Archive for October, 2005

Lunch where the chef spits on the floor

30/10/2005

The Karachi Darbar Group of Restaurants of Dubai, UAE has a good reputation with locals and expats alike.
The branch we visit is located in Karama. You can’t miss it.

Karama is a low cost area of Dubai. Most of the people who live there are from India, Pakistan and the Philipines, with some Western expats added to the mix. There’s nowhere better in Dubai to get an inflatable giraffe or a Chinese bike that’ll fall to pieces within minutes of buying it. There are also lots of good restaurants that are very easy on the wallet indeed, if you can brave the chaotic traffic to get there.
We’ve been going to the Karachi Darbar for a few years now. It serves Indian and Pakistani food, with an emphasis on grilled meats, curries and sweet tea. Taxi drivers in particular seem to flock to it for a cup of Lipton that’s been boiled for the last five years along with gallons of condensed milk and sugar.
We always sit outside, where it’s usually pretty clean. You get visited by the local stray cats and the odd cockroach crawling around whilst enjoying your meal. A full meal for two with drinks usually costs around 40Dhs (about $11). I don’t recommend eating there if you’re not near a toilet the next day and have a wimpish stomach like mine. That’s not to say the food is ever bad or has gone off in some way – quite the contrary, as it’s always clearly freshly cooked and well prepared. It’s just that unless you’re a regular eater of spicey food you simply need to be practical about these kind of things.
We always have the same waiter and the same odd conversations about the menu, which contains no descriptions of what the dishes actually consist of.
“Can you help us here? What is a ‘prawn fry’ or a ‘chicken lollipop’?”
“Mm, it like prawn fry and chicken lollipop.”
“Oh, thanks.”
Our conversations with the waiter have improved on our earlier visits. When Tabu was ordering he used to glance at me for approval. I’d nod sagely, giving the little lady permission to choose a vegetable kofta. Now he’s realised that I’m clearly not the one in charge and Tabu’s able to order her food without any need for me to intercede.
The dishes you order often don’t end up being what you actually get served, but despite the culinary lottery involved, the end result is always tasty.
Yesterday we tucked into butter chicken and chicken kadai, with a fresh roti and green salad. Very nice. The only negative part of the evening was when someone who looked like the chef came out for a break, which he spent spitting onto the floor by the door. The friend he was chatting too appeared to have a cold. He did put his hand up to his nose when sneezing, but only to direct the sneeze onto the floor by the freezer containing the ice cream.
Despite this, my portion of Indian ice cream, known as kulfi, went down well.
Sadly, the website seems to be down at the moment. If it goes back up again, check out http://www.karachidarbar.com for the latest message from the chairman.

Advertisements

Quick observations on America

29/10/2005

I’ve been to the States four times this year, each time spending a few days in the San Francisco area.
I thought I’d write down some of my obesrvations, which are those of a 31 year old Englishman who now lives in Dubai, to put them in context.
These aren’t meant to be critical – there’s good and bad in my home country, the UK, as well. I’m just recording my comments. They are also probably not particularly original. Plenty of other people have probably said similar things on numerous other occasions. If that’s the case, my comments might serve to reinforce those ideas and prove their validity, as opposed to shedding new light or providing incisive comment.
* Service is excellent.
Excellent, but also appalling. The service I got when buying a $2 hamburger was amazing, the service when getting on my $600 plane flight was awful, which seemed a bit mixed up.
* Cars are enormous.
I find it amazing to see people driving huge V8 pickup trucks which have clearly never been used as pickup trucks. It’ll be interesting to see if habits change in the coming months in the wake of increased oil prices.
* Lots of people are enormous.
There are fat people in the UK, but nowhere near as many as I saw on my US travels. I was quite shocked at the shape of some people I saw. The average security guard and airport worker seemed to be overweight in quite a different way to people in Europe. Bulges in quite different places.
* Lots of people are trim and perfectly groomed.
Whilst there are lots of obese people, there are lots of very fit, groomed looking people. One minute I was feeling quite slim and well dressed, the next I’d feel like a shabby tramp as some perfectly turned out person walked by. The gap between the two seems much larger than in Europe.
* You’re informed how much sodium is in your soy sauce.
Every food product is covered in information on calorie content, salt content, carb content, etc, etc. Strangely though, alcoholic drinks don’t list the alcohol content and tobacco products don’t list the amount of tar and nicotine, which seems a bit mixed up.
* The amount of choice in shops is huge.
Supermarkets in Dubai are well stocked. So’s Tesco’s down the road in London, but I was amazed at the range of products in the shops near our hotel. Cherry Vanilla Diet Vitamin enhanced Dr Coke with a lime twist anyone? Every brand of everything under the sun?
* The amount of choice in the average restaurant is huge, as are the portions.
Yet things seems to taste relatively bland. You’ll get every option and every seasoning and every sauce, and your scallops look twice the size of normal scallops, but they’ll taste rather bland.
Some more thoughts later, if I haven’t offended anyone and had my blog banned.

Getting fat in Santa Clara

29/10/2005

The recent Desktop Practice meeting, held at the beginning of October, was excellent.
* The practice is working well together
* The product set is getting even better
* Some real focus on what works and what doesn’t is being implemented.
This focus is long overdue at Sun for the desktop line, in my opinion. It’s also a good example of how assembling product sets into practices seems to be working. The practices are active in the field and are experts on what works and what doesn’t. The resulting feedback to those on high is valuable.
What amazed me about this particular meeting was the ill-hidden intention of the organisers to send me home sevearl stone heavier. We had muffins, cookies, and other sweet things in the morning, fresh biscuits mid-morning, huge lunches, ice cream in the afternoon, tonnes of sugary drinks – a veritable feast, non-stop, throughout the day. You don’t get that in the UK or Dubai office!

Upgraded to the States

29/10/2005

The 2nd to the 9th of October saw me travelling to and from Santa Clara for our six monthly Desktop Practice update.
As usual I flew Dubai-New York with Emirates and New York-San Francisco with an American airline. As usual Emirates was excellent and the American airline did its best to make you feel as if you were travelling on a cheap and rather tatty bus staffed with people paid commission on how grumpy they could appear.
The Emirates portion was improved by upgrades both way to Business Class. What a difference – this time I actually felt fine for the string of meetings we had and arrived home feeling great after having an excellent meal and sleeping for at least 7 of the 13 hour flight.
The problem with getting upgraded on a reasonably regular basis is that when I actually have to fly in Economy I feel like I’ve been downgraded. The difference in quality is big, as is the price, of course.
Sun’s policy on flying is that it’s Economy all the way, unless you’re pretty senior. Even my boss, who has a target of several hundred million, slums it in Economy. Given the expense of Business Class I can understand the policy, but I wonder if it’s not a little counter-productive at times? If you arrive for your meetings feeling ill, tired and genearally not able to function, the cost of your trip is effectively wasted. How you’d police which flight deserves business class is probably too complex to implement.
My suggestion – Chris flies Business, everyone else flies Economy.

Swimming with Snoopy

29/10/2005

Snoopy has a statue, sculpted by nature herself, resting off the East Coast of the UAE.
We went snorkelling off the coast in Fujeirah the other week at the Sandy Beach Motel. Can you guess why the rocks just off the edge of the beach are called Snoopy Island?

Snoopy’s surrounded by some lovely coral and the resulting undersea life that congregates there. The rocks are covered with black crabs, which gives the sensation that the surface of the rocks are rippling when you surface from a swim.
The snorkelling wasn’t quite so good as it’s been in the past. Hopefully this hasn’t got anything to do with the construction work that’s now starting in earnest of the coast here, but I suspect it might be.

iPod Photo irritations

29/10/2005

Now that we’ve got a new laptop with lots of space, I’ve finally got around to copying some more photos to my iPod photo.
When doing so it creates a folder called ‘iPod Photo Cache’. In this folder it keeps the various resized versions of your photos, optmised to display on your iPod’s screen. Fair enough, as the resized pics for the iPod itself are quite small.
However, what it also does is keep a folder of photos resized to appear on a TV via an S-video connection – this is where the irritations lie. Each of the resized photos, regardless of its original size, is held in a file sized at 776KB. This means that if I want all my photos to be viewable on my iPod I end up creating several gigs’ worth of copies of new photos sized for viewing on a TV, which is something I never do. Most of the original images aren’t even 776KB in the first place! What a waste of space.
Come on Apple, give us an option to disable this feature – why should I waste so much precious room on my hard drive for files I don’t need?
I might try and delete these pics manually and see what happens…

Solved! Strange X-terminal Solaris access problem

25/10/2005

Last week I was being driven potty by a strange issue with various x-terminals connecting to a server running Solaris 10 for x86.
It looked as if certain users were not able to connect and I couldn’t work out why. The x-terminal would bring up a connection to dtlogin, but when the user logged in, they’d be thrown out of the x session altogether and back to the x-terminals chooser screen.
Some users could log in – others couldn’t. There were no meaningful errors in /var/dt/Xerrors and noone else appeared to have suffered anything like this before according to Google. Very frustrating.
Here’s what was happening –
When a newly created user logs into Solaris for the first time, they are presented with a grey box asking them to choose the windowing environment they want. In our case, with a freshly installed Solaris 10 01/05, the options were CDE and JDS.
The x-terminals we were using (made by WinBee) didn’t like this grey box at all and simply ended the whole connection to the Solaris server.
Some users were logging in correctly because we had logged them in on the server console earlier and chosen JDS – their settings were for ‘last user session’, which meant JDS, so they were logging in correctly. At the time though it looked like the system had some kind of limit set, as only 4 users were able to log in successfully.
Logging in as a failsafe session didn’t work for the new users who had not been logged in before.
By setting the session manually to JDS, the new users were able to log in.
I was sweating away looking like a bit of a twit in front of the customer and was pretty relieved when we worked out what the issue was. It’s alway the silly little things that drive you crazy!

Acer wireless problem solved!

25/10/2005

I posted an entry yesterday about wireless problems with my new Acer TravelMate.
They seem to be solved now, so here’s what I did for the benefit of fellow Googlers.
The Acer TravelMate 4020 has an Intel 2200BG wireless card that can run at various speeds, up to 54Mbps. I have a DLink DSL G604T wireless ADSL router that can support 802.11b 11Mb and 802.11g connections of 54Mbps.
Browsing worked fine from the Acer, but VoIP and streaming music did not.
I noticed that the two other laptops in the flat were running at 11Mbps and were having no problem placing Internet calls or streaming music to the Apple AirPort express.
I downloaded the latest driver for the 2200BG from Intel, which comes with a management tool. Using the management tool I set the card to work at 802.11b only and music now streams without any jerking to the AirPort Express. I’ll test it evening, but I suspect the VoIP app will now also work fine.
There’s no need for 802.11g as the ADSL speed is 1Mb and the other two machines I might need to access are 802.11b only.
I wonder where the problem was occurring – at the router or on the laptop? At any rate, it’s fixed now.
The next thing is to work out if I can be logged into Sun’s vpn and streaming music to the local AirPort at the same time…

Happy Birthday to me!

24/10/2005

I’m 31 years old today. Exactly 31 at around 1700 GMT+1 as I was supposedly born ‘around about tea time’, which was usually held at 5 in the afternoon at the Sauls.
In my 30th year I’ve changed jobs, got married, bought a house and travelled to 13 countries around the world on business for Sun, most of which I’d never visited before.
Roll on 31.

Happy Birthday to me!

24/10/2005

I’m 31 years old today. Exactly 31 at around 1700 GMT+1 as I was supposedly born ‘around about tea time’, which was usually held at 5 in the afternoon at the Sauls.
In my 30th year I’ve changed jobs, got married, bought a house and travelled to 13 countries around the world on business for Sun, most of which I’d never visited before.
Roll on 31.