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: December 6-12, 2010

Summary of this week:

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

Monday December 6,  2010

The Federal government wants to have a single database of health records for its employees and retirees (like me). Many people are concerned. If you have worked in the government, you have seen all the things that could possible go wrong.

The Federal government is also pushing towards cloud computing and away from its 2,100 different data centers. Perhaps this will save the taxpayers some money. If it does, Congress will find a place to spend those savings.

Holiday spending is up 12% from last year. This is very good news to some people. My holiday spending will be down this year. I think that is good. The economy is not a factor in my spending, just something the family agreed to (not) do.

I love this - "I have a great idea for a product, I just need a programmer." That is like saying, "I have a great idea for a book and movie, I just need a writer." Sorry folks. Neither endeavor is that simple.

Since 9/11, agencies of the U.S. government have done a much better job of sharing information. This brings more value to the taxpayers and has the potential of increasing security. Now we have WikiLeaks and soon those agencies will stop sharing information because some other agency leaked it. This is a complex situation with few simple answers.

Much of the work being done on Linux is being done by paid persons, not volunteers.

This is interesting - a couple of professors of History of Science at George Mason University are studying the titles of the books published in Britain in the 19th century. The frequency of words show changing attitudes during the century.

And people are still doing this and that with those Kinect sensors. These guys put one on a quadracopter. Viola' a radar and obstacle avoidance.

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Tuesday December 7, 2010

Here is what technology is about: an exoskeleton that you can buy in 2011 that allows paraplegics to walk upright. The human body was designed to be upright. Sitting all the time hampers much of its functions. Yes, you can be mobile and sit all the time. Being upright, however, is better for your entire body. At $10,000, people aren't going to buy lots of these on their own. I expect there to be government assistance in buying these. If we can give a car company tens of billions of dollars to build cars that no one wants to buy, surely we can...

Mattel is selling a Barbie doll with a video camera built into it. For some reason, the FBI has distributed an alert about the doll being used to create child porn, but has no reported cases as such. This is an example of a well meaning Federal agency creating a problem where none existed, or they are giving us a "well, I'm not saying anything, but I'm just saying..."

Maybe this will go down as yet another silly idea that couldn't possibly work, or maybe it will actually work. Food is transported inefficiently in trucks. How about moving food about in tubes or pipe like the way we move oil, gas, and water?

The Google eBookstore is open. Find it here. I  looked at it for a  few moments. I like the idea of being able to read an older, copyright-free book right now without downloading and all that.

Note to colleges: stop illegal sharing on movies on campuses or lose your Federal funding. The note is not coming from the Federal government but from the Motion Picture Industry of America. When did such groups become involved in enforcing Federal laws?

Why put a movie on a DVD disc when it will fit on a microSD card?

Finally, we get those doors like they have on Star Trek at home.

I like this article: 12 Programming Mistakes to Avoid.

Old technology, new uses - in Australia they are experimenting with Internet access via RF through the good old television attennas and UHF VHF (or is it VHF UHF, I always got those backwards).

All sorts of news and links from the WikiLeaks.

Julian Assange of WikiLeaks has been arrested in Britian over sexual assault claims from Sweden.

More on the TSA tactics and the probabilities associated with terrorist attacks and plane crashes. Don't you just hate it when people mess up your opinions with facts?  Then there is this: "Security for the sake of security is pointless — I can assure you that the risk of terrorism would be neutralized if airline passengers were required to board planes naked but such a requirement would be so intrusive and humiliating that security would have lost its meaningfulness. There’s no purpose in security if it debases the very life it intends to protect, yet the forced choice one has to make between privacy and travel does just that."

Google believes that its Priority Inbox feature on Gmail is working as people are spending less time reading their email. I like it.

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Wednesday December 8, 2010

The North Korea-South Korea Demlitarized zone brings with it some amazing military hardware. See, for example, this autonomous gun from South Korea.

Three new processors from AMD. One has six cores.

An out-of-control telecommunications satellite is messing up weather satellites and others. Ah the mass confusion.

In less than 18 months, mobile computing devices (not including laptop computers), will overtake sales of "personal computers." The end of the PC era is upon us.

If you are on the International Space Station, you live in a closet. This is worse than a submarine.

Google keeps inching its way to a Chrome OS portable computer. A company has shipped a bunch of bare metal computers to Google so people can load the OS and start banging on the keys. Another photo and another story. And even more on the story. It seems you can apply to get one of these computers and be part of the pilot program. Interesting. Here is a place to apply.

Another example of portable data centers. This one is from sgi - which used to be Silicon Graphics, Inc., but now appears to be just about anything than needs a three-letter name.

Toshiba is to make three different tablet computers. One for Android, Chrome, and Windows 7. Might as well cover all the bases.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 will have a feature that is supposed to block web sites from tracking you. We shall see how long this works before someone beats it and publishes the technique.

Look at this desk - rough edges, not finished, wow, beautiful.

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Thursday December 9, 2010

Jerry Pournelle addresses a little-addressed item - under the U.S. Constitution the WikiLeaks organization is "the press." As he writes, "The Wikileakers certainly qualify as "press" within the meaning of the constitution. Make no mistake about that. What the Framers intended by "press" was pamphleteers, people like Franklin with a printing press in the basement, or Tom Paine, or -- in other words, they did not mean the organized press, newspapers, magazines, and the like: they meant people writing pamphlets and distributing them. Freedom of the Press shall not be infringed." The persons who  give classified information to WikiLeaks are in violation of U.S. law.

In the middle of all this, the U.S. Department of State will host the 2011 World Press Freedom Day in May. You can't make this up folks.

Daniel Ellsberg, of the 1971 Pentagon Papers leak, comments on WikiLeaks.

Mark Zuckerberg and other billionaires are agreeing to give away most of their money. Good for them. I wish they give away wisely.

Marissa Meyer and another big thing from Google - contextual discovery. Based on location and history, Google pushes information to you that you will probably want to see.

President Obama is on Mythbusters tonight. I am glad that unemployment is back down to 5% and he has time to do things like this. What? You mean unemployment is still at 10%? Well, but then how...

The TSA meets the kilt. I have to shake my head. I don't know what to say.

The Android phone is doing well in the marketplace - over 300,000 are activated daily. That is a lot.

Graphene promises to bring us much better energy storage. I keep reading about the research advances with graphene and nanotubes and all that. Perhaps some of these things will one day come out of the research labs and into reality.

This is THE GIFT for tech geeks and those guys who like to draw the girls' attention from us geeks at the parties - a t-shirt with a display screen on the front. You have to watch the video to get it. Fantastic and under $50.

Intel anticipates that 35 different tablet computers will arrive in 2011 using Intel processors. Will 2011 be the year of the tablet or the year everyone tries to make some of the money that Apple made with the iPad?

UAV's are getting much smarter. Watch this autonomous quadracopter "juggle" a ball. This is amazing stuff.

NASA is selling some of its older computers, about what you would expect. NASA is forgetting to remove or erase the disk drives on some of these computers, again about the level of incompetence that you would expect. Your tax dollars at waste.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is moving 120,000 employees to the cloud. They are using Microsoft, not Google. It seems that all the agencies are going in different directions. This could lead to a funny outcome.

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Friday December 10, 2010

Another WikiLeaks story - there is some old cliche about closing the barn door after the horses have already run out. The U.S. military is cracking down on personnel using removable media.

And if WikiLeaks were in China, i.e., all the leaks telling the world about the bad things the Chinese government does, and there are lots of those, WikiLeaks would be a hero.

Iran admits that Stuxnet corrupted their nuclear facilities. I trust that the malware turned things off instead of the other way.

I thought this only happened in corporations - some WikiLeaks staff quit, leave, and start their own product - OpenLeaks.

The Google CR-48s are already in the hands of a few people. This is the machine that Google is giving to people to Beta test Chrome OS. I applied for one. My odds? Greater than zero, but... And someone has already dismantled one of the machinesEngadget  gives a quick review of the machine and software.

There are some advances in Google Docs for the iPad. I shall have to try this. That iPad is becoming more useful by the day.

Apple names FlipBoard the iPad App of the year. I didn't know they had such an award or whatever it is.

Some new portable computers from Lenovo. A snapshot of what is available.

What would the day be without another example of TSA stupidity? The Indian Ambassador to the United States was patted down in Jackson, Mississippi. The TSA says they did everything right. There is such a thing as diplomatic immunity. A credentialed diplomat is not subject to TSA pat downs or anything else. The news story here even goes so far as to interview the ignorant man-on-the-street who of course says, "I don't care who you are. No one is above the law." Gosh. I don't expect the man on the street to know anything about this, but government officials should... Your tax dollars at waste.

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Saturday December 11, 2010

Excellent use of technology - enabling vehicles to park themselves. This is not for convenience but for people who move about in wheel chairs. Often, they cannot exit a parked vehcile. This allows them to exit the vehicle and have the vehicle park itself. Excellent use of technology.

Those machines the TSA uses for full-body scans are not that effective after all.

This is an actual 3D camera, not one that takes stereoscopic images.

This Navy railgun fires a projectile at mach 8. That is about 5,500 feet per second.

3D-printers or replicators may reach a new price point - $400.

Another neat use of the Microsoft Kinect sensor - this little RC car can now move about autonomously.

Some impressions of using the Chrome OS on the CR-48 test platform. Guess what? It is test hardware and software.

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Sunday December 12, 2010

Rankings of the popularity of programming languages. I am surprised to see FORTRAN at the middle of the pack. I would have thought it would be ranked much lower. I am also surprised that lanaguages such as C, C++, and Java are near the most popular. I keep reading that those languages are dead. Perhaps I am reading the wrong publications.

Someone broke into McDonald's computing systems and stole lots of customer information. Again I have to ask, is everyone ready for national electronic health records?

This guy built a self-balancing vehicle - like a Segway - with all analog components. Excellent.

The Federal government has a new IT plan. No surpise, close all those different data centers, consolidate, use cloud computer ideas. This is the government, so expect little technical wizardry and someone out there will get a big fat contract while lots of people out there will lose their smaller contracts. Also, there are bad things about consolidating systems. I wish that the CIO folks have considered those.

Lessons learned from six months of Freelance writing. Pay attention to "have money saved" and "be prepared to work hard."

This is an excellent piece on writing - How to Write 1,000 Words.

Here are some good thoughts on being unemployed at this time as the holidays are upon us.

Some thoughts on writing poorly, but still writing. You go back and fix it later.

In a similar vein, it is alright to get it wrong (the first few times). If you have written a good story, the editor and publisher will do the research and tell you that the Colt Single Action Army revolver was not available in 1863 and other such facts.

This is great. You have to look at it to understand it.  "The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of  'Writer's Block'"

A number of myths from Dean Wesley Smith. Folks, making a living writing is hard work. There are no guarantees - EVER.

The end of Kevin Anderson's 11-part series on writing:
#10 Get Inspired - We usually write about what we know. So the more you know the more you can write. Learn!
#11 Know when to stop - Science fiction master Robert Heinlein proposed a set of rules for writers.  His first two are “You must write” and “You must finish what you write.”

Some thoughts on getting and being organized. Be as organized as you need to be. One really good tip here, always carry writing tools with you (pen and paper of some type).

Ten things writers say and what they really mean. There are several things in here that are just right for the holiday season.

Ten common mistakes in writing. This writer lists making an outline as a common mistake. Instead, he advocates doing a mind map. Here are his mind mapping tips. I often do mind maps. They work for me.
I thought all the "evil government" stuff was supposed to stop when George Bush left the White House. But, look at the Department of Homeland Security.

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