Monday, May 31, 2010

Hayabusa Scheduled to Land at Woomera

This will be a definite milestone if the spacecraft is able to land with a soil sample from the asteroid Itokawa. Link

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Endocrine Disruptors in the Gulf

The oil will obviously be a huge blow to the fishing industry in the gulf states. A more long-lasting blow may be the use of dispersants containing endocrine disruptors. What will this do to the fish? How long will it be before people feel safe eating fish from an area in which endocrine disruptors have been so heavily used? I know nothing about the dangers or persistence of these chemicals, but as little trust as many of us feel we've been able to place in the FDA and EPA since, say, 2001, it may be a long time after the government says it's safe before people believe it's safe.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nooky Reader Part II

Searching for Nooky Reader at either Amazon or Barnes & Noble finds the Nook E-Reader or accessories. Whether BN management is aware, and they must be by now, Amazon and BN search mechanisms are.

XKCD Weighs in on Facebook


Nooky Reader

Last night on All Things Considered there was a brief spot on Barnes and Noble's e-reader, the Nook. That's right, the Nook E-reader. Does anybody think about these names? Or is confusing the name with sexual slang  part of BN's strategy for marketing this thing?

I thought it was a joke, or that ATC had fallen for a prank, but, no:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yet Another Gem from XKCD

The mouseover text is "100 years later, this story remains terrifying--not because it's the local network block, but because the killer is still on IPv4."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Pleasures of Blackboard

Blackboard is a course management tool used by many colleges and universities. It's feature rich, but very buggy, exhibits different bugs with different browsers, and has an atrociously bad user interface. I saw a new bug this morning, more amusing than most. When downloading grades from a class, I was presented with this dialog. Sorry, I can't read that file name. I realize this a deficiency on my part, but perhaps Blackboard should use a system-default language or something.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ninth ACM SIGPLAN Erlang Workshop Baltimore

Baltimore's Inner Harbor
The Ninth ACM SIGPLAN Erlang Workshop will be held in Baltimore on Thursday 30 September 2010. This is in conjunction with the 15th ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Functional Programming.

Back to Gnome

I had been using Xfce on one of my desktops for a few months. I like it better than Gnome in some respects, largely because it's less bloated. However, I was repeatedly frustrated by its inability to follow the mouse with the focus. I'm a "focus follows mouse" person, and multiple times a day I would move the mouse from one window to another, passing over an intermediate window, and the focus would stay with the intermediate window. So I'd start typing, thinking the input would go to the window under the mouse. But, alas, no, the focus had remained with a window the mouse had passed over. This sometimes had deleterious effects, and so I've returned to Gnome.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Outhousing E-mail Services

I'm dealing with an organization that has outhoused e-mail to Not surprisingly this site doesn't work with Firefox 3.6 and Ubuntu. I can log in to the account using Opera, but I have to tell Opera to identify itself as IE. There is no e-mail forwarding.

I understand outsourcing, and I understand an organization wanting to move this out of the local IT shop (though forcing people to get an account with Microsoft seems an egregious privacy violation). However, I don't understand why an organization would pick such a piss-poor provider.

HAL: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."

In a column written, ironically, in 2001, John Rose and Michael Huhns propose an adaptation of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics for agents sent on a NASA mission. I reproduce the first two here:
  • Principle 1: An agent shall not harm the mission through its actions or inactions.
  • Principle 2: Except where it conflicts with Principle 1, an agent shall not harm the participants in the mission.
This essentially reproduces HAL, who was justified in killing its crew because it came to the conclusion that the crew jeopardized the mission.