Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sun reports high earnings

As Jonathan notes, the fiscal earnings for Sun Microsystems were fairly high. In economics technobabble:
As you may have seen, we've announced our fourth quarter and full fiscal year results (our fiscal year ends with the school year, in June). We exceeded the commitments made a year ago, to restore Sun to 4% operating profitability in Q4, and did so by delivering our single best operational quarter since 2001. On an annual basis, we improved Sun's profitability by over a billion dollars. A billion. We grew revenue, expanded gross margins, streamlined our operating expenses - and closed the year with an 8% operating profit in Q4, more than double what some thought to be an aggressive target a year ago.
Basically, Sun made a lot of money. What strategies could've led to this? An increased monopoly and sqashing competitions? Threatening individuals for developing applications? Heck no!
We did this while driving significant product transitions, going after new markets and product areas, and best of all, while aggressively moving the whole company to open source software (leading me to hope we can officially put to rest the question, "how will you make money?").
If I ever lead a company, I know what I'm going to do...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ze Blue Screen of Death

This is a classic Sun commercial.



Avoid the blue screen of death. Use Sun!

A New Visitor

I was looking through Google Analytics just the other day, and I found an interesting visitor:

FreeBSD guy: I welcome you as the first visitor to this site running FreeBSD!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Didn't win anything.

This week, I was a little busy preparing piano for the SYMF (Southwestern Youth Music Festival) competition. I played in the Qualified Baroque and Chopin categories. For Baroque, I played Bach's Partita #2. For Chopin, I played his Etude Op. 25 #6 (double thirds). I didn't win anything in either category. Oh well, I guess I shouldn't let this get me too down.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

How did...?

Ok, this is probably the most random thing I've ever seen (ok, maybe not, but it's in the top 100).

Friday, July 27, 2007

System Administrator Appreciation Day

That's right, it's a wonderful holiday for Sysadmins; without whom, there would be no internet. Unfortunately, I don't know any System Administrators to thank, but head over to Jonathan's blog. He has something to say.

What's with NASA these days?

Yesterday was an extremely revealing day for NASA. Three scandals were uncovered. THREE! I can't believe this!

The first are reports of astronauts drinking before launch. Now, the news sources for this story were very incomplete and scattered. So far, the most complete article I've seen is this one in Chron. As far as I was able to piece together, NASA's rule is the 12 hour rule: no drinking 12 hours before launch. However there were two cases where astronauts violated this rule, and medical crew noticed this, but the launch continued. And then there's the pressure and stress of launch, so alcohol may not exactly be the best addition to the mix. Heck, here, you can be arrested for riding a bicycle under the influence. However, I still think we should wait for more information to come out.

The next are reports of an apparent sabotage of a computer component. It seems to have consisted of a cut wire by a worker in a contracted company. And the weird thing is that NASA plans to fix it within the launch date, which is in, oh, two weeks. NASA has better things to do than fix a non-essential computer component for the next launch, right? Yes, a lot of weird stuff is going on around here.

Last is an embezzlement of $150,000 from NASA. It was done by an employee at Kennedy Space Center who fraudulently transferred money from NASA credit card. Now, these credit cards are for employees who need to buy stuff, I'm guessing, kinda RELEVANT to research. Not to be used for extraction of public funds. Man, yesterday was just not a good day for NASA.

Well, time to bring some positive aspects. I've noticed all these scandals have to do with the manned spaceflight program. Luckily, nothing has happened at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory here in California. In fact, they bring GOOD news. The rovers might make it through the dust storm. So, don't hate NASA, the unmanned space flight people don't deserve it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

First driving lesson

Well, of course, I passed and am now permitted to drive. I also had my first driving lesson just....an hour after getting my permit. And I must say, driving is much more fun than I expected. I also got the hang of turns and traffic. And I finally found out how the turn signals worked. Seriously, that mystery has always eluded me. Which way is left, which is right? Does the driver have to turn off the turn signal every time he or she turns? And a whole bunch of those questions.

So yeah, practiced right, left, three-point turns and got comfortable behind the wheel. After a few more lessons, I think I'll be confident enough to drive my parents. I still have to learn about parking, the freeway, and driving at night. I'll update accordingly.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I completed Drivers Ed.

Yawn! I am so tired today. I just completed Drivers Education at a Melrose Driving School. Today was my last day, so I had to take a whole bunch of practice tests to prepare myself for the written test for the DMV permit process. Once I pass (after all that, I'm extremely confident I can pass), I'll finally have my learners permit, and be able to have behind-the-wheel training. I should be taking the written test either tomorrow or the day after, so I'll let you know when I'm finally able to drive.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Blog Break

I've decided to take a blog break (a break from my computer, actually) so that I could get to the stuff that I need to do for school next year. I really can't do it when I'm heavily distracted on the computer. I hope you all understand, and I'll be back in a few days, a week at most. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Last Question

I recently just found the story, The Last Question, by Isaac Asimov on the web. This story was referenced in the book Hyperspace by Michio Kaku (pgs. 310-312). I was always interested in that story, but I was never able to find it. But now, I did, and I encourage all of you to read it because it really is a good short story. It has everything you can ask for, an analog computer, Humanity, entropy, with a surprising twist at the end. I'll try not to spoil it for you.

The future of corporations

Over at his blog, Jonathan Schwartz talks about how the world is changing, and how companies should change their practices to remain profitable. If you have an hour and a half to kill, I HIGHLY recommend watching both clips. In large part, I agree with him. Things ARE changing. Of course, Sun is also changing for the good, or else I wouldn't love them so much.

Of course, Jonathan also uses the story of why he decided to become a champion of open source. If you haven't heard that before, it basically goes along these lines. A (not so very) long time ago, people stopped using Solaris on Sun hardware for some new, strange, open-source platform called Linux. Now, Sun had two choices, try and sue the linux community, or open-source Solaris. As you know, Sun went with the latter. Jonathan believed that if they sued linux, they would only give more popularity to linux and start digging their own grave. And now, Solaris is being touted as being the most advanced operating system in the world. A lot more fun stuff is in those videos too, and if only everyone could watch them.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Now what does this mean?

I was checking my RSS feeds just right now, and I got a really interesting bug:Apparently I have -25 items to read. Now, I think this is just a random bug, but it got me thinking. what would it mean? If I have -25 posts unread, does that mean that I've already read them, or I haven't read them, but I already know what they say? But whatever, this is really hilarious.

Internet Radio still lives

For those who have been listening to internet radio over the past few months (as I have), there is very good news. The legislation to increase royalties for internet radio and (less so for) satellite radio has been suspended for as long as the internet radio stations wish to keep negotiating. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a bit of history.

A group in Congress known as the Internet Copyright Royalty Board, introduced a bill that at would go into effect on May 15, 2007 and establish higher royalties for internet and satellite radio (but not for traditional air radio). Of course, this is really unfair. The internet radio companies got together and urged their listeners to contact their members of Congress and push back the deadline to July 15. Turnout went really well, and the deadlines were extended. Now, over the last month, there has been another campaign to push the Internet Radio Equality Act, which would introduce rights to Internet Radio stations so that they would not be put under unfair discrimination, such as with the previous bill. Apparently, Internet Radio listeners have been dedicated enough to contact their congresspeople again. And luckily, they've been able to persuade Congress to extend the deadline indefinitely as long as internet radio stations are open to negotiate the terms.

Now, before you start thinking this might be another illegal pirated thing. Internet radio has been fairly dedicated to paying their fair share in royalties. They function as a platform for the ordinary people to play their own music to a very wide audience. I think that they should pay the same amount as other media, and should not be discriminated against for being novel and different.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

More optimism for String Theory

After watching this week's episode of Science Saturday on Bloggingheads, I've decided to give String theory some credit. This week they had George Johnson with Sean Carroll, who writes on a very popular blog known as Cosmic Variance. In this week's episode, Sean Carroll does a pretty good job at addressing some of the arguments against String Theory. Including the arguments that String theory makes no predictions, and the near-monopoly String theory holds on resources such as faculty positions and research grants. (Note: Some material may have also been used from Carroll's critique of The Trouble with Physics, or Joe Polchinski's review of the two anti-string-theory books.)

Apparently, the reason string theorists have been having trouble making predictions because string theory is literally a "twenty-first century theory revealed in the twentieth century". As most people who studied the history of String theory know, String theory wasn't the work of long, gradual work to derive, but rather a "Eureka"-type birth. Instead of dredging through years of trial and error, physicists managed to shoot up to it. Now, the problem is that while our theory is advanced and futuristic, our technology is still stuck in the late-twentieth /early-twenty-first century. Until our technology advances enough, the only thing String theorists have are hard mathematical models and working further on understanding String theory. I buy this. Although String theorists may not exactly be making technologically feasible predictions yet, as Smolin admits, "No one disputes that a lot of good mathematics has come out of string theory and that our understanding of some gauge theories has been deepened" (pg 177). So, I guess that while String theorists churn out useful work and are still working on and expanding String theory, we could spare them the absolute need for experimental evidence. The way I see it, as long as String theory is still being studied, there's the possibility of someone finding some technologically-feasible, if indirect, method of confirming or refuting String theory.

As for the monopoly on resources, Sean Carroll's position is (I believe) that's a pity. But unfortunately, university politics make it difficult for non-string-theorists to find a position in theoretical physics. It would be ideal for there to be a diversity of theories that are worked on, but that's not the way things go. University administrators do not want to take a chance of hiring unorthodox or different people and are very risk-averse when it comes to this. However, Carroll admits that if an alternative theory were to be as promising as String theory, this would probably change; however, he believes that the theory Smolin advances, loop quantum gravity, does not offer anything String theory already offers. Until another theory steps up to explain more than String Theory does, non-string-theorists would have to put up with their minority position. I hope I summarized Carroll's position accurately.

Now, the thing that really bothers me about String theory was brought up by Peter Woit. It's the gigantic zoo of elementary particles which were predicted but not observed by String theory. Namely that String theory (if I remember) needs a property called supersymmetry, which states that for every boson there's a fermion and for every fermion there's a boson. This basically doubles the size of the number of elementary particles. Now, I may be a little behind on the times, but the explanation I heard was that there was a symmetry-breaking which caused the super-particles to be much more massive and thus, undetectable by our current accelerators. Now that, I don't buy. It seems a bit too convenient. If anyone knows of a better explanation for this problem, I'd gladly hear it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Two High NASA Officials Resign

According to the Associated Press, two high-ranking NASA officials are resigning. They are Scott Horowitz and Rex Geveden. According to NASA, the resignations are coincidental, and neither was asked to leave by the current NASA administrator, Michael Griffin.

Scott Horowitz is kind of the head of the Moon, Mars, and Beyond vision implemented by President Bush. According to NASA, his leave is badly timed, but they think they could manage. Why is Horowitz leaving? According to NASA spokeswoman, Beth Dickey:

Horowitz said he wants to move back to Utah and spend more time with his family. Dickey said he expects to be an aerospace consultant.

"His reasons for doing this are strictly personal," she said. "This is not unexpected. He had been discussing this with the administrator for some time."

Eh, I guess he has a right to go spend time with his family. Being the leader of a big underfunded mission is hard work. But he didn't really name a successor. That really would've nice. Ok, now who's Rex Geveden? Geveden is the associate administrator. Pretty high up. Where's he going?
Geveden will take a job in the private sector of the aerospace industry in Alabama.
Moving on to the private sector. I notice that there was a reason for him leaving published in the report. So, I'm not going to discuss that. Luckily, he has clear successor unlike Horowitz.
Christopher Scolese, NASA's chief engineer, will succeed him. Scolese drew attention last year when he and NASA chief safety officer Bryan O'Connor recommended that space shuttle Discovery remain grounded until design changes were made to insulating foam on its external tank.
Well, it's a good thing he's cautious. Griffin overruled his warning, but luckily there were no foam problems on that mission. Good call. But I wonder if he'll be so easily overruled as associate administrator. Well, I hope the new NASA lineup will be more effective and efficient as the old one.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I'm on Facebook

That's right. I finally have an account on Facebook. Feel free to be my friend. I'm in the Los Angeles, CA network and the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies network. And I'm also in the Pharyngula and Ubuntu groups. Of course, I've only been on for a small while, but I enjoy being in contact with some of my old school acquaintances (wow, summer's really doing a number on me). Well, that's the new fad I'm currently part of. But don't worry, science will ALWAYS come first.

Google Analytics: Time Frames

Ok, we just finished the basic functions of Google Analytics. Now we're going to go into into changing the range of dates which Google Analytics counts. The current range is visible here:
The default time frame is one month before yesterday. However, you can change it by clicking it. Once you do, you should get a view like this:

Now, all you have to do is select the range. For example, if I only wanted to see the stats for this week, I would click July 4 to start the range, then click July 12 to end it.

This is really helpful, especially for getting detail on how your blog is doing lately. I prefer to see statistics from the last week, not the whole month. It allows for more precision. For example, if I want to know which pages are most popular in the past week, I go to Content>Top Content, then I change the range for this week. This gives new numbers, which could be different for the month. For mine, the pidgin page was most popular for the month, but the xplanet-gnome page was the most popular for the week. Makes sense, with the new addition of helpful links. So, this could give new insights into your blog.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Help classify galaxies!

A new web site has sprung up called the Galaxy Zoo. Now, this web site does not leech off or your computer resources, like Seti@home. But rather, leeches off of your time, like Stardust@home. Why do they need you?

The simple answer is that the human brain is much better at recognising patterns than a computer can ever be. Any computer program we write to sort our galaxies into categories would do a reasonable job, but it would also inevitably throw out the unusual, the weird and the wonderful. To rescue these interesting systems which have a story to tell, we need you.
After hundreds of thousands of years of evolution and pattern seeking, those skills are needed by astronomers to help classify galaxies. Now, you first need to take a tutorial and a short quiz. No, I'm not telling you the answers. But have fun!

Monday, July 09, 2007

New Jersey Beat Us?

There's a hint of congratulation in that title. New Jersey just enacted a very strict mandate for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Some details here:

On the eve of the Live Earth Concerts for a Climate in Crisis, Governor Jon S. Corzine signed legislation adopting proactive and ambitious goals for the reduction of green house gas emissions in New Jersey. The legislation calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, approximately a 20 percent reduction, followed by a further reduction of emissions to 80 percent below 2006 levels by 2050. New Jersey is only the third state in the nation make greenhouse gas reduction goals law and these provisions were previously set in Executive Order 54 which the Governor signed in February.
Now those are some pretty steep reductions. Not as much as the Kyoto Protocol (5% BELOW 1990 before 2012), but still a great contrast among a nation which mostly does NOTHING. As a Californian, I welcome New Jersey to the greenhouse gas reducing bandwagon. In fact, I'll have to move over. More details here:

California, the world's eighth largest economy, recently enacted a tough greenhouse gas law. Like New Jersey's, it also mandates an emissions cut by 2020. But its long term goal of cutting emissions 80 percent by 2050 is a target, not a hard mandate. Environmentalists said the New Jersey law is tougher than California's because its 2050 target is enforceable.
You see, our long-term goal is actually a SUGGESTION! I sure hope someone mandates that suggestion soon. Let me see, in 2020 I'll be....28. Yeah, I'll work to make that a mandate. But until that happens, New Jersey takes the lead.

(Thanks to Wired Science)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Brother Randy emerges and replies

That's right, a pretty rare occasion occurred today. Someone who was typically quoted and ridiculed on FSTDT stood up for themselves and replied in the comments. This typically happens only once every few months, so it's quite a treat. This time, Brother Randy (Iamsaved1) comes out and stands up for his quote. Of course, the FSTDT community subsequently replied to Randy's comment and destroyed his position. They even extracted another quote from his reply. Fundies, watch out! These people are ruthlessly correct.

[EDIT: Or perhaps not. It was just one of the regular FSTDT members posing as him. Well, that's Poe's law: ""Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won't mistake for the real thing."]

Google Analytics: Goals

Ok, this is going to be a very short post, because I have no use in goals, and I don't think you would either. This post is going to be mostly a discussion about what goals are. Goals in Google analytics are not what you think they are, where you set a point that you want to reach in some area. Goals in Google Analytics are web pages that you designate that count how many people reached them. These are most useful for shopping carts, where you want to know how many people finished checking out. Since I don't have a shopping cart, and chances are you don't either, I'm not going to go into this category.

Well, we finished the basics of Google Analytics, next we'll be going into some advanced usage of it. If you've played around with it enough, you would probably already know some of these, but if you haven't, this would be a good opportunity to learn. See you next time!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Aren't cha Kent?

As some of you already know, my favorite creationist is Kent Hovind. He's the funniest creationist, far more than Ken Ham and his Creation Museum. I absolutely find him hilarious (totally wrong, but hilarious). Now Hovind is in jail. But this doesn't keep the rest of the world off of his back. I find this music trailer absolutely hilarious (but it has a lot of questionable language, you've been warned):

(Hat tip to PZ)

More bad news for Opportunity

Space.com has released an article with a much more ominous title: 'Scary Storm' on Mars Could Doom Rovers. Yep, things have gotten so much worse:

The dusty squall has reduced direct sunlight to Mars' surface by nearly 99 percent, an unprecedented threat for the solar-powered robotic explorers. If the storm keeps up and thickens with even more dust, officials fear the rovers' batteries may empty and silence the robotic explorers forever.
For a visual perpective, here's an image of what happened to Mars over the last two weeks:

A dust storm caught by amateur astronomer Paul Maxso of Phoenix, Arizona. On June 23 (top), the storm appears as a bright red blemish on the visible light "RGB" image, just northeast of the planet's center. On June 26, 2007, the storm has more than quadrupled in size and is a large blotch occupying the northeastern region of Mars on the "RGB" image. Credit: Paul Maxson

This may prove the end of one of our most beloved robots in history. However, even if it happens, we shouldn't be in despair. Those rovers have defeated all odds and long outlived their warranty. For those who remember, they were officially only supposed to live 90 days. Right now they've past the two year mark. That's a GOOD DEAL, and they've gotten more science done than thought possible. They've really exceeded what was needed of them, and that's something we should celebrate. Don't get me wrong, I hope they make it through and do another year of science, but we shouldn't be depressed if they don't. Ok, I'll stop getting all mushy.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sun Update!

I like this. So, I'm going to bring you updates from Sun whenever I find them. Here's the first one for this blog, Sun in July:

This month's issue is basically about their more open innovation methods, plus their new Constellation systems, which basically push farther the boundaries of computing into the petascale. That is awesome!

Dust storms cause trouble for rovers

According to a Space.com article, Mars is having one of its largest dust storms in 5 years. This is bad news for the rovers, because dust storms obscure the atmosphere, this reduce their solar power. In fact, the storm is so big, it's affecting power on both rovers, which if you recall, are on opposite sides of the planet. From the article:
Pictures from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show the storm is regional and includes several local areas of especially high dust activity. The storm has been moving eastward and toward mid-latitudes, and is now also causing an increase in atmospheric dust at Spirit's location, on the opposite side of the planet at Gusev Crater. Dust levels at Gusev remain much lower than at the Opportunity site, however.
Unfortunately, Opportunity is in for a wild ride. And this is also just before plans to drive Opportunity into Victoria Crater. Because of this storm, this mission will be delayed until no sooner than July 13. I sure hope Opportunity makes it. In fact, if Opportunity DOES make it, it will be much better off because the winds would have cleaned off its solar panels. Can our seemingly immortal rovers make it through this challenge?

Monday, July 02, 2007

New Dell laptop with Ubuntu

More good news. Apparently Dell has included Ubuntu as an option for ANOTHER one of their computers. This sounds like Dell is having a good time selling Ubuntu on its machines. If you can recall, at first Dell released Ubuntu as an option for one economy desktop, one high-end desktop, and one laptop. Well, as you can see, Dell released it for another laptop. Which brings the total number to four. Now I'm wondering if eventually Ubuntu will be available for all of their hardware. That would be a very interesting scenario.

Before the Big Bang

Ok, I apologize for this weekend. I've been really out of it. But that Sun post really took a lot of work. So, I'm back now. Just be glad that I'm not like Larry, who just passed his 3 month mark for not posting. Have fun!

There's been a lot of talk about this new paper which uses loop quantum gravity to try and explain what happened before the Big Bang. Unfortunately, I can't give any real input on this subject, because I don't really know that much about it. But here's the general idea which has been come up with:

Quantum-gravity theory indicates that the fabric of space-time has an "atomic" geometry that is woven with one-dimensional quantum threads. This fabric tears violently under the extreme conditions dominated by quantum physics near the Big Bounce, causing gravity to become strongly repulsive so that, instead of vanishing into infinity as predicted by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, the universe rebounded in the Big Bounce that gave birth to our expanding universe. The theory reveals a contracting universe before the Big Bounce, with space-time geometry that otherwise was similar to that of our universe today.
It's basically saying that we now have a theory which predicts how our universe came into being. Of course, this is the idea of a cyclical universe, one that expands then contracts then expands again. But the helpful thing about this new work is (I think) that it gives a mechanism. Loop Quantum Gravity describes WHY the universe bounces. Apparently, at the extremely high density and pressure of the Big Bang, gravity actually repelled, thus giving birth to the expanding universe we see today. Of course, there are much more qualified minds that talk about this. Here is the Bad Astronomer's take on it. And here's the Space.com article on it. Enjoy!

Oh! I almost forgot! And TAKE THAT String theory! Your monopoly on theoretical physics resources will soon start to decay like miniature black holes(?!)