Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Steve!

Yep. Like today, 54 years ago, Steve was born. To a student pair who all they wished for their baby was to be sent to college by his... future adopting parents. Cos, the two premature mum and dad only wanted to have the fun without the responsibility. We are grateful to them though for giving us Steve. A man who, less than half a century later, gave us the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, Mac OSX and the Incredible Mac!

I know and remember that day very well, as my bride was born in the same year but just one day later, which reminds me not to be a dumb ass and forget it again tomorrow, as I am pretty good at that... keep thinking about it for weeks but the day itself it's all gone... and it comes back when it's too late.

Steve is going thru some difficult times. In a period where the company enjoys iconic status, its each and every move is frontpage news, and its cash reserves are close to 30 billion green ones, the man is suffering the repercussions in the aftermath of his pancreatic cancer 'survival' a few years ago. We don't know much about it, but for the sake of the rest of us, I wish him well and a quick recovery. If that was humanly possible to recover from the statistically bitchiest cancers of them all. Mine looks like childplay compared to his. Although... I shouldn't boast too loud. Yet...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Speedtest

I don't know about you folks but my download speeds nowadays are so sweet! Lightening fast! I was downloading a trial version of an Adobe product this morning and it felt kinda fast. I've not been unfamiliar with speeds above 1.5MB /sec in the past, and this for some time now. My subscription specifies downloads of about 20Mbits/s... but today it felt much faster. It wasn't even today, I'd say... it's been like this a few weeks now. I got a cable subscription in case you wondered. I did the well known speedtest with my Macbook Pro, talking wireless in 11g to the Airport Xtreme in the loft, with two concrete floors in between (if that played a role, that is). I got 2.5MB/s file downloads this morning and more than 2.8 yesterday evening (I was 1Gbit Ethernet wired to the router then). Look at all the captures posted here for yourselves, dudes. Trust me, I'm not making this up. Click on for sharper views! Forgot to mention. The shot on the left is captured during pinging with a London server. But I got even faster with M√§lmo in Sweden and almost as fast with New York. Of course, it's Sunday morning over here... I'm like kinda speeding up on an empty F1 circuit with a Ferrari.

It's more intriguing to see what others in my own hometown are getting though. See the two comparison charts at the bottom, one for uploads and another for downloads. Downloads in cable are always much faster. Multiples, that is. That's how cable works. Otherwise, all cable operators would have filed for bankruptcy. Even those users with the same operator as mine, Telenet, are pretty lagging. I have the turbo monthly subscription version, I must admit, that costs me between 50 and 60 euro, for enjoying such speeds and also the rights to 60 gigabytes of downloads. And hundreds of free hotspots nationwide, when I am out of town.

Eat your heart out John C. Dvorak. As regular watcher of his Cranky Geeks, I often enjoy hearing him talk about the pathetic speeds he's enduring in California, of all places! He's moaning and screaming and hates it all! How sweet! I'm sitting down here in Oudenaarde, East Flanders, Belgium, that unless you are from the neighborhood  you couldn't tell where this darn place is on the map, and good ol' John enjoying the view of  Alcatraz from his balcony (I made that up, probably he's not) and gettin' fractions of what I, a 3rd world peasant, get over here. And he's paying much more than I do! Life is a bitch, innit?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

MAMP? WT...F is this again?

A few weeks ago I 'discovered' Lynda.com. What's that, you may wonder. Well, not surprisingly, this is a commercial site with above 30 thousand online tutorials for hundreds of courses on all sorts of subjects. I had heard of them before, and vaguely knew their cute logo, a caricature of Lynda Weinman, the founder, herself with teacher's glasses and all, reminiscent of a thirties look (previous century). I never tried their materials though. I thought they'd be similar to O'Reilly Media. Anyways, this time I needed an express course on some of the Internet latest buzz on a few subjects, to prepare a course for my class. Knowing that average college students (definitely mine are) are sort of not too 'efficient' in their time spending and searching obscure subjects would be the last thing on their mind, I (the teach) decided to do that in their place. 25 bucks a month for accessing a library of 30000+ online tutorials and manage some real quick learning ain't that bad at all. Innit?

Actually the subject I was interested in is pretty old, but so am I... meaning, it's been a long time since I put my fingers in the mud of the latest and brightest techie intricacies (at least since late last century), and you know, these things change pretty quick. And they even age and get replaced by new ones while life goes by. When's the time that we all thought Java would be the next big thing? When everyone believed this was just software for kids? Lemme tell you then. It's the big thing now, feels like it's been like this for ever... omnipresent... so old that risks to get bypassed by a bunch of the next big ones! C'est la vie, folks... Especially in ICT, things change for the sake of change, and for a few more (million) bucks techie suppliers will charge you as an 'add-on'. Why not?

In a nutshell, here's what I been studying lately... (for the last couple of weeks). And did that like I'd die tomorrow and lose the chance to learn it. Almost 10 hrs a day, especially on weekends. Drives my bride nuts! And the kids have fun... dad's back to school! Oh, sh..oot!

Does WAMP, and MAMP, Javascript, AJAX, EJBs, .NET, Flex, XML action script, Coldfusion, XHTML, Javascript, Weblogic, TomCat, Jboss, Apache, XML, XLST, CSS, MySQL, PHP, ClassicASP, YUI, Flash, Dreamweaver, Objective C, Websphere, RSS, and so on... rings a bell? Most of you have heard all these terms, seen them in action, and probably have to work with them each day of your wonderful life,... but how many of you can tell a good story about what they really mean? Eh? And how they actually work? How 'bout that, then? And most important, why? And even more important, where are they different from each other! See what I mean? When I started with computers in early 1970ies we only had punch cards, and Fortran 2 (yep, long before Fortran 4 that was). I was proud in full mid seventies to go spend my pathetically scarce savings and buy McCracken's Fortran IV guide, I remember. So, for an old rat like me, you can imagine the frustration to have to deal with such concepts in my old days... Why do that then? Simple answer... just being curious. Curiosity killed the cat, you may say. Well, no worries... been there, done that. As colon cancer survivor (so far) I shouldn't worry too much that heavy studying of impossible Internet concepts is ever gonna kill me.

So, lemme share with you, geeks, what I learned from this experience...

A. First of all, and not being such a novelty as an idea, Internet apps are at the same time easy and hard to do. As ever been. Programming didn't change much from the times I was learning it. Similar syntax, formalisms, constructs, conventions, standards, mindbreakers, smart and boring. The fundamentals are still the same!

B. It proves far simpler to create normal transactional apps over the web than most people would dare think (at least me). It's been much more often than I dare admit, until Lynda came by, that I simply couldn't get it how all these buggers, web servers, app servers, database servers, client computing, and server side middleware all came together. Lemme tell you now, then. It's so bloody simple! In less than two weeks, starting from scratch by learning the basic 1989 Tim Berners Lee HTML up to today's 'sophisticated' javascript and AJAX XML asynchronous server calls, I managed to put together a simple transactional app on my MAMP! WTF is this, you may ask... no worries, it stands for Macintosh Apache MySQL PHP, an Open Source software stack (all you need to care about this is that it's free and downloadable and piece of... tiramisu to get up and running). It's an environment within which one can create conventional DB apps but running in a sort of cloud computing client-server configuration. Over the net and via good ol' browsers.

Lemme give you an example...Suppose you are an IT consulting business and want your per diem billable staff to spend 24 hrs a day at the client offices charging them 100 dollars an hour 'for each and every' one of these 24 hrs. You don't want them to come back to the 'office' in order to 'allegedly' prepare 'time reports' and actually relax, chatting with the dumb blonds (admin assistants they're callin' them nowadays, we used to call 'em secys) and having a good time, while you, the boss, are sweating 'kareklopòdara' (Greek term meaning 'rugged stool legs'... if you know what I mean) to recover cash from your aging AR to pay your VAT and the dudes' social security tax, right? Got it?

If you belong to this class of unfortunate C-level officers, like one I used to be, then an app like I described above, a cloud run transactional app, is all the panacea you need. No excuses to come to the office dammit! Hook on the net during your lunch break, dude, and report your time back home over the client's Internet connection, right? With a browser time reporting app like this I'm talkin' about, right?

You may think I am nuts (and you're probably right) but I set out to make a small prototype of an app like this on this semester's class on B2B technologies in the University of Antwerp... Will my students bear that for 13 weeks? Who knows. Judging from the first two sessions attendance, I doubt it. It's not a mandatory course you see. Who cares... knowing me, they lose...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Racist US? C'm on... you must be sh!ttin' me!

The controversial cartoon... one more reason for senseless commentary on CNN650.com...

... and the response of one clever reader of the Huffington article on the subject...

Octuplets mum

I am raged. I mean, really. I am normally cranky...not today though. This morning I'm fockin' RAGED! I couldn't get much sleep and was on my feet at 5am. It's still early, as I write this, quarter to six sort of thing. I turned on my super trooper Internet radio and fell on this CNN650 (KIKK) US based radio station... a news broadcaster on the sound of it. Can you imagine that they've been going on for hours now commenting with hatred I never seen before about this woman in California who gave birth to octuplets? How irresponsible she is, and how the nation should take custody of her babies, and that she is into a reality show now, and that she was looking for a 2 million dollar house, and that she just bought new and expensive makeup... My Goad, I couldn't believe the pettiness and horsesh#t of these reporters! The whole miserable nation is falling apart amidst the worst financial crisis in living memory and suddenly the 'octuplets' became the center of the universe going on for weeks of gossip and hatred unseen by all measures! What f@cking right do these freaktards have to judge in public any person for that matter? Did they just forget their own constitution and its thousands of amendments to allegedly protect the right to privacy of their own citizens in the land of the free and the brave? Forgot the shame their big 'Dick' and that Texan moron BushCo brought to the world with their Iraq invasion and Guantanamo Bay practices in the name of 'war against terrorism' and against the 'axis of evil'? Did they just forget the scam sh#thole this whole country has fallen into and pulled the rest of the living world in the process, along with them? Did they just forget their monumental financial depression and just found all the free time to act like that moron GOP evangelist Russ f@ckin' Limbaugh to spread their filth and hatred around? Is this a nation of dickheads or they are just made dickheads by their criminal and beyond imagination corrupt media?

Ok, right, they changed subject right now. Now it's about that bimbo Alaska governor Palin and her hot off the press biography! Like anyone in his sane mind would ever care! Gimme a break bro. Let's gossip about that b#tch now! Please Goad, show them the way! These retard reporters are just plain nuts! And they are getting paid for it. God, show them the way and spare us further misery!

Oh, jee! Now they have it about that chimp who watched TV with a remote, and lived like one of the guys, and 'brutally' attacked a woman, friend of its owner one day, and the Police shot it dead! The woman owner confessed in tears the chimp was her 'life'... she cooked for him... she loved him... she 'slept' with him! Wow! What a confession! Yeah, right! US of A. This is the place I definitely wanna spend the rest of my days! Nooot?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Spaghetti joke

One dark night in the small town in Garfield, NJ, a fire started inside the local sausage factory. In a blink the building was engulfed in flames. The alarm went out to all the fire departments for miles around.

When the first volunteer fire fighters appeared on the scene, the sausage company president rushed to the fire chief and said, 'All of our secret sausage recipes are in the vault in the center of the plant. They have to be saved, so I will donate $50,000 to the fire company that brings them out and delivers them to me.'

But the roaring flames held the firefighters off. Soon more fire departments had to be called in because the situation became desperate. As the firemen arrived, the president shouted out that the offer to extricate the secret recipes was now $100,000 to the fire department that could save them.

Suddenly from up the road, a lone siren was heard as another fire truck came into sight. It was the fire engine of the nearby Lodi , NJ volunteer fire department composed mainly of Italian firefighters over the age of 65.

To everyone's amazement, the little run-down fire engine, operated by these Italian firefighters, passed fire engines parked outside the plant, and drove straight into the middle of the inferno. Outside, the other firemen watched in amazement as the Italian old timers jumped off and began to fight the fire as if they were fighting to save their own lives. Within a short time, the Lodi old timers had extinguished the fire and saved the secret recipes.

The grateful sausage company president joyfully announced that for such a superhuman accomplishment he was raising the reward to $200,000, and walked over to personally thank each of the brave elderly Italian firefighters.

A TV news crew rushed in after capturing the event on film. The 'on camera' reporter asked the Italian fire chief, 'What are you going to do with all that money?'

'Wella,' said Chief Pasquale De Luccinelli, the 70-year-old fire chief, 'de fursta tinga we gonnna do isza fixa de brakes on dat fockinna truck!!'

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Parallel Lives hot 'off the press' re-print: Pericles and Obama

As I was driving to my class this morning and listening to an audiobook to kill time in traffic, Will Durant's The Story of Civilization, Book 2, The life in Greece, I couldn't hide my awe at this passage (which I transcribe here word for word for you to enjoy): "The familiar analogy between Athens and the great modern democracies is truthfully enlarged upon in the life of Greece. The astute Pericles had to face much the same sort of problems that the astute Roosevelt had to face in the 1930s. The building of the Parthenon was part of Pericles’ WPA programme. Many lived on the dole and the administration of the dole money was not without its scandals. Taxation and tax evasion were both as ingenious as they are today. The class war, family limitation, sexual freedom and the conflict between religion and science played their part in a civilization resembling our own in everything except machines..."

Does it sound familiar? Pericles built the golden epitome of the Western Civilization in 447-431 BC to both create a monument about the glory of Athens and at the same time launch his very own WPA (stimulus plan) to provide for jobs as many were on unemployment benefit.

Here's some excerpt from a short Pericles bio I found on the net:

Pericles entered political life as an adjutant to a radical reformer with a popular constituency. With his dignity and patience, a reputation for integrity, his artistic ambitions for Athens, demonstrated abilities as a peacemaker, plus the convincing force of his oratory, he won the support of the people. In 460 BCE, he was elected to the political leadership of Athens. Except for one brief interval, he was reelected every year thereafter until he died of the plague in 429 BC.

Democracy in the Greek city-state reached its zenith in Athens under Pericles, providing the building blocks of modern democratic society. Supported by the citizens of Athens, reforms inaugurated by Pericles passed the governance of Athens from a tight aristocracy to its citizens. Under Pericles, official offices were rotated. Citizens provided essential services to the state. Officials and jurors were for the first time paid by the state, thus opening up public service to the poor and minimizing improper control of the law, justice, and civic resources. All citizens were encouraged to attend the Assembly of Athens and participate directly in acting on legislation - public safety, religion, security, food supply, and public expenditures. Much of the magnificence of Athens today reflects the vision of Pericles, and his ability to gain the popular support and provide for funding the vast construction projects of the Acropolis, Parthenon, and other works that today represent the glory of Greece.

Now folks, and especially those of you GOP dickheads: Does this ring a bell? Like a modern day add-on on Plutarch's 'Parallel lives', going like, Pericles and Obama?

PS. WPA (from wikipedia): The Works Progress Administration (renamed in 1939 to the Work Projects Administration; WPA) was the largest New Deal agency, employing millions of people and affecting most every locality in the United States, especially rural and western mountain populations. It was created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential order, and funded by Congress with passage of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 on April 8, 1935.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Breaking News: Windows 7 beta!

Well, maybe not so Breaking News, other than to report that it's no more no less than old wine in some new bottle. As I'm not following Windows too close nowadays, I happened to pick up the 'rumor' that their free Win 7 beta would stop shipping today; so for kicks I rushed before the break of Feb the 10th to download the 2.44Gigs of "Vista-reinvented". I heard the news on Cranky Geeks (their latest episode, with that moron Adam Curry attending as a guest, who better go back to his DJ stuff than pretend he understands ICT, at all, and keeps throwing pompous geeky terms he picked-up somewhere in the nerdy tents he attends nowadays). Someone else in the Cranky party mentioned he'd installed the beta on a virtual space via Parallels on his Mini Mac and it seemed to work surprisingly well. So, I'm like, what the heck, if that moron can do it I can do that too.

First extremely surprising news: it took me less than 15 min to get the basic install done and another quarter of an hour to get it configured with Parallels Tools installed and up and running! Well done MSFT! Of course with the usual Windows like UI stuff we are so used from XP and later Vista, but, maybe a bit less irritating (other than their security confirm pop-ups...gosh, I hate'em!) ... definitely not worse. Anyways, their standard desktop wallpaper is very representative of Microsoft's perception of users of its products... We are all goldfish in a ball, exhaling bubbles (see pic above). You know, kinda like fish, with no short term memory, so the Redmond freaks can fool around with us pretending a 'refresh' version of their old crack is a brand new hot gig! Anyways, my 'honeymoon' was soon over: within the first fifteen minutes, as I was testing a few of their trivia free applets delivered with the base, I experienced my first mega crash. All I was trying to do was to open up a jpg into their Explorer standard viewer. A bleedin' JPG it was, not the full library of the blueprint CAD plans of the Space Shuttle, mind you! All dead! I had to 'force quit' Parallels and start all over again. Jee, can U believe that? Of course it's a freakin' beta they dare say and you gotta do your backups before you plunge into it, they dare say again... but open up a JPG and crash? R U shittin' me? Gimme a break, brother!

Anyways... now that I know what it's like, I am not too impressed whatsover other than its fluent install (I'd be impressed though if I moved to Win 7 from Ubuntu... not Mac OSX for cryin' out loud!), but now, I can twit along with them other nerds on the net when they get high in talking about Win 7. Poor sods! I only feel sad about some very good friends of mine and ex-colleagues who joined Microsoft long ago, for life, I think... and now have to work for the biblical monster Steve (monkey boy) Ballmer managed to create in the few years he took over from Bill the philanthropist!

Politics Made in USA

Republicans in Congress are such monumental dicks! For months now I follow the press and TV reports on American Politics, and I must say, I have lost all my confidence in the Parlementary leadership of a country that I spent the best part of a lifetime career serving its mutinationals. It's just appalling to see what's going on there. Republicans lost the last presidential elections not just because BO was a much better candidate than their confused geriatric sample and his populist bimbo, but because of their arrogance in the last eight years and their total lack of perception of the common man reality. They still didn't learn their lesson. Far from! Since last November they have started an insane by all counts anti Obama crusade that risks to alienate them from the American public way more than they ever imagined possible. Pity that Obama so naiefly believes he can bring together a strong bipartisan Congress to work 'patriotically' for the revival of the country. What do you expect from a party that asks a moron like Joe the plumber to come to their strategic gettogethers and give them direction? How low can they still go? Read that excerpt from a Reuters article earlier today:

'...
There are big political risks for both parties in the struggle over the stimulus, which at about $838 billion would be almost 6 percent of gross domestic product and about a quarter of the size of the U.S. federal budget. Congressional elections are less than two years away and without some improvement in the economy, Democrats in control of the White House and Congress could be punished by voters in 2010. Republicans have argued that the best way to boost the economy is mainly through tax cuts instead of jacked up government spending. But with a new Gallup survey finding that 67 percent of the public approves of the way Obama has sought stimulate the economy, their opposition carried its own risks. Even as the Gallup poll found that the approval rating for Republicans in Congress was 31 percent, less than half of Obama's rating, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said: "I think that this is a poorly crafted bill."...'

That's it then. All they care is make the Democrats fail in the next Congressional elections so they can easily screw Obama's life afterwards. Care about the electorate? No shit! Yeah, they care about getting re-elected themselves and make an easy buck for pissing around for the rest of their miserable and corrupt lives. Whatever I feel about them GOPers in Congress though is totally irrelevant. I live on this side of the pond anyway, and like my old boss used to say, I have an opinion like I have an a-hole... like everybody else. What I feel very depressed about though is that some of my friends, born and raised in this wonderful US of A, are so pissed with the whole circus themselves that they seriously think of leaving the country and move to Europe to spend the remaining of their retirement days in peace, away from that mess. It must be really sad there. What a clusterf@ck!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Doodle Kids

I've read this report a few days ago and, honestly, I didn't know what to think. I went right away to download the little app and I tried to crawl in that kid's mind by digging into his app. Admire my Jackson Pollock artwork that emerged as a result of my fooling around with it, a.k.a. Doodle Kids. I guess, the idea behind is way more important than it's actual programming. It's all based on using randomness to generate simple geometric shapes where, I reckon, about half a dozen parameters are involved. Things like shape, color, size, full or empty 'closed' shapes, position, etc... Then, some extra calls on Apple's UI touch screen libraries and Bob's your uncle. I guess, for an adult developer this is not so much of a rocket science, but a nine year old?! I mean, I was in my late teens when I first came across random numbers for crying out loud... Let alone programming (I think I was about 20 then, programming in Fortran 2 - not 4 - of all things, at the Athens Polytechnic, with bleedin' punch cards in those IBM punchers that could chop-off your thumb if you weren't too careful).

We've come a long way... and the credit for this incident goes certainly to that kid's genes and brain in the first place (let's clone him and save the world), but also to his dad, who, BTW, is a company CTO and loves to develop stuff for the iPhone... but, not to forget, to Apple itself that made iPhone developers' life so easy... from building apps with the iPhone SDK, to marketing them via the App store!

I like the comment on one of these articles about the Singapore whiz that a reader in the US made... mind you, he said, while you lay back and relax that kid is busy programming a robot that is about to take over your job! Jeez, how do you reconcile this with a $800B 'job creation' stimulus plan, brother Barack? Is Wall-e about to come to life from the keyboard of a nine year old in Singapore? Why not?