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While many are just becoming familiar with the end-user interfaces of Web 2.0, from blogs and wikis to FaceBook and FlickR, fewer may be familiar with the "information infrastructure" of servers and storagebehind the scenes.
Last year, I bought an XO laptop under the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] foundation's Give-1-Get-1 program and posted my impressions on this blog. One in particular, my post[Printingon XO laptop with CUPS and LPR] showed how to print from the XO laptop over to a network-attached printer.This caught the attention of the OLPC development team, who asked me tohelp them with another project as a volunteer. Before accepting, I had to learn what skills they were really looking for, especially since I do notconsider myself an expert in neither printing nor networking.
(Unlike a regular 9-to-5 job where most people just try to look busy for eight hours a day, doingvolunteer work means being ready to ["roll up your sleeves"] and actuallyaccomplish something. This applies to any kind of volunteer work, from hammering nails for [Habitat for Humanity] to sorting cans at the [Community Food Bank].Best Buy uses the phrase "Results Oriented Work Environment" [ROWE] to describetheir latest program, modeled in part after the mobile workforce policies of Web2.0-enlightened companiesIBM and Sun, but that is perhaps a topic for another blog post!)
Apparently, to support a school full of students with XO laptops, it would be nice to have a few serversthat provide support to manage the class lesson plans, make reading materials and other content available,and keep track of results. What they need is an "information infrastructure"! They decided on two specific servers:
School Server -- this would run a popular class management system called [Moodle]
Library Server -- a server for a digital library collection, based on Fedora Commons[16-minute video]
In keeping with OLPC philosophy to use free and open source software[FOSS], both servers are based on the [LAMP] platform. LAMP is an acronym for thecombined software bundle of Linux, Apache, MySQL and a Programming language like PHP. The "XS" team working onthe school server wanted me to build a LAMP server and install Moodle to help test the configuration, determinewhat other software is required, and perhaps develop a backup/recovery scenario. Basically, they needed someone with Linux skills to put some hardware and software together.
(I am no stranger to Linux. Back in the 1990s, I was part of the Linux for S/390 team, led the effort to createthe infamous "compatible disk layout" (CDL) that allows z/OS to access ESCON and FICON-attached Linux volumes,took my LPI certification exam, and led a team to validate FCP drivers for our disk and tape storage systems. For an IBMer to volunteer foran Open Source community project, you have to take an "open source" class and get management approval to reviewfor any possible "conflicts of interest". I got this all taken care of, and accepted to help the XS team.)
Building a test environment is similar to baking a cake. You have a recipe, utensils, and ingredients. Here'sa bit of description of each of the ingredients:
Like Windows, the Linux operating system comes in different flavors to run on handhelds, desktops and servers. For servers, IBM tends to focus on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SUSE Linux Eneterprise Server (SLES). However, the XS team decidedinstead to use [Fedora 7], a community-supported version from Red Hat. Earlier versions of Fedora were known as "Fedora Core", but apparently with version 7, the word "Core" has been dropped. Fedora 7 can be used in either desktop or server mode.
[Apache] is web server software, and half of all web servers on the internet use it. It competes head-on against Micorosofts Internet Information Services (IIS) serverprovided in Windows 2003. The Apache name is partly from thefact that its origins were "a patchy" variant of the NCSA HTTPd 1.3 codebase. Thepopular [IBM HTTP Server] is poweredby Apache, with added support to the rest of the IBM WebSphere software portfolio. The XS team chose Apache v2as the web server platform.
[MySQL] is a relational database management system (RDBMS) software, similar to commercial products like IBM DB2 Universal Database, Oracle DB, or Microsoft SQL Server. The SQL stands for Structured Query Language, developed by IBM in the early 1970s as a standard languageto update and query database tables. MySQL comes in two flavors, MySQL Enterprise for commercial use, and MySQLCommunity, which is community-supported. There are over 10 million instances of MySQL running websites on the internet, which helps explain why Sun Microsystems agreed to acquire MySQL AB company last month.The XS team decided on MySQL 5.0 as the database platform.
To make HTML pages dynamic, including the possibility to add or query database contents, requires programming.A variety of web scripting languages were developed, all starting with the letter "P" to claim to be the programming part of the LAMP platform, including [PHP], Perl, and Python. Later, new programming language frameworks have been developed that do not start with the letter "P", like [Ruby on Rails]. PHP is short for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor which explains that it pre-processes HTML during web serving,looking for special tags indicating PHP code, allowing programming logic to insert HTML content, such as information extracted from a database.While Python is the language that runs the Sugar interface on the XO laptops, the XS team decided onPHP v5 as the programming language for the server.
As for utensils, you only need a few utilities
A simple text editor: I go old-school and use the classic "vi" (to learn this editor, see the["Cheat Sheet" method] on IBM Developerworks)
secure socket shell (SSH): this allows you to access one server from another
browser access to the internet: when you encounter problems, get error messages, or whatever, it pays to know how to search for things with Google
As for a recipe, the Moodle website spells out some unique details and parameters. For the base LAMP platform,I chose to follow the book [Fedora 7 Unleashed] that has specific chapters on setting up SSH, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Squid and so on. The resultingconfiguration looks like this:
Here were the sequence of events:
I took an old PC that I wasn't using anymore, backed up the Windows system, and installed Linux on top. Thebook above had a Fedora 7 DVD on the back jacket, but I used the [OLPC LiveCD] that had some values pre-configured.
Set the IP address static. I set mine to 192.168.0.77 which nobody sees except my other systems.
My school server is "headless" which means it does not have its own keyboard, video or mouse. It also runs only to Linux run level 3, command line interface only, no graphics.I was able toshare using a KVM switch], but this meant having to remember something on one screen while I was switching over to the other. My Windows XP system has mybrowser connection to the internet to follow instructions or read error messages, so I need that up all thetime. To get around this, on my Windows XP system,I generated SSH public and private keys, copied the public key over to my new Linux system, and used [OpenSSH for Windows] to connect over. Now, on one screen,I have my Windows XP Firefox browser, and a separate command line window that is accessing my Linux schoolserver.
With SSH up and running, I can now use "vi" to edit files, and issue commands to install or activatethe remaining software. First up, Apache. I got this working, and from Windows XP, verified that going to"http://192.168.0.77" showed the Apache test screen.
I installed PHP, and tested it with a simple short index.php file.
I installed MySQL, setup the base "installation databases", and created a test database. Here is whereyou might want to set a password for the MySQL root user, but I chose to do that later for now.
I installed Moodle. It was smart enough to check that Apache, PHP, and MySQL were operational, andapparently I missed a few special "PHP" modules that had to be linked in. I was able to find them, downloadthem, and get them installed.
I brought up Moodle, created a "class category" of SCIENCE and a new class "Chemistry 101", and it allworked.
I also activated Squid, which is a web proxy cache server that stores web pages for faster access.
Another idea was to activate Samba, to provide CIFS file and print sharing, but I decided to put this off.
I got all of this done last Saturday, start to finish. Now the fun begins. We are going to run throughsome tests, document the procedures, and try to get a system up and running in a remote school in Nepal. Fornow, I have only one XO laptop to simulate what the student sees, and one laptop that can represent eithera teacher's Windows-based laptop, or run QEMU and emulate a second XO laptop.For tuning, I might go through the procedures mentioned on IBM Developerworks "Tuning LAMP"[Part 1, Part 2,Part 3].
For those in the server or storage industry that need to understand Web 2.0 information infrastructure better,building a LAMP server like this can be quite helpful.
Last week, I got the following comment from Bob Swann:
I am looking for the IBM VM Poster or a picture of the IBM VM "Catch the Wave"
Do you know where I might find it?
Well, Bob, I made some phone calls. The company that published these posters no longer exists, butI found a coworker at the Poughkeepsie Briefing Center who still had the poster on his wall, and he was kind enough to take a picture of it for you.
VM: The Wave of the Future (click thumbnail at left to see larger image)
Some may recognize this as a [mash-up] using as a base the famous Japanese 10-inch by 15-inch block print[The Great Wave off Kanagawa] byartist [Katsushika Hokusai]. I had this as my laptop'swallpaper screen image until last year when I was presenting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was told that it reminded people about the horrible tsunami caused by the [Indian Ocean earthquake] back in 2004.I was actually scheduled to fly the last week of December 2004 to Jakarta, Indonesia, but at the last minute ourclient team changed plans. I would have been on route over the Pacific ocean when the tsunami hit, and probably stranded over there for weeks or months until the airports re-opened.
The Wave theme was in part to honor the IBM users group called World Alliance VSE VM and Linux (WAVV) which is havingtheir next meeting [April 18-22, 2008] in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I presentedat this conference back in 1996 in Green Bay, Wisconsin, as part of the IBM Linux for S/390 team. It started onthe Sunday that Wisconsin switched their clocks for [DaylightSaving Time], and the few of us from Arizona or other places that don't both with this, all showed up forbreakfast an hour early.
When I was in Australia last year, I was told the wave that sports fans do, by raising their hands in coordinatedsequence, was called the [Mexican Wave]in most other countries. When I was there, Melbourne was trying to outlaw this practice at their cricket matches.
The "wave" represents a powerful metaphor, from z/VM operating system on System z mainframes to VMware and Xenon Intel-based processor machines, as the direction of virtualization that we are heading for future data centers.The Mexican wave represents a glimpse of what humans can accomplish with collaboration on a globalscale. It can also represent the tidal wave of data arising from nearly 60 percent annual growth instorage capacity. (I had to mention storage eventually, to avoid being completely off-topic on this post!)
I hope this is the graphic you were looking for Bob. If anyone else has wave-themed posters they would like to contribute, please post a comment below.
Continuing my week's theme on the XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] foundation, I successfully managedto emulate my XO on another system.
Part of what is attractive of the XO laptop is the hardware, the high-resolution200dpi screen, the clever screen that rotates and folds flat into an eBook reader,and the water-tight, dust-proof keyboard. The other part is the software, howthey managed to pack an entire operating system, with useful applications, intoa 1GB NAND flash drive.
The drawback for developers like me is the risk of changing something that breaks the system. For example, my first attempt to create my own activityresulted in a blank space in my action bar, and my journal went into someinfinite loop, blinking as if it were still loading for minutes on end. I fixed it by deleting out the activity I created and rebooting.
To get around this, I successfully ran the disk-image under Linux's Virtual Machinesoftware called Qemu. This is an open source offering, with a proprietary add-onaccelerator called Kqemu. Here were the steps involved:
Base Operating System
Qemu is now available to run on Linux, Windows and OS X-Intel. I have an Ubuntu 7.04"Feisty Faun" version of Linux installed on my system from a project I did last year, so decided to use that.
Normally, "apt-get install qemu" would be enough, but I wanted to get the latest release, so I downloaded the [0.9.0 version]tarball of compiled binaries. Note that trying to compile Qemu from source requiresa downlevel gcc-3.x compiler, and my attempts to do this failed. The compiled binariesworked fine.
The Kqemu author hasn't packaged this for distribution, so I download the source code anddid my own compiles. You can do the "configure-make-install" using the regular gcc 4.1compiler and it went smoothly.
Getting Kqemu active was bit of a challenge. I had to make sense of Nando Florestan's[Installing Kqumu in Ubuntu] article,and the subsequent comments that followed.
There is a tiny [8MB Linux image]that should be used to verify the Kqemu is activated correctly.
The Disk Image
As with other development efforts, there are the older stable versions, and the bleedingedge development versions. I chose the 650 Build from the [Ship.2 stable versions], whichmatches the version on my XO laptop. The image comes as a *.bz2, which is a highly-compressedfile. Using "Bunzip2", the 221MB file expands to something like 932MB.
I renamed the resulting file to "build650.img"
Once I got all this done, I then made a simple script "launch" in my /home/tpearson/bin directory:
Then "launch build650.img" was all I needed to run the emulation. The full-screen mode helpsemulate the view on XO laptop. I was able to change the jabber server to "xochat.org" and see otherXO laptops online on my neighborhood view.
When running under Qemu, you can't just press Ctrl-Alt-something. For example, Ctrl-Alt-Erase onthe XO reboots the Sugar interface. However, do this on a Linux system, and it reboots your nativeX interface, blowing away everything.Instead, you press Ctrl-Alt-2 to get to the Qemu console, designated by (qemu) prompt,and then type:
Press "Ctrl-Alt-1" followed by "Ctrl-Alt" to get back to the emulated XO screen.
With this emulation, I am more likely to try new things, change files around, edit system files,and so on, without worrying about rendering my actual XO laptop unusable. Once debugged, I canthen work on moving them over to my XO, one at a time.
Wrapping up this week's theme on the XO laptop, I decided to take on thechallenge of printing. I managed to print from my XO laptop to my laserjet printer.I checked the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] website,and found there is no built-in support for printers, but there have been several peopleasking how to print from the XO, so here are the steps I did to make it happen.
(Note: I did all of these steps successfully on my Qemu-emulated system first, and then performed them on my XO laptop)
Step 1: Determine if you have an acceptable printer
The XO laptop can only connect to a printer via USB cable or over the network.Check your printer to see if it supports either of these two options. In my case, my printer is connected to my Linksys hub that offers Wi-Fi in my home.
The XO runs a modified version of Red Hat's Fedora 7, so we need to also determineif the printer is supported on Linux.Check the [Open Printing Database]for the level of support. This database has come up with the following ranking system.Printers are categorized according to how well they work under Linux and Unix. The ratings do not pertain to whether or not the printer will be auto-recognized or auto-configured, but merely to the highest level of functionality achieved.
Perfectly - everything the printer can do is working also under Linux
Mostly - work almost perfectly - funny enhanced resolution modes may be missing, or the color is a bit off, but nothing that would make the printouts not useful
Partially - mostly don't work; you may be able to print only in black and white on a color printer, or the printouts look horrible
Paperweight - These printers don't work at all. They may work in the future, but don't count on it
If your printer only supports a parallel cable connection, or does not have a high enough ranking above, go buy another printer. The [Linux Foundation] websiteoffers a list of suggested printers and tutorials.
In my case, I have a Brother HL5250-DN black-and-white laserjet printer connected over a network to Windows XP, OS X and my other Linux systems. It is rated as supporting Linux perfectly, so I decided to use this for my XO laptop.
Step 2: Install Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS)
Technically, Linux is not UNIX, but for our purposes, close enough. Start the Terminalactivity, use "su" to change to root, and then use "yum" to install CUPS. Yum will automatically determine what other packages are needed, in this case paps and tmpwatch. Once installed, use "/usr/sbin/cupsd" to get the CUPS daemon started, and add this to the end ofrc.local so that it gets started every time you reboot.
Click graphic on the left to see larger view
[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$ subash-3.2# yum install cups...Total download size = 3.0 MIs this OK [y/N]? y
To download the appropriate drivers, you may need a browser that can handle file downloads. I have triedto do this with the built-in Browse activity (aka Gecko) but encountered problems. I have both Opera and Firefox installed, but I will focus on Opera for this effort.I also installed the older22.214.171.124 version of the Flash player (worked better than the latest 126.96.36.199 version) and Java JRE.Follow the OLPC Wiki instructions for [Opera, Adobe Flash,and Sun Java] installation, thenverify with the following [Java and Flash] testers.
Step 4: Download drivers and packages unique for your printer
In my case, I used Opera to get to the [Brother Linux Driver Homepage], and downloaded the RPM's for LPR and CUPS wrapper. These are the ones listed under "Drivers for Red Hat, Mandrake (Mandriva), SuSE". I saved these under "/home/olpc" directory.
By default, the root user has no password. However, you will need it to be something for later steps,so here is the process to create a root password. I set mine to "tony" which normallywould be considered too simple a password, but ignore those messages and continue.We will remove it in step 8 (below) to put things back to normal.
[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$ subash-3.2# passwdChanging password for user root.New UNIX password: tonyBAD PASSWORD: it is too shortRetype new UNIX password: tonypasswd: all authentication tokens updated successfullybash-3.2# exit[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$
Step 6: Launch CUPS administration
Here I followed the instructions in Robert Spotswood's [Printing In Linux with CUPS] tutorial.Launch the Opera browser, and enter "http://localhost:631/admin" as the URL. The localhostrefers to the laptop itself, and 631 is the special port that CUPS listens to from browsers. You can alsouse 127.0.0.1 as a shortcut for "localhost", and can be used interchangeably.
In my case, it detected both of my networked printers, so I selected the HL5250DN, entered thelocation of my PPD file "/usr/share/cups/model/HL5250DN.ppd" that was created in Step 4. I set the URI to "lpd://192.168.0.75/binary_p1" per the instructions [Network Setting in CUPS based Linux system] in the Brother FAQ page. I chage the page size from "A4" to "Letter".I set this printer as the default printer. When it asks for userid and password, that is whereyou would enter "root" for the user, and "tony" or whatever you decided to set your root password to.
Select "Print a Test Page" to verify that everything is working.
Step 7: Printing actual files
Sadly, I don't know Opera well enough to know how to print from there. So, I went over to my trustedFirefox browser. Select File->Page Setup to specify the settings, File->Print Preview tosee what it will look like, and then File->Print to send it to the printer.
To print the file "out.txt" that is in your /home/olpc directory, for example, enter"file:///home/olpc/out.txt" as the URL of the firefox browser. This will show the file,which you can then print to your printer. I had to specify 200% scaling otherwise the fontswere too small to read.
Step 8: Remove the "root" password
If you want to remove the root password, here are the steps.
[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$ suPassword: tonybash-3.2# passwd -d rootRemoving password for user root.passwd: Successbash-3.2# exit[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$
Now the problem is that there is no way to print stuff from any of the Sugar activities. The best place toput in print support would be the Journal activity. Along the bottom where the mounted USB keys arelocated could be an icon for a printer, and dragging a file down to the printer ojbect could cause it tobe send to the printer.
The alternative is to write some scripts invocable from the Terminal activity to determine what isin the journal, and send them to LPR with the appropriate parameters.
I did not have time to do either of these, but perhaps someone out there can take on that as a project.
My XO laptop arrived Friday, December 21, this was from the [Give 1 Get 1 (G1G1)] program fromthe One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) foundation. The program continuesto the end of this month (December 31).
Here are my first impressions.
Setup was Easy
Open the box, put in battery, and plug in the adapter. Enter your name and choose your favorite color for your stick figurine. No passwords, no parameters. Software is pre-installed and ready to use.
The four pages of instructions included how to open the unit (not intuitive), where the various connection ports are located, what the home screen and neighborhood screen look like, safety warnings, and a nice letter from Nicholas Negroponte with an 800 phone number and website in case more help is needed.
Connecting to the internet was the first thing I did. The neighborhood screen shows all the Wi-Fi access points. It recognized mineand three others. I clicked on mine, entered my WEP key, and was connected.
This is a Linux operating system running the Sugar user interface.There are four screens:
Neighborhood - shows all Wi-Fi access points
Friends - shows all other XO laptops nearby, in my case I am all alone
Home - your stick figurine with all the applications you can choose from are represented as icons at the bottom, just like OS X on my Mac Mini, or the launchpad on my Windows XP. Left panel for clipboard items.
Application - Applications run in full-screen mode
Four buttons across the top allow you to jump to any screen instantly.Everything else is single left-click. No double-clicks or right-clicks.
A circle on the home screen designates which applications are running, and how much of the available 256MB RAM they are consuming. This makes it easy to seeif you can run more applications or need to shut something down. Youcan jump to any application, or shut it down, from this view.
Shutting down the XO is done by clicking your stick figurine,and choosing shutdown.
I fired up the browser. The default 'home page' offers some help offline, as well as links to online resources and a google search bar. The full-color 1200x900 is very easy to read. You can hit ctrl+plus to make the fonts bigger. In bright sunlight, the screen turns automatically to greyscale.The built-in browser is easy enough to use, with standard back, forward, re-load, and bookmark buttons. The URL entry field also shows the pages title. It doesn't have tabs to see multiple pages at the same time, but I was able to fire up a second instance of the browser, so thatI could alt-tab back and forth between the two web sites.
There are so many applications that they don't all fit on the bottom of the screen.Left and right tab buttons will display the next set. I don't know if it is possible to re-order the icons, but I can certainly see some applications appealing to different ages, and perhaps re-ordering them into age-specific groups might be helpful.
Basic applications include the Abiword word processor, a PDF viewer, a simple paint program, calculator, chat, and news RSS feed reader; TamTam music to play and edit compositions; and some learn-to-program-a-computer software including Pippy, Etoys, and TurtleArt.
The 'record' program lets you take 640x480 pictures with the built-in camera, up to 45 seconds of video and audio recording. The picture abovewas taken with my XO, and edited online using [snipshot.com]. Another program can be usedto make video calls to another computer, similar to Skype or IBM Lotus Sametime.
The XO has built-in microphone and speakers, but also microphone and speaker ports, as well as three USB ports, and a slot for an SD memory card.
The QWERTY keyboard is designed for small children hands, I found myself using my two index fingers in a hunt-and-peck style. People who use Blackberry's or other hand-held devices might be able to use their two thumbs instead. Also, I am not used to a touchpad as the pointing device. My other laptops have a red knob between the G/H/B keys that acts like a joystick. So, I decided to attach my Apple keyboard/mouse to one USB port, which allows me faster typing and better resolution with my mouse.
I also inserted a 1GB SD card into the slot. Getting to the SD slot was challenging--you have to rotate the screen 90 degrees so that the lower right corner is over the laptop handle. It appears I need to purchase some tweasers to get my SD card back out, so until then, it will remain there as permanent addition to my XO.
A terminal application provides a command line interface into Linux.
The 'vi' editor is installed, in case I need to make changes to fstab or anythingelse in my /etc directory.
There is no S-video or VGA port. However, a teacher could probably fold thislaptop up in e-book mode and lay it flat on an [overhead projector] since the screen can handle bright sunlight in black-and-white mode.
The Journal and the Clipboard
There are no folders or subdirectories here. The journal acts as your desktop, holding all the files you have referenced, sorted in chronological order with the most recent on top. The journal application is started automatically when you boot up.My SD card is shown as a separate entry at the bottom right corner, but I have access only to files on my top-level directory on the card. The journal allows you to drag and drop between the system and the SD flash card.The list can be filtered by file type and application, so finding things is easy.You can also copy anything in the journal to the clipboard, appearing on the leftpanel of the home screen. You can then launch or paste this into other applications.
Pressing Alt-1 takes a 1200x900 snapshot of the current screen, and puts it into the journal.On websites that allow you to upload a file, including GMAIL, snipshot.com, etc. the browse button brings up the journal. So, for example, you could take a snapshot of the current webpage or paint creation, and send it as an attachment to someone via GMAIL. Google has an XO-enabled version of GMAIL that you can download from the OLPC activities page.
This entire post, including the picture above, was done with the XO laptop itself. I am impressed with the thought that went into this design, and I see great potential here. The interface adequately hides the Linux operating system for those who just want to use the computer, but makes it readily accessible for those who want to learn more about the Linux operating system and computer programming.
[R&D Magazine] recently conducted a survey that prompted readers to identify the world's most successful Research and Development (R&D) companies. The results are in: IBM was recognized as the best R&D company in the world when several different categories were evaluated, including:
R&D spending as a percentage of revenue
the number of patents
new products in development
The survey considered additional information on more than 130 companies such as data on intellectual property, community service and financial growth trends. Readers were also asked five distinct questions, including the following:
Where would you like to work based on their R&D?
What companies have the most improved R&D in the past five years?
What companies are the leaders in R&D?
Which company's R&D has the strongest influence on society?
Which company's R&D is the most proactive in high tech challenges?
Since it is often 5-15 years between when a scientist in one of our many research labs comes up with a clever idea, to when it is a market success, it is good to have external recognition for the R&D efforts we are doing right now.Here is a link to a [four-page PDF] of the magazine article.
Take for example IBM's recent breakthrough in Silicon photonics. Supercomputers that consist of thousands of individual processing nodes, typically running Linux on dual-core or quad-core processors, connected by miles of copper wires could one day fit into a laptop PC. And while today’s supercomputers can use the equivalent energy required to power hundreds of homes, these future tiny supercomputers-on-a-chip would expend the energy of a light bulb, so this solution is more "green" for the environment.According to the [IBM Press Release]:
The breakthrough -- known in the industry as a silicon Mach-Zehnder electro-optic modulator -- performs the function of converting electrical signals into pulses of light. The IBM modulator is 100 to 1,000 times smaller in size compared to previously demonstrated modulators of its kind, paving the way for many such devices and eventually complete optical routing networks to be integrated onto a single chip. This could significantly reduce cost, energy and heat while increasing communications bandwidth between the cores more than a hundred times over wired chips.
“Work is underway within IBM and in the industry to pack many more computing cores on a single chip, but today’s on-chip communications technology would overheat and be far too slow to handle that increase in workload,” said Dr. T.C. Chen, vice president, Science and Technology, IBM Research. “What we have done is a significant step toward building a vastly smaller and more power-efficient way to connect those cores, in a way that nobody has done before.”
Today, one of the most advanced chips in the world -- IBM’s Cell processor which powers the Sony Playstation 3 -- contains nine cores on a single chip. The new technology aims to enable a power-efficient method to connect hundreds or thousands of cores together on a tiny chip by eliminating the wires required to connect them. Using light instead of wires to send information between the cores can be 100 times faster and use 10 times less power than wires.
I can't believe I have been blogging for a year now!
I have Jennifer Jones from IBM to thank for getting this started. She was my predecessor in the job I have now, and she was moving on to bigger and better things, and during the transition for me to take over, she suggested that we start a blog, podcast, or similar. While there are many blogs and podcasts inside the firewall of IBM, I wanted something to be accessible to all of our IBM sales team, IBM Business Partners, existing and prospective clients, and to enable comments, to enable two-waycommunication. Podcasts are very one-way, so we chose a blog instead.Getting it set up took a while, convincing our own management that this was worthwhile, and dealing with our legal department on the IBM blogging guidelines of what we can and cannot write about, we finally got it going last year, launching September 1, just in time for our 50 years of disk systems innovation campaign.
It has been a wild ride, a great learning experience, and has proven quite fulfilling for job satisfaction. Here are some observations and lessons I have learned along the way.
Roller is the open source blog server that drives Sun Microsystem's blogs.sun.com employee blogging site, IBM DeveloperWorks blogs that this blog exists on, thousands of internal blogs at IBM Blog Central, the JRoller Java community site, and hundreds of others world-wide.Whereas there might be fancier blog systems elsewhere that I could have chosen, hosting my blog with IBM Developerworksseemed like a good choice. I can access from any web-browser capable machine, and enter my blog posts in nativeHTML, that I develop in the tool itself, or offline with a standard basic text editor like Microsoft Notepad that I can then cut-and-paste back in.
One lesson I learned the hard way was that Roller generates the Permalink URL for each blog post based on the first five words of the title. For that reason, it is important to chose an appropriate and unique title, avoiding the use of punctuation, quotation marks, or pharmaceutical "enhancement products" that might get rejected by SPAM filters.Once chosen, you can't change the title afterwards as it won't match the Permalink anymore.My blog post "Aperi is (enhancement product) for SMI-S" caused no end of grief to our Press Release team.
Writing blog posts in native HTML is not as hard as it sounds. I am limited to hosting a maximum of 24MB of files, and they can only be jpg, jpeg, gif, png, mp3, pdf or ppt format.So, wherever possible, I point to other websites for content.For those new to blogging, I recommendThe Barebones Guide to HTML.
Roller also generates for me a spreadsheet of all my page views for the week. Tracking blog traffic closely is as crazyas checking your company's stock price every day. These "web-stat" e-mails get filed directly into my Bacn folder on Lotus Notes.
In my earlyadvice to bloggers, I mentioned my choice of Bloglines as my RSS feed reader. When I subscribe to a new blog, I specify Full entries, not Partial,which allows me to scan it quickly, but filters out many of the non-text content like videos. It also allowed meto see what my own blog posts looked like from within a reader, so that I can write them appropriately.
I find if valuable to read other blogs, including those written by employees of our toughest competitors. Evenif you don't blog yourself, following blogs can be extremely valuable. Be careful what you leave as comments onother blogs, they may come back to haunt you later.
Currently, I track 55 blogs, some about storage,marketing, Web 2.0 issues, Second Life, Linux, or other areas of interest. I prefer blogs that make only 1-5 postsper week, so blogs like LifeHacker and LifeRemix are off my Bloglines list, but are excellent resourceswhen I am searching for something specific. If you think 55 is a lot of blogs, consider Timothy Ferriss' post onHow RobertScoble reads 622 RSS feeds each morning.
I have quite an international readership, so I have to be careful using American idioms and pop cultural references.For example, in my blog post IBM acquires Softek, I mentioned "shotgun weddings" and had various responses asking what exactly did that mean,all from readers outside the USA. I've learned that sometimes you need to link them to an American Slang dictionary,or Wikipedia encyclopedia entry to explain these terms and phrases.
Technoraticurrently tracks over 100 million blogs and over 250 million pieces of tagged social media. Getting my blogtracked had some issues. You have to join, thenpost a "claim"on your own blog. My mistake was having a case-sensitive URL with a mix of upper and lower case letters, but Technorati prefers all lower case. IBM worked with Technorati to get this resolved.
Del.icio.us is a social bookmarking website -- the primary use is to store your bookmarks online, which allows you to access the same bookmarks from any computer and add bookmarks from anywhere, too. On del.icio.us, you can use tags to organize and remember your bookmarks, which is a much more flexible system than folders.
I use Firefox, Safari, Dillo and Internet Explorer web browsers, so it is nice that I have access to allmy bookmarks in the same consistent manner. When I see content on a website that I might like to reference laterin a blog, I tag it with del.icio.us so that I can get to it later.
Fellow GTD-ers will quickly recognize this acronym, but for the rest of you, it refers to David Allen's book "Getting Things Done®".This is a great book! I learned about it reading other people's blogs, and found it incrediblyuseful helping me organize my time.There are various online tools available to help employ this method. I use Lotus Connections Activitiesfor group projects with co-workers at IBM, and BackPack for projects withmy friends outside of work.
The success of YouTube encouraged IBM to launch IBM TV, a portal for IBM's video and multimedia assets and make it easier for IBM employees, customers, partners and prospects to access and view IBM multimedia. The plan is to have eight anchor episodes per year, professionally hosted by TV personality, Joe Washington, and point to related offers and other resources for viewers to learn more.
Blogging also introduced me to Second Life. I asked around if anyone else within IBM was using Second Life, anddiscovered quite a few. I got invited to join our internal Eightbar group, and participated in various events, including an IBM Holidayparty that I discussed in my blog post"Building a Snowman in Second Life".
In April, we had a launch of our newest products in Second Life, and we plan to have two more Second Life events,September 20 and another in November, staged as "Meet the Experts" question and answer panels.
I wrap up with Facebook. Actually, whereas most of my Web 2.0 efforts have been work-related, I have quite a few friends and family who follow my blog. Several were inspired to start their own blogs, such asPassages from Pamand Barry Whyte on Storage Virtualization. Bridging the gap is Facebook, something I can use to keep tabs on my friends, as well as my storage industry-related contacts.
Wow, that's quite a lot in one year. Well, I am done with my meetings down here in Sao Paulo, Brazil. My colleauges and I are returning tonight to enjoy the long Labor Day weekend.
In his blog Rough Type, Nick Carr asks Where is my CloudBook?and points to John Markoff's 2-part series in the New York Times on computing in the clouds.(Read it here: Part 1, Part 2)
At first, I thought he meant computing while in an airplane, but instead, he is talking about computing on a laptop or other hand-held device that does not have an internal disk drive, no installedoperating system, no internal data storage. Instead, the idea is that you boot from a CD, accessyour data, and even some of your programs, over the internet. John used an Ubuntu Linux LiveCD in his example.
This week, I am in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and was "in the clouds" for over 10 hours flying from Dallas to here.The one time I am guaranteed "off-line" from the internet is on the plane, and I spend enough time on planesthat I am able to get work done despite being "disconnected".
The same reasons people want to get out of having a disk drive on their laptop, are the reasons data centersare getting out of internal disk on their servers.
disks crash, and typically are not protected in any RAID configuration on most laptops
operating systems get infected with viruses and malware
storage on one server is generally inaccessible to every other server
Booting from CD is especially clever. No more worrying about fixing your Windows registry, viruses,corrupted operating system files, or the cruft that accumulates on your C: drive that slowsyou down. The CD is the sameevery time, so it is like running your system with a freshly installed operating system every day.
The need for central repositories of data harkens back to the years of the IBM mainframe. Of course, whatmade sense back then continues to make sense now. The old 3270 terminals stored no data, and instead merelyprovided keyboard input and display text screen output to the vast amount of data stored on the central system.Today, the inputs are different, using your finger or mouse instead to point to what you want, sliding itacross to make things happen, and the output may now include photos, audio and video, but the concept isstill the same.
I carry my Ubuntu Linux LiveCD with me on every business trip. Combined with externally rewriteable media,such as a USB key, you can get work done even when you are in an airplane, and upload it whenyou are back on the net.
The IBM Storage and Storage Networking Symposium concludes today. As typical for manysuch conferences, it ended at noon, so that people can catch airline flights.
TS1120 Tape Encryption - Customer Experiences
Jonathan Barney had implemented many deployments of tape encryption, and shared hisexperiences at two customer locations.
The first company had decided to implement their EKM servers on dedicated 64-bitWindows servers. They had three sites, one in Chicago, Alphareta, and New York City,each with two EKM servers. Each library had a single TS3500 tape library, and pointedto four EKM servers, two local, and two remote.
The clever trick was managing the keystore. They decided that EKM-1 was their trustedsource, made all changes to that, and then copied it to the other five EKM servers.His team deployed one site at a time, which turned out to be ok, but he would notrecommend it. Better to design your complete solution, and make sure that all librariescan access all EKM servers.
This company decided to have a single key-label/key-pair for all three locations, but change it every 6 months. You have to keep the old keys for as long as you have tapesencrypted with those keys, perhaps 10-20 years.The customer found the IBM encryption implementation "elegant" and it can be easily replicated to a fourth site if needed.
The second company had both z/OS and Sun Solaris. Initially they planned to have botha hardware-based keystore on System z, and software-based keystore on Sun, but they realized that System z version was so much more secure and reliable, that it made nosense to have anything on the Sun Solaris platform.
On System z, they had two EKM images, and used VIPA to ensure load balancing fromthe library. Tapes written from z/OS used DFSMS Data Class to determine which tapesare encrypted and which aren't. All Tapes written from Sun Solaris were encryptied, written to a separate logical library partition of the TS3500, which in turn contactedthe System z for the EKM management to provide the keys to use for the encryption.
The "gotcha" for this case was that when they tested Disaster Recovery, they had torecover the two EKM servers first, before any other restores could take place, and thistook way too long. Instead, they developed a scaled-down 10-volume "rescue recovery" z/OS image that would contain the RACF database and all EKM related software to actas the keystore during a disaster recovery. Anytime they make updates, they only haveto dump 10 volumes to tape. Restore time is down to only 2 hours.
He gave this advice to deploy tape encryption:
Some third party z/OS security products, like Computer Associates Top Secret orACF2, require some PTFs to work with the EKM. The latest IBM RACF is good to go.
Getting IP support from IOS to OMVS requires IPL.
At one customer, an OMVS monitor software program killed the EKM because it wasn'tin their list of "acceptable Java programs". They updated the list and EKM ran fine.
DO not update EKM properties file while EKM is running. EKM keeps a lot of stuffin memory, and when it is recycled, copies this back to the EKM properties file, reversing any changes you may have done. It is best to shut down EKM, update theproperties file, then start up EKM back up again. This is why you should always haveat least two EKM servers for redundancy.
TSM for Linux on System z
Randy Larson from our Tivoli group presented this session.There is a lot of interest in deploying IBM Tivoli Storage Manager backup and archivesoftware on Linux for System z. Many customers are already invested in a mainframeinfrastructure, may have TSM for z/OS or z/VM, and want the newer features and functions that are available for TSM on Linux.
TSM has special support for Lotus Domino, Oracle, DB2 and WebSphere Application Servers.TSM clients can send backup data to a TSM server internally via Hipersockets, a virtualLAN feature on the System z platform that uses shared memory to emulate TCP/IP stack.
One of the big questions is whether to run Linux as guests under z/VM, or natively onLPAR. The general deployment is to carve an LPAR and run Linux natively untilyour server and storage administration staff have taken z/VM training classes. Oncetrained, they can easily move native LPAR images to z/VM guests. Unlike VMware that takesa hefty 40% overhead on x86 platforms to manage guests, z/VM only takes 5-10% overhead.
For the TSM database and disk storage pools, Randy recommends FC/SCSI disk, with ext3 file system, combined with LVM2 into logical volumes. ECKD disk and reiserfsworks too. Avoid use of z/VM minidisks. Under LVM2, consider 32KB stripes for the TSM database, and 256KB stripes for the disk storage pools. For multipathing, usefailover rather than multibus method. Read IC45459 before you activate "directio".
The TSM for Linux on z is very much like the TSM on AIX or Windows, and not like theTSM for z/OS. For tape, TSM for Linux on z does not support ESCON/FICON attached tape,you need to use FC/SCSI attached tape and tape libraries. TSM owns the library anddrives it uses, so give it a logical library partition separate from z/OS. ForSun/StorageTek customers, TSM works with or without the Gersham Enterprise Distrbu-Tape(EDT) software. Use the IBM-provided drivers for IBM tape. For non-IBM tape, TSM providessome drivers that you can use instead.
That wraps up my week. This was a great conference! If you missed it, look for the one in Montpelier, France this October. Check out the list of IBM Technical Conferencesto find others that might interest you.
Despite this, or perhaps because of this, over 30 percent of IBM's Linux server revenue is onnon-x86 platforms, avoiding the XenSource vs. VMware decision altogether. Both System z (traditional mainframe servers) and System p (traditional UNIX servers) are able to run many Linux images in a fully virtualized manner, without VMware or XenSource.