11 January 05 - 23:27God Bless / Darwin Rocks

In Austin, many cars sport a Christian fish symbol (the greek word for 'fish' is an acrostic for "Jesus Christ God's Son Savior") and other cars have a fish with Darwin playfully inscribed.

It's funny though that the many panhandlers on their signs usually have a 'God Bless' and the bottom, but I've never seen one with 'Darwin Rocks'.
Why is that?

- History - -

11 January 05 - 22:04Patriots Meeting

I met with a bunch of friends once a month for our "Patriots" gathering. We share a dinner, watch a video on a historical topic, and discuss issues over dessert.


Come join us sometime. We meet on the second Tuesday at various homes.

- Personal - -

10 January 05 - 13:34Nokia 3650, mobile video, and haircuts

Instead of reading a three month old issue of People magazine at Sports Clips today, I was able to enjoy the History Channel's "Wild West Tech" hosted by Keith Carridine on my little Nokia 3650. Oh, the bliss of getting the exact video you want at the exact time, (albeit not in the perfect form factor).
To get to this blissful moment took way too much work. I recorded the episode on my Windows (tm) Media Center Edition Sony in its native format, ".dvr-ms" and used DVGatePlus to convert that to MPEG2 (the only option) and then converted that to MPEG1, and then let the Nokia software convert that to ".3pg", a format the Real(tm) player can understand. This is way too hard. Surely, some program can convert straight from ".dvr-ms" to ".3pg", or better yet, wouldn't it be nice to just record in ".3pg"? Or at least record in MPEG1, so I'm just one step away from ".3pg"? But alas, the MCE edition has no way to specify what format to record.

- Software - -

21 January 05 - 12:58The Science behind our obsession with student's self esteem.

Scientific American has an article on self-esteem. The thrust of the article states that a higher self-esteem does not really help a student to be more successful in school or life.
But yet our public schools seem obsessed with the idea of making sure each student has a high self-esteem. Each year when our American students are compared in math skills to other nations we trail behind, but our students rate their own ability very high.

I was talking with a public school teacher recently who said her students were being taken out of her reading class to attend classes on self-esteem. Wouldn't it be better to really teach the kids how to be better in reading and math than trying to convince them that they are? This article claims that a higher self-esteem will not lead to higher learning as we have typically thought.

Let's concentrate on teaching core subjects and encourage the students to have accurate self-esteem. Perhaps if the students realize they are actually behind the rest of the world in math they would study harder.

- Politics - -

05 January 05 - 11:06Eye on Security Cameras

With this google url you can search for thousands of security cameras all around the world and be the Big Brother to Big Brother.

- Software - -

04 January 05 - 23:21Nokia Series 60 / Windows Media Center

I just received a Nokia 3650 as a present and have been playing around with it. It's very fun. I've had an IPAQ for the last two years and they are very different machines.

I've been able to download some video that my Windows Media Center taped of the History Channel onto the Nokia phone and watch clips. Oddly enough, I have not been able to move TV video from my Windows XP box with Media Center onto my Windows CE IPAQ. It's not been for lack of trying. Getting the codec for the Windows CE 2000 version has been difficult. It seems like I should be able to drag the program from the MCE directly into my IPAQ (or via Windows Media Player(tm) 10), but no such luck.

In a future entry, I plan to compare TiVo and Windows MCE, and my experiences with bluetooth.

- Software - -

03 January 05 - 14:21Believe it or not, they're all the same species

Interesting article at the telegraph claims all humanoids fossils are really one big, happy species.

- Science - -

14 January 05 - 11:47Test-Driven Development

"Test-Driven Development - A Development-based Process Alternative" was the topic at the Austin
Software Process Improvement Network (A-SPIN) last night presented by Scott Bellware.

The most interesting point he made was: "Rapid Application Development programs can't be component tested because their are no components. You have to buy a $50,000 test tool to test from the GUI."

Second most interesting: "Drag'N Drop environments, like Visual Studio, force the program to be single tier."

- Software - -

11 January 05 - 23:38Improving job market?

The job market is definitely improving in Austin, but I'll know its really back solid when the first recruiter comes to our local Java Users Group. I'll let you know when that happens. She may get a standing ovation, unlike the old days when they would get a polite 'Thank you' for all the refreshments.

- Software - -

09 February 05 - 14:18Peeble Bed Reactors

Peeble Bed nuclear reactors may hold promise for a meltdown-proof alternative in nuclear power design. The South Africans and Chinese are leading the way. Peeble Bed reactors have thousands of billard ball size spheres with a small amount of radioactive substance inside. All the balls together generate enough heat to turn turbines, but not enough to melt down.

- Energy - -

09 February 05 - 13:08Nanotubes crank out hydrogen

TRNMag has an article on the production of hydrogen from sunlight using carbon nanotubes.

- Energy - -

04 February 05 - 12:525 MW turbine built in Germany

renewableenergyaccess.com has a story about a new huge wind turbine. The power produced by a wind turbine is proportional to the cube of the blade size, hence the economy of large blades.

- Energy - -

23 February 05 - 10:28Naked Objects / Software Quality Economics

Last night Eitan Suez Eitan gave an excellent presentation to the Austin Java Users Group about "Naked Objects". Instead of having the traditional four layers - GUI, Controller, Domain, and Persistance, Naked Objects only has one - the domain. All the other layers are done through introspection and convention. This produces a fascinating change in paradigm for programming. The GUI is not very customizable, but for many uses, it is fine. Naked Objects are not ready for commercial deployment, but its authors are working on a commercial ready version for delivery in a year.

I was reading Steve McConnell 's "Code Complete" recently and was struck by his observation that used individually techniques for reducing errors in code only reduce the bug count by about 30%. When all techniques - design reviews, code reviews, modeling, unit tests, integration tests, regression tests are combined, 90% of bugs are discovered. He also mentioned that code reviews are by far the cheapest method for finding bugs. Code reviews cost 3.5 hours per bug discovered, while testing cost 15-25 hours.

On our current project, each member does one code review a week for 30 minutes. The programmer walks everyone through a piece of code they have written. This works well as a teaching tool, and occasionally we find bugs. It is not a formal walk through, but its cheap in staff time and a good start.

- Software - -

16 February 05 - 12:54The Kyoto Treaty

The Kyoto Treaty for global warming takes effect today. In Austin it's already working! The last two days have been in the 80s, but today is much cooler, highs in the low 70s.

- Science - -

16 February 05 - 10:09"A bad security reputation"

ComputerWorld has an article on the new Internet Explorer version just announced.

A curious part:

"Internet Explorer is part of Windows and is used by most Web users, but it has a bad security reputation. Other browsers such as Firefox, Netscape and Deepnet Explorer are exploiting that reputation to steal market share. "

"A bad security reputation", duh,... its not a reputation, it's a fact. More hacks are perpatrated on IE than any other browser. You can argue that the other browsers have just as big security holes that are unexploited due to lack of market share, but that doesn't change the fact that IE is easily hacked.

Also "steal market share" seems a little protective of microsoft's current status. Why didn't ComputerWorld say "gain" instead, in a free market you don't "steal" market share - unless you offer a product for free, at a loss to your company to drive out competitors - oh BTW, Microsoft just announced they would be giving away a spyware and anti-virus software. (A move predicted in my
Perhaps Microsoft is buying lots of advertising in ComputerWorld.

- Software - -

26 March 05 - 15:06Pennies add up

More Penny Structures from the web. Another bored person is trying penny stacking like I did back in college.

Actually my Penny page has gotten a lot of press from a few bloggers, and then more bloggers.

My bandwidth increased significantly:


My hosting service sent me a note of gratitude:


This email is being sent to you in reference to localhost
which is expected to, or has already exceeded its bandwidth limitations.
localhost currently includes 10 gigabytes of bandwidth.
localhost has already used 9.22 gigabytes of bandwidth.
localhost is expected to use 11.43 gigabytes of bandwidth
before the last day of the month.
If localhost does use 11.43 gigabytes of bandwidth the
charges for the extra bandwidth will equal $7.32.

- default - -

23 March 05 - 13:16DME (imethyl ether)- the synthetic fuel of the future?


The Rockefeller Foundation is investing 100 million dollars in a Chinese plant to convert coal to DME, a gas that can be burned with low emissions in cars. DME is interesting because it can be produced from coal or biomass.

- Energy - -

04 March 05 - 17:18Running cars on compressed air?

LA Times has an article on a French manufacturer trying to make cars that run on compressed air.
The cars only have a range of 120 miles, but for a lot of people, that would be ok. I could see especially in large cities with air quality problems that these would be very useful. Also these could run on any source of power, not just petroleum.

I remember vaguely that a South African has been trying to build a compressed air car for a while. It's not a good sign when 14 years have gone by since the French company started, and still no really good prototypes.

- Energy - -

31 March 05 - 11:41Send Error Report to Microsoft

Something they forgot to include on that annoying "Send Error Report to Microsoft" popup is a little check box saying "Don't ever, ever show this message to me again". Fortunately they gave us a way to do that.

How to get rid of that annoying "Send Error Report to Microsoft" popup:
(even though most sites recommend not doing this)
1. On the "My computer" icon, right click and select "Properties"
2. Select the "Advanced" tab, and then "Error Reporting"
3. Select "Disable error reporting" and uncheck the "But notify me..." option.

- Software - -

30 March 05 - 22:1515 minutes of fame is worth 41 cents

Well, my web site continues to enjoy its 15 minutes of fame with 20,000 page views of the penny page yesterday, but it appears to be peaking now.

A few comments from Digg.com, MajorGeeks.com, 10e.org

I didn't realize that web.archive.org.nyud.net stores old jpgs as well as the text (one of the helpful people at digg.com mentioned that along with Coralcdn.org).

After 60,000 downloads of the page, I still only sold one amazon book for 41 cents.

- default - -

29 March 05 - 13:40BoingBoing listing!!!



My Penny page made it to BoingBoing.net which has greatly increase the traffic to my website.
With all these 48,982 hits on the page, I thought my amazon account would be brimming over. (I use the amazon account for my daughter's college fund).
I sold one book for a profit of $0.40, but had to pay my hosting service extra money for the bandwidth of the last few days.

Fortunately, some generous people on the net have offered to help host some of the images.

- default - -

21 April 05 - 23:02USA Today


My penny page made the tech section in USA Today!

Traffic increased 50% that day, but the vast majority of visitors to the page still came through links on blogs!
For the month of April the visitors from USA Today have only been one-half of one percent of the total visitors.
I think it shows the power of blogs when a mention on a newspaper's national web site only generates .5% of your traffic for the month.

- default - -

21 April 05 - 13:49Flickr

I've been very intriqued lately by the whole social bookmarking thing and the democratizing effect of the web on news and ideas.

Flickr.com, the photo sharing site is very cool.
Many times in a blog or page entry, I'd like to get a photo of the parthenon, or a roman aquaduct, but don't have one personally and I've never been to Athens or Point du Gard.
With flicker, you can download some of the photos and use them under certain restrictions depending on the licencing agreement of the photographer. It's very cool.

Flickr reminds me of Dave Letterman's "May we see your photos" segment.

- Software - -

11 April 05 - 14:07British Royal Family

I've been surprized at how many people in the news have said, "Gee, I don't know if the monarchy in Britain can survive with this latest scandal revelation of (pick one: Diana's divorce, her murder/death, Charles's latest marriage, something the two young princes do).

Not too long ago the British monarch beheaded several of his wives and the monarchy seemed to do fine.

- History - -

30 April 05 - 23:38The Guardian and NYTimes brief mentions

The April 28th edition of The Guardian has a nice link to my penny page.
The text reads:
Penny watch

You might be surprised to find you can build a sophisticated bridge out of pennies, but Mitch Fincher has the pictures to prove it. His "penny page" is a current fave, having been featured on the Boing Boing blog and in USA Today. He's hoping to make enough from Google Adwords to pay the bills.

The NYTimes even has a tiny mention of the penny page. Text:

Penny Architecture

Next time you're cursing at technology, pay a visit to this Web site. There they are, from all over the word: Photos of some amazing structures built entirely from pennies (no adhesive or anything involved).

And remember: If you didn't have a computer, you'd never have seen them.

My site's 15 minutes of fame continues...

The page was also mentioned on a popular web site under the title, "Stupid Links to Stupid Sites".

- default - -

11 April 05 - 14:04Google AdWords

My 15 minutes of internet fame for the pennies page is continuing.
I made $8.41 last week from Amazon ads from 50,000 impressions.
I've switched over to Google adwords and have done much better - hopefully enough to pay for the additional bandwidth.

I've been impressed with how easy Google Adwords is to use.

- Software - -

28 April 05 - 10:21Whining about small device connections

<warning whinning="yes" >
Not infrequently, when my IPAQ is plugged into its cradle my Windows XP box says something like, "What's this USB device? I've never seen this before in my life? What are you trying to pull on me?"
By moving the USB plug from the IPAQ cradle to a new port, rebooting my IPAQ, inserting it into the port either powered on or off, rebooting windows, eventually a wired connection is made and life is good once again.
I was so excited with my bluetooth connected Nokia because I naively thought, "All those problems just go away - Bluetooth will just work." (I know if you are an experianced user, you are snickering now).
Bluetooth doesn't "just work". I've had to go around in similar circles to get it to connect. Windows XP says, "No bluetooth devices are within miles of me." The Nokia application says "Here I am and here's a file to upload". Then my PCs all "Oh, a file? I can receive that -- but there's no bluetooth device within miles of me".
Why is connection software so bad? (Savvy users feel free to roll your eyes).

- Software - -

25 April 05 - 16:17del.icio.us and Live Bookmarks


I've got high hopes for del.icio.us bookmarking system.
Check out my bookmarks at http://del.icio.us/fincher42.


The really cool thing now (RCTN) is to attach your del.icio.us bookmarks to Firefox's new Live Bookmarks which creates bookmarks on the fly from an RSS feed. Now you can add a "Live Bookmark" to your work computers, laptops, and home computers and really see them all in one place. (Now if I could only figure out how to get the groupings to work, it would be super).

I was excited to hear del.icio.us's creator has left his day job to work full time on his prodigy.

- Software - -

13 May 05 - 14:03Amazon REST webservices

I've been playing around with Amazon's REST webservice. Jeff Bezos and his friends have made it extremely easy to get started.
http://mcgregorsgarden.com is my toy implementation of Amazon's webservices.
The page is just php with a call to amazon's web service for a request for the top selling "Peter Rabbit" books.
Amazon returns a chunk of xml that it will transform based on an xslt sheet at mcgregorsgarden.com.

I like the REST implementation instead of SOAP because it is so light weight. All you need is the right url to invoke, an xslt file, and a little php code. No real programming needed.


- Software - -

10 May 05 - 13:41Methane from unproductive oil formations

LUCA technologies confirms real-time methane generation in oil formations. These microbes convert underground oil into methane. The potential could be enormous. In an oil reservoir, about half of the oil is still below ground after its economic life. If these mcrobes could be seeded into the "used up" oil fields, we could capture methane gas to use as energy.
In West Texas, many of the oil fields are past their productive lives. With these microbes, new life could be pumped into towns and our energy dependency reduced.
Perhaps the current natural micobes could be tweaked with genetic engineering to be even more productive.

- default - -

09 May 05 - 14:02Steve McConnell's Code Complete


I've just finished Steve McConnell's excellent book, Code Complete second edition and highly recommend it.
The shear breadth of the book is impressive as he tackles everything from process to how to indent code.

- Software - -

17 May 05 - 16:31What's up with Adobe Splash Screens?

Am I the only one Adobe Splash screens bother? Are they trying to impress us with how smart they are by showing 3 dozen patent numbers?
Are they trying to scare me? "Oh, I'd better not copy any of *their* code - they've got a zillion patents".
Did they just run out of artwork and think it cheaper to bore us with numbers?
We don't they show pictures of cute fuzzy ducklings instead of a string of numbers worthy of the national debt?

And what about the upgrade screen to Acrobat 7.0? You can upgrade inside the browser but you *have* to include the yahoo search bar. What's up with that?

And while I'm on it - I've got a 2.4 gigahertz computer and it still takes an eternity to load Acrobat to view a file.

(Ok, thanks for reading - I feel better now.)

- Software - -

17 May 05 - 16:27Back to normalcy


Well, my web site is going back to its sleepy little self after our torrential 15 minutes of fame. It was fun while it lasted. Thanks to everyone who hosted images!

- Software - -

14 May 05 - 17:36Upgrade to Pivot 1.24.1


This site has just been upgraded with a new version of the blogging software, Pivot 1.24.1. Please let me know if something is amiss.

- Software - -

09 June 05 - 14:45Waiting for Perfection, Settling for Future Irrelavancy

I heard "Hyper-Ted" Nelson speak and was very impressed. He foresaw the web years before and created Project Xanadu to implement hyperlinked documents long before Tim Berniers-Lee. Nelson's vision is even better than the current web. It had copyright protection and an expanding address space and zillions of other "better-than-the-web" features. But alas, Xanadu is forgotten, beaten by a nimble, less featured, but adequate competitor, HTTP and HTML.
Waiting for the perfect, can doom a project to the recycle bin of history.
Which brings me to this entries topic, and yes I do have one.
What's up with Microsoft? Monad, the scripting command line interpretor, is late and rumored to not be in Longhorn. The native command line mode in Windows XP is pitiful compared to the bash shell, which has been out for 80 years (ok, that's in internet time). Why has it taken MS a decade to produce a decent shell? and it's not even here yet.
On my linux box I can do a 'history' command in the bash shell and see commands I typed into the shell months ago. After my session is done in XP those commands *are* history.
Don't get me started on ObjectSpaces. By the time ObjectSpaces gets here will it be overtaken by NHibernate? Perhaps Bill should give Ted a call.

- default - -

07 June 05 - 10:04I'm Really Bored?

I just had to chuckle last night when I read an email about my Penny site:

... interesting, but you must be really bored. ((o:~

and by giving an unsolicted response to photos I took 25 years ago means what about his life?

Another chuckle came this morning at work. I was CC: on an email from someone saying they received an email saying their timesheet was not completed, but that they really had completed it. Another email to the entire North American distribution list followed with the same comment. And another one. And yet another. Eight people - no make that nine now - broadcast to hundreds of fellow employees their innocent of timesheet deliquency. Then I was hit with a bunch of requests for withdrawl of emails, followed by our exchanged server going offline.
Oh, the joys of email.

- default - -

03 June 05 - 13:59TiVo - It just works.


Besides being able to skip commercials and watch a 60 minute show in 40 minutes, the TiVo software just works and he interface is intuitive and pleasant.
Yesterday I connected one of my tivos into my home wireless network. Amazingly, it went without any troubles. TiVo detected my network, accepted the WEP password, and joined the network. It phoned home and got the latest TV schedule.
Why can't all software 'just work'? I've got a bluetooth device and it's a pain connecting to XP. I watched a friend of mine last weekend try to connect his bluetooth device to his XP notebook - same problems. After 40 minutes, he had worked out the kinks and connected it - but 40 minutes?
BTW, TiVo is too cool. If you don't own one, pick one up on your home from work.

- Software - -

23 June 05 - 13:15I finally get it...

I finally get it. Embarrassed as I am to admit it, last week I was going to alphabetize my CDs. I now realize the utter folly of such an act.
Instead, I loaded all my CDs onto my computer. Now I can use the TiVo "My music" option and pipe any playlist from my computer into the living room stereo system or my IPAQ for listening in the car.
The physical CDs are not for playing anymore, they are just there as proof of copyright ownership.
And really, my computer does a much better job of alphabetizing than I do.

- Software - -

14 June 05 - 09:16I'm not really this lazy, but...

I work on the fifth floor of a six story office building. I often need to go to the sixth floor, so I push the "up" button in the hallway. After I enter the elevator, why do I have to push the "6" button?

- default - -

14 June 05 - 09:10Pragmatic Unit Testing / Honesty

Click to read reviews or buy Pragmatic Unit Testing

I recently read Pragmatic Unit Testing and was struck by the line:

Unit test are very powerful magic, and if used badly can cause an enormous amount of damage to a project by wasting your time.

Being honest about the down-side of new hyped methodologies is a "good thing". Too many times as software engineers we just tout the latest and greatest fad, without looking at the potential downsides. When the downsides do appear (and they always make a showing) the methodology is blamed, when it's just being misapplied in an instance.

- default - -

20 July 05 - 17:11Talking Blogs - TalkR.com

I stumbled across The Daily Report's audio download in mp3 format.
The nice folks at TalkR.com convert text blogs into a quicktime streaming audio; great concept. The mechanical voice produced is understandable and almost pleasant.

- default - -

19 July 05 - 14:37What's up with Sun?

What's up with Sun and OpenSolaris? I recently read that they are removing Linux as the foundation of their JavaDesktop (nee, MadHatter) and replacing it with OpenSolaris.
Sun always seems to be trying to compete with perfectly good free products with something they feel is slightly better, but not popular.
For example, they are making a major push for the NetBeans IDE. I tried it a year or two ago and it was OK. I liked Eclipse better, so I stuck with Eclipse. Why doesn't Sun spend all that energy cooperating with projects instead of recreating them and trying to go one better. Sun could make some cool plugins for Eclipse instead of trying to update NetBeans.
Sun reminds me of Digital during their last gasping days. Remember OpenVMS? Nobody else does either. Digital never "got" Unix (aka snake oil) until it was too late. Then they tried to push OpenVMS (Who would want to use Unix, when they could have VMS?), but the timing was off.
Maybe Compaq, er HP, has enough money to buy Sun too.

- Software - -

19 July 05 - 14:12csszengarden - I finally get it

I recently stumbled upon csszengarden.com and I finally get css. This site takes separation of content and form to a whole new level. I love it. Now I am on a mad quest to "css"-positionize my site repleat with css dropdown menus. I've been staying up way too late, but this "fluid css" stuff is very intriguing.

Thanks to Dave Shea for authoring the site.

- default - -

30 July 05 - 17:03tiny trends

The ratio of ie browsers to firefox has been steadily declining, as you can see from the latest stats for this web site:


Another interesting trend is that at last weeks java user's group meeting, all three speakers had Apple laptops.

- default - -

12 July 05 - 11:22Microsoft Team System

The .Net Users Group in Austin last night was on Team System, a suite of tools for software lifecycle management from Microsoft. I was very underwhelmed - nothing really new or ground breaking in the tool set. Many of the "new" features have been available from other vendors for years.
The most discussion of the night was on the licensing scheme. After five minutes of trying to explain licensing, the speaker had to stop discusion and move on. My take is that if more than 5 minutes is needed to explain the pricing structure, somethings wrong - call me a Luddite.
The really frustrating aspect of the tools is how non-standard they are. I love NUnit, but Microsoft chose not to use NUnit, but something "better". They provide a translator program to convert the millions of NUnit test cases to their new testing framework, but why didn't they just use NUnit? They will force their customers to waste time changing the names of attributes from "happy" to "glad" for no real benefit. (The NUnit community is creating software to run the Microsoft tags natively in NUnit, too bad Microsoft doesn't have the manpower to do the same).

The other frustrating incompatibility is with their diagramming tool. They chose not to use UML, but DSL notation. Once again they will force us to learn something different, perhaps better sometimes, perhaps worse sometimes, but different..

Another tidbit from last night was that the new system doesn't use SourceSafe. Even Microsoft hasn't used SourceSafe internally for years. SourceSafe was roundly denounced as evil. Long live the new SourceSafe!

- default - -

04 July 05 - 14:02From the Oregon Coast

Our family is taking a vacation on the Oregon coast in Depoe Bay for my wife's family reunion. Oregon is beautiful; our three story rented house sits right on the ocean. The weather is great. Back in Texas the temperatures are approaching 100 degrees, but here the days are actually chilly.

- default - -

22 July 05 - 13:53Bubble Fusion is back!

Our friends at Purdue University announced a confirmation of sonofusion, or 'Bubble Fusion'. Yiban Xu and Adam Butt reproduced the experiments of Rusi Taleyarkhan that created nuclear fusion in a beaker.
This could provide clean cheap energy from seawater. I was very excited when Dr. Taleyarkhan announced his discover, but was disappointed when it was not confirmed by other experimenters.
In the experiment, air bubbles are created in acetone laced with deterium. The bubbles collapse creating intense heat (think the temperature of the sun). This provides enough energy to fuse two deterium atoms, releasing energy.

- Energy - -

22 July 05 - 10:32Emacs vs. JEdit

I've always been an emacs fan. I've created custom modes, written macros, and ange-ftp'd to create web sites.
But when it came time to teach my daughter how to edit HTML on her website, I thought emacs a little too much for someone whose age is still in the single digits.
I overheard Stu at a recent Java User's Group meeting say he loved JEdit, so I decided to give it a try. It's free, open source, multiplatform, yada, yada, yada.
I gave my daughter an overview on Monday of how to connect via ftp to our web site using JEdit. I was going to show her more details on Tuesday, but she called Tuesday morning to say she had already been editing her site.
I was impressed with how easy JEdit was for her to use, and for me as well.
Sometimes being an old timer in this software business is a liability. I've hung on to emacs too long. I'm moving on to JEdit.
rms, thanks for the ride, its been a good one.

- Software - -

04 August 05 - 12:18Latest Session on "New Trends on the Web"

The powerpoint slides of my presentation today on the "New Trends on the Web" are here.

I gave a presentation today at work. We talked about del.icio.us, flickr, IPTV, and GoogleEarth. The concept of tagging is so powerful.

- default - -

05 August 05 - 13:35Mammoths in America?

Humans wiped out the elephants in North America? This has long been a speculation. Spear points have been found in the bones of mammoths. More evidence points to it now. America use to teem with large animals: mammoths, elephants, horses, camels, sloths. They all survived many ice ages and thaws, but 10,000 years ago they all disappeared. Man came to this fair land about the same time. Coincidence? I think not.

- History - -

09 August 05 - 09:13Whidbey Web Projects and Detecting Browsers

Jeff Palermo and Scott Bellware, two Austin .Net gurus, have some harsh words ("What a Freakin' Joke!") for the Web Project part of Whidbey.

I'd always heard that .Net figures out what browser you are using and sends the perfect level of HTML/Javascript to make the application work optimally for user. If you use an "enlightened" browser like IE, .Net optimizes the code sent down, otherwise it does the next best thing. It turns out that .Net really only has two settings for browsers: IE and others. It assumes all other browsers are dumb HTML 3.2 beasts. But this can be remedied by adding hints to the machine.config file. Although Microsoft doesn't supply us with up-to-date values, SlingFive.com does.

- default - -

26 August 05 - 16:25Fit NakedObjects

NakedObjects now has a .Net version! This is way cool.

Also Fitnesse, based on fit is rumored to have a .Net version.

- Software - -

19 August 05 - 15:23Observation on ASP.Net 2.0

I liked many of the new features in ASP.NET 2.0 The master pages and themes are long overdue and appreciated. As is the removal of FrontPage from the necessary software for the system to really work.
Intellisense for style sheets is a nice addition. I liked the Site Navigation builder that uses an xml configuration file to build navigation menues. It was very impressive, kinda like Dreamweavers.
An interesting practice of the presentors was to have products installed on separate Virtual Machines. One presenter had nine virtuals at the ready to show different combinations of beta software. They gave away a dvd which contained a virtual pc with the new products on it. This is very convenient (for those with virtual pc installed). You can just slap the dvd in your drive and have the entire environment for DevStudio and SQL Server 2005 ready to go - no installation needed. neat.
But this got me thinking. The use of a virtual pc is really an admission of failure in a sense. Remember Netscape? I could run version 1.1, 1.2, 3.0, 4.0 all on the same box with different directories. Why can't we do that with Developer Studio? Well, it's because its too tightly integrated with the OS.
Overall I was impressed with the new features of ASP.Net 2.0. It will make life easy for thousands of developers.

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19 August 05 - 15:10Observations on SQL 2005

Yesterday I attended two events, one in the morning for SQL 2005, and the afternoon was for the new ASP.Net.

The new SQL 2005 was underwhelming. The presenter mentioned several times that the owner of a schema could now be changed without changing the code. Also the new scripting of tasks was mentioned repeatedly. An administrator can write a script and execute it on multiple machines without having to go through the GUI. I had deja vu of Unix systems from a decade ago. The session reminded me of motel signs in rural texas advertising "Color TV". Just as you would expect a motel to have a color tv, the new features are just something you would expect of a modern database system.

Which brings me to something that annoys me to no end. During the session the presenter entered into the SQL parser,
"SELECT * Employees"
SQL Server replied with a vague message about bad syntax. We all knew that the statement should be "SELECT * FROM Employees" and the presentor quickly corrected it - manually - two mouse clicks and four keystrokes. Why can't Microsoft take 0.0001% of their advertising budget (like for the obnoxious dinosaur campaign) and pay a grad student for the summer to make an intelliquent query analyser.
When the bad SQL was typed in, why can't we get a popup box with a note like:
"SELECT * Employees" is not valid, did you mean "SELECT * FROM Employees".
We could correct it with a single click.
When we mispell a table name can't a 2 gigahertz machine grind through a few options for us? Why not even have intellisense in the Query Analyser with dropdowns for tablenames? It is 2005 after all.

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23 September 05 - 17:20Another wonderful encounter with Register.com

Don't you just love domain registers?
I am trying to move a domain from Register.com ($24.95/year) to GoDaddy.com ($7.95/year). To move it I have to have the "auth" code from Register.com. Some companies show you the "auth" code on your "My Domains Page". Not Register.com.
Steps to get my "auth" code:
0. Spend 15 minutes searching the "My domains" pages for my "auth" code. Spend 5 minutes looking for an address to email them.
1. Email them to request the "auth" code.
2. Recieve an email saying "Don't you really want to use us? We're very nice. Really. OK, if you really want to leave us reply to this and we'll send you the code."
3. I replied. Weeks past. Nothing.
4. I call them. After 25 minutes on hold I get a live person. He says the people who handle that are gone for the day. But he can have them email me the code. I say 'sure - do it.'
5. Days later. Nothing.



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14 September 05 - 13:44The Future of DRM and Copyrights

The current use of copyrights and Digital Rights Management is deeply flawed. Here's my view of the future:

Just as we have domain registrars today, we will have Copyright Registrars (CR) in the future. When you buy an album, a message (with the appropriate digital certificates) is sent to your Copyright Registrar that you have purchased the rights to this album. You can then download that album anywhere at anytime from your CR or its affliates and listen to it. Your IPod phone won't have to hold 200Gigabytes for all your videos and music, it will just need a few megabtyes storage and an internet connection.
Anywhere you travel with a cellular or internet connection, you will be able to listen to all of your music and watch all your videos. It won't matter if you purchased the music at ITunes or WalMart, you own the copyright, not a digital file that may or may not play on next years uber-device, but the actual copyright.
If these copyrights could be transferred (like via Ebay), a whole new currency could be created.

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14 September 05 - 13:17Biodiesel and Ethanol to the Rescue

Environmentalist and politicians love agricultural ethanol production because they think it makes the US less oil dependent and keeps farmers employed. According to a new study at Cornell, for each equivalent gallon of ethanol produced, it takes 1.3 gallons of oil. The current darling of the media, switch grass, takes 45% more oil energy to grow and havest than it makes.
So ethanol and most biodiesels are actually making our country more oil dependent. Go figure. A lot of good sounding ideas in the energy debate are just wrong.

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13 October 05 - 11:42The Progressive City of Austin

Austin prides itself on a progressive, hip, technoparadise, so I just had to laugh at an upcoming event here this weekend:
Fri.: Benefit showing of Rollergirls doc "Hell on Wheels" at Beerland

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12 October 05 - 14:21The World Is Flat

I was having lunch with a friend who works at a large technology firm here in Austin. He mentioned that all the execs at his company are reading "The World Is Flat", which advocates outsource to India of everything except janitorial duties.
This got me thinking. Our church is about to hire two new staff members. Why not hire them in India? We could get at least six good pastors for the same price. They could lead Bible Studies via teleconferencing. Send emails to members of the congregation. Pray for our members. What a great idea. I can't wait to tell our pastor my bold new visionary idea.

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12 October 05 - 14:11Help with Passwords

If you're like me, you've got a zillion passwords to a zillion sites that you can never remember.
Some employers are even making it harder to remember by having it expire every three or four days. In the old days you could just pick a good password, keep it for years, and commit it to memory. The new passwords have to be at least 42 characters long, containing at least 3 numbers, 4 punctuation marks and it cannot contain a dictionary word - even in Swahili. This forces technology workers to handscribble passwords on postnotes and place on their monitor. But sometimes people have so many postnotes they forget with userID, or system go with which password ("Was '2@##ssa!!!uiplllsqly' the password to the accounting system or the carpool finder site?") To make the workplace clean and neat your friend Mitch will be selling these new postnotes in the near future:

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27 October 05 - 22:06Mozilla 42.58%, MSIE 6 42.26%


For the first time on this humble website, Mozilla browsers outnumber IE6!

Total Transfers by Browser Type (Overview)
219541 42.58% 4782 12.22% 3467624704 34.93% | Mozilla/5.*
217917 42.26% 31308 80.03% 4073095680 41.03% | MSIE 6.*
34110 6.62% 0 0.00% 462156224 4.66% | curl/7.*
7786 1.51% 436 1.11% 162811984 1.64% | MSIE 5.*
6003 1.16% 0 0.00% 425731712 4.29% | FAST Enterprise Crawler/6.*
4090 0.79% 0 0.00% 518604096 5.22% | Accoona-AI-Agent/1.*
3334 0.65% 876 2.24% 48671508 0.49% | Mozilla/4.*
2530 0.49% 383 0.98% 64579800 0.65% | Opera/8.*
2303 0.45% 2 0.01% 64721752 0.65% | Googlebot/2.*

(The curl browser entries are those scum-of-the-earth dirt-bag blog-spammering reavers)

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12 October 05 - 13:55Interesting Energy Developments

A few tidbits in the news caught my eye:
A team of researchers have increased the effeciency of Organic Solar Cells by 20%, bringing the effeciency to 5.2%. The nice thing about organic solar cells, as opposed to their silcon cousins, is that they can be sprayed on surfaces like paint, perhaps being very cheap. This development brings us closer to cost effective solar cells (ok, it's not that much closer since solar cells are still five times as expense as most commercial energy, but it's an improvement).

A new design for a wave power generator is being developed. The design looks cheaper and simpler than others. Wave power could be a huge source of renewable energy, it's more reliable than wind and most people live close to the coast.

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19 October 05 - 14:43EJB 3 Persistance

Patrick Linskey of SolarMetric gave an excellent talk on EJB3 persistance last night at the Austin Java User's Group. If you develop with Java in Austin, you should join us.
On a related note, NHibernate 1.0 has just been released. After waiting for years for ObjectSpaces, perhaps the .Net world should use NHibernate or Spring.Net.

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17 October 05 - 22:13The Latest on Fincher v. Register.com

Some of you have asked if Register.com sent the auth codes to transfer my two domains.
Well, after 13 emails back and forth the answer is: no.
But we are getting close I'm sure. Some of the mistakes have been mine, but Register.com
has been incredibly unhelpful.

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02 November 05 - 14:12A Printer Virus?

Is it just a matter of time before the first printer virus appears? Most serious copies/printers have more compute power than ... well you know... apollo something er other. What would it take to embed some postscript commands with a virus? What would such a virus do?
I'd love to hear your comments and once I get rid of these gorram blogspammers, I'll get comments back online.

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17 November 05 - 13:23Google Analytics

I've been very impressed with Google Analytics. It's easy to set up, gives wonderful information, and it's free.
Below is the results for my first day:


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14 November 05 - 09:54BBC Video

A co-worker of mine in the UK, Phil, emailed this morning to say that Kate Russellkate russell featured this humble site on the air.
Visit the BBC site
(It is somewhat disconcerting that the page id is "666").

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11 November 05 - 10:21Nice reference from the BBC

BBCWorld has some very kind words about this site.

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19 December 05 - 13:53What will it mean to own a DVD when you have IPTV?

In the future when you can download any movie or TV show on demand via IPTV in 10 seconds, what will it mean to "own" a movie?
Currently you "own" a movie on DVD and can watch it whenever and whereever you like. You may watch it often, or like me, seldom. What if you could just watch any movie you wanted without fumbling around to find the DVD? In the future, it may be cheaper to just pay to watch a movie on a per viewing basis than to really "own" it. For example, if it costs $3 for an on-demand movie, you would have to watch that DVD seven times to make it worth your while to buy it. I've never watched any of my DVDs seven times.
For Christmas, er, Winter Holiday, in 2010, instead of receiving a bright shiny DVD of something the giver thought you might like, you may receive a gift card to viewing ten movies of your choice via broadband.
I think I'd rather get the gift card.

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14 December 05 - 10:38Mustang and GlassFish

Sridhar Reddy spoke to the Austin Java User's Group last night. I was mildly encouraged by the new openess of java. The next release, Mustang, is available for download at http://mustang.dev.java.net. Developers are encouraged to look at the source code and report bugs and improvements.
Two new features looked useful. JSR 199 allows java code to be compiled from inside running code and JSR 219 which is an annotation processor. C# already has the annotation functionality, but is sorely lacking the ability to compile and run code on the fly.
I walked out with several TShirts and a 128MB USB memory stick for answering this question:
What is returned from this function?:

public bool foo()
try {
return true;
} finally {
return false;

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