THE CAR THAT MAKES ITS OWN FUEL

November 1, 2005 00:30 by keithkaragan
This is pretty wild sounding, and if true, would seem to be the ideal solution for today's energy and environmental issues concerning transportation. I hope to hear more about this one in the future.
Excerpt:

"IsraCast recently covered the idea developed at the Weizmann Institute to use pure Zinc to produce Hydrogen using solar power. Now, a different solution has been developed by an Israeli company called Engineuity. Amnon Yogev, one of the two founders of Engineuity, and a retired Professor of the Weizmann Institute, suggested a method for producing a continuous flow of Hydrogen and steam under full pressure inside a car. This method could also be used for producing hydrogen for fuel cells and other applications requiring hydrogen and/or steam..." Link
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What's new (for me) in the .Net world?

October 13, 2005 01:30 by keithkaragan
Besides the landslide of changes, improvements, etc. of .Net 2.0 I've been looking at several other more specific technologies of late. I've been intrigued with the Laszlo Open Server, and Ruby on Rails. Specifically how these technologies can be leveraged using the skills I already have decent proficiency in.
I really hold on to the premise that you have to look at these technologies in their native surroundings by digging in and learning how to do the basics in the original, so I rolled up the sleeves, Googled for tutorials and software, and gave them a try.
Laszlo's product is interesting to me because it allows developers to design and deliver web applications that will look and operate the same on most platforms and browsers by taking a programmatic approach to using the ubiquitous Flash plug in as an application platform. They've abstracted the Flash elements into a coding API that can be used to create applications with a pretty simple means to develop and deploy. It works as a server based technology and in a server-less deployment (with a limited set of functionality). It's really cool, and it works.
Where this system falls short for me is that it runs on a Tomcat Java server, and the syntax is simple, but unique to the system. Xamlon takes this approach as well, but leverages .Net as the environment I like that idea, but as of yet haven't tried the product to see how well it works in practice. This looks promising though.
Ruby in Rails is everywhere. You can't help but to see agile development and testimony about R-on-R around the developer community. I tried it, and I liked it. It really is a quick means to an end, using O/R and Model-View-Controller approaches to rapid development works. But again, I want to do this in C# so I can leverage my platform knowledge and expertise in other related technologies and still get the gain of this approach. Well, the Castle Project has done this (and a bunch more) by combining the efforts of several other projects into a framework that brings agile development and MVC to .Net. I'm just digging in to this, so there's more to explore, but it has me excited.
What I'd like to see in a framework is all that is in the Castle Project and Xamlon, combined with tools that work more at the design level for design the object model, marking the persistence options, and generating the database and code stubs automatically - Kind of like what Apple's XCode does on the mac. Add automatic degradable async communication (AJAX) and I'm a happy developer. This may exist, I'll be looking.
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What's new (for me) in the .Net world?

October 5, 2005 16:56 by keithkaragan
Besides the landslide of changes, improvements, etc. of .Net 2.0 I've been looking at several other more specific technologies of late. I've been intrigued with the Laszlo Open Server, and Ruby on Rails. Specifically how these technologies can be leveraged using the skills I already have decent proficiency in.
I really hold on to the premise that you have to look at these technologies in their native surroundings by digging in and learning how to do the basics in the original, so I rolled up the sleeves, Googled for tutorials and software, and gave them a try.
Laszlo's product is interesting to me because it allows developers to design and deliver web applications that will look and operate the same on most platforms and browsers by taking a programmatic approach to using the ubiquitous Flash plug in as an application platform. They've abstracted the Flash elements into a coding API that can be used to create applications with a pretty simple means to develop and deploy. It works as a server based technology and in a server-less deployment (with a limited set of functionality). It's really cool, and it works.
Where this system falls short for me is that it runs on a Tomcat Java server, and the syntax is simple, but unique to the system. Xamlon takes this approach as well, but leverages .Net as the environment I like that idea, but as of yet haven't tried the product to see how well it works in practice. This looks promising though.
Ruby in Rails is everywhere. You can't help but to see agile development and testimony about R-on-R around the developer community. I tried it, and I liked it. It really is a quick means to an end, using O/R and Model-View-Controller approaches to rapid development works. But again, I want to do this in C# so I can leverage my platform knowledge and expertise in other related technologies and still get the gain of this approach. Well, the Castle Project has done this (and a bunch more) by combining the efforts of several other projects into a framework that brings agile development and MVC to .Net. I'm just digging in to this, so there's more to explore, but it has me excited.
What I'd like to see in a framework is all that is in the Castle Project and Xamlon, combined with tools that work more at the design level for design the object model, marking the persistence options, and generating the database and code stubs automatically - Kind of like what Apple's XCode does on the mac. Add automatic degradable async communication (AJAX) and I'm a happy developer. This may exist, I'll be looking.
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My NAD T752 Bit The Dust!!

September 20, 2005 04:00 by keithkaragan
I have an NAD T752 receiver that I've had for a little over two years now, and frankly I've been pretty happy with - and have used pretty lightly. Last week I turned it on to watch a film and **BAM** severe popping out of several speakers - and no sound. What a D-R-A-G ! It would go into protection mode (red power light) as soon as I switched into Pro Logic mode (the jumper to the main outputs for the center channel was still in place, and the surround channels can't be disconnected, so any DC output should cause that).
It's been a while since I've had a soldering iron in my hand, but since it's out of warranty I figured I'd take a peek and see what's up (after google-ing around for similar stories first ... no exact matches). So I found a bad solder joint and hoped that it was the cause - but no dice. After a call to NAD, I had a couple of suggestions - like resetting the unit, and checking for another bad connection in the power supply but those turned up dry as well.
The symptoms are  that the preamp outputs are putting out around 2 VDC on the left, right, and subs; the amps and the tape outs work fine and sound good (an iPod as a test source is nice!). The pop comes from the grounding of the 2 VDC when the volume is all the way off, and the outputs mute. The main preamp outs have no sound though! I think I've met my match after two rounds of trying to track it down (sans schematic), and I may have to bring it in for service ... worse than having to ask for driving directions ... This sucks!
....maybe one more round of self medication ... I'll bust out the O-scope to see where the signal is dying, since the tape outputs work, I'm suspicious of the volume control circuitry (I know the mute works).
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iTunes 4.9 and no more iPod lock ups - Hooray!

July 27, 2005 00:30 by keithkaragan
I've been using iTunes 4.9 for several weeks now, and while outside of the addition to podcasts being included - hey, it's still iTunes. It works, it has it's drawbacks, etc. But slowly I started noticing that my iPod was freezing up less and less when listening to podcasts, hmmm ... now for over a week no freeze-ups at all ... finally! At first I continued to use iPodderX for most podcasts, with some on iTunes while I got familiar with it, then I discovered that I wasn't finding the iTunes podcasts on my iPod ... I failed to notice the new Podcasts item on the iPod menu. After that it was all iTunes, since now I can shuffle music and not get podcasts mixed in, and listen to podcasts in an organized way - very nice.
Once all the podcasts were delivered via iTunes and not iPodderX, the lockups were a thing of the past. I don't know why, but I suppose it has something to do with the conversion process. Anyway, the experience is much better than it had been.
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Do Blink!

July 12, 2005 03:30 by keithkaragan

"It's a book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye. When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions. Well, "Blink" is a book about those two seconds, because I think those instant conclusions that we reach are really powerful and really important and, occasionally, really good..."

Over the years I've recognized that in certain areas I can (or do) almost immediately sum up the situation and form a conclusion without trying, or better put  - without conscious analysis. Most of the time I've chalked this up to experience with the subject manner - but in others I hadn't, and at times have gotten burned for not trusting that instinct. It's easy to trust that gut feeling in areas where I've developed depth, but if I start to analyze too deeply the decision on areas where I don't feel I have this subject matter expertise (so to speak) I'm prone to second guessing my choice (or at least in some cases, less now than before).
So when I heard Gladwell talk about the book in a recording from the South by South-West conference (via IT Conversations), the premise of the book was really intriguing for me to possibly get a better understanding of this process of rapid cognition. The outcome was a better understanding, but also a disturbing feeling about the power of subconscious bias that may be inflicted (or elevated) by outside forces.
In practical application, I have two areas that I have full trust of this ability and where I've always had a very difficult time inter-operating with others in the execution of the underlying tasks where this action was being used - Hiring and Music.
In hiring, I've worked in responsible positions in a number of companies in several fields. Over my employment (I can't really call it a career, or perhaps I don't want to) I've probably interviewed 1,000 people or more and hired over 150-200 of them (or recommended their hiring). People come and go for a myriad of reasons, but firing  a person is an untidy and rather rare occurrence. Of these folks, there was probably three that were truly bad hires that I misjudged. I say this because in nearly all of these cases highly technical analysis or deep testing was neither performed or necessary to size up the individual's capability to perform the job. In fact I knew in the first three minutes (hmmm ... based on blink, it may have been the first 10 seconds) if the person was honest, capable, and had the appropriate disposition for the position. I've butted heads with business partners, employers, and co-workers over how technical or deep an interview needs to be. Many of these folks (very qualified and deep folks in their own right) either did not have the ability to size up the candidate, or couldn't trust their ability to do so. Many had very rigorous and elaborate processes that they would use to examine the situation, and would take on a lot of overhead in order to make the right choice - and in many more of the cases were not satisfied with the outcome.
I've gotten to a place in my life where when I need to be the interviewed candidate, the process that is presented to me becomes one of the ways I size up the client or company in what the experience will be like working with them, and how I need to adapt my demeanor and report with them to make them comfortable with my capabilities and work ethic. In the age of 'work is life' for a great many people it really is surprising that the people that are in the business of hiring (HR folks) are often not very astute in evaluating potential candidates for positions. I would think that people with a keen sense of people would gravitate to these kinds of positions, and be successful and richly rewarded for their skills. Think of it as 'inside sales' - making a 'good' hire saves tons of expense for a company, not only in the the reduction of interviewing overhead, but in the reduction of lost investment for employees that are let go or leave before significantly contributing to the firm.I'm very skeptical of the practices that are the myths of hiring at Microsoft and Goggle (for example). What reduction in attrition do these practices really result in? (if any) What are the hidden costs? Do these practices actually self-perpetuate as a hazing, rite, or fraternity model? I think they do, based on what I've seen.
In music I've been exploring this concept of rapid cognition for a while now. When I meet with other players they often ask what songs I know, and frequently I'll answer that I don't know any songs. The fact is that I do know lots of songs, I've played music for 25  years or so. I'm not lying though - I've not prepared any songs to play and wouldn't be able to recall them readily in the situation without preparation. The act of not preparing them is intentional though. I don't want to play music to exercise my ability to recall the structures and particulars of one song or another, I play music to experience the creative energy that flows between musicians during the improvisation of playing off each other.
I've explained this to other musicians from time to time as a sort of Jazz mentality, and most didn't understand what I was going for, or were alienated by the premise of Jazz when they play some other style - and Jazz is considered 'hard' by most non-Jazz players. What I meant though was the spirit of Jazz, not the specifics of Jazz. So, by clearing the slate of old and reliable cliché tunes we could embark on an adventure (for better or worse) that would be more rewarding - that is if the other players are after a similar satisfaction from playing music.
I took this to another level last year by starting to use alternate guitar tuning, and other stringed instruments in my music. Then adding more percussion. I didn't study the tunings to re-learn the chords and scales I know in standard tuning. I didn't get deep on the other instruments to develop traditional skills on them. I did get familiar with the specifics of operating in each environment, and developing a comfort to be able to create sound on each, and understand what notes lay where on the instrument in order to allow music to happen. In percussion, I'm self-studying the tabla as a gateway to musicality in percussive instruments, and develop a vocabulary and base ability to perform on other percussive instruments. This process has been really satisfying, and very interesting to me as I see where these practices take the music I make.
When I was able to apply this to a situation that was more than solo (with another live person) I was fortunate enough to be able to find a person open to the idea. I don't know if his motives are the same, or that all of what I'm talking about makes sense to him - but he is willing to give it a spin. In the dozen or so times we've collaborated we've started with a theme (sometimes just a tuning - that we were both inexperienced and uneducated in) and were able to play music on that theme that was energetic and interesting (at least to us) for very extended periods. I want to see this expand to a trio, quartet, etc, -  just to see (or hear) the results over time as the group assimilates to the improvisational or chaotic manner of this realm of making music. It's difficult to find these people, and I'm going to need to employ rapid cognition not only in the execution of the art, but in the acquisition of the people to make the art. Up to know I've tried to shoehorn traditional players into this medium, and that hasn't worked. With the musician I'm working with now, I just got a feeling that he would be receptive - and he was (is). So in essence this blink mentality comes into play at two levels in this case.
So, anyway, if you find this type of stuff interesting you'll probably enjoy blink from cover to cover. A hopeful outcome of this book is that Gladwell's vocabulary can become a common vocabulary for discussion and better understanding of the decision making process.
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Crap-Tablet-ous!

June 19, 2005 17:10 by keithkaragan
I've owned a ViewSonic V1100 Tablet PC for a little over a year now, and I have to say that I'm far less than thrilled with the unit.
What I like about it:
  • It wasn't too expensive.
  • It's a slate tablet ... I like that experience, to me it's what a tablet should be
  • It's pretty light.
  • It'll make a nice active picture frame one day.

What I don't like about it:
  • The battery never charged correctly when hook to the AC with it's adapter. I  would have to plug in, pop the battery out and re-insert it for it to charge. Eventually it would not charge any longer. I obtained a new AC adapter and dock, and it charges properly with this set-up ... I've **read** that this has to do with the power supply plug on the unit having some kind of sensor that knows when it's plugged in (it may have this, I don't know) - but the old AC adapter didn't work with the dock either (for charging), and the dock does not use the AC adapter input, rather it uses the docking connections.
  • Initial set-up needed to have a keyboard and mouse attached ... come on, it's a tablet! Is this ViewSonic's short-sightedness or Microsoft's ... I don't know.
  • With a fully charged battery, I have about an hour of time or slightly less if using WiFi ... way too short. The Extended Battery is way way too expensive.
  • At one point, the tablet thought it always on AC power and wouldn't tell me the state of the battery (this lasted a week or two - then remedied itself).
  • The docking station was available at a really good price (recently, not when this unit was current) - It arrived DOA, the CD drive was dead ... I hope the replacement works.
  • When docked, I can hook up an external monitor - cool! Dual monitors on a tablet ... nope! The tablet fits in the dock in portrait mode only (you can change the display setting - but then it's sideways) - the external monitor is unusable in this mode - the image is sideways.Somehow I got it the right way after much tuning ... but wait, the mouse now disappears when moving between monitors until you grab the pen and do something on the tablet's display ... worthless! And since the Tablet sits in the dock in a cradle type arrangement, you can't use the pen on it or it'll undock and cause you to want to smash it to pieces .... Arrrrgh!
  • The plug on the AC adapter is an 'odd' size that I'm having issues finding an aftermarket version for (for in the car) ... seems like everything is a hassle with this unit.
  • ViewSonic hasn't ever updated the drivers for this unit. It's strange that nearly all Windows pcs get regular updates to their drivers and this otherwise flawed unit is somehow rock-solid software wise, and doesn't need updates? Or did the vendor just give up?
  • ViewSonic's support site has very little about the unit, Google turns up far more in the way of issues (not too many solutions though).

I always though ViewSonic products were high quality (monitors at least). This experience has definitely changed my perspective though. I'll be thinking twice on the purchase of other ViewSonic hardware.
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Crap-Tablet-ous!

June 19, 2005 04:00 by keithkaragan
I've owned a ViewSonic V1100 Tablet PC for a little over a year now, and I have to say that I'm far less than thrilled with the unit.
What I like about it:
  • It wasn't too expensive.
  • It's a slate tablet ... I like that experience, to me it's what a tablet should be
  • It's pretty light.
  • It'll make a nice active picture frame one day.

What I don't like about it:
  • The battery never charged correctly when hook to the AC with it's adapter. I  would have to plug in, pop the battery out and re-insert it for it to charge. Eventually it would not charge any longer. I obtained a new AC adapter and dock, and it charges properly with this set-up ... I've **read** that this has to do with the power supply plug on the unit having some kind of sensor that knows when it's plugged in (it may have this, I don't know) - but the old AC adapter didn't work with the dock either (for charging), and the dock does not use the AC adapter input, rather it uses the docking connections.
  • Initial set-up needed to have a keyboard and mouse attached ... come on, it's a tablet! Is this ViewSonic's short-sightedness or Microsoft's ... I don't know.
  • With a fully charged battery, I have about an hour of time or slightly less if using WiFi ... way too short. The Extended Battery is way way too expensive.
  • At one point, the tablet thought it always on AC power and wouldn't tell me the state of the battery (this lasted a week or two - then remedied itself).
  • The docking station was available at a really good price (recently, not when this unit was current) - It arrived DOA, the CD drive was dead ... I hope the replacement works.
  • When docked, I can hook up an external monitor - cool! Dual monitors on a tablet ... nope! The tablet fits in the dock in portrait mode only (you can change the display setting - but then it's sideways) - the external monitor is unusable in this mode - the image is sideways.Somehow I got it the right way after much tuning ... but wait, the mouse now disappears when moving between monitors until you grab the pen and do something on the tablet's display ... worthless! And since the Tablet sits in the dock in a cradle type arrangement, you can't use the pen on it or it'll undock and cause you to want to smash it to pieces .... Arrrrgh!
  • The plug on the AC adapter is an 'odd' size that I'm having issues finding an aftermarket version for (for in the car) ... seems like everything is a hassle with this unit.
  • ViewSonic hasn't ever updated the drivers for this unit. It's strange that nearly all Windows pcs get regular updates to their drivers and this otherwise flawed unit is somehow rock-solid software wise, and doesn't need updates? Or did the vendor just give up?
  • ViewSonic's support site has very little about the unit, Google turns up far more in the way of issues (not too many solutions though).

I always though ViewSonic products were high quality (monitors at least). This experience has definitely changed my perspective though. I'll be thinking twice on the purchase of other ViewSonic hardware.
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Microsoft Streets and Trips 2005 with GPS

June 19, 2005 03:30 by keithkaragan
I've liked Streets and Trips from Microsoft for a while now. I just got the 2005 version with the GPS receiver, and this is so cool. It retails for around $130 (US) - so maybe you can find a cheaper GPS and just pop for the base software, but the GPS is pretty reasonable all things considered. I took a cruise around town with my son navigating on my tablet and they GPS stuck on the windshield and it was pretty accurate.
I've used my older version (sans GPS) to plan a week long motorcycle trip in 2003 and the results were great: maps were accurate and directions right on, even in rural areas.
If you can find this on the cheap, it's pretty fun to use. I'm wondering what I can hack the USB GPS to do other than just using it in the application though.
  • Maybe make a black-box for my car that logs the data, then uploads it into Streets and Trips for a graphical view of my voyages
  • I want to hook it to my PDA (Streets and Trips comes with a Pocket PC Version too) and rig up a mode to power the PDA with 12 volts from my motorcycle, and mount the PDA to the tank or windshield (yeah, I know ... call me a wuss with a windshield) for long trips or 'getting lost' type cruising. I was thinking that a little wheel that rides along the tire should generate enough rpms to create 12V, with a little capacitance and voltage regulation ... and the PDA does have a battery to keep it going on extended stops ... Hmmm, don't those bicycle headlamps work like that? (they did when I was a kid ... but Banana Seats were cool then too) ... I'll have to try that. I'll still need a Compact Flash USB host for the PDA.
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Fabrikam, can't ! At least not yet.

June 19, 2005 03:00 by keithkaragan
So, I downloaded the Fabrikam 3.1 Office Developer Sample Demo from Microsoft a few weeks ago, and finally got to unpack it try it out. I had to do this twice (un-pack, not download) because the winRAR decompression of the virtual PC (vpc) image was corrupted the first time and the VPC would blue screen and reboot continuously. Second  unpacking solved this, but it took a while since it's a big file (~6GB). When I run a 'packed' vpc (one with lots of stuff) on my laptop, I tend to run it with 600-700 MB of RAM devoted to it. Microsoft's requirements stated a 1 GB RAM requirement, I wasn't sure if that was for the PC or VPC ... Apparently its for the VPC, because it is pretty slow with 675 MB of RAM ... but life goes on, and I can deal with that.
Loading up the site in a browser running on the host PC was interesting as several images didn't load up, nor did several features work that linked to specific pages in the site. The site URLs for these puppies linked to hrrp://localhost ... Nice! This shouldn't have passed QA - seriously, that like a file:// type url getting onto a production site ... If I was one of the developers or product managers, I'd be mighty pissed off that this type of error made it to the shipping copy of a product.
I've been waiting for this sample, particularly to see what kinds of integration and interoperation stuff they pulled of and this demo packs a lot of punch on paper, there's: Core Portal Server functionality and Customization; WSS Core and Custom stuff; Smart Docs; SQL XML; Reporting Services; Biz Talk; Web Services; and a suite of custom web parts. I've only scratched the surface on these - but this is an incredible opportunity for aspiring SharePoint developers to get their mitts on a bona-fide real portal to totally fuck up and learn from - unfortunately, some of the fuck ups come built in.
One of the things I really wanted to see was the Multi-Library viewer (roll-up) web part. I had a client that 'seemed' perfect for a while back - but this wasn't yet released. So I put something together for them using the XML web part. I still hoped that once this was released they would be able to utilize this part (and it may work out, once I get it to operate in the demo). This web part is apparently loaded on the Finance section of the demo, and seems to work. But try to add it to another page and one gets an error indicating that the part is not marked as 'Safe' ... oh, joy! You SharePoint developers know that when you get this error, and the part IS in the web.config, you got a problem ... So this is a great start.
Likewise, the expense report sample that utilizes InfoPath craps out too. I was further disappointed that this expense functionality would be one of the key areas that use the workflow / Biz Talk stuff that's in the demo too. Pretty bleak. I'm not really shocked, or that dismayed, considering that I've been working on this technology for well over a year (solid), I know that although this technology is really useful and overall very stable, development on this platform is not at a rapid pace for anything that is beyond simple customization of the core components. I feel really, really bad for the developers of Fabrikam. I can imagine that the deadline for this release must have been pretty tight, and the goals lofty ... there is really a lot of stuff in this demo - a lot of really useful stuff. I hope a patch or re-release of this demo comes out soon - it would be a terrific learning tool, and a great platform to base sales demo on for clients interested in what SharePoint can do.
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