A New Kind of Sunroof?

This gives a whole new meaning to the term “Sunroof!”

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Merry Christmas 2013

Another year is almost ready for the ‘Recent History” archive!
May your New Year 2014 be blessed and happy!

Updated:: Now with 100% more Christmas Tree!

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From a Certain Point of View

The title is a reference to a parcel of dialogue from one of my favorite childhood movies (the guessing contest to “Name the movie” will be hosted in the comments section below).  One character says to another something to the effect “You’ll find many of the truths we cling to depend upon our point of view.”  This was the quip that came to mind immediately after reading the paragraph below at the UK Telegraph:

For among the rebel lines in al-Safira flutters the black flag of the al-Nusra Brigade, the jihadist group that recently declared its allegiance to al-Qaeda. Known for their fighting prowess honed in Iraq, they are now taking the lead in nearly every frontline in the Syrian war, and earlier this month, pushed to within just over a mile of al-Safira, only to for the Syrian troops to regain the ground last week.

 In particular, the statement “Known for their fighting prowess honed in Iraq,” caught me. 

I suppose from a “Spirit of George Orwell’s writing” point of view “Fighting prowess honed in Iraq” can be some sort of contextual shorthand for “Expertly dodged American combat forces by blending in amongst the native population making only occassional and furtive covert ambush-style attacks which were operationally and strategically ineffective, and eventually succumbed anyway to either American combat forces or Iraqis who tired of you hiding amongst them when you weren’t treating them barbarously.”

I would have loved to have posted this to Twitter, but I just couldn’t figure out a way to condense that down to 140 characters.

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Praying for Boston

Forth For Freedom

Forth For Freedom

I feel compelled to share this photo today. I’m praying for Boston, I hope you will too.

Twitter: #prayforboston.

Follow me on Twitter: @CPenningroth

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Farewell, Lady Margaret Thatcher

I’m going to keep some fond memories of you, Lady Thatcher. Thank you for speaking to us at my University of Missouri campus (I started at least one of the rounds of applause). Thank you for your televised speech at President Reagan’s funeral; you adding a touch of your grief made mine a little easier to bear at the Great Man’s passing; I do wish you could have been there personally, but I understand and accept that you could not. Most of all, thank you for securing the future for us, at least for the time it was within your power to do it. HIstory will remember you well. I will do the best I can to ensure that. It’s the least I can do. With gratitude and sadness from the bottom of my heart, I bid you goodbye.

Posted in International Relations, What's Right | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

This post has been gathering dust as a draft for seven months now.  It looks like now is a good time to dust it off and finish it, it may go some small way to explain some of the back-story behind a pair of my previous posts (one and two). 

I received as a 2011 Christmas gift the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson on audio CD.  I listened to it in May and June 2012.  I found it answered some questions that had never really been nagging me but had always wondered about in the occassional moment from time to time ever since the Apple IIe was introduced and I bought an Atari instead. 

The first question I never really asked myself aloud was “Why I am reluctant to buy an Apple product?” The practical answers were usually “Apple is too expensive for the product (the product was either overvalued compared to its utility or it was too exclusive for no particular reason)”‘; or “None of my friends/coworkers/employers use them and therefore I’d have to learn an operating system and software that is not immediately useful to me.”  Rule #1 applied to the Apple IIe (although we did have a couple in our high school), the Macintosh (which appeared in our high school computer labs and came closest to being a possible exception to Rule #2), and the iPod (it looked too simplistic for the price although apparently it works well as an MP3 player; but thanks also for revolutionizing the music industry, producers of another series of products I use only infrequently!).  In the case of the smart phone, the iPhone debuted while I was in Japan and was not available to me until I moved back to the U.S.  Upon returning to the States I rushed to the AT&T store as soon as I could to acquire an iPhone, only to discover the data plan was $90/month! So a permutation to rule #1 was in effect, the ‘necessary accessories’ were overpriced for the perceived value.  To this day I do not own a smart phone.  As I mentioned, I recently bought an iPad Mini for the Foreflight aviation application, and I’m actually quite pleased with it for the Foreflight application and for casual web-browsing.  Actually, when it comes to casual web-browsing, it annihilates my Netbook, as the Netbook takes several minutes to boot up and log in; where the iPad is available within seconds of picking it up off the table.  For PowerPoint, Word, and Excel, the Netbook still rules the roost when I need an ultra-portable platform.  But I digress a bit.  What was illuminating about the Jobs biography that shed light on my early apprehension about Apple?

In a nutshell, Jobs returned time and again to a need for Apple to “Control the users’ experience” (Why 1984 won’t be like 1984, indeed? I cede control of my experience to Apple rather than to Big Brother?).  He regarded his products as ‘Superior’ and overall his attitude kind of reminds me of the attitude some teenagers (or even some people who have physically matured but are still adolescent in heart and mind) affect:  “I’m the smartest kid in the room, and if you don’t want what I’m selling, you’re the one who’s wrong because I’m smarter than you are.”  After I had finished this audiobook I coined my computing continuum which I described in the Silicon Rubicon post.  While I prefer to operate as far away from the Apple side of the continuum as I possibly can, I admit there are times when an Apple product fits the bill and is the most useful in some circumstances. 

As for Steve Jobs as a person, I can’t say I’d’ve been happy to have known him personally, but then the feeling would likely be mutual.  There were aspects of his personality that sound like they served him well.  His dogged determination to perfect his products is probably the trait I admire the most and the one we likely have most in common.  Kudos to him for ‘Letting it all hang out,’ so to speak, in his biography.  Once upon a time I would have (and in fact have) done the same.  I no longer think it to be terribly useful to repeat all of the inhibiting traits each of us frail humans display.  It’s useful to highlight character flaws only to remind the reader that “Yes, in fact this person was a human being just like you.”  Otherwise to not do so may result in a tendency for future readers who did not know the human to tend to elevate the person’s stature in the reader’s mind unnecessarily.   Let the world have the positive from the outcomes I achieved and let me take the preponderance of my embarrassments to the grave. 

Steve Jobs’ particular traits as a leader gave me the most headache.  Obviously when we as a society arrived at smart phones and tablet computing, his point of view on the design and function of those devices won the current day.  But the way he finally arrived at the pinnacle? His scorched earth leadership (if you’ll take ‘Earth’ to be a metaphor for his employees) seems like it resulted in a lot of unneeded angst in his wake in his early days at Apple.  Perhaps the best thing that happened to him (and to Apple) was being fired; to some extent it seems to have made Jobs a better (if only marginally more tolerable) person and entrepreneur.  Another issue was that while he seemed to have a decent idea of the way the end-state Apple products should look, I did not get a sense that Jobs was actaully involved in the fundamental engineering that got the products working; Steve Wozniak apparently was the technical brains of the early organization and Jobs appeared to be able to find exemplary talent that could package the technology into the design.  That in itself is a mark of good leadership.  His corporation became indisputably successful, another mark of successful leadership. 

At the end of the day, in the 1980s I passed on an Apple for an Atari; now I own an iPad and use it while the pair of Atari classic video game systems I have are sitting in boxes gathering dust.  What goes around is sometimes just gone in later days.  Sometimes what almost went away comes roaring back when the time is right. 

I’m not sorry to know now what I know about the late Steve Jobs.  Somehow I don’t really think I’m a better person for knowing all of the details presented in the biography.  The bio was long on ‘What happened’ and short on ‘How it happened’ from the technical sense, but then such information would have been divulging Apple  trade secrets, so I understand the omission.  All the biography did was, as I mentioned, answer some of my personal questions that were really mere curiosities.  I validated some hunches.  I suppose there’s some value in that.  I now know a bit more why I can trust my hunches, at least with computers.

2013-05-27 Update:  Corrected spelling/grammar (“know know” to “now know”).

Posted in Arts, Internet, Literature, Programming & Technical Computing | 4 Comments

Computer Karma Restored

As you may recall from a previous entry, I’ve been promising myself I’d get my old Pentium 4 up and running again with a Linux operating system. I had loaded Kubuntu 8.10 (I think) onto a new hard drive that I’d thrown together in a new case with the old motherboard. The new (old) system had worked, but Linux novice that I was (and still am), I was unable to get it to connect to the Internet using an old Linksys wireless card. I simply wasn’t savvy enough to be able to build/write/acquire a driver, and the new (old) system was on the far side of the house and given certain, um, *ahem* “Aesthetic limiting factors,” running a Cat 5E cable across the house and through the floor was out of the question.

I’m happy to report that thanks to careful preparation, things seem to have paid off handsomely in getting the Kubuntu system running. Earlier I fortunately properly prepared the current office; I had the cable company install the home’s entry point for the cable and the Internet in the office and then had him run a line to the living room. I put the DVR equipment downstairs with what amounts to our family “Entertainment system” but left one TV controller here in the office. But most important, I made sure to place the router upstairs here in the office, and it was a simple matter to run the Cat 5E cables around the baseboard to the desktops (the Core II system doesn’t seem to like wireless, either). Last weekend after giving the office a scouring I dragged the older system with Kubuntu out of its hiding place, set it up, attached it to the also-prepositioned KVM switch, and fired it up! After simply needing to input the time for the BIOS, and after waiting a few extra minutes to let the system do whatever it did, up it booted!

So this is essentially the inaugural use of a Linux operating system going out to the world from this desk. With this post, I’m going to call a modicum of computer karma restored in my household.

Now if I could just get a Linux-based tablet computer that would run Foreflight, I could start weaning myself from my iPad!

Posted in Hobbies, Internet, Programming & Technical Computing | 4 Comments

Merry Christmas 2013

God bless us, every one.

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Today I Crossed My Silicon Rubicon

I’ve lived almost all of my life in the age of the personal computer (PC).  None of the devices I’ve ever purchased were Apple products.  I cut my teeth on my friends’ Atari 800XLs and Commodore 64s when I wasn’t using my own TI99/4A.  Other friends had the TRS-80, the Coleco Adam, the Commodore VIC-20, the Atari 400/800, and the Timex-Sinclair 1000 (if memory serves on the designators for those quasi-rare devices).  I don’t think anyone in my circle owned an Apple product, although I remember the launch of the Apple II and considered purchasing the IIe until I heard the price quoted. 

Subsequent systems I owned that were not PC-variety after the TI99/4A included an Atari 130XE, and. . . well, that was it.  In 1990 my family bought a Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) x8088 system and it was all PC from that point on.  In 1994 I made the leap to a Windows 3.1 x486 with a math co-processor which I upgraded in 1997 to a Windows 95 Pentium II (and later (much later, like in 2009) tried unsuccessfully to upgrade to an AMD K6).  Shortly after purchasing that tabletop computer as a -486, later in 1994 I realized that there were such things as “Laptops.”  Also, carrying my PC, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and associated cords to and from work was a bit ridiculous.  Therefore in the final months of 1994 one of my first credit card charges was a Windows 3.11 x386SX laptop.  I figured in the time I saved tearing down, carting, and setting up my PC I was able to do a better job writing term papers and credited my first-ever 4.0 GPA to the laptop. 

After college and with a couple years of earnings under my belt, or in my bank account, I bought within two months’ time a Compaq Presario 1200 laptop with Windows Millenium Edition (ME) and a custom-built tower with Windows 98, both Pentium IIIs.  I took the laptop with me to Korea due to space/weight limitations; during that tour I upgraded the OS to Windows XP.  By the time I returned from that tour, the old tower Pentium III didn’t really cut it anymore and worse, the Compaq laptop with its AMD processor routinely overheated and crashed.  So within another few months I had the tower upgraded to Pentium IV and had replaced the Compaq with a Dell Inspiron 9100, both with Windows XP.  Both of those systems have been upgraded or replaced, both the hardware and the operating systems (OS) (each upgrade or replacement was always with a Windows product).  Since then I added a Windows OS Netbook to the mix as well.  The Pentium IV system now has Kubuntu 8.10 or so installed on it but since I never figured out how to put a wireless card driver on it it’s never seen the Internet (although I’m looking forward to plugging it in manually someday).  In other words, my daily use systems since 1990 have always been PC+Microsoft equipment.  I’m comfortable with [most of] them; I always have been, and probably always will be. 

As I meant to mention in a previous post I never yet posted, my unstated opinion of the Apple corporation solidified into something tangible after I listened to Steve Jobs’ biography on an audiobook a relative gave me for Christmas.  I ended the reading (or the ‘Listening’) with this new understanding of the PC industry:  There was something of a continuum involved from, let’s call it Linux to Apple.  Starting from PC+Linux, you have do-it-yourself hardware and a do-it-yourself operating system and programs, and you must know pretty much everything in order to do anything.  You spend a lot of time gaining experience and understanding.  It’s the “More time” end of the continuum.  Between Linux and Apple lies PC+Windows.  You can do almost as much of it yourself as you like with both hardware, OS, and software; you can spend a lot of time and get to know what you’re doing in order to make it all work better.  Or you can buy “Default” hardware and OS settings and take what you get; however “Default” only really worked starting with Windows 95 and later Windows 98 (and went back to not working very well with Millenium Edition but Windows XP remains a great OS to this day in my opinion).  And finally at the opposite end of the continuum lies the Apple product line in which the customer/end-user gets what Steve Jobs wanted you to have and was customizeable only in the programs/applications you ran on his companies’ (his) systems and you voided the warranty if you so much looked counterclockwise at the lock-bolts; the “Less time” side of the continuum.  I’ve always idealized the Linux side of the line and shunned the Apple side of the line; however since none of my jobs have been deep into the inner workings of what the corporate world calls information technology (IT), I’ve never really spent the time required to learn proficiency with Linux and have settled into the Windows grove mostly because that’s what we’ve used at work since I started working.   

Lately though I’ve been flying general aviation with a bunch of folks who always take their iPads flying with them.  They’ve used a small range of ‘Apps’ (Lord help me but it’s tough to not scream at the universe “It’s not an APP it’s a PROGRAM! Someone PROGRAMMED the computer to run that ‘Application’. . . and I digress again). . . a small range of Apps by which they can use plug-in GPS to keep track of the airplane while the airplane is superimposed on a Sectional chart, an instrument approach procedure, an instrument Low chart, and goodness only knows what else (I think one fellow said there was an App that would superimpose the plane onto Google Earth, but that was more than a couple Holiday beverages ago).  I know one guy who uses (I think) a Samsung tablet, everyone else uses an iPad.

So, that did it.  I entered the world of the tablet computer today, as a loved one gave me an iPad Mini as an early Christmas gift.  I’m now the owner of an Apple product.  I plan to put it to good use in the cockpit, and have it double as the e-Reader I’ve never really wanted but figured someone would eventually give me for Christmas someday.  I hear it’s useful for browsing the Internet, too.  Time will tell if I think it’s better than my Netbook for crunching out wordy projects.  I’m not expecting much from it in the way of spreadsheets or slideshow creation.  Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised?

A nagging feeling in the back of my brain is telling me I need to get that old Pentium IV with Kubuntu fired up and connected in order to restore a modicum of computer karma in my household.

Posted in General Aviation, Hobbies, Internet | 1 Comment

Happy Thanksgiving 2012

I’m thankful for this one life the Good Lord gave me, for liberty and the ideal of justice for all, and for freedom to accomplish the pursuit of happiness–I’ve found and caught my share of happiness, but the quest never ends! Thanksgiving blessings to all!

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