Technology

scalable oxymoron

Just encountered a funny error at one of the blogs I read:

That being said, High Scalability is a must read for server people; consistently great content, news and linkage:

This site tries to bring together all the lore, art, science, practice, and experience of building scalable websites into one place so you can learn how to build your website with confidence.

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Math's Kool with Tyler Neylon

Googler Tyler Neylon just launched Mathskool.com , a website for teaching kids math. In his own words :

This is a website I’ve been working on for the past month, meant to help connect great math teachers with motivated middle and high school students. The idea is to provide a centralized library that many math teachers can contribute to, and which gives students free access to short, focused videos.

This is exactly what the internet needs. Great job, Tyler! My first interaction with Tyler was during my Google internship phone interviews, where we were trying to figure out if I could work with his team.

Here’s a tutorial on distributive properties and combining expressions. Things I love about this movie is that it starts with “Hey how’s it going.”, and then “I go to Target and buy six copies of Mario Kart…. I like Mario Kart.” Kids, this is a guy who has a PhD in math… you should watch his videos!

If I had a million dollars

If I had a million dollars to spend, I would invest them in these two things:

Preventative secondary healthcare for rural areas:

They are not doctors. They are not nurses. They are illiterate women from India’s Untouchable castes. Yet as trained village health workers, they are delivering babies, curing disease, and saving lives—including their own.

and Cell Phones for developing areas :

Mobile phone ownership in India is growing rapidly, six million new mobile subscriptions are added each month and one in five Indian’s will own a phone by the end of 2007. By the end of 2008, three quarters of India’s population will be covered by a mobile network. Many of these new “mobile citizens” live in poorer and more rural areas with scarce infrastructure and facilities, high illiteracy levels, low PC and internet penetration.

twittering... kinda

I hooked up my Facebook status feed to my Twitter page that should keep most “followers” happy with minimal work on my part. To inaugurate, I posted a twitterpoem of less than 140 characters, which I grandly entitle “Tales of the Database Scientist”:

i flirt with hordes of entities,
runtimes and complexities.
relations are for databases;
i negotiate in times and spaces.

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building simple systems

XML co-inventor Tim Bray talks about over-designing systems:

Programmers experience soaring joy when they can rip through code deleting functions and declarations, screens-full into the bit bucket, with the steady drumbeat of tests-fail-then-pass.

So maybe I didn’t build one to throw away, but I built one that needed major amputations out of the box.

He concludes with a quote from Fred Brook’s The Mythical Man Month, one that I strongly believe in:

“Where a new system concept or new technology is used, one has to build a system to throw away, for even the best planning is not so omniscient as to get it right the first time. Hence plan to throw one away; you will, anyhow.”

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status update

What I’ve been up to:

  • Making new friends: Most of the MSR interns I’ve met are fun people, quite contrary to the nerdy bookworms people would imagine them to be.
  • Touring Seattle: Went out for a non-touristy tour of Seattle, visiting places including the UW arboretum, Discovery Park (Photo above) and Downtown Seattle.
  • Skydiving: Jumped out of a plane from 13,000 ft. Landed on my feet. One of the most awesome experiences in my life :)
  • Living the working man’s life: Wake up at 7, snooze the alarm till 8, drive to work, come back home, run 3 miles, watch TV, go to bed. Rinse, repeat.

And because this blog is nothing without its links:

  • Mario Kart in Javascript.
  • Learning how to do play the didjeridoo can cure sleep apnea. I don’t have apnea, but I love trying to play a didge whenever I get my hands on one. I’ve never been able to get the circular breathing right though. Curiously, I learned about this from a Gmail ad.
  • A really fun and interesting Eco Zoo website.
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meanwhile, in other internships


Pradeep talks about some pretty crazy hardware he’s working with this summer. A 120 Terabyte disk array with a cache size of 120GB. Insane! HP Sells these on their website… my birthday is in February, guys!

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First Day at Microsoft Research

And so it begins; yet another crazy summer, this time at the world’s largest Computer Science department outside of a university. Today was my first day of my internship with the Database Group at MSR. Some lessons and observations:

  • MS Recruiting is a refined and well-oiled machine. HR departments everywhere should learn from them.
  • Apparently it rains in June in Redmond. That’s ALL of June. Every single hour. So much for the picture-perfect weather I saw a couple weeks ago. As my mentor put it, “That was the demo”.
  • Seattle traffic is rather well behaved. Being a driving newbie making millions of driving-etiquette faux paus per second during rush hour would have got me into serious trouble in Michigan.
  • You will shake hands with luminaries. Many of them. In a span of 10 minutes. Try not to jump around and look like a giggling preteen.
  • This one’s important: Before you start working for Microsoft, it is advisable to at least try using Windows. Going from a life completely devoid of Internet Exploder or LookOut Express into a world where EVERYTHING carries the Microsoft logo, is not ideal for the brain. My eyes literally had trouble focusing for the first few hours. Running a Vista / Outlook / IE / Studio stack after an elegantly simple life in unix-land is like jumping from a well-oiled bicycle into the cockpit of a thundering fighter jet.
  • “Google” is not a verb. Live Search. Live Maps. Live Live Live!

biggest drawing in the world

via Core77:

Erik Nordenankar uses a GPS tracker and an extremely detailed set of delivery instructions to enlist DHL help in sketching his mug across the surface of planet earth.

Link to official website carrying detailed videos and other cool stuff.

update: Professor Nate Clark writes in to point out that this is a hoax.

reaching out

  • Russel Davies painted his laptop to work as a blackboard. I think the acrylic casing for the iBook makes an excellent whiteboard too.
  • Friend and mentor Cong Yu just got an honorable mention in the SIGMOD Dissertation Award:
    …Two other nominees receive Honorable Mention recognizing their outstanding work on theoretical foundations and development of algorithms with great impact on important practical problems: Cong Yu, for his dissertation on “Managing Complex Databases in a Schema Management Framework” at the University of Michigan, and, Nilesh Dalvi, for his dissertation on “Managing Uncertainty Using Probabilistic Databases” at the University of Washington.

    It’s interesting to see the hiring trends : the Award was won by now-MSR researcher Ariel Fuxman. Nilesh and Cong are both Yahoo! Researchers.

  • Natalie Du Toit’s “wonderful story of courage, determination, discipline, hopes and dreams”, becoming the first amputee to qualify for the Olympics.
  • It’s not every day that the White House asks you to become a Vampire Slayer.