Friday, September 29, 2006

Ethernet pulls into double diamond lane


Hold on to your computer mice. A new Ethernet high-speed study group kicked off this month. No targets or goals have been set yet but the expectation this IEEE group will have to wrestle with is whether it can define a spec for 100Gigs. Yowsa!

The group kicks off the same month the IEEE finally ratified a standard for 10Gbit Ethernet over copper. Some engineers are just recovering from the Herculean efforts that required including a major shift in cabling, signaling and on and on.

Hats off to John D’Ambrosia (pictured), the energetic and omnipresent IEEE standards maven from backplane Ethernet who was elected to chair the new group. He’ll need all the energy and mellow spirit he can muster to ride this wave.

“Everything is on the table at this point, and we do not see this as the last of the high speed Ethernet study groups” D’Ambrosia told me in an interview for a story you can find Monday at eet.com by searching for 100G.

Next big meeting is November in Dallas. Stay tuned! --rbm

Juicy tidbits from the data center

Hats off to StorageMojo’s Robin Harris for a comprehensive report with two juicy bits from last week’s Data Center Ventures conference by Dow Jones. The blog put Woven Systems on my radar screen, an early stage startup aiming to create Ethernet switches that would compete with Infiniband in latency. The other bit is rumor mill fodder that David Yen may have one foot out the door at Sun. Harris speculates Yen may not be happy trying to turn around an underperforming storage division at the still-troubled computer company. I would observe, however, David has been a loyal longtime exec that has done great things with the company’s chip and systems groups to date. –rbm

Thursday, September 28, 2006

How cozy will Emulex and Intel get?


The duo shared the job of designing a family of integrated storage controllers announced Wednesday for SAS, SATA and Fibre Channel. Emulex provided the FC software and know how and Intel provided its XScale cores, SAS and SATA capability.

My question now is, could this lead to a deeper union? Before Paul Otellini goes to the mic Oct. 17 for a quarterly earnings call to give the final report on the Intel reorg might we see the Intel storage group sold to Emulex or the Fibre Channel company bought by the X86 giant? Whadaya think? --rbm

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Empire strikes back

Intel has fired a shot back at AMD in the battle for the hearts and minds of third-party chip makers and OEMs.

News of proposed extensions to PCI Express called Geneseo are technically quite different that what AMD is doing with coherent HyperTransport (cHT). But functionally, they are a shot to AMD's heart.

Both efforts aim to link a coherent CPU with co-processors such as future high-end graphics chips and acclerators for XML, security and networking. But Geneseo is by no means a coherent version of Express. At best it will only provide a locking scheme and coherency hints to smooth performance. It also proposes fine grained power management support.

So what's new? AMD tries to do something the right way, and Intel tries to steal the wind from their sails with "good enough" technology. --rbm

Fighting the good fight in signal integrity

Best wishes to Todd Westerhoff, a high speed design group manager at Cisco for the past six years.Todd is moving over to the vendor side where he will continue to fight today’s signal integrity battles. As a manager at SiSoft Todd will ”help drive the future direction of their Quantum-SI product line,” he said in an email.

I gave Todd a call to wish him well and dig under the surface a bit more. Todd has been a leading light in the IBIS Advanced Tech Modeling group trying to set a standard for SI modeling with chip vendors. The group has a proposal from Cadence to use some new and proprietary technology and another proposal from Mentor to use Verilog-AMS.

”We are struggling with which semiconductor vendors support which approach and right now we don’t have any consensus,” Todd said.

Todd said another big problem in SI simulation today is serial links faster than 3Gbit/s have no open eye to measure. SiSoft has a product in the works to handle that issue, but they are not ready to discuss it yet. Stay tuned!

The other big SI issue today is in parallel link design where engineers need to conduct timing, SI and power analysis in same environment to evaluate interconnect delays at a given speed and thus make choices on physical design. What’s more, those issues have to be examined holistically for the chip die, package and board. And the issues are only getting worse as lower voltage chips emerge that naturally tolerate less noise and are thus harder to regulate in terms of power.

“Part of what I want to do [at SiSoft] is help make that clear,” Todd said,

Todd did cry foul on posters to my Sept. 8 blog who said full board-level SI simulation tools are too expensive with costs ranging from $150-200,000 per seat. Only one vendor charges anything near that range, and there are other vendors who charge from $70-150k for high-speed serial tools and $20-60 for parallel link tools, so shop around, he says.

Good luck, Todd, and stay in touch!--rbm

Monday, September 25, 2006

USB gets unwired in San Fran


This week’s Intel Developer Forum will be something of a coming out party for wireless USB with lots of demos of working prototype systems and a ready-to-go testing and logo program.

I may be breaking embargo by about 20 minutes here, but today (Tuesday, Sept. 26), the USB Implementers Forum will announced the availability of the Certified Wireless USB Compliance and Certification Program with test specs and procedures available online. Initially, Intel will host testing at one of its labs. Later, the group will announce plans for compliance workshops for 2007.

NXP, formerly Philips Semi, jumped the gun a bit, announcing a “Certified Wireless USB” controller Sept. 18. It will show at IDF today a prototype MP3 player using the controller as well as “some other [interesting] UWB stuff,” according to a comment a spokesman posted to my Sept. 14 blog.

Likewise, Alereon will demo tonight a Kodak camera transferring photos to a PC its wireless USB chip. Wonder what chip the camera uses and whether it’s a real product? I remember the Kodak techies sniffing around the Bluetooth pavilion at Comdex (anybody recall Comdex?) about five years ago, complaining that a Mbit was just not enough bandwidth for them.

In addition, WiQuest Communications today announces the availability of Windows Vista drivers in addiiton to its XP drivers for its UWB chips. So software, hardware and standards tests all appear to be ready to go with each company ready with some piece of the puzzle.

With HP, Dell and others gearing up for wireless USB, Freescale will have a hard time finding sockets for its incompatible version of ultrawideband. Who will want a device that uses the latest fast wireless link, but won’t work with their computer? –rbm

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Converging on the converged network


Several bits of news coming down today (Monday, Sept. 25) all point to the ongoing effort to craft a Swiss Army Knife of data center networking. I’ll update this posting with links to full stories on each item as soon as they become available on eetimes.com.

The Storage Bridge Bay alliance has released its 1.0 spec and announced IBM and Network Appliance have signed on. The latter partially answers one blogger’s criticism back in March when SBB debuted that the effort only has partners Dell and EMC driving it.

What’s key here is the Dell/EMC duo and their new partners have essentially put out to the industry a core spec for a mainstream modular storage array that can be adapted to many uses. That will lower OEM costs and time-to-market while providing some added ease of use. Time will tell by how much that will raise the heat on the big competitors still doing their own thing—Hewlett-Packard and Hitachi Data Systems.

And there’s plenty more shoes to fall. As I said in postings earlier this month both IBM and NEC have new proprietary products for modular storage arrays in the works.

Separately the drive to merge networking, clustering and storage on to Ethernet takes three small steps forward today. HP announced it will use the 10Gbit chip from NetXen. Chelsio rolled out its third-generation architecture and NetEffect said it will show at the Intel Developer Forum this week its chip running the Open Fabric Alliance software for accelerated Ethernet.

This accelerated Ethernet movement has needed some forward progress after a few years of slogging out specs and shifting from Gbit to 10Gbit as the market target. As Dwight Barron, an HP server technologist told me, 2007 will be the year when the rubber finally meets the road on converged Ethernet.

It is not without competition. Today the Infiniband Trade Association announces it is supporting iSCSI. IB is already getting significant traction in clustering, and now the push is on in storage. Ethernet backers say their 10Gbit parts will mow over reigning Fibre Channel which is at 4Gbit, and IB says look out for its 20Gbit parts just starting to hit the market. Their Achilles’ heel: The IB software is still a long way from being as mature as that of the competing interconnects.

The lesson? Convergence in an open market is a messy free-for-all. --rbm

ASI is dead, long live Express!

That’s the message from PLX Technology which rolls out a 48-lane PCI Express switch today (Monday, Sept.25), its new top-of-the-line product aimed at high-end servers, graphics cards and embedded systems where Express is gaining traction.


In the wake of several companies pulling the plug on Advanced Switching Interconnect products and the demise of StarGen, the last ASI silicon provider, top comms and embedded OEMs are now migrating from PCI to Express, said Akber Kazmi, a senior marketing manager with PLX.

“The major comms OEMs have no choice but to move to Express now,” Kazmi said.

So when if ever will we hear an official announcement of the demise of ASI? The ASI and StarGen Web sites are still mum, and the former ASI chair is not returning my calls. They were once so eager to talk. --rbm

Thursday, September 21, 2006

AMD clarifies what it’s NOT doing

Despite published reports based on a vague press release, Advanced Micro Devices is not making its Opteron socket open source and is not changing the licensing terms of its cache coherent version of HyperTransport.

Here’s what’s really happening, according to Doug O’Flaherty who manages the Torrenza project at AMD: AMD is close to finalizing the specification for its next-generation Opteron socket, expected to be used for chips that ship in the second half of 2007. The company has been collaborating with OEMs and partners under non-disclosure agreement on the socket design more early than usual in the design cycle, AMD claims.

The socket spec will be available when it is completed, just as AMD makes its existing socket data available for motherboard and other companies who need to design products for it. However AMD’s cache coherent version of HyperTransport will still remain proprietary, available to partners via licensing and financial terms the company has not disclosed. Between five to 20 companies have licensed the protocol so far, O’Flaherty said.

At this point, AMD is not willing to disclose any more information about what’s new in its 2007 Opteron socket or who is doing what with its cache coherent protocol. As usual in the business media, AMD has tried to generate excitement without providing much detail. --rbm

AMD hints at big plans for HyperTransport

This morning’s release from Advanced Micro Devices about licensing its cache coherent version of HyperTransport—now called Torrenza --is full of wishy-washy marketing blather and raises more questions than it answers. It appears AMD will “open source” the spec for a future version of the Opteron CPU socket as one step to licensing Torrenza.

In my Sept. 9 post below I read between the lines of IBM’s Roadrunner announcement to see Big Blue must be licensing Torrenza. AMD has been working on the technical and business details of how to do that since it announced in June its intention to open up the interconnect for third-party accelerators that plug directly into its CPU.

Today’s AMD press release sheds little light on that effort. It says Cray, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, HP, IBM, Dell and Sun Microsystems “intend to design products” for, or at least “plan to evaluate” Torrenza. Comments from CTOs of those companies followed but they were all non-specific.

The release was bursting with marketing blather about the Torrenza Innovation Socket and the Open Innovation Program. The release implied OEMs will actually be able to contribute to defining a Torrenza socket, but provided no hard details on who can get what when on what terms. I’m seeking an interview to find out exactly what is happening so I can report it in specific English. Stay tuned.

Adding to the fog, a Wall Streeter’s report in my email box says “AMD's CEO Hector Ruiz [said] yesterday at a dinner in San Francisco…Apple may eventually use AMD processors in its products ‘at some point in the future’…Hector did not suggest that there were any talks currently between the companies.” Thanks for clearing that up! --rbm

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A powerful interface


Less than 12 hours after I gave up finding any interesting interface news on the Web, this pops up in my mail box: the USB AA NiMH rechargeable battery. Whoda thunk it?

I had to send off an email to Jim Pappas at Intel right away to make sure one of the Daddys of USB saw this great grandchild. Jim's response: "I can guarantee that this was not one of the original usage models that we discussed!"

OK, it does take a whopping five hours to charge and costs more than US$20 a pair, but the idea is cool and hopefully the specs will improve over time.

There are AAA, 9V and cellphone versions on the way. Hats off to the innovative inventor, Moixa Energy Ltd. --rbm

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Monday, Monday!

OK, campers not much news in the interface world today. That and a few glitches in the technical and emotional infrastructure here at the EE Times Campbell office made for this late, late post tonight.

Keep the faith. There’s a ton of embargoed news coming down the pike for Monday, Sept. 25. You will hear about cluster-heads edging into storage networks, storage denizens expanding into Ethernet-land, new kinds of interface-agnostic storage boxes and more. It’s going to be a day-and-a-half.

To get ready, you might want to cruise over to the Network Systems Designline site and take in their tutorial on storage networking, it's their most read article at the moment. It was written by James Long, a storage networking systems engineer for Cisco Systems, Inc., who penned a book on the subject available from Cisco Press.

And make sure to stop by early on Monday when I’ll be serving up a hearty breakfast of interface news. Of course, I'll be here Wednesday-Friday too, posting and looking for your comments.--rbm

Monday, September 18, 2006

Light in the tunnel


Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and Intel Corp. today showed a little more light at the end of today’s copper tunnel leading to a future of optical chip-to-chip interconnects.

Researchers in the optoelectronics research lab of John Bowers (pictured), a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCSB, demonstrated what they called the world’s first electrically powered hybrid silicon laser made from a combination of indium phosphide to generate light and silicon to route it.

The demo pointed the way to creating a low-cost light source on silicon, one of the last big obstacles to creating affordable, fast optical links between chips. Though commercial products are still years away, ultimately hundreds of such links could be put on a single die.

“This could bring low-cost, terabit-level optical ‘data pipes’ inside future computers and help make possible a new era of high-performance computing applications," said Mario Paniccia, director of Intel’s Photonics Technology Lab that described the work on the company’s Web site.

"Silicon Photonics is a critical part of tera-scale computing as we need the ability to move massive amounts of data on and off these very high performance chips,” said Justin Rattner, Intel's chief technology officer in a prepared statement.--rbm

Friday, September 15, 2006

IBMers have their say


HPCwire has two good articles posted today where IBMers speak out on big systems interconnect issues.

There’s a good interview with David Turek (left) who talks about the Cell/Opteron Roadrunner supercomputer the company announced recently (see my Sept 9 post below). They didn’t ask Dave about IBM’s plans to use coherent HyperTransport in the system, which I think is one of the key details yet to emerge. And Dave said it was too early to discuss the systems software environment, though ironically he took a big swipe at Cray’s heterogeneous HPCS Phase III system as vaporware.

In another posting, Renato Recio (right), an I/O guru at IBM, strikes back at an earlier HPCwire paper from Myricom that took RDMA to task. As I’ve said before (see posting from Aug. 28) I think Ethernet with RDMA has a great opportunity to be a mainstream data center interconnect. What I wonder is why they seem to be taking so long to get market traction.

Know about Roadrunner’s use of coherent HyperTransport? Got some hot insight on the snags with RDMA? Or some skinny on some other interconnect issue? Take a minute to post a comment or drop me an email at rbmerrit@cmp.com. -rbm

Thursday, September 14, 2006

In-yer-faces at IDF


OK, I am gearing up for the Fall 2006 Intel Developer Forum and wonder what news awaits and what burning questions need to be asked, especially in the interface world. I hope to finish a preview story for the conference by Wednesday, Sept. 20. So please, dear posters, chime in with your insights and inquiries.

I know there will be a demo of a quad core processor already reviewed over at Tom’s Hardware.

I also heard there will be a new Intel notebook platform called Montevallo (apparently named after the small town in Alamaba pictured above) showing integrated DVB-H for mobile broadcast video. Some “storage news” is in the works, but I am still trying to find out exactly what it is.

That’s it folks…bits and pieces. Help me fill in the blanks.

Those more inclined to drop me a line can find me at rbmerrit@cmp.com
--rbm

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

NEC leverages crossbar for modular storage array

NEC is developing a hard-disk storage array that will be able to scale from the company’s current entry-level product with about 15 drives to its largest system with more than 1,200 and beyond. The new array will ship sometime in 2007. It is based on a proprietary crossbar interconnect that has its heritage in NEC’s telecom products.

A fully configured array could have as many as 3,000 drives and a Terabyte of cache and would likely be designed for Fibre Channel based storage area networks. The NEC plan is part of a broader trend to create more modular and expandable storage arrays.

Earlier this month, IBM tipped word that it will ship a product this fall roughly based on its Ice Cube R&D project that aimed to build a 32Tbyte array out of modular “bricks” consisting of 12 2.5-inch hard drives in a novel interconnect scheme. See my Ice Cube post below.

Separately, a group of computer and storage vendors announced in March they are developing standards for a modular storage chassis that could host a wide range of storage cards with different interfaces. The Storage Bay Bridge Working Group includes Dell, EMC, Intel and LSI Logic among others.

Although NEC was not listed among the founding members of the group, Gamaly said the Japanese giant is making systems based on the SBB specs that both it and EMC Corp. will sell.--rbm

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

An interface with heart


“One of the biggest things to happen in medicine in the next 20 years will be learning how to remotely monitor patients with chronic diseases. Management of heart failure patients is one of the biggest consumers of today’s health care dollars,” said Stephen Oesterle, a cardiologist and senior vice president for medicine and technology at Medtronic.

So engineers and doctors are testing a pulmonary pressure sensor that lives in an outflow ventricle and communicates wirelessly to a laptop or PC linked to a remote hospital. Medtronic has such a system, called Chronicle, now in regulatory trials and hopes to release it as a product in 2007.

Once such a heart monitor is perfected, engineers could build variations of it to monitor severe forms of diabetes, hypertension and neurological disorders, said Oesterle, speaking to a small handful of us in gathered at an end-of-the-day session at the Health Care Ventures conference in Redwood City today.

Making the wireless link work is not a big problem, Oesterle said. The Medical Implant Communications Service standard set back in 1999 provides the spectrum and design guidance needed.

The bigger issues are making that link secure and free from interference. Those issues are being worked out by the Continua Health Alliance, an ad hoc group of medical and electronics companies formed about a year ago.

“The least of our worries is MICS. The problem is security. You don’t want an implant reprogrammed by a microwave oven or a neighbor who’s angry,” said Oesterle. --rbm

Monday, September 11, 2006

Imagine this: a 'frig built out of ice cubes


IBM Corp. has confirmed to me will launch this fall a product based on its Ice Cube R&D project. Ice Cube does for today’s refrigerator-sized hard disk drive arrays what server blades do for servers—it breaks them into modules to make it easy for users to build arrays of any size they need.

Specifically, Ice Cube envisioned a 32Tbyte array based on 300 hard disk modules. Each module consisted of 12 2.5-inch hard drives, managed by four disk controllers which are tied to a microprocessor and a standard six-port Ethernet switch. Future versions were expected to migrate to lower latency, higher throughput Infiniband switches.

Each switch is linked to six couplers, one on each side of the brick, which can communicate with adjoining bricks at rates up to 10Gbits/second. The couplers are essentially capacitive plates that will communicate wirelessly over a 3.125 GHz frequency using an alternative current. The architecture gives each module an effective throughput of 60Gbits/second.

My question, dear comment posters, is what interconnects should these new-fangled array modules use? Extra points for anyone who has specs on IBM’s upcoming product, or similar ones that may be in the works from competitors such as EMC. --rbm

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Beep-beep: IBM licenses coherent HyperTransport?


Whoa, I missed a big newsbyte last week: IBM announced it will make a petaflops-class supercomputer called Roadrunner using a combination of 16,000 of its Cell (i.e. Sony PlayStation3) processors and 16,000 AMD Opterons.

For IBM’s spin see http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/20210.wss

I have yet to talk to the IBMers involved (watch this space), but the press release quotes an AMD exec as saying that "this is an excellent demonstration of Torrenza in action.”

The implication is IBM is licensing the coherent version of HyperTransport (aka Torrenza) which AMD has only recently said it would make available. Last I looked AMD hadn’t even worked out all the technical details and legal terms. Another interesting bit is the system will apparently use HT over a backplane or cable because the release says IBM will build the system from its off-the-shelf Opteron and Cell server systems. That’s a first as far as I know.

Clearly, there are a few more shoes to fall on this one. One thing I do know: The press release makes a big fuss about this being “a new era of heterogeneous technology designs in supercomputing” because the system will use Opteron and Cell CPUs.

Truth is Cray ushered this era in several months back when they detailed their plans for the DARPA HPCS Phase III system that will include three types of processors found on their existing families of systems today. Go to www.eet.com and search for ID 695752 for the full story. IBM is just following the leader on this one.

By the way, what’s holding DARPA up on announcing whether Cray, IBM or Sun won that HPCS Phase III deal? Dear bloggers, if you know, please tell me! If you want to read about the program go to http://www.darpa.mil/ipto/Programs/hpcs/index.htm –rbm

Friday, September 08, 2006

Do you use board-level signal integrity simulation?

Signal integrity expert Eric Bogatin says only the top tier companies do, but as we step deeper into the era of Gigahertz-class signaling that will change.

Bogatin’s Web site at www.bethesignal.com is a treasure trove of articles and class materials on SI. Typically only 10-15% of students in his classes have moved to using SI simulation tools.

“The vast majority of engineers haven’t made this transition yet. They still use a rule of thumb method or do some prototyping,” Bogatin told me.

By contrast, Intel Corp. reportedly conducted some 400,000 Monte Carlo simulations of the AGP graphics bus before it went to market. “That’s what the design groups at the top companies do,” Bogatin said.

I’d like to hear what you do and what your top SI issues are these days. --rbm

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Anyone ready for 533MHz?


Is anyone building adapter cards for the full 533MHz data rate of the PCI-X 2.0 spec?

That’s the question I have in the wake of today’s news that Hewlett-Packard is revving up its Itanium systems for PCI Express and PCI-X 2.0—but it will only support up to 266MHz cards on the PCI-X side. For the full story go to www.eet.com. If the article is not on the home page, search for story ID 192503766.

I know the computer industry is in the midst of a transition from PCI-X to 2.5Gbit/second Express. But I also know—thanks dear comment writers to my item below—that PCI-X will be built into new servers for the next couple years and into embedded systems for the next decade or more.

So will we see those fast 533MHz cards? If so, when? For what functions? I am all ears. --rbm

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

China hopping on USB, Express


EDA powerhouse Synopsys validated the rise of China and of interconnects-- particularly serial ones--with its news Tuesday that it was moving its USB, PCI Express, Serial ATA and XAUI cores to the 130nm process at Shanghai foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC).

China’s consumer OEMs are snapping up USB cores, while its computer OEMs are gearing up ExpressCard designs, Navraj Nandra, director of product marketing for mixed-signal IP at Synopsys, told me. And their favorite foundry is SMIC.

For the full story go to www.eet.com and search for story ID 192501907.

Half of the core business at Synopsys these days is in mixed-signal parts, especially serdes-based designs. The business used to be entirely in digital cores.

Interesting how our cost-obsessed, speed-demon industry is driving the centers of gravity from digital and the U.S. to analog and China . Are you feeling the shift?--rbm

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

PCI-X has legs


But how long are they? Dear blog posters, I’d love to hear what you think.

LSI Logic released six new storage adapters today. The most surprising thing about the news is that in this age of surging support for 2.5Gbit/s PCI Express half of the new cards were for the aging PCI-X slot.

The PC industry loves technologies that have all the costs wrung out of them. But development stopped some time ago on the PCI-X bus with little effort even going into the 2.0 version that hits data rates up to 533MHz. See the PCI SIG’s page on PCI-X at http://www.pcisig.com/specifications/pcix_20/

For it’s part, LSI said it will release no more PCI-X cards for the Serial Attached SCSI 1.0 spec, and it doubts PCI-X can handle the next generation SAS and Serial ATA specs that will deliver up to 6 Gbits/second. The SCSI Trade Association says 6Gbit SAS products should hit in the middle of 2007. See their SAS road map at http://www.scsita.org/aboutsta/Roadmap1192005v3.pdf

So the clock is ticking. How much time do you think PCI-X has? --rbm

Friday, September 01, 2006

What I learned at Fry's

I learned how important interconnects really are when my DVD player broke.

I am not a big power user of any of the deep tech EE Times stuff I write about for a living, so no surprise I hadn’t been to the audio section at Fry’s in three years.

I was shocked to find that now some DVD players on the shelf sport USB ports on the front—several selling for less than $250. The salesman was quick to point out they are for audio only.

My background at EE Times has taught me that’s because the big studios know their entire catalog of songs is already out on the Web without copy protection, so we might as well go ahead and play them. But they believe they can still prevent this from happening for their movie catalogues.

Interestingly, Samsung and JVC were the only vendors offering DVD players with USB on their front panels. Two companies had lots of products on the shelf noticeably without USB ports: Sony, which owns a studio, and Panasonic which is so big it needs to keep cozy relations with them.

I also noticed several DVD players now have flash card slots that accommodate many of the wealth of CompactFlash, SD, MMC, etc. cards out there. Cool. I’d love to play on my stereo the growing library of digital music I have on my computer, show my even larger library of photos on TV and maybe even play a DVD from my notebook on my TV.

But frankly, I don’t want to carry my laptop to the living room and hook a USB cable between it and my DVD player. And in 2006, I don’t want to play sneaker net carrying lots of USB flash drives and SD cards around the house, constantly uploading and downloading stuff. I did that with floppy drives when I started my career as a writer in the 1980’s.

I have Wi-Fi on my notebook and home PC and routed around my apartment. How about a DVD player supporting Wi-Fi?

The salesman took me over to a distant corner of the floor and high up, still in a box, pointed to a Yamaha receiver that uses Wi-Fi to link to Internet radio stations. No DVD player, no USB ports, no flash card slots, no way to link to my PC that I could see. And it cost $500.

I guess Wi-Fi is still to complicated, expensive and low quality for the $250 DVD player or home-theater-in-a-box setup. Anyway, I probably don’t want to hear my music mangled when it streams over Wi-Fi from my bedroom PC to my living room stereo. Worse, it would probably freak out every time someone turns on the microwave or uses the cordless phone.

So what’s the solution here? Ultrawideband? Smarter DVD players and receivers that connect to the Net with simple to use embedded computers? An interconnect with USB on one side and component audio/video on the other?

My DVD dilemma helped me realize this interconnect stuff sit right smack dab in the middle of a major revolution in digital media today. The DMZ is Fry’s. I’ll make a point of going back from time to time to check on progress—or lack thereof.

I'd love to hear your own real life experiences getting snared in the interconnect Web. --rbm

 
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