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 21-27, 2008

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

Monday April 21, 2008

This post lists the top tech bloggers. I didn't make the list - this year ;-0

There is trouble in the U.S. patent office. It seems that the rewards for holding a patent - even a patent on a bad idea - are so good that the Patent Office is flooded with applications for bad patents. Government tries to do good for the public, but there are all those unintended consquences.

ASUS will finally make a netbook computer with a larger keyboard. This will come with a 10-inch screen. No information is yet available on delivery date and price.

While a large number of people are entering retirement age, businesses don't seem to be concerned. Maybe that is where all the H1-B visas are going.

Speaking of H1-B visas, some House Republicans are requesting an increase in these visas from 65,000 to 115,000. Such an increase happened just before 9-11-2001. Those events caused it to go back down. I guess enough time has elapsed since that travesty or something.

I want one of these. A quiet, supersonic jet that flies 1,200 mph. It will fly in 2013 and carry 12 passengers coast-to-coast in two hours. I probably won't be able to afford a ticket. These things sound too luxurious at first, but if someone puts it out there, technology may advance, supply may create its own demand, and who know what will happen.

Intel has cut prices on many of its processors. I like this.

Some people are now trying to capture the lost heat a power plants and use it for energy. Wow, what a concept - convert energy from one form to another. It won't be 100% efficient, but it is greater than zero. I have to wonder how much of everything we waste instead of use.

The Chinese group that was going to hack CNN.com has disbanded. But, someone hacked a sports site connected to CNN. These are interesting times. Is this undeclared war among nations, commercial espionage, childish pranks, something else?

Here is a method to improve fuel efficiency in tractor trailers by 5% to 15% - put skirts on the side. Even greater gains come from putting boat tails on the back of the semi-trailer. Simple ideas.

Should Internet access be turned off in college classrooms? That was one of the topics of discussion yesterday among the two current and two former college students in my family. This post also addresses the question. My conclusion - kids pay attention if the professor is interesting, educating, and important.

This blog predicts a 2009 release of Windows 7. I agree with the advice given here - strip out much of the junk that plagues Windows Vista and do incremental releases of Windows 7. We shall see what Microsoft does.

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Tuesday April 22, 2008

Here is a list of 17 life-changing books. The only one on the list that I have read is "Alice in Wonderland." Jerry Weinbergcalls it the best text book on software engineering ever written.

This is a compact, universal charging station for all those things we need to keep charged. I like the concept. I just don't have that many things that need charging. I guess I am behind the times.

Scott Adam's is letting people add their own punchlines to his Dilbert cartoons. Silicon Alley Insider has this report on it. There are many other reports on this today. This is part of the new Dilbert web site that many people don't like. I like this part. Adams is pretty smart and this is a smart move.

PsyStar claims to be shipping systems now. We shall see when someone actually receives one.

Here is a Washington Post editorial from two environmentalists discussing how ethanol has hurt the environment. We tried it, it didn't work, let's move on to something else.

Next Energy News reports on gas hydrates which hold more potential for energy that current coal and oil reserves. Like a lot of energy research, this could be nothing or it could be huge. Let's stop burning food and invest in research like this.

Kevin Kelly reports on the 1,000 true fans idea. He has a long note from musician Robert Rich on his experiences with the concept.

Scientific American reports on what it calls Science 2.0 or how Web 2.0 is influencing scientific research. My experience with university research labs was that researchers don't like to share much with one another. They seem to be competing too much with one another for research dollars. I hope the sharing philosophy has some success.

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Wednesday April 23, 2008 

This is the home of the vocal joystick project. They are training a robot arm to respond to speech sounds - not to words, but to sounds. Download and watch the videos on the page. This would be a breakthrough for people with physical impairments. I can also see it being used in parts of space travel or other travel where G forces prevent movement.

I am happy to see that Jerry Pournelle has posted The Mailbag on April 21. Jerry is struggling with health issues (see his View

posts for an update on that).

Several of the key figures in the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program have left. This may lead to the demise of the entire program. Even if OLPC fades away, I think it has done the industry a lot of good. There are now a number of smaller, cheaper, computers on the market that look at lot like the OLPC.

Here is a less expensive way to have a Solid State Disk (SSD). Buy this adapter and fill it with CompactFlash cards. I like the idea.

On the other hand, here is news of a one-inch solid state drive. Competition keeps swirling the market. I like it.

There is some hope of turning any plant life into fuel. This sounds like a good idea: using grass clippings from everyone's yard and the center medians from the Interstate highway system for fuel. I hope this one works so we can stop burning food.

Continuing with energy, I like this post about the role of technology research in working the world's problems. We spend ten times more money on medical research than we do on energy research. There are ways out of this mess, and we have plenty of smart people available to work this.

CNN.com was hit by a cyberattack. Everyone suspects the Chinese or groups of Chinese. Freedom of speech does not exist world wide. Americans should remember this. With the Internet and other technologies, countries can deter or eliminate free speech in other countries.

In print, Capers Jones has a good article on software tracking in the April 2008 issue of Crosstalk. He concentrates on what he sees as the four most common problems in tracking software projects: (1) not using accurate estimates, (2) poor change control, (3) poor quality control, and (4) progress tracking does not reveal the true nature of the project.

Here are photos of a Dell computer with a bamboo case. Here is a post about an ASUStek laptop with a bamboo case. I am not sure if these are hoaxes or the real thing. It seems that cutting bamboo to make a computer case is bad for the environment. This story seems to proclaim that good for the environment.

Getting a new computer easily becomes a new hobby or a painful past time. This post goes through those laments. Maybe this is why I only buy a new computer every four or five years - it takes me that long to forgot how painful it is to move from an old computer to a new one. I have to say that when I got my iMac last year it was easy to move all my files from a Windows XP machine to an OS X machine over WiFi.

Here are a couple of new netbook computers. This one is from 3K Computers. This one is from Acer. Both look much like the ASUS eeePC netbook. I like the trend and the competition.

I spent some time today looking into software radios. In particular, I looked at the GNU Radio software. Here are some links: in Wired magazine, Wikipedia page, on the gnu.org page, and the GNU Radio "home page."

Fundamental to using the GNU Radio, is the Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP) hardware. Here are some USRP links: Wikipedia page, Ettus Research (they make the USRP), mention of USRP on the GNU Radio site. I have lots to read and understand, but hey - this is the reason for a day book.

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Thursday April 24, 2008

Here is an article about global cooling. Sorry to ruin the global warming party. Global warming is much preferred over global cooling.

Wired Magazine reports on a system to aid your memory. The system is called SuperMemo. Its basis is that there is an optimum time to review materials so that you remember them. That optimum time varies from person to person and also varies depending on the material. The SuperMemo program helps you review material at just the right time for you and the material. Interesting.

Here is a review of the latest release of Ubuntu (8.04). It sounds like a good release. Ubuntu has a lot of momentum. That is difficult to achieve.

Apple is doing well financially. Everything is up compared to this time last year. The sales of Macs is up 50%. The recession hasn't hit Apple, yet.

And Amazon is doing pretty good, too. Their revenue grew 37% in the same time period.

But, Motorola sales were down 21% from a year ago.

Here is a real sign of recession. People aren't buying as many expensive drinks at Starbucks. I buy one cup of coffee a day at Starbucks. $1.63 current price.

China will soon be the world's largest Internet user. The potential use of the Internet in China is ... well huge.

This post agrees with me that Linux is a good system for older people. The author says it is good for grandma's. Hey, my wife will be a grandma in November! Anyway, I argue that Linux is perfect for my 78-year-old mother. She has never used a computer. She has nothing to unlearn to move from Windows to Linux. Maybe when my wife is a grandma I can get her a Linux system.

Toshiba will ship 128GB Solid State Disks in June. They hope to ship 512GB SSDs in 2009.

Here is an energy-saver I really like. It is an inflatable bladder that heats water. Fill it with water and set it in the sun. Of course it works, and it only costs $160.

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Friday April 25, 2008

I like George Will's editorial on lessons (not)learned about education in America. I find it difficult to accept that there are things that greatly influence my life that I cannot control. The education establishment has the same difficulty. In particular, the performance of students is more correlated to what happens in the home than in the school.

Someone from Microsoft once again hints that they may extend the date for selling XP. Let's see, customers want to buy your product. Should you sell it to them and make money?

Microsoft  had mixed financial reportings. Not like Apple. Let's see, people want to buy XP and...

This post makes a good point about open source software development. The difference is how the work is organized, not who pays.  In open source, contributors work the part they want to work. There is no director telling people what to do.

Here is a detailed post about the state of the netbook computer market. I like what is available. I have more wishes in the way of less, less, less with a bigger keyboard.

By the way, I performed a test of the ASUS eee PC keyboard. I was surprised to learn that I could type about 75% as fast on it as I could type on full-size desktop keyboards (30 wpm on ASUS vs 40 wpm on full-size keyboards). I used a typing tutor program to provide the drills and the wpm calculations. I thought I was typing at half speed on the ASUS. The keyboard is better than I expected. One caveat - I am 5'10" 150 pounds, so my hands may be smaller than many men out there.

Here are two articles on intellectuals using performance enhancing drugs. It seems there is a contradiction in that sentence somewhere. Look here and here.

Apple rumors: updates to iMac and Mac mini next week.

Dell will install Windows XP even after the Microsoft deadline. Let's consider this: people want to buy a product and Dell agrees to sell it to them. Dell might make some money here.

Toshiba predicts that a quarter of all notebooks will use Solid State Drives in the next three years. I think that number is low. I think people want light weight and speed more than massive storage capacity in their portable computers.

Kids in school are writing assignments in shorthand text style without punctuation and with odd spellings like L8. My daughter-in-law has told me this from her experiences teaching 6 to 10 year olds. They tend to do this even in their hand-written exercises.

I like this blog post. The author recommends hiring "family people" vice 20-something people who will work 20 hours a day. The family people bring much more realism to the work place. I don't know if such talk violates some hiring laws or something, but I think I understand the principle.

America On Line has had a good year judging by the traffic on its revamped web sites. That is good news to people in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. where I live. I know of colleagues whose children made a lot of money in the hey day of AOL. I hope the diversified their funds before AOL lost a lot of value in its stock.

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Saturday April 26, 2008

Here is a little more information on the latest release of Ubuntu Linux. People really like this product. The price is right.

I like this post. It is a thoughtful discussion of the terms Web 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. The point is that it is not the defintion that matters, but the discussion of what we are doing on the web now.

Personal income in Silicon Valley finally rose above what it was in 2000. Well, actually 2006 salaries (the latest for which data are available) were higher than 2000 salaries. The valley recovered from the dot com bust.

But, income in the IT profession nationally dropped in 2008. The reasons are complex, with one being that hiring is up.

Here is an editorial from the Wall Street Journal on global warming. I like the title: "Our Climate Numbers are a Big Old Mess." Good reading.

At long last, here is something about PsyStar - the company selling Mac-Clones. Their customer service doesn't want customer to try loading OS X on their own. It seems that it isn't easy.

I tried the Google docs offline editing feature. I have a home-based iMac with Intel processors and a portable iBook G4. I played around with editing on-line and off-line and such. It all works like advertised. Will this be useful? I think so.

I put up another short story today on my short story site.  That is 17 stories in 17 weeks. Good practice. I tried this week to write a story in less than 2,000 words. I made it down to 2,400 words. 

I like this story - several companies are trying ways to sell low-cost or no-cost college textbooks. I have two sons still in college. The cost of the textbooks are outrageous. I understand why the publishers price them so high - lots of books printed that are not sold. But really, try something different to bring the cost to the student('s parent) down.

Here is a post on an interview with Donald Knuth. The reporter has never heard of literate programming. I guess I am old as I read the book 15 years ago and tried it. If I had access to some tools back then, I think I would have become a disciple of it. If someone graduates with a degree in either computer science or computer engineering and has not read any of Knuth, shame on that university.

Lenovo and HP follow HP's lead - they also will sell computers loaded with XP after the Microsoft deadline.

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Sunday April 27, 2008

The Washington Post has a front page story on rising world food prices. Burning food for fuel is part of the cause.

Another part of the problem are the bio-plastic bags that are supposed to degrade
. They don't degrade in the soil like they were supposed to, they are mixed in with plastic bags and that ruins plastic recycling, and one more thing - they are made of food. Oooops.

Please, let's think things all the way through before we jump into them.

If found this posting interesting. The author believes that since WWII  Americans have enjoyed a surplus to time. For decades, we spent our free time wathcing TV sitcoms. Now we are shifting to social media - Web 2.0. We are filling flickr with our photos, writing Wikipedia articles, and writing and reading blogs.

Larry O'Brien laments that we seem to have fewer programmers who love the profession and more who do it because there are job openings.

Apple is selling more Macs to businesses. Apple's share of the business market tripled last year. Several years ago I attended a writing seminar. Everyone brought their portable computer, and half were made by Apple. I asked the leader of the seminar about this. His experience was that private consultants and freelance writers used Apple computers at a much higher rate than the national average. Consultants and Freelancers, he continued, needed their machines to work all the time. These people didn't have an IT department behind them. For them, the Apple computer was cheaper - lower total cost of ownership.

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