About Me

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I live in the Florida Keys. I've been in the military and worked inside the Beltway. I've had 22 technical books and two novels published. I fly, boat, dive, shoot, and swim pretty damn well.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

PC Nostalgia

The PC, at least the IBM-style PC, not the MITS, Altair, Ohio Scientific, Polymorphic Systems, North Star, style.. was introduced on August 12, 1981. Wow.. who would have thunk it.

Before we lose some of the "old" referential information... here is a piece I wrote for PC Magazine on the 15th anniversary of the IBM PC in 1997. The entire long piece is HERE.

This was my part of it:

Frank J. Derfler, Jr. Remembers
It was either brilliance or incompetence that caused IBM's PC design team to leave the system so incomplete yet so open for third-party developers. I vote for brilliance. You could argue that the incompleteness of the early PC was a marketing necessity because few buyers could afford a fully capable system in one bite.

As a result, PC Magazine's readers spent much of the early eighties adding multifunction boards, graphics adapters, and hard disks to their PCs. The September 1982 PC Magazine listed 282 hardware products that could be installed inside the IBM PC, at that point just one year old. Tecmar offered a 5MB hard disk kit for $2,995. Quadram's Quadboard, which added the clock, serial and parallel ports, and memory IBM left out, was $595 with 64K of memory.

With all of that money at stake, objective comparative evaluations were already important to our readers. As PC Magazine's data communications editor, one of the first products I examined was the AST Combo Card, which included networking in the form of Corvus Systems' Omninet. The price was more than $1,000--plus the RAM chips.

In my day job, I was working on the acquisition of PCs for the entire U.S. Air Force. We estimated we'd end up buying 5,000 PCs, but that one contract ran to over 140,000 systems in two years.

Perhaps at PC Magazine we're still better off drilling down into product details than predicting the future. Above all, we're good at sticking to what we do best.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Lecture on Social Network Marketing is Online

My lecture on Social Network Marketing is online. It's good, it's insightful, it's FREE!

Commentary on the Books of David Poyer.mpg

David Poyer one of my favorite authors. In this commentary I talk specifically about his series of books featuring an US Naval officer named Dan Lenson. My goal is not to tell you the stories or re-hash the plot. Rather, I tell you who will enjoy Poyer's books and why. -- Frank Derfler author of "A Glint in Time" www.greatguybooks.com

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Glint in Time - press proof arrived

I received my 1st Proof for my novel, "A Glint in Time" .. Noticed that the chapter headers are too close to the gutter to make an impression on the readers. Going to move them.

Working with the publisher to get them to submit a Kindle version

Great fun..

Monday, May 26, 2008

James Burchill on Social Networks

A gentleman named James Burchill is my Obi-Wan Kenobi of Social Network Marketing. He has thought about social networking and created more practical insight than anyone I've found.

Recently, he wrote:

— "Ancient Memes and Mind Viruses

But is that all a successful social media site needs? A group of people and some cool technology - NO. The most important factor is much older and far simpler and lies buried deep within our primitive nature. Success is locked up in something called a meme, or if you prefer a more dramatic image, a “mind virus.”

Richard Dawkins introduced the concept of the “meme” and “memetics” in his book ‘The Selfish Gene’ referring to the imitative process whereby humans transmit ideas, values, beliefs, and practices to each other. The memes that catch on are conditioned by repetition and continued by subsequent generations.

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by a process similar to how an infection spreads - ergo a mind virus.

But why did I mention ancient memes? Simply because I believe the most successful social sites leverage our oldest most ancient memes as well as our newest, and this allows us to embrace these base natures in a socially acceptable and even productive fashion. Consider how many social sites pander to aspects of our natures that as children we were discouraged from participating in: gossiping, time-wasting, forming cliques and more."

It is worth repeating my one little social networking insight here: Social Networks build "fans and friends' and it is up to you to convert them to suppliers, distributers, retailers, clients, and buyers. Build the "Fans and Friends" first, and then convert them when they and you are ready. Okay, that's the rock upon which I build everything.

James mentioned "memes" above. In another post, he suggests that Social Networks are no different from the early bulletin board systems (BBS) and service like The Source and CompuServe.

I would go further. I would contend that they are no different from the Elks, the Moose, my university fraternity, The Freemasons, and perhaps the Knights Templar. James said, Consider how many social sites pander to aspects of our natures that as children we were discouraged from participating in: gossiping, time-wasting, forming cliques and more." Yes, that also describes most of the "fraternal orders" I've ever belonged to!

So, in your attempts at marketing on social networks... something I'm doing now for my upcoming Novel "A Glint in Time" (plug plug) ... you have to swing wide and engage, engage, engage.

I will spare you ALL the details, but sufficient to say that the cycle now involves LINKED content on YouTube, Amazon.com (the two TOP social networking Websites) Facebook, Twitter, my Blogs, my Websites, LinkedIn. and other places.

Go read that stuff that Mr. Burchill writes. Feel the FORCE. -- FJD

My Latest Plan to Make a Jillion Dollars

Here is my latest plan for a "hit" product that will make a jillion dollars. But, tell me, does it exist already?

I am convinced that a significant percentage of people walking around with Bluetooth headsets in their ears and talking are really only talking to themselves! They are making themselves feel good by seeming to have someone to talk to. Take that supposition as whatever comment you like about society, but there is a product in there somewhere!

What these people need is "sidetone". Many of you, particularly pilots, use headsets that give you back your own voice in your ear.. that's "sidetone." It makes you sound ever so much more better and important to hear your own voice amplified and at a different timbre.

What I need to market is a BT headset with optional "sidetone" when it is NOT connected to a phone or when the phone isn't engaged. Then, people wouldn't even NEED cell phones. (A way to cut costs and offset high gas / food prices). They could have ONLY the headset, engage in coversations in public, and feel good about it.

It's a sure jillion dollar market. Are there headsets with "sidetone"?

Personally, I wouldn't put a 2.4 GHz "microwave oven" generator so close to my brain on a bet. But, it's still a great product for a lot of people! Got Sidetone?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

My Commentary on the Books of Alex Berenson

My Opinion Commentary on the Books of Alex Berenson

Commentary on the works of W.E.B. Griffin

My Commentary on the Books of W.E.B. Griffin -- Frank Derfler, author of "A Glint in Time"

The Books of Bernard Cornwell

My Commentary on the books of Bernard Cornwell. This is part of my series of video book reviews. There is no better way to get an insight on history than to read a Richard Sharpe book. Please, check out the review!

My Video Book Review: "The Wheel of Darkness"

In this video book review I take a look at the "Wheel of Darkness" by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.. I like the book and in the review I tell you why!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fantastic Video of Afghan Dustoff..

So, here you are... a medic riding a UH-60 helicopter with the callsign Dustoff 30. They set you down on a ridge in Afghanistan to provide aid to and evacuate three special forces troopers. So, YOU get to ride home hanging from the winch and propped up on a skid. On the one hand, it's the scariest thing you'll ever probably do. On the other hand, it's the ride of your life.

The best news is that there is an AH-64 hanging out there with you to keep the bad guys off your back... and to take the movie through the gunsight.

Worth watching a couple of times!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Uploading Big Files w/ MediaFire

I recently discovered MediaFire for uploading big files. The need arose because I want to transfer some .WAV files of narration. The .WAV files use "lossless" compression... which, as the name implies, isn't much compression at all.

MediaFire lets me upload large files and then it gives me a specific URL for each file. I can then send the URL to the file recipient(s). I could even post the URL in a blog or Website, so I have long term storage of referential material.

Oh yes, best of all is that it is free!

New GPS in 2019 -- From Lockheed Martin

This is from the Wired Magazine Danger Room -- See the full story and comments HERE I certainly hope that Boeing gets its act together! They are a national asset, but right now it looks like they are begging to be broken into pieces and sold off. -- Derf

Lockheed Trumps Boeing for New GPS
By Sharon Weinberger May 16, 2008 10:51:00 AMCategories: Space
The U.S. Air Force has selected Lockheed Martin over Boeing to build the next generation of navigation satellites. "The loss of the contract, known as Global Positioning System IIIA, was Boeing's third high-profile defeat in as many months," the LA Times notes. "The company lost a $35-billion contest to build aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force in February and a $3.74-billion award to build unmanned spy planes for the Navy in April."

The new generation of satellites will be able to locate objects with 9 inch accuracy, a substantial improvement over the current satellite constellation. That improved accuracy is scheduled to come online in 2019. In the meantime, Boeing appears to be struggling to fulfill its current GPS contract. "Boeing has yet to launch a single satellite under its most recent GPS contract from April 1996, and in 2006 the company forfeited $21.4 million and replaced the program's managers after delays and cost overruns," Bloomberg reports.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pulsed Detonation Engine

Great Engine Technology Experiment... Wasn't there a version of this that used nuclear explosions... in the novel "Footfall" I believe. Pulsed detonation engine

See the Whole USAF Story here

by Larine Barr 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs5/16/2008 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFPN) -- The engine that naysayers thought could never propel an aircraft across the sky is now at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, where it will be displayed this summer and remembered for its 2008 history-making flight. The pulsed detonation engine, developed by a team from the Air Force Research Laboratory here, flew its record-breaking manned flight Jan. 31 at Mohave, Calif. The pulsed detonation engine, or PDE, was flown on a modified Scaled Composites Long-EZ aircraft by test pilot Pete Siebold. He achieved a speed of over 120 mph and 60 to 100 feet altitude, which produced greater than 200 pounds of thrust. A jet assist takeoff was used to minimize takeoff roll and provide more runway margin, but was subsequently shut down when the PDE provided plenty of thrust for flight.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ethanol: Is it Worth it?

A reporter from a middle-size Florida newspaper with no axe to grind ... "culled through mounds of (sometimes conflicting) news accounts and scientific reports to get the answers."

The answer to the question, "I Ethanol worth it?" is "No! Ethanol sucks!.. it sucks money, water, mileage, and common sense.

See This Link for the full story

"New studies, like one published in "Science" magazine in February, ...conclude that whatever gains are made by burning cleaner biofuels are overwhelmed by the negative effects of deforestation. It's not even close."

..."about one-fourth of U.S. corn will be used in ethanol plants this year. That drives up the price, whether you're grilling a burger, making an omelet or drinking a soda that uses corn syrup. With an estimated 3 billion people living on the equivalent of less than $2 a day, even slight increases to staples like corn can be devastating -- "

"If the United States hits its new goals of producing 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022, that would replace 1.5 million barrels of oil a day -- or less than 8 percent of America's daily oil consumption in 2006."

My platform: 4Fs: Fence, Food, Fuel, Finance

If I was in a political race, I'd try to save my party with a platform based on the 4Fs.

1. Fence: Fence the damn border already!

2. Food.. this whole ethanol thing is a terrible fraud.. (See for example, this article from a respected local daily paper. If this local reporter can nail the truth, then why is it so difficult for the New York Times.... never mind.. I know..)

3. Fuel.. coal to liquid is a damn good idea. Cut the red tape. Although, I personally am hoping for a breakthru in solar-to-electric cell technology.

4. Finance.. let the speculators hang.. they gambled, they lost.. not the job of government to bail them out!

(My fifth "F" would be firearms, of course. But.. four is enough to argue at one time.)
Now, that's a platform that says something. -- FJD

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Military Recruiting is doing fine!

I have a friend, a New York denizen, who tells me how terrible he feels about the war in Iraq and the people serving there. My arguments that:
1. They are all volunteers (he sent me a book written by one person with an other-than-honorable discharge complaining how he was fooled by his recruiter)
2. The casualty rate is very low ... perhaps even lower than if they were engaged only in training operations
3. It's the time of their lives

My friend is an avowed capitalist who believes in supply-demand and other economic theories. I do not know how he explains that there has been and is a very good supply of people willing to serve. You would think, some how, that if it was all so bad that the supply would be self-limiting, no?

The Marine Corps far surpassed its recruiting goal last month and could eventually be more than a year ahead of schedule in its plan to grow the force to 202,000 members.

All military services met or exceeded their monthly recruiting goals in April, with the Marine Corps signing 142 percent of the number it was looking for, the Pentagon said.

See the entire story with some great comments from readers at TigerHawk

Monday, May 12, 2008

Air Force Ducks Drones

The Air Force is being dragged into the future kicking, screaming, and crying. "Being a drone pilot is bad for your career".. "We don't have enough resources to train and fly missions at the same time." "Our poor drone pilots are working too hard!"

Um, did you ever think that maybe a drone pilot doesn't have to be a graduate of USAF flight school? Maybe (shudder) not even an officer?

Actually, my 14 year old grandson could do a damn fine job of it today. ... with about 24 hours of training..

Oh yes, I know, only officers can fire weapons. Ummm... well, actually, that's not true, is it?

In essence, this situation is worse than when the AIr Force screwed the pooch on Close Air Support in the 50s and 60s.

Gee, if the F-22 Raptor didn't have a human being in it, could the payload be used in other ways? Could it pull more Gs? Would we ever have POWs or hostages? Who dies in a drone crash?

But, who would get to wear the cool flight suits?
If you are interested in this topic.... here are a few links for your reading pleasure:
Drone Future: No Dog Fights (Yet)
Drone Crash = Cash Crunch
USAF General: Miniature Fighter Drones Suck
Drones to Replace Human Squadron in Afghanistan?

-- FJD

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The 3F Crisis: Food, Fuel, & Finance

The 3F Crisis: Food, Fuel, & Finance :

Yes, I know that the "3Fs" is part of the punch line of an old joke with some excellent advice (that I have managed to violate in every way!).

But, 3Fs also describes the crisis in fuel, food, and finance.

The "3F" Crisis is a useful shorthand. I would like to take a view of the impact on individuals in the US with some support from anecdotes.

Here in South Florida, our stone crab season runs until May 15. But, many stone crab fishermen have stopped pulling traps. It's not because of a lack of crabs or because of high fuel costs... it's a lack of buyers. Usually, the supply/demand curve is tilted the other way. Usually, in Miami, people are waiting in line to GET stone crabs in the limited season. Not now. Demand for this premium non-essential product is soft.

Disney reported better attendance at theme parks than last year. "We're definitely benefiting from the dollar exchange rate" Iger said.... and added there wasn't yet any evidence that higher gasoline prices had hit attendance at the parks."

I have a link to a FL Dept of Health article saying that ~20.9 % of adults smoke US-wide and 17.4% smoke in Florida. (2006 numbers) More recent figures (no link) are higher in Florida. It's easy to find statments and statistics (see tobaccofreekids.org for example) showing that higher cigarette costs reduce cigarette use. Yet, the high percentage of tobacco use among adults continues despite the years of "education" on smoking, the very high out-of-pocket cost of tobacco, and the recent general loss of disposable income.

The US Military, led by the Air Force, is trying to go to coal-to-liquid fuel plants in places where they make sense.. such as Montana. The area south of Malmstrom AFB is rich in coal that is easy to mine. The USAF has been trying to build a coal-to-liquid plant there for years. "Concerned Citizens" complain about the use of water and the creation of CO2. While trying to move away from carbon-based fuels is laudable, why not use our abundant sources of carbon (e.g. coal) to meet necessary demands like the military?

These anecdotes and others say to me that the "3F" crisis will have the consequence of pulling all of us away from the fringes. The fringes of spending, consumption, and dogmatic causes. Those who make a living on the fringes will suffer the most.

This is no great news. It is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs applied to economic life. Most people will quietly pull back to the core needs.

--Local non-essential businesses (e.g. local restaurants) powered by US dollars will suffer most.
-- Anything that can be powered by Euros or other non-dollar-pegged currencies (like Disney) will do well.
-- WallMart is in for a sales boom in the basics.
-- There will be an "alternative energy" bubble, burst, and glide.
-- Carbon-based fuels are here to stay for a long time. The battle between the oil industry, which wants to keep its oil assets priced high, and the coal industry will take place in Congress and it will be awful to watch. Oil will join with its unlikely friends, "concerned citizens", to try to keep the coal buried.
-- Common sense (i.e. consensus) may become more common as we pull back from the edges. - Political fallout will further reduce the faith in Congress and the presidency.

There is a 50/50 chance that the political result ("consequences") will be benign or catastrophic for the current form of government. This is an important time.

One possible out ... IF the technology of sun-to-electricity really does benefit from Moore's Law (see previous post) then... it could be happy days are here again!


Boat slips: $10,000 a linear foot

In this time of high gas prices and tight money, a developer in Key West is asking... and getting.. $10,000 per linear foot for holes in the water. These are big boat slips in a nice marina, but they are still just a place to park a boat.

Key West Yacht Club

The Key West Yacht Club is the Southernmost Private Club in America with 68 wet slips in various sizes, 3 transient rental slips, dock restroom facilities with showers, boat ramp, full service dining room and bar, ships store and gift Shop.

Alternative Energy Thoughts

I ran across This Website where the author references Ray Kurzweil's PROGNOSIS that Moore's Law will make electricity-from-solar cheap and easy in pretty quick time. I have met Ray Kurzweil, had lunch with him years ago when he was doing the speech synth thing, and I like him. So, maybe he's right.

A commentor on the Speculist site points out that storage of power is the big problem. Battery design has NOT followed Moore's Law. A prototype car I saw coming from India made me think more about compressed air. The technology of compression is easy and new materials make construction of lighter/stronger storage tanks easier. Modern SCUBA tanks are good for 3500 psi.

So, maybe we can get away from petrofuels. Just pondering it all. -- FJD