Guardian Puzzle Feb 1, 2016 – The shady puzzle that will keep you in the dark

This is my solution to the Guardian Puzzle of Feb 1, 2016. The puzzle asks the reader to “design a room with straight walls in which there is a position for a single light source that leaves either part or all of every wall in shadow.”

My solution guarantees that each wall of the 6 segment polygon AFBGCE is part in shadow. The source light is D and is in center of the ABC triangle. The second triangle EFG is slightly rotated inside the outer triangle and this allows the creation of three shadow areas each affecting two walls. Don’t know if there is a simpler solution, but I don’t there is.

Play with the Points of the Inner Triangle EFG to see how they affect the shadow areas. If you can’t see the applet here you can play with it at TubeGeoGebra

Forget Inbox ZERO. ARCHIVE old EMAILS instead.

Every now and then someone talks about having a Inbox Zero. Fxxx them. It is like asking a pidgin not to crap on public statues. My email inbox is that statue, a catch all for the important emails/projects I’m working on. This is what most of us who complaint about the inbox do. I just live with all that email.

When the consciousness bells toll (usually during early January) I try to clean some old emails. Every new year I “archive” old stuff. All emails older than 12 months are out, ARCHIVED. In Google’s gmail I just search for

before:2015-01-01, label:inbox

select all, and archive, … and presto, a light (cof cof cof) inbox — who really wants inbox zero anyway? And I’m ready for a Nespresso. What else?

Feriados portugueses de 2016. O regresso do merecido descanso nacional.

Questões sobre os feriados portugueses de 2016.

  • Porque é que a república portuguesa tem feriados religiosos? Pior, porque é que todos os feriados religiosos são da igreja católica romana? Não percebo esta “politiquice” de dizer que já que se repõem os feriados civis “igualmente” se repõem os religiosos. IGUALMENTE? Mais uma vez os nossos politicos esquecem que a república é laica e parecem ter medo dos sermões de Domingo e dos votos potencialmente perdidos.
  • Feriados com ponte. Não compreendo os feriados com ponte até porque não compreendo o outro lado da moeda que é o estado dar “tolerância de ponte”. Que os feriados sejam gozados até me parece bem, mas as pontes do chico espertismo [sic] nacional já acho um exagero. Porque não fazer com que os feriados sejam gozados sempre na primeira segunda-feira seguinte ao feriado, mesmo quando calham ao fim de semana? Assim nunca se perdiam os feriados em anos em que coincidem ao fim de semana, mas também se acabava com o abuso dos fins de semana de 4 dias.

E se olharmos para a lista de feriados portugueses para 2016

Tipo Dia Dia da Semana Descrição
R 1 de Janeiro Sexta-feira S.St.ª Mª Mãe de Deus
R 25 de Março Sexta-feira Sexta-Feira Santa
R 27 de Março Domingo Páscoa
C 25 de Abril Segunda-feira Dia da Liberdade
C 1 de Maio Domingo Dia do Trabalhador
R 26 Maio Quinta-feira Corpo de Deus
C 10 de Junho Sexta-feira Dia de Portugal
R 15 de Agosto Segunda-feira Assunção de Nossa Senhora
C 5 de Outubro Quarta-feira Implantação da República
R 1 de Novembro Terça-feira Todos os Santos
C 1 de Dezembro Quinta-feira Restauração da Independência
R 8 de Dezembro Quinta-feira Imaculada Conceição
R 25 de Dezembro Domingo Natal
  • Em 2016 vamos ter OITO feriados religiosos (R) e CINCO feriados civis (C). Mesmo que se desconte os Natal e o dia de Ano Novo continuamos a ter demasiados feriados religiosos no calendário. Mas claro que com um pouco de “fé” até voltamos a ter jejum obrigatório e crucifixos nas salas de aula.

2016 será o ano do carro elétrico?!

BMW_i3_02

Sabem quando estão com uma pequena comichão nas ideias e não conseguem perceber porquê? Eu estou assim em relação aos carro eléctricos em 2016.

Honestamente acho que até agora todos os carros elétricos existentes são uma bela mostra de tecnologia, que nos coloca um sorriso nos lábios, mas que não nos convenceram ainda a dar o salto.

Não há estações de carregamento, o carregamento é lento e honestamente ninguém acha que autonomias de 200Km sejam práticas. Numa viagem pelo deserto somos todos capazes de nos ver a caminhar até à estação mais próxima com um jerrycan de 5L de gasolina, mas não me parece que a electricidade venha em frasquinhos. E isto atira o automóvel eléctrico para a categoria do produto de nicho, MUITO NICHO mesmo.

No entanto

No entanto acho que 2016 pode ser um ano de viragem, principalmente porque as tecnologias subjacentes vão ter evoluções fantásticas. A baterias estão a conseguir armazenar mais energia por quilograma de peso total, os motores elétricos estão mais eficientes, os recuperadores de energia de travagem também, e cada vez mais fabricantes estão a apostar nestes veículos.

O automóvel elétrico será o produto de todos os ganhos marginais de se eficiência que se conseguir extrair da tecnologia, e serão uma realidade. Juntamente com os carros autónomos 2016 pode ver crescer de forma clara a tecnologia das baterias para automóvel.

TLDR – better man pages

We don’t need to know all unix terminal commands and how they are invoked. If, like me, you are lazy like a cicada to read through the entire man page, this app is for you.

Geeks around the world thank the time saving of this and code faster in result. No more scratching our heads for that simple command. Just go to the Github TLDR page and install this companion app to man.

BICT 2015 New York Conference

And here we go for another conference. Following the paper A Model For Foraging Ants, Controlled By Spiking Neural Networks And Double Pheromones another work on Designing Behaviour in Bio-inspired Robots Using Associative Topologies of Spiking-Neural-Networks with Cristian Jimenez-Romero and Jeffrey Johnson is going to be presented at the BICT 2015 conference (both a talk and a poster, not bad, not bad).

Meanwhile, I’ll be in Portugal at Covilhã chairing a session on riverfront research at the IECUBI 2015 conference and presenting a paper on the Random-Walk Connectivity of the plans for the reconstruction of Lisbon in the aftermath of the 1755 earthquake. Not my usual line of work this historical one, but probably one of the lines I enjoy the most.

Peugeot-Citroën de Vigo a Madrid sem mãos no volante

Claro que esta viagem entre Vigo e Madrid em Espanha parece mais uma habilidade para jornalistas do que propriamente um programa continuado de desenvolvimento. Basta ver a quantidade de engravatados que o video mostra.

O que é interessante é que quase todas as companhias automóveis tem neste momento planos de desenvolvimento de automóveis de condução autónoma e esta concorrência será certamente o driver de novas soluções.

Há um detalhe que no entanto é de se considerar que estes sistemas precisam de milhões de kilometros para que as redes de deep learning possam funcionar bem. É por isso que acho que a forma de distribuir a aprendizagem da Tesla pode acelerar rapidamente os resultados — em benefício próprio é claro.

Outro aspecto que vai ser necessário ter em linha de conta é que para que estes veículos funcionem, alguns países vão ter que harmonizar a forma de construir estradas. É fácil encontrar em Portugal situações de estradas onde se fica a pensar quem terá sido o iluminado que desenhou tal solução e que são um perigo para a condução. Estes outliers serão certamente uma dor de cabeça para os sistemas autónomos.

Dell pulling a Lenovo/Volkswagen?

You don’t need David Cameron to break encryption, or the feds, or any secret agency in the world. Computer companies are doing it gladly. Dell laptops have been found to be pre-installed with rogue SSL certificates that can allow attackers to impersonate as any HTTPS protected website. Want a backdoor? Dell will provide it quickly and for everyone with a few skills. The worrying part on this story is that this certificate is what has been found until now. Who knows what else has Dell (or other companies) done to break trust in and give access to their laptops?

Are we buying smartphone spies into our lives?

With all the “apps” you can eat (install) mantra, smartphones represent one of the biggest threats to our privacy. MIT researchers found that most popular Android Apps are killing device’s batteries with constant background covert communications. 63 percent of the external communication has no effect on user-observable functionality. The authors concluded that the covert communications could impair transparency and undermine the users’ trust in the mobile application ecosystem. The top 500 apps in google play are full of phone-home crap. What information are they sending? Why are they sending? Smartphones are empowering a new generation of users but are also challenging our rights and privacy. How can we protect ourselves from these negative impacts?

Telegram shutting down ISIS sites won’t solve the problem

While some argue that the fact that ISIS is using encryption is a good reason to break encryption — it is a little like saying that because ISIS uses guns, then the West should ban guns too (hm, might not be a bad argument after all…) — the fact is that banning their channels from existing communication services will not be enough as they will certainly setup new channels. In any case it is a measure that can have some effect on the recruitment and propaganda. If we make ISIS propaganda expensive (both in terms of cost and in terms of man-hours to setup, a bit like making SPAM expensive by forcing them to buy more servers), and with limited reach, then we might start winning part of this war. On the other hand it might also create the illusion that they are under control. Don’t get into that delusion. Telegram shutting down ISIS sites and all the active monitoring and control of ISIS propaganda is just a small step. Their activities need to be stopped on a global level.

Printing all Bibtex references into a single document

When dealing with Bibtex reference files sometimes they just grow BIGGER THAN LIFE and sometimes it is important to have a printed copy of all references for handing out to some colleagues. Well. Some people still make fire with flint.

Here is my trick to produce a printed version of all the references in my master bib file references-master.bib. together with the file I keep a references-master.tex file with the following content:

\documentclass[11pt, a4paper]{scrartcl}
\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}
\begin{document}
\nocite{*}
\bibliographystyle{plain}
\bibliography{references-master}
\end{document}

When I need to produce an updated print of all references I just typeset this small document. The document uses the \nocite command to output all references in the references-master file.

This is also a great way to check the bib file for errors in the entries as it forces you to correct them into proper format. One by one you can fix the entries and in the end you’ll get better bibliographies in Latex that are ready to use in any paper or publication.

More stupid attacks on Encryption

The NYT reveals that the Paris terrorists used encrypted systems to communicate and organise the attacks. WHAT IS THE SURPRISE IN THIS? The stupidity is that the MILITARY want to push for broken encryption systems, and that mentality is so flawed that one has to ask HOW ARE THE INFORMATION SERVICES PROTECTING US AGAIN?

The role of encryption is to guarantee privacy end-to-end in any kind of communication. Encryption runs the world today and If it wasn’t so the world would just collapse. Financial systems would be broken and caos would be everywhere.

The military mentality behind requesting backdoors assumes that they can stay ahead of the competition. While this could be used in the context of real physical military weapons, in digital realm one has to assume that EVERY THING I CAN DO, SOMEONE ELSE CAN TOO.

That is why putting a hole in encryption will just create a new target to be used by terrorists. Please stop this stupidity of thinking that encryption has to be BROKEN BY DESIGN. The scenario would be even worse than having terrorists encrypting their communications. They would be the ones using the loopholes to create global HAVOC.

The age of easy things in software development

With the advent of App Stores in many platforms we’ve seen a change in programming paradigm and a decrease in software quality in general.

When there was no other option to sell your product other than making it so good that word of mouth would carry if forward, developers invested a lot of time in the quality of their code and great pieces of software were produced. But now, with stores and fast distribution channels for the many platforms, software developers realized that shelf time of most of their products is very short in these stores — that are the de facto channel for software distribution. This pushes software developers to lower quality software. It is not an intentional decision, but is a matter of survival and having a quick meal while the food is hot.

The tools to develop software are more accessible and widespread while at the same time more cross platform. Write code once and distribute everywhere is of interest for comercial developers that save time and optimise workflows to be more productive. This “productivity race” has created a situation where quality software is more difficult to obtain and in the meanwhile we are seeing a lot of subpar products that are cheap, but one has the feeling they will never see an update because the brains behind it have moved on to another quick-buck-to-be-made.

Can we solve this? I don’t really know if we can. A few years ago while discussing with Maria João Valente about software she was in the camp of those defending the little app developer charging some money for it and her argument against open source versions was that the paid version would have more quality because of the commitment of the developer with the client, forcing a cycle of interaction that ultimately would drive the quality of the product up. And it was hard to fight this argument. In the Mac environment there were many examples of software that were just perfect examples.

But today, with the profusion of the stores can we still say the same? I’d probably say that 90% of the paid software in the stores is useless or broken or of dubious quality. I would argue that Open Source on the other hand, with all its flaws, still offers a more rewarding experience — even if at a slower pace. And as the software production is not driven by the need to make a quick buck, its quality increases steadily over time. Is open source the solution for everything and everyone. Some will say it is, some will say no. But its importance is without a doubt different from that of a few years ago. Every time a website prompts me to visit the “App Store” I immediately ask myself it it is worth even that click.

Cuidado com a EDP Comercial

Temos urgentemente que criar uma lei que criminalise o marketing telefónico de uma vez por todas. Ultimamente é o número 210340970 em que a voz do outro lado se diz da EDP Comercial. Perguntei-lhes claramente se se tratava de uma campanha de marketing ao que não me responderam.

Será que estas companhias não percebem que estão a tornar o uso do telemóvel insuportável e que com isso estão a fazer que cada vez mais as pessoas bloqueiem os números que não conhecem? E é claro que com este comportamento agressivo perdem os clientes de vez. O SPAM telefónico tem que acabar, mas em Portugal os políticos parecem muito preocupados com estas invasões de privacidade constantes.

Posting to Blog from Quicksilver

I’ve managed do find a solution to post text from anywhere to this blog using quicksilver to select text from my text editor and send it directly to the Dave’s Conundrums. The trick is to use an applescript and execute it via QS. Technically the script was used to allow you to type directly in the 1st quicksilver window, but instead of using it to compose you can just paste de selected text with CMD+G. Also, as I use MultiMarkdown on the server side of the blog I can write my short posts in it and need not to worry about HTML and other things. Posting images is not possible … yet, but for most of the daily writing this is more than enough.

Posting to blog from any application

One of the issues with blogging is that you can’t really do it from within any app you choose. There are dedicated clients like Ecto, MarsEdit or Windows Live Writer, but you have to use them. What I really wanted was something that would allow me to blog from anywhere. I could just use my favorite text editor to write and then select the text I wanted to publish and use a Quicksilver command or Mac service to push that to my blog. Is there such a thing?

A rádio na internet, novidades podcast

Mulher a ouvir um podcast

De repente são como cogumelos e os podcasts nacionais estão a aparecer um pouco por todo o lado. 2015 está realmente a ser pródigo em novidades sonoras. Eis alguns que me chamaram a atenção nos últimos dias e que estão ainda nas primeiras edições. Boa onda!

Um pesquisa pelo iTunes permite verificar que a oferta nacional de podcasts aumentou consideravelmente nos últimos meses. Há naturalmente muitos patrocinados por profissionais, mas há também muitos feitor por amadores com a paixão da rádio. E a qualidade é cada vez maior. O futuro da rádio é digital, o futuro da rádio é democrático (até que os misóginos dos governos decidam taxar a opinião e a arte).

Replacing a Toshiba Satellite A100 Hard Drive with an SSD

This is a step by step on how to replace the internal hard drive of a Toshiba Satellite A100-376 with a stock off the shelf SATA SSD drive. In my case I chose a Kingston 240GB ssdNOW V300 that is in the sub 100€ price point. But if you shop around you might be able to get the SSD even cheaper.

Here we go: 5 steps to install an SSD.

1 – Prepare the windows partition by cleanig it and defraging the Hard drive using your preferred tools.

2 – Clone it using the Clonezilla Live CD (great little tool)

The Toshiba Satellite A100 is an old machine, but still very capable, and most important it is VERY EASY TO UPGRADE. You just remove the screws, pull the tab and the hard drive is disconnected. Perfect.

3 – Remove the Hard Drive

4 – Install the SSD

5 – Reboot.

If you only use Windows, then check the Disk Management to format the extended space for extra space.

If using other OSes (like… Linux maybe) then use the gparted live cd to resize partitions so you can use the entire disk.

In my case I’m using Linux Mint along side a windows partition (YES, WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED?). After resizing I could not boot because grub could not find the partitions (DAMN MACHINES). THIS MEANS I had to boot from the original Mint Live CD and reinstall grub following the instructions on the Mint community website!

sudo mount /dev/sdXY /mnt
sudo grub-install --root-directory=/mnt/ /dev/sdX

In my case X was “a” and Y was “6”, replace your according to your drive… be warned. Use fdisk -l to find out.

and after rebooting into my Mint I just entered into the terminal

sudo update-grub

to be sure that Mint it was! With SSD prices coming down, there’s no reason to still be using the old hard drives.

On The faux Sharing Economy

AirBNB and Uber are probably the two most well known brands of the so called sharing economy, a concept where — through technology — normal people can earn some extra money by optimisation of resources through information. The concept is highly distorted and the sharing economy businesses in many cases have little differences from traditional business. I recommend you to read / listen to the following:

Nothing is being shared when you hire a cleaner to tidy your house or a car to drive you to work, even if you use an app to do it. Full story

  • Benjamen Walker takes the subject to other level on his Theory of Everything, calling them Instaserfs:

  • The Harvard Business Review tries to clarify all the issue with the sharing part and comes with the notion that this economy is not about sharing but should be defined as access economy. It is all about how information about opportunities becomes available.

But the HEAT is now. And discussion on sharing economy is taking place all over the web. The next few years will certainly define how these companies will be accepted and how their business models will evolve.

Driving Cars or Letting them Drive You. How? TL;DR

Google Self-Driving Car

People should, very much, be concerned. There are a lot of questions we should be asking about self-driving cars (Will they be privately or publicly owned? Both? Will nonautonomous vehicles be banned? When? How will we secure them from hacking and viruses and malware and plain old-fashioned bugs? How can we preserve our location privacy? How will they operate in disaster and evacuation scenarios? How will they be insured? And purely in terms of Google, if it isn’t getting into the manufacturing business, and given that it doesn’t operate purely altruistically, how does it intend to turn a profit off of this highly expensive research project it has embarked on? What will it track? What will it monitor? What will it do inside those cute little cars?), because autonomous vehicles will become a pervasive technology and we should always interrogate things that will transform our society before, rather than after, the fact. Mat Honan at BuzzFeed

This is a long story — but good read — about the self-driving car and its possible adoption by society. Right now the self-driving car is just a lab experiment. A pet project that is increasingly becoming big. IT WILL BE the next big thing. But it will be THROUGH a SLOW revolution, one that grows on us slowly because while the technology is “almost” there (and almost might be a long distance away), society isn’t. What we’ll probably see is a generational transformation, where slowly technology will trickle down from these projects and will be adopted by everyday cars (that by then will be very futuristic!).

A ver: Fortitude

Fortitude TV Series

Ver ep. 1 na RTP Play. A RTP2 está a transmitir Fortitude até dia 6 de Outubro. A não perder, todos os dias às 22h. Só é pena que o site da RTP seja tão parco na informação prestada sobre a programação das séries e que seja quase preciso ir adivinhando dia a dia se vai dar ou não. Mas sim, é todos os 5 dias da semana em ponto, às 22h.

A série passada no circulo polar ártico tem paisagens deslumbrantes e um clima único. Se é fã de Twin Peaks ou Wayward Pines vai encontrar algum paralelismo embora a realização não seja de David Lynch. A verdade é que aquele glaciar esconde muito bem o seu segredo e há gente a morrer por causa disso, . . . ou talvez não.

Os personagens da série são complexos, com passados muitas vezes negros e que contrastam com a dureza do ambiente de Fortitude onde a espécie mais forte são os ursos polares.

Já agora prestem dois minutos de atenção à banda sonora de Fortitude.