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 9-15, 2009

Summary of this week:

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

Monday March 9, 2009

I am going back to work today. I accepted a job with a local company. It has been nice staying at home (actually spending a lot of time in local coffee and wifi shops), and it will be nice to go to an office again.

Is 12 megapixels enough? Probably. Now if the camera makers would just put a decent lens on those things. My Panasonic 10-megapixel camera has a pretty good Leica lens on it. The lens makes all the difference.

The Watchmen movie is out. My sons saw it this weekend. I guess I missed the whole graphic novel thing. Most critics hate the movie, but a lot of people are buying tickets to see it.

Intel keeps making chips smaller and more powerful. They seem to be aiming at the market for those really small portable computers. I think that is wise.

The compact disc is 30 years old. I remember when a CD with data on it cost $600. Yes, $600.

I had not heard of this before - docking stations for the portable computer that work on a single USB cable.

Here are some good tips for public speakers. I have been to many awful presentations and a couple of excellent ones.

Here is another attempt at printing your own newspaper.

Now this one is funny, sort of - "Obama Aims to Shield Science from Politics." Let's see, politics involves people. Science involve people (lots of people like to deny this one, but it is true). Hence, well...you know. I thought the President was smarter than this one indicates.

I will hang on to this one - Weinberg writes about getting writing grants. He also has a long list of granting organizations.

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Tuesday March 10, 2009

I blog about getting a job through a contact via LinkedIn.

Joel Spolsky writes about being a program manager. Somewhat humorous, more true than not.

Speaking of program managers, beware of smart talk. I once created a presentation explaining what a supercomputer was and how we were using it. An accountant or some non-technical type person was coming, so I made the presentation with my wife as the target audience. My wife is pretty smart (she did marry me), but not technical. The presentation sufficed for the day. In horror I learned six months later that our office was giving that same presentation to every engineer and engineering manager who visited.

And beware of gurus. Scott Berkun writes about detecting too much expertise from an expert.

Scott then turns around and writes how a consultant can be of great value in only one day or one hour.

Some reality about selling apps for the iPhone. Hint: not every gets rich quick.

Exoskeletons are becoming real. I believe these will be wonderful for the physically handicapped.

It is pretty easy to watch the International Space Station fly by. It will become easier with the coming install of more solar panels.

Some people still love newspapers. I guess there aren't enough of them around to fund newspapers. I also guess that in a few years some people will sieze the opportunity to restart failed newspapers and do it smart enough to be profitable. The marketplace tends to work that way.

Here are some benchmarks on the newest Apple Mac Pro (that large under-the-desk computer). It is quite powerful, about as powerful as any computer you would buy for the home or office. I think of it as a supercomputer for the office.

Here is how to run Windows 7 on an Apple portable computer. Oh to have the time and resources to do such experiments.

There is a lot of talk lately about making the electric power grid "smart." Of course, you can also use a smart grid to monitor the lives of citizens in which case we would cease to be citizens and start being subjects. Also, a hacker could take down the entire power grid. So could a terrorist. Please don't try to console me with "we will make this secure." The same comments are apt for talk of making the automobile traffic grid "smart."

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Wednesday March 11, 2009 

This comment summarizes the state of the price of computing: "the tires on my car cost more than my laptop."

And maybe the Linux guys can all beat Microsoft via really-inexpensive portable computers.

Jeff Atwood writes about things programmers can read to improve their programming. The simple advice is to read programming blogs. If you read one thing a day that brings improvement, that is worth it.

Chuck Norris is 69 years old today. He certainly doesn't look or act that old on the TV commercials. Amazing. He reminds me of Jack LaLlane.

It seems that Microsoft learned lessons with Vista, and the results are in Windows 7. Good for them.

I had not heard of this one yet: The Post-It Problem. The problem is that with all this computer power we still use Post-Its, 3x5 cards, etc. We haven't found a way to harness the computer's power with quick, convenient note taking.

The "everyone is a sensor" concept advances with this little, head-worn webcam for Police.

There is a debate as to whether we have photographed liquid water on Mars. There are huge advantages to manned space flight - big risks as well.

The Chinese keep pushing their manned space program. They have the technology and the will to do it. The U.S. has the tech, the money (see below), but not the will.

No one seems to know how the $8Billion will be spent on rural broadband.

This is at a time when the growth of broadband use in the U.S. is slowing. The market may be saturated just in time to burn taxpayers' money.

And Ars Technica reports on the state of broadband access on commercial flights.

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Thursday March 12, 2009

Another maybe-breakthrough in battery technology. Batteries have lagged behind just about everything in advancing capabilities.

And this is an interesting question: how will you change when we get to all-day battery life? Wishful question.

The world's fastest Solid State Drive? Maybe.

National Semiconductor announced that is is laying off a quarter of its workforce - about 1,700 people.

And again, Apple seems to be doing well in the market. Thier revised line of desktop computers is selling well.

I hate to report on Apple rumors, but this one is everywhere this week. Apple is buying 10" touch screen displays. They must be readying a really small portable computer for later this year.(????)

Verizon won a $2.5 billion contact with the Department of Defense. Please note that this $2.5 billion will be spent over ten years. Once again I have to wonder how in the world the current administration expects to spend the billions of $$$$ it just printed in time to stimulate the economy.

Here is hoping that something useful comes out of all those billions to be spent - actual broadband access in rural areas.

Do you want to be an expert? Start a blog. People will recognize you as an expert. I don't think it is that simple. At least I hope it isn't that simple.

Jerry Weinberg is putting some of his novels up for sell on his web site as ebooks. He has sort of given up on fiction publishers.  I have taken to putting some short stories up on smashwords.com - an ebook or estory distributor. Each short story is listed at 99 cents. I say listed as I have yet to sell a single copy. But, as with you, I met my goals in writing 50+ short stories. I learned a lot and enjoyed myself in the process.

I really like one point in this post on freelancing: if you are so successful, why are you working part-time in a coffee shop? Answer: because I like to be around people some of the time.

This post (why can't error messages be fun?) brings to mind a story about a writer. As a child the writer-to-be dreamed of one day writing things that would bring horror to millions of people around the world. He met his goal as he now writes error message for Microsoft.

I really like this photo. Plug this into your ethernet jack.

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Friday March 13, 2009

SourceForge is adding support to some newer version control systems. I had not realized it, but this Ars Technica post claims that SourceForge has lost ground in recent years.

Symbian still dominates the worldwide market for mobile phone operating systems.

Work on an anti-countereiting treaty is now a national secret. This all seems a bit odd, but...

The Atwoods (of Coding Horror blog) have a new baby boy. Great photo. And I cannot pass the opportunity to show my grandson's birth day photo.

The rural broadband project spending is off to a roaring start.

The new iPod shuffle is tiny. It is really tiny on the inside.

Of course there is one patch wire cutting across thin air.Well, no on is perfect.

I am surprised that I haven't seen these editorials before - regulating armed robots. Armed robots are here now and are being used in combat.

Someone has rediscovered that computers radiate signals and these signals can be read. I guess someone rediscovers this every few years.

This sounds like a fine mess. The FBI raided the former office of Obama appointee Vivek Kundra. People have been arrested. Kundra is on leave of absence.

If newspapers vanished tomorrow, where would you get your news?About a hundred different places. I just get the newspaper for the coupons.

This title is quite descriptive. 8 rules to discourage your employees. I have seen most of these in action - unfortunately.

These are great photographs. It is a shame the subject is the decline of the city of Detroit. The auto industry in American was once great. Then bad management and bad unions, well...the result is bad.

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Saturday March 14, 2009

Clay Shirky provides a lengthy analysis of the decline of the newspaper. I like his analysis. Thoughtful.

Michael Arrington writes about hyposcrisy, conflict of interest, I write the rules that don't apply to me, "do as I say not as I do." Funny how these issues have been with use for thousands of years. I doubt they will go away anytime soon.

HP is cutting the salaries at EDS. Tough times even for the employed.

Ed Yourdon is updating his book "Death March" in a collaborative fashion and invites participants.

Here is a supercomputer for the home. How much computing power can you buy for $16,000? A lot.

This story has been bouncing about all week - American adults fail basic science test.

Here is a post about writing with LaTex. I wrote a book once using LaTex. This is based on Knuth's TeX. Very powerful electronic type setting. The result looks much better than anything else I have used in the way of word processors.

Some digital camera makers are making their digital cameras look like old cameras. I think the look is a great improvement.

Competition for the central processors in those really small portable computers is growing. Intel will no longer be alone. I like competition.

Here is another example of an exoskeleton. These are becoming practical. I foresee their best applications with physically handicapped people - not soldiers. But hey, let the Army pay the R&D costs.

A District of Columbia jobs-creation program created 31 jobs at a cost of $76Million. Government at its finest.

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Sunday March 15, 2009

If you like procedures for creativity, this blog post is pretty good.

Twitter can help you write better? Like most any type of writing, yes it can. It is especially good at making your writing brief.

I find this to be good advice: find out what is keeping you from writing (or whatever it is you are trying to do) and kill it. For example, this poster kept thinking about the little tea stains on her spoons (yes, well we all have our little things that bother us). She got up from the keyboard (she wasn't writing anything anyways) and cleaned the spoons. Then she sat in front of the keyboard and wrote.

Watching the clock may not be a bad thing to do. When you start an activity, write the time; when the activity ends, write the time. Write the elapsed time in a notebook. Build a history of how long it takes to do things. This is all sort of "geeky" or obsessive or something bad, but it helps learn how long it takes to do things. It also helps to focus on tasks and "get them done" in a reasonable (close to your history) amount of time.

This is a nice tip for keeping a writer in draft mode and not stopping frequently to edit: turn off your monitor while you are drafting. Turn it back on when you have drafted and are ready to edit. I have never tried this one, but I have used a variation. I have drafted with my eyes closed. The closed-eyes typing has an added benefit of resting tired eyes.

This is a video of a speech on creativity by author Elizabeth Gilbert. She wrote the best seller "Eat, Pray, Love." I find this a fascinating speech. I don't believe 99% of it, but I do believe more than 1% of it.

A new computer may not be good for your writing.

In print: I just finished reading through the March/April 2009 issue of IEEE Software. Some articles that I read:

Software Development Effort Estimation: Formal Models or Expert Judgement?" in which the authors debate the merits of estimating software effort with either experts or using parametric models

"Open Collaboration within Corporations Using Software Forges" in which the authors discuss the use of a local sourceforge.

"Start with the Most Difficult Part" by Diomidi Spinellis. Spinellis gives three good reasons for starting with the most difficult part of a software project. One heuristic that I have heard and used is to start with a simple thing and then go to the most difficult part.

Here is a post on writing spaces and rituals. I am fascinated by the different rituals that different people use. The general rule remains the same: learn what works for you and use it. Try lots of different things to learn what works when and for what.

What a great title: Five Excuses that Undermine Writing Success. The post contains five good excuses as well. It seems the author has lived some of these. The one that triggered my interest is "but I don't know anything about..." Author and consultant Jerry Weinberg encourages people to write about what interests them - regardless of their knowledge of the subject. The concept is that if I am really interested in something, I will learn about it and then write about it.

I like this George Will editorial about ... well the folly that permeates almost everything in Washington today.

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