Stories by Russell Kay

A Flash Memory primer: the basics explained

Flash memory is inside your smartphone, GPS, MP3 player, digital camera, PC and the USB drive on your key chain. Solid-state drives (SSD) using flash memory are replacing hard drives in netbooks and PCs and even some server installations. Needing no batteries or other power to retain data, flash is convenient and relatively foolproof.

High-Density Storage

The first storage media -- paper tape and punched cards -- were inefficient, slow and bulky. These gave way to magnetic storage: core memory, drums and, finally, hard drives. For backup, there were removable media: magnetic tape reels and cartridges, floppy disks and removable hard drives. Then optics (CD-ROM and DVD drives) supplanted magnetism for archival uses. Today's computers need to store more data than ever. The most recent storage generation replaces moving parts with solid-state electronics.

QuickStudy: Identity-based encryption

Public-key cryptography offers very strong protection for electronic communications. Much of its strength comes from the use of paired keys, which are separate (but mathematically related) codes that encrypt and decrypt a message; one key is public and one is known only to the recipient.

QuickStudy: Global positioning systems

Like many people, I've come to take for granted the availability of navigation systems in cars and handheld devices based on the Global Positioning System. But it was all abstract until I recently acquired a modern GPS myself. My reaction reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

QuickStudy: Storage virtualization

Managing disk storage was once simple: If we needed more space, we got a bigger disk drive. But data storage needs grew, so we started adding multiple disk drives. Finding and managing these became harder and took more time, so we developed RAID, network-attached storage and storage-area networks. Still, managing and maintaining thousands of disk drives became an ever more onerous task.

QuickStudy: Transactional Memory

With the increasing use of multicore CPUs in computers, programmers have to learn new techniques for parallel processing. One very promising approach is transactional memory.

QuickStudy: Cloud computing

Ask any five IT specialists what cloud computing is, and you're likely to get five different answers. That's partly because cloud computing is merely the latest, broadest development in a trend that's been growing for years.

A quick study: Online Social Networks

Online social networks are Web sites that enable people to create a network of connections to other individuals. Through the Internet communities that make up social networks, people can contact others they would like to know for personal or professional reasons but whom they might otherwise be unlikely to meet.

Explainer: Ruby on rails

The programming language Ruby has been around since 1993. Initially popular in Japan, its use has been growing and widening. Ruby got a big boost in 2004 with the release of a new programming environment called Rails that was built around Ruby. Before discussing Rails, let's first examine Ruby and see what makes it different from other languages.


Definition: Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions is the fundamental Internet standard for sending multimedia e-mail (contain, for example, audio, video and/or graphics) and messages in non ASCII character sets. Also used by Web browsers, MIME specifies what types of media a message contains and the form in which it has been encoded.

QuickStudy: Struts

In his blog, Craig McClanahan recounts how, when he joined Sun Microsystems in 2000, he continued to support the development of an open-source application project. As part of that effort, he needed to take a U.S.-centric application and produce it in four languages and make it available to European users on the Web and through other channels.

Computer forensics

Computer forensics is the application of specialized investigative and analytic techniques to identify, collect, examine and preserve data from computer systems or networks so that it may serve as evidence in a court of law. More narrowly, the term applies to the process of finding digital evidence after a computer security incident has occurred.