Posts about internet

Google Uses Only Outside Air to Cool Data Center in Belgium

Another example of what makes Google such a good engineering company. They do some spectacular things but as importantly they take many, many, many, many individual steps which when taken together make a big difference. Google’s Chiller-less Data Center

Rather than using chillers part-time, the company has eliminated them entirely in its data center near Saint-Ghislain, Belgium, which began operating in late 2008 and also features an on-site water purification facility that allows it to use water from a nearby industrial canal rather than a municipal water utility.

Year-Round Free Cooling
The climate in Belgium will support free cooling almost year-round, according to Google engineers, with temperatures rising above the acceptable range for free cooling about seven days per year on average. The average temperature in Brussels during summer reaches 66 to 71 degrees, while Google maintains its data centers at temperatures above 80 degrees.

So what happens if the weather gets hot? On those days, Google says it will turn off equipment as needed in Belgium and shift computing load to other data centers. This approach is made possible by the scope of the company’s global network of data centers, which provide the ability to shift an entire data center’s workload to other facilities.

Related: Data Center Energy Needsengineering for a better environmentGoogle Aids Green Action

1979 “iPod” Music Player

1979 music player patent application by Kane Kramer1979 music player patent drawings by Kane Kramer, from Gizmodo

Suspiciously Prescient Man Files Patent for iPod-Like Device in 1979 by Dan Nosowitz

Kane Kramer, an inventor by trade, came up with a gadget and music distribution service almost eerily similar to the iPod-iTunes relationship that predates it by three decades. The guy predicted details down to DRM and flash memory’s dominance.

Kramer’s device, the IXI, was flash-based, even though flash memory in 1979 only could have held about three minutes of audio, and featured a screen, four-way controls, and was about the size of a cigarette pack. Even weirder, he envisioned the creation and sale of digital music and foresaw all the good and bad that would come from this: No overhead, no inventory, but a great push for independent artists, with the risk of piracy looming large.

He predicted DRM, though he didn’t go into many specifics, and in his one concession to the time, guessed that music would be bought on coin-operated machines placed in high-traffic areas.

Related: Freeware Wi-Fi app turns iPod into a PhoneGoogle Patent Search Fun2008 Lemelson-MIT Prize for Invention

Google Wave Developer Preview Webcast

Google Wave is a new tool for communication and collaboration on the web, coming later this year. The presentation was given at Google I/O 2009. The demo shows what is possible in a HTML 5 browser. They are developing this as an open access project. The creative team is lead by the creators for Google Maps (brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen) and product manager Stephanie Hannon.

A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.

A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

Very cool stuff. The super easy blog interaction is great. And the user experience with notification and collaborative editing seems excellent. The playback feature to view changes seems good though that is still an area I worry about on heavily collaborative work. Hopefully they let you see like all change x person made, search changes…

They also have a very cool context sensitive spell checker that can highlight mis-spelled words that are another dictionary word but not right in the context used (about 44:30 in the webcast).

For software developer readers they also highly recommended the Google Web Development Kit, which they used heavily on this project.

Related: Joel Spolsky Webcast on Creating Social Web ResourcesRead the Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog in 35 LanguagesLarry Page and Sergey Brin Interview WebcastGoogle Should Stay True to Their Management Practices

Went Walkabout. Brought back Google Wave.
Continue reading

The First Web Server

photo of the first web server

Photo by sbisson from Geneva, Switzerland, November 2006 .

In a glass case at CERN is an unpreposessing little NeXT cube. It’s hard to believe that this little workstation changed the world, but it did. It’s Tim Berners Lee‘s original web server, the world’s first.

NeXT is the computer company Steve Jobs founded after he left Apple. Then he left NeXT to buy out Pixar. And then, of course, went back to Apple.

Related: The Web is 15 Years OldThe Second 5,000 Days of the Web2007 Draper Prize to Berners-LeeGoogle Server Hardware Design

Google Server Hardware Design

Ben Jai, Google Server Platform Architect, discusses the Google server hardware design. Google has designed their own servers since the beginning and shared details this week on that design. As we have written previously Google has focused a great deal on improving power efficiency.

Google uncloaks once-secret server

Google’s big surprise: each server has its own 12-volt battery to supply power if there’s a problem with the main source of electricity. The company also revealed for the first time that since 2005, its data centers have been composed of standard shipping containers–each with 1,160 servers and a power consumption that can reach 250 kilowatts.

Efficiency is another financial factor. Large UPSs can reach 92 to 95 percent efficiency, meaning that a large amount of power is squandered. The server-mounted batteries do better, Jai said: “We were able to measure our actual usage to greater than 99.9 percent efficiency.”

Related: Data Center Energy NeedsReduce Computer WasteCost of Powering Your PCCurious Cat Science and Engineering Search

Jon Stewart Explains Twitter and John Hunter on Twitter

Jon Stewart does a great job of explaining Twitter. Still, for some reason I am going to try Tweeting. Follow curiouscat_com if you are interested.

Related: John Hunter onlineCurious Cat Investing and Economics BlogCurious Cat Alumni ConnectionsCurious Cat Web Directory

The Second 5,000 Days of the Web

The web has been around for 5,000 days. In this talk at TED, Kevin Kelly on the next 5,000 days of the web.

Related: Engineering at HomeThe Next Fifty Years of Science by Kevin KellyRobin Williams Saves the Day

Science Commons: Making Scientific Research Re-useful

Science Commons is a project of Creative Commons. Like other organizations trying to support the advancement of science with open access they deserve to be supported (PLoS and arXiv.org are other great organizations supporting science).

Science Commons has three interlocking initiatives designed to accelerate the research cycle – the continuous production and reuse of knowledge that is at the heart of the scientific method. Together, they form the building blocks of a new collaborative infrastructure to make scientific discovery easier by design.

Making scientific research re-useful, help people and organizations open and mark their research and data for reuse. Learn more.

Enabling one-click access to research materials, streamline the materials-transfer process so researchers can easily replicate, verify and extend research. Learn more.

Integrating fragmented information sources, help researchers find, analyze and use data from disparate sources by marking and integrating the information with a common, computer-readable language. Learn more.

NeuroCommons, is their proof-of-concept project within the field of neuroscience. The NeuroCommons is a beta open source knowledge management system for biomedical research that anyone can use, and anyone can build on.

Related: Open Source: The Scientific Model Applied to ProgrammingPublishers Continue to Fight Open Access to ScienceEncyclopedia of LifeScience 2.0 – Biology

Eliminate Your Phone Bill

I have written about Innovation Thinking with Clayton Christensen on the Curious Cat Management Blog previously. Here is an example of such innovation. All you need is a broadband internet connection and you can Kiss your phone bill good-bye:

The Ooma service uses so-called Voice over Internet Protocol (or VOIP) technology to deliver calls to your existing phone using a broadband connection. Consumers need only to buy a $249 Ooma Hub (it was a hefty $399 when the service launched last year); all domestic calls are free. (Ooma charges a few pennies a minute for international calls to landlines and 20 to 30 cents a minute for overseas calls to mobile phones. Calls from Ooma box to Ooma box are free.)

Replacing your phone service is, of course, just the start for Ooma. In some ways, calling is the Trojan horse to get the box in your house and then figure out other services to sell, like enhanced network security or kid-safe Web surfing.

I ordered mine from Amazon for $203 and have been using it for a little over a month; it has been great. Relatively easy to setup (they had a pretty good customer survey and I recommended they use colored cables – they color cables in the drawings in the users guide but give you 3 white cable to use – they are different types of cables so it isn’t tough to figure out but that would make it a bit easier).

I have been using Vonage for awhile and it is ok, but I don’t see any reason to pay each month when Ooma doesn’t charge a monthly fee (even on the lowest option on Vonage the bill is over $22/month).

I think gadgets are cool, but I will admit most of the time I don’t really want to be bothered to actually use them. But this is easy to you and saves me $20/month, that I like.

Related: Freeware Wi-Fi app turns iPod into a PhoneHome Engineering: Physical Gmail NotifierSix Keys to Building New Markets by Unleashing Disruptive InnovationThe Innovators Solution by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor –

Solving the Toughest Problems in Computer Science

Software Breakthroughs: Solving the Toughest Problems in Computer Science, 2004:

Bill Gates’ talk at MIT provided an optimistic view of the next generation of computer science, now that the “rough draft” is done. Gates finds a paradox today in that computer science is poised to transform work and home life, “but people’s excitement level is not as high as it was five years ago during the Internet bubble.” Because most sectors of the computer industry—from microchips to storage, displays to wireless connectivity— continuously improve in performance, Gates predicts a flood of new products and applications. He sported a wristwatch that receives data wirelessly, as well as keeps its user on schedule. Gates describes “rich, new peripherals” such as ultra-wideband digital cameras and he demonstrates software that allows pictures to be archived using a 3D visual interface with a built-in time, date, and keyword database. He says that computer science is merging with and making over such fields as astronomy and biology, by unifying vast, unwieldy data collections into easily navigable libraries. And Gates appears confident that technological breakthroughs will ultimately resolve urgent problems of computer and network security.

Related: Bill Gates Interview from 1993Donald Knuth – Computer ScientistOpen Source: The Scientific Model Applied to ProgrammingInternship with Bill Gates

Providing Computer to Remote Students in Nepal

photo of students using computers in Nepal

Pupils conquer fear of computers

“I was really scared when I saw the computer,” he says. “I didn’t go near it. I was worried it might explode and kill me. “It was only when the teacher called me saying it was harmless that I went into the room, but I still hesitated.” Things have changed now, he adds.

“I’m feeling much better. The E-library has helped with my studies. “We can see the periodic table of science, and also maps and other geography things in a pictorial way that is easy to understand. It’s not only that – we can also play games and have fun.”

Kamal says his parents were very excited when he told them about the computer and came to watch the very next day. It was not only Kamal. His computer teacher, Shankar Prajapati, says all the pupils were afraid. “They all worried they would catch some virus and fall ill or even die. But now they are familiar with computers,” he says.

“Even we teachers are gaining knowledge from the E-library. It’s really helpful for us, too. “The students can see science experiments carried out on screen and search for whatever they want in the encyclopaedia.

This is a free and open-source (accessible to everyone) package which connects one powerful central server in the school, using the Linux operating system, to a number of diskless low-end computers. When linked to the server, each computer receives a full Linux desktop.

Read more about the Help Nepal Network’s eLibrary program. Photos from this web site shows students in Nepal using computers.

In the face of rapidly changing technological advancement and the exorbitant cost of proprietary hardware and software solutions, which had stymied Nepal in attempting to participate in ICT for development, the use for Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is emerging as a solution.

Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) can be a low cost solution for deprived communities who cannot afford a bigger volume financial expense.

LTSP, a system that works with only one central high end server and other diskless low-end thin client computers, allows to run Linux on a server, and then use thin clients (almost any computer will do) to connect to the server and receive a full-blown Linux desktop.

I believe strongly in the ability of kids to learn if they are just provided some tools that help them do so. See a great post on Hole in the Wall computers.

Related: A Child’s View of the OLPC LaptopFixing the World on $2 a DayOpen Source: The Scientific Model Applied to ProgrammingWhat Business Can Learn from Open Source