Monday, August 31, 2009

Getting hooked on "Dexter"

Clever. Subtle. Dark. Divided. I got to watch the first episode of "Dexter" at a late hour in the night, back home in Romania, when I needed something to put me to sleep. Usually, TV does pretty well in this respect. However, with Dexter it was different, despite the fact that I was watching an episode from the 3rd season. Now, I got into it and started to watch Season 1 & 2. The story of a righteous serial killer that eliminates only criminals develops in an intricate adventure in which he slowly unveils hist past and discovers himself in a different light. Great actors and script: overall an excellent combo.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Colored Musical Beads

Flying Lotus - Los Angeles (2008)Flying Lotus, (born Steven Ellison) is an experimental multi-genre music producer, disc jockey, and laptop musician from Winnetka, California. His debut album, 1983, was released on Plug Research Records in 2006.[1] He is most famous (yet also uncredited) for the music in many of the segues of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim,[2] and he has also contributed remixes to fellow Plug Research artists, including Mia Doi Todd.(wiki). LA (2008) is his latest release at WARP Records, and it has been sitting on my collection for a while now, till today when I had the chance to listen it. A great mix of beats and electronic music that reminds me a bit also of Prefuse 73. In the end, I put the album back and re-listen it, which i seldom do. Still good.

Moby - Wait for Me (2009)I am not sure if this was or not an anticipated release but anything coming from Moby should be something decently good (at least). So, on June 30th Wait for Me hit the market. Moby tried to do (again) something artistic and special, as he was saying in an interview back in 2008 ("I want to make a really emotional, beautiful record. I don't know if I will succeed, but my goal is to make something very personal, very melodic, very beautiful") and to some extent he managed to achieve this. However, despite the fact that this album has several great tracks, overall the impression is rather mixed. It is indeed a great album, but somehow it seems too slow and sad throughout. I guess it also needs a lot of "digestion" for which there is plenty of time ahead.

Matisyahu - Light (2009)
Light is the third album by reggae singer Matisyahu, which was released on August 25, 2009. The artist had been working on his third album for nearly two years, making it the longest time he has ever spent making a record. The follow-up to Youth had been delayed several times before its release.Light is a good album with a lot of catchy tunes in his original style that mixes successfully reggae, hip-hop, and rock into something substantial, and with occasional references to the Judaic culture. Matisyahu maintains as much simplicity as possible to stay lean and focused, a result from his optimism: "Being an artist is about being sensitive to how the world resonates inside you and then being able to express it."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Harddisk recovery solution

After all the OS problems I had, it came to partition issues as well. Somehow, my external drive, formatted as two 500 GB NTFS drives, got into trouble. Originally, the drive was formatted using the disk utility in MacOSX as FAT32 and then to NTFS in Win XP. Then I couldn't mount it in Leopard, so I decided to fix NTFS under Win; that didn't help at all in terms of Mac OS mounting but the drive worked like a charm in XP. However, when I decided to reinstall everything I saved all my files on this drive, and after I got back my OS (both Mac and Win) the problems got worse: now I couldn't read the files I saved; the previous data on the drive was fine. Strange. So I had to search and try a lot of the :recovery software: out there. Hands down, GetData Back was the best of the crop: easy to use, fast to read my 500 GB partition and fast to extract the files. Now, of course, my files were in great shape, and the HDD problem was minor, so I cannot advise on how good this program performs when dealing with severe data loss, but according to some online reviews, it still prevails from the myriad of recovery solutions.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A great day for Romanian soccer

Well, today was definitely a good day for Romanian soccer. All Romanian teams, except FC Vaslui, entered the groups of Europa League (the new competition that replaces the former UEFA cup). CFR Cluj dominated the Bosnians from Sarajevo 2-1 and qualified without problems; Steaua won also on Irish turf against St. Patrick Saints (2-1) after a categorical win in Bucharest, while Dinamo pulled down the miracle this round, wining 3-0 in Liberec, against the Czech from Slovan, after they've lost with the same score in the first round, due to the fact that their fans entered the field in the 88th minute of the game, protesting against their weak performance.In the end, they managed to win (9-8) on penalty kicks after a dramatic series of shots. FC Vaslui did well against a great European team (AEK Atena) 2-1 in the first round, but lost 0-3 in Greece. Finally, the Romanian champions (Unirea Urziceni, very small team from a 15,000 inhabitants city) got a good draw in the groups of UEFA Champions League with Glasgow Rangers, VfB Stuttgart and FC Sevilla, avoiding some "big names" from Primera Division, Serie A or Premier League. So far, CL has been too big of a hat for almost any Romanian team (CFR Cluj did well last year); hopefully, that will change. All and all, a very good day, indeed.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Starting to hate Macs

Today I finally decided to get rid of my old XP installation under bootcamp and replace it with a fresh, this time NTFS installation. So, I booted in Mac OSx and I used Bootcamp assistant to delete the bootcamp partition, but when I booted back ...surprise-surprise the whole disk was unmountable...and worse of all...un-fixable with the limited disk-utility from the MacOSX DVD.
So..right now I am pretty pissed off about all this; either I don't get something, or Mac kinda suxx. I am tired of reinstalling everything, although in MAcOSX it doesn't take long, it is just annoying not to be able to do much to fix a problem that appeared out of nowhere. And now, I also have to reinstall everything under Windows, which will take, for sure, a lot of time.

Posted of my 10 year old friend, a pimped up IBM T22..still kickin':))

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Best Mac OS X applications

After all the trouble and frustration that I had this summer with my MacBook (namely Mac OSX 10.5) I was terribly good to see it back again, up and running at its fullest, after reinstalling it. Moreover, today I spent the afternoon putting the rest of the pieces together: the necessary applications.

This post is meant to show some of these best (that I know of) programs which really bring the Mac closer to greatness:

Mozilla Firefox
The premier free, open-source browser, considered by many to be the world's best. What sets it apart from Apple's own Safari is the huge universe of plugins and extensions that give greatness to an application.

Is a well known, full-featured, office suite compatible with Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and Excel that is 100% free and open source. Moreover, graduate students might find this especially appealing since allegedly makes an easy and flawless translation into native LaTeX, which usually is required for a thesis. So..get on board.


Why install three separate instant messengers when you can connect to AIM, MSN, Yahoo and GoogleTalk in a single, beautiful app? Plus it's 100% free and open source.

Is a great alternative for Photoshop, absolutely fabulous in terms of Mac integration. It mimicks iMovie’s look with its black translucid theme — like Quicklook in fact — and it’s always cool to see the global design of an application was taken care of. Not only does Pixelmator looks like Mac, but it also tastes like Mac. Integration is brilliant : the photo browser palette offers quick access to iPhoto’s content, iSight is supported, Quick Look plug-in lets you view any of the 100 file formats supported by Pixelmator and you can even edit your images in full screen. That is definitely the way to do Mac Software.(review by Jay Pan) The only drawback is that is not free.

Disk Order 3.0
If you loved Total Commander, as I did, under Windows, you will love this translation of it to Mac OS X. All its great features (copy, new dir, delete, etc, FTP) are presents, and make the transition easy for stubborn fans like myself:)

Q Emulator
Not as polished as Parallels, but at least 100% free and open source. Lets you run Windows on G4 and G5 Macs too (very slow). Personally I don't really like any WM, and I haven't tried the QE, but so far, if I were to choose Vmware would be on top. Obviously, money is always and issue, so try QE and see if it works for you.

Burn Mac
Burns everything you like to DVD, VCD, and SVCD. Take your downloaded videos and burn them to disks you can watch on regular DVD players. Free and open source!

Great little DVD ripper with MPEG-4/H.264 encoding. The simplest way to save DVDs on your computer. Gratis.

"Photoshop" your photos without buying Photoshop. 100% free and open source, based on the open source image editor "Gimp". I haven't tried it yet, but soon enough..


Get music off of your iPod onto any computer.

Write Room
Write without distraction with Writeroom, a word processor that presents you with your screen, your text and nothing else. The idea here is to eliminate computer-based distractions like e-mail, IM and the web, leaving your brain free to focus on writing. Not free.

PC Tools iAntiVirus
This free application provides real-time protection and comprehensive system scanning to ensure your Mac remains safe and virus free.

File Juicer
Doesn't care what type file you drop onto it; it searches the entire file byte by byte. If it finds a JPEG, JP2, PNG, GIF, PDF, BMP, WMF, EMF, PICT, TIFF, Flash, Zip, HTML, WAV, MP3, AVI, MOV, MPG, WMV, MP4, AU, AIFF or text file inside, it can save it to your desktop or to another folder you choose.

Edit PDFs easily with PDFpen! Add text, images and signatures. Make corrections. Fill out PDF forms. Merge, delete and reorder pages.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reinstalling Mac OSX with Bootcamp

To install a fresh copy of Mac OSX isn't at all complicated. Although in my case, having Kernel issues resulted in actually wiping my old system, still, the process is easy and straightforward. And more than that...quite fast. After checking the installation DVD for consistency (which you may skip) for aout 10-15minutes, it takes about 30 more minutes to have the system up (then, it depends how many applications you want to install to top the system,; i have quite a lot). Obviously I have stripped my installation of somehow dubious Chinese, Hindu and other languages, for which I have no use and huge printer drivers ranging from 10 MB to 1.5GB (???) for Cannon or HP. I figured that if it will not work I might as well both/ print in Windows (at least I know the exact deal there). In terms of Bootcamp, no problems. The WIN partition remains intact and Bootcamp sees it right away. I might have to scrap that also, since last year I followed Apple's advice and formatted it to FAT, which is a bad idea for countless reasons. I plan soon to correct this and make it NTFS.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Riding the Amtrak from mid-West to upstate NY

Since I was so late in booking my Chicago trip, the round-trip flight to Albany would have been around $500, way to much for my carved-up ex-graduate student budget in between..everything. Thus, the natural way, in this economy, and in any other one for me at least, was to cut down costs. and I did it by booking a nice couch seat with our friends from Amtrak. Friends indeed. For $80, an Chicago-Albany, NY trip seems like a good deal. Obviously, it takes 16 hours and 40 minutes, but hey, at least you get plenty of money for coffee and snacks, and a power plug for your laptop. Personally, I ended up working for several hours on my stuff in LaTeX and watching two movies. The biggest draw back proved to be obviously the crowd (full car all the way almost) and cold (the thermostat must have been set up on 55 because everybody was shivering underneath blankets and sweatshirts). I had to move a lot cause I didn't bring any winter apparel with me. All in all, I even managed to sleep another 2 hours (5-7 am) which I desperately needed and woke up refreshed and ready to be teleported to Albany. Amazingly enough, there were about 6-7 people in my car that were actually going all the way to Boston (some extra 6 and 1/2 hours from Albany).

Chicago in One Day and a Half

Chicago is a great city! I have to say this from the start, since it really got under my skin. Forget NYC, forget Boston, all these stuffy over-crowded East Coast cities. There is no way to compare the El-train and its "tour de force" around the Downtown loop, where you can almost touch the people working in those offices and almost get the feeling of being on some sort of urban roller-coaster. Secondly, where can you jump from your formal office dress and walk to the beach in 10 minutes? Not that many cities that I know of. Plus, the lively downtown is amazing. The Millenium Park has some interesting features and would make a great location for a picnic, besides the endless summer concerts still happening this month. Architecture: plenty and interesting one. "Chicago school" has certainly given a lot in terms of early and modern skyscraper know-how. The Hancock observatory is extremely nice...just get to the 95th floor and have lunch there...amazing views...and terrible decent prices for such a location and town. A nice surprise indeed. I didn't get the chance to also climb the highest building in North America (Sears Tower). I have heard that although it's overpriced (like all other tall structures around the world) its skydeck is something unique. Worthwhile seeing next time I am there.:)..Other than that? A lot...culture (visited the Chicago public library, it seems the largest in the US, and the U Chicago library and campus), science..many good universities, great food (all types...italian, mexican, etc.--the real stuff is there--) and many night attractions.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Attending the AoM meeting in Chicago 2009

Another big conference that I had the chance to attend: Academy of Management meeting. Despite the last minute decision which yielded significant logistic complication, and even a bit of desperation in terms of finding some decent accommodation in Chicago in less than a week, again, I am perfectly at peace with my decision. Going on your own buck is always tough, and usually these expenses add up close to $ 1,000, but everybody makes the rational choice of attending, hoping that one of the interviews you got there will eventually become a good job that will be amortized in the years to come. For me was more a choice of the present, since I don't usually like much discounting. However, having 10 interviews took care of the incentive part, so the rest was just struggle to catch-up with the other participants that have probably reserved their hotel spots this Spring or earlier. Needless to say, Chicago is not the cheapest city that I have been in.:) However, I managed to find decent accommodation at the International House adjacent to the campus of U Chicago, and while this obviously was better than an hostel (there aren't that many anyways in Chicago) had two major disadvantages: a rather lengthy commute (40-45 minutes) to downtown (Wacker St.) and secondly, dormitory style accommodation (no air-conditioning, noisy, etc.). Both of these significantly contributed to my 3-4 hrs sleep per night during my stay. However, I was very surprised to see how well adrenaline kicked in, and basically saved my morning interviews. Then coffee took over the hostilities and, before you know it, another day passed by.
Don't get me wrong: 90 percent of the interview went really well, the interviewers very great and we had some nice chats both in terms of my research and my teaching capabilities. The atmosphere is also a bit intimidating in the beginning: rather small interview rooms with 15-20 tables crammed in there, usually 2+ interviewers and the candidates, all making a terrible uproar. But once you get in there, everything blurs, it's just you and your audience, and you just go on, confident, charming and in charge.
Great stuff & a nice feeling after all the troubles to get here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Google Joins the OS War with its Chrome

It seems that Google plans to release its brand new OS late 2010. With Windows 7 and the next Mac OSx on the market it's going to be interesting, to say the least. And of course, Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu, getting more and more user friendly and capable of handling various hardware, the circle will be complete. I, for one, will enjoy it: more competition, more power (to the consumer). Cheers!
For a nice review of Chrome OS:

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Sunday in the Catskills

What is better than a hike in the beautiful neighboring Catskills? Well..not many things. Having said that, obviously I couldn't pass that easily such an opportunity when my friend Carlos invited me to come along a group of friends and other RPI students. It was a bit wreckless (I mean the forecast was 80% chances of rain throughout the day) but it proved to be better than expected. Despite our initial target (Slide Mountain) I insisted on seeing first the Kaaterskill Falls, the highest one in NY State (yes, apparently even higher than the famous Niagara Falls).It is a two-drop waterfall located near in the eastern Catskill Mountains of New York, on the north side of Kaaterskill Clove, between the hamlets of Haines Falls and Palenville in Greene County's Town of Hunter. The dual cascades have total 260 feet (79 m) in height. Throughout the hike, was raining like crazy, and I got soaked despite my rainwear and my efforts. However, at that point I was mostly worried about my camera that took a lot of water on the way. Then, after a nice late lunch in a local pizzeria, people quickly shifted from a hike to visiting some local lakes, which proved to be very inspired as well. The North-South Lake is an 1,100-acre (4.4 km²) state campground in the Catskill Forest Preserve near Palenville, New York operated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. A lot of campers and tourists around the lake. We took a tour and a lot of photos until dawn, then headed home to Troy. Great stuff that I miss doing. And uff...summer is almost gone. I should hurry..

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Revisiting Barcelona

I always loved Barcelona. Such a vivid city, rich culture and historical heritage in a perfect blend with a modern society and an exquisite night life. Love the palm trees and the Mediteraneean buildings. The Gothic remains my favorite part of the city and I just love walking there, even during night time, and getting lost in the myriad of small streets and corridors. The port is another thing that I've enjoyed;also, when one cannot take the heat of the city Barcelonetta is also a great option. All the works of Gaudi starting with the amazing Sagrada Familia and ending with Parc Guell are always up for revisiting; actually I revisited a lot of sites, just to get a taste of the recent past (2006) when I was here. And, surprisingly, they remained pretty much unchanged, parks, restaurants and sites. Still beautiful, still exciting.