black out facebook? are you serious?

Oh man, did I have a good laugh at the expense of these guys. (If the group has already dissolved on facebook, you can also see it here and the event here where I’ve saved them for posterity.)

Take a good look at what they want to do and why they say they want to do it. See if you can guess why I found their twitching, futile antics amusing. Then continue reading.

Before I begin I want to point out: I’m not saying all one million people who joined the group are idiots. I know more than one person who joined it. The group’s premise is inane, though not obviously enough to make it instantly spottable.

The first thing you should notice (after you’re done reeling from the wet slap in the face that is their grammar) is that they only have some 1.1 million people, only one week before the deadline. That’s about as fast as you can make one of these silly pyramid schemes grow.

So, we have one million people leaving facebook forever. No, wait… boycotting facebook for a month? A week? No—they’re merely deciding ahead of time that they will not log in at all for only one day. The best they’re likely to get out of this is that about 800,000 of facebook’s (estimated) 15,000,000 daily visitors won’t log on for one single day. That’s a staggering 5.3% of the total population! The site probably gets greater fluctuations than that from day to day for no apparent reason.

So, what is this lilliputian demonstration of might meant to accomplish? Well… they don’t have an actual agenda. They’re not trying to actually do anything per se but merely to bring awareness of their plight, or whatever it is, to the administrators of the site.

How do they describe their misfortune?

“Friends account deleted, Limited in sending message or poking, stupid new layout !”

It seems to me if they were so incensed, they could just leave the site. As a matter of fact, it was a lack in limitations to poking and the like that is commonly cited for the reason that facebook’s growing population took a slice in late 2007 and early 2008. Part of facebook’s ongoing response to this problem was the redesign of the appearance and interface of the site, downplaying all the annoying applications that people tended to wontonly plaster over their profiles. I can’t comment on the deletion of profiles; I’ve never really seen one. While it does unfortunately occur sometimes, it’s better that some few real people who joined 1,000+ groups and sent hundreds of friend invites to people they didn’t know got their accounts removed than the whole site be filled with spam accounts.

In summary, the whole effort comes down to a whole lot of people throwing a tiny collective tantrum protesting the administrative staff’s efforts to protect them and improve their time on the site. To those who read and briefly processed the stated reasons for the group’s creation, it is a sort of fanciful dream of thousands of people standing up to the big evil men in suits. To those who don’t really pay as much attention it’s simply another silly pyramid group that everyone else is doing too.

As a friend tells me, this group was evidently created long ago and was only recently given a date. This is immaterial: they still have no stated goal, merely complaint against the administrators’ work to protect and improve.

Ohh… fine, I’ll forgive their grammar. The guy who started it is apparently French. That still doesn’t change anything.

danger: technical stuff about the future!

An article posted only a couple hours ago on Ars Technica regarding memory bandwidth vs. many-core computing made me raise their eyebrows. The gist of the article is, as computers are now, adding more cores to the processor will not continue to be beneficial since there is a limit to how fast information can be read or written to the RAM. As you add more CPU cores, each one gets less and less memory bandwidth; the number of CPU cores has been increasing faster than memory bandwidth lately.

So, the article raises a valid point: the number of cores per socket is effectively limited in a practical sense by the total rate of memory access. I believe the problem with this argument—and the reason that we will be seeing vastly more than 16 cores in the future—is that you can always just split everything up.

You can put fast and compact DRAM on-die, right there on the processor die, as another level of cache (with maybe 128MB of memory per core? That’s not too hard). You can have multiple sockets: as massively multicore becomes the order of the day, more powerful computers will have appropriately more CPU sockets; the space and importance assigned to card slots may well lessen, as well.

And just giving an individual memory space to each processor isn’t such a bad idea either. So, say you have 128 processor cores, each one with maybe 128 or 512MB of dedicated, independent memory (perhaps on-chip)—you can then just have another 32GB or so of core memory shared between all of them and everything works out great. You can assign large chunks of work to each core, and the total memory bandwidth is off the charts.

There should also be a way to have data read from the core memory be uploaded simultaneously to an arbitrary set of CPU core caches, to make synchronizing data sets between cores easy as pie.

The point I’m making is, the article isn’t wrong in what it’s saying, but I believe it has an improper focus. It should focus not on the naysaying, pointing out all the reasons why technology can’t move on. (Don’t be silly, technology can always move on.) The article should focus on what should be changed about current computing architecture to adapt in the future.

edit: Basically, don’t freak out because current computing architecture has limitations. There is always some major aspect of the way computers are built that has to change next. If we’d done it perfect the first time, we would all be demi-gods ascended above the pithy material plane by now.

tl;dr – Don’t say that computers are limited because there are bottlenecks. Just make a whole ton of little computers and put them in the same box all wired together. Only, you know, with advanced technology. So that they go fast. And stuff.