Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In the Air tonight

Well it is time to Board the Plane, hum a Phil Collins Song and reflect on what a quiet Christmas it has been so far. As you will see from the following photographs: Well nothing really happened which is just what we wanted.

Dec 20th 2009: Chaos at Geneva Airport

Deliberately unhelpful or unskilled? Ms A Cuomo, Swissport takes 30 minutes NOT to fully rebook our flight.

With no flight, we return home to Lausanne

(A day or two later we finally make it to Warsaw ...)

Stealth Swiss Fondue invasion continues

Angels are deployed in Supermarkets to sell communion wafers (sic)

Close by, some other traditional Polish Christmas advertising

The Big Exhaust Club still has a strong Warsaw following

Apparently Grundig are still in Business, I thought they died with the Elite Boy

I forget the golden bar rule (about asking without ice) and receive 5% cocktail, 95% ice.

Our minimalist Christmas tree

Walking Novy Swiat on Boxing Day

Main Warsaw Christmas tree

Changing times. Bicycle Stands. Used to be leaving a bicycle in Warsaw was a one time operation only, theft guaranteed.

Street Art

Marcus and friend check some RSS News Feeds to take his mind off the impending Dentists chair

Our local Shopping Mall

I went shopping at the DIY store for Duck Tape but instead bumped into this little house for mice. What is it for?

Old hard disks ready to meet silicon heaven

Driving Warsaw I finally find a less powerful car than mine

Disassembling: The best way to make your disks unreadable

Timberland wins the ugliest watch award at Warsaw Airport

Sleeping Agata reveals her true Jedi nature

Back home in Lausanne with our Marks and Spencer trophies.

My well travelled EVO magazines. Born in England moved to Switzerland, then to Poland for Storage, now back to Switzerland for Scanning.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Naked Air

Thanks Joy of Tech I best get into shape before my next plane journey

Monday, December 28, 2009

What's the right thing to do

Sure, Michael Sandel could do with a more artistic Cover Page designer, but don't be fooled his latest book on Justice is worth a read.

BBC Radio 4 listeners might remember his 2009 Reith lectures on citizenship

If you can't wait for your book to arrive then there is also the audible download

I would also recommend the Harvard YouTube Subscription where his 12 , 1 hour videos can be imbibed.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Now that is a Big Disk

The trouble with being an "old fart" is that I am somewhat easily pleased especially when it comes to technology.

The above IBM 3370 disk (or DASD - Direct Access Storage Device as was the IBM preferred term) stored upto 0.7GB per unit and when I worked in the marketing group of IBM was considered a state of the Art, High performance Disk unit.

So when I reflect on today's upgrade

Namely a 64GB eSATA and USB key well I feel very fortunate indeed.

The key is both fantastic and frustrating

  • Both eSATA and USB connectors are inside the key so you cant forget a cable
  • The device is quite fat, meaning that it blocks adjacent USB ports on my favourite USB hub or new laptop (annoying!)
  • Nobody in the world sells a eSATA extension cable so when using eSATA on the laptop I do lose a port
  • 64GB capacity. Whoooa. My 32GB "always carry" key was bursting so 64GB has arrived just in time
  • The sustained read speed ...
  • The sustained write speed ...

And of course I am not cheating

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Backup Internet

Can you imagine the look of panic on my face: Agata announced that we were visiting a friend and she was pretty certain that they had

No DSL internet connection!

I mean, if it is available in small villages in India, how would it be possible for it to be absent in high tech, easy life Europe?

Scenario #2: Suppose you live in a small Western country with many borders. Let's call it Switzerland. But when you edge outside to say France or England you find your Data Roaming charges are about 1USD per MB (or greater!). What a ripoff! So let's say I download a moderately sized Linux distribution. That would be about 500 USD then. Are you bloody crazy!

What you need is a local Internet pay as you go connection that you can share between all your Internet connected devices (e.g. iPhones, Laptops, Netbooks).

Here then is the way forward (pay as you go Internet connection permitting). It means never having to say to a friend, excuse me, may I borrow your Internet connection

First research what Pay as You go, mobile Internet is available in your country:

England/United Kingdom: The 3 website
3GB is about 15 GBP

Come on. You are screwed! First with Swisscom pay 199 CHF for a modem you are not going to use. The pay 1CHF per MB (no I'm not kidding) upto a maximum of 7.50 CHF daily for Natel Data Easy.

4GB for 50ZL (about 10 GBP)

Next goto eBay and buy an unlocked Huawei 8530 wireless modem

  • Connect the modem via USB cable to your computer and install the Management software (You can use this to establish a wired modem connection, but after initial config you'll probably only want to Internet connect wirelessly, so this could be a once only measure)
  • In Advanced Settings configure for your country, example:

  • Optionally reset the WiFi key and Password to something more personal

Now picture the scene ... Agata and Marcus pootle on down to the local shopping mall in Warsaw Poland carrying 2 iPhones and the powered up Huawei router. Huawei's internal rechargable battery is fully charged from the previous wired USB charge. We visit a coffee shop without an internet connection. No problem ... the Huawei is on and we both automatically connect to it to do some shopping research. On the way home Marcus uses iPhone 3G Google Maps via the 3G connection HuaweiI to get home.

Just Marvellous!

And Finally ... Interesting Technical Screens
(from the free setup software that appears after you install the application that appears as a drive when you first connect the Modem to your computer via the mini USB cable)

You can set your own DHCP range

You can route all non secure traffic to a DMZ host

You can forward specific port traffic to specific clients in your network

You can specify a different SSID, hide the SSID and control B / G wireless networking

You can configure special Port forwarding for TCP UDP or combination ports

A user replaceable battery. 3G SIM is behind the battery.

And coming soon

Friday, December 25, 2009

Polski Christmas 2009

So I do proclaim that the kids (Marcus and Agata) have joyfully done their Warsaw Polish Christmas duty for the last time in this decade.

As Christmas day concludes we confirm that:

We ate until our stomached ached on the traditional multi course Polish dinner on Christmas Eve. We then exchanged Christmas presents before drinking the night into a blurrrrrrr.

We did prepare the custom tree and lit it accordingly

We got an Angela in preparation to visit the Cemetery

We visited the cemetery only to find them closing and we were told that if we entered we would be locked in!

Agata and Mater suggested we visit Novy Swiat to see the festivities

We paid homage to the special Iron Christmas tree in the old town

We became one with several thousands of Warsaw comrades Christmas festivians who stalked the streets of Novy Swiat.

Marcus is shown above representing Switzerland on his best behaviour.

We prayed and prayed that the snow would disappear. And lowe and behold, our prayers were answered. 10 degrees. Clearly a miracle.

To finish with a quote:

Aren't we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas?
You know, the birth of Santa.

Homer Simpson

Thursday, December 24, 2009

ComputerGeek Presents

So all you non techies? You probably know at least a geek or two and are wondering what should you give them for Christmas. Well here is the answer:

  • A nice meal. The idea is that you can cook and they very probably (and I'm talking about 99% statistical certainty) cannot. So send them an email with a promise to cook them at least a healthy 3 course feast.
The rest of the presents are computer oriented ....

  • Magnifying Glass
The basic gift would be a watchmakers magnifying glass.

With a bigger budget you can go all out for the Head Visor Magnifying Glass. This might look totally ridiculous but provides a brilliant way to look close up at (say) circuit boards with magnification and light.

  • Portable Music System
The Logitech PureFi has audio jack and USB and Bluetooth Speaker inputs. You charge it using the USB cable and the newest version even has a microphone. Geeks are always listening to music and it needs to be portable to move between Gadget zones.

  • External SATA dock
There is often a need to test or connect SATA hard disks so the SATA disk dock allows for this easily. The best models have both eSATA and USB interfaces for connection of the dock to the host computer.

  • A US i.e. American Keyboard
Whilst most computer Operating Systems provide support for multiple languages and keyboard layouts when the going gets tough a US keyboard is a godsend. An especially good gift in central Europe where these keyboards are almost impossible to find.

  • USB to Serial lead

A USB to serial cable and a program like Putty will enable you to communicate with those old serial only UNIX computers Geeks have in the basement.

  • Batteries
The basic gift is a set of Alkaline batteries. But you can do better than that:

An ultra fast (30 minutes or less) batter charger is a must. Supply without batteries since there is considerable debate as to which is best and you don't want to include some old tech under capacity models. The model shown is good for AA and AAA batteries.

  • USB Power
Some USB power providers make for some real joy. Above left:the Car to 2 USB sockets, bottom: Apple iPhone and iPod power adapter, right:Belkin ultra small car USB power plug.

  • An Old Hard Disk
An old hard disk makes for a great Christmas treat. Ask the lucky recipient to get the high strength magnets out for the kids and dismantle the platters to make the data totally unreadable.
  • Watchmakers Screwdrivers
The basic present would be Watchmakers screwdrivers (complete with Blue-Tac ball to temporarily hold miniature screws). Ideal for precision screwing. But you can do better:

A Torx driver set is good to dismantle hard drives and the like.

  • Leatherman

The Leatherman Charge is perhaps the ultimate portable all in one, tough, reliable and compact tool. Don't buy a no-name imitation: Leatherman or Gerber not IKEA or Muji!