Friday, September 28, 2007

Energy consumption and computing

This article reports on a rough estimate of the gross power consumption of computers in the US.  Quoting the article:
The numbers, in billions of kilowatt-hours, break down as follows:
Data center servers: 45
PCs and monitors: 235
Networking gear: 67
Phone network: 0.4
That amounts to about 350 billion kWh a year, representing a whopping 9.4% of total US electricity consumption. On a global basis, Sarokin estimates that the computing grid consumes 868 billion kWh a year, or 5.3% of total consumption.

I find these kinds of estimates interesting.  It is interesting how little the phone network consumes in these figures (assuming they are close to accurate). 

In these days where some people are concerned about their "carbon footprints", this estimate may get some visibility.  How much does computing substitute for other forms of energy consumption (notably transportation of various forms)?  Should computing therefore "count" as indulgences offsets?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ranking of Universities Internationally


This article points to this annual survey ... the article points to the failures of European Universities.  Quoting the article:

Lack of financing is a key weakness. Public and private spending on higher education in the European Union amounts to only 1.3% of the EU economy—an average $12,000 per student. That compares with 3.3% of gross domestic product in the U.S., or $50,000 per student.

The Bruegel report calls for European countries to invest an additional 1% of their economies in higher education. But the report cautions that distribution of the money should be based on performance, not egalitarianism.

To foster excellence, Europe's universities should be given more autonomy and incentives for better performance—and they should be rewarded financially when they excel, says André Sapir, an author of the report. "There needs to be more performance evaluation," Sapir says. "Differentiation is key."

By the way ... Pitt ranked 49th on the list.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

IT Salary survey

You might find this article to be a worthwhile read. In particular, it lists "Hot IT skills" (the table didn't cut/paste very well, so you'll have to go to the article).

Monday, September 24, 2007

Using Spam Blockers To Target HIV, Too

This article, in the latest issue of BusinessWeek, is very interesting. Quoting the article:

Early this decade, Heckerman was leading a spam-blocking team at Microsoft Research. To build their tool, team members meticulously mapped out thousands of signals that a message might be junk. An e-mail featuring "Viagra," for example, was a good bet to be spam--but things got complicated in a hurry.

If spammers saw that "Viagra" messages were getting zapped, they switched to V1agra, or Vi agra. It was almost as if spam, like a living thing, were mutating.

This parallel between spam and biology resonated for Heckerman, a physician as well as a PhD in computer science. It didn't take him long to realize that his spam-blocking tool could extend far beyond junk e-mail, into the realm of life science. In 2003, he surprised colleagues in Redmond, Wash., by refocusing the spam-blocking technology on one of the world's deadliest, fastest- mutating conundrums: HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.

It seems that this article can help us understand how IT is joining with traditional areas of study ... so how must IT education mutate to adapt?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thin clients and technology history

Today's NY Times had an article on thin clients. I found the comments on technology history interesting (see this), but I think that this approach to computing can have potentially large implications on what we include in our technology programs if it turns out to become dominant.

Hackers and system failures

This article in the NYTimes is worth reading. Quoting the article:
Whether it’s the Los Angeles customs fiasco or the unpredictable network cascade that brought the global Skype telephone service down for two days in August, problems arising from flawed systems, increasingly complex networks and even technology headaches from corporate mergers can make computer systems less reliable. Meanwhile, society as a whole is growing ever more dependent on computers and computer networks, as automated controls become the norm for air traffic, pipelines, dams, the electrical grid and more.

“We don’t need hackers to break the systems because they’re falling apart by themselves,” said Peter G. Neumann, an expert in computing risks and principal scientist at SRI International, a research institute in Menlo Park, Calif.

Steven M. Bellovin, a professor of computer science at Columbia University, said: “Most of the problems we have day to day have nothing to do with malice. Things break. Complex systems break in complex ways.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Technorati attempts to organize the blogosphere

This is interesting. If you go to and click on the "Topics" tag, you get a real time feed of blog posts as they are changing. It is cool to watch for a bit.

UCB is reengineering its engineering curriculum

Since each of the programs in IS&T have undergone (or are undergoing) significant retooling, you might find this article of interest. It may also help us deepen our appreciation for the goals of the proposed SIS 2000 course. Quoting the article:
A major thrust of that effort will be mixing courses from the oft-derided "soft sciences" like sociology and economics, as well as law and design, into engineering students' academic load.

"That is the big, new thing that I'd like to do," Sastry said during a lunch meeting last week. "The time has come for us in engineering to look outwards. The stereotype has always been a quadrangle looking inward."

Two articles from

Perhaps of interest to SIS related topics are these two articles: The first talks about evolutionary psychology and social networking and the second asks if it is important for people to be able to read in the future.

Blogged with Flock

Friday, September 07, 2007

eBooks again?

The demise of the (paper) book has been oft forecast, yet it persists. This article, in the NY Times, speculates whether the next generation of eBooks will prevail:
Two new offerings this fall are set to test whether consumers really want to replace a technology that has reliably served humankind for hundreds of years: the paper book.

In October, the online retailer will unveil the Kindle, an electronic book reader that has been the subject of industry speculation for a year, according to several people who have tried the device and are familiar with Amazon’s plans. The Kindle will be priced at $400 to $500 and will wirelessly connect to an e-book store on Amazon’s site.

That is a significant advance over older e-book devices, which must be connected to a computer to download books or articles.

Also this fall, Google plans to start charging users for full online access to the digital copies of some books in its database, according to people with knowledge of its plans. Publishers will set the prices for their own books and share the revenue with Google. So far, Google has made only limited excerpts of copyrighted books available to its users.