Big Bang Meets Big Data: SA Joins ASTRON and IBM to Build the Foundation for a New Era of Computing (i.e. DOME)

IBM has entered into a four year collaboration with ASTRON to research extremely fast, but low-power exascale computer systems (collectively known as DOME) targeted for the Square Kilometer Array (SKA). The goal of the 10 countries involved is to decipher radio waves from deep space to solve the riddles of the universe and the nature of matter.

Introducing DOME

On March 7, 2012 the Square Kilometre Array South Africa (SKA SA) announced it anticipates working with IBM with the goal of developing a next generation big data analytics platform (titled DOME) with self-tuning and self-learning capabilities to better analyze large volumes of radio astronomy data. SKA SA is building MeerKAT, the largest and most sensitive radio telescope of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

An artist's impression of the MeerKAT array (image IBM Research) DOMEMeerKAT is one of several new radio telescopes being built as precursors to the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), an international project that should reach its full capacity in the early part of the next decade.

On April 2, 2012 ASTRON, The Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, and IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced a five-year collaboration to research extremely fast, but low-power exascale computer systems targeted for the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The collaboration is called DOME, named for the protective cover on telescopes and the famous Swiss mountain.

As part of the global effort to solve this unprecedented challenge ASTRON and IBM launched a public private partnership called DOME, to develop a fundamental IT roadmap for the SKA. The collaboration includes a user platform where organizations from around the world can jointly investigate emerging technologies in green computing, nanophotonics and data streaming. Through its SKA South Africa unit, the National Research Foundation is now a user platform partner in DOME.

Scientists from SKA SA will focus on the following research themes:

  • Visualising the challenge: fundamental research will be conducted into signal processing and advanced computing algorithms for the capture, processing and analysis of the SKA data so clear images can be produced for astronomers to study.
  • Desert-proof technology: the DOME team is researching and prototyping microserver architectures based on liquid-cooled 3D stacked chips. The team in South Africa will extend this research to make the microsevers rugged or “desert proof” to handle the extreme environmental conditions where the SKA will be located.
  • Software analytics: the 64 dishes of the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa will be used for the testing and development of a sophisticated software program that will aid in the design of the entire computing system holistically and optimally—taking into account all of the cost and performance trade-offs for the eventual 3 000 SKA dishes.

I will be following the progress of DOME over the next few months and have access to information regarding any new discoveries made by the system. If you would like to keep updated yourself, consider subscribing to Email Updates or the RSS feed up top.

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VIDEO: Macbook thief gets defamed on YouTube

I CAUGHT wind of a fantastic story on 5fm while stuck in traffic this morning. Apparently some guy had his fancy new Macbook Air stolen from him. A while later, Steve (we’ll call him Steve) remembered that his Macbook had an auto backup function which automatically backed up his data to an online server. When Steve went online to have a little peruse through his data he skillfully managed to find the identity of the Macbook thief. Not only that, but Steve also came across a video the wannabe rapper had made using his newly acquired Macbook Air.

Steve reported the identity of the Macbook rapper to the police and uploaded the video to YouTube. It has now seen over a million views and is appropriately titled, “don’t steal computers belonging to people who know how to use computers.” The rapper has asked that the embarrassing video be pulled from YouTube and that he was sorry for stealing the Macbook. Steve and his new fan base told him to get bent.

Don’t steal computers belonging to people
who know how to use computers
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c8W1NDYf38[/youtube]

lol

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NEWS: Facebook and Twitter now available on Xbox LIVE in South Africa

Xbox LIVE logoJUST months after the launch of Xbox LIVE in South Africa, we’re pleased to inform you that Facebook and Twitter will be available on Xbox LIVE from the 26th of January. At the same time, a ‘My Community’ channel will also be added to the LIVE Dash and will launch on both the Standard and Family Dashboards. This is part of our ongoing commitment
to providing quality gaming and entertainment in the living room.

The launch of Facebook and Twitter adds to the depth of experience the Xbox LIVE service has to offer. Xbox LIVE launched less than three months ago in six new EMEA countries, making a total of 35 LIVE enabled countries globally. In this short time, members from the newly added countries have spent over 3.5 million hours using the LIVE service, which is an unprecedented pick up.

  • Over 630 000 hours of multiplayer gameplay have been accumulated across all six launch countries in that time.
  • Xbox LIVE now has over 30 million members across the world, each spending on average 40 hours a month, meaning that in total members are logging over 1 billion hours a month worldwide.

We’ve listed some of the exciting new Facebook and Twitter features below. The Xbox LIVE community is expected to grow over the coming months, so look out for more news as we continue to add to the Xbox LIVE experience.

Facebook on Xbox LIVE

Facebook and Xbox LIVE join forces to connect you with your friends as you interact with the largest entertainment and gaming network on TV. Share real-time status updates and photos with your friends, check out photo galleries on the big screen or share your favourite gaming moments on Facebook right from your television. Take bragging rights to a completely new level by sharing updates on your achievements and success in upcoming games available on Xbox 360.

Facebook on Xbox LIVE features:

  • Connect with friends using Facebook.
  • Explore news feeds from friends and family.
  • Update your status with achievements in-game.
  • Post, read, and respond to comments on status updates and photos.
  • View photos using the Xbox 360 built-in scaler for great-looking pictures.
  • With Friend Linker, find friends on Facebook that also have Gamertags and invite them to your Xbox LIVE Friends List.

Twitter

Twitter comes to Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE. Thanks to the app, you can now stay in touch with your friends and family by reading and posting Tweets via your Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE. If you want to let your friends know that you’re firing up a multiplayer match, you can quickly and easily read, reply, and post updates online right from your console.

Twitter features:

  • Link your Gamertag to your Twitter username.
  • Automatically sign into Twitter when you sign into Xbox LIVE.
  • Read Tweets from people you follow, post new messages and reply to others.
  • Connect with Xbox LIVE friends who you follow on Twitter, view user lists and favourite Tweets.

NOTE: Facebook, Twitter, video chat features and Xbox LIVE Party require an Xbox LIVE Gold membership.

Follow South Africa’s local Xbox 360 Twitter page @Xbox360ZA or join their Facebook page Xbox 360 South Africa.

- Published on behalf of Xbox 360 South Africa

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GOOGLE WAVE: An analysis of its untimely downfall + Google Buzz

GOOGLE announced the closure of Google Wave on their blog on August 4 after much hype from loyal Google followers. There has been much buzz as to why Google Wave was a failed project, but the pivotal reasons appear to be three-fold. Excessive hype and expectations, too many features for a single web application, and at the same time, not enough unique features to differentiate Google Wave from existing services (Facebook, Twitter), all ultimately lead to its untimely downfall.

The hype involved a handful of people being invited to test Google Wave and lead to several bloggers discussing it amongst themselves. After almost a year of testing and a plethora of blog entries, a lot was obviously expected of Google’s latest brainchild. However, there were still only a handful of people that actually knew how to make use of Google Wave and in an era of short attention spans and click-happy web-users, the buzz had just about fizzled entirely upon its release.

Google Wave logoThe problem was that for the average Internet-user to get to grips with Google Wave required setting aside a good period of time to learn how to use it, and for many, watching a video tutorial was essential. Google’s software developers even admitted that the service “takes a little getting used to” and that even they were still learning how to use it themselves.

Once Google Wave invitees got the hang of Wave they needed more people to be using it besides themselves in order to get a proper wave going. This proved to be difficult enough in itself, but perhaps the problem was not a lack of users, but rather a lack of appeal.

What exactly is Google Wave?
“Wave's primary feature was to let users collaborate in real time, using an in-box-like interface that resembled a mix of Google's Gmail Web mail service, and its Docs and Spreadsheets product. Each strand of messages, which could include text, links, and photos, was called a wave. Google launched the product with an API for developers to build extra functionality in the form of extensions that users could turn on and off” - Cnet News

I would argue that Google Wave had two other inherent problems. The first being that it did not offer enough unique features – i.e. things that web-users couldn’t already perform using existing Google and other services, and secondly that it tried to achieve too much at once. There also seemed to be a lack of focus with regards to what the product would primarily be used for.

To rope people into any new web service takes time and requires baby steps if you want to get enough people on board in order for the services to be worthwhile and developed further. The web-user trend is to stick with what’s foremost familiar and secondly to make use of the tried and tested. Although Google Wave offered several easy ways to perform familiar tasks online in real-time, the popularity of services such as Facebook and Twitter far outweighed its demand as a new web service.

Google has brought many great apps to the table that are worthy of praise and the Internet would not be the same without them; sadly Google Wave was not one of them. Until a viable market demand is found, the focus should be on improving existing Google services before unleashing something new to the online public.

A bit on Google Buzz

Google had another chance with Google Buzz – a web app released just prior to Google Wave. For those who are unfamiliar with Google Buzz, the service is an extension of one’s Gmail account – appearing below one’s inbox. It can be rightfully argued that Google Buzz is essentially a Twitter clone as it allows friends to provide status updates, embed photos and links, and to follow or be followed by other Buzz users. It now has a few Facebooky features too – these being the options of liking or commenting on other users’ posts and embedding photos and video.

Google Buzz logoThe idea was to discuss “the buzz”, but from many users’ experience the service seems to be primarily used as a promotional tool for embedding links and directing peoples’ attention to them. Facebook remains the popular choice for status updating and the sharing of photos and videos and Twitter is still the first choice for posting something of real value.

I do not imagine that Google Buzz will ever become as popular (or perhaps more importantly – more popular) than Twitter or Facebook – least not until it offers something different to what exists already. Buzz needs to be able to stand on it's own, which isn't currently happening with the ability to Buzz on Facebook or Buzz on Twitter.

Perhaps bloggers and Google Wave testers are largely to blame for the excessive hype and ultimate disappointment of Google Wave. Perhaps it was the product itself that asked too much of web users by way of time and practical use. Or perhaps Google Wave simply did not fill a need in the World Wide Web by offering something entirely unique and different.

Google can surely be forgiven for the failure of Google Wave and hopefully learn from their mistakes. With a history of so many other great services and the downfall of only a few, support for future developments should by no means be tainted by their recent faults. Keep the services coming Google; you ultimately never know what will work online until you try.

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TECHNOLOGY: How it may be rewiring our brains

THE Internet is not just changing the way people live but altering the way our brains work with a neuroscientist arguing that this is an evolutionary change which will put the tech-savvy at the top of the new social order.

Gary Small, a neuroscientist at UCLA in California who specialises in brain function, has found through studies that Internet searching and text messaging has made brains more adept at filtering information and making snap decisions.

But while technology can accelerate learning and boost creativity it can have drawbacks as it can create Internet addicts whose only friends are virtual and has sparked a dramatic rise in Attention Deficit Disorder diagnoses.

Small, however, argues that the people who will come out on top in the next generation will be those with a mixture of technological and social skills.

"We're seeing an evolutionary change. The people in the next generation who are really going to have the edge are the ones who master the technological skills and also face-to-face skills"
– Gary Small

In his newly released fourth book iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind, Small looks at how technology has altered the way young minds develop, function and interpret information. In his book Small explains that the brain is very sensitive to changes in the environment such as those brought by technology.

A study of 24 adults using the Web revealed that experienced Internet users showed double the activity in areas of the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning as Internet beginners did.

"The brain is very specialized in its circuitry and if you repeat mental tasks over and over it will strengthen certain neural circuits and ignore others," said Small.

"The environment is changing. The average young person now spends nine hours a day exposing their brain to technology. Evolution is an advancement from moment to moment and what we are seeing is technology affecting our evolution."

Small said this multi-tasking could cause problems as the tech-savvy generation, whom he calls "digital natives," are always scanning for the next bit of new information which can create stress and even damage neural networks.

"There is also the big problem of neglecting human contact skills and losing the ability to read emotional expressions and body language," he said.

"But you can take steps to address this. It means taking time to cut back on technology, like having a family dinner, to find a balance. It is important to understand how technology is affecting our lives and our brains and take control of it.”

•Gary Small is the director of the Memory & Aging Research Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior and the Center on Aging at UCLA.

- original copy supplied by Reuters

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Web Addiction 2.0
Is technology rewiring out brains?

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