Essays in the Category “Non-Security Articles”
Abundance of software, ease of use make Macs the tool of choice for researchers
Macs are used extensively in the sciences. Not just for writing research papers and creating presentation graphics but also for instrument control, data acquisition and analysis, and scientific simulation. There are many scientific applications available on the Macintosh - commercial, free and custom-built - and scientists all over the world are taking advantage of them.
The Mac is also commonly used in the sciences as a front end to high-end workstations.
A computer platform is only as good as the software developed to run on it. To create good software, programmers need flexible development tools that take advantage of evolving hardware and operating systems.
Apple's interests lie in keeping development tools current so programmers will continue to develop for its Mac, Newton and PowerPC platforms. It has often received criticism from developers for delays and outdated tools.
Automatic disk compression programs promise to effectively transparently double the storage space on your hard drive. Although most can live up to this claim, several factors, including performance and reliability problems, have sullied the images of these products.
Given the prevalence of cheap disk drives, some doubt the wisdom of using these products at all. Many users report no problems, however, and have come to rely on automatic disk compression to squeeze every last byte out of their storage devices.
Any user who has suffered a disk failure can attest to the importance of regular backups. No matter how vigilant a backup program you implement, however, a disk crash between backups can still destroy valuable data.
"You stress backups, but in most cases people don't do them," said Mark Goldenberg, senior development engineer at Hughes Aircraft Co. of Fullerton, Calif. "Or the file they destroyed or deleted is one they created that day." In situations such as this, emergency disk recovery tools can prove invaluable.
Public Switched Systems Are Becoming the Leading Edge in Wide-Area Networks
For many years, the only way for distant computers to communicate over the public telephone system was via a voice-quality link, either a dialup line or a point-to-point leased line. Big companies needed better connections, and several data communications standards, such as X.25, were developed to provide them on these lines. As networks expanded and applications required speedier transmission rates, time-division multiplexing (TDM) technologies stepped in to provide cheaper and faster data transfers on large-bandwidth circuits, often making it cheaper to lease a dedicated T1 line than to run several low-speed lines.
In recent years, increased transmission rates, moreintelligent network equipment and cleaner transmission lines have spurred the growth of packet-switching technologies.
Originally a nonvolatile storage standard, PCMCIA has grown to be a much more versatile interface. With its small size and low power draw, it has gotten a lot of attention from computer developers looking to reduce both bulk and power on their portable products.
Apple is evaluating PCMCIA for its PowerBook line, and Newton will ship with a PCMCIA slot; the slot also will support an Apple-proprietary 32-bit bus called TrimBus. Using PCMCIA, users can plug in cards containing everything from interactive maps to network connectors.
A PCMCIA card is a removable device about the size of a credit card (2.126 by 3.37 inches).
While many types of removable media are good for long-term storage, they are often too bulky and expensive for compact devices such as printers, palm-size computers and network hardware.
That's why a growing number of vendors are swinging over to flash memory, also known as flash ROM, a form of nonvolatile memory that blends the rewrite flexibility of dynamic RAM with the permanence of ROM.
Though not a silver-bullet solution for all memory requirements, flash memory currently works well for storing a few megabytes of printer fonts, software or configuration data and has the potential to store much more.
"Any time you've got built-in code that's likely to change, flash ROM is an excellent solution," said Janet Woodworth, marketing communications manager at Intel Corp. of Folsom, Calif.
Since 1984, RAM capacity has climbed more than tenfold, from 128 Kbytes to 256 Mbytes. CPU power also has increased dramatically, from the sluggish 8-MHz 68000 to the 33-MHz 68040 in the Quadra 950.
Yet, the capacity of floppy disks - that almost ubiquitous storage media - has lagged far behind the others, barely tripling from 400 Kbytes to the current 1.4-Mbyte disks.
Desktop publishing, digital photography, multimedia and CAD all have put pressure on vendors for storage media that is much larger than floppy disks.
Both Shiva Corp. and Cayman Systems Inc. are readying multiport Ethernet remote-access products for shipment sometime this fall. At the Boston Macworld Expo in August, Cayman announced GatorLink and Shiva demonstrated LanRover/E. Shiva's LanRover/L, a single-port LocalTalk remote-access product, has been shipping since April. Both the LanRover/E and the GatorLink are hardware devices that connect AppleTalk Remote Access users directly into the network without the need for a dedicated Mac.
It's rare to find two people who configure their Macintosh the same way. Some users swear by System 7; others won't touch it. Some machines run QuickTime; others - The Talking Moose.
For those in charge of hundreds of machines, it's a potential nightmare.
San Francisco - When you consider commute hours and the expense of travel, as well as traffic and its accompanying stress and pollution levels, there's a strong case to be made for telecommuting as beneficial to workers. The advantages for business may be just as compelling.
The Department of Public Works in both San Diego and Los Angeles County reported productivity increases of 34 percent among some telecommuters. Tom Peters devoted an issue of his newsletter On Achieving Excellence to telecommuting.
Cupertino, Calif. - Programmers will be able to use a new computer language called Dylan to build applications on the Newton Personal Digital Assistants. While this language incorporates numerous advances from the world of academia, many developers wonder how well it will perform in the real world.
Dylan is an object-oriented dynamic language - one that makes it possible to modify programs, at the source-code level, on the fly.
Why should anyone care about Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) anymore?
Wiring an office with fiber is expensive, as is purchasing fiberoptic switching and relay equipment. And with Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) on the horizon, which promises flexible data rates of 150M to 600M bit/sec, FDDI's 100M bit/sec data rate hardly seems worth it.
But the recent emergence of FDDI over copper wiring under the evolving Copper Distributed Data Interface (CDDI) standard changes all that.
The approach to using probability algorithms is a powerful and innovative way to solve sharing problems.
It may seem strange that programming, which has long been a bastion of exact algorithms behaving in precisely the same manner every time, occasionally turns to probability to solve some of its more difficult problems.
In some people's minds, algorithms should be proveably correct at all times and for all inputs (as with defect-free programming and formal methods). Probabilistic algorithms give up this property. There is always a chance that the algorithm will produce a false result.
The advantages of computer-aided software engineering tools running over a LAN can be spectacular, according to users, but such Mac-based tools are rare.
For developers on Macs, sharing programming results and communicating with each other is getting easier. CASE analysis, modeling and prototyping are easier when personal computers can share resources as well as merge results. Even code generation can be sped up through multiprocessing.
If you're not looking at telecommuting yet, you soon might have to. The 1990 amendments to the Federal Clean Air Act require states to enact strict clean-air policies, and by 1996 all businesses with more than 100 employees at sites classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as "severe" or "extreme" will be required to reduce the number of cars commuting to their locations.
Regulation XV, enforced in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties in California, is the most aggressive air-quality legislation in the world, imposing fines of up to $25,000 a day for violators. In Northern California, the San Francisco Bay area is drafting Rule 13, which promises to be just as stringent.
Observers are predicting a massive increase in the demand for remote LAN access, fueled by the convergence of several trends. High-speed links have become available through standardized, low-cost modems, making it easier to perform complex computer tasks via a dial-in connection. Portable computers are becoming more powerful. And more companies are downsizing, moving applications to personal computers and making LANs a significant part of their computing system.
Apple Supports Symantec Corp.'s Bedrock Program Development Environment
Cupertino, Calif. -- The Mac developer community has been bubbling with speculations, questions and, in some cases, fear since Apple last month gave its blessing to Symantec Corp.'s Bedrock cross-platform development framework.
Not surprisingly, developers who have followed Apple's often-repeated advice and adopted its current application framework, MacApp, have the most questions.
"There is a lot of concern" among MacApp developers, said Jeff Alger, a Palo Alto, Calif., consultant and former chairman of the MacApp Developers Association (now MADA).
The QuickRing architecture, announced last month at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., could have a profound effect on many areas of high-end Macintosh computing, such as video processing and high-speed networking.
QuickRing is a communications system that lets plug-in NuBus cards exchange data with each other or external equipment at rates of up to 200 Mbps. This is more than 10 times faster than non-burst-mode speeds available in the existing NuBus architecture and opens the door to new applications that Mac developers could only dream of before.
"This is not a NuBus replacement," said Paul Sweazey, Apple QuickRing project manager. "NuBus is a control bus for memory access.
Recent changes to the Internet are turning the network of the military-industrial complex into the most likely prospect for an all-encompassing electronic-mail system.
Business cards used to be simple: name, company, address, telephone number and maybe a logo. Then came facsimile numbers. Now something with an @ in it is appearing on more and more business cards. It's an Internet address; you probably have one already, although you may not know it, and sometime during the next couple of years you will have to learn it.
Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.
Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Resilient Systems, Inc.