Archive for December, 2007

Bhutto assasinated

27/12/2007

Benazir Bhutto was assasinated today.
She lived in Dubai before returning to Pakistan earlier this year. Mrs Saul once bumped into her at the hair salon under our building and friends of ours taught her daughters.
I’m not in a position to say whether she was good or bad for Pakistan. I do hope that the situation there improves.

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Digital home takes shape

27/12/2007

I’m slowly moving forward with defining how our new ‘digital home’ will look like. After owning the same small hifi for 8 years or so, along with a small TV and only one computer purchase (an Acer laptop a few years ago), I think I deserve an upgrade!
The TV’s been identified – a nice 40″, 2 Mega pixel Sony LCD. Surround sound will be from a Bose 3-2-1 or Sony DAV-x10 – Bose sound quality is better but it’s more expensive, Sony looks good and only one controller is needed to operate both surround sound and the TV. Mrs Saul wants a solution with the minimum number of speakers…
Mrs Saul will have a new laptop to use. The current Acer will trudge along for a year or so more as a general laptop/iTunes controller, streaming to an Airport Express plugged into the sound system. I may upgrade the Acer with an N enabled wifi card.
Central shared and backup storage was supposed to be provided by ‘AirDisk’, a usb drive attached to my new Apple Extreme router. This really isn’t working as it should do. Assuming Apple don’t release a firmware upgrade that improves things in the immediate future, I’ll use a Linksys NSLU2 to store all our content centrally, wired to the . The disk attached to the Apple router can continue as a general back up disk. Surprisingly, despite trawling the electronics shops of London today, I couldn’t find an NSLU2. If I can’t get one in Dubai either, I’ll order it from Amazon.
A decent way of playing music and downloaded or ripped content (legal content of course) directly on the TV or straight to the sound system is proving difficult. Current media-centres from the likes of D-Link and Netgear get good reviews from the press, but bad reviews from users. They also lack Blu-ray or HD-DVD, Gb ethernet and N wifi. Sony have a nice new media-centre PC out, but it seems like expensive overkill and doesn’t have a Blu-ray drive. I think a new, HDMI enabled and Blu-ray equipped laptop may be a good compromise in a few months’ time, unless other vendors get their act together and bring out something that works and has up to date networking.
I’m also not sure of the best way of getting music to the bedroom. I see there are several wifi enabled players on the market, but I need something that will read from a shared drive, rather than going through a PC. It should also be able to integrate with playlists created in iTunes.
I’m surprised that no one vendor has quite managed to pull all of this together yet.

New bridge excitement

24/12/2007

Driving over a bridge isn’t usually that exciting an occurrence, but it was on Sunday as we drove over the newly opened Garhoud Bridge.

It seems to have risen out of the ground in record time – a huge, 14 lane motorway over the creek shaped by thousands of scaffolding poles and hard working labourers. How long did it take to build from start to finish? Surely not that much longer than a year.
I ought to be used to this sort of thing now after more than five years in Dubai, but it still amazes me.
The view towards Festival City, another development that’s popped up apparently over night.

Why are these not Land Rovers?

24/12/2007

I went past Icon Autos in Dubai the other day and saw all these new Toyotas lined up, having been prepped by Icon for the UN. I’ve no idea how the ‘line of supply’ works, but given the thin tires I expect they aren’t going to be staying around the sand but will be heading off to muddier places.

Apparently the guys at Icon add the radio masts and roof racks, change the bumper and add a winch.


I’m surprised the bumper needs to be changed to have a winch added or to improve the approach angle – given the nature of the vehicles I’d have thought that it would make sense to ship them with a bumper suited to the environment they’d be used in, which was ready to have a winch fitted.
I must do some research to find out exactly which models are being shipped here. I recognize the pickup, which is widely available in Dubai (although strangely the short wheel base and long wheel base cab versions aren’t, although they are in Saudi). I’m surprised to see two different roof heights – when would you order the smaller roof over the taller? Toyotas range of vehicles amazes me – look at the general SUV market alone and you’ll see the Land Cruiser ‘jelly mould’ shape with various levels of trim, the ‘square’ Land Cruiser versions, the Fortuner, the Prado – so many models, often seemingly with not much between them. They’re all selling well though, in this part of the world at least.
And why doesn’t the UN order Land Rovers? I know, I know, a common theme in this blog. Is it that Land Rovers are simply too expensive or too unreliable? Do they not bother to make a vehicle that organisations like the UN need? Given the number of Toyotas and Patrols I’ve seen in Africa, Land Rover seem to be doing something seriously wrong, or maybe they’ve just given up on that slice of the market.

Decent offroading at last

21/12/2007

We’ve finally got around to doing a couple of great off road trips.
First off was a trip to ‘Area 53’, a couple of weeks ago. Two Wranglers and a long wheel base Pajero…
Early on in the trip Rupert fell victim to technology thinking it knows better. His Pajero was in Drive, rather than locked in second or third, so it decided to change up a gear just at the wrong moment, leaving Rupert stranded rather precariously.


I raced up to secure the back of the Pajero, so that he’d be anchored when trying to turn down, should he start to roll. Unfortunately I misjudged things and got stuck myself.

Once Simon had pulled me back out, I attached my rope to the Pajero and Rupert inched back down without any problems. Still, better safe then sorry.

No major stucks for the rest of the day – just enjoying some very big, sweeping dunes.



Last week we went to Sweihan with my new colleague, Gerard. Even bigger dunes, plus the fact that we were following rather than leading, meant a super day’s driving. Brilliant fun, particularly in one huge bowl that saw me driving round and round in fifth gear and low range, in order to keep momentum up and revs down. Incredible stuff. No photos though – we were having so much fun Mrs Saul forgot to take any.
Full set of the Area 53 pics here.

Wii Boxing fitness miracles

21/12/2007

I’m not quite at this chap’s level, but recent regular Wii Boxing boughts are really helping me out on the waistline front.
General weight has gone down a bit, but the most amazing things is how trousers that I was previously worried were shrinking around the waist now appear to be expanding. Suit trousers in particular are now hanging off me – the trousers I got married in two and a half years ago are looser round the waist now than they were then, even if the scales show me as being a bit heavier. Unfortunately the jacket’s got a bit tighter round the underarms. Still, beat that, all you married travelling types!
I’ve now bought some weights to put around my wrists while playing. My scores are going down as I’m less nimble, but it makes for an even more thorough workout, that’s also great fun. Smashing people’s faces in in your own living room, with no danger of getting hurt yourself and getting exercise at the same time is an unbeatable combination.
I can’t wait for the new Wii Fitness board to hit Dubai…
On another Wii note, I keep reading about massive shortages in the UK – Dubai is filled with NTSC and PAL Wiis, so if you need one simply drop me a mail, promise to pay twice the list price and I’ll bring you one over when I come back for Christmas.
Fellow blogger ThinGuy is miles ahead of me on the general fitness stakes, but is being much stricter. I have no intention ever of getting up to go to the gym at 0430 every morning, but salute his efforts and results.

Hooray for the Queen

21/12/2007

The Queen becomes the oldest monarch in the history of The United Kingdom today.
The article in The Telegraph sums up her reign beautifully. Says Peter Hennessy, the Attlee Professor of contemporary British History at Queen Mary, University of London:
“In those years she has presided over the most dignified withdrawal from the superpower status, which is no bad legacy. The way she has adapted, without succumbing to faddish fashions, is a gift of genius.”
I’m a big fan of the Queen. She just seems to fit within modern democratic Britain, providing far more advantages than disadvantages. Should people be in the positions of wealth and influence they are in just because they are born into it? Probably not, but I can’t really think of a decent alternative in this particular case. I shudder at the idea of the UK having a president. Hopefully the Queen’s successors will carry on in the same vein as she has.

Linguistic conundrums

21/12/2007

My work involves lots of so-called ‘Proofs of Concept’. Note that it’s *Proofs* of Concept, not Proof of *Concepts*. Using the latter description always annoys me. Non-native English speakers are forgiven, native speakers aren’t.
So how do we abbreviate the plural version? Should it be PoCs, or Ps-oC or PsoC?
I prefer PoCs, but I find myself in a terrible conundrum – is it correct? Will it turn out that my efforts to get it right are wrong, opening me to crticism?
Someone senior in the grammar world needs to weigh in on this one and put me out of my misery.
At least, when it comes to ‘competitive bake-offs’, there is no confusion.

I would have loved to go desert driving…

21/12/2007

…with this man.
I wonder if he’d have enjoyed whizzing around Dubai’s dunes in the Wrangler? ‘Pah, we used to do this in old Fords with one cylinder and half a wheel!’. I think the Brigadier would have enjoyed himself.

Old Town pics

17/12/2007

Some recent pics of the Old Town, taken by Mrs Saul.
The first ones you see in this set are the newest. I need to rearrange.
Apologies for those people in the UAE who can’t access Flickr…