Beyond Cool: Striped 120GB SSD RAID in a Macbook Pro

From time to time, I post the technical exploits of my friend Eric here.  I remember the attention he got a while back for hacking his MacBook Pro to support a RAID configuration.

Well, Eric has managed to extend that experimentation to a pair of new OCZ 120GB Solid State Drives (SSD).

Two OCZ Core Series v2 SATA II 120GB SSDs in a MacBook Pro

The blog post is here, with detailed photos and benchmarks.  A must see for any digital photographer and/or Mac geek who is into performance-pushing customer expansion.

My favorite part of the walk through is the brief commentary on the Apple-like packaging for the SSD drives:

The OCZ drives arrived in a plain package, but once the outer cardboard layer was removed, it was clear that OCZ had taken some packaging cues from Apple. The inner packaging was beautiful, and made it clear that you had just purchased a quality product.

That was the part I expected.  This is the part I didn’t:

Even though it was pretty, I don’t like excessive packaging and would have preferred something simple and biodegradable.

For some reason, I have a distinct mental image of Eric’s facial expression when saying this, and it made me laugh out loud.  🙂

The Latest Large Prime Discovered: 2^43,112,609 – 1

From Science News:

Here’s a number to savor: 243,112,609-1.

Its size is mind-boggling. With nearly 13 million digits, it makes the number of atoms in the known universe seem negligible, a mere 80 digits.

And its form is tidy and lovely: 2n-1.

But its true beauty is far grander: It is a prime number. Indeed, it is the largest prime number ever found.

The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, or GIMPS, a computing project that uses volunteers’ computers to hunt for primes, found the prime and just confirmed the discovery. It can now claim a $100,000 prize from the Electronic Frontier Foundation for being the first to find a prime number that has more than 10 million digits.

Don’t worry prime hunters, there are prizes still to be claimed:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation became interested in prime hunting because it makes an excellent challenge problem for cooperative, distributed computing. “The award is an incentive to stretch the computational ability of the Internet,” says Landon Noll of Cisco Systems Inc., one of the judges for the Electronic Frontier Foundation prize and a discoverer of a former biggest known prime. More prizes remain to be claimed: a $150,000 award for a prime with 100 million digits, and a $250,000 award for one with a billion digits.

In case you are wondering why I’m posting this here on my blog, I do have some personal historical trivia that makes the issue of large primes sentimental for me.

The first job I ever had writing software was an unpaid high school internship at NASA Ames Research Center, here in Mountain View.  My project was to build a simulation model to evaluate error rates for different fluid dynamics algorithms.  In order to do the project, which was executed on a Cray X-MP supercomputer, I had to learn Fortran.

The sample project I chose to do to learn the language was a simple program to take as input a Mersenne Prime, and then generate the actual digits for the number in a large output file.

As a side note, this was the first time I also ever became familiar with the operating costs of these type of high end systems… I remember being fairly shocked when the scientist I was working with explained to me that my program had taken several hours of Cray time, which was billed at about $2,000 per hour.

Of course, I’m fairly certain that my new 8-core Mac Pro is significantly faster than those old Cray supercomputers… 🙂

2009 Lincoln Cent Designs Unveiled

This past week, the US Mint published updated material on the new, 2009 Lincoln Cent program, which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the coin, and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.

From the US Mint website:

In 2009, the United States Mint will mint and issue four different one-cent coins in recognition of the bicentennial of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth and the 100th anniversary of the first issuance of the Lincoln cent. The reverse (tails) designs were unveiled September 22 at a ceremony held at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. While the obverse (heads) will continue to bear the familiar likeness of President Lincoln currently on the one-cent coin, the reverse will reflect four different designs, each one representing a different aspect, or theme, of the life of President Lincoln.

The themes for the reverse designs represent the four major aspects of President Lincoln’s life, as outlined in Title III of Public Law 109-145, the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005:

The new one-cent reverse designs will be issued at approximately three-month intervals throughout 2009. The Secretary of the Treasury approved the designs for the coins after consultation with the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and the Commission of Fine Arts, and after review by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

For collectors, there will be a variety of coins.  You’ll likely see each of the four cents from both the Philidelphia and Denver mints (“P” and “D” mint marks).  It also looks like there will be true copper versions, with the same metal content as the original 1909 penny, from the San Francisco mint (“S” mint mark).  That’s 12 coins, at least.

For those who are interested, here are the four designs:

I don’t expect a lot of collector activity, largely because of the low nominal value of the coin.  Since there are always active movements to get rid of the penny, this might turn out to be the last hurrah for the one cent piece.

I wonder what the US Mint will charge for a roll of these pennies?

Stanford CS193P: iPhone Application Programming Launches Tomorrow

A little too busy tonight for a long blog post, but thought I’d share how excited I am to be helping assist the launch of a new course at Stanford this Fall:

CS 193P: iPhone Application Programming

The class website is still a work in progress, but it will come along.  The course is open to Stanford undergrad and graduate students, as well as through the Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD) on video.  Enrollment is limited, and my guess is that it will be oversubscribed.

A wonderful opportunity for me to dust off the old Objective-C skills, and help give back to the Stanford community.  Launching new courses is always exciting, and I feel very lucky to be involved with this one in particular.

It might sound crazy to take this on in addition to the full load at both work and at home, but I’m excited to get back involved with teaching, and that’s worth the potential sleep deprivation for the quarter.

We Are Living History

Imagine my surprise.  Sunday afternoon, I got on a plane to Orlando, FL.  When I got on the plane, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch still existed.  When I got off the plane, I checked my iPhone and saw that Merrill was now part of Bank of America, and Lehman was going Chapter 11.

Bear Stearns.  Lehman Brothers.  Merrill Lynch.  Fannie Mae.  Freddie Mac.  AIG.

Ongoing discussion now about Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.  Fundamental problems right now with any business who basically borrows short and then lends long, at high leverage.

Really unbelievable.  Truly historic times.

I almost finished reading Conscience of a Liberal, by Paul Krugman, on the plane trip back.  When I’m done, I’ll post a book review here.  Krugman is a smart economist, but he’s become rabidly political of late.  Still, a number of very interesting insights in the book.

One thing I definitely agree with is that the meltdown going on right now will be studied in history textbooks, the way that we studied the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and the New Deal.  My guess is that the story will go something like this:

  • The End of the Cold War (1982-1992)
  • The Twin Bubbles (1993-2006)
  • The Great Crash (2007-2008/9)
  • The Way Forward (2009+)

It’s interesting to think about, since of course the history hasn’t been written yet.  And every day brings new surprises.