When all computers fail...

Suddenly this week both my computers decided to give me some grief. First was my Mac that is running low on disk space (it's all those pictures that I keep taking and filling my hard disk). It's interesting that when I'm below 8 GB of hard disk free things can get quite weird. Part of it is because I have 8 GB of RAM on my computer and that creates 8 GB of swap/restore space. And that space is not always taken, so at some point I could have 5 GB free and a few minutes later I only have 44 MB free. At that time is when all software in the computer freezes and I have to drop to terminal to do anything. Solution: free more space (which is not straight-forward, but I'm trying).

Then comes to my windows machine... As I mentioned before, I have a Windows 8 machine that has been working reasonably well. Then Windows 8.1 came out and I thought: well, I heard good things about this upgrade, so maybe I should do it. Oh, if only Microsoft agreed with me! I download it and start installing. After it reboots I get a very quick blue screen with a sad face and after rebooting again I get an error after I log in saying that the upgrade failed and it rolled back to Windows 8 with a cryptic error code (0xC1900101-0x20017). There are lots of conflicting reports about what could be happening, but none of the solutions that I've heard (forcing install of all driver updates, running disabling the network) worked for me. I did try to find the log and look for information on what is going on, but I couldn't find anything useful yet. Very frustrating!

But fortunately there are "workarounds"  for both my problems:

  1. Mac: free disk space
  2. Windows: don't upgrade

And that's what I've done. Boo...

I'll report again if I'm able to upgrade Windows one of these days. As for my Mac, maybe it's a sign that I should upgrade my now 4.5-year-old laptop...  New MacBook Pros have just been released, so it's a great time to upgrade..


Doubly secure Windows Store

I was looking around the Windows 8 App Store just to consider whether I was going to upgrade to 8.1, and then I came across this very strange "security" category


See that all other categories seem to highlight 2 (and sometimes even 5) different programs? Well, what it looks like is that security is "locked" and I can't add any security apps to my computer. Isn't this strange? Yes, it's Windows...

Enjoying La Conner, WA

Today I decided to take the day off and skip town with Amy. After some debating of where to go, considering that we have an event to attend tonight in Downtown Seattle, we decided to go to La Conner. A nice small town about an hour North of Seattle. It was a beautiful day (probably one of the last ones this year). 


And we had a great time. Lots of art galleries, and even two weird things: 

  1. Apparently lots of people are Gluten Free out there, so quite a few places we went to had Gluten Free things for Amy.
  2. And we ended up going to a bakery run by Trever McGhee, who currently has the Guinness World Record of the longest firewalk. And he owns a bakery and is "specialized" in making scones (and donating part of his profit to different charity organizations - today was the Boys & Girls Club). Very interesting person, but I guess that's required if part of what you do is walking on hot coals, huh? 

Anyway, didn't take many pictures there. For some reason I didn't quite find many picture-worthy things. 

9 years at Amazon, huh?

I forgot to mention one thing on my last post: today I celebrated 9 years at Amazon... Who would have thought I would still be around? But I'm having fun (most of the days). Still learning. I've had some quite successful projects, and some that didn't last for as long as I was expecting. I can't talk about my current project, but I can talk about some highlights about previous projects: 

  • Adding semantics to how products are defined at Amazon, supporting easier category expansion.
  • Auto-classification of products
  • Richer rules for cleaning up structured attributes in data, including handling crazy (and I really mean crazy) apparel sizing
  • Embedded and sandboxed HTML5 application environment

There were lots of other things that I've worked on. But these were probably the ones that had the biggest longer term business impact (even though the HTML5 app project was canceled not long after I left it - but it planted a seed onto different systems that hopefully will continue making Kindle products more innovative). 

Who knows, one of these days I might talk about what I'm working on right now. If everything works as planned, it will certainly feature on my list of accomplishments above. There is just so much left to do... 

So the trip is gone... Life has just been speeding away

So, yes, I have been in Brazil. A long time ago! And I barely met anybody besides my family. At least that part was successful. I had a good time hanging out with my sister and my niece and nephew. Then I came back missing my friends more than when I left. But I guess that's how it works. I just need to figure out how to go back more often than once every 3+ years.

And how has Seattle been since I've arrived? Quite busy, unfortunately. Work has been a little crazy (7 days a week, many hours a day crazy), but hopefully things will quiet down a little soon (hope is the only thing left for me). Building some really interesting things, but I wished I had more time to be home and work on my projects at home. They now include:

  1. Finishing my entertainment center phase 1B (it's missing a door that I messed up when I made a hole on it, and I need to fix the drawers that don't open and close very smoothly)
  2. Work on a replacement alarm clock for the bedroom: I'm very frustrated by not being able to find an alarm clock that has all the features that I want, so I decided to build one. 
  3. Managing the Seattle Jewish Chorale website.  It uses GoDaddy's website builder tool, which is quite challenging to work with. That's why it's very hard to make the design work (besides the fact that I'm a terrible designer). But I'm slowly trying to clean it up and streamline the maintenance of it. My next project is to support a way for choir member to post events for other members to be aware of. The most challenging features of this is the need for privacy, but not require new login. So it's going to be a lot of pseudo-secure Javascript code. I hope it works well enough.

And, yes, I still have a wife with her projects, like her Turkorah . It's been quite busy in our household.


Preparation for the next trip

In preparation for my upcoming trip to Brazil, I finally finished organizing (mostly) my pictures from my last "bigger" trip: to Utah to visit Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. Both very interesting in their own way (with their own red rocks): 

SmugMug Album: Utah Trip

I don't really expect to take too many pictures in Brazil, though, as it's mostly going to be around hanging out with family. Things are quite chaotic at work and I'm actually glad that I was able to take two weeks off (mostly because I planned this before things got this chaotic). And part of these two weeks is going to be Rosh Hashanah, which also limits the amount of time I'll have to hang out with friends. But hopefully I'll be able to do some if it too. What I probably won't be able to do is to be a tourist. Oh, well... Next time!

Salt consumption numbers

Today I was reading an article that said that Brazilian salt consumpion is high (twice what is recommended by the WHO) mostly because Brazilians add too much salt to their food. According to them, 70% of the salt consumed in Brazil is added by the consumer. The US also has a lot of problems due to salt consumption, so I decided to compare. Apparently the numbers are quite different here [source] [source]:

  • Brazilians consume about 4,460 mg of salt a day, Americans consume 3,400 mg. The recommended is between 1,500 and 2,300 mg a day.
  • 70% of the salt consumed in Brazil is added by the consumer. 75% of the salt consumed in the US is from packaged foods.  (the packaged food number in Brazil seems to be 23.8%)

What do we learn from this? Well, first is that Americans eat a lot of packaged food. Here is an infographic for you . Based on weight, Americans eat 57% of their total food intake from packaged sources (787 vs. 602 lb). Brazilians each 37% from packaged foods (392 vs 677 lb). So, if we focus on how much actual salt there is in packaged foods in US vs. Brazil, we get:

  • In BR, 0.2 % of packaged foods is salt
  • In US, 0.26% of packaged foods is salt

Not that different, huh? Now for fresh foods:

  • BR:  0.4% of fresh foods is salt
  • US: 0.11%  of fresh foods is salt

A much different story, huh? Hopefully my math is right here...


    Hey, you: hands off the keyboard and step away from the computer!

    Some developers really need to step away from their development job and study some things before getting back. And that's not to say worse things... I was navigating a Brazilian website today and suddenly I get a popup error that said (I've omitted some things and slightly changed some other things in order for this information not to be used by malicious people that might not have seen this error):

    ERRO: /home/httpd/htdocs/[omitted].php (569) - mysql_connect() [<a href='function.mysql-connect'>function.mysql-connect</a>]: Access denied for user 'sistemabruboun'@'' (using password: YES)

    Who in their right mind (or otherwise) would decide to add a username and password to a database in the error message??? 

    Google+ is strange, and the bugs don't help

    From time to time I look at Google+ for a reason or another just to see if there is any interesting reason to use it. But every time I do that I find things that just make no sense. For instance, twice already I had Amy on my circles and suddenly she wasn't on any circles anymore and Google+ was suggesting me to add her to circles. Huh? And I had to explain to my wife TWICE that it's not that I removed her from my circles. Fortunately she doesn't use Google+ so it wasn't a big deal.

    Today I had a new one. I received an email that somebody that I don't know added me to her circle. So I went to Google+ to see who the person is... Not much information was provided, so I decided to look at the people that have added her to their circles. Google says: 8 people have her in their circles. I click on it and I get 5 people!!! But it gets better. In the bottom it has a small notice: "People who've recently circled <person> may not be shown." and a question mark. I clicked on the question mark and...

    Thanks, Google!

    A variant on multiple choice answers...

    One in which you can only choose one choice at a time through Javascript:

    Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 9.19.44 AM.png

    What you can't really see here is that if you choose "None of the above" it will make "enterprise" grayed out and unselect it if you had selected it. So, yes, it uses checkboxes to allow for multiple answers, but semantically it really only allows one answer right now (I think somebody was lazy and forgot to fill the list of the major car rental companies there).

    Mountain Dew as a breakfast drink

    I was reading this article on the Seattle Times today:

    Mountain Dew introduces breakfast drink with a jolt

    And the first thing that came to mind is: oh, Mountain Dew is not a breakfast drink? I don't drink it, but I've met multiple people that drink Mountain Dew all day long, including breakfast. So I'm not really sure how much market they will be able to get here. Maybe it's just that they can charge more and make more money out of the people that will switch just because PepsiCo now says that this one is "good to drink in the morning", so it must be healthy? It has juice (5 percent of it!) and vitamins! And, who knows, it might not have neon green color!

    Anyway, thinking back on it, if people that drink Mountain Dew for breakfast change it to drinking this Kickstart, maybe they will be better off. It might have less chemicals, and some small nutritional value. It will have the same amount of caffeine (5.75 mg/oz), which could make people not drink more of it. So, go PepsiCo!

    Enjoying the moment

    Normally on Tuesdays I have voice lesson. However, yesterday it ended up being cancelled because my teacher had an urgent matter to deal with. Well, so I decided to use the evening to instead of just working late (which is not that I don't have to do, as I still have a ton of performance reviews to write) to go to a concert: Eighth Blackbird. It was quite great! Nothing like come contemporary classical music to make your day more interesting!

    The concert itself was reasonably short. About 1h 30min with a 15 minute intermission. They played 6 different pieces:

    1. Derek Bermel's Tied Shifts (2004)
    2. Philip Glass's Knee Play 2 from Einstein on the Beach (1975)
    3. Tom Johnson's Counting Duets (1982)
    4. Gyögy Ligeti's Études for solo piano, arranged for sextet (1985-94, arranged 2012)
    5. Andy Akiho's erase (2011)
    6. Steve Reich's Double sextet (2007)

    As you can see, they are all pretty recent (almost all of them composed when I was already alive, which is quite unusual for classical music). The weirdest one was probably Tom Johnson's Counting Duets. Unfortunately I can't find any recordings for you to look at, but basically it's for two musicians that just move around the stage counting (like "1", "2", "3"...). Just fascinating!

    Anyway, they are nominated again for a Grammy. They already have two! I can't necessarily claim that I understand the correlation between quality and being nominated to a Grammy, or even winning one in classical music, but at least it means that they have some following and some people that are investing money on them to get them into the Grammy's. And I think it's well invested!

    Is my HTML experience ruined?

    When I joined Amazon, working in the catalog world, it made my life shopping at Amazon hard. I'd see all the possible catalog mistakes and it's would drive me crazy.

    Now that I worked with an HTML5 platform at Amazon, now I'm feeling like my HTML experience in general is getting ruined, because I'm doing the same thing with web pages. For example, this is what I saw today when I opened twitter on Chrome:

    Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 7.05.14 AM.png

    Pretty broken, right? Well, so I had to go and open it on Firefox and see what a different engine does with it:

    Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 7.04.46 AM.png

    Less broken, but still not optimal. I tried to look at the markup itself and it seems to be some very strange unicode character that is causing it. Oddly, when I look at the inspector things look much more like what it looks on Firefox. I don't know what is causing Chrome to rotate those dots and then get confused about the text width and not know how to build that div. 

    But let's put blame on the right place. I decided to open it on Safari then, which is also a WebKit browser. And see what happens...

    Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 7.13.16 AM.png
    Fascinating... The font issue is the same, but it can figure out the right size for that div! Ah, HTML... 3 browsers, 3 different results!

    Amazon AutoRip's unexpected benefits

    Amazon launched AutoRip, which provides you with automatic MP3 versions of albums that you bought in CD form from Amazon. Not all CDs work, but for the ones that work, it will make things a little easier. Doesn't sound very exciting, right? Well, I went to check today what CDs were auto-ripped for me (well, all my CDs are already in MP3 format, so I was wondering what would happen with those) and it added 4 CDs to my collection. All 4 actually were CDs that I bought for other people! Thanks, Amazon (well, maybe I should thank them more if I really wanted those songs...)!

    Happy New Year!

    Amazingly 2013 is here! 2012 was a tough year. It was busy but not really as busy as 2011, but it was more introspective. It's hard to pinpoint what the problem of 2012 was, but now that it's over, maybe I can just leave it behind and move onto 2013. And there is lots in store for it already:

    • On January 14th I start in a new team at Amazon working on yet another secret project. My two years at Kindle were amazing. I learned a lot of what it means to do device and HTML5 development and handle working with a lot of people that are not on the same city I'm in. I've worked with some great people that can handle change in direction, or sometimes staying on the same direction for a long time, and still be fun and hang out from time to time.
    • End-of-march-ish my younger sister will become a mother of my first nephew (I have a niece). So that means I'll be heading to Brazil at some point during the year, but I don't know when yet.
    • More friends locally are going through the transition of becoming parents, which is also interesting.

    Not much really changed in 2012...

    • After singing bass/baritone for about 16 years, I was now moved to being a tenor 2, and it's working alright so far.
    • I've started making bread more often (see other posts for more details)
    • I've gone on my first cruise (to Alaska)
    • I finally went to Victoria, BC, Canada.
    • My parents came to visit (they are here right now)
    • I've talked to my friends less (as much as it pains me to admit it)

    Let 2013 come and bring joy to us all!

    Somebody doesn't know how to count - Amazon Instant Video edition

    There are lots of examples out there of systems not knowing how to count. I know that I have problems from time to time with Google Reader of it misrepresenting how many unread articles I have, for example. But today I found something that is closer to my control: Amazon Instant Video.

    It's the end of the year, so it's time for the reports on the top of the year. So here is the top 20 best rated movies by customers on Amazon:

    And yes, you are not crazy: there are only 16 of them. How fascinating! It's so easy to get this one right!

    It's alive! (or at least doing something)

    One of my current electronic projects is to build a distributed wireless temperature and humidity sensor network throughout my house and use that to eventually control my heater. One big restriction that I've forced myself into is to make it as inexpensive as possible. Well, after a few weekends of working an hour or so on it, I have something that works! Or sort of. But first for the summary of components (because that's important for what is going on):

    The code is pretty simple: it uses a couple of libraries that already were provided out there (will provide the links soon, and post my modified code) and basically reads the two values and sends them to a receiver that is connected to my computer and logs the results.

    Seems simple, right? Well, it is! So I put the sensor on the guest bedroom and I'm reading the information from my "lab" and it says: Temperature: 13ºC, Humidity: 27%. According to my measurements with other sensors, it should really say something like Temperature: 17ºC, Humidity: 52%! The interesting thing is that I have 2 of those sensors (they were $4 each) and they all say exactly the same thing, so if it's a calibration issue, it's consistent.

    I'm not sure of what my theory should be. At first I thought that maybe humidity sensor was shifted by a bit and actually it's double that (which is consistent), but then the checksum should fail and the temperature should be off by a factor of 2 also, which it isn't.

    What's next, then? Fortunately I have another humidity sensor: HH10D. A little more expensive and way more awkward to use (you have to read the calibration values from an EEPROM and then read the data and use those values to calculate the values), so I guess I'll leave this for some other time - probably next year (I don't know if I'll have time this weekend and then my parents will be in town for two weeks). Oh, well. We keep at it!