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Week of 18 February 2008


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Monday, 18 February 2008
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08:40 - There's been a flood of articles and rumors over the past few days about the death of HD-DVD. Look for Toshiba to make a formal announcement, perhaps as early as today but almost certainly by the end of this week, that it has abandoned the format and ceased making HD-DVD hardware. I believe they made that decision at least a week ago, if not a month ago, and have been trying to figure out how to exit the market gracefully and minimize losses. Unfortunately for Toshiba, there isn't a graceful way to turn a rout into an organized retreat.

One good thing will come of this. There will be a fire sale on HD-DVD players as Toshiba dumps its remaining stock. The HD-DVD label will become poison, and I expect we'll see Toshiba HD-DVD players selling for less than standard DVD players of similar quality. But Toshiba HD-DVD players are also excellent upscaling standard DVD players, so if you're in the market for such a player you'll get a bargain by buying one of the discontinued HD-DVD units. Just pretend it's a standard player and peel off the HD-DVD label on it.

The Blu-Ray camp is no doubt popping champagne corks, convinced that the war is over and they won. But, as I said before, although HD-DVD has lost that doesn't mean Blu-Ray has won. I think we'll see a small short-term bump in Blu-Ray player sales, but the simple truth is that Blu-Ray is a solution in search of a problem.

Most people see little or no difference in video quality between Blu-Ray and and a standard DVD played in an upscaling standard DVD player. When you consider that Blu-Ray discs cost two to three times as much as standard DVDs and that most people already have most of what they want on standard DVDs, it's unlikely that we'll see Blu-Ray gain any significant market share. Couple this with the fact that only a few hundred titles are available on Blu-Ray versus more than 100,000 titles on standard DVDs, and it's obvious that Blu-Ray is faced with, at best, a long struggle to gain converts.

I think it's likely that Blu-Ray will wither on the vine, overtaken by events. Downloads are the future for video, and eventually the history books will mention Blu-Ray, if at all, as just another failed format. Standard DVD is the last successful physical format for video, as much as the studios wish it were otherwise. Blu-Ray is just another attempt by the large copyright holders to convince us to pay for the same content again. That worked for albums-to-cassettes, cassettes-to-CDs, and VHS-to-DVDs, but more recent attempts such as DVD-Audio and SACD have failed miserably, and even as the last physical HD-Video format left standing Blu-Ray is unlikely to change that trend.



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Tuesday, 19 February 2008
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08:40 - Toshiba made the announcement last night. HD-DVD is no more, at least as a video format. Toshiba may try to establish HD-DVD as a PC standard, but I think it's unlikely they'll succeed unless they're willing to invest a lot more money to seed the market. I'd pay $75 for an HD-DVD writer for my PC, assuming that 25 GB HD-DVD blanks sell for $0.50 or less each. If Toshiba is willing to subsidize HD-DVD to that extent, it has a shot at succeeding as a PC standard. Otherwise, not.



Barbara is working a half day today. This afternoon, she's taking her father to the hospital for knee-replacement surgery. Barbara's mother doesn't drive, so Barbara will be pretty busy over the next few days.



There's a total Lunar eclipse tomorrow evening that will be visible throughout North America, South America, and Europe. We may not get to see it. Our forecast is mostly cloudy, lows below freezing, and winds of 20 to 30 MPH. If there's a break in the clouds, we'll probably check out the eclipse from our front yard with binoculars or with our grab-and-go telescope.

The US Navy will attempt to shoot down that errant satellite during the total eclipse. They've issued a NOTAM to warn aircraft away from a huge swath of airspace over the Pacific Ocean. If they hit the satellite, there may be a spectacular display of debris burning up in the atmosphere. I haven't looked into the details, but it's possible that people on the west coast may be able to see quite a bit of that display.

Actually, it's possible we'll be able to see some of it. If the satellite is hit, it won't come down all at once. They're expecting nearly all of it to reenter within two orbits, so it's possible that some people along the track will see the trails of reentering debris far from the impact.



I'm still working on the Teacher's Guide for the home chem lab book, which will contain answers to every question in the book. Imagine taking a chemistry test that runs all day long for two weeks on end, and you'll have an idea of what I'm doing right now.



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Wednesday, 20 February 2008
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08:10 - Barbara's dad was to have knee-replacement surgery yesterday, but it didn't happen. During prep, they determined that his heart rate and blood pressure were spiking periodically, and there were some arrhythmias, so they decided to admit him for some cardiac tests. We're all hoping that whatever the problem is, it's minor and easily treated, but the surgery will obviously have to be rescheduled. Barbara went to work today as usual, and will head over to the hospital after work to visit her dad and take her mom out for dinner.

I'm still cranking away on the Teacher's Guide for the home chem lab book. I've now completed the first 12 of the 17 lab chapters, so I'm in the home stretch. I'm hoping to have it finished by the end of next week. I still have a lot of work to do on the homechemlab.com website and other administrative stuff to get ready for the April availability of the book. I also have to get cranking on the home forensics lab book. An author's work is never done...



17:07 - I knew the forecast wasn't looking too great for the eclipse tonight, so I decided to visit the Weather Channel site for the current forecast. Here's what I saw:


Hmmm. According to the Weather Channel, tonight is to be generally clear, but mostly cloudy, with a low of 33F and a low of 28F.


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Thursday, 21 February 2008
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08:04 - They discharged Barbara's dad from the hospital yesterday, over his physician's objection. Apparently, they can't figure out what was causing the problems. They concluded that it was simply due to his age, which is 85, and put him on some new medication. Barbara took her mom and dad home from the hospital and then out to dinner. I guess they're going to keep an eye on her dad's condition, with the idea of rescheduling his knee-replacement surgery if the new medication keeps the problem under control.

We were clouded out for the eclipse last night, although we did see glimpses of the partial eclipse through the clouds when we walked the dogs around 9:00 p.m. Unfortunately, that was our last chance to view a total Lunar eclipse until the evening of 20/21 December 2010.

Work on the Teacher's Guide for the home chem lab book continues. I hope to have it finished this week.


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Friday, 22 February 2008
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07:44 - I finished the first draft of the Teacher's Guide for the home chem lab book yesterday. It's 74 pages. I'm going to set it aside for a few days and then read through it in detail to check for errors, omissions, and so on. Once I'm happy with it, I'll see if I can sweet-talk Mary and Paul (my tech reviewers) into doing a pass through it. I'm sure they'll find errors and make many useful suggestions.

Goodwill showed up with a truck yesterday afternoon to haul off a bunch of stuff, most of it stuff from my office. Barbara said they're always happy to get computers and components, but I'm not sure what they'll make of some of this stuff. An unused DDS-4 tape drive in the box, for example, and a 16-port 100BaseT hub. Not to mention some really obsolete stuff. I can't imagine why anyone would want a 56K modem, for example, but there were a couple of them in the boxes Goodwill hauled off. I guess maybe someone who's still on dial-up could use one.

There were also motherboards, most with processors and memory installed, and most of Pentium 4 vintage, not to mention a bunch of optical drives, a printer or two, and so on. And tons and tons of cables. Power cables, printer cables, serial cables, USB cables, and Ethernet cables. I didn't do much sorting of the stuff, but I did at least pull out some of the really obsolete stuff and put it in the garbage. Among that were several 10Base2 cables, which I thought was bad until I came across an Ethernet piercing tap.

No ARCnet, thank goodness. I think I got rid of all the ARCnet stuff the last time I cleaned out my office, which has been several years ago now. I was actually sorry to see the ARCnet stuff go. I had what was probably one of the first (if not the first) home networks in the world when I first connected my two home systems back 25 years ago. Back then, ARCnet was the only practical method, not that you could do a whole lot with it. Come to think of it, I may still have a spool of RG-62U coax in the basement. I may keep that, just in case ARCnet ever comes back.

After the ARCnet network, I used LANtastic on their proprietary network adapters for a couple of years, and then went to 10Base2 Ethernet. From there, I went to 10BaseT and then to 100BaseT. I'm still on 100BaseT, although all our systems have 1000BaseT adapters. I haven't bothered to upgrade the hubs/switches, although I should probably do that at some point. The cable in the walls is Category 5, which'll probably support 1000BaseT given the short cable runs.

On the other hand, I may not bother. I don't transfer a lot of data between systems, and even 100BaseT is much faster than our cable modem Internet service, so an upgrade to 1000BaseT will have minimal benefits for us.



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Saturday, 23 February 2008
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00:00 - 



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Sunday, 24 February 2008
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09:28 - Ordinarily, Malcolm is well-behaved at night. He does move around a lot. Many times during the night, he'll be up onto and down from our bed, into the corner by the closet, over under the window, or curled up against a chair. But he ordinarily doesn't disturb our sleep, except when he decides we're wasting daylight and it's time for us to get up.

But Friday night he was behaving badly. Constant whimpering, moving around every couple of minutes. He even barked, which he never does unless there's an intruder actually in our yard. So I got up to take him out. He untanked on one of the bushes, and I figured that'd be that. But a short while later, he was pestering again. Barbara got up and took him out. He finally did settle down a bit, and we were able to get some sleep.

Then, Saturday morning, he was constantly wanting to go out. Yesterday afternoon, only a few minutes after he'd been out, he suddenly squatted and peed on one of the throw rugs. Malcolm breaking house training told us something was wrong. Barbara immediately concluded he had a urinary tract infection. She dug out the Merck Veterinary Manual, and I started reading about UTIs in canines.

I checked my small stock of antibiotics and decided to start him on 750 mg of cephalexin every 12 hours. I gave him the first dose about 7:30 yesterday evening, figuring it would knock down the infection very quickly. It did. By bedtime he was back to normal, and he slept all night as usual. I gave him the second dose this morning.

Unfortunately, I have sufficient cephalexin for only four days, which isn't enough. I'll call the vet Monday morning and see if I can just pick up some more cephalexin from him, but he'll probably want me to bring Malcolm over for an office visit. But it sure would be easier and cheaper if I could just walk into a drugstore and buy a bottle of cephalexin.

Better yet, I should be able to buy bulk cephalexin on the Internet, no questions asked. Actually, I suppose I can. Foster & Smith, where Barbara orders a lot of pet supplies, offers 100 250 mg cephalexin capsules for $30 and 100 250 mg amoxicillin capsules for $17, both supposedly for treating aquariums. I'll probably order some the next time Barbara places an order with them.



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