Sunday, December 31, 2006

Power 6 pegged for 5GHz+

The scoop: IBM’s Power6 is now expected to ship with over 5GHz clock speeds.

Jobs too busy looking at "roadmaps" to drive?

But then, we've all figured out by now, it was just Dell envy.

Users told to dump servers, return to mainframes

The cost of ownership of a mainframe are between 30 and 60 per cent better than 30 Sun servers or 300 Linux servers, Illuminata says.

I think I saw this in a Woody Allen movie once.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The vaccine to cure every strain of flu

Current flu vaccines focus on two proteins on the surface of the virus. However, these constantly mutate in a bid to fool the immune system, making it impossible for vaccine manufacturers to keep up with the creation of each new strain.

The universal vaccines focus on a different protein called M2, which has barely changed during the last 100 years.

The protein is found in all types of Influenza A, including the current bird flu and the virus that caused the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic which killed up to 50 million across the globe.

Air Force May Hire Outsiders to Oversee Projects

The Air Force is considering hiring outside engineers or consultants to oversee systems integration of its next-generation navigational satellites, according to industry and government officials. Typically, the military service that orders a particular system retains primary responsibility and control over systems engineering and integration.

But hiring a separate project integrator could set a precedent for future projects and would be a tacit acknowledgment that both Air Force Space Command and the Pentagon's massive weapons-buying bureaucracy lack the necessary expertise to perform the required oversight role.

This makes a lot of sense. But I guarantee that the average mid-rank military type managing a high-tech project is at least as conversant with the technology being applied as is the typical government IT worker in the same position.

So a good start toward downsizing government (if any elected official ever gets the idea to do such a thing into his tiny brain) would be to turn more of the work of setting up IT infrastructure (there's that word again) over to tech companies that manage the effort overseeing other tech companies that do the work.

Taiwan quake shakes confidence in undersea links

Dzubeck added that the Internet bust in 2001 had hit expensive plans by various companies to lay undersea cables along new paths that were less likely to be affected by earthquakes.

I'm not really sure why this is news. But maybe it should server as a reminder that some of our infrastructure over here (like the telephone and cable wires buried underground or running along poles have even less redundancy (read: none) in most cases. In this case there were ten cables and seven of them were damaged.

The New Pocket Casualty Counter From The Associated Press!

Are you freakishly obsessed with the daily casualty count in Iraq? Do you find yourself disappointed when a day or two goes by and no American soldiers die? Have you ever been at a cocktail party and said, "How can we be so damn jovial when George Bush is responsible for a death toll in Iraq that is approaching one-tenth the total of British dead in the Second Boer War?"

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need the new Associated Press Pocket Iraq Casualty Counter! Now the information you need to make bizarre, extraneous points about the Iraqi War is at your fingertips, 24 hours a day!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Oh, THAT's what he meant?

Back to my nap.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

World Domination 201

Don't know when this was actually written, but I just got the link from Slashdot. Good analysis all in all...

Good News:
Just as Windows 3.1 (and even Windows 95) ran for years with 16 bit device drivers dating back to DOS, native 64 bit drivers for Windows-64 will be few and far between for years to come.

MacOS X is intentionally restricted to a limited set of hardware even on 32-bit systems, because Apple can't support anything close to the full range of PC hardware either. Tackling generic PC hardware is a step they've explicitly avoided taking, precisely to avoid the hardware support issue.

On the other hand, the Linux community has spent fifteen years expanding our support for PC hardware, and our insistence on open source drivers means that the vast majority of the hardware we support is approximately as well supported on x86-64 as on x86-32. Our platform-specific problems are minor tuning issues, not sealed black boxes that stop working without explanation. Our hardware support isn't perfect, but it's manageable. For the other two platforms, this issue is their Achilles heel.

and listed under "Bad News" for some reason:
More recently, Intel decided to be a good guy, releasing an open source the driver for their newest graphics chipset before the hardware even shipped. Intel proved it was serious by hiring Keith Packard and Dirk Hohndel to shephard the new driver into and Mesa

And under "What Linux needs to win", an item Steve Jobs seems clueless about:
Linux needs a Wine 1.0 release, installed and preconfigured on desktop distributions. The two most important features of Wine 1.0 have to be that (a) it runs legacy Windows-32 binaries correctly, and (b) it does not emulate Windows-64, its direct competitor!

If that second "feature" seems odd, heed the lesson of OS/2. That operating system bundled a Windows emulator that worked sufficiently well for independent software vendors to ignore native OS/2 support. Vendors wrote for Windows, trusting that the emulator would cover their OS/2 customers.[28] As a result, OS/2 was starved of even the Macintosh's also-ran level of native application support, and eventually withered on the vine. This is not the fate we want for Linux.

Under "Surviving the Killer App" the paper wades into my favorite prediction:
So the good news is actually the possibility that in a Webbed world the operating-system-specific killer app may be a thing of the past. It would be unwise to count on this, however, so it's worth asking what we can do if yet another killer app wades ashore with a case of nuclear halitosis and a yen to destroy Tokyo.

Under "Enabling Pre Installs":
We in the open-source community persist in screwing this up. Preinstalled systems come with defaults for everything, even user accounts. Knoppix can boot from CD straight to the desktop. But modern installers still play 20 questions because we can't imagine them not doing so.[31]

We also persist in designing in the most obnoxious thing an installer can do, which is to spend several minutes processing or copying files and then ask more questions afterwards. This forces the user to babysit the entire install, which is annoying.

AMEN to that!

But I've noticed Debian getting better, and I suspect the others are too. Meanwhile, the last few times I installed Windows (which was in the Windows 2000 era) it had actually gotten harder to install, often hanging on something as simple as mouse or modem detection. Since then I've helped novices over the phone who were also stuck on something that should have been simple to deal with but was not due to the sheer arrogance of Microsoft's attitude toward users.

The most aggravating thing for me about many Linux installers (but particularly Debian) is that there seems to be only about two video card in the universe that they can detect and produce a working "X" configuration file for without some manual tinkering. I get so pissed when I am asked several questions about screen resolution and fonts, only to have to go edit the file manually, and then, to find that even my answers to the questions haven't been incorporated into the file. Clearly, people have been turning in their homework unfinished, but how does this slop get into the final release? It would be much better, and certainly more honest to have a message pop up:

This Installer doesn't have a clue what to do about your video configuration. Here is the file you need to go edit:..... Best of luck!

It could even pop you into an edit session right then and there where at least I've now pretty much memorized the dozen or so characters I need to type to get it all working.

But then, as I mentioned I've had Windows botch my video settings from time to time too. Unfortunately for us Linux proponents, Windows gets it right most of the time if only by using some generic VESA settings and leaving you in some not-so-hot graphics mode that will at least work until you get the right driver installed, etc.

Why Linux can't do likewise I don't know.

The way to get Linux preinstalls starts with this: bypass the vendors Microsoft has under its thumb, and buy from the vendors that specialize in Linux. If only small vendors are willing to do this, they will become large vendors when they get enough sales volume. Establish that there is a market for preinstalled Linux systems, and that some companies can be successful selling them (not just as a Wal-mart style sideline but as their core business), and larger vendors will take notice.

Which is just what I've done. I have a Samsung printer (under $100) that works beautifully, ditto Canon scanner, Olympus and Pentax cameras, external USB devices of several kinds that all "just work"and I sneer and my Windows-using friends who still plug USB devices into their machines with their eyes closed (and with good reason).

The rest of the document is good... no silver bullet answers though. I'm cautiously optimistic, thinking that while things aren't rosy for Linux, they certainly aren't shoe-in victories for Microsoft or Apple either.

Comoditization remains our best friend. As we age, we are less likely to crave the latest car, the greatest stereo system, the widest screen TV. Even us "geeks" get to a point of just wanting something basic that works, and there are more and more such people out there every day. Furthermore, us unwashed masses are not Microsoft's target market, and certainly not Apple's. If Google doesn't take over the world, there is plenty of room for a basic desktop system that will. As long as it comes in around $300.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Librarians stake their future on open source

"Our Sirsi system ran on a great big Sun server that was quite expensive. We poured a lot of money into that over the years to continue to upgrade it, plus the housing of it was very expensive. [Evergreen] runs on a Linux cluster, which is a lot less expensive. Also, we're not paying licensing fees anymore. When you're talking 252 libraries, which is what we are today, that's the great big savings."

According to a study that PINES conducted in 2002, Walker says that if all of their libraries would have to buy a new system, it would cost more than $15 million dollars, plus about $5 million dollars a year for maintenance. They run PINES for a lean $1.6 million a year.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Treasury cancels TCE procurement

This is the latest turn in the history of TCE, which often has been at the center of controversy. A Treasury Inspector General audit in February found TCE deficient. In 2005, Treasury officials ended the TCE procurement, terminating the deal with AT&T and pledging to use GSA contracts, only to reverse their decision several months later.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, was one of the most vocal opponents of TCE. He even warned that he would seek to eliminate funding for the Treasury telecommunications system. Davis has said he favors a governmentwide approach to issues such as network telecom rather than allowing individual agencies to manage it on their own.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Supported Platforms: MySQL Enterprise

Well, I guess that settles it then.

Monday, December 11, 2006

It Takes a Monopoly

Those who are trying to figure out if Vista will be successful haven't yet grasped the concept that Vista will be forced on the market, and in time it will be the only operating system you can buy from Microsoft. Of course it will be successful. Will people upgrade their existing systems? Of course not. Microsoft operating systems are always designed for future PC's, not for the installed base. Part of the plan is to make Vista work poorly on current computers so we'll all have to buy new ones. This strategy has been around for years and there is no reason to believe we won't fall for it again. Sure, some percentage of people and firms will upgrade, but most of the upgrades will come with whole new computers.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Slant of media is driven by audience, not owners, U.S. study shows

The authors calculated the ideal partisan slant for each paper, if all it cared about was getting readers, and they found that it looked almost precisely like the one for the actual newspaper. As Shapiro put it during an interview, "The data suggest that newspapers are targeting their political slant to their customers' demand and choosing the amount of slant that will maximize their sales."

But if this is true, can the financial difficulties of the MSM be completely explained by the advance of the Internet? Or is it that we are becoming a nation of illiterates? Maybe some combination of these things?

There is no question in my mind that the mainstream media deserves what is happening to them at this point. I happen to like biased media. The country was founded in a time when there were many small, mostly local news sources with differing, (and this is critical) openly stated points of view.

When possible, I like to read the same story from both a conservative and liberal perspective, and if both don't give me the "hmmm, I never thought of it that way" reaction then I've wasted my time.

Sadly, you don't have to read much beyond the title and first paragraph of MSM stories to know there is nothing new in it at all, and all too often the online media isn't doing much better.

Direct citizen driven journalism as made possible on the Internet has great potential, but also could reduce important issues to the level of WWF competitions.

There is reason for cautious optimism.

*Related Link*

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Spam "solved" by 2006

Yes, Gates predicted it would be "solved" by now, and so it is.

I get almost none now that I use Gmail instead of crappy Windows software.

Thanks Bill!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Inside Microsoft's Labs

It's not every day that Microsoft Research opens up about technologies still in its labs. Microsoft's R&D arm was launched in 1991 with 20 researchers and has grown to 700 employees worldwide. Rich Draves, an area manager, shared with InformationWeek some of the most promising emerging security technologies on his team's workbench.

No. It's only on days when a journalist asks. You can get a pretty good idea of what they are up to here:

The question remains, given the size of the company, do they do much more than "research" on how to keep their cash cow products in their current comfortable positions. My vote is mostly "no". But there are some exceptions.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

New Rules Make Firms Track E-Mails, IMs

Martha Dawson, a partner at the Seattle-based law firm of Preston Gates & Ellis LLP who specializes in electronic discovery, said the burden of the new rules won't be that great.

Oh! the irony.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Is Microsoft Driving Innovation Or Playing Catch-Up With Rivals?

And, although I love Apple (I have three Macs and three PCs in my house right now) I can't display full HDTV images through mine onto my HDTV screen (I have a slightly older Sony screen than Dave does). But with Xbox 360 and Media Center I can.

I see a lot of respondents adopting the Microsoft method of re-defining the term innovation in order to apply it to themselves, or their favorite companies. You can write good software and not be innovative. You can run a tight ship and not be innovative. You can grab mind share, produce clever ad campaigns, sell lots of stock and hire the Rolling Stones to sing background to your product announcements and not be innovative.

I think Google is innovative, not because of their search as such, but because of the automated server infrastructure that makes search and all their other products so responsive using fairly ordinary hardware. Some of the also-rans in this space (like MS) have done a good job of copying features and in some cases improving on them, but they still have to struggle to keep their servers from grinding to a halt under load and they have to hire outfits like Akamai to serve up static pages, buffer downloads, etc.

I think its far too early to conclude that innovation is a part of Google's genetic make-up though. When it comes to fundamental research as opposed to "mouse wheels" and catchy color schemes I don't think anyone has caught up to IBM, and companies such a Apple and Microsoft have PROVEN that they just follow the market rather than leading it in almost every case. Innovation when applied to these companies couldn't be further from the truth.