"Don't flip out: I just flipped over to my B-side computer while the team looks into an A-side memory issue," says a message from the Mars rover Curiosity on its NASA Facebook page.
In response to a flash memory issue on the Mars rover Curiosity, NASA's ground team switched the rover to a redundant computer on Thursday, Feb. 28. The rover, with two computers called the A side and B side, is operating on the B-side while the team troubleshoots A-side. Click to read the rest of this article on Embedded.com.
Long before portable computers, the Beatles anticipated this problem of moving from the "A" side to the "B" side. They released a 45 rpm vinyl record in 1965 with "I'm Down" on one side and "Help" on the flip side!
I marvel at the ability of engineers to manage computer problems at great distances in hostile environments. I have enough trouble managing mine right in front of me when I have full physical access and the ability to substitute parts. One obvious trait that the NASA ground team has perfected is the ability to plan ahead, think about possible consequences, and craft a careful action plan. Many personal computer repairs go down some dead ends and depend upon physical access to reverse errors and restore functionality.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.