Steve and I

Let me start by setting the record straight: I don't know Steve Jobs, never met him, I never went to one of his keynotes, I was never even near the guy! So, what I am writing is clearly not about him, but about me and the way I, subjectively, perceive Steve Jobs changed my life and is a huge part of my weltanschauung.

Despite that, my relation with Steve is real, my son just called me to give condolences on his passing, and, since I found out, my ex wife called me, I've been crying and thinking whether or not I should write this post. This Blog started pretty much with the release of the first iPod, a few months later but with a post about how my now ex wife had given me the first iPod as a Christmas present. That iPod is here beside me, it still works. That was the start of my blog and this post may be the end of it. Let's face it, I haven't written much in the past couple of years and Steve Jobs has just died.

My relation with Steve started as for millions of people with his products. The Original Macintosh, the Next Cube are indeleble pieces of my nerdiness. But I also loved Apple after Steve left, the Mac Classic is still one of my favorite machines, still around, still works, and I was the one who bought the Newton, still with me, still works, I still use it and find it more advance than my iPhone in some respects. I still regret selling the Powerbook 1400c to a friend in need. When Steve returned to Apple I thought it was a mistake... But when I saw the iMac I fell in love not only with the machine but with the way Steve did certain things. That iMac is still here, still works, still beautiful. I bought the Cube, the Titanium Powerbook and countless of machines, recently, like, in the past month! I have bought an iPhone 4, an iPad 2, and got a Macbook Air as a present from my beautiful girlfriend. All those products are remarkable, not only for the products, but for the way the mind that made them works.

Yes, yes, I hated the move to Intel, thinking it would go bad for me (it did), I hated the iPhone and its unlockability, so much so, that I joined the people trying to change that, and I did not bought an iPhone until Apple started selling them unlocked. I hated with emphasis and passion Job's Reality Distorsion Field, hated it way more than envy would justify. I hated it so much that I fought it with all my strength to the point where I predicted the failure of the iPod mini, one of Apple's most successful products, and the one that probably took it mainstream.

But for all that hatred of decisions that affected me, I admired Steve Jobs beyond measure and I feel I learned a lot by studying him, even if from afar. I admire the way he thought about design and didn't pay any mind to the normal way of thinking, I admire the way he could do what was right for the company, while keeping a straight face through the mountains of bullshit. But most of all, I admired the way he transmitted his anal retentiveness to the whole company. I can think only of another case, Disney, and that Anal retentiveness have kept that company going for over 50 years after Walt Disney passed away.

I am sad, I think people like Steve Jobs shouldn't die. And in some sense they don't, they stay alive in the mark they left on this world, and in the case of Steve Jobs it's a huge mark. They stay alive in the way they affected us, from afar. So, I fill my cup with wine, look at this city at night, and toast to Steve's memory and think... "Here's to the crazy ones..."

Definition of Bothavior

Bothavior: The behavior of a bot. From Neal Stephenson Novel Reamde.

Does HP stands for Hudsucker Proxy?

With all the mismanagement at HP during the last year, The Wall Street Journal has sort of wondered if HP is just committing sepuku, but lately after my experience ordering a rebated Touchpad, I have to wonder if this isn't just an imitation of the Movie The Hudsucker Proxy. In that movie a great owner CEO is substituted with a presumed incompetent fool in order to drive the price of the stock down and be able to buy the company. In the case of the movie the fool has a great idea "you know, for kids" which is the Hula Hoop (Touchpad). It doesn't sell well until they sell it a rock bottom prices and they raise the price and have a hit on their hands and everything is peachy.

Of course, with HP we have not seen the second part of the Movie, but I have to wonder, are they trying to destroy the company in order to buy it cheap? Case in point, I ordered my HP Touchpad on August 21st, my card was authorized, I received an email on August 23d saying that my order was from that day (false) and that I would get a shipment notification in 3 days (also false). They also say they have had so manuy orders they were swamp, etc, etc. On Monday 29th I received an email saying that if my order was placed before Monday 22nd at 4am (CT) I would get my Touchpad but my order would be canceled if it was placed after that date. You know my problem, I certainly ordered before that day (and my card was authorized), but the order has a later date. Trying to call HP has proven useless, email only gets a canned response talking about the deluge of orders. Ok, assume a deluge... Fine, but it's been 10 days already! I sort of thought I wasn't getting it, and that was confirmed with the disappearance of the authorization on my credit card. But then yesterday I get an email that my card declined the charges, to fix the problem with my bank because they would try again the next day. I did that, the problem with my bank was that it didn't returned the authorization amount to the virtual card I was using. Trying to call HP just got me 45 minutes of piped music. Today the charged passed again, it is an authorization again, and my order has not changed. So, not only is HP incapable of making a decision about WebOS or the Personal Systems Group, they can't even tell me whether my order will ship or not, or when... It is now closed to two weeks and I still don't know anything, except my card has an authorization. How hard is it really to have some guys check the inventory and fulfill orders in the order they come. Amazon does it, Apple does it, I am willing to bet, both of them with more orders that HP.

So, this is my theory, HP stands for Hudsucker Proxy, and we just have to wait if the plan to drive the stock to the ground works and the bad guys win, or they manage to resurrect the Touchpad into a success of Hula Hoop proportion. Me? I am just waiting for a decision on my order...

Windows Phone 7 marketplace sucks or Why Microsoft will never get it

If you have read this blog in the past year you know I've been a supporter of Microsoft's effort with Windows Phone 7, if you've read longer you know I can hold a grudge against a company for a long time and the company in question normally suffers. I thought, wrongly, that because Microsoft could do an impressive UI, they could do the normal services and support that an ecosystem modernly requires. It seems I was wrong. Yesterday I bought an app and I found it was unusable. I won't mention the app or the specific problem, suffices to say that I have encountered exactly the same problem with an iTunes purchase previously, sent a message to support and a refund in less than 24 hours. I thought the experience with Microsoft (should I go back to calling it Micro$ucks? ) would be similar. First surprise is that they do not have any online support, but for a twitter account (@ZuneSupport ) that pretends to answer questions. It shames me to read that page (go ahead, read it, I'll wait), it is complain and difficulty one after another, rarely a satisfying resolution. Powerless and useless. So, no online support, so I have to call. I do, and was informed that they would call me in 3 to 5 days with an answer, to their credit it took them less than 24 hours, but the answer was "you're not getting a refund, talk to the developer of the app".

I bought the app for MICROSOFT*ZUNE not from the developer, I wanted a refund minutes after downloading it! Why does Microsoft wants to change the rules of commerce? (Card Not Present Transactions? Anyone? Anyone? ) Why, are they looking to upset a fervent supporter? In a world where Apple is given outstanding service and support this type of attitude will not fly. I have been recommending Windows Phone 7 and thinking it has a chance. But no more. iPhone and Android are the only choices thatI can recommend. Because Microsoft does not get it. And they won't get my money either.

Google Gives Microsoft a Boost in race to Bottom Price

Google buying Motorola could be a big boost for the Microsoft/Nokia alliance hopes to make Windows Phone 7 a viable candidate as a mobile OS. The race to the bottom is on, and any of the three can win it.

Android is winning

The first thing you have to understand is that Android is winning. Not by having the best handsets, though they are close, or the best OS, not that close, but by having the best prices and options. The talk about fragmentation is a red herring, choice is good, except for the geeks. The point is not whether the Galaxy S is as good as the iPhone 4, or if the Galaxy S II is even better, the question is whether the LG Optimus One is an Ok phone for a normal person. The LG costs about 99$, less with carrier subsidies. For 50$ or less it is very difficult to find fault with this phone. Yes, it is not fast, the camera is crappy, the screen small and not great. But, guess what? it doesn't matter! for 50$ or less, you can run pretty much any app you may want from the Android market and have a phone that doesn't look half bad and works ok. For a common person.

It seems pretty obvious that that's the ticket. Who can get acceptable phones cheap enough so that its inadequacies to not matter. That's the race to the bottom and it is important, but there is more than one way to win it.

Apple's way to the bottom

Apple makes well designed cheap computers and sells them for a very high price, but that's not the (new) Apple way. Apple sells iPods, Phones, tablets, and Airs which are very well designed, top of the line products less expensive than any competitor. Yes, the Air is not a computer, not in the traditional sense. It is a new kind of device, that has little internal storage, and everything else a computer has. It depends on the cloud and it is very small. Other computer manufacturers have nothing of the kind and in the past they have not been able to make similar stuff cheaper than Apple can. That's the story with the iPhone, any comparable phone costs the same, or more! That's the story with the iPad... And that's the older story with the iPod, which because of its age represents, I think, the real genius behind Apple way of racing to the bottom.

The iPod is the best Mp3 player, surrounded by the best ecosystem, it is the best podcast player, and it is still one of the cheapest players. So, how come other manufacturers can't imitate Apple? They can beat Apple in price, that's step one. Step two is more important, Apple has manage to convince the public that an Mp3 player most have a bunch of features. Most of those features are used by a minority of users, but for each of these users that's the feature that makes the iPod the best. I am talking about the iPod as if it was a product, but one of the great things about the iPod, as opposed to, say, the Zune, is that there is an iPod for each occasion. Furthermore, you can interchange them while keeping them in synch. That's the brilliance of Apple genius. They race to the bottom, under certain conditions.

There is, of course, no guarantee that Apple will make the same strategy work in the case of the iPhone, the iPad, and/or the Air, but they are well in their way. iPhone is the closest to getting there and the only threat is Android, until Google buys Motorola and opens a crack for Windows...

Windows Phone 7 has a chance!

That's way more than you could have said yesterday! Yesterday the story was, either Apple wins or Android steals the show by going cheaper and convincing people all the other stuff that Apple gives are just frills that make the product more expensive. Despite the nice quotes from Google partners, every single one of them have to be thinking, is Google going to screw me in the future? How do I hedge my bets? The best way, currently, is to make Windows Phone 7 handset. Most of them already do that. What they really have to do now is push Windows mobile so that it becomes a third competitor they can run to if Google misbehaves. This will make Nokia strategy, the race to the bottom, faster thanks to competition. Windows Phone 7 is good enough that once people start using it, they will start to prefer it. Now, for Android this is a problem... having 40% plus of the market share, this points to a reduction in market share as the market grows. For Apple it's an opportunity, if there are three big players you need less to be close to the top one, and that's all Apple wants... Well, that and taking the Lion (pun!) share of the profits, which is the center of their strategy. For Microsoft, and to a lesser extend to Nokia, this is a windfall! They have what? 5% or less of the market? If they get 15% and become the third player two things happen... The plattform is viable and people starts considering it. The rest is sustaining, and improving, the quality of handsets and OS.

So, with this acquisition Google may get patent protection, but they have given a boost to a third player that directly competes with them. Apple has to keep performing flawlessly, but that seems to be a given nowadays, Microsoft has a chance of making this Nokia deal the biggest comeback history since... well, Apple's! Google is in dire straits, and that is not even counting the headaches from gobbling a monster of Motorola size, history, culture and progression. Of course, the biggest loser is still RIM.

Amazon Cloud Player vs. Google Music Beta

When Amazon release its Cloud Player, I immediately tried to subscribe, I had an issue because amazon insisted I was outside the US, but once I signed in, everything seemed to work as fine as it would. At first, I uploaded the 5GB limit, it took a while and the process was a little unseemly. Starting the upload and restarting it when the connection broke or my machine had to restarted for some reason, was a pain. It is worth remarking here that I am using a laptop for this, a laptop that I move about. Then I bought an album, the latest by R.E.M. I think, and I got 20GB for free. Restarted that process was hell on slow wheels. I decided that my problem was that everytime I had to restart the process I had to select which music I needed to upload, since my 40GB of music didn't fit in 20GB. So, I paid some 30$ for the rest and started uploading all my music. After that painful process was finished, I found the service work well on computers, Ok on Android phones (currently my Galaxy Tab and my LG Optimus One), and not at all in my iPod touch. It started sort of working later on, but it is still not as useful as I need.

Even asking an invite for Google Music Beta required me to use a VPN so that they interpret my IP to be in the US and allow me to see it (my login/password and its associated address seem to be worthless to everyone, except Apple). I thought, as usual with Google, I would get an invite last, but to my surprised last week I got an invite. At first I was impressed, the upload process seem less traumatic than with amazon, it restarted on its own and seem to be slightly faster. Still it was painfully slow and more pain was going to come. The Android player only works in phones they interpreted to be US, they have not heard of worldwide phones or changing SIMs. So my only option was my semi broken Nexus One. I didn't budge. I didn't get to be where I am for believing everything I read. The music player is easily available in the Web and, thank good, you can install any app in an Android phone, the biggest and only advantage of Android over iOS. The player is better than Amazon's, except for the difficulty of playing a several songs, it seems to interpret to play one song on a list to play only that song. Oh, well... The final disappointment was that the upload process has so far reported almost 1500 songs, I don't see a way to retry uploading those songs, all of them claim to have been an interruption in service. It seems the software just keeps trying the next song even if there is no connection. I am still trying to finish uploading to see if they try to upload the failed songs again. The player works great in computers, well in Android phones, and not at all in iOS devices.

So, is Apple iCloud the answer? Doubt it... It is not an streaming service. What I want is my music everywhere I am. Not only in my Computer or iPod touch. If I could do that I would only need Apple to sell cheaper unlocked iPhones for me to consider the jump backwards. yes, Music Match sounds great and I will probably try it out, but until there is a streaming option, iCloud is not a solution for me. Of course, any streaming option will be computer and iOS, not a chance Apple will make an Android client. As readers of this site know, I am (was?) and avid user of the Zune service until my phone broke a month ago. I expect to get the replacement (refurbished... really, T-Mobile?) this week. I would have hoped for Microsoft to get the right service for music. But they are in the same boat as Apple, except much, much smaller. If they could get Zune plus streaming plus cloud everywhere they would have a chance. But Microsoft is either too big or too dumb to do this... Let alone, do it fast, before they are left even further behind.

Playing Outside


I am spending a lot of time on my job playing outside

Thoughts on Nokia

This blog started at the same time as my affair with the Palm Treo precursor. I bought a Nokia N-Gage in an emergency and thought I wasn't going to keep it, but I fell in love with it, despite all the serious problems with it. Since then I was a Nokia fan and bought a lot of phones including N-Series phones. All those phones were Symbian, there was a small Windows Phone interlude (first phone that could Skype), then I went back to the N-series until the touch crazed started. I've known that Nokia was toast for a while.

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Best Ferrari ever?

The Ferrari FF 2012 is the most beautiful and practical Ferrari ever. I'll take mine in yellow.

One More Trip Around the Sun

Hear 'em singing Happy Birthday
I better think about the wish I'll make
This year gone by t's been no piece of cake
It's just another revolution
Pull it together and it comes undone
Just one more candle and a trip around the sun

But I'm just hanging on while this old world keeps spinning
And it's good to know it's out of my control
'Cause if there's one thing that I've learned from all this living
Is that it wouldn't change a thing if I let go

You know, you never see it coming
Always wind up wondering where it went
And only time will tell if it was time well spent
Just another revelation
Celebrating what I should have done
With these souvenirs from my trip around the sun

And I'm just hanging on while this old world keeps spinning
And it's good to know it's out of my control
'Cause if there's one thing that I've learned from all this living
Is that it wouldn't change a thing if I let go

I think I'll make a resolution
That I'll never make another one
Just enjoy my ride on this trip around the sun
Just enjoy my ride ...
'Til it's done
- Jimmy Buffett

May the best of the old year

be the worst of the New Year

FIA less two faced than previously

After years of two faced behavior in Formula 1, FIA has decided to abandoned the ban on team orders. It was a stupid idea as there was one. Of course team orders exists in any team sports. Ferrari was against the ban and gave the team orders in an obvious way and got in trouble for it. Other teams use team orders in a hidden manner and got away with it. Not only without sanction by FIA, but without criticism from the two faced, mostly British, media commentators. Now, that the ban is lifted we will see better racing and less posturing by teams that the two drivers are competing against one another. And maybe, just maybe, we will see the constructor championship back to where it belongs: The highest crown in motor racing.

Dereliction of Duty in the Wikileaks case

I am amazed at the reaction to the Wikileaks publishing of presumably secret documents. Most of the US officials and prominent politicians keep acting as if Wikileaks and Julian Assange have done something wrong. Some ignoramus are even accusing him of treason. Of course, the revenge is not through courts (at least, not about the released documents), but through a chain of interested close parties targeting the site and Assange. What I find appalling is that nobody has pointed the finger to the real culprit. Whoever was in charge of keeping these documents secrets has failed miserably and if Wikileaks could get these documents, I can imagine what a foreign intelligence agency can get to. The person responsible is probably not guilty of treason, but certainly of dereliction of duty and so are the Senators and other government officials that are pointing the fingers to Assange and Wikileaks. Yes, a government must keep secrets, but secrets are not protected by laws that forbid their publication, secrets are protected by measures that impede that a confidential document can't be read by someone that isn't authorized. In this day and age of advance crypto, anyone allowing their documents to be read by unauthorized personnel is stupid and incompetent, a government doubly as they should be held to a much higher standar. Wikileaks has done nothing wrong. The US wants to burden its citizens, and the citizens of the world, with protecting secrets they are not qualify to protect and is against their interests to do so. Keep your secrets if you can, but if you do it wrong, do not cry and complain when they are leak. It is a sorry state of affairs when senators are calling Amazon to try to stop leaks after they have happened instead of holding hearings to find out who is responsible for the security of the documents. Dereliction of duty, indeed...

The stylish nano watch

I bought a new nano and I'm using it as a watch and loving it. Auro and I found the perfect bands for it while walking around SoHo. They have a website so you can get your own. Despite what some hyper controlling freaks say, everybody that sees it loves it. I also bought an iPod touch to get back in development. The picture was taking with it (one reason it sucks).

Curiouser and Curiouser


The new MacBook Air 11' introduced yesterday by Steve Jobs is pretty much the machine he criticized when he introduced the original MacBook Air. He said he liked the weight. Thought it was a little thick (the new Air is 0.68 inches... just 0.12 inches below Steve's mark). He hated the screen size "11 or 12 inch", the new MacBook Air is 11.6' and the reduced keyboard, just like in the new Air. Finally he said it was underpowered at 1.2 Ghz. The new machine is only 1.4 Ghz even less than the original Air (1.6 Ghz). I know, I know, it has a new graphic processor! That ought to make it faster. On the other hand, the dirty little secret of the original Air was that it had a feature I called instant overheat, you open it, it overheats. That wouldn't be so bad except that it would then throttle the CPU to 800 Mhz which was too slow for anything. I see no reason why the new machines solve that problem, and since it was underreported on the original Air, I wouldn't buy the new one until serious test are performed by someone I really trust. When Apple moved to Intel processors some of us predicted Apple would have a pricing problem and I think that is confirmed on the new machines. For 1000$ you can get amazing machines including an Alienware M11x with 4GB and a Core i5 processor. Yes, the Air is thinner and lighter and has that wonderful Flash drive that can't be replaced and is utterly insufficient for modern computing, the Alianware is better in every single other respect. I really don't see how anyone can think Apple computers are better... Steve Jobs claims they are the best, but he has said so many stupid things lately.

They may go to Museums but they are still savages

Just spent a lovely weekend in New York. Went to great restaurants and walked my boots off. I really wanted to see the Matisse exhibition so I reserved a time slot. I was very surprised to see a huge line to get into the Museum, but I got in it and waited patiently for opening time. Opening time is 10:30am, isn't that a little late to open? Overall in New York, I felt services are a little off. The good restaurants were fine, as was Juan with my usual taxi service, but in stores it was a crap shoot and sometimes we lost very badly. Anyway, I was in line at the museum, and after they, finally, open the doors, I noticed this nicely dressed couple, trying to cut in line! I stopped them rudely. But they went in after us as if they had been in the line all along. I took it as a sign of how badly civilization is doing. We need to get back to a different way of thinking. People that can't be considerate to others, aren't human enough to enjoy art.

What Steve Jobs didn't say is fairly stupid.

Leaving aside that I don't believe for a second the story that Steve Jobs was caught with Shuriken in his carry on and leaving aside that Shuriken are a pretty stupid, imprecise, and not very deadly weapon, I would like to comment on what was quoted as said by Steve Jobs in that article. He (didn't) say: "it wouldn’t make sense for a person to try to hijack his own plane". It wouldn't make sense. But it also wouldn't make sense to let some passengers through with weapons because they are flying their own plane. You are just putting a price on hijacking other planes. A hijacker could pass the weapon to a passenger in a commercial flight (or in a plane owned by somebody else) or he/she could pretend he/she is flying in her own plane with the objective of smuggling the weapons. The threat by Steve of not returning to Japan, not only sounds like him, but it reflects the Apple looser mentality.

Innovation's Genome

I think Apple's new Nano is a mistake (i.e. worse than the previous version), but I think that Apple is falling into an innovation trap and being very successful at avoiding the consequences. On one hand, it has to change products so that the old one looks, well, old. On the second hand, sometimes the changes are for the worst (witness the no button shuffle). On the third hand, Apple has not changed the laptops significantly for more than 3 years without negative consequences. How is it that a laptop that can be 3, 4, or even 9 years old, doesn't look old, but an iPod looks instantly old when a new version comes out? Apple's magic.

But the best trick Apple has done is convince people that they are individuals if they buy they same piece of electronics that everybody has. How does that happen? Easy, normal people don't like to try things. Many years ago I wrote an article about Operating Systems. In it I complained that we should buy Operating Systems the way we do cars: By comparison shopping, but that that was very hard. I realized now that I was being young and foolish then, well, I am old and foolish now. People do not comparison shop for cars (or for almost anything). People use different brands of cars when they rent or borrow a car. They get what they are used to and what they know. From time to time what looks good or is cheap or the press hypes it. Same with computers, phones. mp3 players and what have you. This is the end of innovation. Well, not really, cars are innovative all the time. Because they are made by engineers, hackers, and makers, and talked about by geeks and freaks in places like Autoblog. What they are not is crazy innovative. If they don't conform with certain norms they won't get made and the same will happen with gadgets of all kind as they get massively popular. Products will look and feel similar and most people interpret that as a good thing. But the breed suffers. From an evolutionary stand point it is like we are killing the mutants. Not only the ones that couldn't survive on their own or would be a burden on the tribe, but the ones that have superpowers and could feed the whole tribe.

And what happens is that the gene pool stagnates, like in cars. Certain things change, slowly, but there is no radical departure. If most people do not like convertibles, convertibles are not made. If people like SUV, most cars will be SUV like. That will happen with phones, because opinions like this one will push it that way. Even the geeks can't see different perspectives. That's what gave us Windows, that's what gave us the iPhone. I don't like it. As K.V. use to say, and that, is that.

Apple: A showcase for incompetence

So, I heard Apple was going to stream the event yesterday, so I borrowed a Mac in order to watch it. But I couldn't. Why? Apple was only streaming to Macs with Snow Leopard and IOS 4 devices, and my Mac only had Leopard. That means that people with Windows couldn't watch the stream. Apple may think that this is a showcase of its technical capabilities, but it really is just a showcase of its incompetence. It's the same incompetence that made Microsoft create sites that only worked on Internet Explorer, or music files that could only be played in Windows. If a user goes to a site offering stream and can't watch it, is not the user fault, it's the site's fault. Ten years ago Apple could stream to any computer using Quicktime, but Apple is less capable now, Why?

Because Apple fanboys and the fawning media refuse to criticize Apple. That is why everybody thought the Shuffle without buttons was fine. That's why nobody is saying what a piece of shit Ping is. Steve Jobs introduced Ping as a Social Network for Music, and asked "Does it make sense?" After using the service I can answer: "No, it doesn't." It doesn't make sense how many artist are not in there, it doesn't make sense that podcasts are not there, it doesn't make sense that there is no way in and out of Ping, and it doesn't make sense that there are no status message. Apple decides what activity you display, you can't say what you want. How is that for social? It's closer to a Fascist Network! Ping will fail, but you won't hear about it until it does.

Apple: One step forward, two steps backwards

So, Apple introduces new iPods. At last, they listened and fixed the iPod shuffle which is now just a smaller version of the correct shuffle. That only took them a year and a half or so. Of course, they don't realized that by changing the design often they are going to screw up a good thing, so now, they've taken the buttons out of the nano! The new nano is almost as stupid as the old shuffle, but I bet it will sell better. I am very glad I picked up the right nano a couple of weeks ago. It has the video camera the new one lacks, and the click wheel. I think it is destined to become a classic. The new touch is nice, I was expecting more of a redesign. Why does the touch looks so different from the iPhone? It didn't used to. As for the Apple TV the only news there is the price. It is cheap and if it works outside the US, I may get one. I am pretty sure I am getting a touch and a shuffle.

RIP Mihaly Bakonyi

I received the sad news today that Mishi Bakonyi has died after a fight with brain cancer. I remember him as a very fun guy to be with. We saw each other only a few times, in mathematical conferences. I remember particularly one in Caracas and another in his home country of Romania. Having seen each other so little it would be a gross exaggeration to say we were good friends. But that is how I feel. I am sad that we grew apart after I left mathematics as a profession. I will always remember his funny and sage advice about traveling to Romania. I will remember him.

The Blackberry Security Story

With the Emirates and others banning Blackberry and the "ever changing smartphone market share story, I was hoping someone will say something right about Blackberry. Instead we get mistakes by pretty good people like Tom Meritt, Bruce Schneier, and Steve Gibson and mindless dribble by fanboys. I'll try to set the record straight. Apart from whatever defects the platform has, Blackberry is the safest way to communicate. Period. In order to crack a Blackberry malware has to be installed in the device. No other communication system is as safe. Yes, the NSA may have a back door (doubt it, but it is possible), but do you really care about that? Think about it. The confusion from the different ways to communicate with a Blackberry, the different levels of security, and RIM unwillingness to really explain things. People talk about VPN, SSL, but none of that is the important thing about Blackberry. They use extensive public/private key cryptography, with modern, known cyphers, and local security in the device to a level that is bothersome to the user. If you are surfing the web or sending email, the message is encrypted to the Blackberry service. There it has to be put in plain text in order to send the request to the internet. It may be that some countries are bothered by the traffic going to foreign lands (Canada in this case) or with Blackberry clear unwillingness to provide this information that they do have. Email or web surfing is not secure (not even wil SSL! ). But what I think is more likely is that those countries are mad that the Blackberry messenger (and PIN messages) are encrypted from device to device and not even RIM has access to that info. The way it works is as follows: In order to communicate with another Blackberry user you ask for their PIN number, this number identifies the user (thru its hardware), by providing this number to Blackberry you get that users public key, you, then, send a message (messenger or PIN message, those are two different things, messenger is a chat, PIN is like a text only email) encrypted in the public key that can only be decoded with the users private key, which only exists in the users device. This is secure, nobody has access to it, except through your device. That's the story. If your device software is not compromised, the probability of someone eavesdropping is null. The fact that so many countries make banal arguments against Blackberries (including the fear that the NSA has access to Blackberry communications), to me, indicates that this story is right and the spread of Blackberry worries these people, because they won't be able to spy on you. The fact that the tech news industry has failed to understand this talks about the sad state of knowledge in the world. I use two phones: A Blackberry, because I am security conscious, and an Android, because it's fun.

My Old MBP is Dead, thank God!

After about 4 and a half years of buying the first Intel Machine Apple ever produced, it has been destroyed by FlyingKiwi


This has been one of the worst machines I have ever owned, beaten only by the awful MacBook Air. It is the latest in a running streak of Apple Machines that leave my hands broken, only the Air broke that streak, but the Air was less than two years old! Months after getting the MBP the DVD reader broke, replaced under warranty, then the display broke... twice! replaced under warranty both times. The machine was always slow and buggy. Some things weren't fixed until Leopard appeared. The end life of the Machine was that the Display broke again out of warranty last year. My son was using it with an external monitor, when a machine at the office (a three year old white MacBook) started having problems with the Ethernet connection. In my office that's useless since I only allow the WiFi to access the internet, no internal devices, so no printing. I gave that office machine to my son and brought the MBP to my office with an external monitor. I noticed the DVD wasn't working again and one day the machine wouldn't turn on at all. I wanted to gutted it to get the disk out, but FlyingKiwi wanted to disassemble it completely, so the picture above is the end result of the machine and a good graphical representation of my feelings for Apple.

Wake me up when I am wrong

The Wall Street reported that after much investigation, the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded that I was right from the start.

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