Brad's comments on the world of technology...

Blog Category: Technology

a used 2g iphone is actually cool

I bought a used iphone 2G model for work. I didn't intend to use it as an actual phone. But, as time wore on, I started playing with it, and (mostly) prying it out of the hands of my 10 and 12 year olds and I've grown to like it. Oddly, I've yet to activate it. I suppose I will soon, but the idea of spending $75/month

Why I'm not an ISP Anymore

I had a nice year long run with a web hosting company ( which ended in disaster. I stopped getting email from them in December and then they shut me off and deleted my account on 12/31/2005. They claim they sent me email throughout December but I never got any of it and my qmail SMTP logs don't show any email from them. I

Throatless Rocket Engines

I know it sounds like Buckaroo Bonzai, but I have a soft spot for people on a mission. The folks at a new type of rocket engine. It's "throatless". I'm going to say this means that if it can be made to work (where work = not melt down or blow up) it could mean that a normal machine shop could be building rocket engines capable of putting

Generating RF signals with your VGA card

This enterprising young man was able to generate RF signals a VGA card. Thought that was a pretty neat trick and made me think of some other possible uses. After all, it's just a high speed bit

Very small, fast X86 C compile

Some of my embedded work is on X86 (believe it or not). The "tcc" compiler is very, very small and very very fast. At 140k it can fit on small CF file systems. And with the "-run" option it makes C into a scripting language. It's an impressive piece of work, capable of compiling the linux

Digikey and FreeScale contest with HC12 chip

Digikey and Freescale have created an interesting contest around a new HC12 chip. The chip is interesting as it's an SOC with ethernet, an HC12 16 bit cpu, ram and flash. It also has SPI and I2C ports. The contest is interesting in that you submit a proposal. The best 10 proposals are picked and given an eval board. They have 2 months to

HDLC drivers for MPC 8xx

This is not very exiting, but people have been asking me about it. I have a small collection of MPC 8xx (850, 823e, 860) HDLC drivers. Most present a network interface but one I hacked allows userland access to the HDLC frames and modloadable 'filters' in the kernel which can do basic protocol work. Here's the tar

DRAM speeds go off the deep end

I was reading an article in Electron Design (04/14/05, pg 46) about DRAM speeds ("DRAM Advances Splinter to meet many system needs"). I was amazed at the new speeds for DRAM. I thought things stopped at about 166Mhz. Apparently not so. There is now DDR, DDR-2 and soon to be DDR-3. The seeds go from a pedestrian 100Mhz up through 1.6GHz.

World-class wizardry

I want one of these. Apparently it's from Toyota. picture of 'walking foot' with person

Some Tiny O/S's

Someone on a mailing list I'm on was asking about small o/s's. Someone else suggested "contiki". It's a nice small O/S with a user interface. Might be the right thing for a small handheld, who knows. I like the look of it. Someone else mentioned UniFLEX. That archive is amazing becuase there it's written for the 6809, has FORTRAN, Cobol,

My cell phone, my wallet, my cell phone...

Who would have thought that your cell phone would become the place to store your credit card? It makes perfect sense to me now, but just like cameras in cell phones, I didn't see it coming. NTT Docomo Inc. in Japan is testing contact-less card support in cell phones. The JR train lines in Japan have used contact-less cards (like those cards

I thought only Superman could make time go backward...

Virutech, Inc. claims to have a product, Hindsight, which is a debugger which can run programs backward. Apparently it works with Virtutech's Simics product, which is a system level simulator. Batteries not included. And you have to use DML, their modeling language. Still, for some projects it could be a life

TI ARM7 CPU w/flash and ram

TI has announced a new ARM7 cpu, the TMS470. It's got built in flash and RAM as well a some interesting interfaces. While the smallest pin count is high (80 pin LQFP) it will fill a nice space between smaller 16 bit micros. The smallest part has 64K flash and 4kb of ram. This is a little small but workable. A larger 144 pin part has


This is potentially interesting. A Hybrid CPLD/FPGA which has (it appears) some mask work done at the fab and the rest is reconfigurable as a CPLD. Could be perfect for medium volume

I've always liked Bob

I've always liked Bob Cringely. He used to throw great partied at MacWorld. Plus, he built his own plane (or tried to). And, he's turned into an interesting technologist. I think he's onto something with his perspective of "little wireless platforms which run linux". The LinkSys WRT54g he talks about is one such platform. There is also a

Linux Raid and "new age" IDE disks

It's a new age in IDE disks. Volume is up (way up) and quality is down (ahem, not sure how far). I've noticed that disks last about 2 years. In fairness, it's often the power supplies which go first. After loosing too many IDE hard disks I decided to switch to RAID on my file servers. I thought this would be hard but it turns out to be

Linux and your next TV...

Does your TV run linux? Your next one might. It seems Sony is going to deploy about 30 tv's all of which will run Linux. Certainly my TIVO runs linux. Is my car

Excited about Philips LPC3000 familty

I found an interesting article in EE Times about Philips and 90nm fab. It talked about the upcoming LPC3000 familty of ARM cpu's from Philips, with biult in flash and ram. Looks like it has a ARM926F core and 64k of

Good uses of microprocessorts - saw blades...

I think I've seen this in the news before, but I liked it so much I thought I'd add it in. This is a device that detects when a radial saw is about to cut your finger and instantly stops the saw. The demo (on a hot dog) is amazing. SawStop LLC was formed to make active devices for woodworking equipment. It would be great to work for a

Linux admin for Walmart in China

While talking with some friends about a person looking to 'retrain' as a Linux admin (after 21 years as an IT person), someone made a humorous comment. I had been ranting about Walmart employees being the largest group of comsumers of free state health care (because they get no health coverage from their employeer). He suggested the person

The Year of the ARM SOC

The Year of the ARM SOC Seems like everyone and his brother is making an ARM SOC. I'll swear there are 50 different vendors making them. Do we need all of these? I guess so. Intel, Sharp, Fujitsu, Samsung to name a few. It is nice because each one seems a little different. It's also nice because building a small embedded device which

Microchip PIC18's - nice

I've been doing some PIC programming lately. I really love Microchip's parts. Simple, cheap, effective. The 18F series is my current love. The 18F458 has lots of flash, a CAN controller, serial an a little RAM. I wired one up to a Cirrus 8900 ethernet chip and write a simple TCP stack for it. Amazing huh? Other have done this before me, but

Xilinx Virtex II Pro - wow

My vote for the cool SOC of the year (2003) is the Xilinx Virtex II Pro. It's a PPC 405 with a giant fpga. It's also a lot of IP which does all of the normal things like ethernet, serial, etc... Maybe everyone knows this but looking over the interface docs I was having some major deja-vu from some work I did for IBM a few years back. It

"The day the music died..."

"The day the music died..." What hath venture capital wrought? dateline 2000: Way too much money chasing to many bad deals. Way too much money put into marginal or even bad ideas. Insane valuations. Insane investments. dateline 2002: many, many, many failed startups. everyone is running scared. M&A has slowed or stopped. IPO's have

SOC's coming like a train - woo hoo linux

System-on-chip cpu's are coming like a train. The first one I spent time with with Motorola's 8xx line, the 860, 850 and 823. These chips had all the peripherals on the chip on one big melange. Static memory interface for flash, SDRAM interface for memory, an MMU, serial ports and built in ethernet. Needless to say it ran linux well, thanks

"Metricom to close Ricochet"

"Metricom to close Ricochet" This is sad. I thought that this idea was strong enough to live in some metropolitan areas at least. The problem (IMHO) is that VC's often kill the idea by pushing the "big score/massive expansion" rather than the "slow but sure wins the race" strategy. I can't tell you how many CEO's I've talked to recently

Wearable computing

Would you wear a computer? I'm not sure I would. Except for maybe my wrist watch, cell phone, pager, oh, and the keys to my car. How about one which had a 600x800 eyepiece? or one that had an audio earpiece/microphone? Seen anyone with a phone and ear microphone lately? (they really work well - I tried one). There are research folks all


My accountant told me he had clients break down and cry in his office this year. On one hand I totally understand. On the other, I'm not sure I do. Did people actually think that money existed? What if everyone had tried to sell their CSCO or Redback shares at the height of the market? The price would have dropped. There would have been

USB - truth is stranger than fiction

A friend warned me when I said I was going to work on a USB controller. He said it was a huge spec and it would take me months to figure it all out. I didn't believe him. I went off to write a host controller for the PowerPC 8xx chip. Six month passed. Turns out he was right. Still, it was fun to learn the entire spec from top to

Copper into your house?

Virtual circuits, point-to-point links and distributed phone switches. Looking at the phone poles around my house I'm begining to wonder if running copper pairs back to a central office makes sense anymore. I'm dreaming of a distributed phone system. If bandwidth is essentially free, or very cheap, why not dedicate bandwidth to each

Noah Jones Parker is Born!

Born 3/14/98 12:08pm 7lbs, 7oz 19 1/2" Not much else going on this month, sorry... See you

"The New Cable Company is Coming! The New..."

Eeeyow. There are rented "bucket trucks" all over the suburb of Arlington, MA where I live. It appears the RCN, the new phone, cable & Internet company is serious. They plan to make Arlington the first town in Mass to have two cable companies. The rumor is that $19.95/month will get you phone and cable. They are pulling what looks like

Happy New Year!

I Can't wait to see what 1998 brings. Both in terms of new services and new/merged companies. Seems like staying at home just gets better and better from a networking point of view (56k modems, cable modems, ISDN, ADSL). The stock market is going through the roof and this seems to be the fuel for acquisition after acquisition. The "VC

Would *you* like RCN to put fiber into your house?

Are you seeing adds for RCN in the paper? It all started when I read about a weird thing in the local paper. It seems that Boston Edison and some other little firm had placed the city council's underwear in a knot because they had petitioned to pull fiber all over town and the dead-line for the council to respond was only two weeks. They

Can your cable provider really be your ISP?

Wow boy. I'm not sure. I have a cable modem. I love it. But it has failed. And when it did they said I would have to wait a week to have it fixed. My heart sank. I get so much email that this would cause a serious problem. My mail server can not be off-line for a week. So, I installed an ISDN backup system. Luckily this is easy for

Java: COBOL of the '90s

I just have to say it. Is Java the COBOL of the 90's? I used to hear people say they would only program in Visual C++ and nothing else. They wanted to windows programming and nothing else. They wanted to be Microsoft junkies. I had this vision of thousands of out of work Visual C++ programmers standing on a street corner hawking windows

The VPN Convergence

What's a VPN? A Virtual Private Network. A misnomer really, or more of an anacranism. In the old days if you strung two T1 lines between two sites you had a Private network, or "PN". Now days if you run a 'tunnel' or encapsulated link between two sites it forms a 'virtual' T1 or Virtual Private Network. Lots of people seem to be convinced

VPN Client tools?

The world needs more VPN client tools. It sounds like Cisco and Ascend are venturing into this world. No doubt others are too. I use "PPTP" from Microsoft currently for NT systems and "ssh" and the commercial "F-Secure" product from DataFellows ( for Unix. I really like ssh. I found PPTP to be ok, but it's rather complex

What happened to August?

You might notice that a rash of these pages appeared out of the blue, many after the fact. I can blame that on several things. First, I'm lazy. Two, I wrote up some of them and forgot to put them up on the web (see #1). Three, I have disk problems on my Linux box. Four, people who write paragraphs with numbered sentences should go back and

SS7 and Windows NT

In something akin the "Bride of Frankenstein" I read about someone porting SS7 software to Windows NT. SS7 is the protocol which giant phone switches (like the AT&T 5ESS) use to talk to other phone switches. So, why would you want to connect your NT server to a giant phone switch with SS7? You wouldn't. But, you might

Using NT as a router

Why would anyone want to do this? Is it just me? I recently configured a nice little router from Compatible Systems. It was inexpensive, high quality and it did not have a C: drive. Why would I allow one of the 1,000,000 things which can go wrong on an NT box to jeopardize my routing? Routing needs to be like the phone system - always

How can it be July already?

Last months edition was a little light. What can you expect for free? I'll try and be a little more verbose as the summer wanes and we move into the fall. Stay tuned. I may also invite a few guest speakers in. Is it me or did June just fly by? I blinked and it was gone. Perhaps it's the new job or maybe it's too much fast living

The truth about NT

OK, here's the truth about NT. It's wicked slow (even on my 266Mhz P-Pro II) It needs a lot of memory (128mb) The vm system does weird things and image activation fights with the file system buffer cache It's not as reliable as UNIX There. I said it. Please note that I've been using NT for a long time and like it. I am

Java and Javascript - mutant half-brothers with no common DNA?

Has anyone out there tried to write a Java program which injected data back into the HTTP stream? I understand the Javascript can do it. It seems that making Javascript and Java speak is at best difficult and at worst really clumsy. Why did Netscape have to call it JavaScript anyway? It has nothing to do with Java at

Flying children on commercial airlines

On the two misguided occasions when we chose to fly across the country with our less-than-five-year-old child (more on the 5 year part in a second), we bought an extra ticket and used a car seat. The 'cabin attendants' where very impressed. I thought it was common sense. I've come to find out that people think carrying

Cable Modems

Have I ranted about my cable modem recently? It's a really odd world when I have more bandwidth and better connectivity at home then at work. Well, I do. I love my cable modem. Everyone should have a T1 at home. I can watch the MBONE sessions, I can down load files. I can even work from home. It's great.

ISDN Equipment

Ever set up a SOHO ISDN router? Whoo boy. Fasten your seat belts. I have done it with several products and I must say the vendors have sure gone out of there way to make it impossible. Here's a great diagnostic: (516,1520650) c021: Automaton Layer Started For the un-hip, "c021" is PPP LCP, or link control protocol. It's documented in an

MBONE - the next rage?

I remember the "PicturePhone"... I was going to buy one as soon as they where available. Something went wrong, however, and along with those thousands of Popular Science covers it never made it to market. I've been using the MBONE for a few years now. It's a cool experiment which is not quite ready for prime time. I

Next-hop-reachability is not Policy

It's interesting to me that people who know better often confuse basic routing (which I'll call next-hop-reachability) with policy. Most of todays routing systems are only concerned with next-hop-reachability. They don't address policy at all. To me policy looks like "you go in the slow lane because you're not paying as

The coming bandwidth glut

I sometimes wonder if the real issue of the information age isn't right-of-way and the ability to dig a trench to lay fiber cable. Someone recently told me that the current limiting factor in the growth of the Internet is the ability of the manufacturers to make multi-mode fiber cable. I have this weird vision where all of the train tracks are

NAS Vendors and NAS features

Do NAS vendors ever actually use their equipment? My guess is no. I'd love to know if the CEO of 3Com and US Robotics actually use ISDN from home and call in to their office using 28.8 modems. They're probably too busy. My sense is that few people at Shiva actually dial in from home. I'm sure the folks at Ascend

Controlling routing

Why not calculate all the routes in one place? These days when "next hop shortest path / reachability" style routing is no longer correct, we need to have a central place to apply policy. The interesting thing about policy is that is has little to no place for dynamic rerouting. Policy is a force for rigidity. It sure seems like the people

Routing email

Most people don't realize it but email can be routed just like network packets. If one publishes their email address widely it doesn't make sense to have to change it when you move your office. That's where email routing comes in. I would guess that large organizations with thousands of people find this a nightmare. It's also something not

Out of band signalling of routing information

I often wonder why the largest ISP's don't using out-of-band signalling for routing information. The dynamics which routing protocols create are fine for small networks but can create real havoc in a large nationwide

Will people get tired of the hype from the 'big 3'? (Cisco, 3Com, Bay)

Have you read all of the recent hype-ware from the 'big 3'? (Cisco, 3Com, Bay) Find anything in there you could actually buy or use? Not me. These companies are all hardware vendors, not software vendors. I wonder sometimes if they need hype to push boxes. What about Microsoft? Don't you get tired of hearing that? I know I do. It reminds me

Is there COBOL in your future?

I read an interesting article (no doubt written by someone at IBM) that shipments of IBM 370 architecture machines has never slowed down (now called S/390). I remember writing PL/1, COBOL and BAL for those giant fossils. I also remember seeing an emulation running on a 486 laptop that ran faster than the original machine. Somehow I'm not

Bridges begot routers begot switches...

So why *did* we just toss out all bridges in favor of routers just to put bridges (switches) back in? Is switching mostly hype? I don't really think switching is all hype, but it does seem like everyone on the planet is making a layer 2 switch. And most are rather

Why can't I control my network?

Have you noticed that SNMP statistics are not very interesting? Me too. I want network events. And only interesting network event need apply. Why don't more servers send SNMP traps? It seems like the only thing which will cause a trap on my network is the T1 going down. Thats like the little red light on my dashboard lighting up when a

ATM - is it just me?

I never understood ATM. I must not be part of the target audience. Now that 100base-T is here, I get it even less. I heard a speaker from the ADSL forum lately who claimed that ADSL would eventually be all ATM. That does not make sense to me. Sometimes I wonder if the phone companies of the world have been tricked into

Novell - wow.

To 100base-T or not 100base-T?

I've been debating moving some servers over to 100base-T. The idea is to put them behind a switch that will clean up the network and aggregate high use servers on a high speed link. Adapter cards are easy to find these days. It's getting hard to buy a card from 3Com which does not support 100Base-T. Switches, however, are a bit more

Two way pagers & PCS

Just in case anyone was wondering, I was stupid and got a Skytel 2-way pager. I lived the dream for six months before I woke up. It never worked right. Let me repeat - It never worked right. The really weird thing is that in Boston it was completely unreliable but on the show floor of Comdex in Las Vegas it worked perfectly for three solid