Dell makes a lot of noise about its bespoke servers cobbled together by its Data Center Solutions unit, and this gets under Hewlett-Packard's skin a bit considering that it is the largest shipper of servers in the world and it has its own quasi-custom, dense, energy-efficient servers aimed at hyperscale customers, too. So you might think that HP would make some noise about the new ProLiant SL machines at one of the recent press and analysts events it has hosted.
Instead, HP has done a soft launch on a revamped lineup of cookie-sheet servers that slide into the ProLiant SL6500 rack-mounted ovens enclosures. By "soft" I mean it's talked to key analysts and journalists about the machines and then just plunked the feeds and speeds out there on the corporate web site for people to find.
"We don't beat our chest about it as much, but four out of five of the world's largest search engines are powered by ProLiant servers," director of marketing for service providers and high performance computing at HP Glenn Keels tells El Reg. He adds that HP can and does build custom servers "where needed, and at scale."
The ProLiant SL6500 Scalable System chassis is not any different from when it was announced last October. The chassis is 4U high and allows for half-width server trays that are 1U or 2U in height to slide into the chassis.
There are also now full-width blades that can slide into the enclosure, and you make be asking yourself how this differs from an enterprise blade server that has been tipped on its side. The answer is simple: a cookie-sheet server does not have a midplane that blades and switches plug into and that a management controller in the chassis uses to control all of the individual nodes. Cookie-sheet servers are just funky ways of packing in free standing servers (as far as networking goes) but having them share power and cooling.
There are four new server trays that slide into the SL6500, two of them based on Xeon 5600 processor from Intel (of course) and two based on processors from Advanced Micro Devices. This is the first time the ProLiant SLs have had Opteron options, and considering that the Opteron 6100s came out in March 2010 and Opteron 4100s followed in June, you might be wondering what took so long. The sales cycle for the SL family of machines is a bit different from the general-purpose market and HP wanted to make sure the SL idea flew before it started expanding the lineup.
The two new Intel-based cookie-sheet servers are the ProLiant SL160s G6 and the ProLiant SL390s G7. The two new Opteron-based nodes for the SL6500 chassis are the ProLiant SL165s G7 and the ProLiant SL335s G7.
The SL160s G6 is still at the G6 generation because it has the iLO 100 service processor on the server node rather than the full iLO 3 card that is included with the G7-series servers in the ProLiant family aimed at enterprise-class data centers.
It is a full-width tray that can have one or two Xeon 5600 processors on its system board, which is mounted on the front left of the tray. The mono for this server node has 18 memory slots and can support a maximum of 192GB of main memory. You can only use a dozen of the slots with 16GB memory sticks to 192GB; with 18 of the 8GB sticks, you top out at 144GB.
HP is supporting Xeon 5600s with either four or six cores in the node. The SL160s G6 tray has room for six 3.5-inch SAS or SATA disks or ten 2.5-inch SAS or SATA disks or solid state drives. (Fat 3.5-inch SSDs are not supported.) The drives are not hot plug, and given the distributed nature of the applications that are run on these types of servers, they don't need to be. The system has two expansion slots and has one integrated Gigabit Ethernet port; it also has an on-board, six-port SATA RAID controller.
The base SL160s server comes with a single four-core Xeon E5620 processor spinning at 2.4GHz and 6GB of main memory; it costs $1,475. Using a slightly faster six-core X5640 running at 2.66GHz and putting in 12GB of main memory boosts the price to $2,545. Kicking that up to two Xeon X5672 processors (quad core running at 3.2GHz) and bumping up memory to 24GB raises the price to $5,745. These SL machines are not in the online store configurator, so you can't see the effect of choosing other processors and adding disk and SSD options.
Universities, government labs, and sometimes IT vendors donate their excess supercomputing capacity through grants to academics to help advance various sciences. Now Google is letting boffins loose on its systems.
In a blog post, Alfred Spector, vice president of research and special initiatives at the Chocolate Factory, said that Google had created an academic research grant program called the Google Exacycle for Visiting Faculty, which will donate one billion core-hours to science.
Google says that this level of computing is orders of magnitude more computing than most academics can get their hands on, no matter how big the endowment is at the university or how much research they do for government.
Google is not just giving away compute cycle on its massive server clusters to get a tax write-off on unused capacity, but to blind us with science. "Google Exacycle for Visiting Faculty is not a conventional grant program," the company claims. "We aim to stimulate advances in science and engineering research by supporting the computational needs of projects that push boundaries and reach for remarkable breakthroughs."
Google is not giving all of the billion core-hours to one lucky researcher. The plan is to solicit distinguished researchers and postdoctoral scholars from all over the globe and award them grants for jobs that can chew through at least 100 million core-hours.
Those who win the grants will do their work from Google offices and sign an employee agreement with Google for the term of the simulation. You have to pay your own travel, lodging, and living expenses while the simulations run.
The company says that large-scale genomics and protein folding simulations are the kinds of jobs it expects to most benefit from such a large number of cores to frolic upon; embarrassingly parallel jobs will do best, and "pleasantly parallel" jobs (yes that is a technical term) will work.
"The higher the CPU to I/O rate, the better the match with the system," Google says, and jobs that have minimal communication between nodes will do best. (Sounds like Gigabit Ethernet to me.) Your program has to be coded in C/C++ and compiled via Google's Native Client SDK, its tweak of the open source GNU C++ toolbox. Sorry, no Fortran or Java apps need apply. Researchers have until May 31 to apply for the capacity.
Looking ahead, Spector says that Google is thinking of extending CPU capacity grants to businesses in various industries, including biotech, financial services, manufacturing, and energy. Spector did not say that these grants would be free – he didn't say Google would charge for them, but it makes sense that it would – and is soliciting ideas from industry now on what jobs companies might want to run.
So just how much is a billion core-hours in terms of HPC capacity?
The largest cluster of Xeon machines in the world not using a proprietary interconnect of some kind is the Pleiades supercomputer at NASA's Ames Research Center. It uses Intel's old quad-core Xeon 5400 processors from two generations ago in two-socket machines; the cluster has 81,920 cores running at 2.93 GHz and links the servers together with an InfiniBand network.
Those chips can issue four floating point instructions per clock cycle per core, which works out to over 960 teraflops of aggregate peak number-crunching power. (On the Linpack floating point test, the Pleiades machine delivers 772.7 teraflops of actual performance.) If you ran the Pleiades machine flat out for a full year, you are talking about 718 million core-hours.
A grant of 100 million core-hours is around 11,408 Xeon cores running for a full year, and with modern six-core Xeon 5600 processors, you are talking about Google giving 950 server nodes. (Obviously, if you want to run that job in three months instead of 12, you have to quadruple the server node count.)
Google has millions of servers, so this is a tiny fraction of what the search giant has running in its 36 data centers. Depending on how fast you want to burn those cores, the virtual HPC cluster that Google will grant you could be rated from one to several hundred teraflops.
So the Google grants may be a tiny piece of Mountain View's capacity, but the capacity Google is putting up for grabs is a lot more than most researchers can get their hands on
The UK is expected to pass 250,000 high-speed broadband lines this month according to broadband analysis firm Point Topic. The company has projected figures based on December 2010 data to determine that the number of broadband lines with a speed of greater than 25Mbps at the end of March was 236,000, and should exceed 250,000 in April.
"We went on from [first-generation broadband 10 years ago] to reach over 13 million broadband lines within five years. Now we have over 19 million. It's dangerous just to assume that history will repeat itself, but it's still a good pointer to what will happen to superfast broadband in this decade."
Tim Johnson, (Chief Analyst) Point Topic
The majority of these connections are Virgin Media customers which make up an estimated 146,000 at the end of March. Virgin customers can receive 50meg or 100meg broadband through Virgin's fibre-coax hybrid network. 86,000 were estimated to be from what Point Topic refer to as 'BT networks' with the large majority of these being BT Infinity customers who have BT's up-to 40meg broadband through fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC). Around 4,000 are other BT Wholesale customers using FTTC. Only a small amount of these customers (around 3,700 in December 2010) were thought to have a full fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) based connection offering 100meg or above.
With TalkTalk to launch their FTTC products next month, the number of connections and rate at which these are added is only likely to increase, and this will continue as other broadband providers come on board.
Victor can't miss the nameplate. The big gold letters on the door scream the importance of the office's occupant.
DR. THADDEUS STRINGFELLOW
This is Victor's first support call on the Vice-Chancellor. Stringfellow was Ted 's customer - until Ted suffered his recent nervous breakdown. Could the two be connected?
He raps on the door, hoping no one is at home. The sound of a chair scraping across the floor puts paid to that. The door opens to reveal a pair of bifocals perched precariously on a nose filched from Pinocchio.
'You are?' says a thin mouth, lurking in the shadow of the nose.
Victor holds out his ID card. 'I am.'
Viktor follows the nose into the room. Every surface is covered in books. Closed, open, tumbling off shelves, strewn across the floor. The only place where there is none is a large, leather-covered desk in the middle of the room. The top is occupied by an overflowing in-tray, a 22" monitor, a wireless keyboard and a mouse.
Stringfellow eases himself on to the edge of the desk, peers at Victor over his spectacles. 'You took your time, young man.'
'Got stuck in traffic.'
'That's what Ted used to say. Are you his apprentice?'
'Only it might be a complicated problem, you see. Beyond your experience?'
Victor feels his mouth tighten. 'What's the problem? The ticket says "difficulty with The Cloud".'
'That would be my diagnosis.'
Smiling inwardly, Victor gives Stringfellow his sympathetic look. 'Very tricky. It's been giving us a lot of problems recently.'
'Yeah. Incredible. worse than any virus. Completely takes out the internet.'
Stringfellow's jaw drops. 'No!'
'Fortunately I've had all the training. Otherwise . . .' Victor draws his fingernail across his neck, 'that would be that.' He gets down on his hands and knees, crawls under the desk, says to Stringfellow, 'This Cloud problem often happens after the cleaners have been in.'
'That's remarkable! They were in here first thing this morning!'
Victor rolls his eyes, plugs the router power cord back into the socket.
Microsoft in their wisdom gives you a pop up box usually when your wireless has a low or weak signal. This is obviously a sign things need to improve... but have you ever wondered how? - It is basically telling you that the connection isn't good enough for a reliable or good qualitly signal and therefore will give you bad performance or low speeds. Sometimes your signal for your wireless will be completely lost in certain parts of your house!
So how do we do something about this? - try these few tips and tricks below. The tips will increase the wireless range. They will also improve the overall performance as well as reliability of the wireless network.
Reposition the router to a central location in the house - For example the centre of the house.
Place the router away from any large objects or walls.
Make sure the router is raised - ie not on the floor
Place the router away from anything which is metal.
Keep it away from the Microwave!
When purchasing or speccing up your router ensure you look to upgrade the aeriel or antenna to a hi-gain ariel. If you use the standard aeirel you'll have your wireless signal directed to outside the house, with a hi-gain one it is designed to focus its signal actually at the device you want to connect to and from!
Upgrade machines wireless network adapter with a new USB version (Laptops which have built-in wireless normally contain outstanding antennas. They do not usually require to be upgraded.)
Add a wireless repeater to extend the signal range.
Change the wireless channel/frenqency to increase its signal strength. You can do that through the configuration page of the router. The computer will detect the new channel itself.
Reduce wireless interference by avoiding wireless electronics which use the 2.4GHz frequency. You should use cordless phones which use the 900MHz or 5.8GHz frequencies.
Update your firmware updates for your router through the manufacturer's website. Update your network adapter driver through the Windows Update feature of Windows 7 and Vista or visit the website www.update.microsoft.com for Windows XP.
Upgrade 802.11b devices to 802.11g or buy a new 802.11 g equipment. It is five times faster than an 802.11b device.
All sounds a bit too technical? - we can help! call us free on 0800 880 3360 and speak to a member of our support team.
People who make a lot of online transactions, are popular online and who respond to most of the emails they receive are at the highest risk for being duped by malicious phishers, according to a multi-university study.
That's because they don't focus properly and so make decisions about what to do with emails based on simple cues embedded within rather than analyzing their entire contents, say researchers at the University of Buffalo, Brock University, Ball State University and the University of Texas, Arlington.
LATEST PHISHING THREAT: 'We regret to inform you': The Epsilon breach letters you don't want to see
People are most susceptible if they read so many emails that they don't have the time to accurately weigh whether they are spam, the researchers say. Contributing to this problem are receiving a lot of emails, responding a lot of emails, maintaining many online relationships and conducting lots of online transactions.
Authors of spam have tapped into the psyche of the email recipient to exploit basic human weaknesses, the researchers say. Statements indicating urgency -- disaster relief, security of bank accounts, free tickets -- distract recipients and make them more likely to miss indicators that the email isn't legitimate, they say.
There are steps email users can take. The researchers offer tips on reducing the likelihood of being duped, starting with spam blockers. "By way of prevention, we found that spam blockers are imperative to reduce the number of unnecessary emails individuals receive that could potentially clutter their information processing and judgment," says Professor Arun Vishwanath, of the UB Department of Communication.
They suggest using many email accounts, each dedicated to a single purpose -- banking, personal correspondence, etc. -- so off-topic spam seems out of place. For instance, if banking spam shows up in the personal account, it will stand out, the researchers say, making the recipient consider it more carefully.
The researchers say setting aside a regular time for handling different email accounts also helps recipient focus and be less susceptible to phishing.
Identity theft has saddled thousands of children with debt, sometimes for years before they ever discover their personal information has been stolen, a study says.
Within a database of 42,232 children that was compiled by an identity-protection business, 4,311 -- 10.2% -- had someone else using their Social Security numbers, according to "Child Identity Theft," a report by Richard Power, a distinguished fellow at Carnegie Mellon Cylab.
MORE ON THE PROBLEM: FTC: ID theft again tops consumer complaints
In one case, a 17-year-old girl's Social Security number was used by eight different people to amass $725,000 in debt. In another case, a 14-year-old boy had a 10-year-old credit history that included a mortgage on a $605,000 house, according to information supplied to Power by the identity-protection firm All Clear ID.
The study analyzed the types of documents on which the Social Security numbers appeared, and it found that 70% were loan or credit card applications, 18% utility bills, 5% property assessments, deeds, mortgages and foreclosures, 4% driver's licenses and 2% vehicle registration.
While 1 in 10 children in the database had their identities stolen, only 0.2% of the adults fell victim in the same way, Power says, and that stark contrast raises questions. "Are child Social Security numbers a hot commodity?" Power writes. "Are cyber criminals and other fraudsters seeking them out? Are child IDs preferable for fraudsters?"
The answer is that he doesn't know, and can't know until there is a study that is designed to compile results that can be extrapolated to the general population. Power says he and others at Carnegie Mellon University are considering such a study, but none is planned yet.
Meanwhile, it doesn't make a lot of difference what percentage of children's IDs are stolen, Power says. If you're the one it happens to, it's a nightmare, and most people don't even consider it as a possibility. "The other dimension is to raise awareness of this as an issue," he says.
In some cases parents with bad credit ratings use their children's Social Security numbers to open accounts with utility companies so they can get water and electricity without intending to harm the children's credit, Holland says. In other cases, criminals use the number to profit. Some are used by people in the country illegally who are trying to establish credit, and buy houses and cars.
The database used for the study was all the people under 18 that were listed in All Clear ID's 800,000-plus database of people whose personally identifiable information had been compromised. The firm is hired by businesses that suffer data breaches and want to extend some protection to those who could become victims, says Bo Holland, All Clear ID's CEO.
In most cases, identities endangered by data breaches do not fall under systematic attack, Holland says. The identities are compromised, but don't appear to be taken by someone who then actively tries to capitalize on them. Names that fell under targeted attacks were dropped from the database used for the study, he says.
High performance monitors are now here for everyone. The Samsung 20 series LCD displays. Designed for the style-conscious, with narrow bezels and sleek necks. It features a fast 5 ms response time and 50,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio for clearer, more detailed pictures. Enjoy maximum convenience with exclusive Magic technologies that come standard. MagicAngle lets you see images perfectly from any angle, MagicEco can cut power consumption in half and the MagicReturn feature will automatically manage your dual-monitor content. They're monitors that help you work smarter.
Highlights of the Samsung SyncMaster E1920N 18.5"Wide 5ms Tilt LCD TFT
I like to think that most of us who use computers are reasonably bright and responsible. So I get really irritated by the mindset of some technology vendors who insist that treating us like children is not only okay, but also the responsible thing for them to do.
Update Java and You May Get Annoying McAfee Scanner Too
I spoke to various engineers from anti-virus companies last week about a bizarre incident that caused a fair amount of pain to Windows users who meant to install a Java update and got stuck with an annoying security update that they neither wanted nor needed.
I'll get to the details in a bit, but I was struck by this remark: "I want it (the AV program) to be so simple my mother won't have a problem with it," said one engineer. Aside from the implicit sexism and ageism (who says older women can't be as competent as younger men?) the answer reeked of the patronizing users needed to be protected from themselves attitude I find so irritating.
Last week's incident began when some Windows users opted to install a routine update to Java, a programming language Oracle inherited when it purchased Sun Microsystems. For some reason, Oracle decided to bundle McAfee Security Scan Plus along with the Java update. The software is installed by default unless you notice and uncheck a little box to opt out.
The security program checks the PC to see if it has antivirus and firewall software installed and if they're both up-to-date. Various popup windows open from time to time and you're prompted to accept licensing terms, all of which use up system resources, slowing the PC down. The only way to get away from the darn thing is to uninstall it using the Windows control panel.
It turns out that Adobe did the same thing, bundling the scan program with some updates to its Reader application. Queried by our colleagues at Computerworld, a McAfee spokesman said: "McAfee believes it's better to be protected than unprotected, therefore we are offering this as a default." Translation: We don't trust you to do it yourself.
This incident has more lessons in it than a high school algebra textbook, not the least of which is the aforementioned patronizing attitude of tech vendors. Fortunately, it also suggests as few actions that you can take to avoid this sort of nonsense.
1. Pay attention before, during and after you download
My one-time colleague Andrew Brandt, a former tech journalist now working for Webroot, a security vendor, warns that the practice of stealth bundling is becoming all too common. A number of companies make a living by striking deals with vendors and tricking user into downloading all sorts of junk.
For example, you may see a big button on a Web site that looks like it will play a video when you click it. When you do, it brings up a cheesy flash animation that says you need a particular codec to run it. If you say okay, you'll go through a number of confusing steps and wind up with a copy of Real Player as well as a codec (an application that lets you play video) on your PC. Real Player has its good points, but it also winds up creating a lot of system-slowing traffic by frequently grabbing information from the Web and pushing it to you.
Generally you can defend yourself by paying attention before you download anything. In particular, says Brandt, look at the fine print and various boxes that are usually checked by default, meaning you've agreed to something you may not like at all.
2. Get a better look at your PC's processes
Brandt suggests downloading a free program from Microsoft called Process Explorer, which is, as he puts it, "is like Task Manager" but stronger. I tried it and it works well, showing you what processes are running, a little bit about what they do, and how much memory and CPU power they are taking up. The program gives you the option to kill the process and related stuff it has spawned, a really handy feature that will help you spot junk you didn't know was there. Be warned though: You want to be careful about anything from Microsoft, because killing Windows-related processes can cause serious problems.
3. Learn how to control your anti-virus programs
Because the anti-virus makers are sure you need them hovering like Tiger Moms, all sorts of stuff is turned on by default in these programs. Fortunately, many of the programs have controls that let you adjust what they're doing - if you can find them.
Webroot, for example, has a "gamer mode" that turns off a lot of the checking it normally does. If you think Webroot is getting in the way, just pretend you're a gamer. You will, of course, lose some of the protection you're paying for, but thats the kind of tradeoff adults should think about.
Symantec's nearly ubiquitous Norton program doesn't have a corresponding feature (or if it does, I haven't seen it) and it can be a little hard to find some of the controls. But they are there. For example, the program does a background security check of your system at regular intervals, and because it looks at so much of your hard drive, it takes a while and slows things down. So go to "settings" and click on "computer scans" and you'll a label that says "scan scheduled." That's not as explicit as it might be, but click on it and you'll get to a menu that lets you schedule the scan for a time, like 3 a.m., when you're probably not using your computer.
With plenty of other settings you can also tweak, it's worth poking around any AV program. Look at the help files or go online to see what other users of the program have to say.
4. Check out lightweight alternatives
Joshua Corman, a research director at the 451 Group, gets even more irritated with security programs than I do. He says that some popular anti- virus programs create more problems than they solve, which is to say that the system slowdown they cause may be worse than the slowdown a virus or other malware might provoke. And he likens the fee that people pay to companies like Symantec for ongoing updates and protection to a tax, or as he puts it "the $50 security tax."
Still, he's careful to say that he's not suggesting you kill your anti-virus programs. He notes that there are a number of lightweight programs out there that are cheap, or even free (Microsoft Security Essentials, for example) that give decent protection. He adds, though, that the larger programs may provide more complete protection, so you need to decide if you're willing to make the tradeoff.
5. Don't use more than one security program
If one security program gives decent protection, wouldn't it be even better to run two or even three? Not at all. In fact running multiple security programs not only isn't necessary, but also can lead to annoying system problems.
New PCs often come with an AV program thrown into the mix. Or you may download one via one of those bundles we talked about and forget that it's running. Multiple programs can trip over each other, or at the very least, suck up even more system resources. Check your hard disk for them by looking in the Windows Control panel and delete the ones you don't want.