spreading a few hundred thousand dollars worth of car all over the landscape.



How do you manage to look intelligent when someone throws Dreamweaver jargon at you? Here’s a very brief primer.

“Add an image swap behaviour...”

Just remember that anytime a user mouses over a menu item and the item gets highlighted, that's an “image swap”; and a “behaviour” is jargon for JavaScript codes that can be built into a document. It’s “a combination of an event and an action". “Behaviour” is a term you'll come across pretty often.

“CSS Styles...”

You're bound to hear that from anyone who's building a Web site. All you need to remember is, “The W3C-approved method for presenting and positioning objects in a Web page is using cascading style sheets (CSS). Dreamweaver makes it easy to define styles.”


When someone mentions layers, you’ll know what they're talking about if you remember this: “Dreamweaver uses DHTML to make layers. DHTML is a scripting language that allows HTML to change even after a page has been loaded into a browser.” Of course, you've also got to remember that layers are a little bit like containers for stuff on the page. You can actually specify exact coordinates and some other stuff like hiding particular layers. You can have many layers on one page and hide each one until required.

“Just re-use that snippet...”

Reusing code pieces, also known as ‘snippets’, is supposed to be “a great way to save time.” And as for “bindings”, we don’t know what they are, so just rote-learn the following: “The Bindings tab of the Applications panel holds dynamic content in a safe place for you to easily access and bind as you build your documents.

For example, when you create a recordset, it will be listed under the Server Behaviors tab, and accessible under the Bindings tab. You will be able to bind recordset columns into your document.”

Digital Video

Digital Video

You’ve suddenly found yourself in a cafĂ© in the Art District and have no clue how you got there—it happens to the best of us. You are bored for company and are wondering how to break into the group of digital video (DV) geeks in the corner.

“CMOS or CCD?” one of them asks after you exchange names. CCDs are Charge Coupled Devices, used for image sensing. The best digital cameras use 3-CCD arrangements to get top-quality video, and cost you half a kingdom. And CMOS (Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) is a cheaper but slightly lower-quality approach to image sensing, but it’s getting better.

Just say, “Oh CCD, no doubt. No compromises on quality”, this will have them swooning at your discerning eye and bottomless wallet (Ahem!).

Regular video is interlaced —the image is divided into two sets of lines that are displayed alternately to fool the human eye into believing it’s seeing a high-quality image. Progressive Scanned video displays all these lines in sequence, storing five times as much information in the frame. The result is High Definition Video (HDV), where faster movements appear much crisper than in interlaced video.

Video usually runs at 24 frames per second (fps). Saying “I’m shooting my next with a 24P camera” means that your video will run at 24 fps and is progressively scanned, and roughly translates to “I’m a George Lucas in the making!’”

DV25 is the standard compression format for DV; an hour of DV25 video takes up about 13 GB of space and is the best possible quality outside of raw, uncompressed video. MPEG-2 is another compression format that started out as a format for distribution, but is now used in recording as well.

“Real Men don’t compress,” you scoff, leaving them burbling something about more video on the same tape while you beckon a cab to take you home.

Computers Through The Ages

Computers Through The Ages

Not much hair on your chin? Do people poke fun at you for never having braved the times of Windows 3.1? Here’s how to show them that even though you haven’t been there or done that, you still know more.

The Baby: On June 21, 1948, the University of Manchester made its first successful run of a computer program on the Small Scale Experimental Machine, affectionately called the Baby. It was the first machine that had the same basic set-up as the modern computer and could store both data and programs in memory.

The IBM 604: This was an electron-tube based computer that could read and process punch-cards. Its 2x2x1 m frame and a petite 640 kilo weight made it the first commercially available miniature electronic calculator. It ran at 50 KHz and was built out of 1600 vacuum triodes.

The ENIAC: Following the success of The Baby and its successor, the Mark I, researchers developed the ENIAC—the Electrical Numerical Integrator and Computer, which shattered the 2000-tube barrier with its 18,000 vacuum tubes in its 1800 square-foot cabinet. It could add, multiply and calculate square roots, though some claim its real agenda was to take over the world.

The Altair: In 1975, Popular Electronics magazine began selling the Altair as a kit. Based on the revolutionary Intel 8080A microprocessor, this monster could be picked up for $397 and required dedicated geek-time to be assembled and finally used. It had 256 bytes of memory, and was programmed in 0s and 1s by flipping switches on its front panel.

So the next time anyone mocks at you for not knowing computers, shoot a few classics at them.



If you ever hear a conversation involving Buses, Northbridges and Southbridges, and think that the speakers are having another boring chat about travel routes, look again. Do these “travellers” wear thick glasses and appear malnourished? If so, you seem to have stumbled upon a collectionof geeks, and they’re really having another boring chat about Motherboards and Chipsets. And to prevent your brain from shorting out, we present… a handy-dandy geekdecoder!

Chipset n.: The real definition is just “a collection of chips designed to act as one,” though it’s been corrupted to refer to the chipsets on a PC’s Motherboard. Note that true Geeks are fully aware of this.

Usage: “Well, I’ve got an nForce for my Motherboard, a GeForce for my Graphics, and an Audigy for sound. Which one did you want to know about? Front Side Bus n.: Like a real bus, it’s a way for data to travel around the motherboard—a connection between two components.

Northbridge n.: An Intel Chipset that talks to the CPU and Memory at really high speeds via ‘lanes’ (different paths for different data) on the FSB.

Recommended Geek Joke: “Let’s take a Bus down Memory Lane.”

Southbridge n.: You guessed it… another Intel Chipset—this one talks to the other, lesser devices on the motherboard—the USB ports, power management chips and so on. To speak to the, it needs to go through the Northbridge first.

HyperTransport n.: A superfast means of transporting data on motherboards, used by AMD Processors. It can let the processor talk to the memory and other devices without any chipsets in between.

: “So do you think HyperTransport will kill the Northbridge?” (Note: Use with caution near Intel fanatics)

Chip Fabbing

Chip Fabbing

If you have a one-track mind that thinks chips and wafers are only about food, think again. There’s a lot of jargon you’ve probably heard every day that applies to the manufacture of chips (the silicon kind you put in gadgets), too.

Fab: 1. v. To “fabricate” chips once they’ve been designed. E.g. “These designs are ready to be fabbed.” (also see foundry). 2. n. The production system itself—“Did you hear about AMD’s new fab line in <insert city name here>?”

Note: Should never be interpreted as “fabulous.”

65nm n. : The latest chip manufacturing process. The name means that the transistors on the chip are 65 nanometres (a billionth of a metre) wide. For reference, your hair is about 80,000 nanometres thick.

Nanoacre n. : An area about 2 square millimetres on a chip design—the smallest acre. Really, though, a nanoacre can cost as much as an acre of land if you factor in all the expenses. Foundry n. : The company that does the fabbing. Few chip design companies have their own foundries—these facilities eat up billions of dollars just by existing.

Wafer n. : What results when you cut up a silicon crystal into thin slices. Chips are built on wafers. Note: These wafers are inedible, and perhaps even toxic.

Doping v. : The process of adding silicon to make it conduct electrons better—in its pure form, silicon is about as useful as the sand it’s made from. So if you hear someone talking about “doping silicon,” the connotation isn’t as negative as it might seem. And now, the best way to explain away a chip malfunction:

Magic Smoke n. : A supposedly magical blue smoke that is present inside all chips and keeps them from going “poof!”. E.g. “It failed? All right, WHO let out the magic smoke?”

Apple Mac OS X Tiger

Apple Mac OS X Tiger

There are operating systems and then there’s Tiger. In its latest avatar, Mac OS X is faster, better and as graphically appealing as ever. Chances are, though, that you’ve never used it. There are times when you want to stand out of the crowd and throw jargon, but with a Mac, it isn’t straightforward. But that’s what we’re here for!

Tiger includes a lot of new additions such as Widgets and the Spotlight. Spotlight is the lightning-fast search technology that displays results as fast as you can type them! You can search everything on your system—files, e-mails, contacts, images, movies, calendars, and even applications. Just say “I’m throwing the spotlight on some files” when you want to talk about searching your desktop!

The new Dashboard (a.k.a. Expose) hosts a ton of miniapplications called Widgets, which appear instantly and keep you up-to-date with information from the Net. View stocks, check weather forecasts, track flights, convert currencies, even look up businesses in the phone book. Think of it as the inbuilt Google Deskbar. Usage: “Let me check the Dashboard for the latest price of Digit stock”. Of course, there is no Digit stock—so substitute for that wisely!

And since we’ll be bluffing anyway, remember that the Mac OSes are built around the UNIX platform. Here’s some worthwhile info you could pass along as you make small talk: “Under the hood, the easy-touse interface and rich graphics are powered by Darwin, an open source, UNIX-based foundation built on technologies such as Mach and FreeBSD.”

Also, Tiger has significantly improved support for dualprocessor performance when reading and writing files to disk and when using Mac OS X with NFS file servers.

A suggestion: memorise!

3D Studio

3D Studio

We give you absolute gems from the 3DS Max roster of jargon to help you get your friends to drop their jaws when they meet you next.

Space Warp

This one takes the literal meaning of space warp—it warps space within physical objects in a controlled fashion. The commonest “warps” are ripples in a rectangular surface, a sphere exploding, etc. Jaw-dropper My boss is worse than a mailer daemon; tells me to finish projects on Monday, even if he gives them to me on Tuesday. The next time he annoys me I will space warp his face, and nuke his G5 on the side. Con Meter 6/10


Traditionally, something your rich friend possessed, and something you always wanted. In 3DSMax, a Gizmo controls the modification of an object. It allows you to visualise the modification. If you bend a Bend modifier Gizmo, for instance, the object bends too. Jaw-dropper This new personal trainer of mine, who I am paying Rs 1,500 per workout session, thinks he has access to my Modifier Gizmo. He makes me stretch and bend beyond limit! Sometimes, I wonder why I am paying him to torture me. But give me a few months, and I will sack him. Then let’s see who controls his Modifier Gizmo. Con Meter 6/10

Mental ray

No relation to Satyajit Ray! In 3DS Max, a Mental Ray is a cool tool that allows physically correct simulations of light reflections and refractions producing life like effects such as concentrated light reflection through water surface and realistic global reflection effects. Confused? Wait until you use it on your unsuspecting friends. Jaw-dropper Sorry I got late for the party. My new Mental Ray draws out such great scenes that sometime I really get lost in them. Oh, the stuff it does. I wonder whether it is me or just my Mental Ray. Con Meter 8/10

3D Animation

3D Animation

Make no mistake about it—3D animation is very techy. Essentially, try and convince your audience that you can create a 3D scene. Of course, you’ll need to throw in the word “Maya” somewhere.

  • Motion Capture: Be sure to refer to it as “MoCap”, which sounds cool. Mention the Gypsy MoCap system. Say, “MoCap saves time. Simple ambient animation is much easier when MoCapped than if the subtleties where animated by hand. Mocap also easily captures nuances.” Remember that the Gypsy system consists of wearing a spaceman-like suit that captures the movements of the wearer.

  • Gait Cycles and Animation Paths: These are basically the sequence of steps that an animated character goes through. Speak as though you know how to manipulate these, using words such as “interpolation”: “With motion editing, you can manipulate body angles and smooth transitions between trials that were joined by interpolation. A single gait cycle could be blended with itself to create an endless walk.”

  • NURBS: NURBS modelling is advanced stuff. So you say, of course, “Man, NURBS is advanced. The toolsets are too complex.” Then you continue: “NURBS are basically ideal curves whose shapes are governed by control vertices. The control vertices do not lie on the curve.” Since it really is advanced, excuse yourself with, “Well, it’s difficult to explain it to you beyond that. You basically have to think about lines and surfaces in a differently—I can’t explain it.”

And finally, when faced with a tough question such as one about muscle and bone animation, simply refer your audience to the Web, saying, “There’s tons of tutorials out there for muscle and bone animation...”


What is ZigBee?

ZigBee is a set of standards for low-power, low data-rate networks that operate over small distances. ZigBee networks work even in congested radio environments. Up to 255 devices can be connected in a network, a maximum of 30 m away from each other.

How does ZigBee work?

ZigBee is a wireless network of devices that communicate with each other. Modest amounts of data are shot over small distances. ZigBee devices can be arranged in a Star network, where devices report to a ZigBee Controller; a Mesh network, where all devices are at the same level and ‘cooperate’ with each other; or a Clustered Tree network, which combines the best of both.

Why ZigBee?

ZigBee is targeted towards Wireless Personal Area Networks (WPANs), so a ZigBee network is cheaper and simpler to implement than a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi network. A typical ZigBee node will require two to 10 per cent of the software a Bluetooth node would require. Extending a ZigBee network is easy—you don’t need to re-wire any of the devices to add another ZigBee node.

Where would I see a ZigBee network?

ZigBee can be used in homes and offices to remote control every device possible. In factories, they can be used to automate manufacturing tasks and asset management besides monitoring heat and energy usage to optimise energy consumption.

Who thought it up?

The ZigBee Alliance, a consortium of companies, published the ZigBee standard. They monitor and control products that seek to employ the standard.

When was ZigBee started?

Although in development since 1999,the ZigBee standard was ratified by the ZigBeeAlliance in December 2004. In June 2005, the ZigBee specification was thrown open to the public.

1999,the ZigBee standard was

ratified by the ZigBeeAlliance

in December 2004. In June

2005, the ZigBee specification

was thrown open to the public.


What is Yonah?

Yonah is the next processor in the Pentium M Series of processors. It is a dual-core CPU unit manufactured using the industry’s latest 65 nano meter silicone chip manufacturing process.

Who is making it?

Well, Intel Inc., only the largest chip manufacturer in the world! However, what’s significant here is that Yonah is the first dual-core chip Intel has designed from scratch.

Where will it be used?

Yonah will be targeted at laptops, and is the latest platform for the Pentium M and Celeron M series of processors.

When will it be released?

Yonah-based mobile devices are expected to start shipping from early 2006. So expect to see dual-core computing on a laptop as early as mid-2006.

Why is Yonah only 32-bit?

Mooly Eden, Vice President and General Manager Mobile Platforms, Intel, said that though the technology to create 64-bit cores exists, Yonah will still be a 32-bit core because the 64-bit market is yet to mature. So should we start by telling Microsoft to halt production of their Windows XP 64-bit operating system? We think not!

How will Yonah change things for you?

Yonah will bring raw processing power to mobile devices, and due to its Vanderpool Virtualization feature, which allows it to turn off one of the cores when not required, will still save on battery life. Expect to see clock speeds of around 2.2 GHz and bus speeds of 667 MHz. A singlecore version will also be manufactured, along with a lower-end version for the Celeron M series.

eeds of 667 MHz. A singlecore

version will also be

manufactured, along with a

lower-end version for the

Celeron M series.

Windows Live

What is Windows Live?

It’s hard to define Windows Live in a couple of sentences. But according to Microsoft, “Windows Live is based on one simple idea—that your online world gets better when everything works simply and effortlessly together. So all the things you care about online—your friends, the latest information, your e-mails, searching the Net—all come together in one place.” Essentially, it’s a central point to access many Webhosted services such as e-mail and IM.

When was Windows Live launched?

It went product by product. The e-mail and IM services were launched in November, and more and more services are being added.

Why Use Windows Live?

Mostly because you can access several things in one place. You have access to several services—for example, at, you can check your computer for problems without having to download software.

How can one try out Windows Live?

Visit’ll see several sections— explore all of them! In the “ beta” section, click on “Try it”. You’ll get to a page where you can sign up for the service, then customise “your page” by adding content to it.

Who gets to test the beta?

It’s product-by-product. Microsoft sent invitations for testing Windows Live Messenger to a handful of testers, who can invite their friends later. You can visit various forums to try and get invites for beta-testing various Live components.

Where can I find more information?Visit to get an idea of what Windows Live offers.


What is WiMAX?

WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave access) is touted as the next generation of WiFi, and will be able to connect computers in up to a ten mile range without wires. It can provide connectivity at broadband speeds.

How does WiMAX work?

Imagine a beam of bandwidth that supports data-transmission rates of up to 70 megabits per second within a 30-mile radius of a WiMax antenna—that is basically what WiMAX is. A network provider would set up base stations consisting of one or more sectors that are connected to their edge, and core networks via wireless or wireline connections. In the future, WiMax vendors hope that the technology will be able to communicate with a special chip in wireless devices.

Who is on the WiMAX forum?

The Forum was founded by Nokia, Ensemble Communications and the OFDM Forum, and the membership list includes Aperto Networks, Proxim, Wi-LAN, Intel and Fujitsu.

Why do we need WiMAX?

WiMAX can enable broadband access over entire towns and, with sufficient base stations, entire districts. One good use for WiMAX is to solve the “last mile” problem with cable and DSL—in which transmission from the ISP to the home or office is slowed down due to the wiring.

When will WiMAX reach portable devices?

WiMAX is expected to be incorporated into laptops and PDAs in 2006. Entire cities could become “Metro Zones” for portable outdoor broadband. Where can I find an instance of WiMAX? Intel was trying to make Houston County, Georgia, fully connected via Wimax. As of June 2004, the trials were a huge success.

Where can I find an

instance of WiMAX?

Intel was trying to make

Houston County, Georgia,

fully connected via Wimax.

As of June 2004, the trials

were a huge success.

Web 2.0

What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is a term often applied to the perceived ongoing transition of the World Wide Web from a collection of Web sites to a full-fledged computing platform serving Web applications to end users. Ultimately, Web 2.0 services are expected to replace desktop computing applications for many purposes. If Netscape was the standard bearer for Web 1.0, it’s Google for Web 2.0.

Where is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is not a physical entity, but is, rather, the way the Web will be used in the future. For instance, Google started its life as a Web entity and has remained so ever since. It never created any products that could be shipped physically. Its income was generated through users— directly or indirectly—and will continue to do so. Moreover, the integration of its services is a good example of what the Web 2.0 definition encapsulates.

Who is running Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is not a piece of software; it refers to the way an application or service or domain exists on the Web.

Why do we need Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is about ‘glocalisation’ —making global information available to local social contexts and giving people the flexibility to find, organise, share and create information in a locally meaningful fashion that is globally accessible.

When will Web 2.0 be available?

Look at Web 2.0 as a set of compliance guidelines. There already exist sites that comply with these, for example, Flickr.

How is it different from what we have now?

The technology infrastructure of Web 2.0 is complex and evolving, but includes server software, content syndication, messaging protocols, standards-based browsers, and various client applications.


What, now, is VoiceXML?

VoiceXML is a standard XML format used when building applications that feature voice interaction between humans and machines—as in you talking to the computer, and it talking to you.

Whose idea was it?

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) released the VoiceXML specification to standardise the way voice-enabled applications will work.

How does it work?

Just like HTML is a standard way to format a Web page so it can be understood by a browser, VoiceXML is a standard that works with a voice browser—something like a Web browser with a voice interface. It’s transmitted using HTTP, and text is converted to speech at either end of the line.

Why did we need this?

As with all things, standardising a protocol for voice-enabled applications lets developers focus on important things like functionality. Moreover, by separating the application and the XML, users don’t need to be tied to just one application—they can use different voice browsers if they so choose.

When did this begin?

The first VoiceXML specification was published by the W3C in May 2000; the latest 2.0 specification exists today only as a set of recommendations, and the future will see version 3.0 with a host of additional features and capabilities.

Where can I see it in action?

Thousands of applications now use VoiceXML, including the Opera Web browser. VoiceXML has found tremendous use in over-the-phone applications, like the one your cellular provider might offer—call a number, say a word, and get results.


What is Vitrualisation?

Vitrualisation is a technique by which hardware resources can be abstracted and divided, and these resources are allocated amongst multiple os environments

Why do we need Vitrualisation?

One of the many abilities that virtualisation provides is to run multiple OSes simultaneously on a single hardware platform, which is fast becoming an important solution to problems that confront Information Management today.

How does virtualisation work?

Virtualisation abstracts software from the underlying hardware. It cuts the link that ties a specific software stack to a particular server.

Where can I find an instance of virtualisation?

You could find a software implementation of virtualisation in any corporate computing environment, which needs to run and manage multiple OSes on a single server.

Who provides virtualisation solutions?

The best example of a software virtualisation provider is VMware Inc, a wholly-owned subsidiary of EMC Corporation. And in hardware virtualisation, one of the best examples is Intel, with its Intel Virtualization Technology.

When will Intel Virtualization Technology (IVT) ship?

Virtualisation is a long-term Intel initiative. Future generations of the technology are in design and will provide additional benefits. The first generation of IVT will ship in the second half of 2005 on new Pentium IV and Itanium II processors. In the first half of 2006, IVT will ship for Xeon processors and the Centrino mobile technology.


What is U3?

U3 is a new hardware and software platform that enables personal workspace portability by allowing USB Flash drives to carry, store, and use one’s own applications and data on any PC.

Who developed it?

U3 is the result of a collaboration between SanDisk and M-Systems Flash Disk Pioneers Ltd.

Where is it used?

U3 is used to develop what are being called ‘U3 smart drives’ and applications compatible with them. These drives are targeted at just about anybody who wants to carry data and applications wherever they go.

When will U3 Smart Drives be available?

Very soon. Leading manufacturers have announced new products based on the U3 platform. Software developers have also shown interest, and users will soon be able to procure U3 smart software.

Why is it needed?

The platform promises to be extremely useful for people who travel frequently and often use shared PCs.

How does it work?

There are two filetypes associated with the U3 platform. *.u3i is an XMLbased text file that defines the application's version, download path and working parameters, and *.u3p is a Zip file containing everything needed to run an application. A 4 MB readonly system partition of the drive pretends to be a CDROM drive, while the data partition shows up as a regular Flash drive. Windows is led to believe that the system partition is a CD, so U3 takes advantage of the AutoPlay feature to automatically run the LaunchPad and unlock the data partition.

The “X” In Office 2007

What’s with the “x”?

The file formats for Office 2007 will use XML and ZIP. The Office 2007 suite files will have default file extensions with “x” after their “old” file extensions—so, for example, .doc and .xls become .docx and .xlsx.

Why is XML used in Office?

Using XML, documents consisting of structured information as content will have some indication of what role that content will perform. XML-based file formats will aid in smooth data interoperation, data management and security, recovery of data, and, of course, reduced file sizes.

How are these different?

Office XML documents will be backwards-compatible with previous versions of the suite. Office XML file formats are ZIPcompressed as a ZIP container, which results in reduced file sizes and improved data recovery with corrupted files. Since the Office XML file formats are platformindependent, any non-Microsoft application such as XML-Broker can be used to process them.

Where does “m” fit into this?

Office 2007 documents saved in Office XML format will not contain any type of code or automation files, which can therefore never be unexpectedly executed. Documents containing VBA Projects, embedded OLE objects, and other binary files can be saved as macro-enabled files, as in .docm and .xlsm. The container package can be inspected for malicious code without even running an Office application.

Who will benefit?

Users, developers, IT professionals and organisations. The openness of Office XML formats aids in third-party application development, and in the creation of task-oriented documents—like reports, spreadsheets or forms with specifications, instructions, procedures or style guides.


What is Sonoma?

Sonoma is the code name for the second generation of the mobile Centrino notebook platform. The platform includes a Pentium M processor, the chipset and the Wi-Fi card.

How does Sonoma improve over the original Centrino platform?

The Pentium M processor now has a front-side bus increase from 400 MHz to 533 MHz. There is now support for dual-channel DDR2 memory and graphics support for the PCI-Express bus architecture. The chipset is new and has been codenamed Alviso. The Centrino’s integrated graphics has been upgraded by including the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900—-the first DirectX 9.0 integrated graphics solution for notebooks. There will also be the newly-released Intel PRO/Wireless 2915ABG network connection.

Who released Sonoma?

As a successor to the Centrino platform, Sonoma was, naturally, released by Intel.

Why do we need Sonoma?

The answer is performance. Support for PCI-Express had to be brought in to Intel’s mobile platform at some stage. Intel is touting Sonoma and the accompanying Alviso chipset as key breakthroughs in mobile performance and functionality, especially in areas such as digital media processing.

When Sonoma released?

Sonoma was released on 19 January 2005.

Where can I find a notebook that has support for Sonoma?

Intel expects system builders and OEMs to offer as many as 150 notebook models based on the Sonoma release. For example, Toshiba unveiled its latest tablet PC at the 2005 CES. The new Toshiba R15- S822 that launches in February includes support for Sonoma.


example, Toshiba unveiled its

latest tablet PC at the 2005

CES. The new Toshiba R15-

S822 that launches in

February includes support

for Sonoma.


What is SLI?

Scalable Link Interface is a method of parallel processing for computer graphics, in which two or more video cards can be linked to produce a single, more enhanced output.

Where was SLI technology first deployed on a commercial scale?

An initial version (dubbed ‘Scan Line Interleave’) was used by the US-based 3dfx in 1998, in the Voodoo 2 line of graphics accelerators.

When was the modern SLI introduced?

nVidia and ATi developed their own versions, that were rechristened ‘Scalable Link Interface’ in 2004.

How do the SLI versions differ?

In 3dfx’s SLI, the two connected cards compose a frame by rendering alternating horizontal lines of pixels. While the nVidia SLI splits the screen into two parts, one GPU rendering each, ATi’s solution breaks the screen into little squares.

Why does SLI have an edge over ordinary graphics cards?

By harnessing the processing power of two graphics cards, SLI-enabled systems can roughly— although not completely— double the performance of a single Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) configuration.

Who is the target audience?

With better image compositing and rendering, SLI-enabled systems are a must for the die-hard gamer. There’s a caveat: deep pockets required, as SLI systems need to be complemented with a highend motherboard and processor, as well a topnotch display unit.


What is RSA?

RSA is an encryption algorithm. It is widely used for encrypting important messages or digitally signing documents for e-commerce, and is included as part of the Web browsers by Netscape and Microsoft.

Who developed RSA?

The encryption algorithm was developed by Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Len Adleman (R, S and A) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1977.

How does it work?

RSA encrypts on the principle of a private key and a public key. Users who wish to encrypt data first encrypt the message using a private key. This encrypted message can only be decrypted using a public key, which has already been distributed to the recipients of the message. The primary advantage of RSA comes from the fact that, while it is relatively easy to multiply two huge prime numbers together to obtain their product, it is computationally difficult to do the reverse.

Where does RSA stand today?

RSA is still the most widely used encryption algorithm. However, while other standards such as DES are faster to decrypt, RSA remains an industry favourite for encrypting data, with many believing that its 2048-bit key encryption is virtually unbreakable.

Why use an encryption algorithm at all?

With so much electronic data interchange (EDI) taking place in the form of e-commerce, it’s essential to secure critical data. Several privacy laws make it mandatory that personal information of customers and its integrity is not compromised.

When will RSA be cracked?

Although RSA securities claim that the 2048-bit key encryption cannot be cracked, they offer bounties of up to $200,000 (Rs 87 lakh) to anyone who can crack their algorithm.

t the 2048-bit key

encryption cannot be cracked,

they offer bounties of up to

$200,000 (Rs 87 lakh) to

anyone who can crack

their algorithm.


What is a rootkit?

The evil rootkit is a set of software tools usually used by an intruder after gaining access to a computer. The tools are intended to conceal running processes, files or system data, which helps the intruder maintain access to the system without the user’s knowledge.

How does it work?

A rootkit integrates itself deep within the OS, taking over bits and pieces of the code, and then hiding from anything that is trying to detect it. Consider a regular OS file. The rootkit might infect the file and become part of it. If you try and use an anti-virus or antispyware against it, the rootkit performs a trick that in effect tells the anti- software that there’s nothing wrong with the file. Thus, the rootkit is completely invisible.

Who developed it?

“Rootkit” originally referred to a set of recompiled Unix tools that would hide any trace of an intruder; the tools would normally display such traces. This allowed the intruder to be a “root” on the system without being visible to the administrator. The term is now not restricted to Unix-based OSes; such tools exist for OSes such as Windows.

Where is it used?

Usually on compromised computers, and famously, on Sony music CDs until recently.

When did the term become popular?

In October 2005, a certain blog detailed a description of the characteristics of the software on Sony BMG music CDs. The article said the software was illegitimate. It was stated that there were shortcomings in the software design that manifest themselves as security holes, which can be exploited by malicious software.

Why are rootkits legitimately needed?

Rootkits allow the programmer to see and access usernames and login information for sites that require them.


Why are rootkits legitimately


Rootkits allow the programmer

to see and access usernames

and login information for sites

that require them.

plasma display

What is a plasma display?

A plasma display is a flatpanel display. It does not use a cathode-ray tube (CRT), which traditional TVs and monitors do. They are bright, have a wide colour range, and can be manufactured in large sizes— up to 80 inches diagonally.

How does a plasma display work?

In a plasma display, light iscreated by phosphors, similar to those used in TVs, excited by a plasma discharge between two glass panels. Plasma is a gas made up of free-flowing ions and electrons.

Who invented the plasma display?

The plasma display was invented in 1964 at the University of Illinois, by professors Donald Bitzer and Gene Slottow, and graduate student Robert Willson.

Why do we need plasma displays?

Plasma displays are ideally suited for HDTV. They are capable of producing bright pictures, and are good for use in high ambient light conditions. They are also extremely thin and wall mountable, which gives them great flexibility for integration into a range of rooms and viewing environments.

When were plasma displays first used?

Although they were invented back in 1964, they first started becoming popular around 1999 or so.

Where can I find plasma displays?

Plasma displays are relatively common now. They are especially used in home theatres. As of 2004, the cost is down to $2,300 for a 42- inch diagonal screen model. In India, Samsung, Hitachi and Sony are the big players.



What is podcasting?

Podcasting is a way of delivering audio over the Internet. It’s something like Internet radio, with the difference being that you can subscribe to a podcast, have it downloaded, and listen to it at any time you wish.

Where can I listen to a podcast?

Although the word ‘podcasting’ is derived from ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcasting’, you don’t need an iPod to listen to a podcast. All you need is the requisite software, and you can listen to a podcast on any computer that has the software.

Why is podcasting an interesting development?

Podcasting is sort of like Internet radio with the added benefit that you can listen to the show any time you want. It allows individuals to distribute shows over the Internet. While it’s not possible for any individual to walk into a radio station and demand a certain broadcast, any individual with the right equipment can do a podcast.

How does podcasting work?

You can subscribe to a podcast using a software called a podcatcher. The system uses the format called RSS 2.0 (or RDF XML) with enclosures (the podcast is the enclosed data). This issomewhat similar to the RSS feeds on the Internet many of us subscribe to.

When did podcasting first become popular?

It’s possible that the first use of the term ‘podcasting’ was in an article by Ben Hammersley in The Guardian on February 12, 2004. By October 2004, detailed howto- podcast articles had begun to appear online.

Who can podcast?

Anyone! With the right software and minimal hardware requirements, that is. Just Google “How do I create a podcast” and find the answers!


What is Pharming?

Pharming has been called the ‘next generation’ of Phishing. Phishing requires a person to respond to a phoney e-mail in order to be taken to an illegitimate site; in Pharming, the targeted person need not respond to anything—he or she is automatically whisked to the illegitimate site.

How does Pharming work?

Pharmers use ‘DNS poisoning’, or domain hijacks, to redirect users to illegitimate URLs in an attempt to gather personal data. DNS Poisoning is when your DNS files are ‘poisoned’ with bad information. So, for example, if you have a record that points to a trusted host, a hacker with malicious intent can change it and point you in a different direction.

Domain hijacking is when a hacker takes over a domain name illegally and directs traffic coming to that domain to wherever he wants to take it. Both methods can be used to direct users to fake Web sites that look like legitimate ones, and make users disclose personal information.

When did Pharming first appear on the scene?

Pharming is simply a new application of well-known security weaknesses. There is no ‘first Pharming attack ever’.

Who pharms?

Pharmers are the same kind of identity thieves who used techniques such as Phishing. Pharming is more sophisticated because it does not require the intervention of the user!

Where have I seen an instance of Pharming?

The recent hijack of New York ISP Panix is typical of the type of threat that might emerge—such a domain hijack could well be the first step in a Pharming attack.


step in a Pharming attack.

Organic Light Emitting Diode

What is an OLED?

An Organic Light Emitting Diode is an organic molecule (carbon, as opposed to silicon-based) that emits light when teased with electricity. This simple concept requires one to find the right molecule to get the right colour, and you are all set for dazzling displays. Displays made with OLEDs save both on thickness and power.

Who invented OLEDs?

Kodak researcher Ching Tang, a Hong Kong-born chemist working in Rochester, New York, noticed a blue glow emanating from one of the organic solar cells he was working on.

How did he develop OLEDs?

Tang investigated the above phenomenon and published a paper on the results in 1987, concluding that organic materials were efficient converters of electricity, were great to show moving images and needed a low voltage to glow.

Why do we need OLED displays?

OLEDs are thin. They can be sprayed or printed on to very thin substrates; they neither need high-voltages to be driven nor additional power to backlight them. They also have a higher contrast and look equally bright from all angles.

Where can I find OLED displays?

Right now, as screens on small devices. Typically, an external screen of a cell phone is likely to be OLED-based, if at all.

When can I find OLED displays everywhere?

2005 is going to be the magical year for OLEDs. Expect them to proliferate from small devices such as cameras, cell phones to laptops and monitors, etc.

Niagara II Processor

What is it?

‘Niagara’ is the code name for the UltraSPARC T1 processor. It is a multi-core, multi-threaded CPU. The next generation, UltraSPARC T2 processor is sometimes called Niagara II.

Who is behind it?

Sun Microsystems. Niagara was their third multi-core processor, but the first multi-core, multi-threaded processor. It came in three versions: four, six or eight CPU core.

Why is it important?

Each of the cores can process eight threads simultaneously. So with eight cores, that’s 64 threads that can be processed concurrently!

Where will it be used?

Servers. Sun is targetting the $100 billion a year server market, in which Sun and IBM are the largest players. The beauty of multithreading is that you get a lot more throughput with a much lower clock speed. Also, Sun is advertising them as eco-friendly processors.

When is it releasing?

Reports indicate that it will be released in the second half of 2007. The processor will be manufactured using a 65 nanometer process.

How much better will Niagara II be?

Niagara II will improve mathematical abilities by adding more floating-point calculation units. Currently, a single FPC unit is shared by all eight cores. Networking will also be beefed up, thanks to the built in 10 Gbps Ethernet. If that’s not enough, Sun plans to ship the UltraSPARC T2 (Niagara II) as dual-processors, so that’s 16 cores, and 128 simultaneous threads being computed!

Network Neutrality

What is Network Neutrality?

Network Neutrality is a policy that aims to equalise the Internet, basically stating that network providers should treat all Web sites equally and serve them to users the best they can. The aim is to enable users to choose sites based on content rather than how fast they receive them from servers.

Who is fighting for it?

In his paper Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination, Columbia University Professor Tim Wu talks about the eerie idea that network operators could decide which sites open faster for you based on how much they pay the operators. There is also the “Save the Internet” Coalition that aims to unite the world in an effort to protect Network Neutrality.

Why are they fighting?

The US Congress seems all set to pass a law that will send Network Neutrality packing. Operators will then be able to sell their best services to the highest bidder— pay more, and your site will open faster. Web hosts will become like your local cablewallah— deciding what you should see based on what’s profitable.

How does it affect me?

Imagine a situation where your competitor pays a network provider like Sify to optimise performance for their site, and not for yours. Corporate sabotage will go through the roof, and you, the user, will suffer the worst. Your very freedom to surf whatever you want will be threatened: eventually you’ll end up patronising the sites your operator wants you to.

When did this madness start?

On June 8, 2006, the US House of Representatives passed the “Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006” (COPE)—an act that has no protection for Network Neutrality.

Where can I find more info?

To read Tim Wu’s paper, visit To find out more about the Save the Internet Coalition, visit


What is MAID?

MAID stands for Massive Array of Idle Disks. This is a technology that promises to provide massive scaleable storage at a very low cost.

Where will it be used?

MAID will be used where there is a need to archive or back up data amounting to terabytes. It will also be used in places where large amount of archived data needs to be accessed quickly.

Who is selling MAID solutions?

Though the concept has been around some time now, only one company—Copan Systems—offers the solution.

What was the alternative to this technology?

The older alternative to MAID is archiving using a tape drive. There are many drawbacks to tape, the main one being slow access speeds. Also, when a large amount of data in image form has to be stored on a tape drive that has less storage capacity than the image, the image has to be split—which is cumbersome and also takes a lot of time. Sometimes it takes days to access the archived data stored in tapes, discouraging active usage.

How scalable is MAID?

MAID is an array of hard drives combined to work as a single point of storage. Scalability is therefore not an issue. The smallest of Copan’s systems is 28 terabytes, and the largest is 200 terabytes. The space used for the largest-capacity array Copan produces is just one square metre, making for spacesaving.


MAID consumes less power and produces less heat, since when the data is not accessed on the hard disks, the disks go into idle mode—making it energy-efficient. MAID allows one to store data in both structured (SQL, MS Access) and unstructured data formats (Word, PowerPoint).

Liquid Crystal on Silicon ( LCoS )

What is it?

Liquid Crystal on Silicon is a display technology that rivals our more traditional LCD and TFT in TVs and monitors, and DLP in projectors.

When did this happen?

The technology has been around for nearly a decade, but has only now started to come out of its niche and into consumer markets.

What’s the big deal?

While other technologies have started out awful and have gotten better over the years, LCoS comes into the game at the top of its competitors—its quality surpasses LCD and DLP by a large margin.

How does it work?

LCoS works much like DLP, only using Liquid Crystal instead of the little mirrors that DLP uses to build the image. This makes it capable of much larger resolutions than LCD and Plasma.

Who’s been promoting it?

JVC has been manufacturing highresolution projectors since 1998, and big players such as Sony, Hitachi, and Toshiba have started to join the club with their own HD TVs and projectors. We’re actually waiting for Hitachi to announce their muchawaited but indefinitelypostponed 70-inch LCoS HDTVs.

Why am I only just hearing about this?

While LCoS actually works out to be more economical when manufacturing TVs, there’s a catch. It’s an expensive technology to get right, and a lot of money has already been sunk for it. Still, we should see some more commercial


What is a DualDisc?

A DualDisc is a new optical disc format announced by a group of record labels. It is designed to make music CDs more attractive to consumers by using additional content.

How does a DualDisc work?

A DualDisc will have a full CD album on one side and its enhanced version on the other. It will be compatible with any device that plays either CDs or DVDs.

Who is responsible for theDualDisc format?

It is the work of a consortium that includes major labels, such as EMI Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and Universal Music Group.

Why do we need DualDiscs?

With DualDisc, musicians will have more than one medium to reach their audience. The DVD side is meant to carry video clips, interviews, concert shows and links to Web sites, in addition to music in the much richer DVD-audio format. It is hoped that this will make the product experience much more immersive and interactive.

When was the formatrevealed?

The DVD Forum approved the format this June. However, a German company, DVD Plus,claimed a pending patent, which describes a similar product. The patent was filed by DVD Plus chief Dieter Dierks in March 1999.

Where can I find DualDiscs?

DualDiscs have just been announced and are expected to make it to the market by the end of this year.


DualDiscs have just been

announced and are expected

to make it to the market by

the end of this year.


What is AJAX?

AJAX stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. It is a Web development technique for interactive Web applications—a method that defines how Web pages interact with the server and the client.

When was it developed?

The technique was used way back in 2000, when JavaScript Remote Scripting was first used. But back then, it was purely based on JavaScript.

Why is AJAX gaining in popularity?

The concept is very simple, and the programmer doesn’t have to lean a new language. With Ajax, you can create richer, more dynamic Web application user interfaces that approach the immediacy and usability of native desktop applications.

How is AJAX better than just HTML?

AJAX makes Web pages more user-friendly—the entire HTML page doesn’t need to refresh each time a change is made. It allows for updating, deleting, and fetching of small queries without the entire page needing to be submitted. This makes the page more interactive, and quicker. AJAX also reduces interaction with the server. Where will AJAX be used? AJAX will be used in almost all Web pages that need to be more interactive, and to reduce response time.

Who has used AJAX?

The technique has been extensively used by Google in their applications such as Gmail.

Another example is portal applications, which bring up information from multiple sources and provide application services to the portlets that comprise the portal Web application. To the user, the portlet applications are similar to windowed applications on a desktop. Most portals are in a scenario where an action in one windowed application causes content in all other applications to be refreshed! Web developers employ AJAX-style programming to combat this behaviour.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dual-core Processors

What are dual-core processors?
A dual core processor is two processor cores on one die, essentially like having a dual processor system in one processor.

How will shifting to dualcore help?
The problem with winding up clock speeds is heat. High heat means errors. The heat comes from power. It takes a lot of juice to crank up a processor to high clock speeds and a processor with that much electricity running around the die is prone to electrical noise, akin to interference. The pathways on a processor are very close together. More power running through these pathways means there will be electrical radiation from one pathway to the next. This leakage could corrupt the data, and corrupted data means errors.

Where can I find a dualcore processor?
Expect to see dual-core desktops in India soon!

Why do we need dual-core processors?
A properly-configured dualcore system will react quicker when lots of applications are running simultaneously. The OS can manage which applications are sent to which processor core—so if one core is encoding a TV show, the OS can send your command to open up a Web browser to the second CPU core. In short, a dual-core processor will make your PC multi-task better.

When was the first dualcore processor launched?
The first dual-core processor was IBM’s Power4 chip in 2001, beating Intel’s Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840 by a few days.

Who manufactures dualcore processors?
Most major chip manufacturers, including AMD and Intel, are in the dual-core race.


What is a 3G phone?
A 3G phone is one that can use 3G networks. 3G is an abbreviation for ‘third generation cellular technology’, the ‘first generation’ having been analogue cellular, and the ‘second generation’ being today’s digital cellular networks. 3G supports very high-speed data services over a cellular network. In fact, multimedia 3G networks transmit wireless data up to 2 Mbps. 3G mobile phones offer high-speed Internet connectivity using Universal Mobile Telecommunications System—the technology of choice for third-generation wireless service delivery.

Why do we need 3G phones?
3G will support bandwidthhungry applications such as full-motion video, videoconferencing and full Internet access.

Where has 3G been deployed?

3G has been deployed in all the developed nations, as well as in Pakistan, Vietnam, Thailand, and several other countries. India is still awaiting the TRAI’s recommendations on 3G.

Who was responsible for the development of 3G?
3G is an initiative of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The World Administrative Conference (WAC) assigned 230 MHz of spectrum at 2 GHz for multimedia 3G networks.

When did 3G first appear on the scene?
3G network trials started in Japan in 2001.

How do 3G-enabled devices operate?
3G-enabled devices send and receive radio signals to and from base stations. The base stations are low-power radio transmitters—each providing coverage to a cell. Cells need to overlap to enable seamless coverage.