Oracle’s strategic position on the systems business it inherited in its acquisition of Sun can result in some interesting mixed messages. In a conference call on Tuesday, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said, “I don’t care if our commodity x86 businesses go to zero.” On Wednesday, the company announced the immediate availability of a new database appliance, built on SunFire commodity x86 hardware.
Admittedly, the Oracle Database Appliance isn’t exactly commodity, though it is targeted at mid-sized businesses. The default configuration of the system is a cluster of two dual-processor servers based on Intel Xeon processors running Oracle Linux, 12TB of disk storage, and 73GB of solid-state storage built into a single 4U rack-mountable unit. The 12TB of disk storage is triple-mirrored for fault tolerance, so the effective storage of the system is about 4TB.
But the hardware is just a delivery vehicle for Oracle’s software. It comes loaded with Oracle 11g, and Oracle Real Application Clusters for server failover—and a “pay as you go” software license that allows customers to incrementally add more processors as required. So while the server ships with 24 processor cores installed on its four Xeon processors, customers can opt to only pay for as few as two to run the database, and expand their capacity by adding more licenses instead of hardware.
On the upside, the Database Appliance has the advantage of being pretuned for Oracle’s software, with relatively simple management software for configuration. But Oracle hasn’t had a lot of success with these database-in-a-box solutions in small and mid-sized organizations before, largely because they can’t afford Oracle DBAs. And considering that the appliance will probably face stiffer competition from software-as-a-service offerings in the SMB market than from IBM or Hewlett-Packard, it’s not really clear who is going to buy this thing—other than large organizations who want to drop it into their data centers instead of buying high-end Oracle servers. That’s not exactly what Larry Ellison is driving for, I’m sure.
The players of the online protein-folding game Foldit (which we’ve reported on before) outperformed scientists by discovering the structure of a protein involved in the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV). The M-PMV is a retrovirus, like HIV, that causes AIDS in monkeys and apes. Understanding its structure will help researchers develop antiretroviral drugs that can fight HIV—but this has been a mystery for over a decade.
Now, with the help of groups of (generally) non-scientist players and their pattern-recognition skills, scientists from the University of Washington have joined with groups including “Foldit Contenders Group” and “Foldit Void Crushers Group” to model the crystal structure of the M-PMV retroviral protease (PR), a protein responsible for viral growth.
So what happens when you’ve just built this awesome camera app but your client wants you to manually test it out like… 10,000 times? You have two options: you can spend the rest of your earthly days pressing shutter, save, and repeating the process orrrr you can just build yourself a robot finger out of Legos. Simple enough, yes?
It sure seemed to be for the guys over at Pheromone Labs. After their client asked for between 10,000 to 15,000 manual load tests of the application they built, the team figured a little ingenuity would save loads of time and energy, reports TUAW. Ingredients: a Lego Mindstorm kit and a few capacitive styluses. Easy as that.
While the end-product (video below) is more exciting than you’d assume, none seem more pleased with it than Jon Masse, a member of the developer team and the one who blogged about the experience.
Arriving at work this morning there were many more people circling my desk than usual. They were all curious to see what kind of insanity the team had cooked up this time. And there it was sitting on my desk chugging along snapping pics not phased by the attention it was getting. A perfect example of creative automation.
Granted, Pheromone Labs’ robotic finger is much less intense than this seemingly useless life-sized robotic hand, but then again the automatic picture taker actually has purpose. And is thus human*.
It’s always nice to see mega-brand corporations give a little something back. For the most valuable company in the world, Apple, it’s only fitting that what they give back would be one of the more valued devices on the market: the first generation iPad.
Last spring after the iPad 2 was announced, first-gen iPad owners were told they could return their old tablet to an Apple retail location and it would be donated to low-income teachers working with the organization Teach For America. If you aren’t already familiar with it, Teach For America is a program that takes some of the brightest college grads in the country, gives them a quick five-week training course, and then sends them into the more impoverished districts across the country to be teachers. This is meant to help them better understand the achievement gap in the U.S.
So why Teach For America? Well, besides the fact that it’s a smart organization that has the potential to make a difference, Steve Jobs’ wife, Laurene Powell sits on the TFA board of directors, reports Fortune. We’re not sure just how many first-gen iPads Apple actually collected during the initiative, but it was enough to make sure every one of the 8,000+ TFA corps members got their very own.
Though it’s a great start, one iPad per classroom seems a bit ineffective. However, one teacher from St. Louis found that her kids would get work done more efficiently if they knew that they could play with the iPad when they finished. A pretty smart implementation of the device with just one per classroom, but hopefully they’ll be adding the iPad 2 to their collections once the rumored iPad 3 makes its debut.
Started by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, Apple has expanded from computers to consumer electronics over the last 30 years, officially changing their name from Apple Computer, Inc. to Apple, Inc. in January 2007.
Among the key offerings from Apple’s product line are: Pro line laptops (MacBook Pro) and desktops (Mac Pro), consumer line laptops (MacBook) and desktops (iMac), servers (Xserve), Apple TV, the Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server operating systems, the iPod (offered with…