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: June 23-29, 2008

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

Monday June 23, 2008

For those trying to further their careers, here are five things that managers don't want to hear from their employees. I found the information in this article much better than what I expected from the title. Don't tell your manager that, it's all about technology there is only one solution your colleagues have lots of faults there is no way to do this surprise!

I like this post on becoming a professional. Jeff Atwood writes about the profession of programming, but I feel this applies to most endeavors. The suggestion is to practice in addition to the work you perform. I have written several books on managing projects in addition to managing projects at work. That extra practice has at least doubled my capabilities. Practice beyond your job.

This story is hard to believe, but I can believe it. A person reported Tim Russert's death in Wikipedia and was fired for doing so. Facts on this incident are still surfacing, but it appears that the person worked for an organization that had a contract with NBC News. NBC didn't like the story coming out so quickly, voiced their disapproval, and so on. As Silicon Alley Insider reports, the world has changed but some people don't want to admit that.

George Carlin died yesterday. We will see many obtuaries and tributes this week. This link also has a video of Carlin.

Leonard Tow (I've never heard of him before, sorry) is giving $8M to journalism schools to study how newspapers can survive in the Internet age. I think there are people who can answer this question for far less money. Oh well, as a former grad student who had a research fellowship (at below minimum wage) I hope the money goes to help a few grad students eat and pay rent.

Good news from Iraq, roadside IEDs are down almost 90% from this time in 2007. I haven't hear this good news much on the national media. There must be other things to talk about.

These stories seem to contradict one another. There are now a BILLION with a (B) computers in whose on planet earth (they all run software). Fewer students are pursuing computer-related degrees. Maybe I will have a job for the rest of my life if these younger people don't get with it.

Perhaps this post answers the question. The author shows how much information is available on Wikipedia, so why go to college when you can learn all this on your own? There is great value in self-education or whatever you call it. This also relates back to the "practice" note above. Read, study, practice on your own AND do it in a manner that you can demonstrate to those people who want to see letters (BS MS PHD) after your name.

This is a Beginning Engineer's Checklist. I agree with it. Good, fundamental advice.

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Tuesday June 24, 2008

I like Scott Berkun's blog on the relationship of creativity and change. With creativity comes change. If I am not willing to change, I won't be creating or inoovating or any of those things.

Nokia nows owns all of Symbian. They are to make everything open source.

I've seen this story in several places the last two days, but I'm not sure I understand it. The Information Card Foundation wants people to use identity cards instead of the username-password. I would like to be rid of all those usernames and passwords, but I don't understand the identity card approach and the articles I've read don't help me much. Maybe in the coming days I will get it.

Hunstville, Alabama ranks third nationwide in the percentage of people working in high-tech. NASA has a facility in Huntsville, so most of these jobs are associated with that. This Wall Street Journal report laments the low salaries in Huntsville compared to Silicon Valley ($64K vs $145K), but neglects to compare the cost of living and quality of life. I would have thought the Wall Street Journal would know to do those things.

In print: The June 2008 issue of IEEE's Computer magazine has several articles on using technology in developing countries. My favorite is "Stages of Design in Technology for Global Development" by a group of people working for Microsoft Research India. I met someone from Microsoft Research India earlier this year at O'Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference and was impressed by their work. This paper continues to impress me. Fundamental to the approach of this research group is to live among the people in the developing culture. The gee-wiz technical approaches usually fail. This reminds me of lessons I learned 25+ years ago when I read "The Ugly American" by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer. Concentrate on things that the local people can achieve and sustain. That isn't easy.

Google maps now has Google Map Maker which allows people to edit maps. At this time, you can only edit maps for developing counties. One of which is St Vincent and the Grenadines. I note that one as 25 years ago my wife and I went there on our honeymoon. I am surprised that Google maps only has this island as a blob since tourism sites have the place mapped fairly well. Anyways, back to the mapping. One great use of letting people modify maps is in disaster relief such as in America's midwest right now with the flooding. There are roads on the map that are not passable at this time. Locals should be able to mark those roads for everyone. Such helps relief efforts. I don't know when or if Google will allow map editing in developed areas like Iowa for disasters. That is a needed feature.

Cnet News has a video story about the Psystar computer that runs Apple's OS X. They discuss the end user agreement which hasn't gone through the court system, so no one knows if it is legal. They also discuss the machine. One of the reporters has used one for a month, and the machine works. A machine costs $550 - which is about $50 less than a Mac Mini, so what are you saving?

Here is another stoy on how fewer and fewer Americans are pursuing Computer Science and other IT degrees. This lack of American talent is cited as a justification for raising the H1-B visa allocations. The article ends with what I agree is good advice - avoid Journalism.

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Wednesday June 25, 2008 

Microsoft reports that it will ship Windows 7 "in or near" January 2010. Get those lag-lead charts out and start tracking this date.

Also from Microsoft, they will support Windows XP until 2014. That is 13 years after its initial release. Wow.

I have seen several articles like this during this year. It suggests moving overseas to where the cost of living is low so that you can keep a programming job. It is part of the "can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy. There are advantages to living somewhere (like India) where the cost of living is lower. Please consider all the costs of such (two trips a year there and back, private schools for your kids, medical, security). The experience and possible financial rewards are good. If single, find a few buddies to go with you. A group helps keep up the morale - and you will need help keeping up the morale.

Along the offshore vein, this simple study shows that H1-B visas do not create new jobs. The creation of 4 or 5 support jobs for every H1-B visa holder coming to a company has often been cited as a reason for increasing the number of such visas. The study I linked uses simple arithmetic to show that job creation is not true. It shows the opposite - that H1-B visa holders take about 70% of the new jobs created in a given year. People can (mis)use statistics to do all sorts of things, so I am not sure about either side's claims. It is, however, refreshing to see someone use numbers to provide another side of the situation.

I hope this eventually works. American Airlines will start testing WiFi on airliners. I am afraid that they will charge us lots of money for slow service, but if someone starts competition will follow.

The English language continues to evolve. One major source of this is that 300 million Chinese are learning English without English-speaking teachers. Interesting.

For me, this is the best tribute to George Carlin. The post quotes from an in-depth interview with Carlin from the angle of Carlin the writer.

The next major release of Apple's OS X will only be 25% the size of the current release
. Great! Finally, someone is shrinking software.

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Thursday June 26, 2008

George Will provides his perspective on the H1-B and other visas. His view is that semiconductors and other science and technology are important to the American economy and America's competition in the global economy. Why send away highly-educated people. Microsoft has a research facility in Canada - to great benefit to the Canadian economy - because Canada favors keeping highly-educated people. This is not about people sneaking across the Rio Grande to pick fruit and build houses. It is about Stanford PhDs providing leading technology to America. Mr. Will, as usual, provides a good argument for his case.

Next year's Chrysler vehicles will have the option of being WiFi hotspots. You connect to the Internet via Uconnect (a telematics system) and sit in the vehcile using WiFi. Prices and other details are not yet available.

Dell announces a new line of portable computers. The biggest feature - at least if you measure bigness by number of words on the Internet - is that they come in many colors. I guess I don't fit into their prime customer group or something. Color of the case?

Here is one of many articles on India's Tata Nano car. It costs less than $3,000, gets 50 miles per gallon, and is hated by Al Gore and many other rich people because of you-know-what. If rich people don't want poor people to buy their own transportation, rich people should give the poor people transportation that is acceptable to both groups. That is too simple and it will never work.

Intel isn't updating its internal computers to Microsoft Vista. Maybe they know something the rest of us don't? Maybe the rest of us knew something first? Microsoft employs lots of smart people. Even though Vista has sold millions of copies, it has brought much bad publicity to Microsoft. How could that have happened? I suppose Vista will one day be a case study in all management and technical classes.

This editorial by Chris Anderson was up yesterday about how the availability of petabytes of data makes the scientific method obsolete. I think we shall see a number of responses to this on the Internet this week. I like this from Anderson "Out with every theory of human behavior... Who knows why people do what they do? The point it they do it, and we can track and measure it..." I agree and I agree that change makes a big difference, but the scientific method obsolete? Maybe that was just a headline to grab the reader's attention.

This post argues against Anderson's idea. Perhaps more such posts will come in the next few days.

Just in this morning, The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that owning guns in America is an individual right, not a group right. This strikes down the District of Columbia ban on owning handguns. I am sure that people on all sides of this question will stretch the ruling farther in their favor as that is what we do these days. The coming six to twelve months will be interesting regarding this issue.

China leads the world in "badware." No surprise there.

Something I didn't know about: Dry Erase paint. Paint your wall and you have a dry erase board. I have used chalkboard finish paint before on a small but successful scale. These things work.

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Friday Jun 27, 2008

I like this backyard shed turned into an office. He doesn't tell how much this costs. I hope it works well for him. Through the years I have heard of many writers and telecommuters building a work place like this. They used everything from a tent to concrete blocks. Often, however, building the workplace was more important than haveing a workplace and actually doing work. Take care as sometimes these projects take you to unintended destinations. P.S. Why would anyone build an 8'x15' shed. An 8'x16' shed requires far less cutting of materials.

It appears that the ASUS eee portable computers with th e9" and 10" displays will ship in the U.S. on July 8. I am anxious to see these.

Perhaps I have missed the entire point of blogs and such. This post from ProBlogger praises the effect of writing well. I always thought that writing well was the point of a blog. Maybe I am misunderstanding this blog post, or as I started, maybe I am misunderstanding the entire field.

IT students are outsourcing their coursework to India and Romania. Hmmm, college students paying someone else to do their work. Did this ever happen before Web 2.0?

SourceForge.net has been blocked in China. It seems that some people associated with SourceForge have been protesting China's treatment of its subjects. SourceForge is a great source of software and learning at no cost.

Twice as many companies are using Apple computers today than two years ago. 80% of businesses are not using Apple computers in one way or another.

I don't like this. More and more companies are building remote access and remote control into systems. GM can turn off your car engine using OnStar. That can be a safety feature in some situations, a public good feature in some situations (turn off the engine of criminals fleeing a crime), and a huge invasion of privacy in many situations.

Today is Bill Gates' last official day at Microsoft. This article is one of many sources on this story. I didn't like Bill Gates years ago as I thought some of his actions as a young man were unethical. I like Gates much more these days. His foundation is taking a sensible approach to distributing wealth.

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Saturday June 28, 2008

This is the kind of idea that may work. A hydroelectric generator that works in a bucket. Small, simple, and supplying enough electricity for local needs. I like it.

WikiTrust is a program that hopes to give more credibility to Wikipedia entries. I believe that Wikipedia is a good source of information. I don't like all the academics who proclaim that it cannot be used.

Interesting new site - SmashBuys. It shows what products people are buying. This may be of some use.

Here is a collections of color photographs of Paris under Nazi occupation during WWII. Life continues in unusual circumstances. People are born, people smile.

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Sunday June 29, 2008

Someone has Apple's OS X running on an MSI Wind little portable computer. I wouldn't have expected this to work, but it does. That says something about the quality of both the computer and the operating system.

This is probably not the last time we see something like this. Some anti-Obama blogs were shut down when Obama supporters reported them as spam. Blogspot - the blog hoster in this case - is in a difficult position.

I guess this is real. The table has microphones and illumincates according to the amount of speech coming from the people at the table. It is supposed to show who is talking a lot and who is not. This may be of some use to Myers-Briggs "E" types who don't realize how much they are talking.

Here is an explanation of why the next version of Apple's operating system will require much less disk space than the current one. Apple made a mistake when they created the distribution. They didn't compress many of the files they were supposed to. Oh well.

This editorial gives Microsoft some advice for their operating systems: blow it up and start over. MS Windows does carry a lot of technical debt. It seems that Microsoft would have seen this day coming years ago and had a parallel team writing a new operating system from scratch. Again, Microsoft has too many smart people to have placed themselves in such a situation.

This person cut his email use by 80% in one week. He switched to other social tools. The question that comes to mind in any such discussion is, It sounds like you type as much and read as much but just do it differently. What was the gain? Blogs and Wikis are one-to-many communication channels. E-mail can be one-to-many, but is usually one-to-one. Instant messaging and telephone conversations (remember those?) can replace half a dozen back and forth e-mails. Use the basic meta-rule: if social tools don't reduce your work, don't use them in that way. Either stop using them or learn how to use them efficiently.

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