Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Friday, December 29, 2006

Passwords & USB Keys

I can't believe you guys are talking about keyboard shortcuts. That's like elementry school. Or maybe I've just been doing this too long.

I hate passwords. Every website I go to wants me to register, create a user name and a password. So I had an idea.

How about a USB key that keeps track of all your login info, along with a USB socket on the keyboard? Keep the USB key on your keyring. Plug it into the keyboard when you sit down, you are logged in. Pull it out when you leave.

Then I was talking to a friend of mine who uses lots of different computers, and she wanted her whole environment saved on a USB keyfob. And why not? A gigabyte of flash memory is less than $20 now. You could keep you entire desktop, all your preferences, address book, etc, etc. on it.

Lets not even talk about where Windows keeps the browser cache.

Grow Online Game Solutions / Spoiler

I spent several (many?) hours this fall playing the various versions of the online game "Grow". The game is not difficult to play, you simple select objects to add to the game. The tricky part is getting the sequence of objects correct. Each time you add an object, something happens in the game. If, or when, you get the sequence correct, more things happen, and you get congratulations in one form or another. Version 3 could be considered the most difficult as there are twelve objects to choose from, which means there are 12! (twelve factorial, which is a very large number. 479,001,600 if you must know.) possible sequences to choose from. There are some clues you can use to try and determine the correct order. Sometimes when you add one object, some of the other objects will "level up". And when you have finished adding all the objects, the final level of each object is reported. The puzzle is solved when all objects reach their "max" value. If an object has not reached its' maximum level, it either was not added early enough in the sequence, or an object that it depended on was not added early enough. Likewise, if an object does reach its' maximum level, it was either added at the correct point, or possibly too early. As near as I can tell, each object should go up one level each time a subsequent object is added. Objects that are added early in the game increase their level more times than objects added late in the game. In my pursuit of the solution I started keeping notes as to the order objects were added and the levels they reached. While I was working on these puzzles, they kept me very entertained. Now I find them a bit tedious. In any case, if you are interested, here are the solutions. I only post them here because I spent so long working on this and I wanted to save the results somewhere. I am not sure anyone will want to see them.

Grow version one has recently appeared, but it is not nearly as complicated. I worked through all the possibilities in about an hour.

Grow Version 2 http://www.eyezmaze.com/grow/v2

* Cone
* Block
* Paper
* Can
* Hole
* Ball

Grow Version 3 http://www.eyezmaze.com/grow/v3/

* Egg
* Block
* Ladder
* Ball
* Pipe
* Hill
* Prop
* Gear
* Funnel
* Bowl
* Base
* Screen

RPG http://www.eyezmaze.com/grow/RPG

* House
* Trees
* Castle
* Water
* Tower
* Rocks
* Chest
* Stairs

Cube http://www.eyezmaze.com/grow/cube

* Dude
* H2O
* Bush
* Pail
* Tube
* Fire
* Dish
* Bone
* Ball
* Coil

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Manfred

Manfred used to work for Stevens, the company where I am currently employed. He does not work there anymore. He is beloved by many of the employees, as they have worked together for many years. He can be a charming fellow. He is also an alcoholic and it has finally caught up with him. He has been in rehabilitation two or three times this year. The last time he stopped at the liquor store on his way home. He drinks until he is so sick that he cannot get any more alcohol, and then he calls 911. They come and take him to the hospital. The hospital keeps him a few days until he is back on his feet and then they let him go. Then he goes home and starts drinking again.

I have heard several tragic stories of alcoholics, and I have wondered what could be done about it. We could lock them in jail, except that our jails are already overflowing, so we are only keeping the most violent offenders locked up. Besides, he has not really done anything wrong, he has not robbed or attacked anyone. We cannot legally restrict his freedom unless he is convicted of breaking a law.

His future is not bright. His path of continued self destructive behavior will surely result in his early impoverishment and demise. Surely something could be done.

Perhaps it is time for our legal and social understanding of addiction to catch up to our scientific one. Whatever freewill Manfred has is an illusion. Manfred is not under his own control, he is under the influence of his addiction, and it is killing him.

Perhaps something like a prison farm might help. Inmates would be confined against their will, so to speak, but would have the opportunity to work and a certain amount of freedom within their restricted community. It should be possible to eliminate alcohol from a small community like this. They would be able to interact with the world at large through communication and commerce. Alcohol would be contraband.

The cost of operating such a community could be taken from taxes on alcoholic beverages. While this might effectively reduce the tax revenue currently produced by sales of alcoholic beverages, the other costs that alcoholics impose on society should be greatly reduced.

I read a story in a magazine recently about the million dollar drunk. Someone in emergency services noticed that they been picking up the same man repeatedly and checked their records to see how long this had been going on. It was something like ten years, and the unpaid bill for emergency services and hospitalization was over a million dollars. This one mans alcoholism had cost this community a million dollars.

There are also the costs due to damage caused by drunk drivers. Of course not all drunk drivers are alcoholics, so it would not go to zero.

More importantly though, there is the loss of the person.

The big problem here is the legal, and society's, concept of freedom and free will. On one hand we have a President who has effectively rescinded the right of Habeus Corpus, and on the other we have recently seen the repudiation of the President's agenda in the mid-term Congressional elections.

I like to think I am a friend of freedom. I think the government is overstepping their bounds in their attempt to pursue terrorists. Perhaps if the situation in the Middle East was not such a mess, I might think differently, but it is not and I do not.

I do not like the idea of locking up someone because they had too much to drink. But I do think we should try to help those who are clearly on a self destructive path, and if the only way to accomplish that is incarceration, then so be it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Multiple Monitors

I came across an article on the web from 2000 from someone in the publishing business who was using triple monitors like it was the most normal thing in the world. I just realized one of the reasons I avoid using some newer software programs is that they put up lots of little windows that, on my small, single monitor, overlap, and I have to keep pointing and clicking to see what I want to see. Triple monitors would surely alleviate some of that!

I found these web sites. I like the $1100 triple screen. Special video cards are available at Newegg.

http://www.digitaltigers.com/multiplemonitors.shtml

http://www.multiplemonitors.org/

Today one of my favorite blogs jumped on the bandwagon:

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000740.html


My son John has an old Matrox Millenium card with two VGA connectors. I am going to try and hook it up and see if I can make it work.

Raves

John put the lights on the Christmas tree. I helped. It has been my job, more or less, since Anne and I got married to get the tree and put the lights on it. This year John put the lights on, and I am very greatful. I was feeling very wiped out this weekend, and it felt like one more little chore would have been more than I could handle.

John and Ross cleaned up the garage Saturday after I got done chewing on the base of the Christmas tree with the chain saw. Made quite a mess. If I had been thinking clearly, I would have been operating out on the front lawn instead of inside the garage. I did eventually move outside. I think my fuzzy thinking is another symptom of the "bug" I am suffering from.

I am reasonably certain that operating a chainsaw over a concreate floor is a bad idea. Besides all the dangers inherent in operating a chain saw, if the moving chain came in contact with the concrete it would ruin the chain, make a gash in the pristene surface of the concrete floor, and send concrete chips flying. A nasty business all around.

Kathryn wanted a real Christmas tree. Years ago we used to have real Christmas trees, but it seemed like every Christmas several people in our family would get sick with colds. Anne suspected that it might be due to the Christmas tree, and being that some of my children and I suffer from hay fever, we thought it might be allergies that were making us miserable, so we decided to try an artifical tree for a while. I think we spent about $200 for the tree, but it may have been ten years ago, and with inflation, and my fuzzy memory, it may have only been about $100.

Anyway, a year or two ago, Kathryn got the idea that we should have a real tree, and she managed to persuade the rest of us to go along with her plan. Last year we went to a tree farm and cut our own. This year we drove to a lot about two miles away and picked up an enormous tree for $15.

When we got home we set about trying to put the stand on the base of the tree. Right off we could see that it would not fit. The stand is plastic, with an intergral bucket in the center, about eight inches in diameter and eight inches tall. I trimmed some branches around the base and that made the base of the tree just small enough to fit in the stand. Except for the screws that protruded inside the bucket. So I cut four grooves in the sides of the base of the tree for the screws. Try and slide the stand on and I can see that it might just work, and then I notice that the bucket is tapered. The base of the tree will just barely fit in the top of the bucket, but it is not going to slide in all the way to the bottom.

I look at the tree and see that about eight inches up from the base of the tree, the diameter falls about an inch. More chain saw work, cut eight inches off the end of the tree, trim more branches off, and lastly, taper the end so we won't have any trouble getting it all the way into the base. Set it up, fill it with water and let it soak overnight. Sunday the boys helped me carry it into the house.

Rants

Gol darn kids. Wife went to Costco yesterday, picked up a twelve pack of apples. Not a bag of apples mind you, a twelve pack: a large plastic tray molded to hold twelve huge apples, with a similar cover. Whoever put this package in the bin in the fridge just put it on top of the apples that were already there. I go to get an apple this morning and the draw will not open, the Costco apple carrier has fallen afoul of the top of the bin and the drawer is jammed. Futz around, get it open, cut the top off the apple carrier, put in in the bottom of the drawer, put the other apples on top. They fit neatly between the Costco apples and exactly fill the available spaces. Then I take one out. Perfect symetry disturbed.

The cat door to the garage is closed. The big cat has been terrorizing the smaller one. Is there a connection?

Somebody left the bag of bread open. I think maybe we have too much money. Imagine leaving a bag of bread open, letting it get stale, not eating it, throwing it away. Horrors!

Friday, December 8, 2006

Blood work

Went to the lab this morning to get blood drawn for my monthly coumadine test, aka Pro-Time. Since I was getting stuck once, I figured I may as well get stuck again so I went to the allergist's and got my monthly allergy shot. Pure Voodoo.

Get to work and find the flourescent light fixture in the men's room is on the fritz. It is strobing to beat the band. I could leave it and complain or I could just fix it, I mean it probably only needs to have the bulbs replaced, and I am pretty sure we have some spares. So I start taking it apart. Wait a minute, how does this thing come apart? Oh, these little featureless bumps are actually plastic thumb screws. They come out easily enough, and the end covers they were retaining, and the diffuser they were retaining, come right off. Go get a couple of spare bulbs and put them in. They work, so all I need to do is put the diffuser back on. Well, it is filthy, so I get a damp paper towel and start to wipe it off. I pick it up by one end and it shatters, putting a nasty little gash in my left ring finger.

Okay, off to the first aid box for a bandaid. Lots of boxes, big guaze pads, a couple of open boxes of tiny bandaids, a bunch of celophane wrapped boxes that look like they are probably for something serious. Oh, here is the regular bandaid box. It is empty, except for a pair of little scissors. Well, maybe I can make do with the little bandaids. I enlist Pam's assistance and she gets me patched up. It takes three of these tiny bandaids. I think I will be okay, it has not soaked through yet. A couple people ask me if I have washed out the wound, and I reply that it has been bleeding so much, any dirt that was in there has probably been washed away by the blood. I wonder if this is a valid assumption.

So I am back in business, but what do I do about the shattered light fixture? The bare bulbs are glaring. I could spend the rest of the day looking for a replacement, or looking for someone to replace it, and then trying to figure out how to get this paid for. I could dump it on someone else, but most everyone here has plenty of their own work to do, so I think I will just patch it up myself. Quickest, though not necessarily the best, solution. Besides, the company is moving soon, and who knows what the new tenants are going to do with this place?

I look in the dangerous chemicals cabinet for some super glue, but I do not see any right off, and that is just as well. I do not really want to try gluing this mess back together with a bum finger. So I opt to use clear plastic package tape. Half a dozen pieces of tape later and the diffuser is back together. Not perfect, but adequate. Very carefully I put it back on the fixture and reinstall the end covers and screws. Whew, all done.

All this trouble with the light could have been avoided if we had a decent light maintenance program. Simply have someone come in and replace all the bulbs at the recommended interval. But since this is operation is run by a penny pinching idiot, that is not going to happen, and since we can afford to have me spend an hour screwing around with this stupid light, I imagine we can afford to have me spend an hour writing up this stupid report.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Pressure

I was talking to Lloyd this morning while he was calibrating some pressure sensors. We make two kinds of pressure sensors. He was working on the older model, which requires a special jig to pressurize the transducer. The transducer on the new sensor has a little tube sticking out from one side, about 1/16 on an inch in diameter. For this sensor, he only has to slip a plastic tube over it. So how much pressure are we talking about here? The sensor is good to a depth of 60 feet (of water), which is about 30 psi (pounds per square inch). The cross section of the inside of this plastic tube is pretty small. Using our formula for area (PI x R^2) we get about 1.5 ounces of force. Not very much. No wonder the tubing does not need a clamp.

A while back I stopped at the Lancair factory in Redmond and talked to a couple of people who worked there. They were telling us about pressure testing the cabin for the Lancair IV. They took the pressure up to 5 psi, and all was well. They took it up to 10 psi, and everything was still fine. I believe that is all that is needed for aircraft. Then they took it up to 15 psi, just to see if it would hold, and people started leaving the building. Imagine what would have happened if there had been a catastrophic failure. Could have been a big bang.

Cataclysmic Destruction

I was talking to my friend Jack the other day and he mentioned that there was evidence that the oxygen content of the atmosphere had varied between 12 and 30 percent. It is now about 20 percent. So no wonder dinosaurs could fly if the air was 30% oxygen. Jack pointed out that you get much above 30% and you could have spontaneous combustion. So maybe that is what happened to the dinosaurs. The oxygen level got so high that they all just caught fire and burned to death.

Meteors

Small rocks hit the moon.

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/01dec_lunarleonid.htm

Science, thinking & publicity

The first few paragraphs are illuminating.

http://web.archive.org/web/20070617145754/http://www.rit.edu/~flwstv/galileo.html

Alcohol Based Cooling - Science Fair Project

According to our preliminary plan, John needs a short length of copper pipe to build his alchohol based computer chip cooler. We looked at Home Depot a couple of weeks ago. They had the copper pipe and fittings we needed. Unfortunately, we wanted pipe that was two inches in diameter, and this size pipe only comes in ten foot lengths, which cost about 70 or 80 dollars.

I called Ivo Skora this morning to ask about this pipe. He does not use copper pipe of this large a diameter, and does not know of anyone else who does either. He suggested calling Anctil Plumbing.

I looked up copper pipe on the internet and I found a place that sells it, but it is no bargain:

http://www.plumbingsupply.com/copperpipe.html

They want $46 for a one foot length, $85 for a two foot length.

I talked to Jack about this project the other day, and he suggested using tape as a safety valve. Heating any kind of liquid in a sealed container can be very dangerous. I do not think tape is a good idea, as adhesives gnerally do not do well when heated. I am thinking a rubber cork might do. This is what we used with the water bottle rockets many years ago. The cork should be secured with a cord that it does not go flying across the room in case it does pop off.

The temperatures we are intending to work with should not be dangerous. However, anytime you are heating something, there is the possiblity that something will go wrong, and according to Murphy's law, if something can go wrong, it will. So we must endeavor to ensure that nothing does go wrong.

We may want to keep a fire extingusher handy in case the alchohol is flammable. I was thinking that we could test the rubbing alchohol to see if it will burn. Since it is mixed with water, it may not. However, alchohol has a lower boiling point than water, so if you heat it, you may get a flammable vapor, which could be very bad.

Perhaps we should just stick with water. Or we could test the alcohol version at home, and take the water filled version to the science fair.

Phone Voice Quality Metrics

Where are all the metrics? We replaced the cordless phone in our kitchen recently. The last phone was some brand I did not recognize that I bought at the local supermarket. It works reliably, but the voice quality is poor. We had an AT&T phone a while back, and it was great, but it died eventually. We replaced it with a Uniden, which was pretty good. When it died, we tried an AT&T phone from Office Depot. I was thrilled to find an AT&T phone, I thought this will be great. But that was not to be. It had some kind of horrible problem and we ended up exchanging it for another Uniden phone, which seems to work pretty well. I would like to see a metric for voice quality, but I haven't.

New Guy

We have a new radio man: Mike B. He is here for three weeks, maybe longer if things work out. He is going to be working on GHT's (GOES High data rate Transmitters). Former military man, moved here three weeks ago from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. His wife is from Oregon, she is a Native American from the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

As one might expect of a military man, he has an interest in firearms and shooting. Recently he has taken up black powder shooting, and has been teaching his kids to shoot. It is one thing to take shooting seriously and make every shot count, but with modern rapid fire firearms, it is very easy to just start blasting away for the fun of it. Shooting muzzle loaders means you have to work for every shot, which means you are more likely to make every shot count. You can spend all day shooting 20 or 30 rounds from a muzzle loader, whereas with a modern semi-automatic rifle you can whip off that many in a few seconds. And if you are shooting a high powered rifle, it can get very expensive.

He has taught his 15 year old daughter and younger son to shoot. His daughter has gotten quite good. She wanted to go shopping, so he gave her a goal. If she met the goal, he would take her shopping. The goal was to put a hole in a 308 shell casing at 100 yards using only four cartridges using a modern center fire rifle with a scope. He taped the shell to target board. A 308 shell is about one half of inch in diameter and maybe two inches long. She knicked it on the first shot, and managed to put holes in it with the next three. Mike took her shopping.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Games - Cubox - Sliding Block Puzzle

I found a new source of online computer games:

http://www.channel4.com/entertainment/games/

One I like in particular is:

http://www.unclebenny.com/nickel/CUBOX/cubox.html

It is sliding block puzzle, and it is a little curious. Most solutions can be done in six moves. Sometimes I can just look at the puzzle and instantly know how to solve it. Others will baffle me for a long time. What is even odder, is that I can come back and replay puzzles I solved easily before, and have a very difficult time solving them the second time. Others that I had difficulty with before, I solve easily.

Update September 2015: Links are not, but they are pretty useless.

Rage

I lost my temper at work first thing this morning. Yelled, screamed, cursed, even threw things. Poor Martin, he triggered it, by making a simple, ordinary request. A field representative wanted to show a potential customer what could be done in the way of displaying environmental data. No big deal, except that the program that we would run to do this was dead in the water due to the lack of a password. The computer this program runs on also runs a e-mail forwarding program that must always be running. If it fails for any reason, customers call up and raise hell. The demo program, which displays weather data, has recently been upgraded, and as is the nature of upgrades, has become unstable to the point that it will occasionally crash the computer. This is very bad. It is not a problem to restart the computer, but the e-mail program must be started manually, and that cannot be done unless you can logon, and to do that you must have the password. Which until I threw my fit, I did not have, even though I had asked for it a month ago.

These programs should not require the administrator to logon. They should start automatically. It should not be necessary for someone to logon and manually start them. Hopefully, we should be able to correct these shortcomings.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Breakage

The life cycle of numerous devices came to an end last week. We located the source of the squeak in the garage door, the bearings at the end of the main shaft were shot. The hot water dispenser in the kitchen sprung a leak, the electric motor that runs the driver's window in my truck gave out, and we finally decided to get the furnace fixed. The garage door man came on Wednesday and replaced the bearings. The furnace man came on Friday and replaced the ignitor in the furnace, which got it going. The plumber is due to come out some time this weak and replace the hot water dispenser.

The furnace died last winter, but the weather (as I recall) was fairly mild, and we have two gas fireplaces. I had just spent $500 getting a valve replaced in one of the fireplaces, and was not looking forward to spending more money on the furnace. So I just let it slide. Things got a little dicey this fall. Gas fireplaces work best if they have a fan to circulate the air around the firebox and blow hot air out into the room. The fan in the basement fireplace was rattling. It got cold and we turned on the furnace. After about a day, Anne notices that the house is not getting any warmer, and the furnace seems to be blowing cold air. Oh! That's right, it broke last winter and we never got it fixed! But wait, we have another gas fireplace, let's just fire it up. It lights up, it warms up, the thermostatic switch engages, the fan starts blowing warm air. All is well for about 30 seconds and then the fan starts screaming it's head off. Gads! Shut that thing off! A couple of hours of fooling around, a little epoxy, and the fans are running again. But the furnace is still broken and it is really cold outside.

I took my truck in to the Dodge Dealer in Beaverton to get the window fixed. They could not get it done. They did not have the part, they were busy, they did not have time. If I wanted, they could order the part for Monday. I declined, partly because they wanted $400 to fix the window. $400 is a stink load of money for one broken little do-dad. The garage door repair and the furnace repair were about $150 each, and they came to my house to do the work. I looked on the Internet and there are places that sell window regulators for about $80. The dealer wanted $160 for the part. The Internet part is risky. It might be perfectly good quality, but it might be shoddy, and that would mean another repair in a year or two. Reputation means a lot.

Anyway, after subtracting the cost of the parts, that means $240 for labor, which means about three hours of work, maybe two hours if the mechanic is really good at it. Which means it would probably take me all day. I thought I would open up the door this weekend and have a look, but between helping my kids, doing a few chores, and goofing off, all I managed was to pull the truck into the garage. I know my limits, I could pressure myself to fix it, but that would cut into my slack time, and that would make me grumpy, and nobody likes me when I am grumpy, so I am going to have the dealer perform the repair.

But I do not think I will be going back to the dealer in Beaverton. This is the third time they have disappointed me. First time they replaced an intake manifold gasket on warranty, which failed a month or so later, which necessitated a tow. The second time they did not have time to do an oil change when I showed up around noon. This was the last straw. So now I have to arrange to drop the truck at the dealer in Hillsboro. Probably do it on Christmas vacation.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Tribalism

I do not care for President Bush. It is not his apparent stupidity, after all he was smart enough to get elected. He is not as articulate as some would wish, but that does not mean he is stupid. Different people have different abilities, and simply because one is a glib blabbermouth does not mean they are any smarter than anyone else. Rather it is because he is a Republican, and Republicans have become repugnant to me. My mother was a bleeding heart liberal of the first order, and I suppose that to be a prime influence on my outlook. Democrats are not much better. It was a Democrat who proposed reinstating the draft last month, just after they had gained control of Congress.

The problem is, has been, and will no doubt always be, tribalism. Us versus Them.

America's horrendous foreign policy since World War II is what got us to where we are. I have been aware of it, more or less, since Kennedy was assassinated when I was twelve, and I have been aghast at the things I have heard from supposedly intelligent people. Henry Kissinger is a prime example of a really stupid, intelligent person. I say this from my gut, I cannot site any specific examples, but everything I have heard from him reinforces this feeling.

The Republicans, for example, are only for the Republicans. Never mind the poor, where is my next ten million coming from? If you are not rich, you are not one of them.

What we need is more people of means making opportunities for people without means.