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: May 26-June 1, 2008

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

Monday May 26, 2008

Today is Memorial Day in the U.S.  I never served active duty in the U.S. armed forces. Instead, I am a veteran of the Cold War. Still known at work as a "Cold Warrior," I, and many others like me, just sort of faded away when the Soviet Union became Russia once again. We were stuck as our senior managers didn't want to celebrate the end of the Cold War because if they declared the Soviets done they would see their budgets cut - at least that was the fear. So we were victorious but uncelebrated. The budgets? They were cut eventually with little fanfare.

Here is a Cold War story. The crew that found the Titantic had to find two U.S. nuclear subs first, then they could look for the Titantic.  This is the stuff legends are made of - possible true.

Big science news of the day. NASA's Phoenix landed on Mars and appears to be in working order (too many possible links to list). Finally, some good news from the U.S. space program.

I enjoy listening to the Writing Excuses podcast (audio blog). This week's discussion has a great title: Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. It is about one way to avoid writer's block - sit down and start typing words. I don't know that their advice is sufficient, but it is necessary. When the topic of writer's block is discussed, I always point to Jerry Weinberg (his web site, his blog on writing)

Dale Emery has a good post on clustering to create ideas for stories. I like the technique.

This post points to sources for open-source photographs - ones you can use without fear of copyright issues. My latest book was held up while ensuring a photograph of the Pentagon (a public building) was not copyrighted.

Samsung has built a Solid State Disk drive with a capacity of 256 GBytes - and it is fast. I am guessing it will cost a lot as well.

The New York Times has an article on xkcd - a cartoon I visit daily. Nice article. I like the cartoons. See them at xkcd.com.

Maybe we will have more competition instead of less in the processor marketplace. This article discusses Via.  This one discusses Nvidia.

Slot car racing is making a comeback. As a kid in the 1960s, someone gave us their old slot car racetrack. I don't remember it ever working well. From this story - and a video story on the page - things have come a long way with digital slot cars. I want one.

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Tuesday May 27, 2008

Here is another story about performance-enhancing drugs for mental work. I advise against all such use. Coffee is bad enough, the stronger stuff? I just don't think it is a good idea, but then again my mind is not drug-enhanced at the moment so I could be wrong.

Jerry Pournelle is well enough to post another Computing At Chaos Manor entry.

Over the weekend I bought a laptop computer table from Ikea. I have wanted something like this for several years, but most of the ones I saw were priced at $100 or above. Ikea's is only $25. It works for me. It is stable enough, has a slightly sticky surface so things don't slide off when I tilt the surface. I like it.

Here is some information on Windows 7 from Microsoft. People are looking for a release in October-December 2009. No doubt the target is just in time for Christmas sales.

The Chinese have opened the world's largest airport near Beijing. Again, are the world's largest physical structures contest a relic of the first half of the last century? Do things like this matter any more?

Intel will release a dual core version of their Atom processor in the third quarter of 2008. I hope they know what they are doing. My view of the Atom processor is smaller, less powerful, less power hungry. Putting more transistors into the chip seems to go against that concept.

In today's Scobleizer post, Scoble answers a reader question about why he fools with all this high-tech Web 2.0 stuff. I like his answer, his goal is to try to arrange my life so that I have an interesting conversation every day with someone interesting. There are other ways to arrange such conversations, but Scoble is approaching this goal in a way that works for him.

I am not sure how I found this. An editorial that contrasts Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, and Hillary Clinton. Enough said.

I'm confused by this story. It refers to the Firefox browser as an upstart. I thought Firefox was a standard. Oh well, but I do agree that there are browswer wars in progress. Microsoft, Apple (yes they are pushing Safari onto the MS Windows world), and Firefox are at it. I like the situation - competition.

Images from the Phoenix Mars Lander are posted here. Here is another "home" page.

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Wednesday May 28, 2008 

For future reference, a post about running Parallels or Boot Camp on an Apple computer.

Here is a small preview of Microsoft Windows 7. Here is a slightly different view. I am sure there will be many posts on the Internet today about this.

ASUS will introduce a 10" screen version of their small computer. No word on the price yet. I hope the keyboard is bigger than that on the 9" screen model.

Here is a list of the 100 best products of the year. The list is of interest. I do not understand how it was presented. This is the hardest-to-read list I have seen in years.

I have seen bits and pieces of this story. Today is the first time I have actually read it. The Democratic National Committee is seating only white bloggers on its convention floor this summer. This seems like one of those April Fool's jokes or whatever that goes around the Internet each week. I guess it is a true story.

This post points to some different questions about firearms. For example, if a person doesn't have to hold or carry the firearm, what can you do? Many firearms concepts now become reality. This is the stuff of science fiction, but no longer fiction. One problem with such weapons is what happens when the other side captures them and uses them against us? That question must be asked about all weapones.

The Pentagon's budget is so big that it is impossible to monitor. How does Exxon do it? There are some things we can learn from private industry - well there are many things we can learn.

This post discusses travelling with a MacBook Air. This is part 1 of the story. In general, the writer likes the computer.

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Thursday May 29, 2008

Here is a take on Micorsoft supporting the Open Document Format before supporting its own Office Open XML format. Why don't they just support TeX? I have still not found anything that produces a document with the high-quality look of TeX. Why didn't Microsoft hire Donald Knuth as a consultant?

Intel announced a delay in shipping its newer Centrino processors, and Intel's delay could hurt Apple's plans to update their portable computers in time for back to school shopping. Rats! I am planning on a back-to-school purchase of an Apple portable.

On the home front, yesterday I replaced my CRT old-line Sharp television with a Sony HD LCD set. I am not excited by this. Many of my acquantances long ago moved to the 40-plus-inch HD TVs. It just didn't seem important to me.

Here are photos of a Dell portable computer that is really small. It appears to be a competitor to the ASUS eeePC and the HP 2133. I like it. No word on how big the screen or keyboard are. Here are more photos. Is it too much to ask for someone to put a ruler next to the device when taking a photo?

Here is yet another small netbook computer. This one is from 3K Computers (I've never heard of them). It is remarkably similar to the ASUS eee PC with a 7" screen, but only costs $299.

And another little computer story. Here is more information on the MSI Wind coming real soon now. And here is information on Acer's Inspire One. Keep the competition coming folks. The summer shopping season will be interesting.

ASUS introduced several portable computers with SplashTop in them. Splashtop (called Express Gate on the ASUS) is a tiny Linux embedded on the motherboard that foregoes the slow boot of a computer. Users can turn on the machine and have access to a browser and a few other applications in a few seconds. Nice, I want one. Could Apple put this in their portables?

I like this story on Georgia Tech researchers building "robots" that would wander about Antartica. That is a good use of bot technology.

But this story is pesimistic about science and scientists in the U.S. So many of our brightest are try to build new social networking tools on the Internet. That isn't a bad thing to do, but doesn't do much to advance science in general. I have many acquantances who work in "science" as opposed to "engineering." They do themselves great harm with their inability to communicate about what they do.

Moden Mechanix reprints a 1983 Byte Magazine article on the Apple Lisa Computer. I remember reading that issue. I also have the distinction of trying to use a Lisa computer. There once was a joke about the Lisa. It went, "Did you hear the joke about the Lisa?....(long long pause)." That was the joke, and anyone who had tried to use a Lisa understood the joke. The Lisa was so slow that you felt as if it was broken. Nobody could possible try to sell a machine that was so slow. Then Apple rewrote all the Pascal code in assembly language and put that into the Macintosh. The rest is history.

Intel claims a breakthrough in flash memory technology. The built a 32Gbyte flash memory on a 34 nanometer process. This should double the capacity of solid state drives. Intel hopes to introduce commercial solid state drives in the second half of 2008. I like the competition.

In print, I finally finished looking through the May/June 2008 of IEEE Software. Of interest - (1) Rebecca J. Wirf-Brock's article on writing stories at the start of a design activity. Everyone writes their own hopes, wishes, and fears and then shares them with the group. (2) Jeff Patton describes RITE (Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation) software development. (3) Jacco Wesselius writes about using the open source software model inside an organization in what he calls inner-source-software or ISS.

Here is another take on yesterday's stories of the Windows 7 demo. I tend to agree with this view. A multi-touch touch screen is a neat application, but what about the underlying operating system? Someone tell me about the operating system. Is Windows 7 an operating system or a bunch of applications stuck together?

I like this use of Internet mashups. Several programmers mapped 10,000 illegal dump sites in Estonia. Then 50,000 people arrived on May 3rd and picked up the trash. Excellent ideas.

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Friday May 30, 2008

Dell is doing well financially. I like that news for an American company. They are not greatly optimistic for this year given the general economy.

A little more good news. Novell's Linux business is up 31% over last year. You can make money from open source software. It's the service as much as the product.

Maybe Apple will change the .Mac "service" in June. I hope so. I never received any real benefit from .Mac. Perhaps I didn't put the time into it, but...

I like this one: there are rumors that Apple will have a big back-to-school promotion this year. Discounts for students - like my sons.

This story is just a little to good to pass up. Sometimes you should just walk away and not take the job.

This one is a little more uplifting - the true measure of a man.

Gartner predicts that in 2009 it will be wise to buy laptop computers with 3G built in. I agree with this. It seems that WiMax and such just are coming around as I had hoped. Even my wife has noticed people using the Internet over the cell phone system. Perhaps next year I will buy...

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Saturday May 31, 2008

Here is a better-formed rumor about .Mac and possible changes. Perhaps Apple will move into cloud computing (whatever that may be), and people will actually find something useful in it. The guess at the name is "Mobile Me." I guess "iMobile."

I like this post about personal outsourcing. There are many small, time-consuming tasks that other people will do for you for a small fee. The trick is that you have to spend that saved time making money. That is the return on investment part. If you aren't making money, just do it yourself.

This is a commercial exoskeleton. Science in this area is moving on. I like that.

The Gartner Group has revealed what it believe to be the top ten technologies for the next four years. I am most interested in #8 - contextual computing.

Seagate is entering the solid state disk drive market next year. They will also sell a 2 TeraByte spinning disk drive. 2TB? I guess people have a use for that much space.

Billboards are becoming data sensors for advertisers. I think this is smart, but I am not sure if it is good.

This post tries to sort out the words used to describe the really small portable computers like the ASUS eee PC. This is a good reference on the subject.

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Sunday June 1, 2008

Print on Demand is exploding while regular publishing is only growing slightly. While the production of traditionally printed and market books rose 1% from 2006 to 2007, those books done by Print On Demand rose about 500% (21,936 in 2006 to 134,773 in 2007). One reason is cheaper technology costs, while another is that writers are learning how to use publish on demand. Some college textbooks cost $200 (I have two sons buying those books now). Much of that cost is publishers printing copies of the books that don't sell. Publish on demand prints a book after it is ordered, so there is no waste. There is the question of the quality of an un-edited book or a book printed without the competition of the publisher. The writing business is in the midst of chaos.

Here is a related article on book publishing. It encourages selling books much cheaper to increase sales and overall revenue. Print the copies of the books that people are buying. Use eBooks for the rest.

George Will's editorial today discusses the pending "cap-and-trade" legislation before Congress. I have an idea. We pretty much all agree that dumping chemical fertilizer into the water system is a bad thing, right? (If you disagree, you must believe that the earth is flat.) Anyone who used too much fertilizer on their lawn will be in trouble. They can, however, buy their way out of trouble by giving money to people who use too little fertilizer on their lawn. Since I use no fertilizer on my lawn, people will be giving me money. To administer this, the Federal government will hire 3 million new taxpayer-funded employees  to monitor all the lawns in America. The amount of money paid to me by the over-fertilizers will be reduced to some negative value to pay these fertilizer monitors. This should work, right? I suppose I don't understand the details of the cap-and-trade bill. Congress wouldn't consider anything silly. Here is another story on the bill.

Microsoft will require hardware makers to have their drivers certified before getting the Windows 7 seal of approval. Some may see this as Microsoft pushing around the little guys, I think it is about time for something like this. Apple computers work with their operating system because they have a far greater span of control on the hardware than Microsoft does. Back in the mainframe computer days, the IBM operating systems ran well on hardware made by IBM. I also note that sometimes Linux doesn't work with some hardware because the people distributing Linux don't make the hardware.

It seems that ASUS is taking a step in the wrong direction. The new eee PC with the 9" display is coming this week - but the Linux version costs $600.

The Bush administration extended some H1-B visas from 12 to 29 months, and people are suing. This one is difficult for me. I have experienced how recent immigrants add to America. I have also seen highly skilled unemployed Americans.

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