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Showing posts from May, 2011

The Bad Sheep: iTunes & Miro

I'm an advocate of open-source, but I'm not a purist. I don't mind paid-closed software in most cases (for example Opera browser, I like) but there is one thing I don't like and that's vendor close-in. That is when the vendor tries to keep your data or things locked to their system so you can't use anybody else's. For example iTunes music before it was unprotected was locked to the iTunes platform. I couldn't listen to the music I had purchased there on my Transcend MP3 Player, which I used for running until I bought an iPod, nor could I listen to those m4p files on another music player. And that meant I couldn't play those files on Linux.

I'm a fan of Linux not just because its free but because it is a better operating system than Windows XP and I <3 the Bash shell from my University days using Unix. But Linux lacks a good decent media player, one that could compete with iTunes. I had my hopes set on Songbird being that media player but they…

Nya Cat (AKA pop tart cat)

PBS got hacked today, so in solidarity here is nya cat.

Crypto-Jews, 1492 and Israel

1492 was a monumental year in the history of the world. Not only was America "discovered" but the Muslims were expelled from Granada, and consequently the Sephardic Jews who had lived under the protection of the Muslims in Spain were given an ultimatum: be baptized or be exiled. Some 150,000 Jews were exiled from Spain that year. But many who had grown accustomed to their life in Spain "converted" though they kept (or tried to keep) their Jewish traditions alive. These Crypto-Jews as they are called, were a target of Inquisitions, and I presumed that many saw settling in the New World as a way to put distance between the Inquisitions and themselves. Here is a story of a possible crypto-Jew that settled in Puerto Rico.

The expulsion of Jews from Spain lead to a yearning for the prophetic return to Israel and even a few Jews resettled there. I doubt that Zionism, a semi-secular movement that waited not for a messiah to return the Jews to Israel but took the matter in…

From Everquest to Ever-quest-to-fix-personal-info-leak.

So I've gotten the dreaded Sony Online Entertainment letter than my info was *may* have been part of their data breach. What where they doing with my info from 2008? Three years back, I bought the game Everquest II because it was less than $10 and my friend Rodolfo was at one time a huge fan of the game. I though I might play with him. Of course when I bought it he was no longer playing and I just wandered around, and wondered what was all the fuzz about in the game.

It at least has an apt name. But it should be called Ever-menial-Quest II, because all the never-ending succession of quests are really menial tasks. Go collect this, go fix that, go kill those, go find a watchamightcallit. If this sounds boring you get the point. So anyway, I played my free-time and that was that. Or so I thought.

Three years later, I get this email. Thankfully I think the credit card I used for the game expired already but I'll have to check anyway. But it makes me wonder why do they keep that i…

My Fake Resume

Inspired by the over aggrandized bio of Joseph Rakofsky I want to write my own.

If you don't know who he is; Joseph Rakofsky is a lawyer who earned a mistrial for a criminal client due to his (alleged) incompetence as reported on the Washington Post. There has been quite a few commentaries on his "Streisand-house" approach of suing all the bloggers and even the Washington Post and American Bar Association for reporting his (alleged) ineptitude.

("Streisand-house" is what happened to Barbara Streisand who wanted to have a picture of her mansion removed from the internet and she sued to have it removed. Unfortunately suing requires the filing of public documents with a picture of her house. The lawsuit had the direct opposite effect it intended. Everybody now could see legally, since it was a public document, a picture of her house.)

But all that internet gossip aside I'm most impressed by his resume. Here is a quote from the website:

Prior to studying law, Mr. R…

Candy, Grapes and Vegetables

In the movie From Hell about Jack the Ripper, the killer entices the women with a promise of grapes. A treat so rare in dreary London and so sweet that even the most weary street woman would be tempted. Grapes grow in Mediterranean climates and myself having grown up in a tropical weather where fruits were abundant I didn't catch on to how rare grapes must be in England. They don't grow there. In the times of Jack the Ripper with no refrigeration they would have had to been shipped there by boat. Grapes would be a sign of great wealth, but also an incredible treat. With sugar being so expensive since it had to be extracted from sugar cane, fruits like grapes were the candy the era.

There is another movie, Grave of the Fireflies where a tin of candy plays a prominent role. The older brother uses the candy as treats for his hungry sister as they fight starvation in a World War II Japan. They ultimately loose the fight and the tin of candy now empty is in a way symbolic of the in…

Why Calvin and Hobbes captures our imagination even now.

Bill Waterson was one of my heroes growing up. I learned more about the English language reading his comics that any serious novel we did in English class. Waterson's enthusiasm for language, and joy that he transmitted in his comics still get me today. It takes me straight back to waking up early to get the San Juan Star newspaper before anybody else so I could read the cartoon and maybe learn a new vocabulary so I could ace the SAT and go to a good college.

Waterson never authorized any merchandise for his comic book (smartly I think) though the demand created an underground production of shirts and stickers that were unavailable to me in pre-internet Puerto Rico.

The summer of my junior year in High School I went to Harvard Summer School after having done very well in the pSAT. There I found a comic book store (whose name I can't remember right now) that had a shirt of Calvin. I bought it and still have the shirt kicking around today, more as a good luck charm than as a shi…

The Unseen Consequences of the Puerto Rican Brain Drain

Brain Drain happens when the opportunities in a country or place for educated people favors them leaving permanently the area.

I've noticed that Puerto Rico suffers from a Brain Drain since I was in college fifteen years ago, but now finally the unseen consequences of this brain drain are being felt. With the downturn in the economy many professionals have left (many to Texas) and Puerto Rico for the first time lost population in the 2010 census.

Brain drain has seen and unseen consequences. For example due to a lack of internships many doctors are leaving the island to complete their training abroad and never return. In my family alone four doctors trained in the University of Puerto Rico Medical School are now abroad and likely will stay that way permanently. While moving outside of Puerto Rico involves becoming a minority in the larger US, that is not as much a concern for English-speaking professionals who are already familiar with American culture since they were kids.Their a…

Tricky Shoes (Ruby pt. 14)

Finally found an explanation for the weird behavior of variables in Shoes. There is a fork of Shoes called Green Shoes that combines Ruby with Ruby-GTK to redo-shoes. Actually a neat idea since it extends Shoes to a larger windowing system. In the manual for the project I found something interesting about Shoes.

In Shoes each window is the unit. The stack blocks are weird. They look like normal blocks but are sub-set block of the window unit. The command para (for paragraph) which displays the text on a block is really self.para and self is from the Shoe's window. Additionally all instance variables inside and outside stack blocks, are held inside the window unit too. This is key and not well explained in the documentation on Red Shoes.

Still haven't figured out how to make my temperature conversion GUI program and I'm seriously tempted to just learn Xcode and code it on the Mac with Macruby, but Shoes with all it's faults is cross platform and that has huge advantages…

GUI Maze of Death (Ruby Pt. 13)

One of the challenges of programming is interacting with the user. The terminal presents few options. I'm working on a temperature conversion program. Which so should use radio buttons. You enter the degrees enter the number, click on the degrees you want to convert to and the answer pops out. Cool so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn Shoes. A lightweight GUI for Ruby. But no.

Gui programming is like trying to find your way through a maze. Except blindfold, dizzy and no minotaur motivation.

This is not really a commentary on Shoes, which is actually quite easy, but on the tutorials and resources to learn it. In that there are so few and they tend to assume a high level of programming mastery.

Designing the Gui is not exactly easy but the real maze is trying to link it to a the heart of the program. I've been trying to write a program that changes the temperature from Fahrenheit to Celcius thinking this was a great place to use radio buttons or list to av…