Back In Action

My apologies for not posting the past few days, the main reason was the NewsGator died on me and crashed Outlook each time I opened it. So clever Outlook asked me whether it should disable the add-in and I said yes. After that I was too lazy to figure out how to enable it again until today, so I tried re-installing but that didn’t seem to work. That’s when I did a Google search and came up with this tip. To enable a disabled Outlook Add-in go to Help -> About -> Disabled Items and presto you’ve got your man there!

Microsoft co-founder to demo always-on mini PC

Vulcan, the company set up by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, will show off its FlipStart always-on mobile "mini PC" this week.

FlipStart is a compact 14.8 x 10.1 x 2.6cm (5.8 x 4 x 1in) notebook that sports an unnamed 1GHz processor and runs Windows XP. Vulcan's idea is to offer a machine that has the compatibility, power and application base of the mainstream Microsoft OS with a form factor that's little bigger than a PDA yet features a full QWERTY keyboard. Like a PDA, the device is designed to operate continuously, going to sleep when the lid is closed rather than shutting down completely.

It weighs under 450g (1lb), Vulcan claims.

Unlike a classic handheld, the FlipStart contains a 30GB hard drive and 256MB of memory. The "HDTV-quality" 5.6in 1024 x 600 LCD is driven by an unnamed (again) 3D graphics chip with 8MB of video memory. It's got 802.11b/g built-in, and Vulcan plans to offer optional Bluetooth and mobile phone network access modules. There's a single USB 2.0 to allow you to connect an external keyboard or other peripherals.

The notebook's lid features an optional control and display unit to allow users to check email, play MP3s or check personal information without having to open up the machine.

Vulcan isn't saying when the FlipStart will ship or how much it will cost. All it will say is that it plans to provide that information sometime later this year.

Intel to Announce Telecommunications-Speed Breakthrough

Intel researchers will announce today a major breakthrough in chip design that will make it possible to inexpensively create ultra-high-speed fiber optic telecommunications equipment that can send data over long distances. The breakthrough will revolutionize Internet-based communication, the company says, by bringing the PC industry's low-cost model to telecommunications. The results of Intel's work should be widespread within a decade, according to a paper that will be published today in "Nature."

"Before there were two worlds--computing and communications," Alan Huang, a former Bell Labs physicist, told "The New York Times." "Now they will be the same, and we will have powerful computers everywhere." Researchers familiar with Intel's breakthrough are excited about the possibilities, which should enable completely new PC designs that don't delineate between the local physical machine and remote computing resources. Because we'll eventually be able to shuttle data over a network nearly as fast as we send data within a single PC, a completely new generation of PC services and applications will be possible. "Think of it as either bringing us a tenfold decrease in costs of existing communications or 10 times the bandwidth for the same cost," Intel President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Paul S. Otellini said. "It is yet another step in the path to convergence we have been discussing for the past few years."

The Intel breakthrough involves a silicon chip that can send data through light beams at speeds more than 50 times faster than today's fastest communications technologies and should result in low-cost computer networks that use light waves to move data seamlessly between chips, computers, and networking devices around the world. Excited researchers note that the breakthrough will likely shift communications technology to the Moore's Law cost curve, an often-misquoted chip pricing-and-performance prediction that Intel Cofounder Gordon Moore first cited. Under Moore's Law, chip performance doubles every 2 years (or 18 months, depending on who you ask) while prices continue to fall.

If Intel's projections hold true, within the decade we'll be able to buy 10GHz networking switches that cost just $5 to $10. Today, such switches cost $1000 to $2000.


Dammika and I have been having an interesting discussion on the current political state. Now this is what I like to see. What are your thoughts on this?

Software Testing on Mars

[Bruce Williams] Here is an interesting summary of the problem encountered by the Spirit probe on Mars. Important test lessons: “test real-world conditions” “run long-haul stress tests”

“SYSTEM BEHAVIOR: Spirit began acting up last week, when it stopped sending data and began rebooting its computer, resetting it roughly 130 times. At one point, the rover thought it was 2053.

BUG DESCRIPTION: Engineers found that the rover's 256 megabyte flash memory had retained hundreds of files containing flight data and was still juggling them along with the daily flood of new data from its activities in Mars' Gusev Crater.

WORKAROUND: By commanding Spirit each morning into a mode that avoids using the flash memory, engineers plan to begin deleting hundreds of unneeded files to make the memory more manageable for the rover's RAM.

WHY WASN'T THIS CAUGHT IN TEST?: The bug had not been detected in operational tests of the rover on Earth because the longest tests lasted only eight or nine days.”


[The Furrygoat Experience]

Intranet Open Source 2.7.2, Free

Digger Solutions is an intranet application that takes a classic open-source marketing tack: give away a bunch of useful functionality, and hope to make some money by selling additional add-ons. The free part is useful enough that it just might work out that way.

The idea is simple: this is the sort of application that a small consulting company might use to manage its projects and time. It's implemented in classic ASP with an Access backend (scripts are available to convert the backend to SQL Server 7.0 or 2000 if you prefer). At the heart of the system are tracking pages for clients, projects, tasks, and timecards (hours applied to an individual task - you might have seen other systems call these timeslips). There's not full Gantt-chart project scheduling here, but there is plenty of room to plan future projects, as well as a good set of reports to tell you how you're doing.

There are also a bunch of other things that dress up the intranet: a shared calendar, company news, a discussion area, resource links, an employee directory, and a document repository, for example. You can create and update message logs for each client, and inspect both the work logs for clients and for employees. On a local server, it's all quite fast, and it seems to work as advertised. The source code is somewhat commented, and there's an administrator's manual with some basic documentation.

I was able to get IOS up and running quite quickly on my own server, poke around in the sample data, and enter my own. The few problems that I hit were in misconfiguration, and they were easily solved with the help of the support area on the Digger Solutions site.

So if you get all that for free, what do you need to pay for? The answer is that, although you can administer everything by manipulating the database directly, there are Admin Paks for things like news, calendar entries, and employees. These range in price from $19.99 to $99.99 (for a complete package that includes everything). There are also some skins to make IOS look nicer, though it's perfectly functional without them.

I was just thinking about writing something like this for a distributed development team that I'm involved with. Now I just may implement IOS instead. After all, reinventing wheels is not a great use of time.

Is the bad guy in Sri Lanka a lady?

THERE comes a time when one senses the approach of a turning point, and catastrophe is but a few ticks of history away.

That moment appears to be fast approaching in Sri Lanka. This small country is in fact as geopolitically significant to the United States and the West as troubled Cyprus and the other flaming sunspots that attract Western political and media attention. But the former Ceylon - a gorgeous tropical island just off the southern coast of India - is on the brink of the political hell-hole again.

WHO is the bad guy in the Sri Lankan impasse? Until recently, Western observers tended to blame the Tamil Tigers, a group that trafficks in the same clandestine arms-acquisition circles as the Al-Qaeda. But now, a more rounded perspective views the viciousness of these rebels as related to the oppression by the ethnic-majority government in Colombo.

Certainly, the recent antics of President Chandrika Kumaratunga give considerable credence to that view. She recently dissolved Parliament to pave the way for unneeded snap elections (four years ahead of schedule) in order, it is suspected, to stack the Cabinet with cronies and coalition allies in her effort to defenestrate Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, a relative moderate on the Tamil issue. [Read more]