Monday, 30 March 2009

Springboks vs British and Irish Lions

New Springbok emblemBritish and Irish LionsI've been a rugby union fan since I was a kid and played the sport competitively throughout my schooldays. The first time I saw the British Lions was back in 1980 when the Springboks (South Africa's national team), lead by eighthman and brilliant leader Morné Du Plessis, beat Bill Beaumont's side 3 - 1 in the Test series. There were a lot of injuries and a lot of players had to be flown in to reinforce the original squad. John Robbie was one of them. He's a well-known TV & radio presenter in SA today. It was a ten-week tour consisting of 18 matches.

I loved those big tours because the touring sides played regional teams as well. This lead to a lot of rivalry between the players in the so-called midweek team and the eventual team that would run out for the Test series. Those long tours are basically unheard of today. That is why I'm really looking forward to this Lions tour in June since they'll be playing ten matches which include three Tests. Due to logistics, money and club commitments I doubt whether the Lions will embark on a similar tour in the future.

Springboks vs British and Irish Lions 2009 tour schedule
(Time: SA local time GMT+2)

Sat, May 303pmHighveld XV v British and Irish LionsRustenburg
Wed, June 37.10pmXerox Golden Lions v British and Irish LionsJohannesburg
Sat, June 63pmVodacom Free State Cheetahs v British and Irish LionsBloemfontein
Wed, June 107.10pmSharks v British and Irish LionsDurban
Sat, June 133pmVodacom WP v British and Irish LionsCape Town
Tues, June 16TBC (3pm)Coastal XV v British and Irish LionsPort Elizabeth
Sat June 203pmSouth Africa v British and Irish LionsDurban
Tues, June 237.10pmEmerging SA v British and Irish LionsCape Town
Sat, June 273pmSouth Africa v British and Irish LionsPretoria
Sat, July 43pmSouth Africa v British and Irish LionsJohannesburg

Springboks - 2007 Rugby World Cup ChampionsThe Springboks are considered favourites by most to win the test series considering they're the current Rugby World Cup Champions; they also beat the British union sides on their last tour in November 2008. The annihilation of England in the 42 - 6 defeat at Twickenham was quite impressive. However, traditionally the British Lions have always been a strong side. Their coach Ian McGeechan is very experienced; this will be his fourth Lions tour.

Roll on June! Read more on "Springboks vs British and Irish Lions"!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Internet Explorer 8 released today

IE8 logo Microsoft released their latest browser version, Internet Explorer 8 today.

With this version, Microsoft is hoping to recapture some of the lost market share due to competitor browsers like Firefox 3, Google Chrome and Apple's Safari 4. Firefox in particular has been adding a lot of useful features in recent time and its market share is rapidly rising.

IE8 is a step up from IE7, claiming improved security, more user-friendliness and offering speed improvements as well.

Web standards

However, IE8 will cause a few headaches for web developers. The earlier versions of Internet Explorer were not standard-compliant but because the browser dominated market share, most developers coded their websites so they could be properly displayed in Internet Explorer only, regardless of whether the actual code was standard-compliant or not. Today the competitor browsers e.g. Firefox strictly follow the latest web coding standards which makes it easier for developers to code their sites, since everyone follows the same set of rules. Internet Explorer will now finally join this gang with version 8, since it's standard-complaint as well.

Web developers who specifically catered for earlier versions of IE will now have to update their sites to comply with the latest web standards. This of course is a good thing. Microsoft did however include an option in IE8 which will alllow the user to switch to compatibility mode to render those websites that were developed for IE7, without any problems.

Anti-competitive behaviour

Microsoft is expected to release their latest operating system, Windows 7, later this year. However, this time the OS will not include the Internet Explorer browser by default. Users will be allowed to download the browser of their choice, OR all the popular browsers will be included in Windows 7, leaving it up to the user to choose which browser to use by default. Microsoft has been under pressure to do this for a number of years, having been accused of anti-competitive behaviour throughout the industry. The European Commission in particular has indicated that Microsoft violated EU laws by bundling the IE browser with Microsoft operating systems.

Even though the Firefox browser has gained a lot of market share over the least two years, Internet Explorer still dominates the market but mostly since the browser is pushed to users of Microsoft operating systems through the automated Windows Updates process, not necessarily because of the browser's features.

Related article
With IE8, Microsoft Ignores One Third Of The Market (TechCrunch)


IE7 users are advised to update to the latest version. For those who don't want to wait for Windows Updates to alert you when it's available, you can download IE8 here.


Firefox logo
I'm definitely (still) a Firefox fan, due to its plethora of superior features and other advantages but I'll discuss that in more detail in the near future. Read more on "Internet Explorer 8 released today"!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Lost Generation

This is one of the more positive videos I've seen in quite some time. Follow the words.

Lost Generation video

Read more on "Lost Generation"!

Residents evacuated due to Table Mountain fire

18 March 2009

A fire started on Table Mountain (yes, the same mountain in the header image at the top of the blog) around 20h30 last night but it was raging out of control by midnight due to strong winds. People had to be evacuated from Vredehoek and High Cape since the fires were coming dangerously close to their homes. The fire started near Rhodes Memorial and has spread all the way around the mountain towards the Vredehoek area. I'm watching the fire through my window while writing this; it's quite a spectacular sight even though an obvious tragedy.

De Waal Drive was closed after midnight due to the heavy smoke. More than 100 firemen were dispatched to the scene and I'm sure more will be needed throughout the night. According to Eye Witness News people who were sleeping in the bush were overwhelmed by the fire and suffered injuries. So many people have gathered on Signal Hill to take photos but this has created a problem for the fire department due to the subsequent traffic.

Here's a few pics:

Cape Town fire

Pics taken from Claremont - the other side of Table Mountain
Pic taken from Claremont - the other side of Table Mountain



I followed the comments about the fire in realtime on Monitter and Nearby Tweets. Lot of traffic! The developing story was covered quite well by all the messages ("tweets"), long before the mainstream newswires picked it up. I'm listening to CapeTalk 567's radio online now; people who were evacuated calling in, some having nowhere to go. It's going to be a long night for firemen and residents alike. Read more on "Residents evacuated due to Table Mountain fire"!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

SEACOM signs up Neotel as first big customer

Neotel signed up with SEACOM as their first big customer and was also appointed to actually manage the cable on behalf of SEACOM. The SEACOM undersea cable is expected to land in South Africa in June this year and will drastically extend the available international bandwidth available to the African continent.

I have an ADSL account that is on the SAIX backbone (uses Telkom's SAT3 cable, currently SA's ONLY undersea cable!) and I'm therefore subjected to inflated bandwidth prices. Naturally I'm licking my lips for SEACOM's arrival to see what kind of cheaper products my ISP, Webafrica, will come up with.

A drop in expected international bandwidth fees from 80% to 50% is a bit disconcerting though.

From Neotel scoops up cheaper bandwidth (Business Day - Lesley Stones):

Seacom president Brian Herlihy originally expected the cable to slash SA's bandwidth fees by 80%, but the threat of its arrival has already prompted Telkom to drop its own data fees by up to 80%. Herlihy still believes Seacom can charge at least 50% less for its bandwidth when it goes live in June or July.

Read more on "SEACOM signs up Neotel as first big customer"!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Fairytale win for SA's fastest

Who is Simon Magakwe? Nobody has ever heard of him but this past weekend he was crowned South Africa's fastest man at the SA Senior Track and Field Championships in Stellenbosch. He won the 100m event in 10,21 seconds.

What's more remarkable though, is his story.

This athlete comes from a very poor background and his main source of income is taking photos for ID books. He had no money for running shoes but Olympic medalist Hezekiel Sepeng heard about his problem and gave him a pair three years ago. Magakwe still runs in those same shoes to this day.

He arrived at the track this weekend without a sports bag, but with his clothes in a plastic bag. He didn't have the funds to pay for accommodation in Stellenbosch and the mayor of Carletonville (Magakwe's hometown) decided to pay for it, after learning of his situation.

Simon first won the 100m in a moderate 10,32s but after the race the judges upheld a false start objection and the race was to be run again. Everyone expected the time to be slower since there was not much time for recovery but to everyone's surprise, the 22-year old won again, but this time in 10,21s, the 9th fastest time in SA history and also the fastest time for the event in almost ten years. With this time he qualified for the World Championship to be held in Berlin.

Well done Simon! I'm guessing you'll be issued with a proper sports bag by a sponsor for your next event. Read more on "Fairytale win for SA's fastest"!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Why you should use Twitter

TwitterThe bombings in Mumbai in Nov '08 and the crash landing in the Hudson river in Jan '09 were first reported on a social networking service called Twitter before the mainstream media picked it up. This caught my attention and I started reading about Twitter. Initially I thought it was just a silly excuse to send irrelevant messages into cyberspace. Fluffy messages sent by bored people to keep themselves busy. Well, even though I'm sure there are people like that out there, the bottom line is that after some more digging on Twitter, it became clear that it offered so much more! The only way to determine the value of this service was to try it, so I decided to sign up.

Twitter enables its users to send and read other users' updates (called "tweets"), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length. Updates are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. You can also send links to website addresses in your message. If the hyperlink is too long, it will shorten it automatically when you send the message, using an automated substitute shorter URL instead.

The first obvious advantage is that it's an easy way to stay in touch with friends and colleagues. A few other advantages:
  • Provide comments during live events, on the fly
  • Share ideas with people who have a common interest
  • Stay on top of current affairs
  • Share and receive useful links to articles online
  • See what your friends are up to
  • Being able to choose whose comments you read
  • You can send and read messages from your cell phone
  • It's fun
  • If you're a blogger, there a few other advantages as well.
Following users and a few commands

If you want to receive a friend's Twitter messages in your feed, you must add that person first. It's called "following". To follow a user, visit the user's Twitter profile page e.g. www.twitter.com/GlobetrotterSA (yes, that's me) and simply click on "Follow" under the person's username. Any messages posted by that user will now start appearing in your Twitter feed on the homepage at www.twitter.com (if you're logged in).

If you want to write a reply to someone specifically, then start the message with @, follow it immediately with the person's Twitter username and the message. For example:
@GlobetrotterSA Check out U2's latest album.
would send that message to the user GlobetrotterSA's reply window but everyone who is following GlobetrotterSA will also be able to read the message. It's like addressing someone specifically in a group discussion. You can also send a reply by right-clicking on the message in the feed and choosing the 'reply' option.

If you want to send a direct message to a specific user, without anyone else being able to read it, then you type d username message (e.g. d GlobetrotterSA See you at 8).

There are also other commands you can use when you write your tweet (Twitter message).

Twitter applications and services I use (free)

Twitterfox is an add-on for Firefox browser users which allows you to send tweets, replies and read all the tweets in your feed in a little popup window in the corner of the browser window, without having to visit the Twitter website. Very practical! I also subscribe to a few news twitter feeds which helps me stay on top of current affairs since I see snippets of the latest news stories throughout the day without having to leave the browser window or tab I'm currently working in.

If you're using a cell phone with a Symbian operating system (mostly Nokia phones), you can use the Twim freeware Java client to send and read Twitter messages on your cell phone. It works well, provides an easy-to-understand interface and does not use a lot of bandwidth. Now you can tweet on the go! :)
(There are several Twitter clients for cell phones e.g. Twitterfon fir iPhones, just make sure you find the correct client application which is suited for your specific phone brand and model)

Hashtags add additional context to your tweets. If you want to send a tweet about a specific topic that may already be discussed by other users on Twitter, it's useful to add a hashtag to your tweet so other anonymous users (twitters) can easily find the message, if they wanted to. A hashtag is always preceded by #.
Example message: The Springboks rugby union team thrashed the opposition today #Springboks
The hashtag used here is #Springboks and if you search for #Springboks on Twitter, you will find all the related tweets from other users who used the same #hashtag to group the discussion.

Every time you add a user to your Twitter feed, therefore "following" that user, that user receives an automated email to inform that person you're following him/her (this function can be enabled/disabled in the settings under Notifications on the Twitter site). However, this email only mentions the Twitter username and nothing more.

The Twimailer service adds useful information to this email; like the person's profile info, how many users are following them, how many he/she follows and the last ten tweets the person sent. If a lot of people "follow" you on Twitter, this functionality helps in deciding whether you want to follow that person or not, since you hopefully have enough information in front of you to make that decision, without having to visit that user's Twitter feed on the site.

Keep track of conversations that mention you, anything, with hourly or daily updates. You can also keep track of who's tweeting about your website or blog, even if they use a shortened URL. Bloggers may find TweetBeep useful since it will help them determine their blog's popularity.

Twitter Search
This is Twitter's own search function.

This website allows you to enter up to three keywords and then displays all the tweets that contain that keyword in realtime. This provides an easy way to follow any topic or news story that is currently being discussed.

If you want to see which buzzwords are hot on Twitter right now, visit the Twitscoop site.

Other Twitter applications and services

There are a lot of applications and services that enhance the use of Twitter to cater for your specific needs. Here's a few lists:

Big list of Twitter tools
How journalists can master Twitter
Twenty-Six Twitter Tools To Track Tweets
15 Handpicked Twitter Tools

If I come across any other useful Twitter applications that is not mentioned here, I'll update the list. Feel free to share your own Twitter tools/suggestions in the Comments section.

Lastly, you are welcome to follow me on Twitter. :)
Read more on "Why you should use Twitter"!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

My computer setup at home

Computer setup at homeI've worked on quite a few PC's but I've inadvertently switched to a laptop in recent years. I spend more time in front of my Acer 5626 laptop than I should but somehow I don't feel guilty about it. If we were still living in the 80's I'd simply be called a "nerd" but today I safely fall into the category of "advanced internet user". Suits me!

Acer 5626 quick specs:
Intel® Core™2 Duo processor T7400 (4 MB L2 cache, 2.16 GHz, 667 MHz FSB)
17" WXGA+ TFT LCD, 1440 x 900 pixel resolution
NVIDIA® GeForce® Go 7300 (256Mb VRAM)
DVD-Super Multi Double-layer Drive
2048MB DDRII memory
Intel® PRO/Wireless 3945ABG
5-in-1 card reader
1.3MP Orbicam

I use a Logitech wireless mouse with the laptop and the touchpad is only used on the road. I simply work quicker with a mouse. As much as I love the laptop, they are notorious for having bad little built-in speakers so I use some external stereo speakers with a subwoofer.

Laptop problems

The laptop is essentially a desktop replacement machine and I'm happy with the performance. Although I love the 17" screen I would have hated it too carry this laptop around all day long. Definitely not a machine for a student due to its size. I did have my fair share of trouble when I ordered the laptop... I immediately noticed a few dead pixels on the LCD screen which was annoying but Acer Support replaced the screen since the dead pixels were right in the centre of the screen which meant it could be replaced as stated in their Dead Pixel Policy (yup, all laptop manufacturers have one!).

I also had another problem, the laptop would get very hot from time to time and although I had concerns about this, the laptop performed well so I ignored it. Well, that was short-lived because on a lovely summer's day, the laptop overheated and would not start up anymore. Again, Acer's support was great and since it was still under warranty, they replaced the blown thermal fan and everything was fine again.

After some research (trusty Google) I figured out why the laptop overheated... I don't like the so-called 'bloatware' that is always installed by manufacturers on new machines so I removed it. It turns out that there's a defect on this Acer series (not sure about their other product ranges) where, if you didn't have the Acer ePower software installed, the fan would not come on after the laptop has been in hibernation or sleep mode! But because I rarely used the sleep mode function, I never recognised the pattern when the machine overheated. If you however rebooted the machine, then the fan would come on again. So I obviously put it into sleep mode one day, started working on the laptop again and eventually the machine just overheated and died on me. Yes, I don't use sleep mode anymore because I don't want to install their software for various other reasons.

Switched from Vista to XP due to driver issues

The laptop had the Vista Business operating system installed but at the time Vista was still having major problems with vendors whose drivers were not compatible with the OS so I downgraded the machine to Windows XP Pro (the XP license is included if you get Vista Business). Some say the downgrade to XP is actually an "upgrade"! Since the release of Vista SP1 most driver issues have apparently been resolved but I have not upgraded to Vista again. I'm happy with XP Pro and quite frankly, as long as I can run the software of my choice ON the OS, I'm satisfied.

Microsoft's Vista operating system was in general not well-received by the industry at first and it turned out to be quite a PR disaster. A lot of companies didn't bother switching from XP to Vista since it was not clear what they would gain by doing it and then there were the driver issues. Microsoft has announced their new operating system, Windows 7, which is currently in beta and it is receiving good reviews so far. The development cycle of Windows 7 is also a lot quicker than was the case with Vista so it should reach the shelves in about a year? At this stage I'll probably switch directly from XP to Windows 7 since Windows 7's quick release is "proof" that Vista will be a distant memory quite soon. Reminds me of Windows Me's demise.

Other hardware

Apart from my laptop, I use an older PC as well (mostly because of its bigger hard drives), with the monitor connected as dualscreen with my laptop and then I just use software like LogMeIn or TeamViewer to control the PC remotely. That way I don't have to switch between keyboards to work on different machines. Due to a lack of space, I have a HP Officejet 6313 All-In-One fax/scanner/printer that rests on top of the PC tower. It's starting to look like the Tower of Babel! The printer has an ethernet card so I set it up as a network printer on the LAN. I use the Netgear DG834GT Wireless ADSL Router to connect to the internet. A router I'm very happy with since it's so user friendly. Setting up things like port-forwarding for the different machines on the LAN (Local Area Network) was a breeze.

One day when I grow up I may get an insane home office setup like Stefan Didak did. :)

Stefan Didak's home office
Read more on "My computer setup at home"!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Broadband in South Africa

Compared to most other countries, South Africa's broadband speed is embarrassingly slow. What's even worse, is that the uptake is slow too.

There's about 4 million internet users in SA and roughly 1 million of them have broadband using ADSL. The slow uptake is largely due to a highly restrictive regulatory environment where the Communications Minister, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, spent the last few years protecting Telkom (only telecommunications company in South Africa until Neotel was introduced last year). She does not have a very good name in the SA telecoms environment, hence her nickname "Poison Ivy"! She has however indicated that she will be stepping down in 2009 so that quite frankly is a relief to everyone in the industry. She has stifled growth throughout her tenure as minister.

I'm writing this blog on a 384Kbps "broadband" ADSL connection (yup, 0,384Mbps!). I put that in quotes because 384Kbps does not really qualify as true broadband to begin with. The fastest ADSL connection you can get in SA is 4Mbps but it is quite expensive, when compared to other countries. In SA we have to pay a dubious "connection fee" or line rental every month for ADSL, then on top of that the subscription for bandwidth to your Internet Service Provider (ISP), where the cost per Gb is high. With slow speeds such as these, viewing video clips on sites like YouTube, or live streaming video is possible but the experience is woeful at best. A lot of buffering occurrs where you have to wait for the video to load and since we pay per Gb of usage, most people tend to avoid viewing video online to reduce cost.

The cost of international bandwidth is astronomical in SA. This is mainly because we only have one undersea cable that connects us to the world, the SAT3/SAFE cable which is owned by, you guessed it, Telkom. There is however a light at the end of the tunnel, the SEACOM undersea cable which is currently being built and is expected to land in SA in June this year. The 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup will be held in South Africa and I'm sure this huge event had a lot to do with the rapid deployment of this new cable.

The bandwidth capacity of the SEACOM cable is much larger than the SAT3 cable and the owners have already released their pricing structure which results in roughly an 80% drop in the wholesale price of international bandwidth. This of course is fantastic news and it's therefore expected that the prices consumers are currently paying, will drop significantly. The big question is... WHEN?

According to the Internet Access in South Africa 2008 study, released by World Wide Worx, the following statistics were revealed:
  • 16% jump in internet providers in the last year.
  • ADSL dominance is at an end. Wireless broadband subscriptions outnumber ADSL 750,000 to 558,000 in 2008.
  • Broadband subscriptions leapt from 818,000 in 2007, to 1,308,000 in 2008; a 60% growth rate.
  • Over next five years the projected boost in internet access will see the amount of users grow from 4.5m in 2008 to 8.4m in 2013.
  • Dial-up is on the decline: from its highest subscription level of 1.08m in 2004, it has now dropped to 700,000 in 2008.
Although these numbers are positive, the reality is that only 10% of South Africans have internet access. It's simply too expensive for the majority of the population. There are several countries in Africa with much weaker economies who beat us into oblivion as far as broadband penetration goes. Between December 2000 and 2008, South Africa added only about 2.7 million new subscribers to its internet user base, compared to the 10 million added by Nigeria, eight million by Egypt, seven million by Morocco and three million by Kenya.

Let's hope drastically reduced broadband prices are a reality before the end of the year. Read more on "Broadband in South Africa"!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Contact me

I prefer that you leave Comments on blog posts since it promotes public discussion about that particular topic.

However, if you would like to contact me directly for any reason, please use the form below. I am always appreciative of constructive feedback.

Read more on "Contact me"!


I'm a news junkie who mostly blog about internet related technology and/or software. I also share my opinion on current affairs, travel, sport and matters related to life in South Africa.

Feel free to leave Comments on my blog posts! I read them all. Read more on "About"!

First post

I spend a lot of time posting to forums, mostly tech-related; visit other blogs of interest so I thought I could just as well start my own blog! Why not. I don't have a specific theme but internet-related technology posts and my opinion on South African matters will definitely surface from time to time.

I'm currently watching Real Madrid getting hammered by Liverpool in a UEFA Champions League football match. I support Manchester United in the EPL and Barcelona in La Liga. My favourite sport however is rugby union and I support the South African Springboks, the current Rugby World Cup champions.

Feel free to leave questions/comments! Read more on "First post"!
Back to top