Formalized Curiosity

A blog about academic research & teaching

Tips for creating compelling presentations (Part I: External advice)

I recently shared a collection of advice on how to approach creating conference talks with a friend. I thought I’d share them in case it is helpful to folks who come across this blog.

Listed here is some useful advice I’ve culled from various web sites over the years and my commentary on them.  If you are aware of useful advice not listed here, please list them in the comments.  In a forthcoming blog cost, I’ll post my personal thoughts on this topic

Perspectives on participating in a NSF panel

Research that's ahead of its time

This past year, I had the opportunity to participate in a NSF panel for the first time.  These panels are convened to evaluate academic research proposals.  Panel members review several proposals each, discuss the merits of each proposal in a group setting, and recommend which ones should be funded to the NSF. Panelists’ recommendations are not binding—NSF makes the final funding decision.

Listed below are some of my thoughts about this experience.

Comcast and modem-rental fees

A few weeks ago, I learned that I’ve been paying Comcast a modem rental fee of $8/month for five years.  I also learned that buying the same modem from Amazon.com costs $40.  So, of course, I bought the modem from Amazon and called Comcast to ask them how I could return the rental.

Their response: You need to drive it out to our facility.  But, it turns out this facility is a good 25-min drive away.  When I asked them if I could mail it in, they said doing so would incur a ‘$20 processing fee.’

So, of course, now, I still have the rental modem and the modem I bought from Amazon 🙁

Toward principled end-to-end tracing of distributed systems

The past 10 years or so has seen a large amount of research on how to create end-to-end traces of distributed-systems’ activity.  Such traces show the workflow of causally-related activity (e.g., activity required to service a request) across every component of the distributed system.  For example, one end-to-end trace might show the functions executed by a request as it traverses a front-end gateway, a load balancer, a database, and the local filesystem where the requested data is stored. The trace might also show detailed timing information, such as the overall response-time of the associated request and the execution times of each individual function.   Some examples of tracing-related research efforts include Magpie (OSDI 2004), Stardust (Sigmetrics 2006), and X-Trace (NSDI 2007).  Recently, several industry implementations have also emerged, including Google’s Dapper and Twitter’s Zipkin.  This year’s NSDI included two papers that could be classified as end-to-end tracing infrastructures: NetSight and FlowTags.

Live blog of operational systems track at NSDI’14

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