Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in pictures

So, there goes another year, and this one was certainly full of important historical events. Here is a quick recap with pictures.

The Arab spring protests and riots rise on to full blown revolutions, aimed to depose the life-long dictatorships in many Arab countries.

An earthquake followed by a tsunami hits Japan and causes devastation, compromising vital infrastructure, most famously the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

President Barack Obama announces that the most wanted man in the world, Osama Bin Laden, fugitive since 2001, has been found and killed by a special forces team in Pakistan.

The world wide economic crisis worsens, but all attentions are turned to the situation in Europe, where countries like Greece, Portugal and then Spain and Italy seem to be struggling to balance their accounts.

The first ever synthetic organ transplant takes place in London when a cancer patient receives a new lab grown windpipe. The operation is a success.

Shuttle Atlantis lands at Cape Canaveral marking the end of the Space Shuttle program after 20 years of service.

Two bombs are set off in Norway along with an attack in the island of Utøya by a christian extremist, leaving 77 dead and many more wounded.

Another terrorist attack, this time in Mogadishu, capital of Somalia, leaving some 70 dead.

Rebels capture capital Tripoli as part of the Libyan civil war, ending Muammar Gaddafi's long control over the country. Later the dictator would be found and killed in his home city of Sirte.

Riots break out around the United Kingdom, mostly concentrated in London and the surrounding areas. Commerces are looted, buildings and cars burnt down, in response of the increasingly worrying economic situation spreading to the region.

The Curiosity rover is launched and headed for Mars. It is the most advanced probe sent so far to the red planet and will be landing there in late 2012.

The world's human population surpasses 7,000,000, people.

United States announces the end of their operations in occupied Iraq, leaving the country to run itself after almost 9 years of military presence and 5 thousand killed, times six wounded.

As you can see, it's mostly negative things. Here's to hoping I will be writing here in one year's time, with more good news than bad.

Happy 2012, everybody!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice

If you're in the northern hemisphere, today is the winter solstice (well actually this year it's tomorrow but we can't be changing our calendars every year for astronomical reasons, can we?)

By any means, Winter starts. The sun will travel through it's lowest arch in the sky, it will be the shortest day and the longest night, all that. If it's snowing where you live, go and have fun!

If you live in the southern hemisphere, well, reverse all I've said and happy Summer!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

SOPA, and why it sucks

Let's talk about something shameful. Online censorship. 

One of the reasons why the internet grew at the rate it did was because people felt liberated and freed by it, the ability to say anything and read anything at any time. View content from across the world in a few seconds, created by someone like you. Soon, this shape of the internet might change drastically. Enter SOPA.

What is it? 

Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a bill that's proposed to become a U.S. Law, soon to be voted by congress. Basically, it's a censorship program, which would allow corporations, through intimidation of multi million dollar lawsuits, to close any website they deem are infringing their copyrights. If those websites refuse to close, they could go straight to the companies that host the domains and servers of said websites and sue them instead, giving the corporations such as RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) the power to basically squash any little bug that's smaller than them.

Why is this so bad?

Basically, anything that even slightly breaks the copyright laws is liable to get censored. Even more, websites that host user submitted content are liable for what those users are saying. So if anyone posts lyrics of a song in Facebook, for example, then the copyright holders could force Facebook to block that post unless they wanna face legal action. There go all those lovely song covers in YouTube, any tribute band hosted in MySpace, etc..

Let's make believe SOPA passed on the year 2000, which websites would probably have never existed (or would have been extremely less successful)?

and many, many more.

What is the drive behind SOPA?

Nothing else but greed. The reason why these corporations see this is necessary is because they are "losing over 100 billion dollars annually". What the mean is they are not earning those 100 billion (allegedly, this figure is probably fabricated and false) on top of their already multi billion dollar earnings. The musicians nowadays live a much wealthier lifestyle than those in the 50s or 60s when piracy was nowhere to be seen. The movies keep breaking income records year after year. Movie stars are paid millions of dollars for 3 months worth of work, more than any normal human being will make in their entire lives. Socialites out of stupid reality TV shows are paid thousands of dollars just to show up at an event.

Why is it ridiculous?

I think everyone can figure out their own reasons to find this bill extremely laughable but worrying at the same time. For me, it's a couple of reasons. First of all it's so against everything the United States of America is usually proud of, "freedom". It is sadly funny to see how America opposes countries like China, Iran or Syria censoring their internets for the sake of religion or government control, and now they're bound to pass a law for the sake of making fat corporations even fatter.

Secondly, it's a case of bullying. It's exactly like that fat, big, not so bright bully at school, getting what he wants by force. Instead of adapting to the changes of the times, these corporations are looking to stomp on change and innovation. They are crying because they didn't have such ideas first. With this attitude not only would they be crushing already existing content, but also hampering the growth of new ideas, companies, and ventures. A study shows that venture capitalists would be extremely fearful to invest in new start-up companies in fear of the legal consequences.

Lastly, some copyright infringement actually leads to earnings for these companies. I have, on many occasions accidentally, come across new bands I had no idea about in YouTube videos which used them as a background music.
For example, this famous video by MadV has a soundtrack by Mogwai, which led me to download (yes, illegally) some more of their music and ultimately to become a fan. Remember this post back from summer? Yes, I paid 75 euros to attend a festival with friends mainly to go see them play and I loved the experience, and will go see them again if they play here. I am sure many people have examples just like this where "illegal" content is actually doing something the record companies have failed doing these past 10 years, advertising and promotion.

I'm not American, why should I worry?

As we all know, the western world has a tendency to follow on the footsteps of the US, whether we like it or not. There are other initiatives in the U.S., such as the PROTECT IP, which could be implemented even if SOPA fails, and more worryingly, something international is being pushed called ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) which, quote, "the current draft of ACTA would profoundly restrict the fundamental rights and freedoms of European citizens, most notably the freedom of expression and communication privacy."

What are our weapons?

Luckily, there is a lot to be done by many people. Many huge internet ventures like Google (by extension, YouTube), Facebook, Mozilla, Wikipedia, to name a few. The president of the United States, Barack Obama, has said he would move to veto this bill, but the congress could still overrule him. Hopefully, even if it becomes law, the Supreme Court could deem it unconstitutional (which it is, see link below), and scrap it.
Visit this website to learn more about what can you do in your current position, be it as a webmaster, just a user, US citizen or not.

Other links:

Funny anti-censorship comics

SOPA is unconstitutional

A list of companies supporting SOPA

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A giant earth discovered: Kepler 22b

When people ask me whether I think there is life outside our planet, I say yes. When they ask me why... I don't feel like explaining.

But here's why:

The Milky Way (the galaxy in which our Solar system is located) has around 400,000,000,000 stars. If only a 0.5% of those have planets, then there are 2,000,000,000 Solar systems out there. If out of those solar systems only 0.1% have any planets within an inhabitable region, there are 2 million planets suitable for life out there. Even if one out of a thousand actually harbors life, then there are 2 thousand living planets floating around. And this is being really pessimistic with the numbers.

Then we look beyond our galaxy. The Hubble telescope was pointed a tiny piece of the sky for a month taking in all the light it could get. The result was this famous picture:

Each one of these dots is another galaxy, each one containing billions of other stars. So in my mind, it's very likely there are hundreds of civilizations out there. However, I don't think we will meet any of them.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic beta impressions & preview

So the Star Wars: The Old Republic testing phase (public beta) is now over and we are allowed to talk freely about the game. I participated in two testing weekends along with thousand other testers.

My first impressions of the game overall were quite good.

Starting from the top, character creation is straight forward. Choose your faction (Republic or Empire, of course), one of 4 races available. On to the physical customization one must choose a face, a body type, choose some scars if you want, hair, eye and skin color.
However, the customization options are not that broad. There are only 4 body types, for example: skinny and short, average height and weight, tall and muscular, and fat. It should be enough for people to look unique... but there could be more.

The gameplay is quite similar to what has been established as the 'standard' for MMORPGs by the current dominator, World of Warcraft; that came as no surprise, I wasn't expecting they would take big risks doing something completely original, but it's not a bad thing either.

Something that is quite different though is the story component of each class as they develop. Through quests, each of the classes has it's own adventure to live, whether it's from being a padawan learning to become a Jedi, or an imperial agent investigating the assassination of a Sith Lord, it equates into many new adventures every time you try a new class. There's great detail placed in the voice acting, with many of the quests having entirely acted out conversations (some you get from data pads or other text transmissions).

The dark side has you
As you progress, you gain experience and levels as in other online games, but there are also some other aspects of character development. Similar to the system in KOTOR, making choices can affect your alignment with the Force, be it light or dark. Mainly this restricts which items you can use and purchase, but it also changes how people react to you and how you look. Being a well mannered, good hearted Sith, and Imperial people will treat you with disdain. Being a heartless cruel person will bring you to the dark side, and you will notice your face slowly changing, first your eyes turn bright yellow and then some cracks start showing, representing the corruption of your body and soul.

At some point in time you get a ship with which you can travel from planet to planet or engage in space battles. These play more or less like a point and click game, since you don't have much control over your ship, it follows a pre determined path and your task is to make things go boom by clicking your mouse. It's fun, but disappointing in a way. It pretty much negates any kind of player versus player space fights, which I was hoping for.

The battlegrounds however are a lot of fun and offer new challenges, like a space football sort of sport where you can pass the ball to your team mates running towards a goal and scoring points, all the while being able to fight and defeat other players to save your own skin or protect the ball carrier.

I do have some grudges about it, but it being a beta, I will wait for the final product to really complain. Things like the graphics being a bit 2006ish and items only lasting a level or two before you find something better are areas I'm hoping for improvement.

I recommend you at least try this game, if you get the chance at a friend's house, or through some sort of trial. It will cater well to both fans of the Star Wars universe as well as those looking for a great MMORPG.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Internet passwords

I am beginning to get pissed off about the requirements of some websites when you're creating a new account, when it comes to choosing your password. It's getting to a point where all the symbols on the keyboard must to be used, which makes passwords really hard to remember.

This isn't the worst I've seen...

I admit they make them really hard to guess, but whoever uses passwords that are "guessable" deserve to be hacked in the first place.

It's really easy to come up with a password that is only letters and that sticks to your head.

heymanitsmeletmein -> Secure, easy to forget, hard to guess, hard to find by brute force.

Randy22# -> Hard to remember, although secure online, easy to crack by brute force if it's a local file.

What's more, websites advise you to never repeat a password. So if I'm signed up to half a dozen forums, three email services, online banking, two gaming portals and wikipedia, how many upper-lower-case-number-and-symbol passwords can I remember before I forget one and have to go through the process of "recover your password" just to forget that one the next day as well?

Passwords should be whatever you want, and as such, at your own risk if they are too easy to guess. If you use your dog's name as the key to your important stuff, then it's your fault for being stupid when some guy signs in and starts sending spam to all your contacts.

I finish my rant with the classic XKCD strip that wraps it all up perfectly:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ozone, friend and foe

We've all heard talk about Ozone, the ozone layer, products with ozone, etc.. But how many of us know what it really is?

The ozone molecule is basically three Oxygen atoms bonded together, as the figure shows below.

The arrow in the figure represents that the molecule "mutates" between the two existing forms (which are just mirror images in this case since the molecule only has one type of atom), in what is called Molecular Resonance. A pair of shared atoms keeps shifting from left to right, and right to left, changing the polarity of the molecule along with it. What we have in practical terms is not a single or a dual bond, but something like a "1.5" bond between the atoms. This makes it quite unstable and reactive. It will easily oxidize most metals, with the exception of Gold, Platinum and Iridium.

One of the most interesting aspects of it is the duality of being essential to life but also harmful to it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Make a wish

They say if you make a wish at 11:11, it comes true. Or at least an asian friend of mine said so.

In any case, happy 11/11/11! Make a wish at that time and it should be ultra empowered.

Don't wish for money or you might be buried under a pile of gold.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sonic Generations... back to 1991!

So today I have something for all of those nostalgic gamers like myself, especially those who had a Mega Drive (Genesis) while growing up. It’s Sonic Generations!

20 years ago Sega created a small, quick blue hedgehog to compete with rivals Nintendo and their Mario, and to showcase their new consoles capabilities. Here we are 20 years later and it's back to the past!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Keep your helmets on! 2005 YU55 near pass.

Tomorrow (tuesday the 8th of November) an asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier will pass us really close by. It's called 2005 YU55, and while astronomically we can call this a close miss, it will be 0.00217 AU (Eart-Sun distance) away, around 325,000 km or 200,000 mi. This is 15% closer than the distance at which the moon orbits (0.85 lunar distances).

Unfortunately, it will not be visible to the naked eye as it is not big enough, and since it is not a comet, it will not leave a visible trail. The object is approaching from the direction of the Sun, so it will be a daylight object, observable for astronomers who will surely be delighted pointing their optical and infra-red telescopes at it.
It poses no threat of collision, and by calculations, it won't do so for at least 100 years.

The next tracked object to come close to earth (0.6 lunar distances) won't come until 2028. Keep your helmets in good condition for that one as well.

Check out the original story at NASA's site

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The world in shades of bastards.

cor·rup·tion noun \kə-ˈrəp-shən\
  a : impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle : depravity
  b : decay, decomposition
  c : inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (as bribery)
  d : a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct

This is a word most of us are familiar with, and when applied to government or the ruling class of a country or state, it refers to the deviation of public funds for private enrichment, as well as the acceptance of bribes or generally speaking, forgetting about the greater good for personal gain.

It has always been a huge problem in human societies because, like it or not, we are many times driven by greed. It is not a good basis to function on, and it shows.

Is it possible to measure corruption? Well, with some surveys and studies, people certainly have tried. The folks at Transparency International compiled all the results into a simple graphical media where we can appreciate the severity of the problem, the Corruption Perceptions Index 2010 Results.

The countries are given a rating from 0 to 10, with lower numbers indicating more corruption and higher numbers indicating more transparency, based on several surveys conducted (at least 3 or 4, with as many as 10 for some).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I hope there is two without three

This month I've covered a lot of motorsport and car related subjects on the blog. Some have enjoyed it while others want me to go back to writing about random interesting stuff, and I will, but bear with me on this one.

It is with a saddened heart that I write about the untimely departure of two talented racers, which lost their lives a week apart, these past two Sundays.

Dan Wheldon

Dan Wheldon was born in England in 1978. He started karting at the very early age of 4 and continued racing throughout his youth and teens, even crossing paths with Jenson Button, before moving to America to compete in the lower ranks of open wheeled racing, but it wasn't too long before his talent was noticed and, eventually, earned him a seat at the pinnacle of competition, the Indy Racing League, in which he won Rookie of the Year award in his first full season. A year later he was 2nd overall, and the next year, champion.

In 2011 he was replaced at Panther Racing by rookie J.R. Hildebrand, and was without a drive for most of the year. Ironically, he did enter the mythic Indy 500 with Bryan Herta Autosport, and beat Hildebrand to the finish, after a mistake by the rookie saw him crashing into the wall in the last corner of the race.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A world of planks is dangerous

Have you ever thought we should have buildings made entirely out of planks?
And then, what would happen if someone came along with a giant catapult shooting balls at these structures?

Yeah me neither...

Despite that, some people find it fun to simulate structures made out of planks and then crashing stuff into them, posting the videos which are extremely entertaining to watch.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

F1 2011 Review

After a long, long stint of not having an official, licensed Formula 1 game in the PC platform and having to make-do with modified sims like rFactor or Grand Prix 4, it was announced last year that Codemaster, the company behind such fun titles as GRiD, Dirt and Dirt 2, had been given the rights to exploit the F1 brand, and was working on a racing game for all the fans and those who didn't even know what F1 was.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wallpaper day

I wanted to start the month with a post, but I can't find anything that good to report on.
My lazy side took over and then an idea hit me... why not add some wallpapers of my choice every now and then? Perhaps make Saturday Wallpaper Day.

Today's theme is cars. Who doesn't love a sexy sports car and why not stare at it while you work?

Audi R8, one sexy piece of german engineering

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy birthday Google

So, today Google becomes a teenager.

I can remember more or less my reaction when I first heard of it... "Google, what is this? some kind of competition for Lycos? those fools, they'll never be as big".

The interface in 1998

Right now the company is one the largest internet related businesses offering everything: searches, blog hosting, videos, documents, and even a new social network. Who would have thought about it all those years ago? And people who have grown with Google, how do they think we searched the web before it existed?

Well there were several web hosting companies that offered a search, and some others that established themselves as the first generation of dedicated search engines: Altavista, Lycos, Excite, Yahoo!. Some of these still exist but none has a chance of competing with the almight Googz, not even Microsoft's attempt Bing.

Will the domination end? Will space explorers still use Google's services 500 years from now? Will it all end December 21st, 2012?
For now, Happy birthday, yo.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Laptop shopping

Since my last laptop completely died on me, I have been putting off buying a new one for a number of different reasons, not having enough money being the primary one. In the past few weeks I've been out and about both in electronic stores and their websites, reading and comparing models, and here's what I've found out:


Yeah how can this be a bad thing do you ask? Because when you really start comparing, you begin noticing that there are tiny differences between models sometimes, only varying slightly in the processor they use, or the amount of memory, the size of the hard drive.

It is then when you begin to wonder "what if I buy something, and two days later I find there was something much better for exactly the same price?" that you start to get frustrated. It baffles my mind and I've been around computers since I was 6 years old, but even more than that, I can't understand the logic behind this.  Sometimes the same brand will do 3 different laptops with a tiny difference in their incoherently long names of letters and numbers. I'll give you an example with these three Samsung models, which cost exactly the same:


These three are basically the same except one of them has a 500 GB hard drive instead of a 640 GB. It's the middle one. But the middle one has 1 GB of memory dedicated to it's graphics card, the top one has only half of that, 512 MB. But the bottom one has both the nice hard drive and the nice memory. So why do they have to build all 3 instead of just offering the nice one?!

It gets even funnier. The RV520-S02 is worse than the RV520-S01, and costs less. Why not call it the RV519 or something and make it simple? Higher number, better quality, makes the world a lot easier to figure out.

It's not a Samsung thing, either, all the brands fall on to the same mistakes. It's becoming quite hard for me to choose one without getting that feeling that my money would have better be spent on another model. I haven't even dipped my toes in the world of tablets, 'cos I know if I did, my head would explode in a thousand different directions.

I've made up my mind though... I'm going to buy 600 euros worth of pens and paper. Brb.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where Romans walked

It is no secret that some ancient civilizations were able to construct incredible things that would impose a challenge to modern engineers: Pyramids, aqueducts, catapults, temples and cathedrals... and also long lasting, good quality roads.
As part of a number of activities planned for a neighbouring city's annual festival Chocalhos, I got to walk on a Roman road.

The walk started from the local city hall and ended at the neighbouring town, which is straight on the other side of the local mountain range. It started pretty early with the traditional bell-bearers and then some goats (yes, tradition... they didn't come along on their own accord). We overtook the goats 'cos they were shitting all over the place, and began the uphill walk with a good rythm. Got to the other side in around an hour and then started descending towards the other town through the roman road. This took like half an hour.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Science and tech roundup

It has been a very interesting week as far as scientific and technological news. In the middle of the whole economic crisis, this gives me both entertainment and hope. Here's a quick round-up.

Astronomers find Tatooine!

It doesn't look like this at all.
Well not so much, but they think they've found proof of a planet orbiting around a binary star system, that is, two stars rotating around each other. The planet is thought to be a cold gas giant, something like Saturn, and not the hot arid Star Wars deal. We will have to keep searching for the Jedis somewhere else.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Deus EX: Human Revolution

Check out my awesome mechanic eyes. Yeah.
It's the year 2027 and you're one bad ass ex-SWAT working as security for a company which is researching bio-mechanical implants. Then all hell breaks loose when an unknown commando force breaks in the factory, wreaking havoc and killing everyone around. You take a bullet to the face and wake up weeks later to find out your life was saved by the doctors, who had to extensively repair your mangled body with these new state of the art implants.

After you've spent several long minutes in this intro, which starts with a mysterious corporate CEO smoking a cigarette which reminded me a lot of Mass Effect 2, you're thrown into the tutorial mission which takes a little more of your time, because it's suggested you do everything slowly and stealthily, before the game really begins. This sets the tone for me, this game is gonna draaaaag.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I'm back! Paredes de Coura report

Well, after that short summer break of doing nothing and procrastinating as far as blog posts go, I'm back. Like you hadn't noticed by the fact there's a new post. Thank you Mr. Obvious Blogger... carrying on.

As I referenced in my last post I was attending an annual summer festival called Paredes de Coura, located in the far north of Portugal. I had never gone to it so it was a great new experience. As we all know the world is in economic turmoil and this country is one of the most affected at the moment by it, so the line up was not full of stars and world class bands, yet those who attended did their best to put on a show.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summer festival camping

I've always loved camping for some reason. It's a primal feeling of survival, I guess, to live in a place you "built", outdoors, unplugged a little from our apartments, houses, electricity, TVs and the interweb.
However, it's been quite long since I last done it, so the fact I'm going to a 5 day summer music festival where we'll be camping out for the duration of it comes as a nice deal for me.

I am quite the forgetful guy. Knowing a checklist would be of great use to me, on to Google for one. This website dedicated to the outdoors had a huge list of things you would only need if you are planning on moving permanently to your tent, but still, it was of great use. I narrowed it down to what seems to be the basics:

Borrowed something like this from my uncle.  4 spaces all for me.
  •  Tent
  •  Rope/stakes
  • Hammer
  • Mat for tent entrance
  • Backpack
  • Dust pan/brush
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sheets/blankets
  • Pillow
  • Air mattress
  • Air pump
  • Utility bags for storage
  • Garbage bags
  • Knife/swiss army knife
  • Shoes
  • Jeans/pants
  • Shorts
  • T-shirts
  • Socks/extra socks
  • Hat/belt
  • Sweatshirt/jacket
  • Underwear
  • Swim suit/towel
  • Laundry bag
  • Flip flops
  • Towels/washcloth
  • Shampoo
  • Tooth brush/tooth paste
  • Deodorant
  • Comb/brush
  • Razor
  • Toilet paper
  • Personal medications (painkillers)
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellant
  • Flashlight/batteries
  • Camera
  • Tissues
  • Cell phone/charger
  • Small sewing kit

Phew, that's a lot. Since I haven't started packing stuff, I better stop writing and go do that.
Which 3 items, other than the tent and the sleeping bag, you couldn't be without in a camping trip?

Friday, August 12, 2011

What a crazy week

So it's the middle of the summer and everyone, including me, is taking their breaks from routines and going in vacations. However that didn't stop this week from being one of the most action packed one this year so far.

We got countries getting their ratings cut , markets going up and down like roller coasters, London in flames, more people dead in protests in northern Africa, all of this merely days after a nut-case shot all of those people in Norway.
Is it just me who thinks things are getting out of hand?

This was funny though:

Video games are always to blame, aren't they?

Have you ever been reading about some historical happening and wondered how living was back then? Well, open your eyes, history is in the making and we are witnessing it first hand. Some day we might be able to say "Yeah I was there in the big crisis of the 2000s".

Either that or it all goes to extreme shit, and we all start fighting each other for food and internet access becoming modern broadband eating zombies.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Pwnie Awards

A couple of days ago the Pwnies were handed in Las Vegas. In case you're not familiar with them, they're basically the Oscars for achievements in technology (more specifically Information Security), awarded to those who move the field forwards, but at the same time they're the Raspberries, giving the dreaded "Most Epic Fail" award to those who deserve it.

The ponies pwnies

The big loser this year was Sony. It came as no surprise because it was the only nominee, albeit for a number of different reasons:

Sony After Fail0verflow and GeoHot published how to jailbreak the PS3, Sony got a bit miffed. Apparently unfamiliar with how the Internet works and how difficult it is to remove the piss from a swimming pool, Sony proceeded to try erase the information from the Internet and sue GeoHot et al. into oblivion. Needless to say, this was about as successful as the MiniDisc.
Sony Speaking of piss in a swimming pool, that just happened to be how well Sony protected their Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) users' account info and roughly 25 to 77 million account details were stolen by unknown hackers. That metaphor makes just about no sense at all, but you get the point: FAIL.
Sony Sony is definitely good at one thing: keeping the hits coming and their fans entertained. Oh wait, did we say Sony? We meant LulzSec. I guess that counts as another FAIL for Sony.
Sony After learning the hard way that their PlayStation Network was about as porous as air, Sony had to shut it down for over two months to rebuild it from scratch. In doing so, they made everyone from your 8-year old cousin to your barber learn about the importance of security. Hooray for us, sorry Sony shareholders.
Sony Noticing a pattern here? But wait, it gets better. Sony might have been able to better repel the multitude of attacks if they hadn't just recently laid off a significant number of their network security team. Great timing, guys.

The polar opposite, Epic 0wnage, which goes for "the hackers responsible for delivering the most damaging, widely publicized, or hilarious 0wnage.", went to Stuxnet this year, a worm that targets Siemens industrial equipment and that some say was engineered on purpose to tackle Iran's nuclear program supposedly using black marketed Siemens machinery.
How many centrifuges did your rootkit destroy? How many national nuclear programs did your worm disrupt? How many 0day exploits and rootkits for equipment that no one you has ever heard of have you written? Exactly.
Other nominees included LulzSec, Anonymous and Wikileaks.

Click here for the rest of the winners.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

And boom goes the car

Just a short car post to finish the month with. It's a video I recorded from today's Grand Prix, in Hungary.
It might persuade more of my american readers to start watching Formula 1, as I understand, they look for excitement, crashes and mechanical failures (yeah, stereotypes! I'm just kidding with you all).

Anyway here's a video of what happens when one of the most advanced high performance engines goes a bit wrong.

Nick Heidfeld Lotus Renault blows up - Hungary - The best home videos are here

So, hope he has his car insurance papers ready, cos an F1 engine costs 150 thousand. Not to mention on last week's race he went a little airborne when trying to overtake another car:

Poor guy. Here's to hoping his car at least ends the next grand prix whole.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sleeping to the soothing rain

If there's something that calms me down is the steady noise of rainfall.
Not long ago I was in one of those situations where you're trying to sleep, but all you manage to do is close your eyes and turn around in bed countless times till you end up belly up looking at the ceiling asking nobody "why can't I sleeeeeeeeep?"

So I got up and googled rain sound. Came across this very simple website Rainy Mood which plays rain and thunder noises in an endless loop.

It has over 400,000 likes on Facebook and a bunch of retweets, so it seems there are a lot of people out there who like going to sleep with the rain. All you need is a good set of speakers and a little power of abstraction to forget the fact it's coming from your computer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Goodbye to all that

Today, at about 5:57 local time, the Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down for the last time, ending the Space Shuttle program, after a 13 day mission. I watched it live; it felt  like it is the end of an era, and space exploration won't be the same.

For 30 years we have seen these black and white, goofy looking crafts going up roaring through the skies, it almost felt routine.
The International Space Station will now be serviced by reliable, yet dated, Russian Soyuz rockets, however it feels that we're giving up, sort of ignoring our spirit of adventure. With so much economic turmoil all over the globe, nobody really knows if this is the passing of the torch to another western program, or if a new space power will emerge. NASA's funding is being pulled out in favor of other, less noble, projects. There are no big missions planned; no mission to Mars or even going back to the moon. We have so much to learn out there; canceling space exploration instead of investing heavily on it shows how immature we are as a species yet again. Countries much rather keep bickering at each other instead of pulling together somewhere. Things like these make me lose hope in mankind. 40 years ago we could go to the Moon. 10 years ago we had a supersonic passenger plane. Yesterday we had Space shuttles. What can we be proud of today? Smart phones? Are we regressing?

I can go on and on for years but I'll let some of these pictures do the talking for me.

To laugh, or to cry?

The last mission badge added to the ISS

Mission control applauds the last undocking

Welcome home indeed.

 I digress. I'm sad. See you next time.