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New Supercomputer Claimed to be World's Fastest The builders of a new NASA supercomputer claim the 10,240-processor machine is the fastest in the world -- an exciting prospect for researchers even if the speed title has yet to be officially bestowed. Project Columbia, named for the space shuttle that was destroyed in early 2003, was built in less than 120 days at NASA's Ames Research Center. The cluster of 20 computers working as one will be used to speed up spacecraft design, environmental prediction and other research. At the $50 million machine's public unveiling Tuesday, the science shared the stage with claims of record-setting performance from system-builder Silicon Graphics Inc., processor-provider Intel Corp. and NASA. Using just 16 of Project Columbia's 20 installed systems, the computer achieved a sustained performance of 42.7 trillion calculations per second, or teraflops. "If you could do one calculation per second by hand, it would take you a million years to do what this machine does in a single second," said G. Scott Hubbard, Ames' director. By comparison, Earth Simulator's sustained performance is 35.86 teraflops. The competition for the top spot will be fierce. Last month, IBM announced the results of its Blue Gene supercomputer, which claimed its sustained performance was 36.01 teraflops. Because the machine is not yet finished, it could still come up on top. There may also be some improvement for Project Columbia. Its numbers were achieved using only four-fifths of its processors. Hackers Target Apple? Congratulations! The Apple community has—since its inception—been largely immune to nefarious hackers bent on spreading harm. If you are a Windows user, as I am, you know the routine. You complain about the latest spyware or virus attack, and Apple devotees respond with good-natured teasing—they don’t have worry about such nonsense. Well, now they do. That’s not true anymore. Predictably, posts on various Apple-related message boards have been offering varying levels of concern, ranging from mild disappointment to utter gloom. I think this reaction is fundamentally misguided. MAC users should not be upset about this malware news; they should rejoice. Huh? Why should the Apple community be celebrating the news? Before I explain, let me make one thing clear: I’m not advocating this kind of hacking, and certainly—as a victim of a virus attack myself not too long ago—I empathize with anyone who has been attacked. That said, this program is a milestone in computing history because the Apple community is finally large enough that it has drawn the attention of the hackers. Here’s what happened: Last week, astute Mac users discovered a program dubbed “Opener.” This piece of code embeds itself onto Macs running OS X, the latest Apple operating system, and disables the computer’s firewall. The malware also locates and collects any password information it can find on the infected system, leaving behind a password-cracking program called “John the Ripper.” It is believed that Opener can be called into action remotely utilizing a “bot net,” in which a remote hacker plants malware onto unsuspecting users’ computers and then calls that code into action


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