Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tepito: Crime Fighting the Silicon Valley Way

Engadget reports on an interesting way to bring crime down in the little Mexican town of Tepito, apparently known for it's high crime rate. The new mayor of Tepito, apparently a forward thinker, decided to hand out PC's and Xboxes in exchange for weaponry.

Let me repeat: They are handing out PC's and Xboxes...In exchange for weaponry...PC's...And Xboxes...For weapons.

Ok, so the idea is to cut down the violence by getting rid of high caliber street weapons such as machine guns (worth one $700 PC) and hand guns (worth an old Xbox...NOT the 360). The lucky gangsta's who receive the loot will hopefully stay inside and play games or go online (do they have Internet in Tepito?), instead of shooting people on the streets.

Now I see a lot of room for abuse of this system. I mean, I would certainly turn in my gun to get a PC, go online and find an old gun on eBay, and get another PC. Do this enough times and I could start my own "Dell" in Tepito...I'd name it "Del", and the marketing practically writes itself: "Del - Las Computadoras de Tepito, Ahora sin balas" (which translates to "Del - Computers from Tepito, now without bullets")

Ok, so it might still need some work. But this entire concept really sounds like it will start an entire new form of currency.

"One taco, a side of guacamole, and beans. That will be a .38 and 10 bullets please."

"You got change for a .45?"

I gotta run...need to plan my next trip down to Mexico.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Muy buena Vista!

I recently upgraded my Dell laptop to Windows Vista Ultimate and have been running it for the past 11 days. I have used the betas and release candidates in the past but always in a dual boot configuration. This time, I took the plunge and decided to make Vista my primary operating system.

After backing up my files to my home network, I put in the DVD and let Microsoft take over. The install was smooth and painless, and in within the hour I was up and running. I had to install a few updates, and that was it. A brand spanking new OS on my old Inspiron 8600.

Now, my laptop is a few years old, but when I got it, it was pretty sweet. I have now upgraded it to 2GB RAM, but the rest is the same...a Pentium M 1700Mhz, 60 GB 7200 RPM hard drive, and ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 with 128MB RAM. Not too shabby, but definitely not a power gaming machine. Vista rates my laptop a 3.5 on the Windows Experience Index, a scale from 1 to 5.9, where the lowest number your PC gets in any of the five categories (Processor, RAM, Graphics, Gaming Graphics, and Primary Hard Disk) becomes your overall score. In other words, it's not an average. It's a "long pole", or "bottleneck" rating. In any case, I think a 3.5 is not too bad for a laptop. It allows me to run all the bells and whistles, including the Aero UI.

I was concerned about ATI drivers that supported OpenGL properly, since none have been seen with any of the betas or release candidates, and I need to be able to run Second Life, an OpenGL application. I decided to take the leap anyway, since I could still login to SL with my desktop machine if I couldn't get it to work in Vista.

The good news is that ATI had upgraded drivers, and OpenGL support was part of the update, but the bad news is that they still caused SL to crash on startup. After searching a bit, I found VistaSL, a homebrew version of the SL client that had removed some of the offending OpenGL calls to get it to run in Vista. Works like a charm! Granted, this is a temporary solution, and updated ATI drivers and a proper SL client from Linden Labs would be best.

In any case, in the 11 days I've been running Vista, I've managed to do a few things:
  • Get a working version of Second Life
  • Install Virtual PC 2007
  • Get Windows XP SP2 to run in a virtual machine
  • Get Linux (Ubuntu v6.10) to run in a virtual machine
  • Install a sidebar gadget called Vista Hot Corners that provides Exposé-like window shuffling
  • Install Outlook, Photoshop, Firefox, VNC, SnagIt, Trillian, Notepad++, and TweakVI
  • Burn a DVD (with Windows DVD Maker) of short video clips I had laying around, complete with animated menus and scene selections.

And so far, it's been a treat! Being able to run Windows XP is great since I can still have access to IE6 if I need to test any web pages. Also, it's fun to play with Ubuntu as well. Windows DVD Maker was drop dead simple, and the result was very professional looking.

It seems to me that everything is running just as well or better as with XP (with the exception of Second Life, which seems a bit choppier, but that may be the result of ATI's bad OpenGL support mixed with an unoptimized SL client).

All I have to say so far is that Vista is a definite step up from XP, but could benefit from better driver support from ATI. Hopefully that will come in time.

Bottom line: Muy buena Vista!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Back to Google

Well, I've given a decent shot (see my previous post). But I am switching back to Google's personalized start page, mostly due to performance issues.

Yourminis looks way better and has some great features, but it just seems to run a tad on the slow side. Believe me, when you use a page several times a day, just a few milliseconds of delay to find what you want becomes annoying.

I'll keep my eye on them, since they are still very new and could actually optimize their platform for better performance. But until then, I'll stick with the lean, mean, HTML machine.

And to my friend Roy, I agree with your comments. Flash is a great platform and any company basing their product on Flash could be an innovation leader, if they know how to balance power, performance, and usability.