Archive for February 2010

Delicious Homemade Bread

February 6, 2010

If anybody likes homemade bread as much as I do, you should check this out.  I’ve been enjoying it a lot lately, and you won’t believe how easy it is.  I am using a Panasonic bread maker that I got from Amazon.com.  All you have to do is buy Krusteaz bread mixes at the grocery store.  They come in several flavors, including sourdough and cracked wheat.  I’ve tried both of those and they’re fantastic!

Just dump the bread mix into the bread maker’s pan and put in a cup of water.  Close the lid and then pour the package of yeast into the cup on top of the lid.  That’s all there is to it.  Just press the Start button, and within about an hour, you’ll be treated to the wonderful smell of homemade bread.  It takes 4 hours for it to finish.  If you want it hot and ready for breakfast, you can set the timer to have it done first thing in the morning

Of course the bread maker comes with several recipes for making it from scratch. There again, you don’t have to do anything manually.  Just measure the ingredients and dump then into the pan. One little tip.  Place the bread maker on a solid surface, like directly on your kitchen counter.  If you put it on a thin cutting board (like I did once) it might vibrate and shift, and could fall off the counter.

Here’s a link to the bread maker I got on Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-SD-YD250-Automatic-Bread-Maker/dp/B00005QFL0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1265502907&sr=8-1

And here’s a link to the types of bread mixes from Krusteze:

http://www.continentalmills.com/brands/krusteaz/bread_machine_mixes/

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Who’s Driving Your Car?

February 5, 2010

Until all the recent news stories about Toyotas with acceleration problems and brake problems, I never realized how overpowering computer software  is in making a car go these days.  No wonder the guys who grew up with cars as a hobby can no longer look under the hood and fix anything.

Just try to imagine as you are barreling down the highway at 70 miles per hour that Microsoft Internet Explorer is about as reliable as the innards of your hifalutin’ jalopy.  You turn onto a neighborhood street after exiting the highway.  It’s been raining just long enough to make the roads perilously slick.  You start to skid and suddenly you slam on the brakes.  Well guess what?  Those brakes do not engage or fail to engage because some guy with grease on his hands put in a mechanical device and tested it to make sure it worked.  No, what determines your ability to stop is a few million – yes I said million – lines of software code.  According to the New York Times, it’s up to 100 million!

Each computer in a car is called an electronic control unit, and there are about 30 of them in a modern car, more than in some jet fighters.  The recent Toyota problems which have led to serious injury and death worldwide are probably just symptoms of a much bigger problem waiting to happen.  Not only do all of the millions of lines of computer code have to be written correctly, each of the 30 separate computers in your car has to communicate with each other precisely and accurately.

So, from now on just remember.  Whenever you get behind the wheel of a car, drunk or sober, it isn’t really you who’s doing the driving.  Every turn of the wheel, tap of the foot, or finger on a button triggers a whole mess of interwoven lines of software code.  If any of it gets fouled up, sort of like the tangled heap of twisted lines on a fishing reel if your cast is off, then all the computers under the hood and in the trunk will have a quick little chat to decide what happens to you and your car.

And once you back the car out of your garage, you don’t get a chance to plug it into the Internet when Microsoft issues the latest round of updates for Patch Tuesday. That only happens if enough people complain after they leave the hospital, and the car company agrees to do a recall.  In the meantime, happy commuting in your computers on wheels.  (I don’t even own one of the things)!

Here are two interesting New York Times articles on this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/05/technology/05electronics.html

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/02/04/business/AP-US-TEC-Toyota-Car-Electronics.html

Are You Ready for the iPad?

February 5, 2010

The world of tech is about to change again next month when Apple releases the new iPad tablet.  From the reviews so far, it looks like a giant iPhone with a super fast processor.  The demos make it appear pretty snazzy at delivering books, videos, and all of the apps available for the iPhone.

But there are a couple of interesting questions to ask about it.  What will it be used for?  Put even better, what would you use it for?  That is my question for all of you blog readers.   If an iPad dropped into your lap today, what wold you use it for?

For portability, we use laptops and smartphones to check email and surf the web.  So, does the iPad fill a real need, or is it a solution waiting for somebody to tell us what the problem is.  People don’t watch a lot of videos on the go, although short clips might be nice and even a TV show or movie in the back seat of the car might be handy on a road trip.

It may turn out that the iPad is evolutionary as much as it is revolutionary.  What sets it apart from other so-called netbooks is the touch screen interface.  If you are used to tapping on an iPhone, then using the iPad would not require any new training.  In fact a larger keyboard would be quite pleasant since it would be so much easier to type and there would be fewer mistakes.

But here is Apple’s dilemma as I see it.  They are hoping that the newspaper and magazine industry will jump at the chance to sell subscriptions for the iPad.  But if readership is falling for the print versions, and they’ve been available free online for about 15 years, why would people want to pay for a half dozen or more subscriptions?  Sure the layout would be snazzy, but people who read online are comfortable with their bookmarked news sites.  If those are suddenly taken away, how many people would pay a monthly rate for any newspaper?  I doubt if I would.

The Kindle has proven that people will read books on a portable device.  So, there is a market there, but hiking the price to $15 for new books sounds a little steep.  My guess is that there is a lot of dreaming out there about cashing in on online media sales.

My final thought is that the iPad by itself would be a fun thing to play with.  But its ongoing usefulness will depend on the applications that become popular.  That and the question of whether people would rather run those applications, be they games or browsers or social networking apps, on an iPad badly enough to want to buy one.

Let me know your thoughts.  This will be interesting to watch as it unfolds.