Monthly Archives: May 2004

Moore’s law in practice

Wikipedia is updating its servers after a very successful drive for contributions. The page describing the hardware of Wikipedia is very interesting, especially the list of transactions per second, which is very similar to what SABRE (American Airlines famous CRS) had in the early 1990s (about 250 transactions per second). Highly unscientific and all that, but SABRE was the largest real-time system (unless, I think, you count the SACs SAGE system) in the world at the time and Wikipedia is a non-profit, run-by-volunteers encyclopedia.
It is easy to see the effect of Moore’s law on your own laptop or in the proliferation of single computers, but Wikipedia is a demonstration of the concequences for centralized computing. Neat.

Blogspammers and other environmental hazards

I just installed MT-Blacklist to get rid of an increasing amount of blogspam – we’ll see if it helps. I think the MT-Blacklist approach should work, at least until the number of blogspams increase to regular spam levels and we have to shut down the comment feature, meaning that only people with blogs can discuss with each other (via trackback) or discussions have to move to the closed forum of email.
Spammers – and we are beginning to see these bozos (such as Multicontesta) even in small, overviewable Norway – are really an environmental problem, and should be treated as such. Hiding behind a misinterpretation of the right to free speech and pursuit of riches, they pollute common resources for shortsighted gain. Incidentally, in Norway you are rather well protected as a consumer against these creeps, but not if you run your own company. This has led many small companies, including mine, to forgo having a fax, since most faxes are offers for catalogue entries or display material or other “business services”, anyway.
I am beginning to think that the right governmental agencies to deal with the problem perhaps are those that regulate pollution. The problem is very similar in structure and consequences – and at least in Europe, the environmental authorities are pretty good. And nobody respects a gratuitous polluter.
(This entry was meant for my Norwegian blog, but I misposted. Easier to translate than to fiddle with trackback recalls. My own sort of pollution, perhaps. Apologies – it was inadvertent.)

Don’t buy Gevalia coffee

I just received a spam from Gevalia coffee (PDF here) – courtesy of spammer Optinrealbig, who tells me that I receive that message because I somehow have registered for it. I have never registered to receive junk mail about coffee, of course (in fact, I have never registered that email address for anything).
But how to get rid of this problem? I can, of course, follow the link to opt out of something I have never opted in for. But I think we need to simply hit back. As long as advertisers pay spammers, spam will proliferate. So here is my suggestion: Boycott any identifiable company that use email marketing, opt-in, opt-out or not.
So please, fellow bloggers and Internet users:
Their seemingly legal use of email marketing encourages pollution of inboxes all over Internet. Just get some other coffee. It’s easy….just spread the word!
(update below)
Update Aug. 8 2006: Before you start posting comments here, note the date of the initial entry – and read Will’s comment of Aug. 8 2006.

Continue reading

Tony as columnist

My former and occasionally current colleague, friend and partner in highly vocal discussions (we were once asked to pipe down by an intimidated colleague who thought we would go for each other’s throats, when we both thought we only had a friendly exchange of views) Tony DiRomualdo has snuck off to become a columnist at the Wisconsin Technology Network. Tony’s articles reflects his deepfelt passion for giving people a fair deal in a world that is increasingly globalized and outsourced – without denying the economic benefits of sensibly done outsourcing. A much better argument than a lot of the populistic protectionism that seems to dominate politics these days – this middle ground is what we need if we are to make sense of globalization and offshoring, rather than make wars about it.
Tony is also a gourmet (responsible for a number of travel allowance discussions at our former place of work) – and he does talks, too….. Make sure dinner is included, and you might learn something, and not just about the food.

Gladwell’s articles

After reading about Malcolm Gladwell, the author of The tipping point (a great explanation of network externalities), in Dan Bricklin’s blog, I discovered that he had a website with an archive of his articles in the New Yorker. Well worth a visit – great stuff on the myth of talent management (or, rather, why what worked for McKinsey did not work for Enron or, for that matter, for Swissair), on recognizing whether people are lying based on their facial microexpressions – and why SUVs are a bad thing because people think they are much safer than they are. Excellent writing, as with most things in the New Yorker, highly recommended.

Paul Graham with new book

Wired has a review of Paul Graham‘s new book Hackers and Painters. The book is (apparently, since I haven’t read it yet) a collection of Paul’s essays, some of which have been available on his (stylish and minimalistic) web site for some time. Paul Graham, of course, should be a hero to every Web user for his popularization of the “Bayesian” spam filtering technique, now employed in Mozilla and almost every other email reader.
I haven’t managed to get hold of the book yet, but Paul’s essays are great – and you really can’t beat a quote such as “If you think you’re designing something for idiots, odds are you’re not designing something good.” Far too many applications today are user-friendly rather than usable (Blackboard, which I currently suffer to reach my students, is one example, though less bad than ClassFronter, which is too awful for words and what grade school teachers in Norway are forced to use).
So this just might be a book to get. Or, at least, a reason to go back to Paul’s site (which does not offer an RSS feed) and reread some of his excellent writings.

Set it and forget it

When in San Francisco a few weeks ago, I bought a Buffalo Linkstation which I finally got around to install. Before buying it, I had a lot of trouble finding out whether it would work in a European context, even calling tech support at Buffalo. They said it needed a 110V connection, so I resigned myself to having to get a transformer. Then it turns out that it is 110/220 autoswitchable, so basically it was just plug it into the power slot, connect it to the router – and presto, 120Gb of file server. Truly a set it and forget it device, now hidden away in my home network closet. Excellent.
I haven’t tried out its print server facilities yet, but will do shortly. In the meantime, European friends, this is the thing to get for your small network the next time you are over in the States. It is not available this side of the pond – or at least not in Norway, as far as I know. And Buffalo said they were not going to sell it in Europe (then again, they told me it only would work in the States…..).
This is, incidentally, my first “production” Linux computer – that is, the Linkstation runs on (as far as I know) a limited version of Linux. (I have had a few PCs with Linux to play with, but haven’t really used them.) At the recent CIO Staff call on Open Source, this way of using Linux – device frosting – was seen as one of ways Linux will make it into the mainstream. The TIVO is running on Linux in the same fashion – so you may run Linux and not even know it.
Ahhh. Technology. Sometimes it Just Works.