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Is The US Stumbling In The Supercomputing Race

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

China appears to have made the semi-annual Top 500 Supercomputer List its kingdom. Not only does it top the list but also has 202 ranked systems on the list.

China now claims 202 systems within the Top 500, while the United States is second with 143 systems represented on the list.

Only a few months ago, the US had 169 systems in the Top 500 compared to China’s 160. In fact, the drop is so severe that the US Department of Energy is to dole out $258 million in grants to several tech companies to develop exascale systems, the next great leap in HPC.

These systems can handle a billion calculations a second, or one exaflop.

The Top 500 List hasn’t changed much since the first 2017 version was released in June.

The Sunway TaihuLight, an HPC system developed by China’s National Research Centre for Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology (NRCPC), retains its number one ranking with a performance of 93 petaflops.

The second most powerful system is also located in China. The Tianhe-2, which is based at the National Supercomputer Centre in Guangzho, has the capacity of 33.9 petaflops.

Third place belongs to the Piz Daint in Switzerland, which is a Cray XC50 system that used Nvidia’s Tesla P100 graphic processing unit (GPU) chips. It has a capacity of 9.6 petaflops. The fourth most powerful supercomputer is Japan’s Gyoukou system, which is deployed at Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology – home of the Earth Simulator. Gyoukou clocks in at 19.14 petaflops.

The US is in fifth place with its Titan, a Cray supercomputer located at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The system fell from fourth to fifth place in the new rankings with a performance of 17.59 petaflops.

Despite its overall drop, the US still has three other systems listed within the top ten, including two more built by Cray and one designed by IBM. Japan also has two additional systems within the top ten. Overall, Hewlett Packard Enterprise has installed the most systems on the Top 500 List, with 122 supercomputers and HPC systems attached to the company.

Courtesy-Fud

Broadcomm, Qualcomm Merger May Face Resistance In China

November 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The proposed mega-merger between chipmaker Broadcom Ltd and U.S. rival Qualcomm Inc is likely to face stern scrutiny from China, antitrust lawyers say, amid a strategic push by Beijing into semiconductors.

Broadcom made an unsolicited $103 billion bid for Qualcomm on Monday, aimed at creating a $200-billion-plus behemoth that could reshape the industry at the heart of mobile phone hardware.

But Chinese regulatory approval could be a hold-up. Beijing and Washington have sparred over technology deals, including in chips, with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) knocking back a number of takeovers involving Chinese firms this year.

The thorny topic is likely to come up when U.S. President Donald Trump visits China this week – with Qualcomm executives in tow.

The merger would face a lengthy review from the anti-monopoly unit of China’s commerce ministry, due to strategic concerns, the huge size of the deal and because Qualcomm has come under fire before in the country over competition concerns.

“This is a critical industry for China and Qualcomm has been fined by the Ministry of Commerce (Mofcom) before so it’s on its radar,” said Wendy Yan, Shanghai-based partner at law firm Faegre Baker Daniels.

Qualcomm agreed to pay a record fine of $975 million in China in 2015 to end a probe into anti-competitive practices related to so-called “double dipping” by billing Chinese customers patent royalty fees in addition to charging for the chips.

China is making a major push to develop its own semiconductor industry under local champions such as Tsinghua Unigroup and Fujian Grand Chip Investment to help cut reliance on global operators including Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Intel Corp.

Singapore Entice Seniors To Code With New Program

October 31, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

While some elderly people around the world are still busy figuring out how to use the internet, Singapore’s senior citizens are getting started on coding.

Over the weekend, the libraries in Singapore played host to a special version of the global Hour of Code movement. Seniors aged 50 years and older learned how to code in Swift alongside student volunteer partners. The event was part of an initiative driven by the Singapore government to get its senior citizens up to speed with technology.

The Hour of Code is designed to help students to pick up coding and computer science. It can be organized by anyone, including those who don’t know how to code. The movement claims to have already reached out to 100 million students in 180 countries.

Using Apple’s iPads and the Swift Playgrounds app, older participants spent an hour so learning the basic of programing, first getting the avatar moving around and collecting gems before moving on to loop integrations, though this depends on how quickly they pick up the language.

 For former school principal Foo Chee Meng, 71, the session offered him the opportunity to revisit coding. He learned Fortran and COBOL decades ago when he was still at studying at a university.

“Swift is very different from what I learned previously, they’ve made it so that even ordinary people can just pick it up quite simply, not so for Fortran COBOL, you’ll really need some knowledge for those,” said Foo.

While the participants are unlikely to end up with killer coding skills or walk in with experience with coding like Foo, the one-hour session could help spark interest in a different hobby to keep their minds active.

For 15-year-old volunteer Juraais Bin Hasbullah, his main concern was being able to communicate with older participants who don’t speak English as he doesn’t speak the Chinese dialects. In Singapore, English adoption among the elderly isn’t as widespread as the younger generation, though they can speak a smattering of it.

“It’s not going to be easy for me as I’m afraid of the language barrier. But in terms of teaching them on how it’s being done, I think it’s easy as it’s a very intuitive app,” said Juraais. “And if there are more sessions, I’ll definitely volunteer again.”

Microsoft Drops DOJ Lawsuit Over Data Requests

October 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft Corp said it plans to stop its lawsuit against the U.S. government after the Department of Justice (DOJ) changed data request rules on alerting internet users about agencies accessing their information.

The new policy limits the use of secrecy orders and calls for such orders to be issued for defined periods, Microsoft Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said in a blog post on Monday.

 “As a result of the issuance of this policy, we are taking steps to dismiss our lawsuit,” Smith said.

The company expects the changes to end the practice of indefinite secrecy orders.

The suit argued that the government’s actions were in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which establishes the right for people and businesses to know if the government searches or seizes their property, and the company’s First Amendment right to free speech.

The changes will ensure that secrecy order requests are “carefully and specifically tailored to the facts in the case,” Smith said.

“This is an important step for both privacy and free expression. It is an unequivocal win for our customers, and we’re pleased the DOJ (Department of Justice) has taken these steps to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans,” the statement said.

While Microsoft has agreed to drop its lawsuit, Smith said the company is renewing its call to Congress for the amendment of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act which was adopted in 1986.

The DOJ did not respond to request for comment outside regular business hours.

 Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Trump administration’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling preventing federal prosecutors from obtaining emails stored in Microsoft computer servers in Dublin, Ireland in a drug trafficking investigation.

Government lawyers argued the lower court ruling threatened national security and public safety.

FAA Grants CNN Rights To Fly Drones Over Crowds

October 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

News giant CNN has been granted a waiver to make routine drone flights above crowds, a milestone for the drone industry, which is expected to experience dramatic growth in the next few years.

The Part 107 waiver represents the first time the Federal Aviation Administration has awarded a waiver for unlimited flights of unmanned aerial vehicles over people, the news network said in a statement.  FAA rules prohibit drone flights over people, but waivers are available when applicants can demonstrate no risk of injury.

“This waiver signifies a critical step forward not only for CNN’s UAS operations, but also the commercial UAS industry at large,” David Vigilante, senior vice president of legal for CNN, said in a statement.

New FAA regulations for commercial use of drones went into effect in August 2016, making it easier for pilots to use drones for everything from structural or crop inspection to search-and-rescue operations to film production.

CNN will be allowed to fly a Vantage Robotics Snap drone weighing 1.37 pounds and featuring four enclosed rotors to reduce the chance of injury. The device is designed to break apart and be snapped back together if it crashes.

The move comes as the drone industry experiences meteoric growth. The FAA expects the number of commercial drones to grow from 42,000 at the end of 2016 to about 442,000 aircraft by 2021.

Drone Strikes Commercial Airplane In Canada

October 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

It was, says the Canadian Minister of Transport, the first time in Canada’s history.

In a statement, Marc Garneau revealed last Thursday, a Skyjet flight was struck by a drone as it approached Jean Lesage International Airport in Québec City.

“I am extremely relieved that the aircraft only sustained minor damage and was able to land safely,” said Garneau.

The Ministry of Transport told me that the aircraft was a Beech 100 King Air. The drone has not been identified.

Garneau told CBC that “it could have been much more serious” had the drone struck an engine or the cockpit.

He said the drone had been flying 3 miles from the airport at 450 meters (around 1,500 feet). This is 150 meters above the legal limit. There were eight passengers on the plane.

Since drones became commonplace, there have been increasing reports of the unmanned aerial vehicle endangering aircraft.

Some have been reported as near-misses. Some pilots have been convinced that a drone has struck their plane, although the actual presence of a drone was never confirmed.

Indeed, earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration declared that it had seen no verifiable evidence that a drone had ever struck a plane.

“Every investigation has found the reported collisions were either birds, impact with other items such as wires and posts, or structural failure not related to colliding with an unmanned aircraft,” it said.

In September, however, two army helicopters were struck by a drone over Staten Island.

T-Mobile, Sprint Merger Deal Is Close To Being Announced

October 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

As things stand now, a deal between wireless carriers T-Mobile and Sprint seems like a done deal.

The talks are close to wrapping up, according to Bloomberg, which pegs an announcement coming by the end of the month, likely during one of the companies’ earnings reports. The two sides are just deciding on the final exchange ratio for the stock swap deal, the report says.

merger would bring together the third (T-Mobile) and fourth (Sprint) largest wireless carriers in the nation, creating a stronger competitor to Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Theoretically, their combined wealth of spectrum and network infrastructure assets could lead to better coverage, although that could take years to settle out.

The deal would call for T-Mobile CEO John Legere and his management team to take control of the combined company, according to a person familiar with the deal talks.

The two companies have flirted with a merger before. Sprint’s parent, Japanese carrier SoftBank, tried to strike a deal with T-Mobile majority shareholder Deutsche Telekom back in 2014, but dropped its attempt when the government signaled that it favored four national competitors. The odds might be better now under a more business-friendly Trump administration.

Even as separate, smaller entities, both companies have made an impact on the industry over the last few years. T-Mobile eliminated contracts and phone subsidies and last year led the push to bring unlimited plans back to the industry in a bigger way. Sprint introduced the concept of a phone leasing plan and this year began offering a year of its service for free.

T-Mobile declined to comment. A Sprint spokesman wasn’t available for comment.

U.S. Senate Seeks Answers From Social Media Execs Regarding Russian Accounts

September 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Executives from Facebook, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Twitter have been asked to testify before the U.S. Congress while lawmakers probe Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election, according to committee sources.

A Senate aide said executives from the three firms had been asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee to appear at a public hearing on Nov. 1.

The leaders of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee said the panel would hold an open hearing next month with representatives from unnamed technology companies in an effort to “better understand how Russia used online tools and platforms to sow discord in and influence our election.”

Representatives for Facebook and Google confirmed they had received invitations from the Senate committee but did not say whether the companies would attend. Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The House panel did not immediately identify any companies, but a committee source said lawmakers expected to hear from the same three firms the Senate had asked to testify.

The requests are the latest move by congressional investigators to gain information from internet companies as they probe the extent of Moscow’s alleged efforts to disrupt last year’s U.S. election. Lawmakers in both parties have grown increasingly concerned that social networks may have played a key role in Russia’s influence operation.

Facebook revealed this month that suspected Russian trolls purchased more than $100,000 worth of divisive ads on its platform during the 2016 election cycle, a revelation that has prompted calls from some Democrats for new disclosure rules for online political ads.

On Wednesday, Trump attacked Facebook in a tweet and suggested the world’s largest social network had colluded with other media outlets that opposed him. The president has been skeptical of the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the election and has denied his campaign colluded with Moscow.

Uber Issues Apology To London

September 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

CEO of Uber Dara Khosrowshahi has issued an official apology to Londoners, acknowledging that the company “got things wrong.”

In an open letter to the city, Khosrowshahi promised to listen to London’s as he writes the company’s next chapter.

“On behalf of everyone at Uber globally, I apologize for the mistakes we’ve made,” he said.

The company also called for talks with London’s transport regulator Transport for London on Monday in a bid to improve after it had its license renewal request denied on Friday.

Uber’s Head of Cities for the UK Fred Jones told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that the company wants to better understand TfL’s concerns, particularly over the way it conducts background checks on drivers and reports serious incidents to the police.

Uber is facing the possibility it will be banned in the city after TfL laid out its concerns while refusing to renew the company’s license to operate in the British capital when it expires on Sept. 30. Uber has 21 days to appeal the decision and is allowed to continue operating throughout the process.

Jones said he understood that it was TfL and not London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had rejected the license, backpedalling from the statements issued by Uber on Friday, which addressed the mayor directly and claimed both he and TfL were making a politically motivated decision.

Following TfL’s announcement on Friday Uber launched a petition, in which the company claimed: “By wanting to ban our app from the capital, Transport for London and their chairman the Mayor have given in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice.” It has so far attracted over 750,000 signatures.

But Jones is now presenting an alternative interpretation. “What’s become clear over the weekend is this was TfL’s licensing decision,” he said. “It’s just not clear for us what their concerns might be.”

Uber is confused by TfL’s accusations over the way background checks are performed, he told the BBC. He also defended Uber’s record for dealing criminal incidents, saying that the Met Police Force had not approached the company directly before making its concerns public.

Skype, WhatsApp Calls Allowed Again In Saudi Arabia

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Saudi government has rescinded its ban on calls made through online apps on Thursday but will monitor and censor them, a government spokesman said.

All online voice and video call services – such as Microsoft’s Skype, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger, and Rakuten’s Viber – that satisfy regulatory requirements were set to become accessible overnight.

However, on Thursday morning, Viber appeared to remain blocked inside the kingdom, and WhatsApp worked only when connected to a wireless network.

 Adel Abu Hameed, a spokesman for telecoms regulator CITC, said on Arabiya TV on Wednesday that new regulations were aimed mainly at protecting users’ personal information and blocking content that violated the kingdom’s laws.

Asked if the apps could be monitored by the authorities or companies, he said: “Under no circumstances can the user use an application for video or voice calling without monitoring and censorship by the Communications and Information Technology Commission, whether the application is global or local.”

Snap Chat Blocks Al Jazeera

September 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Snap has stopped allowing news network Al Jazeera to post to Snapchat in Saudi Arabia at the request of the Saudi government, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Snap pulled the Qatari-run news outlet’s Discover Publisher Channel from its app as it violated the country’s law of printed material and publication and anti-cyber crime law.

“We make an effort to comply with local laws in the countries where we operate,” said a Snap spokeswoman in a statement.

Regional censorship of content has affected almost every global social network and internet company, including Google and Facebook, due to local laws that they may be subject to. Media watchdog Freedom House consistently rates Saudi Arabia as “not free” in its annual Freedom on the Net investigation.

“Popular social media and communication apps are not blocked in the country, although authorities have imposed restrictions on their use,” it said in its 2016 report.

Qatar is currently in an ongoing dispute with Saudi Arabia, Eqypt, Bahrain and the UAE, which have accused the country of supporting terrorism. The Al Jazeera ban only affects Saudi Arabia and the publisher’s Snapchat Story continues to be live in the other countries.

Al Jazeera did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Google Launching Mobile Payments In India

September 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Google is gearing up to launch a localized digital payment service in India as early as next week, technology website TechCrunch reported, citing a report from news site The Ken.

The payment service, called Google ‘Tez’, will offer payment options beyond the existing ones like Google Wallet or Android Pay, the report said.

Tez, meaning fast in Hindi, will include support for the government-backed Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and other consumer payment services including Paytm and MobiKwik, according to the report.

Google launched its payment app Android Pay in the United States two years ago.

A spokesman for Google in India did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google, Facebook Inc and WhatsApp Inc were in talks with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to provide UPI-enabled payment on their platforms, the Mint daily had reported in July.

Drones Aid In The Search For The Missing In London

September 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Police in the London borough of Hackney officially became the first in the capital to utilize a drone to search for a missing person.

The search was part of an eight-week trial being conducted by London’s Metropolitan Police Force, in which drones are being deployed for a number of reasons, including serious traffic collisions, searches for suspects, weapon sweeps and identification of cannabis factories.

In this case, the drone did not help the officers find the missing person. However, it did allow the police to quickly survey a large, open space, saving both time and manpower, according to a tweet by Hackney Police.

The drone used in the trial is an Aeryon Skyranger, which will be used in much the same way police helicopters are used. The advantage of the drone over the helicopter is that it should be able to help in a wider variety of incidents, due to its small size and ability to operate in adverse weather conditions.

“We are committed to working with technology that can assist our officers with the wide range of often difficult and dangerous incidents they deal with on a daily basis,” said the Met’s Commander Simon Bray in a statement.

Did The CIA Spy On Intel’s Partners

September 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The FBI and Homeland Security, who relied on the CIA for tech support for biometric data, were being targeted by spyware.

According to what is fairly likely to be Russian intelligence leaked to Wikileaks, the CIA wrote a program called ExpressLane, is designed to be deployed alongside a biometric collection system that the CIA provides to partner agencies.

Since 2009 this software has been siphoning data back to the CIA on the off-chance those partners are holding out on them.

ExpressLane masquerades as a software update, delivered in-person by CIA technicians — but the documents make clear that the program itself will remain unchanged. The program siphons the system’s data to a thumb drive, where agents can examine it to see if there’s anything the partner system is holding back. If the partners refuse the phoney update, there’s a hidden kill-switch that lets agents shut down the entire system after a set period of time, requiring an in-person visit to restore the system.

WikiLeaks’s “sources” claim the program was primarily used against US agencies like the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, although the documents themselves do not say that. In fact the CIA doesn’t maintain any significant biometric database of its own, it’s also unclear what the agency would do with any data it obtained. 

WikiLeaks continues to release the agency’s hacking tools as part of the Vault 7 campaign.

Courtesy-Fud

Is The Locky Ransomware Back To Wreak Havoc

August 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Locky Ransomware is back from the dead with two new strains, security researchers at Malwarebytes have warned.

Locky was one of the three most widely distributed forms of malware in 2016, along with Cryptowall and Cerber, but although ransomware has boomed during 2017, Locky has been largely quiet.

But on 9 August, Locky made a dramatic return, using a new ransom note and file extension, ‘.diablo6’, which it followed up a week later with another variant, with the extension ‘.Lukitus’.

What hasn’t changed, though, is the method of distribution.Rather than rifling through the trove of spilt US National Security Agency exploits, as the groups behind WannaCry and NotPetya did, Locky is distributed via phishing emails containing malicious Microsoft Office files or zipped attachments containing a malicious script.

The new Locky variants, adds Malwarebytes, callback to different command and control servers (C2) and use the affiliate id: AffilID3 and AffilID5.

“Over the last few months, Locky has drastically decreased its distribution, even failed to be distributed at all, then popped back up again, vanished and reappeared once more. The ups and downs of Locky remain shrouded in mystery. One thing time has taught us is that we should never assume Locky is gone simply because it’s not active at a particular given time,” the company warned in a briefing note. 

In 2016, a US hospital was forced to pay $17,000 in bitcoin in order to recover devices that had fallen victim to the Locky ransomware.

Locky is a variant on the Dridex banking Trojan, which is believed to have been behind the theft of around £20m from bank accounts in the UK alone, refitted for ransomware rather than stealing online banking credentials. Both are associated with the Necurs malware distribution botnet.

Back then, security researchers at Proofpoint pointed out the connection between Dridex and Locky.

“While a variety of new ransomware has appeared since the end of 2015, Locky stands out because it is being delivered by the same actor behind many of the Dridex campaigns we have tracked over the past year,” warned the company in an advisory.

“The actors behind Locky are clearly taking a cue from the Dridex playbook in terms of distribution. Just as Dridex has been pushing the limits of campaign sizes, now we’re seeing even higher volumes with Locky, rivalling the largest Dridex campaigns we have observed to date.”

Courtesy-TheInq

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