Thursday, November 20, 2008

Every man is two people

"What is the underlying need, the psychological law behind this common tendency that makes men turn their backs on who they are in their professional lives? Every man is two people, and one hardly knows whether it is in the morning or in the evening that he reverts to his real self."

The Man Without Qualities - Robert Musil

Lao Tzu quote

“Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” - Lao Tzu

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Asynchronous Architectures

Here are some posts about asynchronous architectures that I've been reading recently and found very insightful, including a presentation by Werner Vogels (Amazon CTO).

Asynchronous Architectures 1
Asynchronous Architectures 2
Asynchronous Architectures 3
Asynchronous Architectures 4

Availability & Consistency (Werner Vogels)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hotmail and email forwarding

I always thought hotmail is one of the worst free email services, but I decided to give it a try when I joined Microsoft and was able to register a nice address with the domain that had just been released. Now I am trying to get rid of it using a custom domain along with GMail. I am very happy with the decision so far. And for the first time I am even started using Google Talk, providing a more efficient communication and clean user interface than MSN Messenger. Even the Outlook Connector ended up being a way to move all my email from my account - probably something Microsoft didn't thought about, otherwise they would have blocked in some way.

What just made me mad - and it's not exactly surprising giving Microsoft's records - is that you cannot forward your hotmail/ emails. Usually the expected is that they don't have this feature, but they DO. And email is only forwarded if you are forwarding to hotmail accounts. This is just stupid - and another attempt to lock you in. First, you DON'T have POP, you DON'T have IMAP, and by using a proprietary protocol, you only have two options to access your email from a client program: using Outlook with a plug-in (Connector, which doesn't have exactly the best performance) or Windows Live Mail. No other option. I accepted these limitatinos since I am working at the Office group and have been trying to use Outlook. Not being able to forward your emails though just proves the point of everyone that criticizes Microsoft. Had they been offering a good service - and would first implement the very basic feature of checking for the new emails automatically without requiring the user to click "Check Email" all the time - more users would be using their services and no lock-in strategy would be necessary.

Other complaint from my 11-month experience with Live + Outlook is the way junk email is handled. If you have a false positive, when clicking on the "Not Junk" button, you always get a dialog saying "so now you trust all email from this address?". If you click "no", it doesn't move the message back to the Inbox. You MUST add the sender's address to a white list. I don't want to have a white list to do that, but that it learns to recognize the email contents to do a better work at recognizing actual spam.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Vista and System Restore out of control

I thought very strange that, no matter how much of my data I deleted, I was running out of space constantly these past weeks. Then, I decided to find out how much each directly was using. Due to the lack of "du" in Windows OSs, I thought that Windows Explorer would have similar functionality. I really thought so, because I remember seeing GUIs displaying how much each directory was taking up. Later I would remember that this was KDE or GNOME, not Windows. So, first discovery:

Windows does not ship with any utility to find out how much space is being used on your hard drive.

Having to deal with this limitation, here I go to find out any 3rd party solution rather than right clicking on each of the root-level directories and checking their properties. I found two: diruse.exe (part of Windows 2000 resource kit) and another tool that I can't remember now.

Diruse.exe reports inaccurate values compared to Windows Explorer. It seems it counts the file multiple times for some reason that I didn't care to understand. The graphical tool, which is nice but not free, displayed that I had almost 30Gb that was being used by "unscannable folders" (note: this partition has 120Gb or, in other words, these unscannable folders amount to 25% of it). Go figure what are the unscannable folders. Even being admin, there are some system folders that you don't have access, including one name "System Volume Information".

I gave a few tries to unlock this "System Volume Information", but without being lucky. So I found out what this folder is about: "System Restore" feature - something that I never used and maybe will never user. I followed some instructions on how to disable "System Restore" and clean up this folder and voila: I have 28Gb back.

What surprises me is that:
1. Apparently there is no limit for how much disk this system restore will use.
2. Using Windows cleanup tool, it does not suggest this folder as a way to get disk space back.
3. This folder is locked, so even an admin doesn't find out that it is using lots of disk space. You have to unlock to figure out.
4. Getting to "System Restore" is not intuitive and, once there, it does not say anything about being using disk space. When you disable, there is a warning before disabling, but nothing about the disk space.
5. In the end, what one would do is the same old mantra: reformat and reinstall the system. But, installing from a media that does not have the updates will not help you very much as all the updates will be installed again. And what is the result? System restore points will be logged automatically again, taking up something like 30Gb of disk space.

What's the solution? Unless you understand why that happens, in which case you might get a Vista SP1 or later version that does not require installing new updates, the only solution is getting a larger hard disk or, what is more common, a new computer.

Creative People

"Aw, c'mon," Freddie said with disbelief. "I know all kinds of creative types who just got big promotions."

"That's because they met an even higher standard than cleverness that makes up for the fact that they are creative," Caroline answered.

"And what's that?"

"They threatened to leave the company."

Excerpt from Reeling in the Yearlings, which is insightful and funny.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mar Adentro: laugh by crying

From the movie Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside, The Sea Within):

Why do you smile so much Ramon?

When you can't escape and
depend constantly on others

You learn to cry by laughing

The cost of intelectual property

Through Slashdot, I learned about an interesting article in this week's New Yorker magazine. It talks about striking the balance between private property in terms of intellectual property, but not lock the economy due to them. You can read the article here.

Carbonite again: now I can't unsubscribe

Carbonite renews your subscription automatically, unless you go to the site and unsubscribe. It is not clear where I should do, but it seems to be in the "update payment info" link. So far, so good. I had to do that becuase they sent me an email that they will charge me an annual fee in 7 days automatically, and I am pretty sure I will try some alternative solution. And guess what I get if I try to unsubscribe?

Server Error
An error occurred while processing your request.
Click back to return to the previous page and try your request again. If the problem persists, contact

And, if I send an email to the customer support, they say that they will reply within 72 hours!!! Fortunately I found out there is a phone number I can call, but given my experience so far, I will not be disappointed if it does not work.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Randy Pausch quotes

Being almost 10PM on a Friday, that reminded of something I saw Randy Pausch saying in his famous "Last Lecture". And of course I added a couple of other quotes of his that are also very interesting.

* "Work hard. I got tenure a year early. Junior faculty members used to say to me, 'What's your secret?' I said, 'It's pretty simple: call me any Friday night in my office at ten o'clock and I'll tell you.'"

It is not the things we do in life that we regret on our death bed. It is the things we do not. Find your passion and follow it. And if there is anything that I have learned in life, you will not find that passion in things. And you will not find that passion in money. Because the more things and the more money you have, the more you will just look around and use that as the metric — and there will always be someone with more. Your passion must come from the things that fuel you from the inside. That passion will be grounded in people. It will be grounded in the relationships you have with people and what they think of you when your time comes.

Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you. He said, when you are pissed off at somebody, and you're angry at them, you just haven't given them enough time. Just give them a little more time — and they'll almost always impress you. And that really stuck with me. I think he's absolutely right on that one.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Spellchecker (Levenshtein distance)

Have you ever wondered how the spellchecker suggestions are computed? I had no idea, and found out that the editing distance between words is calculated to come up with a list of words that are "close" to the one you are typed. Those with the fewest number of edits are displayed. The algorithm, known as Levenshtein distance, was devised in 1965. It uses dynamic programming, and it is a very clever and simple solution.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Apple Update annoyances


First Apple not only suggests that you install Safari, but keep it checked. Everytime I have to uncheck this box. But now that was great. They release a new update with a bug in the updater: the description is displayed as "WhichDescription()".

Monday, July 21, 2008

Java benchmark: String, StringBuilder, and StringBuffer

Some results first comparing String, StringBuilder and StringBuffer, with and without pre-allocation.

100000 times
String: 30786
StringBuilder (no pre-alloc): 5
StringBuilder (pre-alloc): 3
StringBuffer (no pre-alloc): 6
StringBuffer (pre-alloc): 5

The results clearly show how bad String is if you need to change it constantly in comparison to StringBuilder or StringBuffer. Now, let's remove String and compare StringBuilder and StringBuffer further:

1000000 (one million) times
StringBuilder (no pre-alloc): 58
StringBuilder (pre-alloc): 42
StringBuffer (no pre-alloc): 142
StringBuffer (pre-alloc): 122

This benchmark seems to prove to me that StringBuilder, introduced in Java 1.5, is really the best option when running in a single thread. And one can see that the overhead of running StringBuffer, which is synchronized, is actually huge.

Excerpt of my code to run this benchmark (*):
  final int n = 100000;
final String a = "a";

String s = "";
Date start = new Date();
for (int i = 0; i < n; ++i)
s = s + a;
Date end = new Date();
System.out.println("String: " +

StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder();
start = new Date();
for (int i = 0; i < n; ++i)
end = new Date();
System.out.println("StringBuilder (no pre-alloc): " +

(*) Based on this post, which does not compare StringBuffer

Immigration and other golden cuffs

Currently immigration is something quite interesting to be studied, especially in the US with these long queues to get the green card. If you join a company in the US on a non-immigrant visa (like L-1 or H-1B), you usually start your green card process, either right away or after some time. To set the stage, let me explain better about these visas. L-1 implies that you must leave the country almost immediately if you leave the company. H-1B has a little bit more flexibility: you have one month to find another company that sponsors your visa or you will be out of legal status. Back to the green card, depending on the job requirements, on how your case is filed, it may take many many years to get it. And by many many years, I talk about 5-10 years, sometimes even more than that. Although theoretically possible to change jobs under certain circumstances, few do that because there is a chance the process is withdrawn and you lose your place in the line to get the green card. That means that you are stuck with one company, with one type of job (changing the job may jeopardize the whole process). And, even after you get it, you should stay with the company at least one year to avoid being potentially charged with green card fraud.

I never liked being stuck with one company. And, when living in another country, I never liked the idea of living in that country without being sure that I could stay there and your personal investment in the country won't be lost. For this reason, I never really thought of coming to the US, because of the hard work to get a green card (besides the compromise). And, in my case, I could work in Europe since I am a EU citizen, so that makes me reflect more about what to do.

For a big company, the point is not in getting the actually best and brightest minds (although all big companies say that all employees are the best and brightest!). Nevertheless, the point is not to hire genius, but relatively smart people and make the rules and decisions that benefit the average employee. And who would that be? The one that achieves or even exceeds what is expected based on his/her experience, and that stick with the company for a long time. These delays in the immigration process end up serving the best interest of big companies that are sponsoring the green card for the employees: in average, their immigrant employees will be around for a long time. It may not be used on purpose, but that is the fact and it benefits big companies. Who is brave enough to throw away many years of theirs lives, especially with a family that may be well settled in the country? And isn't it the best deal if you can hire an experienced foreigner paying less than what you would pay for an American with equivalent experience? The difference is only the relocation (which is one-time charge) and green card process (again, one-time charge). When outsourcing is not the best option, that is a great deal to keep big companies competitive in internal US market and also globally. These professionals (the average employee) get stuck over the time due to this immigration issues, sponsorships and related rules. But that is not all.

Other common policy to make people stay with the company: you offer deferred compensation over time. That can be in the form of bonus, stocks, or anything as long that means that the employee will only get it if he/she spends many years at the company. And, on a regular basis, based on contribution, you pay more and more of his/her compensation in this way. Who will leave the company and leave that much money on the table? These are known as golden cuffs.

Third, you create a competitive scheme that only the very best get compensated. That is great for the company, but that has different effects on the employees that end up being blind by immigration, deferred compensation, and this competition. These employees become more focused on whatever they need to do, losing track of skills that are generally applicable to other companies, and more and more skilled on whatever is specific to their employer. And, although I don't know if on purpose or not, but I see that people lose track of what is outside the company and their own view of the company is based on what they learn from the company material (what may be influenced by the company ideology). Back to the market, not knowing what is going on in the market is not too bad if your company follows market standards. But that is not often the case and some particular experiences are very specific and not much valued elsewhere. A professional who leaves such a company, being valued by his/her specific and narrowed knowledge with a high salary, may only get a job that pays much less that what he/she makes. Who would do that?

Fourth, you create an environment where people feel good about themselves because they work for that company. More ideology work is necessary here, but it is not too hard. One can offer entertainment and other sorts of offers that seduce the employee family as well. And associate a good image of the company, so nobody will feel bad about being immoral or unethical to work for such an employer. Any bad press must be worked on and reverted, at least internally.

In this environment, what happens is that the least important thing is if you really love what you are doing. And unfortunately the rest does not pay off if you pursue to do what you love and what you believe in. From my experience since university, though, the majority of people does not care much about that. After all, if all jobs are the same, why not to be with those that offers the points outlined before? At least there is some advantage to be at the big company.

That is sad, very sad. Especially if you care about what you do and/or you are an outlier. [And not to mention how that compare to open source software, but that is a topic for another post.]

Java covariant return types

In my attempt to try to catch up with more recent features in Java and Linux, I found out that a feature introduced in Java 5 that I was not aware of is covariant return types, what is neat. You can override a method and change the return type, what was impossible before Java 5, as long the returned type is a subclass of the return type of the superclass method.

For example,
class SuperClass {
SuperClass getX() {
return new SuperClass();
class SubClass extends SuperClass {
SubClass getX() {
return new SubClass();

There is an interesting page here about it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Stronger schools in the US

Very good post by my friend Tiago. See the video below:

I think most of people that left their countries realized that this is a serious issue. But when you come from a developing country, that is not news. What surprises me above is to see that rich countries are starting to worry about that. And I am glad that countries like US do that ahead of time, before it is too late for them.

On a related note, today I a sticker on a car window saying something like that: "Send our children to universities, not to war". It is a good start when this kind of mindset starts becoming more common around here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Greg Kroah Hartman on the Linux Kernel


It's an interesting video about the Linux kernel. What always amazes is how it attracts contributors that would not happen if it were not open source and were that famous. Like Greg mentions people doing janitorial work or submitting even spelling patches. Although I don't know about the dynamics of the Windows team, it is hard to conceive that there are developers like that contributing to the Windows kernel.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fixed vs Growth Mind-set

A friend sent me this interesting NY Times article: If You’re Open to Growth, You Tend to Grow. It starts with one question: "WHY do some people reach their creative potential in business while other equally talented peers don’t?" and shows how the best and the brightest sometimes have a fixed mind-set that prevent them to realize their potential. Looking out for the chances to grow and also learn from past mistakes, what is called a growth mind-set, may make the whole difference in terms of professional (and may I add personal) growth. Recommended reading.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Universidade Brasileira

Trechos do blog do Reinaldo Azevedo sobre universidades que achei bastante interessantes.

Com exceções, claro, como sempre, a universidade brasileira é um hospício de iletrados.

A academia, no Brasil, é um dos últimos redutos do comunismo no mundo. Há mais comunistas nas universidades estaduais e federais do Brasil do que em Pequim.

-- Reinaldo Azevedo

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Brazil: Skilled Workers Wanted

Read this NYT article about the need of skilled workers in Brazil. Being that a global demand, how to compete with other countries that offer more attractive compensation packages to top talents?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Google Docs and broken page layout

See the bug below. A document with a horizontal page is not supported by Google Docs page layout.

GOOG->MSFT Exodus?

This article tells a bit about the experience of people that worked at Google. One comment is particularly interesting to me:

2) Google employ everybody as junior developer, ignoring the existing experience. It is nice to work in Google if it is your first job, really nice, but if you have 12 years of experience with lots of languages, technologies and platforms, at lots of senior positions, you should expect higher position in Google, right?

And this give us an impression that MSFT is better. I disagree. And, although I won't tell about any particular experience that I've been through or have seen, trust me that this is something that happens to MSFT as well. I've been down this road myself. Maybe more with some groups than others, but it happens. The reason is always the same: you experience is irrelevant to our company and we do lots of things that are very specific and require experience with these tools, processes, etc, to be more productive. After 8 months working at MSFT, I agree to some extent, but definitely this is not a valid point in its entirety.

There are a couple of things one should think before joining company that does not value previous experience for the reason that everything is so specific to the company. First, it is how the experience with this company may be valued outside of it and, second, if you are not getting more and more stuck with this company as time goes by, as no one else will pay what you will get there after sometime and some salary raises.

In spite of all that, and far from saying that MSFT is perfect, but definitely it is one of the most organized companies I worked for and I got the chance to know. Probably more than GOOG given the age of both companies.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Losing your Photoshop Elements catalog twice with Carbonite

Sometime ago I posted an entry about my experience with Photoshop Elements. First, I really like Adobe Photoshop Elements, but I lost my Photos catalog for the second time in less than an year and it is really painful to have to recreate your catalog all over again for over 4,000 photos. The first time, I didn't recover the catalog when recovering from my Carbonite backup when I bought a new laptop. This time, Vista issues after trying to convert a video made me reinstall the computer and although I manually backed up my C:\Users directory before reinstalling, guess what? The catalog was gone again. I thought: well, Carbonite must have it backed up. But no, it does not back up the location where Adobe stores the Photoshop Elements catalog: C:\ProgramData. The option is not even displayed in the context menu. Is there any hope this issue will be fixed in Carbonite later versions?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Is Google making us Stupid?

This is a fantastic article about how internet is changing the way we read and think.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


"Quando digo que as pessoas que estão na caverna somos todos nós é porque damos muito mais atenção às imagens do que àquilo que a realidade é. Estamos lá dentro olhando uma parede, vendo sombras e acreditando que elas são reais."


Monday, May 26, 2008

System-level access to Vista

This exploit allows an user to gain system-level access without any user or password by copying cmd.exe over to an executable that can be launched without logging in. Very interesting exploit.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Help not wanted

Help not wanted
Congress is doing its best to lose the global talent war

Apr 10th 2008
From The Economist

And, on a related subject, in Japan

High-Tech Japanese, Running Out of Engineers

May 17th 2008
From The New York Times

Eggs at Steve Ballmer in Hungary

See here the video. The assailant accuses Microsoft of bribery in business with Hungarian government and asks the taxpayer's money back.

Monday, May 12, 2008

MSN (Live) Messenger blocking YouTube URLs?

YouTube URLs being blocked by Microsoft IMs? I noticed some troubles with youtube URLs for quite some time, but never tried to investigate what is wrong. This is simply ridiculous.

That reminded me of when I signed up on and using my live email, and they always go to the junk mail folder. I also recall reading that some people noticed that particular invite emails from competitors never make into their hotmail inboxes. Although I can't prove anything here, it is a bit strange, isn't it?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

US Immigration Laws: scary

Perfectly Legal Immigrants, Until They Applied for Citizenship.

Spend many years in the US, have a family, house, and a job. Apply then for the US citizenship. If the US government finds something they don't like, be prepared to be deported, what would not happen if you hadn't asked for the citizenship. The article above tells the sad story of a Philippine couple that is to be deported after 25 years as legal immigrants in the US.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Seattle: "[...] He knew what it meant to be lonely."

Read this Seattle Times' article about the Seattle Freeze, the fear of intimacy of people that live in this area. I wonder if the same happens in other areas in the US or in other countries (especially in Europe) to the same extent as here.

We ride bikes alone; go on walks alone; troll bookstores alone, then go home and read alone.

On the one hand, it's nice to bop in and out of situations knowing people will smile and treat you well. Nice is like bubble gum — it's sugary and pleasant." But if all you ever get is nice, never flirty or risky, she says, that gum loses its flavor pretty quick, and the human experience becomes ultimately less rewarding. Even depressing.

Since arriving from Argentina, he's turned down the volume on his laugh, no longer reaches out to hug friends and has even stopped wearing his favorite loud red pants. Those first lonely years in the Northwest even gave him a bit of a taste for solitude.

[...] [S]he realized that when Seattleites say, "Let's do something sometime," what they really mean is: "Let's never do anything ever."

Saturday, May 03, 2008

La Traviata, children and social skills

[...] A performance of La Traviata has much to enthrall a child: beautiful music, two parties, ball gowns, dancing, pretty scenery, love, straightforward moral issues that can later be discussed. An afternoon at such a performance will be meaningful for some children. In our era, in which information is electronically spoon-fed and young people's social skills are often less fully developed than their computer skills, exposure to moral and emotional situations in a theatrical setting may spark parts of a child's imagination that were previously dormant.

-- Opera 101, Fred Plotkin

Friday, May 02, 2008

Microsoft: "pace is slow"

Many people wonder how working at Microsoft looks like. It depends on many factors, and particularly on your personal style. I thought I was one of the few outliners when I had some thoughts after completing 6 months working here, but it turns out someone else worked 6 months at the company like 8 years ago and was very talented to put in words many of my thoughts. This is a must read if you are curious about day-to-day life at Microsoft - or if you are interested in what could be my opinion.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Berlin Wall at Microsoft?

Yes, I never noticed that before. In the building across Office, there is a portion of Berlin Wall that was donated by Daimler-Benz to Microsoft. Something I would never expect to be part of Microsoft Art Collection, and although one could imagine many meanings for having that wall on the campus, even then it is nice to be able to see part of history right there.

See a picture of this portion of the wall:

This picture is from here

Gil Shaham with Berlin Philarmonic


Definitely worth watching this video not once, but many times.

Reflections about IT

There is a post on Slashdot about a guy disillusioned with IT. And very interesting comments with different viewpoints. Definitely worth your time if this kind of reflective subject attracts you.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

"Do we all hate our jobs?"

On Safari site I ran into a book name "Four Secrets to Liking Your Work" and decided to read the first pages. I found some interesting paragraphs right on the first page:

Do we all hate our jobs?

Picture a room filled with ten of your coworkers. Odds are that seven of them don't like what they do. Do you know which ones? Are you one of them?

It gets worse. Research suggests that one of those seven coworkers might be actively working at cross purposes to undermine your company. This means that if you are trying to be productive, he or she is working against you, too!

Why bother working at all? We like to believe that it's all about money. We see people endure dread, dissatisfaction, and misery in the name of the paycheck, but Herzberg and Maslow agree that once our monetary needs are met, it ceases to motivate us. And even if we do need the money, it's no substitute for engaging, enjoyable, productive work. Money can't buy back lost time.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Why Scott Berkun left Microsoft (or general reflections about life and one's options)

The following text is sublime and I found it by accident trying to find the reason the Gentoo founder left Microsoft after only 9 months there. Rarely I found texts that were so similar to my own feelings and impressions.

Why I left Microsoft?, by Scott Berkun

Some quotes from this text:

From day one of kindergarten onward there was always a next step waiting. The choices were easy and safe: which classes, which activities, which universities. But an hour after my college graduation, sitting alone in an empty apartment on Beeler street in Pittsburgh, there were no more choices laid out for me. There was nothing. I confronted my future as a kind of void for the first time and was terrified. I’d never understood that emptiness, despite seeing its effect on older friends and my older brother. Until I was sitting alone surrounded by it, without the defense of a plan or a friend, I had no idea how frightening it was.

My comment: I had exactly the same thought when graduating. Everything was so simple, the next step was always there. And the frightening comes back all every time you start thinking that you may want to leave your current position and change your life. The future is a kind of void. You can create it, but it still scares.

I questioned what I was doing with my time on the planet. Dreams of my college years had been fulfilled, and if I didn’t make big changes soon, I knew I’d be repeating myself. There were other challenges I wanted, and I became terrified of spending my life like a sad, confused bird of prey, circling the same territory over and over again, never understanding why there was nothing new to find. I needed a new situation to jump into and despite what my manager’s and peers said, I knew I couldn’t do that while working in the same place. I had to move on. I was surprised to find that even though I was ten years older, my fears about the big unknowns were just as scary as before. But when I measured my fears about staying, I found they were stronger than those about leaving, so I left.

So I chose to leave Microsoft less for reasons of escaping a particular place or group of people, but more to seek out a new set of circumstances to live in.

My comment: That is exactly the reason that I left some of previous jobs or circumstances I was in and that could be the same reason I may leave Microsoft in the near future. I like to be an explorer and cannot simply accept a given position because it is convenient or because I am at a position many people dream about. The bright side of all of this is that, although you may get disappointed that things didn't work out as expected, you understand the downside (at least partially) of many possibilities in the life while exploring it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Office 2007 = 12 times more memory than Office 2000?

Fat, Fatter, Fattest: Microsoft's Kings of Bloat
posted by Thom Holwerda on Tue 15th Apr 2008 20:12 UTC, submitted by Craig Barth
"What Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away. Such has been the conventional wisdom surrounding the Windows/Intel (aka Wintel) duopoly since the early days of Windows 95. In practical terms, it means that performance advancements on the hardware side are quickly consumed by the ever-increasing complexity of the Windows/Office code base. Case in point: Microsoft Office 2007, which, when deployed on Windows Vista, consumes more than 12 times as much memory and nearly three times as much processing power as the version that graced PCs just seven short years ago, Office 2000. Despite years of real-world experience with both sides of the duopoly, few organizations have taken the time to directly quantify what my colleagues and I at Intel used to call The Great Moore's Law Compensator (TGMLC). In fact, the hard numbers above represent what is perhaps the first-ever attempt to accurately measure the evolution of the Windows/Office platform in terms of real-world hardware system requirements and resource consumption. In this article I hope to further quantify the impact of TGMLC and to track its effects across four distinct generations of Microsoft's desktop computing software stack."

See the full Infoworld article here.

One interesting comment:

You think it's just Office? Its ALL SOFTWARE. The dirty secret that nobody wants to talk about is that it's the OOP software paradigm. It's been a dismal failure and your bechmarks prove it. OOP was supposed to make software development faster and easier. In fact it simply made it bigger and harder to work on. Easily 80% of all clock cycles are consummed diving through ever-deeper heirachy trees full of do-nothing, duplicated getters and setters at every level. Moores Law is the only reason anything still workds. Imagine where we'd be if we didn't spend all those cycles trying vindicate a failed programming paradigm. Back in the 80's people thought true artificial intellegence would be possible when computers achieved 2G of memory. Today my desktop has 4g, plus 4, 3.2-gigahertz processors and more disk space that my employer owned in the entire company in the 80's. But its performace barely matches the TRS-80 I learned basic on. It makes me wish I had done something useful with my life -- like Walmart greeter.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Government is not your daddy

Today, after arriving in the office, I see some business cards pinned to the wall. With an American flag as background, the cards have the title "Government is not your daddy." and then "Free will. Free market. What' s so hard to understand about thtat?". The cards are to advertise the following blog:

And although I couldn't read it yet to know if their texts are good or not, I really liked their creativity about the name and their efforts to make it known.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A 101-year old marathoner

This news really surprised me. A 101-year old marathoner that crossed the finish line of a marathon, and has an average of 14 smokes and 8 pints of beer a day. Wow! And his advise is good: "no matter how old you are, even if you are only seventy". I will remember him when I decide to stop running after 1 or 2 miles ;-)

Dalai Lama in Seattle

Watch here the speech Dalai Lama gave at Qwest field yesterday, 04/12/08, in Seattle. A very fortunate sunny day with high temperature of 83F - the first warm day this year.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

How to disable User Account Control

Yes, that annoying dialog asking for permission every time you need elevated credentials to do something. You don't have the UI option to disable it, but it still can be done through registry. Follow the steps outlined here to get rid of this dialog if you have Windows Vista Home (Basic or Premium).

Saturday, March 29, 2008


It is snowing now (and for quite a while, actually) in Seattle/Redmond. Second day in a row, after a long break without snow - probably like two months or so. And unexpected for me because it is spring time. But good view for a Saturday night. :-)

Testing after Unit Tests and the Myth of Code Coverage

See podcast by Quetzal Bradley here.

Visual Studio 2008: imports and namespaces organization

One of the things I really miss in Visual Studio with my experience with it so far is a feature similar to "organize imports". Even in the 2008 version, there no such feature built-in, but we need to install an add-in, like ReSharper or C# Refactory.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Two-Pizza team rule

1 comments has a rule for project teams called two-pizza team rule

If a project team can eat more than two pizzas, it's too large.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Antitrust (the movie)

I just watched Antitrust and, although I had watched it a few years ago, being at Microsoft made me see it from another perspective.

It is amazing the similarities between Nurv and Microsoft, like: the Nurv CEO (Bill Gates), the headquarters being north of California, signs mentioning Olympia (capital of Washington state), roads surrounded by trees, campus with scenic mountain views, department of justice involvement, one character named "Redmond", Synapse being an Operating System that is closed source and finally a company accused of being monopolist.

One of the things that is interesting and is almost unnoticeable happens when the Milo (main role played by Ryan Phillipe) accesses all the videos of programmers in their home/garage. A number is displayed and it looks like the process ID. Guess what's the number related to this surveillance? 1984.

And, at the end of movie, two programmers are found distributing the source code in a garage in Palo Alto, as the beginning of a new era, where the knowledge belongs to the humanity (ie, open source code). Maybe allusive to a new Hewlett-Packard starting in Palo Alto? (One could even think that two graduates of Stanford in a garage could remind us of Google founders, but their story started in their dorm if I recall correctly)

There is a lot more that could be said about this movie, like how it resembles technology companies (taking care of everyhing for its smart employees to focus on work), or how the script could have been improved and more insteresting, but I found the movie amusing and don't want to criticize it too badly. Probably the only problem I actually noticed is that, in the video broadcasted to the entire world, Milo includes his colleague Lisa among the criminals - what he had only figured out a few minutes before broadcasting it. But ok, I am being too picky. :-)

Do not speak English!

"We all know that Heart Disease is the #1 cause of death in the U.S. But think hard about this: In Japan, they’ve got a diet that is low in fat and they have less heart disease than the US. While in France, the diet is very high in fat, and they also have less heart disease than in the US. In India, almost nobody drinks red wine and the heart disease rate is lower than in the US. But in Spain, everybody drinks too much red wine and sure enough they have less heart disease than the US. Algeria has the lowest sexual activity rate, and they’ve got less heart disease than in the US. But Brazil has the highest sexual activity rate and sure enough…the heart disease ratio is lower than in the US. Drink, eat and make merry all you want. It’s speaking English that kills you."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Carlo Bergonzi: one of the best voices for "Una Furtiva Lagrima"

I watched a DVD recorded in the 60's where he plays Nemorino in "L'Elisir D'Amore" by Gaetano Donizetti, and he is still brilliant in a more recent recording, as you can see here on YouTube. In my opinion, it is hard to find a voice as good as his to perform this aria. I watched a bunch of them (including Pavarotti, Vilázon, Alagna, Lanza, and even Caruso, whose recording was used by Woody Allen in his "Matchpoint" movie) and they don't top him.

Rejoice getting the libretto for this aria and listening, with all your attention, to this more than amazing performance. I would also suggest to listen to the "Quanta è bella, quanta è cara!" too.

Now I understand the reason why one of my high school Portuguese teachers started to sing one aria of Bachiana Brasileiras (I think number 5) in front of the whole class. His excitment was noticeable. And so was mine listening to these aforementioned arias. Of course all my colleagues mocked that teacher because they couldn't see the beauty in it, but now I can value a teacher that tries to shows that to his/her students.

Eclipse and Tag Libraries

In Eclipse (Europa Winter), I upgraded a project on which I last worked in 2006. It was a WTP project, and after a few small issues I had to fix, I was annoyed with many error messages concerning my TLDs:

"Cannot find the tag library descriptor for xyz"

My solution was to create a new project, with a WTP facet upgraded to the latest version. I had my web contents under the "web" folder, instead of the default "WebContent", and my theory is that the previous version (2.4) didn't work fine with non-standard directories. With the current 2.5, it worked fine and I got rid of all errors.

MySQL and Service Control Manager

If you are on Windows Vista and unable to install MySQL as a service with the following error message:

"Could not connect to the Service Control Manager"

it's because you are not running the "MySQL System Tray Monitor" as a administrator. I am too lazy to wipe up the Windows Vista Home Premium and install a more complete Vista version, and sometimes I spend time with these problems that happen due to the User Access Control.

By the way, the "Service Control Manager" is the Windows Manager for all OS services, it is not something that is part of MySQL as one may think.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Searching a few minutes ago on Google and Live...

About Arthur C. Clark death. Live Search does not show anything in the news, while Google is updated.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

And Apple is still much more virtuous...

iPhone SDK Rules Block Skype, Firefox, Java

An anonymous reader writes "Apple's iPhone software development kit is already drawing complaints due to the strict terms of service. Voice over IP apps like Skype that attempt to use the cellular data connection will be blocked. Competing web browsers Firefox and Opera are forbidden. Even Sun is now backpedaling on its recent announcement of a java port, noting that there are some legal issues. Critics are already comparing Apple's methods to Comcast's anti-net neutrality filtering, and Microsoft's Netscape-killing antitrust tactics. Could Apple face government regulators?"

Basic web security flaw

I started receiving lots of email from a site called singlesnet because someone decided or made a mistake to sign up with my email address. The curious is that they do not confirm the address, so any random address used starts to receive notifications of other people that match or want to talk to you. Annoying to the owner of the address used, and bad for the user that might have mispelled the address, because he'll never use the service or will recreate his/her account.

The worst, though, is that you can retrieve and do anything having access to the used email address. I can gain access to the account, and the account password is sent to me. And I am not even sure if the password is actually regenerated or something.

Can you believe that we still have sites with this level of security?

I have Jew blood!

After finding out Italian roots from Northern Italy, and Portuguese and Spanish descend (although without any details on this), I find out on Wikipedia that my family name has origins in Jewish families from Portugal. Of course, Castro is not a Jewish name, but it was the name adopted after the Inquisition. I am stunned.

The source for this information is the Jewish Encyclopedia, what gives credibility to it. See more in the text below copied from Wikipedia:

The De Castro family is a Sephardi Jewish family of Portuguese-Jewish origin. Soon after the establishment of the Portuguese Inquisition, members of the family emigrated to Bordeaux, Bayonne, Hamburg, and various cities in The Netherlands. Their descendants were later to be found scattered throughout The Netherlands, Turkey, Egypt, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Some branches of the family have continued to bear the simple name of "De Castro", others are known by De Castro-Osorio, De Castro Sarmento, De Castro-Castello-Osorio, Pereira de Castro, De Castro Vieira de Pinto, Rodriguez de Castro, Orobio de Castro, De Castro de Paz, Henriquez de Castro, etc. The name often appears as "de Crasto". Notice that Castro is not in origin a Jewish but an Iberian Christian name, adopted by Portuguese and Spanish Jews after the forced conversions of the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Apache on Windows? Doesn't it start?

Maybe you got a new version and have this error message:
The application has failed to start because its side-by-side configuration is in correct. Please see the application event log for more detail.

You forgot to install the Visual Studio 2008 redistributable package. Get it here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dr. Strangelove

Just watched this excellent movie and got say that definitely some quotes are memorable:

General Jack D. Ripper:
Women uh... women sense my power and they seek the life essence. I, uh... I do not avoid women, Mandrake. [...] But I... I do deny them my essence.

Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face.

And this long but very funny phone conversation between the President of the US and the Premier of the Soviet Union.

President Merkin Muffley:
[to Kissoff] Hello?... Uh... Hello D- uh hello Dmitri? Listen uh uh I can't hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?... Oh-ho, that's much better... yeah... huh... yes... Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri... Clear and plain and coming through fine... I'm coming through fine, too, eh?... Good, then... well, then, as you say, we're both coming through fine... Good... Well, it's good that you're fine and... and I'm fine... I agree with you, it's great to be fine... a-ha-ha-ha-ha... Now then, Dmitri, you know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb... The *Bomb*, Dmitri... The *hydrogen* bomb!... Well now, what happened is... ahm... one of our base commanders, he had a sort of... well, he went a little funny in the head... you know... just a little... funny. And, ah... he went and did a silly thing... Well, I'll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes... to attack your country... Ah... Well, let me finish, Dmitri... Let me finish, Dmitri... Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?... Can you *imagine* how I feel about it, Dmitri?... Why do you think I'm calling you? Just to say hello?... *Of course* I like to speak to you!... *Of course* I like to say hello!... Not now, but anytime, Dmitri. I'm just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened... It's a *friendly* call. Of course it's a friendly call... Listen, if it wasn't friendly... you probably wouldn't have even got it... They will *not* reach their targets for at least another hour... I am... I am positive, Dmitri... Listen, I've been all over this with your ambassador. It is not a trick... Well, I'll tell you. We'd like to give your air staff a complete run-down on the targets, the flight plans, and the defensive systems of the planes... Yes! I mean i-i-i-if we're unable to recall the planes, then... I'd say that, ah... well, ah... we're just gonna have to help you destroy them, Dmitri... I know they're our boys... All right, well listen now. Who should we call?... *Who* should we call, Dmitri? The... wha-whe, the People... you, sorry, you faded away there... The People's Central Air Defense Headquarters... Where is that, Dmitri?... In Omsk... Right... Yes... Oh, you'll call them first, will you?... Uh-huh... Listen, do you happen to have the phone number on you, Dmitri?... Whe-ah, what? I see, just ask for Omsk information... Ah-ah-eh-uhm-hm... I'm sorry, too, Dmitri... I'm very sorry... *All right*, you're sorrier than I am, but I am as sorry as well... I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri! Don't say that you're more sorry than I am, because I'm capable of being just as sorry as you are... So we're both sorry, all right?... All right.

Serial Thinking

High recommended: a very interesting article written by my friend Renato Golin about serial thinking and holographic machines.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Google Analytics experience

I added Google Analytics to this blog. I've used it for a long time with other site, but never actually thought of trying to see how many people were accessing this blog. With roughly 3 days worth of data, it amazed me to know that many more people read this blog (than I actually thought). However, they read it less to know my opinion than for the technical posts I wrote sometime ago with new findings and suggestions (notably the mysql and jasper reports). I will eventually post more of technical suggestions as soon as I start doing something of interest to most of the public. Sometimes you don't have lots of interesting things to share (or cannot share) when working for a big software company. At the time I worked almost exclusively with open source I had so much material to talk about, that was impressive. Maybe I just must get adapted to this new world and try to extract what could be interesting to write here.

One interesting data: where do the accesses to this blog come from?
1. United States
2. India
3. Germany
4. France
5. Italy
6. Spain

Stravinsky quotes

Some quotes by Igor Stravinsky, Russian composer:

The trouble with music appreciation in general is that people are taught to have too much respect for music they should be taught to love it instead.

My freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one's self of the chains that shackle the spirit.

The past slips from our grasp. It leaves us only scattered things. The bond that united them eludes us. Our imagination usually fills in the void by making use of preconceived theories...Archaeology, then, does not supply us with certitudes, but rather with vague hypotheses. And in the shade of these hypotheses some artists are content to dream, considering them less as scientific facts than as sources of inspiration.

¿Por qué nos tratan como a perros?

TH was kind to send me a link to an article in El País that is worth mentioning.

Trying to display a sense of nationalism and defending stupid retaliation against Spanish people stand out in all comments I've read about this case, inflated of course by the Brazilian media. Having it as a basis of comparison, I thought the article was quite sensible, and even much more impartial than I would expect from a Spanish newspaper.

However, El País avoided going further deep into the subject and did not address problems like prostitution, illegal immigration, or what exactly are the criteria for denying the entrance - that seemed unlikely to be objective at all. One could go deeper and say their opinion about Brazilian retaliation, but that would be more appropriate for an editorial.

Definitely what should never happen in a civilized world is to treat people like dogs, like a sociologist told one of the immigration officers in Madrid. That is outrageous and unacceptable disregard. And no officer that deals with people on daily basis could be allowed to keep working if proved that he replied to the question in the title of this post saying that retained people wait for the flight back were no more than dogs ("Porque ustedes no son más que perros"). For writing about this in El País, the author of this article deserves my compliments.

Office 2007: The Story of the Ribbon

I just watched almost 1h30 of one of the most interesting presentations I've ever seen. It is about Microsoft Office 2007 user interface. And it is not because it is about Microsoft or Office, but it is very interesting to see how an innovative process can happen within a company. I've always been curious about what had driven this UI decision change and how process took place.

You can watch this presentation here. There is even an iPod version that you can watch on the go.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Carbonite downtime

After two posts about Carbonite, some comments about its downtime last week (and in general) were posted. I never noticed any downtime, and maybe that is because they are on the west coast too (and maybe even here in the Seattle area) and the downtime happened during the night time (like after midnight). Anyway, Dave Friend wrote again to clarify the total downtime, and I think his comment should be quoted here to be fair with Carbonite efforts:

Carbonite was never down for 24 hrs. Here is the actual report from Webpulse, a 3rd party company that monitors our system availability:
protocol HTTP full-page,
time 03/10/2008 08:45:37,
estimated downtime 5h 38min.
Location: Seattle, WA

This was a planned system upgrade early Sunday morning when it would not affect many users. It is the first time we have brought our systems down since November 2006. I wish people would get their facts straight before spreading malicious rumors. If someone is upset that they could not access their backups early last Sunday morning, they could write to me rather than spreading false information on the Internet. My email is

Monday, March 10, 2008

I am not spanish, I am catalan!

Brazil government has never been known as one of the most diplomatic governments in the world, but it still manages to amaze me. First, it was with Americans - which now choose to visit other South American countries like Chile or Argentina, where visa or fingerprinting are not required. Now with Europeans, mostly Spanish people. When is that going to end?

All the facts make me believe that the Spanish government has been rude and using inappropriate criteria when denying entrance of people that are there to catch a connection flight to other places or even those that are simply going to visit Spain and Europe. However, acting by the same standards is something that is completely stupid to me, because it does not help and, worse, it harms Brazil's image and its turism.

Illegal immigration is something that must be fought and people arrested in this situation must pay for their crime (yes, it is a crime) and get deported. No excuses, no privileges. It is inconceivable that any country accept illegal immigrants and make their taxpayers to pay for people that were not allowed to live in the country. That happens with some poor countries, like I just read today about Bolivians trying to immigrate illegaly to Brazil, but the vast majority of the destinations are richer countries, like North America or Europe. I can't think of people from these countries planning to immigrate illegaly to Brazil. It does not make any sense, while the contrary does.

Spain is totally right to protect itself against illegal immigration, it is right to protect their borders, but it is wrong to have different criteria depending on the nationality. Why would someone with an US passport or even European passport have different treatment by immigration offices? Definitely they are way more unlikely to be in the group of people that would immigrate illegaly, but also part of this group are lots of Brazilian and people from all over the world, no matter where they are from. And judging all by the behavior of some is wrong.

Anyway, although I expect some improvement, it is hard to believe that people won't have some preconceived ideas whenever someone from South America shows up his/her passport to immigration officers from richer countries. Unfortunately it is very natural to be associated with the society where you come from. Everybody does that to some extent, consciously or not, that is why racism still exists and may take a while to be extinguished - if it will be ever extinguished.

If you also take into account the political scenario in Latin America, with the conflicts between Colombia and Ecuador and relationship with Venezuela and Cuba, one can see how amateur politicians can be.

The interesting phrase above I read in a post of a Catalan defending Spain regarding this issue. And he mentions the problem with illegal immigration as being the justification for this behavior.

More about Carbonite: application installation

Dave Friend, Carbonite CEO, posted a comment on my previous post about Carbonite. It was very nice of him and, as I mentioned in another comment on that post, shows respect for the user and that they are striving to make Carbonite a great backup solution.

These issues with Carbonite, including the one mentioned by an anonymous user, reminded me of a major issue I had a few months ago but that I think I never written about. It all started when I tried to install Office 2007 and everytime it failed. Yes, from its original DVD media. It always complained about not being able to write or read from C:\Config.Msi directory (something like "Error writing to C:\Config.Msi"). Sometimes retrying would make it move on a bit, until the next error.

After searching on the web, I found out that Carbonite is related to this problem. I can't tell why exactly that happens or it is some sort of incompability with Windows Vista, but it is annoying. I have to remember that whenever I am installing something, I have to disable Carbonite, otherwise applications that use msi files are likely to fail. Something that the Carbonite folks should try to fix (if it hadn't got fixed in the latest February release).

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Carbonite not so good restore experience

Sometime ago I restored my Carbonite backup. I was sure that it had backed up all my contents and, when restoring, I had a relly bad experience. The first thing I missed was my Photoshop Elements album that, for some reason, Carbonite decided not to back up. It has a bunch of rules to decide what files to back up or not, but that is simply stupid for cases like where you want all your "My Documents" backed up. You don't want to check that all files are being backed up, because if you have a service that has unlimited storage, it should do be able to do it. Or, it should warn the user that files were not being backed up.

Today I found out something else it didn't back up: all my .jar files. Yes, really. Opening my Java project in Eclipse makes me realize that my restored project has a wiped up WEB-INF/lib folder. Fortunately I had these jars on the server where the project is deployed, otherwise I would have to spend a long time finding these jars and restoring to their locations. Well, pretty much like I had to redo all my Photoshop Elements album.

Along with inability to back up removable storage, I am considering moving to another backup service when my subscription with Carbonite expires.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Do you have your measure of success?

How do you measure success in your life? One could say it is money, it is position within a company or in society, maybe having and raising your children, helping other people, knowing a lot about things (or about many things), and so on. For many people probably it is not straightforward to know how successful they are. When you reach a certain age, what are your accountabilities to measure your success? Or maybe, if you are to make a decision about your next stpes, very likely the best one should be the one that maximizes your change to achieve success, ie the best way is the way to increase your rate of success.

It's been always very clear to me, at school, that I should learn and prepare myself to be a successful adult. My accountability was to have the best possible grade. It was quite clear and I successfull at that. I had no doubt about it, and that's been always my focus. That was generally acceptable in society, approved by all parents (include mine), and I had been educated (and accepted) that way.

One of tasks of an adult person is to leave the school and face life from another standpoint, because school, and especially the university, is kind of a Neverland for so many Peter Pan studying there that are either not willing to grow up or do not have the skills and the courage for that. Leaving school, especially for these Peter Pan's, is not easy after you got used to the routine, to the accountabilities, and where you developed all the skills you needed to succeed in that environment. That is particularly difficult for people that didn't face the outer world before graduation. By doing so, they might have developed and/or trained their adaptability skills - what tends to be much easier when younger. With the argument in mind that not working will allow their children to focus and better succeed at school, parents don't envision they may be depriving their children the opportunity to face other challenges and have a broader view of the world. Especially what may lie in their foreseeable future.

Some people still end up staying in the university world because they found what they really love. That is absolutely acceptable and I own my due respect to those that choose this option. Many others, nonetheless, sometimes consciously, but mostly unconsciously, find themselves incapable of adapting to different lifestyles - and their inherent challenges - and stay in the world they already know, in the confort zone. And they not only stay, but they find justification for what they decided to do. And I bet that many of them are not happy and know, deep down, that they failed in understanding other options in life. Fortunately, though harder than it should be had it be done in other more appropriate manner, a substantial portion make through the transition. Then the actual challenge begins.

At this point, one finds so many measure of success that it is hard to distinguish what is the most suitable for his/her life. Usually society/friends/family plays a major role to define this at first - and sometimes that lasts the entire life. But for some people, now the reality really strikes them up and the pursuit of happiness and success start. Depending on the experience and how one gathers and analyzes the information, it is quite possible that nothing will be ever questioned throughout their lives. Others will even focus on something else, on a hobby, on a dream, on other aspect of their lifes and the career will be put aside, leading to long (tedious?) hours at a job or at whatever one decided to do. We are not talking about these people here, but rather those who are persistent and explore many different possibilities in the - maybe endless - task of understanding themselves and what is actually important to them.

After an experience where you see that your initial success measurement is not consistent, you get disappointed. If you believed that always merit wins, you will find out that many times politics will make you more money and climb the career ladder within a corporation more rapidly than merit alone. We also find out that the smartest or hard-working guy is not necessarily the richest one. And many of the rich people are not actually people that live by the same moral standards that you may do. Living by what other people think of your career will not bring satisfaction in the long term either. Plus, depending on other people's opinion or on being flattered to make you feel good about what you do is not sustainable either.

Being brave and being in a position where you can do it, you will initially move to other experiences where you will be able to exercise other success measurements that makes sense to you. And then the circle starts, until you finally realize that all these perceptions boil down to the fact that you must follow your personal criteria to your own success and, although not a sure way to your succes, that is the best you can do. Having criteria that pass part of your happiness responsibility on to other people or criteria that depend fundamentally on them is fragile and, therefore, wrong.

In my opinion, find the criteria within yourself is the best strategy. Dive deep into youself to reflect on your current criteria. If you were to get disconnected from all the reality that surrounds you at any given time, especially from other people, does your life or your career bring the rewards that you are seeking?

Maybe then, after this stage of reflection and change what will indicate your success, the next time you stop and reflect if you have success in your life and how much progress you've been doing, it will be unlikely that you will end up disappointed.

International Women's Day

March 8th? International Women's Day? Not here in the United States. If I hadn't run into this on Brazilian web sites, I wouldn't even remember that today is Women's Day. Nothing in the paper, nothing on websites, no special email or celebrations. This day never made much difference to me anyway, but it is curious to see the cultural differences.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Spiritual Sloth

"The next affliction, called lelo in Tibetan, is often translated as 'laziness', but it is much more specific. If a person is working sixteen hours a day, hellbent on earning a whole lot of money with absolutely no concern for virtue, from a Buddhist perspective you could say that person is subject to lelo. A workaholic is clearly not lazy, but such a person is seen as lelo in the sense of being completely lethargic and slothful with regard to the cultivation of virtue and purification of the mind. Our translation of this term is 'spiritual sloth," which we have taken from the Christian tradition, where it is very comparable to the Buddhist notion."

Destructive Emotions, by Daniel Goleman
Pages 107

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Today I learned about a very interesting website named Kiva where people can loan money to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Really beautiful work and definitely a better way to pull these people out of the poverty than giving money away in assistencialist welfare programs.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Suicide rate in the US

Just listened on the radio:

- 1 suicide attempt every minute in the US
- Someone dies from suicide every 16 minutes

Really surprising, but when you check the list of all countries with their suicide rate (there is a list from World Health Organization as well), you find out that places like Lithuania or Belarus are on the top of the list. More surprising still.

On the other side, though, one can see that countries like Egypt, Iran, Honduras or Jordan have rates of 0 (yes, zero) or close to zero suicides.

The question that comes naturally to mind after a quick analysis is why, in general, do richer countries have higher suicide rates? Actually, one interesting question is what are the reasons for a person to commit suicide or even why would someone keep living, in spite of every difficulties these people go through in life?

Apparently the common cause for suicide attempt is depression, and it is skyrocketing in the last years. One organization in the US works on the prevention and treatment of depression to reduce these suicide rates. It is called Save.

Finally, out of curiosity, the suicide rates in the US are 3 times higher than the rates in Brazil.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Emotions from Buddhist point of view

"Fundamentally, a destructive emotion - which is also referred to as an 'obscuring' or 'afflictive' mental factor - is something that prevents the mind from ascertaining reality as it is. With a destructive emotion, there will always be a gap between the way things appear and the way things are.

"Excessive attachment - desire, for instance - will not let us see a balance between the pleasant and the unpleasant, constructive and destructive, qualities in something or someone, and causes us to see it for a while as being one hundred percent attractive - and therefore makes us want it. Aversion will blind us to some positive qualities of the object, making us one hundred percent negative toward that object, wishing to repel, destroy, or run away from it.

"Such emotional states impair one's jugdment, the ability to make a correct assessment of the nature of things. That is why we say it's obscuring: It obscures the way things are.[...]"

Destructive Emotions, by Daniel Goleman
Pages 75-76

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Livio about Friendships

My friend Livio commented on the previous post about Friendships in the US and I think it deserves a post of its own.

Hi Rodrigo,

You do have a point about not many immigrants sharing their cultural pains. In fact, I was thinking exactly about cultural differences the last few months. As you know, I have been in Canada for the last 3 years. Here, I get to observe a lot of different immigrants and their reactions to living a different culture.

It seems that one important aspect that influences (the lack of) sharing cultural shock is the conflict between expectations of living abroad versus reality. Let me clarify. There is an inherent expectation from _both_ immigrants and their family/friends who stay behind, that life in the country X should be much better. While this may be true for many aspects of life, it is certainly not true for others.

Friendships, and other intrinsic cultural issues are certainly among the more difficult aspect of living abroad. However, discussing these issues seems to antagonize the wildly held expectation of an improved life.

I have heard stories, from multiple immigrants, about the lack of understanding their families and friends have towards their situation and hardships they face. Sometimes the expectation is also financial. However, explaining financial hardships in North America is often met with disbelief and/or disappointment.

These situations motivate immigrants to minimize discussing their hardships, or even worse, creating the image/illusion that their situation is, in fact, coherent with the expectations.

A second aspect (and sorry to make this post so long), is that of communication. I have seen that it is very hard for immigrants to communicate some of their different experiences to people "back home". Sometimes, it is just plain simply hard to describe the struggles of having to speak a second language daily. The experience is more acute then the verbalization of the experience. Also, it is sometimes very hard for people to relate to some of the experiences immigrants face. As such, the perception of the experiences felt by the immigrant can be far from accurate.

Of course, as with most things, it is a matter of personality. There are quite some number of people blogging about their experiences as immigrants. But, somehow, I don't think it is the common practise.

My 2 cents,


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Friendships in the US

The nature of cultural social relations must be understood. For example, foreigners adapting to the United States should learn that Americans are more likely to form more superficial friendships than is typical in many countries (Stewart, 1972). Immigrants may be bitterly disappointed when they discover that Americans typically do not expect or accept the strong commitments and obligations frequently associated with friendship in other cultures.

From a very interesting study by Arizona State University about cultural shock posted by a friend on his blog.

What do I think of it being in the US for 4 months? True in my case so far, although I never expected to find a country friendlier than Brazil. Not that all friendships are actually deep, but the feeling of being welcome and warmness may be hard to find somewhere else.

One curious thing that I would like to avoid when facing the cultural shock is the "[...] isolation, for example, living in an ethnic enclave and avoiding substantial learning about the new culture, a typical lifetime reaction of many first-generation immigrants."

Whenever I saw other friends abroad, we never know what they go through. Rarely you see them writing or sharing their hard times in the new culture.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Career Decisions...

It is Mid-Year Career Discussion time at Microsoft. And I must figure out what I would like my career to be and create plan to achieve these goals. After a career assessment, that is one of the main results I got:

Basing career decisions on what you're good at, even if you're not all that interested in it. Your interests, not your abilities, are your long-term competitive advantage -- and they're the "energy" that powers your career. If you're not really interested in the work, the people who are will ultimately pass you by.

I think that we all lean towards what we are good at, that is almost inevitable, and the long the time goes by, the trickier to do something different and take those inherent risks. And I wonder if sometimes what attracts some people (including me) is exactly an specific area or some particular aspect potentially transversal to all areas. Although not sure, the latter makes more sense to me.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Still about Vista...

Yes, it crashed here while watching some TV. But before thinking that I will blame Vista for it, it restarted and, when I logged in, I got a window with the following title: "Problem Reports and Solutions". It explains that the crash was caused by the NVIDIA driver and shows the direct link to NVIDIA driver site. I didn't see this coming and was pleasantly surprised to see this after a crash. Nice work here.

Good thing about Vista...

Today I found something I really like when it is compared to XP: when you make a file copy in the same directory, it does not use that "Copy of <filename>" file scheme, but rather a "<filename> - copy". I always hater the former, especially after reordering your files, because copies do not stay with the original files. And I also thought to myself that an option like the latter (or .bak, whatever) would be way better. It seems the Windows team paid attention to it and took their time to fix this behavior.