I'm going to be a father!

You've heard it right.

My wife is expecting a child next September and I just couldn't be happier about this.

We are living in a wonderful place and it would be really hard to find a better place to raise a child so timing is simply perfect.

Would be great to go back to Coimbra for a few months so that our whole family could visit the newborn and help but we decided to stay here and only return to our homeland for christmas vacations.

Was not an easy decision since my family and carla's family really wanted us to be there when this child was born (it is the first baby on our family since a long time) but we live 5 minutes away from an excellent hospital and we already have our house and work rooted here so it be non-sense to move away.

We also fell in love for this land and maybe this way when move away within a year or two we can say to our kid that he was born in such a place as this. I have so many good memories from the Azores that will be hard to ever forget this region.


Also took this opportunity to upload some our baby related photos since February, you find them here: http://nunobrito.eu/e107_plugins/autogallery/autogallery.php?show=2008

Will keep the gallery updated as time goes forward!


-- Nuno Brito

A sunny day in the rocky beach

Just passed a great sunny day on a very rocky beach, it's rare for the weather to appear so bright and sunny that it's a wonderful occasion to give a little jump onto the beach and get some rest.

This time we decided to visit a new beach site. Usually we visit a nearby beach that has a considerably wide sand field where no crowds are visible until the mid-august time but this time we went forth to a whole different location and went to a beach very near the location where Carla studied for year in a place called "Capelas" on the other side of the island (literally).

It didn't had any sand, only rocks and water but we did made the most of this great weather.

Before we visit the beach, we also unwrapped a giant tent that we bought yesterday and assembled it inside our living room - enough to say that this tent is so huge that nearly wasn't enough space to fit our room. We'll be needing this tent for our expected travel next month to meet the other islands along with our family that comes here to visit us.

Was a fun day indeed, made me feel like summer is (finally) arriving after a long winter.


-- Nuno Brito

The Ubuntu experience

Some days ago while visiting Oporto I took the opportunity to also visit one my younger brothers (Edgar Brito) which is studying in a local university there.

Besides dinner, I also had the chance to know a bit more about his life style in this city and one of the most interesting facts was his work methodology that was heavily based on Mac technology. He is a student of civil engineering so most of his work is without doubt related to very windows specific software such as AutoCad and others, so how did he managed to balance his Mac taste with the needed programs traditionally identified with Windows based machines?

Simple - he's using computer emulation through Mac's Boot Camp software.

His machine is a MacBook Pro equipped with 4Gb of RAM and runs several OS's in a breeze using the parallels emulation software.

I have to admit that this work method seemed very efficient as he had complete control over the OS and installed applications. He can also move around his virtual to any other new machines in the future without need to reinstall everything from scratch again. The Mac OS also ensures that he safer than the average windows user when surfing the web so I have to say that this is a very attractive way to work.

Nevertheless, mac's don't really make me happy.

I consider myself a heavy windows user since my work is also based on this platform but the mac way of doing things is in my opinion far more extremist and restrictive than Microsoft ever was.

Time to say that MS as the reputation but it turns out that Apple has the profit of adding all sort of restrictions to their own hardware and software in order to maximize the profit rate for people who want to add more features and hardware.

So, mac's are not really a solution for me but I do miss all the eye-candy sizzling features of the MacOS and wanted to move ahead to a safer platform.

Then I remembered, if I still wanted to try something similar why not Ubuntu?

And moved on to this new OS, or should I say philosophy of life?

A new version of Ubuntu was released recently and this seemed a good chance to try out a fresh and updated version on a fairly decent machine with 1Gb of RAM and a Dual Core AMD CPU (with Nvidia onboard)

For those who don't know what Ubuntu is:
it's an operative system based on linux (debian type to be more specific)

The install of Ubuntu on a Windows machine is quick and painless, all the options are clearly explained and this is pretty fast and straightforward process.

Then I decided to add eye candy and installed the Compiz-Fusion package.

Compiz is an excellent piece of software and turned a perfectly normal gnome desktop into a stunning place filled with motion and intuitive effects.

For those who started with the command line era some years ago and now have the opportunity to see a desktop working in such an amazing way I must that it is simply a dazzling experience.

At the beggining I wished that windows could one day look the same way as I could now see in Ubuntu but then again I simply thought: Why should I wait so long for Windows to (ever) add a similar feature like this?

With Vista, 1Gb of RAM is not enough to keep the Aero look sharp and fluid and behold the way how ubuntu manages to do wonders with such modest work machine.

Happy with my results I looked on the emulation options.

My obvious choice is VirtualBox

This software initially developed by Innotek and recently acquired by SUN microsystems is simply without doubt the best open source emulator currently available for the average home user.

On my opinion, it is a far better option when compared to Vmware or Virtual PC, which may be claimed as better but I think that both of these commercial solutions contain so many usage restrictions that makes me wonder how far are these opinions really accurate.

QEmu is also one my all time favourite emulators due to it's small size but VirtualBox is a champion when it comes to emulate Vista and XP with excellent speed. (an average XP got installed under 14 minutes)

So, installed VirtualBox on my machine - but there was a catch - one of the reasons for using emulation would be support for running USB devices connected to my ubuntu box since most hardware I have only supports to run under Windows.

For this to be possible, I had to install the Personal Edition of VirtualBox, which is free for personal use and enables these features.

Had to use google to find some tutorials scattered around the web and also on the ubuntu forums where other users post details regarding their tests and results.

After installing and configuring VirtualBox - behold a breath taking machine.

Runs smootly, it's safe from viruses and I can run windows specific programs using Virtual Box in seamless mode which make these specific programs like IE or Media Player (for example) work directly on your gnome based desktop.

Ubuntu also takes a lot of the complexity often associated with Linux machines.

It's truly orientated for the users who don't really care so much about using either linux or windows but need good machines to do their daily work tasks.

Look for example on the codecs and drivers questions: most of them are not open source and many linux distributions refuse to add open support for them but ubuntu is not inflexible and will use proprietary drivers (nvidia support for example) whenever there isn't a better open source solutions. Codecs are also installed when you browser a web site that needs them or open a media file without open source codec support.

I like the fact that everything I installed is completely free. No need for licenses or restrictions regarding distribution. I could for example, create my own ubuntu install DVD that contained all my personal modifications and share it with my friends without legal worries - isn't this great?

On my laptop I still use Vista as default OS but my work machine is now running exclusively on this platform which I might say that it makes me by far happier than using a Mac.

Hardware has made such a big evolution that we can now afford to work so intensively on virtual machines and no longer need to make tough choices when it comes to balance work flow with prefered work style

Ubuntu is without doubt an OS focused on the future.


-- Nuno Brito

ninja pendisk 1.6

A new version of ninja pendisk was made available today.

It contains most of the requests and bugfixes that users have requested and I think that it has finally reached a more mature state.

Ninja Pendisk WebSite: http://nunobrito.eu/ninja/

Here is the log of changes:
[added] title to tray icon
[added] timer to result window
[added] ninja.txt option to disable tray menu and avoid closing ninja ([options] --> Evil_Ninja=1)
[added] ninja.txt option to change the timer on the result window ([options] --> Result_Timer=8)
[added] when clicking on option "Add to Shortcut" will create the shortcut by default to All Users
[modified] automatic clean option is now selected by default
[modified] filesize of ninja.exe reduced by 30% to ~700kb
[fixed] Popmenu on system tray is now hiding properly when user clicks outside the popmenu

Just left out two requests:

1 - Use a compressed format (7z) when downloading a new updated version from the web to save bandwidth.

2 - Encrypt or add a password to allow changing configuration. (using ninja.txt at this moment)

And here are the reasons why they weren't included:

1 - Would be excellent to use compression but would also require to have 7z.exe or 7z.dll on the machine, maybe using cab compression this could help but the compression ratio is not so good. To make the exe slimmer I've used UPX to compress from 1200kb to ~700Kb

2 - Could be done. I could encrypt a second file called option.txt and ask for a password to unlock it, but I don't know how many people would really use this feature. If more requests are made then it will surely be included.


I've also been busy with a few other projects so I'm trying my best to keep ninja as updated as possible, thank you for all the feedback provided so far. I'm really happy to see this tool is really helping others.


Oil is driving people crazy?

Today GALP (the portuguese oil company) announced another raise on the oil prices for gasoline and diesel fuel.

The public opinion is quite unhappy with this decision - last week we have witnessed the lower rank of GALP workers going to the public and demanding answers that explained the reason why the fuel prices have been raised an average of +30% while the actual crude prices have only raised ~15%

I guess the reasons for this are painfully obvious - we are supporting a company that looks at no ethic rules to grow and uses the need for energy and transportation to leverage all the investment done in the oil fields of Angola and Mozambique along with super-sized grow of their range of oil distribution posts.

We should be proud of helping a company that has grown so much more than anyone would ever had predicted two years ago when it first debuted in the PSI 20 stock market.

Now we face a serious problem - the OPEP head comes to the public saying that speculators are crazy and responsible for creating this confusion with oil rises and we even reach to a state where public manifestations demand the government to take action and force GALP to reduce oil prices.

Since government earns ~60% of the price that costs each liter of fuel in taxes why would they be interested in reducing this precious source for income in the first place?

Portuguese people already pay one the highest prices for fuel in europe for nearly a decade without serious complaints. Guess we got used to this way of life and simply ignore that even our spanish neighbors pay substantially less taxes.

Saturday, was the first day in nearly 30 years of active democracy that we see people proclaiming in loud voice a revolution of mentality and try to break the rules to force oil prices go down.

How have we reached to this point?

I'm not recognizing this country as the same quiet place where my childhood was spent.

Speculators do what they have learn to do best, take advantage of lower stock prices due to this "subprime" ghost and rogue trader that brought the market down for a few days in late February and will likely keep the stocks on their hand until a substantial amount of profit can be made within the next months in late November when the fuel demands get astronomically high.

I had recently bought stocks from GALP and around 50% of my wallet is filled with them because of the high rises that are predicted for the next months but I'm starting to feel very unhappy about the company and I have a serious feeling that this has the potential to end very badly for everyone involved unless some urgent measures are adopted soon.

It's not just a feeling - tension is indeed building up between the company's board of administration, the government and the population (who desperately need lower oil prices for their basic needs of transportation).

Over the next week will surely try to get rid of these stocks and evaluate the next steps or companies to follow, energy related stocks are simply to unstable and speculation levels are indeed crazy - one of these days they might as well crumble and bankrupt the life earnings of those who see GALP as a life investment.

Time to take a break, a deep breath and interpret the steps to the future, there are still many months until this year is finished and I think that the next winter won't bring any better news, so beware, take it easy and don't invest all your money at the same time.

If big companies like Google and Chevron are investing significant amounts of money on alternative energies to be explored inside the US without even resorting to bio-fuel (solar termal energy), then I would suspect that they have good reasons to do so and wouldn't be surprised to see them expecting a full return of investment in far less than the expected 12 years.

Go GALP go..

At a stage where we see the international stock markets suffering from the hazard of global scale recession due to the high risk credits made by banks over the years and the rise of oil prices to unbelievable leves there are still plenty of opportunities out there to seize and make some extra money.

Take as example GALP, precisely a year ago we would see this portuguese company scoring an average of 9,77 euros per share and in a couple months we see doubling it's own value to around 19 euros as it reached three months ago.

Simply outstanding to see the power that finding oil fields in these days bring to any company listed on the stock market.

One of the big oil partners for the exploration of the oil fields recently discovered at the coast of Brazil is PetroBras and surprise, surprise - this company has just claimed the third position as the world's most valuable company at this time, overthrowning a giant such as Microsoft.

The time for alternative energy is here. With some luck the oil prices will keep rising and motivating governments to quit their lobbies based on oil and start investing some time and money to bring some real world applications of non-polluent alternatives. The voice of the people is the engine that will finally bring us a clean and energy-wise method for locomotion.

While this doesn't happen for the next months (years), better enjoy the high ride with oil price flutuations. Just early today I saw GALP rising around 5% and placing itself as the most valuable company for the portuguese PSI market.

In a time that all the other stock companies see their prices falling to the ground, it's a frenzy of people buying oil shares for the sake of profit.

How long will it last this time?

Maybe not long..

-- Nuno Brito

End of the MSE dream

Received a phone call today announcing that I hadn't been selected for the MSE course that would be given in DEI/Coimbra and Carnegie Mellon.

Was a very big disappointment for me as it was one of my most important life goals for the past two years that I had set on my mind as a goal along side with the development of WinBuilder.

Really thought that my initial paper presentation had went good enough but I guess that the phone interview that was done last month just didn't showcased the visual image that I wanted to transmit to the interviewer along with some other factors that weren't mentioned which eventually led to this negative result.

I'm really sad about this decision - it implied a lot of effort, commitment and changes on my life to succeed on this tough goal but I was also so determined to face this challenge that I really thought that no obstacle was big enough to stop me from this achieving this goal.

Guess they really didn't got to know my work well enough as I hoped and tried, still consider that it's their loss as I would surely be a very dedicated MSE student but I can't help thinking that this will nevertheless bring a huge impact and the end of chapter on my life.

It's time to move forward.

With or without MSE I will continue my journey to research more and more about software "magic"and secrets until I'm happy with what I've learned.

Software engineering is the one thing I really expect to devote my professional life and talent.

Good luck for the other MSE candidates.

For more informations about MSE, the DEI website can be found here: http://mse.dei.uc.pt


Raw Registry Hives Magic

This week was also important because I finally understand how to handle registry hives.

It was a goal I had set my mind to accomplish a year ago.

Other Raw registry editors available out there were not "true" registry editors - they would indeed allow you to browse a hive structure but your actions would be very limited since it would only be possible to change the value of a given key with another value of similar size (DWORD/QWORD numbers for example) and this happened because they'd just hex edit the hive file but are unable of doing anything else or the registry hive becomes corrupted. Adding/removing/renaming keys or importing new data was a mission considered "impossible".

There were several difficulties that kept me away from succeeding on this task. Official documentation explaining how registry hives were structured was nearly zero and the few official sources were so vague and only covered a few of the mechanics as viewed from the perspective of an end user and not meant for someone who desired to understand how they were assembled.

The other sources of information that seemed somewhat focused on the information that I required were very disappointing, most of their assumptions were erroneous and lead me several times to dead-ends were things just didn't seem (or sounded) logical or efficient.

My own codings were extremely inefficient - my primary concern was getting to the part were data was displayed all nice and tidy and completely avoided any interest in fully understanding how the other registry structures would fit this puzzle.

So a year ago - I presented a small raw registry reader and quit from this idea.


However, for my luck I stumbled on some non-official documents from one the original registry developers that explained how the registry hive concept worked and this gave me some hope to understand the magic behind the registry.

And shortly after - I read a very interesting article that explained how delphi could be used to interpret binary structures much alike C does and this was the breaking point to start a new project from scratch.

This time no stone was left untouched and I tried as much as possible to fully understand all possible components about the registry hive structure and document my own findings (and corrections to the documentation sources that I found from the internet). Starting from the base all the way up the key data structure was possible to disassemble piece by piece how the hives were composed and learn how to properly write back the needed data and manage the space that is created inside each bin.

The code produced by Alex Ionescu for ReactOS was also a very good guide to learn more about the registry structure in C format but even Alex left out some details that were not accurate enough to fully debug hives but were still a great help for learning more about the "official" MS name designations for each cell component. The missing concepts were either explained by the non-official MS white papers and discovered using trial & error for weeks (literally).

Once we understand all pieces of this giant and magic puzzle it literally becomes a piece of pie to introduce and implement the registry write portion.

The registry is no more of a mistery to me and I feel quite happy and confident to use and manipulate registry hives as needed.

This software fully respects MS intelectual property and shares no code from any other publicly available development so it's safe to be used without risk of legal actions.

From my perspective, this is the best possible solution for overcoming the limitations imposed by any Vista UAC or anything else that appear in the future and an excellent addon feature for winbuilder to continue building boot disks without need to bother about having administrative permissions.

Guess it's Microsoft loss as their registry structure is suddenly not as safe as before

but.. wait a minute - wasn't UAC meant to provide more security in the first place?

If we can now write to registry hives without need for Win32 Registry API or constraints by API then where are the security guards now?

You find the Raw Registry Editor on this link: http://reboot.pro/files/file/95-rawreg/


SICCE graduation ceremony

Just finished up the graduation ceremony for the SICCE week that I mentioned on my previous post.

I wasn't disappointed about the system because I was already well aware of the mechanical software limitations but was nevertheless a very productive week in terms of a learning experience.

Judging by my notion of what I already knew about SICCE and what I have effectively learned as new knowledge I would say that it was a significant leap in terms of learning my way around the potentiality of this software package and start using it in future.

Of course that one needs to close the eyes and ignore a lot of user interface issues that make the overall experience a bit less interesting as a good solution but I will nevertheless do my best and try to correctly implement it on my workplace.

I'm also moving away from Oporto by train today (even before lunch) to Coimbra to visit my mother and family that live over there.

Staying in Oporto was a very good experience was well - took the opportunity to visit the historical monuments and places, my younger brother Edgar (which is studying in a University there) was an excellent tourist guide and showcased me some the bright moments in the history of this city.

My other fellow colleagues in this course also took me to visit a lot of famous gastronomical iguaries that can only be found on this region - really fun week.


A week in Main land

I'm going back to main land for a week.

Was invited to attend a class about SICCE (Sistema de Informação Comando e Controlo do Exército) - a command and control system protocol for managing militarized forces in the field.

You can imagine it like a sort of StarCraft where the player (in this case a general or equivalent) will have direct control over the ground forces and decide where they should go and which missions to assign them.

This system began being developed in early 1996, long before any such things like google earth, StarCraft/Warcraft were popularized.

It will allow you to draw a map with exact geographical details in 3D (mountains, rivers, remarkable buildings, etc) and add our ground forces using standard NATO references or our custom created ones (medical emergency teams, rescue teams, etc). The whole idea is having an organization that allows everyone to know exactly what everyone else is doing.

This is something that would be very welcome in the Azores since we do have good reasons to put all this into real practise - the volcano every now and then gets active and in case of calamity we really need to be as organized as possible since it gives very little time to react with efficiency.

Althought I consider the concept to be brilliant in terms of simplicity - the overall implemented system is very outdated in my opinion and the UI has grown so much in terms of complexity that people need to travel to mainland to understand how to take advantage of it. (my case for example)

If we are going to have such a system as default - why not making it user friendly like the Americans do? I see so often the jokes about the US army that likes to put pictures explaining how to do the simplest actions when it comes to use something - but in true honesty I feel confident enought to pick on their equipment and looking at the pictures learn in 5 minutes how to use it by myself, rather than having to go throught a month worth of lessons to learn how to operate a complex portuguese equipment.

My comparation to StarCraft and GoogleEarth were not casual - we do need an automated system that could be understood and controlled by anyone and if you look closely on these two programs one might quickly notice how the key idea is that drives them popular is User Interface simplicity.

Will be off during next week to learn how to use SICCE but will be looking forward for the next version...


-- Nuno Brito

Goodbye tooth

Just said goodbye to a very annoying tooth that was bothering me since I was 12 years old. It lasted for so long that I gained the habit of eating only with the right side of my mouth because this bad tooth wouldn't allow to use the left one.

I consider myself in having good habits regarding daily teeth brush and such but I'm not so happy in visiting the dentist - don't know the reason why - but I just feel a bit unconfortable when we're bound to visit them to fix something.

The tooth extraction went fine - was needed an impressive ammount of strength to pull it out since the rotten tooth was putting up a good fight but in the end it was sucessfully removed.

The good doctor did used local anesthesy and the extraction was nearly painless, kind of fun thinking that I avoided this operation for so many years and this nasty tooth was pulled in less than 10 minutes. Only proves that one should face it's fears as soon as possible to overcome difficulties.

All done for now, still one or two weeks until all woums are healed, I kept this tooth for memory sake (had to hide it from my wife as she wanted to put it in the garbage bin) and I'm really happy for closing this chapter in my life.


-- Nuno Brito

MSE phone interview

Last 2nd of May I was interviewed over the phone for the enrolling process on the european MSE.

It was supposed to be a live person interview in Coimbra but due to the fact of living a bit far, I've been granted with the opportunity of doing the interview over the phone and save me the costs of an airplane trip.

Been a bit nervous about this interview over the last days - mostly because it was the first time I even had to prepare for a phone interview and I wanted to make a good impression so I really gave a lot of attention to all details and tried to prepare as best as possible with a few weeks in advance.

Fun enough that the most remarkable obstacle was speaking in fluent english during the interview.

I had the impression to be talking too quickly to the questions rather than taking the time and pause to reply slowly. Also noticed that my latin accent made words a bit more fuzzy to understand over the phone. Guess that in a live/web meeting we can always use more eye contact and body language to interpret the reactions from the other side and also express our point of views but over the phone I found this very difficult to achieve or even imagine.

The questions were done in a very generic way regarding software development and I tried to keep the answers short and straight to the point even thought some of them would make enough topics to write for pages and pages of my (personal) opinion about the subject.


The interview is done - results for the admission to MSE will be available next 16th of May and I'm counting each day until they get published online..

-- Nuno Brito

My wife is going back to school

I'm really happy for her.

The admission results just came back and she passed with good grades on the Portuguese exam that allowed her admission at the Open University (Universidade Aberta) in the Portuguese Language studies degree.

My wife had stopped studying ever since we came to live in the Azores 4 years ago and now I'm really happy to see her interest in going further with her education skills.

This should also help to find better jobs in the future and finally allow her to start a carreer (crossing my fingers here) - because I know how much this would leave her happy to have finantial independence and a sense of professional satisfaction.

Her previous jobs showed how difficult it would be to maintain a reasonable salary without so many compromises in terms of time and effort due to the lack of these much needed education levels. I'm not saying this because it is my wife - but I really think she deserves so much better and I'll really be happy to see her struggling to get her life goals accomplished one day.

Now.. time to study! :)

-- Nuno Brito

Good bye to nLite

From this day forward, boot-land.net will be removing hosting support for nLite and vLite altogether.

Enough is enough and I'm simply tired of nuhi.

He never contributed with anything good for our community like all the other members that enjoy the same hosting and uses a lot of daily bandwidth.

We have been providing hosting to all files that are downloaded from his sites but his work is infringing the EULA from Microsoft where it states that MS files can't be included on third party distributions without express consent.

If you look closely on the vLite package you'll notice that it contains the WIM file driver files from the MS WAIK (or some other MS source I suppose) and this is something that has been bothering me for ages because the whole hosting was done inside boot-land.

My fault for letting this happen for so long, but not anymore.

Also found nuhi to be a very unpleasant person and therefore I have no sympathy for someone who used so many resources from our server for free and doesn't even mention our site on his links page that he considers to have "too much competition" according to his own words.

One note for the nlite developer:
I don't see the development that is done on this boot disk field as a competition where some finish first and others end as last but when I play, my work is done following the rules instead of using shortcuts like the WIM file drivers.

Shame on you..

-- Nuno Brito