Lab Notes

Lab Notes

Feds' fashions. Government workers at one computer show got a T-shirt just for being there. At the DefCon hackers conference in Las Vegas last month, attendees played a game called Spot the Fed, in which they identified people they thought were federal employees in an audience of 2,000-plus.

They fingered the first two on the first day of the conference. According to, both feds good-naturedly flashed their badges to collect prizes including 'I Am The Fed'' T-shirts.

'We were briefed on this,'' one told, but he refused to identify his department. 'We were told to go along with it if we were spotted, since it really doesn't matter to us. We're just here to learn anyway, so we can bust some of these guys six months from now.''

Mother of all memory. The price of popping an extra 64M of RAM or a 10G hard drive into a PC these days is unbelievably low. But what about popping memory into a digital camera or a printer? That's not so cheap or easy.

And we're still stuck with stacks of floppy disks, Zip disks and backup tapes. Wouldn't it be great to have one type of memory for everything?

Scientists at the University of Utah have developed a new type of memory called magnetic random access memory, or magram. They think it could replace most of today's memory chips and storage media.

Potentially cheaper than conventional RAM chips and as fast as a PC's microprocessor, magram consists of tiny magnetic rods arranged on a piece of silicon.

Magram is nonvolatile and combines the greatest advantages of current memory chips and magnetic media.

At the moment, there is only an 8-bit magram prototype, but, as always in the computer industry, rapid advancement is certainly possible.

Micromem Technologies Inc. of Toronto, the company behind the project, has posted information about it on the Web, at

Microsoft floats Neptune. A consumer version of a Microsoft Windows operating system based on the NT kernel, code-named Neptune, is undergoing its first internal release at Microsoft Corp.

As is often the case with Microsoft products, many features will be real-world tested through release in a consumer OS before being refined and brought over to a future business version of Windows.

Keep your eye on Neptune, due for release in the second half of 2001. It's likely to affect not only home PCs but also the clients on agency desks.

'Jason Byrne and Michael Cheek

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