Top computer to try big bang theories


US Vice President Al Gore has unveiled the world's fastest computer, able to make 3.9 trillion calculations a second. The US Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will use the new computer, called Blue Pacific, as part of a program that uses simulations to test the safety, security and reliability of nuclear weapons without underground explosions. The supercomputer is a huge IBM RS/6000 system, consisting of 1,464 nodes, each containing four processors. IBM has long sold the RS/6000 as a proprietary workstation and server, and uses the same architecture in its leading Deep Blue chess computer.

Is Teleworking working? The opportunities that teleworking can offer to people with disabilities will be the subject of a conference next Thursday at the European Foundation in Loughlinstown, Co Dublin. Organiser Imogen Bertin says that teleworking can allow disabled people and their carers access to work, but that there are issues of social isolation and poor technical support. This conference, already booked out, is part of European Teleworking Week, which begins today.

Ms Row Rumbles on: Microsoft defended itself against antitrust charges last week by accusing Netscape of calling a key meeting in 1995 expressly to create evidence against it. The circumstances of the meeting are crucial to the Microsoft trial, now entering its third week, with the US government accusing the software giant of making an illegal offer to divide the market for browser software. Other testimony involved an AOL executive's claim that his choice of Microsoft browser was not based on technology but on a desire to get prominent placement in the Windows desktop. Microsoft responded by charging that AOL engaged in the same type of behaviour that prompted the government to file antitrust charges against it.

Taxing task for suns: The Revenue Commissioners are spending several million pounds on a computer system from ICL for "integrated tax processing". The new system will run on two Sun Enterprise 10000 Starfires and an €6500 server in a three-tier architecture and initial elements will go live next April. WHAT GOES UP: Global economic turmoil has not slowed strong growth of PC sales in Europe and the US, according to quarterly surveys by two US technology market research firms. Worldwide shipments picked up in the third quarter as 22.6 million computers were produced. Compaq remained the leading PC supplier while IBM reclaimed second place after falling behind Dell in the second quarter. However revenue growth is expected to peak in 1999, then sharply decline in 2000, ending 17 years of industry growth.

Server OS wanted: IBM has announced an alliance to develop an operating system to run on IBM servers using its own chips and on others using Intel chips. Under the alliance IBM joins Santa Cruz Operation and Sequent Computer Systems to develop a multi-user, multi-tasking operating system.

Solaris goes 64BIT: Sun has unveiled its next-generation operating system, the 64-bit version of the Solaris product line.

Icann's submission: US Commerce Department officials have told the authors of the leading proposal for domain name privatisation that their plan still needs some work. While recognising that the Icann submission was a significant step, officials said that "the public comments received. . . reflect significant concerns about substantive and operation aspects of the Icann."

Atom rom: Danish scientists say they have created a chip which, using a single atom jumping back and forth, can generate binary code. Applying this technique - which might only become commercially viable in a decade or two - information stored today on a million CD-Roms could be stored on a single disc, said Francois Grey, the team leader.

Welcome to the cheap seats: British Midland plans to sell tickets to the highest bidders over the Net. In association with 24Auction, the airline is piloting the service from noon next Thursday. Visitors to will be able to bid electronically for seats to European destinations.

Fraud sweep: US Federal regulators have announced a nationwide sweep against fraud over the Internet by people promoting stocks and deceiving investors. The Securities and Exchange Commission said it took 23 enforcement actions against 44 people and companies for allegedly not disclosing payments they received from companies whose stock they promoted. The stock promotions, known as "touting", were made in junk mail, online newsletters, message board postings and Web sites.

In brief...Irish Life has awarded a contract for a national branch voice and data network using Cisco equipment to CARA Computer Group. . . Psion's Series 5 handheld computer was a double winner at the Design Business Association Awards in London. The Series 5 collected the prize for best `Consumer Product Design' and also one for the best overall entry . . . Microsoft has announced standards to allow smart cards to provide security and other services under Windows . . . Celestica has been presented with the Sun outstanding supplier award for service excellence . . . Cambridge Technology Partners' Cam- bridge Information Network has grown to nearly 600 members in Europe over 12 months. It is an Internet-based "community" for technology decision-makers . . . Every Irish company should have one director who understands the strategic implications of information technology, according to a study by the Prospectus consultancy. It says IT has been neglected by the boards of most Irish companies outside the IT sector.