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: March 2-8, 2009

Summary of this week:

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

Monday March 2, 2009

After a week of illness, I attempt to catch up with the world - well, sort of.

Apple is running more advertising for its portable computers. Their metal cases are recyclable and thus "green." Many centuries ago, all computers had metal cases. Then someone decided that plastic cases would be better. I never understood that decision.

Open source software has at its core the creation of a community. People are funny. Sometimes we like products where friends come with the products. Apple hit on this years ago, probably by accident. Harley Davidson uses this community idea - not by accident. I guess computer programmers and motorcycle riders have a lot in common.

Here are some comments on the Xandros "instant-on" platform. It is one of those little operating systems that boot in a couple of seconds so you can check email or whatever quickly. But then you have to switch to the other operating system to do real things. It seems like you could just have one operating system that does this well, but I guess not.

Jeff Atwood writes about paying down the technical debt on a software project.

George Will writes more on climate change and the never-ending sniping from the media. I have worked in research labs. Men and women of science have to provide food and shelter for their families. Such costs money. Sometimes the necessities of life nudge research and publication a little this way and that. Such is predictable and often predicted.

Comparative-Effectiveness Research - simple idea - actually study what medical treatments are effective and which treatments seem to only burn money. One problem is that $1billion in government money is behind it. Sort of opens the door for fudging reports to get the right answer and a bigger grant. See, for example, climate change research.

U.S. IT jobs are declining, but imported H-1B visa workers remain steady. This is perplexing.

Tim Ferris offers some tips on using Twitter.

Jerry Weinberg writes about his first programming error in 1957. I have seen his one error repeated often. I don't remember many of my programming errors, I guess there are too many of them to recall. I do recall one error about errors. I was working on my dissertation research at home. I sternly told myself that I did not have the time to make and correct programming errors. Therefore, I would have to program error free from that moment forward. I failed. I still made programming errors and consumed hours finding and correcting them. I just couldn't will myself to be perfect no matter how hard I tried.

People still confuse accuracy and precision. "I will eat something today." That is an accurate prediction. It isn't very precise as to time (today) and subject (something), but it is true. "I will eat a T-Bone steak at 12:02 PM today" is a precise statement. It is probably dead wrong inaccurate, but it is precise.

Here is a good description of SMART objectives.

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Tuesday March 3, 2009

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Wednesday March 4, 2009 

I was driving around the beltway all day yesterday and wasn't able to view anything.

I blog about problem solving and learning how to solve problems.

Apple updated its desktop computers. A newer iMac (all-in-one), Mac mini, and Mac Pro - the really big computer that is basically a home supercomputer. Exciting times if you are an Apple fan.

And people are suing the FCC for allowing others to use the unused space around not used TV stations. This all seems strange, but it appears there is a lot of money at stake.

2009 may be an awful year for people trying sell computers. 2009 may be an awful year for many of us.

Rural broadband is use is less than urban broadband use - that is not a surprise. The situation seems to be worse in the southern U.S. than in other parts of the country. I have personal experience with this. My mother lives in rural Louisiana. She could have a cable modem, but cable TV service in her area is lousy - poor installation practices resulted in outage of service every time it rains - and it rains often in Louisiana. She switched to satellite for TV, but satellite Internet service is $100 a month and bandwidth limited. She could try using a 3G service for Internet access, but she lives in a dead zone and 3G costs are high with low speeds. I don't know how billions of Federal dollars will improve service from the cable TV companies and the satellite TV companies. If they wanted to provide better service, they would already be doing that. It isn't money, it is brains and desire.

Sigh. This couple moved to a rural island to run a high-tech business. Long sigh.

Microsoft Office is moving towards the marketplace. This is the 14th version of Office. 14th???? How time flies.

Jeff Atwood blogs about the "Bikeshed Effect." The amount of discussion is inversely related to the technical complexity of a topic. That makes sense as things that are technically complex have a far-limited audience. Also, things that are fairly simple attact people with, well you know...

Xandros introduces their "instant on" Linux distribution.

Ah, getting a new computer and going through all the stuff you have to go through. It is sort of like moving to a new house. 

I like this post from the Locating Indepenent Living blog. The readers ask the questions and choose the topic of conversation. Good questions in here.

University research labs fear that visa problems will keep out foreign students. Here is another segment of the economy that depends on constant immigration. Here is a another perspective on the same story. Some immigrants work their butts off and the U.S. is better if those people stay in the U.S.

I like this post by Paul Graham on why the Internet clobbered television. Similar reasons apply to why the Internet clobbered newspapers.

For some reason, I really like this xkcd.com cartoon.

Michael Gerson seems to have a firm grasp of the obvious in his Washington Post editorial. President Obama will take from the rich and give to the poor. This includes limiting the ability of the rich to give to charity. The basic idea is that government employees know best how to give away money. Interesting idea.

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Thursday March 5, 2009

Tim O'Reilly writes about the possibility of free downloads of bulk government data. It sounds good to me at first thought, but there can be great danger in this kind of thing at first thought. I trust someone will think it through to the end.

It seems that everyone wants to comment on Twitter:

Some news organizations are realizing the news value of Twitter.

And Michael Arrington pushes the value of Twitter as a search engine.

Here is a review of the 17-inch version of the Mac Book Pro portable computer. It has a few differences between it and the 15-inch versions. This is an expensive portable computer (up near $3,000), but nice.

Guess what, it appears that it may be difficult for the Federal agencies to spend that $7billion on rural broadband access. See my blog on how tough it is to spend $1billion that I wrote weeks ago. Maybe I am some sort of predictive genius - not.

The new Apple computers don't seem to run much faster than their predecessors. oooops

Doctors don't like negative online reviews. To combat this, they are having patients sign non-disclosure agreements. Interesting. It sounds like doctors have a lot of lawyer friends.

Books are the fastest growing type of iPhone application. Is anyone buying them?

Look at Scott Berkun's blog to see a great mind map.

The use of the Internet in politics (see, e.g. the last presidential election) seems to have shown that people with computers (i.e. the richer folks) now participate even more in politics than the people without computers (i.e. the poorer folks). Who could have possibly predicted this?

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Friday March 6, 2009

I blog about Learning to Smile.

I like this thought: As I've heard my father-in-law say many times, when people talk about ethics and morals more than seems necessary, his impulse is hide the good silverware. Enron used to have a code of ethics that was 60 pages long. If I recall correctly, government ethics manuals were equally as long.

Here is an interesting video from Microsoft of technology in 2019.

The future of entertainment? Aerosmith has made more money from Guitar Hero than from any of their "albums." Hmmm. Just a video game?

Here are a couple of places that aggregate buying stuff. I really like this page that gives quick comparisons of portable computers.

Some discussion of face-recognition technology. I am amazed at how well Apple's latest photo program does with recognizing faces. It is fun to play with.

One bit of news from Scoble - he is using the $200 flip video cameras for most of his work. I guess those cheap little things work pretty well.

Zimbra has 40 million paying users of its email software.

The Wall Street Journal continues to make money by charging for access to its online content. It seems that the journal has something worth buying. Most newspapers don't.

This is a great online article. Anything with photos of punch cards and paper tape gets my attention.

This writer sings to praises of a product called Syncplicity for keeping several computers synched. See Syncplicity's site. Something to investigate.

This comparison claims that Parallels is the best virtualization product for Apple computers.

The President named the District of Columbia's (a small city) Chief Technology Officer to be the Chief Information Officer of the United States. That seems just plain wrong on many levels, but then again I live near the District of Columbia and I worked for the United States for over 25 years.

This is a pretty good explanation of Obama's proposed cap-and-trade-plan. It is a tax on energy use. It is the same old government plan that by taxing people you create a national policy on some issue.

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Saturday March 7, 2009

This is a neat little representation of what a trillion dollars is.

Here are some interesting points about today's education system and where we find ourselves today. I am particularly attracted to: (5) The education system we currently have was built to train the industrial worker. As we move to an information driven society it is high time to question everything about the process by which we educate our society. (7) Teachers are more important than ever but they will have to adapt and many will have to learn to work outside the system. It was suggested at hacking education that teachers are like bank tellers in the 1970s. I don't agree but I do think they are like newspaper reporters in the 1990s.

It is possible that the age of the personal computer is dying and ushering back the age of the big, central computer.

New restrictions on H-1B visas will cause IT salaries to fall in most of the U.S. Ah yes, yet another example of government action leading to result opposite of what was intended.

Unemployment in Silicon Valley has reached over 9%. This is great news for all those coming government contracts as the government contractors in the valley will be able to hire lots of good, smart tech workers. Low unemployment in the valley often cripples government contractors.

Scott Berkun writes about female geniuses. It seems that if you don't mention female geniuses when you discuss genius, you are some how anti-female. Odd logic.

A logical extension of current technology - a video camera installed in a prosthetic eye.

This George Will editorial is about the American food industry and America's disease-producing diet. Nothing in our society is more convenient than food. Given that and a lack of self-discipline, we do all sorts of ill to ourselves.

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Sunday March 8, 2009

It is Sunday, so I try to catch up on many of the writing blogs I try to read.

Tom Colvin writes that this is the year of the ebook. Perhaps it is. Ten years ago I tried to push government managers in that direction. Alas, all in vain, but maybe now...

Yet another study shows that people base their estimate on performance on - yikes - looks. Not a good thing for guys like me (see my photo at my web site).

A few lessons about writing, and tenacity. The same lessons keeps appearing - write everyday.

And Bob Sutton blogs about the practice of cutting the bottom 10% of your workforce. My organization tried this 15 years ago. One simple problem with cutting the bottom 10% is that after they are gone, someone else is in the bottom 10%. The bottom 10% never goes away. The biggest problem is that these percent rankings are based on personnel reviews. If ever there was something fraught with prejudice (see the role of looks above), hypocrisy, and all sorts of human evil it would be personnel reviews.

Fabrics that don't get wet. Interesting. Are there any real applications in medicine, space exploration, other endeavors?

Now here is some wisdom - "one either meets or works." Another way to phrase this is "we can either do or teach, but we don't have time for both."

So maybe we aren't making much progress in IT. The 2010 census will be the most expensive ever - even after adjusted for inflation. Caution with these numbers as often in government projects much of the cost is for political rather than needed items.

The new Mac minis run 20% faster than their 17-month-old counterparts. It seems that more than 20% could have been achieved in that period of time. I like the  concept of the Mac mini. The implementation leaves me wanting.

Some relayed writing advice - don't stop your drafting to look up facts. Put a place holder and keep writing. A agree with this advice.

More writing advice on finding and keeping ideas for writing.

And laying the ground work for becoming a writer. Try not to think about this aspect too much. Instead, write every day.

I find this a bit strange - President Obama dismissing blogs and blog writers on the economy.

So maybe Google will enter the business of the really small and really cheap portable computers. How much does a telephone for the home cost? Does anyone even know any longer? It is basically free. All the money is in the service it allows us to use. The same may soon be true for the computer.

Big music on YouTube? Who cares? The treasures are everywhere else. Inspired by my son the music major, I often look at jazz guitar examples and lessons on YouTube. Fantastic! When my son's band wants to learn what an old standard song sounds like, they search it on YouTube. Where else?

Here is another look at the death of the newspaper. This answer is simple: massive inefficiency.

At times, there is much value in getting something done no matter how imperfect the result.

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