Tuesday, July 31, 2007

They couldn't be more wrong!

I happened to vacation in Prague last week and I remember I saw that Apple reseller shop, close to the Republic Square, I think. I walked in and window-shopped around to conclude in astonishment that they are much more advanced in the Czech Republic in Apple Reseller Stores than anything I have seen in Belux so far (Belgium/Luxembourg). Same holds for their other shops with trendy names most of which I wasn't even up to date to recognize (my spouse did though, surprise.. surprise...).

The Czechs are a bunch of great people. Courageous, polite with good manners, good looking and extremely intelligent*. Less than twenty years after the fall of the (iron) curtain they managed to look a lot more advanced than anything we got in 'Western' Europe. They are catching up faster than you could ever credit them for, as my good friend Fritz told me in Vienna few days later. However, what those romantic Czech kids don't know yet (or probably they do but refuse to admit) is that the anti-terror wargames of the current US administration brought the dollar to a historic low, almost never seen in living memory. We used to pay 1.2 euros for a dollar not long ago and now we can buy 1.4 dollars to the euro. American companies do like that a lot as this helps them make their dollar targets easier and usually adopt a dollar for a euro policy in defining European pricelists. To their credit, the dollar listprice Yankee companies post on their domestic online stores is before sales tax (anything between 6 and 10%) whereas equivalent product pricelists shown in European stores are augmented by VAT rates of more than 20% in some places, needed to fund local bankrupt governments like the one we have in this country.

Is that a problem for Jobs? Not really because they need to make a living too. By the way, if I have to spend a few hundred euros more on an Apple Powerbook than on a lousy piece of portable from Dell or Packard Bell then that's what will eventually define my decision. Is the premium worth paying? If yes, then I go ahead and do it. Look at Sony's VAIO line for example... you have to pay quite a premium above the market average for that little extra that's not even worthwhile (IMHO of course) !

Conclusion. Kids from the Czech Republic or anywhere else in Europe learn something for good:

a) Price is defined by what any fool wants to pay for a piece of equipment to meet his perceived needs. Free market and free competition define the price of anything in the free world.

b) Most, if not all US companies love to charge a premium on their domestic dollar price when they decide on their foreign currency pricelists and in so doing they love to 'overvalue' the dollar in that respect because one never knows where the freakin' greenbuck is headed towards in the next 12 months. If, in the meantime, they get an extra bonus from a deteriorating buck, then so much the better. It only helps the quarters and gets sharholders off their back. And,

c) running a business is not a charity matter, as the greatest charity dude of the planet (mighty Bill Gates III) can tell you in a heartbeat.

That's the name of the game kiddos. If you don't like it go buy a Negroponte box. It's a free world after all. Or, innit?

* True story: I went to an Italian restaurant in Prague on my second day in town last week. It's called l'Angolo (meaning angle or corner, because it's at the crossing of two main streets). Fine decor, excellent food, elegant and Italian (sounding) waiters. And a great collection of Italian wines, among other things. They even had a part of the restaurant reserved to... Lexus (!) as Toyota rented permanently that part of the house to organize dinners for clients or for their own staff when they brought them to the Czech for courses or other events... which means that even the Japs like the place. After paying my compliments to the head waiter I asked him whether all of his staff were Italians. "Not a single one" he replied... "not even the chef". Amused by my flabbergasted look he added: "you know, cooking is cooking... if you want you can learn anything... people wanted good Italians in Prague, so we assembled some Czech kids, bought some books... and learned it". And he left me gasping looking quite proud of himself. He deserved it in all honesty! If you happen to visit Prague, go find the place. Called l'Angolo, like in Angle.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

If you can't afford to buy an iPhone...

... and surprise your geek girlfriend at her birthday, you can always try buying her these earrings made from recycled power-on buttons on Apple MacBooks.

Let's go win a war...

Somethin' is telling me that these folks have got to be serving in the Belgian army... you know, tanks with four rear gears and one forward (in case the enemy attacks from the rear...).

An eye for an 'i'...


Why should I be smiling, says Zappa, sitting right here next to you?

Crossfire is an longtime infamous CNN program that I used to watch on hotelroom TVs 20 yrs ago, known for handling controversial subjects, animated by verbal fights and extreme positions. This one involves Frank Zappa expressing his opinion on music censorship for songs with 'offensive' lyrics or being promoted via 'too much explicit sex' video clips. The right, to Zappa's dismay, defends the position that Government should interfere and censor those works. As John C. Dvorak titles the clip in his blog: Frank Zappa on Crossfire Circa 1986 Defending the Use of “Words” to Three Dipshits. How right he is...

If you do not consider yourself an inspired neocon, watch the clip to the end; it's both amusing but also very sad... we don't seem to have learned anything in the last twenty years... on the contrary. Sad story! Long live Frank (RIP) an' God bless him!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Ever wondered how you folks spend your time?

For the last month I've been monitoring traffic to this blog day by day. 200 distinct surfers from all over the planet (I swear to God, all continents have paid me a visit except Artic and Antartic) have wondered around the site for a total of twice as many page hits. The counting system I use from RiteCounter offers a few cute stat graphs... like the one above (click it to see sharply).

As we all know this site is a blog like millions of others out there, mainly aimed at folks I know and who know me. Others are also welcome if they think it's not a waste of their time. The vast majority of visitors are those from that 'other' category, I must admit.

Anyways, here's the thing. You see a lot of traffic on Monday and Friday with considerably less in the middle of the week and a bit more over the weekend (Sunday is weak though). Does this make any sense to you? Darn right it does. Here's what I think:

Monday is up because people rather waste productivity and relax a bit after the weekend funtime. Friday is high because nobody does much useful on Fridays looking forward to the weekend... Wednesday is the most productive day of all; in fact people seem to be productive for one and a half day in a total week. Do you think this is a correct interpretation of the stats. You bet!

That reminds me... many 'moms' in this country take off Wednesday pm to care for children (only half day school on Wednesdays). Imagine, here in Belgium, many female employees we let go home in their max productivity day! How clever! Well done Unions! BTW, if you didn't know that, most business dinners and lunches also take place in this country on Wednesday and Thursday evening... which explains also the built up of leisure (surfing) time during office hours from early Thursday to a peak on Friday.

Forgot to mention... all of the above is my own empirical interpretation on the matter. I ain't far from reality though, as far as the 'average Joe' is concerned... workaholics are a different ball-game alltogether... know no weekends... even take late flights to miss no active time from a working day... do email on their Blackberries and smartphones (and some do that on iPhones too) while at the restroom...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Judge Deed loses his wig!

The Britts decided to stop a 400 year old tradition of wearing white horse-hair (did you know that?) wigs in court. The shoulder long wigs worn by judges cost 3K USD whereas the shorter worn by lawyers cost a hefty 800 dollars. We've got to get used to it. I can't possibly visualize Judge John Deed without his horse-hair wig. Anyway, what can you do? C'est la vie as the Greeks would say.

Read more on this story at Reuters...

Incredible Flamingos

Natives of Flanders are called Flamingos in Spanish. Flamingos are also a bird species but apart from the picture here it is not the birds I am about to discuss... It's my compatriots, Dutch speaking inhabitants of Belgium, spread over five provinces and accounting for 60% of the population.

They are also the richest. Not only of Belgium but of all Europeans. Forget about Switzerland and the Swiss... The Flamingos are the richest. Of course the Swiss, carrying centuries long military legacy, guard with their lives the trillions of foreign currency that floats into the country from all over the planet. They pick-up some commission in the process and it is true, the country looks very rich to outsiders, but... it's the stingy Flamingos who have got most individual assets per capita... How do I know, you might wonder. Trust me, I know... I read the papers.

It appears that a research bureau (GfK... anybody heard of them? Google 'em and find out) conducted a study recently on the individual personal savings of Europeans and came up with alarming conclusions about the Flamingos.

It was found that 37% of all Flamingos have savings in the bank of more than 50K euros. That is to say that more than 2.3M Flamingos in Belgium have got more than 50K euro in the bank. This is 4% more than a year ago. Wow!

Per an ING expert the growth is due to the volatile performance of the Bourses in the last few years that convinced risk avert Flamingos to take their diddlies away from equity investing back to the safe haven of savings accounts. In any case the bare statistics put the Flamingo's at the first place in Europe that in itself has an average of 12 percent.

How about the Walloons then, living in the remaining four provinces? Well, traditionally they used to stay behind the Flemish with 25% the previous year but fell further to 19% this year. In other words, there's hardly one million Walloons with savings more than 50K euros. Again, the same ING expert said that in Wallonia the different social layers are far more unequal and those 19% own a lot more than just 50K. If for instance you set the threshold at 100K you might end up with much different conclusions. Who knows? Mind you, the richest of all Belgians is a Walloon, indeed (check Forbes Magazine for details).

The other characteristic of the Flamingos that foreigners are not often aware of is their inherited obsession to build their own brickhouse. Whereas owning a house in The Netherlands is desirable but difficult to realize, in Flanders every citizen is born with 'a brick in his belly'. They've got to built their own brickhouse even if they'd have to give up everything else... they say, a man without a job is not a man... I say, a Flamingo without a brickhouse is not a Flamingo.

How do Flemish people actually achieve that? Have a house and save money in the bank (many still do that in matrasses as we found out few year ago when we had to convert to the Euro from BEF). As an alien to native Flamingos, but having lived for thirty years among them, I can answer that question: (they achieve that) relatively simple.

First and above all, the Flemish are extremely hard workers. They despise the lazy in a way I seldom seen. Whereas on the first morning of annual vacation normal people wake up by... midday, Flamingos get off their bed and start moaning the loan by 6am. True story! Umglaublich!

Second reason is that Flamingos love to save their money. Far more often than I wished I've seen many rich Flamingos live like gypsies. The richer they get the stingier they become. Whereas Greeks or Italians the moment they own some extra bucks they walk into malls and buy stuff to show-off and be seen as big spenders owning the latest and brightest, Flamingos will put the extra eurobills on a 'spaarboekje', cute little savings passbook... As they say in Switzerland: 'money talks... wealth whispers'.

(to be cont'd)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

That's how we like 'em... good ol' computers

This film was commissioned by IBM in mid 60ies for staff (sales) training purposes... Jim Henson who later became famous with the Muppet Show was the Director of this clip. Obviously!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Should you find a boat up on a mountain...

Did it ever happen to you to wake up in the morning, still lying there in your bed, covered in sheets, and... laughing your ass off? Do you get the picture? Your partner (wife, mistress, girlfriend, sex-doll, for Japanese that is, whoever...) stares at you in half sleepy eyes and wonders "...what the heck is wrong with him, again?", anxious to find out the reason and maybe have some laughs too. Well, do you remember this happening to you, ever?

Well folks, it happened to me this morning. Reason was simple. As I was waking up lazy and slow, a Greek proverb came to mind. Something modern Greek men use to show contempt to representatives of the opposite sex. But, how do you wake up with a proverb in your mind? That's really simple. Read further on...

A few days ago, a friend of mine here in Brussels, responding to a situation that was turning more complex than it deserved because of some 'political' manipulations by a woman, told me: "... think about what your cousin Mike used to tell us all the time..."

Gosh, my cousin Mike... el Greco loco as the... Germans would say. The most lovable character you can come across if you are looking for great company, a John Clease à-la-Greque! Tall, with still great looks in his mid fifties, with lots of 'success' among young hospital nurses to the dismay of his spouse (he's a doctor you see, radiologist, in a well-known hospital in Piraeus), loves to tennis and to diet, but still over hundred kgs... got the picture?

Mike has always been great fun for his simplicity and sense of humor. We grew together as kids in our hometown Alexandroupolis in the North East of Greece, but then lost contact as we went to college... he was attending the medical school in Thessaloniki whereas I was in Athens... I left the country in mid seventies and only returned 20 years later. We met again then, mature men in our forties, both married with children. I used to travel back to Greece for business during the mid nineties and I looked for contact with him and his older brother, both of them first degree cousins via my father's side.

I am really glad I did that, having realised how much I missed contact with folks from my own family. During my short trips to Athens Mike and his brother Kostas displayed an extreme level of hospitality only Greeks and Eskimos are capable of. Despite their numerous defaults, Greeks take care of you if you give them the chance... it's a matter of honor to them. That dates back to more than 3000 years, trust me. It's woven in their genome. Add to this their surprising sense of humor and you got the ideal chemistry of friends for life.

How about proverbs then? Well many seem to resemble the sayings we have in other tongues but the Greeks have often a terribly funny way of saying these things. To the point that if it happens to have one of those sayings come to mind while still lying in bed, you may end up waking up your neigborhood with your laughing screams... they might even think you are in the middle of getting... lucky (wink wink). Only your partner knows better, of course...

One such proverb I only heard recently for the first time from a colleague... It goes like: "Don't encourage too much a peasant because you risk having him taking ownership of your... bed"... It might sound unusual to the 'English listening' ear and might even cause some smiles, but I can tell you, in Greek it's hilarious... the use of verbs, forms, nouns selected... once you hear the proverb you see the picture opening up in front of your eyes... that's what I mean!

And finally, Mike's wisdom that my Greek pal brought back to memory a few days back... remember, it's about women interfering and with machinations of all sorts make a mess of it (that's one of the reasons Greeks and everybody else east of Greece - check-up your geography - want their women to stay in the kitchen and raise the kids rather than interfere with manly business).

It goes like this (PG recommended) : If it happens to you to come across some boat on top of a mountain, be sure my friend... it's a vagina who brought it there...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


It's true that you can make or lose sh*tloads of greenbucks by playing with volatile stocks. Volatility is generally measured by fluctuations of daily price around daily averages. Visually, volatile stock price graphs look like the Alps where non volatile look more like the Flanders fields. Volatility is very often caused by emotions of the masses stirred usually by the tabloid behavior of some cheap reporters and analysts. One of the best (recent) examples I saw yesterday by a JP Morgan Asian analyst (a bloke called Kevin Chang) reporting that before end of this year Apple will launch a scaled down version of the iPhone. He rationalized his claim by referring to recent Apple patent filings (see schema), 'inside info' from Apple's third party Far East suppliers and some common knowledge about the European launch of the iPhone. Few hours later, a peer of Chang's from the same JP Morgan (West-Side story, this time), a bloke called Bill Shope carefully reported that his young Asian colleague has been 'more Catholique than the Pope' in his enthusiast predictions. However the damage was already done. Scores of new reporters pulled out of their word-processors hundreds of fresh related articles and news agencies flashed 'stop-the-press' style live-updates. In a spectacularly 'down' market (give and take minus 150 points on the DJ Industrials Index, and minus 30 for Nasdaq) AAPL, way overpriced and peta-volatile, was up 2 points.

Another reporter from Blackfriars Communications, a fellow called Carl Howe took a deep breath and put his grey matter to work. A nice article came out. You can read that report here.

His analysis makes a lot of sense to the point, you, as a reader, start wondering: "Jeez, the guy's right! How come I haven't thought of that myself?". The reason is simple... it's mass psychology. I must eventually admit that the collective IQ score of any crowd of humans, size larger than one, must be in the low nineties. Emotions overtake logic and opportunistic freetards rush to play with volatility and lose money... like wasting a weekend in Vegas. On top of all this, our beloved cyberspace adds a degree of power amplification to any similar event. 'Sell' and 'Buy' orders arrive in greased lightnin' mode at brokers' desks in the millions and the NYSE bloke, the one who tolls the 'Lutine' bell to kick-off the day's trading, will hardly have the time to put the bell away and AAPL shares will have been bought and sold in seven figure volume numbers.

As a trivia, current Apple market cap is twice that of Dell's, higher than Nokia's and very close to overtake HP's. All that with 'only' 23 Billion of revenue and one third of Microsoft's net income. His Jobness is definitely gonna be canonized...

Here's the thing... Despite all emotions and the fact that sh*tloads of dollars are made or lost in volatility, which is nothing new really, the thing I like most about events like these is the energy involved. Man o' man. Check out CNBC reporters on their early morning programme and you'll see what I mean. Maria Bartiromo... 'love of my life'!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mother Tongues

I came across this YouTube clip yesterday (they post anything these days) showing two braindead rednecks performing a country-&-western song about how everyone in the US must speak English. The hilarious aspect of that performance was that their own use of American English is to the original (UK) English as Mandarin Chinese is to Japanese (at least some Englishman told me once so). Anyways...

The purpose of me commenting on this clip is not so much their performance but rather the series of reader comments on the clip, posted in a well known Californian blog. Somebody mentions a cheap joke first... Question: what do you call someone who speaks 3 languages? Answer: Trilingual. Question: what do you call someone who speaks 2 languages? Answer: Bilingual. Question: what do you call someone who speaks only 1 language? Answer: An American.

They make it sound like lack of knowledge of a second language is indicative of lesser IQ. So the joke is about Americans being stupid, eh? Well, nothing could be more wrong than this. Above all, I met extremely intelligent people in my life who could speak just their mother-tongue where others could speak two or three languages with correct sounding accent and all but, sorry to say, they couldn't sell icecream to a Bedouin.

Some other reader said... I am living here in South Dakota and I am surrounded by six other states... I am sure if my neigbors spoke their own native languages, I'd have to speak more than one languages to survive... so where's the big deal? Right on the money!

This is it. In Belgium modern middle class people need to speak more than 2 languages to survive. That's French and Dutch for starters and English as the International language. At school they learn thoroughly four languages, the three national languages, French, Dutch and German, and of course English. Some even learn ancient Greek and Latin as well. They've got to. If they wanna make any chance at all to get a job later they have to. Because if they don't, others do and it's those others who get the job. Traditionally economies of small countries surrounded by large depend more than 80% from the trade with their neigbors. Belgium is surrounded by France, Germany, the UK and The Netherlands... what'd you expect then?

Does this make Belgians smarter? I doubt it as the first thing I learned when I immigrated here were "Belgian jokes" about notorious national stupidity (which is not fair either... but just to make the point).

It's quite convenient when you understand other people's languages... it's much easier if we all spoke the same; what's the need for so many tongues on such a small planet? But that's the way it is. We can't change that anymore. It is true though that the more languages you speak the shorter vocabulary you possess in any of these languages. Our brain is a finite container. Smart people, authors of books, news reporters, literature scholars often speak one language, their mother's, but possess vocabularies of tens of thousands of words.

I can speak for myself. I used to speak native Greek well and some broken English 30 years ago when I came here. I can speak good English, French and Dutch and average Greek today. I reckon, in each of these languages I might have a vocabulary of a few thousand words each, where by, thirty years ago, in Greek alone (due to my studies) I knew more than 10 thousand words I bet you. Time heals though and my brain wiped away those extra thousands of Greek words from my neurons to replace them with French, Dutch, etc... in other words, it can happen to any of you that you forget large parts of your mother tongue under certain conditions. It can happen to the smart and stupid alike.

Conclusion then... those rednecks were stupid alright, not because of their lack of knowledge of anything else than redneck English but because of the intent of their Neocon message (the blonde looks a bit like Ann Coulter, now I come to think of it...). But to call American stupid because of only speaking one language, then you'd have to call stupid the rest of the world, starting with the Chineze, the Latinos, the Germans, the French, the Italians and the... Greeks.

Monday, July 9, 2007

DVB or analog?

Click the picture first (left) before reading further on. Only then you can clearly see the difference between the two shots. Both are captured on a Apple computer monitor. They both originate from the same broadcasted program by a local TV station (VRT een, in Belgium) but the sharper one (top) has been rendered from decoding the VRT's Digital 'over the air' signal (DVB-Digital Video Broadcasting) whereas the second is decoded from the station's analog signal distributed via the local TV cable company. I actually used a Miglia TVMini decoder for the 'over the air' signal and an EyeTV USB for the cable signal.

The difference in quality is a few orders of magnitude without the shadow of a doubt. However, to experience the better quality of digital vs. analog distribution you need to own one of these flat panel TVs supporting 720p (HD Ready) or 1080p (Full HD). Either one is OK. Should you use one of the older TVs with no HD support, you will hardly notice any difference between the two. Even more, both shots would look a lot worse the the bottom one.

The point I am trying to make is the following. Here in Europe, since almost a year we have had a tsunami of new HDTV sales, anywhere you look around. Most folks spend the money and buy the panels but they have no clue how to take advantage of the goodies. You see, 95%+ of all European broadcasts are non HD. Cable companies offer digital (MPEG) distribution of TV programs in standard PAL resolution via the Cable but you need a set-top box for decoding those. Few stations offer free over the air DVB broadcasts. The sales argument used by Cable companies, as they are trying to sell you their digital decoders, is focused mainly on the extra channels/programs and on the ability to time-shift live programs. Nobody really talks about the difference in picture quality demonstrated by the shots here above. Pathetic!

The moral of the story is that you should normally not go out to buy a new TV until either of two things take place... a) your old TV implodes and finds its way to the junkyard or b) your favorite channels start broadcasting in HD and you got some extra pennies to spare. In any case your best choice will be without doubt a flat HDTV panel. It's stupid to buy anything else nowadays. So, the thought for the day is this: since you've decided to go buy the latest and brightest HDTV, then don't be stingy... just give a few more drachmas and buy one of the Cable Company's digital decoders. Trust me, the quality improvement that you'll experience is at least equal or even better compared to standard DVD quality (remember the shot above).

You also get an additional bonus when you buy one of those digital decoders that can record live programmes. With traditional VHS, first generation copies were a mess, second gen were for the dogs... (60 % of original quality lost, trust me... I know). With today's direct to hard disk digital recorders offered by some cable decoders the quality of the recorded content is IDENTICAL (for all practical purposes) to the live broadcast! Incroyable mais vrais as the Italians would say.

And then, when the real HD arrives, you will even see some more improvement, which is welcome too. Problem is... here in Europe we always want to plan changes in infrastructure thoroughly... and we are taking our time. In the US competition rules and there are hundreds of HD broadcasts over the entire nation. Here, we are still doing... experiments. Eventually, our grandschildren will enjoy high quality HD programmes while we'll be counting stars (and in this country, raindrops) from our graves...

I wanna buy one of these...not?!

It was about bloody time they came up with a flying transporter that makes you feel better than in a sardine box... unfortunately my generation and older won't have much chance to enjoy this kind of comfort. It's gonna be alright though for our kids, grandkids and beyond... Lucky them!

As I am hearing the soft female voice describing the goodies of this aircraft I am thinking the blood and sweat I have been thru on Transatlantic flights in the eighties and nineties, stuck somewhere back of the bus (what some call coach)... only plus part of that story was that on the way back to Europe I somehow always managed to hijack three consecutive seats and lay down to get some sleep (if you could call that 'sleep'... by the time you were gone, a stupid stewardess would show up with somethin' like 'are you gonna have some breakfast, sir?').

Sunday, July 8, 2007

I just can't get it!

I swear to God, I am trying real hard to remain high above the clash of cultures and religious crusades and arguments among peoples of the world... but... watching this clip just blew me away. The guy sittin' next to them burka dressed ladies is priceless in his sneaking with the corner of his eye. What can you say?

The N95

Nokia is selling annually more than 400 million cellphones. This is 40+ percent of a worldwide annual 'consumption' of almost a billion units. That's the magic number of which His Jobness wants 1 percent market share, translating into his much wanted target of 10 million units in 18 months. I am mentioning all these stats to put a few things in perspective.

It's been a long time I bought me a descent phone... I used to buy those intelligent PDAs running on Mobile Windows from Compaq and HP, then smart phones from Qtek and Motorola and various other models. Each and every time I was pis*d by the lack of proper UI (too much bad influence from MSFT) and the fact that when you wanted to test their real tough goodies like wifi, email and web and especially the cellphone operator datacomms standards (you name them), you found you needed a PhD in Astrophysics to be able to do the job.

This is the stuff that the iPhone gets fixed with a user friendly "fasten your seatbelts, lay back and relax, and enjoy your flight' Apple style sort of thing.

That's all fine but the iPhone is far and away from us Europeans, certainly more even so if you are talking about its first major revision and enhancement (remember, never buy version 1.0 of anything, as we learned from Microsoft).

So, I took the courageous step and went to buy me the N95, which is actually more expensive than the iPhone as it stands today. This is not my first Nokia ever... actually I own a 6230i for day to day usage as we speak. I have to tell you, when I started using the 6230i I was impressed by the fact that I was able to get it connected to a PC relatively easy... I was thinking, for the first time it seems to work according to specs... Wunderbar! Also sending MMSs and doing some elementary web searches it worked just fine.

How about the N95 then? Well, it's not an iPhone for sure... but it's a great phone! I am not even sure I need to call this a phone... it's a Swiss knife of modern comms. I now realize why Nokia wanted to call it a computer in its ads. Although the interface is not as smooth as an iPhone's (the latter having all these fancy 'surface'-like touch screen functions) nevertheless what seems amazing is that everything seems to work relatively easy. I didn't read one single line from the manual other than to find the 'on' switch and I believe I have used almost all its functions.

Battery charging was the quickest I ever experienced and the GPS, following their latest firmware revision 12.0.013 added Assisted GPS that makes it work indoors too. How they do that is a 'mystery', but it works.

You can download news clips from various on line services like Reuters and YouTube either thru Wifi or via Operators' Internet connections. BTW, here's a good one. From my past experience I was always confused how to configure the cellphone for data connectivity, like Mail, Wap, MMS and Internet. Eventually I was always able to find my way thru Internet posts of others like me but with a lot of blood, sweat and tears. My first experience with the N95 though was fantastic regarding data connectivity, regardles whether that was simply Bluetooth, Wifi on my local WLANs or Operator based standards (3G, UMTS, etc). IT WAS DONE BEFORE I KNEW IT. Amazing!

In other words, the phone is kinda made for our grandmothers and aunts. It offers downloaded TV pleasure, live video 3G comms, VoiP comms in the vicinity of a WLAN, it captures acceptable quality video clips and just right 4x6-print-made-for shots, it talks to PCs, Macs, etc, it's even a FM Radio but above all it is a wonderful GPS, ideal if you are doing city tourism and you are about to get lost.

If you ask me we'll see the following in the future. Apple is the UI leader but it's got to add lots more functions to get close to the N95; on the other hand, Nokia being great in the Comms stuff, we'll see them copying some of the goodies that make the iPhone so great.

One thing I don't get though. Selling 400M phones annually is a wonderful platform to create something for your users like Apple's iTunes. I believe the iTunes is the main differentiator in all these. Nokia did something they call the "Nokia PC Suite" that does a few things but, compared to iTunes, Nokia's PC Suite is just pathetic. With their market dominance, how come they don't go find some more creative developers, beats me...

Conclusion: I guess I'm going to find some good use in this phone, even as a replacement to a laptop during trips, especially with current security checks that make you miss a flight if you carry too many electronics with you, and in a couple of years, God willing, I am probably going to enjoy an improved version 2 of the iPhone. I actually applied same strategy with the Apple TV, which was the first Apple product ever that I didn't go out to buy immediately (I actually preordered it and then, when I found out about its real specs I cancelled the order).

I hope I am right....

Friday, July 6, 2007

I believe this was even more powerful!

And something different for a change...

A pale Welshman with skin like poridge but with an (opera) voice that knocks the socks off Luciano and his colleagues. The opera part he sings is of course the best one could have ever selected to effectively stir up emotions with tears, shivering and all, and eventually leave an ironcasted footprint in a competition for new talents like this! Final verdict: First Prize! Well done my dear cellphone salesman from Cardiff. The sky is the limit for you...


I've tried to maintain my sanity over the last few weeks with the launch of and the much adoo about the iPhone but I gotta tell yea' folks... this NY Times clip starring David Pogue (whom I mentioned in an earlier blogpost) and a bunch of geeks is above anything else I saw up till now. I had the laughs of my life with tears and all! Enjoy!

So Sue Me...

That's the name of this notorious hacker's homepage. He's 23 now, called Jon Lech Johansen and he has been hacking a myriad of electronic gadgets since he was a teenager. He's Norwegian of course, and worshipped by all hacker lovers and alike. His latest conquest: Bypassing the need for an ATT service contract during Activation of an iPhone... A hacked iPhone can then be used for all of its other features except placing and receiving phonecalls (and SMSs)... a sort of a super iPod 6th Gen, like many of us are currently dreaming of. If that was (safely) possible, it wouldn't be such a bad idea after all to buy one and hack it Jon's way... it's actually close to fulfilling a dream of many Europeans who can't wait to put their finger(s) on the little marvels. Pity that these things right now look more like shuffles and minis in terms of their disk capacity...

If any of you wants to try, link to Jon's description of the hack and his related downloadable executable that gives the final blow. Again, you got to be more than a casual user to do that (or stinkin' rich... that cuts it too!). You need to use an hexadecimal editor, open up your iTunes executable where you've got to overwrite current contents at three predefined by Jon separate offset spots with corresponding values he is providing. You also need to add to your hosts file in your c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\ folder (directory) a line that redirects the typical localhost loopback IP to albert.apple.com (what the heck domain is that?). Only then you can run Jon's activation executable and pray that it'll work. Good luck kiddos!


To err is human...

It seems I was entirely wrong about my speculation that the iPhone had no slot for SIM cards... it actually does; there has been a lot of confusion on the net with numerous reports about the issue (take a look at this as an example) but eventually the coast was cleared by a known authority in the geek world, David Pogue of the NY Times in his review of the iPhone. Click on the picture left to see where they have hidden (elegantly in Apple style) the SIM slot. It appears then that my other speculation was right indeed (you can't be wrong all the time, can you?). The spot that I identified as a potential container for a SIM card in the clip of the dudes who took the iPhone apart, is indeed the SIM slot after all. If you observe their handling of the phone as they demolish it and watch the clip carefully in comparison to the topology shown in the Pogue report you can see for yourselves that I was right on this part of the story (and not daydreaming as I initially suggested).

Ooof! Now we can land and relax again, and be ready for our 'local' connectivity at the destination country before the aircraft touches the tarmac yet... Bless You, Your Jobsness !

(PS. I should have known better... for modern companies designing products for worldwide usage it's entirely unthinkable to create fundamentally different hardware versions of the same product... they always find ways to accomodate all features possible in one device even if a few of those features will be eventually unuseable in certain territories... to product designers it is much cheaper to add redundant components that can be (dis)activated by means of software than have different hardware designs. In the cellphone market, given that the rest of the world runs almost exclusively on the GSM standard and uses SIM cards, it is trivial to conclude that we were all fooling ourselves and wasting bandwidth... a total waste of space, time and gray matter... I should have known better...)

Γειράσκω αεί διδασκόμενος as the Romans would say...(transl.: getting old and still learning)

Blonde Texan buys a geek's queue spot for 800 bucks

The iPhone saga continues... Was the dame really looking to buy shitloads of iPhones or was she just looking for a husband? She'd better put a sticker on her forehead with: "I am blonde, dumb and stinkin' rich... Marry me!"

I am convinced now... it pays to be the first in the queue. You get your gadget for free and you even make a couple of hundreds in profit! Not bad for a teenager... only drawback... you got to be in Texas to make a chance. I am sure the rest of the US know better... or not?

God bless America!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Is that a cellphone or what?

I was afraid of that... before long we'd come to a point where the iPhone would do almost anything imagineable except simple phonecalls or helping you breed... it will be even healing the sick like some said. Here's a taste of a new wave of geeky apps that'll make your day. Looks cool, but, are software developers seriously thinking that real people will pay money to buy stuff like this? Really!

On a different subject, what's wrong with the dude's voice? Is that for real? Is he still trying to figure out which part of the human race (male/female) he belongs too? He'd rather do that first, I'd say, before going about reinventing the iPhone instead. Sheeejus!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Film Lovers will love this...

My precious, I gotta tell yea'... don't feel too shocked by watching this clip, because it has been actually posted in YouTube by the Media Group civil servants of our dearest European Commision itself! They got a space of their own (inside YouTube) and they creatively called it EuTube (?!), no kiddin'. No wonder that the cumulative total population of all EU countries together counts the best part of 500 million souls and growing, which is almost double that of the USA (Independence day today, God bless'em). With EU propaganda like this what'd you expect? We'll breed like rabbits! Next thing they'll probably do is spread around some free Viagra pills. Yeah!

The best part of the story is that some EP (European Parlement) Neocons violently protested the posting... great food for local tabloids... and tabloid-like blogs like this one...not?

iFlop or iFantastic?

Depends on your point of view... watching the ads and Apple's own clips demoing iPhone features it's only fair to conclude that the iPhone is the best iPod ever. Also, as a viewer of picture shots and short videos (like the YouTube stuff) it promises to be one sweet experience. Coverflow, automatic portrait to landscape orientation are just a few real cool new features we've always wished the iPods had.

Even for web-browsing and quick downloads of mails and such in the neighborhood of WLANs via its Wi-Fi capability the iPhone has some great features, reminiscent of MSFT's 'Surface', that promise to steal the hearts and minds of geeks and alike.

How about the 'phone' part of the story though? The iPhone is above all a phone, innit? Well, we'll have to wait and see. Initial reports are not... too encouraging! Fine... the GUI is one sweet thing, the 'Surface' touch screen experience promises to elevate you to a nirvana of orgasmic hightech pleasures... but have you just thought of this? You'll need two hands to do the job... Say WHAT? Well, check any picture published on the web of people using the iPhone: Two hands! Like the kid in the picture above testing a sample iPhone with his sister in the Manhattan 5th avn Apple Store and like the Afro-American dude on the low left end of the same shot (I know that much because the 2 kids are a colleague's, vacationing in Manhattan as we speak... only to tease me, she shot and sent me the MMC by using her simple Nokia 6230). Can you imagine the practical implications of that need-4-2-hands issue alone? I am sure folks with long and fine fingers reminiscent of the saints depicted in Eastern Orthodox religious icons will eventually manage to learn and use one hand with their spaghetti-like fingers not touching the screens on multiple unintended spots. But this is going to be an issue. Forget about calling someone while driving or even sending an SMS. A 50 euro cheap Nokia can do the job a lot better, if you ask me.

And scenes like Matt Damon in "The Departed" sending SMSs blindly with the phone in his pocket remain to be seen on an iPhone... I'll have to see to believe this...Which reminds me, how about the blind and the visually impaired at the 'older' side of the age demographics? They could still get trained to touch real buttons, right? Soft keys? Maybe not such a great idea after all! If it was, how come we are still using traditional keyboards and not fancy reconfigurable soft ones? Expensive solution for what it is, you said? Abso-f*ckin'-lutely!!!

It was expected of course... the iPhone is a 1st generation device for Apple in the cell-phone marketplace. They always wanted to change the user 'experience' and they've sure done a great UI, but, sometimes you got to be practical. No SIM cards, no worn-out battery replacement by casual end-users, need for two hands and saint-like fingers, and per some reports insufficient signal... well, it qualifies for the best part of an iFlop award...

I wonder how long it will take Apple to extract some of the iPhone's functionality and create a new class of iPods with everything the iPhone has except for its EDGE and CDMA/GSM support. I'd buy one of those in a heartbeat!

iPhone and GSM

I have read reports before about the issue but it's only after I saw "iPhone, the Movie" I was convinced that the reports were right. The iPhone is just like any other iPod that it's an electronic device destined to be only opened-up by qualified personnel (or any gifted amateurs following iFixit instruction manuals) and not the casual users like you and me. So, forget about replacing your worn-out batteries by yourself, and it also seems that for GSM users there is no simple or obvious way to mount a GSM operator's SIM card. Actually, if you watch the YouTube clip you'll find no obvious container for a SIM card at all except for what is shown in this picture here that I grabbed from the paused clip. Even this is hidden so deep in the guts of the device that I simply wonder whether I am not just day-dreaming.

It appears that Apple's ATT partnering exclusivity means a number of things. Above all, that the iPhone is not a GSM phone (yet), although there are already comedians offering unblocked iPhones for GSM networks (Google the two red keywords together and you'll see what I mean). I'd be careful if I were you. My advice is to wait for Apple to make the deals with "rest of the world" GSM operators before you go waste your precious money on anybody out there promising the skies.

The more innovative solution reports in this respect are about the claim that the iPhone doesn't really need a SIM card! Say WHAT? Well, it seems that the problem is solved with software... in other words, iTunes will contain the necessary "know-how" to reprogram via a connected PC an iPhone's firmware and activate it for a specific network operator. I have mixed feelings about this though. Most of us are used to change SIM cards from one phone to another and play around... in all honesty, I remember doing this myself in the past, but I am struggling to figure out a good reason for doing this, other than test (play with) a given device...

The only 'legitimate' need I can think of is for frequent travellers who spend a lot of time in various places, with no one national geography considered as a "home" (I know scores of guys and gals like this, my eldest son being one of them). These folks need to carry a number of SIM cards with them at all times and need to mount those in their phone every time they cross borders... just to avoid the high roaming expenses. I saw many people doing this while fastening their seatbelts on airplanes preparing for landing. How do you then tackle this problem with soft SIMs, eh???!!! I'm sure they'll find out something... where there is a need there is always an opportunity for profit, innit?

Anyway, if that's true about Apple's approach to activation, that is, software SIMs instead of real cards in a slot, then I am sure they're up to facing some serious acceptance resistance by us late adapters Europeans. They'll need to educate us well before they can see a breakthrough in their sales. In the meantime, the Nokia's of this world are not gonna sit down like lame ducks. It only takes some "similar" and "lookalike" functionality on their new models and there goes the iPhone.You see... the delta between the iPod and the rest of them MP3 players was much bigger then, than, say, an iPhone vis-à-vis a Nokia N95 or the latest 'copycats' from Samsung. I'd be very careful on this issue if I were Apple. The EU are not too keen about monopolistic attitudes on behalf of suppliers. I can't even believe they accepted this ATT/Apple venture in the US of all places.

Well, let's be patient to see how it all turns out eventually... I only have that to say: We still got no way to buy video via iTunes in Europe almost a year later than the US. It's even a mystery to me how Apple managed to convince the Music Labels to sell songs in Europe via iTunes in the first place...

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Science is cool!

Take a look at the Topology trick this cute little bald "Professor" plays in the linked clip. Priceless!

Why not?

I had a boss in the early nineties from Dallas, TX, who used to say: "This stuff is so bad that you either burst into laughs or start weeping about... I rather laugh... life is too short for weeping"...

That's what came to mind when I first read that posting. Figure this: mix Gates' sperm with Beckham's, plant the mix into a million Chinese horny women and you get a million babies with superbrains and superlooks. So far so good. In a disaster scenario though, it might work out the other way... babies may inherit Gates' looks and Beckham's brains (Jeez almighty!).

Which reminds me of an old Bill Gates joke: Few years back Bill meets Hugh Grant and smalltalk brings them to the subject of Divine, that bimbo who got caught in action with Hugh by the paparazzis. "Was she worth it?" Bill asks. "Try her and find out for yourself" Hugh responds..."How?" Bill whispers in a horny mood..."I can fix it for you, no worries" Hugh gasps. Long story short, few days later Bill meets Divine and after a night in heaven, Bill says to her during breakfast..."Oh, Divine...oh Divine... now I can see why they call you Divine..."..."Yes, Bill", says Divine, "...and I also now know why they call your company Micro-Soft..."

The iPhone inside-out

One of the things I like about the Internet is when new products come out, like the iPhone for instance, you get scores of geeks who disect them to reveal their components. They shoot pictures in every step on the way and then post them with comments to their homepages.

Doing exactly this to the iPhone recently, some curious techies have soon identified all of its device components and also their individual suppliers. With this data known, financial analysts and reporters extrapolated potential for future revenues and profits for all parties involved. These speculative predicitions hit the trading floors (real or virtual) and a stock trading panic emerges. In parallel, supportive reports appear in the Financial Press about additional trivia, like sold-out stores (almost half the Apple Stores in the US at the current moment) and 55% margin predictions for Apple, enough to create some additional frenzy among the members of the investor community... and the greenbucks flow in the hundreds of millions! Like my great friend John Y used to say: Life is good!

Left, the iPhone out of the box and right the iPhone on the operating table. Looks like those geeks had great fun doing this...

And here is a little movie to enjoy the demolition in action.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Just call me a Butthead...

Jim Budd celebrates in the Apple Store of Chicago's Michigan Avenue on Friday, June 29, after purschasing two new iPhones (max 2 per person allowed). The iPhone is Apple Inc's new product that combines a cellphone with an iPod and an Internet client (web and mail).

In a recent YouTube posting John C Dvorak walks for more than 4 minutes along the queue from tail to head, at the entrance of the St-Francisco Apple Store... Watching the clip reminded me of a black-humor joke in the late eighties, during the notorious scarcity of vital food supplies in Poland. The joke goes like this: A Polish chap converses with his pal... "I'm going to Krakow to find some bread" he says... "Strange", his pal responds, "I heard that it's only in Warsaw where you can find bread nowadays...". "That's right", our guy responds, "...but, it is in Krakow where you can join the tail of the queue!"

Buy on the rumor... sell on the news...

I believe I am gonna eventually prove right on my AAPL prediction despite the phenomenal first day sales of the iGadget of the Century. Whereas many amateurs in chat forums expected astronomic performances at the opening this morning, all we got was a two dollar drop instead. I am curious how the day will end... as I was saying, the iPhone has been factored in. About time to short them, if you got the nutware. :)

Anyway, the first weekend sales estimates range from 300 thousand units (JP Morgan) to half a million units (PiperJaffray). We'll never know for sure but I personally reckon that they must have sold slightly more units than the lower (JP Morgan) prediction... JP Morgan's analyst Shope went as far to even suggest that last weekend's kick-off sales were rather "disappointing" (for cryin' out loud!)...

iGot 2 give it 2 them...

Admit it... not all of them have got double digit IQ's. Some score above 100 and soon have figured out that they could earn a quick buck by printing D-Day T-shirts for the camping Apple Store morons. And (they) even set-up a site for selling them online. Waste 15 bucks a piece to tell your neighbors that's you've been a freetard to go wait in line at the local store and spend half your month's wages on an Apple gadget? Sorry, I forgot, it heals the sick.

Well, where Apple and ATT count their first six hours profits in millions of dollars, those T-shirt suppliers could fetch a few thousand... why not.

This is the US of A folks!

What's the point?

About all those folks that decided to endure the pain of camping out of Apple Stores in order to be able to get an iPhone for sure, I often wonder... what is their drive for doing that and look like retarted morons? They could just wait until Saturday, walk into any store and pick-up a phone. Of the 2000 stores carrying the item a few were sold out. Okay! Big deal! I can bet you I can walk into any store end of next week, July 14th, and there still gonna be plenty of iPhones to buy. In my wildest dreams I couldn't ever imagine that Apple would take any supply risks when they decided to go live with such a hyped item... kiddos, this ain't no X-Box or PS3, because Apple knows much better than both Microsoft and Sony. Any doubts?

I am only suspicious about when they will be able to launch it in Europe, given our notorious addiction to state bureaucracy and lack of efficiency over here. It's like buying videos on iTunes in Europe, being a greater oxymoron than a peace loving Tony Blair...

Sunday, July 1, 2007

How many iPhones were sold during the first 6 hrs?

It has been said that Apple stockpiled 3 million phones to go on sale when it launched the iPhone last Friday evening. To eager US customers Apple also provides a homepage to check item availability at their local Applestore. In any case, the iPhone went on sale at 164 Applestores and 1800 ATT stores nationwide.

Well informed market watchers estimate an average of 500 phones that went out the doors of the Applestores in the first six hours and about 50 for each of the ATT stores (remember, these numbers are averages).

Under these assumptions watchers estimate a total of 170K phones sold from 6pm to midnight last Friday. Some estimate the Applestore average output at 50% higher, thus putting the total number of phones sold above 200K. Not too bad for six hours sale, innit? At an everage of 550 USD per device, Apple must have cashed in the best part of 100M USD and ATT 5M USD in new subscriptions (assuming 50% conversions from past subscriptions).

All this is in line for selling 400K units in the first few days of availability. Jobs hoped to grab 1% of the worldwide market within 18 months from launch, that is 10M units. We'll see.

How about user experience? Most users experience non-stop orgasms and forgot all about their wives and girlfriends for the night whereas a small percentage (Reuters reported less than 10%) was too incompetent to get it up and running and many blame ATT for taking to long to activate the friggin' things. Apple launched earlier an update to iTunes to accomodate the new iPhone activation and set-up functionality and many probably were too anxious to get it going and couldn't wait for the update to be done and messed up the update and you know how it goes... Anyways, this is small glitches... we'll have to wait a few days to see how it all turns out in the real world with real users and not only moron geeks who are ready to forgive Apple for anything...

How about AAPL performance on Monday? My 2 cents worth: I believe the current value of the stock already has factored in the iPhone effect. The stock currently trades in the 120ies in line with analyst expectations. It is more likely that it will retreat after a few days of hype and will stay in the low 100ies by the third week in July, and this until Leopard gets launched in October and the iPhone has sold a few million units and gets launched in the rest of the world. After all, if they launched in Europe by year end as they promised they have got the opportunity to penetrate a 60% larger market than the US (490M inhabitants vs 300M in the US), and the euro trading for some time now 30% higher than the dollar (Apple typically sells its products in Europe a euro for a dollar). Certainly Europeans geek out slower than Americans, but, nevertheless the item will be a bestseller here as well as there, trust me.

My personal advice for AAPL then is to wait a bit and feel from where the wind blows. The summer has always been a peculiar season for stocks, at least for the last 20 years I am following the markets.

Dedicated to Nikos and his love for the Cello.

About the theme that inspired "Aphrodite's child" to create their top hit of the seventies "Rain and Tears"