Category Archives: English

A Mole of Bytes

(aka the Dig-The-Gigabyte Campaign)

Is computing rapidly turning itself into a hi-tech version of Howard Stern’s famous “Who Wants to be a Turkish Billionaire?” ?

My son asked me yesterday to explain what is a “Gigabyte”. I tried to describe the meaning of a little bit more than a billion tiny little things hidden in a PC. But then I stopped quickly: how was I going to clarify the meaning of having forty of those “gigabytes” in my laptop’s hard drive alone? And 200 of them in my desktop computer. And a thousand of them (a terabyte) in the latest high-spec PC

And at current growth rates, hard-disk capacity is increasing 10-fold every 5 years. It is perfectly clear then that by the time he’s 19 in 2021, we will have to cope with the impossibility of comprehending what we’ve got, and silly-sounding terms like petabytes (well, it sounds like 8-bit flatulence in Italian anyway)

From there onwards it’s going to be exabytes in 2035, zettabytes in 2050 and I’ll be turning 100 literally in yoda-yoda-land (yottabytes, some million billion billion bytes that will grace our computers in the middle of the 2060)

There is however no need for all this aggravation…let’s learn from Chemistry and dear old Avogadro’s Number

So here’s my proposal:

1. Dig the Giga, Tera, Peta, Etcetc-bytes asap

2. Define a Mole of Bytes as 6.023x(10 to the power of 23) of them

3. Resize the capacities now. Say, a 100 Gigabyte disk becomes a mere 166 femtoMole. To sport even 100 Terabytes of storage area, will only mean less than 200 picoMoles of Bytes

This will surely give some renewed perspective to the whole business of visualizing trends in computing, and show that there is a long long way ahead before we can declare ourselves satisfied with our computational powers

UPDATE: there is now a blog dedicated to the “Mole of Bytes” idea. And some interesting thoughts from DARPA.

Help the EU save some money…

…for once!

The European Parliament should be located in Brussels

It costs European taxpayers approximately 200 million euros a year to move the Parliament between Brussels/Belgium and Strasbourg/France. As a citizen of the European Union, I want the European Parliament to be located only in Brussels.

MEP's from different parties are behind the initiative

Please sign the on-line petition. It surely won't hurt. As of this moment there are already 60,000 signatories

And if we "need" the Strasbourg building because we "have to", let the French Government pay the whole bill

Grant Lotteries to Nurture Innovation

Wouldn't it make much more sense if scientific/development/other kinds of grants would be partially allocated via an open-to-everybody lottery?

I am talking about setting aside, say, 10% of the yearly budget and get it assigned on the basis of a lottery, instead than around policy guidelines

Such a lottery would be open to any applicant for whatever project, no matter how "logical" or "mainstream". I would only make restrictions against past winners that obviously mishandled the money

Why that? On the one hand, current "rational", "impersonal" committee-based decision-making processes can only encourage conformism.

And naturally so: if every decision must be carefully weighed and justified, committees will prefer to finance stuff that is well-accepted, and almost sure to show something in return for the expenditure

In other words, anything that is solidly within the limits of our collective knowledge.

Current grant application selections are also too biased in favour of those good at writing them, rather than good at conducting the research

One should finally not forget that a considerable percentage of the work financed, turns up to be a waste of time and money, either as it is a mere repeat of previous research/activity or simply a failure

Hopefully nobody in their right mind really believes that a Government's every expenditure is completely justified?

By setting up a Grant Lottery, we can recognize that an uncertain potential for discovery is better than a certain waste.

Otherwise, we will keep missing the possibility to courageously innovate beyond the boundaries of the tried-and-tested.

I’ll be cheering Mexico during the World Cup

1. Italian football is too rotten to deserve participating, let alone win this year. I only wish they'd retire the squad now

2. I can't root for England. They'd be boasting about a World Cup win for the next 2,000 years

3. I can't root for Brazil. It's just too simple for them to win everything

4. I like Mexico

5. Mexico have a slim, remote non-zero chance of doing something good this year

6. The Mexican flag has got the right colours 😎

 

Salivating News For Warmongering Idealists

– or "Be afraid, be very afraid…"

Plenty of non-military applications for body armors (are we going to see invincible supercops patrol the land before 2020?)…but when this stuff will be ready to be deployed, we can only expect a lot more American and British military activity around the world

Virtual Soldier Program Receives 1 600 000 To Help Army Design Armor


Think about it…no more body bags to hide, no more war dead statistics to cringe about. We will be able to send armies anywhere in the world to blast any people into accepting democracy or whatever else will be appropriate

(no comment)

And just to show that, as usual, we can only "fight the last war":  Dr. Karim Abdel-Malek, professor of biomedical engineering and CCAD and VSR director, says that the body armor project is partly inspired by the experience of soldiers currently fighting in Iraq. The U.S. military has sensed the need for designing and implementing a more sophisticated armor system for the individual soldier, he saysAddendum: thanks to Rupert for pointing out another dark side of this story. With troops shielded by solid armour, attacks by "insurgents" on the civilian population will only increase.At this rate, the wars of the XXII century will see absolutely no casualty among the military

Democracy and Religion

A quiz for all the aliens from the Andromeda Galaxy out there: which of the following organized belief systems ("religions") is more compatible with the minority-respecting political Rule of the majority of the people ("democracy")?

(a) A worldwide establishment centred on a powerful, "infallible" single person chosen for life by and among a few dozen cream-of-the-crop individuals

(b) A loose collection of groups professing very similar beliefs with a large regional variation, following charismatic people whose main claim to leadership is the ability to convince the followers of their closeness to God

Of course (a) is a simplified description of Roman Catholicism. And (b), of Islam

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You can guess the answer for yourself. What the above shows is that a load of uninformed garbage is currently served as "intellectual discussion" on the "unachievable co-existence" of Islam and Democracy.

Doesn't anybody remember the XIX century absurd grandstandings about the impossibility of reconciling Christianity (esp. Roman Catholicism) and Democracy?

Or those politicians musing in the 1920's about the alleged incompatibility of Southern and Eastern European societies with the concept of peaceful handover of power between political parties after lawful elections?

The problem is that it is very easy to extrapolate the news of the moment (e.g. the rise of Fascism in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Romania) into "universal laws" with no base in history…and so people will keep dying waiting for the simple truth to be accepted, that political systems do not depend on religion

The Hypocrisy of “Unsustainable Development” (aka Wrong Pulpit, Sir!)

Here we go with another environmental conference yet again hearing of impending Doom&Gloom

TERRADAILY – Earth Forum Hears Dire Warnings Of Environmental Collapse

Addressing the two-day forum's main topic — the feasibility of sustainable development for billions of people worldwide — [Jeffrey Sachs, director of the UN Millennium Project] painted a grim picture of systemic environmental collapse, coupled with war, famine and pandemic disease. The astonishing pace of economic growth in Asia and the increasing demands of development in the industrialised world will in a matter of decades, Sachs argued, impose a burden far beyond that which the world is already woefully failing to carry. "It is the central challenge we face on the planet," he said. "Every single major ecological system we have is already under profound stress."

This is not today's news.

I remember Clare Short, former UK minister, making a similar point

And the point is, "sorry guys but if you're poor today you must stay that way"

This is an incredibly baseless remark. Let's put aside the fact that apart than in the mind of the environment-as-religion lobby, there is little indication for any impending gloom. Let's also put aside the fact that economic development has in the last few decades taken millions out of poverty

The biggest hypocrisy is that neither Mr Sachs, nor Ms Short have shown any intention to show the way, move to a remote area, and live off the land to eliminate their own contribution to this baseless "disaster"

I remember those in the 70's, preaching collapse by overpopulation, to whom the only serious answer should have been "when are you going to help the world, and eliminate yourself?"

Obviously we don't need Jeffrey Sachs to act so drastically.

But who would accept Marie Antoinette talking of there being not enough bread, while eating croissants?

What is the meaning of telling humanity that it can't get rich, from the pulpit of Columbia University's Alfred Lerner Hall?

 

Petition to the EU Parliament – unfair, double-taxation of UK working families

Dear Committee on PetitionsI am an Italian citizen, in England since 1997, writing to you now to highlight the unfair treatment of working families, by the United Kingdom's tax system.

Since both I and my wife work (employees) for most of the week, to fulfill our natural aspiration to provide our son with the best possible conditions we decided early on to have him taken care of by a nanny, during day time.

We have strived to follow all rules and regulations. That means I am effectively the employer of my son's nanny, and I pay all her tax and national insurance contributions.

The unfairness of the system is in the fact that the money my nanny is paid with, comes out of my salary as full-time employee, in other words the nanny's _gross_ salary is money that has already been taxed .

Indeed, despite me being an employer, I do not have any right to detract the nanny's gross salary from my total income for tax purposes.

As the situation stands, that money is effectively taxed twice, as the nanny then has to pay income tax of her own.

This is a blatant case of the UK's Inland Revenue taking advantage of my situation as full-time employee to tax my income two times.

I repeat: I do not have any trouble in paying all contributions ought to the nanny, her national insurance, etc.

The system should be re-assessed, with for example a simple mechanism introduced, with the nanny's employer getting taxed on his/her gross salary MINUS the nanny's gross salary, and not regardless of it.

Unfortunately this is far beyond the means of the "little guy", if only because a legal fight with the mighty Inland Revenue would be long and costly.

But the fact that I don't want to risk the financial ruin of my family to fight this particular injustice, does not detract from the fact that thousands of UK families are taken advantage of by the current system.

Is there any way you can help redress the situation? Please do let me know

Making your own free buttons to get instant feedback (with Ecademy example)

NOTES

(1) Please make your own buttons. You can use the ones I have created at your own peril. I may change them, rename them, etc etc

(2) The instructions below may appear complicated. However, it is really easier done than explained. You really have to prepare the button-related code just once and then save it in your signature. If you want hyperlinked text, you will then have to re-edit your blog just once and insert the blog id in the code

(3) Experiment with it at will in order to familiarise yourself with it. As your "sandbox", send a message to yourself using the code

(4) There is an example at the bottom of this article

(5) All of this can be easily modified to accommodate for different kinds of feedback

(6) Any questions, contact me here

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PROCEDURE

(a) Preferably, get your own buttons made and available on the net

1. Go to Button Maker and create your own button (or buttons)

2. Once each of them is created, save it to your PC (right-click, "Save Picture as")

3. Upload the buttons on your website of choice (eg where your own domain is hosted)

4. Collect the URL for each button (to be used later in substitution of BUTTON_URL)

***NOTE*** = You can get plenty of buttons at Steal These Buttons

(b) Use the buttons on your Ecademy blog You will need the following:

AUTHOR_ID = your Ecademy ID number (the number in your My Account hyperlink

HYPERLINKED_TEXT = text that will appear in the message, hyperlinked to your content

NON_HYPERLINKED_TEXT = text that will appear in the message, non-hyperlinked to your content Add the following button-related code to your signature/article/blog

(substitute the Bold variables with the values listed above)

<a href="http://www.ecademy.com/module.php?mod=network&op=contact&uid=AUTHOR_ID&edit[body]=%3Ca+href%3D%22node.php%3Fid%3CONTENT_ID%22%3EHYPERLINKED_TEXT%3C%2Fa%3ENON_HYPERLINKED_TEXT"><img src="http://BUTTON_URL" /></a>

***NOTE*** = Words in the text need to be separated by "+" (plus) signs, not spaces

(c) Submit your content Note the blog ID assigned to it by Ecademy (you can find that by clicking on the blog's title and looking at the URL in the address bar)

(d) Edit your blog to complete the URL in the message Substitute CONTENT_ID with the blog ID value found at point (c)

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EXAMPLE

Using one of my buttons to create a message "Please blog me like this" to me about blog 57161

AUTHOR_ID = 22560

HYPERLINKED_TEXT = Please blog more

NON_HYPERLINKED_TEXT = like this

CONTENT_ID = 57161

BUTTON_URL = http://www.omnologos.com/images/blogMore.png

<a href="http://www.ecademy.com/module.php?mod=network&op=contact&uid=22560&edit[body]=%3Ca+href%3D%22node.php%3Fid%3D57161%22%3EPlease+blog+more%3C%2Fa%3E+like+this"><img src="http://www.omnologos.com/images/blogMore.png" /></a>

Prospect Magazine, Durkheim, and the myth of useful Sociology

Two days ago I bought for the first time Prospect Magazine, self-styled "Politics/Essay/Argument – Britain's Intelligent Conversation"

I confess I must give it a second or even a third try before subscribing as the quality of some articles is very good, but other entries made my jaws drop so much they started sweeping Cannon Street Station's floor

Example of the latter is Paul Broks inanely describing his dreams of a tsunami the night before it happened, or precious printable space mysteriously reserved for poet-writer-critic Al Alvarez to tell us about his fear of spiders (is anybody trying to make reality TV look of a similar intellectual stature as Plato?)

I won't even waste my time to describe the vapourous contents of the "Is God to blame" debate (apologies to the term "debate")

And let's forget those disturbing cartoons (disturbing in the sense that it is disturbing to think anybody would laugh at any of them)

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Example of what could really be interesting about Prospect is its calendar of UK events and lectures

Another is the (free online) essay on Emile Durkheim, the French sociologist of almost a 100 years ago whose ideas ("meritocracy meets social justice") are so much behind the modern concept of Social Democracy, including much of what we know as "New Labour"

==========

I particularly agree with Durkheim's finding that an individual is very much the product of his or her society. I have lost count of the number of times I thought I was doing something out of my own personal free will, only to find out I was just following some kind of modern fashion What I don't agree on is the promotion of social cohesion by the reinvention of the Guilds; and in general, the whole concept of social engineering for a good cause For the former, think of Italian Fascism. For the latter, look at Marxism-Leninism.I really can't see much difference between heavy-handed state-santioned interventions to define what's socially acceptable and some clumsy environmental interventions that just made everything worse

Perhaps we simply don't know enough about society to be able to influence it positively.

A useful, practical Sociology, to paraphrase the Mahatma, would be a very good idea…

Oh, if only we had one…

Police and Controlled Immigration – Letter to John Horam MP

John Horam MP
House of Commons

XXX, 27 Oct. 04

Dear John Horam MP
I have been an XXX resident for more than 4 years. I do not have the right to vote, despite paying taxes, helping the community and the society as a whole by working honestly as everybody else. Change of citizenship would be possible, but it is a long process and there is neither practical incentive nor encouragement to do it.

If I’d vote, I would find it very hard to justify choosing the Conservative Party, whose only excellence in my eyes in 7 years of UK residency has been in taking the wrong side of almost every possible issue.

Nevertheless, I was aghast to find 2 particularly disturbing questions in your recent questionnaire.

Question 3: “As regards anti-social behaviour, do you think that the top priority should be getting more police out on the beat?”

This does strike me as populism, in the sense of proposing the “obvious” solution that everyone would in theory agree upon.

But in practice, it is well known that that is no solution at all. In order to effectively tackle head-on anti-social behaviour, the number of security forces “out on the beat” would have to be enormous, to the point of transforming Britain in a police state.

Police themselves are aware of that, and if I were one of them I would be incensed by the underlying suggestion that policemen and women are not doing their job properly at this moment.

You may also want to consider scientific analyses of the first consequence of “more police out on the beat”: people feeling less secure.

It is the non-obvious (but nonetheless true) result published on The Economist, 17/7/2003 (available on the Internet at
http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=1927126).
Question 4: “Would you support a strict limit on the number of immigrants allowed into the country each year?”

This smells like an even nastier version of populism. Leaving aside the question about how to calculate the value of such “strict limit”, I can only note that there is no mention of what to do with asylum seekers. Are you by any chance suggesting sending back to their countries, people that may be tortured/raped/killed upon arrival, only because some kind of quota has been reached? I hope not.

In general, how do you see the UK strengthened by having law-abiding people waste hours, weeks and months to legally get permission to contribute to the British society by working honestly as everybody else? On what basis are you implying that the UK is so weak-founded that it can tolerate only a certain “strict” amount of immigrants?

And would a “strict limit” not result actually in more opportunities, more money and more power for the criminals that would smuggle even more people than they do today?

Finally, how do you reconcile your “strict limitation of immigration” with the Gospel of Matthew, 25:34-36?

[…] Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Is Christianity not part of the British Heritage that the Conservative Party is supposed to champion and help future generations inherit?

================================================

That said, I sincerely hope the Conservative Party comes back to play a serious, effective opposition: for the good of this Country cannot be the overpowering domination of one political force (Labour or otherwise)
Best regards,

Maurizio Morabito
XXX

From SOA to the Service-Oriented Enterprise

Introduction
The concepts of Agility and Service-Oriented Architecture are being marketed specifically as a new revolution in the way IT is provided to the Business. Such a view is unnecessarily reductive at best (why only IT?) and self-defeating at worst (is SOA just a marketing fad?).
The benefits of Agility and SOA are not under discussion. But for them to fully succeed, IT can and must support its rationalization efforts by providing the ancillary but necessary tools in order to help the business undergo the associated cultural changes

Beyond Agile IT
The buzz regarding Agility and Service Orientation is about “breaking away from the past”. Old, monolithic, inflexible applications will be supplanted by new, swift, adaptable, communicative and nimble systems. There is however a distinct feeling that it may all be just hype, with interest fuelled mostly by large marketing campaigns.
In a computer-literate society, advertisement can indeed entice people to find more about the latest trend in information management services. Such an interest can then generate revenues for those that somehow manage to be at the forefront of the new technology.
One problem with this: in a computer-literate society, business managers are exposed to a profusion of industry magazines not afraid to deal with IT issues and their history, making increasingly difficult to close down an argument by saying, “So-and-so consultancy firm knows best”. The usual comparison is between the arguments used to promote Web Services and SOA and the 1990’s EDI “revolution-that-never-was”.
There are surely only so many times Clients can repeat the same mistake (spending on some new technology hoping for it to solve all sorts of problems and herald a new, efficient, cost-effective way to do business). In the case of Agile IT, the underlying challenge is to verify that the proposed architecture does really matter to the Business.
Forget technology for a short while then. Let’s concentrate on what the concepts of Agility and SOA mean to what the Business actually cares about, namely their business. Will this make the real difference and make the “it’s just hype” tribe to eat their hats?

Agile Business
Start from Project Finance: when more than a single business unit supports a project, complex approvals involve several senior business people. Those may actually feel encouraged to wait for the one area that will definitely need the new service, to pay for it on its own. The end result is a tardy, corporate sloth.
Just as in Procurement: even if everybody agrees that market data, hardware, software licenses, etc would cost much less if orders were always shared and coordinated, profligate corporations are seldom able to leverage resources they already paying for. Business areas source their requirements independently, fearing the risks and additional costs of “working together”.
Adding control layers in corporate HQ to overcome this situation would only make it worse. The promotion of SOA and Agility has to be based on encouraging the various business areas to finance service-oriented projects.
Additional budget can be rewarded to areas that build and share service-oriented systems and assets, and amortization plans refinanced, with yearly charges shared by all the areas that could benefit from them. In the true spirit of Agility, the entire organisation would push itself towards becoming an Agile, Service-Oriented Enterprise, where sharing encompasses everything, including teams re-shuffled to adapt to changing requirements. With each service and application clearly identifiable, out- and in-sourcing become simpler, at infrastructure and application management level.

IT and the Agile Enterprise
Not-agile and not-service-oriented organizations are resistant to change so IT must help instigate and drive SOA’s extension into the whole business, providing the necessary tools that will support such a change.
First of all, paraphrasing a political question: “who stays up with the sick system?” With services shared among several business areas, will anyone feel responsible for them, or will they all wait for HQ to take care?
IT can help Business Areas clarify ownership, for instance by involving the relevant business managers into all the decisions concerning the implementation of the service.
Collaboration tools can also encourage business areas to cooperate more effectively. These may include information share systems to internally publicize the services that are being built or planned for in the SOA, and that thus could be used by other areas.
The outcome data can then be used at Board level, where careful management will mean setting aside in the budget awards for the business areas more successful in providing services, providing therefore yet an additional incentive for SOA to become the norm. Additional monitoring tools for the Board can include metrics on which services are more shared, and communications channels letting the various business areas ask for financing or other kind of support when embarking in the realization of what can be a service for the entire Company

Conclusions: what IT can and should do to promote SOA
Leaving Agility confined to the IT area will make it just another fad ready to be supplanted by next marketing campaign. The alternative is for Service-Oriented Architecture concepts to be extended outside the IT departments and agility becoming simply the norm in most businesses, where the gains in terms of increased efficiencies and therefore productivity are all too evident.
Expanding SOA into Service-Oriented Enterprise will imply skills of Change Management not easy to be found, with failure beckoning and SOA getting discarded at the first possible occasion. It will be all too easy for IT personnel to behave like enlightened apostles of the new credo of Agility and Service-Oriented Architecture, condescendingly explaining them to the illiterate masses of senior business managers. Such a behaviour will not bring any fruitful results but (perhaps) in the few companies where the CIO/CTO has major decision powers.
Indeed, the cultural changes associated with Agility and Service-Orientation will have to start from IT itself. For once, there is the chance of helping the Business make and support the transition by providing the necessary tools on top of the new technology. If this opportunity will be taken not we will witness not only a major revolution in the way IT is provided, but even more importantly the entire Business-IT relationship finally getting into adulthood

P.O.L.E.: Lunar colonies for improved quality-of-life

Abstract submitted for the upcoming BIS symposium on "Human Future and Space"

This proposal covers the establishment of permanent lunar polar settlements, enriching the residents' quality-of-life by exploiting a low-gravity, controlled-atmosphere environment. Senior citizens, paraplegics, and patients recovering from major accidents are among the possible target groups. A temporary or permanent stay (roughly comparable to hydrotherapy) will extend and improve their lives, by helping the respiratory and circulatory system, facilitating rehab activity, lessening the chances of contracting infectious diseases, and making movements easier, with the added opportunity to explore the Moon (and to fly with one's own muscles). The settlements are built within terraformed caves of approximately 5km in diameter, simulating an Earth-like panorama

The Loosely-Coupled R.a.ï.s. – to the rescue of Web Services

NASA, SETI, RAID, WiFi Solutions to the rescue of Reliability and Quality-of-Service

The Business Software market is expecting improvements in Reliability, Availability and in general Quality-of-Service (QoS) for Web Services (WS) to gain widespread acceptance. R.a.ï.s. (Redundant Array of Independent Services) achieves this by making Client Applications subscribe to several independent Services performing the same functionality. Inspired by solutions implemented at NASA, by the SETI@Home initiative and in the RAID technology, R.a.ï.s. provides advantages to WS Suppliers as well, by making the market intrinsically larger and by providing a potent selling tool in showing their WS being on par with if not better than the competition.

1. Advantages of Web Services

For an introduction see IBM's "Web Services 101" . Briefly, a WS is a Web-based application that communicates to other applications using the Web Services open standards: IP as backbone, XML to tag the data transferred using SOAP, and WSDL to describe / UDDI to list the available services . By using those standards WS can become a very powerful tool, allowing Companies to communicate their data internally and externally independently from their underlying IT systems. WS can increase the possibility for business integration while reducing the need for duplication of data between applications. Furthermore, Developers can use the best technology available for each task without worrying about custom integration coding .

2. Open questions: Reliability and Quality-of-Service

Pervasive usage of WS will depend on the ability of Clients to trust and manage performance. In particular good Reliability and Quality-of-Service (QoS ) are important , and especially so when a WS is to be provided by an external Company.
In fact, parallel can be drawn with the Application Service Provider (ASP) model, where Clients had to rely on another company’s ability to provide reliable applications and proper data management, often without basic tools for checking checking errors, high performance, resilience and availability.
Solutions proposed in the area of WS security include SAML  and XKMS , while the rest is still not clearly defined. Furthermore, unscrupulous WS Suppliers could “milk the Client” as neither service suspension nor replacement with a different supplier’s are feasible solutions. The criteria of choice of a WS or another are also still vague . As the number of available, competing WS will increase more and more systems will perform similar functions, leaving the Client with the task of picking a supplier from a tangle of possibilities.

3. Solutions from history: NASA, SETI, RAID…and WiFi

Technology has confronted issues of Reliability and “QoS” in the past.

a) NASA: The Space Shuttle’s onboard main computing system has to guarantee extremely high reliability. Alongside highly-dependable components, the designers chose a quintuple of identical computers performing the same processing and submitting the results to each other. Failure of one computer  is easily spotted, with its data being different from the others (Majority Rule). The faulty systems exclude themselves from further control of the spaceship, whose security is still guaranteed by the presence of 3 or 4 fully functioning computers .

b) SETI@Home: In one of the first examples of grid computing, each node is sent packets containing a fraction of the data collected by a radiotelescope. Results are checked by a centralised system looking for extraterrestrial signals. SETI@Home has to cope with bogus data sent back by some users. This issue was overcome by sending the same packets to several nodes: again, results that vary from the majority are discarded thus nullifying all attempts at distorting the data .

c) RAID: A well-known technology developed for increased reliability is RAID (Redundant Array of Independent (or Inexpensive) Disks). This is the solution of choice when both data access speed and fault tolerance are of particular relevance. The simplest RAID implementation is the so-called Level 0, where the same information is written in two or more drives in combination (data striping). At higher levels, errors are corrected using control codes . Once more the solution is to use multiple data copies

d) WiFi: WirelessFidelity is the term describing any technology  enabling wireless LAN connectivity under the IEEE 802.11 family of specifications. WiFi is promising a revolution just in making Internet access available everywhere at negligible costs. On top of that, WiFi is one of the first examples of Open Spectrum technology. Instead of strictly going through a single channel, transmission uses several frequencies at once . This, alongside error correction and packet re-send capabilities, eliminates the need for protection against interference.

In common above is the idea of eliminating reliance on single items in the system: computers at NASA, processing nodes on SETI@Home, disks for RAID, transmission channels on WiFi.

4. Application to WS: R/A/I/S

This concept has inspired a solution to WS Reliability and QoS with R.a.ï.s. (Redundant Array of Independent Services).
Under R.a.ï.s., Client Applications  subscribe to an array of WS  performing the same processing (redundant), provided by different suppliers  and independent from each other. Results are compared, and data discordant from the majority discarded. The result is a highly reliable WS architecture with an intrinsically high QoS.
As an example, let’s imagine application “A” subscribing to 5 WS, performing the same function but each developed, maintained and hosted by different Suppliers.
The datasets coming back from each WS are reconciled . If identical, "A" will proceed using any one of them. If any dataset differs from the others, it is discarded and its Service marked as faulty.
"A" can still proceed regardless, using any other result .

5. QoS and Reliability improvements

R.a.ï.s. improves QoS as:

a) With a large dose of competition built into the architecture, Clients no longer rely on the successes, failures and whims of a single external Company.

b) It fully utilises the nature of the Internet, as chances of simultaneous attacks on independent suppliers (including DoS) are less likely than on a single one Also the risk derived by delays in the network is contained as late or unreachable Services can simply be discarded .

c) The risk of handling incorrect data due to bugs in the WS Producer’s code is greatly reduced by choosing independent Suppliers. Software bugs in each WS are in fact much easier to spot, and the Supplier can deal with them without compromising the WS Consumer’s functionality.

6. Example Web Services

Some example obviously suited for R.a.ï.s., as several Suppliers can easily provide the same functionality:

a) Global Bank Holiday Calendar

b) Event Management System

c) Market Data

7. Types of Reconciliation

Apart from when different values are returned, datasets can be considered discordant under other circumstances, for example when a WS appears consistently late in its responses.
The above can be performed using a majority rule or extending it to include a weighted-voting system, reducing the reliance on one or more low-quality Services.
The extent of the data checking can also be varied. With large datasets, reconciliation speed can be increased by using subsets of the data, or statistical checking, or comparing control “parity” data .
This can be used to deal with additional processing power with large or complex reconciliations, for example when there are demands to handle faults of one or more Services.

8. Performing the Reconciliation

The WS Consumer itself may conduct the data reconciliation, allowing its managers to keep full control of its behaviour.
At the Client’s side, another choice is delegating a separate Reconciliation Machine to compare the data received from all the Producers to all the local Consumers, making possible:

a) The running of a Company-wide R.a.ï.s. policy

b) Easier implementation of additional processing power as needed as system upgrades make the data larger and more complex.

9. Sizing

The number of WS to use for the R.a.ï.s. framework will in general be odd, for the obvious reason of avoiding the deadlock caused by the same number of WS reporting different datasets (e.g. a 1vs.1 or a less likely  2vs.2 situation). For similar reasons, it is risky to use a 3-WS configuration, as the failure of one would increase the chance of a 1vs.1 deadlock.
On the other hand, the number of WS should be kept as low as possible, to minimise the reconciliation processing power. A sensible solution is therefore to use 5 Services .

10. Handling of and Recovery from failure of one or more WS

Apart from discarding its data, managing of the failure of one WS can involve several optional stages, for example:

a) Dropping the faulty Service and subscribing to another one automatically, for example from a directory listing. This can be either temporary or permanent according to appropriate Contracts for “Emergency Supply”

b) Re-interrogating the faulty WS in the future, up to a certain number of times

c) Reporting the fault and the relevant data automatically to the Supplier

d) Communicating the failure of one WS to other Companies that are using it, either publicly or privately, in an open or anonymous fashion.

As with the Reconciliation, this process can be performed by the Application itself, by the Reconciliation Machine or by a purpose-built system.
Careful selection of the Suppliers will likely make the simultaneous failure of several WS an extremely rare occurrence. Client Companies needing to handle it anyway can implement tools for the automatic selection of additional Services (see 10.a).

11. Suppliers: Availability, Selection and Advantages

The R.a.ï.s. framework relies on the availability of several WS performing similar functions, and Due Diligence in selecting which WS to use, including verifying their independence.
The first point is virtually guaranteed by the already large number of suppliers. Concerning selection, R.a.ï.s. itself could help. In fact, a WS used by a R.a.ï.s. Client has the selling point of being at least on par with the competition.
Listings containing the number of Customers using each Producer could then become the basis for WS League Tables, to be used during the Due Diligence phase, instead of sifting through anonymous, huge WS directories.
This is also an obvious advantage for the best Suppliers, as Services near the top of the League Table are evidently easier to sell. Moreover, QA is continuously conducted on live-data, making even internal quality controls easier to perform and verify. Finally, Clients have the incentive of supporting a large number of independent Suppliers, without which most of the advantages of R.a.ï.s. would be lost .

12. Costs: Independent or also Inexpensive?

Under a rather simplistic analysis R.a.ï.s. might appear as an increase of costs, with WS Consumers having to pay multiple Service fees. In practice there are several factors mitigating that situation:

a) R.a.ï.s. dramatically decreases the risks of not being able to run an Application and of handling incorrect data due to problems at the WS Supplier’s side and/or communication failures. The costs of those occurrences need to be factored in when opting for WS, and they may be one of the most important reasons holding off the WS market.
b) The framework guarantees a larger supply, as the market is larger . Also, the need for independent Services makes monopoly conditions less likely to form, keeping the Service fees low.

c) Suppliers can slash subscription costs under particular circumstances, for example when subsidising their presence in order to make an impact in the League Table.

d) Contracts can accommodate Client discounts for the service of providing live-data continuous QA.

e) Similarly, Client dues can be calculated on the actual amount of processing power used, excluding the occasions when the WS was considered faulty.

f) Clients can loosely federate themselves when using a specific WS to share information on its reliability and performance, decreasing the risk of failure even further .

The careful exploitation of these, combined to all the other advantages in terms of Reliability and QoS, can compensate the Client for additional costs (if any) due to R.a.ï.s.’s multiple subscriptions, thus making the I of R.a.ï.s. mean Inexpensive in addition to Independent like for the RAID acronym.
 

1.  "Web Services 101" by Bob Sutor, Director of Web Services Strategy, IBM http://e-serv.ebizq.net/wbs/sutor_1.html
2.  From the Webopedia: http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/W/Web_services.html
3.  Presentation by Simon Walkden, Global Head of IT Architecture, UBS Warburg available at http://www.finexpo.com/finexpo-images/presentations/Simon_Walkden-UBSWarburg.pdf
4.  QoS includes reliability, management, monitoring and security
5.  See "Thinking about Implementing a Web Services Strategy?" by Brian Buehling http://webservices.xml.com/pub/a/ws/2003/03/04/strategy.html
6.  Security Assertion Markup Language, XML-based
7.  XML Key Management Specification, allowing use of PKI
8.  Both "customer milking" and vague choice criteria were also problems already present in the ASP model
9.  Or even the simultaneous failure of two returning identical faulty results
10.  The simultaneous identical failure of 3 computers can be considered too improbable an event to be granted consideration.
11.  This process is also speeding up the signal processing, as the system is not relying on the availability of idle time on a single PC.
12.  At RAID Level 3, the control data is written in a dedicated disk. At Level 5, they are themselves striped across the available disks.
13.  As long as it is certified and approved by the “WiFi Alliance” organisation
14.  A total of 14 channels on the 2.4-GHz band in the case of 802.11
15.  Also known as WS "Consumers"
16.  Also known as WS "Producers". Note that the function performed by the Producer could be any within a standard WS Architecture, including data processing, billing, orchestration, and so on.
17.  It could be different external Companies, or different Departments within the same Company
18.  See below for types and location of the reconciliation
19.  This rule can be applied even if 2 WS do not agree with the others, again by picking up as “true” any dataset from the remaining 3 services.
20.  Therefore shielding the WS Consumer also from interruptions for example for software upgrades at the Suppliers’ side.
21.  Just as for any data transfer
22.  Less likely as it would involve at least 2 Web Services failing identically, despite being independent from each other
23.  Just as the Space Shuttle uses 5 onboard computers. Note that if one WS is marked as faulty, deadlock could be prevented by temporarily discarding another one and still leaving 3 Services would be available to the WS Consumer.
24.  For example, a small number of suppliers would increase rates and decrease the quality assured by independent verification of results.
25.  Larger because each Consumer needs more than one Producer
26.  The other members could drop a Service that had become untrustworthy in the eyes of a member of the Federation, or this could lobby the Supplier as a whole for improvements, debugging, etc.

The Omnology Manifesto

Thanks to the coaching of fellow Ecademist Dave Kirby I have been inspired to find the definition of my take on knowledge, the universe and, yes, everything

Howard Bloom is the author of the Omnology Manifesto:

We are blessed with a richness of specializations, but cursed with a paucity of panoptic disciplines-categories of knowledge that concentrate on seeing the pattern that emerges when one views all the sciences at once. Hence we need a field dedicated to the panoramic, an academic base for the promiscuously curious, a discipline whose mandate is best summed up in a paraphrase of the poet Andrew Marvel: "Let us roll all our strength and all Our knowledge up into one ball, And tear our visions with rough strife Thorough the iron gates of life." Omnology is a science, but one dedicated to the biggest picture conceivable by the minds of its practitioners. Omnology will use every conceptual tool available-and some not yet invented but inventible-to leapfrog over disciplinary barriers, stitching together the patchwork quilt of science and all the rest that humans can yet know. If one omnologist is able to perceive the relationship between pop songs, ancient Egyptian graffiti, Shirley MacLaine's mysticism, neurobiology, and the origins of the cosmos, so be it. If another uses mathematics to probe traffic patterns, the behavior of insect colonies, and the manner in which galaxies cluster in swarms, wonderful. And if another uses introspection to uncover hidden passions and relate them to research in chemistry, anthropology, psychology, history, and the arts, she, too, has a treasured place on the wild frontiers of scientific truth-the terra incognita at the heartland of omnology. Let me close with the words of yet another poet, William Blake, on the ultimate goal of omnology: To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.

Purists might object to the term's mixed etimology, but alas Cosmology and Ecumenology were already taken

IT misalignments (aka Dilbert right once again)

There was a Dilbert strip in the 2003 desktop calendar a few weeks ago (I can try to describe it here) that looked very true and sounded very true.

Now it appears to have been demonstrated true

Joe Santana in yesterday's TechRepublic

To my surprise, almost 90 percent of the items listed by the teams as their key objectives differed from the key objectives listed by their managers. What's more, the key objectives listed by the managers were different by almost the same margin from the key objectives I had been given by my new bosses."

Among the layers of organizations, there is clearly a deviation in the focus and priorities of each layer due to lack of clarity about how they can and should specifically contribute to the goals and objectives of the layer above. Information moves from the "aligned" CIO, to a slightly less-aligned VP, to the less-aligned director, to the even less-aligned managers and supervisors who are guiding the purchase of resources and the actions of the staff” which at this point is 60 to 90 percent off the original objective

The solutions proposed appear straightforward, yet who's going to implement them?

  • Use and communicate a portfolio management vehicle as a means of categorizing IT investments
  • Have every layer of the management team create and maintain an alignment chart
  • Teach every layer of your management team to focus on objectives
  • Dilbert strip

    1: CEO to Senior VP "The Research supports my strategy"
    2: CEO to Senior VP "You can read the Research but don't make any copies"
    3: Senior VP to VP "I can tell you about it but you can't read it"
    4: VP to Assistant VP "I don't remember the reason but I am sure there is one"
    5: Assistant VP to pointy-haired Boss "There's no reason"
    6: Pointy-haired Boss to Dilbert "Our strategy is a huge mistake but we have to do it anyway"
    7: Dilbert to Dogbert "After I fall asleep tonight please smother me with a pillow"
    8: CEO to himself "My people love me because I manage with data"

    Blog Generator

    Blog Generator

    Hello i was wondering if i no longer qualify for a review interview since i haven't been updating on a daily basis due to the fact i'm traveling. The other day i was struggling very hard to write something for work and it was just not coming out. During passing time the other day i was just looking around and thinking how fast time gets with every year.

    blog generator is a program based on the Catty 2 engine that browses a number of Web log servers found on Google, builds a database of hundreds of thousands phrases, and uses this to write a "stream of consciousness" text on a given subject. It is pretty amusing, and a useful tool for all bloggers. by Michal Zalewski