* Posts by Tim Bradshaw

27 posts • joined 30 May 2007

Korean bank dumps Unix boxen for mainframes

Tim Bradshaw
Headmaster

Not silly

I don't think they've been fooled, and I don't think this is about performance. I think it's about how easy things are to manage. It's hard to get away from the fact that a collection of "midrange" (typically Unix) systems are harder to manage than a much smaller number of Mainframe systems, both because there are more of them, and because the tools are significantly less mature. And I'm saying this as someone who manages Unix systems for his living.

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LHC back after temporary unexistence

Tim Bradshaw
Boffin

Energy release

Firstly, the power you can get from a supply at a given voltage depends on the current, so unless you know that, you don't know how much power there is.

Secondly, there is a lot of energy STORED in the LHC, which can be released rather abrupltly if the magnets quench.

So, well, the sums are quite easy to do.

The energy stored in the LHC's magnets when operating is approximately 10GJ or 10e9 J. A QE2-class aircraft carrier is meant to displace around 65,000 tonnes, or 65e6 kg. Let's say it can do 35 knots: a knot is around 0.5 m/s. So the energy in an aircraft carrier is around (65e6 * (35/2)^2)/2. Which is 9.95e9 J.

So yes, the energy stored in the LHC's magnets is quite accurately equivalent to an aircraft carrier doing 35 knots (especially surprising since I got the figures above from Wikipedia, apart from the 35 knots which I guessed).

Clearly this suggests some new units for energy: one ACR (aircraft-carrier ram) is equivalent to one LHCQ (LHC Quench). I'll leave it as an exercise to compute these in terms of Hiroshimas (they're a fair bit less).

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Cloud storage: It's strictly for airheads

Tim Bradshaw
Badgers

What we need is contracts with teeth

I don't think we need regulation: we need contracts with teeth.

If I sign a contract with some cloud provider to keep my data, then I can have the contract say that if they lose my data then they will pay me some amount of money, and similarly for various other contingencies (if my data is unavailable to me for a week, say).

If I sign a contract with a cloud provider which does not have clauses like that in, then clearly I don't care very much about my data (for instance because it's a redundant backup), or I am just too stupid to notice. If they won't offer me such a contract then clearly I need to find another provider who will. If NO provider will offer me such a contract then I've just discovered a business opportunity.

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Oracle and Sun fingered for Sidekick fiasco

Tim Bradshaw
FAIL

This isn't a vendor problem, whatever they say

This is a configuration and design problem. It's easy to point at whoever provided the kit and blame them, but this is clearly not as simple as that. Where was the DR system? Where were the backups? Where were the integrity checks on the live & DR systems that would have picked up something bad happening? Where were the regular restores from backup to ensure you can actually get the system back up from backup? All these seem to have been just missing.

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Microsoft hosts Feynman lecture series

Tim Bradshaw

Silverlight redux

Someone said "I bet you have to install Flash". No, I've never done that: the mac comes with it as far as I can tell.

Further, I said that this was one of the things that would actually make me install it, and that is was obviously very good news that they were available (though I probably would rather read the books again I think). I just would rather have them in an open format rather than some proprietary thing. Such formats exist.

I guess it bugs me that what seems to be happening here is MS exploiting these lectures to attempt to propagate their monopoly.

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Tim Bradshaw
FAIL

Silverlight

It is obviously very good news that these should be available.

But why do I need to install Silverlight to see them? I don't want to do that (though this is one of the few things which might make me).

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Beeb says sorry after iPlayer network fail

Tim Bradshaw
Boffin

What went wrong

was fairly simple, in fact.

iPlayer is substantially made of JavaScript of course, and one bit of it is this: http://wwwimg.bbc.co.uk/glow/1.4.2/gloader/glow/glow.js. As of yesterday sometime, that URL was being served as a compressed (gzipped) data. However the headers provided by the web server said it was JavaScript. This meant that the browser attempted to run the compressed data, rather than decompressing it, and fell over as a result. It only affected people who didn't already have it cached of course (or when it got flushed from the browser cache).

As of this morning the file is being served uncompressed.

Having looked at old (cached) versions and the new version I think that what must have happened is that some change was made to the file which made it much larger. So they decided to serve it compressed (sensible) but failed to change whatever config needs to be changed to tell the server that it was compressed.

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Large Hadron Timewaster

Tim Bradshaw
Flame

Does it matter?

No, of course not. Let's just all give up on science because, obviously, playing video games or surfing the web is just more fun and important than learning stuff about how the world works.

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Barclays and Goldman Sachs squeeeeze IT staff

Tim Bradshaw

"always enough cash to pay the shareholders at the end of the year"

Pay attention now.

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Sun freshens Solaris 10 for new iron

Tim Bradshaw

RE: zone patch on import

As Matt says, zones are not complete OS instances. LDOMs (on Niagara and related processors) provide that, and on x86 there are obviously a lot of solutions now. All of these provide much higher levels of isolation.

Zones do have significant advantages however. An important one is that they are much more "inspectable" than a VM.

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How the fate of the US economy rests on a Dell workstation

Tim Bradshaw
Stop

Rocket science

No, this isn't rocket science: it's much harder than that. Rocket science is based on the application of some well-known physical laws to engineering systems. Depending on the laws and the systems, that may be the sort of thing that you can usefully throw a supercomputer at.

In the case of economic modelling no one actually knows the laws, and in fact there is no real evidence that there *are* any laws in the sense a physicist would like, because the game is changing all the time. No one knows the boundary conditions either. And the whole system is (almost certainly) nonlinear, with resulting SDIC and chaotic behaviour. Finally, there are these awkward "people" who behave in ways which are often very hard to predict.

There just is no evidence that throwing computational power at a problem like this will help you at all. After all there were some organisations who had very deep pockets - plenty deep enough for quite significant computing facilities - and would have gained considerable advantage from simulations, if those simulations were any good. I'm sure they ran them: somehow the results they got failed to save them from bankruptcy.

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Apple condemns FileVaulters to seventh circle of Safari hell

Tim Bradshaw

I think this predates Leopard

I am reasonably sure that Tiger had the same issue, though I had not realised it was FileVault related (it did start happening when I got my first macbook I think, which had Tiger, and was the first time I used FV - I'd assumed it was the macbook/intel machine not FV causing it but FV sounds more plausible). It seems to affect all sorts of 'what should be the default applcation things - web browser, IM client, but also iScrobbler asks me if it should be the default last.fm radio player each time I log in. It's annoying, for sure.

(Splendidly stupid comment from the "just use safari person".)

--tim

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Sun: OpenSolaris 'pretty freaking amazing'

Tim Bradshaw

"No use in a domestic environment"

The real question to ask is: if people spent the time and effort to make OpenSolaris (or any other OS, free or commercial) work absolutely seamlessly with all the multifarious combinations of hardware that occur in desktops and laptops, what would the expected market share of such an OS on deltops/laptops be?

The answer, once you fight your way through the propaganda and idiot geek politics is: almost none. Windows has won, with OS X running a distant second (and notably avoiding the hardware nightmare by the standard approach of being bound to specific hardware), and Linux somewhere behind that.

So, you can spend a huge amount of time (which, remember, means a huge amount of money, even if people contribute the money themselves rather than a company having to fund it) - and I mean a *huge* amount of time - and get exactly what?

Wouldn't it be more interesting to concentrate on a battle you can win? For instance, making the thing into a killer server OS. There's a lot less random crap hardware variation in your average rackable machine than there is on desktops & laptops, and (Open)Solaris already *is* a killer server OS.

The really disturbing thing, to me, is that many of the OS developers do seem to be spending a lot of time adding features which are useful only on desktops & laptops, presumably because they run OpenSolaris on their personal machines. All that effort is wasted, because to quite a good approximation they will be the only people who ever run it on their personal machines.

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Battle of the SSD strategies: Sun vs. EMC

Tim Bradshaw

RE: Limited number of write cycles

Don't tell anyone, but disks had limited numbers of write cycles as well...

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You'll learn to love mobile TV

Tim Bradshaw
Pirate

So how are these programs funded

If everyone is going to download stuff and strip the ads out, who pays the bills to make the content?

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Scientist who named the black hole dies aged 96

Tim Bradshaw
Boffin

@Jon Tocker

Speaking as a BRITISH ex-physicist I think that there is nothing particularly pro-american going on here. There really was a generation or two of physicists, not all (or even, perhaps. most) of whom were American, who achieved fantastic things, and Wheeler was probably the last of them still alive.

I'm not sure if they were genuinely smarter (they clearly were pretty smart) or if they were just lucky to have lived at the right time. I suspect mostly the latter - once the foundations of GR and QM existed then there were (relatively) easy wins to be had all over the place. Most of those have now been had, and we're left struggling with extremely complex and difficult stuff, while (I hope) we wait for the next breakthrough, which will trigger another wave of suoperheroes.

Hawking (and let's not forget Penrose) were simply too late in the day to have taken part in that wave.

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Area 51 drug test victim crashes flying car

Tim Bradshaw
Alien

Did they find

the decaying alien bodies in the boot? I guess not, or not yet.

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Sun's UltraSPARC T2+ servers ship full of Niagara Viagra

Tim Bradshaw
Boffin

Re: Poor SMP scalability

Firstly, probably most systems that go from 8-16 cores are not seeing linear scalability. Secondly these things are not intended to be big enormously scalable database systems: that's what the Rock boxes will be (among other things). This is just a bigger Niagara box (which is not a useless thing by any means, but is not the same).

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Fixing the UK's DAB disaster

Tim Bradshaw

If DAB will never get close to 100% coverage

... does this mean they will not turn off FM? That would be a good thing, I think.

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Solaris SPARC to x86 software highway opens

Tim Bradshaw
Flame

Compilation

"QuickTransit for Solaris makes sense particularly for those ISVs that spent a lot of money creating software for SPARC servers during Sun's late 1990s boom."

What this means, presumably, is that they are not up to recompiling their packages for x86, because I don't imagine many people have written stuff in assembler in the last 20 years.

Or, in other words: either they have lost the sources, or they just can't be bothered running the toolchain again. Would you buy software from people in either of these camps?

No, what this is actually for is people who have licenses for SPARC packages and would like to avoid paying the license fee for the x86 versions.

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Sun cheers Rock delays

Tim Bradshaw
Boffin

Why Rock

The answer is single-threaded performance. There are commercially important applications which do not parallelise well, and for these there really is no substitute for something which will run a single-thread as fast as possible. Rock aims to provide that.

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Apple cripples Sun's open source jewel

Tim Bradshaw
Pirate

RE See no evil, hear no evil

There is a huge difference between having access to the analogue audio output, and having access to the decoded bitstream for (say) all the DRM-controlled stuff you've rented. Without restrictions, DTrace could pretty easily give you access to the latter, which might be a reasonably serious problem for Apple.

On the other hand, you can get access to a bitstream reasonably easily anyway since most macs have digital audio output. I suspect that has some copy-protection bit set though, so to work around that you'd need to buy not only hardware, but hardware which strips the copy protection from the stream (you can get this, of course).

So it might be that Apple's view is that while they can't really stop someone who cares getting hold of the stream, they are not going to provide a tool which lets you do it with almost no effort at all. That seems to me not unreasonable.

--tim

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The OLPC XO laptop

Tim Bradshaw
Pirate

RE: Green toy or real laptop?

I think it's "purpose" is that a lot of people have failed horribly to realise that by far the most useful technological gadget for people in third-world countries is a mobile phone, and are instead spending a lot of time and money on something which will not, actually, be useful. Sigh.

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BBC redesigns and 'widgetizes' homepage

Tim Bradshaw
Flame

Fixed width web pages

Could someone arrange for it to be OK to just kill people who design web pages like this? May be we could lock them up as terrorists and pretend to drown them or something, because they're certainly doing a lot more harm than the people we do lock up as terrorists.

I mean, doesn't it occur to these people that I might be doing other things as well, and I might not want my browser window to be however wide they think it should be? I guess the answer to that is obvious: no it doesn't occur to them, because the web 2.0 worms have eaten deep into what brain they ever had, and they can no longer conceive of a world where anyone uses anything but a web browser for anything.

This means you too, Mr Register: I will be coming for you soon. Do you prefer to be boiled down for glue (fun, but has a substantial carbon footprint) or to have your head impaled on a stake as a warning (greener, but occasionally smelly)?

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Will Darling's data giveaway kill off ID cards?

Tim Bradshaw
Black Helicopters

RE: But they're secure....

You ask: Do politicians live in a parallel universe where technical reality rarely intrudes?

Well, duh: of COURSE they do. These are the people who believed in "liquid explosives" and Iraq having WMD which could be deployed against the UK in a matter or minutes remember.

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Sun fattens up Niagara for middleware play

Tim Bradshaw

Re: Has anyone seen a Sun processor roadmap update since 4/21/06?

In response to some of the other questions:

"n socket" is fairly conventional terminology by now.

Yes, of course it will be a true SMP, and one OS instance will run across all the sockets, if you want that. I imagine that, like the current Niagara offerings, you will be able to partition the system if you want to support more than one OS instance as well. Sun's terminology for this partitioning is LDoms - it's distinct from the domains offered in larger systems which offer more isolation, and from zones/containers where there is only one OS instance. Of course you can use LDoms with zones within each LDom etc.

--tim

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Westminster blows £29m to save £20k

Tim Bradshaw

The maths may be wrong

Even after the quoted figures have been corrected as others have pointed out, the real question is whether the figures (in terms of what it costs to run or install the lights) actually reflect the true cost of running them, which cost should include the environmental cost. They probably don't, since the environmental cost is not completely known and is controversial where it is known.

That being the case it may well be rational for the council to try and do the real costing, allowing for (what they believe to be) the environmental and other costs, and decide to do something which looks, superficially, financially stupid.

On the other hand, they're a council. Stupidity is what councils excel at, so who knows.

And on the third hand: why don't they just not have so many lights on? If we could all get over being frightened of the dark, then may be we could live in a world which doesn't look like a giant piss-stain at night, where we could see the stars, and where we generally weren't quite so busy crapping all over the planet. Wouldn't that be a better solution?

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