17 February 2007

The Graphing Calculator story

This isn't new (copyright 2004 Ron Avitzur), but I just discovered it. http://www.pacifict.com/Story/ I found the story quite inspiring, as well as amusing in some places. Warning: it's long. Here's how it starts:
I used to be a contractor for Apple, working on a secret project. Unfortunately, the computer we were building never saw the light of day... In August 1993, the project was canceled. A year of my work evaporated, my contract ended, and I was unemployed.

I was frustrated by all the wasted effort, so I decided to uncancel my small part of the project. I had been paid to do a job, and I wanted to finish it. My electronic badge still opened Apple's doors, so I just kept showing up.

12 February 2007

Farewell to the floppy disk

I recently spent several days doing a boring but necessary chore: copying files off all my old floppy disks before the last computer in the house with a floppy drive finally gives up the ghost (or is given away to charity). Getting the old files onto a CD got a wee bit complicated because the computer with the floppy drive does not have a CD burner, so I have to get the files onto the computer with a CD burner. Turns out the two computers have no means of communication in common, but I have a third computer that can read a CompactFlash (CF) card (which the old computer can write to) and then write to a USB drive, which the new computer (the one that burns CDs) can read. So... copy from floppy to hard drive 1, copy from hard drive 1 to CF card, copy from CF card to hard drive 2, copy from there to USB drive, copy from there to new computer, burn CD. Whew! I thought for awhile I would have to email all the files to myself, just to get them from one computer to another. Mind you, many of these old files probably can't be opened by any programs I now own, so this may be wasted effort in the long run, but OTOH a lot of people have this problem so there probably are programs on the web that will convert from old file formats to modern ones. The photo shows a few of the floppies; I must have thrown out twice that many before I thought of taking a picture of them.

05 February 2007

Roadkill Australia

Last July I caught up with someone I haven't seen in nearly 30 years. Len Zell was then a nature photo­grapher and biologist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville, north of where I live now. He is now a photographer and author, with a string of credits for his field research and ecotourism work. Len was one of the lecturers on board the Kimberley cruise boat. Like me, Len had moved away from Townsville some years ago to pursue his career interests. Turns out he was moving back to Townsville in September. In December I was invited to attend the launch of Len’s latest book, Roadkill Australia. The launch was fun, and as I suspected, several people there remem­bered me from 30 years ago, so we had a pleasant catch-up session over the champagne. Len had chosen his "launchers" well. One is a local media personality who did a hilarious introduction, insulting the book and half the audience, to everyone's delight. The other is a professor of marine biology at the local university, who also did a good job of the local jokes and references to Len's life, starting from the days when we had all met each other in 1974 or so, there in Townsville. The book is an interesting mixture of biological information, somewhat tongue-in-cheek recipes for cooking freshly-killed critters ("carefully remove the gravel..."), along with health warnings ("may contain parasites and be unsanitary"), anecdotes about the author's experiences, photos of dead animals, and other stuff. Find it on http://roadkillaustralia.com/.