Tearing the Roof off a 2-Terabyte House

I was home last night playing with the new Kinect, integrating it with Twitter, Facebook, and Zune. Particularly because of the last service, I was glad that I got the Xbox 360 model with the 250-gigabyte (gb) hard disk drive. It holds a lot more music, or photos, and of course primarily games and game data.

So we wind up with goofy scenes like my wife zooming along yesterday in Kinect Adventures’ River Rush – not only my photo (right) but in-game photos taken by the Kinect Sensor, sitting there below the TV monitor.

Later as I was waving my hands at the TV screen, swiping magically through the air to sweep through Zune’s albums and songs as if pawing through a shelf of actual LP’s, I absent-mindedly started totting up the data-storage capacity of devices and drives in my household.  Here’s a rough accounting:

  • One Zune music-player, 120gb;
  • 2 old iPods 30gb + 80gb;
  • an iPad 3G at 16gb;
  • one HP netbook 160gb;
  • an aging iMac G5 with 160gb;
  • three Windows laptops of 60gb, 150gb, and 250gb;
  • a DirecTV DVR with a 360gb disk;
  • a single Seagate 750gb external HDD;
  • a few 1gb, 2gb, and a single 32gb SD cards for cameras;
  • a handful of 2gb, 4gb, and one 16gb USB flash drives;
  • and most recently a 250gb Xbox 360, for Kinect. 

All told, I’d estimate that my household data storage capacity totals 2.5 terabytes. A terabyte, you’ll recall, is 1012 bytes, or 1,000,000,000,000 (1 trillion) bytes, or alternately a thousand gigabytes.

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Enabling Eureka via Citeability

The story of Archimedes resonates with everyone, because we all regularly feel that rush of excitement that he famously felt when discovering the principle of water displacement: “Eureka!” he shouted, “I have found it!”

Whether it’s car keys or the perfect birthday present for a loved one, we know that feeling. But how often do you feel like shouting “Eureka” when you’re surfing the web looking for a particular piece of government information?

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Once you get past Filter Failure

How do intelligence analysts handle the long-discussed problem of information overload? (The same question goes for information workers and government data of any kind.)

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Elbowing for Obama influence between new CTO, new cyber czar

Today’s Friday – usually a big news day in Washington, whether by design (bury bad news late in a deep weekend news hole) or by human error (bureaucrats tried all week to get something done and slipped it in at the deadline).  There should be Obama cabinet announcements today, and meanwhile tech luminaries across the country are sitting by their phones, drumming their fingers and hoping for a call offering them the position of the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer. Norm Lorentz, who was OMB’s first-ever CTO, told C-SPAN this week that “If I were asked, I would serve in a heartbeat.”

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My other computer is a Cray

Fact: The annual ACM Gordon Bell Prize is about to be awarded at “SuperComputing 08” (or SC08) which takes place November 15-21 at the Austin Convention Center in Texas. The convention is “the” international conference for high-performance computing, networking, storage, and analysis. The Association for Computing Machinery makes the Bell award “to recognize outstanding achievement in high-performance computing,” in honor of Microsoft’s legendary Gordon Bell, one of the pioneers of supercomputing.

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Comparing Apple and Microsoft as Platforms for Developers

I missed October’s Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles this year because of a couple of other conferences and meetings in other cities. But of course I was happy to see the coverage in the technology press and blogs, so much of it positive about our announcement on Windows Azure and the Azure Services Platform.

Then I read Joe Wilcox over on his “Apple Watch” blog at eWeek, on “What Apple Needs to Know about Azure, Windows 7.” It’s striking in its conclusions, particularly coming from a longtime Apple watcher:

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Lucky 7, as in Windows 7

When there’s neat stuff nearing release, it’s both professionally fulfilling but also no fun being a Microsoft employee, because you’re (rightly) constrained from blogging about some of the cool technology being cooked up in MSR or in advanced development labs among the product groups.

It means that I wind up passing along links to open stories in the media written by outsiders who wind up getting an early story (mostly) right, through good solid reporting and insightful addition skills, i.e. 2+2=4.

I faced that several months ago when Live Mesh was in the batter’s circle, before its public announcement; I wrote what I could because I was so impressed with the technology and approach, as were the reviews after its unveiling.  Before, I wrote this post among others; and after the announcement I wrote this one

Same scenario now, with “Windows 7.”  You don’t have long to wait (October 27) for the public announcement, but if you’re curious about some of the technical approaches, there are several generally reliable bloggers already writing about “technical details” of the multi-touch, parallel-processing, and cloud-services S+S integration points in the new release. A couple of good quick examples are Mary Jo Foley, “Windows 7 to Get Parallel Processing Tweaks” (she’s not as snarky as usual) and TechRadar’s “Seven Things You Need to Know about Windows 7“).

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Amazon and Microsoft Intersect in the Cloud

So today Werner Vogels, the much admired CTO of Amazon, has a post over at “All Things Distributed” which directly exemplifies his blog’s subtitle (“building scalable and robust distributed systems“).  The post is “Expanding the Cloud” and describes today’s announcement that Microsoft Windows Server is available on Amazon EC2. As he sums it up, “We can now run the majority of popular software systems in the cloud.”

This means two things.  First, we were able to con cajole convince Amazon essentially to host a beta test for something big, which will indubitably become much, much bigger.

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What If Microsoft Bought a Slice of Apple?

FACT: The amount commonly cited as Microsoft’s offer to buy Yahoo is $44 billion, though that fluctuates with Microsoft’s stock price, as one component of the offer is in stock. 

windows_vista_logo.jpgANALYSIS: How much is $44 billion?  It was Warren Buffett’s net worth two years ago when he decided to give most of it (85 percent) away; it was reportedly the annual budget of the U.S. intelligence community in 2005; it would pay for a full five years Universal Social Security coverage for all uncovered state and local government employees; it’s the total amount spent on illegal immigration enforcement by the federal government over the past two years

Microsoft has decided to offer that much for Yahoo, but I like really out-of-the-box thinking :-)  And today I read a better idea for that money.

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Patents, Microsoft, and the Future

Fact: According to the latest annual report on patents released this month, the number of patents awarded in 2007 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was down a full 9.5 percent from 2006’s all-time high. In addition, some 80 percent of the companies on the list of top recipients (including IBM, repeating for its 14th straight year at the top of the list) received fewer patents than they had the year before.  Only one American company in the top 25 earned more patents in 2007 than it had the year before: Microsoft.

Analysis:  One of my minor hobbies is reading patents, for example in the field of information retrieval, and I got the bug as an undergrad from my idol Thomas Jefferson, founder of both my alma mater and the U.S. Patent Office and the first patent examiner himself.  Patents are a great indicator of the future – the future of an idea, a technology, a company, a nation.  I enjoyed a great visit to IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center last year, and was enthralled by one design element in the hallways: the wallpaper in the tech demo area was actually small-type listings, floor to ceiling, of the previous year’s patents.  Amazing!  And plenty of fun to read. But in 2007 IBM Corp. received 3,148 patents, down more than 500 grants from the previous year. By contrast, as Network World reported “Microsoft charged into the top 10 with 1,637 patents [and] ranked No. 6 on the annual list after failing to crack the top 10 the previous two years,” with an increase of nearly 12 percent in its patents from the year before.

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