Sunday, December 31, 2006

Moths drink the tears of sleeping birds

This issue of New Scientist has some fun annual summaries. A year of invention, astronomy, environment, videos.



New Scientist - The World's No.1 Science Technology News Service



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Monday, December 18, 2006

Pythons and Iguanas, Oh my!

Yesterday while going to the local barbecue place to get some take out I had to stop to let an Iguana cross the road in front of me. Now I read this article and all I can say is South Florida is an interesting place to live.



Burmese Pythons Wreak Havoc In Everglades, Animal Detectives Probe Exotic Snakes' Harmful Effect On Native Species - CBS News



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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Amazing Mars Robots


These little guys were designed to last 90 Martian days. They are now in their third year of operation. The team that designed, delivered, and manage the Mars Rovers deserve a lot of credit. This also says a lot for robotic exploration of space. A manned mission could never have sustained such a long data collection mission.

Astronomy - Mars rovers roll with discoveries - David J. Eicher

Friday, December 15, 2006

Mad as Hell

This is my latest letter to my Congressman E. Clay Shaw. I tried to be courteous and not let my anger become embedded in my language:

To say that I am upset at the present state of our country is an understatement. I am also very angry that our president and the Republican Congress rule the American people as though we were the great unwashed mass who cannot see through the political rhetoric. A democratic society is based on bipartisan debate. Beginning with Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" the Republican party has been focused entirely on iron fisted control of our congressional and executive processes. We are now in a hopeless situation in the Middle East. The country is deeply in debt as a result of the President and a subservient Congress leading us unilaterally into war. I believe our servicemen are suffering and dying needlessly in a no win situation. It is time to say we made a mistake and get out. Forget trying to salvage this mess politically. Just say we were wrong and get out. Had we focused those trillions of dollars spent in Iraq on becoming an energy independent nation we would be way ahead of the game. As it is now we can still be held hostage by oil rich countries. Let's change that. America is a creative and innovative nation. Given the right incentives by government we can attain an independence from oil. Bring the troops home to their families. Focus on innovative energy sources. Admit mistakes and change the course of our ship of state.


I retired three years ago from the South Florida Water Management District. While I applaud Governor Bush's leadership during the many hurricanes that impacted Florida I was appalled at the rough shod way his appointees used their chainsaw methods on the staff at that agency.

I had the privilege of being a part of the agency when it held a world wide reputation of excellence. I personally hosted many visitors from other countries who traveled to the USA to see how we did things. Very quickly after taking office the organization came under the scrutiny of Tallahassee. Executive Directors were appointed one after the other and in my personal area of work we had an unbelievable number of directors over a short period of time. I have purged the number from my memory but it was a number that would be jaw dropping considering the short period of time that the leadership in the IT Department changed. Staff was gutted and replaced by contract workers. Morale plummeted while, in typical Republican fashion, the leadership announced proudly that morale was at very high levels. Kind of like the "Mission Acoomplished" speeches we heard all the time from our leadership in Washington.

I have visited the agency several times since my retirement and am reassured that the work of managing the water supply in South Florida goes on at a very professional level. Each time I visited I was saddened to hear of the loss of more long time staff however and observed that morale was definitely decimated by the events of the last few years. I am very proud of my service at the District and can only hope that the organization will return to the point that the employees can speak proudly that they work there and can feel the pride once again of working in a creative environment. The organization has a complex and difficult mission. I believe it will prevail just as our country will once we return to a true bipartisan form of government. The nation has spoken. Let's see how Washington and our own state of Florida respond.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Webtv/MSNTV Alternatives

This writer at Endgadget is pretty objective in his analysis of Webtv and MSNTV.
http://www.engadget.com/2004/12/22/switched-on-microsoft-refreshes-webtv-for-a-curious-comeback/

I have not seen a PC running the Media Center Edition of Windows XP but it appears to provide a quite nice and similar interface as Webtv but also provides the power of a PC. Some of our users at http:.//www.fs-freeflow.com/ use the Media Center edition of Windows XP. I am not bashing the Webtv product as I think it is a great idea. But, one should always consider that the day might come when Microsoft
will no longer support the product. Hwoever, if you run Media Center for Windows as an option to MSNTV/Webtv, you open yourself to all of the problems of running a PC such as viruses, spyware, and disk maintenance. Endgadget says:

This is a nice-to-have product that simply won’t command its price for most users. Microsoft (or a competitor such as Opera Software) would serve consumers well by offering a good TV browser into other initiatives, particularly XP Media Center. It would be a great complement to the standalone TV-optimized Web sites being created for Microsoft’s modern-day living room beachhead.

If the day ever comes that they no longer support the devices there are many, many, options available. For example, I can build a diskless PC that runs a web browser entirely from a CD in the CD drive that provides a state of the art web browser and a TV display. All of this can be done for less money than a Webtv or MSNTV costs. It can actually make use of those $25 PCs one can pick up at garage sales or other used computer sources. This option of running a web browser from a LiveCD in the CD drive does not even require the system to have a hard drive. One only has to be able to configure the Bios to boot from CD. In addition, the fact that it runs using the Linux operating system means that even older computers run quite nicely and since it is running entirely off of a CD there is no possibility of viruses or spyware. It works quite beautifully and IMHO has many applications where web browsing and email are the primary uses of a computer.

This concept was used after Hurricane Katrina to get web browsers up and running quickly and inexpensively. See http://www.eng.uwaterloo.ca/twiki/bin/view/Linux/LinuxKiosk and http://www.desktoplinux.com/news/NS4984662030.html. It works really well. I know because I have tried it by burning my own CD and running it on my the PC I am using to type this. With a web based email account such as Gmail and the use of Google Bookmarks you have a nice, inexpensive web based browser for little or no money. So if you know someone with an old computer that wants to get rid of it after buying a new whoopdy do super duper machine tell them that you will gladly take it off their hands and run the Booth CD on it. You will be able to tell your friends that you have a PC but have none of the problems associated with them. It is a Win Win.

Click here for the complete guide to mastering a BoothCD to your custom needs at Matt's Tech Blog.

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Spies have not caught up with the Nerds



This article reveals that all of the three letter intelligence agencies are still woefully far behind us nerds who use instant messaging, email, and blogs to keep up with friends and family or to work on virtual projects with others. What we take for granted is impossible to do if you work for one of these agencies acoording to this article. While not a surprise, it is disappointing to read that this is a reality. I would have reacted the same way this new hire at one of the agencies did. He was extremely disappointed after being hired to find the limitiations of his computer. Things he took for granted at home on his own PC were impossible at his new workstation. How sad that we are spending money dropping bombs in Iraq when our real salvation lies in a combination of a strong defense but an even stronger intelligence capability. That, of course as we say, is IMHO.





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Friday, December 01, 2006

Not-So-Glamorous Energy Conservation

After considerable research on how to lower our home's use of energy I ran across this article that validated what I had discovered. I wish I had found this sooner but the good thing is that we are implementing almost all of these things in our home. We have not had the changes in place long enough to know how much difference it is making but we will post the improvements as the monthly bills come in.





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