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Photos February 27, 2010

Posted by CK in Miscellaneous, Personal.
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The more I’m diving into photography, the less I like the photos I’m taking. Nevertheless, I found these two decent enough; thought I’d share also here, in addition to Flickr.

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The “moving to Linux” experience February 23, 2010

Posted by CK in Funny, IT.
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A colleague suggested that, when it happens, it would be like this. I hope not.

Apple no more February 21, 2010

Posted by CK in IT, Mobility, Personal.
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Apple is becoming a real pain.

On the iPhone, they decided users cannot be trusted with changing their phone battery. They also decided, no one installs anything unless Apple gets a premium out of it. More recently, they decided that noone has a right to choose even the content on their ridiculously expensive iPhone, even if willing to pay for that, unless Apple says so.

And it’s not only the iPhone. On the newest Macbooks, users can’t change the battery either — a worldwide first. My Macbook’s battery is useless after 20 months of use; literally, yesterday my laptop switched off without any warning whatsoever, while the battery indicator was at 80% or so. And that was 20 months of careful use. Thankfully, I have the previous model and I can just buy a new battery, but if I had the latest one, I’d have to part with the laptop for a considerable number of days, and that’s only because Apple says so.

I had recently decided to upgrade to an iPhone (Android-based phones came a close second). But looking at where Apple is going, also taking the iPad into account, I decided that this is not going to happen. As a matter of fact, although I had decided in the past that I’m not going back to other (existing at the moment) operating systems on the laptop, now I’ve changed my mind. Openness is not just a philosophical issue, it’s a real matter of freedom. I have been using Linux and FreeBSD on various laptops in the past for a long time, and it’s clearly time I return to that practice. Apple desperately wants to lock us in, and Google desperately wants our data, so it’s not Chromium or Android either. With both companies preparing for the mother of all IT battles for advertisements on mobile platforms, I don’t want to be part of it. Any platform whose defaults I can’t override, is not good enough.

So my current plan, as soon as I finish with my academic obligations and as long as things remain the same until then, is to convert to different hardware and some Linux distribution. On the mobile end, I will wait for Nokia’s update to N900; Meego sounds promising.

I only regret the hundreds of euros I spent on software for the Mac OS, and feel sorry I’ll have to part with some favorites such as Things, Journler , BibDesk andOmniGraffle.

Prague recommendations February 16, 2010

Posted by CK in Travel.
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Ok, I’m not doing this usually — as a matter of fact, I can’t remember writing another post with recommendations for a place I’ve visited. Nevertheless, this last trip to Prague, Czech Republic, was full of pleasant surprises. In such cases, I consider it’s part of my dues to do the little I can and bring these people more customers, in return for the great service I received. So here it goes:

  • Hotel: I highly, highly recommend U Jezulatka. It’s not cheap, but it’s really worth it (BTW, you can get better rates from Booking.com and the likes). The rooms (at least the one I stayed) offer a privileged view to “Karlův most”, one of the two most important sights in Prague (the other being the castle). The hotel is actually right next to the bridge, so the location can’t be any better than that, being right in the middle between the old city and the (much nicer, IMHO) castle area. The staff of the hotel was the most polite and helpful I’ve ever seen. The rooms are beautiful and well equipped. Mini bar is free to use, breakfast is included, and there’s also free internet connectivity. The only thing to point out is that there’s no elevator (the building is a few centuries old!) so if you have trouble with stairs keep it in mind.
  • Food, part I: I had one of the best dinners ever, at restaurant Sovovy mlýny. It is inside Prague’s museum of modern art, right next to the river (close to Charle’s bridge). Only the lower part offers a view to the river, as far as I could tell, so keep that in mind. I was at the upper floor, which is ok to sit in, nicely decorated but nothing spectacular. The food was totally delicious. The goat cheese on red beet root is something not to miss, and the pike perch was equally awesome. On top of that, the service was top-class, without being pretentious. Friendly, smiling and polite, you’ll feel like you’re with friends.
  • Food, part II: So you’re in the middle of the old town and look for a bite. Tourist traps lay all around, with photos of dishes and people inviting you inside to offer you meals of doubtful taste and quality. Nothing to worry about; Pasta Fresca, at Celetná 11, is only steps away from the center of the old town and “Staroměstské náměstí” (the square with the old mayor’s house and well-known sight for its centuries-old clock). The setting was very pleasant indeed, in an underground location but very modern (i.e. not the typical cellar-like thing). It’s apparent by now that I’m a fool for good service, and in this restaurant it was excellent indeed. The food was so good that, although I walked in with a bad mood, I left happy and smiling. Really. Their pasta is home-made; I can easily recommend the ravioli al pomodoro, which was the best I ever had. Their potato gnocchi was just as good. And, although the place is not cheap, it’s definitely not expensive. For this kind of quality, the value for money is extraordinarily high.

Update: Two more recommendations I forgot to mention:

  • WinesHome: An amazing place where architecture, design and wines come together. I stumbled on it by accident, walked in and didn’t regret it for a split second. At the time I was there, around 4-5pm, the place was empty; not sure how it would be later in the evening.
  • Lui & Lei: The most relaxed and pleasant coffee I had in the city. Perfect setting with big comfortable armchairs, lots of space between the few tables, and beautiful decoration. My only complaint: they don’t really serve cakes etc — there was only some home-made cake which was ok but not spectacular. Still, I’d easily prefer this coffee shop to any other, for an afternoon coffee or even wine.

Finally, I walked into Cafe de Paris, which looked extremely promising. Unfortunately, they were fully booked and therefore I could not stay and try their cuisine.

Why Google will never lose February 7, 2010

Posted by CK in IT.
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Because they understand what users need.

I just found out that, if I search in Google Maps for “κάρλοβι βάρι” (this is Karlovy Vary, the Czech town written in Greek without any sort of strict/standardized mapping between the two alphabets), I actually get the map I want. I knew if I searched for a Greek street using Greek alphabet I would get the result I wanted, even if it’s in their database in English. But for places outside Greece, I did not expect this. I assume that they normalize between different languages and search for the result of this normalization (which is probably in English). Amazing.