Here we stand, on the brink of August ... cannot believe my busy summer filled with bike races and sailing and work work work is nearly past (although in Southern California, August tends to be more summer-like than July!) Yesterday afternoon we participated in a SAIC* webinar for parents of incoming students, cannot believe in less than a month our little Megan will be off to college! Wow.
That's a picture of Meg fifteen years ago, at 3. Hehe.
* SAIC = School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Take a self-guided tour of the International Space Station. I must confess, I've spent way too much time "lost in space". Reactions: it's really small, and really messy. What do they do up there? The ISS is amazing but then again, it's actually just a boondoggle, built to give the Space Shuttle somewhere to go. Maybe the international cooperation angle was key. I love that the virtual tour ends at "the Russian section", which is "coming soon" :)
Cotton vs Kerry, it's no contest. The Iran deal is so bad, but the politicians behind it are worse. As poor as President Obama has proven to be, I do believe he is trying. Whereas with Secretary of State John Kerry, he is just going through the motions, desperately hoping not to be found out. We badly need a better class of politicians. (Like Tom Cotton...)
Back to space (more cheerful) ... Rosetta finds primordial soup of compounds on comet. "The European Space Agency (ESA) ... announced that the mission to explore Comet 67P has discovered 16 organic compounds, described as 'carbon and nitrogen-rich.' The agency says on its website that the discovery, made by the Philae lander includes four compounds that have never before been detected in comets." Little Philae managed to be quite useful before crash landing, and it might not be dead yet, either.
I missed this: Is one of these your dream car? A celebration of the 85th birthday of Italian design firm Pininfarina. I must confess one of these *is* my dream car :)
An oldie but goodie, from the New Yorker ten years ago:
"Tour de Force"
One of my favorite New Yorker covers ever, amid heavy competition. I posted this in 2005 along with a note celebrating Lance Armstrong's *first* retirement, after having just "won" his seventh consecutive Tour de France. Who knew then that he was doping, that he would come back three years later, finish third, get embroiled in more doping controversies, and ultimately get caught, and that he would end up disgraced and forfeiting all those victories. The one thing we can't take away from him is that he's a cancer survivor and founder of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, now known as Livestrong, and has raised more money for cancer research and help for cancer victims than any other individual ever. I'm pretty ambivalent about Lance as an individual, but still a proud Livestrong supporter (and yellow band wearer).
I found this via my blogs Flight feature; interestingly I haven't posted on July 30 for seven years. So now I have :)
Hmmm... NASA completes rocket design review for future Mars journey. Including starting development on the new Space Launch System. That's great, but, somehow my money is on SpaceX to get there faster, cheaper, better. I believe the best way for government to accomplish "big things" is to pay private industry to do it for them, maybe by establishment of appropriate prizes rather than time-and-materials-plus-margin vendor relationships. Anyway I guess it IS great that we're talking about launching stuff again. But I worry that this is just a boondoggle and not serious tech.
How to explain Donald Trump? "To explain the inexplicable rise of Donald Trump is to calibrate the anger of fed-up crowd that is enjoying the come-uppance of an elite that never pays for the ramifications of its own ideology." I don't think he'll be the GOP candidate, and I certainly don't think he'll win, and I also don't agree with a lot of what he says. But boy has he struck a nerve.
Meanwhile: Carly Fiorina: Here's what I will do as Commander in Chief. A pretty compelling straightforward speech, laying out exactly what she believes and will do. How great would it be to have a President like that? If you're at all curious about her, I encourage you to watch this talk. At least you'll know who she is.
Today is Windows 10 Day. So be it. The reviews are pretty lukewarm, of the "well it's not as bad as Windows 8 variety", and I'm not compelled to rush out to install it. Are you? Seems like waiting for a couple of patch releases might be a good idea.
Oh no ... C you never! Apple scraps plans for 4-inch iPhone 6c. This isn't a fact, of course, just an analyst prediction. If true, it means I'll have to hold onto my iPhone 5s a bit longer. I am not interested in a bigger phone, in fact, I wouldn't mind a smaller one.
Are you ready? Friday will be a blue moon. (The second full moon in a calendar month, which is rarely actually blue.) This is the first one since August 2012 (where were you?) and it won't happen again until January 2018, so make the most of it :)
Okay cycling fans, here's what you've been waiting for ... my galactic 2015 Tour de France post.
This year I restrained myself from posting about the Tour every day, but of course, I watched each stage with great interest. And it was an exceptionally interesting Tour, with a great route featuring lots of interesting stages. For the first time in many years all of the best stage racers in the world were present: 2012 champion Alberto Contador, 2013 champion Chris Froome, defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, and 2013 runner up Nairo Quintana. And there were lots of promising dark horses too, like American Tejay Van Garderen and Alejandro Valverde, as well as a slew of great French hopes like last year's runner up JC Peraud and Thibaut Pinot.
I've made one giant review post here, briefly recapping each of the tour stages. To enhance my enjoyment, I created Google Earth flybys of each stage - I've posted them here - and downloaded and edited each of the stages as broadcast on NBCsn - I've posted links to the torrents.
It ended up being the best Tour ever - certainly since I became a cycling fan - with great racing by amazing riders on a beautiful course. It seemed each day had an interesting storyline, whether it was the sprinters - Andrew Greipel vs Mark Cavendish vs Peter Sagan - or the potential breakaway winners - or the green jersey competition - or the huge GC battle. And mercifully there were no doping controversies ... yay. There was talk of doping when there were great performances, but no actual doping. Maybe even the talk will end soon...
Just to clarify, I am not a global warming denier, I'm more of a global warming doubter. There's probably a warming effect caused by release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but I don't think the end is nigh. Furthermore I don't think most global warming activity has anything to do with genuine concern, it's all politics.
Meanwhile, in real science news, NASA's Kepler discovers bigger, older cousin to Earth. "The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone - the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet - of a G2-type star, like our sun." And it's merely 1,400 light years away ... a perfect vacation opportunity.
Here's a public service announcement: how to reenable Windows weather gadgets. Why, you may ask, should this be a subject for a blog post? Well because 1) Windows weather gadgets are nice and useful, and 2) Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, recently disabled them. Permanently. Sigh.
In Task Manager, locate sidebar.exe and kill it. Your old, dead, no-longer-updating gadgets will disappear.
Go to "C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Live\Services\Cache", edit "Config.xml", and save it without making any changes. Yes you read that right, just do it.
Right-click on your desktop, and select Gadgets. This restarts sidebar.exe and poof! working weather gadgets.
For extra credit, here's how to set or change the location of each gadget:
In Task Manager, locate sidebar.exe and kill it. Your gadgets will disappear.
Edit "C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar\Settings.ini". You will see a section for each weather gadget with a WeatherLocation and a WeatherLocationCode. You can change Weather Location to any text you like. To set WeatherLocationCode, visit: https://weather.codes/search/. The codes are eight characters, something like "USCA1228" (Westlake Village, California) or ""MAXX0002" (Antananarivo, Madagascar).
Right-click on your desktop, and select Gadgets. This restarts sidebar.exe and poof! updates made.
PS this particular subject is a case study in useless misinformation spread all over the Internet. Honestly people, if you don't know what you're talking about, stop talking.
So I spent the last week / weekend sailing in the 2015 C-15 Nationals, an event I first sailed in way back in 1978. Whew. We didn't win, and although I almost killed my crew (longtime friend and fellow sailor Don, who is always the center of good stories) we did have some good moments too (best one, port tacking the entire fleet with the right side favored). It was so much fun, we might even do it again ... in another 35 years.
What can I say about the Iran deal that hasn't been said elsewhere by others already? It's a horrible deal, truly Munich for our time. (This refers to the Munich agreement made by Prime Minister of the UK Nevil Chamberlain with Hitler's Germany, an appeasement which didn't work, and led directly to WWII.) We know it will enable Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and we can only hope it doesn't lead directly to WWIII.
Brings to mind the remark by Albert Einstein, that he didn't know what weapons would be used in WWIII, but he thought WWIV might be fought with sticks and stones. Sigh.
The worst part is I'm entirely unclear on what the US gains from this deal. It seems the only benefit is that President Obama can claim to have made a deal with Iran, and that's of no use to anyone.
Interesting: PayPal shares pop 8.3% after split from eBay. The acquisition of PayPal by eBay made sense at the time - the dot-bomb explosion made access to capital for PayPal very difficult - but now it's good that they're separate. PayPal can resume its original vision of becoming "the new world currency" :)
NASA celebrates 50 years of planetary awesomeness. On July 14, 2015, New Horizons will take the first close-up pictures of Pluto, exactly 50 years to the day after Mariner 4 flew by Mars and took the first close-up pictures ever of another planet. Wow...
MG Siegler links Dennis Overbye: The inventory of major planets - whether you count Pluto as one of those or not - is about to be done. None of us alive today will see a new planet up close for the first time again. In some sense, this is, as Alan Stern, the leader of the New Horizons mission, says, "he last picture show."
It’s hard to write these words and know what they might feel like 50 years from now. I never dreamed, when Apollo astronauts left the moon in 1972, that there might come a day when there was nobody still alive who had been to the moon. But now it seems that could come to pass. How heartbreaking is that?
You could say that we have reached the sea, the very icy and black sea between us and the stars. Whether we will ever cross that sea nobody can say.
I can say, we shall cross it. Probably sooner than anyone can imagine. Life will find a way.
PS there are 182 known moons in the solar system, some nearly as large as Mars (Ganymede and Titan), with a wide variety of interesting characteristics. And literally thousands of asteroids, dwarf planets, comets, and other space dwellers. So I don't think it's even the last picture show.
"Darren Millar, the Shadow Minister for Health and Social Services in Wales, posed three questions to Welsh economy, science and transport minister Edwina Hart about recent UFO sightings and funding research into the phenomena. A Welsh government spokesperson responded in Klingon:
Jang vIDa je due luq. 'ach ghotvam'e' QI'yaH devolve qaS.
Translation: "The minister will reply in due course. However this is a non-devolved matter."
"I've always suspected that Labour ministers came from another planet," Millar said. "This response confirms it."
Recently a contemporary (50ish) friend shared his thoughts on finding a job as a software developer today:
There are fewer fulltime positions now, and more contractor / parttime positions
It's harder and harder for experienced engineers to find work
A lot of the work out there is maintenance of old systems, not new development
I was thinking about this, and here are my thoughts...
A couple of huge things have happened in software, the cloud / web thing, and mobile. Most new development being undertaken today involves one or both.
All that said ... the big new thing is mobile. There are two platforms that matter, IOS / ObjectiveC and Android / Java. If I were trying to get a job as a software engineer today - building new stuff, not forensic debugging of 10-year-old still-working systems - I would be an app developer. And on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog, or a 50+-year old engineer. I think with a mobile skillset anyone would be in demand.
So, how do you climb that learning curve? Well, the first thing is you have to get a Mac and learn OS X, enough to be a user. Hardly anyone develops *for* OS X, but just about everyone develops *on* OS X. I have installed OS X in a VM on my PC laptop, but I'm weird. Everyone just gets a Mac laptop.
Next, I would recommend learning IOS / ObjectiveC first. Android / Java is similar enough to be analogous, but it is a bit clunkier and has more variations. The development platform is XCode, from Apple. You join their developer program for $100/year and then download and install it. The first step in the learning curve is learning ObjectiveC. (Apple now have a new language called Swift, but it hasn't gained traction and ... I would not start there.) ObjectiveC is a mashup of C and Smalltalk. To learn it, I suggest reading the Big Nerd Ranch guide to Objective C. Yeah, that's what it's called, and it's a great hands-on learn-as-you-go guide. For an experienced engineer, I don't think this is going to be a huge curve. And it's a valuable skillset; ObjectiveC is used for IOS *and* OS X. It's also a step to learning C# or Java since they are quite similar.
After that, to learn developing for IOS you have to learn the intricacies of Cocoa. This is Apple's runtime library. It does a lot of the work for you, but it also hides a lot of the detail so it's a bit tough to get your arms around. The XCode environment is highly integrated with Cocoa, the seam between development and deployment is wiggly. (Think of it like [early-pre-.NET] VB on Windows.) To climb the curve, I suggest reading the Big Nerd Guide to IOS*. It helped me get through the initial "what the heck is going on here" to creating "Hello, World" apps for IOS. There is a lot beyond that but it sure is satisfying to be able to code apps that actually run on your phone.
* The Big Nerd Ranch guides are Kindle-able. I suggest having the book open in one window and XCode open in another, and toggling back and forth.
Building crap for phones is all very exciting, and a lot of cool apps are client-side-only, but many real applications need a server component. It turns out the same kinds of interfaces you build for web-client-to-server apps are also used for mobile-client-to-server apps. On the server, you create simple stateless APIs (the cool kids call this REST) which do all the real work for mobile clients (like database access). In some applications you even have both web and mobile clients, using the same APIs. Once you've learned coding mobile apps, you're probably going to want to learn more about the tech on REST servers, too. That's a subject for another post.
I were an engineer looking for work in 2015, I would start teaching myself to build IOS apps. I'd get a Mac, get comfortable using OS X, learn to use XCode, learn ObjectiveC, and learn Cocoa. That's the biggest world in software development at the moment, and it isn't going away.
So what do *you* think? Please let me know if you have comments or suggestions!
It's Sunday night, I have a big week ahead. So naturally I'm going to get a good night's sleep... Bssst! I'm going to blog.
From Fortune's CEO Daily: "Which number is larger: $350 billion? Or $3 trillion? The first is Greece's total debt. The second is wealth that has evaporated from the Chinese stock market in the last month. The difference suggests we are paying too much attention to the wrong thing."
The Shanghai and Shenzen exchanges continued their rout Tuesday, despite heroic efforts to stop them. IPOs have been shut down, short-selling has been banned, more than 700 shares - about a quarter of the market - have been suspended from trading, and, oh yes, a government-backed fund is buying billions of dollars worth of stock.
I will say, at least China are reaping what they've sown. Greece seem being spared the consequences of their actions, with dire result. VDH comments America, like Greece, may end with a lawless whimper. "All the German euros in the world will not save Greece if Greeks continue to dodge taxes, featherbed government, and see corruption as a business model."
Yosemite rock fall changes face of world-class climb. "A massive sheet of rock fell from the vertical face of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, making one of the most popular routes attempted by climbers in North America even more challenging, park officials said Tuesday." Whoa.
Have you been tracking the soap opera at Reddit? It's pretty interesting, and we public probably only know 1/10th of the truth. Anyway Steve Huffman, the original founder, is back on the helm. Judging from this public Q&A, things are going to get better. At least he has a sense of why people use Reddit, and a desire to help them do it. And he knew enough about their system to know this was the right way to reach them...
The other day I was having coffee with a friend at Coffee Bean, our local caffeinery, and they had a Bluelist QR Code next to the register. I asked the Barrista about it, and she had no idea what it was or why it was there. Staff training, anyone?
So okay, I launch Red Laser and scan the QR code, and ... the value is 4071. That's it. No URL! Boy, this is going to be the most successful in-store program ever!
Totally agree: Pompous Apple is Pompous, regarding their new "if it's not an iPhone, it's not an iPhone", ads. Steve Jobs would never have run these.
Fast Company: Why the Apple Watch is flopping. "How did this happen? The answer may sound like heresy to those who canonize - or even merely admire - Apple's designers. What if the Apple Watch, for all its milled and woven metals, all its appearances on the catwalk, isn't actually all that well-designed? So far, the Apple Watch doesn't seem very useful, and it hasn't proven that fashionable." I don't think it is flopping in the sense of not selling well, but I do think it hasn't changed the world. Few of my friends wear them, and tellingly, few seem to know why they'd want one.
Parenthetically, I've been wearing my 40-year-old pre-TAG-Heuer a lot more often. Sort of an anti-Apple Watch statement, I guess. And I'm still proud of my Pebble Steel...
A great thought-provoking chart, showing the distribution of languages around the world
(click to enbiggen so you can read the fine print)
- wow, Chinese
- okay, English 2nd, Spanish 3rd, Hindi 4th, Arabic 5th, but Portugese 6th? (Brazil!)
- Tamil? Telegu? Urdu? ... India
- Surprised German and French aren't more broadly spoken