Sunday, April 30, 2006

Yay for first link!

Deakialli DocuMental: "Por fin me he enterado del porqu�de las 43 cosas, y no 50, 100 o 1000."

Awesome! I got linked to. It's always cool to remember your firsts. This blog had me on a list of links about a post I wrote about the significance of the number 43. I signed up for technorati, and it's kinda cool. I knew about it before as a search engine, but never really as something that promoted your blog. I should have done it earlier.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Leaky Databases

In the programming world, programmers use to have to manage memory. When a programmer created an object in memory, he had to remember to destroy it. If the object was never deleted and the programmer lost the reference to the object, the memory location is effectively unusable for the life of the application. This is because the application can never allocate new objects in that location since it thinks it's already allocated, and the programmer cannot free that memory location because he lost the reference to the object.

Nowadays, there are high level languages that have a garbage collector--basically another running process that detects whether the application is using a particular part of memory or not, and deletes it. (Exception is that Lisp has been around since the 60's and had a garbage collector)

In databases, records in tables refer to other records in other tables. However, due to a misbehaving application, I can see a possibility for these references to be lost or overwritten. Also, common practice in databases is to mark something as deleted, but don't actually delete it.
Thus, you're left with records in the database that might not have any use whatsoever, but is still taking up space.

This is like a "database leak", analogous to a "memory leak." But to my knowledge, no one seems particularly concerned about it. This is probably because hard drive space is cheap and plentiful.

However, I expect that we'll eventually see embedded servers, where even small devices like your cell phone or your microwave can serve up web pages. The storage requirements for these platforms might require a more frugal management of database resources.

Anyone know of database garbage collectors?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Firefox has much to fear.

What I say might sound like blasphemy, but I've been pretty dissatisfied with Firefox with their last two releases. Ever since version 1.5, I've had to contend with a massive memory leak, and now, Firefox seems to freeze more often. While the memory leak could be solved with some quick hacks, Firefox seems less stable than it use to be.

I think the pundits are premature in saying that Firefox is an IE killer. If the developers of Firefox don't focus on basic stability and memory leaks so that their application is at least RUNNABLE, instead of just adding features, there's no doubt in my mind that Microsoft will pull through with their IE.

Microsoft has survived this long, mostly because they've made less stupid mistakes and never underestimated the competition.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Having something to touch

Despite all things that virtual provides, people still like the concrete, something to touch. Kinkos should offer a service that allows users to publish their blogs via dead-tree format.

I think with the advent of new materials that can change their shape and texture with electronic signals, it'll usher in an age of computing where you can make the virtual quite real and disposable.

Imagine a material that you can alter the shape of through electronic signals. Then, you can change the shape to a spoon, and then later change it to a fork--you can even change it to be a back scratcher. Although that's a very contrived and useless example, it illustrates reuse of physical objects in different functions, and even in different contexts.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Tube: Revolutionizing material transport

Wished everything just came and went from your house? Well, this post is about using a single real-life physical delivery system using a network of tubes. Think of the "Sucky" tubes in the movie, "Elf" that delivers post, sewage, water, etc.

If it really can be implemented, then it could be a fairly neat system. Especially potentials in online shopping--the warehouse would send your order automagically (not that it doesn't now).

But in order for this to be effective and "real-time", as the guy is imagining, very very difficult problems need to be solved, namely, how to route real things.

His comparison to IP is only half right. In IP, if there is contention at a router, packets are simply dropped. But you can cannot do that with post, water, and sewage. You'd have to develop some type of mechanical router. Not to be a naysayer, but the current delivery systems are 'good enough' and the barrier would be too high for something like this to see the light, unless there was a specialized niche problem that this system solved in the future.