Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lockheed-Martin Purchases D-Wave's First Quantum Computer

D-WaveD-Wave out of Canada has just sold the first of its commercial quantum computers and they sold it to Lockheed-Martin. However, it wasn't as easy as your average sale. Despite the fact that D-Wave managed to make the sale, the company had to do it despite a debate over whether it truly was a quantum computer.

Back in February 2007 D-Wave demonstrated a machine that could solve problems regular computers are incapable of solving, in principle that is. The reason it is only in principle is because the tests run on the computer were not impossible on a regular computer. This created a fair bit of doubt among some that the chip was actually performing quantum-mechanical computations.

The computer works differently than the regular "gate model" of quantum computing where a series of quantum bits can be encoded as either 0, 1 or both simultaneously. D-Wave's machine uses something researchers are calling "adiabatic quantum computing" or "quantum annealing". However, some people disagree that this process is actually, truly quantum computing.

But despite all this, Lockheed-Martin wasn't turned away. The company just recently signed a deal with D-Wave to purchase a quantum computer for an estimated $10 million. This agreement will span multiple years and include system maintenance as well as various other professional services.

As of right now, it is unclear what Lockheed-Martin plans on doing with the computer. However, according to D-Wave's President and CEO Vern Brownell, "Our combined strength will provide capacity for innovation needed to tackle important unresolved computational problems of today and tomorrow. Our relationship will allow us to significantly advance the potential of quantum computing."

This is the second biggest deal the company has signed in the past couple of years with the biggest being a tie-up with Google in order to improve image search algorithms. Despite the fact that D-Wave's technology has not been 100% proven, Lockheed-Martin has still seen it as worthy of a $10 million investment. If anything, it gives them first access to this kind of technology.

Source: Wired - D-Wave sells its first 'quantum' computer

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Monday, May 30, 2011

PayPal's Peter Thiel Pays Students to Skip College

Peter ThielSenior year is stressful for a lot of students. Most are concentrated on getting good grades and academic honors so they can get into a good college and have a better life some day. A lot of students do a lot of hard work in order to earn money to go to college. However, two dozen students from around the country will, instead of going to college, be paid to not go to school.

That's right, 24 gifted technical students from around the country will each be given a $100,000 scholarship by San Francisco tech tycoon Peter Thiel with a little catch, that they do not go to college this coming fall. Instead of going to school, these students are receiving the $100,000 so they can chase their dreams for the next two years.

"It seems like the perfect point in our lives to pursue this kind of project," stated Nick Cammarata, a gifted computer programmer who recently got accepted into the esteemed computer science program at Carnegie Mellon's University. He, along with 17-year-old David Merfield, will be working on software designed to upend the standard approach to high school teaching. Merfield is turning down an opportunity to attend Princeton University in order to participate in the scholarship.

Each applicant for the scholarship was asked to design a project to change the world. Thiel personally hand-picked the winners based on these projects. While all the ideas span different disciplines, they all have a high technology angle to them. According to Thiel, "One winner wants to create a mobile banking system for the developing world. Another is working to create cheaper biofuels. One wants to build robots that can help around the house."

This scholarship could not have come at a more interesting, and quite possibly crucial time as the debate over higher education's value is becoming quite heated. There are thousands of new graduates who are swimming in student loan debts and are encountering one of the hardest job markets in decades. Many people are pondering whether or not a college education is worth it given the rising tuitions and diminishing prospects.

"Turning people into debt slaves when they're in college students is really not how we end up building a better society," Thiel added. Thiel made his fortune as co-founder of PayPal shortly after graduating from Stanford Law School. After that he became the first major investor in Facebook. Thiel is adamant in his belief that innovation has become stagnant in the United States and that radical solutions are needed to push civilization forward.

One such effort is the "20 Under 20" fellowship. Thiel believes that the brightest young minds are able to contribute more to society by skipping college and bringing their ideas to the real world right away. However, not everyone can be as fortunate as Thiel and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.

Director of Research at Duke University's Center for Entrepreneurship Vivek Wadhwa doesn't agree with Thiel and sees his new program as sending a message that anybody can be Mark Zuckerberg. "Silicon Valley lives in its own bubble. It sees the world through its own prism. Its got a distorted view," Wadhwa stated.

Wadhwa also added, "All the people who are making a fuss are highly educated. They're rich themselves. They've achieved success because of their education. There's no way in hell we would have heard about Peter Thiel if he hadn't graduated from Stanford."

Thiel retorted that the "20 Under 20" should not be judged on the basis of his own education background or the merits of his critique on higher education. Thiel has urged critics to wait and see what these individuals achieve over the next two years.

Studies from the past few years have noted that individuals who received a college degree were laid off during the "Great Recession" at a much lower rate than individuals without college degrees. In addition to that, individuals with college degrees were also more likely to be rehired.

Could this be a new revolution in higher education? Or will the world push these students, as well as their ideas, away due to their lack of college education?

Source: Yahoo! News - Tech mogul pays bright minds not to go to college

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cutting Costs Sees an Increase in Profits for Dell

DellGood news recently came out of Dell as the computer company reported that its net income for the last quarter nearly tripled as Dell benefited from lower computer component costs and growth in certain areas of its more profitable product lines.

Dell's shares rose 5% in extended trading, beating analysts' adjusted net income estimates but coming a bit short of revenue estimates. For Dell's first three months, which ended on April 29th, Dell earned $945 million, which equals about $0.49 per share, which was higher than the $341 million, $0.17 per share of last year.

If you exclude one-time items, Dell earned $0.55 per share which easily beat the numbers expected by Wall Street. Analysts polled by FactSet estimated adjusted earnings of $0.43 per share. Revenue rose only 1% to $15.02 billion from $14.9 billion last year, which was short of the predicted $15.4 billion. Product revenue remained the same at $12.1 billion with services revenue rising 6% to $3.0 billion.

Dell's consumer section, which accounts for nearly 20% of the company's revenue, dropped 7% to $3.0 billion as well. Consumer demand also fell more than anticipated and in an interview, CFO Brian Gladden attributed some of the cause to "the market for consumer PCs being saturated in developed countries." He also added that "while tablet computers are still a small portion of the PC market, there's clearly an impact for them on consumer demand for traditional PCs."

Revenue from large enterprises increased by 5% to $4.5 billion with revenue from small and medium-sized businesses increasing 7% to $3.8 billion. Public sector revenue, on the other hand, saw a decline of 2% to $3.8 billion. Dell saw the biggest gain in servers and networking. In this category revenue rose 11% to $2.0 billion. Sales of desktop PCs fell 8% to $3.3 billion with mobile PCs rising 3% to $4.7 billion.

Dell has been working hard to increase their proportion of server computers, data storage devices and technology consulting services sold. According to Dell, these areas are more profitable than the company's base PC business. However, compared with one year ago, most of Dell's product categories accounted for nearly the same percentage of revenue and computers for consumers, and businesses continued to make up over half of Dell's revenue.

However, Dell's gross margin, which is still an indicator of the efficiency of Dell's business, came in at 22.9% which was higher than the 20.4% expected by analysts from Reuters. Dell's strategy of focusing on more profitable areas of business and cutting back on lower-margin offerings is working extremely well according to Gladden.

Andy Hargreaves, an analyst for Pacific Crest, thinks that Dell's gross margin is "impressive" and stated that "Dell should be able to keep it up for now." Hargreaves also stated, "They do have the potential to sustain margins long-term, but in order to do so they have to drive toward more services-oriented businesses."

Taking a look at this current quarter, Dell is predicting that revenue will rise by a percentage in the mid-single digits over the first quarter, slightly faster than its seasonal 2% to 3% growth. Analysts are expecting somewhere around $16 billion. Dell continues to expect revenue to grow 5% to 9% for the full fiscal year which implies a total of $64.6 billion to $67 billion with analysts expecting around $64.4 billion.

Dell saw shares rise $0.86, or roughly 5.4%, to a total of $16.76 in extended trading. The stock finished regular trading down $0.10 to $15.90.

Source: The Associated Press - Dell profit jumps as computer maker cuts costs

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Pirated Software Value is On the Rise

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) stated in their annual report that the revenue from software piracy in 2010 has reached record highs. The alliance stated that piracy worldwide is now costing the industry $59 billion. They also said that it seems as though the piracy is primarily occurring in emerging markets where PC growth is taking place.

In terms of piracy rates according to region, the central/eastern regions of Europe and South and Central America ranked the highest. The regions all tied at 64 percent. The BSA said that the commercial value of software piracy has grown 14 percent in a mere year.

The BSA represents the entire software industry. BSA president and chief executive Robert Holleyman said in a statement, “The software industry is being robbed blind. Nearly $59 billion worth of products were stolen last year — and the rates of theft are completely out of control in the world's fastest-growing markets. The irony is people everywhere value intellectual property rights, but in many cases they don't understand they are getting their software illegally."

The BSA reported that the global market for personal computers skyrocketed in 2010. As PCMag puts it, “for the first time, PC shipments to emerging economies outpaced those to mature markets, 174 million to 173 million.”

The BSA stated that “the problem is that people often do not realize the software they are using is illegal.” The BSA found that the most common form of piracy that was found in the emerging economies was when an individual would buy a single copy of software and then install it onto multiple computers. They also found that businesses were doing this as well. The organization discovered that an entire fifty-one percent of PC users (including businesses) in these emerging markets did not realize that installing a single copy of software onto multiple computers was illegal. A BSA spokeswoman said that they obtained all of this information from Ipsos and IDC. She also said that Ipsos surveyed more than 15,000 different consumer and business PC users to get the best possible picture of the “software load” per PC.

I don’t think that it is surprising that the piracy rates have gone up. Now, I’m not saying that it's right by any means. There is no gray area when it comes to piracy. It’s simply illegal, but with the economy in the state that it is, there really isn’t any extra cash floating around to buy multiple copies of software when you can really just use one. I’m not saying it's right, but it does make sense that the rates are setting records.

Monday, May 9, 2011

PQI Debuts World's Smallest USB 3.0 Flash Drive

PQI U819VI love USB flash drives. I think these little suckers are one of the best things to hit computers since sliced bread. I used a flash drive almost every day this past semester of school and boy was it a nifty thing to keep around. Almost every piece of school work I had to do this past semester is on my trusty 2GB Toshiba flash drive.

Now, my flash drive is your average one. It is nearly the same size as all other flash drives and is able to be clipped on my key chain or stuck in my pocket.However, I'm sure there are some of you reading this that prefer your flash drive to be tiny and really easy to carry around with you.

Well, if tiny is how you like your gear, then you will definitely want to check out the newest USB 3.0 flash drive released by PQI because this little guy is just that, little. This newest flash drive out of PQI is known as the Traveling Disk Drive U819V and is, as PQI claims, the smallest USB 3.0 flash drive in the world.

When PQI says that this thing is small, they mean that this thing is small. The U819V measures a mere 3cm long and comes with a removable cap that is attached to the USB drive via a lanyard. The U819V uses COB encasement technology which surrounds the components in order to keep them cool by helping dissipate the heat generated while in use. The arch nemesis to technology is heat, especially when it comes to memory that loses performance as it heats up.

You can get the U819V in a plethora of storage sizes ranging from 4GB up to 32GB if you really really need all that space. The device measures 3.15 x 14.8 x 7.3mm making it the perfect size to lose as soon as you open it. It weighs 3.6 grams and works with both USB 2.0 as well as USB 3.0 ports. Data transfer when connected to USB 3.0 is claimed to be 5Gbps, which is pretty good.

Pricing of the U819V has yet to be determined but don't be surprised if these little buggers are a little more expensive than your run of the mill flash drives. Word of warning, don't blow a lot of money on the 32GB if you are in the habit of losing things.

Source: SlashGear - PQI outs world's smallest USB 3.0 flash drive

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Scientists Try to Make a Schizophrenic Computer

So, in my time as a blogger I have written about some pretty interesting things. I have also written about some pretty strange things and even some downright absurd things. However, this story may just be in a league of its own.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Texas in Austin along with researchers from Yale University was set on creating the thinking of a schizophrenic mind on a computer. Yeah, that's right, they are trying to make a computer a schizophrenic by using a virtual network.

Their research is based on something known as the hyperlearning theory of schizophrenia. This theory maintains that the disease schizophrenia stems from an inability to forget or ignore non-essential information.

In their work, the research teams taught a series of stories to a computer model known to them as DISCERN. Using natural language processing, the computer is able to map out the different stories in a manner similar to the human brain. In the researchers' model, a simulated dopamine release was used to mark significant information as DISCERN learned the stories. What this means is that DISCERN more or less forgot less and perceived more information as being important.

When the researchers asked DISCERN to recant the stories, the computer did so while producing strange and delusional narratives from the information it was given. According to the Science Blog, "After being re-trained with the elevated learning rate, DISCERN began putting itself at the center of fantastical, delusional stories that incorporated elements from other stories it had been told to recall. In one answer, for instance, DISCERN claimed responsibility for a terrorist bombing."

The Science Blog went on to say, "In another instance, DISCERN began showing evidence of "derailment" - replying to requests for a specific memory with a jumble of dissociated sentences, abrupt digressions and constant leaps from the first- to the third-person and back again."

Even though this study is very interesting and the computer did show similarities to actual schizophrenic symptoms that were disturbingly similar, DISCERN is not concrete proof of the hyperlearning hypothesis. It is simply a simulation and the relevance of the output is interpreted by humans. However, the unique approach to the study, modeling a cause of a brain disorder and comparing the results to actual cases, is stunning overall and could even prove to be a powerful new tool for doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists.

Source: Geekosystem - Scientists Attempt to Induce Schizophrenia on a Computer

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