Archive for the ‘Science & Technology’ Category

No, really, you can’t call me today

Woman on red phoneIt doesn’t seem so long ago that people were debating about whether mobile phones should be banned from restaurants.

Nowadays, many people make the assumption that they can call you at any time. After all, if you’ve got a mobile, then why shouldn’t they call you? Of course, at the other end of the line this leads to the habit of never turning the phone off and of answering it no matter where you are.

So it confuses people when I don’t have the phone switched on all day. Why would it? I don’t want to be called all of the time. It’s not so much that I switch it off in the movies  but that I only have it switched on when I want to be reached on the phone.

Probably more annoying to those who feel that I should be contactable 100% of the time is that I don’t even pick up the voice mails more than once a day. In this instantly-reachable age my record so far is one person leaving seven voice mails over the course of a single day asking me to call them. It must have been urgent then? Well, no, it would have been OK to leave it another week that time.

Regain your freedom: switch off your mobile!

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

iTouch on Ubuntu

One of the big hassles with the ipod touch is that it’s very much a closed system. But it doesn’t need to be. So for those who’d like to run it without needing to bother with iTunes, here’s how…

1.  Enable USB tethering:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:pmcenery/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ipheth-utils

2. Enable mobile device support:

Go to System>Administration>Software Sources, click on Add and select


Click on Reload then Close.

Go to System>Administration>Synaptic package manager, search for libimobiledevice0 then install it.

At this point you are able to drag and drop MP3 files onto your iPod.

3. Enable Rhythmbox sychronisation:

sudo apt-get install amarok

If this doesn’t work, then:

rm -r ~/.kde/share/apps/amarok
rm -r ~/.kde/share/config/amarok*

Which should have you all set for an open iPod.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Maximising the income from customers in hard times

The best place to do this is in a technology shop because the majority of people aren’t on solid ground in respect of knowledge of the product.

This lack of knowledge makes it difficult for them to place a value on the products being sold. Added to this is the fast changing nature of the products which often leads to illogical pricing whereby better products can cost less than inferior ones.

I saw a great example of this in PC World (always an excellent hunting ground for this type of thing) at the weekend. A couple were in to buy a netbook for their daughter. The netbook cost £239 but they were talked into paying over £600 for it and that wasn’t even counting the software that they were subsequently talked into as well. All of this stemmed from the “small” payments of £25 a month and the potential to get another “free” laptop at the end of two years. Of course, by that time, they could have bought at least three laptops with the money.

The other problem that’s particularly noticeable in the netbook market niche is that a large PC shop can have anything up to around 20 different netbooks ranging from £170 through to around £370 with seemingly little to distinguish them. I question whether a normal customer would be able to tell whether having an N270 was any different than having an N455 or N550 and in reality few people would notice the difference in processing power. Even the battery life is a very iffy means of distinguishing between models as one shop can have a netbook with a 4 hour battery life at the same price as another shop with the same model but an 8 hour battery life.

The fast moving prices also creates anomalies with newer and better models quite often costing less than the older model even when discounted. Thus the “massive discounts” that were previously available on the Sony 300 and 600 readers barely brought them down to the price of the much improved 350 and 650 models.

So, lots and lots of ways that you can be ripped off!

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Not such a good idea upgrading from Ubuntu 10.04 to 10.10

Running the latest version of software is generally a good idea and if there’s no cost involved then there’s nothing really stopping you.

Unfortunately, running the latest software isn’t necessarily such a good plan if you’re not running it on the latest hardware. As we all know, new software almost always takes up more in resources than the older stuff does but, on the whole, the free software movement produces software that’s a bit lighter on the computer than the bloated stuff that we’ve become used to from Microsoft over the years.

Sadly, Ubuntu 10.10 seems to have broken that mold.

It runs just fine on my notionally main computer which has 3MB memory and a sensible processor behind it too. However, it was slow to the point of being almost unusable on my Aspire One which, whilst sporting only 512MB and an N270, is the computer that I use most of the time.

To be fair, a lot of that was down to Ubuntu One and removing that did speed things up somewhat. However, it still left the periodic freezes.

So today, I finally decided that enough was enough and after backing everything up reinstalled Ubuntu 10.04 which handily enough is a long term support version. As it ended up being a clean install I’m also finding some things that are now working after having been broken in the upgrade from 9.10 to 10.04.

I’m still wondering about the main computer. It runs OK but those freezes are becoming a pain.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Amsterdam bikes

Amsterdam bikesAlthough you “know” that Amsterdam has loads of bicycles, you’ll never appreciate just how many are there ’til you see it for yourself. The photo here is just one spot from many cycle parks that are all over the city.

Because of this concentration on cycling, you’ll find that it’s very much a city to explore without your car and doesn’t have anything like the level of pollution that you would normally get in a city of this scale. That’s not to say that you can’t use your car, just that you don’t need to.

Just walking round the city and its many canals is very pleasant and you’ll come across untold numbers of attractions even if you just wander aimlessly. Don’t miss the Anne Frank museum though which is much, much smaller than I had imagined from the books. Although the queue is quite large it moves quickly so the wait usually isn’t that long.

As you’ll know Amsterdam is home to a red light district and, yes, the prostitutes really do use red lights in the windows to indicate that they’re available. It’s not nearly as much “in your face” as you might expect though and certainly during the day feels more like a tourist attraction than a “den of iniquity”.

We found that the best thing to do was to pick out an out of town hotel near the airport and get the train in and that’s what we’ll be doing next time we visit. The hotel we stayed at has an airport shuttle so that followed by a short train journey took us into the city centre very quickly and pleasantly.

This is part of our expanding Whole Earth Guide.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.