Archive for the 'Geek Stuff' Category
In my farewell to the Kindle, Down the Memory Hole, I complained about Amazon deleting Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from my iPhone Kindle app.¬† Turning it into an ‘unbook’ was ‘doubleplus ungood.’ The deletion occurred in July and they are finally getting around to cleaning up the mess.¬† I had already been reimbursed for the very small purchase.¬† Today I received an email which repeated Jeff Bezos’ apology and offered the following:
As you were one of the customers impacted by the removal of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” from your Kindle device in July of this year, we would like to offer you the option to have us re-deliver this book to your Kindle along with any annotations you made.¬† You will not be charged for the book.¬† If you do not wish to have us re-deliver the book to your Kindle, you can instead choose to receive an Amazon.com electronic gift certificate or check for $30.
That seems more than fair, although I don’t feel any more inclined to buy a Kindle.No comments
I’ve had my iPhone 3G and the accompanying onerous data plan for about five months. I needed email and calendar access 24/7 and the iPhone provided that in the slickest package. I like the iPhone interface, and most of the irritations that I did have with it were fixed when OS 3.0 was installed. The technology in the phone fulfills the promise of usefulness in a way that the old ‚ÄúPDA‚ÄĚ technology never quite achieved.
I expected to dislike the way AT&T does business. I‚Äôve been using their service since it was Cingular because of superior coverage in my area. What I did not expect to find is that I really dislike Apple ‚Äď not the products but the company. I feel the Apple noose tightening around me and my phone. That control mentality will get them in trouble if they continue to take share in the digital music and smart phone spaces.
Every other memory device I have ever attached to my computer via USB allowed me some access to the file system. Apple only allows iTunes and some extra-cost apps that still don’t give real access to the directory. Apple ties their app store, their music store, their email application, and their browser tightly to the device in a way that would have caused Steve Ballmer to blush when Microsoft was at its monopolistic apogee.¬†That alleged corporate miscreant always allowed other browsers in Windows even as they promoted Internet Explorer. Apple does not allow ANY applications that duplicate ‚Äėcore phone functionality’ such as browsing and email. Where are the legions of anti-IE complainers now?
A good example of this behavior can be seen in the recent rejection of the Google Voice application. Apple says:
The application has not been approved because, as submitted for review, it appears to alter the iPhone‚Äôs distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone‚Äôs core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail.
It‚Äôs my phone. If I want to replace something Apple put in there I should be able to do so. Apple is just afraid of losing control.
In March of this year, it was reported that iPhone browsing had reached 50% of all smart phone web traffic. If they reach the 60% - 70% market share of Internet Explorer, will we see anti-monopoly action against Apple? I‚Äôm a Firefox user on my PC and enjoy having alternatives. There is no doubt that browser application makers would quickly put alternatives in the store if they were allowed, but Apple doesn‚Äôt want us to have choice. I do want to test alternatives to Safari and I can remember when tying a browser into an operating system was evil itself.
Apple iTunes already has an 87% market share of the legal music download space, and the company is making it hard to load that music into any non-Apple device. As soon as Palm announced that the Pre had iTunes connectivity, Apple scrambled to ‘update’ the software and kill that access. Doesn‚Äôt allowing other devices to load content from iTunes help Apple sell even more music? Yes, but it also makes it easier for an Apple customer to switch to another device.
Apple gets a pass on lying, obfuscating, cheating, and poor customer service. The press does not pile on. Apple product users give blank stares if such bad behavior is even suggested. Internet posts on these subjects tend to attract lots of filthy frothing Apple fan comments. I provided the links above so that interested parties could see the evidence.¬† There is much more, but that is not the crux of this article. My point is that Apple has its best interests at heart, and not yours or mine. If we allow them to have unusual levels of control because they are not Microsoft and therefore somehow sinless, they will use that power to help themselves and not us. I hope that when it is time to renew my commitment,¬† Google‚Äôs more open Android or even Microsoft‚Äôs more open Windows Mobile will have improved and be ready to accept iPhone lovers who are not so fond of Apple.
NOTE: For an interesting take on Apple’s disturbing tactics, please see Apple’s Animal Farm at the Fortune Magazine Big Tech blog.
Update: More than 60 applications won’t run or have functionality issues on Snow Leopard.¬† This rates as a serious issue on a percentage of apps basis. If this had been Windows, would it be reported as an epic FAIL?No comments
I have to agree with this editorial by Michael Gartenberg - two strikes is out for the Kindle.¬† I have the Kindle App on my iPhone and I was one of the users who had my copy of Orwell’s ‘1984′ deleted from my device without notification.¬† It was the only book I actually purchased for the app.¬† All my other content consists of sample chapters for books I was considering for Dead Tree format. I read ‘1984′ on my iPhone as an experiment.¬† Now the book is gone.
My other strike involved getting my hands on a Kindle DX.¬† I just wasn’t that impressed.¬† The Kindle DX is bulky, has a clunky interface, and doesn’t have the color to make many educational graphs and illustrations usable. It was easy on the eyes for reading, but so is paper.
I think that there is a future for ebooks, but that future is multi-platform and doesn’t involve getting your materials deleted without permission or notice. When the world goes into electronic textbooks in a bigger way, we shouldn’t lock anyone into a particular device.
UPDATE: The New Yorker takes on the Kindle and the future of reading in this article.¬† Nicholson Baker doesn’t like the Kindle either.No comments
I’ve been using an iPhone 3G for the last couple of months (I intend to do a full review soon). I downloaded the MotionX GPS app from the app store and found it to be a lot of fun. I decided to use the GPS “Stopwatch” feature on my trip home from work. As you can see from the picture below, it took me nearly 36 minutes to travel 33.6 miles at an average speed of 56.6 mph. The surprising thing is that my 4-cylinder 5-speed Camry was able to reach a top speed of 208.3 mph!
GPS is very time-dependent, and I am assuming it was time error. I’m just glad the highway patrol wasn’t monitoring this. The fine for going 208 in a 70 mph zone must be huge.
I had the opportunity to visit the VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas on Saturday.¬† It was a great day with hundreds of teams of intelligent and motivated kids.¬† I saw teams from Colombia, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, The United Kingdom, China, Hong Kong, and all across the USA.¬† I snapped some pictures with my iPhone.
The results of the competition can be found HERE.¬† Congratulations to the team from Greenville, TX listed at the top.¬† (Innovation First/VEX is also headquartered in Greenville).
Note that the competition got support from names like Autodesk, EMC, and NASA.
The main competition that I watched involved both autonomous and controlled operation to stack blue or red cubes in designated areas, scoring for the respective team.¬† Defense was also practiced and a solid “blue” goal didn’t always stay that way for long.
The competition is piloting post-secondary competition to give engineering students some hands-on experience.¬† There were far fewer teams than on the secondary side, but they were from all over (including Rice University here in Texas).
Zany hats, t-shirts, and costumes helped to show team spirit.
A lot of schools use these robots and the curriculum built around them to teach science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines.¬† Check out the link above for more information.¬† I really wish that I had taken my Flip video camera to this one!
UPDATE: I note that the Mythbusters tested the VEX system and came away favorably impressed.¬† Go HERE to read the story. (NOTE: The VEX system is no longer sold at Radio Shack).No comments
Check out the post over at TSTC Publishing Blog about the Issuu web app.¬† It is a great way to view or preview published materials.¬† I found it visually compelling and very easy to use (and basic is free).¬† It might be very useful for a variety of educational uses.
Read the post and try it out.No comments
In 1981 (when they estimated 2000-3000 home computer users in the San Francisco Bay area) this seemed like a far-off dream:
Twenty-eight years from now, at a continually accelerating pace of change, what far-fetched things will be reality?No comments
Our TSTC team 5G (one teacher and two students) went to Los Angeles as a part of the Tom’s Hardware Worldwide Overclocking Championship 2008. Although they didn’t win first, they put in a respectable showing and will probably compete again (and they got an all-expense paid trip to LA, as well).
Congratulations Team 5G!!!
P.S. If you are unclear on the “overclocking” thing, check it out here.
UPDATE:¬† Complete coverage of day 2 here.No comments
Some of our computer networking students recently traveled to the Maker Faire in Austin to show off the super overclocked computer they built. The one they are working with now is cooled with water, but their next version will be using liquid nitrogen.
Here is the picture they sent me of them and their machine in Austin:
Here is another picture of their really cool design:
This team will be traveling to Los Angeles in a few weeks to compete in an PC performance competition sponsored by Tom’s Hardware Guide. Check back here for updates.No comments
I now have the Zoundry Raven blog editor running on the Ubuntu 8.04. laptop. I realize that almost no one cares, but I enjoyed it enough to mention it anyway.
Web-based editors all have irritating limitations and desktop applications still have advantages. I have recently installed Zoundry Raven after a little research and I like it quite a lot. It is only available for Windows, but there apparently is a way to make it work in Linux under Wine.
If you have a blog, give it a Zoundry a look.No comments
I have been ‘wasting time’ today playing around with the latest version of Ubuntu (8.04) on a Sun VirtualBox VM on my laptop.¬† It has been a lot of geeky fun figuring it out and I am very impressed by the free Sun virtual machine software.¬† The laptop is a Dell Precision M6300 with an Intel Core 2 T7250 and 4 GB of RAM running Windows Vista Business.¬† I have installed many other distros and I like Ubuntu’s latest enough to consider setting up a dual boot on this machine.
I had not previously been familiar with Edubuntu, though.¬† That is the version of Ubuntu with educational software pre-installed, including teaching and management software.¬† It is available in workstation and server versions.¬† It has a lot of potential to extend the educational life of older hardware.¬† The server version is set up for terminal sessions.¬† The terminals can be really old computers with sub GHz processors and less than 128 MB of RAM.
Over at Danny Thompson’s ‘CoachDANNY’s Blog’ there is a good post on using an Edubuntu terminal server setup as a Network+ class project.¬† Coach Danny includes links to lots of good documentation.¬† This would be a great combination of learning and service assignment for any high school or college networking class.¬† It could really benefit some cash-strapped elementary, middle, and secondary schools, too.
If you teach computer/network support classes, give it a try.No comments
My four-part video of the TSTC IT student trip to the Texas Advanced Computing Center at UT Austin is now edited and uploaded.¬† The original post on the trip is here.
Part 1 - Leaving, Arriving, and introduction to Ranger
Part 2 - Introduction to graphic representation of data
Part 3 - Demonstration of graphic representation of data using ParaView
Part 4 - More supercomputers including LonestarNo comments
Last week I went with TSTC supercomputing guru Walton Yantis and a group of IT students to the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas J.J. Pickle Research Campus.¬† We were met there by their Education Coordinator Brad Armosky.¬† He gave us the $5.00 tour and really focused on teaching the students as we went.¬† Since most of the students on the trip are enrolled in a class where they are building small parallel systems (mini-supercomputers), they were definitely fascinated and inspired.
The main attraction for the day was Ranger, one of the fastest in the world and the first to make large-scale use of Sun’s new Constellation architecture.¬† The system operates at nearly 580 TeraFLOPS peak performance (after a recent processor upgrade - all 15,744 processors with 62,976 cores) and was heavily involved in modeling Hurricane Ike (the Austin American-Statesman has an article about it here).
Here is a great video on Sun’s Constellation switches and system:
Along with Ranger, the students saw a demonstration of graphic presentation for large data sets.¬† They were delighted to see the software they use in class being used at TACC (ParaView).¬† We finished with a tour of the older computer room at TACC which contains a number of older but still awesome systems.
I learned a lot from the tour, including the incredible growth of parallel computing.¬† There is going to be a demand for programmers who can handle the challenges involved in programming jobs across a lot of processors.¬† When you take this graph into account and realize that three more computers to dwarf Ranger are in the works, you will know that we have reached a High Performance Computing “tipping point.”
Look at the complete interactive presentation here.
I made video of the trip which I will link to as soon as it is edited and uploaded to YouTube.No comments
Popular Mechanics has a quick first look at the new Dell Inspiron Mini 9 “netbook.”¬† I find these little computers fascinating although I still don’t own one (for some reason, my wife thinks remodeling and new appliances are more important).¬† I have blogged about the ASUS eee PC and about the coming of solid state storage.
I am glad to see Dell going with Ubuntu.¬† It is a great distro for people who are not Linux geeks (not that there is anything wrong with that!).¬† I anticipate some more in-depth reviews.¬† The price looks about right and the Windows XP premium doesn’t seem very high, either.No comments
You will find conflicting claims about who was first with what, but it is important to remember that these pioneers laid the foundation for everything that came later in computing.¬†¬† It was the pioneers who first designed input and output systems.¬† They figured out that binary would work better than decimal systems.¬† Babe’s distinction was that it could store a program - i.e., it had a memory (128 bytes!).
According to Wikipedia:
The first program consisted of 17 instructions. Written by Kilburn, it was designed to find the highest proper factor of 218 (262,144) by trying every integer from 218 - 1 downwards. It took 3.5 million operations and 52 minutes to produce the answer.
How will people sixty years from now describe the primitve and slow nature of our computers?No comments
You knew it was coming, and now the NYT says it is here.
Take a look at this very cool Cray 2 (with liquid cooling “waterfall”) from 1985:
This machine which went for millions of dollars did about 824 MIPS (million instructions per second). Your average PC today does something around 20,000 MIPS. A top performer does closer to 60,000 MIPS
The Cray 2 could do about 3.9 GFLOPS (gigaFLOPS or billions of FLoating point Operations Per Second). The IBM supercomputer referenced above broke through the petaFLOP barrier. That would be a quadrillion FLOPS.
I blogged earlier about our supercomputing program at TSTC Waco. These students are doing some really fun stuff that they can get paid for in the real world.1 comment