Parallel Metaheuristics. Say what?

So the book review I did for Distributed Systems Online finally made its way online over the weekend. It’s a book review of Parallel Metaheuristics. It’s a pretty, let’s say, esoteric topic, but I had fun reading the book. I learned a lot. You can check it out here:

Parallel Metaheuristics

Feels good to finally have something published again. My last published work was my Dr. Dobbs Article about DSL Workbenches and that was over two years ago.

As always, tell me if I suck.

The Upper .5%

Hitwise Intelligence just posted an interesting graphic of how Yahoos properties break down according to US visits:

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Now, yahoo owns two of the prototypical Web 2.0 properties in del.icio.us and Flickr. Check out where Flickr falls on the above graph. Number 19. Out of 20. Del.icio.us isn’t even listed. It’s confirming the drum that I’ve been beating for a while: We ( technologically savvy internet users ) make up, at most, .5% of internet users out there. The HUGE majority of people our there could not care less about Web 2.0. They simply want technology to solve some of their existing problems, not create cool solutions for problems they don’t have.

To really have an impact, we need to realize that our little circle is really just an echo chamber and start to solve the real, and yes, less sexy, problems of the majority.

Otherwise, we’re just creating dancing baloney.

Sway: Mini-Book Review

I was fortunate enough to have received a copy of the new book by Ori & Rom Brafman called “Sway” before the actual book release. This book was written by one of the authors of another one of my favorite book, “The Starfish and the Spider“, which I previously reviewed. This new is is called “Sway” because it attempts to study the, sometimes illogical, pull that seemingly irrational behavior has on us, despite evidence that we should be following the contrary path.

The book follows a similar writing style to TSATS in that the authors present several seemingly unrelated concepts and tie them together to form a more general conclusion. Topics such as loss aversion, value attribution and diagnosis bias are all presented in a clear and concise manner using examples from college football offenses to the supreme court dissent process and everything in between. It’s all highly thought provoking stuff without being academic or coming off as dry.

About the only part I didn’t like about the book was the structure of the content chapters. Each chapter is a continuous chapter, with no real breaks, despite different examples and topics being presented. It proved a bit exhausting for me to read because I sometimes wanted to stop, think about what I just read and pick up the the book at a later time. Without any sort of stopping point, I always had to re-read the previous paragraphs when I picked the book up after a break to refresh my memory a little. But really, that’s a minor point. If the only issue I have with a book is that it forces me to sit down a think too much, that’s a good book.

Sway is also an extremely easy read, clocking in at under 200 pages. The authors have a fluid and continuous writing style, despite there being two authors. Often, multiple writers tend to come w/ multiple voices and writing styles, but that’s not the case here.

I previously mentioned how I’m reducing the number of useless business books that I’m reading. I can happily say that Sway is not one of those books and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to get a little more exposure to how people get pulled in the wrong directions and how you could possibly exploit that tendency.

4th Of July

My friend Kelly is an amazing floral arranger and wedding planner in her spare time. She doesn’t do it as a business or anything, it’s mostly just a creative outlet of a passion she has. Recently she’s started to dabble in edible fruit arrangements. Check out what she did for the 4th ( she tried to make it look like a fireworks display ):

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Pretty freaking cool if you ask me.

New Rig

When I started working from home, I decided to get back to my Mac roots and I picked up one of the new 15-inch MacBook Pros. But even with the max 2GB of RAM in that machine, it was less than adequate for doing .NET development in a Windows Environment. No matter how many tricks and tips I tried, I really felt my productivity was suffering.

Last fall, I decided it was time for a new machine. Since I was working from home and I wasn’t as mobile as I used to be, I decided that a desktop was more bang for my buck. However, the desktop options from Apple are pretty limited. At the low end was a pretty underpowered Mac Mini that couldn’t power multiple monitors. Then came the iMac, which also couldn’t power multiple monitors and had almost zero upgradability. That left one machine:

The Mac Pro

So I made the leap. and what a leap it was. Here are the out of box specs for the LOW END Mac Pro that I picked up:

  • 2x Dual Core Xeons 2.66Ghz
  • 1GB ECC DDR PC2-5300 RAM
  • 250GB SATA-II Internal HD
  • NVIDIA 7300 GT w/ 1 Dual Link DVI port and 1 Single Link DVI port
  • 2 x Gigabit ethernet NICs
  • Host of USB, Firewire and Optical Audio ports

On top of that I added another 4GB of RAM ( for 5GB total ). For storage, I added 2 x 400GB SATA-II drives and another 250 SATA-II drive, bringing the storage total to 1.3 TB. I also picked up another 22-inch monitor bringing my total to 2 x 22-inch monitors.

The result is one screaming fast machine. Not that I needed all that for my computing, but once you get locked into a serious computer collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.

After working w/ it for about 8 months, I can honestly say it’s one of the fastest machines I’ve ever used. I run a full screen Windows XP instance on one monitor for my day-to-day development. The other monitor houses my standard apps ( IM, Mail, IRC client, etc… ) that are all mac apps. The only thing i run in my XP instance is SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2008 and IIS. Everything else is run inside OS X.

Not sure if I’ll upgrade it anymore going forward. I mean, the box can take up to 16 GB of RAM, but that seems like an overkill. Right now I get all of the power I could ever want and all of the stability of OS X. Who could ask for more?

The real fun part of this setup is keeping my desktop, whom I have dubbed ‘Big Mac’, in sync w/ my existing MacBook Pro ( ‘Lil Book’ of course ). That’s handled mostly by my .Mac MobileMe account. It keep track of my bookmarks, files, contacts, calendars and email. I’ll write some more about how I handle backups on BigMac in the future. For now, if you’re in the market for a big old desktop, give the new Mac Pros a look.