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Tech news: India's fastest supercomputer, pink Nokia N8, thinnest BlackBerry and more

Last updated on: May 6, 2011 14:29 IST

Tech news: India's fastest supercomputer, pink Nokia N8, thinnest BlackBerry and more

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Team ThinkDigit.com

ISRO develops India's fastest supercomputer

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has just built a new supercomputer, one that is said to be the fastest in the country, with a theoretical peak performance of up to 220 TeraFLOPS.

Called SAGA-220 (Supercomputer for Aerospace with GPU Architecture-220 TeraFLOPS), the supercomputer is located in Thiruvananthapuram, at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), which houses the Satish Dhawan Supercomputing Facility.

A GPU-based supercomputer, SAGA-220 stands for Supercomputer for Aerospace with GPU Architecture-220 TeraFLOPS. It is made up of 400 Nvidia Tesla 2070 workstation GPUs, and 400 Intel Xeon quad-core CPUs. The parts were supplied by Wipro, and utilise a high-speed interconnect between the components.

The total cost of the system was about Rs 14 crore, and, is apparently environmentally green, with a power consumption of about 150KW. According to the team at ISRO, the system is also very scalable, and can be made to achieve up to several PetaFLOPS.

The previous fastest supercomputer in India was Eka, located at the Computational Research Laboratories in Pune, and was powered by Hewlett-Packard sponsored components. It has a theoretical peak performance of 132 teraflops. The latest TOP 500 supercomputer rankings, now peg India at number 15 out of 29 countries in the list, with a combined performance of 333 TeraFLOPS.

NEXT: RIM's thinnest BlackBerrys: Bold Touch 9900 and 9930


Image: India's fastest supercomputer
Photographs: ThinkDigit.com
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RIM's thinnest BlackBerrys: Bold Touch 9900 and 9930

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RIM announced two new phones yesterday the BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900, and BlackBerry Bold Touch 9930, both of which run RIM's latest mobile operating system BlackBerry 7 OS. RIM has not given a clear release date for them however, apart from sometime in the American summer, and, so far, no pricing information is available either.

The only differences between the two devices is that the Touch 9900 (formerly known as Dakota) is a quad-band GSM device with tri-band HSPA+ support, while the Touch 9930 (formerly known as Montana) is a dual-band CDMA phone with support for quad-band GSM and dual-band HSPA+ global roaming.

While you can check out the full specifications below, it is important to note that RIM has not shied away from introducing some rather heavy duty specs for the new devices, such as a 1.2GHz Scorpion processor, part of the Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255 chipset, which also includes an Adreno 205. The chipset on the CDMA-based Touch 9930 is slightly different, featuring Qualcomm's integrated radios in the MSM8655 chipset. Both phones run on 768MB RAM.

RIM is also following the recent trend of high-resolution displays, squeezing in a VGA resolution (640x480) into the 2.8-inch capacitive touchscreen -- translating to more than 280 pixels per inch. The new phones also feature 5MP cameras that are capable of 720p HD recording, a must in today's smartphone era.

In terms of connectivity, it is worth noting that RIM intends to support Near Field Communications with the devices, squeezing in a NFC chip inside. Also onboard is support for the latest Wi-Fi standards -- with a dual-band chipset capable of 802.11 b/g/n@2.4 GHz and 802.11 a/n@5 GHz.

The new BlackBerry OS also supports the latest web standards with its native browser, namely HTML5.

Lastly, the new devices are being called the thinnest BlackBerry smartphones till date, with a width of just 10.5 mm. Check out complete specifications below, after the image:

  • BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930 Specifications
  • 115 x 66 x 10.5 mm, approximately 130 g
  • 2.8" capacitive touch screen display -- VGA (640x480), 287 dpi resolution
  • Ultra-easy QWERTY keyboard, optical trackpad
  • 1.2 GHz Processor, 768 MB RAM
  • 8 GB on-board memory, plus microSD slot supporting up to 32 GB cards
  • NFC technology
  • 5.0 MP camera, supports 720p HD video recording
  • Orientation Sensor (Accelerometer), Digital Compass (Magnetometer), Proximity Sensor
  • Built-in GPS / aGPS
  • Dual-Band Wi-Fi - 802.11 b/g/n at 2.4 GHz and 802.11 a/n at 5 GHz
  • Bluetooth 2.1+EDR support

Wireless Network support:

  • 9900: Tri-Band HSPA+, Quad-Band GSM/EDGE
  • 9930: Dual-Band CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A, Dual-Band HSPA+, Quad-Band GSM/EDGE
  • 1230 mAh removable, rechargeable battery
  • BlackBerry 7 OS

* Features OpenGL 2.0 support for developers.

NEXT: Pink Nokia N8

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Image: BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900 and 9930

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Pink Nokia N8

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Nokia has unveiled yet another colour for its current flagship smartphone, the Nokia N8. Already available in five colours (dark grey, silver white, green, blue, orange), the N8's anodised aluminium body has now been given a pink hue. The pink N8 will ship will Symbian Anna on board, but for now, no exact availability date has been mentioned.

While Nokia doesn't say flat out that the new colour for the Nokia N8 is an attempt to capture the female demographic, it's kind of obvious that is what they intend. In an absurd look at the possible internal workings of the product department, we think it must have received countless hate mails from females -- 'You launched the phone in so many colours, but none of them match my favourite dress!' If you have two X chromosomes, let us know what you think in the comments section below.

In all seriousness though, there is more evidence that points towards the pink N8 being geared towards women, with some special womanly features -- a special Little Pink Diva theme, and, a fashion app from Elle. Incidentally, and conveniently, pink was also voted the Pantone 2011 Colour of the Year.

NEXT: No-suicide pledge for Foxconn workers

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Image: Pink Nokia N8

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No-suicide pledge for Foxconn workers

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Reports have been pouring in for years about the inhumane conditions of workers in China, and Foxconn, the primary manufacturer for many of Apple's products, has been foremost in the list of such exploitative companies, with astonishing stories that are almost as bad as slave labour stories from a time when we considered man to be a little less civilised.

While suicides at Foxconn are nothing new to report, the latest news circulating around the web points towards a rather incredible new way to deal with the situation -- a mandatory no suicide pledge for workers in the more-than-bustling iPad and iPhone factories.

How this can ever be enforced is of course a practical question that has an obvious answer -- where there is a will, even to die, there is a way. But Foxconn can't be blamed for not trying, the pledge makes workers promise that if they do ever commit suicide, their families can only seek minimum monetary damages in recompense from the company.

According to the investigative report, this pledge was unnervingly created by Foxconn because it felt employees were killing themselves to provide generous compensatory settlements for their families -- it had to stop them from saving their families from beyond the grave. The thing the entire affair emphasises more than anything is that Foxconn is so sick of its employees committing suicide and it paying settlements, that the number of suicides must have been mind-boggling to consider. Talk about employee attrition rates.

Foxconn currently has almost half a million workers in their employ. While we would hesitate in asking you to stop purchasing Apple products -- thereby even removing the inhuman livelihood of these employees -- something certainly has to give...

NEXT: Acer Iconia Dual Screen notebook and Iconia Tab W500 tablet

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Image: Foxconn logo

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Acer Iconia Dual Screen notebook and Iconia Tab W500 tablet

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Acer has announced availability of two Windows 7 devices in India -- the Iconia Dual Screen notebook, and the Iconia Tab W500 10.1-inch tablet laptop. Both devices were recently introduced to the world at CES 2011, and their base models are priced at Rs 69,999 and Rs 32,499 respectively.

Acer also introduced the Iconia Smart A300 smartphone-tablet hybrid, which runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread. It has an extra large Streak-like 4.8-inch screen, with a 16:9 aspect ratio (1024x480).

It comes with an 8MP autofocus camera, capable of 720p HD video recording. The A300 has 8GB built-in storage, expandable up to 40GB with a microSD card. It is powered by the new 1GHz Scorpion CPU in the MSM8255 chipset, including an Adreno 205 GPU. The phone is expected arrive only by the end of June, and so far, no pricing has been fixed.

Acer Iconia Dual Screen

The Iconia Dual Screen notebook certainly is an amazing device to behold, with two 14.1-inch capacitive multi-touch 1366x768 resolution LED-backlit displays making up the laptop. It runs Windows 7 Home Premium.

Configuration options include Intel Core i5-480M / 560M / 580M CPUs, up to 4GB of DDR3 RAM, integrated Intel HD graphics, VGA/HDMI/SPDIF as well as USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, and the choice of 320/500/640/750GB hard drives. It is powered by four-cell battery, weighs about 2.8 Kg.

The dual screen notebook has an integrated CrystalEye webcam (1280x1024 resolution) and microphone, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0+HS, as well as integrated 3G WWAN and gigabit Ethernet. The unique form factor required a new type of UI, and what the company calls the Heart of Iconia, or the Acer Ring Control Interface. Navigation and touchscreen elements are controlled by a ring on the bottom screen, activated with five fingers in a circular pattern. The ring draws up native apps, widgets and settings, apart from a virtual keyboard.

Acer Iconia Tab W500

The Iconia Tab W500 is a 10.1-inch (1280x800) tablet that runs Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit and the Acer Ring Control Interface. It is powered by the AMD 1GHz Fusion C-Series Processor C-50, a AMD Radeon HD 6250 card with 256MB video memory, and 2GB DDR3 RAM. It has a 32GB SSD for storage onboard. The W500 comes bundled with a portable keyboard, converting it into laptop-hybrid. It has the full range of ports, including Ethernet and USB 2.0, and also supports Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, and in some models, even GSM-based 3G connectivity. Weighing in at 970 grams, it has an integrated 1.3MP web-cam onboard.

NEXT: Bing Maps and search on future BlackBerry phones

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Image: Acer Iconia Dual Screen notebook and Iconia Tab W500

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Bing Maps and search on future BlackBerry phones

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RIM has tied up with Microsoft to offer Bing Maps and Search on their upcoming BlackBerry smartphones; a deal that was announced at the BlackBerry World event yesterday. It certainly seems as if Microsoft is looking to tie up with major non-Google-aligned parties in order to take on the current domination of the Android platform, a fact mirrored in the Nokia-Windows Phone partnership, where Nokia's Ovi Maps and Microsoft's Bing search were once again a major part of the collaboration.

It's interesting to see three major players tying up to battle what is, at least by name, an open source platform that innumerable manufacturers are flocking to. That RIM will benefit from the partnership is obvious, with Bing and other Microsoft services evolving in collaboration with Nokia. We're likely to see a lot of exchange of IP soon, with RIM sharing some of its expertise.

NEXT: Video chat comes to Android via Google Talk

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Image: Bing Maps and search on future BlackBerry phones

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Video chat comes to Android via Google Talk

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Another reason to go for a Gingerbread-flavored phone, if you're buying an Android device this year. Video and voice chat support on Android phones is being rolled out first, on the developer-friendly Nexus S. In the months to come, Android 2.3+ devices will be the first to feature the updated app, which enables video and voice calls over 3G or Wi-Fi networks on Google Talk.

The app connects you to other Google talk users with Android tablets and PCs -- the only folks being left out of the fun are Android phones running version 2.2 Froyo or lower. Apart from Skype and Facebook, apps like Jajah and Tango, offer video chat on smartphones, the latest being 4-way video conferencing on Fring.

NEXT: Apple iMac's next-gen quad-core Intel CPUs and Thunderbolt

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Image: Video chat comes to Android via Google Talk

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Apple iMac's next-gen quad-core Intel CPUs and Thunderbolt

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The iMacs were starting to smell a bit stale with older Intel Core CPUs and low memory ATI graphic cards. But then Apple, as it always does, has rolled out the latest models powered by Intel's latest i5 and i7 Core CPUs along with Thunderbolt. The iMacs no longer slum with Core i3 CPUs.

FaceTime HD is now featured in the iMac line as well. It supports HD video calling between HD-enabled Macs and standard definition calling on the iPad 2, iPhone 4 and other Intel-based Macs.

Continuing Apple's commitment to the environment, Apple's desktop line is a leader in green design. It features LED-backlit displays that are mercury-free and made with arsenic-free glass. They use PVC-free components and cables, contain no brominated flame retardants, and use highly recyclable materials and features material-efficient system and packaging designs. Every iMac comes preloaded with Mac OS X Snow Leopard and iLife.

NEXT: RIM reveals the new BlackBerry 7 OS

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Image: Apple iMac's next-gen quad-core Intel CPUs and Thunderbolt

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RIM reveals the new BlackBerry 7 OS

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While we were expecting an update to BlackBerry 6 OS in the form of the BlackBerry 6.1 OS, RIM has announced a full version, BlackBerry 7 OS, as it felt the number of changes introduced warranted more than just a minor version upgrade. Unfortunately, this also means BlackBerry 6 OS devices will not support an upgrade to the latest, greatest.

The first phones destined to arrive with the new BlackBerry 7 OS are the BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900 and Touch 9930, which are expected sometime in the American summer. Check out our detailed coverage of the new Bold Touch devices for more details.

According to RIM, BlackBerry 7 OS is "designed to power the new performance-driven BlackBerry Bold platform." It is meant to be easier and faster to use, with interface improvements as well as support for new, more powerful applications.

New features are numerous, ranging from interface changes to a brand new browser and Docs To Go. The biggest of the interface changes is BlackBerry Balance, which works with the new BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.3. It is designed to help users segregate their work and personal life completely, by separating the content/data. This allows users limit access from one side to the other, that is, blocking work content and apps from being communicating with personal contacts. It also allows them to wipe only work data, instead of all the data on the device, whenever required.

The new BlackBerry Browser has what RIM calls Liquid Graphics, providing significant performance gains. It also has a brand new JIT JavaScript compiler that promises marked improvement in speed. There is also support for the latest HTML5 standards, including HTML5 video.

BlackBerry 7 OS features an improved Universal Search feature to include voice-activated search. RIM has also included the full-version of Docs To Go with the new OS, though for now, this bundle has been specifically announced for the new Bold Touch 9900 and 9930. The new Docs To Go also includes a native PDF viewer, apart from editing support for MSOffice docs.

NEXT: Intel's 22nm technology with 3D transistors

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Image: RIM reveals the new BlackBerry 7 OS

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Intel's 22nm technology with 3D transistors

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In accordance with its tick-tock model of shrinking processes and new micro-architectures, Intel today announced its 22 nanometer microprocessor, code named 'Ivy Bridge', based on the same micro-architecture as Sandy Bridge. The interesting thing being that these transistors will be the world's first three -- dimensional transistors called Tri-Gate transistors. This is a first since the birth of two-dimensional planar transistors that we have seen since their inception.

According to Intel, the new transistors will use 50 percent less power, conduct more current and improve performance by around 37 percent as compared to the 32-nm planar transistors. At an additional cost of 2-3 percent more, these transistors are expected to have faster switching speeds than the current 32-nm transistors. Chips with these transistors will get into production in the second half of this year and should be available on computers at the start of 2012.

The performance gains and faster switching will allow the processors to be used in mobile handheld devices which operate on low voltages and use lesser energy. So finally Intel can provide some stiff competition to existing players like Qualcomm, Samsung, NVIDIA etc. who have an edge as far as ARM-based processors are concerned which are preferred over the Intel x86 architecture for tablet and mobile devices.

So what exactly does Intel mean by the 3D Tri-Gate transistor. To get the idea, a quick refresher on the working of a transistor should be helpful.

In a normal 2D planar transistor, you have the Source and Drain which are separated by a channel (seen in blue) which when in the ON state allows current to flow and when in OFF state doesn't allow current flow. These ON/OFF states are determined by the Gate and an insulating layer (seen in yellow).

As manufacturing processes start to shrink, problems like leakage of current through the gate begin to appear. Intel countered that by using a High-K materials and Metal Gates to thicken the Gate layers without compromising on performance with their 45-nm chips. But shrinking further does bring up limitations like switching issues.

In the 3D Tri Gate design, Intel has pulled up the silicon substrate vertically into the metal Gate called as  FinFET (Field Effect Transistor). Due to this vertical expansion of the fin of the substrate, the Gate layer covers three sides of the fin, as opposed to just one flat side (in the 2D planar configuration) thus allowing more current to flow through the transistor and enabling faster switching.

According to Mark Bohr, an Intel senior fellow, this transistor structure will allow Intel to continue the trend of Moore's Law -- which states that the number of transistors placed on an integrated circuit will double every two years.

Intel has put up a great video explaining beautifully the move from 2D planar architecture to 3D Tri-Gate design.

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Image: Intel's 22nm technology with 3D transistors

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