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: January 5-11, 2009

Summary of this week:

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

Monday January 5, 2009

I try to avoid the Apple rumors, but... Maybe an iMac with a 28" screen. That would be interesting. I would like to be able to connect extra monitors to my current iMac.

Online education continues to grow. Traditional colleges are engaging in this. That is a good idea for them as otherwise they would go the way of the newspapers.

Speaking of newspapers, here is yet another prediction of their imminent demise.

Now this may rescue journalism or be the final blow to kill it - data mining in the public interest.

Lenovo introduces its newest portable computers. One IdeaPad has a 16" screen (that is large), but is only 1" thick (that is thin). This is an interesting combination.

Here is another new Lenovo product - an all-in-one desktop computer. Quite stylish.

Michael Arrington lists the products he cannot live without in 2009. These are all software or web sites. Funny, how can he access any of these without a piece of hardware? Maybe just an oversight.

Freescale (formerly part of Motorola) will introduce a processor with the goal of sub-$200 really small portable computers. Keep the competition flowing.

WiTricity (wireless electricity) may be coming our way. This would be a great advancement in electronics. I am not sure if it will work across the spectrum of appliances.

Here is a great blog title from Jeff Atwood "Are you creating Micromanagement Zombies?" I feel that he is misusing the term "micromanagement." Micromanagement is a good management practice if used properly. It is when managers focus in as tight as a laser beam on the critical aspect of a product or project. What most of us disdain is better-termed "nit picking management." That is where a manager tries to pick nits (tiny eggs of some tiny animal that infests human hair) everywhere. Disastrous.

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Tuesday January 6, 2009

HP is introducing a new "ultraportable" computer (what does that mean other than you hold the computer in the palm of one hand?). The news is that it will use a processor from AMD.

In other HP news, HP is launching a set of new, lower-cost computers at CES.

In still other HP news, HP comes out with the Mini-2140. Yet another evolution of the really small portable computer. This one uses the Intel Atom processor.

This 13-year-old in Scotland has started his own online business. His overhead is low.

The economy is struggling? Online video watching went up 40% in one year.

The economy is struggling? Not video game console sales.

The economy is struggling? Piracy is killing the entertainment industry? 2008 was a record year for the U.S. film industry.

Motorola is selling a cell phone made from recycled plastic water bottles. Good for Motorola. Bad for those people making plastic water bottles and those people buying cases of plastic water bottles with water in them.

SanDisk's new thumb drives have backup software built in. Nice touch. Concentrate on how people use things, not just on things.

I find this funny. The Onion News Network video that digs at Apple.

I think there is something to this idea of local power generation. This "new" concept is as old as the wheel turned by a stream and the water pump turned by the wind. The small nuclear reactors? Why not?

Here is a look at the new book "Philanthrocapitalism." The concept is that the rich can turn this mess around worldwide. Of course they can as long as they stop trying to do it by getting elected and raising taxes. Just use the money you already have to do things directly.

I like Weinberg's disucssion on testing in his blog today. One point that he makes is to ask how much a software error costs the users when deciding how much effort to put into finding and fixing the error. I have used that concept for years. It just doesn't make sense to spend a lot of resources on something when the user merely reboots his computer once a year (cost = two minutes for one person).

Obama has nominated Leon Panetta to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He has no experience in intelligence. I don't know what to make of this. There must be a hidden message somewhere, because on the surface this is plain silly.

Here is a proposed tax on cows because they emit greenhouse gases. It would be funny, but these people are serious about this. The result will be higher food prices, notably milk. Hmmm, food is one thing that even poor people buy. Hmmmm.

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Wednesday January 7, 2009 

The economy is struggling? The portable computer has won over the desktop computer that is tied to the electrical outlet. This is a sign of wealth as we pay the extra price for the luxury of mobility.

Check out the next Sony Walkman. In a closet at home I have the original Sony Walkman cassette tape player. The motor stopped spinning years ago. I even have the original blue leather case.

The Pico Projectors are here.

Really small portable computers with 12" screens are coming. This analysis shows why Intel doesn't like the trend. Sure, Intel's Atom processors power these machines, but Intel makes less money on the Atom processor than it does on its more powerful processors.

The Intel situation is another example of what I like and the general economy doesn't like. I have heard rumors on the news that Americans are saving their money instead of spending (wasting) it. I think that is good, but retailers don't like it. I think it is good that computer users are buying lower-power processors to do low-power tasks. Intel and other chip makers don't agree.

WiMax is up and running in Portland.

Someone did a study that shows living in the country is better for your brain than living in a city. Someone had to do a study to conclude this?

The Novatel MiFi appears to work. So, use the slow 3G phone system, connect it to a portable WiFi hub, and a bunch of your friends can all surf the web slowly. But slow is better than zero.

Here is a Toshiba 500 GByte external hard drive with backup software. All for $140. Will wonders never cease?

I do not understand the infatuation with the health of Steve Jobs. "If he dies, Apple will go under." People praise Jobs as the greatest CEO in the world or something. If he is so good, he has certainly set up Apple to survive in his absence, right? So either he is a great CEO with a succession plan in place or he doesn't have a succession plan in place and should be fired because of that negligence.

Scott Berkun points to a great management tool - a sheet of paper and a calm brain (add in the pencil for most of us). The tool really does work wonders.

FreeBSD 7.1 is out.

I like this Walter Williams editorial. Two points: (1) Social Security has become one big Ponzi scheme, and (2) "The only way to reduce corruption and money in Washington is to reduce the power politicians have over our lives." I doubt Congress and the new administration will work hard to reduce the power they have. Power is exactly why they are there.

And Tim O'Reilly identifies what he things is the biggest Ponzi scheme of them all - the global economy.

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Thursday January 8, 2009

I really like this blog post from Tim Ferris. In it he explains an excellent technique for changing one part of your life in one month.

This may sound extreme, but if you don't want people to read your information from an old disk drive, destroy the disk drive (sledge hammer is a good tool).

Many people on the Internet are thrilled by the new Sony Viao P - a really small portable computer. But it costs about $1,000. Yikes. And people keep saying that the economy is struggling. Someone out there has money.

The really small portable computers are evolving - in the right direction. Smaller, thinner, lighter, but with the I/O ports you can use and good keyboards. Also, the batteries last longer, and different from the Sony - the price keeps falling.

AMD unveils its newest processor. I love the competition.

We keep seeing advances in OLED displays as well. This is great.

Femtocells are coming to the home. Run your own really small cell phone tower in your house.

And Microsoft is moving in the right direction with Windows 7 - it requires fewer hardware resources.

Everyone is anxious to get some of the coming Obama handouts (i.e. economic stimulus). The IT world claims that if it receives some, the benefit to society will be better than paving old roads. I tend to agree. I don't know any unemployed engineers and programmers who are anxious to hire on to shovel asphalt.

The One Laptop Per Child project is laying off half of its employees. Is this a sign of a struggling economy or the signal that the marketplace has chosen one product over another? I believe the latter.

And now, a 3D scanner for the desktop. Let's keep moving in this direction.

I couldn't pass up the title of this post: "FCC: Burn it down or reform it?" Since I view technology topics more often than others, I see things like this. After 28 years working inside the U.S. Federal government, I believe that every agency in the government would fail a serious examination by an outside body. Reform and cancellation are needed. Alas, I doubt any of this will occur.

For example, books must be free of lead. How do we...oh never mind.

How to write really fast. One tip given me by Jerry Weinberg is to improve your typing skills. I worked on that last year and it helped me.

I like this idea - Ada Lovelace Day. I first learned of Ada Lovelace in 1983 while - you guessed it - learning to program in Ada. Ada is a great programming language when used for its intended purposes.

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Friday January 9, 2009

Here is more on Joshua Silver and his adjustable eyeglasses. A wonderful thing for the world's poorest. I am sitting here wearing a cheap pair of 1.5x generic glasses I bought at 7-11. Without them, I couldn't be doing what I am doing. Sight is a gift as is affordable technology that aids sight.

I saw this headline and had to read the post as surely it was a mistake, but it isn't. "Linux-based HP Mini Mi ships with command line disabled." The Linux (any *nix) command line is still one of the more powerful computing tools around. Why disable it? Make it so that only those really interested can find it, but disable it? By coincidence, I was looking at this HP machine yesterday and was interested in buying it. No more.

And here are a bunch of sub-$200 really small portable computers. Why not? How much do these little computers really cost?

The Swiss Army knife for the digital professional. A bit pricy at over $300. A problem is that you cannot fly with this thing. You'll have to put it in checked luggage.

ASUS is marketing a computer-in-a-keyboard. Buy this, buy an interface, attach it to your television. Computer!

Panasonic is trying to build a 2 TeraByte SD card - you know, that little bitty card that fits in your camera. Great stuff on the horizon.

Some ISPs are not delivering the speed that consumers are purchasing. Is this a surprise?

This may depress some but encourage others - expertise and success usually takes time - perhaps ten years. I had always heard that it took ten years to establish a small business. With Web 2.0 and such we hear of people making it big in a year, but really, those are exceptions. I wrote short stories for one year. I am much better at that than one year ago, but not great or even "successful" at it. Time. Persistence.

A simple yet powerful message to writers and other voyagers - give yourself permission to (fill in the blank for yourself).

Retailers had a bad Christmas. Perhaps many Americans had a better Christmas by not over spending so much this year.

Signs that the Obama inauguration won't be what many gleefully predicted. Rental units aren't being rented and locals don't like what the secret service is doing.

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Saturday January 10, 2009

To race for thin portable computers continues. MSI has their offering here.

Microsoft failed at making the Windows 7 Beta available for download. This is a good problems as it means many people want their hands on a Microsoft product.

Obama wants to delay the switch to digital TV broadcasts. Delaying has monetary and other costs. I think it is a bad idea to continue to delay and delay and delay.

More layoffs in the high-tech industry.

It seems that the Dell Adamo will not just be a thin portable computer, but a complete line of luxury products.

And here is some further information on the Adamo computer.

If it wasn't scary enough that governments will spend trillions to keep the earth in some state that some people claim is ideal, now some people want to pump chemicals into the atmosphere. Yikes! What is they are mistaken?

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Sunday January 11, 2009

The Microsoft Windows 7 Beta release has been so successful that they had to extend it.

News Flash! Performing a Google search involves computers and therefore uses electricity. I was quite amused by all the bloggers who railed against the use of Christmas lights this year because Christmas lights use electricity as well.

In honor of my son the musician, a look at Gibson's Dark Fire guitar. Maybe one day I will practice guitar enough to...

Dell joins the market of selling a really small portable computer as long as you buy a cell phone contract.

Endadget sings the praises of the Dell mini 10 - a really small portable computer with a 10" screen. I want one.

The New York Times discovers Ubuntu (finally). No wonder newspapers are going under.

This is perhaps partly humor, I cannot tell, but words that should be banished in 2009. I don't like to banish words. I have heard managers attempt to do so and that only tells me what causes them terror in their little insecure worlds. There are many things that pass as writing these days that should be corrected, but not banned.

I like this essay on the writer's notebook. The notebook is not a diary; it is not a journal; it is a place to write ideas that appear and things that are longer than ideas. I use Fieldstone's for this type of writing (see Weinberg for defintion and discussion of Fieldstones). There are many ways to do this, but the important point is to do it. Always be ready to write; always have a writing instrument within reach. As I sit here with my hands on the keyboard, there is a pen and a piece of paper on the table next to the computer.

This is good advice for business and technical writing - use the same word twice. In describing technical systems and requirements and all such things, I advise to use the same word many times. Call one thing by one name and call that one thing by that one name all the time. If you have a document-saving function, call it the document-saving function everywhere all the time. Don't use synonyms for the sake of variety. Technical writing is supposed to be simple and straightforward. It is not a mystery novel. If you are a bored technical writer (and most of us are) add spice to your life in the evenings by writing mystery novels then and there.

Sometimes a writer (or painter or songwriter or dancer or...) needs to focus.

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