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the killzone: where good ideas go to die
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stuff to click

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* blog *

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-> current <-

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read news

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linux & me

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shell scripting

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unix shells

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what is kill-9?

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got geek?

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hi morgen!

tools used

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Chris's lack of artistic ability has been cleverly disguised by the GIMP


Apache, jump on it!

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the killzone

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

what the hell happened to me?

i went back to school.

i guess people with lives that are interesting enough to blog about don't have time to blog about them.

still starving for more vitriolic rants full of typos? here is my professional life in a nutshell:

smart phone in an oxymoron.

the person that came up with the idea of changing daylight savings time should be drawn, quartered, skinned, hanged, burned, and then buried alive.

when i lived in seattle in 2001, i worked across the hall from the offices of 180 solutions. had i known that spyware would become such a problem today, i would have suicide bombed them to make an example of them and their infidel kind.

just kidding, FBI. i wouldn't actually suicide bomb anyone... i would have convinced one of the weasels in sales to do it. I KID!!

school is a little something like this:

the chattel slave trade was worse than the holocaust. the holocaust was like a decade and killed like 6 million people. slavery lasted over 400 years and not only killed millions, but whole generations were born into and then died in slavery. make no mistake, the holocaust was an atrocity, but when you weigh the sheer number of lives affected and the number of years in duration, chattel slavery was worse. the next time i hear a white person say black people should "just get over it", i am kicking them in their reproductive organs, just like anyone would if they told a jewish person to just get over the holocaust.

++i exists for no other reason than to lower exam grades. just use i++ and no one gets hurt. when i rule the world and i can make coding standards a constitutional amendment, ++i will be a high crime, like treason. also, camelCase is gay... everything should be lowercase, the way the unix gods intended it.

at home:

if you have insight broadband you shouldn't run your webserver on port 80, and cincinnati 2600 is teh awesome and so is the EEE.

posted by chris 6:23 AM

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

these are REAL pirates

the MAFIAA should spend some time in somalia where there are real pirates doing real pirate stuff. piracy (as in crimes on the high seas) there is on the rise, and these guys board and raid ships at sea.

the term piracy has taken on a new definition thanks to the RIAA, MPAA, ESA, and the BSA. now the term stands for copies of a work that infringe on copyright, instead of crimes on the high seas. piracy by the classic definition is punishable by death in the constitution.

i think the modern definition is rooted in pirate radio which is a term for radio broadcasting without a license. pirated software, movies, and music are distributed without proper license.

this is all part of the plan for these organizations to get people to equate copyright infringement with stealing. copyright infringement is illegal just like theft, but it's not the same crime and the penalties are not the same.

real piracy is real crime and hurts real people, not just industry profits.

posted by chris 10:07 AM

Thursday, September 13, 2007

hey intel!

your nic drivers suck. do you know why? because they aren't built into windows.

the 3c90x from 3com is teh awesome. you know why? because it's driver has been built into windows since '95.

your busted ass drivers are always a pain to locate, download, and install when doing a fresh install of windows or repairing one. once i get you your website, the process is pretty simple, but getting to your website is always a challenge on a newly installed machine... you know why? cuz i don't have your freakin' nic drivers.

your chipsets always require 10 megs of software to set up. that's fine, i can get that off the internet. your sound systems need 20 megs of software to hastle me when i plug in or unplug my headphones. that's fine, i can get that off the internet. your integrated video uses 50 megs of "helper" apps to do what what is already built into windows. that's fine, i can get that off the internet. but your nics suck because while i can get the software off the internet, i can't get to the internet without a working nic.

3 com solved this problem like a decade ago. you guys need to get with the program and bribe, intimidate, sleep with and/or take to lunch the parties at microsoft that are responsible for getting your shit into windows. if you aren't sure who, holla at 3com or HP, they have been shipping the 3c905 and the laserjet 4 drivers with windows since god was a baby.

or you could use my work around, which is to install a 3c905 so i can get on the net to download your stupid drivers. maybe you and 3com could work out a deal where you use their 3c905 chips instead of yours.

i don't really care what you do, just fix your nic problems with the quickness.

and microsoft, you guys aren't innocent either. if it didn't cost an arm and a leg and a first born son to get drivers into windows, this wouldn't be a problem. most of the instability with windows comes from shitty device drivers, and vista is now infamous for driver compatibility issues. this is a wakeup call. mac OS is eating your lunch because devices "just work".

and before you say "but chris, we can't possibly build in drivers for every arbitrary component out there" listen to this: you don't need every driver on planet earth, just the most popular components from the most popular manufacturers, LIKE INTEL. i know it can be done, cheap as hell, because linux does it. that's right MS, when it comes to the out of box install of integrated components, linux kicks your ass.

so intel, pretty please with sugar on top: get your shit together. and MS, it's time to admit you have a problem and get the help you need.

posted by chris 9:11 AM

Monday, August 27, 2007

wil wheaton's keynote at PAX2007

the penny arcade expo was this weekend. i didn't go. in fact, i have never been, but i am fully going next year, even if i have to take a bus and sleep on the street. it's like E3 for real gamers hosted by the PABoyz.

so one of the keynote speakers was wil wheaton who was one of the kids in "stand by me" and did some sort of star trek thing. i am a starwars man, we do not acknowledge his kind.

in spite of his being a member of that religion of false gods, he did deliver a very impressive speech that really speaks to what it is like to be a gamer. he talks about damn kids today with their bujillion TV channels and games like halo and basically made me feel pretty good about being a 30 something year old geek with a wife and kids.

posted by chris 1:37 PM

Monday, August 6, 2007

cultural training for marines

this is an interesting article on the BBC about cultural training for marines who are headed for iraq.

i did something similar, i was part of a group that trained the second wave of soldiers headed for bosnia in 1997. our exercise was 3 weeks, not 6-8, and we were done not long after that. it was probably the coolest thing i did in the service that didn't involve blowing things up.

posted by chris 3:36 PM

Thursday, August 2, 2007

the great modchip roundup

so the immigration and customs department (which is apparently a branch of the department of homeland security) has conducted raids on a bunch of folks over modchips.

they are using the DMCA as justification for the raids. as you may already know, i think the DMCA is bullshit, and therefore, any action based upon the DMCA is also bullshit.

this little nugget is what really pisses me off about this whole thing:
"Illicit devices like the ones targeted today are created with one purpose in mind, subverting copyright protections," said Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for ICE in a statement.

actually, noob, there are a bunch of uses for mods, like for homebrew software. thanks to modding my xbox, it does all of the multi-media stuff that a 360 does for less than half the price of a 360, with no DRM and no need for vista. thanks to the $149 price tag and the $60 modchip, my home theater PC cost me $210 instead of $400 for a quiet PC in a small black case. plus it plays Xbox games which is only slightly impossible with a PC.

this is just like the bit torrent argument, yes people use it for nefarious ends, but it does have legitimate uses and so the technology itself should not be banned. just police the illegal activity and leave the rest of us alone. it's not like you can stop it anyway... any system that you implement to stop modders will be circumvented, end of story.

there are a number of modders that feel that way.

also, WTF is any division of the department of homeland security doing enforcing the DMCA? WTF does this have to do with terrorism? well, julie "paid for by the ESA" myers had this to say:
"These crimes cost legitimate businesses billions of dollars annually and facilitate multiple other layers of criminality, such as smuggling, software piracy and money laundering," said Ms Myers.

so, i guess teh terrorists are going to bring "death to america" by flipping burnt games. HTF are they able to find modchips in people's homes, but can't find osama bin laden?

obviously bin laden isn't slinging modchips or those assholes would have given him two in the chest and one in the head a long time ago.

posted by chris 9:09 AM

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

nerdcore hiphop

i go thru musical phases. for a long time the phase was oldschool ska and i obsessibely collected old jamaican ska tracks. before that it was probably disco. yes, i like disco. i'm ok with it. i am enlightened.

hiphop for me wasn't a phase. i have loved it since i was a kid. i loved it when i was a punk and some of my punk rock friends didn't think it was cool. i learned a little about the nation of islam from listening to public enemy. i learned a little about the nation of gods and earths from the wutang clan. i learned all kinds of things from KRS-one. ice-T taught me about gangs. hiphop taught me how privileged i was to be a white suburbanite kid from an upper middle class family.

i used to come home from school and watch "yo! MTVraps" a lot. i thought it was cool that anthrax covered "bring the noise" and that PE appeared in the video. and then hiphop left new york and the whole thing changed.

i didn't give it much thought until a couple of years ago i watched the movie "crash". ludacris plays a guy in it that refuses to listen to hiphop because he says that it's a tool to subjugate blacks. he said it was systematically destroying his generation by seducing them into idolizing "mumbling idiots".

it reminded me of the "prolefeed" from the book 1984.

a few months ago, my net neutrality/free speech/indie media activism lead me to a myspace bulletin with an article called "why i gave up on hiphop". i read it and it made me really think.

maybe hiphop today really is prolefeed.

it wasn't long after that i started calling the rubbish my teenaged nephew listens to a bunch of "mumbling idiots".

when i was in highschool, was introduced to MC 900ft jesus. he called himself a rapper, but he was more of a poet in the classical sense. he didn't mention his own name, he didn't talk about the usual hiphop stuff, and not all of his music was actual hiphop. the idea of a white rapper who wasn't a whiteguy acting like a blackguy was so unique i fell in love immediately. that was probably the original nerdcore, but not really.

nerdcore is hiphop that is for geeks. it's made by and for nerdy comicbook reading, video gaming, D&D playing, science and math whiz geeks.

i heard MC chris on an episode of sealab late at night, and i was hooked. i have since discovered MC frontalot and most recently, dual core.

this is hiphop with intelligence. this is hip hop that was made for me, for my people. until now, hiphop for me was a window into someone else's world. when i listen to dual core talk about flamewars, emacs and vi, and the movie wargames, i can't help but think to myself "this must be what black people feel like when they listen to hiphop."

the kicker is that most nerdcore is free to download, DRM free, and a lot of it is released on various creative commons licenses, and they are all free from RIAA controlled labels. this is how music is supposed to be.

posted by chris 8:28 PM

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

announcing the "IT self sufficiency" lecture series

after 10 years in the IT field, i have decided to start touring the lecture circuit to educate managers, executives, and knowlege workers how to get the most from their IT staff and infrastructure. my talks will cover a variety of topics that guarantee that you will achieve harmony with your IT department.

part 1: plug shit in

computers require a number of connections. no matter what the peripheral, be it a printer, harddrive, or a monitor, all computer parts need power connections and data connections. in this series we will talk about the various computer cable types and the means for connecting them without the aid of your IT department. advanced topics include "USB cables: sometimes it's enough power, sometimes it's not" and "powerstrips: the little light means ON".

part 2: stop unplugging shit

in part 2 of this exciting series builds on the lessons learned in part 1: "plug shit in". we will discuss the reasons for not uplugging shit, meditation and breathing exercises to overcome the compulsion to unplug shit, and how to plug shit back in when you have unplugged something for no earthly reason.

part 3: you print too damn much

does your printer fail on you constantly? have you replaced a printer in the last two years? part 3 of the IT self sufficiency lecture series will teach you new work habits that can help you understand and prevent future printer failures and minimizing the damage done by the inevitable printer failure.

part 4: remember your goddamn passwords

do you play football without a helmet? does the phrase "write it down, but keep it in a safe place" completely foreign to you? part 4 will help you learn the skills master the tools you need to remember important passwords. the advanced techniques include "taking the post-its off your monitor" and "usernames and passwords: what you should and shouldn't blurt out in the cafeteria."

part 5: that's not a fucking computer

are you constantly being told by your IT department that they can't help you with your fax machine? having trouble getting help with your new smartphone? part 5 of this series focuses on solutions to these and other frustrating problems. topics include: how you call the phone company, how to call the people that sold you your satellite TV system, how to get your money back from that cousin that sold you a broken Xbox, and "iPods: you need more than a harddrive to be a computer".

part 6: the internet is bad, stay the hell away from it

part 6 will help you increase your safety and privacy online by reducing your exposure to phishing and spyware from all sources. upon completion of part 6 you will be able to effectively avoid online scams and predators even if you are incapable of thinking your yourself!

posted by chris 6:44 AM

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

just when i thought japan couldn't get any weirder

i know it sounds sometimes like i don't like japan. nothing could be farther from the truth. i love japanese food, history, culture, and sports. one thing i have trouble understanding is japanese popular culture. one of the few windows that i have into japanese popular culture is megatokyo. at least once a year i run across something in the comic or in the blogs that accompany the comics that takes registers an 11 on my weird-shit-o-meter. so before i go into my latest rant about how weird japan is, i thought i would share something i like about japan first.

i am not sure if i posted this or not, but i love japanese signs, warning signs especially. in japan, warning signs are very detailed, almost like little cartoons. in the US, warning signs are only two colors and very simple. i would assume that this is because americans are stupid.

the the japanese wii saftey manual is a riot all by itself. this parody isn't really that funny until you have seen the real thing.

so, there you have it, stuff from japan that i think is cool.

now for the weirdity. today's megatokyo features a bunch of undead assembling to attack tokyo. one of them talks about picking up some guro during the assualt. in an uncharacteristic move, fred explains what guro is in a footnote and tells you not to look it up. a safe play when looking up stuff from japan is to hit wikipedia first. you are far less likely to run into tentacles that way.

speaking of tentacles, i thought that tenacle pr0n was the upper limit for japanese depravity. apparently hentai is just the beginning. silly me for thinking that japan (or any country for that matter) had an upper limit of any kind when it comes to depravity. sometimes i forget just how repressed the US is when it comes to sex. anyone who has spent an hour on the internets can tell you it's not hard to run into pretty sick stuff... but guro has to be the sickest thing that i have heard of to date.

posted by chris 5:52 AM

Monday, April 2, 2007

either hell just froze over...

or these are the cruelest april fools day jokes in history.

joke #1: record lables are pulling out of the RIAA. they had me until they said apple and MS were working together.

joke #2: apple will start selling high quality drm free tracks on iTunes. this is the best one yet... hosted on apple's domain... that setup with steve jobs 3 weeks ago.

joke #1 is obviously false... but #2 is looking more and more like it might actually be true. better wait a couple of days to see what shakes out. in general i hate the intertubes on april fools day.

posted by chris 9:02 AM

stupid sympathy story to promote the pro-clown agenda

it's either a slow news day at CNN, or they will do just about anything to portray clowns in a positive light.

i know that some people don't share my views on clowns, but before you start with the knee-jerk "clowns are people too" rhetoric, let me just say that clowns are not people. they are clowns. if they were people, we would call them people, not clowns. some people act like clowns, but once you don the makeup and the shoes, you immediately forfeit your humanity.

let me ask you this, if i was to lose a tiny little bike, would that make headlines at CNN? even if i was a famous person, like say, george clooney, would the loss of my little bike make the news? of course not. thanks to CNN, all a clown has to do is blow his ridculous red nose and suddenly it's national news.

well, i for one don't like it. we get enough pro-clown propaganda as it is, do we really need it from a national news service like CNN? i don't see the BBC running stories on clowns all the time. i guess the UK isn't the haven for clown apologists that the US has become.

posted by chris 5:13 AM

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

the US is no longer a technology leader

i hate to say i told you so... but i told you so. the US came in 7th. 4 of the top 5 are in europe, where broadband internet acccess is fast, cheap, and everywhere.

this is also interesting to note:

"Denmark, in particular, has benefited from the very effective government e-leadership, reflected in early liberalisation of the telecommunications sector, a first-rate regulatory environment and large availability of e-government services," said Irene Mia, senior economist at World Economic Forum.

the telcos need to screw us for tons of cash so that they can innovate... at this rate we will score worse than china in just a couple of years.

posted by chris 12:44 PM

Thursday, February 22, 2007

the DUH heard round the world

the US copyright lobby is out of touch with the rest of the world. in other news: grass is green, water is wet, the sky is blue, and size really does matter.

posted by chris 7:24 AM

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

murder isn't funny... unless it happens to clowns

i don't usually read CNN since pretty much every headline should really read "reason number 5,234,456 to be glad you're white and upper middle class"... but i saw this and couldn't resist.

usually these "oddly enough" stories you see on yahoo about remote locations smack of BS, but my hatred of clowns allows my to suspend my disbelief to entertain the idea that there is someone who hates them way more than me.

posted by chris 4:05 PM

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

denial isn't just a river in africa

the sony hubris is getting so deep that you need wings to stay above it.

so the chief knucklehead at sony america is saying that "If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." the PAboyz had an interesting response in the form of a comic where they demand $13,000 for all the ps3's that they have found in the greater seattle area.

i love when the stupid white guys in positions of power in large corporations say stupid things on the record. i love when they get proven wrong in nanoseconds by the sweaty basement dwelling otaku that make the internet the fantastically creepy place that it is today. no matter who you are (jack thompson, billG, ted stevens) IF you say something to a journalist for effect, the resulting effect will be to be instantly proven wrong.

i'm not talking about euphmisms like "our new car stops on a dime and will ask you for change". i am talking about overstating something in hopes of impressing a journalist and getting your nuts handed to you, literally, seconds later. stop doing it guys, it never works and it makes you look like dicks.

posted by chris 7:04 AM

Monday, February 12, 2007

open mic night

the premise of this article is cooler than the actual implementation but the idea of using voice commands to hack a computer is pretty cool. i guess that if you have speech recognition enabled on a machine and you have to sucker someone into playing a malicious soundfile that executes commands on the machine, but it's the sort of security vulnerability that noone sees coming. it's not nearly as insidious as blue pill but it is pretty novel.

remote sploitz be damned, having an open mic can still be trouble. i can tell you that from experience. when i worked for a helpdesk i would relieve those sudden flares of frustration by muting my phone and yelling profanity. i had a desktop machine that i would use to remote control other people's computers via netmeeting.

my desktop was replaced by a laptop that i would still use for remote control. desktop do not often have built in microphones, so i was not accustomed to checking for an open mic in my "security checklist". by security checklist i mean "stuff to do to the computer so i don't get fired fro misusing it".

so it was common practice to walk people thru something until they had a problem and then remote control them. i did it probably two dozen times a day. i had my laptop for a few weeks and i was helping some retarded old guy (also with a laptop) to do something stupid.

i got control of the computer and told the guy to wait for a few minutes while i took care of his thing. you never put them on hold cuz they will mess with the keyboard or mouse while you are working, so you have to maintain voice contact at all times.

he either didn't hear me tell him to sit still or couldn't stop compulsively grabbing the mouse because once i got into a dialogue box he would click me out of it saying "here let me see if i can..."

i asked him twice to stop and i felt the rage start to take over... so i hit the mute button on the phone and yelled "get your hands off the keyboard dumbass!"

after two years of tech support calls i had the mute button reflexes of a humming bird. i could carry on a conversation with you, while actively muting and trashtalking you, and you would never notice. this was a precise art and i was the master.

well, i can mute a phone mic with the quickness, but the PC mike is another story. thankfully a, net meeting call from a home in idiotville to the helpdesk in cincinnati, by way of a cisco VPN connection to toldeo and a tinny pair of laptop speakers does not make for excellent voice quality because i could hear, garbled tho it was, my voice thru his speakers calling him a dumbass.

the old dude didn't say much, just that his laptop made a strange noise. i told him to use the mute key on the laptop for the time being... but in my head i was wondering if he could hear my heart stop beating, or my ass cheeks clenching.

so, if you have a mic on your PC, mute it now. you never know when it might betray you.

posted by chris 1:25 PM

Friday, February 9, 2007

steve jobs speaks out AGAINST drm

and so does a former sony lawyer.

he hits a few of the high points, but does no where near the job that cory doctorow did in his presentation to microsoft.

the interesting thing here is that the music industry is about 5 years ahead of the movie industry in terms of dealing with the intertubes.

in 2001 the music industry took down napster, fragmenting the scene into bearshare, limewire, kazaa and the like. in 2006, the last of those services was taken down and they turned their sites on allofmp3.com and decentralised peer to peer networks. perhaps in 2007 or 2008 we will see restriction free legal downloads of whole catalogs of music.

in 2006 the movie industry started flirting with movie downloads and began it's "OMFG napster!" meme with bit torrent. so perhaps in 2010 we will se restriciton free legal downloads of whole catalogs of movies.

posted by chris 10:48 AM

Thursday, February 1, 2007

fascinating article on wired about identity thieves

there is a 3 part series on wired about a largescale FBI operation against a ring of credit thieves. it's about this guy, El Mariachi, who got picked up by the FBI and flipped.

part 1 tells of how EM got busted and ended up working for the FBI.

part 2 tells of his involvement with the FBI in targeting and taking down a big time russian cyber criminal.

part 3 tells of how the strain of a double life and the enemies he had made while working for the feds caused the whole thing to fall apart.

the articles are a bit convoluted and kind of hard to follow, but fascinating non the less. cyber criminals, it would appear, are just as screwed up as regular criminals.

an important distinction needs to be made between these guys (criminals) and real hackers. the guys this article talks about are "crackers". they are people who bad stuff for money or for the joy od destruction. "hackers" are people who experiment with hardware and software to produce new and useful solutions, simple rudimentary fixes, or practical jokes.

it is true that hacking does sometimes involve unauthorized access to things (especially in the field of security research). there is a difference between probing the security of something to prove that you can, and stealing people's shit.

in case you are having trouble following, here is the reader's digest version:

hackers are tinkerers and researchers who try to prove a point
crackers steal people's shit

posted by chris 12:19 PM

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

where my apps at?

info week has an article by a chief architect at ibm. while it is a call to the software world to step up to code software for ibm's cell processor (found in the PS3 of all places), i am not sure it raises anything interesting.

the crux of the issue, from what i gather, is that most applicaitons are not multi-threaded or SMP aware. this has been a long standing problem in the software world becuase those kinds of applications are tought to code properly (or so i have read).

the cell processor compounds the issue by not only having mulitple cores, but by not having all the cores created equally. one core rules the others, lord of the rings style, rather than just having identical cored that you can throw processes on.

there was a rather spirited discussion about the issue on slashdot, and i think the the issues is OS related rather than application related.

i have no idea if any operating system (outside of IBM at least) is targeting the cell as a platform. windows and linux are flirting with the idea of 64bit computing, but for the most part, most of the computing world has been languishing at 32bits for more than a decade, and will continue to languish for the forseeable future.

with many billing virtualization as the future of computing, and current projects like vmware and parallels able to imitate 2 processors on a one processor machine, shouldn't the opposite also be true? can't you use software to make two processors look like one big giant processor? two 1ghz processors may not yield exactly the same performance as a 2 ghz processor, thanks to the allocation overhead, but they sould deliver significantly more performance than a single 1 ghz without much change to the virtualized OS or the software running on the VM.

isn't it the operating system's job to do all of the scheduling? can't the OS assign new processes to idle processors and provide a means for them to communicate with eachother in memory?

weren't these problems dealt with by grid or cluster computing? isn't it just a matter of taking what the grid/cluster types did and making it work with inter-process communication instead of via messaging?

edit i got a couple of "WTF are you talking about?" emails... sometimes i forget that not everyone knows what clusters and grids are. i will try to sum this up as best i can... but it's a big subject that i know next to nothing about.

in the old days computers were these giant things that weighed 3 tons and a thousand people could use them at once. these were the minis and the mainframes of the days of yore. there was not much need for networking or communications stuff because everyone lived on the same machine and shared resources. in time these machines had dozens, sometimes hundreds of processors.

when the PC came along, the world moved away from huge shared resources to decentralized individual resources. the PC was significantly weaker in terms of processing power, it was intended for one person to use at a time. the question then became which is more efficient, sharing a vast pool of resources with many other users, or having your own smaller pool to use at your discretion.

the PC was far cheaper and more customizable, so it became the tool that people used instead of mainframes. later, networking and other technologies were added to the PC so that it could emulate a lot of the features of those big shared resource systems like mainframes.

powerful PCs that people used to share data, communications, and the like were called servers. you sat at your PC (the client) and used it to access stuff on the server. the main difference between the client/server model and the mainframe model is that most of the processing was done on your computer, rather than the server. software had to be written in two parts, the client portion that ran on the client PC, and the server portion which ran on one or more servers.

the question then became, which is more efficient, centralizing on a server or distributing to the client. running stuff client side meant more resources were available on the server. running stuff server side meant more control and simpler configuration. the computer room stopped being home to one or two giant computers and started being home to hundreds or even thousands of servers.

one advance in PC technology was Symetric MultiProcessing. this was having two or more processors in a PC. again, you have to use specially written software to use the muliple processors. having multiple processors in a computer was supposed to make the machine faster because load (the individual threads that the application uses) could be distributed across processors. the only problem is that the applications that you run have to make use of multiple threads to get the job done. this is where the trickiness for coding comes in to play.

some jobs were still meant for big supercomputers because they were so big that a single PC might take years to complete them. people started binding identical PCs (sometimes hundreds of them) together to perform single large tasks. this became known as clustering. applications for clusters were different that PC apps because the applications had to be written to use messaging to transfer load over several machines.

the best sorts of jobs were ones that were considered "parallellizable" or jobs that were repetitive enough that you could break them into pieces, put the pieces on individual machines, and the reassemble the finished pieces in to a larger whole. a simplified example of a parallellizable problem is (2*2)+(4*4) there are two pieces that you can figure up independantly and then add them together. problems that have to be solved sequentially or that have to wait for some conditions to be met are not good candidates for parallellization.

later on, people started using non-identical (heterogeneous) computers that may be spread over large networks or the internet itself. this was called distributed computing, or grid computing. again, applications have to be written to take advantage of the messaging system to balance the load over a series of nodes, and the sort of work that the application did had to be parallellizable.

multi-core processors are similar to SMP, in that there is more than one processing core, only now it's all built into a single chip rather than using muliple processing chips in a single computer. you can also do SMP with multi-core processor... which basically means having two or more processing chips, each with two or more processing cores in them. a slang term for mulicore processing is "SMP on a stick".

it would also be possible to have several of these "multicore SMP" systems working toegether in a cluster... or to even have the cluster nodes be virtual machines on the same server... and now my head hurts.

in all of this, i am not sure why there isn't some OS component that handles all of this crap for the software... your instant messaging program isn't specially written for your network card... it just fires calls at the OS for network stuff. in this case, the software does what it's always done, and the OS plays hot potato with idle cores/processors/nodes without the application knowing anything.

why can't the OS just provide a framework for multi-core, multi-processor, multi-node resource allocation? you know, software runs and makes calls, the OS thing gets sends the call somewhere (another core, another proc, another node in the cluster or grid based on availability) and hands the results back when the work is done.

if you are using virtualization, then whole OS's can run in "containers" and make their calls to the VM framework, and the host OS and it's "multi-whatever scheduling thing" can handle the brokering of system resources. all of that abstraction will produce significant overhead, but in time the abstraction can be made more efficient, and processors can be made more powerful.

the doomsday scenario that we have all faced (and can hopefully eliminate some day) is having a godlike processor, mountains of RAM, and some critical process (like the graphical user interface) running on the machine that bogs down... slowing the whole machine to a crawl. the hope is that the OS can keep userland programs (your stuff) running on a separate core/processor/node and keep the OS functions isolated and protected. this is supposed to be how microkernel systems operate, but again, they are way trickier to code right.

this is why i like VMWare... i can run a lean, stable, secure OS (in my case, linux) as the host, and have whole servers running in their own containers (windows 2003 server and a win2k workstation). i can take a snapshots of a VM while it's running and revert back to them in the event of a crash.

i can also pause a running machine in move it's files to a different machine, which i did recently when i set up my new fileserver.

so, now that i have gotten completely off my original track... i think that the OS should feature some "thing" that handles the abstraction of all of this crap... and if IBM wants us to use cell processors it needs to work with microsoft, apple and the bsd/linux communities to develop the requisite "thing" that takes advantage of the cell's capabilities.

i hope that in the future, the virtualization software can put each running VM on it's own core or processor to improve the performance and utilization of each VM.

posted by chris 9:54 AM

Thursday, January 18, 2007

how the democratic grassroots benfit large corporations

i just read two great articles that i do not agree with. one is by a photographer about how ignoring copyright only seeks to help corporations and one is about how net neutrality played right into the hands of AT&T.

first, on the subject of copyright, the tendency for user generated content to devalue professionally made content is valid... to a certain extent. yes, an abundance of freely available content will force the world to ask those that expect payment to do more to get paid. it is also definitely true that the big media corporations are benefitting most from that devaluation... for now.

but it won't always be that way. sooner or later, the professionals will use the net to produce their own content and interact with us again. no, it won't be a team of professionals in the employ of a media conglomerate producing a show trageted at millions once a week at 8pm... it will be small teams of varying skill levels producing highly specialized content, goods, and services to a global audience of a size that varies depending on the specificty of the content produced.

for example: CNN has the market cornered on national in international news in the US. the register has it cornered on international technology news. what about local news? not just in my city or state, what about in my town? in my neighborhood?

i know, you are saying "but chris, how can a neighborhood newspaper support someone fulltime?" the answer is simple... it can't.

"then how will writers, photographers and filmmakers make fulltime livings?" they will either produce loads of generalized content or small amounts of highly detailed and attract and audience by being unique, useful, and above all else, independant.

the thing about relaxing restrictions on copyright (or better yet, remove a corporation's ability to own a copyright) is that it transfers power back to the people who make the stuff, rather than leaving it in the hands of the corporations that can afford to own the stuff. no, it's not happening now, but it will. the decline in content quality will cause the consumer to find stuff elsewhere.

media outlets used to be the gatekeepers that we trusted. we trusted that they would do their best to keep us informed. they haven't been doing their jobs, so now it's up to us, the citizen to produce the news that we think is important. if you want to stay in the game, then start producing something meaningful.

if it really is good enough, then we will come back to it. the internet changed the world and took the power out of your hands. in time it will be out of the hands of corporations as well, and we will need people willing to invest in goodjournalism/photography/music/tv/whatever again.

it's sad that in the process of taking control of the media that you professional contributors got hurt. but there is still hope. the more media that is available from more outlets, the better off we, as consumers, are. get out on your own and produce meaningful work and we will find you again... if you are good enough.

second, on the subject of net neutrality, it is bad when one thing becomes two. net neutrality is a problem because there is not enough competition in the broadband internet access business. the AT&T merger is a reduction in competition in the boradband internet access business. do you see where i am going with this?

the at&t deal going thru was a defeat for neutrality. thanks to at&t's concessions, it was not a total defeat. while it would have been better for a net neutrality law to be passed forcing internet access providers to compete fairly, and not stop other competitors from getting into the business, or better still for the merger to be blocked. the consessions will at least stop at&t from running a train on it's subscriber base for the forseeable future.

the future for the telcos is bundles... what the cable types call a triple play (phone, TV, and internet access) and what the telco types see as a quadruple play (phone, mobile, TV, and internet). they will raise the prices on their individual services in order to push you into buying everything from them, like so:

currently you pay between $20 and $50 a month for internet access, but you are required to have either cable TV service (another $30-$60 a month) or a home phone line ($20-$50). if you were to have a home phone from the phone company, plus basic cable from the cable company, and a mobile from some other party, you may pay as much as $200 a month for those services.

now, lets say each company raises their prices by %20 unless you get bundle your services together... say, phone, TV, mobile, and internet for $180 a month from the at&t... that sounds like prices went down, but so too did your number of choices. while a $20 reduction in your total bill might sound nice, it's a 150% or greater increase in youor contributions to a single provider, and a 200% reduction provider options.

if at&t's TV service sucks, what are you going to do? break up the bundle and pay more for 3 services just so you can also pay for a satellite dish or for cable? no, you'll be a good little consumer slave and keep paying to use a shitty service because you can't afford anything better.

but, one of the concessions was naked DSL, right? open and neutral at 768k down and 128k up... that's good right? wrong.

that's the first tier slow lane they wanted to put you on all along. to deliver good picture quality to multiple sets, they need something on the order of 25mbit. 768k down isn't a hundredth of that. and at 128k up your phone service will work, but will you be able to use advanced codecs for super hig quality? good luck getting an independant TV service and VOIP to work together thru that mess. why not just offer naked DSL at higher speeds (and correspondingly higher prices) and let us choose if we want your phone and TV service or not?

will a mobile provider step up and provide video and internet access to the home?

who's left to do that? alltel? sprint? Tmobile? they're miniscule compared to the two bigdogs. can they afford the necessary infrastructure to do this so late in the game? maybe if they all merged, but is that really the solution that we want?

the two biggest networks (verizon and at&t) have landline businesses that they want to protect in their existing markets... but will they have the nuts to offer service to people outside their landline markets?

you only hope now is for muni-fiber and muni-wifi, or some sort of stalled technology (BPL anyone?) to come back from the dead to provide some kind of remedy.

so was it a defeat? not totally. was it a victory? not totally. is the war over? absolutely not. there is still much more to be done, and much contacting of legislators to be done as well.

posted by chris 6:30 PM

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

sales calls on the batphone

the mayor of new jack city gets sales calls on his secure emergency line. i wonder if that was a problem with the autovon.

i love the term batphone. we used it in the military to when we talked about any number of secured phones, sat phones, or dedicated lines. at the helpdesk i used to work for, a group of agents known as the "second touch" who would handle things beyond the scope of answering helpdesk calls had dedicated lines on their desks which were referred to officially as "the scond touch line" but unofficially as "the bat phone".

posted by chris 7:42 AM

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

telco FUD article on CNET

randolph j may, one of those coin operated think tankers, wrote a CNet OpEd peice about the dangers of net neutrality. like most people who are trying to pull a fast one... they explain complex things in very simple terms, omitting several key details. one example in the net neutrality debate is the "net neutrality means you pay more" or "net neutrality means a slower internet for all of us". this is all simply not true.

one such example from the piece is this little nugget:

To date, the injurious activity that Net neutrality advocates say they fear has not materialized.

shaw internet degraded vonage access when they launched their own VOIP service. it is true that shaw is canadian and not very big, but the fact remains that it is possible to abuse one's position as a provider to drive users away from competitive services.

as Google pursues its agenda to force broadband providers to operate as traditional public utilities subject to rate and nondiscrimination. This is too bad, because even if these efforts to impose Internet regulation are repelled, there will be a significant expenditure of time and resources dedicated to fights around the country. These resources could be put to more productive use--like building out new networks and developing innovative new services and applications.

ha ha. you mean resuorces that could be spent buying up competitors in order to reconstruct the old Bell Telephone Monopoly. verizon has delivered new networks to a few, but AT&T has spent so much money buying up the competition that they haven't been able to spare much else to build out anything.

in 1996 the teleco industry was deregulated on the promise that we would get 40 mbit internet access via fiber all across the country, bandwidth for 500 tv channels, and much much more. 11 years later, only a handful of markets have access to fiber at home (and to my knowlege, those markets are all verizon) and while we now have DSL, it's no where near 40 mbit, and all of the RBOCs have rolled back into AT&T or SBC. now that the ATT SBC merger is essentially a done deal, there will only be two national carriers, cingular/AT&T/SBC and Verizon.

the problem with a Neutral Network is that it forces providers to compete on equal terms: quality and service. neutral internet access becomes an apples to apples comparison of two or more similar products. much like the market for dialup internet access in the late 90's, the price point hits it's absolute lowest and then it's up to providers to add services and incentives to remain competitive. the two words telcos are afraid to hear: price war.

double digit growth asside, we as consumers should be able to choose a privider and know that we will be able to use the services and applications that we want without fear of losing access. there should be only one internet and broadband providers should be required, by law, to provide equal access to it.

sure, being able to get television from the phone company will introduce competition, but so will being able to get video from google, and amazon, and any other website that offers it. the same is true for telephone service from the cable company. the same can also be said for telephone service from vonage or lingo or skype.

net neutrality is not about stopping providers from building out new networks, or preventing the invention of new services. it's about stopping the gatekeepers to the internet from manipulating our internet experience.

remember back in the early 90's when connecting to compuserve or AOL didn't actually take you to the internet? do you want to choose an internet service based on their ability to take you to google? no, no one wants that, and yet, that's exactly what discouraging net neutrality will do... turn the internet into a collection of walled gardens (in the USA anyway)... where you get fast access to your provider's services and partners and the rest of the world is relegated to the slow lane.

i hate to break it to you guys, but if you do this, what happens when the rest of the country starts choosing providers based on who has the fastest slow lane? get rid of the slow lane all together?

he also says:
In 2007, more states should join Michigan and the other nine states that already have enacted video franchise reform laws. But it is important they do so without adopting net neutrality mandates that, in effect, regulate the Internet and stifle new broadband investment.

how does being forced to play fair with the other children stifle new broadband investment? are you really saying that if you can't be assured of a monopoly you won't bother to invest? just how greedy are you?

in other news

here is an interesting post to the phone gnome blog. since there is no permalink that i can find, here is the interesting post:

It may not apply to all areas, but here in Northern California, AT&T has informed customers of 32% average price increases effective 1/21/07. In particular, Caller-ID is going up 29.5% to $7.99 per month. Their WirePro service is going up to $3.99, a 33% increase.

AT&T’s plan asppears to be to drive customers to their bundled offers. By raising the prices of their unbundled services, they hope to make their bundles appear more attractive. One wonders if it will simply drive customers away all together.

In my case, I was paying $22.60 per month for basic services:

Flat-rate local service $10.69
Busy call-forwarding 2.75
Caller-ID 6.17
WirePro 2.99
Total $22.60

I’ve been meaning to change these services for some time, but it’s a pain to call the phone company. Had they not annoyed me with this attempted trick to get me to switch to their bundle, I would have probably quietly kept paying for the above. However, AT&T’s “promotion” was the incentive I needed. I’m switching to the lower priced local service and ditching the WirePro. So my new charges (after the 1/21/07 rate increase) will be:

Measured-rate local service $5.70
Busy call-forwarding 3.99
Caller-ID 7.99
Total $17.68

Had I done nothing, my new bill would have been $26.66. The AT&T promotion includes an offer of a $26/month bundle of the services I had, plus up to 13 calling features. They hype this as a “savings of more than $38/mo. - if you were to purchase these services individually!” I’m sure a lot of people will switch over to this, believing they are “saving” money (by increasing their bill, go figure)

In my case, this promotion did just the opposite. I felt like they were holding my feet to to fire, threatening me with a “get this bundle or else” message. So instead of AT&T getting an additional $4/mo. out of me, they are getting almost $5/mo. LESS. That amounts to a $108 reduction in their annual revenue from this subscriber, enough to pay for a PhoneGnome box (even when they aren’t on sale) or a heck of a lot of calling minutes.

One has to wonder what the net effect of this AT&T promotion will be. Will it cause others to look at their options, as it did for me, or will most people just bite the bullet and pay the fees.

This seems like an odd time to be raising landline rates in the midst of talking about “supporting competition” in the context of the Bellsouth merger “conncessions” and with the supposed rapid loss of lines to mobile and VoIP.

so, at&t buys up three quarters of the telecommunications for the united states, then, not even a month after the deal is done, it starts raising prices in cali in an effort to push people into buying "bundles". wow, what a shocking surprise... i wish i could have seen that coming.

the most ironic thing, is that the phone gnome is not marketed as a replacement for landline telephone service, but more as a supplement to it... if the telcos had anything resembling an ally in the SIP/VOIP camp, it used to be the dudes from phonegnome :-)

posted by chris 7:04 AM

Thursday, January 4, 2007

UK broadband subscriptions on the rise

in the US, broadband adoption has slowed to a crawl, but in the UK the shit's blowin up.

the article states that fierce competition is one of the main factors. funny that in the us, where the is little or no competition among broadband providers, broadband growth is slowing.

posted by chris 7:10 AM

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

christmas is cancelled

so my usual end of the year/new year stuff will have to wait for another time thanks to a family emergency. 2005 ended on a high note... (new job and marriage) and 2006 opened on a high note (family trip to hawaii) but quickly went down the tubes (death in the family, near fatal car accident). i wasn't involved in the accident so i'm fine so there is no need for the 3 humans who actually read this to call me or anything.

so, i dumped the current blog to the new 2006 archive and i am uploading this to kick off the 2007 blog not with a bang but a whimper.

the network was a buzz of activity for a while there, before the accident. i dumped my old linksys firewall/router/WAP for a sort of home brew solution, i dumped my turn key VOIP provider in favor of a sort of home brew solution, and i rolled up most of my servers in to a single VMWare box.

i will add my official state of the network address to the 2006 archive some other time.

posted by chris 8:48 AM

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