Archive for July, 2010

BlackBerry operating outside the law

27/07/2010

This article is a classic example of a baffling, questions left unanswered, confused piece of UAE news.

“58 per cent of the respondents said they would be worried if the mobile applications they used were beyond the reach of the UAE courts.”

What was the question, exactly? ‘Would you like everything you do via your phone to be scrutinised by the government, however private it may be, with our without your permission?’.

I find it hard to believe that the people questioned were worried that their communications were private.

What other services are accessible by governments? Hotmail? Gmail? Private company VPNs?

“India’s intelligence officials have long complained they are unable to decipher encrypted data sent on BlackBerry handsets”.

Oh really? Have they long complained that they’re not allowed to rifle through everyone’s private belongings just because they’d like to?

It is a government’s right to create whatever laws they wish to in service of the country, naturally.

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Hurrah!

27/07/2010

Hurrah for the Queen.

And congratulations to Mr McNabb’s mum and dad too, of course!

Just normal power cuts

21/07/2010

I can’t imagine the hell people are going through in Sharjah.

A friend of ours has antiquated AC that his landlord won’t repair for him and he has a tough time in summer, but having no AC at all?

I am surprised at the comment from the power company ““They are just ordinary power cuts,” a spokesman said without providing further information.”

I wonder if anything positive will come out of this – insulation and a sensible approach to power use?

Across the UAE and the Gulf, energy is wasted in, what seems to me, a ridiculous fashion.

One example – now that it’s summer, my usual Thursday evening circuit training class has moved from Safa Park to the ‘Fitness Beat’ studio in a new building opposite the Sun office. Even though this building can’t have been open for more than a year or two, the entire place leaks cold air – not a single door actually shuts in a vaguely sealed manner, an inch between doors being the norm. The doors aren’t insulated, they are just thin glass. Every AC thermostat you see is set to 15C, so the AC is constantly running at full blast, blowing cold air, consuming vast amounts of energy, in a vain attempt to cool down the rest of Dubai.

It’s 45C outside, but the doors don’t shut? How can something like this get built in the first place and how can it make economic sense?

Our development’s the same. A top of the range development, opened in September 2007, yet not a single solar powered water heater to be seen. Lights on everywhere, no timers on lights in common areas, no motion sensor light switches, doors to common areas that don’t close properly, front doors that aren’t insulated.

To top it all, we pay a fixed charge for the ‘chiller’. This means that someone in an apartment that has the sun on it all day can leave their balcony windows open, run the AC at full blast and pay the same as boring people like me who make a vague effort to conserve AC related energy.

Forget about being green and saving the environment and focus on the usual deciding factor, the money involved- it surprises me that the local authorities allow this situation to continue, as it’s not in their own economic interests. I am sure that the cost of building a new power station is rather large. Would some economic incentives to encourage some more sensible building standards and thus reduce power consumption not make more sense?

I’m quite happy with the small amounts I pay for my power here and, like any consumer, don’t really like the idea of paying punitive rates just so that we are all encouraged to save energy. Is that the only option though? I would think that some simple standards being set for buildings would be a good first step. It doesn’t have to be radical – simply mandating that doors close properly would be a good start.

The Grumpy Goat has a good piece on the general topic as well.

Pointless upgrades

19/07/2010

For over two years I’ve had a nice set up at home for central file sharing – an old Linksys NSLU2, two 500GB drives attached, with our photos backed up to it and our iTunes library shared to the two laptops we have.

Apart from the odd bit of iTunes slowness, it’s worked well.

TV has been taken care of by the brilliant Western Digital WDTV, which reads movie files of a locally attached usb drive, manually sync’d with my Mac, when needed.

After one iTunes odd bit of slowness too many, I decided it was time for an upgrade. Technology has moved on, so I was able to get, for similar money to what I paid before, a Western Digital Sharespace – 4TB raw, 2.35 usable, gigabit ethernet. I also got the new WDTV Live that comes with a network connection.

The idea was to have what I wanted first time round, but which wasn’t affordable or possible – everything centrally shared, with enough power on the file server to stream films and video and get some decent response times when viewing centrally hosted photos.

Unfortunately, this upgrade has been a disaster. When it all works, it’s briliant, but the working part doesn’t last long. It turns out I’m suffering from what hundreds of other users of the WD Sharespace are suffering from – random disconnects. You simply lose your shares and everything you’re doing stops. You then have to restart the Sharespace manually.

It’s absolutely infuriating. Everything was so quick and easy to set up and migrating all those photos and videos was working well. I was very impressed at first. Sadly, WD seem to have released a product without any of their engineers actually bothering to find out if it worked or not.

I now have a dilemma – attempt to return the device under warranty, or wait for a firmware upgrade that allows the thing do what it’s supposed to for more than a few hours. Returning the device is not something I can face. Going back to the shop I bought it in in Bur Dubai will doubtless involve all the sales staff suddenly no longer being able to speak English, followed by an argument and, ultimately, me returning home with the wretched thing, my only option being some complex arrangement that will involve me paying for shipping to Canada, or something similar.

It looks like I’ll have to wait for the upgrade. Hopefully this will happen before Mrs Saul returns home at the end of August, so that my amazing home network upgrade actually looks amazing, as opposed to a case of Chris fiddling with technology and delivering a half-working, oh dear, restart it then it’ll work, oh bother, House has stopped just after we settled down on the sofa, why is Bryan Adams’ greatest hits ceased playing type of experience.

BBC redesign – yuck

15/07/2010

Looks like the BBC News web page has had a redesign.

My reaction is probably going to be quite predictable.

1. Yuck, don’t like it, I liked what I was used to.

2. Ooh, that’s new and it makes things easier.

4. Chance upon a page using the old layout and wonder how I ever managed to read it.

People don’t like change – I do wonder if this is change for change’s sake or whether it’ll really turn out to be worth it?

ps I prefer the links to various news topics on the side!

Fame at last

12/07/2010

It’s great having friends who are journalists.

Chatting with the Emir

07/07/2010

Some great pics here from the last visit The Queen made to the UAE and the Gulf.

The picture with Bahrain’s Emir is worthy of a caption competition.

Fine rage

07/07/2010

Seems like I am not the only one getting fed up with the new fine culture in Dubai and the UAE in general.

What seems to be needed is someone to step up and take the hassle of contesting a phantom fine in court – a good test case, ruling in the defendant’s favour, might be the catalyst needed to get some changes made.

The current situation has to change – there is nothing more infuriating than getting a random fine for something you didn’t do, with no way of contesting it.

The Queen’s coming

06/07/2010

The Queen is coming to the UAE!

I am, unashamedly, a big fan of the Queen, not so much of her children.

Can’t wait to see the pics of her meeting Sheikh Mo. They always look as if they quite like each other and get on well.

I will make sure our apartment is kept nice and clean, just in case she pops over.

The world’s local bank… Is happy to see you go to jail

05/07/2010

Nice to know that the CEO of my local bank would be happy to see me sent to prison under certain circumstances. Interesting comments too – it seems not all customers get the warm cuddly treatment when trying to work out repayments after falling into difficulties.

It’s too hard to move from them as there’s not much choice out there. In the nearly 8 years I have been banking with them, they have caused me enormous amounts of hassle and I would not recommend them to anyone. I have also never met a fellow customer who would recommend them either. They have proved themselves, time and again, utterly incapable of the most basic standards of customer service.

We had a few friends who were based in Dubai for a while when working for this bank’s global non-consumer business. They soon learnt not to tell anyone at parties who they worked for, for fear of spending the rest of the evening surrounded by people complaining about how awful their banking experience had been.