Archive for April, 2011

WoD – Passover meets 2011

Since tonight is the first night of Passover, I figure I ought to spread the word, 2011 style…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIxToZmJwdI

Wednesday:

Nudjh (NOODJ)

To pester, to nag

Stop nudjhing me!  I will let your people go when I let your people go!

WoD – A Cool Move by Facebook

Are any of you a bit curious about the underlying workings of technology at all?  If so, this is for you.  If not, well, err, umm, I’ll be sure to write something funny or curious next time.  At least I am telling up front you can skip this one…

For most of you who don’t care about the inner workings of the technology vertical, here are the cliff notes version and why it matters.  Facebook announced something cool for two reasons.  1.) They have just revealed their own new server and data center designs, which yield major improvements to energy usage, power, and ultimately cost and waste.  Remember, FB is the 3rd or 4th largest website in the world now, so they use a lot of it.  And 2.), they are now offering these proprietary designs openly to the world, through a new, open source initiative!  So what?  Well, now the whole world can benefit from these much better designs, and therefore every website and server farm and data center can benefit through decreased energy consumption and lots of decreased cost/waste.

For those who don’t care more than that, you can stop reading.  For those more curious, feel free to read on.

What I love, and why I made this a WoD, is that this reminds me how unpredictable the world can be sometimes, particularly when it comes to technology.  One minute Facebook is a front end social media site to re-connect with old boyfriends/girlfriends, and the next they announce some major open source initiative involving and affecting the entire computing infrastructure.  Good for them, I say.  (And I am not much of a FB fan.)

I don’t know precisely how this all may play out.  But I know one thing – there are a bunch of companies out there (think HP, Google, IBM, Oracle/Sun, Dell, etc.) that just got massively affected by this bit of news, which will play out increasingly over the next ~5 years in tech…

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Facebook Launches ‘Open Compute Initiative’ Servers

Facebook began showing off its plans for a new data center and server design on Thursday. It will be called the “Open Compute Project,” executives said.

Facebook is making the design documents and specifications public at OpenCompute.org. The company claims that the design of the new servers is 38 percent more power efficient than its older designs, and costs 24 percent less to make.

Graham Weston, the chairman of Rackspace, said that his company would use the new Open Compute servers in its own designs, and Zynga’s chief technical officer said that his company would take a serious look at adding the new technology to its own cloud.

Industry executives said that the new server designs will have a positive impact not just on the IT industry, but also with emerging countries that may not have the R&D resources to design their own power-efficient servers and data centers. Instead, they said, they can leverage the collective expertise. With the cost savings that the new server designs enable, those savings can be passed along to service companies that use web hosting to drive their businesses.

“This is how Facebook kicks Google’s ass,” said Robert Scoble, a blogger for Rackspace, one of the companies that will use the technology. The new data center does not use a “chiller,” he said. Instead, it puts fine particles of water in the air and cools the server through evaporative cooling.

What’s the key to an effective server and data center design? Power. “It’s easy to lose track of what power is about,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive. The big problem with adding new features is to build up the power to drive the new features, he said.

“All this really ends up being is extra capacity, and that ends up being bottlenecked by the power,” Zuckerberg said. There are two ways of designing servers, he said: design them yourselves, or to buy from a mass-market OEM or ODM. Facebook found that the latter way wasn’t the best avenue.

“We’re trying to foster an ecosystem… and we’re not the only ones who need the hardware that we’re building out, which should make it beter for all social applications to do what we’re doing,” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook used its data center in Prineville, Ore. as the showcase for its discussion. The company didn’t say how many servers are contained within the the building, although Richard Fichera, an analyst for Forrester, said that the data center measures 150,000 square feet, with a second, equally-sized facility planned for next year.

But Facebook executives said that the facility itself does not use air conditioning – a key component of power costs. Instead, it uses natural air to cool the servers, with a ductless evaporative cooling system to help chill the servers without the need for dedicated air conditioning.

“[Open Compute] represents the biggest cost reduction in server infrastructure in a decade,” Rackspace’s Graham Weston said.

Inside, the servers – which Facebook designed in conjunction with Quanta – Facebook uses either a custom motherboard designed around either an AMD or an Intel processor. Facebook also designed a custom power delivery mechanism that eliminates several step-down steps that can waste power: the data center wastes just 2 percent power, executives said.

The servers themselves are 1.5U high, half again as high as the normal 1-U rack, Facebook executives said. That allows Facebook to build more space in the racks for cooling; the company used 60-mm fans to move more air with less power, they said. The racks are built on shelves, so they can be easily serviced.

The power supplies are more than 93 percent efficient, almost heard of in an industry where 90 percent efficiency is considered outstanding. For backup power, they use a modular 48V DC battery backup unit that supplies up to six servers through a DC-DC converter in each server. Each battery is connected via the network, so that the Facebook IT managers can monitor the health of the system.

Analysts applauded the move. “The world of hyper scale web properties has been shrouded in secrecy, with major players like Google and Amazon releasing only tantalizing dribbles of information about their infrastructure architecture and facilities, on the presumption that this information represented critical competitive IP,” Forrester’s Fichera wrote in a blog post. “In one bold gesture, Facebook, which has certainly catapulted itself into the ranks of top-tier sites, has reversed that trend by simultaneously disclosing a wealth of information about the design of its new data center in rural Oregon and contributing much of the IP involving racks, servers and power architecture to a an open forum in the hopes of generating an ecosystem of suppliers to provide future equipment to themselves and other growing web companies.”

Facebook’s “microserver” plans

A Facebook executive recently offered another sort of behind-the-scenes look at the technology it uses, with its “Chinese foot-soldier” Web server strategy. One of the keys to the company’s future strategy are microservers, tiny servers that Intel recently said it would address.

Gio Coglitore, director of Facebook Labs, spoke at an Intel event in San Francisco recently, where Intel announced plans for a sub-10-watt Atom server processor in 2012.

As the fourth-largest site within the United States, with more than 153 million visitors as estimated by comScore, how the company deploys its server architecture is obviously extremely important. Coglitore also said that Facebook believes in “testing in production,” adding test machines to a live network.

“If you ever experience a glitch [while using the site], it might be Gio testing something out,” Coglitore said.

Facebook has a rather substantial back-end database that enjoys a certain category of processors, and a front-facing infrastructure and memory cache that uses a bunch of Web servers, Coglitore said. It’s in this front- or user-facing environment that Facebook will use the microservers, he said.

Debates about which types of servers to deploy – cheap, low-power, “wimpy” nodes like the Intel-authored “FAWN” paper suggests, or more expensive, “brawny” nodes have dominated the enterprise hardware space for years. Blade servers, which placed low-cost CPUs next to one another, was one early solution.

But if a front-end server dies at Facebook… well, so what, Coglitore seemed to say. “The microserver model is extremely attractive,” he said. “I’ve said this before: it’s foot soldiers, the Chinese army model. When you go into these battles, you like to have cannon fodder to some degree, an ovewhelming force and ability to lose large numbers of them and not affect the end-user experience. When you have a realized environment, you can do that. It’s hard to that with a virtualized environment.”

To achieve the level of redundancy in a virtualized environment, Facebook would have to deploy a standby node, which takes away the cost advantage, Coglitore said. “I’d have t keep multiple large-pipe pieces of hardware in my environment, where I’d prefer to keep little segments,” with a load balancer directing traffic to the smaller computers, he said.

“The microserver allows us to target that particular workload and allows us to scale it like we haven’t been able to do before,” Coglitore added. Facebook has tested the microservers, Coglitore said, and will begin deploying them in 2011 or early 2012.

Friday:

GET (GHET)

Divorce

“To a wedding, walk; to a get, run!”

WoD – Arrogance, Revenge, and Grumpiness

What do these things have in common?  Nothing really.  Except for this – we humans feel all of these.  Plus other complex emotions and sentiments like pride or pensiveness or pity.  But do all animals feel these?  Certainly animals like dogs, cats, or the closest-to-us monkees feel things like curiosity, frustration, anger, and fear.  But does a monkey get grumpy?  Are certain dogs arrogant?  

So I wonder, what sentiments are in all animals, i.e. instinctive, (i.e. genetic?), and which ones are uniquely human?  And even if animals don’t feel all that we do, perhaps all that we feel is genetically defined after all…?

Wednesday:

VEYS IKH VOS (VAYS ikh VOHS)

Do I know?

Veys ikh vos?  How should I know, he tells me nothing.

WoD – Superstition

We’re all a little superstitious.  Some of us avoid cracks in the sidewalk, some hop over the foul lines on a baseball field, some set their clocks to an arbitrary time because of favorite numbers.  Others pray the same way.  (I am not saying prayer is a superstitious behavior; rather just that the way many people pray and utilize prayer is.)  And some are convinced that the seat they sit in during the big game has direct effect on the outcome.  Me included.  (Until TiVo came along and kinda wrecked that theory altogether.  I no longer could reconcile the belief that the Giants only won when I sat on the right side of my leather chair with my left arm on the left armrest, when in fact the game was actually already over and I was just watching a recording.)  

But this is actually what makes the very notion of superstition bizarre.  What is superstition?  Why do we think and behave this way?  There is no basis in fact for superstitious behavior, our five senses do not tell us this specific way is better or optimal, and we have basically zero proof that outcomes are affected by any of our nuanced behaviors.  Yet through it all, we do it anyway.  I don’t think any other animal species acts in such a non-logical, uninstinctual, emotional way.  

Perhaps it is a fear of the unknown, i.e. “I don’t want to risk a slight variance to my behavior for fear something bad may happen.”  But that doesn’t explain it fully.  I mean, when your team is down by four touchdowns with 5 minutes to play, perhaps that is exactly the time to try some new action, superstition-be-damned, right?  But we still don’t.  

Perhaps we humans have some innate, natural (as opposed to nurtural) need for ritual or repeat behavior.  So by innate, I think I mean genetic.  Maybe it grounds us.  I don’t know.  But it sure is a weird characteristic, uniquely… human.

Tuesday:

FONFER (FUHNfihr)

A double-talker, a cheater

Don’t trust that fonfer – he’ll replace your blood with wine when you’re not looking.

WoD – Life, the Universe, and Everything

Saw this story the other day.  My reaction is similar to that of a second grader on a playground…  No Duh!  (Do they still say that, by the way?!)

Why must this supposed discovery be deemed so “controversial”?  I am actually kind of amazed anyone thinks we are the only planet, sun, solar system or galaxy that has life of some kind on it.  I’m not saying it’s the Chalmun’s Cantina Bar from the first Star Wars movie out in space (yes, I Googled that), but to think that we are the only planet and sun out of a gajillion planets and suns to support some kind of life form seems to me to be very… self-centric.

In fact, it makes me think about how way back all the people in Europe thought the world was flat and only they existed.  How silly, in retrospect, right?  Or that the sun, solar system and stars all revolved around the Earth.  How… backwards.  So while it may be only now that we are getting little snippets of proof, when we zoom out a bit, I am sure that one day humanity will look back on the past few hundreds of years and wonder how we could have been so naive.  Unless in the next few years we’re all smashed to smithereens by a giant meteor, before anyone can actually prove this “controversial” life theory first.

By the way, this has nothing to do with religion and whether there is or isn’t a God — he/she/it still may exist and have created life, the universe, and everything.  But all I’m saying is, perhaps we’re not alone.  And perhaps the universe doesn’t revolve around the Earth, after all…

 

Strange life signs found on meteorites-NASA scientist

Sun, Mar 6 2011

* Controversial report suggests extraterrestrial life

* Signs of microscopic fossils seen in space rocks

* Bacteria similar to Earth’s blue-green algae

By Deborah Zabarenko

WASHINGTON, March 6 (Reuters) – A NASA scientist reports detecting tiny fossilized bacteria on three meteorites, and maintains these microscopic life forms are not native to Earth.  If confirmed, this research would suggest life in the universe is widespread and life on Earth may have come from elsewhere in the solar system, riding to our planet on space rocks like comets, moons and other astral bodies.

The study, published online late Friday in The Journal of Cosmology, is considered so controversial it is accompanied by a statement from the journal’s editor seeking other scientific comment, which is to be published starting on Monday.  The central claim of the study by astrobiologist Richard Hoover is that there is evidence of microfossils similar to cyanobacteria — blue-green algae, also known as pond scum — on the freshly fractured inner surfaces of three meteorites.

These microscopic structures had lots of carbon, a marker for Earth-type life, and almost no nitrogen, Hoover said in a telephone interview on Sunday.  Nitrogen can also be a sign of Earthly life, but the lack of it only means that whatever nitrogen was in these structures has decomposed out into a gaseous form long ago, Hoover said.

“We have known for a long time that there were very interesting biomarkers in carbonaceous meteorites and the detection of structures that are very similar … to known terrestrial cyanobacteria is interesting in that it indicates that life is not restricted to the planet Earth,” Hoover said.  Hoover, based at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, has specialized in the study of microscopic lifeforms that survive extreme environments such as glaciers, permafrost and geysers.

He is not the first to claim discovery of microscopic life from other worlds.  In 1996, NASA scientists presented research indicating a 4-billion-year-old meteorite found in Antarctica carried evidence of fossilized microbial life from Mars.  The initial discovery of the so-called Mars meteorite was greeted with acclaim and the rock unveiled at a standing room-only briefing at NASA headquarters in Washington.  Since then, however, criticism has surrounded that discovery and conclusive proof has been elusive.  Hoover’s research may well meet the same fate. In a statement published with the online paper, the Journal of Cosmology’s editor in chief, Rudy Schild, said in a statement:

“Dr. Richard Hoover is a highly respected scientist and astrobiologist with a prestigious record of accomplishment at NASA. Given the controversial nature of his discovery, we have invited 100 experts and have issued a general invitation to over 5,000 scientists from the scientific community to review the paper and to offer their critical analysis.” (Editing by Todd Eastham)

 

Monday:

FARMISHT (fahrMIHSHT)

Mixed up, confused

His (my?) ideas are so farmisht that no one can understand him.

WoD – Superstition

We’re all a little superstitious.  Some of us avoid cracks in the sidewalk, some hop over the foul lines on a baseball field, some set their clocks to an arbitrary time because of favorite numbers.  Others pray the same way.  (I am not saying prayer is a superstitious behavior; rather just that the way many people pray and utilize prayer is.)  And some are convinced that the seat they sit in during the big game has direct effect on the outcome.  Me included.  (Until TiVo came along and kinda wrecked that theory altogether.  I no longer could reconcile the belief that the Giants only won when I sat on the right side of my leather chair with my left arm on the left armrest, when in fact the game was actually already over and I was just watching a recording.)

But this is actually what makes the very notion of superstition bizarre.  What is superstition?  Why do we think and behave this way?  There is no basis in fact for superstitious behavior, our five senses do not tell us this specific way is better or optimal, and we have basically zero proof that outcomes are affected by any of our nuanced behaviors.  Yet through it all, we do it anyway.  I don’t think any other animal species acts in such a non-logical, uninstinctual, emotional way.

Perhaps it is a fear of the unknown, i.e. “I don’t want to risk a slight variance to my behavior for fear something bad may happen.”  But that doesn’t explain it fully.  I mean, when your team is down by four touchdowns with 5 minutes to play, perhaps that is exactly the time to try some new action, superstition-be-damned, right?  But we still don’t.

Perhaps we humans have some innate, natural (as opposed to nurtural) need for ritual or repeat behavior.  So by innate, I think I mean genetic.  Maybe it grounds us.  I don’t know.  But it sure is a weird characteristic, uniquely… human.

 

Wednesday:

FONFER (FUHNfihr)

A double-talker, a cheater

Don’t trust that fonfer – he’ll replace your blood with wine when you’re not looking.

WoD – Arrogance, Revenge, and Grumpiness

What do these things have in common?  Nothing really.  Except for this – we humans feel all of these.  Plus other complex emotions and sentiments like pride or pensiveness or pity.  But do all animals feel these?  Certainly animals like dogs, cats, or the closest-to-us monkees feel things like curiosity, frustration, anger, and fear.  But does a monkey get grumpy?  Are certain dogs arrogant?

So I wonder, what sentiments are in all animals, i.e. instinctive, (i.e. genetic?), and which ones are uniquely human?  And even if animals don’t feel all that we do, perhaps all that we feel is genetically defined after all…?

 

Wednesday:

VEYS IKH VOS (VAYS ikh VOHS)

Do I know?

Veys ikh vos? How should I know, he tells me nothing.

 



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