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 14-20, 2008

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

Monday April 14, 2008

The Titanic sank on this date in 1912.

Here is a nice article on preparing for a Great Depression. Maybe one will come, but people have been predicting them since the 1930s in vain.

I like this article on what to do with super users who usually annoy the IT staff with their hacks and such – put them to work. Use them as a resource. Dale Emery, an acquaintance of mine, has written and spoken about using resistance as a resource. I have found Dale’s advice quite helpful. This is one example of it.

Here is an Ultra-Mobile PC from Sharp that uses the new Intel Atom processor. More to come, I hope.

Here is another small netbook computer – the Redfly. This computer, however, is sold as an accessory for a smart phone. It provides a 9” screen and an almost full-size keyboard to help you use your smartphone. $500 coming this spring from Celio.

Here is a memoir from a software engineer about his first 17 years in America (came from the crumbling Soviet Union). I like this, well written, a fascinating journey. Yes, us geeks are human too.

You always remember your first computer – at least us geeks do. The first one I bought and owned was a KayPro luggable machine. 64Kbytes of memory, two 360Kbyte floppy disk drives, a 9-inch green text on black background display. This was an excellent writing machine. I still have it in the closet under the stairs.

Hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel has reversed his theory that global warming makes storms more frequent and stronger. He held the belief for 20 years, but recent data caused him to change his mind. Hmmm, this story didn't make the front page of the Washington Post.

Philip Parker has written 200,000 books – with a little help from computers and information that is openly available on the Internet. This is a result of research into using computer to perform repetitive tasks.

Over the weekend, I had the use of a MacBook Air. Consultant Ed Yourdon succumbed to temptation and bought one last week. The Air is slim. It feels heavier than it looks, and I don’t know why. The keyboard is a little funny, but I wrote a couple of papers on it without any trouble. It does look neat. The thing is expensive though, and for the terminally cheap (me), too expensive.

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Tuesday April 15, 2008

People often spend more time on trivial decisions than we do on major decisions. So is the conclusion of this study from MIT. My experience agrees with the study. I remember one occasion in the early 1990s where we decided to buy a $6M supercomputer in ten minutes, but debated for weeks if we could by $100 calculators.

George Will has an editorial about Obama's recent "bitter" comment and how that relates historically to the major parties and their fundamental beliefs.

The Washington Post also has a story about a wounded survivor of the Virginia Tech shootings. My son and his wife were both students at Va Tech on that day.

Dell is selling more and more computers loaded with Ubuntu Linux. I guess people like the $100 savings and the performance of Linux. Competition - I like it.

A company named Psystar is selling a Macintosh clone. There are all sorts of legal hurdles here. You have to buy your own copy of the Mac OS X, but that end user agreement says you can only install the OS X on an Apple product. The Psystar computer starts at $400 but goes up to about $2,100. You can buy a Mac Mini for $600, about the cost of the $400 Psystar but then you have to buy OS X to add to your Psystar. You can buy an Apple iMac for $2,100, so I don't know what you are getting from Psystar.

This story attacks charging Americans extra for filing taxes electronically. I file electronically because it saves me hours of copying and standing in line at the Post Office. I am, however, paying a premium to make it easier on the IRS. Only in America.

This is too good to pass up. A bathtub with a bookcase built in.

Google is turning over control of the Keyhole Markup Language (KML) to the Open Geospatial Consortium. I like the trend. I read earlier that Microsoft has given up control of their open document format as well.

Here is a Lenovo laptop computer that appears like it will compete with the MacBook Air. Thin, light, 11" screen, but with more I/O ports. I like the competition.

In the category of "we ought to do things like we use to do them" the Chinese will ban plastic shopping bags and go to reusable bags. I lived in Nigeria two years during the mid-1990s. They recycle everything - everything. It is simple economics. Anything thrown in the trash that is worth a penny is pulled out by someone and sold. Why can't we use cloth grocery bags that are worth $1? Few people would throw them away.

Continuing with "we ought to do things like we used to do them," Miscrosoft is working with AUS on a special version of Windows XP to run on the little ASUS netbook computers. Wow! A smaller operating system for a less-powerful computer. What a concept. Someone could make some money with this new idea ;0 

I close today with an article about brain damage from open-heart surgery. The writer is a fan of Bill Clinton and explains the former President's mistakes in speeches this year on the bypass surgery he had in 2004. The piece gives statistics that are alarming to me. One conclusion from the writer is that the medical profession needs to publicize this far more than it does so that people will adjust their life styles for the better. I knew a man who had bypass surgery in the 1980s. He flew into fits of anger frequently thereafter. Some said he was just getting old and cranky, but my father explained it to be a result of the heart surgery. My father's father had died during heart surgery in the 1970s, and my father had spent a lot of time speaking with heart surgeons.

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Wednesday April 16, 2008 

Here is some nostalgia - the history of computer data storage with lots of photos. I did use punched cards and paper tape. It is amazing how large and loud hard disk drives used to be. I also used 8" floppy disks, but I don't think I ever user a cassette tape for storage.

The Asus tiny netbook computer with 9" screen is coming really soon. Versions are available in the UK, Hong Kong, Australia, and Europe this week. US release? Not known yet. I currently have a 7" model on loan. The screen is small, the keyboard a little too small for me to type well on it. Otherwise, it works fine and is an good size to travel.

Here is a review of the 9" ASUS. It is unfortunate that the 9" has the same size keyboard (just a little too small) as the 7" model.

Here is some video of two Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs). Featured are the Lenovo Ideapad U8 and the Aigo MID.

Gizmodo reports on the first Starbucks to move from T-Mobile to AT&T Wifi. I was in a local Starbucks yesterday. No one there knew anything about the transition, so I guess I'll have a while to wait on this.

Here is something for the American taxpayer, many of the Defense Department weapons developments are over budget and late. These systems are difficult to build. Stupidity, however, helps drive the cost and schedule.

This story explains how Obama's "bitter" comments got into the media. This isn't a political story, but one of how blogs and bloggers are changing things, even when least expected. The writer, a 61-year-old Obama contributor, attended the fund raiser where the comments were made. Reporters from newspapers and other media are usually kept out of fund raising events since contributing to candidates they cover is a conflict of interest. So bloggers can go places legitimate journalists cannot. Interesting turn of events.

Here is a representation of all the space debris floating in low earth orbit.

Here is a detailed comparison of Macs and PCs. This test has a lot of data to go with it. It declares the Mac the winner.

Here is a little more information about Psystar - the company that is selling $400 computer that will run Apple's OS X operating system. This all sounds odd - sort of like April Fools' jokes. Let's see what happens.

Here are some good tips for a freelancer. Maybe next year...

Continuing in the freelance vein, this answers the question Can you be a web worker from a small town? I hope the answer is yes.

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Thursday April 17, 2008

Here is a good list of books for programmers and others interested in technology. I think I have read half of them.

Red Hat is moving away from the desktop market and more towards enterprises. The article gives several business reasons, but I think Ubuntu Linux has taken over the home desktop Linux market. Ubuntu is simpler to try without installing, the install, and use.

Here is an article about Ubuntu making Linux use much easier. As reported yesterday, I am currently tinkering with an ASUS little tiny netbook that runs a version of Linux. The windows environment on it is much simpler to use than on MS Windows. It has buttons that say "write a document" and "listen to music." Hence, Linux can be made usable by my wife.

But wait, now someone shows how to run Mac OS X on an ASUS netbook. Will wonders never cease?

Here is some high-speed photography. A water ballon popping at 2,000 frames per second.

Here is story about the Chumby. This is a WiFi device with a small screen. The software is open AND the hardware is open. People are hacking this litte, inexpensive thing in all sorts of ways. It appears to be a great educational tool. This may be worth watching.

Apple continues to grow its share of the personal computer market. For the first three months of 2008, Apple had a 6.6% share of the U.S. market. There share for the same period last year was 5.2%.

Here is a little more evidence that Apple will update its MacBook laptops to aluminum and multi-touch.

IBM is testing the use of Apple laptop computers. They have a program to test if the Apple laptops are "better" than ThinkPads from Lenovo (used to be made by IBM). The story qoutes someone as saying that they are "trying out new things." I didn't know that Apple laptop computers were "new things."

Here is an instructive blog post on the thermocline of truth. This agrees with my experience, and that is too bad.

Sales of personal computers are slow, but laptop sales are strong.

I tire of the use of the term "PC". Call it a computer.

A Congressman is claiming that Google "gamed" the airwave auction. Imagine that, a private company behaving in a way to increase its profits. No wonder a Congressman is upset.

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Friday April 18, 2008

 Here is a "pico-projector built into a media player. If you are in a dark-enough place, you can project your videos onto a 53-inch surface. This application sounds silly to me, but the technology promises benefit to consultants and others who travel with presentations.

I am behind on this one. MyVU is selling glasses that let you view videos on a large virtual screen. Variations of this technology have been around for at least 20 years. MyVu seems to have made a product for $200 that works. I am happy to see this.

Here is a review of a laptop sleeve. I had to look at the site to understand what a "laptop sleeve" is. Oh, it's a little cover for your laptop. People sell those now a days. I have used laptop sleeves for years, but I didn't know they were called sleeves. I called them covers, and I got mine from my wife. She folded an extra piece of cloth over and sewed the edges together.

Google's first quarter profits were up 30%. Why did they lay off people?

AMD, however, is not doing so well. They have lost money six quarters in a row. We may lose competition in the chip market. Not a good trend.

This post shows a home made scooter than runs on compressed air. Change one form of energy into another - an interesting thought. Let's hope it is a trend. No notes in the post on how much energy is consumed compressing the air.

Oh look, burning food as fuel raises food prices. Who would have foreseen this? ;-0 In opposition to a commercial I have heard on the radio recently, I would rather extract fuel for the ground than grow it. We have done the experiment of burning food as fuel, now let's move on to something that works.

PsyStar, that company trying to sell computer to run Apple's OS X continues to have problems. The PsyStar goes down again. You cannot order one of their machines until it is back up. This sort of prevents reviewers from testing the machine. Oh well. Computerworld has a story on some of the ups and downs of PsyStar this week. I don't know what to think on this one yet. It could be a scam or simply another start-up struggling to keep up with high demand for their product.

This post on Modern Mechanix reminds us of a time when people hitch hiked. Hitch Hiking went away in the late 1970s in the U.S. The only replacement I have seen is "slugging" people riding with others so they can meet the requirements of car pool lanes in place like the Washington D.C. metro area.

I find this blog on why most bloggers don't deserve advertising money interesting. I agree with the blog in that most blogs, like mine, are not going to generate money. Advertising and making money is not the aim here. Keeping notes and sharing them with colleagues is the point here. When I tire of doing this I will stop. One bit of advice to potential bloggers - especially in the tech field - know what you want to do and why before you start.

Who says there is nothing but junk on the Internet? This site has posted the complete works of Charles Darwin. Someone scanned tens of thousands of handwritten pages and collected tens of thousands of published works. Spreading knowledge on the Internet - I like that. There are many such efforts in progress. In some sense, the Internet is becoming the greatest library in the history of man.

It looks like Asus will introduce an eee PC netbook with Intel's Atom processor in June. This should extend the battery life of this netbook. Contrary to most, I don't want a touch screen on the computer. That complicates the software (bloat) and drains the battery faster. Keep it simple, please.

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Saturday April 19, 2008

The PsyStar story continues. Maybe next week we will learn something. Here is some more commentary on PsyStar. I am not sure why I keep mention PsyStar. Some strange curiosity, but it seems more entertaining than American Idol. I promise, here is the last mention of PsyStar this week ;-) An actual interview with the president of PsyStar.

The 9" screen model ASUS netbook is coming to the U.S. on May 12th.

Here is something a little different. This site contains drawings done only with pencil and paper. I like it.

AT&T is laying off people, but still the demad for H1-B Visas is at an all-time high. Someone please educate me on this.

The Encyclopeida Britannica is starting a program that allows bloggers free access to the online encyclopedia (regular fee is $70 per year). I shall investigate.

This post shows an e-book that rolls up into a compact shape. It has a good video to demonstrate it. Great. We are getting there.

Here is what I think to be excellent advice for those trying to make a living online. Diversify. Don't pour more sweat and time into a single blog or whatever. Spend a modest amount of time on half a dozen different things.

Microsoft is trying a new way to pay for its Office software. You pay a regular subscription fee. As long as you keep paying, updates are downloaded to you automatically. When you stop paying, your copies of the software stop working - sort of like when you stop paying your insurance premiums. We shall see.

I had to tag this one. A waterproof video camera for $200. Maybe this summer...

I hope this one comes true. A Volswagon that gets 80 miles per gallon and only costs $8,000.

This says that NBC will create shows that center on sponsor's products. I think the networks did this back in the early days of Television. It could be interesting.

I wrote another short story this week. It is posted here. That makes 16 short stories in 16 weeks for me this year. This is good practice.
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Sunday April 20, 2008 

Here are a couple of photos of my laptop sleeve that I mentioned Friday. My wife made it from a spare piece of denim fabric. it is holding my iBook G4 (yes, I should get a new laptop, but this one still works, and...) Click on the images for a larger view.


The Dilbert.com website was upgraded. Evidently, few visitors there wanted an upgrade, so there are lots of howls of protest. This daybook is simple HTML, so it should load fast. I was hesitant to put the two photos of my laptop sleeve. I like simple websites - they load quickly.

I like this article on 25 university research projects. There is a lot of good work being done at some universities. This is rare, but there are so many university research labs today that something is bound to come through.

One of the projects from above is Attila the radio. The concept is to build a radio that can use any and available networks (CDMA, GSM, WiFi, WiMax) to send parts of a message. This is an efficient scheme in that you look at all networks and use what isn't being used by someone else.

It took about 12 hours, but I was approved to use Encyclopedia Britannica online (for one year). This daybook qualified me. Perhaps someone could test the system to see how small and infrequent a blog will qualify. Anyways, Britannica is a good site. It looks much better than Wikipedia - better cosmetic design. I will continue to use Wikipedia as well.

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