Scalability

Neat article on Amazon.com scalability.  Link.

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My scalability story:

A late-mid-90s startup.  A lightweight broadcast application tied to real-time notification of Olympics competition results, done as a demo of our product (which was actually pretty whizzy, and still would be today).  Imagine zillions of users all getting notifications that Nadia Mumblinsky had just won her fifteenth gold medal in the Javelin Catch.  Or something.

Anyway, we get some co-lo space at best.com, configure like 8 servers with 100Mbit connections to whatever massive pipe the co-lo has, set up the monitoring software.  With our whizzy lightweight messaging we figure that each server can handle like 5,000 connections at once (pretty good for Pentium-200s in that day).  We’re not really sure what the load is going to be.  We’re ready to drop bucks in the local computer stores and build more servers if we have to.  We wait, *cringing* in anticipation . . .

High-water mark is like in the low dozens of users at once.  The slowest, measiliest workstation we had at the company could have handled the load.  It’s depressing.

Anyway, one of our sales guys is talking to a customer a few months later.  “You know,” he remarks, “Our software is so sophisticated, well, with just eight servers we were ready to handle twenty thousand connections at once, in real time!”

“Wow,” says the customer.  Or something like that.

“You know how many we got?  Over thirty.”

That’s why I’ll never be in sales.

[Wafarfarites: I might have some details wrong.  Still a good story 🙂 ]

 

“Impedance Mismatch”

(via reddit) Why programmers don’t like relational databases.  Link

I know that every time I use SQL I want to claw my eyes out.  Linq is lots better: No more horrible “… but take back half a cubit” scoping rules (and lots of other fixes).

[The cubit reference is to the height of the staff in the first Indiana Jones movie, which is specified as something like “Six cubits” on one side of an ancient artifact, but then modified on the other side, as if the contractor screwed up and had to issue a patch]

 

newt talk

Yours Truly is mentioned a couple minutes into this video –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fzDimBmNgg

The transactional store on the Newton was pretty cool, but ultimately kind of misguided, too.  The Palm had nothing in this area — just some hardware memory protection, I believe — but it did have pretty good syncing technology (and every Palm came with a dock), which made making backups a snap.  Lose your data?  As long as you weren’t on the road, you just did a restore.

If the Newt had had a dock, decent docking support, and a few other things, it would have just killed Palm.

More about that later…

[Walter was a great guy to work with.  You probably can’t get all weepy about the various pieces of ancient hardware he’s pulling out, but I sure remember it.  Michael Tibbot and Mike Culbert had the first untethered Newton walkabout in the parking lot of Bubb 5, just prior to the group’s move to the Infinite Loop campus in the Fall of 1992.  That prototype was about the size of one of today’s beefy notebook computers, and was powered by six ‘D’ cells which lasted maybe half an hour.  The power management software came much later….]

Games

Since I’m technically in the video game business (again, after some time at Atari in the early 80s writing cartridges), I thought I’d mention what I’m playing now.

1. Slogging through World of Warcraft.  Frankly it’s tiresome.  It’s a lot more fun playing pick-up groups with other people, but these can take hours and I don’t have the time.

2. I just finished Bioshock.  This is the best shooter I’ve played in quite some time, and the plot (yup, there’s an actual plot) is nicely put together.  The set of revelations near and at the end of the game go far, far beyond the rather anemic endings I’m used to (yes, I’m talking about you, Quake).  The “easy” setting is too easy, “normal” is pretty good, and I’ll try “difficult” next, just to see.  The Big Daddies are terrifying.  I highly recommend this title (and yes, I “saved” all of the Little Sisters).

3. Crackdown.  I get killed a lot, but it’s still a neat game.

4. Project Gotham Racing 2 (yes, 2).  Just pure racing fun.  Not too hard.  I feel like I need to have a wheel controller to play the newer driving games, and I don’t want to shell out for one (or have one around as clutter).

5. Halo 2.  With Halo 3 coming out soon I figured I might as well go through the single player campaign.  I’d probably get my rear handed to me in online play, but I can’t get it to work, so I’m in no danger there.

6. The original Legend of Zelda (on a DS Lite).  It has some warts, but it’s still got some unequalled game play left, even after (guessing:) 20 years.

7. I just started Blue Dragon.  Not real sure I like it yet, though the story and the characters are cute.  From reviews it looks like it takes a ten hour investment before things get fun, and maybe fifty hours to finish the game.  (Hour for entertainment hour, games are an incredible deal over things like movies).

I tried playing the demo of Space Giraffe, but all the swirling colors and flashing lights made me feel sick.  Literally ill; I haven’t had this happen since I played the “can’t find any direction called ‘up’ … um, urp!” game Descent II.

 

Plastic sheeted labs

Why is it that the “owners” of labs (e.g., areas filled with machine resources for groups to use, as in test farms, etc.) tend to believe that the purpose of the lab is to have the machines be kept in a pristine, available condition, rather than actually be used for the ugly, grimey work of getting stuff done?

As in: “Four machines failed last night running your tests!”

“Yup.  I’m figuring it out.  Probably early afternoon.”

“No,  FOUR MACHINES failed.  Running.  Your.  Tests.”

(I can see where this is going…)

Heavens to Murgatroyd, we’ve seen this before, in the living rooms of our friends’ houses where the furniture was covered in plastic sheets, Never To Be Used Except With an *Important* Guest.

I’ll tell you about Mr. Rippy someday…

I fully expect

We’re listening.  To be more specific, SETI is listening.  And I fully expect the first decoded interstellar message to be from spectral, glowing dudes on a planet orbiting Procyon, starting:

MY NAME IS FZTBX GYRRG’W THE PRE-SPAWN OF THE AMBASSADOR TO BBLTH, WITH ACCESS TO THE SUM OF ^$10,000,000,000,000,000,000 UTYHTS…