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Comment: Re:Businessese Bingo and Telecom Workloads (Score 2) 40

No, the point of being a telecom company is to connect your customers together, move their data where they want it efficiently, and get them to pay you for it. Telecom workloads not only include digging ditches for your access line and running wavelength division multiplexors across them, they also include things like routing IPv4/IPv6, firewalls, load balancing, intrusion detection, preventing and mitigating DDOS, hosting CDNs, routing lots of private networks that all run RFC1918 addresses and maybe VLANs, MPLS, maintaining really large BGP tables, fast rerouting around failures, etc.

We're virtualizing that stuff instead of buying big expensive custom-built routers for the same reasons you're virtualizing your compute loads instead of stacking up lots of 1U machines. Internet-scale routers are blazingly expensive, and we want to use Moore's Law to do the compute-bound parts of the workload cheaply and efficiently and let us build new services quickly because we only have to upgrade the software, while using expensive custom hardware only for the things that really need it, plus a lot of that hardware is getting replaced by things like Openflow switches and SDN, which we'd like to take advantage of, and buying expensive dedicated-purpose hardware means you're often stuck overbuilding because the scale of your different types of workloads changes faster than you can redesign hardware.

Also, the transition of lots of enterprise corporate computing from traditional data center structures to clouds means that the communication patterns change a lot faster, and we need to keep up with them. This stuff does seem to be driven a lot more by the needs of the users (telecom and data center) than by the manufacturers of virtualization software or traditional hardware.

And yes, every bit of business buzzword bingo does flow across our desks.

Comment: I wasn't fundamentally altered by it. (Score 5, Informative) 191

by billstewart (#48011455) Attached to: The Odd Effects of Being Struck By Lightning

The main change is that when I hear people say "You're more likely to get hit by lightning than to have X happen" I can say "I've already been hit by lightning."

Back around 2000, I was with a group of people at an observatory up in the mountains, which we'd reached by ski-lift-gondola, after some discussion about whether the weather was turning thundery and we should cancel it because we might get stuck there for the day which would mess up our schedule. The thunderstorm decided to show up, and I was outside the observatory looking at the mountains. A few raindrops started to fall, and a bolt of lightning bounced off the building and hit me on the head. The impact wasn't very hard, maybe like dropping a pen onto a hard floor from 5 feet. My wife yelled at me to get in out of the rain. And we did in fact get stuck up there for a few hours - the gondola system shut down when the lightning struck, leaving a gondola full of kids hanging about 100 feet from the observatory for a while before they could restart it, and once they had them safely unloaded they left it stopped until the storm was over.

The other effect was that I had to tell my wife about the previous time when the group I'd with had almost been hit by lightning, hiking at the top of Colorado mountains when the early-afternoon thunderstorm set in. We'd sat down in a low rock shelter, and some of the folks were having sparks from their fingers to the wet rocks, which were making a bit of a sizzling noise.

Comment: Wiretap Legality was Always a Loophole (Score 1) 353

by billstewart (#48011381) Attached to: FBI Chief: Apple, Google Phone Encryption Perilous

The original court decisions that allowed wiretaps did so on the basis that telephone companies were third parties in the cases (so they didn't have standing to make 5th Amendment refuse-to-incriminate-yourself complaints, because they wouldn't be incriminated), and were corporations (so the government has the power to audit their business records, and phone bills are business records.) It was basically a loophole that was allowed because it was new technology and the government's lawyers could make some plausible arguments.

That's totally different from any supposed obligation to continue to provide services in a way that makes wiretaps useful. If Apple and Google want to provide good secure end-to-end encryption, they're allowed to. If they want to provide encryption with backdoors in it, the police can subpoena information they collect through those backdoors (though the FTC may have opinions about whether they're making honest claims about security of their products.)

Comment: Re: "Daddy, I not on fire!" (Score 1) 404

by billstewart (#48000259) Attached to: It's Banned Books Week; I recommend ...

Dude, best quote of the day!

My dad was a chemist and chemical engineer, but he mainly worked on synthetic rubber, so while it was interesting as a kid to know that he worked on debugging new chloroprene plants, blowing stuff up wasn't part of his trade. (It was useful in college when I needed to replace some gaskets in my car with stuff that wouldn't rot as fast.) So if my friends and I wanted to blow stuff up in high school, we had to do it on our own.


US Patent Office Seeking Consultant That Can Stamp Out Fraud By Patent Examiners 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the stamping-out-the-rot dept.
McGruber writes: A month after Slashdot discussed "Every Day Is Goof-Off-At-Work Day At the US Patent and Trademark Office," the USPTO issued a statement that it is "committed to taking any measures necessary" to stop employees who review patents from lying about their hours and getting overtime pay and bonuses for work they didn't do.

USPTO officials also told congressional investigators that they are seeking an outside consulting firm to advise them on how managers can improve their monitoring of more than 8,000 patent examiners. The Patent Examiners union responded to the original Washington Post report with a statement that includes this line: "If 'thousands' of USPTO employees were not doing their work, it would be impossible for this agency to be producing the best performance in recent memory and, perhaps, in its entire 224 year history."

In related news, USPTO Commissioner Deborah Cohn has announced plans to resign just months after a watchdog agency revealed that she had pressured staffers to hire the live-in boyfriend of an immediate family member over other, better-qualified applicants. When he finished 75th out of 76 applicants in the final round of screening, Cohn "intervened and created an additional position specifically for the applicant," wrote Inspector General Todd Zinser in a statement on the matter.

Comment: X Windows Isn't Very Big, and Servers Need it (Score 1) 282

by billstewart (#47859473) Attached to: Is It Time To Split Linux Distros In Two?

Yes, X is a lot more bloated now than it was back in the late 1980s, when I was running it on 386/25 PCs or Sun3s. But on just about anything but an ARM microcontroller, it's still small enough that you can run a basic X distribution that's enough to fire up a browser, and still not make a dent in the system resources. And you need that browser to use lots of management applications, some of which you're going to need before all the networking is really done, and you probably also want to run a couple of X-terms at the same time, doing something that alternatively you'd have to do on a 24x80 Emacs screen.

Yes, there are lots of tools that want Gnome or KDE, which are both a lot more bloated than some TWM upgrade or Motif or something, and sometimes they're useful enough to drag them in, but you can still have enough X Windows for a server machine without including all the LibreOffice, GIMP, and other large desktop application suites.


Restoring Salmon To Their Original Habitat -- With a Cannon 147

Posted by timothy
from the going-up? dept.
StartsWithABang writes Hydroelectric dams are one of the best and oldest sources of green, renewable energy, but — as the Three Gorges Dam in China exemplifies — they often cause a host of environmental and ecological problems and challenges. One of the more interesting ones is how to coax fish upstream in the face of these herculean walls that can often span more than 500 feet in height. While fish ladders might be a solution for some of the smaller dams, they're limited in application and success. Could Whooshh Innovations' Salmon Cannon, a pneumatic tube capable of launching fish up-and-over these dams, finally restore the Columbia River salmon to their original habitats?

Comment: No, Reclining is *not* "socially unacceptable" (Score 1) 819

Reclining is perfectly reasonable, even though there are people who whine about it because they'd like to be using a laptop. The exception is during meals, where people behind you need to be able to reach their tray and where most airlines no longer provide enough space (though they've mitigated this by no longer providing meals either.) And as a tall passenger, I especially need to recline, because airplane seats aren't built for tall people's backs.

However, I agree with you that you should recline slowly, giving the person behind you time to move a laptop.

Comment: I *like* Robusta coffees! (Score 1) 228

by billstewart (#47849601) Attached to: DNA sequencing of coffee's best use:

Sure, it's not the only thing I drink, and there are lots of really great arabicas, and even some of the libericas are drinkable. The taste is different, and if you haven't had it, Vietnamese coffee is the easiest source to find. (There are some non-Vietnamese robustas, and some non-robusta coffee in Vietnam, but basically they dominate the market for good robusta, plus there's some from Africa as well.) Many of the varieties of coffee out there were developed by looking for mutations in existing coffee strains, trying to find weird beans that would breed true, and mainly looking for disease resistance and good production quantities.

And you really should go read the recent research article on DNA results from coffee, or at least the popularized summaries. Interesting stuff about how caffeine evolved separately in coffee and tea plants, in both cases probably because it kept insects from eating them.


Newly Discovered 60-foot Asteroid About To Buzz By Earth 68

Posted by timothy
from the look-up-below dept.
An asteroid nicknamed "Pitbull" and detected by the University of Arizona observatory atop Mt. Lemmon on August 31st will make a close approach to Earth Sunday; it's predicted to pass at a distance of about 25,000 miles, and to pass over New Zealand. According to the article, The asteroid is a similar size to the rock which caused enormous damage to the city of Chelyabinsk in Siberia. Last year's explosion generated the equivalent energy of more than 20 atomic bombs detonating and left more than 1,000 people injured while damaging thousands of buildings. Astronomers at Nasa, who track the movements of the more than 11,000 near-Earth objects, are confident Pitbull will not strike the planet.

Comment: Pre-rendering web pages (Score 1) 107

by billstewart (#47814535) Attached to: Raspberry Pi Gets a Brand New Browser

Sorry, but web pages get rendered into images before displaying them. (Though at least Firefox's semi-recent versions don't bother rendering web pages until needed when you crash&restart Firefox, which I do all the time - usually not on purpose, though I'll occasionally do it to scavenge memory or when performance has become unbearably slow.)

Work continues in this area. -- DEC's SPR-Answering-Automaton