Elements – a review of an awesome hostel in San Francisco

December 29, 2010 at 1:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This guy (forgot his name) at Noisebridge asked me where I was staying for the night. I told him “probably motel 6”. He then directed me to this hotel called “Elements” which is down the street basically from NoiseBridge. Well, it’s more of a hostel, really, but a great one. Very bright colors, a lot of comfortable chairs in their lounge. Here:

It’s a good place to hangout, write/update your blog, catch up on some research, etc And their bar is actually pretty awesome. You can get drunk while you program and everything! Here:

Oh yeah, staying here is a mere $25 a night. This is cheaper than most people’s rent. The room is basically the size of a college dorm room with 2 double bunk beds. It’s small, but nice (not to mention, spotlessly clean). You are basically sharing a room with 4 other people, so if privacy is your thing, this isn’t for you. I was lucky and got the whole room to myself.

The crowd is pretty young here, and this makes the bars around here that much cooler. The neighborhood is kinda ghetto (noisebridge is down the street), but it’s being gentrified since the area seems to be taken over by the local hipsters. The independent bar next door isn’t half bad either. Pretty active for a monday night (and this is the week after christmas, mind you). The chicks are pretty hot too. There is also an alternative movie theatre next door that shows classic/independent movies.

Wireless internet is pervasive through the whole building and there is no annoying WEP password to deal with. There are even free computers for use if you don’t have your laptop. Currently, I am writing this on one of the couches in 2nd floor hallway (don’t have a picture, but it’s nice), It’s 2:00am as I write this and I can do this all night if I want. Oh yeah, there’s a rooftop here too with an amazing view:

There are plants and gravel and stuff on the roof and I suspect this is where the hostel throws parties. A fully stocked bar is readily available here as well.

There are some of the downfalls I want to note (albeit minor). First off, my room’s (201) showerhead doesn’t work. I have to take a bath basically. They are also somewhat strict about who can go upstairs. i don’t think friends of guests are allowed to galavant around. No smoking and drinking is allowed in your own room, they are very strict about this (I assume this includes weed). Oh yeah, parking is impossible around here. Parking lots are rare and somewhat expensive (about $10-$18 a day). Buses work better in this area, they come like every 5-10 minutes or so. This is my preferred way of travel when I’m here.

This place evidently got a “most popular” award from Hostel Bookers and I can understand why. This place is soooo much better than the motel6 I was about to stay at. This place has stever’s recommendation.

Noisebridge – a hackerspace in San Francisco

December 28, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I am in San Francisco right now, specifically at NoiseBridge. I’m taking care of some “personal
business” here.

Anyway, the hacker scene here is a amazing. There are some pretty good hackers here, some of them from google even. NoiseBridge seems to be more hardware oriented than the other hackerspaces I’ve gone too. The space is a little bid bigger, and the surrounding area is a little bit more ghetto. I’d say the building is around 5000-6000 square feet or so. There’s a lot of junk in there, even stuff that you wouldn’t think belonged to a hackerspace (like old-fashioned sewing machines). Lots of diodes and transisters too. More than a dozen soldering irons, drills, compressors, shit like that. Oh yeah, and their computer science book selection is actually pretty good. They had some o’reilly stuff, some “head first” books, a book on smalltalk (yay!), the Art of Computer Programming, etc . The kitchen is pretty damn big and they even gave me some free food. Wow. . . It’s a suggested donation system, so I gave them $15 for letting me hang out for the day. It was well worth it.

They have some really old couches here to sit on. They look like they’re from the ’60s. They’re those types of couches where you kinda sink into it when you sit down. It’s old, but comfy. I could
probably sleep here for an hour if I needed to take a nap, there is a blanket and a pillow. I don’t think anyone cares.

There is a “Turning” classroom here, I assume for classes. I looked a the events section of Noisebridge and there’s a ton of classes available. Anything from iphone development, to machine learning, to a cooking class. The events are good. My main complaint about this area is that it’s kinda noisy.

Oh yeah, one of the hackers asked where I was staying tonight and I told him some probably cheezey motel 6. This guy (forgot his name) directed me to this hotel called “Elements” which is down the street basically . Well, it’s more of a hostel, really, but a great one. Very bright colors, a lot of comfortable chairs in their lounge. I’ll write more later.



December 13, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

People have trouble with abstractions. For instance, if I ask someone what the “next 9/11 is likely to be”, they are likely to think: “another terrorist attack”. People have a tendency to think in terms of the concrete and visible. Images like the twin towers are therefore powerful influencers in our thinking. But tomorrow is not just another yesterday. (Ever see “tomorrowland” at disneyland?). So the things that people should be looking out for ARE national disasters, but they’re just not the same ones we had previously.

The thing I am eying very very closely is the economy. It’s being knocked out of equilibrium by our wonderful federal reserve. And the shift is going to fundamentally change how we live our lives. I am (likely) to be a beneficiary of this, only because I know how to manage risk and have a cool head, but others won’t be so lucky. Most people will likely lose their retirement and there’s nothing they can do about it. It’s sad, really because it really didn’t have to be that way. I was staunchly against the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy (and the Obama continuation of them), the “quantitative easing”, and the flagrant currency manipilation.

You can still bet AGAINST the market though. Put your money on things like precious metals (the physical kind that you can put in your safe, the kind that isn’t sold by wall street) or things with intrinsic value to them.

I have a bad feeling about the US dollar.


December 7, 2010 at 6:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Anyone who knows me in any reasonable way knows that I am staunchly against patents – I think they should be abolished in every way. Here is a good quote from John Carmack about this issue. I couldn’t agree with him more:

Before issuing a condemnation, I try hard to think about it from [a Lawyer’s] point of view — the laws of the land set the rules of the game, and lawyers are deeply confused at why some of us aren’t using all the tools that the game gives us.

Patents are usually discussed in the context of someone “stealing” an idea from the long suffering lone inventor that devoted his life to creating this one brilliant idea, blah blah blah.

But in the majority of cases in software, patents affect independent invention. Get a dozen sharp programmers together, give them all a hard problem to work on, and a bunch of them will come up with solutions that would probably be patentable, and be similar enough that the first programmer to file the patent could sue the others for patent infringement.

Why should society reward that? What benefit does it bring? It doesn’t help bring more, better, or cheaper products to market. Those all come from competition, not arbitrary monopolies. The programmer that filed the patent didn’t work any harder because a patent might be available, solving the problem was his job and he had to do it anyway. Getting a patent is uncorrelated to any positive attributes, and just serves to allow either money or wasted effort to be extorted from generally unsuspecting and innocent people or companies.

Yes, it is a legal tool that may help you against your competitors, but I’ll have no part of it. Its basically mugging someone.

Download the Wikileaks insurance file

December 4, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Here’s wikileaks entire encrypted 1.4 gigabyte “insurance” file. Download it while you can: Download Wikileaks insurance file

It’s like 1.4 gigabytes – this is literally 10 times the size of all the published wikileaks documents combined. No one is sure what’s in it. My guess is that if Assange gets assasinated, the passphrase will get released and all hell will break loose.

Here are the valid checksums directly from wikileaks:
MD5: 94a032849b1f446e3a1ed06cf4867a56
SHA1: cce54d3a8af370213d23fcbfe8cddc8619a0734c
SHA256: 15bac5e815a38a998f4705945bd41975b736e7c723cfe851b9ed0e50c
SHA512: 1279dc1e09a06dbc60cfbe9b1e66ada0e1e5de1df5b37a2f9f532b60d
WHIRLPOOL: 1612d44096ec0b3a28239682164dfa584e743cce1a724404b84ef2091


December 3, 2010 at 10:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Amazon Kindle – my review

December 1, 2010 at 3:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I got a kindle last week. I never though I’d say this, but I love, love, love it. Reading is suuuuuch a pleasure with it. The display is friggin’ phenomenal. You can take a microscope to this thing and you still can’t see the jagged edges. Looks like paper without the pulp. This thing has 16 shades of gray too so illustrations look phenomenal.

The kindle is very convenient. I read computer science textbooks all the time and I can’t feasibly carry them around with me because they’re kinda bulky and heavy. Anyone remember going to school with a heavy bookbag full of books? That’s no longer a problem if you have the kindle. The thing weighs a mere 8 ounces and you can put your whole library in it. The storage capacity is basically thousands of books. And some of my favorite computer science textbooks (Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, Practical Common Lisp) have free downloads available for them. Yay.

One common question I get from people is “Why spend money on an ebook reader if you can just use your laptop?”. It’s hard to describe, but reading on your laptop just sucks. The battery lasts an hour (if that. . .), the bootup times are annoying, and using the mouse/keyboard is a bit awkward for turning pages. And in the end, reading long books on a laptop screen just doesn’t feel right. It’s a subjective thing that’s hard to describe, but trust me on this one.

The size of the kindle is “just right”. I can hold it with one hand and slightly twitch my finger to press the button to turn the page. Oh yeah, and a lot of classics are legally free to download too (Dracula, shakespeare, mark twain, etc). And most pay books on amazon are less than $10. There is even a market for “used epubs” out there where you can buy books like harry potter for like 75 cents. For you pirates out there, there are torrents for 1000 ebooks that are one download away. Pirating ebooks is as easy as pirating mp3s.

Playing with the kindle made me realize that there is there is no real “on” button for this thing. It’s always off (or on, depeding on your perspective). It’s uses ‘electronic ink” so when you turn the page, it flashes the screen and the ink rises to the top of the paper. There are no pixels as far as I can see. I think it uses vector imaging or something. There is a lock-type button though so the page turning buttons don’t actually press when it’s in your bag or whatever. According to the manual, the battery lasts about a month of “normal usage” (whatever that means. . .).

3g service is included free, you don’t have to pay for it. So if you have multiple devices (ipad, computer, another kindle, whatever), it knows what part of the book you left off. All your highlights and notes are synced as well. Books are downloadable anywhere 3g works of course, which is pretty much everywhere. It even comes with a safari-based browser which actually isn’t half bad (but kinda awkward on a kindle, to be honest). It can read text files and pdfs. Finally, it’s not just books you can get with this thing. You can use it to get blogs, magazine subscriptions, pdfs, text files, etc. You can even email yourself articles and have it appear on your kindle instantly. Wow. . .

I’ve been using this thing for a week now and I find myself reading a lot more. It’s small enough to fit in my laptop bag, so i just bring it everywhere. So if I have to wait in line at say, the post office, it’s just there. This is great since it allows me to catch up on all the technical reading that I need to get done.

The best part is is that the price just got lowered to $139 for this thing (3g version – $189). So it would be a very good christmas present for either yourself or a loved one. Get this thing, you won’t be disappointed, it has the “stever’s recommendation”.

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