Stories by Tom Yager

Sun’s Niagara chip a potential watershed

I constantly tell myself I’m not nuts. And, yes, it’s disconcerting when I answer myself, but when some seemingly inconceivable theory I’ve concocted turns into reality years later, I become grounded again. It took almost ten years, but Sun Microsystems has made the first movements of my most insane vision real in Niagara, its forthcoming eight-core microprocessor.

Why RFID isn’t the next big thing

We’ll soon live in a world where sensors outnumber people. If you believe what you read, RFID is a magical technology that will forever banish wires, grocery store scanners, credit cards and pocket change from our working and personal lives. There will be no more theft, no more injuries from improper medication, no more lost remote controls and no more stray dogs.

Taking the mainframe to the server

Even those who came late to enlightenment about AMD’s concurrent leadership in fire power per dollar, transactions per kilowatt, value per square inch and vastness of commercial software are wondering what it will do next.

Dual-core delay will cost Intel

When Intel announced recently that the delivery of its dual-core Itanium chip would be delayed by three months, from the first quarter of 2006 to the middle of the second quarter, even the keenest ear couldn’t discern much disappointment. But if you listen just right, you can hear the chirping of the cellphones carried by AMD, IBM and Sun reps worldwide.


If nowhere else in the world, in the German city of Dresden, all signs point to AMD — literally. As you drive along the main drag, you see the exit for Prague, the exit for Berlin and the exit for AMD. It’s fitting given that AMD has carved out a village-size hunk of the Saxony countryside for its campus, where a pair of fabrication facilities — one heading for an active retirement and one whose ribbon lies freshly cut — stretch to the horizon. Floor after floor of cubicle farms house the home-grown engineers and skilled hands that produce every AMD64 CPU sold worldwide.

Piracy harms developers most

There was a time when I railed against the use of rumours as sources for stories in the IT press. Now I pine for those more innocent days. Blogs are considered news sources now, a practice that, at its worst, should yield what one expects from lazy journalists. But I am shocked to see the media's race to adapt from blogs the most detailed instructions for pirating Apple's OS X for Intel and get them to readers first.

The power of persistent memory

I once reviewed a RAM-based storage device. It was a huge rack-mounted backplane equipped with memory cards and a SCSI interface. It was hot, loud and expensive, but I was convinced I had the future roaring away in my living room.

A Galaxy of opportunity

Back in the day, Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim made his mark pioneering single-board workstations and servers, an engineering feat that required a new take on integration. Sun's "pizza box" workstations earned the company a reputation as an innovator. Now, thanks to Sun's acquisition of Bechtolsheim's server startup, Kealia, innovation through integration could once again become Sun's hallmark.

The CPU's next 20 years

With great respect, you probably won’t be deciding the outcome of the CPU race. Not if your normal shopping list has called for backward-compatible, x86 systems that are 25% faster than the previous year’s models at about the same cost.

Beware of the IT fixer

The IT Samaritan is a helper in the field, someone who stands a foot taller, knowledge-wise, than most of those around him.

Efficiency can be lost on code snobs

At my local Ace hardware store, circular saws sit near the registers to tempt impulse buyers. When Ace sells you that saw, they've also got you for blades, safety glasses, and handy little accessories. But Ace isn't the only beneficiary in this "sell the saw, sell the store" arrangement. Simply having the saw turns some neglected, avoided projects into adventures. For the buyer, the saw is an inspiration: "Get the saw, fix the house."

Java's act holds together

It was only a year ago that I predicted Java's demise as a standardised platform unless Sun Microsystems reclaimed and defended it. Back then, the market didn't see Java. It saw BEA Systems Java, IBM Java and Oracle Java; despite Sun's spin, everyone knew that portability was as much a pipe dream as Sun's leadership.

Sun returns to old haunts

I've never predicted financial ruin for Sun Microsystems. But I couldn't see the company regaining leadership in the affordable range of the server and workstation markets. Xeon plus Linux isn't Sun's future. It's too crowded a market to be profitable in the long term. And it's -- how do I say this -- beneath Sun.

IE won't die

Microsoft TechEd 2004 in the US is over, and it was one of Microsoft's better shindigs. TechEd and Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference are the midyear one-two punch that helps me adjust my total technology perspective, not just my view of Windows and the Mac platform.