Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Scientists Explain Why Computers Crash But We Don't

From ACM TechNews, Monday, May 10, 2010

Yale Scientists Explain Why Computers Crash But We Don't Yale University (05/03/10) Hathaway, Bill

Yale University researchers have described why computers tend to malfunction more than living organisms by analyzing the control networks in both an E-coli bacterium and the Linux operating system. Both systems are arranged in hierarchies, but with some key differences in how they achieve operational efficiencies. The molecular networks in the bacteria are arranged in a pyramid, with a limited number of master regulator genes at the top that control a wide base of specialized functions. The Linux operating system is set up more like an inverted pyramid, with many different top-level routines controlling a few generic functions at the bottom. This organization arises because software engineers tend to save money and time by building on existing routines rather than starting systems from scratch, says Yale professor Mark Gerstein. "But it also means the operating system is more vulnerable to breakdowns because even simple updates to a generic routine can be very disruptive," Gerstein says. http://opa.yale.edu/news/article.aspx?id=7508