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The military learns quickly from its own mistakes 2009-Dec-30 at 22:16 PST

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Army History Finds Early Missteps in Afghanistan, by James Dao, 30-Dec-2009

“A Different Kind of War,” which covers the period from October 2001 until September 2005, represents the first installment of the Army’s official history of the conflict. Written by a team of seven historians at the Army’s Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and based on open source material, it is scheduled to be published by spring.

Though other histories, including “In the Graveyard of Empires” by Seth G. Jones and “Descent Into Chaos” by Ahmed Rashid, cover similar territory, the manuscript of “A Different Kind of War” offers new details and is notable for carrying the imprimatur of the Army itself, which will use the history to train a new generation of officers.

As always, the military is forced to adapt quickly to unexpected circumstances, and it’s good to see their own evaluation of what they did and what had to change to succeed.  I look forward to reading at least some of it.  My expectation for our efforts in Afghanistan in 2010 is that our men and women in the military will have a fair bit of success, mostly because we did it the wrong way already, and we know what to do better now.  This book is the proof.

We need this kind of deep and honest self-reflection as we adapt the military to the long-term “winning the peace” initiatives we’ll be sure to take on in the next 40 years or so.

The New York Times’ copy of this document is here.

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No flying cars, and no Smellevision 2009-Dec-30 at 21:59 PST

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I kind of wanted to use the first two minutes or so (up to the newspaper) of this in my Future of Integral presentation somehow, but it just doesn’t survive a serious edit.  You know, something like “well, Looney Tunes had it covered up to 2000, now what do we do?”

It is, however, fun to watch anyway.

One would think Mac users would be offended… 2009-Dec-30 at 08:49 PST

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…by the implications of these commercials.

The first step is to admit you have a problem 2009-Dec-29 at 13:46 PST

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Audit Found $35 Billion in Fraud Among Chinese Officials, David Barboza, New York Times, 29-Dec-2009

But analysts say the Communist Party faces significant hurdles in trying to curtail corruption. Every year Beijing announces new anticorruption drives, new laws and new policies aimed at dealing with the problem. But every year the scale of fraud seems enormous, particularly in a country where the average person earns less than $50 a week.

In 2005, for instance, the National Audit Office reported finding about $35 billion worth of government funds misused or embezzled. That was the last year the office gave a national figure covering its audits, according to its Web site.

Experts say the audits revealed one thing: many in government are finding ways to steal public money.

It’s probably not a shock to find out that there’s a lot of corruption, especially as you get farther away from the Eastern power structure there. But here’s why this is a good thing: it means that the Chinese government is starting to take corruption seriously, and that is always an indication in a society that a growing middle class is demanding more rights, and starting to get them.  There was also well-publicized mafia corruption trial a couple of months ago… something fairly unlikely just a few years ago.

All good signs for the future.

But analysts say the Communist Party faces significant hurdles in trying to curtail corruption. Every year Beijing announces new anticorruption drives, new laws and new policies aimed at dealing with the problem. But every year the scale of fraud seems enormous, particularly in a country where the average person earns less than $50 a week.

In 2005, for instance, the National Audit Office reported finding about $35 billion worth of government funds misused or embezzled. That was the last year the office gave a national figure covering its audits, according to its Web site.

Experts say the audits revealed one thing: many in government are finding ways to steal public money.

But analysts say the Communist Party faces significant hurdles in trying to curtail corruption. Every year Beijing announces new anticorruption drives, new laws and new policies aimed at dealing with the problem. But every year the scale of fraud seems enormous, particularly in a country where the average person earns less than $50 a week.

In 2005, for instance, the National Audit Office reported finding about $35 billion worth of government funds misused or embezzled. That was the last year the office gave a national figure covering its audits, according to its Web site.

Experts say the audits revealed one thing: many in government are finding ways to steal public money.

A 48-core chip from Intel 2009-Dec-27 at 23:11 PST

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Today’s laptop and desktop computers come standard with dual-core architectures… in other words, they have two CPU’s on one chip.  Fortunately, Windows, Unix, and even Mac OS have been able to support multiprocessor machines for well over a decade, so in many ways we’ve smoothly taken advantage of this new processing power.

Now Intel has demonstrated an experimental 48-core CPU with all kinds of interesting new architecture features to allow for as much data as possible to flow through the chip.

While Intel will integrate key features in a new line of Core-branded chips early next year and introduce six- and eight-core processors later in 2010, this prototype contains 48 fully programmable Intel processing cores, the most ever on a single silicon chip. It also includes a high-speed on-chip network for sharing information along with newly invented power management techniques that allow all 48 cores to operate extremely energy efficiently at as little as 25 watts, or at 125 watts when running at maximum performance (about as much as today’s Intel processors and just two standard household light bulbs).

Intel plans to gain a better understanding of how to schedule and coordinate the many cores of this experimental chip for its future mainstream chips. For example, future laptops with processing capability of this magnitude could have “vision” in the same way a human can see objects and motion as it happens and with high accuracy.

Moore’s Law suggests the doubling of computing capacity (in not so many words) every 18 months.  That means that in ten years we’ll have nearly seven doublings… or an increase in computing capacity of 128 times for the same price.  If we’re on two-core machines now (with 4GB RAM), and we’re about to get mainstream four-core CPU’s (a doubling) then by 2020 we’ll have computers on our desks with 256 cores (and 1TB RAM) — in other words, low-end supercomputers by today’s standards — for the same $1,000 we spend today to get two cores.

This announcement from Intel is the down payment on this vision… a mainstream 48-core system is around 4 doublings of capacity away, or about six years, and a high-end, higher-cost version of it will come a couple of years sooner.  When you think about chips like this not just on your laptop, but also in your mobile phone, the possibilities start to get very interesting.  When you think about chips like this filling servers in massive cloud-computing data centers, things get very exciting, don’t they?