Saturday, August 9, 2008

I have always been of the opinion that words have meaning, but sometimes I am not sure if this view is shared. In particular, I am troubled by the meaning of the word 'science' in 'science fiction'.

I have always thought of Science Fiction as fiction that is based on the extrapolation of the impact of scientific and technological advances on the human (or alien) condition. Further, the science and technology should have some real basis in science, i.e., what is postulated should be theoretically possible.

Today I received a multi-paged ad from the Science Fiction Book Club. However, like the Science Fiction section of most book stores, it was only about (at best) 30% SF - the majority of the books were horror, fantasy, and semi-porn 'art' collections. Science Fiction is a vastly different genre than the horror-fantasy genre; the former is based on the reasoned application of science, the later is based on whatever the author wishes to pull out of their ass. They are very, very different.

Which takes me back to my point that words have meaning. I would kindly ask the book sellers of the world to take the horror-fantasy titles out of the SF section; I am tired of looking in vain through the SF section for SF books. It degrades the SF genre to associate those other titles with real SF. It confuses the general public as to what SF really is ("Just dragons and naked girls - sorry son, you can't read that!").

In this era where Science and Fantasy are so easily and casually confused in the public arena this would be a small step in making sure that we can distinguish between what we wish were possible and what really is possible.



Sunday, August 3, 2008

Unsung Hero

Over the past several weeks I have introduced several people to Dia, and all of them were astounded and wondered why they had never heard of this program before - so here it is.

Dia is a diagramming program for Linux (has a windos port as well) that performs all of the basic functions of Visio(tm); Depending on one's skill, very complicated diagrams of any process can be created in this program and saved and/or exported to a variety of formats, including .png, .gif, and and a visio compatable format.

Dia has an extensive library of templates and the ability to import images. If you are a python wizard, you can create new extentions. Etc.

My main reason for using Dia is to communicate with non-technical co-workers. Many times a diagram can communicate technical problems in a manner that the non-technical can understand. It provides a common reference that does not have to rely on technical jargon.

There are other diagram tools for Linux, some of which have nice features, but I find that I always return to Dia because it is just easier to use. This may be due to the fact that I know it best, but I think not.

If you have another (Linux) diagram tool that you like better, let me know why!