Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

of pet psychics and google servers

An article by Robert Cringely from a couple of weeks ago where, besides describing an amusing anecdote about a 'pet psychic' he consulted, he talks about many disconnected things that are nevertheless interesting. Example:

First there is Google, which runs four enormous data centers around the world containing in excess of 10,000 servers. It is the largest Linux cluster of all, and is constructed entirely of generic beige box PCs interconnected by 10/100 Ethernet. These are not racks and racks of state-of-the-art blade servers, just el cheapo PCs. So the magic must be in the software.

Now here is the part that sticks in my mind: the fault tolerant nature of the cluster is such that if a machine fails, the other machines simply take over its functions. As a result, whenever a server fails at Google, THEY DO NOTHING. They don't replace the broken machine. They don't remove the broken machine. They don't even turn it off. In an army of drones, it isn't worth the cost of labor to locate and replace the bad machines. Hundreds, maybe thousands of machines lie dead, uncounted among the 10,000 plus.

We have reached the point where we are totally dependent on computers, yet the marginal cost of a computer -- at least for Google -- is nothing. This may be an historical first.


Categories: technology
Posted by diego on April 21, 2003 at 8:00 PM

Mosaic turns 10

Tomorrow, April 22nd, is the tenth anniversary of the first release of Mosaic. has been running a series of articles to commemorate the event. Good reading, but it omits one glaring fact: that the browser existed before mosaic was released.

Mosaic had one big advantage over the others: it was able to inline images with the text (yes, that was one of the big Mosaic innovations). Other UI elements where also first built into, or refined, in Mosaic. It wasn't the first browser, but it was probably the first one that was usable.

Ah, the memories. I remember the first website I ever did, an intranet for the company I was working for. God it was ugly. And HTML didn't even have tables. Tables!! Windows 95 didn't come with a TCP/IP stack at first, you had to install it yourself... And downloading the first public beta release of Navigator (version 0.9 was it?)... and everyone just switched to it since it seemed like a nicer version of Mosaic.

This is sort of a cliche by now, but... to think that ten years ago the web (as such) didn't really exist: only the technologies that made it possible did. Windows 95 was the greatest thing in the tech horizon. Netscape was a word no one had heard of. And Java was a kind of coffee, or an island of Indonesia, depending on who you asked. When I woke up in the morning, I didn't think of checking my email, and if I wanted to get news, I had to get the newspaper, turn on the radio, or wait for the TV to give them, that is, unless you had CNN (which back then had just emerged as a news powerhouse, after the first Gulf War).

I mean: wait for the news!. What a concept.

Happy birthday, Mosaic!

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on April 21, 2003 at 1:52 PM

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