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The Brinks of Insanity

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Tuesday, July 23, 2002 :::
Okay, so I'm still working on the thing I mentioned almost a month ago, but I thought I should post again anyway. Something came up—something big and worth mentioning. It has to do with your (and my) digital rights. It's been in the works for quite a while now, but large corporations have been working on a new type of computer which will be supposedly totally secure. I say supposedly because this effort is being headed up by none other than Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Compaq, and Hewlett-Packard. Hmm... suspicious? Maybe...

So what is this thing? Well, it's called TCPA, which stands for Trusted Computing Platform Alliance. There is a very good FAQ on it written by Ross Anderson that I recommend you read. Really, go read it. Also, if you have time, read this Salon article. I'll wait here.

Read it yet? I hope so because I'll be referencing Mr. Anderson's FAQ as if you read it. So we're basically at the verge of having the Fritz chip and Palladium on the market in a few years. Scary, huh? Does it sort of remind you of Big Brother from 1984? Well, if you want my opinion, data cannot be secure because all the access keys to Palladium and TCPA would be held by Microsoft and Intel, and they'll be able to share those keys with whomever they feel like (which would probably be their business partners). Should they give access to your computer to their associates, they'll open up a whole new world of invasive advertising! And they said that Palladium would stop virii and spam... not likely! More disturbing, though, would be allowing these companies access to our military secrets, since they would no doubt sit atop the heirarchy of "trusted" users. No one will be safe from Microsoft. To top things off, there's talk of making TCPA data incompatible with non-TCPA data, which would truly eliminate secure data transfer because no data will transfered at all!

Now imagine that you're dozing off with your computer on, when suddenly you receive a message from Disney telling you that you will buy their next movie to be viewed on your computer unless you explicitly say that you don't want it. Now, being asleep, you wouldn't really be able to do that. So you end up paying for something you don't want; you end up buying it unknowingly. Let's say now that you want to send an email to warn your friends about it, but your administrator (probably Microsoft) deems your email something that should not be passed on and deletes it remotely. Your friend never receives the email, and the only person who reads it is a Microsoft employee. How wonderful. And let's not forget about people with remote access to your computer who might just feel like being asses! They can do anything they want to your computer and you won't be able to do anything about it. Meanwhile, the European economy takes a nose-dive because of the ousting of Smartcard, sending our economy deeper into recession. There is no safety in migrating to open-source operating systems either, as the Fritz chip will be built into your motherboard or even your processor. You can use whatever operating system you want; TCPA will still get you. So what do you do?

You boycott. Luckily for us, TCPA might not be passed through Congress and we may never have to worry about it. If it does though, the first TCPA-enabled systems will require that they be purchased by a hefty number of consumers before TCPA can actually take-off. I have no doubt that Microsoft will probably package some features with its TCPA systems that seem enticing, but I still say that resistance is the answer. If TCPA has weak market saturation in its first few years, then it may become a forgotten concept, which we'll no longer have to worry about.

In other news, ATi has finally created a video card worthy of being dubbed a GeForce killer. The R300 chipset that will be present in ATi's 9000 series of videocards will use AGP 8X, eight pipelines, DDR-II memory, and DirectX 9.0 support. In benchmark tests, the 9700 ran at a clock speed of 325 MHz and outperformed Nvidia's GeForce 4 4600 Ti (which is currently the fastest consumer video card) dramatically in almost every test. The 9700 will be released in about a month while Nvidia's next generation video card, the NV30, won't be available until 2003. I would still keep my eye on 3dlabs because it is about to announce its own line of next-generation graphics cards. The Wildcat III 6210 is still the king.

As for other sci-tech news, I'll probably talk about them in my next post, since this one is running long. The next one will probably be about VW's new prototype car, which gets 235 mpg and DNA research that shows that eating more might shorten your life. Until then, though, have a nice day! Bye!

::: posted by Septiman at 12:41:00 AM

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