Archive for January, 2012

To Serve[r] Man

January 31, 2012 1 comment

Last weekend’s around the house task involved this stuff:

  • server-buildAMD Athlon II X4 610e Propus 2.4GHz 45W 4-Core CPU
  • PNY GeForce GT 430 (Fermi) 1GB Video Card
  • G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB DDR3 Memory
  • CORSAIR Pro Series 650W Modular Power Supply
  • ASUS M4A87TD/USB3 AMD Motherboard
  • Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB SATA 6.0Gb HD
  • 2 x Western Digital Caviar Black 1.5TB SATA 6.0Gb HDs
  • ASUS SATA 24X DVD Burner
  • Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound
    All obtained from – is there anywhere else?  I chose the 45w CPU because I wanted a machine that will stay cool without an aggressive cooler, and that I can leave on 24×7.

All of these components went into a 4U case that was running a really old rig that I had long intended as a home server but never really used.  It took longer to disassemble the old stuff than to put together the new – can’t beat SATA interfaces (vs ancient wide IDE cables) and modular power supplies.

Getting the box operational was the easy part; next came software.  I decided to go with Windows Server 2008 RC2 Enterprise Edition.  I did consider making this a Linux box, but I have a couple of ASP websites I run that I wanted to bring on to this new box, and using Windows will make file-sharing easier amongst the Salazar family’s various PCs.  And I have the license from my MSDN sub.  Anyway getting Windows up wasn’t too bad – the biggest hitch was in getting motherboard and RAID drivers on the box.  The installs that ASUS provides don’t recognize WinServer 2008 as a “valid” Windows version.  I managed to bypass the top-level ASUS installs and directly install some .msi’s.


Here’s the end-result … NFS volume BIGPLANET with 2.7 TBs of space.  It’s already storing my saved episodes of Samurai Jack … had to get the important stuff on there first.

Of course the hardest part of doing this sort of thing is figuring out what to name the box.  BIGPLANET gives you a clue … my scheme for naming home machines is to take names from the works of Jack Vance.  The winner for the new server name: DARSAI, home planet of the nefarious Lens Larque, one of the villains in Vance’s The Demon Princes.

Next steps: Checking out good backup software, installing SQL Server, and copying tons of TV shows.

Categories: Sundries, Technology

Followup on Evolution and the Emergent Self

January 27, 2012 Comments off

My last post talked about contrasting evolutionary strategies of large populations that reproduce and mutate rapidly, vs. small populations that use individual adaptability to contend with environmental challenges.  Then this morning in the Times I saw this article: Study Finds Virus to be Fast Learner on Infecting.

The article showed how bacteriophages (viruses that attack bacteria) mutate to use new attack pathways in a matter of days – 15 days in this experiment.  The new attack requires 4 specific mutations, and in 22 out of 96 repeated experimental runs, the persistent little ‘phages hit upon the same set of 4.

Amazing stuff, this is evolution running in the lab.  It also shows the infinite-monkeys principle at work, though in this case the simians aren’t typing Shakespeare, they’re typing a set of 4 mutations.

It’s also a good point to reflect on the fact that we complex, adaptable, novel-writing, sushi-making humans are not the real “rulers” of the planet.  Based on biomass that lofty perch belongs to bacteria, algae and those diligent viruses.

Categories: Books

Book review: Evolution and the Emergent Self

January 25, 2012 1 comment

evol-emergentI like reading many kinds of science books, but as a category books on evolution are my favorites.  I suppose it’s because evolution is the great scientific truth that is most discernable.  Certainly, relativity and quantum mechanics are biggies in the truth department, but I don’t call those “discernable”.  Evolution, on the other hand, is all around – just look at a snail or a tree or a bird and ask yourself, “How did that thing get that way?”  Pastafarians, of course, have their own explanation – evolution is mine.

Evolution and the Emergent Self, by Raymond L. Neubauer, takes on the “how did that thing get that way?” question from an intriguing viewpoint, by looking at how complexity arises in evolution.  The starting point of the book is the observation that for all living things there are two fundamental strategies: A maximum growth rate strategy, where the organism multiplies as fast as possible, relying on very large population sizes to mutate and adapt as required; and then a stable or homeostasis strategy, where the organism relies on complexity to provide individual adaptability to contend with changing conditions.  An example would be, in an environment of frequently drying ponds, algae must evolve a special cell-wall to keep from desiccating when conditions turn arid, but a frog can just hop to a different pond.  No organism relies entirely on one strategy over another, but clearly bacteria, shrimp and most insects are examples in the large-population camp, while birds, mammals and good ‘ol Homo sapiens are in the homeostasis camp.

What I found enjoyable in this book is how far Neuberger was able to go with this simple idea, and how many separate destinations he achieved.  An early chapter looks at the information content of life.  Genes and brains both are information storage, in that both are ways of encoding different states.  Having a lot of genes is one form of complexity; its benefit is when you need to adapt, you have a lot of options, in terms of things to turn on or off or to mutate.  Turns out that rice has nearly 58,000 separate protein-encoding genes, while we humans have a mere 22,300.  Reduced to information processing terms, there are about 832 million bits of data in those 22,300 genes.  That’s just over 100 megabytes, about 10 times the size of a program like Microsoft Word.

The human brain encodes a lot more data – with 86 billion neurons, and each neuron with about 1,000 synapses per neuron on average, that’s 86 trillion bits.  That is one long program.  Anyway, having a brain let’s the organism encode a lot more adaptive states than having a lot of genes.

I said this book went to a lot of destinations.  Some others: Why big brains generate the need for play; Entropy in evolution; Sociobiology; and even the origin of life and its likelihood outside our solar system.  All this topical variety makes the book a bit disjointed, but for my part I liked it – it was like a fact-filled but rambling conversation with a congenial genius.

To wrap up, I’d never suggest Evolution and the Emergent Self as a starting point for your evolution-library – there’s The Selfish Gene, The Mismeasure of Man, and countless others to get first.  But if you are looking for something refreshing in the field, pick up Neuberger’s book – I think reading it proves its own point, that having a brain is a good thing.

Categories: Books

Back from Lotusphere 2012 …

January 21, 2012 Comments off

… and boy are my arms tired.  Sorry, after 5 days of talking, technology, and tramping back and forth betwixt Dolphin, Swan and wherever, I don’t have energy for any better humor.

My impressions of the show?  Smaller than in recent years, but I would say with better energy.  The “no panels, more demos” OGS set the tone for a more active Lotusphere.  The social business message definitely seemed to be catching on … it was part of almost every conversation.

I say “almost” because there are still lots of customers who want to move directly ahead with communications, particularly video.  Social business is great, but there is so much culture wrapped up in that, I think many organizations see it as a transformational step, which takes time.  Meanwhile, we all know how to do instant messaging and meetings – adding video to that is not a big culture step.  I sat in on some of the video-related talks given by my colleagues and every one was packed – no question people want to have video on their desktops, sooner the better.

My private cloud talk went well, but have to say there was not a big crowd in attendance.  I think some other cloud talks were in the same boat.  Anyway, that’s ok.  There were some important partners there, so the message got out to them – several came up to me and said “That’s exactly what I want to do – how I can I offer that service?”  My bet is, 5 years from now, or maybe less, all UCC will be delivered this way and we’ll all wonder why we ever did it any other way.

Closing thoughts .. had a great dinner at Bluezoo, I ordered their dancing fish:


Really enjoyed Michael J. Fox – just happened to watch BTTF 2 day before I went to Orlando and I remember thinking, this is just a great movie – fun and clever.  His talk was the same – fun but heartfelt, and with a great message of optimism.

Then finally, at Ask the Developers, got to share my turn-ons (science fiction) and turn-offs (internet censorship) with the whole show and, by extension, the entire internet.  If there had been any Sametime questions would have gladly answered them, but us non-Notes/Domino developers have to take what we can get.

Categories: Technology

Preparing for Lotusphere 2012

January 13, 2012 Comments off

Once again the yearly pilgrimage to Orlando for Lotusphere 2012 is upon us. In addition to the flurry of customer meetings and catching the occasional session, I’m co-speaking at a session, with my colleague Marc Pagnier. Marc is a Sametime Product Manager and our talk is :

ID218 – Private or public?
Take your Social Business to the cloud with IBM Sametime® & IBM Connections®

(See all the LS sessions here:

Working at home today I’m doing some tune-ups on my part of the talk. I can’t help but think back to my first Lotusphere breakout. It was 1998 and I was then working on the well-intentioned but ill-fated eSuite product. Anyway my boss and my colleagues all say, “Go to Lotusphere and give a talk, you’ll love it.” Impressionable lad that I was (relatively speaking) I say ok and start prepping the talk, which was about app-dev with eSuite applets and our nascent AJAX-like functions. I had done talks for small groups before. Well the end of the story is, when I show up to give my talk I’m amazed — the room holds 700 people and my talk is SRO. I’m lucky I had drilled over and over because if I stopped to think about the situation I’m sure I would have been paralyzed. The talk went well — though I was on auto-pilot talking and answering questions I never noticed the AV guy in the back frantically waving the “1 min left” sign.

The show’s much different now … not many 700 person break-outs. But Lotusphere is still the highlight of the Lotus year. If you’re there and you want to meet I’ll be at my talk of course, and at MTD some times.

Categories: Communications, Technology

Blogging Tools

January 10, 2012 2 comments

I’m trying out various blogging tools. I started with BlogJet ( Not bad, but I couldn’t quickly see how to do basic things, like edit previous posts.

Next I tried Zoundry ( My wife has used this for a long time. Unfortunately it did not run well for me, crashing or failing to function. It is an old app — maybe it didn’t sit well with Win7 64 bit.

This post I’m making with BlogDesk ( So far so good. The image management features are good, for example, here’s Morgan & Alex:

IMG 1294

I was able to easily shrink the orig 2.5 MB file down to 8K.

So far, BlogDesk is winning.

Categories: Technology

Maybe the Mayans were right …

January 3, 2012 Comments off

… since 2012 is here and I’ve started a blog.  I have many topics in mind: Technology, Communications, Books, Food, Golf, Politics, and Swords, just to name those that occur to me first.  We’ll see how many of these, and how often, I actually talk about.

Categories: Sundries