Germany – Land of Opportunities

I lately found this picture in the internet. A tweet pointed me to it and I had a hard time to breathe normally again after I rolled laughing over the floor. This really contradicts every experience I made with ‘good old’ Germany.

About five years ago a friend of mine, Kenyan with an master in computer science from a well known Russian university, wanted to come to Germany for work because she had several friends in Germany. Another friend of mine who runs his own software development company was willing to see her. Because, like most of the time, everything went on short notice she didn’t have the time to apply for a business visa and came with a visitor visa to Germany. After the successful interview with my friend she tried to get a working visa but was denied and had to leave Germany again.

Everybody who is following the news should know by now that the demographic changes in ‘good old’ Germany are already leading to a lack of skilled workers because the Germans are getting too old. So how can it be that a civil servant can deny someone who is skilled and has a job opportunity in Germany the appropriate visa?

My wife is Chinese. We married in Switzerland and left for China because she wanted to pursue her career as judge. After a while and because her Chinese career was ended by marring a foreigner, we tried to go to Germany. Hahahaha … don’t worry I will never try to come back to Germany again. It seems that my wife only gets a visa for Germany when she is able to speak German. As it is she speaks fluently four languages but unfortunately German is not between those.

Luckily there are still countries in this world which really appreciate skilled workers who want to work in their country and contribute to their society 😉

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Flying in Australia

In Australia you are usually flying when you want to see another city because the distances are quite big and the speed on the roads not very high. My favorite airline is Virgin Blue. The prices are reasonable and they cover nearly all of Australia.

The only issue I have are the delays. Nearly every flight I take at the moment is delayed due to some reason. To make it clear, I do not object against a delay when an error in my plane is found and they have to bring another plane from somewhere to arrange the flight. But to sit at night on an empty Canberra Airport without dinner, all shops already closed and you don’t even get a free Coffee … I think in this point Virgin should reconsider their strategy of keeping their customers happy.

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HP Region code for printer

While I was living in France I needed a new printer/scanner and decided to buy a HP Photosmart Premium, a combined office machine with everything you need for your home-office. It was not really cheap but it was said that buying directly from the internet would give a 50€ cash-back.

The machine itself runs fine apart some minor problems while scanning but …

The first problem I had was to get my cash-back money. I tried to contact the support via mail and received the answer I should try to call a certain support line. I tried but could not get anyone on the phone so after some tries I just gave up and thought I might as well live with the price I paid. Anyway, the ink for the printer cost quite a fortune and you learn fast where HP makes its real money!

Now I moved to Australia and naturally I moved my printer too.

Lately I ran out of yellow ink and went into a shop to buy a replacement cartridge of yellow. In the shop I was already astonished that there were no 364 cartridges to buy but 564 cartridges which are described as valid replacement for my HP Photosmart Premium c309a.

Back home I got shocked. Not that the cartridge didn’t fit. It was looking exactly like the 364 one which I wanted to replace … but the printer denied to use this original HP cartridge which is the right one for my printer !!! (in Australia)

I called the support and learned that each HP printer has a region code which can be altered three times only and that because I moved to Australia I have to change the region code now. But they could not help me directly and I cannot change the code myself as it seems, the passed the issue to a second level support which should call me within 48h. Naturally I didn’t get any calls.

Since then I had about half a dozen mails exchanged with the support and each time I got a phone no. to call where I am promised that I will get a call from someone who can change the region code of my printer for me.

So far I am still waiting (about 2 week now and several attempts!).

In the meanwhile I learned from the support hotline that if I change the region code my other (nearly full cartridges) will not work any more because they are bought in France! A full set of cartridges cost about $100,- AUD … are they insane?

My conclusion … after so many years of buying HP notebooks and printers from laser to office machines I am extremely disappointed and will not buy anything from HP any more.

And I can only warn everybody to reconsider if he wants to buy from such a Producer because this is purely rip-off of their customers.

Posted in Computer | Tagged | 2 Comments

Finally Moved

Hey everybody!

It took some time but I finally made it, to move my blog to a new server, update to the newest WordPress version and also update my plugins.

Hopefully I will have some time to write new articles as well 😉

Posted in Internet, Misc | Tagged | 1 Comment

Big Brother is watching You

It is about 4 week ago that I switched from my favorite browser Firefox to Googles Chrome. On my Windows 7 system Firefox simply used too many resources.

Today I updated my Spybot installation which protects my registry and made a system scan. What shall I tell you it found 26 tracking cookies on my computer which I caught during only the last 4 weeks. My main usage of the internet is to search for programming informations.

Perhaps I am a little naive but I see no evidence that a session cookie must remain on the computer of a surfer after the user is logged out. Personalization of a website like on Amazon is a nice thing but I think that I should be able to surf in the internet anonymously and only get a personalized view once I reveal my identity intentionally as by logging in.

Instead of anonymity even the browsers reveal more and more informations so that these can already be used as identifying fingerprint as shown in the EFF Panopticlick project.

If you think that all this doesn’t matter to you it is perfectly OK with me but be aware that the companies who are tracking you and your behavior are making a lot of money with your data. What do you get in return? Databases full of tracking data which, connected to a real person, will make you and your doings completely transparent.

What will be the logical next step after connecting you as a person with the sampled data …. ? I don’t think that needs much inspiration.

Be aware when you surf in the internet that many eyes are watching you!

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A dream within a dream

I just came back to the idea that the whole world is just a simulation on a nice super-computer like in the old science fiction film “Die Welt am Draht” from Fassbinder oder in the film “the 13th Floor”.

All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

There is always the problem how to hide from the simulated entities that their world is quite limited. I believe in our world they found a nice solution to this problem, they made it round! 😉

Posted in Misc, Thoughts | Tagged | Leave a comment

Rails Plugin Documentations

As computer scientist I am working since 20 years now and since 2 years I have a lot of fun programming in Ruby or better in JRuby.

At the moment I am working on my first bigger Ruby on Rails project and have to state something which I wouldn’t perhaps have agreed with in my earlier years too:

Code (even well documented) is no substitute for good documentation!

I would like to address this specially into the direction of some developers who are writing really great plugins for RoR. A little bit more documentation about the basic ideas would lower the threshold for Rails newbies like me a lot. Naturally I am able to figure out how a plugin really works without documentation and I am sure that I can learn a lot from this experience. But eventually I will end up writing my plugins myself because that makes me faster then figuring out how something works which another programmer has developed.

So please keep in mind: Writing code in a computer language which is easier to understand and comes more natural does not subsitute for a good documentation!

Posted in All, JRuby | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Blog enhanced with WPTouch

Since I am one of the guys playing around with an iPhone now I thought it might be a good idea to make my blog a little bit more readable on the iPhone and other PDAs. After a small research I decided to install the WPTouch plugin and have to state: great work, thanks!

Posted in Misc | Tagged | 1 Comment

Buying an iPhone in China

Lately it was the time that I had to replace my old PDA with something new because I dropped it one time too much on the floor. Because we had business in Shanghai and found a shop with “original” iPhones we decided to switch to iPhones.

The first question when you buy something like an iPhone in China is: How can you be sure it really is an Apple iPhone and not a chinese clone? First I would suggest to search for some detailled pictures of original iPhones, they are very slim and have a characteristic position and border of the embedded camera. But I think the easiest way to identify an iPhone is the software on the phone. If you make a photo with the phone and scale it with the multi-touch ability of the iPhone the image scales and corrects the image resolution at the same time so that you can hardly see pixels while zooming.

So we went into this shop and in total bought 3 iPhones. The iPhones were neatly packed, seemingly in original, brand new boxes and my test showed that they were real Apple iPhones.

Before I bought the iPhones I didn’t now anything about jailbreaking and unlocking. I just tried my chinese and my german SIM card in the phone and both worked.

Back in the hotel the problems started. I reconfigured my phone and it didn’t work with any SIM card any more. So we went back to the shop and they made it run within 5 min and gave it back to me. While leaving they told me better not to update the software on the phone myself which finally made me really curious and back in the hotel I started an internet research to find out if the iPhones where original ones.

Especially the Apple Service and Repair webpage was very helpful. One of the iPhones was a replacement part without any guarantee, the other two were already several month old. Conclusion we bought refurbished iPhones sold as new ones. When the battery life of the replacement part showed that the battery was already quite old we decided to go back to the shop another time and ask the sellers directly about the fact that they hid that they sold refurbished iPhones.

The result was not really satisfactory. They changed the replacement iPhone with the damaged battery to another one but that was all.

Because one of us was really pissed off, she called the police later to ask them what to do. The police forwarded us to a special unit which deals with these matters and they told us that only China Unicom is allowed to sell iPhones in China and therefore they will do nothing about our case.

After we got this information I finally understood what happend to my iPhone which suddenly didn’t work any more and had a closer look on the installed software. The iPhones were original China Unicom phones which have been jailbreaked and unlocked!

As final resultI can only warn you to be aware that most phones, even in official China Mobile Reseller Shops like the one where we bought our phones, are fakes or refurbished. This puts the price we payed into a complete new perspective!

Posted in Around the World, China | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The Nonsense of Software Patents

I am Software Developer and my opinion is that Software Patents are not only Nonsense but also counterproductive!

There are not infinitely many ways to program something. Computer Science Theory already shows that for many problems there are only few methods to solve the problem with programming in a reasonable way if they are solvable at all. And then there are best practices in programming which simply evolved from many programmers coding a huge amount of code and trying to make everything more manageable.

On the other hand there are the software companies who try to claim every idea as theirs to gain control over their competitors or even a part of the software development universe. This turns programming more and more into a run through a minefield and I am already sure that one day when I finally think that I get a big success with one of my programs there comes one of these big patent hoarders and wants its part of my cake because I violated some sort of broad spread patent.

As I can read on Heise Online today this time someone tries to get his piece of cake from our dear competitor Microsoft. It seems that the Canadian company i4i holds a US Patent No. 5,787,449 which describes the separate manipulation of architecture information and data of a document within the same file.

Not that I am not a little bit mischievous that it hit Microsoft, one of the biggest supporters of software patents and rigorous enforcer of his own “rights”, but I have to state that I am a little bit astonished that such a patent is possible after all! I mean, the patent was filed in 1994 but at this time we had already the Java Programming language since 1992. And together with this language came the famous JAR-file which is an zip-archive enhanced with a metadata file. This metadata file describes the “architecture” of the jar-archive and can be manipulated independently from the class files which normally constitute the data. It becomes even more obvious that this method is common sense when you examine the usage of ear- or war-archives because with the appearance of J2EE the usage of XML-Files within the archive for configuration and architecture description of the data within the archive went a huge step further.

Since 2006 the Open Document Standard is specified, which actually does what every smart programmer would do without any guidance. It packs together the formatting information and the data of a document into one archive, the exact same path which was already prepared by the jar-archives.

So, especially in direction of Microsoft, I would like to ask: Does anybody else have the same impression as I that software patents are really counterproductive an therefore should be forbidden?

I for myself have never in this business seen a striking innovation where I would have agreed that this should be protected by a patent. But I am only about 20 years in this business. Perhaps this point is still to come.

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