Data Rot

From a David Pogue interview:

Data rot refers mainly to problems with the medium on which information is stored. Over time, things like temperature, humidity, exposure to light, being stored not-very-good locations like moldy basements, make this information very difficult to read.

The second aspect of data rot is actually finding the machines to read them. And that is a real problem. If you think of the 8-track tape player, for example, basically the only way you can find 8-track cartridges is in a flea market or a garage sale.

I have certainly run into both, the first was with a set of 5 1/4″ floppy discs which were so old you could run your fingers across the surface the metal oxide coating would just wipe off the discs because the glue had degraded. More recently it happened to my father where family movies on video tapes were no longer readable, again the glue had degraded.


FriendFeed and my Current Reading

I have decided that I am going to post links to all my current reading in my FriendFeed feed, I have been meaning to do that for a while and it is time I did it.

My FriendFeed feed also mirrors my weblog, so all you need to do is subscribe to that and you will get my blog content too.

iPhone Tracking Health

I picked this up off AppleInsider. Part of the iPhone 3.0 presentation included an accessory to allow diabetics to track their blood sugar level:

Almost a year ago, Amy Tenderich, a San Francisco blogger who maintains Diabetes Mine for people living with diabetes, penned an open letter to Steve Jobs, asking Apple to help apply the design savvy of the iPod to the medical devices that keep millions of people alive.

Speaking specifically about the blood glucose monitors or insulin pumps used by people living with diabetes, Tenderich asked Jobs, “have you seen these things? They make a Philips GoGear Jukebox HDD1630 MP3 Player look pretty! And it’s not only that: most of these devices are clunky, make weird alarm sounds, are more or less hard to use, and burn quickly through batteries. In other words: their design doesn’t hold a candle to the iPod.”

“What we need here” Tenderich wrote, “is a sweeping change in industry-wide mentality — achievable only if some respected Thought Leader tackles the medical device design topic in a public forum.” She recommended that Apple start a design contest, or assign the company’s design team to create some reference designs, or establish an Apple Med Design School offering courses on consumer design to engineers from pharma companies.

Tenderich’s plea was picked up by blogger Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, where it certainly caught Apple’s attention. Then nearly a year passed.

This is interesting to me personally because I have a brother with Type I diabetes and he has to monitor his blood sugar level on a daily basis. I can see how this would help him with that.

Taking a step back, there are lots of single use medical devices that are being used by people and I can see how these devices would be attached to a phone (the iPhone in this case) where software would be used to augment the capabilities of the device, in this case to track blood sugar level rather than giving single reads, and using the telecommunication capabilities of the device to upload this information to a database somewhere or providing a alerting service in case of emergency.

I think that yet again a chunk of functionality is about to folded into mobile phones just like what happened when smart phones first started to appear on the market eventually causing the demise of the PDA.

New Development Machine

A couple of weeks ago I decided to upgrade my main linux development machine, a four year old dual-Xeon machine, with something a little more modern and much less power hungry. Indeed the old machine accounted for between 25% and 30% of my power bill at home.

I did not need to upgrade the entire machine, just the motherboard and the memory. I opted for an Intel DX58SO board with a Core i7 processor. In the event I did need to get a new DVD drive, the DX58SO does not have any legacy ports (so no PATA connector), and a new graphics card, neither of which were all that expensive.

I did run into a couple of snags along the way. I use CentOS 5.2 as my default Linux distribution (I developed a taste for boring and stable after a brief detour into cutting edge, exciting and unstable with Gentoo a while back.) The bummer was that the onboard network adaptor is not supported by CentOS 5.2 and I would need to download and install the appropriate driver, which struck me as a step in the wrong direction, so I opted for Fedora Core 10 instead which I am very comfortable with.

Somewhere along the process the power supply decided to commit Seppuku with a loud bang, a big blue flash and a small cloud of acrid smoke so I had to run out and replace that too. I was glad that it did not take out the motherboard in the process.

So now I have a new machine with 6GB of RAM, 4 cores which look like 8 cpus to Linux (Hyper-threading trickery), which is a lot quieter, a lot more power efficient and a lot cooler (summer is approaching) than the previous noisy space-heater I had. The quietness alone is worth the price of admission.

Windows 7 Beta

I have been playing around with the Windows 7 Beta recently and I have to say that it looks pretty good so far.

People know that I don’t use Windows, in fact I stay away from it when I can (something that was reinforced when I spent three days over the holidays fixing a Windows XP computer for a friend, most of the time spent was tracking down drivers for older video cards, network interfaces and printer.)

Sun Setting?

I could not let this one go past without some sort of comment. According to the NY Times IBM is in talks with Sun to buy them for $7 billion:

I.B.M. is in talks to buy Sun Microsystems in a proposed deal valued at nearly $7 billion, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said on Wednesday.

The merger, if completed, would mark a big consolidation step in the market for server computers used in corporate data centers — and one that could prompt an antitrust challenge. Together, the two companies would have about 65 percent of the market for server computers running the Unix operating system and 42 percent of the total server market.

A combination of I.B.M., based in Armonk, N.Y., and Sun, based in Santa Clara, Calif., would bring together two companies with a large commitment to research and development spending and open software development. I.B.M.’s annual research and development budget is $6 billion, while Sun’s is $3 billion.

My first ‘real’ Unix computer was SparcStation 1 and I used Sun gear to develop on Unix from 1989 through 2004 (yes, the Feedster search engine was developed on Solaris.) I completely switched to Linux in 2004.

iPhone 3.0 Update

The new iPhone 3.0 update looks nice, you can see screen shots on AppleInsider and Apple is now offering a stream of the presentation (which I have not yet watched).

I have to agree with Paul Thurrott that it is more of an evolution than a revolution, but this is a maturing platform. The 1.0 release was the revolution, now we need stability and evolution.

I was however disappointed that we have to wait until the summer for a general release, but I expect that this will be synced with a new model release (which will also be synced with contract expirations for all those who got a phone when it was first released.)