Sunday, December 30, 2007

The art of developing software...

In developing software, the resulting code needs to obey a number of structured rules in order to guarantee future maintenance and enhancements. Furthermore, new software needs to be modular and obey established open standards to guarantee interoperability with the work of other developers. Finally, the graphical user interface (GUI) of developed applications needs to obey established standards imposed by current best practices and operating systems. For instance, developing software for the Apple OSX is very strictly constrained by the OS itself. This makes OSX application development extremely efficient. That is the reason that most PowerPC packages were converted in record time into native apps for the Intel OSX version; Apple just provided the necessary SDKs with lots of libraries, covering the vast majority of functions used in any given application package.

The above implies that, these days, developing good code is the result of a highly disciplined effort. From an architectural point of view most new applications are structured along three tiers, the UI, the Logic and the Data. To this end new applications are developed as highly modularized and are using heavily the established standard protocols depending under which framework they are being coded (for instance, under Windows, new developed applications use extensively the so-called web services protocols, whereas with Open Source and Java, similar objectives are achieved with EJBs, etc...).

Manual code development methods, as opposed to CASE (Computer Aided Software Engineering), where code is automatically generated based on a database (encyclopedia) of cross validated specifications, face a serious problem with development discipline. Developers jump too early into coding, especially with approaches like Agile Development and Extreme Programming; they don't properly plan the application design and testing and, even under the current modern development frameworks, they still end-up creating uncommon and complex (spaghetti) code as they used to do with unstructured Cobol in the 70ies. This code, often poorly documented, is extremely difficult to maintain in terms of bug-fixing and functional enhancements. On top of this, such code suffers heavily from regression problems.The only strategy to improve developer productivity and quality of their code is thru what is known as 'enforced discipline'. This has been attempted in the last 30 years via CASE technology. We are currently operating in the third wave of that initiative, albeit this time we seem to have moved backwards, away from classic CASE into rather 4GL and 3GL, non-withstanding the availability of frameworks, standards, protocols, libraries, and SDKs.

From the above description it becomes obvious that modern IT managers, facing the challenge of their current applications legacy that has to be maintained and gradually replaced by a new legacy, are very sensitive to and receptive of commercial offerings that seem to resolve part or the whole of their development issues. This also explains the success of SAP that, despite the high implementation cost and its generally primitive code and methods by which this was created, offers the sense of a safety net against the challenges of future functionality and ability to scale. Sort of 'never get fired for selecting IBM in the 70ies and 80ies' thing. By supporting the vast majority of enterprise applications, SAP took away many of the headaches of the community of contemporary CIO’s...


PS. I found this 'excerpt' in a white paper that I wrote some time ago to guide some people into evaluating a young company that came up with a wonder product used to develop commercial web sites. I don't believe in wonders and miracles, especially in software development. It's all about management discipline and applying the protocols and best practices. Years ago the software Industry killed CASE, almost in its cradle, as the latter promised to steal away programmer flexibility and freedom of choice (the 'artistic' aspect of 'programming' per many, their element of creativity... let me laugh). Consequently, we ended up in the software development pre-history, run by bunches of amateur 'pros', albeit with modern tools. I am curious to see what the distant future will eventually bring about.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Top 2007 media...

If you consider yourself a media fan who wants to know about the latest in music, film and TV shows, check this article of Wired Magazine about the top P2P internet downloads in 2007. The usual suspects, really, but still fun to read.

(click on picture for a sharper shot)

Friday, December 28, 2007


Asif Ali Zardari (with glasses), husband of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, leaving for the funeral procession.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

'Faking an orgasm...

...while masturbating' is the ultimate of self deception, Tom U. used to tell me years back. Tom was a colleague and a friend during the 90ies. I remembered his quote this morning again at the reading of this article from C|Net.

So, we smart asses from the west thought that the manufacturing powerhouses in Asia, with China on top, are no real threat to us, because those 'monkeys' can only handle low-tech, the stuff we geniuses over here consider too boring to deal with. Thank God, we have our super-brains to rely on and keep one step ahead of the Chinese or Koreans and Japanese for that matter (not to forget the Indians) as we move ahead towards our welfare futures. That's what we think and that's what the EU Mandarins think too as they launch initiatives like 'Manufuture'. Little we all know.

The one thing that can save our European ass in the future is the consumption lust of the New Europeans and their drive to make-up for lost opportunity and move faster than the classic West. There is some fresh blood and energy to be found there. This makes the current Europe a monolithic consumption market of immense proportions (half a billion people and growing). However, if supply to this consumption pond gets increasingly dependent on the Chinese production powerhouses, based on the premise that they can only supply low-tech, then we are up for some cute surprises. If, already today, Chinese manufacturers reached a capability state for the production of sub 45 nm semiconductor wafers by simply licensing the (IBM) technology for that matter (could be anything else from anyone else in the future) then kiss our future welfare and the low-tech myths good-bye.

Makes you think... faking an orgasm...

The meaning of charity...

I didn't quite know how to feel at the reading of this newsflash from Reuters:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Shoppers got a Christmas Eve surprise on Monday when a pair of brothers handed out $100 (50 pound) bills at a mall on Long Island, New York. Police responded to a call from security staff at the Sunrise Mall in the town of Massapequa, concerned that the give-away might create a scene or involve counterfeit bills. Instead, officers found a simple case of Christmas charity where calm prevailed as the businessmen, aged 45 and 41, gave out the money at the entrance to the shopping centre, police said. "These two brothers say they do this every year. They say they've been blessed and just want to give something back," Detective Sergeant Anthony Repalone said. "They gave it to people who they thought needed it. The people were very appreciative." Police declined to identify the brothers, respecting their wish to remain anonymous.

How about you?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Silverthome... the thing to remember.

This is the favorite time of all things guessing-next-Apple's-product-moves before the annual Macworld scheduled for Jan 14-18, in less than a month from today.

The latest news is that Apple seems to jump in bed even closer with Intel especially on chip architectures centered around Silverthome, a 45 nm low energy micro-processor chip which promises great goodies.

It always starts with the microprocessor. It's size, energy consumption and the size of the motherboard it sits on, together with it's offered functionality are the elements that will define 'what' will dress the internal chips with. 'What' is meant here the type of slick device (a phone, iPod, or slim palmtop full scale computer, in new colors and flavors) that is gonna be built around the mP and its motherboard.

The current Apple rumors cover normal evolution of the iPhone with more disk capacity and 3G functionality for two-way video comms, but also people are talking about slick full scale computers with no hard disks but flash storage, and touch screen capabilities as the iPhone and the Touch iPod.

Are we going to see any of that in the coming MacWorld? I think it's still too early for that, but maybe some clues and glimpses will appear to keep the crowds excited. Whether they'll eventually be there is as sure as the earth is spherical. The timing is only a matter of his Jobness and readiness of his troops. In the meantime, Apple is overtaking Cisco in market cap. A few breaths away from 200 bucks a share.

Read more details about Silverthome here.

Can you be too happy?

I read this article in Cognitive Daily about the risks of being too happy and wanted to share the experience with you. The article is based on statistical research on a massive database of data assembled from questionnaires to real people from dozens of countries worldwide. With all possible shortcomings a survey like this might have, nevertheless, the authors are capable of drawing a number of useful conclusions, albeit failing to define the fundamental question: Define Happiness!

They addressed the subject of happiness by simply asking 'in a scale of one to ten, where do you rate your state of satisfaction in your current lifestyle and experience'.

There are some interesting but not surprising conclusions they have scentifically drawn, nonwithstanding.

For instance, life satisfaction increases with income but there is a point beyond which this trend reverses... too much money does not necessarily make you happier.

On the other hand, too much education and involvement in state afairs and national politics (albeit from interest) does not necessarily contribute positively in you state of happiness. Reminds me of the Biblical saying "happy are those with poor spirits (or something like that)". The smarter you are the more likely you can't find fulfillment and happiness. Sounds fair.

Finally, there is a human endeavor that seems not to tail off the better it becomes... in other words, the level of happiness achieved increases proportionally with the factor itself. This is about personal relationships between partners. There is no level above which happiness decreases in an ever improving relationship. Again, not too abnormal to assume.

The article is more concerned about the so called optimal level of happiness, and how to achieve it. Like, a perfect partner relationship, not too much money and not too concerned with those monkeys running government in the countries we live in...

If you manage to read the article, take a look at some of the reader comments as well. Very valuable contributions if you ask me.

So, how about you? Do you consider yourself to be somewhat happy, quite happy, unhappy, or the happiest of men? To be or not to be (happy). That is the question...

Monday, December 24, 2007

'Hungry' is a country? I've heard of Turkey...but, 'Hungry'?

This is a well known YouTube clip about a blonde with a cool voice and an empty skull (O. Simpson-like), that has been already watched millions of times. Priceless! Take a look and then tell me whether you are surprised about the marvels of the US Educational system. What do some people really carry in their skull instead of grey matter? Wheat?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What are some tech companies worth nowadays?

Suppose you had enough dough to go buy a large company (you are a Saudi Prince of some sort, so to say), how much would you have to pay these days for some of the big tech names?

I compiled this list of my favorite Nasdaq and NYSE quoted companies. Market cap expressed in Billion USD (what else?)

Microsoft : 337
Google: 218 (Wow!)
Cisco: 173
Apple: 170 (Wow!)
Intel: 157
IBM: 153
Nokia: 151
HP: 134
Oracle: 116
SAP: 62
Dell: 55
Computer Associates: 13

Interesting ranking. Especially for Apple that in 2007 alone has overtaken the likes of IBM, Intel and HP. Don't even mention Dell. Michael is busy sorting it out after the mess it got into a year ago or so. Elisson's Oracle solid with 116B, visibly the second largest ISV behind Microsoft. Not bad for SAP either.

As for my previous employer, CA, one word: shambles!

Friday, December 21, 2007


To kill time, I started watching the sixth season of 24. All about Muslim 'terrorists' threatening the US with suicide bombings and other acts of violence. Sounds interesting albeit it on the exaggerating side slightly. During a pause from the non-stop TV watch my eye fell on this news flash, just in. I just couldn't believe it was happening. See for yourselves.

BRUSSELS — Belgian authorities detained 14 people they described as Islamic extremists on Friday, saying they had uncovered a plot to use explosives to free an Al Qaeda sympathizer jailed for planning to attack an American air base.

The Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, said in a statement, “Other acts of violence are not ruled out.”

The authorities put the capital, Brussels, on a high state of alert, increasing security at main train stations, the airport and major public places where people were gathering to do their Christmas shopping.

The arrests came after the police raided 15 locations, most of them in Brussels, seizing explosives and arms.

Those detained were suspected of planning to try to break into a prison to free Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian former pro soccer player who was arrested days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, in connection with a plot to drive a car bomb into an American air base in northeast Belgium. Mr. Trabelsi was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The authorities did not offer any evidence or details about their suspicions, or name the prison where Mr. Trabelsi was being held. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Peter Mertens, said the convict was “moved regularly.”

Europe is already on a state of alert because of the Christmas holidays, and the Algerian bombings last week, which killed dozens in the capital, Algiers. France and Belgium share concerns of terrorist threats from extremists among their Muslim populations.

On Thursday, the French police said they were holding five men believed to be members of a logistical support cell for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Agence France-Presse reported. That group is a longstanding terrorist network, previously called the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which changed its name after affiliating with Osama bin Laden’s network this year.


Back to the future... or, why the skies wept!

First time I heard about the Negroponte PC for the poor, I thought of it as a noble initiative. It may still be... the thing I didn't know though is that this wicked piece of hardware would run yet another version of its own windows -like OS and look like shit! I mean, it's not because you want to ship these things to Africa to the poor and needy you also need to assume that your target audience is stupid. The entire world runs on Windows and the other half on Linux... make something that looks like them, for crying out loud! Watch the YouTube clip and see what I mean. My heart bleeds at the idea that young, hungry to learn, African boys and girls are made to believe they will learn to use the internet with garbage gear like this. Mighty Moses, have Mercy on us. Sorry Nicolas, this just sucks!

New Blood Test Finds Cancer Cells

A new cancer blood test may help doctors find cancers earlier and monitor cancer treatment.

The new blood test uses microchip technology to sift blood to search for circulating tumor cells (CTCs), which come from solid tumors and roam through the blood.

The developers of the test call it a "new and effective tool" that has "broad implications" for cancer research, detection, diagnosis, and management.

"While much work remains to be done, this approach raises the possibility of rapidly and noninvasively monitoring tumor response to treatment, allowing changes if the treatment is not effective, and the potential of early detection screening in people at increased risk for cancer," Daniel Haber, MD, says in a news release.

Haber directs the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. He worked on the study with researchers including Sunitha Nagrath, PhD, and Mehmet Toner, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital.


PS. Identifying cancerous activity thru blood-tests is nothing new... however, current methods might be too little too late in a large number of cases. The new method promises to provide much earlier warnings about malignant cancerous activity. The earlier one knows the greater chance for cure and survival.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bobbie K., 40 yrs ago...

I came across this interesting article earlier today (LA Times):

"...She came out of nowhere, and in a flash she was gone.And nearly four decades later the surprise encounter between a little girl and Sen. Robert Kennedy still haunts Howard Bingham.The 1968 California presidential primary election was days away, and Kennedy was campaigning in Watts. Bingham, a photographer best known for chronicling the career of boxing champion Muhammad Ali, was documenting the presidential hopeful's visit to the area, which three years before had been ravaged by rioting.Kennedy was in a slow-moving convertible with then-state Sen. Mervyn Dymally, labor leader Ted Watkins and several others. The motorcade was near the corner of 103rd Street and Central Avenue when the girl ran toward it.Bingham raised his camera and snapped a series of pictures as she sprinted eagerly toward the car, her pigtails flying.She was about 9 or 10 years old. She had a Kennedy-for-president bumper sticker stuck to her red dress and light blue sweater.The sequence of six photos shows her running about a block to catch up with motorcade. In the final frame, she is wearing a huge grin when she shakes Kennedy's hand.The girl turned and ran back to the sidewalk as Kennedy's car continued on its way.The photos were never published. But Bingham never forgot the little girl with the happy grin.Bingham photographed Kennedy extensively, but it is Kodak Ektachrome images of the senator and the girl in the pigtails that have stayed with him for 39 years.Who is she? What kind of person did she grow up to be? How did Kennedy's murder affect her? How would her life have been different if her hero had not been gunned down and had gone on to win the presidency?..."


The myths about burning calories...

This article makes interesting reading...
" THE Spinning class at our local gym was winding down. People were wiping off their bikes, gathering their towels and water bottles, and walking out the door when a woman shouted to the instructor, “How many calories did we burn?”

“About 900,” the instructor replied.

My husband and I rolled our eyes. We looked around the room. Most people had hardly broken a sweat. I did a quick calculation in my head.
We were cycling for 45 minutes. Suppose someone was running and that the rule of thumb, 100 calories a mile, was correct.

To burn 900 calories, we would have had to work as hard as someone who ran a five-minute mile for the entire distance of nine miles.

Exercise physiologists say there is little in the world of exercise as wildly exaggerated as people’s estimates of the number of calories they burn.

Despite the displays on machines at gyms, with their precise-looking calorie counts, and despite the official-looking published charts of exercise and calories, it can be all but impossible to accurately estimate of the number of calories you burn.

You can use your heart rate to gauge your effort, and from that you can plan routines that are as challenging as you want. But, researchers say, heart rate does not translate easily into calories. And you may be in for a rude surprise if you try to count the calories you think you used during exercise and then reward yourself with extra food.

One reason for the calorie-count skepticism is that two individuals of the same age, gender, height, weight and even the same level of fitness can burn a different amount of calories at the same level of exertion.

Claude Bouchard, an obesity and exercise researcher who directs the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., found that if, for example, the average number of calories burned with an exercise is 100, individuals will burn anywhere from 70 to 130 calories...."

The Economics of Hospital Infections

A few days ago, amidst my operation recovery, I found myself a victim of a common post-operative infection known as UTI (infection of the bladder). What I didn't know at the time was that this is almost as common to occur to anyone with a bladder catheter from an operation as raining in Belgium. Initially I panicked as the infection was accompanied with pain and blood urination. Eventually, my home doctor came to the rescue with strong antibiotics that delivered the goods within hours...

I would have forgotten the incident and have cataloged it as another acquired experience if it wasn't for this NYT article that my eyes fell upon earlier today. Read an excerpt here and follow the link if you are interested in the remaining of the article. Unbelievable!

"... In most businesses, customers don’t pay for a vendor’s mistakes. But when hospitals make errors, they charge patients additional money to fix the problem. The perverse economics of hospital charges were outlined yesterday in a fascinating article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The story focused on one common but largely preventable medical error: urinary tract infections associated with the use of a catheter. It showed how in some ways, the medical system has built-in financial incentives for bad care. Hospitals use urinary catheters more than almost any other medical device, and they account for 40 percent of all hospital-acquired infections — about one million annually. A urinary tract infection can add a day to a hospital stay; sometimes it can lead to a more serious infection, even death. At one Colorado hospital, the article noted, Medicare would pay $5,436.66 for the care of a heart attack patient who recovered without complications. But if the patient developed a urinary tract infection related to use of a catheter, the hospital would receive $6,721.44. If the patient developed a more serious infection after a catheter was used, the hospital collected $8,905.43. That means the hospital would earn 63 percent more by providing inferior care. Hospital-acquired urinary tract infections cost the health care system more than $400 million every year. But they are largely preventable, occurring most often because a catheter is left in too long. The risk of infection rises dramatically 48 hours after insertion. Most patients don’t need a catheter for nearly that long, but when nurses and other hospital staff are overstretched, or when record-keeping is lax, catheters may not be removed quickly enough. The reimbursement system “tolerates and even financially rewards poor performance by hospitals that fail to prevent hospital-acquired complications,'’ write the report’s authors, Dr. Heidi Wald and Dr. Andrew Kramer, health care policy researchers at the University of Colorado at Denver...."


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Risky Business...

From the BBC News, Sao Paulo.

Drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, have opened fire on a helicopter carrying a Santa Claus to one of the city's shanty towns.
No one was hurt and it is thought the gunmen believed the helicopter belonged to the police.
The helicopter was taking an actor dressed as Santa Claus to a Christmas party in the favela of Nova Mare when it came under fire.
Two bullet holes were found in the fuselage when it returned to base.
The police said it was only a matter of luck that no one was hurt.
Presents delivered
The helicopter was flying over the shanty town of Vila do Joao when the attack happened and it is believed the drug traffickers mistook it for a police helicopter.
The Santa later returned to Nova Mare by car to deliver his presents, where more than 1,000 children and parents were still waiting for his arrival.
The actor told Brazil's TV Globo that he feared there was going to be a crash, but when he saw that the pilot remained calm and that the helicopter was flying normally, he stopped worrying.
The president of the local residents' association said the children were very sad as they had expected Santa to arrive by helicopter.
There are more than 700 favelas in Rio Janeiro, most of which are controlled by drug gangs.
Earlier this year, a police officer was shot and killed as he travelled in a helicopter over one of the city's shanty towns.

Jobs vs Soprano: flipsides of same coin?

Remember Option$? Turns out that it's become kinda big hit, in the meantime. A recent review by a lawyer is pretty intresting; here's an excerpt:

"... I finally read oPtion$. Though I'm a couple of weeks late to the book club, thought I’d add a few thoughts that I didn’t see over at Prawfs. Spoilers alert. At one point in this hilarious satire, Steve Jobs’ lawyer Bobby DiMarco says that Jobs, like all CEOs, is a sociopath. By this time in the book this is not news to the reader. The question we have to face is, so what? It’s the Tony Soprano gambit: Soprano was a metaphor for American society. He was bad, but the so-called good guys (lawyers, politicians, FBI agents) weren’t much, if any, better. At least Soprano had a sort of integrity. Jobs is a lot like Tony. They both run businesses, they both have shrinks, and they’re both being hounded by the cops, their business associates, and just about everybody else. Jobs may be no gem, but consider his world: supine directors, crazy investors, the US attorney who’s using Jobs’ scalp to run for governor, his assistant who later cashes in to do white collar defense, Jobs’ only friend, Larry Ellison, complete with kimono and bong, Bono [“the only person I know who’s more self-absorbed than I am”]; Steven Spielberg [the hilarious game of phone-tag between Spielberg and Jobs is worth the price of the book], etc. Like Soprano, Jobs has a saving grace that sets him above this crowd: he’s a genius at selling stuff. And that’s no small thing, since a big part of modern capitalism is getting people to buy stuff they didn’t know they needed. The instruments of mass production would have been useless without advertising to create demand. So Jobs takes a shiny bit of plastic, puts some mundane electronics inside, and turns a commodity into something everybody has to have. What makes Apple different, as the Jobs character says, is how far it’s taken the art of selling, with his help: [W]e don’t start with the product itself. We start with the ads. We’ll spend months on advertisements alone. This is the reverse of how most companies do it. Everybody else starts with the product, and only when it’s done do they go, “Oh, wait, we need some ads, don’t we?” Which is why most advertising sucks, because it’s an afterthought. Not here. At Apple, advertising is a prethought. If we can’t come up with a good ad, we probably won’t do the product.”

... Cont'd

PS. The red type on the quote about capitalism above comes from me. How true! I got 15 iPods, for crying out loud! Almost too shameless to admit... and about 5 or 6 DSLRs with dozens of lenses. You only need one of each...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bono's Red Product gig...

If that report is true, I'll eat my Red iPod mini for breakfast... and then go jump off the building!

PRODUCT Red, the brand founded by U2 frontman Bono, has raised $50 million to help fight Porsche shortages among executives at Apple, Armani, Motorola, Gap and Hallmark.

Around half the profits from Product Red products goes straight into the bank accounts of executives at enormous corporations, who use it to alleviate chronic luxury car famines.

Lizzie Matumba, of Ivory Coast, said: “The knowledge that Steve Jobs arrives at Product Red press conferences in a brand new Aston Martin has made the death of my entire village much easier to bear.”

Robert Otengwe said: “I am most happy you have bought a nice new red mobile phone. It shows you care. And the pink one you bought last year looks very dated.”

Matumba added: “Some may ask why these gigantic corporations didn't just stump up $10 million each instead of guilt-tripping shallow fucknuts into buying yet more useless shit that'll be in the bin this time next year.

“But these people fail to understand the power of marketing. And bonuses. They fail to understand bonuses too.”

Wayne Hayes, head of research at the Institute for Greed, said Product Red had revolutionised the way rich westerners made themselves feel better about hellish Third World poverty.

“Most of us only ever felt guilty for a second about buying a fourth iPod while half the world starved, but it could still take some of the fun out of buying new gadgets.

“Now I can buy another Armani watch and a pair of Converse without having to worry about some African child with no shoes at all. It’s worth it just for that.”

Good ol' Tony makes a buck...

Various reports hit the press the last 24 hours about how ex-PM Tony Blair is making a million pounds a month by pitching to the crowds, especially in North America and China. For one thing, there are not enough morons in Europe and the rest of the world to wanna waste that kind of dough on this idiot... however, North Americans reward him for being a friend and giving up Europe and the UK just to please them and get himself in front of standing ovation masquerades at the congress during the years of unreason about international terrorism; that at the aftermath of 9/11. And the Chinese? Hey... they just do what Uncle Sam tells them to do... no strings attached.

Good for Tony. I'd do the same if I could get enough brain-dead around dripping to listen to what I don't have to say... because... what do I really have to say to the world other than how to kiss ass graciously and get a brown ring around my tongue? It's a sad story that all this is happening to a left-wing liberal too. A fighter for the rights of the weak and the poor... my ass!

Anyways... history will eventually know better. The one time hope for a better UK, following years of Torry rule, turned into a clown of immense proportions. Give me Maggie ten times over. At least the lady had balls the size of melons...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Anniversary Big T.

A small electronic device called the transistor, first invented on December 16, 1947, has completed 60 years of existence as of yesterday.

The world's first transistor was built by three physicists; namely, William Shockley, John Bardeen, and William Brattain at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey.

A transistor is a small electronic switch capable of amplifying electric current. The first transistor was rigged using a paper clip, Germanium, and Gold foil, and it boosted electrical current a hundredfold.

In 1952, a hearing aid became the first commercial product to use transistors, which was followed by a transistor radio costing $49.95 (equivalent to $380 today) developed by Texas Instruments (TI) in 1954.

In 1958, Jack Kilby from Texas Instruments successfully built the first integrated circuit combining a number of transistors on a Silicon chip.

Since then, the Silicon chip has seen a constant decrease in size, and a constant increase in potential usage in electronic products.

By the end of the 1960s, the microprocessor -- the computer on chip, was invented, and was brought to market by Intel in 1971. The mid-1970s saw the idea of a PC catching on among common people.

Today, the number of transistors on microprocessors has reached nearly a billion from the several thousands in the 1970s.

A single advanced microprocessor today is capable of holding 1.7 billion transistors, with each of the transistors as small as 200 billionth of a meter. These are the same chips that have permeated ever aspect of our lives today.

Sixty years completed by the transistor have also seen the birth of mobile phones, PCs, laptops, MP3 players, changing the way in which we live, work, and play.

The cost of Healthcare in Belgium

I was planning to report on the entire cost of my healthcare adventures of the last 30 days because it seems kinda interesting and almost incomprehensible to the outside world. It's still early in the process to grasp the entire cost but in fact don't hold your breath. The cost will eventually prove relatively insignificant compared to the length and breadth of diagnostic tests and treatment I have undergone.

In the meantime, as an illustration, I have three simple examples to describe.

1. Pretreatment diagnostic tests. I have been thru the full Monty with multiple doctors in two hospitals: Ultrasounds, CT scan, Pet Scan, X-Rays, Colonscopy (twice, with biopsy), Cardiology tests, ECGs, countless blood tests, urine test, etc... I believe it all came down to an own personal contribution of no more than 50 euros.

2. Consultation cost with the Professor surgeon who operated my colon cancer (Prof Dr. Piet Pattyn at the UZ Gent). I visited him twice on a consultation basis at 20.32 euro each!... of this amount I'll probably recover 90% plus from the State HC system. Can you figure that? The guy is a celebrity, he saves lives for a living, a notorious medical hero, available 14 hours a day and all he asks is the regular social tariff that the system defines... no more than what my home doctor charges!

3. Post operational treatment. Since I left hospital last week, I have a nurse visiting daily (including weekends) to take care of some open wounds that need healing (catheters etc). It takes her no more than a few seconds to complete the task but nevertheless, the system will pay her the time to travel to my place and do the job. Total cost to me personally? Nada!

In this God-Forgotten country called Belgium, where politicians are not capable to agree on a central government, home to the EU and the NATO, Healthcare is one of the hidden marvels of the system. Of course it costs a lot to the employed and employers thru salary contributions and taxes. I haven't heard anyone screaming though when they end up needing to use the system.

Too good to be true? No wonder Belgium is attraction pole Number 1 for aspirant immigrants of all sizes and colors...

PS. By the way, there is no treatment known to mankind that is not available to almost all large hospitals in the country. Down the hall on my floor we had people recovering from organ transplants on one side and two French travesties who had just undergone a sex-change operation, for kicks! Last, our hospitals are packed with the Dutch. Why? Because, as one woman I met at the hospital put it, if she had to wait for the waiting list in Holland to get her turn, she'd be eventually dead. Whereas in Belgium she can enjoy outstanding treatment in the shortest possible waiting times. Did you hear that Harry Potter?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Taliban Heavens...

A man in the village of Zarinkhel waited with his daughter to see the American medics. "The Taliban has made it abundantly clear that no outside doctors, no outside medical help, can work in this district," an American captain said.

WTF is that Taliban movement trying to do, after all? How thick can a humanoid scull be? Are we nuts to sacrifice our military youth in those morons? Hopefully not.

And because Afghanistan is not the only place God has forgotten for good, here's a similar nutcase situation building up slowly in Congo, Africa.

Nyangira held her 2-month-old daughter Dieu Merci in a therapeutic feeding center in Goma. The humanitarian condition in Congo has reached its most desperate in years. "This situation now is the worst we have had" since the end of the war, said a senior United Nations emergency aid official in Goma. "And it is going to get much, much worse."

To err is human...

Read this BW article of a weird bozo who thought in 2001 that Jobs launch of Apple Stores was destined to failure:

For years, Apple Computer (AAPL ) CEO Steven P. Jobs has tried working with retailers to make shopping for Apple's stylish products as appealing as using them--everything from setting up kiosks to special sections adorned with Apple's Think Different posters. Still, the computer maker's share has fallen, and Jobs figures he knows why. "Buying a car is no longer the worst purchasing experience. Buying a computer is now No. 1," he griped at the MacWorld trade show in January.

Now, he's taking matters into his own hands. On May 19, Apple will open a swanky new retail store--the first of as many 110 nationwide--at Tyson's Corner Galleria mall outside Washington. While Apple execs won't comment on their plans, the idea seems clear: Well-trained Apple salespeople in posh Apple stores can convince would-be buyers of the Mac's unique advantages, including its well-regarded iMovie software for making home videos and its iTunes program for burning custom CDs.

"CAVIAR." With its top-notch brand and proven marketing panache, Apple should have a shot at improving on the Gateway Country Store model. And it will give Apple fresh outlets to sell its own products such as the titanium PowerBook and other companies' consumer gadgets such as Handspring Inc.'s Visor handheld line. The company would gain new revenue as a reseller of other electronic goodies and have more control over marketing and servicing of its products. What's more, Apple could boost margins by cutting out middlemen and wooing buyers to higher-priced models.

The way Jobs sees it, the stores look to be a sure thing. But even if they attain a measure of success, few outsiders think new stores, no matter how well-conceived, will get Apple back on the hot-growth path. Jobs's focus on selling just a few consumer Macs has helped boost profits, but it is keeping Apple from exploring potential new markets. And his perfectionist attention to aesthetics has resulted in beautiful but pricey products with limited appeal outside the faithful: Apple's market share is a measly 2.8%. "Apple's problem is it still believes the way to grow is serving caviar in a world that seems pretty content with cheese and crackers," gripes former Chief Financial Officer Joseph Graziano.

Rather than unveil a Velveeta Mac, Jobs thinks he can do a better job than experienced retailers at moving the beluga. Problem is, the numbers don't add up. Given the decision to set up shop in high-rent districts in Manhattan, Boston, Chicago, and Jobs's hometown of Palo Alto, Calif., the leases for Apple's stores could cost $1.2 million a year each, says David A. Goldstein, president of researcher Channel Marketing Corp. Since PC retailing gross margins are normally 10% or less, Apple would have to sell $12 million a year per store to pay for the space. Gateway does about $8 million annually at each of its Country Stores. Then there's the cost of construction, hiring experienced staff. "I give them two years before they're turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake," says Goldstein.

Harsh words. Still, Job's instinct that Apple has to take some dramatic steps is on target. In recent years, Apple has succeeded mainly by getting its 25 million-strong customer base to upgrade to pricier machines with higher margins. But only 12 million of them are due for upgrades in the next couple of years, analysts estimate. Meantime, Dell Computer Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp. have been stealing share from Apple in the key education market.

What's more, Apple's retail thrust could be one step forward, two steps back in terms of getting Macs in front of customers. Since most Mac fans already know where to buy, much of the sales from Apple's stores could come out of the hides of existing Mac dealers. That would bring its already damaged relations with partners to new lows. In early 1999, Best Buy Co. (BBY ) dropped the iMac line after refusing a Jobs edict that it stock all eight colors. Sears, Roebuck & Co. (S ) late last year dumped Apple, sources say, after concluding that sales were too hit or miss. And in recent weeks, Mac-only chains such as The Computer Store and ComputerWare have closed down, citing weak margins. Now, faced with competition from Apple, others may cut back. "When you choose to compete with your retailers, clearly that's not a comfortable situation," says CompUSA Chief Operating Officer Lawrence N. Mondry.

Indeed, rather than taking on the retailers who ought to be its partners, Apple would do better improving how it works with them. A good step would be to end the "think secret" approach that shrouds every new-product announcement. Covert operations worked beautifully when Jobs first arrived on the scene; his charismatic stage presence and Apple's eye-popping designs created priceless buzz. Now, retailers complain that the secrecy prevents them from doing advance advertising to hype sales and clear out inventory. "They are the most secretive company I've ever done business with," says one top retailer. "They should let the news leak out, to convince the world how exciting their stuff is. That's how everyone else does it." Maybe it's time Steve Jobs stopped thinking quite so differently.

Only time will show... and it did. El Jobso never attended plain vanilla Biz schools. He just knows. BTW, their online store execution improves by the minute. In Europe, just yesterday, I ordered an iPod Classic for my kid, engraved and all and was delivered UPS to my door less than 24 hours later. Go buy some Apple stock folks as long as you can still do that...

Friday, December 14, 2007

The meaning of time...

If you happen to find yourself in the middle of a recovery period from a health situation, as I do right now, then you'll discover that time takes a whole different meaning. I reckon this is also the case when you find yourself confined into a prison for a prescribed period of time over which there is not much you can do.

I mean, when we lead regular lives we are actually programmed to live as by a protocol. Wake up in the morning, breakfasting, to school or work, back home, dinner, TV, sleep to start all over again. Waiting for the weekend and some bank holiday to get the time pressure off our system. When you are functioning under this self progressing disciplined state of affairs, there is little freedom of movement to put any significant variance in the segments of activity that constitute your life and that of your family. You'll have to put up with living within those constraints. Few people achieve better control of their time than what I described above.

Who are these folks then? Potentially all who have plenty of time for anything and no pressure by anyone else to comply to time-lines, deadlines and target dates. Retirees, prisoners, homeless, people who recover from medical situations... in general, all those who are not adding any value to the system but live at the cost of the system.

I woke up at 3 am yesterday and stared at the ceiling, sleepless. The laser clock showed exactly 3 am in red digital characters projected on that same ceiling. What do I do? Go back to sleep is the only option if the regular program a few hours later would be for me to travel 2 hours in a traffic jam and be at the office for a 9 o'clock meeting. Not now, though. So what do I do. Leave the bed and walk to my SOHO. Played with a brand new Dell Vostro for an hour until my eyes close down and walk back to bed for another few hour sleep. Eventually, when I wake up at past 9:30 am, the radio was reporting jams and I felt just in heaven. This is what I mean with full control of time and destiny. Time will not rule me and tell me what to do... I'll just do what I want to do and time will have to accept this. In a sense, if you live like this, time doesn't even exist in your mind.

It would be 'nice' to live like this... but as I said, only the 'achthos arouris' (Homer, ballast of the earth) can afford it and if everybody on the planet did that, we'd still live in caves and die of flu. But if you found an opportunity for a short time to just do that, and for longer after you paid your dues and retire to a happy retirement, then just do it. And deeply enjoy it! I am enjoying every bit of it!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Honey, I am home!

Well folks, that's true. Unexpectedly late last evening, the Professor surgeon that operated on me came to my room and released me from the hospital. I am now home free! Of couse, I don't feel like rushing up and down the attic yet like I used to before the operation, but still it makes a hell of a difference to be home, especially from a morale viewpoint.

Belly still aches, and I still need to get my bowel trained to accepting normal food, a quite painful experience at times. I actually don't lust much food nowadays...nauseates me. When under stress and emotion I also get hiccups. Therefore I still try to avoid conversations with friends and family who are anxious to talk to me. There is still some way to go until full recovery but at least my family will enjoy year-end holidays.

The greatest news is that there was no further extension of the disease and I won't even be needing chemo or radiation. All done, right here, right now. Sort of. It was a T3N0 (T three N zero) tumor, proves out. I am one LUCKY Bastard!

I'd like to tell you how much I appreciate the interest, prayers, wishes, concerns of each one of you, my friends. I am aware of all your calls, mails, voice messages, cards, flowers, and I will come back to you in the weeks ahead to chat with you individually. Here, I only want to tell you that I love y'al from the deepest of my heart (that still beats and pumps excess fluids out of my operated body as we speak).


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Farewell, my sis...

On June 17, 1953, about midday time, in a small provincial town in the Northern East of Greece, under the name of Alexandroupolis, a young girl of 5 years ran from her parent house to an aunt’s home shouting: “ Theia Polyxeni, irthe o yios” (Aunt Polyxeni, the son has just arrived). It was about the announcement of a newly born baby boy, a matter of pride to any Greek family. That infant was me, and the enthusiastic young girlie was my older sis, Mary (Maroula).

I remembered the story in a flash this morning about 3 am when during my now regular insomnia I have been checking SMSs and voice mails to catch on.

It was the news from one of her two daughters that their beloved mother had just passed away, at 59. She suffered for a year now from a terminal form of the disease of our times and has been living under cancer statistics and hope for a miracle ever since.

We all feared the inevitable was likely to happen one day but the shock was still devastating. It is the feeling of death when a loved one ceases to exist among the rest of us and disappears for ever. I can hardly grasp what this might have brought about in pain to her family and kids.

I wasn’t too closed with my sis. We had a large age gap between us and in adult life when she got married to my wife’s uncle, a Bell Telephone Engineer, they traveled the world for years, Greece, Indonesia, Nigeria. When they eventually settled in Antwerp the last 20 years it was the time that I was traveling for business. Long story short, we were Living Apart Together.

Nevertheless, she never stopped to secretly love and admire me for what I have been doing, although, as a big sis, she would never miss the opportunity to tease me and instruct me as her kid brother on trivialities even at times I was 'rather important' managing hundreds of people spread in multi-country orgs. :-)

Confined to my room at a hospital, I won’t be able to attend her funeral on Friday. It was also her last wish to keep it close to her family with no-one else attending. What a brave soul! Elda, her eldest daughter and a rising star psychiatrist in the country, I dare believe, told me she would be cremated following a Greek-Orthodox ceremony and buried on Saturday at the Cemetery in Ekeren, nearby Antwerp.

Rest in peace, big sis. Your memory will live with me for ever, regardless how little quality time we have spent together...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I was told today that I am reaching the end of my stay at the Hospital. This is day 14 of two full weeks where I slept, best case, five or six hours altogether. Insomnia? My lousy character, emotional Greek fixing myself to ridiculous probabilities of things happening to me while unconscious, that kept me from closing my eyes for some rest? Who knows. Fact is I haven't slept in 2 weeks more than I normally sleep in a day. It’s 3.17am on Tuesday as we speak morning and haven't closed an eye yet today too.

Some days it was the associated pain that even pain-killers were no capable fighting against. Some other nights I had panic attacks. Only when I turned out exhausted and the feeling that a family member was in the room I could let go and get some sleep. That was also no longer than a few minutes here and there.

There is no worse than insomnia. I feel real empathy for those who suffer from it. I remember Pacino and Williams from the same title film of a murder case in Alaska during summer where even at night the light was omnipresent. Pacino looked like shit. His usual look is no more different but yet. I look multiples worse.

The worst enemy during insomnia is time. Look at the watch... say 1.33 am. You turn-on the TV, watch some trivial program and hope that time advanced a few hours... watch still shows 1,45 am. True story.

Your best friends are the nurses. They know your issue and when you call them for some assistance on something, they take the time to empathize with you and encourage you. Holly people these nurses, coming in all shapes, looks, age classes and skills. God bless you folks.

(Alex, my talking clock just announced 3.30a)