An idea for a cinema company

I doubt any cinemas are going to implement this, because like airlines and banks, they seem to be very bad at making software. Nothing surprising there.

A few months ago I was searching for a room in London. There are about 4 big sites to do that, so I posted ads on all of them, and searched on all of them. Only one provided a web application that allowed me to see whether I contacted someone already or whether I marked a flat as not-suitable. It made searching so much easier that soon I was using that and only that site. The ads weren’t better per se, but the software was.

I like going to the movies with friends but I dread having to organize it. It’s such a pain because you have to balance the available time of each people, the timetable of the cinema, the shows in which there are still good seats, the fact that the seats might be going unavailable, and handling the money (I tend to pick the cool but expensive theaters).

If I was in charge of a cinema, I would make a built-in Doodle. Doodle is an awesome application that helps you organize an event. You select all the desirable dates and times, invite the people, and they respond yes or no to each slot. At the end you pick one and go for it. I thought of setting up a Doodle to organize going to see The Dark Knight, but I ended just picking a date and time that was convenient for me and inviting people. It didn’t work.

The built-in Doodle could work like this:

  1. I go to the cinemas website.
  2. I buy my ticket.
  3. I pick all the shows I can go to.
  4. Set a deadline (maybe, optional).
  5. I send the invite to all the people that might want to join me.

Notice that I paid for my ticket before picking the date and time. I’m not sure whether that’s a good idea, I would be okay with that but maybe not everybody. What do you think?

Then each person that I invited goes to the web site and:

  1. Look at all the dates and times I and others picked.
  2. Buy their ticket or tickets.
  3. Pick the dates and times they can.

Once everybody is in or I’m done waiting, I pick a day and time and I get all the seats assigned together in one action (even though the action of committing to the movie was individual and asynchronous). For those that didn’t get a ticket or those that changed their mind, they get their money back and/or the option to arrange the same movie, another day, with some of the same group and/or adding other people to it.

For the cinema it’s a revenue booster. It makes it easier for people to commit to going to the cinema. And even people than don’t manage to go one day are compeled to go another because they already paid.

Build it with nice Facebook and Twitter integration and that’s it, you’ll be the most popular cinema in town.

Remove your eyes before coming in

I took my parents on a virtual tour of London. It’s the second time I do it and I still can’t believe this actually works. We live in the future.

This is how I do it: using my phone, an HTC Desire, I call my parents via Skype and I enable video. This is over 3G, while walking the streets of London. I even boarded a bus and showed them how it works. It’s a lot of fun.

After showing them the Covent Garden market, I went into the second biggest Apple store and then it happened. A guard approached me and told me not to record video in the store, to what I replied that I wasn’t recording video. I told him I was Skyping. He looked at the phone and said “that’s video” to what I replied: “well, Skype can do video”. “But are you recording?” he kept asking. No, I’m not. I unplugged the headphones so he could say “Hi” to my parents. The security guard smiled and told me to go on.

First issue: he didn’t ask me whether my parents were recording or not and even I couldn’t know for sure. Now I’m wondering why is it wrong to record video but not to show a live stream to other people. I think the answer is rather simple: nobody thought of a live stream yet. The same way taking video recordings wasn’t forbidden anywhere at some point, live streaming is not forbidden yet.

I wish that instead of awkwardly holding my cellphone, I could be using a camera mounted on my head. There’s nothing new about that concept, but with products like Google Glass we might live in a world where almost everybody have an internet-connected, interactive, head-mounted camera quite soon. Are they going to ask everybody to remove their Google Glasses just in case they are recording or streaming?

What happens when something like the Google Glasses are embedded into my own glasses, the ones that correct my vision. Are they going to ask me to remove those? What happens when it is embedded directly into my eye. Are they going to ask me to remove my eyes too? Maybe they could say it’s my fault and treat me like people with full body tattoos. What if the interactive internet-connected device is the actual eyes that allow a blind person to see? Are they going to discriminate them too? Because that day is coming and the world is going to change.

Another Earth, my review

I recently watched the movie Another Earth. The movie is really depressing, but aside from that it’s also bad. I should have stopped watching when the directory of SETI was trying to contact the other earth and said:

Let’s try another channel

Radios don’t have channels, unless the radios you know are the consumer devices that you can buy at your local convenience store.

What really irked me though, is the letter the protagonist writes. She writes that when people sailed to the new world, it wasn’t aristocrats who did it, but convicts and other rejects. So far so good. Then she says that they sailed thinking the Earth was flat. Wrong! Maybe she was taught the same lies I was told in elementary school, but since she got into MIT and was interested into science and specifically into astronomy, I would have expected her to have the facts right. I mean, didn’t she watch Cosmos?

Around 200BC, a guy named Eratosthenes, not only knew or figured out the Earth was round; he actually measured it. Interestingly we know the number of said measure, but not which units he used. He might have been off by as much as 16% or as little as 2%. I’m impressed either way. Not done with that, he then measured the tilt of the axis and invented the word geography. Actually, he invented geography itself.

Fast forward to the late XV century. What’s going on? All educated people, all people of science, actually know that the earth is round. Not only that, they actually knew it was approximately 40000km in circumference. Granted, education wasn’t that great for the common folk during the dark ages; but Christopher Columbus was no common folk.

So, what did this guy Columbus do? He calculated the circumference of the Earth again, using his own method, and came up with this number: 10000km. The earth is 300% bigger than he calculated. He should have shut up and study Eratosthenes, but we know he didn’t. Instead, he decided he was going to travel around the world to reach India. A feat that was possible in the small Earth that was inside his head, but impossible in the real one. He tried to secure financing from several people who rightly so told him “Are you fucking stupid or what?”

Eventually, Columbus managed to convince the Queen of Spain… I have two hypotheses… she was either very naive or she was sick and tired of this guy and it was actually cheaper to send him off to die at sea. Being fair, governments should make risky investments, otherwise, we wouldn’t have as much science and technology as we do today. Columbus set sail in an impossible voyage, one that should have killed him and all his crew and the only reason why this didn’t happen is because there was a continent in the middle. Even then, they barely made it. That’s not all, Columbus actually didn’t realize he found a new continent. He thought he was in India.

Long story short: Columbus was an idiot, who got lucky, but still an idiot. We can also argue about his morals, but that’s another story. The discovery of the new world is not a grandiose epic story to tell our children. If you want a story, tell them about Eratosthenes and how he measures the Earth after receiving a letter with a puzzling comment.

Yuri Gagarin did not spend 25 days in there

Back to Another Earth… our evidently clueless protagonist then goes on to describe a little incident that happened during the first manned flight to leave the Earth. She then says

and he had 25 days to go aboard the ship in space

or something like that. 25 days? do they have any freaking idea how hard it is to stay in space for 25 days? The Vostok 3KA made an amazingly long first trip: 108 minutes. Yes, that was an amazingly long trip. Let’s put it in context: America was doing its best to beat the Soviets after the Sputnik crossed the skies broadcasting a repetitive beeping. The United States’ Mercury program managed to put someone in space for a grand total of 15 minutes. Sending people up there is hard and the movie tell us the first cosmonaut stayed up there for 36000 minutes.

The disregard for the history of science and technology that this movie shows is shameful.

Swimming!

14 years ago, when I was a teenager, during one summer I used to go to a local club in Buenos Aires called Pinoccio and swim on the pool. After a swimming session I would sit on a bench and read a book my parents got me for Christmas. I asked for a book about Java, but I got one about HTML and in hindsight, it was good. My parents were making good decisions for me, like when they got me a CZ Spectrum instead of a Commodore 64.

I spent more time sitting on that bench than in the swimming pool. One day though, my grandmother asked me something like “How many lengths are you going to do today? a hundred?”. I think I was doing about twenty a session. That day I did my twenty and kept on going and kept on going and I didn’t stop until I broke into the three figures. It took me ages, but I did it.

A little girl actually asked me “Aren’t you tired?”. Yes! No! I don’t know actually. I still feel the same way. When I run, I reach a point where I collapse, I can’t run anymore. But with swimming it’s not the same. I feel like I can go on and on and on… but since that day, 14 years ago, I never managed to push myself to swim 2.5km in one session. When I started swimming in 2010, I never managed to go beyond 1km.

On March this year I started swimming again. This time I was taking it much more seriously. I’m swimming every day I can (it’s generally about 4 or 5 days a week). After ramping up I reached the comfortable point of 1km a day. But on the weekends… on the weekends I try to do more. For years I felt that I wasn’t as good as I used to be. I wasn’t the guy that could swim 2.5km anymore. I was less.

Last Saturday I broke my year personal best and swam 2.2km. I was destroyed. I wasn’t sure if on Sunday I could even do my daily 1km, but I did it. And I kept on going… wouldn’t it be awesome if I manage to do 2.2km again? Generally Saturday is the day I do the most and on Sunday I go slower because I’m so tired. Doing on Sunday as much as on Saturday would have felt awesome. So I kept on going until I reached 2.2km.

Only a little bit more and I would have a new personal best this year. I did 10 more lengths to reach 2.4km… oh… I’m so close. Don’t stop me now! 10 more lengths and I’m now on 2.6km. I stopped. Did that happened? Did I just broke my own record? That one that was hovering above me remind me I’m not as good as I used to? Did I just break it? I did.

Last year I broke my running record, the one I had since the day I was practicing Taekwon-do. This year I broke my weight record (my lowest adult weight ever). And now I broke my swimming record. Right now, at this very moment, I’m the best I ever were. And I don’t intend on stopping anytime soon.

Update 2012-05-27: I made a new personal best, 3km:

I’m really proud… and tried… I’m going to lay down over there… wake me up… tomorrow…

My sneeze

Last friday I had my last drawing lesson. It was at the national gallery. The teacher showed us around, showed us good and bad paintings and made us draw some things. I never been to the national gallery before, so it was quite an experience.

I didn’t know that for this last lesson he was merging the drawing group, with the painting group. That’s when I learned I’m famous through my art. One of them said to me “So, you are the one that draw the sneeze?” Well… we all draw a sneeze because that’s what the teacher asked us, but I was the only one of two or maybe three, that didn’t go for abstract.

I generally don’t like abstract art, I don’t like producing it and I don’t like watching it. I decided to try to be symbolic about it and I draw this:

 

I’m not proud of the quality or technique of that drawing, but I’m proud of the idea. At least one person said he liked it during the lesson and a couple lessons later it was mentioned again and, as I said, in the last lesson people from other groups mentioned.

In my second attempt I tried to convey the release after the sneeze, but I didn’t like the result. Nevertheless here it is, the before and after of an explosive sneeze:

If I was running GitHub

If I was in charge of GitHub, I would build a team of .NET Programmers and have them built an awesome UI for Git on Windows, bundle it with Git itself as well as other usually needed programs like an SSH client and release it for free. Well, as open source of course.

The reason for that is that almost everybody that I know that’s using Git is also using GitHub and the number one objection I get to Git is Windows support. I myself chosen Mercurial once before just to be able to cooperate with my Windows-using friends. I think it’s time someone fixes that and I think GitHub has the most to win.

I know Git can be installed on Windows and that it works. But you need more than that. You need on amazing user experience and Git on Windows doesn’t provide it.

There are several reasons for that. Running Git in Windows is not as nice as Linux or Mac OS X, period. Even if the support was realyl good, the command line itself in Windows is not on par with Bash… even when you run Bash itself on Windows (which the last time I checked, you had to do to run Git).

Most important than that is that the Windows crowd are just used to UIs, so the most amazing command line tool won’t stand a chance against the crappiest UI. Windows users just search for another tool when no UI is provided. Even myself when using Windows do that. It’s another world with another dynamic and you have to play by their rules to win their game. And I have to admit, if I had to stop using MacOSX I would miss my favorite Git UI a lot, GitX (L).

J. Pablo Fernández

“J. Pablo Fernández” is not my name, my name is J. Pablo Fernández, but I see the former quite often. For example, as a donor for the L5 series:

That happens when someone takes the UTF-8 encoded version of my name and re-interprets it as Latin-1 or ASCII. Something that sadly happens very often. Programmers of the world, I know thinking about character sets and encodings make your brain hurt and that’s why you pick UTF-8 and forget about it. But otherwise, if you are handling data, you are using a character set and an encoding. You have to know and understand that. A great place to start is Joel Spolsky’s The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Absolutely, Positively Must Know About Unicode and Character Sets (No Excuses!).

Oh… the first episode of L5 was awesome, go and grab it. I can’t wait for the next one.