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Android in Douala...

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My android phone justs feels lucky in Cameroon - at least in Douala. Without GPS it found the name of the city, an open Wifi and the position on the map.

In case you're interested in Sun/Oracle Openstorage, Fiberchannel Enterprise technologies or just want to drink a glass of fine beer - drop a note.

May 19th I am at Frankfurt Int'l Airport (Sheraton Airport Hotel) and from May 20th to 30th I will be staying in Cameroon meeting friends.

For Cameroon I am interested in internet connections. Last time I set up Orange Wimax connections and I am particularly interested in Camtel and MTN's offerings.

You may contact me at +49 171 6522660.


Frostiness is back...

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zuganzeige_zuerichairport.JPGI am back after two weeks in Cameroon. At Zurich Airport "my" town was already shown at the display auf the airport train station - telling me that the frostiness is back.

It is snowing, people are silent, everybody looks down. They don't talk to each other, the white faces are showing a mix between frustration, boredom and unhappiness.
Ok, there are no thieves trying to aggress me, there's no ague (Malaria), there's no chaotic traffic and no "motivation money" or boodle as well - but there isn't a warm family, no beautiful women with their special smile and no lust for life either. Not to mention the extraordinarial food which we substitute here by industrial products.

I thought this time it will be easy - not as last year when I returned from Ivory Coast - but I was proved wrong. It's even tougher. I am back in frostiness - where all seems to pe perfect, where everybody's telling to me that I should be lucky because I am in Europe and I have all I need. But that's not true, I am cold. Frostiness is back.


CFA Franc != CFA Franc !

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1 Euro (EUR) has the value of 655,957 Francs CFA (XAF). This conversion rate is fixed.

The banknotes however differ:

Banknotes in central african states like Cameroon are issued by the banque des états de l'afrique centrale (BEAC).

The ones used in western african states like Ivory Coast are issued by the banque centrale des états de l'afrique de l'ouest (BCEAO).

It won't work to buy something in a central african CFA state with western states CFA money and vice-versa.

Orange Internet in Cameroon ...

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Many internet connections in Cameroon are done via Wimax as there are not many fixed lines available - the structure of the cities are not made for that. Communication is done mostly wireless - as in our case.

Orange offers a "high bandwidth" connection with 512 kbit/sec downlink and 128 kbit/sec uplink for 75000 CFA francs per month (approx 100 euros).

Orange, Cameroon and the Livebox...

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In Cameroon Orange (France Télécom) offers a "high speed" connection (with 512 kbit/sec download rate and 128 kbit upload) for 75000 CFA francs per month (approx 100 euros!).

A "Livebox" device has to be bought separately which is in fact a simple NAT/WLAN/DSL/Ethernet router. The Wimax antenna (which forms the primary internet interface) is connected to the ethernet WAN port - yes you heard right, here internet connections are done via Wimax - there are nearly no fixed lines at all in most of the parts of the country).

Turning the livebox on it flashes. I managed to take photographs of it (see above, click on the images to get bigger ones).

The Wimax connections works but roundtrip latency is between 350-400ms which is very high and noticeable. The livebox itselfs crashes often - once a day for sure :(

More on this tomorrow!

I'm in Cameroon until Jan 30th

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so answers to your questions will be delayed.

68805474d63b8d1c3f.jpgThe local TV network "rhein main tv" is offering a special programming for every airport enthusiast:

"Rund um den Airport" (Airport TV).

Frankfurt is our biggest and busiest airport. It is the third airport in Europe in terms of passengers transferred.

If you can understand the german language and you're interested in airports, this is for you!

Some highlights (just click to watch the videos):

The whole list of available videos can be obtained here:

Photo Album of my Ivory Coast trip is online

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Glare/Glossy vs. matte anti-glare: 0:1

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As I take trains in Germany very often, I just took these two photographs of a glossy display (on an ICE train) and a matte display (on a local commuter train).

Looking at the market (and even Apple does this now), glossy display are everywhere. In my opinion, they are unusable. Perhaps at home, in a dark room to present a movie it is ok. But not for everyday's work.

I wrote this blog entry just sitting in this train (ICE 180). Internet is no problem because of EDGE/GPRS or 3G (UMTS) available nearly everywhere.

Just look at this glossy display. Perhaps it is a nice gadget for design students, but not for serious work.

This is an example of the displays in the local commuter train circulating from Weinfelden (Switzerland) to Singen or Engen in Germany. I think this is a good example of a matte anti-glare display.

Two weeks without electricity and without a water tap...

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ivoire_1024_109.jpgThe little village's name is "Niababli" or just "26" (vingt-six), and it has some wells to retrieve ground water. Google Maps has still the old route in his label map. (Niababli is on the center of this map).

My sole connection to Germany was a short wave receiver to listen to the "Deutsche Welle" station at night and the BBC world service. Sometimes I got some broadcasts from Voice of America as well.

Life is so totally different from what I ever saw in my life. Men are working on the fields, harvesting cacao, maniok and rice, the women are cooking on the field for the workers (it is a really embarassing for an employer to have nothing to eat for his employees here!).

My friend and me had the chance to live in a house built by her father, which was a brickhouse quite confortable. Because of malaria, the bed was entoured by a mosquito net.

On the evening, people came back from the fields, talking, keeping their families, drinking a beer in a "maquis" (the name of bars with food). The sound of the evening is the one of small power generators, running on diesel or gasoline to run the little cinema or some light bulbs.

And then you see that warm attitude, this charming reception of the people here. Nobody was hostile towards me, nobody had fear. I became quickly "le petit blanc" (I was among the tallest person in the village ...) and many children were already at 6am (they have London Greenwich time there) on our patio to wait for me. Children everywhere. Women make children when they want. And it has nothing to do with marriage. Educating children is the job of every adult. And: The children of a brother are like the own children and like these of the sister. The "little family" with "father, mother, children" is not existent.

ivoire_1024_108.jpgEvery child attends school here (which was financed and built by Germany here in the village) and continues school in Sassandra (the next city, 21km away) where they can go up to the bac (needed for university education).

Many leave the village when they reach that age to find themselves in the bigger citites.

All speak french fluently and most parents also teach them their native language. In this small village, three of them exist - and they are totally different and incompatible. French is the only language they can use to talk to other ivorians living in the state of the Ivory Coast.

Chinese Trash in Africa

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The first thing you'll notice in Ivory Coast is that chinese products are invading the country. You nearly have no chance to get a normal socket extension (to connect 5 devices to a single wall socket; something you'll find in the US or Europe für $1.99), you are left with the choice of a chinese "blinkenlights" product with a spinning "voltmeter" in it (showing you nothing) and many switches on it. Included a random algorithm which voltage will be the result and which person will be electrocuted next.

Examples:  A bad iPhone copy and one of these "socket extenders":

afrika  002.jpgafrika  003.jpg

Why we don't sell our products there? How the chinese have adopted that market so rapidly?

I am back from Africa!

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afrika  001 (1).jpgAfter three weeks in Ivory Coast I am feeling lucky that all went well and - on the other side - it hurts that I don't see my friends there any more.

I little photo album will follow and some remarks.

Abidjan, I am coming... (Ivory Coast)

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So no great updates will occur from Sunday, September 14th to Sunday, October 5th. After so many vaccinations and Lariam I am ready....

Il n'y aura pas de mises à jour pendant la période du 14ème septembre au 5ème octobre. Je sera en Côte d'Ivoire pour des visites - sans ordinateur et sans boulot. Enfin.

Airway (trajet):

Zürich Unique-Flughafen/Kloten (ZRH)
Paris Aéroport Charles de Gaulle (CDG)
Abidjan Aéroport Félix Houphouët-Boigny (ABJ)

Ludwigshafen (Rh) by night - Excelsior hotel Sky bar!

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Whenever you come to Ludwigshafen (adjacent to Mannheim, Germany) for a visit to one of the biggest chemical industries in Germany (BASF), you should take some time for a visit in a rather dull place - the main station area, a 70ies urban experiment which is nowadays a disaster - missing shops, broken windows, a subway/tram station in a devastous state, and a main railway station which was opened as one of the most modern stations of europe...

skybar.jpgIn the middle of this area there is the Eurohotel Excelsior which has a wonderful bar in the 17th floor. It is opened to the public and it is absoluely 70ies style - since the opening of the hotel in the middle of the 70ies the design of the bar never changed. Cocktail prices are low, and when you look through the glass walls, you will see the bridge above. I took the photograph with a Canon EOS 30D and a tripod.

Click on the pictures to get a bigger one.

Berlin Tegel Airport's Blue Terminal

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Yes, I admit it. I smiled. And I had the camera with me.

"Does everybody now must have a BSOD section on his site" was the typical reaction, stating Windows was an excellent system bringing millions of users to work together with computers and "such screens are the results of hardware failures or poor noobs".

It seems to be a driver failure. No watchdog reboot, no automatic coin shutter. This seems to be really professional rock-solid engineering.

Most of us just ignore these blue screens - more - we're used to them. For us, a text screen with a blue background is per definition a "failure", as we saw these screens many times. They have become part of our living culture. Last week I saw a local TV cable station showing a still frame stating that there was a system failure and programming would continue in some moments - it was grey text on - a blue background.

Most of us cannot distinguish between "Computer" and the operating system it runs. More, when asked about what type of system they use, don't be surprised to hear them answer "Microsoft Office". Microsoft Windows Systems are ubiquitous like toasters - which has not (yet?) a blue screen though.

The scheme breaks totally when these persons sit in front of - say - a Macintosh computer running Mac OS X. After a kernel panic (which has just the same consequence as a blue screen on windows system - it halts) I was asked "what is this?" - the screen was not blue so the person did not know what to do - he did not even read what's on screen (the text there stated that the system had to be rebooted because of a serious error which is not correctable). Ok, point taken, this person still tries to find the "X" icon on the top right edge of the windows to close them...


Fuzzy Breschnew feeling - Berlin Television Tower

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As there exist many photographsfrom the berlin tower (constructed 1965-1969 from the GDR (DDR), Walter Ulbricht made 1964 the SED party council decide to construct that tower.

The basement is nearly in its original state but rarely seen on photographic websites.

You will feel there like in the James Bond Movie "Octopussy". Typical wooden patterns and wall structures. You instantly think about Leonid Breschnew (which became leader of the soviet union at 1965) and all that anti-communism tv magazines on (west-)german TV.

The tower was officially opened on Oct 3rd, 1969. Exactly 20 years before unification between the two german states (Oct 3rd is national holiday in Germany, like July 4th is in the US).

Today, the tower is open for the public and there is a restaurant at the top with moving tables, when you sit there you will see the whole panorama in some minutes. Entrance fee was 9,50 € and it's worth the wait.

More photographs and information can be found on the english and german wikipedia articles about the tower.


The headline picture...

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was taken at Five Points Station in Atlanta, GA in October 2005. Every advertisement frame was rent by Apple promoting the iPod then.

It was strange to see as a european that many americans don't seem to like the MARTA system and some of them even didn't want to have their suburb areas to be connected by MARTA - as this would spread criminality to their homes. I used MARTA for 3 weeks, at day, at night and did not have any problems.

Fares are extremely low compared to german commuter systems.

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Pascal Gienger
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