Daily Archives: May 22, 2009

AWS Implementing a Drive Shipping Service

From the  Wired.com article here.

Looks like Amazon read the Berkeley cloud paper where they spent a lot of time dissecting the economics of physical shipment of cheap disk drives versus the still high cost and relatively constrained (compared to USB, at least) bandwidth of WAN links.

Never underestimate the simplicity and potential data transfer rates of sneakernet. I was reminded of this when I saw the Western Digital WDTV recently at Costco. It’s basically a digital media player with HDMI that you plug portable USB drives into. At first I thought it was dumb, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is a pretty pragmatic solution. what they did right was keeping the price way down (they are something like $129 CAD at Costco). I’m trying to talk myself out of buying this and waiting for the inevitable cheap version with USB and Wifi plus the ability to wirelessly mount disks from various servers.

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The 101 Electronic Kit

Remember these?

I spent hours pouring over Radio Shack catalogs thinking about which one I should get (calculating a careful balance between cost and potential). When I finally did get one of these kits (actually, I think it was this one–it looks eerily familiar), it was cool but very cookie cutter, and didn’t really teach anything about electronics. Somehow I never made the conceptual leap into circuit hacking that seemed so easy when confronted by a computer language. I don’t think I really understood circuits until I took 2nd year electrical engineering courses, and that was 100% theoretical–no soldering required.

I’ve always puzzled over why programming triggers such powerful attraction with so many people, but other disciplines, which are arguably similar, don’t. Electronics is one of these. Like programming, it’s component-based and consists of puzzles and features (relatively) instant feedback. But it doesn’t quite engage the same broad section of people.

A more extreme case is math. I’ve always been much more respectful of strong, natural math skills (which I have to work hard at) than of programming or general computing skills (which I find comparatively easy).

Check out the wired article about great 80s geek toys.