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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Next Generation RAM :Prtable RAM (RRAM)

Non stop access of memory.......the accelator of data processing is coming more easy and utility level.
As electronics designers cram more and more components onto each chip, current technologies for making random-access memory (RAM) are running out of room. European researchers have a strong position in a new technology known as resistive RAM (RRAM) that could soon be replacing flash RAM in USB drives and other portable gadgets.

On the ‘semiconductor road map’ setting out the future of the microchip industry, current memory technologies are nearing the end of the road. Future computers and electronic gadgets will need memory chips that are smaller, faster and cheaper than those of today –and that means going back to basics.

Today’s random-access memory (RAM) falls mainly into three classes: static RAM (SRAM), dynamic RAM (DRAM), and flash memory. Each has its advantages and drawbacks; flash, for instance, is the only one to retain data when the power is switched off, but is slower.

According to Professor Paul Heremans of the University of Leuven in Belgium, circuit designers looking for the best performance often have to combine several memory types on the same chip. This adds complexity and cost.

A more serious issue is scalability. As designers pack more components onto each chip, the width of the smallest features is shrinking, from 130 nanometers (nm) in 2000 to 45 nm today. Existing memory technologies are good for several more generations, Heremans says, but are unlikely to make the transition to 22 nm (scheduled for 2011) or 16 nm (2018).

So we need new memory technologies that can be made smaller than those of today, as well as preferably being faster, power saving and non-volatile. The runners in the global memory technology race form a veritable alphabet soup of acronyms including MRAM, RRAM, FeRAM, Z-RAM, SONOS, and nano-RAM.

No universal solution

Early in 2004, Heremans became the coordinator of an EU-supported project that included two of Europe’s biggest semiconductor manufacturers: STMicroelectronics of Italy and Philips of the Netherlands. Heremans’ own institution, IMEC, is a leading independent research centre in microelectronics and nanotechnology. The Polish Academy of Sciences was the fourth partner in the project.

The Nosce Memorias (Latin for ‘Know your memories’) project started out to develop a universal memory that was fast, non-volatile, and flexible enough to replace several existing types. It had to be compatible with CMOS, the current standard chip manufacturing technology, and scalable for several generations below 45 nm.

As the research progressed it became clear that a universal memory would require too many compromises, notes Heremans. Instead, the team targeted a non-volatile memory that would have better performance and scalability than current flash technology.

Flash memory, used for USB ‘key-ring’ drives and digital cameras, can store data for years using transistors to retain electric charge. The technology can be scaled down for several more generations, Heremans says, but sooner or later it will reach a limit. Flash memory is also slow to read and needs high voltages to operate.

Exploring resistive memory

The hopes of Nosce Memorias rested on a technology known as resistive RAM (RRAM). Instead of storing information in transistors (flash memory) or capacitors (DRAM), RRAM relies on the ability to alter the electrical resistance of certain materials by applying an external voltage or current. RRAM is non-volatile, and its simple structure is ideal for future generations of CMOS chips.

The project looked at three types of RRAM. The first, known as a ferroelectric Schottky diode, was abandoned when the researchers realised they were unlikely to be able to create starting materials with the required properties.

The second technology studied was a metal-organic charge-transfer material called CuTCNQ. Although CuTCNQ has been known for around 20 years, its precise mode of operation was unclear, Heremans says. The team learned a lot about how this material works, developed new ways of preparing it, and succeeded in creating the smallest organic memory cells ever made, at 100 nm across.

Lastly, the team looked at RRAM based on organic semiconductors. Because this work did not start until halfway through the project, the results did not reach the same level as those for CuTCNQ, but significant progress was made.

EMMA carries on

When Nosce Memorias ended in March 2007, plenty of work remained to be done to create a workable RRAM.

The challenge was taken up by EMMA (Emerging Materials for Mass-storage Architectures), another EU-supported project that runs until September 2009. Like Nosce Memorias, EMMA is coordinated by IMEC and has STMicroelectronics as a member, though the other partners are different.

EMMA is working on the CuTCNQ developed by Nosce Memorias, as well as on metal oxides. For CuTCNQ, Heremans explains, the goals are to make the material more durable through better control of the switching mechanism, now that this is understood.

Extended working life is also important for the polymer semiconductors pioneered by Nosce Memorias. Low-cost polymer memory could be important in RFID tags (also called ORFID) for the remote identification of goods, equipment and people.

Software Testing 3.0: The Continuing Evolution of Software Testing

This paper traces the evolution of software testing through its first two phases, and then presents the current state-of-the-practice: Software Testing 3.0, an independent and strategic approach to software quality.

The paper concludes with a discussion for senior executives on how and why software testing can finally meet and exceed management expectations, illustrated by real-world case studies showing how two companies benefited from Software Testing 3.0 to test better and faster while lowering their costs.

This Caritor white paper outlines the benefits and challenges that are associated with each of three different software testing engagement models. Those models include testing services provided by:

Software development engineers who are allocated to testing
Test engineers organized into a separate function within the development organization
Independent testing organizations or software firms having an independent testing practice
Download the paper to find out which of these models is most effective at improving software quaility, speeding time to market, and reducing support and maintenance costs.

Adobe patches nine critical flaws in Flash

Windows, Linux users should download new Player; Apple patched Mac OS X's version Monday
Adobe Systems Inc. patched its Flash Player earlier this week, fixing nine critical vulnerabilities that hackers could use to attack Windows, Mac and Linux machines.
The update addresses at least nine flaws–CVE-2007-6242, CVE-2007- 4768, CVE-2007-5275, CVE-2007- 6243, CVE-2007- 6244, CVE-2007- 6245, CVE-2007-4324, CVE-2007- 6246, CVE-2007-5476–across all platforms. Versions affected include Adobe Flash Player and earlier, and earlier, and and earlier.

Adobe, which recommends that everyone updgrade to the new player, says an attacker could use those aforementioned vulnerabilities to take control of a system.

Two of the nine vulnerabilities are “input validation errors” that could “lead to the potential execution of arbitrary code.” Adobe adds:

“These vulnerabilities could be accessed through content delivered from a remote location via the user’s web browser, email client, or other applications that include or reference the Flash Player.”

"Multiple input validation errors have been identified in Flash Player and earlier that could lead to the potential execution of arbitrary code," Adobe said in the advisory posted on the company's site. "These vulnerabilities could be accessed through content delivered from a remote location via the user's Web browser, e-mail client or other applications that include or reference the Flash Player."

Danish vulnerability tracker Secunia ASP collectively tagged the nine bugs as "highly critical," its second-from-the-top threat ranking.

The flaws can be exploited using malicious .swf files, a vector graphics format specific to Flash. Specifically, said Adobe, the vulnerabilities could be used to conduct cross-site scripting attacks, run DNS rebinding attacks that circumvent firewall defenses and elevate privileges on servers hosting Flash content.

Google Inc.'s security team was credited by Adobe with reporting two of the nine vulnerabilities, while a team at Stanford University received a nod for notifying Adobe of another pair of bugs.

"Users are recommended to update to the most current version of Flash Player available for their platform," Adobe said. The update, dubbed Flash Player, can be downloaded from the Adobe site. Solaris users, however, must download a beta of the updated Player to protect their machines.

Mac OS X users who refreshed their operating system with the 41-fix Security Update 2007-009, which Apple issued Monday, already have the revised Flash Player in hand, and don't need to take additional action.

According to Adobe, people who must rely on the older Flash Player 7 should download and install the patched version of that edition instead of The patched Player 7 can be found here.

Microsoft confirms IE update snafu

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) on Tuesday issued support documentation to address Internet Explorer problems caused by last week's security patch.
"We have been working with a small number of customers that reported issues related to the installation of MS07-069," said Kieron Shorrock, the Microsoft Security Response program manager responsible for Internet Explorer, in a blog post. "Specifically, on a Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2)-based computer, Internet Explorer 6 may stop responding when you try to a visit a Web site."
Microsoft Corp. acknowledged late yesterday that security patches issued last week for Internet Explorer (IE) crippled the browser for some users, but rather than rework the fix, the company offered up a registry hack work-around.

The confirmation and work-around came a week after users installed Security Update MS07-069 on Dec. 11, and users immediately began reporting that they were unable to connect to the Internet with IE or that the browser kept crashing. MS07-069, one of seven bulletins issued on December's "Patch Tuesday," fixed four critical vulnerabilities in IE 5.01, IE6 and IE7.

Although Microsoft had said on Monday that it was investigating the reports, yesterday the company owned up to the problem. "On a Windows XP Service Pack 2-based computer, Internet Explorer 6 may stop responding when you try to a visit a Web site," said Kieron Shorrock, the program manager responsible for IE at the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC).

In a later post to the MSRC blog, however, Shorrock downplayed the problem, saying, "We have been working with a small number of customers that reported issues related to the installation of MS07-069." He claimed that the bug appeared only in what he called "a customized installation."

"This isn't a widespread issue," Shorrock added.

That would come as a surprise to users such as Harold Decker, who manages 35 Windows XP SP2 machines at San Diego-based Gold Peak Industries NA Inc. Even though Decker described his shop's systems as "pretty plain," 29% of the PCs that installed last week's IE update had trouble accessing the Web.

Microsoft Security Bulletin MS07-069 addresses four privately reported vulnerabilities that could allow remote code execution if the user of the affected system visits a malicious Web page. MS07-069 is rated critical.

The Microsoft Knowledge Base article for Microsoft Security Bulletin MS07-069, KB942615, has been updated to acknowledge the issue. And article KB946627 explains how to edit the Windows registry to fix the instability introduced to Internet Explorer by the security patch.

According to Shorrock, the IE issue arises as a result of customization and isn't widespread.

Nonetheless, many of those affected are expressing puzzlement that Microsoft would recommend a technically tricky procedure like editing the Windows registry rather than fixing and reissuing the patch.

"With hundreds of users here running XP SP2 with IE6, how can Microsoft be serious that the solution is to edit each registry?" said Phil Shannon on the IEBlog. "Is this some sort of joke? It would be easier to have each user install Mozilla Firefox and stop using IE completely."

NASA has delayed the launching of a mission to Mars by two years, to 2013

Mars Shot Is Put Off for 2 Years, NASA Says

NASA has delayed the launching of a mission to Mars by two years, to 2013, because of an undisclosed conflict of interest involved in one of two final proposals, officials said Friday.

Postponing the Mars Scout program mission means that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will miss an opportunity to launch a flight to Mars for the first time in more than a decade, Doug McCuistion, director of the agency’s Mars Exploration Program, said at a news conference.

Mars and Earth only get close enough to efficiently launch explorations every 26 months.

After reducing 26 mission proposals to two, and entering an evaluation period this fall to select a winner, Mr. McCuistion said an unspecified conflict of interest arose concerning one proposal and the assessment group.

Resolving the conflict, the nature of which Mr. McCuistion said he could not discuss, required disbanding the review panel and forming a new one. This process, he said, in setting back a selection by at least four months, meant that keeping to the original launching date would put undue cost and schedule pressure on the winner.

“Delaying the next Scout mission is allowing the mission planning teams to re-plan their proposed missions,” he said. “It will also reduce the risk of cost overruns driven by the tight mission schedule.”

The teams, one at the University of Colorado and the other from the Southwest Research Institute branch in Boulder, Colo., have until August 2008 to submit their new proposals. NASA will make a final selection next December.

Both groups are proposing similar spacecraft to orbit Mars and study why the planet’s thin atmosphere is escaping into space. The five-year, $475 million mission is part of the Scout program to send missions with relatively modest costs to regularly explore Mars. Mr. McCuistion said the delay could add as much as $40 million to the cost of the mission.

In other news concerning Mars, NASA said Friday that a recently discovered asteroid that appeared on course to hit the planet would probably pass it within 30,000 miles. The asteroid, estimated to be about 164 feet wide and named 2007 WD5, should zoom by about 6 a.m. on Jan. 30, 2008, the announcement said.

Uncertainties about the asteroid’s orbit gives it a 1-in-75 chance of hitting Mars, scientists said. If it were to hit, it would strike at about 30,000 miles per hour and create a crater more than a half-mile wide.

Human Mars Mission Could Cost $450 BillionOn their way to Mars, the astronauts will grow their own fruit and vegetables, and once they arrive, they will spend 16 months there.
NASA has revealed details of its strategy to send a human crew to Mars in the next few decades.

NASA predicts that the crew will embark on a journey that will last 30 months, in a spacecraft that will weigh 400,000 kilograms.

NASA released all of its plans at a meeting in Houston. In January 2004, US president George W. Bush launched a program that would return people to the moon by 2020, and said that there are also plans to send people to Mars.

The ship that will travel to Mars will be assembled in earth orbit, and will use three or four Ares V rockets – new launch vehicles that NASA has been developing for quite some time.

The best strategy

The journey from Earth to Mars would last six to eight months, and the ship will be propelled by cryogenic fuel.

NASA estimates that the mission could cost up to 450 billion US dollars.

The details that the agency provided are subject to change, but scientists currently consider it the best strategy on placing humans on the surface of Mars.

The cargo carrier and “houses” for life on Mars will be sent separately, and will be launched before the crew that should land between December 2028 and January 2029.

Growing fruit and vegetables in the spacecraft

On their way to Mars, the astronauts will grow their own fruit and vegetables in the spacecraft, and one they arrive, they will spend 16 months on the red planet. They will use nuclear power for energy in their “homes”.

Getting extra supplies of food will be extremely limited, and the astronauts will have tools for basic repairs. The spacecraft will be equipped with special systems that will gather water and air in case the crew’s lives are in danger.

The plants that the crew will plant and care about, besides food, will have the purpose of contributing to its psychological health.

NASA still needs to think of a solution to protect the astronauts against strong cosmic radiation that they will be exposed to in deep space, as well as when they are on the surface of Mars.

The crew will have medical equipment in the case of sickness or injury, which will be tested on the moon beforehand, writes BBC.

California's request to regulate carbon dioxide emissions - will closely examine

The Bush administration’s decision to deny California the right to regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles exploded like a grenade here and in California. But it was hiding in plain sight for weeks.

The ruling was foreshadowed in White House letters, floor statements by members of Congress, public arguments from automobile industry officials and hints from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The U.S. Congress will closely examine the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to deny California's request to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives said on Friday.

The EPA on Wednesday denied California's attempt to place first-ever U.S. limits on automobile emissions of heat-trapping gases, which account for about 30 percent of the U.S. total.

The decision, lauded by the auto industry and pilloried by environmental groups, also stymies 16 other U.S. states' attempts to enact similar rules.

"Your decision will be challenged immediately in the courts and will be carefully scrutinized by the Congress as well," Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, wrote to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson.

California said it will quickly appeal the decision.

"Administrator Johnson stands behind his decision," an EPA spokeswoman said. "Greenhouse gas emissions are global in nature and California is not exclusive in facing this challenge."

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman, California Democrat, this week opened a panel probe into the agency's decision and told the EPA to preserve all papers and documents in the case record.

"Your decision appears to have ignored the evidence before the agency and the requirements of the Clean Air Act," Waxman wrote to Johnson, noting that the decision went against agency staff recommendations to grant the waiver.

The EPA will cooperate with Waxman's investigation, the agency spokeswoman said.
The EPA said an energy bill signed into law this week by President George W. Bush means no further action is needed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles.

The EPA, charged with making the decision, said the law to raise automobile fuel standards by 40 percent by 2020 was a "better approach" than a "patchwork" of state rules.

"I vigorously disagree with your rationale for that decision and I strongly support the inquiry (by Waxman's committee) into your decision-making process," Pelosi wrote.

California needed the EPA waiver to implement a law it passed this year to force automakers to make vehicles that cut emissions 25 percent by the 2009 model year.

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