Monday, 2 November 2009

The more I know, the less I know

Each time I learn something I realise how many things I do not know and will never know, which makes me sad. I reckon it is the counterpart to the joy I feel when I learn new things...

Monday, 6 April 2009

Grand Theft Auto Cars and their real world couterparts (part 1)

Since I got my first copy of Grand Theft Auto in 1998 -yes, the original one, the one with the zenithal viewpoint- I’ve always tried to find resemblances between cars in the game and real world cars. Well, since now I’m hooked to the latest version of the series I’ve decided to find the resemblances between cars in the game and their real counterparts. So here goes the first lot of comparisons between them, with pictures showing them together to ease your opinion when deciding if Grand Theft Auto’s IV designers and programmers got inspired by my choices or not.

Since I’m European I don’t know much about American cars, so if anybody has suggestions please let me know and I’ll put it in one of my next posts.

Blista Compact

I had my doubts with this one, but I was sure it was a relatively old Volkswagen. I was dubious between the Corrado and the old Scirocco, but after seeing pictures of both of them I’ve finally decided that the most similar one is the Corrado.


This one is a very obvious one, because Cavalcade sounds suspiciously similar to Cadillac’s pimp-mobile, the Escalade SUV. When you see the picture of both of them together the source of inspiration becomes clear.

Cavalvade FXT

And if anybody was still unconvinced about the Cavalcade-Escalade duo, here comes the irrefutable proof. The game has a pick-up version of the Cavalcade called FXT, and guess what, so does the Escalade and it is called EXT.


And another very easy one, the monster-truckish Patriot is like a mirror image of Greenpeace’s nightmare the Hummer.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Curious Google Earth snapshots

Google Earth has supposed a revolution to how we see the world, and here you acan find a video where some strange aerial pictures displayed by the Google Earth interface. Hope you enjoy it! (it's in Spanish, but an immage is worth more than a thousand words :-) )

Sunday, 18 January 2009

KML and KMZ Benchmarking

When displaying data over Google Maps using KML and KMZ files there is always the doubt of whether it is better to use one type of file or the other. KML is the standard XML type file used by Google to display data over their maps, while KMZ is a compressed KML file. Compressing a KML file dramatically reduces its size, for example in the example used to a 26.22% of the original size, helping to save the typically scarce server space. Even though, less space does not always mean faster loading times, because it is necessary to uncompress the files, which may take a long time.

In order to find out which kind of file has a better performance and is best to work with, a benchmark test was performed. Results stated that between the moment a link was clicked in Google Maps and it fully opened in Google Earth the time elapsed was a 58.19% faster when using KMZ. The technical details of the benchmark test and the shape used to do the test can be seen under these lines.




Number of polygons


Size in KB



Relative size (%)



Loading time (sec)



Relative time (%)



Software used

Google Earth




Windows XP SP2


Intel Pentium M 1.73 MHz



Web Browser

Internet Explorer

Connection speed

2MB/sec Cable

Files hosted at

This is the file used to do the benchmarking:

Friday, 17 October 2008

Crisis (2): 1929

Article written by Xavier Sala Martí (Columbia University) in La Vanguardia, a Catalan newspaper. Translated from Spanish to English using Babel Fish (sorry for the translation mistakes, if you want to suggest any change leave a comment).

The global financial crisis has sown panic about the state of the global economy. Many analysts compare the situation with the Great Depression of 1929. We remind investors episodes of rushing through the windows on Wall Street and queues of hungry Americans begging on the streets of New York. Even my colleague from Columbia, Joe Stiglitz, said that the fall of Wall Street capitalism is what the fall of the Berlin Wall was to communism. Stiglitz's words are a great intellectual contribution to the debate, because it demonstrates once and for all that the prize awarded to Nobel no vaccine against the ability to say nonsense.

Let's see, let us be serious: neither the financial crisis represents the end of capitalism or we face a new Great Depression. The current situation resembles that of the 29 in two essential aspects. The first is that stock markets have fallen. Yes. So what? Many people have lost money and that's sad. But from there to be a looming Great Depression half an abyss. Statistically, short-term movements of stock markets do not reflect the real state of the economy, especially during episodes like the current ones, in which investors have entered the stock market in a state of hysteria that prevents them from seeing things clearly.

That said, there are six major differences between the crisis of 1929 and the present. First: in 1929 the bank deposits were not insured.

When the crisis began, all the families rushed to find their savings to their banks. These, of course, did not have the money because it had provided (that is, precisely, their business), so they could return and were left without resources when the doors closed. Millions of Americans lost their savings. None of this will happen in 2008 because the deposits are insured, precisely, thanks to the lesson of 1929.

Second: in 1929 the monetary system was based on the gold standard, which prevented the Federal Reserve (FED) increased liquidity in the system if not previously increased its reserves of gold. As the gold held by the Fed did not increase, this could not print the money that disappeared because of bank failures. In 2008, central banks around the world are printing money to provide liquidity to the financial system.

Third: in 1929 there was deflation and prices and wages were falling continuously. That meant that the debts were inasumibles family: if one has a debt of 100 and a salary of 300, one can pay.

But if the wage goes down to 100 and the debt remains the same, one ends up not being able to pay. That worsened the financial problems of banks. In 2008 not only there is no deflation but there is inflation.

Fourth: the per capita income of U.S. in 1929 stood at about 6,000 dollars (in current prices). Today exceeds $ 36,000. A fall in income from 25% when you win 6000 poses serious problems of famine. The same drop when you win 36,000 is a problem, but does not generate humanitarian disasters.

Fifth: the U.S. reaction to the crisis of 1929 was to blame foreigners and promote purchases of American products by putting tariffs on imports (the infamous Smooth-Hawley tariff). Naturally, the reaction of foreigners was put tariffs on American products, which triggered a trade war that harmed at all. At present, despite some remaining globófobo haggard (and hairy), there are no documented economists propose protectionism as the solution to the crisis.

And sixth, and most importantly, there is a fact in which almost no one fixed but it is key: the rate of return on investment of non-financial sector. In the year 1929, that rate was 0.5%. That is, in 1929, if one was investing an U.S. dollars outside the banking sector, earning a return close to zero. In 2008, return on investment in non-financial sectors is ... 10%! To become an idea, the rate of return average for the past 50 years has been 7%. This is very, very important, because while economic growth in a country not preceded by increases in the bag, yeah ... has been preceded by high rates of return in the financial sector! To understand: While Wall Street has done its financial follies, Silicon Valley has continued to innovate, and that, ultimately, is what determines the growth of the economy. That means that when the financial regain sanity, capitalism not only not disappear but that the U.S. economy will come out fired toward a new growth path.

Ah! I almost forgot. I said that there were two factors that made the crisis of 1929 and the present were similar. I have one already commented: stock markets plummeted. The second: governments do not learn anything. One is left stunned when the Government approved a plan to purchase 700,000 million toxic assets of banks and a week later decides that the money will be used to buy shares. And one becomes even more petrified when he sees that the explanation given for this change is that ... the stock market has reacted negatively! That journalists will confuse the bag with the economy takes a pass. But the government used the bag to decide its economic policy is crazy that shows that he totally lost. Tan lost as of 1929.

Crisis (1): What has happened

Article written by Xavier Sala Martí (Columbia University) in La Vanguardia, a Catalan newspaper. Translated from Spanish to English using Babel Fish (sorry for the translation mistakes, if you want to suggest any change leave a comment).

The perfect storm continues its inexorable course and we all wonder what is the solution. Before talking about remedies, it is important to know what has happened because, without a proper diagnosis, there is no sensible solutions.

It all began in 2001 when Alan Greenspan wanted to avoid the collapse of the stock market after the fiasco of the dot-reducing interest rates from 6.5% to 2.5% in less than a year. With these guys so low, banks, who live in lending money in exchange for an interest, sought profitability in families with low incomes and with a high probability of being unable to repay the mortgage, calls families have an increased risk subprime.Al, those families pay a higher interest, although the banks thought the risk was mitigated by the fact that the price of their houses were going up: if one day they have problems, they thought, the families will be able to sell the house at a price higher than the mortgage, enabling them to return the money.

But they could charge the margins were so small that in order to obtain profitability, they had to multiply the volume. The problem is that the number of mortgages they could give was limited by regulation to Basel prevents credits granted by a bank exceed a certain proportion of their capital. Curiously, which does allow such regulation is that banks think about parallel investment funds (called under pressure) who buy their receivables. And so they did: the calling given under pressure, buying mortgages to the banks and those recovering the money. Having disappeared from their credit balances (to allow regulation and the Basel accounting of the bank and the conduit was made separately), banks could return to provide the same money, thus expanding the business.

The under pressure, in turn, the Prime Minister took the mortgages, the repackaging (in sophisticated language, title) in ways so complex that get ratings of AAA, which indicated minimal risk and sold to investment banks. To facilitate the operation, even got names pompous as insurance with credit default swaps.Los investment banks, in turn, used these assets as collateral to borrow additional leverage and more financial operations, thus creating a huge snowball of assets , No matter how sophisticated they were, were guaranteed the last of the families subprime mortgages.

And all this was going very well while the price of housing rose. But came a day left to climb. Families who had borrowed 100,000 U.S. dollars saw that his house was worth only 60,000 and had to make a decision: return home or return of 60,000 a mortgage of 100,000. No one should be very ready to see that if the regulation allows to choose, many will return home and not pay the mortgage. And it turns out that the regulation allowed to pick and, therefore, decided not to pay the late payment was fired and all assets secured by those mortgages began to lose its value and to be cataloged tóxicos.El problem is that they had been so many times that retitularizados nobody knew how many active or toxic or who had had. That created a mistrust between banks that made money no longer lend to each other. Interbank interest rates (such as the Euribor) was fired and, with them, the monthly payments of millions of families who stopped to pay their mortgages. Late payments rose, no longer among subprime families, but among the families in the world. Insurers had to pay it insured ... but did not have enough money, so they were the first to break. Their names: Bear Stearns, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and AIG. Does it sound like?

And here again to see the regulation of Basel: the investment banks like Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers had used such bonds now that were toxic as financial security and the regulation said that when the value of those securities down, banks were required to dispose of other assets and use the money to replenish the lost security. The problem is that this was happening right in the moment that nobody wanted to buy those assets at reasonable prices. But as they were forced to sell, sell. That ... To balance price! That increased their losses, which reduced the market value of its assets, which forced them to sell more, which increased their losses ... and so on in a negative spiral of losses and decreases in trading that led to bankruptcy. The financial panic was served.

Which brings us to the present time: the mistrust, fear and loss of the banks are doing that not only cease to lend to other banks, but will cease to provide a non-financial companies from around the world. Investment in the hospital sector in Germany or the food in Colombia are not carried out due to lack of funding. Economic activity falls, the jobs disappear and what began as a problem in the U.S. mortgage. UU. is getting to the real economy around the world. The public asked their governments to act. The erratic public policies they propose, however, show that they do not know what to do, which raises more distrust and aggravate the situation. That's what we will talk in a future article. For now, this is what happened.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Former countries: Neutral Moresnet

Last week I visited a territory which used to be an independent country and not many people has heard of, Neutral Moresnet. It was rightfully labeled as a micro country, because only held 344 hectares within its borders and was home to 3000 inhabitants and a smithsonite mine. Its capital and only town was Kelmis. The country lasted independent for over a hundred years, between the napoleonic wars and WWI when it became part of Belgium. You can see a map of Neutral Moresnet in obtained from the Moresnet webpage:
When I arrived to Kelmis I thought it would have some rememorance of its former independence. Pitifully, only a museum exists (at least this is the only thing I saw), but I would have appreciated to see at least a sign saying something like "You are entering the former country of Neutral Moresnet", because unless you are really aware of the existence of the country you won't know when have you entered the former country. If you look carefully you may still find some of the border markers standing.

By the way, if you are an esperantist you should go there since it was one of the main esperantist centers. It even was considered one of the languages of the country.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Fight, don't give up

I thought I had an impenetrable computer, that no viruses could go through my defences but I was wrong. About two weeks ago I realised my CPU consumption arrived to 100% even right after having started the computer and without having turned any programmes on. It was fixed by resetting the computer, but one day the famous Windows blue screen appeared before the OS was loaded. It gave the following errors:
  • Srosa.sys
I tried to restart the computer but it appeared again, so I used my beloved Linux (Ubuntu) OS and made a backup of all important files into an external USB drive, just in case I had to format the hard drive. Then I tried to access Windows using the safe mode, but I got the same error. Luckily, I could access Windows using the last configuration which worked mode. Once in my desktop again I realised that all my anti-virus/firewall software did not work. What is worse, I could not install any kind of security device in my computer, it said that it couldn't communicate with the kernel or that the anti-virus X was not a Win32 application (yea right). The solution I found was to run some on-line tests like Panda Activescan, Norton or Kaspersky, which found tons of viruses, which is to be expected since I had been without protection for quite a long time, but they could not delete the main source of contamination.

I had been infected by a virus called Begle or Beagle (hence the pictures), which is a trojan bastard son of his mother. It blocks all antivirus software and uses the computer as an e-mail server to spam as much as possible. Neither regular nor on-line antiviruses seem to be able to get rid of it. After fighting for a long time against it and not formatting the hard drive, though I was tempted to do so many times, I found a little piece of software which is marvellous. It's called ELIBAGLA and deletes the virus enough so you can install and run an anti-virus software which gets rid of all the remaining bits of the virus plus the ones which have entered after the AV software was shut down.

Even though, problems don't end here. When I tried to switch from LAN connection to Wi-Fi I found that my wireless didn't work. When I tried to select a network I read this message:
  • Windows cannot configure this wireless connection. If you have enabled another program to manage this wireless connection, use that software. If you want Windows to configure this connection, start the Wireless Zero Configuration (WZC) service. For information about starting the WZC service, see article 871122 in the Microsoft Knowledge Base on the Web site.
It turns out that the virus messes it up as well, so I had to fix it (be careful because it may be a symptom that your computer is infected). To fix it you have to (don't even read article 871122 in the Microsoft Knowledge Base on the Web site, is useless) :
  1. Type this in Start->Run... net start wzcsvc (this will activate your Windows wi-fi service)
  2. If now your Wi-fi works great, you don't have this awful virus. If you get the following message: 'Error 1068: The Dependency Service or Group Failed To Start' means that you are contaminated with Beagle, but don't worry, it can be fixed.
  3. Now to the tricky part. Go to Start->Run.. and type services.msc Then navigate your way to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControl/SetServices/Ndisuio Once you find it open 'Start' and type a 3 (you may have a 4, which is wrong) leave the radio button in hexadecimal. In the same folder open 'Tag' and change whatever you find (maybe e?) by the letter C, again leave the radio button in hexadecimal.
  4. Restart the computer and everything should work fine again
To finish the cleaning process just scan the whole computer with as many antivirus as you can, local and on-line ones, and install good up to date antivirus, firewall and antitrojan software. I recommend Nod32, Outpost and TrojanHunter. Also a registry cleaning using an appropriate program like Wise Registry Cleaner is advised.

This virus is amazing, I've just received a letter from my Internet provider, Virgin Media, saying that I have been sending huge amounts of e-mails and that I am either a massive spammer or that I have a virus, so they may shut down my Internet access. Well, not any more, my computer is clean as it was when I bought it, so don't worry mr. Branson, I won't be jamming your network any more.

I hope that if you have the same problem I had this posts helps you to fix it. If you have any suggestions please feel free to comment.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Marginalised countries form list

I am sick and tired of not being able to select Catalonia when an Internet form asks to select my country. This is why I have had the idea of creating a country list form so everybody can suggest their 'invisible' country and I'll add them into the list. I have started by adding Catalonia, Scotland, Galicia, Basque Country, Wales, Quebec, Corsica and Tibet, but there are dozens of other countries not recognised internationally which could be inserted into the list, so please suggest some and spread the word so no country in the world is missed from this list. Please feel free to copy it and use it in your websites so everybody can select their country and are not marginalised anymore.

You can copy the code from here:

And see how it looks here:

These are the added countries:

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Mad with travelodge

I have a job interview (wish me luck) in a city of the midlands and since I have to travel from Edinburgh to there and is over 400Km of journey I will have to sleep for one night there. When I was in Inverness I slept in a Travelodge and found it to be quite good value for money. Per person it was not expensive and the quality of the room, with TV, sofa and en-suite bathroom pleased me.

So, why am I mad with Traveloge I hear you say? Well, I have been trying to book a room for two hours and I still haven't been able to do so. I have tried using Visa, Visa Electron, Mastercard, Catalan accounts, Spanish accounts, Scottish accounts and nothing. Each single time I got an error message as feedback. It has been quite fustrating. What I will do, since Travelodge doesn't love me is book with my old French buddies of the Accor group. They have never let me down before.