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Walking capital

June 30, 2004

London sees yet another tube strike. The union rejected London Underground's offer of a 3.5 percent pay rise and a reduction in the working week from 37.5 to 35 hours (what's wrong with that?). Instead the scene was set for a traffic mayhem.

So this morning streets were full of walking, cycling, rollerblading people and grumpy people waiting for crowded buses. Londoners took out their rusty old bicycles or put on comfortable walking shoes.

All that is relatively good - bonus exercise - the bad side is all the extra cars in the streets. Traffic jams and pollution ahead, the traffic is at a standstill. Earlier last week Ken Livingstone had specified that the congestion charge would not be lifted in the event of a tube strike nor would parking restrictions be lifted, not exactly a helping hand is it.

I can only sympathise with the commuters that depend on the tube to get them to and from work each day. They are already paying very high monthly charge and are now left to their own devices. Some of these commuters are able to work from home but the rest are looking forward to a long and complicated journey with alternative public services or a 1-2 hour hike.



I sweat a lot...

June 29, 2004

... when in a sauna.

Yesterday I was just getting comfortable in the 87C, catching up on the tabloids when an older gentleman entered the sauna.

He asked me whether I would mind if he put some "Chinese drop" on the stones.

I didn't quite understand what he had just said, just that he wanted put something on the hot stones. Being an ignorant macho, I thought that if he can manage it I sure can as well.

He proceeded emptying half the bottle of that stuff in a water filled spatula and whacked it on the heater.

1.5 seconds later, a very strong, pepperminty and sweet fist of steam spread around the sauna and punched me right in the kisser.

4.5 seconds later the older gentleman swore something about using too much of the drops and rushed out from the sauna.

I have to give credit to the drops, my airways have never been clear like they were in that peppermint hell. My eyes were watering, but not in an uncomfortable, mint-candy-in-your-eyes way. Instead, they were just moist and cool.

The cool feeling spread to the rest of my upper upper-body and for a short while I was actually shivering in the 87C.

I gotta get me some of those drops!



Arabella, Royal Opera, Covent Garden

June 18, 2004

The story is of the young girl Arabella who is choosing a future husband. She is not taking the matter seriously and is instead enjoying the game of flirting with several young men at the same time, without committing to any of them.

Her family is in current financial problems so the father (Count Waldner) is interested in finding a wealthy husband that could save the family. He sends a photograph of Arabella to the old and rich officer friend Mandryka. The photo reaches Mandryka's nephew, also called Mandryka, who is so taken by Arabella's beauty he decides to courtship her himself. He is in luck because Arabella immediately favours him.

Another deciding factor is Arabella's sister Zdenka who is brought up as a boy (Zdenko) to save the expense of bringing up a second girl. She secretly falls in love with the young officer Matteo, another of Arabella's suitors. Matteo does not believe he has much chance to win Arabella so he asks Zdenko for help or else threatens to shoot himself. Zdenka promises to do all in her power to help him out and is handing him letters written by her, but claiming to be written by Arabella.

The plot really thickens when Zdenka, in a desperate move, hands Matteo the key to Arabella's bedroom claiming that Arabella wants Matteo to visit her. Mandryka overhears this and is understandably disgusted. When the unknowing Arabella returns from a ball, she is confronted and what follows is very touching.

Arabella is the first opera in German that I have seen. During an Italian opera I normally don't understand anything and have to rely fully on the subtitles. Because I speak a bit German however, I was able to follow the dialogue a bit and this improved the experience a lot.

There was an interesting transformation in Arabella. She started of as a naive young girl playing with the men courtshipping her. In the end she accepts the responsibility and chooses a wealthy husband. Meanwhile, her sister Zdenka who starts of as being the wiser ends up making a foolish mistake and needs her grace to be saved.

It was interesting to see influences from Austrian, German, Polish and Czech cultures in the opera.



Mozilla Firefox 0.9 released

June 16, 2004

Of course I downloaded it as soon as I got the news that a new version of the fabulous browser Firefox was out. I have had just minor issues with version 0.8; sites that are IE "optimised" and forgetting cookies being the major ones.

The new version does not bring any radical changes. Instead it focuses on ease of install and usage of extensions.

Downloading it is fast because the whole application is just 4.5MB.

There is a new dedicated extensions and themes manager that keeps track of what has been added to Firefox and whether a new version is available. Very user friendly.

First thing you want to do after installing Firefox 0.9 is to get new extensions because 0.8 extensions are not re-installed. I managed to corrupt my installation by downloading extensions for the 0.8 version. Go to update.mozilla.org to get the correct extensions and themes!

Google toolbar, IE view, Web Developer and AdBlock are a must.

Update 17/06/04
And if you still are looking for reasons to go away from IE, read Lockergnome's excellent article on Why You Should Dump Internet Explorer



My thumb is hurting...

June 11, 2004

... I have been playing too much of "Alien Scum" on my mobile (SonyEricsson T630).

There is something special about low tech games that makes them addicting. You will not see any fancy 3D graphics or stunning animations. Still, this repetitive game is very addicting.

Alien Scum reminds a lot of Alien Invaders. Kill all aliens on the screen to advance a level. This version adds some power ups but in my opinion, it doesn't match up to the original.

You should be able to get it FREE from the SonyEricsson mobile site.



DLink DCS-2100+ Internet Camera review

June 01, 2004

DLink dcs 2100+D-Link DCS-2100+ is a WiFi enabled web camera with a built in web server, FTP and mail sending functionality.

This means it can "easily" be connected to an existing wireless network (WLAN) and only needs a near by power outlet to be connected. The built in web server makes it fully functional on its own, not requiring a PC to be on constantly.

The setup is fairly straight forward. Connect the camera with the supplied network cable to a router. Set up the wireless parameters such as IP address, SSID and WEP encryption.

Unplug the network cable, power cycle the camera and it should connect to your WLAN. In theory. In practice you may have some connectivity issues, as always with WiFi.

It wasn't mentioned ANYWHERE but the camera works only with a broadcasted SSID. I figured this out the hard way, only being able to connect after many, many trials of various setups on the camera and my router. Not too happy about this fact because of all the exploit possibilities of WEP but I am hoping that a future firmware release will fix this issue.

The camera has a web interface that will let you modify everything you need. First thing will be to create some user accounts that will be able to view video from the camera but not be able to access the setup.

The FTP functionality lets you upload a snapshot to a web server in arbitrary intervals. If you instead prefer to be emailed with a snapshot as an attachment just enter an SMTP server and email address. The latest firmware supports SMTP authorisation if your SMTP server requires that. It doesn't seem to be possible to both FTP and send email.

When you connect first time to the web camera you will be asked to download 1-2 ActiveX components to be able to view streaming video and audio. This works very well in IE on Windows but any other browser or OS is not supported.

Once connected, you have the choice between UDP, TCP and HTTP connection. UDP results in best quality but may be blocked by corporate firewalls. HTTP is video only but should work even if behind a firewall.

The camera comes with a IP surveillance software that is run from a PC. It supports up to 20 (!) cameras if you are interested in a thorough CCTV solution.

Motion detection is a feature with great potential but I found it too complex to set up and not working very well anyway. In theory, you should be able to receive an email with attachment when motion is detected.

Via the web interface you can adjust standard video settings like video quality, white balance, image size, brightness and etc.

There are many smaller enhancements I'd like to see in future firmware releases. A separate SMTP and FTP functionality. Better motion detection setup. HTTPS support for administrative functions. Cross browser compatible connectivity. Support of non-broadcasted SSID. Leaner user interface.

+
Wireless
No PC required
Sound
Included monitoring software

-
Broadcasted SSID required
Complicated motion detection setup
Supports IE only


Example image from the camera (the page is a custom page made by me).

Update
Comments have been closed, Please use the DLink DCS-2100+ Internet Camera forum for any questions / feedback.