Google Sketchup

Google SketchUpGoogle Blog reports that Google has released Google SketchUp, a free version of SketchUp 3D modeling software. I downloaded it and tried it, and I must say that it’s very intuitive, much moreso than Pro/E, the software that I use at work. Of course, I’m comparing apples to oranges, as Pro/E caters to a entirely different professional community, but I was still impressed. Download it and try it out!

One of the neat things about this offering is that you can insert your creations right into Google Earth. Also, Google 3D Warehouse is “an online location where you can find and share 3D models,” and some of the models there are pretty damn cool. If you want to export your creations into more conventional CAD formats like DXF etc., you’ll unfortunately need to upgrade to SketchUp Pro, though…

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base “Boneyard” Photos

F-14s mothballed at Davis-Monthan AFB

Back in 2001, I had the opportunity to visit Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for a work trip. Better known as the “Boneyard,” Davis-Monthan is where thousands of U.S. military aircraft are mothballed, destroyed, and/or stored in the Arizona desert. It’s a very cool place, with aircraft dating back from the forties to almost the latest generation aircraft, and because I was there for work, I had the run of the place. Too bad my work colleagues weren’t as excited as I was to explore, so I didn’t get nearly as many photos as I would have liked. 🙁 I believe public tours are available, and the nearby Pima Air And Space Museum has hundreds of restored aircraft on display, but the Boneyard is way more impressive.

To see the pictures I took, check out my Davis-Monthan Boneyard photo gallery or visit the flickr photo set. The picture above is a very sad sight for me, especially considering that almost all F-14s are now decommissioned…

The Great Microsoft Blunder

A recent John Dvorak PC Magazine column entitled The Great Microsoft Blunder has some interesting advice for Micro$oft:

All of Microsoft’s Internet-era public-relations and legal problems (in some way or another) stem from Internet Explorer. If you were to put together a comprehensive profit-and-loss statement for IE, there would be a zero in the profits column and billions in the losses column—billions.

So what can Microsoft do about its dilemma? First, it needs to face the fact that this entire preoccupation with the browser business is bad for the company and bad for the user. Microsoft should pull the browser out of the OS and discontinue all IE development immediately. It should then bless the folks with a cash endowment and take an investment stake in Opera, to influence the future direction of browser technology from the outside in. Then, Microsoft can worry about security issues that are OS-only in nature, rather than problems compounded by Internet Explorer.

Of this I can assure you. People will not stop buying Microsoft Windows if there is no built-in browser. Opera and/or Firefox can be bundled with the OS as a courtesy, and all the defaults can lead to if need be.

Of course we already know that this will never happen, since Microsoft is a creature of habit. So it will forever be plagued by its greatest blunder ever. Have fun, boys.

I think he’s right on the money, but he’s also right that Micro$oft will never totally abandon Internet Explorer…

California And Illinois Call For Impeachment Of W

California is joining Illinois in introducing a bill in the state legislature calling for the impeachment of W. The state legislatures are taking advantage of the fact that “The Jefferson Manual of rules for the U.S. House of Representatives makes clear that impeachment proceedings can be initiated by a state legislature submitting charges.”

I personally don’t think that Articles Of Impeachment against W (and Cheney?) will ever see the light of day in Congress, but if either of these states pass their bills, then the U.S. House Of Representatives may be forced to act. I’ll believe it when I see it, but it’s a step in the right direction…


Chornobyl’: 20 Years Later

Tomorrow marks the twentieth anniversary of the disaster at the Chornobyl’ nuclear power plant (Chernobyl is more properly transliterated from Ukrainian as Chornobyl’, in case you’re wondering about my spelling). CNN reports that “Ukraine opened a week of commemorations … as international radiation and health experts gathered for a three-day conference to discuss the lessons of the Chornobyl’ accident.”

NPR reports on efforts to contain the facility:

The ruined Chernobyl nuclear facility still contains some 200 tons of radioactive fuel. A “sarcophagus” – a steel and concrete shell built soon after the disaster to contain the radiation is increasingly unstable.

Engineers plan to slide an enormous Quonset hut-shaped cover over a breached reactor to keep more radiation from reaching the atmosphere.

Although the BBC reports that the “exclusion zone around the Chornobyl’ nuclear power station is teeming with life” despite the lingering high radiation levels, the human toll of the disaster continues to be disputed. NPR has a very moving story entitled Voices Of Chornobyl’: Survivors’ Stories, among several other features commemorating the disaster.

Slate magazine, in collaboration with Magnum Photos, has a somber Flash photo essay entitled Chornobyl’ Legacy that is narrated by photographer Paul Fusco. Der Spiegel has several photo galleries by Igor Kostin, which include some of the first pictures taken at the site as well as pictures documenting some of the horrific effects of the disaster.

The web site is an “international communications platform on the longterm consequences of the Chornobyl’ disaster” that allows different organizations to submit their information into a central repository, with the goal of coordinating research and aid efforts.