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The Basic Input/Output System of your computer, commonly known as the BIOS (pronounced "bye-ose") makes sure all the other chips, hard drives, ports and CPU function together. The BIOS software has a number of different roles, but its most important role is to load the operating system. When you turn on your computer and the microprocessor tries to execute its first instruction, it has to get that instruction from somewhere. It cannot get it from the operating system because the operating system is located on a hard disk, and the microprocessor cannot get to it without some instructions that tell it how. The BIOS provides those instructions.

When you turn on your computer, the BIOS does several things. This is its usual sequence:

  1. Check the CMOS Setup for custom settings
  2. Load the interrupt handlers and device drivers
  3. Initialize registers and power management
  4. Perform the power-on self-test (POST)
  5. Display system settings
  6. Determine which devices are bootable
  7. Initiate the bootstrap sequence
The first thing the BIOS does is check the information stored in a tiny (64 bytes) amount of RAM located on a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) chip. The CMOS Setup provides detailed information particular to your system and can be altered as your system changes.Interrupt handlers are small pieces of software that act as translators between the hardware components and the operating system. For example, when you press a key on your keyboard, the signal is sent to the keyboard interrupt handler, which tells the CPU what it is and passes it on to the operating system. The device drivers are other pieces of software that identify the base hardware components such as keyboard, mouse, hard drive and floppy drive. Whenever you turn on your computer,the BIOS displays text describing things like the amount of memory installed in your computer, the type of hard disk and so on. After checking the CMOS Setup and loading the interrupt handlers, the BIOS determines whether the video card is operational. Most video cards have a miniature BIOS of their own that initializes the memory and graphics processor on the card. If they do not, there is usually video driver information on another ROM on the motherboard that the BIOS can load. Next, the BIOS checks to see if this is a cold boot or a reboot. It does this by checking the value at memory address 0000:0472. A value of 1234h indicates a reboot, and the BIOS skips the rest of POST. Anything else is considered a cold boot. If it is a cold boot, the BIOS verifies RAM by performing a read/write test of each memory address. It checks the PS/2 ports or USB ports for a keyboard and a mouse. It looks for a peripheral component interconnect (PCI) bus and, if it finds one, checks all the PCI cards. If the BIOS finds any errors during the POST, it will notify you by a series of beeps or a text message displayed on the screen. An error at this point is almost always a hardware problem. The BIOS then displays some details about your system. This typically includes information about: * The processor * The floppy drive and hard drive * Memory * BIOS revision and date * Display Any special drivers, such as the ones for small computer system interface (SCSI) adapters, are loaded from the adapter, and the BIOS displays the information. The BIOS then looks at the sequence of storage devices identified as boot devices in the CMOS Setup. Boot refers to the process of launching the operating system. The BIOS will try to initiate the boot sequence from the first device. If the BIOS does not find a device, it will try the next device in the list. If it does not find the proper files on a device, the startup process will halt.


Alert! all internet users

Internet is a victim of its own success. It is the news that internet users do not want to hear: the worldwide web is in danger of collapsing around us. Patrick Gelsinger, the chief technology officer for computer chip maker Intel, told a conference in San Francisco that the internet could no longer cope with the traffic streaming across its network. Mr Gelsinger said the internet's infrastructure was based on a 30-year-old model and could not manage today's heavy workload and remain secure. "We're running up on some architectural limitations," he said. He outlined plans to build a new network that will overlay and strengthen the existing system. "These new smart services could allow the internet to detect and warn of worm attacks on its own," he said. With spam now accounting for 80% of all email traffic and the number of viruses and worms increasing, there is growing concern over the internet's underlying stability. The volume of web users has increased tenfold in the past decade, and experts predict it will continue to grow at a rapid pace - particularly as new technology takes hold in developing countries. Mr Gelsinger's concerns were reflected by other experts at the Intel developer forum. "I think the net is still pretty primitive; we're in the stone age in respect to networking," Vint Cerf, regarded by many as the father of the internet, told the conference. "There is a great deal more that has to be done; some of the fundamental limitations of the net are architectural." The new network, which will include a filtering system to kill viruses before they attack computers, is backed by organisations including Cambridge University, Hewlett-Packard and American telecommunications giant AT&T.


3 laws unsafe

The possibility of developing truly intelligent machines, and their potential to be friend or foe to humanity, gets the Hollywood treatment in a new blockbuster film I, Robot.At the heart of the movie are Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics”, invented as a simple, but immutable moral code for robots. The film’s plot revolves around an apparent breaking of the laws, when a robot is suspected of murdering a famous scientist.
Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics:

  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or the Second Law. Actually, in the end of 20th century, the 3 laws of robotics has been extended to following :

The Meta-Law: A robot may not act unless its actions are subject to the Laws of Robotics

Law Zero: A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm

Law One: A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm, unless this would violate a higher-order Law

Law Two: A robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with a higher-order Law A robot must obey orders given it by superordinate robots, except where such orders would conflict with a higher-order Law

Law Three: A robot must protect the existence of a superordinate robot as long as such protection does not conflict with a higher-order Law A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with a higher-order Law Law Four A robot must perform the duties for which it has been programmed, except where that would conflict with a higher-order law

The Procreation Law: A robot may not take any part in the design or manufacture of a robot unless the new robot’s actions are subject to the Laws of Robotics The laws are well and good, but it does not seem to me that they are so protected that a glitch in a machine or a hacking job may not remove or alter the rules. The more complicated a machine gets the more likely they are to develop unexpected difficulties. Look at the amount of difficulties that are inherent in windows operating systems. The software will develop errors simply by turning the machine on and off. What kind of errors may we expect in a machine that emulates and maybe even surpasses our human abilities? While the laws may work on 99% of the robots that are manufactured with them, what about the 1% or smaller that may have difficulties? A few questions regarding Laws: Let us consider that in this (hypothetical) case, the US have lots of robots operating their weapons, while Russians are ignorant of the technology, but well aware of the seven laws of American robots. Should Russians decide to launch, what would the robots’ reaction be? Of course, they would be ordered to answer back; but launching a nuclear weapon, even in this situation, would still injure humanity (and would certainly not stop the harm already done by the first launch). Therefore, Law One would stop these robots from firing back; even more, suppose the robots are not the ones responsible for firing; they would still be bound to stop anyone from doing so, and attack their very creators in the process. Who would want any of this, I wonder?


Exposing digital forgeries

Those wizards at Dartmouth's Computer Science Department have come up with a clever technique for automatically detecting forged JPEG images. To quote from the abstract: We describe an efficient technique that automatically detects duplicated regions in a digital image. This technique works by first applying a principal component analysis to small fixed-size image blocks to yield a reduced dimension representation. This representation is robust to minor variations in the image due to additive noise or lossy compression. Duplicated regions are then detected by lexicographically sorting all of the image blocks. We show the efficacy of this technique on credible forgeries, and quantify its robustness and sensitivity to additive noise and lossy JPEG compression.

Webcam Virus

Bob Sullivan at MSNBC writes of a new computer virus that turns on webcams and sends out the contents to willing hackers. Sounds like something the FBI would have dreamed up.

800-page Textbook for $0

More and more high-quality information is showing up for free on the Internet. Case in point: you can now go online and access an 800-page textbook on how to administer a Cisco-powered computer network. The book, by information technology and IT security professor Matt Basham of St. Petersburg College in Clearwater, FL, is designed for people with very minimal computer experience who suddenly find themselves responsible for administering a TCP/IP-based network. Two thousand copies were downloaded within the first few days that it was online. Interested? Here’s where to get it.


Search your web history

I use my web browsers' history feature frequently and am often frustrated when I still have a heck of time finding what I am looking for. I usually don't know the web site title but am interested in finding some specific information on a web page. Yet, browser history is organized by web site title.

Enter Dan Grinsby who has created what he calls a 'personal search engine' - the Recall toolbar. The Recall Toolbar, when activated, saves an index of the web pages you visit on your hard drive - making it a lot easier to find content on web pages you have visited before.

Only works in Internet Explorer right now but he is working on a Mozilla Firefox version. Anybody who might be able to help with the Firefox version, please contact Dan - I want to use the toolbar!!

Dick Tracey meets Maxwell Smart: Walkie Talkie wrist watch...


A cheap communications tool for geeks out of cell phone range or for geeks who don't have a lot of money. Offline instant messaging with voice - totally cool. Check out this walkie talkie wrist watch. Review at Engadget, purchase and more reviews at Amazon.

Breaking news

Google Launching Instant Messenger? If you believe comments made recently in discussion boards and blogs across the Internet, search giant Google is developing an instant messaging initiative. New Bagle virus variant can disable firewalls Anti-virus experts at Sophos are warning users to be wary of unsolicited emails claiming to contain photographs, after a Trojan horse was spammed to Internet users yesterday. Patch management software adds support for Linux Shavlik Technologies recently announced they are offering their agentless patch management software, Shavlik HFNetChkPro, for Red Hat Linux customers.