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Judge Orders TorrentSpy to Turn Over RAM 726

Posted by Zonk
from the i-do-not-think-that-word-means-what-you-think-it-means dept.
virgil_disgr4ce writes "In an impressive example of the gap of understanding between legal officials and technology, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian 'found that a computer server's RAM, or random-access memory, is a tangible document that can be stored and must be turned over in a lawsuit.' ZDNet, among others, reports on the ruling and its potential for invasion of privacy."
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Judge Orders TorrentSpy to Turn Over RAM

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  • HD (Score:5, Informative)

    by gregoryb (306233) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @01:36PM (#19509037) Homepage
    Maybe she meant 'hard drive'? The majority of the people I supported while working IT during college used the terms RAM and hard drive interchangeably.

    -gb
  • link is broken (Score:5, Informative)

    by chip rosenthal (74184) <chip@unicom.com> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @01:38PM (#19509085) Homepage
    Here is a working link to the article: http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-6190900.html [zdnet.com]
  • by benfinkel (1048566) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @01:43PM (#19509205)
    I read a couple of other articles on it (google 'em, easy to find) and basically the Judge understands more than this Slashdot abstract says.

    Torrentspy was contending that they had no record of user's IP addresses, since they don't do any IP logging. The Judge has ordered that since, even though there is no logging, the IPs are available in the RAM for a period of time, that constitutes a recording and they were ordered to capture that information from the RAM in a more permanent spot.

    This is new because it's the first time that volatile RAM has even been considered as evidence in that manner.
  • Re:HD (Score:5, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gma i l . c om> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @01:44PM (#19509209) Homepage Journal
    No, nothing like that. I can only presume that the judge's order explained the reasoning in detail, but basically the court has decided that if it's in RAM it's an electronic document. To that end, the judge has ordered TorrentSpy to turn on logging to capture these "electronic documents".

    It's basically some wild legal theory invented to provide a method of giving the MPAA the discovery information they want. The bright side is that the judge has decided that the individual IP addresses may be redacted to prevent TorrentSpy's users from being targeted.
  • by iluvcapra (782887) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @01:45PM (#19509227)
    As the TFA explains, the judge means that the RAM would become a legal document, and that any information put on it would have to be retained for later examination, and that if this ruling were extended to things like SOX, a SOX-complying company would have to keep transaction logs or images of their RAM so that the state of the RAM at any point in the past could be accounted. EEep.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, 2007 @01:47PM (#19509281)
    Maybe a few minutes later. Not hours or days. The decay is total by then, and there isn't even theoretical equipment that could distinguish its state from noise.

  • Re:Blank RAM (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @01:48PM (#19509311)

    I doubt anybody will get in trouble because a judge doesn't know a PS/2 port from a SATA connector.

    Don't count on it. In the UK, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, anyone can be required to turn over the password to decrypt any encrypted data they have that is needed for certain legal purposes... even if the "encrypted data" is just random bits, with no significance and not derived from any meaningful data. You are presumed guilty if you won't (or can't) supply the appropriate password.

    If this case happened in the UK, the RIP Act would appear to make you guilty by default if you couldn't supply a password that "decrypted" whatever data was in the RAM when it was next powered up to turn it back into whatever they think was there before. And given that these are people who don't appreciate the volatile nature of RAM, I wouldn't hold out much hope of explaining to the judge why it's not possible to comply with their ruling.

    Aren't you glad that our inept legislators and your incompetent judges work in different jurisdictions?

  • by otacon (445694) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @01:54PM (#19509431)
    Even if they could prove you went to torrentspy...theres nothing they can do......even if they proved you downloaded a torrent...there is nothing they can do, as torrents have no copyrighted data.....tey would have to prove you downloaded the content the torrent pointed to, which at that point is out of the torrent spy loop...but who know what they'll try to say
  • Re:link is broken (Score:4, Informative)

    by Otter (3800) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @01:57PM (#19509505) Journal
    Also, the description of the ruling is inaccurate. The issue is whether data "stored" in memory but never written to disk are sufficiently stored in the user's system that a user might be compelled to archive them to disk or paper. The judge isn't AFAICT saying that the bits actually in the RAM can be demanded.
  • Re:What's next? (Score:3, Informative)

    by bassgoonist (876907) <aaron,m,bruce&gmail,com> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:04PM (#19509621) Journal
    Actually, if you believe wikipedia (I do in this case), modem IS the correct term http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modem [wikipedia.org]

    "Broadband modems should still be classed as modems, since they use complex waveforms to carry digital data. They are more advanced devices than traditional dial-up modems as they are capable of modulating/demodulating hundreds of channels simultaneously."

  • by Martin Blank (154261) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:05PM (#19509643) Journal
    ZDNet appears to be forwarding referred clicks (possibly just from Slashdot) to the .comnull address. It works fine if you just paste in the link and press Enter.
  • by BosstonesOwn (794949) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:06PM (#19509661)
    Like I said depending on the ram.

    http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/secure_ del.html [auckland.ac.nz]

    Completely doable.

    I bet this poor page is in for one hell of a /.ing.
  • Re:Blank RAM (Score:5, Informative)

    by bcattwoo (737354) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:06PM (#19509667)

    And these guys get arrested for destruction of evidence when they find that the RAM is blank. Un-freaking-believable.
    No, because the article summary misrepresents the actual ruling. TorrentSpy claims that it can't turn over certain data because it was never logged. The judge ruled that since the data in question was in the RAM, TorrentSpy was in possession of said data and must preserve it for discovery, i.e. start logging it. The judge in no way ruled that they must physically turn over the RAM chips.
  • by AuMatar (183847) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:08PM (#19509705)
    Not in modern DRAM. Modern DRAM is basicly a capacitor. YOu set it to 1 by charging the capacitor, 0 by letting it discharge. However, due to the natural resistance of silicon there is always some leakage current leaving the capacitors. This means that RAM left alone for more than a few tenths of a milisecond will lose enough voltage to drop to a logical 0. TO prevent this, RAM is constantly refreshed- the ram chip will spend spare cycles writing its own value to itself. SO unless you transfer the computer without unpluggint the ram or powering dowjn the machine, you will not be able to recover any data.
  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:10PM (#19509735) Journal
    A bit of DRAM[1] is basically a transistor and a capacitor. Due to the small size of the capacitor, its stored charge leaks away very quickly, on the order of a few milliseconds. A DRAM 'refresh cycle,' which happens around every 64ms in modern RAM, involves reading the value of every bit and re-writing it before it leaks away. This is done in parallel; every bit receives the clock signal and refreshes itself. Storing data in DRAM requires a constant application of energy; as soon as you cut power to RAM, the bits will all be reset to the same value (whether this is one or zero is largely a matter of convention).

    Oh, and whoever moderated this informative, please never ever use mod points again.

    [1] Main memory in all mainstream machines is DRAM.

  • by hummassa (157160) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:12PM (#19509755) Homepage Journal
    When I was a kid, RAM was made of flip-flops and I had to go to school with three feet of snow, and it was uphill both ways. Oh boy.
    Nowadays, BosstonesOwn (794949), RAM is made out of capacitors and they have to be "refreshed", that is, some circuit re-reads/re-writes the same values all over many times per second. One second without refresh, and all the data is gone for ever and ever and ever.

    BEFORE: a flip flop has an input, a clock, and an output. when you put 0 in the input and pulse the clock once, the output is now 0; if you put 1 in the input and pulse the clock, the output now has 1. This is how one bit of memory is stored. Also know as SRAM, this kind of memory is fairly large in terms of integrated circuits (like 20 transistors in-die), is reasonably fast, and it's still found in L0/1/2 caches of microprocessors, in quantities in the range of Megabytes.

    NOW: you have a capacitor, if you put 1 in its input (that is the same pin as its output) it retains this one for a fixed period of time (T). if no-one tries to read this bit in, like, T/2, a circuit in the memory reads this bit, and if it's 1, writes again 1 in its input. Also known as DRAM, this kind of ram is smaller per-bit (one capacitor in-die, 40-60 times smaller than a bit of SRAM), but the memory itself has to add in the end the size of the refreshing circuit, it's slower (because read cycles must be synched in time with refresh cycles), and is found in the "RAM" socket of your motherboard, in quantities in the range from hundreds of Megabytes to Gigabytes.

    So, DRAM _really_ clears, i.e., if unplugged when plugged again it's all beautifully zeroed.

    Ok??
  • Perception (Score:3, Informative)

    by tyrantking31 (1115607) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:13PM (#19509779) Homepage
    The problem the judge has in this case is perception. The plaintiff's are arguing that there is a way for the defendant to create a tangible record of the contents of their RAM which the defendant is obligated to produce under the rules of evidence. The defendant, in trying to educate the judge as to the nature of RAM is perceived as hiding something. The judge is forced either through her own ignorance or through defense council's incompetence to order the production of the information. It's unfortunate, but probably the correct decision if the judged thought that the defendant was hiding discoverable information. Thankfully there is an appeal and perhaps the appellate attorneys will be more competent or the judge will be more open receptive.
  • Ruling makes sense (Score:3, Informative)

    by Have Blue (616) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:15PM (#19509803) Homepage
    The judge didn't get the technical aspects wrong. The judge did not take technical aspects into account at all, since it's a legal decision. The finding was that the contents of a computer's memory - specifically, the persistence of a client's IP in the network stack or server software while transmitting data - was relevant to the case and it should be provided to the court. In other words, TorrentSpy's loophole of not logging anything to disk is not valid and is no different legally from creating and then deleting logfiles. Once that decision has been made, the technical aspect is someone else's problem (TorrentSpy's).

    (IANAL)
  • by FrankSchwab (675585) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:15PM (#19509809) Journal
    If you're going to comment on a technical subject, at least have some clue as to what you're talking about.

    DRAM stores ones and zeros by storing charges on a tiny capacitor. If enough charge is stored, it reads back as a one; if too little charge is stored, it reads back as a zero. Ones are changed to zeros by draining the charge (attaching the capacitor plate to ground). Zeros are changed to ones by storing more charge (attaching the capacitor plate to Vcc). Due to technological limitations in the fabrication of the capacitors, the stored charge on them will dissipate over time - on the order of microseconds. Milliseconds after you remove power (or stop refreshing them), memory will start to become corrupted. Seconds after you remove power, all data will be gone. Within minutes of removing power, not even the most sophisticated probing of the part would be able to tell a one from a zero.

    And I have no idea whatsoever where you got that idiotic 01->10->11->00 progression concept. Please wipe that from your mind.

    /frank
  • by BosstonesOwn (794949) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:16PM (#19509835)
    No but there are other things like oxides that are capable of being read. While expensive they do it and it works.
  • the D in DRAM (Score:3, Informative)

    by whoever57 (658626) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:17PM (#19509857) Journal

    Not in modern DRAM. Modern DRAM is basicly a capacitor.
    That's what the "D" in DRAM means: dynamic, as opposed to SRAM, which does not require refreshing and in therefore static. However, in both cases, power is stil required to continue storing the state.
  • Re:What's next? (Score:4, Informative)

    by jkmullins (643492) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:20PM (#19509941) Homepage
    Actually, they are. The data has to be modulated to a particular frequency that equates to a television channel, using 64-QAM or 256-QAM modulation on the downstream (to the customer) channel, and QPSK or 16-QAM on the upstream (to the provider) channel. The cable system I used to work for used 64-QAM on 105MHz downstream (a very, very low frequency for a cable modem, equating to channel 97 digital 1 if I remember correctly) and QPSK on 26MHz (pretty typical). Just because the channel is carrying digital data doesn't mean it isn't modulated.
  • by BosstonesOwn (794949) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:20PM (#19509945)
    Read the link

    http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/secure_ del.html [auckland.ac.nz]

    It's not always true. And depends on the ram.

    To bad moderators here don't actually follow links instead just mod down when enough people try to prove it wrong.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:23PM (#19510007)
    No dear Judge Jacqueline Chooljian,

    A document stored in RAM is not a tangible document.
    A document stored in RAM is a volatile document.

    Yes! It volatilizes!

    If i power off the PC then ... no such volatile document exists.
  • Re:What's next? (Score:4, Informative)

    by jelle (14827) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:28PM (#19510135) Homepage

    "Since they carry digital data over a digital medium, I would disagree. They aren't "modulating" anything."

    The 'cable' is coax, which is an analog medium, not digital. The 'cable modem' modulates (QPSK/QAM, etc) the bits into an analog signal that then again is modulated into a fixed channel (usually 5MHz wide) and puts it onto the coax...

    There really is a lot of 'modem' (MOdulator DEModulator) activity going in in a cable modem...
  • Re:What's next? (Score:4, Informative)

    by jelle (14827) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:35PM (#19510271) Homepage
    I'm not trying to be pedantic, but "modulation" for the devices originally called "modems" means altering the pitch of the audio signal. They were analog devices by definition. But I guess times are a changin'.

    Nope...Altering the pitch? Only FM does purely that (frequency modulation), and even telephone modems have used more advanced method than that for any speed over 1200 bps...

    PSK = Phase shift keying: modulates the phase

    AM = Amplitude modulation (...)

    QAM (as used in both your telephone modem and also in cable modems) = Quadrature _AMPLITUDE_ modulation... modulates the IQ (amplitude and phase together)...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modulation [wikipedia.org]

    "In telecommunications, modulation is the process of varying a periodic waveform, i.e. a tone, in order to use that signal to convey a message, in a similar fashion as a musician may modulate the tone from a musical instrument by varying its volume, timing and pitch."

  • by BosstonesOwn (794949) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:42PM (#19510379)
    Guess I expect to much of people to read links off of an article they obviously haven't seen before. Just keep modding them redundant because people are lazy. Great moderating.

    7. Methods of Recovery for Data stored in Random-Access Memory
    Contrary to conventional wisdom, "volatile" semiconductor memory does not entirely lose its contents when power is removed. Both static (SRAM) and dynamic (DRAM) memory retains some information on the data stored in it while power was still applied. SRAM is particularly susceptible to this problem, as storing the same data in it over a long period of time has the effect of altering the preferred power-up state to the state which was stored when power was removed. Older SRAM chips could often "remember" the previously held state for several days. In fact, it is possible to manufacture SRAM's which always have a certain state on power-up, but which can be overwritten later on - a kind of "writeable ROM".

    DRAM can also "remember" the last stored state, but in a slightly different way. It isn't so much that the charge (in the sense of a voltage appearing across a capacitance) is retained by the RAM cells, but that the thin oxide which forms the storage capacitor dielectric is highly stressed by the applied field, or is not stressed by the field, so that the properties of the oxide change slightly depending on the state of the data. One thing that can cause a threshold shift in the RAM cells is ionic contamination of the cell(s) of interest, although such contamination is rarer now than it used to be because of robotic handling of the materials and because the purity of the chemicals used is greatly improved. However, even a perfect oxide is subject to having its properties changed by an applied field. When it comes to contaminants, sodium is the most common offender - it is found virtually everywhere, and is a fairly small (and therefore mobile) atom with a positive charge. In the presence of an electric field, it migrates towards the negative pole with a velocity which depends on temperature, the concentration of the sodium, the oxide quality, and the other impurities in the oxide such as dopants from the processing. If the electric field is zero and given enough time, this stress tends to dissipate eventually.

    The stress on the cell is a cumulative effect, much like charging an RC circuit. If the data is applied for only a few milliseconds then there is very little "learning" of the cell, but if it is applied for hours then the cell will acquire a strong (relatively speaking) change in its threshold. The effects of the stress on the RAM cells can be measured using the built-in self test capabilities of the cells, which provide the ability to impress a weak voltage on a storage cell in order to measure its margin. Cells will show different margins depending on how much oxide stress has been present. Many DRAM's have undocumented test modes which allow some normal I/O pin to become the power supply for the RAM core when the special mode is active. These test modes are typically activated by running the RAM in a nonstandard configuration, so that a certain set of states which would not occur in a normally-functioning system has to be traversed to activate the mode. Manufacturers won't admit to such capabilities in their products because they don't want their customers using them and potentially rejecting devices which comply with their spec sheets, but have little margin beyond that.

    A simple but somewhat destructive method to speed up the annihilation of stored bits in semiconductor memory is to heat it. Both DRAM's and SRAM's will lose their contents a lot more quickly at Tjunction = 140C than they will at room temperature. Several hours at this temperature with no power applied will clear their contents sufficiently to make recovery difficult. Conversely, to extend the life of stored bits with the power removed, the temperature should be dropped below -60C. Such cooling should lead to weeks, instead of hours or days, of data retention.

  • by Detritus (11846) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:46PM (#19510429) Homepage
    The bank of memory that I was experimenting with had its own refresh controller. The address decoding logic prevented it from being refreshed by memory accesses to other banks of memory. The board's keyboard monitor software was running in a different bank of memory.
  • by nick_davison (217681) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:48PM (#19510457)
    Joss Stone had a similar problem:

    She moved to the U.S. at 16, started dating her producer's son at 17. She then proudly went around telling everyone how great the sex was - afterall, it's legal in England from 16. In California where the californicating was happening, the age of consent is 18. Everyone sat around wondering how long it was before he got arrested as a child molester because of her pride in her relationship.

    Places where oral sex is illegal: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Washington D.C.

    In Georgia those charged and convicted for either oral or anal sex can be sentenced to no less than one year and no more than 20 years imprisonment.

    In Nevada it is illegal to have sex without a condom.

    In Willowdale, Oregon it is against the law for a husband to talk to dirty in his wife's ear during sex.

    In Washington State there is a law against having sex with a virgin under any circumstances (including the wedding night!).

    In Fairbanks, Alaska it is illegal for mooses to have sex on the city sidewalks.

    http://www.journalism.sfsu.edu/flux/gSpot/sexLaw.h tml [sfsu.edu]
  • Not a new document (Score:3, Informative)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:48PM (#19510465)
    Read again, the argument is that the contents of RAM are effectively a document, and the order is to retain that document instead of discard it.

    Sounds reasonable to me, even if technically impractical (you can't realistically store every change to memory).
  • by rs79 (71822) <hostmaster@open-rsc.org> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:57PM (#19510637) Homepage
    Attention dipshits: learn to read.

    From the first line of TFA:
    In a decision reported late Friday by CNET News.com, a federal judge in Los Angeles found (PDF) that a computer server's RAM, or random-access memory, is a tangible document that can be stored and must be turned over in a lawsuit.

    Note the "can be stored" bit.

    If you'd read the PDF of the court order you'd have noted the judge understands quite well that the RAM is volotile and that he was asking the relevant parts be stored. Specifically, he wants the ip addresses stored.

    The story headline should have read "judge orders torrentspy to store IP addresses".

  • RTFD (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, 2007 @03:11PM (#19510857)
    You have been misinformed if you take the slashdot summary at face value.

    And you have been misinformed if you RTFA.

    The judge's decisions responds to most of the comments posted here, and the lawyers comments naively repeated by the author of the article.

    Instead, read the decision (RTFD) that the article links to.

    Although she mistakenly says websites have RAM, she definitely knows what RAM is, if you read her analysis about why the RAM should be turned over. She doesn't want the chip, she wants the ip address that temporarily pass through the website server's RAM.

    Based on existing case law from other copyright cases, whatever passes through a computer's RAM is a tangible copy, if only a temporarily one. According to the rules of discovery, the defendant must produce this copy because it is within their control. It is within their control due to the fact their provider uses the a web server (Microsoft's), and this server has the capability of logging ip address that temporarily pass through the computers RAM.

    So "turning over the RAM" actually means "hand over the documents that are temporarily stored in the RAM by simply turning on the logging function of the webserver." The judge is simply following existing case law and discovery procedures.
  • by canajin56 (660655) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @03:19PM (#19510985)
    There are established rules that say that a defendant cannot be compelled to create new documents for the plaintiff, even if the new document would just be a compilation and/or summary of other documents. TorrentSpy maintains that they do not currently log IP addresses, and therefore an order to begin logging IP addresses and turn over their logs would be illegal. The judge has ruled that RAM is legally a document, and therefore they DO in fact have such documents in their possession, if for a very short period of time. As such, he has stated that a requirement to enable logging does not constitute creating a new document, and is simply transcribing a document from one format to another, which they CAN be required to do. And that's why he referenced the RAM, because without acknowledging that this data is contained in the RAM "document" at one point, they cannot be legally compelled to enable logging.
  • Err....no. (Score:5, Informative)

    by DeadCatX2 (950953) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @04:22PM (#19512051) Journal
    Not in modern DRAM. Modern DRAM is basically [sic] a capacitor.

    Sure, forgetting about the whole row and column stuff, and the sense amps...

    However, due to the natural resistance of silicon there is always some leakage current leaving the capacitors.

    Incorrect. Capacitors lose charge because dielectrics are not perfect insulators, and thus some current actually leaks through from one plate to the other.

    This means that RAM left alone for more than a few tenths of a milisecond will lose enough voltage to drop to a logical 0

    Disturbingly wrong. Most manufacturers specify that a row of DRAM must be refreshed at least every 64 milliseconds. In fact, Wikipedia cites a pdf saying that some information can be retained for up to minutes in a cell of DRAM - though you will get some bit errors.

    TO prevent this, RAM is constantly refreshed- the ram chip will spend spare cycles writing its own value to itself.

    Actually, the memory controller will issue a refresh command to the DRAM chip. This is probably what you were thinking about before...a row refresh must happen every 7.8 microseconds or so (depending on the RAM chip). But, that's because the refresh operation only refreshes a single row. The DRAM chip usually has an internal address counter, so you just say "refresh the next row" and the DRAM chip already knows what the "next row" is, and afterwards it increments it so the next time you issue the refresh command, it refreshes the next row. If you execute these refresh operations every 7.8 microseconds, then in 64 milliseconds you will refresh every row of memory on the DRAM chip.

    Oh, and by the way, reading from any cell of DRAM will refresh the entire row that cell is on, because reading from DRAM is a destructive operation. Therefore, there's actually a row of latches at the bottom of the columns, and the values from those latches are placed back into the capacitors while the bit of interest is being shuffled out onto memory bus.

    Writing to a cell also requires reading the entire row, which means that writing also refreshes that row.
  • by mako1138 (837520) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @04:22PM (#19512057)
    Google cache:
    http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:PxTwoO6oZzMJ:w ww.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/secure_del.html +http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/secure _del.html&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us&client=firefox- a [72.14.253.104]

    Note that this paper is from 1996, is from a symposium, and deals mainly with magnetic media. There are absolutely no citations in the part that talks about solid-state memory (lots of cites in the magnetic part though), so I am skeptical. If it could be done, he could have easily presented proof.

    And now it's been ten years, with device area getting cut in half just about every two years. In modern DRAM, the charge storage is so minute that any accumulated oxide stress effects would be lost in the noise.

    (While I'm at it, 00 -> 01 -> 10 -> 11, WTF?)
  • Agreed - mostly (Score:3, Informative)

    by DeadCatX2 (950953) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @04:32PM (#19512213) Journal
    SRAM only consumes "large currents" (for ambiguous definitions of large) whenever it needs to switch states.

    DRAM, however, consumes "large currents" every time it charges a row of capacitors. However, the large current is very brief (on the order of several ns) but happens frequently and periodically (on the order of several us).

    DRAM is smaller, simpler and power hungry BECAUSE of all the refresh's required.

    Er, it's power hungry because of the refreshes, but it's smaller because it's 1 capacitor and 1 transistor, as opposed to several transistors.

    As far as simpler....I wouldn't go that far. SRAM is WAY simpler to interface to than DRAM, because the SRAM doesn't need an intelligent memory controller which understands how to burst large amounts of data, and how to handle the latency for the first access. Oh, yeah, and don't forget that the memory controller needs to send refresh commands periodically to the DRAM...
  • Re:the D in DRAM (Score:2, Informative)

    by josephdrivein (924831) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @04:36PM (#19512267)
    I agree with you. The parent has misunderstood something, I think it should be apparent from the article he linked to. I didn't read it, this is /. :)

    First of all, nowadays dynamic RAM doesn't even have a real capacitor for each bit, but it uses wires as (real small but cheap) capacitors. The capacitors are so small that when the RAM reads a bit it is destroyed, each time something is read, it has to be rewritten too. The reading circuit ensures this.
    Because of leakage, they have to be refreshed thousands of times a second, or charge (and information) would be lost.

    Add to all that the fact that a forensic method that tries to read very small charges on the storage nodes once the RAM is powered down, would require that the chip is open, some metalization is taken off and some really clever way to read terribly small charges is implemented _off-chip_. The wires you need to contact are something like 200nm away from each other.

    I think it's not possible.
  • by sowth (748135) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @04:50PM (#19512473) Journal

    Because the guy is making up bullshit. It is obvious to anyone who knows anything about electronics or computers. DRAM is made up of capacitors which do store charge, but it leaks away in a matter of seconds or minutes based on the quality and size of capacitor. SRAM is made up of transisters and loses all its state as soon as power is lost.Neither one of these would retain any data whatsoever without power after even a small amount of time, say 15 minutes.

    There is flash memory, but no one will use it as RAM because it goes bad after only a few thousand state changes--would probably only last a few seconds on a modern computer. There are also magnetic forms of memory used in chips, but from what I understand it is still experimental and bulky, though it was used in some ancient computers (before the days of microchips).

  • by Tim C (15259) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @05:36PM (#19513021)
    No, as that's not what was ordered. The order was to start logging the information so that it can be submitted as evidence in the future, not to hand over the RAM chips themselves.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @05:42PM (#19513091) Homepage Journal
    DejaView.. It would take snapshots of your ram and create a file off them so you could restore them later and umm *cough* bypass copy protection.

    Cool little product.
  • by MoFoQ (584566) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @05:56PM (#19513245)
    well they can't really...since the original order will inevitably lead to violating the law no matter what; some what of a Catch-22/entrapment.
    Following the order requires the separation of the RAM from the computer which destroys the data.

    anyways, as far as logging, that's also very difficult to do. Lets say that 25% of the operations of a given computer are to manipulating memory and that the clock of this hypothetical computer is 1 billion cycles per second. So that means 250 million bytes per second, which in turn is already beyond the performance ability of hard drive storage devices. That's 21.6 trillion bytes per day. Plus how long do you have to retain the data?
    This doesn't include things that happen in various buffers and caches (L1/L2, etc.) nor the fact that the mere act of writing to the hard drive changes information in memory. (and yes, 1GHz is pretty low and a single core, etc.)

    I could have sworn there was a law that requires judicial orders to be grounded in the realm of reality.
    But then again.....
  • by siddesu (698447) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @06:26PM (#19513525)
    i am kinda late to the fray, but the actual ruling doesn't seem to concern itself with the technical aspects of RAM, instead, it addressess the argument "does TorrentSpy have electronic recordings of their server logs", and, as far as read, it seems to say "yes, because data is in RAM for a while, and RAM is an electronic media built for the purpose of storage and retrieval of information, albeit short-term one, and TorrentSpy can read the data during that time".

    The whole argument is there in the first place because TorrentSpy seem to allege they don't have logs because the logs are not on disk, but in RAM, which is transient and not an electronic medium.

    So, to my IANAL eyes the ruling says "if you are in the US, and you have been issued a court order to store all your electronic communications, you better do so and don't come up with excuses which are lame technically."

    I respectfully decline to comment on whether this ruling is good, bad or ugly.
  • by Big Nothing (229456) <big.nothing@bigger.com> on Friday June 15, 2007 @03:27AM (#19516487)
    Q: Does the judge really want TorrentSpy to hand over their RAM chips?
    A: No, f****** moron. The judge simply says that information that exists in RAM can be retrieved.

    Q: What's this all about?
    A: It goes down like this:
    1. TorrentSpy has been slapped with an order to log traffic
    2. TorrentSpy claims that since their servers have no hard drive (only RAM) there "are no logs"
    3. Judge calls bullshit. The logs exist and can be transferred to other media. TorrentSpy must do this cause they are legally obligated to do so.

    As usual, the article summary misrepresents the story. TorrentSpy claims that it can't turn over certain data because it was never logged. The judge ruled that since the data in question existed in the RAM, TorrentSpy was in possession of said data and must preserve it for discovery, i.e. start logging it. The judge in no way ruled that they must physically turn over the RAM chips.

    Q: But a defendant cannot be compelled to create new documents for the plaintiff, even if the new document would just be a compilation and/or summary of other documents.
    A: That's just it: the information allready exist. It just need to be stored "permanently" (read: for years instead of miliseconds).

    Q: Wouldn't this mean that TorrentSpy has to change the HW configuration of their servers?
    A: Yes, It basically means that using RAM-based servers without permanently logging traffic is not the legal loophole once believed.

    This is not the first time that a company/organization has been ordered to change the way their system works. In the SonicBlue/ReplayTV case [2002] the court ordered ReplayTV to create the technology to record information about subscribers for purposes of determining how much of ReplayTV usage was violating and the law.

    Q: Is there no way out of this? Will the MAFIAA have their way?
    A: The judge doesn't say that the logs have to be stored electronically... Nor that they have to be stored chronologically or otherwise in a logical, searchable manner.

  • by WhyDoYouWantToKnow (1039964) on Friday June 15, 2007 @10:14AM (#19519425)
    No. Due to the (often decried as faulty) moderation system, you don't get karma for being funny. That's why someone who's being funny will get mod'ed insightful then adjusted to funny. For some reason ./ doesn't think that being funny is good for your karma. I'd really hate to live in their nirvana where there is no laughter.

"'Tis true, 'tis pity, and pity 'tis 'tis true." -- Poloniouius, in Willie the Shake's _Hamlet, Prince of Darkness_

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