Archive for October 2007

Find out who else supports your Congressperson   Leave a comment

Search by Representative!  Senator!  Presidential Candidate!  Industry!  Special Interest groups!

You might be surprised at who else is lining the pockets of the person you’ve elected to guard your interests in our democratic republic.  You environmentalists may not be so gung ho about Hillary when you see she’s the third highest recipient of Oil and Gas money.  You think Chris Dodd is going to produce real health care reform, when he rakes in this much from the Insurance industry?  I think the hedge funds guys are really worried about their tax status, they’re hitting all four of the top candidates with their giant money hose.

I wonder what the correlation is between donations from defense firms and how loudly a particular member of the Armed Services Committee argues in support of continuing the funding of the Iraq war?

Man, it seems to me that lawyers, in particular, have just too much money if they’ve got an extra $106,303,569 to donate to political causes.  What happened in 2004, anyway?  Number Two?  You guys slipped that year.

Posted October 30, 2007 by padraic2112 in politics, web sites

Facilities Design   1 comment

For those who are looking to add a rack or two to your facility.

Computers are monstrously inefficient when it comes to shedding waste heat. Operationally, most of the wattage sucked by your computer is going to be vented into the local environment as waste heat.

If you use Dell machines, they have a handy widget that will let you populate a virtual rack, select a production use (say, “compute node”), and tell you how many watts your cluster is going to chew through. If you dig around on your vendor’s site, you can usually find out maximum wattage for whatever sorts of devices you need to stick into your machine room. Total up the wattage and multiply it by 3.413, and you get the BTU/hour thermal output of your devices. Divide that number by 12,000, and you get the total tons of coolant needed to keep those devices from overheating. (note: for those interested in where “tons of coolant” came from, this dates back to the days when refrigeration guys were primarily concerned with turning liquid water into ice, and thus a “ton of coolant” was the amount of refrigeration required to produce one ton of ice in a day). From Wikipedia:

Domestic and commercial refrigerators may be rated in kJ/s, or Btu/h of cooling. Commercial refrigerators in the US are mostly rated in tons of refrigeration, but elsewhere in kW. One ton of refrigeration capacity can freeze one short ton of water at 0 °C (32 °F) in 24 hours. Based on that:

Latent heat of ice (i.e., heat of fusion) = 333.55 kJ/kg ≈ 144 Btu/lb
One short ton = 2000 lb
Heat extracted = (2000)(144)/24 hr = 288000 Btu/24 hr = 12000 Btu/hr = 200 Btu/min
1 ton refrigeration = 200 Btu/min = 3.517 kJ/s = 3.517 kW[11]

A much less common definition is: 1 tonne of refrigeration is the rate of heat removal required to freeze a metric ton (i.e., 1000 kg) of water at 0 °C in 24 hours. Based on the heat of fusion being 333.55 kJ/kg, 1 tonne of refrigeration = 13,898 kJ/h = 3.861 kW. As can be seen, 1 tonne of refrigeration is 10% larger than 1 ton of refrigeration.

Most residential air conditioning units range in capacity from about 1 to 5 tons of refrigeration.

Now, data centers more or less doubled in power consumption between 2000 and 2005. According to the EPA’s analysis of hardware trends, this is expected to go up another 40-70% between 2005 and 2010. So if you’re planning on being in a facility for the next ten years or so, it’s probably best for you to spend some time figuring out exactly what your average power consumption is per rack (for a 42U high density compute rack, I’m working with about 22kW per rack as a baseline for 2008), and assuming between now and 2020 that number is going to go up by somewhere between 100-120%. That’s somewhere in the range of 42-45kW per 42U rack.

To put this in perspective, a 45kW rack would require just shy of 13 tons of coolant in refrigeration capacity. Ten racks loaded with this sort of equipment means you’re requiring not one, but two 65 ton industrial strength chillers to keep that room at a constant temperature. The energy costs here are staggering. Smart corporations should be looking to move their datacenter operations to someplace where land is cheap, solar panels can be constructed easily, and the average temperature is as cool as possible. Me personally, I’d be looking to stimulate the economy and cutting a good deal somewhere in Montana.

True, not everyone is building high capacity compute nodes. And there are a number of other alternatives in industry gaining traction, such as switching from AC power supplies to DC power supplies, which are much more efficient at idle and consumer less power even under load. With the rise of multi-core processing systems, the idle-to low activity power consumption per machine will probably go down even more… but those high-power activities are still going to burn energy like crazy, and that’s going to produce lots and lots of heat. Expect this curve to keep on going up.

Keep cool, people.

Posted October 30, 2007 by padraic2112 in facilities, hardware, management, tech, work

Bad Security 201 – Password Reminder Questions   3 comments

There are a great many websites that have a “click here to reset your password” button (they’re all evil and wrong).  When you click on that button, you are presented with a question or list of questions, and you need to answer one or more of them to have your password reset.

Common questions include:

  • The Street where you grew up
  • Where you were born
  • Your mother’s maiden name
  • The name of your first pet
  • etc.

The theory, of course, is that only the legitimate user would know the answers to these questions.  It’s a stupid theory.  Here’s the problem: for anyone who’s moderately online, one or more of these questions is pretty easily answered.  Try PeopleFinders.   I get my age, all my sibling’s names, my wife’s name (which includes her maiden name as her middle name, a pretty common occurrence nowadays), and the names of my parents.  For $11-$50, I can find out a ton of information regarding any of those people, including past addresses.  So, for $50, you can pretty easily find the list of addresses for my parents, one of which is the “Street where I grew up”.  Anyone trying to game the accounts of my kids, of course, gets their mother’s maiden name pretty easily here.  Googling around, or searching on Facebook or MySpace or one of the other social networking sites can give you hobbies, pets names, you name it.

Any IT department that implements one of these “remind me of my password” systems is doing it for one simple reason: verifying someone’s identity is a difficult task.  People forgetting their passwords and needing their credentials reset are a huge drain on IT departments – this sort of task (in any meaningful way) needs to be accomplished by someone trained to avoid social engineering techniques and know how to reasonably verify that someone is who they say they are.  Most IT departments are strapped for resources as it is, they’re not going to do this job properly unless there is a real mandate to do it right.

And this is yet another reason why I don’t bank online.

Posted October 30, 2007 by padraic2112 in security

Quote-o-Matic   3 comments

Submit your favorite geek quote.

Posted October 25, 2007 by padraic2112 in noise, web sites

100 mpg and zero emissions?   Leave a comment

SpaceShipOne designers pocketed $10,000,000 for building a craft capable of carrying 3 people to 100km above the earth, a project that led to Virgin Galactic. Sir Richard Branson may be regarded by some as slightly crazy, but he does have a tendency to follow through on these projects.

So, it’s arguable that the Auto X-prize will yield some sort of similar result, fast-tracked (one of the competition requirements is that submissions must be able to be marketed, not just concept cars).

100 mpg, zero emissions. I wonder if any Detroit based companies are going to pitch their hat in the ring on this one?

Posted October 22, 2007 by padraic2112 in tech, web sites, x-prize

Wanna Bet?   3 comments

Popular Mechanics has a “25 Skills Every Man Should Know” article up on their site. The 25 things:

  • Patch A Radiator Hose (with Duct Tape)
  • Protect Your Computer
  • Rescue a Boater Who Has Capsized
  • Frame A Wall
  • Retouch Digital Photos
  • Back Up A Trailer
  • Build A Campfire
  • Fix A Dead Outlet
  • Navigate With A Map & Compass
  • Use A Torque Wrench
  • Sharpen A Knife
  • Perform CPR
  • Fillet A Fish
  • Maneuver A Car Out Of A Skid
  • Get A Car Unstuck
  • Back Up Data
  • Paint A Room
  • Mix Concrete
  • Clean A Bolt Action Rifle
  • Change Oil & Filter
  • Hook Up An HDTV
  • Bleed Your Brakes
  • Paddle A Canoe
  • Fix A Bike Flat
  • Extend Your Wireless Network

Now, I’ve never had to rescue a boater who has capsized (and really, this makes the top 25? Boating accidents are pretty rare, I would think “splinting a broken bone” would be a far more valuable skill), but I’ve done everything else on this list except for framing a wall, bleeding my brakes and changing my oil. Framing a wall isn’t terribly difficult if you can cut a square corner, and I could do either of the auto repair jobs, I’m just more than willing to pay someone $20 to save myself the time. So I guess I fare pretty well on the DIY test.

What killed me about this is that each “task” has a poll question, “Can you do this?” with a [yes] [no] option, and if you answer the poll, it will tell you what the response is from the rest of the people answering. 83% of the respondents said “Yes” to “Can you Secure Your Computer?”.

This *is* Popular Mechanics, so the quantity of geektitude is pretty high amongst the readership, but I would hazard a guess that a non-trivial portion of those 83%ers are wildly optimistic about securing their computers (one of the commentators said, laughably, “This only applies to Windows, you don’t need to worry about this with modern operating systems like Mac OS and Linux”). Their instructions are windows-centric, sure… but they’re also not nearly enough to “secure your computer”.

Posted October 22, 2007 by padraic2112 in security, tech, web sites

Your Problems Are Irrelevant   Leave a comment

funny cat pictures & lolcats - Your problems are irrelevant to Technical Support-cat

from I Can Has Cheezburger?

Posted October 19, 2007 by padraic2112 in humor

X on Windows   Leave a comment

Found this via CD-Man’s blog.

One of my complaints about Cygwin (alluded to earlier) is that their X-windowing system is rather… ugh, and old. I’ve been using X-win (campus site license) on my own machine, but Xming is free and open source and tied closely to Xorg. Their development lifecycle appears to be maintaining well.

Posted October 19, 2007 by padraic2112 in software, tech, Windows

Why is this funny?   Leave a comment

This post from Corey’s blog links to an SNL short that’s hilarious. Except it’s really stupid. Someone explain why I think this is funny? Some remnant of Three-Stoogesness, I suppose.

— edited —

YouTube took it down, probably a CND from SNL.  You can see it here.

Posted October 19, 2007 by padraic2112 in humor

More On Warrentless Wiretapping   1 comment

Follow-up on this earlier post:

Since they’re losing miserably in court, telecommunications companies are trying to buy their way out of their culpability for enabling the federal government to snoop on American citizens, largely by pouring money into the pockets of members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Story history here.

Presidental candidate and Democratic Senator Dodd, of Connecticut, has gone public with a statement saying that he will block the resolution, an action that is hardly ever public.

Perhaps this will ensure that this story will get more than 30 seconds of air time on the nightly news. Thumbs up to you, Chris Dodd. I don’t always agree with you, but you deserve kudos for this.

— edited to add —

No mention of it on NYT politics, or on their candidates page. Not on LA Times, either. Digging around on the Washington Post website showed one article, certainly not front page news.

An analysis of why the program is bad, for those interested in expert opinion (pdf format).

— edited to add —

Sad but true commentary.

— edited to add —

Someone is happy enough about Dodd’s stance to launch a dedicated web site.

Posted October 19, 2007 by padraic2112 in politics, security