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California Republican Nailed By Bloggers

Posted on March 30th, 2006 at 12:46 by John Sinteur in category: Mess O'Potamia

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[Quote:]

Howard Kaloogian, a Republican candidate in California’s 50th Congressional District, has removed a picture from his campaign Web site that he claimed was evidence that journalists are distorting how bad conditions are in Iraq. The photo purported to show a placid street scene in downtown Baghdad, including a hand-holding couple in Western dress and shoppers out for a stroll on a cobblestone street in an unmarred business district.

As it turns out, the photo is a genuine street scene—from Istanbul, Turkey.


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Former Members Sue Blue Cross

Posted on March 30th, 2006 at 12:39 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote:]

The state’s largest health insurer systematically — and illegally — cancels coverage retroactively for people who need expensive care, 10 former Blue Cross members claimed in lawsuits filed Monday.

The suits, filed simultaneously in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, allege that Blue Cross of California and Blue Cross Life & Health operate a “retroactive review department” devoted to finding ways the company can escape its obligations to members who become seriously sick.

“Blue Cross’ conduct is particularly reprehensible because it was part of a repeated corporate practice and not an isolated occurrence,” according to the suits. The former members seek compensation, damages and court orders prohibiting the alleged practice.


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96 + 5 = 100

Posted on March 30th, 2006 at 12:36 by John Sinteur in category: Funny!, News

Some 15 year old kids are excellent writers


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military expert has fighting words for Bush

Posted on March 30th, 2006 at 12:28 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote:]

Eric Haney, a retired command sergeant major of the U.S. Army, was a founding member of Delta Force, the military’s elite covert counter-terrorist unit.

Q: What’s your assessment of the war in Iraq?

A: Utter debacle. But it had to be from the very first. The reasons were wrong. The reasons of this administration for taking this nation to war were not what they stated. (Army Gen.) Tommy Franks was brow-beaten and … pursued warfare that he knew strategically was wrong in the long term. That’s why he retired immediately afterward. His own staff could tell him what was going to happen afterward.

We have fomented civil war in Iraq. We have probably fomented internecine war in the Muslim world between the Shias and the Sunnis, and I think Bush may well have started the third world war, all for their own personal policies.

Q: What is the cost to our country?

A: For the first thing, our credibility is utterly zero. So we destroyed whatever credibility we had. … And I say “we,” because the American public went along with this. They voted for a second Bush administration out of fear, so fear is what they’re going to have from now on.


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New vote machines ignite feud in Emery

Posted on March 30th, 2006 at 9:36 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote:]

After 23 years as Emery County clerk, Bruce Funk will decide this morning whether he will resign because he cannot endorse an election on Utah’s new voting machines.
“In no way could I feel comfortable with these machines,” Funk said Monday. “I don’t want to be part of something that put into question the results that come out of Emery County.”
Earlier Monday, state Elections Director Michael Cragun and other state officials and engineers from Diebold Elections Systems met behind closed doors with the Emery County Commission. Their goal was to address Funk’s concerns about some of the machines’ computer memory that made him suspect they were not new or that something already had been loaded into their memories.

[..]

But Diebold told the commissioners that allowing unauthorized people access to the machines had violated their integrity.
It could cost upwards of $40,000 to fly in technicians to retest them.

[..]

Diebold’s $40,000 estimate is exaggerated to frighten other clerks from questioning the machines’ integrity, Funk said. “What they are really saying is, ‘We don’t want anyone else to think of doing this.’ ”

If the machines can’t be verified as uncompromised on voting day by an election staffer at a voting location multiple times throughout the day, that’s a huge problem. For the voting commission to accept Diebold’s line that “That’s the way it is.” is simply incredible.


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Drone aircraft may prowl U.S. skies

Posted on March 30th, 2006 at 9:21 by John Sinteur in category: Privacy

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[Quote:]

Unmanned aerial vehicles have soared the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq for years, spotting enemy encampments, protecting military bases, and even launching missile attacks against suspected terrorists.

Now UAVs may be landing in the United States.

A House of Representatives panel on Wednesday heard testimony from police agencies that envision using UAVs for everything from border security to domestic surveillance high above American cities. Private companies also hope to use UAVs for tasks such as aerial photography and pipeline monitoring.

“We need additional technology to supplement manned aircraft surveillance and current ground assets to ensure more effective monitoring of United States territory,” Michael Kostelnik, assistant commissioner at Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection Bureau, told the House Transportation subcommittee.

Kostelnik was talking about patrolling U.S. borders and ports from altitudes around 12,000 feet, an automated operation that’s currently underway in Arizona. But that’s only the beginning of the potential of surveillance from the sky.

In a scene that could have been inspired by the movie “Minority Report,” one North Carolina county is using a UAV equipped with low-light and infrared cameras to keep watch on its citizens. The aircraft has been dispatched to monitor gatherings of motorcycle riders at the Gaston County fairgrounds from just a few hundred feet in the air–close enough to identify faces–and many more uses, such as the aerial detection of marijuana fields, are planned.

So every police outfit from Bumblefuck, U.S.A. can now buy itself a shiny new toy from the “homeland security” tax/pork dollars. And because there usually aren’t any terrorists anywhere near them, these knuckledraggers end up figuring out a way to chase the usual crowd of inbred drunks around town with it.

What a country.


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Why test this machine?

Posted on March 30th, 2006 at 9:01 by John Sinteur in category: Sun Coolthreads T2000

To show you why the T2000 is an interesting machine for me to look at, I’m going to have to tell you a few things about large websites. I’m going to tell you what the concerns of the people maintaining such a site are like, and how the T2000 fits in.

To do that, I’m going to show you some graphs and numbers. Now don’t come talk to me afterwards and say things like “I notice KPN is doing X and Y” because I’m going to fudge the numbers. The trends and concerns I’m showing you are real, the numbers are not. The real numbers are confidential, of course.

Here’s what an average day looks like for a large Dutch web site:

day-graph.png

As you can see, the busy hours correspond to “working hours and after dinner”. No surprise there. If you’re doing a website with an international audience, you’ll probably get a graphs that is 1) much flatter since your audience is not bound to one timezone and 2) reflecting international internet usage, so you’ll get a peak during US peak hours and another during European peal hours, for example.

You’ll see the same pattern in your applications. Here’s the thread count for one of them:

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Although those graphs match mostly, if you’d put them on top of each other some differences start to show. That’s because the things people do on your website during day time hours will be different from the things people do on your website during the evening hours. During the daytime, lots of people are using their work computer to browse the net. Anything personal business they have with you, such as bills, or settings and configuration changes on the product they buy from you on a personal basis, will likely wait for the evening browse session. So the actual work will shift around from one application to another, spread over the day. The graph shows you just one application – and if you notice that this small part alone has quite a number of threads, you’ll understand why I’ve been talking about threads so much.

Remember the new logo KPN introduced a little over a week ago? Well, guess where the peak in this graph comes from:

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Although that peak is interesting, look at the trend. Our real trend numbers are different and go back more than that, of course, but this particular component of the web site was introduced last summer. But the point I’m trying make is: some of your work load may double in six months, and some of your work load may double in six minutes. Either way, you want to be able to deal with it – by limiting a certain kind of traffic, and/or by allocating resources to things you feel are more important than the things that are getting hammered.

To summarize a few points:

- peak traffic and average traffic are different things. You need to accommodate peak traffic, but up to a point. If you’re able to differentiate your work load, you can allocate resources to parts that need it more, from a business perspective. You want to be able to prevent the views of a new commercial having an influence on what the people see who log on to your website to check their bill. The bills are more important.

- you want to be able to move capacity around – if marketing launches a new campaign that will land you a bunch of new customers for a particular product, you want to be able to allocate extra resources to the part of the application that handles registrations for that new product, for example.

- you want to plan for growth. Lots of growth, and sometimes faster than the business expects.

If you’d buy one large computer as your web server, these things are probably going to be very difficult to do, unless you use virtualization to have that large computer pretend it is a lot of small ones.

What else is a factor? What costs money?

First of all, purchasing the computer. If you do buy a large computer from, for example, Sun, you’re getting a machine that is good at a lot of things, some of which you’re not going to need. A webserver typically doesn’t need blazingly fast disk arrays – a webserver needs to read some files from disk, and write log entries, but the files most requested by the web clients will typically live in memory buffers. A well tuned web site is limited only by the amount of CPU power it has – disks and network should not be the bottleneck. If they are: you need to tune your site. So your database server will probably need those disks, but not your webserver. And if you buy that large server, you are paying for that disk-throughput capacity, because the kind of applications that machine is really built for do need it.

Second: floor space in your datacenter. Well, not just floor space, but increasingly important: power in your datacenter. Most datacenters have a limit on the amount of power they can deliver to one rack, based on electricity and the amount of air conditioning they have. In older datacenters you’re not going to be able to fill a rack with power hungry Pentium 4 machines without running into those limits (sometimes even before you fill half a rack). The computer industry knows this, of course, and that’s why “Performance per Watt” is such a big thing. Sun calls it SWaP, the Space, Watts and Performance metric.

Third: personnel. In your typical datacenter (ours does much, much more for us) you will typically employ one technical guy and a dog (the technical guy will remove broken hardware from the racks and replace it with new hardware, and the dog is there to bite him if he tries anything else), but somebody has to maintain the servers: apply patches, stop and start applications, etc. If you have a large amount of little servers, you have to do something about maintenance, or you’d get a lot of administrators doing nothing else but keeping up to date with patches and stuff. Sun has a lot of software to help out with this, HP has software to maintain their blade servers. It’s an area where a lot of development is being done, specifically to address the points I mentioned early in this posting: shift workloads around, allocate resources dynamically, react swiftly to changing circumstances. I would love to see the tools that Google developed for their server park.

If you combine everything I’ve shown you and said so far, it’s obviously easier to be flexible and dynamic if you have a large set of small resources and the right management tools for them, so you either buy a large machine and do virtualization into lots of small virtual servers, or you buy small machines, and you manage them in groups/clusters or whatever you want to call it.

And once you know how well a certain machine does the kind of work you want it to do, it becomes a simple spreadsheet calculation to find which set of machines gives you the most bang for the buck, where that buck includes purchase, power/space, maintenance personnel. And that allows you to compare wildly different beasts as well – for example you can compare a few Sun Fire V1280′s, a larger set of Sun Fire V400, a big set of Sun Fire T2000 CoolThreads or a really big set of HP Blades, even although they are wildly different products.


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