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Showing posts from January, 2006

Gmail as an inspiration for comedy

This is akin to what I felt when I found the new 'Delete' button on the Gmail header earlier this week. Along with the thought "what the hell took them so long to put up something so obvious." To delete in the past you had to hit the drop-down "More Actions..." and select Delete from the list, after marking one or more messages. I can only assume that the original design was to enforce the idea that with Google you didn't have to delete any messages. But there are times when you need to clean out the cruft, and creating filters (as opposed to folders) to organize the good out of the bad is a pain in the rear. It's just easier to go in and clean out older messages that no longer have any relevance. Like cleaning out the garage.

So that's what I've been doing all this time

I don't think I fit in the category of "pretty good". But I'd like to think I rise a bit above the "noise and bile" level. At least on some of my posts. The one about Apple probably fits in the "noise and bile" category. But reliving Usenet? Only if I start writing material appropriate for alt.flame.

Dodging Road Apples

First there was the January launch of the Apple/Intel systems (lovingly called MacIntelitosh by TheInquirer as well as many others). We got to hear Jobs hisself announce how the new Intel Macs were 2x to 4x faster than the equivalent PowerPC machines. This, after years of hearing how much faster the PowerPC machines were compared to equivalent Intel-based machines.

Next came MacWorld's analysis of the iMac. They were a little more critical of Apple's claims, showing a 10% to 25% increase, but not the 2x claimed by Apple. That led to an enthusiast site, MacSpeedZone, to claim that the new iMac was 2x faster. What's peculiar about the MacSpeedZone is their example of why MacWorld's analysis was flawed. They compare a QuickTime encode on a quad G5 with the iMac Core Duo. Let me quote:
When running a QuickTime encode the Power Mac Quad G5/2.5GHz took 84.85 seconds. The Intel iMac Core Duo 2.0GHz took 97.02 seconds
Advantage: Power Mac by 14% .... Nothing to write home about .…

I Remember Challenger

There have been a spate of articles about the Challenger accident of 25 years ago. I'm not going to link to them; you can Google for them on your own. I will, however, mention "7 myths about the Challenger shuttle disaster" by James Oberg. Myth #1 concerns how many people watched the disaster. I was working for Martin Marietta (now Lockheed/Martin) at the Lake Underhill facility in east Orlando, Florida. I was outside that morning in January with a whole group of engineers and technicians waiting to watch the launch. We were standing on the patio outside the main cafeteria. It was a good clear morning. There was quiet chatter among the waiting group until the launch.

Challenger lifted off as expected, and we watched as its liftoff trail climbed above the pine trees into the sky. Then about a minute into the liftoff came the puff of smoke at the top of the liftoff trail. There was no more liftoff. We stood outside for about a minute more. There were one or two "What h…

Java SE 6 (Mustang) delayed until August of this year

Ray Gans, a senior program manager at Sun Microsystems, has written a blog entry about Java 6 titled "Where We Are With the JDK." He lays out a road map leading up to the final release of Java 6, which includes two betas (the first in February, the second in the summer) and with a final release in August. The slip from a mid-2006 release to August 2006 is the change that seems to have everyone's attention. I personally don't care. Most folks on the commercial side are still moving over to Java 5, with a very large percentage still on Java 4.2 (or 1.4.2 using the older numbering scheme).

The biggest reason for delay seems to be the rewrite of the class loader. I had wondered at the time it was announced how much testing would take place with this significant change. And now I know: lots and lots. They must have run into problems already because of the comment in the blog where Sun wants to "address some issues in sensitive areas of the codebase (e.g., the classloa…

The Problems of Being Dell

First, let's start with this from slashdot, that pillar of incisive technological journalism:
Nine years after Michael Dell said he'd shut down Apple and give the money to the shareholders, Apple has passed Dell in market value, at $72,132,428,843 compared to Dell's $71,970,702,760. Analysts expect Apple to continue to outperform competitors, citing 2006 as 'poised to be the year of both iPod growth and, more importantly, Mac market share gains,' with earnings growing more than 35%.And then there's quite strong Dell opinions from AMDZone. In the process of boosting his favorite brand of microprocessors, Chris Tom also takes quite a few swings at all things Dull (Dell) and Intel (including, now, Apple). For example:
Forbes reports on Mac sales dropping. It seems AMD is now perhaps not helping them in that regard. Also I have been quiet about this largely due to how obvious it is, but Steve Jobs is the biggest liar in the computer world on the face of the pl…

The NXT Generation - Lego Upgrades Mindstorms

I've played with Legos for a long time, and I've played with the Lego Mindstorms Robot Invention System (RIS) V1 for nearly three years. It figures that right about the time I find the parts to build my own Legway that Lego announces its next generation robot kit, the NXT.

First shown at this years CES in Las Vegas, the Lego NXT is interesting in that it appears Lego is taking the lessons it learned with the original Mindstorms to create a new robot kit that offers greater end-user satisfaction. There was a TechUser article about Lego Mindstorms (Lego Mindstorms: What Went Wrong?) that attempted to analyze why the first RIS "failed". The article is interesting because there is a link to a very good response from a reader (Andy Toone) who makes a number of alternate points as to why the original RIS has not been successful. I quote parts of the message below.
I can think of another explanation for the problems with Mindstorms sets - the average user experience is not a…

I wanna Robotis

I've been a hobbyist roboticist since I was a kid (along with building Heathkits and other electronic gadgets from Radio Shack parts packs). In those early days I always had to satisfy that itch with little or no money. As a consequence most of my 'robots' tended to look like little more than animated junk. But that was the past, and the present allows me to spend a little more cash on very complete robot kits such as the Robotis Robot Kits.

I just read about Robotis on The Inquirer. Generally I don't give links to The Inq on general principals, but this time it was too hard to resist. According the The Inq, the kits come in two versions with price tags of $350 and $900. I think I would actually spring for the $900 kit myself. After all, I'm the same guy who plays with his Lego Mindstorms kit as well as the Vex Robotics Design System. According to The Inq the kits are not for sale in the U.S. I can hardly wait for them to go on sale.

The Coming of NetBeans 5 RC1

There's been chatter on the NetBean blogs about NB 5 RC1 coming out "real soon now". It should be out this week if I can believe what I read in a blog's comments here. In any event the daily releases stopped January 5th, indicating that something is up. What's more, if you go to the NetBean's download page and look under development builds, you'll find a new entry (for me, anyway) in the release versions dropdown for NetBeans 5.1, with a whole list of daily releases right up to the date of this posting (January 11th).

I've been living pretty solidly with NB5 since beta 2. I think I made the switch from Eclipse to NB without realizing it. I can't pin it on any one reason, but what helped tip me over to NB5 was it's superior Emacs key bindings in the editor. Another is that Matisse finally works for me. It hit a high level of stability (especially under the latest builds on SuSE Linux) and I suspect I also learned to really use it well by un-lear…

Me and my Legway

Two years ago Steve Hassenplug created a two-wheeled self-balancing robot using Lego Mindstorms and a pair of special sensors manufactured by HiTechnic. It was the same Lego Mindstorms that I had purchased that previous Christmas. Unfortunately when I finally found out about Steve's work it was nearly a year later, and a key component of his Legway, the HiTechnic EPOD Sensor, was no longer being made. Jump forward to November 2005, and I find out that HiTechnic is again building and selling the sensors, so I immediately ordered two for myself.

While waiting for the sensors to arrive, I started to look at the other bits needed to build the Legway. Two years is an eternity in computing. Key software and support systems had evolved since the original Legway was produced. Elements of the Legway that had changed and needed to be updated were:
I used the Linux environment on my Gateway to build and use the BrickOS software. When I attempted to put the software environment together I notic…

Smoke Testing Kernel 2.6.15

Kernel 2.6.15 became available January 3rd. I downloaded it and did the build and install dance to test it out on my Gateway under SuSE 10. What follows are my initial impressions.
Overall quality appears to be very good. It was built using gcc 4.0.2. I use Grub because it's very simple to add a new kernel to /boot and then to edit /boot/grub/menu.lst and add a new stanza for the new kernel. What is interesting is that the 'pci=noacpi' boot property for kernel 2.6.13-15.7 (the SuSE kernel) is no longer needed. I know that the boot property is needed for the stock 2.6.13 kernel as well as 2.6.14 kernel on the Gateway.In spite of what I've read, you have to build and install both Broadcom drivers (Tigon3 and NetXtremeII). If you only install the NetXtremeII driver then Broadcom networking will not come up (Device Drivers > Network device support > Ethernet (1000 Mbit)).The Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG support is in the kernel and appears to at least start up. The probl…

Running SuSE 10 on a Gateway M680XL Notebook

It's been three months since SuSE 10 was released. There have been a numberofreviews of this release, generally all positive. The problem with release reviews is that there is no time for the author to work with the release for an extended period of time. It's during this "baking" process where good and bad features settle out and where you learn what really works and what doesn't.

My adventures with Linux began a long time ago, and has continued (on and off) for the last 13 years. My most current Linux installation is on a Gateway M680XL notebook with the following features:
Intel Pentium M 780 (2.13GHz)1GB DRAM100GB 5400 RPM HDATI Mobility X700 128MB video driving a 17" 1680 x 1050 LCD (WXGA TFT)Broadcom eXtreme Gigabit Ethernet and Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BGUSB 2.0, IEEE 1394Windows XP SP2
I received the notebook on July 5th 2005 with Windows XP SP2 installed. As delivered, 'Everything Just Worked'. New hardware was properly detected and drivers (if n…

The New Year Arrives

New Years came quietly in my small part of the world. Yes, Universal and Disney had their 10 minutes of fireworks at midnight and I watched some if it, but for the most part I read or worked on an endless list of errands around the house. Even my two teen-age daughters decided to stay home and watch the partying on TV before hitting the sack. I slept in this morning until around 9, then got up and did more putzing around the house. The Labs were lazing about more than usual (that's Max on the right airing out his package).

The gaps between the postings are growing greater and greater. It's hard to write well, and it's even harder to write something, anything, that is unique and worth somebody's time. The problem is due to my lack of professional talent and experience as well as the continuing onslaught of literally everybody and their relative blogging away.

I'm going to limit my posting to technical issues. I've been living for five months now with SuSE Linux 10…