Siri + Reminders = Win

Riding the subway home the other day, I suddenly realized I had forgotten something in my IRS filing. I raised my iPhone to my ear and said:

"Remind me to update my IRS when I get home."

It replied:
"Here's your reminder for when you get home: 'Update my IRS'. Shall I create it?"

A short exchange followed:
"Ok, I created your reminder."
"Thank you, Siri."
"Only doing my job."

Siri on the iPhone 4S does all sorts of technologically advanced things like tell you how many calories there are in a chocolate croissant or checking the weather to determine whether or not you need an umbrella, but nothing comes close to the sheer usefulness of having it take your notes or create reminders with alarms. That's because checking the weather is as easy as tapping once on the weather app icon, whereas taking a note or creating a reminder is a complex, keyboard-heavy operation. Being able to do this by simply speaking into my phone is amazing.

On moving


The old Fiesta, beast of burden


I spend a weekend in my hometown roughly once a month. It’s a bittersweet experience, as nostalgic as it is joyful. Spending time with my sister and my friends who still live in Oporto is very gratifying, but I always feel a bit sad that I can’t take them back with me come sunday evening.

Even though I’ve been based in Lisbon for the best part of five years now, and most of my close friends live here, it’ll probably be a while before this city feels as much like home as Oporto does. There’s a wonderful familiarity to crossing the Infante bridge towards São Lázaro, having a beer at the Pinguim, or walking on the Passadiço along Gaia’s shoreline. I don’t think I’ll get it anywhere else in the near future. This leaves me feeling a bit like a foreigner all the time.


Moving out of my hometown prompted my mind to embrace the world in ways it never could when all my concerns were confined to a small geographical area. Expanded it, if you will.

It’s hard to describe exactly what it feels like. One possible analogy is perhaps imagining that you live in a house with just one room, which you never leave except on holidays. At some point, an extra room is added to your house. Your world doubles in size not only physically but, because this new rooms if full of very different furniture and holds the strangest books in its shelves, also intelectually.

Being social animals, we’re extremely sensitive to the culture of the place we live in. Our beliefs, prejudices and ambitions are informed by those of our peers, thus affecting our behaviour. By moving from one community to another, these cultures and their tenets become fully evident and it’s much easier to identify their influence over one’s own beliefs and behaviour. Such introspection can be extremely eye-opening and inspirational. I think that’s one of the reasons why people who travel a lot seem so interesting. 80% of that probably stems from their shedding of tribal prejudices and stale ideas.

In the end, I guess moving away from one’s hometown (or travelling a LOT) is a bit like the choice of knowledge over ignorance. Sure, ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge makes everything more interesting even if it does come at a price.



Another nail in Flash’s coffin

It’s not just Apple anymore.

The tech community’s animosity agains Adobe Flash may come as a surprise to many, but the fact is this technology causes a lot of problems. By simply turning Flash off, any browser gets instantaneously lighter on memory and cpu, and therefore faster and more responsive.

On laptops and mobile devices, the importance of efficiency cannot be overstated. In a time when the browser is perhaps the application we use the most, it’s quite harmful to persist using a technology that’s known for crashing it and slowing it down.

It’s true Flash is still better suited than HTML5 for certain tasks, and its ubiquity as a video player makes it unavoidable for consumers to keep running it, but the times they are a-chagnin’. If I were a Flash dev, I’d be looking at some HTML5 and JS tutorials right about now.

My office’s bizarro twin

I'm sitting on the floor. There's a very wide desk by the wall, and a good chair too, but sometimes it's nice to just sit on the bare wooden floor because it changes everything quite dramatically. From this low, the perspective is different than usual. As are the tactile sensations, obviously, and the smells too: the floor is hard and there's a faint whiff of dust down here. Put together, these changes in perception make it feel like a rather different room. No longer my office but its bizarro twin.

I would not know this interesting version of my office if I weren't willing to forego the comforts of my cushioned chair and sit on the floor from time to time.

A quick fix for the dreaded Apache 403 Forbidden Error on OSX Lion

After deciding to ditch MAMP and start taking advantage of Lion's preinstalled Apache2 and PHP, I ran into the infamous 403 Forbidden situation. I tried several solutions, to no avail.

Then it occurred to me… if MAMP was working, maybe there was something in its configuration that I needed. So I set about looking through MAMP's httpd.conf and found this:

<IfModule !mpm_winnt.c>
<IfModule !mpm_netware.c>
# If you wish httpd to run as a different user or group, you must run
# httpd as root initially and it will switch. ??
# User/Group: The name (or #number) of the user/group to run httpd as.
# ??. On SCO (ODT 3) use "User nouser" and "Group nogroup".
# ??. On HPUX you may not be able to use shared memory as nobody, and the
# ?? ??suggested workaround is to create a user www and use that user.
# ??NOTE that some kernels refuse to setgid(Group) or semctl(IPC_SET)
# ??when the value of (unsigned)Group is above 60000;??
# ??don't use Group #-1 on these systems!
User myusername
Group #-1

Copy+paste that into /etc/apache2/httpd.conf and voil??!??Permission problems solved.

Startups everywhere.

Having spent long years complaining that there's no startup scene to speak of here in Portugal, I feel really stupid.

In my defence, these organizations seem to rely mainly on word-of-mouth and newspapers for publicity. The former didn't work for me simply because I can't be bothered to network for networking sake*, and as for the latter… really? Newspapers? Come on.

Well, at least now I found them. There's a pizza night at one of them tomorrow, can't wait to check it out.

* I know, I should probably be more sociable.