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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Summary of this week:

This week: March 24-30, 2008

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

Monday March 24, 2008

Here is a site that offers royalty-free images.

Here is a story about how Ireland is working on several projects to use wind and waves to generate electricity. This is yet another example of transforming one type of energy into another. Today’s material science is making much of this feasible.

Here is a blog post on writing in a journal. I have written in a journal for some eight or ten years now. I was encouraged to do so by Jerry Weinberg who has kept journals for decades. One bit of advice from this blog that I endorse is “Sometimes just getting something on paper will get your mind working.”

Continuing in the writing vein, here is a post about fighting procrastination. It has some good tips. My best tip: Take a nap, then write. If that doesn’t do it, I probably shouldn’t write that piece anyways. There is something about it that I hate, so I won’t do a good job of it.

I like to page through the Modern Mechanix blog. As its sub-title proclaims “Yesterday’s Tomorrow Today.” Today’s post has a story from Meachinix Illustrated of November 1968 titled “What Will Life Be Like in the Year 2008?” Bottom line: we didn’t quite make it.

Here is a story of a student at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada who dared to use Web 2.0 tools to study with other students. This sounds complicated, and I don’t have copies of the university’s policies. It sounds to me like the student wanted to share knowledge with other students. I guess we just cannot have that sort of thing at a university.

Here is a briefing or PowerPoint presentation by Larry Lessig on his Change Congress project. I include this here as an example of how Lessig uses PowerPoint in presentations. I like the way he does this – an excellent use of PowerPoint.

Engadget reports on an upgrade to the Cybernet all-in-one keyboard computer. Cybernet also makes all-in-one monitor computers like the iMac from Apple. If I had these at work I wouldn’t be bumping the computers under my desk with my knees all day. Sigh – only at home.

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Tuesday March 25, 2008

I tried PenDriveLinux again – this time with much more success than last week. Last week I tried installs that booted from the USB, but none of my machines (MS XP and Vista) would boot from USB. Yesterday I used a setup that allowed me to run Linux as a program inside Windows. The program started the Qemu processor emulator (a virtual machine) and ran PenDriveLinux in a separate window (from what I can tell a Debian Linux). It was also “persistent” in that I could save files to the USB pen drive (thumb drive). This is a nice setup if you would like to surf the web on someone else’s computer and not leave any cookies or such on their disk drive.

This post is a few weeks old, but I didn’t mention it last week. Kevin Kelly writes about having 1,000 True Fans. Each of these fans sends you (hopefully me) $100 each year. That is a good income for you (hopefully me). In return, you provide them with your goods – your writing, your art, your music, etc. – in a way that others don’t receive. Jerry Pournelle is trying this on his sites as a Platinum Subscriber. This is an attractive concept for writers, musicians, artist, and others. I could live with it – now if I just had…

Here are two places to watch excellent documentaries online. The first is Best Online Documentaries. The second is DocuWorld.org.

Via Technologies is shipping samples of a new processor (Isaiah) for small, netbook computers. This will be a direct competitor to Intel’s Atom processors. I think these are good signs. Cheap, low-power computers with lots of competitors vying for consumers.

Engadget has learned what the Intel netbook computer really is. It was unveiled in Malaysia as the FTEC SmartBook. There is a model with a 7” screen and one with a 9” screen. Both are priced about $400.

Wired has a story on five reasons why it sucks to be an engineering student. There is nothing new here from the late 1970s and mid-1980s (when I was an engineering student). The reason that upsets me the most is #4. Professors are Rarely Encouraging. I see no reason why a professor cannot encourage students. How hard is it to say, “Keep at it folks.” I had one truly amazing professor who encouraged me to finish my graduate work in spite of others.

In print (and online) is a paper I enjoyed reading about requirements by Ellen Gettesdiener. Ellen has excellent ideas related to gathering, recording, and using requirements and this article shares some of them.

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Wednesday March 26, 2008

In print: I read through my March issue of Better Software magazine. I enjoyed the following articles: “Make Your Mission Possible" by Johanna Rothman, "Software Development Worst Practices" by Gregory Pope, "Mind the Gap, Using a Requirements Composition Table to Assess Test Coverage" by Yuri Chernak, and "Ten Things You Might Not Know about Design Patterns" by Alan Shalloway and Rob Meyers.

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

Jerry Pournelle has this week’s Chaos Manor Reviews posted.

It looks like Microsoft will extend the life of Windows XP. I don’t know all the details of how Microsoft runs its maintenance shop, but let’s see, customers want to buy a product. Should we let them?

During the past several weeks, stories went around the Internet about people with MacBook Air computers having trouble going through airports. Well, the stories were true. The TSA blog discusses this and even made a video about it. It seems that the Air looks different from other laptops in an x-ray (it doesn’t have a DVD/CD drive, some models don’t have a disk drive, etc.). I suppose this is too much for some TSA screeners.

Jason O’Grady isn’t happy with his MacBook Air. He has used it since February, so this is a fair usage test, but the Air doesn’t have the processing power and memory to run his daily applications. The Air is not for everybody – no computer is.

Next Energy News reports on a new electric truck from ZAP (zapworld.com) that goes 25 miles per hour. Such “trucks” have a lot of applications areas. When I was in college, the university used Chevrolet Suburbans to deliver office supplies to buildings. The speed limit on campus was 15 mph, and those Suburbans were probably getting 10 miles per gallon. It didn’t make any sense, but I was just a college student and obviously didn’t understand real-world economics.

Here is news that the Smart Fortwo tiny car is selling better than expected. It starts at $14K+, so it is not cheap to buy, just cheap to run. Like the MacBook Air, it is not for everybody, but will work well for many.

Here is a nice home computer. Three monitors and rack-mounted components – with some blue neon back lighting. This isn't for everbody, but I would like to try it.

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Thursday March 27, 2008

George Will has an editorial today on liberals, conservatives, and charity.

Timothy Ferris passes along a few words from Robert Heinlein about saying “no.”

Lea Woodward chimes in with a similar post.

I include these three items partly because last Saturday I attended the funeral of a friend. He died at age 44 of cancer leaving behind a wife and five children (ages 3 through 13). He made a video before he died that was played at his funeral. In it he said he had a good life. He had a successful career, but his job was a distant second in importance to his wife and children. He was never hungry and never spent a night out in the cold. Let’s all count our blessings and reach out a hand to those who aren’t so blessed.

Here is a concept for a laptop computer for the year 2015. I don’t think we will call these things laptop computers anymore – just “computer” or “data” or something much simpler.

Here is an interesting blog post on how much source code is worth. James Turner argues quite well that “the value is really the synergy of the code and the engineers who wrote it.” Worth the read.

Here is an article about $200 Linux computers. My mother has never used a computer. She doesn’t know anything about OS X (What does the “x” mean? Is this algebra?), MS Windows, Bill Jobs, or Steve Gates. She is the perfect customer for a Linux-based, really cheap computer. She has nothing to unlearn, no background to notice the difference between KDE, Gnome, Red Hat, etc. You probably know someone in the same situation as my mother.

Here is another company introducing a small, cheap, simple laptop computer. I like the trend and hope it continues.

Here is more information on the coming HP 2133 little laptop computer. I am disappointed in that it will weigh 5.5 pounds. I was hoping more for the 3 pound limit of several other machines. I am also disappointed in the price – the cheapest model (Linux based) will list at $550.

Adobe has a new online photo editor
called Photoshop Express. Here is a review.

MIT’s Technology Review looks at China’s plans to control the weather during the Summer Olympics. China plans to use anti-aircraft guns and missile launchers to seed clouds. I wish that no one is injured in all this.

Here is an article about the free food at Google. There is more than just “free” to their food. I see excellent ideas, and nothing like that where I work.

Here is another story about an American Internet company helping China crack down on its subjects. As written before, this is a difficult situation for the American companies.

Here is a report that Apple will reduce the size of the Mac mini – making it even more attractive. I am anxious.

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Friday March 28, 2008

I finished reading "Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies" by Tom DeMarco, Peter Hruschka, Tim Lister, Steve McMenamin, James Robertson, and Suzanne Robertson. I like this book. My review is here.

Morgan Stanley reports that 40% of college students will buy a Mac next. This brings good news for Apple as these people enter the workforce in a few years.

This blog reports on a study of Mac and PC users. Given the above college students, buy stock in Starbucks and shoe companies now.

Computerworld reports that corporate users are much happier with Mac OS X (10.5) than with Microsoft Vista. They also report that users prefer XP over Vista. They predict a big rise in Apple computer sales. I have to wonder if “PC” makers like Dell are negotiating with Apple to see if they can sell “Hackintosh” computers – Dell computers loaded with OS X.

Om Malik writes about his experiences in the three months since a heart attack. Two of his lessons: eliminate and let other people do things. This hearkens back to a couple of entries from yesterday’s Day Book.

Red Hat Linux had a good financial year last year. Reports from earlier this week credit some of the success from anti-American sentiment world wide. People see Linux as a non-American product while Microsoft is an American product.

Here is a report on extremely bendable circuit boards.

Here is a post by Will Richardson on the Shifting Notion of What it Means to Teach. Richardson holds that the read-write web has changed the lives of young people – those people that “teachers” most often attempt to teach. Are teachers still relevant? Are brick and mortar school buildings still relevant? What is the role of government in teaching?

In print:  In the March 2008 issue of (IEEE) Computer, I enjoyed Barry Boehm’s article titled “Making a Difference in the Software Century.” Boehm writes around five points – each with a mnemonic.
1. Rapid change: avoid THWADI – that's how we've always done it
2. Uncertainty and emergence: consider BITAR and IKIWISI - Buy information to avoid risk and I'll know it when I see it
3. Dependability: consider DAVAS Dependability as a value assured to stakeholders
4. Diversity: Avoid OSUFA one size uniformly fits all
5. Interdependence: consider TANIA there are no islands anymore
I almost always enjoy papers by Boehm. Sometimes I have a headache afterwards because I have to think so hard. The effort is worth it.

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Saturday March 29, 2008

Newspapers continue to decline. I believe there is a place for newspapers, but they will probably become a niche market.

Wikipedia has hit 10 million articles. That is an impressive number. Despite its flaws (possible as well as real), Wikipedia is a good source of information. I use it.

Google video is hosting the film “Fitna.” This film has been in the Internet news for a week or so. The film was to debut on a site hosted by Network Solutions, but fearing trouble, they closed the site. Trouble may come because many see this as an anti-Islam, anti-Koran film. I am surprised to see Google hosting the film.

I'm a little slow on some things. I write this Day Book using an HTML editor called NVU. I just learned that the last release of NVU was almost three years ago. The updates to it are called KompoZer. I just downloaded and tried KompoZer - it works - not a surprise. Both NVU and KompoZer are descendants of Mozilla's Composer.

Tech firms are still pushing for more H-1B visas for skilled foreign workers. I  have followed the ups and downs of H-1B visas for ten years. There are many arguments about how many jobs are created when an engineer comes into the U.S. to take a job. There are many counter arguments from unemployed U.S. engineers and scientists. I think that as long as the job is not being funded by American tax payers, it is probably okay to issue such a visa. American tax payer money, however, often has long fingers that reach into many things that are not obvious. This is a sticky matter.

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Sunday March 30, 2008

The Washington Post has a story on Xcor and their small space plane. Jerry Pournelle wrote about this at length week. One of his sons has something to do with Xcor. What amazes me is that the Air Froce is investing less than a million dollars into this project. $1M? Many federal agencies spend that at lunch.

George Will, a man who loves baseball, writes about the sport in his editorial today. I played baseball when I was a kid. I was fortunate to go to a small, out of the way, rural high school. The school was small enough that a person like me could play varsity baseball and start at second base for three years. Had I attended the large suburban high school that my kids attended such would not be possible. I enjoyed playing the game. Sometimes I enjoy watching it. We have a new stadium in Washington D.C. this year. I will probably go to a game this summer.

Adobe is already changing its use policy for its online image editing service Photoshop Express.

Here is some speculation that accessing the Internet through the cell phone system may kill off WiFi hotspots. Analysts see technologies such as HSDPA networks - or high speed downlink packet access – growing in prominence. HSDPA is not a new technology, but its time maybe is coming. If they stop charging $100 a month I would give it a try.

Here is an interesting pair of stories (I link here to the Washington Post, but these have appeared elsewhere this week). First, use some services to locate your friends via their cell phones. Second, the Cuban government has decided to allows its subjects to have cell phones. Let's see, is it possible that the Cuban government will use cell phones to locate its...

I like this post from Cory Doctorow about multi-tasking. As a manager, I don't think you should try to multi-task your employees, but hey, we get a lot done when we do a lot of things at the same time, right? Well, there are subtle differences that make a difference. I like the way Doctorow points to some of those differences.

Here is a story about a non-profit entity bring high-speed Internet access to low income residents of a housing project. Congratulations to the Internet Archive. A great example of charity at work. I think this hearkens back to President Bush #1 and the thousand points of light.

The Microsoft brand has slipped the past couple of years – according to people to do surveys about brands and branding. One explanation is the Apple ads “I'm a Mac.” I have seen many copies of this ad campaign, and they all seem to work. There is something here that resonates with people, especially young people. The call is to be relevant, be real, be authentic. I am not sure what those anti-sound bite sound bites mean, but much of what I understand of it comes from watching this ad campaign.

Here is something that may be of great use to consultants and sales people – small-size digital projectors. They would fit in your pocket or the zippered pocket on my laptop computer bag. Connect it to my laptop or cellphone and show my presentation on any flat surface. Of course this could become really irritating when the teens get a hold of them. Embarrassing videos shown on the cafeteria wall and such.

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