Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

ENIAC in Action Book Review

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

First of all, let me tell you that I’ve had a hard time writing this review, as I enjoyed reading the book quite a bit, but I think that the book is not for everyone. I really wanted to write that everyone should read this book, as the reader will learn a lot about what happens in new product development, which is more relevant these days, than ever.

Anyway here goes the rest of my attempt of a review.

Eniac in Action by Thomas Haigh, Mark Priestley and Crispin Rope is a different kind of book in some ways. First off, it goes into a significant amount of technical detail. Much of this detail would be hard for a “lay” reader to understand. This is the part that I think may cause problems with some readers. Technical detail aside, where the book really shines is how it describes in detail, the process that it took to create, maintain and eventually enhance ENIAC, a fairly complex implementation of a new technology.

The development of ENIAC was filled with many challenges and obstacles, which the authors describe in a very engaging style. The details of ENIAC development are unique. However, in my opinion, when compared to the process of developmenting other complex systems, there isn’t much that is really different about the ENIAC. That is why I think everyone should read this book. You will get an understanding of just how hard it is to “change the world” with revolutionary new products and systems. Development of complex, new systems are always problematic and take time to sort out. Certain people in the process will get most of the credit and many, many people will be forgotten.

Reading ENIAC in Action will give you a glimpse of one such project. When reading it, keep in mind that there are many engineering teams around the world currently engaged in similiarly daunting tasks.

Some Thoughts about Happiness

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, he wrote of three inalienable rights. Among the three, was the “pursuit of happiness”. While some people think that the phrase, “pursuit of happiness” is about the acquiring of material wealth, as portrayed in the recent movie by the same name. In reality, that isn’t the case. Scholars know that Jefferson admired Epicurus, a Greek philosopher, who founded a system of philosophy. The following description of Epicurianism is from Wikipedia:

The philosophy originated by Epicurus propounded an ethic of individual pleasure as the sole or chief good in life. Hence, Epicurus advocated living in such a way as to derive the greatest amount of pleasure possible during one’s lifetime, yet doing so moderately in order to avoid the suffering incurred by overindulgence in such pleasure. The emphasis was placed on pleasures of the mind rather than on physical pleasures. Therefore, according to Epicurus, with whom a person eats is of greater importance than what is eaten.

So Jefferson was advocating a pursuit of happiness as an unalienable right, he was in essence advocating a pursuit of Epicureanism philosophy as a fundamental aspect of a free man’s life.

You might wonder why I am talking about Epicureanism. Why is it so important, that I would make an effort to share these ideas with you.

Well, I think that happiness is something that you should pursue, and it is absolutely worth pursuing. Happiness does not necessarily come automatically with other goals like attaining an education, advancement at work, raising a family, or striving for any other goal. Happiness should be a goal unto itself and you should pursue it, the same way that you might pursue your other goals. Those other goals may or may not bring you happiness, and, at best, attaining those other goals most likely will only bring you temporary happiness. Therefore, you should make happiness a goal unto itself.

Make sure that whatever you do in life, make sure that you set aside a little time each week to think about what gives you happiness and make finding a little happiness each week, one of your goals for that week. You may not succeed every week, but just thinking about it and working on a plan, should provide some hope for the next week. Furthermore, I believe you should encourage and help your partners, family and friends to find a little happiness each week.

This essay was written over the spring and summer of 2016 by Mike Willegal

Where Did All The Moths Come From?

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Over the last few years, we have had a plague of small moths, especially in the spring time. There are so many, that the larva from these moths defoliate certain types of trees in the spring. So far, these trees have managed to survive, but I’m wondering how many more years that they will be able to tolerate this. The moths are attacted to the lights inside the house at night. There are so many moths, that they get into the house almost every time you open a door at night.

While discussing the disapperance of the Bats with a neighbor the other day, I think I came up with the likely reason that the moth population has run amok. Bats eat moths and other similar sized flying insects, such as dragonflys. With the bats out of the picture, the moths have had little to curb their population, except the available food supply.

Note that bats typically do not eat mosquitos, since mosquitos are too small too provide much nourishment. Dragonflys do eat mosquitos, so with the bats gone, there may also be a reduction in the mosquito population as one consumer of the dragonfly population has been taken out of the picture. Come to think of it, the mosquito population does seems to be low for this time of year.

The balance of nature sure is sensitive and it’s surprising to see it out of whack in our own backyard.

Where Did My Neighborhood Bats Go?

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

One evening last summer, during an evening party, I got out my bat detector. Much to my surprise, I was unable to detect any bats. This struck me as very odd, since during previous summers, I never had any difficulty detecting plenty of bats. Well, I just found out what happened to my neighborhood bats. There is a disease, known as White Nose Syndrome, attacking colonies of bats throughout the world. In many cases, bat populations have plumeted, with some species facing possible extinction.

The real question I have, is, with such a disasterous decline in bat populations, why didn’t news of this reach me through regular news channels. I only discovered the problem, when I stumbled upon the story when I looked on the web for a link to the instructions I used to build my bat detector.

I’ve been thinking for some time that major English language news agencys have a narrow focus on a few topics, instead of covering a broad range of news. That millions of bats could die, some literally in my back yard, and that the news agencys leave me unaware seems almost criminal. Instead, we get bombarded with the news about a few wacko’s killing inocent people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Maybe, due to high costs and tremendous competition, the major news agencies are limiting news to what they can sell, not what an editor thinks we need to know. It seems, at least at major news agencies, the role of that editor, the person that promoted a point of view, has been replaced by a marketing person. To me, it’s a shame.

Apple Service Sucks

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

I have had two negative experiences.

A while back, a Powerbook trackpad failed while still under service contract and Apple didn’t want to fix it because the service person claimed something was spilled on it. Though the machine was used by other family members, I know of no actual spill. They wanted something like $900 to repair it. I ended up getting an aftermarket trackpad off of ebay and fixing it myself for $40. So much for the extended warentee. I must admit that a service manager called me after I sent negative response to their after service questionnaire. He offered to have another look at it, but by then, I decided I could handle it, myself.

My iMac hard drive was recently recalled due to a high failure rate. I made an appointment and took it in to their store. Result – after waiting around for a while, someone checked out my machine and made sure that it operatated correctly, found that they had the replacement drive in stock, then said that they would have it ready in 3 to 5 days. I asked if they were going to migrate the data. The answer was no, it was going to take so long because changing hard-drives was a “delicate” operation. 5 days to change a hard drive, without migrating data – Apple, give me a break – you can do better than that.

While waiting for help on the iMac hard drive, a woman came in complaining about intermittent WI-FI connectivity with her iPhone. I can’t imagine the Apple “genius” solving that problem.

ExTech EX-330 multimeter snapshot review

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

Cutting to the chase, I’m a bit disappointed with this multimeter. I bought it primarily based on low price, features and relatively good review in Dave Jone’s EEVblog #91.

The Ohm, DC volts and Diode check function work as expected. Some of the other features don’t work as well as I had hoped.

  • AC volts doesn’t work in millivolt range
  • Capacitance tester is basically unusable, except for a very small range of smallish caps
  • My sub $100 Tek 465 oscilloscope can be used for checking AC volts, though accuracy is approximate.

    The Fluke counter I picked off of eBay and repaired for around $40 is vastly more accurate and usable for frequency readings.

    At some point, I’m going to have to pick up a more capable capacitance tester, but in the past I have hacked one together out of spare parts on the few occasions when I really had to have one.

    For the features that do work well, the ergonomics of the EX330 are quite nice, much better than the $29 unit that it’s replacing.

    Bottom line – you get what you pay for, though I’m starting to believe that if it works or can be repaired, there can be some real bargains found in the vintage test gear marketplace. 🙂

    Opinion – how not to take out Isis

    Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

    Trying to take out Isis by bombing them from a few high flying aircraft is like trying to destroy a fire ant colony by stomping on it’s nest.

    This approach has only really succeeded once – and that was when we resorted to using nuclear weapons at the end of World War II.

    There is an old saying that might lead to an alternative approach that might have more promise – Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

    why is everything breaking?

    Monday, August 11th, 2014

    Within the last few weeks I’ve had the following problem with mechanical devices.

  • rear hub on bicycle
  • crankcase gasket on lawn mower
  • 3TB hard drive used for backup for three household computers died
  • coolant leak in 2009 Dodge Caravan
  • and a CD/DVD drive on a PPC Mac mini used for backup and connection to old peripherals is showing signs of imminent failure
  • My son says that I am having problems because all my stuff is old.

    Except for the the coolant leak, I’m getting replacement parts and doing my own repairs/replacments. I’d probably look the coolant leak, except that I just finished replacing the crankcase gasket on the lawn mower engine, and don’t feel like diving into another engine right now.

    I’ve had a lot of issues over the years with the lawn mower which was built in 1994 and would replace it with a new one, except that repairing it is so much less expensive than replacing it. For instance, the crankcase gasket, PTO oil seal, and a welded muffler (which I found was busted when I pulled the engine to repair the crankcase gasket) cost me all of $35 to repair or replace. That wouldn’t even pay the taxes on a new mower.

    When I pulled the crankcase cover off, I was expecting to see an engine on it’s last legs, but the internals looked good. Over the last couple of years, it was using a lot of oil, and I was thinking that the rings were going, but now I think that the oil was just leaking out of the crankcase. Now I think that the engine might last a few more years.

    People in History with Narcissistic Behavior that Acheived Great Things

    Friday, October 25th, 2013

    I finally read Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs and got to thinking about his narcissistic behavior. Though living around this sort of person is extremely difficult, he achieved great things. The question I have, was his narcissistic behavior part of what made him so successful or was this behavior something he had to overcome to achieve success?

    Here are some other examples of narcissistic people that achieved great things.

    Greek King Alexander the Great
    Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus
    French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte
    United States General Stonewall Jackson
    United States Entrepreneur Henry Ford
    United States General George Patton
    United States Entrepreneur Steve Jobs

    I’m omitting people that had narcissistic behavior that caused great harm to society, that will be another list.

    Can you think of others?