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Showing posts from October, 2010

Computing at scale, or, how Google has warped my brain

A number of people at Google have stickers on their laptops that read "my other computer is a data center." Having been at Google for almost four months, I realize now that my whole concept of computing has radically changed since I started working here. I now take it for granted that I'll be able to run jobs on thousands of machines, with reliable job control and sophisticated distributed storage readily available.

Most of the code I'm writing is in Python, but makes heavy use of Google technologies such as MapReduce, BigTable, GFS, Sawzall, and a bunch of other things that I'm not at liberty to discuss in public. Within about a week of starting at Google, I had code running on thousands of machines all over the planet, with surprisingly little overhead.

As an academic, I have spent a lot of time thinking about and designing "large scale systems", though before coming to Google I rarely had a chance to actually work on them. At Berkeley, I worked on th…

In Defense of Mark Zuckerberg

I finally got to see The Social Network, the new movie about the founding of Facebook. The movie is set during my first year teaching at Harvard, and in fact there is a scene where I'm shown teaching the Operating Systems course (in a commanding performance by Brian Palermo -- my next choice was Brad Pitt, but I'm thrilled that Brian was available for the role). The scene even shows my actual lecture notes on virtual memory. Of course, the content of the scene is completely fictional -- Mark Zuckerberg never stormed out of my class (and I wouldn't have humiliated him for it if he had) -- although the bored, glazed-over look of the students in the scene was pretty much accurate.

It's a great movie, and very entertaining, but there are two big misconceptions that I'd like to clear up. The first is that the movie inaccurately portrays Harvard as a place full of snobby, rich kids who wear ties and carry around an inflated sense of entitlement. Of course, my view (from …