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Week of 3 October 2005

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Monday, 3 October 2005
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08:24 - Marcia Bilbrey arrived yesterday afternoon for a week's visit. She and Barbara will spend the week doing this and that while I continue working on the book.

Originally, Barbara and Marcia had planned a trip to New England this week. Barbara and I were going to drive up to the Bilbrey's home, where I'd spend the week with Brian while Barbara and Marcia drove up to New England. When it became obvious that deadlines would prevent me from spending the week up there, Brian suggested that Marcia come down here instead. She did, and she and Barbara have the whole week mapped out.

I'd intended to finish the chapter on power supplies and power protection over the weekend, but it didn't happen. I'll probably not get it finished even today. Oh, well. At this point I'm actually a bit ahead of schedule, so the delay in finishing this chapter won't be fatal.

My ripping system, ripper, died on Saturday. When I started it, Windows displayed a file-not-found error during boot, which is a pretty good sign of a failing hard drive. Rather than attempt to repair the installation, as Windows suggested, I instead decided to replace the system.

The only good candidate was my Aria SFF system in the den, so I moved it to my office and started to install Windows XP. That turned into a major effort. When XP finished installing, there was no network connectivity. No problem, I thought. All I needed to do was download a LAN driver for the Intel D865GRH motherboard. That was a major problem, as it turned out. Intel has changed its web site. Instead of direct links to drivers, they now use some Javascript mess that doesn't work under Mozilla.

I played around with that for a while before concluding that the Intel download site was in fact IE-only. Great. I didn't have IE installed on any system in the house. Well, I did have it one, I finally remembered. I'd reinstalled XP on the notebook system we use for astronomy, so I moved the notebook to my office and plugged in a LAN cable. Of course, the notebook is set up to be used in the dark while observing, including deep red film covering the display, so it was difficult to see what I was doing. But I finally got the driver I needed and was able to get new ripper connected to the network.

The upside is that the 3.2 GHz Pentium 4 in new ripper is more than twice as fast at ripping and compressing as the Sempron 2800+ in old ripper--about 45 to 50 minutes to rip an average disc for new ripper versus about 2 hours for old ripper. The downside is CPU temperature. At idle, the CPU in new ripper runs about 37° C or 38° C. Under full load, it runs about 70° C, which is hotter than I'm comfortable with.

09:50 - Well, I see that Microsoft has finally noticed a possible workaround for Massachusett's requirement for open document formats. I thought about this the first time I read Massachusetts' requirements, but I was hoping that no one at Microsoft would realize that supporting PDF in Office 12 was a possible way to get past the Massachusetts open document requirements.

Microsoft is desperate, of course. If they lose Massachusetts, that would be the first domino toppling in a disastrous chain reaction that topples the whole Microsoft house of cards. The only thing that sustains the Office format lock-in is the installed base. As other governments and corporations follow Massachusetts' lead, that advantage disappears. Office has to compete on a level playing field, and there's simply no way it can do that.

If the Office franchise disappears, Microsoft loses one of its two cash cows, but it's worse than that. Without the Office lock-in, Microsoft suddenly has to compete for both the desktop and the server room. Office is the keystone that holds everything together, and Microsoft simply can't afford to have that keystone threatened. They've already pulled out all the stops to quash the Massachusetts plan. I expect things to get really nasty.

If I were the Massachusetts folks, I'd tell Microsoft that I'd be happy to add Office 12 to the approved list if it supports full read/write/edit of PDF and if its default save format is PDF. Otherwise, not.


Tuesday, 4 October 2005
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09:10 - I should have known. Microsoft says it will support PDF only in Save-As or export form, not for editing. Their customers don't want to edit PDFs, says Microsoft. Of course they don't want to edit PDFs. What they want is an open document format, and Microsoft hopes, rather pathetically, to be able to sneak into the open format camp by offering limited support for PDF. Fortunately for everyone except Microsoft, that's not going to cut it. The Massachusetts folks can see right through Microsoft's smoke and mirrors.

Reading all the stories about Massachusetts and OpenDocument, I'm struck by how many of them claim that Microsoft doesn't understand the issue. That's insulting to Microsoft. Microsoft understands the issue full well. Well enough to understand that widespread adoption of an open document format would be an unmitigated catastrophe for Microsoft.

I have some advice for Microsoft. Adopt OpenDocument and make it the native format for Office 12. Yes, you'll find that you'll have to drop the price of Office by an order of magnitude to get any sales at all, and yes you'll find that eventually your Office unit sales will drop to 10% of what they have been. That means your Office revenue will likely be 1% of what it had been. But 1% is better than nothing, and nothing is what you'll end up with otherwise.


Wednesday, 5 October 2005
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10:30 - We're coming down to the wire now. I've submitted all but Chapter 0, the Preface, and Chapter 1, the Introduction. I was hoping to have those both finished by Friday, but it looks as though that will slide into this weekend. Next week, I'll be incorporating all of the comments and suggestions I've received from my technical editors and subscribers, and I hope to have the final manuscript off to O'Reilly by Friday 14 October. That'll give my editor the weekend and the first couple days of the following week to do a final edit pass before the book goes to production on Wednesday 19 October.


Thursday, 6 October 2005
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10:20 - It's down-to-the-wire time. I'm making a final push to get the book done, and get reviewers' comments incorporated. Don't expect much here for the next week or ten days.

11:18 - Oh, hell. They're at it again. The EU has announced that it will snatch control of the Internet from the US. According to the article:

But the refusal to budge only strengthened opposition, and now the world's governments are expected to agree a deal to award themselves ultimate control. It will be officially raised at a UN summit of world leaders next month and, faced with international consensus, there is little the US government can do but acquiesce.

Well, the US could not acquiesce, which is exactly what's going to happen. The US, of course, can veto any such attempted UN action, but it goes much further. As I've noted before, the rest of the world needs the US a lot more than the US needs the rest of the world, and that most definitely includes the European Union. This attempted smash-and-grab is doomed to fail. The US will not, cannot, give up control of a critical strategic resource. And if the rest of the world decides to proceed without US approval, well they can have their own Internet or, more likely, Internets. They certainly won't be welcome on ours.

As I said a few days ago, it's time and past time for a little demonstration. Perhaps cutting off the EU--with the exception of the UK--for a day or two and letting them suck vacuum would teach them who needs whom.


Friday, 7 October 2005
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Saturday, 8 October 2005
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13:40 - My editor just sent me another review of Astronomy Hacks.

Astronomy Hacks - Tips and Tools for Observing the Night Sky
By 大河马

买了一本送给dahema,属于O'Reilly的hacks系列。翻了翻,很多观天知识都不知道,不过 观天又花钱又花时间。本来准备去eBay再买一个天文望远镜,结果书上购买望远镜第一条 就是别在eBay上买,据说那上都是垃圾。 --gromit.

I couldn't read a word of it (other than By, dahema, O'Reilly, hacks, eBay, eBay, and gromit), so I ran it through the Google translator. Now it all makes sense:

"By big river?

> >?  Ryo one sending?  Dahema and being  attached 于 O'  Reilly hacks series.  翻 Ryo 翻, 很 multi?   Heaven knowledge?  Capital ignorance > road, non-?      Heaven and  flower?  And flower?        Originally associate?  Leaving eBay re-?   One 个 astronomical gazing/hoping?   Fruit?  On >?       Gazing/hoping?      The Ichijo engaging in right?  On resident in  eBay?  据?  Capital right on 那?        --gromit."


Sunday, 9 October 2005
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