Dwayne's Day Book

This is my day book for this week. I have modeled this after science fiction and computer writer Jerry Pournelle's view, or as he calls it, his Day Book. I encourage you to see Jerry Pournelle's site and subscribe to his services.

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Email me at d.phillips@computer.org

Summary of this week:

This week: March 17-23, 2008

Monday - Tuesday - Wednesday - Thursday - Friday - Saturday - Sunday

Monday March 17, 2008

An older link to a post about JPEG and JPEG 2000 image compression. My academic and early writings were all in image processing and computer vision. The images shown are of Lena Soderberg (ne Sjööblom) from November 1972 issue of Playboy. A scan of the Playboy photograph has appeared in many textbooks and papers on image processing. It is one of the most often used example images in the field. See The Lenna Story. For another source of images, see this blog from Presentation Zen

Last week hulu.com went online with their TV shows, movies, and video clips. I checked it out a few hours. I like it. Like most, I wish there were more TV series available. The second season of Lost in Space is available as is the first season of The A-Team. I have no idea how they selected their content, but it is something to watch.

Over the weekend I signed up for Holly Lisle's "Create Your Own Royalties Course." It is free. The first weekly lesson e-mail described the goals of the course. It seems that the fiction novel business has changed, making it harder on authors.

Intel quad-core CPU chips will be in laptop computers later this year. I guess you can run nuclear simulations and weather models while sitting on an airplane. All kidding aside, I suppose these will be wonderful for people editing movies while sitting on an airplane. I am more excited about Intel's Atom CPUs. Maybe one day soon we will be able to buy a $200-$300 real computer that does basic things for people who use their computers for work.

Last night I finished reading "The Four-Hour Workweek" by Timothy Ferris. I don't agree with everything Ferris writes, but I do like his book. He provides detailed (really, really detailed) instructions on how to test the market for products. I frequently read his blog and I heard him speak at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference two weeks ago.

Here is a writing exercise - one that I have never tried as I have never written advertisements, but it looks interesting.

I chased several links and ended at a site for hand-cranked devices all from Baylis.  I bought several early Baylis hand-crank power devices in the late 1990s (yes, for Y2K). They still work. The newer products look good.

China has blocked YouTube and Google News in China so that its citizens - ooops, in habitants - cannot learn about rioting in Tibet. (many sources, Google China blocks YouTube) These guys got to host the Summer Olympics?

Alistair Cockburn and I are having a disucssion of RFPs that require requirements to change on his blog.

Email me at d.phillips@computer.org
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Tuesday March 18, 2008

Interesting blog about the Federal Reserve and the coming, or is it current, recession. I am not an economist, but I know that interest rates indicate the value of money. Continuing to drop interests rates reduces the value of money. I am not sure what is valuable in the economy.

Stowe Boyd reports on a cell phone charger that plugs into a USB port for power. Combine this with a MintyBoost from Adafruit Industries, and you can charge your cell phone from a couple of AA batteries.

Lifehack has a nice blog post on developing rapport with people. This is a skill lacking in most of us engineer and science types. Too bad. Worth the read in you are like me.

Here is a new video of the BigDog Quadreped Robot from Boston Dynamics. I have been watching this robot development for several years on videos. There is something about this that frightens me. The two pairs of legs are like to human sets of legs facing one another.  Amazing technology. Amazing balance for a robot.

This year's Google Summer of Code (TM) is out. Working on one of these projects is much better than spending the summer playing video games or even working at Best Buy for pay. The knowledge and experience gained here is much more valuable in many ways.

A clever way to make a bookshelf out of a book.

It seems that some people are trying to use functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI as a lie detector. The scientific evidence that this works is still sketchy. What puzzles me about the search for the lie detector is the affect that this will have on the world. What would it be like if we knew when people weren't being truthful? The end of politics? The end of democracy? The end of used car lots?

Novell is suing Microsoft about Windows 95 and WordPerfect. This seems like old news, but the suit was filed in 2004 and the US Supreme court ruled that it can proceed. I was once a WordPerfect user (wrote my dissertation using it). I was once a WordStar user before that (wrote my MS thesis using it on 8" floppy disks).

ProBlogger has a post
I like on keeping a stream of ideas ready for a blog. This is similar to the concept of Fieldstones taught by Jerry Weinberg in his book "Weinberg on Writing, The  Fiedlstone Method." I know Weinberg's method works for me. The ProBlogger method should also work.

Engadget reports on another small, inexpensive laptop computer - this one from Intel. This is similar to the Asus eeePC, the rumored HP 2133 and others. People are starting to call these NetBook computers. The concept being you have a keyboard and screen, some memory, and a way to connect to the Internet. I like this concept as it fits with what I do when I travel. (See yesterday's post about the Intel Atom processor.) I am hoping that the rumors are true and several of these NetBooks come on the market this summer.

There seem to be problems with the Solid-State Disks (SSD) in such computers. The rate of returns for technical problems is ten times higher than with spinning disks. Back in the early 1990s we called these things RAM-disks. One helped me a great deal on my dissertation project.

This isn't stopping Intel from building supercomputers on single chips. Here is an announcement of how they will have six cores (six CPUs) on a single chip this year.

Jerry Pournelle has this week's "Computing at Chaos Manor" column online. He likes the MacBook Air. Temptation. Charlie Rose tripped on the street, but didn't drop his MacBook Air. He instead bruised his face.

Rose should have had one of these $55 leather envelopes to carry is MacBook Air in.

More good news for Apple. They had a 14% market share of computers sold in the US in February 2008. That was up from 9% in February 2007.

I like to look at NextEnergyNews. It seems that most predictions of running out of energy omit the phrase "that we know of now." Things like "the world's supply of energy is running out" shoudld be "the world's supply of energy [that we know of now] is running out." People have a way of inventing new things. NextEnergyNews often has stoies of such invention.

A wonderful example of how to do a short, fast, excellent PowerPoint presentation that communicates well is here. It also shows a few new technologies for "fixing" web pages. I like it.

Here is a story about how Human Rights Watch is trying to stop US and European Internet companies from working with the Chinese government in its Internet censorship efforts. I was always bothered by how US companies worked with the Chinese government in censoring people.  It didn't seem right to me.

Here is a real example of computers reducing paper. Continental Airlines is trying to have passengers display a bard code on their cell phone instead of printing a paper boarding pass. This could work in many cases.

Email me at d.phillips@computer.org
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Wednesday March 19, 2008

A nice story about Engineers Without Borders working to bring electricity to villages in the third world. I haven’t heard of this organization before. I hope they do well (without becoming a political organization).

Some good advice on writing – write as if you were having a conversation with someone. This may not be the best advice for fiction, but excellent for information writing.

I see that Arthur C. Clarke died at age 90. We will see obituaries and tributes to him this week on the web. Here is one from the BBC. Here are some more personal notes from Jerry Pournelle.

MIT and Texas Instruments have built a chip that operates on only 0.3 Volts. The low power required means the chip could be powered by body heat. This would be significant for medical implants and other devices.

Continuing on with innovation in power, here is an article on a see-saw that generates electricity. Anywhere we see motion, we can generate electricity – simply transform one type of energy to another.

A web site I found today: DailyWritingTips. Looks interesting, so I will watch it a while.

Intel is predicting many devices this year that include WiMax. What I see as good news is the anticipation of many small devices using the Atom processor (see earlier this week).

PsyBlog has an entry that explains the myth of the left-brain, right-brain split. While there are some tasks one side of the brain does better than the other, the difference is small.

China is blocking more web sites and satellite news feeds to keep its citizens – ooops subjects – from seeing news of what is happening in Tibet. American internet companies are helping with this. These American companies are in the position of helping a repressive government or losing access to 220 million internet users (customers). I don’t envy their position, but I don’t like their actions so far.

Cameras with WiFi built in are becoming more prevalent. Engadget reports on one from Panasonic.

A picture of a beautiful oak tree. The movie “Forrest Gump” showed how a boy and a girl lived their lives around an oak tree and then passed on leaving the oak tree for the lives of other people. That happens often. There is such an oak tree next door to my mother’s house in Louisiana.

Here is a video of a binary adding machine made from marbles and wood. I like it. Ingenious.

Someone agrees with me that maybe it isn’t a great idea to put quad-core processors in laptop computers.

Email me at d.phillips@computer.org
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Thursday March 20, 2008

Here is a piece from Physics Today discussing global temperatures with respect to the Sun. You know, that big ball in the sky that heats up everything. It seems that many well-meaning people ignore the sun in their climate models.

Here is a review of WriteRoom – a simple word processor from Hog Bay Software. Its primary mode is to turn the entire screen black and show the characters in green – yes the old green screen days of the 1980s. I have used WriteRoom and I like it. There is a point to removing all the stuff from the writer’s view that is not important.

Living in the tropics has its downside. I find this post humorous, but true. I have lived in the tropics of the Bahamas, West Africa, and Louisiana. It rains, it is hot and humid, and the mosquitoes are large. If you don’t mind these things – which I don’t – it can be great.

This was in the Internet news a lot yesterday – Apple may bundle music with future iPods. The deal is you pay extra when you buy an iPod, then all music downloads from iTunes are free. This isn’t for me. I still buy music CDs as I want to own my music long after my current hardware fails. I have seen generations of hardware come and go, but I still like some of the music I bought 30 years ago.

Here is another story about more troubles with computer-based voting machines. Someone show me 100 lines of code that contain ZERO errors, then 1,000 such lines of code, then 1,000,000 such lines of code – then we can talk about using software to run elections. People tend to take elections seriously. Perhaps we can find 1,000 error-free lines of code, but in the age of bloated software…

How to hack RF-ID enabled credit cards for $8. Now what was that about secure voting machines?

Version 3.0 of OpenOffice is coming in 167 days – that means by Christmas. This post reviews the new features. I have used OpenOffice for several years now in MS Windows and its cousin NeoOffice in OS X. I find them to be good alternatives to MS Office. What interests me most about 3.0 is that it will run natively in OS X – without having to load and run X11.

Alistair Cockburn has moved our discussion of contracts that require requirements changes to a new page on his site. The page limits the discussion to IDIQ contracts.

Here is a post from a year ago – not sure how I bumped into this one. It contains the phrase, “I’m not baby sitting, I am fathering.” It has been a few years since I heard this one, but it is still true. About 18 years ago I started taking my sons to breakfast early on Sunday mornings. My youngest son and I still do this. Many times people would come up to me at McDonald’s and say, “Must be your weekend with the kids,” assuming I was divorced. I’m not sure what it means for society when people assume a man is divorced if he is seen alone in public with his children.

Here is a blog about corporate blogging rules. This could come in handy one day. I know my church tried to create blogging policy for our ministers – an interesting exercise. Some organizations that permit blogging from work try to deal with these issues. Many organizations either prohibit blogging altogether or let everything go.

Researchers at Stanford have a camera with 12,616 lenses. This camera (and its accompanying processor with algorithms) should make breakthroughs in depth perception. This is in the research stage, but it could lead to advances in robotics and autonomous vehicles. Something to watch.

Email me at d.phillips@computer.org
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Friday March 21, 2008

The Washington Post reports on the cultural phenomenon of The Stuff White People Like. Just one little cute idea, that is all I need…

Scobleizer recently visited Microsoft Research’s new building #99. He made a 55-minute video. His Scobleizer post points to what he considers the best parts of the video.

DARPA is looking to move heads up displays into contact lenses: science fiction moving towards fact.

Here is a post relaying Stephen King’s greatest lesson for writers – write without fear. Interesting. I refer to the book on this subject “Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I also recommend the writing workshops held now and then by Jerry Weinberg.

Here is some research indicating that blue light convinces people it is morning. The article concentrates on the effects of blue LEDs on truck drivers. This intrigues me as for 20 years we have driven from Virginia to Louisiana and back at night.

Here is an excellent post about carrying an entire operating system in your pocket. The writer points to PenDriveLinux for examples and tutorials. I tried this, but none of my computers will boot from a USB port.

China continues to clamp down on web sites that carry material they don’t like
. All this as part of the preparation for the Olympics.

Here is a report on a small, solid-state fan that moves air without any moving parts. The fan is powerful and efficient. What I like best is that there is a video available showing the fan actually moving air. This is a breakthrough in quiet heat dissipation.

Information has been leaked about the coming Dell Latitude E4200. This will have a 12” screen (so probably a full-size keyboard) and only have an SSD. SSD sizes will be 32 GB or 64 GB. It will only weight 2.2 pounds.

Here is a world wide suggestion box for Starbucks. I like the concept: believe that your customers are pretty smart. After all, they shop in your place of business, so they must be fairly bright.

Email me at d.phillips@computer.org
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Saturday March 22, 2008

I have put up this week's short story on my short story blog. One of my projects for this year is to write a short story every week. I am putting them up in a blog format so that acquaintances who have attended writing workshops with me can read them. So far I have written 12 in 12 weeks.

Here is a story about the loan crisis. a family in the Washingon D.C. area who earned $4,200 a month, but were given a loan for a $430,000 house – monthly note = $3,000. I haven't traced this through to the end. I don't understand how companies make such loans.

More from the Chinese government. Now groups world-wide who support Tibet are experiencing cyber attacks. The world is different today – the Internet is one major way in which that is true. You don't have to blow up someone's building. You just email them viruses all day. One will get through.

David Pogue of the the New York Times reviews the Flip digital video camera from Pure Digital. The Flip is  small, inexpensive, simple, and works. No wonder it captured 13% of the market in a year.

Apple is sending its Safari 3.1 web browser to MS Windows users when they update their iTunes player software. There is much on the Internet about this the last two days. Some claim the is a sneak attack to load up PCs with Apple software, others say it is a nice service. Sounds like what Microsoft has done for years.

Maybe the Mac mini will live on for another generation. I hope so. I don't own a Mac mini, but many people out there do and there are many great hobby and technology projects being done with them. If nothing else, my in-laws could use one of these running MS Windows. The small physical size if attractive.

Sony will release a 24.6 Mega pixel camera
later this year. I've worked in image processing off and on since the mid-1980s. I know where we are in technology today, but these kinds of things still amaze me.

I guess this story ranks up there with new Coke. Sony started a program called Fresh Start. For $50 they would not install a lot of software that you didn't want on your new PC. Enough people on the net screamed. Now Sony will not install the software for free on a few select models. It seems that...oh never mind.

Here is a “light bulb” from Luxim (the size of a quarter) that produces the same light as a regular street light. It gives about ten times more light per Watt than a regular light bulb.

Email me at d.phillips@computer.org
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Sunday March 23, 2008

This week, Jerry Pournelle ran into troubles with the RAR compressed file format. I did as well. I downloaded a Linux distrubution from PenDriveLinux.com (see Friday). When I double clicked on it, I was told that I didn't have WinRAR to decompress the file, but there was something about a 30-day free trial or something. I ignored that - RULE: Always pay attention to the little messages that pop up on your screen, and unarchived the files. Well, for some reason some people out on the Internet are archiving files in the RAR format instead of plain old zip or tar.gz and so on. I don't like this, as I have to buy another utility to use my computer. I read up a little on RAR, but not too much. Information is available here in a how to here from the company that makes RAR software and here are a couple of articles in Wikipedia about the subject (RAR topic - comparison of archive formats).   

The Washington Post has a story on the future of music radio. They discuss Pandora.com prominently. I use Pandora.com everyday. I like the depth and breadth it offers. I can focus on a niche of music or get the width of “pop music.”

AnyWired concludes its two-part story about Trouble in Paradise. This entry is more on ways to organize yourself just in case the infrastructure in paradise fails.

Here is a story about how U.S. companies, past and present, have and do aid repressive governments in controlling their subjects. As stated earlier this week, these companies are in a difficult position. Today, introducing Internet technologies to repressed countries aids in helping freedom and liberty. Nevertheless, it can go the other way as well.

This story about the recent FCC auction of the 700 MHz part of the spectrum predicts a brighter future for broadband access in rural areas. I hope that comes true as I wish to spend more of my time in the next 20 years in rural America. At least it would make visiting my mother easier.

Engadget has a few more images of Intel’s NetBook (Intel calls it the EcoPC). I like the trend and hope there is more to come this year.

Email me at d.phillips@computer.org
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