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Week of 3 July 2006

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Monday, 3 July 2006
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09:42 - Today is the first work day of the second half of the year. I have a lot to get done the rest of the year, including two books that are under contract and in progress and a third book that is not yet under contract or started. It'll be a busy next six months, but that's the way I like it.

Barbara has taken the week off from work. She's out front painting the shutters right now, with the windows to follow. I'll do the shutters and windows on the sides and rear of the house, because they require working up a ladder.

Barbara is leaving Friday for a short bus tour with her parents, but that gives us the rest of this week to build and photograph a couple of systems for the new book. We'll do the Mainstream PC and the SOHO Server, because we have all the parts for them. We're still waiting on components for three of the other systems.

Look for a major announcement from Jerry Pournelle later this week.

10:30 - Better to keep your mouth shut and have everyone suspect you're an idiot than to open it and confirm your idiocy beyond all doubt.


Tuesday, 4 July 2006
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Happy Birthday USA!

As you celebrate Independence Day today, please take a moment to think about the men and women of our armed forces, past and present, who have willingly risked, and all too often lost, everything to defend our freedom. I sometimes worry about where America is heading, but there can be nothing very wrong with a country that continues to produce men and women like them.

08:46 - Jerry Pournelle's new site, Chaos Manor Reviews, is now up and running. If you want to read Jerry's latest Chaos Manor column, that's where you'll find it.

Today is Independence Day for me in more ways than one. It was two years ago today that I made the jump to using Linux exclusively, and I haven't looked back. After two years of living with Xandros Linux and now Ubuntu Linux, Windows looks very primitive to me. Primitive and dangerous.

Ron Morse has this to say on the messageboard about his own migration to Linux:

At the urging of a good client I've just purchased VMWare workstation for Linux and this week will be evaluating it as a means to erase the last vestiges of Windows from my life.  It has been some years since I last tried VMware...reliable reports they have come a long way with version 5 and I am hopeful, but there is an awful lot of material to digest in just the user documentation.

I can see a situation where people get locked into VMware simply because of the investment it takes to get going.

I'll be putting it on top of Kubuntu Dapper Drake, we'll see what happens.

The silliness that emerged last week about WGA having a "kill switch," even though it remains unsubstantiated (and Berlind hardly qualifies as a reliable source) just put me over the edge.

Even if this story isn't completely accurate, I am convinced it is just a matter of time before Microsoft's failing business model and inability to see the market for what it is will push them to adopt ever more draconian stunts to keep their foot firmly on the necks of their users.  They have simply been over promising and under performing for too long.

Linux is growing up rapidly.  Even if we haven't reached the "tipping point" with Xandros 4, (K)Ubuntu 6 and SuSE 10.1, et.al., they show that Linux developers have finally started making meaningful progress in moving away from the ubergeek model and toward the mainstream.  

For the first time in my memory Linux development is converging rather than diverging, even though there are two loci at present...one led by Canonical (the (K)Ubuntu people) and the other around the Linux Standard Base (LSB) in which Xandros has the technical lead.   Canonical and it's allies are pushing feature development and application integration, the LSB effort is promoting a stable, uniform base platform that promises enterprise-quality, reliability and consistency. The LSB effort  should spur hardware manufacturers to develop device drivers for Linux too, since they will only have to develop one driver/installer package instead of several variations. Also, developers are beginning to see the FSF's Stalinist philosophy for what it is and  having soundly rejected GPL3 are working to develop a more business friendly open-source licensing framework.  

Apple looks to be preparing, in the typical Jobs model of doing things, a really vicious and subversive attack on Microsoft from the hardware side, and gotten Intel to pay for it.

All this is going to make for interesting developments but you don't want to be stuck on Microsoft if being able to claim your data as your own is important to you.  Your access to your data on their platform is the only lever they have left and you had better believe they will pull it hard as the market continues to shift away.

As Ron points out, as important as Open Source Software is, open formats are even more important. Speaking of formats, here's a message from another Ron that points out another open-format issue I hadn't even considered.

From:    Ronald McCarty
To:      Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: Open Formats
Date:    Wed, 28 Jun 2006 08:45:08 -0500  (09:45 EDT)

Good point on the open formats.  We all need to be reminded of this on a regular basis.  Interestingly enough, photographers recognized this early on with the RAW format.  Luckily for the consumer (although we didn't see it that way), the vendor tools for using their proprietary RAW formats sucked, so it slowed down the adoption enough for us to get our senses back.  I keep putting off my conversion to raw until the next new year, but maybe 2007 will be the year all the reasons for converting are there (open format, good work flow, good tools).  I do feel for the early adopters...I assume the conversion to an open format will be possible with pros and cons on what features can be converted and what assumptions are made during the conversion and what cannot be converted...


Wednesday, 5 July 2006
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09:56 - Barbara is painting windows and shutters this morning. This afternoon, we build the Mainstream PC project system for the new edition of Building the Perfect PC. This will be our first BTX build, so I'm looking forward to it.

Netflix claims something like 60,000 titles, so I've been surprised to find quite a few things missing. For example, some months ago, I wanted to add Carl Sagan's Cosmos to our queue. Netflix doesn't carry it. Blockbuster does. Then, the other night, Barbara and I were watching a Monarch of the Glen DVD. The promo material at the beginning of the disc featured four BBC series: Wives & Daughters, Daniel Deronda, The Way We Live Now, and He Knew He Was Right. Barbara asked me to add all of those to our queue. Netflix had all of them except Wives & Daughters. Blockbuster has Wives & Daughters.

I'm sure there are a lot of titles that Netflix carries and Blockbuster doesn't, but I'm starting to run into gaps in the Netflix selection often enough that it may be time to drop our Netflix subscription and sign up with Blockbuster. At the end of this month, we'll have been with Netflix for a year. Maybe it's time for a change. Or perhaps I should just keep our Netflix subscription and sign up with Blockbuster for a couple months to get some of the stuff that Netflix doesn't carry.

11:16 - I see that North Korea claims that it has the sovereign right to fire as many missiles as it pleases. Iran also claims the sovereign right to enrich Uranium. Obviously, they're both right. Just as obviously, these actions are unacceptable to the United States, and the United States is fully within its rights to protects its own interests. When two rights are in conflict, it's time to examine the assumptions upon which they're based. Clearly, the concept of sovereignty is the basis of that conflict.

Perhaps it is time for the United States to declare an end to sovereignty and the birth of the American Empire. As a libertarian, I don't much like that idea, but it may be the only logical course. All current nation-states would become either Friends and Allies of America client states or Enemies of America. Friends and Allies of America will remain pretty much free to do as they please internally, as long as they pay their taxes to America (perhaps 10% of GNP). Enemies of America would be destroyed, with hostile regimes replaced by puppet regimes friendly to America. American citizenship, like Roman citizenship, would be limited to a small percentage of the American population. A tiny percentage of non-Americans might become Citizens of America, based on extraordinary contributions to American interests.

I don't much like it, but neither do I see any alternatives.


Thursday, 6 July 2006
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08:40 - If you run Ubuntu, go buy a copy of Ubuntu Hacks right now. O'Reilly sent me a review copy yesterday. I didn't have time to get to it until just before bedtime, but I decided to spend a few minutes flipping through it. In ten minutes, I learned at least ten new things, including how to fix several problems that had been bugging me since I started using Ubuntu. This is one book I plan to read cover-to-cover.

10:02 - Speaking of Ubuntu, Tim O'Reilly posted an interesting article, Canaries in the Mac OS X and Red Hat Coal Mines?, that examines the recent defections of some high-profile Mac users to Ubuntu. Mark Pilgrim is about the last person most people would have expected to jump from OS X to Linux. Cory Doctorow is a Mac fan from way back. He even has a Mac tattooed on his arm, literally. And yet both have announced their switch from OS X to Ubuntu.

Losing two high-profile advocates doesn't bode well for Apple and OS X. That's nearly as bad as Bill Gates announcing he's abandoning Windows, or the chairman of Pepsi announcing that he actually prefers Coke. Pilgrim's comments in particular are telling. Doctorow states his reasons in purely economic terms. Why pay so much more for Apple when he can have essentially the same thing for a lot less by running Ubuntu on an IBM notebook? But Pilgrim blasts Apple and OS X in much more damning terms. He berates Apple for its DRM and thinks GPL software is superior to what Apple sells.

People sometimes ask me why I don't use OS X, and the reasons Pilgrim cites are also my own. I consider Apple to be a mini-Microsoft, no better in terms of lockin and in many respects worse. I wouldn't own an iPod on a bet, and I'd consider buying a Mac only if I absolutely needed to run some software that wouldn't run on anything else.


Friday, 7 July 2006
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07:46 - Barbara left at oh-dark-thirty this morning for a bus tour with her parents. We finished building and photographing the Mainstream PC project system for the new edition of Building the Perfect PC around dinnertime yesterday, just in time for Barbara to leave on her trip this morning. Now I have to winnow down the several hundred photographs I shot into the 40 or 50 that we'll use in the chapter. I hope to get the chapter roughed out before Barbara returns late Sunday evening.

My inbox is again looking like the Augean Stables. I haven't had time to wade through it, and I probably won't have time until late this weekend or early next week. If you've sent me email in the last few days, please be patient. As Pournelle says, there's only one of me.

13:03 - ABC President of Advertising Sales Mike Shaw is in discussions with cable TV companies, trying to convince them to disable the fast-forward buttons on their DVRs. Mr. Shaw, as Buffy would say, does not use Earth Logic. FTA:

"I'm not so sure that the whole issue really is one of commercial avoidance," Shaw said. "It really is a matter of convenience--so you don't miss your favorite show. And quite frankly, we're just training a new generation of viewers to skip commercials because they can. I'm not sure that the driving reason to get a DVR in the first place is just to skip commercials. I don't fundamentally believe that. People can understand in order to have convenience and on-demand (options), that you can't skip commercials."

Television networks, particularly ABC, are in major denial. Their business model has disappeared, but they won't admit that, even to themselves. The entire concept of broadcast networks is obsolete, and the days when advertising could support "free" programming are nearly at an end. Technology has trumped their obsolete business model, and there's no getting the genie back in the bottle.


Saturday, 8 July 2006
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Sunday, 9 July 2006
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