We spent a lot of time over the weekend cleaning up the house in
preparation for the holiday season. I am a keeper and Barbara is a
thrower-away, which makes cleaning days stressful for both of us.
We carted off several large garbage cans' worth of stuff from my
office, and as much again from my workroom. As usual, I had to steel
myself against the loss of old friends like the stack of Slot 1 and
Socket 370 motherboards, antique VGA adapters, and so on. They're gone
now, but not forgotten.
Also as usual, I found stuff I'd forgotten I had, including stocks of
Ethernet cables, new keyboards and mice still in their original sealed
boxes, and so on. Among my prized finds was a case of 24 one-pint/500
mL amber reagent bottles that dated from 1985. I knew
those would come in handy some day. They're now sitting in my new home
chemistry laboratory, which used to be the kitchen in the downstairs
I finally got around to reconstructing my subscribers' mailing list,
which I'd forgotten to migrate when I converted from Mozilla Mail to
Kmail. I sent out a mailing to subscribers a short while ago. If you're
a current subscriber and you don't receive this mailing, please let me
know. All subscribers whose subscriptions expire after 31 October 2006
should receive this mailing.
I've already gotten a few bounces, which may be my own fault. I tried
to locate the current mailing addresses for all subscribers, but in
some cases I may have used an old address. Here are the bounces I've
gotten so far:
<email@example.com>: host mx1.swcp.com[220.127.116.11]
address rejected: 5.1.1
<firstname.lastname@example.org>... User unknown
(in reply to RCPT TO command)
said: 550 Administrative prohibition - unable to
validate recipient (in
reply to RCPT TO command)
mailserver.advnet.net[18.104.22.168] said: 550
<email@example.com>: User unknown
in local recipient table (in reply to
RCPT TO command)
If one of those belongs to you, please send me your current address.
Tuesday, 14 November
The HWG forums lately have had a lot of messages posted by people who
are giving Linux a try. Some of them are just dipping their toes in the
water; others have dived in and converted entirely to Linux. Ron Morse
created a locus for these folks when he set up the Transition to Linux
forum, and the posts there make some interesting reading. Here's one
||Posted on: Nov. 13 2006,16:54
Just dropping a line to let
RBT know he converted another Windows guy to Linux. I've been a Windows
network administrator for nearly ten years now and I'm just fed up with
the mess. RBT kept raising the topic and I finally said "Fine! I'll try
it!". Famous last words...
got a Dell laptop running
Xandros Desktop 4 and my main desktop system is running Ubuntu 6.10. I
haven't touched Windows in about a week now and am perfectly happy.
had so much fun I started a running log, which is now leading to me
blogging the experience (geekevolved.powerblogs.com).
I'll lay the
blame for that on RBT as well...
starting to seriously look at migrating my laptop to Ubuntu. Stay
The Linux revolution started long ago, of course, but for me personally
it started on Memorial Day 2004. My friend Brian
had been using Linux full time for quite a while. He introduced me to
Xandros 2.0, and I was off to the races. On Independence Day, 4 July
2004, I declared my independence from Microsoft. On that day, I
converted completely to Linux, and I've been using it exclusively ever
since. The only time I use Windows now is when I need screen shots for
a book or when I absolutely, positively need to run a Windows-only
I've compared Linux adoption to nuclear fission in the past, and it's
an accurate analogy. I was struck by one of Brian's high-energy
Linuxtrons, and in turn I began emitting high-energy Linuxtrons of my
own. Others in turn have been struck by my high-energy Linuxtrons and
began emitting high-energy Linuxtrons of their own.
To continue the analogy, I believe we're at the same point now that
Enrico Fermi reached in a basement at the University of Chicago in
1942. The chain reaction is self-sustaining, but still controlled.
We're still on the toe of the curve, but the knee is approaching
rapidly. Before long, we'll reach the Trinity point, when the reaction
becomes entirely uncontrolled and Microsoft will be consumed in the
resulting Linux mushroom cloud.
Wednesday, 15 November
Microsoft keeps saying that it expects Vista to be adopted very
quickly, but everything I see says the opposite. For
example, C|Net posted an article yesterday, titled Study:
No Vista for majority of European businesses.
Those numbers must be pretty sobering for Microsoft. Only 6% of
European organizations plan to begin using Vista within the first six
months, and only 18% within the first year. Another 20% plan to wait up
to two years. That leaves 56% of European organizations with no plans
to deploy Vista at all. The numbers are a bit better in the United
States, but not all that much. And remember, these aren't full
deployment numbers we're talking about. Those will come only years
Microsoft has said it expects business to adopt Vista at twice the rate
they adopted XP. One year after the release of XP, 10% of business
computers were running it. That means Vista would need 20% at the end
of one year to fulfill Microsoft's expectations. I think Microsoft is
living in a dream world. Corporate IT departments simply don't move
that quickly. It can easily take a year or more to plan and budget a
deployment, let alone roll out the new operating system. For many
organizations, it'll take two or even three years.
I don't believe Vista will be adopted at even the rate of XP, let alone
twice that rate. Half is more like it. Don't forget, only a tiny
percentage of business systems are capable of running Vista in anything
more than crippled mode. For businesses in that situation, which is
nearly all of them, Vista is all cost and no benefit. I expect that
most businesses will upgrade to Vista only with a new PC buying cycle.
That means it's likely to be at least 2009 and probably 2010 before
Vista becomes the dominent desktop operating system.
That's assuming it ever does, of course. Linux will not be standing
still all that time.
Linux and Linux applications never cease to amaze me. I had composed
the email shown below and clicked to send it, when the reminder dialog
popped up. At first, I couldn't figure out what was going on. I hadn't
told Kmail to attach any file. Then I realized that Kmail had parsed
the text of the message itself, noticed that it referred to a file
attachment (in the last paragraph), and decided to warn me that I'd
forgotten to attach the file. Simply amazing.
Thursday, 16 November
- I ordered some more stuff yesterday for my home
chemistry lab. Here's the order.
Solution A (Copper #1)
Solution B (Alkalai #2)
sodium salt, 40%
volumetric with stopper, 25mL
dropping bottle, 30mL, 12 each
washing bottle, 16 oz
1 dram, 12x60mm (dozen)
I ordered this stuff from Elemental
which specializes in supplying equipment and supplies for hobbyists and
schools. Some of the chemicals are reagent grade, but most are USP, NF,
or Lab Grade. Any of those suffice for what I'm doing.
And what am I doing? At least one of my readers wants to know.
From: Jeff Martin
Robert Bruce Thompson
current chemistry research
I was curious as to
for the chemistry "set" you are building in your kitchenette.... is
this to be the topic of a future book or website? I must
chemistry education was limited, so I am always interested in redoing
what I failed to learn in college. If you are planning to do
written work on it, I would be interested in subscribing or learning
more. (Even if its just a messageboard section.)
For that matter,
your astronomy book also interests me, and I am looking forward to
reading that when you publish it.
Yep to both of your questions. I haven't yet signed a contract for a
home chem lab book with O'Reilly, but we're talking about it seriously.
Even if that falls through, I'll do the book, either for another
publisher or as a self-published title.
The genesis of the idea came when I was talking to our neighbor Kim.
Her daughter, Jasmine, is 13 and very interested in science.
Unfortunately, science gets very short shrift in the schools nowadays.
As Jasmine said, she might have two hours of social studies, two hours
of math, and 15 minutes of science. Most schools no longer have real
laboratories, so students typically get little or no real lab
experience through high school.
I talked to Kim and Jasmine, and decided that one big thing I could do
to help Jasmine get ahead would be to set up a home lab and teach her
about lab procedures with a lot of hands-on experience. I've always
been a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of guy, so I decided I might
as well write a book about it. Presumably, there will be considerable
demand for the book, not just from the Make Magazine hobbyist hacker
types, but from many home schoolers.
The new trend in chemistry sets and chemistry teaching is so-called
microchemistry. It uses very small quantities of very dilute solutions,
and is often promoted as using "no glass and no flame". To me, that
also translate into "no learning". Well, less learning, perhaps.
Microchemistry is fine for teaching many basic concepts, but as far as
I'm concerned it fails the fun factor issue.
I'll expose Jasmine to microchemistry because it's something she should
be familiar with, but microchemistry's "two drops in a spot plate"
methods just can't compete with using real glassware, real flame, and
reasonable quantities of reagents. We'll learn "wet" lab methods by
doing, and I'll also give Jasmine a good grounding in general
chemistry, about what she would have gotten as a high school student
back when I was in high school. Nowadays, that'll probably be the
equivalent of a college first-year chemistry lab course. The only
things missing will be working with expensive equipment like
spectrophotometers, IR, NMR, AA, mass spec, etc., but I'm thinking
about ways to get around that problem.
12:43 - Computer World published an
interesting article yesterday, entitled Vista and More: Piecing Together
Microsoft's DRM Puzzle. The article is generally
on-target, with two exceptions. First, it says,
"Music bought for Zune may not be
playable on other PlaysForSure devices; Zune will decrease interop, not
which is in error only because Zune is not a PlaysForSure device. In
fact, Microsoft has abandoned PlaysForSure and stranded everyone who
bought into that concept. Second, the article fails to note that,
is incompatible with Vista. How embarrassing that must be for
Microsoft. They obviously have a right-hand/left-hand problem here.
- PJ over at Groklaw has gone all Goody Two-Shoes on us again, this time with an article entitled Getting Cute with the GPL.
There's an old saying among lawyers. If the facts are on your side,
pound on the facts. If the law is on your side, pound on the law. If
neither the facts nor the law is on your side, pound on the table. PJ
has neither the facts nor the law on her side this time, so she's
pounding on the table, again.
PJ is upset at the Novell/Microsoft agreement. I don't like it much,
either, but I can't see that it violates the GPL. Like a lot of
Stallmanites, PJ takes an entirely unrealistic view of many things. As
a general rule, when someone starts talking about the "spirit" of a
license or other legal document, I count my silverware. PJ is talking
about the spirit of the GPL. Translate that as, "what you're doing is
within your rights under the GPL, but we don't like it and we want you
The Stallmanites get upset at three activities, all of which are acceptable under the GPL.
The first one you don't hear much about. If Amazon.com, for example,
modifies a GPL program and runs it on their public servers, under the
current GPL they're under no obligation to make those changes available
to everyone. The Stallmanites would like to change that to define
"distribution" as including running the software on publicly-available
servers, even though that software is in no sense being distributed.
The second is the so-called Tivoization problem. The problem, if indeed
it's a problem, is that TiVo has taken GPL'd software, modified it, and
used it on their devices. TiVo makes the source code for the altered
versions available, which meets their obligations under the GPL. The
objection the Stallmanites have to TiVo's actions is that the TiVo
hardware will run only the TiVo-supplied code. If you modify the TiVo
source code and recompile, your binaries won't run on the TiVo hardware
because their checksums are different. Where, I wonder, does the GPL
guarantee that you can run modified software on a specific hardware
device. (Hint: it doesn't.)
The Stallmanites argue that this action violates the GBL, which is a
pretty strange way of looking at things. You have the source code
provided by TiVo, and you're perfectly free to modify it yourself,
recompile it, and do whatever else you want with it. If you want to run
it on a PVR, build your own PVR. Nothing is stopping you.
The third and most recent activity that the Stallmanites object to is
Microsoft's and Novell's carefully-crafted agreement to stay within the
requirements of the GPL while doing what they want to do. In any other
situation, PJ might have expressed admiration for the clever lawyering
involved. But here she cries foul because Microsoft and Novell have
found a way to work within the GPL to accomplish something that PJ
doesn't approve of.
I don't approve of it, either, come to that, but to accuse them of
violating the spirit of the GPL is simply a pathetic refusal to
recognize reality. They did what they did, and they did it legally and
within the GPL. Ah, says, PJ, but that'll all change once GPL 3 is
released. It won't, of course. Only radical Stallmanites think the GPL
3 is going anywhere. Everyone else recognizes that it's stillborn. All
by itself, Torvalds' refusal to license Linux under GPL 3 was a death
knell. Corporations, including those that sponsor OSS development,
mostly hate GPL 3. Expect GPL 3 to be ignored in droves.
Although PJ's head-in-the-clouds refusal to accept reality annoys me,
what really annoys me is that she's an unreconstructed Stallmanite. If
you listen to PJ, you'd assume that the "community" is made up only of
"Free Software" people, with a few OSS people on the periphery. In
fact, the "F" part of FOSS is a tiny minority. Probably 95% or more of
the community identifies with the OSS camp rather than the FSF camp.
And those of us in the former camp are growing sick of the presumption
of the FSF group.
Saturday, 18 November
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Robert Bruce