Posts Tagged ‘Clouds’
To make sure Google’s Project Loon is more internet via balloon than pie in the sky, the search giant turned to data simulations. Loon Rapid Evaluator Dan Piponi’s goal was to determine the possibility of a “nicely spaced flock of balloons” to provide reliable airborne internet. Proper spacing is key for this because if the gaps are too wide, coverage will be spotty — the opposite of what the initiative is hoping to achieve. He iterated “hundreds” of times using publicly available wind info to visualize how different stratospheric factors would affect balloon travel and found that yes, they could indeed be evenly distributed. Piponi posited that in the future, the balloons could have information about what other balloons are doing around them and adjust spacing on their own, accordingly. If you ask us, that sounds like the internet of things is taking to the clouds.
Source: Project Loon (Google+)
Fancy yourself a balloon maven? Well, tomorrow, Maker Camp’s Field Trip Friday event is going to Google X for a Project Loon launch. Don’t worry, you’re invited too. Starting at 2PM ET, Make is interviewing those who’ve made stratospheric internet-distribution possible, via a Hangout on the magazine’s Google+ page and its YouTube channel. What’s more, the girl who floated Hello Kitty into space, Lauren Rojas, joins Maker Camp’s festivities on Friday. To kill time between now and then, we suggest contemplating the whole “cloud in actual clouds” thing, it’s kept us busy for a while.
Source: Maker Camp (Google+)
Nvidia’ 2012 GPU Technology Conference (GTC) conference brought the usual array of graphics processors, but the company is trying its hand at something new: putting the power of those processors in the cloud. Nvidia’s Kepler-based VGX and GeForce Grid distribute graphics processing. Nvidia wasn’t the only company showing off wares at the event, but we’ve got their news and everybody else’s all right here.
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New features and services that improve Canonical’s latest version of Ubuntu seem to keep rolling in. The latest addition being the announcement of its AWSOME proxy service. No, that’s not us getting over excited about it, that stands for Any Web Service Over Me, and it includes APIs that smooth the transition to OpenStack from Amazon cloud services. Although not open source, Amazon’s Web Service has such a large market share, that Canonical clearly want to make integrating with it as smooth as possible. The AWSOME proxy will only provide basic functionality for the AWS side of things, with users still encouraged to adopt the OpenStack infrastructure for deeper capabilities. Still, if you’re currently working with Bezos’ platform, and this was the last barrier to hopping aboard the Precise Pangolin ship, you’re in luck.
Artist Berndnaut Smilde can create little clouds indoors without the use of a magic weather-controlling device. Unless a thermostat, humidifier, and fog machine count, in which case he does. *cranking thermostat* It’s gonna be a scorcher today! Impressive Berndnaut, but I’ve been making indoor clouds for years now. “Prove it.” *wafting* Give it a second — you’ll smell it.
Hit the jump for several more clouds on brief display (they don’t last long!) at a gallery.
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I was walking home last week and the entire street – and some of the sidewalk – was blocked by large fire trucks and a gaggle of firemen in full regalia. The ladder truck was already planted firmly on the asphalt, ready to send a stream of water soaring over nearby apartment buildings and more trucks were coming, clogging the one-way street further.
Convinced I was about to see an inferno, I tentatively crossed the street. I assumed I’d be stopped and turned away. Instead, the firemen joked and jostled on the sidewalk and I saw a contractor arguing with someone I assumed to be a building resident. The contractor must have been welding – you could still smell the flux and the smoke – and the resident was clearly concerned.
“I was working,” yelled the contractor.
“I was worried,” said the resident.
I bring this story up because that block is now faced with a dilemma. It’s good that the fire was averted by beagle-nosed residents and it’s bad in that it tied up an entire fire department for an hour while a miscommunication was sorted out. The next time the resident won’t be so quick to phone the fire brigade and the contractor will do a better job of hiding the smoke.
That’s what’s about to happen at Foxconn.
Tim Cook just announced that a blue ribbon panel of fair labor experts will tour the grounds at Foxconn City where they will see all the horrors I saw a few months ago: a huge rice cooker big enough to feed 400,000 people, cramped but not squalid dorms, a handsome cybercafe with couples’ booths, and pools where exhausted line workers can enjoy a few laps before slumping into their loft beds.
What they won’t see are disfigured workers toiling in Dickensian sweatshops, infants crawling through metal stamping machines, and workers chained to their stations until the millionth widget is shipped or they die of exhaustion. Why? Because Foxconn has been working with major manufacturers for long enough to know what they expect and they’ve seen enough European and American plants to know that squalid conditions beget squalid paychecks.
The FLA, without a doubt, will return with a report citing a few underage workers, the recommendation to build bigger dorms, and an overall rating of, say B- in terms of safety and worker quality-of-life. It’s not perfect, they’ll say, but it’s not horrible, especially when compared to garment shops.
What will happen next? Apple will announce an all clear, the FLA will be less likely to attack Apple on rights violations, and Foxconn (and, more importantly, its competitors) will go back to business as usual. And we’ll forget about this whole thing, our fingers worrying our Foxconn-made iPhones like a set of prayer beads.
Then, quietly, the factories that are really running under horrible conditions, hiring workers without checking the particulars, and offering conditions that I wouldn’t wish on any man, woman, or child, will go back to churning out smoke, albeit with a bit more secrecy. By focusing on the biggest Chinese (actually Taiwanese) manufacturer, we inspect the canopy of the tree while ignoring the disease-infested trunk.
If you want to know what is happening in China, listen to this. It tells the story of a mill town South Carolina, Greenville, that has evolved, just as Foxconn is evolving. Back in its heyday the bars were buckets of blood, youngsters quit school at sixteen and clocked in for a great paycheck, and many lived far more comfortably than their agrarian fore-bearers. Now that mill town is shutting down, the last bar housing a pair of jokers who used to travel the world on a factory paycheck, and the real industry is down the road in clean, high-tech buildings where there are a hundred robots per human making widgets no 16-year-old drop-out could piece together, let alone understand.
In the end, Greenville died and was reborn. So, too, will Shenzhen. The good companies in China, for years, supplied a better life for countless post-agrarian workers. They were not drafted into service. Instead, they walked up to the gates and applied for a job. Children were not pulled from their cribs to work in the darkness and noise, they were told they’d have a better life if they sat in chairs and assembled cellphones for fat Americans. This hand-waving by Apple won’t make the bad factories go away and it will encourage the good factories to automate much more. Why hire 400,000 complainers when you can hire 1,000 Chinese PhDs to run the line? Follow the arc of manufacturing in the US and you’ll see the same arc repeated in Shenzhen.
I’m not here to defend Apple or Foxconn nor am I about to sing folksongs about the exploited, migrant electronics assemblers. This is about economics. China’s economy is booming, their unemployment rate was near 4.1% in 2010 (ours is 8.3% now and 9.1% in 2010), and what Shenzhen makes, the world takes. Apple doesn’t like negative publicity, so they’re sending a third party to pick up some talking points and when that third party comes back, all smiles, we’ll forget about real sweatshops in real places. Focusing on two huge companies in the pantheon of Asian manufacturing is like sending the entire firehouse after a little smoke. The real fires go right on blazing while the contractor gesticulates on the sidewalk, yelling “I was working. I was working.”
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Almost every single keynote at LinuxCon, and certainly every private conversation I had with folks here, involved “cloud” in some way. As Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst observed in his keynote, there’s no single definition of “cloud”. There’s no doubt that Amazon has really pioneered the default cloud offering, but there’s a lot of work going on to build better, more robust, and more open cloud solutions.
Red Hat has OpenShift, their Platform as a Service offering, and CloudForms, their Infrastructure as a Service offering. The long-term vision, according to Whitehurst, is that a company’s developers would begin building something on OpenShift, and not worry about any of the underlying infrastructure. When that product is ready to be deployed internally, it would go on the customer’s CloudForms installation inside the company’s firewall. Basically, developers will select the platform and operations can then own and manage that platform.
Canonical is pushing Ensemble, their “service orchestration” solution. Rather than think about applications, Canonical wants to see folks start thinking about services. Rather than deploy a web server application that talks to a database application to present information and receive input from Internet visitors, instead think of a “blog service” that you can deploy through a series of recipes. According to Canonical’s Allison Randal, Canonical feels that Amazon’s AWS sets a good standard, and the Amazon APIs should be adopted by everyone. This will allow users of cloud services to have some modicum of portability: if my cloud provider jacks up their prices, I should be able to transition smoothly to a different cloud provider — or onto my own private cloud — because the underlying mechanisms for interacting with it (the published APIs) should be the same between providers.
When Randal told me this, I was initially skeptical. If your cloud provider jacks up their prices, that’s a business problem. It’s not specific to the cloud, or to the technology sector in general. Is there real value in being able to switch from one cloud provider to another, or to bring a public cloud solution in-house? Then I listened to Marten Mickos’ keynote. Mickos, formerly CEO of MySQL AB, is now at Eucalyptus Systems pioneering private cloud solutions. His keynote touched on a couple of very interesting things.
First, he succinctly cleared up the confusion around public and private clouds and why you might want to use both. Consider the telephone. The public telephone infrastructure has been around for about a hundred years, and yet almost every company still runs their own internal PBX system. This is a pretty solid analogy with respect to clouds.
But the most interesting thing that Mickos brought up was the importance of the free software principles as applied to cloud solutions. With the old paradigm of Linux distributions, the four freedoms provided by the GPL are fundamentally essential to the long-term success of the platform, because it specifically allows derivative works. Moving to the cloud, though, we’re looking at images, rather than distributions, and the entire notion of a derivative work becomes fuzzy at best. How are the four freedoms of the GPL applied to cloud situations?
Suddenly Randal’s comments make a lot more sense. So, too, does OpenStack, a result of collaboration between RackSpace and NASA to build a common, open cloud framework.
Mickos wrapped up his keynote by reiterating that Linux has gone from a disruptive force to an innovation force. His closing remarks dovetailed very nicely with Whitehurst’s opening remarks: Linux is now the default choice for new technology deployments, and is the foundation upon which most future technical advances will be built. Both Whitehurst and Mickos observed that the transition we’re seeing now to the cloud is at least as fundamentally radical as the shift from mainframes to client/server.
As innovation continues atop Linux in the cloud, Mickos offered some very profound advice: we must strive to ensure that no one closes that which we have opened.
Photo credit: Clouds by karindalziel, on Flickr.
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