Sunday, March 20, 2011

Vibram Five Fingers KSO



The Vibram Five Fingers are some of the coolest new running shoes out there.  It's about as close to running barefoot as you can get without actually going barefoot.  The idea is that, since there is no cushion underneath, you will instinctively learn to land on the ball of your foot or your entire foot instead of the heel.  And, if you don't, you'll be in serious pain :-)

A lot of top African runners started running barefoot (some almost their entire lives) and, if you think about it, there were no real "running" shoes until Nike came out with them during the 70's jogging craze.  Before that, people either ran in sneakers or barefoot.

Well, this past Christmas, Santa (a.k.a. my wife) left me a pair of Vibram Five Fingers KSO under the Christmas  tree :)  Of course, I couldn't wait to try them on.

Putting them on can be a little challenging.  The trick is to focus on sliding your big toe to the inside of your foot so that it slides into the toe slot.  Once you do that, the rest of the toes seem to fall in line.  Then, grab the rear loop and pull towards your heel and slide the back of the foot in.  The velcro strap has to be in front of the foot (just leave it open).  Otherwise, you can't slide your foot in.

Once you have them on, it's showtime.  Try walking around the house in them and try in the lawn.  You can almost feel every single rock or crevice of the yard underneath your feet.  Pretty cool stuff.

I'm still learning to run in them. I'm up to about 1.3 miles every couple of days but they really make running a different experience than before.  You feel like your are "closer" to the ground and more into the running.  It's hard to explain.  You just have to try them out.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Beware of the Japanese radioactive fallout maps floating around... it's just a hoax

Earlier today I was surfing the web using my (I mean my kids') Wii. As I am fond to do once in a while, I check out Matt's Drudge Report to see what he finds interesting.

Obviously the past two days have been non-stop with the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster.   To top it off, the Fukushima Daiichi plant partial meltdown and subsequent explosion makes the disaster and its effects much more of a global interest.

As I sat there clicking on Drudge's links, I came across what seemed to be a really far out image to a website named japan.org showing that the western U.S. would be in the path of the fallout from the radiation releases. I've reproduced it here just to show the overview since I won't give them the benefit of a link to their site.


I've seen at least two versions of the image.  There is one showing the map alone giving a huge 3000 Rads maximum (not shown) and the one above showing more "believable" lower values with both a map of the northern pacific ocean, a map of Japan's nuclear power plants and what looks to be a possible NOAA image however mis-characterized as a "Pacific Deadzone"...

Ohhh... pleeeeezzz!

Karthik Sridhar has a good review of the hoax.

So, if you come across this, please take a chill pill.  It's a lousy piece of misinformation.

Drudge shouldn't have linked to it in the first place and, to his credit, in the time it took me to write this blog entry, he did remove it.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Data corruption problems with numerous USB to IDE/SATA adapters


I recently went to my local Microcenter to purchase an USB to IDE/eSATA adapter so I can backup some large file installs before doing a brand new full install on my new Dell 14z laptop (which is kick-butt).

I ended up purchasing the bottom of the line Inland Pro IDE/SATA/USB harddrive adapter for 14.99. According to the Microcenter salesperson, they hadn't had any returns on it. I figured that it was so cheap, how could I lose?

It turns out plenty.

I had read some reviews on Newegg.com on the Rosewill RCW-608 USB to IDE/eSATA adapter and how data was being on very large files (>2GB). The author suggested doing an MD5 test on very large files to confirm that the data was indeed being corrupted.

Out of curiosity I did exactly what the author of the review suggested by copying a very large ISO file I had (7 GB) to the old Barracuda drive now available via the USB port. To my surprise, the calculated MD5 on the file in my local hard drive and the old Barracuda were showing different MD5s even though the file sizes were exactly the same. How could it be?

It turns out that the data corruption problem is prevalent across all cheap USB to IDE adapters that are built around the JMicron JM20337. A blog post by someone employed by Samsung ran across the same problem but, I guess being an engineer, they actually opened the adapter and started sniffing for trouble. According to the blog, the data corruption problem is due to a resistor being placed in the reference design provided by JMicron to their OEMs.


In most (if not all) these adapters, the fix involves removing a surface mounted resistor that is named R15 that is marked "472". In the case of the Inland Pro IDE/SATA/USB harddrive adapter, it did not have an R15 but instead had an R13 that looked like it was in the same place as the other blog posts.

With a soldering iron and a little patience, I removed the surface-mounted resistor and I'm happy to report that from all my tests, it looks like this fix has solved the problem of corrupted data on IDE drives.

Note that removing this resistor has some type of effect on SATA drives with respect to detection of disconnection but in my case I didn't care since I was just trying to re-use an old IDE drive. As with any hardware mod, your mileage may vary and this absolutely destroys your warranty on the device.

I thought this might be helpful.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Prosper.com is open again!

Prosper.com is finally open again for lending.  Prosper.com is a peer-to-peer lending platform where lenders compete to lend money to borrowers based on their credit rating.  Before Sept. 2008, prosper.com was open to lenders in most all 50 states. However, since their reappearance, they will allow only lenders from California.  Somehow, California's Dept. of Corporations is letting Prosper.com have lenders in California. Apparently, other states are too skittish at the moment.

I've been lending in Prosper.com since the summer of 2007. Yes, I along with just about everyone in Prosper.com have lost money and I have not been happy with Prosper's lack of vigor in chasing after bad loans.  

However, I get what I deserved. A third of my portfolio was 'D'-graded loans of which a big chunk of those have gone bad. The better graded loans definitely performed better. Even after all my losses, my current expected portfolio return is 2% which is not bad given the economic conditions we are under.

Even given my not-so-great experience as a lender in Prosper.com, I'm still excited by its prospects. Prosper.com is now re-opening with a whole new set of features such as limiting borrowers in their "peer-to-peer" lending marketplace to only those that have a credit rating of 660 and above. This is similar to what LendingClub.com does since they limit their lending to only the best prospects.

However, that's not what really excites me about Prosper.com.  It is their "Open Market" initiative that really makes them interesting.  In it, I can buy loans that were created by financial institutions. Unlike financial instruments such as credit-default-obligations which created very opaque financial structures, I have a lot of the same information about the loan itself that I had on the "peer-to-peer" side.  What you don't get on the "Open Market" side is the description provided by the borrower and any questions and answers they may have answered which I found to be very helpful.  That missing piece of information is likely not as useful since the financial institution probably asked similar questions themselves.

Another very interesting aspect of the re-launch is the upcoming existing loans trading platform. This allows me to either sell my loans at a discount to other lenders so I can effectively "cash-out" or I can buy already-seasoned loans from other lenders (i.e. originators) and just take their position in the loan.

Now, if they only would start allowing lenders in Kansas to start lending again...
invest, investor, investing, lending

Monday, November 26, 2007

GUIs - Take Two

Today I came across a very interesting article posted by Joel Spolsky in his blog. Joel has one of my favorite blog sites on the Internet that deal with the business of software development (JoelOnSoftware.com).

In this latest article (maybe not... I see he's got a later one), he talks about how the next version of graphical user interfaces (GUIs) are going to come from the optimization/compilation of the Javascript language. Based on previous history, he makes a very good argument that the company that has the most developers will end up owning the user interface space. That's exactly what happened to Windows.

He eludes that Microsoft is working on a strategy that will bring it back into the center of the GUI universe through a combination of compiled JavaScript support at the browser and a sophisticated "Ajaxy library that includes all kinds of clever interop features". Could this be Microsoft's Silverlight? I thought that was supposed to be the Flash killer...

Joel runs a company that makes money selling AJAX-based development tools. On top of that, Joel is an ex-Microsoftie so he probably has some type of inside knowledge on this stuff (probably even well-placed sources). I think he may be hearing some grumblings.

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Why Your Company Needs Product Management

If you are in the software development business, Pragmatic Marketing has written an excellent article on Product Management.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ten trends to watch in 2006

I subscribe to McKinsey's Quarterly Online. It's a pretty interesting journal that covers some interesting business topics. Here's a interesting article from McKinsey's Quarterly that summarizes what they think are the top macroeconomic, environmental, social issues, and business and industry developments for the next 20 years or so.