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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

Getting paid for writing

I have de­cid­ed I don´t suck at writ­ing tech­ni­cal ar­ti­cles. I am not all that great, but I don´t suck.

And I am quick, too.

So, I have de­cid­ed I would like to get paid. I tried send­ing email to ed­i­tors@news­forge.net (they claim to pay for con­tent) but have not got­ten even a "no thanks" re­sponse. Maybe they are slow­ish ;-)

Any­one knows any oth­er sources of in­come for some­one who can write de­cent short tech­ni­cal ar­ti­cles?

I think I will con­tact Lin­ux­World and Lin­ux Jour­nal, but they are a bit too ... high lev­el. You know. Re­al mag­a­zines ;-)

I on­ly mean for this to pay a few buck­s, it´s not what I in­tend on liv­ing from ;-)

In the mean­time, I will con­tin­ue writ­ing one or two ar­ti­cles a week, any­way!

Personal Backups with rdiff-backup

Here's a lit­tle ar­ti­cle about back­ing up your own per­son­al da­ta safe­ly.

I wrote it be­cause it seems this kind of so­lu­tions are not very well known.

While not a re­al, se­ri­ous back­up strat­e­gy, it's pret­ty safe, as long as the sys­tem still lives, you can re­cov­er your da­ta.

Electronic reading materials

I re­cent­ly re­cov­ered a Palm m100, be­cause my cal­en­dar was get­ting out of hand.

So, be­sides us­ing it as a glo­ri­fied alarm clock, what could I do with it?

Oh, sure, some lame games ex­ist (re­mem­ber this is an old mod­el, black and white, al­most no sound, low res­o­lu­tion, very lit­tle mem­o­ry), but...

Well, I have had for a long time the habit of read­ing project Gutem­berg's book­s. I even wrote a pro­gram to read them on my PC (Uqbar, link at the left­).

But the main prob­lem is, of course, that the places where I do most of my read­ing (bars, clients' of­fices while wait­ing for stuff to in­stal­l, train­s, wait­ing room­s) usu­al­ly lack com­put­ers I can use.

So, I de­cid­ed to try us­ing the Palm for that.

Of course, I am not be­ing orig­i­nal, since a bazil­lion peo­ple had the same idea.

There­fore, I went and got my­self some of the soft­ware peo­ple rec­om­mend­ed for read­ing Palm­doc doc­u­ments, and some stuff to cre­ate them.

I tried: Iambic Read­er, CSpotRun, and a cou­ple of oth­er­s, and had a nasty sur­prise, be­cause all of them, when I jumped to a dis­tant place in the book, did one of the fol­low­ing:

  • Crash

  • Cor­rupt the text

So, I gave up hope on Palm­doc (although it's nice that KWord can ex­port to it!), and looked hard­er.

Then I found Weasel Read­er. Not on­ly does it work great (it on­ly lacks an op­tion to add a margin, some­times light­ing makes the edge of the screen hard to read­), but the for­mat it us­es com­press­es texts more than palm­doc!

So, how's this go­ing:

  • The screen is smal­l, but that's not too bad, it is about the same as read­­ing a news­­pa­per col­um­n.

  • Smooth scrolling does­n't work. Maybe my palm is too old/s­low/bad, but it doesn work well.

  • Page-rolling au­­to­scroll does work. The top of the screen is au­­to­­mat­i­­cal­­ly re­­placed with the next page line-at-a-­­time.

  • Man­u­al page-scrolling works best. Since you on­­ly have to tap the screen or press a but­­ton it's not an­noy­ing at al­l.

  • It does­n't hurt my eye­­s. Since it's not even back­­l­it, it re­quires good am­bi­ent light, but it's not bad at al­l.

  • It has de­­cent ca­­pac­i­­ty. I can stick up to 3MB of tex­t, along with all the pro­­grams I use, in a 2MB de­vice. 3MB of text is a lot of tex­t.

So, I am pret­ty hap­py with the re­sult.

Goats and cars

There's a prob­lem of­ten used to show the un­in­tu­itive na­ture of prob­a­bil­i­ty, which has be­come very well known.

In that prob­lem a con­tes­tant in a gameshow has to choose be­tween three doors (A,B,C), on one there is a car, on the oth­er two are goat­s.

Af­ter the con­tes­tant choos­es, the host opens an­oth­er door and shows a goat.

Then, the host of­fers the con­tes­tant the chance to switch his closed door for the oth­er closed door.

Should he switch?

The in­tu­itive an­swer is "it does­n't mat­ter", be­cause there's two doors and one car, so it's a 50-50 chance.

But the re­al an­swer is that it does mat­ter, be­cause it's a 33-67 chance!

While it's sim­ple to show this to be the case to a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly-e­d­u­cat­ed dude, it's some­what hard­er for a lay­man.

In fac­t, I think most ex­pla­na­tions suck.

Here's my shot at it:

If you were of­fered the chance to switch be­tween your closed door and the oth­er two closed doors, would you take it?

The in­tu­itive an­swer to that is of course, yes, be­cause it's 67-33 for the car to be on the oth­er two doors.

Now, re­gard­less of where the car is, can the host open one of those two doors and show a goat? Of course, yes.

So, would you feel your odds went down be­cause the host showed one of your two closed doors had a goat be­hind it? No, be­cause he could al­ways do that, and you know there was (at least) one goat there!

So, what dif­fer­ence does it make if one door is open or not?

I don't ex­pect this to con­vince any­one, re­al­ly, but just in case, I have a python im­ple­men­ta­tion of this prob­lem (goat­car.py :-) if any­one wants it, if em­piri­cism can con­vince you ;-)