Video@Scale: The New Demands are the Old Challenges – Power and Packet Drops

The challenge of creating seamless video experiences on demand has been a long-sought and long-fought dream. FaceBook video@scale brings specialists together to wrestle with the complexity of end-to-end technical tricks and user level satisfaction often at odds.

The morning was a blitz of corner cases and tightly wound insights.  Minutia of transmission of video and complexity, issues of detection of dropped frames in various browser decode, up/down scaling of video quality on-the-fly, issues in CODEC switching, video stream sizing, I-frame synchronization between different video codecs, which codec to use, network versus browser issues (often appear the same), and getting around browser video correction.

But the two items I am going to focus on are the old hard chestnuts: power and packet drops.

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Yes Virginia, Neutrinos Do Have a Bounded Mass (Thanks to Big Data)

Getty Images.

Many years ago, Jim Gray was conducting a talk at Stanford I attended, whereby he outlined the challenges in processing the huge datasets accumulated in scientific fields like astronomy, cosmology and medicine.

In those days, the greatest concerns were: 1) cleaning the data sets and 2) transporting the data sets. The processing of these data sets, surprisingly, was of little concern. Data manipulation was processor-limited and modeling tools were few. Hence, success was dependent on the skill of the researchers to delve through the results for meaning.

Jim lived in a world of specialized expensive hardware platforms for stylized processing, painstaking manual cleaning of data, and elaborate databases to manipulate and store information. As such, large academic projects were beholden to the generosity of a few large corporations. This, to say the least, meant that any research project requiring large resources would likely languish.

In the decades since Jim first broached the huge data set problem (and twelve years after his passing), the open source disruption that started with operating systems (of which I was a part) and new languages spawned in turn the creation of data tools, processing technologies and methods that Jim, a corporate enterprise technologist, could not have imagined. Beginning with open source projects like Hadoop and Spark (originally from UC Berkeley, just like 386BSD), on demand databases and tools can provide (relatively speaking) economical and efficient capabilities. And one of the biggest of big data projects ever recently demonstrated that success.

Continue reading Yes Virginia, Neutrinos Do Have a Bounded Mass (Thanks to Big Data)

Raytheon Wins the 10 Million US Patent Sweepstakes!

USPTO new patent cover

Today the US Patent and Trademark Office issued its ten millionth patent! The extraordinary Patent No. US 10,000,000 entitled “Coherent Ladar Using Intra-Pixel Quadrature Detection” was assigned to Raytheon Company by inventor Joseph Marron of Manhattan Beach, California.

As the winner of this sweepstakes, Raytheon has been granted a lovely 20 year monopoly from the filing date (10 March 2015) for a new and unique invention that uses comparisons between a target and sample frequencies in a clocked processor to determine the phase difference for navigation. You can also, it notes, use it for holography assuming your target and you are both stationary, but that’s unlikely to happen unless you’re driving a Chevy Malibu.

As a token of esteem, Raytheon has been provided this lovely new patent cover page to swaddle their new baby patent Figures and Claims. We have no doubt Raytheon’s patent counsel shall commence to commit it to the deep, to be turned into corruption, looking for the resurrection of the body when the sea shall give up her dead.

I congratulate Raytheon for winning the 10 Million US Patent Sweepstakes, beating out ever-industrious rivals IBM, Samsung, Canon, Qualcomm, Toshiba, Sony, LG, Intel, Microsoft and most particularly, Google, which has missed out on yet another self-driving navigation patent.

The next milestone sweepstakes, the 20 Million US Patent Sweepstakes, should be starting right about…now. Inventors: Start your engines.

2018 Tech IPOs: Is Enterprise a Game-Changer?

Image: greentechmedia.com

Jon Swartz’s recent piece in Barrons asks “Is This the Year Tech IPOs Stage a Comeback?” Prior year IPOs did not meet expectations, with consumer companies like Snap and Blue Apron the poster children for a miserable performance.

But the speculation among the smart money is that 2018 tech IPOs will surge, and they’ll be driven by enterprise companies.

So, is enterprise the game changer for tech IPOs in 2018?

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The Security Frustrations of Apple’s “Personal” Personal Computer: Device Access, Two Factor ID, and 386BSD Role-Based Security

Image: smsglobal.com

Recently, a FaceBook friend lamented that he could not access his icloud mail from a device bound to his wife’s icloud access. He also expressed frustration with the security mechanism Apple uses to control access to devices – in particular, two-factor authentication. His annoyance was honest and palpable, but the path to redemption unclear.

Tech people are often blind to the blockers that non-technical people face because we’re used to getting around the problem. Some of these blockers are poorly architected solutions. Others are poorly communicated solutions. All in all, the security frustrations of Apple’s “personal” personal computer are compelling, real and significant. And do merit discussion.

Continue reading The Security Frustrations of Apple’s “Personal” Personal Computer: Device Access, Two Factor ID, and 386BSD Role-Based Security

Apple Store “Bait and Switch” IPhone Battery Gambit: Apple Giveth and Taketh Away

Image: cnet.com

Beware the Apple Store “bait and switch” iPhone battery gambit. We faced this yesterday in Los Gatos, CA where they tried to claim a working iPhone 6s with a good screen / original owner was not eligible for their $29 battery replacement at the appointment because it had a slight bow in the frame.

Now, by this point everyone likely has some flaw in their old iPhone, whether it is a slightly dinged frame from being dropped to a minute crack or scratch under the frame. It’s normal wear and tear. And they likely didn’t have a problem replacing the battery before the discount was announced and replacements were more costly and infrequent. But now, it’s an issue.

They did offer to sell an iPhone 6s for close to $300! This is a terrible price. Don’t go for it. This is what they mean by bait and switch.

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Intel’s X86 Decades-Old Referential Integrity Processor Flaw Fix will be “like kicking a dead whale down the beach”

Image: Jolitz

Brian, Brian, Brian. Really, do you have to lie to cover your ass? Variations on this “exploit” have been known since Intel derived the X86 architecture from Honeywell and didn’t bother to do the elaborate MMU fix that Multics used to elide it.

We are talking decades, sir. Decades. And it was covered by Intel patents as a feature. We all knew about it. Intel was proud of it.

Image: Jolitz, Porting Unix to the 386, Dr. Dobbs Journal January 1991

Heck, we even saw this flaw manifest in 386BSD testing, so we wrote our own virtual-to-physical memory mapping mechanism in software and wrote about it in Dr. Dobbs Journal in 1991.

You could have dealt with this a long time ago. But it was a hard problem, and you probably thought “Why bother? Nobody’s gonna care about referential integrity“. And it didn’t matter – until now.

Continue reading Intel’s X86 Decades-Old Referential Integrity Processor Flaw Fix will be “like kicking a dead whale down the beach”

Silicon Valley Bank and eVestment Hit a Nice Exit with Nasdaq

Image: fool.com

People often fixate on the Home Run Deals: the Googles, the FaceBooks and the like. A home run deal is a 50x-100x return on a deal where you get in 1) really early, 2) really cheaply, and 3) an astronomical valuation that you 4) stay with the entire ride without being diluted. It is the stuff of movie magic and business books. But it’s also extremely rare and risky.

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Is Google Just Another Uber Bro? Unraveling the Tangled Silicon Valley Tech Geek Myth

InterProphet: My first funded startup as technology co-founder on our first anniversary. Image: Jolitz, 1998.

The most recent attack on women and minorities in Silicon Valley has arisen unexpectedly from Google. Mounted by an anonymous Google engineer as a “manifesto”, it presents no facts, regurgitates disproven theories on the “biology” of men and women and, most tellingly, blames diversity for upper management’s cancellation of underperforming products at Google.

Symmetric Computer System wirewrap prototype, 1983 and 375 BSD Unix system, 1989. Vintage Computer Faire. Image: Jolitz

There are a lot of women who have worked on technology projects in SV over the years (me included), but you wouldn’t know it because no one writes about it, so no one believes that it happened even though this is a young industry and most of us are still alive. That missing piece of the story leads to the notion that women have not had any involvement in any technology and it’s a man’s world. It’s an absurd notion.

386BSD conference button, Dr. Dobbs Journal. Image: Jolitz

Whenever one sees these attitudes one also sees history has been deconstructed to focus only on one person at the expense of others – unless earlier in the history of the field there were key women who could not be deconstructed, like physics has Curie and Meitner. Those who control the information – tech journalists, writers and amateur enthusiasts – have had an almost laser-focus on men. Why?  Continue reading Is Google Just Another Uber Bro? Unraveling the Tangled Silicon Valley Tech Geek Myth

Google Cloud OnBoard San Francisco: Buried Alive by PR

Lynne and William Jolitz, Google Cloud Onboard, Hilton SF Union Square, July 2017. Image: Jolitz

There are times when a seminar or conference or training session induces trepidation because the expectations are high. One questions whether it was worth the time to travel to the destination, wait to park in the wreck-a-lot, find the coffee urn empty, and then find a chair in the back where you can barely hear the speaker. All the while, slack messages are building up at home base. Is it worth it?

I’ve always found a reason to make the trip worthwhile – a small tidbit of knowledge, an off-the-cuff experience, an interesting speaker. Sometimes I run into an old colleague and we chat over lunch. Maybe even something *new*.

Then there was Google Cloud OnBoard San Francisco. This conference did not meet expectations. And given the stakes in the battle for the cloud between Amazon, IBM and Google, Google must excel. It did not. 

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