Tales of the Sausage Factory

Black Monday

As I demonstrated last fall when I predicted a Kerry victory, my powers of prognostication are nothing to write home about. OTOH, I suppose this demonstrates the wisdom of the old saw that you ca’t judge an outcome by oral argument.

We lost Brand X by 6-3. Interesting split that put Scalia and Thomas on opposite sides but, as I have observed in the past, telecom issues do not fall into the neat conservative/liberal divisions everyone is so fond of making.

Grokster also went the other way, with the Court not even remanding for trial.

I will have more later when I have read the decisions. Right now I’m trying to sort things out.

Stay tuned . . .

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Inventing the Future

Scaling to the Enterprise (Part 4 of 4)

4. HOW RELIABLE IS THE COMMUNITY?

(See part 1.)

None of the previous matters if the software isn’t useful, or if we are not allowed to use the software. The former is what we’re working on, but the latter is a very complex issue. Croquet is certainly not at critical mass. It could certainly go away. However, we feel it is immune at least from licensing plays such as those that have plagued the use of proprietary systems in higher ed, or those that have fractured the Java community. As the number of users in such systems grows, attempts for controlling proprietary lock-in have been very expensive. Croquet fights this in several ways: with an open source license in which all work on Croquet itself is available to anyone; with a P2P architecture that eliminates any advantage to “controlling the servers”; and with a dynamic language that eliminates any advantage to “controlling the release.” We feel that this last will be further strengthened by upcoming work in architecture and security, to be carried out here at UW. For the general health of the community, I look forward to upcoming announcements.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Je Suis on French TV (Hope I do not sound like une idiot)

O.K., French Canadian TV.
This piece
on a wireless municipal hotspot in Alexandria, VA appeared on Canadian television Sunday night (June 19). As usual, an hour of filming to get 20 second of screen time. I am at the end, rebutting famed ILEC sock puppet David McClure of the US Internet Industry Association.

Sadly je ne parle pas le Francais, so I have relied upon the translation skills of MAP summer intern and Candian native Jennifer Scher, who assures me I do not sound like une idiot. But, really, what else is she going to say.

Stay le tuned . . .

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Inventing the Future

Scaling to the Enterprise (Part 3 of 4)

3. HOW WILL APPLICATIONS BE DEVELOPED?
(See part 1.)

It is not practical to expect users to develop applications in Squeak. There is too much to learn. But neither is it practical to expect users to develop applications in Java or ANY OTHER COMPUTER LANGUAGE. There is no way that any community of professional developers could possibly keep up with the demand that we hope for unique applications. No matter what language they used, nor even how many developers were available. There’s simply many more users — and user needs — than there are developers. As with scalability of load, we need another approach. The answer is the same: push the load to the edge of the network.

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Inventing the Future

Scaling to the Enterprise (Part 2 of 4)

2. HOW MUCH USE CAN THE APPLICATION SUPPORT?
(See part 1.)

The architecture of Croquet is very different from that of, for example, J2EE applications. In a client-server application, one server or server “farm” must process each and every interaction initiated by the thousands or millions of users. The only thing processed on the end-user’s computer may be as little as the HTML formatting of the text and image results. Every single other computation must be handled on the big-iron servers. To double the number of users, the capacity of the servers must be doubled. It should be no surprise, then, that so much effort goes into trying to squeeze out each available computing cycle in such architectures.

When an application has state — that is, when results depend on previous results rather than simply generating static files — client-server does MUCH worse. The amount of storage required can go up much faster. In some cases the application state depends on the number of possible connections between users or between applications. The storage (and certain kinds of search-like operations) increases as the square of the number of users or applications (N^2, c.f. Metcalfe’s law). But we are particularly interested in allowing students and faculty to form their own ad-hoc groups among which to communicate and solve problems. A client-server architecture hosting such “group forming” applications would grow exponentially to the number of users (2^N, c.f. Reed’s 3rd law). With only a few users, this architecture would not work at all, no matter how (finitely) fast the servers, or what language the application is written in. (See Reed’s discussion for a surprisingly accessible treatment of value, saturation, and other issues.)

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Inventing the Future

Scaling to the Enterprise (Part 1 of 4)

Croquet is built on some well-used, but not mainstream technologies. A colleague has asked “Why should we believe that Squeak scales to the enterprise?” I’d like to share my answer, to solicit comment.

It is good to ask this, and there are several aspects to the answer:
1. How reliable is the underlying software?
2. How much use can the software support?
3. How will applications be developed?
4. How reliable is the community.

Part 1 of 4.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

A Quick Update on Sessions Bill

My good buddies at Free Press have have created a page on the Sessions bill. As I mentioned last time, that’s the bill that would make it illegal for municipalities to provide new broadband, cable or telecom networks that compete with any private offerings.

As Free Press discovered, Mr. Sessions has about $500K in SBC stock options. Understandable that he might get upset if SBC had to _gasp_ compete for a living.

So take a minute to visit the Free Press site. Among other things, it has a simple way for you to tell your Congresscritter that you, unlike Mr. Sessions, would like to see competition in the broadband market.

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My Thoughts Exactly

Quaint

From the “Constitution of the United States of America”

Article I.
Section. 8.

Clause 1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

Clause 11: To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

Clause 12: To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

Clause 15: To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

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My Thoughts Exactly

Nifty Nekkid Nano Refuseniks

Here, in Wired magazine, a story about people making themselves naked in an Eddie Bauer store to protest nano clothing.

I have my own concerns about nanotech running amok, but I think I’ll confine my actions to writing novels and fretting, thank you.

This whole scene does so remind me of the perplexing tale of John Jurek and Kaelf Skin, which I wrote about here.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

How SBC Lost TX- And What It means More Broadly

Sorry to all, especially John, for being on an unintended hiatus. Got lots poppin’ at work and at home.

In a down to the wire fight, SBC suffered major defeat in Texas on two major legislative initiatives: one to prohibit municipal broadband, the other to remove local franchising requirements for their new fiber systems. In response, SBC Alum and wholly owned subsidiary Pete Sessions (R-TX), to introduce a new federal anti-muni bill, reconfirming my view that most major corporations behave astounding like 6 year old children.

How the Bell companies blew it represents a fascinating case study. Contrary to what a few folks have suggested, it was not an “accident”. In fact, it may, possibly, suggests some interesting things about how progressive politics (by which I do not mean “Democratic Party” I mean genuinely progressive regardless of party) may work for the next few years. My lengthy random musings below . . .

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