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CBS Channels Go Dark On Dish Network

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

CBS Corp’s TV stations no longer broadcasting for Dish Network Corp’s customers over a network carriage deal dispute, the companies said early Tuesday.

Dish said in a statement that CBS rejected its offer to extend their contract while negotiations continued.

“This particular dispute is yet another example of the company punishing its subscribers instead of negotiating a fair carriage deal that reflects the current marketplace,” CBS said in a separate statement.

CBS and 28 other CBS-owned local television stations were blacked out across 26 states.

The Smithsonian Channel, Pop, and CBS Sports Network would also be unavailable on Dish networks in cities including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, CBS said.

Did Kaspersky Hack NSA Staff

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Kaspersky has denied it played a role in hacking into the personal computer of a US National Security Agency (NSA) worker.

Kaspersky Lab has published a report detailing an internal investigation it launched examining allegations that its software was used to compromise an NSA employee’s home computer.

In early October, a report published in the Wall Street Journal claimed that the firm’s software was used to download confidential data from an American agent’s home computer.

However, later reports circulated accusing the firm of deliberately taking files from the PC. Following the incident, Kaspersky conducted a full investigation to gain additional evidence of the incident and explore how it happened.

Researchers at the company confirmed that Russian cybercrooks installed software on an NSA contractor’s computer to access and steal sensitive data.

The user, according to the company, was able to download and install pirated software on the machine. The researchers identified a compromised Microsoft Office ISO file, as well as an illegal Microsoft Office 2013 activation tool.

They were able to install the pirate copy of Office 2013 after disabling the Kaspersky security product. If the latter had been left on the PC, it would have identified the illegal activator tool.

This illegal tool was infected with malware, and this was left on the PC while the Kaspersky software was inactive. The malware meant other third-parties could access the user’s machine, causing major security concerns.

However, when the company’s antivirus software was re-enabled, it detected the software with the verdict Backdoor.Win32.Mokes.hvl and stopped it from contacting a dodgy command and control software.

This backdoor approach was first identified in October 2014, but it’s still being used by cybercriminals looking to steal important data. Kaspersky researchers said the antivirus software detected other variants of the Equation APT malware too.

Various variants of the malware, including a 7zip archive, was sent to the Kaspersky Virus Lab for analysis. Researchers found that it contained a number of source codes and classified documents.

At the request of the firm’s CEO, these files were removed from its servers.

“The reason Kaspersky Lab deleted those files and will delete similar ones in the future is two-fold: first, it needs only malware binaries to improve protection and, secondly, it has concerns regarding the handling of potentially classified material,” the firm wrote.   

“Because of this incident, a new policy was created for all malware analysts: they are now required to delete any potentially classified material that has been accidentally collected during anti-malware research.”

“To further support the objectivity of the internal investigation we ran it using multiple analysts including those of non-Russian origin and working outside of Russia to avoid even potential accusations of influence.”

Speaking about other findings, the firm said: “One of the major early discoveries of the investigation was that the PC in question was infected with the Mokes backdoor – a malware allowing malicious users remote access to a computer.

“As part of the investigation, Kaspersky Lab researchers took a deeper look at this backdoor and other non-Equation threat-related telemetry sent from the computer.

Courtesy-TheInq

Astronomers Get New Telescope To Find Exploding Stars

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A powerful new camera that will help scientists search for exploding stars and fast-moving objects in Earth’s solar system has captured its first image of the night sky.

The Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) is officially up and running at the California Institute of Technology’s Palomar Observatoryin the mountains northeast of San Diego. Its primary piece of hardware is a wide-field camera, attached to a 48-inch (122 centimeters) telescope, that can image the entire visible plane of the Milky Way galaxy twice per night and the entire night sky every three nights, according to a statement from Caltech.

The first image from ZTF shows a region of the sky in the constellation Orion that includes the Horsehead Nebula, a star-forming region imaged in glorious detailby the Hubble Space Telescope. But the ZTF camera has a considerably larger field of view compared with Hubble’s — each image captures an area on the sky measuring 47 square degrees, or about 247 times the area of the full moon, according to the statement.  

Photographing huge areas of the sky extremely quickly is ZTF’s primary function. By comparing images of the same region of the sky taken within a few hours or a few days of one another, scientists can look for cosmic objects that are moving or changing in brightness over those short timescales.

Of course, most stars, galaxies, nebulas and other large cosmic objects remain more or less stagnant — in brightness and position — over a few hours or days. But the universe is also full of so-called variable objects (those that change in brightness) and transient objects (that appear to move relatively quickly). These include things like dying stars that explode as supernovasand, in a matter of hours, become exponentially brighter than they were the day before; asteroids that zip through the solar system; black holes that devour entire stars, causing the material from the star to rapidly change in brightness; and pairs of neutron stars, the densest objects in the universe, that mergeand release great bursts of radiation.

“The universe is an extremely dynamic place,” Mansi Kasliwal, an assistant professor of astronomy at Caltech and a member of the ZTF team, said in a video from Caltech. Referring specifically to supernovas and other brief eruptions of light, Kasliwal said, “These short-lived explosions — they could last for seconds, for minutes, for months, but [eventually], they disappear on us. And catching these flashes of light, catching these cosmic fireworks, that’s what ZTF can uniquely do.”

The ZTF science survey, scheduled to run from early 2018 until the end of 2020, will turn up objects that are of interest to a wide range of astronomy subfields. Supernovas are obviously interesting to astronomers who study the life cycles of stars, but they are also used by cosmologists to measure cosmic distances. ZTF’s ability to find comets and asteroids will be of interest to astronomers who look for space rocks that could come dangerously close to Earth. But mostly, ZTF will increase the volume of transient and variable objects that astronomers have to study.

“There’s a lot of activity happening in our night skies,” Shrinivas Kulkarni, the principal investigator for ZTF and a professor of astronomy and planetary science at Caltech, said in the statement. “In fact, every second, somewhere in the universe, there’s a supernova that’s exploding. Of course, we can’t see them all, but with ZTF, we will see up to tens of thousands of explosive transients every year over the three-year lifetime of the project.”

Identifying objects in the night sky that flicker, flash, move or change in other ways is a game of comparison. Scientists take an image of the sky, then wait a few hours or a full day, and image the same area again. With ZTF, researchers can use computer software to literally subtract one image from the other, eliminating objects that haven’t changed in the time between when the two images were taken.

“The universe is so dynamic that if you subtract two identical [images] of the sky, separated by an hour or a night, [you can] see new flashes of light that weren’t there in the image from an hour before or a night before,” Kasliwal said in the video. “Those new flashes of light in the subtracted images are what we are after.”

Before astronomers could take digital images of the sky and utilize software to look for these variable objects, this comparison of identical regions of the sky was done manually. Astronomers would take two images of the same patch of the sky (separated by some period of time) using glass photographic plates. Then, the scientists would set these plates next to one another and look for differences. An instrument called a blink comparator, introduced in the early 20th century, would rapidly flip between the images to make it easier to spot transient objects. Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh used a blink comparator to discover Pluto.

ZTF is named after Caltech astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky, who arrived at the university in 1925 and did a great deal of work to systematically search the sky for variable objects; he discovered 120 supernovas in his lifetime, according to the statement

ZTF is a successor to the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF), which ran from 2009 until earlier this year, and also had a camera installed on the 48-inch telescope at Palomar. Astronomers then used the other two telescopes at the observatory, as well as the telescopes at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii (which is co-managed by Caltech), to conduct follow-up observations of particularly interesting objects.

“Going from one telescope to the next allowed us to perform a sort of triage and pick out the most interesting objects for further study; it was a vertically integrated observatory,” Kulkarni said in the statement. “The reason we called it the Palomar Transient Factory is because it did astronomy on an industrial scale.”

ZTF will utilize those same resources to conduct follow-up studies of variable objects that it identifies. But its wide-field camera also gives it some significant improvements over its predecessor program. For example, ZTF can image an area of the sky seven times larger than PTF could, and it can resolve objects out to greater distances, according to the ZTF scientists. Plus, its “upgraded electronics and telescope-drive systems” enable the ZTF camera to take 2.5 times as many exposures each night, according to the statement.

Combined, that means ZTF can scan the sky on the order of 10 times faster than PTF could, the project scientists said in the statement. But there is yet another all-sky survey on the horizon, and it will be about 10 times faster than ZTF. It’s called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, and it’s set to come online in 2023. 

“ZTF is a step toward the future,” Kulkarni said

Courtesy-Space

Apple Mac Sales Slump

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Apple announced last week that it had sold a record number of Macs for a September quarter.

“The Mac…had its best year ever, with the highest annual Mac revenue in Apple’s history,” said CEO Tim Cook in prepared remarks during a Nov. 2 call with Wall Street analysts. Apple recorded revenue of $25.8 billion from Mac sales in its fiscal 2017, which ended Sept. 30.

Mac unit sales of nearly 5.4 million bested both industry and financial analysts’ expectations. Before Apple released its data, research firm IDC had pegged Apple’s number at 4.9 million, while rival Gartner offered an even lower estimate: 4.6 million. And according to Philip Elmer-DeWitt, who regularly polls Wall Street for quarterly forecasts, every analyst from a group of more than two dozen undershot Mac sales, some by over half a million machines.

Unit sales were up 10.2% over the same quarter in 2016, and the Mac’s ASP, or “average selling price,” jumped to $1,331, a year-over-year rise of $156, for an increase of 13.3%.

According to IDC, the 5.4 million Macs represented almost exactly 8% of the 67.2 million personal computers shipped worldwide in the September quarter.

Apple executives explained the bonanza in different ways when they spoke with financial experts last week.

“This performance was fueled primarily by great demand for MacBook Pro,” said Luca Maestri, Apple’s CFO. “[And] we are also seeing great traction for Mac in the enterprise market, with all-time record customer purchases in fiscal year 2017.”

“Mac revenue growth…was driven by notebook refreshes we launched in June and a strong back-to-school season,” asserted Cook.

When asked why the Mac beat outsiders’ sales predictions, IDC Research Director Linn Huang concurred with Cook that back-to-school sales had been strong. But he had another idea. “To understand 2017, you have to go back to 2016, which was a very poor year for Apple,” said Huang. “It ended a very long stretch where Apple consistently beat the [PC] market.”

Facebook Workplace Finds Enterprise Client in Virgin Atlantic

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The nature of Virgin Atlantic’s business means many of its employees are continuously globetrotting. Ensuring effective communications channels – a challenge for any company – isn’t easy: nearly half of the airline’s 10,000 employees are cabin or cockpit crew members.

Two months ago, the airline rolled out Facebook’s Workplace, the business version of the social network tool, in a bid to improve information-sharing between staff and senior execs. It currently functions primarily as an intranet for internal communications, though the company plans to integrate the software with other apps and processes, such as ServiceNow, eventually.

Since it was launched, Workplace has been widely adopted across the organization, said Virgin Atlantic CIO and senior vice president for technology Don Langford.

“We went live in the beginning of September and our target for the end of the year was for us to be at 65% adoption,” he said. “We are already over that now; we have got over 7,000 people up on it, so over 70%.”

Aside from the 70% activation rate, 65% are accessing the tool on a weekly basis, and 32% of groups are active weekly. (Tellingly, 34% of the users have added their own Workplace profile pictures.)

Deploying an enterprise social network is one thing, but convincing people to use it daily is often quite another. Raúl Castañón-Martínez, senior analyst at 451 Research, said that adoption rate of Workplace at Virgin Atlantic is “very impressive,” particularly considering the number of users accessing the tool on a weekly basis.

“It validates Workplace’s value proposition, which is based on widespread adoption across the organization,” he said.

Langford credited the swift uptake to the familiarity workers already had with Facebook – a potential lesson for other companies.

“Workplace has that advantage of having that same interface, that same way of working,” he said, “and we felt – correctly it turned out – that using Workplace would allow our people to move quite seamlessly across from a Facebook platform to a Workplace platform…. That certainly proved to be true.”

Verizon Wireless To Sign A Streaming Deal With NFL

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon Communications Inc, no. 1 U.S. wireless carrier, is closing in on a deal  with the National Football League for digital streaming rights, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

With the new agreement, Verizon will be able to give subscribers access to games on all devices, including big-screen TVs, and not just phones, according to the people, Bloomberg said.

Verizon will lose exclusive rights to air games on mobile devices, Bloomberg quoted two people as saying. Verizon’s rights will include the NFL’s Thursday night games, among others, one of the people said, according to Bloomberg.

Financial details and the duration of Verizon’s contract with the NFL could not immediately be learned, Bloomberg said.

Neither NFL nor Verizon could immediately be reached for a comment by Reuters.

HP Set To Offer New Cloud Service Called OneSphere

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

HPE is planning to announce a new product called OneSphere that could help companies track when employees use public clouds like Amazon Web Services.

HPE filed a trademark application late last month for OneSphere. The description of the product included with the application is wide ranging but has several references to hardware, and implies that OneSphere will help customers track and reduce the amount of money they’re spending on clouds like AWS.

The trademark application said that  OneSphere could move applications across computing environments – from AWS to a corporate data centre, for example.

The exploration of those areas is a rather a good idea but somewhat strange given that HPE chose to wind down its public cloud, which competed with the likes of AWS and Microsoft Azure in early 2016.

HPE is preparing to unveil OneSphere later this month.

HPE does use the term “cloud management” to market some of its software products. So the company isn’t looking to go in an entirely new direction. But HPE appears to be readying something that involves hardware, while most competing products for public cloud management have been software-only. Much of HPE’s revenue comes from hardware.

Since splitting off from HP,  HPE has offloaded a few of its previous properties, including its enterprise services business and non-core software holdings. Meanwhile, Microsoft has acquired a cloud cost management start-up called Adallom and incorporated the technology into Azure.

Courtesy-Fud

Linux Appears To Be The King In The Supercomputing Space

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Looking at the November 2017 TOP500 Supercomputer list one thing is particularly clear – the open saucy Linux is king.

In 1998, Linux first appeared on the TOP500 Supercomputer list and it was regarded as unusual – indeed many just said it was because it was really Unix in drag. But the November list showed that all 500 of the world’s fastest supercomputers are running Linux.

There had only been two non-Linux systems left on the list but the pair of Chinese IBM POWER computers running AIX were too slow to rate a mention any more.

Before Linux took the lead, Unix was everywhere but slowly, since 2003, the Linux was the TOP500 main OS of choice. By 2004, Linux had taken the lead for good.

The reason Linux did well in this arena and not the desktop is that most of the world’s top supercomputers are research machines built for specialised tasks, each machine is a standalone project with unique characteristics and optimisation requirements.

Linux means that research teams can easily modify and optimize open-source code to their one-off designs.

Courtesy-Fud

Astronomers Find New Alien Planet Suitable For Life

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A newfound exoplanet may be one of the best bets to host alien life ever discovered — and it’s right in Earth’s backyard, cosmically speaking.

Astronomers have spotted a roughly Earth-mass world circling the small, dim star Ross 128, which lies just 11 light-years from the sun. The planet, known as Ross 128b, may have surface temperatures amenable to life as we know it, the researchers announced in a new study that will appear in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Ross 128b is 2.6 times more distant from Earth than Proxima b, the potentially habitable planet found in the nearest solar system to the sun. But Proxima b’s parent star, Proxima Centauri, blasts out a lot of powerful flares, potentially bathing that planet in enough radiation to stunt the emergence and evolution of life, scientists have said. [10 Exoplanets That Could Host Alien Life]

Radiation is likely much less of an issue for Ross 128b, because its parent star is not an active flarer, said discovery team leader Xavier Bonfils, of the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble and the University of Grenoble Alpes in France.

“This is the closest Earth-mass planet potentially in the habitable zone that orbits a quiet star,” Bonfils told Space.com

Bonfils and his colleagues found Ross 128b using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), an instrument at the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.

As its name suggests, HARPS employs the “radial velocity” method, noticing the wobbles in a star’s movement induced by the gravitational tugs of orbiting planets. (NASA’s prolific Kepler space telescope, by contrast, uses the “transit” technique, spotting tiny brightness dips caused when a planet crosses its host star’s face from the spacecraft’s perspective.)

The HARPS observations allowed Bonfils and his team to determine that Ross 128b has a minimum mass 1.35 times that of Earth, and that the planet orbits its host star once every 9.9 Earth days.

Such a tight orbit would render Ross 128b uninhabitable in our own solar system. But Ross 128 is much cooler than the sun, so the newfound world is likely temperate, the researchers said. Determining whether  the planet is actually capable of supporting life as we know it, however, would require a better understanding of its atmosphere, Bonfils said.

“Ross 128b receives 1.38 times [more] irradiation than Earth from our sun,” he said. “Some models made by theorists say that a wet Earth-size planet with such irradiation would form high-altitude clouds. Those clouds would reflect back to space a large fraction of the incident light, hence preventing too much greenhouse heating. With those clouds, the surface would remain cool enough to allow liquid water at the surface. Not all models agree, though, and others predict this new planet is rather like Venus.

Though both Ross 128 and Proxima Centauri are red dwarfs — the most common type of star in the Milky Way galaxy — they are very different objects.

“Proxima Centauri is particularly active, with frequent, powerful flares that may sterilize (if not strip out) its atmosphere,” Bonfils said. “Ross 128 is one of the quietest stars of our sample and, although it is a little further away from us (2.6x), it makes for an excellent alternative target.”

And the star may indeed be targeted in the not-too-distant-future — by giant ground-based instruments such as the European Extremely Large Telescope, the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Thirty Meter Telescope, all of which are scheduled to be up and running by the mid-2020s.

Such megascopes should be able to resolve Ross 128b and even search its atmosphere for oxygen, methane and other possible signs of life, Bonfils said. (NASA’s $8.9 billion James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in early 2019, probably won’t be able to perform such a biosignature search, the researchers said in their discovery paper. If Ross 128b transited its host star from Webb’s perspective, it would likely be a different story, they added.)

Earlier this year, by the way, radio astronomers detected a strange signal that seemed to be emanating from Ross 128. But further investigation revealed that the signal most likely came from an Earth-orbiting satellite, not an alien civilization.

Courtesy-Space

Volkswagen Ramps Up Electric Cars Ambitions

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Volkswagen has approved a 34 billion euro ($40 bln) spending plan that speeds up its efforts to become a global leader in electric cars.

The world’s largest carmaker by unit sales will spend the money on electric cars, autonomous driving and new mobility services by the end of 2022, it said after a meeting of its supervisory board.

“With the planning round now approved, we are laying the foundation for making Volkswagen the world’s No. 1 player in electric mobility by 2025,” Chief Executive Matthias Mueller told a press conference.

The carmaker’s projected spending is significantly bigger than its pledge two months ago that it would invest more than 20 billion euros on electric and self-driving cars through 2030.

 Electric and autonomous vehicles are widely seen as the keystones of future transport, but pioneers such as Tesla Inc and other manufacturers are still working out how to make money on them as poor charging infrastructure, high battery costs and electric vehicles’ still limited driving range weigh on customer demand.

Until it admitted two years ago to cheating on U.S. diesel emissions tests, Volkswagen had been slow to embrace electric cars and self-driving technology.

The group said its total investments in electric vehicles capacity and projects will amount to about 72 billion euros by 2022, confirming an earlier Reuters story.

To fund greater spending on electric vehicles, it will draw on cost savings in all areas of operations, including vehicle development, administration and manufacturing, as well as strong cash reserves.

Its net liquidity still stood at around 24 billion euros after nine months even though about 17 billion euros of funds have been paid out to cover costs for its dieselgate scandal. VW’s core autos division has made cost savings of about 1.9 billion euros since the start of this year, nearly meeting budgeted cost cuts for the full year.

Mueller said VW will maintain spending discipline in order to shoulder the increased investments in new technologies while it grapples with billions of dollars of costs for its emissions scandal.

Apple Delays Launch of HomePod Smart Speaker

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc has delayed the launch of its HomePod smart speaker, pushing it to early next year from December, the company said, missing the holiday shopping season as the market for such devices becomes increasingly competitive.

“We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod … but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers. We’ll start shipping in the U.S., UK and Australia in early 2018,” an Apple spokeswoman said via email.

 Apple introduced the voice-controlled HomePod in June. The speaker, which can make music suggestions and adjust home temperatures, takes aim at Amazon.com Inc’s Alexa feature and Echo devices.

Apple has forecast between $84 billion and $87 billion in revenue for the holiday – mostly driven by sales of its $999 iPhone X – so it’s unlikely that missing a few weeks of sales of its $349 speaker will affect its financial results, Bob O‘Donnell, founder of Technalysis Research, said.

People use voice assistants more often on smart speakers than on phones, so even if owners of Amazon or Google speakers also have an iPhone, there’s a good chance that they’re talking to Alexa or Google Assistant as much or more than Siri.

“Last holiday season, smart speakers were huge, and this season they’re going to be huge,” O‘Donnell said. With Apple’s delay, “there will now be some people who make a different choice. The market’s getting more and more competitive.”

Apple is also counting on HomePod to boost subscriptions to Apple Music and block the rise of rival Spotify. Smart speakers from Google and Amazon let users give voice commands to play Spotify, but Apple Music does not work on the rival devices.

Apple’s main pitch for its HomePod smart speakers was superior audio quality, but that advantage appears to be slipping: Sonos, which also pitches its speakers’ audio quality for music lovers, now features support for the Alexa voice assistant.

Earlier this year, Amazon announced the Echo Plus, a smart speaker with better audio quality, and Google confirmed to Reuters that its Home Max speaker with improved speakers will ship in December, though it has not given a specific date.

 But Apple could still have a surprise or two in store. The company gave scant details about its speaker in June, leaving it room to announce exclusive music content or other unexpected features, said Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner.

“When HomePod comes out, you’ll probably hear some great content from artists that are familiar and popular, and there’s probably going to be some other special aspects as well,” he said.

The ITC To Investigate Apple

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The United States International Trade Commission today announced that it has launched an investigation into allegations that Apple infringed on patents owned by Aqua Connect.

Aqua Connect and its subsidiary Strategic Technology partners filed complaints against Apple with the United States International Trade Commission and the District Court for the Central District of California accusing Macs, iOS devices, and Apple TVs of infringing on two of its patents.

The two patents in question include U.S. Patent RE46,386, “Updating a User Session in a Mach-derived Computer System Environment” and U.S. Patent 8,924,502, “System, Method and Computer Program Product for Updating a User Session in a Mach-derived System Environment.”

According to Aqua Connect, the patents relate to screen sharing, remote desktop, and terminal server technology. Aqua Connect says that it built the first remote desktop solution for the Mac in 2008, which Apple later built into its iOS and macOS products in the form of AirPlay and other functionality without permission.

Ronnie Exley, CEO of Aqua Connect said his outfit invented and built the first fully functional remote desktop and terminal server solution for Mac in 2008.

“Initially, the product had Apple’s full support. But years later, Apple built our technology into its macOS and iOS operating systems without our permission. These lawsuits seek to stop Apple from continuing to use our technology in their macOS and iOS operating systems.”

Aqua Connect’s complaint with the International Trade Commission asks for an exclusion order and a cease and desist order that would bar Apple from importing its products into the United States.

The ITC says it will be investigating “certain Apple Mac computers, iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Apple TVs.”

Courtesy-Fud

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

Did Researchers Find The Missing Link To Life

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Four billion years ago, Earth was covered in a watery sludge swarming with primordial molecules, gases, and minerals — nothing that biologists would recognize as alive. Then somehow, out of that prebiotic stew emerged the first critical building blocks — proteins, sugars, amino acids, cell walls — that would combine over the next billion years to form the first specks of life on the planet.

A subset of chemists have devoted their careers to puzzling out the early chemical and environmental conditions that gave rise to the origins of life. With scant clues from the geological record, they synthesize simple molecules that may have existed billions of years ago and test if these ancient enzymes had the skills to turn prebiotic raw material into the stuff of life.

A team of such chemists from the Scripps Research Institute reported Nov. 6 in the journal Nature Chemistry that they identified a single, primitive enzyme that could have reacted with early Earth catalysts to produce some of the key precursors to life: the short chains of amino acids that power cells, the lipids that form cell walls, and the strands of nucleotides that store genetic information.

Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy is an associate professor of chemistry at Scripps and lead author of the origins of life paper. For a number of years, his lab has been experimenting with a synthetic enzyme called diamidophosphate (DAP) that’s been shown to drive a critical chemical process called phosphorylation. Without phosphorylation — which is simply the process of adding a phosphate molecule to another molecule — life wouldn’t exist.

“If you look at life today, and how it probably was at least three billion years ago, it was based on a lot of phosphorylation chemistry,” Krishnamurthy told Seeker. “Your RNA, DNA, and a lot of your biomolecules are phosphorylated. So are sugars, amino acids, and proteins.”

The enzymes that trigger phosphorylation are called kinases. They use phosphorylation to send signals instructing cells to divide, to make more of one protein than another, to tell DNA strands to separate, or RNA to form. DAP may have been one of the first primordial kinases to get the phosphorylation ball rolling, Krishnamurthy believed.

To test his theory, Krishnamurthy and his colleagues simulated early Earth conditions in the lab, using both a water base and a muddy paste set to varying pH levels. They combined DAP with different concentrations of magnesium, zinc, and a compound called imidazole that acted as a catalyst to speed the reactions, which still took weeks or sometimes months to complete.

For DAP to pass the test, it had to successfully trigger phosphorylation events that resulted in simple nucleotides, peptides, and cell wall structures under similar conditions. Past candidates for origin-of-life enzymes could only phosphorylate certain structures under wildly different chemical and environmental conditions. DAP, Krishnamurthy found, could do it all, phosphorylating the four nucleoside building blocks of RNA, then short RNA-like strands, then fatty acids, lipids, and peptide chains.

Does that mean that DAP is the pixie dust that transformed random matter into life? Not quite, said Krishnamurthy.

“The best we can do is try to demonstrate that simple chemicals under the right conditions could give rise to further chemistry which may lead to life-like behavior. We can’t make a claim that this is the way that life formed on the early Earth.”

For one thing, Krishnamurthy has no proof that DAP even existed four billion years ago. He synthesized the molecule in his lab as a way to solve one of the fundamental challenges to phosphorylating in wet, early Earth conditions. For most phosphorylation reactions to work, they need to remove a molecule of water in the process.

“How do you remove water from a molecule when you are surrounded by a pool of water?” asked Krishnamurthy. “That’s thermodynamically an uphill task.”

DAP gets around that problem by removing a molecule of ammonia instead of water.

Krishnamurthy is working with geochemists to identify potential sources of DAP in the distant geological past. Phosphate-rich lava flows may have reacted with ammonia in the air to create DAP, or it could have been leached out of phosphate-containing minerals. Or maybe it even arrived on the back of a meteorite forged by a far-off star.

One thing is clear, without DAP or something like it, Earth might still be a lifeless mud puddle.

Courtesy-Space

OnePlus Phones Have Dangerous Hacking Backdoor

November 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Hackers who obtained OnePlus phones can obtain virtually unlimited access to files and software through use of a testing tool called EngineerMode that the company evidently left on the devices.

Robert Baptiste, a freelance security researcher who goes by the name Elliot Alderson on Twitter after the “Mr. Robot” TV show character, found the tool on a OnePlus phone and tweeted his findings Monday. Researchers at security firm SecureNow helped figure out the tool’s password, a step that means hackers can get unrestricted privileges on the phone as long as they have the device in their possession.

The EngineeerMode software functions as a backdoor, granting access to someone other than an authorized user. Escalating those privileges to full do-anything “root” access required a few lines of code, Baptiste said.

“It’s quite severe,” Baptiste said via a Twitter direct message.

OnePlus disagreed, though it said it’s decided to modify EngineerTool.

“EngineerMode is a diagnostic tool mainly used for factory production line functionality testing and after sales support,” the company said in a statement. Root access “is only accessible if USB debugging, which is off by default, is turned on, and any sort of root access would still require physical access to your device. While we don’t see this as a major security issue, we understand that users may still have concerns and therefore we will remove the adb [Android Debug Bridge command-line tool] root function from EngineerMode in an upcoming OTA.”

SecureNow found the tool on the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 5. Android Police reported it’s also on the OnePlus 3T. And Baptiste said it’s also on the new OnePlus 5T.

Baptiste had spotted evidence that EngineerMode was written by mobile chipmaker Qualcomm. But Qualcomm said Wednesday that’s not the case.

“After an in-depth investigation, we have determined that the EngineerMode app in question was not authored by Qualcomm,” the company said in a statement. “Although remnants of some Qualcomm source code is evident, we believe that others built upon a past, similarly named Qualcomm testing app that was limited to displaying device information. EngineerMode no longer resembles the original code we provided.”

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