Incredible Times, Incredible Technology

Here I am at around 12:30 AM local time running updates on a client's PC that was just reinstalled with Microsoft XP Media Center Edition 2005. This reinstall was done to clean up the registry and get rid of the "sluggishness" that had set in over the past 4 years of continual use. While the interminable Microsoft updates ran on that PC sitting next to my desk, I watched a movie on my personal business tower computer that is running Mandriva 2010.1 Linux. The same computer which was also downloading files in the background, periodically checking my e-mail and keeping several other software applications going simultaneously.

Suddenly, after the movie finished and I was listening to the music while the credits ran, I had an overwhelming sense of awe at how far we humans have come technologically in the last 200 years. Especially the advances that have come in just the past 50 years of my short lifetime (I am 50 this year.) suddenly seemed incredible to me. People my father's age, 70-ish, remember the Dick Tracy serial cartoon series, and Dick Tracy's video / audio two way wrist watch. At the time my father was a boy  that sort of technology was Science Fiction. Today we pretty much have that technology with cellular phones. Even though cellular phones are small, they are not a wrist watch, so some companies like LG, HP and others are making the "Dick Tracy wristwatch" happen: LG Dick Tracy(ish) Wrist Watch.

Over the past 50 years much that was Science Fiction 60 to 70 years ago, or in the realm of "magic" 150 or more years ago, is now science fact. Thanks to the United States mankind has actually been to the moon and back. Thanks to the pioneering efforts of the U.S. space program and all the basic science research that went into that program we humans now have ever smaller microprocessors, personal computers, cell phone technology, advanced plastics, and more technological afvances than I can recall while sitting here. That space program was money well spent. We need to do more of that. Much more.

Thanks to some other pioneers of the technology age I have an awesome operating system that runs on my space race inspired PC. Of course I mean Linux which was begun by that Linus fellow. Over the past 15+ years Linux the kernel has matured into "Linux" the marketing term for a powerful, stable, fast, secure, wondrously user-friendly, complete operating system with the help of GNU, X, various GUI window managers, desktop projects and more Free Open Source Software than I will ever need to use.

I am blessed with an embarrassment of technological riches that for the most part I take for granted … except for this morning. This morning I am allowing my mind to experience awe and wonder at the technological marvels within reach of my desk chair. I can only ponder where the next 50 years will take us, provided we humans are still here in 50 years.

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Automotive Design Engineers

Time for me to vent a bit after working on my automobile on and off this week. You see, I drive an old junker that was new in 1984. As it is so old it "nickel and dime"'s  me with small needed repairs every few months. This week it has developed an electrical short somewhere that is keeping it from starting about 90% of the time. The other 10% it may start and run just fine. Or it may start, then run long enough to die at an intersection, then not start again that day. That is "fun". I must now find that short. Oh joy. Oh happiness. Oh glee … Oh my.

"What does this have to do with automotive design engineers?", you ask. Since you asked so politely, I will tell you. My first inclination was to check the tune-up chart and see that the car was overdue for a tune-up. So, I took the bus to the auto parts store, a two hour round trip, and bought the parts to do a tune-up. I dread doing tune-ups on this car. Some dingbat automotive design engineers decided that if one could easily get one's hand down between the engine block and the wheel wells there was too much room. So, they made sure that to get one's hand down to put a socket on a spark plug one must have the hands of a four year old child. My hands are the hands of a large, 50 year old, adult male. I need to find a four year old child to work on my car …

No, not really. But I once again have cuts and contusions on my hands wrists and forearms after swapping out the spark plugs on this car. Now let us discuss heater cores.

I have a bum heater core in this car. I have bypassed the heater core by looping a hose between the cooling system inlet and outlet that circulate hot coolant through the heater core. I also have a brand new heater core … in its shipping box. "Why is it not installed?", you inquire. As you so nicely inquired, I will tell you. I am certain the same, drooling, half-wit, automotive design engineers that I mention above determined the location of the heater core. It is on the firewall, beneath the dashboard, behind all the other components that fit under the dashboard. That's correct, one has to remove the entire guts of the dashboard to get to the heater core. A single 24 hour day is not enough time to do that for us mere, ordinary, shade tree mechanic, mortals.

So, all you automotive design engineers with such brilliant ideas, I hereby consign you all to repair your own designs. As a "shade tree mechanic". Every day. For forty years. Then maybe you will rethink your asinine design decisions. Have a nice life in that back yard, under the hood and in the dash of your poorly designed cars …

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I Finally Gave In …

It seems every person and his dog has a web log a.k.a. Blog these days. I resisted putting up a web log here for a long time until I hit on the idea of using it as a technical information and commentary archive for my company. Yes, there are likely hundreds if not thousands of technical information sites on “the web”. My idea is to use my company’s little nook on the web to cover things I want to cover. Obscure games and software from the Open Source realm are my target. I will probably include some hardware here too eventually since my company does market, build and sell preloaded personal and business computers running various open source and closed source software.

In any case I hope you get something of worth to you from what will appear here. I am open to suggestions on what else we could cover so please feel free to leave comments with suggestions. Be aware that I set the comments to require registration. Please see the privacy policy page here if you have concerns about registering.

Gene