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: April 6-13, 2008

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

Monday April 7, 2008

Apple Insider reports major revisions coming for the MacBook and MacBook Pro latptops. Apple reportedly will move away from plastic and all to aluminum.

Gartner reports that $100 laptops are still too expensive for emerging countries. $100 is a  month's salary in Russia, two or three months' salary in India. Evern if people could afford the laptop, the O&M costs are much higher. How about going back to time-sharing systems. Give the user a screen, mouse, keyboard, 8-bit microcomputer and modem.

DARPA has turned 50 years old. Let's hope they keep funding long shots. Someone should

The National Science Foundation reports that demand for scientists and engineers is high. The unplemoyment rate for these occupations is only 2.5%. I might add that there is a shortage for highly-qualified people who are willing to work for low wages in high-cost-of-living areas. Since those are all subjective terms, I cannot be wrong.

This article claims that wireless skills in IT will be the  most needed in the next five years. This makes sense to me. I expect to see some broadband wireless come of age like cell phone coverege. That is WiMax or something similar.

This article contains pictures from Microsoft's Robotics Group.

Last week, Intel showed off a thin Linux-based laptop. Here is a better photo of it. I like this trend. Smaller, less expensive computers that are powerful enough.

FaceBook now has chat. I am not a big FaceBook user, but I could drift in that direction. 

Here is a small, portable, suburban chicken coop. For several years when I was in high school, we raised chickens. I think my mother gave away more eggs to her relatives than we sold. Chickens are efficient animals eating just about anything, requiring little space, and producing both long-term and short-term food. This coop appears practical.

This site has a demonstration of MySong - software from Microsoft Research that creates chords and other musical accomponiment when a person sings a melody into the computer. This allows someone with a "tune" to have the computer help them compose the music. Fascinating.

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Tuesday April 8, 2008

HP has officially introduced its model 2133 little laptop computer (call it a netbook?). They have several variations. The one that interests me is $500, runs Linux, has a 9" screen, and weighs 3 pounds. Here is a review. I think we will see many articles and reviews on the Internet this week. I like this.

ASUS competes with a second generation of it 9" screen machine.

Here are Ten Traits of a Rockstar Software Engineer. A new name for the coding cowboy, the heroe, the whatever. The legend lives on.

Ah, there is so much that we can be doing, much of it so interesting. But, when do we stop? Here is a Geek Dad asking the question.

This is just too cool to pass up. A student builds a tank replica that fires paint balls.

Here is a good explanation of the new Intel family of Atom processors.

If you don't have anything to do and would like to risk a headache...here is an article about yet another world-changing military weapons program that costs hundreds of billions of dollars. It is difficult to build such systems. Sometime we in the US government go for too much.

AMD is laying off people. A bad trend.

Microsoft now says that Windows 7 won't be out until 2010, despite what Bill Gates may have said.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is now requiring Internet safety lessons for students in all grades. I hesitate to write this, but I think this may be a good thing. we shall see.

Here is an article on cutting costs in IT. The first recommendation is to cut people - ouch, but in my experience (especially in government offices) when people estimate how many helpers they need, they over estimate and then srtuggle finding things for people to do.

Here is an article on a replicator - a machine that can pump out all the parts needed to make itself. I saw several presentations at O'Reilly's ETech about such machines. Excellent.

California may build a new train system. America's old train system fell apart - many reasons. Maybe the new one will work.

I have to save this one - places to look for cheap plane tickets.

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Wednesday April 9, 2008

The Department of Homeland security has quietly made a change in visa regulations for foreign students. This is a major change for businesses trying to hire foreign science and technology persons. Screaming to follow soon from some groups about the way this was done.

In a related story, the government received more applications for H1-B visas than there are visas. This was expected. The US economy is based on capitalism. A company lowers their costs and increases their profits by hiring people at lower wages. The more people who are qualified to do a job, the lower the wage for that job. This can be tough.

I couldn't resist this old magazine article from Modern Mechanix. It is a scale built into a soda fountain seat. It helps patrons decide if they should be ordering "fattening" food. The phrase "fattening" is one I heard thousands of times in my child hood. "Is this fattening?" "Is that fattening?" "Don't eat much of that, it is fattening." The word has gone out of style. Oh, by the way, the scale that weighs customers as they order food never caught on.

Perhaps the economy in Silicon Valley is slowing - a little. This is good news for the Federal government. The government has a lot of defense contractors in Silicon Valley. When the economy is hot, engineers leave those companies, go to startups, and government contracts suffer - schedule delays and cost over runs. When the economy slows, some engineers come back to the steady paychecks of the government contractors. I have seen several of these cycles.

Flikr now has their video service running.

This story is about how people who work at home are now not working at home. Working at home - so I have been told and read - has its disadvantages. One is that you don't have immediate feedback from other people face to face. So, some people are leaving home now and then and gathering to work with other people. The key here - as in most good things - is choice. These people choose when, where, and how to work with other people outside their home. That choice is all the difference.

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Thursday April 10, 2008

Dell will come out with its own little $400 notebook computer in June. This will compete with HP’s notebook that came out this week. I like the trend.

Scobleizer learns that to get things done – TURN OFF THE INTERNET! Imagine that.

Every now and then someone writes about how to store your digital data so it may last as long as you do. Here is one. I recommend looking at The Long Now organization. They have thought at length about storing information for the future. They have also thought about projects that require O&M for hundreds of years. I find the information useful in specifying and building systems.

It turns out that despite “what everyone knows” the U.S. Internet infrastructure is one of the best in the world.

Here is a photo blog about sewing computers into clothing. The examples given are cute and entertaining. Some serious applications include health and safety monitoring of aged and ill persons. Such would well serve my wife’s 90-year-old grandmother who – thankfully – still lives on her own and drives all over New Orleans by herself.

Some lawyers will have a field day with this one: Microsoft’s own engineers wrote memos warning about what the hardware requirements should be for running Windows Vista. I remember (here we go again ;-) when I could run a full Unix-like system on a machine with 1MByte of memory. What happened?

Well, here we have someone running a Ubuntu Linux version on older hardware. See, it can work.

Here is a good paper comparing Linux, Microsoft Windows, and Apple OS X.

Blockbuster may compete with NetFlix and Apple TV in downloading movies directly to the home. They are a little late with this, but just maybe…

Oh look, someone in California wants to tax legal music downloads. That will make a $0.99 download cost $1.08. That will raise California’s state review my $100M or so. At least until the vendors put the music on servers in another state, and then California would lose…Maybe they should just take a nap until the idea goes away.

Here are a few good writing exercises – also go for getting out of writer’s block. Since studying writing with Jerry Weinberg, I don’t have block anymore. See Jerry’s book “Weinberg on Writing” for more information on this.

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Friday April 11, 2008

Here is something I may need - how to sell your old notbook computer. I usually go the "give it away" route.

This story is bound to have a lot of play this weekend on the web. It predicts the end of Microsoft Windows in 2011. The headline is sensational enought. I doubt the predicition.

Now that most municipal WiFi efforts have failed, someone is trying something different. A large part of the effort is tens of millions of dollars donated by this or that foundation. Could the earlier efforts have worked with all that free money?

One of the tiny presentation projectors has already hit the market. More to come.

This story has been around for a week or so, since it hasn't died yet, there must be something to it. People are heating a swimming pool with the heat from a server. This is called a heat exchanger. Such have been around for a long time (as in hundreds of years). Opportunities to use such abound, all we have to do...

Maybe someone should apologize to baseball players who took steroids. This poll shows that most "scientists" are using performance enhancing drugs. I didn't know we had those, where can I...

This looks fun - a wood-shell laptop computer. Some will say that it is good as the case is bio-degradeable, but once you consider how much wood was wasted in the making... Think end to end.

I didn't know this one, but the U.S. Army had deployed armed robots to Iraq. They didn't work well. This is a clear violation of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics (see Wikipedia - where else?). Sometimes we should listen to the fiction writers.

Here are a couple of stories about working from home (here and there). Working from home works for some people and fails for others. One of my brothers tried it - failed. Another keeps trying it with mixed results. There are many days when I wish I didn't have to do the commute.

Somehow I have missed this up to now - MacRumors Buyer's Guide. It describes each of Apple's products and recommends buying now or waiting a month or so for a product update. This seems valuable.

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Saturday April 12, 2008

Many people - like presidential candidates - are discovery that using the Internet can be tougher than they thought. The best defense against trouble on the Internet is obscurity. I have that, so I have few worries. Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton - they are famous, so...

It seems that the job market is growing tougher - even on low-paid new college grads. This is bad news.

The number of H1-B visas requested this year was 20% higher than last year. This is what doesn't make sense to me. Corporations are laying off workers (AMD, Motorola, even Google), jobs are harder to find for new college graduates, and people are calling for increases in the number of foreign workers to come into the U.S. I wish someone would explain this to me.

Here is a video from Intel about Mobile Internet Devices MIDs. Yes, it is a commercial for Intel, but it does a good job of explaining concepts. Something you can show your boss.

Simple technology gadgets sell better to older customers. There is something about older people not wanting to be confused by complex gadgets. There is also something about wiser consumers not falling for devices that do more than anyone needs. Us older people call that "junk."

More cities are offereing WiFi access on mass transit busses. I like this, but in many cities only poor people - the kind that don't have laptop computers - ride busses. I live in the Washington D.C. area and there are many people with money riding the busses.

In a related story, San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit BART is looking to have WiFi access throughout its 104-mile system.

Oh my goodness - cameras that catch people going through red lights are more about money than safety. Who would have thought such a thing. This piece reports that there are well known ways to improve safety at intersections. Most cities aren't using those techniques.

Here is a report on solar energy cells that are almost transparent. These could be used as windows in homes and businesses and generate half the energy required for the building. These should be available "in a few years." I hope so. Each day I read of some research in NextEnergyNews. If ten percent of these research ideas come to market, we shall be fine.

I don't have cats, but this photo of a cat bed on the corner of a computer desk caught my attention. When my odlest son (new 23) was an infant, he would lie on the table next to my KayPro luggable computer while I wrote grad school papers .

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Sunday April 13, 2008

UNESCO destroyed 100,000 books on culture. Everyone agrees this was bad, but no one knows who decided to do it. Fascinating.

George Will's editorial today helps put the current economic horrors in perspective. Will is good at perspective. He has a sense of history and proportion that is lacking in many in journalism.

Nvidia - the company that makes graphics processing units - may challenge Intel in central processing units. I like this. Competition and innovation.

This piece was very popular the last couple of days. It discusses social media evangelists in and out of companies. These people are trying to show others the benefits of social media. I know several people in my organization who do such work. Sometimes they are optimistic and sometimes terribly depressed.

Here is yet another story that Disney may make Tron 2.0 the movie. What I like about this post is the video in it. This video was made in 1981 and shown to the executives at Disney. It convinced them that they could make the movie. Great stuff for 1981. One of my favorite courses as an undergraduate was Computer Graphics. Drawing lines, geometry, all that great stuff.

Here is an excellent post about blogs that writers may wish to read (I don't like to write "things that writers should read").

And that led me to this funny yet informative post on competing Publish On Demand houses.

Here is an article about a tool that shows you the commuting cost associated with a home you may buy. We have known how to do this for a long time. The algorithms and ideas behind this application have been around. Cheap technology has made it realistic. A once unsolvable problem is now solvable. I write about this because at work I am often confronted with "yes, but nobody can be that smart to keep track of..." talk. Technology is making us smarter everyday. Problems we once would not attempt are solvable today. I like this example. I find it to be a good use of technology and social media to help consumers.

The Chinese will hand out special PDAs to VIPs at this year's olympics as an aid for the VIP. If anyone is reading this, if the government of the PRC gives you such a device, they can listen to everything you say, see everything your PDA sees, know where you are, and so on. If you can live with this, so be it.

I like to look at modernmechanix.com each day to laugh at the predictions that didn't come true. This one did come true - a 1929 story about Robert Goddard taking photographs of the stars from outside the earth's atmosphere.

This story has made the rounds, but I didn't look at it today. The New York state legislature wants to level the playing field for New York retailers by requiring Internet retialers to collect sales tax on items shipped to New York. How about levelling the playing field by eliminating the sales tax in New York? Naw, it would never work.

Polaroid will sell a tiny printer that you can connect to your camera or cell phone to get instant prints of your digital images. I like this idea. There is some good in having a hardcopy of a photo right now.

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