Pings & Packets from eWEEK Labs - 21

Virtual Earth puts a new spin on maps ... Cavium CPUs power up ... DESlock offers turnkey security.

Virtual Earth Puts A New Spin On Maps

Beta 1.0 of Virtual Earths namesake service has been released to the public. (You can check it out at virtualearth.msn.com.) This direct competitor to Google Earth claims to offer the ability to turn PCs into "location-determining devices" via Wi-Fi access points and/or reverse IP.

There are limitations to the Virtual Earth beta, most apparent in the mainly black-and-white aerial photographs and the fact that only U.S.-based satellite images are available now. However, the next release will integrate detailed oblique photographs of major cities from Pictometry International.

When Microsoft showed me this capability last month, I was impressed by the detail that the 45-degree viewing angle provided.

Virtual Earth is targeted at consumers, but enterprises should keep a close eye on the technology. Microsoft execs said there are plans for Virtual Earth to replace Microsofts MapPoint service. Virtual Earth is also meant to be a developer platform, with an API expected this fall.

--Anne Chen

Cavium CPUs Power Up

Network processing consumes a growing fraction of new processing power in both enterprises and home computing environments. This weeks announcement of the latest Octeon EX processors, from Cavium Networks (www.cavium.com), illustrates the growth of hardware support for high-volume multimedia data exchange and secure transactions.

With the kind of on-board power that used to support an entire high-end engineering workstation, an Octeon-family processor with general-purpose RISC engines and specialized protocol accelerators makes for an impressive broadband hub. And broadband gateways, even those in peoples homes, are rapidly adopting this kind of security processor hardware.

When you look at the rising expectations of broadband network users, its clear that network endpoints need all the auxiliary processing they can get.

Its therefore good news to see security being baked in, not layered on, in emerging wireless protocols such as WiMax.

WiMax incorporates AES, which offers serious cryptographic strength. A code-breaking scheme that takes only 1 second to defeat the once-respected DES would need 149 trillion years to crack a 128-bit implementation of AES (more at csrc.nist.gov/CryptoToolkit/ aes/rijndael).

Look for security and compression protocol throughput to overtake generalized measures of processor performance as critical concerns for system builders.

--Peter Coffee

DESlock Offers Turnkey Security

Data encryption systems recently showed me its DESlock key fob, or software key-based data protection system.

In my tests, DESlock was effective enough to almost get me to start using the key fobs to encrypt my data. But after several weeks of using the tokens, along with the software that let me secure my file archives and electronically shred the contents of my recycle bin, I went back to simple passwords.

My problem is that I have been known to leave my keys at home. Thus, a hardware-based encryption system that depends on my possession of a device on my key chain—no matter how convenient it is to carry—makes me more nervous than the fact that my private files at home are relatively unprotected from prying eyes.

Data Encryption Systems symmetric key system makes more sense for corporate users who are on the road with valuable data: DESlock lets users create a backup key to make data recovery less onerous. DESlocks software component is relatively simple to use, although the documentation is practically impenetrable.

More information is at www.dataencryptionsystems.co.uk.

--Cameron Sturdevant