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Well, today is April 1, and I just love [April Fools' Day].This day has a rich history of practical jokes. Those not familiar can review this list of [Top 100 pranks and hoaxes].
Tim Ferris started the festivities with [The Grand Illusion: The Real Tim Ferriss speaks]. He claimed that for the past year, he outsourced the writing of his blog to a writer from India, and an editor from the Philippines. Given that his post was dated March 31, and he writes frequently about the benefits of outsourcing, it appeared like a legitimate post. However, Tim fessed up the following day, claiming that it was April 1 in Japan where he wrote it.
Guy Kawasaki wrote[April Fools' Stories You Shouldn't Believe]including my favorite #12 "Ruby on Rails cited Twitter as the centerpiece of its new 'Rails Can Scale' marketing program." Speaking of Twitter, Fellow IBM blogger Alan Lepofsky from our Lotus Notes team wrote[Great, now there is Twitter Spam]. It looked like a real post, but then I realized, ... everything on Twitter is spam!
Topics like energy consumption and global warming were fodder for posts and pranks.The post[Was Earth Hour a joke again?], argued thatthe preparation of "Earth Hour" last week in effect used up more energy than the hour of this annual "lights-off event" actually saved. This reminded me of John Tierney's piece in the New York Times ["How virtuous is Ed Begley, Jr.?"] where a scientist explains that it is more "green" for the environment to drive a car short distances than to walk:
If you walk 1.5 miles, Mr. Goodall calculates, and replace those calories by drinking about a cup of milk, the greenhouse emissions connected with that milk (like methane from the dairy farm and carbon dioxide from the delivery truck) are just about equal to the emissions from a typical car making the same trip. And if there were two of you making the trip, then the car would definitely be the more planet-friendly way to go.
Wayan Vota, my buddy over at OLPCnews, writes in his post[Windows XO Child Centric Development] that the "Sugar" operating environment on the innovative Linux-based XO laptops will soon be re-named the"Windows XO Operating System", with their new motto "Windows XO: A Child-Centric Operating Platform for Learning, Expression and Exploration." The mocked up photo of an XO laptop with the Windows XO logo was excellent!
Gretchen Rubin reminds us that this is a great day to play tricks on your kids in[How April Fool’s day can be a source of happiness], and last week, Kai Ryssdal on NPR Radio investigated if [Mind Habits] was [a video game that's good for you?]This claims that just playing five minutes per day can reduce stress. I haven't been able to stop playing after five minutes, Mind Habits is like the proverbial potato chip, you can't just eat one!
The economists from Freakonomics explain in [And While You're at it, Toss the Nickel] that it costs the US Government 1.7 cents to produce each penny. The US government loses $50 million dollars each year making pennies. Each nickel costs 10 cents to produce. This one was dated March 31, so it could actually be true. Sad, but true.
My favorite, however, was EMC blogger Barry Burke's post["5773 > c"] explaining howtheir scientists were able to reduce latency on the EMC SRDF disk replication capability:
What the de-dupe team found is that there is a hidden feature within recent generations of this chip that allow a single bit, under certain circumstances, to represent TWO bits of information.Again, this looked real, until I did the math. Start with the speed of light in a vacuum of space ("c" in BarryB's title) which is roughly 300,000 kilometers per second, or put into more understandable units, 300 kilometers per millisecond. However, light travels slower through all other materials, and for fiber optic glass it is only 200 kilometers per millisecond. Sending a block of data across 100km, and then getting a response back that it arrived safely, is a total round-trip distance of 200km, so roughly 1 millisecond. However, EMC SRDF often takes two or three round-trips per write, versus IBM Metro Mirror on the IBM System Storage DS8000 which has got this down to a single round-trip. The number of round-trips has a much bigger effect on latency than EMC's double-bit data compression technique. With IBM, you only experience about 1 millisecond latency per write for every 100km distance between locations, the shortest latency in the industry.
It is good that once a year, you should be skeptical of what you read in the blogosphere, and sometimes check the facts!
technorati tags: April Fools Day, Tim Ferris, 4HWW, outsourcing, Guy Kawasaki, Ruby on Rails, Twitter, Alan Lepofsky, Lotus, Notes, Earth Hour, spam, John Tierney, Ed Begley Jr., milk, carbon dioxide, Wayan Vota, OLPCnews, Windows XO, Gretchen Rubin, Kai Ryssdal, Freakonomics, NPR, Mind Habits, penny, nickel, EMC, BarryB, SRDF, IBM, DS8000, Metro Mirror, latency, fiber optic, speed of light[Read More]
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I nearly fell out of my chair laughing.
Nigel Poulton over at Ruptured Monkey suggests a variety of nick names for the various storage bloggers, in his post[Storage Blogwars and the Vendor Fight Club].
Of these, fellow blogger Marc Farley suggested for me "Tony Late for Dinner Pearson", which is fair, I guess, given that I often work late to make sure my blog posts are well written, and sometimes that means I am the last to leave the building.
Full Disclosure: I've known Marc for a while now, we have attended events together and even were co-speakers on a conference call for customers.
Perhaps more disturbing is that, for the most part, the storage blogosphere is entirely dominated by men. Where are the women bloggers for storage?Read More]
My how time flies! The month is almost over, and people are asking if I plan to discuss my [New Years' Resolutions]. For those readers new to my blog, you can review the [resolutions I made in prior years]. I started blogging about my New Year's resolutions back in 2007 because IBM has a "black-out" period before it announces its year-end financial results, and I can't talk about IBM itself during that time.
Two articles gave me some insight.
Derek Silvers writes in his blog post [Shut up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them.] Here is an excerpt:
The solution for this? Spread out your resolutions throughout the year. That is the advice from Jonah Lehrer in his Wall Street Journal article [Blame it on the Brain]. Here is an excerpt:
Based on those two articles, I focused last year on a single resolution, to lose weight. It worked, I lost some weight, not as much as I wanted, and certainly not for the usual eat-
First, I tried Tim Ferris' [Four Hour Body] diet, and I had every intention to post about my progress throughout the year, but that didn't happen. The diet involved eating a restricted diet for six days--including beans, green vegetables, and lean meats--then having one cheat day where you eat a whole bunch of the bad foods you weren't allowed the prior week. The problem I had was that I got so used to eating the same way six days a week, that I forgot to cheat! On this diet, cheating is not optional, it is mandatory. Mo, on the other hand, had no problem with the cheat days, and even extended this to cheat afternoons and cheat evenings!
Mid-year, I saw the movie [Forks Over Knives]. I consulted with my doctor, and switched over to a plant-based, whole-foods diet with his approval. This is basically [dietary veganism]: no eggs, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no poultry. What's left? Lots of slow carbs like beans, spinach and quinoa, that I had already learned to cook and eat earlier on Tim Ferriss' diet, without the stress of remembering to cheat on the weekend.
The nice thing about this diet is that you can eat a lot more than usual, so you are never hungry. The bad news is that I developed a vitamin deficiency, and so my doctor asked me to switch to a relaxed mostly-vegetarian diet, with some eggs, some fish, some meat, and lots of vitamin supplements.
I thought I would start 2012 with a bunch of funny resolutions, like the ones in [Chuck & Beans], but I decided to keep things on a serious level. If you've made resolutions, do not tell anyone what they are, and try focusing on a single one at a time.
For all of you who had a bad year in 2011, I hope you have a much better one in 2012!
Continuing my series on a [Laptop for Grandma], I thought I would pursue some of the "low-RAM" operating system choices. Grandma's Thinkpad R31 has only 384MB of RAM.
All of the ones below are based on Linux. For those who aren't familiar with installing or running the Linux operating system, here are some helpful tips:
While I am a big fan of SUSE, Red Hat, and Ubuntu, these all require more RAM than available on grandma's laptop. Here are some Low-RAM alternatives I tried:
All three of these ran on grandma's Thinkpad R31, and all three could play MP3 music. However, I was concerned that they were not as simple to use as grandma would like, and I would be concerned the amount of time and effort I might have to spend if things go wrong.
Wrapping up my series on a [Laptop for Grandma], I finally have something that I think meets all of my requirements! Special thanks to Guidomar and the rest of my readers who sent in suggestions!
I could have called this series "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". The [Cloud-oriented choices] weren't bad per se, but expected persistent Internet connection. The [Low-RAM choices] were not ugly per se, but had limited application options. The ones below were good, in that they helped me decide what would be just right for grandma.
Lubuntu and Linux Mint LXDE were similar, but I decided to go with the latter because I like that they do not force version upgrades. This is a philosophical difference. Ubuntu likes to keep everyone on the latest supported releases, so will often remind you its time to upgrade. Linux Mint prefers to take an if-i
A few finishing touches to make the system complete:
I considered installing [ClamAV] for anti-virus protection, but since this laptop will not be connected to the Internet, I decided not to burn up CPU cycles. I also considered installing [Team Viewer] which would allow me remote access to her system if anything should every fail. However, since she does not have Wi-Fi at home, and lives only a few minutes across town, I decided to leave this off.
Once again, I want to thank all of my readers for their suggestions! I learned quite a lot on this journey, and am glad that I have something that I am proud to present to grandma: boots quickly enough, simple to use, and does not require on-going maintenance!
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Thanks to all the readers who responded to my bleg for help for the [Laptop for Grandma]!
I've gotten suggestions to upgrade the memory and disk storage, and how to fine-tune the Microsoft Windows XP operating system. Others suggested replacing the OS with Linux, and to use the Cloud to avoid some of the storage space limitations.
But first, I have to mention the latest in our series of "Enterprise Systems" videos. The first was being [Data Ready]. The second was being [Security Ready]. The now the third in the series: the 3-minute [Cloud Ready] video.
So I decided to try different Cloud-oriented Operating Systems, to see if any would be a good fit. Here is what I found:
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM and own IBM stock. This blog post is not meant to endorse one OS over another. I have financial interests in, and/or have friends and family who work at some of the various companies mentioned in this post. Some of these companies also have business relationships with IBM.)
I contacted grandma to ask if she has Wi-Fi in her home, and sure enough, she doesn't. Her PC upstairs is direct attached to the cable modem. So, while the Cloud suggestion was worthy of investigation, I will continue to pursue other options that do not require being connected. I certainly do not want to spend any time and effort getting Wi-Fi installed there.
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Happy Winter Solstice everyone! The Mayan calendar flipped over yesterday, and everything continued as normal.
The next date to watch out for is ... drumroll please ... April 8, 2014. This is the date Microsoft has decided to [drop support for Windows XP].
While many large corporations are actively planning to get off Windows XP, there are still many homes and individuals that are running on this platform.
When [Windows XP] was introduced in 2001, it could support systems with as little as 64MB of RAM. Nowadays, the latest versions of Windows now requires a minimum of 1GB for 32-bit systems, with 2GB or 3GB recommended.
That leaves Windows XP users on older hardware few choices:
Here is a personal example. A long time ago, I gave my sister a Thinkpad R31 laptop so that she could work from home. When she got a newer one, she passed this down to her daughter for doing homework. When my neice got a newer one, she passed this old laptop to her grandma.
Grandma is fairly happy with her modern PC running Windows XP. She plays all kinds of games, scans photographs, sends emails, listens to music on iTunes, and even uses Skype to talk to relatives. Her problem is that this PC is located upstairs, in her bedroom, and she wanted something portable that she could play music downstairs when she is playing cards with her friends.
"Why not use the laptop you have?" I asked. Her response: "It runs very slow. Perhaps it has a virus. Can you fix that?" I was up for the challenge, so I agreed.
(The Challenge: Update the Thinkpad R31 so that grandma can simply turn it on, launch iTunes or similar application, and just press a "play" button to listen to her music. It will be plugged in to an electrical outlet wherever she takes it, and she already has her collection of MP3 music files. My hope is to have something that is (a) simple to use, (b) starts up quickly, and (c) will not require a lot of on-going maintenance issues.)
Here are the relevant specifications of the Thinkpad R31 laptop:
The system was pre-installed with Windows XP, but was terribly down-level. I updated to Windows XP SP3 level, downloaded the latest anti-virus signatures, and installed iTunes. A full scan found no viruses. All this software takes up 14GB, leaving less than 6GB for MP3 music files.
The time it took from hitting the "Power-on" button to hearing the first note of music was over 14 minutes! Unacceptable!
If you can suggest what my next steps should be, please comment below or send me an email!
Most readers know thta Tucson is home of one of the largest collections of world-renowned experts on IT storage. But what you may not know, is that Tucson is also the home of experts for optical sciences. This week, I was part of a delegation of IBMers invited on a tour of the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab [SOML].
SOML was built in 1990 underneath the football stadium at the University of Arizona. Why under the stadium? Their motivation was [Chicago Pile-1], the world's first nuclear reactor, built by Enrico Fermi under the football stadium at the University of Chicago.
We got to see all aspects of the process to develop the huge mirrors used in large telescopes. SOML did not always offer lab tours. Back in 1993, two dozen members of the Earth First! terrorist organization [attacked the lab with hammers and monkey wrenches to destroy and dismantle the mirror lab]. Now, security is tight to ensure no-one damages these mirrors, some of which fetch as much as $30 million dollars.
At other mirror labs, mirrors start as a large, heavy, flat piece of glass and then ground and polished to the correct parabolic curve. SOML created a new process that works a lot better, similar to making a [Pineapple Upside Down Cake]. For those who are not familiar with this cake, you arrange sliced pineapple rings on the bottom of the baking dish, then pour the liquid cake batter that fills in and around the pineapple slices, then bake.
The first step is creating a base of 1,690 hexoganal tubes made of Aluminum Silicate. These are like the pineapple rings in the cake. The tubes are bolted to the baking dish that is 8.4 meters wide. These tubes form the base of the [parabolic shape] that focuses starlight to a small focal point. The tubes are spaced with about an inch of space in between. The Aluminum silicate feels like clay.
Once the base is built, chunks of glass are placed on the surface. Rather then pouring on the cake mix of molten glass, these chunks will be melted in place. This isn't normal glass, but a special Boron Silicate glass that does not expand or contract much during changes in temperature, made by the [Ohara Corporation] in Japan.
The oven is then lowered onto the baking dish. Once the temperature reaches 700 degrees, the entire system is then rotated at 7 RPM. This allows the glass to melt and take its parabolic shape through [centrifugal force]. The people who run the oven are called "oven pilots", and they monitor the entire process to make sure nothing goes wrong.
This particular mirror is one of the two that will go into the [Large Binocular Telescope]. The mirror will be 36 inches thick at the edges, and 18 inches in the middle. If the glass cools down to quickly, it may crack or form crystals, so instead the oven is kept in place and the temperature lowered slowly over the course of a few months. This is called annealing.
Once a mirror has annealed, 24 suction cups are glued to the top surface to pull the mirror out of the baking dish. It is then tipped on its side so that all the bolts can be removed and the hexagonal tubes washed out, leaving behind a honey-combed effect on the bottom of the mirror. This means the mirror is 80 percent air, making it strong and lightweight.
The next step is grinding the surface with diamonds. In most cases, the process of spinning creates the correct shape so little grinding is required. However, for this mirror here for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope [LSST], about five tons of glass will be ground out of the center. This will actually have two parabolic curves, the outer curve is shallow, and the inner curve is deep. This will allow for the LSST to survey a wide area of space at a time.
Once the glass is ground to the right shape, it will be polished with Cerium Oxide, what is commonly known as Jeweler's Rouge. How smooth does it have to be? If this mirror were the size of the United States, there would be no bump higher than 2 inches tall!
Most mirrors are symmetrical, so the polishing can be done on a spinning platform, but this mirror is not. The Large Magellan Telescope will consist of seven mirrors, one in the middle that is symmetrical, and surrounded by six other mirrors that will all continue the parabolic shape in each direction. This is one of the outer mirrors, which means that each part of the polishing process will be controlled by computers to get exactly the curve required.
Here is a small scaled-down model of the Magellan Telescope. Each of the seven mirrors will be 8.4 meters wide. At this point, one person asked why all the mirrors were 8.4 meters wide. I joked that this was the size of the oven! It reminded me of [the story where newly-wed had to ask her grandmother why she cut the ends off the pot roast]. The actual reason was that the posts of the football stadium are 8.5 meters wide, so any mirror made inside the lab larger than that could not be removed easily for transportation.
The LMT will be installed on [Cerro Tololo] in Chile, where my father worked earlier in his career. Why Chile? Observatories need high altitude, dry climate and clear skies. That is why Arizona is home to many observatories, including Kitt Peak National Observatory and the Vatican Observatory on Mount Graham. Cerro Tololo in Chile is close to the equator and meets these requirements.
Once operational in 2020, it will gather 6 TB of images every evening. That got all of the IBMers on the tour very excited!
To verify the polishing is complete, it is put on three red stands and measured with a laser. Once the measurements are complete. The surface will be coated with aluminum to provide the reflective surface. You can't just paint the surface with a roller! Instead, the aluminum is vaporized and allowed to land on the surface of the mirror evenly, in a layer that is only three molecules thick. There is more aluminum in standard size beer can than on the surface of one of these 8.4 meter size mirrors!
So that was the tour. It took almost 2 hours. If you are ever in Tucson, consider contacting the SOML and arranging a tour for yourself. There is no other mirror lab like it!
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Last year, Mo and I traveled down alongside the Mississippi river, attempting to cover [Eight States in Eight Days], but ended up covering [Seven States in Nine Days]. This time, we decided to go overseas, to knock off a few items from her [bucket list].
I would like to thank Delta Air Lines for letting Mo and I take this trip using frequent flyer miles, Hertz Rental Cars for offering a sweet deal on a tiny Hyundai i20 car, the Gran Hotel Benahavis for their hospitality, and the incredibly warm and helpful people of Atlanta. I am glad that my language skills in French, Spanish and Arabic came in quite handy!
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Last week, in my post [IT Support for the Holidays], I mentioned that I was scrubbing computers in preparation to give them to charity. A local reader asked if I would be willing to donate one of the computers to her kindergarten class. She teaches a class of 20 kids, at the very same elementary school that I went to when I was that age.
So here is the beefiest machine of the set.
Make/Model: Sony PCV-RC850 Processor: 2.4GHz Intel 32-bit RAM: 512MB Hard disk: 40GB Removable media: CD/DVD-ROM and CD/DVD-RW Keyboard/mouse: standard PS/2 Sound: headphone jack Ethernet port: 100Mbps USB ports: two
IBM likes grand challenges, like [Deep Blue computer] to play chess against Grandmaster Garry Kasparov, and the [Watson computer] to play against two experts on the game show Jeopardy! My "Kidergarten Desktop" challenge is certainly on a smaller scale--to install software on this machine that will neet the following requirements
The 512MB is not enough to run Microsoft Windows 7, but certainly enough to run some flavors of Linux. Inspired by this review of [Top 6 Linux Distributions for Children], I thought I would give a few a spin.
Many of these have Live
I had already scrubbed the [Windows XP] and replaced with [Linux Mint 12 LXDE]. Can I just install the Edubuntu-desktop on Linux Mint? While Linux Mint is Ubuntu-based, it is not binary compatible, so I will need to install fresh.
The [Edubuntu] LiveDVD requires 1GB of memory to try out, so to get this installed, I used the "Alternate Ubuntu 12.04" installer DVD.
Why 12.04 release of Ubuntu? The current release is 13.10 will only be supported for 9 months, and in keeping with "Requirement #3 Minimal Maintenance", the [Edubuntu team recommends installing a Long Term Support (LTS) release], and 12.04.3 is the most recent LTS that will be supported through 2017.
Edubuntu recommends 20GB of disk space to run, so I have partitioned the 40GB drive as follows:
For this machine, I will have three users configured:
Ubuntu's [Alternate Installer] uses basic graphic mode that can run in 512MB, and once installed, I was then able to install the Edubuntu Desktop and both preschool and primary-level educational software, to account for all learning ability levels of the children.
admin-$ sudo bash admin-# apt-get install edubuntu-desktop admin-# apt-get install ubun
I am not a big fan of Ubuntu's "Unity" panel on the left, and was hoping that Edubuntu-desktop would remove it, but no luck. so I removed it manually.
This system does not boot USB files natively, and getting Grub2 boot loader to boot ISO files was more difficult than I imagined. I was able to extract the necessary files over to sda2 hard disk to get them to work. I took "Clonezilla" full system backups to a separate SSH server over my local subnet.
Well, that's my start. Any suggestions? Has anyone done this before? Please enter comments below.