Tuesday Jan 19, 2010

Boston Tea Party Redux

I am so proud of the patriots in Massachusetts who have elected Scott Brown as a repudiation of the pile of crap our congress calls health care legislation. I would like to see a new party formed around a very simple two plank platform: 1. No representative would ever seek re-election. 2. Their only legislative agenda would be the repeal of all legislation of the last 100 years except for women's suffrage and the Voting Rights Act of 1964. What a world that would be: 1. No Federal Reserve - a central banking racket, robbing every citizen through inflation 2. No Social Security - it is a bankrupt failure 3. No Federal Income tax - it was ruled unconstitutional until made legal by the 16th Ammendement I'm sure I could fill pages with all the benefits of a 100 year roll back. With tonight's vote, I feel able to imagine an American spirit that is unleashed from forced wealth redistribution and the other horrible maladies inflicted by big government.

Tuesday Dec 02, 2008

java classpath unix shell tip

I am writing a java web service client as a command line tool. I'm using a 3rd party stub that depends on Apache Axis2 libraries. When it came time to invoke the java program, I realized I needed to load up the classpath with all 59 jars that are in Axis2. So, I came up with this little diddy:

java -cp `ls -1 /Projects/xyz/lib/axis2-1.4.1/lib/\*.jar | sed 's/\\(.\\)$/\\1:/' | tr -d '\\n'`/Projects/xyz/build/lib/Xyz32-test-client.jar sun.rre.get.GetFolderList

Let's break it down:

javainvoke JVM
-cpuse the following word as the classpath
use the backticks to execute shell commands:
`starting backtick
ls -1 \*.jarthat is a one, not an ell - list all jars one per line
| pipe the output to the next command
sed 's/\\(.\\)$/\\1:/'replace the last character on the line with last character plus a semi-colon
|pipe the output to next command
tr -d '\\n'remove the newlines from stream
`closing backtick
/Projects/xyz/build/lib/Xyz32-test-client.jarmy jar file appended to end of the output from backticks
sun.rre.get.GetFolderListthe class to invoke from my jar

The unix shell is still a source of joy to me almost on a daily basis after 11 years at Sun.

Wednesday Nov 05, 2008


Nothing original here, just a good time to reflect on the state of our aging democracy:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.

An exhaustive history of these quotes and their non-authoritative attributions.

Friday Oct 20, 2006

Cringley labels Blackbox Sun's implementation of his Google data center in a container theory

Being an avid follower of all Google watcher theories and theorists, I immediately recalled Cringely's year old article when Sun announced Project Blackbox on Tuesday. I had been checking Cringely's site to get his reaction and it appeared today: "Sun announces the Google shipping container data center, but will it fly?".

For what it is worth, Cringely likes Sun's approach and he feels confident that Google will be a customer of it although he offers scant evidence. The other very encouraging spin he had was that this product would likely sell into completely new customer bases. Given that Blackbox can be outfitted with Solaris, Linux or Windows (since our Opteron kit is Microsoft Windows certified) the field is absolutely wide open to any type of shop out there.

For those who haven't read the technical details for the Blackbox, it requires 3 connections: data link, electricity and chilled water (to the tune of 60 tons). Since I grew up around the chillers used to cool data centers, I had to poke around and see what options our customers are going to have when they procure water chillers to compliment the Blackboxes.

Here is a Carrier water chiller rated at 600 tons in rental packaging (Enough capacity to provide the cooling for 10 Blackboxes)

It's no coincidence that Carrier chose the very same TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) Container to package their portable chillers that Sun chose for the portable data center. Its the standard around which the transportation industry revolves.

During my childhood, my father would take me with him on emergency repair calls for the cooling systems for some of Silicon Valley's biggest names in computing. The highlight for me was the day we had to work on the cooling for the Cray at Apple. It was one of the models that cooled the chips by immersion in a non-conductive liquid. I specifically recall that my dad was not fond of that system.

I can only hope the Blackbox captures the imagination of a generation the way the Cray captured mine, and that it proves to be more profitable. I can already assure you it will be more popular with the on-call HVAC guys - their entire interface with the Blackbox will be no harder than a water heater, cold water in, hot water out. You ready to come out of retirement Dad?

Tuesday Aug 15, 2006

PG&E Rebates

Our CEO, Jonathan, beat me to the publish button, so here's a rerun... California's main electric utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, has added Sun's CoolThreads servers, the T1000 and the T2000 to its list of retrofits that qualify for Non Residential rebates. Many of you would be familiar with local utilities subsidizing energy efficiency by granting rebates when you replace older air conditioners or refrigerators with more efficient ones. Well now the same concept has been applied to the power hungry servers used by businesses. Replace an older server with one from Sun's CoolThreads product line and you'll get a rebate of $700-$1000 from PG&E. This latest incentive is added to the already impressive list of reasons to consolidate old equipment onto these machines, lower electric consumption $1000/year per server, increase the amount of performance you can get from your existing co-lo rental agreement by making for more computations within the same rackspace, power allotment and cooling envelope.

The eco-responsbile rebate offer has been written up at eWeek.com with an excellent interview of Joyent's experience with energy savings and at SearchDataCenter.com.

Last week marked my first opportunity to do performance testing on T2000's. Its remarkable to see the single UltraSparc T1 chip present itself as a 32-way SMP to Solaris.

                            CPU                 CPU
Location     CPU   Freq     Implementation      Mask
------------ ----- -------- ------------------- -----
MB/CMP0/P0       0 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P1       1 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P2       2 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P3       3 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P4       4 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P5       5 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P6       6 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P7       7 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P8       8 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P9       9 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P10     10 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P11     11 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P12     12 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P13     13 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P14     14 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P15     15 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P16     16 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P17     17 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P18     18 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P19     19 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P20     20 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P21     21 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P22     22 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P23     23 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P24     24 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P25     25 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P26     26 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P27     27 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P28     28 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P29     29 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P30     30 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1
MB/CMP0/P31     31 1200 MHz  SUNW,UltraSPARC-T1

Friday Apr 28, 2006

Leadership with a soul

Scott McNealy is a great leader and he has chosen his successor based on quality of character. I could not be more pleased with that criterion because leadership is a function of character. The transition of CEO has already happened and the best news is the culture of the company is not going to change.

This is a rare company that actually has a soul. We are a collegial community of competent people that thrive on mutual respect. That environment helps inspire the development of great products which not only enhance the bottom line, but contain higher order goals of advancing humanity. I personally need to work for a company that has a multi-dimensional culture. It is a cynical attitude which believes all corporations exist only to make profits. While all corporations must answer to their shareholders, that responsibility is not mutually exclusive of additional motivations for a corporation. I, for one, get very little satisfaction from just making money without having contributed something. Scoring a winning trade in the stock market is not nearly as rewarding as being compensated for mowing a lawn, writing a useful program, managing people, or being awarded a patent. I've profited from all those activities, but each one comes with varying levels of fringe benefits, and sometimes heartaches. Scott has referenced the intangibles as "psychic income".

We are all made of body, mind and spirit. I appreciate that Sun remains a place that recognizes and values all three facets in its employees and reflects them as a corporate entity; beautiful things embodied in campuses and hardware products, brilliant ideas expressed in tight code and redundant architectures, and lofty aspirations beckoning us to participate in realizing green technologies and bridging the digital divide.

Sunday Mar 05, 2006

Sun's surprising entry into the robotics market. Yippie!

This morning's news is a dream come true for me: Sun Microsystems Laboratories Unveils Sun(TM) Small Programmable Object Technology. I have been enamored with the future of robotics for a few years now as can be seen on my blog about experimentation with Lego Mindstorms. I had chosen the Mindstorm as my platform since it was Macintosh compatable and it could be flashed with a Java programming environment called Lejos. Suddenly, as a complete surprise to me, Sun is providing a Java programmable board with these specs:
  • 180 MHz 32 bit ARM920T core - 512K RAM/4M Flash
  • 2.4 GHz IEEE 802.15.4 radio with integrated antenna
  • USB interface
  • 3.6V rechargeable 750 mAh lithium-ion battery
  • 48 uA deep sleep mode
and these sensors:
  • 2G/6G 3-axis accelerometer
  • Temperature sensor
  • Light sensor
  • 8 tri-color LEDs
  • 6 analog inputs
  • 2 momentary switches
  • 5 general purpose I/O pins and 4 high current output pins
I can't wait to get my hands on one of these Sun SPOT's. My son Ian has been begging me to build more robots. He currently has two career choices in mind, dog trainer or robot designer. Hopefully Sun's surprise entrance into the robotics market and my rekindled desire to tinker will help cement his decision :)

Friday Dec 09, 2005

Sweet music for Sun's ears

Nice article by Stephen Shankland over at c|net news.com today; Power could cost more than server, Google warns. Stephen found Google's concern over performance per watt in a September paper published at ACM's Queue, titled The Price of Performance - An Economic Case for Chip Multiprocessing written by Google engineer Luiz Andre Barroso. Luiz's footnote number #7 referenced the then future 32-thread Niagara chip as far off.

Well the Niagara was launched in volume this week as the Sun Fire T2000. I can only assume someone at Sun has put a T2000 in his hands. If not, Luiz, you can try one risk free for 60 days. I'm looking forward to his next paper titled, "Sun's UltraSPARC T1 CMP architecture solves Google's energy woes."

Tuesday Dec 06, 2005

My son and the T1

Today was such a momentus day for Sun that I wanted to share it with my son, Ian. He's a budding engineer at 5 1/2 years of age, fascinated by trains, space and Star Wars.

The two machines behind Ian were demonstrated at Austin's campus following our remote viewing of the webcast from New York. The T2000 was several times faster than the fully stocked Dell 6250 in an ldap authentication test. The most impressive feature of the demo was that both boxes were being monitored for their current draw. The Dell machine idled at 320 watts and climbed to 620 under full load. The T2000 idled at 220 and climbed to 250 under full load (all figures are from my memory).

I was really impressed during the webcast with an infrared image of a state of the art processor VS the UltraSPARC T1. The differential of heat across the various portions of the state of the art chip was 50 degrees celsius. The UltraSPARC T1 was a fairly uniform temperature at the cool end of the thermal spectrum in the image.

I love cool computers that are quiet. I hope the CMT revolution will trickle down to desktop processors soon. I have always owned Macs at home, which have always been quieter than PC's as they were based on cooler PowerPC processors. However, dissapointingly my latest Mac, the iMac G5, has a fan that spins up under higher loads.

eBay loves it, Oracle adjusts licenses for it, PG&E rebates it, and more...

"It" is the UltraSPARC T1 (formerly Niagara) of course. The webcast of today's launch is packed with information not in the press releases. Here are my highlights.


Heather Peck, manager of the marketplace environment at eBay, who is responsible for the eBay's 6000-8000 servers was present at the launch event. eBay was the first customer to get a sneak peak at a T2000. Heather stated that they are done with building out new data centers every time they max out the space and power. She is an engineer by trade and as such she hasn't been excited about computer hardware developments in a number of years, but the T2000 has her and her team excited by opening their eyes to new possibilities due to its performance VS space/power economics. This is THE news I was looking for today.


Oracle will sell licenses for the UltraSPARC T1 at 0.25 per core, which means an 8 core T1 will be licensed as a 2 CPU machine. An Oracle engineer said the first look at their in house performance test "pinned his ears back".

Pacific Gas & Electric

PG&E is going to be offering a rebate program for people who deploy UltraSPARC T1 systems. That is a surprise announcement to me. That means we really got the eco-responsibility message out there.

Electronic Data Systems

An EDS representative reported that they took out 48 rack units and replaced with 4 rack units of Ultrasparc T1 systems and cut the power from 5000 watts to 800.

Sun Sim Datacenter

Sun has developed a configurator to enable customers to simulate their workloads along with the space, power and cooling consumption in order to compare the reduction in monthly spend when replacing their systems with UltraSPARC T1 servers. You can learn about and download the Sim Datacenter here.

Monday Dec 05, 2005

Great Expectations

A quick search for "Niagara Processor" on news.google.com reveals a couple stories this afternoon on what I'm calling, Niagara's Eve, in the spirit of multiple advents in December 2005. IT World Canada seems to be celebrating with me: Great expectations on eve of Sun's Niagara announcements. The EE Times CommsDesign even throws in some news about Niagara 2 in its piece, Sun's multithreaded Niagara servers flow and read Chris Rijk's ever informed commentary on the article.

I'm also hearing through personal grape vines that Niagara (offically UltraSPARC T1) is renewing interest outside of Sun among Electrical Engineers throughout the industry. Putting your ear to the rail hasn't been this much fun in years.

Thursday Dec 01, 2005

Participating in two advents this December

Twenty-three days left in the Christmas advent calendar. Five days left in the advent of Sun's next generation UltraSparc systems. For other's of you eagerly awaiting the arrival of energy, space and cost efficient computing, Sun is providing a Konfabulator countdown widget.





Monday Nov 14, 2005

Stop lights and cache misses

In my 8 years at Sun, the anticipation and excitement surrounding the T1 chip (code-named niagara) is unrivaled. Even better than hearing the official information over the last few years is hearing the anecdotal stories passed from one employee to another about actual performance results being achieved on internal tests and in customer sites. Everyone is doing a good job of keeping a lid on the details, but when Jonathan says we're heading into a significant period of leadership in performance, don't say nobody warned you.

For my value add, I'd like to create a car anology to help demystify the breakthrough performance and efficiency of the T1. I'm no chip guy, just a software geek, but I think I've got the big picture concepts.

In this analogy, a car traveling over a distance is equal to getting work done with a computer. In contemporary chips like the Xeon, engine speed has been optimized to create a really fast car. In this analogy, the Xeon car is always rev'd up to 3,000 rpm's (3000 Megahertz, or 3 Ghz). As in the real world, it takes significant juice to stay rev'd at 3000 rpm's, gas or watts its relatively similar. Like a car engine's rpm's, transistors have an efficiency curve. At lower megahertz there is less current leakage, just as there is a range in the rpm's where fuel is optimally converted to horsepower. The T1 engine is in a sweetspot at 1200 megahertz.

Now you might be thinking, "This sounds boring, is the T1 just a throttled engine that can't possibly compete with the race engine Xeon? Where is the fun in that?".

Here's the kicker where the T1 changes the game. Just as there are stop lights in the world of automobiles, so too in the CPU world. Those stop lights are called cache misses, where the CPU has to wait for data to be fetched from RAM. The Xeon sits at the stop light cache miss rev'd up at 3000 rpm waiting to jackrabbit off the line as soon as that data arrives (green light). The T1 plays by different rules. Whenever is comes to a stop light, it sees not one signal, but an array of 32. As long as 1 of the 32 stop lights is green, the T1 keeps on moving. And remember in this analogy, movement equals getting work done. It is because the T1 has 8 cores with 4 threads each that it always has 32 independent jobs looking for data. Therefore it rarely, if ever, encounters 32 red lights causing a full stop. There are typically dozens of green lights greeting it at every stop light.

For the official explanation of how the T1's 32 threads best a rev'd up Xeon, see the Throughput Whitepaper.

Tuesday Sep 27, 2005

Planting roots in Austin

Today marks our family's 3rd month in Austin. Despite being in temporary living arrangements while our home is being built, we have done a pretty good job of settling in. Some of our friends marvel at our bravado in relocating, but we had good indications from our fact finding trips that Austin would welcome us and we had faith that we would find family in a local church. I have to say our expectations have been exceeded.

We've met all the neighbors around our future home and we have already become members of Hill Country Bible Church. My wife and I are leaders in the Awana group and we have joined a Thursday night small group that meets on our future street. We have also joined a huge gym that just opened this September called Lifetime Fitenss where we have been pleasantly surprised to bump into several church friends, so North Austin is beginning to feel like our home town. My wife is a also a leader in the MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) group and has gone card making at a Stampin' Up! rep's house about 6 doors donw from where we will live. One of our girls has joined a choir, but we are still looking for a piano teacher for our other daughter. My wife's sister from So-Cal spent a week with us interviewing for jobs in the area trying to decide if she wants to relocate. Let's just say the home affordability is attractive. We have heard that the Avery Ranch subdivision in which we are building is approaching a level of 60% California transplants. A family my wife knew in California moved into our apartment complex a few weeks ago and is deciding where to buy, but with so many beautiful houses in their price range, they are suffering from choice shock.

So if anyone out there is desiring to focus your life on traditional values and raising kids, Texas has acres of land with miles of freeways under construction and most importantly a welcoming attitude to immigrants that is unparalled.

There is one aspect of the local culture that I do not expect I will ever assimilate - the love of college football. When meeting some people, you'll find that they are interested to know your college affiliation which from what I have gathered so far seems to translate to: "Are you an Aggie or a Longhorn?".

Wednesday Aug 31, 2005

Blastwave.org needs our support

I sent in my donation this morning. If you use Blastwave, crack open that virtual wallet called PayPal and donate. It's nearly painless, I promise.



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