Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Everyone Swims in Hawaii

From the cool picture department, the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper had this story of a driving lesson gone seriously wrong.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Thunderbirds Redux

I posted previously about the upcoming Thunderbirds movie. Now I've had a chance to see the trailer, which was showing on my Tivo. I also read the fairly disparaging viewer review posted over on the IMDB. Viewer reviews have to be taken with a grain of salt, but here are some things I noticed:
  1. The Thunderbird vehicles seemed to be very true to the originals. They even have the hover bikes.
  2. The team uniforms were replaced, trashing the lame caps and sashes.
  3. Brain has somehow managed to have a son, who is about Alan's age. Hope for geeks everywhere.
  4. Alan and Tin-Tin seem to have lost about ten years off their ages (Alan was 21 in the original series). Jeff Tracy looks a bit young, too.
  5. Gerry Anderson is conspicuously absent from the credits. Of course, his own two Thunderbird movies were nothing to brag about as feature films go.
  6. They seem to have moved the year from 2065 to 2010. IMHO, this is a serious mistake, as the hardware is just not plausible for 2010.
There are apparently plans to make this movie into a franchise if it does well. It opens July 30th opposite Alien vs Predator, which seems to be a comic book cross between two popular science fiction/horror flicks. Looks like it's worth $10 to go and see.

BTW, the original series can be seen on G4TV (nee TechTV).

Monday, June 28, 2004

Houston's Wham Bam Tram


Houston, we have a problem. Like Seattle, Houston is building a light rail system in the hopes of alleviating downtown traffic congestion. So far, they have 7.5 miles in service, which coincidentally is almost the same length as the first phase of Seattle's light rail plan.

It seems they are indeed reducing traffic, one car at a time. Houston's new 99,000 pound juggernaut has been involved in at least 47 accidents with automobiles in its first 7 months of service. Repair costs after just 3 months had hit $600K. I bet that isn't in Mr. Sims' budget.

People have been calling Houston's Metrorail names like "Metrozilla" and "Weapons of Mass Destruction." I don't see much reason to hope that Seattle drivers will be less accident prone. MSN already rates Seattle in the Top Ten Least Drivable Cities in the country. Houston isn't even on the list. Could Seattle's light rail end up being A Streetcar Named Disaster?

More On Mesh Networking

Earlier in the month, I posted an article on Open Mesh Networking. Now, the Linksys WRT54G I mentioned is already obsolete.

A company eponymously name Meshcube, has released a product that takes mesh networking about as close to being built-in as it's likely to get. The meshcube is all of 7 x 5 x 7cm large, and supports 100Mbps Ethernet, up to 2 802.11a/b/g interfaces, and boasts a 400MHz MIPS processor, 32MB flash, 64MB RAM, and a USB port.

Education In America

Everyone talks endlessly about the poor state of the educational system in the U.S. To compare today's curriculum to that in 19th century America, a college professor in Kentucky has pointed out some examples from an eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas. Some of the questions include:
  1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
  2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
  3. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
  4. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.
  5. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication?
  6. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
  7. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
  8. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fermandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
  9. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
  10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.
FWIW, I don't know where Hecla is either.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Keep Watching The Skies!

After my earlier rant on what constitutes good science fiction, I was delighted to stumble across a TV schedule listing a showing of the 1951 version of The Thing (from Another World) directed by the great Howard Hawks. The film is based on the short story "Who Goes There", written by John Campbell (writing under the pseudonym Don A. Stuart), the most influential editor in the history of science fiction.

When asked to recommend the "best" SF movies made, "The Thing" is one of only two that come to mind. The story is crisply done, the situation is a classic exploration of possibilities, and the elegant badinage between the cast members is classic Hawks. Clean, simple, and to the point. Oh, the special effects are a joke, but that is slightly offset by the casting of James Arness in the title role. Of course, Bobo the Gorilla could probably have handled the depth of acting required of the monster, but that's besides the point. So is the awful cover image used on most of the DVDs and tapes sold.

Scheduled for July 5 on TCM, on most cable and satellite systems. Now, if they will just show it in letterbox. BTW, this is not to be confused with John Carpenter's miserable 1982 version by the same title.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Canadian Looney Tunes Money

It seems that our neighbors to the north have developed quite a sense of humor about their coinage. First came the Loonie, a one dollar coin with the picture of a Loon on one side. Using that design was something of an accident, but the Canadian public has embraced the coin, and christened it the Loonie (rhymes with Mulroney).

When they introduced a two dollar coin some years later, it had a Polar Bear on the reverse side. Since "bearly" doesn't really sound right, it became the twonie, which quickly morphed into toonie. Fortunately, no one seriously went for the name doubloonie, though some call it The Queen with the Bear Behind.

Now comes their 2004 commemorative 25 cent piece with a moose. Canada has had a moose on various coins in the past, but not like this. Designed by an 11 year old boy from British Columbia, this may be the first coin issued with a likeness of a particular moose. Specifically, one Bullwinkle J. Moose. Can a Flying Squirrel coin be far behind?

Monday, June 21, 2004

You Have The Right To Remain Silent. Not!

Looks like Americans have lost the right to remain silent in the post 9/11 era. In a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court declared that you don't have the right to refuse to answer questions from a police officer, and that you can be jailed if you don't.

The case in question involved a Nevada man standing by the road talking to his daughter. When the police drove up and started asking questions, he refused to answer. Things got progressively more kafkaesque from there. Dudley Hiibel, the man in question, has a web site with his side of the story, including video footage of the actual events!

So much for the Fifth Amendment. It's a Brave New World. :(

To Boldly Go

In the wake of the successful flight of SpaceShipOne, there has already been lots of coverage elsewhere (everywhere). While out to lunch, I happened to tune in the local NPR station's afternoon talk show while I was surfing to escape the 9,000th repeat of an annoying mortgage commercial. They were discussing the flight and the recent opening of the SF Museum here, drawing little distinction between them.

The thing that really frosted me were the (majority of) callers whose view of Science Fiction begins and ends with Star Trek. A few had broadened their horizons to include Star Wars, and one had diverged enough to fixate on anime.

Science fiction, IMNSHO, is about awe and wonder, it is about exploring possibilities and consequences, and is a test bed for new ideas and philosophies. Real SF (to me), is embodied in the scope and grandeur of stories like Karel Capek's R.U.R. (the first use of a modern robot), Arthur Clarke's Childhood's End, Larry Niven's Ringworld, or Vernor Vinge's The Peace War. Its not about people in funny noses and foreheads pretending to be aliens.

Star Trek TOS was a (very) thinly veiled vehicle for Roddenberry to comment on contemporary issues under the guise of claiming to be science fiction. It consisted of a weekly series of morality plays in space. Subsequent ST series continue the theme, occasionally rising to deal with true science fiction subjects, such as communicating with a species that doesn't use the concept of words (Darmok), but more often degenerated into episodes about arbitrary predicaments solved by pulling rabbits from hats and spouting treknobabble.

Comparing Star Trek and such to "real" science fiction is kind of like a comparing a frozen TV dinner to a Cordon Bleu banquet. A frozen dinner is OK under some circumstances, but it ain't great cuisine.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Thunderbirds Are Go!

Actually, I was thinking of using this title for the update on the forthcoming SpaceShipOne launch. See the previous posting.

While doing the research, I discovered that the inexplicably popular Gerry Anderson TV series from the 1960's is being made into a new live action Thunderbirds movie coming this summer with a big name cast, and directed by Jonathan Frakes of STNG fame. No Supermarionation this time around.

I guess old spaceships never die. They just go into cometary orbits.


Updates to earlier postings:

Ray Guns

DefenseTech has a report that Xtreme Alternative Defense Systems (XADS) is developing a long range version of the Taser. Tasers work by shooting two darts trailing hair-thin wires into the target, then electrically jamming the target's nervous system. XADS' new Close Quarters Shock Rifle (CQSR) is the same thing, without the wires. Reminds of an old quote from Einstein. The CQSR uses a plasma stream, to replace the darts and wires. Only effective out to ~3 meters right now, but bigger, more powerful versions are sure to follow. Seems to work kind of like a zat'ni'katel. To quote from the Gizmodo article: Who would think you could do all that with a cardboard tube and some camouflage duct tape?

Stand By For Blast Off.


The launch of the world's first manned, operational, private space craft, SpaceShipOne, mentioned here earlier, is now scheduled for 0630 June 21, 2004 from the Mojave Spaceport. Presumably, this is Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), but I can't find anyone being that specific. More coverage at BoingBoing.

Two To Beam Up

First successful quantum cryptography, now actual teleportation. The BBC and the International Herald Tribune are reporting that independent teams in the US and Austria have successfully teleported atoms. Previously, this had only been done with photons. Don't expect a Star Trek style transporter any time soon, but this offers huge potential for information transfers.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Seattle's New S.F. Museum & Hall of Fame

Well the wraps came off Paul Allen's much anticipated Science Fiction Museum (SFM) (aka The Science Fiction Experience) when it opened tonight to give card carrying members a sneak preview. Well, they would be card carrying if the SFM had given anyone cards. FWIW, someone already had a website named, and somebody is camped on, so Allen borrowed part of the title from his Experience Music Project (EMP) in the same building for a domain name.

Since I had ponied up the cash for the Terran category membership, I had the opportunity to get the tour. Frankly, I was disappointed.

The SFM is shoehorned into some space previously occupied by part of the aforementioned EMP. If you have ever seen the exceptionally ugly EMP building, it is very weirdly shaped. As a result, the exhibits in the SFM occupy two oddly shaped nooks on two different levels.

The content is a mixed bag. Most of it consists of glass showcases filled with books that might have come off of my own shelves, old movie props, and some posters. The Las Vegas Star Trek Experience (SFE) (there is that Experience name again) does a better job of this. Not to mention the SFEs killer interactive rides and effects.

The SFM literature mentions a restaurant. It was not open, but the hors d'oeuvres they were serving were pretty lame. I went to dinner afterwards.

There is a Hall of Fame display highlighting famous authors, but IMHO the list is too short. Many important writers have been overlooked, including Larry Niven, Clifford Simak, Fletcher Pratt, C.S. Lewis, Cordwainer Smith, and the great H. Beam Piper to name a few.

The SFM has a (small) display of SF art, notably two pieces by Chesley Bonestell, one of which is unattributed. I hope they sell prints in the (yet unopened) gift shop. They don't even mention many other major artists, such as Frank Frazetta, Frank Kelly Freas, Boris Vallejo, Vincent Di Fate, etc.

The best part of the museum are the holograms. One displays a beachball sized planet rotating in a tank. Different planets from SF literature can be selected for display. The real prize though is the "Spacedock" display, or as I dubbed it: "The Holographic Trivia Tank". It has an eclectic series of spacecraft coming and going, including the Enterprise-A, New York City in a spindizzy field, an Imperial Star Destroyer (accompanied by a Tie Fighter, with a X-Wing Fighter too), Flash Gordon's Spaceship and the Planet Express Ship from Futurama. But again, major ships are missing, such as the agro ship from Silent Running, the Battlestar Galactica, and the Jupiter 2 from Lost in Space to name a few. At least, I didn't catch them. There were also quite a few I couldn't identify, but with the crowd that was there I only spent a few minutes watching the tank.

Speaking of the crowd, it was kind of interesting. I would guess that the median age was about 35. At least half the attendees were women. Maybe 5% were in some sort of costume, many of which I couldn't identify. A 45-ish 6'4" tall man dressed as a Starfleet command officer (STNG) struck me as kind of lame. Or sad. At least I didn't see any badly done faux Kilingon foreheads. The woman dressed in an excellent Lewis Carroll Queen of Hearts costume just left me puzzled.

Overall, I'd grade it as a C+. I do plan to go back to look more closely, but all-in-all it's too small, with too many relatively mediocre static displays. Still, maybe its the start for something better to come.

Under The Wire

In the 1970's Larry Niven introduced us to the Tasp, a "weapon" that allowed the wielder to directly trigger the pleasure center in an opponents brain, leaving them writhing on the floor in pure ecstasy. Then he took the concept a step further, introducing the wirehead, where the user has a wire physically run from a socket in his/her skull to the pleasure center. The design used an interface called a droud, which contained a timer that would break the circuit so the current addict could remember to stop to eat, piss, and so on. All conveniently installed in the local head shop (giving new meaning to the term), just like getting your ears pierced.

Now, the FDA is on the verge of approving a droud and wirehead system built by Cyberonics. They already have such a device, which connects directly to the Vagus nerve, and is used to treat epilepsy. Now they want to use it to treat depression. Presumably, initial versions will be much less intense than Niven's technology.

Niven's early work had a particular emphasis on extrapolating the consequences of events and actions. One of the consequences he foresaw from wireheading was that all other forms of euphoriant addiction (such as heroin, cocaine, etc.) would be eliminated, unable to compete with rapture from a wall socket. Of course, replacing the need for addicts to steal, cheat, and prostitute themselves with a clean, inexpensive alternative addiction is something the American public will never accept.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Can You Hear Me Now?

More cell phone mania. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Conservative Party spent an estimated 3 million Euros (~$3.624 million US) last week to send SMS Spam to every cell phone in Italy, reminding voters of European and local elections that took place over the past weekend. The opposition party was incensed. Quite a few Italians were pissed too, as many of the messages arrived in the middle of the night.

Text messaging was used back in 2001 to topple Philippines President Joseph Estrada. SMS played a major role again in their election last month.

In South Korea, Ohmynews, an news website that lets the readers pick the stories, organized a grassroots campaign to send million emails and an untold number of SMS messages endorsing an underdog candidate they favored in their last election. The candidate won in an upset.

Meanwhile, above the 38th parallel, North Korea last week banned all cell phone use. The North Korean Postal System, the only service provider in the country, is actually impounding all the phone units. Sources in Pyongyang are now reporting that the explosion in the city of Ryongchon last April was detonated with a cell phone trigger in an assassination attempt on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. Clearly, they figure that no phones means no bombs. Now where did I put that length of Primacord and the alarm clock? The ability to muzzle news dissemination is probably just considered a side benefit.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

How to Combat Anti-Gun Arguments

Debating (or arguing) an issue is all about how you structure your answers. For example, how do you respond when someone asks you, "When did you stop beating your wife?"

Someone pointed me to this article by John Ross, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Southern Kalifornia. Dr. Ross has provided some greatly improved answers for use in the most common anti-gun exchanges. Much better than the usual knee-jerk responses.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Never Lost

Sony has released three new GPS systems for cars based on Linux that render realistic 3D street images in realtime. Unfortunately, the actual announcement is in Japanese, but the pictures and video are neat. What makes this system unique is that it shows you the real buildings, shops, and terrain that are in front of the driver. No more using Hert'z EverLost and wondering "Is the next right really this one, or the one 50 feet down?"

In addition to the GPS, the touchscreen unit also works as a media player, a Web browser, an email client, an embedded PDF viewer, and a light word processor (for the true masochist).

Wi-Fi But No Burgers On Puget Sound Ferries

The Washington State Ferry System launched its new Wi-Fi service today, becoming the first ferry system in the world to offer passengers continuous net access. The M/V Klickitat on the Port Townsend to Keystone run now has service covering its entire route. Seven additional ferries on four routes are scheduled join the Klickitat by the end of the year. All three major Wi-Fi protocols, 802.11a, b and g, are supported. Wi-Fi access will be free until the fall, with fees to kick in after you get addicted.

Unfortunately, you still can't get a burger to chomp on while you read your e-mail on the Seattle/Bremerton, Seattle/Bainbridge Island, Edmonds/Kingston, or San Juan Islands/Sidney B.C. runs. Cascade Concessions, the new food service vendor for these routes, has been unable to reach a contract settlement with the Inland Boatmen's Union, which represents the food service employees on the ferries.

There has been no food service on the four runs for six months. Now, I recognize the value of unions, but this strikes me as a lose-lose-lose proposition for the vendor, the workers, and the passengers and crews, who have been left with nothing but brown bags or vending machine food on ferry trips. Can someone say "Binding Arbitration?"

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Trust Your Car To The Man Who Wears The Star

The Nevada Highway Patrol has spent ~$30 million on their radio systems, but the FCC may shut them down for neglecting to get any licenses for the frequencies they were camped on. All 140 of them!

NHP had set their equipment on frequencies one employee had decided were "unused", but actually were assigned to railroads and various emergency services. The NHP tried to get the FCC to grandfather their illegal frequency use, but in a rare showing of common sense, the FCC told them to "Get Real!" Fines in the case could be as high as $1 billion. The Nevada legislature voted an emergency $16.5 million last year to fix the system, but it's still hosed. Great coverage by theInquirer.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Seattle Light Rail Construction Starts

Sound Transit in Seattle broke ground today on their much publicized Light Rail System. This is the new, politically correct, term for a streetcar system. The project is being pushed by King County Executive Ron Sims and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, both of whom, surprise surprise, just happen to be on the board of Sound Transit.

Cost of the proposed 14 mile system is up to nearly $4 Billion. This is over 33% more than originally approved, and the project will now take at least 3 years longer than initially expected. Budget for the first 7 miles alone is $2.6 Billion. Part of the reason for the extravagant cost, is that they want to tunnel under downtown Seattle for one third of the line. They don't seem concerned at all that this is earthquake country. A portion of this tunnel will take over the existing bus tunnel, putting an extra 20 buses an hour on downtown streets. Another section of the line will run at suface level, causing even more traffic problems. This is supposed to improve traffic conditions? I must have missed something.

Seattle's Original Streetcar Line

In contrast, the first part of the planned new monorail for Seattle will also be 14 miles long. But the cost will be only $1.8 Billion. The design is also entirely elevated, so the traffic impact will be minimal. Given modern materials, the support columns can be relatively thin, causing even less ground level disruption than the existing monorail line on 5th Avenue. Construction of the first segment is planned to take less than 2 years.

Seems to me, that Light Rail is just about the worst choice that could be made here. Yet the powers in office are set on it, and they have fought three voter referendums forcing the advancement of the monorail project. Why have the politicians pushed Light Rail on us?

Of course, none of the existing plans connect to the east side of Lake Washington, with the ~400,000 people living there. Not sure how they could ever get Light Rail across the lake. But the monorail could easily follow the I-90 right of way.

Monday, June 07, 2004

This IS Worth a Bucket of Warm Lizard Spit!

WebMD is reporting that Gila Monster spit can be used to treat Type II (maturity onset) diabetes. Who could have guessed?

American Empire?

The American government is showing more signs that it thinks it is now ruling the world. The US Supreme Court ruled today that United States courts can decide cases filed against foreign governments, allowing a woman living in Los Angeles to sue the Austrian government over artwork stolen from her family by the Nazis in 1938.

Now in the particular case in question, I personally think that the woman filing the suit has a strong argument that the art is hers. Furthermore, the issue of art stolen by the Nazis should have been cleared up 50 years ago.

But where does the U.S. come off claiming to have jurisdiction? The crime took place on another continent! By this kind of (il)logic, the British should be suing us for the cost of the Boston Tea Party.

The Homeland Security Threat Level Is: “Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid”

Jon Caldara is a conservative columnist for the liberal Boulder Daily Camera newspaper in, surprise, Boulder, CO. Recently, his weekly column was spiked by the newspapers editors. As something of a cynic when it comes to liberal attitudes, I though it was worth pointing to the column, which is a dig at both Homeland Security as well as life in Yuppiesville, USA, wherever that can be found.

This Is Your Brain On... Nokia?

About 10 years ago, cell phones were relatively new in the U.S., and not nearly as ubiquitous as they are today. On one occasion, I loaned mine to a friend to make a call. While the line was ringing, he wanted to know if this would be frying his brain. Naturally, I said "Yes."

Now, here's a guy whose brain was saved by a cell phone. We all hate drivers who talk and (try to) drive at the same time, but in this case it may have been a lifesaver. Andre Stein was driving his truck outside Johannesburg in South Africa, when a hijacker opened fire on him. One bullet aimed at his head was actually stopped when it hit his phone. I always knew cell phones were rugged, but...

"Eat Anti-Matter, Posleen Boy!"

Well this isn't quite as cool as Bub-Bun, the antimatter firing 17" artillery piece in John Ringo's When the Devil Dances, but it is a real raygun. The Air Force Research Lab (nee the Air Force Weapons Lab) in my old stomping ground of Albuquerque has come up with what they call the Active Denial System (ADS), a real, honest to Buck Rogers raygun that tops the list of current military non-lethal weapons. If you are targeted by the ADS, you feel like your skin is literally on fire. Most test subjects are forced to bug out after only 2-3 seconds of exposure. It's not a Blaster yet, but it's a start.

Nothing Succeeds Like... Dying?

Have you ever noticed that nothing improves the popularity of painters and politicians like their own deaths. When a painter dies, his/her work suddenly skyrockets in price. When a politician dies, a person previously called a hack, a villain and even a traitor. Suddenly they become beloved elder statesmen.

Once recent case in point is Richard Nixon. Nixon, often ridiculed as Tricky Dick while in office, who resigned in disgrace amidst the Watergate scandal and the threat of impeachment. He even had his own, self-designated gadfly. Dick Tuck. But when he died in 1994, 20 years after leaving public office, he suddenly became a hero. People remembered that he ended the Vietnam war and the draft, that he opened relations with China, reduced nuclear tensions with the USSR, and brokered a peace agreement after the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

I see a similar transformation happening with the memory of Ronald Reagan. From the time he began his political career, he was decried as a B actor who was getting above himself. People either loved or hated him, and the faction that hated him was exceptionally vehement. Despite his fiscal policies having ended the worst recession in 40 years, some despised his economics. His international policies led to the end of the Cold War, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, yet some people hated his right wing stance. One of the things that always struck me about Reagan was his talent for picking skilled people, and then getting out of their way. Perhaps the most notable choice of his administration was Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, a man still affecting the global economy. Now, with Reagans death, all debates seem to be ended. I predict that there will even be a Reagan Memorial built in Washington in the next 20 years to rival the Lincoln or new FDR Memorials.

Now, if politicians could only find a way to get elected after death...

Saturday, June 05, 2004

If You Repeat A Lie Often Enough...

Two things really pissed me off this week. The first was when Speakeasy/Covad/Verizon cancelled my DSL line. The garbled explanation I get is that they had a work order to cancel someone else's DSL circuit, and axed mine too while they were at it. Took 8 days to get back on line!
The second item is another volley from Kenneth Brown, president of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution (AdTI), on his claim that Linux is a ripoff of Minix and/or Unix.

AdTI brings to mind nothing so much as Nazi Minister for Public Enlightenment Joseph Gobbles's concept of The Big Lie. Basically, this says that if you repeat a lie often enough, and loudly enough, the masses will believe it is true. This is also called propaganda. AdTI seems to be in the propaganda-for-pay business, according to For those who don't recognize the name, Alexis de Tocqueville is a somewhat obscure 19th century Frenchman who wrote a treatise called Democracy in America. Interestingly, de Tocqueville himself once noted that "it is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth." Could this be where the Institution got its name?

Now, Brown responds to Dennis Ritchie joining the list of AdTI's sources accusing Brown of misquoting, misinterpreting and misrepresenting their statements. Brown has fired back with a new missive where he states that everyone else is wrong, and only he knows what was his sources really meant when they talked (or even wrote) to him. See my earlier posts on this.

The thing that really burns me up about this, is that Brown has the gall to call his work Samizdat. Samizdat was the voice of uncensored information in the post-Stalin era U.S.S.R., and one of the major contributors the Soviet Union's collapse. Calling Brown's writings Samizdat is the very antithesis of the meaning of the word. Like using Joseph Pulitzer's name on a prize for responsible journalism.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Sleeping With The Enemy?

Dave Whitinger, founder of Linux Today is calling for a boycott of his own creation. He says, quote: "I founded and managed Linux Today in 1998, bringing it up from nothing into the most powerful and large Linux news website in the world, in less than a year. I am now calling on the Linux community to boycott my creation until its current owners stop accepting money from Microsoft to publish blatantly anti-Linux/pro-Microsoft ads."

The entire explanation can be found at, which is one of a slew of sites that Dave manages.


Thank You, Thing

For those of us stuck in the 1970s, the TV Land cable channel is holding a Addams Family marathon this weekend, June 5-7. All 64 episodes, but not in strict order. The blog Irregular Orbit has posted a schedule for your VCR to let you get it all correctly to tape. Tape??

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Pump... er, Bush

Have you ever wished you could tap the energy generated by kids? A South African company has done just that. NPR's The World program reports that a school 15 miles north of Pretoria, in a town actually called Stinkwater, is one of 500 sites in South Africa that have connected the merry-go-round in their playgrounds to a pump that fills a water tank. The children pump enough water to provide up to 3,000 people with a clean, odor-free water supply. If you think this is frivolous, there are nearly a billion and a half people around the world don’t have access to safe drinking water, or must haul all their water distances up to several miles.

In order to make maintenance for the pumps self-supporting, billboards are attached to the water tanks, and the advertising revenue used. Very slick.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Beam Me Up, Scotty

BBN Technologies (you remember them, they built the original ARPANet, predecessor of the modern Internet) has announced that it has built the world's first quantum cryptography network and is now operating it continuously beneath the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Can quantum teleportation using the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen effect be far behind? Probably :(

Does this mean that everyone will adopt secure encryption, eliminating electronic eavesdropping from things like Echelon and Carnivore? Probably not :(

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Man Who Sold the Moon

If you've been living under a rock, you may not have noticed that several private companies are finally getting into the space game. Only 53 years after Robert Heinlein wrote the "The Man Who Sold The Moon" about a private space venture by a rich businessman.

Bert (of Voyager round-the-world flight fame) Rutan's effort, with the un-innovative name SpaceShipOne is now scheduled to go to orbit later this month. Notice, I didn't say "blast off", because the private enterprise efforts eschew the government's rocket method which throws away up to 99.8% of your launch mass before you get out of the atmosphere. SpaceShipOne takes off slung under the White Knight carrier aircraft, similar to the way that NASA's shuttle rides on top of a 747 for transport.

Rutan's company Scaled Composites, which is behind SpaceShipOne, is being funded by Microsoft alum (and rich businessman) Paul Allen. I wonder if the timing of the launch was intentionally done to line up with the opening of Allen's new Science Fiction museum here in Seattle.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

More Oqo Stuff

If you hadn't figured it out from my earlier posts, I'm hyped and waiting for the forthcoming Oqo to debut. Click on the picture below for video of a new interview with the company's CTO.

Some more tidbits have surfaced: The Oqo includes an accelerometer which detects if a free-fall condition is occurring, triggering the hard drive heads to park automatically, reducing the chance of disk damage.

Also, comments on Gizmodo notwithstanding, reports that the Oqo should be able to run Linux just fine. I assume that someone has ported the kernel to the Transmeta CPU.

Finally, Oqo has been saying that the price will be <$2K. But reports that the price will be more like $1,000-1,200.

Open-Mesh Computing

Your ISP is a dinosaur, and your RBOC is about to be toast. They just don't know it yet. The Linksys WRT54G wireless router offers the first step towards cooperative, distributed, open-mesh networking. In the world to come, all your devices will talk to all your other devices, and to everyone elses. If you need to access a web site or make a telephone call, the interface device you use will chart a route through whatever hardware happens to be between you and your target. Including cars, refrigerators, wristwatches, or whatever. No need for an ISP as a gateway, or a telephone company for a backbone. Everything gets done in a manner similar to the way Amateur Radio's Packet Radio networks work today.

Bob Cringely (The PBS Cringely, not the InfoWorld Cringely) has an examination of how the WRT54G can be used as a $70US Linux computer, which combines with some Open Source software to get you a DIY node on the nascent open-mesh computing network.

Only took thirty years to catch up with science fiction.