Monthly Archives: January 2005

OTAS the Tsunami Warning System

In his December 30, 2004 column Bob Cringely proposed a Tsunami warning system based on existing data and collection systems. In the January 7 column he reported that, prompted by his column, a software developer and an earth scientist had begun work on the Open Tsunami Alerting System (OTAS) using public seismic and geophysical data. Most recently his January 14 column reports further progress on this early warning and detection system. This column contains a few more interesting tidbits of data including information from one UK reader who reported that:

“The infrastructure for a global tsunami warning system already exists. The system set up to monitor nuclear testing is capable of, detected, and pinpointed the South Asian tsunami as it happened. The monitoring headquarters is in Berkshire, England, and the head of the station had made suggestions in the past that its role be expanded to include earthquake and tsunami monitoring. Better still, the necessary treaties are in place to allow immediate two-way communication between the centre and affected countries. Indeed, they carry an up to date list of contact numbers for key people. What’s missing is political will. With that in place organisations, public information, and training can be put in place to make sure any warning is responded to on the ground.”

It has been stated before that one reason politicians are apprehensive about early warning systems is that if they should fail the politicians could be held responsible for the failure which would likely end their careers. I ask if preventable deaths are the legacy they wish to leave instead? While Cringely argues that the government often spends far too much to develop systems that do not meet user requirements I suggest that the Emergency Alert System (EAS) which grew out of NOAA’s tornado warning system is clearly an example of a workable government system for warning people about an imminent danger. Surely something similar could be designed using OTAS as the input system. In any event check otu the following links regarding OTAS:

The OTAS Wiki
The OTAS Software Development Page

CES 2005 Trip Log

As promised here’s my trip log from CES 2005. I still plan to do a wrap up thoughts entry but this should give you something to chew on for a while.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005 – Those that have read about my CES 2004 trip will be excited to know that I was able to get up much later this year and didn’t have to run to catch any planes! I only have to get up at 6:00am this morning to catch my 8:00am Sun Country direct flight to Las Vegas. This was my first flight with Sun Country and I was quite impressed. First, the check in and flow through the Minneapolis Humphry Terminal was quick and painless. I met Eddy Hoyer from LightNTrax at the gate as he also planned to attend CES this year. On the flight out they gave us hot breakfast egg sandwiches which was an immediate feel-good for me. I can’t remember the last time I got hot food on a domestic flight. It wasn’t a bad sandwich either. After the time change we landed in Las Vegas at 9:15am. Eddy and I first picked up our CES badge holders at the airport. There was a bit of a line, but nothing compared to waiting at the show for them. By the time we had them we were able to pick up our luggage and then Ed’s rental car. Because of the time change we were hungry for lunch so our next stop was at the “America” restaurant in New York, New York. We had a bit of time before I could check into my hotel so we made a stop at Fry’s electronics. Ed had never been there before needless to say he was quite impressed by the selection. I really wish they would build one a bit closer to home. Our next stop was a quick visit to the Martin Professional Vegas office. Ed’s company LightNTrax is a Martin dealer so he tries to visit the office when he’s in town. By this time I could check into my hotel so Ed dropped me off at the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino at 1 Fremont Street. This is Las Vegas’ oldest hotel (99 years, the city is only one year older) and a delightful place. The rooms are certainly smaller than in the mega-resorts, even smaller than a normal hotel room but it was just me and I enjoyed supporting a locally independently owned establishment with great service and that traditional feel. From my experience last year I knew there would be a big line to see Bill Gates’ keynote so I called Vincent and we made plans to meet at the Sahara. I walked down Fremont Street to Las Vegas Blvd. and bought my first daypass for the bus. When I got to the Sahara Vincent and I drove out to pick up Minnie and then drove back to the Sahara to park and took the new monorail to the Hilton, more on the monorail later. Even though we arrived more than an hour and a half before the keynote was to start the line was extremely long and we ended up in overflow seating watching the speech via TV. Bill wrapped up his keynote around 8:15pm, but not before he managed to bungle three of his demos including blue-screening an Xbox demo. We took the monorail back to the Sahara and had a late dinner at the Nascar Cafe. After we had eaten and talked for quite a while we drove down to New York, New York where we had an after dinner drink and chatted for a while more. By the time all was said and done I got back to my hotel around midnight and to sleep around 1am, 21 hours since I had woken up, talk about a long day!

Thursday, January 06, 2005 – Because of my long day I decided to “sleep in” until 9:30am this morning. By the time I caught a bus down to the Riviera and walked to the convention center the show was in full swing. I had about 45 minutes to walk around before I went to a noon Lunch@Piero’s media event where Chris Pirillo was doing a live internet broadcast. I stopped in and talked about the bit of the show I had seen with him and his listeners before continuing to look at the Piero’s exhibitors. During lunch I had a nice chat with a writer from HAL Magazine of Texas who was extremely interested in case cooling technology. After lunch I met up with Vinny and Minnie and we continued to browse the floor until the show closed. We walked back to the Sahara and took Vinny’s car to Caesar’s where we put in our name at the Cheesecake Factory at 8:00pm. By 8:40 we were able to get seated and had a great dinner (I had the mile high meatloaf sandwhich which was quite good). At the show I had picked up an invitation to an after party at the Bellagio so we drove down there and stood in line to get in for a while. Eventually things looked like we wouldn’t get in and we had struck up a conversation with a few people in front of us so we all bailed and went over to Paris for drinks and chatted for quite a while. Eventually Vinny took me back to my hotel and I got to bed around 2:00am.

Friday, January 07, 2005 – I slept until 10:00am so I could get 8 hours of sleep. I took a bus down to the Riviera and walked to the convention center where I saw a few more things before heading to the second day of Lunch@Piero’s. On the way over I was “spotted” by Microsoft people because I had on my blinky light button and won one of the MSN watches that were introduced last year. I’m still skeptical about them myself but I can try one out now. I met Vinny and Minnie at Piero’s where we had lunch and looked at a few more of the exhibitors before returning to CES. We stayed at CES until 5:00pm collecting a variety of T-Shirts and other swag along the way. I had to pick up my watch in the far corner of south hall so we took the LVCC loop bus back to the Hilton and then took the Monorail to Harrahs, walked across the street to the Mirage and had dinner at the buffet there. I had never eaten at one of the Las Vegas buffets before. I was impressed with both the selection and quality of food but for what they charge you could probably get an equivalent meal at a normal restaurant so I don’t know that I’ll make it a regular practice when I’m in town. After dinner we walked back across the strip to Harrah’s and took the Monorail up to Sahara. I had previously RSVPed for the AVS Forum party taking place there. Even though the party was supposed to go until at least 9:30pm by the time we got there at about 7:30 things were pretty dead. I took a look around at some of the nice digital processors and projectors brought there for demo and then we cleared out. Vinny dropped me back at the hotel by 9:30pm quite a bit earlier than the previous two nights. This meant I had some time to explore downtown. I caught the 10:00pm Fremont Street Experience and then walked over to the Golden Spike where a friend from UW-Stout was staying during the show. I was unable to hook up with him but I did leave a note in his door letting him know where I was staying. I took some photos in the downtown area and then saw the 11:00pm Fremont Street show before returning to my room and getting to sleep about midnight.

Saturday, January 08, 2005 – I got up at 8:30 this morning so I could get to the convention a bit earlier. By 9:30 I was on a bus to the Riviera and caught a shuttle to the convention center. Right away I was spotted again and won a second MSN watch. I also stood in line for a while to get some free internet access and see how my email was holding up after a few days of no access. When I checked my mailbox I had over 200 non-spam messages! I was able to check on a few critical things before handing over the terminal to the next person in line. After I had been at the show for a while I won an external LG DVD superdrive at the DVD-RAM pavilion, the only downside to this was carrying it around all day. Later in the afternoon I met up with Vinny and Minnie and we continued to check out the show. At 4:30 I took a shuttle over to the Frontier so I could go to church at 5:15 (or so I thought) I ended up walking the wrong direction and then having to walk back up the strip, by this time my feet were killing me but eventually I made it to the Las Vegas Cathedral where I ended up being only 6 minutes late for a 5:30pm mass. A bit before 7:00 Vinny and Minnie had left the show and picked me up so we could get some dinner. We went out to a local burger place called Kilroy’s where we had a great waitress and some good food. After dinner we drove out to the other (East) side of town and I got to meet Vinny’s parents who are delightful and fun people. I also got to see a “locals” casino called Sam’s Town complete with a multiplex theater. Instead of shopping malls they go to Casinos for all their entertainment needs. By midnight I was back at the Golden Gate and able to see the midnight Fremont Street Experience. I fell asleep just before one.

Sunday, January 09, 2005 – I got up again this morning at 8:30, stopped on Fremont Street to get a Krispy Kreme for breakfast and got on the 9:36am bus to the Riviera and walked to the convention center. The last day of the convention is always fun, a lot of the attendees have already left town or are at the airport so the show floor is much quieter. In addition companies are anxious to get rid of all their swag so they don’t have to take it back to the office. We collected a lot more t-shirts today and I also got a USB memory card reader from SanDisk. As we were walking out the door some Microsoft partners came up behind me and asked what time it was. After telling them they said that it was actually time for me to win a PocketPC, I had been wearing a few of the stickers all show but didn’t expect to win because they were giving away far fewer of these than the watch group was giving out watches (something like 2000/day). Needless to say I was quite thrilled! I’ve never owned a handheld and am curious to see how it works for me. Our last stop before the show closed at 4:00 was the international pavilion at the Hilton where almost everyone was desperately selling their demo products to avoid shipping them home. After leaving we drove over to the Mirage where we had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. After dinner we stopped at Minnie’s house so I could go through my email a bit more thoroughly and check a few other websites and news from the Twin Cities. By 8:00pm Vinny had me back at the hotel. I played a few slot machines (mostly penny machines, five lines, one per line) and lost all of my $6. I called Ed to see what he was up to and find out if he could give me a ride to the airport on Monday, he also said he would give me a call if he found anything interesting going on. After about fifteen minutes he called back with an invite to the exclusive club (the name eludes me) at Paris so I hopped a bus down there only to find out my sneakers weren’t good enough so Ed drove me back and I switched them out for some dress shoes. It was interesting to see one of these exclusive clubs though not much was going on there so after an hour or so Ed took me back to the hotel where I got to sleep around 1:00.

Monday, January 10, 2005 – After several days of getting up I took the opportunity to sleep a bit and didn’t get up until 10:30. It took a little bit of doing but I finally managed to get all my swag into a suitcase. I went down and checked out of my room then decided to get some lunch at the “Bay City Diner” in the hotel. Talk about a classic diner. These guys have the big wooden countertop, the pies on the counter and all. The food was good and inexpensive to boot. By the time I had finished and Ed swung by to pick me up it was 12:30. I still had a bit of time to kill before I needed to be at the airport so we took a drive around the greater Las Vegas area and stopped to check rates at a few hotels. Eventually we ended up at the MGM Grand. When the MGM opened in its present location Ed did the original installation of the video wall behind the check-in desk and he still had a contact at the hotel. He had arranged for the current video engineer to come and talk with us for a while so we got to go behind the scenes for a while and see what makes it all tick. Surprisingly while the video display cubes have been upgraded the processors and control system are still the same (and still running Windows 3.x)! I have to say it was pretty cool so if anyone else knows anyone in the technical side of the casino business and would set up a tour/chat with some engineers I’d be thrilled. In any event we wrapped things up at the MGM and Ed dropped me off at the airport around 3:30. Unlike last year the lines were relatively under control and I was able to get to the gate even faster than I had anticipated. Thanks to the free wifi access at McCarran I was able to get caught up on some news and get my email all sorted so I didn’t have to deal with that when I got home. After a little snack I was able to board my 6:10 flight and was on my way back home. Again, Sun Country impressed me by serving a hot turkey and gravy sandwich on the flight. In addition I was not charged for having a bag weighing over 50 pounds (all that swag!) and the flight was not very full so I had my own row to stretch out in for the flight. We landed just ahead of schedule and I was off the plane by 11:00pm Central time. I was able to get my bag without hassle and picked up the car my parents had planted in the parking garage earlier in the day.

CES Entries

For those that don’t know I’ve been at the Consumer Electronics Show for the past five days. Right now I’m sitting in McCarran airport waiting for my flight home which leaves in about an hour. I do love the free WiFi they provide, I wish more airports would do the same! In my usual trip style I will have daily writeups availible soon. I would have liked to have these up earlier but it was quite a busy show for me and I had very limited internet access. In any event I hope to get the log written up on the flight home and posted sometime late tonight or tomorrow. If you’re really that bored you can track my progess home on one of the following real-time flight tracking sites: FlyteComm (flight number SCX206), or (Sun Country flight 206).

More Patrick Norton Articles

For those looking for more Patrick Norton articles there are a bunch of recent ones to be found at ExtremeTech. It’s not one of the sites I read consistantly so I don’t usually catch them when they appear there; however, this recent slashdot article prompted me to take a look around again.

I do get quite a few visitors and emails from people looking for information about what Patrick has been up to so if you have any contact information for him so I could compile a more thorough listing of his recent writings I would appreciate it being passed along (