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Author Archives: Marti Massana Ferre

Now That the Holiday Season Is Upon Us…

Earlier this week I came across this article entitled “Will You Be Taking a Vacation in Virtual Reality This Season?” and I found it was quite entertaining.

MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte pictured himself being transported to the Swiss Alps from his own living room in Boston already in 1995. Even though virtual reality cannot compete with the real experience of actually going somewhere, it makes a lot of sense that a growing list of airlines—including Etihad Airways and United Airlines—and vacation spots are becoming more and more involved with VR technology. These types of digital options are able to give customers a more detailed experience of their potential destinations and potentially make them want to visit the real location. Some of them can be viewed online—via YouTube and Facebook—but others do require special viewers—such as Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard. On a different note, VR can also give access to unlikely destinations and places off-limits to ordinary vacationers.

In any case, VR is getting closer to the real deal. What is also really interesting to me is the fact that Sue Thomas, author of the blog Technobiophilia: Nature and Cyberspace, concludes the article by bringing up digital scent technology, and how it still is “the Holy Grail of virtual reality” nowadays.

Trump & Wireless Emergency Alerts

I was recently watching the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and, in one of his sketches, he mentioned something that I personally had not realized about yet: Donald Trump will be able to send unblockable texts to every American starting January 20th. I am particularly curious to see how things are going to turn out from here on out, taking into account we are talking about a President-elect who has shown no hesitation when it comes to firing off tweets on social media.

Until this moment, we have received Wireless Emergency Alerts (or WEAs) on US soil mostly concerning weather warnings or Amber alerts. According to the Federal Communications Commission, WEAs can be released for three different reasons:

A) Alerts issued by the President
B) Alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life
C) Amber alerts

Guess which one of the above cannot be blocked.

However, it is also true that all 90 character WEA text messages are issued through FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System. With that being said, these texts must pass through at least one more layer before being released throughout the Nation. Moreover, access to this system usually takes two different training courses, apparently. As Jake Swearingen points out in this article, getting access “requires some time and effort […] it’s hard to imagine Trump (who doesn’t use a computer) learning how to do on his own. Which means he would need the help of his support staff to issue a WEA”.

In any case—and taking into account how the electoral campaign and the election went—I am sure this will also be another controversial topic come Trump’s presidency.

(I hope you all had a great last day of class yesterday presenting your final papers.)

I Share Therefore I Am

Here is a TED Talk from Sherry Turkle, whom Prof. Gold brought up by the end of the class. She is a Professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT.

In her research, she explores the ways we are connected with each other and our relationships with technology. She analyzes how we turn to technology to engage with our communities in ways we can comfortably control—even though we might not actually be “comfortable” with it—and also how we get from connectivity to isolation at a more introspective level. At one point, she goes on to say that “I am still excited by technology, but I believe, and I am here to make the case, that we are letting it take us places that we do not want to go”.

Cooling Systems at Data Centers

One of the things that I was really looking forward to seeing before our site visit last Tuesday was the cooling systems. When describing the center of Milwaukee’s Internet in Tubes, Andrew Blum illustrates how the “double-hung windows were thrown wide open to the winter, the cheapest way to keep the machines cool” (Blum 2012: 23-24). Even though I was not expecting that to be the case of DataGryd, Blum’s description was, at least, quite surprising to me. As we were told by Peter Feldman (CEO) during the visit—and as they state on their website—at 60 Hudson Street waste heat from the gas turbines is captured by their absorption chillers and cooling to the datacenter floors is offered not only by condensed water from their cooling towers, but also also through the chilled water created from the gas turbine waste heat.

In order to make the cooling infrastructure work though, new generators had to be installed in the building a few years ago. As Rich Miller explains in this article from Data Center Knowledge, the superstorm Sandy back in 2012 made everyone aware of the problems that come with placing power generators in the basement of buildings. Despite the fact that DataGryd did not experience any power shortage or flooding during the superstorm, the generators were shifted to the 24th floor of 60 Hudson Street. Miller goes on to talk about both the cooling system and the cooling towers, which were added to the roof and each support 8,500 tons of condensed water. As it turns out, the purpose of all this is to provide medium-voltage electricity which involves less cabling and less power loss during distribution.

After the site visit I wanted to learn more about cooling efficiency when it comes to data centers, and I came across this article from ComputerWeekly.com, which compares two different techniques. On the one hand, air cooling has been the most common method since digital technologies improved and computers kept getting smaller and smaller. On the other hand, water cooling—which used to be the default means of keeping a computer cool—has pointed out in the last few years the problems of air cooling regarding, for instance, lack of space, poor conductivity and cost of maintenance.

I definitely recommend these articles to everyone interested in cooling mechanisms and data centers.

Sources Cited

Blum, Andrew. “The Map.” Tubes. New York City: HarperCollins, 2012. Web.