Archive for September, 2006

Read the Memcached Documentation here.

Memcached is a high-performance, distributed memory object caching system, generic in nature, but intended for use in speeding up dynamic web applications by alleviating database load.

I have been exploring Memcached as a prospective cache for my project. It seems to be the panacea for all my caching problems. What is missing though is a detailed explanation or HowTo’s. I have been scouring the mailing list and the web for getting a detailed explanation on its working. I have aggregated all such information into a document which could be used by others like me in understanding Memcached.

I will be updating this document as and when I find something that would aid in understanding Memcahed better.

Read the Memcached Documentation here.

Understanding Tacit Knowledge

| September 25th, 2006

I chanced upon an article by Jon Udell titled ‘The tacit dimension of tech support‘ which gave me an insight on tacit knowledge, knowledge that people use implicitly without even realizing it. Understanding this so called tacit knowledge will aid us in designing systems that are more intuitive and user friendly. Tacit knowledge is of two kinds, the first kind is knowing how to do things and the second, knowing how to find out how to do things.

Knowing How To Do Things

If I want to refine my search I know I can find the feature in something called the Advanced Search.

Knowing How To Find Out How To Do Things

If I want to refine my search at a particular site I can always Google about it.

Change Your Perspective

Determining the above knowledge for the target audience of your product could determine how sticky the users stay to your product. Usually while designing systems, the developers rely on their tacit knowledge which is not quite the same as that of the non-techie users. This particularly holds true to User Interface design. I have been part of many discussions on UI design for one of my projects. I have often argued on things like ‘we should have that link there and not here‘ because that seemed more reasonable to me. What I didn’t realize was that these arguments were based on my tacit knowledge and not that of a typical user.

Developers need to change their outlook and keep the above in mind the next time they go around designing systems.

The Trojan Room Coffee Pot

| September 8th, 2006

Ever wondered how the ubiquitous webcam came into existence. Well, it all started in the Trojan Room at the University of Cambridge way back in 1991. There were a couple of guys working in the room on ATM networks and all they had for refreshment was a coffee filter machine placed outside in the corridor. And then there were a couple of other guys, members of the coffee club, who worked in different parts of the building. These guys had to navigate several flights of stairs to get to the coffee pot only to find it emptied by the all-night hackers of the Trojan Room. This is why the XCoffee was born.

Paul Jardetzky and Quentin Stafford-Fraser setup up a video frame-grabber and hacked up a client-server program that would display an icon-sized image of the coffee pot, which refreshed at the rate of about three times every minute. This helped them to decide when the time was right to get a cup of coffee.

Trojan Room Coffee Pot

This image above is that of the actual coffee pot. The coffee machine was finally switched off at 0954 UTC on Wednesday 22nd August 2001.

It sometimes makes me wonder how small ideas/needs revolutionize the world.

Unix Humor

| September 4th, 2006
Sudo Humor