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Current Topic: Technology

Data Center Overload
Topic: Technology 3:47 pm EDT, Jun 12, 2009

Tom Vanderbilt:

Who and where was this invisible metropolis? What infrastructure was needed to create this city of ether?

Much of the daily material of our lives is now dematerialized and outsourced to a far-flung, unseen network.

The tilting CD tower gives way to the MP3-laden hard drive which itself yields to a service like Pandora, music that is always “there,” waiting to be heard.

But where is “there,” and what does it look like?

Have you read Vanderbilt's "Traffic"?

Ultimately, Traffic is about more than driving: it’s about human nature.

Data Center Overload

RE: Test Setup, Flash SSDs and Access Time - Review Tom's Hardware : Accelerate Your Hard Drive By Short Stroking
Topic: Technology 3:52 pm EST, Mar  6, 2009

Jello wrote:

Although short stroking doesn’t get hard drives anywhere the access times of flash SSDs, we found that their access times still decrease by 40% in the case of the Ultrastar 15K450 SAS HDDs, and by an amazing 50% in the case of the Deskstar 7K1000.B SATA drives. The advantages are similar when the drives are configured in RAID modes. Since no future hard drive will be able to significantly shorten today’s access times, short stroking is an excellent technique for improving performance in a very noticeable way. Even the desktop 7K1000.B shows access times that are quicker than those of 10,000 RPM drives.

Tom's reduced access times on high end SATA drives as much as 40% by formatting only the outer 10-20% of the platters, to minimize seek times of the read heads.


btw this trick is not new -- database gurus have been doing this for years. Not only does it decrease seek time, it increases throughput since disks have higher density (sectors per track) on the longer outer tracks.

RE: Test Setup, Flash SSDs and Access Time - Review Tom's Hardware : Accelerate Your Hard Drive By Short Stroking

The Unabomber Was Right
Topic: Technology 6:45 pm EST, Feb 23, 2009

The ultimate problem is that the paradise the Kaczynski is offering, the solution to civilization so to speak, is the tiny, smoky, dingy, smelly wooden prison cell that absolutely nobody else wants to dwell in. It is a paradise billions are fleeing from. Civilization has its problems but in almost every way it is better than the Unabomber’s shack.

The Unabomber Was Right

A Fairer, Faster Internet Protocol
Topic: Technology 6:38 pm EST, Dec  5, 2008

Bob Briscoe, in the latest IEEE Spectrum:

There’s a profound flaw in the protocol that governs how people share the Internet’s capacity.

A Fairer, Faster Internet Protocol

So where were the quants? How Wall Street Lied to Its Computers...
Topic: Technology 4:19 pm EDT, Sep 23, 2008

So where were the quants?

That’s what has been running through my head as I watch some of the oldest and seemingly best-run firms on Wall Street implode because of what turned out to be really bad bets on mortgage securities.

Before I started covering the Internet in 1997, I spent 13 years covering trading and finance. I covered my share of trading disasters from junk bonds, mortgage securities and the financial blank canvas known as derivatives. And I got to know bunch of quantitative analysts (”quants”): mathematicians, computer scientists and economists who were working on Wall Street to develop the art and science of risk management.

They were developing systems that would comb through all of a firm’s positions, analyze everything that might go wrong and estimate how much it might lose on a really bad day.

We’ve had some bad days lately, and it turns out Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and maybe some others bet far too much. Their quants didn’t save them.

I called some old timers in the risk-management world to see what went wrong.

I fully expected them to tell me that the problem was that the alarms were blaring and red lights were flashing on the risk machines and greedy Wall Street bosses ignored the warnings to keep the profits flowing.

Ultimately, the people who ran the firms must take responsibility, but it wasn’t quite that simple.

In fact, most Wall Street computer models radically underestimated the risk of the complex mortgage securities, they said. That is partly because the level of financial distress is “the equivalent of the 100-year flood,” in the words of Leslie Rahl, the president of Capital Market Risk Advisors, a consulting firm.

But she and others say there is more to it: The people who ran the financial firms chose to program their risk-management systems with overly optimistic assumptions and to feed them oversimplified data. This kept them from sounding the alarm early enough.

Top bankers couldn’t simply ignore the computer models, because after the last round of big financial losses, regulators now require them to monitor their risk positions. Indeed, if the models say a firm’s risk has increased, the firm must either reduce its bets or set aside more capital as a cushion in case things go wrong.

In other words, the computer is supposed to monitor the temperature of the party and drain the punch bowl as things get hot. And just as drunken revelers may want to put the thermostat in the freezer, Wall Street executives had lots of incentives to make sure their risk systems didn’t see much risk.

“There was a willful designing of the systems to measure the risks in a certain way that would not necessarily pick up all the right risks,” said Gregg Berman, the co-head of the risk-management group at RiskMetrics, a software company spun out of JPMorgan. “They wanted to keep their capital base as stable as possible so that the limits they imposed on their trading desks and portfolio managers would be stable.”

So where were the quants? How Wall Street Lied to Its Computers...

UNIQLO’s Wakamaru - Josh Spear, Trendspotting
Topic: Technology 1:39 pm EDT, Sep  6, 2008

UNIQLO has never been afraid to inovate the shopping experience (think: UT Loop, grid playground and the concept t-shirt store) but this time they are adding a robot to their stores. Yep, you read right a robot named Wakamaru. Designed by Toshiyuki Kita and engineered by Mitsubishi, the robot can make eye contact with you, have simple conversations and help you shop for some Japanese animation t-shirts. But there is a catch, the robot is being described as neither human nor machine. The only thing we can think of that fits that catagory is robocop, which could end up to be a huge PR problem for UNIQLO if anyone saw Robocop 3. Look for Wakamaru to make his/her first appearnce at the Soho store in NYC sometime in the second week of September.

UNIQLO’s Wakamaru - Josh Spear, Trendspotting

Drawing Mona Lisa in 80 milliseconds!
Topic: Technology 4:27 pm EDT, Aug 29, 2008


Drawing Mona Lisa in 80 milliseconds!

Protocol Buffers - Google Code
Topic: Technology 4:38 pm EDT, Jul 10, 2008

Protocol buffers are Google's language-neutral, platform-neutral, extensible mechanism for serializing structured data – think XML, but smaller, faster, and simpler. You define how you want your data to be structured once, then you can use special generated source code to easily write and read your structured data to and from a variety of data streams and using a variety of languages – Java, C++, or Python.

Protocol Buffers - Google Code

RE: ICANN Board Approves Sweeping Overhaul of Top-level Domains
Topic: Technology 4:39 pm EDT, Jun 26, 2008

Decius wrote:

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has just approved the relaxation of the rules for the introduction of new Top-Level Domains—a move that could drastically change the Internet. The new decision—some calling it of historic importance and others predictable—will allow companies to register their brands as generic top-level domain names (TLDs). For instance, Microsoft could apply to have a TLD such as '.msn' and Apple apply for '.mac'.

"We are opening up a new world and I think this cannot be underestimated," said Roberto Gaetano, ICANN board member. The new rules will allow any public or private organization from anywhere in the world to register any string of letters as a gTLD, which could result in hundreds of new gTLDs registered this year. The decision was taken unanimously on Thursday, June 26, 2008 at the 32nd ICANN Meeting in Paris.


The question is how much they're going to cost. If they cost $10k, I'm a lot less opposed than if they cost $100.

RE: ICANN Board Approves Sweeping Overhaul of Top-level Domains

RE: Japan: URL's Are Totally Out
Topic: Technology 6:14 pm EDT, Mar 25, 2008

Decius wrote:

Within minutes of riding on the first trains in Japan, I notice a significant change in advertising, from train to television. The trend? No more printed URL's. The replacement?

Search boxes!1 With recommended search terms!

It makes sense, right? All the good domain names are gone. Getting people to a specific page in a big site is difficult (who's going to write down anything after the first slash?). And, most tellingly, I see increasingly more users already inadvertently put complete domain names like "gmail" and "netflix" into the Search box of their browsers out of habit — and it doesn't even register that Google pops up and they have to click to get to their destination.

I told you so :P

RE: Japan: URL's Are Totally Out

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