2008-10-16

A Small Surgery

There are moments in your life when your health throws a curve ball at you. It happened to me several years ago and the end result is now on display.

I'm at home, recovering from a surgery. I've been at home for almost 4 weeks and I still have at least 2 more to go before I'm considered able to go to back to work.

Although the surgery was nothing too complicated this is my second day almost completely out of bed. I'm now able to sit for small burst of time. For the rest of the time I either stand up and walk or I simply go back to bed.

I'm lucky. The day after my surgery, the doctor talked to me. I said it clearly: "Only 50 to 60% of these cases don't recover like we would like them to. When they don't recover in the 2 to 3 weeks like we like them to, then the scale is in the order of months. Minimum 2 to 3 months." That scared my, but I was confident because the doctor said that "90% of the success depends on the patient. If you stick to a few simples rules all should go well." Even with such a bad numbers I decided I could do it, but then I met the nurse.

I was released from the hospital the day after I was admitted, 20 hours after I had my surgery. Two days later the nurse came to my parents house to check on me and make the necessary treatments. What she told me left me baffled. She said that 90% of the cases where the doctors chose the approach that was applied on me didn't succeed. That "people simple don't recover as
they should e 2 to 3 weeks and then is more like 4 to 6 months". After talking a bit more she finally said she had "never saw a case where it went well." This was mind blowing, but still it didn't made me give up just yet.

I new the changes were slim to none, but I had one advantage: my motivation, I simply just wanted to go back to sports as soon as possible, and my diet.

One advantage of having gone through a diet and being dead close to the ideal weight for my height is that I don't have as many fat matter as I used to have in the region of the surgery. In fact, I have almost no fat matter in that area, just muscles. This meant that the stitches applied had a better chance of keeping together then all the people that have a lot of fat in that area.

The end result is that after 12 days they removed all the stitches, and 23 days after the surgery I was finally able to sitting down at my computer and type a few lines of source code. I still have a couple of weeks to go before I'm able to go to work. My doctor says, and with a good point, that it makes no sense for me to go to work if I can't sit for long periods in front of the computer.

If there is a lesson to be learnt from all this, assuming that things won't go terribly wrong in the mean time, is that you should do what the doctor says and no matter the odds you should always focus on your goal and simply believe that you will achieve it no matter the odds.

2008-08-22

A Diet

I always intended to write about this subject a while back but never got the change to actually sit and write about it. I think this is the time, so if you're looking for a technical or management related blog entry simply skip this one.

Eight months ago I started a diet. I was a "little" overweight and always postponing the task of getting back into shape. I was unable to postpone this any time longer because of my mother.

Some times in your life you need a little push in the right direction. This push can come from many sides. It can be an event that occurred to you. It can simply be a loved one or a friend that has a talk with you. In my case it was my mother actually scheduling an appointment with a nutritionist.

My excuse for not caring about my weight was always that I would first go to a doctor, a nutritionist, before embarking on a diet. Well, my mother took the next step and actually scheduled the appointment and the necessary blood analysis that I had to carry out before the appointment.

I was scared. Not about the appointment but with the results of the analyses. There were some really bad values: that was the last push I needed to start thinking about my health a little more.

What is the end result? Well, I lost a third of my weight. I'm currently in my ideal body weight and feel a lot better. A side effect is that I'm also in a greater shape. I took an ancient old promise I made myself that if I would ever to loose any weight I would also get into shape. Nowadays I run, at least, 30km per week.

I was able not only to loose the extra "baggage" but I was also able to keep my ideal weight for 2 consecutive months. I actually had to cut down on the exercise because I was continuing to loose weight, but this way I get more time to blog.

If you read this far and you want to know the little details about the diet then I'm Sorry. I won't give them to you. My advice: see a doctor and respect what he/she tells you. Don't go for one of those "crazy" diets. What I can leave you with is a before and after picture of yours truly. The first picture is the picture I used to have in the right side of the blog. The second is the new "thin" me that is currently shown in the blog.


2008-06-22

"Moving Out"

It has been a while since I posted anything on the blog. I've been keeping the shared items going because they are part of my daily reads, but nothing regarding the blog itself.

There are many reasons for this but on of them is that I have "moved out" of my parents house. I say "moved out" between quotes because I always go to my parents house on the weekends, but during the week I'm alone on a rented apartment.

Why rent an apartment? Because I was tired of not having any time for myself. With the relocation of my workplace I ended up doing 1 hour drives each way to go to work. This meant 10 hours each week. This had a penalty in my life, not only on my health. My day was fully filled without any time to just breath. Now I live a 10 minute walk from my work. Sufficiently far to refuse to go their if they call me, but close enough to walk and leave the car parked all week long... except when I go windsurfing...

The end result of all this is that I expect to post more frequently and on more technical subjects. Although I expect this I won't make any promises: I'm really enjoying windsurfing and I would trade 2 hours in front of a computer for 1 hour windsurfing...

2008-04-19

So much to do and so little time...

It is true: life can throw you a curve when you least expect it.

I have some many reasons to blog about but I haven't found the time to get down and actually write anything. What has happened in my left? A lot... Lets see if I can make a short list of the most important things: I lost over 20Kg of weight (and got back up to shape by actually running over 6km every day); I've made a web site for my family's company (that is online and working without a hitch for a couple of weeks now); I've managed to get Gentoo running on an External USB hard drive so I can use the dead weight computer that the company I work for assigned to me while traveling to work on my things (yes, because that thing must have M$ Win...); I've been promoted; I've shown the guys in my company that simply saying it is impossible and giving up is not the answer; and a lot more...

Should I talk about it all??? Well, the Linux part I'll leave for another entry because I want to put up the instructions on how you can get a computer running Gentoo, or any Linux flavor for that matter, out of an external USB hard drive. This way you can escape the company man in your off hours...

As for the weight loss... I've always said that I would do a diet when I consulted a Nutritionist. Well, my mother went behind my back and scheduled an appointment with one. Well, I was literally out of excuses and went to the doctor in good time: my cholesterol was in a bad level; I was overweighted; I didn't have any energy or endurance. I thought it would be difficult, but with some discipline when eating and a lot of exercise I managed to loose a lot of weight. The main problem is that I had and I'm still wasting money renovating my closet... As for the energy and stamina department? Well, 6.5km a day of running should say everything, but I can add that even after running those kms I'm back to normal e just 15min.

On my family's company website: this is a project that I'm doing in part time or my free time, call it what you want. My uncle asked for my opinion on a budget he got from one of those web site building companies. The price tag was shocking, at least for me. It had many defects, it didn't fulfill their use cases and was really expensive. I actually considered opening my own company to make websites. In fact, I'm still considering it.

Making the website was fun. It is using all open source technologies, some of which I've used more then 8 years ago. It was interesting to see how far they have become. It was also fun to see if I could make it so intuitive that I wouldn't get bothered with problems with the site. Well, I guess I succeeded because the site hasn't problems, they just want more functionalities :-)

As for the company I work for: well, they are going down so fast that it scares me. They want to reduce OPEX (Operational Expenses, for those of you who never heard about it) but they don't even know how to compute it. They want to make tons of money but their first reaction to a client request is: "This is impossible! Let's no answer to the client and maybe it will go away." Come on people, lets get real: if you think it is impossible at least explain it to the customer. You may be surprised by the customer's knowledge and learn something while verifying that it is possible. Not to mention that you don't know squat on the subject you should first ask your colleagues within the company, just in case one of them knows a solution.

Facts are that I ended up having to travel to the customer and presenting my solution. Its a simple solution that I think the customer bought. At least they are preparing a business case to get things started. It seems that everything now is business case oriented... I always though we should be user/customer oriented, but who am I to think these things?

So, when I get some time I'll post a small guide on getting Gentoo running on an External USB drive and probably some other gems about: Web Services in Java, MySQL and Full Text Search, etc...

2008-01-04

Replacing a Bad Inverter on a Toshiba Laptop...

The year has just begun and my laptop decided to bork. It already borked some time ago. The problem was the backlight: it started blinking and the laptop would go to sleep. I search the web and found this blog. I tried to figure out if this was the problem with my laptop, but I was almost sure it wasn't, because even if I connected an external monitor Linux kept receiving spurious lid close events. It turned out to be the board that had the lid closing button. The trick was to find the parts, but I was lucky enough. I called my old boss, who also bought the same laptop as I did and asked her what happened. Well, it turns out that the laptop was going for recycling. Not a moment too late! I asked for it, she gave it to me for free (thank you!!!) and I repaired my laptop using the board of her laptop - which seems to have a broken video card...

Today the backlight finally hit the fan. I had been noticing some flickering of the backlight for some days but I completely ignored it and resumed working. It seemed to stabilize after some warming up. But today it went down and didn't came up, even after turning off the laptop and turning it on. I remembered the article and got to it. Since this might be useful for someone else I'm putting some instructions and a couple of pictures of the process. The pictures aren't fully illustrative, but it should be sufficient to get you there.

First thing: opening the laptop. This might sound easy but it should be done carefully so as not to scratch the laptop. This is a Toshiba laptop so you should first remove the button cover. This can be done by starting by the right side of the cover: you can find a small gap that is perfect to put a screwdriver in.



But you also need to open the screen. This is trickier. The screen has four screws: one in each corner. The top ones are hidden bellow the rubbers that protect the screen one it is closed. The lower ones are hidden below to little plastic covers that are glued on top of them. Remove the lower covers with care because you want to glue them again in order to hide the screws. In the top just unglue the rubbers from the inside out just the sufficient to unscrew. I didn't remove the rubbers.

Finally, and to complete the opening up of the screen you have to very gently start pulling the plastic cover. I'm not going to lie: this is something that is not for the faint of heart. I started in the lower part of the screen with my fingers pulling the plastic await from the screen, right above the TOSHIBA logo. Then I worked steadily with my hands as a small screwdriver all the way around the screen. The top of the screen is trickier, but once you free the lower and sides of the cover you can simple use the screwdriver to force free the top. DON'T FORCE the release of the spring that hold the cover shut when the laptop is closed: it is attached to the back plastic of the screen only. If you try to free it you might break something...

You should end up with something like this:



And these are the covers that were removed, set them aside:



With these covers removed the back plastic cover of the screen should fall off without a lot of effort.



Now you need to find the Inverter. The inverter is on the lower part of the screen. You can't miss it: it is the only board with integrated circuits in the screen. To remove it you will have to unglue the metallic protection on the front and remove two screws. After this you can the backlight power cord on the right (two black and white wires that go into the screen that control the backlight) and the control line on the left (this is trickier because it has isolating tape around it). Do not tear any of the tape or protections, you will need them later. I only unglued what was essential. Then you have the inverter free from the laptop.



Now, all you have to do is find a replacement for this part. Maybe eBay can help you, or even Toshiba. Since I have a scrap laptop I repeated the process and simple replaced the Inverter. Then is just a matter to mounting everything back up. It should be simple, don't force anything in: the plastics should go in nice and easy.

After all this process my laptop was running with a working screen.



Of course I'm very lucky for having an old laptop to steal parts from, but if you can find the missing part and it is not too expensive it beats having to by a new laptop. Hope this helps you and, once again, I would like to thank my old boss for providing me with a scrap laptop to remove parts from.

2008-01-03

New Year, New Adventures...

Welcome to 2008!!!

I wish you all a good year filled with health and happiness for you and your family. And when I say "all" I actually mean "all", even those that consider themselves my enemies...

When a new year comes along it is usually a time to think about what went well in the last year and what hasn't gone that well and to make some new year resolutions. If I believed in New Year resolutions mine would be to improve my health and fitness. Since I don't believe that making resolutions only once a year I won't make any...

My vacations are practically over. I was finally allowed to take a vacations. I said allowed because I actually had to site laws to get them to approve my vacations, but it was worth it: I finally got some time to just recharge my batteries, you know, sleep 11 hours per day, read a book and basically do nothing...

Work will start next week and I think it is time to scare the crap out of them. I believe I should be professional to the extreme, that is, to do only what I'm told. I've always worked for the same company and through all the years I've heard what I didn't deserve so many times just because I went the extra mile. I'm looking for alternatives and in the meantime I'll make some waves just giving my opinion, asking for it to be recorded on the minutes and then doing exactly what was asked of me, not more, not less. Let's see if the managers can handle this...

It will all start with a trip to the capital for a meeting and the trip still hasn't been approved. Looks like someone made a long trip to my country to have a meeting with me and I won't be there because I won't travel without everything approved (I've been burned previously and I won't be burned again).

I'm now part of an international standards body that is doing something that isn't worth doing. The first thing I asked when I joined the group was: "What is the problem we are trying to solve?". I got a lot of side answers but no one actually gave me a straight answer. I believe the group is inventing what doesn't need to be invented, that they are doing it just to go to a few conferences, make some presentations, write some papers and books. This is not what I signed for and it will be fun to see the progress of it.

So, this year all my technology related investigation will have to be performed at home. This means I won't use the company's resources and that I'll probably release it all under an Open Source License. Bad luck for the company I work for: if they don't want my best then it is OK for me, as long as I get payed.