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: August 10-16, 2009

Summary of this week:

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

Monday August 10, 2009

Twitter seems to be working again this morning.

Jeff Atwood raises a good point about the supposed 200 billion lines of COBOL out there running someplace. Like Atwood, I have never met an actual COBOL programmers. I work in the technical fields and COBOL is supposed to run only in business, so that may explain me.

Look at the photo. That big thing on the left is an Intel processor with a heat sink on top of it.

Stowe Boyd with more on the demise of the big-city newspaper. If I want horoscope (why would I), I will go to a horoscope site. If I want basketball news, I go to a basketball site. It is convenient to have all that stuff in one place, and now that one place is on my computer on the net.

Textbooks are leaving high school and being replaced by online content. No offense to those who write high school textbooks, but it is only high school. What wonderful amazing stories are in a high school history book? One of my great delights at entering college was that I noticed a great improvement in the quality of content in the textbooks.

Here is the Dijkstra archive of papers. This is a wonderful collection of information on information and computer science.

What "hobbyist" have been doing for years is now a commercial product - an open-source entertainment and TV box.

Here come paper-thin, printable batteries. Of course they don't last long, but these are for greeting cards and such, at least for now. I can think of many other applications.

We are seeing "new" objects in the rings of Saturn.

So why is Dell removing 12" screen portable computers from its line of really small portable computers? Is it a "sweet spot" or is it to help Intel profits. I vote that it is for some other reason.

Michael Arrington moves to Google Voice. I have been considering such a move as a tech experiment. I think Google stole my idea for filtering incoming calls, but I am happy to see that someone is doing it.

An example of how copyright laws are ... shall we say difficult to understand and follow at times.

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Tuesday August 11, 2009

CourseSmart is offering its e-textbook service on the iPhone. With a paid account, you can access thousands of college textbooks from the iPhone. This could be of some use.

Here is how to make your own laptop computer sleeve. I note this as my wife has made several of these for me over the years. She didn't do it this way. I'll have to show her this one. One advantage is that this won't hold cables and chords and such, so you can send it through the x-ray machine at the airport IF the TSA folks are paying attention.l

Do you work from home in the evening and weekends? Are you paid?

Dell is about to sell 3G-enabled portable computers in Japan without being tied to 3G contracts.

Interesting information in this guide to staying online worldwide. I had not heard of several of these services.

This may seem obvious, but I believe it is noteworthy. People in the broader IT field seek mental challenge. If they don't find it at work, they will find it elsewhere. Sometimes elsewhere is at the workplace doing things other than their assigned work.

This story is everywhere on the net, so I guess I should put at least one link to it. Facebook acquire FriendFeed. Stowe Boyd has a few comments on the topic. And this is a funny mashup of the story with a video of Hitler.

Sometimes it doesn't pay to sell your company and make lots of money. Ask the creator of Delicious.

The future? Printed electronic circuits. This is one of those technologies that - if it works in the real world - could change almost everything.

Wireless heart pacemakers have been around a while as my mother-in-law has one. Now, such can download at home for upload to the doctor daily. If the doctor sees something out of range, the patient is called immediately. This is an advance in health care. It also costs more money. See the correlation? Better health care through technical advances and increased costs?

I recommend Eugene Robinson's editorial on health care. I don't often do such. Robinson does a fine job of pointing to the two separate issues in the proposed health care bill: (1) insuring people and (2) controlling rising costs. The current health care bill attempts to combine the two issues. Combining two such disparate issues is known as losing focus. I am surprised that the Administration would lose focus on something they consider so important.

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Wednesday August 12, 2009 

LinkedIn now has 45 million users. I landed my current job through LinkedIn.

Someone has a formula for concrete at absorbs rather than emits carbon. I hope they ensure that it works well before deploying it.

Yet another example of how to take over a computer voting machine. I always come back to the simple. If you want secure, computer-based voting machines, start with a super simple operating system like CP/M or something that a person can understand all the source code. Build carefully from there.

Augmented reality with the iPhone. Combine a computer, several sensors, and connectivity to many other computers and there you have it. Excellent video demonstration in London.

Where should we focus scientific efforts? Here is one interesting response.

Sprint announces WiMax in more cities. Mine isn't on the list.

Installing Windows 7. I will come back to this page. I have an experimenting computer at home now and will give this a try.

This one sounds odd - judge orders Microsoft to stop selling Word. I guess there is some explanation to this. It cannot really mean what it says.

GM announces that its forthcoming Volt car will achieve 230 MPG. I am confused. I thought the Volt was an all-electric car. All-electric cars use zero gallons of gasoline so the Miles-Per-Gallon equation is always dividing by zero. I guess it isn't an all-electric car. Aha! This post explains the car better. It also explains the silly method GM uses to calculate miles-per-gallon. Are they kidding? Surely the news media will pick this apart? Well, maybe not.

Some discourse on health care. Scott Berkun looks at reform from the perspective of innovation and experimentation. Jerry Pournelle discusses the issues of unlimited demand and cost as well as freedom and equality. I am disappointed that our nation's elected leaders are not discussing the topic in terms and methods like these two gentlemen.

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Thursday August 13, 2009

Just reported - Les Paul dies at 94. Deep breath here. Paul invented so much that everyone in the music business takes for granted. It is difficult to over estimate his contributions.

Mac Office will be out in 2010.

The Microsoft Word patent suit may also have an adverse affect on the Open Document Format.

Apple sold five million iPhones to a Chinese company. Five Million! It is no small feat to build five million of anything, let alone a device as complex as the iPhone.

This is out of whack. Americans are paying five times more for wireless than some Europeans.

I guess this is a typical "nettop" computer. Nice screen and keyboard. Not much processing power, but you don't need that if you work online all the time.

This is different - a fire department robot that picks up people and carries them to safety.

Raytheon bulids a 16 MegaPixel infrared sensor

I like data visualizations. This is a good one - the population of Manhattan by day and by night.

Fanatastic photos from the Hubble telescope.

I welcome this news - the sale of simple bottled water is dropping. When living in Nigeria, we were happy to see bottled water in restaurants. In America, it is convenient in a few situations, but otherwise wasteful.

HP has developed a way to digitally remove creases from photographs.

Hmmm, a company can save money by hiring international students intead of American students. A company doesn't have to pay Social Security on Internationl students. Hmmmm.

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Friday August 14, 2009

The American Chemical Society may stop publishing on paper. This may be the first of an irreversible trend. There is good having things on physical media to hold in your hand. There is also good to having a "filter" so that you only print what you want.

It seems that Wal-Mart is considering making their own versions of some best-selling Girl Scout cookies. Bob Sutton has an interesting perspective on this possible move. Like, "how could a bunch of smart people consider something so stupid?" Who would want to be known as the giant corporation that tries to take away business from the Girl Scouts?

The major broadband carriers are walking away from broadband stimulus money. They don't need the money and don't want the interference, uh, I mean implications. This opens the door for smaller, more aggressive companies to take the money and the risks. Check back in ten years to see who made the better choice.

This may be a breakthrough in the speed of book scanners. This solves some looming technical problem I guess. As  a student of image processing, I am impressed by what this proof of concept can do.

This is an interesting contrast in how in the last 120 yeards the Pepsi logo has changed so much and the Coca Cola log has changed so little. I don't know if there are any messages or hidden lessons here.

This in Cambridge, England - a company is opening office space and facilities to new companies. No charge, no promises, no commitments. The idea is that by having smart, good people around smart, good things may happen.

Here is some information on the contract for the $18Million web site for the Federal government - Recovery.gov. Here are the contract documents. I have yet to see anything in here justifying the cost for a web site. Much of these documents are blacked out. I didn't know they could do that in an unclassified government contract. Oh well. The statement of work contains the wording, "The web site shall be highly usable..." That is amazing that someone would put those words in a legal contract. Amazing.

Marc Andreessen is working on a new web browser. If you were to start from scratch today, there are things you would do differently. I am interested in their results.

I have yet to decide if this is silly or wonderful - an umbrella that attaches to your shoulder so you don't have to hold it.

Here is a neat little USB-connected microscope. I don't see this for professional work, but if it can help kids turn on to science, great.

A short but full-of-content post on the different Linux distributions.

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Saturday August 15, 2009

Jerry Pournelle's monthly column is up here.

Gmail passes AOL to become the #3 email provider. It seems like that would have happened a long time ago. I thought AOL was dead and gone years ago.

The Army is using wiki software to revise several field manuals. I like that idea. Use years of expertise and spare cycles.

Building a clone of the Apple I computer.

Inching closer to an airborne laser that can defeat a missile.

This is an excellent illustration of a philosophy with one simple photograph. This one from Minimal Mac.

A micro-helicopter that can navigate indoors autonomously.

Starbucks reiterates their policy of "bring your computer and stay as long as you wish." I walked by a Starbuck this morning. There were ten people standing in line. I reiterate that I walked by. Thus Starbucks meets the cliche, "no one goes there anymore, it is too crowded."

The $300 portable computer is growing in supply - the demand isn't waning.

Sometimes you write Harry Potter, and sometimes you write a novel that ends up in the CVS or Rite Aid next to the ice cream. Sometimes you just write because that is what a writer does.

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Sunday August 16, 2009

This is precious. Les Paul and Mary Ford demonstrating multi-track recording. My kids have been doing this in the laundry room for years, but at one time it had to be invented and proven commercially. Les Paul and Mary Ford did the first part.

I like this Kindle cover - it looks like an old fashioned book.

Keepers - a possible game, er I mean exercise for a writer's meeting.

The patent system works on the phrase "new and non-obvious." But what is obvious? An excellent explanation of why our patent system is such a mess today.

On psychological distance and how it can increase creativity. The basic idea comes from the situation where you can see and solve other person's problems easier than your own. This is what keeps consultants in business - our inability of back up and see our own situation from a different perspective.

I love this, an interactive graph of what Americans are doing at any given time in the day. For example, at noon only 12% of Americans are eating. Doesn't anyone eat lunch?

Some random word generators. Such can be quite helpful when you are stuck for something.

I like this post, a lot: how to become an outrageous giver.

Here are some tips about becoming more productive from a writer. The heart of the advice is to remove distractions. Some of the advice may seem extreme like having someone change the passwords so you cannot visit interesting but time-consuming web sites.

Now on the other side, here is a list of 15 writer and freelance blogs to read. I promise I will not look at any of these today.

176 tips for writers. Some are excellent like "do what works for you" and some are horrible like "alcohol and drugs."

On having 50-minute instead of one-hour meetings. In one job, we had a standing 2PM meeting every Tuesday. About a third of the attendees asked (begged) me to start the meeting at 2:15 instead of 2:00 so they would have time to exit their prior meeting and make it across the halllways to the meeting. I exhorted them to end their prior meeting at 1:45, but they were not in control of that. We pushed the meeting to a 2:15 start. I sort of caved in on this one, but these people were so happy that they participated much more in the meeting and in the work between meetings. I had to thank the managers of the 1PM meetings for being such jerks.

Some reasons why a freelancer should keep regular hours.

I like this post on noticing things and taking notes. This post compares noticing things to taking field notes. I recall a friend in college who majored in geology having to take field notes during frequent outings for one class. Good ideas here.

Some advice to newspapers from a blogger who used to run a newspaper. I like the advice. Let's see who if anyone heeds it. This is also good advice for successful bloggers who dream of expanding to make more money. Take care lest you become just like a newspaper.

Hmm, the minimalist principles. As a coincidence (?) one of my to do's for this weekend is to throw away a bunch of stuff that is sitting in my office at home.

Here is a way to journal that had not occurred to me - each day enter only one line. This follows the example of John Quincy Adams. I don't know that I will do this as I have enjoyed writing much more than one line in a journal for some six or eight years (I lose track).

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