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Funny business
Friday, June 29, 2007

I like some of the Web 2.0 hype. It allows me to play with cool technologies, but it does feel like we are in a bubble.

Surfing around I found this site: MizPee.

Believe it or not, it is a business. The premise is simple: if you have to, you know, go #1, you connect to a web application with your cell phone, you tell it where you are, and it will tell you where you can go to "go" in a clean toilet.

I don't think MizPee will survive, or become a profitable enterprise (or maybe they will). But I do admire the the spirit. It's what makes the internet great: anything and everything can become a business, and if there are enough eyeballs, someone will fund it--the money is just there. Furthermore, without trying and failing there wouldn't be any innovation. So you go MizPee.

BTW, if you don't like Web 2.0 stuff, you are not alone. There are bloggers dedicated to flame Web 2.0 companies as they become operational--some of the commentary, though, I have to admit, is right on. If you agree with this guy, don't be too much of a hater. Be like me: welcome the variety :)

10:54 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Is Dunga the right coach for Brazil?

Dunga hasn't been able to find the right combination of players to take Brazil out the dark moments suffered in Germany 2006.

I'm sure he will be the subject of the Brazilian press if Brazil doesn't win the next game against Chile, but I think he needs to take at least some responsibility for the bad showing against Mexico.

Mundo Deportivo, a Spanish newspaper, writes:
    Dunga se pierde en detalles tontos como la elección de la ropa que utiliza la selección 'canarinha' en los partidos - diseñada por su hija- o en utilizar alta tecnología inalámbrica para comunicarse con su ayudante Jorginho en vez de fortalecer el grupo. Suya era sin duda la responsabilidad de rejuvenecer el grupo y esta selección es sólo dos años menor como media de edad que la del Mundial de Alemania, en la que jugaban Cafú, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo? Defendió el mensaje de que en su selección no habría diferencias entre los jugadores, que lo importante sería la 'verdeamarelha'. No necesita hacer esfuerzos, los cracks no están.
Dunga did say that there was not going to be any differential treatment among the stars of the team, and he doesn't have to worry about that, as the stars decided not to play the Copa America. Or he didn't bother to call them: where is Ronaldo? Adriano? Ronaldinho? Kaka? You guessed it: not scoring goals for Brazil.

10:11 PM | 1 comment(s) |

Copa America - Venezuela 2007: Mexico 2 - Brazil 0
Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mexico outplayed Brazil throughout the whole game. It is definitely not the same Mexico that just lost to the US in the Gold Cup.

In the past, Mexico has performed very well in the early stages of most competitions, but they lose momentum. I hope they do well this time around.

Beating one of the best teams in the world has to be a confidence booster. As for Brazil, the pressure is on Dunga to turn things around. Perhaps it was not such a good idea to had left Ronaldo out of the team. He is, after all, the top scorer in World Cup history, and his presence alone is a threat to any opponent. Even if he is overweight :)

11:12 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Digg's threaded comments suck, according to the majority
Friday, June 22, 2007

In a world where the mob rules, organizational structures crumble.

Did you digg to bring back the HD-DVD key stories back to the site? I did. And it worked. And I felt empowered.

Well, not really, but it was fun to see the site's owner do as the people wanted.

I wonder if stories of their new threaded comment unfeature will have the same ending.

The problem is that their new comment system "sucks" (yes, this is the technical term being used to describe the new unfunctionality). It seems like they forgot everything about web design and put every AJAX trick into this thing.

We, the users, want a better commenting system. The question is: will digg management obey their masters?

Dig this story and see?

1:19 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Minority Report...The Microsoft way...
Thursday, June 21, 2007

Do you remember the movie Minority Report?

This is just plain cool:

Perhaps too early to bring to the market, but the technology is very interesting and it has a lot of potential: who doesn't like to play with virtual bubbles at bars?

11:20 PM | 1 comment(s) |

Chomp change

I was looking for a book on software architecture at, and I was surprised to had found google ads embedded within the search results. I almost clicked on one of them, and I didn't like the feeling.

I have google ads on my site, but I always debate if I should removed them or not. I have seen ads for other software consulting firms (conflict with my services), but I like the "free" cash.

Should sites such as chapters have google ads?

I don't know the the reasons why they are there or who makes such decision, but I'm not sure it goes well with the whole ecommerce aspect of What if instead of buying the book I was looking for I click on one the ads and never comeback to chapters again?

Does the money made from a few clicks offset the lost sales?

9:50 PM | 0 comment(s) |

The unrecruiting phone call
Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I'm no recruiting expert (I'm a software engineer/developer), but I have been on both sides of the fence, as a recruiter and recruitee.

From my experience, I think there is a right way to make a recruiting phone call and a wrong way to make a recruiting phone call.

The right way
It's common sense to ask about professional experience, educational background, availability, and throwing in a technical question here and there doesn't hurt.

As a recruiter you want to, after all, find out if whoever you are calling can in fact help you solve whatever problem you have.

The wrong way
Let me be the potential recruiter and ask the question: "So I see you have experience in X. Do you know anyone with more experience than you that you can put me in contact with? You've worked for a year with technology X, you must know someone better than you."


10:09 AM | 2 comment(s) |

Real Madrid Campeon, or Real Madrid Champions of La Liga
Sunday, June 17, 2007

La Liga, one the best football (soccer) leagues in the planet, came to a conclusion today. A final that few expected. Real Madrid won it all.

Two years ago, I switched my fan colours to Barcelona's red and blue, from Real Madrid's white. In truth, I cheer for the winning team, however, I started following Barcelona after Real Madrid stopped winning titles, even with all the expensive players they had.

They used to call them "los galacticos." But with so much talent, they didn't win anything. What was the problem? Almost everyone has a theory, but the most obvious one is that the team didn't play as a team.

And so, the European football season started last year and we all knew that Barcelona was going to win more than one title. There are so many in Europe and Spain combined: UEFA Champions League, La Copa del Rey, etc. In total there are 7 titles to win.

Then something unexpected happened. It is one of the worst things that can happen to a team: the top goal scorer injured himself at the beginning of the championship. Etoo was out for 6 months because of a meniscus injury*.

But this was not the worst for Barcelona. Mere weeks later, after Etoo's injury, Messi broke his right foot, and that meant that he was out for 3 to 4 months. It also meant that the team had to do without two of its best players.

Of course, Ronaldinho was, and is, still part of the Barcelona club. But the dude doesn't train anymore. Or at least this is what the Spanish press writes about him. They write that he is busier filming Nike commercials than practicing and bonding with the team. This, they write, has had an effect on the best player of the world.

If you recall, Ronaldinho has also been saying that he is in bad physical shape and that he needs to improve. In fact, Ronaldinho hasn't been the same since the humiliating performance of Brazil in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, in Germany.

The question is that if he knew he was in bad shape, why didn't he improve or try to improve? Maybe it's too much to ask of a super-human being to be in top of his game for a whole career. And even though he admits to being in bad shape, he did score the most goals in his team, and made the difference in many important games. But it wasn't enough, and now, I'm sure, he will be blamed for the lost of La Liga. The reality, though, is much more complicated than that.

Etoo and Messi came back to the team in time to make a difference. And what a difference they made. When Barcelona plays with its best players (and all players are some of the best in the world), the team is a goal scoring machine. And they outscored every team. Even Real Madrid. (Barcelona scored 78 goals and Real 66.)

In the last 3 years, Real Madrid has had the worst streak in the club's history. The team hasn't won a trophy for 36 long months--not one. At the beginning of this season, things didn't look so hot for Real. But half way through, the club started winning games, and managed to tie Barcelona on points.

Some attribute the turn around to Capello's coaching stile; others to the team finally being able to play as a team now that it doesn't have many "galacticos" left: Figo was gone 2 seasons ago, and Ronaldo was pushed out mid season (they still have Roberto Carlos and Beckham, but they are gone after today).

So why didn't Barcelona win La Liga, if both teams ended up with the same number of points?

This is a good question, with a very unfortunate answer. At least for me, as I wanted Barcelona to win again.

The answer lies with La Liga's regulations.

Before explaining what the rule is, let me draw a parallel with the USA's voting system: the popular vote doesn't win a presidency; it's the electoral college vote that wins a presidency. This means, as I understand it, that the candidate with the most citizens' votes doesn't necessarily win a presidential election. (I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but I'm sure there is a really good reason why this is so.)

Now to the rule that gave the championship to Real Madrid. In any other league in the World (well, most of them), Barcelona would have been the champion by goal difference--meaning that when two teams have the same number of points, the winner is determined by the team that has scored the most goals during the season.

However, in Spain's La Liga, a weird rule is in place. It goes like this: if two teams are tied in points, it is not the goal difference that determines who wins, but the differential number of points between the two games each team plays against each other. In Spain, all teams play against each other twice throughout the championship, and it is these two games that determines who wins La Liga in the case of the two top teams tying by points. In this case, Real Madrid won once and tied once against Barcelona. This gives Real an advantage in points of 4 to 1. Meaning that out of 6 possible points, real has 4, and hence it comes out with an advantage. (Note that if both teams are tied on points and tied on the number of points on the games against each other, then and only then the goal differential would determine the winner.)

Today, it meant that Real Madrid won La Liga.

Of course, rules and regulation don't win championships. And Barcelona had plenty of chances of winning La Liga. They just couldn't do it. They tied or lost too many "easy" games, and this made a difference in the end. (Easy is relative, as there are no easy games.)

So who's to blame? Fans will always find fault in the players and the coaching staff. Perhaps this year everyone is too blame, or no one is to blame.

I say we blame football: it's just part of the experience. And in La Liga, with so much talent, small mistakes and bad luck streaks end up determining winners from losers. Regardless of who is to blame, one thing is for certain, tonight I would rather be celebrating in Madrid than drowning the pain of loosing in the pubs of Barcelona.

* In regard to Etoo's injury, in an way, I can relate. I had the same type of meniscus repair he had. Of course, he is a professional player and I play twice a week at the city league, but the frustration and the pain are probably similar. This is my third month recovering, and I'm not able to play until September.

The healing process of a meniscus repair is slow, as the procedure is done to a piece of cartilage that has little, in any, blood supply. This means that it takes a long time for it to heal.

Fortunately, everything is going as planed with my knee, and I have been able to start running without any pain. I ran 5 km tonight and 4 km yesterday, and I'm all right. I can't bent it all the way yet, but I have learned to take things one day at a time.

10:41 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Spot the fake smiley
Friday, June 15, 2007

You may have seen the web site with the 10 minute experiment that tries to determine how good people are at spotting fake smiles.

I took the test and I could only spot 12/20 correct smiles (either genuine or fake). It seems like a disappointing score; I may as well had guessed them all, and easily got 10/20.

After I thought about the experiment, I realized there is an obvious caveat to the experiment: context.

As part of our social life, we don't just see heads smiling for 3 seconds at a time then determine who is trying to fake a smile.

Before and after every smile, there is a story behind it. Moreover, the act of smiling seems to come in pairs (or groups). What I mean is that most of the smiling we do is shared with someone. So if you find yourself smiling alone, it may not be considered "normal." For example, are you smiling right now and feeling embarrassed because people think you are crazy? I am not, but I'm alone in my living room. But if you are in a crowded place, I dare you not to smile.

So, I think the results of this test are inaccurate, skewed, and irrelevant. Our ability to tell genuine smiles from fake smiles has been honed throughout our evolution and through generations to culminate into the perfect genuine-smile-detector machines that we are. Otherwise, we would all be grumpy hermits.

Try it: if you simile at someone and this someone smiles back, I'm very confident you will be able to tell if the smile is genuine or fake.

Now, when it comes to smileys on emails, that's another story. Do you know what I mean? :)

And so, I created my own "Spot the Fake Smile" test (be advised, it's really, really hard):

11:21 PM | 1 comment(s) |

Invention and Innovation: Microsoft's Photosynth
Saturday, June 09, 2007

In the Operations Research field people like to distinguish between these two terms: invention and innovation. Innovation comes from invention, and invention becomes innovation only if someone starts using it for something. So invention is something that just comes to be for whatever reason. Either someone invented it, or it was just there to be discovered--is there are difference? Finally, in our modern times, marketing makes inventions innovations.

Innovation is a philosophy and a process, I have said, and you can't force anyone or any organization to be innovative. But when you have the mind-share and the resources to provide an innovative working environment, great things come to life.

The most innovative companies right now, I think, or at least have the most money to promote their "innovations," are google and Microsoft. (Apple is still innovative, but hardware is not too much my thing.)

I write too much about google (because they get developers, or is it Ballmer who loves developers the most?), so I decided to balance the scales and talk about a particular Microsoft lab "creation."

I put creation in quotes here because it was actually an acquisition that brought this technology under their roof. Note that an acquisition is still part of innovation management, or technology change management. The innovation part comes from identifying a gap within the organization and deciding to buy whatever technology or product to fill it.

Microsoft and google do this quite often: they buy companies and technology left and right. Note that acquisition for acquisition's sake is bad: what makes an acquisition a success is the fit within the organization's overall strategy.

The product that I think is so innovative is called Photosynth (a combination of two products, CDragon and PhotoTourism--these may not be spelled correctly).

Play around with the demo and you'll get hook on it.

It's quite a remarkable idea. The premise of CDragon, one of the products, is the analysis of a collection of images into a navigable map of pictures. Typical images take a lot of disk space, and to have a large number of them displayed on your screen at the same time is CPU and RAM intensive.

With this product the limitation is only the number of pixels on your screen, as the "zooming" is done in real-time and only the information that is needed to make sense of an image (the clarity of it) is displayed at a time.

Photosynth, which is the demo for the link above, is the combination of the two products I mentioned. With Photosynth users create collages of pictures as a 3D map of disjointed images--thousands of photos taken by different people at different times and from different perspectives.

I'm not sure if the blending is computer or manually generated, but the effect of the complete collage is something to behold.

External links (will open in new windows):By the way, I was reading through Harvard Business Review and they have a special report of innovation: 24 pages or 4 or 5 articles, discussing innovation transfer, philosophies, and why it is needed to stay competitive. You know a topic is hot when it hits the mainstream.

10:00 AM | 0 comment(s) |

Nintendo DS Browser Review
Friday, June 08, 2007

The Opera DS web browser was released in North America on June 4, 2007. The browser has been out for a year now in Europe and Asia.

As with any application, some people love it, and others not so much.

As for myself, I couldn't wait to get my hands on one. I couldn't think of anything cooler than browsing the internet on this tiny technology wonder.

Without looking, I found a copy of the browser at EB Games. After having some ice cream at the mall with my son, we drove home to check it out. Unfortunately, we had a thunderstorm this afternoon and the power went off. Obviously, without electricity there is no Wi-Fi, and without Wi-Fi there is no internets.

Finally, 30 minutes after, the power came back on and it was time to try it out.

Before doing anything, you must choose a password for the browser--and you need the password every time you want to use it. I'm not sure why Opera decided to put that in. Sure, for security, but security for what or whom I don't know. Perhaps in case you loose the little machine, and you don't want anyone else to surf on your dime.

Setting up the Wi-Fi connection is very easy: you search for the hot-spot, then type in the WEP key, and you are ready to surf. (BTW, my neighbor should really turn on WEP on his linksys router.)

Before getting the software, I used to fantasize surfing and reading email on the comfort of my couch--there is not much difference from using my laptop, as I have to do now, but a geek fantasy is a geek fantasy.

After everything was ready, the first web site I tried was

Unfortunately, the DS Opera browser doesn't play well with the Flash player. Needless to say, it doesn't play youtube movies. It was a bit of a letdown. I did try to download the most recent Flash player, but that didn't work either (I didn't think it would work, actually).

I googled around to see if flash was indeed available on the DS browser, but I haven't found a definite answer (apparently, empirical evidence is not good enough for me; maybe I don't believe me). All I could find was that for the European and Asian version a Flash player is definitely not available, and rumors that the North American version "will" have it. It doesn't.

I tried posting this message with the DS, but blogger doesn't work on it. I get a "disconnecting" error message because of some certificate problem. The browser says that the certificate is not from the publisher it claims to be. Does google know this?

Anyway, I gave up on blogger and tried reading my email on my server and gmail account. That worked better. In fact, it works without a hitch, though the navigation of the two screens is a bit awkward. It takes some time to get used to, but I am not sure what I was expecting. I mean, the screen on the DS is really, really small.

So from a user perspective, the browser fails. Perhaps I want too much from my web browser, or I'm a really demanding user.

Now, from a technical and software engineering perspective, the application is very good.

The browser was very well designed to take advantage of the dual and touch screen technology. Moreover, it is very user friendly (leave aside the size of the screen); the buttons are intuitive; the set up process is extremely easy; the sound scheme is pleasing (I turn it off, but it's not completely annoying); the color scheme is soft and goes well with the whole Nintendo DS feel.

The HTML rendering engine works quite well, as it displays most HTML heavy sites and handless CSS adequately. I did notice that it's every slow to connect to web sites and downloading images--perhaps it's a combination of the Wi-Fi card and the CPU. I'm not entirely sure it's the CPU, because any of the SuperMario games are very graphic intensive and I have not seen any slow downs--of course, the machine is optimized to play games and the games are optimized to play in the machine. Hello!?.

The JavaScript engine works fine, to a certain degree. At least the sites I tried worked fine. AJAX applications are out of the questions--none of the ones I tried worked.

So from a user's point of view, it disappoints. Maybe I was expecting too much. I will have to ask Gabriel (my 7 year old son) what he thinks about it. After all, the little machine was intended for his age group.

There are some technical applications that are being published that probably targeted for mom and dad. If that is the intent, I'm guilty of falling in their trap: I bought the Nintendo DS Opera browser, and I don't like it.

Well, as a regular user I don't like it, but as a software developer I really, really like it--I wish I had the code.

7:46 PM | 7 comment(s) |

Square Water Ripples
Monday, June 04, 2007

If someone offered you the ability to change one physical law or physical phenomenon, what would you choose?

I have thought about this (don't ask why), and I can only think of one thing. No, it's not to reverse gravity, or change the speed of light.

I want to make water ripples propagate in square shapes.

As simple and beautiful as the circles left behind when water drops fall on a calm lake, I want to see square ripples.

The simple fact of changing this phenomenon would change our whole universe. For one, Newton's elegant inverse law of gravitation would stop predicting gravitational motions around massive things. E would not equal mc2.

Changing how a water ripple propagates is likely to affect the molecular structure of matter. The ripples we see are the result of matter reacting to an external force; in this case the water drop has an effect on the entropy of the whole system.

What we see in water ripples are molecules obeying natural laws, which generate chain reactions among millions of electrons orbiting small nuclei. Making the chain reaction to represent itself in square "waves" should change everything. It is a case of energy propagation. And for some reason, a perfect circle is the most efficient to do this. So forcing it to be a square brings up a set of different physical laws.

Increasing or decreasing the speed of light presents different challenges. But the speed of light is a fundamental truth for us, and we can't really "see" it (forget the electromagnetic waves that represent colours). Changing gravity is interesting, too, but what is gravity anyway? Is it really the curvature of space produced by massive objects?

Changing ripples to square shapes seems to be less harmful than updating one of the constants of the universe, yet much more interesting to look at, and with unmeasurable consequences.

Would the earth be round? Would a straight line be the shortest distance between two points in a "sphere"? I'm venturing to say no.

Note (Nov 28, 2008): I have had a few requests about permission to use this image in different places. I neither took the picture nor own the rights to it. I found it here

12:34 PM | 1 comment(s) |

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