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My workflow July 16, 2008

Posted by CK in Design, Productivity, Software.
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As I’m playing around with Concept Maps, I thought I’d build one to illustrate the workflow I have adopted over the last months/year or so. I don’t know if this would fit everyone’s habits, but for me it’s working very well.

Clicking on the image will take you to the concept map page, created with CMapTools and hosted by the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, the software’s creators. Publishing there and creating this web page is as easy as “Save as” (literally).

My workflow

Location != Language July 16, 2008

Posted by CK in Design, Miscellaneous.
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Ok, so I admit: I’m living in Germany and don’t speak any German whatsoever. Now that this is out of the way, can we please sit down and re-think web site localization?

This last month I have been in the same situation time and again: I’m visiting the site of some big company which took the time to provide its content in many different languages, it asks me where I’m located, and then changes the language to German. Even worse, some don’t even ask you where you are located, but rather use geo-location services based on your IP and simply present the content in German, often without allowing you to change the language to something else. I have seldom found sites which ask where you are located AND what is your preferred language — typically it’s airline companies, which makes sense I guess.

The problem is that although I could, in principle, choose an English-speaking country such as US or UK, this usually means that I am automatically losing some of the site functionality, as many details are customized to the visitor’s country of origination (for example, local news).

MindJet releases “MindJet Connect” July 8, 2008

Posted by CK in Productivity, Software.
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I haven’t tried it yet, but MindJet, the creators of my favourite mind-mapping software, have released MindJet Connect: An online mind-mapping tool with real-time collaboration by groups (on a shared mind-map). I haven’t tried it yet, but being familiar with the quality of their products, it should be good. I’ll get back with more as soon as I try it, but if someone can provide a short review (or a link to a short review) here, it would be fine.

I’m wondering if it includes conference functionality (screen sharing, audio/video conferencing, etc). That would be excellent.

Fritz!Fon 7150 woes (and how they were solved) July 8, 2008

Posted by CK in IT, Networking.
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After having my DSL connection activated, I went for a router and a phone. I wanted to use a VoIP provider who would allow some cheap calls to Greece, so SIP capabilities on the router were absolutely necessary. WiFi was also a requirement. I was familiar with AVM‘s Fritz!Box, a really cool box which included by default lots of useful functionality. For those who are not aware of AVM, they have something like 50% of the DSL router market in Germany, and they really are pioneers in the domain.

Looking around, I stumbled across Fritz!Fon: A real gem, unfortunately only sold in Germany. Less ports, but a great added feature: Integrated DECT phone. Not only was I saving money (well, it is quite expensive so I needed an excuse), but I was also saving space and wires (more excuses). Anyway, I bought it, brought it home and happily connected. 1st shock: The interface was German only. Thankfully, with some online translation and my experience with their administrative interface, it was ok and I was online in no time. Then I registered with my SIP service, and tried to make a phone call. 2nd shock: Sound quality was really poor unacceptable. I switched on the laptop, fired up SJPhone, sound was great. I wasn’t downloading anything, so it couldn’t be congestion (plus, on the other end they could hear me perfectly). I fiddled through all settings I could possibly think off: Codecs, traffic shaping, you name it. The only interesting diagnostic was jitter ~= 10ms, and some evident packet drops (although the box doesn’t account for them).

Yesterday, I was going through the settings I can modify on my SIP account, on the provider’s side. I noted this setting with 4 levels on RTP packet size. It was on “level 1”, and the provider recommended increasing it if there were audio problems/gaps. I increased it, no changes. Then it hit me: What if the packets are too big? What if they are fragmented somewhere along the path, and Fritz!Fon doesn’t have big enough buffers for that? Changing it to the lowest level, I immediately enjoyed perfect audio quality for my VoIP-based phone calls. I’ll try to decode this further if I can in the next days, and get back with updates to this post.

So now if you experience interrupts and breaking sound on your Fritz!* product, you know what to try first!

Evolution bug July 8, 2008

Posted by CK in Funny, Miscellaneous.
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If evolution was working properly, Germans would have integrated umbrellas.