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: August 18-24, 2008

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

Monday August 18, 2008

Microsoft has made claims about selling millions of copies of their Vista operating system. It appears that Microsoft has been doing some creative accounting. Many computers are shipped with Windows XP installed and a copy of Vista in the box. Microsoft counts that as a Vista not an XP sale. Oh, so that is how you do it.

The old disk drive maker Seagate is going modern and working with Apple. This post shows photos of the styles of disks they will sell. When did people start caring about the style of a disk drive? Perhaps I am too old or I just never cared for style.

Pandora.com may have to close. I listen to music online all the time via Pandora. I like it. It has shown me music and musicians that I didn't know. As a result, I have spent more money on music instead of less. Some judge or someone made a ruling or such that makes it impossible for online radio stations to exist. Oh well, good job out there somebody.

Here is the story of Hewlett and Packard - complete with a picture of Packard's garage. I've read the story many times before, but I somehow never tire of it. A big event for me in the early 1980s was the arrival of the HP hardback book catalog. In some ways, I am terrible disappointed that HP sold of its test instruments (now Agilent) and went soley to computers.

Someone, AT&T in this case, is telling Congress that other companies already "spy" on Americans. Such revelations could be dangerous to the messenger.

I like this trend. People who want to preserve the environment are using their own money to buy it. I much prefer this to people with money lobbying legislatures to use tax payers' money to buy it. Just do it yourself. This option has always been available. I guess some people just want "the government" to do whatever it is they want.

I admire the science here. I am not sure about the application. These researchers have created software that improves your photograph's appearnance without human intervention. Look at the all the photos on the page. The "after" photos do present more attractive people than the "before" photos. As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Backers of solar power are concerned that the government will stop paying people to use their products. It seems that solar power doesn't have a good return on investment. People don't use it unless the government gives them a 30 percent tax break on it. I don't recall the government paying people to buy home computers and connecting to the Internet. I hope that one day solar power works. At this time, it doesn't.

This looks like a good computer for experiments. It costs $150 and runs Linux. The BeagleBoard appears to do lots of things. Look at the link for details. I like the idea.

I like viewing the blog "Location Independent Living." Perhaps this is one of my fantasies for the future. This particular post sums much of what the blogger has learned so far. A good reference. The one suggestion I like: You need even less stuff than you think.

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Tuesday August 19, 2008

I am pleasantly surprised by this blog post from Chris Anderson of "The Long Tail." Why hasn't technology saved us from inflation? Government interference. Anderson runs through a list of technologies that could help us, but have been stopped by government declaration.

Scott Berkun relays a quote from Tim O'Reilly on Journalism. What journalists do, which many bloggers have yet to learn, is to consult multiple sources and do fact checking before blurting out a story. But what bloggers do, which journalists have yet to learn, is to wear their biases on their sleeve, rather than pretending they don’t exist. Of course bloggers have a bias. Of course journalists have a bias. We are people with a background, a context, and that provides a bias. It seems at times that journalism has become the heart of the hypocrisy industry. "We are objective," is their cry, but people who monitor the industry always prove otherwise. As Scott mentioned, this should be a "both and" case instead of an "either or" case. Bloggers both check facts and have a bias.

Berkun also has an interesting piece in Harvard Business Review about anthropology. Much of computer consultant Jerry Weinberg's success is to to his wife Dani - an anthropologist. Antrhopologists study cultures and business organizations have cultures. Some of these cultures help the organization while many are terribly dysfunctional.

Here is news I have been anxiously awaiting. The really small Dell computer is coming this week. It used to be called the "Dell E" now it is called the Inspiron 910. I guess the "9" is because it has a 9-inch screen. A model will be offered with the Ubuntu Linux distribution. The "Windows tax" is $50. There may be a model available at $299. Where do I find one?

Lenovo is taking orders for their really small computer - the IdeaPad S10. Engadget reports snafus on the web site, but ....

Here is another post about the dangers of recycling computers. This is very ugly.

Zen Habits provides some tips for gaining some time in your life. For me, my best time saver is to not eat lunch, go to the library, and write on Google Docs. I wrote a book last year by doing that. Half an hour a day (2 1/2 hours a week), 40 weeks, it multiplies.

Innovators tend to stop innovating by age 30. This has long been observed in the field of mathematics. Recent studies now show it occurs in almost all fields. People are trying to find ways to extend the years for the innovators. My experience is that as innovators grow older, companies put them "in charge" of innovation shops hoping that they will spur younger people to innovate. This is the hope of multiplying their innovative-ness. It never seems to work. My advice is to leave innovators alone, let them innovate, and forget about the mythical multiplicative effects.

Microsoft has relaxed its policies on running its operating systems on virtual servers. This is a big aid to companies that run copies of OS's on various machines in a server farm. There is no news about selling cheaper versions of the OS to run in a little window like on an Apple computer where you run MS Windows as a little application under OS X.

A new acronym: ESP: Everyday Sensing and Perception. A key to future computing is integrating sensors into CPUs. The Wii controller is an early example as is the iPhone.

This post is about some advances in snake-like robots. These are quite useful in applications such as finding earthquake victims under rubble. The defense dollars once again fund things that are quite useful in other areas.

Russia's armored advance into Georgia was not as swift and smooth as portrayed in the media. It is, however, an example of "good enough" warfare. They had no air cover, but they really didn't need any. Another point is that Russia suffered losses, but acceptable ones. "Acceptable" being subjective. What is acceptable to the Russian public probably is not acceptable to the American public. A different set of rules and constraints.

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Wednesday August 20, 2008 

The NBA seems to have learned something from NBC's poor online coverege of the Olympics. They want to stream games live to the web in the fall. There is something here about local games only, but that is in the weeds.

This is disappointing, but probably true. All those airlines promising to bring WiFi to commercial flights are behind schedule. The companies behind these services aren't answering phone calls and so on. Things are more difficult than they appear.

The TSA continues to uphold its ... well whatever. A TSA inspector damaged nine airplanes in an overnight inspection. The TSA claims this was all routine. I doubt that claim.

This is funny. A comedy video of what it might be like to finish second to Michael Phelps.

Solid State Disks are growing bigger and faster. Intel plans to ship a 160 GByte SSD in a month.

This post shows pictures of Intel's UrbanMax concept. In the last couple of years, Intel has built prototypes of complete computer systems instead of "just" chips. One was of a computer for school kids. This one is interesting featuring a touch screen.

This is eeerie. The woman in this video is not real. At least I think that is what this is about. This doesn't look like computer generated video, but it is.

I really like Johanna Rothman's post about the value of an assistant for a manager. I believe that specialization is a great practice. Having someone specialize in being an assistant is practiced all too rarely. Unfortunately, I have met more bad assistants than great ones. What usually happens is the assistant starts attending meetings for the senior manager (manager cannot come). The assistant is an assistant, not a senior manager. The lack of skills and knowledge show quickly, the assistant is downgraded in the eyes of everyone else, and then they work really hard to bypass the assistant all the time.

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Thursday August 21, 2008

George Will's editorial today is about the American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland, Ca. and its "benevolent dictator" Ben Chavis. The school's students accomplish much. Perhaps their biggest accomplishment is beating the culture of under-achievement. I like the way Will discussions paternalism. "Paternalism is the restriction of freedom for the good of the person restricted." I don't like paternalism for adults, but these are not adults. They are children who are learning far more than those children in more enlightened schools.

Microsoft has a new strategy to fight Apple: have Jerry Seinfeld pal around with Bill Gates. I am not sure how this will help Vista run faster, but it may be worth a try. If you believe in magic, any kind of magic will do.

I like TechDirt's explanation of NBC's coverage of the Olympics. I am frustrated by the delay in online video of events. Instead of watching the ten minutes of action every hour in the evenings, I have taken to looking up the results of events online. If I am really intersted in seeing video, I wait a day, go back, and view. None of this is pleasing.

This is a report from someone using WiFi on an American Airlines flight. It seems to work, all except for the part when the flight attendant spilled water on his laptop computer.

Another slightly different take on the age-old Electrical Engineer vs. Computer Scientist battle. This time the Electrical Engineer wins. That is the way it is supposed to be. (Fairness Disclosure: I have three degrees in Electrical Engineering, which is, as everyone knows, a euphemism for Computer Science).

Bruce Schneier has an excellent editorial on privacy in Wired.com. He starts with the question "If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?" There are clever answers to this question, but they only mask the real issue. As Schneier writes, "You watched convicted criminals, not free citizens." Somewhere we have lost the sense of being citizens of a republic. The invaders of privacy do not just work for the government. They work at Google, General Motors, magazine subscription services, and so on.

Here are the experiences of one person running Ubuntu Linux on the ThinkPad X300. There are applications and situations for which Linux can still be madening. This illustrates some of the challenges that Microsoft faces everyday in trying to make their software work with all the hardware and software in the world.

Virginia Tech has installed computer monitors in classrooms to notify faculty and students of any emergencies. This is yet another attempt at campus security. My son and his wife were present but unscathed at the April 2007 shooting at Va Tech.

Here is something different for a home computer. The Linutop is a Linux-based computer in a small box (fits in the palm of your hand) that you can attach to the back of your monitor. Technically, this is a thin client machine. It should work in the home just fine. Price around $400.

Remember the hanging chads of the 2000 election? Remember how a bunch of lawyers, i.e. congressmen and women, decided that computers would solve the problem? Well, after a bunch of engineers demonstrated that computers can be hacked, everyone is backing away from electronic voting. One result is that warehouses nation wide are full of computers. Can't they give these things to schools or Boy Scouts or someone?

Scott Berkun lists the inventions he wants to see. Thoughtful items on his list.

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Friday August 22, 2008

This article discusses virtualization. The concept is to travel with only a USB memory stick. Put the stick into any computer, boot from the stick, and you have your virtual machine. This works. Earlier posts from me related my experiences with various Linux flavors on a USB stick. The trouble is you have to find someone who will let you use their computer. Finding a WiFi hot spot is tough enough in some places let alone an entire computer to use.

Apple may have sold three million computers in the "back to school" quarter. This breaks all records for Apple. Parts of the U.S. economy continue to thrive.

Psyhological profiling on the web may be coming. This post describes efforts in this area. It seems fairly simple: examine the words in blog posts and compare the use of those words with the use patterns by people in various emotional and psychological states. Of course the potential for misuse is huge.

The state of New York is having big problems with a $2 Billion wireless network project. At least the Federal government doesn't have a monopoly on such problems in projects.

A few universities are giving iPhones and such to incoming freshmen this year. I wonder if they would consider me a freshmen if...

I know this story is true. Microsoft opened its Photosynth site yesterday. It crashed under the load. I tried it and couldn't get through.

I find this to be an excellent post about Linux use worldwide. Interest in Linux is highest in India, Cuba, and Russia. Those look like places where free software is sought. In America, California and Utah show most interest in Linux. I am not sure how to explain that other than a relatively high interest in high tech and software.

The earth is cooling, but once a little trend is over, things will really get hot, or so claim some. The models are simple, the system is complex. When the model and the terrain don't agree, follow the terrain.

This site helps you read faster. I think that is what it does. You paste text into a box, specify how fast (words per minute) you want it to go, and then the words flash through. I could use this as a trainer and I could use it as something to make myself concentrate while reading. Both uses would speed my reading. Maybe there are other uses as well.

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Saturday August 23, 2008

Jeff Atwood's blog is about checking in source code. Some people only check in once a day? I guess I was always too paranoid as I checked in everytime I compiled without errors.

This article is about the cost model of the Obama campaign's "promise" to notify people by text message first before telling the news media about his VP candidate. Of course he didn't keep that promise as his campaign leaked the choice before the text message was sent. I guess in the big picture this isn't much of a promise to break.

More bad press about NBC's use of the Internet during the olympics. I was - and still am - just frustrated by the whole coverage. I know the 12-hour time difference makes it tough, but really.

And the Gold Medal basketball game will air at 2:30 AM Sunday the 24th. I guess I will miss this one.

The prices of the netbooks - those really small portable computers - should fall and fall. Competition - not always good for the suppliers, often good for the consumers.

This posts discusses genetics and atheletics. Of course they are linked, but great contraversy follows when you discuss it in general racial terms.

It isn't easy running a big software company:
  1. Microsoft posted  a flawed update.
  2. Red Hat's servers were breached.
  3. Premier Election Solutions admitted that their software errors lost some votes earlier this year.
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Sunday August 24, 2008

George Will's editorial about this year's campaign rhetoric ends with the question, "Where is the derisive laughter?" That  sums the campaign well.

Here is information on the new USB 3.0 spec.

The Compact Disc format is 26 years old. It still seems to work.

A little humor from the Microsoft Photosynth folks, "we are cool enough to run on your OS yet"

Apple is rumored to be launching a subscription service to iTume for $129 a year. That means if you buy 130 songs in a year you come out ahead. For an old buy like me this is tempting as I know of at least several hundred oldies but goodies.

Informed people make better decisions than government. I believe this is true. I wrote an essay on my site a few years ago about "negative synergy" where a group of smart individuals gather and act stupid as a whole. I have often seen this in the halls of government in my 28 years as a federal employee.

Psychiatric drugs are more likely the blame for teen violence than video games. If I recall correctly, we had teen violence long before video games. The same is true about the drugs as they exist today, but narcotics are plentiful in nature, so maybe the drug argument stands better than the video game argument.

It appears that medieval stained glass windows were an early example of nanotechnology. Those windows helped purify the air in cathedrals.

This post disturbs me. The subject is cameras at traffic lights and the duration of the yellow light. First, study and study shows that cameras at traffic lights - they are present to catch red-light violators, cut down on violations, and increase public safety - are actually a hidden tax. They increase the number of accidents which causes auto insurance rates to rise. Second, one way to increase public safety is with the length of time the yellow light is on. Cities have been caught shortening the length of the yellow light below allowed limits. That causes red light violations which increases revenues from traffic tickets. This is simply awful.

Britian's 4.2 million cameras watchting everything are proving wasteful. One hope was that they would deter crime. They haven't because people assume the cameras aren't working. Why would people assume that a government program won't work? Hmmm.

It seems that someone has to defend the C programming language. I don't know why. I was once very critical of C, but then it became a standard language (ISO, ANSI) with compilers that enforced the standard. It is basically an algorithmic language (like Algol, FORTRAN, Pasca

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