Monday Jul 16, 2007

Forest Saved from Speeding Mountain Biker OR My Encounter with the LAW

Picture this - you are on your mountain bike in the zone, cruising on well worn single track in the Saratoga woods.  You are riding high on every turn, making it over every root, missing the poison oak and you are feeling that thrill of "being the trail" as you head downhill when all of the sudden - its the Forestry Service with a RADAR GUN at the bottom of trail ahead measuring your speed with mal-intent.  2 big, overweight guys on a Sunday morning looking to generate revenue to offset the fact that they don't charge entrance fees for this wooded area on the coast!   What do you do? You can't turn off, you can't stop, you can't fight (they out-mass you by 2:1).  So you go thru and either get the nod (your not speeding) or you get the hand (and a ticket).  The speed limit in this section of the forest (part of it is open land and part of it is state forest) is 15 mph which in mountain bike lingo means "don't even think of having fun here"!  Fortunately, we had been warned by the mountain bike network that they were issuing tickets that day so we slowed down in this one area (the forestry service hangs out in the exact same place because it is the one area they can drive to the trail) and we did not get ticketed.   The guys behind us were going 20 mph and were not so lucky :(

My point is... WHY?  In this area we have never seen any hikers, walkers, wheel chairs or anything else except mountain bikers so what is the purpose of the tickets?  Is it to generate revenue by punishing users of the trail?  I am thrilled my tax dollars are providing full employment for the Forestry service, but isn't there something better they can do like:  herd banana slugs, clean benches, sell beer for thirsty mountain bikers?  This is like a Monty Python episode gone bad - the Spanish Inquisition being replaced by the Forestry service and making all of us think much less of the officers in brown than we did before.  Too bad for the Forestry service as I am sure we'll question their next request for more funding rather than thanking them for making the forest a safer place by ticketing mountain bikers. 

Wednesday Jun 27, 2007

4th and Final Winner of GlassFish Beta Contest

We have finally choosen our 4th winner - it took so long because the 1st few winners never responded to our messages.  Let this be a lesson to all you who enter contests!  Enter a valid email address and check your email every week or so as you never know when you might be a winner!
Wes from the USA is our 4th and final winner. He writes "I'm new to application servers, but the performance alone is worth
considering a migration from Apache! However, simple tasks in Apache, such as protecting a directory from public access, are reasonably difficult for new users of GlassFish. I especially like the administration interface look and design, but unfortunately, there isn't much to change in many sections unless you are intimately familiar with the innards of this server as many of the areas to tweak are cryptic and don't have a listing of available parameters to change and the available values. In this case, Webmins Apache module is much easier for novices to learn from. Server restart should be able to be done completely from the web GUI...not just a shutdown, go to CLI to

Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all who entered the contest!

Monday Jun 18, 2007

Magic Garden Grows....Like Magic

For my birthday a few months back, I was given a "Magic Garden" which grows crystal "flowers" on cardboard trees.  (for ages 3 and up but "children under 10 should have supervision" and its "non toxic" ;) )  We finally got around to building it and had some great fun. As the box says "That's incredible. Never before seen, and amost unbelievable" (ok, you guessed its made in Taiwan).  So we (2 managers and an intern) removed the cardboard "mountain and trees", dutifully put them in thier places in a plastic tray and poured the "magic" solution over them.  And like "magic" within an hour crystal blooms began to form on my trees - exactly like the picture on the box!  Pretty cool - just like chomatography labs back in college.  See the photos for the real story!

The Box     setup

The Box - like it would EVER look like this!              After careful work - note the clear liquid in the tray 


Wow, looks like it might work.                            Incredibly, it works at advertized! 

HMM Vista is no Mac

After using Vista for a month I can say that OS X is in no harm at being replace anytime soon.  Vista seems clumsy, a resource hog and slow.  This Information Week article summarizes it well, but it is one thing to read about it and another to experience it.  One noticable event is when you switch users. With Vista you have to sign out, wait 30 seconds (screen goes black) or so then sign in as the new user.  On the Mac you click on a user from a pulldown menu on the upper right of the screen and the whole window environment "turns" to reveal the new user - this takes 1 or 2 seconds even on my old Mac!

Monday Jun 04, 2007

I, sadly, replaced my Mom's Mac with an (erp) Dell

I am a Mac lover and so I bought my 80ish year old mom an iMac running OS9. Well that is now so old that the browsers for OS9 won't display Web content very well AND she can't get any support because few of her artist friends use Macs. I live far enough away that tech support is offered mostly by phone and our conversations often get bogged down with me asking her to do something like enter a URL. So my sister and I bought her an (erp) Dell. I know, I should have at least had it shipped with Ubuntu Linux, but again, none of her friends could help her w/ Ubuntu so I opted for (erp) windows. With this OS I am no longer the sole 1 800 line for help as she can ask her neighbor, friends, my dad and take classes (and maybe even test Dell support!). However, to retain what little dignity I have left and to counter the threat of Windows (and associated viruses) I am stripping all other M$FT products and leaving FireFox, ThunderBird and Open Office. There are so many free and open source applications out there that it is simple to set up a computer - even for my computer challenged mom. Her friends may not have heard of these applications, but they have the look and feel of other commonly used programs so it should be easy enough to get help! We'll find out in a couple of weeks when I delivery it.

Moving to a PC means that she loses the all-in-one sleek design of the Mac and gets more cables and a big case on-the-floor. The only problem with this setup is the very large case contains a very large heat sink and fan. The heat sink is the size of my fist and its cooled by a $2 fan. The heat sink is an engineering marvel as I am sure that many, many weeks went into understanding the thermodynamics of heat transfer in a box. I just hope they had sufficient slack in their calculations so the processor won't die if/when the fan quits and I lose the $200 motherboard and AMD processor (maybe that's why Dell tried so hard to sell me the 3 year warranty?). I can now understand why the high end computers are going back to the good old days of liquid cooling!  Side note - my son upon seeing the size of the Dell box exclaimed - that's not a computer, that's a Dell!

Final note - to compensate for the sin of buying a Dell, my wife did get a new Mac Book Pro and I am buying a new iMac for home. My daughter complains that our old iMac is too slow and doesn't have a full version of Adobe Photoshop (which it couldn't run very quickly anyway). I am just waiting for Apple to ship the new 64 bit processors in the new iMacs - I hear it is now end of June.

Thursday May 24, 2007

Open Source Cola under GPL!

Saw this in How To today on the recipe for "Open Cola". Seems folks have worked for years reverse engineering the Coca Cola secret recipe and have finally perfected it. What is interesting (other than why do they have so much time on thier hands) is that the recipe is released under the open source GPL license so that anyone can use it and anyone can modify it - as long as they contribute their changes to the "commons".  This is true open source community development at its simplist - take an idea, open it to the community under a license that enables participation and then everyone can benefit from each others' efforts.  I wonder how long it will take the Cola companies from discovering 235 patents that this recipe violates?

Tuesday Apr 03, 2007

Map of Evolution Education in the US

Saw this yesterday after I read Simon's blog about a recently released report on evolution education in the US. This is a bit surprising but considering the generally poor state of education system in the US, maybe not so surprising. Here is a MAP that shows state by state where and how well evolution is taught in the US. If you don't like what you see here, get involved and tell your school board!

Monday Nov 13, 2006

My new digital SLR - Canon EOS XTi

So I finally bought a digital SLR and decided on the Rebel XTi (10 Mpixel effective). I was a Nikon (film) SLR diehard until the digital age began and other camera / electronics manufacturers took the opportunity to reinvent the technology. My first digital was an Olympus C3030, a 3 mpixel, point and shoot. This produced nice snap shots, but the shutter lag seemed to be half a second or more and I was constantly missing moving shots of my kids. It was great for stills and portraits, but for action I still used my film camera.//

Then I upgraded to a Canon 4 mpixel point-and-shoot which was smaller than the Olympus, so I would take it more places, gave me better resolution and was faster. However, the shutter lag was not great and the lens could not really capture what I saw with my naked eye. The latter was especially noticable on our trip thru Arizona in the Spring. The wide angle was not up to the Grand Canyon and the telephoto end of the zoom range was not enough to focus on distant objects. It's great for parties and casual snaps but not much else.

So this led me to the digital SLR so I could change lenses to capture the shots I wanted with little to no shutter lag and have some control over my exposures. Then there was the question of Nikon vs. Canon and this is like Ford or Chevy and decided on the Canon due it popularity and the many lenses available which also means there are a lot of perfectly good lenses on the used market. So I bought the Canon Rebel XTi. I can't add much to the many, many REVIEWS that are out there, but I can make a few comments on it. The XTi has the same smaller digital imaging sensor as the more expensive 30D, costs less, has more effective pixels and takes the same lenses. I felt it was more important to invest in the right lenses rather than the more expensive body that I will replace in the next 3 to 5 years when all Canon's EOS line will have full frame (or larger) 35 mm sensors (my speculation!).

The one thing the reviews don't tell you about is the exposure management of the XTi. It is simply amazing! Every single shot I take is nearly perfectly exposed, be it in daylight or at night w/ the built in flash. The camera precisely evaluates the scene and the flash emits just enough to light the subject but exposes the background to reveal details (No more of the overexposed face on the black background for me!). There is a wonderful night portrait mode that automatically ups the ISO to 400, pops the flash and keeps the shutter open enough to capture background details. There is also a sport mode that ups the ISO and enables rapid multiple shots (3 / second) to capture action as well as many other pre programmed controls. And there is a portrait mode that softens the shot, warms up the tones and enables multiple shots. Certainly you can program any mode like this yourself, but Canon has managed to preprogram the main ones and based on the first 100 shots, they've done a great job.

Sunday Nov 27, 2005

About Me

I am Group Product Marketing Manager for Java EE and the technologies that Sun develops with that technology mainly the Sun Java System Application Server and Web Server. As part of the Application Platform Marketing Group in software I am part of the smaller, more efficient marketing organzation in Sun (read: little budget but have lots of opportunities to create buzz).

I am a Chemical Engineer & Materials Scientist graduate from U.C. Davis where I ran the local radio station (KDVS) and during the summers did programming at the TOSCO oil refinery outside of Martinez. There, I developed reporting routines in RPG for an IBM 360 (with 16k of ferrite core memory!). I eventually took my first job at the hot technology company at the time called RayChem where I became an electrochemist and developed new materials. Most of that work involved developing computer models for how ions moved in electric fields in liquids. This was all done on big mainframes that were very slow and cumbersome so we bought a bunch of DEC "personal computers" to use in the lab and due to the lack of applications I became a programmer.

At Sun, I spent my first couple of years marketing a number of wireless mobile solutions focussed on connecting enterprise data w/ mobile users based on Java clients. In 2005, I moved the Java EE marketing group and market Sun's app server and occasionally work on mobile projects (where they are platformed on our application server). However, much of my time now is spent getting the Open Source GlassFish Community - Sun's Open Source Application Server Community off the ground.

This blog is a shameless marketing blog in which I plan to make product announcements, expand on some of the finer points about our products and add an occasional restaurant review.




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