Pat's Log
Mon, 24 Apr 2006

Entropy Everywhere!
20060423 Change is everywhere. Spring is changing things outside. At work, we just finished Xandros Server 1.0, our major new product and everyone is changing over to Xandros Desktop work. Another change is a significant decrease in noise: the renovation that has been going on all winter at the Xandros office building is finally done. While I prefer the old "80's technology" look that we had before, the new plant life does good things to the lobby; it really is a unique building, even if its construction is flawed in many ways.

I'll be off to Toronto tomorrow for the official launch of the aforementioned Xandros Server at LinuxWorld Expo. I expect it will be a new experience, as I have only attended technical conferences in the past. At the moment, I'm just putting the final touches on my speech regarding standards, and why they are important to Linux. In fact, here is the official summary:

Pat Suwalski explains how Linux engineers are incorporating open standards and specifications, and why they are important to the future of Linux from the point-of-view of distributions, software, and hardware vendors.

My talk has been put directly between two rather influential people, Waldo Bastian and "Maddog" Hall, so the pressure is on. But then, I like speaking. The hard part is condensing the talk to a small timeslice and in terms that business people can understand. A good challenge, it is.

An interesting story from this week is about a smart battery that wasn't so smart. Peter had a spare Palm Zire he had no use for, so he donated it to my brother, who really wanted one. It was new-in-box, but the battery did not work. The 3.7V unit only output about 0.1V, and charging had no effect; zero current draw. So, we ordered a new one from eBay. In the meantime, seeing as the current cell was dead, I decided to see if anything could be determined from an autopsy. Taking the plastic sheath off the battery, it became apparent that it's a "smart" battery. This surprised me, as I had assumed all of the smarts were on the Palm's mainboard. Putting a voltmeter directly to the cell, it gave a healthy 3.5V. Clearly, the electronics had gone insane! Where's the reset pin? With nothing to lose, I shorted all of the pins on the chip to the negative terminal on the cell. Immediately afterwards, the whole unit began to behave. We now have a spare Zire battery. Remember kids, do not try this at home.

[] | posted @ 03:39 | link
Sat, 15 Apr 2006

Good Friday
20060414 Well, I guess it was a good day. While changing the winter wheels on my car to my summer rims, I noticed that the passenger-side ball joint was very loose. Finally, the culprit that was going "clunk-clunk."

As luck would have it, a friend who goes through parts at at-cost prices got me a pair of new ones for about 35 bucks apiece (the driver-side is loose, but not noisy yet). That's an amazing deal, seeing as I paid 200 dollars for the last one.

It was a difficult job. Of course, a bolt snapped along the way. Still, a good learning experience.

Change of subject: I got a surprising amount of feedback about the gas graph. I was told a lot of interesting theories, but they all pointed to what I alluded to: normalization to prices elsewhere in the world, with a growing population and growing demand. So, I'm not complaining about gas prices anymore, and neither should you. But feel free to complain about the uncompetitive "up-and-down" methods of gas stations.

[] | posted @ 03:55 | link
Thu, 13 Apr 2006

Gas Prices
20060412 Now that gasoline is regularly over a dollar per litre, I decided it was a good time to make an effort to do something useful with all that data I collect at every purchase. Yes, every time I buy gas, it's recorded.

People these days complain a lot about rising fuel costs. The recurring question to me is whether or not the complaining is justified; perhaps the rate is increasing more-or-less with other prices?

The resulting graph is interesting. It shows that:

  • Gas prices were fairly consistent throughout the nineties
  • Prices actually dropped to 1988 levels in 1999 and 2002
  • The variation in pricing used to be a couple of cents
  • Since 2000, price variations are large and unpredictable
  • The average increase since 2001 is more-or-less linear

I am not an economist, and I do not understand the "economic ecosystem" (my guess is that no one does), but it seems to me that if a chocolate bar that cost 50 cents in 1988 now costs a dollar, then it makes legitimate sense that gasoline would double in price as well.

Unfortunately, the average Canadian salary has not doubled. Perhaps this is why people feel the impact. Nevertheless, prices on many items have gone up significantly in the last eighteen years, so is it oil getting expensive, or oil catching up to the rest of society? Will the graph level off once again in the next year or so?

[] | posted @ 03:07 | link
Wed, 12 Apr 2006

Spring Has Sprung
20060411 I'm happy to report that things at work are slowly returning to "normal," whatever that means. Actually, it means that my projects are frozen and that there is more time to enjoy life, including the beautiful weather these last few days... and to write here.

This evening was the first meet of the Rideau Nautical Modellers at Andrew Haydon Park. The water is now 99% liquid, the evening a nice 18 degrees. I took the little boat out; still working on the top for it. Peter took a photo with his nice new D-SLR that makes it look like its wake is really big. Next week I'll have the big boat out.

The project for this evening was to update four years worth of gasoline data into my trusty spreadsheet that goes back to 1988. The goal here is to produce a date-vs-price graph for the last 18 years. When that's done I'll post a nice picture here. I expect a relatively smooth curve with a spike around 2003. I predict that when inflation is considered, the rise in gas prices is less significant than many think.

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link

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