Archive for February, 2007

Hens

When my brother was 2 years old he was still sleeping in his baby crib (it was a lack of having one more real bed in the house rather than him wanting to still sleep in there). That bed was next to the window, in our house in the mountains. One day, my mother went to do his bed and she found an… egg in there. Two weeks later she found another egg. Apparently one of our hens was jumping in the baby crib bed through the window and was having her egg in there!

I just remembered this right now and I thought I mention it. God I miss my beautiful hens. I miss my village.

Getting the facts straight

Chaos during a Greek celebration in Chicago when a 14 year old university student (she already has a bachelor) took the podium in order to talk about Greece (video, text). Her speech was two fold. One described the ancient Greece and the other one explained its demise.

In the first part, she described how Greece’s mountains was the… first to rise on Earth, how the first humans were… Greek, how Greece’s civilization was the best of all others in the classic world, how the Greek language is the most “perfect than all others”, and how the Greek alphabet was not a copy/paste from the Phoenician one.

In the second part she referred to Byzantium as never being Greek-centric, to Christianity meaning the violent death of the ancient Greek world and the Orthodox Church not wanting Greeks freed from the Ottoman Turks.

Now, any logical person who has finished any high school would be thinking that the first part (as opposed to the second one) is completely laughable. The claims about Greeks being heroes and sons of Gods and such, are of course completely unsubstantiated. And yet, the Greeks who angrily tried to remove the girl from the podium were NOT against the first part, but against the SECOND.

You see, the part that the 40+ year old boring Greeks in the audience disagreed with, is actually TRUE. By 1700 AD, the Greeks were still calling themselves “Romans” (they saw themselves as a remnant of the Roman Empire rather than Greeks). Only when the ‘Greeks’ who left for Europe and studied the Classic history sent books back to the occupied Greece and *recreated* the Greek ethnicity within 100 years from scratch — as a pretty clever way to get everyone under the same roof and fight the Turks.

So basically, you have a young girl who has her facts wrong regarding the ancient Greece but no one bothers her with that (because they were all positive points for Greece) and when she actually speaks the truth, the audience doesn’t want to hear it (because the Greek school history books do not speak that truth so they are unfamiliar with it — the Church pretty much rewrote history after the Ottoman wars, to suit their interests).

I guess it was all one big joke that day. I only hope that the girl will get her facts straight, cut a bit of “her love” for the ancient Greece and become more neutral when she investigates. Only then the world will benefit from the genius she is.

I must say one thing though. Judging from the girl’s name (Promethea Pythia), my guess is that her influence on what she spoke about was not from real history books she has read, but from her parents. Her given names are NOT typical modern Greek names. They are ancient Greek names and they are very rarely used today (if not at all). If that’s the case, I can only imagine all the disinformation her “ancient Greece loving” parents have fed the poor girl to the point that she had to spout that crap about the first mountains in the planet being Greek! You would think that a Bachelor degree genius would be able to see the truth for herself, but it would seem that parents have a big influence to her life.

Again, I can only hope that Promethea Pythia will find the truth by studying real history books rather than “pyramids were built by aliens”-type of books or her parents.

Nokia E65 vs E61

The most successful E-series business phone from Nokia so far is the E61. A few days ago Nokia released a new model on the series, the E65. If you can’t decide which one of the two you want, here is a list of their differences.

Nokia E61:
+1 point: Larger, 2.8″ QVGA landscape screen (better for office, video)
+1 point: miniSD (cheaper per MB than microSD)
+1 point: more internal flash memory
+1 point: qwerty keyboard
+1 point: better battery life

Nokia E65:
+1 point: 2MP camera
+1 point: 352×288 CIF video recording
+1 point: Newer software in updated S60 3.0 version
+1 point: smaller/lighter device than E61

As you can see, the two devices are pretty similar overall. Your choice must just be a matter of your need of a qwerty keyboard over a camera. Of course, if the E61 had a camera, I would not even consider the E65 (the E70 has a camera, but it is not quad-band and its latest firmware version is older so it doesn’t work well with VoIP).

The people upstairs, Part II

Remember my rant about the people living upstairs?

Apparently, the young woman who wakes up early and talks to the phone is a spammer. She woke me up early one morning and I was able to make out most of what she was saying on the phone. She would call people and talk unstoppably.

Phone spammers in US are usually paid minimum wage. I am not sure how she and her mother are able to pay the $1700 monthly rent (if that’s all they do).

The case of the PPC ROM images

For years now XDA-Developers had an FTP site setup where people would upload their ROM images of their phones to share with others. This was a very popular and useful service, because as some people were buying their phones months after some others, they had a better chance of getting an updated firmware with their phone. And hence, they shared their bug-fixed version of firmware with others. This was mostly true for HTC-manufactured phones.

Now, the FTP site was taken down by Microsoft’s lawyers. I am personally not happy about this because these phones are not supported by their OEM anymore (in my case, QTek). There are no official web sites where customers can get the latest and greatest ROM upgrades to fix their problems. Usually, cellphones have less than 1 year of software update support from these OEMs!

The only thing an active user can now do to get updated is keep buying new cellphones each year in order to be ahead of the game in terms of software support! This simply sucks!

Because the carriers don’t want it to, the phone market does not resemble the PC clone market where a single Windows copy must support all PCs that ever walked the earth. But the point is that users need to have more value out of the device they just purchased. I mean, it’s just not fair to have a brand new smartphone and not get a good support cycle with new Windows versions for up 2-3 years. This will put a stop in the amount of new models released, but you know, that’s a good thing for the consumer. Just not as good for the manufacturer.

?? est? OSNews

This is a blog post for those who don’t bother to read OSNews’ contact page or the forum rules before they comment on osnews.com:

OSNews is not just about Operating System news. It is not about Open Source news either. Neither about Obese Seals.

OSNews is a blog-style TECH magazine. Anything technical that is interesting enough, it can be posted there. It has an inclination towards operating systems, yes, but it can not survive on that niche alone and so from time to time, other kinds of news/reviews are posted there too. And just like onion.com is not about onions or freshmeat.net is not about fresh meat, same thing about OSNews, it is not just about operating systems.

So, people, please don’t get on my nerves when you are seeing a hardware review in there.

T-Mobile blocks third party apps

This is just so sad. T-Mobile’s branded phones now block any third party Java app from accessing their network! You might have to buy a more expensive data plan to unlock your phone’s third party capability, or another phone+plan. This is just terrible. The world is going towards mobile devices and T-Mobile is trying to shrink their usability. How shortsighted. Now apps like Opera Mini and Google Maps/Gmail don’t work anymore!

One more reason to buy unlocked phones. Never agree to use the “free phone” that comes with a plan. Toss it out of the window after you receive it. Carriers are disabling features in these locked phones, they try to screw the consumers. Value your integrity & freedom and start saving money to buy an unlocked GSM phone (unfortunately the CDMA users can’t do anything about their disabled features, e.g. Verizon’s policy on Bluetooth PAN).

If you would like a full-featured smartphone, I would recommend the Nokia E50. It sells for less than $260 online and being a smartphone it will allow you to run native apps — not just the J2ME crap. If you don’t have that kind of money, you can get a Motorola L7 for $140 (my review). These two models I consider the best GSM phones for their price range.

Broiled feta cheese

One of the best side-dishes you can ever hope to taste in your life, guaranteed.

Ingredients (for 2)
* Authentic feta cheese (not crumbled)
* 1 tbspoon of olive oil
* oregano

Execution
1. Preheat the broiler to become very hot (500F). Place the rack close to the broiler’s heat.
2. Cut the feta cheese into a 1 inch thick, long rectangle.
3. Cut a square piece of aluminum foil, fold it in two, and then shape the edges vertically with your hands (in essence, shape it a small oven dish out of the foil).
4. Place the cheese on the foil. Pour the olive oil on top of the cheese and then use your finger to spread it evenly. Pour a generous amount of oregano on top of that too.
5. Place in the oven and broil for a few minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot with (preferably warm or toasted) bread. No need to remove the aluminum foil.

Broiled feta cheese
Broiled feta cheese next to hot bread I baked tonight

Video on a cellphone battery test

I made a small experiment tonight: I encoded a 2 hour movie and checked out how well my Sony Ericsson M600i competes with the iPod Video in terms of battery life. I selected this model for my test because it has the same screen size as the iPod (QVGA, 2.5″) in order to keep things fair. I encoded the video in the MP4-advanced format using QuickTime Pro. 320×240 (preserved aspect ratio in letterbox), 15fps, 320kbps video and 64kbps AAC stereo for its audio. The resulted file size was 260 MBs. I set the phone’s screen brightness to 50%, 3G & Bluetooth to OFF (while GSM was ON).

Apparently, the M600i with its often critisized low battery life (900 mAh), has outperformed the iPod Video in battery life. It is able to playback 6.5 hours of video, which is not bad at all. And if you happen to be on a plane, where the GSM antenna must be OFF and the environment is dim, you can set the screen to 33% of brightness and enjoy 7 hours of playback instead. Pretty good!

And an off topic remark, did anyone catch glimpse of George Takei in the red carpet tonight at the Oscars? He wore a traditional Japanese outfit instead of a suit and he looked fabulous. Too bad he didn’t get more love from the camera and the TV presenters.

Calling home with VoIP

I checked the AT&T rates we pay when I call to my family in Greece. Even if we have a long distance carrier to help lower the prices, we still pay about $0.20 per minute plus a $0.50 connection fee. That’s expensive. It means that the cheapest call you can ever hope to make already costs you $0.70.

I now use heavily the VoIP-based service GizmoProject for my long distance calls. Gizmo gave to some of its registered users a $5 credit last year for free and while I completely ignored it in the beginning, when I got my Nokia E61 that supported VoIP calls, I decided to use Gizmo to call Greece. Their prices are considerably lower, $0.019 for Greece, and so that five dollar credit lasted three months! I am definitely going to buy some credit with Gizmo now rather than use AT&T to call abroad. Hopefully, JBQ will do the same for his calls to France too ($0.020 per minute for French landlines).

Of course, using VoIP instead of an established phone company means that you will get bad quality occassionally. I noticed that 1 out of 5 calls are sub-par quality-wise. But given the price, I am willing to put up with that. Additionally, calls to cellphones abroad are pretty expensive too ($0.25), but still, cheaper than AT&T again and without any connection fees.

BTW, if you created your Gizmo account early last year, you might have been awarded with a $5 credit too. Check out your balance after logging in here. You must use this credit within a year you see. Don’t let it go to waste.