Vol. 2 No. 7 – October 2004



The Magic of RFID

Many modern technologies give the impression they work by magic, particularly when they operate automatically and their mechanisms are invisible. A technology called RFID (radio frequency identification), which is relatively new to the mass market, has exactly this characteristic and for many people seems a lot like magic. RFID is an electronic tagging technology that allows an object, place, or person to be automatically identified at a distance without a direct line-of-sight, using an electromagnetic challenge/response exchange. Typical applications include labeling products for rapid checkout at a point-of-sale terminal, inventory tracking, animal tagging, timing marathon runners, secure automobile keys, and access control for secure facilities.

by Roy Want

Integrating RFID

RFID (radio frequency identification) has received a great deal of attention in the commercial world over the past couple of years. The excitement stems from a confluence of events. First, through the efforts of the former Auto-ID Center and its sponsor companies, the prospects of low-cost RFID tags and a networked supply chain have come within reach of a number of companies. Second, several commercial companies and government bodies, such as Wal-Mart and Target in the United States, Tesco in Europe, and the U.S. Department of Defense, have announced RFID initiatives in response to technology improvements.

by Sanjay Sarma

Thread Scheduling in FreeBSD 5.2

A busy system makes thousands of scheduling decisions per second, so the speed with which scheduling decisions are made is critical to the performance of the system as a whole. This article - excerpted from the forthcoming book, "The Design and Implementation of the FreeBSD Operating System" - uses the example of the open source FreeBSD system to help us understand thread scheduling. The original FreeBSD scheduler was designed in the 1980s for large uniprocessor systems. Although it continues to work well in that environment today, the new ULE scheduler was designed specifically to optimize multiprocessor and multithread environments. This article first studies the original FreeBSD scheduler, then describes the new ULE scheduler. The article does not describe the realtime scheduler that is also available in FreeBSD.

by Marshall Kirk McKusick, George V. Neville-Neil

Trials and Tribulations of Debugging Concurrency

We now sit firmly in the 21st century where the grand challenge to the modern-day programmer is neither memory leaks nor type issues (both of those problems are now effectively solved), but rather issues of concurrency. How does one write increasingly complex programs where concurrency is a first-class concern. Or even more treacherous, how does one debug such a beast? These questions bring fear into the hearts of even the best programmers.

by Kang Su Gatlin


A Conversation with Mike Deliman

Mike Deliman was pretty busy last January when the Mars rover Spirit developed memory and communications problems shortly after landing on the Red Planet. He is a member of the team at Wind River Systems who created the operating system at the heart of the Mars rovers, and he was among those working nearly around the clock to discover and solve the problem that had mysteriously halted the mission on Mars.

Kode Vicious

Kode Vicious to the Rescue

Dear Kode Vicious, Where I work we use a mixture of C++ code, Python, and shell scripts in our product. I always have a hard time trying to figure out when it's appropriate to use which for a certain job. Do you code in only assembler and C, or is this a problem for you as well?

by George Neville-Neil


Electronic Voting Systems: the Good, the Bad, and the Stupid

Is it true that politics and technology don't mix?

by Barbara Simons

There's Still Some Life Left in Ada

Ada remains the Rodney Dangerfield of computer programming languages, getting little respect despite a solid technical rationale for its existence. Originally pressed into service by the U.S. Department of Defense in the late 1970s, these days Ada is just considered a remnant of bloated military engineering practices.

by Alexander Wolfe

The Burning Bag of Dung and Other Environmental Antipatterns

And you think you have problems?

by Phillip Laplante