Dwayne Phillips ' 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 31 - April 6, 2008

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

Monday March 31, 2008

I found an old blog post about why the customer isn’t always right. The phrase “(fill-in-the-blank) is always right” never made any sense to me, but I have encountered countless times in my life.

I like this post about ways that history’s finest kept their focus at work. I concur with the concepts of spending time away from your desk everyday – much more time than you might imagine. I also like “don’t work in the afternoon.” If I was allowed, my afternoon “to do” list would be: go home at noon, eat a little lunch, exercise, nap. Then work some in the evening.

Here is a related post on fighting feature creep in our lives. For me, this all goes back to learning how to say “no.” It is often most difficult to say no to myself. There are so many interesting things out there to explore.

Here is a post on planning a project. I have never struggled to plan projects ranging from a picnic to $100M and five years of work. (I struggle with plenty of other things – believe me). For those who struggle with project planning, give this a look.

I hate to mention this, but I will. Yahoo has a new site aimed at women 25-54. My wife fits in that demographic, but she won’t look at the computer. Maybe this will nudge her to the Internet.

Someone has made a “sleeve” bag to carry the MacBook Air that looks like an office envelope. Why didn’t I…

Here is a post on the old Kodak disc camera. My mother had one of these – probably still does in one of the hutch drawers. My dad had a good 35mm camera, but my mother never used it. She was quite happy with her disc camera and its photos. Her eyesight was failing at the time. The prints were fuzzy, but sharper than her eyes. Goes to show that your product only has to be a little better than what your customers can discern. I guess that is part of the reason that VHS beat out Betamax.

Chris Anderson has a post that I like about how newspapers aren’t dead yet. Newspapers in the U.S. are still a $45 billion business. Yes, the trends are down in advertising and everything else, but at this rate it will take a few decades for them to hit zero.

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Tuesday April 1, 2008

There are no April Fools jokes in here. As far an I know, this is all true.

Here is a diagram of the history of Unix. I like historical timelines like this. I joined the fray in 1985, took a few years off and rejoined in 1990. About four years ago I joined in again with OS X (Darwin, BSD, and bash). There is nothing like typing ls.

It is April 1st, so here is something about April Fools’ pranks. This morning I went into my boss’ office to put a piece of tape on his optical mouse, but someone else had already done that.

Here is a story about voice search of the Internet. What I like is that this is not a technical solution to voice understanding, text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and all that cool stuff. The solution here is to use a network of 8,000 people who do the intelligence part of the system. I like this idea. Use the existing communications infrastructure we have, employ 8,000 people in low-paid parts of the globe, and let them be smart people.

This story tells how IBM is now banned from new Federal contracts because of some problems in an Environmental Protection Agency contract. I doubt that the rest of the government will follow the EPA lead. That just doesn’t happen. I have seen people on opposite sides of a hallway try to join forces to push a company into doing business in a certain way. It is inevitable that the interests of one group cause it to go its own way. I cannot see for example, people at the Department of (fill-in-the-blank) postponing a new contract with IBM that they have worked for a year to create just because EPA asked them.

It appears that someone – Xanadoo – is getting a WiMax system up and working. Finally. But then the second story is about Qualcomm creating a proprietary system called Gobi. These are interesting times.

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Wednesday April 2, 2008

The Virgle project to go to Mars reported yesterday was an April Fools “joke.” I half suspected it as such, and that is too bad as it would have a better chance of making it to Mars than the current NASA does.

I guess the report that Microsoft and Yahoo had settled was also a fake.

I shall edit yesterday’s Day Book posting accordingly.

The International Olympic Committee has warned China that they are obliged to provide complete access to the Internet for journalists during the Summer Games this year. Good luck with that one.

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) has approved Microsoft’s Office Open XML as an ISO standard. On the surface this seems good as more people will be able to read and write Microsoft files. We shall see.

This article touts that the use of Linux is being boosted by low-cost computers. This could be true. Last week (March 27) I wrote how my mother is the perfect Linux customer as she has nothing to unlearn – she’s never used any computer. The article also discusses how people are using the web for the applications, so who cares if you have Microsoft Office as we will all use Google Docs or something. Another good point, but...

A new acronym – MID – Mobile Internet Device. Intel is pushing to become the supplier of CPUs for MIDs. I like the trend – lower-cost, lower-power consumption, lower-compute power.

Here is a comprehensive article on last week’s hacking contest. This made news as the MacBook Air was the first laptop to be hacked, then a computer running Microsoft Vista. Headlines last week proclaimed that Ubuntu Linux wasn’t (able to be) hacked. No one hacked Linux because no one was interested. Thieves go where the money is. For years that is why OS X had far fewer viruses; it had far fewer users. With Apple computers gaining in market share, we shall see viruses spreading. Linux holds the same place that OS X used to hold – few viruses because of few users.

Here is an example of how global warming may make it easier to pump oil – the oil on the coast of Greenland. It is difficult and expensive to pump oil given the ice there, but if the ice melts…

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Thursday April 3, 2008

In print: I finished perusing a couple of print magazines. In the March issue of IEEE’s Computer, I enjoyed reading "Making a Difference in the Software Century" by Barry Boehm. He lists several interesting acronyms like THWADI – that's how we've always done it.

The March/April issue of IEEE Software focuses on requirements. I found the following papers of interest to me:

"Tell Me A Story" by Alain Desilets
"Tribal Memory" by Grady Booch
Software Quality Counts in Software Development" by Alistair Cockburn
"Connecting Design with Code" by Rebecca J. Wirfs-Brock

The theme in these papers is the importance of the stories that people tell one another while developing software. These stories and conversations hold the most valuable information about what software should and does do. Hence, when the people walk out the door, so does the value.

Here is a story that is not flattering for former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan. The past that interests me is the missing PhD thesis. I almost killed myself in getting a PhD. My major professor heaped on the grief – oh well, I volunteered for the program and could have quit at any time – too stubborn I guess. I don’t know if I would want anyone to go back to the library and read my PhD thesis, but it is (should be) there.

Here is a blog about woes in the biofuel “industry.” Burning food has consequences. Some people are shocked that farmers will plant less corn this year than last – something about supply, demand, and prices. Someone should study the economic relationships among those things ;-)

Here is another story of Chinese spying inside the U.S. We are a free society, open to infiltration. Do we distrust everyone who doesn’t look like “us?”

Here is an editorial on computing in school K-12. Several things I see: (1) computers are neither free nor cheap. My brother-in-law is a high school principal. Free computers for schools are like a free puppy at home. The O&M effort is large. Just you try keeping configurations straight when your users are 15 years old. (2) Schools – mostly government institutions – move too slowly to keep up with computers and software. I peruse the blogs of tech leaders. They are one-person consulting companies, and most of them are struggling to keep up with changing web services, hardware, software, and so on. So, take care with computing in public primary schools. We can spend a lot of taxpayers money and make a big mess.

Apple now sells more music than anyone in the U.S. – including Wal Mart. How did a computer company do this? I wonder if they really set this as a goal and worked towards it, or it just happened for them. One thing I love to do is visit a Wal Mart in the south (US) on the day after Christmas. Watching people return and exchange gifts is real entertainment. I don’t think Apple can compete in that market.

Maybe organizations should let users select and manage their own computers. Let’s see, I do that at home. I select my computer hardware and software. I haven’t crashed the Internet yet. My son attended Virginia Tech for four years. He selected his own hardware and software and he didn’t crash the Internet there either. Maybe I could do this at work?

Intel has announced a second generation of its Classmate PC Netbook. I would like to hold one of these in my hands and try it.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the competitive threat of free websites. They look at craigslist.com – a world-wide classified ads site. If you haven’t yet, take a look at craigslist. It looks awful. Hey, they had $81million in revenue this year with 25 employees – seems profitable. One lesson, simple web sites that have desired content don’t need fancy appearance. Another lesson, it doesn’t cost much to become a competitor to the Washington Post classifieds.

We are coming closer to having Internet access on airplanes. What I really want is soft-serve ice cream (not frozen yogurt) and milk shakes on airplanes, but Internet access might be nice as well.

Sony has just released a new HD camcorder – very small. “Back in the 1980s” when I started working in digital imaging and processing…

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Friday April 4, 2008

Aargh. I misplaced my files today, so I don't have an entry.  >:-()


Jerry Pournelle has his weekly Computing at Chaos Manor up. His daily postings indicate a tougher-than-usual week with his health.

Here is a story about using the motion sensors in laptop computers to detect earthquakes. Much good has come from the development of small, inexpensive motion sensors. They are good for more than playing games and righting your cell phone’s display.

The first non-American and non-Russian space ship has docked with the International Space Station. It seems many countries are advancing in space technology while the US is still flying 25-year-old shuttles. This is one reason why I was anxious for the story of Google and Virgin to attempt a Mars landing to be true. American politics seems to be at odds with space travel. We don’t have the leadership or the will to do anything. We certainly have the skill and technology, but we are putting money ahead of space. The money seeking extends into university research labs and government offices. It isn’t what is right, but what boosts my program and gets me promoted that comes first.

Here is an example of people “hacking” into the firmware of Canon digital cameras. The result is better performance. I like this.

Here is a project that will become a case study in government contracting. The Census Bureau awarded a $600M contract to build 500,000 handheld computers to collect data in the 2010 census. Well, the contract cost has more than doubled – now $1.3 BILLION. That comes to more than $2,000 per handheld computer. (An iPhone costs $600?) I know there is more to it than hardware, but sometimes the quick back-of-the-envelope calculations help put things in perspective.

Dell is cutting employees. Motorola is cutting employees. Even Google cut some employees this week. This is not good.

Microsoft is extending the life of Windows XP until 30 June 2010. They want to stay in the market of the smaller, cheaper, netbook computers. Hmm, a market for a smaller (not small) and lighter (not light) operating system. Who would have thought that?

The Madden 2009 football game will not be available for the PC. It will be available for the usual list of consoles. This is a terrible blow for some people, but good news for the companies that make the game consoles – powerful computers in their own right.

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Saturday April 5, 2008

This story is about a professor suing his students. The students take notes and sell them. The professor and his publisher of e-books claim this violates copyright. Strange story. I don't have the energy to investigate it all.

It seems that this year cell phones will be getting five mega-pixal cameras. I like this. If I every buy a cell phone with a camera (yes, I am far behind the times in this respect) built in I won't have to carry a camera. Maybe.

Microsoft will start producing "TV" shows that will be shown only on the web. They claim it will be a natural for advertising. Interesting times.

It seems that Intel mentioned Linux a lot last week instead of Microsoft. This is leading people to believe that Intel's new push into Mobile Internet Devices has more Linux and less Windows.

IBM can now be awarded new Federal contracts
. They admitted some wrongdoing and the EPA lifted the ban. This took only a week - longer than I expected.

Bill Gates is quoted as saying that Windows 7 may be out in 2009 instead of 2010. Is Miscrosoft this anxious to get past Windows Vista? Was  Vista really a beta of Windows 7?

This is great - one of the best things I've seen in a long time. Moov is a 4-in-1 vehicle for kids ages 5-12. Check it out.

Guiyu is the waste capital of China. This is where much of the world's computers and such go for recycling. It is an environmental disaster.

Gartner is predicting more use of open source software in business. That seems logical to me, but I am sure that it frightens many people. Several years ago I told senior managers where I work that we ran lots of open source software on our networks. They denied it, until I showed it to them on their desk computers. Then they denied it some more.

Here is a story on a project to generate electricity from the Mississippi River. People have been generating power from rivers for centuries - see  for example paddle wheels turning mills. The Mississippi River hasn't been hospitable to such efforts in the past. We shall see.

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Sunday April 6, 2008

Charlton Heston died at 83. As a kid,  John Wayne movies were great. Charlton Heston movies seemed to be real life as opposed to fiction. Perhaps it was the Biblical epics he was in. Then there was The Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, Soylent Green.

I like George Will's editorial today on the home loan mess and the presidential candidates. John McCain is an interesting candidate. I was stuck in the Phoenix airport with him (flight delays) a year or so ago before the campaign began. People would go up to him, shake his hand, and wish him well. One woman told him that she wanted him to be the next president. Senators and such look different in person than portrayed by the media on televisionl.

Here is some speculation that agrees with me regarding Microsoft operating systems. Skip Vista. Use XP until Windows 7 appears in 2009 or 2010. Microsoft is trying to back off what Bill Gates said regarding the delivery date of Windows 7. They don't want to lose all the money from all those Vista puchases.

The airlines are doing whatever they can to lighten their airplanes and save on fuel. This makes good sense. One day they may consider weighing passengers and charging for tickets per weight. Probably  not.

This story reports how Verizon plans to use the bandwidth they recently bought to build better wireless networks. I like that. I wish to be able to access the Internet at high speed where ever I am - even in rural Louisiana when visiting my mother. I know some people long for the days when they are out of reach and can relax. If I want to be off the net, I turn off my computer. What I want is the ultimate luxury - choice. I want to choose if I am on or off. I don't like it when some one else chooses for me. That is a selfish attitude in many ways, but as I wrote, it is a luxury.

Blog writers are working until they drop. Guess what, unless you are truly an exception (Rowling, King - the 0.001%) writing is a tough way to make a living. It is almost as tough as farming. I do this Day Book becuase - for now - I enjoy seeing what is new and typing a few sentences about it. I don't earn a living doing this. I have published a few books - they aren't even a decent supplement to my day job. I write because I have an urge to write - I cannot keep from it. I cringe when I hear people say "do what you love and the money will come." I have seen several people close to me go bankrupt trying that. Maybe I am too practical.

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