Do You Smell Smoke — Oops, there goes a Server!

It takes time, but it’s lovely when you get borne out in an article, as Martin LaMonica discusses how Google manages to handle all those search queries. And it’s really simple – get cheap X86 machines, use an open source stripped-down kernel, fiddle with the filesystem to do simple block transfers with a simple triad mirror (master – dual slave) configuration. So low-cost, easy, and direct.

Of course, I recall the enterprise guys at the time laughing at using commodity cheap servers for “real enterprise applications”. So I guess Google isn’t a real enterprise application company, hmmm?

But there is a little nit in the ointment, so to speak. Power! Having lots of cheap servers and simple management reduces people overhead, but at the cost of much greater power consumption. As Urs Hoelzle, VP Operations and Engineering at Google says “”The physical cost of operations, excluding people, is directly proportional to power costs,” he said. “(Power) becomes a factor in running cheaper operations in a data center. It’s not just buying cheaper components but you also have to have an operating expense that makes sense.”

Girls Can Do Calculus and Physics and Astronomy and Look Nice!

Joan Ryan of the San Francisco Chronicle interviewed a psych professor who claims that girls don’t do calculus in high school because they didn’t do well in algebra in middle school (training their brains). Funny, she’s also got a book coming out. Her comments don’t jive with the research or studies, but, hey, it reinforces stereotypes and makes her money, right?

Perhaps we should interview middle school teachers on what they see “in the trenches”, or maybe we parents should take a glance at the honor roll lists. Girls are usually the A students in these subjects. Often the validictorian is a girl, which meant all A’s. More girls than boys are on the highest honors (all As). By this simple objective measure, clearly girls on average are training their brains by ” reinforcing and strengthening their skills in math and science” just as boys are.

All this nonsense about outside activities compensating for middle school boys increased ability (“building blocks and train sets”? – come on, she seriously thinks middle school boys are into this stuff?) without any serious objective measures and studies is academic doubletalk.

When Unbridled Competition Breeds Contempt for the Team

The computer biz is a very ruthlessly competitive profession, so it’s no surprise that our kids in Silicon Valley are also very competitive and individualistic. But there’s also the concept of the team working towards a goal. And when that basic underpinning is lost, so is respect. Contempt for members follows – whether we’re working on a new storage device or operating system, or on a robot.

So where are we heading? Julie Patel wrote a balanced article on why the very successful Gunn High School robotics team imploded, resulting in their disbanding. It contained enough to read between the lines as to what really happened. It’s a good Silicon Valley morality tale on how contempt can replace respect, suck in even “responsible adults”, and ultimately take out everyone on the team.

Why You Can’t Buy SpamQuiz!

I was puzzled recently when a friend couldn’t get his email through to me. We have our own spam filter we called SpamQuiz which nicely takes care of Nigerian pleas and lottery solicitations. SpamQuiz is not a product – it’s a project we did at TeleMuse Networks testing ISP correctness and email management. However, when I mentioned it on a special interest group email as part of our email changes a few months back, I found by the next day people were trying to piggy-back on our fame by “creating” a product called SpamQuiz for sale. Sigh. The world is full of crooks, isn’t it?

So just for the record – don’t buy SpamQuiz thinking that’s what Lynne Jolitz, open source pioneer and co-inventor of 386BSD – the First Open Source BSD Unix Operating System, SiliconTCP and Massive Video Production (MMP) created and uses, because it’s not from us! And it’s not a product for sale because 1) we’re not in the spam business and 2) we’re not crooks. We just build cool technology. If you’re a researcher or want to try it out for fun, I may help you – but that’s not a product.

But back to my friend. Since he wasn’t a crook, why was he getting trapped by SpamQuiz? Well, since the point of SpamQuiz is to catch nonconforming ISP’s and their bad emails, it was likely that his ISP had some small issue that could be cleared up. It couldn’t be all bad, could it? Or maybe not. So we traced the email. It’s a wonder he get anything through anybody because his ISP looks like Spam Central.