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InTheLoop | 02.06.2004

The Weekly Electronic Newsletter for Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences Employees

February 6, 2004

Electrical Failure Alerts Employees to Raise Safety Awareness


When CS staff recently connected high-voltage power cords, a serious electrical failure occurred, which burned and melted the plastic plug ends and could have posed a serious safety hazard.

When a circuit breaker for the computer room was tripped, an investigation found that the cause was a faulty cord cap assembly associated with a power distribution unit. The cap assembly was burned and melted and could have caused a fire. A further inspection of similar plugs stored for future use resulted in finding that one of them had the four wires so loosely attached that they could be pulled free from the clamps. This could lead to a similar meltdown. A plan was then put in place to inspect all such plug assemblies, identify where they are used and check to make sure that cables and plugs are appropriate for the amount of power in the circuit.

Staff should always inspect cords and plugs before using them, even if the equipment is new, as it was in this case. If you have any questions regarding these types of assemblies, please call CS Safety Coordinator John Hutchings at x7505.


Enron Email Database Proves Easy Pickings for FastBit Search Technology


As the trial of former Enron executives gets under way, the extensive email trails left by employees of the Houston energy firm are expected to provide both compelling evidence and entertaining insight.

In 2003, as part of an investigation into Enron's business dealings in California , the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made public a database containing more than 500,000 emails sent by 151 Enron employees. Subjects ranged from corporate decisions to jokes to personal matters. While the subject matter makes for intriguing reading, the entire database also proved an interesting subject for a number of researchers around the country, including members of the Scientific Data Management Research Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

According to Carnegie Mellon University's William W. Cohen, who posted the dataset on the Web, the Enron email dataset is proving to be “a resource for researchers who are interested in improving current email tools, or understanding how email is currently used. This data is valuable; to my knowledge it is the only substantial collection of ‘real' email that is public.” As a result, researchers at such institutions as MIT, UC Berkeley, University of Massachusetts , University of Southern California and SRI have used the data to study social networks as evidenced by the exchange of email messages.

The Berkeley Lab group decided to conduct a series of searches of the Enron email dataset to see how FastBit, an efficient, compressed bitmap indexing technology that was developed by the group, stacked up against the MySQL database, which bills itself as “the world's most popular open source database,” in which the data were stored.

In a report published in January 2006, the group evaluated the performance of MySQL and FastBit in handling a number of queries for a dataset of 250,000 unique email messages sent by 151 Enron employees and found that FastBit outperformed MySQL — from 10 to 1,000 times faster, depending on the size of the search result. To achieve their results, group members conducted several experiments.

The full report with detailed comparisons of the results can be found at http://www-library.lbl.gov/docs/LBNL/594/37/PDF/LBNL-59437.pdf.


Meal Policy Revisions for Lab-Hosted Meetings and Conferences (RPM §1.07)


To better align with recommendations from the Office of the Inspector General (IG), Berkeley Lab has revised its policy on meal service for Lab-hosted meetings and conferences. Under the new guidelines, which went into effect Feb. 1, 2006, meal service (including refreshment breaks) is only permissible provided ALL of the following conditions are met:

  • Meeting must exceed four hours in length on each day that food service is being requested.
  • Meeting cannot be routine, i.e., occurring on a regular basis (such as weekly, monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, etc.). Annual meetings are, at this point, an exception.
  • Approximately 20 percent (or more) of participants must be external visitors.
  • Work must precede any food service provided (breakfasts will no longer be allowable).
  • Work must be conducted during meals, and this needs to be reflected in the agenda.
  • Food service is incidental to the meeting.
  • Agendas and attendee lists are required to support meeting (food) approval request forms.
  • Conference Services' advance approval is required for any food service, including refreshment breaks.

Please contact Joy Kono (JNKono@lbl.gov, x6386) of Conference Services with any questions.


Chip Smith to Present Mac OSX Security Guidelines


Chip Smith, a system administrator for CRD, will be giving a presentation on "How to Secure a Mac OSX Computer" on Thursday, Feb. 9 from 2–3 p.m. in Bldg. 2, room 100B.

Chip, who wrote a set of Mac OSX security guidelines, is responsible for the security of many of the Macs in CRD. His guidelines—the basis for his presentation—are available at http://hpcrd.lbl.gov/SE/publications/.


Job Posting: ETL Specialist for IT Division


The IT Division has a job opening for an ETL specialist to “work as a member of the Data Administration and Decision Support (DADS) team under the technical direction of the Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) Team Leader to build, maintain, monitor, and optimize ETL and Data Quality mechanisms running on Oracle databases using a combination of IBM WebSphere DataStage, Tivoli Job Scheduler, UNIX shell scripting, Oracle SQL and PL/SQL. The specialist will also work with the DADS team to enhance the Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) data content and with the reporting team and data owners to troubleshoot, improve, and report on the EDW Data Quality issues.”

More information can be found at http://www.lbl.gov/CS/Careers/OpenPositions/IT18685.html.


Ari Patrinos to Step Down as Head of DOE's BER


Aristides “Ari” Patrinos, the associate director of science for DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Office of Science, is leaving DOE to become president of Synthetic Genomics, Inc. on Feb. 8.

Craig Venter founded the company in 2005 to develop and commercialize synthetic biology. Synthetic Genomics is using diverse sets of genes, including those from over 300 fully sequenced genomes, to develop synthetic organisms for specific industrial applications. Its initial focus is on ethanol and hydrogen production. The company also may apply these scientific advances for the manufacture of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and to develop new ways to enable carbon sequestration and environmental remediation.

“Ari Patrinos has been a major figure in the fields of biology and environmental science for many years,” wrote Ray Orbach in announcing Patrionos' resignation. “He played an historic role in the successful Human Genome Project, the founding of the DOE Joint Genome Institute and the design and launch of DOE's visionary genomics (GTL) program. He is a leading authority on structural biology, global environmental change, nuclear medicine and health effects, and basic research underpinning DOE's environmental restoration effort.”


About Computing Sciences at Berkeley Lab

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) Computing Sciences organization provides the computing and networking resources and expertise critical to advancing the Department of Energy's research missions: developing new energy sources, improving energy efficiency, developing new materials and increasing our understanding of ourselves, our world and our universe.

ESnet, the Energy Sciences Network, provides the high-bandwidth, reliable connections that link scientists at 40 DOE research sites to each other and to experimental facilities and supercomputing centers around the country. The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) powers the discoveries of 7,000-plus scientists at national laboratories and universities, including those at Berkeley Lab's Computational Research Division (CRD). CRD conducts research and development in mathematical modeling and simulation, algorithm design, data storage, management and analysis, computer system architecture and high-performance software implementation. NERSC and ESnet are Department of Energy Office of Science User Facilities.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world's most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab's scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the DOE’s Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.