Particle Debris (Week ending Nov 21)

Apple has clearly been struggling with how to manage the demands of Hollywood and the networks on the handling of high definition (HD) content, DRM, within iTunes, their current hardware and new hardware. It wasn't hard to see all this coming, especially when one looks at how the Apple TV works.

However, with the new MacBooks and DisplayPort, it's fairly clear that, in general, HD content is going to be restricted to paired devices that respect HDCP, or its follow-on, DPCP.
(High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection and Display Port Content Protection)

The basic issue is that, in general, high definition content in iTunes has to be protected from pilfering. To do that, a source (Mac + iTunes) and a display must handshake, then create an encrypted connection. The Apple TV does that via the HDMI physical connector and protocol plus HDCP.

On an older Mac, however, with just DVI out, there is no way to support the modern DPCP protection used with DisplayPort or the HDCP used with HDMI. As a result, Apple is going to have to gingerly move into these protected pairings. That's why the new MacBooks were also announced with a companion display that also has DisplayPort.

Until this product transition is complete in Apple's hardware lineup, customers with the older DVI-based displays are going to have headaches. Whether Apple can or will make an concessions or adjustments is not clear at this point.

However, I have noticed things are still in transition with respect to HD TV shows. For example, season one of Eli Stone (ABC) was previously available for purchase in HD for $2.99 per episode. Now, it can only be streamed. On the other hand, NCIS (CBS) episodes can still be purchased in HD and played on a five year old PowerMac G5.
It all depends on the network policy.

For movies, however, there is good consistency. You are going to need a pair of DRM compliant devices, like the Apple TV and a modern HDTV with HDCP to display HD movies. Once Apple has its customer base moved over to Macs and displays with DisplayPort, then we'll start to see the streaming or even the purchase of HD movies.

It's that simple, whether we like it or not.

On to the debris of the week. There was an alarming story at BusinessWeek about how NASA networks and computers have been compromised by, allegedly, Chinese and Russian hackers who have stolen information about rocket engine design, the operation of the Space Shuttle and satellites. One attack involved taking control of a U.S. satellite and pointing its sensors at the sun to kill it.

There was never any mention of the OSes involved, but I know from my own experience that one of the incidents cited was directly due to the use of Windows. I could write a lot more, but it'll be sufficient for you to read the BusinessWeek article and keep in mind how NASA, for many years, worked hard to eradicate Macs from its networks. Since 2003, things have gotten a lot better, but NASA still has a Windows-centric mentality in many places, especially Houston.

On Wednesday, NVIDIA announced a supercomputing-class GPU, the Tesla C1060 card priced at US$1,699 which is capable of four TF (teraflops). Computers from Dell, Lenovo, Asus, Western Scientific, "Tesla Personal Supercomputers," can be had with the card for under US$10,000. There has been no announcement from Apple that I know of about support for this fabulous GPU.

Also on Wednesday, we learned that the OpenCL standard has been approved in just six months, just in time for Snow Leopard. This is a technology that allows applications to utilize the GPU for ordinary computing, issue threads, and so on, just as if it were another core. The open standardis supported by 3DLabs, AMD, NVIDIA, Intel, ARM, Freescale, Qualcomm and Apple. Microsoft, however, is not a participant, but will be going its own way with Direct11 X.

On Thursday, ExtremeTech had a neat article about how VISA is testing a new credit card with a built-in computer, keypad, and one-time password algorithm. If the card can survive a guyÕs wallet, itÕll be a welcome security improvement. A one-time password is generated for each sales and combined with a user PIN. That fulfills the security requirement of 1) Something you have, 2) Something you know, and a randomly generated password.

On Friday, The New York Times posted a fascinating article about how Netflix has invited the community to improve on its algorithm for suggesting movies to customers. A database with no personal information can be downloaded, and anyone who has the mathematical experience can try to improve on the algorithm that predicts what a given customer will like based on the the ratings of previous movies. Its a great read and further suggests how active Netflix is aggressively developing its business.

Finally, those who have unlocked their iPhone 2G should note that the iPhone Dev Team, while confident they can deal with the iPhone 2.2 update, warns users not to install the update until they have a compliant pwnage tool 2.2.