? All Tech Radio Episode 350
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  • IBM's Blue Gene/Q supercomputer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is now the world's fastest system, marking the return of a U.S. supercomputer to the top of the speed charts after three years. According to the latest Top500 list of the world's fastest systems, IBM's supercomputer, named Sequoia and armed with more than 1.57 million Power cores, hit a performance of 16.32 petaflops per second, far outdistancing the former fastest system-and now No. 2-Fujitsu's K Computer, which had a performance of 10.5 petaflops. The Fujitsu system was the first to break the 10-petaflop barrier, and spent all of 2011 at the top of the list, which is released twice a year. The K Computer, which is housed at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan, is powered by 705,024 SPARC64 processing cores. The latest Top500 list was released June 18 during the International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg, Germany. It revealed a number of trends in the booming supercomputer space, including IBM's continued strength in the space, Intel's slight drop in the number of supercomputers running its processors and the United States' continued dominance, with Europe inching up a bit.
  • It's every Facebook user's worst nightmare: You make a joke about Viagra, another adult-related product, or even just some generic product or service that you don't necessarily want the entire world to know that you buy or use. Then, without your knowledge, your picture starts appearing next to thumbnails within Facebook's "Sponsored stories" Sidebar, implying that you have an interest in said product or service or would wholeheartedly recommend it to all of your friends. Facebook settled a lawsuit regarding this exact practice back in late May - an affair brought forth in a San Jose, California federal court that had the potential to cost Facebook billions if the plaintiffs gained class-action status and ultimately prevailed. However, the details of Facebook's settlement weren't made public until this weekend: $10 million dollars. Specifically, Facebook plans to pay $10 million to charity as part of the settlement.
  • Facebook's chief technology officer Bret Taylor has announced he is leaving the social network site in the coming weeks to start up a new company. Last month, Facebook floated part of the company on the Nasdaq stock exchange, making many of its employees millionaires overnight. Observers speculated at the time that some would move on to other things. Facebook shares have fallen sharply since the flotation to $30, 21% down on the launch price of $38.10.
  • U.S. authorities are leading the charge as governments around the world pepper Google with more demands to remove online content and turn over information about people using its Internet search engine, YouTube video site and other services. Google Inc. provided a glimpse at the onslaught of government requests in a summary posted on its website late Sunday. The breakdown covers the final six months of last year. It's the fifth time that Google has released a six-month snapshot of government requests since the company engaged in a high-profile battle over online censorship with China's communist leadership in 2010. The country-by-country capsule illustrates the pressure Google faces as it tries to obey the disparate laws in various countries while trying to uphold its commitment to free expression and protect the sanctity its more than 1 billion users' personal information.
  • As well as Skype seems to be doing these days, the company has recently lost its Ethiopian audience since using the program there (or any other similar services) could land you in prison for fifteen years. New legislation, passed this past month, criminalized using Voice Over IP (VoIP) services within the county. Those services include Skype and Google Voice. It's part of the country's initiative to make everyone use the government-run telecom Ethio Teleco. That telecom now controls all video chatting, e-mail, social media and pretty much any and every form of communication possible. The government can also now inspect any voice communication equipment that's been imported into the country. The punishment for breaking these laws is up to 15 years in prison.
  • From Kyle Weins- This week, Apple delivered the highly anticipated MacBook Pro with Retina Display - and the tech world is buzzing. I took one apart yesterday because I run iFixit, a team responsible for high-resolution teardowns of new products and DIY repair guides. We disassemble and analyze new electronic gizmos so you don't have to - kind of like an internet version of Consumer Reports. The Retina MacBook is the least repairable laptop we've ever taken apart: Unlike the previous model, the display is fused to the glass, which means replacing the LCD requires buying an expensive display assembly. The RAM is now soldered to the logic board - making future memory upgrades impossible. And the battery is glued to the case, requiring customers to mail their laptop to Apple every so often for a $200 replacement. The design may well be comprised of "highly recyclable aluminum and glass" - but my friends in the electronics recycling industry tell me they have no way of recycling aluminum that has glass glued to it like Apple did with both this machine and the recent iPad.
  • Some fans and observers have expressed disappointment that Microsoft didn't even bother to mention the follow-up to the Xbox 360 at this year's E3. Those people should be much less disappointed by a newly leaked planning document, which details an "Xbox 720" that will include an improved Kinect, a head-mounted "glasses" display, and a major investment in cloud gaming. The 56-page document, which started circulating widely this morning (and has since been taken down, see update above), purportedly represents a road map for the future of the Xbox platform through 2015. The document seems to date back to a mid-2010 internal planning meeting, and is focused on how Microsoft will sell the next Xbox's new features to consumers, developers and other relevant parties. Microsoft is supposedly targeting a 2013 holiday season launch for the system in a $299 bundle with new Kinect hardware (more on that below), and plans to sell 100 million units during the console's ten-year lifecycle.
  • The Lumia 610 is an interesting entry into the Windows Phone family. Microsoft lowered the barrier to entry with an update to the OS, dubbed Tango/Refresh, allowing handsets with lesser specifications into the fray. The Lumia 610 is the first shipping handset that takes advantage of the lower specs, coming with an 800Mhz processor and 256MB of RAM instead of the old 1Ghz and 512MB standard. As a result, Nokia is hoping that the reduced cost of the handset will capture the entry-level market, and we imagine Microsoft will be keeping a close eye on the situation too. Does the 610 hit the mark? Find out after the jump.
  • Mozilla last week showed off a browser for the iPad, dubbed Junior. Junior is now a WebKit-based, full-screen browser that Mozilla said will be far superior to the built-in Safari browser Apple includes on its iOS devices. "If you look at Safari on the iPad, it's a pretty miserable experience, I think," Alex Limi, a product designer at Firefox, said during a recent presentation to co-workers. "It feels like it's the one app where they took the desktop version, pulled out the UI, and slapped it into the iPad." As a result, Mozilla's product design strategy team set out to build a better browser for the iPad. What they came up with is Junior, which "gives you a magazine-like feel," to Web browsing, said Mozilla designer Trond Werner Hansen.
  • Japan's Sharp said Monday it will release a new user interface for its smartphones in an attempt to differentiate them from the Android masses. The Osaka-based electronics maker's new "Feel UX" will feature a simplistic design with large icons, and allow many phone functions, such as camera, photo gallery, and music player applications, to be accessed directly from the lock screen. Once unlocked, the interface has three main screens, one each for apps, shortcuts to phone features, and widgets such as calendars and clocks. The phone's lock screen can also automatically tweak its background photo to match the current weather, and displays updates on stocks and other real-time info as well as messages and missed calls. Unlike with competitors such as Apple's iOS, the photo featured on the lock screen is never obscured by time or message information, which appear across a section in the bottom third of the screen in images provided by Sharp. With the majority of smartphones based on Android and having increasingly similar feature-sets and specifications, manufacturers are hoping unique-looking software user interfaces will differentiate their products and hook customers. Sharp joins rivals such as Sony and Samsung in offering user interfaces that run on top of various versions of Android.

email from listeners:

  • John from Portland asks "Are there any other operating systems for phones we can try besides Android and Apple?"