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 25 - 31, 2008

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

Monday August 25, 2008

Wow! Acer has reduced the price of their really small computer running Linux to $329.

This UMPC Portal review recommends the MSI Wind as the best netbook computer.

For some reason, I viewed several money-saving posts this morning. Nine things you should never pay for price for. Here is a free Starbucks recipe book. Not only does it have drink recipes, but also pastry recipes. Starbucks has the best blueberry coffee cake, and they have it at all their locations nationwide every day. How do they do that? And last, save a lot of money each year by cooking one really inexpensive meal one night each week. I've done this all my life.

This post is about saving money by patronizing corporate-owned establishments or spending money at local, family-owned places. What we save at Wal-Mart, we may lose by killing small, local businesses. It is unfortunate that many of the small, local businesses do not learn how to compete with Wal-Mart, McDonald's, and Holiday Inn. I love to buy coffee at a place called Greenberry's. That is a small corporation chain, but it is growing. Their success has taken them from a local place where the employees know my name and what I like to drink to a big place like McDonald's. Has success ruined Greenberry's or has success rewarded their founders?

MIT researchers are building micro-batteries. For on thing, they could power implanted medical sensors. I hope this research comes to fruition.

In the same vein, Texas Instruments is working on scavenging energy from any source they can find. Yes, there is much wasted energy in the world. A rocking chair is one simple, old example.

Sales of computer hardware have remained strong despite slumps in the remainder of the economy.

Slashdot reports on the Long Now's Rosetta project. (Here is the project's own page.) They have made analog disks that should last from 2,000 to 10,000 years. These disks contain information on 1,500 different languages. The Long Now will make many copies and spread them throughout the planet. If someone finds one of them in 2,000 years they won't be in the the dark about us. I admire the work The Long Now does. If nothing else, it helps some of the rest of us think about a system's life time. Birth, use, and disposal.

Auren Hoffman notes about the growth in income inequality, but people are still happy. One item to note is that the amount of liesure time has grown for lower-income people more than for rich people. People are optimizing for different things (time and money). For one thing, American industry has made food incredibly convenient. Low-income people have greater and quicker access to food than ever before. As radio host Dennis Miller recently said (paraphrase), "I'm proud to live in a country where people are poor and over weight at the same time."

How many pixels are enough in a digital camera? This article claims that we have already reached too many. I tend to agree.

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Tuesday August 26, 2008

I like this editorial by Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post on how the 2012 Olympics in London will not be like the Beijing Olympics. There will be much grumbling, fussing, criticism, and such in London - you know, the warts of a democracy with a free press and citizens who can speak their minds. I heard someone on ESPN yesterday severely criticize NBC for turning the Beijing games into an infomercial for China. NBC and ESPN are rivals, but the criticism had some validity. Yes, the London games will not be as smooth and polished on the surface as the Beijing games. Democracies are that way.

There is a trend coming of paying students who pass tests in school. I like market forces, so initially I favor such things, especially when the money is donated by people instead of being collected in taxes. This report, however, shows that the program in New York City has "mixed" results. That means a person can interpret the numbers in way he wants.

Part of the promise of having Internet access on commercial flights is that phone conversations won't occur. This means that the ISP will block VOIP. Several bloggers have shown that they can use VOIP in the air. Technology didn't perform as promised to block them. If you are annoyed by a person talking on the phone on the plane, tell the flight attendant who will tell the person to stop. Since 9/11/2001 one of the dumbest things you can do is annoy a flight attendant.

I missed this one last month. Philadelphia is using anamorphosis to fake speed bumps on the streets. They hope to slow traffic. If done correctly, paint on the street costs much less than real speed bumps. For more on anamorphosis, see this article in Wikipedia.

Wired shows off the Red One digital video camera. The resolution of the video is roughly 4,000 x 2,000 (HD is about 2,000 x 1,000). The result is digital video that matches the best motion picture film cameras. I couldn't find a price in the story. Also, watch the attached video on skate boarding. WOW!

This is an informative article on recycling cell phones. There is one note in the article about "sending some phones overseas" for recycling. I think that is where the really ugly work is done.

I have found someone else who is writing one short story per week. Mine are here on my web site.

NASA lost a rocket and the two satellites it was carrying. Rocket science isn't easy, but...

PC manufacturers are starting to add their own software to their machines. Aha! This is what Apple does. Finally, someone sees that the software, the user experience, is where the money is.

This post shows the frustration of a programmer who works for a non-software company. I have been there. Software is a necessary evil in these places. Programmers are second-class citizens with little or no career ahead of them. This is a difficult situation, and my advice is to leave. It is painful to work with people who disdain you. Life is too short for that.

If you browse the web site for the Democratic convention, you cannot watch the videos on a Linux system. This seems odd when the candidate promise change. Oh well, its just politics.

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Wednesday August 27, 2008 

Apple continues to do well in the marketplace. Buyers are happy with their products, and everyone else seems to want to buy an Apple product.

Someone found a way to hack into California's toll road system - FasTrak. This just a little while after the MIT students hacked into Boston's subway payment system. And some people really wanted to do all voting on computers.

The use of Apple computers in businesses tripled in the last two years. It is still at only 4.5 percent, but growing. Five years ago, I noted that many of the consultants I knew used Apple computers. Their reason was simple, the computer and software worked. They didn't have an IT department as a backup if things went wrong, so a working system that required little tweaking was crucial to thier income. The iPod and iTunes spurred many people to buy an Apple computer. Slick marketing has kept up the growth. Businesses? My guess is that employees use an Apple at home and gripe until they get one at work.

Dell introduced new computers for developing countries. They have a portable computer for $475 and a deskbound computer for $440.

For future reference, here is a list of 25 online libraries. Many great, free books (copyrights have expired).

I like competition in the marketplace. HP and Acer have lowered the prices on their really small portable computers. Others will probably follow or leave this part of the market.

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Thursday August 28, 2008

Here is a look at the Acer Aspire One really small portable computer. This looks pretty good at $350 for Windows XP and $325 for Linux.

For future reference, 42 of the best free Linux scientific software packages.

This is a good table showing and comparing a few dozen really small portable computers.

This is a fun video report on Virgin Galactic's efforts at commercial space flight. They hope to send people into orbit for $200K. That sounds silly, but currently such a trip costs $25M. That is a drop of two orders of magnitude, which is a big deal.

Visualizations fascinate me. Some can summarize many words in simple pictures. This post shows some visualizations of Hillary Clinton's speech at the Democratic convention. It is easy to garner the topics in the speech.

I like Johanna Rothman's post on competition in the workplace. I am not sure about her recommendations. "(1) Pay for results (2) Pay people “enough”so it doesn’t hurt them financially to cooperate with each other (3)Use open-book management so people know who’s making what. In the Federal government we claim to do (1 - pay for results), usually pay people (2 - enough), and definitely do (3 - open-book salaries). We aren't very successful at sharing knowledge among workers and cooperating and such. The main reason is that we fail miserably at (1 - pay for results).

Another future refernce, UNetbootin makes it much easier to create bootable USB sticks. I have made several USB Linux sticks this year. They were difficult to make, but not easy either.

Something else that came out of the recent SIGGRAPH, a much cheaper way to collect depth images. These researchers take one image from a basic digital camera and then take another with a flash. Their new techniques then create a good depth image. I have worked with depth images. There are many interesting things you can do with them, but until now obtaining the data was expensive.

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Friday August 29, 2008

The Pickens plan for wind power has some serious challenges. Most big things do. Some big things are never attempted and for good reasons.

The price of eggs is 1/7th today what it was in 1890. Oh well. Who longs for the good old days in America?

A bit of unscientific survey. I spent a few hours today walking about the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. The Apple portable computers outnumbered the non-Apple computers two or three to one.

Fujitsu will bring out their really small portable computer this fall.

And here are some reasons why the really small portable computers (netbooks) are not best for everyone in all situations.

Despite the rumors, there will be no new Kindle ebook reader this Christmas.

Johanna Rothman blogs about inheriting legacy projects. I inherited a legacy project in the early 1990s. The source code was hard to understand and there were no tests. To keep the project from being dependent on one person, I wrote a set of detailed procedures on what we should be doing. Those procedures were gold as the project took on life and grew to a team of a dozen people. Each new person received the procedures and was able to contribute on their second day.

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Saturday August 30, 2008

Comcast will limit Internet use (I use Comcast with a cable modem at home) to 250GBytes per month. My son - a computer  network engineer and also a Comcast user and very heavy user of Internet games - assures me that this will only limit people who stream TV shows to their computer 24 hours a day. We shall see.

GigaOM shows five tools to meter your Internet traffic. This is useful if your ISP has just put a limit on the number of bytes per month (hint). They are also challenging users to learn how to break those caps on Internet usage. Well, they're off.

I've experienced this often - the printer displays "out of ink" and won't print any longer when their is plenty of ink or toner available. Maybe I am too cheap to heed these warnings. Take out the cartridge or whatever it is, shake it, put it back in. That will work for two or three more warnings.

A year ago, no one sold really small portable computers. Today there are 100 on the market. Maybe this is the wave of the future; maybe this will go away with the next tide.

Really small non-laptop computer? Here is the Space Cube. Literally a cube 2" on each side. It runs Linux.

This is a home computer. Six Intel Quad Core processors with all the goodies stuffed into a piece of IKEA furniture running Linux. Good photos and description.

And why would anyone run Linux on their computer? Here are ten reasons. My two favorites are (1) command line (with shell programming) and GNU programming tools native.

And Ubuntu keeps growing in use. This didn't exist a couple of years ago. Hmmm. A new market for really small portable computers (which didn't exist) and Ubuntu (which didn't exist). I guess there is still some room for innovation.

I like this. A prototype camera for kids. It looks nothing like any other camera device I have seen. Take a look.

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Sunday August 31, 2008

The Mythbusters TV show (I like it) was to do an episode on RFID, but credit card companies pressured the Discovery Channel to kill the idea. Free press, huh?

The Bell Labs' fundamental physics research lab is closing. They won six Nobel prizes and invented just about everything that we take for granted today.

Hurricane Gustav is in the Gulf of Mexico and heading for Louisiana. IT departments are trying to prepare. Some learned lessons from past hurricanes. Offsite storage in a another part of the country is one of the fundamentals.

Google is getting part ownership of an imaging satellite. Google will receive images with 50 centimeter resolution or about 20 inches. That is pretty good resolution. A trash can on the street is about that big.

In the "why Linux" vein, here are some reasons for swithcing to Linux and here are some more.

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