Thursday, April 30, 2009

Holy Crap! The Apocalypse is Here! H1N1!

I long realized that I don't buy into hype. Now I realize it annoys me when other people do. This swine flu thing is getting pretty out of hand. Not because I don't think it's an issue. I do. It's because people are going so overboard about it.

I was watching the news last night and this guy was talking about how he hasn't been feeling all that well the last few days. The anchor asked his symptoms and he said he's been tired. So what's this 35 year old guy do? He goes to the emergency room to get checked out. He wants to be safe and make sure he doesn't have swine flu. And he wasn't alone. There were lines of people like him. This is just clogging up the ER so people who really need help can't get it. And it's wasting money. Imagine if we had socialized medicine. Everyone would be there. And... what this guy doesn't realize is that he's exposing himself to more germs than he would have if he had stayed put. A hospital? Germ central.

I just don't get it. I mean, the regular flu has killed thousands of people this year. The swine flu has killed less than a hundred confirmed. Egypt just decreed that they're culling all of the pigs in their country even though there's no link and no reported cases there. If it arrives, it's arriving on the back of humans - so that's 300,000 pigs killed for seemingly no reason. Just overreaction.

Now if we actually analyze why it's been deadly in Mexico and not here, let's just use some common sense and compare the health care system in Mexico to that of the United States. Enough said.

But let's really look at the issue. What do we do about this? It's long been known that flu strains move from species to species. In fact, even the regular human strain of the flu mutates from year to year, making vaccinations useless from year to year (Time Magazine). Part of the problem, according to the article, is that multiple animal species have lived in close proximity to each other and squalid conditions for years. And the body that oversees flu outbreaks doesn't monitor animals. Just humans. So this is a good lesson to setup some better monitoring.

Let's be happy the flu isn't more deadly. And let's relax a little bit. If not - just head down to the ER and get yourself checked out. Maybe you'll catch it down there if you don't already have it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

WindowsError: The requested operation requires elevation

I got this error while installing Pylons for the first time. Pylons a web framework for Python - and from what I've read, the best solution for what we need. Of course, there's Django, which Google AppEngine uses.

Anyway, the error is due to user rights on your machine. I'm sick of Vista requiring me to run things as an administrator or preventing me from running things. I am the administrator. And I'm always logged in, so why does it keep asking me this.

I finally disabled User Account Control. Just go to Control Panel -> User Accounts -> Turn User Account Control off.

Shunning Responsibility - Why Is It So Hard for People To Take Responsible for their Actions?

I was listening the radio this morning on my commute to San Francisco as this professor went on a rant about how obesity is a systemic problem that's a direct result of institutional carelessness. He spoke about how world governments are complicit since they don't do enough to prevent obesity, through regulatory measures. And how they need to step in now and do something. I actually got angry listening to this joker. I wanted to punch the radio. I actually wanted to punch through the radio so I could hit this guy.

Sure there are lots of overweight people who are fat as a result of medical conditions. But how about the rest of the fat people? I'm getting tired of people shunning responsibility for their actions. You want to know why people are fat? Because Americans - and the rest of the world, are getting lazier by the day.

People have a choice to go and eat McDonald's. Nobody is forcing you. You have the choice to super size your meal or add a 98 oz. drink. Or to snack on doughnuts. Or own a deep fryer at home for your fried Twinkies. Or not exercise. Or not eat right. Look at our country. Everyone is looking for a handout... looking for someone else to bear the responsibility of their actions. Why don't we just improve education so people can be more informed rather than bail everyone out every time they're in a pickle? Jesus.

I have to laugh at how fat people are getting blamed for global warming now (here).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

*** fatal error - unable to remap to same address as parent : Cygwin, Ruby on Rails, System calls

I was trying to run system commands from the Ruby console in my Cygwin environment today (since that's part of how I'm integrating with Python). I was running into a helluva problem. I was getting a fatal error, unable to remap .dll to same address as parent. It took a while to track this down and even longer to actually figure out what is happening.

Let me tell you what you can do if you don't care what's actually happening.

1) Close out of Cygwin (and all cygwin processes).
2) Open a Windows command prompt (start -> run - > type 'cmd' or on vista : start -> type 'cmd' in the start search window)
3) Go to your cygwin bin directory. For me it is c:\cygwin\bin.
4) Type ash
5) Type '/usr/bin/rebaseall'
6) Resolve any errors (I had a warning that went unresolved and it still worked fine)
7) Reboot...and you should be good.

So what actually is happening? Well, in this case, the problem was a result of the way windows manages their .dll's. Windows uses ASLR (address space layout randomization) to manage its .dll's. It loads your dll's into different areas of memory every time you boot your computer. If this gets out of whack then the next time you look for that .dll - you can crash your system. Or if you look in the wrong place, you can crash your system. So how can this system get out of whack? Well, running your cygwin setup program can affect record keeping, especially if the ASLR has changed but Cygwin is holding on to an older copy (this can happen when setup doesn't complete).

ASLR is great for malware or hacker defense. Hackers can't constantly try new addresses for your .dll's without crashing your system.

Friday, April 17, 2009

How To Setup MySQL on Cygwin and Rails

I've been developing our app on Rails in a Windows Vista environment. I'm now working on integrating our scoring algorithm more closely with Python, which means I need the help of some libraries that don't compile under Windows. Thus, I've finally had to install Cygwin. Of course, it comes with it's share of problems. While I had to setup MySQL under Cygwin so I could get the MySQL gem installed, I wanted to use the MySQL instance in Windows. Another reason for that was because the MySQL build didn't complete properly - there are some problems with some of the extensions it needs under Cygwin. But it install enough after you modify the ./configure command (like this "./configure -without-libedit") and run the "make install" command.

You'll likely wind up with a socket error when you try to connect to your MySQL database on your Windows box if you keep your database.yml file the same. The error you may get looks like this: "can't connect to local Mysql Server through socket '/tmp/mysql.sock'"

To fix this, simply change your host in your database.yml file to point to: "host:" or wherever your host is. And that's it, problem solved.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Brilliant. The Strategy to Open Up 3 Fighting Fronts with the US

This has the smell of Al Queda. It just does. These pirate attacks appear to be the opening of a third front in our "war on terrorism". If that's even what it's still called? It's actually a brilliant strategy. The US is already stretched thin with our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and we appear to be the only country willing to do something serious about the pirate "scourge". Fighting a sea war against terrorists is going to be a never ending proposition. They don't play by our rules. And global opinion is making us stick to our dated rules of engagement. It reminds me a little of the image I have from the American Revolution, when the Colonists were sitting in the bushes taking pop shots at the British. This is the same thing our ancestors will be laughing about with us. And of course, I wonder where we're going to get the resources for this? I guess we should just start up the printing presses again. Hell, let's crank out a world war to get the auto industry back in shape - making skiffs for us.

All I know is that if I see 3 speedboats racing towards me, men armed with guns, then I'm not just standing there. That's the line that should have been taken from the get go with these people. Instead, countries have been paying these "pirates" millions in ransom which has just emboldened them more.

How do you fight pirate skiffs with aircraft carriers anyway? It's the same problem we're facing with the insurgent's shoot and run, city fighting techniques. We're just not prepared for this. Maybe Cheney should have been thinking about this during his 8 years as VP. But of course, he's also a shoot and run kind of guy.

My solution? Just like we have with Air Marshals, we should have Freight Marshals. Send 10 SEALS or Navy troops out with every US flagged ship that goes through the Gulf of Aden. Have them specially trained with weapons to fight the terrorists. And have them use their weapons. And other countries can choose to do this or not. There were some 12,000 ships that passed through the Gulf last year. That's 120,000 troops worldwide if you used different troops for every trip. Which you won't. But that's not that bad (and that's 12,000 ships for all countries, not the US).

By the way, I'm a little pissed about these people being called pirates. Pirates hold a special place in my heart. I always wanted to be a pirate, hunting for treasure, sailing a huge wooden ship with a plank. Sporting a wooden tooth and a peg leg (well, maybe not that). Hanging out with Blackbeard and Captain Hook. Or at least Captain Morgan. Please don't call these people pirates! Arrrrrrrggggh!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tilapia SUCKS! What the Hell is the Deal with this Fish?o

Tilapia reminds me of the emergence of hangar steak a few years ago. I'd never heard of it. I'm 33 and had never heard of Tilapia until about a year ago. Is this some new breed of fish? Some mutant species? Apparently not. It's been around for thousand of years. And it's even mentioned in the bible (not that I read it). Thank you wikipedia.

Like hangar steak, Tilapia has become the latest thing. I wasn't sure why, but suddenly it appeared on menus everywhere. I'd never really thought about it's sudden popularity until this week. See, I'd only had it once before, but in the last week I've had it twice. And I hope I never have it again. The first time I had it this week I was at a restaurant, and it tasted like mold. No kidding. Like they had just peeled some mold off a rock and mixed it in with the Tilapia. It was gross. It reminded me of a trip to Alaska I took about 10 years ago. I went fishing for Salmon, which were spawning. The ones that were near the end were literally wasting away alive (they looked moldy and probably tasted moldy). The second time I had it this week, I accidentally bought it. I swore I'd never eat it again. I was in the store last night getting some fish and I saw some Sole. I like Sole. Unfortunately it looks like Tilapia. I grabbed a package of Sole. Or so I thought. When I got home I realized my mistake. I made it anyway - thinking maybe the restaurant had some bad fish. And guess what? It tasted like mold and was fishy on top of that.

I looked up Tilapia and it's an easily farmed fish - which means, that's why it's gaining in popularity. It has low mercury levels and grows quickly. It's the 9th most popular fish in the US and growing fast. I guess taste doesn't matter. They apparently eat mostly vegetables. Probably moldy vegetables. You are what you eat.

Tilapia actually isn't that great for you as far as fish is concerned. It has an unhealthy relation of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids (here). Hopefully this will ensure Tilapia gets removed from menus. I'm dry heaving thinking about it.

The fish doesn't even look like it's good.

Should I Worry About Pandora's New Advertising Model?

I was listening to my Pandora station this morning and something happened that's never happened before. My station was interrupted with a commercial. It was a 2 second sponsored ad telling me I could find out how their music genome project works. I wasn't that bothered. It was 2 seconds. And I actually clicked on the video to see how it works. It was really interesting. It took me through a scenario of how I could be shown some Elvis Costello music if I liked a Kanye West track.

I don't mind the occasional interruption if it's this short, but what worries me is if this 2 seconds extends into 30 second spots. Advertising on the radio just seems to be getting longer and longer. I switch the station when ads start because it's so annoying. Almost as annoying as when the volume of television ads goes up during commercials. But this really got me wondering if the offline model of ad supported radio is just too proven to stray from on the internet? Are all online stations going to be ad supported soon? Is there any other model that can make money? Will online and offline radio converge at some point? Wouldn't a radio in your car with different Pandora stations be so much cooler than listening to KFOG? Or WBCN? And sure, you can pipe in some news and talk radio if you wanted.

I'm surprised that audio advertising is really the only way to make money with music stations online. With all this technology going on you'd think it'd be different.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

You Know You're a Dork When...

It's 1PM on a Saturday. It's beautiful out (at least the sun's out). Your friends are playing in a beer pong tourney. And you keep hoping they don't call so you can keep working at the corner coffee shop you're now sitting in.

There's a huge correlation between the ownership you have in what you're doing as it relates to the time you want to put into work. That's why stock options are such a great motivator. Everyone knows stock ain't worth a damn until a company makes it. But it gives someone a stake in what they'd doing. You get 3,000 shares in a company that's got 700M - and well, that's not much of an interest. Which was my signing bonus at Gap... Plus, you're just a cog in the wheel. You do your work or not...nothing changes. That's why so many people in big companies just punch their time cards. 9-5. Because there's nothing in it for them. A lot of people are happy to do that. But not a lot of entrepreneurs. It's not in their DNA.

Point is, I start feeling bad if I'm not doing anything work related...even if its a few hours some days. And even if I don't have much to do (as in, I'm waiting on some things to get finished).

My friend up in Vancouver emailed me last night that he was out at the bars last night. And he couldn't stop thinking about going home and coding. Yea, he's a dork too. Maybe more of one, because usually once I'm out, I'm alright. We started asking each other whether it's our age that's doing this to us or just our dorky nature? I'm thinking it's got a bit to do with both.

Man...not even done this post and I got a call that I'm missing the tourney.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mozilla Labs - Firefox Personas, Skin Your Browser

I just noticed Firefox Personas this morning. Since it takes me a while to actually wake up, I decided to play around with it while rubbing the sand out of my eyes. It let's you spice up your browser with a skin, just like Winamp used to let you do (is that even around anymore?). Every once in a while I do get sick of the status quo so this is a nice change.

I imagine it's pretty easy to create your own skin, though I haven't really looked into it. It seems like it's just an image file. But there are plenty to choose from that other bored people have already made.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Today's Google Post - Google AdSense is down... And Google Voice Arrives! I Already Love GoogleVoice!

I was just going to check my AdSense account because it's a great indicator of site traffic. And I get to see how many cents I earned today. I count in cents (single cents) though some days that's hard because I don't earn anything. Ahh, the life of a struggling blogger/entrepreneur.

Anyway... there's a point. AdSense is down. Never seen that before so thought I'd share it in case anyone else is wondering what's up?

More importantly. As a GrandCentral user, I got an email today that GrandCentral is migrating over to Google Voice. It instructed me to convert my account, which was nothing more than a simple GMail sign-in. And yes, you can change accounts, you don't need an existing Google account Very cool. It's still in beta, but should open up soon.

Here are the additional features they're offering now, from their email:

"In addition to the GrandCentral features you already know, we've added voicemail transcription, SMS support, conference calling, Goog411, enhanced spam protection and low-priced international calling. We have also integrated GrandCentral with your Google Account and your Google Contacts list."

Voicemail transcription? That rocks! I mean...this should kick some serious ass. I've started to use it a bit for a side business...which is very cool, because it keeps my personal number separate. You can see when a GrandCentral number is coming in since your GrandCentral number comes in on your caller id (for AT&T customers at least).

I feel like this is a big opportunity for people wanting additional numbers for businesses (now that phone numbers are portable, it doesn't do as much for regular users that don't care about the Google Voice features). As an entrepreneur/small business owner this is great for keeping things separate - and keeping restrictions on your business line (hours, messages, separate lines, etc). And for conference calling. And for free calling. And for free SMS. And for cheap international rates. I hope this integrates with GTalk soon. I can't imagine it not. And then I hope it kills Skype... because I hate anything owned by ebay. you can call anywhere in the US. And Google Voice will call that number and then ring yours. Free. You can use this for international calls (for a fee) and it will call your cell phone too. Bye bye Jajah. I used to use Jajah a ton when I was living in Hong Kong. If this works internationally, then they'll be in trouble soon. Google is really integrating all this awesomeness into their product. Of course with a ton of crap that gets filtered out when users don't start using it en masse.

Monday, April 6, 2009

IP Baby Naming Rights for sale on Ebay! Seriously?

Ok, this is great. I was sent an email by my friend and actually had to confirm with him that this was legit. He's offering up baby naming rights for his next child, which is expected in late May. There are some rules to this, but they're pretty fair for the bidders. I have to say, knowing this guy, I was a bit surprised. He's a tax attorney in Massachusetts, with a very normal life. He lives in suburbia so I'm sure this will be big news there. But hey... if you can drum up support, I'm sure a company like GoDaddy or would love to bid. After all, they've bid on toast that has a picture of the Virgin Mary before (here).

There have been others who have sold baby naming rights, for a song (here). That's just ridiculous.

Anywhere, here's what you get (link to the auction here):

1. The name must relate to a genuine for-profit business and must be for purposes of marketing in connection with the business.
2. The business must be a family- or child-oriented businesses, and the name chosen must relate to the business.
3. The name chosen must be appropriate for a baby boy, not a baby girl, and must be an appropriate name in an English-speaking country. By way of example, "General Electric" is an acceptable name. However, "Weirdo" is not acceptable, even if "Weirdo" means "General Electric" in some foreign language.
4. The winner will receive the following rights:
a. to choose the child's first and middle name,
b. the right to forty (40) hours per year of the child's time for marketing campaign purposes at no additional cost, other than reimbursement of travel and other out-of-pocket expenses;
c. in addition to the time set forth in the preceding paragraph, the right to have a representative present and to record (by video or audio) birthday parties, sporting events, and other normal childhood events.
d. the exclusive right to require the child to use products and/or services relating the relevant business (e.g., a certain brand of diapers or baby food);
e. the exclusive right to the baby's image and likeness, other than a reserved right for family and friends to use pictures of the little guy for normal family (non-marketing) purposes.
f. the right to a daily blog created by his parents for the purpose of memorializing the child's life, experiences, etc.
g. the right to change the child's name in the event of a merger, etc., of the relevant business, subject to the foregoing restrictions and limitations.
5. The agreement will cease on the child's eighteenth (18th) birthday.
6. Such additional rights and obligations as the parties agree to prior to closing the agreement.

All terms and conditions to be agreed to by the parties in good faith prior to any payment being due under this auction.
Ultrasound pictures can be provided upon request.\

Sunday, April 5, 2009

How To Stay Motivated as a Startup Entrepreneur

Motivation is a huge issue with starting a company. It's actually a huge issue anywhere. When I used to work as a developer and I'd be given crappy tasks, I'd lose motivation quickly. With this startup, I find that I have days and even weeks were my motivation seems to dry up like the Sahara.

So what are you to do when this happens? There are actually a few options.

1) Use your co-workers, co-founders, whatever. If you have them. Feed off their passion and excitement. This is the one reason why I'd never do a startup without passionate people. Even if they're the best programmer in the world, if they're not bought into your idea, they'll hurt more than they help. Everyone has their ups and downs. And with passionate partners, you can feed of their ups and they can feed off yours when either party is feeling down. Otherwise you'll run the very possible risk of both feeding off the negatives instead of the other way around.

2) Set timelines. This is the hardest thing in the world for me to do. I'm typically very scattered. I'll work on something...get distracted and begin working on something else, often leaving the first task. If you create timelines, it gives you something to work towards and allows you to complete your tasks sequentially. I have a feeling most engineers have this distraction/procrastination thing going on - so try try try to create to-do lists and timelines consistently!.

Last week I was feeling overwhelmed. Our beta testing is far behind schedule. We have a lot of bugs and functionality to add before you can see our work. I was so overwhelmed that I felt I couldn't get anything done. So I pulled my mom in and asked her to help me setup some tasks so I'd be accountable to her. Not ideal. But it worked. Use the resources you can to help you hit your milestones.

3) Use your friends/support. I met with a classmate at the end of last week - and realized that everyone has these ups and downs, especially when you're working by yourself most of the time. Or have a distributed team. We decided we'd meet weekly to keep each other motivated in our respective endeavors even if we're working on different things. This is where finding other entrepreneurs is great for your own moral.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Entrepreneur College - That Time of Year Again!

I've been getting some emails from Wilson Sonsini (WSGR) about their entrepreneur college. I attended last year and was happy with the sessions I attended. I picked and chose what was relevant to me because some of their sessions would have been useless. I've been learning more and more how precious my time is and how it's easy to get distracted from the task at hand. I think that's especially true for entrepreneurs. Anyhow, here's the link to RSVP. Also, Mario Rosati will be headlining the first session. I had him as a teacher at Haas - he's engaging and has a ton of experience to lend to whatever discussion he's giving. This one is on valuation.

Also - the program is available around the country (Austin, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Palo Alto, and DC)

Here's what WSG&R says about their program:

"Given the current economic landscape, entrepreneurs are forced to make many tough decisions and to do more with less. However, innovation is as important as ever, and entrepreneurs will play an increasingly critical role in bringing new technologies and services to the market. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati remains committed to helping entrepreneurs navigate this shifting economic landscape and adapt to new realities. We are proud to present the Entrepreneurs College, dedicated to providing entrepreneurs with the information, opportunities, and network needed to achieve success in these challenging times.

This program includes a series of seminars and networking events covering a wide range of topics to help you focus your ideas and business strategies and runs semi-weekly over the course of 17 weeks. Since its launch, the Entrepreneurs College has met with great success, bringing together hundreds of entrepreneurs to form the beginning of a dynamic and diverse leadership community.

The Entrepreneurs College is exclusive to entrepreneurs and start-up company executives in the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati network. You will benefit from the largest network in the country of leaders in entrepreneurship, venture capital, angel organizations, and other finance and advisory firms.

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati was built upon the foundation of entrepreneurship. Our commitment to the entrepreneur and venture capital community spans over four decades, during which time we have played an integral role in the creation of many of today’s groundbreaking industries. We are equally excited about the future, and look forward to joining you on the journey that lies ahead."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wolverine Shows Up Online... Piracy is Killing The Industry. I'm Terrified!

Not really. But it was big news this morning when it was publicized that X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the latest movie in the XMen franchise, showed up on the torrents, way ahead of its release date. The constant realist, something just didn't mesh with the story.

Apparently an "incomplete, and early version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine" appeared to have been stolen from the studio. Fox claims that this version is without the special effects, final musical scores, and editing that will really make the movie. Like I was going to see it in the theater anyway.

So what doesn't mesh? The fact that this is an incredible publicity stunt for Wolverine. Considering the fact that I didn't even know the movie was coming out next month, it creates quite a stir. Also - the movie is apparently quite unfinished, even though its coming out in a month. Compounded with the fact that they claim the movie is forensically marked, which would make it seem likely that they should already know who leaked it.

But the biggest piece of evidence that creates my skepticism is the fact that just next week, US Congressman Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will be holding a final hearing on the implications of piracy on the movie industry... in nearby Van Nuys. The results will likely drive public sentiment and policy on video piracy. These guys are just like the MIAA... so it wouldn't surprise me if they pulled a stunt like this.

Read on (here])