Living in Coimbra

For the first time in a decade I can say that I've moved back to my homeland.

I'm living back at Coimbra, place where I've spent most of my youth days.

This was at the time a city with a superb quality of life, still is today.

At the first days it was all a bit too confusing, many small things changed, family got older, shops closed, new buildings rised and all the usual things you'd expect to change over the years.

I've spent my free time over the last days to go outside and drink coffee at my favorite places. First debuted the "Cartola", placed at the "Praça da República". A somewhat peaceful place during the morning where a person can drink the coffee while studying.

Yesterday, I've went to "Celas", very close to where I used to study. Amazing to see the difference. I can still remember how things looked without being urbanized.

And today I've been at the "Santa Cruz" coffee house, another emblematic place to drink coffee placed right at the middle of the old city. Expensive coffee btw, it costs 80 cents..

It's been a very entertaining week. Coimbra has good quality of life and plenty of history to walk around. Will certainly be nice to stay here for some time.


The MSE begins

And so begins one new step in my life.

No doubts about the magnitude of this step that is changing my life at so many different levels, let alone even wonder about the way how life will continue from here forward.

It's a mix of many differences for my life and I'm still feeling a bit outside the crowd thought the other students are all extremely polite and bright. Nevertheles, I should already be used to changes but I guess that leaving the Azores definitively is still tough to accept as a reality for the future.

I should probably enjoy the course and flavor the things that we are about to experience but in my mind remain all the doubts and uncertainty about my professional future.


A life without thinking about MSE in the horizon doesn't seem so challenging while the other available courses are nowhere interesting enough to push your own capacities, but now I'm actually living this experience in first hand - where should things go from here?

Well.. the first thing before thinking on anything else is study. And I mean really STUDY!

The instructors passed a very clear message that no student will be forgiven if their average grade drops below 3.0 GPA and if any test achieves a B- grade you're immediately signaled with a yellow card and need to work even harder to seriously improve the grades.

No joking around - study!

The former MSE student presentation revealed a concept popularized as "Good enough", and this is something that might seem revolting for most perfectionist developers but when you're working under a very tight time-frame then I think "good enough" is all you can do.

The overall presentation and care demonstrated throughout this process is impressive. This is indeed one course that is regarded as important to the image of the university and they are available to help at any given moment but it is also required to your commitemment and energies focused on the degree are total.

I liked the instructor presentations, they're all extremelly humble and polite even thought their CV's express a lifetime of work in software/hardware development and research.

Coming from a military world where discipline is sometimes forced upon people in so many repressive ways to achieve some established results, it's actually fun to work in a environment where no such methods exist and all work is purely motivated by your own struggle to achieve optimum results.

Between all these talks I couldn't accurately evaluate what my performance will be during the course. I've never coded anything in Java, .NET or Visual Basic - never needed anyways - but now they will become the working tool as other students only seem productive using them and my performance will surely degrade (especially if the time frame is very tight to present results).

Guess I'll need to adapt in order to survive amongst the other fellows in this tribe - thought my opinion for the moment remains solid that these languages are nowhere near my coding preferences.


For the moment we will begin the PSP (Personal Software Process), this is a remote lecture-style class that will occur during July.

Excellent opportunity because I'll probably get a lot of time to go outside in the middle of the day to drink coffee while working at the class assignments - no better way to get things done.

As things move forward, the difficulty bar will surely increase and I won't be having so much tranquility (or quality time) to get these objectives completed.

Also, the army only grants permission to remain absent for six months. After this time period I will have to decide wether to remain or not inside the organization or otherwise be forced to request my removal from the permanent board in case I decide to go forward with the MSE all the way until the end.

I'm up for the challenge, let's begin!


Publicity, MSE and life

This week has been hard.


Because ever since the beginning of my online adventures that I've always took good pride in staying far from annoying google ads but this time I'll need to swallow my own pride and use them to survive.

My life took a very unexpected turn around. I'm leaving the place where I live, the work that provided such good quality of life and also stray away from some of the projects that I care about.

My goal to justify these measures is also well worthy of my efforts - the MSE from Carneggie Mellon.

This course is no joke for those that are faint of the heart and for those who have that crazy dream of achieving a somewhat incredible state of nirvana in terms of computer programming (if they manage to survive during 18 months of intensive stress).

I'm no exception on this group of dreamers and I'm aiming high but will this goal justify the used means?

On the case of publicity, just wish there was a better solution but I see no other source of income available during the next couple of years since.

My wife will try to find a job but she'll surely be paid the minimum wage and our child's daycare center will cost half of her earnings.

It's too much in my conscience to bear the predictable guilt of being such a weight on her shoulders at the expenses of my own goals that will surely prejudice her peaceful tranquility.

Maybe this way I'll get enough resources to leverage my contribution to the family and afford the internet and transportation costs.

My apologies to those who I disapoint with this measure, this was not an easy decision.

Flat file web software

Is mySQL really necessary?

It has all sort of advantages and performance advantages that people so quickly advocate but is a SQL database really needed to power up small websites or web applications?

My preference goes to fully portable websites that require no external database and keep everything tidy and organized inside the same folder. This makes the task of creating a new site fairly simple and even simpler to move everything onto another server.

For bigger sites, mySQL is still a tool of the trade but I've learned to look onto smaller alternatives as better option to power up those small sites that don't require a heavy CMS but still need to stretch a bit further than static HTML codings.

On this blog post I'd like to refer two developments that I've been using for some time.

The first, is a forum software that runs solely on a flatfile (no SQL needed), the name of this project is "Ultimate PHP board", very small sized, free and very easy to customize. This is the forum software that I'm also using to power up the ninja forum.

The second project is called "Razor CMS" (freeware) - a name easy to remember and also the type of software that is meant to be easy to work with from the start. This is a good option is you need to start a new website and only require to showcase a few pages.

It comes with a WYSIWYG editor and you can find additional plugins (called blade packs) to add more features and themes.

I'm using this software to create a standalone PHP powered website that runs from DVD's and USB media to be distributed as gift to guests at a meeting.

This standalone website is possible using another software that I've made some time ago called litePHP (freeware).

Have fun!


A few reasons why you should or shouldn't use Windows 7

In the previous blog post we've covered the basics to get a Windows 7 install going, but what are the possible advantages from this situation?

Also, with the competition installed for the desktop OS market, what good reasons would keep you away from a Windows machine?


1 - Free until June 2010
2 - Fast (or perhaps Vista was too much of a slug anyways)
3 - XP mode - it can run software/drivers meant for older OS versions
4 - Less annoying UAC
5 - Full support for IPv6 - you'll likely understand why this is important within some time
6 - Renewed set of UI controls - those old style menus and graphics with 10 years of existence were all updated
7 - Very cool explorer and orb menu to work with
8 - No more USB/DVD autorun as before
9 - Large hardware support (really huge with the possibility to get online for fetch missing files)
10 - More flexible to install - let it be from USB/Network or whatever, it's easier to deploy.


1 - Free until June 2010 - so after this that you'll have to dump it altogether, buy a license or tamper the install with some piracy method to workaround the timebomb - not nice.
2 - It's fast but still slugs behind XP in terms of performance and any other current desktop OS.
3 - XP mode is not perfect, some drivers will crash
4 - Memory consumption is still huge when compared to other OS
5 - Viruses, Viruses. Be prepared because all the malware that hammered previous releases will soon catch up.

One of the things that I like the most is the stability of the UI, a bit like OSX this just "feels" solid to work with. They've really smoothed the edges to bring a work OS into life.

The UI redesign was a very nice touch and the default look is very pleasant to work with.

But should MS be praised?

No, it shouldn't.

These improvements derived from flaws that have been criticized heavily - and even the competition has been ahead of the game for some time while MS keeps playing catch up.

This is a desktop OS for the masses but I'm a bit disappointed to see such slow rate on exploring new ways of interaction with the desktop like compiz provides for x-window.

Would be nice to see some of this innovation going mainstream.