Home » Daynotes Home » Week of 13 November 2006

Photograph of Robert Bruce Thompson
Daynotes Journal

Week of 13 November 2006

Latest Update: Friday, 17 November 2006 08:48 -0500
Free Speech Online - Blue Ribbon Campaign

Paying for this Place
Visit Barbara's Journal Page

Monday, 13 November 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

13:10 - 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 guest suite.

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:

<maathome@swcp.com>: host mx1.swcp.com[] said: 550
    <maathome@swcp.com>: Recipient address rejected: 5.1.1
    <maathome@swcp.com>... User unknown (in reply to RCPT TO command)

<nick_hanstock@blueyonder.co.uk>: host mailin.blueyonder.co.uk[]
    said: 550 Administrative prohibition - unable to validate recipient (in
    reply to RCPT TO command)

<tmorris@advnet.net>: host mailserver.advnet.net[] said: 550
    <tmorris@advnet.net>: 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 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

08:25 - 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 from yesterday.

PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 13 2006,16:54  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts DELETE EDIT QUOTE

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...

I've 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.

I've 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...  :)

I'm starting to seriously look at migrating my laptop to Ubuntu. Stay tuned...


The Linux revolution started long ago, of course, but for me personally it started on Memorial Day 2004. My friend Brian Bilbrey 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 application.

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

08:25 - 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 later.

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.

11:38 - 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 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:11 - I ordered some more stuff yesterday for my home chemistry lab. Here's the order.

Description Qty Price
aluminum 1 oz 1.69
aluminum ammonium sulfate 1 oz 1.60
ammonium carbonate 4 oz 4.35
ammonium chloride 4 oz 3.79
Biuret Reagent 4 oz 1.99
calcium hydroxide 4 oz 3.00
calcium nitrate 4 oz 4.50
calcium sulfate dihydrate 4 oz 2.55
charcoal, activated 4 oz 3.60
chloroform 4 oz 2.99
citric acid 1 oz 1.75
cobalt chloride 1 oz 2.99
copper 4 oz 4.99
copper(II) sulfate pentahydrate 16 oz 7.95
Fehling's Solution A (Copper #1) 4 oz 2.75
Fehling's Solution B (Alkalai #2) 4 oz 2.85
ferric ammonium citrate 4 oz 6.25
ferric ammonium sulfate 4 oz 4.35
ferrous ammonium sulfate 1 oz 2.79
ferrous sulfate 4 oz 2.35
fluorescein, sodium salt, 40% 1 oz 4.75
hexamethylenetetramine 1 oz 2.99
iodine crystals 4 oz 25.00
iron filings 4 oz 2.55
luminol 1 g 14.00
magnesium metal strip 36” 1.00
ninhydrin powder 5 g 10.25
phenolphthalein powder 1 oz 4.20
potassium bromide 4 oz 3.15
potassium ferricyanide 4 oz 4.79
potassium ferrocyanide 4 oz 4.25
potassium iodide 4 oz 8.50
potassium permanganate 4 oz 4.99
silver nitrate 10 g 8.00
sodium bisulfate 4 oz 2.25
sodium borate (borax) 4 oz 2.25
sodium carbonate 4 oz 2.30
sodium silicate (37%) 4 oz 2.30
sodium sulfate 4 oz 2.35
sodium thiosulfate 4 oz 2.35
sulfur 4 oz 2.35
sulfuric acid, 98% 16 oz 8.99
tannic acid 1 oz 3.00
tartaric acid 1 oz 1.75
zinc metal (mossy) 4 oz 2.29

Flask, volumetric with stopper, 25mL 1 5.75
Barnes dropping bottle, 30mL, 12 each 1 12.00
Wash bottle, 500mL 2 5.50
Gas washing bottle, 16 oz 1 4.25
Vial, 1 dram, 12x60mm (dozen) 1 2.65
Goggles, splash, laboratory 4 17.00

Shipping and handling

I ordered this stuff from Elemental Scientific, 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
  To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Date: Yesterday 19:18:03
  Re: current chemistry research

Hello Bob,

I was curious as to your plans for the chemistry "set" you are building in your kitchenette.... is this to be the topic of a future book or website?  I must admit my 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 increase it"

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, ironically, Zune is incompatible with Vista. How embarrassing that must be for Microsoft. They obviously have a right-hand/left-hand problem here.


Friday, 17 November 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

08:48 - 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 to stop."

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

00:00 -


Sunday, 19 November 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.