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27 October

Dissing Microsoft AND Linux

Dave Winer rants about both Microsoft and Linux operating systems. While not fond of Microsoft, he seems to really hate open source software.

The two specific complaints that he airs about Linux are inaccurate. He's shooting from the hip, without checking his facts.

"Linux ships with every security feature wide open. An end user who actually installed it (a amazing accomplishment in itself) would end up hosting a playground for script kiddies everywhere."

Fact is Linux is easier to install on virgin hardware than MS Windows (YMMV). Security settings vary with distribution, but the only one I'm aware of that currently ships "wide open" is Lindows. At least Linux can be secured relatively easily if you know what you're doing. It's not clear that any Microsoft OS can be.

Posted by shrogers at 06:07 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
03 November

Wanted: Frugal Sports Cars

If petroleum production peaks and begins to decline in the next few years, as seems likely, auto enthusiasts will need to make fuel economy a higher priority than it has been in the past. Something line the Acura DN-X concept car would do nicely. Fuel cells are another possibility, but will take a bit longer to reach the mainstream.

Posted by Steve at 01:54 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
15 November


In this Houston Chronicle column Austin Bay refutes the big lies that the extreme anti-war crowd keeps repeating, about unilateralism, quagmire, and "no one told us it would be hard". Hat tip to Donald Sensing.

Posted by Steve at 06:12 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 November

Python Design by Contract

A thread debating the merits of static versus dynamic typing on the Lightweight Languages mailing list got me to wondering if someone is doing "Design by Contract": with Python.

A Google search quickly turned up the following:

The last link has a beta implementation of PEP 316.

Posted by Steve at 20:28 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
15 December

Numarray 0.8 Released

Numarray 0.8 has been released. Numarray is a rewrite of the Numeric Python package which provides facilities for manipulating and computing with multi-dimensional arrays in a manner similar to APL, IDL, J, Mathematica, and Matlab. Good stuff for number crunchers.

In addition to the systems mentioned, it works on my EmperorLinux 9.0 system (Red Hat 9.0 derivative) with Python 2.3.2.

Posted by shrogers at 20:04 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
19 December

Linux Kernel 2.6.0 Released

Linus has released the Linux 2.6.0 kernel. Among the many improvements over 2.4.X are better laptop support and improved scalability, both downward for embedded devices, and upward for large multiprocessor systems.

Posted by shrogers at 04:44 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
21 December

SS1 Power

Celebrating Flight

There's a brief report of SS1's first powered flight over on Jerry Pournelle's mailing list. The December 17th flight is perhaps the most significant, if little noted, celebration of the anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight.

Posted by shrogers at 08:44 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
02 January

Off to the Robot Races

The Register reports that the field is set for DARPA's Grand Challenge autonomous vehicle race in March. It includes entries from backyard experimenters as well as high powered researchers. It'll be followed in September by a race organized by The International Robot Racing Federation.

Posted by Steve at 04:51 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
03 January

The Map is Not the Territory

The map is not the territory. The model is not the thing itself. People are becoming too willing to accept results from computer models and simulations uncritically. Jerry Pournelle raises some good questions about the BCS computer model used for selecting the national collegiate football champion. Michael Crichton traces unvalidated models from SETI to Nuclear Winter to Global Warming.

As George Box has observed, "All models are wrong-but some models are useful." Models are useful if they help you understand the world and make inferences about it. If you haven't validated a model against real world data, you have to assume that it doesn't work. Unfortunately, models are often promoted to advance a cause without due regard to their validity.

Posted by Steve at 20:35 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
07 January

Communicating Sequential Processes

C. A. R. Hoar's classic work, Communicating Sequential Processes, is now available in electronic form. Added to my reading list.

Posted by Steve at 19:51 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
21 January

Hybrid Rocket Progress

A new paraffin fueled hybrid rocket engine technology has been demonstrated by a Stanford research group. They expect it to be commercialized in as little as three years. While less efficient than older liquid and solid fuel designs, hybrids offer greater safety and ease of handling. These should lead to lower costs.

Posted by Steve at 20:07 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
07 March

Open Source Science

Ted Leung considers commons based peer production of scientific papers as a solution to the high cost of publishing research results. It would be fitting for the open source community to give back to the scientific community by helping it build an affordable, open, and transparent peer reviewed publication system.

Posted by Steve at 18:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
10 March

Google: A Tool for Good or Evil

Most everyone knows by now that Google is a very popular and highly effective tool for finding things on the Internet. You can also buy a turnkey Google box for your intranet. In The perils of Googling, at The Register Scot Granneman points out that, because people are often not careful enough about what they put on the Internet, Google is just as good a tool for bad guys as it is for good guys. With a little search savvy, all kinds of sensitive information can be gleaned via Google. This is a must read for anyone publishing on the Internet.

Posted by shrogers at 04:48 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
13 March

Race Day

It's race day for the 15 autonomous vehicles that qualified for the DARPA Grand Challenge. Only 7 vehicles completed the obstacle course used for qualification, but 8 others were considered promising enough to start the 200 mile race from Barstow, CA to Las Vegas, NV. I'm rooting for the CMU Red Team since it's using disc drives donated by my employer, Seagate Technology. A status board is on-line for tracking race progress.

UPDATE: The Grand Challenge goes unmet with no vehicle making it more than 7 miles. A lot was learned and the event will repeat in a couple of years.

Posted by Steve at 05:16 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
28 March


Speed is life.

Yesterday NASA's X-43A supersonic ramjet, or scramjet, was successfully test flown. Reaching speeds of about 5000 mph, this flight paves the way for more efficient supersonic aircraft and orbital launch vehicles.

Posted by Steve at 05:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
14 April

Space Competition

SS1 and the X-Prize

Over at Tech Central Station, Glen Reynolds has a good column on Private Space: Blazing a Trail? about SS1 and the X-Prize. Competition for similar prizes was instrumental in the rapid development of aviation and offers more bang for the buck than traditional government development programs.

Posted by Steve at 04:48 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
26 April

Robotic Rescue

NASA is considering a robotic mission to save the Hubble Space Telescope. The space observatory is facing battery exhaustion and a shuttle mission to replace the batteries has been canceled.

Posted by Steve at 20:06 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
14 May


I stumbled across newLISP today. It's a dialect of Lisp targeted at scripting web applications, AI, and statistics. It seems to perform pretty well, uses TCL/TK as its graphics engine, and includes financial and matrix functions. Sample applications include a weblog, a wiki and a Bayesian spam filter, tagger, classifier.

Posted by Steve at 20:02 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
24 May

Lovelock on Nuclear Power

Saving Gaia

Gaia Hypothesis creator James Lovelock speaks out in support of nuclear power. He sees it as the only green solution to global warming.

While there has clearly been a slight rise in temperature in the past century, it is still uncertain that human activity has been a significant contributor to this. However, if we wait for certainty, it may be too late for some people and ecosystems. Lovelock correctly points out that renewables are only a partial solution and that nuclear power actually has a very good safety record. Green opposition to nuclear power is misguided. Space solar power seems to be the only other long term energy solution that preserves our civilization, and it would take longer to bring it on line.

Posted by Steve at 05:26 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
05 June

State Machines

Dave Roberts reflects upon the importance of state machines in computing and laments that programmers must reinvent them when needed for lack of language support. He's using Lisp macros to implement a state machine mini-language.

At least one language does have built in support for state machines. New in J 5.03 is a state machine primitive. From the J Dictionary:

x;:y implements a sequential machine (finite state machine, finite state automaton). x is the specification of a machine, including the state transition table, and y is the input. A sequential machine solves the problem of recognizing the "words" in the input. The machine starts in some initial state and processes the input one item at a time; given the current state and input item, the new state and output are determined by the state transition table. The machine then proceeds to process the next input item.

Though not a primitive, Lush includes a state machine library for manipulating grammars and graphs.

Posted by Steve at 18:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
16 June

DIY Nanotech

Nanotechnology has reached the "Do It Yourself" level. Amateur scientists are exploring nanotechnology. If the barriers to entry are low enough for dedicated amateurs to experiment with this technology, then it's ripe for exploitation by startups. Any smart company or individual with nanotech ideas can play the game. We could be on the verge of an explosion in nanotech applications. Hat tip to Glen Reynolds.

Posted by Steve at 05:12 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

SS1 Burns Rubber

Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne is burning rubber. The hybrid engine using solid rubber based fuel and nitrous oxide oxidizer is safer, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly than conventional rocket engine technologies.

Posted by Steve at 19:26 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
19 June

Medical Nanobots

Nanobots are being tested for chemotherapy drug deliver in Singapore.

Posted by Steve at 04:39 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Mojave Spaceport

The Mojave Airport has received it's license for space launches. This makes it the first inland commercial spaceport.

Posted by Steve at 05:18 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
21 June

SS1 Reaches Space

SpaceShipOne was successfully flown to the edge of space by Scaled Composites pilot Mike Melvill today. Congratulations to Mike, Burt Rutan, Paul Allen, and the entire TierOne team for a magnificent effort. Best of luck in their pursuit of the X Prize.

Posted by Steve at 19:23 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)