Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Bucketwheel excavator

Maarten Hofman: Latest LEGO creation: a bucket wheel excavator given to me for my birthday, now complete. 
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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hong Kong layover

It sometimes happens that you have a layover in Hong Kong that lasts more than a few hours. In this case you may want to do something outside the airport. Here is an example itinerary that packs a lot of excitement in a short time.
  • Use the ATM at the airport to get some HK$.
  • Optionally: store luggage at the facility on Level 3 of Terminal 2 (HK$12/hour)
  • Take bus E23, E41 or S56 to Fu Tung Shopping Centre
  • Optionally: have breakfast or lunch at the Federal Palace
  • Take the Ngong Ping cable car to the monastery
  • Visit the monastery. Access to the big Buddha also gives you a vegetarian meal ticket
  • If this is all the time you have, return to the airport
  • Take bus 21 or 23 to the Mui Wo pier (90 minute trip)
  • Take the ferry to Hong Kong (90 minute trip)
  • Optionally: take the tram up to Victoria Peak, and back down
  • Take the Star Ferry to Kowloon
  • Walk the avenue of the stars
  • Optionally (if you are here at tea time): have tea at the Peninsula hotel
  • Optionally: have a meal at the Serenade restaurant, overlooking the harbour
  • Take the airport MTR back to the airport from Kowloon station (you can check in for your flight at this station too) (30 minutes)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Mosha down for the Holidays

Mosha is no longer running on a VPS system, and I won't be able to monitor it as closely during the Holidays because of visitors. I therefore decided to shut the server down. I'll bring it back up in the New Year, probably after January 5th. Apologies for the inconvenience, and Happy Holidays!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Alternatives to Desigual

My sister loves the products of Desigual, and I agree that they have beautiful items. However, after my recent experience it is clear I shouldn't buy anything from them anymore. I was therefore wondering if anyone might know of an alternate store that I can use that has similar products.

For those curious about what happened: the item arrived damaged. Instead of focusing on getting a replacement item to my sister instead they decided to explain all the limitations that existed surrounding returning the item to get my money back.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Messages from the Red Cross

Two years ago one of my co-workers pointed out the joy of donating money, after which I investigated my options. I was already donating to an Alzheimer group in the Netherlands, and also like PACE Universal, as they are doing projects in India (and in Kolkata, even). He pointed out that the Red Cross is quite good in finding worthy humanitarian causes, and has very low overhead. He also told me I should use a proxy for my donations, to avoid getting overwhelmed by spam. I listened to most of what he said, but unfortunately not the last part.

 It's not that the American Red Cross sends that many messages. In fact, after I set my settings correctly, they never contacted me for anything else than a donation receipt. It is that they share your address with their local chapter, which then proceeds to send letters and Emails, sometimes twice a day. Contacting them about it only leads to the address you used to contact them being used for additional communications.

I therefore decided to go to the Red Cross website, to see if there is a way to prevent this. After considerable navigation I figured out their phone number might be the only way to prevent this. I called the number and navigated their phone tree, which in the end put me (wrongly) in a meeting with several executives discussing trivialities, which made me wonder how they keep such a low overhead. They ignored what I said, and I found no other way yet. My last resort is the message on twitter, that I just sent out.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Acer Iconia W3 tablet improvement suggestions for Microsoft

A month ago I bought an Acer Iconia W3 tablet, because it had a number of features that made it interesting.
  • It was only $250.
  • It ran Windows 8.1 (which I wanted to know more about).
  • It came with a license for Microsoft Office.
  • I wanted to see how it would handle my old windows software.
The tablet itself is quite nice. It has a good size (8"), weight, and I like the white color as well. It integrates well with Hotmail, which is strange, because I hardly ever use it, but not problematic. I was able to link it with Flickr and install Chrome, although Chrome doesn't have a good touch interface. During this initial configuration I ran into the first and biggest problem: the virtual keyboard.

First improvement suggestion. Since Windows 8.1 really is two user interfaces on top of each other, there are also two virtual keyboards. There is one window shaped virtual keyboard, which opens by itself and can be minimized. I still don't know how to get it back when you close it. Then there is the "Metro" virtual keyboard, which is much bigger and works with some input fields, but not all. The keyboards don't know when you want to enter text, and appear and disappear at unwelcome times. Fortunately you can always use the START button to go to the underlying Windows 8.1, and unminimize the other keyboard, which will always be on top. You will need to make sure that you focus on the text field you want to enter before typing in it, though, which is tricky. The keyboard is also rather small, and doesn't scale well when you increase its window's size. You can work around all of these problems with any hardware bluetooth keyboard: the integration with these is excellent (much better than the Nexus 7). But if I wanted a hardware keyboard, I wouldn't have bought a tablet.

After fiddling with the keyboard I downloaded Steam, so I could access my games, and from there I installed Railroad Tycoon 2. It installed well, and ran well, although here you run into the issue of screen resolutions. The tablet has a fixed resolution of 1200x768, and any other resolution just creates a small square, with the rest of the screen black. If there are compatibility issues, this sometimes expands to a bad shape, but this can be prevented using the usual Windows tricks of managing compatibility (which, in my opinion, is one of the strengths of Windows, not a weakness). I was surprised that Railroad Tycoon 2, despite being an old game, accepted my touch commands well, and handled rotate and drawing of railroads, and generally seemed playable. However, when leaving the game, I ran into the next problem.

Second improvement suggestion. There really should be an easy way to reset the screen resolution to default. Normally you'd expect right click on the desktop to give you access to this, but the tablet sometimes claims that the new resolution is really the only resolution it knows. Access to the original control panel is hidden somewhere deep into the bowels of the software, and even in the control panel it is hard to figure out how to get your resolution back. I know how these things work, and it took me over 15 minutes to reset. I feel that another user might just have to live with a tiny square. Of course, the keyboard issue appears here as well. Ideally the keyboard would be outside of this tiny square, and not take up valuable space inside it.

After Railroad Tycoon 2 I wanted to see other games, and since the collector's edition of StarCraft 2 included StarCraft 1, I decided to install that. It was here that I ran into the third problem.

Third improvement suggestion. The tablet is sold with 32 GB of space. Unfortunately, when it arrives, there is less than 10 GB of space left to install software on. For some reason, the installation of Windows 8.1 takes up over half of the size of the solid state disk. Compare this with my 6 GB Nexus 7, which had 5 GB left after Android 4.1 was installed. Since Windows software is generally bloated as well, 10 GB is not enough to install anything. Uninstalling Internet Explorer helped a little bit (it gives you over 2 GB back) but I think Microsoft should really look into parts of Windows that can be removed in order to make the installation smaller.

More suggestions will follow.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mosha under maintenance

Mosha is being moved to its new server. This means that currently a lot of the essential software isn't running, including the gateway. Please be patient, and use the form on the right until it is fixed.