Dan Bricklin chronicles his life in the computer world with pictures and text.
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Dan Bricklin's Log
The life of Dan Bricklin as Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Trellix Corporation, PC industry old-timer, and amateur photographer
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Monday, January 22, 2001
Crouching Tiger and education
Two items in the New York Times this morning caught my eye. The movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won some Golden Globe awards, and leading Silicon Valley chief executives said that education (especially science and technology education) is the number one issue they agree on for the new administration to tackle. What do those items have in common? The answer is "education".
It is pretty easy to understand why high-tech executives are hot on education. They need more and more skilled workers, and competency in math and science is necessary for those skills. Advancement needs new technologies and new technologies are developed by people who understand science, math, and how to learn. Continuing education is necessary to keep our work force up to date.
How does a mystical martial arts movie fit in? Education is a strong undercurrent in the movie. Natural ability is not emphasized as much as training. There is much discussion of learning, teachers, teaching materials, and continuing education. There is even a school of higher education, fittingly up on a mountain. I saw it as a very pro-education movie, something you would expect to be popular after an election where each candidate tried to appear to care more about education than the other.
In the movie many martial arts techniques used by the characters appear as magic to us viewers, though those techniques are treated as normal by people skilled in those arts in the movie. (You never hear them say "How did she run up that wall?") It is just assumed that if you are trained properly (by the right master or with the right training materials), and are interested enough in that field to work hard, then you can do it. If you are gifted, you can do it especially well. This is no different in fields other than martial arts. What a professional plumber or carpenter can do to fix your house can feel as miraculous as a well-trained magician or opera singer to those of us without the training. Competence (often arising out of apprenticeship training) is popular in movies. This is true not only with the Star Wars-style action flicks but also in scenes like the last one in the courtroom that helped Marisa Tomei win an Oscar in My Cousin Vinny.
So point out to your children that the real heroes go to school and study hard. This is exactly what Dean Kamen (the "IT" guy) pushes in his FIRST Robotics Competition.
Monday, January 15, 2001
My home network with wireless 802.11b
I've written a description of my current home network setup. I have a simple home router/switch and a wireless 802.11b access point. If you are not familiar with this type of equipment, or don't know much about 802.11b, you might find this of interest. I explain a lot about 802.11b and have some useful links.
Read "My Home Network: Wireless 802.11b and a Router/Switch" in the Writings section of my web site.
Browsing while walking down the block and at the kitchen table
I believe that 802.11b is going to be a major player in the near-term. It lets you do everything as if you were on a normal Ethernet network, but without the wires. Setting it up is relatively easy and it fits in well with existing systems.
The reactions to the rumors about "IT" were quite out of proportion to what you would expect. Everybody seems to have questions about it without knowing what they're asking about. There is such hunger for the next great thing.
Dean Kamen came out with a statement trying to tone things down. I don't think this was orchestrated as a PR thing (at least not for him). I think the media is just dying to find something to write about.
Dean's company's web site gives you more information about his previous, cool work.
Friday, January 12, 2001
Old picture relating to today's news
There has been a lot of talk about a secret product being created by Dean Kamen codenamed "Ginger" or "IT". You can read about "IT" in articles like those on Inside or CNN. I don't know what "IT" is, but I met Dean at the Agenda conference a year and a half ago. (He's a friend of Bob Metcalfe who runs the conference and he was promoting the FIRST Robotics Competition whose mission is to generate an interest in science and technology among today's youth.) I sat with him at a dinner table one of the nights.
Dean Kamen giving instructions during Agenda's robot competition
Dean told all of us at the conference about his IBOT wheelchair. You can read about his wheelchair (it's incredible) in an article by Bob Metcalfe. You can see a picture of Dean in one when he received the National Metal of Technology at the White House in a picture on the FIRST web site. (It's not available yet.)
The current articles mention that "...visitors [to his house] have included President-elect Bush". I found a picture from that Agenda conference when they met, it appeared, for the first time. (Dean had already met George's father and other presidents -- something about him being involved in a broadcast station in New Hampshire where the big primary is held, and having his own country which gave foreign aid to the USA, which is a funny, long story.) Here's my picture:
Walt Mossberg, ??, Dean Kamen, and George W. Bush at Agenda October 1999
It seems Dean is one incredible person. I can't wait to see what he's done.
When you keep all your pictures together on your computer, it's amazing what memories you can dig up. Regular readers of my log may recognize a series of pictures from this event: Mossberg (October 28, 1999) and George W. Bush (December 29, 2000). Each time, I find someone new to focus on. In one Walt looks good and George Bush doesn't. In others, Bush looks good. Here, Dean is included and the others are only partially visible.
Monday, January 8, 2001
New word processor for the Palm OS
A new word processor was just released for the Palm OS named WordSmith. The main features from my viewpoint are: It interoperates pretty well with Microsoft Word, it supports a reasonable subset of a word processor, and it is designed from the ground up to work well with a keyboard (like the Stowaway).
WordSmith on my Palm III, Font dialog, with a Stowaway keyboard
The combination of a handheld, good folding keyboard, and a reasonable word processor is extremely powerful. For many applications it is sufficient for use away from the office, cutting your travel weight down substantially. You can dump in a report for reference. You can type in notes or even whole articles without retraining your hands or using the pen much. With wireless email and browsing devices like the RIM, Palm VII, etc., the ultralight laptop becomes much less important. We are finally getting a new form factor platform that meets many computing needs without software from Microsoft, yet interoperates fine with Microsoft PCs when it comes to data.
To learn more read my review.
(Of course, if you have an HP Pocket PC you can get a Stowaway keyboard and have it work with Microsoft's "pocket" version of Word...)
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