Programming is a lot more complicated than it used to be. Modern operating systems are like onions, with layers upon layers of subsystems to interconnect and manage. Worse, bugs and unnoticed security flaws, even ones that may have once seemed trivial, can be serious threats in the Net-connected era.
For a growing number of developers, the solution is to use platforms designed to relieve some of the burden. Programs written for such managed-code environments as Java and Microsoft's .Net don't run on the bare hardware the way traditional programs do. Instead, a virtual machine acts as an intermediary between the software and the system. It's like a robot nanny for computer programs, silently taking care of memory management and other housekeeping drudgery while keeping an eye out for potential security violations before they happen.
To an end-user, a managed-code program may seem no different than a traditional one, but software that runs in a virtual machine makes for a more reliable, stable, and secure computing experience. And with .Net rapidly becoming the preferred platform for Windows development, managed code may soon be the norm, rather than the exception.
Later this year, Intel plans to unveil the world's first integrated circuit to contain 2 billion transistors. Moore's Law says that the number of transistors we can put into integrated circuits will double approximately every two years. That's a lot of transistors -- but what do they all do?
Simply put, the transistor may well be the greatest invention of the 20th century. It's really nothing more than a voltage-controlled switch, but that humble description hides incredible power. Linked together in various ways, transistors can form circuits that are the basis of every type of digital logic, right up to the CPUs that power our modern PCs and servers.
What makes today's chips so powerful is the industry's ability to cram components ever closer together. The transistors on the processor inside your PC might be only about 100 atoms across, and improvements in manufacturing technology will keep them shrinking -- at least, for the time being.
Someday, optical chips or even quantum processors may replace current chip designs and outperform them many times over. For now, we'll have to content ourselves with continuing to improve upon an oft-ignored technology that has served us for 50 years and counting.
You've probably heard of XML, but what is it? Where is it? Though you may never have encountered it directly, XML is everywhere. Now in its 10th year, it has become virtually the lingua franca of data exchange.