Thursday, September 23, 2010


Touch-screen technology is the "sine qua non" of Portable Computing. Everything else is a compromise for portability --small screen and keyboard, slow speed, "mobile apps" etc.

Some vendors now offer touch-screen monitors, bringing compromise-free Portable Computing to the desktop. Hmmm. This does not compute!

  • It is not portable.
  • It is not ergonomic.
  • It is not efficient.

No way would I trade my 24" LCD monitor for a touch-screen model, thank you. I'd have to stretch across the desk to reach it. My arms would get tired in no time.

There-is a better way. The secret to converting any computer Into a tablet computer is to get a Wacom tablet. It is a big touchpad that plugs into a USB port on your computer . Using your fingers or with a stylus, you can navigate your computer's GUIs. With a stylus, you can write on the touchpad to enter text on the computer. Windows 7 has good handwriting recognition.

This blog post was hand-written on a Wacom tablet, as it sits in my lap and I sit back comfortably in my chair. I like this tablet a lot. It makes my high-performance PC work like an iPad!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Take This Blog and Shove It!

Apparently I have not been alone in neglecting my blog recently. Newsweek reports that a "recent Pew study found that blogging has withered as a pastime..."

Turns out that people get distracted by other things, particularly if they are not getting paid to make "contributions to the hive mind."

Here are some of the posts I could have written over the past few months if I were more attentive.

  • Tick-bit blues
  • Living in "interesting times"
  • Real custom-built PCs
    • Internet clock-radio
    • Dorm machine
  • My Chinese fanclub
Since blogging is no longer fashionable, I hope to be more diligent. Hip is not for me.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Spin Control

Here I am after completing the 3-mile Nanticoke River swim. My time was nothing special. But I was the second-oldest person to finish the race!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Conservative Hopes for Financial Reform

Capitalism needs to be protected from itself. Greed is good, except unchecked it leads to price fixing, pollution, fraud and other ills that have been criminalized, rightly.

Because there was an extended run up in the value of certain markets leading into the financial crisis of 2009, especially housing, the rewards earned by money managers on Wall Street and the risks they ran with other people's money were uncoupled.

Sub-prime mortgages are as good as gold (better!), as long as real estate prices are rising. Universal home ownership, more that universal health care, is a sacred cow in Washington. The authorities were conflicted about blowing the whistle on financial gimmicks that helped put the American Dream in reach of EVERYONE. So they didn't until the financial markets started to melt down.

Changing the structure of financial regulation is likely to be a torturous process, which the people on Wall Street will spend liberally to try and subvert. There is no reason to believe that the end result will effective in preventing future crises. Money moves a lot faster than the regulators do, and structural changes are likely to open new "loopholes" even as it closes old ones.

My hopes for financial reform rest with the old sentiment, "Throw the bums in jail!" What we need is a tough prosecutor who wants to make a name for himself, (Andrew Cuomo?) to go after the titans of Wall Street and make them do the perp walk. (It worked for Rudy Giuliani.)

Martha Stewart, Ivan Boesky, Michael Milkin, et al. - even Bernie Madoff - were brought to justice for much lesser crimes than the crime(?) of ruining the lives of millions of people (the poor, the sick, the old, etc.) around world. Retribution is not a virtue, but it might help deter future crises. And that is why the best reform would be to prosecute the investment firms and throw the principals in jail.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Conservative Hopes for Health Reform

Republicans have become the defenders of the status quo with regard to health care, and this is the wrong side of the issue. The only virtue of the status quo is that it is "the devil we know." The Democrat health reform law ushers in the devil we don't know, yet. But I have (conservative) hopes that the change will be for the better.

  1. The health care system has long suffered from the plague of "free riders." These are uninsured people who show up in emergency rooms demanding -- and receiving -- care. As a prosperous and compassionate nation, we are not willing to withhold care from sick, indigent people. The right thing to do is to mandate that everyone have adequate health insurance and have the public pay for it for those that cannot afford it.

  2. Protecting public health, like national defense, is one of the (few) basic roles of government. When an individual's self-interest is at odds with public health, government needs to act to protect public health. Children and travelers overseas are required to be vaccinated against a host of dangerous, contagious diseases. Quarantining persons infected with certain diseases has been practiced by governments for centuries, with mixed results.

    As science and technology advance, it is increasingly possible and appropriate to monitor for and intervene with effective prophylactic measures in the event of public health emergencies. Why not monitor everyone for communicable diseases and mandate effective treatments and vaccinations? Would the public health benefits outweigh the potential threats to individual liberty and privacy? I think so.

  3. The structure of the health care industry is exceedingly complex. Incentives, liabilities, and regulation in the health care system are often perverse, leading to bloated costs and adverse outcomes (e.g., unexpected deaths). Reform is needed to rationalize the industry, reduce waste and improve outcomes.
I am for health care reform. The new law is not perfect. But perfect is not just the enemy of good, it is the ally of bad. I know the status quo is bad, and this law is a first, necessary step toward a better health care system.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Software Perils

A client recently had a bad experience with Net Nanny software. After uninstalling the product, ContentWatch errors started popping-up every time a user or a service accessed the Internet. With weather, news, IM, etc. widgets on the desktop the pop-ups were more than annoying.

We spent a lot of time trying to fix the issue. The Google machine was not much help. Against our better instincts, we called Net Nanny and got the fix. It turned out to be a fairly simple matter of resetting the Winsock on the machine. Instructions can be found here:

Of course, this begs the questions:
  • Why doesn't Net Nanny uninstall cleanly?
  • Why don't the errors that pop up point to a Winsock problem?
  • Why isn't there anything on Google that provides the solution?!

We always tell people to never install beta software. But who listens to us? My wife doesn't. Having received a new Android phone for Christmas, she recently installed the beta version of the Skype client. One result was that she could no longer answer incoming phone calls. The only way to fix it was to reload operating system, causing her to lose all her apps and data. Bummer! Lesson (re)learned? We'll see.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

5 More Rules for (Not) Wearing a Speedo

It's been two years, since I first/last wrote on this topic, and yet the Speedo fashion among men-who-should-know-better continues to grow! Granted, much of the growth has been in the knee-length jammers which show less skin, but Speedo jammers are still skin-tight.

So, in a further effort to combat this alarming trend here are 5 more rules for (not) wearing a Speedo:

  1. If your underwear is more modest than your swim suit, don't wear it!
  2. If you are swimming in the slow lane (or if you should be), that Speedo you are wearing is ironic and you are clueless.
  3. Never wear a flesh-colored, floral or paisley Speedo. It is dangerous to force your fellow swimmers to keep their eyes closed.
  4. If it is a serious workout you want, add resistance training. Wear a baggy suit.
  5. If you are a competitive soul who feels that your Speedo helps you go faster (even though your are not racing anybody), get some fins instead. With fins, you'll go faster, and you'll work your legs more with fins so you'll get a better workout.

When in doubt, ask yourself WWJD? (What would John do?)