Archive for July, 2007

VoIP….for free….sort of

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

So everyone has been harping over VoIP (that’s Voice over Internet Protocol for the uninitiated) as one of the next big innovations in telecommunications. You might have heard of Skype, which is just one of many VoIP service providers but probably the de facto one if you ask most people. The pay model for most VoIP services is no different than other telecommunication technologies (cell phone, landline, etc.) - monthly billing or pay as you go (prepay). But what if you could make calls for life after making one single payment? That’s an interesting concept and one that a new service called ooma is touting (NOTE: We don’t endorse here we just inform).

Straight from ooma’s FAQ:

How much do ooma products cost? Do you charge a monthly fee?
As an ooma White Rabbit, you get the hardware (MSRP for ooma Hub is $599!) for just one penny. This includes Free Domestic Long-Distance Calling, the Instant Second Line™ feature, and the Broadband Answering Machine™, all for the life of your ooma device with no monthly fees! You will need a credit card to sign up as we charge a nominal $.01 to get started.
Beginning in September, ooma will offer a special introductory rate of $399. ooma Scouts are priced at $39 per unit. But as a White Rabbit invitee, you’ll get the Hub and Scout for only one penny.

Btw, White Rabbit refers to you as an initial user as part of their nationwide, invitation-only White Rabbit BETA program.

Computational science & engineering in HPC

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

With a nod to the newly formed Virtual Institute - High Productivity Supercomputing (VI-HPS), we thought it might be useful to provide a link to the Keynote talk given at the institute’s inauguration a couple of weeks ago. Doug Post, the chief scientist for the DoD High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP), gave a very informative talk about current/future challenges and opportunities in computational science and engineering. Loaded with statistics and information about challenges and bottlenecks related to code development and deployment, most of the talk is centered around HPCMP work, but much of it is applicable to HPC efforts within the US national research agenda.

What is a virtual institute you ask? In the VI-HPS context, a virtual institute is a specific research entity that unites distributed competencies and is funded by Germany’s Helmholtz Association.

The “Grid”

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

You’ve read about it and might have even heard some talk about it - the Grid. So you want to know what it is and why it matters? We can help. It was a TV miniseries, but the “Grid” we’re referring to here has to do with a distributed computational resource. Ian Foster provided a nice description back in 2002 called What is the Grid? A Three Point Checklist. For an even more comprehensive explanation of the Grid, visit NCSA’s What is the Grid? website, where a Who’s Who of the high performance computing community answer many pivotal questions regarding the Grid and its use.

Singularity - Fact or Fiction?

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

In this article from the Henry Daily Herald (we go to any length to find news), the notion of Singularity is discussed along with predictions for when, basically, computers will reach the cognitive capacity and function of the human brain. This prediction has been kicked around for some time and usually follows on the heels of talk about artificial intelligence. Citing one authority, the article states

Hans Moravec, a singularity expert, extrapolates that we will have a human-equivalent computer by about 2020 and a desktop version of it in the marketplace by 2030 for around $1,000 dollars.

Really? In any case, strangely missing from the article, which cites several experts on Singularity and brain-level computing, is any mention of Ray Kurzweil, perhaps the foremost living Futurist. Btw, we gave a nod to Ray and his predictions (who interestingly made pretty much the same prediction above back in 1999) right here on this blog back in January 2006. If all this stuff interests you, then you’ll love KurzweilAI.net.

Cluster computing and the Top500

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Paralleling the last post that enormous computing power is achievable by utilizing multiple machines to solve problems, the latest installment of the Top500 Supercomputer Sites reveals that 75% of the list are cluster computers. Though the machines in the Top500 aren’t generally publicly available, many of the clusters that make up the list are made up of the very same machines you can buy yourself. For example, nine of the top 50 machines on the list are clusters of Dell desktop computers. The Top500 site provides a nice sublist generator, which allows you to search and create your own list from the entire 500. For example, use the generator to find only Cray machines in the list or find how many machines from Norway made the list. In fact, the generator has data as far back as 1993. Give it a try.

What do E.T. and cancer research have in common?

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

For all the extraterrestrial fans out there and in recognition of the 60th Anniversary of the Roswell incident, it seems only natural to take a look at the latest in public distributing computing. Purchasing a supercomputer (or time on one) is one way to perform research that requires heavy computational power. Another is to utilize the idle time and computing power of broadband connected, public PCs. One such project (and one you Roswell buffs should appreciate) would be the SETI@home effort, established in 1999 to use PC computing cycles to detect radio signals from space. If interested, here’s a pretty good primer on the project, though dated a little. But many projects are cropping up of a humanitarian nature to take advantage of the growing number of personal computers worldwide. Interested in letting your own computer help in cancer research, climate change research, etc? This site might be of interest.

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