Home » Daynotes Home » Week of 6 February 2006

Photograph of Robert Bruce Thompson
Daynotes Journal

Week of 6 February 2006

Latest Update: Friday, 10 February 2006 08:46 -0500
Free Speech Online - Blue Ribbon Campaign

Paying for this Place
Visit Barbara's Journal Page

Monday, 6 February 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:20 - Well, I watched yet another football game last night. The Steelers won the Super Bowl. That was no surprise to me, because exactly the same thing happened the previous time I watched a football game. Barbara tells me that that means I'm averaging one football game every 26 years, which seems about right.

Barbara and I managed to get out for a short observing session Saturday night. Luna was up and 42% illuminated, so it wasn't worth a trip to our dark-sky observing site. Instead, we went to the soccer field about half a mile from our house. Between Luna, light pollution, and local lights, it was difficult to see much, but we did manage to add ten objects from the AL Urban Observing Club list.

I had a new experience Saturday. I was on the NewEgg web site, ordering a few parts I need to build the "Budget System" for the new edition of Building the Perfect PC. Although it's a budget system, we wanted it to be (a) quiet, and (b) capable of running Windows Vista. So we decided to go with a third-party CPU cooler (an Arctic Cooling unit) and an MSI nVIDIA 6200TC video adapter rather than embedded video. I ordered those parts from NewEgg, and everything appeared to proceed normally.

A couple minutes later, I got email from NewEgg to tell me my credit card had been refused. That was pretty odd, considering the limit on that card is something like $20,000, and we pay off our balances every month. The email said that NewEgg would try to run the charge through again shortly. I'd had this happen with NewEgg before, so I didn't think much about it. And in fact, a couple of hours later, I got email from NewEgg to say that they'd run the charge through again and it had succeeded.

A few minutes after that, I got a voice-synthesized phone call from a credit-card validation company, saying that it had noticed a suspicious pattern in charges with our card. It mentioned the charge I'd just made with NewEgg by date and time, amount, and company name, along with details of other recent charges, so I was sure it wasn't a phishing call. I pressed one to tell the automated system that that charge was valid, and it reported the next most recent charge, which Barbara had made an hour earlier at the drugstore. So I pressed one again, and it went on to the next charge, which was a duplicate charge from NewEgg. I pressed two that time, to tell it that charge wasn't valid, and it transferred me to a human.

She explained that they were checking a suspicious charge pattern. I told her about the double charge from NewEgg, and she said not to worry about that because the automated system was reporting charge attempts rather than only successful charges. Then she started reading me in reverse chronological order the charges that made them suspicious. The one for about $200 from Orion was valid, and I told her so. The next one she mentioned was for $1,200, which kind of freaked me out. Then she mentioned the name of the company that had placed the charge, Southern Foods, and I realized it was valid too. Every few months, Barbara places a big order with Southern Foods for meat, which they deliver a few days later and stick in our full-size freezer.

Apparently, what triggered the suspicions of fraud was the fact that only the drugstore charge had been made by actually swiping the card through a reader. All of the others were remote charges, and that combined with the amount and frequency of use, was enough to set off the bells.

16:40 - Here's the image that got Christine O'Hare in Merseyside in trouble.

Perhaps those lunatic Islamics will riot, burn, and kill some more over this one.


Tuesday, 7 February 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:08 - If you want to see what all the fuss is about, go here. I would have expected the cartoons that have outraged the Islamic whackos to have appeared on network TV, every newspaper, CNN, Foxnews, and so on. Hell, by now I'd expect to see people wearing t-shirts with the cartoon on them. Instead, I had to search Google to find them.

From the article:

"Islam is not only a religion; it is a totalitarian and expansionistic political ideology."

The only argument I have with that statement is that the writer should remove "only" from the first sentence. Islam is a totalitarian and expansionist political system, period. As I have been saying for years now, Islam is the enemy. Not "radical Islam". Not "Islamic terrorists". Islam, period.

It outrages me that our leaders refuse to do anything to deal with this malignancy, nor even to admit the problem. The goal of Islam is to kill or enslave all of us. And our leaders stand by doing nothing while Iran develops nuclear weapons.

Israel, at least, is realistic. They have no other choice. Israel cannot tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of an Islamic state, particularly one as deranged as Iran, and will act unilaterally if necessary to prevent that from happening. I fully expect to awake one morning in the near future to news footage of mushroom clouds over Iran.

11:45 - Barbara and I have come to despair of Malcolm ever growing up. He turned six years old in September, and he still behaves like a puppy. We don't even bother to make our bed any more--we just pull the bedspread up--because Malcolm pillages it anyway. He pulls down the bedspread, tosses pillows around the bed and onto the floor, and otherwise rearranges things to his satisfaction. He also steals and eats soft paper products. Kleenex, paper towels, paper napkins, toilet paper, it doesn't matter. If he can steal it, he'll eat it.

Here's a picture of Malcolm's depredations six years ago:

And here's what I found when I went back to take a shower:

The end on the bed looked chewed, so I suspect Malcolm has had his snack.


Wednesday, 8 February 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

11:18 - I think I'm going to bag Netflix and sign up for Blockbuster. Netflix has been screwing with me big-time since the first of the year. Netflix sent me only 13 discs last month, and they're on track to do worse this month. Since 1 February, they've sent me four discs, one of which was scratched and unplayable.

They're taking longer and longer to ship a disc to me, they ship it by slow boat, and now they've started not acknowledging discs they've received for an extra day. Based on their current patterns, I estimate that Netflix might end up shipping me only 11 or 12 discs for the month, which is less than half the level of service they led me to expect when they shipped me 25 discs in my first month as a member.

I've read numerous posts from people who've been through the Netflix throttling experience. It doesn't get better; it only gets worse. One guy reported that Netflix had throttled him down to only 8 or 9 discs a month, which is pretty outrageous on the three-at-a-time so-called "unlimited" plan.

But if you drop Netflix for a while and then rejoin, they supposedly don't throttle you immediately. So I'll join Blockbuster for their two-week free trial and see what they're like. If they start to throttle, I'll drop them and go back to Netflix, perhaps after taking a break from it all.

My advice to anyone who is thinking about joining Netflix is not to expect to get a lot of movies from them. If you're willing to pay $2 to $3 per disc, you'll get what you want quickly. But if you expect Netflix to live up to its promises of "unlimited rentals" and "one-day service", you're in for a disappointment.


Thursday, 9 February 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

08:51 - Jerry Pournelle frequently asks his readers to tell him what they'd like their computers to do for them that they don't do now. Jerry seems to think that computers have enough power now to do pretty much everything we want them to. I've told him that I don't believe that's true, not by a long shot. What I do believe is that we're pretty much stuck until the next massive leap in computing power.

We don't need computers that are ten times faster than those we have now. Those computers would do pretty much what they do now, but faster. We need computers that are three to six magnitudes faster than what we have now. Such computers could do things that are qualitatively different than what computers do for us now.

For example, we had our first noticeable snow of the season last night. Barbara took one of the digital cameras out in the front yard and shot a few pictures. I just downloaded those from the camera, filed them in a new directory under /photos, and downsampled one of them to an 800X600 main image and a 200X150 thumbnail and posted those on her web page for her.

Here's one of the things I'd like to see a more powerful computer do for me. When I walked into my office carrying the digital camera, my main desktop system, newton, greets the camera, and notices that it has new pictures in its memory. (My other computers also notice the camera, of course, but they discuss it among themselves and decide, "Don't worry about it; newton's taking care of it.")

So, newton grabs the new images from the digital camera and takes a look at them. He recognizes that the images are of our front yard and that there's snow on the ground. He labels each image with metadata, including the date and time, the overall subject of the image, and recognizable people and things in the image. He notices, for example, that there's a dog-like thing in one of the images, and compares that against previous images to decide that the dog-like thing is probably in fact a dog, and it looks like Malcolm. He adds that fact to the metadata.

After he finishes analyzing and labeling the new images, newton puts a little flag down on the taskbar to indicate that he'd like me to check his work. I click that flag, and newton brings up a page with medium-size thumbnails of each image, along with the labels he's entered. Newton has highlighted stuff he's unsure about in red to make sure I review it. I make any necessary corrections by telling newton verbally what needs to be fixed. Newton makes those fixes, learning from his mistakes, and then stores the images locally, as well as sending backup copies to a remote server.

Newton has noticed that Barbara likes to post snow pictures on her web page, so he suggests to me that he go ahead and choose one or two of the images, generate lower resolution versions for Barbara's page, and write them to that document file, awaiting Barbara's approval.

That's just one example of what newton might do for me if he were three orders of magnitude faster. If he were six orders of magnitude faster, he'd probably become self-aware and I would think of him and treat him just as I would any other friend.


Friday, 10 February 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

08:46 - I see that Microsoft has announced that Halo 2 will run only on Vista. It's difficult to see what they hope to accomplish. Surely they can't believe that gamers will upgrade to Vista just to play Halo 2. Not only is Halo 2 a second-rate game, it's an old second-rate game. And it will be older still once Vista actually ships. Anyone who's interested has probably already played it to death on an Xbox. For those few that haven't, it's possible to buy an Xbox and a copy of Halo 2 for about $200, less than the cost of installing Vista. And you can recoup most or all of that cost later by selling the Xbox and game.


Saturday, 11 February 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 -


Sunday, 12 February 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 -


Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.