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Mysql – NoSql – KnowSql

A catchy headline, but is it true? "Facebook Trapped in MySql 'a fate worse than death'. This is a quote of what Michael Stonebreaker supposedly said in this interview article:

"The widely accepted problem with MySQL is that it wasn’t built for webscale applications or those that must handle excessive transaction volumes. Stonebraker said the problem with MySQL and other SQL databases is that they consume too many resources for overhead tasks (e.g., maintaining ACID compliance and handling multithreading) and relatively few on actually finding and serving data. This might be fine for a small application with a small data set, but it quickly becomes too much to handle as data and transaction volumes grow." (from GigaOm)

A few other interesting points and links from the article:

History of the AK-47

Not my usual topic, but I came across a rather interesting article about the history of the famous (infamous) AK-47 machine gun.

"The AK-47 has succeeded so wildly because it is almost an ideal realization of the personal firearm: where most weapons have had to contend with tradeoffs between accuracy, lethality, speed of fire, reliability, cost of production, and ease of carrying and use, the AK-47 managed to find a sweet spot maximizing these traits. In fact, the weapon is so reliable, effective, and easy to use by untrained operators that its advent made it widely possible for just about any group, even with little money, modern technology, or formal military training, to mount significant, deadly assaults against a much larger and more advanced force — a fact that has transformed the face of warfare and created a revolutionary romance that still surrounds the weapon. (from The New Atlantis)

Tutorial on buying a telescope

Out of left (star) field. Here's a succinct tutorial on buying a telescope that my friend Ben Gomes Casseres emailed me which I thought might be of general interest. You can see Ben's own astronomy work here.

If you are thinking of buying a telescope (or giving one as a gift), Ben says:

The place to go to browse is They have advice on entry-level telescopes and such. Have Dick review what is available there and then let me know….I can help select among options. I am not sure what you can get for 500-1000, as there is a tendency for them to sell things for kids that are very cheap that are not worth it (poor optics, or flimsy mount, or just over-promising.)

As a general rule: Don't skimp on the mount (heavy is good) or on the size of the "objective" (essentially the "width of the tube"…no less than 3" if a "refractor" type and no less than 6″ if a "reflector" type). At the same time, make it something easy to set up and take out of the box, or else it won't be used. Don't be fooled by "power" as most observing is done at 50x to 150x and anything higher is usually wasted. Leave some funds for books and atlas to help find things and see what is interesting to observe on a given night; and perhaps a subscription to "Sky and Telescope" (the standard in amateur astronomy) or "Astronomy" (more basic). The sites for these mags also have reviews that may be helpful.

You may find that a 3″ refractor (has a lens in front) on a nice mount might work; some are shorter than others (more $$) and offer wider fields of view. Or a "catadioptric" (lens in front + mirror in back and the optical path is folded on itself and so compressed in size) in the range of 6-8″. The most popular for many people is a 8″ Meade or Celestron catadioptric, which comes with mount and everything, but it is over 1k I would think. But check those out, as they are pretty good as one-size-fits-all instruments. Many other instruments are best for planets and moon but not for star fields and nebulas, or best for the latter but not the former.

A great pair of binoculars (7×50), such as Fujinon or other high quality, is also very nice and may be a good way to start. There are books on "roaming the sky with binoculars" (see Sky and Tel website) and in dark skies you can see a lot of wide-angle stuff. But that does not give views of moon and planets.

Hope this helps as guidance.

I don’t ‘get’ iTunes match

What I don't get is the price. First I had to have bought the music (from Apple or someone else) and now I have to pay again ($24.95 per year) in order to make it all available over iCloud. I think I will stick with my new favorite, Spotify.

I am sure I don't fully understand the details, but it seems to me that the essential benefit that the new iTunes provide is that I can access my whole music collection (as far as it is 'legal') from any device attached to iCloud. Anything else?

Well, I think the very idea of 'owning' a music collection is antiquated. I mean it's evidently inefficient that millions of people have a copy of the same bits that form "Let It Be" on each of their computers.

iCloud solves this, in one way. I have to buy the 'Let it Be' bits, persuade iCloud of that fact, and iCloud will let me access their copy of the same bits, from any device that I connect to iCloud. Ok.

Spotify (and other services like Rhapsody) solve this differently. They buy the bits and let me rent them for a tiny amount of money, $9.95 per month. Depending on how much new music I listen to this is more or less expensive than the combination of buying the song and paying iCloud to host it.

But the advantage is that the music I don't listen to anymore doesn't keep taking up room on my computer. And new music that becomes available is immediately available to be under the same subscription fee.

Here's an article on ZDNet Asia, "iTunes Match: A solution for a problem that Apple helped create" , that is I agree with.

Update on 2011-11-16 14:23 by Pito Salas

There are a few more reviews in on the Kindle Fire that are more positive. Here's Walt Mossberg:

"This new $199 device is called the Kindle Fire, and after testing it for a week, I think it's a good--though not a great--product and a very good value. It doesn't just add color to the Kindle, it adds a robust ability to store and stream music, TV shows and movies--and a weaker ability to store and display color photos. And it offers about 8,500 apps at launch, including Netflix, Angry Birds and QuickOffice." (from Wall Street Journal)

Pogue does not love the new Kindle Fire

I was excited to hear about the Kindle Fire. But I was waiting to read some impartial reviews of one before running off and buying one. After all I am a big fan of the Kindle (gen 2) and enjoy reading books on Kindles. And, believe it or not, I don't yet own an iPad.

So the Fire seems like a match made in heaven, right?

Well, today David Pogue, tech reporter of the New York Times kind of reviewed the Fire (along with the other new, low end Kindles.) Well, the punchline is, he loves the new inexpensive Kindles, but he does NOT love the new Fire, which by the way, isn't 'expensive' at $200, it's just less incredibly cheap than the other new models. Here's a short bit:

(Admitedly the most negative paragraph:)

"Most problematic, though, the Fire does not have anything like the polish or speed of an iPad. You feel that $200 price tag with every swipe of your finger. Animations are sluggish and jerky — even the page turns that you’d think would be the pride of the Kindle team. Taps sometimes don’t register. There are no progress or “wait” indicators, so you frequently don’t know if the machine has even registered your touch commands. The momentum of the animations hasn’t been calculated right, so the whole thing feels ornery." (from David Pogue in the New York Times)

By the way there are lots of other Fire reviews on the web today.

Patents and perpetual motion machines

An interesting commentary on a couple of patents that issued from the US Patent Office:

"The US patent office no longer grants patents on perpetual motion machines, but has recently granted at least two patents on a mathematically impossible process: compression of truly random data" (from

Also you might be interested in the topic, there's a second patent that seems also to be fatally flawed -- It is analyzed here.

I am not opposed to software patents as a matter of principle. And of course a patent that describes something that is mathematically impossible is harmless inasmuch no one is forced to use it. But it does shine a light on the problems with Patents in general. Is it mathematically impossible though?

I wonder how the inventors of these patents would respond to the allegations above. Well it turns out that he has devoted a whole web site to the topic: "Michael Cole, Inventor of Recursive Data Compression Patent 5,488,364 created andy utilized a recursive data compression structure." The site has lots of details and mathematical symbols. I have not taken the time to try to understand either his arguments or the counter arguments.

I mainly got fascinated by the conflict.

When no response means “no”

Here's a tiny social conundrum. When someone writes you, calls you and leave a message, calls and doesn't, or even texts you, what is your obligation to respond? If the question is "are you free for lunch today" and you know you are not, is it OK to just not answer? If the question is "have you seen this?."

This seems to come up, and different people and different communities seem to have different rules about this. So before you take offense at the lack of response, consider that it might just be a different social protocol that you may not necessarily adhere to!

I've had that happen, though, when leaving several emails or support tickets with services that I use. What do you make of a lack of response? Sometimes I imagine that they are so close to going out of business that responding to emails has become a low priority. Then on the other hand, I am the, and do I always answer all emails that come in? Almost all, but I have to admit that occasionally I've just left an email gone unanswered.

There's this idea of "lifetime value of a customer". If I could predict the future and how much this customer will eventually spend on my business, I can compare that to the cost of servicing them and decide that actually they are going to lose me money and essentially "fire the customer." Of course there are the 'externalities' to such a decision, like developing the reputation of being a business that's hard to live with.

Make it matter

Chris Shipley of Guidewire Group has a great post bemoaning how entrepreneurs are driven to invest their time and energy and (other peoples' money) on more and more vacuous projects:

"Indeed, the collective attention of young entrepreneurs seems be have been hijacked by all things trivial. How many knock-off AirBnB sites does the world need? Or new vertical social networks for niche groups that can't figure out how to create a Facebook page? Or Foursqure meets meets World of Warcraft?

Presumably, these proportedly hot startups are endorsed by the taste makers of the angel investor scene. And if you're an investor, these businesses may be a good way to turn a quick profit - for you, if not the entrepreneur. But, really, where's the long-term positive impact? (by Chris Shipley)

Personally I totally agree with the sentiment. Are we bemoaning capitalism? Does that make us communists, oh dear? I don't know - it's true that these entrepreneurs are pursuing their dream of making it big as expected from rational economic actors. If we as a society chose to reward - with our attention, time and money - vacuous projects, then in a way, aren't we getting what we asked for?

Analogous I suppose to my thoughts about TV. Isn't TV (and especially Cable) news terrible, repetitive, overly polarized, superficial and everything else? I doubt (Murdoch may be the exception) that folks deciding what to put on Cable have any other agenda than simply: "measure what brings in viewers and give them more of that. If it doesn't work then try something else.)

What we asked for.

Game Design: Tiled Game Boards

I've spent the last few weeks in dribs and drabs building a new game for Android. Lately I got deeper on what it means to have a 'tiled' game space display where you construct the appearance of the game space by arranging a series of graphic images based on what's needed for a certain level of the game. The idea is that you get essentially data driven graphics.

In my case the game space is a maze, ostensibly a map of a neighborhood. Creating these, still rather ugly tiles, is fairly painstaking both to understand what the tiles are in your vocabulary to be able to create a variety of game levels, and then to do the graphic design and actual image files for these baybies.

Here you can see a basic game space over three generations of my art work, from unrecognizable to simply ugly. You know I like my software to be 'beautiful' so the game designer in me is really disappointed in the good-for- nothing artist in me who is working for the other guy 🙂

If you look closely you will notice that the 'topology' of the game space is the same, just the images in each of the tiles have changed:

First Generation Second Generation Third generation

Facebook – Group your Place on a List and Put it on A page … or something

I am a big fan of Facebook. They are doing so many things well. They have become so pervasive that if anyone is doing anything that involves a group of people online the first and biggest question should be, why should we not put this on Facebook? Because it works on so many levels.

Screen Shot 2011 11 08 at 1 14 43 PM

But all is not rosy. I wanted to create a presence on Facebook for a place called Windward Harbor. Should I be creating a Place, Page, a Group or a List? I don't have the time or inclination to try to figure that out. Here's one example where having more than one way to do the same thing is just not that useful.

If you know better, please illuminate me!