E-TALES: Grizzly tales

What's long, white and provides a flexible computing resource?

Pushing the metaphor

When a gradual increase in pressure leads to a sudden breakdown — something that is feared by those in charge of large computer operations — it’s usual to talk of straws and camels’ backs, and that old favourite, ‘pushing the envelope’. However, Paul Lancaster, of Symantec, commenting in a Computerworld interview on the pressures affecting today’s datacentres, gave us a fresh, if rather mixed, metaphor.

“The envelope has been pushed over the cliff,” he told our reporter.

Naturally, we googled it and no, he’s not the first to coin that phrase; but there are only a dozen or so recorded uses of it.

When searching, spell ‘corectley’

Misspelling a word in a Google (or other search-engine) query is an illuminating exercise. You get to see how many other people mis-key the word in the same way, or even think the wrong version is the way to spell it.

For example, the number of sites featuring the word “Wnaganui” is now up to 142, according to Google. But our E-Taler last week found evidence of a worrying degree of ignorance in the zoological department. There are 10,500 references to the phrase “grisly bear”. Don’t ask why he was looking; it’s a long story in relation to an episode of The X-Files.

Curiosity piqued, our inquirer also tried “gristly bear” and got 128 responses. He can’t discount the possibility that some of those are genuine; someone, somewhere, has surely had that unsatisfactory culinary experience.

Texts every two minutes

Thirteen-year-old Reina Hardesty, of Orange County, California, may have set a record for compulsive texting. According to website Ananova, the teen notched up 14,528 text messages in one month, or 484 a day. (The figure includes texts sent and received).

That’s an average of one every two waking minutes, day in day out, for a month. Reina’s parents aren’t out of pocket, despite the 440-page bill for Nov 27-Dec 26 — fortunately, their daughter’s mobile phone plan allows unlimited texting. Nonetheless, her use of texting has now been restricted.

Oracle second-guessed

Oracle’s CRS (Cluster Ready Services) failed to cope with the “leap second” that was added to 2008 in order to correct for slight changes in the earth’s orbit. According to The Register, “Oracle’s CRS couldn’t cope with the added second, which meant that many of its servers rebooted on their own just after midnight on New Year’s Day”.

The database vendor sent out a fix after some systems administrators complained about their CRS nodes rebooting. Oracle says versions 10.1.0.2 to 11.1.0.7 of Oracle Server Enterprise Edition, running on 64-bit Sun Solaris Servers with CRS and Oracle patch sets 10.2.0.1 to 11.1.0.7, were affected.

It just goes to show the difference one second can make.

What’s long, white and provides a flexible computing resource?

One of the good things about doing research into remote computing services is that it gives scope for so many good puns, says Ian Foster.

“You could say ‘your head is in the clouds’,” he told the audience for his keynote address at the recent Australasian Computer Science conference.

An E-Taler who attended the conference reckons there’s equal pun potential in grid computing — the kind of location-independent sharing of the workload for which New Zealand-born Foster is better known — he has been called “the Gridfather”, which is a good start in the word-play stakes.

Suppose, for example, a bunch of zoos linked their computers into a common pool of information on the management and breeding of their exotic animals. Then they could exhort zoos all over the world to a concerted effort by telling them: “grid up your lions”.

On animal totems and education

Speaking of zoological typos, there used to be a large graffito in the tunnels under London’s Waterloo station in the dim distant days when one E-Taler worked in the area.

“Up the Loins!” it read. This was not an obscene proposal; merely the output of a poorly educated (or intoxicated) fan of the Milwall Lions soccer team.

While we think about it, there’s a computer industry version of that story. Back in the days when the Computer Object Request Broker Architecture was all the rage, a certain executive with one of the leading companies in the field bought himself the personal car registration plate CORBA.

One morning that a tagger with a spraycan had disfigured his car with the single word “KEN”.

The offender’s first name was obvious at least, the owner said to the attending police officer. Replied the constable: “More likely we know which gang he belongs to. I’d guess he’s one of the King Cobras; he’s just not hot on spelling.”

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