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Ontario Technoblog

Ontario Emperor technology blog.

This blog has been superseded by the mrontemp blog
Location: Ontario, California, United States

Sometime audio artist. Email comments on this blog to the gmail account mrontemp.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Stay the course in Massachusetts, despite Peter Quinn's departure

Really old news from Consortiuminfo.org:

January 3, 2006

MA Secretary Trimarco Confirms Administration Support for ODF

Only a few blog entries ago it was my sad lot to report that Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn had resigned, leaving the fate of his effort to mandate use of the OpenDocument format (ODF) hanging in the air. Tonight, I'm pleased to report, definitively (and exclusively), that the Massachusetts administration has confirmed that it will stand not only by open format standards in general (as earlier reported in the press), but behind ODF specifically as well....

[W]hen both State Senator Pacheco and Microsoft began to oppose adoption of ODF, Governor Romney had sought to distance himself from the specifics of Quinn's policy ("Our state decided on OpenDocument in the future, but we're giving it time to be implemented ... it didn't come from me, but from our technology people who came to me ").

Similarly, ODF opponent and Secretary of the Commonwealth William Francis Galvin gave a warm welcome to news that Microsoft would submit its XML Reference Schema to Ecma for adoption as a standard....

After news of Quinn's resignation first became public here and at Groklaw, the Boston Globe quoted Eric Fehrnstrom, communications director with Governor Mitt Romney’s office, as stating simply,''We are moving steadily towards [the January 1, 2007] deadline and we expect no changes in [the ITD's} rules." Similarly, Julie Teer, Press Secretary to the Governor, sent an email to Washington Technology's Ethan Butterfield, (apparently) stating only that "The administration is not backing away from moving toward open format software."

But tonight, I'm happy to report that the official who has direct authority over the implementation of the open format policy, Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance Thomas H. Trimarco, met with ITD General Counsel Linda Hamel earlier today, and unequivocally assured her that Peter Quinn's departure "will result in no change to the Administration's position on the ODF standard."

Trimarco is the successor to Eric Kriss, who was Peter Quinn's boss throughout most of the process during which the open format process was developed, debated, and finally approved. And he will be the official to whom Peter Quinn's successor will report between now and the effective date of the open format policy.

Secretary Trimarco also confirmed to Ms. Hamel that Peter Quinn left his post voluntarily, at least in the official sense (I say "formal" because Peter's farewell email indicates that the distinction between actual termination and his ability to properly do his job in the face of other types of action may have been a slim one)....

US pays to make open source safer

From vnunet.com:

Open-source software may become more attractive to enterprises, after the US government last week pledged over $1m funding to help root out bugs in projects such as Linux, Mozilla and Apache.

Stanford University, Symantec and source-code testing company Coverity have all been signed up by the US Department of Homeland Security to trawl through open-source code and seek out bugs.

The $1m grant will be released over three years. A key element of the project is to improve the existing Coverity Prevent Linux code-testing tool, increasing the number of projects it supports to over 40 and creating a database of bugs for developers to view. Meanwhile, Symantec is on board to test the scanning tools.

From news.com:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is extending the scope of its protection to open-source software.

Through its Science and Technology Directorate, the department has given $1.24 million in funding to Stanford University, Coverity and Symantec to hunt for security bugs in open-source software and to improve Coverity's commercial tool for source code analysis, representatives for the three grant recipients told CNET News.com.

The Homeland Security Department grant will be paid over a three-year period, with $841,276 going to Stanford, $297,000 to Coverity and $100,000 to Symantec, according to San Francisco-based technology provider Coverity....

List of open-source software to be analyzed in the Department of Homeland Security-sponsored project.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Where was Tim?

Where's Tim has a new feature, described here. Enter a date (e.g. 12/25/05), and you can see all the places that Tim visited on that date. Promising application.

Friday, January 20, 2006

More on HP rx1950/rx1955 Windows Mobile 5 soft reset sync issue

More threads on this issue:




From Amazon:

Power/SD problem Fixed!, January 19, 2006
Reviewer: jpr (CO, USA)

There is a firmware update for the iPAQ rx1950/1955 that fixes the power on problem when using an SD card. If you go to hp.com, pick Software & Driver Downloads, then type in the product name and continue, then pick Windows Mobile 5.0, you'll see a list of updates for the unit. Right now there is an (OS) ROM update, and a firmware update. The firmware update is the one that fixes this problem, but if you are planning to load the OS/ROM update as well, load that one first, then load the Firmware update. You should always back up all your data before applying an update.
I also had a similar problem when I didn't have the battery cover on and latched just right, but that's OK now too, as long as I don't drop the thing on the ground.

The information on the firmware update is at http://h18007.www1.hp.com/support/files/HandheldiPAQ/us/download/23210.html:

Restores the ability to Power On the handheld after it becomes locked in Standby mode with an SD Card inserted in the handheld. When the handheld is in this locked state, it does not Power On with the Power button and the battery may become discharged.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Tangentialism Run Amok


Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is shutting down the system that creates movie recommendations on its shopping Web site....

The world's largest retailer said the software that generates links for shoppers from one movie to others of similar interest would be shut down. All cross references would be removed as soon as technically possible until the system can be fixed, Wal-Mart said.

Bill Wertz, a spokesman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based company, said it wasn't yet clear how or when the technical problem arose. "We're still looking into it," he said....

Walmart.com's item mapping process does not work correctly and at this point is mapping seemingly random combinations of titles. We were horrified to discover that some hurtful and offensive combinations are being mapped together," she said, adding that the company was "deeply sorry that this happened."

So what were the links?

"[T]he site is...mapping movies such as `Home Alone' and `Power Puff Girls' to African-American-themed DVDs," Williams said.

A documentary about surfers, "Riding Giants," links to the same list of seemingly unrelated fantasy films as the King biopic, including "Polar Express" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

But that isn't what shut the system down:

[I]t linked a "Planet of the Apes" DVD to films about famous black Americans, including Martin Luther King Jr.

Wal-Mart said Thursday it had removed what it called the "offensive combinations" from a walmart.com page advertising a boxed DVD set, "Planet of the Apes: The Complete TV Series."

Under a "similar items" section, the DVD set's page linked shoppers to four films about the lives of King, actress Dorothy Dandridge, boxer Jack Johnson and singer Tina Turner. Wal-Mart later altered the page to link with television show DVDs....

Wal-Mart moved swiftly after a link to the page for "Planet of the Apes" began circulating on the Internet.

Here's an October 20, 2005 post by San Diego Johnny:

Is Somebody at Walmart.com a Racist?

As a science fiction fan and owner of a satellite dish with a DVR, I often look at the upcoming shows for something to record. I found out that the Sci-Fi Channel usually plays episodes of the same science fiction series from 8 am to 4 pm Eastern time a few months ago. I've recorded episodes of...the little remembered 1974 television series adaptation of Planet of the Apes. I decided to try to see if one of my favorite sites for its great prices and service, Walmart.com, had the series available on DVD. When I searched for "Planet of the Apes" in the search area of the site, I was presented with three choices. The DVD set I was hoping for, a compilation of the Planet of the Apes movies and the unfortunate Tim Burton 2001 Re-make (known by some as "Aperaham Lincoln" for its ending). When I clicked on the television series DVD I was given choices of similar items to choose at the right of the screen....

At first I thought, "oh, 'Introducing Dorothy Dandridge', maybe Roddy McDowell or one of the other actors was in this HBO Movie. That turned out not to be the case.
As I looked farther down the list, also "similar" supposedly is a documentary on the life and death of Martin Luther King, the arrow and hot link say that there are more items below....

Unforgiveable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson," a documentary on the first African-American heavyweight champion and "What's Love Got to Do With It?", a Tina Turner biopic, which are both apparently also similar to "Planet of the Apes."

In our nation's history and even to this day"yard apes" along with the equally offensive "porch monkey" are derogatory terms for black Americans and racists since the slavery days have attempted to sub-humanize slaves by comparing them to apes and monkeys. I am not the first one who will yell "racism!" when being given a set of circumstances to examine. As a matter of fact, I think at times that "the race card" is used too much in our society by such people as Jesse Jackson to perform shakedowns on individuals and corporations. In this case however given how different these items are, with their only link being that they are about black Americans and I have to wonder if a malicious coder or someone working at Walmart.com somehow linked these items together with the "Planet of the Apes." Given the history of racism and the civil rights struggle in our nation and especially in the South, where Walmart is headquartered, one would think that a multi-national concern like Walmart would be more cognizant about it's website and its content.

Gadgets, gadgets, gadgets (repeat 47 more times)

PC World has published its "official (and entirely idiosyncratic) list of the top tech gadgets of the last half century." They used the following criteria:

The rules? The devices had to be relatively small (no cars or big-screen TVs, for example), and we considered only those items whose digital descendants are covered in PC World (cameras, yes; blenders, no). We rated each gadget on its usefulness, design, degree of innovation, and influence on subsequent gadgets, as well as the ineffable quality we called the "cool factor."

Rather than listing all 50, I'm just going to list the top 40. I realize that this is a musical reference, and that God may strike me down like He struck down Dick Clark, but I'm doing it anyway. Here are the top 40:

Sony Walkman TPS-L2 (1979)
Apple iPod (2001)
(Tie) ReplayTV RTV2001 and TiVo HDR110 (1999)
PalmPilot 1000 (1996)
Sony CDP-101 (1982)
Motorola StarTAC (1996)
Atari Video Computer System (1977)
Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera (1972)
M-Systems DiskOnKey (2000)
Regency TR-1 (1954)
Sony PlayStation 2 (2000)
Motorola Razr V3 (2004)
Motorola PageWriter (1996)
BlackBerry 850 Wireless Handheld (1998)
Phonemate Model 400 (1971)
Texas Instruments Speak & Spell (1978)
Texas Instruments SR-10 (1973)
Diamond Multimedia Rio PMP300 (1998)
Sony Handycam DCR-VX1000 (1995)
Handspring Treo 600 (2003)
Zenith Space Command (1956)
Hamilton Pulsar (1972)
Kodak Instamatic 100 (1963)
MITS Altair 8800 (1975)
Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 (1983)
Nintendo Game Boy (1989)
Commodore 64 (1982)
Apple Newton MessagePad (1994)
Sony Betamax (1975)
Sanyo SCP-5300 (2002)
iRobot Roomba Intelligent Floorvac (2002)
Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer (1999)
Franklin Rolodex Electronics REX PC Companion (1997)
Lego Mindstorms Robotics Invention System 1.0 (1998)
Motorola DynaTAC 8000X (1983)
Iomega Zip Drive (1995)
Magnavox Magnavision Model 8000 DiscoVision Videodisc Player (1978)
Milton Bradley Simon (1978)
Play, Inc. Snappy Video Snapshot (1996)
Connectix QuickCam (1994)

Let's look at item 24:

It sported blinking lights and toggle switches, and you assembled it yourself from a $397 kit sold by an Albuquerque mail-order company that had formerly been in the model rocket business. The Altair was, in other words, a gadget, but it was also the first popular home computer. Not very useful at first, it soon inspired an entire industry of upgrades, peripherals, and software--and prompted computer geeks Bill Gates and Paul Allen to form a company to sell a version of the BASIC programming language. (They called their startup Micro-soft, later ditching the hyphen.) Also present at the creation: MITS documentation manager David Bunnell, who went on to found a bevy of successful computer magazines, including PC World.

PCWorld links to a UC Davis web page:

Considered by many to be the first microcomputer, the MITS altair 8800 was based on a 2 MHz Intel 8080 with 256 bytes standard RAM and interfaced with the user through the octal front panel switches....

From Landmarks In Digital Computing: A Smithsonian Pictorial History:

Hobbyists who successfully put together their Altairs ended up with a blue, box-shaped machine that measured 17x18x7 inches. To enter programs or data, one set the toggle switches on the front. There was no keyboard, video terminal or paper tape reader. All programming was in the machine code of binary digits. The first Altairs came with only 256 bytes of memory; they also lacked output devices such as printers. Results of a program were indicated by the pattern of flashing lights on the front panel.

The UC Davis page links to The Virtual Altair Museum. Here's an excerpt from an old article on MITS and Ed Roberts:

Leslie (Les) Solomon was the Technical Editor for Popular Electronics during the summer of '74 and he was looking for a good computer article and project to print....Ed Roberts was one of "Uncle Sol's" writing contributors. A man who loved to fool with gadgets and electronics, Roberts started a small electronics company in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1968. MITS (Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems) mostly sold radio transmitters for model airplanes through the mail. But, by the early 70's, MITS was selling calculator kits and doing fairly well. At the end of 1973, the calculator market changed drastically, other companies were selling fully assembled calculators for below $50, while Roberts' kits were $99.95. He had to think of something quick or go broke. He had toyed with the idea of developing a computer kit before, but never followed up on it. Now, he decided to go for broke. If this didn't work, then he would just close up shop. Roberts decided on the Intel 8080 chip for his project, rejecting the older 8008 and new Motorola 6800. He was able to get an excellent deal on the chip in volume - $75 a piece for a $360 chip! By mid-1974, Solomon had decided on supporting Roberts' article and kit. He staked the reputation of PE on the expertise of MITS. In July 1974, Radio Electronics had published an article on a 8008 based computer kit called the "Mark-8". Les Solomon needed an 8080 based project to beat out RE....The Altair kit appeared on the cover of the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics. In kit form, MITS offered the basic model with 256 bytes of RAM, standard binary switches and LEDs on the front panel and power supply for $400. Hoping to sell around 200 kits, Ed Roberts and MITS were overwhelmed to receive thousands of pre-payed orders. Electronic hobbiests were willing to have paid the $360 just for the chip itself, so why not get an entire computer for $400? It took MITS almost a year to catch up the orders. Over 10,000 Altairs were sold by MITS. The Altair was the first commercially successful computer ever. It started the personal computer revolution which has since consumed our planet.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wireless Wide Area Networks (WWAN) and Lenovo and Cingular

Now that I have my wi-fi device, I have confirmed my non-trendiness by using old wi-fi technology. (And I still talk about LPs. Groovy.)

From Internet News:

Wi-Fi is so 2005.

Lenovo said it joined Cingular to expand the connectivity options for mobile notebook computer users. Upcoming versions of Lenovo's ThinkPad notebook line will integrate wireless wide area network (WWAN) technology from Cingular providing high-speed Internet access to Cingular's BroadbandConnect service without a separate PC card or additional hardware.

The first of the new WWAN-enabled ThinkPads are expected in March.

BroadBandConnect represents a huge increase over Wi-Fi connection speeds. The companies say they will be able to deliver average mobile data connections between 400Kbps and 700Kbps on the downlink and bursts to more than a megabit per second using Cingular's 3G network....

The high speed service was just launched last month. In addition to higher speeds, BroadbandConnect means Cingular subscribers won't have to rely on being near a wireless hub or Wi-Fi hot spots.

But BroadbandConnect access is hardly ubiquitous. In the U.S., BroadbandConnect is available in 52 communities, including such cities as Boston, Chicago, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Nev., and Austin, Texas.

Cingular said it's committed to extending the service to most major markets by the end of this year.

Revisiting White Light Generator

At starshipbuilder.com, thomas7g has not only linked to my October post regarding Michael Bowers' research that resulted in white light-emitting quantum dots, but has also linked to a National Geographic article on the topic. Here's an excerpt:

The lightbulbs in your home are still very similar to the ones first invented by Thomas Edison over a century ago.

An incandescent bulb is a glass tube filled with a non-reactive gas that contains a thin metal filament. When electric current runs through the filament, the atoms within the filament vibrate, causing it to emit both light and lots of heat.

The heat is wasted energy. Researchers have long anticipated that LEDs, found in everything from digital clocks to car dashboards, could replace lightbulbs.

LEDs use a greater proportion of the electricity flowing through them, so they emit less heat. In fact, LEDs are cool to the touch.

This translates into savings for consumers. Widespread adoption of LEDs could cut U.S. consumption of electricity for lighting by 29 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

And unlike fragile glass bulbs, LEDS are made from sturdy wafers of semiconducting materials. An LED can last up to 50,000 hours—50 times as long as a 60-watt bulb.

But creating white-light LEDs has been problematic....

However, only The Spoof reports what happened (?) next:

Having "accidentally" discovered the light bulb of the future on his first try, Vanderbilt graduate student Michael Bowers tried an additional 1300 ways to construct his breakthrough "bulb" which consists of a blue LED coated with "microdots." "My engineering advisor always quoted Edison's statement that "Invention was 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration. I happened to get the inspiration part first, I guess."

To avoid "shortchanging" engineers world-wide, and making a fool out of Edison, who really should have given up after a couple hundred failures, Bowers was forced by Vanderbilt professors to try making his microdots bigger, smaller, coating them on regular light bulbs, halogen headlights, Maglites, even fireflies, which he dipped into epoxy and rolled around in the dots....

Truth to tell, Bowers wasn't working in a vacuum (that's another scientific endeavor). Here's what Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was saying in 2000:

Physicist Howard Lee and his team of Laboratory and University of California at Davis researchers have been exploring [quantum dots], which are about a single nanometer (a billionth of a meter) in size and made out of material such as silicon. Lee explains, "Imagine taking a wafer of silicon and cutting it in half again and again and again, until you have a piece containing about a hundred to a thousand atoms. That's the size we're looking at."

The small size results in new quantum phenomena that yield some extraordinary bonuses. Material properties change dramatically because quantum effects arise from the confinement of electrons and "holes" in the material (a hole is the absence of an electron; the hole behaves as though it were a positively charged particle). Size changes other material properties such as the electrical and nonlinear optical properties of a material, making them very different from those of the material's bulk form. If a dot is excited, the smaller the dot, the higher the energy and intensity of its emitted light. Hence, these very small, semiconducting quantum dots are gateways to an enormous array of possible applications and new technologies....

Another future use for quantum-dot LEDs is to emit white light for uses in laptop computers or as internal lighting for buildings or cars. Lee and his team have discovered they can-by controlling the amount of blue in the emission-control the "flavor" or "tone" of the white light as well....

And here's what Sandia National Laboratories said in 2003:

In a different approach to creating white light several researchers at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Sandia National Laboratories have developed the first solid-state white light-emitting device using quantum dots. In the future, the use of quantum dots as light-emitting phosphors may represent a major application of nanotechnology.

“Understanding the physics of luminescence at the nanoscale and applying this knowledge to develop quantum dot-based light sources is the focus of this work,” says Lauren Rohwer, principal investigator. “Highly efficient, low-cost quantum dot-based lighting would represent a revolution in lighting technology through nanoscience.”