Google translator is really honest

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Chess – geeks only please

I’ve always enjoyed chess, but I am by no means a grand master. I’m the type of player who has done some informal studies and developed a certain play style able to hold my ground in class D games.

Now its true in school anyone who was into chess in a big way would join a chess club and because of this instantly be labeled as a GEEK. When I went to school, this was before being a GEEK was cool, this was before it was hit to be square, and before shows like Beauty and the geek. I didn’t join any chess club instead played the game mainly at home and sometimes with a small selection of friends.

What I have never really understood is how the game of chess gets so quickly discredited as a “game for geeks” and worse how few people can actually play the game.

Chess originally a game played by kings is timeless. It offers exceptionally well balanced game play, right up until the very end. The actual game is divided into 3 stages (opening, middle and end game). Its worth mentioning its a 2 player game, but with computers simulations readily available, it can be practiced and enjoyed solo. As of Windows 7, Chess has even been included as part of the default selection of OS Games (Chess Titans).

Having said all this, its disheartening to see the game not getting the true attention it deserves. Without starting a gender war, there is an obvious distinction in how the game is viewed by woman. Now its true I’ve never met any Russian woman, and so I can’t comment on their interpretation of the game, but for the most part western woman just think the game sucks balls. Go ahead and try find a a woman who can play chess, Taiwanese lady boys excluded! Don’t be surprised if you turn up empty handed, asking a woman to play chess is like asking a man to knit a jersey, sure you’ll find exceptions, similarly you might find protestants living in Rome.

Men on the other hand have no excuse, we’re supposed to be the logical and practical ones. With most of our muscle flexing jobs now done by machinery, the majority of us now work in the service sector, and we’re forced to use our brains. We may be using our brains, but are we intellectual? Clearly most of us don’t have a clue on the chess board, and it seems only a handful of people around the world can play the game effectively.

So why is it, when you ask someone for a chess game the response you get is – “Oh please God, no!” or “Chess, no thanks too much thought involved for me”. Remember we’re talking about educated people with one or more degrees under their belt. People with an IQ that exceeds that of the men we trust to run countries!

Here are a few theories I’ve slapped together:

  1. Primarily we’re raised to believe that chess is a game played by geeks and sport is played by the real heroes, or the real men. Notice how much press sport gets over intellectual activities. It all starts with schooling and its definitely about time management. Hardly any school kid has the time to be active in 2 sports, study and still pick up 2 weekly chess meetings. So kids are forced to choose, either get physical or get intellectual. Its not a very hard choice for most, chess was / is and always will be a game labeled for geeks in the western culture.
  2. Chess is misunderstood, and I believe this is why most woman don’t play it. Its not a game that offers a lot of instant gratification. To win in chess against a player who can actually play the game, you need to see the whole board and win a series of small micro victories which overall will strengthen your position.
  3. Learning Chess is boring for most, and no doubt, this is because hardly anyone has ever had a formal chess lesson or really understands the game. So we are taught by people who for the most part, just know how to move the pieces around on the board.
  4. There is a misconception that chess can be played and won using pure creativity. People always think that the more clever person will win at a chess game because they demonstrated the most creative and intellectual game play. People who think like this play less or never because Chess makes them feel stupid. Unfortunately for a lot of people they’ll never realize the game is governed mainly by principles and without a sound knowledge of this principles its nearly impossible to win a chess game against someone who understands and plays by these principles primarily.
  5. People say great chess players visualize X moves in advance. Mostly people who can’t actually play chess circulate these rumors and the value of x is usually around 8-10 moves in advance. I would say at grand master level its essential to have acute visualization skills, but for social game play, you should typically be able to look ahead no more than 3-4 moves and win. Its far more crucial to understand the principles of chess, and in my understanding, just about everyone has the potential to learn these rules, not just those of us gifted with strong visualization skills.

I hope this post has in some small way changed your perception of chess, if you want some decent instruction on how to play the game I would suggest getting hold of a copy of Chess Master GrandMaster edition for PC (Ubisoft), this has great interactive chess lessons with voice instruction.

Why Capitalism will fail us?

Capitalism is an economic and social system in which capital, the non-labor factors of production (also known as the means of production), is privately owned;[citation needed] labor, goods and capital are traded in markets; and profits distributed to owners or invested in technologies and industries.

When I talk about Capitalism in this article, I am essentially talking about the commerce system we all participate in. I’ll keep my points simple and because of this I might not go into too much detail on certain topics, however if you are interested in learning more, you can follow the links at the bottom of this article. Bear in mind this article is written lay, so that its understandable to anyone who reads it.

The system we have in place today consists of corporations. A corporation in structure resembles a pyramid. At the very top of the pyramid we have the governing body, below this directors, and below that various other levels of management all the way down to the team leaders who are a level above the average worker. It’s important to note that from a structural point of view there are a lot fewer people on the top, while generally the majority of workers comprise the base of the pyramid. It is also worth noting that in almost ALL corporations the better earning potentials exist higher up in the structure.

Now I won’t go into equality issues here. Neither social dynamics. But its worth noting that the wealth is not evenly distributed. The true profit is reaped higher up in the structure, while the average workers might be earning a little over minimum wage. Even their collective earnings do not in most cases exceed that of the top elite few. In other words the collective earnings of workers generally do not exceed the collective earnings of the governing body in an organization. A good example of this is Microsoft, where the top 10 elite earn more than their entire workforce globally combined. Before we digress too much, let’s get back to this point, it’s very simple: Workers generally get paid as little as possible to do as much as possible, to make the top elites as much money as possible. This is one of the foundation principles governing capitalism.

Knowing this, lets move onto the next point. A worker is only valuable to a corporation if that worker contributes to the profit margin. The responsibility of the corporation is NOT to keep people employed, rather it is to fuel profits for the elite few right on the top of the structure. If you have any doubt about this think of companies that outsource their support or telesales operations to 3rd world countries where the equivalent services are provided at a fraction of the price of employing locals.  These companies make superficial claims to care about their workforce or country.  Mostly these companies will go with what is financially feasible, and do not care about “the little guy”.  This brings me to my next point – Efficiency (yes we’ve all heard the buzz word). Efficiency in a production context is basically producing goods in the most cost-effective way possible to maximize profits. There are of course other elements to efficiency such as the producing things quicker, or with less defects, or by using less energy with environmental benefits. The typical stance however, is driven by greed and to maximize that profit line.

This is why when a new piece of machinery comes out, corporations WILL replace the less efficient human component with the machinery which is way more efficient. Cheaper, quicker and more accurate, but ultimately it maximizes that profit line.

Capitalism is a dog eat dog world. The firms that actively develop efficient technology are in their own right governed by the rules at play, and also comprise a pyramid structure. They have one agenda too, to maximize their profit lines.

Where does this leave the average worker? The short answer: replaced and out of work. Where do these workers go? Would it surprise you that about Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. You might be reading this article on your Mac book in a lovely air-conditioned office working in the service industry, you’re a million miles away from the reality of poverty my friend, but many people are already feeling the brunt of technology in the workforce, and as things progress, more and more technology will automate more and more work done by the labor force, even in developed countries.

Technology improves exponentially. Meaning we’re developing new technologies quicker and easier than ever before. If you’re in any doubt of this, please take a visit to Dubai where the very first completely automated underground system is being implemented. Yes you heard me – 100% fully automated. Remember the goal of the corporation is to be as efficient as possible and the real definition of efficiency is to get things done as cheaply as possible, eliminating as much of the labor needed to produce the desired result in such a way as to maximize profits.

What else is on the list for automation? Lots of work we already do is being automated, work we thought would always be around is now being done by machines, or by advanced technology.

  • Vending Machines
  • Call centers
  • IT Support
  • Factory work
  • Sales staff
  • Restaurants can be fully automated, including stock management and accounting
  • Cars are learning to drive themselves
  • Various areas of the transport sector
  • Various areas of the banking sector

I could go on for hours, the point is automation is happening everywhere, no sector is immune, because when a part of a process can be automated the entire process benefits and becomes more efficient.

This is ultimately why Capitalism will fail. You see there is a flip side to this story. As automation gets implemented, the workforce is done away with, but ultimately (and here is the catch) – there goes the buying power. You see it doesn’t matter how efficient the development of the product was, if there is no buying power out there, then who is going to buy the product?

If you’ve done away with your whole work force, who are now statistics living on $2.5 dollars a day, who is going to buy your Ipods, new cellphones, your BMW’s? Here you might be thinking – the same people who are buying them today – those saved by the service industry. You would be wrong, even the service industry is now becoming more and more automated.

Capitalism is a walking time bomb, it has an expiry date and the system has to eventually fall flat on its face. I’m not even talking about wealth distribution here, the point is – while more and more of the work force get automated, eventually the buying force that motivates the seller gets removed, and this means the incentive of the whole Capitalistic system is in danger.

Is there a solution?

I recommend you watch Zeitgeist, it explains way better than I can the exact problems we face as a planet. I would also recommend you check out the Venus Project. I would say its a good idea to understand the dynamics at play here, even if you take no action and are a complete slacktivist. Just by understanding you already are part of the solution.

What’s up with Swine Flu H1N1

I remember about 2 years ago I took a flight when the media first started hooking onto Swine Flu, and already at this stage I noticed a fair amount of people wearing masks, to protect themselves from infection. Back then I had my reservations, and recently we’ve been getting bombarded by the Media about the threat of this new deadly strain of flu (H1N1) and how we should all get vaccinated.

So I decided I would do some research because next week the country I live in Czech Republic will begin vaccinations. For starters 10% of the general population of Czech will receive a vaccine.

In my studies which really didn’t take long – I’ve realized there are 2 ways to consider H1N1.

  1. What the media are telling you
  2. What the statistics are telling you

I prefer to go with the statistics.

If you ask the average person – “Do you feel in danger of dying of the flu?”and yes I mean the normal kind – most people would laugh at you, and say “No the chances of me dying of the flu are rare, and there are plenty of ways to treat flu, should I get sick.”

But if you ask the same person who actively watches the news – “Are you afraid of contracting the Swine Flu H1N1 strain, most people will tell you “Sure its deadly, and I’m afraid of it, I don’t want to use public transport, and I’m worried I might catch it from someone at work or while out shopping.”

Lets just for a minute here look at who exactly is dying of what? For statistics I will use the US, because the US is an easy country to find information about.

The Flu

source : An estimated 100,000 hospitalizations and about 20,000 deaths occur each year from the flu or its complications. (http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/f/flu/deaths.htm)

Each flu season is unique, but it is estimated that, on average, approximately 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu, and more than 200,000 persons are hospitalized for flu-related complications each year. About 36,000 Americans die on average per year from the complications of flu.(http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/disease.htm)

N1H1

H1N1 Deaths Reach Over 1,000 in U.S. (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,569392,00.html)

Nearly 5,000 people have reportedly died from swine flu since it emerged this year and developed into a global epidemic (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/23/health/main5413623.shtml)

Now wait, hang on a second…. surely an epidemic means that H1N1 is actually killing more people than regular flu? Surely it means its taking over, and surely it means that if you get it you’re likely to die?

Well lets look at another quote :

“Many millions” of Americans have had swine flu so far, according to an estimate he gave at a Friday press conference. The government doesn’t test everyone to confirm swine flu so it doesn’t have an exact count. (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,569392,00.html)

Something smells funny, and its not the swines!

European scientists and health authorities are facing angry questions about why H1N1 flu has not caused death and destruction on the scale first feared, and they need to respond deftly to ensure public support.

Accusations are flying in British and French media that the pandemic has been “hyped” by medical researchers to further their own cause, boost research grants and line the pockets of drug companies.

Britain’s Independent newspaper this week asked “Pandemic? What Pandemic?” (http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Non-food/Disease/major_victory_with_swine_flu_scandal_191120090720.html)

These are just a few things I’ve found in my research. I think one thing people always tend to lack is perspective, especially when all you ever hear when you turn on the news is more reports about Swine flu deaths, but the perception is misleading.

If every smoking related death where reported worldwide we would have Around 5.4 million deaths a year worldwide.

How many people have died from H1N1 worldwide – nearly 5000

Drinking : 2 million a year vs H1N1 5000

Car accidents : 1.2 million a year

Child birth complications: More than 2 million babies and mothers die worldwide each year from childbirth complications.

Yes – people still drink, people still smoke, and you can still buy these products at nearly every shop in every country on this planet. Mothers still have birth, and people are born, however its worth noting at time of writing you are 400 times more likely to die at birth than dying from H1N1.

Think about that next time you shudder in fear from media panic.

Why do I blog complaints?

Its an honest question and I’ll try give you an honest answer.

Q: Do I blog complaints as a form of tech nerd revenge?

A: The way I see it, I blog as a last , last , last resort, after having tried everything to resolve a situation with any Mega Corp. And I have to say a great deal of the time, my issue is resolved in a timely and expected manner.  But when its not (rare) or when I feel like I am falling prey to some or other cheap and dirty trick, I have no problem blogging about it, not really as a revenge tactic, but this is what I love about Word Press, anyone who is using Google has a chance to land on one of your blog posts. The way I see it , if that person happens to be looking for a public warning about a certain company or consumer product, and I’ve managed to give an unbiased account, and help someone else from making a mistake, then that is the outcome I want to achieve.

Q: How effective is complaints blogging?

A: Very effective, more effective than you would imagine. Michael’s Techbox is a rather small niche market tech site, with only a few dedicated readers, most of the readers of this site are all here for a reason, to find information. Even though its a small site, with a small following (around 100 reads a day) I’ve had some very positive feedback from my complaint related blog posts. Including Microsoft staff taking my suggestions seriously. I’ve had GoDaddy support staff personally contact after reading my blog post and provide me with better than average customer support. I’ve once had a serious complaint about Sony, and someone else in the community read this complaint and assisted me in finding a solution I had long given up on. More importantly I’ve had many people thank me for the warnings.

Ultimately why do I blog my complaints?

1. To create public awareness, but mainly there is a huge gap in our unspoken justice system. Mega corps mass produce, and typically things go well, but when things do not go well, the mega corp typically treats you as a powerless entity and knows very well that if you’re not going to buy this product, there are 100 other consumers who will. I blog complaints for everyone who has ever been in a frustrating situation with a Mega Corp, in the hope that by creating enough public awareness, products get enhanced, service gets better, and word of mouth gets out there, when a complaint is justified.

Recently I read a story about a lady who leased a car, had it stolen, insurance paid the leasing company full value of the car, however now they are demanding an additional full payment of the total value of the vehicle, and because they’re a mega corp, they’re getting away with it legally. In this case how else can the man on the street fight back? How other than blogging! Happy reading.

Warning : O2 Internet Czech Republic

I would like to warn fellow consumers about a new marketing strategy O2 have adopted that quite frankly is borderline daylight robbery.

This is from a recent personal experience in the Czech Republic, but since o2 is globalized, it wouldn’t surprise me if this giant was up to similar tricks in other countries.

The Scam:

Sign an o2 ADSL package and they will give you a free ADSL modem, more info here. Now notice in that link it says activation of this for 1 crown (essentially this is almost free). The information 02 put out in their marketing and sales (via phone support) is that, this 1 crown is the final cost for your modem. However, like I discovered the hard way, 02 will send you a 2nd more formidable bill for the modem the following month after sign up (1260 crowns).

I was a little annoyed by this scam behavior, and it seems I am not the only one. I didn’t realize this but 02 has already tarnished its reputation in the Czech Republic. The internet is flooded with complaints by Expats living in Czech having some or other issue with this company.

The resolution:

02 will accept this modem back if you return it (at your own costs) within 1 month of receiving it. Similar ADSL modem/ wireless routers retail from 1000 crowns, but if you already have a router, you can pick up an ADSL2 modem for around 500 crowns.

02 Internet is also much slower than UPC who are now offering full 100mbps fibre to door connections in cabled zones, but unfortunately for most people who can only get telephone ADSL the quickest you’ll get from 02 is 16mbps, but this is highly unlikely unless you’re living very close to the base station. Typically expect 4mbps – 8mbps.

Still if its at all possible at least attempt to sign with UPC first. Overall customer service is better. For example when UPC discontinued their 2mbps connections, they upgraded all their existing clients for free to 10mbps.

That’s all , you have been warned.

Explaining the obvious

If you’re tech savvy, then you might find the following hard to believe but amazingly even in 2009, some people are still so uneducated on the basic facts of computing, so for once and for all, people please learn how to use a computer.

1. Data does not weigh anything

Its not a myth, some people actually believe data, yes thats right DATA! weighs something. I’ve been asked, “What does a USB drive weigh fully loaded? ” and “How much cheaper would it be to post, if I deleted all the data?”. Some really clever people have even asked the question “What does 1MB weigh?” or “Do zips weigh less?”. You gotta wonder if these guys need stronger desks to hold all their data, or are thinking of re-enforcing the floors.

2. Opening all ports won’t make your internet connection any faster

Recently I had someone tell me, they’ve “Opened all ports for obvious reasons”. For obvious reasons, ok please explain? “Yes to make the internet faster!” You see its true that assumption is the mother of all “…..” Luckily for most that are behind a firewall, it would require some intelligence to get to these ports and setup all port forwarding, or DMZ. Luckily for these sorts, they don’t have the skills to do this. But some of them are smart enough to figure out how to disable the Windows firewall, and even have managed to log into their local router, and create a port forwarding rule from 0 – 1000000 back to local IP address, so they can “get more speed”.

Listen guys, if you start messing around with ports and your security settings, at least take the time to Google : “What is a port?”

A few inventions we’re missing

We’re living in the days of miracles and wonders and long distance calls (Paul Simon). But I wonder how much of our tax payers money goes into funding Space exploration and other seemingly worthless pursuits. I wonder why we’re not chanelling that energy into every day use common inventions that we could all use. Here is a list of my top 8 inventions I think we’re missing out on.

1. A global text/speech speech/text translator, built into telephone network providers.
Why is it still not possible to phone a server via a translator to speak to someone on the other end who only speaks German or Italian for example. Why is there no real time translation middlewear? If this is too higher grade, why not just a really good skype translator, one that actually works! If Google translate is our only hope, the whole business of unifying the planets differant languages has a long way to go.

2. True tele commuting
Its the year 2009 and the planets dying from polution, yet we’re all still expected to go to work, everyday, all the time. Until we begin to rethink our strategies, true deurbanisation will never happen. Instead we’re all forced to live in stressful cities where all the work is, and because of this, I guess we’re also forced to demand higher salaries. If we were to work remotely on a full time basis there would be a lot of savings for everyone, and the planet would be greener. We need to rethink management stategies, providing achievable tasks that can be measured. We already have broadband and programs like Skype allows for free conferencing. Why are we not yet breaking away from the traditional 80’s office concepts.

3. Have express visa processing based on status.
Not everyone visiting the UK, US, or EU States – wants to move there and take along their 11 wives. Creating a whole army of east facing turks! Yet we’re all treated the same. Make an application – get scrutinized. Why can’t this scrutiny be instant! based on other deciding factors and lets say pre-determined by co-operation of local government, bank and employer. Instead we’re all cattle, and get asked for chest x-rays at the airport!

4. The automatic clothes ironer
I know this might sound silly, but since we’ve invented the dishwasher, clothes washer, and car washer, can’t someone please invent the Clothes Ironer… damn it takes long, and we all hate ironing!

5. A cordless iron
If you can’t invent the iron, then could someone find a way to get rid of that infernal cord that keeps getting in the way!

6. A weight loss product that actually works
There must be 1 million products on the market that claim to help you loose weight, and NOT even 1 of them helps! So surely someone can come up with just 1.

7. An electic/hydrogen car
Yeah yeah yeah, its developed, tested and in use in California. Why can’t you buy one? Why is it only available in California?

8. A system that will educate 3rd world countries
Lets face it, we’ve been trying to educate 3rd world countries, well since we originally colonised them, and where has it got us? Close to absolutely bloody nowhere! The locals STILL want to have 1000’s of kids, still appear to want to spread the aids virus. Still cannot product enough food and water for general use. Still cannot over throw dictatorship. But every year we sent these locals millions of dollars worth of aid. Why do we do this? Why have they not already grasped the basics?



7 Quality High Def Nature Wallpapers

I decided I would do an article on wallpapers for your PC. Having a good wallpaper can be important in your overall computing experience, considering most people spend more than an hour a day on their computer. The following is a list of my 7 favorite nature wall papers, all are provided from http://www.my-wallpapers.com if you’re interested in browsing the site for more.

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This is a public announcement to Sony and Adobe

Dear Sony and/or Adobe

About 18 months ago I bought a Sony Vaio VGN-AR41s. When installed with Vista home premium factory state, the notebook came with too much bloat ware to mention, but it did include at least 1 useful utility, Adobe PhotoShop Elements 5.0.  Since the laptop cost over $4300 dollars, I would have expected more to be honest.

Its now 18 months later, and I’ve done yet another clean install, this time I would like to use PhotoShop Elements, however neither Sony, nor Adobe bothered to include any installation media for Adobe PhotoShop Elements 5.0 because of this you have essentially put me, the customer in a position that is somewhere between a rock and a hard place.

I decided to save both Sony and Adobe the trouble of a support call, and decided I would visit Adobe.com to try and locate the install media, but after a while I searching I see that Adobe do not offer downloads of old versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements. Neither is there any mention of this software on the Sony site, neither Europe or World.

To resolve my issue that frankly I blame both Sony (for not including any install media with their products) and Adobe (for not providing any archived versions of products for download), I have decided to download and install Adobe Photoshop Elements 7.0 (Yes a fully functioning version!) This is the closest version I could find that relates to the product I have paid a premium for.

I have posted this decision publicly, because I feel it is the quickest resolution of the problem for all parties involved (a) Sony (b) Adobe (c) Me. If any Sony or Adobe representive is unhappy with the way I have dealt with this then contact me with details on how to obtain installation media for Adobe PhotoShop Elements 5.0.