The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

34,359,738,368 bytes

This little box here contains 32 gigabytes of RAM, and cost me $1 per 162,842,362 bytes. As I mentioned Thursday, this is considerably more RAM for considerably less money than the RAM I bought in January 1993 to upgrade my 4 MB ZEOS computer to an 8 MB computer. Those 4 megabytes cost about the same as these 32 gigabytes in total. But back then, I got only 20,972 bytes per dollar.

Put it another way: this RAM is approximately 8,000 times less expensive than the RAM I bought in 1993. It's also somewhere around 2,000 times faster, but that's a different metric. Oh, and it's more than 1,600 times more memory capacity than the total hard drive space on the first computer I owned that came with a hard drive.

I love living in the future.


The driving reason behind ordering a new kick-ass development computer is that I am no longer the CTO of Holden LLC. The company and I worked together over the past two months to shift their technology support to a new partner organization and eliminate the CTO role entirely.

After leading the development of their flagship software product, I joined Holden, with the goal of transforming the technology side of the business into an quasi-independent product-development center. But over the past year, we realized that Holden's sweet-spot is in professional services, with software as one in a suite of tools to help enterprise customers sell better. So we decided as a team to retrench and concentrate on the areas where the company has traditionally done well.

It's been a fun ride the past 15 months, and I'm glad to have had the experience. 

Meanwhile, I've been working on a number of possibilities, and I expect some exciting news sometime this quarter. Until then I'll be working under the Inner Drive Technology umbrella and building some tech skills I've put off for a while (I'm looking at you, Ruby).

Finally, the About This Blog page has changed a bit, which can be expected.

So watch this space. And no, despite the date of this announcement, this is real.

Coming soon to a World Headquarters near you

For a big reason that I'll announce tomorrow afternoon, I've just ordered what may turn out to be the last desktop computer I'll ever buy. I think this may be true because (a) I've ordered a box that kicks proportionately more ass than any computer I've bought before; (b) each of my last three computers was in use for more than two years (though the one I bought in 2009 would probably have lived longer had I not dumped a bowl of chicken soup on it); and (c) each of the previous 2-year-old computers was replaced by an incrementally-better one, not a hugely-better one.

The new computer will have a 6-core Xeon E5-2620 2.4 GHz processor, 40 GB (!!!) of 2133 MHz ECC RAM, a 512-GB SSD boot drive and a 2-TB data drive, and an nVidia Quadro K620 video card. It replaces a laptop running a Core i7 2.4 GHz processor with 12 GB of RAM and a single 512-GB SSD augmented by a portable 2-TB data drive that runs through a USB 3.0 port. And whatever onboard video Dell stuck in there.

I'm going to disclose the total cost of this machine because I've just calculated the costs of several other boxes I've bought over the years against the consumer price index. It's a crude measurement, and probably overstates inflation when applied to technology, but it does give you an idea of how things changed over time. Here, then, are a few of my older computers—just the ones I used as my principal, daily machines, not servers:

Bought Config, Processor, Ram, HDD $ then $ now
Mar 2016 Desktop, Xeon 6C 2.4 GHz, 40 GB, 512 GB SSD + 2TB Data $3406 $3406
Dec 2013 Laptop, Core i7 2.4, 12 GB, 512 GB SSD $1706 $1737
Nov 2011 Laptop, Core i5 2.2 GHz, 8 GB, 256 GB SSD $795 $833
Nov 2009 Laptop, Core 2 Duo 2.66 GHz, 4 GB, 250 GB $923 $1012
Oct 2008 Desktop, Xeon 4C 2.0 GHz, 8 GB, 146 GB $1926 $2109
Feb 2007 Laptop, Centrino 2.0 GHz, 2 GB, 160 GB $2098 $2445
Jun 2005 Laptop, Pentium M 2.8 GHz, 2 GB, 60 GB $1680 $2048
Oct 2003 Laptop, Pentium M 1.4 GHz, 1 GB, 60 GB $1828 $2343
Oct 2002 Laptop, Pentium 4 1.7 GHz, 512 MB, 40 GB $2041 $2669
Mar 1999 Desktop, Pentium 3 500 MHz, 256 MB, 20 GB $2397 $3445
May 1995 Desktop, Nx 586 90 MHz, 32 MB, 850 MB $2206 $3437
Oct 1991 Desktop, 80386 33 MHz, 4 MB, 240 MB $2689 $4640

Obviously cost alone doesn't line up with value. Even in the last 5 years the computers have gotten better, despite the flattening-out of Moore's Law. I mean, the software development environment I work in would barely function in 4 gigabytes of RAM, and yet that's what I was using as recently as October 2011. Going farther down the list to the first computer I ever bought, in October 1991, yes it really did have 4 megabytes of RAM (1,024 times less), but that was just fine for Windows 3.1 back then.

Is the new computer going to change my life? Not a lot, though it will significantly cut compile-and-run times while I'm coding (and slightly increase my electric bill). And yet in 10 years I probably won't even have a desktop computer anymore, because I'll be doing my job on some other kind of device. I mean, when I got the Pentium 4 laptop in 2002 for $2,700 in today's dollars, I could hardly have predicted that 10 years later l would get about the same power and storage space in a mobile phone for 20% of the cost.

There are two other computers on the list whose prices I don't really know, because they were gifts, but they're worth mentioning. In 1986 I got a hand-me-down IBM PC with a 1 MHz 8088 processor, 640 kB of RAM, and two 5.25-inch floppy drives. I believe that computer originally cost about $9,000, which would be about $22,000 today. Then, in 1988, I got a hand-me-down Toshiba T3100 "laptop" that weighed about 7 kg and came with a 12 MHz 80286 processor, still 640 kB of RAM, and had a huge 20 MB hard drive. That one cost (I believe) about $2,500 new, or $5,100 today. And that 20 MB drive? That's 1/2,048th the storage space of the working RAM that my new box will have.

Still, every time I've bought a computer, I've outgrown it in less than three years. This time I hope I'm getting enough computer to make it four.

Need an apartment?

One of my apartments is vacant, and can be yours for some time. Here's the Craigslist post (which will be a dead link in a week or so):

Sweet full 1BR, 625 sq.ft., jacuzzi tub, open kitchen, parquet floors, closet system. 16th floor of 21-story mid-century high rise, doorman, storage, exercise room, 24-hour laundry. Just steps to lake, Belmont Harbor, bike path; three blocks from St. Joseph hospital. Available now. $1500

The view (all photos from last Tuesday, March 8th):

The living room (and a piece of the view):

Werde jetzt flügen

Hm. I'm not sure that's the best translation for "gonna fly now," but it's better than anything I had on my own...

Traveling this afternoon, back Sunday. I might have a chance to post. It's not going to be a top priority.

What new tech should I learn?

I'm debating what new area I should explore, assuming I have the time:

I'm thinking about a few side projects, obviously. And this article on new "universal remote" apps in today's Times got me thinking about home automation, too. But that's less a skill to learn than a set of toys to play with.

Hard to believe it's been 30 years

On this day in 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded over the Atlantic Ocean:

A little more than a minute after launch and high above Kennedy Space Center, shuttle Challenger was ripped apart after failure of a rubber seal allowed a spurt of rocket flame to ignite the spacecraft's giant fuel tank.

The roiling plume of Challenger's disintegration would sear an image in the nation's psyche that spoke of a particular sorrow; among seven astronauts killed 30 years ago [today] was teacher Christa McAuliffe.

"We will never forget them," said President Ronald Reagan in a broadcast hours later evoking triumph from tragedy. "The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them."

Studying the decisions that led to Challenger launching that day uncovered serious cultural problems within NASA. It also led to groupthink about groupthink as people continually mis-applied the lessons from the disaster after not actually understanding them.

I remember exactly when I heard about the disaster: I was taking a final exam in high school when the PA broke in to tell everyone it had happened. (We still had to finish the exam.)