Older blog entries for maragato (starting at number 47)

My need for anonymity

Much has been said about the pros and cons of anonymity lately, prompted by Google+ TOS which require the use of one’s real name. No pseudonyms allowed, except apparently if you call yourself Lady Gaga or 50 Cent.

I have seen many kinds of arguments both for and against the use of aliases and I will not repeat them here. There is however one use of aliases that I haven’t seen stated anywhere and that coincidentally affects me personally. Perhaps this is so because the problem I am about to present is not so common after all. Or perhaps it is common but people decide not to talk about it. I have no way of knowing.

Anonymity is a vital necessity to people with a certain kind of disability, a mental disorder. I am such a person. As some of my friends know and others mock, I suffer from a mental condition called social phobia, also known as social anxiety. I take medications that help me overcome some of the most serious effects and that allow me to do things like write about it on this very blog.

Social anxiety manifests itself in varying degrees in all kinds of social interactions. And the levels of manifestations are not what you might expect. I regularly make presentations without a second thought. I’ve given talks to hundreds of people. And yet, ordering a pizza over the phone is terrifying experience to me. No matter how many times I’ve done it, I still have to “prepare” myself every time. I rehearse, play several unlikely scenarios in my head until I finally get the courage to dial the number and talk to the person on the other side. One characteristic of this anxiety disorder is that rationally I know that there is nothing wrong; there is no risk in calling the pizza place. But the brain acts as if there were. But I digress.

I love coding. I have been doing it since I was a kid and it’s the best thing I know how to do. And then there is open source. Open source projects should be the perfect venue for me to have fun. Except I am scared stiff by the idea that someone might laugh at the code. It came to a point where it is impossible for me to contribute. Then I’ve come up with a solution: an alias. For the past several years I’ve lived two different lives online: one as myself and another as an alias. I keep them strictly separate.

Using the alias, I actively contribute to several different projects. I’ve published books. And I enjoy it all. And it would be impossible for me to do that using my own name. My pseudonym allows me to work around my condition. It allows me to live my life.

I understand the rationale behind the requirement for real names on Google+. But I also know that the requirement makes it impossible for people like me to be really free on the Internet. So far, Google hasn’t figured out my alias. Hopefully it never will.

(Photo by Abhishek Singh)

Syndicated 2011-08-04 19:54:38 from ~robteix

Think

People’s gullibility often staggers me. A couple of days ago a photo and accompanying story started popping up everywhere.

The story went that the mayor of a Lithuanian town saw a luxury car parked on top of the bike lane and decided to act swiftly and decidedly and ran over the car with an armored vehicle. Isn’t it amazing?

I was talking to some friends yesterday and mentioned that the most amazing thing about this story was the fact that people bought it. And buy it they did. I had an argument with someone about it in which I was ultimately labeled a cynic who only cares for the rich. Yeah. I didn’t get it either.

I probably am a cynic. Still, I cannot read a story like that and not wonder. For the story to be real, you have to believe that the mayor was strolling about, saw a car, got upset, ran to get himself an armored vehicle, came back and ran over the car, inviting a suit. Or maybe he was riding an armored vehicle in the first place. Either way, wouldn’t a tow truck be more efficient and cheaper for the city?

No matter. People want to believe and believe they will.

But as it turns out, the scene was indeed staged (check out Google Translate.) It’s a promotional campaign film. He’s saying: everyone must follow the rules, even the rich. Not a bad point, but hardly revolutionary words from a campaigning candidate.

Oh, did I mention that he will also sweep the streets himself? Yeah, you bought that story, sucker!

Don’t just believe what you see written in the news. Think, even if just a little bit.

Syndicated 2011-08-03 14:58:57 from ~robteix

Chrome and the new Lion full-screen behaviour

Three wise monkeys by Anderson Mancini

While I was ranting about the annoyances I found in OSX Lion today, a friend commented he had no issues at all, except for the full-screen mode. I got curious because the new Lion full-screen mode is probably the only new feature I found interesting. What did Apple do so wrong?

The answer: Google Chrome.

Wait, what? My friend was complaining that in Chrome you needed to use a keyboard shortcut in order to leave full-screen mode. That, he continued, was because Apple had given programmers too much freedom to implement the new feature any way they wanted. And he knew that, he assured me, because he had searched Google and confirmed it.

The new full-screen mode in Lion is implemented as a window behaviour not enabled by default, but adding it to a window is remarkably easy*:

1
2
3
NSWindowCollectionBehavior behavior = [window collectionBehavior];
behavior |= NSWindowCollectionBehaviorFullScreenPrimary;
[window setCollectionBehavior:behavior];

Adding the NSWindowCollectionBehaviorFullScreenPrimary behaviour to a window will enable a small button to its top right corner. When enabled, the mode will allocate a new Desktop for the fullscreen app and will also add a icon to the system menu to allow you to quickly leave full-screen mode.

And that’s the little icon my friend complained Chrome wasn’t showing, forcing him to use a keyboard shortcut. Imagine the trepidity! And all because of Apple.

I tried to explain that the problem was that Chrome’s windows still didn’t support the new full-screen behaviour but my friend’s version of reality was unswayable: Chrome supported the new behaviour and the problem was Apple. He had searched Google to confirm it. What could I possibly do?

Search it myself is what. And search I did. And I found this comment on Chromium’s bug tracker:

Comment 39 by rsesek@chromium.org, Jul 15, 2011

We had a conversation with one of our designers, and what we’re going to do right now is remove the fullscreen button so we don’t advertise a behavior that we don’t really implement. That change just landed and will hit Canary/Dev channels soon.

Long-term, we’re going to implement a proper fullscreen interface for Lion. In this interface, we’ll also experiment with having a collapsable toolbar. Until then, fullscreen will operate as it does on Leopard/Snow Leopard.

So there it is, straight from the source. Chromium — same as Chrome — still doesn’t support the new behaviour. Done. Nothing like reality to end a discussion.

Except my friend would not yield. Apple still needs to fix Chrome and anyone who disagrees — presumably that Chromium developer himself — is to be disregarded as an Apple fanboy.

If however you don’t want to wait for Google (or is it Apple?0 to release Chrome with the new full-screen behaviour, you can get by using Maximizer, which adds the behaviour to any application window.

* Yes, I do realize that if you’re supporting multiple OSX versions and, even worse, multiple platforms, things get slightly more complex, but still.

(Image by Anderson Mancini)

Syndicated 2011-08-02 02:19:42 from ~robteix

Hit Girl

I’m a sucker for comics and some of the movies based on them (the Dark Knight, Iron Man, X-Men and Spideman movies being the best of them.) But last night I’ve watched Kick-Ass and now I have a new favourite superhero: Hit-Girl.

Best. Action. Hero. Ever.

Show’s over motherfuckers!

Syndicated 2011-07-31 12:06:47 from ~robteix

The Ship Song Project

Oh goose pumps! Goose pumps! Beautiful video publicity for the Sidney Opera House.

Syndicated 2011-07-24 15:50:32 from ~robteix

I love infographics

Everybody loves infographics.[citation needed] Make one about stacked $100 bills and you know I’ll just have to post about it. Check out A visualization of USA debt for nice infographics to help make sense of how enormous the debt situation of the US is. The one below is just a sample.

115,000,000,000,000_USD.jpg">

Syndicated 2011-07-23 01:41:49 from ~robteix

Very cool video on the Space Shuttle Program

After three decades, the Space Shuttle is finally retired. Check out the video below for a bit of history. I thought the video so well done! In a little over 8 minutes it gives you a feeling of how much happened already. Also, stop to think about this for a minute: 30 FUCKING YEARS.

Most nations who tried to launch payloads into space failed miserably and still haven’t achieved it. And yet, THIRTY years ago the Shuttle started operation.

What’s next? NASA is now helping private enterprises develop the capability to fly people to the ISS so it can buy flights commercially. How long will it take? No one knows. And none of the companies is working on anything like the shuttle, so the future for now looks like it’s going to be on heavy-rockets.

Syndicated 2011-07-22 16:56:24 from ~robteix

“¿Por qué están todos hablando inglés?”

I’ve been spending an insalubrious amount of time on Google +. I managed to plump for a pretty good group to follow and as a consequence I’ve been getting consistently interesting content. As for myself, I mostly I post in English. A couple of days ago, I posted something most inconsequential and it would have been an unreservedly unremarkable post wasn’t it for the fact that it was geolocated in Cordoba, Argentina, which caused it to attract the attention of people nearby. In the middle of the comments, someone asked, in Spanish: “why is everyone speaking English?” That was a fair question and it touched something that has bugged me in the past.

Some part of my brain must miss the good old times of hunting and gathering as I ended up as a nomadic man—albeit one who doesn’t hunt and at most gathers food from grocery stores, so there might be a flaw in my theory. My rootless nature made me move a lot. This and the nature of my work caused me to make friends in several places other than my native Brazil[1].

We’ve already established that I communicate in Portuguese. Working at a US-based multinational as well as with open source, I also use English quite a bit—and my aforesaid rootlessness has taken me to inhabit the beautiful state of Oregon in the past. Oh and did I mention I am currently putting in a tour of duty in Argentina?

The Myth of the Tower of Babel

The Myth of the Tower of Babel

The result of all of this—in blatant contrast with the pre-Tower of Babel times when everybody obviously spoke English—is that I communicate daily in multiple languages. There isn’t a day—well, weekday—I don’t have to speak Spanish, Portuguese, English and French with someone or another. And that is fine and actually quite nice: you do lose languages if you don’t use them. Not like riding a bike, I suppose. Regardless, it is not a problem to communicate 1:1 in those languages. But what about 1:many conversations?

Blogging is a clear example. Should I blog in Portuguese as some keep telling me I should? I cannot reasonably expect my non-Brazilian readers to understand Portuguese. If I write in French, my Quebecer friends will be happy but what about the rest? Nationalistic rants aside, English is an international language nowadays, just as Latin and French once were. Aside from very few people, the vast majority of the people I know can understand English and that’s why I use it most often than any other.

Ideally, one would use their own native language and computer translation would do the rest. Unfortunately we are not there yet. I will admit that computer translation is getting better and better and it is fairly good if you write clear, short sentences. And it will get better. But I am skeptic that we will ever get to the point where the algorithms will be able to deal with subtleties, innuendos and all the puns that make up human interactions.

The way I see, I currently have a few options –

  • I write in Portuguese, as the ever vigilant Brazilian crowd demands it. That would soothe the wrathful nationalists who believe me a Traitor Of The Fatherland™. But it also limits my already limited audience; not good.
  • I write multiple versions of the same thing in each language. That would begin to feel like actual work, not fun. Also, having tried that in the past, I’ve learned that after I was done with the first version, the others never came out naturally.
  • I write in English. Sure it makes me a bootlicking lackey of the imperialist Yankees in the eyes of the insecure, but it also helps me reach pretty much everyone I know.

But using English is not a perfect solution either. For once, I am obviously not a native speaker and thus have an imperfect and narrow vocabulary. As well, I don’t share the cultural experiences that help define the subtleties of English. And finally, there are heaps of topics that just feel wrong in English: such as local—as in Brazilian—topics. It just feels weird.

Back to Google+, I have created Circles for Portuguese and French, but these are not much valuable until Google comes up with some system of set arithmetic that would allow me to say something to the effect of “Post this to members of Circle X who also happen to be members of Circle French.” Until then, English is my best bet.

[1] Experience tells me that I am required to point out that we, cheerful Brazilians, speak Portuguese, not Spanish.

(Image Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomasthomas/“>ThomasThomas</a>, Creative Commons)

Syndicated 2011-07-13 19:32:22 from ~robteix

Fighting the IT overlords

Years ago, I needed an external direct Internet connection out of a lab. The first solution was to call a broadband provider and install a DSL line, but the IT department was trying to stop labs from adding more such external lines and started pushing its own solution.

Setting it up was complex because the people working on the infrastructure had never heard of this. I believe I was their Guinea Pig. As well, requesting changes was always difficult because it required second level support and the first level staff didn’t know what I was talking about.

One day I decided to document the process to help future generations. For my own amusement, I started writing it as a letter for “future occupants of the lab” where I detailed this big mistery of our ongoing, silent war against a dreadful enemy: the IT department. Later, when I was moving to a different job, I added other things to that document that I thought important in the day to day operations of a lab like that. The final document was nearly 100 pages long and had this cover page saying “To the future lurkers of Roberto’s Lair.” I did re-read the document a couple of years after I left that job and found it in some archive. It was poorly written, filled with typos and with fragrant errors. But I had fun writing it.

That was many, many moons ago.

Recently I had an exchange with someone online. The guy said he thought my name was familiar but we ended up not figuring out where he might know me from. Until today.

    From: [REDACTED]
    Sent: Friday, June 24, 2011 1:58 PM
    To: Teixeira, Roberto S
    Subject: I knew I knew you!
    Robert
                     I knew I knew you! I had to check it to make sure I was right and I think I was. Aren’t you the guy who wrote the document about the IT overlords? We have two copies of that document here with lots of annotations bt we still use them. I need to scan and send them to you.
    [REDACTED]

I’d love that.

Syndicated 2011-06-24 19:48:11 from robteix.com

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