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: May 4-10, 2009

Summary of this week:

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

Monday May 4, 2009

The Blackberry has regained the lead in smart phones in the U.S.

This may save newspapers? Amazon may announce a newer, larger Kindle eBook reader just ahead of competitors who will do the same thing. Some hope this will save newspapers. I doubt it as poor editorial policy is my #1 reason why newspapers are failing.

Everyone seems to want to go back to the past. These students are programming old games to include poor pictures like the ones we used to have on old cathode ray tubes.

No one seems to know what Microsoft will do with Vista after Windows 7 launches. This is all really too bad with the Vista mess and everything. Microsoft launched it poorly and never recovered from the bad publicity. That is one of the problems with being the most successful software company in the world - there will be people who are thrilled at watching you make a mistake. They will never forget your mistakes either.

Dealing with the possible flu pandemic. I don't think we will have a flu pandemic. I base that on reading things written by people who know something and do not stand to profit from either side of the argument. I hope that they are right.

Here are some health tips for freelancers and those who work at home. This is probably the most important type of advice such a person can receive. It is quite simple - if your health goes, you don't work, and you don't get paid.

Johanna Rothman writes about the "most productive" employee. Fire that person if he fits Johanna's description. A variation of this is "fire all ESSENTIAL employees." People fail - that is the nature of us. The ESSENTIAL employee that you describe will fail one day and the entire organization will fail with him.

Hispanics have grown to 11% of the U.S. online market. This falls below their 15% of the total population, but it is a growing number. Are the newspapers listening?

Here is a sad tale of one way in which taxpayers' money is wasted.

And here is another tale - the difficulty of removing a civil servant who cannot do his job.

FreeBSD 7.2 is released.  

Some reflections from a freelancers after one year.

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Tuesday May 5, 2009

Apple portable computers are the big winners in the latest Consumer Reports' study.

I blog about my adventures in making videos and trying to play them on different computers. I hate to summarize with something so trite, but the Apple computer just works.

This is not a surprise, except for a few exceptions, government-run websites aren't very good. And they are funded well and they don't have to make a profit.

Windows 7 Release Candidate is out early. Read again, the last word was early not late.

Microsoft will keep selling Vista until at least January 2011.

The larger Kindle seems to be specific to a few universities.

The Justice Department is investigating Apple and Google. Take money from them and give it to Chrysler.

Here is some news about Wolfram Alpha. They are slated to open their search engine in May. They haven't yet.

I show this not as an Apple rumor, but as a beautiful model made by a student. The subject in the long-rumored Apple netbook.

Stowe Boyd writes about the moves from email to chat to micro-blogging. I like the structure he gives to the topic.

Here are external batteries for Apple portable devices. They work great, but cost a lot of money. Maybe if you were camping and needed to write on your computer for the entire weekend or something?

I don't understand this one, except for the usual hyperbole explanation. If a U.S. company opens an office in Ireland, hires people in Ireland, and makes profits, it pays 12.5% tax on its profits to Ireland. If a U.S. company does all the same in America, it pays 35% tax on its profits to America. People in the current administration think it is a terrible thing that  a U.S. company will go to Ireland to make money instead of doing it in America.  Can these people do math? Perhaps the American government should do as the Irish government - things that encourage businesses to create jobs. And the Washington Post labels these companies as "tax dodgers."

Here is another view of the same story. I love one line from this story "Let's hope everyone thinks this through..." That is a hope, but I don't expect it to happen. Government often, i.e. the vast majority of the time, goes into something with good intentions, but its actions produce the opposite of what was intended.

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Wednesday May 6, 2009 

Adventures in moving for a person who works out of his house.

Patterns of behaviour online reveal who is who. Fascinating research results.

Google is having trouble picking a $10Million winner in its contest to better the world. They were overwhelmed with 150,000 entries. I find it odd that a company that deals with hundreds of millions of users a day would be surprised by a large number of people.

There are 190 employees of the Boston Globe who have lifetime job guarantees. Wow, neat. How do you get that? Holding firm to those guarnatees may cause the entire newspaper to go broke.

And more thoughts on the Kindle for the University. People read textbooks in a different way than most of us read novels. Does the eBook reader work for college textbooks? You never know what college students will do with something. The eBook reader may "fail" in college, but Amazon could learn a lot about people 18-23 years old.

The next OS X iteration is due this Friday.

Dell offers WiMax in a few portable computers.

EyeFi's SD memory cards now allow you to send video from your camera directly to the Internet. Why edit? Just shoot and post.

Here are some tips on using grep - one of the great programs ever written.

Will Apple lower the price of its computers? I would vote yes, but I am biased and a buyer interested only in the short term.

Here is yet another example of Congress working on a law to show people that Congress is working on a law. The law itself - about "bullying" language on the Internet - would never be enforced, could never be enforced, and would be declared unconstitutional the first time it appeared in court. None of that, however, matters as Congress really wants to show people that it is working on significant issues.

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Thursday May 7, 2009

Amazon held its big event introducing the larger Kindle DX (here is one rendition). The price is almost $500. I can buy a complete computer for less than that price. I am reminded of the days when a portable DVD player cost most than a portable computer that had a DVD player in it. What is the use of an eBook reader that is connected to the web via 3G when I can buy a computer that has the same connections, the same display, the same eBooks, and much more? Part of the new Kindle deal is that some major newspapers will try to sell discounted Kindles to people who don't get the paper paper delivery. Note, the newspapers are not giving people Kindles, they are selling them Kindles. Some people never learn.

Here is a video demonstration of the newer Kindle.

Oh look, a $300 computer from Dell with the same size display as the Kindle DX.

"The world borrowed too much money," Steve Ballmer summarizes the current recession during a speech at Stanford. There is much wisdom in that little statement.

Here is another electric bicycle. This looks pretty good. The best part is a price of $900. That is not cheap, but it is falling into the range of affordable for many people. Let's try to bring the price under $500.

Yet another wireless, broadband scheme is in the works. It would be nice to have one of these up and running.

When are my taxes paid? Tax freedom day? Look at this chart. Especially look at the deficit we have this year!

This is a router that takes in 3G and puts out WiFi. How can five people share one 3G connection? Too slow. And it will cost $40 a month to do this. Still, if you are in a place where 3G is your only connection...

Five-finger shoes? I am not sure about this one.

Sales of Blu-Ray disk players are up 70%.

The worst is over in the recession. This seems to be a theme lately. Now we can debate about whether printing green paper and saying it was worth a trillion dollars helped us any.

Intel has made a lot of money in processors for the really small, portable computers. Intel, however, underestimated the demand as did many other people. After all, who would want to buy a less powerful (but powerful enough) computer that cost a lot less money?

Stowe Boyd charts the time people in a nation spend eating each day vs the obesity rate. The U.S. spends little time eating each day and is grossly obese. Also, there is a comment on what school lunch programs teach kids. If the national media would shine their spotlight on these things...oh the scandal. At some point in time someone felt it would be a good thing to feed kids hot foot for lunch in the middle of their school day. What could possibly go wrong? The next high school kid you see, stop them and talk to them about what is served for "lunch."

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Friday May 8, 2009

I usuEvidence mounts that Apple will put 3G into their portable computers. This seems to make sense. Why wouldn't you put that feature in portable computers?

Nvidia looks to a bright future with Windows 7. Again, this makes sense. Windows 7 will be the next major operating system in the world by weight of numbers alone. Companies like Nvidia should be looking at it with hopes of building chips that capitalize on it.

Obama has ordered a review of NASA's manned space program. I look for major changes which mean a big step backwards so one day the U.S. might do something in space again. I give Presidents Johnson and Nixon great credit for leaving NASA alone and letting NASA implement Kennedy's vision of putting people on the moon. It was not a simple matter for either of these presidents to keep their fingers out of the situation.

This 125" display weighs only 16 pounds. My wife won't let me put one in our living room.

The newer, larger Kindle has the text-to-speech feature and it does mispronounce the current President's name. Next.

This is a strange story about saving $12,000 per year by taking public transportation. Some people need to take care in writing such things.

Virgin American airline's in-flight Internet service worked well for this person.

Turning corn into liquid fuel for internal combustion engines doesn't work well. We have done that experiment and have the results. How about turning the crops into electricity and running an electric-engine vehicle? In theory, this is more efficient. I don't know, however, if they included the energy needed to build both types of vehicles and engines. This is perhaps an experiment we should perform.

OpenOffice 3.1 is out. I shall have to look into this.

Google seems to have it right again. Don't become excited about Google's Android running on those really small, portable computers. Instead, look to Google Docs and other "cloud" services. The little computers are really Internet-access devices, so put services out there on the Internet.

A few more stories about why newspapers are going out of business. First, newspapers saw a quote in Wikipedia and reported it as fact without checking the facts. Rats, just a goofy kid.

Second, newspapers are begging Congress for money claiming the Internet is killing them. Rats, their plight in the marketplace is much their own fault (see the prior example and read the story about newspaper managers taking on too much debt). The Internet is a convenient excuse.

This is a surprise (NOT). Higher taxes mean fewer jobs. Who could have possibly imagined such a thing? Sometimes I wonder if people in Washington D.C. have a clue about how things work.

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Saturday May 9, 2009

There are several mother-related stories out today as tomorrow is Mother's Day. I like this one. A man realizes that his mother has been analog programming all his life.

Another tip from that story - find photos of your parents when they were the age you are now. Try to see them as real people not roles.

Take a nap with this laptop pillow.

I usually don't report on research efforts as those things often don't come to fruition, but this one is too good to pass. A robotics company is working on a robot vehicle that will be able to jump 25 feet in the air to go over obstacles. I believe they will succeed, and I want to see the result.

Something freelancers need to watch - my attitude. If I am really good at what I do, people will tolerate me, but I have to be really, really good.

I really like this story: multi-spectral scanning of anciet writings renders them readable.

Ooops. A firmware error was degrading the performance on Intel's SSDs.

South Carolina steps forward - giving one laptop to every elementary school student in the state.

This sounds just plain stupid - the New York Times erased the archives of the International Herald Tribune. They erased them, deleted the files, knowledge gone. Surely, this story is mistaken as no one would be ... well this is a newspaper.

ReadWriteWeb has a preview of Wolfram Alpha. The rest of us will see it May 18 - or a few days after the rush.

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Sunday May 10, 2009

Today is Mother's Day. My wife walked downstairs this morning to find flowers and a card from our two sons who still live at home. She really blushed when I convinced her that I had nothing to do with it (which I didn't, honestly).

The Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern is giving scholarships to programmers to go into journalism. More comment on this below.

Bob Sutton writes about meetings - and those people running those meetings - that do not end on time. I agree that much of this is a product of our formal schooling. We were children, the teacher was an adult, and we did not stand and walk out without the teacher's permission. Now we are adults, the person running the meeting is an adult, and we can stand and leave the room any time we wish. That is a big change. One that few people make in a healthy manner.

This writer thinks the newer, larger Amazon Kindle will open new markets for writers. I wish that were true, but I don't see it happening.

Here are some tips on organizing material.

This is a good description of Walt Disney's creativity and how to apply it today.

Here is an extensive list of resources for writers from Jack Lynch of Rutgers.

This is an excellent writing exercise and tool - the steal file. An addition to this is to actually copy the first sentence or paragraph of the piece you "stole" and continue on. When finished, go back and delete what you copied.

Jeff Atwood comments on Steve McConnell's practice of pseudocoding before coding. This practice doesn't work for Atwood - never has and probably never will. This is an excellent example of a tool or technique that works for some people and doesn't work for others. Again, try lots of things. Use the things that work for you. Don't try to make things that don't work for you work for you.

I like this - a time exposure photo of the path a Roomba takes while vacuuming.

A reminder of what is obvious but sometimes forgotten - if you don't deliver the pizza, there is no value.

Write less, but better is the advice here. I advise to write all the time. Perhaps only let others see what you think is really good.

Back to the story about journalism scholarships for programmers. In the post is the line, the power of a free press to hold government accountable. I believe that most journalists have good intentions, but this is the attitude that is killing the media. The press has the responsibility to report the news - the facts. The citizens have the responsibility to know and to hold their government accountable. The citizens are the people and the government in the U.S. is the people. It is NOT the press against the government. Journalists are citizens too and they are part of the government. I hope that one day journalists will have a change of attitude.

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