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 28-May 4, 2008

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

Monday April 28, 2008

What recession? Venture funding in the Washington D.C. tech suburbs is up 14% over last year. When I first came to the D.C. area in the early 1980s, government was the only industry. Tech became a strong part of the economy in the 1990s. That was a good thing for the area.

For future reference, here is a tutorial on running OS X and Windows on the same Apple computer.

Apple introduced updated iMac computers today. More CPU power, more disk space, same price. I like this. My main machine at home is an iMac - I guess it is 18 months old now. It works fine.

The Firefox browser has a 30% share in Europe. It has a 20% share in North America. This may be the most successful open source software project of all time.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Carly Fiorin, former HP CEO, is on the short list to be the vice presidential nominee on the Republican side. I heard many bad things about Ms. Fiorina. I then heard her speak about six months ago and changed my mind on her. I don't know that being the vice president nominee is better than being a technology and economics advisor.

PsyStar News: Here is a video of one of their machines running OS X. There are about 10,000 ways to fake what you see in the video. I hope it is not faked. I would like to see someone succeed at this.

This post seems popular on the Internet today. The blogger has his girlfriend test the new Ubuntu release of Linux. I applaud this type of experiment. She is able to do most of what is asked, but there are several items that are far beyond her technical expertise. The blogger concludes with some excellent recommendations for someone creating a Linux distribution.

I’d love to see a welcome screen for the first time you open up your desktop, with little videos explaining a few key concepts to how Linux and Ubuntu work. Maybe it could ask “What do you want to do?” and then explain how they could do this. Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do. Erin’s intelligent, quick to learn and is reasonably well-acquainted with modern technology. If she had as much trouble as she did, what chance to the elderly or at least the middle-aged stand? 

Well done, and well said.

These guys have a hobby. Amazing sights from the Top Gun 2008 remote controlled airplane competition.

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Tuesday April 29, 2008

Times are changing in the news media - that shouldn't be a news flash. The CBS Evening News is dying, and it isn't all Katie Curic's fault. All three major networks evening news casts are losing viewers and money. The same decline is happening in newspapers. Only two of the top 25 newspapers in America saw a rise in circulation. Those rises at USA Today and the Wall Street Journal were both less than 1%. Some newspapers are closing their print operations, shifting to Internet-only distribution of news. The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin just did so. I look through the headlines on the Washington Post everyday. We get the print edition free, and my wife loves that for the coupons. If I tried, I could probably get the coupons online somewhere, and that would save a few trees a year.

This post shows a "robot" that steers itself off road quite well. The post includes a good video and explanation of the techniques used. I have researched such work since the mid-1980s. I credit much of the advances to carrying computing power on the robots themselves. It is truly amazing to consider the multiplicative increases in computer power we have seen.

The updated iMacs introduced by Apple yesterday don't have new chips, they are just over clocked. Rats. Well, wait a while longer.

MacMall offers rebaites up to $100 on the new iMacs. They also offer a free copy of Parallels so you can run Windows on your Apple computer along with OS X.

Apple's iTunes music store is 5 years old today. They claim a catalog of 10 million songs and a customer base of 50 million users. I like to buy single songs for 99 cents. My kids tell me I am crazy for doing that.

Here is a post about independent film maker Jessica Mae Stover attempting to finance a movie by taking donations. The short sci fi film is to be titled Artmemis Eternal. Here is the main web site for the film. Best wishes to these people. It is an attempt at a different way to finance work.

Wayport now claims WiFi access in 10,000 McDonald's (restaurants). Wayport is also managing WiFi in 7,000 Starbucks. Those guys must be busy.

Cray and Intel have partnered to build supercomputers. There are few details available. This could be interesting.

Here is a test of Windows Vista on the HP mini-note computer. Don't try this at home. A big operating system doesn't work well on a small computer. Someone make a note of that - it seems significant.

This test reports that Solid State Disk drives aren't as fast as spinning disk drives. That is a little suprising to me.

The blogosphere is not yet saturated. People are still creating new blogs (this one is only 6 weeks old).

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Wednesday April 30, 2008 

Here is a review of the Asus netbook with the 9" screen. The review is a video - nice. The machine is much like the 7" model with a bigger screen, but the same size keyboard.

Asus expects to ship far more of these eee PCs this summer. I think they found a money maker here. It is to be seen if competition from HP, Dell, and others eats into this market.

The Writer's Technology companion blog has a series on writing e-books. I like thier insights. Here they are: part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Here is an analysis of Lawrence Lessig's presentation style. By the way, Lessig uses Apple Keynote - not Microsoft PowerPoint. I like the analysis and I recommend looking at Lessig's approach via the example speeches on his web site.

Maybe some good news on the energy front: Xtreme Concentrated Photovoltaics. This concentrates sunlight onto photovoltaics. They claim it can produce energy at the same price point as fossil fuels. I hope they have something here. We could use some good news.

Engadget actually received a PsyStar computer. All they have so far are photos of taking it out of the box. They promise reviews real soon now.

Here is a comedy commercial comparing Apple's MacBook Air to the Lenovo ThinkPad X300. The video hints that the MacBook Air isn't so slim when you add the ports and optical drive that the Lenovo has built in. I have had both of these machines in my hands. I like both, but I am leaning towards the Lenovo on a purely hardware basis. The Lenovo is thinner, but feels lighter (I haven't had the chance to weigh the two). Perhaps the Lenovo with Linux loaded would be the ideal.

I like this short post from Scott Berkun. If you are a manager and there are problems, it is your fault. At least own the problems and do something.

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Thursday May 1, 2008

This is a video of Clay Shirky speaking about Gin, TV, and Social Sharing. I mentioned Clay Shirky on Sunday April 27th. I like Shirky's ideas. This 15-minute speech captures his concept well.

This post encourages people leaving your IT shop. Turnover keeps good people working - it is one way to clear out the dead wood in an organization. I like the thought. I see how it can be abused with the result of people abusing people. Abuse, however, can creep into any system.

Jeff Atwood encourages programmers to read books on programming. I guess such a post is needed. I always read lots of books on programming and whatever else type of job I was doing at the time. That puts me in the minority. Atwood specifically mentions "Code Complete" by Steve McConnell. I almost ruined my son when he was in college by having him read this book between his junior and senior years. His college professors - none of whom ever worked professionally as a programmer - disagreed with almost everything in the book. Atwood has a good photo of the books on his shelf. Atwood and I have a lot in common.

A story in New Scientist Magazine reports that people are turning to social media sites in emgencies. Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, and other sites are becoming the means to communicate in crisis like the California wildfires and the Va Tech campus shooting. These technologies work when others don't. These technologies put people in places where "news reporters" aren't with the technology to broadcast to the world. The internet and its input-output functions are changing our lives. Sometimes for the better.

In print, Alistair Cockburn has published two articles on the subject of Incremental and Iterative Development. There is a big difference between the two. I like the way Cockburn describes the difference and the combination. One of the articles is in the May 2008 issue of Crosstalk (here). The other is in the April 2008 issue of Better Software. I recommend both.

Here is an article on unusual survival gear. Maybe something will come of some of this. They give me ideas.

Intel will introduce chip-level antitheft protection later this year. This will help IT departments deal with the problem of sensitive information on lost and stolen laptop computers. This sounds like a good idea.

Writer's Technology slipped in a fourth part to their e-book series. I don't know if there are more parts to come.

I am happy to see that Jerry Pournelle has a Chaos Manor Reviews column up. As stated, Jerry is recuperating from radiation therapy of a brain tumor. His daily view has been helpful to me in understanding what people in his situation are experiencing.

Technology Review predicts that solar panels will drop in price by 50% by 2010. The drop is because of increased silicon production. I hope this is true, but increased demand for lower-cost panels could keep the prices up. Supply and demand is a dynamic situation.

The use of Safari on Windows machines tripled recently. This is a result of Apple's software update software downloading Safari when users update their iTunes software. This now means that Safari has 0.21% of the Windows browser market.

Here is a video of unboxing the PsyStar Open Computer. No test data yet.

TechCrunch.com has a video showing them powering up their PsyStar and running it a little. The computer is real, it runs, it looks pretty good. You get what you pay for, but now we know that PsyStar is not a hoax.

Engadget did about the same thing with similar results. They have data on a few benchmark tests - no surprises.

This study predicts that data centers will become the world's largest polluters by 2020. You mean all those servers use electricity? Oh would have predicted that?

Mozy now offers online backup storage for OS X users.

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Friday May 2, 2008

This post discusses the historical practice of immigrants from everywhere going to Silicon Valley where they and the economy thrived. A similar thing has happened in the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. The economy thrives. There are immigrants everywhere. One of the great joys of my life in the past ten years has been coaching kids sports. I did this so my kids could play sports (no coach - no team). The greatest joys were coaching immigrant kids - literally one week off the boat (or airplane). They couldn't speak English and understood a little of what I was saying. They loved the chance to play a game. Such chances weren't available to them in their home lands as little things like abject poverty and wars got in the way. One kid from Bosnia went on to be an All-State track star and is now in college on an atheletic scholarship. I am torn when people want to allow more immigrants the country on H1-B visas. There are unemployed Americans, but the immigrants bring so much vitality and joy with them.

So global warming may not occur as predicted - at least for a while. I have read experts on both sides of this. One thing for sure, the experts who use science to argue that globabl warming is not real don't call people on the other side "people who believe the earth is flat" like Al Gore does. Gore doesn't seem to understand that people who disagree with him are not idiots - they are merely people who disagree with him.

JVC has made a device that can display 8192 x 4320 pixels. This will probably first appear on the market as a commercial projectors, but then...

Here is another netbook computer like the ASUS, but with better specs. This post gives photos. I wish they would put a ruler or something in the photo so I can tell how big the keyboard is. Comparing the relative sizes of the screen and keyboard to those on the ASUS 7" screen model on my desk, it appears the keyboard is the same size as on the ASUS.

Notebook Review has a story on the most popular latptops for April 2008. My youngest son, nearing the end of his freshman year of college, may need a new notebook real soon now. The hand-me-down Gateway laptop he uses has a problem with the screen going black. This is a hardware problem, and it is unfortunate that several Gateway laptops I have owned had the same problem. My son is a music major and likes to use Garage Band on my Apple iMac desktop machine. This leans us towards a Mac Book Pro that also runs Parallels so that some MS Windows applications can run. I hope this can all wait a few months.

Sun had a bad quarter and will cut 2,500 jobs.

People bought iPods at home. This led them to buy an Apple computer at home. This has led them to ask for an Apple computer at work. Now what are companies going to do?

This post claims that you can now get free wifi access at Starbuck and Barnes and Noble. Since both of these are in my neighborhood, I will try this (if I can get to it this weekend).

Here is a new acronym for me: YAWN - Young And Weathly but Normal. These are people in their 20s and 30s who made millions in the last decade, but live modestly. They spend most of their time and money giving away their time and money. I don't know any of these people, but then again I wouldn't recognize them as they are living "normal" lives.

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Saturday May 3, 2008

Bentley has made a electric concept car. This is a cute car or at least a cute picture of a car. I'm not sure about people making all-electric sports cars and hybrid sports cars. It seems that research should be for the masses. But I guess as long as we have cars, some of us will have faster cars.

I tried the approach to have free wifi access at Starbucks. In little print at the bottom of the instructions I learned that you also have to have a real iPhone telephone number. I don't have one. So, the method didn't work for me.

Here are a couple of relatively new laptop computers from Dell. They call them "Vostros." I think that is an Italian word - I am not sure how computer companies create these names. Anyways, here is the model with a 15.4" screen and here is the model with the 13.3" screen.

Here is another entry - promised to be the last - to Writer's Technology serioes on eBooks. This is part 5. They have combined all five parts into a free eBook available here.

I didn't know there was such a thing as Podcasting Geek Chicks. Evidently there is.

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Sunday May 4, 2008

I guess I missed this item up until now - the Zcam, a camera and laser range finder that looks at you while you make motions to play a video game. The Wiimote changed many things with its tiny accelerometers and such. The Zcam may change just as many things. This is something to watch.

Here is more discussion of the 1,000 true fans idea. It is possible, it may be probable, that the 1,000 true fans model just won't work.

Ars Technica points to a study that ranks the U.S. 15th in the world in use of broadband Internet access. The report is reported to be lengthy. Government subsidies in other countries have encouraged companies to invest in the necessary infrastructure. I am surprised by the data rates part of the story:   With an average broadband speed of 4.9Mbps, the US is being Chariots of Fire-d by South Korea (49.5Mbps), Japan (63.6Mbps), Finland (21.7Mbps), Sweden (16.8Mbps), and France (17.6Mbps), among others.

Something I had overlooked earlier - email doesn't scale. I had not thought of this, but it makes sense. I can email groups of people at a time, but email is still a one-to-one communication. Wikis, blogs, and others are essentially a one-to-many and many-to-many form of communication. There is practically no limit to the number of people who can read this blog post.

Microsoft isn't going to buy Yahoo or merge or whatever. It is over.

And the chance for free wifi at Starbucks is passed.

Much is being made about how the government of Cuba is allowing its subjects to own home computers. I noted earlier about hos they now allow cell phone ownership. Like the cell phones, it is no surprise that they are allowing this now that computer networks make it much easier to monitor what you are doing and what you have on your computer. I don't see this as  an increase in liberty in Cuba, but as a way to increase monitoring of the subjects.

For future reference, this is a good description of cloud computing.

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