Sunday, May 17, 2009

Baseball and Physics

Let's take a break from computers and use two examples that everyone thinks about in the spring – baseball and car engines (outdoor car shows with open hoods) – using physics to explain the Photons-Electrons name.

One of the books that I highly recommend (I have no financial interest here) is a book by Ricki Linksman, M.Ed. called "How To Learn Anything Quickly". In this book Ricki Linksman has a survey that will tell you what type of learning style works best or you. I learned a number of things about myself that has absolutely helped me in learning new subjects. I came out as a kinesthetic right-brain type of learning style.

So, how does this tie back into photons and electrons? The two things I think about with new topics are UTAF and DTM (not from the book referenced above). UTA is Understand The Architecture First and DTM is Do The Math .

Photons-Electrons in the context of baseball and engines from a physics viewpoint.

When you coach kids in baseball the number one thing any young player wants is to get a hit. Not a bunt, not an error, but an out of the infield, honest to god hit. When you are coaching kids - the most important thing you must do is SIMPLIFY THE TASK.

Hitting a baseball becomes a physics lesson. You need to explain to the young player (and sometimes to the parents) that the most important aspect in hitting a baseball is bat speed - form is actually second. You must explain the physics of the bat being swung is 1/2 mass times velocity squared. In other words, the speed of the bat is four times more important than the weight of the bat. So, how do you know if the bat is too heavy? You have the young player grab the bat at the very end and hold it in one hand straight out for 7 seconds. If they are leaning backwards or shaking while they are doing this exercise, then clearly the bat is too heavy and you need a lighter bat.

The second key point from a physics standpoint in baseball is getting your hips into the swing. You tell the young player that as they swing the bat, pretend there is a bug is below their rear foot and to CRUSH THE BUG HARD as they swing. This will get their hips into the swing.

The third key point you see above is to make sure the player extends their arms fully when they swing and meet the ball with the bat being level to the ground. This again is a physics lesson - you lose tremendous amounts of power by having the arms bent when you meet the ball.

Finally, make sure the player has the right grip on the bat. The players door knocking knuckles should be lined up as in the picture below. Why? Because this will be the proper hand position when they hit the ball. They might complain that it feels uncomfortable at first, but it is the right way to grip a bat. Special thanks to my middle son Michael for demonstrating the correct baseball techniques in the above photos.

Of course there are other important points to hitting, but these first few are what will give a young player success. At least it worked with my three boys :-)

Let me give a second example horsepower. Horsepower is calculated as:

(torque times RPM) divided by 5,252

What is torque? Torque is twisting force. In the above formula, imagine a one pound weight that is one foot from a pivot. If we rotate this one full circle we have done 6.2832 foot-pounds of work (pi * the 2 foot circle).

Everyone knows RPM is Revolutions Per Minute

Why divide by 5,252? James Watt said the average horse could lift 550 pounds a one foot distance in once second. Since we are talking about RPM, we multiply 550 time 60 and we find that a horse can do 33,000 of foot-pounds of work in a minute. When we divide 33,000 foot-pounds of work in minute by 6.2832 we get 5,252.


Stated another way, if we have one-pound of torque at 5,252 RPM it is equal to 33,000 foot pounds per minute aka Watt's mythical horse.

Why does this matter? Because torque and horsepower curve will always cross at 5,252 RPM. Also, you can now discuss with your friends why it is possible to have an engine that has a lot of torque, but not great horsepower. You can pontificate on the technical torque differences between Harley-Davidsons and Suzukis.

For example, the engine below (a picture of my 98 Corvette's engine) is reported as having a pretty flat torque curve from 1,600 RPM to 5,000 RPM with the maximum torque coming in at 5,300 RPM according to different articles I have read.

This is why it can be very handy to memorize to horsepower and torque calculations so that when the car salesman blurts out:

"This engine is 430 horsepower."

You then will follow up with the natural follow-on questions:

"At what RPM was that calculated? When does the torque curve flatten out?"

This is why you should always tell the car salesman that you want to see the torque/horsepower curve printouts before you buy any car.

So, IMHO, photons are the big picture and electrons the key aspects of any topic and how they interact is what is most important and that is where I came up with the name of the blog....

John Edstrom Campus Advocate of the Month For Sun

Congratulations to my oldest son, John, who was selected to be Campus Ambassador of the Month for Sun Microsystems. Increasing the number of Campus Ambassadors is one of Jonathan Schwartz's most brilliant strategic investments since he became CEO. John is doing lots of very interesting Tech Talks, on topics such as Chris Melissinos discussing Gaming, Solaris with Dr. Harry Foxwell at Virginia Tech that have been extremely well attended. There are many other activities that John has been doing (such as the NetBeans 6 demo he did for students and faculty) and you can read more about that here at his Sun blog.

John gave a nice interview about his activities as a Campus Ambassador at VA Tech.

Why I Do Not Have An iPhone (yet)

I am growing tired of answering the question, "Dave, why don't you have an iPhone yet?"

First, do I think the iPhone is amazing technology? You bet. Do I think Steve Jobs is an absolute genius? Without question. Is Apple a great company? Yes, they are an amazing company. But, let me list what Apple should do for the iPhone if they want me as a customer (yes, I realize that Apple does not care if I am a customer :-)

  1. No cut-n-paste. Are you kidding me? When friends tell me, "Dave, you just don't understand the Apple lifestyle." Yes, I guess that is true..... When I hear on podcasts that Apple is researching the best methods for implementing cut-n-paste, I just have to laugh. If this is true, let me give you a hint, go ask the folks at Palm, they have it figured out.
  2. No removable storage. It is very handy to have the ability to remove a SAN disk.
  3. Not all apps can take advantage of the horizontal mode. This is ridiculous.
  4. The battery is not removable. Yes, the most recent updates help, but Apple is not there yet. I want the ability to carry a second battery with me.
  5. It should be a reliable phone. If I had a dollar for every time a friend said to me, "hey, I am using my iPhone so we might get dropped and I will have to call you back", I would have enough for at least a dinner out :-)
  6. The iPhone is simply too proprietary for me and I believe that it stifles the amount of innovation we would otherwise see with the iPhone. Yes, Apple does a great job with ease of use and overall experience, but I prefer freedom.
  7. The idea that Apple will "brick" your phone is just repulsive to me.
  8. I want real keys to type on, not a picture of a key. Yes, I know this dates me :-)
  9. The App Store has so many rules on what type of app it allows that, IMHO, it stifles true creativity and true competition. Checkout this article at the New York Times titled: Apple's Capricious Rules for iPhone Apps
  10. No Java for the iPhone. Hopefully this might change someday....
  11. No voice activated calling.
  12. You can not record video.
  13. I do love the features of the G1, but have not gotten one yet. The Palm Pre sounds VERY promising as well.
  15. I will keep my old Treo 650 that just works great as a phone and basic PDA with a limited browser, until there is something that is at least as good as the G1.
If Apple addressed these, would I buy an iPhone? In a femto-second.

GREAT OpenSolaris Book by Dr. Harry Foxwell and Christine Tran

Dr. Harry Foxwell was kind enough to provide me with a copy of his GREAT book on OpenSolaris. The book is extremely well written and a must buy for all those interested in the best operating systems in this universe. A little history here - I interviewed Harry prior to him coming to Sun in 1995. Harry has been a fantastic SE and an even better friend. Harry likes to exxagerate how hard the interview really was. Now, I have to admit that I was going through my Patterson and Hennessy Computer Architecture phase, so I was treating prospective candidates as if they were postdocs at either UCB or Stanford :-)

As Harry signed below, "This will help Solaris "go to 11"!

Below is the cover of Harry and Christine's book.

Apress's Pro OpenSolaris is the second English language book to be published specifically about Sun Microsystems' OpenSolaris open source operating system. The first was the comprehensive,1000-page, OpenSolaris Bible published by Wiley in March 2009. That book purposely covered all aspects of OpenSolaris for those with only basic familiarity with Solaris and UNIX as well as for those with greater administration and developer experience; it reviewed desktop tools, networking, shell programming, and system administration along with the unique features of OpenSolaris.

Pro OpenSolaris, published in April 2009 and based on the OpenSolaris 2008.11 release, assumes the reader is already comfortable with the user and development environments of GNOME and Linux; it focuses primarily on the key OpenSolaris features that should be learned and exploited for Web development. It includes an extensive chapter detailing a sample Webstack project based on the zones, ZFS, security, and SMF topics introduced in the preceding chapters. The book also highlights relevant online references and resources for further learning. Although all of the information about OpenSolaris is available on myriad Web sites, books such as Pro OpenSolaris give you a roadmap and recommended sequence of what to learn first. It also strongly emphasizes that open source solutions can be effectively hosted on OpenSolaris as well as on Linux.

You can purchase Pro OpenSolaris here at Amazon or at Barnes and Noble.

Thanks For The GREAT Memories Sun Microsystems: Scott, Bill, Andy, Vinod and John

With all the news today, I just wanted to share some memories of Sun over the past 22 years I have worked here at Sun. Note, I am still here at Sun, just thought I would take a couple of minutes to write down some of my memories over the many years.

When I first spoke with Sun Microsystems, it was the summer of 1984 and Betsy MacLean (later Ferry) and Steve Ferry had recently went over to Sun Microsystems from Systems Development Corporation (SDC) a Division of Burroughs Corporation. I met Betsy and Steve while we were all at SDC. It is interesting to note that SDC based in Santa Monica, California, was arguably the world's first computer software company as noted by Wikipedia. I was not smart enough to go over to Sun in 1984 :-)

Sun was founded in 1982 with Sun standing for Stanford University Network (SUN).

In 1986, I was an SE for SDC and technical lead for a HUGE and extremely challenging opportunity for High Performance Workstations opportunity where Sun Microsystems was the digital workstation and Masscomp was the analog workstation of choice. At the end of 1986 and long after the completion of the bid and benchmarks, I started talking to Sun Microsystems about working there. I started on May 4th, 1987.

Betsy hired me and was a great manager and leader. My mentor was Neil Groundwater who was clearly the smartest person in computers that I had ever met. In the summer of 1987 we found out we won the HPW business that has since been worth at least $2 BILLION to Sun Microsystems over the years - yes that is B as in BILLION. Steve Ferry was THE Sales Rep on this opportunity and to this day is far and away the best Sales Rep I have ever seen/worked with and a great friend to this day.

There are so many people to thank for the great, great memories that I have of Sun Microsystems. I have to first thank Betsy for hiring me, Neil for being a great mentor and a great friend. I have worked with and for lots of great individuals for 22 years at Sun. I had the privilege of working for three great SE Directors - Joy Warfield, Brad Kirley and Sue Walls who all showed great leadership and courage. Most importantly, Joy, Brad and Sue firmly believed in the Sun mantra "work hard and play hard". In the "play hard" vein, Dennis Govoni and I pulled countless pranks on each other and have teamed up with others on some very memorable April Fools Goofs as well.

During the past five years I have been the Chief Technologist for the Software Practice and it has been the most fun I have had at Sun. I have had the great fortune for working for a true software leader in Dave Profozich. Dave has been a great leader and friend.

By far, the most fun and rewarding experience I have ever had was working with Dave Patterson of Berkeley on MTConnect.

Finally, a huge special thanks to Scott McNealy, Bill Joy, Andy Bechtolsheim, Vinod Khosla and John Gage. While John was not officially one of Sun's four founders, he was always known as the "fifth Beatle" and employee #21 John coined the term "The Network Is The Computer". Below is one of the classic photos that we always used for presentations to show the founders.

Above is the photo from the Sun Founders Panel night at The Computer History Museum on January 11th, 2006.

I remember Scott McNealy signing my Sun 10 Year Anniversary Yearbook in 1992 with the message:

I remember being with Bill Joy, John Gage and Neil Groundwater having dinner in Georgetown and the wine list was given to me to select. This is the classic pig staring at a Rolex watch type of scenario with Dave Edstrom looking at a wine list. I looked at the list and said, "how about a pitcher of Busch beer?" Neil Groundwater gave me one of those looks that could kill. Bill Joy was very cool about it. Bill said, "Dave, a cold beer sounds good and John, why don't you select a bottle of wine as well."

I could go on and on with stories, but this is enough for today.

It is a sad day when a company that had so much energy and creativity as Sun Microsystems dies. Sun is probably best known for Java, Solaris and SPARC but there is so much more at Sun Microsystems. If you worked for Sun during its peak, it was quite the company to work for. As my oldest son John, who works for Sun as a Campus Ambassador, told me this morning, "Sun had quite a ride." Yes, it was a great ride!

Who knows how this will all shake it out, but at this time I am reminded of the old phrase, "You can not adjust the wind, you can only adjust your sails...."