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: July 7-13, 2008

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

Monday July 7, 2008

The Readius is coming: a flexible, foldup display. The technology has matured. I hope to see more devices using this type of display soon. Several people have speculated that you could roll up the display of a portable computer into its keyboard when not in use. That would be interesting.

The FCC held a conference on what to do about communication towers that slay birds. I didn't know this was a problem, but evidently it is to some birds and some people who love those birds. This is yet another example of general systems: when you put a system in place it changes things. Many of those changes are not obvious until you put the system in place. I think we are rushing into many systems changes right now to halt climate change. How much does it cost in energy to make all those batteries, dispose of all those batteries, and so on? Systems are fascinating to me.

For example, the Germans are considering building 33 offshore windfarms by 2030. The first of these is to be built this year. I hope they learn as they go. I expect that to happen as they are not stupid.

And Toyota will put solar panels on the roof of its next Prius cars. I see this an an experiment. Maybe Toyota and others will learn from this and it will lead to something practical and useful.

Here is a look at a possible future for portable computers. Two touchpad displays that slide into one another. Looks great, and I can see it happening in the next five years.

Here is some forward thinking that may become reality. Babk Prviz of the University of Washington is putting circuits into a contact lens. The result is maybe a display in your contacts. An easier step is putting computer displays in reading glasses. I'll happily wear reading glasses that are wirelessly connected to a keyboard.

Pinoeer has built an optical disk that will hold 500 GBytes of data. The disc has 16 layers, and each layer can hold 25GBytes (the capacity of a BlueRay disc). I don't have an application for this much data storage, but I am almost certain that someone will create one.

Dubai will be the world's most large and most complex water fountain. Two notes: (1) the "first and second world" countries have lost interest in building the "most" physical things, (2) Dubai doesn't seem concerned about climate change and wasting energy.

I highly recommend Jeff Atwood's post on buying a good chair. Programmers, writers, and such sit in chairs six to ten hours a day (no jokes please). Back, shoulder, arm, neck, and other pains are not funny. There are many ways to improve your seating in addition to what Atwood recommends. If you hurt in your chair, do something about it. Find something - anything - that works for you and use it.

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Tuesday July 8, 2008

Confusion reigns on Asus eee PC shipments, but the news is generally good. According to this post, Amazon is taking pre-orders for the 901 - 9" screen with the Intel Atom processor and 16 GByte solid state disk. The ads are a bit confusing though as the model numbers seem to be wrong.

The Brittish government is opening some data for mashups. I like that idea and I think America's government should do something of this sort. This post, though, takes shots at John McCain's battery contest as "last-century thinking." Sometimes we go overboard with "Web 2.0 is everything" thinking. Fundamantal physics, chemistry, and hardware make everything else possible.

For example, looking ahead to the possible (in hardware) Vista Therapeutics is trying to build nano-sensors for monitoring patients. And University of Michigan researchers have built a CPU that is one millimeter square. These things can go inside the patient or inside a contact lense or ... just think a little about it.

Apple continues to do well in the marketplace. Their shipments of computers (not cell phones or iPods) could be three times the industry average for the Spring of 2008. Some people blame or credit Windows Vista with this surge.

Acer introduces a new small desktop computer. Is it too much to ask people to put a ruler or some standard-size object next to their machine in the photos?

Who cares about the closing of 600 Starbucks? Some web workers do.

Another study that shows the obvious: the biggest threat to data security is people - not software attacks. People make mistakes. If a person has social security and health information of 100,000 people on his laptop, chances are he will lose that data somewhere.

And another such study. Outsourcing of help centers to other countries hurts customer satisfaction. It isn't so much the accents as there are widely varying accents inside America itself. It is the sending of jobs elsewhere that bothers people.

I had never heard of Mr. Ira Glass before this morning. He is a radio host on National Public Radio. I do agree with what he says in the attached video. You may have to work many years putting out product that you know isn't as good as you want it. That toil is often necessary to bringing your product to what you like.

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Wednesday July 9, 2008 

For programmers and those who want to be programmers, this post gives 23 links to places to find great code. SourceForge.net is not on the list, and that suprises me. SourceForge is a rather large repository of mostly open source software.

Here's a link for those trying to write for human vice computer consumption. Ten words to avoid when writing. This list omits the word "very." Mark Twain is credited with saying that everytime you feel like writing the word "very" write the word "damn" instead. Then when you go back to edit, you will remove the word.

in the same vein, a few more tips on bad writing.

Something different: a web site that is a white noise generator. I can see applications for this. I work better with a little noise in the background.

I'm anxious to see this: Google Maps is testing a walking directions feature. This would tell you how to safely walk from one place to another. It is good to avoid walking through tunnels and you can walk the wrong way on a one-way street.

I suffered through this one yesterday. Google Docs went down for about 45 minutes. That happened to be the 45 minutes I needed to use it. Sigh.

Spartan Programming: an idea I like. The essence is to use a minimum of just about everything you can think of while writing programs. The most important is to minimize the amount of software you write. I have seen too many projects bog down in programming and mismanaged programming.

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Thursday July 10, 2008

What better way to prepare for the Olympics than to round up the usual suspects? That is what the Chinese are doing to their subjects. Jail the hot heads before the tourists and the TV cameras arrive.

This is a bit odd, but quite useful for future reference. It points to places that explain 50 things everyone should know how to do.

Now I finally know something about steampunk. I've seen various steampunk items on the Internet, but this post explains the concept. Qoute: In Steampunk literature, the living computers and flying cars of science fiction are typically replaced by hulking steam-powered machines and floating dirigibles. Morever, the art of design in these future-past visions reflects the ultimate integration of form and function epitomized during the periods being referenced: where even gears and buttons on an archaic machine were beautifully crafted.

This news is a little old, but developers aren't writing code for Microsoft Vista (only 8%). 49% are writing for XP and 13% are writing for Linux - more than Vista. I don't think we shall see a drought of Vista software in the future, but this does show that there will be plenty of Linux applications to run. Well, we already have more than enough for everything.

A short mention about Google Docs offline. I have been using Google Docs for about a year (drafted a book on Systems Engineering using Google Docs). I have used the offline utitlity of Google Docs for the past month or two. The offline utility works. I have been using it on my Apple computers with operating systems version 10.3 and 10.4. I have also used Firefox 2.x and now Firefox 3.0. I had to practice a bit and remind myself to click the refresh button on my browser. Offline docs works as a method of having the same version of a document on several different computers. The Google "cloud" synchonizes them. A satsifactory product that provides value to me.

This post is an excellent example demonstrating that COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) products are not best for every situation. It lists ten uses of Microsoft Windows that are just plain bad like controlling a train - not a model train but a real one that carries people.

I like this one. An iPhone application that turns the iPhone into an abacus. I once learned how to use an abacus. The theory is fascinating. It is a method to keep track of large numbers without a pencil and paper. We forget how recent it was in our history that pencil and paper were not readily available.

And that is not the only application available for the iPhone. There are many more. This is the repeat of a good idea. That is how the Apple II took off: someone else wrote VisiCalc for it.

Several posts today are praising the Kodak Zi6 pocket camcorder. The quality appears to be high, the size small, and the price - $180 - affordable. I can remember when...oh never mind. Maybe I should buy one of these.

The Ubuntu Linux distribution is going mainstream: available at Best Buy. I'm not sure if this is good for the product, but it does make it convenient.

I'm not sure what this is, but it looks like good exercise. A circle bicycle?

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Friday July 11, 2008

This story has made the rounds. LittleGreenFootballs.com spotted some Photoshop'ing by the Iranians on their recent missile tests. Several major news agencies showed the faked photo. I have to wonder about the major news agencies, newspapers, magazines, and so on. It appears to be a trivial exercise to dupe them. If the Iranians can trick them this easily, how many times in the past has someone tricked them? How much of the news they print or show is a trick? One of my favorite exercises during lulls in graduate school (there were a precious few of these) was to go to the library and look at the old news magazines from WW II and such. I was amazed at how wrong the magazines reported the news back then. I then have to wonder, if they got it so wrong back then, why should they be getting it right today?

For those of us who like to use del.icio.us (like me) favthumbs.com shows thumbnail images of the sites that you tag. A different look at your tags. This could be interesting.

This is one of those applications that doesn't seem to matter, unless it matters to you. This shows the frequency of use of any baby name you type. It matters to me now as my oldest son and his wife are trying to think of a name for their baby coming in November. Great visualization of baby-name data gathered from the 1880s to today.

This post looks at some classic user interfaces like the knob and the record player. There is much that can be learned from these interfaces. The knob, for example, is so succesful that we take it for granted and stop learning from it.

I have been writing in a Journal for 7 1/2 years (has it been that long?). I formerly used a brown, bardback leather journal book, but the publisher quit selling them. The last couple of years I have used the Moleskine lined book. I like Moleskine because they have a pocket in the back cover of the book. This post shows everything you might possible imagine to do with a Moleskine. I am astounded. I didn't know there was such a cult of Moleskine and such a creative community using them.

Today is the first day that the iPhone 3G goes on sale. This post has a video of taking it out of its box. The iPhone is not for me at this time.

Sometimes I think this borders on the silly. Here are high-quality photos of the iPhone 3G. People can buy it this weekend. There will probably be some iPhones in the display window of stores. Why do we need high-quality photos?

Amazing photographs at XRez (extreme resolution) Look at the images of Yosemite.

It must be summer because the really small portable computers (netbooks) are finally here for purchase. Here is the Acer Aspire One. Here is the MSI Wind. And here is the ECS G10IL. Someone needs to hlep ECS with their computer names.

Sometimes an adult should see something that reminds us of what it was like to be a kid. This video does it for me. Thanks to the boy who spent all the time and effort to do this. Memories.

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Saturday July 12, 2008

Sun is laying off 1,000 employees. These affected workers are either in the U.S. or Canada. Sun lost $24M last quarter.

Here is yet another tale of woe of travelling with the TSA these days. The airline pilot (yes, the pilot) had his butter knife confiscated. They didn't want him to take the knife on the plane, but this is the knife the airline gives you on the plane. I often wonder if any of the TSA employees have ever been on a commercial plane.

The latest cell phones help locate yourself all the time. That can be convenient, but some people could abuse that information. This is another example that people don't mind Google, Apple, GM, and other companies spying on them while they riot at the hint that the government is spying on them. This is a fascinating situation to me.

Jerry Pournelle has a new Chaos Manor report online. Jerry seems to be gaining physical energy this past week as he recovers from radiation treatment. I am happy to see this.

And there were many problems in the crush of the iPhone's first day on the market.And here is another edition of the same story.

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Sunday July 13, 2008

The business of intellectual property, advances, and royalties can be odd. This story about singer Lyle Lovett is one illustration. The same kind of situation applies to writers. Making a living from such things is problematic.

In the same vein, remember the book of the month club (before Oprah) and the record club? My dad would never let me join one of these things. He was wise.

This piece helps me make some sense of the recent stock market ups and (mostly) downs. The advice is the same: spend less than you earn over a long period of time. Don't gamble.

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