Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Which Linux (For My Business)

This article is a decent answer to the question, Which Linux should I choose for my business?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Using the Macbook Pro

A series of blog posts on ZDnet Hardware 2.0 by Adrian Kingsley-Hughs on using the MacBook Pro.

Visible Proper Motion of Stars at Galactic Center

Amazing! Visible proper motion of stars at our galactic center!

CHARA Measures Size of Exoplanet

The CHARA array was used to measure the diameter of the planet's primary star HD 189733 and thus infer the diameter of the orbiting planet!

Interesting QM Interpretation

This is an interesting interpretation of quantum mechanics. Hm. My first reaction is to be old-fashioned and think that our traditional explanations are good enough, however there may be something of value here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Shuttleworth Talks About Granny's New Camera

This is an insightful, brief post on Mark Shuttleworth's blog about hardware support on Linux.

Shuttleworth's blog: Here Be Dragons.

Who is Mark Shuttleworth?

iPhone and Beyond

Okay, I actually watched the entire MacWorld keynote about the iPhone. It's the first time I've ever watched the whole thing (that I can remember). I have to admit, it's the coolest thing I've seen in a while.

I think they are getting closer to a converged, single, personal device that does all of what you want to do. There is amazing technology built into this device. Apple has raised the bar to a new level and I think others will quickly follow (as they did the iPod) and as closely as they can without violating the 200 patents Apple mentioned.

The biggest question for me is, How well does the touch screen keyboard actually work? It looks pretty good, but I'd have to actually hold one in my hands and try it. For pointing (not typing) I personally don't mind the stylus approach. It's very precise, cleaner (not rubbing my greasy fingers on my display!), and is using a familiar tool in a familiar way. (BTW, I don't mean that my fingers are abnormally greasy, but all human fingers are. Thus the fingerprints made famous in crime fighting…).

The next question is the browser. It's fantastic to have a full-featured browser on that platform. But I wonder if the little zoom feature would become tiring and bothersome after a while. There's no question that an iPhone for on-line web work and browsing would be **great** if you had nothing else available. That's not the same as having an alternative that you happily use all the time.

Also, IMHO the iPhone is too expensive to buy, but it will bring interesting things to the market that are significantly cheaper. Look at all the MP3 players that follow the iPod and Windows Vista's GUI chasing after Apple's OS X.

Here's one fascinating project that's already in the queue: Moko. The really interesting news here is that's it's an open platform that developers can, uh, develop on. Now that will be interesting.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Comet McNaught C/2006 P1!

Comet McNaught C/2006 P1 is getting very bright! It's low in the dawn sky just before sunrise, and a little tricky to see. In spite of that, recent predictions have it as bright as Venus!

(The top picture is by P-M Heden and was published in skytonight.com. The below diagram is from January's Surprise Comet by Roger W. Sinnot, skytonight.com).


Amanda sends a link to this article about the mysterious number 6174. Hah.

What Really Happened on Mars

This is a story about troubleshooting a system-level computer problem.

This is a fascinating article by Mike Jones about the Pathfinder system resets that occurred. The problem was a race condition around a mutex. The article is a quick read and interesting story. It also describes a very typical system problem and what it's like to figure it out.

The Lessons Learned section is the best part!

Goodbye Pegasus Mail

It looks like development of Pegasus is coming to an end. Pmail brought desktop-friendly email to many users as our campus evolved to desktop PCs, connected by LANs and file servers (Novell) which were then connected into a campus-wide internet.

As time went by, Pegasus (actually Mercury probably), became a source of annoyance with issues like only being able to forward email to an IP address and not a host name (and thus not being able to take advantage of our DNS round-robin balancing and DNS fail-over processes at the time).

Monday, January 08, 2007

How To Survive the First Week At Work

This interesting article popped up on my Gmail web clips.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Mozy On-line Backup

Jim told me about Mozy Friday evening. Here's an article pointed to by Tech Web. The offer on-line storage that is free up to 2-GB and then $5/month after that. Very interesting. Your files are encrypted.

Map an IP Address!

Wow, use this site to map (on Google maps) an IP address. It works pretty well. It was off by several buildings at Emory but did get the campus (for my desktop system).

Realistic Android

Here's a pretty realistic android. I also found this video.

D Programming Language

I read an article on this new programming language, D, by Walter Bright, the main developer of the original Zortech C compiler.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Falling Sand

For a lot of fun (and wasted time) try Falling Sand.

Text To Speech

Okay, this is a pretty good text to speech translator.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Here Come Plastic Chips

The Financial Times reports on plastic electronics. Quoting from the article:

By using a cheap and simple set of processing operations to build up layers of circuitry on plastic “substrates” – the material on which circuits are formed – rather than silicon wafers used in conventional microchips, the developments promised to slash the cost of making semiconductors.

The initial products from the factory will be pieces of plastic about A4 size. The basic plastic substrate will be polyethylene terephthalate, a form of plastic used to make drinks bottles.

By 2009 the Dresden plant should be producing 2.2m units of A4-size semiconductor sheets a year. They will initially be used as flexible “control circuitry” for large displays the size of a piece of paper that can hold large amounts of information – equivalent to thousands of books.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tidal Power

I've always been fascinated with the rotation of the earth as a source of energy. There is a lot of energy stored there that we could use. Of course the environmental impact, eventually, could be quite huge. I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation one time and there was indeed an immense amount of energy to be had if you only slowed the earth enough to extend the length of a year by one second! The earth is already running that much slower than our standard time as illustrated by the leap seconds we now have to add sometimes twice a year!

The easiest way to use the earth's rotation as a source of energy is based on tides. Tidal forces extend the water surface of the earth into an oblong, extended shape which in cross-section looks like a big cam. Let something float up and down on that cam to drive a generator and you're done!

Most real-life approaches more efficiently use the in- and out-flow of water during tides. The New York Times has a video of a recent installation of such generators. Wikipedia also covers tidal generators quite well.

I'm still curious about the details of the energy transfer here. During normal tides (see the Wikipedia article) energy is transferred from the earth's rotation to the moon's orbit. The moon slowly moves to a higher, longer-period orbit and the earth slows down. So the earth is already slowing.

Thus the question is, when we steal tidal energy, where does it come from? Are we slowing down the earth more than normal, or are we just stealing some of the energy that would have been transferred to the moon. I suspect it's a combination of both.

If we are just stealing the energy that would have been transferred to the moon, then I think the environmental impact is inconsequential. Who cares if the moon's orbit doesn't get larger! If that's an important natural process, then I suspect no human has discovered what it is yet.

If we are slowing the earth down more, then that's a different matter and my opinion is that we just use caution and don't get carried away to the point that we end up with a 48-hour day. That might be a problem.

Figuring out where tidal energy comes from is an interesting problem to think about. I'll have to dedicate some cycles to it from time to time.

Where does the energy we use end up?

I suspect that most of the energy that we “use” ends up being radiated into space as electromagnetic energy of one form or other. Some of it goes into chemical changes on earth, including, unfortunately, in the atmosphere in some cases (but with questionable significance).

We increase the entropy of the universe in this way, particularly since much of that energy is thermal in nature.

However, as has been pointed out, the entropy of the universe is already nearly maximum due the cosmic microwave background. These other changes are insignificant, tiny steps closer to the max.

(The illustration above was drawn by me using Windows Paint).