e martë Maj 02, 2006

Acquiring my own 21st Century Work of Art

Well last week was my birthday and I decided I really wanted something tangible this time. I absolutely could not live without a new video iPod. We discussed earlier the differences between 20th Century art (a urinal) and 21st Century art (an iPod) here.

I guess I have to confess that I haven't yet downloaded an episode of "Desparate Housewives" or "Lost" from iTunes in order to test out the video quality of my iPod. Maybe later. I have been loading up on my favorite music. As a traveling consultant I am surprised at how noise polluted our environment is. I fly every week, walk around the streets of New York and take subways. In each of those environments the noise from the jets, the traffic or the trains can overwhelm the music from the iPod. Even with noise pollution music has the ability to produce a strong emotional response within me. As Shakespeare said,
"Now, divine air! now is his soul ravish'd!
Is it not strange that sheep's guts should hale souls out of men's bodies?
("Much Ado About Nothing," Act 2)

Music isn't the only reason to have an iPod though. You can improve your mind through books on iPod and even college lectures. I have loaded up an overview of philosophy entitled "The Consequences of Ideas" by one of my favorite lecturers. I have also seen some courses packaged at Barnes & Noble called "The Portable Professor" that I have had my eye on for some time. Also, podcasting is the latest rage on the web and many sites offer mp3 downloads that can be stored on the iPod and reviewed later on those long flights.

For an approach to the video iPod that I had not even considered I commend to you Greg Papadopoulos' thoughts on the topic. (While mentioning one of my favorite brainiacs/MIT grads, check out his thoughts on the real meaning of Moore's law here.)

Got to go, I think some Dan Folgelberg is coming up the iPod rotation.

e diel Pri 30, 2006

Back from Blause

Well, I am back. Blause, as we discovered earlier, is a neologism for 'blog pause.' In a sports analogy, I had some contract issues to work out with Sun and free agency seemed the best option for both of us.

We got all that straightened out and now I am working with a large customer in Manhattan and having a great time. New York city is just a cultural Mecca. (Note to the city tourist board, pick a night like Tuesday or Wednesday and get the museums to stay open late. If it closes at 6pm, I can't make it because I have to work.) Even if I can't enjoy the art museums, I can enjoy the theater. So far, since January I have seen 'Rent', 'The Producers' and 'Wicked.' Next week I am taking my lovely wife to see 'Jersey Boys' and at the end of May I am going to 'Lestat.' (I am not sure how you make a musical about vampires but I am going to give it a try.)

You really should see 'Wicked' if at all possible. It is the back story to the 'Wizard of Oz' and it is hilarious. 'The Producers' is also hilarious but I would bet that it was a little better with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.

e premte Sht 02, 2005

Katrina's impact on our customers

My job at Sun is to assist our customers with the architecture, design and implementation of complex systems. Naturally I am reticent to mention customer names lest there be legal or public relations issues. However, I spent a large part of last year preparing a customer in New Orleans for Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery and now those plans have been executed. I will be oblique about the precise details but two large systems integrators are assisting one of our government agencies to do a large Enterprise Resource Planning application that involves a web front end, application servers in the middle tier and a very large database on the back end. The task was so large that I worked extensively with one of our partners, Mr. Chip Elmblad of Sub2 Technology Consulting. Feeding this system are many computers and users from around the world. There are also many systems associated with the core of the ERP system that perform functions like reporting and ad hoc queries. Hopefully this diagram will help you get the picture.

The servers are located in a building overlooking Lake Ponchatrain very near this location from Google Maps. This view is Google's very cool hybrid satellite photo overlaid with street names. If you have seen some of the news coverage you will notice that one of the levee breaches was on the left side of this photo and the computers are housed in several buildings on the right side of the photo. Here is closer view of the buildings themselves (note the address is not accurate, its just to zoom in on the buildings.) While on site, various people told me that sea level was the 3rd floor of these buildings and one of my friends reported that as of Tuesday there was 10 feet of water in the buildings. I would call this a disaster.

As an aside, when working for a government agency, we don't want to do 'Disaster Recovery,' we do 'Continuous Operations.' Perhaps we are shying away from the negative connotations of the word 'disaster.' Last year we tested the system when Hurricane Ivan grazed New Orleans but did not do much damage. We did invoke the process of failing over to the remote computers and all of the core systems worked well. I think some people in New Orleans looked back to last year and thought, 'We were OK last year during Hurricane Ivan so I'm not going to bother to evacuate this year.'

To describe some of the technical details of continuous operations, our partners set up similar hardware in a location near Memphis, TN to match web servers, application servers, database servers and associated servers from New Orleans. The customer uses EMC as their storage vendor and so we used EMC's SRDF (Symmetrix Remote Data Facility) to replicate the data from New Orleans to Memphis. (Note that this could also be accomplished with Hitachi storage and True Copy.) Every day a consistent image of the updated database pages and associated files on other servers are shipped at specific times during the day. Our SLA (Service Level Agreement) was to be at most 12 hours behind in data replication. Perhaps this diagram can help illustrate some of the complexity of the data replication process.

Naturally the network at the remote site cannot have identical names and IP addresses with the primary site due to name space requirements. It simply takes careful planning and adjustments to control and configuration files to make certain that the remote site applications perform like the primary site. It must be tested, preferably under realistic scenarios, to verify that all aspects of the system and network function properly. The core of this ERP system worked very well both last year and this week, but certain associated systems had challenges establishing connectivity with the remote site.

To my friends Rene, John, Dana, Jarmaine, Linda, Brian, Jeanne, Trey, Marc, Jim, Eddie, Matt and all others, our prayers are with you. I hope your homes are OK.

e shtunë Kor 23, 2005

What a Summer!

I apologize for not blogging much this summer. Allow me to offer my excuses. The UT graduation in the previous post was just a prelude to a fast and furious summer. We took our kids to South Beach in Miami for a little relaxation and beach action. Its hard to get quality time with adult children. Then Ashley packed up and moved to LA with lots of assistance from Jan. Just this week Ashley nailed a job with Harrison & Shriftman, a prestigious PR firm (see also here.) She now has a new apartment, a new roommate, a new California driver's license and bank account.

After Jan took her mother home to Mississippi for a visit, it was off to orientation at Southern Methodist University with Jordan. Yesterday we moved Jordan into his new apartment which is just off the SMU campus and very near his new job as a personal trainer at the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports.

Oh yeah, Jan and I celebrated our 30th anniversary this month amid all of this excitement with the family. Maybe we only had time to celebrate with a nice dinner, but in my mind, we spent 30 years growing 2 great kids who are now out accomplishing big things.

e hënë Maj 30, 2005

Family College Doings

It was a great week for the Rogers family collegewise. My lovely daughter Ashley graduated from the University of Texas at Austin from the College of Communication with a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations. We brought in the grandparents and rolled down to Austin last weekend to celebrate this momentous occasion. Her academic career has been great and she finished with a high GPA, but as King Solomon opined 'Of the making of books there is no end and much study wearies the body,' so she was very involved in the Chi Omega sorority as a social outlet. Picture caption, from left to right, proud Dad (Paul), proud Mom (Jan), grandfather George Rogers, our graduate Ashley, grandmother Muriel Rogers, grandmother Sarah Jordan, brother Jordan and his girlfriend Julienne.

Jordan heard on Friday that he has been accepted to Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

e enjte Maj 12, 2005

The Utility Computing Tsunami

Yesterday's email brought a link to Nicholas Carr's provocative article in the MIT Sloan Management Review entitled "The End of Corporate Computing. The summary of the article begins with this quote..."Information technology is undergoing an inexorable shift from being an asset that companies own — in the form of computers, software and myriad related components — to being a service that they purchase from utility providers. Three technological advances are enabling this change: virtualization, grid computing and Web services." It concludes with this paradigm shattering, future as a tsunami coming at you assessment: "IT’s shift from an in-house capital asset to a centralized utility service will overturn strategic and operating assumptions, alter industrial economics, upset markets and pose daunting challenges to every user and vendor. The history of the commercial application of IT has been characterized by astounding leaps, but nothing that has come before — not even the introduction of the personal computer or the opening of the Internet — will match the upheaval that lies just over the horizon."
In my assessment of our Customer Engineering Conference I stated that there is the distinct possibility Sun will survive and that I am excited to be part of the plan. However, in any fundamental economic shift, lots of companies face metaphorical extinction as new companies adapt to the changes faster. Sun's thought leaders (and here) are already preparing to catch this wave and I am thinking that a $1 per CPU per hour is a great price for the computational commodity. "May I help you assess your computational requirements, Sir? How many petabytes storage do we need to go with those MegaSpecInts?" Somebody hand me my sunglasses...the future is looking pretty bright around here. Where did I put that surfboard wax?

e diel Mar 13, 2005


Last Friday I got this rockin' new Treo 650. I have suffered with an antique Nokia for years but no more. I am beginning to exploit the features of the new phone. I revived my Outlook Calendar/Contacts/Memos/ToDo list which had languished since my last Palm died and I switched laptops. It checks email (which I have not yet set up), surfs the web (which I am struggling with), supports a Bluetooth headset (which is currently more hassel than its worth), and sends and receives short messages. It also has a built in camera phone. You may say to yourself, 'Who the heck needs a camera phone?' but I would argue that it does have at least one practical purpose.

I arrived at DFW Airport Monday morning at 5:30am to catch an early flight. I immediately snapped the picture on the right in order to remember exactly where my car was parked. I took the picture because last August I forgot where I parked my car between the 3 American Airlines terminals at the DFW airport. After an hour of fruitless searching for my misplaced car, traveling back and forth between terminals, I called American Reservations. Do you know it is very difficult to find out where a flight left from last Monday? My flight home was delayed Thursday night and I arrived in Dallas after 11pm tired and cranky. But we did arrive at terminal A very near my car and I had no doubts about where I left it at the crack of doom (ur, uh, dawn) on Monday morning.

So my typical travel routine is to have a page sent to my phone concerning my departure gate 2 hours before each flight. Since I use American Airlines primarily, I go to http://www.aa.com and the 2nd button in the left column is titled "Travel Information." That opens another menu where the 2nd entry is 'Flight Status Notification' which expands to 'View/Delete' or 'Create.' You can get a voice mail or a page and even my old Nokia supported text pages. Then when I finally find a parking spot in the multilevel garage, I take a picture of the nearest marker so that I know what level I parked on.

Give Blood

Last week I got a call that supplies of my blood type were low and would I please come in. Well, absolutely. While at the blood center yesterday I saw a chart that indicated that only 7% of Anglos have my blood type, A-. Whether your type is relatively rare (O-, B+ or - and AB+ or -) or fairly common (0+ or A+), please go down and give your pint. According to the Red Cross 40,000 units of blood are needed every day in the United States but only 5% of healthy Americans donate.

e premte Mar 04, 2005

Blog traffic, CATS and dogs

So my main man Mr. Bill, is trying to get his hit count up by mentioning popular terms. I am doing my part by suggesting that you check out his blog. I am always amazed at his brilliant approach and creativity. Anyone who actually posts the image on the right as his employee photo must be creative. I wonder who is finding my blog but he deliberately sets out to drive traffic to his with crude references like Paris Hilton, Pamela Anderson and free internet porn. So in the spirit of the arms race, I went the the Google Zeitgeist to see how I could continue to beat his hit count. I wondered why he didn't mention Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Carmen Electra, Halley Berry or Jessica Simpson :) He has mentioned Skype and Firefox in the technical categories but I have a discussion of iPod as art and mp3s. I even got in the Oscars by complaining and these are all hot searches now. But if you really want to drive traffic, you have to mention Texas Holdem Poker. I don't know why that drives the hit count up, but it just drives the referrers crazy :)

On another topic, if you really want to waste some time you have to check out the (C)anine (A)lgorithmic (T)ransfer (S)ystem which will classify your doggie personality. Mr. Bill asserts that he is a St. Bernard while I wound up as a Tatra Mountain Sheepdog which has the scientific name OWCZAREK PODHALANSKI. Are there really enough vowels among all those consonants :)?

e martë Mar 01, 2005

Customer Engineering Conference 2005

Top Ten Great Things about CEC
10. Installfest for Solaris 10 on laptops...Bob Netherton, Joe Cicardo, Alan Duboff and others gave of their time to help others over the hurdle of repartitioning their disks and putting Solaris 10 on their laptops. Many took advantage of the opportunity but I did see one crash and burn like mine. Avoid using Windows tools like Partition Commander or Partition Magic and stick to Unix/Linux tools like qtpartd.

9. My roommate, Mike Belch, from the UK. If he will ever get it together and get started on his external blog, I will add him to my blogroll. Excellent guy who is mad about motorcycles.

8. Seeing old friends and meeting new ones...uber geeks with outrageous IQs that do very creative work. Since Sun is world wide many of us only rarely get together face to face. An email or a phone call is just not the same thing. And some of you are too busy to call or write...you know who you are.

7. New ideas and new ways to express old ideas. Sun is made up of really bright guys who are very creative. I'll be stealing your presentation slides to present to my customers so your ideas will be reused.

6. The encouraging belief that Sun has a definite chance to survive and thrive. As you might have noticed I am a movie buff and that is an oblique reference to "Ghostbusters," a truly great comedy about a bunch of geeks. The threat to Sun's existence is real. If history is a guide, very few companies whose stock drops below $10 recover. Also the history of the computer industry is littered with companies that had great runs and caught one or two technical waves but were unable to make the transition to the next wave. Its incredibly difficult and only a few companies have pulled it off. This one might be able to see and catch the next wave and I hope to be a part of it thriving.

5. Robert Youngjohns and his enthusiam for utility computing and the storage grid he is building. One of the themes of the conference was that computing should be a utility like electricity, gasoline, or phones. Today most companies do not generate their own electricity. Can we be the company to begin the transformation to computing as a utility?

4. Andy Bechtolsheim and the new servers which his team has developed. If I said much about the new servers I wouldn't get to stay with Sun but Andy proves that this is a company where geeks rule. Stay tuned to see some very rockin' servers. Really, technology can be very exciting. Maybe I do fit in here.

3. Scott McNealy admitting some of the previous big bets were mistakes...Can you say 'Cobalt?' The lesson from history seems to be executive hubris may have contributed to the computer companies which failed. A dose of humility bodes well for our chances of bucking the odds.

2. Jonathan Schwartz in a Dallas Mavericks jersey (NB, I am from the Dallas area) adlibbing about Dallas owner Mark Cuban (NB Mark made his billions from Broadcast.com.) Another Sun executive who does have a clue and who may make us the exception to historical trends and further proof that geeks make good at Sun.

1. AC DShe--the girls who rocked Club CEC.

Ten Worst Things about CEC

10. Wet sandwiches for lunch.

9. Only 2 drink tickets for each night...this was deftly circumvented by friends who are teetotalers...you know who you are :)

8. Missing the Oscars and the red carpet for this. AC/DShe does partially make up for it.

7. Giving up my weekend for a technical conference...I travel every week but this was important.

6. The large number of homeless and hopeless on the streets of San Francisco...it breaks my heart.

5. Having my idea for a presentation rejected...my feelings are hurt :)

4. Having a roommate (but see #9 above.)

3. Geeks who present vital information dully and who mix the important with the trivial.

2. Too little time to work out or spend in contemplation. I mean Sunday school is important too.

1. Executives who are completely clueless and who can't or won't admit their mistakes.

Thanks to Sun management (Hal and Jim especially) for putting it on. It does help those of us in the field catch up to what is happening back in the lab. The interpersonal contacts are crucial and improve productivity. Even if it changes form somewhat these type of events are vital.

e enjte Shk 24, 2005

The Fountain Redux

My last blog entry was about the greatest piece of art in the 20th Century. Imagine my surprise when I went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and saw one version of Duchamp's "The Fountain." I am out in San Francisco for Sun's Customer Engineering Conference. I hope that some of the technical aspects of the conference will merit comment later. However, before the technical conference a little artistic contemplation at the museum was very nice. I particularly enjoyed the "Robert Bechtle: A Retrospective" exhibit. Photorealism is a very interesting art form. Why would someone carefully recreate a scene that could be captured in a photograph as in the Bechtle image "58 Rambler" on the left?
However, on the issue of Duchamp's "The Fountain," when allowing industrial objects to be exhibited as art, the idea proliferates and objects multiply. Sherry Levine installed a billiard table with 3 balls on it. Robert Gober installed stacks of newspaper tied with twine in one corner of a gallery. Finally Sam Taylor-Wood hung a flat panel monitor with time lapse photography of a rabbit's corpse decomposing called "A Little Death." The questions raised will not be solved in a blog but they are interesting.

e shtunë Shk 19, 2005

20th Century Art?

I promise I am not making this up...500 British art critics voted Marcel Duchamps "Fountain" (pictured to the left if you were wondering) the most important piece of art produced in the 20th century. Leaving aside all the outrage over whether or not a urinal actually is a piece of art and other equally contentious discussions, lets just grant the premise. If so, what a bankrupt century. I guess when we look back to trench warfare, facism, the gulags, the killing fields, Ruwanda, etc. we can see that it was a very bleak century. Modernity died a just death and I hope post modernism is passe in the new millenium.
Daniel Henninger, in the an OpinionJournal piece, offers the view that in the age of the computer chip perhaps the defining art of the new millenium is an iPod. His argument is that in our frantic age it allows at least the contemplation of music. One wonders about the quality of music embedded on those millions of iPods but then thats another argument altogether. I will state that art in the new millenium is certainly looking better than art at the end of previous millenium.

e martë Shk 08, 2005

Diagnosis Evil

The New York Times has an interesting and hand wringing article about the challenges of dealing with certain individuals like serial killers in our criminal justice system. Here's the opening of the article to tease you:

"Predatory killers often do far more than commit murder. Some have lured their victims into homemade chambers for prolonged torture. Others have exotic tastes - for vivisection, sexual humiliation, burning. Many perform their grisly rituals as much for pleasure as for any other reason.

Among themselves, a few forensic scientists have taken to thinking of these people as not merely disturbed but evil. Evil in that their deliberate, habitual savagery defies any psychological explanation or attempt at treatment.

Most psychiatrists assiduously avoid the word evil, contending that its use would precipitate a dangerous slide from clinical to moral judgment that could put people on death row unnecessarily and obscure the understanding of violent criminals."

The problems for psychiatrists become more clear as the article discusses a depravity scale and a 22 level hierarchy of evil behavior. The article calls into question the cultural and philosophical assumption of the basic goodness of humans. Much of the 20th Century...the Holocaust, the Gulags, the Killing Fields, Segregation etc. argue against this assumption. One of the lessons of Nazi Germany was the ease with which ordinary men became brutal thugs and vicious killers. Hannah Arendt made popular the phrase the 'banality of evil' after observing the Eichmann trial.

e mërkurë Jan 26, 2005

Sign of the Times

I am currently working at a large installation that requires parking passes. The nice ladies who give out those passes have a wonderful sign which reads:

This Job is a Test.
It is ONLY a Test.
Had this been an Actual Job, You Would Have Received
Raises, Promotions, and Other Signs of Appreciation.

To which I can only say, 'Represent!'. If your job resembles this sign I can only commiserate ;)
With apologies to the FCC and their Emergency Alert Announcement.

e mërkurë Jan 12, 2005

People who find my blog

Out of curiousity I have been checking who finds my blog based on the referers. I note that Mr. Solaris 10 Zones aka John Clingan has also asked this question. Its gratifying to come up in a search like "Solaris 10 x86 FireEngine" or "solaris 10 tecra 9100." However, it is semi-hilarious to come up in a search like "Paul Rogers +Queen". The searcher wants to know when the former lead singer of Bad Company will be performing with the group Queen sans Freddie Mercury. Now I am not actually the former lead singer for Bad Company but I did like both groups. I am also not the former senator from Florida, nor the dean of the SMU law school, nor the peace professor at the University of Bradford nor the artist. With this many name space collisions I now understand how people with very common last names feel.




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