Crappy New Year

My garage got hit by sewage that backed up while the plumber was trying to figure out why the drainage was backing up.! Looks like there’s some blockage problem with the mains leading to the city sewer and now I can shower, use the toilet or do laundry. This stated on Wednesday. Now tomorrow, Saturday, I have to head on over to get some cleaning supplies, take everything out of the garage and clean. Well, this is a great ending to 2005. I’ll be back to edit this post fully… with pictures too…

Lazy Sunday, Lazy Week

This has been an interesting last few days, lots going on. However, I have simply trying to keep rather laid back and enjoy the remaining vacation as school starts up again next week In the meantime, here a few random things I have been working on, or checking out on the web these last few days.

First, is this really hilarious “Sushi video”. Its a bit long, but it is totally worth it. Its all about Japanese sushi etiquette from the time you arrive at an Izakaya to the time you leave.

Then there is the ‘The Chronic of Narnia’ rap video that has become a cult hit on the internet. This was a skit originally broadcast on SNL and now has totally taken off. It features doing a rap about going to watch the “The Chronicles of Narnia” but also has a ton of other product placement. Hmmm… could this be the new face of advertising?

I bought an old laptop, a Dell C600. I got a really good deal on it, $75.00. Now I removed the Windows OS on it and installed Ubuntu Linux. I want to use this to learn Linux better, especially since I will be able to carry it around with me. I will keep up all updated with my progress.

This week I will be taking down my servers and moving them to a new hosting company. Although this service is not too bad, I am actually paying too much for what I am getting. In addition, there are a number of additional services that I will get including spam blocker for my email service. It never ceases to amaze me how much spam people still send… and of course, if no one was buying anything, there wouldn’t be people sending out spam.

Kickin’ Back with Grooverider

I had my market entry strategy presentation to the executive level managers today. In addition to all the other school related and other stuff that I have been working on, preparing for this presentation, and also preparing the final report has taken quite a bit from me.

Now I feel very relaxed now… well at least till until school starts again in the first week of January. So what am I doing? I am listening to the Fabio and Grooverider’s show on Radio 1. Grooverider is on the decks, and he is dropping serious vinyl killers! A number are white plates and artists unknown, so I can’t really tell you the name of the two that I really like. I should be able to know the names in a week or two once the names come out.

In the meantime I had talked about Fanu/Samurai’s mixes that he put online? Those are another set of killers! I have been listening to the mixes almost everyday now. I think my top tune out of his mixes is “Defunct Drums’ Depression Decade – VIP” which is to be released Offshore Recordings. On the bad news side, Fanu’s “Siren Song” is not going to be released. That’s a bummer! I first heard that track on Bailey on 1Xtra. I was totally bowled over…you would have to listen to that track to understand why I am bummed its not coming out.

Gifts of Giving

I was watching Oprah for a few minutes and I guess she does a “my favorite things” show where “we” get to see what she loves. Anyway, today she has all these chaps who whet down to the New Orleans area to help with the Katrina relief. I think its really awesome that the volunteers work could be appreciated… and boy did she really show appreciation. I am watching on an off, but I counted among the gifts, a Burberry Coat and Handbag, a diamond encrusted watch, video iPod, a tub of chocolate… actually, checkout the full list here. Ok, I must say, those are some really great gifts… plus I have never seen so many tears of joy, hugs and Oprah worship… and those were just the guys…

In the meantime, here is a truly touching article from India. Over 13,000 women’s groups in India, whose membership is mostly made up of poor women came together to raise $2000. By donating help a rupee each, they raised about $1,373 in 10 days. The rest was made up in donations. I think the remarkable thing about this story is 1, the level of poverty in some areas of our world where donating something line $0.50 is a really big sacrifice. Also, the generosity of people can also be really remarkable and help restore your faith in humanity. The only nagging question concerning this story is, “Where are the men????” But then again, this is India where men seem not to really esteem women much, so it’s no real surprise.

Web Pages for Internet Enabled Devices

I really like the flexibility of being able to carry a web enabled PDA to check my various emails and also surf my favorite websites. However, what I have found is that there are a large number of big name websites, especially those that are obviously database driven, that do not have versions of their websites for handheld devices and web enabled phones.

Sites like the BBC news online have “mobile” versions of their websites, which I really do appreciate because I don’t have to keep scrolling horizontally. Microsoft has done a great job with creating “mobile” versions for their hotmail and MSN/News/Money websites. The International Herald Tribune and Bloomberg news, two of my other favorite news sites also have mobile. Bloomberg’s is available through AvantGo though… However it seems like the overwhelming majority of major websites out there are still asleep on this one.

There is a very important trend we can see happening around the world and that is that more and more people are accessing the web through internet enabled devices like 3G phones. But even more important for this discussion is the fact that for Africa, the 3G phones is likely to be the easiest way with which many will be accessing the web due to lack of computers, electricity, broadband or even landlines etc in many parts of Africa.

There are many people who are on slower wireless connections (though I see connection speeds improving) and therefore it is imperative that web architects and developers think more about designing sites for such users. Once again I must say that in this area, Microsoft has done a great job with their mobile versions. Although the BBC has also done a decent job, I still think they would still do more in terms of the available content. And it’s not just the BBC with this problem. Many of the news sites that do have mobile versions, have a lot less news content available for these sites.

That being said, this blog is not fully optimized for mobile devices, but it works pretty decently with PDAs.

The Old vs. the New PDA

I have been playing around with HP’s iPAQ hx2795 PDA for a while now. There are a number of things that I really like about this little piece of hardware. I really like the fact that it has both Bluetooth and WLAN integrated and a hefty (by PDA standards) 624 MHz processor, which in itself is kind of amazing considering that in 1994, I was really exited when my college upgraded from 16MHz to 33MHz and at that time I was thinking, Wow! 33MHz? Awesome!!! This unit also has a total of about 256 MB of total memory. The nice thing about the memory is that it also has two built in slots, one for the Compact Flash card and the other for the Secure Digital card. Therefore in theory, your total memory is actually limited only by the size of the combined CF/SD cards and the built in memory.

Now there are a number of other PDAs that also have similar if not better features than this, but in comparison to the first PDA I owned in 2000, this is a quantum leap. My previous PDA, the Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC h3650 did not have the built in wireless. So to logon to a wireless network, you had to buy an expansion pack that had the PCMCIA slot. If you had one slot, then you could either attach a wireless network adaptor such as the Orinoco gold card, or you could buy a CF card and the adaptor to slot in the CF card to slide into the PCMCIA slot. Now if you wanted both wireless and extra memory, then you had to use the double slotted expansion pack.

Once you had everything set-up, it all worked pretty well although the whole set-p was rather bulky,

The old iPaq + expansion pack + wireless adaptor = one huge brick!

Hence you can now see why I really like the fact that the PDA has really come a long way since back in the day.

So why did I get rid of my old iPaq 3650? The old one died. What happened was I lost the AC adaptor for recharging the battery. Unfortunately the battery was built-in and so when the whole thing died, I didn’t use it for almost a year. Finally I ordered a new AC adaptor and tried recharging the unit, but every time I was done and disconnected the unit, the charge was lost. I figured the battery was done, so I called up HP to find out about replacing the battery. The cost? $140 plus tax plus shipping. At that price, I knew it made more sense to simply buy a new one rather that mess around with the old.

Fractals and Image File Formats

While sick in bed yesterday, I watched part of a very interesting program called “Colors of Infinity” The host was Sir Authur C. Clarke. Yes that Authur, whom anyone growing up in Kenya in the early 80s will remember as the host of the very popular series Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World.

The show, “Colors of Infinity” was about fractals and the mathematics behind fractal geometry. At first I was kind of watching with half interest, till they started talking about the most famous of the fractals sets called the Mandelbrot set. This was the most fascinating part of the whole show.

The show explored the mathematical formula behind the Mandelbrot set and how it’s being used for data compression. As an example, Sir Authur mentioned the spy satellites up higher in the stratosphere than even the weather satellites, and transmitting images and data that are way more detailed than the weather data. Then using two images as examples, he showed the difference between an ordinary GIF type image and one that had been created using fractal compression. The difference was pretty astounding. As he zoomed into the GIF image, the pixilation showed up immediately. However, with the second image, he zoomed into the picture again and again and the image was still very clear.

This is really amazing when you think about it because this means you can potentially create “infinite” resolution images that are really relatively decent sized. This I think is what Authur was talking about with the spy satellites. These satellites send back really, really high resolution images that very detailed, and so the compression requirements and the bandwidth requirements can be a major constraint on the delivery channel.

There are a large number of applications for fractal geometry, and image/data compression is just one of them. I will write again on this topic later after I have researched a little more. sometime during the Christmas break.

Want to learn more? Checkout this resource on image file formats. Also, here is more info on the Mandelbrot set.

These Unprofessional Local News Anchors

Lying in bed all day allows one to catch-up with the latest in TV land. If you don’t have cable TV, then that really isn’t saying much. Especially when it comes to the local news broadcasts which simply don’t really have a lot of interesting news to report, hence they tend to spend a boat load of time just talking about traffic, weather, sports and puppies.

That aside, what I find a little disconcerting is that many of these news anchors, who claim to be professional, are really, really bad when it comes to pronunciation of certain English and non-English words. I remember back in the day, in Kenya, when we would listen to the BBC radio and marvel because the newscasters were really on top of things. They could pronounce just about any word, English or non-English. It was obvious that the BBC folks would take time to find out the right way to pronounce the words, practice saying the words so that when they were on air, they would say the words like second nature. This about it, if you are reading the news about something going on in some foreign country, you are likely to have to pronounce names of peoples, places and events going on in that country that would not be in your normal day to day vocabulary.

So why am I going off like this today? Well, the anchor was talking about the new deal that Starbucks Coffee signed to buy coffee from the tsunami ravaged area of Aceh, Indonesia. The anchor mentioned that the Aceh region produces 40% of the premium quality Arabica coffee grown in Indonesia. As I was listening to this, the anchor, rather than saying Arabica coffee, calls it Arabic coffee!!

How lame is that?

The Constant Gardner Triumphs at BIFA

The Constant Gardner won three awards at the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) including “best film”. Cool!

The Constant Gardner in my opinion is the best movie out this year and certainly in my top five in the last five years or so. In addition, the soundtrack is simply brilliant. This movie also makes me long for my country Kenya. It is interesting to note that the movie was originally scheduled to be shot in South Africa, but after touring the various scenes in Kenya, the producers decided that there was no way they would be able to recreate the scenery and the atmosphere in South Africa.

It is also significant to note that the book on which the move is based was at one time banned in Kenya however, with the change in administration there has been a change in heart. Hon. Raphael Tuju, the Minister of Information and Communications noted that even if Kenya did not permit the movie to be shot there, the movie would still be shot elsewhere and would still be critical of Kenya. Personally I am glad they allowed the movie to be filmed in Kenya.

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