Sunday Oct 30, 2005

Intel "kill" of Xeon shakes Indian Community

Takes a village to raise a CPU...

The Xeon chip was slated with many first.. "Intel's first Multicore" and "the first All-Indian Designed Chip." The cancellation of "Whitefield" brings a strange anti-sucess story of outsourced development.
The Register reports "Intel's cancellation this week of the multicore "Whitefield" processor stands as a more significant miscue that simply excising a chip from a roadmap. Whitfield's disappearance is a blow to India's growing IT endeavors."

Local paper The Times of India commented this week on the situation.

"India's ambitions of emerging (as) a global chip design and development hub has just suffered a big knock," the paper wrote. "Intel has killed its much-hyped Whitefield chip, a multicrore Xeon processor for servers with four or more processors that drew its name from Bangalore's IT hotspot, Whitefield, and which was being developed almost wholly in this city.

"Intel had invested heavily in the project, both in infrastructure and people, drawing in some of the brightest talents. Some 600 people are said to be employed in the core hardware part of the project."

Chip staffers in India currently fear losing their jobs and morale is very low as a result of the Whitefield cancellation. Many of the staffers had only been told that Whitefield would be delayed by six to nine months. They learned of the project's end in the press.

Read more in the Register : http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/10/28/intel_whitefield_india/.

Thursday Oct 27, 2005

IBM Selling Solaris on their Blades!

Sun freezes hell, gets IBM to sell Solaris on blades
the Register Website: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/10/27/sun_ibm_solarisblade/

Where else can you find a more obvious validation to the power of Solaris!

Tuesday Oct 25, 2005

Cheers... to.. Tears...My New Apple PowerBook

This is my first time with an Apple computer. I bought a 1st generation iMac many years ago, but that computer died on the first release of OS X. I'm a big fan of iPods.. I'm on my 3rd one (another story).

I was so happy when my new 15-inch PowerBook G4 arrived yesterday. I saw the FedEx truck, and I felt like a kid who spotted Santa Claus. In less than I minute from my signature on the clipboard, I had my shiny new PowerBook powering up. The next 2 hours spent installing patches, OpenOffice, Mozilla FireBird and Thunderbird, and copied over my 1,300 iTunes songs.

Finally, with pride of joining the "Cult of Apple", I packed up everything and went to my office. The screen went black within 10 minutes of powering up the Powerbook in my office. The laptop never came back to life. What a Bummer!!!!!!!!

Sad.. looking for salvation.. I openned up the paperwork.. looking for the Support Phone Number. Calling support, I realized there was no easy way to give them the laptop's serial number. Later I found out that I needed a penny to open up the Battery pack. Read them the serial#, and then went into the support call. Later.. the guy on the phone couldn't work his "magic" over the phone.. so off to Valley Fair Mall to the Apple Store.

At the Apple Store, everyone looks so happy and cool... They have a "Genius Bar" in the back for technical support. I stood around the bar for a "Genius" to help.. he finally looked up at me.. and explained that I needed to be on a "list." What list?? Go ask another store employee. Oh ok.. found a guy in a black shirt who was kinda peeved to help me.. I explained my situation.. and he told me to sign up on any of the Mac's. While doing this.. I was informed that they would be happy to help me in about 1 1/2 hours. The black shirt guy told me that he would take a look at it. And togther.. we tried power cables from the demo Laptops. Still.. no lifeforce in my laptop.

Finally while waiting.. in quiet defiance and self-questioning my decision to choose another Apple computer... I fired up my Sun provided Toshiba Tecra.. I'm stuck.. and at least they got WiFi.. while a woman droned on about the exciting ".Mac" Service to an empty (and mostly disinterested) audience.. I check emails and worked on my lap machines.. Finally.. in about 1 hour and 15 mins.. I saw my name on the "short list" of 12 names.. the tease of reading names of the missing.. got me initially interested and excited.. until I was in the top 5 names.. then suddenly.. 4 people showed up.. complaining about something on their iPods..

At last.. the Genius looked at my laptop.. his.. "wizardly" magic didn't bring life back to my laptop.. Irritated at his ineffectiveness.. he looked at me with contempt of handing him a laptop corpse... Each question I asked him on potential issues.. he kept looking at me with astonishment that a Apple computer could have such a problem.. finally the decision.. No.. he cannot fix it.. No.. he cannot replace the laptop with a Store laptop.. (something about a letter in my machine code).. he just handed it back.. and say.. call support and get a replacement..

later.. after running around to buy dinner for my family.. I got back on the phone with Support.. I told them.. it is DOA.. the letters... the guy on the phone acted like he needed a dictionary to lookup DOA.. Finally.. I convinced him.. that after waiting 2+ weeks for this laptop.. I'm not going to wait another 2+ weeks for a replacement. I'd send it back. They quickly reconnected me to sales.. the sales guy promised me that as soon as FedEx got my defective laptop.. my new one will be sent... still waiting.. :)

Saturday Oct 15, 2005

Living Lite: Connected Travel without a Laptop

There are several times that a laptop wasn't the answer for my travel. One of the great applications of the Internet has been Web-based email. Since the Microsoft $450M purchase of HotMail, the Industry has really hasn't seen the potential in these "Lite" applications for the Internet. Email and Calendar might be great, but Imagine what the Google/Sun Alliance will bring in terms of Office Suite software.

Here are a few cases where I simply was stuck..

On my last trip to Singapore. I had a disaster with my laptop. I left my power cord for my Toshiba laptop at my desk. Nothing is sadder than when you are working on your laptop and you see the "plug in your laptop to save your work" message popup screams at you... and then you look and see no power adapter in your bag.

Sometimes I may not want to bring my laptop with me when I travel. Going on vacation should mean "getting away" from technology. As I travel, I do find that most areas frequented by Tourist have fairly decent venues for Internet Cafe's. Usually this is good enough to get online and check some e-mail. Around the world you can usually find a "loaner PC" from the larger hotel chains. In North America, Kinko's has terminals. And some places have decent Internet cafes such as EasyInternet Cafes in Europe. The idea of travel vacations is not to sit in front of a PC.

The Sun/Google/OpenOffice site isn't ready yet, but until then many of us can travel "lite" with just bringing our portable memory device. One cool site that I've found recommends Windows software for your USB Vault or iPod or MP3 player. I haven't had to use this yet, but seems like everything you need to get some "quick or emergency" work done is here.

Nedwolf : Absolutely Free Software Best Free Portable Windows Freeware

Thursday Oct 13, 2005

Got a peek at the new Sun Niagara Servers

I'm still not allowed to say much, but looks really cool. (Sun Marketing placing duct tape on my mouth) hymph.. hmmm.. hmmm.. khmml

Here are some news articles on the SPARC Niagara boxes... No comment on any of this.

The Register.. "Sun's Niagara: speeds and feeds emerge"

I remember the first time, I logged into the old Sun v60z which had the Intel Xeon CPUs. They had dual core which confused my Lab guy. He did a mpstat and saw 4 CPUs when the order form said there was a max of 2 CPUs in the box. He came to me and verified that they didn't give me 2 free CPUs.

We are looking at how these new multi-core SPARC CPUs will effect System monitoring, operations and administration for Email/Calendar Services. One thing that I am seeing is really good consolidation of services onto these boxes. Although some applications may not scale horizontally as you want, they even start to scale negatively at some point, you can parition the applications using Solaris Zones/Containers. This creates multiple logical servers on a single physical server.

Thursday Oct 06, 2005

Road Warrior Tools of the Trade

Unlike many of our executives, I'm forced into Sun's travel policy of sitting in the economy section of flights. Even thought, I'm a "fly and fix it" type of guy. This means, I'm usually on a plane somewhere to meet with customers or to teach a class on some topic. Usually, I'm dropped onto a flight with only a few days notice.

A list of the stuff I carry around: (from left to right in picture)
1. Extra Powerpacks for PSP and iPod
2. Various Network and Telephone Cables and International Power Adaptors
3. Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) and UMD games
4. Cell Phone chagers
5. Teas from various hotels. (I avoid coffee on flights)
6. My laptop (of course!)
7. Digital Video Camcorder
8. 20GB iPhoto iPod (I'm sorry to say that I'm on my 3rd one this year)
9. External Speakers for Listening to Music in Hotel Room
10. USB Headset and Mic for making Skype Phone Calls
11. Noise Canceling Headset (real source of my sanity)

Not shown:
1. Inflatable Neck Pillow
2. USB Microvault (usually I keep my presentation on multiple devices)
3. two Cell Phones: One for International Roaming on AT&T Wireless and the other to use with local SIM cards
4. various herbal medications to keep calm

Sony's UMD Format and Memory Stick

Last July, I found out that I was being sent to Scotland to attend a meeting. My frustration wasn't regarding the meeting, but rather the 10 hours of boredom while sitting in economy class. (I'm a rather hefty big guy.) On my way home, I decided to stop by Best Buy (electronics super store) and pick up something to do on that long flight. My choice was Sony's Playstation Portable (PSP). I picked up the unit and some games for the long flight. Before I knew it, I was in the airplane playing Tiger Wood'™s golf and racing cars through San Diego.

The PSP uses two proprietary media formats which Sony pioneered called Unified Media Device (UMD) and their Dual Memory Stick. Sony is now selling both PSP games and movies on these UMDs. The value of UMD is the size. In a protective case that is just a little bigger than a rolled up magazine, I can keep my PSP with about 4-6 UMD disks. The device proved to be a terrific diversion from the hours of being squashed into a seat between two people.

Newsweek Article on Sony's UMD Format

Sony's Memory Stick Website

While I appreciate the UMD format for my games, I am still having a hard time justifying the cost of purchasing UMD movies to only be played on my PSP. Sony is pricing UMD movies above the price of regular DVD titles. In their theory, this is preventing UMD movies from competing against DVD movies. I thought Sony learned their lesson on Betamax versus VHS tape formats in the 1970'€™s. Sony tried to release their titles on Beta only to keep folks from moving to VHS. I guess even Billion Dollar companies can'€™t learn from previous colossal mistakes. Many news sites are reporting that UMD is the wave of the future. Even so, NetFlix is stating that they will not start offering the format anytime soon for their Movie Rental service.

While in Singapore's Sim Lim Electronics Shopping Centre, I saw that (in deed!) Sony was starting to learn from their mistakes. In a confusing move, I saw that Sony was now selling packages which included a 1GB Dual MemoryStick with PC software. The software allowed purchasers to copy media onto the Memory Stick. The media includes mp3, wma... And MOVIES!! I can now copy a DVD onto my Memory Stick and not feel forced to buy duplicate UMD copies of my movies!

A quick lookup of pricing on Amazon.com for a 1GB Sony's Memory Stick is about $85 (and $150 for high speed). This is still at a premium cost above other standards such as SD Memory cards. Somehow the idea that I can copy DVD movies onto the Memory Stick is a lot more appealing to me than having to shell out $20 for a UMD movie that I may not want to watch more than one time. Maybe Netflix should look at a way to place a movie rental on a check out bases onto these cards?

Wednesday Oct 05, 2005

Singapore's Sim Lim and Why the Best Tech never make it to Walmart

On my visit to Singapore, I usually stop by the famous Sim Lim Electronic Shopping Centre. This is usually a great place to see what the future holds for technology. The thing about Sim Lim is that you can never expect to see fair prices. It is definately "Buyer Beware!" when you go there. Here is a good guide for shopping there. If you do your research, you can usually find good deals. But if you impulse shop, you usually can find yourself paying hundreds of dollars above the market price of a product. Ok.. I admit I got ripped off there.. :(

Walking around Sim Lim, you will see technologies that will never make it in America for many years... if ever.. I often find myself asking, why aren't these superior technologies selling like hotcakes in the USA? I believe the answer isn't in the value of the technology, but in the economics of the supply chain of how these technologies make it (or never make it) to the retail store shelves. If folks in Ohio don't see it on the shelf at Best Buy or Walmart, then they are never likely to buy it. Even if a few entrapenurs manage to get these products into online stores or eBay, the customer will never feel "right" until they "see and play with" the technology. The power lies with the retail buyers and distributors. Their interests are profit margins and vendor relations with the big companies (such as Sony, Panasonic, Hitachi, etc..).

One example is a set of portable speakers for my iPod. I found a terrific set of speakers from Sonic Impact Technologies which serves all my needs. The price of these speakers? $19usd!! If I go to Best Buy today and look for the lowest price portable speaker, I would find Sony's speakers for around $89usd. That is a $70 difference in price. I tried both, and I didn't much improvement in the quality of the sound than the 3-4 times the variance of the cost. I actually think the cheaper one sounds better with less batteries required. The buyer at the large Electronic Retail chain does not care so much about the improved quality, they care more about how that product will make them money. If they make a 3-5% margin on a product, they will make $2.67 on the Sony Product and only $0.57 on the Sonic Impact product. Further more are the kickbacks, Sony probly pays big bucks to have their products positioned in prominate locations on the store shelves and in their weekly advertisements. This probly earns the retailer (let's say) $100,000 per month which they can offset their advertising budget. So what we see here in America when we go to the Electronic Mega-Store, we see only a small portion of the products available to us.

So what does this mean to a techie nerd like me? This means that unless I stumble across a better product, I'm likely to only buy what is available in front of me. I'm sure I could seek online reviews, but how much of that is actually artificially skewed towards advertisers? If I go online, and I seek those Sonic Impact speakers. I can find them at Amazon.com only if I know what I'm looking for a particular item. ( Here is the listing for the speakers) If I tried to browse around for cheap speakers, I would never find the product. As they say in Las Vegas.. The odds are always in favor of the house!

Thursday Sep 08, 2005

NASA's Killer App for Geography Nuts Like Me

I found on Source Forge the other day this terrific Windows application. (Sorry Mac users, you are out of luck on this one.)  World Wind allows you to view the Planet Earth and to Zoom into any place in the world (literally).  The really interesting part of this is the way it uses the Internet to provide a unique User Interface Experience.  Everyone is familar with a Globe.  This application takes the Globe and turn it into a database of image and country data information.  As you zoom into a location on the Globe, World Wind retrieves satellite images and country data on the location you are viewing.  The longer you view the location, the more details are retrieved.

For the record, if you are planning on using this to spy on your neighbors, you might be out of luck.  Most of these satellite images are years old.  I'm sure as popularity of this application kicks in, more and more recent images will be added.  For example, I zoomed into Silicon Valley, and I can see the 85 Freeway still under construction. Maybe Google's website will have more recent information.  It would be cool to combine the World Wind User Interface with Google's Image Database.

http://worldwind.arc.nasa.gov/

 

 South Louisiana and Mississippi

 

 

 

New Orleans and Surrounding Cities

Sun's Santa Clara Campus

Thursday Jul 21, 2005

Disruptive Technologies Discussion

 Future Disruptive Technologies: The Perspectives of MIT and Stanford

Moderator: Tom Byers, Professor, Stanford University
Alice Gast, VP for Research and Associate Provost, MIT
Jim Plummer, Dean of the School of Engineering, Stanford

http://www.alwayson-network.com/comments.php?id=11310_0_3_1_C

Today I virutally attended a Webninar seminar from AlwaysOn.  The topic was "Future Disruptive Technologies" and the guests were from MIT and Stanford. 

Seems the biggest portion of the talk was mostly "back patting" between MIT and Stanford for their reputation in innovation.  Not really inspiring unless you are a "gifted" high school student lined up to attend one of these schools.  They were focused on inspiring students in attending their universities.  I never attended these two universities, and I still found myself (fairly successful at it I might add) in Software Engineering.  The real inspiring needs to be those talented students who like me who come from Community Colleges and State Universities.  They may not have met the entrance criteria for these top notch schools, but they have a huge potential for innovation and new ideas outside of Stanford and MIT.

"Engineering studies are tough work." Second part of the talk was about attracting foreign students to these schools for technical studies.  They were advocating for easier process for these students to come to study and to also work in the US.    A majority of students originating in the USA aren't really prepared to face the realities to enter these courses of study.  Most high school students in the US don't see the benefit of all this hard work.

Funding of research from US Government isn't really helping to drive competitiveness in new technologies.  In the past technologies such as Email and the Internet would never have been realized without initial research funding from Government agencies.  Future areas could be in biomedical where, for example, we could create technologies to stimulate our own immune system to attack medical conditions such as cancer and viruses.

How we build the Internet if we had to start over?  Stanford researches restarted what the Internet would look like than what it is today.  Some of my thoughts.. some of the findings may be that the Internet would initially would be a stove pipe. Different vendors would attempt to control what that picture would look like.  I remember in the early 90's many of us thought that the Internet would be Microsoft's Blackbird. It is interesting to look that Internet standards won against the vendor implemtentation because they were being solved by a diverse community rather than a small group of market driven individuals.  The diverse community had various interests, not just the interest of making money with their products.

Energy research at Stanford are sponsored by corporations (US-based and multi-national) and not the US Government.  The Dept. of Energy doesn't seem to to be collaborating with the Research organizations to develop more creative and more efficent means of energy.

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