Archive for January, 2008

Viewing TIFF at the USPTO, installing the AlternaTIFF plugin

Being able to view TIFF images in your browser is not something many people really need to be able to do. Being able to view the US Patent Office patents because Google Patents or some other resource just doesn’t cut it for some reason is an example of where the need to view TIFF images is necessary.

Some of the options include:

  • The Vista photographs viewer can show TIFF files that are in the file system.
  • Apple Quicktime is both a plug-in and stand alone program but may have trouble with some compression methods used in TIFF files. It is what is often referred to as ‘crippleware’ as the free version doesn’t have all the features of the purchased version
  • – Another government site. The ‘interfering software’ section looks interesting. some other good tips, too.
  • shareware listing Vista as supported – shareware means payment is requested but not necessary mandated.
  • freeware means no payment is expected for these.
  • Black Ice has a free demo and says it is a plug in
  • The Huddled Masses really likes using google rather than the PTO
  • Cartesian inc has a free “lite” viewer
  • Steven Nipper reviews a whole bunch of patent viewing options (looks like an interesting blog, too)
  • InternetTIFF has a free 3 day trial, iffy as price a bit high. The USPTO says this one is free.
  • What you have to keep in mind is that some viewers are stand alone programs and some integrate with your web browser as a plug-in so you don’t need to download the TIFF image to your drive to view in a separate program but rather can see it as just another web page. Browser plug-ins need to be compatible with your browser of choice and you should check for this before downloading or installing them.

    The USPTO image viewing instructions for full page images lists two free TIFF image viewing plug-ins. Here are some notes on installing AlternaTIFF in a Microsoft Windows environment and the Firefox web browser.

    There are two problems with AlternaTIFF in a Vista environment. One is potential conflicts with other plug-ins that think they should be the TIFF viewer. The other is the conflict between the AlternaTIFF registration process and Vista security protections.

    The first problem is usually with QuickTime. You will need to run that program and then edit the preferences MIME page so Quicktime is not listed as the application for TIFF images.

    The second problem needs a couple of tricks. The first is to be able to unzip the Netscape compatible installation file provided as a self extracting archive. Vista usually treats zip files as if they were folders but a self extracting archive is an executable first. You will need something like infozip’s unzip to unpack the archive. The second trick is to run the Vista command prompt as administrator so you can do the unzip and then run the setup1.exe to install and register AlternaTIFF plugin.

    Trying to run the self extracting archive for the AlternaTIFF Netscape style plug-in installation and registration, even if run with administrative privilege, encounters security blocks. This is probably due to the nature of successive executables in the process. A manual unpacking and then running the setup program from a privileged command line seems to solve this.

    See also the previous post Searching the USPTO, TIFF images on the web.

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    Hobgoblins and swimming pools

    The economy lesson is by Professor Walter E. Williams in the Washington Times. Unstimulating piffle takes on the problem of the latest hobgoblin.

    Baltimore’s political satirist, the late H.L. Mencken, explained this strategy, saying, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

    The economy, as with the flag waving about the sub prime mortgage mess, is the latest hobgoblin. How many others can you name without having to take a breath?

    On the efforts to stimulate an economy whose slowing a bit is being presented as the worst disaster since 1929 – or maybe ever – we have this observation:

    As my George Mason University colleague Russell Roberts said in a NPR broadcast: “It’s like taking a bucket of water from the deep end of a pool and dumping it into the shallow end. Funny thing — the water in the shallow end doesn’t get any deeper.”

    Do you remember several years ago when political hot air got all over banks because they would not help certain minorities buy houses? Guess what? Now that same hot air is complaining because that minority is hardest hit in foreclosures and debt problems. Perhaps what they should take comfort in is that these mortgage difficulties not only hit the favored minorities but they also hit those evil greedy capitalists who put up the money for the loans.

    The call for stimulus packages represents the triumph of political arrogance over common sense.

    The thing is, a quick fix feels good. Trying to make a change in those things that got you to where you are is much harder, less visible, and doesn’t have as much of an immediate feel-good benefit.

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    Trying to figure out who to believe on climate change

    In Real Climate is an entry by Gavin Schmidt and Stefan Rahmstorf: Uncertainty, noise and the art of model-data comparison to contrast with one in Prometheus Updated IPCC Forecasts vs. Observations by Pielke. Same basic topic, two different ideas, opposing viewpoints, – but nothing to hang a hat on.

    How can you tell what to think with all the back and forth? The tendency is to figure you have to become a climate scientist yourself and go to original data to run them through the models that you have dissected so you can thoroughly understand their strengths and weaknesses. Undertaking a career like this is no way to answer a question.

    What you can do is to figure out what is actually being said and to consider their means of argument and how they respond to issues and questions.

    Schmidt and Rahmstorf assert that there is a great deal of uncertainty in climate and weather that means that there is a significant variability in measure and model output. They attempt to discredit John Tierney and Roger Pielke Jr. as “flawed since they basically compare long term climate change to short term weather variability.”

    So, it should be clear that short term comparisons are misguided, but the reasons why, and what should be done instead, are worth exploring.

    The first point to make (and indeed the first point we always make) is that the climate system has enormous amounts of variability on day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year and decade-to-decade periods. Much of this variability (once you account for the diurnal cycle and the seasons) is apparently chaotic and unrelated to any external factor – it is the weather.

    Problems can occur though if the estimate of the forced change is compared directly to the real trend in order to see if they are consistent. You need to remember that the real world consists of both a (potentially) forced trend but also a random weather component.

    Finally, this subject appears to have been raised from the expectation that some short term weather event over the next few years will definitively prove that either anthropogenic global warming is a problem or it isn’t. As the above discussion should have made clear this is not the right question to ask. Instead, the question should be, are there analyses that will be made over the next few years that will improve the evaluation of climate models?

    This is saying that the idea of these climate model studies is to learn about what is causing change and that they have many uncertainties that require significant averaging over time to discern quality.

    But isn’t the question at hand the matter of governmental policy based on these models? That is what the stimulus post was for the Schmidt and Rahmstorf post. What started this discussion was Pielke’s observations about the IPCC, a governmental organization, predictions made in 1990, 1995, 2001, 2007) and various observations.

    Both sides are ‘correct’ but the response is not answering the points raised in the stimulus. This is not an indication of good intellectual integrity. The pattern continues in the comments where Pielke offers explanation and observation and the response is defensive.

    There are other things that should make one pause as well. A PBS show on the possibility of life on other planets tossed off the tundra melting as a human caused global warming effect. There are many such blatant assertions in the popular media. As the Real Climate post graph shows, the change in temperature is about 0.2C/decade or about a half a degree Celsius since 1980. The question is how a half a degree average temperature change is going to melt the Arctic tundra or do all of the other such things that are often given as a fact of human caused global warming.

    The use of short term effects to support models and predictions whose effect can only be observed long term is something seen most often in the HCGW advocates. Perhaps its use in Real Climate is projection? That would be something to consider in evaluating the manner of argument.

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    Understanding the Christian

    There is no formula, for formulas are the haven of fools. But there are answers. The answers, I have found, are always simple — and never easy.

    The Doctor is in and he is trying to describe the nature of Christianity. He touches the topic of how humans change. This is the fundamental question of education and training. The ‘scientific’ approach tries to make the process of human change objective and quantitative and that approach drives our schools and our education of educators. But any good educator knows that formulas and experiments and tests and the other things we actually do are only a part of the process. There is something else, something more, something that makes a big difference that works beyond those formulas we can create to educate.

    Religions are also this way. Many simply provide a formula: behave according these rules and you will be saved. Christianity has a different precept. Dr. Bob provides an analogy to illustrate this point. See Justification, Sanctification, and Grace and The Sword of Grace.

    We react to the inner discord our old life engenders with the tools we know best: we try, using knowledge, and effort, and will power, and discipline, to change the thoughts and actions we now know to be destructive. And we succeed — at first.

    Sort of.

    The behavior changes, but the thoughts and desires linger.

    Thoughts and desires – goal driven behavior – attitudes – those that we know and those that we want to be versus those we have hidden deep within and the struggle that keeps psychiatry occupied. The process is one thing – following the rules and going through the motions – it is entirely another to be a different person after change yet still the same one.

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    Searching the USPTO, TIFF images on the web

    The US Patent and Trademark Office has facsimiles of the patents they have issued available on the web. The include sufficient meta-data to help inventors find any previously issued patents similar to their idea. (see the USPTO how to). You can pay a lawyer to do patent searching for you or you can do it yourself. Don Costar Helping Inventors is the Nevada resource for new inventors trying to figure out the system.

    The USPTO patent image database presents patents in a form that requires a special browser plug-in or application to view. The USPTO provides a page on image viewing instructions for full page images. TIFF is an awkward file format for images on the web. While common for faxes, it has many varieties and some of its compression methods are proprietary, even if specified by the ITU or CCIT. The USPTO also provides its patents one page at a time rather than as a bundled document. This makes downloads and saves cumbersome.

    Two sources of free plug-ins that display USPTO patent images are noted on their help page. These are AlternaTIFF and interneTIFF. For Mac users, Quicktime is suggested although, at least on Microsoft Windows machines, Quicktime does not handle the USPTO compression methods. For Linux users, a plugin is used that will call the system utility for displaying fax images.

    See Also

    Free Patents Online – “allows advanced search techniques such as word stemming, proximity searching relevancy ranking and search term weighing to help you find exactly what you are looking for. Latent semantic searching is also available, and our account features let you organize, annotate and share documents, along with other helpful work-flow features.” RSS available.

    Google Patent Search – “part of Google’s mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, we’re constantly working to expand the diversity of content we make available to our users. With Google Patent Search, you can now search the full text of the U.S. patent corpus and find patents that interest you.” see the Google Patent Search homepage or the Advanced Patent Search page.

    Understanding Search Engine Patents by Christine Churchill, Search Engine Watch. “Search related patents provide insight into what’s going on in search engine algorithms, and search marketers who understand these “rules of ranking” are better positioned to win top position in search results.” RSS available.

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    serious derangement in the media

    Powerline calls it this in citing IowaHawk and Mark Stein.

    Thus, with declining deaths in the war zones, the media narrative evolves. Old story: “America’s soldiers are being cut down by violent irrational insurgents we can never hope to understand.” New story: “Americans are being cut down by violent irrational soldiers we can never hope to understand.”

    In 1933, the debaters at Oxford were horrified by the real cost of war. In 2008, the editors of the Times, our college professors and Hollywood celebrities, are horrified by a fiction. Faced with a historically low cost of war, they retreat into fantasy. Who’s really suffering from mental trauma? Who needs the psychotherapy here? [Stein]

    IowaHawk illustrates the point by satire.

    Answers are elusive, but the ever-increasing toll of violent crimes committed by journalists has led some experts to warn that without programs for intensive mental health care, the nation faces a potential bloodbath at the hands of psychopathic media vets.

    Accounts of media psychopathy, while widespread, have until now been largely anecdotal. In order to provide a more focused and systematic study of the crisis, Iowahawk researchers set out to identify and tabulate criminal arrests and convictions of current and former journalists. While by no means comprehensive, this 10-minute project yielded a grim picture of a once-proud profession now in the grips of tragic, drunk, violent, child-raping rage.

    The lesson is that the truth will reveal itself, eventually, and those who attempt to cover it with their emotional paradigms will find themselves facing ever more difficult requirements.

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    Firefox and Thunderbird add-ons

    One strength of the Mozilla projects Firefox and Thunderbird is their extensibility. The base application has got web browsing or email message management covered but you can add on many extensions as you choose to make your life easier and better implement your style of doing things. The biggest problem is likely to be to figure out what to use. Here are a few extensions to get you started.

    Extensions are files with an ‘.xpi’ file extension. If you hit a link to one of these files in Firefox, it will attempt to install the extension directly. For Thunderbird extensions, you will need to download them to your computer and then, from Thunderbird, select them after selecting ‘add tool’. As a security precaution there is a delay before they are installed and you may be prompted about where it is OK to go ahead or not.

    Note that the numbers in the links below refer to the Mozilla add-on page number so you know the link is to the official Mozilla website.

    Thunderbird Extensions

    Image Zoom (addon 139)- help make images fit your screen.

    Nostalgy 2487 – keyboard shortcuts to change folder and move messages

    Xpunge 1279 – clean out the trash and compact folders with one click of the mouse.

    firefix Keyboard shortcuts 2487 to change folder, move/copy messages, with
    folder name auto-completion

    If you have duplicate messages (e.g. from merging folders or downloading messages several times) you can use this tool 956 to find and remove them from the selected folder and its subfolder by rightclicking on a folder and choosing “Remove Duplicate Messages”.

    Add blocking – see addblock 1865 and Element Hiding Helper 4364 and Filter Uploader and Filterset G to help addblock figure out what to block.

    Ever been annoyed by all those ads and banners on the internet that often take longer to download than everything else on the page? Install Adblock Plus now and get rid of them. Right-click on a banner and choose “Adblock” from the context menu — the banner won’t be downloaded again. Maybe even replace parts of the banner address with star symbols to block similar banners as well. Or choose a filter subscription, then even this simple task will usually be unnecessary: the filter subscription will block most advertisements fully automatically.

    quote collapse 347 – this shrinks long quotes so you only see the first line unless you click on the expand mark.

    Firefox extensions

    CoLT 1812 – add copy link text to the context menu

    FireFTP – an FTP client

    Flashblock 433 – replaces Flash objects with a view button for optional viewing Menu – navigation menu for access to applications

    Password Exporter – export and import saved passwords

    ScrapBook – save web pages and organize them

    ubufox – if using Ubuntu

    Unhide Passwords 462 – show passwords in plain text when editing a hidden field

    Uppity 869 – navigate up one level in the web page’s directory structure

    Web Developer – adds a menu and toolbar with various developer tools

    Other resources

    For a bit about what is involved in writing these extensions, see Writing Firefox/Thunderbird Extensions or the Mozilla Developer Center

    Chris Lott has a list of Indispensable FireFox (and Thunderbird) Extensions and there is Firefox add ons at cybernet new. A search will likely find more such lists on the I’net.

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    The green folly and the nuclear obsession

    The Investor’s Business Daily editorial Nuclear Fuel: Waste Not, Want Not takes a look at how the Nevada Yucca Mountain waste repository has become a political football. There is a renewed interest in nuclear energy due to the rising cost of oil and the fears about human induced climate change. But the bugaboo word ‘nuclear’ still holds its power over those whose mind is fixated on mushroom clouds.

    Over the past four decades, America’s reactors have produced about 56,000 tons of used fuel.

    France long ago achieved energy independence by relying on nuclear energy for most of its power needs. But it also leads the world in processing this waste to create even more energy.

    The French have reprocessed spent nuclear fuel for 30 years without incident. There have been no accidental explosions, no terrorist attacks, no contribution to nuclear proliferation. Their facility in La Hague has safely processed more than 23,000 tons of spent fuel, or enough to power the entire country for 14 years.

    The U.S. pioneered the technology to recapture that energy decades ago, then banned its commercial use in 1977. An energy plan that does not involve continued and even increased use of nuclear power is no plan at all. And even if we closed all nuclear plants tomorrow, the waste problem would remain.

    With many other types of waste, recycling is the preferred choice – even if it costs more than disposal. Washoe County, for instance, requires the garbage company to circulate recycled garbage pickup. But when it comes to nuclear waste, this philosophy is tossed aside.

    While a lot of the nuclear waste by volume is from medicine or other industry, there is also a good bit that represents a significant energy store. The Yucca Mountain idea was to just stash it and let it rot as it is doing now in plant storage tanks spread all across the country. Letting an energy source rot seems to make as much sense as not allowing drilling on a few acres out of many thousands in a wildlife refuge or not allowing drilling rigs to ‘spoil’ the view at a beach.

    There is a luxury in being able to make the choice not to pursue tapping easily available energy sources. That luxury seems to correlate well with the political pandering such as that about Yucca Mountain.

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    The NYT atrocity of 13 January

    The Media Problems entry made note of the New York Times story on the ‘wacked out vets’ meme. A full explanation of that media atrocity is covered by Pajamas Media in the NYT frags vets.

    The media is at it again, using questionable statistics and broad strokes to paint the U.S. military as a band of unstable brutes. Case in point: the January 13 New York Times story “Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles,” which collates deaths at the hands of veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Far from being an indictment against veterans, the actual homicide rate among civilians is higher in similar demographic groups.

    Of those 121 summaries, 40 do not show direct ties between the stresses of deploying to combat zones and the homicides for which these veterans were charged, and of those, 14 were of highly dubious nature.

    That understood, it is irresponsible of the New York Times to write an extensive post in effect indicting all veterans, while refusing to even attempt to provide context for their story, and while unfairly including every possible connection of veterans to homicides in such a cavalier manner — even those deaths that were justified, unrelated, unsupported, or had more proximate causes than being a war veteran.

    But the bizarre emphasis of the New York Times upon veteran violence without the provision of context can be understood by remembering that Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr., publisher of the Times, once said during the Vietnam War that if a North Vietnamese soldier ran into an American soldier, he’d rather see the American soldier shot.

    It is a war of ideas and integrity and the fifth column is pernicious.

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    The cost of learning

    Neo Neocon talks about a Gestalt prompted by a random link to the story behind two famous Vietnam War photographs. Things clicked. The idea that the presentation of the photographs was a part of an insidious agenda was placed in context of many other such propaganda moments in succeeding adventures.

    Why did I only remember seeing photos that portrayed what we, or our allies, had done—photos stripped of all context and meant to maximize our feelings of wrongdoing? Photos that emphasized the victimhood of a Viet Cong terrorist, or made it seem as though we were targeting civilians when the civilians were actually being put at risk by the aggressive actions of the enemy in attacking and occupying a village?

    And how was it that it had taken me thirty years to become aware of any of this?

    It seemed possible that this a pattern of deceit and/or purposefully misleading omissions, one I could no longer deny.

    The fact is that we depend upon others for much of our view of the world. These others have their own predispositions or perhaps even their own goals and agendas. The photojournalist has an powerful means of presenting that agenda, one that goes directly to the emotions first without the pause of words gaining meaning. It behooves us to remember this and to make sure we understand the story behind the picture as well as the picture itself if we want to avoid a journey on a false path.

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    Media Problems

    Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir talks about Anonymous Blogs and notes that “the ethical line is drawn when a blogger hides behind an anonymous identity is used to disperse irresponsible and unsubstantiated statements about real people.”

    The New York Times has prompted several discussions lately. Powerline noted an Obsession to the Point of Dementia at the new year.

    Titled “Looking At America,” the editorial focuses on the Bush administration’s efforts to prevent terrorist attacks over the last six years. Some would look at that record and see success: no significant attacks on American soil after September 11, most of al Qaeda’s leadership killed or captured, no more safe havens for terrorists, tens of millions of people liberated in Afghanistan and Iraq. But not the editors of the Times: they see only the negative, and react with “horror.”

    Just recently the NYT has continued this obsession with a lengthy article on the ‘wacked out vets’ myth and generated yet more discussion about the fact that citing stories about violent criminal behavior of returning Iraq war vets out of context of nominal criminal statistics for the cohort is pointless unless it is an attempt to smear and slime the soldier.

    There is more on this as a general discussion by Nathan Burchfiel in New Republic Scandal Further Damages ‘Mainstream’ Media Credibility

    Andrew Bolt sees a Welcome to my nightmare – “Was it that I refused to be freaked by this latest panic attack that global warming was blasting in and . . . Oh, God, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!” The column puts the current fear and doom mongering in a context that is good to keep in mind.

    James G. Zumwalt discusses Dismantling democracy and wonders

    It is hard to conceive of the willingness of a people who, having escaped the yoke of tyranny to embrace democracy, would allow their government to revert to suppressing individual rights. But, in a disturbing 21st century trend, we are witnessing this evolution in places like Venezuela and Russia. What so desensitizes people to democracy”s freedoms that they do nothing to prevent a return to tyranny”s chains?

    Being that it is primary season as the political parties hash out who to nominate for office, Captain Ed’s rundown on The Way Primaries Work would be good to review to keep things in context.

    It appears that the theme on this post might be media bias and problems. Another example is from James Lewis discussing More Abu Ghraib Agitprop and the BBC’s propaganda effort. Then Randall Hoven notes that It’s Not Just Scott Beauchamp which prompted the realization that he “need a scorecard to keep track of all the fallen journalists, journalistic mistakes and major and minor screw-ups in the media.”

    In the same vein is Hugh Hewitt on Attacking General Petraeus: The Hysterics of the Anti-War Fringe

    J.D. Johannes demonstrates how this media problem is used by the enemies of the US in How Al Qaeda is Winning Even as it is Losing

    In other words, you have to be careful in believing what you read in the media!

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    OCAP, Tru2way, OpenCable, CableCARD, PPV, VoD, etc

    New audio and video devices have become computers. Over the last ten years or so, those computers have moved from adjunct special processing components to an integrated basic part of the devices. They now handle encoding, decoding, switching, compression, scaling, and basic control functions. As with many things computer, how they communicate with other computers has become more and more important as more and more of them try to work together. That is what is behind the new brand Tru2Way in the cable TV industry.

    Is ‘Tru2Way’ True Two-Way TV? by Gene Hirschel (internet news):

    Remember the days of three network channels? Then came cable TV with 50 channels, then more. Now, the next horizon in television is looking more like true two-way connectivity like the Web or the Internet.

    new Comcast IP infrastructure, called the DOCSIS 3.0 standard. It would utilize a new cable modem, which increases from 1 channel of analog TV dedicated to data up to to 4 channels delivering up to 100 megabits per second. Thus an HD movie can be delivered to the home in as little as 4 minutes.

    Comcast is borrowing a move from a playbook of a certain penguin: open source. Tru2way is the new name for the “OpenCable Applications Platform” (OCAP).

    Tru2way goes beyond a simple cable box decoder: in the future, providers from well known media giants down to startup and entrepreneurial companies can deliver services and choices that we can’t even imagine today. Companies can develop applications and devices that integrate the Tru2way network into what Roberts calls the “Media Center Eco-system.” Applications will work on all compatible cable systems in the United States as well as in other countries adopting the standard.

    If you use your cable company for broadband internet access, you have a cable modem that provides two way communication between you and the cable company, who then connects it to the Internet. That cable modem is an integral part of this transition. The cable company will use it not only to provide you with Internet access but also to provide interactive communications with their multimedia entertainment store.

    This evolution from OCAP, OpenCable, CableCard and on to the new brand Tru2way is towards being able to leverage to computing power in your audio and video devices to eliminate set top boxes and external modems yet still provide new features such as pay per view (PPV) and video on demand (VoD).

    Cynics say this new brand is just another part of the effort by the big corporate cable companies to get the FCC off their backs. Whatever. If it is indeed an open technology and a worthwhile technology, it opens up the possibility for innovation and creativity both by the manufacturers of multimedia devices as well as by hackers and third party value add vendors. That could make for an interesting market.

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    The Doom and Gloom Forum

    On it was suggested that a Doom and Gloom forum section be created for those who are disposed to complain about the ‘end of the world as we know it’ in the form of high gas prices, global economies, or other such things.

    Many of these ‘doom and gloom’ posters have an exaggerated expression of the rose colored glasses phenomena. They see only that part of the past that suits their sense of a catastrophic trend to the future. One facet that is regularly obvious is an obliviousness to current reality.

    It is bad enough when measures and statistics are ignored or set aside. Add the inability to give thanks for the many blessings we have now that our forebearers did not that is just plain tragic. Then there are the more subtle things. Wired carried a story about one of these in The Untold Story: How the iPhone Blew Up the Wireless Industry by Fred Vogelstein.

    as important as the iPhone has been to the fortunes of Apple and AT&T, its real impact is on the structure of the $11 billion-a-year US mobile phone industry. For decades, wireless carriers have treated manufacturers like serfs, using access to their networks as leverage to dictate what phones will get made, how much they will cost, and what features will be available on them. Handsets were viewed largely as cheap, disposable lures, massively subsidized to snare subscribers and lock them into using the carriers’ proprietary services. But the iPhone upsets that balance of power. Carriers are learning that the right phone — even a pricey one — can win customers and bring in revenue. Now, in the pursuit of an Apple-like contract, every manufacturer is racing to create a phone that consumers will love, instead of one that the carriers approve of. “The iPhone is already changing the way carriers and manufacturers behave,” says Michael Olson, a securities analyst at Piper Jaffray.

    This is a matter of commercial relationships. The story explains how an entrepreneur created significant change in commercial relationships. It is not just a simple picture of the end consumer versus the product supplier. That is where the real revolution in our growth has occurred. Yes, the products are innovative and make their own contribution. But it is the process that goes into creating those products, the commercial relationships, and how one idea can change a structure to create new opportunity and new means of expression that really tells the story.

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    Restructure, reorganize, grow, and change

    Strategy Page has more on the growth of the US Army. They start with the McCainian view that promotes more soldiers as raw bulk then show the Rumsfeldian legacy of a new structure using knowledge and finesse.

    The change is about changing the independent operational unit from a division of 20,000 or so to a Brigade Combat Team of perhaps 4.000.

    The current army organization is different from what it had fifteen years ago. The army is a leaner organization, with more support services outsourced to civilian firms, and a larger proportion of troops in combat units.

    The actual number of infantrymen and tanks didn’t change, but the number of communications, maintenance and intelligence support did. For example, increased use of robots, sensors and computerized vidcam surveillance systems makes it possible to do the same amount of work in combat, with fewer troops. A lot of these new ideas, and equipment, is being tested in Iraq and Afghanistan, and most of these items work well in combat.

    This change is of the type that has had significant influence on our economy in the private sector. Since Taylor started the formal study of management in 1912, there has been an ever increasing efficiency and effectiveness in producing goods and services. Coupled with the information technologies (filing systems only go back to the late 19th century), and other technological advances, the result has been an astounding growth in productivity that has generated near unbelievable wealth and prosperity.

    The fact that so much of this change has crept up on us, or many have been so distracted by the outliers of rapid change, is visible in how much is taken for granted. One result is that the economy is used as a cudgel in political campaigns representing a grossly inaccurate propaganda. Those who think the country is going down the tubes only need to look at their own life and compare that to their grandparents in terms of available health care, circle of acquaintances, choices available for everything, toys, and housing. Think WalMart, for instance, and how it has benefited many in reduced cost of living while offering more choice at the same time. Then there are the numbers of GDP and so on the be examined.

    Things change. The Army and the rest of the military is no longer just a mass of people thrown at a problem. We are doing much more with less and doing it better. You can see if you look.

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    The OODA Loop, and 42nd Boyd

    Proteus reminds us of history and shows us what we should see about US military leadership. There are lessons in organization, leadership, tactics, and strategy that apply to an endeavor. There are stories of leaders fighting upstream against inertia and embedded paradigms. Here are some of the thoughts in the 2 part blog article.

    My motivation is simple: if the US goes to war, I want her to win. I want to win with as few American casualties as possible, and then, second, with as little collateral damage as we can possibly manage.

    I think the spectacular success of the Surge is due less to the number of boots on the ground than it is to something far more important.

    Looking back on the rise of the insurgency, it seems as if the average Iraqi did not know what to make of America. I suspect that many would have been far more supportive a long time ago, if it were not for the image of a helicopter atop a building in 1975 and a line of desperate people running for their lives. To work with Americans may have been what many wanted to do much, much sooner.

    this battle may or may not be won on the streets of Baghdad and Fallujah and Ramadi, but it absolutely can be lost on the CBS Evening News? One would think the insurgents would need a multi-billion dollar, worldwide high-tech satellite network to spread their propaganda. But, being the generous people that we are, we have gallantly lent them ours.

    it took three years of observing a steadily deteriorating situation on the ground in Iraq before a new orientation-decision-action was initiated. That’s way too much observation and way too slow a response.

    This is not firepower. This is not attrition. This is, rather, an intelligent, delicate, sophisticated, maneuver-based strategy. A light, but sometimes deadly touch. Fingertip control. Water flowing downhill, into the cracks which our enemy cannot fill. … If this continues, Gen. Petraeus will have walked into the camp of the enemy and used his own sword against him. That is a profound species of victory.

    No one will ever know how many American lives John Boyd has saved in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. But it is a large number. And it is perhaps the most fitting monument to a man who is all but unknown among the nations whose children – on both sides – were saved from attrition warfare.

    CRM [Cockpit Resource Management] has been hugely successful. In fact, a pilot/surgeon was so impressed with the results that he has taken many of aviation’s best ideas – written checklists, sterile conversation and actively-shared decision-making and briefing – into the operating room where many shockingly preventable mistakes continue to be made. Here too Gods have to be challenged. But the results speak for themselves… and even the most arrogant Captain would rather learn some new tricks than take two hundred people, himself included, into the ground.

    Ken Burns’ Gettysburg provides a study in contrasts. There, too, were gallant American soldiers dealing with a mismatch between tactics and tools. There, too, was a learning experience. There may be impatience in how long it takes to learn, how long it takes to reveal the necessary leaders, in the struggle with the bulge in the middle of the bureaucracy, and in the costs of advance.

    While the Iraq wars illustrate the pain and the cost, we must not let that diminish the admiration and respect that we should accord to the achievements made in the very fundamental and often invisible aspects of the effort.

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    Obsessions in the media: casualties and horror

    Strategy Page wonders “Where Have All The Dead Americans Gone?” in the Iraq struggle. Military tactics have been developed to minimize both military and civilian casualties. Some have noticed. Others have not.

    There was also an emphasis on keeping civilian casualties down. It was difficult for most Americans to realize this, given the media’s fixation on real or imagined atrocities.

    In hindsight, U.S. troops will get credit for keeping their own casualties down to historically low levels

    Less well appreciated are the efforts the Americans made to keep civilian losses down. But foreign military experts are coming to appreciate that this aspect of the war paid long term benefits. Iraqis saw, day by day, the efforts by American troops to avoid hurting civilians. Initially, Iraqis saw that as an American weakness, but in the long run they recognized it as a sensibility rarely seen in the Middle East. This will have long term consequences for relations between the United States and Iraq.

    The military is inhibited in waving this flag because of fears that the emphasis would be on its rules of engagement. Knowing those rules becomes a weapon of the enemy. Again, that is a media thing: with an obsession that is anti-US, the story is about the rules and not about the results.

    Israel is demonstrating similar sensitivities. The ratio of civilian to terrorist casualties in its campaign against terror has improved over time. It is now to the point that a civilian casualty in an attack against terrorists is an exception and not the rule. This effort by Israel is not one that is easy to find reported. Instead, what you hear is the exceptional case – often presented as the norm.

    The fact that the exercise of this sensibility shows strength of might as well as strength of values is not one that is easy to pin down. You can’t show it with a gory picture. It does not denigrate western culture. Those may be reasons why the media has trouble reporting it. Where it does show, and where it really counts, is in the conflict zone. The Iraqis and others in the area see and feel the strength and that may help them to understand that submission as required by their religion does not necessarily mean what they think it does.

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    XP to Vista, migrating Thunderbird and Firefox

    Email, address books, bookmarks, and browser settings are some of the more important personal data that needs to be moved when you upgrade or change computing platforms. The Mozilla products Thunderbird and Firefox make this rather easy. All you really need to do is to copy their applications data folders from one platform to the other.

    The trick is in finding these folders and the copying them to the right place.

    Both XP and Vista define the location for these folders with the ‘%appdata% symbol. Each user will have their own applications data so you need to be logged on as the proper user before you can find that user’s applications data.

    You can open an Explorer Window to see the applications data in XP by ‘Start -> Run’ or in Vista by the Windows key plus ‘R’ then typing %appdata% and then OK

    You may need to show hidden files. These are Explorer menu items, not file or folder property items. In XP it is ‘Tools -> Folder Options -> View’ and in Vista ‘Organize -> Folder and Search Options -> Folder Options -> View’

    Make sure that Firefox and Thunderbird are not running and there is no ‘quick start’ active for them before you do any backup or restore of their applications data.

    You will want to copy two folders, the Mozilla and the Thunderbird folders. If you select the folder, click the right mouse button, choose ‘Send To -> Compressed Folder’ you will create a zip file for the folder. Zip files (a.k.a. compressed folder) provide a convenient way to moving file collections between machines. You can move the zip files to a USB drive that can be moved from machine to machine or to a shared file area that is accessible via a local area network.

    On the destination machine, you first need to rename the Mozilla and Thunderbird folders that are created when you installed Firefox and Thunderbird. Right click on each, choose rename, and add ‘original-‘ to the front of each name, for example.

    Copy the zip files (compressed folders) to the %appdata% folder on the destination machine. Right click on the file and choose ‘Extract all’. A prompt comes up to indicate where to extract the files. You will need to remove the last part of the path shown because, if you don’t, your Mozilla folder filles with be extracted to Mozilla\Mozilla rather than just Mozilla. You want to extract the compressed folder directly to your applications data folder top level.

    Check your extracted files folders. If you open the Mozilla folder in %appdata% and see another Mozilla folder, for instance, you will know you messed up and didn’t remove the end of the extraction destination. The extraction prompt tends to default to the folder you are viewing (%appdata%) plus the name of the zip file and that extracts the files down a step too far.

    For background and more detail, see the Mozilla Zine articles on Where is my profile folder -|- Transferring data to a new profile -|- transferring bookmarks and passwords (discussion) -|- and Profile folder – SeaMonkey.

    After you get the applications data migrated to your new machine, fire up Mozilla and make sure it shows your starting home page and has your bookmarks. Then start Thunderbird and check your mail to make sure it has your email archive and mailbox settings.

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    False perceptions, another case study of media missing the mark

    Dennis Prager describes the incident about Will Smith, Hitler and the Diminishing Value of Truth. Smith uttered a truism, the press took off on a misperception. What Smith said is that evil people construct a means to believe they are doing good. What the press reported Smith as saying was that an evil person was good.

    What is to be learned? The lessons are simple:

    1. Don’t trust a Web site that doesn’t cite a reputable source for a news item (opinions columns have different standards).

    2. Then, check that source.

    3. Don’t trust headlines in newspapers — read the entire column.

    4. When a person is quoted, read his original statement in context.

    In the meantime, however, millions of people around the world will continue to believe the lie that Will Smith said that Hitler was a good man.

    In this case, it wasn’t just one media outlet. Prager illustrates that it was a pervasive and persistent misreporting and distorting by many outlets. This is why one has to be very careful in taking what is being reported as credible.

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    Reorgization: Introducing Lab Notes

    The Whispers blog is expanding in scope and the categories for entries are being reorganized. The purpose of the blog is, as always:

    We all have an obligation to each other and to ourselves to ‘get it right’ to help each other understand what really is and what things actually mean – not what we think might be or wish might be.

    This is the hard core engineer, scientist, and technician view of things. To date, the entries have been looking at events and pronouncements and ideas in terms of measurable standards such as consistency, logic, and observation. The effort is to try to figure out how to better understand what we see and what we hear and how we evaluate ideas. “Better” in this context means that we understand the bias in our perceptions and how it influences our thinking. We can at least start to learn the differences between what actually is, what we want to be, and how we feel about things.

    As noted in this blog, many of the more significant issues stimulate interesting behavior. This behavior can range from the psychological mechanisms people use to make sense of their world to the pathological efforts of some to manipulate and use ideas for their own goals. Putting this behavior on the table for examination can threaten some and greatly irritate others. That can lead to heated discussion or worse.

    The blog entries that involve observing behavior are now categorized as Mind Games subcategories. The existing Education category will remain at the top of the hierarchy but its focus will be refined to include the practice and technique as well as the behavior of educators.

    The scope of this blog will expand to include those things engineers, scientists, and technicians do that impact our lives. These entries will be categorized as lab notes.

    Lab NotesThe tools and techniques we use to make our lives more enjoyable, more interesting, and keep our mind engaged and active.

    Some of the topics that will be a part of the lab notes includeL

    FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) – Linux, Open Office, Mozilla, and all the other software that is available without usage license restriction, that has the source code available for inspection and modification, and often written by volunteers in world wide organized efforts

    multimedia – Storing and displaying audio and visual material

    Signals – Getting a signal from here to there can take many paths and involve many techniques and processes

    Computing – Information technologies including networking, data processing, and hardware

    Communications – How we make links to talk to each other.

    Off Grid – about energy and technologies for independent living.

    Lab notes entries will be more technological and less personal. From experience in discussion forums, this won’t necessarily make them less controversial. If you already know enough to have a firm idea about how things work, feel free to offer your views and corrections.

    The lab notes are intended to help readers learn what is available and how to make better decisions about it.

    A case in point is a recent story in EE Times that noted that nearly 20% of big screen TV’s were returned in 2006. People who bought these TV’s did not really understand what they were getting and what was necessary to properly leverage their purchase. In response, many stores have increased their efforts to educate consumers.

    The goal of Lab Notes is to help you avoid being one of those disappointed in your purchase and use of modern equipment and tools.

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