Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Getting a job via Google Adwords

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Very clever way to apply for a job: Put an Google ad on the name of the manager that you want to work for

The Black Swan

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

I’ve just finished reading The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb. I found it one of the most interesting books I ever read. If you had some statistics course and are interested in on how the human mind works or a fan of the books of Malcolm Gladwell I can recommend you reading this book.

Nassim Taleb basically tells us that we as humans are very bad in predicting because many things have mainly been determined by highly improbable events.  E.g. all kinds of inventions like the Internet, the car or things like wars, stock market crashes etc. As Nassim Taleb says it: “History doens’t crawl  it jumps”

Furthermore the world is so complex that the human mind simply cannot understand what’s going on.  Still we always try to understand it and come with explanations, and get convinced that we see the patterns and that we can predict because that is what we have been trained for. A funny example of that is the following experiment. Give people the sequence 2, 4, 6 and tell them that this sequence is generated according to a rule and ask people to tell you what the rule is. To get some more information they can ask you if a certain three number sequence is generated also according to that rule. Most people will think that the rule is adding two so they probably will ask you if 4, 6, 8 is generated by your rule. And it is, but the rule is not add two. The rule is very simple that the 3 numbers have to be ascending but people will fall for the pattern of add two. This is because people think in terms of confirmation of rules instead of contradictions. You will see with this game that many people won’t try quickly sequences contradict the rule they have in their mind. While one contradiction says more about a rule than a million confirmations.

That’s also how the book got it’s title “The Black Swan”. Until Australia was discovered people thought there were only white swans, because every time they saw a swan it was white. Discovery of Australia and boom a black swan. Using the fact that you saw another white swan to confirm you’re theory that there are only white swans is the same as saying “Hey a red Mini Cooper another proof there are only white swans”. This might sound funny but it’s actually mathematically true. (Think about it or read the book)

Another thing that struck is Nassim Taleb’s explanation why we keep on listening to experts doing predictions if we just can’t predict. E.g we take advice on which stocks to buy from so called experts. How do they remain experts while market crashes have proven over and over again that they are wrong quite often? Furthermore when they are wrong it can have disastrous effects because the Black Swans they fail to predict have usually huge effects. They remain experts with their models because they have the excuse that certain things could never be in their models because they simply couldn’t predict it. E.g.  how could they have known about 9/11. If they would have known they of course would have predicted that the stock markets would have tanked after that.

Funny thing is that while Nassim Taleb tries to prove that we should not trust any prediction he actually predicts in 2007 that Fannie Mae will get into financial problems (“they are sitting on a barrel of dynamite”) because of the risks they are taking. However the “scientific” staff of Fannie Mae at that time says that this is unlikely to happen.

Anyway these are just a few of the stories and concepts of the book.

GNOME Amazon Referral Fees March 2010

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

gnome-amazon For March 2010 the GNOME Foundation received the following Amazon referral fees

This totals to approximately  $375 (up from $281 in February).

Keep on spreading the plugins to friends and family

Below and in the GNOME Amazon Store you find the links to install the GNOME Amazon Search Plugin of your favorite Amazon store. NOTE the links below might not work if you read this post in an RSS reader, because it needs a javascript command to install the search plugin. Just install the search plugin by going to this post directly.




For epiphany use the following smart books.


Hit by a really nasty bug in Ubuntu

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

I was booting my laptop into Ubuntu and noticed it was stuck immediately after starting the kernel. Rebooting into recovery mode gave me a message that it could not mount the root file system.

Didn’t have a clue why it didn’t want to do this. Some googling brought me to this Ubuntu bug. The problem according to the bug is the following:

Minix uses the “magic number” 137f, 138f, 2468,2478, at the location 0x410 to mark a Minix file system.

0x410 is also the location any ext filesystem uses to record the number of free inodes.

In decimals those four numbers are 4991,5007,9320,9336

If the number of free inodes happens to be one of those four numbers plus a multiple of 65536, then the ext filesystem will write one of the four Minix magic numbers to the 0x410 location.

So blkid gets confused and does not know whether the files system is Minix or Ext.
In particular, if this happens on the root partition, Ubuntu will no longer boot.

So in theory this happens once every 16384 times when you boot (4 out of a possible 65536 values for location 0x410  trigger this bug). Solution is simple just boot from a live-CD and remove a few files from your boot partition and reboot.

So far several people have confirmed this bug but I’d expect much more people to be affected by it if the probability is really 1 in 16384.

Nexus One could be more Environment Friendly

Monday, February 15th, 2010

In order to reduce strain on the environment the European Union decided with the top 10 mobile phone manufactures to use a common charger (Press Release). Basically they decided to use a micro-USB for charging. Mobile phones only last 2-3 years on average however the chargers last much longer. By having a standard way of recharging you reuse your old charger.

However I have not seen mobile phone yet which doesn’t come with a charger. So actually we are still producing electronic waste which is not needed and we end up with loads of unused chargers.

When you buy the Nexus One it comes with a US charger and a USB cable. The charger has a fixed cable. If it would have a USB connector the charger one could have saved a cable. Further the charger could be more easily reused to charge devices with a mini USB connection.

When you buy a Nexus One from the UK Google automatically adds a UK charger for which pay an additional $19.95. So you even end up with two chargers in the end.

In my opinion Google should just ship a USB cable with the phone and make a charger optional. I’d prefer if Google in that case would offer an optional dual charger like depicted here on the left, because I would be able to use it charge two devices at once.

What’s your opinion should all devices that are charged by USB come without a charger by default?

Android Market should stimulate Open Source Apps

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

As I mentioned a few days ago I bought a Nexus One and that the Android Market is something I like.

Android itself  built on Open Source software. Though many op the applications in the Android Market are free it is often not obvious if an application in Open Source or not. Sometimes a developer puts it in the description but it is difficult to find. Overall I think overall there are only few Open Source applications in the Market

Open Source Section

Since Android is built on Open Source I think Google should actually stimulate developers to make their applications Open Source. Open Source could have a specific section type like Paid and Free have now.

For Google this is also good because with open source multiple people can start contributing to apps such that they can improve faster. Furthermore people can start new projects by simply reusing open source code of other Open Source Android applications. All in all it will spur innovation and improve quality of applications and in the end that’s good for Google because the platform will become more popular.

Furthermore it fits in the Google policy that they stimulate Open Source.


Another nice addition would be that users can easily donate some money to authors of Open Source and Free applications. Mozilla added this possibility for their addons. I have donations setup for ReloadEvery and several times in a week I receive around $5 from people that want to show their gratitude. It’s not making me rich but it is a nice feeling that people actually find your software worth giving money for.

Or do you think it could work to have Open Source applications in the Paid section? Legally you can ask money for Open Source applications but I think probably pretty quick a clone would appear in the Free like in beer section of the Android Market.

Other Improvements for the Android Market

While I am at it here are some other ideas for improving the Android Market

  • Version Release Notes: Now when I get an update of an app I often don’t know what has changed because there are no version release notes. There is just a general description. Some authors write version release notes in there but most of them not. Also would be handy that the version number would be more visible on the page.
  • More than 2 screenshots: Currently there is a limitation that you can only add 2 screenshots for your application
  • Ability to add videos: Many people now like to watch videos to see how an application works
  • Better Web interface to the market: Sometimes it’s handier to sit behind your computer to find the app you need. Currently there is this website but it only lists a few applications. There is no search and the interface is a bit clunky.
  • Standard Android Apps also available market: Applications like Phone, Email, Messaging, Alarm Clock are part of the OS. It would be nice if they were available in the market. That way the OS and the apps could have different release cycles.

4 Weeks with the Nexus One

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

As I had a layover in the New York (when traveling from Chile to the Netherlands) on the 14th of January I decided to buy a Google Nexus One by having an American colleague buy one for  me a couple of days earlier. In the end I payed because of sales tax 560$ (390 euro). However I think it is not a bad price compared to the fact that the cheapest unlocked Motorola Milestone/Droid is 469 euro in the Netherlands. Compared  to an unlocked iPhone at 641 euro it’s even a better deal.

Sofar I’m very happy with my purchase though I have to say that typing on a touch screen is something you have to get used to  (I had a Nokia E71 and a BlackBerry 8800 with physical keyboards before this) and I probably will never gain the typing speed that I had with a physical keyboard.

12 Things I especially like about the Nexus One

  1. The screen. The AMOLED technology and a resolution of 800×480 shows a really vivid image
  2. The touch. The cover of the Nexus One has a cover with a bit of a rubbery feeling. So it nicely fits in the palm of your hand and it does not slip
  3. The looks. It looks much nicer in person than on photos on the web. In my opinion the iPhone looks kind of outdated next to the Nexus One
  4. Android Market. Many nice free apps are available and the best thing for paid apps is that if you uninstall it within 24 hours you get your money back. So you can just try out paid apps for a day without paying.
  5. Speed. The applications are very responsive. I guess a 1 GHz SnapDragon CPU helps here
  6. Integration. The phone is really well integrated with Google Services. E.g. when you searched for something on your PC on google maps those searches automatically will appear as a suggestion as soon as you type a few letters
  7. GMail. I’m a big fan of GMail. I love the archive and search concept instead of filing. On a mobile phone this concept is even handier. In normal email programs I need to decide what to do: delete or move it to a folder and moving to a folder usually requires several clicks.
  8. Accounts Sync.You can setup several accounts from which you can sync data. The Nexus One can sync data from your Google account, Facebook and Exchange out of the box. Nice thing is that things like contacts get all merged into the address book on the phone.
  9. Battery Time. This is actually much better than I expected. Like many others on the first day I used the device and just after applying the multi-touch update I had horrible battery life. The battery was sucked empty in a few hours. However that seems to be a problem that the software has to tune in. Now for instance I’ve been using the phone for 13 hours. I had only a few phone calls and checked email a few times but the the battery charge is still 78%. Even with more intensive days I can easily make a day. The Nokia E71 I had before I really needed to charge every evening otherwise the phone would drop dead on me.
  10. Grass Live Wallpaper. A bit lame I know but I like it anyway.  You see grass moving by the “wind” and depending on the hour of the day you see the sun rising, sunset, stars etc.
  11. It’s largely build on open source and uses open source development tools.
  12. Linus likes the Nexus One

6Things that can be improved on the Nexus One

Actually I think it’s a very nice device but there are a few items that can be improved.

  1. Exchange Sync. It only syncs your inbox. This is for me a showstopper because I always move emails in my “Archive” folder after I read one. It doesn’t sync your exchange agenda. (Contacts are synced). Ideally the Exchange agenda would appear in the normal agenda app alongside your Google calendar data. I’d think Google will add these features quickly because otherwise they’ll have a problem with corporate market (I’m now using TouchDown of Nitrodesk as an alternative. Though it has most things it is not really integrated that well with the Android OS and moving a message to a folder is taking 4 clicks :-( )
  2. Speaker Phone. The normal voice quality is really good, probably due to the dual noise canceling microphones but the quality of the speaker phone I’m not that happy with. I find it difficult to understand and the Nokia E71 scores much better on that.
  3. Power Button. The power button is sticking out a bit. Because of this I already had the phone turn on by accident because I was sitting and moving my legs. I think the power button should have been made such that it is impossible to turn on the phone by accident. I have to admit that the time it happened I had the the power button on the open end of the sleeve that comes with the phone. Now I put in the phone the other way around and have not had the problem anymore
  4. Ringer Volume/Vibrate/Silence . With the physical volume buttons you can set the ringer volume. If you move the volume down the one but last setting is vibrate and the last one is silence. This sounds logical, but it can easy happen to you that push the volume button now and then by accident and then your setting changes. I always have my phone on vibrate but it happened to me that I accidentally put it to silence :-( and missed calls. I now downloaded an app from the market which forces the silence settting into vibrate. So I don’t miss calls, but this is not ideal. In my opinion silence and vibrate should be set through a menu setting and you need to disable the settings also from the menu. From that moment on the volume buttons work again for the ringer volume.
  5. Touch buttons. Below the screen there are a couple of touch sensitive buttons. It happened to me a few times that while I was typing an email I’d touch the home button or so by accident and my message would dissapear. I have to admit that it didn’t happen to me lately. Probably because I’m more used to the touchscreen now. However in the end I would have preferred that the Nexus One had normal physical buttons below the screen.
  6. Speech recognition. Maybe it’s my English but for me it does not seem to work that well. Though I also know that general speech recognition without any training is extremely difficult to do well

For me these are just things that can be improved. Overall I’m like Linus a Happy Camper

A rotating Coke Can with only CSS

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Román Cortés shows a very nice technical trick on his blog with CSS. You can rotate a coke can by using a scrollbar and he does this without any javascript. To look at the code go to this link which I also embedded here below in an iframe. If you like this one Román also shows a paper bird with different illumination effects by using CSS.

“Super Phones” going to kill E-Book Readers based on E-Ink

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

There is a lot of noise lately about web tablets, because of the upcoming web tablet of Apple the iSlate.

The web tablet is something in between your laptop and your mobile phone, just like a netbook. So you can see web tablet as a netbook without a physical keyboard. I believe that the tablet and the netbook will merge into one device. Basically a “Super Phone” with or without a physical keyboard with a screen size somewhere between 6 and 11 inch.

Because of its size the “Super Phone” would also be ideal for reading e-books. And who wants to carry around yet another device. However current LCD screens are not  nice to read from and consume a lot of power. However there are some promising display technologies coming up. One of them is Pixel Qi. They are working on improving the display technology developed by the OLPC project to make LCDs readable in sunlight and improve their power consumption. They are now shipping 10.1″ screens. See video below.

Notion Ink showed a prototype of a “Super Phone” with Pixel Qi screen at the CES. See video below

It seems that the touch screen causes some extra glare which does not help for readability. But if they can improve that or use Wacom technology with a stylus instead (The wacom touch technology goes below the screen instead of on top of the screen like fingertouch technologies) I think it could be a serious E-Book killer.

Also exciting is that this “Super Phone” is running Android so it will have instantly many applications available.

A slight disadvantage of Pixel Qi is that you need to switch the screen between e-book (monochrome) mode and full LCD color mode.

However there are display technologies in the works that can deliver the wholy grail: video in color with the readability of paper. Liquavista is developing such technology but its not that mature yet according to their website they will productize it in 2010/2011 but it looks very promising. See video below.

I’m curious to see what kind of display technology the Apple iSlate will have.

The rise of Video Tutorials

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

For one of my websites I wanted to have a page as the homepage for my wordpress install instead of the blog. Hence I did a google search on “wordpress have page as homepage”. I clicked on the 3rd result called WordPress Tutorial – How to Make a Static Page Your Home Page because I thought that would give me what I was looking for. It sure did but I needed to watch a 10 minute video for it :-(. I should have picked the subpage of the second result Creating a Static Front Page « WordPress Codex that just had text explaining what I needed to do at it would cost me just 20 seconds. In this case there was still a text tutorial but I’ve googled in the past for other stuff and the only thing that came up were video tutorials.

So why o why do more and more people do video tutorials. Just because it’s hip to put videos on youtube? Some people claim that video tutorials are better for beginners. However if I had to watch for every setting of a program a 10 minute video I would get really frustrated as a beginner.

What’s your take on these video tutorials?