Thursday, August 28, 2008
He looked at more than half a billion emails that arrived at one UK ISP over an eight-week period. After ignoring addresses that appear to be out of use, he showed that for those beginning with A 30% of messages are spam. Someone with an address starting with Z gets a smaller proportion - 20%.
The exact reason for the difference is unclear. Clayton thinks it is down to spammers attempting to guess addresses. There are few real addresses that start with Z compared with those that start with A, so guessing them correctly is less likely.
Clayton did not perform statistical tests on the significance of his results. But it is interesting to see that some letters got even more spam than 'A', despite their being fewer addresses beginning with those letters. Those beginning with R, P, S and M all received around 40% spam.
You may remember that, some time ago, I blogged about an interesting little computer curio called the Space Cube. Quite simply, it’s one of the smallest PCs in the world, with each side measuring around 2 inches square. I wrote that it looked cool, ran on a 300MHz processor and that it probably wouldn’t be sold outside of Japan, if at all.
Well, now, we’ve actually gone and got hold of one - the only Space Cube in the UK that’s running Linux, in fact. In the flesh it’s even more impressive than in pictures, inspiring awe and provoking disbelieving reactions across the PC Pro office. It’s actually quite difficult to comprehend just how small the PC is so, for your delectation, we’ve been taking pictures of the Space Cube next to some everyday objects.
So, we’ve established that it’s incredibly, impossibly small. But what’s inside? There’s a surprisingly capable CPU packed away in the tiny chassis with a top clock speed of 300MHz. It’s arrived with us clocked at a slightly more modest 200MHz,but a simple jumper built in to the case enable the processor to be clocked up to either 250MHz or the full 300MHz that it’s capable of.
It’s fair to say that the Space Cube isn’t overloaded with storage space, either. Sixteen megabytes of flash memory is included on-board, and the OS - a version of Red Hat, the popular Linux operating system - runs off a 1GB CompactFlash card that slots into the side of the Space Cube. There’s also 64MB of DDR SDRAM that, admittedly, doesn’t even match up to the lowliest of netbooks - let alone a desktop PC.
The Space Cube’s chassis is, well, a marvel. It’s utterly rock solid and made of metal - we were worried it was going to be a bit of a flimsy plastic prototype - and is clearly able to withstand more than a few knocks up in orbit.
Two sides contain the majority of the ports and sockets that adorn the Cube. A single USB port can easily be used for a hub - instantly adding three or four ports for a keyboard, mouse and more. There’s a VGA output for connecting a monitor, and even a D-SUB RS232 input. And that’s not all. An Ethernet port allows for internet access, and a pair of jacks cater for speakers and headphones - proving that there’s room for a few creature comforts amid the sheer functionality of this remarkable little PC.
There are a couple more unusual ports scattered around the diminutive Space Cube, too. There’s the row of little jumpers that allow for a bit of overclocking - although Crysis may be out of reach - and a small, three-pin serial port. There’s also the all-important CompactFlash slot that allows the OS to run.
Most intriguing, though, is the Space Wire port. It may sound like a mere science fiction fantasy, but this incredibly thin socket is a crucial part of the Space Cube’s armoury. That’s because it’s a type of proprietary interface use by the ESA, NASA and JAXA when the Cube actually goes into space. It’s useful for connecting various sensors and processing units to the Space Cube, as well as the complicated-sounding Downlink Telementary Sub-Systems, which sounds like something more akin to Battlestar Galactica or Star Wars than anything used in real life. It turns out that Space Wire is also used as a common interface for linking together modules and electronics that are often designed in different institutions.
For such a small and low-powered PC, the Space Cube is actually pretty nippy when you’re navigating its own flavour of Linux. Bring up the command line and simply type ‘ls /bin’ to reveal a list of the few dozen functions that are available to use with the Space Cube. Typing ‘xclock’ reveals, well, a clock, and entering ‘xeye’ brings up a pair of comedy googly eyes that follow your cursor around the screen. We also speculate that putting a different, suitably low-power version of Linux on the CompactFlash card would allow for that OS to be used instead of the Red Hat that’s installed here. It’s a green machine, too: when running, the Space Cube drew a miniscule 5W from the mains, putting the 36W draw of the Transtec Senyo 610 to shame.
So, what is the Space Cube actually used for? Well, the Space Cube has been developed to control the various electronics that Space Wire connects to and, as such, manage and manipulate everything that’s going on in an interstellar computer network. Pretty cool stuff, I think you’ll agree.
The Red Hat operating system is able to use many common commands that are normally found on more standard Linux PCs. FTP can be used, as well as editors such as vi. GCC is also installed, so code can be compiled into executable programs - although, obviously, the lack of power available will mean that any applications are reasonably frugal in their power demands. The rpm command is also installed, so rpm packages for other applications can also be installed.
So, would you like a Space Cube? Tough luck, at least for the moment. Outside of Japan - where the Cube has been developed by the Shimafuji Corporation - your best bet is to keep watching the Star Dundee website. It’s an offshoot of the Space Systems Research Group of the University of Dundee. They’re planning to sell the Space Cube once a few technical issues are ironed out and, unfortunately, it’ll be a bit more expensive than the price we found before - around $325. Instead, this remarkable PC will probably be going for around £1,500.
Still, we can see amateur robotics and rocket clubs possibly being interested - the open-ended Linux installed here will no doubt prove versatile and able to be used for a variety of suitably scientific purposes.
While we won’t be sending the Cube into space any time soon - there’s certainly not enough junk in the Labs to put together a rocket, at least yet - we’re still absolutely blown away by the tiniest PC we’ve ever seen. It’s pure science fiction blended with real life: a PC that you could practically fit on a key ring that’s been designed to go into space and make rockets work. It’s tiny, brilliant, and astounding, and we’re huge fans.
Hiroko Yoda says she made several attempts to sign up to the popular social networking site but her applications were always met with an error message.
The Japanese author suspected that her distinctive surname – which she shares with the wise, green Jedi Master of the Star Wars film series – may be at the root of her problem.
Her suspicions were confirmed when her attempts to sign up using other anglicised versions of her surname, including Youda and Yohda, proved successful.
After contacting Facebook she claims she was told that Yoda had been placed on a name blacklist because so many members pretended to be the fictional three-fingered seer. The website only allows people to join under their real names.
“Facebook blocks the registration of a number of names that are frequently abused on the site,” the website’s message read.
“The name ‘Yoda’, also being the name of a popular Star Wars character, is on this list of blocked names.”
Under Facebook’s terms and conditions, users must agree not to “impersonate any person or entity, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent yourself”.
The rules also dictate that members must not “register for a User account on behalf of an individual other than yourself”.
Facebook has now relented and allowed Hiroko Yoda to set up a profile on the site.
Yoda is a fairly common surname in Japan, and a search of Facebook reveals dozens of apparently genuine members with the name.
Facebook had not responded with a comment at the time of publication.
For Apple, these are the best of times and the worst of times.
The Cupertino, Calif., consumer electronics company is on a tear like never before. It’s winning market share from Microsoft, enough to persuade the software giant to embark on a costly ad campaign that’s being described as a belated response to Apple’s Vista-baiting Get-a-Mac ads. Apple stock has outpaced Google’s, and in the space of a year the iPhone has turned the telecommunications industry in a knot trying to find a way to respond.
But there have also been dramatic stumbles. A botched launch of MobileMe — the company’s new data-syncing service — has led Apple to make repeated offers of free services to frustrated customers. And there have been teething problems for its generally well-received 3G iPhone, including flaky reception and weak battery life. Last week, the company apparently offered a software patch for a festering Achilles’ heel that caused repeated freezes in the Macbook Air, more than seven months after customers began complaining about the problem.
That in turn has engendered a spate of coverage suggesting that somehow Apple’s shine is fading, that somehow the once-invincible computer maker has suddenly developed a new-found talent for writing shoddy code. It is an interesting narrative, but unfortunately it doesn’t fit the facts.
The flaw in the “Apple is not living up to some ideal of technology perfection” theme is that it neglects history.
Like Microsoft and every other major software and hardware maker, Apple has had its share of blunders going all the way back to the days when it struggled to remain the dominant PC maker as the business PC first appeared on the horizon.
For example, the story of the failure of the Apple III is a classic. Introduced more than a year before the I.B.M. PC in 1980, the III was intended for the new class of business users who were clamoring to use PCs for word processing, spreadsheets and databases in the office. Apple already had a leg up in business world with VisiCalc, the de facto standard in spreadsheets.
Unfortunately, the III turned out to be a manufacturing calamity, and at one point Apple issued a technical note suggesting that customers could make the machine work by simply dropping it three inches onto a desktop in order to re-seat chips that would come loose. There were other problems as well: a clock circuit that would fail and a PC board that had been incorrectly designed.
In all likelihood, a successful Apple III (there were some great aspects to the machine, which featured a new operating system called Apple SOS, or Sophisticated Operating System) would have redrawn the history of the PC industry. It would have made it much harder for I.B.M. to push its way into the business world with the first I.B.M. PC.
Things weren’t perfect in the Macintosh era, either. Loyal Macintosh users still cringe at the mention of the System 6 version of the Macintosh OS. Introduced in 1988, it was incompatible with many existing Macintosh software programs and came with a number of troublesome bugs.
Who can forget the Apple Newton’s inability to recognize handwriting? It took months of struggle by the system’s designers — after the first-generation Newton was released — to achieve passable handwriting recognition performance. By then, the P.D.A.’s brand had been irreparably damaged, as had the reputation of its champion, Apple’s then-chief executive, John Sculley.
It was Apple’s failure to complete its ambitious “Copland” operating system in the 1990s that led to a series of events that brought Steven Jobs back to Apple, along with his Nextstep operating system, developed during his exile from Apple that began in 1986.
Apple is many things — but it isn’t any more likely to create technically perfect products than its competitors.