Also on Caboose: Journeys Antarctica, Kerguelen Islands, South America, Turkey, Cameroon
[Nigeria]Nigerian glossary


Mobile phone standards

Filed under: tech — kevin @ 10:42

This morning I found this article, written by a former Qualcomm employee about the struggle between GSM and Qualcomm’s IS-95 CDMA system.

Quite apart from the fact that he really doesn’t seem to know much about GSM technology (GPRS doesn’t require a separate carrier, bandwidth can be dynamically reallocated for data), it seems to be the usual American rant about how CDMA is technically superior.

This is true, CDMA makes more effective use of available bandwidth. That’s why both the European and American variants of 3G use CDMA. But that’s not the point. The reason GSM has been successful is that the phone manufacturers and networks have generally provided the public with what they want.

Very few people care if their phone uses some amazingly advanced technology, as long as they can make calls, send text messages and download horrible ringtones. None of the American networks (GSM or IS-95) had even managed to negotiate sending text messages between themselves until fairly recently. It’s the services, stupid!

Qualcomm’s monopoly on IS-95 chipset pushes up prices, the small market for IS-95 phones means that they get whizzy new features later than GSM or not at all.

OK, CDMA2000-1x may be a lot faster than GPRS, but I can read my email on my phone while relaxing in the Spanish Pyrenees or hurtling around the streets of Rome. If my phone breaks I can take out the SIM and put it in another phone without having to change numbers.

So, GSM isn’t perfect (try reading any of the standards documents!) but at least it’s better than a single-company monoculture.

Disclaimer: Of course, you realised that when I talked about reading email while hurtling around the streets of Rome I didn’t mean reading email while actually driving, didn’t you? That would be stupid.


Theory test

Filed under: other — kevin @ 09:20

A near miss this morning prompted me to come up with this little question (in a driving theory test style):

You are driving a white van, approaching a crossroads that has traffic lights. The lights have white cross markers covering them, indicating that they are out of order. Due to curves in the road visibility of the junction is poor. What do you do?

A Sound your horn and continue anyway.

B Continue driving at about 10 miles per hour above the speed limit then screech to a halt after going through the junction to glare at the driver waiting on one of the other approaches.

C Slow down so that you will be able to see other vechicles at the crossroads and have time to stop if necessary.

D Stop at the lights and wait for somebody to fix them.


Testing Kablog

Filed under: tech — kevin @ 20:06

I’m testing another tool that should let me post via GPRS and my PDA.

[Update] It works! By the way, the tool is Kablog.


Measurements and scales

Filed under: web — kevin @ 12:41

[via MeFi] An online “dictionary of units of measurement”, lots of interesting stuff here. It even includes one of my favourites the Glasgow Coma Scale, what would your score be first thing in the morning?

I reckon some mornings I’d only score about 10.


Linux on my laptop, easy!

Filed under: tech — kevin @ 16:13

I’ve been battling with trying to get a working Linux setup on my laptop for quite a while now. It’s an HP, with one of the usual wacky laptop graphics chipsets, a weirdo soft-modem and the processor is only a K6 at 466MHz.

My first attempt was to install Gentoo, so the laptop setup would be the same as my desktop PC. With Gentoo you build everything from source, which takes forever on such an elderly machine. I also hit problems with some bits of KDE which would almost finish compiling then fail.

I lost patience with making Gentoo work on the laptop and tried doing a network install of Debian. The first attempt failed when I discovered that the boot CD didn’t support PCMCIA, which makes using my network card tricky. The second attempt failed because I couldn’t be bothered with the amount of time it was taking to install.

Fortunately I’ve got a Knoppix CD lying around, this is a pretty full-featured Debian system that runs from the CD. After a bit of poking about on Knoppix sites I discovered instructions describing how to install it on your hard disk.

The hardware auto-detection was flawless, the installation only took about 20 minutes and I now have a working system complete with OpenOffice, KDE and loads of other software.

Now I just have to remember how to use Debian’s package management stuff again…


The bike is back

Filed under: family — kevin @ 14:41

I finally got round to collecting my bike from my grandparents’ garage and rode it back to Cambridge. Shame the weather wasn’t so good. Also, the battery doesn’t seem to be charging, more investigation required.

Now I can ride to work on nice sunny days, it makes a day stuck in the office seem slightly less depressing.


How to get to Kerguelen

Filed under: site — kevin @ 21:13

After several emails asking about how to get to Kerguelen I’ve added a page with some information.

The short version: it’s difficult and/or expensive.


No Man’s Land

Filed under: films — kevin @ 22:23

No Man’s Land was the other film I rented from Heffers yesterday.

It’s set during the war in Bosnia, starting with a group of Bosnian soldiers trying to find their way to their lines at night in thick fog. When morning comes they find themselves between the lines and are quickly massacred, apart from one soldier who is blown into an abandoned trench in the middle of no man’s land.

Two Serb soldiers are sent to investigate the trench, one is killed shortly after placing a mine under the body of another of the Bosnians and the other is held captive. During the course of the film the two enemies keep trying to get posession of the weapons but they know they have to wait until nightfall to escape.

Things get worse when the Bosnian lying on the mine turns out to be alive after all. The two others have succeeded in attracting the attention of their forces, who call in the UN. The vaguely farcical actions of the UN lead to a French sergeant ignoring orders and trying to help.

The film shows well the bitter enmity between the two sides, the hopeless position of the UN troops and the shallowness of the media, although the English reporter played by Katrin Cartlidge is a very sympathetic character.

Lost in La Mancha

Filed under: films — kevin @ 22:11

I missed Lost in La Mancha when it was on at the cinema but when I saw the DVD sat on the shelf at Heffers I just had to rent it.

In case you’ve not heard about it: it’s a documentary about failing to make a film. It was originally meant to be the ‘making of’ documentary for Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” but the production of the film fell apart and the documentary was released as a feature film instead.

It’s fascinating to watch as preproduction starts off shakily and then filming is begun with high hopes. However the proximity of a NATO bombing range and a stunning storm combined with the failing health of the star, Jean Rochefort, combine to cause filming to be abandoned.

The extras on the DVD were pretty worthwhile too, especially the interview with Terry Gilliam. The interview with Johnny Depp was pretty painful though, he doesn’t seem to be the worlds best interview subject.

Stupid 999 calls

Filed under: web — kevin @ 00:46

Avon and Somerset Police have published some excellent examples of people misusing emergency services here [via MeFi].

This suggests that a standard number for non-emergency calls to your local police would be a good idea (888 has been suggested).

I rather liked the MeFi comment that seemed to suggest this was all due to the British police being “disarmed”. I’m not sure when that happened, I obviously missed the bit where they were “armed”.

Next Page »

Powered by WordPress