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                    Archive for Aug 2007


                    Microwulf - The World's Cheapest Supercomputer

                    The world's cheapest supercomputer, built by a Calvin College CS professor Joel Adams and student Tim Brom is very interesting. They built an 8 core Beowulf cluster using four motherboards and a gigabit network switch for less than $2500. The resulting machine has a price/performance ratio of $100/Gigaflop. That's just plain fun. I think there ought to be a yearly competition of this sort for students. Who can build the fastest supercomputer for $2500? Update: here's Joel Adams' website
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                    Spook Country

                    I just finished Spook Country, William Gibson's latest novel. The book is a mystery, set in a world that could be today or the near future. Geolocative art is bigger than you might find to be the case today, but that's about it. I liked Pattern Recognition quite a bit, but I think Spook Country is head and shoulders above it as a story. Gibson's writing is what I enjoy the most. It's rare that I read a book that I find myself going back and rereading sentences or paragraphs just to savor the language. Gibson's sentences can be
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                    Cabinet Level Blogging

                    The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt (my former boss), has a blog. He's writing it himself and, so far, doing a good job of keeping it up with interesting posts. Recently he's been blogging his travel to Africa. The blog is done using Typepad. He's getting lots of comments, as you can image, which must be gratifying. I haven't noticed much reaction in the blogosphere, however. Cabinet-level officials aren't known for transparency, so I am grateful for this kind of leadership. If more government leaders wrote blogs--without filters--we'd have a better sense of them and why
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                    Talking Research with Rick Rashid

                    This week's technometria podcast is a discussion with Rick Rashid. Not only is he the head of Microsoft Research, but he's also the guy who started it. Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. The company also collaborates openly with colleges and universities worldwide to broadly advance the field of computer science. We discuss both Microsoft Research, as well as the general status of technology research. Rick first talks about his background and what led him to become involved in the formation of Microsoft Research. He discusses the general
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                    Dancing with Mavericks

                    Blogger and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is going to be on Dancing with the Stars. Heh. I've never watched it, but I might have to check out Mark gliding across the dance floor.
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                    User Centric Reputation Slides

                    Today I gave a talk at AOL in Virginia about reputation. I also had a chance to talk to a small working group on reputation and to the Architecture Council. The discussions were very good and gave me some food for thought. I came away more convinced than ever that what we need to build are reputation systems that bring more cues about people and their actions to bear, in a way that allows the user to control the privacy issues, and with as much emergent behavior as possible to avoid overt configuration. Such a system should reward people
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                    Zune Phone

                    This add for the Zune phone wasn't as funny as I'd hoped it would be, but it did make me chuckle a few times.
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                    Debugging a New PC Build

                    It's been years since I built a PC and there's plenty that's changed, so since my lab needed a new PC, I decided to buy some components and out one together. I did it at home so my kids could help. Unfortunately, it hasn't had such a happy ending--I can't get it to boot. Through a series of experiments, I've decided it's either the motherboard or the CPU, but I can't decide which. I'm using a ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard and a AMD Athlon 4200 CPU. I don't have anything in the motherboard right now except the CPU, the
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                    An Accidental Simula User

                    Luca Cardelli is one of the big guns in programming language theory--consistently producing interesting and important results over several decades. His paper (with Peter Wagner) "On Understanding Types, Data Abstraction, and Polymorphism" which I read as a graduate student deeply influenced me. Cardelli is now at Microsoft Research. He has recent slides (from ECOOP 2007) about his journey into the theory of objects called An Accidental Simula User that are a good read for anyone interested in object-oriented programming. Here's the abstract: It was a simple choice, really, on an IBM 370 in the 70's, between APL, Fortran, Lisp
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                    Cooking With IEEE

                    I get feedback from IT Conversations listeners all the time--usually one persons strongly held beliefs contradict another's. For example, it's not uncommon for people to say that they love or hate the fact that IT Conversations shows aren't just about IT. Some people, for example, hate Biotech Nation and others love it. So it is with IEEE Spectrum Radio. While many love the slightly geeky, but usually off-topic (from the IT perspective) shows of IEEE, some find them not to their liking. That's sure to be the case with the series of shows on cooking. The first show in
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                    CTO Breakfast Report for August 2007

                    At this morning's CTO breakfast we talked about: Working from home--both from the standpoint of employees and employers. The experiences were all over the map--positive and negative. My experience converting physical machines to virtual machines. Booting DOS to recover old data and play old games. iPhone and Syncing--the group consensus was that syncing needs to be faster and happen over Bluetooth. I got the impression that slow syncing was more of a problem for Windows users than Mac users. Whether this is because of higher expectations because of positive experiences with ActiveSync or real slowness, I'm not sure. Comcast's
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                    iPhone Copy and Paste

                    No, copy and paste isn't one of the new features in today's iPhone update, it's just a concept video from lonelysandwich. This is a pretty good way to show how it would work--much more effective that text could ever be. I love the voice-over on the iPhone man. Nice. \t\t\tiPhone Copy and Paste from lonelysandwich and Vimeo.
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                    Security at the South Jordan Library

                    If you visit the library in South Jordan Utah, you'll be pleased to find that there's free wi-fi. You might be less pleased to know that they've blocked the ports for IPSEC--making it impossible to use a VPN based on that protocol. The library's answer to queries about this is that "enabling IPSEC would lead to security problems. A hacker who knows what their doing could open up security liabilities for the library." This information from the librarian at the desk--who gets that question often enough to know the answer. Of course this ignores the security vulnerabilities that you
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                    Is There Anything Good About Men?

                    This provocatively entitled paper by Roy Baumeister, Eppes Eminent Professor of Psychology & Head of Social Psychology Area at Florida State University, is very interesting. A refreshing look at alternative interpretations of data on gender in human relations and how it can be explained. If you don't want to read the full paper, here's a summary from the NY Times.
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                    Social Graphs and Identity Systems

                    I just posted about social networking and identity at BTL. This represents some of my views on Brad Fitzpatrick's paper on the social graph problem as well as Dave Winer's podcast on the subject. Both Brad's paper and Dave's podcast (not just the summary) are worth paying attention to.
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                    CTO Breakfast on Thursday

                    Just a reminder that the CTO Breakfast will be this Thursday (Aug 23) from 8:00 until 10:00 in the Novell Cafeteria (Building G, Provo Campus) . As usual, all are welcome. We'll have our usual technology roundtable, so come prepared with topics to discuss, questions for the group, and things you find interesting. Here are future dates: Sep 27 (Thursday) Oct 30 (Tuesday) Nov 29 (Thursday) No CTO Breakfast in Dec Jan 24 (Thursday) Please mark these dates in your calendar. You can also subscribe to the Google calendar or just use this iCalendar link.
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                    P2V: How To Make a Physical Linux Box Into a Virtual Machine

                    Over the last four days, I've been exploring how to convert physical Linux boxes into virtual machines. VMWare has a tool for doing P2V conversions, as they're called, but as far as I can tell it only works for Windows physical machines and for converting various flavors of virtual machines into others. I've had a Linux machine that I've used in my CS462 (Large Distributed Systems) class for years. The Linux distro has been updated over the years, but the box is an old 266MHz Pentium with 512Mb of RAM. Overall, it's done surprisingly well--a testament to the small
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                    Facebook for the iPhone

                    Facebook announced a version for the iPhone. The formatting and content of the site is rearranged to create a more pleasing iPhone experience. I just logged on from my iPhone and found it far superior to navigating the tradition Facebook site from the iPhone. Of course, there's not really an "iPhone version" since the iPhone version will work on anything with a browser. It's not as nice on a full sized browser as the traditional formatting, but it would probably be nicer on, say, Opera on your Razr (someone let me know, please). Earlier, Netvibes introduced an iPhone version
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                    We're Planing on Beefing that Up

                    I'm listening to Jon Udell's interview of Mike Hudak about the video sharing service blip.tv. The interview is great--good quality sound and excellent discussion. There's some interesting riffs on design, sharing, economies of plenty, and even origami. What caught my attention, however, was a comment Mike says. At one point, talking about how tagging can happen in a distributed way, he says something like "We've got some basic identity in the system. At some point we plan on beefing that up to deal with comment spam, etc." I'm not dogging on Mike, because I may be misinterpreting this comment,
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                    When Recommendations Go Wrong

                    I just logged onto Netflix to add some shows to my kid's queue. The first recommendation was "The Princess Diaries (Fullscreen)." I'm always curious why Netflix (or Amazon, etc.) is recommending something. The reason left me shaking my head: "Because you enjoyed: The Princess Diaries (Widescreen)." Huh? I enjoyed seeing the whole movie so much--I'd love to see it with the sides cut off! Netflix apparently views the fullscrren and widescreen versions as two different titles instead of a single title with different options. Weird.
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                    A Metadata Interface for Spreadsheets

                    Mike Farmer asks why spreadsheets (including Apple's new Numbers) don't include ways of getting at data. Now that we have an easy way to assemble our data and make it look great we need a way to get at our favorite data. Imagine for a second, that on the left side of Numbers there is an option for getting your data from a Data Warehouse, Web Site, Web 2.0 interface (i.e. RSS, WebService, etc), or XML & CSV files. Now imagine that you click on one of those and you get a Metadata explorer that shows user friendly views
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                    OLPC Pictures

                    Scott Barlow took some pictures of the laptop from the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project. It's small that I thought. I love the color though.
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                    Riding the ULCER Century

                    (click to enlarge) One of the things I've wanted to do for a long time is ride a century. Today was my day. Every year, the Bonneville Bicycling and Touring Club sponsors the Utah Lake Century Epic Ride or ULCER that goes 111 miles around Utah Lake (a large fresh water lake south of the Great Salt Lake). This year was the 23rd annual running of the event. The ride started and ended at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi and went south on the east side of the lake and north on the west (clockwise). I took pictures while I
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                    Whoa! Facebook Returning Free PHP Code...

                    I just clicked on the photos application in Facebook and got back some PHP code. I won't publish it here, for obvious reasons, but this is the header: <?php /* -------------------------------------------------------- My Photos - html/photos.php --- Author: Jared S. Morgenstern Creation Date: 7/7/06 Overview: Dispatcher page for code encapsulation. -------------------------------------------------------- */
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                    Using Twitter in Emergencies

                    And speaking of Twitter, from David Stephenson, a story of how the LA Fire Dept. is using Twitter and other Web 2.0 technologies as part of their disaster recovery and preparedness efforts. In addition, the LAFD is using Twitter just to keep citizens informed of what they're doing: "But the most popular effort has been the Twitter account, which now has about 190 followers who can receive Twitter updates from a mobile device. For example, a Twitter will report that a structural fire is being battled by 30 firefighters, or that a car accident has occurred. It reads like
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                    Platform Strategies that Work

                    I've been following Gnomedex via Twitter--a bunch of people I follow are there. Dave Winer just said, regarding Mahalo: When someone gets up and gives a speech about a platform, my mind gets engaged about ways I can have fun or make money. There's none of that with Mahalo. It's about Jason and his investors making money. Why should I care about that? It's like the iPhone. Very limited opportunities for us to be creative. From Here's what bothers me about Mahalo (Scripting News)Referenced Fri Aug 10 2007 18:28:11 GMT-0600 (MDT) Dave is making an excellent point here--maybe the
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                    A First Look at Numbers

                    I just published a first look review of Numbers, Apple's new spreadsheet, at Between the Lines. This is a cool product that points to some changes Excel has long needed. I'm not what you would call a spreadsheet power user, but I do use them a fair bit. I'm going to be using Numbers.
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                    Encrypting Your Email Address

                    Via a Wired story on protecting yourself from spam, I found Jim Tucek's Email Protector, a Javascript that let's you embed a mailto: link to your email address on your Web page without actually revealing the email address except to people who run the Javascript. The theory is that email address harvesters don't run Javascript.
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                    My Mail Is Offline

                    I haven't received any email all day, so if you've sent me something and are waiting for a response, I probably won't get your email for a while. Seems that windley.com is the subject of a distributed, dictionary email attack--that is a spam botnet is hitting my email server with every email address they can generate from the dictionary in hopes of getting a few through. The effect is an effective denial of service for my email server. The services on the server have been turned off awaiting the zombies to find somewhere else to play. In the meantime,
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                    SearchStatus for Alexa and PageRank

                    Firefox with SearchStatus installed(click to enlarge) If you've installed toolbars to let you see the Google PageRank and Alexa ranking of the sites you visit, you might like this Firefox extension called SearchStatus. SearchStatus shows the current PageRank, Alexa rank and Compete rank (I'd never heard of it) in your status bar, or almost anywhere else you like. The attached screen shot shows the SearchStatus installation on Firefox on my Mac.
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                    Talking to Drew Major on Technometria

                    I just posted an interview Scott and I did with Drew Major, one of the founders of Novell and someone who's doing some very interesting things with video. Talking with Drew is really interesting because he has a long history in technology and isn't satisfied with how things are. He's willing to code to make things scale.
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                    eVoting Reports Continue Negative News

                    I just put some pointers at Between the Lines to three new reports on the security problems inherent in eVoting systems.
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                    Paul Graham on Stuff

                    Paul Graham has an excellent essay on stuff. Have we reached the point where most things are so cheap, we no longer need them? A historical change has taken place, and I've now realized it. Stuff used to be valuable, and now it's not. In industrialized countries the same thing happened with food in the middle of the twentieth century. As food got cheaper (or we got richer; they're indistinguishable), eating too much started to be a bigger danger than eating too little. We've now reached that point with stuff. For most people, rich or poor, stuff has become
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                    Building an Adapter for the iPhone Jack

                    As you know, if you have an iPhone, the headphone jack is recessed. This was apparently done for esthetic reasons: pulling it out would have resulted in a big bulge--not something Steve Jobs would approve of. I happen to have some accessories that don't work with the iPhone because of this little design decision. There are adapters, but they are bulky, stiff, ugly, and expensive. So, I decided to make my own. The results were OK--not perfect. Here's what you need: A pair of earbuds with a plug that fits into the recessed socket. I had an old pair
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                    Fake Steve is Outted

                    If you haven't heard, a reporter (Brad Stone) from the NY Times outted Fake Steve. It was a fun ride.
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                    IT Conversations Top Ten Shows for July 2007

                    Here's the top ten shows on IT Conversations (by downloads) for July 2007: Scott Berkun - Technometria: The Myths of Innovation (Rating: 3.45)How do you know whether a hot technology will succeed or fail? Or where the next big idea will come from? The best answers come not from the popular myths we tell about innovation, but instead from time-tested truths that explain how we've made it this far. In The Myths of Innovation, author Scott Berkun takes a careful look at innovation history, including the software and Internet Age, to reveal how ideas truly become successful innovations-truths that
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                    One Stop Business Registration

                    I just finished setting up an LLC using Utah's One Stop Business Registration. This is an event-style eGovernment service that we first envisioned when I was CIO. It's been in operation for a while, but this was my first opportunity to use it. I was impressed. The application takes all of the various interactions you'd have with the State to create a business and streamlines it into one, easy to follow workflow. The only criticism I had, and it's minor one, is that the application asked if I wanted to add any additional articles to the Articles of Incorporation,
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                    Utah's Move to More Centralized IT

                    Government Technology has a story about Utah's move to a more centralized IT organization. No big surprises, but it tells the story and concludes that the move has been surprisingly smooth. Steve FLetcher has done a good job in the transition (as have his many lieutenants who helped greatly and don't get mentioned much in the article).
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                    Doc Searls Has Two New Homes

                    Doc's taking an apartment in the greater Boston to complement his second year as a Berkman Fellow. He's also moving into a new home online. Wow, one move of that magnitude would bring lesser men to their knees. I'm impressed. Bonus link: to get Google's juices flowing: Doc Searls.
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                    Green Pixel Plague on Apple Displays

                    Doug Kaye has been bitten by the green pixel problem. He blames the display, but I don't think it is that simple. Here's why. I too have been troubled by this problem since I got a 30 inch display. Over that time, however, I've had 4 different Powerbooks or MacBook Pros and they've exhibited different behaviors. One would give me the green pixels every time, all the time. No amount of rebooting or reconnecting the display would fix it. With two, I never saw the problem--not once. With the MacBook Pro I'm using now, I see the problem occasionally,
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                    Open Source: Locked Into Uncertainty

                    I was browsing the ZDNet blogs this morning and saw this ad: This caught my eye and I clicked through. The ad takes you to case studies from Microsoft, including one showcasing the State of Illinois' email consolidation project. Utah did something similar back in 2002. Believe me, it's not an easy job. As you'd expect since it was a Microsoft case study, Illinois chose to consolidate an Exchange/Active Directory solution--they had different agencies using Exchange, GroupWise, and Notes. We were luckier--almost everyone was usin GroupWise and Novell directory--although there were lots of servers with out of date versions
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                    Shutting Down Dell

                    Now that Apple's market cap is twice that of Dell's ($127.8B vs $63.6B), there's only one logical thing for Dell to do: shut Dell down and give the money back to the shareholders.
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