My Alienware Fiasco

Two and a half years ago I needed a new computer. I was already down on Apple, but wasn't totally ready to make the jump. I decided, with the help of a friend, to get two computers: A MacBook Air and Dell XPS m1330. The reasoning was that the Dell was cheap, so both computers will cost less than a very powerful laptop and I no longer needed super computer powers. After all, most of my screen time is spent in front of a browser. My most CPU intensive application is iTunes (which I hate, but can't find a subsitute for), so, who cares if both machines were not super fast? I decided to buy the Dell with Linux as I wasn't ready to use XP (and never will be!). The result of this experiment was my final break up with Apple. The MacBook Air turned out to be a terrible machine. Underpowered even for my meager needs, unreliable, it would get hot and slow after just a few minutes of use. I was delighted when I finally got rid of that machine. The Dell, by contrast, was a delight! So sturdy, that a month ago it fell from a height of over 5 feet and survived (everything except the hard drive... Did I mention the machine was on at the time? ). I still have it and use it, but over time I discover that I needed some power to watch High Definition video. After flirting with the idea of getting an iPad I came to my senses and bought a tricked up Alienware M11x. The trick was that this was a small machine to travel, though it is heavy, it has less cpu than the Dell, but it has two graphic cards, a slow one that gives you six hours of battery life, and fast one that gives you High definition glory and Gaming abilities like no other machine I've ever owned. The Dell moved to TV computer substituting my aging TablePC. Before doing that I installed Windows 7 on it. Yes, Linux is fine, but I still need the stupid iTunes, and Windows 7 is a very good OS, as good as Mac OS X, with more features and cheaper machines. The Alienware was made by Dell so everything was fine... For a week! I started noticing minor things with the Alienware, one speaker didn't seem to work, one USB port was inconsistent, then one day the machine wouldn't boot up, nothing would show on screen. I thought well, that's why they have warranties, right? It happens, sometimes you get a dud. But it was Dell and they will fix it as they have every single issue. After calling Dell support it seemed I was right. They will come to my place with a new Motherboard and fix everything. But they didn't... First, it was like a game they would come to my home, when I wasn't there, let's change it to my office, ooops! your service order is canceled? Canceled? No! Completed! Completed? Let's start over... After two weeks of song and dance they came and fix the motherboard, during this process everybody I talked to was kind helpful and a little puzzled with everything I was telling them. So now the machine boots, but the flaky USB port didn't work (it was broken) and the speaker wouldn't sound. The technician came again, fix the USB port and then told me the machine only had one speaker... What? One speaker with only one channel? that didn't make sense! He insisted he had opened another one of these and it had only one speaker. My hypothesis is that there was a bunch of these where the manufacturer failed to put the right speaker in. The technician is just a part changer, and he hasn't seen the part to change it, so he doesn't know where it goes. I will call again when I have time to try to have this fixed. Right now, I have a glorious machine sans one speaker, and a feeling Dell is in trouble even in something as simple as the acquisition of a small computer company called Alienware. Quality is not where it should be and the service is a hotchpotch of different procedures and companies. Still, better than Apple...


¡Y Viva España!

Well, the World cup is over, I have written very little, but have enjoyed it a lot. I am very happy with Spain as champions, as they deserve it and dominated matches in an interesting way. They were a real team, which is key in World Cup success. South America didn't do so well in the second round achieving only a fourth place by Uruguay. Europe has now more World Cup Championships than South America, for the first time in a long while (10 to 9), but I insist Europe Qualification round for the World Cup is bad for Europe, they need to find a way to put their best teams forward. For this they need to send less teams. Impressive that the stars didn't do well. Forlan shined, Iniesta proved to be a very good player (pity he plays for hated Barcelona). But Messi, Kaka, Drogba, Cristiano Ronaldo and others were practically a no show. I started to wonder if it wouldn't have been better for their teams to skip them and give somebody new a try. No coach will dare do such a thing and I imagine FIFA having a fit if they did. We need the stars to generate revenue. The refereeing is still far in the silly side. I think they should institute a rule that any player that spends 5 seconds on the ground has to get out of the field for ten minutes to get proper attention. That way you should reduce the fake injuries. Next stop Brazil 2014. Will we have another Maracanazo?


South America Shines in the World Cup

As I do every four years, here is the results by conference of the World Cup. South America brought five teams this year and all of them qualified to the last sixteen for an astonishing efficiency of 100%. Africa brought 6 teams for a World Cup in its soil, but only one qualified to the last sixteen for an efficiency of 16.67%. Asia brought five teams and only 2 passed to the next round and only 2 qualified, for an efficiency of 40%. North America brought three teams and two qualified, for an efficiency of 66.67%. Oceania brought only one team (Australia moved to Asia for some reason) and it didn't pass, efficiency of 0% for them. Finally, Europe had thirteen teams and six passed to the last sixteen, for an efficiency of 46%. So, South America with its perfect record is on top, followed by North America and Asia. Europe did poorly. I argued before that this means the way teams are going to the World Cup is unfair, as continent like Africa are over represented and Europe, with a similar record to South America, has way too many teams. Now, I am not so sure. Let me explain. I think I was looking at this backward. The reason South America does well, is because qualifying to the World Cup is so hard. Not only Argentina and Brazil have to pay a lot of attention to keep qualifying, let's faces teams like Italy, France, England, and even Germany, would not have qualified in their present form in South America, but the other teams that qualify have to be very good. Just look at what they leave behind, teams like Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, countries with a tradition of football as high as any european country. They are left out in a cruel battle where only the best survive. While in Europe, who can say if the Czech Republic isn't better than France and Italy? They had a tough qualifying and were eliminated by Slovakia, not coincidentally one of the European teams that got through. Europe is not sending their best teams, their qualifying is too easy for the majority of the big teams, and it shows, they get to the World Cup diminished and fail to pass for the second round, not only small teams, but giants like France and my loved Italy. They have to reform their qualifying if they want to improve. Africa was improving until it became easier to qualify. There is no way to make South America qualifying easy, and I don't want FIFA to mess with it. Leave us with the toughest qualifying, that produces the best teams, the best conference, and the best overall result in the world. It is our sport. You want to see the best, come here. Comebol (the South American Conference) should exploit this commercially, selling the games the world over, insisting in the amazing performance, not only of our champions, but of the lesser teams that have performed so well.


World Cup 2010

The first games of the World Cup 2010 have all been completed and I have written squat about it. It is not for lack of interest, I have watched a lot of games. The defeat of Spain today was a tragedy, but being the favorite seems to be bad luck in the World Cup. Again we have a World Cup in a continent without Championships. I guess Brazil should win, but Germany looks strong. Not much hope for Italy to repeat. The team seems to lack players, but hopefully it will advance to the second round, it belongs to an easy group, and then the story may change. I would love Maradona's Argentina to win, but my guess is that the corrupt bosses at FIFA would hate that and will block it if necessary. I know what you think about Maradona, but I would rather have a flawed hero rather than a false one. Maradona is the best football player I've seen, not only for what he does in court, but how he inspires teams. He got Napoly out of a rot to win everything there is, went to win a World Cup with a great Argentinian side, and was blocked from winning a second one in Italy 90 by FIFA (What penalty? He touched the ball!), with a much diminished team. Then, in the biggest scandal of all, was blocked again in the US, when FIFA realized that he could still inspire a team. He is inspiring them now, so watch out. I don't know how much I will write, but I promise I will redo the stats of what percentage of teams from each conference passes through to the round of 16. What do you think of the Vuvuzelas.


Of his own accord man thinks and acts

Some events I can not forget.


Google is acting weird again, Radio Userland still sucks it seems

A few days ago I started noticing something weird with my Google search results. After years of being around the second or third page in the search for Alfredo in Google, my site has disappeared. Not only that, an alias for the site appears higher than my main URL. I confirmed this by searching for Alfredo Octavio, while the results for Alfredo may be in dispute it is fairly clear to me that this site must be the first result when you search for Alfredo Octavio. But no, my twitter page comes first for me. And the alias for this site (with www instead of alfredo) comes first, but with a name that has not been used since I stopped using Radio Userland. Searching for Tyromaniac produces equally weird results with alfredo.octavio.net seems to have disappear from Google.

At first I was scared, there has been hacker attacks at my hosting, so I thought maybe my site had malware. But Google Webmaster tool says no. It also says, just like Google Analytics have always said, that my site receives no visits. I thought there maybe other reasons why my site may be blocked, but then I realized that none of that would explain the inclusion in some results of www.octavio.net, which just points to this site, with the name "Los Octavio Weblog" which is an ancient name from the time it was a family site. Then I made the link... A month ago two sites related to Radio Userland, which was my blogging software years ago, went down for good. It seems this two sites were the main source of my Google juice and Google algo have decided that if those sites do not exist, mine shouldn't either.

I consider this a mistake on Google Search algo. I am certain that this site should be the result for Alfredo Octavio and Tyromaniac and that it should appear higher than any aliases in the search for Alfredo. Since I can't trust Google results, I've decided to change the default search engine for my site to Bing and probably will change my default search engine wherever I can.


Most People are honest... and Bright too!

If you read my previous story, you know I stupidly left my netbook and a bunch of valuable stuff into someone else's carry on. I knew whoever had it wanted to return it, but I thought they had it pretty tough. Even if they found my name they may not think they got it, my last name is a common first name in spanish. Well, I am writing this to report that, even in Venezuela, most people are not only honest, but pretty bright too.

The person who had my netbook asked his assistant for help in trying to figure out how to return it. He decided, wisely, to bring the machine back to Venezuela instead of leaving it in charge of American Airlines or some Airport's bureaucracy. She, his assistant, was at a loss. She had a couple of pen drives, but the most significant just had pictures and music (64 GB worth of it! ). The Dell mini 9 had no battery left and came without any charger. She tried and succeeded in finding someone capable of charging the mini and cracking into Windows... Alas! my Dell mini 9 is a hackintosh with Mac OS X... No luck there. Before getting the mini back from the guy, in which she could, at least, have seen my name, she decided to browse through the immense amount of pictures in my pen drive and found the bill from my motorcycle with my name, address and phone number. She called got a hold of my son and my computer is back in my hands, with everything intact.

So, a story of ingenuity, honesty, and faith. Right here in Venezuela. The best is what happens. Thanks to the nice guys who returned my belongings. Namaste to all!


The iPad, Cory Doctorow, Sneers, Lost Netbook, and Technology

Last week I did something very stupid. While getting out of the plane in Miami I noticed my Carry on was in the wrong place, I thought someone had change it during the flight, thought no more of it, put my Waterfield bag with my Hackintoshed Dell mini 9, my 64GB Flash drive, my anarchy keyring with an SD card reader, my bank and paypal tokens, and my 3G USB dongle and went on my way. While on line for immigration I noticed that the forms I had carefully filled during flight weren't where they should, then I realized with a cold chill that it wasn't my Carry on! I ran to the counter on the back, ask them to announce that the people in row 19 had taken my bag and frantically ran back and forth trying to find them in one of the lines. Finally, I found the guy, we exchanged bags and pleasantries and went on our respective ways. Hours later while unpacking I realized I had left my Waterfield bag with all my stuff on the wrong Carry on. I don't know if the guy has or will make an attempt to return it to me, but I tried everything I could think of to make it easier for him, but I don't think it is very easy.

So, without my traveling netbook I needed an answer. Should I keep the MacBook Air I've been trying to sell? No, it is a shitty machine, that's why it doesn't sell. Should I buy a computer? Alienware Mx11 or M15? A MacBook Pro? Should I just "rough it" with only my trusty Dell XPS m1330 (the best machine I've ever own)? Or should I just get an iPad?

I thought I would get one at some point, unless I never sell the Air. But I also thought I would get an iPod touch at some point and I haven't. After using a friend's iPhone 3GS for a week, I decided to get the Nexus One, because I realized how much speed changes an experience. With the Nexus One I've gotten the idea of not getting an iPod touch at least until my iPod Classic gives up the ghost, if then... So, I am reading about the iPad and trying to decide. Yesterday, I was convinced I would get one, after Walt Mossberg said it is, almost, a laptop replacement. I could pack my bluetooth keyboard, hear podcasts on the Nexus One (it's what I am doing anyway), and travel without a laptop for the first time since 1991. I may even leave the Kindle if reading on the iPad suits me.

Then I read Cory's piece and I agree with his points. I don't think he is sneering at anyone, only a fanboy could think that way. I also don't feel like the Old Guard fearing a loss. So what is it? How do I feel about computers becoming appliances? Molly Wood in a Buzz Out Loud episode said that she wanted technology just to work. Of course, that's what we all want, right? Wrong! I don't want technology that works, that's not fun. I want technology that almost works, that allows you to do wonderful things, but by thinking in weird ways. Technology that anybody can use to do anything, is simply boring. And I am not afraid it will make me useless, people ask me a lot of questions about the stupid iPhone, for FSM sakes! What I think is that I won't enjoy technology like that. I want technology to be fun, interesting, and weird. I want gadgets that almost do what you want, with quirks, and incomplete features, unfortunately, I don't know where the iPad falls in this. Even if it is closed (Cory's point) it can be opened like Geohot did with the iPhone, and probably will do with the iPad. And then it may become quirky and wonderful. Oh well, I have a month to decide, because if I get an iPad, it will be a 3G one, and I will only get it if I can pick it up on a store in person. You see? I'm quirky like that...


Alonso returns Ferrari to its place

So, in a year with an amazing number of changes: new point system, the return of Schumy (not to Ferrari! ), no Kimi, Mercedes now is a team, and Alonso races for Ferrari, we enjoyed the first race. Mostly because Ferrari made a 1-2 and we haven't seen many of those in the last 5 years. The formula that Ferrari had with Schumy seems to work as well with Alonso. Just get the best driver and have the best car (or almost), that way the other teams can't close the gap with only a very good driver. Of course, as I say every year, the season doesn't really start until we get to Europe. But last year wasn't like that...

Also, I am not going to do as much writing during races, after all, we have twitter for that now.


Unintended Acceleration? Put it in Neutral!

Throughout this hoopla about unintended acceleration I've asked the question: Why didn't the drivers shifted into neutral? The answer seems to be that they didn't know how! Now, I'm not saying that it is okey for Toyota to have the throttle of a car stuck open for any reason, but it shouldn't have caused a single accident or a single death. Some have argued that some cars (Prius) perhaps can't be put into neutral or they don't have Neutral or something, the video above shows that it can be done. The drivers involved in these accidents quite simply shouldn't have had a drivers license...


Cognitive dissonance in covering Apple

One things I hated about using Macs is that everybody assumed that I was a fanboy. They just couldn't believe that I was thinking about the stuff. Discussing the issue with Windows users will always lead to contradiction, typically cognitive dissonance in which two contradictory position will be maintained ignoring the contradiction. I feel that is happening with Apple coverage now, it's the company that can do no wrong! When Nokia sued Apple, some people opined that Nokia was scared. Of course, that was based in the believe that the iPhone was gaining market share from Nokia smartphones. Now, Apple is suing HTC in an effort to stop the sale of the Nexus One and other Android phones. Could it be Apple is scared? Of course not! Apple is just protecting its innovation! Something Nokia couldn't have been doing, because they didn't innovate in its history! Clearly, it is not as if the iPhone is going to lose market share to Android, right?


It's amazing...

I kept the right ones out
And let the wrong ones in
Had an angel of mercy to see me through all my sins
There were times in my life
When I was goin' insane
Tryin' to walk through
The pain
When I lost my grip
And I hit the floor
Yeah, I thought I could leave but couldn't get out the door
I was so sick and tired
Of a livin' a lie
I was wishin' that I
Would die

It's Amazing
With the blink of an eye you finally see the light
It's Amazing
When the moment arrives that you know you'll be alright
It's Amazing
And I'm sayin' a prayer for the desperate hearts tonight

That one last shot's a Permanent Vacation
And how high can you fly with broken wings?
Life's a journey not a destination
And I just can't tell just what tomorrow brings

You have to learn to crawl
Before you learn to walk
But I just couldn't listen to all that righteous talk
I was out on the street,
Just a tryin' to survive

It's Amazing
With the blink of an eye you finally see the light
It's Amazing
When the moment arrives that you know you'll be alright
It's Amazing
And I'm sayin' a prayer for the desperate hearts tonight

Aerosmith


Today the World Changes

Today Apple announces its new creation. And the world changes. It is such an amazing concept you can't even imagine its reach, its importance. First of all the name, it is going to be called "Leibniz", it is the logical follow up to the the Newton. The purpose of these launch is to end all launches. The reason it is hyper hyped is that they want to disappoint us in such a way that they won't have to do this anymore. You see, without Steve Jobs Apple can't do this announcements, it is better to make this transition while he is still the boss. So, here is my predictions: They are going to announce that there will be a iPhone OS 4.0 at some point, they are going to announce a new iPhone that is exactly like the old one, except it is CDMA and it is sell through Verizon only. Then they are going to announce the Leibniz, which is going to be some kind of lame Book/magazine reader with some media hook ups and a ridiculous price. As the people gasp in disappointment, Jobs is going to say his usual "One more thing", and he is going to announce that this stupid launches are over forever...


Specialization is for insects

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein


Security, Facebook, Email, and Chat

There is an area in which security has actually been decreasing. A lot of email conversations and Chats have moved to Facebook. Either directly through Facebook Chat or through the Facebook Messaging system. At first look it seems this is safer. After all, these messages do not travel to different places in the Internet, they go from your computer to Facebook servers to the computer of whoever you are talking to. In an Email conversation copies of your email are stored in at least two places (your mail server, and the recipient mail server) and potentially a lot more. In a Chat conversation there is a copy in the conversation for sure in the service provider (AOL, MSN, Yahoo, etc). The situation had been improving, for example, Google a few days ago made secure connection the default in Gmail. What that means is that if you send email from Gmail to another gmail account, it is certain that only the google servers have the email if both you and the recipient delete their local copy (if it exist at all). If both use Gmail in a browser then there is no other copy around. With Chat it had improved too, some clients where providing encrypted chats (AOL and Google Talk, at least). But Facebook changed all that and Facebook, doesn't use SSL. They don't encrypt the connection, only the login. You can put encryption, by putting https instead of http, but you have to do it in every link and Chat doesn't seem to work. So, with people using Facebook instead of email and Chat programs, our overall security has decreased. Do you care? I do... That's why everything I do in Facebook I consider public and open.


The Problem with Security Today and the Droid lock screen.

This article is an example of what is wrong with security today. Is exactly what I tried to described previously. You see, the lock in phones, with the exception of Blackberries, is not to avoid a thief that stole your phone to get to the data, is just small protection against a casual attacker or an accidental unlocking. Shoulder surfing in the Droid lock screen is so easy it is a joke. The protection against a thief is different: Don't let someone steal your phone. If iPhone users believe their information is protected against an intelligent thief they are wrong. It is easy to get to the data. Only the Blackberry have a sort of adequate level of encryption and a remote wipe that makes sense. Even after you wipe an iPhone or a Droid it is possible to get to the info, not easy, but possible. Security is not a product or a feature, it is a process.


Wikileaks and the 7000 emails from the Venezuelan Government

Stefan Mey sent me an email pointing to an interesting follow up to a 2008 story I wrote about Wikileaks getting a hold up and attempting to auction 7000 emails from the Hugo Chavez government. In an interview with Julian Assange, spokesperson for Wikileaks, the fear Wikileaks had was that if they just published the emails nobody would write about them, so they thought of auctioning them. But it was so complicated, people wanted to see them first, etc, that it turn out to be impossible to do. So they just published them and, guess what? Nobody wrote about them! some thoughts about them. First, where are the emails? I try to look for them, if you search Google for Wikileaks Venezuela Government emails my story is the top link, and Wikileaks doesn't appear at all, at least for me. So, that's a problem. Going to the front page of Wikileaks just asks for money... The same goes if you try any of the links that Google presents if you search for Wikileaks. In other words: Wikileaks do not work and doesn't have a good Google presence. I was planing to lambaste the Venezuelan Opposition for failing to attack the government with this info. But I ended up lambasting Wikileaks. (Thanks Stefan)


The errors of the Millenium (Trilogy)

With the New Year I started reading the so called Millenium Trilogy by Steig Larsson. I've read them fast, a sign that I have the time and I'm enjoying the story, and after finishing the the first one, I immediately bought the second one and started reading it. So, yes, I've enjoyed them, but there is something that is driving me crazy: The errors. The author describes a hacking attempt through the internet as if it were a telephone line. In "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" the protagonist, the girl with photographic memory, which is useless, eidetic memory is what you want, the incredible hacker, desires a 17' G4 Aluminium Powerbook with an impossible memory configuration that could have never existed. No only that by the second book, "The Girl Who Played with Fire", the machine has transformed into a 17' Titanium machine that also didn't exist. The errors made me suspect everything the author said, so when he talked of a Kawasaki 125 motorcycle I had to check if such a motorcycle existed, it does, several, actually. But the main thing that has been bothering me is the question: Why does the author felt the need to give such detailed description, but not the need to be precise and research a little? Did he do it on purpose or was it just carelessness on his part? If he did it on purpose he actually made his novels worse, in my opinion.


May the Best of last year

Be the worst of the New Year


Happy Birthday Isaac Newton!

And all the others whose birthday overlaps the pagan festivity of saturnalia.




A Christmass Math Problem

So, I'm looking for a general solution to the following problem. Let's say n persons want to give gifts between them and they decide that the best way is to choose one person for each and give one big gift instead of several small ones. The thing is that some of these people are married or siblings to others in the group and they don't want to give gifts to them (they are going to give them a present anyway). So, the problem is to design an algorithm to generate random selections for gifts avoiding the set of restrictions. I don't seem to be able to get an algorithm that is guaranteed not to hang. Can you?


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