Wednesday, July 30, 2003

On a lighter note, the Summer flows onward with relentless progression toward the Autumn of the year. For now though, the days are warm and the feeling is Summer. Took a lovely little trip on a Lake in New Hampshire, and was thrilled to see a bald eagle for the first time, and loons for the second time. Look around you and see something new.

"You learn something new every day!" --Isabel Marie Rosendahl Gibbs.
Observing the general populace of computer users, it seems so common for people to print out the world. Why, oh WHY do people print out all their email, and then go on a websurfing expedition and print out everything they see there? Wasn't the digital age supposed to make us "cyberaware" and "paperless"? Oh my. The gross waste of paper and ink in homes, offices and (especially) institutions of higher learning across the globe must reach an appalling measure. Back it up, save it on a CD, a diskette, a ZIP, whatever, but please refrain from printing every last item no matter what the infinitesimal worthlessness of the information.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Great news! Netscape is gone, but a new foundation lives! AOL is providing 2 million dollars to support a Mozilla Foundation to assure continued development of the Mozilla browser open source for multiple platforms. This is exciting news, and news which makes the future of browsing look better than it did last week.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Now, the price of coffee. Why is decaf so much more expensive? And what is there about the little bean that makes Starbucks and Green Mountain Coffee that is so special when compared to the little bean that makes Folger's? Ahhhh...these are questions worth the pondering! How much is hype and how much is real. I know that Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is really good coffee. French Roast, that's coffee, but the best is Kenya AA. Oh my. But, I don't turn down the odd cup of Folger's French roast either, though, and the whole bean (ground in-store and taken home) makes a superb brew.
Browsers now that Netscape is going the dodo way. Well, I still use Opera 6.06 on my Windows XP machine at work. MUCH better than having to slog through IE. Opera is slimmer and faster, but I don't like version 7. Your screen real estate has shrunken to dangerous proportions in 7, and your icons are like fat beginner pencils. Plus the enclusion of an unneeded and (to me) unwanted mail program has finally done me in as far as Opera is concerned. I haven't even tried it on the eMac. No more paying for Opera.

Meanwhile in eMac-Land I use Apple's Safari exclusively. The release of Safari 1.0 has improved the experience. It has a lot of Opera's good points, as in speed, bookmark ease, multiple windows and tabbing. I like the look as well.

IE is just so slow. On the PC it is even slow on a fast network. Cumbersome one might even say. But now and then you need something that IE handles well, so I always have it on hand.

Friday, July 18, 2003

On the Demise of Netscape - From another thinker:
Think of all the successful open source projects that do not have AOL or some similar gorilla backing them! Apache, PHP, and the big one - LINUX! :) All these succeeded in the same shoes the mozilla folks find themselves in now. Or worse. I feel bad for them for losing their jobs, I hope their families are not to negatively affected. I am not too worried about Mozilla though.

Interesting timing, there has been talk of revolt and rebellion in the Mozilla camp for a while, they were due for a shakeup. Mozilla is not finished because open source projects are never finished. Windows and IE are not finished, MS just will not admit it. Linux is certainly not "finished". I'm sure Mozilla will be fine. It's the main browser for Linux and if IBM, SUN, HP and those guys (plus most of Europe and Asia) want Linux to displace Windows on the desktop (and they do) then someone will be taking good care of Mozilla, believe you me.

My own observations:
Well, I do hope those guys get a company together and keep the Mozilla fan-base. It is one thing though that needs a person to know more than the usual to get it downloaded and on the machine and all that talk of "builds" scares people. I sure am sorry they lost their jobs, and I am especially sorry AOL bought Netscape and then AOL was acquired by Time-warner and they booted Steve Case. He liked Netscape and he built AOL and was a success...Time-Warner is going to kill AOL if they are not careful and that would be a shame - it is one huge compu-comapny.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Finished Evelyn Waugh's "Decline and Fall." Sad, funny, ironic and entertainingly scathing look at his times. Probably our times as well. Crumbling and amoral British society after WWI, rather like a dark Wodehouse. Bertie Wooster makes a more lively and less depressing read. Still, for some reason I like Waugh's books. This makes the fourth I've read in the last several years.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

How far North are fire ants? I just read on a Texas website that one must not put harmful chemicals or pesticides in the water meter to kill fire ants. Apparently this is not an uncommon occurance. Fireants in the water meter. Puts our local problems into perspective. But, should that problem plague you, pour boiling water down the ant hills. Maybe you run then too, it didn't say. I think I would. These are the sorts of things I categorize as general thoughts.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Property taxes and the cost of school systems. We started to expect too much from the schools in the nineteen-sixties. Legislatures passed requirements that have in effect made the schools responsible for far more than education, and the costs have skyrocketed. Then educators started padding schools with all sorts of ephemeral programs, all of which cost more and more, and parents began expecting and demanding more of the teachers and the school in terms of everything from extraneous subjects to babysitting functions. Most of the embellishments were programs which we all liked having for our children, but which if examined in the light of today's budgetary constraints would be found not crucial educationally.

Meanwhile property taxes are getting to the point of being riduculously out of control. When the property tax is almost what a years worth of house payments comes to we should take a look at our methods of schooling and funding for same.

In our state one could envision one school board at state level overseeing all the schools, yet getting this through the legislature and the people of the state would be impossible. Centralizing schools and budgets would certainly be a better way then the present local control of almost every school at intervals of twenty miles down each road, and all those school boards and sets of administrators. Food for thought.

The basic philosophy of education has also changed. Schools should not be tools of social change, school are historically there to provide the cultures they serve as conduits for those cultures and as sustaining forces from generation to generation. The mandate for change started in the sixties has been engrained in our educational system and in some cases seems to have stamped out the mandate for educating our children.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Some poor woman, A.S. Byatt, a British writer, has dared to critique J.K. Rowling and poor Harry Potter for not being cerebral enough. Her criticism seems to flow out onto the general populace and its inane pastimes, as well as into the halls of academia, where she accuses higher education of watering down the literature of the ages with popular culture and cultural studies. It does read like the "younger generation is going to the dogs" attributed to Socrates. I agreed with the points about cheap junk on television, in the movies and in popular press, but that is nothing new, just new media for junk. In her defense it should be said that in Britain one does have the freedom of speech, and she has a right to her own opinions. The resulting flap is one she no doubt expected after attacking a popular icon of the age. Harry Potter still remains one of the best series of books to come out of anywhere in a long long time, and I look forward to my turn at book 5.
The Medical Center has settled with the nurses! This is great news. The nurses were being asked to take a reduction in pay, and to continue the short staffed, mandatory overtime milieu in which they have been working for a long time. All for the sake of the hospital cost-cutting brought on by overages in the cost of new construction. That's putting it in a nutshell. The new contract with the nurses union will set new work rules immediately. No mandatory overtime, something which is needed to insure good patient care. I could never understand mandatory overtime. Overtime is, by its very nature, more than is required, thus mandatory is a word I cannot apply. Back when I worked in nursing overtime was sometimes necessary to insure continuity of care, but never were the staff told it was mandatory. Also in place will be staffing ratios of 5 patients to one nurse, and a one to one ratio in the ER. I should hope the ICUs also have more R.N.s. Apparently this contract may be the benchmark for hospital in the Northern New England area. Go nursing staff!

Thursday, July 10, 2003

MacWorld finally - in the new issue I got yesterday - decided to grudgingly admire the eMac, but not too much - refers to it as squat and things like that - a workhorse for schools...I think they should aim it right smack at the general comsumer who buys a dell or gateway to do email, internet and save and share pictures. And of course listen to and record music!

Then, MacAddict came and again - it features the eMac! Tests show that the new 1GigRAM eMac can hold its own! Good to know. They did however, refer to the eMac as a "behemoth." I take umbrage.

Most Mac stuff is very high-end user and that fact helps account for the smaller sales figures. At least that is the impression I get from reading the Mac publications...they are very professionally oriented.
The eMac could be Apples gateway (excuse the pun) to a larger general user base. DO YOU HEAR ME STEVE????? I would aim an ad campaign right out there at the home PC crowd featuring the smaller footprint of the eMac - the all-in-one feature that first attracted me! To a Windows user the eMac *IS* a small footprint, even though to a Mac user I would suppose the iMac is the point of reference.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Another thought hit me at lunch. We were talking about money and what people with a lot of it do with it, not from our own personal experience of course! In the course of the conversation I recalled that Bill Gates and his wife have given many thousands, even millions to chartities, and to institutions including Duke University. How much I appreciate this fact, as Duke is close to the hearts of my family - at least the Medical Center is.

People with money could decide to spend it all on themselves rather easily, even with the untold weath some possess, so sharing the wealth with others shows the sort of character that could ultimately lead to a better environment for the technical world as well (reminds me of open source sharing, although wealth is seldom open source!).

Added tidbit - today Microsoft changed its employee benefit from stock options to actual stock. That's a good sign. HHmm.....shall I hope for a better tomorrow? Maybe so...

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Meditating on the ways I use the eMac "different." First, I find that after waiting for troubleshooting occasions as I was used to doing on my PC, I feel alone. Except for a few niggly items, I find no need for the expectation of trouble. Oh, last week I generated my first kernel panic, but that was probably due to my having opened about 6 programs all at the same time while online. I was trying to upgrade my website "live" and do some graphic mainpulation for it at the same time, as well as Appleworks and an editor open, and my browser. So that I can explain. No trouble since a reboot from that escapade. The eMac, like I have learned from reading the Mac pubs that all Macs do, does like to hog memory. I have a paltry 256RAM, and am looking at the possibility of adding more. This assessment is after she reached her five months birthday yesterday.

So, how is life-on-the-Mac different? I boot up and do what I want to do - I web, I write, I play with photos, I listen and buy music and burn the odd CD. In a word, I USE the eMac instead of doing my former hobby which was maintaining and tweaking and cleanup on a Windows PC. I estimate the time needed for that on a PC to be about 1/3 of the time on any system. maybe it will be better with XP. As I now use an XP machine at work (three weeks new, I will coment later on that. Give the machine a few months).

An observation - why is it that I read so much in the Mac pubs about Microsoft Applications? I guess if you are a Mac user from way back maybe you have dulled your brain on the issue, but I didn't buy my Mac to run Windows!! If you want to run Windows - get a PC. There are a lot of pluses about the WindowsXP OS. I reached the pinnacle of dismay tonight when reading the review of MSN for Mac OS X in a new issue of one of my MacMags. I mean really. Do I want to be a client - to PAY Microsoft and be another appendage of the empire? I think not.

If you have an Apple Computer, learn to use Appleworks, and unless you really need to use Microsoft apps on your Mac for your daily bread, don't do it. Support open source, find an office program that you can use, do all you can to make APPLE and compatible open source applications appealing to others, and maybe a tiny voice for choice will prevail.
On a lighter note, I have finally finished the Ludlum Bourne trilogy. Now on to "Topper" and "Decline and Fall." First though, I have a "Mrs. Pollifax" book to finish. "Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha." Dorothy Gilman is hands down a better writer than Robert Ludlum as far as editing and linguistic flow go. Somehow Ludlum was best at fast edgy violence, but after a few books, the need to skim the wordy boilerplate of corn that he inserts at the oddest moments begins to take away the thrust of the action. He is not adept at dialogue. Editing out a good 100 or so pages would have done "The Bourne Ultimatum" a world of good.
I am sitting here reading Yahoo News and pondering the fate of the Iranian conjoined twins. How very sad it is that they died in surgery. On the positive side, the story of their lives and the doctor who adopted them is sobering. The little girls were hospitalized, then in the Islamist revolution, they vanished. When their father, a village farmer, finally found them they had been taken in and adopted by a doctor who found them abandoned in a hospital with staff who refused to care for them. He raised the girls as his own daughters, and they convinced their natural father (who wanted them back) that they were better off than working in a village, a life they would never have been able to sustain. That their adopted father would reach out in kindness and give them life is both a testimony to goodness in this world, and an opportunity to reflect on possibility for a common understanding between good people no matter where they find their lives unfolding.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Today is the fourth of July. I guess Summer is not only here but in progress. No more thought of that. Yesterday I was thinking that I work in the workplace of my dreams - the absolute apex of civilization - the axis of the matrix of knowledge. Surrounded by the ideas and the dreams of mankind, I walk each day among my oldest friends. I work in an academic library. Accidental in the beginning - serendipity placed me in my dream job, then the people I work with made it worth the years. Working among the books, my oldest and most therapeutic of friends, then walking amidst the beauty of a well manicured campus, leaving work is a changing view of four seasons against the hills. Coupled with the constant flow of available reading, this is a daily pleasure.

eBooks figure highly among my obsessions, and the paucity of good readers for the Mac is a concern, yet I have the Palm Desktop Reader at the moment. Not enough literature free for the Palm Reader. Free literature is the motivating factor in eBooks as far as I am concerned. I first read a book on the PC when DOS was the OS. Good Old blue screen and white letters. Read it online from the author's site. later bought the paper book. Not an unusual happening. I have purchased several books I first read in the electronic versions. Sax Rohmer collection started that way.

eBooks - another case of free access being denied as publishers try to grab once out of copyright texts for the "erights." Having been somewhat successful, I am sure more tricks will be used to deny us free texts out of copright and to make the bucks at our expense. Thank goodness for the GUTENBERG PROJECT. Protecting texts in electronic form for the millenia. I think our copyright laws protect the texts for too long from the public domain. As long as the author is alive and royalties are possible this protection is valid, but the length of time of the copyright "protects" the publishers and heirs so that they can then cash in on another's creativity is far too long. I would think 50 years or the author's lifetime is plenty of time.

On the topic of books...reading at the moment the third in the Ludlum "Bourne" set, and the last Ludlum book for me. Had to finish the Bourne saga, but really...summer reading as they like to say about light best seller stuff. Also reading "The Heat of the Day" by Elizabeth Bowen, a rather flat affect sort of ambiance with a pall over it. Wartime England. Started Evelyn Waugh's "Decline and Fall." Hysterical yet pathetic story so far of young Brit thrown out of college due to fund shortage who then is disowned by his guardian and thrown into a hideous teaching job in a third rate boys school...just bought a load of books from Alibris so I am in no danger of running out of fodder for the wetware. Not to mention the recent acquisition of Harry Potter #5. Even if HP wasn't the best written story in a long time you'd have to read it to be part of our world.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Today - Sunny and breezy with a bit of clouds here and there. Observed the campus at its best - crowded with young people, and not so young people. Chipmunk in residence also. Trees, both native and gifts from Japanese students, leafed and needled out in patterns of fractal beauty, ginkos, hemlocks, maples of all colors, oak and arbor vitae. Walking was a feast for the eyes today. Courtyard in bloom with shady spots to enhance the feel of summer. We appreciate summer who know such winters as the last.