INFORMATICS (see also bioinformatics)

  • glossary of information and communication technology
  • free software downloads
  • tools for webmasters
  • search engines
  • toolbars
  • check if an e-mail address is valid
  • find e-mail addresses
  • find personal home pages
  • track your e-mails
  • anonymous remailers
  • anonymous web surfing
  • top 500 computers
  • data storage
  • robotics
  • milestones in scientific computing

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  • Glossary of information and communication technology :
  • Free software downloads

  •  
  • Tools for webmasters
  • Web resources : Webby Awards
     
  • search engines :
  • toolbars
  • Find personal home pages
  • Track your e-mails
  • free disposable email addresses : Spam Gourmet : receive x e-mails at uniqueword.x.username@spamgourmet.com
  • Free anonymous remailers
  • Free anonymous web surfing
  • beHidden.com
  • The Cloak (unknown limit)
  • Anonymization.net (also anonymous web search)
  • find IP for a given website
  • Rex Swain's HTTP Viewer
  • URL converters :
  • convert IP to dword, hexadecimal or octal by Mark Jeays
  • convert URL into dword by Mark Jeays
  • Multiple DNS lookup engine
  • Anonymous Proxy List
  • HTML De-obfuscation Tools
  • hex-coded IPs and values over 255 in dotted-decimal IPs don't work with Netscape;
  • most, perhaps all of the dword-coded IPs don't work with some versions of IE; this could be an effect of the MS patch for the "dotless IP" exploit.
  • Later IE versions seem to reject any hex-coded IP that's not broken up by dots as in my first example above;
  • Opera 3.60 doesn't allow non-dotted hexadecimal IPs.
  • Netscape won't allow the following characters in the authentication text: /?
  • IE won't allow the following characters in the authentication text: /\#
  • and it exhibits problems or inconsistencies with: %'"<>
  • MS-Proxy reportedly rejects almost any IP address that's not in dotted-decimal IP format, as may some other proxies. Reports indicate that most proxies handle them all just fine.
  • top 500 computers is a record compiled by computer scientists in the USA and Germany that officially ranks the speed of these machines twice a year :
  • IBM's BlueGene/L computer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California, has once again been crowned world champion by the TOP500 list of the fastest supercomputers used for scientific applications. Ned Stafford digs into the story behind the fastest computers on the planet. This giant among giants has 131,072 processors and a computing speed of 280.6 terraflops per second (1 teraflop equals 1 trillion calculations or 'floating point operations'). Far behind in second place is an IBM computer dubbed BGW (Blue Gene Watson), with the same technology as BlueGene/L but fewer processors and a computing speed of 91.29 TFlops. 10th on the list is the NEC-built Earth-Simulator in Yokohama, Japan, at 35.86 Tflops, which held the world title from the time it went into operation in 2002 until 2004, when it was dethroned by an earlier version of the current champ. The computer at the bottom of the list, the five-hundredth fastest, performs at a speed of 2.026 TFlops. Wait just a nanosecond. I'm having trouble processing all this teraflop stuff. What does that mean? If everyone in the world, 6.6 billion people, each had a calculator and performed a simple calculation every 5 seconds, it would take the entire planet nearly 60 hours to do the same number of calculations that BlueGene/L can do in 1 second. BlueGene is used for nuclear weapons research. But other supercomputers do everything from stock-market analysis to climate forecasting. The TOP500 list is compiled twice a year (June and November) by a team of representatives from the University of Mannheim in Germany, the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. The most recent list, issued this week at the International Supercomputer Conference (ISC) in Dresden, Germany, can be found on the TOP500 Web site. Horst Simon, associate laboratory director at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a member of the TOP500 team, notes that the list includes only supercomputers used for scientific applications and whose owners submit data to the selection team. Most people want to be on the list, he says. But some owners want to keep details of their supercomputers secret: computers used by Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft, along with some government supercomputers, won't show up. There are some familiar big names in the supercomputer market. IBM is the dominant supercomputer vendor, with Hewlett-Packard coming second. Intel microprocessors are used in 301 of the 500 systems. But Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is growing quickly. In software, Microsoft is at the bottom of the list, with only 2 supercomputers using its operating system. The software king is Linux, used on > 70% of the total. The most powerful supercomputers could cost US$100 million or more, while low-end models come in at $1-2 million. It is also possible to link a lot of PCs together in a cluster that has supercomputer capacity; about 1,000 powerful PCs could make the bottom of the TOP500 list. "There are recipe books out there telling you how to do this. You might be interested to know that today's average notebook computer is faster than the supercomputer that made the bottom of the TOP500 list in 1992. So you may already own the equivalent of a vintage supercomputer. Will quantum computers be able to surpass today's supercomputers? Quantum computers hold great potential, but that he believes they would be used for performing completely different types of calculations than supercomputers. Comparing the two types would be like comparing apples and oranges. How much longer will BlueGene/L hold the top spot? While computer chip capacity is doubling every 18 months or so, often referred to as Moore's Law, supercomputer capacity is doubling every 11 to 12 months. Simon thinks BlueGene/L's current lead is so great that it will remain champ at least until the November 2007 TOP500 list, maybe even until November 2008. But the next TOP500 champ could shatter the current record. I would expect a big jump to 500 or 600 or 700 terraflops, maybe even to a petaflop; that's one thousand teraflops. Petaflop is the next magic number
     
  • data storage :
  • Web resources : Imperial College Photonics Group
  • new animation software can turn digital videos into smoothly animated cartoons. Cohen's team are not the first to attempt this. Film director Richard Linklater converted his movie Waking Life, about a man trapped in a dream world, into a cartoon. In this case, software and artists picked out objects' edges a few frames at a time, then a computer filled in the missing movement. But as frames varied, so did the objects highlighted by the computer, giving characters wavy edges and making the movie jittery. The new method gets round this problem by tracking 2-dimensional objects over time. It still requires a person to choose which of the objects identified by the software to animate. The ability to identify and manipulate these items opens up new artistic possibilitiesref
  • In the time it's taken most new doctors to make the journey from cradle to house officer, things have changed dramatically. Email, computers, MP3 players; all seemed apparently to make life easier, happier, quicker, more entertaining. Among all the diversions the electronic world offers, none can be said to be more pointless, costly, engaging, or compulsive than video games. More than an infantile compulsion, video games are big business. Fiscally the business as a whole has often been quoted on a par with the Hollywood movie industry. The average age of a video game player has changed, too. The first video games were largely made for children, but the Nintendo generation of the 1980s has now grown into their 20s and 30sref1, ref2. Technology has matured in leaps and bounds. The graphics of early games were limited by technical constraints and bear little similarity to the photo-realism of today. A prime example is Super Mario, lead character of Nintendo's consoles, whose appearance has transformed over the yearsref. In his first appearance, he was given a hat to hide the fact that the console couldn't draw hair. Nowadays it'd be possible to draw every hair on his head. Too much of anything can be bad for you. In the case of computer games various reports indicate both physical and psychosocial effects, ranging from hand-arm vibration syndrome to poor academic performanceref1, ref2, ref3. And as with any form of media, exposure to violent situations is increasingly thought to lead to aggressive behaviour patterns. From time to time a teen shooting spree is attributed to the influence of excessive game play and the re-enactment of super violent scenarios. But it's not all bad news. Games require a degree of hand-eye coordination, and their use can be seen as a form of training in visuospatial skills. Although persistence will help you reach the next level, it may also have a wider impact on everyday life. Researchers found that the type of perceptual learning a game player unwittingly undergoes leads to improvements in a range of visual skills. They found that video game players have an enhanced attentional resource, with wider fields of view, a larger capacity to focus attention over time and better ability to switch tasksref. On the other hand it could just be that people who are good at video games do well in these tests because they were born with better visual skills. That might be why they like playing them. However, the same researchers took a group of non-game players, and made them play for an hour a day over ten days. Some played an action game, with lots of shooting and moving around, while others played a relaxing, sedate puzzle game. The first group, who were simultaneously managing several tasks, did much better in tests of visual ability than the second group. In other words, you don't have to be good at video games to learn skills from them, although the type of skill you learn depends on what situation the game puts you in. Computer games may be useful in disposing of an irritating partner, but is there any excuse for playing them when you should be studying? Funnily enough the answer may be yes. Medicine has been the subject of a few games. Life and Death (1992) cast the player as a lowly junior doctor, managing patients who had been admitted to the surgical department. With the benefit of a brief history, a patient is examined by running the mouse over their abdomen and clicking to palpate. Any reaction guides your further investigations and management, choosing between x rays, ultrasounds, referral, or discharge. Make a mistake and the nurse points you in the direction of the lecture theatre and a dressing down from the professor. The manual is informative on surgical principles, and although it might not be an all encompassing revision tool, the game is surprisingly instructive. Theme Hospital (1997) turned the tables, sending the player to the Dark Side of hospital management. The game allows you to build your hospital, picking the different equipment and types of treatment on offer. Fittingly, the aim is to have the happiest patients while making as much money as possible. The latest games console, the Nintendo DS, has changed the way games are played. The small handheld machine is released in Europe this March. Rather than the traditional control pad and buttons, DS has a touch screen, like a personal digital assistant. Actions can be performed by rubbing a pen across the screen. Equipment originally used to put phone numbers into electronic diaries has now been used to move characters around and shoot at things. Imaginative game designers, influenced by Life and Death, have transferred this input device into a surgery game, Tendo Dokuta (2004). As before, the screen shows a picture of an acute abdomen or a surgical field. This time, instead of a mouse or control pad, the player wields the console's pen stylus like a scalpel. By running the pen over the abdomen the player can look for signs of tenderness in the virtual patient's face, and with these clinical findings an operation can be chosen. Cuts are then made using the stylus to carry out the procedure on screen. What's more, later this year, an ER video game, inspired by the television series, is due to be launched. In the ER computer game, the player joins the cast of the TV show as a newly hired intern and handles a steady flow of patients with health issues ranging from minor cuts and bruises to serious injuries sustained from accidents and violence. Through it all, the player will navigate goals, deal with gut-wrenching ethical dilemmas and engage in romances. With perseverance, the player will gain prestige among peers and supervisors and ascend the ranks of Chicago's County General Hospital. Games may have driven the ability to create and manipulate a graphical image, but other developments have allowed the creation of medical simulators. "We see that there are several things which will allow a greater deployment of computer based simulation," explained Ross Horley, director of Medic Vision Limited, a company at the forefront of these changes. The technology to create these simulations is becoming cheaper and therefore more accessible. A new technology called force feedback has allowed a level of tactile imitation that is altogether more complex. And with demand for methods of training that are proficiency based and can measure directly how good a trainee is at a task, simulators seem to be the way forward. New developments in the field of haptics have made these simulators more realistic. Haptics aim to recreate the perception of solid objects by means of force feedback. In its most primitive form, this tactile feedback is used in computer game controllers and mobile phones, making the handset buzz when something happens on screen or a text message arrives. Haptics takes this idea to a much higher level of sophistication. "Screen based, minimally invasive procedures are perfect for a simulator; we just need to generate the feel through the instruments. With haptics we can simulate the hardness of bone, the softness of tissue, the elasticity of skin," continued Horley.  "What you see on the screen is the other end. So we can render a graphical data set to look realistic and apply a haptic overlay. Through an interface device which will plug into your computer we can feel the virtual model." Though the models are realistic in appearance and texture, they also act the way you'd expect them to while being cut open. "We can simulate deformation characteristics of under a millimetre&mdash;which is similar to your thumb and forefinger just touching."  These machines have obvious applications in medicine, from surgical and anaesthetic training for postgraduates to anatomy training for medical students. The culture of training is changing, and this concept looks set to play a key role. "There will be testing for proficiency, moving from knowledge-based to proficiency-based education. Computer e-learning concepts [and] simulation products will be commonplace." "We are at this point where there is a huge shift. We are on the very first rung of a very steep, exponential ladder," he concludes. "It's taken a while to get but it is easy to see now that the road ahead is a good road. Three years ago it was difficult. People thought we were crazy doing what we're doing."ref
  • the world's first crossword-solving computer program was developed in 1999 by researchers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Called Proverb, it uses a variety of databases to solve puzzles, but only in English. Web Crow, designed in 2004 by computer engineers Marco Gori and Marco Ernandes at the University of Siena in Italy, can solve crosswords in any language by surfing the web for the answers. Web Crow works in 2 phases. In the first, it analyses the crossword clue and turns it into a simple query. Then it plugs the query into the internet search engine Google and uses a certainty score to rank the possible solutions in a candidate list. 1 time in 10, the correct word is at the top of the candidate list. In the second phase, the program uses an algorithm to figure out which candidate words provide the best fit for the grid as a whole.
  • memory chips that store data by using electrical pulses to rearrange atoms could revolutionize the next generation of mobile phones and digital cameras. So say researchers who have built a device that proves the idea can deliver faster, cheaper memory. Computers use a binary code to store their information in capacitors that can hold electrons in 2 distinct states, like a switch that can be either 'on' or 'off'. But since electrons can leak out, each capacitor must be recharged thousands of times every second. And if the power supply dies, so does all your data. Now Martijn Lankhorst and his colleagues at Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, have shown that instead of using electrons, it's possible to create 2 states using an ordered or disordered arrangement of atoms. They use a material called antimony telluride, which starts off in an 'amorphous' state, with all its atoms jumbled up. But a small pulse of electricity provides enough heat to make the atoms line up into rows, creating an ordered, crystalline arrangement. A second, higher-voltage pulse melts the crystalline structure, resetting the material back to its jumbled state. A computer could tell the difference between the 2 because the crystalline phase has a much lower electrical resistance. Wiring lots of tiny pieces of antimony telluride together would create a memory chip that could store information in a stable way, without having to be continually charged up. Imagine you could start your laptop and have it ready for you to work in less than a second, or that you were able to record and watch full-length movies on your mobile phone. The idea isn't new - Stanford Ovshinsky first proposed the concept for such 'Ovonic' devices in 1968ref. But it has taken researchers until now to find a material that can reliably change states millions of times without degrading, and to develop the techniques needed to wire such tiny components together. Flash memory is another attempt to solve the same problem. It too retains its data indefinitely, and is used in digital cameras and memory sticks. It works by using many layers of mineral oxide, which are either full or empty of electrons. But flash memory sticks are an extremely expensive way to store large amounts of data. Each layer has to be individually wrapped, again to stop the electrons leaking out. It is also tricky to miniaturise them further because quantum effects start to interfere with their reliability. Ovonic memory devices could work much better. Antimony telluride is relatively cheap and easy to use, and actually seems to perform faster when the device is miniaturised. Wuttig says that a memory cell in a conventional flash memory device cannot be made < 65 nm across, whereas Ovonic memory cells could potentially get down to 10 nm. That could be enough to put Ovonic technology at the head of the field for the next 2 generations of electronic devices. But the key selling point is that the memory cell is remarkably simple to make, since it is essentially just a chunk of material hooked up to 2 electrical contacts. . There are still several hurdles to be overcome before the technology finds its way into your mobile phone, however. For example, shrinking the memory cell to even smaller scales could allow amorphous areas to become crystalline at much lower temperatures, so the data might get mixed up by accident.
  • business transactions are increasingly being carried out online, but how can you be sure that the people to whom you send your financial details are genuine? Wireless connections in public hotspots are particularly vulnerable to stealth attacks, in which a criminal pretends to be somebody else in order to intercept or modify information such as credit card details. Passwords and encryption help, but information can still be intercepted. For example, a fake website pretending to be an Internet bank can fool people into sending it their passwords directly. To help solve the problem, a trick called 'delayed password disclosure', has been developed. Instead of sending a password straight away, the customer sends an encrypted message that the recipient can only decode if they already know the password.
  • That recipient then sends a message back to prove that it knows the password. But neither message is of any use to a criminal who intercepts it, because they do not contain the password itself. The bank doesn't get any information, but you know it's really your bank. Once satisfied that the website is authentic, the customer sends the actual password to verify his or her identity, and the transaction can proceed. As well as being useful for securing Internet transactions, the new protocol will make ad hoc wireless networks safer too. These are networks in which mobile units connect to any neighbouring computer that is in range at the time. Messages between distant units get through by being passed along in several steps. But as the units move about, new connections are made and lost all the time, so it is relatively easy for an attacker to intercept the network and steal information. If they can be made secure, ad hoc networks have a range of potential applications. Remote sensors deployed by the military to investigate enemy territory could use such networks to relay information to base, for example, and search-and-rescue teams could use them to communicate if mobile-phone networks in an area are not working
    Web resources :
  • robotics (see also robotic surgery) :
  • EvoWeb, website of EvoNet - the European Network of Excellence in Evolutionary Computing
    European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL)
    In his new book, Fab, Gershenfeld describes how he and his colleagues developed the desktop 'personal fabrication' laboratories (fablabs) needed to turn dreams into reality. Gershenfeld, a member of the Center for Bits and Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, reckons fablabs will usher in a technological revolution that will rival or even surpass that in personal computing. In 10 or 20 years time, he predicts, your computer and printer will be accompanied by a personal fabricator that makes whatever you want, assembled using the same digital logic that the computer uses. And crucially, he thinks that this will not be simply a plaything for the rich. He has already seen many examples of how personal fabrication can address the needs of poor communities, allowing them to make things in which industry is not interested. Personal fabrication, claims Gershenfeld, will reduce the wastefulness of manufacturing. It will build objects piece by piece, from parts that can be disassembled and recycled. It will make it feasible for manufacturing to supply a market of one: you. How did this vision emerge? "I started a class at MIT called 'How to make almost anything'. But it's not just about making new shapes. Gershenfeld wants to let people build objects that do things: that take measurements, or send and receive signals, or move about. For that, he provides low-cost microelectronic circuits that control and compute. The world is covered with grass-roots inventors, and there's no need, he argues, for development projects to be focused always on low-tech solutions. Now that his team has put the fablab's tools and computers into a package that fits on a desktop and costs around US$20,000, his vision is already reaching the developing world. In Ghana, for example, fablabs are being used to devise cheap refrigeration units and solar-power collectors that boil water for power generation. Once installed, the fablabs can be cheap to run. A lot of the raw material starts coming from stuff thrown out by the communities. Ultimately, he wants to develop fabrication systems that work 'digitally', putting objects together from discrete 'bricks' that could be microscopic in scale. This allows perfect structures to be made by imperfect fabricators. "Lego bricks let a child build something more precise than their motor-control skills would otherwise allow : Lego error-corrects for them. In this way, Gershenfeld sees personal fabrication following the same trajectory as computing.
    Milestones in scientific computingref: Surveys :
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