Awasu » 2014 » May
Friday 23rd May 2014 8:03 AM [Awasu News]

So, I'm finally back in the land of the connected and quite happy to be here[1]. People will tell you that Cuba is amazing, enthralling, insanely frustrating, all at the same time, and they'd be absolutely right. It was an intriguing trip, and one well worth making, if you ever have the chance.

Harris Kupperman recently posted a bunch of articles about his recent trip there, and his experiences were pretty similar to mine.

Having lived in Miami for the past decade, I have met plenty of Cubans and heard the disheartening tales of Cuba and the Castro brothers. I expected to find the world’s largest tropical gulag. Instead, I found a cheerful country, full of warm friendly people, some of whom seem to genuinely admire the government—despite its arcane rules and habitual dysfunction.


I expected to find an island mired in misery with chronic scarcity of basic goods. Instead, I found a place that was remarkably devoid of extreme poverty—a true anomaly in Latin America. Given the inevitable failings of a purely socialist state, I expected much worse. If you remove the top few percent of wealthy Argentines, the average Cuban is roughly on par with the average Argentine in terms of standard of living and Cuba’s infrastructure is a good deal ahead of Argentina’s—something I certainly did not expect to find.

Having grown up in Australia, I didn't know much about Cuba other than Fidel and Che, cigars and the music, so it was interesting to read his take on things - Americans seem to have a (ahem) interesting view on socialist countries, and Cuba in particular 🙂 But like him, I saw hardly any poverty at all, and even then only in Havana, and while people didn't have a whole lot of money, they seemed to be well-fed, healthy and generally happy.

Internet access is woeful, and the only place I can think of that could possibly be more locked down would be North Korea 😐 Virtually the only place you can get online is at an office of the national telecommunications company, and there would usually only be one in each town, which maybe offered internet access. Most of the time, you have to queue up to get in[2], maybe 15 or 20 minutes in the scorching heat, and once inside, you have to queue up again to buy an access card, which is logged against your passport. "Queue" is a general term here; there's no numbering system, so people would be milling around all over the office and you have to figure out who's last. Then, of course, you have to queue again for a terminal. Once online, it wasn't too bad, but it was definitely a chore getting there.

So, apologies to all those people who were getting slow email replies from me during this time, but there was a reason for that. Sigh... 🙁

Anyway, enough moaning from me, on to the good stuff. The first alpha for 3.0.2 has been released and it's a good one 🙂 3.0.2 will be a bugfix-and-enhancements release, but don't let the relatively short change-list fool you, there's been a huge amount of work done for this release.

Awasu has always been a bit slow opening channels, but I accepted it since it's doing an enormous amount of work generating the HTML page[3], especially if there's a lot of content. However, this release includes a bunch of optimizations for this process and opening channels is now, I believe the technical term is, stupid fast 😀 Awasu is now a whole lot more fun to use :clap:

Due to my recent circumstances, there has also been a pile of work done on the offline parts of Awasu :), including the search engine, which works much better now. And while only having access to really old archived content because you haven't updated your channels for a month is not a particularly common use-case :roll:, it did turn up a few bugs, which have now been fixed.

Finally, this is a bit of a silly thing to say, but I'm going to say it anyway[4]. I still play a bit of Counter Strike, albeit pretty badly, and while I never really liked the Havana map much, it is kinda cool playing it when you're actually in Havana 🙂 It really does look like that! Still waiting to get to Rapture, though...

Anyway, take the new release for a spin and see what ya think! And BTW, the upgrade policy has now been changed permanently - if you have a paid version of Awasu, you are now entitled to free upgrades for 2 years (instead of 1).

[1] Although the 3000 or so emails waiting for me wasn't so cool 🙁
[2] Because that's what Cubans do, they have to queue for everything.
[3] In particular, processing the templates and stripping unsafe content.
[4] Not like that's ever stopped me before 🙄