Wednesday, November 2, 2011

And One More Thing ...

I just finished reading Steve Job's Biography by Walter Isaacson.

I'd describe it with just one word "fascinating."

Sorry Steve, I've got my copy of your Biography on my Amazon Kindle, but as I went from chapter to chapter, and through different stories, I had my iPod Touch on the other hand reviewing old documents, keynote speeches and product launches on YouTube.

I feel that Isaacson did a superb job to portray Steve Jobs as many of us imagined he was, it was really interesting to read the histories behind some of the products, the birth and rebirth of Apple as a company, the creativity and inspiration from Pixar, but the most interesting part was to get to know Steve in a more human plane, as a partner, a friend, a husband, a father, a dreamer, a human being.

I've always been a geek, a technology lover, and I may had some instances when I probably got in trouble to voice my opinion when I thought something was really a piece of shit.
I really took the time to read the biography enjoying every paragraph and reflecting after each story or event.

But one of the things that kept floating on my mind while I was reading and now that I just finished it, is: Why we don't have more people like Steve Jobs ?

And this question intersects with some reflections after reading another of my favorite authors, Sir Ken Robinson on "Out of Our Minds: Learning to be creative."

I strongly believe the answer is very simple: we don't let them be.

It is not something personal, as "we" I mean "the system", particularly the educational system and how we react when we notice that some kids are "different". Hellooooo, we are all different !!, but the system has been designed and ran as we were all equal and it is focused on moving the kids through it following a standard and fixed process. Yes there is such thing as "gifted and talented", but people like Steve Jobs probably would have never passed the test.

One of the typical reactions when "we" find that a kid is different, instead of having a system that can adapt to her/him, we try to force the kid to fit into it.

I think you should listen at what Sir Ken Robinson said at one of the best ever TED Talks.

I went through situations like this personally, we didn't know what it was and that ADHD even existed, and since it is on the genes, now being a parent I'm going through it with my kids.

It struck me when I read about Job's fourth grade teacher who challenged him to solve math problems with a giant lollipop as a reward, but later the challenge was most interesting and motivating than the reward. He was one of the lucky ones to have that teacher. I was lucky too when I was in secondary technical school and the priest that was the school's director saw me so enthusiastic and motivated on the electronics labs and other activities that he let me be on the labs all day. By the last year of school I was teaching my own classmates about digital electronics and microprocessors.

I feel that my kids are also lucky, because so far we've got teachers that can see beyond and recognize their natural talents, personality and creativity.

But it can't be that way, it can't be that by "luck" our kids have a chance to be what they naturally were born to be.

One of the things that I really regret about Steve Job's early departure, is that he recognized that we need a revolution in education, and that technology can play a big role on it. He was poised to do great things about it.

I just hope somebody follow on his legacy and we keep trying to create a better future for our kids and their kids.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

So long Steve Jobs

It feels somehow strange writing about somebody I never met in person but that had a substantial influence in my professional career and on my personal and family's life.

Sure, we all knew that Steve Jobs was going through a challenging fight and his resignation as CEO of Apple, Inc. was a clear signal that his health was rapidly deteriorating. 

But many of us always wished for the iGenius to stay with us for much longer.

After reading some of the many testimonies, anecdotes, histories and messages when I learned about the sad news of Steve passing away, I started reflecting how much he influenced me and my family, and changed our habits and lifestyle forever.

I was about half way through of my career in electronics at a technical school when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple. I was already fascinated by digital electronics and microprocessors crunching code for a Motorola MC6800, entering every byte by hand on a hexadecimal keypad. In those days programming was kind of and art of black magic and 512 bytes of RAM were a lot!!. I didn't pay much attention to Apple until they launched the Apple II, which at that time I couldn't afford but loved the design and how they put it together.

It took me a long time to have the first Apple product in my hands, and old Powerbook laptop with the trackball, provided by the company I was working at that time. I really liked MAC OS, it was simple, intuitive, easy to use and reliable. I really regretted when Steve Jobs left Apple, while they continued to develop some interesting products, they lacked the WOW factor that Steve was so good to inject on them.

Meanwhile Steve was getting busy at Pixar and NeXT, Inc. About that time I was already deep into Unix and drooling to have a workstation with a Graphic User Interface, so I started following very closely what NeXT was doing in hardware and their NeXTSTEP operating system derived from Unix. After establishing the first international connection to Internet for Argentina via SURANet, in 1991 I had the opportunity to visit Glenn Ricart who was in charge of the Computer Science department of the University of Maryland and Principal Investigator at SURANet. It was a great visit, when we arrived at his home where he invited me to stay, I almost had a heart attack when I saw he had a NeXT computer on his home office !!! What a marvelous piece of hardware, the animated GUI was fantastic, the resolution of the screen, even black and white was formidable, and best of all, it was running Unix !!. So bad that commercially was a product that was way ahead of its time and to expensive to grab market share trying to compete with PCs and the other jewels of that age from Sun Microsystems.

What about Pixar?. If you didn't like Toy Story you are from another planet. Besides the history that was entertaining not just for the kiddos, the technology and creativity behind it was amazing.
Even at the end of the movies, one of my favorite things from Pixar, this original idea of adding bloopers for an animated film. Did you cry with Toy Story 3 ?

And then he got back to Apple, the iMac was born and NeXTSTEP mutated into Darwin and then on MAC OS X. Now with a good paying good and anxiously to have an iMAC I got my first generation iPod and the half dome iMac G4, which became our family preferred tool for managing pictures and videos. It later became the machine my daughter Veronica, not yet three years old, learned how to use a computer.
It was a lot of fun for her and also for my son (he is on the right on a Windows PC, bummer), MAC OS X was so intuitive and easy to use that they didn't have any problems using it.

Veronica always enjoyed using this computer, that we still have and still works. Five years later and few MAC OS X upgrades and she is having fun creating her own music with Garage Band.

Meanwhile I was listening to other music on my first generation iPod, which later got company of the first iPod Nano I purchased for my wife to avoid getting mine hijacked.

And then came the new iPod classic, my home office got the new iMac G5, and the iPod touch. When I purchased my first iPod Touch I was blown away, I did like it as a music player but much more as a small portable computer. I quickly installed ssh to have remote access to my Linux servers, and later the new generation with camera and Face Time, I was feeling part of the Space 1999 crew with an improved Commlock on my hands.

I truly believe that being able to run so many applications on the iPod Touch (currently I've more than 150 installed), particularly the Apps for Twitter, Facebook, etc., got me more involved in Social Networking. My son has his own iPod Touch and it is almost an extension of his body, it is his preferred gaming platform, his window for searching on the Internet (parental proxy in the middle) about subjects he is reading, news and school homework, and sometimes he also listen to music, including the Beatles !!

My wife loves Angry Birds and some other games like Glass Tower, several nights I went to bed to find her sleeping with the iPod on her hand with angry birds flying around.

With the iPod and iTunes I enjoy much more buying and listening to music, what a great deal being able to buy the track I like and not an entire album with songs I don't like, the music industry had it wrong, Steve Jobs was way ahead of the curve.

We don't have iPhones yet, not because of Apple, just because we are tied to our existing phone contract and I'm not willing to pay the exorbitant rates phone companies pretend for the data services. We are planning in the near future to add an iPad to our collection of iDevices, it will be a great tool for my wife to have her portfolio and presentations of her work and classes on an iPad.

We got sad when we heard the news, but my eyes got really wet when I saw this video of "The Woz" talking about his friend and partner.

So how much Steve Jobs and Apple have impacted our lives ?

Much more than I expected and ever thought, he was truly a visionary, a doer of things that never being done before, a true believer of "Think Different", a genius.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” 

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

So long Steve Jobs, God Speed and Rest In Peace, God bless your soul and your family and friends, you will be missed and remembered.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Books and more books ...

Lets see if this works ... It has been a while since I wrote my last post and the Blogger UI changed, kind of nicer than the old one but I've to get used to the new one now.

In our family we love books, actually we are book freaks, if there is something we anxiously want to know or understand what do we do ? we buy, get it from the library, read at the bookstore, or steal a book !! (just kidding).

Besides loving books, I really love my Amazon Kindle (I'll write a separate article about it), what a great device and awesome service, and we the new Kindles, Ohhh My. My son is anxiously waiting to get one, and he already gave me the speech that at school the Kindle is an exception on the electronics gadgets policy (good try son!).

Adding to the real tangible dust collecting old fashion paper books, we have started our digital collection of eBooks. Over the past few days I spent some time (and a some bucks) taking advantage of a great offer from O'Reilly and Associates. If you own one of their titles on paper, for some of them they offer you to get the eBook version, DRM free, for few bucks, so I did it.

Given that our digital media library is getting hard to manage, iTunes became our default tool to manage our Music titles. Couple of weeks ago I finished to suck up and digest into iTunes more than 400 audio CDs, that together with the tracks and albums we purchased on iTunes, take about 50GB for about 6,200 songs.

That took care of one part of my digital clutter.

I'm not quite sure how many books in total we have in the house, the easy answer is A LOT. My son has a bookshelf on his room, but also shares with my daughter another two bookshelves upstairs, my wife has her own large bookshelf in her studio with art and jewelry books, and obviously I've my own collection in my home office. Add few more in the family room, our bedroom, here and there. and I'm sure we may be able to start our own little library for the neighborhood.

On the digital side the current number is much lower. I've a directory in my desktop machine where I drop all sorts of stuff, the current count for eBooks is about 160 taking 1.5GB, but that's very small compared to a total of about 98,600 files taking more than 43GB, which includes manuals, application notes, papers, reports, electronic components datasheets, schematics, journals, brochures, catalogs, etc., etc., etc.

Sometimes it gets hard to find something and most of the time I rely on my memory and doing search of directory trees. So I started my quest for tools to help me getting all this sea of knowledge and digital clutter somehow organized.

I always like to share with my friends what I've been reading, both in paper and electronically, I've been trying to keep the Reading List on my LinkedIn profile, but that application is really ugly and hard to maintain, so early this year I switched to Shelfari that now is part of Amazon, and lets you embed the code to share your bookshelf on your blog or web page.

It takes time to update, but since now it is part of Amazon it is quite easy to transfer your Amazon purchases to your Shelfari collection, still does not have a lot of integration with other Social Media tools besides Facebook, and I'm a little bit pissed-off with Facebook to re-enable the connection.

For local management of my digital library and keep track of what I send to the Kindle, I been relying on having things organized on directory trees but it was getting out of control, adding that for the same eBook I may have different formats such as PDF, mobi, epub, etc. Searching for how to organize collections on the Kindle I stumbled on Calibre. At first I was kind of hesitant to install it, but after reading some reviews and comments and decided to give it a try,

It is a free and open source eBook management application, it's still under development and may have some glitches but so far seems to be working fine for me. It creates its own directory structure and database of objects you add to its library, nice feature is that you can download and edit the metadata for each object including the image of the cover, and for pdf files it takes the first page of the file as the cover.

Another nice detail is that you can browse your library collection as you do in iTunes with coverflow. I recently organized a large number of papers and reports related to "Internet of Things" and took this shot of how they look on Calibre.

An extra plus for Calibre is that it recognizes when you connect an eReader device such as the Kindle to your computer and lets you quickly find what objects are in the Library and in the device. One thing I don't know how to handle efficiently is creating and managing collections on the Kindle from the PC, there is a plug-in for Calibre but since the collections file is part of the "system" for the Kindle, every time you make a change you need to restart the Kindle which makes it a cumbersome procedure. So for now after I send the stuff to the Kindle then I manually organize it into collections on the Kindle.

So far I'm happy with this new way of keep things organized, for sure there is room for improvement and it is subject to change in the near future as new tools pop up and I try different schemes, I can surely say that my productivity increased since I don't have to spend too much time to find articles, books, etc.

For those guys looking to develop application to increase integration, it would be very nice to have something where you can add your notes, comments, references, etc., I didn't spend any time yet searching for a tool that provides that functionality.

Time now to stop writing and start reading !!!


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Gran Hermano 2011 y el pajarito - Parte 1

Motivado por varios mensajes que he recibido de simpatizantes, colegas y amigos, preocupados por sí se me soltó un tornillo o con el pasar de los años ya se me estaban empezando a volar algunas chapas, paso entonces a darles una previa confesión para aquellos que han mostrado su preocupación al notar algunos mensajes vía twitter en relación al reality show Gran Hermano 2011 (aka Big Brother) que actualmente produce y emite Telefe en Argentina.

Ante todo, debo sí confesar que con mi esposa afirmativamente vemos y estamos medio enganchados con Gran Hermano. La cosa es que Telefe Internacional es la única señal televisiva que recibimos de Argentina por parte de nuestro proveedor de servicio satelital y sinceramente aunque a veces el show nos parece una pavada, nos resulta divertido, y como siempre le digo a Lorena que por más que sea un reality no deja ser un show de televisión donde más que nada importa el rating y la facturación, y que por medio de la edición y compaginación de la catarata de material que colectan diariamente necesitan generar el conflicto y la separación entre bandos para maximizar la recaudación generada por las votaciones semanales.

Dado que uno no deja de ser geek, algo que me llamó la atención de esta edición de Gran Hermano fué tanto ruido con el tema de twitter, paso a contar.

Hace un tiempo atrás luego de mi participación en TEDx San Antonio, y mi primer tweetup donde tuve la oportunidad de conversar largo y tendido con Robert Scoble (alias Scobleizer), uno de los bloggers y twiteros sobre tecnología más reconocido y activo, tuve la oportunidad a establecer contacto con varios grupos de personas muy interesantes dedicados a la utilización de herramientas de Social Media como vías de promoción y relaciones públicas para negocios.

Uno de estos grupos es "The Bumpers" o #BMPR (Business Media Public Relations), con este grupo nos reunimos con frecuencia para discutir y compartir experiencias sobre el uso de Twitter, Facebook y otros servicios como mecanismos que empresas y negocios pueden utilizar para sus relaciones públicas, varios de los miembros en el grupo se dedican justamente a esa tarea ofreciendo sus servicios profesionales a varias empresas locales y nacionales. Sin dejar de lado el aspecto social, también se dan oportunidades donde motivado por la realización de un evento en particular o simplemente una buena excusa para pasar un buen rato, nos pongamos de acuerdo para casualmente disfrutar de una cerveza entre amigos.

Debo confesar que siendo un veterano pionero de Internet todavía ando arañando la cuestión de Web 2.0 y asombrado y aprendiendo sobre Social Networking y las nuevas herramientas, así que más allá de que en cierto grado resulta divertido rememorar aquellas viejas épocas de andar armando quilombo en IRC, se me ocurrió hacer una especie de experimento informal basado en el tráfico de twitter generado por los fans y seguidores de Gran Hermano 2011.

Esto es en realidad un anticipo, dado que originalmente pensaba publicar algo después de la final del programa, pero impulsado por el temor de que alguien me quiera enviar al manicomio anticipadamente, aquí les suelto la primer parte del rollo. Mi intención es completar con una segunda parte y análisis final.

La mayor actividad de tráfico gira alrededor de la utilización del hashtag #GH2011, así que mi primer inquietud fué ver que servicios y herramientas existen hoy en día que permitan capturar parte de ese tráfico y que es lo que se puede medir. En segundo lugar, dado que ya he pasado prácticamente la mitad de mi vida en línea, ver qué tipo de reacción y respuestas recibe un vetusto de Internet como yo al inmiscuirme en medio del dialogo de los pendex (bah, raramente existe un dialogo). De más está decir que más de uno me mandó a comprar una peluca o un sombrero, o simplemente a cagar, aunque hubo bastantes también con buena onda y ganas de conversar.

Van entonces algunas de imágenes preliminares generadas por uno de los servicios que parecería ser bastante estable (pueden hacer click en las imágenes para verlas más grande).

Esta imagen muestra que tipo de información es posible agregar por medio de este servicio que va archivando tweets, procesando ciertas estadísticas cuya visualización se actualiza periodicamente. Cada uno de los seis grupos que muestra esta imágen puede verse con mayor detalle.

Por ejemplo aquí se muestra cual es el origen de los tweets, en esencia que herramienta o aplicación de twitter han utilizado los usuarios para enviar sus mensajes. Algunas observaciones que se pueden extraer de esta gráfica por ejemplo asumiendo que la mayor parte de los usuarios se encuentra en Argentina, de quienes envian tweets con el hashtag #2011, hay mas usuarios de Twitter para Blackberry (6%) que para iPhone (2%), y que la gran mayoría (49%) envia sus tweets utilizando el cliente de web.

Esta gráfica muestra cuales son las 20 palabras más usadas en los tweets. Obviamente la de mayor frecuencia es el propio hashtag.

Sin duda el cuarto poder está en un claro proceso de adopción de herramientas de Social Networking, resultando evidente que se está dando una transformación que gradualmente está convirtiendo a medios unidireccionales como la televisión en algo más interactivo.

Aclaro que todo este verso no me quita lo cholulo, y está noche estaremos junto con mi media naranja frente a la caja generadora de bobos viendo la última gala de expulsión de Gran Hermano 2011 de Argentina.

Feliz Domingo para todos (como diría el del peluquín) me voy a preparar el morfi ..

Cordiales Saludos

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Flour Tortillas and Chicken Fajitas ...

If you read my previous post you probably already know that I love baking and eating bread, but besides the Italian genes from my ancestors, our family now has its mix of Mexican genes, so my wife and kids love Mexican flour tortillas and so do I.

Then here you go, a simple recipe to make white flour tortillas

What do you need:

  • 2 1/2 Cups of unbleached flour
  • 2 tbsp of Baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp of Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil Shortening (I use half a bar of Crisco's)
  • 2 Cups of warm water

What to do:

Mix in a bowl the flour, baking powder and salt.

Incorporate the oil shortening with your hands until it is uniformly mixed with the flour.

Start gradually adding water (you may probably don't use all the 2 cups) mixing until you have a nice ball of dough. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

Separate the dough in small portions, and knead to form little balls. Using these proportions I normally get out about 16 tortillas. Don't over knead the dough.

Put back the balls in the bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.

With a roller press the ball to form a flat round tortilla, an easy trick is to roll first to obtain an oval shape, turn it 45 degrees roll over again, and again turn 45 degrees and roll over.

Place the tortilla in a hot flat pan or griddle and cook from both sides.

Now what can you do with them ?

Chicken fajita tacos !!

I sliced chicken breast halves into 1/3" thick filets and put to marinate with salt, pepper, dried parsley, lemon and lime juice for 1 hour, the griddle I used for the tortillas on the other side has a nice grill, so I put the chicken fajitas to grill in there.

And as you see to the right on another pan frijoles refritos (refried beans) to heat up.

While the chicken is cooking you can drop some lime juice or what was left from the marinade, don't overcook since chicken breast can dry up very quickly.

My kids love when we spread some frijol on the tortilla and then complete the taco with the chicken fajitas inside, add some salsa, pico de gallo and Enjoy !!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Baking bread... Very simple recipe

If you visited my Picasa Web Albums or my "MorfiChupi" album pictures on Facebook, you probably noticed that I really enjoy cooking. The passion for food and cooking seems to be in our family's genes, my dad is passionate about it, and let me tell you he is an amazing cook, for some time he had a small deli in Buenos Aires. My two brothers are also masters in the kitchen, they both went to culinary schools, and my youngest brother still works at a pasta factory. When I was a bambino my grandma with her cousins owned one of the best and most traditional Italian restaurants in downtown Buenos Aires (Il Napoli, across the Luna Park stadium).

My grandparents were from Italy, and I remember when we all got together every Sunday for the classic Italian family feast. The process started early in the morning since everything was home made from scratch, the breads, antipasto, spaghetti, ravioli, meats, salads, desserts, well you get the picture.

When I get on the kitchen to cook, it is like therapy, it lets me disconnect from the brain intensive geeky programming or electronics design work I do. It also brings back those pleasant memories of my family and those fantastic Sunday meals.

If there is something that I always die for is good bread, better said, artisan breads, in particular Italian and French breads. I won't deny that some of the chain or supermarket bakeries have good products, but there is nothing better and close to an artisan bread that the one home made with your own hands.

To make some basic breads the process is very simple and with few steps, measure, mix, knead, raise, punch, form, proof, bake, cool, eat.

I won't get to much on the details and basic concepts and techniques of bread making but I'll recommend you one of my favorite books:

Ultimate Bread
by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno
What is interesting is that while the book is printed in Great Britain, Eric was born in France and he started very young working at his uncle's boulangerie (bakery shop), and Ursula was born in Italy and grew up on her father's farm in southern Italy.

The book takes you from the fundamentals of breadmaking and the essentials techniques with plenty of  great pictures and includes over 100 recipes for many different types of breads.

In a future article I'll share some comments about other breadmaking books I've and that are among my favorite cooking books.

Wanna get started ? Nothing better than a simple recipe to make a plain bread, what in France is called Pain Ordinaire or Pane Rustico in Italy.

What do you need:
  • 1 small pack (4oz) or 2tsp of dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 3 1/2 cups of unbleached bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
What to do:

You obviously start by measuring and mixing the ingredients.

On a measuring cup put about 1/8 cup (125ml) of warm water and sprinkle the yeast in. If the ambient temperature is too low you can drop a little pinch of sugar to get the yest fermentation process going, stir until the yeast is dissolved and put away for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the flour and salt in a bowl, you will get better results if you stiff the flour before.

Make a well like a crater in the center of the flour and pour the dissolved yeast.
With a wooden spoon start mixing slowly some of the flour on the side until you have a creamy gooey paste combining the dissolved yeast with the surrounding flour.
This is called "the sponge method."
Now cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and put away for about 20 minutes.

You will notice that the yeast and flour gooey expanded and became frothy with some holes from bubbles created by the yeast.
Very gradually and mixing with the wooden spoon start incorporating the rest of the water into the center and mix the flour from the side, it will slowly start to form a moist dough.
If you need to add more water to get a firm dough, add one tablespoon at a time. 

Don't worry if the dough is sticky and look very moist, its better to have a moist dough than a dry dough.
Time to put some muscle. Take out the dough from the bowl into a lightly floured surface, go easy with the flour since we are only using it to have a non stick surface so we can knead the dough.

Knead for 10 minutes, if you feel that the dough is too difficult to handle, knead for 5 minutes, let it rest for 5 minutes and knead for another five, until you get a smooth and elastic dough.
When you are done kneading, put the dough ball on a clean bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and put on a warm place (not hot !! we don't want to cook it).

We'll let it rise until it doubles in size, depending on temperature and other conditions it make take about  1 1/2 to 2 hours. 
Magic !! now we have twice or more the original size, but full of bubbles.

Very gently make a fist and with your knuckles slowly punch down the dough to release some of the gas that formed inside.

After you punch it down let it rest for 10 minutes.

Now is time to give our bread some form, in this case we will do a long wide loaf.

Take the dough out of the bowl, gently spread forming sort of a rectangle and fold from the side 1/3 to the center.
Now fold the other side to the center.

Very gently with your palm start pressing to seal the two folds in the middle.

Then with your thumbs create a small indentation in the middle to finish sealing the union.
Turn the loaf over and with your hands keep forming the loaf extending until it gets to about 15" long. Put the shaped loaf on a floured baking pan, cover with a dish towel and let it proof until it doubles in size.

It may take 30 to 45 minutes. Depending on how long it takes your oven to warm up, you can start preheating it to 425 F.

An easy way to determine if the proofing is done, is to push gently with your finger the center of the loaf, if the dough springs back slowly you are golden, if it is too firm bad luck but don't worry it is still edible, but don't over proof it, it is preferred to put it early than late in the oven.

Before you put the loaf in the oven, cut some slashes on the top, it is not just for decoration, it helps the dough to expand without generating cracks on the sides or the bottom. Put it in the oven and let it bake until golden (30-45 minutes).

Don't open the oven every five minutes !!!

When I do this type of rustic breads I like to use a nice trick to create some additional moisture and obtain a more crunchy crust, open the oven and spray the loaf with a mist of salty water.

Let the loaf fully cook. Uncooked bread can give you an indigestion.
An easy trick for this type of breads to find out if they are cooked or not, is to turn them over and knock in the underside, if it sounds like nobody is home (slightly hollow) your bread is done.

When you take it out of the oven let it cool on a wire rack or grill, if you leave it in a flat surface the bottom will become soggy.

WAIT !! until it cooled down to cut.

Voilà, you just made your first Pain Ordinaire.

Next recipe ? Jorge's mega-bagels

Enjoy !!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Contacts network visualization via LinkedIn InMaps

When I worked in large scale networking, to have a clear understanding and view of the overall network architecture it was always helpful, and in my opinion a very good practice, to put together high level topology maps, just a simple graph showing how each of the most relevant nodes in the network were physically and/or virtually connected to each other.

Visualization is a very powerful tool when you have to deal with a complex and large number of "relationships", it helps by giving you a graphical representation on how those relationships are interrelated and in which sections of the graph you need to increase or sometimes decrease the number of connections, it also helps to identify single points of failure or choking points, and drives one to make better decisions.

With the advent of the new social and professional contact network online services, such as LinkedIn, managing your contacts and how them become part of your relationships universe became much easier. I often had to dig into my memory to find where I met this person or how we got to know each other, and if by any chance her or him knows somebody else I know or I'm interested to know.

Yesterday LinkedIn posted on their blog How to Visualize your LinkedIn network with InMaps, it sounded pretty interesting and it looked very cool, so I gave it a try .... here is my InMap

Nice !! At first glance it's clear that my contacts at LinkedIn are segmented into groups with a little bit of clustering and some lines between groups.

But if you take a closer look, you will notice on the top a group of contacts in orange which represent very interesting people from the Social Media arena that I met in a recent past. This group of people obviously today rely a lot on Internet applications like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, etc, to build relationships and communicate, but the map shows something very clear, from the ones that I know and are in my contacts list, there are almost no relationships with my contacts in blue (heavy honchos of IT and Telecom) or in pink (Internet development and policy making).

This means that I've a huge potential to serve as a bridge between my Social Media contacts and the other two groups.

By knowing in advance a little bit of what is on each side of the bridge I may now be able to identify common matters that may help to have better representation of Social Media in Internet policy development forums, and have this particular group get to know more about Internet infrastructure.

The power of information it is not just collecting mountains of it, but how you mine, digest, represent,and visualize it, in this case literally "connecting the dots" to help you make more informed and effective decisions.

If you are a LinkedIn user with at least 50 contacts give it a try.

Nice job LinkedIn ... two thumbs up !!


Friday, January 21, 2011

My Bookshelf

Very often while talking with friends and colleagues about a particular subject the standard question about what books you have read or are you reading comes up. I love books, my adorable wife loves books too, and our kids got the gene, so it's not uncommon in hour house to see books almost everywhere.

Add to that that I'm sort of a pack rat about published material but not to the grade to be considered compulsive (please don't ask my wife). Once in a while some of the books that nay be old editions, outdated or that don't have great value for us get donated.

We are not the kind that sometimes hide what they are reading being afraid that we'll know what you know, be sure that with that attitude what we really know is that you are a moron, but anyway, we love to share with anybody the grateful experience when we find a book or any other published material that we enjoy or serve our needs in our profession. We are also outspoken, trying to be diplomatic and polite when some material really sucks.

Lorena short time ago received some books to review, and I just received my first one to review from O'Reilly Media (Building Wireless Sensor Networks: with ZigBee by Robert Faludi), so we'll use our respective blogs to share our reviews and comments.

Then let me share my piece of our bookshelf, and this will also help me in the age of the Internet, Web 2.0 and Social Media to answer the recurrent question of "What are you reading?" with a simple and short URL to this article.

I've been trying to keep an updated reading list in my LinkedIn profile, but the client interface is horrible and I didn't find anywhere how to share, even searched Amazon down to the sewer lines, who is providing the ReadingList Application for LinkedIn.

Then somebody recently invited me to join Shelfari, at first glance I really liked the web interface and the fact that the bookshelf looks like a shelf, even with a small picture of the books covers. Also in case you don't know, this site has been around since 2006 but they got acquired by Amazon in 2008, so I don't expect them to have funding issues and will be constants enhancements and integration with Amazon. I started then the process of putting together the virtual version of my bookshelf.

Be aware, I'm a geek, so bare with me if what you see on the shelf are mostly technical books, but you will also see many titles about cooking (we love to cook), finance (interesting ones but we are not rich yet), and general topics. And like anything else that it is nowadays in cyberspace, this bookshelf is a work in progress and subject to change without notice, I'm still in the process to update the list and obviously new books will be added as they arrive.

Then without further delay let me introduce you to my new Shelfari Bookshelf.

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog
Share a book review on Shelfari, where this reader meets fellow readers.

As you may see on the shelf, there are several books that are listed as Kindle Edition, yes I fell for it and I'll write soon why I love the new gadget and how it is helping in my profession and passion for reading.

Note: I didn't took the time to go and double check for the actual edition of every single book I've on the shelf.

Hope you like it and find it useful ...