NCSA HPC Data Center Workshop

I was fortunate enough to attend the first day of the NCSA's biennial workshop: Building the Data Center of the Future. It was a great event and absolutely worth every penny; it was completely free! My notes from the event are presented below.


Radia tears it up

The networking monster, Radia Perlman, has been busy doing something I've only ever dreamed of doing: unborking layer-2 and layer-3 in every way imaginable. Her 2008 Google TechTalk is mind-blowing. Numbering interfaces is supposed to be automatic? Layer-2 gets put back in its neighbor-to-neighbor-only box? Layer-3 does its job and actually handles forwarding across not only WANs, but LANs as well? *HEAD 'ASPLODE*

The IETF working group for the project is called TRILL (Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links). And if it survives its upcoming July review, we may have to completely redefine everything we know about technologies like Ethernet, IP, OSPF, and MPLS. Talk about a paradigm shift--as if migrating our brains to IPv6 weren't enough!

You can have a look at the IETF TRILL working group charter here.

Errata metrics

I was flipping through one of my bookshelf faves, Gary A. Donahue's Network Warrior, when I came across a blatant miscommunication regarding NSSA External LSAs in OSPF. I always try to make a sincere effort to conduct peer review, so I surfed over to the O'Reilly site and pulled up the book's errata.

As no one had yet drawn attention to the error, I submitted my correction and proceeded to look over the existing errata. Admittedly, I was surprised to find such a long list, particularly one containing so many technical errors. Still, writing a book is in no way easy, and when trying to cover a lot of material, errors will creep in. That's why errata exist. But this errata business piqued my interest. What kind of errata do legendary guys like Doyle, Odom, Tanenbaum and the like have floating about?

It turns out that, as one might expect, the great networking tomes of the world have very short errata indeed. In terms of the number of errors, Odom's CCIE Routing and Switching Official Exam Certification Guide came in first, followed by Tanenbaum's Computer Networks. As you may have guessed, Doyle's Routing TCP/IP wins here, with only 16 errors listed for both volumes, all editions. In terms of technical errors, though, I found none. All three books contained only errors in the language or syntax.

In the end, substantial technical review no doubt contributes greatly to shorter errata, and two of the books whose errata I evaluated were Cisco Press, who likely have an army of 20+ year CCIEs to conduct technical review. What's more, the latter three books consisted of a college textbook and two CCIE prep guides. Clearly, the stakes are higher in this context than would be the case with a much more casually written, conversational book like Network Warrior. Still, it is interesting to compare a set of top-notch books this way and see how they compare using quantifiable data.


New, Stable GNS3 DMG

GNS3 0.7 is now available as a DMG, python-related stuff included! It was actually announced on March 6, so I'm late, as ever, but still--DMG!

You can grab it here.


File Mangler

I tossed together a dangerous one this evening.

Sometimes I just want to change all of those ".MP3" extensions to ".mp3", or change an underscore that persists across several directories full of similarly named files, or just change the name of every file on my hard drive to something completely unrecognizable. You can always use sed and just pretend that everything looks right, but taking the extra step to make your sed-soaked dreams a sharp and terrible reality requires just a bit more crazy. Luckily, I have that in spades.


Songbird killed my BASH script

I used to play music in the terminal. Why is this? iTunes didn't "really" support flac, and it makes an utter mess of my otherwise neatly organized collection. And, until very recently, Songbird failed to play certain mp3s for seemingly no good reason (silly encoding issues). Besides, I enjoy being able to rock right off of the prompt. But no more.