March 15, 2014
War on Reason -- a Victory!
An aside [Goldbergesque throat-clearing? -- The Couch] to begin: I'd take my lumps from the Neil deGrasse Tyson crowd for my heterodox position on the Earth's sensitivity to CO2 -- were they not coming from folks who likely don't vaccinate their kids and seek to ban fracking and GMO crops. "Oh yes, I'm anti-science."
The GMO opposition burns the lovely bride and I with exceptional pain. Her grandfather was a pioneer in the field. He held two doctorates and is famous in family lore both for giving a cow a bamboo udder and developing a small pit avocado (eaten by the Japanese in their occupation).
His great-grandchildren have made a vocation of taking to Facebook to unwind all the incredible gains for which he laid the foundation. I guess some of the Fords aren't the best advocates for automobiles, but it still saddens me and angers my lovely bride.
It seems the forces of goodness and light have won a small victory in the Aloha State.
"For the locals, the islands have always been a place of high tech agriculture," writes [Author Rachel] Laudan. "Many of them worked on the big sugar and pineapple plantations. They saved to buy small plots of land. Those who farm these plots know that the papaya growers have survived thanks to genetically modified varieties that have been safely used since the 1990s."
The South Park episode with all the very white mainlanders who bought property five years ago fighting the incursion of mainlanders and tourists (and reduction of benefits to their "Mahalo Rewards Card") is particularly beloved as two pair of the Facebook cadre also fit into this group.
Grandpa saw people starve because of the challenges of tropical agriculture and devoted his sadly short, war-abbreviated life to improving it. Let's hope Ayn Rand is right and he is not looking down on his progeny's opposition now that the science has come so far.
March 1, 2014
Something of worth from the DAWG Crusade?
A hybrid aircraft, this goofy looking vehicle is capable of heavy lifting and long flight times thanks to the buoyancy of helium gas. The UK Telegraph article that describes it touts its "low carbon" and "green" attributes. I call it a possibly cost-effective vehicle for heavy transport and other specialized uses - provided it is economical in its use of the non-renewable commodity, helium gas.
January 14, 2014
I love progress: the integral of marginal improvements. I bore my lovely bride with disquisitions on cheese and tortilla containers with a Zip-Loc™ closure device built in. The only reason to provide this is to sell more -- it's a huge pain in the ass to convert your factories and equipment and purchasing. Yet, to sell more, somebody does it and pretty soon everybody else has to. Laugh at #firstworldproblems all you wish, but life gets a little better on a million different frontiers.
Between our engineers and musicians -- and folks who are just plain weird -- I think this will be of interest. The part of an electric guitar or bass that actually makes the noise is the pickup: a magnet wrapped in wire.
A bit of pickup history: In the early 1930s, George Beauchamp applied for a patent on an odd looking guitar-like instrument that included a "pickup." (The patent uses the variations "pickup," "pick–up" and "pick up" interchangeably.) His invention was the now-famous Rickenbacker “Frying Pan,” which hosted the first guitar pickup. (To acquire the patent, Adolph Rickenbacker had to send Hawaiian guitarist Sol Hoopii to Washington to demonstrate Beauchamp's invention, proving to U.S. Patent Office examiners that it worked.)
The winding and materials are a black art. Like "good" amplifier design, what guitar players dig has nothing to do with engineering best practices -- a perfect reproduction amplifier doesn't sound good.
On a recent custom purchase, I paid almost as much for boutique pickups as for the rest of the guitar. Just a guy in Oregon (Jason Lollar) who is a savant with this primitive technology. As hard as writing the check, the decisions among his many offerings were worse. Do I want a vintage or a crisper sound &c.?
Fishman is well known for making piezo pickups for acoustic guitars. I'm sure they posess their own voodoo but they represent the more classical engineering problem of reproducing tone faithfully. They admit in this article they have steered clear of the other market, where you are creating the tone for fear of not having something new to offer.
Ahem. They've found something. Instead of expensive and temperamental hand-winding, they are printing the coils on PC boards and positioning them precisely on the magnets. This technique has a bunch of advantages. The precision allows a hum free single coil (put one "virtual coil" out of phase with the other to cancel any external RF), the manufacturing tolerances are reduced by magnitudes, and the costs can certainly be lowered.
The other advantage is a real tabula rasa to reproduce tones and change them on the fly. Digital Signal Processing has brought this exact benefit to amplifiers -- you can "model" a 1960's Vox amplifier, or a Marshall Stack. I stole an effects pedal from blog friend sc that spoofs a 1965 Fender Super Reverb (shh, he thinks he lost it ...)
The DSP models are not perfect and I am sure this is not either. But they are progressing to make it so that a player can choose a vintage '54 strat pickup with a Fender twin amp and a Celestion speaker all on the spur of the moment, without buying a 1%ers batch of vintage gear.
UPDATE: Greg Koch takes the new system out for a spin...
December 16, 2013
You Can't Hug a Child with Wireless Arms
I have to post this here so I can laugh! It is posted on Facebook from some believers and I am not going there. But:
9th Grade Science Project Finds Plants Don't Grow Near Wi-Fi
November 25, 2013
The New Normal -- 1930s Edition
[Photographer Lewis Hine (1874-1940)]'s glimpses of the future -- and those scenes he missed -- remind us to be skeptical of technological pessimism. As the historian and economist Joel Mokyr (Robert Gordon's colleague at Northwestern) has reminded us, the idea that we have picked the low-hanging fruit of technology calls for a counter-metaphor that bring to mind Hine's photo of the toolmaker's microscope: "Technology creates taller and taller ladders, and the higher-hanging fruits are within reach and may be just as juicy."Amen. I am disturbed, less by the Krugmans and Brad DeLongs of the world, than Tyler Cowen and to some extent James Pethokoukis (to be fair to JimiP, I cannot Google up a good inculpatory quote).
The supporting concepts, like in the 1930s, are compelling: we do not have another low hanging economic nuke to compare with including African Americans, or women, or educating the intelligent but indigent. Fair enough.
But I do not see that VP Gore could not invent another thing as cool and productive as the Internet. Nanotech, asteroid mining, gene therapies? GMO crops? The increased productivity of
I think the world of Cowen. And, despite some partisan hackery, I must admit that Krugman and DeLong have their occasional insights. Yet it is difficult to disprove this theory without quantifying the future value of spontaneous order, which is tautologically impossible. I'd recommend David Deutsch's "The Beginning of Infinity" to open the vision. But Edward Tenner's AEI Piece, from which the opening quote was taken, shows how compelling were these same claims in The Great Depression, when the country was laying the technological foundation for a century of rapid expansion.
November 22, 2013
'Papas, Don't Let Yer Babies Grow Up to be Princesses'
Lifted directly from a Slate article: This Awesome Ad, Set to the Beastie Boys, Is How to Get Girls to Become Engineers
This is a stupendously awesome commercial from a toy company called GoldieBlox, which has developed a set of interactive books and games to "disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers." The CEO, Debbie Sterling, studied engineering at Stanford, where she was dismayed by the lack of women in her program. (...) As the GoldieBlox website attests, only 11 percent of the world's engineers are female. Sterling wants to light girls' inventive spark early, supplementing the usual diet of glittery princess products with construction toys "from a female perspective."
I'll let readers know my daughters' reaction to it.
October 31, 2013
Google is Evil
For those who didn't already believe it, consider this: Google, Oracle Workers Enlisted for Obamacare 'Tech Surge'
July 29, 2013
Matt Ridley, Call your Office!
In his superb "The Rational Optimist" [Review Corner], Matt Ridley describes an optimistic and rational view of feeding the planet well and returning agricultural acres to wilderness. One might think the environmental crowd would be onboard. But, alas and alack, it uses technology.
Missouri farmers Blake and Julie Hurst take to the pages of AEI to have sport with a snooty locavorist column in The Smithsonian. The whole thing is great, but this section caught my eye:
We just bought a new planter here on our corn and soybean farm in Missouri. It will allow us to move a bit further toward adopting "precision farming." The planter communicates directly with global positioning satellites and will, using yield maps developed over several years, allow us to vary seed population rates over the field. We will plant more seeds in places where yields are typically high, and sow fewer seeds where yields have been lower. The machines that fertilize the farm will have access to the same information and satellites, allowing us to apply the optimal amount of nutrients precisely on each fractional acre in the field. We will be farming with a level of precision, economy, and individuality that has never before been possible. We will be spoon feeding our crops in a way that means each corn field might as well have been grown by, well, an artisan. We'll have that local knowledge that Wendell Berry so eloquently wrote about in the books and essays that were the founding documents of what is now the "food movement."
I cannot imagine any of my lefty pals enjoying that paragraph like I do. It encompasses capital, innovation and making life better. It describes truly sustainable agriculture Yet little of it would be popular in Boulder or on my Facebook feed.
(POSSIBLY UNDERMINIG THE THESIS) UPDATE: Kyle Smith:
What is "the cheapest, most nutritious and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history" Hint: It has 390 calories. It contains 23g, or half a daily serving, of protein, plus 7% of daily fiber, 20% of daily calcium and so on.
June 26, 2013
Project for Awesome
Segue machine, Engage! The previous post lamented that cheap money could not "create new technologies. It can't make older people younger."
Project for Awesome, originating in the Colorado Springs area as far as I can tell, shows us what can do - both of those.
[Wanted to embed but seems to be broken, or disabled.]
May 23, 2013
When self-driving cars reach the masses, thanks may be due to a 19-year-old high-school student from Romania who developed an artificial intelligence that slashes the cost of the technology. He took top prize -- a $75,000 scholarship -- Friday at an international science and engineering fair.
Now, I'm just a software guy, but would not optical solutions be less tolerant of weather conditions than radar? All the same, assessing my technical/engineering achievements when I was 19 and -- I think I'll give it to Ionut Budisteanu.
January 7, 2013
Happy New Year
When all else fails, go with storage. Here's a 5MB disk drive being loaded onto a plane, circa 1956.
December 4, 2012
Storage Technology meets Shameless Self Promotion
Thankfully, both are ThreeSources categories.
The bulk of my growed-up professional career has been in data storage. Our company built products around Exabyte's 8mm tape drives. Your grandpa perhaps recorded movies on those tapes in his Sony Camcorder. I wrote brochures extolling the wonder of "tapes that fit in your shirt pocket." They replaced washing-machine-sized disks and the Kubrick-2001-style reels of 9-track tapes.
Ahh, storage nostalgia, I know many eyes are getting misty (we have a preponderance of storage folk 'round these parts). But improvements in storage quickly leave your backups worthless for any kind of long term access.
Today Runté, a professor at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, backs up to multiple devices and advises grad students to send a hard copy of every new chapter of their all-important theses to the most reliable of off-site backups: Mom.
I just started a long procrastinated project to digitize a storage tub full of my old recordings. I want to put some of the best up as The JK Boxed Set. Has-been artists collect a lot of their old crap to release and I thought it time I get on it.
I am glad I am doing it, because I am encountering several missing formats and some that will certainly be tough in a few years. There were a few formats that I did not have, but most of that was raw tracks and I assumed I had the final mixes on something that I could read. Some formats are missing and some of the media is failing.
I know everybody wants a backup they can put their hand on, and I will toss this on an external hard disk, but barring a Mad Max Ayn Rand societal collapse, I think the answer is cloud storage. This will live on my hosting site, I could create a Gmail account, plus these live on YouTube and Vimeo. With the growth of data, a measly 10s of Gigs is not going to be anything anybody worries about., Right?
November 9, 2012
All Hail Ricardo!
I am beginning a new project of stunningly shameless self-promotion. Even by my standards, boy... I'm assembling a compilation of recordings from the past 30 years or so, some released and some not, creating The JK Boxed Set (not much happenin' now, click if you want).
I moved a huge tub of old tapes and discs of peculiar formats and the machines to play them. I have hours of ADAT (8 tracks on digital S-VHS), both 4 and 2-track Sony Minidiscs, my first album was released on vinyl, bla, bla, bla.
What I did NOT have was a plain old vanilla cassette deck. (No, there's no me on 8-Track that I am aware of...) I went to Amazon, thinking I'd need to spend $100 and have some bulky old piece of stereo hardware that I'd give away when my project was done.
I, instead, found this:
It showed up today, and yes you may say it lacks style. But for $15 it does just what I want, outputs to USB (and powers itself off the USB bus) and I can toss it in a drawer for the next cave-man emergency.
August 7, 2012
We Are Now in "The Diamond Age"
You may have noted in a reading of my biography over there to the left that I am a fan and admirer of Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age. I mentioned the "NeoVictorians" (in your heart, you know they're right!) and another aspect of the book that expanded my mind was the notion of computer-controlled manufacture, molecule-by-molecule, of practically anything.
Well, this ain't that but it's close enough to be a complete game changer:
A Working Assault Rifle made With a 3-D Printer:
An amateur gunsmith, operating under the handle of "HaveBlue" (incidentally, "Have Blue" is the codename that was used for the prototype stealth fighter that became the Lockheed F-117), announced recently in online forums that he had successfully printed a serviceable .22 caliber pistol.
(Note, it is not a sturmwehr, you dopes!)
Okay, this tech has already been around for a little while, but this brought it into focus for me; think about the possibilities. What is going to happen when you can print household appliances, kitchen knives, shovels, coffee cups , WHATEVER, at home for 10-50% of the cost of buying crap at the Big Box? Much less guns.
I want to print a lot of things. I suppose the tech will just get better and it'll be Stat Trek-lite soon.
That will be an economic game changer, and in a short time. I am sure someone in the Gummint will try and ban it to protect the rent-seekers, but you might as well try and ban lathes, saws and chisels.
What would you like to print?
August 5, 2012
Review Corner: Cloud Storage
TRAGEDY! I take my Kindle in my very small car because I know I will have to kill some time. I put it on the console knowing someday I am going to lean on it too hard and. Oh. Crap.
It is my negligence and I won't whine -- I might take one star off my review of the case, but c'est la guerre.
Got the new one (thanks, lovely bride!) and have to wonder at how painless it was to set it up. Get on Amazon, choose the books I want, and click "Send to device" and I am back to Justice Scalia's world in less than a minute.
Now I know Apple is moving to iCloud but it is not the default. When I have broken an iPod or had a computer crash, it is a huge all-day hassle to recover -- and some things are always lost. Again, iCloud might have brought Apple to this level, but Amazon built its hardware around its cloud, so this has always been available, and everything I have EVER bought from them is there to load onto any of my devices.
Five stars for the platform.
July 20, 2012
He Built That.
Fifteen-year-old Jack Andraka took government nanotubes, cool stuff a great teacher had shared with him, and a few things that the US Postal Service delivered over some public bridges to create "a new, improved test for diagnosing pancreatic cancer that is 90% more accurate, 400 times more sensitive, and 26,000 times less expensive than existing methods."
See what happens when we all work together?
Hat-tip: Mark J. Perry's Carpe Diem blog.
June 14, 2012
I am NOT a Geek!
It comes as quite a shock. I work as a software developer. I watch Buffy. My eyesight is bad.
But a Facebook friend is at some computer conference in Orlando and posts this:
No. That's just too far. I posted that I'd use the cupholder to hold USB drives and a laser pointer.
June 5, 2012
Million Dollar Idea
And I will let you all in on the ground floor.
Insty links to this Popular Mechanics post
Where has all the darkness gone? Appliances, toys, and gadgets fill our nighttime hours with an ever-present glow. In this edition of "Don't Ask Glenn," PM Tech Editor Glenn Derene says it's time to turn off the extraneous illumination.
The chances that designers will listen to either Glenn is low. I think constant LEDs are here to stay.
I was thinking of buying LetraSet® ScreenTone to tone down LEDs in le condo d'Amour. That would allow you to see if it were on but not light the world like the 1000W Ellipsoidal Green LED on front of my TiVo.
Would people buy this? No. I want to sell it as an advertising specialty. Give away a sheet at a trade show with 20 little 3/4" self adhesive dots and room to print the company's logo and URL. You could provide different screen percentages or just expect people to use two on a harsh one.
April 11, 2012
'Lectric Car Battery Explodes in Lab
Warren Mayor James Fouts described the injury to the hospitalized worker as being serious. Fouts was in his office when he received a call about the explosion.
March 15, 2012
David Deutsch, Call Your Office
Somebody asked why we rely on submerged cables for inter-continental communication. I'm thinking of a serious new WiFi!
PhysOrg.com -- A group of scientists led by researchers from the University of Rochester and North Carolina State University have for the first time sent a message using a beam of neutrinos -- nearly massless particles that travel at almost the speed of light. The message was sent through 240 meters of stone and said simply, "Neutrino."
Hat-tip: Instapundit. Though why it did not warrant a "faster please" escapes me.
February 16, 2012
Youngest kid to achieve nuclear fusion.
As the guide runs off to fetch the center's director--You gotta see this kid!--Kenneth feels the weight coming down on him again. What he doesn't understand just yet is that he will come to look back on these days as the uncomplicated ones, when his scary-smart son was into simple things, like rocket science.
David Deutsch, call your office!
February 3, 2012
Ten Thousand Year Clock
Okay, get your geek on -- it's Engineer's Corner Time!
Everything I create has a useful life of 3-5 years, possibly living on in a fossilized state for ten years or at best revised to include recognizable elements. Let's say I ain't exactly Milton.
Some clever guys -- sick of this -- are creating a clock to last 10,000 years, which they suspect to be about the history of human engineering.
It sounds like science fiction, but this is the real vision for the 10 000-Year Clock, a monument-size mechanical clock designed to measure time for 10 millennia. Danny Hillis, an electrical engineer with three degrees from MIT who pioneered parallel supercomputers at Thinking Machines Corp., worked for Walt Disney Imagineering, and then cofounded the consultancy Applied Minds, dreamed up the project in 1995 to get people thinking more about the distant future. But the clock is no longer just a thought experiment. In a cluttered machine shop near a Starbucks in San Rafael, Calif., it's finally ticking to life.
Duracell product manager: "We just got an order from Jeff Bezos for six million AAAs!!!"
January 13, 2012
Gordon Moore, call your office!
IBM has reduced -- from ~1,000,000 to 12 the number of atoms to store a bit of information on a disk.
Six years ago, I was impressed by a 1GB USB drive -- what a dork! But I also referenced paper tape, which used a 1.83 mm hole in a 0.10 mm paper to store a bit. Being generous and ignoring the space around, drive requirements, and parity bit, I figure the punch to be 0.263 mm3.
How many atoms in that? A goddam lot more than 12. Well done, IBM-ers!
December 24, 2011
November 29, 2011
I trust I'm not the first to use the fire kindling analogy. If I were better read on the subject I'd probably already know it's part of the naming strategy. But knowing far less about e-readers than, well, just about anybody, I'm quite interested to know if br'er JK's jilted love has been requited.
To accompany the time that has lapsed since his misunderstanding with the device I'll add this head-to-head techie review of Kindle Fire vs. iPad. Fire leads in reader polling almost two to one, but the Pauliacs probably haven't weighed in yet.
November 22, 2011
Meanwhile, in Buffy News
Geeks at HTC have code-named the new "Facebook Phone" Buffy.
After years of considering how to best get into the phone business, Facebook has tapped Taiwanese cellphone maker HTC to build a smartphone that has the social network integrated at the core of its being.
My HTC Windows Phone seems far more integrated to Facebook than to Windows. Maybe this one will have "Farmville."
November 18, 2011
Kindle Fire® Sucks! [See UPDATE]
I have become old or jaundiced or something and no longer tend to get wild with excitement over new technology. But...I was pretty pumped for my Kindle Fire. The lovely bride and I pre-ordered and our fifth & sixth Kindles showed up yesterday. (Step one is admitting a problem...)
The hardware seems cool and -- to be fair -- when the glitches are resolved, I might find love. Yet this is not a petulant rant, this baby has serious defects. All the Fire really does is deliver content from the Internet, and mine won't connect. This makes them two very lovely, well thought out, expensive bricks with bright screens. One of them connects sporadically but rarely, the other is a DHCP virgin.
Nobody understands bad software more than me -- I've written my share of it. But, whiskey tango foxtrot, Amazon, this is an epic fail and I understand from the forums it is not limited to le condo d'amour. I am more concerned that a) it fails silently, collecting your information then just sitting there, not displaying whether it is connected or not or whether there is a problem; and, b) the stupidity of including the owners manual -- it is an eReader -- but not letting you read it until you have registered. I suspect the manual will be read by 0.0004% of the readers after they have connected and registered, but as high as 4% before.
I've no doubt it will get fixed. But I have spent hours on it and developed a dislike. I imagine the lovely bride will keep hers but mine will be going back.
The regular Kindles, however, remain very cool.
UPDATE: A little petulant, perhaps. The trouble was on my end (exceeded the number of DHCP devices I had defined). Lack of feedback and bassackwards access to manual are still lame. But the picture is beguiling...I'll likely be won back.
October 26, 2011
Wrong -- Netflix is indeed doomed
Holman Jenkins, whom I admire greatly, spends a little of Rupert's ink money today declaring that Netflix Isn't Doomed. No, that 70% drop in Market Cap is just a blip, and the offerings that people want are not on the way:
Forget about it. That world isn't coming. The hidden lesson of Netflix's fall from grace is that content markets will remain fragmented. In the future, you'll still need a search engine and a credit card, and you still won't find what you're looking for. In such a world, there's no reason Netflix can't survive and prosper with a streaming proposition that amounts to "all the content that $8 per month will get you."
It pains me to admit my disloyalty in a public forum, but Jenkins is wrong. They might limp along at 30% of market cap, but this soon-to-be-former customer suggests that the business model is broken.
I have scaled down my plans in the face of their price increases. I had 3-DVDs at a time for about $18. They included unlimited streaming. I was like Scrooge McDuck, wallowing in entertainment. Never enough time to watch all the great stuff lying around. The first increase sent me from three at a time to two. No big. The current increase that cheesed everybody caused a drop to one. Now, about the same price as I was paying is buying me much less. Not the price curve I expect in this sector.
Amazon offers a similar unlimited streaming for free with a Prime® membership, which includes free shipping. And that $16 bucks would rent me four movies a month or buy me one. Who is ascendant? Who has purchasing power?
Netflix built a loyal customer base of cheapskates on incredible value. I used to marvel at the great deal. Jenkins is correct that they still offer a good value. But good is down from great and they now face competition both for customers and suppliers. Their monopoly and monopsony powers are disappearing. That is not always surmountable.
October 16, 2011
Nowhere to go but up!
I have talked up Shelfari.com on a couple of occasions.
It has a clunky GUI and fails at its main mission of being the social media site for booklovers. But, as a personal or sharable database of books, it is extremely useful. This eBook reader and condo dweller finds a virtual bookshelf a superb solution.
For my whining, it appears that I am perhaps, not holding up my end of the bargain:
September 2, 2011
Or did I mean "Soup du Jour?" I really should have paid more attention in school.
The motto for Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin private spacecraft project is "Gradatim Ferociter" (step by step with ferocity): working, or making progress, patiently by frequent and small steps ALL with a steely determination.
I'm thinking that liberty lovers could find a lesson in there.
Thanks raglaw.com for translation help. Glad those guys were paying attention.
UPDATE: A good friend emails: "How many Romans????"
August 30, 2011
Ninety-Nine Buck Kindle
July 26, 2011
Virginia Postrel Call Your Office
Gettin' better all the time! Is the Internet worth a million dollars? It is if you won't give it up for that. And I know I would not.
Awesome -- Hat-tip: John Stossel, who points out that record heat isn't causing the suffering it once was as most people have access to air conditioning.
June 20, 2011
I can appreciate appreciation of corporeal books and happy associations with sight, smell, touch, sound, and perhaps taste for tomes such as "Pat the Bunny."
Sara Barbour pens another entry into the "real books are so swell" corpus. Like most, she makes some good points. But she gives herself away with a little honest Ludditism:
I've never used a Kindle. I've seen them in an over-the-shoulder sort of way -- the sleek tablet design, the portraits of Mark Twain and Virginia Woolf that materialize on the screen like the work of a divinely inspired Etch A Sketch. Part of the reason I'm wary of picking one up is that I don't want to experience the inevitable lure, the wavering that might begin as I imagine myself pulling a Kindle out of my significantly lighter bag on the airplane, or in a coffee shop. Like the dieter who drives the long route home to avoid passing the Dairy Queen, I just don't want to be tempted.
I suggest honest asceticism requires a bit more appreciation of the choices you're making than this.
May 9, 2011
Moore's Law Extended
Michael Malone sees Intel's anouncement of tri-gate transistors as an extension of Moore's Law. And, as long as it holds, the Paul Erlichs of the world will always be losing their bets.
But the great lesson of Moore's Law is not just that we can find a way to continuously better our lives -- but that human ingenuity knows no bounds, nor can ever really be stopped. You probably haven't noticed over the last decade the occasional brief scientific article about some lab at a university, or at IBM, Intel, or HP, coming up with a new way to produce a transistor or electronic gate out of just two or three atoms. Those stories are about saving Moore's Law for yet another generation. But that's the next chapter. Right here and now, the folks at Intel were almost giddy in announcing that what had been one of those little stories a decade ago -- tri-gate transistors -- would now be the technology in all new Intel chips.
February 23, 2011
Three Cheers for Watson
For a bunch of philosophical geeks, we sure gave short shrift (interesting digression on what the hell a shrift is and how long it should be) to a rather important milestone, namely a computer's kicking men's assess in their own game of Jeopardy. (Duuh, duh duh, d-d-duh duh duhnt...)
U Cal Berkeley Philosophy Professor John Searle has a guest editorial today in the WSJ, that claims no big. I'll credit his observation that Watson doesn't "know" he's won. And I'll avoid the Kurzweilian rush that we have seen the singularity. I'll nod to Brother AlexC's Facebook allusions to "SkyNet."
But at the end we saw a fantastic display of technology that holds incredible promise. I'll even accept a little Ludditism from the concerned wing. It is not the end of the world but it is a big deal.
I worked four years on a startup that dreamed of being Watson someday. We selected cutting edge AI and Natural Language Processing technologies from research organizations. The hope was to combine them into a useable and saleable toolkit to perform training and tech support. Even an incredibly stupid Watson, limited to a certain domain of material, with a good portion of the questions and answers available ahead of time was a huge challenge.
We ran out of investor patience just as we were starting to exploit synergies between different approaches. I don't have a ton of regrets in life, but I wish we would have had another year to play -- the system was just assembled as we closed shop.
Searle provides a philosophy professor's analogy.
Imagine that a person—me, for example—knows no Chinese and is locked in a room with boxes full of Chinese symbols and an instruction book written in English for manipulating the symbols. Unknown to me, the boxes are called "the database" and the instruction book is called "the program." I am called "the computer."
I think he badly misses the mark here. Watson provided answers that were not in "the database" and missed some that were. A pretty famous clip reveals that the programmers were often surprised.
Chess skills capitalize on the machine's ability to play out billions of scenarios and statistically score them. Impressive, but not Jeopardy.
Moore's Law has come back into currency, and reporters are dutifully noting that the massive server farm that was Watson will be small and cheap in the future. With the rush to the cloud, I think people are overestimating the time it will take by looking at 1990s mantissas.
I don't know that it's SkyNet, but it could well be the next Internet. The scene of an experienced Nurse or medical technician with a Watson-House-Doctor at her side is intriguing and game changing. Place that pattern across multiple industries and Misters Huxley and Shakespeare, our "Brave New World" is here.
In the final round, I made up ground against Watson by finding the first "Daily Double" clue, and all three of us began furiously hunting for the second one, which we knew was my only hope for catching Watson. (Daily Doubles aren't distributed randomly across the board; as Watson well knows, they're more likely to be in some places than others.) By process of elimination, I became convinced it was hiding in the "Legal E's" category, and, given a 50-50 chance between two clues, chose the $1200 one. No dice. Watson took control of the board and chose "Legal E's" for $1600. There was the Daily Double. Game over for humanity.
February 16, 2011
You Know You Want One!
Conversion kits and complete units for sale.
February 7, 2011
This Story Never Gets Old
That is, to journalists, this story never gets old. "Oh, our BlackBerrys and Laptops mean that we never leave work and why can't it be 1802 again?"
In "Who's the Boss, You or Your Gadget?" the NYTimes opens the story with three great examples of people using technology to be able to participate in important personal activities without missing important work activities. You'd think Andy Riley-Grant, Karen Riley-Grant and their fetching baby daughter Margot would be thrilled to be connected to the grid. As soon as they are voted the "Stuff White People Like Family of the Year" they will be able to immediately update their Facebook status. And yet, it seems there is some discontent in Arugulaville:
But all of this amped-up productivity comes with a growing sense of unease. Too often, people find themselves with little time to concentrate and reflect on their work. Or to be truly present with their friends and family.
Palpable, huh. That sounds bad.
People now have choices. That's good. Some people will make bad choices, that's too bad. But these constant cries to go back to the caves annoy me to no end. I just went from a touchscreen almost-a-smartphone to a Windows 7 HTC-Surround (sorry, AlexC!) Working from home, I love being able to go somewhere and know that I can be found if needed. That lets me go (like the first four paragraphs), more than it ties me down (the rest of the article).
February 1, 2011
Don't tell me you haven't thought it.
UPDATE: UPDATE: Several readers suggest the name "Rearden Metal."
(Several Instapundit readers spell better than me -- title corrected from "Reardon.")
December 11, 2010
Google Catches Up to jk
No, not in market capitalization -- they passed by many magnitudes long ago.
But as a netbook aficionado, I have been interested in the Google Chrome Operating System. The Chrome browser is lightning fast, even on my underpowered Acer Aspire (it aspires to be a real computer someday!)
It's a return to the Scott McNealy-Larry Ellison idea of putting all the power on the network. Bill Gates won that war in the 90s because there was no network. Now even Windows commercials are touting The Cloud.
I'm just an interested observer -- we lost a lot of good men in the OS wars and I'm not prepared to go back. But one feature of the new built-for-Chrome laptops makes me want to cheer. NO CAPS LOCK KEY!! I MEAN REALLY!!! IT IS SOOOOOO STUPID, WHY DIDN'T THEY REMOVE THIS USELESS APPENDAGE YEARS AGO?????
My first act after bringing up a new computer is to pop off the Caps Lock and Insert keys. I used to remove more but I have learned to live with all the rest.
Good for Google, daring to rethink the legacy of the manual typewriter.
November 22, 2010
The Saddest -- and Truest -- Thing You'll Read All Day
Bill Gates, may God's mercy shine always upon the holy prophet, was pretty famous for not spending a lot of dough on lobbying. I paraphrase but "Let them run their business and I'll run mine" is pretty close to an actual quote. Then he met a fellow named Joel Klein who worked for a fellow named Clinton...
Both men are wiser now. Klein has stood up courageously to the Teachers' Unions in a bid to free NYC schools from their evil aegis. Sadly, Gates and his successors learned their lesson as well. Nobody escapes Washington for long. All of Silicon Valley has lawyered up and lobbied out. Adam Thierer at CATO is rightfully disappointed:
I don't know if it would make him smile or grimace, but someone should give T. J. Rodgers a prize for his predictive powers. Back in 2000, Rodgers, the president and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, penned a prescient manifesto for the Cato Institute with a provocative title: "Why Silicon Valley Should Not Normalize Relations with Washington, D.C."
Hat-tip: Insty, who suggests you read the whole thing. I'm going to demand it and there will be a quiz in our next session. It's everything that is wrong: our most innovative companies find a better return on legislative investments than R&D.
November 15, 2010
The Three Worst Words in Computing
1990: Abort, Retry Fail? 2000: Blue Screen Death 2010: Java Update Available
November 8, 2010
I [HEART] AMAZON!
Somewhere in some computer migration, I mislaid the files to Renee Olstead's brilliant sophomore album, Skylark.
I was afraid I had bought it on iTunes, but no -- I purchased if from AmazonMP3. So, I go to my library and download another copy of DRM-free MP3s that play anywhere.
They lack the selection of el Diablo del Cupertino, but it is worth checking there first. (BTW, The Renee Olstead album gets five stars)
November 6, 2010
Error Message of the Year
YouTube stumbles a bit on the last edition of the Halloween Medley, yet who could complain?
August 24, 2010
Another Boulder Power Boondoggle
Perhaps you've heard about the "green" power initiative called "smart grid." According to Wikipedia, "A smart grid, is, in essence, an attempt to require consumers to change their behavior around variable electric rates or to pay vastly increased rates for the privilege of reliable electrical service during high-demand conditions." Well, who in their right mind wouldn't want THAT in their home?!
As it is often eager to do, the city of Boulder, Colorado wanted to be a pioneer in transforming the smart grid into reality so they colluded with utility company Xcel Energy to wire up 23,000 homes at a projected cost in the neighborhood of $20 million. Now that the experiment is over and the final price was $45 million Xcel says, "We would not do that again over the whole service area," But in bailing out on the added cost Boulder says, "There is not a clear consensus among the members of the Boulder City Council with regard to the value of SmartGridCity in its present state or the prudence of this investment."
What? Boulder City Council considering the "prudence" of "investing" residents' money based upon "value?" Pinch me!
August 20, 2010
Media: Getting it right, every time.
Hat-tip: Jonathan V Last
August 13, 2010
This Freedom Thing Might Catch On
We love our phones like we love our cars. The Washington Examiner's Mark Tapscott connects the dots.
I can pick up a prescription at the CVS drive-through, visit a sick friend in the hospital, attend church, escort our family's two Labs, Abby and Okie, on a walk around the lake, take in a local strawberry festival, drive over to Summit Point Motorsports Park for a regional road race, and so on and so on.
Besides budgets and ridership stats, the car is symbolic of American individuality. Call me a Nascar Retard but Europeans just seem to belong on trains. Tolstoy has trains; Kerouac and Pirsig have motorcycles.
Quick Review Corner: Dig up John Stossel's show on transportation on Hulu if you don't get FOXBiz. Great from coast to coast, but the coolest is a Hayekian riff on traffic signals: a small town in the UJ spends £850,000 on a computerized control system. Then they notice traffic moves better during power outages. They turn the damn thing off and traffic improves. People just figure out when to go.
June 21, 2010
eReader Price War
Barnes & Noble Inc. cut the price of its Nook e-reader to $199 on Monday. Hours later, Amazon.com Inc. responded by slashing the price of its standard Kindle e-reader to $189. Both models had been $259.
I have not seen the Nook yet but I tell every new entrant to check it out. I have a Kindle and a SONY eReader. I like them both as the Kindle accesses Amazon's considerable book offerings and connects directly to the store through their Whispernet™ wireless.
The SONY is slick hardware and provides access to Google Books: tons of free public domain content.
The Nook displays Google Books and connects to the Barnes & Noble catalog. It is sadly the largest of the three but we're talking ounces and fractions of inches. A WiFi one for $149 sounds pretty tempting. Less cool in an airport, but for most people a good deal.
Today's ThreeSources Storage News
David Ricardo, call your office.
A few of us are vets or current participants in the computer storage industry. Sorry to bore the rest, but Amazon has a sale today on a 1.5 TG disk drive: $75.99. A hair under a nickel a megabyte.
May 24, 2010
L Gordon Crovitz gets it. This is important because -- dearly as I love the WSJ Ed Page for Philosophy, Policy and Style -- they can be a bit Grandpa Simpsony on technology.
But Crovitz nails the Facebook-privacy imbroglio today:
The latest push to regulate the Internet wants to save people from what they say about themselves on social media sites. But with Facebook approaching 500 million users, the people have spoken. Whatever our views about privacy used to be, social media sites have radically changed our expectations.
It's a constant push against the rounded-scissors brigades, but I always try. You can look at Facebook for 40 seconds and accurately surmise the level of privacy it offers. If you don't want it, don't sign up. When a friend invites to compete in an IQ test and the first page asks for your cell phone number, consider yourself Passed if you clicked "No Thanks."
I know a couple of grownups and a few minors who operate under a nom-de-fasbooke, several who will not touch it. It's all a fair trade, nobody's forcing you. And I'll concede that founder Mark Zuckerberg does not come off as the most wholesome cat who ever started a dot-com. But, let's not regulate it -- it is voluntary.
I'll repeat that, skeptical at first, I've come to like it a lot. It's the USA Today of your friends: a mile wide and an inch deep. Yet it is a way to keep up with a lot of people at your own level of intimacy and time. I'd as soon they did not blast my email address or cell phone number across the Internet, but there is nothing vitally private of mine up there.
May 23, 2010
Miserable F-ing Lead-Free Solder!
Some years ago I wrote at some length about an EU regulation that was infecting the electronics industry worldwide, causing higher costs, greater ecological damage and more importantly, less reliable electronics.
Fast forward to last Friday, where my blogging from a Colorado political event was hamstrung by battery charging difficulties. (I did have an extra battery, I just couldn't charge either of them!) We've been struggling with the charging plug on this laptop for months if not years. This morning I finally concluded that the issue was inside the computer and not the charging adapter. I removed about a million dinky screws and opened roughly half a million teensy snaps to gain access to the main board. The solder joints on the charging socket did appear suspect. Under magnified inspection I deduced that repeated mechanical flexing stress had cold-worked the terminals where they passed through the solder barrels in the PCB. The solder, with the tell-tale dull satin finish of lead-free, had opened up into little funnel shapes around each of the 5 pins on the connector. The electrical connections were reliant upon faith and good fortune (and you probably know how much of both we have around here.) I reflowed all 5 connections with good old tin-lead solder (like our grandpappys used to use) and put the well used laptop back into service.
I can't help but wonder how many fewer electronic devices would be clogging our landfills if this idiotic enviro-nonsense had not been foisted upon mankind in the name of keeping hazardous materials out of landfills.
March 28, 2010
I Think the 21st Century is Here
You used to hear serious people say "all the cool stuff has been invented." Thankfully, that statement has lost currency. All the same, I have to call "whoa! cool!" on this. Jeepers.
At the DEMO conference in Palm Springs, CA, today, the company's executives announced a new technology called QuantumFilm that lets small camera sensors, like those in cell phones, capture more light than ever before. QuantumFilm is simply a layer of quantum dots--tiny crystals that efficiently absorb light and emit either photons or electrons--in a top layer of the sensor. The electrons emitted by QuantumFilm are collected and sorted the chip's circuitry.
March 15, 2010
Brother jg gets the comment of the week for suggesting -- at the end of "Cousin Milton's" devastating takedown of ObamaCare:
Analysis above is, of course, predicated on the notion that extending longevity and quality of life are the intended goal of the health care system.
Thanks to government, they can actually claim a "crisis" in health care. And yet health insurance has similar saturation rates as broadband Internet. Ergo, Crisis! Ergo, government needed!
Last year, Congress directed the FCC to develop a plan to make high-speed Internet available to more people. But given that 95% of Americans already have access to some form of broadband—and 94% can choose from at least four wireless carriers—rapid broadband deployment is already occurring without new government mandates.
I just dropped my 7Mb DSL for a screamin' 16Mb pipe. The good folks at Comcast run as high as 50 Mb out to my condo, which is not in the sticks but is isolated from other dense development.
So, government has a chance to declare victory and go home. But, to coin a phrase, analysis above is, of course, predicated on the notion that extending access to broadband is the intended goal of the system.
February 8, 2010
Things that make us richer
I love this. Insty links to video of a new Ketchup package.
I bore everybody with this all the time. Small innovations in packaging never show up in GDP numbers but millions of small innovations provide us with a richer environment. The zip-lock® feature built into cheese and tortilla bags generally elicit a dull disquisition from me. But over time, this matters. Just like getting more memory in your laptop.
And yet, Paul Krugman, should there be a Republican in the White House, will tell us that we are poorer than we were in 1973.
October 28, 2009
Government leads the way
This is a big deal:
L.A. votes to "Go Google"; pressure shifts to Google and the cloud
It interests me first on a tech level. Cloud computing makes a lot of sense to me, and an adopter of this size will be a huge uplift. I'm more interested in cloud back-end than the Google front-end, but this is pretty ballsy of them to do both.
On the political side, it's probably not ballsy. Have the unions made it to IT yet? (That AFSCME video runs through my head every day.) I am guessing this is a "safe" place for governments to try to save money without disrupting the unionized workforce.
If you're down at city hall, Brother Keith, paying some speeding tickets or something, be sure to tell them that jk says "well done!"
September 17, 2009
Audi Preaches JG's Gospel of Petroleum
You may have seen the new Audi commercial with barrels of oil rolling through the streets and back onto the tankers that brought them here from overseas producers. "If 1/3 of us drove a TDI clean diesel vehicle, we could send back 1.5 million barrels of foreign oil every day."
A TDI engine is revved several times while a white hanky is held near the exhaust pipe. Spotless.
Well, except for the fact that it would obliterate all of the "crises" that environmentalists have concocted to take us back to the caves.
Hey Obama, stimulate THIS!
[UPDATED to add video of the commercial from YouTube.]
Also of interest, a history of diesel cars in America since 1979. Via AudiofAmerica on YouTube. They call it Audi TDI: TRUTH IN DIESEL
By the way, did I mention that I love oil?
July 15, 2009
Quote of the Day
Then again, it's one thing to be a bumbling soothsayer but quite another to underestimate the resourcefulness of mankind enough to ponder how "population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution," as ["Science Czar" Dr. John] Holdren did in Ecoscience in 1977.-- David HarsanyiGlad to see my man, Harsayi, writing in Reason. He could teach those folk a few things. Starting with Steve Chapman and Governor Sarah Palin...
April 30, 2009
Government Designed PDA
My greatest argument for freedom with young people is to talk about cell phones and iPods as products of the free market, then compare them to some devices and services that are more heavily regulated.
What if the government designed cellphones? Wonder no more. BoingBoing has the goods on the "craptastik" 2010 Census device.
The device she had strapped to her hand was a Harris HTC, which looks either like the ugliest cellphone you've ever seen, or a Palm Pilot designed by the US government. We scrolled through bad, inaccurate maps of the area, which looked like they'd been dumped from an early version of MapQuest, wondering how the ridgeline behind my house had magically been transformed into a navigable road, and talked about the device...But their health care will absolutely rock! Hat-tip: Insty
January 5, 2009
Soon As You Get a 9" Laptop
I hate to miss a chance for a bad joke and have been wanting to mention my christmas present: an Acer Aspire One, in Sapphire Blue. Somebody mentioned feline sleepware -- I really like this thing. I have not seen the Asus machines that started the genre but this one has a very substantive, quality feel. I had to get the XP one for work purposes but I would have opted for Linux otherwise, which gives you a really cool laptop for $350.
I cannot carry a conventional laptop but this one is easy for trips to the coffee shop (mmm coffee...) or just catching up on work or blogs from another room.
December 12, 2008
(I think that's the last line of Slaughterhouse 5 but I'm quoting from memory.)
I'm not sure I grab Twitter (the WSJ Ed Page says it's for those who don't feel they can fill a whole blog post) but I am 'berkeleysquare' if anybody is inclined to follow or be stalked.
June 20, 2008
Gotta Have This
Internet Connected Programmable Thermostat. It's free for TXU customers. I love the great State of Texas, but have just bought new property in Colorado and don't think I'll move soon. But I will buy one of these sometime. I can see this saving a lot of money.
June 5, 2008
Happy Birthday, x86!
June 5, 2008 (Computerworld) Thirty years ago, on June 8, 1978, Intel Corp. introduced its first 16-bit microprocessor, the 8086, with a splashy ad heralding "the dawn of a new era." Overblown? Sure, but also prophetic. While the 8086 was slow to take off, its underlying architecture -- later referred to as x86 -- would become one of technology's most impressive success stories.
Perhaps it's my geeky occupation but I don't consider it overblown. Microsoft and Intel changed the world, and I would put the 8086 right in there with the printing press, steam engine, wheel, and fire.
Harp -- one more time, if I may -- on T.J. Rodgers. Look at Moore's Law. Look at what happened in 30 years. If we get the same curve from photovoltaics, energy will be virtually free in 2030.
UPDATE: Some birthday present
The Federal Trade Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation on Intel Corp.'s business practices in the microprocessor market, a move long sought by smaller rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc.
I'd say some rent-seeking by AMD, but I am not a big antitrust guy.
May 27, 2008
Stop the earth - I want off.
Seriously, didn't most people have that same reaction to the 1970's nutjobs who wanted to outlaw drilling for oil in this country because it was "dirty?" Leave the idiots alone and look what it gets you - politicians who say things like "gasoline prices are not based on supply and demand, they're being driven up by reckless speculators and obscene oil company profits" and "we can't drill our way out of this problem" when, in fact, that is the ONLY way to bring gasoline prices down. And it makes us "less dependent on foreign oil" at the same time.
Posted by JohnGalt at 3:33 PM
December 8, 2007
It's Milton Month at ThreeSources.
-- I applauded Perry's allusion in a comment a few weeks ago;
-- I then used that same stanza to respond to a bit of collectivist nonsense from my normally non-collectivist brother. (I'll reproduce it under "Continue Reading);
-- Brad DeLong celebrates a 1964 digitization as possibly the first EBook. Not only was it all caps, but we've made some progress in storage since then:
To give you an estimation of the difference in the original and what we have today: the original was probably entered on cards commonly known at the time as "IBM cards" (Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate) and probably took in excess of 100,000 of them. A single card could hold 80 characters (hence 80 characters is an accepted standard for so many computer margins), and the entire original edition we received in all caps was over 800,000 chars in length, including line enumeration, symbols for caps and the punctuation marks, etc., since they were not available keyboard characters at the time (probably the keyboards operated at baud rates of around 113, meaning the typists had to type slowly for the keyboard to keep up).
My Brother's Email
A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said.
The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.
The Lord said, 'You have seen Hell.
It is simple,' said the Lord. 'It requires but one skill. You see they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves.'
November 27, 2007
A Really Inconvenient Truth
You would think the inventor of the internet would keep on up security.
A blog set up to promote former U.S. Vice President Al Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth," has been hacked and is hosting links to Web sites hawking online pharmaceuticals.
August 30, 2007
Now, this is cool. The ThreeSources readership includes veterans of the Storage Industry, and predictive markets players and workers, (plus a couple other guys...)
I ran into an old friend and fellow storage warrior last weekend. He is involved with several projects, but one that really caught my fancy was StorageMarkets.com, a predictive market for the storage industry. Industry folk can wager virtual dollars on questions like "When the first 2TB 3.5” hard disk drive will be publicly announced" or "Which hardware implementation of encryption will have the highest market share by the end of 2008?" or "When will a majority of customers require storage systems that support both block and file I/O in the same system as evidenced by sales?"
Hey, there's a switch: the economists' eyes are glazing over!
It is a cool site and I am told that my (work) email address will get me a membership. I can beg for anybody else that is interested. Here is the site, or here is a blog that provides summaries and news items.
Posted by John Kranz at 7:16 PM
To show the superiority of free markets, I frequently cite telecom (and, of course, the iPod) as examples. So does Mayor Giuliani. When Larry Kudlow asked him about health care he said "How did we make cell phones affordable? We let the market work."
I have to compliment my collectivist foes on strategy. If they can ruin the markets where the markets work, Classical Liberals will no longer have any examples. So, the FCC and a consumer group have decided it's time to regulate the most successful free market in my lifetime.
WSJ Ed Page (paid link):
Now, if the Senate could dictate the size and cost of MP3 players...
Posted by John Kranz at 11:15 AM
June 21, 2007
American I.T. Advantage
Austan Goolsbee has a great piece in the New York Times which investigates why the United States was able to produce such productivity gains from technology. A new study from the London School of Economics notes that technology prices dropped worldwide, yet America was better able to leverage computing power. The study goes further to show that when American firms took over UK firms, the utilization of IT improved. (My associate from my start-up ended up heading a large IT department in London -- I can't wait to share this!)
Our comparative advantage is hard to quantify, but don't forget Mr. Schumpeter: flexibility is a huge factor in exploiting technology (ask Hank Reardon).
But that is, of course, the paradox of the American position. We hate experiencing major adjustments and industry transformations that force people to look for new jobs. That experience has made many skeptical about the future of the United States in the world economy. Yet the evidence seems to show that for all our dissatisfaction, we are the most flexible economy around and may be best poised to take advantage of the coming changes on a global scale precisely because we are so good at adjusting.
Hat-tip: Everyday Economist
Posted by John Kranz at 11:13 AM
May 23, 2007
Philly's wireless plan is coming close... to what I'm not exactly sure.
As municipalities across the country join the Wi-Fi race, the City of Philadelphia is entering the home stretch.
I remember railing on about this at one of my old blogs (unfortunately deleted). The wireless implimentation goals were wildly optimistic. Announce the plan in April, choose vendor by end of June, subscribers by the end of the year. At the time I wondered about the timeline and which cronies were going to get rich off the deal. The former is in the "home stretch," despite having only 10% started. The latter has yet to resolve itself...
The question of why cities should be in the broadband business, was never answered.
In entirely unrelated news, technology analysts doubt municipal networks efficacy.
Because systems are just coming online, it's premature to say how many or which ones will fail under current operating plans, but the early signs are troubling.
Posted by AlexC at 10:47 PM
April 24, 2007
This is one sexy toy: USB.
Hungry? Want some quail stuffed with jalepeno? Check out this sexy toy: Automatic.
April 15, 2007
Geek Review Corner
I shill for big oil and big Pharma, here's one for the wicked folks in Redmond: Windows Vista(r) is pretty dang cool. I bought a new box that came with Vista, and my first impressions are pretty positive.
Sorry, AlexC, a comparable Mac was too much money (you can still be the "cool guy" in the ThreeSources commercial), sorry Ian, I spent a couple days fussing with a Solaris installation and it screamed "your UNIX days are over." Yeah, I'm sure some Linux distributions are better, but I can go to my grave without editing st.conf again.
December 27, 2006
48 Hours of Wii
It's been, well more than two days, since Christmas morning, and Santa brought us a Nintendo Wii, Rayman Raving Rabbids and an extra controller. (I picked up Madden 07 and another nunchuck controller yesterday).
My wife and I have discovered that we are sadly out of shape as our arms are burning with soreness.
But it's fun.
Easily the best game system I've ever purchased.
Swinging the controller like a tennis racket, baseball bat, bowling ball or boxing gloves adds a dimension to gaming heretofore unexplored. My soon-to-be four year old daughter can really box well.
Rayman makes use of the motion detecting sensors in pretty clever ways. Milking cows, those old-fashioned tilting marble games, shooting plungers, whack-a-mole etc.
Madden Football '07 is pretty sweet. Throwing touchdown passes or kicking fieldgoals is pretty straightforward, though the tackling is a bit more complicated.
December 8, 2006
More Apple Woes
I whined about Apple's iTunes Software a few weeks ago. Suddenly, I have a problem that seems sw/firmware to me, but Apple is trying to tell its users that the problem is hardware, and that the best solution is to go buy a new one.
Yup, the little shuffle flashed amber/green this morning after charging all night. I connected it and was told to restore. "Wow, it's really scrambled," thinks I. Then it would not restore. Error 1418.
Do a quick search for iPod Unknown Error 1418. Uh-oh.
iPodNN | Shuffle owners protest "1418 hell"
I've gotten a good year and a half of unconditional love from this device. If it is toast I cannot complain. But two things cause me to force the issue. One, it is a gift of sentimental value. My wife bought it for me before her stroke and it arrived as a surprise after. I blogged about it in May 2005.
Secondly, the current Mac advertising blitz has a smarmy smug side. You can highlight the legitimate differences in the Apple approach vs. PC. But the implication that Macs don't break, or that you'll have no problems if you buy one are well belied by web forums and pages. Technology will fail. The Apple/Linux/Mozilla claims that they are not the target of viruses points more to market failure on their part than technological success.
I'm no Apple hater by any means, I just haven't completely drunk the Kool-Aid(r).
UPDATE: It's fixed! The Apple Restore Utility to the rescue!
November 26, 2006
JK wonders where I've been.
I'll tell you.
Watching the entire set of Star Wars movies, beginning to end.
It was an epic adventure, and a real family values thing. I must say.
My daughter can quote Yoda's best line ("Do or do not, there is no try."), but cannot pronounce R2-D2. "Artie Doo Too," or some such. "Dark Vader" is apparently her favorite. (I need to keep my eye on her.)
But seriously, the empire's best engineers suck. Why in the world would anyone include tubes to the heart of the Death Star, not once, but TWICE? The first I could maybe understand. It was a vent.... at the end of a well defended trench. (wtf?)
The second time around, these tubes were big enough for the Millenium Falcon AND chasing X-Wing and Tie-Fighters to fly around in and fight in. Jeez. Talk about not learning your lesson. Don't tell me that the Death Star was under construction.
Indeed, it was, but the targeted generator at the core of the Death Star was in a fully enclosed hollow chamber hanging from some sort of a gigantic metal stalactite.
Why? Yes, it looks good.
It goes without saying that if it wasn't for superfluous tube technology, Emporer Palpataine would not have fallen to his death.
Like any construction site, the second Death Star must have been teeming with designers and engineers. My heart goes out to the regular construction crews and their families (nod to Clerks), but the D&E group got what they deserved.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Watching them all in order and within two days leaves me with the sense that the newer movies over did the special effects. Episodes IV, V and VI (1977 through 1985) used advanced special effects (for the time), but not at the expense of the story. I think the effects in the first three episodes were done just for their own sake. Overdone, much like the dialog; and Yoda was too silly to be a Jedi. Nevermind the entire character of Jar Jar.
Early stuff, embarassing. Later stuff, quality pulp.
November 17, 2006
KFC has a new logo, and you can see it from space.
As part of publicity for the new logo, KFC commissioned a giant, 87,000-square foot version of it that can be seen from space. The massive logo consists of 65,000 1-foot square painted tiles that were laid out in the Nevada desert over 24 days.
I was never one for the Colonel, but that's pretty damned cool.
I can't wait for the day when someone gets a) the money b) the guts to project an ad onto the full moon.
With a sufficiently strong laser beam (or multiples) I bet you could do it.
Imagine the round red Coke Classic logo or the old fashioned blue AT&T logo up there. Everyone would see it. It'd be a sensation.
(tip to HotAir)
November 4, 2006
What is it with those damned bluetooth cellphone earpieces?
No one is that important.
I watched an episode of "Flip This House", where a woman was remodeling her house and having interviews with the hosts with one of those things in her ear.
She can't be that important, and she looked like an idiot.
If I remembered her name, I'd put it here just she could google herself and see that I called her a knucklehead.
You are not Lt Uhura from Star Trek. Get over yourself.
November 1, 2006
Revenge of Guys in Tweed
On Oct. 12, National Public Radio CEO Ken Stern wrote to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin alleging that the satellite broadcasters' devices interfere with NPR broadcasts. And last week, David Rehr, president and CEO of the powerful NAB, fired off two letters to Martin alleging several regulatory violations.
Posted by AlexC at 11:55 PM
October 20, 2006
"Addicts" showed signs of compulsive internet use, habitually checking e-mail, websites and chat rooms.
More than 8% of the 2,513 respondents to the Stanford University phone survey said they hid their use from partners.
A typical addict is a single, white college-educated male in his 30s, who spends more than 30 hours a week on "non-essential" computer use, it found.
I'm only 28, and a college dropout.... besides I can quit at anytime.
Except when i'm on vacation... and the hotel just happened to have internet.
October 18, 2006
Land of the Rising Sun
The Japanese must have a different tort system than we do.
Watch the whole thing.
September 18, 2006
Look closely and see if you can figure out what it is. When you give up, follow this link to see the full sized image. If you still can't figure it out, go here for the answer. (It's the September 18, 2006 issue.)
Hat tip: Dad
(Here's some other nice work by the same 'artist.')
September 15, 2006
Ester Strogen, 82, of Canton, first leased two black rotary phones — the kind whose round dial is moved manually with your finger — in the 1960s. Back then, the technology was new and owning telephones was unaffordable for most people.
New technology? The 1960s?
or the 1860s?
It's $29.10 / month to have one of their phones. But there are benefits.
"We will continue to lease sets as long as there is a demand for them," Skalko said.
Benefits of leasing include free replacements and the option of switching to newer models, he said.
Posted by AlexC at 5:46 PM
September 14, 2006
"Lead-Free" - The International Environmental Boondoggle
In honor of today being the unofficial "L day" I'm posting this item that came to my attention last Monday.
In case you wonder what might have happened if the Kyoto Protocol had been adopted and implemented world wide, consider what happened when the EU unilaterally determined that the lead in solder used to produce electronic devices is a "hazardous substance" and mandated its elimination from all products marketed in Europe by the July 1, 2006.
On Monday a colleague emailed several of us a list of issues related to lead-free electronics manufacturing that was provided to him by our assembly vendor. Before reading the attachment I had no idea just how disruptive this lead-free process business is. Why would we voluntarily evolve into a process that is less reliable, more expensive, fraught with extra hoops to jump through and, by the way, is WORSE for the environment?
This all stems from an EU directive called the "Reduction of Hazardous Substances" directive, or "RoHS" adopted January 27, 2003. Here's what I found when I investigated.
According to the authors, "The study presents extensive data that show that heavy metal concentrations in leachate and landfill gas are generally far below the limits that have been established to protect human health and the environment."
And then there are the long-term reliability concerns. Also from the EU Referendum blog:
On the basis of this charade, proprietors of firms not obeying this cretinous law can face unlimited fines and imprisonment yet, worryingly, there are still many serious doubts about the reliability and suitability of lead solder substitutes, so much so that military equipment has been exempted.
And this isn’t just some mad right-wing anti-environment rant. In the comments on the blog is a reference to this article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoting a Canadian environmental scientist who doesn’t support lead-free:
But not all lead is the same. Lead in paint and gasoline is easily absorbed into human cells. Lead in metallic forms such as solder is not.
As for “state mandated deadlines for compliance” are we sure there are, or will be, any? Consider this, also from the news article:
No U.S. firm is legally bound to use lead-free solder. Only California has any restrictions on lead, and no federal laws are pending. But not conforming to European standards means giving up a lucrative market, and potentially that of China and Japan. China is expected to announce a restriction policy soon.
But since our market is exclusively the U.S. and not even Canada, much less Europe or East Asia, it appears that we should do everything possible to avoid lead-free like the plague. The problem with this strategy is that component manufacturers, forced to comply with RoHS by customers who market products in Europe and eager to avoid the added cost of parallel leaded and lead-free product lines, are gradually discontinuing the leaded components.
And so we have a world-wide economic and environmental travesty all because one man, the EU minister of state for energy, Malcolm Wicks, signed the final RoHS document declaring, "I have read the regulatory impact assessment and am satisfied the benefits justify the costs."
And angry-left nutjobs worry that we are sliding into a monarchy!
Take the disruptions, cost increases and environmental unintended consequences of this and multiply them by ten, or even a hundred, and you'll have an idea of what Kyoto could have wrought.
(Click "Continue Reading" to see the list of issues related to lead-free soldering processes.)
Company x’s Lead – Free Process Issues
September 11, 2006
Perry at Eidelblog wonders why blogs aren't discussing an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit. He even does ThreeSources the honor of calling us out. We have been silent, friend, because I hadn't heard of it until I read about it on your blog.
Few rulings have angered me, and I mean really made my blood boil, as the abominable "eminent domain" ruling against Susette Kelo and other New London residents. Well, this recent ruling has inflamed me just as much. Last Thursday, a dipshit judge in California made a dipshit ruling that some dipshits' lawsuit against Target could go forward (Target hasn't lost, but the lawsuit can proceed). The lawsuit's entire basis is that Target's website isn't very "accommodating" to blind people under the Americans With Disabilities Act and a couple of similar California statutes. That's it.
As an official, state-licensed, handicapped person, I will toss my full moral authority against the ADA. It is as certain an imposition on property rights as Kelo. A good friend had her boutique apparel store shut down because she would not make $25,000 improvements to the small storefront she and her husband were leasing!
I have had Kelo on my mind. Last week's Weekly Standard gave a story on Human Rights Watch the cover, but included a much longer piece on eminent domain abuse in The Garden State. A family in Piscataway, NJ is losing its farm in the middle of town for "Open Space."
I have to admit this case is just as insane, but Kelo v. New London was a SCOTUS decision, this one hopes still has a few chances to be derailed.
Accommodating blind web-surfers, indeed.
August 16, 2006
XM vs Sirius
The Washington Post weighs in.
And the answer?
"Depends what you're looking for."
Myself, I got Sirius with a car I bought in 2004. Never really planned on getting either, since most of my (admittedly little) car time was spent listening to CDs or talk radio. But I gave it a shot and quickly discovered "First Wave" ... a station which plays New Wave bands of the late 70s and 80s. Perfect.
And "Hairnation"... 80's hair bands..... but my latest love. "Super Shuffle"
It plays random music from a variety of genres.... Hank Williams to Weezer and everything in between.
I thought I'd be listening to Howard Stern more, but I'm not exactly a morning person, either.
JK, your thoughts on XM?
August 14, 2006
What makes good software?
Posted by AlexC at 10:05 PM
July 28, 2006
Top 25 of the Last 25
How about another blast from the past?
eWeek picks the top 25 products of the last 25 years.
June 30, 2006
French Apple Pie
Both the Senate and the National Assembly, France's lower house, voted in favor of the copyright bill, which some analysts said could cause Apple Computer Inc. and others to pull their music players and online download stores from France.
The vote was the final legislative step before the bill becomes law — barring the success of a last-ditch constitutional challenge filed last week by the opposition Socialists.
Currently, songs bought on iTunes can be played only on iPods, and an iPod can't play downloads from other stores that rival the extensive iTunes music catalog from major artists and labels — like Sony's Connect and Napster.
In a just world, Apple would stop selling iPods in France out of spite.
But alas, I predict capitulation.
Posted by AlexC at 4:40 PM
June 2, 2006
Libertarians and Uranium
March 14, 2006
iTunes Music Store
Few things are more annoying than government regulation the operation of a company.
Under a draft law expected to be voted in parliament on Thursday, consumers would be able to legally use software that converts digital content into any format.
It would no longer be illegal to crack digital rights management -- the codes that protect music, films and other content -- if it is to enable to the conversion from one format to another, said Christian Vanneste, Rapporteur, a senior parliamentarian who helps guide law in France.
"It will force some proprietary systems to be opened up ... You have to be able to download content and play it on any device," Vanneste told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday.
It's too bad most companies don't have the guts to say, "F-you France. No iTunes for you!"
If this passes, expect the unexpected.