Brian "Krow" Aker (krow) wrote,
Brian "Krow" Aker

Thoughts while traveling, feeding the rat....

I'm on a flight from Japan to South Korea.

The woman next to me is applying more makeup then the average clown
wears... thankfully she stopped spraying on perfume and switched to
bathing in it.


You can just see the wrinkles... got to love the effect.

I'm reading "Feeding the Rat" which is an awesome book. Its making me
want to get off the plane, and go find some place to climb...
unlikely in the extreme but its still a nice thought.

I would really settle for hacking, but the laptop I am carrying
barely lasts a hour and a half on the current battery. Which is
unfortunate since I have several projects I am working on... which is
always the case.

The book has me thinking a bit about the main character and his life.
"Mo" works to climb. I can respect that... I am no where near the rat
that he is. As a climber I enjoy it a great deal, but I don't truly
jones for it, and as a risk taker I am quite the wimp. I rarely take
risks while climbing, and to me the fun is the puzzle. I am terrified
of heights, and I hate to fall. I push myself, but only moderately.
Its like running for me, but without the "knee is going to fail any
moment" that I get when running.

Hacking is a bit different. I do it because I enjoy it, and I
continue to enjoy it every day more and more. In undergraduate I was
once asked "why don't you just do computers and skip out on the
environmental stuff". My answer was "I really only like computers
when they are networked together, and for that you have to be in

You can date me based on that statement.

In graduate school I became more interested in networked computers
because I like to look at how to solve problems in parallel. I really
enjoy working on problems which can be solved by reduction. In
graduate school I spent my time looking at watershed models. I became
to really not care so much about the model itself, and more about how
to solve the problem in parallel. The model I designed really was
just a giant bathtub in the end, I got tired of dealing with the
uninteresting problem of terrain. The interesting part was solving
the problem of having many threads work on a particular map at once.

PVM was to me at the time a pretty sharp idea, but I didn't care for
the latency in the solution. Combining computers together was fun,
but I didn't like how slow it was.

Getting access to a four processor SGI ONYX was nice. I spent a
number of weekends compiling and recompiling to solve problems on it.
The lab I had it in for a while had only enough power to either have
an air conditioner or a running ONYX. I bathed in the heat and
skipped the cooling issues (which would surprise no one who has spent
anytime in an office with me). I adore heat. Give me an office at 92
degrees and I am as comfortable as comfortable can be. No light or
humidity though, just warmth.

To me hacking is only getting more interesting. More processors allow
for more threads which in turn makes parallel solutions interesting.
One of my spare 32 some odd projects right now is re-implementing the
Intel C++ threading libraries. I started working on it while at
OSCON. Mostly for academic reasons, but I've found now a couple of
places where I can make use of it. At this point I can't find any
interest in projects which don't have some element of parallelism to
them. I believe that all of the tools I find today, and languages,
to work on these problems are woefully inadequate.

The T-Shirt that I saw recently "life is too short to debug threads"
has me thinking that we need to solve this problem. Whether you are
working on issues of parallelism on a single multiple CPU machine, or
dealing with a cluster of computers, the solutions are really the same.

Calling sleep() is no longer acceptable for timing solutions (and
while I rail against this... I know I have done it as well). Much of
the literature in academia on this subject needs to be dragged into
the the daylight and made available in a clear manner.

The plane is descending, the stow your laptop message is being
announced... and the woman is still putting on makeup...
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