Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2007

Clean Transportation Enlightenment

Today I was reading about power cosumption and CO2 emissions, and I ran across a blog entry from someone in Holland. Apparently he was going to travel to a consumer conference that was 100 kilometers away and had to decide if he should drive or take the train. His decision was to take the train because it was more environmentally friendly and economical than driving.

Like many people, I am skeptical of the argument that a train is more friendly than a car. Right? Cars have catalytic converters and all sorts of emission controls that reduce their output. There aren't any hefty catalytic converters on diesel locomotives.

So I decided to run some numbers and do a little research.


I assumed that the fella was taking a magnetic levitation train because that's what I'd like to do. Eventhough there isn't a maglev train in Holland that could have been used, I calculated it anyway.

According to Wikipedia, a maglev train consumes…

My Toilet Ratted Me Out

I found a story on that struck my funny bone. Tongue and cheek aside, though, this article is very poignant about our future in the developed world. It's not entirely unlikely that your entire life will be recorded by a camera. You can't go anywhere today without being seen by a camera.

Dumb cameras don't scare me. Sure you can make them auto-track and interface with a computer that knows where you are. Okay, big deal. Maybe Tom Hanks cares about that more than me. What does concern me is the growing interest in supposed smart home devices.

The BBC article made a cheeky comment about a toilet that knows when a woman is pregnant before she knows. Harumpf you say, that's a good thing. Well, how about if you're a cocaine user and your lovely smart commode decides to check on your drug use and then rat you out to the cops.

Worst yet, let's say you do get the fancy John, and you love that it tells you that your blood sugar is too high, or that you're eatin…

Communication Addiction

As of this writing, I have a daughter who is in her early teen years. At her junior high school, most of her friends and schoolmates have cellular phones with SMS ability. Like good parents should, we held off getting her a phone because it was not necessary. There's no situation in her life where a cell phone would be mission critical. It would be fashion-critical for elevating her "cool factor," but nothing more.

Recently, now that she is starting high school, we've relinquished her starvation diet and granted her a pay as you go cellular phone with an affordable SMS plan. At first, we made her pay for every little use of the phone, such as voice calls and SMS messages. I felt this would be a good lesson in resource usage for her. Being a kid, she has no external income, so her allowance was the only source of money for the phone.

When she got the phone, she immediately started to text her friends, and vice versa. She knew that her plan required her to pay for every …

Someone Is Finally Listening

This is going to be a short posting. Check out this BBC report:

Focus on carbon 'missing the point'

Finally a policy maker has articulated a voice for reason on the topic of global warming. CO2 is not the only game. Despite what Al Gore thinks, changing our production of CO2 will not produce the "golden ticket" solution to global climate change.

If Al had said that in the first place, then he would not have produced his award winning documentary. Then he wouldn't have been able to consume lots of jet fuel and produce lots of CO2 flying around the world on his anti-CO2 tirade. Then he wouldn't have been able to raise millions selling his DVDs, which are made using oil while producing CO2, and end up filling our land fills with more non-recyclable junk that lasts thousands of years.

If I Only Had A Human Eyeball ...

A news story on BBC News struck me as peculiar today. Witchcraft arrest in Mozambique is the title of this noteworthy story. It's really about the trade of human remains for religious ritual. How odd that in the year 2007 we have a country where human remains are trafficked to the point of requiring legislation.

Isn't it just an obvious wrong to kill people and sell their remains in the name of some religious craft? When there is no other money to be made, why not turn to your neighbor as a source of income, right? Heck, he's not using that other leg anyway!

All humor aside, this is a very serious situation. Not only is it yet another stain on Africa's diverse and rich cultures, but it's another shining example of bad human behavior against other humans in Africa. Maybe more free laptops will help stop this tragedy of human violence. Nicholas Negroponte, hear their cries! Send them free laptops so they can google non-human magical potion recipes.

If you do read the wh…

WMS9 Development

As one of my consulting services, I develop WMS9 server plugins. If any of you has ever tried to develop a plugin for the Microsoft Media Server, you know that there is very little documentation for it, and very little support.

Recently, one of my clients setup a new Windows Server 2003 Enterprise system and tried to deploy our plugins to it. As you can imagine, the plugins did not work. While the other Micorosoft supplied plugins worked, my plugins reported error 0xc00d157d. You should try to google for that error code to see what you find.

The WMS log console shows that my plugins are reporting a binding error, yet the popup error message reports that it's a .NET runtime version error. Which path to choose?

For about a week, both me and my client's IT staff looked feverishly for a fix. Sometimes they blamed my code, sometimes we cursed Microsoft, and other times we looked to the heavens ala Google searching. Nothing seemed to work.

When I tried using the fusion log viewer, and w…

Clustered Foolishness

I had morning coffee with a well respected friend of mine recently. Aside from chatting about the usual wifery and family, we touched on the subject of clustered indices and SQL Server performance.

A common misconception in the software industry is that a clustered index will make your database queries faster. In fact, most cases will demonstrate the polar opposite of this assumption. The reason for this misconception is a misunderstanding of how the clustered index works in any database server.

A clustered index is a node clustering of records that share a common index value. When you decide on an index strategy for your data, you must consider the range of data to be indexed. Remember back to your data structures classes and what you were taught about hashtable optimizations.

A hashtable, which is another way of saying a database index, is just a table of N values that organizes a set of M records in quickly accessible lists that are of order L, where L is significantly less than M. If…

A Valuation of Earth, Inc.

Stock speculation is a big business. Trillions of dollars are exchanged on a daily basis in the stock market. If you're savvy, you can make some serious cash buying and selling stock, either short or long.

What is stock? Well, it's ownership in a company. If you own 1 share of stock in a company that has 100 shares, then you own 1% of that company. That's easy to understand, right?

Real estate is really the same idea, except that your company is The Planet Earth. So, how much stock is available in Earth, Inc? Let's start with a unit of stock that would represent a detached home on the planet. For this, let's say is a quarter of an acre.

There are 148,939,100 square kilometers of surface land on Earth [1]. Now we need to find out how many acres are on the Earth so that we can determine the number of shares in the company.

1 acre = 4046.85 sq meters [2]
1 sq-km = 1,000,000 sq meters
1 acre = 0.00404685 sq km

For simplicity, let's create 1 share of surface as 0.25 acres.…

Google Me This. Google Me That.

Today one of the headlines from MSNBC puts this little startup named "" into the public eye. The news pundits claim that this little company is actually a "biotech," but I disagree. The apparent business plan for this company is to provide novel and helpful technologies for you, their customer, to understand your personal genome. That's fun, just like in the blockbuster movie "Gattaca," you can share your genomic inequities with your future girlfriend or boyfriend. Although, once they find out that you have a genetic marker for a debilitating disease, they will likely not choose you as a mate. Thus begins the Age of Eugenics.

This company, 23andme, caught my attention because it received $4,000,000 (million) US dollars from our most favorite public company, Google. Apparently this $4M is just pocket change for Google, otherwise why would it fritter it away on such a bad business plan?

What you may not know is that the co-founder of "23an…

Fresh Water Crisis

In 2007, there are about 6.5 billion humans on the planet. Each of those humans needs about 48 oz of water each day to survive. That's about 6 cups of water for 6.5 billion humans. That comes out to about 2,437,500,000 gallons of fresh water each and every day consumed by humans.

Next we have toilets and waste water treatment. In the USA and other toileted countries, we use fresh water as our "pot" water. Each flush is about 1 gallon of water. In the USA, every citizen flushes the toilet about once per day, so that's about 300,000,000 gallons of waste water used each day. Add in Europe at 350,000,000 gallons, and we're up to over 3 billion gallons of water used every day. I don't know what the usage would be for the other areas of the planet, so I will estimate that it will increase the usage to 4 billion gallons.

There are a few trillion gallons of water in the Antarctic ice cap. One trillion gallons of fresh water would give the entire world about 250 days of…

Inconvenient Confusion

You probably know that Al Gore won an oscar for his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth." I didn't understand why it would have won given that there were so many other far better documentaries in 2006. As fortune would have it, the documentary was running on a premium channel recently, so me and the family watched it.

I have a mix of emotions about this documentary. First, as a critic of film entertainment, I did not like its production. The central theme of the documentary is Al Gore giving a talk about global warming. There is footage of him actually giving this legendary talk, much like you would see in a recorded distance learning lecture. Only, this lecture was not educational, it was political. Second, the claims are confusingly misinformed and motivated politically.

You've likely read my position on global warming as a man-made doomsday scenario. Al Gore apparently believes that global warming is much akin to the ozone hole of the 80's. He even goes as far…

Full Disclosure

I am sure that I share a common sentiment with my fellow Americans with regard to our Presidential Office. When we elect a new president, we get with it a handfull of appointments to the cabinet that are critical to the functioning of the government. Yet, when we do elect an official to become President, we do so without knowing who it is they are going to appoint to the cabinet.

For instance, there is the Secretary of Defense. This person is pretty powerful in the world political theatre. The President relies upon the Secretary of Defense to decide if a military action is necessary and winnable during an international complaint. If the President appoints some cracked-pot war monger, then we are stuck with it. Americans have the right to know who will fill this position with a new President.

Then there is the Secretary of State. This person is like the head ambassador to all nations in the world as we know it. When this secretary makes a visit to a nation, they are treated as if the Pre…

MeToo Apple

So many people think that Apple is the "de facto innovator" in personal electronics. It pains me physically to hear people exclaim "oh what a wonderful idea" when they see some nifty little white gadget from Apple.

Today the news is a-buzz about the AppleTV. Why this thing is so wonderful, I will never understand. Apple is yet another Johnny Come-Later implementor of the media-fusion device. The first of its kind was the Tivo, which was just a computer that could decode MPEG and interface with a television set. Then came Microsoft MediaCenter. Typical of Microsoft, though, it was confusing and not marketed very well. The home user didn't understand how to use MediaCenter because it wasn't packaged. Then came all of the open-source knockoffs of the Tivo device. They're the lunatic fringe, so they don't really account for any market. Then came the XBox 360, which was Microsoft's way of packaging MediaCenter into a fun and useful console. Grante…

Are You 2896 Ready?

Here's something weird. I'm on Windows Vista again, and developing with VisualStudio 2005. I create my MSI several times each day and install it. But tonight on Vista, I got this weird error. What's worst is that I didn't discover this error until after I found a lame MSI hack from an MSDN blog.

So I am installing my MSI, and it gets to the very end and pops up an error message. The error code is 2896. That's all I got was that lame error code. 2896. Go to google and do a search on "windows vista error 2896." You'll find the blog that leads to a solution to decoding the error.

Turns out that this error message is really because the software I am installing is marked for deletion by Vista. Since I did not change the MSI version number, and did not change the product code, Vista thought it was installing the exact same product, which I had just uninstalled. Apparently the uninstallation process is queued, so you can't install and uninstall the same MS…

Mi Vista es su Vista

Today I attended a code clinic about programming Windows Vista. I like attending the Microsoft learning events because they are free and the cross-section of talents are comfortable. There are some real old-timers that do Windows platform programming. They're fun people.

Anyway, one thing that I took from that talk was about how Vista handles registry access. In the past, if your application did not have permission to make registry changes, it would get an error. Now, Vista creates an isolated, virtual, registry for your application. This gives your application the impression of it working properly, and for the most part, it's correct. In my case, though, it's not.

I program middleware Windows Services that make use of .NET Remoting. To manage the services, I create a manager application that is available from the task tray. You've seen something like this with SQL Server Manager, if you do SQL Server programming.

So I figured out how to make my service run with elevat…

My First Theorem

It's not everyday that I get to exercise my brain in a theoretical fashion, but today was special. I suppose a cosmic ray zapped that one neuron that was holding the rest of them back. Or maybe that cosmic ray zapped too many of those neurons, and now I am delusional about my own grandeur.

Anyway, I have a theory about numbers. Take any integer number and add up its digits. That means for a number like '123' you add '1 + 2 + 3'. My first theory is that the resulting sum will have no more than N-1 digits, where N is the number of digits in the original number. That's nothing new. Call this the DSUM operator.

Now for my conjecture:
(1) Given any number, X, define Y = DSUM(X).
(2) For every Y[i] = DSUM(Y[i-1]), the number of digits in Y[i] will be less than in Y[i-1].
(3) [i] will always be less than or equal to N, where N is the number of digits in X.
(4) For all Y[i], Y[i] is always less than Y[i-1].
(5) There always exists a value of Y[i] such that Y[i] is less tha…

Viva la Vista

Recently my Compaq Presario 2700T laptop's screen has been flaking-out on me. With the crash in laptop prices, I figured it would be more cost effective just to get a new laptop with a Core 2 chip and Vista. Why not? I'm a developer and I need to stay ahead of the curve on new technology.

My first stop was at where I purchase a new Gateway laptop with 2GB of RAM, and a 1.6 Ghz Core 2 Duo chip. This used to be my "wow" developer configuration, but apparently it's the status-quo for home users. I feel so uncool now.

The laptop came with Vista Home Premium, which is cool in its own right, but I need Vista Business or Ultimate. You can't upgrade laterally to Vista Business from Vista Home. Rather, you have to use the Vista Update Anywhere tool to go from Vista Home to Vista Ultimate. I didn't realize this until I purchase the laptop AND Vista Business separately. Oh well, I can re-use the Vista Home Premium license for another computer ...

Many o…

My PC is Your PC!

For a few months now we've been watching commercials in the US where a Mac and a PC are compared using two people. The purpose of these commercials is to exemplify the differences between an Apple Mac computer and a PC. Really, though, what is this mythical PC that is being compared to a known brand name? The PC acronym means Personal Computer. This was originally coined in the 70s and taken-up by Apple to further its little hobbiest computer. Since that time, the PC became part of the IBM PC trademark on their own personal computing device. That product is long-since dead now, and Apple no longer uses the "Personal Computer" phrase for their product.

What's worst is that many Wallstreet writers and analysts seem to think that PC is synonymous with Microsoft. That's not entirely true, of course. Sure, you can run Microsoft Windows on your non-Apple, x86 based, IBM PC clone, but that doesn't mean it's the only game in town. In fact, only about 92% of the PC…

The Age of Magic

We all have heard the saying that to any sufficiently primitive culture, any measure of technology appears to be magic. At what point does a technologically advanced society realize that it has begun to enter into the Age of Magic?

If you were born in the early part of 1900, then you would have seen some largely fantastic advances that would appear magical to any primitive culture. Yet, even throughout the last 100 years, all that we've seen are advances on our mechanical technology. Whether it is the mechanical control of electrons through an NP junction, or the mechanical scattering of electromagnetic waves, these are just advances on the mechanical.

Reading through Science today, I found a perspective on negative index of refraction materials (10.1126/science.1136481). What the heck is that, you say? Check this out:…

Trademarks In The Dark

If you have a business, then you know that filing for a trademark is pretty easy in the USA. You just go to the USPTO web site ( and start filling out the form. The cost is significantly less now, nearly a third of what it was a couple of years ago. That's great news.

What you don't know about your mark, though, is that there is a plethora of common law that dictates whether or not you can file with your specimens. The specimens are documents that clearly show your mark being used in commerce. Well, my last mark registration came back to me with the examiner asking for a better specimen that places the mark in closer proximity to evidence of commerce. Closer proximity. Yeah. Right.

Apparently Lands’ End, Inc. v. Manbeck, 797 F. Supp. 511, 514, 24 USPQ2d 1314, 1316 (E.D. Va. 1992); In re Dell Inc., 71 USPQ2d 1725, 1727-1729 (TTAB 2004); In re MediaShare Corp., 43 USPQ2d 1304 (TTAB 1997); TMEP §§904.06(a) and (b), establish some common law that determines an acceptab…