Sunday, December 28, 2008

Don't buy VISTA

UPDATE ! January 17, 2011

I've stumbled on a post describing which XP/NT Backup binaries and what Vista feature to enable so that the more user friendly XP/NT Backup utility can be run on Vista OS.. yay !


You know that PC vs MAC commercial in which the PC guy is deciding where to spend his pile of money ? "Marketing, Marketing, Marketing... (fix vista), Marketing, Marketing, Marketing...".

I now wish they'd done a better job on Vista.. forget about the 2 days it took me upgrade from Windows XP, re-installing apps and tracking down all the new Drivers required to get my applications to run on Vista..

Yesterday I really got bitten...

Windows update informed me that Vista Service Pack 1 was available and would I like to install it ?
I naively said 'yes'.. then all the trouble began (if I had bothered to check the web about 'Vista Service Pack 1', I would never have agreed to load it !).

After the download succeeded, the installation aborted and left me with an unbootable system. No repair modes, no safe boots, no nothing was going to get the thing going. OK, I have the original install disks, I just have to take the 6 hours it takes to install from scratch, then I'll do a restore from my full system backup from a few weeks ago..

6 hours later, with a bare system, I go to restore my system from my backups.
DING.. Vista will NOT recognize the backup files ! The restore User Interface gives you basically NO OPTIONS.. It's 'trust us, we know what to do'.. (apparently you DON'T know what to do, you can't even see your own backup files !)
Some poking around on the net and I see that I'm not the only one that has found out that their VISTA backups were invisible to the VISTA restore program. I find a command line tool 'wbadmin'.
Ah ha !
wbadmin is able to lookup the backup files. Now all I have to do is use 'wbadmin' options to find and restore from backups and I'm set.


While 'wbadmin' can find the backups, the restore functions are only enabled if you are running Windows Server 2008, you don't get to use them on Vista (because WE know what's best for you, and you don't need to know about this on VISTA) !

I'm completely hosed. The backups that I naively thought were protecting me from this situation are now sitting there useless and completely locked up.

This is all a shame really. Windows XP backups, for all their clunkiness at least allowed me to specify where the backups were and what I wanted to save/restore. I've successfully used XP backups after a disk crash and gotten my digital life back. VISTA has taken away all options with a simpler interface that is almost a binary 'do you want it or not' ? Taking away backup options is unpleasing to those of us that WANT the control. I can live with the loss of control if the feature basically worked, but it doesn't.

Luckily, most of my really important stuff is kept on an external portable drive that I backup separately (using Windows XP backup, BTW). It was a good move not to commit the really important stuff to be under the control of VISTA, or I'd really be in trouble.

OK. I've wasted a day occupied with this already...

A word of advice: Check around on the net before deciding to install VISTA Service Pack 1, and have your important stuff reliably backed up before you do install it. (I'm not going to install Service Pack 1.. BTW, now that I've started with a fresh install of old VISTA, Windows update informs me that I have 147 updates to download and install... fun !)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Radio Romania

I've recently subscribed to podcasts from Radio Romania.

A decade (+) ago a favorite pastime of mine was picking up foreign shortwave radio broadcasts. It was a minor thrill knowing that you were listening to radio waves from the other side of the globe that had reached you by bouncing off of the ionosphere.

In 1995 I heard the Russian side of the WWII story as 'Radio Moscow'/'Voice of Russia' broadcast many historical/propoganda programs honoring the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII.

Now that there are foreign radio station podcasts available, I no longer have to set aside time to search frequencies and hope for good reception to get a listen to Deutsche Welle, Australian Broadcasting Corp etc..

Romania was one of those broadcast countries that I was never able to pull in over the air so I was pleased to be able to get regular podcasts of 'Living Romania' in English.

It's a nice show with a balance of News, History (mostly about the former Dictatorship), Cooking (!) and a short feature 'Learn Romanian'.

'Learn Romanian', that's great ! I had learned a few Russian phrases from Radio Moscow's 'Learn Russian' series.. things like
"so, we'll sign the (business) contract tomorrow".

Getting used to the sound of the Romanian language will be something new...

So the lesson began:

"Today we will learn a few words and phrases that will help you when you are driving in Romania"

"Driver's License"

"Speed Limit"


(ha ha ha !! "Felony ???" I need to be aware of this word ? )

The lesson dialogue went along the lines of:

"May I see your Driver's License"

"You were traveling faster than the speed limit"


That's so funny (or is it scary) ?

I was expecting the next line to be:

"How much can I pay you right now to forget all about this incident"

(but it wasn't)

The 'Living Romania' Podcast RSS feed is:

Highly recommended !

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Farewell, Zafra !

I've been enjoying Jazz Dance classes taught by Zafra Miriam at
Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley .
The class is heavy on development of a strong technical foundation. I don't have a strong technical foundation (perhaps I should say that I don't/didn't have ANY technical foundation !) so the class has been both challenging and perfect for me.
Tonight was my last class with her as she's moving away to far flung landzzz. Thanks Zafra for sharing your passion and feeling for dance with us !

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Yet Another Dance Student Showcase

Hot on the heels of yesterday's Showcase at ODC came tonight's 'City Dance Showcase' at the Cowell Theater on the Bay. A great show with: HipHop, BBoying (Breaking), Jazz, Contemporary, Samba, Belly Dance (more about that in a minute !), Tap and Locking. One of the Belly Dancer's showed some amazing midriff control: she had a thin elastic band around her waist and made it jump between her waist and ribcage solely through the actions of her body in time to the music (look, no hands !). The picture shows the Tap dance group dancing to (live !) piano and vocalist. It was a very entertaining evening.
I really enjoy living in the Bay Area. There is so much going on in Arts and Entertainment that the question often isn't 'what should we do', but 'what things will we have to miss out on'.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dance Student Showcase

Tonight I went to see the 'Rhythm and Motion Student Dance Showcase'. Great show with a variety of different dance styles present: Ballet, HipHop, Hula, Salsa, Belly Dance, House, Tango, Swing and Afro-Haitian. Something for everyone !
For anyone that's interested in learning dance in the San Francisco Area the Rhythm and Motion program based at the ODC Dance Commons in SF is a nice place to learn at (I take a couple of HipHop classes there every week.. great stuff)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The REAL Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

It's not unusual to hear people make analogies to 'The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle' when trying to make a point. For example, someone trying to describe how an anthropologist cannot 'not affect' a culture that they come into contact with might say "well, the 'Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle' says that you cannot measure something without disturbing it". While that may be true about the HUP (name shortened easier typing), the HUP is far more profound and mysterious than that !

No one 'understands' Quantum Mechanics. Not Physicists, not anyone. At the most we can understand the mathematics that predicts results the real (Quantum) world, and use the learned 'counter-intuitive' nature of the Quantum world to guide us in describing results (which is different from actually understanding Quantum Mechanics).

Now, when non-Physicists quote the HUP and say that: "one cannot measure something without disturbing it", it is usually said with (non-Quantum) Newtonian Mechanics in mind (because Newtonian Physics is something that we can understand). It does turn out that Newtonian Mechanics also says that 'one cannot measure something without disturbing it'. Any information that we get about an object will rely on the taking of a measurement and the taking of the measurement will disturb the object, e.g. if we shine a light on something in order to see it, the light that we see would have been reflected off of the object, and the act of reflection will give the object a little bump thus disturbing it.

So what is so different about the HUP then ?

Let's say that we want to measure the speed (momentum) and position of a moving object. We bounce a sensor of some kind (like light) off of it and deduce the speed and position of the moving object when the sensor comes back to us. Every time we bounce a sensor off of the moving object, we change its speed proportional to the size and speed of the moving sensor. So as we decrease the mass/speed of the sensor object that we use to measure with, we also disturb by that much less, the object that we are observing.

In Newtonian Mechanics there is no theoretical limit to how finely we hone this down to get as fine a measurement of the moving objects speed and position as we want.

In Quantum Mechanics the situation is more profound. It turns out that certain characteristics of a system are 'paired' in a special way. They are mathematically related as Fourier Transforms of each other. In particular, position and momentum are one such pair.
Because position and momentum are related by a Fourier Transform, in theory (and in practice) it is NOT PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE to know both the position and momentum of an object to an arbitrary precision. The limit of possible simultaneous precision is described by the HUP. The basis of this limit arises from the Quantum Mechanical wave nature of matter (a physical particle is both a 'solid' thing AND a wave).

One surprising result is that since the product of the uncertainties in the position and momentum measurements is a constant, it turns out that if one measured the EXACT speed of a moving particle, the HUP says that it could be ANYWHERE, you cannot know where it is. Conversely, if one measured the EXACT position of a particle, you would know where it is but it's speed could be ANYTHING, you cannot know how fast it's moving.

So the HUP is not quite the appropriate analogy to make with respect to a situation in which an anthropologist is influencing a culture that they are studying !

The 'truth' about the HUP is common knowledge to anyone who's studied physics, but I have many friends and acquaintances who have not, so this is for you because you might not hear about the truth otherwise.

I can't describe the basic mathematics of the HUP any better than it's already been done, so here's an excerpt from a standard text (kind of cropped on the right hand side):

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Poppin Pete in SF

It's the 10th Anniversary SFHipHop Dance Festival weekend !
Went to last night's show and saw some killer pieces.
This afternoon, one of the visiting dancers, Popping Legend "Popin Pete" gave a 1 1/2 hour class to give us the basics and flavor of the 'Popping' style.
I came away with a greater understanding of this style and just how difficult it is do it with a 'loose groove'. Beginners like me, tend to make it look wooden and stiff. I think our minds are too focused on the 'pop' and not on the entire movement. This makes it look jerky and robot-like. (Robot-like is fine when that's what you want, but it's not fine when it's the only thing you can do :-) ).
The class was great. Thank you SFHipHop DanceFest for arranging the class !
There's another show on tonight, different than yesterday's program.
I'm really looking forward to experiencing it !

video of Poppin Pete in Beijing

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Not enough bicycle parking in SF

Went to my favorite SF Cafe on Guerrero st to do some work. All the usual poles were already taken by locked bikes....

sometimes necessity is the mother of invention (as they say)...

I got my spot !

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Poor User Interface #01

Now here's a rough shot of the menu of choices I get when I press Windows XP's 'Programs' menu option. I always cringe when I get this because I have to read at least half the screen to find the program what I want to run.
Q: Why does it take so long to choose ?
A: Because the entries are NOT in alphabetical order !

The order seems to be haphazard and random forcing one to read the hopeless jumble. I thought I heard from somewhere that this was a smart menu that knew to put the most frequently chosen programs first.. who knows, maybe it's true, but it doesn't work for me !

I've always felt that one thing that a successful User Interface does is to rely on things that we internalized by the time of our 5th birthday... well, OK, our 6th or 7th birthday since that's when we (English speakers) learned about alphabetical order.
This Windows XP menu fails that test.

Give me alphabetical order Puh-leeze !

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Local Coffee Shop Scene

Went to my local coffee shop '33 Revolution' (they also sell vinyl there) on this fine Sunday afternoon to do a little Android SDK learning work. To my pleasant surprise they had a local band playing. Jazz/Funk. Played a lot of my favorite tunes from the 60's-70's, Maiden Voyage, In a Silent Way, a nice funk version of Footprints. Great atmosphere ! Support your local independent coffee shop (just say NO to starbucks !).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Zepp by Coit Tower

Noticed what looked like the 'Airship Ventures' Zeppelin cruising by Coit Tower today.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Business Mistake #01

I once worked for a small company that had some early success and became a bigger company. In the smaller company days, as is usual in these situations, the company was a strong team, focused and driven for success. Somewhere along the way to success, the Execs moved away to another building. Same with Customer Support. Engineering had it's own separate building and soon there was born an elite Engineering project that moved further away to their own separate building. Amongst the engineers, cutoff from strategic (and sometimes tactical) direction and cut off from the customers, loss of focus and lack of purpose sunk in.
The ultimate symbol of a disintegrated company appeared one day in the purportedly heartfelt 'goodbye' e-mail that was sent out to the entire company by an executive (whose name was not known to any of the regular engineering staff by the way). I attempted to read the e-mail attachment but could not. The attachment was written in some proprietary format and no one in the engineering department had the software required to read it with.
It was clear, the leaders of the company lived in a different world and communicated amongst themselves in a 'language' that only they could read.
Big mistake.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Asymmetric Poodle

A dinner conversation surfaced the idea of having a poodle coifed so that from one side it's spherical and from the other side it's cubish. If I had a poodle, this is what I'd do !

Sunday, October 26, 2008

X-Rays from Scotch tape...

It's all over the news, so it's not really news...

But, I have to register my incredulity at the apparent finding that unpeeling scotch tape from its roll in a vacuum can produce X-Rays.. apparently with enough flux to get an X-Ray photo of a human hand !

(Can this be another 'cold fusion' hoax ? Surely someone has reproduced the result by now...)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cool shoes on BART

Coming home on the train today I noticed someone wearing some nicely customized shoes. They're so much more interesting to look at than a pair that matches by being 'identical'. (An aside, I'd heard that the Russian slang for 'shoes', sounds like 'shooz')

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cultural Exchange along the Continental Divide

A few summers ago, I found myself traveling through Glacier National Park in Montana. Spectacular.
To experience the beauty of the place more intimately, I stopped at the summit for a hike out to
'Hidden Lake'. The park being a big tourist draw, there were a wide range of people in
various degrees of readiness for hiking on a slippery trail covered in snow under unpredictable skies. On this trip I was travelling by motorcycle so cargo space was at a premium. Still, I had planned in advance on a hike in Glacier so I made the space to take along hiking boots, a weather jacket and a good pole.
The beauty of the place was overwhelming and for some, so was the terrain.
As the trail became more demanding, the less prepared/motivated turned back leaving only
the true believers seeking the Hidden Lake promise. At the lake, we, the self-chosen few,
were treated to the sight of a baby mountain goat that chose to linger.
Cameras clicked (mine included !) The kid eventually got bored of stardom and
deftly descended the steep mountain face below us.. Ah, the kid functioning in its
natural environment ! During the hike back, a cloud moved in and showered upon us, the chosen few.
To my mind, this added a dimension of 'roughing it'. Overcome adversity with resolve we would.
In front of me is an Indian family. Father, mother, daughters, son, all decked out in city gear.
No boots, shells or poles here. We're all gingerly picking our way along the snowed in hillside
together. A slip here, a slip there and steep drop off inches to our right.
The Father looks at me and I confirm the mutual fear we both share of losing our footing
and falling down the side of the mountain. We steel ourselves and press on.
I have it easier actually. I have only myself to worry about.
He has the added personal concern for his family on his shoulders.
Some time passes and we hear loud yelling behind us. 'Oh Gawd', I think,
'Someone's gone over the side' ! The father turns around and I see the bewilderment on his face,
mouth agape..
expression frozen.

I turn around to face the situation. A family behind us
is having the time of their lives sliding down the steep snowy mountain side on their butts,
shrieking with delight at the sensation.
The Indian father smiles, shakes his head and says to me:
'You know, I was afraid for my life back there.
Just look at them jumping off the side of the mountain like that !
This is *their* environment and we're foreigners here !'

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Charity Dance Showcase Sat Nov 15

Some dance compatriats of mine will be dancing in a Charity Dance Showcase to benefit the Alliance for Lupus Research on Saturday Nov 15.
So far the dance lineup includes: Modern, HipHop, Salsa, Tango and Ballroom.
Looks like it'll be a nice show:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kayaking on Tomales Bay

Someone asked about this, so here goes... A few weekends ago I met up with some friends and friends of friends to rent some kayaks and go on a guided tour of Tomales Bay in Marin County. It was a beautiful day out on the bay. Jellyfish were out in force to greet us. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the area having grown up in the area and working at a local oyster farm as well as the kayak rental place (Blue Waters). I have been through the area many times by motorcycle and bicycle and now have a greater appreciation for the area after the tour. Highly recommended !

No Kirov for me, sigh...

Got a great ticket to see the Kirov Ballet at Zellerbach tonight, but I don't fell well enough to go !
I'm going to call the box office to see about donating the ticket.
Major-ly bummed I was really looking forward to this and can't really afford to get a ticket for another night..
Someone tell me how good it was !

Sunday, October 12, 2008

ABDC America's Best Dance Crew

Having enjoyed all the ABDC season 2 episodes on MTV's website, I decided to go see the after-season touring show in Oakland last night. ABDC, the TV show, is a dance contest where hopeful crews (ensembles) compete on air each week in elimination rounds until there is only 1 winning crew. The show challenges the versatility of the competitors by specifying a different theme each week (all within the realm of popular 'urban' dance). I particularly liked 'Fanny Pak' who were the most artistic and original and 'Supercr3w' a BBoy (breakdance) crew. The touring show is a dance show with this season's winners 'Supercr3w', last season's winners 'JabbaWockeeZ' and some of this season's non-winners (including Fanny Pak).

I decided to leave my camera at home, expecting to find the usual 'no cameras, no recording devices' rule.. WRONG ! There were cameras galore and fans filming the event to their heart's content.. a sea of small camera phone screens lit up the seats in front of me. This is true viral marketing at work. All of their friends will be seeing the videos and the buzz will propagate. Contrast this with my attempt to get a picture of an Operatic Soprano Diva (Anna Netrebko) at a recital some years ago. I wanted to share the thrill of the experience with some of my overseas work colleagues. The concert hall staff descended on me and demanded that I erase the picture.. You guys just don't get it. I could've generated more buzz and fans for her if you'd let me indulge my enthusiasm ! You think that you're protecting something and maintaining it's value, but what you're really doing is strangling it of life. My overseas friends will probably never go and hear her sing, because they haven't felt the buzz !

Speaking of enthusiasm the ABDC crowd was a screaming mass of youthful enthusiasm. Some of them didn't even seem to be interested in the dancing, they were enthused just to be there in the same space as their idols. Reminds me of scenes of old Beatle concerts full of screaming fans (music ? what music ? It's Paul ! aghhhhhhhhh). This bodes well for the future of dancing I think !

p.s. In one number one of the ladies (from A.S.I.I.D. (And So It Is Done) ?) danced a number while almost entirely on the tips of her toes, 'En Pointe', Nicely done !