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Jon Toigo has a funny cartoon on his post, [As I Listen to EMC Brag on “New” Functionality…]. Basically, it pokes fun that many of us bloggers argue which vendor was first to introduce some technology or another. We all do this, myself included.
Recently, Claus Mikkelsen's, currently with HDS, [brought up accurately some past history from the 1990s], which is before many storage bloggers hired on with their current employers. Claus and I worked together for IBM back then, so I recognized many of the events he mentions that I can't talk about either. In many cases, IBM or HDS delivered new features before EMC.
I've been reading with some amusement as fellow blogger Barry Burke asked Claus a series of questions about Hitachi's latest High Availability Manager (HAM) feature. Claus was too busy with his "day job" and chose to shut Barry down. Sadly, HDS set themselves up for ridicule this round, first by over-hyping a function before its announcement, and then announcing a feature that IBM and EMC have offered for a while. The problem and confusion for many is that each vendor uses different terminology. Hitachi's HAM is similar to IBM's HyperSwap and EMC's AutoSwap. The implementations are different, of course, which is often why vendors are often asked to compare and contrast one implementation to another.
In his latest response,[how to mind the future of a mission-critical world], Barry reports that several HDS bloggers now censor his comments.That's too bad. I don't censor comments, within reason, including Barry's inane questions about IBM's products, and am glad that he does not censor my inane questions to him about EMC products in return. The entire blogosphere benefits from these exchanges, even if they are a bit heated sometimes.
We all have day jobs, and often are just too busy, or too lazy, to read dozens or hundreds of pages of materials, if we can even find them in the first place. Not everyone has the luxury of a "competitive marketing" team to help do the research for you, so if we can get an accurate answer or clarification about a product that is generally available directly from a vendor's subject matter expert, I am all for that.Read More]
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As I mentioned in my post [Moving Over to MyDeveloperWorks], those of us bloggers on IBM's DeveloperWorks are moving over to a new system called "MyDeveloperWorks" which has a host of new features.
Fortunately for me, I missed the note to volunteer to be one of the first bloggers on the block to volunteer to move over. I was traveling and decided not to deal with it until I got back.However, fellow IBM Master Inventor, Barry Whyte, was not so lucky. It is safe to say he was stupid enough to volunteer, and is probably regretting the decision every day since. In case you lost his RSS feed, or can't find him anymore on Google or whatever search engine, here is his[new blog].
Today, he posted an interesting discussion on [SVC Split Cluster - How it works].
As for my blog, I have asked to postpone the move until all the problems that Barry has encountered are resolved. That might be a awhile, but if you lose access to mine sometime in the near future, hopefully at least you have been warned as to what might have happened.Read More]
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Continuing this week's theme of doing important things without leaving town, I present our results foran exciting project I started earlier this year.
For seven weeks, my coworker Mark Haye and I voluntarily led a class of students here in Tucson, Arizona in an after-school pilot project to teach the ["C" programming language] using [LEGO® Mindstorms® NXT robots]. The ten students, boys and girls ages 9 to 14 years old, were already part of the FIRST [For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology] program, and participated in FIRST Lego League[FLL] robot competitions.Since the students were already familiar building robots, and programming them with a simple graphical system of connecting blocks that perform actions. However, to compete in the next level of robot competitions, FIRST Tech Challenge [FTC],we need to leave this simple graphical programming behind, and upgrade to more precise "C" programming.
Mark is a software engineer for IBM Tivoli Storage Manager and has participated in FLL competitions over the past nine years. This week, he celebrates his 25th anniversary at IBM, and I celebrate my 23rd. The teacher, Ms. Ackerman, and the students referred to us as "Coach Mark" and "Coach Tony".
This was the first time I had worked with LEGO NXT robots. For those not familiar with these robots, you can purchase a kit at your localtoy store. In addition to regular LEGO bricks, beams, and plates, there are motors, wheels, and sensors. A programmable NXT brick has three outputs (marked A,B, and C) to control three motors, and four inputs (marked 1,2,3,4) to receive values from sensors. Programs are written and compiled on laptops and then downloaded to the NXT programmable brick through an USB cable, or wirelessly via Bluetooth.
We used the [RobotC programming firmware] and integrated development environment (IDE) from [Carnegie Mellon University].The idea of this pilot was to see how well the students could learn "C". With only a few hours after class on each Wednesday, could we teach young students "C" programming in just seven weeks?
My contribution? I have taught both high school and college classes, and spent over 15 years programming for IBM, so Mark asked me to help.We started with a basic lesson plan:
At the completion of these seven weeks, I sat down to interview "Coach Mark"on his thoughts on this pilot project.
This is a practical programming skill. The "C" language is used throughout the world to program everything from embedded systems to operating systems, and even storage software. This would allow the robots to handle more precise movements, more accurate turns, and more complicated missions.
Can kids learn "C" in only seven weeks?
Part of the pilot project was to see how well the students could understand the material. They were already familiar with building the robots, and understood the basics of programming sensors and motors, so we were hoping this was a good foundation to work from. Some kids managed very well, others struggled.
Did everything go according to plan?
The first two weeks went well, turning on motors and having robots move forward and backward were easy enough. We seemed to lose a few students on week 3, and things got worse from there. However, several of the students truly surprised us and managed to implement very complicated missions. We were quite pleased with the results.
What kind of problems did the kids encounter?
Touch sensor required loops waiting for pressing. Motors did not necessarily turn as expected until more advanced methods were used. Making 90 degree left and right turns accurately was more difficult than expected.
Any funny surprises?
Yes, we had a Challenge Map representing the Mars planetary surface from a previous FLL competition that was dark red and divided into squares with thick black lines. An active light sensor returns a value of "0" (complete darkness) to "100" (bright white).However, the Mars surface had craters that were dark enough to be misinterpreted as a black line causing some unusual results. This required some enhanced programming techniques to resolve.
Did robots help or hurt the teaching process?
I think they helped. Rather than writing programs that just display "Hello World!" on a computer screen, the students can actually see robots move, and either do what they expect, or not!
And when the robots didn't do what they were expected to?
The students got into "debug" mode. They were already used to doing this from previous FLL competitions, but with RobotC, you can leave the USB cable connected (or use wireless Bluetooth) and actually gather debugging information while the robot is running, to see the value of sensors and other variables and help determine why things are not working properly.
Any applicability to the real world of storage?
We have robots in the IBM System Storage TS3500 tape library. These robots scan bar code labels, pull tapes out of shelves and mount them into drives.The programming skills are the same needed for storage software, suchas IBM Tivoli Storage Manager or IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center.
The world is becoming smarter, instrumented with sensors, interconnected over a common network, and intelligent enough to react and respond correctly. The lessons of reading sensor values and moving motors can be considered the first step in solutions that help to make a smarter planet.Read More]
This week's theme: you don't have to "go somewhere" to do "something important."
Seth Godin has a great list of suggestions for do-it-yourself [graduate school for unemployed college students]. Here's an excerpt:
In 2007, 51 percent of graduating college students could find jobs in their field, and this year it has dropped to only 20 percent. If you find yourself with some time on your hands, either recently graduated or recently unemployed, consider volunteerism.Last year, I chose to donate my time and money to an innovative project called "One Laptop per Child" [OLPC]. It was one of my [New Years Resolutions] for 2008. I was actually "recruited" by folks from the OLPC after they read my [series of blog posts] on things that can be done with their now famous green-and-white XO laptop.
In recognition of these efforts, I was awarded last week the bronze[U.S. President's Volunteer Service Award] through the USA Freedom Corps and the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.To learn more about these projects, see my [OLPC wiki page].