[FoRK] Stand up and face the future

Aaron Burt aaron at bavariati.org
Mon Dec 21 10:57:27 PST 2009

On Sun, Dec 20, 2009 at 11:07:28PM -0600, Jeff Bone wrote:

> "Parallel programming?  That's just like doing multi-tasking on big
> iron.  We were doing that 10 years ago.  More."

So he was straight wrong, and maybe just fishing for an explanation without
admitting ignorance.  Too bad for both of you if it didn't turn into an
interesting conversation.

> But as I ease my way ever deeper and hopefully gently into my third
> decade of (sometimes) writing software for money I find that this
> tendency tugs.  It pulls.  It becomes the easy out.  We might even
> believe it:
> Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.  Same shit, different day.

Most importantly, that's the route to being marginalized.  Much of the stuff
going on *is* the same old magic we used last time the power/bus/memory/MIPS
balance was like this.  It was all lost to proprietary codebases, dead
languages and neuron-rot, and now the kids rehash it on top of a new layer of

Doesn't matter.  What matters is, when kids with money wanna feel like they're
building new stuff, shut up and make yourself useful, or get out the way.
There might be free beer, and it might work better this time.

>   http://highscalability.com/blog/2009/12/16/building-super-scalable-systems-blade-runner-meets-autonomic.html
>   http://tinyurl.com/y8ro8pl

Interesting.  I haven't finished it yet, so I hope he recants a few assumptions
he seems to make at the beginning.  Comments:

1. You can't push bots to most clients.  Most client devices are only available
as compute resources when the user is actively interacting with it.  Otherwise,
they should be operating at minimal power consumption, with suspended procs.

2. Good partitioning and effective use of distributed hashes will get you most
of the way to globe-scale (sorta-) shared state.  The hard bit is getting devs
to operate within the Heisenbergian constraints of a system that can tell you
either what the state *was*, or give you a probablility distribution of what
the state is *now*.

3. You can build global-scale systems, but so far, folks seem to want to shut
the globe out - they want to find and hook up with their own tribe, not be
faced with 7B people and their presence information, sorted helpfully by first
name.  Call it "e-goraphobia". :)

4. And having helped with building and running the backend for the biggest
selling Playstation 3 game ever, may I just say that I'm very glad I don't have
to worry about this kind of stuff professionally anymore?  It gets ugly.

Now to brush up on my ARM skillz again,

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