SEACOM Launched

A few things to consider (and expand on at a later date):

  • Wired across an ocean doesn’t mean wired across land. We still need to consider the cost of establishing a wired infrastructure versus a wireless one over the continent of Africa.
  • 1.2TBps. While there are roughly over 124,000,000 people in East Africa, let’s assume that less than 10% of them use this service constantly. This bandwidth is reduced to about 104 kBps per person…. probably, on a good day as well. Still, not bad, but with cell phones and other computing technologies being disseminated, will this rate prove to be sufficient in a few years?
  • What’s the cost for maintenance? Who’s footing the bill? This service must be cheaper than satellite but how does the bandwidth scale through the existing infrastructure? What do those 124e6 people experience?

Back to Zotero

I realized today that organizing my research will have to take some inspiration from Jim Waldo‘s article “A Note on Distributed Computing.” (Even though several other authors are in front of Jim, I know him personally for having written this article and so cite him primarily here.) We cannot blur the lines of interfaces to single processor systems and distributed systems – the two types should not be unified. The same principle applies to how to organize my research.

While I wanted to figure out a way to seamlessly blend my BibTex, notes, PDFs, marked-up HTML, etc. with an externally viewable wiki, I realize that all the nitty-gritty details that I have collected for my own reference don’t need to be exposed to my collaborators. Thus, the wiki, while somewhat bare relative to the Zotero-powered database I maintain in Firefox is sufficient. And all those notes I have for myself? Preserved and accessible from anywhere =)

DataDyne and the *ROSA

After a crazy month of finals, graduation, family, and the flu, I’m digging through my email and found a little gem from Matt Welsh. Matt has been my advisor for nearly three years and an extremely supportive mentor through my college career, especially against the difficulty of graduate school choices this spring. Even though I turned down directly attending his PhD home, he relentlessly encourages me in my interest to pursue technology in developing regions…

Data in the developing world has caught my attention in minimal ways throughout the past few years. I think about Vivek Pai’s Hash Cache work as well as the attempt from friends in the Harvard AIDS Coalition two years ago to put textbooks on OLPC XOs before their initial release. A lot of individuals see the presence of data as an important push. I think that I have had a predisposition for a different mechanism of disseminating knowledge. Rather than attempt to push all data to a person in need, present the less cumbersome solution of easy access to a library of data. Philosophically, this has fit better with my interests in enabling long-distance wireless communication and not data compression. Query optimization is more interesting to me than data replication (although, I realize the latter is just as important in maintaining data integrity in a centralized system).

Ultimately, I would like to take a look at the OpenROSA (Tapan Parikh) and javarosa work that caught my attention recently, in additiont to the link to DataDyne that Matt Welsh recommended via his colleague Tia Gao.

Outstanding Qualities of People Who Have High Impact

In my final weeks as a student at Harvard College, I have been reflecting on the purpose of my undergraduate education. I have thought about how I got here from four years ago, reexamining my goals at the end of high school and their evolution through break-ups, internships, all-nighters, intimate conversations, explosive confrontations, failures, and successes. While my collegiate experience is probably below average — measured by the quintessential (late-night) college endeavors, which diminished exponentially after my second year — I have remained faithful to my pursuits to learn how to (1) think and (2) make real-world impact.

By no measure (that I would accept) have I proven that I know how to think or make real-world impact. However, from my encounters with technologists and social entrepreneurs, professors and CEOs, angels and hedge funds, I have gained some insight into what does not work in this world: A set of principles that I have let float in my head for some time reveal a hint of timeless wisdom.

  1. Figure out why you do what you do (don’t wander aimlessly and don’t commit to more than you have the time and motivation to complete!).
  2. Concentrate on what’s important to you in both work and personal life (don’t misprioritize! or, prioritize well!).
  3. “Family, friends, work, in that order” (don’t sacrifice “life” for “work”!).

I hope to come back to this list and add more. Most people who are thoughtful about these things have read the usual books (as I have): Seven Habits, The 8th Habit, Randy Pausch’s lectures, etc. Hopefully, this serves as a concise reminder of the nuggets of wisdom that all of us (usually) passively receive but tend to forget just as easily.

Lions' Commentary on the UNIX OS

In a conversation with Margo today, I was impressed to learn about the John Lions’ “A commentary on the Sixth Edition of the UNIX Operating System.” Even though it would have been very helpful while learning about operating systems to have known about this resource, I can understand why this commentary was withheld from our revision: it’s just so dang good! Perhaps, that’s not a worthy explanation – after all, if a text can explain its subject well, why not offer it to students? (Ne solution manuals.)

Well, for anyone interested in learning about UNIX, my expectation is that this is a must-read.

Commitment

Stressed. Alone. The feelings of overwhelming isolation could lead someone to success… or possibly failure. For most of my life, I believe that it led to the former. Recognizing that I wanted to join a stronger community of students and researchers in order to make an impact on this world, I worked relentlessly to leave home. But things changed significantly with college.

Harvard was a place where I felt comfortable growing up. I embraced the face that I was surrounded by people who were smarter than me. I have enjoyed it thoroughly. To some extent, then the idea “I’m leaving soon” loomed on the horizon, lulled me into a quiet desperation to stay. Why sever connections that supply me with the “life” that I had always dreamed of? The cliche joke of letting failure lead one to stay another year arrived as a false chariot of hope. For the most part, it found a place in my life: a fallacious sense that I was needed if the work didn’t get done… and this of course, failed.

I look at the community I have at Harvard and the many lessons I have learned through failing. I have passed every course, sometimes just barely… quite literally. Other times – many times – I have let people down. I have’t followed through on commitments. I could hardly gauge my own demand and have been overwhelmed by the opportunities presented in my life.

The best wisdom I have received involves committing to what I can handle, doing what I commit to well, and, above all, loving on the community surrounding those commitments. The first two bits I have received from conversations with people I respect immensely. The third, actually, is my own observation of the advisors of the first two bits. That third point could be artificially simulated but, really, when genuinely applied, makes the added difference, I have noticed, in the world around me. Whether it has been through personal or professional life, leaders who have chosen to these three principles have had no shortage of followers or respect offered to them.

I have experimented in social situations, both personal and professional, more than I would like to admit due to the hurt that I believe my curiosity has caused. One outcome however is a desire to seek reconciliation for past wrongs. These wrongs are the times when I have reached for more than I could handle. In reality, the idea of “shoot for the moon and, if you miss, you’ll at least land amongst the stars” when applied too individualistically has caused too much hurt.

Of course, no one ought to deny the value of these experiments. The fruits have been lasting friendships, leadership, growth, and love. Risks come with experiments. The lie about empirical science is that we remove ourselves from the equations. We are bound intrinsically to our work when we step out of the theoretical realm.

But, truly, we immerse ourselves in the product of our labor. And this is beautiful.

My hope is finish my time year recognizing it not as an end (or a cliche beginning), but a continuation of this shared narrative that we are all on. My hope is to be edifying to others, to make up for past wrongs, but strive for what’s better – in research, at home… in life.

Underdogs

Parents. My parents grew up in the American “baby boom.”
They lived in the midst of a culture expanding its global reach.
But for each of them, life remained relatively contained
to their families’ own little corners of the world.
Both grew up
in almost pastoral images
of God blessed America.
However, these were hardly the “families”
of Steinbeck… or even Kafka.

I think about the challenges that my parents faced and the therefore miraculous state of my life now. I am graduating from the most prestigious university in the world, aware of how little I know, but motivated to bring an end to the extreme poverty of this world. My hopes dwell in the realm of technology – the bits of systems and networks. The hacking of a kernel or applying a well-tested patch are the hobbies of my day. But these are not my passion.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s The New Yorker “Annals of Innovation: How David Beat Goliath”, we see that the underdogs win by breaking the rules. Throughout history, entire nations have exhibited this little hidden truth. And my family has been no different. Beaten and left nothing, quite literally, my parents managed to pull themselves up from the bottom of this society’s barrel to offer me not the reflection of their own youth but rather the hope that a recovering nation and world longed for.

This sort of hope and faith is what motivates my research as well. It’s the mission to be a vehicle for hope, like my parents, for those in the world who are the least, the lost, the lonely… the forgotten. My hope is not for “one off” Westernized solutions applied to a “created” problem but rather a real, breathing, living need. I’m looking to address well-researched questions and problems and challenges. I know that I’m not the only person hoping to save the world or at least make it a better place. But I know too, from my own family’s experiences, fighting as the underdog makes life more interesting.

PhD Program Choices

In Spring 2009, I experienced that hardest decision that I made in my life to date. Faced with some amazing options for pursuing my PhD program in Computer Science, including UC Berkeley and the University of Washington, I made a choice that seemed counter-intuitive to most people around me. The variables that I optimized for, however, were weighted and constrained based on many lessons that I learned not just from growing as a person in college but also as a computer scientist. Here’s what went through my head between February 6 and April 15, 2009.

Personal Life.

Technology and Courage. “Family, friends, work, in that order.”

Visit Days. I feel like I made the most of my Visit Day experiences. I met several future colleagues. I debriefed my encounters frequently with Christina, Matt Welsh, and alumni of various institutions that I visited.

Ultimately, it took a long time for my mind to catch up to the choice that it made in April. Two months later, I experienced a lot of cognitive dissonance, feeling the tension of my personal life and professional life coming to a head with no discernible “perfect” choice.

In the end I chose to go to NYU in order to be with Christina. She was my girlfriend at the time of my decision, but three months later we were engaged with blessing of both of our families as well as our church community.

Robin Murphy (Texas A&M) on "Being There"

At the the CS Colloquium this afternoon, Robin Murphy presented her work on using robots to find disaster victims; she based her talk on her 15 years of experience in disaster relief. Her encounters range from the Oklahoma City Bombing to 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina. Her methodology reminded me of the trends that doing computer science research on Information Communication Technology for Developing Regions, or ICTD, uniquely requires.

Discovery as Feedback Loop and Problems Motivated by Real World Experience. From the more senior members in the Computer Science ICTD space, the biggest complaint I have heard is that not enough would-be do-gooders fail to spend enough time in the field. As a zeroth-year graduate student in this space, my hope is that I don’t fall into the cliche trap of solving a problem that my response to background reading conjures. I hope to find my problems from being on the ground and directly seeing the challenges encountered by individuals who call developing regions home. Alternatively, I hope that I rely on the firsthand testimony of experienced ICTD people instead of young, overly-ambitious observation.

The Veracity of Miracles

Why do we seem to lack sufficiently rigorous evidence of miracles?
This is a really good question that I think I have some conceptual
understanding of.

We wouldn’t consider it reasonable to predict miracles and therefore
would not plan ex ante to identify the circumstances about which a
miracle occurs. However, we might then be able to gather testimonies
readily… what does that mean for our lack then of miracle
documentation?

I think, as humans, we tend to live in the moment far too often and
easily believe that an experience will continue to impact us for a
lifetime. As history tells us, we tend to forget. But there is still
hope, of course, and we can rest assured that God will help us to
realize His truth and His presence in good time.