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 15-21, 2010

Summary of this week:

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

Monday March 15,  2010

I am sitting in a Panera's this morning. The Internet access is woefully slow.

Google promises that gmail will get faster. I guess I don't have enough email to notice that gmail is not fast enough, but this seems to trouble some people.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is 50 years old. Nothing found yet. Given humans running about intelligently on the planet for 10,000 years (a round number that is debatable), 50 years of searching for other life has occurred one half of one percent of the time.

The Air Force is about to launch a secret orbital spaceplane for testing. I don't know how all these people seem to know so much about a secret vehicle. I guess I should adjust my definition of "secret."

Mozilla is revising the open-source license they use for their software.

Most people who read their news online use only five sites. I use about 125.

A story about volunteers working to put government-archived video online. Yes, we don't pay enough taxes to have the government employees doing this, so people are doing it themselves. Once again desire to do good from individuals far outweighs the efforts of government employees. Maybe one day...

Qualcomm shows a concept for a foldable device. The needed technology is a display material with a radius of curvature of ... well a lot closer to zero than we have today. Maybe one day.

Another idea for a time display. This would work, but I don't know that anyone would buy it. See, for example, the great Texas Instruments digital watch disaster.

No one can seem to replicate the runaway Toyota. Perhaps the only runaway was the media running away from reality trying to find a spectacular story to report about a big evil corporation selling evil products to innocent consumers.

This study concludes that systems engineer is the best job in America. The study, however, didn't define what a systems engineer does. From someone who has studied the topic, done the job, and written a manuscript on it - most engineers cannot define systems engineering, but they claim to be doing it.

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Tuesday March 16, 2010

The health of the Internet? Losses from Internet crime doubled in 2009.

A historical film about Sputnik - the maker lost tons of money because he had to pay the news networks for the rights to use footage that they had lost and he found for them. We cannot preserve history without paying someone to find their lost artifacts for them. This is a bit odd.

A little more information on lip-reading software. The German team requires you to attach electrodes to your face. Maybe one day...

Someone has put a webcam on a roomba vacuum cleaner. Perhaps there is a use for this. It is an inexpensive telepresence device.

It appears that the New York Times finally understands that smart grids (connecting your electric power use to the Internet) have a down side regarding privacy and many other things.

What is better than watching TV? Here is a list. I add to the list with "Taking a nap." I think Godin has it right that back when there were three channels on TV we watched for education. To be up with the cultural literacy of the time, TV had an education purpose. With 100 channels, that purpose, while not gone entirely, has been diluted. This is all about cognitive surplus.

" I write books because I have no choice. I have to do it because this idea—whatever it is searing a hole in my brain—will not go away until I share it." Seth Godin. This holds for me as well. A have a few pages of notes in my bag that I have to write somewhere.

It appears that a lot of people out there are writing apps for the iPad. Either that are the number of people writing for the iPhone has almost doubled.

Apple computer sales are up 39% year over year for January and February. Sales of the iPod are up 7% for the same period.

China plans to connect its high-speed rail to Europe. Once again you could ride a state-of-the-art transport from the Pacific to the English Channel.

E Ink could go color next year. Keep it coming.

Nothing new here - the biggest risk in computer security is people. For an example, see my short story (taken from real life) on the topic.

It is possible to improve our memory. Like most things, however, we have to decide to try to do so. No magic pills or potions.

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Wednesday March 17, 2010 

We are finally seeing the auto makers opening a portion of their computing systems to outside developers. One of the challenges is to allow app writers to interface with the driver without affecting the safety mechanisms of the vehicle.

This is a clever ad for a clever camera. They put a display on the front of the camera so you can better take photos of yourself. Funny, too.

Robotic surgery is growing rapidly.

With the aid of computer models, these guys think they have a design for a car that will go 1,000 miles per hour and stay on the ground. I don't see much practical application to this, but you never know.

We inch closer to using tides to generate power. Such generators will affect the tides, and I doubt anyone knows what that means.

The FCC released its broadband plan yesterday. I hope to read some of it. No surprise in this report - it will cost Americans money. The government is here to help us.

The fourth amendment doesn't apply to emails, so says this court. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

I like this use of technology, but not the description. A video camera and computer detect objects and send electrical impulses to the blind user.

Acer has a new really thin portable computer.

Where else would you find Intel's new six-core processor but on computers built to play games?

This survey shows that the total cost of ownership of Apple computers is lower than Windows-based computers.

Person-dependent, location-dependent advertising is here. Well, at least it is here in some places, not yet in all places. I sit this morning in the Community Canteen in Reston, Virginia. There is a computer display at the front door that routinely shows "today's specials" which are remarkably similar to yesterday's specials. Consider another scenario. The computer display detects my cell phone as I walk in the door and understands that it is me. It also has a record that I always buy a cup of coffee and sometimes a little something to it. It would be much better for the Community Canteen if the computer display read, "Good morning Dwayne, your cup of coffee is ready for you. Would you like some hash browns with it today?" At the same time the display beeps the nice ladies behind the counter and they fix my cup of coffee so that it is waiting for me at my usual table and the charge for the coffee is already on my credit card.All this technology already exists.

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Thursday March 18, 2010

Sales of personal computers (whatever those are) rose in 2010 after declining the prior two years. Some analysts credit the iMac from Apple for boosting the desktop computer market. The big booster in the portable computer market are those really small computers.

No news here - most students use Wikipedia in their research projects. They have learned how not to tell the professors about it. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that some professors still rant against Wikipedia. Another example of envy halting education.

Will we ever have videos on Wikipedia? More information here including how to post videos. Remember the encyclopedia form of writing and making videos. It isn't fiction and it isn't like the news media does it.

More on the National Broadband Plan. Who will pay for it? The taxpayers will, but government bureaucracy will spend the money with the usual gross inefficiency. And then the "plan" wanders off topic greatly into other areas. The plan does talk a lot about health care and education and government. Hence, it becomes a government plan to benefit the government instead of the citizenry. More thoughts about this on my own blog post. I have little good to say about the plan. It is a shame as I know there are good, caring people working at the FCC.

Speaking of government inefficiency - $1.4Billion was spent on a failed "virtual fence" before the program was cancelled.

A "disgruntled former employee" (you know this cannot end well when it begins with those words) disabled 100 cars wirelessly. Hmm, another security flaw in a computer network system. Is everyone ready for national electronic health records? Is everyone ready for the SmartGrid?

GM is building a heads up display for cars. Well, there are worse things they could be doing with all our tax money. Then again, they might just concentrate on getting the Volt out on time.

One example of how much processing power can be put on one circuit board these days.

Photos from the offices of Yahoo! Canada. I guess some people actually work in such beautiful spaces. Certainly not a government office building.

This is really bad news for America - our researchers are leaving for China. Government regulation and encouragement are big reasons.

A book scanner that can scan 200 pages per minute. I wonder what people would charge me to scan all the books on my shelves. $1 per book? $10 per book?

Complex life found beneath 600 feet of ice. Can life exist on Mars? Why not?

Google TV is coming, and maybe it will force Apple to get back into the market.

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Friday March 19, 2010

A different idea on how to upgrade wireless networks - shift the processing from hardware at the towers to software "in the cloud." I can see advantages to this. It is a major change, so it may never happen, but it has promise.

Tim Berners-Lee continues to work on transparency in government data. Probably a better application of transparency is at the local level of government such as school districts. While not as famous or exciting as national politics, local politics affects us more often.

We are not receiving the transparency promised by candidate Obama. His administration is actually blocking more requests for information than the Bush administration did.

More advances in the field of 3-D printers or replicators.

We may return to the use of liquid to cool computers.

I mention this one because it doesn't sound right, the U.S. still out-manufactures China.

Here is video of a supersonic stealth fighter plane hovering. The F35B.

These two new desktop computers from Dell aren't impressive. What is impressive is that they are not impressive. This is where we have advanced in computer technology. They cost under $500, deliver great processing power, and we are bored by it all.

This computer-plus-radio lets you do email only for $65. Again, it is impressive in that it is boring.

The FBI doesn't seem to be able to update its computer systems. We cite example after example of bungling in government programs, yet we somehow think that the government can perform health insurance better than anyone else. I worked in government for 28 years. There are plenty of brilliant people there, but somehow the system continues to fail.

Put down your camera. I applaud this advice. I have been to the Great Wall of China, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and two rodeos and a state fair (as my office-mate likes to add with a grin). If I want great photos of wildlife at Yellowstone, I will buy a beautiful book full of such. I will have my family stand in front of a Yellowstone sign post and photograph them so we have a keepsake from the trip. But really folks, put down your camera and enjoy what your eyes are seeing.

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Saturday March 20, 2010

Apple is now accepting iPad-specific apps on the app store.

Those developers who were given early editions of the iPad have to keep them under wraps - literally under wraps.

Apple's iPad ad goes viral.

This is neat - a portable "docking station" that has a GPS receiver in it. Plug your iPod into this, use the iPod's touch screen, and you have a full-featured GPS.

HP moves closers to practical and flexible displays.

New portable computers from Lenovo - 14" and 15" displays.

Photos of simple desks. I like these.

The Internal Revenue Service can't seem to keep private taxpayer information secure. I looked at the U.S. Census package that came in the mail. They guarantee to keep my private information private. Perhaps they actually believe those guarantees; I don't.

Migrating to Linux and other FOSS was harder than expected. Change is usually harder than expected. Someone, somewhere, sometime will actually expect this.

ACTA - what a mess that we are heading towards - a body that monitors copyright worldwide. China will use ACTA to justify censorship. Sigh.

More comments on the faults in the FCC's broadband "plan."

Great news from medical technology - retinal implants seem to work.

George Will on achievement and such in schools. School achievement is strongly related to the home life of the student. All the lawyers in the world have yet to discover how to improve home life. I doubt we will ever discover how to legislate or adjuticate home life.

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Sunday March 21, 2010

Here is an excellent blog post about writing and consulting. Berkun goes into detail with numbers about time and income. I highly recommend reading and bookmarking this for future reference.

Intel's new line of server processors is here. This could start a major server refresh in the industry.

I don't like this story: Apple is delaying the release of some of the iPad accessories. Mentioned specifically is the camera interface kit. I guess I can move photos to my iPad via WiFi and servers and this and that and blah blah blah.

The iPhone can use 4G - if you have a 4G WiFi router.

Those really small portable computers are becoming much more powerful. That is a shame. I thought people had realized that they didn't need all that computing power to surf the web. I want lower prices, not more power.

Amazing video of NASA repairing Hubble. Another thought is that NASA is the only government agency that brings movie makers with them to work to show the whole world how great they are. Ever wonder why no one else does this?

Ah, getting the future wrong.

Sometimes a server room has a bad odor - and that means something. Use all your senses to notice things.

On ethical behaviour and business. Higher ethics means greater longevity. Everyday we have to make decisions about what is right and wrong - not legal and illegal. Some things don't change; do the right thing.

Mind Mapping can help a novel writer. I know one writer who tried mind mapping over and over, but has gone back to using a spreadsheet to outline novels. A spreadsheet? Is he kidding? It works for him. Try mind mapping. If it works, use it. If not, move on.

Another tool for a writer to consider - a strategic plan.

Tips on self-publishing. This is a viable alternative with many benefits, and some pitfalls as well.

What would you do if you only had two hours?

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