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17 December 2017

Interview to Ames Radio

Weeks ago I concede an interviewed to the programme Vivirmos nun mundo finito (Galician for To live in a finite world) broadcast by Ames Radio. The programme is produced by Ames Pospetróleo an organisation dedicated to steer the transition of the city of Ames in Galicia to the post-petroleum era.

Galician and Portuguese are two languages that evolved from Romance (the language spoken in Europe during the Roman Empire); geography kept them close enough for broad mutual understanding. Galician sounds crystal clear to a Portuguese person, but for a Galician the Portuguese intonation becomes more challenging towards the south, where vowels are half muted and the Arabic influence is heavier. Still, I could address the listeners in Portuguese, opening my vowels and slowing down my speech. Hop below the fold for a digest in English with some additional reflections.

19 November 2017

A good example of how Brits were mislead on the EU

Days ago I was embroiled in a closed mail-list discussion on Brexit regarding the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and wild life protection programmes. The subject was a reportage by a famed British euro-sceptic journalist, aired just days before the referendum:

I attempted to show my colleagues the dimension of the falsehoods in this reportage, but George Monbiot seems to be a holy cow of sorts in environmentalist circles, thus my argumentation was not welcome. Under the coat of a left-leaning environmentalist George Monbiot engages in unconstrained bashing the EU, sowing unwarranted mistrust and scepticism. This makes for a good example on how the British public has been mislead, that must be fully understood. Therefore I leave here my reasoning for future reference.

31 October 2017

The new Nissan Leaf and the future of electric cars

The new Nissan Leaf is finally here. This was one of the most anticipated cars of 2017, and with good reason, since it is the most successful electric vehicle in the auto industry history. Over 300&nbsp000 units have been sold worldwide so far, with certainly more to come, the new Leaf platform giving shape to other vehicles later to be marketed by Nissan and Renault.

What is the exact significance of this car? What is it telling of the future of electric cars vis à vis conventional internal combustion engines? This note approaches these and other questions from a mostly numeric based perspective.

22 September 2017

Dismissing misunderstandings on the EEA Agreement

Much confusion - or outright misinformation - continues to circulate in the UK media regarding the exit of the country from the EU. Particularly inflicted is the difference and relationship between the EU, the political union, presently governed by the Lisbon Treaty, and the European Economic Area (EEA), the trade union, ruled by the EEA Agreement.

Days ago The Independent newspaper published an enigmatic article in which it is claimed, among other oddities, that article 127 of the EEA Agreement can stop the current process of exit from the EU. Reproduced below is a short note I sent the editors of The Independent clarifying some of the misunderstandings in the article.

20 August 2017

What the fall of the Sterling really means

Last Friday the Sterling closed at 1.094 to the Euro. Not only is it a remarkable figure for crossing below 1.1, it is the lowest weekly close since 2009. In effect, since the common currency was introduced to currency markets in 1993, the Sterling closed against it below this level only in eleven other weeks. They all took place between December of 2008 and October of 2009, at the height of the housing crisis, when European institutions failed to address financial markets with the haste seen in grown-up economies.

This brief note puts this monetary devaluation into a broader perspective, within the context of the UK's exit from the EU. Sterling is just a visible facet of an overall economic setting deteriorating in anticipation of the UK's shift into a new - and largely unknown - economic paradigm.

17 July 2017

How BP is detracting renewable energy in its Statistical Review

Every June it happens more or less the same way. British Petroleum (BP) publishes its Statistical Review of World Energy, venting out a few catchy phrases that the mainstream media mindlessly repeats. This time the catch-phrase was: "overall energy consumption is growing faster than renewable energies put together". This discourse is naturally convenient to those set on promoting fossil fuels and/or detracting renewable energy. But is BP really a trustworthy source on the matter?

BP's statistics are a rare source of energy data available for free to the public. For that reason I used it to study fossil fuels for several years. However, its quality visibly degraded with time, and by 2010, as it become impossible to reconcile consumption and extraction figures, I stopped using it. If the BP's data is unreliable regarding fossil fuels, should it be taken as such on renewable energy? That is what this short note tries to find out.

17 April 2017

Why Gnome 3 can not replace Unity 7

For a few seconds I thought it was just an April Fool's prank, but the date of the article dismissed any doubts. Canonical is to put an end to user interface development towards the vision of Convergence. The arguments are pretty compelling: the market does not exist. Four years after the Ubuntu Edge campaign it is indeed startling that not a single carrier joined in to experiment the novel concept.

Together with this shock announcement there was something far more overreaching: Canonical is to drop Unity 7 from Ubuntu in 2018. The desktop environment developed in house is to be replaced by Gnome 3. Further news reinforced the trend: staff to be laid off and the CEO stepping down. Canonical seems to be abandoning user interface development all together.

It was great while it lasted, but after almost five years using Unity 7 it is time to move on. But where to? Is Gnome 3 really an appropriate replacement? Below the fold is a detailed account of my experience of two days of work on Gnome 3.

15 April 2017

Time is ripe for open source labelling

In what is largely an acknowledgement to the influence open source has today in the software industry, it is becoming increasingly common for corporations to promote commercial products as open, when they are anything but.

Beyond the obvious ethical objections to this practice, the negative impact it has on the industry is to no one's interest. Open source products are often developed with public money, be it through research programmes, public administration initiatives or local authorities. These initiatives have created an implicit open source brand, synonym with freedom of development and local based support and maintenance.

By misleadingly identifying their products as open, corporations cash on the open source brand, essentially promoting monetary flows that invariably end outside Europe. This is a complete subversion of the economic and social dynamics of open source software.

05 March 2017

Tailor made politics

2017 is election year in various economic heavy weight members of the EU. The Netherlands comes first, with the suffrage scheduled for the 15th of March.

Polls keep showing the PVV of Geert Wilders ahead, with twenty odd percent of votes, almost double of the record score the party obtained in 2010. In face of such projections the foreign media focuses almost exclusively on Wilders, the candidate that easily produces sensational headlines with his extreme right rhetoric.

If the rise of Wilder's party is substantial, more important is what is happening with the remaining parties.

This article first appeared in Portuguese language at BomDia.eu.

25 February 2017

Cobalt and other resource scarcity stories

Image from Wikipaedia.
Various natural resources have been popping up in so called business news in these first weeks of 2017. As the world economy gets up to gear again, the struggle of Man against the finiteness of planet Earth becomes salient once again.

Overnight, an obscure metal seems to be setting an entire industry into peril. As remarkable as the news itself is the lagging response of the mainstream media to these matters, apparently only able to report on resource constraints only in the face of acute scarcity.

02 February 2017

The Nemesis

This is a translation into English of an article originally written in Portuguese for BomDia.eu.
I had in a previous career a diplomatic post where I helped bring down the Soviet Union. So maybe there's another union that needs a little taming.
It was this way that Theodore Malloch described the functions he will soon take by the EU, as ambassador of the USA. This is in no way a lapsos linguae, but rather a symptom of an overt drive by the USA to dismantle the EU. The support provided by the US government to euro-phobic politicians, or the announced arrival to Europe of BreitbartNews (an extreme right propaganda medium whose director integrates the new US government) are other pieces of the same puzzle.

Irrespectively of the credibility one may lend to personalities like Theodore Malloch, it is important to understand the root of this threat to the European Union.