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 These days, I mostly post my tech musings on Linkedin.  https://www.linkedin.com/in/seanmcgrath/

Saturday, January 17, 2004

A specious supercomputer argument in the Irish Times

Normally, The Iish Times newspaper is a good source of intelligent geek commentary and industry news. Especially in the Friday issues which typically has a page or two devoted to tech.

Last Friday provided an exception to this in the form of a most bizzare article entitled "Republic not even on the starting blocks in supercomputer race" by Kevin Cahill [subscription required].

The thesis of the article seems to be that without a supercomputer or two, Ireland cannot be taken seriously as a center of science and research.

I'm all for serious computing power, but the notion that the only way to get it is with liquid helium cooled supercomputers weighing in at 20-30 million Euros a pop is a specious argument that flies in the face of
both evidence and trend.

Mr Richard Hirsh of SFI (Science Foundation Ireland) is drawn over the coals for what seems to me to be an extremely sane advocacy of grid technologies.

Here is a quote from the article.

    "Mr Hirsh is an advocate of Grids, many computers locked together, but that is akin to saying that the state can get by with hiring a single combine harvester from abroad."


I think Mr Cahill may need to revisit his understanding of grid technologies. Given that he has used a combine harvester analogy, I suggest he might like to start with von Neumann's curse.

He might also like this or this as a sign of what massive computational power will increasingly look like in the future. Typically, I might add, at a fraction of the 20-30 million Euro price point of the classic supercomputer design.

On his travels he may well spend some time in Google. A system that has massive computational power requirements. How many supercomputers do they have? Zero.

There are tasks where a monolithic supercomputer wins but in my experience, most computationally intensive problems are amenable to a good old fashioned domain decomposition approach. In these applications grids scale better than supercomputers in every dimension : money, power, common sense. The whole shebang.

If I had the time to, I'd love to pursue the idea of an XGrid from the (sadly moribund) xpipe project. The worlds fastest XML processing machine, capable of processing terabytes of XML per second. Now *that* sounds like worthwhile research to me and grids are the only sane way to get there.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Serious software engineering using dynamic typing on the JVM

Groovy adds more grist to the dynamic typing mill.
Java the language is on its way to becoming the assembler of the 21st century.
  • Its there for a reason and does its job well.
  • It can be programmed directly if push comes to shove
  • Day-to-day work targeting the JVM is best done in something more productive.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Draconian XML processing

In process to process exchange of XML data where processes *act* (like debiting your account or doubling the volume of that IV injection in your arm) - the only sane thing to do with non-WF XML is to bin it.
The question arises, is this draconian approach sensible for human-eyeball-destined XML applications such as chunks of display-oriented XHTML-ish goo in RSS feeds for example? opinions differ.
In my opinion, yes it is. (I used to argue otherwise in the formative years of XML but I see know that I was wrong.)
Without sane pre-conditions such as Well formedness, we will never be able to confidently evolve applications like RSS from human-to-human into human-to-process and even process-to-process domains where they have all sorts of potential.

retic goes jythonic

Jyretic looks interesting. On Sourceforge.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

A Sean McGrath or a Chad Dickerson

Sean McGrath's blog? Or Chad Dickerson? Or something?

Committee based XML schema design - distilled into an singular alliterative assemblage

The syncretic synthesis of syncategorematic syntagms.
Maybe I should lay off the Umberto Eco books for a while:-)

Monday, January 12, 2004

Sunday, January 11, 2004

What word is best for "giver of names"?

Umberto Eco uses nomothete in some of his books but the dictionaries point more to legal interpretations e.g. "law giver".
Any suggestions?

The giver of names

    After another quarter day,
    accross from many more of the shelves,
    a brownish-yellow bath toy,
    on the left side of the one lake-water green inlet,
    will burn down all cresson houses,
    off the fighter,
    who has taken out this blood.

You will need to get to the second screenful on http://www.interlog.com/~drokeby/gon.html to have an idea what thats about. Its worth it. Artist David Rokeby tackled the the only hard problem in XML schema design.

yraid or diary?

Blogs invert time and space. In a blog (a diary), new stuff comes before old stuff on the page and as a consequence, above is below E.g. "As I said above" in a paper diary would be "As I said below" in an electronic diary.
A Derrida'esque deconstruction of this might prove a fruitful line of attack on classical lexical semantics. However, it is too early on a Sunday morning to contemplate such a thing. Its more fun trying to work out what the plural of "yraid" should be.