Archive for February, 2008

Dental disaster

28/02/2008

I’m off to the dentist today.
For years I’ve just had the one filling. Now, after not going to the dentist for just over two years, I need three (admittedly small) fillings. Loads of plaque also had to be scraped off during a visit a couple of weeks ago, leaving a small gap which I thought had previously been filled with my gums, but clearly hadn’t been for a while.
I have only myself to blame. It’s easy to skip brushings when travelling all the time, but there’s really no excuse for it. Bother.

AV Irritations

28/02/2008

I’m reaching boiling point with the new TV and DVD player.
When watching DVDs, Cable TV or video through my iPod, audio is out of synch by up to half a second on the Sony LCD TV. It’s infuriating – rather like watching a badly dubbed foreign language film.
The Bose guys came and stared at the TV for thirty minutes, repeatedly asking me ‘is that better, sir?’. I kept saying ‘no’, as it clearly wasn’t. Then I realised they weren’t actually doing anything other than changing the channel, waiting for a few moments and calling me back in.
Eventually I asked them if they really thought anything was wrong. They said they thought it looked fine and that sometimes lips just looked strange on LCD TVs. We were clearly getting nowhere.
The Sony guy came today and told me I should only watch DVDs from Sony and that Sony can’t help it if the audio is out of synch on TV broadcasts and bad DVDs. Classic buck passing really, which I don’t buy – everything was fine on my old CRT, even when sitting up close and watching closely. DVDs all look fine on my high resolution laptop screen as well. Plus, the DVD we were watching to test things was a BBC DVD, not something bought from the Chinese DVD lady.
Even if other sources are out of synch, the TV should surely provide some method to help users sync the audio up?
I pretended to be a lot more cross than I really was and the Sony guy said he’d ask some more senior engineers – maybe there was a software setting he could adjust or the software could be updated to include a manual setting to help synch audio.
Looking at various forums on the web it seems that I’m far from being the only one with this issue. It seems to affect a lot of people, all using different brands of TVs. As more and more people buy these things, it’s only going to get worse.
It seems to me that it’s something for the TV vendors (and preferably the other device vendors) to address via a setting on the TV. The same problem affects my DVDs, Cable TV and iPod videos. Whilst they might all have badly encoded audio, the fact remains that I’m watching everything through one device – the TV. If the TV provides settings for brightness, contrast and so on, surely it should be able to do something to help with audio.
The Sony technician told me that 80% of his time is spent with customers annoyed with the picture quality on their new expensive LCD HD TVs – they’d all seen the High Def demos in the shop and expected the same thing from the TV signal at home.
I knew what I was getting into in terms of picture quality – resolution is resolution. What I didn’t expect was something as basic as audio not working properly after paying 10,000 Dhs for a TV and 5,000 for a DVD and surround system.
I just want it to work!

Mystery technical conundrum solved

27/02/2008

Ever since we moved in, the door entry system in our ground floor lobby has appeared to be broken. If you tap in our apartment number the display simply states ‘Resident not present’. This is a bit irritating – only a bit, as most visitors come up from the basement car park, where there is no entry system at all, but that’s another story.
I have probably logged three calls about our lobby entry system. Each time I get an SMS a few days later saying that the issue has been solved. I then go downstairs at the next opportunity, test it, see the same error and log another call when I get around to it.
This time I specifically asked them to call me after they had tested it. The engineer duly called me on the intercom from downstairs, everything appearing to work fine. He then came up to talk to me.
Apparently it’s been working perfectly from day one – but you have to put a zero in before the apartment number you’re dialling.
The engineer told me this, smiling away. When I asked how anyone was supposed to know that this mysterious zero was needed, he just shrugged and said that part wasn’t his job.
A certain resident has now stuck a printed sign on our entry system now telling people to dial zero before the apartment number, hopefully solving Zafaraan 2’s ‘faulty’ system once and for all. Meanwhile residents across all the other buildings in this development are doubtless logging calls for their ‘faulty’ systems and the contractor is probably employing a full time engineer to go around ‘fixing’ them.

Mystery technical conundrum solved

27/02/2008

Ever since we moved in, the door entry system in our ground floor lobby has appeared to be broken. If you tap in our apartment number the display simply states ‘Resident not present’. This is a bit irritating – only a bit, as most visitors come up from the basement car park, where there is no entry system at all, but that’s another story.
I have probably logged three calls about our lobby entry system. Each time I get an SMS a few days later saying that the issue has been solved. I then go downstairs at the next opportunity, test it, see the same error and log another call when I get around to it.
This time I specifically asked them to call me after they had tested it. The engineer duly called me on the intercom from downstairs, everything appearing to work fine. He then came up to talk to me.
Apparently it’s been working perfectly from day one – but you have to put a zero in before the apartment number you’re dialling.
The engineer told me this, smiling away. When I asked how anyone was supposed to know that this mysterious zero was needed, he just shrugged and said that part wasn’t his job.
A certain resident has now stuck a printed sign on our entry system now telling people to dial zero before the apartment number, hopefully solving Zafaraan 2’s ‘faulty’ system once and for all. Meanwhile residents across all the other buildings in this development are doubtless logging calls for their ‘faulty’ systems and the contractor is probably employing a full time engineer to go around ‘fixing’ them.

Mummy Jennifer!

26/02/2008

This obituary of ‘Mummy Jennifer’ is a must read.
What an extraordinary woman.
“In her later years visiting foreign journalists mused about how the wild, tribal frontier, where women are in purdah and even goatherds carry Kalashnikovs, was an unlikely place to find an elderly Irish widow serving afternoon tea. The area has lately become a stronghold for the Taliban, and is generally out of bounds to foreigners.
Jennifer died on January 12. Her funeral procession was attended by thousands of burly, turbaned Pathans (many of them allied to the Taliban) who raised cheers of “Mummy Jennifer!” in her honour as the cort├Ęge passed through a shuttered Pishin.”

Ads on bbc.co.uk?

26/02/2008

I use AdBlock on Firefox to block ads and thereby ruin the sole revenue stream of most of the funky Web 2.0 companies that I use. For ages I wondered how Facebook was supposed to make any money – then I saw a colleague accessing Facebook on their un-adblocked laptop, the otherwise clean user-interface surrounded by flashing banners.
Recently the BBC seem to have started putting ads on their front page as well. AdBlock blocks them, but the page looks ugly, with a big advert sized gap at the top of the page between the top menu bar and where the ‘news bit’ actually starts. Very unappealing. I presume that you only get the ads if you’re accessing news.bbc.co.uk outside of the UK and therefore are not paying the licence fee? I’m tempted to switch off AdBlock just to see who and what is being advertised.
The BBC have such a great track record for well designed sites that look good, aren’t cluttered and only use Flash and other tools when strictly needed. I hope their web designers redo news.bbc.co.uk so that I can continue to block their ads and still have things look good!

First Dubai Metro trains arrive

25/02/2008

Courtesy of Seabee at the UAE Community blog, a pic of the first Dubai metro trains arriving.
I can’t get the picture to appear here, but if you click here it should work.
We will have a metro station within walking distance of our apartment. It should also be bearable in the summer as most of the walking would be underground. I can see myself potentially using it to get to the airport.

Tagged

24/02/2008

I have been tagged by both Mr Aaron and Alexander.
Here we go -
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages)
Todes-gruss by Zane Radcliffe. We have just had some German visitors…
2. Open the book to page 123.
Done.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
Blinde Pferden haben empfindliche Nasen. (Blind horses have sensitive noses).
4. Post the next three sentences.
>>Was wills du damit sagen?<< Callum schnueffelte demonstrativ an seinen Achseln.
Birna schuettelte den Kopf.
5. Tag five people.
That's quite enough book tagging for now, danke schoen und gute Nacht.

Dubai Panorama

20/02/2008

A friend of ours, Tamsin Faragher, took this great panorama shot of Dubai’s main ‘skyscraper strip’.

We live jut to the right of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Dubai, which is just left of centre.
Full image is here.

Gotcha

17/02/2008

Mrs Saul was being bothered by a large mosquitoe this evening. She was divebombed several times whilst we were wathing TV, but I couldn’t get it, despite my best efforts.
I’ve just splatted it in the spare room, after several failed attempts halfway through the middle of ‘House’ on MBC 4.
I think the reason I got it this time was due to the fact that the large payload of blood it was carrying made it somewhat less manoeuvrable.
This incident reminded me of a Sunday lunch at home many years ago. I remember my mother saying that she thought she had been bitten by something about the same time as my father noticing an insect-like thing sitting on the dining room wall. Needless to say, it got splatted shortly after by the Sunday Times, giving us all confirmation that my mother had indeed been bitten. Yuck.
When Mrs Saul first arrived in the UAE I told her that there were no mosquitoes, midges or any other biting insects here. A couple of weeks later I realised I was wrong. There are simply no mosquitoes, midges or any other biting insects here that like eating me.


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