Archive for March, 2005

Istanbul

15/03/2005

Pleasant enough flight to Istanbul on Sunday, flying Emirates as usual.
On landing, classic aeroplane behaviour for this general region exhibited itself. At the most dangerous part of the flight, ie landing, the pinging of hastily unfastened seatbelts resonated across the cabin as the brakes were applied and as we stopped on the apron, clearly still in the middle of the runway and nowhere near the gate, everyone leaped out of their seats to get their luggage out of the overhead lockers.
I really don’t understand why people do this. The seatbelts don’t dig in, so why take them off when you’re careering down a runway at a hundred miles an hour? And why stand up when the plane’s still moving, miles away from the gate, fighting to get your luggage out? This never happens on flights to Europe. Bizarre!
Unfortunately, our travel agent’s recommended hotel is 40+ minutes from the Sun office, so I’ve ended up wasting a lot of time commuting to and fro, although it has allowed me to some of Istanbul. The city’s really hilly in the part that I seem to be driving around, with tightly packed 5 to 6 storey high apartment blocks huddled together, often apparently leaning on eachother for support. In some places you get the impression of driving through a huge dilapidated council estate that’s been transported from Manchester, dumped in Turkey and sprinkled with Mosques.
Mosques seem to have much higher and more slender minarets than those I’m used to seeing in the Middle East. Many of them are old; I can’t judge how old as my dodgy, seatbelt free taxi whizzes by too quickly to read the info plates outside them. They are made of large stone blocks and look beautiful, like a traditional medieval Christian church of the type I’m used to that’s been converted by some invading Ottoman marauders. Which maybe they were 🙂
Driving is chaotic, to say the least. Lane discipline is non-existent and people seem to drive as they would walk, constantly changing lanes, pushing in front of ongoing cars, horns constantly hooting. During my taxi rides I had to close my eyes several times and found myself sub-consciously breathing in as we squeezed between a high Greek tourist bus, a lorry and a guy with a horse drawn cart.
I’m less than impressed with my hotel, ‘The President Hotel’, run by Great Western. On arriving there was no booking for me and the advertised wireless network was non-existent. I ended up having to use 26Kpbs dial up. Very old school. The business centre PCs were also unusable as they’d been infected with some kind of spyware that allowed you to browse for one or two pages, before popping pages filled with porn. A side benefit maybe, but irritating when trying to connect to do some work. Reception staff didn’t seem the slightest bit interested that the wireless network wasn’t working and didn’t bother to call a technician the following day to fix it. Suggestions ranged from ‘noone else has complained’ and ‘try to sit in the middle of the lobby cafe or in the garden’. Very helpful. Considering the vast majority of hotel guests were over 60 and apparently from Spain and Greece, it was hardly surprising that noone had complaind about the Internet connection, unless it was the annual meeting of the South Europe Cyber Grannies Association.
The hotel has a bizarre pub, called, intriguingly, ‘The English Pub’. This has a large oval bar that has no overhand on the counter, so you can’t sit comfortably facing forwards as there’s nowhere for you legs to go. There are several sections behind wrought ironwork that resemble prisons and when I first went in, traditional pubstyle hardcore techno was blaring out. The prize for the oddest feature goes to the glass cases of stuffed animals that were mounted around the top of the oval bar area. Stuffed animals might be fairly pub-like, but some decorating genius had decided to place empty beer cans in each of the cases, making the poor animals resemble creatures stuck in some polluted English canal, swimming around cans of Skol and Carlsberg that some careless chav had chucked to one side before lighting up a Silk Cut. Add some fag ends to the cases and a blue plastic bag and the effect would be complete.
I’m flying back this evening, landing at 2335. Thank God for Dubai’s eGate card which lets me go straight through passport control, pausing only to verify my thumb print. Without doubt the best 150DHs I’ve ever spent.

Blog pic

12/03/2005

Just added a pic to the blog title.
It’s me and Duncan in Wadi Assimah earlier in Feb after all the heavy rain. I’m on the left.
It was quite a drive, with some quite hair-raising moments, including me getting stuck in a water filled trough with water pouring into the Jeep and the exhaust very much under water… We made it out unscathed though.
I need to write it up and stick it on the ME4x4 page soon.

Blog pic

12/03/2005

Just added a pic to the blog title.
It’s me and Duncan in Wadi Assimah earlier in Feb after all the heavy rain. I’m on the left.
It was quite a drive, with some quite hair-raising moments, including me getting stuck in a water filled trough with water pouring into the Jeep and the exhaust very much under water… We made it out unscathed though.
I need to write it up and stick it on the ME4x4 page soon.

Old Town contract

10/03/2005

Just rec’d our contract for the apartment in the Old Town, Burj Dubai. Very exciting.
http://www.emaar.com/new/projects_burjdubai.html
Managed to get it in three days instead of the usual four weeks. Our sales guy clearly has wasta…

If you’re driving a Merc, you don’t have to give way

10/03/2005

Driving past Emirates Towers, around the bizarre new junction that’s been implemented and a guy pulls right out in front of me in his S Class, totally ignoring the line and the giveway sign. I toot the horn, he gets out and asks me what the matter is. I point out that he was meant to give way. His genius response is to ask me if I want a job in the Traffic Department. I point out to him that you don’t need to work in the Traffic Department to know when someone is driving dangerously. His response is to tell me ‘this is not your business’.
Come on guys, start learning to drive properly!
They really need to fix this junction. It’s now causing tailbacks of up to 200 metres and it’s only a matter of time before the first accident occurs…

Broadband

08/03/2005

Amazing. I’m sitting here in a hotel in Warsaw, accessing the web for free (or almost – a room with internet access is 3Euros extra).
I’m getting 36oKbps download speeds! Three years ago in the London briefing centre we had a very expensive new link put in and I was excited to be able to download at 60Kbps.

Blogging and house buying

07/03/2005

Blogging
So, what’s the point of this blog? I’ve decided the principle reasons for its existence are the following, in order of importance –
– To vent – a useful cathartic process to get things off my chest.
– To inform – random tech, Dubai and other stuff may get picked up by Google some day and be useful for someone.
– To entertain – I actually quite enjoy reading some other blogs out there, such as Jon Masters’ and a few others. Maybe people might enjoy mine? Personal stuff will stay out of it in general, but perhaps someone else might enjoy my ramblings.
I must set up Thunderbird to read the RSS feeds from the interesting blogs I do like to read – hope they’ll be readable in offline mode…
House buying
I’ve signed the draft copy of our contract for the place we’ve bougt in the Old Town, Burj Dubai. I was a bit surprised to be told that it would take four weeks for the official contract to be available. All that’s needed is a signature from someone at Emaar. It’s problematic, as the mortgage company should be paying the second installation, which is due in less than four weeks and they need at least a week to set up payments with Emaar after I pass the official contract to them.
I’m assured various steps will be taken to get this sorted out, but it’s another bizarre part of buying a place in Dubai apparently, up there with mysterious service charges that aren’t mentioned anywhere, contracts that don’t mean anything as they can be changed at any time and the fact that the law allowing you to buy property in Dubai hasn’t even been passed yet… I hate this kind of thing, but I think we’re doing the right thing and am putting my trust in the various organisations that things will work out well. Based on past experience this is probably a foolish thing to do, but there you go.
That’s enough for now, bye from 38,000 feet (will cut and paste this from OpenOffice later – no Internet on Emirates yet 🙂 )

Solaris on the laptop finally

07/03/2005

Solaris x86 is now happily installed. Steps I took, inefficiently –
Laptop had a Windows C and D drive, Linux root and Linux swap
When installing Solaris, the install process could only see the Windows C drive and the Linux parttitions, so I deleted the Linux partitions using fdisk from the JDS install CD to see if it made any difference. Solaris still only saw the Windows C drive. Since all I had was some downloads and other stuff that was backed up elsewhere I installed Solaris, recreating a 35GB D partition in fdisk, aloong with a 10GB partition as part of the install. I used text mode as I’d read somewhere that the graphical install didn’t allow you to use fdisk to create partitions – not sure if that’s true or not.
After installation Windows saw a D drive but didn’t recognise it as FAT and wanted to format it. XP will only let you format with NTFS, which would be no good for cross mounting it to Solaris to use it as a shared data drive between the two Oses.
Based on advice from one of the Solaris x86 install fest guys at CEC I downloaded a Linux system rescue CD and used the QT based partition tool to format the drive with FAT.
I can now access it from both Solaris and Windows.
Still on the list are sorting out Solaris running at full 1400×1050 resolution on the Toshiba Tecra I have. There’s an internal site with xorg,conf settings I need to play with. After that I just need to install the Solaris 10 companion software and set up pkg-get ot get anything else I need.
Seeing Solaris on my own laptop and seeing everyone installing it on their laptops at CEC was incredible when you think that only recently there was such a question mark hanging over Soalris x86.
I’m looking forward ot using it as my default desktop OS and playing with zones and other nice stuff when I have spare moments sitting in planes.
To make things perfect there’s apparently a beta version of a driver for the Tecra’s wireless card somewhere on SWAN, which should mean I can use Solaris pretty much exclusively.

Off to Warsaw

07/03/2005

Tavelling again, this time to Warsaw to meet with the local D&M team. Very excited to use my new ‘in ear’ headphones. They do make a big difference and I can actually use them on this flight as Emirates provide a standard socket…
I’ve managed to bag row 25 on the Airbus 300 we’re in, which is next to the emergency exists – I haven’t got the fable seat 25J, which has lots of legroom, but I have managed to sit in the middle aisle at least, so I can use the laptop.
I’ve discovered the Thunderbird extension which allows you to work offline in a sensible way, so I’ve been able to put the time sitting around the airport and in the plane to good use, filing about 300 mails out of the inbox and reading up on a load of stuff that got shoved to the bottom of the to-do list.
I’ve now gone from having zero Skywards miles to well over 25, 000 tier miles in two months, which I quite impressive I think! I’m looking forward to jumping the queue and maybe the odd upgrade here and there. Are you listening Emirates? 🙂
When I’m on these trips it amazes me how much more pleasant it is for me that it was for my father, who was travelling to various countries behind the iron curtain in the 70s, Europe and Oz in the 80s and to Eastern Europe in the 90s. Limited in flight entertainment, no portable computers to do your work on, no Internet to allow you to call home for nothing and for entertainment when you’re stuck in your hotel room. Even in the late 90s the mobile phone was for emergencies – no texting home to say hello.
It makes me wonder how much further things will go. I’d like to see the following things that would make my life easier –
Laptop power sockets by default in each seat, including economy.
Laptop batter power lasting much longer.
Good speed Internet access from the plane, affordably priced.
No mobile phones on planes, please, ever! Or on the London Underground either for that matter.
Ability to switch my mobile phone on, withouth the phone part benig activated, presuming it continues to be banned on planes. That way I can play mini-golf without making the plane’s navigation system fly us to Mongolia instead of Munich.
Decent capacity mp3 player as part of my mobile phone. 20GB at least please so I can use it stuff like Solaris and JDS iso to drop off at customers.
Wireless Internet throughout the hotels, not just on ‘executive’ floors. Come on, you make money when people access it, so why only allow it on the fourth floor of the Holiday Inn South, Vienna?

Me

07/03/2005

In the unlikely event that anyone stumbles across this blog and finds it interesting, I work for Sun as an engagement architect/practice manager for Sun’d desktop and mobility practice. I cover the SEE region, which is something like 12 Sun offices and 101 countries – all of Africa, Gulf, Turkey, Greece, central and eastern Europe and various CIS states. So far it’s great, but a lot of travelling.