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365 images to describe my 2009

What will 2009 bring? - 1/365

The Internet has been for quite some time now a place where stupid phrases have become memes, or crazy ideas have become popular things to do by many people. 365 is one of these crazy ideas.

The idea of a “365 Project”, at least in the context I want to talk about, is to take a photo every single day of the year, and upload them somewhere as a collection of those objects, moments, concepts, that are notorious or worthy for that specific day. There are many groups in Flickr that are worth checking, and some of them even impose some kind of constraint, e.g. only selfportraits, no portraits at all, only manipulated photographs, etc.

From the first of January until the last of December, I made my own 365 project. Why did I start it? I’m not sure right now, I don’t exactly remember. I’ve been doing things related to cinematography since a few years back, but still photography was kind of new to me, so I guess what I was looking for was a bit of self-discipline, or better said, self-imposition. As I once read in the book Story1:

Robert Frost said that writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down, because self-imposed requests of poetic conventions, which are actually artificial, are what arouses imagination.

That is, creativity comes from making decisions and taking choices in a limited environment. There are thousands of ways of artificially creating these impositions, and I probably felt that taking a photo every day for a whole year is one of these ways. Not better, not worse, just a different way.

Living together - 187/365

So it’s already 2010, and I managed to get to the end of it. The result is my 365 days Flickr set. I’m proud of it in the sense that it reflects what 2009 has been for me, day by day. My experiences, my world, my projects, my work, my trips, even those days that nothing seems to go well, most of all of these, is in there. There are even some nice pictures in there, and among those there are a few that will be of a great significance for me, forever.

So, if the question is if it was worth it, well, the answer is yes.

However, in my particular case, it has been hard as hell at some points. Taking a photo per day might seem easy at a first thought. But this is not the best idea if you’re really busy, and I’ve been involved in a lot of different things during 2009. Combine that will a little bit of self-exigence, and some days can get really, really hard. Most of the days, I’ve spent quite a good part of the day thinking about the picture of the day, and trying to get a shot at the level of your best ones doesn’t make it any easier. And when you have a very rough day, then it’s the worst possible scenario, because you know that you’re not going to get any decent photo and that really undermines your motivation.

And motivation is the driving force that can get you to the end. I can’t say that I was at any moment close to quitting it, because I’ve never missed bringing my camera with me, or thinking about the next photo when I’ve had the opportunity. No, I was quite safe at that. But motivation has sometimes held me from looking at my shots in Lightroom, or from uploading that small bunch I had left ready for Flickr. I’ve had unjustifiable delays, considering the fact that the most difficult part, which is shooting everyday, was always done.

Out of ideas - 198/365

Because the most important thing is the raw material that you get from the camera. If that is wrong, then whatever result comes from that will be wrong as well. So, from my experience, 365 is not a project to look for a perfectly post-processed photo, but to look how well you can get the best possible raw material at the moment of shooting. Because it’s a daily project. There are lots of quite post-processed photos in my 365 set, but that’s my mistake. If you have the time and/or you know exactly what you’re doing, then go ahead. Otherwise, just concentrate on your technique with the camera.

As a result of all the negative issues I’ve just pointed out, quite a big bunch of less-than-decent photos are accompanying those that make me proud. But it’s not such a big deal. Because, as I said earlier, the final global result is worth it. And now, after a few days, and looking at it at a bit of distance, it’s quite an achievement.

It’s not just an achievement because I now have a nice set to make a book with, if I ever decide to. No, it’s more an achievement because if you’re going to shoot 365 photos in consecutive days, and you are in disposition of learning, you will learn. And that’s probably the most important outcome. Whatever shooting device you use, be it a Nikon D3 or an iPhone, you will learn.

I’ve done technical tests and setups I would have not dared to do otherwise, probably just because I’ve had too many things to do apart from them. And, more importantly, I’ve progressed in thinking about the final post-processed photo way before touching the camera, way before looking though the viewfinder.

So, if you are reading this because you’re thinking about embarking yourself into this project, and your objective is to learn and are capable of investing a lot of time thinking and working with photographs, don’t think twice and do it.

To be continued - 365/365

One thing though: be ready to go for it until the end, because that’s what it is about. And if you’re on Flickr, this is important: join 365 groups and participate. They tend to be places with lots of interactivity going on, many times with useful feedback, and where the chances of learning are multiplied. I was in a couple of them, but 365 Community is a great place to be, not too massified and really really active.

As a final remark, I would like to express my gratitude to all the people that have been giving me feedback and, directly or indirectly, encouraging me to continue till the end. Without this support, I really don’t know if I would have made it.

Thanks.

  1. Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting (Robert McKee, 1997)

Computational mechanisms for norm enforcement in Service-Oriented Architectures

Behind this complicated title lies the thesis for my Master of Advanced Studies, or DEA as we call it here in Spain. Apart from evaluating the research done in a specific field, it includes the proposal for a thesis in order to get the PhD. I had to defend this document last February, which means that now I have an approved topic for the next couple of years to write my dissertation and finish the PhD. That means, more work incoming! :)

The document presents a proposal for a distributed architecture that will allow for:

  1. Definition of high-level contracts readable and understandable by services,
  2. Proper monitorization of the service states and interactions relevant for the fulfillment of these contracts, and
  3. The implementation of third parties responsible for analyzing these observations and enforcing the norms.

The main idea behind all this stuff is, on one side, to create implicit service institutions, and on the other side, to complement and implement SOA Governance methodologies from a norm enforcement perspective.

In case anybody is curious about all this (I’d be really glad :P) I include here the final version of the document and the slides I used for the defense.

Computational Mechanisms for Norm Enforcement in Service-Oriented Architectures (Sergio Alvarez-Napagao) PDF – 1.9Mb

Terminology

Found at the comments of a blog post about REST and SOAP:

Hey y’all, youse using you a big bunch of words that the average fella don’t understand. REST, SOAP, PUT, GET, POST, COUCH? WHAT?

The only time I use these words is when I come home from work, I do stuff like

Tell ma wife to GET me a beer, fall on the COUCH, PUT my legs on the table, check if I got any new POST, switch to channel RPC to see what game is on. And when it’s time to sleep, go put on some SOAP, before I go to the bed and REST.

Johnny McBob McCormick, August 15, 2008 4:04 AM

The future of quality university education in informatics

The future of quality university education in informatics is a keynote and panel discussion that will be held tomorrow at UPC. It’s quite a short notice and the space is presumably limited, but I’m just forwarding this for those who might think it could be interesting.

The main topic of the debate is the need to preserve a high quality university education system with special focus on informatics.

Location, date/time: Aula Màster (UPC Campus Nord), March 17th, 9am

Keynote Lecturer: Andreu Mas-Colell

Moderator: Manuel Hermenegildo

Panelists: Josep Casanovas, Ricardo Baeza-Yates, Carlos Domingo, Jan Van Leeuwen, José Rolim

Blink, blink

It’s 4.30 in the night – morning and we’re still making tests and calibrations for the Blink performance that will be held today in a small theater of the Raval. And the results, at least by now, are really promising.

The Blink project's poster - 27/365

Blink is the master thesis project of Joao and consists on having a dancer moving around the scenario, with some sensors attached to her. The inputs of these sensors will be used to generate in real time video and audio. I know it’s some hours left only, but don’t hesitate to come: the entrance is free!

The bridge between the Phidgets sensors and the video and audio composers is a software that we have been developing during the last weeks. We’re planning to fill it with functionalities and release a more “decent” version in the future. If you are interested in playing with sensors and multimedia, check our Sourceforge page, although the code is very adhoc and inmature at the moment.

Let’s see how it goes in the end. Whatever happens, this project has been really interesting and it will probably have more appearances.

My list of must-have Mac apps & plugins

There are lots of must-have Mac applications and plugins out there, but a good thing of each one of them is that, in the end, they are quite subjective: the software we use depend on what our work and leisure is about. So there goes my personal list:

Open Source – Freeware – Shareware:

  • Adium: the best instant messaging application for Mac. Integrates most of the protocols available out there: MSN, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, Jabber, GTalk, Facebook and many more. There is even a Skype plugin. Largely customizable.
  • Celtx: filmmaking and media pre-production tool, with collaborative support. Quite complete and versatile.
  • Disk Inventory X: graphical disk usage viewer. Useful to see at a glance what the hell is going on with the hard disk free space.
  • ffmpegX: graphical wrapper for mencoder. Really useful for converting videos.
  • Growl: notification system that can be used by many other programs, like Adium, Skype, Safari, iTunes and so on. Many configuration options.
  • Inquisitor: Safari plugin that overrides and greatly improves the Google search box.
  • i-Installer: LaTeX installation manager. Already out of support, but still very useful.
  • Plex (OSXBMC): great replacement for Front Row. It’s a port of the Xbox Media Center.
  • Quicksilver: if I were to choose only one of the list, this would be it. Some people think that it’s only an application launcher, but it’s so much more than that. Optimizes the launching of applications and the execution of scripts (lots of them) using only the keyboard.
  • Transmission: a really nice, simple and lightweight BitTorrent client.
  • VirtualBox: x86 virtualization software. Lacks of 3D acceleration support, but it’s a great choice among others like Parallels.

Non-free:

  • ComicBookLover: a catalog manager for electronic comic formats (CBR, CBZ), and an excellent viewer as well.
  • OmniFocus: a GTD task manager. Well used, it’s a great tool to organize oneself.
  • Papers: this is a great application for researchers. Organizes papers and articles by a wide criteria, and integrates a lot of search engines like Google Scholar or ACM, and is able to export a collection of papers in some formats, like BibTeX.
  • TextMate: the ultimate text editor. For anything that is not writing Java code, this is what I use. Has lots of scripts for a huge amount of programming languages and text formats that really help in, for example, writing a large document in LaTeX or coding a Ruby on Rails application. Also incorporates a fair amount of keyboard shortcuts for those vi or Emacs addicts.
  • viPlugin: it’s a plugin for Eclipse that allows for using almost all of the vi commands, therefore fixing one of the main drawbacks of this excellent IDE :-)

Revival: Pérdidas

Ahora que últimamente ando liado, aparte de con el Proyecto de Tesis y con Contract y Alive, con algunos proyectos audiovisuales como Psique, un videoclip y leyendo guiones que se podrían producir, me ha entrado la nostalgia con aquel pequeño corto que hicimos hace un par de años para el concurso L’Endemà de la EMAV.

La idea era sencilla: un objeto y una frase tenían que aparecer en un corto a entregar 72 horas más tarde. Un fin de semana, vamos. No era mucho tiempo, pero lo intentamos. El corto que nos salió no es nada del otro mundo, técnicamente. El sonido es horrible, el espacio que teníamos no nos ayudaba con los planos, y el diálogo se hizo tan deprisa por los mismos actores que no quedó ni improvisado ni trabajado.

Pero con todo y con las prisas, montando primero en un McDonalds y luego durante toda la noche del domingo, nos quedó algo que no es gran cosa, pero a la que cogimos aprecio y la gente que lo ha visto nos ha dado más buenas impresiones que malas.

En AVED, los proyectos son cada vez más interesantes y ambiciosos desde el punto de vista técnico. Precisamente por eso es divertido ver, con perspectiva, cómo salían las cosas cuando los medios escaseaban y la experiencia era menor. Como cuando nos dejamos la salud rodando Vacío… entre otras cosas, usando focos de jardín del Carrefour.

Flickr Set: Rodaje de Pérdidas (Lendema’06)

Testing WordPress for iPhone

Trying to post for the n-th time, it seems really prone to crashing…

photo

Subclipse not working after Sourceforge SVN migration

Today Yesterday we’ve had a really busy day fixing obscure bugs in order to prepare the next release of the Contract core components. What we didn’t know was that the Sourceforge.net SVN migration was scheduled for yesterday. 12 hours of read-only access has been really painful, mainly concerning concurrent development.

However, after the migration finished, I still couldn’t commit the huge amount of changes I had done through the day. In fact, it was giving me the same error as during the whole day:

svn: Commit failed (details follow):
svn: Commit failed (details follow):
svn: MKACTIVITY of ‘/AgentWS/!svn/act/f371347b-0541-0410-8082-ddb3ab739141′: 403 Forbidden (https://ist-contract.svn.sourceforge.net/svnroot/ist-contract)

I even checked with a different SVN client and I could perfectly commit with no problem. Looking for a solution in Google didn’t help very much and I started panicking over the idea of having to check everything out in a separate project (or workspace) and remake all the changes. My sources in Eclipse didn’t even get updated with the changes I had made with the SVN client.

But then, the miracle. After checking out in a blank workspace, I switched back to the faulty one to start checking which files were changed. I don’t know exactly why, but I tried updating a project… and it worked!!!

Don’t ask me how and why these things happen, or if it’s even something only related to Subclipse. I am too tired right now to think on a logical conclusion. Probably it has to do with the host certificate or something like that but, in any case, these things can really spoil a mood in case of bad luck or a solution misleading. Anyway, software developing wouldn’t be so interesting without this kind of nonsense problems, would it?

Just kidding.

The intelligent i-Walker

In the same office we work at, we have the SHARE-it guys. The main purpose of this project is to design and implement AI systems that help people with disabilities, as the acronym indicates: Supported Human Autonomy for Recovery and Enhancement of cognitive and motor abilities using Information Technologies.

This definition, as always, seems quite abstract, but they are already showing stuff that will be really useful. The underlying IA system will allow for the creation of intelligent software and hardware to assist disabled people, specially elders.

SHARE-it IA infrastructure

One of these devices is the i-Walker, an intelligent walker that is location-aware, and assists the patient in moving, for example, through a house or a hospital. The user can interact with an interface plugged into the walker using verbal commands, and its levels of autonomy can be adjusted for a better experience. The same concepts will be applied to a wheelchair.

Other devices that will be built on top of the IA system include an RFID bracelet which collects information about the movements made and the objects around the user. With this information, a PDA will be able to act as a personal agenda, predicting the needs of the user and the recommended actions to take (e.g. it’s time to take the pills).

This running project not only looks good from the research perspective but also seems to have real useful application. In fact, along with one of its leaders, Ulisés Cortés, SHARE-it has started to have a deserved media exposure.



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