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Regular Exercise Not Enough To Make Up For Sitting All Day

erikscott Wendy's Triple existed by 1984 (348 comments)

I'm positive the triple existed in 1984 (the last year I lived in a particular city, so I remember it well). It was probably on the menu around 1981 or so - the year that Wendy's came to Our Fair City. The triple was considered obscene, and hence became the traditional end-of-season meal from high school wrestlers. :-)

about a week ago

Meet Flink, the Apache Software Foundation's Newest Top-Level Project

erikscott Hadoop needs a fairly specialized problem (34 comments)

I've been running Hadoop on a 400 node ethernet cluster for a couple years now, and Spark for a few months. I'll give Spark points for speed - as long as your problem fits in RAM, it screams. They have their problems, certainly. Hadoop's dependence on Java and Spark's dependence on Scala... seriously, Java for HPC? WTF? If you're running on anything but x86 Linux you need your head examined. C and Fortran, folks.

You're absolutely right- Hadoop needs the right kind of job. It needs a problem where processing is per-record and has no dependencies on any other record. That eliminates a lot of interesting problems right there. It needs colossal logical block sizes, both to keep the network and drives saturated, but also to keep from bottlenecking on the HDFS namenode. This strongly suggests a small number of utterly huge files - maybe a hundred 100G files. These problems are, commercially, rare. I'm doing genomics-related things, and my 3 to 60 gig files (about 3TB total) are probably not big enough.

Spark is pretty clever. As long as your problem fits in RAM. :-) Since you're writing code in Scala, you're (a) the only person who can be on call and (b) irreplacable, so on balance that may not be so bad. Just depends.

As far as "conventional" cluster programming, I think a good MPI programmer is about as hard to hire as a Scala programmer. MPI looks easy until you get into the corner cases, as I'm sure you've experienced yourself. Trying to do scatter/gather in an environment where worker nodes can vanish without warning is basically a whole lot of not fun. Then there's infiniband. Infiniband FDR is kind of... touchy. If you order a hundred cables, you'll get 98 good ones, and 2 will fail intermittently. It'd be nice if the vendor would label which two were bad, but somehow they don't do this. It was bad enough that Mellanox blamed an earnings miss on bad cables. Maybe they're overcome that? Probably. Maybe. I'll give Hadoop points for working around dead machines and crippled networks.

You know, I've wanted to try sector and sphere, but somehow never gotten around to it.

about two weeks ago

The Failed Economics of Our Software Commons

erikscott Perfectly competitive goods and economic pricing (205 comments)

In market-based economies, pricing of goods depends on fixed and marginal costs. Perfectly competitive (i.e., totally equivalent goods, completely interchangable with each other) cannot be priced above the marginal cost of producing another unit of it (in the long run, at least). Generating pricing power requires differentiation.

Software that is a commodity cannot be priced above its marginal cost. The marginal cost of another OpenSSL download is about zilch. If there was an efficient market able to make micropayments, market balance could be restored. As it is now, it's a hobby activity for individuals and a cost of doing business for large companies.

I would argue that editors, OS kernels, and compilers are, at this point, commodities. Obviously commercial offerings are differentiated just enough to generate some pricing power, and that suggests that Open Source offerings at least theoretically could (dual open/commercial licenses, like Qt in the past), but I would argue this is a temporary market inefficiency.

Incidentally, the classic way to make money giving away software was to then sell the consulting services around it.

about a month and a half ago

US Army May Relax Physical Requirements To Recruit Cyber Warriors

erikscott different basic training already for doctors... (308 comments)

Not that different from Doctors (MDs), actually. Their basic is two weeks. Makes sense when you figure their basic probably costs $2-3 per minute.

about 3 months ago

IBM Pays GlobalFoundries $1.5 Billion To Shed Its Chip Division

erikscott Re:Bigger fuckup than John Akers (84 comments)

I'm still trying to work out why they're paying GlobalFoundries to take the plants. The pension argument doesn't make sense - IBM switched from "defined benefit" to "defined contribution" about ten years ago, so they can walk away on a whim now. The only factors I can think of are:

1) IBM received a decent subsidy ($600M) from the feds to run a "trusted semiconductor foundry" line, on US soil (google it - not a secret). The government does this in several markets and industries just to make sure they prop up at least one US supplier - they used to pay Micron to make RAM in the US (and may still). Seemed at the time like they wanted to support "one architecture in addition to x86", which would of course be POWER. So, would a shutdown have triggered a repayment clause?

2) Or... semiconductor manufacturing is a nasty business - literally. Maybe it's cheaper to pay someone to take it than it is to clean up all the, say, arsenic that various processes use a lot of. Still, I would think that just sealing the doors with concrete and walking away would be pretty cheap, too.

about 3 months ago

The Greatest Keyboard Ever Made

erikscott Re:Still being made... (304 comments)

I've got a version 3 Das Keyboard. Loud, obnoxious, feels great. My co-workers have basically just decided to accept it.

about 4 months ago

Supercomputing Upgrade Produces High-Resolution Storm Forecasts

erikscott Mod parent up (77 comments)

I posted, so can someone else mod the parent up? tnx.

about 4 months ago

Supercomputing Upgrade Produces High-Resolution Storm Forecasts

erikscott Re:And as the resolution increases ... (77 comments)

There are urban airshed models that do exactly this for air quality studies and plume analysis models for hazmat, but I'm not aware of weather forecasting at the block-by-block level. Right off the cuff, I would suspect that albedo is at least as important - at human building scales, reynolds number is going to be pretty high. At that point, it looks more like computational fluid dynamics and less like weather - hence airshed modeling and plume analysis.

about 4 months ago

Supercomputing Upgrade Produces High-Resolution Storm Forecasts

erikscott WRF has gotten pretty good, actually (77 comments)

I'm a computer engineer, not a meteorologist, but I've worked with them off and on for about eight years now. One of the most common models for research use is "Weather Research and Forecasting Model" (WRF, pronounced like the dude from ST:TNG). There are several versions in use, so caveats are in order, but in general WRF can produce really good results at a 1.6KM grid for 48 hours in the future. I was given the impression that coarser grids are the route to happiness for longer period forecasts.

WRF will accept about as much or as little of an initializer as you want to give it. Between NEXRAD radar observations, ground met stations all over the place, two hundred or so balloon launches per day, satellite water vapor estimates, and a cooperative agreement with airlines to download in-flight met conditions (after landing, natch), there's gobs of data available.

The National Weather Service wants to run new models side-by-side with older models and then back check the daylights out of them, so we can expect the regular forecast products to improve dramatically over the next (very) few years.

about 4 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

erikscott Re:Job market does not like PhDs (479 comments)

I wish I had mod points right now. :-)

CS adjuncts are, additionally, looking for bright people to hire.

about 4 months ago

Nokia Buys a Chunk of Panasonic

erikscott Re:Nokia still has products? (54 comments)

Nokia has completely shifted gears before - they used to make forestry equipment at one point (early 70s?), which indirectly led to their making VHF radios with telephone interfaces for use out in the boondocks, which led to cellphones for them.

The VHF "portable phones" from the late 80s, by the way, can be hacked into becoming 2 meter (144 MHz) ham radios. Have fun...

about 6 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Preparing an Android Tablet For Resale?

erikscott Re:To answer the question directly (113 comments)

On an ASUS Transformer, the keyboard is where most of the value is, along with the oh-so-strange fifteen (15) volt charger. Sell the keyboard and charger, grind the tablet to powder. It's the only way to be sure.

about 6 months ago

X Window System Turns 30 Years Old

erikscott Ultrix (was: Re:DECwindows ;) ) (204 comments)

Mine would be as a first-year EE student, NC State U. 1987. OSF wouldn't ship Motif for another year and half, so it was Athena Widgets and TWM all the way.

God, I miss the screaming. :-)

about 7 months ago

Fixing the Humanities Ph.D.

erikscott Re:Are they taking advice from law schools? (325 comments)

The MLA's principal source of revenue is... wait for it... humanities PhD.s and their annual dues. So hell no they aren't going to call for a reduction in output.

Historically, the sink for all those graduates was Law School. University education basically was Law School until individual "majors" started being created in the mid nineteenth century and the J.D. became a degree in its own right. Lawyers are in something of a unbalanced predator/prey relationship now, and it'll take a while to swing around. Meanwhile, your humanities PhD plus two semesters of organic chem will get you into any Medical School in the country. They like people with the demonstrated perseverance of a PhD in basically anything. The Great Doctor Famine is a good 25-30 years away (the GenX bunch, well, there just aren't enough of us to fill all those beds, and it'll be a while before the millenials get there to fill 'em back up).

about 8 months ago

Apple Fixes Major SSL Bug In OS X, iOS

erikscott VAX/VMS supported into late 1990s (96 comments)

Sadly, VMS support for VAX ended around 7.1 or 7.3 or something - it was in the late nineties. But every alpha ever made (at least "that ever ran VMS in the first place") can run the latest version.

All UltraSPARCS can run solaris 10.X. Hardware from this millenium is required for Solaris 11.X (more or less). Pre-Ultra machines are kind of limited - A microsparc machine (sparcStation 5 and similar) is supported on 2.9, but unless you max out the RAM you're better off at 2.8. Sparcs with VME busses (4/110, 4/280, etc) are stuck further back - maybe Solaris 2.4, but I'm not sure. These are better off running OpenBSD anyway. :-)

Yeah, I get a laugh out of what constitutes "support" these days. :-)

about 9 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Fastest, Cheapest Path To a Bachelor's Degree?

erikscott Re:A printer and a template (370 comments)

Not really true. It's illegal to offer engineering services to the public for projects not suitable for instate commerce unless you're a PE. If a hypothetical project could possibly be built in one state and sold in another, you don't have to be a PE. Professional Engineers usually do roads, bridges, footings, big earthworks, stuff like that. Most Civil Engineers find that they have to be PEs to even hold a job, while almost no aerospace engineers are PEs. Turns out that airplanes can cross state lines pretty easily. Electrical Engineers who are PEs are mostly found in electrical utility design and construction.

Different rules apply in Canada and probably every other country. "Engineer" is a trademark in Canada, and the Canadian PEs protect their turf through trademark law. :-)

about 10 months ago

Pine Tree Has Largest Genome Ever Sequenced

erikscott Re:I'm Inferior To A Tree (71 comments)

Plants also have the advantage of being able to survive errors (or maybe "excursions"?) of miosis more often - polyploid mammals typically will spontaneously abort, but polyploid plants often become important to humans. Bread wheat and spelt are hexaploid because humans bred them that way millenia ago. The current record holder for largest genome, Paris Japonica, is huge only because it's octaploid. The loblolly gets props for having a big genome while being merely diploid.

about 10 months ago

RadioShack To Close 1,100 Stores

erikscott Re:No place for 'almost', 'not quite' and 'nearly' (423 comments)

That statement might be a little too categorical. The line between digital and analog is getting very blurry - SATA interfaces are, practically speaking, a bit of both analog and digital design. Ethernet has always been about stuffing bits through a noisy, imperfect transmission line, and 1G and 10G (and 40G) Ethernet just make it that much worse.

The good news is that even cheap 'scopes can also serve as a frequency counters, voltmeters, and some cheaper models can also serve as spectrum analyzers (and practically all of the expensive ones can). Take a look at how good the $200 USB-connected 'scopes are now.

If you're making robots or UAVs, you may not need a 'scope, but if you're making ham radios then you're going to want one. Get a cheap USB one so you can also use it as a spectrum analyzer.

(and if you get a chance, play with a Tektronix 4100 series - it's basically a logic analyzer that happens to have a 4-channel analog 'scope built in. Analog events can serve as the trigger for the digital side (and vice versa), and it comes with two decoder ROMs priced in - it can snoop CANBUS, for instance, and trigger the analog side on particular CANBUS messages. Not something everyone needs, but if you need it, you need it in a big way.)

about a year ago


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