Wii Fit: I’m aching all over!

So Wii Fit has launched worldwide and stirred a plethora of reactions. The thing appears to be selling like pancakes, altough as usual, here in Mexico it’s so damn expensive that most of the stores have piles of Wii Fit boxes awaiting their turn.

Also it has received some pretty harsh reviews. The one that struck me the most was the gamespot review , from a site I usually trust for their quality reviews, which punished the game with a mere 7.0 score and some strange criticism. And general opinion is mixed, altough a good amount of reviews focus on how it’s easy to cheat, how the excercises aren’t all that good, how the game is limited and shallow, and how you should just buy a set of dumbbells or running shoes and get doing some real sports.

These people are missing the point, and misunderstanding Wii Fit’s target demographic. Despite the images of fit, athletic people in Wii Fit’s box, the game is really not aimed at them. Wii Fit’s audience is the at-large population of couch potatoes, of people who need two things in order to move even a finger: someone or something to tell them what to do and how to do it, and a large amount of motivation. These people would indeed rather spend their free time playing games than exercising.

So for these people Wii Fit is a great tool to get moving. The game is so cute and cheery, you can’t help but follow the exercises to your best. The game is encouraging without being patronizing, and it rarely feels like it’s punishing you for not working hard enough. I can see plenty of positive reinforcement here, and it really makes a difference in users wanting to keep up with the exercises.

Another complaint was that the exercises are too simple and with too few repetitions, and tougher workouts need to be “unlocked”. I can see this complaint coming from someone who is already somewhat fit and wants to go straight into doing 100 jacknives or run in-place for 45 minutes. However, again, Wii Fit aims to hold the user’s hand from the beginning, and it does this by not overwhelming the user with too many activities, or giving the choice for a too-difficult workout. I’d be discouraged if I was given the choice of 5,20,50 and 100 repetitions and I could only complete 5. By unlocking the harder choices as I make progress, Wii Fit rewards my improvement by opening up more choices. It’s not about limitation, it’s about motivation and taking it easy.

Analysis about the shallowness of Wii Fit’s balance games and aeerobic activities totally misses the mark. Wii Fit’s point is moving, not engaging in a lengthy videogame. And indeed, most activities are short, a few minutes at most. This keeps you changing pace and by chopping the workout into smaller pieces, gives you short-term goals to work towards. Indeed, I see a lot of behavior shaping here, and it really helps you working towards your goal which is, surprise, not completing an involved videogame, but rather to exercise for 30 minutes daily.

Also, some people complain that the game makes it easy to cheat. I pity the fools. In this case you would be cheating nobody but yourself. After all, the only tools the game has to monitor you are the wii remote and the balance board. So if you want to cheat by wiggling the remote through the running sequence or stand on the board when you should be doing pushups, then go ahead. But it’s just like being an alcoholic: you bought the thing because you wanted to be helped. If you’re not going to take the help, then there’s nothing Wii Fit, or anybody else for that matter, can do for you.

However once you make a determination to follow through with exercising, Wii Fit proves to be a fun, encouraging and rather helpful tool. After your first session, when you feel sore in muscles you didn’t even know you had, you’ll realize that, while Wii Fit won’t turn you into Charles Atlas, it will indeed help you be at least a bit fitter.

I think Wii Fit’s largest merit is its motivational strength, followed by its low entry barrier. An exercise video will show you how to do the exercises, but it lacks all the tracking tools and has absolutely no interactivity. Tougher exercises like mountain biking or trail running reward you with gorgeous scenery and tons of adrenaline, but are beyond most couch potatos’ reach. And gym work is so boring! Wii Fit is accessible to just about everyone and helps you through your first baby steps in order to get you moving. And the one thing we liked the most about Wii Fit is that it’s loads of fun, even if you’re just watching 🙂

Daylight Savings Time: what’s the point?

What’s the point? even studies in the USA find out that DST actually costs more money than it saves. If it’s so ineffectual in northern latitudes, what the freaking hell are we doing following DST here in Mexico?

A study performed in the state of Indiana found out that DST costs upwards of 7 million dollars, money that wouldn’t be spent if there was no DST. Here in Mexico the benefits have always been marginal at best; particularly since as consumers, we see no benefit at all; my electricity bill hasn’t shown a reduction due to DST. I’ve always held that a measure with such a high social cost absolutely needs to carry a tangible benefit for the average person; I don’t care if the government were able to defer infrastructure investments or the state-controlled electricity companies saved a huge amount of money; I care about my power bill not decreasing, while at the same time I have to suffer having my bio-clock all messed up for 6 months at a time. Yes, there are those of us who don’t adjust after a week or a month; I’m still having trouble getting up in september and days seem to last less while under DST.

And I mean, if all of Mexico is more southern than Arizona, and Arizona doesn’t observe DST, why the goddamn hell do we? huh?

Java: what’s the point?

What’s the point of being type-strict if you can typecast anyway?

What’s the point of being object-oriented if the language is so byzantine it forces you into procedural hacks every second step?

What’s the point of having such a huge class library when at the end of they day, your Java implementation doesn’t behave consistently? (j2me, i’m talking to you and your Hashtable and Vector classes and their lack of toArray).

What’s the point of the compiler being so pesky and anal if it can’t even catch scope-related variable disappearance? in a method, a variable declaration will override an instance variable. I mean, if the compiler complains about *everything* else, why in hell doesn’t it complain about THIS?


El Chapubomber

Ahora resulta que el terrorismo y los bombazos llegaron a México, personificados en el infame chapubomber, que explotó en avenida chapultepec intentando demoler las oficinas de la ssp, parece que le falló la sincronia con el amigo que tenía el detonador. A quien quieren engañar? Toda la escena fue grotesca y completamente actuada, lo mas divertido fue la chambonez del personaje que no atinó a salvarse de su propio bombazo. La verdad si estos son los terroristas en México, estamos bastante a salvo.

Esta situación puede analizarse de tres maneras. La primera, asumiendo que “el terrorismo ha llegado a Mexico”. Si es el caso, como menciono, es poco de preocuparse, ya que si todo lo que pueden hacer los supuestos terroristas es inmolarse con un mínimo de daños materiales y humanos, no es de preocuparse; y si de hecho son tan torpes como para caer en esto, es cuestión de tiempo  antes de que simplemente los atrapen y se termine el asunto.

Si, por otro lado, es simplemente una puesta en escena; sea de quien sea, gobierno local o federal, cosa que es lo MÁS probable, resulta simplemente patético el caer en estos extremos tan ridículos para pretextar la acción que sea: militarización, criticar al GDF por su mala política de seguridad, pretender que México está en el primer mundo por el triste hecho de ya tener bombarderos suicidas. Curiosamente esta es la hipótesis más plausible, ya que ¿que otro fin podría tener este espectáculo? analicemoslo: el bombardero no acertó a su supuesto objetivo, y lo que es peor, ni siquiera tuvo víctimas de consideración (salvo él). Esto deja ver que el objetivo real era simular el ataque y sembrar el pánico y la incertidumbre. Cualquier terrorista por idiota que sea sería capaz de explotar en un vagón del metro atiborrado de gente y causar daños reales mucho más graves. Pero en este caso, el daño buscado, que es causar el miedo, ya está logrado.

Es triste ver que esta cruzada la emprenden las autoridades contra la gente, en vez de hacerlo contra quien debe hacerse. La tercera hipótesis diría que, dado que el objetivo supuestamente era la SSP, seguramente el perpetrador era algún grupo de delincuencia organizada; ni tardos ni perezosos los investigadores apuntan a las bandas de “Tepito” porque una de las víctimas del bombazo vive por ese rumbo, lo cual equivaldría a decir que yo soy terrorista porque vivo en Iraq o algo por el estilo. SI fuera el caso, preocupa que dichas organizaciones se sientan tan envalentonadas como para traer la guerra directamente a las calles; en ese caso lo que es obvio es que las autoridades están perdiendo la guerra contra el crimen; seguramente las organizaciones de malosos están envalentonadas al ver cómo unos miserables cárteles de narcotráfico le paran los embates al ejército.

Si fuera este el caso la situación tal vez es de cuidado porque seguramente los malosos irán afinando la puntería por así decirlo. Sin embargo en este caso la responsabilidad sigue siendo de las autoridades a quienes, véase por donde se vea, les ha quedado grande el trabajo de garantizar la seguridad en el país.

Bluetooth PAN on Linux – howto?

So, I bought a cheap-ass (115 pesos) bluetooth adapter, thinking I might use it to establish a PAN between my macbook and my desk computer; this is due to a) no CAT5 cable and no IP address for my laptop on the lan, b) no WLAN coverage up here. I know Bluetooth will be kind of slow but it beats having the macbook with no connection at all.

I followed the excellent HOWTO written by Zdenek Bouresh and things didn’t seem to work; the macbook wouldn’t find the Linux PC and so couldn’t pair to it.

It turns out that having ISCAN (whatever the hell that is) on your bluetooth device is imperative for it to be found. You can check if you have it by running hciconfig and you get something like this (look for ISCAN and INQUIRY on the third line; if like in this example you don’t have it, then something’s still wrong):

So how to enable ISCAN?  Oddly, /etc/bluetooth/hcid.conf already contains a line that says:

iscan enable; pscan enable;

However it looks like it doesn’t work. So what I did (quick & dirty) is add this command to /etc/rc.local:

hciconfig hci0 piscan

Also, it appears as though the default startup script starts pand too quickly, and hcid hasn’t had a chance to initialize yet; as a result, your log file will show :

pand[5218]: Failed to connect to the local SDP server. Connection refused(111)

What I did was insert a 5-second sleep in /etc/init.d/bluetooth,  at the beginning of the pan_start function.

Voilá, now my macbook sees the linux computer, a passkey exchange is initiated (and managed on the linux box via kbluetooth, I highly recommend it). The Mac gives a list of “services you want to use with your device”. If you enable PAN only, it will probably say “there were no supported services found on your device”. I guess if you also enable Bluetooth DUN you’ll see this service. Regardless, when you click “continue” a cheery message says “congratulations” and states “your computer and device were configured with the following services” and “use as a personal area network” will be shown.

As you dismiss this dialog, the bluetooth icon on the status bar will sprout a new option, “join network on whatever”. Clicking this will initiate a connection attempt.

Again, the HOWTO refers to creation of a dev-up script but I found I also needed a dev-down.  so in /etc/defaults/bluetooth:

PAND_OPTIONS=” –listen –role nap -u /etc/bluetooth/pan/dev-up -o /etc/bluetooth/pan/dev-down”

/dev-down contains:


ifdown bnep0

sleep 2
/etc/init.d/dhcp3-server stop

and it looks to be working now 😉

Oscar Pistorius and the IAAF fiasco. Let him run!

the future of runningSo the IAAF has ruled Oscar Pistorius can’t run in the Olympics. They argue that Oscar’s prosthetics actually give him an advantage over other runners, making him faster and more efficient.

IAAF: Give me a freaking break. This is just finding excuses to not let the man run. Why? because of the fear he might upset the status quo. It’s actually because they’re afraid he might be faster than the competition. And the main excuse is that he is aided by his prosthetics. This is just lame; it’s not like he has an entire country’s financial and scientific might behind him. He bought his blades from a sports company, this means it’s widely available equipment; from this perspective, cyclists who have custom-made high-tech bikes should also be banned from competing against those who can’t afford anything but a production bike.

The man is fast enough that he might be a match for “able” runners, and there’s concern that the blades give him an unfair advantage; plenty of talk about how the blades “waste” less energy than a runner’s feet. The interesting part is that they know *exactly* how much more efficient Oscar’s blades are. So what the heck? build him a set of blades that give him *no* efficiency advantage, and see how he performs. That would level the playing field, and it would be fair.

Disqualifying Oscar because he’s more efficient would be like rejecting a taller runner, because his longer stride makes him more “efficient”. Or how about implementing weight categories in distance running? after all, lighter runners have an advantage over heavier, larger ones. Yes, you don’t see that happening, do you?

Oh, so the complaint now is that he’s the only one of all the participants who could use his blades, and this gives him an advantage nobody else could have. Yes, we wouldn’t want to have all our best sprinters cutting off their feet and trading them for blades, would we?

Guess what: it’s happened before. An athlete being so gifted, he could use a custom-made sporting implement; one that actually gave him an advantage, and one that nobody else could use.

Sergei Bubka used a special pole for his jumps. His strength and agility meant that nobody else could use the sort of pole he did. And indeed, he is the *only* pole vaulter to ever surpass 6.10m; his 6.15m record will *not* be broken unless someone who can also leverage the tool, the pole, comes along.

And yes, he was allowed to compete only because he was *not* disabled.

How’s that discrimination for you?

Oscar, they’re afraid of you. So what you need to do is stop fighting the system; enter the paralympics, where all the other double amputees who also have an advantage will run as fast as you; a level playing field. Or wait; actually they won’t, because Oscar’s merit is not only about his blades; it’s about his prowess and hard training. Because the fact remains, you can buy the blades in a freaking store. Yet you don’t see double-amputees outrunning cars on the street. It’s about the man, not the artificial feet he wears.

What Oscar Pistorius needs to do is break the 100m world record. That will be fun to see; a double amputee with no actual feet running *faster* than “able” men. Yep, that’d be fun to watch.

Reasons to leave Mexico #4

Gas prices suck. Most everyone knows this, but the situation in Mexico is really byzantine.

In order to help their finances, the government has been increasing gas prices since Zedillo’s presidency (1994-2000). The increase has been slight, one cent per month. However, during Calderón’s period, the increases have been more frequent and more expensive, as the useless government increases its greed and ineptitude, having the common people pay for it. During September alone, we’ve had something like 6 increases, and more than 20 since the year started. Gas has increased from 6.40 pesos a liter in 2006, to 7.40 in 2008.

Why is this happening? the government tells us that the gas they sell to us is subsidized; since they have to buy it from the USA at high prices, and that the increases are meant to level our gas prices with those of most countries. Then they have the gall to claim that Mexico’s gas is among the world’s cheapest. What a load of crap!

For starters, as long as they are importing fuel, they might as well buy it from Venezuela, where gas prices are a low 33 cents per liter. Buying from the USA is stupid, since they buy most of their oil from Mexico anyway. So yes, indeed the most reasonable solution would be to build a few refineries here in Mexico and produce nationally. After all, the government should be sharing the country’s resources with the population.

Then there’s the matter of oil prices. Oil goes up in price and the gas goes up as well. However, here in Mexico, things are so backwards that, when oil goes down, gas keeps going up. What gives?

Finally, those who compare gas prices in Mexico to other countries and find they’re similar, are missing one very important point: most of those countries have salaries that are way higher than in Mexico. So what good does it do that mexican gas is 10% cheaper than USA gas, when my salary is 1000% lower?

To add insult to injury, here in Mexico City owning a car is more of a liability than an advantage. You pay a fortune in gas and ownership taxes, but environmental programs forbid you from using your car several days a month (where’s my tax break for this?). When you do get to drive your car, you do so at a snail’s pace; estimates say that the average circulation speed is 15 km/h; a bicycle would be faster. But of course, the lack of road culture means riding a bike everywhere is tantamount to suicide. To top it off, either while driving or with your car safely “parked” in front of your own house, you risk being mugged, carjacked, or having your car vandalized for no apparent reason.

So there you have it; Sarcastically, I think the government’s plan is to make cars too expensive and troublesome to maintain for everyone, so that we have to travel by bike or on foot. Yeah sure, then Mexico will be at the forefront of environmental awareness! Give. Me. A. Break.

Telmex bloquea puerto 25 (SMTP) para “combatir el spam”

Lo curioso es que mis niveles de SPAM no se han reducido ni tantito.

TELMEX está implementado medidas para ayudar a combatir el llamado correo basura o spam en sus servicios.

Estó afecta a los usuarios que usan su conectividad.

Basicamente, están bloqueando el puerto 25 (SMTP), el cual comúnmente es utilizado para el envío de correo electrónico.

Telmex tiene más información sobre esta estúpida medida en esta página:


Aunque lo realmente interesante es el link para deshabilitar la protección, en la cual uno se declara como no-spammer y a cambio Telmex vuelve a habilitar el puerto 25.


Telmex bloqueo puerto 25 smtp

ColdHeat soldering tool – don’t buy it!

coldheat proHow nice to begin the new year with disappointment. I bought a ColdHeat pro soldering tool, thinking I might use it for quick soldering jobs, since using the wired soldering tool is a bit of a ritual.

I made the fatal mistake of not reading the  reviews online (such as this and this), which warn that the ColdHeat might not, well, live up to the hype.

As it turns out, the reviews are pretty accurate. The ColdHeat turns a simple task, such as soldering two wires together, into an absurdly difficult affair. Something that would take even me, a pretty inexperienced solderer, a few minutes with the wired iron, turned out to be impossible with the ColdHeat. Maybe it’s just that I’m dumb; but the fact remains that the ColdHeat plainly didn’t work for me.

About my only consolation is that the thing was pretty unexpensive!

Plantronics Discovery 640

Los manos libres Bluetooth son un rubro donde realmente vale la pena buscar una marca especializada para obtener un producto de calidad. Tras una mala experiencia con un manos libres Genius diseñado para sostenerse únicamente con un auricular dentro de la oreja (y fallando miserablemente, se cae con gran frecuencia), y tambien adolesciendo de multitud de problemas de calidad, funcionamiento y diseño, y casi un año de no visitar este nicho tecnológico, me encontré con el aclamado Plantronics 640 que ha cambiado mi opinión completamente.

Plantronics 640 Existe una diferencia básica entre las compañías que producen equipos Bluetooth como parte de una línea de productos muy extensa (Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Genius, Samsung, e incluso los fabricantes de electrónica sin nombre de Taiwan y zonas aledañas) y aquellas que se dedican exclusivamente a equipos de auricular (Plantronics, Jabra, Tekkeon, Nextlink); se trata de compañías que están obligadas a generar un producto competitivo, so pena de salir del mercado desplazados completamente por las economías de escala.

Plantronics entrega un claro ejemplo de esta filosofía con el 640; un equipo sumamente refinado, bien pensado y funcional que evidencia el hecho de que los diseñadores en efecto piensan en auriculares todo el día.

El 640 viene con una serie de aditamentos para permitir cargarlo de varias maneras. En su “sillón” de carga utilizando un adaptador de corriente incluido; se pueden conectar adaptadores para diversos teléfonos celulares, evitando acarrear varios cargadores. Otro accesorio permite cargar el auricular por medio de una pila AAA, ideal para viajes. Lo interesante es que todas estas piezas se ensamblan para formar una especie de “pluma” que en caso de un viaje puede incluir todo lo necesario: el auricular, el sillón de carga, el cargador con pila, y el adaptador para el cargador del teléfono. Esto provee una solución muy elegante al asunto de la carga del auricular.

El auricular en sí es tubular de aproximadamente 5 cm de longitud y 9g de peso, con tres botones: dos de volumen y uno para control de llamadas. El auricular soporta las funciones clásicas de un manos libres, como son contestar y terminar la llamada, subir y bajar volumen, silencio (ambos botones de volumen a la vez), llamadas tripartitas y transferencia de llamada, remarcado de último número y marcado por voz. La mayoría de estas funciones se operan con presiones prolongadas del botón de control de llamada y son dependientes del contexto de forma que en cada situación la presión del botón realiza solamente una acción, evitando estar tecleando “clave morse” con el botón.
El ajuste se hace por medio de un audífono de gel (goma) que se detiene de manera bastante firme pero cómoda en el oido. Bajo circunstancias normales es la única sujección que se requiere. De manera inteligente el sistema incluye tres tamaños de gel que vienen incluidos en el paquete para ajustarlos al tamaño de oreja del usuario. Para extra seguridad también incluye un sostén de alambre similar al de unos anteojos; en general encontré que no es necesario pero sí proporciona seguridad adicional.

El emparejemiento con el teléfono es sumamente sencillo y una vez emparejado, el 640 se conecta automáticamente al teléfono. El tiempo de respuesta es muy rápido y se puede, por ejemplo, tener el 640 apagado; al recibir una llamada, el tiempo que toma encenderlo, esperar que enlace, y presionar el botón para contestar, es de aproximadamente 5 segundos; suficientemente rápido para contestar la llamada.
Dos factores muy importantes para el auricular son la calidad del audio y la seguridad del agarre. El primero fue comprobado utilizándolo para hablar en ambientes ruidosos con mucha gente. En este ambiente el rendimiento fue excelente, el audio con gran claridad en ambas direcciones y sin intromisión excesiva del ruido.

Para el agarre equipé el 640 con el aditamento de sujección y me fui a correr; durante la carrera de aproximadamente 25 minutos me caí, y en todo ese tiempo el 640 se mantuvo en su posición sin ningún problema. Para uso en condiciones menos extremas basta con la goma sin el aditamento extra; bajo este uso es posible mover la cabeza violentamente y el auricular se mantiene en posición. Dos de los usos más comunes, usarlo mientras se camina y mientras se conduce el auto, mostraron que el 640 no tiene ningún problema para mantenerse en su lugar aún usando solamente la goma.

Finalmente el Plantronics 640 es un equipo bien diseñado, con atención a los detalles en donde éstos realmente cuentan, y que deja claro el hecho de que en este caso, la especialización del fabricante ha destilado un producto sobresaliente.

Django vs. ruby? & me

Sucks or rocks? googleometer gives us a parameter.

20,900,000 pages mention ruby on rails, while 1,560,000 mention django AND python.

These are our baselines. Now for the rocks:

714 pages think Django rocks. 1,000 pages think ruby on rails rocks.

The sucks are as follows:

541 pages think ruby on rails sucks. 147 think Django sucks.

Of course since I can’t grok Python I still think Ruby rocks most.

Vlad, Capistrano incompatible with Dropbear?

I tried to deploy to a remote debian (etch/testing) server running dropbear instead of openssh. Rake blew up (Vlad impaled it?) with an error such as this:

This was strange because when I checked on the server, all of the tasks were being executed correctly, and dirs and files were created.

I switched to OpenSSH and the problem went away.

It looks like, even if the command executed is successful, dropbear sometimes ignores the return code and exits with 255, which confuses rake. This doesn’t happen with OpenSSH.

It looks as if the problem is with dropbear, as I had the same issue when trying to deploy with capistrano (crapistrano?). So I guess I’m back to plain old openssh…