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Comment Re:The difference between US and UK (Score 1) 349

I've experience working in academia and the private sector... I don't think it's a matter of competition, universities simply aren't pushing students: everything is spoon-fed, there are very few lecturers who would say "go learn about X".

With an academic hat on I can see the advantage of staying with theoretical topics - teach the basis well and it is applicable to any language or environment. But universities are struggling to stay relevant (and afloat in our budget-constrained times). With corporate research outstripping university research because of the decreasing academic appetite for risk, universities need to be moving with the times, not retreating into maximising student throughput and grant money - teaching essential job skills for programming doesn't have to be mutually exclusive with computer science theory.

There's this bizarre focus on single languages - previously Java and now C#... and spending a lot of time teaching them to students. That runs the risk of the student only learning skin-deep how principles are applied in Java or C#. It's not really fair to compare MIT to another random university but watching their Open Courseware videos it's clear how much those students are expected to figure out on their own - all universities should expect that from their students (because if you're not good at programming you shouldn't be in a programming degree and you *definitely* shouldn't be passing it).

Students should be pushed to learn languages on their own, not spending an entire course learning a language - by the time they graduate they'd better be familiar with a load of languages which force them to think differently about their solutions.

My primary concern is that there's very little focus on letting students learn wisdom about refactoring/good design/etc because they never live with their code - they don't have to deal with the crappy code they wrote 6 months ago so they don't learn the benefits of doing it right the first time (or of realising you made a mistake and rewriting and refactoring it).

Comment Re:Thank god (Score 1) 403

Just dipping in here but I think the poster's point was not that a Dollar has inherent value, but that a large government with a lot of power is prepared to enforce the use of the Dollar for the payment of all debts within the borders of its country. Personally (and this isn't very extensively thought out because I don't really care about this topic in the grand scheme of things) I don't know how useful something like Gold is as a currency - yes, it has some inherent value for manufacturing but if the global economy crashes (which seems to be the argument of people who want to use gold for everything) then surely crops and livestock are what people will want to trade for? And Gold isn't that useful in creating ploughs...

Comment Re:Can we get this in non-Amazon speak (Score 1) 117

While that would be nice to know I don't think it's relevant to a postmortem: they described the architectural elements which encountered the failures.

FYI, though, based on what they've said today and in the past: it seems that they are using regular servers with disks rather than a SAN & I believe they use GNBD to connect the EBS server disk images and EC2 instances (rather than iSCSI)

Comment Re:Lucky (Score 1) 247

Yeah, I think that's what they're trying to do. I suppose it makes sense in a way, they want to make sure load is evenly distributed across their availability zones . But it seems to me they could have prevented that through better API design (e.g. users expressing a constraint that 2 resources should be in the same zone where that's meaningful but otherwise not permitting the selection of a specific zone)

Comment Re:No Way! (Score 1) 247

I believe they generate a new HTML document each time a comment is added or up/downvoted - they could replicate the comment and vote data to another site.
It'd be an increase in traffic but not necessarily a huge increase in load (since they wouldn't be generating HTML at the second site unless they're in failover mode).
I don't know whether the increased reliability would be worth the extra load in their case, however, since I doubt they lose that much money from downtime (given how frequently they're down)

Comment Re:Emergency Plan (Score 1) 247

Amazon have complete isolation between Regions and good isolation between Availability Zones.
At work we'd recommend people use 2 cloud providers for their important services (which could be 2 Amazon regions or it could be Amazon and Rackspace) to prevent this sort of failure taking your business offline. You can't rely on any particular cloud provider to be reliable but it's a reasonably safe bet that a selection of cloud providers won't have significant overlapping downtime

It's also worth pointing out that all cloud SLAs are basically useless: if Amazon falls below their advertised uptime they'll refund you some of your charges - but they'll never refund more than what you've paid them: they don't compensate you for all the money you're losing (and the AWS charges are likely pocket change compared to this)

Comment Re:Lucky (Score 1) 247

Their API gives different names for the availability zones for each user (so your us-east-1d could be my us-east-1a) which complicates talking about issues (since all you can say is "two availability zones are experiencing problems"), especially when your system uses multiple accounts

Comment Re:No Way! (Score 1) 247

Jokes aside, if people use The Cloud (I'm using this tongue in cheek...) rather than a cloud this thing doesn't happen.
We use a number of providers which means that even if Amazon fell over completely our systems would be fine -- it looks like a lot of sites (reddit, for instance) don't bother to do this.

Comment Re:Severe weather in Virginia likely the culprit (Score 2) 247

Amazon's Availability Zones are designed to have separate power, cooling and network so I don't think this is the issue. It was (is) a problem with their disk subsystem in multiple availability zones so I suspect they were in the process of pushing out some new storage controller code and some bug didn't appear until the later stages of their rollout. From their status log it looks like they're manually correcting the issue with each disk.

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