Other than a couple hours' work on the book Saturday and the same again
Sunday, I pretty much took the weekend off. After finishing the final
lab chapter on Friday, I thought I deserved a short break. This
morning, it's back to work for me. It'll be heads-down work on the book
from now through the end of the month. I may not finish it by then,
but at least it should be nearing completion.
There may always be an England, but it's not
going to be the England we've known,
now that mere possession of a book can subject a person to felony
charges. Of course, things aren't much better here in the United
States, where someone can be sent to prison merely for thinking about
It used to be that convicting someone of crime
required that the prosecution prove that, first, a crime had actually
been committed, and, second, that the person charged with the crime had
intended to commit the crime. Furthermore, the law prohibited
entrapment, whereby the authorities encouraged someone to commit a
crime. Nowadays, it's apparently sufficient for the
prove intent, whether or not they entrapped the person charged, and
whether or not a crime was actually committed.
I refer to the case
of John David Roy Atchison,
who recently committed suicide after being charged with intending to
molest a little girl. It's difficult to have any sympathy for Mr.
Atchison, of course. It's pretty clear that he did in fact intend to
molest a little girl. And yet, before we celebrate, we should think
long and hard about exactly what happened here.
was entrapped by a police officer masquerading as the non-existent
girl's mother. No actual crime occurred, obviously, as the girl does
not exist. And, if Mr. Atchison can be charged with intent to
molest a non-existent little girl, should not the police officer be
charged with offering to prostitute the non-existent little girl?
Prosecuting so-called "thought crimes" is a very slippery slope.
Still working heads-down on the book. I started the Mastering
Laboratory Skills chapter yesterday, which until now was only a brief
outline. I got about 3,500 words knocked out on it yesterday, along
with half a dozen images, and hope to do the same today. If I can
maintain that rate, I should finish the chapter by the first of next
That's the only major chapter that wasn't already in
first-draft form. The Preface and Introduction chapters aren't started
yet, but they'll take only a day or two each. Then it'll be back to
re-write on the other narrative chapters. If I have any time remaining
when those are done, I'll add a laboratory chapter or two, and perhaps
add some lab sessions to existing lab chapters. As Pournelle often
says, it's a great life if you don't weaken.
My word count for the chapter is up to 6,834, so I'm making pretty good
progress. On narrative chapters, I generally "write long" and then make
a final pass to tighten things up and trim the word count a bit. This
one's looking like it should have a final word count of around 15,000+,
so I probably have three more days of actual writing and then a day or
so of second-pass editing to do on it.
On Linux reliability.
From: Bruce A.
To: Robert Bruce Thompson Date: Wed Oct 10
14:57:29 2007 Re: Linux
have a story that you might find interesting. This is about
experiences of one of my IT co-workers. His parents, in their
very late 80s, had an aging Mac that they wanted to replace.
Rather than bother their busy son for advice about what to
replace it with, they asked a friend. He directed them to get
E-machine running Windows XP Home Edition.
my coworker spent a couple of hours, every couple of weeks, removing
spyware and keeping the system running. He installed Firefox
Thunderbird to get them off of Internet Exploder and Outlook, but it
still was a pain to keep running.
day he asked me if I had anything he could install on their machine as
he was getting tired of fixing it. I gave him a copy of
OCE and told him to give it a try. He installed it with no
problem except that it didn't recognize their HP all-in-one printer.
said his 89 year old mother looked at it and said it looked a lot like
Windows to her. She was used to Firefox and Thunderbird so
were not a problem. He said she poked around Open Office
and said she could use it as well.
came to work and was happy and started to look for drivers for the
printer. I told him to wait as Xandros 3 OCE was coming out
less than a week. When it did, I burnt him a copy of the
disk. He told me the next day that it had installed with no
problem and recognized the printer as well.
was good but there is more to the story. About a week ago, he
came to me and told me his dad had called and told him there was a
problem with the computer. He went over and it was powered
so he switched on the monitor and then reached over and pressed the
power button on the computer. His mom was watching and
"I didn't know there was a button on that box too!"
system booted just fine and there were no problems with the system. It
had run with no problems and no reboots since he installed Xandros 3
over two and a half years ago. I want to see the Windows
that will do that!
bad Xandros decided to get in bed with Microsoft. They had a
product. It might still be good but I will never know unless
rescind the agreement.
Bruce A. Friend Network Manager IT Operations and
Client Services Antioch University
That's been my experience as well. I've installed Linux for several
relatives, friends, and neighbors, and it just keeps on ticking. Many
of the systems I don't look at from one year to the next, and none of
them has ever been infected by malware or a virus or has suffered any
failure that wasn't hardware related.
As to Xandros, I agree
that it's a shame they sold their soul to Microsoft, but Ubuntu/Kubuntu
is certainly an excellent alternative. I'm running the Ubuntu 7.10 beta
on my den system right now, and it looks and works great. As far as I'm
concerned, it's Windows that isn't ready for Aunt Minnie. Linux does
- Here's an interesting PBS video about home chemistry.
I ran into a problem yesterday that I expected would be trivially easy
to solve. As it turned out, it wasn't. Or at least the solution wasn't
obvious. I wanted to download a copy of the video I posted the link to
yesterday, and save a local copy to my hard drive.
It's in flash
format, which is annoying enough, but the proprietary Adobe player is
even more annoying. Right-clicking on the video pops up a menu, as
expected, but of course there's no "save local copy" choice on
that menu. So I fired up adept, Kubuntu's package manager, and searched
for "flash", expecting to find a utility that would grab a copy of a
streaming flash video and save it to disk. If there's such a utility
available in the standard repositories, I must have missed it.
I emailed a couple of friends, asking them if they had any ideas. One
of them suggested QtTube, which works fine if you have the exact URL
for the video. That's obfuscated with embedded flash videos, of course,
and I didn't have time to track it down. But presumably it's doable. I
don't understand why PBS doesn't just post this stuff as
freely-downloadable .mpg files. After all, they're supported by public
Thanks to everyone for the suggestions about how to grab a copy of the
PBS flash video. I tried a bunch of Firefox plug-ins. None of them
worked. Several people suggested that I just copy the file from the
Firefox cache and rename it to .flv. I'd already thought about doing
that, but I wasn't able to find the file. On my Linux box, Firefox puts
its cache files in the directory
looked there, but the largest file was only 6 MB, which obviously
wasn't large enough to hold that video. Finally, someone suggested I do
a search for recently changed files. I did that this morning, and found
no large files other than ones I knew weren't the video. Then I
realized belatedly that I was searching only /home/thompson. I told
search to look in root (/) and all subdirectories, and it located the
25 MB flash video file in /tmp. Duh. Obviously the flash plug-in has
its own ideas about where to store temp files.
I took a break yesterday from working on the book. Instead, I spent the day working on a proposal/outline for the next book.
13:11 - I
emailed Dale Dougherty, the co-founder of O'Reilly and the publisher of
Make, to suggest he watch the PBS video. He replied that he'd seen it
when it ran on Monday, and that it had been made "out here in San
Francisco". Which made me wonder...
Almost universally, people
use the constructs "up north" and "down south", and for an obvious
reason. Geographic maps are printed with north up, and all of us see
maps frequently. But the constructs "out west" and "back
east" are still widely used. Presumably they date from the 19th
century, when most people lived near the east coast, and some people
traveled "out" to the west or returned "back" to the east. But I wonder
why that usage persists generations later.
population clusters mostly near the coasts--east, west, and
south--and with some exceptions the center of the country is relatively
lightly populated. So perhaps we should start using the center and edge
of the circle as reference points. For example, someone traveling
from Omaha to New York (or Los Angeles) could say he was traveling "out
to New York", and someone traveling from New York or Los Angeles to
Omaha could say he was traveling "in to Omaha". Someone who was
traveling from New York to Los Angeles could say he was traveling "over
to LA", or vice versa. Which I guess means that someone who was
traveling from Boston to Miami would say he was traveling "around to
Barbara and I went out observing last night, for the first time in a
long time. Every time it's been clear, there's been a big moon up, and
every time there's been no moon it's been hazy. Last night was clear,
with only a sliver of a moon that set well before the end of
Our astronomy club was having a regular
club observation last night at its primary observing site, but that
site has become so light-polluted with local lights that observing
there is little better than observing in town. So we decided to observe
in-town, and work on our Astronomical League Urban Observing list. We
added eight objects to our bag, including several objects in Ophiuchus
and Cygnus. Finding objects under light-polluted urban conditions can
be very challenging because there are so few stars visible to serve as
guideposts. But a couple of more urban sessions this autumn and winter,
and perhaps one more next spring should allow us to complete that list.
should also complete the AL Caldwell Club list soon. We're about 20
objects short of completing that list. It's not a very good list, but
we started it so we'll finish it. Barbara has also nearly completed the
AL Lunar Club list, which I haven't started. That list requires
observing and identifying 100 specific Lunar features, such as craters
and rills. I told Barbara last night that I planned to complete the
Lunar Club list in 15 seconds one night when there's a full moon. I'll
just put the moon in the eyepiece, say, "yep, there they are are" and
log all of the required objects. Barbara says that would be cheating.
we're both working toward meeting the requirements for the AL Master
Observer certificate, which requires completing the lists of ten AL
clubs. Five of those are required: Messier Club, Binocular Messier
Club, Lunar Club, Double Star Club, and Herschel 400 Club. We've
already completed (or could easily complete) four of those.
problem is the Herschel 400 Club, which requires logging 400 Herschel
objects. Many of those are very faint galaxies, which can be observed
only from a very dark location on a night of excellent transparency.
We're more than half way through the Herschel 400 list, but most of the
remaining objects are best viewed during the spring and summer months,
when observing conditions around here are usually very poor. It may
take us years to complete the Herschel 400 list.
No doubt we'll
do it, though. Meeting the requirements for the AL Master Observer
certificate isn't supposed to be easy. Only about 65 amateur
astronomers world-wide have done so, with only about 10 new members
being added per year. Perhaps Barbara and I can get it completed in
time to be two-digit members.