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29Jun/11Off

Adjust CPU power in 1 watt increments

TechOps Guy: Nate

Saw this over at the AMD blog recently, certainly sounds pretty neat, the ability to control the power usage of your CPU on a per-watt basis, which is significantly more effective than current power limiting strategies available today.

Well, let’s say that you have a maximum power draw on your fully configured server of 300W, and you have 42 slots in your server.  The simple math says that you have 12.6Kw of power load that you need to be able to support.  Now, if your power budget only allows you to bring 12Kw to the rack, you essentially have 2 slots that need to be left open in the rack because you can only support 40 and not 42 servers. But, by utilizing a custom TDP, you could drop the max power that some servers could draw, bringing you in under the limit of 12Kw and still getting 42 servers in the rack.

No mention on whether or not the processor will turn off cores once you hit certain thresholds (say you reduce a 80W 12-core cpu to 60W of power, it may be better to run fewer cores with higher clock speeds than more cores on lower clock speeds depending on the workload).

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29Jun/11Off

Oracle picks up Pillar

TechOps Guy: Nate

Most people have been expecting this for a long time, and have wondered why it didn't happen sooner, with Oracle ditching HDS as an OEM partner almost immediately after acquiring Sun.

I have read, and heard over the past year that Oracle has been for the most part destroyed in the storage market (servers doing badly as well) as a result since their Sun storage products just are not competitive. Many larger customers have been leaving to the likes of HP and IBM who could offer the "one stop shop" for servers and storage (even before HP bought 3PAR, HP had and still has their OEM'd HDS equipment).

In some informal talks with some HDS folks last year they seemed quite happy that Oracle was no longer an OEM, saying that the people over at Sun/Oracle weren't competent enough to handle the HDS stuff (*cough* too complicated *cough*), and so HDS just went in direct with most of those customers that Oracle walked away from.

Finally someone at Oracle woke up and realized there still is, and will continue to be for some time a big market for traditional SAN systems, far bigger than the market of customers willing to risk putting their data on cheap SATA controllers on servers running ZFS with high failure rates and poor performance.

So it finally happened, Oracle is buying Pillar. At first look however it really does seem like an odd scenario, from their SEC filing -

The Earn-Out therefore will only be paid to Mr. Ellison, his affiliates and, if applicable, to the other Pillar Data stockholders and option holders if the Net Revenues during Year 3 of the Earn-Out Period exceed the Net Losses, if any, during the entire Earn-Out Period.

There's no specific mention whether or not Larry is going to pay himself back for the $500M+ in loans he has given to Pillar over the years, so I suppose not. In any case it won't be until the end of 2014 when we might discover what value Oracle has placed on Pillar. One commenter on The Register mentions Pillar's revenue as $29M per year, don't know where that came from though, doing some searching myself I found references to roughly $70M in revenue, to $3B in revenue (if that was the case they would of IPO'd)

I think it's a good deal for Pillar to, they get much better validation on their products in front of customers.

I've gone through quite a bit of the information on the Pillar web site and to-date I have not seen anything that would make me want to buy their product, and have yet to hear any positive words coming from the people I know in the street/industry (granted my community is limited).

But it sure as hell beats anything that Oracle has been offering their customers recently, that alone may be enough to drive a decent amount of sales.

Pillar posted some updated SPC-1 numbers recently, a significant improvement over their original numbers, though nothing ground breaking from a competitive standpoint.

In other news, two early social media giants have fallen - MySpace being acquired for $35M, and Friendster re-inventing itself as a gaming site with Facebook authentication. I'd bet the infrastructure behind Myspace is worth about $35M by itself - Newscorp really wanted out!

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23Jun/11Off

Microsoft Sync not so hot?

TechOps Guy: Nate

Ford has been plastering the nation (and probably world) with advertising recently which included giving lots of props around Microsoft's Sync technology. I've never used it, and haven't talked to anyone who has mentioned using it so I don't know a whole lot about the product.

But a short time ago survey results from JD Power were released on initial car quality. A big source of complaints was the technology features in the cars. But what I thought was interesting and how it may tie into Microsoft's Sync technology is the fact that Ford practically fell off a cliff on this survey dropping a full 18 positions to #23 on the list.  If you asked me to name 23 auto brands I couldn't do it. Maybe I could come up with a dozen or fifteen.

Here is a couple articles on the list.

The problems with MyFord Touch — the latest generation of its heavily promoted and popular SYNC system of voice commands — are especially disappointing for Ford. Consumer Reports has criticized the new system repeatedly for being too complicated.

The technology in my new Juke has me somewhat concerned as well, it works fine, but I'm sure when it breaks, it won't be cheap or easy to fix, so I got the extended warranty on it, and may very well not want to own the car beyond the warranty(I didn't buy this car with the thought of driving it into the ground). I haven't had any issues with the technology in my new car, aside from one time my GPS crashed, but that seems to have been a freak event.

The one thing I would like on my GPS though is some of those custom voices that are available for TomTom, I have disabled the voice output of the GPS because it was disruptive to my nightclub on wheels stereo, but it would really be fun I think(at least for a short time) to be able to have random famous actors or characters talking to me through the GPS.

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23Jun/11Off

Collecting taxes an Administrative nightmare?

TechOps Guy: Nate

[sorry for the rash of non technical posts recently there just hasn't been much going on in the tech world that has been interesting to me recently]

This has been pissing me off for a long time. Amazon trying to evade collecting taxes on behalf of states. I tried finding a report of this in text form but could only find one that had these words in video form from CNBC (yeah I'm watching CNBC shows my Tivo recorded at noon today at 1AM)

Amazon says the real issue is the administrative nightmare of collecting different rates for different states

That has got to be the most stupid excuse I have ever heard in my life. There is no administrative nightmare. There are several companies out there that specialize in exactly that sort of information so you don't have to worry about keeping track of it yourself. I was using one such system going back as far as 2003.

It was called Taxware, and it handled everything for us (the link points to ADP, whom I assume acquired the company at some point, I don't recall ADP being associated with Taxware at the time, assuming I have the right Taxware, it was a long time ago). Taxes can get pretty complicated, but complication is not an excuse when you have something like Taxware doing the hard work for you.

While my memory is foggy on the details back in the day I do recall coming across some very interesting tax things that went on at the time, and that Taxware handled just fine. I'm talking about tax breaks for certain kinds of products that only lasted a certain amount of time for example, and these could vary on a city by city or county by county basis it was that detailed! Because of those things you really had to stay on your toes with the data file updates which came regularly.

I have no doubt there are other platforms and services like Taxware.

If the small startup I was at at the time could calculate and collect taxes, there's no excuse for the bigger companies to not be able to do that other than they want the competitive edge against local businesses in the state that are forced to collect taxes.

I can understand a small mom & pop operation  (maybe sub $300k in revenue a year) not having the resources to collect taxes, but even for them it wouldn't surprise me if there was a SaaS offering out there that did it. Maybe they'd call it SpeedTax or something so it sounds fast and easy.

Most people don't realize that we also have use taxes as well, in the event you buy something from out of state (assuming your state has sales taxes), and they ship the product to you without collecting taxes, or if you go out of state, buy it, and bring it back (e.g. those living on the border between WA and OR that exploit the tax conditions between the two states (WA having no income tax and OR having no sales tax)), you're technically not off the hook for taxes on those products. Though enforcement has been an issue and your only likely to get caught if you are doing large scale evasion.

One thing I do agree with Amazon with though is we should have a national system, some law that removes all remaining avenues of escape or excuses for Amazon (and others) for collecting the taxes that they're supposed to collect.

Filed under: General No Comments
22Jun/11Off

Buy your HP Touchpad at…a Furniture store?

TechOps Guy: Nate

I've been a fan of WebOS since I got my Pre. Contrary to what some may believe I had never owned a Palm product prior to that. Although I do have a pair of Handspring Visors which was pretty much a better palm than palm back in the day, eventually they got bought out by Palm.

I've been awaiting the release of both the HP TouchPad and the Pre 3 for some time now. I almost pre ordered the Touchpad then figured I will just go buy it when it comes out in a local store, like most, I am not expecting a line around the block of people waiting to buy it on the first day like your typical Apple product.

For no particular reason I was browsing the Palm site (aka hpwebos.com) and saw a list of the official places you can pre order the Touchpad.

Much to my surprise, was what seems to be a big furniture store out in Nebraska. Nebraska Furniture Mart - America's Largest Home Furnishings Store.

I've never been to that part of the country so maybe it's not uncommon, maybe it's the only place people have in Nebraska to buy electronics from?

I mean of all the places to sell some new piece of technology. I realize now after looking at their site they have an electronics section(which I can't view because I declined their cookie requests), but still of all the places to launch a product.......

I look at the TouchPad myself is mainly a toy, something to play with, maybe I'll find some good uses for it with work I'm not sure. Would be nice to see support for wide ranging VPN options as well as perhaps native versions of various HP management tools (looking at you 3PAR).  To those out there that say your better off with a notebook or netbook, I agree. I already have a netbook and a notebook.

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15Jun/11Off

Farewell Seattle!

TechOps Guy: Nate

Long story short: I'm moving back to California (this time the Bay Area) on or about July 23rd.

I moved to the Seattle area a bit over twelve years ago from Orange County, CA on a leap of faith for a potential job opportunity. That opportunity fell through but that leap of faith turned out to be the best life choice I have ever made. It was a big risk moving so far away from family and stuff at that age and my lacking job experience or higher education. I had some local friends who helped me get started and the rest is history. I can only hope my move to the Bay Area will bring me an equal number of opportunities (already have a great start and I'm not even there yet).

Being here has been a fun ride, learned such a massive amount I'm still trying to absorb it all, met a lot of awesome people, kept as many as I could as friends (am terrible at keeping in touch thankfully I have LinkedIn to keep that aspect handled).

Now it's time for another change in my life, this time returning to near where I grew up (which was in Santa Cruz county in California), which I left in 1989 when I moved to live in China then Hawaii, then Thailand.

This time I'll be in the north part of the bay, just south of San Fransisco, about 1.5 hour drive from where I spent most of my childhood.

I will miss Washington, but at the same time am pretty excited for something new. I don't doubt I'll be back at some point in the future.

(ok to be honest I hate Seattle, but I do like the east side, having lived in Bellevue for almost all of my 12 years here).

The company I am working for down there generated more revenue in 2010 than all of my previous companies combined (7 companies over the past 12 years) for any given year, and may very well be the first profitable company I've ever worked for, so I'm pretty excited for that aspect as well as the team I'll be working with.

Filed under: Random Thought 6 Comments
15Jun/11Off

Could not stream Netflix HD for months – solved

TechOps Guy: Nate

I have been a Netflix subscriber for a couple years now but really haven't been using it much I can't find much on it that I'm interested in watching.

One issue that cropped up several months ago for me was I was no longer able to stream in HD. No matter what various "internet speed tests" reported Netflix always resorted to SD streams. Most recently speedtest.net reported my pipe as having 27Mbps of throughput.

Since I don't use it that much I didn't care too much, and just stopped streaming stuff for a while (I stream to my Tivo Series 3). Today I decided to try to dig a little deeper, there wasn't much help on the Netflix site, and calling them was not too helpful they just suggested I ask my ISP to perform a longer running test to see if the connection was stable and reboot the modem.

Before trying that though (well I did reboot the modem to no avail), I decided to run tcpdump on my firewall and see where Tivo was sending it's packets, and then use something like mtr to measure latency to that destination.

I noticed within seconds my Tivo was sending packets to a Lime Light node in Miami, not exactly next door to the Seattle area where I am at. Sure enough the Miami node is 16 hops away and right at around 100 milliseconds of latency.

Why was this going there?! Well it has to be related to DNS, as I'm sure at some point I started forwarding all of my DNS packets to my personal virtual server(same one that runs this site) which is run out of Miami. So Limelight must be using BGP Anycast for their DNS which is common among other global DNS providers, but it ended up biting me in the ass.

I originally was routing all of my DNS traffic over to my personal system (across a VPN no less) because I don't know what kind of crap might go on on my consumer broadband connection with Comcast (at one point I remember some ISPs doing funky things with negative DNS responses for example). Probably nothing but I thought what the hell, why not (the VPN is already in place, and I'm already running local caching name servers as well as a remote caching name server (not the same name server that hosts my domains externally those are different), it's 1 line in a config file to forward the traffic).

Well now I know why not.. at some point I may invest the time to try to figure out how to send Netfix DNS traffic to a local site and the rest go to my server, but for now I'm not going to spend the time.

Once I disabled forwarding of DNS packets to my remote system, and restarted my name server to flush the cache, Tivo started using a Seattle Limelight node, and the hops dropped to 10, and latency dropped to around 15 milliseconds, HD streaming was now possible once again.

It's also gotten me wondering how many other services that I use that may of been impacted by routing my DNS traffic 3,000 miles away. Though other than Netflix I have not noticed any ill effects, though the amount of data that traverses my connection is pretty minimal (62GB of data since the beginning of March until June 15th according to Comcast, that includes a pretty big backup I did of my personal server to my local network a few weeks ago).

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