mrb's blog

Early Adopter: AMD64, Netbooks, ZFS, Android

Keywords: amd64 android early_adopter zfs

One of my old friend and colleague commented about his appreciation of being an early adopter after I said I felt being an early adopter of PivotX. There are other technologies of which I definitively have been a true early adopter. Meaning that these techs have either reached a status of pervasiveness, or they are likely headed this way.

Back in March 2004, only 11 months after the introduction of the AMD64 architecture —back then called x86-64 by AMD— I was pretty sure that this would become the future standard architecture of the PC industry, so I assembled myself a 64-bit dual Opteron workstation. I read the AMD64 Architecture Programmer's Manual and started with something simple: an optimized assembly version of the RC4 cipher, which ended up helping the OpenSSL developers boost their RC4 throughput by 50%. Shortly after I wrote an MD5 implementation, which is now included in OpenSSL. Six years later, AMD64 has effectively become the standard architecture. I learned a lot on this workstation, which I bought for more than 3000 Euro. It is almost sad that I am currently selling it for $190 on craigslist :-)

In early 2005, I needed a laptop to satisfy my mobile lifestyle and realized that what would probably make me the most happy were good battery life, small weight, and quality. So I bought a Panasonic R3: 990g or 2.2lb, and 5-6h of real world battery life. It worked out so well for me, and its quality is so good, that I am still using it as of today. In fact I am typing this blog post on my R3! This type of machine would classify as a netbook, except that I bought it before "netbook" was a word. Nowadays they are all the rage.

In February 2007, I was researching options for a multi-TB file server at home. I wanted something reliable, powerful, and easy to administer. I selected OpenSolaris with the ZFS filesystem. I can say that its reliability features have saved me multiple times already, and it has been and continues to be a piece of cake to administer: end-to-end checksumming and self-healing (have seen CKSUM errors automatically repaired), fault tolerance (had 3 drives failures but no data loss), scrubbing (has helped me identify failing drives early), snapshots (had to recover accidentally deleted data), dynamic pools (had to grow a pool when space was urgently needed), etc. Back then, ZFS was only known to a small community of geeks. Today, it is becoming more and more popular, although I think ZFS has still not reached its full potential market share. The world of filesystems has understandably a huge inertia.

Most recently, I bought an Android phone. The complete openness of the platform, the talent of its main developers (Google), and the number of its backers (Open Handset Alliance) are clear factors that IMHO will play in Android's advantage. Now it is too early to tell whether I am truly going to end up being an early adopter of a future widely successful technology, although numbers are currently showing it is on the right track to becoming one.