07 January 2009
Sign of Life
Not "still here", but "currently there"
In case you've been wondering where I've been all that time... I'm currently travelling. Lucky me. Right now I happen to be in the Bretagne, where it's not even raining - against all expectations - but it's pretty cold. Oh and I don't feel much like writing, as you might have guessed.
13 January 2009
Back in the Saddle Again
or rather: back home
So I'm (as of yesterday evening) back in Athens, now back in the office. Having a vacation and traveling was very nice. I caught an endless cold (still sniffing, coughing and running around with a scarp) but still I managed to see some really nice places in the Bretagne and enjoy some really good food. Breton gallettes and crêpes rock! I hit on a streak of very un-breton weather. Practically no rain, days and days of sunshine and very cold weather. Nice to look at (everything looks nicer with a bit of sunshine), but with the wind sometimes very cold.
Now in Athens the weather is warmer, but I'm still dressing up thicker than appropriate. Have to drive out that cold somehow. I didn't feel much of a "culture shock" either going to France or coming back to Greece. Now I've got to catch up on answering mails, get to speed at work and see friends.
16 January 2009
During my vacation my wonderful Samsung Digimax Cyber 530 broke down. The camera has one of those zoom lenses that get extruded from the camera body by a little motor. The mechanism had already been stuck some months ago, back then a little push had fixed things. Now in the Bretagne it was probably just a tiny little bit too cold for the mechanism. It's stuck for good it seems and this kind of "cheap" digital object is hard to get repaired.
So, I'm looking around for a replacement. Something a little bit more robust would be nice. Without a protruding lens, even if that means a little bit less optical quality. Basically there are two "rough" compact cameras around: The Olympus line (currently at the Olympus Mju 1050 SW) and the Pentax line (right now at the Pentax Optio W60). I've looked at the Olympus in a shop and in reviews, didn't like it too much. I'll probably go for the Pentax.
But the atmosphere was nice
Having a lazy evening at home, I went out to get some Souvlaki. As I approached my usual place, I noticed that they had no lights. Power failure, but apparently everybody around them had electricity. Inside they'd put up a petroleum light and they were still able to sell "pita gyros", as the gyros-thing is heated by gas. There are some things they could do on the charcoal grill, but without the ventilation to push out the smoke that is not a good idea.
A fat guy from the electricity company was there, investigating and in the end deciding to send over a repair team, promised to arrive the same evening. The shop people were obviously annoyed by all this. Well, I got my food and I've still got electricity at my place, so I can post and read comic books.
21 January 2009
New Work-Phone: Nokia e71
Or "New Toy", whichever really
Yesterday, I received my new phone from the company (thanx folks, the Graphics Garage is really a great workplace!), a replacement for my time honored P910i. I've already installed the most important thing on it: PuTTY, an SSH client. This phone is really much, much more comfortable to use with PuTTY (or SSH in general) than the P910. The picture shows mutt running in an ssh-session on my server. You could even go to "full screen mode" to get a tiny little bit more screen real estate.
This morning on the way to work I already had occasion to use the phone in an "emergency": One of "my" servers had restarted itself in the night and Zope did not get auto-started as expected. I was just passing through a little park and sat down on a bench to fix things. Logging in to a pre-defined connection with putty, starting up Zope, all very easy with this phone. SSH on the P910 was much more clunky in comparison, always poking around to get a certain special character to be sent. Putty on the Nokia e71 even sets up the navi-button to act as cursor keys.
Apart from that techy stuff: It seems to be a nice enough phone. It looks and feels sturdy, all metal and stuff. The keys are good enough to use, but since I have the version with Greek keyboard, the printing on the keys is really crowded, sometimes I get a bit lost. Switching from Greek to English input and back could be easier, but it really isn't that bad too (press and hold "Shift", press "Chr", then use the navi-button to select the other language in the menu and press the center button to select. Maybe it could be possible to write a python script to do that and assign it to a button).
The SMS application, the contacts and phone handling and all that seems to be reasonable. Settings are a bit spread out all over the place. I think the P910 with the stylus interface and a central "control panel" for the settings had a bit of an advantage there. Web browsing works, I think I'll only ever use it in emergencies. The connectivity is a bit of a mess - as I have a bandwidth restriction on 3G connectivity, I'm trying to use wifi connections as much as possible, but somehow the phone has a tendency to jump back to the 3G connection. It feels as if I have to select the proper connection again and again. Oh and the connection indicator is tiny, tiny in some applications - good deal of squinting there.
The phone also has GPS and a "Maps" application. I have no experience with GPS, but it seems to have found more or less where I am. The GPS seems to be a bit handicapped by all the buildings obscuring the sky here in Athens, the position jumping around a bit. Nonetheless it calculated the speed and average speed of my bus ride home yesterday evening. It also managed to find me and the bus on the map anytime. If you want to use "driving instructions" ("turn left on the next corner, fast! the traffic cop is watching us!") or even "walking instructions" (the same for pedestrians) you'll have to pay for a license. I got a 90 day demo license, but didn't manage to try it yet.
I managed to get my contacts moved over from the Mac: Nokia has made an iSync plugin and it works fine. Syncs calendar stuff too, but I don't really have much there. No idea yet how backup and archiving of messages will work, but I'm sure I'll find out. So, overall I'm happy with this phone for now.
22 January 2009
Τυρί και ψωμί και παρέα
Ένα από τα παραδοσιακά φαγητά μας
Όπως και παλαιά φάγαμε χτες φοντί με παρέα στο σπίτι μου. Κοινωνικό φαΐ το φοντί, έστω αν είναι και πολύ απλό. Το αστείο λέει ότι γυρίζεις από βραδιά φοντί που σε καλέσανε και όταν σε ρωτάνε οι δική σου τι είχε για φαγητό, απαντάς "τίποτα, ψωμί και τυρί". Η αλήθεια είναι ότι όλοι κάθονται γύρο από την κατσαρόλα με το λιωμένο τυρί και βουτάνε τα κομμάτια ψωμιού και βεβαίως αρχίζει συνήθως μια ωραία συζήτηση.
Κανονικά πρέπει να κάνει κρύο για να τρως φοντί, αλλά βεβαίως εδώ στην Αθήνα δεν κάνει ποτέ τέτοιο κρύο. Δεν πειράζει, φάγαμε καλά, σκάσαμε στο φαΐ και γελάσαμε και καλά.
23 January 2009
When I went to make myself a tea this morning in the office, I found a box of what I can only describe as "chocolate bolts". Someone had bought them for a customer meeting, but in the end they stayed in our little kitchen.
They taste good, are made in different kinds of chocolate and come from the Ζαχαροπλαστείο Αριστοκράτικο ("Aristokratiko" sweets shop).
The interesting part is of course that our company logo has this powered up bolt in it, the one you can see behind on our notes paper. Goes well with a company that is named Graphics Garage. So anything bolt and mechanic and funny/interesting gets a good view in our office... or a good bite, in this case.
24 January 2009
Taking my Phone out for Wardriving
Which means: Find out what wifi networks exist someplace
"Wardriving" is a catchy name which means mapping the availability of wifi networks in an area. Usually it involves a laptop, a wifi card, a GPS receiver, and driving all that equipment around (e.g. in a car, you could also "warwalk" if you can carry it all). Wardriving does not actually mean accessing those networks you found, though some people mix these things up too. Time and technology move forward, so yesterday I discovered that with a little piece of software I have everything I need to go wardriving right in my new Nokia e71 mobile phone.
On the web I found this howto for wardriving the N95 (which seems to have been copied a couple of times on the web, so I have no idea if this is really the original author there). Basically it's using two pieces of software from http://darkircop.org/barbelo/ - GPSd and Barbelo (mobile codes for phone access: GPSd and Barbelo) - to connect to the phone's GPS and do the actual scanning and logging.
The resulting logfiles are then transferred into the computer, converted to "Google earth format" and imported into "Google earth" to see them on a satellite map of the city, as pictured. Looks funny.
There are some small problems with all this: The "Barbelo" program is crashy as hell, it's "use at your own risk" software (so don't blame me when it messes up your phone, I warned you just now). It also does not handle Greek characters in the wifi Station IDs, I had to manually edit the "null characters" it inserts there and that would block the xml conversion. In the xml conversion somehow the stations signal strength disappeared. The last problem: Apparently the searching for wifi networks happens only punctually, not continually, there's always a bunch of stations lumped together on one position.
One result was not really surprising: There are still a lot of "open", unencrypted wireless networks around. Here in Athens there are some providers who deliver wifi-routers "open" to their customers and those customers don't care / do not know how to secure their network.
27 January 2009
New toy arrived this morning
Yesterday I had finally kicked my own butt, finished deciding on my camera shopping decision, taken the plunge and ordered a new camera. I still miss the old camera. I do know that the new one is not perfect, I will discover its good and bad sides.
I've ordered the camera at e-shop.gr, a Greek web shop with a little twist: Since package delivery is not the most reliable of all things in Greece, you can order online and pick up the goods at their "outlets". And since not everybody has a credit card (or wants to use it that much) you can pay cash.
So, yesterday I ordered a Pentax Optia W60, a waterproof point+shoot camera. It's a tough little badass camera, but it does not have manual exposure control - snif. I'll have to learn to live with that. Probably will post more about the camera itself some day.
The funny thing with e-shop.gr was that they listed the availability as 1-2 days, but managed to have the thing ready for pickup in the local outlet in 1 day (actually less, but I was already in the bus when I got the SMS that I could pick up my stuff). Nice. Picked the thing up this morning, took this pic with the Nokia e71 phone... total toy rush here.
They also have an online order tracking page, where you can follow how the order is processed in stages like "checking address data", "assembling order", etc. with date and time on each. I must have clicked on that poor web application a thousand times, just for fun and to see if those guys were having their coffee or what or finally finishing my order?! ahem.
Looks like they start late in the morning and rush to finish before lunch... or else they did have other orders to fulfill along with mine:
30 January 2009
Thoughts on Airports
Past the security control
Sitting here, waiting for my flight to a weekend in Switzerland, some thoughts go through my head. How many times I've been sitting here, waiting for some check-in or boarding in the last years. Even thoughts about the old Athens airport, which was close to where I lived back then.
Flying somewhere for a weekend is pretty crazy, but it's a special occasion, my father's birthday. There was a time, when I was a kid, when I enjoyed flying - now it's more like taking the bus, just something to get over with. Well, I will enjoy seeing the good old Helvetia (Ελβετία in Greek ) and bring some chocolate!