Posts

Showing posts from 2004

iRiver: First Thoughts

So I got for Christmas the iRiver 340 music jukebox (40 gig version). I chose it over the iPod because:
It's cheaper - US$386.00 instead of $500.00.I can make Podcasts on it (i.e. I can record things at high quality)The battery is better than the iPod.It supports Ogg Vorbis audio compression.Has a radio (but I don't see myself using it very much).You don't need to use iTunes to copy your files.It mounts as a drive on Windows, and thus you can copy pretty much anything to it. My guess is that the iPod has a nicer interface, but I wouldn't know, since I've never used one.

I've been using my favorite synchronizing program, Unison, to update my iRiver. I'm using about 20 gig of disk space so far.

What I didn't like is that the US version of the iRiver:
doesn't come with a cradle (a $25.00 addon), the carrying case completely covers the buttons and the display (a proper carrying case is a $30.00 addon), so anytime I want do skip a song I have to take it…

Security: Off-the-Record Messaging

Theseguys created a method of sending IM messages which provides a method of chatting in such a way that you know who you are talking to is who you think it is (authentication), but soon after the message has been sent it can't be read anymore - the key expires and isn't saved.
An interesting point in the paper is that even when you use an cryptographic system, if the FBI takes you machine there's a good chance that they can get your messages and prove that you sent that message. If you did something incriminating this is the opposite of what you want.
As far as I understand the system, the messages are ephemeral and are unreadable after a short time (even by you). Yet at the same time there are some guarantees that the person you are chatting with is who you think it is rather than an imposter trying to get information from you.
I suppose the downside of the protocol is that you don't have a history of your messages which can be handy.
via slashdot.

Python: Static vs. Dynamic

Ian Bickin's article discussed some otherarticles:
[...] one way to decrease bugs is testing, but another way is to decrease the amount of code. Code deleted is code debugged. Static typing can decrease the number of bugs, but decreasing the amount of code is a much, much more effective way to decrease bugs.
...
Static type defenders complain about the combinatorial type interactions in dynamically typed languages -- how can you test all the code paths, given all the possible types? But their languages lead to combinatorial code, which is far worse: for many classes of hard problems, they can't solve them once, they have to solve them everytime they are encountered. Ouch.
Python is both dynamically typed (like VBasic and strongly typed (like Java), the best of both worlds.

Bruce Sterling's Talk

Image
The science fiction writer Bruce Sterling gave a talk. He talked about RFID, GPS, Internet Search, 3D design, 3D printer, and "Spime".

Business: Setting a Price

Joel Spolsky has a good article on setting a price a product, and whether you should set a price - or should you segment your market. The part I liked was:
Effectively I am willing to accept a lower price now in exchange for creating grassroots support. I see the low price of FogBugz as being an investment in advertising that I expect will pay off many times over in the long run.via del.icio.us

Robotic Nation

Image
The robots are coming, the robots are coming!
If you haven't read it I highly recommend you read Marshall Brain's Robotic Nation, it's a dystopian look at our robotic future. Fortunately, he does offer a solution, but you'll have to read it for yourself.
You may also want to read his Manna stories which is a little like a short science fiction story.

Visited Countries

Image

Economy: Brazil's green revolution

The NY Times has an article about Brazil and agriculture (via Marginal Revolution).The global effect has been powerful. In June, the United States imported more in farm products than it sold abroad, further evidence of its eroding position.
...
Agriculture is now a $150-billion-a-year business in Brazil, accounting for more than 40 percent of the country's exports and creating what Brazilians call the "green anchor" of their economy.
Already the world's biggest exporter of chickens, orange juice, sugar, coffee and tobacco, according to Agriculture Ministry statistics, Brazil soon hopes to add soybeans to the list, depending on what happens in that volatile market.
With a grass-fed herd of 175 million cattle that is the world's largest, it passed the United States as the world's largest exporter of beef last year. During the first nine months of 2004, sales of Brazilian beef abroad rose 77 percent over the same period last year, leading the government to predi…

Python: Speed

One of the many things I like about Python is that it is fairly easy to incorporate C++ modules into it in such a way that it appears to be just another Python class. This is useful for those pieces that need to access an external library or if you want to speed up a piece of code.
For a project I did for my wife I wrote part of it in C++ using the boost python library. It's not a bad way to go since you may already need the boost libraries anyway. Another method is using the SWIG library, for a comparison of the two libraries look at this article. My experience was quite positive using the C++ with Python.
Knowing that I have this back door really feels liberating. It also means that a lot of libraries you can get for Python are actually written mostly in C or C++ and not in pure Python.
There are two other methods of speeding up your Python.
The simplest to use is Psyco which claims an average of 4x speedup (2x-100x). It works with unmodified Python code and it's only real…

New Kirkwood arriving..

Well I got both a Christmas gift and a Birthday gift this month. Found out that my wife is pregnant and should arrive around my birthday.

python: Using pysqlite 2.0 & 3.0 on the same machine

I use the beta pysqlite for some development and it works very well, highly recommended.
I also use wxMusik to listen to my music, I like it because it's open source. My beefs with wxMusik is that it doesn't have fast forward and the interface is a little confusing, although I've become used to it. One nice hidden feature of wxMusik is that it uses Sqlite for it's database (that's also why it's so fast!). Unfortunately, it's an older version of the database and pysqlite installs in only one folder. So here's what I figured out to be able to support both the old db and the new one with python.
Install pysqlite 2.0 normallyMove down _sqlite.pyd from the lib to the sqlite folder instead of the site-packages folder.Download pysqlite 1.0 the exe version.Instead of double clicking it open it with a zip program (it's just a zip file).Extract main.py, and __init__.py and _sqlite.pyd into a site-packages\sqlite2 folder.Done! Use import pysqlite for the no…

Programming: Groovy

Groovy, yet another computer language. This one is interesting since it combines the best of Python and Ruby (and others) and puts it on the JVM platform. This might appeal to businesses since it has Java ties.

Groovy is a new agile dynamic language for the JVM combining lots of great features from languages like Python, Ruby and Smalltalk and making them available to the Java developers using a Java-like syntax.

Groovy is designed to help you get things done on the Java platform in a quicker, more concise and fun way - bringing the power of Python and Ruby inside the Java platform.

Groovy can be used as an alternative compiler to javac to generate standard Java bytecode to be used by any Java project or it can be used dynamically as an alternative language such as for scripting Java objects, templating or writing unit test cases.

Linux: no password setup of ssh

Here are the steps requires so you can ssh to another machine without needing to type in the password each time. Here I assume that both machines have the same username.
Here $newmachine, $oldmachine, and $user are variables.
ssh-keygen -t rsa
(enter, enter, enter) -- i.e. no passphrase
ssh $newmachine
(enter your password)
cd ~/.ssh
scp $oldmachine:/home/$yourname/.ssh/id_rsa.pub tmp.pub
cat tmp.pub >> authorized_keys
chmod og-rwx authorized_keysrm tmp.pub
exit
ssh $newmachine
(look ma, no password)

Development: Architecture Astronauts

Listening to Dave Winers Morning Coffee Notes I learned a new expression: Architecture Astronauts (coined by Joel). It reminded me a of a case where we started designing a new system that was supposed to integrate two existing products by making a connectivity library that would be used by these two products (this was at Andyne). We were doing everything by the book: use cases, meeting notes, UML diagrams etc.. We met several times a week for an hour or so and discussed details at length. Yet after several months of this we still didn't have half of the project designed and absolutely no code written. We had become Architecture Astronauts.
We kept flying higher and higher trying to design the perfect connectivity layer that could handle both SQL data sources and multidimensional data sources, and we ended up nowhere. Thinking of UML diagrams and Use Cases still leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth (although less so after reading Writing Effective Use Cases).
Now that I have a na…

On Being Shy

This was painful for me to watch [Click on The Art of Flirting, I couldn't link to it directly]. But one part that I found really helpful was this interaction with an expert (Dr. Lillian Glass) and the shy person (Deborah Garrett):
Glass: What do you feel like when you go to a room like that?
Garrett: I feel like I don't belong.
Glass: Ok, you know why? And you may think this is rude, but I'm not trying to be rude. It's because you're selfish. What do I mean by that? Shy people are selfish, you're thinking about yourself. Let's get unselfish - thinking about other people. What do you do? How are you? And all of a sudden, you're going to be a whole different person.
I think this might have helped me in some situations. I'm being shy, therefore I'm being selfish, I'm thinking about myself and my shyness. I should try and show that I'm interested in someone else by asking questions. I remember my dad talking to my mom (a long time ago) and …

Art: More infinite zooming

A previous post of mine mentioned a neat infinite image called Zoomquilt. Here's another one that uses only one image and recursively zooms in, and how to do it.

Linux: Setup

Here's some notes to myself on how to setup Solaris at work.
From this site I figured out how to setup the home, end and delete keys to my liking. Put this in my ~/.inputrc file:
# Home Key
"\e[7~":beginning-of-line

# End Key
"\e[8~":end-of-line

# Delete Key
"\e[3~":delete-char
This is especially handy since I'm using GNU screen and the Ctrl-A key doesn't work as the Home key.
In my ~/.profile file I have added
export PS1="[\w]\n${MYHOST}% "
Which puts the path name on a separate line.

And here I got the trick of using ^from^to^ to search and replace my last command.

Economy: Hydrogen

Physics Today (which unfortunately uses the Netscape Logo on their site) has an in-depth article about the Hydrogen Economy. Here are some parts I liked.
[...] Hydrogen is abundant and generously distributed throughout the world without regard for national boundaries; using it to create a hydrogen economy?a future energy system based on hydrogen and electricity?only requires technology, not political access.
...
The natural world began forming its own hydrogen economy 3 billion years ago, when it developed photosynthesis to convert CO2, water, and sunlight into hydrogen and oxygen.
...
A major attraction of hydrogen as a fuel is its natural compatibility with fuel cells. The higher efficiency of fuel cells?currently 60% compared to 22% for gasoline or 45% for diesel internal combustion engines?would dramatically improve the efficiency of future energy use. Coupling fuel cells to electric motors, which are more than 90% efficient, converts the chemical energy of hydrogen to mechanical …

Gadgets: 1.2TB Linux Box

Image
This on has me salivating, although I don't have US$2,000.00 to spend on it. With a TV tuner you could record oh so much. I think this is the near future. Homes with have a SAN like setup with with terabytes of data of free space. You'll never have to delete a TV show, MP3, or picture again. If you need more space you just add on another disk. It will all be behind your firewall on you local, high speed network.
via Engadget

Python: Don't program Python like Java

At dirtSimple.org there's an article that talks about an experience he had with a large program that was written by Java developers. He notes that the program suffered from not being very Pythonic. Some interesting points:
Don't write getters and setters. When you need it use the property() function.If you needs a switch statement use a dictionary, not if,elif.

Cool: The Zoomquilt

Zoomquilt is a nifty colaborative art project where you can zoom in and in and in...
via metafilter

Declining IE share - what difference does it make?

I agree with Tim Anderson's article. Microsoft is blowing it with Internet Explorer.
IE market share is declining. That in itself is no surprise. IE is associated with a huge number of security issues, and aside from critical fixes Microsoft pretty much abandoned it years ago. I know that an IE team has reappeared in Microsoft, but I find it hard to believe that much will be forthcoming at this stage. Let's also note that the current 80% or 90% share attributed to IE is overly flattering. It's difficult to measure real browser usage, but it's apparent that the switchers tend to include the folk who are best informed and most active on the Web. In other words, it is the most influential people who are switching. It would take a near-miraculous improvement in IE to win them back now.
What I find so odd is how hard they fought Netscape (and won) and now they have let IE lapse.
On the other hand this site shows that the IE versions have 89% of the market and Firefox and M…

Python: use izip for iterating over multiple lists

I know I'll forget this again, so I'll blog it.
from itertools import izip

xlist = [1, 2, 3]
ylist = [5, 6, 7]

for x, y in izip(xlist, ylist):
print x, y

Outputs:
1 5
2 6
3 7
This also works for more than two lists. Zip() and map() also work but izip() should use less memory and perh

DDT Not Harmful

I was surprised to hear recently an environmentalist mention (in passing) about DDT in birds. I thought it was well known that the DDT scare was phony, that DDT does far more good than it does harm, and that everyone, including evironmentalists, should help dispel this myth.
Here are some links:
Why DDT was banned...The lies of Rachel Carson Carson's book started the whole war against DDT.
Malaria Still Winning The part about DDTs is in bold.
Insecticides This site is less biased, and does show some harm in birds (shell size), but not humans.
What the World needs now is DDT, title says it all (long) NY Times.

I was wrong...

I've often felt that openly showing weakness (by saying "I don't know", for example) is a sign of inner strength.
Let us speak, though we show all our faults and weaknesses ?
for it is a sign of strength to be weak, to know it, and out with it...
Herman Melville [via the Cluetrain Manifesto]
It's the weak and insecure that pretend to know something they don't, or never admit to making mistakes. Perhaps this is an indication of Bush's character?

The free market and eyecare

Interesting post here about how lazer eye surgery is getting cheaper, better and has high patient satisfaction all because it isn't covered by insuring.
A coworker of mine recently got some lazer eye surgery done. I asked him about it, he said this company's health plan is great, it fully covers the cost of the surgery.
Then he quit.

Newspaper Woes

I don't read the newspaper much, mostly because it's all in Portuguese. Since I sit infront of the computer all day, every day - that's where I get my information. So here's two related links:
Imagine what higher-ups at the Post must have thought when focus-group participants declared they wouldn't accept a Washington Post subscription even if it were free. The main reason (and I'm not making this up): They didn't like the idea of old newspapers piling up in their houses. [Wired link]
And a somewhat funny distopian future where the New York Times goes offline in 2014 and google and amazon merge to become googlezon.

Bikeshed and other sayings

I was listening to Dave Slusher's podcast and he kept saying "I don't want to bikeshed this, but..". I didn't know that expression so I turned to google and found this nice site. Here are some interesting links in that page:
Bike shed effect
Moen's law of bicyclesFroggery

Best freeware utilities

This site has a list of 46 free utilities and is Windows centered. My notes:
Naviscope to speed up your internet connection (need to check this one out).Xplorer2 Lite, a file managment tool. I kinda miss Midnight Commander perhaps it's similar?Hot Key utility. Not sure if I need that, but it would be nice to have a key to pause and play my tunes or podcasts from within any program. At the moment I'm using FoxyTunes which is pretty useful for this.Registry cleaner Easy Cleaner, hmm should probably clean up my registry sometime.Gadwin screen capture program, I may need this. I've been using Gimp's screen capture then cropping the result, which works ok, but is slow if you want to do a bunch of screen shots.
Stardownloader download accelerator free of ads and other junk. I haven't used a download accelerator since going to bittorrent.Free DLL Cleaner, although disk space is cheap, not sure if it's worth the trouble.
Processor viewer from Sys Internals. I've…

Google's Keyhole

Google bought this company for some reason, but it's very cool. Basically, it's satellite images of the entire world. For many large cities it goes right down to a level where you can see individual cars. Here's an interesting comment from one user:
The pictures of Toronto were taken around spring - summer 2002 - I know because that's the year we put in the red cedar chips in the front yard (and boy don't they show up well in a satellite photo), and my truck is parked in front of the house. We moved out in late August that year.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 7:36 PM PST on November 21 [via Metafilter]
I spent hours looking at Montreal (where I lived when I was young) and São Paulo (where I'm working during the week). I don't really know where I am in São Paulo, but I know that I'm close to a river, plus I'm working at an upper floor in a tall building (Torre Norte) so I can look down for features. In a few minutes I was able to find my building. Here&#…

del.icio.us

I've heard about the del.icio.us site for a while but didn't understand what it's all about. There's a lot of buzz about it and some are saying it's the Next Big Thing. My take is that it's a way of saving your bookmarks on the internet. Here's an article that describes it a bit better.
I actually use bookmarks a lot less now than in the past. Important stuff I put in my blog, which I can search later. Also I use RSS feeds for everything else.

CSS and Forms

Image
Via Listamatic I found these sites:
Real World Style. I've been looking for this site for a while. I thought I blogged it, but I didn't. What I like about his site is how he makes the images break out of the frame (like the giraffe's nose). I did the same thing with Victor's head on my blog's image. The form stuff is actually so-so.
But here's the real gem. He standardized his forms and used the <fieldset> and <label> tags which I didn't even know existed.

More CSS info

I'm bookmarking these pages on CSS:
Yahoo!'s CSS redesign. A description of Yahoo!'s changes and some issues.Sort Table. Make all your tables sortable. Ugly as hell but does the job with minimal work.The ThrashBox. Method to make a pretty rounded corner box with title.Sliding Doors. Perty tabbed navigation.

TV to watch

Two show's I don't seem to get here with Sky TV but appear to be popular:
Peep ShowThe Office I'll probably have to snarf it via bittorrent.

Great computer games with kids

I have a 3.5 year old and found two games that both he and I enjoyed. The best was The Simpsons Hit & Run. He likes it because he can pick from a variety of cars and characters (once I unlocked them all). He can also walk and drive, there's a lot of freedom in the game. Another game that he likes but is unable to play by himself is Jedi Knight Academy. He's unable to play first person shooters with the keyboard and mouse - he can play The Simpson's since it works with the joystick. Perhaps I need to buy a gamepad for him to be able to play Jedi Knight. Some may say that Jedi Knight is too violent, and it is near the limit of what I want him to play in terms of violence.

How not to pull a car out of the lake

In images, made me laugh out loud
via Metafilter

Who knew that America's demented agricultural policies could get even worse?

Scathing article in Slate and I totally agree with this one.
Despite their self-identification as the party of entrepreneurial, competitive small business, the Bush crowd has shown itself to be a relentless advocate for non-entrepreneurial, competition-averse large businesses.

Wikipedia

If you look at some of my blog posts you'll note that I often link to Wikipedia. It's because the information there is often succinct and accurate. Garry Robinson mentioned his experience editing a Wikipedia entry after watching Larry King and the Crown Prince Albert of Monaco, a show that I watched yesterday too. I've also changed an entry there that was probably written by a Brazilian and had some minor gramatical mistakes that I fixed.
Wikipedia is really an amazing encyclopedia created by people like you and me.

Will Currency Wars Effect You?

This article gives a doomsday scenario that may be likely in three years if Dubya doesn't make some drastic changes:
Stuff at Walmart will no longer be cheap. Japanese cars become luxury cars. Gas goes to $5.00 a gallon. Coffee and hot chocalate and candy becomes a holiday treat. People start candying apples again for halloween. People stop emmigrating here except for the really desperate ones and the Mexicans. European vacation becomes synonymous with six figure incomes. Interest rates for everything jump up from car loans, house loans, credit cards, etc. Stock market no longer is a credible source of retirement income for middle class - all those 401k's cya so long bye bye. And you have your choice between 25% across the board cutbacks in all government services or runaway inflation. People lining up out the door to get a chance to sign up to go to a foreign country and kill people for a paycheck. Whoring becomes a highly competitive profession as a lot of women try to get i…

Extreme zoom in

Image
I remember in the great movie Blade Runner where Deckard zooms in on a digital image taken by a security camera util he gets down to the flakes of skin. I felt that way with this 2.5 gigapixel photo, currently the worlds largest.

If you're brave you can try and find the people that I found by clicking the above image (I dare you!).

Born to run

Born to run, arg now I've got that song in my head!. Here's an article that explains that evolution made humans marathon runners. Basically big butts indicates that we evolved to run not walk. We are born to run. According to new research, our bodies are highly evolved for running long distances, an ability that allowed our ancestors to conquer the African savannahs. I remember seeing one of those nature shows where they showed how these Africans would find an bull antilope with large antlers (because they are heavy - duh) and literaly run them down until they collapsed. The show explained that running on two legs is more efficient than four hooves and being able to sweat and carry water makes us able to run for longer distances than most prey.
I figure soon we'll evolve a large flat butt so we can sit in front of a computer for 14 hours a day.

New google search engine

There's a beta of Google Local which is used to "Find local businesses and services on the web.".
Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to work for Brazil but here's an example in the US, find some water parks near my mom's home. It's a funny coincidence that I was talking with my friend Martin Giroux just yesterday how it would be handy to search for businesses near my location. I've done it many times with the normal google but with limited success. This version is cool because in the results it actually shows a map and has icons in the locations found.
From a technical standpoint it probably scans the web page looking for something that looks like an address then looks up the address in a database to get the latitude and longitude. I find this far more useful than say Froogle or google image search which has been around for longer, plus from an economic standpoint, I'm far more likely to look at the google ads shown.

Wacom Tablets

I have three Wacom tablets. My wife has one and I have two (one for work). I've had my oldest tablet for about 10 years, so it's not a bad investment (about $220,00 USD). The Wacom is nice because it's pressure sensitive (nice for drawing), you don't have to touch the pad to make the mouse move, there's no wire (or battery) on the pen, and you can use a normal mouse as well (you don't have to choose one or the other).
I initially bought the tablet because I was having repetitive stress type injuries and wanted something different than a mouse. In order to use it for wrist problems you need to change the sensitivity settings to real high. For the past few years I've used the mouse with the left hand and the tablet on the right, but I still use the mouse more frequently.
The other reason I bought the mouse was to do drawings on the computer. Unfortunately, I never really picked up the habit.

Digital Camera Reviews

There's one site I always go to for reviews of digital cameras, dpreview. The depth and breadth of the articles is outstanding. Even has video animations of the LCD displays. My only complaint is that it doesn't review the lower end cameras as much.
Highly recommended

The new scholarly Google

The scholar.google.com is now online. Did a search on my wife's name and her article came up first. No such luck with my name, however :-(
Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Use Google Scholar to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web.

The EU as a new superpower

Here's a Salon article (Salon day pass required). Some choice quotes:

But to most Americans "freedom" still means untrammeled private-property rights, open markets, workaholism and the belief that somehow we'll all die rich.

...

Opinion polls revealed an explosion of anti-American sentiment, even in nations like Britain, Italy and Poland that remained officially within the "coalition of the willing." In several European countries, the United States is viewed as more dangerous to world peace than Iran and North Korea, and George W. Bush may be even less popular in Scandinavia, for example, than he is in the Arab world.

...

[...] the European Union now has a much larger population than the United States, and a slightly bigger economy.

...

Much of American "productivity," Rifkin suggests, is accounted for by economic activity that might be better described as wasteful: military spending; the endlessly expanding police and prison bureaucracies; the sp…

Underwear Goes Inside the Pants

This is a music video and comentary ala Denis Leary about the conditions of the world in 2004.
...
I walked behind this guy the other day.
A homeless guy asked him for money.
He looks right at the homeless guy and says why don't you go get a job you bum.
People always say that to homeless guys like it is so easy.
This homeless guy was wearing his underwear outside his pants.
Outside his pants. I'm guessing his resume isn't all up to date.
I'm predicting some problems during the interview process.
I'm pretty sure even McDonalds has a "underwear goes inside the pants" policy.
Not that they enforce it really strictly, but technically I'm sure it is on the books.


via Metafilter

Democracy is not all that great?

Slashdot has a thread talking about the 2004 Election Weirdness but one reply by EMN13 caught my eye.
...Frankly, I think you're looking at democracy and elections entirely too religiously... Democracy pretty much fails as a type of government...
Elections don't guarantee any sort of optimum government.They don't require the elected government to in any way actually do what they said they will do.They don't require any sort of competency whatsoever.People actually making the choice aren't actually competent to make that choice. You don't hire people based on the gut feeling of the guy next door, do you?Elections are really expensive. Just think about that lost productivity, etc., in addition to the obvious costs of the process itself.Elections are very coarse grained. You might choose an idiotic president just to get a good staff and party, or the other way around. ... [EMN13]
I found myself nodding my head a lot with this part of the comment. I find that polit…

FCC's "new and improved" censorship

The FCC has increased the fines for public radio and TV broadcasts. The way it works is that someone complains to the FCC of an already broadcasted event and the FCC looks at the footage and then decides if it will fine the TV or radio station and how much to fine them. Unfortunately, a TV or radio station can't go to the FCC and say "we are going to air this, are we going to be fined and by how much?" and the FCC says "We can't tell you, because that would be censorship".
Of course that is not true - it wouldn't be sensorship, only if they weren't allowed to show it. If a TV station knew they would be fined $10K they might say, we'll pay the fine, no problem. The problem is they don't know if they will be fined, nor by how much.
So you have the policy of "When it doubt, throw it out" like TV's self sensor of the movie Saving Private Ryan.
This press release talks more about it, also here and a good one here.
Update: Fox fined …

CSS rollover buttons with background

Image
Sophie's maze has a nice button example here. I like the effect and the fact that she's added the option for an icon as well.
Here's the actual image that she uses for the background and for the checkmarks:

At Listamatic there's a nice one too which uses no images.


Is it hot in here or is it just me?

My dad came visit me a few years ago in Brazil and before he flew down he was particularly worried about the terrible heat that must exist here. I can see why he might think that way. If you think of Florida, it's gets very hot and humid even in the winter time. The southern-most point of the USA is in Key West Florida (been there) at about 24 degrees north of the equator. Now where I live in Belo Horizonte it is 19 degrees south and São Paulo where I currently work during the week is at about 23 degrees south. So both these cities are closer to the equator, and thus theoretically hotter than Florida is.
Now I've lived here for 6 years and I've seen maybe 3 days that it was really insufferably hot. In Belo Horizonte the weather is nearly perfect. There are seasons where it rains a bit more, but more often than not it's a sun shower, rather than cloudy and overcast all the time. Also, when it gets hot it is usually dry, so you don't feel the heat when it is hot. I d…

Linux pre-installed vs Windows

Here's a review of a few places that sell computers with linux pre-installed. Vendors like Dell, Gateway and others. The surprise for me is that none has linux installed on low end machines. In theory you can save $300.00 not installing Windows XP on a machine. If you're are buying a $1000.00 machine this would be a significant savings. My guess is that Microsoft is pressuring these vendors by saying if you sell these machines without Windows you will have to buy Windows at the retail price instead of $50.00 or whatever they normally charge for Windows pre-installed. For the high end machine they can absorb the cost but for low end machines their hands are tied.
via slashdot

Sorry no birth control for you...

Image
A number of US states have enacted (or may soon pass) laws that allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense birth control if their beliefs (read: fundamentalist Christian dogma) dictate otherwise.



Via Boing Boing

Dunstan's Site

Dunstan Orchard has a very nice web site done up with CSS and Javascript. One nice effect is that the top banner is an illustration of the current weather conditions where he lives (90 banners in all)
via metafilter

US Rejects the Kyoto Treaty Again

The Kyoto Protocol (also here) was rejected by Bush again. Previously, the administration said repeatedly that there is some doubts that greenhouse gases would cause global warning, despite a huge amount of evidence to the contrary. The US is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Canada has ratified the treaty, in fact - only the US and Australia has not ratified it. Australia doesn't want to sign it because they fear that the US will have an unfair economic advantage (Canada and Japan were afraid too, but signed it anyway). The administration claims that it doesn't want to sign it because of some details in the Protocol (like the fact that China isn't involved). It's all BS, the administration doesn't want to sign it because of powerful energy lobbies. See Bill Moyers on PBS with Ode to Kyoto: The energy industry's stealth campaign to confuse the public and stop Kyoto also Wikipedia. Treaty doesn't do nearly enough, it's just a stepping stone…

Slavery through loans

I've often wondered about the IMF which hands out huge loans to countries and expects these countries to pay back these loans plus interest! The first mistake is that the country shouldn't have accepted these loans, but I'm sure a little corruption can go a long way... Here's an elightening interview (mp3, 45 minutes into it) and the text from a former international banker. It's not about the IMF, but here's a snippet.
We've built the largest empire in the history of the world. It's been done over the last 50 years since World War II with very little military might, actually. It's only in rare instances like Iraq where the military comes in as a last resort. This empire, unlike any other in the history of the world, has been built primarily through economic manipulation, through cheating, through fraud, through seducing people into our way of life, through the economic hit men. I was very much a part of that. [John Perkins]
Perkins also wrote Confe…

Maybe the states shoulds split up?

Here's a particularly good rant. Reminded me a little of the separatism movement in Canada.
Fuck the South. Fuck 'em. We should have let them go when they wanted to leave. But no, we had to kill half a million people so they'd stay part of our special Union. Fighting for the right to keep slaves - yeah, those are states we want to keep.
link

When will the music industry do it right ?

More thoughts about the music industry.
This is the only industry in the world that can see thousands of its retailers close, reduce the number of products it sells via cutbacks in artist rosters and albums released, cut back marketing and promotional dollars and then blame a reduction in sales on someone or something other than themselves. ...[Mark Cuban]

Sandy's Site

An old friend of mine, Sandy Walsh, has started a blog. Here's his feed too.

Capturing the Upside

Clayton Christensen gave a great talk at the Open Source Business Conference 2004
called Capturing the Upside.
How can I beat powerful competitors? Companies should look for situations where they can introduce disruptive innovations that harness asymmetries of motivation. In other words, they should pick the fights that powerful competitors either cannot or will not contest. They can do this by either seeking out non-consumers who will welcome a simple product or by launching an attack on the low-end of an incumbent's market among customers the incumbent is actually happy to lose.
By the way, IT Conversations has lot's of great talks like this you can download for free (although I think registration is required).

Which Wiki is best?

The O'Reilly site has an ON Lamp article which reviews some of the Wiki's that are available. I was hoping they would give a thumbs up for Moin Moin, a Python based Wiki. They didn't pan it but they said it wasn't as feature rich as some, and not as easy to install as others.
For me however, I'm stoked because Moin Moin is written in Python, what more could you want?

Problem installing Apache on Windows XP

Here's the problem I've had installing Apache 2 on Windows XP:
(OS 10048)Only one usage of each socket address (protocol/network address/port) is normally permitted. : make_sock: could not bind to address 0.0.0.0:80
no listening sockets available, shutting down
Unable to open logs
Solution: after exiting from the excellent Skype and I was able to install (using Apache -k install) . So Skype appears to be using port 80 or something and caused some grief installing Apache - good to know.

Python's memory managment broken?

This article talks about some issues with Python's memory managment:
I began looking for my memory leak by creating a minimal test that ran a big search. Next, I added "del reference" statements one variable at a time, trying to find which one was holding on to memory. I deleted all my variables and still my program's size did not change. Next, I added calls to force Python's cyclic garbage collector to run, in case I had circular references that were keeping the objects from being deleted. Python still consumed a gigabyte of memory. Finally, I turned to Google to see if anyone else has had a similar problem. I turned up a mailing list thread about Python never returning memory to the operating system. It turns out that this is a flaw with the Python interpreter. People work around it by spawning multiple processes or using data structures on disk. Then I was curious, why would Python choose to never free memory? Many hours later, I now know far more than I ever …

Kitty-corner

Kitty-corner is correctly called catercorner, now I know. From the word of the day mailing list at yourDictionary.com.

Squid for web server caching

I didn't know about Squid before. From the Postgres perfomance mailing list I noticed a recomendation to use Squid to reduce the load and speedup your server.
...I've found that our CMS spends more time sending a 23KB image to a dial up
user than it does generating and serving dynamic content.

This means that if you have a "light" squid process who caches and serves
your images and static content from it's cache then your apache processes
can truly focus on only the dynamic data.

Case in point: A first time visitor hits your home page. A dynamic page is
generated (in about 1 second) and served (taking 2 more seconds) which contains links to 20 additional files (images, styles and etc). Then expensive apache processes are used to serve each of those 20 files, which takes an additional 14 seconds. Your precious application server processes have now spent 14 seconds serving stuff that could have been served by an upstream cache. I am all for using upstream caches …

Films to get for Victor

I really like the modern kids movies like Shrek (and Shrek II), Monsters Inc.. All of them are highly recommended, I've seen some of them lots of times.
Some more I'd like to get is:
The IncrediblesThe Triplets of BellevilleSpirited Away

Another Four Miserable Years?

Dan Gillmor sums up what the continuation of Bush's presidency means for America. The Republicans have an even stronger congressional majority. They have shown how gladly ruthless they can be in using their power. Bush and his allies have never believed in compromise. They have even less incentive to govern from the middle now, even though the nation remains bitterly divided. There's no secret about what's coming. We don't have that excuse this time. Here comes more fiscal recklessness -- as we widen the chasm between the ultra-wealthy and everyone else, cementing a plutocracy into our national fiber, we'll pay our national bills on the Treasury Bill credit card for the next few years. Many economists expect a Brazil-like financial crisis to hit the U.S. before the end of the decade. If we muddle our way though the near term, we'll still have left our kids with the bill. Here comes an expansion of the American empire abroad, a fueling of fear and loathing els…

Bush's Misdeeds in summary form

100 Facts and 1 Opinion, an article with referenced facts against the Bush administration. Good if you want to spout intelligent facts to a Bush supporter.

Communism

A few months after 9/11 we started seeing Americans asking the question "Why did they do that? Why do these people hate us so much?". The answer, partly, is that the religous and political leaders in these Islamic countries created a propaganda of hate against Americans and the American Way. Shame on them.
But wait a minute, isn't that similar to the propaganda that we did for decades against Communism? You remember the Soviet Union was an evil empire, that communism is an threat to the the sanctity of the American Way, and "Better Dead than Red". Shame on us.
The fear and hate our governments incited in us against USSR was bad, add misery, hopelessness and that's what we're seeing in these Islamic countries.
In the US now, instead of Communism it's Terrorism that is the imminant threat. We must remember the lies or exagerations the government fed us in the past and take a critical eye to what they say today. We must remain aware of the ways in whi…

Jokes

I saw these jokes and I just had to save some of on my blog:
-----
Buddha walks into a pizza joint and says, "Make me one with everything."Cashier: "That'll be $9.50"
Buddha hands him a ten. Waits. Waits. He says, "Where's my change?"
Cashier replies, "Change must come from within"
----
Q. Why can't the Buddha vacuum in the corner?
A. Because he has no attatchments.
----
Q. Where does George W. Bush keep his army?
A. Up his sleevie.
----
Q. How did Darth Vader know what Luke was getting for Christmas?
A. He felt his presents.
----
Did you hear about the guy who had to quit his job at the orange juice factory? ...He wasn't able to concentrate.
----
A boat carrying blue paint and a boat carrying red paint collided in the middle of the ocean. What happened to the crew?
They were marooned.
----
Q. Someone that knows three languages is trilingual. Someone that knows two languages is bilingual.
So what do you call someone that only k…

wget to get files

Another powerful and useful tool to learn how to use is wget. This exists in linux and also with cygwin (may be an extra install for this). Like screen it has thousands of switches but basically you type something like:
wget http://site.com/filename.zip
and it'll download it for you. When I need to get things to install (like rpm files for fedora) I browse for them rpm files on my machine at home, copy the link to the clipboard then on the linux machine type wget and paste in the location of the file to get.
It is useful to know that wget can also get a whole site, recursively, or a bunch of files using wildcards.
Add wget to your toolset.

Use the screen

The GNU screen program is somewhat of equivalent to having multiple windows open except in one terminal window. The first time you enter your shell type:
screen
basically it'll give a little message and then go back to the prompt. To open another terminal press Ctrl-A C (C for Create). Now you have two windows open. To go from on window to the next window press Ctrl-A N (N for Next).
Now this is nice but here's the real magic. Exit your terminal program and log back in. Now type:
screen -d -r
you should now be back to your previous screen exactly the way it was before, even with the last messages, etc. Also, if you press Ctrl-A N, you'll go to the next screen and it will be back exactly the way it was before.
So, for example, you can login at work, type screen then do some stuff. When it's time to go home exit the terminal (the best way is Ctrl-A D D) and then go home. At home, login type screen -d -r and continue working or check on your long running tasks.
GNU's s…

Using GnuPG encryption

If you use cygwin like I do you can optionally install GnuPG (Gnu Privacy Guard). GPG is actually a play on the letters PGP (or Pretty Good Privacy) which is now a privately owned company. GPG is however free and relatively easy to use to encrypt messages or files. I use it to encrypt sensitive files on my USB memory fob.
When you read the extensive manual on GPG you'd think the best way to encrypt your files is with a symmetric cypher. I see some problems with the symmetric cypher approach:
you need to give the password both when you encrypt and decrypt the file,different files could potentially have a different passwords increasing the chance of forgetting what the password is,someone who gets my file could try and guess the password,if I suspect that someone has learned my password, I need to go an re-crypt all my files with that password.
What I discovered is that I can use a public-key cypher to encrypt my files. Normally, you use public-key system to send a file to a frie…

How much money do you need?

Dave Winer wrote has an article asking, basically, how much money do you need? I've always felt that I really don't need that much money to be happy. Most of the unhappiness people feel with the amount they have has to do with looking at their friends who have even more.
On the other hand, money is a lot like air, when you don't have it it becomes really important. Also, when there's a chance that in the future you'll might be without it, you also get worried about it.
I remember a TV show about Bombardier selling some air planes and a Saudi prince was sent by his dad to invest a million dollars a week while he was visiting Canada. And I though, they have so much money that they feel guilty having it do nothing.

Use the SciTE text editor

They say that for a true cowboy, their hat is the first thing they put on in the morning and the last thing they take off at night. For me, as a programmer, SciTE is the first thing I startup in the morning and the last thing I shutdown when I go to bed. I'd say that it's truly the programmer's editor (although emacs is a close second).
For me it's main features are:
It's open source and in C++. There were some XML stuff I needed in the editor, I coded it and now it's in there (xml.auto.close.tags, and some Unicode BOM support). If this was a comercial application I'd still be waiting.It's cross platform. So when I move all my stuff to Linux (or whatever) I'll still have my editor.It behaves a lot like the Visual C++ editor that I was used to. Nearly all the keys are the same.
It's Unix and Mac line ending friendly.
It can read anything. Binary files aren't shown in hex, but they aren't mangled either if I decide to modify and save them…

Brazil & Elevators

When entering an elevator I always get a kick out of seeing the cultural differences and the different abbreviations used. In the US and Canada, for instance, you will rarely see a building with a 13th floor. Typically, it goes from 11, 12, 14, .... Brazil doesn't have such superstitions and there was a time I worked on the 13th floor.
Another interesting cultural difference is that building's in North America typically don't have a zeroth floor. The ground floor is often (but not always) considered the 1st floor. Typically, in an elevator in North Americal you'll see L, 2, 3, ....
In Canada the ground floor is often labelled "L" (for Lobby) or "RC" (for rez-de-chaussee). In Brazil it varies even more you'll see P for Portaria (although sometimes it means Parking, or Playground, or Pilotis), S for Saída (or Solo, Salão de Festas), T for térreo, the number 0, L for Lobby, and sometimes A for asfalto or atrium.

Use RSS feeds

You can subscribe to my blog by using the Atom feed if you have an RSS or news aggregate reader you'll be notified when a new article appears. This system is great, I use it for all my news.
I used to subscribe to news groups and receive them via email, but now I use SharpReader. It's a great way to receive your internet information, it's far more efficient than constantly checking a site for new information.
On the other hand, it's killing the net, because millions of computers are checking an RSS feed 40 times a day 24 hours a day, although there are some solutions to this.

Firefox Extensions

Firefox is a great browser, but it comes a little plain vanilla. So you add extensions to make it better. Here's my list:
Web Developer. This gives a huge number of tools for web developers to examine their own pages or how other pages are built.SessionSaver. This is a must have. When you close your browser it remembers the tabs you had opened, next time you start Firefox you'll be right back where you left off.
Adblock, this blocks ads from web pages. You click on a picture and tell it not to show it again in the future. It's good for work since if they don't recognize that it's a web browser and you remove all the pictures, it looks like you're looking at documentation instead of surfing the web, if someone looks over your shoulder.Link toolbar, this is a great tool for navigating several pages of an article or documentation without having to find and click on the next button. The next, previous, up, index, buttons appear in the status bar if the site has the…

Google your own machine

Ever wanted to search your files on your machine, with google? Now you can. It's the beta for the desktop google application for Windows. Google is great.

US Declares war on IP Theft

Here in Brazil you can see lots of counterfeit goods, much which you can buy off the street or even in some stores. But interestingly enough, some goods you can't sell: like Barbie or Spiderman. My wife was told by a merchant that if you start selling those, you'll be closed down and arrested faster than you can say "Scooby doo". In a way it indicates that most companies are apathetic, if you really want to stop counterfeiting, you can do it. ...John Ashcroft announced measures to expand and strengthen specialist units to fight intellectual property crimes in the United States and in Eastern Europe and Asia, where many counterfeit goods are made.... link
In a way, by having the goverment do all the monitoring and crackdown you are having the taxpayers pay for this work.

Monopoly one, meet monopoly two

I had to laugh when I saw this,RollingStone.com has a revealing article detailing how retail giant Wal-Mart is making loud noises about throwing its weight around in order to get significantly better bulk prices on CDs. Says one industry executive, 'This wasn't framed as a gentle negotiation, it's a line in the sand -- you don't do this, then the threat is [your product is dropped].' This is the first time a big player has attempted this sort of hardball move on the labels, and the labels may be forced to deal, as Wal-Mart sells 1 out of every 5 retail CDs.link
It reminds me of the long tail article and how downloadable song prices could be a bit cheaper, but the record industry is afraid to lower them any more because they would be cheaper than CDs and might wipe out the CD business. But the long tail article mentions that there are tons of music that are no longer sold in most stores or are no longer manufactured that could be sold at a cheaper price (but aren…

Borland's Caliber RM

Just was given a brief presentation on Borland's Caliber RM (Requirements Management). It really fills the void that I saw in development methods I've used here. What I normally see, is requirements stored in Word documents, these documents are typically like a template with the same part in them. They are always out of date, and difficult to see what has changed over time. Caliber removes the need for Word, you store the requirements in a hierarchy and it stores everything in a database (they call it an OO repository). You can register who is a stakeholder and they will automatically receive e-mails when something changes in the requirement. Use cases, textual unit test descriptions, supporting documents can also be stored there. In addition you have some flexibility in that certain types of requirement can have specialized forms that need to be filled out.
The tool is actually quite simple, in many ways. But there are some minor and major issues with the system as well. One …

On Peak Oil

If you haven't heard about peak oil, you've got some reading to do. Many sites on the internet offer dire predictions of oil prices going through the roof. The simplistic explanation is that we are running out of oil, and in fact our peak oil production has either peaked already or is about to peak real soon. Does it mean we will run out of oil?
I don't think we will, but when gas costs more than bottled water we are going to start looking at other energy alternatives pretty hard. And I think that in this sense, peak oil is a good thing. Americans have had cheap gas for way too long and buy too many cars that are way too big. When I fill up my tank in Brazil it costs about R$60,00 which is about the price of a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label Scotch. So everytime I fill up the tank, it's like a bottle of scotch.
As gasoline prices get more and more expensive, only the rich will be able to afford to drive. Americans will begin to discover public transportation, or wil…

US Presidential Debate

Last night I saw the US presidential debate and I found that Bush did the presentation of his life, but Kerry was nearly perfect. I've never cared for Canadian, Brazilian or US elections and have often not voted in Canada. But for a variety of reasons I'm am deeply interested in the US elections. I think part of it is my hatred of the things that have been happening in the US over the past 4 years. Not all of them are really Bush's fault but he was at the helm when they happened.
Things like:
Increased corruption of the election process. I'm sure some corruption has almost always happened in elections but never has elections been so close before as this time and the last election. Joke: "What's the difference between Hitler and George W. Bush? Hitler was elected!".
The RIAA has received carte blanche to sue their customers and extend DRM and draconian protection of DRM throught the induce act.The push of NAZI like measures to control their own population…