Friday, June 30, 2006

What is a BULLET-proof USB drive?


Pretec have made a flash drive called as i-Disk Bullet proof, which comes in sizes from 128 MB to 2 GB.

It is claimed to be resistant from water, ice, fire and of course, bullet. No word of being grenade proof though.

It can transfer data at the rate of 20 Mbps and has write speed of 12 Mbps.

Some bloggers are planning to test the product for their claim of being bullet proof at their local rifle range.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A cellphone in a wrist watch


The picture above shows a wrist watch, CEC GSM F88, which has features like built in mobile phone, color display, speaker phone for conferencing, and a 3-megapixel camera for video conferencing.

It weighs just around 3.5 ounces or 100 grams and is available for around $1100.

Other features of this product include a built-in microphone, voice dialing, 4 minutes of video recording, infrared connectivity, tools for scheduling and alarm clock.

The number pad can be found on the straps and the product comes with pre-installed world cup games.

Considering the size of the product, it has an amazing set of features and seems to be missing only a MP3 player and FM radio.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The first Windows Mobile 5.0 phones with 3G/W-CDMA released by HTC!


MTeoR (left) and TyTN are the new mobile phones released by HTC under its own brand name. MTeoR is the 3G smartphone version and TyTN is the Windows Mobile Pocket PC.

Although HTC (High Tech Computer Corp) is an old timer in mobile phone manufacturing business, it used to manufacture mobile phones for other brands, rather than its own. HTC entered the PDA market with its popular O2 model PDAs. MTeoR and TyTN are the first phones to be released under the HTC brand name.

With these phones, HTC claims to have made the first Windows Mobile 5.0 phones with 3G/W-CDMA.

Both the models will start shipping in July 2006.

Peter Chou, CEO of HTC Corp. said at the product launch: “We have a rich heritage of innovation and aim for our products to continue being the devices of choice on the Microsoft Windows Mobile platform. Our operator and OEM strategy remains key to this success, and we are committed to further strengthening our partner relationships by providing customised and differentiated offerings.”

The HTC MTeoR, the world’s first 3G Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone, is a stylish, slim-line, candy bar device. It may be small, just 112.4 x 49 x 14.8mm and weighing a mere 120g, but this neat device is a powerful and “smart” phone. The HTC MTeoR features Windows Mobile 5.0 Direct Push technology for immediate synchronization of email, calendar and notes plus document viewers for PDF, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It’s the ideal choice for busy people on the road who only want to carry one small device. MTeoR has a 2.2” TFT LCD screen and a built-in 1.3 megapixel camera.

Designed with easy messaging in mind, TyTN features Direct Push email technology available with Windows Mobile 5.0, internet browsing, synchronization with Microsoft Outlook Calendar, Contacts and email, and the ability to work on applications in the Microsoft Office suite such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and viewing PDF documents. TyTN comes equipped with a 2.8” colour display with touch-screen. It also features a jog wheel for easy, one-hand operation. The image below shows the TyTN.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

What is Skype?


Skype is an internet telephony provider, where users who have installed the Skype client on their computers can talk to each other free of charge using VoIP (Voice over IP). The Skype client is also available for free and the program can work across firewalls and NAT, thereby allowing anyone on the internet to talk to anyone else.

Skype was developed by the founders of KaZaA and is currently owned by eBay.

For communication with traditional phone systems, Skype has a paid service which allows a computer to dial and receive calls from traditional phones. In the paid service, voicemail is also supported.

Skype maintains the users contact lists online supports video conferencing.
Skype is platform independent and can be installed on Windows, Mac and Linux. However, the functioning of Skype is not a roller-coaster ride with Linux and Mac. It works best with Windows. Skype also works with PocketPC.

Since Skype uses a peer-to-peer model rather than the traditional client-server model, the infrastructure can scale up very easily without any need for major upgrades. Incidentally, it is rumored that Skype has to manage only the login servers and the entire routing is taken care of by the peers. As of this writing, 100 million plus customers are serviced by Skype.

The unpopular part of Skype is the mechanism for call routing. Let’s say, UserA is trying to communicate with UserB. The call from UserA to UserB may happen directly or can be routed through another user, UserC. In this case, UserC becomes a ‘Supernode’ and is functioning as a router between UserA and UserB. This unduly penalizes UserC for being a part of the Skype network. Also, the software is a closed source software and proprietary. Hence no customizations or add-ons can be added by software developers.

Although the product has not been reverse-engineered by independent developers, Skype is believed to have made good use of encryption technology in its product and the software codes are well-written.

The average age of Skype subscribers is 29.7 years. About 46% of the subscribers are from Europe and 13% from China. These numbers are derived by SR Consulting, which reviewed some 4 million users profile of Skype.

Skype client is very easy to set up. For people who have not set up a Skype client, here are the steps:

1. Download the software.
2. Install the software. It automatically configures itself for your computer and network.
3. Register as a Skype user.
4. Get a headset for your computer.
5. Locate another Skype user. Searching tools make this easy.
6. Click on a Skype contact name. You can do this from a variety of places within the client application.
7. Talk free to people anywhere in the world.

The clarity of the call in Skype is amazingly clear and most people don’t appear to be talking from the other side of the world.

Apart from making regular calls to Skype users, it also facilitates conference calls between a maximum of 5 users, file transfers and instant messaging.

Netgear recently announced a Skype compatible phone. The phone removes the dependency of placing calls from the PC. Instead it connects directly to a WiFi router for connection. Similar products from other companies are also in the pipeline.

Friday, June 23, 2006

What is Casio Exilim EX-Z70?


Casio has introduced a 7.2 megapixel camera called as Exilim EX-Z70. It will be available from early July 2007 in black color. The silver color model will be available from a month later than the black one.

It is slightly smaller than the current version of the slim and stylish product series called as Exilim EX-Z60 with 2.5 inch LCD, 3x optical zoom and digital image stabilization.

The weight of this digital camera is 118-grams and it will cost around $425. The Z60 is available at $249.

Like the previous products in the series, the EX-Z70 will have the Easy Mode feature. This provides an easy 3-step settings mechanism for digital camera beginners. It is available with 3 easy menus for image size, flash and self timer.

For those who are choosy about the looks of their camera, the EX-Z70 has smooth round edges, giving a very elegant look.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What is Ubuntu Linux?


Ubuntu is a Linux distribution for desktops and Servers. The current version is 6.06 LTS. It is distributed by Canonical Ltd.

The current Ubuntu release supports PC (Intel x86), 64-bit PC (AMD64) and PowerPC (Apple iBook and Powerbook, G4 and G5) architectures.

According to some estimates, it has some 16000 software built-in including word processors and spreadsheets from OpenOffice and Firefox. Also the server version has built-in web server, email server, database, file services and programming tools.

Below is a screen shot of Ubuntu:


The biggest user of this product is the Andalusian regional government in Spain which has hundreds of thousands of desktops running Ubuntu, according to Canonical’s Chief Operating Officer, Jane Silber.

Canonical releases a new version of Ubuntu every six months with the latest updates. Earlier, support was provided for each version for 18 months, which Canonical has increased to 3 years for desktop and 5 years for server releases. This change is effective from the release 6.06 as of 1st Jun 2006. Hence the name LTS which stands for Long Term Support.

There is almost no similarity between Windows and Ubuntu. Also the installation procedure is non-GUI and needs some Linux skills to handle. But once, Ubuntu is installed, the box is ready with the operating system and all the required software for productivity and fun.

There is some good news for someone who has a Windows computer and would like to try Ubuntu. He can simply run Ubuntu from the CD without impacting his Windows OS or any of the applications. Also Ubuntu can be dual-booted with Windows.

What is the cost of Ubuntu?

Since the meaning of the African word Ubuntu means ‘humanity towards others’, and also like most versions of Linux, Ubuntu is a free product. Ubuntu has a very friendly community of developers for online support. Canonical have lined up with some 200 partners who can also provide support for Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is available for download and can fit in a single CD. This CD is referred to as a Live CD and can be used to run Ubuntu from a desktop without having to copy files to the hard disk.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What is Wizxer WXP350?


Here is a cool device which has functionalities like playing video and audio from a 30 GB hard disk with a display of 4 inches.

Apart from playing audio and video, the device has a 1.3 megapixel camera built-in.

So what does it provides in addition to my trusted iPod?

Other features like FM radio, car navigation using GPS, UMS, an ebook reader, VOIP capability, Wifi, Bluetooth and audio / video recording is also included. It can also be connected to a projector for presentations and also to TV sets.
The device runs on Windows CE, which enables tasks like surfing internet and accessing emails.

The only components missing are the mobile phone and Windows Mobile 5.0. Hopefully, these components would be included in the next version of the product.

The device is made by a Korean company called as Wizxer.

Monday, June 19, 2006

What is Hybrid Hard Drive?

How about a computer which can boot up almost 30 seconds faster, and a laptop which can last on battery for 45 min more than the usual battery time? By combining traditional rotating magnetic storage with flash memory, Samsung plans to create hard drives called as hybrid hard drive.

So in short, Hybrid Hard Drive = Traditional Disk + Flash memory

"These kind of drives have the best of both worlds and this could be a great drive for consumers wanting to use their PCs for entertainment," said Nicole d'Onofrio, an analyst at research firm Current Analysis. "I estimate we'll see other manufacturers with hybrids by the end of this year or beginning of 2007."

The idea is to use the larger storage capacity of traditional drives and use the speed and reliability of the flash memory combined with power efficiency into a single unit.

The hybrid hard drive contains a 1Gb flash memory chip from Samsung's OneNAND family. Incoming data is directly recorded to the chip. When the chip is about full, the hard drive wakes up, takes the data, records it and goes back into idle. This is the reason for laptops consuming less power since hard disk rotation is one of the key consumers of power. In HHD, the hard disk rarely spins and hence the laptop is estimated to stay longer on batteries.

Also the applications are stores in the flash memory enabling faster boot-ups.
This product will be compatible with the upcoming Microsoft Vista Operating System.

"Hybrid hard disks and Windows ReadyDrive Technology are integrated advancements that improve the performance and reliability of computers using Windows Vista, especially notebook computers," said Mike Sievert, Microsoft's corporate vice president in the Windows Client Marketing division, in a statement.

People have mixed opinions about Hybrid Hard drives. The earlier comment which was from Nicole d’Onofrio sounded like a favorable one. Following are some non-favorable ones from Gartner.

Joseph Unsworth, a principal analyst at Gartner, was of the opinion that Intel’s Robson will be a better market-puller than Samsung’s HDD "Robson offers flash right on the chipset," he said. "We're going to see a lot of notebooks with Robson, and you don't need Vista to run it." He said he expects Robson to be out in first quarter of 2007.

Gartner analyst John Monroe downplayed the value of the Samsung HHD technology. "There is nothing new in having cache on a hard drive -- it's been done for years," he said. "The basic difference here is that it is bigger and nonvolatile. The main reason you would need it is because Vista takes so long to boot."

With mobile devices, it might have some value, he said. "But probably not with desktop machines, which are often left on."

Friday, June 16, 2006

What is Diskpart.exe in Microsoft Windows?

Ever ran out of disk space on a particular partition / volume with ample of free space in the server? If yes, the only options are to either backup the data, break partitions, and recreate them again with more appropriate size, or to figure out ways in which the existing partition which is running out of space can be extended. There have been non-Microsoft tools available in the market to extend the partition. A similar tool from Microsoft was much desired for uniformity of the tools by a single manufacturer.

Diskpart.exe is a tool introduced by Microsoft, to extend the data volumes in Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows 2003.

It is a command line utility to extend the existing partitions by using the unallocated space displayed in Disk Management.

Diskpart.exe can be used to extend both Basic as well as Dynamic partitions. When extending a NTFS partition, Microsoft recommends to perform the action in Safe Mode or Active Directory Restore Mode in order to prevent the open handles to the drive from causing to fail the process.

There are some requirements for extending the partitions by using the Diskpart.exe utility with the ‘extend’ command:

• The volume must be formatted with the NTFS file system.

• For Basic volumes, the unallocated space for the extension must be the next contiguous space on the same disk. For example, consider F: needs to be extended and there are 3 Hard Disks on the server. F: is on the second disk and the unallocated free space is on the third disk. This does not satisfies the condition for running the Diskpart utility with the extend command. Also if the F: and the unallocated space are in the same drive, but there is another partition created in between them, does not meet the requirement.

• For Dynamic Volumes, the unallocated space can be any empty space on any Dynamic disk on the system.

• Only the extension of data volumes is supported. System or boot volumes may be blocked from being extended, and you may receive the following error:
Diskpart failed to extend the volume. Please make sure the volume is valid for extending

• You cannot extend the partition if the system page file is located on the partition. Move the page file to a partition that you do not wish to extend.

Following are the steps to extend the partition using Diskpart:

1. At a command prompt, type diskpart.exe.

2. Type list volume to display the existing volumes on the computer.

3. Type Select volume volume number where volume number is number of the volume that you want to extend.

4. Type extend [size=n] [disk=n] [noerr] . The following describes the parameters:

size=n

The space, in megabytes (MB), to add to the current partition. If you do not specify a size, the disk is extended to take up all of the next contiguous unallocated space.

disk=n

The dynamic disk on which to extend the volume. Space equal to size=n is allocated on the disk. If no disk is specified, the volume is extended on the current disk.

noerr

For scripting only. When an error is thrown, this parameter specifies that Diskpart continue to process commands as if the error did not occur. Without the noerr parameter, an error causes Diskpart to quit with an error code.

5. Type exit to quit Diskpart.exe.

Diskpart will notify about the successful completion of the command and the space will be added to the existing partition.

There is a special condition when extending a Simple Volume on a Dynamic Disk in Windows 2000 and Windows XP. If the volume was created originally in the Basic Disk and then the disk was upgraded to a Dynamic disk, the volume cannot be extended. However, if the disk was already Dynamic when the volume was created, then Diskpart can be run successfully. The above condition applies only to Simple Volumes and not the Striped Sets and the rest. This condition was removed from Windows 2003 and does not apply in its case.

Diskpart comes built-in with Windows 2003 and Windows XP. However, for Windows 2000, the utility needs to be downloaded from Microsoft’s web site.

Diskpart can also be used to perform other disk related tasks like adding disks to or breaking a mirror, making a particular partition active, assign drive letters to partitions, converting basic disks to dynamic and empty dynamic disks to basic and more.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What is new in Microsoft Longhorn? – Part 2 of 2

Continued from ‘What is new in Microsoft Longhorn? – Part 1 of 2'

New features in Microsoft Longhorn (Continued) are:

11) Microsoft will introduce ‘Network Access Protection’ or NAP in Longhorn. The idea behind NAP is to identify and isolate virus-infected or ‘unhealthy computers’ from the network. NAP works in conjunction with DHCP and VPN. One of the common nuisance which will be avoided from NAP is from a visitors laptop connecting to the corporate network. If the visitors laptop is infected or unhealthy, it will automatically be detected and removed from the network. This provides the facility for the visitor to use the corporate network and the IT Administrator the facility to allow the visitor access to the corporate network without worrying about the viruses coming in from his machine.

12) In Windows 2003, there was an option to disable the USB. However, this option was not intelligent enough to differentiate between a USB storage device from a USB mouse. Most administrators wanted USB to be disabled so that users cannot copy data and take it out with them. However, with the existing technology, if the administrators took a hard call and did disable USB, they were left with no other option but to go in for other non-USB devices like a PS2 mouse. In Longhorn, the Group Policy will provide options to disable different device types connecting to USB, thereby providing the administrators to manage security as well as provide non-risky USB privileges to the users. Also XML files are set to replace the ADM for managing the templates used by Group Policy.

13) Microsoft will introduce a successor to Remote Installation Services (RIS) in Longhorn called as Windows Deployment Services (WDS). The data available till this writing mentions that WDS will support the Windows Imaging Format (WIM).

14) Microsoft will introduce ClickOnce in Longhorn. This will allow for applications and programs to be installed on the computers by providing a single. This will make life simpler for the end user and in combination with software distribution mechanisms like SMS, will also help facilitate licensing compliance.

15) Error messages will be replaced by Task Dialogs in Longhorn. Task Dialogs will contain troubleshooting information and links in addition to the error message, thereby empowering non-technical users, to perform some basic level of troubleshooting before approaching for help.

16) Peer Name Resolution Protocol (PNRP) is like a poor man's DNS in that it allows hosts to discover one another. This will be especially useful for a small company not intending to use DNS but still would prefer some amount of name resolution. PNRP uses the Winsock 2 Namespace Provider API. Apparently PNPR only works on IPv6. Could be used for applications to find and connect with each other.

17) Microsoft had improved the event logging in Windows 2003, by providing more details for the problem and in some cases also providing the resolution steps. According to Microsoft, this improvement is still better in Longhorn.

18) Using any current imaging technology, if an existing machine needs to be re-installed by using OS imaging, it is well understood that the data will have to be backed up and restored. This means, the time taken to backup and restore the data adds up to the lost productivity time of the user. Using the XImage feature in Longhorn, Windows Vista images can be deployed on machines without losing files.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What is GSM technology for mobile phones?

GSM stands for Global System for Mobile Communications. It was a digital standard first offered commercially in 1991. It is used to send and receive phone calls and is currently the most popular mobile phone transmission technology globally.

The GSM standard uses TDMA digital technology, which allows for three different voice calls to be placed in the same time slot, rather than one call using the old analog "cell" phones. This is possible through digital compression that GSM then builds upon with the addition of encryption. A GSM phone takes up the same amount of transmission space as the old technology, but has the additional benefit of added security.

GSM phones work with SIM cards or ‘Subscriber Identification Module’. This is a small card with a built-in chip which is fitted in the back of the phone. The SIM card is the heart of the GSM phone, since it enables the phone to communicate with the service provider. SIM cards are provided by the service providers and can also store contact information and SMS messages. SIM cards provides the additional benefit of changing handsets without changing the phone number or losing out on SMS and contacts.

GSM technology is also responsible for the popularity of SMS messages in Asia and Europe.

GSM got a boost in the US due to Cingular Wireless becoming America’s largest mobile provider, choosing to adopt GSM technology.

Using a GSM phone is highly recommended for someone traveling abroad, since it is a widely used technology and it is very easy to get a local SIM card of the visiting country and ‘Go Mobile’.

Monday, June 12, 2006

What is new in Microsoft Longhorn? – Part 1 of 2

Longhorn is the code-named for the upcoming version of Microsoft Windows.

When we write of new features in Longhorn, we mean the new features in Microsoft Windows Vista (Desktop version) as well as Microsoft Windows Server 2007 (Server version).

Following are the new features in Microsoft Longhorn:

1) Longhorn has a new feature called Server Manager that lets administrators configure servers with only the components they need for specific tasks, such as file servicing, Web serving, DNS or DHCP. Server Manager includes 17 roles.

2) Longhorn will include a component called as Windows Hardware Error Architecture (WHEA). According to Microsoft, WHEA lets users manage potential error sources such as processor, memory, cache and I/O bus. Hardware vendors will stipulate certain attributes to be managed on each hardware component. WHEA will not cover such components as fans and will not support PCI Express in the first version of Longhorn.

3) Longhorn will include the BitLocker technology, which is used to prevent malicious software or users from executing a boot sequence that is different than what is stored in BitLocker.

4) Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) was introduced in Windows 2003 R2. In Longhorn, Digital Rights Management (DRM) functionality will be added to ADFS, making it more secure.

5) Longhorn will have exciting graphics which will clearly differentiate its interface from Windows XP or Windows 2000. It achieves this with the use of a high end user interface called Aero Glass which provides stunning animations, vector graphics-based icons and screen elements, and translucencies. The beauty is, depending on the hardware configuration of the machine, Longhorn will auto-configure the machine to provide Aero Glass. If Longhorn finds the machine not-so-suitable to run Aero Glass, it will be auto-configured to run a scale down user interface called as Aero Express. This will be an Aero Glass type interface with XP style graphics.

6) In order to prevent the users on the client computers to be a member of the Local Administrators group, Microsoft will be introducing a concept called ‘Least Privileged User Account’. This is basically a secure code compartment in which most application code will typically run, something like the ‘Local System’ account under which the Services in Windows currently run. When trusted applications need administrator-level access, they can temporarily run in Protected User mode. It is an optional feature and administrators can continue working in the same old way if they choose to.

7) Microsoft aims to further reduce the number of events which require a reboot in Longhorn. The aim is to reduce the number of reboots required in Longhorn by 70% as compared to Windows XP or Windows 2003. Microsoft also plans to incorporate a concept called ‘hot patching’ which can update the kernel level drivers with the newly released patches and still would not require a reboot. As a disclaimer, there will still be some patches which will require the machine to be rebooted post-installation.

8) Longhorn will provide built-in protection against spyware and viruses. Also the administrators would be able to centrally control the anti-virus and anti-spyware features for organization wide uniformity.

9) Longhorn introduces a concept of Virtual Folders. The easiest way to understand a virtual folder is to compare it with a saved query in a search box. For example, if there are 20 files in the computer with words MCSE anywhere in it, and a Virtual Folder called as MCSE is created. Each time a new file is added to the computer with the content of MCSE or an existing file is removed, the contents of the virtual folder MCSE will be updates. The Virtual Folder will be displayed in blue color as compared to yellow of the regular folders.

10) Longhorn is also back to the Windows NT 4.0 concept of Backup Domain Controllers (BDCs). Only this time they are called Read-Only Domain Controllers (RODC). According to Microsoft, RODCs are better for branch office situations where the security and IT skill set will not be at par with the central office. RODC will have Universal Group Caching on by default.

Part 2 of this document is available here.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A letter from Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google

Freedom of access to information on the Internet is a topic that we believe is of great interest and importance to Inside AdSense readers. Our CEO Eric Schmidt has written a letter to you, our publishers, on the subject of "net neutrality" -- read below for the full text:

Dear AdSense Publisher,

There's a debate heating up in Washington, DC on something called "net neutrality" – and the outcome of this debate may very well impact your business. Therefore, we are taking the unprecedented steps of calling your attention to this looming crisis and asking you to get involved.

Sometime in the next few days, the House of Representatives is going to vote on a bill that would fundamentally alter the Internet. That bill would give the big phone and cable companies the power to choose what you will be able to see and do on the Internet.

Today the Internet is an information highway where anybody – no matter how large or small, how traditional or unconventional – has equal access to everyone else. On the Internet, a business doesn't need the network's permission to communicate with a customer or deploy an innovative new service. But the phone and cable monopolies, who control almost all broadband Internet access, want the power to choose who gets onto the high-speed lanes and whose content gets seen first and fastest. They want to build tollbooths to block the on-ramps for those whom they don't want to compete with and who can't pay this new Internet tax. Money and monopoly, not ideas and independence, will be the currency of their Internet.

Under the proposed "pay-to-play" system, small- and medium-sized businesses will be placed at an automatic disadvantage to their larger competitors. Those who cannot afford the new Internet tax – or who want to compete directly with the phone and cable companies – will be marginalized by slower Internet access that will inevitably make their sites less accessible, and therefore less appealing.

Creativity, innovation and a free and open marketplace are all at stake in this fight. Imagine an Internet in which your access to customers is constrained by your ability to cut a deal with the carriers. Please call your representative in Congress at 202-224-3121. For more information on the issue, and more ways to make your voice be heard, visit www.ItsOurNet.org.

Thank you for your time, your concern and your support.

Eric Schmidt
CEO of Google Inc.

P.S. -- If you are unsure of who represents you in Congress, you can look them up by zip code at http://www.house.gov. And if you would like to stay informed about this issue, and other policy issues affecting Google, you can opt-in to our policy mailing list at http://groups-beta.google.com/group/googlepolicy/subscribe (powered by Google Groups).

Source: Adsense

Thursday, June 08, 2006

What’s new in Microsoft Exchange 12 / Microsoft Exchange 2007?

Following are the new features / improvements in Exchange 2007:

1) Exchange 2007 will be available only in 64-bit version. The objective behind this move according to Microsoft is that messaging has become mission critical application for most organizations, and complexities in terms of email usage through multiple clients, security considerations using multiple security groups and IPSec has pushed the servers at the extreme end of hardware capacity which can be supported on a 32-bit architecture. Hence the result for most organizations is, increase in the number of Exchange servers which add up to cost and manageability issues. Hence, if there is only a 64-bit version available, the companies could consolidate their servers and save on cost and benefit from lesser complexity. Exchange 2007 with run on x64 and not on Itanium (IA 64). Exchange 2007 will run on 64-bit versions of Windows 2003 Server or Windows 2003 R2 server.

2) The Unified Messaging feature of Exchange 2007 is a mind-boggling one. It provides the feature to combine email, phone (voicemails) and fax in a single system. For example, the voicemails and fax will now be delivered directly to the users mailbox. It will also save costs for companies by preventing them from maintaining three separate systems. What great flexibility will this provide for users who are mobile and can now check on their smart phones about a fax received in the office!

3) Another great feature is Outlook Voice Access (OVA). Using our traditional phone systems, we can call into the voicemail systems and retrieve or delete our voice mails. With a voicemail system integrated with Exchange 2007, not only will the voice mails be accessible, but the mails and calendar entries will also be read out by the voicemail system. This means that if you are traveling, and running out of battery of your laptop and want to check on a few mails, all you need to do is call up the voicemail system and ask it to read the mails out for you. You can also reply, forward or delete mails.

4) If a mailbox has to be moved from one Exchange server to another, in the current version the users Outlook session will have to be terminated. However, in Exchange 2007, the mailbox move between servers is absolutely transparent to the user and his Outlook will keep functioning as ever. This will help the IT department to quickly move the mailboxes if a particular Exchange server needs to be taken offline for unplanned maintenance. They can undertake this activity any time during the day without bothering to inform the users.

5) Exchange 2007 comes with a UNIX style command-line management shell called as ‘Monad’. This command line interface provides an ultimate management experience and allows the administrator to perform everything using the command line or scripts which could traditionally only be done using GUI. Refer to the picture below


6) The Exchange System Manager has a component called as Toolbox. This comes built-in with Exchange Server Best Practice Analyzer, Exchange Server Performance Monitor and Exchange Queue Viewer. This makes the day-to-day task of the Admin team further simpler, by providing a common interface to perform their value added activities.


7) A log-shipping type of backup mechanism has been introduced in Exchange 2007. Like in SQL, log-shipping can be used to replicate the changes made to the database server to a different server. In case of the first server crash, the second server has the complete data and can be brought online pretty quickly without restoration tapes. This feature is called as ‘Continuous Backup’ in Exchange 2007. With this feature, disaster recovery or a single mailbox recovery will become a breeze in Exchange 2007.

8) Thankfully, there will be no more STM files. Unfortunately, STM files were known to grow in size all of a sudden, and produce all kind of problems, most of the times due to antivirus settings issues. Exchange 2007 will have a different mechanism for providing web content.

9) Exchange 2007 can host up to 50 databases on a single server with the Enterprise edition and can use up to 2 billion log files.

What is Rights Management Services (RMS)?

Worried about the confidential company data landing in wrong hands? If yes, Rights Management Services is the answer. The objective of RMS for Windows 2003 is to control access to the data whether it is online or offline, inside or outside the firewall. So even if the sensitive data finds its way to the wrong hands, the data still cannot be accessed rendering it useless.

This is independent of domain memberships or operating systems. So even if I am the administrator of a given computer or a domain and I receive a file or mail which is RMS protected, no matter what I do as an administrator, I would not be able to access it.

OK, so the working of RMS requires three components:

1) RMS running on Windows 2003 and Active Directory
2) Applications supporting RMS, for example, Microsoft Exchange and Outlook
3) Policies in place to provide the right level of access to the right people.

The way in which RMS controls access to the data is by sticking the access information with the data. So unlike a file secured by NTFS, which loses all security information as soon as it is copied to a FAT or FAT32 partition, or sent to someone by mail, RMS protects the data even if it is handed over to someone without access by mail or by a pen drive.

Using RMS is a pretty simple task. Any user who wants to protect a message from being accessed by an unauthorized user, or let’s say the sender wants to restrict what the recipient of the message can and cannot do. For example, the sender wants to restrict the recipient from printing the message and also the recipient should not be able to forward it. The sender would like to allow the recipient to reply to the message though. This can be done by the sender himself by using few simple clicks in his Outlook client. So not only does RMS prevents data from reaching the wrong hands, it also controls effectively what actions the intended recipient can and cannot do.

A couple of examples below from Microsoft:

  • A company manager has access to the online sales system. She pulls up sales information about last quarter's unit sales using her browser. Because the information is sensitive, specific restrictions have been applied to the report: She cannot print, copy, or paste the data. RMS helps the company protect its sensitive quarterly sales data from accidental or deliberate leaks before its official earnings announcement.
  • A CEO needs to send an e-mail message that contains confidential information about an upcoming reorganization to his executive staff. In Microsoft Office Outlook 2003, he selects a template to specify that recipients can only read the e-mail message, and that they cannot copy, paste, edit, or forward the information. The recipients receive the e-mail message in Outlook 2003, with the usage policies automatically applied to the message. The CEO has a new level of confidence that this sensitive information will be viewed only by his executive staff.

Below are some screenshots on how this can be done from the client end.
Figure 1 below displays the option from MS Excel from where RMS can be initiated.

Figure 1

Figure 2 shows the various level of rights and user selection that can be done for a RMS client. The user opted for permission needs to be a valid user in the AD.

Figure 2

The user receiving this document also needs to have the RMS client installed on his machine in order to open the protected data.

RMS is also pretty straightforward to setup in the back end. All it requires is Windows 2003 Server, SQL Database and Active Directory. This combined with the client end application supporting RMS is enough for RMS to work.

Microsoft provides the SDK for software developers to provide the RM capability in their products.

The component of RMS which is embedded in MS Office products is called as ‘Information Rights Management’ or IRM.

RMS is based on public key cryptography, using digital certificates to identify users and determine their access rights. The RMS server issues the certificates. When an internal RMS server is set up in the organization, it uses Windows authentication for issuance of the certificates.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

What is MMS?

MMS, short for Multimedia Messaging Service is an enhanced form of SMS which can be used to transfer not only text messages, but also pictures, audio and video clips using mobile phones.

MMS messages can be sent to other mobile users or to email addresses. This is another add-on over SMS which can be primarily mobile-to-mobile. MMS can additionally be sent to mobile-to-email and email-to-mobile.

The only pre-condition for sending and receiving the MMS messages is the compatibility of the handset. Any device after Nokia 7650 and Ericsson T68i will most probably have support for MMS. Most handsets available today, which have a built-in camera are also MMS capable.

Sending and receiving a MMS message is pretty straightforward. A sender clicks a picture or shoots a video. He or She can then optionally customize the picture for another message or simply send it across to the intended recipient. The recipient on receiving the MMS message can open it just like a regular SMS message and the attached multimedia file will be displayed automatically. For example, if the attachment was a picture, the picture would be displayed along with the message. Or if the attachment was a video file, the video would start playing when the message is opened.

MMS is a store-and-forward technology, where the message sent by the sender is first received by the MMSC (Multimedia Messaging Service Center). The MMSC then sends a notification to the recipient that a message is waiting to be downloaded. The recipient can choose if he wants to download the message or reject it. If he chooses to download the message, the message is delivered to his handset and the sender gets a ‘Message Delivered’ notification. This is also called ‘Deferred’ delivery.

There is another option available for preventing the delay in receiving MMS messages. It is the ‘Immediate’ option, which is available in some handsets today. The user can choose to select either Deferred or Immediate delivery for MMS.

In SMS, although the messages are routed through the SMSC (Short Messaging Service Center), the delivery to the recipient is direct without first sending out a notification informing the user that a message is waiting for him.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What is WinFS?

WinFS is a short name for Windows Future Storage. This is the code name for a Microsoft technology to be used for data storage in the upcoming products. WinFS will work on top of NTFS and will create relationships between the files stored normally on the disk. This will facilitate better presentation and analysis of the data which was otherwise unarranged and unusable in its raw form.

WinFS will be using a relational database of SQL 2005 in order to achieve this.

File Systems like NTFS stores data in the form of bytes. The only information that the file system has about the data stored in the File Name. Hence, assume a new file by the name Tester.doc is stored in a drive. The file system can be searched for only the filename, that is, Tester.doc and it will provide the result in the result box. However, if this file had a status report for a particular activity, and the file system is searched for, “Show all files which have the words ‘Status Report’ in them”. The file system in helpless for such searches because it only understands the file names.

In the above example, a desktop search application can facilitate the search above since it indexes the contents of the file system and can search based on the contents of the files in the file system. However, a search like, “Show all files having the status report from Jan 2006 to Mar 2006 and which has been sent to Bob in the last week” cannot be processed by the desktop search application since, it not only looks into the contents of three different applications, like Word Processor, Database and Email system, but also needs to have built-in intelligence to create a relationship between the data.

This is where WinFS comes into the picture.

WinFS achieves the above but categorizing the data files. For example, it understands that a .jpeg file as a picture file and a .pst file as an Email file. It also has the built-in intelligence to determine the relationship between the above applications or more applications as installed on the computer.

WinFS will not be bundled into Windows Vista or Longhorn, but will be available as a downloadable add-on. WinFS is currently on Beta 1, but Beta 2 is expected to be announced the upcoming Tech Ed sessions.

WinFS will be storing data in the form of stores. Whenever a file is copied in the file system, the application will provide the information about the attributes constituting the metadata and the relationship of the data with other applications in the store.

For detailed information, visit here.

Monday, June 05, 2006

What is OQO Model 01+?

OQO Model 01+ is the smallest UMPC (Ultra Mobile PC) device in market today. It is the size of a PDA, but in effect is a full blown laptop running Windows XP Tablet PC edition.


It has features like a 1 GHz Processor, 512 MB RAM, 30 GB Hard Drive, Wireless, Bluetooth, Touchscreen, digital pen etc. The RAM cannot be extended beyond 512 MB.

It is just 4.9 inches long, 3.4 inches wide and 0.9 inches thick.

It has all features of the laptop like connectivity to a projector, Firewire, in-built speakers, and connectivity to an external keyboard.

OQO Model 01+ also comes with a pull-down keyboard. This provides an option to someone who is not comfortable using the stylus for typing long text. Refer to the image below.


The battery life is around 2 hours with moderate use. This might be inadequate for traveling users who would be away from charging points for the whole day. A larger battery life like 5 hours would be more desirable.

The cost of the OQO Model 01+ is in the range of $ 2000 which is higher compared to the UMPCs of Samsung and others.

Performance wise, considering the hardware configuration of OQO Model 01+, it can be easily used for surfing, emails and office applications. However, it cannot be used for playing CPU-intensive games or editing videos which is understandable. The screen provided is also pretty dim as compared to other Tablet PCs and makes reading in the sunlight a tough task.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Apple Virtual Keyboard


Apple Virtual Keyboard is a touchscreen arc shaped keyboard where a user can type in using his 2 thumbs.

This type of keyboard is predominantly used the Microsoft Origami project for UMPC (Ultra Mobile PC)

Apple has filed for a patent for this invention. Few people believe that Microsoft Origami project is a copy of Apple’s original research of the virtual keyboard.

UMPCs which are going to use the virtual keyboard are highly mobile and provide nearly the same functionality as laptops. Apart from their mobility, few people also believe that typing using a virtual keyboard is going to block the screens display and an error while typing will be realized after some time.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Blu-Ray

We all know about CD and DVD. Blu-Ray is the next generation optical disc format. It is also called as Blu-Ray Disc or BD. The key objective behind creation of Blu-Ray discs was to provide storage for high definition video and huge amount of data (as high as 25 GB per disc). Blu-Ray discs can also be dual layered like DVDs which means that they can store about 50 GB of data.

The Blu-ray discs will be available in the standard BD-ROM, BD-R and BD-RW formats as in CD and DVD drives. Most existing codecs like MPEG and WMV will be supported in Blu-ray.

The success of the Blu-ray discs will depend on the movie studios. If the studios decide to publish movies on Blu-ray discs the Blu-ray players will become an instant hit and more and more people will opt in for Blu-ray discs rather than DVDs. As of this writing, seven out of eight prominent movie studios have extended support for Blu-ray.

Many companies like Sony, Panasonic, Samsung etc are coming up with players that can play Blu-ray discs, DVDs as well as CDs.

HP and Dell are also planning to introduce the BD Drives in their upcoming computer models.

Infocard

Infocard is a Microsoft project for identity management in Windows Vista, Windows XP and Windows 2003. This will be a part of the WinFX initiative of Microsoft.

Digital Identity is the most commonly used component of the internet. So what is a digital identity? Let’s look at the real life example. Who are you? The answer to this question can differ based on the identification you provide at the time. For example, when you provide a company ID card for swapping, you are an employee. When you use a credit card, you are a bank customer. There are many more examples of identity in the form of passport, driving license etc.

So what could be the digital equivalent of the real world identities? Email address is the best and most easily understandable digital identity. Using an email address a person can identify himself. Other forms of digital identity on the internet could be the usernames of multiple sites like ebay.com or blogger.com. Other examples of digital identity could be the customer ID of the bank account. As of this writing, there is no easy way to manage digital identities. The easiest way to manage digital identity today is to provide a common username for all these identifications manually. This helps in easier memorizing and saves us from writing it down, which no security professional will agree to. However, this has its own challenge considering that different sites having different requirements for user names (digital identities). Some requirements include the restriction on the maximum length of the username which may not accommodate your commonly used username. This adds up to one exception to be remembered.

The aim of InfoCard is to provide a mechanism in which the users need to maintain a single digital identity which will link to all other identities. If it works as expected, you can imagine using the same username and password to access Yahoo Mail, GMail and Hotmail. Also using the same username to purchase a book from Amazon.com. Now that would be extremely cool. The challenge is to bring together the meta directories of multiple companies to facilitate collaboration. Microsoft uses its passport network successfully up to a certain extent for this. One identity gives you access to hotmail, Microsoft webcasts, MSN Messenger and more. However, this is still restricted to the Microsoft domain. Infocard aims at the entire digital world.

Microsoft is aiming to create a metasystem (system of systems) to address the incompatibility issue between multiple identity providers (like Amazon, Yahoo etc). All identity providers need to support a common protocol in order to share information with the metasystem.

Although the technology behind Infocard is a complex one, the end user experience should be easier than the existing system (where you have to remember multiple usernames and passwords). The following image from Microsoft helps convey the UI which will be used with Infocard. This application will contain the information about all the digital identities and provide a control to the user over when and what to send to whom. You can compare it with selecting a card to present while shopping at a store.


So what happens if your laptop gets stolen, with your Infocard in it? Does it means that the thief gets access to all your digital identities (including your name, address, age, credit card details)? The answer is no. Since Infocard will just be a front end application for the user and all the digital information about him will be stored in a secured site like Verisign from where the information will be retrieved each time the user chooses to use it.

For more information on Infocard visit here

Friday, June 02, 2006

What is FireWire?

In today’s digital life with large multimedia files containing rich video and audio, transferring data between devices is a very time consuming process. Some data files such as virtual hard disks (used with Microsoft Virtual PC and VMWare) can run up to a few GBs. FireWire is a technology which helps transfer data at extremely high speeds (up to 800 Mbps, for the 9 pin Apple’s FireWire 800). It can connect to multiple devices like iPods, Video Digital Cameras, external hard disk drives, computers etc.


The 6-Pin connector

FireWire is also known as i.Link or IEEE 1394. The standard IEEE 1394 version of FireWire is a 6 pin connector, whereas Sony’s version of FireWire which is also called i.Link is a 4 pin connector.


The 4-Pin connector

FireWire is known to be faster than SCSI cables and much easier to set up. FireWire is under patent by Apple. FireWire cable can have a maximum length of 4.5 meters, but can be connected linearly with up to 16 cables, effectively providing the length of 72 meters. In my opinion, for most practical and home purposes 4.5 meters is a pretty reasonable length for transferring data between two devices.
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