We finished building and shooting images of the Mini-ITX appliance
system yesterday afternoon. We haven't fired it up yet, but I'll
probably install Windows 7 on it this morning, just to see how it runs.
I'll then install Linux on it, and probably hook it up to the HDTV to
see if it'll handle a 1080p video file. My guess is that it won't, or
perhaps it will but only barely. At any rate, that's not what this
system is for. If we'd wanted it to be a media-center system, we'd have
installed a Mini-ITX board with an Intel Core i3 or Core i5 processor
rather than an Intel Atom.
We hope to get the remaining five
systems built and imaged at a rate of a couple a week. That'll leave
all of July for doing the intro narrative chapters, tech review,
re-write, clean-up, and so on, with the book scheduled to go to the
production folks on 31 July. This edition has been on an extremely
tight deadline, but it looks like we'll manage it, as usual.
I write a lot about getting kids interested in and involved with
science, but I don't necessarily encourage them to pursue science as a
career. That's because, although it sounds very strange, we now have
both a major shortage of scientists--active and in the pipeline--and a
major excess of scientists. How can we have a shortage and an
excess simultaneously? We have a major shortage because we don't have
nearly as many scientists as we as a society actually need. We have a
major excess because we have thousands of people who hold Ph.D.'s in a
hard science flipping burgers and driving taxis. In other words, we as
a society are not providing enough jobs for scientists or paying our
scientists what they're worth. This
article goes into more detail.
course, employment prospects and salaries differ from field to field.
Pharmaceutical chemists, for example, are being laid off in massive
numbers, while environmental scientists and forensic scientists are
still in demand. But overall the problem remains. Government policies
are, directly and indirectly, encouraging our best and brightest kids
to pursue careers outside science. Many of those kids would choose
careers in science if there was a high likelihood they could earn a
decent living doing science. But when they see people with post-docs in
chemistry, physics, biology, and the other sciences literally flipping
burgers for a living, one can't blame them for deciding to pursue other
career options. Unfortunately, although it is almost certainly better
for them personally to do so, it's disastrous in the long term for our
I've proposed several ideas to address this, including
making all R&D salary expenditures tax credits (rather than
deductions). I also proposed the Eureka idea, which is basically a
taxpayer subsidy for anyone with a genius-level or higher IQ. Kind of
like the MacArthur
but on a much larger scale. Rather than 20 to 40 grants per
at $100,000/year for five years, we should be finding the brightest
0.01% of our people--call it 30,000 of them--and giving them
$100,000/year grants, in perpetuity and indexed for inflation, with no
strings attached. Exempt them from all taxes and other routine
concerns, give them a nice place to live and facilities to do what they
want to do, all with the understanding that whatever discoveries they
make belong to the public who paid their way.
The cost of doing
this would be trivial, a fraction of 1% of the federal budget, and the
benefits would be enormous. Sure, there'd be a lot of waste, but less
than we have under our current system. Some of the recipients might
just lie around and cash their checks. A large percentage would end up
doing research that had no immediate payoff. But a small number of them
would produce revolutionary new technologies and products. Even a 0.1%
success rate would pay for the program in spades.
Here's irony. Ashley Paramore vlogs on the tragic accident that
occurred in Monroe, Ohio last night. The Touchdown Jesus of Solid Rock
Church used to have a gigantic statue of Jesus out front. Last night
(and I am not making this up) the Jesus statue was struck by lightning
and burned to the ground.
Is it just me, or is anyone else wondering how bad this oil spill
"disaster" really is? From the rhetoric, I would have expected to see
photographs of many fouled beaches covered in oil for as far as the eye
can see and millions of dead birds and sea life, but all I've seen so
far is a few close-up images of a bit of oil on a few beaches. And
I read one article recently that gave the total body count at 36 birds.
One gulf state governor last week told tourists there was no reason to
stay away because that state's beaches were completely clear.
when the flow estimate was about 5,000 barrels/day--call it 200,000
gallons/day--I ran some quick numbers to determine what the
concentration of oil would be if it was limited to just the one cubic
mile surrounding the leak, which is about a mile under water. One cubic
mile is 147,197,952,000 cubic feet, or about 1,103,984,640,000 gallons.
That meant that one day's oil flow would comprise
200,000/1,103,984,640,000 = 0.000000181 or 0.181161941 parts per
million in that one cubic mile. And, of course, the Gulf of Mexico has
a great number of cubic miles.
Even with the increased flow rate
estimates, and even assuming the leak is 100% petroleum rather than
some significant percentage of natural gas, and even with the leak
remaining unplugged for many weeks or months, we're still talking about
oil concentrations in the parts per billion, if not parts per trillion.
Of course, that assumes that the oil disperses rather than clumping,
but even so. Objectively, this appears to be a very small drop in a
very large bucket.
It's been obvious to any neutral observer for more than a year that
Obama's is a failed presidency, and it just keeps getting more obvious
every day. The one thing Obama appears to be good at is confiscating
huge amounts of money from taxpayers, investors, and unfavored
companies and passing it out to political cronies, labor unions,
third-world countries, and others whose favor he wants to buy.
date, Obama has achieved one thing that I thought was impossible. He's
actually made Jimmy Carter look competent. It's stunning that, at
last tally, Obama still has a 49% approval rating. Of course, all that
proves is that at least 49% of the American people are completely
Barbara's sister called Wednesday evening to say her desktop computer
was acting flaky. It powered off by itself and wouldn't restart.
Frances let it sit for a couple hours and it restarted normally, only
to die again a short time later. That sounded like a power supply, so I
told her to pack it up and drop it off on her way to work yesterday.
got the lid off and blew out most of the dust, expecting that a quick
power supply replacement would solve the problem. Then I noticed that
this system was actually the budget system we'd built for the 2nd
edition of Building the Perfect PC.
That system was built four years ago, so it's nearing the end of its
design life. Still, I hoped that I could revive it with a replacement
power supply and have it last long enough that we'd be past the
deadline pressure of the new book.
Alas, that was not meant to
be. While I was cleaning things up, I used some canned air to blow out
the CPU cooler and fan and noticed that the fan wasn't spinning freely.
In fact, I could barely turn it with finger pressure. Obviously, the
fan was either so jammed up with dust that it couldn't spin or the
bearing had died. Either way, it needed to be replaced, so I flipped
the locking tabs, intending to remove the CPU cooler to clean it up or
replace it. Unfortunately, when I removed the CPU cooler, the processor
came with it, pulled out of the socket by its roots. Not good.
needs her computer, and we didn't have a spare one to give her, at
least until we finish the project systems for the book. The obvious
solution was to buy a new one at Costco, so after verifying that she
wanted a desktop system rather than a notebook, I visited the Costco
website to see what they had on offer.
The least expensive desktop system they have is a Dell Inspirion 570
for $500, not including display. Interestingly, the general specs for
this system are just about identical to the budget system we're
building for the new book. An AMD Athlon II X2 240 Regor processor, 4
GB of memory, a 500 GB hard drive, a DVD burner, and so on. That's
about $150 more than the component cost for our budget system, not
counting Windows 7, which she doesn't want anyway. And, of course,
we're using better grade components to build our budget system than
Dell uses in its Inspirion models.
So, to make a long story
short, we'll juggle things around to get the budget system built right
after we finish the server system, which we're working on now. Frances
will pay my out-of-pocket costs for the new budget system, and
they'll end up with a better system for less money. For now, I'll just
plug in their old SATA hard drive, which'll save me having to spend
several hours getting a bare hard drive set up with their software and
data. (They run Linux, so I can move their old system drive to another
system and it'll simply boot and reconfigure Linux for the new
hardware.) I'll pull a backup off it, just in case, and upgrade them to
a new hard drive later.
That means Frances will be without her
desktop system for a week or ten days, but chances are I'd have had to
order the Dell on-line anyway, so some delay was inevitable.