Monday, August 27, 2012

The McDonald's Exchange rate

It's hard to really gauge the value of money between countries. I don't mean currency exchange. Since they can be traded, they themselves affect the value of things. So using currency exchange to measure the relative value of money doesn't really work and if it does, doesn't hold up all the time.
When I was a student, I came up with the McDonald's Exchange rate. It compares the value of the same item in McDonald's in two countries. I use the beefburger or cheeseburger as a base. If it costs $1.99 in the US and 1 pound sterling UK, then you get a clearer idea of the value of the money. Since two bucks gets you a burger and one UK pound gets you the same burger, the value of 2 bucks is the same as 1 UK pound.
Snicker all you want, but that burger represent a lot of things, more than the bun and the slice of (what is supposed to be) beef. The price McDonald's put on that burger is a reflection of the cost of production of that burger meat including everything that makes up the supply chain before it, the cost of baking the bun, transportation of the items to the franchise outlet, the salaries of the staff, running the restaurant and every element that makes up everything that happens up to the point you bite into it. Now that price has to represent all that in 2 countries. So I think it is much more representative of the value of money than the exchange rate. You can't sell and buy the burger you bought to increase or decrease it's value.
I think this is much more saner than the system and the idea of valuation that people are using today, especially marketing types in tech companies that sell on-line in many currencies in many countries.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Linux state of mind

A admin friend of mine asked me some time ago whether I knew how to prevent a user from burning a DVD on their office PC. I told him that was easy. Simply remove the user from the group that is able to use cdrecord and set the execution permission to only the user and group. Most distros have a cdburning group. Remove the user from that group and the user can't burn a CD or DVD but he can still read them. My friend looked at me like he was going to eat me alive.
He meant on Windows.
I sincerely didn't know but I did have some ideas. We talked about some ways including editing the registry and removing the service that is used to burn CDs. The problem stemmed from the fact that the PCs came with the software pre-installed. While it wasn't a problem, in the past, the users recently figured out how to do it and were doing it in the office, causing some concerns with some managers. The discussion went on and on and degenerated into finding the driver files and deleting them. At this point, I told him to stop and offered a more pragmatic solution: Remove the DVD writing software. If you don't have the software, then they can't write to the DVD. This seemed to suit him. I think he'll have to set up some group policy to stop the software from running, propagate that and hope for the best. And that the users don't figure out how to download and install their own DVD writing software.
He we talked recently and he noted that removing the DVD writing software worked. I asked him why only now was this a problem. He told me that some users learned a torrent was and were downloading and burning DVDs.
It was my turn to want to eat him alive.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I hate my Blackberry and I miss GroupWise

I hate my Blackberry. It represents to me the most intrusive Microsoft-soaked influence on my life. My Blackberry Bold is temperamental, slow and extremely limited in what it can do on the hardware that it runs. Blackberry, like Microsoft, is more of a brand than anything else. People buy them no longer because they are better but just because people don't know better. Blackberry used to represent a luxury, business-related token meant to elevate your status among your peers. Except all it's used for is for e-mail and messaging. Except that everyone else uses them too (those who aren't using iPhones). NYC hookers prefer them because they make them look more professional and "higher-class". Go figure.
Unlike iPhones and Androids, BBs do not represent a technological advancement. Palm phones were as functional. As far as I can figure out, outside North America, the mythical push e-mail fares no better than frequently polled pull e-mail. What does push e-mail really mean? Does it means that e-mail is sent to your phone the moment it arrives? Provided your phone is in coverage. Provided the coverage includes data connectivity.
BB basically twisted the arms of the carriers to provide unlimited data (the most alien concept to them) and then convinced businessmen who were beginning to rely more and more on e-mails, that the Blackberries will bring the e-mail faster and cheaper because it's on a fixed data/Blackberry charge. The problem is, in Asia, you could get unlimited data plans for your phone. So poll all you want.
The only thing I can give to the BlackBerry was that they would download only the text part of the message and process the attachment into a readable format (there are apps for that). And they could provide end-to-end verification of the sender and recipient within the same BlackBerry Enterprise system. Except when receiving mail from the Internet.
But the main reason I wish to put my BlackBerry Bold under a steamroller is that it fails at it's primary function: it would often prevent me from answering calls. You could see the call coming in. The phone rings but you can't do anything. Pressing the answer button on-screen is just a suggestion to the phone. My hit rate has fallen below 40%.
Thank god I am finally rid of it.

I also miss GroupWise. I have configured BB Enterprise to work with GoupWise on Linux. BlackBerry almost doesn't acknowledge that GroupWise can run on Linux but rather focuses on GroupWise on Windows Server (which has it's own peculiarities) and NetWare ( I miss NetWare, too (fire-and-forget file and printer sharing)). Fortunately, getting BES to talk to GroupWise on Linux has the same requirements. In fact, BES has no idea it's talking to a Linux box, just a GroupWise system on another server.

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