Sunday, March 20, 2011

True Grit

I remember vividly the first time I saw True Grit: I was 7 years old and on a family holiday and my father and I snuck off to watch it. I loved it then and I continue to love it whenever I watch it. So it was with some apprehension that I heard they were making another movie. I still haven't seen it but I probably will eventually.

However, it was while I was reading about the new movie that I realised I'd not actually read the book. I did some research about it and kept hearing how good it was. When I saw some reviewers likening it to one of my favourite books of all time (To Kill A Mockinbird), I knew I had to give it a go. Well I'm almost finished the book and I have to admit it is definitely up there as a classic. If the new movie is as good, then I think it'll be worth a viewing. Though it'll have to go some to displace the original movie in my heart!

Monday, March 14, 2011

HPTS 2011 Call For Papers

Call for Participation

14th International Workshop

on High Performance Transaction Systems (HPTS)

October 23-26, 2011

Asilomar Conference Grounds

Pacific Grove, CA

The ubiquity of the Internet and the proliferation of "smart" devices have led us to a world where large, scalable, data-intensive systems -- once the rarified domain of mainframe computers and financial institutions -- now permeate virtually every industry. Social networks, online ticketing systems, and massively multiplayer online games are just a few of the applications regularly used by hundreds of millions of users that depend daily on such systems. System architects and engineers face increasingly complex challenges: larger scale, lower power, more client heterogeneity, etc. In addition, the skies are rapidly "cloud"ing up -- and some of the world's largest systems are being built from parts or platforms that are "non-traditional" in nature. The "NoSQL movement" is upon us, data analytics are running on thousand-node clusters, and almost every one of our traditional assumptions is being questioned by a new generation of data system architects.

Every two years, HPTS brings together a lively and opinionated group of participants to discuss and debate the pressing topics that affect today's systems and their design and implementation. Past workshops have included topics such as emerging directions in systems infrastructure, new applications, and current developments in software and technology. The topics are limited only by the imagination of our participants. The workshop will include position paper presentations, panels, moderated discussions, and significant time for casual interaction. And of course beer.

We ask potential participants to submit a short (two paragraph) technical summary, a one-page position paper, or an abstract of their current work. Submissions can present a viewpoint on a controversial topic, a summary of lessons learned, experience with a large or unusual system, an innovative mechanism, an enormous problem looming on the horizon, or anything else that convinces the program committee that the participant has something interesting to say. The submission process is purposely lightweight, but we require each submission to have only a single author.
The workshop is by invitation only and is limited to approximately 75 participants. The submissions drive both the invitation process and the workshop agenda. Participants may be asked to be part of a presentation or discussion session at the workshop.

Send submissions, in plain text, to no later than 11:59 PM (EST) April 1, 2011.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

A note to Program Committees

Over the years I've written over 50 papers, many technical reports, quite a few magazine articles and several books, not to mention a PhD thesis. I've sat on enough program committees over the past 20+ years to know that it is a difficult job, particularly if you've got a lot of papers to review and very little time. That's why assembling the program committee is often one of the most challenging tasks for the conference/workshop chairs.

Throughout this time I think I've had a pretty good paper acceptance ratio, but I have had papers rejected by conferences and workshops. I think if you weren't disappointed about a rejection then you probably didn't put in enough effort to the paper writing in the first place, and that's definitely something I do for every paper. So it's true to say that when our WS-REST paper was rejected we were all disappointed.

I'm not going to go into whether or not I agree with the reviewers: that would be inappropriate. But at least one of them did frustrate me with something I've seen done once or twice elsewhere and each time I see it I get really annoyed. As a reviewer, whether for a conference/workshop, a journal or elsewhere, you often want to illustrate your points, both positive and negative, by drawing the attention of the authors to other papers or works. But if you're going to do this make sure that those papers or citations are publicly available or it really is pretty pointless: you may as well be saying "You are wrong; I know it but I refuse to tell you why and you just have to believe me because I am a reviewer!", which is obviously not what you expect from peer review! It also doesn't reflect well on the conference.

Over the past few decades some journals and conference/workshop publications have gone private, only being available to paying readers. This does make it hard, but not impossible, to achieve publicly available copies. I remember us doing this back in the 1980's, by publishing technical reports that covered roughly the same content and were primarily there for others to access when the original papers were unavailable. As a member of a program committee you could then refer to these. But one way or another, if you are on a program committee and you're going to want authors to learn from the experience of others and improve their papers based on your comments, either refer to papers that they can access, or don't bother!

Friday, March 04, 2011

ZX81 is 30 years old?!

Now this brings back memories! I was never a ZX owner, nor did I own a Spectrum. But they did come out when I was at school and I did write programs for them, so I have fond memories (including using a milk bottle as a heat sink!) My personal computer ownership started with a Commodore Pet (still have it at home!) and then a BBC Model B, both of which were a step up from the punch-tape mainframes that we used in school prior to their arrival! Ah, those were the days!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

I confess ...

I have to confess that I'm a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby fan. I grew up with their movies, with the Road To ... series as my favourites. But Pale Face is a classic Hope-only movie and that's where I came across Jane Russell. So it's very sad to hear that she has died.