These are YOUR Places

Paolo Coelho has written in his last book, “The Zahir”:
“[…] One day, I am going to write a travel guide containing only maps, addresses of hotels, and with the rest of the pages blank. That way people will have to make their own itinerary, to discover for themselves restaurants, monuments, and all the magnificent things that every city has, but which are never mentioned because ‘the history we have been taught’ does not include them under the heading ‘Things you must see’. I have been to Zagreb before. And this fountain does not appear in any of the local tourist guides, but it is far more important to me than anything else I saw here – because it is pretty, because I discovered it by chance, and because it is linked to a story in my life […]”.

When reading this last night I have been thinking that he does not need to write such a guide: this is already happening on the web these days. Right now. You don’t just buy a tourist guide anymore. The Internet can act as a guide. Other people’s comment about places, and their stories, can guide you.
It’s not anymore just buying a guide from some publisher, it is being part of the publication as well. And contributing back what you discover.

This is what happens on 43places, for example. See what the are saying over there: http://www.43places.com/entries/view/1239344 – “These are YOUR places” – “If you’re new to 43 Places you may not realize that all the places on this website have been added by users. Once upon a time, all we had were country names and a few major cities. 43 Places is a community effort where users are actively filling up the site with their favorite spots and the places they want to visit.

Along these lines all of us users can also correct and enhance data on 43 Places […]”

43Places fits perfectly with the example of the tourist guide. But there is more than just a tourist guide. The great news is that the web is becoming an immense platform for sharing stories, experiences, feelings.

Hugh MacLeod describes this aspect (that is: the evolution of the web in the way it lets people and companies interact) on his famous blog: http://www.gapingvoid.com/Moveable_Type/archives/003358.html
“[…] Dotcom basically built glorified Yellow Pages. You go, you get the info you need, hopefully you buy something en route. The relationship between the user and the website is impersonal, not unlike the realtionship between the Yellow Pages and its readers. They show, you select. They give, you take.

The architecture of Web 2.0, however, is about people giving away their stuff i.e. “sharing”. Whether its a well-written blog post, or photos uploaded onto Flickr, or videos uploaded onto YouTube, the act of you giving is every bit as important as people other people receiving. This is why the number of blog readers isn’t that much larger than the number of blog writers. Writing is as important as reading. Giving is as important as taking.

Suddenly for the first time in history, the world’s most powerful form of media is about giving, not taking. The implications are vast.[…]”

Introducing Ravi

Ravi and his son

Ravi and his son, uploaded by Daniele Muscetta on Flickr.

Ravi has been living in Italy for not such a long time: not even two years.
He works as a manager for a hi-tech factory, in Italy, so that’s why he moved here.
He already knows he won’t stay here forever, but he’s enjoying his stay so far.
It’s good to see how hard working people actually CAN be successful here.
Even when they move from another country.

So far he doesn’t know many italian people, and hangs up mostly with the other indian people he has met here. Which is something I definitely can understand, as I also met all the italians in town when I was living in Holland, and I know it isn’t extremely easy to get along with the local population, for how friendly they can treat you on the surface (even tough I bet that italians are much *warmer* than dutch people in their “welcomes”).

His kids had loads of fun playing with mine, today, and we (the grown-ups) enjoyed the conversation and the food very much.

I am one of those people that loves living in a globalized world (despite all its weirdness and the bad consequences globalization also brings): at least for this fact that you get to know people from everywhere on the globe, and exchange different ideas and experiences.
People have all sort of stories to tell, and we all have to learn from each other.

Amma @ Heathrow airport

Amma @ Heathrow airport

Amma @ Heathrow airport, uploaded by Daniele Muscetta on Flickr.

A coincindence meeting?

I don’t know, but I’ll tell you a story:
I have been in england all week for a training: I left on monday and I came back yesterday (friday).
When I booked my flight to go to england I should have come back with the flight that takes off at 8:00pm. It would have been late (coming back home to midnight) but there was no place in the earlier one (4:40pm). Then my ticket was disappeared. Not “physically”, because it was an electronic ticket. Just its presence in the computer system of Alitalia was vanished. The booking on my name appeared strangely “cancelled”, and both Alitalia and the American Express agency that had booked that for me could not explain me WHAT actually went wrong with my ticket.
It looked like it had been requested, but the process stopped half-way through and never ended, it never spat out my ticket (don’t remind me of the concept of TRANSACTION, please).

So, at the last minute, in order to leave on monday (I *really* wanted to attend this training, and furthermore the hotel WAS booked and I could not cancel it anymore without paying a penalty), I had to buy another ticket at the airport. But at that point there was not place anymore on the evening flight for the return. So I had to take place in the 4:40pm one (hey, wait a minute: wasn’t THAT FULL as well, when I tried to book it myself, earlier ??).

So when I came back, look who’s at the airport.
I was not even sure it was Her, and I did not really dare come much closer. Both because I was afraid I could disturb, and also because I was scared of airport security (you are not supposed to take pictures in airports, I have already been told off other times, and with the current paranoia in London I really did not want to take the chance…).
She was about to travel, and was writing down the text of some bhajan with her followers and her singers and all the other people who travel with Her.
Also a woman, who was working in a shop just in front of this scene, not having any customer in at that moment, was looking at the scene with curiosity but (or at least I thought I could read that in her eyes) without prejudice.
Nice surprise.

PS – If you don’t know who Amma is, please visit www.amma.org or en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mata_Amritanandamayi

Human-size fits all (of work vs. relaxing)

Black tea

Black Tea, uploaded by Daniele Muscetta on Flickr.

Finally the first complete weekend.
After four weeks of holidays, I had pretty much got used to relax and do my stuff.
On monday 28th I started working. I worked the usual 5 days, and customers were waiting for me anxiously. I also had to work on friday night for some updates they had waited six months to do (when I was telling them “let’s do this”) but they could not wait anymore NOW obviously.
Then, late friday night I had weekend… sort of. Just saturday.
In fact, I had to be ready to leave early sunday morning to go to the “company meeting”. Sunday and monday. Awesome. Not.
Tuesday to friday: work, work, work again.

Not THIS weekend I am doing MY stuff, actually trying to relax.
That’s more my cup of tea.

How programs can teach each other

This article shows an intersting (interesting because it is simple but effective!) approach to train SpamAssassing Bayesian spam filter by leveraging the training data in Thunderbird bayesian filter. Basically you can use a program to teach another program how to work better!
This paradigm is cool!

Much ado about Files Screening in R2

File Screening in Windows 2003 R2 can be circumvented, but this isn’t that terrible, IMHO, and I’ll explain you why.
You might be wondering what the heack am I talking about. I am referring to what’s written in this blog post (an old one) that I spotted only today. Here the author is referring to a MS Blog also mentioning a post about the fact that file screening in R2 can be circumvented.

Yes it can be circumvented, BUT… there are seveal “but”s I can say; In fact, I have been presenting Windows 2003 R2 to several customers and I got asked this question several times, and I usually explain this in the following way:

first, it would be too heavy of a performance hit to get and check the real “nature” of a file, rather than just its file name.
Also: how would you technically do that ? Checking some headers in the file ? In this case you would need to mantain a database of known file types, keeping it up to date as new versions of that file format appear…
and then what about executables which have been passed through a “packer”
(one of those utility that effectively shrinks them while mantaining them executable) ?
What about encrypted files ? What about… ?? It just doesn’t plain work. Just like many other signature-based detection mechanisms (Antivirus or IDS). Or at least, to KEEP working needs to be constantly updated (or be useless).

The file screening thing is not meant to be impossible to circumvent, rather is a way of saying to the user that he/she’s not allowed to place that content there, to get notified about that, to get this information TRACKED somewhere possibly….
Of course this can be circumvented. But is not going to be very practicle, especially when your users are USERS and are restricted so that they can’t associate new extention to be opened from within their media player as you are suggesting….

Moreover, file screeing is just ONE of many features of the component called “File Server Resource Manager” in Windows 2003 R2. Those features are meant to be used altogether: So, for example, while a user COULD circumvent the restriction and copy “.mp3” files by calling them “.xyz”, but then with the useful reporting an admin would very easily spot them by looking at those directory that strangely contain a lot of “.xyz” files that happen to be roughly 5MB in size (all of them)…
In the same way by using the reporting feature you could see those huge “.doc” files are actually divx by looking at the “large files” report – how many pages would you have written to get that Word document up to 700MB ?? It can’t be the usual letter Mary writes, it looks a lot more like the size of Encarta… something is then fishy about it.

You get what I mean ? It won’t block the user ALL the times, but it will still drastically reduce the user abilty to waste our space, and if implemented with the proper controls and procedures and preocesses (think ITIL) in place, this can still be a valuable tool.

(I also posted this answer as a comment on the above-mentioned blog).

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