Tuesday, February 27, 2007
  NYTimes - Honeybees Vanish, Leaving Crops and Keepers in Peril
David Bradshaw has endured countless stings during his life as a beekeeper, but he got the shock of his career when he opened his boxes last month and found half of his 100 million bees missing.

In 24 states throughout the country, beekeepers have gone through similar shocks as their bees have been disappearing inexplicably at an alarming rate, threatening not only their livelihoods but also the production of numerous crops, including California almonds, one of the nation’s most profitable.

Beekeepers have fought regional bee crises before, but this is the first national affliction.

Now, in a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie, bees are flying off in search of pollen and nectar and simply never returning to their colonies. And nobody knows why. Researchers say the bees are presumably dying in the fields, perhaps becoming exhausted or simply disoriented and eventually falling victim to the cold.

As researchers scramble to find answers to the syndrome they have decided to call “colony collapse disorder,” growers are becoming openly nervous about the capability of the commercial bee industry to meet the growing demand for bees to pollinate dozens of crops, from almonds to avocados to kiwis.

A Cornell University study has estimated that honeybees annually pollinate more than $14 billion worth of seeds and crops in the United States, mostly fruits, vegetables and nuts. “Every third bite we consume in our diet is dependent on a honeybee to pollinate that food,” said Zac Browning, vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation.

The bee losses are ranging from 30 to 60 percent on the West Coast, with some beekeepers on the East Coast and in Texas reporting losses of more than 70 percent; beekeepers consider a loss of up to 20 percent in the offseason to be normal.

Pressure has been building on the bee industry. The costs to maintain hives, also known as colonies, are rising along with the strain on bees of being bred to pollinate rather than just make honey. And beekeepers are losing out to suburban sprawl in their quest for spots where bees can forage for nectar to stay healthy and strong during the pollination season.

“There are less beekeepers, less bees, yet more crops to pollinate,” Mr. Browning said. “While this sounds sweet for the bee business, with so much added loss and expense due to disease, pests and higher equipment costs, profitability is actually falling.”

It could just be that the bees are stressed out. Bees are being raised to survive a shorter offseason, to be ready to pollinate once the almond bloom begins in February. That has most likely lowered their immunity to viruses.

Mites have also damaged bee colonies, and the insecticides used to try to kill mites are harming the ability of queen bees to spawn as many worker bees. The queens are living half as long as they did just a few years ago.

Researchers are also concerned that the willingness of beekeepers to truck their colonies from coast to coast could be adding to bees’ stress, helping to spread viruses and mites and otherwise accelerating whatever is afflicting them.

Beekeepers now earn many times more renting their bees out to pollinate crops than in producing honey. Two years ago a lack of bees for the California almond crop caused bee rental prices to jump, drawing beekeepers from the East Coast.

To give bees energy while they are pollinating, beekeepers now feed them protein supplements and a liquid mix of sucrose and corn syrup carried in tanker-sized trucks costing $12,000 per load. Over all, Mr. Bradshaw figures, in recent years he has spent $145 a hive annually to keep his bees alive, for a profit of about $11 a hive, not including labor expenses. The last three years his net income has averaged $30,000 a year from his 4,200 bee colonies, he said.

Monday, February 26, 2007
  MSN - Pig-Out Picks

Not sure how long this slideshow will be available, but the dishes at several USA restaurants are simply calorie-orgies. Ruby Tuesday seems to be a popular target though their hamburger doesn't seem to match up to Dangerous Dan's 4C burger. The Ruby Tuesday burger seems more like the Dangerous Dan Coronary Burger Special.

  Seattle PI - Costco to limit money-back returns on electronics

Some customers taking advantage of a decent retailer. Way to go jackasses.

Maybe this was one way some people were able to afford buying fancy schmancy new tech toys often, instead of actually earning the money and buying stuff. Costco isn't a library.

The Issaquah-based retailer has begun limiting money-back returns on TVs, computers, cameras, camcorders, iPods, MP3 players and cell phones to 90 days. Previously, there was no time limit except for personal computers, which was six months.

Galanti said one of the reasons for the policy change was Costco members would buy big-screen TVs and then return them months later, when newer and less expensive models went on sale.

He said the practice had become so prevalent one member recently wrote the company saying she was disappointed because she had heard Costco was going to stop its "free TV upgrade policy."

Friday, February 23, 2007
  EFF - DocuColor Tracking Dot Decoding Guide

I'll have to be on the lookout for these dots...

  NYTimes - Lesson One: The Price the Contractor Quotes Is an Estimate
IN a recent letter to her readers, Dominique Browning, the longtime editor of House & Garden magazine, wrote about the agony of renovation, but suggested her experience was so painful that she preferred not to give details. “I’m still in shock and not ready to talk about it,” she wrote.

It’s a little chilling. If she can’t survive a renovation unscathed, who can?

Few endeavors seem more challenging than renovating one’s home, whether a 300-square-foot studio or a mansion 30 times that size.

Having accurate information about what to expect would probably make things easier. While many consumers could guess the price of a flat-screen TV or a dishwasher, few could easily estimate the cost of even the simplest renovation.

“The price of materials doesn’t drive the cost of the project so much as the price of qualified labor,” he said. “My highest-paid employee makes $90,000 per year.”

One extensive source of detailed data, including the estimated resale value of each renovation, is the Web site for Remodeling magazine,; data may be found by clicking on “special features,” and in that pull-down menu, “cost versus value.” The site reports that in 2006, an upscale bath renovation cost an average of $43,050 in the Pacific states; $35,212 in the South Atlantic region and $36,868 in the Mountain states, while the national average was $38,165.

Contractors and homeowners alike agree on one point: get everything in writing, but don’t haggle. Do not, contractors warn, nickel and dime the people you hire to tear your home apart. And don’t automatically take the low bid, because that could be a signal that the contractor is very inexperienced and perhaps not up to the job.

“They’re going to ask to be paid professionally,” said Mr. Stahl, whose crew of 28 designers and 20 workmen is booked five months in advance, typically on projects worth $100,000 or more. “If they’re behaving like a professional, they expect to be paid like a professional.”

Dean Bennett, president of a 12-year-old design and construction firm in Castle Rock, Colo., a Denver suburb, said customers need to realize that complexities are revealed as jobs go along and that costs increase. “Most people don’t understand the tasks, time and intricacies involved in building a wall, let alone larger projects,” he said. “Estimate prices and multiply by 1.5 times for a truer figure.”

Mr. Bennett warned of exceptionally low or high pricing. “Contractors should always be upfront with what they charge,” hourly or by project, he said. Watch for markups on materials; know what the markup is and monitor it. If you have hired someone who charges a 20 percent markup on each item, for example, ask to review invoices so you can see for yourself what the contractor paid, and what you are paying.

“I show every client every invoice, and every week they get a running total,” he said. “It’s a more upfront way to do business.”

“You want an understanding of what’s happening and where your money is going,” he said. “A lot of contractors will bill their time plus materials. I prefer that, because no one’s trying to get away with anything by buying cheaper materials and marking them up in order to make their profit.”

To keep a contractor working and motivated, Mr. Bennett suggested weekly invoicing and payment.

  MSNBC - Report: Lab mishandled Landis’ urine samples

Looks like Landis's lawyers have found a loophole to invalidate the test results.

The French laboratory that produced incriminating doping results against Landis may have had several errors along the way, including allowing improper access to the cyclist's urine samples, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The same lab committed a similar error in 2005, which resulted in the dismissal of doping charges against against Spanish cyclist Inigo Landaluze.

Two technicians from the French-government owned lab were involved in the original urine analysis, and a second validating test, lab records turned over to the Landis defense lawyers and reviewed by the paper show. International law lab standards don't allow technicians from taking part in both tests — it prevents them from validating their own findings, the paper reported.

It's unclear in the records if the technicians, Esther Cerpolini and Cynthia Mongongu of Laboratorie National Depistage du Dopage, played significant roles in both tests to disqualify the findings.

Even if they didn't play a prominent role in Landis' case, it could still bode well for the U.S. cyclist, the paper reported. In a decision issued Dec. 19, 2006 regarding the Landaluze case, arbitrators said the risks of technicians violated lab standards. "The applicable rule is clear and devoid of any flexibility," they wrote.

Other potential errors from the lab include:

A document that was altered anonymously after Landis questioned its accuracy. The altered version was certified as "original," the paper reported.

The lab reportedly operated one crucial piece of equipment under conditions that violated manufactures' specifications — possibly because they didn't have the operating manual. The software installed on the machine was 10 years old, based on an operating system no longer in use and was designed for a different piece of equipment, the paper reported. The lab insists the machine was in proper working order.

The lab was in possession of documents clearly linking Landis to his sample, a possible violation of anti-doping rules requiring that all samples handled by a testing lab be anonymous, the paper reported. At least one such document was provided by the French anti-doping agency to Landis' attorneys.

  MSNBC - Meetings make us dumber, study shows

I think the title is a bit on the sensational side.

People have a harder time coming up with alternative solutions to a problem when they are part of a group, new research suggests.

Scientists exposed study participants to one brand of soft drink then asked them to think of alternative brands. Alone, they came up with significantly more products than when they were grouped with two others.

  MSNBC - Mortgage woes hit on H&R Block profit

More housing downturn woes. Lowe's also reported lower profits. I think H&R block is dreaming if they think they're going to get a lot of money for their subprime mortgage unit. The longer they wait for a buyer, the lower the price they're going to get.

H&R Block Inc., the largest U.S. income tax preparer, reported a quarterly net loss on Thursday, weighed down by the subprime mortgage unit it has put up for sale, but revenue from its tax and banking businesses rose sharply.

Several suitors are studying Option One’s books and the company still expects to announce the results of its strategic review next month, H&R Block Chief Executive Mark Ernst told reporters on a conference call.

Ernst also said he remains confident the sale price will exceed the unit’s $1.3 billion carrying value.

Option One makes home loans to borrowers with subprime — poor — credit, a business under pressure as the U.S. housing market cools and loans made in recent years go sour.

This downturn again took a hit out of Block earnings. The company increased its loan loss reserves for the business by $111 million, reflecting expectations that more loans may go bad.

  MSNBC - Scurrying rats plague Yum Brands shares

Gee, I don't think one store is indicative of all the stores, especially outside of urban areas.

I wonder if the store is owned by the Yum company or it's a franchisee-owned store.

A dozen rats were caught on video scurrying around the floor of a New York City KFC/Taco Bell restaurant early Friday, running between counters and tables and climbing on children’s high chairs.

News crews flocked to the windows of the Greenwich Village neighborhood restaurant, which hadn’t opened for the day. By midmorning, the footage was all over the Internet and television news shows, with onlookers giving a play-by-play from the sidewalk as the rodents moved about.

“He’s coming for his close-up,” one bystander said as a rat came near the window.

Yum Brands Inc., based in Louisville, Ky., owns the Taco Bell and KFC restaurant chains. Its shares fell in trading on the New York Stock Exchange Friday.

UPDATE: From Yahooo - AP - Rats Run Wild in KFC-Taco Bell in N.Y.:

"This is completely unacceptable and is an absolute violation of our high standards," KFC and Taco Bell said in a statement. "This restaurant has been closed and we are addressing the issue with the franchise owner. We will not allow this store to reopen until is it completely resanitized and given a clean bill of health."

The chains said construction in the basement on Thursday "temporarily escalated the situation."

The city Department of Health had inspectors at the site on Friday, said department spokeswoman Sara Markt. She said the restaurant had passed inspection in December, but a violation was issued to the restaurant owner about "evidence of rats" -- which meant only droppings at the time.

  CBC Marketplace - Trouble's Brewing

While the Marketplace segment harps on Coffee Time's lack of cleanliness at several of its stores, the other coffee store chains weren't perfect. But they weren't as bad as Coffee Time either who had twice the number of infractions as the other chains.

Read the comments - they seem to agree with my opinion. When you walk into many Coffee Time stores, they look dirtier than other coffee stores from the other chains.

  CNet - Don't bury the tube TV quite yet

CRTs make up almost half of the television sets sold in North America and an even greater percentage overseas. So why does the media totally ignore it??? I suspect because it's "not new". There are improvements being made to CRT technology, but the revenue and profit margins are greater in flat-panel displays.

Nonetheless, though tube TVs make up just under half of the TV volume right now, that number is dropping fast. Just four years ago, they comprised 88 percent of the market. In 2004, that number dropped to 75 percent, and in the following year to 64 percent.

The Consumer Electronics Association is predicting that by 2009, CRTs will no longer be sold in the U.S. But until then, there are plenty of CRT models to choose from, and it seems the average television buyer is still game for a tube TV at a good bargain.

At the Consumer Electronics Show this year, Samsung rolled out five new CRT models that, if glimpsed just briefly, appeared to be flat-panel displays. That's because of the very thin form factor, flat glass and side-mounted speakers.

And it's not a market Samsung plans to abandon anytime soon. "From our perspective, it's very strategic," Atash said. "We've been very confident in the prospects for 2007."

At 71 percent of the total market, CRTs are still ruling the global TV market, specifically China, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, where they have a stronger hold, said iSuppli's Patel.

But why, here in the U.S., did CRTs sell so well leading up to the day of the Super Bowl? Because LCDs are getting less expensive, but still can't beat the price of a 30- or 32-inch CRT, said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for NPD.

Meanwhile, the technicians behind some of today's most cutting-edge film effects are loath to switch from CRTs to flat-panel monitors because of the color and contrast that they haven't been able to accurately reproduce on flat panels.

"We've been using these Sony Artisan CRTs for a bunch of years because they can be calibrated and they have a really good black richness and a nice dynamic range, but they're not manufactured anymore. Almost nobody's making CRTs anymore, and we're definitely having supply problems."

  Toronto Star - Judge scolds Rogers in cellphone dispute

Hell hath no fury like a law professor dissed. Some jerk at Rogers who can't read/is ignorant of their own contract decided to punish her and she turns their own contract against them.

Irony and schadenfreude all rolled up into one case.

Not even the Rogers CEO can placate the law prof.

If Rogers knew what was good for them and any customer goodwill they have left, they'd just lick their wounds and stop wasting money on a no-win court case.

And this from the firm that wants to sell the Apple iPhone. I'm sure Apple geeks have just as short a fuse with bad customer service as law profs.

Hung by the fine print in its own contract, Rogers Wireless was ordered by a small claims court judge yesterday to pay $2,000 in punitive damages to an Osgoode law professor for turning off her young son's phone because she refused to pay more than $14,000 for long distance calls she never made.

In August 2005, Drummond returned from a research trip to Israel to a message on her home phone from Rogers, saying to call them about her cellular phone use.

She called the company's office the next day, to learn that more than $12,000 in calls had been made to Pakistan, Russia, the U.K., India and Libya while she was out of the country. It was only then Drummond realized her phone had been stolen from her home while she was away.

Rogers shut down her son's phone on Sept. 2, arguing in court that even though payment of the $12,000, wasn't due until Sept. 10, Drummond had indicated to Rogers that she wouldn't be paying it.

Thomson ruled Rogers was in breach of contract for failing to properly notify Drummond that an interim payment was required in such cases, as per Rogers own contract, which, Thomson pointed out, contained print so fine that a magnifying glass was required to read it.

When Drummond sought an explanation at a Rogers outlet for why her son's phone wasn't working, she was at first told it was a hardware problem and that she had to spend $25 to have it fixed, which she did.

Drummond was awarded punitive damages because Rogers failed to produce a witness to explain why, even after Noah's phone service was restored, the family was not notified.

  Toronto Star - Windows XP on Burlington

A guy tracks down the location for one of the Windows desktop paper images.

Thursday, February 22, 2007
  Globe and Mail - On fees, banks to give Flaherty a 'win'

When your bank announces hundreds of millions to billions in profits, I think it's hard (and pretty stupid) to claim that ABM fees are low.

And it looks like the Federal Finance Minister has given up on using a carrot with the big bank executives and is threatening to use his big legal sticks. It serves them right for dawdling. Any sane customer-focused company with an ounce of marketing know-how would've pounced on this idea to get some consumer goodwill. Instead the chintzy bean counters won the daily battle - but they'll lose the war in the end. Big companies can be so stupid.

In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail, Mr. Flaherty said he had received “a number of representations” of concern surrounding ABMs, and noted that some transactions can include three layers of fees. Specifically, he indicated he would like to know what kind of discounts banks could provide to seniors and young people.

“I would be interested to know of options under low-fee retail deposit accounts, or special accounts for students or seniors,” he wrote to the CEOs.

Before Christmas, the populist-minded Finance Minister asked banks to justify their fees, and last month he publicly rejected their first attempt to rationalize the charges, suggesting they try harder.

The fact that he continues to press the issue has convinced many in the banking industry that they will have to cede some ground by lowering costs.

“It won't eliminate the costs — it will reduce the costs,” said the senior banker. “We'll have to come up with creative ways to see how to really convey a change while minimizing our loss in revenue.”

If the banks do bend to Ottawa's political pressure and create new packages with lower ABM fees, there is a good chance that this lost revenue will be offset by new charges elsewhere.

On Tuesday, Mr. Flaherty noted he has powers under federal law to force banks to change their ABM fees but stopped short of saying he'd ever use them.

Big banks represent an easy target for federal political parties because of their growing financial clout. Last year, Canada's six biggest banks reported combined profit of $19-billion, easily eclipsing the previous high-water mark of $13.1-billion, set in 2004.

  NYTimes - Korean Men Use Brokers to Find Brides in Vietnam

A lack of women in much of developed Asia and yet people from the USA, etc. are flying over to China to adopt young Chinese girls.

Not sure what happened to the idea of keeping things in balance, e.g. yin & yang, etc.

More and more South Korean men are finding wives outside of South Korea, where a surplus of bachelors, a lack of marriageable Korean partners and the rising social status of women have combined to shrink the domestic market for the marriage-minded male. Bachelors in China, India and other Asian nations, where the traditional preference for sons has created a disproportionate number of men now fighting over a smaller pool of women, are facing the same problem.

The rising status of women in the United States sent American men who were searching for more traditional wives to Russia in the 1990s. But the United States’ more balanced population has not led to the shortage of potential brides and the thriving international marriage industry found in South Korea.

Now, that industry is seizing on an increasingly globalized marriage market and sending comparatively affluent Korean bachelors searching for brides in the poorer corners of China and Southeast and Central Asia. The marriage tours are fueling an explosive growth in marriages to foreigners in South Korea, a country whose ethnic homogeneity lies at the core of its self-identity.

  Globe and Mail - On March 14, take your number and run
It's less than a month before portable wireless numbers make their debut, but consumers wouldn't know it from the cellphone carriers' advertising.

Recent ads steer clear of the dreaded subject — wireless number portability (WNP). They tout the latest deals or cutting-edge services rather than the fact that for the first time on March 14, consumers will be able to take their cellphone number with them when they switch carriers.

The lack of advertising, however, shouldn't be surprising. Some observers predict the move could lead to an uptick in so-called churn, or customer turnover, as unhappy subscribers, who are wedded to their phone number, head for the exit signs.

Still, the carriers know the majority of their clients are locked into contracts that last anywhere from one to three years. Subscribers would have to pay financial penalties for the right to walk away from these contracts.

As a result, the WNP battle may not begin in earnest on March 14, but instead in coming months as customers' contracts come up for renewal, observers say.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007
  StorageMojo - Two papers about hard disk reliability

Everything You Know About Disks Is Wrong and Google’s Disk Failure Experience

The actual papers are Google - Failure Trends in a Large Disk Drive Population and Disk failures in the real world:
What does an MTTF of 1,000,000 hours mean to you?

Short summary:

Below is a summary of a few of our results.

Large-scale installation field usage appears to differ widely from nominal datasheet MTTF conditions. The field replacement rates of systems were significantly larger than we expected based on datasheet MTTFs.

For drives less than five years old, field replacement rates were larger than what the datasheet MTTF suggested by a factor of 2-10. For five to eight year old drives, field replacement rates were a factor of 30 higher than what the datasheet MTTF suggested.

Changes in disk replacement rates during the first five years of the lifecycle were more dramatic than often assumed. While replacement rates are often expected to be in steady state in year 2-5 of operation (bottom of the ``bathtub curve''), we observed a continuous increase in replacement rates, starting as early as in the second year of operation.

In our data sets, the replacement rates of SATA disks are not worse than the replacement rates of SCSI or FC disks. This may indicate that disk-independent factors, such as operating conditions, usage and environmental factors, affect replacement rates more than component specific factors. However, the only evidence we have of a bad batch of disks was found in a collection of SATA disks experiencing high media error rates. We have too little data on bad batches to estimate the relative frequency of bad batches by type of disk, although there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that bad batches are not unique to SATA disks.

The common concern that MTTFs underrepresent infant mortality has led to the proposal of new standards that incorporate infant mortality [33]. Our findings suggest that the underrepresentation of the early onset of wear-out is a much more serious factor than underrepresentation of infant mortality and recommend to include this in new standards.

While many have suspected that the commonly made assumption of exponentially distributed time between failures/replacements is not realistic, previous studies have not found enough evidence to prove this assumption wrong with significant statistical confidence [8]. Based on our data analysis, we are able to reject the hypothesis of exponentially distributed time between disk replacements with high confidence. We suggest that researchers and designers use field replacement data, when possible, or two parameter distributions, such as the Weibull distribution.

We identify as the key features that distinguish the empirical distribution of time between disk replacements from the exponential distribution, higher levels of variability and decreasing hazard rates. We find that the empirical distributions are fit well by a Weibull distribution with a shape parameter between 0.7 and 0.8.

We also present strong evidence for the existence of correlations between disk replacement interarrivals. In particular, the empirical data exhibits significant levels of autocorrelation and long-range dependence.

  StorageMojo - Two papers about hard disk reliability

Everything You Know About Disks Is Wrong and Google’s Disk Failure Experience

The actual papers are Google - Failure Trends in a Large Disk Drive Population and Disk failures in the real world:
What does an MTTF of 1,000,000 hours mean to you?

Short summary - Disk driver failure rates are understated and expensive disks aren't less prone to cheaper SATA drives. - Diet and exercise 'transformed our children'
The behaviour of children with special needs improves "significantly" with a good diet and regular exercise, a study has found.

Parents and teachers noticed a marked reduction in youngsters' hyperactivity, anger and restlessness after a seven-month regime of multi-vitamins, healthy food and physical training, said nutritionists and psychiatrists.

Experts who monitored the progress of pupils at a special school in Merton, south London, said the improvements established "without doubt" a link between nutrition and brain power.

Pupils, aged five to 16, took two supplements every day. One was an essential fats mixture made up of two elements: Omega 3, which is rich in fish oils, and evening primrose oil. Pupils also took a multi-vitamin two to four times a day. Pasta, vegetables and fruit replaced fatty or sugary food.

Children were also placed on a training regime used by leading football clubs, including Arsenal.

They went through daily exercises such as running between marks and tip-toeing through a ladder. After seven months teachers and parents were asked to complete questionnaires, rating children by 13 different indicators, including anxiety, hyperactivity and their liability to be over-emotional.

They were asked to rate each child on a four-point scale. On all scales there were marked improvements.

Teachers saw the biggest changes in anxiety and shyness, with staff noticing a 10 per cent reduction in seriously inhibiting behaviour.

Among parents, improvements were more marked. They noticed a 25 per cent reduction in children complaining of psychosomatic problems.

  Toronto Star - Salary cap or is it cheatin' cap?
"The cap is put in place to have a level playing field," said Detroit GM Ken Holland. "As you get into the system, you might find there's loopholes here and there, and the league wants to make sure there are no loopholes, that the object to have a level playing field is enforced."

To that end, the league's GMs were warned yesterday that one potential area for abuse, the use of the long-term injury (LTI) "exception," is going to be closely monitored over the final weeks of the season.

In theory, if a team has a player on LTI, they can go over the salary cap by that player's salary. In effect, it's as though the injured player's salary disappears.

But as soon as the LTI player is ready to play again, theoretically, he is to be restored to the roster and the team has to do whatever is necessary to comply with the cap.

Where it gets interesting, however, is that when the playoffs begin there is no cap because players are no longer paid salaries.

A player on LTI can then return without affecting his team's payroll, which in theory could allow a team to "double up," or use the LTI exception to acquire another player before the deadline and then use both that player and the LTI player in the post-season.

  Windows with 4GB RAM

Looks like people will have to jump to 64-bit to use gobs of memory.

Some HP and Compaq PCs support a physical installation of 4 GB of memory. However, maximum memory is limited to approximately 3 GB in Windows XP (32-bit Editions). This limitation is present on all 32-bit PCs and 32-bit operating systems and is not limited to HP and Compaq systems.

Above 3 GB, all memory may not be available due to system resource requirements. The memory above 3 GB is used for PCI I/O and other system resources.

That IBM guy talking about 4GB is needed for Windows Vista is crap - 99.9% of the computer users out there don't need 4GB of memory. And he does work for IBM, a PC hardware manufacturer, oops, a former PC hardware manufacturer. One GB of RAM and a decent video card should be the main priority for Vista users.

  AMD Athlon 6000 - pitiful overclocker

From the four reviews of the Athlon 6000 I've skimmed through today, none of them have a section on overclocking in their Table of Contents. Reading through the reviews, there are two references to overclocking AMD's latest Athlon: From Tom's Hardware

While it has been difficult to exceed 3 GHz with 90 nm AMD64 processors, the new one reached as much as 3.28 GHz using standard air cooling, which can be attributed to the new F3 stepping.
Using default voltage as an indicator of the sample's frequency headroom, we were unable to run at the next speed grade up, 3200MHz, with any kind of stability. It's evident that the 90nm Windsor core doesn't have a whole lot of life left in it, and the 3GHz X2 6000+ will be its last hurrah.

So less than ten percent overclock? Pass. Intel's Conroe overclocks 50% with ease.

Monday, February 19, 2007
  NYTimes - The Psychology of Pricing

For 99% of people, negotiating for a house will be the largest set of dollars they'll deal with in their personal life.

  NYTimes - JetBlue’s C.E.O. Is ‘Mortified’ After Fliers Are Stranded

I think you can tell how well-trained a company's employees are by how they handle the unexpected. The employees should already handle the everyday details easily, otherwise they should be fired.<.p>

The basic problem, he said, was JetBlue’s communication system: the ice storm had left a large portion of the airline’s 11,000 pilots and flight attendants far from where they needed to be to operate the planes, and JetBlue lacked the trained staff to find them and tell them where to go. Prior to last week, JetBlue had never had so many people out of position.

The reservation system was also overwhelmed, with customers unable to get through to human agents to check on a flight. In an unusual arrangement, the company employs nearly 2,000 reservation agents in the Salt Lake City area, many of them women who work at home. Mr. Neeleman said he would adjust their work agreement to require them to work longer hours during difficult periods.

Mr. Neeleman said he would announce a compensation system for passengers tomorrow. He is hoping to win quick forgiveness from customers and to demonstrate that he takes the airline’s failings seriously.

“This is going to be a different company because of this,” Mr. Neeleman said. “It’s going to be expensive. But what’s more important is to win back people’s confidence.” He did not say if higher fares might be in the offing.

He says knows he has to deliver. “I can flap my lips all I want,” he said. “Talk is cheap. Watch us.”

  MSNBC - Women's desks are ‘germier’
Women have three to four times the number of bacteria in, on and around their desks, phones, computers, keyboards, drawers and personal items as men do, the study by University of Arizona professor Charles Gerba showed. Gerba, a professor of soil, water and environmental sciences, tested more than 100 offices on the UA campus and in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oregon and Washington, D.C. The $40,000 study was commissioned by the Clorox Co.

"I thought for sure men would be germier," Gerba said. "But women have more interactions with small children and keep food in their desks. The other problem is makeup."

Don't get Gerba wrong: Women's desks typically looked cleaner. But the knickknacks are more abundant, and cosmetics and hand lotions make prime germ-transfer agents, Gerba said. Makeup cases also make for fine germ homes, along with phones, purses and desk drawers.

Food in desk drawers also harbors lots of microorganisms, and it is more abundant among female office workers. Gerba found 75 percent of women had munchies in their desks.

"I was really surprised how much food there was in a woman's desk," he said. "If there's ever a famine, that's the first place I'll look for food."

  Scott Hanselman's Computer Zen - Baby Sign Language - Update at 14 months

Neat idea. Teaching your baby sign language so he/she can communicate with you earlier.

  Toronto Star: Millions on the move for Chinese New Year
Liu is one of an estimated 155 million people who will travel by train during the holiday period. The government has extended the length of the official holiday to one week in recent years to encourage tourism as an economic development measure.

Chinese media has reported in the past that because of the crunch on the trains, some people have bought adult diapers to avoid the long lines outside the often stinking toilets.

Police also issued cautions warning people to be careful of pickpockets. Travelers often carry large amounts of money to give as "hong bao," or red envelopes filled with cash, to children. State television on Saturday showed police pulling one thief off a train in handcuffs.

  Gear For Geeks blog:AMD heading for cash-flow crisis

AMD seems to be stuck in quicksand, sinking very slowly - they desperately need their next CPU to be a Conroe-killer. Their 4x4 platform has turned out to be a stinking dud. No rational person would go for the lame architecture over a Kentsfield CPU-system. It's the less ugly of two butt-ugly architectures.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007
  Toronto Star - Wait targets delaying other surgeries: MDs

Makes sense - unless there's more funding for extra operating rooms/nurses/et al., concentrating on reducing wait times for certain surgeries will cause an increase in others.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007
  Globe and Mail - Is Telus willing to accept the scorn with its porn?
But its real landmark may be that it became the first carrier in North America to cross the line separating social responsibility from profits.

"To my knowledge, certainly no one is offering any content that is considered adult content [in the United States]," said Joe Ferran, spokesman for CTIA -- The Wireless Association.

In the United States, where cellphone companies act as gatekeepers when it comes to adult content, carriers have traditionally favoured the family-friendly image than the financial rewards of distributing pornography.

Telus's image as a family company may change in the minds of some customers, but the payoffs from the new service would offset that, said wireless analyst David Chamberlain.

But he said the complaints may not accurately reflect what people want. He cited evidence that Utah, considered to be one of the most conservative states, had the highest use for soft-core porn on cable TV.

"Why is that? I don't know. I think it is perhaps just plain old hypocrisy."

"Any cellphones equipped with Internet browsers have been able to access content unrestricted for two years," Mr. Johannsson said, noting that Telus found about 20 per cent of search terms entered by clients on their mobile browsers were intended to find adult content, with 13 of the top 25 websites accessed being pornography websites.

  New York Magazine - How Not to Talk to Your Kids

One facet of the "nature versus nurture" debate. I think this would work well as a parent or a manager - substitute "employee/employees/employees" for "child/children/students".

For a few decades, it’s been noted that a large percentage of all gifted students (those who score in the top 10 percent on aptitude tests) severely underestimate their own abilities. Those afflicted with this lack of perceived competence adopt lower standards for success and expect less of themselves. They underrate the importance of effort, and they overrate how much help they need from a parent.

But a growing body of research—and a new study from the trenches of the New York public-school system—strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.

“When we praise children for their intelligence,” Dweck wrote in her study summary, “we tell them that this is the name of the game: Look smart, don’t risk making mistakes.” And that’s what the fifth-graders had done: They’d chosen to look smart and avoid the risk of being embarrassed.

Having artificially induced a round of failure, Dweck’s researchers then gave all the fifth-graders a final round of tests that were engineered to be as easy as the first round. Those who had been praised for their effort significantly improved on their first score—by about 30 percent. Those who’d been told they were smart did worse than they had at the very beginning—by about 20 percent.

Dweck had suspected that praise could backfire, but even she was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”

In follow-up interviews, Dweck discovered that those who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.

Repeating her experiments, Dweck found this effect of praise on performance held true for students of every socioeconomic class. It hit both boys and girls—the very brightest girls especially (they collapsed the most following failure). Even preschoolers weren’t immune to the inverse power of praise.

The teachers—who hadn’t known which students had been assigned to which workshop—could pick out the students who had been taught that intelligence can be developed. They improved their study habits and grades. In a single semester, Blackwell reversed the students’ longtime trend of decreasing math grades.

The only difference between the control group and the test group were two lessons, a total of 50 minutes spent teaching not math but a single idea: that the brain is a muscle. Giving it a harder workout makes you smarter. That alone improved their math scores.

Since the 1969 publication of The Psychology of Self-Esteem, in which Nathaniel Branden opined that self-esteem was the single most important facet of a person, the belief that one must do whatever he can to achieve positive self-esteem has become a movement with broad societal effects. Anything potentially damaging to kids’ self-esteem was axed. Competitions were frowned upon. Soccer coaches stopped counting goals and handed out trophies to everyone. Teachers threw out their red pencils. Criticism was replaced with ubiquitous, even undeserved, praise.

To be effective, researchers have found, praise needs to be specific. (The hockey players were specifically complimented on the number of times they checked an opponent.)

According to Meyer’s findings, by the age of 12, children believe that earning praise from a teacher is not a sign you did well—it’s actually a sign you lack ability and the teacher thinks you need extra encouragement. And teens, Meyer found, discounted praise to such an extent that they believed it’s a teacher’s criticism—not praise at all—that really conveys a positive belief in a student’s aptitude.

Dweck’s research on overpraised kids strongly suggests that image maintenance becomes their primary concern—they are more competitive and more interested in tearing others down. A raft of very alarming studies illustrate this.

When students transition into junior high, some who’d done well in elementary school inevitably struggle in the larger and more demanding environment. Those who equated their earlier success with their innate ability surmise they’ve been dumb all along. Their grades never recover because the likely key to their recovery—increasing effort—they view as just further proof of their failure. In interviews many confess they would “seriously consider cheating.”

Students turn to cheating because they haven’t developed a strategy for handling failure. The problem is compounded when a parent ignores a child’s failures and insists he’ll do better next time. Michigan scholar Jennifer Crocker studies this exact scenario and explains that the child may come to believe failure is something so terrible, the family can’t acknowledge its existence. A child deprived of the opportunity to discuss mistakes can’t learn from them.

Monday, February 12, 2007
  MSNBC - Police: Offender posing as child took kids home

A bizarre story, especially the reaction of the older men who were living with the younger man.

  Globe and Mail - A canary in the Chinese coal mine

Great wealth doesn't mean much if you're stuck in a hospital bed.

All around this valley, thousands of peasants are trying to carve out an existence against the thick dust that chokes the air and settles heavily over every living thing. The soil is covered with a layer of grey soot. Tree leaves are laden with dust. The cabbages are blackened.

The farmers say their wheat harvests are becoming smaller and poorer every year. Some say they have to buy grain to feed their families. Others say they had to abandon crops such as cotton because they were too fragile to survive.

"In the past, the wheat plants were very green," says Yi Maosheng, a 62-year-old farmer. "But now, as you can see, they are covered in grey dust. The bees don't come to the flowers of the apple trees any more."

This is the toxic centre of China's coal-producing heartland. It's an apocalyptic vision of clanking factories, spewing smokestacks, burning flames, suffocating fumes, slag heaps, constant haze and relentless dust.

Donglu village has been swallowed up by Linfen, a city of about 4.3 million, possibly the most polluted place on the planet. It is certainly one of the dirtiest cities in China, a status confirmed by annual government surveys for the past five years. A World Bank study a few years ago concluded that it was the most polluted city in the world.

Cities such as Linfen have prospered from the coal industry, and paid a horrendous price. "If you hate someone and want to punish him," the Chinese media say, "arrange for him to live in Linfen."

The pollution in Linfen is so bad that even the red lanterns outside the restaurants are sometimes black from soot. Cars turn on their headlamps in the daytime. Nobody wears a white shirt because it soon becomes grey. Half of the local drinking wells are polluted and unsafe. Elderly people stay indoors, afraid to breathe the air on the streets. Young children have grown up without ever seeing the stars at night because of the haze.

Medical clinics in Linfen are filled with patients who suffer bronchitis, pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses. Many people have a permanent cough, and their lungs and eyes ache.

"When they spit or cough, I can see the black dust from the coal," says Pei Hongchuan, a doctor at a street clinic in Linfen. He estimates that 80 per cent of his patients are suffering from respiratory illnesses. "It's hard to live a healthy life here," he says. "I worry about my own health. I worry that my life could be shortened, or I could get lung cancer."

  NYTimes - Forget Gimmicks: Buyers Want Numbers

More information, up to a point, is a good thing.

Offering packages of detailed data is becoming a new method for brokers to build their clientele and a way for general Web sites to feed consumers’ interests. Last month, the search engine Yahoo entered a partnership with a nonprofit site named to offer buyers detailed data to compare schools.

“In the past, people would, say, send a pumpkin at Thanksgiving or send a calendar,” said Errol Samuelson, president of Top Producer Systems, the company that produces Market Snapshot as a division of, which owns several large real estate and housing sites like “Our perspective is, if you provide real information instead of another refrigerator magnet, you set up the foundation for a relationship.”

Of course, the explosion of detailed real estate data online has produced confusion as well. For example, with the popular house valuation Web sites — including and — the results on values for a half-million-dollar house can range from $400,000 to more than $600,000.

The companies that run these sites offer a simple explanation: We employ better methodology than the competition. In other words, our data can beat their data., which was inaugurated last February, uses flashy maps imposed on color aerial photographs of neighborhoods, and gives estimated values for individual houses.

After the start of, a handful of sites cropped up offering similar services.

Within a month, even the giant, which in recent years had not offered the sale prices of comparable listings online, had a new feature on its front page that gave consumers a starting point to assess their property values.

  MSNBC - Mystery ailment devastates bee industry
A mysterious illness is killing tens of thousands of honeybee colonies across the country, threatening honey production, the livelihood of beekeepers and possibly crops that need bees for pollination.

Researchers are scrambling to find the cause of the ailment, called Colony Collapse Disorder.

Reports of unusual colony deaths have come from at least 22 states. Some affected commercial beekeepers — who often keep thousands of colonies — have reported losing more than 50 percent of their bees. A colony can have roughly 20,000 bees in the winter, and up to 60,000 in the summer.

The country's bee population had already been shocked in recent years by a tiny, parasitic bug called the varroa mite, which has destroyed more than half of some beekeepers' hives and devastated most wild honeybee populations.

Along with being producers of honey, commercial bee colonies are important to agriculture as pollinators, along with some birds, bats and other insects. A recent report by the National Research Council noted that in order to bear fruit, three-quarters of all flowering plants —including most food crops and some that provide fiber, drugs and fuel — rely on pollinators for fertilization.

Among the clues being assembled by researchers:
  • Although the bodies of dead bees often are littered around a hive, sometimes carried out of the hive by worker bees, no bee remains are typically found around colonies struck by the mystery ailment. Scientists assume these bees have flown away from the hive before dying.
  • From the outside, a stricken colony may appear normal, with bees leaving and entering. But when beekeepers look inside the hive box, they find few mature bees taking care of the younger, developing bees.
  • Normally, a weakened bee colony would be immediately overrun by bees from other colonies or by pests going after the hive's honey. That's not the case with the stricken colonies, which might not be touched for at least two weeks, said Diana Cox-Foster, a Penn State entomology professor investigating the problem.

  NYTimes - The No-Name Brand Behind the Latest Flat-Panel Price War
The only ones not getting hurt are consumers, who enjoyed sliding prices on HDTVs in 2006. They are likely to see a rerun of the same action in 2007 as prices are expected to fall further by 40 percent or more. For that they can thank the low-price brands like Syntax’s Olevia.

“It does impact the business,” said Bruce Tripido, senior director of marketing for Sharp’s entertainment products. “They’ve accelerated the price compression and the reduction in profitability for everyone across the board.”

Of course, Olevia does not have the luxury of the name recognition enjoyed by Sharp and others. “A year ago we were nobody,” Mr. Sollitto said. “We were just trying to get people to hear our story.”

Syntax, though, has attracted the interest of investors because it is the only publicly traded TV-focused company in the United States. Its shares shot up from $2.02 in May to a 52-week-high of $11.70 in early January.

It has fallen since then and dropped 15 percent on Thursday after Mr. Sollitto issued a more conservative forecast for revenue growth — a tripling of revenue in its 2007 fiscal year ending June 30.

Instead, Sharp’s strategy is to produce panels in its advanced plants in larger sizes, like 46, 52 and 65 inches, where the value brands cannot compete. (It also has a 108-inch TV coming.) Then it prices aggressively.

“The pricing was incredible right out of the chute” with the new sets, said Eric Haruki, an analyst with IDC, a market research company. “The big guys made pricing moves on their own.”

The result is a smaller price gap between the premium names and the value brands, creating a future risk for Syntax. Right now the average price of a 32-inch L.C.D. TV from a lesser-known brand like Olevia is $834, while a premium brand like Sharp sells for $1,217. Riddhi Patel, an analyst at iSuppli who tracks the overall market, predicts that by Christmas the prices will be more like $600 versus $850.

When the margin is only $150 to $200, Ms. Patel said, a shopper is more apt to shrug off the difference and choose the recognized brand name.

  NYTimes - Deep Breath as Pitchers Rethink Routines

I wonder why players in some sports take longer to embrace technology than others? Is it partly tradition?

  NYTimes - 2nd Acts in the Executive Suite

I don't think Michael Dell will be able to fix Dell's long-term problems easily. He can make short term fixes especially in customer support. But the PC==commodity is a problem if you want profit growth especially when your company is as huge as Dell is.

Thursday, February 08, 2007
  MSNBC - Lab disaster may lead to new cancer drug
Her carefully cultured cells were dead and Katherine Schaefer was annoyed, but just a few minutes later, the researcher realized she had stumbled onto a potential new cancer treatment.

Schaefer and colleagues at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York believe they have discovered a new way to attack tumors that have learned how to evade existing drugs.

Tests in mice suggest the compound helps break down the cell walls of tumors, almost like destroying a tumor cell’s “skeleton”.

She was testing a compound called a PPAR-gamma modulator. It would never normally have been thought of as a cancer drug, or in fact a drug of any kind.

“I made a calculation error and used a lot more than I should have. And my cells died,” Schaefer said.

A colleague overheard her complaining. “The co-author on my paper said,’ Did I hear you say you killed some cancer?’ I said ‘Oh’, and took a closer look.”

They ran several tests and found the compound killed ”pretty much every epithelial tumor cell lines we have seen,” Schaefer said. Epithelial cells line organs such as the colon, and also make up skin.

It also killed colon tumors in mice without making the mice sick, they reported in the journal International Cancer Research.

Schaefer’s team plans more safety tests in mice. As the compound is already patented, her team will probably have to design something slightly different to be able to patent it as a new drug.

  MSNBC - Required [Texas state] STD shots worry some parents
Some conservatives and parents’ rights groups worry that requiring girls to get vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer would condone premarital sex and interfere with the way they raise their children.

Just ship their kids off to Nigeria where these Texas parents will find people who are against vaccinations too.

  ZDNet Blog - Berlind - The problem at Dell wasn’t the CEO. It’s the commodity R&D

This 'problem'/feature has been known for years. It's only since the computer industry has stagnated for the past couple of years when CPUs hit the 3-4GHz ceiling and the 2-4GB ceiling for 32-bit CPUs that what once was a feature of Dell, letting the major component makers do all the innovation, turn into a problem.

Dell needs to realize the problem before it gets too late. Dell's horrible customer service over the past couple of years will be forgotten by many people if Dell can come up with a hot product. But I seriously doubt that they have the people to develop such a product for 2007. They'll need to let loose the headhunters to round up some decent product development people and give them enough management backing to save the company from a very slow death.

  Larry King - Anna Nicole Smith "not the smartest person in the world"

As heard on CNN's coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's death today.

  NYTimes - Hopes Soar After Record Hospital Gift of $400 Million

Big charitable gift made off of high credit card interest rates.

  NYTimes - The Netherlands, the New Tax Shelter Hot Spot

If you've got lotsa revenue from intellectual property, e.g. royalties, the Netherlands is the place to report the income.

The Dutch shelter is simple: royalties that flow into or out of a Dutch holding company are exempt from taxes. Although the nominal corporate tax rate in the Netherlands is around 30 percent, analysts say that domestic tax shelters bring that rate down substantially.

Not everyone has access to Dutch shelters. Dutch tax benefits are typically available only to artists who are not citizens of the United States. While the Netherlands does not tax royalties going in or out of a Dutch company, the Treasury Department in the United States typically levies its standard corporate income tax rate of 35 percent on royalties coming into America from a Dutch entity.

  Globe and Mail - How a PlayStation speculator misread the market and lost

Speculator loses money because he got too greedy. Only different thing about this story is that he was speculating in Sony PS3s. Tough luck, dude.

  LA Times - Bookshops' latest sad plot twist

Independent bookstores are dying off as people go to big-box and internet book stores.

  Globe and Mail - RIM wins patent challenge in the U.K.

I think all my friends in the UK are glad/relieved about this ruling.

The Court of Appeal backed a High Court ruling from a year ago that RIM had not infringed on a patent held by Luxembourg company InPro Licensing Sarl, RIM confirmed in a brief statement.

The court ruled that InPro's patent — which related to the way in which portable computers surf the Internet — was not valid and should be revoked, ending the potential threat to the BlackBerry e-mail service used by hundreds of thousands in Britain, according to an earlier report by Reuters News Agency.

InPro, which makes money from licensing intellectual property, lost the first round of the case last February and saw a similar decision go against it in Germany last January, after it tried to bring action against RIM and BlackBerry reseller T-Mobile, Reuters reported.

Patent-troll firms are evil.

  eWeek - Massachusetts Leads National TJX Data Probe
The TJX incident was announced in mid-January, and according to TJX statements, discovered in mid-December.

That month-long delay before public disclosure is a key issue in the Massachusetts probe. TJX has also said that the data problem began in mid-May and hadn't been discovered until mid-December, which is also something the Massachusetts group will likely examine. The $16 billion global retail chain owns T.J. Maxx and Marshall's, among other brands.

Coakley stressed that her multi-state probe will not be limited to credit- and debit-card transactions, but will look at a wide range of "paperless transactions of financial information," including TJX's retention of driver's license information required to handle in-store receipt-less product returns. - Vitamin D levels linked to lower cancer rates
"The data were very clear, showing that individuals in the group with the lowest blood levels had the highest rates of breast cancer, and the breast cancer rates dropped as the blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D increased," said study co-author Dr. Cedric Garland, professor at University of California, San Diego Department of Family and Preventive Medicine.

"The serum level associated with a 50 per cent reduction in risk could be maintained by taking 2,000 international units of vitamin D3 daily plus, when the weather permits, spending 10 to 15 minutes a day in the sun."

As with the breast cancer study, data on the nearly 1,500 individuals were organized by order by vitamin D blood levels and then divided into five equal groups.

"Through this meta-analysis we found that raising the serum level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D to 34 ng/ml would reduce the incidence rates of colorectal cancer by half," said co-author Edward D. Gorham, assistant professor of family and preventive medicine.

"We project a two-thirds reduction in incidence with serum levels of 46ng/ml, which corresponds to a daily intake of 2,000 IU of vitamin D3. This would be best achieved with a combination of diet, supplements and 10 to 15 minutes per day in the sun."

  Annals of Improbably Research: An Algorithm for Determining the Winners of U.S. Presidential Elections

Presidential Electability = 5*(years as President) + years as U.S. Representative + 11*(years as Governor),

+110 if the candidate has been a four- or five-star general officer in the United States Armed Forces,

+110 if the candidate has been a college or university president or chancellor,

+110 if the candidate is the child of a U.S. Senator,

–110 if the candidate has been divorced,

–110 if the candidate has been a special prosecutor,

–110 if the candidate was the first adherent of a particular religion (e.g., Protestantism, Deism, or Catholicism) to be a major-party candidate for President,

–110 if the candidate was an officer of a lobbying organization at the time of the election.

Vice Presidential Electability = 4*(years as Vice President) + years as U.S. Representative + years as Governor,

+110 if the candidate has been a corporate banker,

+110 if the candidate has been a college or university president or chancellor,

+110 if the candidate is the child of a U.S. Senator,

–110 if the candidate was the first adherent of a particular religion (e.g., Protestantism, Deism, Catholicism, or Judaism) to be a major-party candidate for Vice President,

–110 if the candidate was an officer of a lobbying organization at the time of the election.

Total Electability = Presidential Electability + Vice Presidential Electability.

  Toronto Star: More permits than 100-year-old drivers

There's 2 orders of magnitude difference between the number of disabled driver permits for centenarians and the number of >= 100 year-old drivers. That is careless.

Of the 4,428 centenarians registered as active permit holders, 3,456 – 78 per cent of them – appear to be turning 107 this year. And more than 1,200 appear to be licensed drivers. But there were only 30 centenarians licensed to drive at the end of 2005, according to the transportation ministry.

In addition to the centenarian issue, the data also shows there are 198 permits registered to people under age 16 who, oddly enough, are listed as licensed to drive.

Yesterday, Cansfield, head of the ministry for less than a year, said her staff will connect the permit database to the registrar's death database.

"If you can put a man on the moon, you can link a database. We will tighten it up. That's our responsibility," she said.

I think putting a man on the moon and issuing disabled driver's permits are several orders of magnitude different in difficulty. But that depends on the competence/honesty/diligence of the people involved.

Gee, 30 really old people still licensed to drive. Hmm. Should I worry?

  IT World: Apple's Windows applications aren't ready for Vista

The article title is the nice corporate-friendly version. It should read "Apple can't write Windows software."

Apple releases its Windows software relatively often - at least once a year for some products. Many of the problems that the Apple apps have under Vista have been documented for years as requirements for developing Windows-logo-approved software, but Apple's developers/PMs couldn't be bothered to adhere to the rules.

Of course, Apple's developers haven't exactly adhered to the rules for writing code for Mac OS X.

Microsoft hasn't caught up to the x86 version of OS X yet - but Apple and Microsoft play by different rules when developing operating systems.

Apple announced the switch to the x86 chip family out of the blue - no sufficient warnings to their most visible ISVs - Adobe and Microsoft.

These big software houses are on their own schedule, probably 2-3 year schedules for a major product upgrade. As they get closer to the end, it gets harder to turn the ship around to another target. Probably the last year of development would be tied to cleaning up and alpha/beta/RC releases. So, if Apple can't give a 1.5-2 year warning to these companies about the impending change, then Apple will lose support for the new products in the current upgrade cycle unless their switch occurred near the beginning of the development cycle.

If Adobe and Microsoft can do a relatively quick recompile/test cycle, they could get an x86 version out in a year or so. If not, then the next major upgrade would get x86 support. Given how few x86 machines would be in the marketplace, the quick recompile/test cycle wouldn't make economic sense. So the next major upgrade cycle is what Apple was looking at when they introduced the x86 boxes.

Apple's continuing development of competing products to Adobe's and Microsoft's offerings suggest that Apple would not be getting preferential treatment.

Meanwhile Microsoft has been releasing public betas/RCs of Windows Vista and SDK documentation for months before wide consumer availability.

Microsoft's Visual Studio has problems with Windows Vista too - but the VS2005 has higher demands /requirements than iTunes.

Thursday, February 01, 2007
  BBC: Rowling unveils last Potter date

2007 July 21 is the magic date.

Rowling has said two characters die in the final book and fans are wondering whether Harry is one of them.

This is the 10th anniversary of the first book of the hugely successful series being published.

The firm said it would publish a children's hardback edition, an adult hardback, a special gift edition and an audio book on the same day.

As well as making Rowling a dollar billionaire, the books have been credited with bringing children back to reading and reviving the British film industry.

Powered by Blogger