First They Watch the Movie, and Then They Read the Book

When Margaret Heffernan was on her book tour for The Naked Truth, an insider look at women in business, I grabbed her after the talk and had her do a brief pitch to her readers. Took me about five minutes to produce with MinutePitch. It was very satisfying to see the author of the book tell me why I should buy it. And as an open source pioneer in operating systems () and author of books and articles myself, I sure understand the need to speak to your reader directly. The Internet is the key for distribution – if you can get it off your camera first.

That’s what VidLit is about too, according to Daniel Terdiman at Wired. “To date, VidLit founder Liz Dubelman has created VidLit videos for seven books and has five more in the works. They range from one to three minutes and cost approximately $3,500 a minute to produce.”

Why that kind of cash, when advances for the lesser lights are usually in the $5,000 – $10,000 range, and when selling a printing run of 2,000 – 5,000 is doing great? M.J Rose, a novelist (formerly a contributor to Wired) thinks that “initiatives like VidLit and a few others are crucial in an era in which authors are having a harder time than ever getting publicity. ‘We’re in a crisis situation in publishing where there are 150,000-plus books published a year and review space has been cut by about 50 percent across the board. Either magazines have completely cut their review space, or newspapers have cut it back, or they’re using syndicated reviews’.”

The loss of review space is why they also like to plug a short vid into a blog. “Amazon spokeswoman Kristin Schaefer Mariani said that the company has begun incorporating VidLit videos as part of its “larger, ongoing effort to provide customers with a range of content to help them find and discover products that best meet their needs.”

I know Margaret was really surprised when my interview was just a digital camera and a few minutes work – she’s a former BBC producer and expected a TV crew. But she’s a smart cookie, and knows there’s nothing better than a pitch from the heart.

Checksums – Don’t Leave the Server Without Them

Lloyd Wood commenting on an e2e post recently was asked why UDP has an end-to-end checksum on the packet since it doesn’t do retransmissions, and should it be turned off. Lloyd noted UDP “could have the checksum turned off, which proved disastrous for a number of applications, subtly corrupted filing systems which didn’t have higher-level end2end checks”. Lloyd is exactly right here. But why would someone turn off UDP checksums in the first place – it doesn’t seem to make sense, does it?

It is often the case that people turn off UDP checksums to “buy” more performance by relying on the CRC of the ethernet packet. So this is not a stupid question – it’s a very smart question, and a lot of smart people get fooled by the simplicity of the process. Performance gain by turning off checksums now can be obviated through the use of intelligent NIC technologies like SiliconTCP and TOE that calculate the checksum as the packet is being received.

This is a surprisingly common problem in datacenters – sometimes the problem would be a switch, sometimes a configuration error, sometimes a programming error in the application, and so forth. I most recently experienced this problem with an overheated ethernet switch passing video on an internal network. Since we don’t have things like SiliconTCP in commodity switches yet, check that switch if you’re having problems. In the meantime, here’s a few little datacenter horror stories to put in your pocket.

Fun Friday – the Curse of BSD and the Four Mistakes

My discussion earlier this week on inaccuracies in papers discussing the evolution and history of resulted in some very interesting questions (see Oh, Goodie! Another Academic on 386BSD…). And a really nice question from suresh at Berkeley: “I’d like to hear your opinion: why did BSD lose to Linux in the battle for OSS hegemony..? How was the BSD release architecture (e.g. what was the political process) decided on? Some friends of fine [sic] swear by the FreeBSD operating system, but they are a minority.”

So Fun Friday is answering the really simple question “Why Did BSD Fail?”. Oh, this is a big one, but I’m game if you are…