At our present rate of progress, in 15 years’
time we will have computer capable of one quadrillion operations per second; the ?petaflop’ supercomputer (a flop, short for floating-point operation, is how computer caries out decimal-point maths, the basic of number crunching.
A petaflop is thousand teraflops, which is 40 times faster than the world’s present top 40 supercomputers combined and thousand times faster than Deep Blue, the machine that defeated grand chessmaster Gary Kasparov two years ago.
“Fifteen years!” shrieked IBM. “We refuse to wait that long. We refuse to accept the present rate of progress. We will spend $100 million on R&D and do it in five. The machine will be called Blue Gene.”
(That name was chosen because the machine’s first purpose will be to simulate something abstruse called protein folding, in which there are more possibilities than atoms in the universe, so even petaflop machine running at full tilt will take year to figure it out. It is one of the so called ?grand challenge’ tasks, along with modelling the Big Bang and such.
Blue Gene will be built using what IBM calls SMASH technology; Simple Many And Self-Healing.
Simple: Radically redesigned, powerful processors with simplified instructions (sounds like an extension of today’s risc technology), which will each produce one gigaflop per second, but use less power than conventional high performance designs.
Many: massively parallel system that will perform eight million simultaneous execution threads. The world’s fastest supercomputers now execute 5000.
Self-Healing: self-stabilising, self-healing system that will automatically overcome the failure of individual elements. The protein folding simulation will require, even at the blinding speed of the petaflop computer, one year of uninterrupted operation. Shutting the machine down or rebooting for even single failure is not an option. (Which means, we can confidently assume, it will not be running on Windows, an operating system as fragile as pane of glass. very large pane.) Blue Gene will contain 1,048,576 processors, each capable of gigaflop Ñ billion operations per second.
Thirty-two processors will make up single chip; 64 chips will make up two teraflop board; eight boards will make up two metre rack; 64 racks will be hooked together to make Blue Gene.
Sounds like Lego. Figuring out how proteins are folded, it is said, will revolutionise medicine, enabling us, for example, to design personalised drugs and drugs aimed at specific strains of diseases. For more info: www.research.ibm.com.
Perhaps with few of the sweepings from Blue Gene’s lab floor, IBM will make us home desktop (anything that can figure out how to fold proteins should be able to do tax return). And fileserver. And netserver. petaflop or two should add some oomph to response times.
Microsoft’s Rules Ñ OK?
Click: Microsoft is found guilty of being big, bad, bullying monopoly and punishment is the klieg-light at the short end of the tunnel.
Click: Microsoft runs lots of big, two page ads that loudly proclaim: “The old rules of business no longer apply (does anyone check this stuff before it goes out?) And neither do the old operating systems (chortle, chortle Ñ obviously not.)” Well, one out of two ain’t bad.
The 10 Commandments of Email
The following was dreamed up by bods deep in the wilds of Norfolk. pretty good list. All those who are still entirely devoid of Netiquette, take special note.
1) Thou shalt include clear and specific subject line.
2) Thou shalt edit any quoted text down to the minimum thou needest.
3) Thou shalt read thine own message thrice before thou sendest it.
4) Thou shalt ponder how thy recipient might react to thy message.
5) Thou shalt check they spelling and thy grammar.
6) Thou shalt not curse, flame, spam, or use all caps.
7) Thou shalt not forward any chain letter.
8) Thou shalt not use email for any illegal or unethical purpose.
9) Thou shalt not rely on the privacy of email, especially from work.
10) When in doubt, save thy message overnight and re-read it in the cold light of dawn.
And the golden rule of email: that which thou findest hateful to receive, sendest thou not unto others.
Nobilangelo Ceramalus is writer, desktop publisher, graphics designer, webmaster and image processor.