Latest ebay experience – fake Lenovo P780A

February 4, 2015

Preparing for a long journey involves these days the search for a dual-sim mobile phone to be reachable via your normal mobile number and able to use local pre-paid data-sim-cards. The Lenovo P780A from the Spanish online reseller tecnolia24es via ebay with 5.0″ display at 1280×720 resolution and Octa-core CPU with 2GB RAM and up-to-date Android 4.4 seemed promising.

Catch 1: Out-of-bound payment option via bank transfer (first red light). So after several days no way to get the money back and no dispute option (like with paypal). Additionally, ebay terminated the ongoing transaction (second red light) – not telling me why! Result: No seller rating possible – the trust/reputation is the online currency and I’m now not even allowed to “contribute” to it.

Shipping time from Netherlands (why?) was more than 4 weeks. After the arrival of the phone, I quickly checked it and easily noticed the overall bad quality of the phone (cheap materials, slow, etc.) and that the information in “System Info” was hard-coded. AnTuTu Benchmark for Android did the rest. A fake mobile phone – can this really happen to me!?

I contacted the seller who was acting uninformed and offering money back after sending the phone back to China (third red light). Catch 2: Shipping to China took more than 6 weeks. So after 60 days ebay dispute option does not work anymore.

Overall result: after nearly 3 months overall transaction time – Nov 2014 til Jan 2015 – I still have not got my money back and tecnolia24es is not responding to my e-mails anymore.

Lesson learned: Even as an IT pro bad things can happen when doing online business transactions and ignoring early red lights (including late dispute opening)!

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Flexible NAS as Media Center and cloud sync?

April 5, 2013

Like most people, I got a Network Attached Storage (NAS) at home for my digital content like music, movies and pictures. My Buffalo Linkstation Live 1 TB was doing a good, but not very extensible/flexible job. I was looking for a solution supporting recent developments like cloud storage/sync, media center on-the-go and additional apps (webserver, etc.) if needed. The QNAP TS-112 chassis is doing the trick by supporting apps for the fabulous Plex Media Server as well as Google Drive via its QNAP app center just as we are used to from current smartphones.

This enables the following scenario: I can watch (via streaming) all my movies on any internet-connected device (like my HTC HD7) as well as share some digital content over the Plex Media Server with friends (allowing them typically read-only access). Google Drive data is directly synced to my NAS . Additionally, QNAP comes with a development toolkit for writing your own apps or extend existing ones.

Windows Mobile 7?

November 2, 2012

Due my recent professional move I switched again my mobile phone – from a Google Nexus (Android) to a HTC HD7 (Windows Phone).
The overall quality of the phone is good – especially the 5 MP camera surprised me positively. I quickly found my favorite apps on it as well

  • Öffi Guide (as Qando replacement)
  • Next2Car (as Car2Go app)
  • netbanking
  • TV Spielfilm (as local TV station guide)
  • Cineplexx (as local cinema app)
  • Sype and facebook (for social media)

and the tile concept is quite useful. But the major drawback for me are the quite inflexible and just high-level app options (given my detailed Android experience), the horrible maps application as well as the app update frequency (quite slow)! Different synchronization profiles are not supported as an absolute MUST-HAVE! Summary: Nice business phone but not more 😦

Update: Tried to update my HTC HD7 with the cable trick – didn’t work out, but Win 7.8 update worked like a charm with this tool.

Tasting Vienna – some new stuff in 2nd district….

June 29, 2012

As I recently moved to the second district of Vienna, I wanted to find nice places to go out. Fortunately, a lot of nice restaurants and cafes exist just around the corner. Eatalico is adapting the concepts of Vapiano the “Austrian-way”. The menu seems quite minimalistic on first sight, but it works due to the good quality of the dishes & ingredients.

For chilling outside during the day I recommend TeWa at the Karmelitermarkt, while for mild evenings Bunkerei at Augarten might be worth a visit.

Thinking about some Berlin-style cafe on a sleepy sunday? Then Fett+Zucker is right for you – selfmade cakes meets urban atmosphere at its best. Small can be beautiful!

Map Reduce at Google App Engine

March 29, 2012

I recently had to prepare a Cloud Computing 101 lecture including exercises for a teacher exchange week at the Oulu University of Applied Sciences.

As I the curriculum was targeted on internet computing, I wanted to present Google App Engine as a PaaS alternative and MapReduce as an important background technology of the cloud. Luckily, these two are working together – available at an experimental stage here. I quickly found out that the Python support is much more advanced than the Java one (no reducer), so I decided to have a go with it.

The typical WordCount example is available, but Map/Reduce function are both not programmed in a way that you are able to include a Combiner (also not documented at the moment) in the MapReduce pipeline. Below is the changed Map/Reduce code.

def word_count_map(data):
  """Word count map function."""
  (entry, text_fn) = data
  text = text_fn()
  logging.debug("Got %s", entry.filename)
  for s in split_into_sentences(text):
   for w in split_into_words(s.lower()):
    #original - not working with combiner
    #yield (w, "")
    yield (w, "1")

def word_count_reduce(key, values):
  """Word count reduce function."""
  #original not working with combiner
  #yield "%s: %d\n" % (key, len(values))
  value_ints = [int(x) for x in values]
  yield "%s: %d\n" % (key,sum(value_ints))

The combiner has to be included in the pipeline via

def run(self, filekey, blobkey):
  logging.debug("filename is %s" % filekey)
  output = yield mapreduce_pipeline.MapreducePipeline(
           "word_count",
           "main.word_count_map",
           "main.word_count_reduce",
           combiner_spec="main.TestCombiner",
           input_reader_spec="mapreduce.input_readers.BlobstoreZipInputReader",
           output_writer_spec="mapreduce.output_writers.BlobstoreOutputWriter",
           mapper_params={
                          "blob_key": blobkey,
           },
           reducer_params={
                          "mime_type": "text/plain",
           },
           shards=16)
  yield StoreOutput("WordCount", filekey, output)

and the Combiner has to be defined as follows:

class TestCombiner(object):
  """Test combine handler."""
  invocations = []

  def __call__(self, key, values, combiner_values):
    self.invocations.append((key, values, combiner_values))

    value_ints = [int(x) for x in values]
    combiner_values_int = [int(x) for x in combiner_values]
    yield sum(value_ints + combiner_values_int)
    yield operation.counters.Increment("combiner-call")

  @classmethod
  def reset(cls):
    cls.invocations = []

Given that you can play around with GAE/MR with different pipelines, one including a combiner and the other not.

Pilgrimage to Mariazell

March 12, 2012

After taking 7 times one of the eastern routes (book tip: “Pilgerwege nach Mariazell: Band Ost & Nord” by Fritz and Erika Käfer) to Mariazell over Mamauwiese (nice place to stay overnight by the way) via Frein an der Mürz and Schöneben we are going for a partial northern route this time (originally 7 days hike). From St. Pölten over Kaiserkogel and Türnitz to Mariazell – 3 days, 85 km. Try to book your accommodation early, especially when you want to go during Pentecost and just stay for one night. Took me half a day to get it right for 11 pilgrims.

Next years we are going to explore western and southern routes to Mariazell well described in “Pilgerwege nach Mariazell: Band West & Süd”.

Cloud Computing all over Austria in 2012

March 12, 2012

After some time of thinking about “To Cloud Compute or not?” focusing on legal and security issues, it seems that we finally arrive at the stage of “Yes, but how?”. For the purpose of gaining insights and discussing with experienced cloud users a number of possibilites exist.

The Austrian Computer Society (OCG) hosts a permanent working group on cloud computing as well as IT Cluster Vienna. Additionally, EuroCloud Austria is regularly organizing events including brunches with some talks and good opportunity to network – the next big one called EuroCloud Day on 23. May 2012.

Image

Cloud Camp is also coming back to Austria – on 4. April 2012 @ Technical University of Vienna (Prechtlsaal) – organized by Ivona Brandic, Mario Meir-Huber and myself. This unconference is a great opportunity for interested people, from students to professionals, to grasp non-marketing experiences.

Also, conferences in Austria are putting a focus on Cloud Computing in 2012 – e.g. the Austrian International Networking Academy Conference 2012 (13 and 14 March @ TGM Vienna) as well as ASQT 2012 (6 and 7 September @ University Klagenfurt). Besides, the 3rd International Conference on Cloud Computing will take place in Vienna on 24 – 26 September 2012.

Another good source to observe cloud computing developments and events in Austria is the well informed CloudUserGroup @ Facebook.

CloudCamp in Austria

September 21, 2011

After some time of preparation we finally made it – CloudCamp will take place at the St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences on 11. November 2011 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. with multiple tracks. It is an un-conference with no predefined schedule and free to join!

I’m co-organizing the event together with Mario Meir-Huber from CodeFore and Constantin Hofstetter from the Google Technology User Group Vienna. We are happy to be supported by the Austrian Computer Society as well as the IT Cluster Vienna!

Details and registration can be found here!

Lenovo ThinkPad X121e (E 350) + Ubuntu 11.04 = nearly perfect match!

September 21, 2011

After using some large and heavy laptop for development and testing – a Cybersystem SR17 with Nvidia 8800M GTX – my core usage pattern changed towards mobility and writing/presenting. I wanted to have a 12″ notebook and looked for feasible (= effortable) alternatives in this market. Via Notebook Journal I investigated a bit and finally went for the Lenovo ThinkPad X121e with AMD E-350, 4 GB RAM and 320 GB HD for 365€ without OS. As I always wanted to go for Linux-only on my notebook I went for Ubuntu 11.04 as OS which proofed quite suiteable. Nearly everything worked out of the box, leaving out WLAN issues after hibernate/suspend.

Make sure to align the partitions for performance reasons as described here. Additionally, stable WLAN with the Realtek RTL8188CE required the new (4.0816.2011) Linux drivers from the RealTek support site. For 3D graphics performance make sure to use the restricted ATI fglrx driver and check via terminal command fglrxinfo.

The more complex part is typicall enterprise integration, typically Exchange integration needed, and private usage, e.g. Google calendar. I always used Thunderbird as e-mail client, so I looked for solutions usable with it. Mail integration is typical not much of an issue given IMAP is possible, but the integration of multiple business and private calendars in a homogeneous view is. If you require Exchange calendar support, have a look on this extension. Scalix calendars support CalDAV, so the Lightning add-on for Thunderbird does the trick in combination with the Provider for Google Calendar add-on. The needed Scalix URL has the following structure http(s)://host/api/dav/Calendars/Users/user@domain/Calendar

CAE Linux 2010 as VM

July 1, 2011

Due to my recent professional transition I’m looking into tools for industrial simulation. I found CAE Linux quite useful as it comes with a lot of the available open-source tool set for that purpose. Said that, I wanted to have a VM image of it – one preconfigured is available for CAE Linux 2008, but not for CAE Linux 210. So I downloaded the .iso file and tried to create a VM for VMPlayer 4. Although it seemed promising first, the guest OS – in this case Ubuntu 64 bit – didn’t start correctly. After playing around a while I switched my efforts to Virtual Box where it worked out of the box, unfortunately just with 640 x 480 resolution. Easy to fix with the Virtual Box Guest Extensions. The idea is to elaborated on combining the available industrial simulation tools with workflow technology such as Kepler or Meandre.