Sunday Jul 29, 2007

Finding my way with Schmap!

Schmapp, who publish browsable maps have been using a few of my pictures for a while, but have now created a widget which they are publicising via their contributors. I have contributed to their Amsterdam and Berlin maps and you can see the widgets in their photo display form if you press the [Read More] button below. These are almost certainly best viewed via HTML. However, the content of their maps is not customisable, nor does it  leverage the 'wisdom of crowds'. This latter failing suggests that it'll be overtaken by true web 2.0 applications such as google maps or plazes.

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Thursday May 17, 2007

Project Black Box, its real you know!

Yesterday, Sun's Project Blackbox Tour visited the Thames Valley at Sun's UK HQ Campus and today we have taken it to the National Army Museum so prospective customers, journalists and analysts can inspect it and 'kick the tyres', and I am one of the engineers answering the mediumly hard questions. The really difficult ones have been handled by Joe Carvalho, one of the designers.

 

Project Black Box

 

One of the difficult questions was "How come you can't look yourself in?". I took some pictures as did Andy Williams of Easynet and I have posted them in a set called "Project Black Box" at Flickr. (Now this should be a pretty good use of snap preview). Andy's are copyright to him, I have posted mine with my normal creative commons licence.

This is another article backdated to the time it occurred since it has taken the best part of a month to get Andy's permission and upload the pictures to flickr.  

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Tuesday Nov 21, 2006

blackbox is a video star!

Jonathan announced Project Black Box at the end of last month. Its a Data Centre in a shipping container and expanded on its unique value in his blog article "A picture's worth.... Jonathan said that customer reaction has varied with

Jonathan:Equal measures of a) nervous laughter, b) incredulity, c) profound curiosity and a recognition that we're working on the right problems for the future of datacenters. And we have an enviably beefy pipeline of customers and integrators wanting to talk to us, which is the right starting point.

As part of the reaction by customers in the UK I have been asked to talk to two major UK based customers and have thus checked out the YouTube videos published by Sun (& others; the link queries Youtube for "sun+blackbox" tags). I have also uploaded the customer presentation I use to our media caster [.pdf]).

Its clear after some research that the big advantages are it can supply & cool 25Kw/rack, so racks can be full of modern space efficient computers; you don't have to spend your space budget on cooling. With a footprint, of 30'x15', and capable of hosting 250 n-way systems with between 1000 & 2000 cores, we claim it can save 80% of your space costs, and reduce the demand for space by 50%. The land is cheaper; it doesn't have to be air-conditioned, doesn't need a raised floor, etc., and Sun Blackboxes can be stacked, if you have the headroom!

 

Rack'em + Stack'em

 

All you need is power, networks and chilled water.

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Thursday Oct 26, 2006

The shady border between the virtual and the real

Chris Melissinos takes issue with Ashlee Vance of the Register about the utility of Second Life, on his blog last week (I can be a bit slow). He quotes a number of organisations using the virtual world of "Second Life" to offer virtual services, including Universities and it seems Reuters. I expect the financial services companies will be in on it soon. To me its a shame; West Nottingham College implemented courseware in the Neverwinter Nights game engine, which may have been more fun; it probably depends upon what your studying. WNC believes its an excellent learning/teaching vehicle, so perhaps this'll take off.

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Sunday Aug 06, 2006

Multiplayer Baldur's Gate at Home

If you're a fan of my del.icio.us RSS feed, you'll have noticed that I have been adding some links about Baldur's Gate. This is the first version released, and I finally got multi-player working in the home today, so I expect to be running through the game again.

I have discovered [at length] that Bioware used Microsoft's the "Direct Play" API in Direct X which won't permit local tcp/ip addresses to participate in a multi-player game. The simplest solution is to use IPX, which fortunately Windows XP still supports. For those looking to solve the same problem, I have documented my researches here... on my personal Wiki, although I have not yet documented my success.

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Monday Feb 13, 2006

Political Games

Republic, the Revolution I went shopping over the weekend and bought a couple of games. Now we have a new computer we can begin to catchup on what we've been missing out on for the last two years.

One game that caught our eye was “Republic, the Revolution”. I had had this pointed out to me before and it reminded me of Junta (see Answer.com & Wikipedia), which I have never got to play. It would seem that the computer game is set in a post Soviet eastern European state, and has a potentially a stronger story line and more strategies for success.

Junta seems based on some of the, or similar games first introduced to me by Michael Laver in “Playing Politics” which I read when it first came out. A second edition, called “Playing Politics: the Nightmare continues” was published in 1993 and a science around them and other similar games seems to have developed. Several of these games were referenced in “Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki, recently recommended by Jonathan Scwartz in his blog. (I've given you enough to find them on your favourite online bookstore).

But to return to Republic, I tried it last night but found it quite hard to pick up. The UI's are quite old fashioned, although how I expected a city's political composition to be displayed I'm not so sure, and I really rather enjoy the “Leninist/Soviet” look of the clothes, architecture and iconography. Anyway I checked it out on the internet and failed to find very much. The two crucial resources are the vendor site here... (you'll need to enable popups), with downloads such as wallpaper or buddy icons and “Game Faqs”, here..., although the forum referenced never took off. (I'll have to see if I need to do something about that).

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Tuesday Jan 31, 2006

From Qube to Cube

I can't be-eeeive it. I have my Qube running. It's hosting services and I now need to explore if "snipsnap" is what I want, but as I explore the next set of applications that might be useful I begin to see how behind the curve the old Cobalt O/S is. I spoke to Chris Gerhard who's thinking about upgrading his three Qubes, but using opensolaris, (see here... for his article, & here... for the opensolaris appliance group). I really like the form factor, and I'm quite impressed with the "headless" system. So I set to looking for replacement cases, in which I might build my own server. Yeah! Right.. Interestingly, CNET have also published an article detailing the growing differentiation between computer vendors around the case (or colour in this instance), but both ACER, with their Ferrari range, & Alienware (See here...) are offering very different laptops.

I came across a number of e-shops, including X-Case, Silver PCs & Directron (their Cube page), all of which do a number of parts including system cases. (This is the word you need if using Google! i.e. case.) I've found a couple of cases that look quite neat. Again no recommendations, I'm merely sharing research.

Firstly, the Lian Li PC 880, this looks very cute, has two internal disks and room for two 5.25 exchangable media devices. CD-ROM & ZIP? Is ZIP any good? Probably not, if we're using 120Gb (or maybe larger disks), then ZIP is shagged. Maybe we need to look at DVD/W. Can we do this with UNIX? The case supports an ATX card. Dimensions W443 x H205 x D503mm, a typical desktop pizza box and while very pretty, maybe a bit large. Its certainly the widest and deepest of those I've found.

lian li PC 880

V800

They also do a more industrial looking system called the V880. You can check this out at their site here.... Its dimensions are 380x160x440 mm (W,H,D), so smaller than V880 but it's still only got two internal disks

What's this called? A company called Shuttle do this. It looks nice, comes with a CPU and hence a bit expensive. Dimensions 200 mm x 300 mm x 185 mm, which makes it the smallest of these cases. This looks like the case that Hitech Savvy use as Qube replacements, it supports SATA disk, but only two (?), and has one 5.25 and one 3.5 external slots so again CD-ROM/W and ZIP devices become available . This one's quite small, but I need to see if it comes without the motherboard as while this'll probably do me, I can that some of my potential collaborators may want something better. Dimensions: 300 x 200 x 185 mm. These people seem to be OEM only, I havn't found their home page.

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This is the Lian Li PC-402A. An aluminum Mini Case - taking a Mini Flex ATX card. Very Pretty. Again 2 internal disks, but three exchangable media slots, which is probably more than required. IAs said, it supports Mini flex ATX Motherboard. Dimensions 210 x 240 x 340mm (W x H x D). Small foot print if a bit high.

This is the Antec Aria, and the picture came from Xcase's site (here...). This one's got three drives, Accepts motherboards up to MicroATX (24,4 x 24,4 cm) and 4 full-height PCI expansion cards, only one external slot but 5.25 so a CD-ROM/W is a possibility, for emergency boot and backup. Dimensions 263 mm (W) x 210 mm (H) x 393 mm (D), so not as big as it looks.

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Note: The pictures in this article are hosted at their publisher's sites. The links are above. They presumably want to sell this stuff and may not be the most appropriate vendor for you (or me). My research isn't finished and I'm not necessarily recommending anything here, except that Cube cases look neat, but they're all much bigger than the Cobalt. Oh Dear

Note: Also I have broken one of my rules and used a table to format this article, maybe it would have been better to write seperate articles, but I didn't. I hope this looks OK in your browser.

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