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Steve Jobs, 1955 - 2011

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I must admit that I have never converted to Mac in terms of my laptop or desktop, at least not yet. I did buy my daughter a Bondi Blue iMac when they came out, bought my wife a lime green iMac a few months later, and I have had a couple of iPhones and iPads. But that is not because I don't like them.

Steve Jobs was more than someone who made computers and phones--he inspired people. Who else is equally as admired by artists, musicians, and engineers? He exuded enthusiasm and that will be missed. Who knows how many artists, scientists, or engineers we have today as a result of this enthusiasm.

Tonight my prayers are with his family, friends, and colleagues.

The NSPE Board of Directors approved several new policies this morning in their metting which were presented to them by the eislatve and Governmental Affairs Committee (on which I serve). We had aproved the policies in previous meetings. Approved policies are on Engrgy Security, Nuclear Power, Geothermal Energy, and Natural Gas. In our meeting on Friday we, the committee, approved a position statement on Hydroelectric Power but it still nees review and approval by the Board. There are sever other polices currently in the committee which are being tweaked.

The more I work with and use computers, the more convinced I become that all come with a gremlin.

I arrived at CWID today and we attempted to connect my computer to the unclassified network so that I could do the reports I usually have to do. It worked fine when I left the room this morning, and it worked fine when I left work earlier this week; but it did not work when I connected to the unclass net. We tried everything we could and had no joy.

The crack technician Charles, who said he wanted to be mentioned in the blog, tracked down a few issues, found that DHCP was not running on the network (by design) and I needed a dedicated IP address. He assigned that address and still, no joy. I had booted and rebooted, and rebooted and still couldn't get it to work. Finally, I decided to try the good ole power down and start from scratch. It worked!

The good news is that more senior folks are coming in next week and will have the same issue. Now we know what to do. Thanks, Charles!

"Most Consumers Unaware of Broadband Speed", by Amy Schatz. Wall Street Journal, Vol CCLV, No. 127, p. B4, 02 June 2010.

A survey by the Federal Communications Commission indicates that most consumers are not aware of exactly what their broadband speeds are. Even not knowing what the speeds are, nine out of ten surveyed indicated they were happy with their speeds.

I do not fall into that 9 out of 10. I do know what speeds I am getting and I am not happy. The fastest speed I can buy via AT&T right now is 3 Mb. I usually only realize a speed of about 2.5 Mb and sometimes less than that. Of course AT&T has their own specification of what those speeds really mean within tolerances, whether you like those tolerances or not.

The real question though is are American's getting what they are paying for? Another question would be, are we paying too much for what we are getting. The Internet has become ubiquitous on our lives and I would much rather lose voice comms than I would electronic comms. Perhaps it is time for the FCC to rethink the whole communications paradigm.


After winning the ChallengeX completion a couple of years ago, the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University entered the EcoCAR challenge last year. The second year of the competition has just completed and Mississippi State won. But rather than saying MSU won, you really need to look at the numbers to see by how much they won. The point spread between first and second places is 153 point; the spread between second and third is 71; and between third and fourth is 59.

Listed below, in ascending order, are the universities and their total point scores. The maximum possible total points were 1000.

Michigan Technological University 97.58
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 161.31
Missouri Science & Technology 175.74
Texas Tech 198.59
Georgia Tech 212.69
West Virginia University 230.85
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University 251.65
University of Wisconsin-Madison 253.79
University of Waterloo 291.42
North Carolina State University 448.75
University of Ontario Institute of Technology 471.48
The Ohio State University 527.41
University of Victoria 564.8
Pennsylvania State University 620.22
Virginia Tech 691.35
Mississippi State University 844.04

Some of the other awards won by MSU were:

* Best acceleration
* Best autocross
* Best fuel consumption
* Best tailpipe emissions
* Best well-to-wheels greenhouse gas
* Best well-to-wheels petroleum energy use
* Best Mechanical Systems Presentation
* Best Controls Presentation
* Best Vehicle Design Review Presentation
* Best outreach
> Best media relations program
> Best education program
> Best creative promotion of EcoCAR
> Best website

Congratulations EcoCAR Team!

"Revenge of the Nerds: How Barbie Got Her Geek On". Wall Street Journal, 09 April 2010.
Last month the Wall Street Journal ran a story about Barbie's new profession being computer engineering. This profession was determined by a vote, one in which I voted, and the hope amongst us engineers was that giving Barbie the computer engineer profession perhaps some girls would look at the computer engineering as a profession for themselves. But this did not go over well with all. One letter to the editor submitted by Steve Schupbacj was published and I took issue with some of his statements. I then wrote a letter to the WSJ but, as I suspected, it was not published.

Thanks to having my own blog, here are the portions of the original letter I took issue with and the response I sent to the WSJ.


Steve Schupbacj
Sonoma, CA
p. A12 24-25 April 2010 V. CCLV N 95

"So now, like so many times in the past 30 years of feminist antics, little girls, who will be the primary purchasers of Barbie, don't get what they want/ Rather they get a feminist vision of what they should want: a world where little must find inspiration in bits and bytes but not in being what they want, like an anchorwoman in high heels and smart business attire, not that there's anything wrong with that."

"I'd like to propose my own unscientific theory about why there aren't more women in engineering, and it has nothing to do with opportunity. Girls and women easily have equal access to primary and secondary education in mathematics and sciences. Most women simply don't like engineering. It's icky. It's dirty. It's sweaty. Why do you think they call it 'engine-eering'? Most women prefer "tidier professions. Even women who earn an engineering degree mostly end up in nicer allied fields or in management, were they can distance themselves from the messy business of 'doing' engineering."

My response:

Having a computer engineer Barbie is not a feminist movement but is rather an engineering movement which recognizes that women make excellent engineers, more women are needed in the profession, and that the lack of engineers is becoming a matter of national security. Many of us hope that this Barbie will break the stereotypes ill-informed people hold of engineers. Engineering is not icky, dirty, or sweaty as Mr. Schupbachs letter of the 24th indicates. Many of us wear coats and ties (or skirts and blouses as the case may be), work in offices, and are solving the problems of the 21st century, improving the quality of life, preserving the environment, finding new sources of energy and helping people live better lives. Further, many engineers do indeed end up in management at some point in their careers and are they highly valued for their ability to solve problems and tackle difficult issues. Gone are the days Doctor Ken and Nurse Barbie and here are the days of engineer Barbie. Welcome to the 21st century.

Silver Spring, MD

I attended the Education Opportunities for Veterans with Disabilities Workshop today at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh. We had some really good discussions about what can be done, what needs to be done, and how far we need to go to get it done.

We were given a tour of the rehabilitation wing of the hospital where they work with amputees. I was impressed with the level of care our veterans are receiving, the technology that is being used in both rehab and prosthetics, and especially in the care and concern given by the staff. Many steps have been taken to reduce the administrative burden on the warriors. I must admit that I was glad to be there as a visitor rather than as a patient though!

I have heard of late that some people are not referring to disabled or handicapped people as disabled but rather as differently-abled. While some it might sound as too much political correctness, I assure you, the people I met in the hospital and on the panel, do not consider themselves disabled. They have real injuries including traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even some amputations, but they all seemed to have a can-do attitude. Without a doubt, they have some hurdles to overcome but these people can do it. That is what I love about military people--the difficult will be done today, the impossible will be done by tomorrow.

It was also heartening to see technology being used to positively impact someone's life in a very direct way. The computer simulation systems to help amputees learn to walk and balance to the technology to help them drive a car to the simulation system that allows them to fire weapons and regain their confidence is what engineering is all about.

Now, an early flight in the morning to get back home.

Because Thomas PM Barnett just passed a milestne, his 10,000th blog post, I thought I would mention it here. Tom's blog was the genesis of my own but he has been much, much better at it than I have. Perhaps one day I will achieve that level but not right now.

Tom state he has no plans for changing his blog; " It remains as it has always been: a workspace to organize my thinking, catalogue sources, and write whatever makes me happy to write." That too is my philosophy.

Congratulations Tom! Well done. I have indeed enjoyed reading both your posts and your books over the years.

Delta Air Ends Use of India Call Centers By Paulo Prada and Niraj Sheth. The Wall Street Journal, Vol. CCLIII, No. 90, Saturday/Sunday, 18-19 April 2009, p. B1.

Delta Airlines, which moved some of its call center work to India following 9/11 in an effort to cut costs, is now bringing some of that work home. According to the article, over first few months of the year Delta stopped routing calls to centers in India. The advantage of off-shoring this type of work is that "Call-center representatives in India earn roughly $500 a month, or about one-sixth the salary of their U.S.-based counterparts." However, the article points out that Delta is not pulling back its call centers in Jamaica and South Africa, countries where complaints have not been as high.

Is this the end of globalization? Hardly. This is merely a company recognizing that saving salary costs is not there is to running a good business. As Delta's chief executive, Richard Anderson said, "Our customers are not shy about letting us have that feedback [low tolerance of call centers in foreign countries]." Globalization is not about sending everything offshore but about sending things offshore that can be done more effectively offshore. Call centers are not always the best things to offshore.

It is unlikely that I will ever buy a Dell computer that is not in their XPS line simply because of the support I get from them. I am able to talk to intelligent people, in my native language, who understand what they are doing. Too often the foreign call centers are merely low-level representatives who do nothing but read scripts presented on a computer screen.

Part of the outrage is the language barrier. I'm not sure I agree that is the major problem. I have been able to understand most of the people in India I have spoken with but they do seem to miss some expressions. My complaint is that they are typically of very little help. It is only after being elevated several levels that I am able to get someone who can solve my problem.

This is a smart move by Delta and others will hopefully follow.

On Monday I noticed that my iPhone was getting unusually warm, even I wasn't using it. I also noticed that it was not holding charge anywhere near the amount of time it did on Sunday. I tried a reboot, did a restore, double checked the settings, and on Tuesday it was still not working like it should. I asked around and no one else was having the same problem so I called Apple Support.

I first get to talk to a computer as my call is directed to the appropriate people. As long as the voice is not annoying and process is quick, I don't mind talking to a computer at all. Once I get directed to the appropriate place I get a message telling me that my estimated wait time is 5 minutes. With AT&T I always get the "we are experiencing an unusually high call volume" which makes me questions, how does it take for an unusually high call volume to become normal call volume?

While I am waiting I am asked by the computer if I would like to be directed to a web site that may could help me solve my problem. I replied "no" and was simply placed on hold. With AT&T you are not given a choice, you are forced to listen to trouble shooting that you have already been through. Those of us with half a brain know that if the problem is simple, looking it up on the web is usually faster than calling tech support. Thank you Apple for not assuming I'm too freaking stupid to try to solve the problem on my own.

Way less that 5 minutes later, a real person answers the phone and I give him the vitals--product, serial number, email address, name, etc. I then describe the problem and he says it does indeed sound like a battery problem. None of the usual AT&T garbage about powering it down, let's walk through fifty steps that you have already been through and then we get somewhere. Nope, it was a simple "you've got a battery problem."

The tech rep then presented me with three repair options. I could send the phone in, have it repaired or replaced, and returned in a few days. I could pay a $30 fee and have Apple ship me a new phone and I could return the broken one. Or, I could go to an Apple Store and have it looked at and replaced. Given my travel schedule and the possibility of not having a replacement arrive in time, I opted for the Apple Store.

He tech rep set up an appointment with the Genius Bar at the Apple Store in Ridgeland, Mississippi. It was a two hour drive away but worth it to get the phone ASAP. I drove to the Apple Store later in the day and arrived at the Genius Bar about ten minutes before my appointment. I was warmly greeted at the store and logged in as having arrived for my appointment.

I went to the Genius Bar and they asked me to wait a few minutes and someone would be with me shortly. Right on time, someone called me up. Imagine that, actually being called at the time of your appointment. (Medical doctors--take note!) It took very little time for the Genius to agree that my phone needed to be replaced and he set about getting a new one and activating it.

My new phone did not have enough juice to activate so it had to be plugged in and charged for a few minutes. During those few minutes I wandered around the store and the assistant manager, who I met about ten minutes prior, walked up, called me by name, and asked if there was a problem. He was actually concerned that I was not getting the service I needed. He and I talked for a few more minutes, I looked around a few more minutes, and then my phone was ready. No hassles, no arguments, no problems. I actually left feeling good about the experience.

Compare that to my experiences with AT&T. I am always in a worse mood after talking to them than I was in before I talked to them. They always assume I am an idiot and we start each and every session at square one. Seldom is the issue resolved after one call.

Now I have to admit that Apple is not the only company with good service. I have been impressed with the service given by Dell's XPS technical support. The biggest problem I have had with Dell was the actual ordering of a computer last year. I also have not had much luck in working with their customer service, but their XPS technical support is great.

AT&T, take a lesson from Dell and Apple. With a little effort you too can have satisfied customers.

Dell Prpares for Adamo

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"New From Dell, a Luxury Laptop", Vol CCLII, No. 63Wednesday, 18 Mach 2009, p. B5. By Justin Scheck and Rex Crum.

Dell is taking orders for their high end Adamo notebook which is expected to compete with Apple's MacBook Air. This is a luxury laptop and the article points out that Dell will likely not sell many given the economy. Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst with Sanford Bernstein & Co. said "a broad shift to low-cost computing is a long-term possibility".

The economy will certainly hurt the sale of new computers but I'm not one who thinks everyone will go the cheap route. I have learned that when you use something often enough you are better off spending money and getting a quality product. Sure, the casual PC user may opt for cheap, but the die-hard users, those who rely on their computers for work and pleasure will surely continue to spend what is needed to get a good product. That may or may not be the Adamo but I tend to think the line will be successful.

"Sony, Google Mount Challenge To Amazon Over Digital Books", Wall Street Journal, Vol. CCLIII, No. 64.,Thursday 19 March 2009, p. B5. By Geoffrey A. Fowler and Jessica E. Vascellaro.

"Read Our Lips: Sony, Google Take On Amazon's Kindle", ChannelWeb (

Google and Sony may mount a challenge but it I doubt it will be much more than a challenge to Amazon. Let's face it, the Kindlehas taken off. Just over a year old it is already in its second version. This coupled with the tie to the store at Amazon cinches the deal, in my opinion.

The model I use is the iPod. What is the iPod without iTunes? Nothing more than an mp3 player. There are and have been other mp3 players. Know anyone who has a Zune? Maybe, but probably not many. I actually have somewhere a Dell Digital Jukebox. It was heavy and large and lacking in style. I tried it but soon I converted to the iPod and iTunes and have never looked back.

The will be other eBook readers, some will be good, others not so good. But I suspect the Kindlewill be the iPod of eBook readers.

Google and Sony may have teamed but the books available from Google all are pre-1923. Here the Kindleclearly has the advantage. "The Sony and Google partnership isn't exclusive. [Google spokeswoman Jennie Johnson] said Google isn't in talks with Amazon about a similar deal for the Kindle, but was open to the idea." Clearly there is potential here.

From my troubleshooting I believe my DSL modem is dead or dying. It will work for a while then quit. If I unplug for a few seconds and then power it up again it will work for a while then die. So, last night I called AT&T Tech Support and they decided to send out a tech because it would be faster than sending me a new modem.

I had a "confirmed" appointment between 1:00 and 5:00 today. I say "confirmed" because according to AT&T "confirmed" means we are going to make up some stuff top make you happy and after you wait at home for us and we don't show we won't care. But, to make it sound really interesting we will call you to remind you of your "confirmed" appointment.

Well, this afternoon comes and goes, after we made sure someone was home all afternoon. I get in and call AT&T which is "experiencing an unusually high volume of calls". After holding they tell me the ticket is still "open". I ask what that means and they say "if a technician is still out he may come by". So "confirmed" means...absolutely nothing. Oh yes, they will call to remind me that they have an appointment scheduled but they do not call to let you know they will not be coming.

You would think that the "Work Management Center" could find out where the workers were but you would be wrong. Apparently the techs do not give their cell phones to AT&T.

So now I have another "confirmed" appointment for tomorrow morning. I can't find a DSL modem in stock around here or I would fix the problem myself. Come Monday I think it is time to call the cable company and see if they can offer me a better deal.

Bottom line, AT&T remains one of the worst-run companies I've dealt with. To be a telecommunications company they certainly communications capability. And the scary part is that they are among those who are going to roll out broadband and stimulate the economy. My friends, we are in trouble.

MyKindle 2

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I tend to be an early adopter of technology but put off the Kindle for a while. I wondered if it would really be that useful, if reading would be as easy as Amazon said it would be, and if I would enjoy it as much as the price would dictate. I did not buy the first Kindle but looked hard at the Kindle 2. I read about it before it was released and then looked at it and read reviews shortly after it was released. Finally, about a week ago, I place the order.

I requested overnight shipping with Saturday delivery. I was heading out of town and thought taking it with me would be a good test. The Kindle 2 arrived and I began to unbox it. Amazon seems to be taking lessons from Apple in terms packaging and the whole customer experience. The Kindle arrived as expected.

Kindle 1.jpg

I pulled the tear strip on the side of the box and folded back the top of the box to reveal another package. It was a black box as was the interior of the shipping container.

Kindle 2.jpg

I opened the inner container and found a cardboard top which I removed...

Kindle 3.jpg reveal the Kindle 2.

Kindle 4.jpg

I lifted it from the box and found the Quick Start booklet and the computer cable/AC adapter underneath.

Kindle 5.jpg

I then unpacked everything.

Kindle 6.jpg

I plugged the Kindle into the power adapter and removed the protective plastic cover.

When I turned on the Kindle for the first time I found some items were already pre-loaded. The user manual of course was already loaded. Why send a printed manual when the purpose of the device you just purchased is to read documents? I also found that the Kindle had already been registered to me so I was ready to make my first purchase.

So, what book did I first purchase? Why Great Powers by Thomas P M Barnett of course. I already had the hardback version but wanted it in Kindle format as well.

I took the Kindle with me on my trip and was able to read it a little bit. I found to be easy to read and enjoy the ability to vary the font size. I find that I usually read with the font set to the smallest size but as I get tired, or late at night, I will sometimes bump it up a size just to lessen the eye strain. I found it was easy to read in the car (not while driving of course). I also had it nearby during the meeting but did not have time to read it.

I did order a few accessories when I ordered the Kindle 2 but I opted for 2-Day delivery on them. Being an Amazon Prime member 2-day shipping was free and I really no need for the accessories until Monday. The accessories I purchased were the Amazon Kindle 2 Leather Cover
to keep the screen from getting scratched while in my computer bag, and the Mighty Bright XtraFlex2 Clip-On Light so I can read in the dark, on planes, etc. The light is necessary for low-light conditions because the screen is called electronic paper. It is not backlit which makes it easier to read for long periods of time.

As best I can tell, this is not a purchase I will regret. I always have a book or four nearby and with the Kindle 2 I can have some 1500 books with me. When I travel I will often pack 3 or 4 books just to have variety. I take the one I am currently reading and plan to finish it on the trip. I usually pack the next book I want to start, and then I will often pack one or two optional books.

With the Kindle I will be able to greatly reduce the weight of my bags, and be able to negotiate airports much easier. Any time I get on a plane I either have a book in hand or have one in my bag. If it is in my hand then I have to negotiate the boarding pass, the coffee cup, and the carry-on. The hardback books (I seldom anything but) can be difficult to manipulate without tearing the dust jacket. The Kindle will be much easier to manipulate plus it will eliminate the need to get into my carry-on in-flight to get the next book out.

There are a couple of things I'd like to see incorporated for the Kindle. First I'd like to have some reference to the page number of the physical book. Right now all the Kindle shows is the section which is a good reference but is not he page number. If the page number were available it would make it easier to discuss works in book clubs and also allow for referencing pages in academic works. I don't think many journals would accept a footnote referencing a section of the Kindle book...not just yet anyway.

Another feature I would like to see is the bundling of hard copy with electronic copy. I still like the look and feel of real live books that you can put on the shelf. I doubt I'll ever give up on them completely, but there is something to be said for the convenience of having them on the Kindle too. Although most Kindle books are only $9.99, some are more expensive, especially some of the newer books. For example, I paid almost as much for the Kindle version of Great Powers as I did the hardback version. I would gladly buy a hardback book and then pay $5 or $6 more to get the Kindle version with it. Perhaps Amazon is reading. (If not, I've emailed them already.)

What's on my Kindle now? Here are the books I have purchased to date:
Great Powers by Thomas P M Barnett
The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman
Winston Churchill by John Keegan
Types of Naval Officers, Drawn from the History of the British Navy by Alfred Thayer Mahan
Character & Success by Theodore Roosevelt
The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 - with all maps and illustrations by Alfred Thayer Mahan
UR by Stephen King
The Holy Bible English Standard Version (ESV)
US Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Bill of Rights, and Guide to US Government
by MobileReference

Along with the documents that came with the Kindle:
Welcome Letter from Jeff Bezos
Kindle 2 User's Guide
The New Oxford American Dictionary

Page is Fixed

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It took the help of the experts at Movable Type at Six Apart to get me back on track (man they are good) but everything seems to be working fine now. The root cause of the problem was some unclosed html code in some of the entries. Actually, it was closed but when I was posting Iwas tired and the font was too small so I transposed some slashes and brackets.

Another problem developed in my attempts to repair the problem. I ended up doing a fresh install to a new locaion on my site and that broke some code that the experts caught and repaired.

Thanks Movable Type!

What Happened to the Page?

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Okay. I know the blog page is hosed up. I dont how it happened or how to fix it at this point. I have tried to apply new styles with no luck. I have even reverted to the default MT4 templates to see if that would fix it. No joy. All of the entries and archives are at the bottom of the page, not on the left.

No time to mess with it now but I'll work on it later.

I have finished well mostly finished, reclaiming shelf space in my many bookcases. I've spent the last couple of days tossing out old magazines and resolved to only keep the last year of most of them. When a new issue comes in, the oldest will go out. Exceptions are Naval Institute Proceedings and American Interest.

Using my Fujitsu ScanSnap Scanner I scanned all of my Naval War College notes and books, my Advanced Joint Professional Military Education notes, and a few other things. When all is said and done I have an extra 117-3/4 inches of shelf space.

Privacy and Advertising

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11 February 2003

I'm willing to surrender a little privacy to gain a little convenience and eliminate much of the unwanted advertising I have to put with now. With the technology available, why do I still get calls wanting me to call an 800 number to find out about a vacation that is priced too low to disclose on my answering machine?

I would really like to eliminate most of the advertising I'm exposed to but I know that will never happen. Given that fact, then why not tailor the information to me. I have certain tastes and preferences. I like many different types of music but have never cared for country; why try to sell me a country CD? I like coffee and prefer the really dark and strong kind, a Folgers ad is a waste of time and money for me.

One of my favorite stores is The reason is really quite simple, I like books and Amazon is pretty good at letting me know when there is a book available that might interest me. The system is not perfect but it is pretty good and seems to be getting a little better. I can rate the books and music I purchased and that is used to determine if I might like a newly released book. The system is not perfect and it has missed some books that I would love to buy but it beats being bombarded with all kinds of notices that do not interest me.

The movie Minority Report shows advertising at its best. Walking down the street the billboards change to show you the ads that interest you. When you enter a store you are greeted by name and some items could be suggested to you.

Snap, Crackle, and Pop!

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11 January 2003

Okay, I must have missed something along the way. A few days ago I read a story about some software that allows the user to add noise, noise as in scratchy sounds, to digitally recorded music. So there is now software that allows you to take crystal clear digital music and add scratches, pops, and crackles. Unbelievable! Why would anyone possibly want this?

Somewhere, hidden behind several layers boxes and even more layers of dust, is my collection of albums; those twelve inch diameter disks of vinyl that I collected as a teenager and as a young adult. I certainly recall the pops that came from scratches and the hiss that came from static electricity and dust. I hated it, and it seems most everyone else hated it as well, for in that same box of albums you would also find a collection of sprays, cloths, static discharge devices, brushes and even specially coated sleeves, all designed and purchased with the intent of reducing the effects of dust and static on the records.

I remember that when cassette tapes first became popular I couldn't wait to switch to them because they would not suffer from the same static and scratch problems as did the vinyl records. Of course there were problems with cassette tapes too which were soon to be reduced by Dolby technology to eliminate that incessant hiss.

Compact disks were a godsend. Now I could truly listen to music without the hiss, without the pops, and not have to worry so much about the scratches as I once did. The CD's were also easier to store and carry than either tapes or vinyl disks. I can convert them to mp3's and listen to them on my computer and even download them to my Nomad II mp3 player which is much smaller than the once popular Sony Walkman, of which I had several.

But now people want to add noise to their clear digitally recorded music? I may have missed something along the way but I certainly have not missed the crackle and pop of music recorded on vinyl or the hiss of music recorded on tape. I'm just waiting now for someone to come up with the software that will add the click-click that happened when the 8-track players would change tracks (usually in the middle of a song). I'm afraid that before long someone is going to develop a device that you can add to your television so that you can watch shows in black and white with snowy and wavy pictures.

Well, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to listen to some mp3's and if I get an urge to hear some snaps, crackles, or pops, I'll go for fix myself a bowl of Rice Krispies.

From Engineer to Weatherman

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This was actually written for the Mississippi Engineering Society Newletter when I was President under the President's column entitled "M.E.S.sage"

01 January 2001

It started with the intent of showing how engineers are involved in things most people would never think of and maybe showing a little bit of the fun side of engineering. A professional engineer, working in New York City, had the responsibility of determining if the winds were within acceptable limits for the balloon floats used in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The article was developed by the firm NSPE has contracted with to improve the image of the engineer.

The article was printed in the New York Times, included a photograph of the engineer, and was picked up by several media outlets across the nation. One radio station read the article and talked about it on the air. This radio station wanted more information so they called a local university for some comments. They ended up talking to someone in the geography department of the university. The article mentioned meteorology and this is what the radio station picked up on. There inquiry was directed to the geography department because that is the department that houses meteorology.

Was the article a failure? Some could argue that it was because it did not result in more favorable coverage of the engineer. I would argue that results of the article illustrates how profoundly misunderstood the image of the engineer and engineering really is. Why did the radio station call a university about meteorology rather than engineering? Is it perhaps because the radio station thought a meteorologist would interview better on radio? Perhaps it is just because the radio station didn't know enough about the situation to call and ask for an engineer.

Improving the image of ourselves and our profession is not an attempt to make a bad image into a good image. Polls show that most people think well of engineers, at least that we are ethical. No, the problem is not having a bad image, the problem is having a misunderstood image. What concerns me most about our misunderstood image is that our leaders in society may turn to those who have less knowledge about a problem rather than ask a qualified engineer. I also worry that with an image that is misunderstood, we may not attract some fine young people into the profession.

Gaining the image we want to have is going to be a long road. The recent attempts to get some positive attention may not have had the desired affect, it did serve to illustrate the degree of the problem we are facing. There are no quick fixes and, although we can use outside help, the bulk of the work remains with us. As engineers we must always project an image of the calm, understanding professionals we are. We must make efforts to explain ourselves in terms that can be easily understood by those lacking the depth of education we have attained. Only then will the public's perception of our profession change.

"Colleges, Offices Scrap Landlines," by Greg Latshaw. USA Today, Tuesday, 30 December 2008.

Colleges elsewhere may be going to cell phones, but not in Mississippi. Our legislature is afraid that there might be some "personal benefit" from having cell phones. The article does point out that there is a tax law that makes accounting for personal and business use of the phone cumbersome but that can be easily solved by the Congress.

Currently I have a landline in my office and a personal cell phone. I oftentimes use my personal cell phone rather than the landline because it is less expensive and easier. If I need to call students, even they may be just down the hall, I have to dial the number, enter my PIN for long-distance calls, and then verify each month that the calls were business related. Not only are landlines cumbersome, we do not even have decent calling plans with them.

"State Face New Imperative: Turn to Global, Entrepreneurial and Innovation-based 'New Economy' to Boost Competitiveness," PA Times, Vol 31, No. 12, p. 1, December 2008 (American Society for Public Administration)

I was disappointed, but not surprised, to find that Mississippi was ranked at the bottom of this list along with West Virginia. The 2008 State New Economy index is compiled and released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation as a measure not of how a state's economy is performing but rather how they are embracing the new economy. It focuses on a single, narrow question: "To what degree does the structure of state economies match the ideal structure of the New Economy?"

One of the key factors driving the New Economy is the information technology revolution which is measured by the index. The states at the top of the list tend to be states with "a high concentration of managers, professionals and college-educated residents working in 'knowledge jobs'--those that require at least a two-year degree." Obviously the vast majority of this state fails to meet these criteria. Other states such as North Carolina are ranked lower than expected (25th), according to the article, due their concentrations of high-tech. In a sense that is also true of Mississippi. Our high-tech areas are concentrated and, while they are as high tech as any, they represent a small percentage of the population.

The concern is not so much where Mississippi is ranked now but the fact that Mississippi led the way in states that declined in their performance from the last survey in 2007. While 36 improved, 11 declined. Mississippi fell "in twice as many indicators as it increased, while Wyoming and Indiana also fell." Given this is the "New Economy" it is not going to go away so every state should be getting better, not worse. Mississippi has, in my opinion, focused far too long on the old economy (attracting automobile fabricators and their associated support industries, rather than focusing on the high-tech, new economy. This is not true in all of the state; the area around Mississippi State for example, has seen some high-tech industries develop. But it represents a small portion of the state.

To turn things around the elected officials in Jackson are going to have to change the way they think and focus on long-term goals. That is difficult for a state in which I have repeatedly heard elected officials say they did not want to tie the hands of those to be elected in the future. That kind of backwards thinking limits how progressive a state can be when long-term strategic planning needs to be done.

MSU interimm president to hold interactive chats

This was first titled "MSU interim president to hold Web chats" but was changed when a commenter pointed out it was not the web. It is an easy mistake to make though. After all, in this day and age anyone else would have had a web chat with questions submitted either on-line (similar to the web conference I was involved in yesterday!) or email them in. Going to extension centers for this? Give me a break. I think is more about solidifying Ag support rather than getting word out.

The word that comes to my mind is--disappointing. I also fear that our future is going to look a lot like our past. But hey, it's just my personal opinion.

CWID 2008 MPC Day 1

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The CWID Mid-Planning Conference (MPC) began to day. There is a lot of work for us to do to get ready for the exercise in June, but it is fun.

The guest speaker today was Major General Koen A. Gijsbers, Royal Netherlands Army. He spoke about interoperability between nations and pointed out that single nation warfare was essentially a thing of the past. I must say that I agree with him. We have all become too interconnected and the communications technology has brought so much news, so quickly, that it does seem unlikely any major power will go to war alone.

Given the audience he was speaking to, interoperability was a key point. As he stated: We do not do a very good job of communicating between services within a nation; in fact we do not always do a good job of communicating between branches within a single service, so how can we communicate and operate better between nations? This is indeed the purpose of CWID.

General Gijsbers mention one general officer who had 7 computers (and many phones as well) on his desk because they were all attached to different networks and different domains. Although technology would allow them to be interconnected, policies and standard operating procedures would not allow it. He correctly stated that we must not only work the technology side of interoperability; we must also work the policy side. In fact, I wonder if the policy will not prove to be the most difficult piece of the puzzle.

BZ to our SysAdmin

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A Bravo Zulu for our SysAdmin. He came in early on a Saturday morning to get me connected to the network so I could have the appropriate user profile set up for reinstalling my programs. Given I'm leaving town, it was very kind of him to come in and help me.

But First!

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When things are going well, then you know you are in trouble. I was nearly complete with my configuration of my M1530 and had most everything installed. I then loaded PGP Whole Disk Encryption. I ran into an installation error and PGP WDE recommended that I uninstall the software and reinstall. I did the uninstall but when I tried to boot, I got the screen asking for my PGP password. I never entered one. In fact, the program never fully installed.

It was getting into he afternoon on Friday and I was worried. I emailed PGP tech Support (they do not list a phone number to call) but figured I would not get a response for a while. The university closed early due to pending inclement weather, so I headed home.

Once I got home I called Dell XPS tech support and got a guy who was helpful, easy to understand, located in Phoenix, and had lots of stories to tell. After minimal troubleshooting he gave me the news I knew was coming…reformat and reinstall the OS. Arrrgh! Off we went. We loaded the Windows Vista DVD and began to repartition the hard drive and install the OS. All was going well and then we tried to install Dell Media Direct 3.5. The software prompted for disk partition information. Uh oh! Yep, the tech confirmed that we should have installed MediaDirect 3.5 first. After I opened the sealed bag containing the disk and the manual, I too saw that is what we needed to do. The instructions pretty much read do A, then B, but first, do C! So, off to reinstall again.

We finally got everything up and running, the XPS Tech Support was top notch—hence why I paid for the XPS machine (but I didn’t think I would need to use so quickly).

Dell has regained my confidence based on their order support and tech support. If they can only get the manufacturing piece of the puzzle fixed they would be 100%.

Props for Dell

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I’ll give my props where the props are due. I received my XPS M1530 and it is all due to two people who work in Dell Customer Service. It was indeed an ordeal getting the computer, and it was delayed, in fact the reorder had been cancelled and re-ordered extending the delivery date even more. One person at Dell in particular did some hard work, found out what the problem, had the order expedited, and I got the computer today. Without her help, it would have been another two weeks.

As for how I like it? So far; so good. Now to set everything up.

Love my Tom Tom

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I knew that having my Tom Tom navigation system that my wife gave me for Christmas would be fun, and I had hoped that it would be useful. Today it proved to be both. I am in New Orleans for drill and this is the first time for me to drill here and it has been a long time since I was in New Orleans.

I left a little later than I expected so I got stuck on I-10 in rush hour traffic and my gas was getting low. I figured I could make it to the hotel on a tank of gas but it would be close. Since I like living on the edge every now and then I thought I’d try it out. Well, as I sat in traffic I started to doubt I could make it all the way and I did want to be sitting in traffic waiting for AAA to deliver gas. So, I punched the screen a time or two and the Tom Tom was displaying the gas stations near me. I told it to navigate to one and I got there without a problem. Then I told Tom Tom to navigate to the hotel, expecting it to take me back to the Interstate. Nope, it found a faster route (especially given traffic) through some back roads.

It is a great toy and even greater tool. Thanks Sara!


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I’m not very happy with Dell today. Around the first of December I ordered two computers, one for my daughter and one for myself. My daughter’s computer was a pink Inspiron and it had a ship date of 12/26. Low and behold, Dell lived up to the tradition I knew it for and the computer arrived a week or so early. Now my computer, an XPS 1530, was ordered at the same time and was not shipped early. In fact, on the 26th, its original ship date, I got email saying it had been delayed and the new ship date was 01/04/2008. No explanation was given for the delay. I’ve emailed and tried to call to see if there was some component that was holding things up, hoping a slight change in specifications would get an earlier ship date. No joy. No one can tell me what the problem is.

Checking on-line does no good. The only status I get is “In Production”. A few years ago you used to be able to track your computer build on-line. I remember watching an order mover from order verification, to kitting, to assembly, on through to burn-in and shipping. I can’t recall all of the steps involved but there were many steps involved and you could check on-line to see exactly where your computer was. Now, they can’t even tell me what the delay is.

My first thought was that there was a Christmas rush. But I checked the Dell blogs and saw a comment from a guy who ordered his XPS 1530 several days AFTER I ordered mine and he received his in 3 days. No explanation.

I’m not coming down on Dell too hard but it would be nice to have a little more explanation and even a little more notice. Did they just realize on the 26th that there was going to be a delay? I doubt it. And the irony of all of this is that I ordered an XPS simply because the XPS systems have better customer service. I really do not enjoy talking to people at a call center who have little knowledge of what they are doing and use assumed American names. Come on people, we all know you are most likely in India so please use your real name. Your accent tips Americans off that you are not “Allen”, “Jethro”, or “Melissa” so educate the Americans and help those with trouble learn to pronounce your real name.

I Hate Computers!

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I had a colleague a few years ago who was a computer fanatic but he always said, "Computers will never catch on; they're too complicated." I have to admit I agree with him.

Friday night I noticed the speakers on my computer were not working (the desktop, not the laptop). I did some troubleshooting but didn't come up with anything. On Saturday, after fiddling with it a little more, I fired up a chat session with Dell Tech Support. Believe it or not there was a wait time of zero minutes. It was instantaneous! After a brief discussion, the tech suggested I run some diagnostics on the hard drive (why didn't I think of that!?). We suspended the chat for me to run the diags. Interestingly the hard drives passed the first tests so I dug a little further and then drive errors started popping up everywhere.

My first thought was that the drive was falling apart as I watched, so I immediately began off-loading my important files (okay, my life) to an external drive. I then off-loaded the less essential stuff. After that I contacted Dell via chat again. Unfortunately this wait was a little longer...three hours. However, it took about two minutes for us to agree that the hard drive was toast and Dell is sending me a new one.

I tend to be a little impatient so I went out Saturday night and bought a new drive, a bigger one, and installed it. I was able to clone the image of the old drive and on Sunday was able boot from the new drive. The sound problem was still there so I did the old uninstall the software/reinstall the software trick and now it is all working. When the new disk Dell arrives I'll use it to replace my secondary drive. My fear was that I was going to have to do a complete reinstall of Windows which would then beg the question of upgrading to Vista or not. The real concern was not so much reinstalling Windows XP but of having to reinstall AND reconfigure all of the software I use.

The part that bothers me is that I have to return the old drive to Dell. I can understand why--they don't want people feigning disk trouble just to get an additional disk--but the disk does have data that I worry about getting out. So, I am currently wiping the drive using bcwipe. It should take a day or so to take care of everything but I really am not interested in my tax returns finding their way onto a website somewhere.


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Dateline: Home Study

I received my iPod today, the 80Gb video version in black. I regrettably gave up on my Dell Digital Jukebox and went over to the iPod. The reasons were several. Dell no longer sells the Digital Jukebox and there are dozens of other mp3 players out there. I wonder how long I could expect the other brands to survive. But Apple seems to have gottin it right. The Dell DJ was heavy and bulky, but functional. The iPod is just as functional, smaller, and lighter.

I've switced over from MusicMatch to iTunes and am getting more familiar with the iTunes interface. iTunes also has some of the tunes I want but have not been able to find on MusicMatch. I also like the business model of iTunes--the software is free and you only pay for the songs. MusicMatch charged if you wanted the more functional version of the software, charged for upgrades, and charged for the songs.

Dateline: Home Study

Today was a great day in many ways. The Space Shuttle returned to flight as Discovery was launched. It was the first launch on July 4th and, I suspect, television viewership may have been up some given it was a holiday (assuming everyone was not out at a picnic).

The disappointing part of the event for me was when NASA Administrator Mike Griffin was asked at the post-launch press briefing what his feelings were when the Shuttle launched. His response was that he would have time for feelings when he was dead; right now he had too much work to do. What a missed opportunity!

One the things that engineering is in dire need of, is more excitement. To attract more to the profession we must show the public what engineering is truly like. We need to let people know that it is fun, that it is rewarding, that it opens the door to many other jobs, and that it is worth doing all the hard work to get an engineering degree. Most any engineer over the age of 40 (possibly even younger) is likely to say that the reason they chose engineering was because of the space program.

Launching a Space Shuttle is complex task. It required many people doing many different jobs to come together at just the right time to make it happen. At launch surely everyone who played a role felt something, even if it was just a sense satisfaction from completing a job. But based on the hugs and handshakes I saw being passed around in the control room on NASA TV, I think more than satisfaction was felt. Heck, even I was excited and I had nothing to do with the launch. Why couldn't the Administrator of NASA have said what he felt when the Shuttle launched? Such a great opportunity lost!


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Dateline: Home Study

While looking for a podcast by Thomas Barnett on TCSDaily, I ran across one of Henry Petroski. Petrsoki is one of my favorite engineer authors who is able to get at the heart of engineering and seems to understand that it really is more than just numbers.


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Dateline: Home Study

It is good sport these days to bash Microsoft. Bill Gates has been successful, Microsoft Windows is running the vast majority of computers today, and it is apparently just fun for the media to pick on the company. But the facts don’t support it. The Washington Post reports that, according to US-CERT, there were 812 flaws found in Windows in 2005 but 2,328 flaws were found in non-Windows operating systems, specifically the varieties of Unix which include Macs. Given the comparison of users of Windows to users of Unix, I’d say the incidences of flaws in Windows are far, far, far less than for Unix.

Dateline: Home Office

Reuters reports that a Russian astrologist, Marina Bai, plans to sue NASA for $300 million because crashing Deep Impact into the comet Tempel 1 altered her horoscope and interferes with her astrology work. Heavens (pun intended), this lady is so bad at horoscopes that she failed to "see in the stars" that this comet was about to be hit. Now that's what I call some fine predicting.

Perhaps a little more newpaper gazing and a little less star gazing are in order.


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Dateline: Home Study

Much of today was spent upgrading an old computer. My wife has grown increasingly more frustrated with her aging iMac so I decided to go ahead and upgrade an old Dell P-4 I have sitting around. Okay, and I was also tired of the old sitting around. To make life easier I just reformatted the hard drive and did a clean install of Windows XP Pro followed by all the service packs and updates. I then installed Office XP, Norton Firewall and Anti-Virus, and Eudora. I did the light version of Eudora for her since she is not a power email user. I started to go ahead and convert her to Outlook for email but I like (and use) Eudora so much and she is familiar with it, that I just had to stick with the program.

All in all it was not a difficult process. It was a bit time consuming and hence one of the reason I upgrade my hardware a while back. For what she does though it will work fine. Now, I just have find a solitaire game that she will like (not sure the built-in version is good enough for her).

DSL Fixed

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It took a little while but the BellSouth tech was finally convinced that there was indeed a problem and after several discussion between me, my ISP, him and his boos, he decided to switch ports for my line. Interestingly enough, the problem was fixed! Why it took some four weeks to get that done is a problem with technology and the people who work in the business.

There is too great a tendancy to blame someone/something else, in this case it was inside wiring. I had done plenty of troubleshooting and knew the wiring was not the problem. When you have a brand new wire running straight from the NID to the back of the modem with the line running into the house disconnected and the problem persists, the problem is not inside wiring.

I'm just thankful it's fixed and hopefully will stay fixed.

DSL Still Not working

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Looks like it will be cable modem tomorrow. DSL is still not working (lost my previous post) and I've reached my level of frustration. I realize the problem is with BellSouth and not with my ISP but it has been one full week and nothing has been done to fix the problem other than try to track people down. I promised I'd give them until Monday and I'll wait but I had better have a date that the service will be fixed or its cable broadband.

Still having DSL problems

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The DSL problems continue. I was told that the BellSouth guy would be out today to look at things and instead I got a message this afternoon that my problem had been elevated to tier 2 service and a new guy would get with me and have the BellSouth guy come look it over. I'm sorely tempted to just say screw it, bit the bullet, swallow my pride, and call the cable company. I prefer DSL over cable but iff DSL is not working then cable is preferable. I can't afford a nother week of not being able to do what I need to do. So, when the guy calls tomorrow I think my response will be I'll stay with you if you can get my DSL fixed quicker than the cable company can get me on-line. I hate to do it but when fiber is essentially located in my backyard (really, not more than 500 feet from my house) and I can't keep a connection at night.

I'm also getting tired othe excuse that it is inside wiring. I know it is not inside wiring, I know it is an intermittent problem, and I know it may well be a difficult problem to solve, but solve it! I can have new cable in the house in no time and it will cost nothing to install. Cable is looking better al the time.

Other than that, we had a senior staff meeting today and reviewed some benchmarks with other universities. There is certainly room for improvement, who can't get b etter, but I think we are doing pretty good. What we really need is good, solid support from the University and the State, support which both would like to give but can't within the existing budget. Funny, we are a 127 year old institution and we can't decide what we want to be when we grow up.

Computers Will Never Catch On!

The more I work with them the more I think that computers are a passing fad and will never catch on--becasue they are too dang complicated! Okay, I being a bit facetious, but they do have a way of wrecking a day or two.

I've been having trouble with my ADSL connection the last few weeks. We first thought it was a DSL problem, waited a week for BellSouth to come check it while also noting that during the wait the modem went bad (as evidenced by flashing lights everywhere). No prob. New modem arrived, BellSouth said connection was fine, so off I went--for a few days. Then the same thing happened again, intermittent connection followed by no connection, no synch.

I called my ISP and we discussed possible causes and heard lots of static on the phone line. Thought maybe that was the problem so another call to BellSouth (a different repair organization this time) to come check the line noise. Found a very old wire outside that had broken and seemed to cause static when the wind blew. Got that fixed but still no DSL. Could it be, no, surely not anotehr dead modem? Yep, another bad modem.

Had the ISP shop me another one overnight (Saturday delivery no less). Arrived this morning before I had to leave for a meeting and I got installed this afternoon. I'm back up and running again. Internet Doorway (Netdoor) was very helpful in solving the problem and working with me. My only concern was that it took BellSouth so long to look at it for me. Of course it only takes minutes to test it but it takes a week for them to come out and fix it. You would think they would eventually eliminate the backlog.

We think the modem died as a result of a power surge. We had some storms pass through earlier this week and that may have killed it. The storm casued some damage around town, including to the Raspet Flight Research Lab. It blew off part of the roof and broke the glass in the control tower. I also noticed some banners on light poles around campus were also missing.

Limitied Connectivity

Have spent the last several hours on the phone with my ISP tech support. I've been having DSL connectivity problems the last several weeks and the level of frustration hit me tonight and prompted the call. First you have to work through the troubleshooting which you've already done and going through it again is always frustrating. Fortunately the tech realized I seemed to know what I was doing and when I told I had already tried something he believed me.

We finally narrowed it down to a line problem somewhere so BellSouth will be out before Thursday night to check the line from the house. Before BellSouth tested the line I was at least getting some connectivity every now and then. After the test I was getting noting. I tried to power cycle one more time and then the modem crapped out on me. LEDs flashing everywhere. So, I also have a new modem on he way.

Right now I am limited to dial-up and I hate it. Life without broadband is not worth much but I hope to be back up to speed soon.

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