Monthly Archives: May 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.

A Brief, Incomplete, and Mostly Wrong History of Programming Languages

Alex Cruise (who is obsessed with Scala) sent me this awesome history of programming post by James Iry.

I think my favorite entry is this one:

1972 – Dennis Ritchie invents a powerful gun that shoots both forward and backward simultaneously. Not satisfied with the number of deaths and permanent maimings from that invention he invents C and Unix.

I really found the time line interesting. I honestly wouldn’t have guessed Ruby was that old. Everyone thinks of the 70s as such a fertile time in language development (everyone who was anyone came up with a language), but we easily forget the important milestones in the 50s. Half a century later we are still dealing with some of the decisions made in this time.

Recent eBizQ Posts

Lately I’ve been participating in Peter Schooff’s excellent SOA forum on eBizQ. Here are a collection of my recent responses to questions on the forum, in no particular order:

My general profile is here, which will include new commentary.

eBizQ Forum Question: What Do You Believe is the Biggest Inhibitor Today to SOA Adoption?

My thoughts are here.

The Web 2.0 Uniform

Web 2.0 is (in priority order):

  • A conference
  • A handful of technology
  • All that social stuff
  • A look

One thing I noticed by suddenly engaging with all of those things like Twitter that I actively avoided in the past is that they are all surprisingly usable (WordPress included–this is good stuff). In the last year I’ve really begun to re-evaluate JavaScript and what you can realistically do with it. And I have to admit that the mix of JavaScript and some Flash is a pretty powerful combination (I’ve been playing with Flash charting packages a lot).

Here’s a great summary of some of the leading Web 2.0 looks and UI elements. jQuery continually amazes me.

Lego Architecture Series

When I first started my career at the TRIUMF physics lab I worked with an engineer who did an informal poll of everyone he ever worked with, asking if they played with lego as a child. 100% of his co-workers did.

Lego has been good at going after the adult geek market with kits like X-wing fighters, but despite my obsession with Star Wars when it came out, these never did anything for me. In general the focused kits have never appealed; I’m more of a bucket of bricks guy.

This may change with Lego’s new architecture series. They’re doing Frank Lloyd Wright first. It’s nice to see them branching out. I could see one of these cluttering up my desk…

I wonder if they’ll come up with curved titanium bricks for a Frank Gehry set?