Bitterness, or how we need to learn how to build a bridge and get over it

If there is one human feeling I cannot understand, it is unwarranted bitterness, especially towards someone who has done no harm.

I was shocked at the way some people took the failure of Raspberry Pi to cope with the demand with such bitterness. This was not a personal insult, it was not something done to spite the world, it was not something that was done to cheat YOU.

Was I dying to get my hands on one? Yes

Did I want the honour of being one of the first ones to try it out? You bet!

What was my reaction at it being sold-out so quickly and at the servers crashing? Excitement. I was really happy for the people behind it for creating a product which has captured the imagination of the people. I was delighted that there is so much demand for it because it will ensure that in the long term we will have a vibrant community thriving around the project.

It is not as if they had taken deposits from everyone and then ran away with the money. They are not going to be charging exorbitant rates for their product, and the money made is going to be ploughed back into The Foundation.

I see the same thing every time a product or solution is delayed or some flaw is discovered in a device. Is it so hard to accept things as they come? Is it impossible to consider that we are all human and that there are certain issues we might not have forseen?

It is not often that I paraphrase a quote from the bible, but I would like to tell all the people who are angry at the Raspberry Pi creators: Whoever has never been sidewinded by an issue out of their control can throw the first stone.

So please, cut them some slack. You will get your hands on a Raspberry Pi eventually. It might not be today or tomorrow, but by the time you do there will be more people using it and you’ll find more help online.

As the ever-knowing Monty Python sung in The Life of Brian: Always look on the bright side of life!

Why the Media Fat Cats are Wrong: Again.

Today I look at why the media industry needs to stop and think and start looking at the internet as a whole new opportunity rather than a threat. Then they can make more money and we can love a happier life without stresses of SOPA/ ACTA and all the other threats.

You can find the article on Media Tapper:

Why The Media Fat Cats Are Wrong: Again

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Anti-ACTA protest in Valletta

Photo-reportage/ Comment

Censored Micky Mouse
A protester in a Guy Fawkes mask holding up a banner which includes the lyrics from a Maltese song from the '90s. The lyrics said that we always did and always will live in a Micky Mouse country. However the reference to Micky Mouse is censored, with a note saying that Disney owns the copyright to the name.

The protest moving down Valletta

Today Valletta (Malta) joined a over 200 cities around Europe in a protest against a totally draconian anti-piracy treaty that is being proposed – ACTA.

The protests finally seem to be working, and even though the European Union has already signed the treaty, now the European Parliament and the individual countries in the Union each have a decision to take. Protests in some of the countries that had originally intended to sign the treaty have started making some inroads. Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Germany have all put their decisions on hold.

The Maltese Prime Minister, Lawrence Gonzi, also reacted today by stating that he wants to draw up a bill to protect people’s rights to use the Internet. Whether that means ACTA will not be ratified locally, however, remains to be seen.

The biggest argument against ACTA (and one which I fully support) is that it wants to impose old-fashioned business models on a world which has moved on significantly.

What really frustrated me today was the attitude of Moviment Graffiti – who were some of the main movers behind the protest. When they got the chance to speak that essentially implied that we should have the right to piracy. The person speaking on their behalf then went into a tirade against big corporations and insisted that we should boycott them. This is absolutely not what the protest should have been about, and I really felt cheated.

By making such sweeping statements and twisting the protest in favour of their beliefs really took away importance from the issue at hand – ACTA. By implying that we should have the right to steal material under copyright, they undermined the values of the protest and gave ACTA a solid base for its argument.

Thankfully all the other people who presented their views on behalf of the various organisations being represented made a lot of sense and the majority of people speaking presented a valid argument against ACTA.

All we can do now is maintain our protests online and pray that more governments see the light and stop this treaty in its tracks.

Pictures after the break.

Continue reading Anti-ACTA protest in Valletta

The Ryanair Blackmail

Today I was charged €120 by Ryanair for being a bit too busy. I had an incredibly hectic morning to finish off all the loose ends at office and was flying out of Malta at 4 pm. I managed to check in online at 12.10. Ryanair, however, has a clause somewhere that if you do not check in online 4 hours before your flight you need to check in at the airport. And pay €60 per person for the privilege. It is not that we have never flown with Ryanair before – we use them regularly – but for some reason we must have always printed our boarding passes a couple of days in advance, so this particular clause had never affected us before.

To make matters worse, we had started the process online at around 11.40, but their system would not accept our credit card to add an extra suitcase to our return flight. But since our last attempt was logged at 12.10, the ice-queen at the counter at the airport told us that the fault is flatly ours and that those were the policies. Not much you can do at that point. You’re at the airport with a holiday booked, you shut up and stump up the cash because it is too late to go back.

We were there again – falling into the Ryanair blackmail. Once you get to the point of no return you practically pay anything to get along with it. And it is not the only trick in the Ryanair hat. Do you need to change a name on the ticket or the date on a flight – sure you can. Just pay €50. Per flight. Did you buy a box of chocolate for your grandma on the way onto the plane? You can take it on board, no problem. As long as you can stuff it into your hand luggage and fit it into a Ryanair inspection box. If not, you can put your suitcase into our hold, no problem. Just pay €60.

Ryanair seems to be the only company in the world that thrives on being an asshole. It has taken being strict with its customers and developed it into a fine art. It successfully lures you to its site with promises of 1c flights, even though you end up paying an extra €50 by the time you actually board the plane. It cheats you into paying little bits and bobs over and above the price by hiding costs at different stages of the buying process – up to the very end.

What really frustrates me is that there is really no need to do it. If they, for example, simply advertised the final price for their flight it would still be bloody amazing. If they weren’t so obsessively anal about their on-board luggage policy, their flights would be much more fun to take.

In theory their idea is ingenious. They took the frivolous frills out of the flight model and offer everything as an extra cost. I don’t mind them charging me for food, for example. I can take my own food on board if I wanted to, but at least I am given the choice. I prefer it to being treated to cheap, crass food on a full-price airline. I don’t mind the fact that you are encouraged to travel light, if I want to take a suit case I just pay a bit more.

So why do I still fly with them despite having paid €12 per minute for our mistake? Well we still got away from Malta for under €240 (for two tickets). The total time spent on a flight pales in comparison to the time spent abroad when on holiday, and for the price I would have spent on the flight with a mainstream airline I usually manage to sort out most of my accommodation too.

Will I ever be happy flying Ryanair? Nope, not if they keep this shit service up. Will I ever fly Ryanair if any other airline on the same route is even close to matching them on price? Nope. Will I keep taking Ryanair flights? Yes, but I will hate every minute of it and I will never willingly recommend their service. Musical Discovery Paradise screenshotSustaining a creative spell on a daily business for a long period needs fuel. I’m a terribly boring guy, and I don’t really believe in doing drugs. I stop drinking coffee after lunch time and only use energy drinks if I need a kick before playing football and I’m too exhausted to walk to my car when I’m playing (and to mix with vodka).

My cheat is music. I love it. It is the only way I can survive cardio at the gym, my means of concentration at the office and my fuel at night.

My biggest problem with music, though, is that unless I have time to research new bands I usually end up stuck in a rut. I’m subscribed to Last.FM and use it primarily for one channel – the “Sounds like Neil Young” channel. I’ve tried many others, but nothing comes close to satisfying me as much, even when I tried to specify what I would consider to be a very narrow range of music.

The solution: It is all-legit, free-to-use and, as their blurb states: handcrafted. The concept is incredibly simple, users just create small musical mixes and tag them by genre. The average seems to be 8 tracks (hence the name of the site), but some mixes are much longer. I haven’t found the time to create mixes myself, so I might revisit the subject once I have.

You don’t even need to subscribe to enjoy the music, even though creating an account does have its advantages. It allows you to create your own mixes, add songs to your favourites, add mixes to your favourites subscribe to other users’ mixes.

Another mega bonus is the availability of apps for Android and on iDevices. You can select a mix on the move and you’re on the way to musical discovery.

8tracks does have drawbacks (or rather, limitations). It does not compete with Spotify, Google music or Grooveshark because you cannot choose your own tracks (unless you create your own mixes). I have also never come across a mix with more than one song per artist, so I’m also guessing there’s a limit imposed there. I also find it frustrating that you can only press next for a limited number of times per hour – they say it is because of the way their license to play music works.

But I have found nothing I’ve tried so far even comes close as a service to discover new music. Since all the mixes are made manually it can be a bit of a hit-and-miss at times, but overall when you select a mix based on its tags the hit-rate is very high. Try it out, you surely won’t be disappointed and you have absolutely nothing to lose.


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5 Traits of a Horrible Boss

I recently watched the movie called Horrible Bosses (with Kevin Spacey et al in it). I wasn’t expecting too much out of it but I actually found it to have quite a few good laughs and it reminded me of some terrible experiences I had in the past.

The pity is that a horrible boss is not usually an unsuccessful one. Most of these behavioural traits can be found in some of the most entrepreneurial people around. Some might say that it is nearly a prerequisite, however I have worked with people who are successful and do not even display an iota of the nasty habits I will delve into below.


1) You have the weight of the world on your shoulders and you have to let everybody know it.

The first step in becoming a terrible boss is to let all the people around you know that they cannot survive without you. You are the lifeblood of the company and if it wasn’t for you, there would be nothing right going on. You have to constantly let your peons know that you have sacrificed your life for the job and that it was not worth it, however you press on for their sake. Even if you are the one reaping the profits and they are the ones being paid peanuts.

2) Your subjects must fear you; fear is the only way to earn respect

Given that you spend all your life working you feel that the people who work for you are nothing more than subjects in the empire you built. Since you believe that all your employees are there to exploit you, you feel you should do the same and ensure you squeeze every drop of blood out of them. The only way to do this is to instill a sense of fear in all the people who work for you. Raise your voice and cuss regularly. Remind people that their job is always at your mercy.

3) Fun should be abolished from the workplace.

A smiling workforce is definitely not busy enough. If your employees are enjoying themselves then something must be wrong. You need to rectify it by enforcing stricter rules and tightening the screw harder on employees at every level. You must also frown upon, or flatly disallow any activity organised by the company which is not directly related to “work”.

4) Only you can do things right.

If you want to be the perfect terrible boss you must master the art of doing everything yourself. This can be done in one of three ways. You can either physically do it yourself; you can write strict instructions that should be followed step by step by one of your minions; or you could pretend to delegate with misleading instructions, then storm in and change everything.

5) Shift rules, goals and expectations on a whim.

The final one for the list is usually the best way to kill off managers, but it works just as well with people at all levels. Give them a set of goals and expectations to work towards and then shift them on a regular basis. Ideally you need to justify the shift by blaming other people within the organisation, even though it is always clear that these are also acting on your instructions.

If you are a boss and anything in this list is vaguely familiar you should be very worried. Then again, if it really applied to you, you would have stopped reading ages ago. Learning from others is not something you would consider worth spending time on.

If, on the other hand, you are an employee and your boss shows some (or God-forbid all) of these traits, I can assure you that you are not the problem. Polish your CV and slowly, but surely, start looking for a job. If you actually want to find a job, refer to my earlier post about succeeding.

The saddest thing about this article is that there was a selection process involved in it. I have quite a few other terrible things that bosses can do to make their colleagues’ lives miserable so I will revisit the subject in the future.

Do you have any experiences or traits of horrible bosses that you can share? Use the comment section below to vent.

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