Saturday, November 29, 2008

Acer Aspire One - 20 days later

I purchased this Acer Aspire One 20 days ago... and I'm still VERY happy with it. 

This computer is not the most powerful thing out there, but it's more than good enough for the tasks I tend to undertake. The price more than makes up for this.

I've shown this computer to a bunch of my fellow commuters, and the usually respond favorable when I talk about it. I explain that it's a real computer, and it has Windows XP and not the dreaded Vista... which scores points. 

If they are still interested in it, I tell them there are two very important points they need to be aware of:

  • It's small
  • It has no optical drive
It's small in every way, the screen, the weight, the keyboard and trackpad. It takes adjustment, and is a definite tradeoff.

The other big point is the fact that there's no DVD/CD drive... which makes the decision to give one of these as a gift a bit risky.  The machine does come with InterVideo WinDVD for some reason... I'm hoping I can just download my Season 4 of Dr Who and watch it... otherwise I'll find another way.

I'm sitting in a car dealership waiting for repairs... using their WiFi while connected through my machine at the office to avoid their filters... and this thing is just the right tool to check my email, read some web pages, and post this entry.

If you can live with the two points above, this might be the machine for you.

Still highly recommended.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hard Target Search - Neologism

After spending the last hour with Google and every concievable search, I have come to the first conclusion that the term "Hard Target Search" is a neologism, first popularized when Tommy Lee Jones said it in the movie: The Fugitive

He stops and looks into the TV lights and starts moving downtrack. The media and State Police move with him like Israelites behind Moses.

Ladies and gentlemen... our fugitive's been on the run for ninety minutes. Average foot speed over uneven ground - barring injury is approximately four miles an hour, giving us a radius of six miles. I want a hard-target search of any residence, gas station, farmhouse, henhouse, doghouse and outhouse in that area. Check-points go up at 15 miles.

(to media)

You got that? Good. Now, turn those damn things off and get out of our way.

Here's the definition of a hard target found on the internet:

  • any fortified, reinforced, armored, or protected object, mobile or stationary, which may require special ammunition or specific tactics (eg: sequence, approach, etc), and serves as a FORCE MULTIPLIER when attacked; see HARDEN, OBJ, COLLATERAL DAMAGE, RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (ROE), RFZ, NFZ, FREE FIRE ZONE, BDA, IRONCLAD, SKIN; compare SOFT TARGET. 

Hard targets are hard to kill, thus not generally hard to find. This bit of dialog sounds very military, but doesn't actually mean anything.  It's a neologism, written by Hollywood.

If then entered the slang, and got used in a Seinfeld episode called "The Sponge":

ELAINE: Well, Kramer was right. My friend Kim told me the sponge is off the market.

JERRY: So what are you gonna do?

ELAINE: I'll tell you what I'm gonna do - I'm gonna do a hard-target search. Of every drug store, general store, health store and grocery store in a 25-block radius.

So, it's off to the races, and the neologism has hit critical mass.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Poor mans geofiltering - The Zip Code

We had cause to try to filter a database today to entries near specific US cities. It turns out that the ZIP code is our friend.

First we used Wikipedia to locate a landmark in the target city (because you can't get a Zip code from the USPS unless you have a specific street address).

Knowing the zip code, we then went to Ben Fry's wonderful ZIP code visualizer to get an idea of the range of zip codes that would roughly approximate our desired scope.

Fast and efficient... thanks to the time savings experts of the past.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tiny bubbles - and why you should care a bit

I recieved a link to an MIT tech TV news release about storing energy... and it didn't really explain it well... so I dugg around and found out more. Here's how I explained it to my friends in an email:

The reasons you should care about this are laid out better in this video, which explains a lot more of the details:
At 3:26 they nicely explain about the reduced voltage required (which means it's more efficient) of 1.6 Volts instead of 2.3 volts of the 1.2 volts you could potentially recover in a fuel cell.
At 3:55 they explain that there are no precious metals involved, which means it could be scaled quickly once they tweak it.
At 5:15 they explain why they started experimenting with cobalt compounds to avoid precious metals
At 5:45 they explain the nifty catalyst they set out to make and investigate
At 6:05 - it didn't work... serendipity occurs instead
At 6:55 - they don't know how it works... but they are willing to learn
So... here we have a new way of efficiently converting excess electrical power to hydrogen and oxygen. This is a critical part of the cycle required to store energy for later use. 
I consider this the modern physics equivalent of inventing the first granary. It's a new place to securely store a harvest from the sun.

Thanks to my wonderful wife, Noran for the early birthday gift. I'm now the happy owner of an Acer Aspire One, which seems to be the ultimate machine for commuters like myself. My friend Daryl took this photo.

My Birthday Present

The photo on the screen is available from my Flickr photostream.

Chicago Bean Panorama

I couldn't resist playing with it in an almost recursive fashion... so I ended up with this:

Mike Train Recursion

So now I'm 45. I'm still amazed I lived past 28, and grateful for every day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008 - post 3

This is my third cross-posting to

The era of cheap oil and plentiful gasoline is rapidly coming to a close. The American car industry is build to harness two key resources that no longer exist in this country, cheap gas, and people with the money to buy new cars.

We need to save the manufacturing capabilities of the big three, but not to build more cars. We need to build new trains, trolleys, buses, and other vehicles to meet the transportation needs of the 21st century. We need to work together, and end the selfish need to cocoon ourselves in a ton of steel just to get a gallon of milk.

We need to save the remaining energy resources of this planet to allow our children and grandchildren to inherit them, in order to use them to cover the emergency needs that arise from time to time.

We need to end our love affair with the single person car. It will take some adjustment. We'll all have to give up the isolation, and actually get to know each other, but it's ok. We're all Americans, and we can get through this together.

Social network networks

I've learned that Facebook seems to link to almost everything, including Blogger and Flickr. It's a computer network of social networks, all geared to distributing social objects on a vast scale!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Recieved wisdom - saving for later

Some day I'll be contemplating something like this... and this makes total sense to me right now... so what better way than to blog it for posterity:

If you are virtualizing your server environment – use NFS as your storage protocol. It’s better, period, end of story. Don't beleive me, ask Nick Triantos at NetApp. If you are ok with limited storage capacity, let a NAS storage controller virtualize your disk and present NFS to your virtual servers. If you want to protect yourself from lock-in and the pain of provisioning beyond a single NAS controller, do your virtualization in the network connecting your storage arrays to your virtualized servers. - post #2

The Internet is still in it's infancy, it's entirely likely that the applications and protocols that the majority of us will find most valuable ten years from now have not even been thought of yet. It's thus very important to make the internet a level playing field, to allow it to continue to be a fertile field for growing new ideas, and new prosperity.

To do this, we should encourage Internet access for all Americans. One very low cost way is to help encourage a culture that shares this resource. The recent FCC rulings concerning "White Space" or unused radio channels are a great step forward. We should also encourage the FCC and others to allow communities that wish to build their own Internet infrastructure, instead of forcing them to wait for one of the incumbent monopoly providers to decide it's worthwhile.

The Internet was meant to be shared, anything you can do to help would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

New tools

It's always fun to get a new tool. You immediately start to put it to use, and to see what new capabilities it offers. So it is with my new Acer Aspire One netbook. It's really tiny, and I did opt to pay the Microsoft tax, in exchange for knowing that it'll do everything I want, albeit slower than previously.

So far, I've removed most of the bloatware that comes with it. I am wondering why they put a DVD player program on it, as it doesn't have an optical drive... but such is life.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Songs about teamwork

I was recently asked for ideas for songs about teamwork... after some research on the net... here's what I came up with

"I can help" - Billy Swan 1974 -
"Let's Work" - Mick Jagger -
"With a little help from my friends" - The Beatles -
"All together now" - The Beatles -
"Don't stop believing" - Journey -
"We didn't start the fire" - Billy Joel -
"Simply the best" - Tina Turner -
"Nothing's gonna stop us now" - Jefferson starship -
Wonder Pets Theme Song - (for a bit of humor)

Thursday, November 06, 2008 is now online, and accepting suggestions

There's a new domain in town..., which is set up by the transition team. They are looking for ideas... I just posted my first

Create an commission responsible for auditing and reviewing every branch of government, composed of at least 50% certified public accountants, and the balance from the general population. Set it up so that it would be treated like Jury duty.... it would be a public service, and NOT a permanent position. Like Juries, they would pick their own foreman once they were qualified and grouped and given a section to work on.

I've got a few more to type in.