athelind: (Eye: RCA Magic Eye)
Yes, My Esteemed Audience, Your Obedient Serpent finally has a Twitter account.

@athelind, of course.


athelind: (ewd3)
When I was six years old, my father, a newspaper publisher, took me into work to show off the brand-new, state-of-the-art layout and compositioning system that had replaced the gigantic, '40s-vintage printing presses that we'd had heretofore. Even at that age, my fondness for technology and science was evident; it was 1970, after all, and I had followed each and every Apollo flight with rapt, unwavering attention.

Glowing words were on the screen. A little blinking box was at the end of the line, and every time my father pressed a key, a letter appeared. It was ... well, I was a product of my era. It wasn't "like magic", but it most certainly was Sufficiently Advanced.

And then ... the blinking box vanished. And my father could not recover it. This led to a stream of the profane invective for which he was infamous ... and that, in turn, led to my response:

"That must be why they call them 'cursers'."

This was no innocent comment, no fodder for Mr. Linkletter's program. Oh, no. This was a clear and present pun, delivered in full knowledge of the depth of my crime.

And he had only himself to blame.

You see, my MOTHER raised me on the Apollo Program.

My FATHER raised me on Rocky and Bullwinkle.


athelind: (Eye - VK)
... or rather, Dust in the Laptop.

My laptop is three years old, and I've been using it as my primary computer system for almost two years.

It's exhibiting the telltale signs of overheating -- lagged keyboard response time, stutters in streaming video, inexplicable lock-ups. If this were a desktop system, it would be a simple thing to open the case and empty a can or two of compressed air into it to blow the dust off the components.

Just how does one accomplish that with a sealed hunk of plastic like this? Aside from the battery compartment, there are a couple of removable panels on the back; I figure one gives access to the hard drive, and the other, to the RAM. Any suggestions before I risk disabling my sole connection to the Internet?

Edit: It's an Acer Aspire 5516, essentially a netbook with an oversized 15.6" screen. I have the manual now; if the KB is removable, there's no indication, but I can now confirm what all the panels on the back are.


athelind: (Eye: RCA Magic Eye)
I keep hearing radio ads for a local air show.

In them, the announcer growls enthusiastically that the audience will see the F-15 Strike Eagle and the F-18 Hornet.

The "monster truck rally" voice that he uses carries the suggestion that these are bleeding-edge examples of advanced aviation technology -- but they're both designs rooted in the 1970s.

The F-15 design is now older than the P-51 was when the F-15 first entered service.

Now, I'm not saying that this indicates how our aerospace technology has "stagnated". There's an s-curve to technological development: rapid advance at first, then a plateau where improvements are only incremental. At some point, you can really only improve on a design by making a major paradigm shift in underlying technology (piston to jet, for instance).

This intrigues me because it mirrors some other socio-cultural trends I've observed: people half my age or less who listen to the same music I do, and watch movies that I grew up with, and don't really think of them as "old".

The '90s just don't seem as far in the past as the '50s did when Happy Days debuted. When Marvel brought Captain America back in 1964 after a 19-year absence, those two lost decades were a huge gulf that let them wring great soap-opera mileage out of A Man Out Of Time. It's hard to see getting that kind of impact out of someone who hadn't been seen since the far-distant past of ... 1991.

If it were Just Me, I'd say that this was a natural process of Getting Old ... but even the adults of my childhood referred to the '50s as "back then", without the immediacy that the '90s seem to have today. I meet more than a few teenagers who listen to rock from the '60s and the '80s without any sense of "retro" or "nostalgia" or "irony". Blade Runner just doesn't have the same sense of "quaint" that Forbidden Planet did in 1982.

It's like the last half of the 20th Century didn't take nearly as much time as the first half.


athelind: (green hills of earth)
As if to demonstrate that Life Goes On, I just had an Archimedes moment: I ran out of the shower, towel wrapped 'round my waist, shouting "EUREKA!"

You see, I finally figured out a series of graphics that would explain to observers just what I was seeing in all that Elkhorn Slough data back in 2004-2005. I was trying to get a coherent article out of three or four different studies, each of which insisted that the Big Erosion Hotspot was in a different part of the Slough. Unfortunately, because their studies found erosion and deposition occurring at opposite ends of the Slough, the PhDs responsible for two of the papers each had ... issues ... with the other.

Bear in mind that these gentlemen were supposed to be my co-authors.

Bear in mind as well that I'm the only guy who looked at all four and a half data sets spanning 15 years.

Of course, any hypothesis that reconciled these supposedly-contradictory datasets was going to get lambasted from both ends.

Of course, after staring at all that data for three years, I came up with one:

Elkhorn Slough would experience Big Erosion Events that would dump a lot of sediment at the head of the Slough, and it would work its way down to the mouth over a period of years, thus giving the pattern of "Erosion here, deposition there" in one study, and "Erosion there, deposition here" a few years later.

I just figured out how to make maps that show the bulge of sediment moving down the slough.

It's clearly visible in the "flip chart" of cross-sections I carried around with me during that whole project, but I just figured out a way to display the data in four or five Q&D maps, rather than making people scrutinize Excel graphs for three years to see the pattern emerge.

So, yeah, "Eureka".

And you know what's even better?

When I rattled this off to [livejournal.com profile] thoughtsdriftby, who's an engineer, he said, "oh, yeah. that's plug flow."

So:
  1. I still have all that data on my desktop hard drive.
  2. And I have an open-source GIS program that I've been wanting to figure out.
  3. And I want closure, dammit.


I may have material for a Master's Thesis here.


athelind: (Default)

The Kno: A giant double-screen tablet to replace giant textbooks.



Kno Movie from Kno, Inc. on Vimeo.



I'm not much of a tech-fiend or an early adopter. My usual reaction at the Shiny Tech Toy of the Minute is, "huh, that's kinda cool", but it's seldom if ever "OMG I GOTTA HAVE IT".

Even now, as I'm looking at the Kno, my reaction is, "Yes, this is finally getting to what I want in the elusive 'electronic book' -- something that retains the utility of a hardcopy book while simultaneously taking advantage of the new medium."

Up until now, the ebook readers I've seen haven't done either. They've been the Worst of Both Worlds: a static page without any of the convenient features that let the spine-bound book render the continuous scroll obsolete. That's fine for a novel, but for any kind of reference work at all, it's useless. If I'm, say, playing an RPG, and trying to run combat, even the best-organized rulebooks I've seen have me flipping back and forth between three or more widely-separated sections at once.

A reader-tablet that's set up to properly display two-page spreads, to let me jot notes, to let me flip back and forth casually between sections? One that's ALSO set up to hyperlink and cross-reference? And, of course, to have animated illustrations and even embedded video? To have two books open at once, or a full-on web browser on one screen with a textbook on the other?

This is the frakkin' Diamond Age, boys and girls. Or the first real stab at it, anyway.

[livejournal.com profile] halfelf is holding out for a tablet that has both a capacitive and a resistive screen, so you can do both the Cool iPhone Multi-Touch Tricks and the Pressure-sensitive Drawing Tablet Tricks. Call it the "fingerpaint interface".

It would be NICE to be able to use something like the Kno as a full-fledged graphics tablet, but it's not a deal-breaker for me. I can live without that. After all, I can't use my laptop as one, either.

In short: WANT. If this thing isn't just vaporware, I'll be eagerly awaiting announcements of price points.

Even if it is ... this is the interface of the future. This is what an "ebook reader" will have to look like to be as useful as a spine-bound book. It doesn't have to be this large, but it's going to have to be this flexible.

Take a good look, people. This could be the printkiller.
athelind: (green hills of earth)
From The Rachel Maddow Show, a few nights back:

Right now, we have a catastrophic uncontrolled petroleum gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, and another spill up in Alaskan waters.

Who needs new footage? We can just rerun reports from 1979, when almost exactly the same thing was going on.



To recap (no pun intended):

  • A blowout on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • A rig run by the company that eventually became Transocean.
  • Exactly the same techniques used to stem the flow
  • In exactly the same order
  • With exactly the same results:
    • BUPKIS.

  • After months and months of gushing oil, matters were only alleviated when relief wells were drilled.
  • Why didn't they just go for the relief wells first this time?
  • Have "top hats" and "top kills" ever worked?*


The only difference is that in '79, the well was 200 feet down; now, it's over five thousand.

My father used to have a saying about four wheel drive vehicles: "They won't keep you from getting stuck. They just let you get some place even farther from help when you get stuck."

The oil companies keep talking about how their technology has imnproved—but it's just let them get even farther from any solutions. If When shit hits the fan, they don't actually have any new solutions; they're just trying the same things that didn't work before.

"But that trick never works!"


*Yes, that is a request for specific instances, if anyone out there feels like dredging them up. Like Wikipedia, however, I want citations.
athelind: (Eye - VK)
Again, my prejudices are reinforced.

I now want to start a social networking site.

I'll call it "JumpOffABridge", and the tagline will be "Because All Your Friends Are Doing It."


athelind: (Eye - VK)
Again, my prejudices are reinforced.

I now want to start a social networking site.

I'll call it "JumpOffABridge", and the tagline will be "Because All Your Friends Are Doing It."


athelind: (Eye - VK)
This is a follow-up to this post.

Following [livejournal.com profile] foofer's advice, [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia got me a wireless bridge for my birthday, so I could finally get my desktop system back online. (Thank you, sweetness!)


The specific unit is a D-Link DAP-1522, purchased new from Fry's after a recommendation from Buy More's Nerd Herd Best Buy's Geek Squad.

I cannot configure the wireless settings for it.

It hooks up fine to the computer, and the Setup Wizard sees. the household wireless network, but the settings the Wizard imposes don't seem to take. It tells me that it's connected when I go to the bridge's Status page, but it doesn't actually connect.

According to the manual, when I go to the wireless setup page, I should see a nice, long pageful of wireless settings. )

What I actually see is a pair of buttons, a header, and nothing underneath. )

Something Is Wrong, obviously. Is that Something in the Operator or the Device? Am I screwing something up, or do I need to just return this and get a new unit?


athelind: (Eye - VK)
This is a follow-up to this post.

Following [livejournal.com profile] foofer's advice, [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia got me a wireless bridge for my birthday, so I could finally get my desktop system back online. (Thank you, sweetness!)


The specific unit is a D-Link DAP-1522, purchased new from Fry's after a recommendation from Buy More's Nerd Herd Best Buy's Geek Squad.

I cannot configure the wireless settings for it.

It hooks up fine to the computer, and the Setup Wizard sees. the household wireless network, but the settings the Wizard imposes don't seem to take. It tells me that it's connected when I go to the bridge's Status page, but it doesn't actually connect.

According to the manual, when I go to the wireless setup page, I should see a nice, long pageful of wireless settings. )

What I actually see is a pair of buttons, a header, and nothing underneath. )

Something Is Wrong, obviously. Is that Something in the Operator or the Device? Am I screwing something up, or do I need to just return this and get a new unit?


athelind: (Eye - VK)
Okay, here's the deal.

I currently only have wireless internet access -- which means that, for most of what I require, I'm limited to my laptop, and my desktop is a Giant Blue Paperweight. My laptop is doing a fine job as Primary System -- it's actually newer and faster than the desktop -- but having to rely on it exclusively means that I've had to load it down with a lot of extraneous applications, rather than keeping it the Lean Mean Portable Productivity Machine that would be my preference.

My birthday is coming up soon, and when Quelonzia asked me what I wanted, the only thing I could think of was a wireless card.

Now, Ubuntu has a long list of supported wireless cards, but it's a long and poorly-organized list, hinging largely on information about internal chipsets that doesn't pop up in most advertising copy. It's also a list of cards that Ubuntu will recognize during the installation of the operating system -- it doesn't really say if you can plug a new card onto an existing Ubuntu box and have the appropriate drivers pop up.

I am polling the LiveJournal Hive Mind for wireless card recommendations.



I need something that is:

  1. Ubuntu Compatible.
  2. Old-skool PCI bus: my motherboard is Vintage 2003.
  3. Reliable.
  4. Available new.


If folks who Know Enough About Stuff To Have Opinions About Brands And Models could peruse the list and make suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it.


athelind: (Eye - VK)
Okay, here's the deal.

I currently only have wireless internet access -- which means that, for most of what I require, I'm limited to my laptop, and my desktop is a Giant Blue Paperweight. My laptop is doing a fine job as Primary System -- it's actually newer and faster than the desktop -- but having to rely on it exclusively means that I've had to load it down with a lot of extraneous applications, rather than keeping it the Lean Mean Portable Productivity Machine that would be my preference.

My birthday is coming up soon, and when Quelonzia asked me what I wanted, the only thing I could think of was a wireless card.

Now, Ubuntu has a long list of supported wireless cards, but it's a long and poorly-organized list, hinging largely on information about internal chipsets that doesn't pop up in most advertising copy. It's also a list of cards that Ubuntu will recognize during the installation of the operating system -- it doesn't really say if you can plug a new card onto an existing Ubuntu box and have the appropriate drivers pop up.

I am polling the LiveJournal Hive Mind for wireless card recommendations.



I need something that is:

  1. Ubuntu Compatible.
  2. Old-skool PCI bus: my motherboard is Vintage 2003.
  3. Reliable.
  4. Available new.


If folks who Know Enough About Stuff To Have Opinions About Brands And Models could peruse the list and make suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it.


athelind: (weird science)
Why is it so hard to find a portable radio or, hell, even an entertainment center-style stereo that has a nice row of programmable radio buttons, so you don't have to twiddle up and down the dial every time some hockey game clutters up your classic rock station?


Comments from people who don't listen to the radio because of technology X, Y, or Z will be deleted. Do not open Pandora's Box.
athelind: (Default)
Why is it so hard to find a portable radio or, hell, even an entertainment center-style stereo that has a nice row of programmable radio buttons, so you don't have to twiddle up and down the dial every time some hockey game clutters up your classic rock station?


Comments from people who don't listen to the radio because of technology X, Y, or Z will be deleted. Do not open Pandora's Box.
athelind: (coyote drives)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

At the moment, my Dream Car is the Aptera:




Every time I post a link to the Aptera, though, I get a lot of people whining about how impractical it would be in the snow, and that sort of thing. So, if money is truly no object, it would be sharing my garage with this cinematic classic ...



Yes, it still exists, it's been restored, and it's out there.

And if you make fun of my Aptera, I will take my Landmaster, run over your silly little SUV, and drive through your HOUSE.


athelind: (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

At the moment, my Dream Car is the Aptera:




Every time I post a link to the Aptera, though, I get a lot of people whining about how impractical it would be in the snow, and that sort of thing. So, if money is truly no object, it would be sharing my garage with this cinematic classic ...



Yes, it still exists, it's been restored, and it's out there.

And if you make fun of my Aptera, I will take my Landmaster, run over your silly little SUV, and drive through your HOUSE.


athelind: (His Master's Voice)
This post from [livejournal.com profile] theweaselking prompted this admission:

I still don't get Facebook. What is it? I can't see any pages, and all anyone will say is that it's a "social networking site".

I "get" LiveJournal. It's a blog site that makes it simple to aggregate blogs you like to read into a "friends" list, and allow certain levels of trusted access to the people on that list. I get what people DO here; it's a BLOG. Same with DeviantArt; it's an art site with interactive comments and journals. At its core, though, people post ART.

Hell, I even get MySpace: it's Geocities 2.0.

But I don't get Facebook. From all the descriptions I've heard, it's Links Without Content.

I've had a few people say, "why don't you just sign up and see for yourself?"

... is it just me, or is there something inherently cultish about that phrase?

Edit: BoingBoing just provided a link to an image that pretty much answers my question:


"Facebook: The Medium is the Message." Elegant.


athelind: (Default)
This post from [livejournal.com profile] theweaselking prompted this admission:

I still don't get Facebook. What is it? I can't see any pages, and all anyone will say is that it's a "social networking site".

I "get" LiveJournal. It's a blog site that makes it simple to aggregate blogs you like to read into a "friends" list, and allow certain levels of trusted access to the people on that list. I get what people DO here; it's a BLOG. Same with DeviantArt; it's an art site with interactive comments and journals. At its core, though, people post ART.

Hell, I even get MySpace: it's Geocities 2.0.

But I don't get Facebook. From all the descriptions I've heard, it's Links Without Content.

I've had a few people say, "why don't you just sign up and see for yourself?"

... is it just me, or is there something inherently cultish about that phrase?

Edit: BoingBoing just provided a link to an image that pretty much answers my question:


"Facebook: The Medium is the Message." Elegant.


athelind: (big ideas)
Mostly for my own reference:


Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design




While Dr. Akin is an aerospace engineer, most if not all of these Laws apply to systems design in general.

[livejournal.com profile] normanrafferty should take particular note of the following:


14. (Edison's Law) "Better" is the enemy of "good".



Snagged from [livejournal.com profile] theweaselking, whom I forgot to credit when I first posted this.

.
athelind: (Default)
Mostly for my own reference:


Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design




While Dr. Akin is an aerospace engineer, most if not all of these Laws apply to systems design in general.

[livejournal.com profile] normanrafferty should take particular note of the following:


14. (Edison's Law) "Better" is the enemy of "good".



Snagged from [livejournal.com profile] theweaselking, whom I forgot to credit when I first posted this.

.
athelind: (weird science)
Back in May, you may recall, [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia got me a toy: a refurbished Asus Eee 900a Netbook.

And then I said nothing about it.

Well, the reason why I said nothing about it was because, after a couple of weeks, the thing started locking up in mid-boot. It came with a recovery DVD that could make a bootable USB Thumb Drive or SD card -- but the software on the DVD demanded Windows, and, well, there's not a Windows machine in the house.

Please note that the Eee runs a Linux variant, yet did not come with Linux recovery tools. *headdesk*

So, I talked to technical support, and, lacking the ability to make a recovery drive, they had me send it back for a replacement.

When the replacement arrived, it pulled the no-boot trick on the first day. This time, however, I had an SD card* with Eeebuntu loaded on it.

(Eeebuntu, as the name suggests, is an Eee-specific version of Ubuntu, the Linux distro I use on my desktop. I'd been planning to put Eeebuntu on the Eee all along, since I wanted more flexibility than the dumbed-down Linux that's loaded by the factory. The stock Eee OS won't even let you install new applications, at least not easily.)

This was a Monday. The thing ran happily on Eeebuntu until that Friday... when it locked up in mid-boot again.

Eeebunto, however, is a bit more verbose than the stock Eee OS. It actually told me that there were bad sectors on the Solid-State Drive (SSD).

I tried a few more things -- including using someone else's Windows machine to make a Recovery SD Card. That actually worked -- once. I was able to install it and get it to boot -- but not to REboot.

So, I sent a very detailed description to Customer Service, and they had me send it back. They confirmed the problem... and said that they couldn't replace it right away, and would we accept a refund instead?

At this point, I'm gun-shy about old, refurbished Eees with Solid-State Drives. A refund sounds a lot better than getting another 900A and just waiting for the drive to fail again.

So I have no toy, and I am a sad dragon. =(

On top of that, I failed yet again in upgrading my old wheezer video card.


*While both the packaged and online instructions insist that the Eee can boot from a USB thumb drive, I was never able to make that work.
athelind: (Default)
Back in May, you may recall, [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia got me a toy: a refurbished Asus Eee 900a Netbook.

And then I said nothing about it.

Well, the reason why I said nothing about it was because, after a couple of weeks, the thing started locking up in mid-boot. It came with a recovery DVD that could make a bootable USB Thumb Drive or SD card -- but the software on the DVD demanded Windows, and, well, there's not a Windows machine in the house.

Please note that the Eee runs a Linux variant, yet did not come with Linux recovery tools. *headdesk*

So, I talked to technical support, and, lacking the ability to make a recovery drive, they had me send it back for a replacement.

When the replacement arrived, it pulled the no-boot trick on the first day. This time, however, I had an SD card* with Eeebuntu loaded on it.

(Eeebuntu, as the name suggests, is an Eee-specific version of Ubuntu, the Linux distro I use on my desktop. I'd been planning to put Eeebuntu on the Eee all along, since I wanted more flexibility than the dumbed-down Linux that's loaded by the factory. The stock Eee OS won't even let you install new applications, at least not easily.)

This was a Monday. The thing ran happily on Eeebuntu until that Friday... when it locked up in mid-boot again.

Eeebunto, however, is a bit more verbose than the stock Eee OS. It actually told me that there were bad sectors on the Solid-State Drive (SSD).

I tried a few more things -- including using someone else's Windows machine to make a Recovery SD Card. That actually worked -- once. I was able to install it and get it to boot -- but not to REboot.

So, I sent a very detailed description to Customer Service, and they had me send it back. They confirmed the problem... and said that they couldn't replace it right away, and would we accept a refund instead?

At this point, I'm gun-shy about old, refurbished Eees with Solid-State Drives. A refund sounds a lot better than getting another 900A and just waiting for the drive to fail again.

So I have no toy, and I am a sad dragon. =(

On top of that, I failed yet again in upgrading my old wheezer video card.


*While both the packaged and online instructions insist that the Eee can boot from a USB thumb drive, I was never able to make that work.
athelind: (weird science)

Douglas Rushkoff insists that Google Chrome OS will CHANGE EVERYTHING.



Some of Rushkoff's arguments are less than convincing to a Linux user, I'm afraid. I'm not "locked into Microsoft Office". I use Open Office, and when an MS user simply HAS to see my work, I export -- which I'd have to do with GoogleApps anyway.


I'm simply not comfortable working "in the cloud". The privacy issues Rushkoff so cavalierly dismisses as "false" are still there; if I'm working on a confidential report, I don't want it on a drive whose access I can't control. I don't want to be dependent on the reliability of my Internet connection to access it myself, either. If I'm working on the Great American Novel, can I be sure that Google or whoever winds up running their servers will keep my file safe? Will I see it at Borders with someone else's name on the cover? If their system crashes so catastrophically that my work can't be recovered, will they be liable?

And gods forbid The Authorities should ever decide that I'm a Person of Interest. Shoot, I don't even have to assume they'll single me out; it's no great stretch to think that they'll decide that having the ability to pick through everyone's conveniently-accessible personal files is the same as having both the right and the obligation to do so.

It's not like they haven't before.

GoogleApps are convenient collaboration tools, but I don't think they can our should replace local computing.

This doesn't mean I won't try GoogleChrome if I can ever get a functioning NetBook (I'm about to send the second Eee back due to SSD failure). I can see a lot of uses for the paradigm.

I just don't plan to do anything important with it.


athelind: (Default)

Douglas Rushkoff insists that Google Chrome OS will CHANGE EVERYTHING.



Some of Rushkoff's arguments are less than convincing to a Linux user, I'm afraid. I'm not "locked into Microsoft Office". I use Open Office, and when an MS user simply HAS to see my work, I export -- which I'd have to do with GoogleApps anyway.


I'm simply not comfortable working "in the cloud". The privacy issues Rushkoff so cavalierly dismisses as "false" are still there; if I'm working on a confidential report, I don't want it on a drive whose access I can't control. I don't want to be dependent on the reliability of my Internet connection to access it myself, either. If I'm working on the Great American Novel, can I be sure that Google or whoever winds up running their servers will keep my file safe? Will I see it at Borders with someone else's name on the cover? If their system crashes so catastrophically that my work can't be recovered, will they be liable?

And gods forbid The Authorities should ever decide that I'm a Person of Interest. Shoot, I don't even have to assume they'll single me out; it's no great stretch to think that they'll decide that having the ability to pick through everyone's conveniently-accessible personal files is the same as having both the right and the obligation to do so.

It's not like they haven't before.

GoogleApps are convenient collaboration tools, but I don't think they can our should replace local computing.

This doesn't mean I won't try GoogleChrome if I can ever get a functioning NetBook (I'm about to send the second Eee back due to SSD failure). I can see a lot of uses for the paradigm.

I just don't plan to do anything important with it.


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