21 December, 2014

Liquid-Cooled Computers to Cut Costs

Space-filling model of the Novec 1230 molecule...
Space-filling model of the Novec 1230 molecule, dodecafluoro-2-methylpentane-3-one, C 6 F 12 O. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I would like to see this technology implemented across-the-board. Question is, the savings, where will it go? 


TOKYO – Dropping a home computer into a vat of liquid would wreck it.

 Yet some operators of supercomputers are submerging their machines in liquids, without causing any apparent damage, to keep them from overheating. Advocates say submersion cooling could solve one of the biggest challenges of the digital economy: reducing the air-conditioning bills and environmental strains of the power-hungry servers and supercomputers that crunch ever-rising mountains of data.

A prototype supercomputer at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, which is submerged in a tank of mineral oil, has been named in an industry ranking, the Green 500, as the most energy-efficient machine of its kind. The computer, called Tsubame KFC, is 50 percent more powerful than an older supercomputer there but uses the same amount of energy.

“The university administration said, ‘You’re not going to get any more power,’” said Satoshi Matsuoka, the project leader. “But we still wanted more performance.”

Japan is driven to reduce electricity consumption since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The country idled other nuclear facilities, cutting electricity generating capacity sharply.

The use of liquids to cool supercomputers and powerful servers is not limited to Japan. The technology used by the Tokyo institute was developed by a company in Austin, Texas called Green Revolution Cooling.

Iceotope, a start-up based in Sheffield, England, submerges computers in liquid fluoroplastic, rather than oil. And in Hong Kong, Allied Control, a company that designs cooling systems, used submersion technology for a recently opened data center.

Unlike water, mineral oil and liquid fluoroplastics do not conduct electricity. Therefore, experts says, there is no risk of short-circuiting the equipment.

Peter Hopton, chief executive of Iceotope, said data centers that use air-conditioning could cut their energy bills and infrastructure costs in half by using submersive cooling.

“We’re talking about millions in savings, every year,” he said.

Some supercomputers consume tens of millions of dollars’ worth of energy annually, while the biggest corporate data centers have electricity bills of hundreds of millions of dollars, much of that going for air-conditioning.

Water is used widely as a coolant, but usually it is piped through the facilities or the machines.

Cray, the American supercomputer maker, used submersion cooling for one of its machines in the 1980s. But the method was not widely used, in part because of concern about the high cost and the ozone-depleting effects of the coolants of that era.

Iceotope and the Hong Kong system use new fluids, including one from 3M called Novec 1230.3M says it is not ozone-depleting and has been exempted from the list of volatile organic compounds issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr.Hopton said Novec provided more cooling power than mineral oil.

But Christiaan Best, chief executive of Green Revolution, said that mineral oil was almost as effective and considerably less expensive. Novec 1230, which is more commonly used in sophisticated fire extinguishing equipment, costs about seven times more than mineral oil, he said.

To test viability of its new system, the Tokyo institute erected a small building to house Tsubame KFC just outside a larger lab that contains an existing heat-producing supercomputer. That will give the academics a chance to determine whether Tsubame KFC can function even when the oil warms up to summertime temperatures. They think it might be possible because modern semiconductors can operate at higher temperatures, Professor Matsuoka said.

Only a few modification were necessary to enable Tsubame KFC to be submerged, he said. Moving parts like hard drives and fans to be removed, for example.

Green Revolution’s mineral oil cooling method has been used at several data centers, including facilities operated by the United States Department of Defense. Intel conducted a study of the system and found that its servers had suffered no adverse effects, and power consumption was cut sharply.

Mr. Best said that so far, academic institutions that operate supercomputers had been more willing to experiment with the technology than the than the corporations that run data centers.

“You can imagine,” he said, “if we walk in and say, ‘Why don’t you take your data center and put it in oil,’ you have to have something pretty solid to point to.”

Taken from TODAY, Saturday Edition, March 8, 2014

19 December, 2014

Google Uses its Social Network to Get Nosy

English: Google+ wordmark
English: Google+ wordmark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Social Network
The Social Network (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am just wondering and pondering what would happen if I post this seemingly anti-Google article in a Google-owned blog site. But this was an article published in the open, so while I am having my doubts, I still believe this is a fair game.

Read on...


SAN FRANCISCO – Google Plus, the company’s social network, is like a ghost town. Want to see your old roommate’s baby or post your vacation status? Chances are, you’ll use Facebook instead.

But Google isn’t worried. Google Plus may not be much of a competitor to Facebook as a social network, but it is central to Google’s future – a lens that allows the company to peer more broadly into people’s digital life, and to gather an ever-richer trove of the personal information that advertisers covet.

Once you sign up for Plus, it becomes your account for all Google products, so Google sees who you are and what you do across its services, even if you never return to the social network itself.

Google says Plus has 540 million monthly active users, but almost half do not visit the social network.

“Google Plus gives you the opportunity to be yourself, and gives Google that common understanding of who you are,” said Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product management for Google Plus. “It’s about you showing up at Google and having a consistent experience across products so they feel like one product, and that makes your experiences with every Google product better.”

Plus is now so important to Google that the company requires people to sign to use some Google services, like commenting on YouTube. Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, tied employee bonuses companywide to its success and appointed Vic Gundotra, a senior Google executive, to lead it.

The value of Plus has only increased in the last year, as search advertising. Google’s main source of profits, has slowed.

“The database of affinity could be the holy grail for more effective brand advertising,” said Nate Elliott, an analyst at Forrester studying social media and marketing.

Need help in achieving clarity of mind?

Google says the information it gains about people through Google Plus helps it create better products – like sending traffic updates to cell-phones or knowing whether a search for “Hillary” refers to a family member or to the former American secretary of state – as well as better ads.

Plus has 29 million unique monthly users on its website and 41 million on smartphones, with some users overlapping, compared with Facebook’s 128 million users on its website and 108 million on phones, according to Nielsen.

The way Google is tying its research its search engine, which dominates the market, with a less popular product in Plus has set off antitrust concerns. The United States Federal Trade Commission raised the issue during its recent antitrust investigation of Google, according to two people briefed on the matter. That investigation closed without a finding of wrongdoing.

Google declined to comment on this issue.

In the meantime, while some Google users have been turned off by the push to sign up for Plus, few have actually fled.

“If people want to use your platform enough,” Mr. Elliott said,” you can get away with quite a lot.”

Taken from TODAY Saturday Edition, March 22, 2014

11 December, 2014

Wearable Tech Doesn’t Have to Be Ugly

Mediamatic Hybrid Wearables
Mediamatic Hybrid Wearables (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wearable electronics – often a dull representation of function over form – are finally getting a fashion-industry makeover.

Fitbit, the maker of the Fitbit One and Flex, has teamed with the designer Tory Burch to make new trackers that look like jewelry. In January, Intel started a wearable design competition that will award $1.25 million in prize money. And a few companies are already shipping wearable gadgets that look like well-chosen accessories.

The Shine tracker by Misfit Wearables is a small aluminum disc with a magnetic clip for attaching it to clothing or shoes, and a black rubber wristband. Accessories that hold the disc, like a leather wristband and a necklace, are options to change the look.

Sonny Vu, Misfit’s chief executive, said his team spent months researching wearable tech. Neither men nor women wanted to clip devices to their shoes when they weren’t cycling or running, he said, because “your shoes are the foundation of your fashion.” Many women also said they wouldn’t wear a wristband because it created tan lines.

“If we only think about the wrist, we will definitely be limiting our imagination,” Mr. Vu said. “You can do a heck of a lot at the wrist, but you will be limiting the people who will use it. The body is such a sacred place that you really have to think this through.”

The wrist is where wearable gadgets first got noticed. Nike’s introduction of the Nike+ FuelBand in 2012 spurred a wrist-based rush that spread to smartwatches, an idea that has had varying degrees of nonsuccess since the 1980s.

The earliest activity trackers were clips that were meant to be worn on a waistband, or clipped to a sports bra or pocket.

When companies like Jawbone and Nike released wristbands like the Up and the FuelBand, Fitbit said its customers started to ask for bands in addition to clips.

“The wrist is good and bad,” said James Park, Fitbit’s chief executive. “The great thing is that once you put a band there or some other device, you have the option of not having to take it off and not forgetting it. But it’s much more difficult to track things like motion, steps taken, calories burned –filtering that out is a lot tougher than it is on a clip.”

Some exercises won’t count if you’re wearing a wrist tracker. Burn 1,000 calories in spin class, for example, but your FuelBand might never know it because your wrist stays stationary.

Consumers are also asking for devices that can measure heart rate, which is difficult with a wristband.

Then there’s style. Many athletic wristbands are simply athletic-looking or ugly. Even beautiful ones like the Jawbone Up look inorganic. The Shine comes closest to a wardrobe addition. It costs $120 for the disc, clasp and wristband, and $50 each for the necklace and leather band. Neither is high-fashion, but it’s a start. Shine lets the wearer specify that they’re swimming, cycling or playing other sports, a feature that is supposed to help get more accurate measurements.

The Shine shows that there’s no need for wearable devices to be tied to the wrist, or to any single part of the body. The little sensors inside the devices are simple and are the key to the next wave of wearable evolution.

They will power devices that “are going to continue to grow on us, on the body, and around the body,” said the creator of the Jawbone Up, Yves Behar, adding, “People will pick and choose what fits them.”

Taken from TODAY Saturday Edition, March 29, 2014