Monday, January 31, 2011

"Space cake break at the Titicaca Lake..." those are some classic lyrics right there :)

I was listening to Buddha Bar II (2000) this weekend, when track 10 kicked in - The Mambo Craze by De Phazz.
I have to say that this is one seriously funky track.

Take a listen... :)

Speaking of "Titicaca Lake", in case you don't know where it is, it is located on the border of Peru and Bolivia, and is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world at 3811m above sea level.
Check it out - I would imagine it is one of those must-visit kinda places:

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Apple do not just sell physical products - they sell a brand...

Why do millions of paying zombie customers stream out en masse, whenever a company like Apple launches a new product like the iPad?
It's a phenomenon that sometimes confuses me, because the answer is a rather complex one, at least in my humble opinion.

Here's how it normally works:

- Apple creates mass hysteria and media hype around a concept product that they are planning to release sometime in the near future.

- The proposed product features some cutting edge technology, but most importantly it features a famous and highly recognisable logo on the back - a stylized apple with a bite taken out of it. Young, trendy and highly mobile individuals all need to have a device featuring one of these sought after logos...

- The product launch date approaches and the marketing hype reaches fever-pitch. Customers around the globe scramble to try and get their hands on a pre-release edition of the device, or at the very least some inside info which will give them bragging rights when they go out for drinks. Conversations may range from "...A friend of mine got a beta edition of the iDevice..." to "...Well I heard from one of my friends that the iDevice has got laser beams that you can use to shoot at non-iDevices..."
That kind of thing.

- The device launches (officially) in the USA and elsewhere, and pandemonium ensues. Millions of units are sold in the first few milliseconds of the launch date. Supporters and critics alike all voice their varied opinions, but the device is a raging success by most standards.

- This is where the plot gets a bit blurry for me. The device in question will normally be toted as a "groundbreaking" device, whereas in fact it is not groundbreaking. For example, when the iPhone initially launched in mid-2007, there were other multi-function touch-screen cellphones available at the time, that could do everything that the iPhone could do, and a whole lot more.
I won't go into specifics here, but let's not forget that the initial iPhone only featured a measly 2MP camera (no optical zoom and no video recording) and no 3G... Rather average by 2007 standards actually...

iPhone, Apple Inc.Image by Cloud. via Flickr

- That brings me to my next point. It is now 2008. Having sold millions of iPhones, Apple then releases the "3G" version of the iPhone, which features an updated OS and 3G connectivity... and that's really about it.
Yet it is toted as a whole new device, resulting in a wave of suckers flooding out all over again to go and get their fix.

- 2009 arrives. Enter the iPhone 3Gs!!! OMG an extra "s" at the end of the name!!! This time it's a slightly better camera, improved LCD display, video recording, higher download speeds, a faster CPU and more RAM. While the Apple brigade will likely protest at this comment, it's still a whole lot of average going on here... Who cares! Let's all go and buy 8 of them.

- 2010. The famed and fabled iPhone 4 becomes a reality. This is the first real deviation from the original iPhone design, and it causes more excitement than ever before within Apple circles. Some wonder if the design will be too "square" as opposed to the previous design...
So what's inside the new beast?
Refreshingly, it does offer some decent progress on the 3Gs - a faster CPU and GPU, double the RAM, a higher definition display, a 5MP camera (finally Apple are catching up on this front...!), a front camera and a complete redesign, departing significantly from the original iPhone.

My New iPhone 4 Arrived today! - June 29, 2010Image by Patrick Hoesly via Flickr

- Despite the cons that I have mentioned inherent the product, especially in the original version, a consistent strong point of the device has been the app store - the number and variety of applications available for the device is truly amazing, and they serve to showcase the capabilities of the device in a way that only an Apple device can.
Truth is, the CPU inside an iPhone is always under-clocked, and therefore cooler running and less stressed.
That means that pretty much whatever you do on an iPhone will happen in a slick and effortless fashion. 
For example, try opening a full photo gallery on the Nokia N97 and you will be left waiting a good long while...

While this sequence of events may not necessarily apply to every Apple product, it certainly applies to the iPhone and more recently to the iPad.
The South African launch of the iPad and the pricing / availability thereof have been hacked to death elsewhere on the net, so I won't go into that here.

Behold the iPad in All Its Glory.Image via Wikipedia

What I will highlight is the fact that with the advent of the iPad in South Africa, I got on the phone to one of the buyers at Incredible Connection on Friday.
My reason for calling was to find out as much information as possible on the iPad 2 - the (rumoured) next release of the iPad.
Best guess launch date for the iPad 2 is somewhere in the next 8 weeks - huh???

So we have just received the iPad officially in South Africa, and the replacement is due out in something like 8 weeks? Sure this is just a rumoured date, but it comes from someone who knows a few things about launch dates...

Why then buy an iPad at all? Rather just wait for the iPad 2 surely?
I certainly would, that is if Apple decide to make the iPad 2 a decent upgrade from the current iPad - at the moment there is much talk of dual cores, a USB port (come on Apple, you are SO far behind), an SD Card slot, a webcam (which tablet PC doesn't yet feature a webcam???), and a few other enhancements and improvements.

This really is my whole point I guess, and I have said it before and will likely say it again as Apple continue to do what they seem to be doing very well:
Apple are not selling products as such. Yes, we go out and buy a physical device which fulfils some function and gives us a sense of satisfaction through its style and ease of use.
That device also gives us bragging rights, all because of that little half chewed Apple logo on the device - and that's what this is all about. A brand.

As I mentioned, many other devices do what Apple devices do - sometimes better.
Ah but it's not as simple as what the device can do. It's the whole package, and that is what Apple do so well.
Their marketing and the image that they have created is so strong, that their followers will buy into their products in a form of blind belief.

Just yesterday I was chatting to someone about the Nokia N8 - an incredible device which features (arguably) the most powerful camera on any smartphone to date.
When I mentioned this well-known fact (the phone sports a 12MP Carl Zeiss Camera!), they quickly retorted with, "Ah but what about the iPhone 4???"...
Well the iPhone 4 my good friend, while being amazing, only features a 5MP camera, which is pretty average nowadays.
It's a great example of how the hype around the device has created the illusion, that it is in fact the very best at every possible function currently available on a smartphone.

I guess it all comes down to personal choice.
So would you buy into the hype and get the iPad, or would you rather wait for iPad 2 (or 3 or 4 or 5) to arrive...?

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Funny roadsign spotted on the South Coast...

I was fortunate enough to be down at the KZN South Coast at the end of last year, in a small town called Umzumbe - a truly beautiful place.
Only problem is, being situated a bit far from any major centres, roads that are broken tend to stay that way for a good long while.

Luckily, the locals seem to have a good sense of humour about the whole thing, having erected this sign right next to a particularly poor (almost non-existent) piece of road... :)

Heading down to the South Coast anytime soon?
Why not check out Pumula Beach Hotel as a possible destination... it is one awesome place!

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

TripAdvisor's 2011 Dirtiest Hotels... yummy!

Once a year TripAdvisor makes it their business to expose the dirtiest hotels around the world, as rated by discerning (I hope) customers just like you and I...

So without any further ado, just follow this link to see who comes out at the bottom of the bucket for 2011... and as they say on TripAdvisor, "don't read if you're eating"... ;)
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What exactly is an Infographic?

Nybbles and Bytes will be posting some cool infographics shortly - but just what is an infographic?

As Wikipedia puts it:

" infographic is a graphic visual representation of information, data or knowledge. These graphics present complex information quickly and clearly"

Here is a great example that I picked up at The Infographics Showcase... and one that I am sure many daily commuters would love to take a look at :):

So keep your eyes peeled... more of this kind of content is going live soon...

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

So that's what a seizure feels like...

The date was Wednesday, 12 January 2011, somewhere mid-late morning.
There I was, minding my own business in between sips of my much-loved Jacobs Kronung coffee... Man that is good stuff!

The day had started out much like any other.
An early hop onto the highway to see a client, followed by another highway stint in the opposite direction to see my next client - driving is a large part of my average day, and thankfully something that I enjoy immensely.

The rest of the day was a bit "up in the air" at that point, with my next confirmed meeting at 15:30, and a sizeable chunk of uncertainty in between.

Not to worry though, I had a few small to-do's to attend to before then.
Nothing too taxing, at least not by normal standards.

Catching up on some office chit-chat then, I was about to reply to a question posed to me by a colleague, when all of a sudden my speech failed me.

Now anybody who knows me personally, will testify that I am quite a chatty type of human being. My speech does not often simply fail me, and if it does, it is generally because I occasionally stutter over the odd word here and there.
For example, if asked to say "www" in its full expanded form, I will usually duff it up. That kind of thing.

No - this was something different in a huge way.
If you have watched the first instalment of the Matrix, now would be a good time to cast your mind back to a scene near the beginning, where Neo tries to speak while in the custody of Agent Smith.
You may recall that as he starts to talk, his lips very oddly begin to seal in on each other, until they quite literally fuse together, leaving no mouth opening, and no words.

That's about the closest thing I can think of, in describing my sudden speech failure.
No matter how hard I tried, only blunt, abrupt sounds came out.
The confused expression on my colleague's face only served to reinforce my own lack of understanding at what the hell was going on...

The last thing I can remember is that I was screaming loudly - not because I could actually hear myself, but because I could see my colleague covering her ears in a "what-the-hell-are-you-doing" kind of way...


As I slowly opened my eyes and tried to sit up, a firm hand held me down and a strange voice said: "Don't get up. You've had a seizure. You're going to be ok."
A seizure? Me? What on earth was this strange voice saying to me?

As I focused on the familiar faces around me, it began to feel like one of those bad dreams where you have fallen asleep at the workplace...

The next few minutes were a complete blur as I was transferred into an ambulance, and then shipped off to casualty to get checked out properly.
I knew that some part of my face was bleeding, and that my back was excruciatingly sore, but I could not for the life of me remember what had happened.

In casualty though, while my nose was being stitched up and straightened (OUCH!), the whole episode came rushing back to me.
Scary stuff indeed...:

Long story short - I had suffered some kind of abnormal electrical activity in my brain, otherwise known as a seizure - something which epilepsy sufferers experience.

The seizure was one thing - hitting the floor face-first then broke my nose and split my lip, and my back went into a kind of muscle contraction which was strong enough to fracture 2 vertebrae... Hence the back pain.

It's now been almost 2 weeks since this all happened, and it's all quite a lot to deal with, especially having had no background of epilepsy anywhere in my family.

Now I am in no way a medical person, nor am I in any way qualified to give out medical advice, but what I do know for sure, is that seizures can happen to anybody.
Their severity depends on all kinds of factors, and they can be triggered by a number of different things, including flashing lights, fatigue etc.
Apparently stress and anxiety don't help a whole lot either...

In my case I had little warning, except for the initial loss of speech.
Having been driving at 120Km/h on the highway only half an hour before my seizure, I can count myself seriously lucky...

Personally, I think that this is one of those "wake up calls" that we hear about all the time.
Although I cannot drive for 3 months (doctor's orders), all of my injuries will heal thankfully, and I am now on medication which should mean that I will never have to go through another seizure in my life.

It's not entirely that simple though - epileptics on medication can still experience seizures if their dosage is incorrect, or if they suddenly stop taking their medication for some reason.

Regardless, I know that I have come out of this experience with a different outlook on life, and that anybody who simply returns to their previous way of life after something like this, has probably missed a very important lesson.

It is now suddenly all too apparent to me, how fragile our seemingly stable, predictable and lucid daily condition actually is...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Flooding in JHB… check out these photos…

The recent heavy rains in JHB (and elsewhere in the country) have been causing serious problems on the roads and all over the place.
I even heard a few stories of cars being washed off of highways, which all sounds a bit far-fetched, until you see photos like these…:
Boksburg libraryBraamfonteinspruit 2
centurion country club
centurion coutry club
centurion lake
centurion mall
Centurion Rugbyklub
Erfenismeer by Heia Safari wildreservaat
harties animal and snake park
harties animal and snake park2
henops rivier 3
Henops rivier
henops rivier2
Hiedelberg gauteng
Lenchen ave
Magnoliadal 3
Magnoliadal PTA 2
Magnoliadal PTA
N1 tussen Marais en N17
shell petrol station on the R554
vaal rivier jetty

Hat tip to Hylton for these :)
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Take a braai with you anywhere you go...

South Africans are a spoilt bunch when it comes to sunny braai days (the recent deluge of rain being the exception...:)
So when I saw the "Ignite Disposable Braai" at Pick 'n Pay recently, I decided to get one and try it out for myself.
To lug a Weber or a Cadac gas braai around with you whenever you go for an outing, can be a bit tedious and rather cumbersome, so this novel product caught my attention.

I was just a hint sceptical, as to whether such a compact product could produce a meaningful fire, which would burn long enough to cook a decent amount of food.
Thankfully then, the results were good - all I wanted to cook were some Woolies ribs, and they cooked through pretty darn well.

Even an hour afterwards, the fire was still decently hot, so I am sure we could have carried on cooking if we had other meat / veg etc. to throw onto the fire.

So next time you need an instant, portable, disposable braai, head over to Pick n' Pay and get one of these nifty time-savers - at the time (December 2010), the product was selling for about R70.
Not a bad price if you consider that a bag of charcoal can go for about R40.

When you want to light it up, just put a match to one corner of the paper inlay, and the coals do the rest.
Simple, clean and quick.
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Friday, January 7, 2011

Say "Thank You"... :)

This has to be one of the simplest things we can do.
It requires virtually no effort, costs us nothing, and can make someone else's day.

People often do things for one another "because it's their job" to do so.
Just because this is the case, does not mean that they do not deserve a well-placed bit of praise if they do it well.

This mindset extends to the person who is actually deserving of the praise - I recall once when I thanked one of my suppliers for something that they had organised for me, they were actually surprised that I was thanking them!
Obviously in their line of work it had become common to complete their allocated tasks and simply move onto the next call / meeting / email / to-do, without any special praise from customers or colleagues.

Just think about the last time somebody thanked you earnestly for something that you had done for them, without expecting any extra praise for having completed the task.
It feels pretty good - and with that in mind, consciously take note of people in your life, and in your day to day dealings, who serve you in a big way - maybe that little "Thank you" coming from you might just make their day :)
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ain't it sad...

I was at the shops today, patiently standing in line to pay for my groceries, when an ordinary-looking, complete stranger joined the line behind me.
She was carrying a single item - a pack of Canderel sweetener.
"Hello", she said to me as I stood there...

Now the title of this post is referring to the state of mind that a lot of us live in for most our time, without even realising it.
I like to consider myself an optimist, and I try to stay upbeat about the future, about people around me and about things in general.
Of course I don't always succeed - sometimes the world gets us down and that's ok too - it's just part of being human.

With that in mind, this little part of my day made me think about the way we (sometimes almost instinctively) guard ourselves against unwanted or unexpected human interaction.
It's a problem that I sometimes have, and I would guess that I am not alone.
A lot of the time when a stranger approaches us in public or says "Hello" to us unexpectedly, our instincts pretty much decide that the stranger in question is out to get us somehow... and the mouth in our mind may sound something like this:

- What are they trying to sell me?
- Maybe it's a scam (followed by wild glances in every direction to spot possible accomplices)
- They want my money (either by force, or by gentle persuasion i.e. begging)
- They might really need my help (car breakdown, just been robbed, lost tourist, need directions etc.). Even then, we don't really want to get involved because it will put us out in some way...

I don't think that our political climate or crime record have done very much to help this mindset - through our own personal experiences, woeful stories shared with friends and colleagues, and the media of course, we find ourselves heading out into our daily lives, just a tad suspicious of the world in general.

So what then, if that stranger who acknowledges you, wants nothing more than to receive an acknowledgement in return? Is that actually possible?

In my case, it was in fact possible.
I almost had to do a double take, but thankfully I had my wits about me, so I returned the greeting with a friendly (but slightly cautious) "Hi".
The stranger then simply went on to pay for her Canderel, and left the store without any further ado.
I was unharmed, I still had all my cash, and I did not just get suckered into attending an Amway presentation... ;)

I'm not saying that we should all drop our guard all the time - that would just be silly (the term "Stranger Danger" comes to mind ;)
I just know that I felt ever so slightly silly myself, after jumping to dodgy conclusions about a complete stranger who simply said "Hello" to me...

p.s. for a good read along these lines, follow the link below - "On talking to strangers"...

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

The oddest internet connectivity problem... SOLVED (finally! :)

This one had me developing grey hairs at a furious rate...

My main line of work involves IT Support on a daily basis, so when I come across an issue which stumps me and makes NO logical sense at all, I get seriously frustrated.
Any problem or issue should reasonably have some kind of logical solution, and this one just defied me at every turn.
It went something like this:

- I connected my Nokia N97 (Cell C) to my laptop via Bluetooth a few weeks ago, and was able to use it to connect to the internet fine at the time.

- All of a sudden, in recent days, the phone would still connect, but I could not browse any websites at all, could not download email etc. Windows 7 indicated that the connection had "Internet Access", even though I could not surf the web.

- Weird bit 1: I could ping and get replies from sites e.g. 
, but if I pasted that IP into my browser, I still could not browse (so it couldn't be a DNS problem).

- Weird bit 2: I could still use my phone to connect to the net and surf on my home desktop PC.

- Weird bit 3: The problem persisted if I connected the phone via USB instead of Bluetooth.

- Weird bit 4: I could connect to the net fine using a Samsung S7350 (Vodacom) using Bluetooth.

- Weird bit 5: I did a hard reset on my N97 in the hope that this might fix the issue. It did not.

- Weird bit 6: If I used Joikuspot to set my N97 as a wireless hotspot, I got the same problem.

- Weird bit 7: I could surf the net on the phone directly without any problems.

- Weird bit 8: If I put the SIM into a Nokia N80 and tried to connect using that phone, the problem persisted (so it couldn't be the phone at fault).

- Weird bit 9: The Windows 7 built-in network diagnostic (which is usually quite helpful), found no problems at all, yet Windows 7 insisted that I was connected to the internet.

So I was just about out of options... until I turned to the guys over at and desperately posted about my woes over there.
Within a matter of about 20 minutes, several suggestions came through, and one of them showed promise...

Turns out that the decidedly odd issue had something to do with a network setting called "ECN Capability" – something which is normally disabled, but for some reason got enabled on my system.
Apparently it can be enabled when running TCP Optimizer – software which I sometimes use to tweak LAN and Internet settings on client PC's...

The simple answer was to disable it as follows:

Check ECN Capability status:
  • Open up a Command Prompt;
  • Type "netsh int tcp show global" and press Enter;
Once it had been established that ECN Capabilities were in fact enabled, the fix was simple:
  • Open up a Command Prompt with Administrative Rights as follows:
  • In start/search type cmd.exe, Right click and select "Run as administrator"
  • Type "netsh int tcp set global ecncapability=disabled" and press Enter;
  • Voila! We are surfin' again!
Huge thanks to Tun@ on – you saved me tons and tons of frustration!

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