- I didn't meet my 12/31 deadline for the first two chapters of
the new astronomy book, but I'm still taking an administrative day
today to clean up and organize. My to-do list runneth over with stuff
that doesn't need to be done Right Now, but does need to be done
sometime. Today's the day. I need to archive old mail, clear out the
working data directories, pull backups of the holding and archive
directories, install OpenOffice.org 2.0 on Barbara's system, and a
bunch of other stuff.
- I just sent this to subscribers:
Tomorrow morning, when a hundred
million corporate PCs boot up, the Windows WMF exploit is likely to
become front-page news. This has the potential to be the worst one yet.
Microsoft has issued no patch, nor even a real workaround. You can't
firewall the exploit. Short of disconnecting your systems from the
Internet or replacing Windows with Linux, there's not much you can do,
at least officially.
The folks at the Internet Storm Center have come up with an unofficial
patch. Just as they never thought they'd be asking people to trust
them, I never thought I'd recommend installing an unofficial operating
system patch. But there it is. Microsoft has abdicated its
responsibility to get a fix posted, even if it's not perfect. But
something has to be done, with or without Microsoft's blessing. This
looks like the best bet until Microsoft gets around to releasing an
I haven't installed this unofficial patch myself, because I don't have
any Windows systems. If I did, I'd install this patch. For all I know,
it'll break your Windows installation completely. But the folks at ISC
are good people, who have proven themselves reliable over the years,
and under these circumstances I don't see any alternative to trusting
The decision is yours. If it were my system, I'd install the patch.
- I'm still working hard on the new astronomy book, so there
won't be a lot posted here until I get the first two chapters complete.
Netflix continues to do strange things. Friday, 12/30, they emailed me
to say they'd sent me Disc 4 of The
Duchess of Duke Street, with an ETA of Saturday, 12/31. It
didn't show up Saturday, and of course there was no mail service Sunday
or yesterday. This morning, I got email from Netflix telling me that
they'd received Discs 2 and 3 of The
Duchess of Duke Street, which I'd sent back Friday. That was
expected. What surprised me was that Netflix also acknowledged
receiving Disc 4 back from me. That's very odd, since it never arrived
- I'm still working on the object list for the new book. I have
several hundred objects in a spreadsheet that need to be reconciled,
verified, coordinates checked, and so on. Once that's done, they need
to be segregated by constellation, have descriptions written, and
charts generated. This book is going to be a lot of work. Still, it
should be worth it in the end.
- Boy, is next-generation DVD going to fall flat on its face. I
was just reading an article
on C|Net that says Toshiba is going to introduce two HD-DVD players
in March. The entry-level model sells for $499 and the better model for
$799. Imagine that. For only ten times the price of a name-brand
standard DVD player, you too can buy what may end up being a white
The article also mentioned that there will be 200 titles available in
HD-DVD by the end of the year, which means there won't be a whole lot
to watch even a year from now. Contrast that with the 50,000+ titles
available from Netflix on standard DVD. And no one has said anything
about the price of those HD-DVD discs.
For a successful HD-DVD introduction, the players need to be an
order of magnitude less expensive and the number of titles available at
introduction needs to be two orders of magnitude greater. Buyers are
going to ignore these things in droves.
But the real kicker was in the last paragraph of the article:
Collins, senior program manager told the audience of around 200
reporters that he was going to show them how phenomenal HD DVD viewing
was. Unfortunately, he couldn't get the movie on Toshiba's HD DVD
player to play after several attempts."
Blu-Ray has exactly the same problems. Expensive players, no guarantee
of which format will win the format wars, and little content available.
And both formats are crippled by intrusive, obnoxious DRM. I suspect
standard DVD is going to be around for a long, long time.
- I just sent the following message to my subscribers:
- I'm in my usual state for the early stages of a book,
wondering how this mess will ever turn into a book and how I can
possibly get it done in time. This one is worse than usual because it's
a different kind of book, but still I can see glimpses of what it's
going to turn into. It's going to be the book that I wish Barbara and I
had had when I re-entered the hobby of amateur astronomy five or six
years ago after a long period away from it.
Interestingly, although the title isn't finalized yet, the subtitle is:
"From Novice to Master Observer". And that's just what it will be. A
field guide that someone who is just getting started can use for his
first observations all the way through to qualifying for the coveted
Astronomical League Master Observer certificate, which is currently
held by only 41 people in the world. (Barbara and I aren't among them
yet, but we hope to complete the requirements in 2006 or 2007.)
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Robert Bruce