Archive of ‘Personal’ category

What’s Wrong With The Movies?

I used to like to go to the movies years ago. I must have liked it, I became a projectionist and worked in theaters in my youth. I like the big screen. I like the way they made the movies. My thrill is disappearing. I don’t like most of the new movies, and much of that dislike is for technical reasons.

First, and possibly the worst is movie sound. It has not improved with technology, it has become nonfunctional. The primary failure is volume. It varies far too much. Explosions are quite loud, voices are generally unintelligible because they are too soft or uneven. Current sound engineers don’t seem to have learned their craft.

Special effects. Far too overused. Far too many movies are made only to use them.

The plot. Has there been a new one developed in the past thirty years? Far too many remakes and sequeles.

How can you make a movie without having a script before you start. there is a lot of talk of collaboration in the movie making responding to actor input during filming. That isn’t a benefit it’s a failure. When a movie starts shooting, everything should have been worked out in advance, if not then why start?

Awards. I look at awards as recommendations against viewing a film. How can a film be nominated for an award before it’s released to the public. It’s all just marketing.

Current “actors” don’t seem to know their craft. If they did, there would be fewer out-takes.

I believe in a working Hollywood. Movie factories that produced lots of product were better that the current limited production of “block busters.”

I also hate the sticky floor.

What I like. The big screen. Simple sound, no more than stereo is needed. Being able to hear what people say. Not to much camera movement. A plot. Good character development. A focused picture. Synchronized curtain movement on film beginning and end.

So, I guess I’m banished to foreign and small independent films.

Inconsiderate people.

Why are there so many?
First, please pardon the use of stereotypes.
I’ve noticed that inconsiderate people seem to be generally inconsiderate, they don’t seem to have single failures. Here are a few of the traits I think are inconsiderate:

  • Walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk. Just like when driving (at least here in the US), people should stay to the right side.
  • Crowding into lanes or lines.
  • Talking loudly on the cell phone.
  • Driving across the lane line in a curve on the road. Almost guaranteed to be done by SUV and pickup drivers. I can make it through in my RV so there’s no technical reason they shouldn’t. I’m listing this as being inconsiderate because they do it as a general driving technique, while usually returning to their side when cars are actually present. It’s inconsiderate because it often requires evasive actions by the oncoming cars seemingly unnoticed by the errant drivers.
  • Owners of unleashed dogs. These people tend to own larger dogs, especially pit bull dogs. They cause people to take alternate paths, scare away wildlife, and leave poop everywhere. An owner that lets their dog run off leash rarely picks up after their dog.
  • Bicyclists that ride against the flow of traffic and run stop signs. Are they stupid or inconsiderate, or both?
  • Litter bugs.
  • People who can’t control their children.
  • People who drive vehicles with head lights more than 24″ above the roadway. Same for drivers using supplemental lighting like mis-aimed driving or fog lights.
  • Telephone solicitors. They should be an exception to the laws against murder. Same for email spammers.
  • People who have those obnoxious car stereos that anybody with hearing finds objectionable. The occupants of the cars with the stereos either are deaf or will be. That must be why they use these vibrators.

This is a quick list, more to follow.

Religion

I am an agnostic, meaning, I do not know if there is a god.
I don’t understand how anyone can be either an atheist nor religious because either could only be absolute if they were omnipotent and they would therefore be a god themselves and contradict their belief.
It is my belief that the world would be better off without religion because most wars seem to be fought in the name of god.
I do believe in the root objective of Christianity, its golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That seems like a good rule and of benefit to all, and about the only rule needed.
I especially do not understand Islam. It is a religion developed 600 years after Christ and appears to be nothing more than a (very large) cult with little difference from any other religious sect like revival baptists or the religious right. Any religion that demands obedience to their one and only set of rules is a bad religion, and one that misses the meaning of the golden rule.
If there is a heaven and hell, there most definitely will be an awful lot of religious people in hell and not very many, at all, in heaven.
I’ll keep considering this.

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
Mohandas Gandhi 

My History With Computers

Cleaning out the closet caused me to look at my history with computers.

Don’s First Computer
My prize computer I haven’t been able to locate for years. I built it in 1962. It was very useful. It added numbers up to a result total of eight. Probably stuffed in the attic? I built a mahogany box about the size of a cigar box in wood shop. I then built two rotary switches using the old push style paper clips. The switches were something like 4P4T switches. There were two switches that you dialed a number on each of the two switches and one of 8 lights would light which was the result. I built it as a science fair project.

Introduction To Programming
In the service, at tech school, I was introduced to a “real”computer. It wasn’t much. It was built of discrete components and could be programmed to do some simple things. I liked programming it.
In the service, I ended up at the Satellite Test Center in Sunnyvale. I worked in the Telemetry Ground Station. Our primary job was making recordings and printing oscillographic charts for use by the satellite mission controllers. We also had the development center for the ground stations. The command computers were Univac 1230 computers, a computer that was originally designed to launch missiles on submarines but ended up used for satellites. The 1230 was a dual processor computer with a common memory bank of 4K of magnetic core memory. It looked like the computers you see in very old sci-fi movies with lots of rows of lights as readouts for the various registers. It had about 6 each 14″ platter hard disk drives, 6 each 1/2″ tape drives, an IBM card punch and reader, a drum memory device like a spinning garbage can used for fast storage. The hard disks weren’t very fast. There were teletype terminals, line printers (an impact printer that printed a 22″ line with one stroke, Paper flew out of it when it printed), and a page programmed key switch array used to send commands to satellites. It booted up with a punched tape drive.
The “back end” computers were CDC 160 computers. There was one in our ground station/development center and another 15-20 in the next room. The 160 used about 6 each 1/2″ tape drives. It was booted up with a punched tape drive. and used an IBM card punch and reader. Each 160, with peripherals,occupied about 300sf. I spent many an hour playing stupid games like Jotto, a word guess game and hangman (there often wasn’t too much going on on mid-night shift).
We had lots of other computer like equipment like PCM decommutators and interface simulation devices, and etc. We tested some of the first mini computers later used to replace the dinosaur like room sized computers in use then. We also worked on the development of wideband modems later used to link the various ground stations and the control and launch sites.

Bally Arcade
A game machine that could also be used as a poor mans computer. It had tiny basic and you could do a lot with it including program your own games. It had the best games available at the time as well.

Ohio Scientific C4P
The most powerful hobby computer of the time. It ran at 1Mhz, had 4K RAM, used audio tape for storage. I immediately started modifying it by double clocking the cpu to 2 Mhz and modifying the video memory to allow paging of two 32 character by 32 line video displays. My first programming using it was a Tic-Tac-Toe game. I also used a commercial game called Pedestrian in which the objective was to run down as many pedestrians as possible. I modified this game extensively to make a more interesting game.

Aim65′s (hand crafted)
These computers were used as programmable test devices. They applied inputs to traffic signal volume and occupancy coordination devices and tested for the correct response. They were also used to program EPROMS used by traffic controllers and bus destination signs. They were also used to develop a solid state traffic counter and graphing software for it. The Rockwell AIM65 was a single board computer with an integrated 20 character LED display and a 20 character printer. It was great for program development using 6502 assembly language. I also built video cards and printer interfaces for them.

Radio Shack M100 portable computer
This was a birthday present. It was possibly the best computer I’ve ever had. It was used for development of specification documents. I also designed a data logger for it. The data logger could monitor 16 inputs and respond to inputs set as triggers to record pre and post event data. It was used mostly to monitor Light Rail Vehicle signal control systems. I also used it for project management and workload control as well. This was the first maintenance management software that I developed.

Commodore Vic 20
A very powerful and cheap computer. I used this a lot for browsing what later became the Internet. I used Delphi, Compuserve and other online services. I expanded mine with lots of memory and an 80 character wide display. I used it for word processing and hardware development as well.

Commodore 64
More powerful that the Vic 20 and used for much the same use.

Commodore B128
This computer was picked up at an auction from a former Commodore dealer. I never really used it for much but it had such potential. It is a beautiful computer, possibly the best looking, most rugged and versatile computer of the time and a long time after. Its primary processor was a 6502. It could utilize daughter boards for other processors like the 8080 or Z80. I didn’t have either board though. It is a business computer and the main application of the dealer was POS systems.

Commodore C128
This computer replaced my Radio Shack computer for use with maintenance management. It was also used for word processing. The Paperclick word processor has yet to be beat for simplicity and versatility. Someday MS Word may have all the features. This computer had both the 6502 and the Z80 processors. It ran the same basic as the Vic20 and C64 as well as a more powerful version of basic and ran CPM programs as well. This was a great computer.

Apple II
This was a clone that I built from scrape parts. I used to love the computer swap meets at De Anza College and West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco. I never liked the Apple computers.

Apple III
I got this from a neighbor but never used it.

Kaypro Computer
A CPM computer. This computer was used for the central terminal of a closed loop traffic signal control system. It came with WordStar, DataStar and other CPM programs. DataStar was used to develop a prototype of a maintenance management system that was never implemented in production. It was some of the roots of later Maintenance Management System development.

IBM PC
We got an IBM PC in the Mid 80′s. While I used it, I never really embraced it. It was so inferior to the Commodores, in my mind.
A while later we got more PC’s and I setup a network using a product called Invisible Network. I obtained a program called VP-Planner, an early Lotus-compatible relational spreadsheet from Paperback Software. VP-Planner was much more powerful than Lotus and had an application menu system as well. I developed a menu driven maintenance management application in VP-Planner that used relational Dbase files with the spreadsheet interface which allowed browse sets of data, something ordinary database systems couldn’t do. It took a long time to find a real database application development system that could replace it. In about 1991 Alpha4 was used to develop its replacement. The Alpha4 application performed maintenance management, time capture, inventory management and more. In about 1998 a windows based replacement was developed using Clarion from TopSpeed. That application is still in use. I developed the specification and managed the development project. It provides a fully integrated maintenance management system, time capture, inventory, reporting, Customer Relation Mmanagement (CRM), automatic job creation and assignment with supervision. It can manage complex maintenance as well as construction and design projects.
The network evolved to an ethernet network using a peer-to-peer Novel network with DrDos, then to an NT network and then Windows 2000. I was eventually administrator for a network of about 40 computers half of which were laptops.

All this computer related activity was just a side line and hobby.

A Math Lesson

My math teacher once ask my class what is the smallest base for a number system?
A student that got good grades responded with 2 for the binary system. I
suggested 1 for a unitary system. The teacher didn’t agree with my answer. How short sighted of her!
A unitary number system would of course only ever count to one if you added one
you would still have one. What’s wrong with that? If you’re a bean counter that
would be a major failure of the number system. If possessions didn’t matter to
you, it would be a perfect number system, because “what is, is”.