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Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Find fastest DNS servers with Google namebench

Google code
Google released an application called namebench, which will find the best DNS servers for your computer to use, by analysing usage patterns and calculating the fastest DNS service available.

What is DNS?

Every computer online has a unique IP address. The DNS (Domain Name System) is a service that translates domain names into IP addresses. This is very helpful because humans easily remember domain names since it uses the alphabet (e.g. it's easier to remember www.google.com instead of 209.85.227.99).

Whenever you type a website address in your browser, a DNS server then resolves the domain name by translating it to an IP address and loads the website. There are several DNS servers around the world which does this translation for your computer. The big question is, is your computer currently using the fastest DNS service or not?

Normally your ISP automatically assigns it's own DNS servers to do the job for you. Since it's perhaps the closest DNS servers to you, it's assumed it's the fastest but sometimes that is not the case. Everyone has experience downtime at some point in their life where your internet connection appeared to be dead right? A lot of times it was simply your ISP's DNS servers that was down which effectively meant there was no way for you to browse any websites, since there was no service to translate that web address into the corresponding IP address.

Google namebench

Google namebench tests a number of DNS providers like Public DNS, OpenDNS, UltraDNS, including your own ISP's DNS. It takes a few minutes for the test to complete, a report is then generated which will list the performance of each, indicating the best DNS providers for you to use.
Namebench runs on Windows, Mac OS and UNIX.

If the generated namebench report suggests there are faster DNS servers than the ones you're currently using, perhaps you should consider changing it to enhance your all-round browsing experience.

Related links
Google's namebench and your name server Read more on "Find fastest DNS servers with Google namebench"!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Cape Town Stadium ready for action

Cape Town Stadium
Construction of the Cape Town Stadium has been completed and was handed over to Cape Town's Mayor, Dan Plato, on Monday during the opening ceremony. The stadium has been erected for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in June and will host five first round matches, one second round, one quarter-final and one semi-final.

The modern stadium seats 68 000 and is located in Green Point with spectacular views of Table Mountain. Brilliant setting. It took 32 months to complete at a cost of R4,4 billion.

Cape Town Stadium and Table Mountain
Read more on "Cape Town Stadium ready for action"!

It's official - Australia to get internet filter

No Entry
The Australian government has decided to implement an internet filter, similar to China! A blacklist will be maintained of sites deemed unsavoury and Australians will not be allowed to visit those websites. Sure, this has one big advantage of preventing access to child porn websites or similar but that's about where the advantages stop.

Disadvantages

No more freedom of speech! The age-old right that every democracy has fought for, for centuries. You'll now have a government deciding on the nation's behalf what they should access and what not. Who is going to maintain the blacklist and ensure that legitimate sites don't get listed? Who will be making the decisions on behalf of the Australian citizens? This is truly a bad idea and even though there were widespread criticism of the proposed aussie filter, the project still got the green light to go ahead.

The fact that people with the technical skills will probably be able to bypass the internet filter is irrelevant, it does not change the fact that their freedom of speech will now be severely compromised as a nation. There's also the possibility that it will slow down general internet speed in Australia since the filter has to be applied for every request that is sent to a website.

I'm really surprised that a supposedly first-world country will be implementing censorship on this level. South Africa has a very liberal constitution and freedom of speech is encouraged. Clearly the Australian government view things differently. Perhaps those wanting to emigrate to Australia... should think again? ;)

Related links
Internet censorship plan gets the green light
Australia to implement internet filter Read more on "It's official - Australia to get internet filter"!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Facebook's new privacy settings

Facebook
The new Facebook privacy settings were activated today. I just amended mine and I'm not impressed, clearly a lot less privacy than before!

What I like

Some of the settings have been combined and it's a lot simpler now. Convenient.

What I don't like

I've never had a problem with Facebook's privacy settings before, simply because the user always had the option to set a specific privacy setting for just about everything. However, with today's new privacy settings, a lot of those options have simply been removed which means as a user you now have less control over what is made public.

You don't have the option to hide your Friends List from Search anymore; that setting has simply been removed altogether, which means the list is now public. I'm sure Facebook will get a huge backlash on this issue alone!

You can now disable your Friends List from being displayed on your Profile page but then the people currently on your Friends List can't see it either, so it's not a good workaround. If someone finds your Facebook profile via Google search, they can now see random friends from your Friends List at first glance. There are several reasons why people would want to hide their Friends List from the public - There must be millions of divorcees who don't want their ex's to see the list to perhaps avoid the possibility of harrassment, for example.

Now you can't hide the Pages you're a fan of, from the public either. This is less of a worry to me since I only belong to a few music pages but then again some users may be fans of some sensitive Pages and the public can now see which Pages they belong to. Zero privacy.

People use Facebook for different reasons

For me it's mostly a tool to stay in touch with my real friends out there and share things about my life only with them and nobody else. It's personal. That goes out the window if the public can see that information too, especially if I have no option to set it to private anymore.

I expect a lot of people who use Facebook for the same reason I do, will now be forced to remove a lot of information from their Facebook profiles which sort of defeats the purpose of using the social network in the first place.

There has always been a huge concern over the so-called third party applications that is used on Facebook, since once you decide to use these applications, they have access to your profile information. Previously it was possible to control to a certain extent how much of this information was made available to the applications. Those API settings have now (seemingly) been removed too. I've never given access to third party applications anyway since it's a waste of my time and because I feel uncomfortable with the idea that some developer out there now have access to all my info. A lot of people who use those applications will now have to accept the fact that their personal information is at risk of being abused by those third parties. No thanks!

The rest of the new privacy settings seem OK... from what I'v seen so far. I'll update this page if I notice anything substantial.

Twitter

I use Twitter as well but for completely different reasons than why I use Facebook. Twitter by design is public, so I tweet about things that are (hopefully) in public interest. Comments about new technology or 'discussing' new trends with other people on Twitter, even if I don't know them. That's fine because there's no security necessary, since it's the same comments I could have made while sitting at a public venue.

Facebook for me is different. The comments I make there only apply to my friends and as such I need some guarantee that those comments are not public, even if the comments themselves are nothing to write home about. It's a matter of principle.

Simply put, Facebook has failed to provide users with the option to really control their privacy and that is simply unacceptable. All it means is I'll use Facebook a lot less than before (did you read that Mr Zuckerberg!). Read more on "Facebook's new privacy settings"!

Friday, 4 December 2009

2010 FIFA World Cup draw

2010 FIFA World Cup
The 2010 FIFA World Cup will be held between 11 June and 11 July 2010 in South Africa. The long-awaited draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup took place in Cape Town this evening at the CTICC (Cape Town International Convention Centre).

Draw hosts: South African Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron and FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke
Hosts: South African Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron and FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke

DRAW RESULTS

Group A: South Africa, Mexico (A2), Uruguay (A3), France (A4)
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria (B2), Korea Republic (B3), Greece (B4)
Group C: England, USA (C2), Algeria (C3), Slovenia (C4)
Group D: Germany, Australia (D2), Serbia (D3), Ghana (D4),
Group E: Netherlands, Denmark (E2), Japan (E3), Cameroon (E4),
Group F: Italy, Paraguay (F2), New Zealand (F3), Slovakia (F4)
Group G: Brazil, Korea DPR (G2), Ivory Coast (G3), Portugal (G4)
Group H: Spain, Switzerland (H2), Honduras (H3), Chile (H4),

2010 FIFA World Cup Match Schedule (GMT+2 / CAT)

The opening match of the tournament is on Friday, 11 June at 4pm (GMT+2) at Soccer City in Johannesburg between host nation South Africa and Mexico. Who will win the tournament? Brazil, Spain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and England are considered favourites to win the tournament. England in particular received an easy draw so they should not have any problems going through to the next round. The biggest game in the first round appears to be Brazil vs Portugal.

Bafana Bafana

Bafana Bafana striker - Benni McCarthy
As a South African I obviously hope that the South African National Football team (Bafana Bafana) does well and it would be quite an achievement if they could reach the second round of the tournament.  Unfortunately it's a tough draw for Bafana Bafana with France (7), Mexico (15) and Uruguay (19) ranked quite high according to the FIFA world rankings. Realistically, it will be quite an uphill battle since they haven't shown good form in recent months and are currently ranked 86th in the world.

However, since South Africa is the host country for the tournament,  Bafana Bafana will enjoy fanatic home support and it will hopefully motivate the players even more to do well. Their coach is brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira (coached Brazil when they won the 1994 World Cup in the USA). Make us proud Bafana Bafana!

Related links
2010 FIFA World Cup - Official site
2010 FIFA World Cup Match Schedule - Supersport
World Rankings - FIFA/Coca-Cola
Bafana Bafana - The South African Football Association
Draw ignites FIFA World Cup fever - Fifa.com
2010 FIFA World Cup Draw Photo Gallery - Sport24 Read more on "2010 FIFA World Cup draw"!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Webby Awards - 10 Best internet moments of the decade

The Webby Awards, an award for excellence on the internet, named their top 10 most influential internet moments during the last decade:
  • Craigslist  - Online classified site expands outside SFO (2000)
  • Launch of Google AdWords (2000)
  • Launch of online encyclopedia Wikipedia (2001)
  • Shutdown of Napster, a file-sharing site (2001)
  • Google's IPO (2004)
  • Online video revolution - led by YouTube (2006)
  • Facebook and Twitter launches (2006)
  • Apple's iPhone (2007)
  • Use of the Internet in the US presidential campaign (2008)
  • Use of Twitter during the Iranian election protests (2009)
Video - Highlights of Online Webby Awards 2009

Read more on "Webby Awards - 10 Best internet moments of the decade"!

Semenya will keep gold medal

Caster SemenyaCaster Semenya, who won the 800m gold medal at the IAAF World Championships in August, will keep her gold medal and prize money. A controversy erupted after she won when her gender was questioned due to her physique. However, the IAAF has now concluded that she was blameless and innocent in the whole event.

The results of her gender tests will be kept confidential and not be made public, since it's a private matter between doctor and patient.

Chuene, former head of Athletics South Africa (ASA) has since been suspended due to his awful handling of the case, considering he knew gender tests were done but still proceeded to send Semenya to compete at the event while ignoring the possible implications it would have if she did.

Throughout this whole debacle, Semenya has been treated like dirt and it just showed once again how relentless the media (and public) can be. There is no respect for a person's privacy anymore. I'm just glad it's over although I'd imagine that Semenya will carry the scars for quite some time. As for the outcome of the gender tests, if you don't see Semenya competing at an international event in the future, you'll know the answer.

Related links
Semenya wins gold in 800m! Read more on "Semenya will keep gold medal"!

Monday, 16 November 2009

SA national anthem gets butchered

The Springboks played a rugby test against France in Toulouse on Friday, 13 November, losing 13 - 20. However, apart from a bad day at the office for the players, the match was preceded by probably the worst rendition of the South African national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, I've ever heard.

This is how the SA national anthem should NOT be sung



The performer is Durban-born Ras Dumisani, a reggae singer now living in France. The Springbok players had difficulty singing along and some looked uncomfortable, some looked amused. There was quite an outcry by SA fans after the match since the bad rendition was considered a sign of disrespect. Initially the french rugby union was blamed by some South Africans for this farce but apparently it was the SA embassy in Paris who provided a list of artists to the french rugby union... so perhaps the blame should lie elsewhere.

Perhaps Dumisani should perform at comedy festivals in future? ;) Read more on "SA national anthem gets butchered"!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Netgear DG834GT router - 1.03.22 firmware released

Netgear DG834GT ADSL wireless routerThe latest firmware version 1.03.22 has been released.

The previous firmware version 1.02.19 was an important release since it provided important new functionality like VPN (virtual private network) and WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access Version 2) wireless encryption BUT that version was very unstable and quite frankly a nightmare, as discussed in a previous blog post so this latest release is long overdue.





Problems with version 1.03.22

DHCP problem

Some people are still experiencing DHCP errors even after upgrading from 1.02.19 to 1.03.22. Quite unfortunate since it therefore appears as if Netgear did not bother to fix all the issues that came with the previous 1.02.19 firmware version!

Since I have a small home network and use assigned internal IP addresses, I don't experience this problem but anyone with a bigger network where the DHCP server needs to automatically assign random IP addresses to the connected devices, may experience issues. It also appears as if the DHCP issue only arises when people connect wirelessly to their network?

I suggest you push Netgear support by logging an official ticket, informing them that the issues still exist when using 1.03.22.

Administrator time-out not working in Google Chrome

In the router admin interface at 192.168.0.1, I clicked on "Set Password" and set the "Administrator login times out after idle" to 5 minutes and saved it. However, in Google Chrome (version 3.0.195.33), this setting seems to be ignored! I left the browser window open displaying the router admin interface at 192.168.0.1 and returned after 15 minutes and when I clicked on the router interface menu options, it did not ask me to login again (it never logged me out as it should have). This can obviously lead to security problems. You have to shutdown the browser and re-open it for the username/password to be requested again.

It works fine in Firefox and Internet Explorer (i.e. it automatically logs you out after 5 mins and you have to re-enter your username and password if you want to continue working on the router interface).

General

I've been a Netgear fan for a while but this constant reluctance (or ignorance?) of Netgear support to fix well-reported problems of previous firmware versions may force me to eventually switch to a different networking manufacturer altogether.

LATEST UPDATE - 16 March 2010

Netgear has released the latest firmware version 1.03.23 which according to Netgear, resolves the DHCP and reserved IP address issues.

See related blog post.


Related links
108 Mbps Super Wireless ADSL Router - Official product page
DG834GT firmware version 1.03.22 - Netgear forum
New firmware for Netgear DG834GT 1.03.22 - DSL ZoneUK Read more on "Netgear DG834GT router - 1.03.22 firmware released"!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Springbok squad for November tour announced

Springbok emblem
The 37-man squad was announced after the Currie Cup final on Saturday evening and includes nine newcomers and ten uncapped players. Traditionally the November tour is used to blood newcomers who did well during the Currie Cup season, resulting in a healthy combination of young and old players to ensure the core of the Bok team remains intact.

As usual there are a few surprises in the selections and perhaps more so if you consider who was left out. I'm quite surprised the WP fullback, Joe Petersen, didn't make the squad, considering his superb form throughout the Currie Cup competition. Overseas-based players like centre Jean de Villiers and fullback Francois Steyn were not considered and Juan Smith is out with injury.

Springbok squad for November tour

Forwards (20)

(test caps in brackets)

John Smit – Sharks, Captain (90)
Victor Matfield - Vodacom Blue Bulls, Vice-Captain (89)
Andries Bekker - Vodacom Western Province (18)
Bakkies Botha - Vodacom Blue Bulls (63)
Heinrich Brüssow - Vodacom Cheetahs (10)
Schalk Burger – Vodacom Western Province (53)
Bismarck du Plessis - Natal Sharks (30)
Jannie du Plessis - Natal Sharks (12)
+ Alistair Hargreaves - Natal Sharks (-)
+ Ashley Johnson - Vodacom Cheetahs (-)
Ryan Kankowski - Natal Sharks (10)
+ Bandise Maku - Vodacom Blue Bulls (-)
Tendai Mtawarira - Natal Sharks (19)
+ Dewald Potgieter - Vodacom Blue Bulls (-)
Chiliboy Ralepelle - Vodacom Blue Bulls (8)
+ Davon Raubenheimer – GWK Griquas (-)
Danie Rossouw - Vodacom Blue Bulls (43)
Pierre Spies - Vodacom Blue Bulls (28)
Gurthro Steenkamp - Vodacom Blue Bulls (22)
* Heinke van der Merwe - Xerox Lions (1)

Backs (17)

+Heini Adams – Vodacom Blue Bulls (-)
* Meyer Bosman - Vodacom Cheetahs (3)
+ Juan de Jongh - Vodacom Western Province (-)
Fourie du Preez - Vodacom Blue Bulls (52)
Jaque Fourie - Xerox Lions (51)
Bryan Habana - Vodacom Blue Bulls (54)
+ Francois Hougaard - Vodacom Blue Bulls (-)
Adi Jacobs - Natal Sharks (28)
* Zane Kirchner - Vodacom Blue Bulls (1)
Odwa Ndungane - Natal Sharks (6)
* Jongi Nokwe - Vodacom Cheetahs (4)
Wynand Olivier - Vodacom Blue Bulls (24)
Ruan Pienaar - Natal Sharks (35)
JP Pietersen - Natal Sharks (30)
* Earl Rose - Xerox Lions (-)
Morne Steyn - Vodacom Blue Bulls (9)
+ Riaan Viljoen – GWK Griquas (-)

Tour fixtures

Nov 6 vs Leicester at Welford Road @ 19h45 (SA 21h45)
Nov 13 TEST vs France at Municipal Stadium, Toulouse @ 20h45 (SA 21h45)
Nov 17 vs Saracens at Wembley Stadium @ 19h45 (SA 21h45)
Nov 21 TEST vs Italy at Stadio Friuli, Udine @ 15h00 (SA 16h00)
Nov 28 TEST vs Ireland at Croke Park, Dublin @ 14h30 (SA 16h30) Read more on "Springbok squad for November tour announced"!

Blue Bulls win Currie Cup

Blue Bulls win Currie Cup
The Blue Bulls beat the Cheetahs 36 - 24 in an action-packed Currie Cup final at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, adding the Currie Cup to their Super 14 trophy they won earlier this year when they beat the Chiefs in May. The Bulls are the first franchise to win both competitions in the same year.

The Blue Bulls were 24 - 0 ahead after only 25 minutes through tries by Francois Hougaard and Bryan Habana (who is moving to Cape Town next year to play for WP) and one would have thought it was 'game over' at the time, but the Cheetahs produced a great comeback by scoring three tries (Viljoen, Uys and Breedt).

In the end the Blue Bulls' discipline was better since the Cheetahs gave away penalties at crucial times which Bulls flyhalf Morné Steyn had no problem slotting over. Fourie Du Preez, rated as the best scrumhalf in the world at present, had a huge influence on the match.

Scorers:
Vodacom Blue Bulls - Tries: Francois Hougaard, Bryan Habana (2). Conversions: Morne Steyn (3). Penalties: Steyn (4). Dropped goal: Steyn.
Vodacom Free State Cheetahs - Tries: Frans Viljoen, Corne Uys, Nico Breedt. Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (3). Dropped goal: Potgieter.

Joost van der Westhuizen

Joost van der Westhuizen and Amor Vittone
Former Springbok scrumhalf and Bulls captain, Joost van der Westhuizen, who played 89 tests for South Africa and scored 38 tries (still a record for most tries by a Springbok) has recently been dumped in controversy when a video was released showing him snorting drugs and fooling around with a stripper while being recorded by hidden camera (see video clips here). Joost has vehemently denied it was him in the tape and has vowed to take everyone to court who slandered his name.

Yesterday it was front page news that he finally admitted that it actually was him in the video (I don't think anyone had any doubt). He openly lied to his fans and wife, singer Amor Vittone. He was earlier suspended by Supersport as TV presenter but has now been fired after his admission, claiming it would hurt their brand if they didn't.

Everyone obviously makes mistakes but if you're a public figure then this sort of incident will always be front page news. People are praising Joost for admitting his mistake but it's rather cheesy considering that he only admitted it since he got caught. Evangelist Angus Buchan persuaded him to take responsibility for his actions. Joost's biography, "Spieëlbeeld", is currently on sale.

Credit: Bulls photo taken by Christiaan Kotzé Read more on "Blue Bulls win Currie Cup"!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Insane street soccer

Check out this video, some insane street soccer from Mexico! Unbelievable skills. Or not?



The people in the video are not soccer players but extreme martial arts performers from Team Ryouko.

FIFA Street 3 - Team Ryouko Interviews



The German TV program, Galileo FakeCheck, did an investigation to determine whether some of the scenes in the video are fake or not. They determined it to be fake after investigating the movements of the performers and the video itself, from a technical perspective.
Watch the video

The first video was created to promote the FIFA Street 3 video console game. Very entertaining ad, even though it's perhaps enhanced. :) Read more on "Insane street soccer"!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Microsoft releases Windows 7

Windows 7
Windows 7, Microsoft's new operating system (OS) was released today and will be available on the shelves and pre-installed on most PC's from now on. It replaces the 3-year old problematic Vista OS.

If you want to follow the buzz on Windows 7's launch, view the What people are saying about Windows 7 realtime feed or these Windows 7 related tweets on Twitter

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveils Windows 7 - Live Launch Event
(Thursday, 22 October - Time: 11am EDT / 5pm GMT+2)



Problems with Windows Vista

Windows 7 has received mostly great reviews, especially if compared to Windows Vista during the beta testing period. Windows Vista was launched in January 2007 but it failed miserably to impress new users, mostly due to sluggish performance and incompatibility with existing drivers. I bought a laptop a few months after the Vista launch in 2007 and didn't have a good experience using it; luckily I had the Vista Professional licence which included a XP licence so I downgraded to XP instead. A lot of users did this.

Microsoft did eventually sort out the Vista problems with later service pack releases but by the time I wanted to upgrade to Vista again, the negative reviews of Vista still continued, and it put me off. It must be said though that its predecessor Windows XP has been very stable so a lot of users didn't see the point in upgrading to Vista anyway.

However, Windows 7 is getting rave reviews and the fact that Microsoft has replaced Vista in only three years, is proof that they wanted to get Vista out of the way.

Windows 7 compatibility

The focus with Windows 7 is clearly focussed on full compatibility with existing applications and hardware and therefore be a much more refined version of Vista. Windows 7 offers a couple of new features, including touch recognition, improved performance on multi-core processors, faster boot time and support for virtual hard disks.

You can use the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor tool to test if your PC will be compatible with Windows 7.

Video: Windows 7 review by CNET



Windows 7 versions

Windows 7 Starter - Least features (stay away)
Windows 7 Home Basic - Aimed at emerging markets
Windows 7 Home Premium - Aimed at the home market
Windows 7 Professional - Aimed at enthusiasts and small business owners (same features as Home Premium but can access Windows Server domain)
Windows 7 Enterprise - Aimed at enterprise market, will be sold via volume licensing to companies
Windows 7 Ultimate - Has same features as Enterprise but will be available to home users too

When using Windows 7, you may find the odd application that was designed to only run in Windows XP. Fear not, you can download Windows XP Mode which will give you the ability to Windows XP applications that may not be natively compatible with Windows 7 (only works on Windows 7 Professional and higher).

You can upgrade from Vista to Windows 7 but you'll have to do a fresh install if you're moving from XP to Windows 7. When it comes to new operating systems, I'd just do a completely new install anyway.

Do you have to upgrade to Windows 7?

You didn't have to upgrade from XP to Vista and you don't "have to" upgrade from XP or Vista to Windows 7 either, yet Windows 7 has clearly already been much better received by testers/reviewers than Windows Vista ever was. Windows 7 is what Windows Vista was supposed to be. Also note that all Windows XP support, including security updates and security-related hotfixes will be terminated on 8 April, 2014. Whenever new applications are developed by third parties, the focus will be to make it compatible with Windows 7 first, from now on.

I'm planning to move to Windows 7, but only after the first service pack has been released. That way I avoid the initial gremlins (hope there aren't many) that usually accompanies the launch of any new operating system.

Related links
Windows 7 - Microsoft
Windows 7 pricing revealed for South Africa - MyBroadband Read more on "Microsoft releases Windows 7"!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts - 2009/2010

The annual Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts in Cape Town have become increasingly popular over the years. If you love live music and want to see local artists perform in a beautiful scenic location, then I suggest you grab your picnic basket and head off to one of these concerts. I've attended numerous of them and had a great time, every time. It's one of my favourite pastimes in Cape Town.

Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts - stage

Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts - 2009/2010 line-up

Location:  Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Rhodes Drive, Newlands
Tickets:     Tel 021 799 8783 or 021 799 8620 or 021 799 8773 or book online at www.webtickets.co.za
Prices:      R75 for adults (R95 for concerts marked *)
Open:       Venue is open from 15:00 - 20:00pm* / Concert Time 17:30 -18:30*
                *Confirm times when you purchase your tickets

Ticket sales for the sunset concerts start from the Tuesday preceding the concert.

Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts - Table Mountain

See you there!

Related links:
Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts - UncoverTheCape
SA National Biodiversity Institute - Kirstenbosch Read more on "Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts - 2009/2010"!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Easier Wi-Fi on the way

wi-fi devices
A new technology called Wi-Fi Direct is on the way (expected mid 2010) which will allow regular electronic devices to act as wireless hotspots.

For most non-technical people, setting up a wireless network at home is considered a hassle. You need to setup an access point to which all the wireless devices like your laptop need to connect to, in order to go online or communicate with each other.

Turn gadgets into wireless access points

However, with Wi-Fi Direct it will be possible to turn a gadget into a wireless access point so you'll be able to connect one device directly to another which would e.g. make file sharing much easier to do. This technology will effectively allow Wi-Fi clients/devices to create adhoc peer-to-peer networks among one another.

Wi-Fi Direct will be built into consumer electronics in the future and scan the surroundings for other wi-fi enabled devices it can connect to (similar to bluetooth and quite frankly, bluetooth is much slower than wi-fi so it's bye-bye to bluetooth as well). This can e.g. include phones, computers, TVs and gaming consoles.

If you already have a wireless network, you will be able to upgrade to Wi-Fi Direct through a simple software upgrade at the time.

Consumer devices are not only used to access the internet; a lot of users would want all their devices to access each other directly as well and this technology will make that easy to do.

With Wi-Fi Direct you could eventually turn all cellphones and television sets into wi-fi hotspots. Imagine your TV having wi-fi capability - you'll be able to transfer photos from wi-fi enabled cameras, camcorders and laptops to the TV with ease, using no wires at all. Very convenient!

Security

I have a wireless network setup at home using a wireless router and although the router is used to access the internet, it has many other functions as well like routing traffic to different computers on the network but most importantly... for security reasons. The hardware firewall on the router prevents most unwanted prying eyes from taking a peek at my network.

So although it will clearly be convenient to enable consumer devices to connect to each other directly through this new Wi-Fi Direct technology, I'm just wondering how this will affect the security of these devices since they won't necessarily be hiding behind a router anymore. The level of encryption between the ad-hoc devices will be crucial. I wouldn't want any device to become vulnerable for the sake of convenience.

Related links
Wi-Fi Alliance® announces groundbreaking specification to support direct Wi-Fi connections between devices - Wi-Fi Alliance
Wi-Fi Alliance Announces Wi-Fi Direct Spec - PCWorld Read more on "Easier Wi-Fi on the way"!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Best places to live, according to UN

NorwayAccording to the 2009 United Nations Human Development Report, Norway is the best country in the world to live in.

The criteria used for the report (182 countries): Life expectancy, literacy rates, school enrolment and country economies. It must be noted though that this report is based on data up to 2007 (therefore before the global economic crisis).

10 best places to live
  1. Norway
  2. Australia
  3. Iceland
  4. Canada
  5. Ireland
  6. the Netherlands
  7. Sweden
  8. France
  9. Switzerland
  10. Japan
USA is 13th, China 92nd and South Africa is placed 129th. The least desirable countries to live in are Niger and Afghanistan. Life expectancy in Niger is only 50 years, 30 years less than Norway. The disparity between rich and poor is quite evident from the report.

Full Human Development Report 2009 (list of chapters in PDF format)

Looking at the criteria used to compile the report, it does take quite a materialistic approach to determine 'human' development. One could argue that 'quality of life' is more important than 'standard of living' and how you measure the former is debatable. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, ecological awareness, moral development, recreaton etc. are all factors which could have influenced the rankings.

Also, countries with a very rich upper class but a large lower class (in terms of income) could still appear to have a good 'standard of living' index when in fact, it's not the case. Read more on "Best places to live, according to UN"!

Monday, 5 October 2009

Le Zoulou Blanc - Johnny Clegg

Johnny CleggI've been a fan of Johnny Clegg since my high school days back in the 80's. My first big live music concert I attended was in the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town where I saw Johnny Clegg and his band Savuka perform. Their unique style, the mesmerising dance routines and soulful traditional music really impressed me.

Video: Johnny Clegg & Juluka - Impi (1983 Live)
(Impi is played regularly at rugby stadiums in South Africa today)



I never realised how popular Johnny Clegg & Savuka was in Europe at the time. I backpacked Europe in 1989 and distinctly remember walking into a music shop in Geneva, Switzerland and to my surprise there were Clegg posters all over the walls. I asked the cashier if there was some sort of a promotion going on... and he just gave me a weird look, politely informing me that Savuka had the best selling album in France at the time! The french call him "Le Zoulou Blanc" (The White Zulu). Even Michael Jackson had to cancel a concert in France at the time due to Clegg being much more popular!

Johnny Clegg surely lived through tough times growing up in South Africa. During his teenage years he was a street musician, learning Zulu music and dancing from Charlie Mzila and later Sipho Mchunu, with whom he later formed Juluka, the first multi-racial band in South Africa.

Video: Johnny Clegg the dancer



The Apartheid government frowned upon music where the styles were mixed between Western and Zulu; they weren't particularly impressed that the band was multi-racial either. The state-owned SABC (SA Broadbasting Corporation) banned their music altogether from the air waves at the time but their popularity spread by word-of-mouth. He was arrested several times as a youngster for associating with black people and for his political lyrics; basically considered an enemy of the state. Later on in 1987 he wrote "Asimbonanga" which called for Nelson Mandela's release from prison.

Percussionist Dudu Zulu was also Clegg's dance partner for years. He was assassinated in 1992 which eventually led to the band, Savuka, disbanding in 1993. The Crossing was a tribute to him.

Video: Johnny Clegg & Savuka - Scatterlings of Africa



Video: Johnny Clegg performing "Asimbonanga", on stage with Nelson Mandela (1999)
(Female singer is Mandisa Dlanga)




SavukaIn a nationwide poll in 2004, Johnny Clegg was named no.23 in a list of "100 Greatest South Africans". He is comfortably South Africa's biggest music export. He sings in both English and Zulu, speaks Zulu fluently, understands every aspect of their culture and had the courage to stand up for what he believed in, during difficult times.

Video: Johnny Clegg - Jongosi
(Song was used for the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France. South Africa won the tournament.)



At the time of writing, Johnny Clegg has recorded an astonishing 19 studio albums to date. Very inspiring music by a truly fantastic South African. Read more on "Le Zoulou Blanc - Johnny Clegg"!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Afrihost offers cheapest bandwidth in South Africa

Afrihost, an ADSL re-seller became the cheapest bandwidth provider in South Africa when they launched a price of R29/Gb on their ADSL packages. Even though it is a limited offer, the drastic reduction in bandwidth prices will surely attract a lot of new customers.

We're bandwidth hungry in South Africa but the prices are unfortunately still quite high in general, if compared to the western world. So any substantial reduction in bandwidth prices by any ISP (Internet service provider) automatically receives a lot of attention.

Other ISPs

WebAfrica, a reputable ISP who is known for their good service are busy testing their own 1st-tier network and is expected to publish their new pricing structure early next year. Their 10Gb offering at R490 was always considered to be one of the cheapest ADSL products around but with Afrihost's new pricing structure at R29/Gb, there is just no comparison anymore.

Comparison
WebAfrica: R490 for 10Gb ADSL data package (R49/Gb)
Afrihost: R580 for 20Gb ADSL data package (R29/Gb)
So for only R90 more, you can get 10Gb extra at Afrihost. Great deal.

Axxess, another reputable smaller ISP offers a creative range of products and are cheaper than the bigger ISPs, but they offer nothing compared to Afrihost's cheap R29/Gb packages.

ISP loyalty goes out the window if the bandwidth prices drop through the floor! Luckily most ISPs offer month-to-month contracts which makes it easy to move from one ISP to another.

Here's a screenshot of Afrihost's R29/Gb ADSL packages

Afrihost's R29/Gb offer

The R29/Gb products on Afrihost's site (the details may change once the limited offer has expired). Afrihost's bandwidth is provided via the IS (Internet Solutions) backbone. If you sign up for a R29/Gb package, the account will be locked-in and will remain at R29/Gb, even after the actual promotion expires.

High bandwidth prices in general are a hotly discussed topic in the South African technology world, so even though I'm not associated with Afrihost, I will always support any company that sends a signal to other ISPs to lower their prices too. Any price war is always good for the consumer!

I stay away from the larger ISPs. M-Web in particular reduced their prices recently but they're still comfortably one of the most expensive ISPs in South Africa. Read more on "Afrihost offers cheapest bandwidth in South Africa"!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Newspapers dying a slow death?

Cape Times newspaperI absolutely love reading the news. I've always been very inquisitive and grew up reading newspapers all the time, to stay on top of current affairs. However, since the arrival of the internet (and therefore online news sites), I've gradually read less and less print media. In fact, I can't remember the last time I actually bought a newspaper, yet I avidly read the news online on a daily basis.

Are newspapers still important? If you don't have internet access, yes. But for most part I don't see the point in buying newspapers anymore. Sure, the idea of reading a newspaper while sitting outside on Sunday morning, nibbling on a croissant and enjoying a glass of orange juice may seem attractive but that's also where the attraction stops.

There are several reasons why I read news online instead of printed newspapers

It's convenient - Easy access to several different news sites from around the world. Get different perspectives on the same story which leaves you better informed.
The news is fresh - News sites update their content several times a day.
It's interactive
- You can leave comments on a news article and therefore interact with the journalist or people with similar interests.
It's free
Customisation - You can customise some news sites to only show the type of news you're actually interested in.
Archives - You can always refer back to an online news story through the site's archives. But you can't keep hundreds of newspapers piled up every year.
You can also sit outside, nibble on a croissant while enjoying a glass of orange juice; the only difference is there's a laptop in front of you. ;)

Duncan Mcleod from TechCentral wrote a great article, SA editors mull the future of newspapers in a digital world, which is definitely worth a read and the reason I decided to write this blog post in the first place. It's interesting to read the views of editors on the future of South African newspapers and see how some get it completely wrong, in my opinion.

Business Day editor Peter Bruce: "You can be indifferent to the future of newspapers, but not about journalism".
Fully agree!

But when it was suggested that people under 30 will never regularly buy a newspaper, he disagreed: "Young people always say they'll never read a newspaper, until they start."
Wrong. Once they've realised they can read that exact same story online, from the same source, they'll always opt to read it online instead.

To pay or not to pay

Will I pay for online news content? I'm not sure. The content will have to be quite unique. I've landed on news sites before where it was required of me to be a subscriber to the printed version already, in order to read the online version. The New York Times is a prime example. Within seconds I'd simply search for another respected news site out there, where I'd find the same story, for free. The NY Times have subsequently dropped that model and their online news site is now open to all.

On home soil, Naspers used to do the same thing a few years ago, where you couldn't access the M-Web news & sport websites unless you were an M-Web ISP client as well. Of course, since I wasn't an M-Web subscriber I simply found alternative news sites which ran similar stories. Naspers have since allowed public access to their sites anyway. Therefore moving away from a subscriber model to an advertising model, earning money through the ads displayed on their news sites.

Advertising

However, from a publisher's point of view, this does create the inevitable problem: How do you succeed in generating advertising revenue online when a lot of people simply use software to block the ads anyway? I use Firefox as my default browser and the first add-on I install, is AdBlock Plus which blocks just about every ad on every site. It makes the site load faster (since the ad images don't have to load) and the site is also less cluttered which enhances the reading experience. But since I don't get to see the ads, I'm definitely not the online sites' favourite visitor.

The bottom line is that all these sites rely heavily on the fact that the majority of their visitors don't use ad blocking software in their browsers since (I assume) they're not aware that it exists? But what if these uninformed users become informed? Perhaps some visitors prefer to see the ads anyway; I'm simply not one of them.

There are several news sites in South Africa, but these two are the most popular:

News24
IOL Read more on "Newspapers dying a slow death?"!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

New money for SA in 2013

The Governor of the SARB (South African Reserve Bank) announced that South Africa will get new banknotes and coins in 2013, with new themes and improved security measures to fight counterfeiting.

I like the current notes we have (colourful nature themes). Let's hope they don't put a bunch of geriatrics on the new notes (no disrespect to the geriatric readers of this blog though; I know they're all colourful people anyway).

Will they be printing new R500 notes though? So I can buy a loaf of bread..? ;)

Current SA banknotes, introduced in 1992 and revamped in 2005:

R10 and R20 notesR50 and R100 notesR200 note
Read more on "New money for SA in 2013"!

World's tallest man

Sultan Kösen from Turkey has been named by World Guiness Records as the tallest man in the world measuring 8 ft 1 inches/246.5cm.

Sultan Kösen - World's tallest manAccording to Sultan life is not necessarily rosy when you're that tall; you can't fit into a car, you have to bend over to enter any standard size house, all clothes have to be tailor made and you can't find a girlfriend who is not scared of you.

According to Guiness, there's only 10 confirmed cases in which humans have grown past the eight foot (2.44 meter) mark.

Kösen's rapid growth was caused by tumour damage to his pituitary gland which triggered the overproduction of growth hormones. His tumour was removed in 2008.

Video of Sultan Kösen


Leonid Stadnyk the tallest?

Determining who is the tallest man on earth is usually a hotly contested affair but being independently measured is not always easy, considering that some of these giants live in remote parts of the world and are not always willing to be measured anyway. Kösen was named the tallest man after the Ukranian, Leonid Stadnyk, refused to be measured stating that he doesn't enjoy being in the public eye. According to his countrymen he measures 8 ft 5 inches/2.57cm but since it's not official, he couldn't be considered.

Leonid Stadnyk

Stadnyk lives in poverty in a small village in the Ukraine and lost his job as a veterinarian because he couldn't use public transport due to his considerable size. So the president of the Ukraine presented him with a new car:



Robert Wadlow - tallest man in history

American Robert Wadlow was the tallest man ever, measuring 8 ft 11.1 inches/272cm. He died at age 22 in 1940.

Robert Wadlow - Tallest man in history

Related links
World's tallest man Sultan Kösen seeks love — and a big car - Times Online
Too tall to be happy - Shanghai Star Read more on "World's tallest man"!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Powerball - New lottery game in South Africa

Gidani, South Africa's national lottery operator announced that a new lotto game, called Powerball, will be introduced on 16 October. The first draw is on Friday, 23 October. Tickets will cost R3,50 each and the draws will be on Tuesdays and Fridays. It does not replace the current LOTTO game.

You choose five numbers out of 45 and one powerball number from a pool of 20. Gidani has said that the jackpots for the Powerball will be significantly higher than the LOTTO game but the chance of winning is very slim. Mathematically you stand a chance of 1 out of 14 million to win the LOTTO and 1 out of 24,4 million to win the new Powerball game.

SA Powerball ticket

I'm a bit surprised that the new game has been introduced in the middle of a recession though. People have less money but I guess that means some of them are more desperate for wealth too, even though it's completely unrealistic.

There's been quite a big backlash from several corners of society e.g. churches and gambling addiction groups, calling the new game unethical. Also because the national operator has made the sale of tickets available through cellphones and ATMs, thereby arguing that it will make it easier for poor people to get even poorer.

Gidani said that the Powerball will enable them to give much more to charity than before.

Even though the Powerball will be the game with the biggest jackpot prize on offer in South Africa, it's still comfortably smaller than the Powerball in the USA. Last month this man from South Carolina won $260 million!

UPDATE 6 NOVEMBER 2009
A man from Limpopo won an R11 million LOTTO seven years ago... and then won the recent R30 million Powerball opening draw as well! How about that.

Related links
Powerball results
SA National Lottery Read more on "Powerball - New lottery game in South Africa"!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Springboks crowned 2009 Tri-Nations champions!

Springboks win 2009 Tri-Nations trophySouth Africa won the Tri-Nations trophy (contested between South Africa, New Zealand and Australia) today after beating New Zealand 29 - 32 in Hamilton. It was a tough encounter between the two traditional foes in world rugby. Great intensity!

South Africa only needed one bonus point from this match to win the Tri-Nations.

SA fullback Francois Steyn scored three superb long range penalties in the first half which set the tone for the match. Flyhalf Morné Steyn scored a dropgoal and scrumhalf Du Preez scored the only try in the first half while centre Jean De Villiers scored a signature intercept try later on which eventually turned out to be the winning try. South Africa completely dominated the lineouts in the first half.

The Springboks led 29 - 12 with about 30 mins to go. However, the All Blacks started a great comeback with tries by Sivivatu after a great break by Toeava. AB flyhalf Dan Carter kept his team within reach kicking five penalties in total. SA flyhalf Morné Steyn kicked a vital penalty and AB captain Richie McCaw scored a try in the dying minutes after a crosskick from Carter but in the end it was not enough. South Africa's defence was superb, especially during the last quarter when they successfully stopped the NZ onslaught.

Springboks captain John Smit is truly an inspirational leader and it shows on the field. He has achieved everything in rugby.

This pic by Superbru says it all:
South Africa glory

Victory is sweet. The Springboks are currently setting the pace in world rugby and as an ardent supporter, I'm smiling all the way!

Roll on November! (Boks are playing France, Italy and Ireland) Read more on "Springboks crowned 2009 Tri-Nations champions!"!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Derren Brown - Brilliant illusionist

First off, I'm a skeptic. I don't buy into the fact that mediums have supernatural powers or that they can talk to the dead. They're mentalists who mostly use techniques like cold reading to deceive their audiences.

Derren Brown

Derren BrownDerren Brown is a brilliant illusionist, magician, mentalist. The difference though is that he openly admits that he tricks his audience by using a variation of techniques. He'll even explain afterwards exactly how he did it. Of course, his explanation is (sometimes) a further deception since he may have used a completely different technique to fool the guest, than the one explained to you. The bottom line is that he's first and foremost an entertainer and admits it freely. He has great skill and his illusions can leave you mesmerised. It's also fun to try and figure out how he actually did the trick in question.

NLP

Here's a YouTube video of Brown deceiving comedian Simon Pegg, using a technique called NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming). Pegg first had to write down what he wanted as a gift, on a piece of paper. However, after Brown spoke to Pegg, he proceeded to ask Pegg what he wanted as a gift and Pegg said a BMX bike. What he earlier wrote down on the piece of paper though, was 'leather jacket'. So Brown effectively convinced Pegg, using NLP, that he wanted a BMX bike without Pegg realising it.

Throughout the conversation Brown deliberately played with words, e.g. saying "what to saddle for" (instead of "what to settle for") or "bike creating a strong desire" (instead of "by creating a strong desire"), therefore continuously influencing Pegg using terms that specifically applied to a BMX bike, which eventually led to Pegg choosing that as the answer.

Of course, it could also be that NLP is 'sold' to the audience as the solution to satisfy their curiosity, while Brown used a completely different technique to do the trick, perhaps subtle hypnosis. Or it could be that Pegg (who is an actor after all) is in on the act from the start. Nevertheless, it is quite entertaining!

Richard Dawkins's interview with Derren Brown

In this interesting interview, Brown discusses and explains to Richard Dawkins how so-called mediums and other charlatans do all their tricks and the techniques they use to deceive the audience. Defintely worth watching!

Part one of the interview



Part two, Part three, Part four, Part five, Part six

Derren Brown predicts numbers of the UK National Lottery

Derren Brown predicts LOTTO numbersIn his latest feat, he appeared to successfully predict the numbers of the midweek draw last night (9 September) live on TV. Of course, I'm sure Brown cannot see into the future so it would be interesting to see how he did that. Some illusion! He'll explain it on Friday. Usually everything can be logically explained in some way but this could be considered so far-fetched that it perhaps is just a case of boisterous showmanship with some camera tricks involved? He is an entertainer after all. Of course, if there's any truth in it, then how will they prevent him from predicting the numbers again, and becoming an instant millionaire week in and week out? :) I'll remain a skeptic, for now.

Here's the video of his lottery prediction



"Psychics"

People who claim to be psychic have it easy; if they guess it correctly, using all the known manipulative techniques, then everyone who is gullible is in awe; if they get it wrong, then they simply use the excuse that "the channel is blocked" or "nothing is coming through". They just use some excuse that refers to anything supernatural and that makes it impossible for anyone to disprove it. People who believe in psychics usually want to believe in them, so they're easy targets. They don't bother to look for tell-tale signs which could prove the contrary.

Barnum statements are often used by these people to gain the person's trust. "You're having problems with a relative or friend". Well, that is so vague that it could obviously apply to everyone. So it's a certain hit. Or asking a very old person in the audience if he/she knows someone with heart problems. Chances are quite good that he/she does, simply due to their own age. They also spend a lot of time pushing the audience to reveal bits of personal information about themselves, which is then used by throwing it back at them, as if the "psychic" knew the facts all along.

There's no doubt that some of them are very good at what they do and have mastered a lot of techniques to manipulate the person they're doing the reading for, it's just sad that they pass it off as them having supernatural powers. When they don't possess any. Playing with someone who lost a loved one in this manner is cruel but I suppose if the audience member finds solace in this, who I am to say it was wrong? Read more on "Derren Brown - Brilliant illusionist"!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

White South African Brandon Huntley gets asylum in Canada

Brandon HuntleyBrandon Huntley, a white South African, was recently granted asylum in Canada because Huntley convinced the canadian refugee board he was persecuted by black people in South Africa. His refugee status has therefore been granted beause of his colour.

Questionable

According to him, he was a victim of crime on seven occasions and used that as the basis for his application for asylum. So what's the problem then? By his own admission, he never reported ANY of these crimes to the police! How on earth can you get asylum anywhere if there is no way to prove what you say is even true? I thought the canadian refugee board was extremely naive because they simply approved his application because his "presentation was convincing"? So as long as you have a strong personality but cannot prove anything you say, you'll get asylum? That's convenient.

The Ottawa Sun reported that he presented "clear and convincing proof of the state's inability or unwillingness to protect him". How can he say that the SA police was not "willing" to protect him, if he never even reported the crimes? Was he supposed to magically appear in the dreams of the police so they could protect him?

His estranged wife, Melanie Crete-HuntleyHuntley first travelled to Canada on a six-month work permit in 2004 and worked as a carnival attendant. He returned to Canada in 2005 and after his work permit expired, he stayed on illegally until making his refugee claim in April 2008. Huntley's estranged Canadian wife believes he "suckered" her into marriage in a bid to secure permanent residence in her country.

Deception

I think this is a classic case of someone who worked the system and tried his luck after he realised that he couldn't legally stay in Canada. He simply used the paranoia about crime to his own advantage. There's a lot of South Africans who emigrate to Canada but at least they do it the right way, by getting a legal work permit with the appropriate qualifications. This specific asylum ruling makes a mockery of that process. If you don't qualify or don't feel like going through the normal emigration process (and facing a real chance of being denied), apply for asylum with some soppy story without any evidence! ;)

Here's a few tongue-in-cheek cartoons by Jeremy Nell (The Times) on the matter.

Review

Canada's Department of Citizenship and Immigration has now decided to apply to the Federal Court for leave for a judicial review of Huntley's case. The Canadian government has stated that they have a very high regard for South Africa's track record and new democracy, and they also take into regard the bilateral relations between the two countries, which are very strong.

Huntley affair hits raw nerve with South Africans

This whole story has created quite a stir in South Africa, for several reasons. The government called the Canadian decision "racist". They said it reinforced unfair stereotypes that only whites were victims of crime.

A lot of white South Africans are also outraged because it simply gives the country a bad name considering that the country has so much going for it.

I do find it surprising that some ex-South Africans living in Canada have automatically latched on to the Huntley case simply to use it as an excuse to fuel their own hatred towards their former country. I think that's quite sad. Especially since nobody really bothers to consider the actual facts of the case.

Of course, all racists have had a field day with this as well, for obvious reasons.

Don't get me wrong, South Africa does have a big crime problem but it affects all South Africans, not only whites. Crime is colourblind. Black people in SA are victims of crime too, all the time. I've been a victim of crime myself but I love South Africa for about a thousand other reasons so even though I obviously acknowledge that crime is a big problem; it doesn't mean I'm automatically going to hate the country I live in. A positive mindset does help! I just get annoyed when I see a chancer like this who misrepresented himself and in the process gave the country a bad name.

As far as affirmative action goes, that is something I have a huge problem with simply because it is an unfair process where a certain section of the population is discriminated against; it has closed a lot of doors for me. If I ever had to emigrate, *that* would be the reason for leaving; simply due to seeking an equal opportunity in the workplace.

Related links
White South African Brandon Huntley 'lied to Canada' to get asylum - The Australian
Brandon Huntley's tales of racism in South Africa 'are ludicrous' - Times Online
SA man gets asylum in Canada for being white - IOL
'Huntley conned me into marriage' - IOL
Why would the Canadians want Huntley? - Gondwanaland Read more on "White South African Brandon Huntley gets asylum in Canada"!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

GMail down - 502 server error!

I use GMail on a daily basis and it's without a doubt a web service I have come to rely on. So when it goes down... I'm in trouble!

Today, when I try to log in at GMail, I get a "502 server error" message instead. It has been noted on the official GMail blog so at least they're aware of it. You can also check out the Google Apps Status Dashboard.

Usually GMail is very reliable but I've had the 502 errors before, maybe a year ago and then it only affected a certain subset of users and was down for about a day (for me anyway). Of course, being without email for a whole day when you rely on it... can be extremely troublesome and create havoc in your life, for several reasons.

Maybe you had to send that important email to a client? Perhaps you need to access an email to access an important attachment you haven't read yet? Will possibly miss important deadlines if the service is not up again soon!? Heaven forbid.

Yeah I know, don't rely on a free service, rather have a paid email service with a local hosting company since they offers support you can actually use but the reality is that GMail is out of the beta stage now so I expect it to be a reliable service.

Let's hope it's up again soon.

UPDATE 02/09/09
GMail is back up again. Gmail outage blamed on capacity miscalculation Read more on "GMail down - 502 server error!"!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

WPA Wi-Fi encryption now cracked in a minute

Wireless networkScientists at the Hiroshima University and Kobe University in Japan revealed that they can break WPA (WiFi Protected Access) encryption in wireless routers, in about one minute.

The initial encryption (WEP) used on wireless routers was cracked a few years ago and was therefore quickly identified as a very weak encryption to use. Industry experts have always suggested to use the much stronger WPA security on your router instead. Great, everyone was happy and felt safe. WPA's TKIP algorithm was first cracked in November 2008 but the exploit by the Japanese takes it to a new level.

Bad news

Once the Japanese scientists make their findings public, users who use the WPA encryption standard will suddenly become vulnerable. The weakness lies specifically in the TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) algorithm used by WPA.

Good news

All is not lost though, most of the latest wireless routers available today offers WPA and WPA2 encryption with the much stronger AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) algorithm. The AES algorithm has not been cracked yet (at time of writing anyway, haha).

Stay safe

If you therefore have a wireless network in your home and your wireless router and wireless adapter supports WPA and/or WPA2 encryption, go into the router configuration and change the algorithm option from TKIP to AES.

If only TKIP is supported by your router, then you'll probably be fine for a while but know that the encryption has now been cracked already and you'll eventually be left vulnerable to attacks. WPA/WPA2 with the AES algorithm is the way to go.

Related link
New Attack Cracks Common Wi-Fi Encryption in a Minute - PCWorld

For the Netgear fans

I use a Netgear DG834GT wireless router and the latest firmware version 1.02.19 does support WPA2 with AES but unfortunately the 1.02.19 firmware release is very unstable and causes several other problems as well, as discussed in that blogpost. So that meant I had to downgrade to version 1.02.16 again, which is the latest stable release for the router but unfortunately... it does not support WPA2 with AES!

So I'm sincerely hoping that Netgear will get their act together and release another firmware version soon in order for users of the Netgear DG834GT wireless router to utilise the WPA2 with AES encryption. Read more on "WPA Wi-Fi encryption now cracked in a minute"!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Habana signs with WP

Bryan HabanaBryan's father and agent, Bernie Habana, confirmed to rugby365.com's Jan de Koning that his son will play for WP and the Stormers for the next two years, until 2011. Stormers coach, Rassie Erasmus, met with Bryan Habana a week ago. The winger had a wonderful career with the Bulls, winning the IRB and SA Player of the Year awards in 2007. He's only 26 years old and therefore still has a lot of good years ahead of him.

Western Province Rugby UnionThe Western Province Rugby Union is trying to lure a number of high profile Springbok players to Cape Town. A bid for Bulls centre, Wynand Olivier, failed since the player decided to stay with the Bulls franchise. WP is currently still trying to sign Lions centre, Jaque Fourie, but the Lions don't want to let him go but WP is confident that his current contract has a loophole that will allow WP to sign him. The player has indicated that he wants to play for WP.

The main reason why WP wants to cover midfield is because their top centre, Jean de Villiers, signed with Irish province Munster.

Related link
Habana accepts WP offer - Rugby365 Read more on "Habana signs with WP"!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Bolt breaks 200m world record again: 19.19 seconds!

Usain Bolt - fastest man in the worldUsain Bolt broke his own 200m world record by the same margin he sliced off his 100m mark on Sunday, to secure his place as the greatest sprinter the world has ever seen. Last year he broke the world record at the Beijing Olympics in 19.30 seconds. Last night he did it in 19.19 seconds! He said afterwards that it was 'not a good race' since he had to really go all out (obviously!?). He turns 23 today, should be a big party!

Video: IAAF Berlin 2009 - World Championships 200m Final



Related link
Usain Bolt does it again, this time in 9.58 seconds! Read more on "Bolt breaks 200m world record again: 19.19 seconds!"!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Semenya wins gold in 800m!

Caster SemenyaSouth African teenage sensation, Caster Semenya, won the 2009 IAAF World Championships 800m race in spectacular fashion in 1 minute 55.45 seconds, comfortably beating former champion Janeth Jepkosgei from Kenya by 2.45 seconds.

Britain's Jennifer Meadows took bronze. Semenya's time is this year's fastest and the fifth-fastest of all time.




Video - Caster Semenya wins 800m gold in Berlin



Controversy

Semenya wins 800m gold at 2009 world championships in BerlinOnly 18 years old, Semenya has stunned the athletics world with her rapid success this season but unfortunately she has also been shrouded in controversy. IAAF officials ordered South Africa's athletics association (ASA) to do a gender verification test but it's a very complex procedure and the outcome will only be known in a few weeks. The IAAF has decided that the athlete will be allowed to compete pending the results of such a test.

Complex

The reason why the gender test is complex is because it's not simply a matter of determining whether a person has male or female sexual organs. That does not constitute male or female. You can have male characteristics without having male organs, and vice versa. Proper gender testing will be done by a group of medical scientists like gynecologists, psychologists, geneticists and endocrinologists. Hence the long waiting period for the test results.

I found the comments by a few of the british commentators after the race and some australian news articles to be extremely insensitive about the matter, since the athlete is not a cheat nor has anyone even suggested that she was. The IAAF has at least confirmed that they themselves are sensitive to gender issues. She's very young and if this matter is not handled correctly, it could scar her for life.

Related links
Caster Semenya wins 800m Gold - The Times
The centre of controversy - iafrica.com Read more on "Semenya wins gold in 800m!"!

My Facebook profile gives Page Not Found error

I noticed a strange problem today; when I access my own Facebook profile page, it says "The page you requested was not found". Huh?

I can log in to my FB account, view my friends' profiles, see myself in the listings if I do a search for my name but if I click on the actual profile link, I get that error message. When I type in the full web address for my facebook profile, I also get the error. Never had this problem before.

Previously, when I loaded my FB profile, e.g. www.facebook.com/username it would re-route to en-gb.facebook.com/username which I found strange since I'm not in Great Britain (or perhaps it's because I have the language set as "English (UK)"), but at least it worked. Now when I type the address in, it stays www.facebook.com/username but gives the error. When I log in to www.facebook.com my personal information that usually appears on the left and my list of uploaded photo albums are gone too.

Maybe it's a temporary propagation error? I didn't change any settings anywhere. I'm hoping it's just a temporary problem which will automatically be resolved soon.

Anyone else getting this error when they try and view their own Facebook profile?
So far I've not had any luck in getting any feedback from the FB Helpdesk on this matter.

UPDATE 27 AUGUST 2009
My profile is fixed. I reported it to Facebook, not sure if they acted on it but a week after I first experienced the problem, it just went away and my profile is visible again.

UPDATE 7 OCTOBER 2009
More people are experiencing this problem today, than back in August when I had the problem. I suggest you report the profile "Page Not Found" problem directly to Facebook as well, via this online form which was set up for this specific problem.

Alternatively, you can also try the Facebook profile bug report form. The more people submit, the more they have to take the problem seriously.

You can also add your comments about this problem on the last page of this thread at the Facebook Help Centre. Read more on "My Facebook profile gives Page Not Found error"!
 
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