2007-05-08 17:49:32

Wolfowitz held guilty of nepotism

The ethical committee of the world bank has held Wolfowitz guilty of nepotism. This probably means the end of the Wolfowitz era in the world bank, and might cause a lot of additional pressure on Bush, who has put him into this position.

After all the stories about how the world bank practially supports the first-world countries and pulls more money out of the pockets of the so-called third world, this appears to be at least some beam of light on the horizon, indicating that not all is lost with regard to this institution.

Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely that the strategy of the world bank is going to change in the future.

The full article can be found at http://www2.laliberte.ch/[...]55250172194810300.xml.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: news, politics

2007-05-08 17:17:59

Reception of Sarkozy's presidency

France has a new president - and the conservative swiss media try to play it down. In the newspaper «20min», only a small column hints to the fact that France has a new president. The report says that the superior Sarkozy sent Royal off to the second rank. Some people don't like the decision.

The story sounds entirely different in the Liberté. Not only is the newspaper fair to the socialist party's female concurrent, it also mentions the 730 cars that have been burned in Paris. Also, the Liberté has reserved a significant amount of space to the article.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: news, politics

2007-05-08 08:05:50

Broken Standards: FAT

A broken de-facto standard in the area of embedded computing is the use of the File Allocation Table Filesystem (fatfs) for embedded devices with flash chips.

The use of this standard falsely assumes the common notion to be true which claims that fatfs was the perfect file system for embedded devices, due to its simplicity. However, this assumption is not true. In fact, writing to a fatfs requires the same blocks to be written over and over again. Now, a flash only has a limited number of write cycles, meaning that the same sector (unit of usually 1kB) can only be written a certain number of times. For example, usual flash chips only have 10'000 to 50'000 write cycles.

This means that on a plain flash, the FAT file system will cause a write cycle exhaustion after only 10'000 file modifications, due to the fact that one of the rather important blocks containing the file to cluster mappings will be written to every time a file is modified. This means that you can throw away your flash device.

Modern file systems for embedded devices circumvent this by their very structure. The 4.4BSD log structured file system (LFS) for example doesn't ever write to the same blocks again unless it has passed and written to the entire flash at least once. Even if you make modifications to a file, LFS appends the file with a new version to the end of your current file system. At some point, LFS arrives at the end of the flash, which makes it wrap over to 0 and look for a freed block there. At this point, it will for example overwrite old versions of files. In addition to saving rewrite cycles, this even makes write access to the flash a lot faster.

However, flash producers have also found a solution to the fatfs problem. Current flashes carry additional per-block counters which take notes of how many times a certain flash cell has been written to. They also feature a block map which is used to remap flash blocks to other places, allowing blocks that have been written to more often than others to be remapped to less frequently used blocks. This is additional logic which makes the flash itself horribly complicated and expensive, but artificially saves write cycles when used with the fatfs.

An additional problem when it comes to fatfs and embedded devices is licensing. Microsoft has sued an enormous amount of producers of embedded devices in the past over infringement of patents on the fatfs. Under these circumstances, one really has to wonder why so many companies still sell fatfs based devices.

So where does the notion of fatfs as the ideal file system for embedded devices come from? You guess it: Microsoft's marketing department. And the claim is simple: fatfs is easy to implement (Well, LFS is even easier, but you can see where Marketing wants you to go). The easiness of implementation is thereby padded up with the fact that Windows comes with no implementation of any file systems other than fatfs and ntfs. And since ntfs is horribly complicated and its file system driver is probably already larger than most flash devices, fatfs is the only solution with workable interoperability with the Windows operating system out of the box. So if your embedded operating system runs on fatfs, you can just take out the SD card, plug it into your laptop's SD card reader, and use it under Windows.

This is another example of how Windows penetrated the world of standards, while it is only making life harder for the manufacturers. So if you ever want to make an embedded device, it is recommendable to refrain from using the de-facto standard fatfs.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: programming, standards

2007-05-08 08:03:26

Auguste Piccard

Auguste Piccard was the creator of the highest-flying baloon with a passenger capsule which kept its pressure, allowing the passengers to rise to higher places than if they had to sustain the normal pressures. Using this capsule, he has managed to transport passangers in a height of 23 kilometers above sea level.

Professeur Tournesol (Professor Bienlein) from Tim and Struppi was drafted after Auguste Piccard, and the Mésoscaphe PX-8 was called after him. Also, Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek TNG was drafted to be a grandson of Auguste Piccard.

Born 1884 in Basel, he died in 1962 in Lausanne.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: suisses

2007-05-07 21:29:10

The conservative wave hits France

After France was preserved from conservativism during the last election, it decided this time to join the new wave for conservative protectionism and anti-terror fileism.

Rather than electing the progressive, female candidate Ségolène Royal, the french people decided to continue the wave of conservativism and to elect Nicolas Sarkozy as president.

It is a good question what the french actually expect from Sarkozy. Because what they are likely going to get is:

  • EPLA. France might play a major role in the establishment of the European Patent Litigation Agreement, which Sarkozy promised to put forward.
  • More anti-terror actionism. Conservative parties tend to put a lot of effort into putting the constitution out of business, overruling it with new legislations and limiting civil rights for the sake of fighting terrorism

Especially the first part is rather worrysome. Sarkozy has a rather rough idea of patents which is mainly backing big business. This moves the balance of patent critcs vs. patent positivists to the negative side in the European Union, which could lead to adoption of the litigation agreement. This would then mean more patent litigation. In the heat of the debate, I highly doubt that this is what Europe needs...

More information can be found all over the web.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: news, politics