Archive for July 2008

I’m not Libertarian   Leave a comment

But dang, this is funny (second link downloads a PDF).

Posted July 31, 2008 by padraic2112 in politics

Warrentless Wiretapping, The Irony Edition   Leave a comment

From Yahoo News:

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., produced a translated version of a document from China’s Public Security Bureau that requires hotels to use the monitoring equipment.

“These hotels are justifiably outraged by this order, which puts them in the awkward position of having to craft pop-up messages explaining to their customers that their Web history, communications, searches and key strokes are being spied on by the Chinese government,” Brownback said at a news conference.

Gee, Senator, you sure aren’t outraged at the fact that our government does it. Hell, you voted for it. TWICE. (And against the telecom immunity provision).

I guess you were more worried about your incoming cashflow from AT&T than the American public. Especially since they were so kind as to toss you an extra $15,000 over their 2006 donation. Of course, that had nothing to do with your vote on FISA.

Of course.

Incredibly hilarious that you’re calling out China for what you’ve authorized NSA to do here at home, though.  More on Sammy boy here and here.

(ed note: While Mr. Brownback is a Republican, please note from the voting records linked on the other wiretapping posts on this blog that this is a bipartisan affair).

Posted July 31, 2008 by padraic2112 in news, politics, security

Hot Enough To Fry An Egg   Leave a comment

And then some.

The numbers I’m seeing thrown around (I don’t know how verifiable they are) state 92% solar efficiency, 50 kW per tower, 20 towers per acre. From the article: “Although the sun does not always shine on the solar plant, the company believes that using a heat storage mechanism, they can deliver power around the clock at an estimated production cost of 5 to 10 cents per kilowatt hour.”

That “believes” part might represent a big catch. If not, however… well, maintenance and replacement costs may be significant and prevent wide deployment. The future is not necessarily today.

But it’s soon.

Posted July 31, 2008 by padraic2112 in news, tech

On the Nightstand – A PILE   1 comment

Currently, I am reading (or have just completed) David Weinberger’sEverything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the new Digital Disorder“, E.B. Sledge’sWith The Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa“, Joel Spolsky’sSmart & Gets Things Done“, and Michael Pollan’sThe Omnivore’s Dilemma“.

Here’s the nickel reviews.

Sledge – Five Stars (done).

  • Who should read this: anybody interested in WWII, military history, or who has a relative or friend serving in a war zone.
  • What it’s about: the amphibious landings performed by the US Marines during WWII on the islands of Peleliu and Okinawa.  More specifically, what it was like to be a grunt during those two military actions, fighting an enemy with major philosophical differences when it comes to war.
  • Why it’s a good read: it reminds you that it is normal for “the good guys” to be dehumanized when participating in war.  Sledge describes man’s inhumanity to man in stark terms, without the intention to pass judgment on the actions of the troops, but rather to simply describe what it’s like to have people trying to kill you with guns and bombs while you try to kill them with guns and bombs.  You have to wonder what sorts of stories the troops currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan will write five or ten years from now.
  • Why I read it: there are lots of excerpts from the book in Ken Burn’s “The War”, which Kitty and I finished watching on the DVR recently.

Weinberger: Three.Five Stars (done).

  • Who should read this: people who believe “all of us are smarter than one of us”, people who believe that last statement is a bunch of bunk, and anyone who hasn’t studied set theory and is over 25, because they may not have any idea how the young whippersnappers are going to experience learning different from the way they themselves did.
  • What it’s about: how organizing information and meta information is inherently different in a digital world than the physical world (ie, print media).
  • Why it’s a good read: it’s a pretty decent introductory book on the topic.  I confess I was slightly dissapointed, though… Weinberger has a chance to tackle some big issues here, but glosses over the hard stuff.  The description of the Dewey Decimal system is well done.  His writeup of the implications of the historical publishing models, particularly as they tie to academic publishing is well done… but all he does is throw in the viewpoints, he takes no stand on the issues.  Coming from someone who’s writing a book about a topic that has pretty revolutionary implications on knowledge management and learning, that’s a disservice to the readership.  Plus, he throws the words “information” and “knowledge” around as being equivalent, but the two are not the same.
  • Why I read it: knowledge management is an interesting problem, particularly when it comes to community taxonomies.  I was hoping for a little more meat in here.

Spolsky: Three.Five Stars (done).

  • Who should read this: anyone who hires IT people, particularly programmers.  Anyone who is an executive at a high-tech company.
  • What it’s about: how to find and hire good IT people, particularly programmers.
  • Why it’s a good read: if you’re a technology-centric company, it’s great at explaining how to find and hire people that will actually make a huge difference for your company.  If you’re not Google or Microsoft, and you want to be able to find programmers or IT people who are that caliber of worker (or near it), it’s a pretty good collection of advice.  If, on the other hand, you’re looking for commodity IT work, you’re probably going to get some wrong ideas if you just read this book and think of it as gospel.  Joel does a great job of talking about the top 3% of the pack and how to attract them, but it probably would have been a good idea to include at least a few paragraphs on what the demographics of the pack actually are.  Your org may not need the top 3%.
  • Why I read it: I like Joel’s stuff.

Pollan – Five Stars, with Cluster (still reading)

  • Who should read this: everybody who eats food in the U.S, or pays taxes.
  • What it’s about: a pretty interesting investigation into the agricultural industry in the U.S.  Did you know that about almost of the chemical fertilizer produced in the U.S. goes directly to the corn crop?  The chapters on industrial agriculture, nitrogen fixing, and the implications of the weird market forces created by the USDA’s farm subsidy programs are downright scary.  It doesn’t make much sense to switch cars to ethanol if it takes more petroleum energy to (a) create the fertilizer (b) grow the corn (c) make the ethanol… than it does to just run the car in the first place, now does it?
  • Why it’s a good read: I’m not done, and I haven’t thoroughly hashed through the references in the book, so I can’t say how accurate all of the information is in it yet (if you take the book on face value, you’re liable to get very, very irritated at your local congressperson).  His credentials aren’t science-heavy, but his writing indicates that he knows the basics of agribusiness, economics, and biology… and more importantly he knows how to write a compelling illustratative argument.
  • Why I read it: Kitty read it for her book group, and recommended it.

Posted July 29, 2008 by padraic2112 in books

I Feel The Earth… Move… Under My Feet   2 comments

5.8 Earthquake (centered in Chino Hills, apparently) just rocked my office.  How’s your Tuesday?

[updated – 12:30 pm]

No damage at work or the house.  Apparently the kids didn’t even notice that there was an earthquake.

[updated – 12:40 pm]

Just talked to Dad, and apparently there’s minor damage at brother Tom’s house (broken glasses, general mess, etc.) but otherwise everyone is okay.

Posted July 29, 2008 by padraic2112 in news, noise

Bandstands went out with runnin’ boards!   Leave a comment

Thunderbird got itself into an endless loop today on the home PC, trying to update itself.  Contents of the error message: “One or more files cannot be opened for editing”.

Wow, thanks, that’s very illustrative – can’t you tell me *which* file?  Turned out the culprit was mozMapi32.dll, a file located in Thunderbird’s program files directory.  Something (other than Thunderbird) was locking the file.

A little investigation showed that the root cause of the problem was likely my logitech web cam, killing off the web cam software enabled me to delete the file and do a clean install of Thunderbird

What?  Why in heaven is my web cam software locking files in another program’s directory?   Now, I’m not entirely positive that the root cause is the web cam software, I didn’t test out this theory rigorously.  But a google search shows that logitech software has been suspected as the root cause of update problems for quite some time now.

So, if you have a logitech web cam (or possibly any logitech device; I’ll try to replicate this problem with the web cam uninstalled and the wireless mouse plugged in), expect update problems.  Turn off your web cam software (annoyingly, the easily accessible logitech software does not provide “do not launch at boot” as
an option.

Nice going, dev squad at Logitech.  If in fact you’re the root cause of this problem, you’ve managed to replicate bad behavior that I haven’t seen since late Windows 98… and you’ve left it broken for quite some time now without fixing it.

I’ll try to take the time to verify this post-haste.  If this is the case, I’d have to consider not recommending Logitech devices in general…

Posted July 25, 2008 by padraic2112 in hardware, software, tech

Non Sequitur. Your Facts are Uncoordinated.   Leave a comment

Computerworld reports:

July 24, 2008 (Computerworld) Before the year 2020, scientists are expected to launch intelligent space robots that will venture out to explore the universe for us.

Researchers are working on creating autonomous spacecrafts that will be able to analyze data about points of interest as it passes and then make quick decisions about what needs to be investigated, according to Wolfgang Fink, a physicist and senior researcher at the California Institute of Technology.

Dr. Fink is demonstrably a very smart dude.

Hope they have a hash of the operational code that the bot has to check periodically for integrity to prevent self-destruct.  Otherwise, NOMAD may come visiting someday…

Posted July 24, 2008 by padraic2112 in news, robots, tech

External Monitors and Intel 945/955/965 Chipsets   1 comment

Reinstalling my laptop today and tomorrow, and it reminded me that I ought to have posted about this 8 months ago when it happened.  So, I’m doing it now.

The Intel 945, 955, and 965 mobile graphics chipset is extremely popular in mobile computing.  Odds are fairly good that if you have any sort of “business” level laptop, or anything that’s under $1,000, or any tablet PC, you’ve got one of these babies pushing your video.

I don’t particularly like them (in comparison to nVidia chipsets) for a number of reasons.  The Intel graphics display utility widget is badly designed (the nVidia one is much better).  The chipset uses systems memory to increase its power, instead of having enough RAM on its own (both ATI and nVidia are both better at this), and most damning you can’t run all the games you might like to run on an Intel chipset … but I couldn’t find a tablet PC that I liked, otherwise, so I’m stuck with one.

The “out of the box” driver for the 945 chipset (and above) does not support all of the native resolutions for external monitors.  If you have a laptop and you never hook up an external screen, this is no big deal.  If you have a docking station, though, this can drive you mad.

No 1440×900, no 1680×1250.  If you have a nice widescreen digital flatpanel as an external device, this can make you crazy.

Turns out the fix is pretty easy, you download this driver from Intel and you’re all set.

Posted July 24, 2008 by padraic2112 in hardware, tech, video

He’s dead, Jim   Leave a comment

I bought a tablet PC (a Fujitsu) almost a year ago.  I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve been meaning to blog about it a bit more thoroughly and just haven’t gotten around to it.

Switching over to a tablet is foundationally a major change in how you use your computer.  Normally, when I buy a new machine, I spend a considerable amount of time getting it tweaked *just the way I like it*.  Flip this dial, turn that switch, install this widget, etc.  I didn’t do that with this computer.  Why?  Because I wanted to use it for a while to find out how it was different, so that I could at some point in the future blow it away and reinstall it clean to *just the way I like it*.  I knew that when it came to the tablet, *just the way I like it* was something that was going to be different from non-tablet computing, and I wanted to play with it for a while to find out what those differences were.  More on that in my next post.

Well, I played with it for a year.  I learned a lot of things about my interface with the computer.  I installed a lot of software (some of which I’ll install again, some of which I decided was horrible).  I hooked it up to a number of different peripherals, installed drivers, uninstalled drivers, messed with the registry, etc.  I’ve hacked this thing pretty hard in the last 12 months.

I’ve killed it, finally.  This was expected, so it’s no big deal.  But today I plugged it into my docking station here at work and it’s decided that it can’t recognize my external display’s native resolution (I’ll post about that too, someone else has had this problem).  The difference between 1600 x 1200 and 1650 x 1280 doesn’t seem like a lot, but looking at any display in a non-native resolution is like listening to a symphony with the strings section muted 50%… it drives me nuts.  I reapplied the fix that made this problem go away 8 months ago, no dice.  One of the other devices I’ve installed (the webcam, the wireless mouse, the printer, some native fujitsu driver, whatever) is futzing something up.  That’s more or less normal for a Windows box that’s about a year old, anyway.

So, I have to take off an nuke the entire site from orbit.  It’s long overdue.  It’s going to drive me to make a couple of changes in how I use my computer on a daily basis, instead of doing things halfway between how I used to do them and how I do them now.  I’ll finally be using 80% of the tablet’s functionality.  I’ll actually post a bit about the machine, in hopes that any gentle readers might learn something interesting.

Now if I can just find the installation disk…

Posted July 24, 2008 by padraic2112 in hardware, software, tech, Windows, work

I’ve been ev-very-where, man…   3 comments

Found via UnixRonin:

visited 22 states (44%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

This is only slightly misleading; I’ve been in Chicago, but only for 1:15 minutes while waiting to change planes.  Apparently I have a minor allergy to the plains states that I hadn’t thought about before – I already knew (from visiting Texas) that all summertime journeys require a destination that has a mountain range geologically situated between my route and the Gulf of Mexico.  Gah, the humidity, I don’t know how people stand it.

Posted July 23, 2008 by padraic2112 in noise