Monday, March 5, 2018

Great Caesar!

WSJ artcle on Caesar salads -

Interesting that it came from a Tijuana restaurant.  The guy who invented it was an Italian/American guy from California named Caesar Cardini.  The restaurant was opened in Tijuana in the 1920s and was popular with people from California who would go there to eat and drink during Prohibition.  That's a very interesting statement in these times; it would be like somebody today who would take a road trip to Mexico for the afternoon so they could eat tacos and legally smoke weed.  People would assume they were a drug addict.  I wonder if in the 1920s it was assumed people were alcoholics if they crossed the border just so they could go to a restaurant and have drinks?  Different times.

You can actually buy Cardini dressing in the supermarket.  I regularly get it; it's quite good.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Active evolution? Hardly

From Discover Magazine.

1 Minute - The amount of time, on average per night, that a group of modern Tanzanian hunter-gatherers were all asleep at the same time.  Experts say the minuscule overlap supports the notion that humans evolved different sleep patterns as a way to ensure someone was up to alert others of nighttime threats, such as predators.

Pet peeve of mine, a lot of descriptions are like this where the implications are that the evolution was directed and intentional (as a way to ensure someone was up).  In reality it's less glamorous.  The humans who happened to be randomly de-synchronized in their sleep patterns didn't get eaten by tigers or murdered by bands of ruffians.  The ones who all slept at the same time ended up dying and didn't pass on these 'sleep at the same time' genes to their offspring.  That's the evolutionary pressure, not some sort of evolving different patterns as a way to ensure someone was up to alert others.  That sounds so carefully planned out.

Really what we think happens is random mutations give a survival advantage.

Strange conventions

Reading some non-fiction (Michio Kaku, Physics of the Impossible), I noticed that a paragraph describing metamaterials described properties of metamaterials and then the next paragraph started:

What are these metamaterials?  They are substances that have ...

What's interesting here is that this conversational method "what are..." seems perfectly normal in a book, makes the language interesting like it's really a conversation, yet when I'm reading a book and I'm reading facts it's very strange to think of this as a conversation.  What are metamaterials does absolutely nothing to tell me what they are, the sentence is pure throw away but yet it feels natural, even in written form.

I think this might be like when somebody calls you up and says "Hello, it's Joe", when we all know that I know it's Joe since the ID on the calls said so.  But, if Joe started up right away with the talking, the conversation would be thrown off.  Like I'm expecting an announcement of who it is.  I wonder if younger kids start off phone calls this way or if they just launch into it since they never had a time before caller ID...  (Plot twist, younger kids don't seem to call each other on the phone, they just text.  Plus they don't announce who they are at the beginning of the text.)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Planning Poker - online free planning poker (for up to 5 people) that can be used to estimate sizes of things, typically used in agile/scrum.  Doing it as poker avoids anchoring or influence across the team.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Amusing yet very helpful AI info.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Robots are Taking Over!

Good article, Wired, 25.09 Sept 2017, P064.Robopocalypse, talking about robots taking over, forecasts of people being out of work:
History suggests that the process is much more uneven than that.  The ATM, for example, is a textbook example of a machine that was designed to replace human labor.  First introduced around 1970, ATMs hit widespread adoption in the late 1990s.  Today, there are more than 400,000 ATMs in the US.  But, as economist James Bessen has shown, the number of bank tellers actually rose between 2000 and 2010.  That's because even though the average number of tellers per branch fell, ATMs made it cheaper to open branches, so banks opened more of them. ...  Taking a wider view, Bessen found that of the 271 occupations listed on the 1950 census only one - elevator operator - had been rendered obsolete by automation by 2010.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Follow-up: Perfect being the enemy of the good

Good WSJ article.

The FDA wants to regulate nicotine levels to make them non addictive.  Also they will start encouraging people to switch to less dangerous products such as e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

People have noted that low nicotine products have been tried before and didn't make the market.  I suspect that's because they tried going to 0 nicotine.  Instead they should work like the patch and have different levels of nicotine.  Note that e-cigarettes have varying levels of nicotine available.  I suspect regular cigarettes have the levels of nicotine carefully set in order to satisfy the customer.

In some ways this is a bit like coffee and caffeine and such.  We have regular coffee and we have decaf.  I think if coffee caused cancer we would be having similar discussions.  The only thing that's a bit strange is if we have cigarettes that have no nicotine, wouldn't smoking them still cause cancer, since it's not the nicotine that's cancerous, it's the smoking part.

Plus I don't think we've yet drawn a lot of light on the addictive qualities of caffeine.  People need to get their fix in the morning, it's a stimulant, there are withdrawal symptoms, etc.  Like drug use there's all sorts of paraphernalia for making coffee, etc.  The similarities are quite close!  Apparently the thing that gets us all up in arms is intoxication which is the only thing missing in the caffeine.  Although I know some people who become somewhat aggressive after having a few cups of coffee, perhaps like a lighter version of somebody going nuts on crack.

Will be interesting to see how this all goes with the nicotine levels and harm reduction with other product uses.  I think the tobacco companies will thrive and will adjust to this quite nicely.  I think they've seen this coming for years (not that they are prescient but I think they have noticed rightly so that these other products are less harmful).

Friday, July 28, 2017

Follow-up: Tech Giants

Recent Op-Ed in the WSJ -

There was recent concern about Artificial Intelligence causing widespread loss of jobs.  A reader noted that there was a similar panic in the 1990's where people feared that computers would replace teachers in the classroom.  Instead, the widespread use of technology in education has revitalized curriculum, teaching, and learning.  Technology remains an important tool to advance and transform the nature of human work.

Perfect being the enemy of the good

Great WSJ article -

Many scientists agree that moist, smokeless tobacco, including chewing and dipping tobacco, is significantly less harmful than cigarettes. But rather than encouraging the country’s 37 million smokers to switch to less-risky products, U.S. health officials have so far stuck with an abstinence-only message to the public.
Online fact sheets published by the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Cancer Institute list multiple health risks associated with smokeless tobacco—including cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas—but give no indication it is less harmful than cigarettes. “There is no safe form of tobacco,” the cancer institute says on its website.

I think we have an all or nothing tendency which can be harmful.  This is another case of the perfect being the enemy of the good.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Robots!

Laurie Penny noted in Wired Aug 2017, P014 that

A recent Oxford study predicted that 70 percent of US construction jobs will disappear in the coming decades.

Makes you wonder what construction jobs were like before large yellow metal machines were used to dig big holes and pour concrete.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Paleo Mainfesto

Diet ideas from the Paleo Manifesto.

Make Broths and Stocks.
Eat Fermented Foods.  Sauerkraut, Kimchi, pickles, kombucha, full-fat Greek yogurt, aged cheeses.  Avoid sterilized fermented foods.
Use traditional animal fats, beef fat, lard, butter (Kerrygold, Irish grass-fed butter).  Healthy plant oils include coconut and olive oil.  Avoid industrial vegetable oil such as canola or soybean oil.
Eat a variety of colors, different color plants have different chemical compounds.
Eat Eggs.
Eat Liver.  Duck liver pate is affordable and an easy way to get liver into the diet without having to cook it.
Eat Oily Cold Water Fish.  Mackerel, sardines, herring, anchovies.
Eat Seaweed.
White Rice is OK.
Drink Tea
Alcohol is OK

Avoid industrial foods, things made in a factory, contain lots of ingredients and that don't spoil. 
Avoid sugar, vegetable oils, cereal grains.
Avoid Cereal Grains.  Seeds have toxic proteins designed to pass through mammal digestive tract intact and dispersed and covered in manure for fertilized growth.  Toxic proteins are more heavily concentrated in the outer shell, the bran.
Avoid Legumes, which are grain-like seeds.  Soybeans, peanuts, lentils, peas, alfalfa, any variety of beans.  They have similar defenses like wheat.  White rice is OK.
Avoid nuts and seeds, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, like grains and legumes.
Avoid Potentially Problematic Foods, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes.
Avoid fruit juices with added sugar.

Interesting note, Wheat contains opioid peptides and make eating wheat enjoyable, addictive, and difficult to stop.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Get Smart!

smartmontools are awesome!

Get status of a drive:

smartctl -a /dev/sda

USB connected drive:

smartctl -d sat,12 -a /dev/sdb

Run a quick test:

smartctl -d sat,12 -t short /dev/sdb

Run a more in-depth test:

smartctl -d sat,12 -t long /dev/sdb

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Your License Please!

Great article in Barron's by Gene Epstein, July 10, 2017, P. 27.


The pressure on legislature to license doesn't come from the public but the members of the occupation. (Milton Friedman).  55 years later two other commentators observe licensing having negative effect on employment (since it restricts access to the field).  It's also the case that occupational licensing "widens the gap between rich and poor by squelching employment opportunities at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, and by inflating the compensation of highly skilled professionals at the top of that scale."  (The Captured Economy, How the Powerful Become Richer, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality, by Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles).

No study has been done on degree to which occupational licensing has widened income inequality but we do know that since 1970, the share of workers subject to licensing has jumped from 10% to almost 30%.  There are lots of occupations paying reasonably well which people at the low end might normally be able to fill with minimal on-the-job training, but they may be out of reach due to money and time required for the license - beauticians, manicurists, barbers, preschool teachers, athletic trainers, gambling dealers, bartenders, massage therapists, interior designers, and florists.

Those who defend licenses confuse it with branding, meaning branding makes us better-informed consumers.  Private market already performs this in various ways, online evaluations for example.  The advantage of branding is the market doesn't place restrictions on people's right to enter a field.

Studies of licensing show little connection between quality and licenses.  Louisiana requires florists to be licensed which Texas doesn't.  An experiment involving florists from both states revealed no difference between floral-arranging skills of the licensed professions vs. unlicensed.  That's because licensing is mainly about barriers to entry, not enhancing skill.  

I agree with this but I would be concerned about skills at the higher end professions.  Licensing does force you to keep up with studies and updates that normally would languish.  Also, some things might lack adequate oversight or market pressure to weed out inferior people (sounds like I don't believe in market efficiency in some fringe cases) whereas routine testing or re-licensing should help that.  But I definitely do agree that there are some professions requiring licensing that are just way too much nanny state.

Also somewhat related from the Editorial Commentary by Thomas W. Hazlett
The Radio Act of 1927, the brainchild of then-secretary of commerce Herber Hoover, created a regulatory regime for carefully parceling out airwaves according to a "public interest" standard.  It was said to be necessary to prevent chaos - "etheric bedlam."
In fact, it was not.  Rather, it reflected Washington politics that favored incumbent interests - the first few visionaries who opened radio stations and enjoyed commercial success.  The scheme hamstring competition and flummoxed innovators for generations"

Saturday, June 24, 2017

WeMo Insight

Handy data logger for electricity use.  Useful for diagnosing fridge issues since I wanted to know if it was consuming electricity or not.  Previously I'd been using Kill-A-Watt which is a nice tool but doesn't have data export stuff.  WeMo Insight has some nice export and remote access.  The app is decent and lets you set the cost for electricity but for some reason on the iPhone 6s I can't set it and get it to stick.  If I use the app on the iPad the setting sticks.  If I use the app on android it sticks.  But not on the iPhone 6s.  Strange.  I have a ticket open with their support but they can't reproduce the issue.

Can chart daily or hourly electricity use via export to Excel:

Give a good sense of if the fridge is behaving and consuming electricity normally.
Data Logger

The Elitech RC5 data logger is really great.  The fridge has been on the fritz and so being able to see how the temperature has been going is really good.

Software is OK, works fine on Windows 10.  Stopping recording data and starting recording again requires a strange process which isn't documented (well?  at all?) but luckily Franklin ( has the quick notes:

Quick start guide (since they didn't include one)

1) It will work plugged in to usb port or not, but your computer will heat it up, so don't measure temperature while it's plugged in
2) You have to hit the play button and HOLD IT DOWN for four seconds to start recording
3) You have to plug it into your computer, and use the software to stop recording. Click the stop recording button at the top right bar on the GUI
4) You can't start recording again, until you zero out the data. To do so go to the parameter set menu in the software, and click on the "Save Parameter" button. You don't have to change anything, but this will zero out the data set and allow you to log new data.

Step 4 for zeroing things out is important.  I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to start recording again until I googled and found that step 4.

Data export goes nicely into Excel and you can then slice and dice.  They produce a nice image for you:

Available on Amazon at

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Think of the children!

So apparently Owl's Brew ( makes and sells beer/tea beverages.  Beer mixed with watermelon and white tea, ale with Darjeeling hibiscus and strawberry.  Won't children accustomed to Arizona iced tea be confused and mistake this new product for actual iced tea, think of the accidental ingestion and increased visits to the hospital emergency rooms!  We must ban this and put a stop to this practice now!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Advanced Technology

OK, Market Basket is now the most technologically advanced supermarket I know.  They are able to print their register receipts ON BOTH SIDES!  Seriously.  BOTH SIDES.  I've never seen this anywhere before.  My rough calculations indicate this saves about 1/2 the paper.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America

The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America.  Barry Latzer

I'm a sucker for fact based evidence and research.  Great science, economics.

Great book about rise and fall of violent crime over the past hundred years or so.  Reads somewhat like a college textbook.  Lots of great references and end notes.  Good fact based read.

Interesting takeaways:

Causes of drops in crime: Young men going off to war, correlation with alcohol abuse (higher abuse == higher violent crime).  Unemployment does not correlate; it's not the case that when there's lots of work available that crime drops.

Longer term trends, crime dips 1935-64, rises 64-95, dips 95.

Rise in 64 attributed to increase in young men (baby boom) exceeding a tipping point, a systemic overload of the criminal justice system and police/courts, and a subculture of black youth violence - swagger as defense against violence - respect and preemptive theft to increase respect.  Came from the southern redneck culture.  See "The Code of the Street".  Crack cocaine epidemic in the 80s also significant source of violent crime.

Social contagion - people commit crimes because their peers are doing it.  Things exceed a tipping point.

Dip in 95 - Cocaine epidemic ran its course.  Younger people saw negative effects on their older siblings, did not want the same fate.  More cops and policing about yes but the clearance rates of reported crimes being solved actually went down.  (But, total amount may have been better but % was worse; was not explored by the author).  (Thought experiment - do we have the expectation that percentage remains fixed as number scale (from a social perspective)?)

Definition of culture - the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from the others.

Sources of fear (say of flying or being a crime victim) - likelihood is important but that is tempered by unpredictability of something happening, the inability for us to take precautions, and potentially devastating consequences of the thing happening make all the difference.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Windows 10 quirks, part 1

Windows 10, loving it.  However, a couple of strange quirks have popped up.  Sharing those here:

ASUS SBW-06D2X-U DVD/BD stopped working.  Had been using this fine.  Used it to install the computer in fact.  Had been working fine under Windows 10 for a few months.  Then mysteriously after a reboot, the device wouldn't show up.  I'd plug it in, get the sound that the device was recognized successfully, but it wouldn't show up on the system.  Looked in the Device Manager, it was seen there (after I elected to show hidden devices, ahem!), however, Windows said it wasn't attached.  Strange.  Googled some posts, lots of stuff about removing ATAPI drivers, IDE base, etc.  Not for me since this is a USB device.  I removed the device from device manager hoping that on next plug-in it would be recognized and new drivers would be installed.  No dice, plugging in got me the same success sound but the device didn't show up.  DANGIT!  Googled some more and found posts ( saying that there was another device it was showing up as - INITIO combo device.  On a whim, removed that device, unplugged and replugged in the device, and magic, it all works now.  Yay.

So, strange that this was working, looks like a new(er?) windows device driver showed up and decided it was in control of this device and blocked the ASUS driver from owning the device.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Here is some javascript for displaying random numbers:

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"
<html xmlns="">
        <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
        <title>New Web Project</title>
        <h1>New Web Project Page</h1>

        Max Number:
        <input id="maxnum" type="number" />
        Seconds of delay:
        <input id="delay" type="number" />

        <br />
        <button type="button" onclick="go()">

        <button type="button" onclick="stop()">

        <p id="message1">

        <p id="message2" style="font-size: 200px">


var interval;

function go() {
var maxnum = document.getElementById("maxnum").value;
var delay = document.getElementById("delay").value;
document.getElementById("message1").innerHTML = "you typed in maxnum=" + maxnum + " and delay=" + delay + "";
interval = setInterval(function() {
}, delay * 1000);


function stop() {

var prevnum = -1;
function update() {
var maxnum = document.getElementById("maxnum").value;
var number;
do {
number = Math.floor((Math.random() * maxnum) + 1);
} while (number == prevnum);
document.getElementById("message2").innerHTML = number;
// document.getElementById("message2").style.fontSize="xx-large";
prevnum = number;


Wednesday, December 24, 2014


After recently upgrading an ancient system, I realized that my custom init scripts don't quite start in the same (kludged) order now that my Fedora box is using systemd.  So, a quick update is in order.

Jumping into man systemd and systemctl isn't particularly enlightening.

Helpful sites are:
man systemd.service

Create /usr/lib/systemd/system/[thingy].service.  This is the master holding place for configs and init.

To get things to start automatically at boot, symlink:
ln -s /usr/lib/systemd/system/[thing].service /etc/systemd/system/[thing].service

Edit /usr/lib/systemd/system/[thingy].service:

Description=Network Stuff

ExecStart=/usr/local/sbin/[thingy] start


For a more persistent service:

Description=Network Stuff

Type=forking   (could be simple if the process does not fork)
ExecStart=/usr/local/sbin/[thingy] start


To activate:

systemctl daemon-reload
systemctl enable [thingy]

To see status:

systemctl list-unit-files --type=service
systemctl status [thingy]

Friday, June 20, 2014

SD Maid cleans up WSJ

I've been reading the WSJ on my Nexus 7 from time to time.  A bit of a buggy app, but tolerable.

A little while ago I noticed that my 13G of free storage on the Nexus 7 had dropped down to about 3G.

At the time I didn't realize these two things were related...  I just figured I'd used up the measly space with various things (books, music, videos, apps, etc.), and my little tablet was just overwhelmed.

So, first up, figure out what's using the storage so I can do a bit of spring cleaning.

The Android Settings app has a nice panel for Storage, and it shows you what's using storage - free storage, and storage used by apps, pictures,videos, music, downloads, cache, and misc.

Apparently I was using about 10G of Misc.  Nice.

I've been using ES File Explorer, so time to use it to trawl the filesystem looking for what's using what.  OK, apparently there is a folder on the root of the "sdcard" called ".wsj-External-data-cache" and in there are a bunch of directories, each one holding a bazillion files.  Probably about 10G worth.

OK, fine, uninstall the WSJ app.  Data cache remained.

Use ES File Explorer to delete the folder.  No go, it craps out with java memory exception when deleting folders with 10 bazillion files.  I was able to delete some folders, but there was a pernicious folder with too many files that ES File Explorer just could not delete.

I googled around and found other file explorer apps, but they all seemed to crap out when trying to delete the folder.  Argh.

I happened to stumble across "SD Maid", which also lets you trawl through the filesystem doing stuff.  This actually worked and was able to delete the remaining data cache.  It took about 10 minutes to delete everything, but was successful, no java memory exception.  Nice.

(This post reminds me of the time my MacBook filled up with disk because of the backups.  Maybe I'll post about that next.  - Apparently Time Machine on MacBooks makes backups on the local disk, for times you wanted to restore a file accidentally deleted.  Is all fun and games until you use about 400G of your disk space on backups.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Disaster Recovery

So when I set up my shiny new Fedora 16 box, I was careful to set up a pair of disks as Raid 1.  Any disk failure and I would be covered, right?  Wrong.  What I neglected to do was put the GRUB2 MBR (Master Boot Record) boot loader on my second disk.  So, even though I had all my data mirrored onto the second disk, if the first disk failed, my system would not boot because the MBR was only on the first disk.  Did I say if the first disk failed, I meant to say when the first disk failed.  And sure enough, it failed.  Unbootable system.  I tried swapping disks around, etc, but no MBR on the second disk so no boot.  Here's what I did to recover.

The scenario - 2 disks, sda and sdb set up in raid 1 mirror.  Only sda has the MBR for grub2.  sda failed, leaving me with a good sdb but the system could not be booted.

First, I got a trusty Knoppix boot DVD.  At first I'd tried to use the Knoppix CD but it only boots at 32 bit and I couldn't chroot to my installed system (on second disk) because it was 64 bit.  Knoppix 7.0.4 only has grub and not grub2 so I need to use the grub2 code that's on my working sdb.  So, Knoppix DVD, available at  I tried messing around creating a boot USB on my Mac using unetbootin, etc but ultimately wasn't able to create anything that booted.  (Had to use my Mac because obviously my Linux box was not working...)

Once I had a working Knoppix DVD, I booted on it (boot parameter "knoppix64") and accessed my working sdb (which Knoppix Linux had brought on as sda since the failed sda was at this point now removed and disk names are done as they are seen).  Since it's a metadisk, in order to mount the disk, I had to do:

mdadm --assemble --auto=yes /dev/md0 /dev/sda2

sda1 is swap.  sda2 is a large LVM partition.  The mdadm --assemble brought up metadevice md0 with member device sda2.  mdadm was kind enough to bring on the array even though it was missing 1/2 of the mirror.  So nice.

Next, to mount the filesystems:

mkdir /media/lvm
mount /dev/vg00/lvslash /media/lvm
mount /dev/vg00/lvboot /media/lvm/boot 
Mounting the LVM devices (use the "pvs", "vgs", and "lvs" commands (no args) to display the contents of the various LVM components.  The original / and /boot are mounted under /media/lvm.

Now at this point I want to run grub2 to get it to re-install the MBR.  But, no amount of messing around with various components or options could get it to run and see things and install the MBR.  I kept complaining that it couldn't find /boot/something/grub2 stage1.  But the file was there at the path it was looking at.  My only guess was that it was trying to find it by reading the filesystem directly and couldn't since the LVM or grub on Knoppix was different.

Regardless, I needed to do a chroot to fake out the system into thinking it was running for real on my disks and not Knoppix.  The chroot was easy enough, but then grub2 would refuse to run because it couldn't find running device info (which is on /dev but not the chroot /dev).  ARGH!  The fix is to remount /dev and /proc from the real system onto the chroot system.  Surprisingly this just works:

mount --bind /dev/ /media/lvm/devmount --bind /proc /media/lvm/proc

That done, I can chroot to the filesystem:

 chroot /media/lvm
and then run grub2 to install the new MBR

grub2-install --recheck /dev/sdagrub2-install /dev/sda 

After this was done, I exited out of the chroot, unmounted filesystems, rebooted on the new MBR, and like magic, I'm good to go, the working disk is fine.  Next up, to get a replacement disk and create the LVM for the mirror and resynchronize across two disks.  And also to put the MBR on the second disk :)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Need for Speed 2

Upgraded the wireless to a dual N band router.  Is a little faster than before.  See ancient history here

Copying a 5.74G file around:

802.11g - 38 minutes
802.11n - 17 minutes

This router is a little frustrating as when I configure it as an Access Point, I can't get at the router to configure it even though I've told it to allow access to the management interface over any net.  Not a huge loss, but is nice to see the mgmt interface to see who's connected to it.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


I've been using XBMC for a little while.  I have a Rosewill remote RHRC-11002.  Had been working fine but then stopped working.

Turns out in the XBMC Lircmap.xml this remote is known as mceusb but somehow LIRC is now reporting that the device is mceusb_hauppauge.

The fix is to edit /usr/share/xbmc/system/Lircmap.xml and change the known device to mceusb_hauppauge:

root@xbmc:/usr/share/xbmc/system# diff -c Lircmap.xml.20120804 Lircmap.xml
*** Lircmap.xml.20120804 2012-03-23 20:25:30.000000000 -0400
--- Lircmap.xml 2012-08-04 05:44:31.617871872 -0400
*** 9,15 ****
--- 9,15 ----

Done, and my remote is now working again.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Weekend temptation, the Internets themselves.

So I currently have the 25Mb Internets at home (beats the 10Mb at work, ahem...).  Verizon now has "Quantum Internet" so I can get 300Mb.  Schweet.  No pricing for 300Mb, but they quote 75Mb as +$10/month.  Very tempting.

According to Verizon:
  If you order 150 Mbps/65 Mbps or 300 Mbps/65 Mbps FiOS Internet, a Verizon technician may need to install a new router and wiring in your home. Please ensure your computer has a10/100/1000 Gigabit Network Interface Card capable of supporting these higher speeds.

Good call on checking to see you have a GigE interface on your computer!

Last time I did a speed test I got ~30Mb.

Mass Energy

Annual check in on Mass Energy

Costs $20/year to join.  They state their prices are $0.20/gallon cheaper than the state average.  For us with annual use of ~700G this works out to about a $140 savings.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

Just finished Dan Areily's book "The (Honest Truth About Dishonesty)"

Take home points:

 Simple Model of Rational Crime (dishonesty based on rational analysis of cost/benefit of cheating, benefit of the crime, probability of getting caught, expected punishment) is completely bogus.  Study was set up (solving math problems for $$), subjects did not cheat more when the payout (for cheating) was higher.  It was actually less.   Probability of getting caught?  Study showed roughly the same amount of cheating as when there was NO chance of getting caught.

The more distanced from actual money (tokens vs. actual $), people were more likely to cheat.  People are more likely to steal $1 of pens (office supplies) than an actual $1 bill.  Stealing $1 and then using it to buy a pen is somehow worse than stealing a $1 pen.  Getting people to recite an honor code (thou shalt not steal) makes them less likely to steal.  So does signing *before* they fill out a form (like a tax form).  Filling out after does not have this effect.

The more distanced you are from the act, the more likely you are to cheat.  Golfers cheating by moving the ball are less likely to consider it cheating if they move the ball with their club or feet than by their hands.  This also ties into cheating by stealing $$$ vs. stealing supplies.

Resisting temptation somehow wears down our moral resistance, and after enough resistance we are apt to give up (run out of steam) and give in.

Wearing (known) fake products (sunglasses, bags) makes us more likely to cheat on various tests.

Cheating across cultures and nationalities, pretty much the same.

Being supervised decreases dishonesty.  Even a picture of somebody watching you decreased the likelihood that somebody would cheat on putting the correct change in a box to pay for a snack.

Essay mills - people paying for essay papers?  As of 2010 - a survey of the quality of these papers shows them to be so poor it's immediately apparent to professors that they are complete junk.

People are more likely to cheat in an altruistic situation where they are helping somebody else.

Forces that shape dishonesty:

  • Ability to rationalize the situation
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Being creative
  • One immoral act spawning another
  • Being tired
  • Altruistic benefit
  • Watching others cheating
Forces that have no effect

  • Amount of money to gain
  • Probability of being caught

Forces that decrease dishonesty

  • Pledging honesty
  • Signing something
  • Reminding of the moral code
  • Being supervised


All in all, a good read, good studies back up the conclusions.  The book starts out strong, but by the later chapters seems to run out of steam and becomes more anecdotal.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Oh man, I was saddened to learn that the McGurk effect ( had nothing to do with Coach McGuirk.  Too bad.

QuackTime Player

Grrrrrr.  Why is it that the QuickTime player can only play MPEG-2 at OSX Lion levels.  It can play MPEG-4 just fine.  What is it about MPEG-2 that they couldn't handle?  VLC has been doing it for years.

This is the sort of crap that drives me bonkers with Apple stuff.  If you stay within the ecosystem, everything is fine, but once you stray out, you realize the ecosystem is actually quiet small and limited.

Below are the video and audio file formats and codecs that QuickTime Player can playback in Mac OS X v10.6.x or OS X Lion:


  • QuickTime Movie (.mov)
  • MPEG-4 (.mp4, .m4v)
  • MPEG-2 (OS X Lion only)
  • MPEG-1
  • 3GPP
  • 3GPP2
  • AVI
  • DV
  • MPEG-2 (OS X Lion only)
  • MPEG-4 (Part 2)
  • H.264
  • H.263
  • H.261
  • Apple ProRes
  • Apple Pixlet
  • Animation
  • Cinepak
  • Component Video
  • DV
  • DVC Pro 50
  • Graphics
  • Motion JPEG (Mac OS X v10.6.x only)
  • Photo JPEG
  • Sorenson Video 2
  • Sorenson Video 3

Friday, June 22, 2012 and twitterfeed

Good post at about how to get google+ posts to announce to twitter.  I'd been using plusfeed but that had dropped off the radar a while ago.

Taking out the trash

So I have one of these little Creative Vado digital cameras.  I've been using it for a couple of years now, and I've noticed that recently the recording time seems to be getting less and less.  It's flash based memory so I figured it was something to do with the memory being reused and unusable after time.  I figured it was time to buy a newer one, something that had a bit more record time.

On a whim I decided to poke around the filesystem using the shell to see where the space was being used.  Surprise - the Mac had created a .Trashes folder and was happily squirreling away all the deleted videos.  DOH!  About 7.6G of space.  Double DOH!  Frustrating because this trash doesn't show up in the finder when I just browse the device.  Would be nice if I had the option in the finder to disable keeping trash on certain devices.

I manually did a rm -rf on .Trashes and my record time went from 9 minutes (!) to 2 hours and 11 minutes.  Schweet!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Need For Speed

Copying a 5GB file around my net.

802.11g - 6 hours
100M ethernet - 11 minutes
GigE ethernet - 2 minutes

Time for a wireless upgrade!

Friday, April 27, 2012


David Jones (from Fringe) sounds just like David Attenborough.  That is all.  (Yes, it is a little creepy.)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Veeam One Free Edition

Veeam One Free Edition is awesome.  Or at least the installer is awesome.  I keeps telling me I have to reboot to complete the install, which I do.  I've done this 5 times.  It's great.  I keep having to reboot and then the installer runs and tells me I have to reboot again.  I wonder what else it does.  I will never know.  Too bad.

VMTurbo Community Edition on the other hand installed as an OVF.  But, apparently it wants to talk to a vCenter server, and not an ESXi host.  Argh!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Windows 8

Installed Windows 8 Consumer Preview by following the VM setup guidlines at  Complete snooze, everything just worked, no issues (once I had ESXi at the latest level).

Turned on Remote Desktop via  Run CMD.exe and SystemPropertiesRemote.exe to turn on.

Tech Gripe

Grrr.  Stupid Sony DCR-HC30.  I had 3 tapes left to convert and now it's decided it can't do DV Out, only DV In.  DOH! DOH! DOH!!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Patching ESXi

Now that I have a shiny new VM host, decided to try some stuff out.

Windows 8 consumer preview.  Started the install and got a dreaded "Hal_Initialization_Failed".  After googling around and getting nonsense (seriously, it only works as a VM on a windows 8 host?!), found a VMware post ( saying to upgrade to the latest level of ESXi.  But I just downloaded it last week!  Evidently they don't rebuild the installer each time so upgrades are in order.  Upgrading is easier said than done.

If you've paid for vSphere, there's a nice management interface for this.  With plain old ESXi hosts, you have to do things the old fashioned way.  I guess that makes sense and they only want the cool tools in their paid product.  It's a big jarring when the trending of software (I'm looking at you Firefox, Chrome, Thunderbird) is to have the app be self aware of new versions and have it update itself.

Here's a post explaining how to do ESXi updates -

  • Download VMware vSphere Command-Line interface (CLI).  It's free.
  • Install, and hey, you get ActivePerl.  I already have a perl, but whatever.
  • Next, go to and download the latest patch (hint, it's first in the list).
  • Upload it, via vSphere Client, to your favorite datastore.
  • Set your ESXi host to be in maintenance mode (the VMware KB on upgrading tells you how to query the patch to determine if it requires maintenance mode).
  • Use esxcli to see existing system patch levels:  "esxcli --server=[your ESXi host] --username=root software vib list
  • Use esxcli to install the updates: "esxcli --server=[your ESXi host] --username=root software vib update --depot=/vmfs/volumes/[datastore]/[path]/"    (your patch file may be newer)
  • Wait 5 minutes until it's done then reboot the host.
Done, worked nicely.  Since the vSphere API is all open source, it should be straightforward to put together software that issues these commands for you to allow you to upgrade from a GUI.  Another project for another day.

 So I continued the Windows 8 install.  No more "Hal_initialization_Failed" error and the install progresses.  Unfortunately I get an error later.  After saying "Preparing" for a little while I get "The computer restarted unexpectedly or encountered an unexpected error.  Windows installation cannot proceed.  To install Windows, click OK to restart the computer, and then restart the installation".  DOH!  Next post on installing Windows 8.


Putting together an ESXi box out of some spare parts.

ASROCK Extreme3 Gen3 Motherboard
Core i7 2600 (supports VT-d, newer CPUs 2600K and 2700K do not)

Onboard VGA and nic supported by ESXi 5 right out of the box!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Future Shock

Worried about our declining resources, and the sorry state of the world?  Then you're really going to need to see this TED talk.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

VM on the cheap

Playing around with VMware on some old hardware.

The box, an old P4 collecting dust:
  • Dell Dimension 5400
  • P4 2.26GHz
  • 1.5GB RAM
  • 20GB Disk
10 years old?  My how time flies.  Funny how clock speeds haven't gotten that much faster although density/cores have increased, more work possible per cycle.

It's a 32-bit processor so I'm limited to ESXi 3.5.  Last level to support 32-bit.


Register, download the .iso, burn to CD, etc.  (Note to self, throw away freecycle those 128MB and 512MB flash drives and just buy a few 4GB ones).

Boot the installer.  First up, it doesn't see my hard drive.  Probably because 20GB is too large and it's refusing to believe it's actually a real disk.  Or maybe it just doesn't like IDE.  Great post here -  Got to the install console, edited /usr/lib/vmware/installer/Core/, continued installing.  Installed just fine.

Next up, rebooted, ESXi came up but complained about "Failed to load lvmdriver" and the networking was set to  Going into the networking settings on the console gave the option of doing a reset of the driver, but no options to set things.  Turns out my white box network card isn't supported out of the box.  The card uses a Realtek 8169 chip.  To find this out, on the ESXi host console, I did alt-F1 to get the console, typed in "unsupported" (nothing echoes, just type it in) and then you get a login prompt, which lets you do things like lspci to see the devices.

Open source to the rescue, the good guys at have drivers.  I rebooted the ESXi host with Knoppix, mounted the system partition, then downloaded the mymods-0.1.gz from and saved as 'oem.tgz'.  Rebooted back in to ESXi, reset the network interface, and magic, DHCP started working, and I'm on the net.

I went to the ESXi host via http, logged in, and downloaded the VMware Infrastructure client.  Technically ancient management software, but looks and behaves surprisingly similar to the vSphere/vCenter stuff I'm using at work.


OK, pretty good, but what about augmenting that 20GB disk space?  I tried iSCSI.  I've set up a Linux iSCSI target before, but I was just lazy and didn't feel like wrestling with my old linux box.  So, I googled around and after discovering that Windows Server 2008 does iSCSI out of the box, but not Windows 7 (WTF?!), settled for the free option.

Registered (what, no public e-mail, only corporate?  Hello, 1998 calling.) and downloaded the free version. It installed a bunch of drivers and services and other PC slowing crap that I will probably regret later, but I also have an iSCSI target.  Started the console, activated the free license, and created a test 10GB "device" as an image file and exported it as an iSCSI target.

Back over on ESXi, under the configuration tab, I enabled the iSCSI storage adapter, and defined a new datastore using exported LUN from the iSCSI target.  Schweet, was pretty simple.


Next up, create a couple of VMs.  I decided to create one on the iSCSI partition, one on the local disk.

First error, on powering on, I get "Admission Check failed for Memory Resource".  Turns out on 1..2 GB systems, the ESXi Hypervisor RAM reservation is too high.  Good page at on how to change the VIM System Resource Pool advanced setting so that the reservation is no longer 1024MB but 192MB.  Did that and the VM powered on OK.  Installed Ubuntu.


ttcp, from a windows7 box to the VM over gigE I was able to get at most 10MB/sec burst, but sustained things dropped off to about 2MB/sec.  Rebooting the ESXi host to Knoppix and running TTCP, I get about 48MB/sec burst, sustained 43MB/sec.  Unfortunately I can't run ttcp directly on the ESXi host, so it's not apparent if the lack of perf is due to the network driver in ESXi, or virtual server inefficiencies.  Since the guest VM CPU spikes when I do the test, I suspect it's probably the latter, namely that the hardware lacks instructions/support for passing through the network traffic directly and instead has to go through the hypervisor stack.  Old P4.


I installed iozone on both boxes and monitored with iostat.  The local disk VM was about to write about 30MB/s, whereas the iSCSI system wrote about 48MB/s.  The local disk is Ultra DMA ATA 100 (so 100MB/s max bus rated) but the drive is XXXXXX which can only do about XXX MB/s (probably something like 33MB/sec).  The iSCSI system is gigE connected, SATA 6Gb WDC1002FAEX which will do about 126MB/s maximum.  Coincidentally, iSCSI on gigE can do 125MB/s maximum.

Ran another test, with "zcav" just reading.  Local disk got at most 46MB/s iSCSI about 2MB/s.  Yack.  The iozone test was much better (random I/O).  Maybe sequential reads like this have nasty overhead with iSCSI?

Bonnie++ had to say:

Local Disk:  Read about 37MB/sec block input
iSCSI Disk: Read about 20MB/sec block input

Note during the iSCSI disk test, I saw the network use up to about 25 MB/sec.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Time Calculator

Handy Time Calculator if you need to add and subtract hours, minutes, seconds.

Time Calculator

Saturday, January 21, 2012


BodyPump, originally uploaded by nikconwell.

Just wanted to point out actual photographic proof that I was indeed featured on the poster of the recent BodyPump release.

TurboTax Marketing Fail

TurboTax Guides You Like a GPS

Recalculating... Recalculating...  Recalculating...   Whenever possible, make a legal U turn.

Was the Marketing department that hard pressed to find something good to say?  How about some of these better alternatives?

  • TurboTax brews your taxes like an awesome single cup instant coffee maker!
  • TurboTax speeds up your tax return like a pair of high performance running sneakers!
  • TurboTax saves you money like a really super coupon!
  • TurboTax is accurate like a NASA Scientist!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The dangers of wind power

Killer Blades

Wind turbines blades batter birds, killing 20,000 to 37,000 a year in the U.S., according to a 2007 National Academy of Sciences study, "Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects." In contrast, at least 90 million birds die annually by flying into buildings, more than 130 million die in collisions with power lines, and millions more are killed by pesticides and domestic cats, according to the study. (See References 5)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Honestly, A.C. Moore should be ashamed of themselves for selling junk for kids with instructions like this.  And then poor Dads have to try to interpret it without the benefit of any education in these matters.  I seriously thought about standing outside the store with a sign warning others of our plight.

That "diagram" is just completely useless.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

zero history

Just finished "zero history" by William Gibson.

The book left me with:


Vegas Cube

Secret Brand

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Reality Distortion

From the WSJ (1/17/2011):

Helped by the fact it only faced competition from the iPhone on the AT&T network, Android accounted for 34% of North American smartphone sales last year, compared with Apple's 23%, Strategy Analytics estimates.

In the rest of the world, where Nokia is dominant and Apple is available more widely, Android's 16% market share was only slightly bigger than Apple's 14%.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Fruitcake, originally uploaded by nikconwell.

Being apparently the only person who actually likes fruitcake, and being in posession of a bunch of near expired bananas and some chopped up fruit bits, I decided to make some banana bread fruitcake.

Turned out quite well. Was of about the same consistency of regular fruitcake. The only issue (minor) was that the bits of fruit got a little dried out and hard. I'd made some banana bread with some Maraschino cherries and they had stayed soft. (There were cherries in the fruit bit mix.)

All in all, not bad. I think I liked the Maraschino cherry version a bit better.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Thanks very much to this guy: for how to get rid of the pesky ^M and put unix newlines at the end of MS-DOS and MAC encoded files, while in emacs.

ESC-X set-buffer-file-coding-system RET unix

Works like a charm. Thanks very much indeed.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Captain Crunch

Captain Crunch, originally uploaded by nikconwell.

As I sat enjoying my 4th or 5th pomegranite martini (or perhaps it was 7th or 8th, dunno, lost count after 10), it crossed my mind, why do drink recipes say garnish with an olive or an onion or some such thing? And why not, say, a piece of Captain Crunch cereal? Why not indeed.

Perhaps this question could be answered with Science? Science indeed! Science will set us free!

So, behold. An experiment. On the right, a piece of Captain Crunch suspended in a glass of water. On the left, a control, a similar piece located within plain old fashioned air. Note that the glasses are the same. These are the rigors of sciencing. (Note to reader, ignore that child in the picture; somebody who is normally camera shy just couldn't stay away from the scientific process!)

After 25 minutes, a quick taste test showed that the Captain Crunch suspended in water was indeed still a little bit crunchy. Soggy yes, but still possessing crunch. The control piece remained crunchy.

And so you have it. I submit unmistakeable proof that Captain Crunch could indeed be used as a garnish. So, as you settle back with your Vodka Giblet or whatever, and as you compose your next bartending tome, keep in mind that Captain Crunch has been proven to be a viable garnish for a fruity beverage, worthy as a companion to a piece of fruit on a plastic sword or perhaps a fancy little umbrella.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Dunkelweizen, originally uploaded by nikconwell.

Dunkelweizen is Bavarian for, "When you open this sucker up, it's going to foam up like it's Mt. Vesuvius and that foam is going to get all over the kitchen counter."

In other news, the beer tastes quite good. Good enought that I'm willing to put up with the foam and will open it in the kitchen sink to avoid serious messes.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


OK, so I've been holding Verizon stock for a little while.

Today Apple announces the iPhone will be available on Verizon. So then Verizon stock drops. WHAT????!!!! ARGH!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Safety first guys!

You know, they really should be wearing helmets.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mac Mail vs Thunderbird

OK, so I upgraded to Snow Leopard. And that included an update to Mac Mail. Dunno, I can't see much different. What is different though is that this requires extensions to be updated. No big deal, except that my favorite extension, MailActOn, at the level of Snow Leopard, is now no longer free and is $24.95. I'm not against anybody making any money, and MailActOn is a really good extension. However, my use for MailActOn was to define keyboard shortcuts so I could file incoming messages into 4 folders. Hardly worth $24.95 for something that should be possible in Mac Mail to start with! Gargh!

I've been using Thunderbird on windows for a while and have been happy. I've been using keyconfig() to define keys to file my messages after I've read them. So, time to try this on the Mac instead of using Mac Mail.

First up, Add-ons. I found:
  • keyconfig
  • Lightning
  • Provider for Google Calendar
Keyconfig lets me configure keystrokes for filing my mail:

I define things like:
and then assign to a key. Let's me run through my inbox quickly and file messages to various folders. (Note that the Uri account@server *MUST* match the name in the Thunderbird profile. I'm an admin for some mail servers and they have at least 3 or 4 names that all work and end up at the same server. If I don't have the exact name that I used when setting up the account originally then it won't match the thunderbird profile and it will be ignored. To see the profile, look at (You don't know how long it took me to figure that one out!))

The GUI on the Mac needs a bit of tweaking. For example, deleted messages don't look different visually - they just have a little gray circle with a line through next to them. Much better would be if the line was gray or had a line through it or something like that. Here's an article on how to change the GUI -

Basically, create a folder "chrome" in your profiles folder and then create a file called userChrome.css with the following content:

/* set default namespace to XUL */
@namespace url("");

/* Change color of deleted messages */
treechildren::-moz-tree-cell(imapdeleted) {
background-color: #999999 !important;
treechildren:-moz-tree-cell-text(imapdeleted) {
color: #FFFFFF !important;
text-decoration: line-through !important;
treechildren::-moz-tree-cell(imapdeleted,selected) {
background-color: #333333 !important;
treechildren::-moz-tree-cell(imapdeleted,current) {
background-color: #666666 !important;
treechildren:-moz-tree-cell-text(imapdeleted,selected) {
color: #DDDDFF !important;
treechildren:-moz-tree-cell-text(imapdeleted,current) {
color: #DDDDFF !important;
treechildren::-moz-tree-cell-text(imapdeleted, offline) {
background-color: #DDDDDD !important;
text-decoration: line-through !important;

So what am I missing?
  • Mac Mail has Quick Look which Thunderbird does not have. Evidently somebody is working on getting that working for Thunderbird -
  • Mac Mail has good integration with iCal. Thunderbird integrates with google calendar (which I have integrated with iCal). But, I miss being able to click on dates in messages and create iCal events from them. And have the event in iCal tie back to the original message.

So what does Thunderbird do that Mac Mail can't?
  • Awesome extensibility.
  • "Filter these messages" is awesome. Can filter on various combinations of sender, recipient, subject. Can only do one of those for the search box for Mac Mail.
  • Way faster. Mac Mail sometimes can take ages to trawl through mailboxes. Thunderbird is really zippy.

What do they have in common that's a bit different?
  • Mac Mail's Smart Mailboxes is Thunderbird's "File->New->Saved Search..."

So far, I've been happy with the swap.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stubbs BBQ

Stubbs BBQ, originally uploaded by nikconwell.

This BBQ sauce I haven't tried yet. I've used some dry rub spices by this guy. The awesome thing about it all is the quote "LADIES and GENTLEMEN, I'M a COOK". The guy sounds really BADASS! I can imagine him walking into some restaurant, the room goes quiet, and he stands up and proclaims "I'M A COOK, DANG IT!" I'd buy this guy's BBQ sauce any day of the week.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I've always thought the idea of getting a boat and sailing around would be a lot of fun.

And then I listened to this story...

Not fun, not fun at all.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Genius, originally uploaded by nikconwell.

Why yes, I am a genius, thank you for asking.

Note to haters, the "Genius Opponent" was NOT Mr. Potato Head.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Not reading

I've read Perdido Street Station and enjoyed it, so I picked up "The City & The City". Gave up after about 100 pages. Not really SF, the plot was very slow, and things were mostly dialogue. Not really what I was looking for. Next up, non fiction, "Life Ascending - The Ton Great Inventions of Evolution".

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Just finished reading Makers -

Great book, tons of fun. Brings back the feel of wandering old Florida indoor flea markets inside some converted Kmart or Walmart or such.

Also made me want to buy a 3d printer.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Windows 7 Pro

Made the swap from the RC to Windows 7 Pro on the Asus 1005HA netbook.

Install was OK, although couldn't get the ISO onto a USB to do the install that way. Worked fine for the RC (used unetbootin) but wouldn't boot for the Windows 7 Pro.

So, used the download and upgrade install. Upgraded the RC just fine.

The ASUS utility stuff (hotkeys and Super Hybrid Engine), a pain. I needed to upgrade the BIOS to install the hotkey stuff, but the BIOS update utility needed ACPI which ASUS stopped providing as of Windows 7 (evidently there's something more advanced?)

Googled around and found some instructions here. The basic idea is to install the ACPI from the XP download area (in XP compatibility mode service pack 2) and then do the BIOS upgrade and then remove the ACPI. Then everything else will slide into place. Instructions worked like a charm.

Next up is to get Jolicloud back on since the nice W7 installer blew away the grub MBR. Naughty.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Magicians

Just read "The Magicians" - by Lev Grossman (

This was what Harry Potter should have been. The book feels like a blatant rip-off of Harry Potter and Narnia, yet because it's so obviously what those books really should have been, it feels fresh, it's readable, and it's fun.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Google Maps ads.

OK, so everybody uses google maps to figure out where to go.

How long before businesses realize they could put huge honking letters and banners on their roof so they would show up on the maps?

They could provide confirmation like yes indeed this is the "Hilton Hotel". Or a supermarket could use it as a way to show people that it has the "lowest prices around".

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why that new fangled ...!


Historically, when the new communication device comes out, the reaction tends to be divided. Some people think it's the best thing since sliced bread; other people fear it as the end of civilization as we know it. And most people take a wait and see attitude. And if it does something that they're interested in, they pick up on it, if it doesn't, they don't buy into it.

I start with Plato's critique of writing where he says that if we depend on writing, we will lose the ability to remember things. Our memory will become weak. And he also criticizes writing because the written text is not interactive in the way spoken communication is. He also says that written words are essentially shadows of the things they represent. They're not the thing itself. Of course we remember all this because Plato wrote it down -- the ultimate irony.

We hear a thousand objections of this sort throughout history: Thoreau objecting to the telegraph, because even though it speeds things up, people won't have anything to say to one another. Then we have Samuel Morse, who invents the telegraph, objecting to the telephone because nothing important is ever going to be done over the telephone because there's no way to preserve or record a phone conversation. There were complaints about typewriters making writing too mechanical, too distant -- it disconnects the author from the words. That a pen and pencil connects you more directly with the page. And then with the computer, you have the whole range of "this is going to revolutionize everything" versus "this is going to destroy everything."

So let's keep that all in mind, stop whining about the latest and greatest whatever, and get down to buisness instead.