Archive for May, 2008

Bricked! lol

May 28, 2008

Somewhat related to the Phoenix probe landing, I found in the Viking mission page on wikipedia (the exams are here again and I’m looking up things on WP and then getting stuck reading completely unrelated stuff and consequently failing exams) an amazing bit of information. The mission started in 1975 when it sent to Mars two NASA rockets carrying four spacecraft, each having on-board a computer based on the RCU1802 chip (that was a legitimate computer at that time). All four vessels successfully carried out their missions but each one failed years later in a different way. Three computers were shut down in appropriate ways worth a space travel (physical damage) but the last operating one has this failure reason: Human error during software update.  Sounds so contemporary.

It’s amazing that a board that left Earth in 1975 could be updated from 100,000,000 km away (some vendors still don’t get it about updates). Even more amazing is that the discussion of whether (and how) to protect software from the user is still not resolved. FIC GTA phones evolve a pattern of writable and read-only memories to become “un-brickable”. I’m sure that’s partially because it becomes less clear who is a user and who is the developer (like in a NASA mission). It’s clear that nobody wants their mission to end this way, “a lorry ran over my phone” somehow sounds much better.

Gazpacho a lo guiri

May 19, 2008

Background: I try lots of new things when I make my food and while most of my experiments fail miserably, there are cases that come out well enough that I even repeat them, so I thought I can share (open-source) one of these results, and this is an attempt. But, open-sourcing food, strangely, isn’t so easy because the “code-base” is very ugly – everything is an undocumented hack (or “spaghetti code”), and needs to be documented. My optimisation flags are always set for minimising the number of dishes to wash and ingredients cost.

Gazpacho: gazpacho is a Spanish dish (or drink) originating from Andalusia. It’s made of mainly vegetables, is almost liquid, is consumed cold and doesn’t involve cooking. It’s eaten in the summer only, especially on hot days. (At higher latitudes than Spain, I found the added practical argument is that vegetables are about 3 times cheaper in the summer).

There are a zillion types of gazpacho and some Spanish are very religious about preparing it, especially those who make cookbooks. Every region has its own type, but there’s also the generic type that you can buy in supermarkets or in McDonald’s.

Now, I’m not Spanish and I allow myself to break some of the rules. If you’re Spanish, stop reading here because you’ll find that I’m committing various terrible crimes against the mediterranean cuisine.

The recipe: today I completed a quest for all the ingredients and made a gazpacho again and it turned out eatable again, so it must not be extremely difficult, here’s the list.

  • 0.5 to 1kg of tomatoes (canned tomatoes will also do, even a box of juice – here’s where I commit the first crime).
  • 2 red peppers/paprikas, optionally add one green.
  • 2 or so slices of bread.
  • one half bulb of garlic (maybe less).
  • a medium-size onion.
  • a cucumber.
  • 1tbs or so of salt, some pepper (or none).
  • half a glass of oil (here’s my second crime: use any oil – it really really doesn’t matter that much. It appears that if you’re Spanish a single drop of oil that is not the absolute highest quality immediately spoils your dinner. You will never ever see or hear the word oil (aceite) go alone when you’re in Spain – it is in 100% cases accompanied by the words virgen and extra, as in aceite de oliva virgen extra – it might equally well just be a single word in the vocabulary because it always appears together, I don’t think anyone is even able to pronounce aceite alone).
  • 4tbs or so of vinagre and half glass of water.

Place the bread in a plate with water and let it dissolve a bit. Cut all the vegetables into pieces of sizes that will make your electric blender happy. The peppers and tomatoes are fine as they are (another crime!) – in a real gazpacho recipe they tell you to peel them and remove the seeds, but the seeds are the best part, they’ll get blended anyway and they’ll just make the texture nicer, and peeling is just too much work. Blend the bread, vegetables, and water until liquid. Then throw in the oil, vinagre and salt and mix again until the oil can’t be seen.

The colour is between orange and pink and is most influenced by the red peppers. The taste is most affected by the salt and vinagre and you need to adjust their amounts but it will probably be a lot of vinagre and a lot of salt. Too much onion or garlic makes the gazpacho spicy but at some point the smell is too strong.

When it’s done, just store in a fridge and serve cold optionally with pieces of toasted bread.