THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 404 March 6 - 12, 2006
Highlights this week:
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This is a Day Book. Pages are in chronological, not blogological order.
March 6, 2006
Just back from the ophthalmologist, with good news. They don't want to see me for another year. What I thought might be a major problem isn't, and all is well. It will take a bit of time to catch up, and my eyes are all dilated, and while the first installment of the March Column is up at www.byte.com and pretty good it is, too, the rest, about 10,000 words, is still in preparation.
There's a lot of flurry about the RIM settlement (and was it justified, and the whole future of the patent system, and are courts the right place to decide such things) some of which will get into the column and some you'll see here. Our associate Eric Pobirs has been doing a good bit of thinking about both the resurrection of Ma Bell and the RIM/Patent controversy, and I'm trying to edit that with some discussion by others. Stand by.
And for years we all knew there was something like this, but it was REALLY classified; not even Aviation Week had the whole story. Some details are coming out:
And also see MAIL
March 7, 2006
Patents are a matter of importance, as witness the huge payments RIM is making to keep the Blackberry alive.
Following is lengthy. It was forwarded to me by Richard Doherty of Envisioneering:
!20060307 Secret SBA hearing on PTO rules changes - attend and fight
This Wednesday, March 8th, from 1 to 2 PM, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy, is having a 1 hour hearing on the PTO proposed rules changes. While the meeting is open to the public, that means little if no one tells the public. I couldn't find any notice of the meeting on the SBA Web site, or through a Google search.
There is an announcement - you can see it on my Web site:
Since the proposed rules changes are mostly harmful to the small businesses the SBA is supposed to champion, as many people as possible should attend the meeting and express their displeasure in an effort to get the SBA to come out against the proposed rules changes.
The meeting will be held at the main SBA office in Washington, D.C., at 409 Third Street SW, in the Eisenhower conference on the 2nd floor. You can also call in for a toll-free teleconference by dialing 866-740-1260 using the access code 3311103.
The SBA has two goals for the meeting:
- obtain data to show how the NPRM, if finalized as written, will impact small entities
Unfortunately, the announcement for the meeting doesn't explain what "NPRM" means - maybe "Nutty Patent Reform Machinations". A PATNEWS reader last night emailed me: "Greg - FYI, NPRM = Notice of Public Rule Making". The other goal:
- identify regulatory alternatives that would permit the PTO to achieve its regulatory goals while minimizing the impact on small entities
Sadly, it is unlikely the SBA actually cares about this latter issue, since the SBA has never really cared about the problems small and independent inventors face at the PTO.
The meeting starts at 1PM with a few introductory remarks about the SBA's Office of Advocacy, made by Charles Maresca, Director, Office of Interagency Affairs and Carrol Barnes, Assistant Chief Counsel for Advocacy. Good people to lobby about problems with proposed rules changes.
From 1:15 to 1:50 PM, there will be two speakers. First, will be Jay Lucas, PTO Deputy Commissioner of Patents, who will laboriously waste time and go through his PowerPoint slide presentation that most life forms higher than a slime mold can read quickly to free up more time for questions.
The other speaker is Michael Messinger, director/lawyer at Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox, who hopefully will be championing small business interests.
If you are in DC on Wednesday, and can attend the meeting, please do so and let the SBA how much most real inventors hate these rules changes. If some PTO examiners can get some time off and attend as well to express examiner displeasure with the rules changes, that will help too.
Greg Aharonian Internet Patent News Service
-- Richard F. Doherty Research Director The Envisioneering Group
I am still experimenting with the possibility of podcasting, and one thing I am doing is assembling the equipment I may need. I now have a decent microphone and mixer, which I'll write up in the column, and for now I will use the Mac PowerBook 15 as the recording device.
What I don't have is a portable audio recording device, and I have mixed emotions as well as needs for this. For some years I carried the little Dragon Naturally Mobile unit that recorded on SmartMedia cards, but it has a limited memory capacity -- it won't see cards larger than about 8 megabytes -- and no USB port connection, and the quality isn't good. It was good for making notes, though, and I really need something that will do that. I get random thoughts and idea when walking and while I always carry some cards to write on, sometimes it's very hard to write what with Sable pulling, my hiking stick, and companions I keep waiting. Much easier to dictate a few notes and write it up in the log on getting back.
So that's the first requirement, something small I can put in a pocket along with all the other stuff I carry. It may be that the next cell phone I get will have that capability built in; there's a new Nokia coming that all my advisors tell me I will definitely want, and I believe it has a note recorder built into it.
Second requirement is Podcasting quality recording for interviews. My friend and colleague Larry Magid carries a tape recorder; it's small, and uses full sized tape cassettes because he has had bad experiences with mini-cassettes. This gives broadcast quality audio and he uses it for his CBS interviews. I have a lot of respect for Larry's judgment, and this may be the best way to go, in which case I have to do some research on just what unit to buy.
So: I think I have what I need to set up a "sound studio" here. Now I'm looking for what mobile equipment I need, and I certainly need a walking companion note recorder. I've had those over time, but they all seem to have deteriorated and it's time for something new. Advice solicited.
I'll have more to say about the AT&T reassembly in the column. The one thing to remember is that whatever we end up with, we have lost Bell Labs, which was one of the most valuable assets the human race ever had. Thank you, Judge Green. I hope you're proud.
Incidentally, everyone keeps telling me how much money I saved when the broke up AT&T which was certainly a stolid old gray gentleman; but when I look at my phone bill it's just as large as before and that includes one phone line on which there are NEVER any outgoing calls, but the bill has doubled in the past decade. All due to taxes and fees and the Gore Internet tax, and this and that. AT&T for all its faults had the clout to lobby against fees and taxes, and as a regulated public utility it was able to support Bell Labs without insisting that Basking Ridge be a profit center.
I realize I am probably irrational about the AT&T breakup, and yes, I remember when the Bells objected to connecting a modem to the line lest you harm their equipment and how frustrating all that was; but I am not yet convinced that the breakup and reassembly with all that money intended for investment in new channels and wiring having vanished into the corporate pockets, and now the talk about charging Google and Yahoo for "using my pipes" as the AT&T non-regulated non-public chairman put it -- I am not yet convinced that I am all that much better off.
Enough. It's time for a walk and then work on the column.
Earlier today, there was (IMHO) a totally bogus claim of OS X being "hacked in 30 minutes". There was a challenge to hack a web site running on an OS X machine, and the challenge was quickly met. HOWEVER, the site had granted -local- account access to the challengers, not at all the same thing as hacking a web site from the outside! In response, there is another "hack this Mac" test running at http://test.doit.wisc.edu/
I would like this to do be a fair test, so if you're interested, post it on your site, and let anyone who is interested take a shot. The earlier test is linked on that page.
Subject: Credit card payment triggers DHS interest
"They paid down some debt. The balance on their JCPenney Platinum MasterCard had gotten to an unhealthy level. So they sent in a large payment, a check for $6,522."
"And an alarm went off. A red flag went up. The Soehnges' behavior was found questionable."
At first look this is an open and shut case of government and Homeland Security going too far; and that is how most will see it. And perhaps so, but it needs discussion, assuming that we actually take this war on global terrorism seriously.
I would resent DHS putting a hold on posting the payment, but I am not sure that notifying DHS of an unusual use of a credit card is an unreasonable war time measure. I am also unsure of the competence of the Homeland Security people to do anything meaningful with the information, but that's another story.
Wars are not lightly entered into, at least by a Republic. Empires are always at war. Frederick the Great said explicitly that the peasants in the fields and the burgers in the towns should neither know nor care if the State was at war. He hadn't quite an empire at the time, but he had aspirations. As the United States transitions to empire, we can expect to be at war at all times, and we will have enemies, some of whom have both motive and means to do us harm. We will continue to hold the government responsible for protecting us from those who want to and can harm us; which means giving the government at least some of the tools needed for this. Notification of unusual credit card activity is in fact a useful tool.
Now it takes about 2 minutes for an intelligent person to look at this case and decide that there is nothing to it; but if you insist there be no racial or cultural profiling as you collect warning signals, then there will be many more cases to investigate (yes, I know that if we allowed more attention to people named Mohammed than to Walter and Deanna Soehghe that would introduce another vulnerability and require weighted samplings and such like) and it will take more time to clear them.
I didn't want this war in the first place. I didn't even want the first Gulf War. I want us to take the hundreds of billions of dollars and invest it in energy technology and developing US energy resources. You can't tell me that it is more expensive to drill in Alaska and develop nuclear power while protecting the ecology than to send troops to Iraq and mess up the ecology something awful. Well, you can tell me that, but I don't have to believe you. But: We have the war. And if we are to fight the war, we need to give the authorities the tools to deal with that war. The way out of all this Homeland Security intrusiveness is to change our policies, get out of the war, and stop meddling in other people's affairs. While we're at it, we might think about policies that help our citizens rather than redistributing the wealth all over the world to the detriment of our own people, but that's a topic for another time.
On Blackstar, boron fuels, and such like, see mail.
See Michelle Malkin http://jewishworldreview.com/michelle/malkin030806.php3
I no longer understand the Republican Party. Apparently they are dedicated to foreign control of everything. Is there a sane Democrat? Anywhere?
There is a tribute to my favorite scholar. I don't always agree with Barzun, and his views on science are eccentric, but I can't think of anyone I'd rather have dinner with.
A minor correction:
>AT&T for all its faults had the clout to lobby
against fees and taxes,
Even Homer nods... you of course mean "Murray Hill". (Where I worked as a brash young physicist, just waiting to be anointed with the Nobel Prize. Things change...)
And it *was* a treasure of the human race, and it will never be seen again.
Basking Ridge was headquarters after they moved it out of Manhattan, and most definitely a profit center! :-)
Apologies; I knew better, actually. I suppose it's important to place the headstone in the right place, but I'd rather have back the Advanced R&D Center for the Human Race. It took a regulated public utility to support a place like Bell Labs: just enough supervision to require some focus and productivity (the culture also demanded that you think up or discover something, not just waste time) without the demand for immediate profit. A government lab in theory might do the same thing, but in fact no government labs have had anything like a long time record of success. For whatever reason, it was a significant weapon in a strategy of progress, and we do not have its like. And I do not think the reanimated AT&T will be able or even desire to create it again.
Let me recommend:
The first part about Khrushchev is well worth your time. Then he goes to Larry Summers and Harvard and says:
It's all worth reading. The Derb usually is.
Rest In Peace, Rufo
Rufo, Rufe, Rufus T. Maximus, "Big Boy", black and grey Akita with white feet, tailtip, and throatpatch, born "Socks" in February 1993, first owned by someone who left him half-starved to DC Akita Rescue, adopted by Aleta Jackson who gave him his real name and his first good home, then "temporarily taken care of" when impossible circumstances hit Aleta in November 1995 by Henry Vanderbilt (relevant quote a few months later: "I see you two have bonded.") Rufo feared neither man, beast, nor machine - he once threatened to eat a reigning King of Atenveldt (not a post attained without considerable martial skill), he acknowledged no dog in creation as being bigger (despite the facts on occasion being much to the contrary), and he reached the end of his days without his firm position that he was also bigger than any eighteen-wheeler truck ever being disproved (largely due to considerable attention being paid by his human sidekick to avoiding tests of that theory, true.) Bluff aside (in twelve years and one month, he never laid serious tooth to any living being), Rufo was the gentlest brightest most amiable eager-to- please 3/4 inch fang 110-pound carnivore you could ever hope to meet, the world's largest fur-covered creampuff where cats, small children, and pretty girls were concerned.
Rufo had been getting gimpy and less outgoing in recent years, chiefly concerned with leisurely walks around the neighborhood and sleeping in the sun, past being up for his youthful regimen of chewing through gates, midnight sprints through the neighborhood, SCA wars and fighter practices, SF conventions, space conferences, and close to 30,000 miles of cross-country car rides (he'd hung his head out in the breeze and startled passersby in at least twenty-five of the fifty states.) He succumbed to advanced stomach cancer, giving little sign of anything at all wrong until just a few days before the end - he was always a stoic, seldom acknowledging any pain short of the overwhelming. He was amiable and affectionate right up to the end. He will be much missed.
If you never knew him, you missed one of the finer dogs that's ever been. If you did know him and have memories of him, please share them in whatever forum you come upon this. To all the people who were kind to him over the years, my heartfelt thanks.
Henry Vanderbilt 8:08 pm mst March 7th, 2006
March 8, 2006
I am finishing the column today. It's a bit late but installment one is already up at www.byte.com so I don't feel too bad about it. I'm missing a lunch at the Peninsula because I didn't get this done. So it goes.
There's a bit of mail, and I've raised enough questions for a while anyway.
Belkin has a neat unit that attaches to a 4th generation iPod to let it be used for dictating notes. The recording isn't broadcast quality, but it's certainly good enough for notes and works in a room with background noise. Carrying an iPod has its problems because they get scratched but that's another story.
And I am looking into professional quality Podcast recording gizmos. (More below; I have enough advice now, I think.)
And enough for now.
March 9, 2006
Thanks for the advice on recording equipment, particularly Roland and Beth. The Roland R-09 looks very good, and I think I'll get one. It does both compressed and wave files, but if I want wave files I'll need more SD cards, which isn't a problem. It looks as if this unit will take care of both interviews for Podcasts, and notes for the column, and for that matter I suppose it would work to listen to books while walking.
Now for an important warning:
Subject: Massive Debit Card / PIN number theft
There are an increasing number of reports of massive debit card fraud that includes the theft of PIN numbers. Many major banks are having problems, which may be related to the theft of debit card/PIN number information from one or more retailers.
Some retailer ATM transaction software stores the PIN number along with the debit card number. Then those files are stolen, which gives the criminal access to both for fraudulent purchases. One story about the problem is here:
Your readers should carefully monitor their credit/ card / ATM transactions (via their bank's web site, but don't do that at a public terminal / wireless hot spot). Most bank ATMs will also give you a printed 'mini-statement'. Users should also be aware of the fraud protection of credit cards and ATM cards, which is different in different states and countries.)
It may also be advisable to change your PIN number. The process to do so is bank-specific. And make sure that you keep your PIN number in a safe and secure place (written on the back of the ATM card is not a 'safe place').
The Derb doesn't know Jack, say some of his readers, because he has never been to Iraq and thus can't know what's going on there. His essay exposes that fallacy. One need not go to some places to know about them: in some cases, in fact, having been there proves you don't know Jack, or if you do, you never tell the truth. The USSR is a great example: if you were a "scholar" in the Cold War, either you went along with the Soviet propaganda machine and thus were able to get a visa to visit that evil empire, or you told the truth like Conquest and Pipes. It happens that I was with Richard Pipes on his first trip to the USSR; this was in 1989 as part of a group that included Arnaud de Borchgrave, Georgie Ann Geyer, Tom Bethell, and a number of other journalists and scholars, almost all on their first trip to the USSR; Gorbachev was opening up the country. Possony never was allowed into the USSR. Yet I would bet that this group of which I was decidedly the junior member understood the Nomenklatura and the USSR far better than the entire New York Times and for that matter the US State Department. I know that Possony and I knew more about the Soviet military expenditures than the CIA because the Agency and State used to send people to places where Steve and I lectured on Soviet budgets to "present the true situation." In every case they insisted that Soviet military expenditures were under 15% of GDP. Possony and I insisted they were above 30%, and we both thought they were a good bit higher than that, but we couldn't prove it. The collapse of the USSR showed who was right: those who had been to the USSR or those who never went there but did their homework.
A strategy based on the notion that the USSR was spending as much as it could on its military and thus wouldn't be able to counter SDI was rejected by State and the Agency on the grounds that they weren't spending so much and thus had plenty of reserves so they could easily meet the threat. I leave it to history to deal with those who said such idiotic things: but they said them largely so they could get visas because how could you be a real scholar of the USSR if you had never been there?
I don't pretend to understand Iraq, but I have many sources both there and elsewhere. I freely admit I haven't spent as much time looking at what's going on there as I did looking at the strategic situation of the USSR, but I certainly wouldn't put having "been there" at the top of the list of qualifications for being able to present an analysis. My guess is that no one really understands the Iraqi situation because there is no overall description possible. There places where things are going well. There are places where they are not. And Arabs are very volatile people capable of being provoked to emotional reactions very much in conflict with their interests, so the situation can explode at any time.
But the Derb is always worth listening to.
I'm with Mr. Lind:
And I'm glad Dubai finally threw in the towel.
-- Roland Dobbins
My own view is that I wish it hadn't happened: if we are going to meddle in the Middle East, we need at least one modernizing Arab nation as a friend; the UAE was as close to that as we had, and kicking them this way isn't going to help. I too am glad they threw in the towel.
I also agree with the Senate bill that would require the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to draw up a list of critical facilities that must be owned by American owned companies, and require all foreign companies who own such facilities to sell them to American companies. If we are going to take Homeland Security seriously we need to take it seriously.
High Tech vs. Low.
-- Roland Dobbins
There is food for several essays in this short piece.
First: what do we want Main Battle Tanks for? And prior to that, what is the purpose of the American military? While that question can be asked for all three services, it particularly applies to the Army.
Or to the armies, because we may need more than one.
The first task of the military is to protect the homeland. That's pretty easy. We do need enough force in being to repel small incursions, and we need enough of a Navy and Air Force to see that no one brings a large army to this hemisphere, but we don't have to worry about much more. The National Guard and an American Legion (not a veterans' organization, but a three division main battle force kept at peak training) is more than a match for anything likely to appear in this hemisphere; anything that would threaten the Guard and Legion will take a long time to develop, and even State and the CIA would see it coming. As a Republic avoiding entangling alliances and unconcerned with territorial disputes that's all we would need for hemispheric defense. Navy and Air Force would be needed, and a Marine Corps for overseas force projection, but that would do it.
The second task of the military is to win wars overseas. Armies break things and kill people. Expeditionary forces defeat enemy armies and conquer enemies. World War II is a prime example. The Koran War is another, although that wasn't a declared war. We have that army, and have had for a while. While we don't want to get into a land war in Asia, there is no government on Earth that could resist the present army, provided of course that we had the logistical base to support it. Think of our current Army as the modern equivalent of Roman Legions, heavy infantry capable of smashing almost anything else including superior numbers. We can be overwhelmed by numbers but not easily; and we can certainly take on any national army on earth.
The third task is imperial occupation and nation building, and we don't have that. As the troopers in the article suggest, lighter tanks easier to use and maintain and cheaper to supply would be better than our heavy Main Battle Tanks. The best answer for a tank is another tank, and we have those tanks. The Abrams Divisions with support from Warthogs can defeat any tank army in the world. It can do a pretty good job of chewing through defenses to allow heavy infantry to finish the job against any other organized battle force.
It's not a lot of use for occupation duty. The heavy armored and infantry divisions are our Legions.
The Romans didn't use Legions for occupation duty. That was the task of auxiliaries. Auxiliaries could take on most enemies. If there were real battles to fight, the Legions would be brought in. And if auxiliaries rebelled, there were the Legions to face.
We have Legions. If we are going to continue the imperial game, we need to come up with a constabulary for long term operations overseas: more lightly armed, trained for constabulary duties, probably not able to face seasoned veteran troops in open battle, but not intended for that use anyway. We can debate the optimum TO&E for such units, but not until we decide that's what we need. Using Legions and Main Battle Tanks for occupation duty is bad for both those occupied and the Legions.
As to the Marines and other elites, sure, they can do nearly anything; but they're far too useful in other ways to tie them down in occupation work.
The real question, then, isn't what kind of equipment the army should have. It's what we want the army to do. Once we know that we build an army to do it. If we're going to be a Republic that minds its own business, we have that army. If we want to make the world safe for democracy, by being the friend of liberty everywhere, we pretty well have the force to do it, what with the Legions and the Marines and Special Operations outfits. If we're going to be imperial and do nation building and build democracies, we don't have that army, and converting the existing army into that work is a very bad idea.
If we're going to be imperial we need imperial occupation forces to follow in the wake of the Legions and take over the nation building and constabulary duties. And we had better start building those now.
Or are we? If we do it right we'll have Iraqi auxiliaries...
One really neat AMD system here has this problem: if it restarts, and the Window login screen shows up, and then then nothing happens for a half hour or so (that is, I don't log in), the screen goes blank; at which point it never recovers. Mouse movements, keyboard input, nothing will wake it up. It requires a hard reset. That always works.
Understand that if I log in while the login invitation is visible, there is no problem.
Since this doesn't happen with every one of my machines, it's pretty clear that this is some kind of setting, but I don't know what it is, and whether it's BIOS, or in the Video Board (nVidia) or in Windows XP Pro. If anyone knows what to do I'd appreciate mail. I've tried a number of speculations including looking into the AMD ASUS motherboard BIOS but I can't find anything on this particular problem.
March 10, 2006
I have done minor revisions with a couple of sentences added to the conclusion of yesterday's short essay on arming the imperium.
March 12, 2006
Column deadline. Past deadline.
March 12, 2006
Column deadlines mostly. I have a couple of essays I need to write. I'll get to them when I get the column done. It's a long story about why it took so long. The good news is I don't have macular degeneration.
and a look at my SSX paper on the rocket equation should be illuminating. Thanks to Roland for finding this reference.
As I have said before, many of us believed in the hypersonic airplane launching a rocket to space; but the hypersonic flight proved to be a great deal more difficult than we thought. Air launch for altitude (and thus for rocket engine efficiency) makes a lot of sense. Air launch for velocity turns out to be very difficult. To get sustained hypersonic jet flight you need unobtanium for the leading edges of wings and the intake scoops for air. The stagnation temperatures are, um, well, high in those flight regimes.
And we do have some mail up today. Now I have to get back to work.
If you're looking for something to do with your time, try this:
How to discover asteroid impacts using Google Earth.
-- Roland Dobbins
reading Bush out of the Conservative Movement as an ideologue, and rejecting the war. While I might not go quite that far, think on this: Hart has been one of National Review's mainstays. Not long ago National Review let the egregious Frum read all of us skeptics about the Iraqi war out of the movement. They also let him insult Stephen Tonsor, whose status in the conservative intellectual firmament is at least as high as that of Jeffrey Hart. I don't know where Hart was while they were unleashing the egregious Frum, but will National Review at some point apologize to Tonsor? Or will they let Frum loose on Jeffrey Hart? Stay tuned. This could be interesting.
Or have I been off snoozing somewhere and Hart is already persona non grata at NR? They keep throwing people out, so perhaps they ejected him and I didn't notice? I confess I haven't followed the twists and turns of the Conservative Party Line for a while.
'Old Pete got his orders down at Party headquarters, they said Pete, you're way behind the times,
this ain't '36 it's 1957 and there's been some changes in that Party Line.'
Oops, wrong party. And yes, it's more tragedy than amusement that the magazine founded to stand in the path of history and shout Stop! is now busily devouring its own.
As for me, I never wanted us in that war, I was appalled at Frum's egregious denunciations and more so that National Review provided him a platform, and I can sure think of better things to do with $300 billion and thousands of young lives than pour them into Mesopotamia; but we, the people of the United States, sent those soldiers there, and if there is any possible way to make their efforts and sacrifices meaningful, we have an obligation to do so. That includes some sacrifices of our own.
I do not think anyone knows what will happen in Iraq. I do not think anyone knows what is possible in Iraq.
And once again I wish we had a two-party system with Tweedledee and Tweedledum alternating without any great change in policy as a result. Frustrating as that is, it remedies the "too long in power" syndrome without revolutionary consequences. But that, I suspect, is vain nostalgia. Some wanted "meaningful" elections. They got them. Be careful what you wish for.
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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