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 14-20, 2008

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

Monday July 14, 2008

This is a little different and a lot refreshing: someone is questioning if the solid state drives are worthwhile. I have used a couple SSD. The one great advantage I see is that they are tough, i.e. you can drop them on concrete. My organization used one in a system a few years ago because of the toughness. Otherwise, they cost a lot of money and deliver little in performance.

I read MacRumors.com every day - 37 million people do each month. I was surprised to see that the person doing MacRumors is a medical doctor. Dr. Arnold Kim is quiting his day job to do MacRumors and such full time. He is a nephrologist. As best I can tell that is some kind of kidney specialist.

ReadWriteWeb.com hails the iPhone as the new personal computer. Jerry Pournelle always refers to his iPhone as a computer instead of a phone. The iPhone was not the first handheld computer. It does, however, seem to be gaining fame as the first really useful handheld computer.

Maybe an aircraft like this will actually work. The technologies to do it are either with us or coming. I don't know about the economics, and as much as I love pure science and technology, it has to pay.

Here are some photos of some of the facilities the Chinese have built for the olympics. They are unusual.

Interesting times. The Nielson Company was receiving tax breaks in Florida until it layed off IT workers and replaced them with an offshoring contract to India. I suppose Nielson and the local government each received what they desired in their agreement. I can see lots of political backlash though.

Barack Obama used the Internet well in his primary campaign. Now some of his supporters, upset with his vote on the FISA bill, have used it as a protest platform. It will be interesting to see if a President Obama keeps up such web sites. Presidents stuggle with "keeping in touch" once in the White House. It seems the job is not as easy as it seems. The Internet could make this sticky.

On another side, John McCain is learning how to log onto the Internet. I am not sure if McCain is this far behind or merely poking fun at himself (and Senator Obama). My mother is 78 and doesn't use the Internet at all. My in-laws are 71 and check their e-mail at least once a month. They seem to be informed.

Apple sold a million new iPhones over the weekend. Selling a million of anything that costs hundreds of dollars is impresive. The launch had more than its share of problems.

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Tuesday July 15, 2008

Stowe Boyd has a post (written by David Chushman) of New York's newest biggest adverstising sign. The new sign extends around three sides of a huge building or something like that. This is another instance of someone building the world's largest physical thing. I like the way Cushman dismisses this: Haven't they noticed, nobody is looking anymore? We've stopped looking at the stage. We're looking at each other.

The latest iPhone software has location-aware capabilities. Brady Forrest at O'Reilly Radar lists several of the third-party applications that use this capability. Two things: (1) people don't mind Apple tracking them, and (2) third-party software is what made Apple in the 1980s, so it is smart that they are going back to that.

Here is some excellent writing advice from Kurt Vonnegut. The concept is to write like yourself, not someone else. I find that is much easier to do. I was once criticized by a college professor because my dissertation was written "too simple and straightforward. Almost anyone could understand it."

I want one of these. It seems that Dell will have their mini netbook computer for sale in August. The rumor is $299 for a 2.2-pound machine with a 9" screen, Linux, and on and on. What about the keyboard?

And Lenovo is introducing several new series of portable computers.

Per this post, a third of people surveyed would take a 10% pay cut to telecommute. As the post shows, why should a person take a cut in pay? The business gains financially in many ways by not having you in the office. Be careful.

I think this is a true story, but is sounds like an April Fool's joke. Anyways, a disgruntled programmer has locked everyone out of San Francisco's computer network. He tampered with the city's new FiberWAN that stores much of the city's information. We used to hear stories like this when in college back in the 1970s. I guess sometimes these stories come true.

I do not understand this idea. It takes sorghum in Africa and makes fuel from it. That continent has annual food shortages, and here someone is proposing using farmland to make fuel. And in Nigeria of all places - a petroleum-rich country. I sense good intentions, but really.

Apple has filed suit against Psystar. Psystar is that company in Florida that has been selling Mac-clones. I guess this was inevitable.

Just in time for the Summer Olympics and Baseball's All-Star Game, now Silicon Valley executives are using performance enhancing drugs. The drug of choice in this post is Provigil. This prescription drug is supposed to help with a sleeping disorder. It helps you stay awake and concentrate. I guess coffee isn't strong enough for some people.

This post advocates tearing down the radio station towers. We'll all listen to music on Pandora.com and other Internet radio stations. What will I do while driving in my car? I guess I must buy an iPhone.

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Wednesday July 16, 2008 

Here is a post on Lenovo's ThinkPad X200. What surprises me is that CrunchGear feels that this Lenovo and the Apple MacBook Air are both useless since they don't have optical drives.

SanDisk introduces a Write-Once Read-Many times SD memory card. I guess there are uses for this. The post claims that voting and police records are two uses. Maybe this would work.

I found annoucenements for many new portable computers (is there something special about today?)
They all have nice names.

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Thursday July 17, 2008

Here is an interesting article on energy and out future by Andry Grove former CEO of Intel. He urges a gradual move to electric-powered everything. A good point is that electricity "sticks" to the continent on which it is created. You cannot ship electricity across the ocean in a tanker.

This post has some good stretches for the desk bound of us. The past few weeks I have taken to walking 5 or 10 minutes every hour or so. How can I only work 50 minutes of every hour? By accomplishing more that I would if I sat all day without a walk.

I find this article amusing and pointed. It is about people who are minimizing their possessions. I applaud their efforts. On the past two Saturdays I have cleaned out two rooms in my house (one room and a garage). Neither room is finished, but about 50% cleaned. Like the people in the linked article, possessions are starting to weigh on me.

In a similar vein, Scott Berkun discusses the pleasure of turning things off and enjoying the real world over the virtual one.

Yes, there is some good in rising gasoline prices. Traffic-related deaths are down for one thing. From time to time it is short-term pain for the price of something to rise fast and high. We examine our wasteful ways and become more efficient. For someone like me, being more efficient is a life-long goal. I am sure that for others it is just a pain (as are people like me). Rising gas prices are not good for all the people who lose their jobs because others are driving less.

i don't like this: the European Union proposes extending copyright from 50 to 95 years. I think copyright should protect the creator for a period of time where they can earn money on their efforts. 95 years?

The worldwide personal computer market did well in the second quarter of 2008. Dell and Apple were the big winners as each increased its market share.

This is a little different use of technology. The McCain presidential campaign is using Versionista.com to highlight changing positions in the Obama campaign. Versionista is a tool that highlights changes in a web page. The technology is pretty simple and old, but still quite useful.

Here is a history of the tab - that little extension on a card or file folder that revolutionized information storage and retrieval. No, we did not invent everything good in the last 100 years. People did good things before then.

There are more than rumors out about Amazon selling a Kindle 2.0 in October 2008. I saw several links to CrunchGear.com, but when I clicked on them I only saw a blank screen. Perhaps there are too many people trying to see the news.

I like this video about people who are excited about helping kids become excited about learning. In this instance, the subject is music, but that is only one instance. Great applause to the people who do the same in many other fields.

Here is a pretty explanation of Intel's marketing gobbledygook. Gizmodo explains Montevina. This is Centrino 2: a set of chips that include processor and wireless module. The Montevina used less electric power and delivers more processing power than the prior generation (which was called Santa Rosa).

ComputerWorld is predicting that fuel cells will replace batteries in mobile devices. Fuel cells have their place in the future, but batteries that you recharge are quite convenient. Fuel cells eventually run out of fuel. Then you replace them, and all that replacing brings waste.

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Friday July 18, 2008

Someone is kidding right? Probably not as I have worked inside government too long to know better. Someone in the Air Force is trying to build "comfort capsules" for use on Air Force planes. My guess is this is a module that you put inside a transport plane. The person sits in the module during flight. Sort of like a little clubhouse. The thing is full of luxuries with each luxury having its own acronym. This should be unbelievable but is quite believable.

Here are other experiences from someone who is working while living somewhere else. The road calls, but I don't know if I will answer.

This is an admonition to simplify your work. Perhaps I am just getting old and tired, but I find myself often giving the same advice to people. Building the kinds of things we build where I work is not easy. We invent things on every project. There are plenty of technical, managerial, and personnel challenges. I feel that most people want to add even more most of the time. Please, back off. Get something built that works. Then move on to another iteration to put more into it.

These portable computer bags have the TSA seal of approval. You won't have to pull your computer out of these bags before sending it through the x-ray machine. Well, that will be these case if the TSA employees at the airport read the memo.

Texas is number 1 in the U.S. in wind power and widening the gap. It seems that Texas has entrepeneurs and an accomodating government. Some other notable states have environmentalists with good intentions but lack agressive business people and legislatures. We shall see who wins: the "good intention" crowd or the "let's get 'er done" crowd.

NASA's Orion program (replacement for the space shuttle) is having all types of problems. Oh well, score another one for the bureaucracy. Maybe the Russians and Chinese will load us equipment.

Apple's good fortune is spreading to its suppliers. The printed circuit board makers in Taiwan have increased sales and profits. Now if one of those companies would just leak out when Apple will update the MacBook, I won't by the wrong one.

Microsoft's revenue topped $60 BILLION in the last year. That is up 18% from the previous year. For a company that does everything wrong, they seem to do something right.

For future reference, Google's list of top 100 blogs for writers. The list is made from viewing by people, so it is sort of a popularity contest.

In the same vein, Michael Stelzner's top 10 blogs for writers for 2007-2008.

I like this article. It describes how to connect several external monitors to a laptop computer. I didn't know you could do this. The article lists products with links and such. Fascinating.

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Saturday July 19, 2008

It is the weekend, so most of the places I look on the Internet have little posted. Here are a couple of things.

The Distict of Columbia government is putting much more accurate 3-D models of district buildings online. Someone must have forgotten how much easier terrorism is with such information.

ASUS dropped the price on their 10"-screen model of little portable computer, but it still costs $550 - too much.

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Sunday July 20, 2008

This is more cartoon than text, but a pretty good summary of the web in the Summer of 2008.

Is the Internet bad for science?
No, bad science is bad for science. Sometimes I feel really old. "You youngsters, if only you had been forced to observe, experiment, dig through the established journals, and all that..." I suppose people are supposed to learn the scientific method somewhere these days.

In in similar vein, this study shows that people are citing fewer articles in their research than in the past. The Internet is credited or blamed for this trend. I was chastised a bit in my dissertation review for citing too many papers. I thought being thorough was a good thing. Perhaps I am too old and out of touch.

And Kevin Kelly weighs in on the Google way of science. Observe large amounts (I mean really really large amounts) and let the data provide the "correct" answer.

I haven't seen this before. An online video series about open source hardware, electronics, art and hacking called Citizen Engineer.

The title of the post says it all: five universities that offer free electrical engineering courses online. Great.

As an old image processing person, this is neat. The GigaPen is a small "robot" that moves a digital camera, clicks the shutter, and then stitches the thousands of images together in one panoramic image. The results are wonderful to view.

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