Thursday, March 3, 2016

Death of the "free internet"?

I've linked before to the excellent work of Izabella Kaminska at the FT's Alphaville blog. She's recently started a new series of posts she's calling Web Perestroika:
an occasional series lamenting the hypothetical eventuality of a world without a free internet* and the extraordinary implications this could have for markets and companies. A tragedy of the web commons if you will.

It is inspired both by India’s ruling to bar Facebook from subsidising internet availability with Free Basics packages (see Kadhim’s series of posts for more on that) but also Balaji Srinivasan (he of 21 Inc toaster fame), and his attempts — including a Stanford Bitcoin course — to convince the world the web should in fact be a paid-for luxury product of scarcity.
And yes, the asterisk means she does understand that The Internet is not free:
*when we say “internet” we mean it in the popular sense of the word.
She means a world without free Web content. Below the fold, some thoughts on the first two posts in the series, both from Feb 10th.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Cloudy Future of Disk Drives

For many years, following Dave Anderson of Seagate, I've been pointing out that the constraints of manufacturing capacity mean that the only medium available on which to store the world's bulk data is hard disk. Eric Brewer's fascinating FAST2016 keynote, entitled Spinning Disks and their Cloudy Future and Google's associated white paper, start from this premise:
The rise of portable devices and services in the Cloud has the consequence that (spinning) hard disks will be deployed primarily as part of large storage services housed in data centers. Such services are already the fastest growing market for disks and will be the majority market in the near future.
Eric's argument is that since cloud storage will shortly be the majority of the market, and that other segments are declining, the design of hard drives no longer needs to be a compromise suitable for a broad range of uses, but should be optimized for the Cloud. Below the fold, I look into some details of the optimizations and provide some supporting evidence.

Friday, February 26, 2016

2016 FAST Conference

I've just finished attending the 2016 Usenix FAST conference. Eric Brewer of Google gave a fascinating keynote, which deserves a complete post to itself. Below the fold are notes on the papers that caught my eye, arranged by topic.

Monday, February 22, 2016

1000 long-tail publishers!

The e-journal content that is at risk of loss or cancellation comes from the "long tail" of small publishers. Somehow, the definition of "small publisher" has come to be one that publishes ten or fewer journals. This seems pretty big to me, but if we adopt this definition the LOCKSS Program just passed an important milestone. We just sent out a press release announcing that the various networks using LOCKSS technology now preserve content from over 1000 long-tail publishers. There is still a long way to go, but as the press release says:
there are tens of thousands of long tail publishers worldwide, which makes preserving the first 1,000 publishers an important first step to a larger endeavor to protect vulnerable digital content.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Andrew Orlowski speaks!

At the Battle of Ideas Festival at the Barbican last year, Claire Fox chaired a panel titled "Is Technology Limiting Our Humanity?", and invited my friend Andrew Orlowski of The Register to speak. Two short but thought-provoking extracts are now up, which The Register's editors have entitled:
Playfair in particular is a fascinating character:
an embezzler and a blackmailer, with some unscrupulous data-gathering methods. He would kidnap farmers until they told him how many sheep they had. Today he’s remembered as the father of data visualisation. He was the first to use the pie chart, the line chart, the bar chart.
...
Playfair stressed the confusion of the moment, its historical discontinuity, and advanced himself as a guru with new methods who was able to make sense of it.
Both extracts are worth your time.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Gadarene swine

I've been ranting about the way we, possessed by the demons of the Internet of Things, are rushing like the Gadarene Swine to our doom. Below the fold, the latest rant in the series, which wanders off into related, but equally doom-laden areas.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

James Jacobs on Looking Forward

Government documents have long been a field that the LOCKSS Program has been involved in. Recent history, such as that of the Harper administration in Canada, is full of examples of Winston Smith style history editing by governments. This makes it essential that copies of government documents are maintained outside direct government custody, and several private LOCKSS networks are doing this for various kinds of government documents. Below the fold, a look at the US Federal Depository Library Program, which has been doing this in the paper world for a long time, and the state of its gradual transition to the digital world.