Maxim Kharchenko: LINCX, Ling, and Erlang.

If the phrase “line-rate packet processing from a software switch on commodity hardware” makes you raise an eyebrow, then you should watch this video.

This is Maxim Kharchenko, co-founder of Cloudozer and author of Erlang on Xen. He’s developed a piece of software called Ling, which tremendously improves the performance of the software defined switch LINC. For those in the know–like Infoblox CTO Stu Bailey (who conducted this interview)–it’s a huge development. They’re calling the project LINCX.

Stu commissioned me to shoot and edit this video for his keynote address to the 2014 Erlang User Conference in Stockholm. Software defined networking has been a topic of interest for him for quite some time. He’s recruited me to help him spread the word, both through Infoblox and FlowForwarding.org, an organization focused on enabling SDN on an industry-wide scale.

For those who aren’t involved in the networking industry: this is the longest video piece I’ve done to-date. I challenged myself to make this video engaging for someone not familiar with the material. If you’ve got the time, please watch–and leave comments if you’d like. I welcome feedback.

Ling Sketch

A sketch to help characterize Maxim’s software.

Building a Rhinoceros.

I’d like to introduce you all to the Flow Forwarding Rhino: coming soon to a network near you.

FF Rhino

Here it comes.

Flow Forwarding and the Rhino you see above you are just one small part of the software defined networking movement growing in the computer industry.

The Hardware Defined Network is an ecosystem that sells hardware — switches, routers, firewalls, load balancers, WAN optimizers. These products may have different names, but there’s no substantive difference in their underlying technology or function.

Stu Bailey

CTO, Infoblox

Read the full Wired Insights post.

Increasingly I find myself at the center of a network of very powerful computers: my phone, my iPad, laptop, desktop, etc.  All sorts of devices we own have some kind of microprocessor in them, busily tracking our virtual comings and goings, encouraging us to connect in some other way with the myriad of other networks out there. Even your average household appliance is now being equipped with computational power: this Samsung refrigerator, for example.

Samsung Fridge

This fridge will connect to Twitter.  It’s true.

You may not need your refrigerator to run apps at this point–but if you do, it’s available, because computer processing power is incredibly inexpensive.  Quite simply, it’s cheap to slap an Intel chip into any appliance.

The ready availability of such massive processing power was unfathomable when people first started imagining computer networks.  Most of the basic notions governing the way computers exchange information are, in fact, based on ideas developed for transmitting Morse code over telegraph wires. ((For an excellent explanation of this, I recommend the book Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold.)) Think about that; all of our amazingly powerful computers talk to one another via processes and protocols with their roots in the 19th Century.

Many people believe that this no longer need be the case.  Companies like VMWare have introduced us to the idea that any piece of computer hardware can be replicated by software. An increasing number of Silicon Valley insiders – like Infoblox CTO Stu Bailey – are saying that it’s time to apply that to networking.

For many, the idea that there is no difference between a router and a firewall is as ludicrous as thinking that there is no difference between a refrigerator and a stove. But, when it comes to computers, it’s true. I’m no computer scientist, so I will not be able to explain this in technical terms.  But let me see if I can explain it using kitchen appliances as an example.

Most of us have toasters.  Toasters are designed to do one thing only: make toast.  You could, perhaps, make toast many other ways in your kitchen, but because your toaster is inexpensive and efficient, you can afford to have it be an independent device.

Imagine for a moment that your toaster is easily capable of heating your entire home. And, if you know how to use it right, it can also cut your grass, clean your gutters, and make sushi. To complete this thought, now imagine that every appliance in your kitchen–stove, fridge, coffee maker–is an equally powerful and adaptable machine.

This is essentially what’s going on in networking today.  Giant companies sell multi-purpose machines, capable of computing feats that a mere 10 years ago seemed like science fiction, to other giant companies – and insist they are only able to make toast.  There are roomfuls of these machines in every corporation taking care of the drudgery of getting bits of information from one place to another.  Most of their potential remains untapped; and a good portion of the established computer industry wants it to stay that way.

Bailey–and others who think like him, including the Open Networking Foundation–are working to unleash this untapped potential.  The Flow Forwarding Rhino is part of this larger movement. And here, at last, is where design comes into play.  Remember the “Intel Inside” campaign?

Flow Forwarding is a little like that Intel chip within another company’s computer.  We branded FF specifically to show users and programmers that Flow Forwarding was powerful and reliable enough to be part of the larger networking landscape to come.

FF Rhino wall graphic

It’s got weight.

The FF Rhino is probably never going to appear anywhere on a product that your average consumer will buy–and that’s OK.  That’s really not its job. But we’ve invested the time and thought into making sure that the Rhino has the communication tools it needs to take it as far as it can go.  And, where computers are concerned, it seems that we are just getting started.

Another Version of The Resumé

I had occasion to assemble another version of my resumé today.  This one plays up some marketing/advertising campaign work and lightens up on the exhibition work.  I also included some live links in the PDF to some of the things I’ve written – for Production Plus’ eZine Solutions By Design, for instance.  I haven’t written anything for Pro Plus since we parted ways in 2008 or so, but there are some fun articles there in the archives, like this one where I get a quote from Smokin’ Joe Frazier) and my theater reviews for Centerstage.com.

I really enjoy the process of putting together a fresh resumé.  It gives me a chance to revisit old work, re-evaluate it, think about what I learned from it, and how I can apply that to my work today.  Take a look at this one if you’d like.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please send them my way!  I welcome sound opinions and dialogue on anything I’ve designed.

JD-resume-Apr2013

 

A Quick Post from my iPad!

Hello from the 21 Century!

One of the things that I’ve most enjoyed about my career has been consistently being able to engage with new types of design and print technology. I’ve worked on Macs since 1988, and in 1993 I started really learning how to design with them. I taught myself Quark Express, cranked out a few publications, and never stopped from there on, constantly learning as I engaged with each new piece of hardware and software.

Last night, I downloaded the WordPress App for iPad, and decided that I would try to use my iPad in tandem with my new Apple wireless keyboard as a sort of deluxe, very low-profile laptop. 90% of what I do on my laptop I can now do on my phone – just not as conveniently. But, thought I, do I really need to lug around a laptop just to be able to send an email or two, or post to my blog, or work on a single presentation? Why not try the iPad?

And, so, after some technical maneuvering with the wireless keyboard, here I am, merrily typing away with no visible connection between the screen, the keyboard, or any sort of power source.

This, my friends, was science fiction when I was a child. I find that thought incredibly exhilarating.

I was just at the Game Designers’ Conference1 last week in San Francisco, and I was awestruck at some of the pieces of software I saw on the floor, freely available. I watched a young guy generate an entire 3D city – streets, buildings, alleys, streetlights, topography – in less time than it will take me to write this post.

It seems to me that we’re going to see a shift in the types of tools we, as designers and creatives, are going to have to start using in our work practices. Photoshop and Illustrator and InDesign simply no longer seem to be enough to stay at the forefront of design and technology. They are useful tools, certainly, but they are now as ubiquitous as your average kitchen-drawer Phillips head, and simply being able to use them no longer commands a working wage in the marketplace.

But there is always value in good design, and incredible toolsets are out there for anyone willing to explore. And, thus, I’m trying to engage with the new tools at my disposal; thus, the iPad and the wireless keyboard.

I have some thoughts on the interface that I’m learning about, and some questions. But, for the first time, I think this is wonderful! I’m looking forward to seeing what my new tools can do for me, and how I can use this to add some value to my next project.

  1. I’m going to come back and add a link here – and at a few places above. That will be after the fact, however – because the initial Post interface here on the iPad is making it very difficult to post links or add photos on the fly. More about that later. []

A Shout Out to My Mom.

HBM

People of the Internets!

Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday.  Happy birthday, Mom!

I am tremendously proud of my Mom.  She’s pretty much the best Mom I can imagine.  I have a pretty active imagination, so I can imagine a lot of Moms.  The Mom I ended up with rocks.  I couldn’t be more thankful.

Thanks, Mom, for this gift – this life.  It’s the best life ever.  I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet.   So – thank you so much, for everything.

Just to clarify – I would not be the person I am today if it were not for my Mom.  She’s awesome.

It is, at the time of this writing, 5:05am EST.  Good morning, Mom! 1  I love you!  Wake up!  It’s the first day of Spring!  :D

  1. Please note – I refrained from calling you – even though I wanted to. []

Revealing Chicago: Millennium Park 2005

Millennium Park was just a gleam in Mayor Daley’s eye when Terry Evans asked me if I wanted to work on a photo exhibition with her – the first one in the new park.  I worked closely with Ms. Evans while she was photographing inside The Field Museum for the exhibition From Prairie to Field.1  I couldn’t have been more excited; I believe I accepted the job on the spot, without hesitation.

revealingchicago001

The exhibition was spearheaded by the indefatigable Jerry Adelman of Openlands, with cooperation and participation by Metropolis Strategies (then operating as Metropolis 2020).  The goal: to show the residents of Chicago their land–what it looks like from overhead, what it’s being used for, and how the growth of the city changes the landscape around us.

The exhibition opened in June of 2005 with the concrete still drying on the Gehry Bandshell.  I’m very proud to have worked on it.  It was a pleasure and a privilege to help bring Terry’s stunning photographs to an audience who could appreciate them as art and also be able to say, “hey, there’s my house!” or, “I drive past that every morning and had no idea it looked like that.”  To talk about the growth and progress of Chicago with its denizens and visitors in such a highly visible public space felt then – and still feels now – like one of the most valuable things I can do with the opportunities I’ve been given.

Revealing Chicago taught me more than I can relate here about the past, present, and future of the city.  Being on the periphery of Hizzoner’s great public work taught me a lot about the inner workings of Chicago government – which, as you may know, has always been a lively battleground.  At the opening of the exhibition I got to have a brief conversation with the Mayor:

 Hizzoner: Hey, nice show you got here.

JD: Thanks, Mayor!  Nice park you got here!

Hizzoner: Hey, thanks!

The rest of the conversation is one for the record books.  In order to appreciate it fully, some setup (and knowledge of certain maneuvers involving a former airport) is required – but if you wanna hear it and you run into me sometime I’ll be glad to tell it.

Do yourself a favor: take a look at Terry’s gallery of images from the show.  And (if you’re really interested) pick up the exhibition catalog.  I’m sure whether you are a Chicago native or just interested in some amazing photos, you’ll find something intriguing and beautiful.

  1. As you might have seen from the link to the Field Museum’s page, the exhibition was remounted in 2008.  The original was designed in 2001; I have some fine photographs from that original installation that will make it to this site eventually. []

Chicago Cutlery – Update.

Read the original knives post here.

I reached for a knife today to cut a tomato and came away from the block with the 62S.  It’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Chicago Cutlery 62S

It’s been pretty dull since it got here.

I’ve had trouble sharpening it, but I thought I’d give it one more shot today and see what happened.  Out came the whetstone; dutifully I set to grinding, then tried it on the tomato.

No change.  WTF?  I go back to grinding, pissed off a little, and I stop.  I feel the edge: dull.  Then I take one careful, slow swipe across the stone.

Zing! The edge is sharp!  Check out the 62S, cutting tomatoes LIKE A BOSS.

The 62S cutting tomatoes

Slowing down and paying attention FTW.

I learned something valuable today!  Turns out I had been grinding the blade away endlessly and not really noticing what I was doing.  One slow grind across the whetstone is all a good knife needs to get sharp.

Chicago Cutlery – Restored.

A set of handles standing upright within a grubby box of kitchen implements caught my eye while poking about a garage sale one day.

knives03

Some of the knives were scattered at the bottom of the box; and everything, including the block, was covered in a generous layer of old grease.  But it was indeed a set of Chicago Cutlery.  Many of the blades were poorly cared for, and some showed signs of active misuse.

But hell, they were One American Dollar™ for the whole set!  I scampered off with them and headed over to the local hardware store.  I don’t know a hell of a lot about knives, but I’ve always wanted to learn more; this seemed like a great opportunity.

The guy at the hardware store was impressed.  He pointed out that the rivets on the knives were brass.  “They stopped making these outta brass in like 1983,” he confided, “so these are great knives, from back when they just sold to butchers.”

I’m not sure he’s right about the latter factoid, but I like the sound of the brass rivets part.  And the timeline matches up well with the style of the logo:

Chicago Cutlery Logo

Honestly, how much more 1980 can you get? I can practically hear Steely Dan playing in the background.

That typeface? The woodburn? It doesn’t take a lot of graphic design research to smell 1979 on that one.

I left the hardware store with the assurance that I had indeed found a badass set of knives, and a bagful of new tools:

  • some steel wool (#00 grade)
  • lemon oil, to restore the handles
  • a whetstone
  • honing solution, to put on the whetstone
  • mineral oil, to restore and polish the blades.

Add to that some fine sandpaper of my own that I already had (220 grit, I think), and I was off to Elbow Grease Alley to sharpen up my new set of knives.

3 hours later:

knives02 knives01The wood turned out really nicely and feels solid in your hand.  And the knives are, for the most part, absolutely deadly sharp.  They cut tomatoes in razor thin slices.

Chicago Cutlery 61S photo

The 61S, kicking ass during my lunch today.

I’d love to learn more about these knives and how to use them.

  • What specific cut is each knife designed for?  What do the designations (61S and so forth) mean?
  • As y’all can see from the photo above, Knife 62S (the second from the bottom in the top photo) is blunted.  The tip was bent when I bought it, and it snapped off while I was trying to straighten it.  It is by far the dullest of the knives, virtually unusable.  I’m just starting to learn how to sharpen knives properly, and I haven’t been able to get this one sharp at all.  It’s beyond my capabilities at this point.  Any suggestions?
  • I’ve done absolutely zero research on Chicago Cutlery as a brand, but it would be fun to do a little logo research; figure out what typeface that is, where it came from, who designed it, etc.

The whole project took about 4 hours (trip to the hardware store included), and, hopefully, will lead to some more interesting learning about cooking, brand design, etc.  I’m looking forward to seeing what opens up.