JVM Options

I was looking for a list of the JVM options and a colleague provided me with a link to this great page documenting them.

Dvorak on the Itanium

Generally I like what John C. Dvorak has to say and I think he is on target, as a whole. But his last article “How the Itanium Killed the Computer Industry” smacks of cabin fever.

In 1997 Intel was the king of the hill; in that year it first announced the Itanium or IA-64 processor. That same year, research company IDC predicted that the Itanium would take over the world, racking up $38 billion in sales in 2001. Wow! Everybody paid attention.

Yup, I remember that, hype was the order of the day, and then we waited, and waited, and waited, well you get the picture. In the meantime the x86 caught up in terms of speed. It has happened before, a company (I can’t remember the name) licensed the PowerPC design from Motorola and was going to make a kick-add PowerPC chip, and we waited, and waited, and when it finally came out the regular PowerPC architecture had caught up (only to hit a nasty brick wall later.)

Andy Grove figured that Intel could pull an Apple and do what Macs did when that company transitioned from the 68000 to the PowerPC chip: run legacy apps in emulation. It’s been done before, after all, and this chip would be so powerful (they thought) that nobody would even notice. No matter that Apple got lucky with its emulator, and that generally emulation sucks.

Emulation is not always that great, the 68000 emulator on PowerPC was slow, not because there was an issue with the emulator but because the first PowerPC chips were slow. On the other hand the PowerPC emulator on Intel worked pretty well, mostly.

Because this chip was supposed to radically change the way computers work and become the driving force behind all systems in the future, one promising project after another was dropped. The MIPS chip, the DEC Alpha (perhaps the fastest chip of its era), and anything else in the pipeline were all cancelled or deemphasized. Why? Because Itanium was the future for all computing. Why bother wasting money on good ideas that didn’t include it?

Ok, so some projects were dropped but I am not sure this was all the fault of the Itanium, MIPS had a very small market, perhaps it deserved to disappear. But I was sorry to see the DEC Alpha chip disappear, it was way ahead of its time when it came out.

On the other hand we had the Opteron which was a great chip, giving Intel a run for its money as well as a swift, incentivizing, kick in the pants to develop the current architecture.

VirtualBox 2.1

I noticed on ArsTechnica that VirtualBox 2.1 has just been released, and they posted a review of it.

I took a look at the product in late 2008 and found that it consumed a lot of CPU power compared to VMware Fusion and Parallels.

I initially used Parallels but dumped it when it would not work on my MacPro (it worked on my MacBookPro though), and have been using VMware Fusion since with no issues.

Adult Spotted Drum Fish

A nice example of an adult Spotted Drum fish. They are relatively easy to photograph because they tend to go back and forth in their hole, usually doing circles or figure eights, so all you need to do is wait for them to come back, timing the shot when they will appear.

While this is fish is interesting as an adult, it is quite spectacular as a juvenile, with a very long swooping dorsal fin and an equally long tail fin.

Java Bit Lube

I have been working on some Java performance issues, actually non-performance and came across some pretty good article on JVM tuning:

Blogroll and Podcasts Updated

I just updated my blogroll and podcasts links.

Point of Sale Issues

Over the past two months I have been helping a friend with a maddening issue on his Windows XP Point of Sale system. What was going on is that that software would randomly lock up just after scanning the bar code of an item. The software would eventually unlock after a couple of minutes, but since customers were waiting the best option was to reboot the system. Not an idea situation.

I know very little about Windows XP but offered to help. I ran Spinrite to check the hard drive (could have been a sticky sector on the drive, it wasn’t,) I ran ‘chkdsk’ (came up clean,) remove various bits of software from the machine (Verizon online backup is impossible to uninstall, in fact it should be categorized as a virus since uninstalling it just causes it to reinstall itself.)

Eventually I gave up and reinstalled everything from scratch. The vendor he got the machine from did not include backup CDs for most of the software so I had to track all that down, including some of the more esoteric drivers for the printer. I reinstalled Windows XP, Microsoft Office, the Point of Sale software, iTunes and Norton Antivirus 2009.

And the machine was still hanging, so we started to take off software one at a time and narrowed it down to Norton Antivirus 2009. The machine has been stable since.

The only thing I still need to put in place is a backup policy.