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Monthly Archives: June 2016

22
Jun
2016

China Pulls Further Ahead in the Supercomputer Race

by Bill

China has recently created the most powerful supercomputer in the world. It has surpassed what is now the 2nd most powerful supercomputer, which was also made by Chinese scientists, to become #1. It’s quite a machine, as you could imagine. It has 10,649,600 cores to power it’s 125 petaflop theoretical peak performance and 1.31 petaflops of memory. To give you a comparison, your computer at home probably uses four cores. If you haven’t even heard of a petaflop, don’t worry, it’s nothing like the gigabytes and terabytes we are used to dealing with when searching for consumer based technology. It’s actually a calculation that is based on how many operations a computer can perform in one second. Yes, that’s a whole lot of calculations!

 The new computer is called Sunway TaihuLight and it furthers China’s superiority in the computational “arms race” to build the best super computer. In the beginning of the race, China lagged far behind, with no supercomputer powers, but now, they have the most supercomputers and the three fastest. The most impressive thing about the Sunway is that it is also made with Chinese made computer chips and components signaling an end to their reliance on US tech from firms like IBM.

China will be on top – at least until 2018 when US companies expect to produce a machine that will range from 150-250 petaflops. Many industry analysts believe that is more than enough time for China to surpass this goal easily, given their advanced place in this particular segment of the industry. The makers of TaihuLight plan to use this computer for earth-wide weather forecasting, and analyzing big data, proving that having the most powerful computer is more than just a title, it is actually useful for things that can help everyone in the world.

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15
Jun
2016

Wired Magazine Shines A Spotlight On Carrier Hotels

by Bill

You might be surprised to learn that most of the internet lives in a series of digital hotel. It’s not a lavish environment and there is certainly no room service, but these places are known as Carrier Hotels and NYC photographer Peter Garritano recently went to five unique locations to do an expose on some of the physical embodiment of the web at the deepest levels. Before doing the project, Peter had an idea of what these large data storage and connection centers would be like, but visiting them and photographing them has given him a new perspective on what the internet is and how it is constructed one fiber at a time.

What is a carrier hotel exactly? Wired Magazine sheds some light on the subject in their article on Garritano’s project. It’s a place where “AT&T’s network can hook up with Verizon’s network. Verizon’s network can connect with Google’s network” and far beyond. Originally carrier hotels were for hooking up big internet providers, but more and more these days large tech companies are creating their own networks in order to run apps and programs that use a lot of data like AI and deep learning programs. Other internet companies, including hosting companies like NationalNet tie in to these trunks and end users reach their data through a mind-boggling number of portals simultaneously.

Unsurprisingly, these locations are kept securely under lock and key with a great deal of privacy about their locations. Garritano had to work hard to get entrance into these places, and even then he was subjected to high security screenings. There are biometric security checkpoints and even traps to contend with when you enter one of these facilities, in addition to the more usual security guards and cameras. It’s nice to know that companies like Telx and Zayo really have the internet’s security in mind. Once you get past all that security, it’s pretty mundane inside, as Peter’s photos will show. Miles of cable, large cooling devices, and a security escort making sure that the internet maintained its status quo as Garritano photographed its inner workings. It’s a fascinating look from an outsiders perspective with visual depictions of the Internet unlike any you are likely to have seen elsewhere.

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01
Jun
2016

Encryption Fight Intensifies as Apple Rehires Security Pro

by Bill

Ever since a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California created a problem for the federal government, encryption has been on everyone’s mind, specifically in relation to Apple devices and other mobile technologies. The attacker had an iPhone 5 that was locked with a passcode, and the federal government wanted in. They couldn’t crack the code and wanted to force Apple to create a “backdoor” into the iPhone that would allow them to try an unlimited number of four digit combinations to try to get into the phone where they would hopefully find some helpful information.

Apple refused, very publicly, to create such a technology, insinuating that such an idea would be harmful to all iPhone users. So, the government had to turn to an outside firm to create the technology to crack the phone. Inside, it’s alleged that they didn’t find much.

Perhaps in reaction to this initial fight, Apple has rehired a security pro who specializes in cryptography to make their consumer devices even more secure and better encrypted. The expert is John Callas, who worked for Apple in the 90’s, and from 2009-2011. When not working at Apple, he has founded many secure communications companies, including Silent Circle, which created the Black Phone – a very secure and fully encrypted smartphone.

Previously Mr. Callas has designed ways to keep information stored on Apple Computers safe, but so far Apple is mum about his new role at the company. Mike Janke, who cofounded Silent Circle with Callas has some insight as to why he would go back to Apple: “It has always been Jon’s dream to bring the most secure products possible to a bigger population,” he told Reuters.

This could be the start of an intensified battle between consumer product companies and global governments about private, secure and protected communications as the world struggles to balance individual liberties and public safety concerns globally.
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