Category Archives: Information Tech

National Supercomputing Mission

Supercomputer

India’s plans to be a world-class computing power are taking shape as the government lays out its strategy to build a vast supercomputing grid, comprised of 73 high-performance computing facilities. The project is expected to take seven years and comes with a price tag of Rs. 4,500-crore. It will have at least 3 petascale machines about 40-times faster than the country’s current record-holder.

India’s finance ministry panel authorized the National Supercomputing Mission, which is being jointly managed by the department of science and technology and the department of electronics and information technology. However, the project still has to clear the Indian cabinet before becoming official policy.

IMPACT OF NATIONAL SUPER-COMPUTING MISSION

Professor Rajat Moona, director general of Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), described the mission as the first step to have a supercomputer machine in the top 20 list. According to Professor Moona, it will have transformative impact on research quality and quantity by facilitating the training of Indian scientists and the development of indigenous applications in medicine, agriculture and technology.

The seven-year mission will take place in two phases: the first three years will see the construction of 73 networked systems at research and education sites across the country. In the remaining four years, the focus will be on application development to make the most of this investment.

CURRENT POSITION OF INDIA

India has only 9 systems on the Top500 list ranking, India’s fastest ‘Prithvi’ (IBM made) is at 71 rank and India’s second fastest ‘ParamYuva-II’ (C-DAC made) is at 131 rank. In this computer age nation’s international importance is often measured on the number and the size of supercomputers it runs. China has 61 supercomputers in the Top 500 compared to a whopping 231 in the US.

World’s Top Ten Supercomputers

supercomputer

Every six months, the Top500 Organization ranks the five hundred fastest supercomputers in the world. And for the fourth consecutive list, China’s Tianhe-2 is on top, performing at 33.86 petaflop/s. That is nearly twice as fast as the number two computer, Cray’s Titan supercomputer.

The 44th Top 500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, revealed during November’s International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in New Orleans, contained only one new entry – a 3.57 petaflops Cray CS-Storm system installed at a secret US government facility.

INDIA IN TOP-500

India has only 9 systems on the Top500 list ranking, India’s fastest ‘Prithvi’ (IBM made) is at 71 rank and India’s second fastest ‘ParamYuva-II’ (C-DAC made) is at 131 rank. In this computer age nation’s international importance is often measured on the number and the size of supercomputers it runs.

China has 61 supercomputers in the Top 500, down from 76 since June’s list, compared to a whopping 231 in the US. However, the US has never had fewer in the Top 500 – a year ago it had 265.

THE TOP TEN

1 – Tianhe-2 : Placed at China’s National University of Defence Technology in Guangzhou, Tianhe-2 is the world’s top system with a performance of 33.86 petaflops. It is named after the Milky Way.

2 – Titan : A Cray system at the US Department of the Oak Ridge National Observatory at Harvard, Massachusetts, it is a 17.5 petaflop system for a range of science projects.

3 – Sequoia : A former top-ranker, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, concentrates on extending the life of ageing nuclear weapons and conducting experiments on nuclear fusion. This IBM Blue Gene machine can sustain 17.1 petaflops.

4 – K computer : Fujitsu’s K computer sits in Japan’s RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science, where the machine uses its 10.5 petaflops to solve the energy, sustainability, healthcare, climate change, industrial and space related problems.

5 – Mira : Another IBM Blue Gene machine, the Mira supercomputer at Argonne National Laboratory, Illinois, is owned by the US Department of Energy (DOE). It’s of 8.58 petaflops.

6 – Piz Daint : It is housed at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre, this Cray system uses its 6.27 petaflops primarily for climate and weather modelling, though also for astrophysics, materials science and life science.

7 – Stampede : This Dell-made 5.1 petaflops system at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, available for open research, with projects including drug molecule construction to weather forecasting to astrophysics.

8 – Juqueen : This IBM Blue Gene machine boasts 5 petaflops and does neuroscience, computational biology, climate research and quantum physics at the Forschungszentrum Juelich, Germany.

9 – Vulcan : Almost identical to the Juqueen, this IBM BlueGene system runs 4.29 petaflops at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California.

10 – *Top secret* : It’s a 3.57 petaflops system by Cray, this US government-owned supercomputer lacks the usual name, and its whereabouts isn’t publicly known.

Google’s Smart Contact Lens

lens

Google is testing ‘smart contact lens’ that is capable of measuring glucose levels in tears, with an aim to help diabetes sufferers. The technology uses a very small microprocessor, sensor and antenna built into a contact lens. Google hopes to build a miniaturised set of LED lights to alert users when glucose levels are dangerously high or low.

Google said a prototype of its smart contact lens can generate a reading of a tear’s glucose level every second, potentially replacing the need for people with diabetes to prick their fingers and test drops of blood throughout the day.

The project is being carried by the Google X team. Google X is special division inside the web company that works on future technologies. Google Glass, a small computer with a tiny head-mounted display, also came out of Google X last year.

Google is developing a variety of new technologies outside its core business, including self-driving cars and ‘Google Project Loon’, which attempts to bring internet to remote areas using balloons. Google has also become more focused on health-related issues, launching a separate company in September devoted to tackling diseases related to aging.

[Photo Courtesy – Google]

Kerala e-krishi Project

e-agri

In the absence of proper support from the government and cooperation from farmers, the e-krishi project, introduced by the Kerala State Information Technology Mission (IT Mission) in 2006, has come to a total standstill in the district.

Of the 13 grama panchayats included in the online agri-business network, majority remain disconnected from the venture, which has witnessed a slow climbdown since 2010. The role played by these local bodies to attract farmers to e-trade, too, has proved futile as only a few of them could gain the assured return.

An officer attached to the IT Mission said the slow-down in the sector was mainly due to some technical issues, which were yet to be settled.  A major reason pointed out by farmers for the unpopularity of the scheme was “the uncertainty” in selling out the agricultural products on time. In the open market, there is always demand for agricultural produce. However, in e-trade, they will have to wait for the potential clients to order the product.

Complaints have also surfaced on the unavailability of the previously launched special website ‘www.e-krishi.org’ for facilitating e-trade. Similarly, the toll-free number launched to coordinate the trade is not operational now.

[Courtesy – The Hindu]

Understanding Bitcoins

bitcoins

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a type of virtual currency, created in 2009 by an unknown person named Satoshi Nakamoto. Transactions in this system are made with no middle men, banks or regulator agency. They are a completely decentralized form of money and aren’t backed by any government. People can use this digital currency for all sorts of real transactions.

Why Bitcoins?

Bitcoins can be used to buy merchandise anonymously. In addition, international payments are easy and cheap because there is no transaction fee and bitcoins are not tied to any country or subject to regulation. Some people just buy bitcoins as an investment, hoping that they’ll go up in value.

Acquiring Bitcoins

Buy on an Exchange: Several marketplaces called “bitcoin exchanges” allow people to buy or sell bitcoins using different currencies. Mt. Gox is the largest bitcoin exchange.

Transfers: People can send bitcoins to each other using mobile apps or their computers. It’s similar to sending cash digitally.

Mining: People compete to “mine” bitcoins using computers to solve complex mathematical problems. This is how bitcoins are created. Currently, a winner is rewarded with 25 bitcoins roughly every 10 minutes.

Owning Bitcoins

Bitcoins are stored in a “digital wallet,” which exists either in the cloud or on a user’s computer. The wallet is a kind of virtual account that allows users to send or receive bitcoins, pay for goods or save their money. Unlike bank accounts, bitcoin wallets are not insured.

Anonymity

Though each bitcoin transaction is recorded in a public log, names of buyers and sellers are never revealed – only their wallet IDs. While that keeps bitcoin users’ transactions private, it also lets them buy or sell anything without easily tracing it back to them. That’s why it has become the currency of choice for people online buying drugs or other illicit activities.

Future of Bitcoins

Confidence in bitcoins has grown after a US Senate committee considered it as a legitimate financial service at a meeting in October 2013. Within the time span of 5 years the value of bitcoin rose from few cents to 1000 USD.

Still it is too early to say anything about the future of bitcoins. China has banned its banks from handling bitcoin transactions, saying they have no legal status and should not be used as a currency. The European Banking Authority has already warned about the potential risks of using Bitcoins.

Bitcoins in India

Bitcoin is catching the attention of India too. Many investors are considering it as a good investment option compared to a traditional currency because it has a limited supply. Others are downloading the software to “mine” this currency. Across India, some of the retail outlets have expressed their willingness to accept Bitcoins. The Reserve Bank of India is closely watching the growth of bitcoins but is not currently regulating the currency.