Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

Power trip

Hardware, Technology

Over the past several weeks we have had multiple power outages (long, short, brown, buzzing…). Partly due to recent storms, but mostly due to major work being done on local distribution lines. Some of my systems are in the clouds where industrial-grade power management is in place. (I hope.) My personal servers and dev/test systems are on-site and are subject to the vagaries of suburban power services. While “backup, backup, backup” is the mantra that ensures I won’t lose much, recovering from system corruption can be time-consuming.

Thankfully I also have an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) parked below the server shelving. Over the past month (and several outages) I have been pushed to refine and improve how the environment deals [click title to read more…]


Hardware, Networking

The other day I noticed my laptop’s CPU widget was showing near 100% usage, but Task Manager was showing only 3%, and applications were crawling. I did the usual incantations to no avail. Safe Mode with everything off seemed OK, and a solid two days of virus scanning revealed nothing (as I would hope, given the safeguards in place). Driver updates led me eventually to a BIOS update. No change. SysInternals revealed nothing. Then Windows decided it was time to do its own updates. More delay.

Everything was running slow, including networking, which seemed to be a problem even when in Safe Mode. Connecting a second laptop into the gigabit switch revealed the same network bottleneck. “Aha!”, I thought, “the [click title to read more…]

Sneak peek

Hardware, Security

In the past few days the tech community has gone into a panic over a discovery that computers have been vulnerable to a specific kind of attack for over 20 years. Despite being present for a very long time, it would seem that nobody has exploited the vulnerability. The details are complicated, but let’s consider a part of their discovery in more simple terms:

The problem is in the processor (CPU), the thing that does calculations using information in the computer’s main memory (RAM). Decades ago, CPU designers from companies like Intel, AMD and others, decided that they could speed up a computer if they could get it to do some calculations ahead of time, even if the results of [click title to read more…]

Bleeding hearts

Hardware, Networking, Protocols & Specs, Security, Web

It’s the first weekend after the announcement of CVE-2014-0160, aka “Heartbleed” and if you were to believe even a small fraction of what’s been written about it you’d think the world had come to an end. There’s a lot of nonsense. A lot of dumbed-down explanations seem to add more confusion (Randall Munroe’s angle is a notable exception). The detailed investigations will be read by many, but only understood properly by those who already understand.

As a consequence of this bug I’ve been particularly busy with many of the systems around the world in which I have a role (always behind the scenes). All is a bit quieter now, so I’ve had a chance to peruse what has been written, [click title to read more…]

Cardboard computer

Hardware, Technology

More than 30 years ago, when the revolution of personal computing was just beginning, I was one of many young people who knew what they wanted but found it just a little bit beyond grasp. Sometimes the challenge was availability, with many of the early PCs only available in certain models, in certain markets. Sometimes the mail order would only deliver to certain places. Often the barrier was simply the price, despite the efforts of Sir Clive. For me, DIY was without doubt the only option, as ready-made PCs were far too expensive. And so it was that I found myself spending most of my time with circuit designs, rough program outlines and plenty of cardboard mock-ups of the cases [click title to read more…]