No, this is not a post about mixing cleaning powder and food. The Wall Street Journal this week had two articles about interesting technology developments. This is a bit techier than my usual posts, but I was fascinated by both reports. 

I have recently become a big fan of Google’s maps. It lets you click on the map to drag it, which makes seeing how points connect much easier. On Monday, the Journal reported (subscription req’d) on how Google does this, which I had been wondering about. “Ajax is a recently coined name for a dense mouthful of software technologies that are built into Web browsers.” It “knows to fetch only the part of the screen that needs changing” which explains why Google maps perform so well. Ajax is a recently coined term for a combination of technologies including JavaScript and dynamic HTML. The article suggests that this open technology could work to the detriment of both Sun and Microsoft.

Separately, in a Tuesday front-page story (subscription req’d), the Journal reports that researchers have discovered problems with hashing algorithms. A hash converts any amount of text to a short string of numbers. Hashes are critical in authenticated transactions and digital signatures. They are also used to ensure the integrity of data in forensic evidence collection. The idea is that you can very easily and efficiently tell if text has been altered by hashing it and comparing the resulting short numbers. Different texts are always supposed to yield different hashes.

The researchers have, however, found a way to create two different source texts that produce the same hash string – something previously thought virtually impossible to do. The security implications of this could be far-reaching, though it is not clear that anyone needs to worry just yet.

These two reports are more techy than many of the articles I read in computer trade publications. That alone suggests, I believe, the ever-increasing importance of technology in day-to-day life. In years past, I do not recall such detailed tech accounts in a mainstream business publication.