The Stack Overflow Podcast

Gaming PCs to heat your home, oceans to cool your data centers

Episode Summary

On today's episode we chat about exercise bikes as cybersecurity risks, using your bitcoin mining rig to heat your home, and submerging servers for fun and profit.

Episode Notes

Joe Biden just wants to ride his Peleton, but equipment connected to WiFi  with a camera and microphone can pose a real security risk.

If you've got a chicken coop or greenhouse that needs a little warmth this winter, maybe team it up with your gaming PC or bitcoin mining rig, which tend to give off a lot of heat.

Speaking of heat, we dive into datacenters that were sunk under the ocean in an effort to create more economically efficient and environmentally friendly computing.

Our favorite meme of the week, a Heroku app that puts a chilly Bernie Sanders anywhere in the world.

Our lifeboat badge winner is Lukas Kalbertodt, who answered the question: What's the most efficient way to insert an element into a sorted vector?



Episode Transcription

Sara Chipps If I'm doing like my latest Jess Sims workout and I got high fived by Joe Biden, I'm gonna lose it.

Ben Popper Yeah.

Paul Ford Yeah, yeah.

SC I will absolutely go nuts.


BP Hello, good morning everybody!

SC Good morning!

PF Good morning!

BP Hi Paul, Hi Sara.

PF Hi!

BP Welcome to the Stack Overflow Podcast, been a little while since I saw you, we had a holiday. It's nice to see and hear your faces. We have a new president here in the United States.

PF We do have a new president! Remember when Kelsey Hightower came on and said everyone had to vote?

SC Yeah! They did it!

PF Good job!

SC They voted!

PF The Stack Overflow community changed the government. Good job.

BP That's right. I'm expecting a cozy cushy appointment. I want ambassador to somewhere because we paid off big time. 

SC Where would you be ambassador to? What's that country? Estonia. I would love to be ambassador to Estonia because they have a lot of really good tech.

BP They are the most tech savvy nation of all time, right, they decided that's gonna be our thing.

PF It's a good thing to choose!

BP But our new president has a Peloton. And this has resulted in a slew of tech stories. Apparently, it's a security risk? I don't know about that. When he high fives other people after the ride?

SC That doesn't make any sense to me.

PF It's Wi Fi connected.

SC Yeah, I forgot there's there's outbound requests. Yeah, yeah.

PF I mean, I really do feel that at this stage, we should be able to do network packet filtering and figure this out for the guy. That said, he's the president of the United States and he can get a member of SEAL Team Six to ride a bicycle in front of him. [Sara & Ben laugh] and motivate him. This is, I mean, this is a non story. This is the thing, I think we're back to stupidity, which is exciting. 

BP Yes. Ugh, goofy stories, thank God. Tan suits and Pelotons, I can live with that.

PF Here is the thing. Like I really liked my Peloton. Well, Mr. Biden, we have a really firm IT policy and we actually would prefer if you exercise this way instead, but we think we can help you out. Okay. Oh, that that's gonna be that. Because, we're adults who aren't banana cakes all the time, right? [Sara laughs]

BP Right, Peloton more or less risky than using your personal unprotected cell phone for four years? I don't know. It's hard to you know, a little on the left. A little on the right. [Paul laughs]

PF Exactly. Literally post-its with passwords up around, you know, up around the White House.

BP If you don't write in huge giant Sharpie, it's harder to see all the secret passwords. But I don't know it seems, I feel like Joe Biden's I feel like he's the kind of guy who would have like a very obvious screen name right? It would be like jodis46. Or like--[Ben laughs]

SC PresidentJoe.

PF No it's like Camarodad9 or the name of the dogs. [Ben & Sara laugh] Right. It's like ChampMajor, right? That's his, that's his yahoo email address.

SC So how would you do this? Would you just like put Joe Biden in his Peloton in a Faraday cage? and see what happens? Like how would you?

PF No, you know, the, the White House head of technology, the director of technologies is this person David Recordon, I met him once because I visited the White House once or a couple times. Just want drop to that in there. [Ben laughs] I was advising the Office of Digital Strategy. And he, I tried to get him to tell me the name of the Wi Fi network on Air Force One and it wouldn't do it.

SC Wow! Well, it sounds like he's pretty good then.

PF 'Cause you know, the Trump administration was like "Do you want the password too?"

SC Yeah, exactly. The password is 123456.

PF But this is, you know, somebody who really comes out of the industry truly knows it. Like you're not it's all policy, right? Like you see, here are the rules, we will follow it. Here's what we're going to do. It's much less random than you might think. Like, it's just a large org. And then there's a lot of networks that are kind of on their own, you know, sort of just think of really scary VPNs, that's kind of what you've got, right? There's no secret technology where the computer doesn't run in bits and bytes with networks like it's still Ethernet cables.

BP Yeah, I mean, the thing about the Peloton, right? Is those like live classes. If you Google Peloton, actually, the first question that pops up is "Can the instructor see me?" so people do have like a little bit of uncertainty about what they're sharing with their Peloton instructors. 

SC I love that world! Where like you're on your Peloton and you're like "Are people staring at me right now?" [Ben laughs]

BP Well, because in the live class, the instructor will call you out and be like, "Sara are you having the best ride of your life? Like keep it up!" And you're like, "Wait, how do you--?" but they're just seeing your stats. They're not like, there's no live video feed from your basement or wherever your workout is.

PF This is so funny. I remember I was five years old at the babysitter's and she said to me, do you think that people on TV can see you? And I said yes.

SC Oh my god, that is the worst thing to say to a five year old. They don't have any idea!

PF She was like, "No, they cannot. You can only see them." She was a nice babysitter! 

BP She was asking that questions because  Paul was hiding under the couch,

PF Sara, who the hell is your babysitter? "Sara! They're watching, Sara!" We're all in a good mood. Yeah, it's funny to me though. But that is the weird thing with our current environment is like they kind of can, they can if they want to. They put tracking pixels in.

SC I wouldn't be surprised, you know, Facebook's watching us all the time. They're listening to our conversations. Just kidding. That's, that's been proven false.

PF Proven in quotes. 

BP It never stops. It always comes back.

PF It's just you know, it ends up we're very, it's like, we believe in ghosts now. Because everybody knows that that's probably not happening. But then you really will, you'll be like, you'll look at like a foot cream. Or you'll say like, "Hey, you know, can you give me some foot cream at the pharmacy?" And your spouse would be like, "Yeah, I'll get you that foot cream." And then for whatever reason, it's foot cream ads all day and all night in your house.

SC Well, the reason for that, I do know the reason for this. The reason for this, this is why Facebook's ask for your Bluetooth, because your spouse is googling for foot creams. And your phone knows that your spouse is nearby.

PF No, that's right. But it's like ghosts!

BP That's how credit card companies sell stuff. So like yeah, like my friend just had this. He like was doing some renovation on his house. And all of a sudden Instagram was showing him the perfect like, prefab house. And he was like, I never discussed this with anyone. I never sent an email about it. But if you go shopping for stuff at Home Depot, that's all it takes. And they you know, all that data circulates around back to you.

PF Oh, man, I recently moved. And the thing is the United States Postal Service does with your data when you--[Ben laughs]

SC Really?

PF Oh, it's just like, hey, it's just like 20 companies knocking at the digital door like "Hey, it's me Amazon, you know, it looks like you moved. And I'd like to come over and just lick your ear for 45 minutes." And you're like "Ah! No, I don't want that"

BP Right. You need that button in every room that just orders whatever you're out of. 

SC So what were all your text chains yesterday? I had probably 1000 texts about peacoats. What about y'all? 

BP It was the the Bernie, the Bernie memes were really hitting hard yesterday. 

SC Oh, yeah. Okay.

PF Bernie memes we're good. Somebody put a, an NYU student created a tool that puts Bernie on top of any Google Maps address.

BP Yeah, the Heroku app, it's excellent. 

SC Yeah! Oh great.

PF It's really good. It's really good.

BP Put that in the shownotes. Go ahead and enter your address. It's delightful.

PF My tech experience of yesterday was incredibly lo phi, because, you know, I got kids, they're hungry, their home doing remote learning. And our neighborhood who we're kind of in a pod with, came over with a cake just showed up with a cake because I don't know why. You know, this is a non-partisan show. Nothing to celebrate. 

SC Yeah, no reason. 

BP Just peaceful transfer of power. 

PF Peaceful transfer of power cake. 

SC It's always something to celebrate.

PF Yeah, just something to celebrate yesterday, just always looking for an excuse. And so a lot of, a lot, a lot of Bernie memes, a lot of Twitter. I'll tell you what, there's a lesson we learned. That's, I think, pretty foundational. I wish more people were talking about it, which is that, so they booted the President of the United States off of Twitter, and you know what everyone just kept talking. Like, it didn't matter that much to the platform. 

SC Oh like you mean, like they didn't lose any--

PF This is the terrible thing, right? Like, everybody's like, I'm done, I'm done with this community, or they get booted off or whatever. And everyone just keeps talking, nothing changes. Not really. There's just like, it's like a ghost for like a day. And then I didn't notice any particular lower velocity of conversation in my Twitter feed, like it just seemed to kind of keep rolling. But there was one particular voice that everybody stopped reacting to, and then it kind of it was like six hours. And then everyone was like, "Hey, here's my cat." So I think that like, social media is really funny that way, because disappearing, it feels like if you can get really invested in it and really connected to it. But the loudest and most prominent, and internationally famous voice can be dropped off of your platform. And everyone kind of just gets back to posting it. As if it didn't happen.

SC That's like a certain size when that happens, right? You have to be at a certain scale in order for the biggest voice to drop off and you not notice it.

PF The story here is like oh my god, oh my god, oh, my god. He's here. And he's a big part of this platform. And you know, what are we gonna do? And then they dropped him off and like the products the same. Like, did you miss any news? Did you miss anything? You know, like?

BP Well, it used to be that he made news by tweeting, so that there's less news, which I like.

PF That's exactly it. We're all kind of exhausted. It was just, we just asked some somebody asked to was asked to leave the party and the party went on. And frankly, that's all of us.

BP Do you remember covfefe? Like, that was way back in the beginning. I was like I was at a hospital. I had a pinched nerve. And covfefe came out and just for like, whatever it was, 8, 12 hours. We were all just in this amazing state of limbo where it was like, does this mean something? Is he having a stroke? What's going on? I'm so glad we don't live in that world anymore. Where like a typo is something we all have to pay attention to until it's cleared up. 

SC Yeah, well, even like the decision from a few weeks ago, was a really big one to pull big user off of a platform that the trust and safety team must have spent a lot of time thinking about. Those are always really tough decisions. When it comes to technical platforms, and thinking about when your platform was causing more harm than good, or when people on your platform are causing more harm than good. It's a really tough call to make. And there's no science behind it turns out.

PF They could have done it years ago. But regardless, users didn't care. Like people were just like, "Here's a picture of my cake" two seconds later, it just doesn't matter that much.

BP Yeah, there were some mainstream media reports that were like 10,000 people a day are leaving Twitter. It's like, that's not, that's just normal. 

PF To me, it's always a good reminder, like when you need to take a little break from social media, as we all do on a regular basis, no one cares. Every time I go to, like, Don't say anything, just go away for two weeks, and you'll find I'll tell you in, I've done lots of little sabbaticals over the years, because it's always what I'm about. When I'm feeling myself having any emotion at all in responding to someone. That's my trigger to take a break. Because if I'm not just using Twitter for nonsense, I'm abusing the platform is my opinion. And I'll take those little breaks. And no one says a word because it doesn't matter. And they don't notice. Unless you have a dramatic exit. 

SC Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah, you come back and it's just like, alright, well, you're back now.

PF I think like one person after I remember after like, 10 days, one person pinged me and was just like "Everything cool? You've been really quiet." And that's like a good friend. That's one person. [Paul laughs] Like, you know, there, you might have 1000s 1000s of followers. They don't care. Unless you can, you should embrace that and be liberated by it. 88 million people didn't really care that much. That's what we learned.

BP Speaking of nonsense. And nonsense nickels, my favorite story of the week was the one about people using their Bitcoin mining rigs and powerful gaming PCs to heat their homes during the winter. Did you see this? 

SC I love that.

PF I did. I mean, CPUs run hot. This is the actual, this is the true challenge of our industry. All the scaling that we love to do requires vast amounts of electricity to the point that like Google will build, it's not just Google, people will build their big data centers next to, you know, hydroelectric supplies because that's they can get cheaper power. And you know, Google one point replaced it in an aluminum smelting plant with a data center, because it needed that much energy to run it stuff. And so like when you're in blockchain in particular, is super computationally intensive, it gets really really hot.

BP Feel like it can't be good for the planet to like, yeah, put all the data centers like in the cold waters of around Finland or whatever, but that is what they do, because it makes them so much cheaper. 

PF Oh, that's right. No, they they're their data centers in salt mines, like data center architecture is absolutely fascinating to probably.

SC That is bananas.

PF Yeah, to the subset of people who listen, it is really fascinating, right? Like, my favorite was Microsoft dropped a round container into the ocean. Because, and it worked fine. It really did. It was it was a good--

SC Wait, to cool it?

PF Yeah, yeah. Here it is. I'll put it in the--it's called Project Natick. And they said they put this--it looks like a like a milk truck or an oil, an oil truck. Like the canister.

SC Oh look at that thing. And, and it's like, stand alone? It's like, how is it powered? I have so many questions.

PF No, it had a big, it wasn't like Wi Fi underwater. It was it had a big cable. It wasn't too deep down. It was like 10 feet down. But they dropped it right there in the ocean so that it wouldn't have to be cooled. And it was in Scotland, which you know, it's who goes swimming in Scotland? It's horrible, right? Like, yeah, freezing.

SC So the data center is just like servers like, it's just servers doing their work?

PF Yeah, yeah, we've got like a one R cable and a big Ethernet cable coming out of the back. 

SC Wow, wild! 

PF I mean, yeah, maybe that's our future is that we're gonna fill the ocean with data centers.

SC Take that, planet.

PF Oh, their power washing it after the Microsoft logo is getting exposed to me. This is some satisfying stuff. Like power washing the whole undersea data center. There is a great--Reddit has a power washing community with videos of power washing.

SC Oh, I'm sure and it's so nice.

BP It's so satisfying. 

PF Greatest content, it's just sort of watch watch the deck become beautiful again.

BP It's like you found the anti aging miracle or something? 

PF Oh, I would I would advise anyone listening to check out the Reddit powerwashing community.

BP Yeah, this Bitcoin article is the perfect tweet, the picture is a picture of a chicken in a coop next to a huge gaming PC. Leave it in there. 

SC Yeah, yeah, 'cause chickens need that warmth, too.

BP Oh, yeah. They'll lay more for you if you keep them warm. So if you recently migrated to the to the burbs like me and you're a tech savvy person, this is the new look. Bitcoin mining rig in your chicken coop. 

SC I think adding, making it a heater, because right now it's not like financially profitable to do Bitcoin mining in the US. So but if you're doing some heating, not good for the planet, maybe cashflow positive for you.

PF That sounds really efficient and good for us.


BP Alright, everybody, it's that time of the week, I'm going to read a lifeboat badge winner to Lukas Kalbertodt: "what's the most efficient way to insert an element into a sorted vector?" Thank you Lukas. Awarded January 14. 

SC What's the language?

BP Let's see here. This is...

SC Always good to know.

PF It's just a vector.

SC Maybe it's in any language. Yeah, yeah. Just a vector. Alright. What a useful question.

BP Oh, it's, it's for rust. This is for rust, but some other ways too. Yeah. Alright. I am Ben Popper, Director of Content here at Stack Overflow. You can always find me on Twitter @BenPopper and email us If you listen to the show you like it. Please do go leave a rating and a little review on all the platform's where you listen to podcasts. It helps out a lot. 

SC Like and subscribe. I'm Sara Chipps, our Director of Community here at Stack Overflow and you can find me @SaraJo on GitHub.

PF Hey, I'm Paul Ford, friend of Stack Overflow, check out my company Postlight and wow are we hiring. Please, please check check us out