modern home appliances: the rack

if you want to stay fresh, you ought to have a rack in your home.

well, its some 50 kg. and it needed to go somehow to the third floor..

of course it was well worth the trouble because we have a rack now. these lines are in fact served from this very rack. why it had to have so many slots is beyond me. maybe there are some extension plans for our wg network i am unaware of?

not to be outdone, florian went ahead and installed his new beamer in our living room..

red tape and corporate politics: enough already.

i am considering switching jobs now that my current employer has again made a large fuss about a non-issue. the place where i work has traditionally been dominated by elderly men with few clues. faced with the growing pace of technological change, they must increasingly feel out of their depth. but instead of going with the flow, they try to stem the tide by trumpeting around with their silly corporate policies. completely blind to the real problems, they would rather escalate a “situation” where one of their employees has gone out of his way to get a job done than hiring qualified people or investing in infrastructure.

i feel sorry for all the employees that i have brought to this company. it looked like we might have a stab at changing things for the better, but maybe that was a naive outlook. quitting now would seriously hamper their efforts to get off the ground, and it would be cowardly to leave now. on the other hand they should start to look for themselves..

so in case you have an interesting job offer talk to me. i might just bite..

this crap prompted me to re-read the cluetrain manifesto. although slightly soapy in style, it never fails to deliver fatal blows to stubborn companies destined to die. here comes:

  • Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.
  • Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own market and workforce.
  • Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.
  • To traditional corporations, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.

hb3d.ch: check it out.

an interactive 3d walk trough through our central station. by yours truly. :) we have been playing around, and the result is hb3d.ch, a promo site for an upcoming state vote about our central station. requires a vrml plugin and quicktime if you want to watch the movies.

tech ed day three

the day started off with an in-depth session about c#. c# has some nice properties that can
stand on their own, but industry support will be crucial. versioning of classes is an
approach to tackle the fragile base class problem where changes in a base class lead to
bugs in derived classes because the derived classes expect certain methods or variables
to be there. versioning can at least give the programmer a hint where problems may arise.
if i understood this correctly this versioning information is part of the metadata that
is stored alongside the classes and can therefore be used at run time.
another nifty feature are xml comments. extending on the javadoc idea,

they can contain
structured comments which can then be transformed with an xsl stylesheet.

besides this there are some minor cleanups of c++ like requiring boolean values with
each if while construct or escaping entire strings like this:
string bla = @”\servershare.la.txt”;

the next presentation was quite impressive, with mark russinovich of sysinternals.com fame
at the helm. he gave a walk through for some of his tools, like filemon, regmon to monitor
file / registry accesses, respectively. his tools are even used within microsoft..
also his process explorer does a lot more than the built in task manager, like killing
any process without giving stupid access denied errors. he even has some nifty tool
to remotely execute commands. this little hack works by auto-installing a service via
the admin share of a remote computer and then carrying out the requested operation.

after his session i tried to charge my notebook but only got to 50 % meaning i had to
look for power strips all day :) the lunch session was very informally held by mark
russinovich. his first slide surely caught our attention..


he then went on to demonstrate how far windows has come in terms of architecture, stability
and scalability. he threw in lots of tidbits like the fact that the build number for windows
is being continuously increased since 1992, the most current is 2505 (XP RC1). so this
basically means that the windows os has had 2500 complete builds in 10 years..
locking has been made more fine-grained in XP, resulting in scalability increases. i
can see it now: a new round of windows benchmarks stacked against linux benchmarks..
it came to light that the nt kernel is written somewhat object-oriented (it even
uses exception handling i hear) if details like these interest you you should check
out the nt resource kit as it comes with great documentation according to mark.

the rest of the afternoon was spent in two sessions about debugging, one called
analyzing crash dumps and the other .net debugging. the first one was quite interesting,
i learned that microsoft has a tool to analyze crashes which uses heuristics to
determine error patterns in your application. somewhat similar to dawson engler’s
meta-level compilation except that it analyzes the binary and is therefore most likely
less powerful than dawson’s approach.

in between we squeezed a meeting with jose osuna, responsible academic manager for
switzerland. we had a good talk and i hope we can have some events with him in the
future.

now i am off to catch some of barcelona’s night life. i’ll skip the graveyard session
for once.

tech ed day two

notes on .net and how open source may counter the threat, some stats and great food. we hurried to the conference area after a much too early rise. it was on the
way to the conference that we realized for the first time how huge teched is.

the main room was just gigantic.

we were greeted by queens barcelona anthem
followed by some dull marketing fluff. among reams of uninteresting tidbits
we learned that there were some 9000 attending teched. after a while anders
hejlsberg entered the stage to give the first keynote. considered by some
to be one of the best programmers, his performance left a lot to be desired.
of course, he had to remain on the surface, this being the keynote he had
no chance to demonstrate some of his considerable talents as a language /
systems architect. he was quite successful to give a glimpse of the .net framework
and its far-reaching impact, however.
all of the days sessions centered around .net. the point that microsoft
believes in open standards was driven home many times, with some credible
demonstrations like microsofts early involvement in xml standardization
and its increasing reliance on established standards like kerberos,
ldap, dynamic dns, wbem (web based enterprise management), xpath, xslt,
http (the list goes on)
over the course of these presentations it became very clear that microsoft
has unleashed something much larger than it can ever hope to handle like
it has in the past when it introduced the concept of web services. web
services have all the ingredients of a disruptive technology. they place
simplicity where complexity and opaque systems have reigned for so long.

their complete reliance on xml for all aspects has brought them some
criticism from some quarters that they are not being efficient and that
xml adds nothing that was not there before. i was wondering along these
lines as well. however when i saw how the concept of web services has
evolved in one year i started to notice similarities to the classic
and incredibly successful osi model. web services start where osi
ends, but they share the concept of piling independent services on top
of each other. this has been a very powerful architecture in networking
systems, especially tcp/ip. since xml is such a simple representation
of data it has been very easy to extend web services with additional
layers and make them increasingly powerful. i believe that the benefits
from a large scale adoption of xml will be reaped with ever more layers
stacked on each other, with ever increasing power.

although web services are an active area for the w3c, it remains doubtful
how the industry will counter microsofts .net juggernaut. declaring
support for soap, as ibm, sun, oracle and others have done, is not going
to cut it. what is needed is a credible architecture that can compete
feature by feature with .net. although all the components like apache
(web server), soap for apache, jabber (xml messaging), kdevelop (ide),
postgres sql (database), ldap (directory) exist in the open source
community, they are not part of an overall architecture. it would
be a major undertaking to get the developers of the respective components
to talk to each other and agree on common interfaces.
the old unix argument about never setting policy looks quite silly when
you realize what productivity gains microsoft will be leveraging with
their .net platform.

it also became quite evident that we have seen nothing yet in terms
of the web services architecture. many key pieces are missing, like
meta data to enable the retrieval and processing of semantics from
data (to support agent technology for instance), the questions of
payment for web services and global, fine-grained security matrices (who
has access to which of my data). web services are loosely coupled
but they have no mechanism to guard against api changes or to facilitate
negotiations on usage terms for web services.

besides all these lofty ideas we came back to reality quickly when we
saw the enormous amount of logistics that went into this conference.
details like having a dining hall for 9000 people
or being so well
organized that leaving my camera in the computer area was not a complete
disaster (i struck it lucky when i got it back from the lost & found counter)
made a big impression on me. the all you can eat buffets every few meters
had their influence as well..

i learned a few interesting details about eai (enterprise application integration)
an area where bea systems has been strong and microsoft made their debut
with their biztalk server. for instance most people that believe that they
need synchronous interfaces (ie immediate access to results) actually don’t.
you can fool these people with clever tricks like pretending to be synchronous
on the front end via http redirects while your backend interface is in fact
asynchronous.
the graveyard session for the day was actually quite funny even though the main
speaker had to boast about his accomplishments all the time. they shared many
anecdotes like being used as a spam relay during scalability testing, their
isp wrongly throttling their bandwidth on the incoming mail connection to 70
kps for 500 concurrent users :)
they made up for that with their end to end ipsec deployment (would have been
too lovely to sniff passwords in a lan with 6000 mobile ethernet clients..)
and replicating several databases in real time to london.
after this session we were driven to a nice location just opposite our hotel
for the swiss country dinner. it was basically one of the nicest places i have
been to in quite some time. great job microsoft.

tech ed day one

submitted directly from the conference floor via wireless ethernet.. :) thats the power of wireless i guess..
we entered barcelona after a refreshing flight with sensational view over the alps
around 10 am. afer checking into the hotel we went to the conference center where
we were greeted by bunchs of geeks sitting on the floor, huddled over their notebooks
or their newly acquired geek toys (aka compaq ipac).

we were handed a monstrous
conference backpack in bright yellow. the backpacks were just too offensive for
our visual cortexes so we had to dispose them soon afterwards. we queued
to get a hot new compaq ipac with a wireless ethernet card. soon afterwards
we were successfully checking into the abstrakt portal. does this rule or what.
somewhat relieved
and with our ipacs we headed back to the hotel to chill out and play with the
ipacs.

although they have a high coolness factor and it was great fun playing
around with them we concluded that using the analog conference schedule still
beats the online version by miles in regard to usability. besides, the paper
version does not forget your notes after a reset..
after hunger sent us out to fetch some food (we found some selection of tapas)
we headed back to the conference for a special student welcome dinner.
microsoft must have taken a page from other conferences since we were greeted
by nice hostesses. what a contrast to all these shy geeks.. unfortunately
though there were not too many female geeks around, as had to be expected.
we were then driven to a restaurant and a large buffet was quickly
consumed. we shared the table with two guys from cambridge who are working
as microsoft consultants during summer break. they are currently implementing
voice over ip application over gprs using the compaq ipac. to our great
amusement they were avid slashdot regulars and the rest of the evening
was thus spent in merry geek lore. topics ranged from umts to the singularity
to debian installs. in short, a very refreshing discussion. we were then
advised as to what sessions out of the 264 we should attend. clearly there
will be some hard choices to be made as some interesting sessions collide.
after we were handed a fancy schmancy jacket in brightest yellow (we kept
it because it looked kinda neat for a change) we were dismissed and spent
the rest of the evening catching up with various projects each of us
had been silently advancing. barcelona is one heck of a nice city by night.
so many decent places to hang out..

conference week

in less than 7 hours i will be on the plane to barcelona.. going to microsoft teched 2001.

i hear there is a lot of criminal energy in barcelona. what the heck i’m taking my cam, notebook etc with me nonetheless. will be interesting to spend a week with my flat mates for once. 😉

heading to bangkok!

it is all set. i will be going to bangkok again..
i currently expect to fly down there around mid july.


the gallery has all the pictures from my first trip.