Archive for February 2007

Inter-planetary Internet expands to Mars and beyond

iTWire :

InterPlaNet (IPN) will serve as a backbone for a future inter-planetary system of Internets, said Cerf during a visit to Bangalore, reports Indo Asian News Service.

Google vice president and Internet evangelist, Cerf co-wrote the TCP/IP protocol which underpins the Terran internet in the 1970s and began work on the InterPlaNet in 1998.

A collaboration between NASA and the Advanced Research Project Agency, the InterPlaNet project is underway at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Houston, Texas. The InterPlaNet protocol is designed to cope with delays caused by the vast distances of space, with data taking up to 20 minutes to travel between the Earth and Mars depending on how far apart the two planets are.

“…As part of the NASA Mars mission programme, the project aims to have by 2008 a well-functioning Earth-Mars network.”

In 2004 the rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, broke Martian data speed records by sustaining a 256 kbps uplink to the Mars Odyssey and Mars Global Surveyor satellites orbiting above. Mars Odyssey had the faster link to Earth – 124 kbps at the time – but it has dropped as Mars moves further away from the Earth.

In the 1970s, data from NASA’s two Mars Viking landers trickled back from the orbiting satellites at 8 kbps, via a 16 kbps uplink from the Martian surface. [Source]

AMD Rolls Out Low-Watt Processors

eWeek: AMD Rolls Out Low-Watt Processors

With little fanfare, Advanced Micro Devices released two, low-watt Athlon desktop processors on Feb. 20, along with a new dual-core chip model, the Athlon 64 X2 6000 , the company said in a statement.

The single-core processors, the Athlon 64 3500 and the 3800 , while not new models, will now be produced using the company’s 65-nanometer manufacturing process and have 45-watt thermal envelopes.

The Athlon 64 X2 6000 is the latest desktop model from the Sunnyvale, Calif., company. Unlike the other two models that were released on Tuesday, this chip, which is clocked at 3.0GHz, uses the older 90-nanometer manufacturing process and has a 125-watt thermal envelope.

The new chip releases come after AMD made several announcements about changes to its processor lineup. On Feb. 12, the company announced that it would lower the prices on several of its desktop processors. When the new prices were announced, company officials said the lower prices reflected the demands of its customers, not the ongoing price war involving its main rival, Intel. [More]

Firefox Flaw Could Let Attackers Change Cookies

eWeek: Firefox Flaw Could Let Attackers Change Cookies

A bug was recently uncovered in Firefox that could allow a malicious Web site to appear authentic.

The bug affects the way Firefox handles writing to the “location.hostname” DOM property, according to a posting by security researcher Michal Zalewski on the security mailing list Full Disclosure. The vulnerability could potentially allow a malicious Web site to manipulate the authentication cookies for a third-party Web site.

By bypassing same-origin policy, attackers can possibly tamper with the way these sites are displayed or how they work. For users, this means the bug could allow for the browser to appear as if the user were connecting to a bank, when in fact the user would instead be receiving data from an attacker. [More]

Scientists Dubious of Quantum Claims

Scientists Dubious of Quantum Claims – International Business Times

Quantum computing is such an elusive goal that even the company claiming to have the “world’s first commercial quantum computer” acknowledged it isn’t entirely sure the machine is performing true quantum calculations.

…Many scientists believe that true quantum computing – which is based on the unusual properties of quantum physics – promises to solve certain factoring, simulation and other intensive problems faster than today’s machines that rely on classical physics. Most say it’s likely still years or decades away.

“Until we see more actual measurements, it’s hard to know whether they succeeded or not,” said Phil Kuekes, a computer architect in the Quantum Science Research Group at Hewlett-Packard Co.’s HP Labs.

D-Wave held its first public demonstration Tuesday of a machine it claims uses quantum mechanics to solve a certain type of problems, such as searching a database for matching molecular structures.

But the company did not make the machine available for inspection and instead showed video from a remote location, saying it was too sensitive to be easily transported.

And notwithstanding lofty claims in the company’s press release about creating the world’s first commercial quantum computer, D-Wave Chief Executive Herb Martin emphasized that the machine is not a true quantum computer and is instead a kind of special-purpose machine that uses some quantum mechanics to solve problems. [more]

LHC may give birth to ‘Black Saturns’

Atom smasher may give birth to ‘Black Saturns’ – space – 13 February 2007 – New Scientist Space

If we ever make black holes on Earth, they might be much stranger objects than the star-swallowing monsters known to exist in space. According to a new theory, any black hole that pops out of the Large Hadron Collider under construction in Switzerland might be surrounded by a black ring – forming a microscopic “black Saturn”.

A black hole and a black ring can co-exist, in theory, as long as they are set spinning, say Henriette Elvang of MIT in Cambridge, US, and Pau Figueras of the University of Barcelona in Spain. “If you just had a ring, it would collapse. It’s essential that it rotates to keep balanced,” Elvang told New Scientist.

Just like the central black hole, the ring would be defined by its event horizon, a boundary beyond which nothing can escape the object’s gravity. The ring could be thin like a rubber band or fat like a doughnut, and the rotation would flatten it – “like a doughnut that you have squashed,” says Elvang. The spinning ring would also drag space-time around with it, making the central black hole spin as well.

The black Saturn can only exist in a space with four dimensions, rather than the three we inhabit. In 3D, a black ring is impossible, so there are no big black Saturns out there for astronomers to spot – but at a microscopic level, they might really exist. [More]

Molecular-scale memory with Nanotubes

Nanowerk: Telescoping nanotubes promise ultrafast computer memory

Non-volatile random access memory (NVRAM) is the general name used to describe any type of random access memory which does not lose its information when power is turned off. This is in contrast to the most common forms of random access memory today, DRAM and SRAM, which both require continual power in order to maintain their data. NVRAM is a subgroup of the more general class of non-volatile memory types, the difference being that NVRAM devices offer random access, as opposed to sequential access like hard disks. The best-known form of NVRAM memory today is flash memory, which is found in a wide variety of consumer electronics, including memory cards, digital music players, digital cameras and cell phones. One problem with flash memory is its relatively low speed. Also, as chip designers and engineers reach size barriers in downscaling the size of such chips, the research focus shifts towards new types of nanomemory. Molecular-scale memory promises to be low-power and high frequency: imagine a computer that boots up immediately on powering up and that writes data directly onto its hard drive making saving a thing of the past. Researchers are designing the building blocks for this type of memory device using telescoping carbon nanotubes as high-speed, low power microswitches. The design would allow the use of these binary or three-stage switches to become part of molecular-scale computers.

Microsoft Hit with Another Zero-Day Attack

eWeek: Microsoft Hit with Another Zero-Day Attack

Hackers have painted a bull’s eye on Microsoft Word and Office programs yet again, and this time they seem to have hit their mark.

The company issued a warning Wednesday stating there had been limited, targeted zero-day attacks exploiting a vulnerability that could allow code to be remotely inserted into a computer. The announcement came 24 hours after Microsoft released patches for 20 other flaws in its products, including six for Word. [More]

New accelerator technique doubles particle energy

PhysOrg : New accelerator technique doubles particle energy in just one meter

The researchers—from the Department of Energy’s Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering—published their work in the February 15 issue of Nature.

The achievement demonstrates a technology that may drive the future of accelerator design. To reach the high energies required to answer the new set of mysteries confronting particle physics—such as dark energy and the origin of mass—the newest accelerators are immensely bigger, and consequently more expensive, than their predecessors. Very high-energy particle beams will be needed to detect the very heavy and very short-lived particles that have eluded scientists so far.

“We hope that someday these breakthroughs will make future generations of accelerators feasible and affordable,” said SLAC Deputy Director Persis Drell. “It’s wonderful to see the tremendous progress in understanding the underlying physics for fundamentally new methods of accelerating particles.”

AMD Reveals More ‘Barcelona’ Secrets

eWeek: AMD Reveals More ‘Barcelona’ Secrets

At the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, which kicks off Feb. 11, the company’s engineers will demonstrate new technology that will make AMD’s first quad-core chip more power-efficient than previous dual-core processors.

The quad-core AMD Opteron processor, which goes by the codename “Barcelona,” is scheduled to be released later this year. It will compete against Intel’s quad-core Xeon 5300 series, which the company released last November.

AMD, which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif., believes that its engineers have developed a better, “native” quad-core design, which allows four, x86 processing cores on a single piece of silicon. By comparison, Intel’s quad-core processor ties two dual-core chips onto a single piece of silicon.

In addition, Intel and AMD have each poured money and resources into technologies that ease the power consumption and heat generation of their processors.

At this week’s conference, AMD will show its quad-core processor’s power efficiency. Specifically, engineers have improved on the company’s PowerNow technology, which can increase or reduce the amount of power to the chip depending on the demand. [More]

Intel Enters ‘Tera-scale’ Era

eWeek: Intel Enters ‘Tera-scale’ Era

“Tera-scale computing is coming,” said Jerry Bautista, director of Intel’s Tera-scale Computing Research Program. “What we are doing is bringing supercomputing-like capabilities to PCs, servers, and handheld and mobile devices.”

During the ISSCC show, Intel researchers are preparing to present nine different research papers, one of which will address the details of the company’s efforts to develop a processor capable of delivering teraflops—trillions of calculation per second—of performance while consuming as few as 62 watts of power.

While Intel officials were quick to say that the 80-core chip is more a proof-of-concept design that will likely never come to market, it is possible that within 10 to 15 years certain elements and design specifications used to create this chip will be integrated with other processors.

Intel has already said that it would try to offer processors with 10 or more cores by the end of the decade. In November 2006, the Santa Clare, Calif., company began its march to offering more and more cores when it offered quad-core chips for servers and workstations that offered 1.5 times the performance of dual-core chips. [More]

Root Server Attack Fizzles

eWeek: Root Server Attack Fizzles

An attack, apparently intended to get the attention of the security community, failed in its attempt to bring down, or even slow down, the Internet, analysts say.

According to the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the attack was aimed at one of its root servers—the top-level servers that translate requests for names into IP addresses so computers can retrieve the data on the Internet that users need.

The attack, which took place early the morning of Feb. 6, was described as a distributed denial of service attack, and was apparently intended to so overwhelm the target servers that Internet users would be unable to resolve names, and therefore not be able to reach some Web sites.

Unfortunately for the perpetrators, their efforts went largely unnoticed. In fact, at Verizon, which operates metropolitan area networks including MAE East and MAE West, was unaffected. [More]

Quantum computer to debut – OS and Servers News – Quantum computer to debut next week

D-Wave of British Columbia has promised to demonstrate a quantum computer next Tuesday, that can carry out 64,000 calculations simultaneously (in parallel “universes”), thanks to a new technique which rethinks the already-uncanny world of quantum computing. But the academic world is taking a wait-and-see approach.

D-Wave is the world’s only “commercial” quantum computing company, backed by more than $20 million of venture capital (there are more commercial ventures in the related field of quantum cryptography). Its stated aim is to eventually produce commercially available quantum computers that can be used online or shipped to computer rooms, where they will solve intractable and expensive problems such as financial optimisation.

It has been predicted that quantum computing will make current computer security obsolete, cracking any current cryptography scheme by providing an unlimited amount of simultaneous processing resources. Multiple quantum states exist at the same time, so every quantum bit or “qubit” in such a machine is simultaneously 0 and 1. D-Wave’s prototype has only 16 qubits, but systems with hundreds of qubits would be able to process more inputs than there are atoms in the universe. [More]

Permanent Moon base after 2010

Wanted: Home-builders for the moon – Space News –

Imagine a world where microwave-beaming rovers cook dust into concrete landing pads … where your living quarters are dropped onto the land from above, then inflated like an inner tube … where the grit is so abrasive that even the robots have to wear protective coveralls.

It may sound like science fiction, but these are actually some of the ideas being floated as part of NASA’s plan to build a permanent moon base starting in 2010. To follow through on those sky-high ideas, the space agency is turning to some down-to-earth experts, ranging from polar researchers to miners and earth-movers.

“We will be looking outside the agency quite a bit as well as inside the agency,” said Larry Toups, habitation systems lead for NASA’s Constellation Program Office. “We have a lot of folks here who are very innovative and understand the space environment quite a bit, but you do have a lot of expertise outside NASA as well, and we intend to involve those folks.” [More]