Monday, December 29, 2008

Frank Borman Interview

An excellent interview with Frank Borman.


Rick sent me this video of The Edgar Winter Group performing Frankenstein!

Sunday, December 28, 2008


From this post by Mark Guzdial, JavaGami looks interesting.

Installing Your Own Apps on Android

Question: How do I install my own apps, that I've written, onto my Android phone?


Ubuntu Releases, Versions, and Names

I can never remember the various Ubuntu release names, their version numbers, and the correlations. It's all at this site:

Here's a partial list:

  • Ubuntu 6.06.2 LTS (Dapper Drake)
  • Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft)
  • Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn)
  • Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon)
  • Ubuntu 8.04.1 LTS (Hardy Heron)
  • Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex)

Even older releases are at this site:

The releases themselves are.

  • Ubuntu 4.10 (Warty Warthog)
  • Ubuntu 5.04 (Hoary Hedgehog)
  • Ubuntu 5.10 (Breezy Badger)
  • Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft)
  • Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn)
The current release is the Intrepid Ibex.

Ubuntu 9.04 will be Jaunty Jackalope.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hello World from Android

This is my first post and Internet message of any kind from the Google Android phone.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice!

The winter solstice this year occurred this morning at Sunday 21 Dec 2008 07:04 EST (12:04 UTC).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lights on Computers

Hah!  Something just occurred to me.

In the old days, even in the 70s when I first became exposed to computers, it was normal to represent the contents of memory registers as blinking lights.  By the 70s these were red LEDs of course, which were lower power.

These days equipment has lights but it's usually a flashing LED for network activity on a port, power lights, run status lights, and such.

But what if a modern computer was attached to a display that had an LED for every bit in every CPU register!  What would that look like?  Well, at CPU speed the changes would be so fast that all of the LEDs would probably all glow at a nearly equal continuous glow.  If some bits were statistically more often a one or zero, they would be slightly brighter or dimmer than average.  So you'd actually have to, I suppose, just periodically sample register state to get actual blinking.

With 32-bit and 64-bit registers and lots of them, it would be an interesting display.  With today's absurd multi-colored LEDs, it would also be a pretty display.

LEDs are also absurdly bright now.  In the HPC ELLIPSE cluster at Emory, each X2200 had a bright green LED which was pretty much too bright to look at.  Due to the color of green and the brightness of these lights, I'm convinced they are the same LEDs that are used in green traffic lights.

They also had locator lights (which you can flash with software to find a particular machine—a common feature on high-density, clustered machines these days).  The locator light was a blueish white LED that's as bright as what they use in those new flashlights, meaning it was like a spot light!

Lost in Space! and the Burroughs B-205

My long time friend Phillip told me about IMDB featuring all the full episodes of Lost in Space!  The streaming is actually by Hulu.  This is actually a great Christmas present!

I hadn't seen this show very much over the years and it was one of my favorites in the past.  

It was interesting to watch the two pilots.  The first pilot was pretty laid back and almost like Disney's Swiss Family Robinson, no accident I'm sure!  It appears as Episode 0 in this list.

Then they produced a second pilot ,which wrote in both Dr. Smith and the Robot, and takes the form of a two-part series.  Looking down the epidode list it appears that they reused the removed sections from the first pilot in later shows during the first season.

The first pilot also used the theme music from The Day the Earth Stood Still which made it sort of neat.  The real jet pack, the Bell Rocket Belt, appears in the first pilot, too, though not really operating of course—it's a dummy suspended on a wire or something like that.

I was  struck by the computers that appeared in Alpha Control and again in the Jupiter Two space ship.  When I looked these up, I found they were actually consoles from the Burroughs B-205!  It turns out that the B-205 was used in many TV shows and movies like Batman, The Time Tunnel, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, and more!  I now realize that this machine strongly influenced my idea of what a computer looked like in the mid-60s.

The B-205 was a fascinating decimal-based computer (not binary really) with rotating-drum memory, i.e., no electronic memory in the usual sense!  Numbers were made up of decimal digits represented by four-bit bytes (which means some patters were left over of course).

The console displays the registers and their bit patterns with lights, as many computers did in those days.

The Lost in Space autographed picture is from

The Burroughs console is from the TV show Batman, 20th Century Fox Television, Greenway Production, ABC, and DC Comics.

A-Z of Programming Languages

Techworld has been featuring a series of interviews with the creators of various programming langauges.  It's hard to find a “home page” for the series but here's the most recent page, I think.

The interviews aren't excellent and are repetitive at times, they are probably done by email, but still interesting reads particularly when you place the various authors' responses side by side.  Warning, the Stroustrup interview is interesting but almost unbearably long.  It's not really that long but it seems that way sometimes.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rocket Man

It's pretty much old news now, but rocket man Yves Rossy crossed the English Channel using his back-mounted rocket wings on 26 Sep 2008.

Unfortunately, on the National Geographic video (and on the TV show which I actually watched) I think they looped in a rocket sound while he was flying. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What's All This Fuss About Erlang?

A nice article on Erlang on the Pragmatic Programmers.

Quote of the Day

The economy outside is frightful, but our machines are so delightful…

Which Programming Paradigm

Once again this age old question comes up on Slashdot with a focus on the question of which paradigm should be learned, imperative, OOP, or functional.  The usual discussions of various languages ensues.

There was also this discussion of programming languages (“for Linux”).

Here's a book!  In one of the posts, this book (which is said to be used for the introductory programming class at MIT) is linked to:   Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs by Albelson, Sussman and Sussman, MIT Press, 1996.  The entire text is on-line.

My Humble Opinion

Oh, you want to know what I think?

I think the order should be:
  1. Imperative language
  2. OOP
  3. I'm not even sure about functional yet, but it should probably be learned at some point.

I would add the principles of structured programming into the process of learning procedural programming using the imperative language.

What language do I currently think should be taught as a first programming language?

What order did I learn in?

Please note this caveat:  I'm not suggesting this as an order that should be followed now.  The years over which I learned these languages span from the mid 1970s to the present and this order is strongly linked to the history of the development of programming and languages.

Focusing on mainly the languages that mattered somehow, and skipping those that I dabbled in some.
  2. BASIC (almost immediately after)
  3. Pascal (structured programming)
  4. Modula-2  (modules!)
  5. C   (and the world of UNIX)
  6. Objective-C  (my first OOPL)
  7. Perl   (more real work than in any other language)
  8. Smalltalk (OO purity)
  9. Python  (The same slot as Perl)

I learned BASIC on the CDC Cyber mainframe computer and in later years used it on micro computers.  (Remember when they were called micro computers?  Hah.  I wonder when that term went out of use?  Probably around the time the so-called micros became more powerful than the mainframes&hellip).

What about LISP?  Well, I learned it around the same time that I learned Pascal, but never did a whole that was useful with it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chrome is now my Default

I've now made Google Chrome the default browser on the two Windows systems that I regularly use at home, one of which is my main desktop system.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Internal IT Departments

I enjoyed this line quote from an industry analyst by Jerry Pournelle in his Chaos Manor Reviews regarding cloud computing.

…with business groups doing end-runs around their Soviet-style lethargic, inefficient, overpriced internal IT departments in order to get things done quickly and more cheaply.

Star Trek Trailers

Here is a trailer on YouTube for the new Star Trek movie.

While looking for it, I also found this trailer for new remastering of the original series.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ice Age

Jerry Pournelle comments on the ice age.

We are back to ice: there is now serious but not conclusive evidence, convincing to some, that the only thing preventing a new ice age is CO2; and we are busily removing CO2. Now admittedly the serious studies anticipate this happening over a fairly long time period. On the other hand, all the historical evidence is that ice ages happen fast. England went from deciduous trees to frost plains to ice in well under a hundred years, and to kilometers of ice in another hundred. There is similar evidence from lakes in Belgium. When the ice comes, it comes fast.

Note that climate changes are odd. A few miles south of the ice wall average temperatures were not all that much colder than they are now. The ice didn't extinguish life; but it sure made large parts of Europe and North America uninhabitable. Ice is a [far] greater threat than a few degrees of temperature rise between [now] and the end of the century. Prudence demands that we continue to look at the CO2 rise. Prudence also demands that we not wreck the global economy in order to play carbon restriction games that, according to even the most optimistic models, will have only a tiny effect on the average temperature of the Earth in 2090.

Spam Host Cut Off

The Washington Post reports on the disconnection of one of the key spam sites.

E-mail security firm IronPort said spam levels fell by roughly 66 percent as of Tuesday evening., another spam watch dog, found a similar decline, from about 40 spam e-mails per second to around 10 per second.


Multiple security researchers have recently published data naming McColo as the host for all of the top robot networks or "botnets," which are vast collections of hacked computers that are networked together to blast out spam or attack others online. These include SecureWorks, FireEye and ThreatExpert.

Reports by Joe Stewart, director of malware research for Atlanta-based SecureWorks, said that these known botnets: Mega-D, Srizbi, Pushdo, Rustock and Warezov, "have their master servers hosted at McColo.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beautiful Shooting Star

Look at this video from a lecture on the space station, which provides nice food for thought the next time you see an impressive meteor…

Unicode Planet Symbols

I found the planets in unicode UTF-8.

They are around u+263F: See this table.

☿ ♀ ♁ ♂ ♃ ♄ ♅ ♆ ♇ and of course ☽ and ☉

Also ♗ symbols.

Toshiba Time Sculpture Commercial

This is Toshiba's time sculpture commercial.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The 30 Hottest Toys for Babies, Kids and Teens

From Yahoo Shopping, this year's Thirty Hottest Toys for Babies, Kids and Teens.


I think I understand most of the ideas and advantages of functional programming, which I've been exposed to a lot lately. I have this feeling of not being completely sold and I find a programming system with, ideally, no inputs and outputs extremely annoying. A pure functional program is a black box that nothing goes into and nothing comes out of. That's something only a mathematician could love.

Yet, here I am reading and working through Real World Haskell by O'Sullivan, Stewart, and Goerzen, which is a complete, on-line version of a book that is yet to be published by O'Reilly. The book is complete though a little slow in the sense that the presentation tries to be as thorough and clear as possible, almost to a fault.

The authors have done an interesting thing in putting this copy on-line. It is an interactive copy that allows anyone to post comments about any section of the book which means suggestions for improvements, corrections to errors and such. Fascinating! Thus the book is extremely well reviewed though, in fact, it may be a little overdone. But maybe not. Functional programming starts off simple and easy then rapidly gets weird, so maybe this is exactly what's needed.

See Also:

Tim O'Reilly Radar

Evince in Ubuntu Does OCR

Wow! I did it without thinking then suddenly realized I had selected and copied text from a scanned document PDF, that I was viewing, and pasted the text into an email message!

The document viewer is Evince. You'd never know that's its name without looking, but it's the program you run if you open a PDF file on Ubuntu. It does OCR of text on the fly if you cut and paste it. I had no idea!

I wonder if the Adobe Acrobat viewer does the same thing? I'll have to check.

As usual, the OCR wasn't perfect. It interpreted a decimal point as a comma, or maybe it was just converting to European…

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Underground Lab To Probe Ratio of Matter To Antimatter

Okay, first of all, upon reading this headline, I can't help but think this is a BAD idea!  If you are going to start mixing matter and antimatter, I think underground is not the best place to do it.  I'd much rather see this research conducted at, oh... say, the orbit of Jupiter!   ...preferrably on the opposite side of the Sun from Jupiter!

Of course the reality is that this is an underground liquid xenon neutrino observatory.   Interesting.

Jay Walker's Library

From Wayne.  Words fail me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thunderbird Video

Since the Thunderbirds are in town this weekend (no, I didn't get to go see them), I went looking for videos on-line.  Here are some pretty nice ones.

Google Testing Blog

If you are interested in programming and testing (and you should be interested in the latter if you are interested in the former!), then check out the Google Testing Blog.  There's useful, public information there!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quote of the Day

The purpose of programming is to turn caffeine into error messages.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Canyon Defense

Okay, this is pretty fun, actually.  Canyon Defense.

African Meteor

Jerry Pournelle's Mail has a report on the African bolide at least to date.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Scratch Programming for Kids!

The question is often debated these days: We no longer have computers with good old BASIC, which many folks learned programming from. What's available now for kids to learn programming?

This is a pretty interesting solution, and it's targeted for ages 8 and up. Scratch from MIT.

Programs are built with little tiles (like Lego Blocks) and include features like sound, visual graphics effects, animation.

I've imagined something like this and they seem to have pulled it off extremely well! It's pretty fun, too!

Oh, and if you were familiar with Logo in the 70s, this is very reminiscent.

IT Crowd on IFC

I discovered that the cable channel IFC is showing the original IT Crowd!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The G1 Phone

T-Mobile announced the G1 yesterday.

I've linked to lots of comments in my More Shared Reader (which always appears in the links to the right here).

I like having a QWERTY keyboard.  That's the main reason I have a Blackberry now instead of an iPhone (since I had the choice).

The openness of Android is an important key.  The expectation is that lots of amazing software will be written by people all over, applications and extentions to the OS itself.

However, it did have the feel of an iPhone want-to-be sort of like Windows was like a Mac-OS want-to-be in years gone by.  What's missing is something that shows how the G1 exceeds the capabilities of the iPhone.

Of course there's room in the world for more than one kind of hand-held device, and having at least two big ones is a good thing.

Photo from Endgadget.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Brad told me about Spore. Wow!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Quote of the day

Pressing On. Press “On” Twice = “Off”

—Ron Jeffries from

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Well, the Chrome browser is finally here. I haven't been able to use it at work since I don't have a Windows machine there, so I'm finally trying it out at home. So far, it's okay.

My favorite feature is the use of separate processes for tabs. No more seemingly eternal pauses, with my browser completely frozen!, while Adobe Acrobat loads because I accidentally clicked a link to a PDF file! One tab might lock up but the others will hum along nicely.

Here's an interesting post regarding the relationship of Chrome to Google and how it does and doesn't “phones home.”

Am I a convert? It's hard to say. I really like Firefox 3! Especially on the Mac. There's definitely a long pause after clicking on Firefox 3 when it starts up, and Chrome doesn't have that. It seems faster during normal use, but I haven't checked that objectively.

Cnet has checked the speed, at least of the V8 Javascript engine.

The Wired article.

The neat comic book. It's not a fast read but the presentation is nice and clever and the techical content is quite good. This is part of the announcement.

Friday, August 29, 2008

21st Century Moments

Most of my life, I dreamed of what it would be like living in the 21st century. Lots of things didn't happen. I don't live on the Moon, Mars or a space station. There's not a city-sized space station. Cities don't have lots of domes. There are no flying cars. You don't see robots everywhere, at least anthropomorphic robots.

Some things did come true in weird ways. Satellite dishes do dot the city-scape, though they are tiny. We all have communicators and computers are pretty smart. We do talk to computers and they talk back, but usually just on the phone.

Laser and other energy weapons supposedly exist, but only in the military and they haven't seen widespread use…yet.

The world is surprisingly normal in many ways. Still, I often wonder what I'd think if my self from 40 years ago could be transported here to the present.

The out-of-the-park, surprise twist in the development of human technology, during my life's span, is the information age and the Internet. In the science fiction stories of my youth, computers and communication were minor elements against the main motif of the space age. The reality, of course, is that it's the other way around! I didn't expect to be living in the information age and I'm sure that my 40-year-ago self wouldn't even understand the web or the Internet, at least initially.

Still, every now and then, I experience an unmistakeable “21st century moment.”
  • A campus police officer glides past me on a Segway.
  • Everytime I read something (which is nearly everything) on-line, including books, news articles (which would have been in papers or magazines).
  • When I use my Blackberry.
  • When I experience wall-sized video displays at work, which are usually created with projectors.
  • When I use my cell phone to call a family member in a different part of the house.
  • When I play chess against the Chessmaster program on my cell phone.
  • Driving past digital LED billboards.
  • Watching HD TV, including programs recorded on the DVR.
  • Every time I look at one of our laptops.
There are more of course. I'll post them from time to time.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Spanair Crash

As reported in The Australian, regarding the problem with the MD-82's aborting it's first takeoff attempt before they finally tried again and crashed.

One day after the crash, Spanair gave new information about the initial attempt to take off. Spokesman Javier Mendoza said an air-intake gauge under the cockpit had detected overheating while the jet was taxiing, causing the plane to turn back.

Technicians corrected the problem by essentially turning the gauge off.

Well, there you go. They solved that problem.

Friday, August 22, 2008

RIP Bell Labs?

A news article in Nature reports that “…after a string of staff departures, physicists claim that the once iconic Bell Laboratories has finally pulled out of basic science.”

This is sad.

In rebuttle, “…officials at Alcatel-Lucent, Bell's parent company, say that reports of the lab's death are greatly exaggerated. Fundamental science remains, but it has moved away from physics, says Gee Rittenhouse, vice-president of research at Bell Labs. ‘We've shifted the fundamental research over to include mathematics, computer science, networking and wireless,’ he says.”

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Smalltalk Notes

Okay, I learned how to keep notes. You open a Workspace (not a Morphic Workspace). You can then type right into it and it becomes part of the GUI environment. You can also execute code in it.

Quote of the Day

There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary numbers and those who don't!

—seen in a signature, unattributed

Two Robots and a Roach

Okay, WALL·E, was incredibly great! The movie industry has now caught up with and exceeded my imagination! The computer animation was exquisite. The story was wonderful. The references to space and particulary to 2001 were very entertaining. I'm sure it was filled with references that I didn't catch. It's a movie that I would expect to watch many times over.

An unexpected bonus is that our neighborhood has upgraded some (or all) cinemas to DLP so this was the first time I've seen a digital movie at the cinema. That made it even more amazing. If it's possible to see this movie in DLP, don't watch it any other way!

WALL·E himself reminded me a lot of the Mars rover in that excellent animation that was done a few years ago. There were some of the neat little focusing tricks that caught my eye in that film. I guess they will quickly become another cliche, if they haven't already. Now that I think of it, they used them all the time in Battlestar Galactica (the new TV series).

The endless technology motif was just fun. It was very well done and enjoyable to watch.

I loved the references to 2001: A Space Odyssey. My only minor disappointment was that I hoped they would tie into the memory bank scene in 2001, one of my favorites. Alas, it wasn't there unless it was so subtle I missed it.

One criticism and the only major astronomical error was that they included a spinning, spiral galaxy—seeing one spin of course would be an impossibility. If it takes light 100,000 years to cross the diameter of a typical grand spiral, they are guaranteed to always appear solidly frozen in human time frames. And remember, even clouds and minute hands appear stationary to us, and they actually move pretty fast! If we aren't going to see an hour hand move we certainly wouldn't see the motion of a 250-million-year hand (which is the galactic orbital period of the sun).

After the movie itself was over, I then experienced my jaw dropping (all the way down to the sticky floor) during the credits. Absolutely fantastic! And even the opening Magic Castle Disney logo is now exquisitely beautiful.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Using Restructured Text

Okay I mentioned restructured text earlier. Now I've actually used it, but initially it wasn't installed on my Ubuntu system.

This fixed that problem.

sudo apt-get install python-docutils

Then I was able to use rst2html to convert documents to HTML.

More Smalltalk

Is Smalltalk the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything? It might be.

I learned how to write iterators that implement the do: method and unit testing with SUnit is going well. I can now do full TDD (test-driven development) in Smalltalk!

I do notice pauses sometimes and I wonder if that's Squeak's garbage collector kicking in.

Here are things I don't know how to do, or have a concern about:
  • Keep notes, like a notebook, in the workspace. Maybe Transcript will work like this, I thought I did that before, but that may not be the best way. I should go through a tutorial on Squeak.
  • The name space for classes isn't hierarchical (I think) like, say in Python (or Perl or Java). That's slightly annoying since you can't easily compartmentalize your class names but they are more “global.”
  • The workspace can become polluted with junk if you continually create objects (for testing and such) and don't delete them. Sort of like a Windows XP system. I think the solution is to (carefully) save all of your code into a library of some kind, make a new image and reload everything. (Again, sort of like Windows XP).
What's next:

  1. Learning Monticello! That's the package management system like Bazaar.
  2. Sharpen up on the syntax. I'm still confused about about when to use () vs. []. Well, maybe I'm not. I think the former is for grouping expressions and the latter is for statement blocks. However, if everything is an object and method (it is), then an expression sure seems like it's a statement block to me! Oh well, maybe I don't understand it.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Wall-E, Batman and Iron Man

Okay, two people who's opinions I follow have said Wall-E is one of the best movies (ever?) and the best Pixar/Disney movie yet, so I guess I'll go see it.

I went and saw (Batman) The Dark Knight last week. Though it was well done, on first viewing I found that I didn't enjoy it that much. It also seemed very long to me. When I thought the movie was at the end, it seemed to go on for another whole movie.

When I was a kid I was a huge Batman fan. He was my number one comic book hero for some time. Of course there was major bat-mania with the TV show coming out. The last time I read a Batman comic book was probably around 1970, so that's where my familiarity with the written mythology ends.

I wasn't crazy about the first movie in this new series when I saw it at the theater, too, but I came to like it more on subsequent viewing. Maybe I'll like this one more, too, after seeing it again.

I will say that the way they incorporated the characters I was familiar with was pretty clever. Also, the guy playing the Joker probably deserves the praise I've heard for his acting in that role. The underlying themes in the story were also admirable and somewhat clever, so I have to give them a bit of credit for that. I thought the cell-phone thing was way too hokey and pretty cheap for a plot element. I also found it unbelievable that the Joker was that hard for anyone to catch and that the underground criminals didn't simply get rid of him.

In contrast to all of that, I saw Iron Man earlier in the summer and found that to be a completely enjoyable movie. It was one of the best “comic book” movies I've ever seen, maybe the best. I could watch it over and over, I'm sure.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Squeak Again

Surprisingly, Perl-guy Randall Schwartz has become very excited about Smalltalk and is a Squeak user. I've been interested in Squeak from time to time. Now I'm all spun up over Squeak again!

Here's an interesting video of a talk (there's also audio here) by Schwartz.

I've been learning about SUnit, Squeak's unit testing framework.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Squeak Development Tutorial

This is a fantastic development tutorial, A Development Example for Squeak 3.9, by Stephan B. Wessels. It's highly illustrated (almost to a fault) and quite complete.

Early History of Smalltalk

This is an article that documents The Early History of Smalltalk by Alan C. Kay.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Google Indexes One Trillion Web Pages

Google announces that their index has passed the one trillion mark.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Python Success Story

This is an interesting Python success story in Pythonology about the Wing IDE.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Firefox 3 Continued

So far, so good. It doesn't seem to have the memory leakage I was seeing with Firefox 2 on Windows XP. I've gone on and upgraded to Firefox 3 at work as well, on my desktop and on my Macbook Pro laptop.

For the Ubuntu systems I'll probably just want for upgrading to the current versions of Ubuntu so that all of the libraries are in place, etc.

On the Mac laptops, I'll ask the familiy owners about adding it to them. The Macs should probably come next.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Firefox 3!

Okay, I've taken the plunge and upgraded to Firefox 3, at least on one machine—my Windows XP workstation at home.

I thought I'd give it a spin among promises of better performance. So far, most importantly, I haven't experienced anything not working.

I had to re-install the Google Toolbar which was simple and not a surprise.

I read through all of the features, release notes, etc. Nothing among the features is particularly exciting to me. It seems like there's some overlap between Firefox functionality and Google Toolbar functionality. I hope that doesn't cause any conflicts or confusion.

So far I haven't experienced any problems. It seems faster, but that's very subjective. I didn't think to check my memory usage before upgrading but, quickly firing up Task Manager, memory usage doesn't look recognizably higher than normal.

I'll see how things go. If all is well, I'll start to upgrade on other systems. I suppose the MacBook Pro would be next.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Amazon EC2 Spam Problems

From this blog posting and this article on Slashdot, it looks like Amazon is having trouble with spammers creating machine instances on the EC2 and blasting out spam.

I think the approach of dealing with accounts is the solution. Amazon either needs to block email ports on an account basis (instead of by IP address or machine instance), or they need to limit, disable or otherwise slow down those accounts and their instances.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Solstice at 23:59 UTC!

Happy Summer Solstice! It occurs today 20 June 2008 at 23:59 UTC = 19:59 EDT, almost exactly at 0:00!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Streetview for Metro Atlanta

How Google Maps has Streetview covering much of Metro Atlanta! For better or worse, they haven't quite made it to our house yet.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Phineas and Ferb

The funniest cartoon (joining Sponge Bob, The Fairly Odd Parents) is now Phineas and Ferb.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Missing Greeks

So here's a question that plagues me: What happened to Catherine Alpha Jones through Catherine Epsilon Jones?

Stargate Is Moving Again

I've been experiementing with Google Sites and decided to try implementing a Sites-based version of Stargate. Now the new Stargate is well on it's way to being done. I have to say, it's not bad and I may just move to Sites as the “official site” for Stargate.

I like the ability to update the site from a web browser from any location. This is in contrast the the current method where I log into a server where my source files are located, edit the source, regenerate the page or pages, then upload them to various web servers.

There are also some nice “free” features like the Site Map and Recent changes. The ability to add a blog made Site News trivially easy to implement. An additional advantage is that pages are organized into a hieararchy. And, of course, site searching is built in.

I really lucked out on the fact that there is a Theme that is a nice match for my previous color scheme so it almost looks like an intentional next step in site evolution. I miss the light yellow color though, which was taken from the core of the M100 galaxy in the picture I use as a logo.

I was worried about how to implement my Email Me form, but this also turned out to be a quick solution with Google Docs Spreadsheet and a Form (which is integrated right into Sites). Further, it's possible to have the spreadsheet to notify you by email when it changes so, voila!, an email form!

I have to reluctantly admit that the changes in the new layout, somewhat forced by the Sites style, is probably more usable.

The biggest downside is that I'm manually having to copy over and edit the data. I can semi automate it and by copying HTML and directly editing HTML on the sites pages, it does go faster for some lists and such. Most of the work involves editing out the CSS references from my HTML snippets.

The next question is: What do I do with the old site? Should I set it to redirect to the new Sites location? (Probably). I'll put up a this-site-has-moved message with the new URL then later maybe just code a redirect.

Google Grand Opening in Lenoir, NC

Google had their grand opening event for their data center in Lenoir, NC.

News article
TV Video (requires Windows Media)

More Sender-Stored Email

I was thinking about sender-stored email again. It occured to me how you could throw away SMTP and implement a whole new protocol pretty easily. The idea is partly inspired by OpenID.

It's also inspired by the fact that, instead of an email address, I've been using a URL for a number of years. If you want to send me email (and I don't know you) you go to that URL and fill out a form.

User A at Site S wants to send email to user B at Site T.

Previously, A@S would send email to B@T. It would go to an outbound email server at Site S, then be relayed to the exchange server for site T, then perhaps relayed through multiple servers inside T's location, until finally it was delivered to an inbox on an email server. At some later point, Users B would read their email and retrieve the message from the inbox.

In the new scheme, user B doesn't have an email address per se. They simply have a URL. It can be some arbitrary URL or such as, or some generic email site like, or a corp address maybe like,

Now, when A sends email to B, A's client simply POSTs a message to the URL using HTTP. The message contains these fields:

  • From - The sender's name and possibly return URL
  • (optional) To Name - Who the message it to.
  • Subject
  • Message URL - The URL of the message we are sending
This brief information goes into T's ``inbox.'' This is the only information required to be stored on the recipient's site. This inbox can be a simple table of data.

To read the message from A, user B accesses the URL in the message. This allows retrieving the email message with all of its headers. I've listed them before but here are some of the immediate advantages.

  • The recipient immediately knows who the message is coming from (because they get it from the source site). Based on the URL, if they decide it's spam, they can choose not to read it.
  • The message doesn't travel over the network until the last minute, when it's read. It efficiently travels directly to the recipient and completely under the recipient's control.
  • The message is stored once by the sender A.
  • However, the recipient does have the option of keeping their own copy if they want to.
  • Any attachments are naturally additional URLs to retrieve them. The recipient can verify if the attachments are from the same site or not.
  • Encryption is easy: (HTTPS).
  • Authentication of the recipient is easy (B has to sign into A's site).
  • This uses existing protocols and infrastructure. Most work is done by web servers.
And there's this big advantage.

There's no message store-and-forward or routing. The recipient's address is a URL and the sender connects to it directly.

The only new software required here is two pieces. There is the software that is posted to and that displays a list of messages. There is also software on the sending end that allows the sender to compose an email message. Then when they send it, the message is put up on the web server (for retrieval by the recipient) and that address is then sent.

Of course, it's possible to write email clients that do all of this behind the scene and make the email-reading experience completely indistinguishable from what currently happens.

Now look at what Site T needs in order for it's occupants to recieve email. In the current implementation of email, the site needs massive amounts of storage to handle all of the messages that arrive on an hourly basis. Messages are stored seperately (sometimes) for each recipient.

With the new scheme, Site T could simply give each user a browser and would only need to store a table of received messages.

This idea could easily be phased in along side existing email and with a bit of coding, it could be done transparently to the user. The cost savings and efficiency gains would be huge.

References: My previous Email Ideas posting and

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Restructured Text

I'm not sure how I missed restructured text. This seems to be Python's answer to POD (Perl's Plain Old Documentation).

After five minutes of looking at it, it looks basically okay. The emphasis seems to be more on being readable in it's text (input) format. In other words, a marked up document is readable even before you render it as HTML, PostScript, etc. That's somewhat in opposition to POD and most Wiki markup (they are very similar to each other) where the emphasis is on easy typing.

I prefer the latter, but maybe with Emacs macros and such the former will be okay. I'm going to try it out.

I bet it doesn't have built-in support for the man page format the way that POD does. We'll see.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Google Innovation in Harvard Business Review

Susan A shared this interesting article in the Harvard Business Review (April 2008): Reverse Engineering Google's Innovation Machine by Bala Iyer and Thomas H. Davenport.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Interesting China/Asias Article

This article in the Daily Mail is an interesting analysis of China's place in the world.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Carl's Table

Fascinating! Check out this desk and chair.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


If you have a partition that's less than 3-GB and you want to install a recent Linux, the answer is Xubuntu! I installed the Gutsy version of Xubuntu and it's using 1.7-GB so far.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Compiling on Ubuntu

If you are running Ubuntu, try to compile a C program, and discover that stdio.h is missing, then you need to execute this command.

apt-get install build-essential

Saturday, March 01, 2008

DTrace on Mac OS X

I recently discovered that Mac OS X Leopard includes support for DTrace tracing.

However, some searching uncovered this post which notes that DTrace is limited to not being able to trace some applications.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Star Wars by a Three-Year-Old

If you've had kids, particularly if your first is a daughter, then this will seem very familiar.

Explanation of Star Wars by a Three-Year-Old.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Impressive Warehouse Fire

I could see this fire as soon as I left our house this morning, over 40 miles away. Wow!

(Oh, click on the link under the picture that says Photos, that takes you to a photo album).

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Primary Delegates Map

Here's a nice interactive map a the Washington Post of primary delegates and who has won them so far.

Here are some more.

  • Time (but it's out of date at the moment)
  • Newsweek (Caution, though they display delegate counts up top, their bar-chart seems to be counting votes and not delegates. ???)
  • NY Times (also not up to date yet)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Okay, a guy I work with, Jon, told me about Bazaar (bzr), which is a version control system. I've been trying it out for several weeks, using at work regularly, and just playing with it at home. I've really come to like it a lot except for one shortcoming noted below.

The web site does a good job of listing the features but here are the ones that I like.

  • Commands are similar to CVS.
  • You don't need a central repository.
  • It's completely written in Python and supports plug-ins.
  • It's very easy to use.
My first version control system was RCS and then around early in this century I migrated to CVS, which was descended from RCS. This will be my third. (Well, not technically. I have used and do use others).

One big paradigm shift involves how version numbers are assigned. In CVS, each file has it's own series of version numbers. For example file1 might be at version 1.4 and file2 might be at 1.20. The only idea of a global version is achieved with tags.

With bzr, even if you only commit changes from file2, if that's version 25, then version 25 represents the state of all files in the project at that point. This has a few implications.
  1. If you list the log of changes for, e.g., file2, you might see it was updated in versions 25, 23, 22, 10, and 7.
  2. You can list the global log of changes which shows comments and which files were changed for ever version number.
  3. It's trivially easy to commit changes since you don't have to list files, but can just do a commit which catches everything. This is more convenient than I ever imagined.
This idea of a global version number rather than a local version number for each file is the way most version control systems work so this represents a paradigm shift for me (hey, a change in thinking!) but I've quickly come to like it.

Bazaar has one shortcoming that is very annoying—it doesn't support RCS keywords. In RCS, you can place text like $Revision$, $Author$, and $Date$ in your file and they will be updated with the current values. I've depended on this over the years and miss it a lot when it's missing. I think files should have their identifying information when printed without having to refer to the on-line version control system.

It's pretty easy to write a little program that edits in this information, say just before committing changes, and indeed I've already written most of it. It could even be made a plugin for Bazaar so I may do that.

In the end, Bazaar is highly recommended for keeping versions of any important files (not just program code).

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Reversing Memory Loss?

This is a fascinating article from The Independent about doctors electrically stimulating a 50-year-old man's brain caused old memories to flood back in vivid detail.

The accidental breakthrough came during an experiment originally intended to suppress the obese man's appetite, using the increasingly successful technique of deep-brain stimulation. Electrodes were pushed into the man's brain and stimulated with an electric current. Instead of losing appetite, the patient instead had an intense experience of déjà vu. He recalled, in intricate detail, a scene from 30 years earlier. More tests showed his ability to learn was dramatically improved when the current was switched on and his brain stimulated.


Professor Lozano said: "This is the first time that anyone has had electrodes implanted in the brain which have been shown to improve memory. We are driving the activity of the brain by increasing its sensitivity – turning up the volume of the memory circuits. Any event that involves the memory circuits is more likely to be stored and retained."
What they don't say in the article is that, as the electrical current was increased, the man forgot the alphabet and asked the scientists, “Can you tell me what kind of cow I am?” At higher currents he simply began yelling “Turn it off! Turn it off!”

Hoary Pogonotrophy

I'm engaged in hoary pogonotrophy.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What Have You Changed Your Mind About? Why?

This is a fascinating question that was discussed in these articles.

Those sites are in increasing order of origin, I believe.

The gist I got is that asking a person this question leads to interesting and important insight at least about the “scientific” aspects of their background. Note that this means scientific in a general sense of thinking and learning, more so than as, say, a professional scientist.

Now I just need to answer the question myself. I'm not sure I have an answer yet. I'll see what I can come up with and report back here.

Two Shared Items Pages from Google Reader

Arg. Okay, I'm now reading, and thus posting, from two different Google Reader accounts. This means I now have two Shared Items pages. Both links are to the right: Shared Google Reader and More Shared Reader. It may be worth looking at both of them.

Maybe someday I'll reorganize my Google life to allow reading and posting from one of them. I might be close to that now.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Build a Computer from the Ground Up

This looks like a really neat book! It teaches you how a computer works while building one (using emulators) starting with logic gates and ending with software. Recommendations are high.

The Elements of Computing Systems: Building a Modern Computer from First Principles
by Noam Nisan and Shimon Schocken, The MIT Press, 2005.

At Amazon.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Laser HDTV

Laser TVs are something we've imagined and anticipated for some time. Now, here's an HDTV version. Maybe there were standard laser TVs in the past that I've just missed.

If this is what I think it is, a TV raster image created with scanned lasers, then I think it has important implications for applications. I was going to suggest what some of those implications were but the more I thought about it just now, the more I realized maybe it's not as straightforward as I thought. More thinking required. 8-/

Monday, January 07, 2008

Human Tetris!

From the It Doesn't Take Much to Entertain Me department: Human Tetris on Youtube.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Python Videos by Jeff Rush

I've only watched this first video, but I found it to be an outstanding first look and code walk through of a simple Python script. It's from a series of videos by Jeff Rush which seem to be quite well done. Check it out and note how powerful a simple Python program can be. The presentation is very well done.

He does use a couple of advanced features:
  • Compiled regular expressions
  • A list comprehension
I'm curious to know if you found they made the example more difficult to follow, or if they were easy to understand.