Monthly Archives: April 2004

Our Hidden WMD Program

Our Hidden WMD Program – Why Bush is spending so much on nuclear weapons. By Fred Kaplan

Measured in “real dollars” (that is, adjusting for inflation), this year’s spending on nuclear activities is equal to what Ronald Reagan spent at the height of the U.S.-Soviet standoff. It exceeds by over 50 percent the average annual sum ($4.2 billion) that the United States spent—again, in real dollars—throughout the four and a half decades of the Cold War.

Meanwhile, military families hold bake sales to buy their loved ones in iraq body armor?

I guess the nuke manufacturing lobby gets its political patronage before the body armor manufacturing lobby.

The falacy of cheap RAM

I’ve heard people justify the memory consumption of this or that application they are either developing or evangelizing with the argument that “RAM is Cheap.” It can be a very seductive argument, especially if the app is really fast as a result of its memory consumption.

Unfortunately, the “Ram is Cheap” philosophy, like many similarly concise words of wisdom, is only appropriate in a limited set of circumstances, such as when your app is going to be the primary application on a machine. This might be the case with a graphics app, or a piece of server software, in which case the machine is probably speced for your app, and RAM is a small price to pay to make things run really fast.

But how many people can really claim to be developing such a mission critical piece of software?

Very few, and those who delude themselves into thinking otherwise are going to make it less and less likely that their app ever becomes a must-have.

Why? Because they are going to find themselves fighting for a place in physical memory with the one or two RAM hungry mission critical apps on the machine, along with all the other nice-to-haves, and RAM may be cheap, but it isn’t that cheap.

For one thing 1/2 GB of reasonably fast memory probably costs more than most any other single component in a mid-priced PC (excluding monitor). For another, most PCs can only address 2-3GB of RAM, and may only have physical space for half of that. If the slots are full, RAM has to be pulled to make way for any upgrades.

But really, who is going to upgrade for an it-might-be-nice app that seemed too slow on their system in the first place?

Stupid Tech Forum Search Tricks

If you are going to set up a search engine to index tech content, like, say, a tech discussion forum, its really stupid to automatically exclude two or three letter terms from the index given the ubiquity of short acronyms. If you insist on dismissing short terms as being unlikely to generate a search result, I’d suggest a somewhat more intensive approach: compare the term to a dictionary of common english terms and only index the ones that don’t match.

Pen & Paper or what?

Last night I was watching Stone Reader ( a great personal documentary ) and got to thinking about how much more sensual and natural an experience it was writing with pen on paper, compaired to using a PC, then I remembered, that there have been times when I spent a lot of time writing at a computer, and felt connected to the experience, but it was on an old Mac Plus. Now I’m thinking about buying an iBook, or maybe an iMac.

Google’s Infrastructure Advantage Weblog: The Secret Source of Google’s Power
Well considered speculation about Google. I’d been keen to build an serving infrastructure with high redundancy using cheap hardware that could be managed at the system level, so a failure would just mean culling failed boxes, rebuilding them and adding them back to the queue of spares. I never really got the chance to build it. Too many 3-tier aps built on expensive software and not a high enough user load to really force the architecture issue.

We came close on the last software project I was a part of as I was able to influence the architecture from the very start, but it was never deployed.