Facebook Infrastructure

Wired has a post on how Facebook has decided to forgo normal commercial options for digital storage hardware in its new data center. At first glance, this kind of news is underwhelming and predictable. Facebook has a huge demand for storage, and it makes good business sense to develop Facebook-specific storage gear. Doing so would ensure stable supply, consistent product for ease of replacement, would reduce costs.

The interesting part of this story isn’t that they are doing it by themselves, but how they are doing it. Facebook has taken the unusual step of not only mandating production of the storage units, but also of how they work. As Facebook did with their data center and their server design, unnecessary components are being eliminated from deployed storage components potentially reducing operating costs while simultaneously increasing reliability. Additionally, the storage units are being designed to remove bothersome mechanisms. As Frank Franovsky, the man that oversees hardware design at Facebook states:

I’ve never understood why hot-plug drive carriers have to come with these plastic handles on them… And if you’ve actually mounted a drive inside one of those drive carriers, there are these little bitty screws that you inevitably lose — and you’ll likely lose one onto a board that’s live and powered. That’s not a good thing.

Frank is right, poorly designed components represent future cost and reliability liabilities. By taking control of the hardware design associated with the storage system and overall infrastructure, Facebook is allowing itself to increase its efficiency while simultaneously reducing costs. An additional side benefit of all this hardware re-engineering is that these designs will be released to the public at tech specific summits and could be improved upon, thereby improving the designs even further.

The fundamental shift in philosophy from utilization of deluxe infrastructure elements to a stripped down, bare-bones approach allow Facebook unprecedented flexibility in terms of hardware maintenance, facilities planning, and hardware redundancy. In a real sense, Facebook infrastructure initiatives translate into a significant competitive business advantage over others in the social networking arena.

Information Technology Social Networking

Bioware / Hepler

Jennifer Hepler, a writer for video game publisher Bioware, has been the target of an ongoing attack from some in the internet community on Twitter over this past week. For those unfamiliar with the situation, Forbes and The Mary Sue have excellent summaries of what led to the shitstorm and what Bioware has done to support Jennifer.

This kind of intense hatred from a community I sometimes associate myself with is embarrassing. The attack by the hyper-vocal minority also reinforces the perception that non-gamers have of the gaming community at large. Namely, that *all* such members are misfits and behavioral trolls unable to interact with society at large.

While the personal nature of this attack is nothing short of abhorrent, it is not surprising to me given factors associated with gaming culture. And it’s not the first time it has happened. During my time as an Eve Online player, one of the top players in the game was banned for telling a customer service representative to DIAF (look it up) while having an argument over game matters via Twitter.

“Hardcore” members of the gaming community have a false sense of entitlement when it comes to interacting with game designers. Some players have an intense and sometimes unnatural amount of brand loyalty to their designer/publisher of choice and are upset when they perceive a threat to their vision of perfection. Other players feel like the amount of time they invest in playing specific titles entitles them to a voice directly proportional to time played. And players are often quick to remind designers and publishers that as a paid customer, they expect value even if their vision of value differs from others involved in the game.

The very nature of Twitter also contributes to these kinds of personal tirades. Twitter is anonymous, and therefore largely devoid of consequences for those on the attack. The very nature of Twitter as a distributed platform also means that messages can be sent quickly and associated via hashtag to allow a trend to snowball to national (and international) visibility quickly.

Instead of personally attacking game designers, writers, and employees, those gamers upset with the direction of a game company would do well to let their wallets do the talking. Withholding financial support by not purchasing games or cancelling monthly subscriptions will do more to change a publisher’s general direction then directly attacking one of their employees.

Video Games

Dexcom CGM

I’ve had type 1 diabetes for over 20 years. During that time, there have been incremental developments in diabetes management that have made diabetic life more tolerable. Synthetic insulin, the fast acting insulin Humalog, a stable insulin pump, the long acting insulin Lantis, and a 5 second blood glucose meter are all examples of improvements that have found their way into my regimen at one point.

After discussing my care with my endocrinologist, I recently received a Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) after having the unit approved by my insurance company. After initially charging the unit, following the directions for applying the sensor, and installing the software, I am pleased to report that this system works extremely well.

The use of a GGM is really a fundamental shift for how I view blood glucose (BG) readings. While testing 3-4 times a day was a useful measure of how my BG readings were at specific times of the day, it wasn’t possible to accurately analyze trending. I now have a fairly reliable read on my BG readings, and can view BG trends measured every 5 minutes in graphs on the device over 1, 3, 6, 12, and 24 hour periods. And the software grabs that data and can store it in multiple formats.

The GCM really is a game changer, I fully expect to have much better results on my long term BG numbers.


Tag Heuer

1990 was a very rough year for me in terms of health, career, and academics. Instead of dealing with events head on, I distracted myself through a campaign of unneeded purchases that fueled or at least helped enable my denial. Those financial indiscretions would follow me for years, requiring the assistance of an understanding wife to finally shed 15 or so years later.

One of the purchases I made during the 1990 spending spree was a Tag Heuer divers watch (pictured). I was almost afraid to see if the watch needed to be overhauled as I had not worn it in several years. I was also cognizant of the fact that it was all the rage to etch ones SSN onto precious jewelry in order to identify it in case of theft. Not currently such a bright idea given the threat of identity theft.

With a sense of dread, I hauled my watch into the place where I purchased it those many years ago knowing that I will set it aside for a while if it required expensive repairs. After discussing the situation with the salesperson, he agreed to take a look at it to see if there were any signs of corrosion or other wear requiring a thorough service. I was happy that a battery was all that was necessary, and it was free as a benefit of me being a loyal customer. He also recommended a jeweler that he trusted to remove the SSN. After getting the watch back today, it looks great.

While many of my indiscreet purchases didn’t stand the test of time, my Tag Heuer divers watch did. It serves as a reminder of where I’ve been and how far I have come.