This year, a supercomputer from India took 39th position in the TOP500 list, the highest-ever position achieved by the country. And, if an ambitious project by the Centre goes as planned, within the next five years, an army of 20,000 technology experts from India will form one of the world’s strongest human networks to handle the challenges of supercomputers. The Indian Express explains India’s strategy to amp up its presence in the world of supercomputers, and the challenges in its way.
National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)
Launched in 2015, NSM is the only dedicated programme launched to boost India’s supercomputing capacity. The Rs 4,500-crore, seven-year-long programme is spearheaded by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). As part of the programme, a network of over 70 supercomputers will be installed in multiple national-level research and academic institutions. These machines will be part of the National Supercomputing grid over the National Knowledge Network (NKN), which will have wide-scale applications in the fields of climate modelling, weather prediction, aerospace engineering , computational biology, molecular dynamics, atomic energy simulations, national security and defence applications, seismic analysis, disaster prediction and management, computational chemistry, big data analytics, finance and more. By March next year, the first three supercomputers under NSM will be operational at Banaras Hindu University (IIT), Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER),Pune and IIT-Kharagpur.
Largest trained manpower for supercomputers
Under NSM, the long-term plan is to build a strong base of 20,000 skilled persons who will be equipped to handle the complexities of supercomputers. They will be trained over the next five years and will become one of the largest ever dedicated human resource bases equipped to use these mighty computers. Several IITs and NITs, along with the C-DAC, are presently conducting courses and training sessions for the mission, and about 2,000 people have already been trained.
PARAM Shavak is one such machine that has been deployed to provide training. So far, 2,000 people have been successfully trained and over 100 courses are being conducted for this purpose. PARAM Shavak, which is best suited for research or academic institutions, will soon switch to using advanced computational facilities for research purposes.
How India fares in the world of supercomputers
Presently, Pratyush, installed at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, is the fastest supercomputer in India and ranks 39th in the world.
Launched in January 2018, it is the fourth fastest High Performance Computer (HPC) dedicated to climate modelling in the world. Its peak capacity is 4 Petaflops in compute, it has 9 Petabytes of storage capacity and 30 Petabytes of archival capacity.
According to the latest TOP500 list of fastest supercomputers in the world, India has four systems among the world’s fastest 500 systems. Mihir, ranked 66th, has been installed at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), New Delhi. Two other systems, ranked 206th and 497th, are presently operating at a software company and at IITM, respectively. Though India may not be at par with the US or China when it comes to supercomputers, experts feel that India is definitely among the top ranking countries, and is at par with Russia and some European countries. In collective capacity building terms, India’s supercomputers offer a wide range of applications and usage.
Key challenges and future plans
The biggest challenge for India, according to tech experts, is limited funding. Even though India took its first steps in supercomputer programming during the late 1980s, it made slow progress in the following three decades. Limited investments and delayed release of funds slowed things down further. This is one of the main reasons why India, which has the capacity to build a world-class system, has never reached the top position in the rankings. Only 10 per cent of its total budget for NSM has been released at the end of three years. While India’s stronghold is in the field of software development, it has to depend on imports to procure the hardware components required for building supercomputers.
But the situation is changing, with India now venturing into design, manufacture and assembly of hardware components. This will not only cut down import costs, it will also ensure that while assembling supercomputers, applications are tailored to address problems that are specific to India.
Ascent to the temple of democracy
By Pulapre Balakrishnan
Kerala’s reputation as a society that has evolved to an exceptional degree may have taken a bit of a beating. The reputation itself has been built on the strides made in the sphere of development, by now internationally recognised to be human development as reflected in the health and education status of a people.
When it was first noticed over four decades ago, Kerala’s perceived uniqueness had stemmed from the realisation that it was among India’s poorest States. To have achieved fairly high human development despite relative poverty was considered noteworthy. What was not apparent in the usual indicators, however, was something even more unique, the ending of social hierarchy. The caste system, which was at the centre of Kerala’s social arrangements, disintegrated virtually overnight. This was fuelled by the enactment of a land reform programme that ended feudalism. With feudalism went the equivalence between caste dominance and economic power. If evidence ever was needed for the Marxian view that it was the economic base of a society that undergirded its ‘superstructure’ this was it. What is significant is that the transition had been smooth, without recrimination for loss or retribution for injustice. Social distance in terms of caste distinctions just died.
Given the experience of the ending of a feudalism that had persisted for centuries in Kerala, the reception to the Supreme Court’s verdict on the practice of excluding women of menstruating age from the shrine at Sabarimala is disappointing. It is not as if the ruling has been received with sullen acceptance alone. It has been followed by vigilantes actually preventing the very few women who have attempted to enter the shrine since from doing so. Reports of heckling and intimidation that have led to disheartened women returning without darshan is likely to have left many a Malayali patriot ashamed.
To understand the reaction to one of the last bastions of male privilege being thrown open to women, we may turn to the work of the philosopher Michel Foucault.
Foucault had observed that while Marxism, a powerful tool for social analysis, emphasises the relations of production, it ignores the relations of power. Power for Foucault is ubiquitous and ramifies into every dimension of human association. Patriarchy or the idea of rule by men would be one of the sources of power.
Heteronormativity and the claim of the racial superiority of certain ethnic groups have also served as sources of power. Power for Foucault can draw its force from sources that are entirely unrelated to economic class. Thus in Kerala, for instance, patriarchy is entrenched across all classes and social groups. It did not vanish with the land reforms, even if its architects had wanted it to happen. From the recent events at Sabarimala we can see that some sections do not want it to lose its stranglehold even today.
The opposition to women’s entry at Sabarimala is at times met with an appeal to history, that the temples of Kerala have witnessed far greater transformation in the past, having been thrown open to all sections of Hindus over 75 years ago. While this history is correctly recounted, the issue of women’s entry into temples is not a matter of accepting the inevitability of change, it is a matter of recognising what living in a democracy implies for its members. Even as democracy guarantees rights to the individual, it requires him to acknowledge the rights of others. It is easily overlooked that it is democracy that grants the freedom to practise a religion.
The Church was discouraged in the former Soviet Union, China frowns upon the faith of the Uighurs, and the Saudi Arabian state is not exactly tolerant of religious plurality.
However, while democracy assures freedom to practise religion, citizens are expected to practise it in a way that is consistent with democracy. So the traditionalists on the Sabarimala issue must recognise that by excluding women, they are not keeping their side of the social contract as it were. In a democracy, the social contract is not between the state and the people, it is one entered into by citizens among themselves. As B.R. Ambedkar is believed to have advised Jawaharlal Nehru, you cannot have a republic within a republic. In the Indian context, the implication of this principle is that religion must be practised in a way consistent with constitutional values; at a minimum the practices cannot be discriminatory. Legal provisions against domestic violence and the ill-treatment of children point to the reach of democracy even into our homes. Religion cannot claim special dispensation. It need hardly be emphasised that the principle that religion be practised in accordance with the norms of democracy extends to all religions. Indian secularism would be tested on this idea.
In a way, the opposition to the entry of women to Sabarimala is reflective of a wider inequality between men and women that may be observed in Malayali society. Two indicators point to this, despite the very high literacy levels registered by women and a significant presence of women with higher education. First, female labour force participation is low in Kerala in comparison with other States. Surely the equality of women must be visible in their participation in the workforce. In Kerala, women were once a major presence in agriculture but this declined when paddy cultivation atrophied. The low female labour force participation in Kerala affects their ability to influence social norms, especially social attitudes towards female agency.
Second, the presence of women in governance roles is very low in Kerala. Three indicators may be noted, namely, the percentage of women legislators, judges in the High Court and leaders of political parties. It may come as a surprise to note that for the former two indicators the number is lower for the State than it is for Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. This despite the fact that Malayali women participate in elections at least to the same extent as men. Political parties of Kerala have made little effort to induct women into leadership positions. How much of this is due to male chauvinism and how much to inadequate women’s agency is a question to be debated.
However, a recent incident does help us see through the thicket. The union of Malayalam film actors, a highly feted body, was in the news for trying to protect an actor accused of abetting assault against a co-star despite the fact that he had been jailed. They held out till its leadership was publicly dragged over the coals by four determined women, some of them quite young. Such endings are few and far between but give rise to hope that women will eventually receive their due in Kerala.
It is hoped that the Sabarimala shrine, a site of popular worship with a long history and of great beauty, will henceforth be open to women of all ages. But for Kerala ending exclusion at this one site can only be the beginning of the much longer journey to gender equality in its society. The present situation bears comparison with what Nirad Chaudhuri had said of the British Empire, that it “extended subjecthood but denied citizenship”. In the case of Kerala’s women, its society may have extended education but withheld empowerment. So long as women are not represented in the upper echelons of decision-making it will be difficult to break this mould.
Samsung Galaxy A8s With Infinity-O Display, Triple Rear Cameras Launched
Samsung Galaxy A8s was launched in China on Monday, sporting the anticipated Infinity-O Display. This is also the smartphone’s biggest differentiating point, the fact that it sports a true bezel-less display screen, with a small hole in the display to house the selfie camera. Samsung calls it the Infinity-O Display and with the new hole-in-the-screen design, it tries to change things up by letting go of the notch trend. Other key highlights of the phone include a triple rear camera setup, up to 8GB of RAM, and a rear fingerprint sensor as well.
Samsung Galaxy A8s price, availability
Samsung has not yet announced the price of the Galaxy A8s smartphone, but it is set to come in 6GB RAM + 128GB storage and 8GB RAM + 128GB storage options. It will go for pre-order in China soon, which is presumably when the company will announce pricing details as well. The smartphone is set to come in Black (Green), Blue, and Silver colour options in China.
Samsung Galaxy A8s design
Samsung Galaxy A8s is seen sporting the Infinity-O Display with a hole on the top left edge of the screen for the selfie camera sensor. Apart from that, the entire front portion is taken over by the display, with no bezels on all sides. At the back, there is a triple camera setup stacked vertically, and a fingerprint scanner situated in the centre. At the bottom edge, we can see the USB Type-C port, the speaker grille and the microphone. The power and volume buttons are housed on the right edge, and the SIM tray is seen on the left edge of the device.
Samsung Galaxy A8s specifications
Coming to hardware, the dual-SIM, dual-standby Samsung Galaxy A8s runs on Android 8.1 Oreo and is seen sporting a 6.2-inch (1080×2340 pixels) full-HD+ display (6.4-inch when corners measured at right angles) with 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The smartphone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 octa-core SoC paired with Adreno 616 GPU, with 6GB and 8GB RAM options. Internal storage offered is at 128GB.
Coming to imaging, the Galaxy A8s sports a triple rear camera setup – with one 24-megapixel main sensor with f/1.7 aperture, another 10-megapixel telephoto sensor with f/2.4 aperture that can offer 2X optical zoom, and another 5-megapixel sensor with f/2.2 aperture and this one is basically for more depth in photos. There’s also a 24-megapixel selfie sensor with f/2.0 aperture.
The Samsung Galaxy A8s packs a 3,400mAh battery with fast charging support. Connectivity options include NFC support, and there is no 3.5mm headphone jack. The smartphone is said to be just 7.4mm thick. As mentioned, the Samsung Galaxy A8s comes with rear fingerprint scanning support.
Snapdragon 8cx Is Qualcomm’s Latest Chip for Always-On, Always-Connected Windows 10 Machines
Qualcomm, the biggest supplier of chips for mobile phones, on Thursday pushed further into the PC market with a line of chips designed to power business machines.
Qualcomm’s “Snapdragon” processor chips historically have been at the heart of mobile phones like Alphabet’s Google Pixel phone and many Samsung Electronics Co devices.
Over the past year, though, Qualcomm adapted its chips to operate PCs running Microsoft Corp’s Windows operating system, making those machines start up more quickly and stay connected to the Internet constantly, much like a mobile phone or tablet.
But the chips Qualcomm used in those early PCs were essentially modified versions of the chips it sold for mobile phones. At an event in Hawaii on Thursday, Qualcomm officials said they have created a new series of chips called the Snapdragon 8cx that will be dedicated to PCs.
Qualcomm is calling the Snapdragon 8cx Compute Platform the world’s first 7nm PC platform, hoping it will allow for “new form factors in the always-on, always-connected category”. The Snapdragon 8cx packs the octa-core Qualcomm Kryo 495 CPU and the new Adreno 680 GPU, the company’s most powerful GPU yet. The memory interface is now 128 bit wide and support for second generation USB 3.1 over Type C and third generation PCI-E is now baked-in. This will let users connect up to two 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) monitors to their Snapdragon 8cx enabled devices, the Qualcomm said. Snapdragon 8cx supports Quick Charge 4+ and also features the Snapdragon X24 LTE modem.
The biggest difference is the new Qualcomm chips will support Windows 10 Enterprise, the version of Microsoft’s popular operating system that is sold to businesses.
Previous Qualcomm chips supported only the consumer versions of Windows, making business customers less likely to purchase computers powered by them.
Qualcomm says Snapdragon 8cx is “currently sampling to customers and is expected to begin shipping in commercial devices in Q3 of 2019”.
Qualcomm’s move puts it in greater competition with chipmaker Intel Corp, which last year still derived more than half of its $62.8 billion in revenue from PC chips and dominates that market. Intel’s association with Windows PCs was so strong that the computer industry referred to them as “Wintel” machines for decades.
Qualcomm and others are also challenging Intel’s supremacy in the data centre business. Qualcomm’s chips are powered by technology from SoftBank Group Corp-controlled Arm Holdings. Several companies – including Amazon.com’s cloud division Amazon Web Services, a major Intel customer – are working to make ARM-based chips suitable for data centres.