Dwayne Phillips ' Day Book

Items I happen to view each day. Science, Techonology, Management, Culture, and of course Writing

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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This week: October 20-26, 2008

Summary of this week:

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

Monday October 20, 2008

I put this at the top of today's views because it makes a strong point. A spreadsheet error costs 100's of millions of dollars. It is my guess that people make these errors daily. Few of the errors are found and corrected because who would "waste" time holding reviews on spreadsheet use? Wise people would. Someone once said, "You don't get what you expect, you get what you inspect."

Daily Writing Tips advises about to write aboutwhat you know. That makes sense. Jerry Weinberg advises to write about what interests you. In manner, they are the same advice. Weinberg feels that if you are interested, you will learn about something as you write, but not before you write.

Here are several bits of advice linked in on freelance writing.

This article is about the great design of the London Subway system map. I first studied this in a requirements analysis taught by James Robertson in Chicago. It was on 9-11-2001. A testament to how good Robertson's course is the amount I learned during that week. Anyways, the map is an example of great design.

Here is an article about defusing bombs in Germany left from WW II. As people dig for construction and other things, they are still finding unexploded bombs. With time, these bombs become more unstable and harder to defuse.

Here are weekend experiences with a Dell Mini 9 really small portable computer. Mostly positive. I have looked at this machine for carrying while Taking a Walk. Dell, however, requires about three weeks to deliver when ordered on the Internet.

Someone has done a study (famous last words) about family Internet use in the 21st century.  About half of us are using the Internet to socialize and stay in touch with family. I have one friend whose son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter are living in Germany at this time. They watch their granddaughter on a video chat on the Internet. I have another friend whose daughter and son-in-law are living in the far east. They talk each day via Skype.  This stuff actually works.

But many published research papers are incorrect. I wonder if that applies to the climate chanage papers?

I am not sure why this caught my view, but anyway, here is a digital version of the "spy camera."

Computerworld reports that the U.S. has had a decade-long slump in R&D. R&D isn't very exciting in the news. It always falls by the wayside. In my experience, organizations are terrible at managing R&D efforts. Research and studies usually produce poor results because the sponsors don't know what they are seeking when they sponsor research.

Industry experts are predicting a slow down in consumer buying of gadgets. I disagree. Consumer and stock market behavior has a huge emotional aspect to it. If Obama is elected president, people will be optimistic and will starting buying. If McCain is elected president, we will spend the next year in lawsuits on supposed voter and election machine fraud. Obama is supposed to win easily, just read the newspapers.

I think this idea makes some sense. Put Americans to work rebuilding the country's road and bridge infrastructure. The program would have to ensure that illegal aliens didn't get the jobs and such. And of course, it it possible that the government bureaucracy could make a big mess of the whole thing. Not to mention that many Americans wouldn't want to do construction work.

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Tuesday October 21, 2008

This post shows how Net Generation people use work technology to do private tasks. In government, this is called using public resources for private activities and is a federal offense. Private industry? Ask your boss if it is okay, the answer is probably yes.

Here is a really really really small portable computer. Useful?

Someone has estimated that the Linux world is worth $25 billion. That sounds reasonable. A few years ago I spent six month convincing senior managers that Linux was not written by a bunch of hippies in a garage. Some people are a little behind.

Interpol wants to build a world-wide facial-recognition database. The technology is here today. The will to do it and the competency in the bureaucracy? I don't think so.

I have noticed that several bloggers have increased thier postings as the U.S. elections approach. I sense a little panic. The media has declared Obama the winner. For the sake of civil order, I hope he does win.

Is it "you are giving me too much information" or "my filters do not work well enough"? I think it is the latter.

With gasoline now back below $3 a gallon, alternative energy is not so hot. Several commentators have noted that many in the U.S. want gas prices to be above $4 a gallon. That forces people to live they way these people want them. Imposing high taxes on imported oil is one way to maintain $4 and $5 a gallon gas prices. I will not be surprised if we see these in the next four years - the taxes and the prices. The Feds will make gas too expensive for many Americans, tax someone else, and give the poorer Americans money to buy gas. It all works out, right?

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Wednesday October 22, 2008 

I like Robert J. Samuelson's editorial this morning on young voters getting angry with both parties and candidates regarding benefits to the elderly.  George Will wrote on the same topic recently. When Social Security was created people were to collect benefits two or three years and then die. Congress, as they often do, did not write the law so that it would adjust to changing longevity in our lives. The same problem exists with most government pension plans. I will collect Civil Service retirement benefits for probably 30 years. No system can afford this. Neither party wants to discuss this.

Apple's quarterly profits were up 26%. Much of this is due to iPhone sales. Why is it that no one wants to take on "big computer" for excessive profits? The oil companies make no where near this percent of profit.

As promised, Google has released the source code for the Android cell phone. This is the first open source cell phone. Let's see how the market does with this.

Ars Technica relays the trials and tribulations of writing applications for the iPhone.

Is access to broadband a basic human right? I think that is taking it a bit far, but politics and political campaigns like to go a bit too far. I have been pleasantly surprised to find WiFi access in every motel I have visited while taking a walk.  I have visited Silicon Valley many times in the past where motels didn't have WiFi. That has been a couple of years, so maybe the situation is different today.

Here is a thorough review of the MacBook and MacBook Pro portable computers.

This product may have a chance in the market place, anyway, I like its philosophy - smaller software. ThinkFree is an office suite like Microsoft's and OpenOffice. ThinkFree requires 140MBytes of disk space, Microsoft 1.5GBytes (really? this is unreal), OpenOffice 400MBytes.

Early voting has started. One day - soon I hope - this will be declared unconstitutional. The U.S. Constitution is plain in describing the DAY that the public part of the Presidential election shall take place.

India has launched a moon probe. The mission will last two years. Great! If enough other countries become active in space exploration, the United States may eventually get back into this area.

Scott Berkun has a report on "why designers fail." He lists 15 top reasons. Among them are that non-designers make design decisions. Others include lack of time to think and lack of experiement.

Cray's desktop supercomputer is now on sale for $25,000. It looks to be a very powerful machine - hence the name supercomputer. The price is great as well. I could buy one, but I don't have any use for one. I know people in signal processing labs who do have a use for such a machine.

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Thursday October 23, 2008

George Will has an editorial this morning on the desire of government to start controlling the endowments of colleges. Spending someone else's money must be a lot of fun as it is done so often. As Will comments, this money has been spent in the past on mulitplying American wealth. Government, however, doesn't have such a good record in that vein.

Here is a quote from Scott Berkun on the value in projects of writing things down. I once had a discussion with someone who argued that writing things down meant that he didn't have to remember them and not attempting to remember was a bad thing. I guess different people have different perspectives on this. I go with the "let's write this down" crowd. I have been shocked at how much some people trust their memory in very important situations.

Here is another exoskeleton that seems to work. This one is built so that elderly workers can do more work. Maybe that isn't the best of intentions. There are great applications for those who want to work but whose bodies don't allow it.

Liliputing has a list of ten really small portable computers for under $400. As I have written before, I am using a portable computer right now that I could not sell to anyone for more than $400. The $200 computer is possible now.

Viewing of blogs is up in the past three years - astronomical gains. Is anyone making money here?

There is more evidence that Windows 7 will be out in late 2009 instead of early 2010.

THIS is a great view.

How does the EPA calculate fuel economy? Probably no one understands. This blogger - a scientist - consistently has an experience that differs with the EPA. Perhaps one day we will learn that the EPA skews its ratings to favor some over others, and then there will be a big controversy and the solution will be to create a permanent agency to oversee the EPA.

Johanna Rothman has a thoughtful post on "Thoughtful Agile" process. To me, the post is about someone wanting to teach a course without any experience in the subject matter. Of course all teachers should have experience in the subject matter. That, however, would soon lead to the closure of almost all colleges and high schools. How many of us had a high school English teacher who had published a novel? Well, how can they aspire to teach writing without that experience? This is a tough situation.

The Location Independent Living blog has some advice on what to do before going independent. Pay attention to the money advice. Save money.

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Friday October 24, 2008

Travel kept me from viewing today.

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Saturday October 25, 2008

It appears that Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) is dead - at least in the U.S. Just no market for it.

Microsoft hopes that Windows 7 will run on the really small portable computers (netbooks). That would be a good thing for Microsoft. Possible?

Cell phone users want large screens and large keyboards. But how do you put those things on a cell phone that fits in your pocket? Solve this and make millions.

The Hubble Space Telescope may return to operation. NASA engineers are slowly bringing it back on line.

Here is a good set of visualizations of data. The map of the real world provides 18 different views of the map based on different attributes (wealth, travel, nuclear weapons, and so on).

Scott Berkun relates his story of moving from a simple cell phone he bought in 2003 to a modern one. Interesting to me as I may have to do the same shortly.

Here is a little different approach to generating passwords - have a computer examine two images (like images of the two people wanting to communicate) and then generate a password from the algorithm's result. Simple, unique, it should work well.

Microsoft and Google are battling over satellite imagery resolution. This is an expensive battle.

Here is the layoff tracker for the week. I cannot draw conclusions from it.

And early voting on computers is showing problems. Allow me to rant a bit. If we want to use computers for voting we have to get simple. Start with the CPM operating system. It is dumb, single user, single task, nothing happening in the background where people cannot see. Windows this-and-that, OS X, Linux - those are too smart, too capable, too able to do things in the background, too many lines of code for people to read and find Easter eggs. Voting is counting, moving data, adding numbers. Keep the software simple so that people from all parties can read the source code and understand it.

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Sunday October 26, 2008

Apple is doing very well financially compared to Microsoft. Apple sells premium products at premium prices. Microsoft is almost a public utility. Is this a race between the hare and the tortoise?

Apple has enough cash (and no debts) to start buying other tech companies.

A look at hyperinflation in Zimbabwe.

Here is some economic advice: instead of consuming (spending) how about trying producing and saving? I am a little surprise that people have to print such advice. It seems so basic, but I guess much of America has lost this concept.

It seems that Oprah has endorsed the Amazon Kindle ebook reader. This may make or break the Kindle and the entire ebook world. Trouble is, there isn't much of an ebook world to make or break.

Here is a good data visualization on the U.S. Federal budget.

Sprint is not yet to use the Android software for a cell phone with their hardware.

Microsoft Word is 25 years old. Is it really? Anyway, this article shows photos of the various historical markers. I wish they would show all 25 on one scrollable page instead of having to click on every number and all that waste.

Computer makers are working on quick-booting systems. This article tends to make fun of the "no patience" users. I disagree. I can take a pencil and notecard from my pocket and write information in less than a second. Three minutes for the computer to be ready? That isn't a useful information device. Back when Apple was working on the first Macintosh, they explored many of the concepts of what a useful device would have. One of those concepts was that the device is ready for the person - not the other way around.

A PhD student posted his ideas on YouTube. He is famous and may possibly be rich as well. A new way to become known.

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