Degree Confluence Project

April 29th, 2003 § Comments Off § permalink

The Degree Confluence Project is an interesting initiative to take an organized sampling of the world by visiting and photographing each point of Earth’s surface where latitude and longitude intersect in integer degrees. The project obviously excludes points on the oceans and near the poles, but there is still more than 13 thousands points to visit. The pictures and stories are interesting.

In Brazil there are 728 confluence points, of which 62 where visited. In the state where I live, Minas Gerais, there are 53 and 10 were visited. It would be interesting to go to some of the points near my city, but I don’t own a GPS device and the points seem to be in places of difficult access most times. To those who enjoy geocaching, however, the project seems to be a good alternative to have fun and contribute.

Caching in MovableType

April 25th, 2003 § Comments Off § permalink

Gavin Estey just released a cool plugin for caching parts of a template in MovableType, resulting in faster page rebuilds. For people who use lots of time-consuming plugins or rebuild long pages each time a new item is posted to their blogs, this plugin is a welcome addition.

It’s funny, but this plugin solves a problem I had to deal with when I was redesigning the Portuguese version of this blog. I eventually worked around the problem, but this plugin may be a better solution. I will have to give it a try later.

The World as a Blog

April 24th, 2003 § 1 comment § permalink

The World as a Blog is a incredibly ingenious use of RSS, geographical information, and the notification system from Weblogs.com.

C# Builder

April 24th, 2003 § Comments Off § permalink

In the past days, Borland has released more information about its Sidewinder project, a new C# development tool for the .NET platform. The tool, whose official name is C# Builder, is the first visible part of a future bundle of tools intended to address all stages of application development, including design, programming, testing, deployment and management.

Curious developer can check the company’s community site, which is now featuring a sneak preview of the tool. However, the preview, which is basically a demonstration of the development environment, seems to be geared to point-haired bosses, as it fails to show anything new or of interest to developers. The IDDE is rather similar to those of Delphi and Visual Studio for .NET, and it still remains to be seen the features that will make C# Builder a valid competitor for those tools, especially considering that Delphi’s next version, code-named Octane and scheduled for release at the end of the year, will also support .NET development with a new version of its native language.

I’m a Borland fan since I started using its development tools, back in Turbo Pascal 5.5 days, but I’m disappointed with the last versions of its tools. Delphi, for example, has not seen any language enhancements in its past two versions, and improvements are limited to the small changes in the IDDE or to the addition of new tools to its bundles (like Bold in Delphi 7). However, in almost all instances, those new tools are restricted to the high-end versions of the tool, which are not accessible to independent developers, as they lack the money to buy those versions. (In Brazil, for example, the Enterprise version costs 10 thousand reais, which is equivalent to six-months’ worth of salary of a relatively well-paid developer.) Moreover, Borland is removing some functionality in lesser versions of the tool, signaling it’s only interested in bigger customers now. I own Delphi 6 Professional, but I have no intention of upgrading it since the equivalent version 7 package offers me less than what I have now.

Even so, I hope Borland can succeed, and that its new tools and new versions of old tools are really innovative in order to level the playing field and compete with Microsoft’s similar offerings, even if they are geared only to big companies. It will be interesting to see what happens in the development market in the coming months.

The Hacker’s Diet

April 23rd, 2003 § 1 comment § permalink

Hackers tend to, say, posses more corporal mass than the necessary. ;-) Obviously, with the kind of sedentary life we usually lead, it’s hard to keep a healthy weight. I’m at least four kilograms above the ideal weight for my height and muscular constitution. (To tell the truth, the situation is worse: as I haven’t exercised myself regularly in the last years, the migration of adipose cells to the part of my body directly below my thorax is in a very advanced state.)

Well, there is no other way to solve this problem except with proper exercising and dieting. However, considering the number of crazy diet plans out there, it’s hard to believe that one of them will give real results.

Nonetheless, yesterday, checking the feeds I’m subscribed to, I found a pointer to an interesting diet plan created by a hacker for hackers, properly called The Hacker’s Diet. Its author is John Walker, founder and ex-chairman of AutoDesk. I have a natural distrust for such personal diet plans, but Walker’s plan looks interesting, mainly because of its simplicity. Judging from what’s written in the site, the diet seems to apply only simple and well-known principles.

According Walker, he created this diet plan because his own obesity problems. As Sérgio (in whose feed I found the pointer) notes, Walker is a successful — and rich — person, and it’s unlikely he would create such plan just to get money from gullible people. Anyway, the question is moot since the texts and the supporting material is free. Also, unlike most of the other so-called “diet” plans, Walker says his method is not easy to be applied.

Another interesting point, also noted by Sérgio, is that Walker is a scientist, and, as such, approaches the problem with an analytical vision that makes sense. And, at least for him, it worked, although, as he advises, it may not work for everybody.

It’s really an interesting reading. I will certainly have to take a more detailed look at it later.

TypePad

April 23rd, 2003 § Comments Off § permalink

Six Apart, the company founded by the creators of MovableType, has just anounced a new blog hosting service: TypePad. It looks very interesting, building on MovableType to provide new services for bloggers like template management, creation of photo albums, built-in blogrolls, and the creation of reading and listening lists in a managed environment suited for both beginning and experienced users. (More information on the new features can be found on a Ben Hammersley’s article on the subject in the Guardian.)

MovableType is obviously the most powerful blogging tool in existence today, and this new venture will surely be a strong new competitor in the blog hosting arena, especially considering the quality of what Ben and Mena Trott have produced so far. All luck to them in this new project.

A Canticle for Leibowitz

April 22nd, 2003 § Comments Off § permalink

A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller, is one of those books that cause a feeling of uneasiness in the readers. That feeling comes from the way the author deals with the main theme of his work, which is one of the greatest fears of our generation: the apocalypse that can be unleashed by unchecked nuclear power.

The story begins six hundred years after a global nuclear catastrophe that virtually wiped mankind from Earth’s face. After the disaster, which inundated the planet in a flame deluge, the few survivors seek to destroy the scientific knowledge, considered by them as one of the causes of the hecatomb, and eliminate the men responsible by that knowledge, plunging humanity in an era of barbarism and savagery. Nonetheless, in the dark years following the holocaust, a monastic order, whose protector is Saint Leibowitz, struggles to preserve remnants of the lost science through the Memorabilia: scientific texts copied uncountable times waiting for some person to integrate them in a new Renaissance. In an ocean of ignorance, those monks are like a small boat seeking for a distant and illuminated shore. As time passes, and mankind regains the lost knowledge — thanks, in part, to the effort of those men — a question arises: is the memory of the nuclear holocaust enough to prevent a new tragedy?

The book — which won a Hugo award in 1961, and would probably have won a Nebula if it existed at the time — causes a lingering impression on its readers due to its vividness and complexity. Miller weaves a subtle plot that absorbs the readers, leaving them in a permanent disbelief of mankind’s motivations. This is, in fact, the book’s greatest quality. Far from being an apology of progress, the book questions the values behind the technological advances of our society, although it’s not against science itself or its development. Thus, the author calls the readers’ attention to the really important questions in our acquiring of scientific comprehension.

Since I read it for the first time, many years ago, A Canticle for Leibowitz, earned a place in my preferred science fiction books. It’s one of the books I read from time to time because of its literary richness, and it’s certainly worthy of figuring in any compilation or library of the best science fiction books of all times. In short, strongly recommended.

I’m back

April 22nd, 2003 § Comments Off § permalink

My vacations are over, and I’m back to work, reinvigorated for another year. :-) This blog will now resume its scheduled programming.

The City and the Stars

April 20th, 2003 § Comments Off § permalink

The City and the Stars, by Arthur Clarke, is, undoubtedly, one of the best science fiction books of all times. This is seen in the fact that the book is constantly featured in lists of classics of the genre. And, indeed, the futuristic vision presented in the book is one of the most poetic in literature, crafted in a story that begs repeated readings.

As many of Clarke’s books, the way the story begins in The City and the Stars indicates but in no way reveals the real direction the events will take in the course of the narrative. So, the reader is initially shown to Diaspar, the last human city. Diaspar has existed for a billion years in a aged Earth, and is the highest fruit of human science. Completely automatized and self-sufficient, the city is as close to a earthly paradise as any place can be. Its inhabitants are the pinnacle of human perfection, and spend their long lives in a productive and contented existence. After a thousand years of life, they are returned as electronic information to a Central Computer to be born again after tens of thousands years for another life, retaining all the memories they want to keep across their lives. Everybody is blissfully happy… except for Alvin, one of the youngest members of Diaspar’s society. Born a little less then twenty years ago, Alvin knowns he is different from his companions. Unlike them, he desires to know what is outside Diaspar, in the desert, and dreams of the long forgotten days when man still crossed the void between the stars. His unrest will take him in a quest to find the truth about himself, which will ultimately reveal the real truth of human history.

Written in the fifties, the plot is still consistent in technological terms, and doesn’t lose credibility in face of the most recent scientific advances. The narrative follows Clarke’s usual clear and fluid style with well built characters that allow the reader to fully immerse himself in the story. The ending in entirely satisfactory and interesting.

This must have been the fourth or fifth time I read the book again since I found it many years ago. To me, it remains as evocative as ever; in fact, every time I think about it, the word artistic comes to my mind. The last chapter posses an atemporal beauty touching mankind’s dreams. The City and the Stars is a book that will forever remain between those that exalt our desire to attain the stars.

In short: obligatory reading to any fan of the genre, and recommended reading to any avid reader.

New books

April 18th, 2003 § 3 comments § permalink

My vacations are almost over. I feel great after all those days, with proper sleep, lots of food and books. :-)

My wife and I went out to see a movie, and stopped in a used books store on our way. This detour resulted in six new books for our library. They are:

  • Simulacron-3, by Daniel F. Galouye. This book was adapted to the big screen as The 13th Floor. I was trying to find it since I watched the movie for the first time, a couple years ago, and I simply couldn’t let the opportunity pass.
  • Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke. One of the all-time Science Fiction classics. The price was great, and the book is incredible.
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller. Another great Science Fiction classic. This book is so interesting that I would take it regardless of the price.
  • The Solitaire Mystery, by Jostein Gaarder. The first book I will read from this writer. It seemed interesting, and I hope it really is.
  • The Island of the Day Before, by Umberto Eco. A friend of mine recommended it. From what he told me about the book, it will be pretty interesting.
  • Pet Sematary, by Stephen King. One of his classics terror stories. My wife chose it, but I love King’s book and I have never read that one.

I will post my reviews here as I read them.

Where am I?

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