Diamond shows promises for a quantum Internet

Today’s Internet runs on linked silicon chips, but a future quantum version might be built from diamond crystals. Physicists report today in Nature1 that they have entangled information kept in pieces of diamond 3 metres apart, so that measuring the state of one quantum bit (qubit) instantly fixes the state of the other – a step necessary for exchanging quantum information over large distances.

Entanglement, which Albert Einstein called ‘spooky action at a distance’, is one of the weird phenomena that make quantum devices promising. A quantum Internet would use entangled photons travelling down fibre-optic cables to in turn entangle qubits, with the aim of one day providing super-secure communications, or delivering software and data to future quantum computers.

The qubits themselves are analogous to the bits used in conventional computers, but can exist in a superposition of states, being both ‘0’ and ‘1’ at the same time (another aspect of quantum weirdness). Linked qubits could in theory zip through calculations that, on a classical computer, would take longer than the age of the Universe. Entangling them over a distance might allow unbreakable communication: for example, if the sender and the receiver of a message possess two sets of qubits that together provide an encryption key.

Related facts:
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Data teleportation: The quantum space race

Entangled diamonds vibrate together
The technical feat of entangling qubits at a distance has already been achieved in other systems, including trapped ions and atoms. Although diamond is still playing catch-up, rapid progress has quickly elevated it to the A-list of candidates for quantum networks. “Connecting many qubits in diamond chips may be much easier than scaling up other systems,” says Ronald Hanson, a nanoscientist at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, who led the team that reported the results in Nature1.

Flawed diamonds

Qubits in diamond depend on imperfections in the materials’ carbon lattice. When nitrogen atoms substitute for carbon atoms, and appear next to gaps, or vacancies, in the structure, a qubit can be created based on the spin state of electrons held in the gap. Their fluorescence gives a faint pink tinge to the crystal.

To entangle qubits in separate pieces of diamond, the team uses lasers to entangle each qubit with a photon at temperatures of 10 kelvin. The photons meet midway through a fibre-optic cable, where they are themselves entangled. A slightly different form of that process was first applied to entangling ytterbium ions in 20073 and neutral rubidium atoms in 20124 (See also: ‘Atom takes a quantum leap’).

The process is not yet very efficient, says Lilian Childress, a physicist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and a co-author of the latest study. The researchers achieve entanglement only once in every 10 million attempts, or about once every ten minutes. But that is on a par with the first experiments in trapped atoms and ions, she adds.

One important goal of the technique is to provide the basis for so-called quantum repeaters, which would make long-distance quantum communications possible. Photon-based entanglement fades after a few hundreds of kilometres, because fibre-optic cable absorbs the light, and boosting the signal destroys the entanglement. But entangling chains of quantum repeaters could link qubits over longer distances.

Although ion and atom systems are more advanced than diamond in terms of linking close qubits for quantum computing, holding a record of 14 entangled qubits, diamond has distinct advantages for linking remote processors in networks, says Hanson. Unlike ions trapped in high vacuum, qubits in diamond can be maintained at room temperature, because the material’s surrounding carbon lattice shields them so well from stray magnetic fields or vibrations that might upset their superposition.

Researchers showed last year that diamond-vacancy qubits, which last for tens of milliseconds, can even be transferred to the nuclei of neighbouring carbon or nitrogen atoms, creating an array of ‘memory’ qubits that can exist for seconds5, 6 — an eternity in quantum-computing terms. Also, building assemblies of solid diamond chips sounds more approachable than creating hundreds of ion traps, says Hanson.

At this early stage, with quantum processors decades away, no one is ready to bet on which system will prevail. “You can’t pick a winner right now,” .


Using Cloud Analytics to Big Data

Strategic Big Data and Actionable Analytics are two of the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2013, according to Gartner.

Yet only 12 percent have a big data strategy that governs their daily operations, a recent survey of 339 data management professionals by SAS and SourceMedia found.

This gap is the result of years of unfulfilled promises from a previous generation of business intelligence and data integration vendors who failed to provide organizations of all sizes with easy-to-use solutions to address their escalating needs.

That was then. Today the number of tools available to make sense of Big Data is only growing, and that’s a good thing, because the need is deep.

Big Data, Big Fail

Ninety-three percent of the 1,064 respondents to a recent survey commissioned by Domo said they relied on business information to do their jobs well, but only 43 percent felt they had access to the information they needed to perform effectively.

Eighty-four percent of the respondents said real-time business information was vitally important to their success, but 62 percent said they were unable to access the information they needed in a timely fashion.

It’s no wonder, then, that 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies likely will fail to exploit big data effectively for competitive advantage, according to Gartner.

The good news is that a growing assortment of cloud-based analytics tools and platforms are demonstrating that they can respond to today’s Big Data challenge.

GoodData is building a portfolio, or Bash, of analytics reports, metrics and best practices delivered via a single, cloud-based platform users can employ to address a specific set of business use cases.

The Bashes can collect and interpret information from a variety of data sources including business applications, social media, mobile devices and legacy systems. Time Warner Cable rolled out the GoodData platform to its 4,000 employees in just four weeks to help them better utilize their sales data.

The Bright Side

Established players are seeing the success of the emerging upstarts and quickly responding with their own cloud-based BI solutions. For instance, MicroStrategy claims its cloud solution is “10x More Agile. And 10x More Cost Effective.”

SAP is touting its HANA in-memory data platform, which is now deployable as an on-premises appliance or in the cloud. The platform can support an organization’s data warehousing, operational reporting and predictive analysis needs.

The National Basketball Association is using HANA to power NBA.com/stats, a destination site that enables fans to analyze player and team statistics from the latest games and all the way back to the league’s founding in 1946.

Gathering the Troops

Although the latest cloud analytics innovations boost tremendous technological functionality that wasn’t fathomable a few years ago, organizations can still expect that they’ll need expert help and advice to successfully employ these exciting new tools.

Independent consultancies and application development firms, such as CorSource Technology Group and SoftServe, have created dedicated teams to help enterprise clients and independent software vendors (ISVs) embed today’s leading cloud analytics platforms into their operations and solutions.

Ubuntu 13.04 Reviews

Canonical released Ubuntu 13.04, also known as “Raring Ringtail,” on the desktop.
However, the release failed to thrill many reviewers, whose complaints included the point that Canonical had left out several features, including privacy protection and the Windows-based Ubuntu Installer, or WUBI, and hived off the “Gwibber” social networking feature to create a separate application, now called “Friend,” that has to be downloaded separately.

“In the reviews that I looked at, the main complaints were that Canonical had essentially dumbed down Ubuntu and made it more difficult to customize and personalize,” commented Charles King, principal at Pund-IT.

“If you’re trying to drive Linux into a broader user base, having a default user interface and a reliable, continual customer experience is really how you do that,” he said.

“We think Ubuntu 13.04 is the best version of Ubuntu Desktop ever,” Rick Spencer, VP Ubuntu Engineering, told LinuxInsider. “Across the board, the performance is faster, and the UI is faster and more visually refined than ever. The Dash search results are more complete, and the Dash experience is more efficient than any previous release.”

While the shelving of some legacy features such as WUBI “will probably be viewed as a bad thing by entrenched users, I would assume that Ubuntu has done its homework with regard to actual feature uptake in previous versions,” Bill Weinberg, senior director at Olliance Consulting, a division of Black Duck Software, told LinuxInsider.

What Raring Ringtail Includes

Ubuntu 13.04 includes updated applications such as LibreOffice 4.0, the latest Chromium and Firefox Web browsers and Thunderbird email client, and updates to system-level components to improve performance, Spencer said.
It “includes a rich application development ecosystem for Ubuntu Touch application developers, including the Ubuntu software development kit, Qt Creator with Ubuntu plugins, and extensive documentation,” he added.

The SDK will make a single application for all devices Ubuntu will run on, and publish it to the Ubuntu Software Center with one upload.

“In essence, they’re aiming for a more predictable experience, and I think that could make this a potentially interesting offer for businesses that want to get out from underneath the cost and upgrade cycle of Windows,” Pund-IT’s King told LinuxInsider.

With Ubuntu 13.04, Canonical has also halved the support period for the regular non-long-term releases of Ubuntu to nine months.

Ubuntu 13.04’s Appeal to the Enterprise

Raring Ringtail appears to have been developed with an eye to increasing Ubuntu’s appeal to businesses. WUBI was dropped because it caused problems with Windows 8, for example. Further, Raring Ringtail offers enhancements to the Juju orchestration graphical user interface, making it easier to deploy and manage cloud-based workloads.

Also, Ubuntu 13.04 is built for hyperscale and is the only distribution of OpenStack that makes high-availability a standard feature. Enterprises on 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin) can upgrade to the latest OpenStack version, Grizzly, from the Ubuntu Cloud Archive.

Canonical is collaborating with VMware so organizations can link OpenStack clouds to VMware technologies, including VMware vSphere and Nicira NVP (network virtualization platform). Such deployments will be supported on Ubuntu.

“That’s interesting, because the Linux kernel already includes different types of virtualization technology, including Xen and KVM (kernel-based virtual machine),” Dan Kusnetzky, founder of the Kusnetzky Group, told LinuxInsider. “Maybe they want to be part of that larger ecosystem [that VMware serves].”

However, Canonical expects that enterprises with large Ubuntu deployments will stick to version 1.204 LTS “because of the five-year support that the long-term support releases include,” Spencer remarked.

Ubuntu’s also targeting other markets — King mentioned receiving an email from Alienware about the X51 gaming desktop, which runs on Ubuntu.
“A Linux-based gaming platform,” he mused. “Who would have thought?”

Google Earth Now Supports Leap Motion Technology

Google, on the occasion of World Earth Day, has released a new version of its popular Google Earth service featuring support of Leap Motion technology. Leap Motion enables people to use hand gestures to swipe and glide through the Google Earth interface, providing for a “visually refreshing” and intuitive experience. A demo video of how the 3D Leap Motion controller works, can be viewed at its official site. You’d need to buy this hardware device which is in the test phase, to enable hand gestures. Google’s announcement of the new version of the software, mentions that such controllers will start shipping worldwide soon.

Enhancements for Users:

Map Making: With this feature, people can create legends and scales and add titles to maps, directly from Google Earth Pro. These “customized” maps can also be printed, or saved as images. Enhanced map-making tools in Google Earth version 7.1 can also be used to highlight changes to land mass over time and document those changes directly in the map by adding a legend.

Viewshed: Serves as an intuitive tool to identify and mark scenic viewpoints. The view from any particular place can be measured without people actually having to be present at that particular viewpoint.
The latest version of Google earth can be downloaded from the official site. Google says that the star field and Milky Way have been updated in the current iteration of Google Earth so as to add realism to virtual “space expeditions”. So do remember to check them out.

A small background on Leap Motion technology:
Leap Motion is a company developing advanced motion sensing technology for human–computer interaction. Originally inspired by frustration surrounding 3D modeling using a mouse and keyboard, Leap Motion asserts that moulding virtual clay should be as easy as moulding clay in the real world. The Leap Motion controller is a small USB peripheral device which is designed to be placed on a physical desktop, facing upward. Using two cameras and three infrared LEDs, the device observes a roughly hemispherical area, to a distance of about 3 feet. It is designed to track fingers (or similar items such as a pen) which cross into the observed area, to a spatial precision of about 0.01 mm.