Wednesday, January 31, 2007

January VFP Letter from MS posted

Microsoft has posted the late-coming January 2007 Letter from the Editor in the main Visual FoxPro page. The reason for the delay is mainly to await the official release of Windows Vista™, yesterday.

There is not much new in it as Sedna (the next Visual FoxPro release) is still being worked on but it mentions some of the tests done for Vista with VFP 9.0 and VFP 8.0

VFP 9.0 SP1 has been certified Vista compatible at 100%. There are a few unresolved issues with Visual FoxPro 8.0 but they are not deemed critical, and considering that official VFP8.0 support ends in April 2008, Microsoft is recommending users to upgrade to VFP 9.0

I would also urge people to upgrade since VFP 9 has so much more to offer the professional developer.

It also mentions that a new CTP of Senda is forthcoming. Stay tuned.

Photo of the Day

Museum of Natural History - Prague

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

iPhone: a parody from Conan O'Brien

Conan O'Brien's show parodies the iPhone (YouTube link). It's everything!

Recent interviews with Randi

James Randi's "The Amazing Meeting #5" finished last week in Las Vegas.

Here's a couple of recent interviews. One is a short video blog by Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, the other an interview on the Paul Harris Show on KMOX Radio in St. Louis.

Talks about Sylvia Browne, James Van Praagh and Uri Geller. Worth listening to.

Coding Horror: How To Become a Better Programmer by Not Programming

Jeff Atwood from Coding Horror blog fame, has a good essay entitled "How To Become a Better Programmer by Not Programming".

He contends, and I tend to agree, that you can tell early in someone's career if they are a good programmer or not. No amount of time and experience will magically convert someone that does not have the aptitude and attitude.

Being always at work does not make you a better programmer per se. You have to sometimes take a distance and smell the roses. He quotes Bill Gates' comments from 1986 that still apply today.

Am I a good programmer? I think so. Am I an excellent programmer? No. I am not even close to the best skilled developers out there. I can hold my own as my 20+ years in the business can attest. I have developed in many languages and for many companies, but I cannot consider myself to be at the top, or even close to it. I do know a few programmers (very few) which I consider to be at the top of the trade, as I've seen their work.

Read his article and see if you agree. In the meantime, I have a tricky SQL-Server Stored Procedure I'm working on that I must finish.

[Update]: fixed typos

CoDe Magazine Special Issue: Focus on VFP's Sedna

CoDe Magazine, an excellent software development magazine, owned and written by developers, many of them MS MVPs, is preparing to publish a special issue with a focus on Sedna, the next release of Visual FoxPro.

The issue, soon to appear although there is not a firm date out yet, will be titled "Sedna: Beyond VFP 9.0" and will include articles by some of the most well-known Fox developers in our community.

One of them, Rick Schummer talks about his participation in his latest blog post. Also YAG mentions that Microsoft is involved in writing for this special issue. Promises to be great. Oh, did I mention that if you register it's free? Be sure to mention VFP as one of your interests.

Photo of the Day

Limpkin - Wakodahatchee Wetlands, FL

Monday, January 29, 2007

Photo of the Day

Pie-billed Grebe - Green Cay Wetlands - Delray Beach - FL

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Photo of the Day

Female House Sparrow

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Alka-Seltzer added to spherical water drop in microgravity

What do you get when you add Alka-Seltzer to a spherical water drop in microgravity?

Expedition Six NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit performs a series of microgravity experiments with water spheres and effervescent antacid tablets. In the second of four videos, Pettit inserts a tablet into a 50-millimeter sphere and observes the fizzy results. [YouTube]

As a bonus, here's another video: Opening a can of honey in microgravity.

(Via Neatorama)

Photo of the Day

Detail on a building in Prague

Photo workflow

Somebody at asked me about my photo workflow, so here it is. It is not the definitive answer obviously as I'm not a professional, but it works for me.

I mostly shot as JPEGs, not raw except in very few occasions.

  • I always first do a quick pass over all the series after a shoot and delete the bad ones.
  • I copy all remaining to a temp folder in a second drive.
  • Then do a second pass to analyze what's decent in more detail. Maybe delete a few more, else just archive in primary drive (I have two internals) in a folder named for the shooting locale.
  • Next copy the candidates for my gallery to a working folder.
  • Pass each one through Paint Shop Pro 9 and apply my standard changes:
  • Crop
  • Straighten horizon if needed
  • Clone out undesired areas. This is sometimes easy, sometimes a lot of work, (e.g. garbage cans, light poles, flag poles, telephone wires, etc.)
  • Noise reduction, sometimes with PSP 9 if it is a small job, other times with "Neat Image" plugin
  • Fix levels and/or add layers: 'Multiply' to darken, or 'screen' to lighten, and reduce layer opacity to suit
  • Merge (flatten) layers
  • Un-sharp mask
  • Change brightness/middle tones/contrast, if needed
  • Save the newly fixed image with the same filename and appending a letter 'a' as the first version
  • I anotherr interim version needs to be saved for further processing (like B&W), save it as version 'b' and so on
  • Candidates for B&W go through my BW actions which are generally done through Channel Mix
  • Some B&W I do through desaturation when I want to desaturate all but one color (I've done a few of those)
Then I finish by reducing size to 800 on a side for posting online and (sometimes) adding a frame and my name, which is done by another action and saved as yet another letter-version.

Sounds complicated. but all except for the cloning is very fast as it is done with actions stopping at every dialog to sometimes adjust a level, else just accepting my pre-set defaults. (e.g. Channel Mix at 43-33-33). It takes a few minutes per photo.

Once a day or so I use 'Beyond Compare' (excellent and very economical program to copy all new and updated files to the secondary drive as a backup). Every so often I burn a CD for safekeeping. I also every week or so, use Beyond Compare to copy to my wife's Hard Drive which she does not use much, and is in the home LAN (Windows XP).

Friday, January 26, 2007

Are printers "hackable"? Yep.

Who would've thought it? Printers, especially business printers, are getting more and more sophisticated and intelligent, to the point where they are now just like desktops in disguise. When connected to the corporate LAN, they are just a big a target as regular workstations.

eWeek has a nice article: Our Printer Got Hacked?!?! on the subject. Printers are now security risks and you must treat them accordingly.

This is generally not an issue for consumer printers as they are generally attached to a PC's printer or USB ports, not directly tio the LAN. Therefore they are protected by the PC's protection in most cases. If you are going to attack a home PC from the outside, why would you care go to its printer?

If you are in charge of securing your company's LAN, this is an issue you have to look at. It doesn't pay to secure your workstations with IP Addresses and not your printers (which also have IP Addresses).

Photo of the day for January 26, 2007

Old cart, Southern Utah

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Six things the tech press isn’t talking about

Paul Murphy writes an interesting article on a list of tech issues we should be hearing more about, but we don't.

From ZDNet:

"Everybody knows" - all kinds of weird and wonderful things. Unfortunately most of them are wrong, we mostly don't know they're wrong, and a lot of us base daily decisions at least partially on some of these certainties. As a public service, therefore, I thought I'd list five important technology changes now underway that the main stream technology press is either largely ignoring, or mainly mis-representing.

1. Everybody knows storage is getting cheaper, but how many articles have you read pointing out that ZFS is getting ported to most OSes and not only implements the first real RAID (redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) solution but makes all the pretenders, and their associated software, obsolete?

2. Everybody knows convergence will drive handhelds -but how many articles have you read pointing out that Apple's iPhone is a pocket Mac (and apparently PPC based at that!); the first product genuinely capable of combining with network based services to wipe out the volume market for notebooks?

3. Everybody knows that the race to multi-core has displaced the race to high megahertz.

4. In the US Congress some democrats have taken time off from planning show trials to draft and present a lobbying control bill which, among other things, sets out the conditions under which anyone trying to influence public opinion via internet means such as blogging has to register as a paid lobbyist - and subsequently abide by the regulations affecting that profession.

5. There's a quiet little tsunami sweeping through e-communications that hardly anybody seems to be talking about.

6. A mass study of the long-term impact of mobile phones is to be undertaken amid fears that people who have used them for more than ten years are at greater risk from brain cancer.

Here's the full article.

(Via UT)

Photo of the Day for Jan 25, 2007

Charles bridge, Prague

(all the Photo of the Day series is (c) Alex Feldstein)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Photo of the Day for Jan 24, 2007

The Carlyle - Ocean Drive Art Deco District - Miami Beach

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Chinese translations

Today employees at my company received a small pedometer as a gift in a campaign to increase health awareness.

It is very nice and commendable that they do that. They bought a ton of Chinese-made el-cheapo brand pedometers, that more or less serve the purpose and make for nice SWAG nonetheless.

I already own a much more accurate OMRON Pedometer so it was not needed but certainly appreciated.

The issue that brings me to write this is the hilarious "instruction manual" that came with it. We have all seen the funny and somewhat incrompehensible "translations" they do to try to sell in English-speaking markets. This one doesn't dissappoint.

Here I quote verbatim:

Product Characteristic: Counting the step

Operational Manual
1) This stepping meter can only count correctly under the flat plant
2) Under the following condition, the stepping meter can't count correctly:
(i) Moon walking. Wearing sandal.
(ii) When walking in the tricky condition.
(iii) Vibration without walking.

I guess that it will work correctly as long as I don't wear one sandal, don't do the moon walk (I can't even do it anyway), and most importantly I should not walk in the tricky condition.

With the millions these people make by selling us this crap, couldn't they find one guy that speaks decent English?

[Update] Fixed typo that was pointed to me in the comments. Valid point (I guess typos apply then :).

Photo of the Day for Jan 23, 2007

Palermo Park on an overcast day, Buenos Aires,Argentina, Jan. 2005

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Photo of the Day for Jan 21, 2007

Miami's Brickell viewed from Key Biscayne

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Photo of the Day for Jan 20, 2007

Bal Harbour, Florida

Friday, January 19, 2007

Thursday, January 18, 2007


We went to see SPAMALOT this past week at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts - Au Rene Theatre, in Ft. Lauderdale. What a wonderful show! As a Monthy Python fan I enjoyed it immensely, fully expecting to see and knowing what was about to happen next. I mean, when they meet the Taunting Frenchmen at the castle, I fully expected to see a cow being catapulted out of it. I wasn't dissappointed.

My wife, who is not a Python fan and had not seen the movie enjoyed it too. The music, lyrics and choreography are first rate. Even though this is the National Tour Company not the Broadway cast, they are all very talented and excellent singers and dancers. Highly recommended. Go see it if it comes to your town.

Jan 18th: Anniversary day

Today is our wedding anniversary; 21st! My, how time flies!

A night in the town with a nice dinner is called for.

I still have the wedding movie in VHS. I should look for one of those services to copy it to DVD for safekeeping. Who uses VHS anymore? My player is feeling lonely now.

Photo of the Day for Jan 18, 2007

Detail on City Hall, Coral Gables, Florida

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Photo of the day

Haulover Pier, Bal Harbour, Florida, December 2006

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Photo of the day

Ruddy Turnstone
Haulover Cut, Bal Harbour, FL

[Update] Resized to acommodate smaller resolutions.
[Update2] Species identified.

Monday, January 15, 2007

New Nikon D80

I've spent some time since the end-of-year holidays playing with, and learning my new camera, a beautiful Nikon D80.

Most people who know me, know that I'm a photographer at heart. Since I lost my previous camera, by stupidly leaving it behind in a airplane in Las Vegas, I was left camera-less.

Fast forward a couple of months and I'm the proud owner of a brand-stinking new Nikon D80 DSLR from B&H Photo.

This is my return to the SLR type, after 30+ years and, although I've been doing digital photography exclusively for some years now, it was not with SLRs but with Prosumer cameras.

The D80, released in Sept 2006, is by far the best and most advanced camera I owned. Coupled with some decent lenses (currently just entry-level glass, until I can afford the really good ones), this is an awesome machine.

For starters, I purchased an low-end 70-300 zoom, a fixed-focal length Nikon 50mm 1.8, a wonderfrul crisp lens and just bought from a fellow photographer a used but mint-condition 18-55mm to fill the wide angle range.

I started taking some nice photographs, posted to my site, and trying to leanr this new beast.

Here are some samples.


Winter in Miami

I will be posting some more photos soon. Any comments, positive or negative on these photos are welcome. I am always trying to improve my style.


[Update] Resized to acommodate smaller resolutions.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Octopus camouflage

Watch the video and spot the octopus—it's like magic.

(Via Pharyngula)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I've been tagged!

I've been tagged by Claudio. There is this Blogosphere Meme where you are tagged by somebody and have to tell 5 things about you that are not common knowledge. In turn you must tag 5 others.

Let's see. I am very open in my blogs and I have been at it for a while now so there are not many things I can think of that are not commonly known.

1. In a previous life, (ie. before computers), I worked for many years selling machine tools (metal-working machines such as lathes and milling machines). It was a very interesting and enjoyable job that allowed me to travel, meet many people, and made it possible for me to immigrate to the USA back in 1981 as a job transfer.

2. I used to be a pretty decent chess player until 1976 when I learned the Game of Go. I became a member of the Argentina Go Association (AsociaciĆ³n Argentina de Go) and later of the American Go Association and never played chess again. I then played in several US Go Congresses (USA's national tournaments) and have an extensive library of Go games and Go problems to solve, over 60% of them all in Japanese! True I have not been active in the Go scene for over 6 years, due to lack of time and other interests but I still know how to play the game {g}.

3. I used to build model airplanes and ships. I still have a nice collection at home of 1/72 scale aircraft, 1/700 scale ships and even one big 1/350 scale model of the USS Enterprise (by Tamiya) A couple of my models where on display at the old local modeling powerhouse store, Orange Blossom Hobbies in Miami in the early 1990's.

4. I also created, some of them fairly recently, FS2004 public-domain sceneries, especially for the excellent Tongass Fjords add-on by Holger Sandmann and Bill Womack, which can be freely downloaded from some common FS-related sites.

5. In my early 20's I was a motorcycle fan and over the years I owned three motorcycles, ending with a Kawasaki 400 which I had to sell when I moved to the USA in 1981. Ahh, the memories!

Now I am suppossed to tag 5 people:

1. Rick Schummer
2. Garrett Fitzgerald
3. Rick Borup
4. Doug Hennig
5. Craig Berntson

Tag! You are it!

[Update]: fix typos

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What does 200 calories look like?

Have you ever asked yourself this question?

A fellow photographer took the trouble to research it and illustrate it with pictures. And he used a Nikon to boot!

Some foods have significantly more calories than others but what does the difference actually look like. Each of the photographs below represents 200 calories of the particular type of food; the images are sorted from low to high calorie density.

When you consider that an entire plate of broccoli contains the same number of calories as a small spoonful of peanut butter, you might think twice the next time you decide what to eat. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average adult needs to consume about 2000 - 2500 calories to maintain their weight. In other words, you have a fixed amount of calories to "spend" each day; based on the following pictures, which would you eat?

Thanks Julien!