January 9th

how many computers does google have?

One of the first things I did outside of work at Google was to find out how many computers the company has. It’s a fairly secret number; it’s not quite a topic that people in the Googz like to talk about.

It took me a week to piece together the answer; and a few months to come to terms with my discovery. It’s hard to talk to people outside of the big G about the kind of stuff they pull off there, and I’m not talking about making ball pits out of director’s offices.

I can finally talk about this, now that this information is explicitly public, published in an article by MapReduce Gods Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat (bloggy synopsis here). In the paper, they talk of 11,081 machine years of computation used in Sept 2007 alone, for a subset of their MapReduce work. That’s 132972 machine months of CPU used in one month. Assuming all the computers were running at 100% capacity, without failure, without any break for the entire month, that’s almost a hundred and fifty thousand machines worth of computing used in September Oh Seven.

In other words, Google has about one hundred and fifty thousand computers that are reported here.

But does that account for ALL the computers at Google?

To find out, go ask a Google employee to violate his NDA today!

for your information, this may not be the right number. it should be obvious why. for example, they never said anything about not using hamsters. hamsters are 10x faster than computers, which would mean they could just have 10,000 hamsters and it would be fine.

January 1st

my year in cities, 2007

Happy New Year, folks! 2007 was a year of experiences for me. Inspired by Jason, here is a list of the cities I have visited this year:

My India Trip:

  • Delhi
  • Kolkata
  • Ranchi
  • Mumbai

My Beijing Trip (SIGMOD Conference):

  • Beijing
  • Xian

My Internship at Google this Summer:

  • New York City
  • Jersey City (I know it’s right next door, but it counts!)

My Austria Trip (VLDB Conference):

  • Vienna
  • Salzburg

Rest of my time:

  • Ann Arbor

11 cities; 4 countries, 3 continents. Let’s see what 2008 has in store for us!


December 30th, 2007


In the light of the American Media Machine, I find this article very disturbing:

When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flier, however, he found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual.

Younger people did better at first, but three days later they made as many errors as older people did after 30 minutes. Most troubling was that people of all ages now felt that the source of their false beliefs was the respected CDC.

I’m really looking forward to the day when they’ll have a “Top Story” about how eating organic food inside hybrid vehicles causes certain chemical reactions in the food that trigger “bouts of homosexuality”.

December 29th

pin hole glasses

This trick totally works! I was amazed that I could see without my glasses!


December 28th

dreams of flight

This is totally awesome. A retired airlines engineer in India bought himself a decommissioned aircraft, plonked it on his backyard, and now runs what is probably the world’s first static airline. Complete with ticketing, safety instructions and air-hostess-served in-flight refreshments! According to the video below, tickets must cost Rs. 150 but it’s free for poor school children.


December 23rd

experimental success

One Doctor’s Personal Experiment — a story of a Oncologist who beat cancer with her own experimental treatment:

For a scientist, there’s no high quite like having your experiment work. That’s why I’m helping to write a case study about what I’ve gone through to share my success with other doctors. I hope my fight against cancer will inch us closer to a cure.

Somehow, being a computer scientist is a lot easier. Worst case scenario, your computer will crash and you will lose your data. It may take a long time to recover, but there will always be an Undo Button.

On a side note, the aforementioned story is hosted at, which just redesigned their site. It’s one of the cleanest but still classy-looking mainstream news websites out there, in my opinion. Good job, guys!


December 21st


yet another chat:

friend: i was eating lunch solo yesterday
friend: so i decided it was gonna be lunch and a movie
me: :D
friend: (i bought princess bride on itunes a) to have, and b) to have something on the phone)
friend: so win.
me: yeah, it’s like a 4” friend that gives you endless fun
friend: yessir.
friend: and the iphone’s like that too!


December 19th

april fools in december?

From a /. comment:

What have we seen recently?

I’m not sure what the odds are of all these impossibilities happening on the same day. Something’s up, I tell ya.


December 16th

jim bruer on alcohol


December 6th

using the iphone without gloves

Carrying an iPhone in freezing temperatures is quite a task considering that the touch screen interface relies on capacitance, and the only surface that seems to work for that is your skin, or an expensive high-tech glove, which I refuse cave in and buy. I wanted to make my own!

So I embarked on an expedition, taking pretty much everything and sliding it across the screen, in the hope of unlocking the device. Note: some of the things I try shoud not be tried on your iPhone, unless you have a mylar screen on it (I use BodyGuardz). Here are my results:

1. Erasers don’t work.
2. Pencils don’t work.
3. Metal Knives, coins don’t work unless I touch them.
4. Q-Tips don’t work.
5. Plastic pens don’t work.
6. Felt tips don’t work.
7. Sharpies don’t work and stain the screen protector.
8. Silicone skins for the phone don’t work.
9. Wet rags don’t work.
10. Q-Tps dipped in moisturizer don’t work.
11. Q-Tips dipped in resin rubber glue don’t work.
12. Glue sticks don’t work.
13. Cheese sticks don’t work.
14. My Nose works.
15. My Tongue works.

So there you are. Answering the phone when I’m outside bracing the elements now involves a peck and a swipe with my stubby nose. I must say though, flipping through contacts with a lick of my tongue is a gross but effective technique. And it seems like I’m not the only one, there are many like me.

This quest is not over folks; I intend to search on, and report back my results to my beloved readers. Till then, if you see someone trying to smell and lick rectangular glowing objects in their hand, worry not, they’re just trying to make conversation. :)