Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Why Twitter is doomed

So I have been watching the resignation notices for people leaving Twitter. Basically, it looks like all of the developers other than those on immigration visas are leaving. I see a lot of familiar names there, people who are experts in scalability who have published papers on how to scale things, experts in Internet protocols whose names are on IETF RFC’s, experts in algorithmic complexity with journal papers, and then just the average everyday Joes who keep the lights on. And I think: Twitter is going to crash.

Oh, not right now. See, here’s the thing. Everything at Twitter is massively redundant. There’s three or four copies of every tweet geographically distributed across multiple data centers. There’s dozens of circuits and routers into each data center. There’s two electrical circuits and two power distribution units into every rack. And so on and so forth. But:

Things break. Routers fry or lose their mind. Disk drives die. Switches quit switching. Hypervisors quit hypervising. The breaker blows on a PDU because it’s gotten old or hot and no longer will carry the load. Someone has to go in and fix these things as they happen. Sure, there’s redundancy. There’s other disks with copies of data. There’s other routers. There’s other circuits. There’s other servers with hypervisors on them. But as racks start going dark because nobody fixed things, the service slows down. Eventually the spare resources for redundancy run out. Then something goes out… and there’s nothing redundant to pick it up. Something crashes.

And if it’s an important part of Twitter like the globally distributed data store master index, Twitter might never come back up. 

I’m not sure how to describe this to non-technical people, but basically, consider it like the master index for all of Twitter (that’s not exactly how it works, but close enough). This is replicated in RAM caches worldwide. And if you crash it, it’s possible to rebuild it by scanning the actual key-value store for the tweets… but the people who know how to do that have gone out the door, along with the Joes and Janets who know how to fix the hardware. Maybe Mahesh and Yang here on H1B visas and thus unable to leave Twitter can reverse engineer it and over the course of a week or two figure out how to rebuild the indexes. But by that time the advertisers have turned off the money spigots, the users have fled to Reddit or Instagram, and Twitter has gone the way of MySpace.

At this point, I don’t know of any way that Twitter avoids that fate. Maybe Musk could go hat in hand and hire back some of the talent he just drove away. But I don’t think they’ll come back. Most worked at Twitter because they wanted to work at Twitter, not because they have to work at Twitter. Many of the people who know the most about the deep dark innards of Twitter made a fortune on the Twitter IPO and have no need to work anymore. And they’re likely to give Musk the finger.

The wildcard in all this is the bankers. Musk didn’t fund the purchase of Twitter with his own money. He borrowed money, or got other investors to come in on it. And those people are going to be *pissed* when Twitter crashes. Will they fire Musk and try to mend fences themselves with the people necessary to get Twitter back up and going? Or did Musk put enough poison pills in the contracts to keep that from happening.

Either way, Twitter is still dead. The contract stuff just determines who gets sued over it, and whether Twitter *stays* dead after it crashes that first time.

So it goes. I’m just gonna stock up on the popcorn and make bets about whether Twitter lasts longer than this lettuce:

— Badtux the Tech Nerd Penguin


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You’ll notice that I didn’t post one of these yesterday because I was hip deep in computer parts. Here is my rack now.

My home office data center

From top to bottom: KVM switch, NAS/virtualization, SAS2 JBOD cabinet, new virtualization server. Then some spare disks and a spare 10 gigabit Ethernet switch.

So yesterday I put a SAS2 backplane into the antique SAS1 JBOD cabinet to convert it to SAS2, then put a SAS2 card and a 10 gigabit Etherent card into the new virtualization server. I tried moving the NAS disks to the JBOD and then standing up the virtualization server as an all-in-one connected to the JBOD with the unit on top then recommissioned as a part-time VMware virtualization server (since I only need it when I’m developing software during the day), but my Windows 2019 Essentials virtual machine that handles my video surveillance network refused to come up. I moved the disks back into the NAS/virtualization server and stood up the other server as ESXi only (necessary because I’m developing virtual appliances for the vSphere environment), and all is well again. The NAS is running Centos 7 Linux and serves as the data store for the VMware via a NFS file share. The ESXi box on the bottom is running ESXi 6.0 and has a fleet of virtual appliances running on it that I’m developing for work.

Other things that happened yesterday: An ER nurse says goodbye to her family, because due to lack of preparation she is almost certain to die.

We needed to start emergency production of PPE gear two months ago — and now it’s too late. She knows she’s going to be infected. She knows everybody else in her ER is going to be infected. Because there just isn’t any protective gear, yet they are the kind of people who can’t just let people die. There’s people who run towards fires, and people who run away from them. For all you emergency responders out there, thank you for what you do. And fuck Trump. May his orange asshole self get COVID-19 and infect every other stupid asshole in his idiotic regime who did absolutely nothing while China was warning us that shit was about to burn.

And finally, Governor Newsome said that with over half of Californians projected to get the COVID-19 virus over the next 8 weeks, he had no choice other than to issue a statewide stay home order to try to keep the hospitals from being utterly overwhelmed. As I mentioned before, California hospitals are required to have contingency plans for natural disasters. But nobody planned for an epidemic, because epidemics are so…. 20th century.

– Batdut the Geek Nerd Penguin

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WARNING: If you are in the European Union, you are not granted a license to view this site. Because this site links to news articles without a license it is in violation of Article 11 of the new EU Copyright Law. Please leave this site now to avoid criminal prosecution.

Oh wait. No, that’s not true yet. The European Parliament has not yet voted on it, and national legislatures have not yet implemented it. But if this is approved, basically all of the independent blogosphere is going to go dark as far as Europe is concerned.

The biggest threat to the Internet is not nuclear warfare. The biggest threat isn’t even lack of net neutrality, as bad as that is for those of us in the United States. The biggest threat to the Internet is the European Parliament, because if this succeeds in Europe, it’s only going to spread elsewhere, and basically make sites like this one illegal world-wide.

– Badtux the “They’re trying to outlaw me!” Penguin

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Youtube Kids spammers rack up billions of views on disturbing, violent, seemingly algorithmic videos.

Sickening :(.

Maybe it’s time we just took all these computers out into the streets and burned them all. Sigh.

This is why we can’t have nice things. Whenever someone invents something that could be nice, some ratbastard takes it and does evil shit with it. Always. :(.

– Badtux the Gruntled Penguin

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As some of you know, Roger Stone, a close advisor to Donald Trump, got kicked off of Twitter for tweets cursing out and threatening CNN reporters. So how does Roger Stone react to this? Does he laugh and say “well, I disagree with their actions, but they’re a private business and can choose to do business with whomever they please”? Is that how he reacted?

Well, no. First he raised a hissy fit, threatening Twitter via right wing media. Twitter took notice and then made his 3 day suspension into a permanent ban — deleting his entire Twitter account, tweets included. (Actually, Twitter accounts are never physically deleted, they’re kept around in case law enforcement needs to look at them, but effectively it’s gone). Because as a private business, they decided they don’t want Roger Stone as a customer anymore. So they exercised their freedom of association by choosing not to associate with him.

So what did Roger Stone do then? Did he apologize to Twitter in hopes of getting his account back?

Well, of course not. That would require some level of self-introspection. Instead: Roger Stone says that he will sue Twitter.

Will sue.

A private business.

For exercising its freedom of association.

For exercising a right guaranteed by the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States as interpreted by the Supreme Court of the United States of America, the right of freedom of association — or non-association, in this case.

So, Roger Stone: In the past, you supported the right of the Boy Scouts to exercise their freedom of association in order to not associate with homosexuals. So at one time, you apparently believed private organizations had freedom of association. When did you convert to Communism — the notion that private property and private organizations shouldn’t exist? Why do you believe Twitter is or should be public property with no right of freedom of association as guaranteed by the Constitution for private entities?

Curious penguins are… curious!

– Badtux the “Hypocrisy, much?” Penguin

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Daw, isn’t James Damore just an adorable special little snowflake tech bro? For a definition of “adorable” that rhymes with “giant flaming douche”, I mean?

This adorable special little techbro snowflake, and others like him, are whining that equality of sexes has gone too far. Why, women are getting uppity and even reporting them to HR when they grab a woman’s ass or tits. Gasp! The horror! Women expecting to be treated as equals in the workplace rather than as eye candy or sperm receptacles! And you know, she was wearing yoga leggings, so she was just asking for it, anyhow!

And hey, what about this douchebag, James Altizer, who whines that there’s a “witchhunt” against men who treat women like shit? Wow, what a stud!

These are the same douchebags who inhabit Reddit troll forums devoted to “incels” that refer to women with derogatory names and whine inconsolably that men are entitled to women’s bodies and yada yada yada. They’re self-entitled jerks with no self-awareness of just how dickish they seem to anybody who isn’t just like them.

And they wonder why they have trouble working with female co-workers? Dudes need to be looking at themselves for the answer to that problem, ’cause I’ve worked with female coworkers plenty of times and never had a problem working with them. But then, I treat them like coworkers, not like a sperm receptacle or eye candy. Maybe, y’know, if you have trouble working with your coworkers, don’t be a dick? Ya think?!

– Badtux the Silicon Valley Penguin Penguin

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I’ve spent probably four hours over the past two days explaining to people that no, it is *not* possible to hack a Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and cause it to run into an oil tanker. There are two separate hydraulic systems controlling the rudder, one of which is entirely mechanical (no electronics at all) and the other is attached to an *analog* “autopilot” that just keeps the ship going in a specified compass direction. Neither of these can be hacked, nor can the gas turbine controls, which are basically the same as the controls in a commercial jet airliner (yes, jet airliners are driven by gas turbines, albeit their gas turbines are driving fans to shove air out the back of the engine rather than driving propeller shafts). Yep, Arleigh Burke class destroyers are basically driven by a shaft-driving version of the CF6 jet engine that powers the 747 jet airliner! The gas turbine controls are digital now, but they’re still potted boxes not connected to any external network — i.e., you aren’t going to hack them without physical access, and they are *triple* redundant so you’d have to hack *three* of them.

In short: Nope, none of this is hackable. And yes, you can hack GPS, but all that an Arleigh Burke uses GPS for is for general location-finding. Collision avoidance is via radar and the Mark II Eyeball, and depends upon a) the ship’s rudder not jamming due to hydraulic system failures, and b) a crew that isn’t so tired and bleary-eyed from lack of sleep that they can remember how to kick in the backup rudder control system, or how to hit the collision alarm, or how to jam the engine controls to full speed ahead to outrun an oncoming oil tanker.

Oh yeah, the other stupid conspiracy theory is that the tanker was hacked to run into the destroyer. Puh-LEEZE. It takes around 15 miles for a tanker to go from its normal cruising speed of around 16 knots to a full stop. When they’re coming in to port, they start slowing down *six hours* before docking. These suckers (and their giant diesel engines) have a *lot* of momentum, they don’t speed up or slow down very quickly, they aren’t going to suddenly speed up and hit a destroyer. And changing course is similarly lethargic, taking miles to change course. An oil tanker doesn’t suddenly veer into a destroyer. These things give new definition to the word “lumbering”. The largest supertankers are almost 1/4th of a mile long, longer than the Empire State Building is tall, and weigh more than the Empire State Building too. Changing course takes miles. Basically, the only way a tanker can run into a destroyer is if the destroyer places itself in front of the tanker, whether due to mechanical failure, lack of training on the part of the crew, lack of sleep on the part of the crew, whatever. Because a tanker in a shipping lane is the closest thing to an immovable object that you’ll find afloat, it’s going where it’s going at the speed it’s going, and that’s pretty much that.

Finally: The admiral in charge of the 7th Fleet is being relieved of command. Shit may flow downhill. But when four ships under his command get wrecked in embarrassing accidents, the buck stops at the Admiral’s desk. My guess is that many, many of his underlings are also very, very nervous right now…

– Badtux the Hacker Penguin

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The State Department is eliminating its Cybersecurity coordination office. Because we’re apparently secure. Despite all those ransomware outbreaks recently.

Oh joy. We’re gonna get more scammers, more spammers, more break-ins, more of everything annoying on the Internet. It’s like they’re *trying* to destroy the Internet. Like they think the Internet threatens their control, or something.

Oh wait….

– Badtux the Paranoid Penguin

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According to their website, the robot has Advanced Anomaly Detection, Forensic Capabilities and Gun Detection. Water detection, however, apparently is still pending.

Either that, or this is a case of a Baptist baptism gone bad. “By the blood of Christ I baptise thee!” Bzzzzt SPARK! ZAP! “Wait, you aren’t waterproof?!”


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Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you are going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed.

— — Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks at the Dartmouth College Commencement Exercises, Hanover, New Hampshire. June 14, 1953

That was back when Republicans (at least some of them) were defenders of liberty. Today, the most fervent defenders of the Republican administration are also today’s most fervent book-burners.

Today’s book burners don’t use matches. They use false reports of “violations of community standards” to Facebook and Twitter and YouTube. Whether it is Jim Wright that the book burners are going after on Facebook, or haters maliciously flagging entire Youtube channels that have content that offends their political sensibilities or simply mention them in the context of false flagging, book burners today are more active than they ever were in the supposed bad old days of Joe McCarthy’s America, the days in which President Eisenhower was speaking above to college students.

What’s different today is that book burners can bring together entire electronic lynch mobs via platforms like 4chan or Reddit or the Daily Mail to burn people’s electronic books. And unlike in the past, where stalwart librarians were fierce in defense of the authors of the books in their libraries, Google (or Facebook) doesn’t care, because they don’t have to. It would cost money to defend content creators, so they won’t.

And that, my friends, is the problem with the fact that we’ve privatized our “libraries”. When book burners show up, what do Google or Facebook do? They just let the book burners burn books. Because there’s no profit in stopping them by putting a human in the way of letting the book burners burn books, indeed, it costs money. They have no stern librarians with horn-rimmed glasses saying “you will burn books in my library over my dead body.” They just shrug and say “the machine did it, not me.” And don’t lift a finger.

And what kind of society we will have, when we can have any book burned at the whim of practically any special interest book?

Not much of one. As we’re seeing now, I suspect…

– Badtux the Apocalyptic Penguin

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