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Showing posts from October, 2009

SOSP 2009, Day Three

Final day here at SOSP 2009. Unfortunately my shuttle back to the airport leaves in the middle of the first session, so I am only able to go to the first couple of talks.

Last night at the SIGOPS business meeting, Doug Terry gave an overview of SIGOPS' finances; apparently they are making money hand over fist, and are actually looking for ways to spend down some of the savings. My suggestion: host SOSP 2011 in the ideal location for the conference and don't worry about breaking even.

Speaking of SOSP 2011, Peter Druschel was announced as the Program Chair. There were a few proposals for sites to host the conference. The one that received the most applause was Madeira Island, which is some 500 miles off the coast of Portugal. The site looks fantastic, though I'm not sure about travel connections. Lisbon was the other Portuguese option, which looks great. There were proposals for Dresden, China, Brazil, New Hampshire, and Puerto Rico as well.

The rest of the business meeting i…

SOSP 2009, Day Two

It's Day Two here in Big Sky and we have a few fresh inches of snow on the ground. Apparently Mike Freedman hit an elk while driving here from Salt Lake City on Sunday (he is OK, the elk is likely not).

Last night at the banquet and awards ceremony, Eric Brewer won the Mark Weiser Award -- well deserved! Eric represents exactly the kind of person this award was designed for, and just before they made the announcement, I was thinking, "Why hasn't Eric won this yet?" Three papers won the SIGOPS Hall of Fame Award, given to the paper that is at least 10 years old that has had substantial influence on the community. I don't recall the papers (they are not posted on the above page yet) but David Cheriton, Butler Lampson, and Hank Levy were all coauthors of the awarded papers.

A few general comments on the SOSP program, and some trends. The hot topics this year continue to be in the realm of debugging and preventing or managing faults. Roughly half of the papers fall int…

SOSP 2009, Day One

I'm in Big Sky, Montana for SOSP 2009 -- widely considered the premier conference on systems. The location is stunning although it's bitterly cold here; I was not ready for this kind of weather for a couple more months. This seems to be the biggest SOSP ever with more than 500 people registered; the last SOSP had a mere 471 attendees. I am not sure what this means. The number of paper submissions has not been going up dramatically, so it's hard to tell if this represents an increasing interest in systems as a field. This year there are a number of co-located workshops, and perhaps with the weak economy people are concentrating their conference travel to focus on fewer high-impact events.

Best paper awards went to three papers: FAWN, RouteBricks, and seL4. These papers all represented a substantial amount of work and have a remarkable number of authors; they are not the kind of papers that were dashed off in two weeks by one or two grad students!

Below are some of the highlig…

Black Box Parenting

I happen to be the proud father of a three-month old baby boy named Sidney. He is a great little guy but as a first-time parent I have often been frustrated with the lack of a clear, coherent instruction manual for taking care of newborns. One would think that after a few million years of raising children, someone would have documented how these things work. Of course, there are tons of baby books out there, but few of them are based on scientific principles. Most are based on anecdotal evidence and often the "parenting philosophy" gets in the way of empirical, pragmatic solutions. Searching for answers on the Internet just drives you crazy as you realize that nobody has any idea what they're talking about.

As a scientist and engineer, my only model for approaching a new, complex system with unknown behavior is to treat it as a black box. In the case of babies, the inputs are food, love, environment; the outputs are behavior (some desirable, some less so); occasional vom…