Archive for October, 2009

Understanding SSL – Part 1: Certificates and Keys

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

The technology behind Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) network connections is often perceived as a bit of “black magic” – smoke and mirrors securing our Internet connections from snooping.  When banking and shopping online, even a novice user understands their browser sets up an HTTPS connection (which is simply HTTP over SSL) to protect the transaction.  It’s easy to simply surf to a secure URL and know that, somehow, SSL is magically keeping you safe.

Developing software that uses SSL is an entirely different matter.  The simplicity quickly fades, and the developer must confront the complexities of certificate management, trust stores, handshaking, and a host of other details that must be perfectly aligned to make the secure communication work.  In Part 1, we’ll cover a very high level of SSL concepts.  In subsequent posts, we’ll take a deeper dive into making these connections happen in both Java and C#.


Liquid Cooling a PC: Gimmick or Necessity?

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Early PCs seldom had more than a tiny, weak fan on the back of the case to push out excess heat generated by the internal electronics.  As transistors shrank and chips grew faster and more complex, CPUs began running hotter and reaching dangerous temperatures – so hot, in fact, that the little case fan couldn’t protect the delicate electronics from burning out.

To address this, PC manufacturers began adding fans dedicated to cooling this nerve center of the motherboard.  Today, with high end gaming machines consuming up to 1000W or more, enormous heat is generated not just by the CPU, but by the memory, north and south bridges, and the graphics card.  To expel this heat from inside the case, larger and faster case fans are needed to keep everything running at a safe, relatively cool temperature.

For the past few years, PC accessory vendors have been marketing liquid cooling systems.  These products promise to cool more efficiently, and more quietly, than traditional fans – at the same time adding several hundred dollars to the total price tag of a new machine.  The question is: is this just a pricey gimmick, or is this the next logical step in the progression of ever more powerful machines?