Thursday, 14 October 2010

World applauds as miners in Chile reach the surface

Sometimes the world needs a good story. A real one. I've been fascinated by the whole rescue saga of the 33 miners trapped in a Chilean copper and gold mine and have been following the story with interest.

The drama started when part of the mine collapsed on 5 August, blocking exit routes in the process. Rescue teams sent down listening probes just in case the miners survived. Seventeen days (of hell) passed... until they found a note on 22 August, left by a trapped miner which was attached to a probe, saying "Estamos bien en el refugio los 33" (All 33 of us are well inside the shelter).

Video Tour of Trapped Chilean Miners Refuge

Up to this point the miners rationed themselves to two spoonfuls of tuna, half a cookie and a half-full glass of milk every 48 hours to keep them alive. Once contact was made, the rescue team sent down supplies and water down the borehole, eventually ensuring that the miners received a proper diet.

The rescue

First miner to be rescued, Florencio Avalos
The rescue effort then started in earnest on 18 September, drilling three holes and eventually it was the second hole that reached the miners first at 622m (2040ft). A narrow rescue capsule, built by the navy, was then lowered and started to pull up the miners one by one on 12 October. The order of the miners who were rescued: Strongest and most stable first (in case something went wrong, they'd be able to deal with it mentally), weakest and oldest second (to ensure they get medical attention first) and then the rest with the shift supervisor last.

The rescue was well coordinated, went smoothly, with several countries involved. Some provided machinery, others expertise, like NASA who assisted to determine what the miners would require to survive in isolation. The miners were trapped for 69 days, longer than anyone else in history!

Second Chilean Miner Rescued - Mario Sepulveda

The miners

The miners ranged from age 19 to 63. There were a few interesting characters in the group. Florencio Avalos will always be remembered as the first miner to be rescued. The second miner, Mario Sepulveda, was by far the most jubilant. He sang with other members of the rescue team, embracing everyone around. He was a familiar face since he did most of the video diaries whilst underground. Edison Pena ran six miles every day to keep fit (and stay sane) through dark tunnels, listening to Elvis on his iPod (he has reportedly been invited to visit Graceland). Yonni Barrios was the medic underground; his wife didn't wait for him at the rescue point, his mistress arrived instead. The oldest miner, Mario Gómez, was the spiritual leader and assisted psychologists at the surface. The only foreign miner in the group was Carlos Mamani from Bolivia. Luis Urzua, the shift leader, was credited with instilling discipline in the group from day one, organising the rations that kept them alive. He was the last miner to be rescued.

Chile miners - Los 33

Media coverage

Apparently one billion viewers tuned in to watch the build up and rescue of the first miner, clearly capturing the attention of the world with all major news channels covering the story. It was convenient to follow to the story online, with many free video feeds covering the story while participating in the discussion while it happened. All you had to do on Twitter was to 'follow' a few journalists, government officials and rescue workers on the scene, who used the opportunity to send Twitter updates from their mobile devices. The family members of the miners set up a base camp called Campo Esperanza (Camp Hope), adjacent to the rescue point in the mine. Most relatives stayed there from day one in support of the miners, waiting with anticipation for the ordeal to be over.

Chilean president Sebastian Pinera and Mining minister Laurence Golborne

The Chilean president, Sebastian Pinera, and in particular the Chilean mining minister, Laurence Golborne, was present throughout. No rehearsed media conferences with teleprompters, just honest off-the-cuff updates about what was going on. Their approval ratings went through the roof and deservedly so.


Twitter has proven, again, to be a useful platform to spread the news quickly and receive recent updates of the drama as it unfolded. At one point I was watching BBC World News and after the rescue capsule was lowered into the mine, the presenter was not sure who the first nominated miner would be to get in the rescue capsule. At the same time I was using Twitter Search and immediately noticed a tweet by the Chilean mining minister where he tweeted the name of the first miner, Florencio Avalos. This was amazing since social media has outdone mainstream media, since it was easier to get actual inside information from the scene. The media world is changing rapidly.

I did a search for "miner" using Twitter Search and at one point it was updating at 15000 tweets every few seconds.


Although everyone is expected to recover from physical illness suffered during their ordeal, the big question is how this whole traumatic experience will affect them psychologically? There will be the initial euphoria of being reunited with loved ones but in the aftermath possible insomnia, restlessness and anxiety could set in. At least they all had a job to do while underground since they effectively had to help the rescue team at the surface carry out their plan. Only time will tell how they will all be affected.

Related links
Live video feed of rescue - Associated Press
Profiles of the miners - BBC News
Capitalism Saved the Miners - WSJ Read more on "World applauds as miners in Chile reach the surface"!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Athlone Towers demolished on Sunday

Athlone Towers
Athlone Towers
The famous Athlone Towers in Cape Town will be demolished tomorrow at 12pm. The power station cooling towers were built in 1960 but generation of electricity was stopped in 2001. Subsequently the Towers have been determined to be unsafe. It has become a famous landmark to Capetonians over the years.

When I was a youngster we frequently visited family in Somerset-West and therefore always passed the Towers on the way, since it's located right next to the N2 highway. There is always a very bad smell in the area and it is mistakenly associated with the cooling towers. The smell is actually from the sewerage plant on the other side of the road. Nasal illusion!? 

Live broadcast

The demolition will be broadcast live on Sunday, 22 August, from 11h40 to 12h10 (GMT+2) on www.zoopy.com/live.
There will be a 300m exclusion zone around the Athlone Towers during the demolition. Part of the N2, Jan Smuts Drive and the adjacent Metrorail line will be closed.

Video: Athlone Towers, Going, Going...

UPDATE 22 August 2010: Videos of actual demolition

Athlone Cooling Towers Demolition from Phillip Gibb on Vimeo.

Read more on "Athlone Towers demolished on Sunday"!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Firefox - How to display Google Images basic view permanently

Google Images
FirefoxGoogle changed the layout of Google Images in July, now displaying images only (called Standard view). As you scroll down, more images are automatically loaded and displayed. Great, or perhaps not?

Google Images Standard view
Google Images Standard view
Although you see more images at a glance with this layout, there are unfortunately a few disadvantages:
  • If you have a slow internet connection it can take a long time to load all the thumbnail images.
  • If you have a monthly bandwidth cap, the bandwidth used to display all the new images at once while you scroll down can be excessive (especially if you wanted to see a few images).
  • The title, dimensions and website address is not visible anymore at first glance, so you can't make an immediate decision whether you want to click through to that site or not. Now you have to hover over the image first, an extra step, to see that info.
Temporary solution by Google, switch to Basic version at bottom

If you scroll to the bottom of the image search results page, you can click on the "Switch to basic version" link which reverts it back to the original layout but unfortunately it is only valid for that single search session! If you close the browser and open it again and do another Google Image search, you'll see the new layout again. Google currently offers no option to change it back permanently.

Google Images Basic view
Google Images Basic view
How to access Google Images Basic view permamently in Firefox

First add a keyword search bookmark, then amend it to display the Basic view automatically.
To do this, you can use a built-in function in the Firefox browser to add a keyword to do an image search directly from the address bar. This will allow you to type the assigned keyword followed by the search query and it will display the images automatically, without you having to visit the Google Images site first.

To set up a search keyword for Google Images:

  • Go to http://images.google.com (of if you're in South Africa, it would be http://images.google.za)
  • Click in the empty search box, then right-click and select "Add a Keyword for this Search..." from the popup menu.
  • In the "Keyword" field, type the word, images, and click on "Save".
Now you can e.g. type images dolphins in the browser's address bar and it will automatically display the new Google Images layout with photos of dolphins.

Change the newly added keyword function to automatically display the former Google Images basic view

Follow these steps:

  • At the top of the browser window, click on the Bookmarks > Organise Bookmarks menu option, which will open a new window.
  • In the right pane of this window, click on the search keyword entry you just added
  • In the "Location" field, you will see something like this:
  • Add the following at the end: &sout=1
  • It will therefore look like this:
That's it! You're done.

From now on, you can just type the keyword images in the Firefox address bar immediately followed by the term you want to search for, and it will automatically display the Google Images in Basic view.
(There's therefore no need to visit the actual Google Images website first, since your newly created keyword now incorporates that function)

Firefox address bar
Read more on "Firefox - How to display Google Images basic view permanently"!

How to hide the YouTube grey bar in Firefox

YouTubeFirefoxYouTube added a new long grey bar at the bottom of videos that form part of a playlist. Although some find it useful, a lot of people see it as a distraction. You can minimise it but you cannot close it.

Grey bar at bottom of YouTube.com

Solution for Firefox users

If you're a Firefox user, there is a way to permanently hide the YouTube grey bar. For it to work, you must have the the AdBlock Plus Firefox add-on installed (this is a brilliant add-on anyway since it hides all ads on sites).

Visit youtube.com, then click on the small AdBlock Plus (ABP) icon top-right or bottom-right in the browser.

AdBlock Plus icon

The Preferences dialog box will appear. Click on Filters > Add filter.

Enter the following:

Repeat the step and add another filter containing:

Repeat the step and add another filter containing:
Click OK.

ABP filters

They grey bar will disappear permanently!

Similar bars on other websites

You can also use the method explained above to hide similar bars on other websites. It would be easier to hide them by installing the Element Hiding Helper Firefox add-on as well.

Then browse to an applicable site (e.g. news24.com which also recently added a social bar at the bottom of their site), right-click on the AdBlock Plus (ABP) icon in the browser and select "Element to hide". Hover over the bar you want removed and click on it. A dialog box will appear, click on "Add filter rule" and that bar will permanently be removed from view!

Reverting back to old settings

Of course, if you want to, you can always change it all back by clicking on the ABP icon and simply deleting or disabling the applicable entry under "My Element Hiding Rules". Read more on "How to hide the YouTube grey bar in Firefox"!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

2010 FIFA World Cup - One day to go!

2010 FIFA World Cup
The 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off tomorrow when the host nation, South Africa, plays the opening match against Mexico. Football fever has gripped the nation, especially these last few days during the build-up to tomorrow's match.


Most teams and their fans have arrived in South Africa and the "gees" (spirit) in the streets have been uplifting, to put it mildly! Vuvuzelas are blaring everywhere; its distinct sound will undoubtedly be heard throughout the tournament. Some love it, some hate it. (Want to hear it?)

Yesterday Bafana Bafana (South Africa's national team) were cheered on by a huge crowd of around 185 000 in Sandton when they appeared in an open-top bus. Some serious nation building going on! It reminded me of the 1995 Rugby World Cup where I experienced a similar feeling of euphoria. The fact that I had a ticket to the final probably had something to do with it.


South Africa is all set for this tournament. There were some serious doubts a few months ago when the pessimists were adamant that we wouldn't be ready but that notion has evaporated. Here's some high-quality photos of the preparation for the World Cup. All the major soccer stadiums are available in 3D with a 360 degree view inside, using Google Maps Street View.

There are people who allege that FIFA strong-armed the government and local businesses, resulting in severe loss of income for the local tourism industry. The big question always remains whether a country can get a return on investment after hosting such a huge tournament and whether the use of the new stadiums can be sustained afterwards.


A number of star players have unfortunately been injured during the last few days, either during practice or friendly warm-up games which could affect those teams' chances of winning the tournament.

Didier Drogba (fractured forearm), prolific striker for Chelsea will be missed by the Ivory Coast; German captain Michael Ballack is out (ankle), Portugal - Nani (shoulder); Netherlands - Arjen Robben (hamstring); Spain - Iniesta (thigh); England - Captain Rio Ferdinand (knee); Ghana - Michael Essien (knee).


There will be 32 teams at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and a total of 48 preliminary matches that are divided into 8 groups. Two teams go through to the second round in each group.

Bafana Bafana supporter
Group A - France and Mexico.
France is the most talented team in this group and Mexico showed good form the last few weeks, easily beating Italy in a friendly match a few days ago. South Africa automatically qualified for the tournament since we're the hosts(ranked 83rd in world at time of writing), will enjoy the local support but unfortunately the gap may be too big. Bafana Bafana is looking fit and had a good run going into the tournament, never losing under coach Parreira and also beating Denmark (ranked 36th) in a friendly a few days ago.
If we can somehow beat Mexico in the opener... who knows! Reaching the second round would be a phenominal achievement.

Group B - Argentina and Nigeria.
Argentina have Messi but struggled to qualify for the tournament. South Korea have Park Ji-Sing but Nigeria will have a lot of home support.

Group C - England and USA.
This is the weakest group and therefore England got an easy draw. They're favourites to end on top.

Group D - Germany and Ghana.
Germany have a good record at world cups and are ranked 6th in the world. Ghana is missing their star player, Essien, but could still edge Australia.

Group E - Netherlands and Cameroon.
Netherlands showed good form and were undefeated during the qualifying rounds. Cameroon has Samuel Eto'o.

Group F - Italy and Slovakia.
Italy are the reigning champions and should be the strongest in this group. Slovakia scored a lot of goals during qualifying but Paraguay could edge them for the 2nd spot.

Group G - Brazil and Portugal.
This is the Group of Death with three strong teams making it the most difficult to qualify. Brazil have a brilliant record at world cups, winning it five times. Portugal have Ronaldo and Ivory Coast lost their star player, Drogba.

Group H - Spain and Chile.
Spain should easily top the group. Chile ended second in South America's qualifying round.

Who will win it?

Spain's Capdevila, Villa, Hernandez and Iniesta
In my opinion the realistic favourites are Spain, Brazil, Germany, Netherlands and England. Brazil are ranked no.1 in the world, have the experience and have won it a record five times. Germany are always strong; England are a dark horse, have an easy draw and an astute coach, Capello, although I think they're sometimes overrated.

I want the Netherlands to win but without their talisman, Robben, it is less likely. I think Spain have the best chance of taking the Cup home. They've been in brilliant form the last two years and I believe they're the most talented, balanced team at the tournament.

Opening ceremony and first match

Tonight the FIFA World Cup celebration concert will start at 8pm (GMT+2) and will last for three hours. Headline performers are Shakira, John Legend, Angelique Kidjo, Alicia Keys and the Black Eyed Peas. Location: Orlando Stadium, Soweto, Johannesburg.

The official opening ceremony is tomorrow at 2pm (GMT+2) and will last 30 minutes with 1581 performers, at Soccer City, Soweto.

Waka Waka - The Official 2010 FIFA Song
(performed by Shakira and Freshlyground)

The opening match is on Friday, 11 June at 4pm (GMT+2) at Soccer City between hosts South Africa (Bafana Bafana) and Mexico. Good luck Bafana Bafana!

Related links
2010 FIFA World Cup Fixtures - SuperSport
2010 FIFA World Cup Groups and Teams - BBC Sport
Preparing for the World Cup - The Big Picture
2010 World Cup Stadiums - IOL
Widget: World Cup live on your desktop - Sport24 Read more on "2010 FIFA World Cup - One day to go!"!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Google Street View available in South Africa

Google Street View
Google Street View has finally launched in South Africa, enabling internet users to view images of streets and surrounding buildings at street level. All faces and car number plates are blurred to protect your privacy. Considering that the FIFA World Cup tournament starts on Friday, this will undoubtedly assist tourists since they'll be able to view sights and stadiums before they arrive.

Of course, the first thing I did was to see if a Google Street View Car captured me in front of my home. Luckily not, but you can see my car in the driveway. I'm a fan of Google and use a lot of their online services; Google Maps with Street View is fantastic.

Chapman's Peak Drive in Cape Town - click to view larger image
A view of Chapman's Peak Drive in Cape Town

Google Street View in South Africa is currently available in the major cities and a few other towns. I assume the rest of the country will be mapped during the rest of the year. All the major soccer stadiums are available in 3D with a 360 degree view inside.

Cape Town Stadium - click to see aerial photo
3D model of Cape Town Stadium

Video: Street View on Google Maps

A lot of websites are dedicated to displaying funny images that have been captured on Google Street View. Here's a few interesting images.

The only downside to Google Maps and Street View is that it tends to use quite a lot of bandwidth so if you have a slow connection, good luck.

Related links
Google Maps with Street View - Google Read more on "Google Street View available in South Africa"!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Facebook's new privacy settings

Facebook privacy
Facebook announced new privacy settings to address some of the negative public backlash they received these last few weeks. Your name, profile picture and gender will remain publicly available but you can set privacy controls for the rest. The new privacy features will be rolled out during the next few weeks.

Video: How to take advantage of Facebook's new privacy settings

They've definitely made it easier for the end-user to change the privacy levels by adding global settings and the fact that you can now opt-out of applications altogether will be good news to those who demand absolute control over their privacy. Just a pity you don't have the option (when applying the setting to disable all applications) to exclude applications you actually want to use. Maybe that will come in future.

Step in right direction

A lot of people will be pleased with the new privacy settings but some privacy advocates will still have a problem with Facebook's general lacklustre approach to Privacy. Instead of thinking it through and respecting the user's privacy from the start, Facebook tend to expose their users by decreasing their privacy and then they simply fix it later, if the public outcry warrants it.

Sharing your personal info with 3rd party applications should be OPT-IN, not opt-out! As long as I have the choice to decide beforehand to share information or not, everything is fine. Just don't share it without my permission.

Related links
Making Control Simple - Facebook (CEO Mark Zuckerberg)
Controlling how you share - Facebook Read more on "Facebook's new privacy settings"!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Privacy concerns with Facebook

Facebook privacy?
When I joined Facebook I felt comfortable sharing personal information because Facebook's privacy settings were very good, allowing the user to fully control every bit of information you publish to Facebook. But times have changed! Facebook has changed direction and privacy seems to be a mere afterthought now.

Facebook started off with an attitude of respecting the user's privacy, which was great. Unfortunately they have changed their privacy settings over time to make it increasingly difficult to protect everything you publish on Facebook.

Facebook's privacy changes in April - frowned upon

Their latest privacy changes (announced at Facebook's F8 conference in April) were frowned upon by most analysts. It's almost as if Facebook does not listen to their users at all, ignoring any backlash after a major privacy update.

Facebook's new Instant Personalization Pilot Program lets you share your information with third party websites... I'm not comfortable with that at all. Facebook always seem to make the changes regardless of whether their users like it or not and users only find out afterwards, once it's already been done. Then those who are concerned about their privacy have to quickly jump around and "fix" the privacy settings (again) but it's getting more and more difficult to do that.

Opting out

Case in point, I was logged into my Facebook account and then visited another website Engadget (or it could have been Mashable, can't remember), then Facebook granted access to apps from those sites automatically. I then visited my Facebook Applications Settings page and that website was already listed there! At no point did I give explicit permission to share information with external sites. Facebook gladly did that "on my behalf". I had to manually visit the Facebook application page for that site and block the application explicitly. So they're making it tougher to 'opt-out' as time goes by.

Facebook is feature-rich but please respect my privacy

Facebook makes sharing info with friends a pleasure and there's a multitude of other fantastic features that the social networking site offers. But a lot of users are uninformed about Facebook's persistent drive to open everything up for all to see, since that will obviously have financial benefit for Facebook due to marketers having access to your info/preferences for better advertising revenue.

The flip side of the coin is that it's perhaps convenient for the user to visit different websites and always be recognised on those websites since you're already logged in to your Facebook account. The part that I have a problem with... is the fact that I'm having less and less of a CHOICE in the matter. I'd prefer to opt-out beforehand instead of trying to solve a privacy issue afterwards.

Instructions on how to protect your privacy after Facebook's latest privacy changes in April

Opt out of Facebook's Open Graph personalization - WikiHow
Opt out of Facebook's Open Graph personalization - AllFacebook
How To Opt-Out Of Facebook’s Instant Personalization - Electronic Frontier Foundation

With Twitter the situation is different because you know from the start that everything is public, so you (should) only make statements you are willing to make in public anyway. But with Facebook there's a trust that was initially established between Facebook and the user, based on the initial strict privacy settings that was available. That trust is now being tampered with.

If Facebook loosen up their privacy settings to such a degree where I'm left without any control over the (access to) information I publish on Facebook, I'll have no choice but to consider closing my account.

Facebook plans privacy summit

It was announced today that Facebook will be holding a privacy summit after a large group of users, critics and lawmakers showed their dissatisfaction about the growing Facebook privacy issues. I hope something positive comes out of this because Facebook is a great social networking platform, if the privacy issues are addressed.

Video: Funny look at what Facebook would be like if played out in real life

Related links
How to Keep Your Privacy Safe(r) on Facebook - PCWorld
Facebook: Confirm or Deny? - TechNewsWorld
Are you a victim? - MyBroadband Read more on "Privacy concerns with Facebook"!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Circumnavigating the world in an autogyro

Norman Surpus and the Gyrox
Norman Surplus, departed on 22 March from Larne, Northern Ireland, to attempt to circumnavigate the globe in an autogyro called "Gyrox". It has never been attempted before. An autogyro (or gyrocopter) uses an unpowered rotor in auto-rotation to develop lift and an engine-powered propeller, to provide thrust.


The trip is expected to take approximately four months and cover over 43000km, stopping over in 26 countries along the way. Considering the nature of the adventure and proposed travel route, some severe weather conditions should be expected along the way. It's quite a brave attempt considering that an autogyro has an open cockpit! Not to mention the long stretches of open water that need to be covered. To make this possible, Norman's gyro was fitted with extra fuel tanks which will extend the normal 300 mile range to 800 miles. Then there's the challenge of relying solely on the pilot's own visuals since he's not allowed to use instruments to navigate (gyro rules). Finding fuel in remote parts of the world may also present to be a problem.

Video - Gyrox autogyro circumnavigation of the globe

Gyrox Goes Global from Gyrox Goes Global on Vimeo.


Norman recently beat a bout of cancer and this motivated him to embrace life more intensely. He will raise funds for Bowel Cancer UK during the trip.

You can track the Gyrox via the SPOT GPS.

Related link
Autogyro circumnavigation of the globe - Norman's website
GyroxGoesGlobal - Norman's blog
Norman Surplus - Facebook Read more on "Circumnavigating the world in an autogyro"!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

MWeb announce cheap uncapped broadband

MWeb significantly cut broadband prices today with a new full range of uncapped packages. This is truly fantastic news to South Africans since these sort of prices have been long overdue. South Africa is now slowly but surely getting in line with the rest of the world as far as broadband prices go.

South Africans are used to data caps where you have to constantly monitor your bandwidth usage every month to ensure you don't go over your data limit. When you do go over the monthly limit you are either cut off completely or you have to top-up your data (Gb's) at additional costs. Usually an expensive exercise.

However, with MWeb's new uncapped ADSL packages, those days are over. Now you can download as much as you want for a fixed price, the way it should be! There were other uncapped products in the market before this but they were quite expensive. MWeb's new packages are quite affordable.

MWeb's new uncapped packages
(Can sign up from 22 March, available from 1 April)

CONSUMER products: Shaped, month-to-month)

Data only (therefore excluding line rental from Telkom)
  • Uncapped ADSL 384Kbps: R219
  • Uncapped ADSL 512Kbps: R299
  • Uncapped ADSL 4096Kbps: R539

All inclusive (data and line rental)
  • Uncapped All-inclusive 384Kbps: R349
  • Uncapped All-inclusive 512Kbps: R599
  • Uncapped All-inclusive 4096Kbps: R899

BUSINESS products: Unshaped, 12 month contract)

Data only (therefore excluding line rental from Telkom)
  • Uncapped ADSL 384Kbps: R499
  • Uncapped ADSL 512Kbps: R699
  • Uncapped ADSL 4096Kbps: R1 999

All inclusive (data and line rental)
  • Uncapped All-inclusive 384Kbps: R629
  • Uncapped All-inclusive 512Kbps: R999
  • Uncapped All-inclusive 4096Kbps: R2 259
Shaped - Web browsing and emails get priority on the network
Unshaped - All protocols on the network have the same priority, so whether you're browsing the web or downloading on a peer-to-network, you should get similar download speeds

Cheap, cheaper, cheapest

These are the cheapest uncapped broadband packages currently available in South Africa and will surely start a real price war amongst Internet Service Providers. MWeb is a big player and they have the ability to shake up the market. They're getting their international bandwidth from both the SAT-3 and SEACOM undersea cables. With the arrival of more undersea cables to South Africa, like WACS and EASSy during the next two years, wholesale prices for international bandwidth are expected to fall dramatically which in turn will lead to even cheaper packages for consumers of broadband in this country.

Terms and Conditions strongly worded - could put of power users!

MWeb's ADSL Terms and Conditions page (as on 18 March 2010) made me frown, especially paragraph 5.6 and 5.10:

5.6 You may not restrict, inhibit or interfere with the ability of any person to access, use or enjoy the Internet or the ADSL Services, or create an unusually large burden on our network, including, without limitation, continuously uploading or downloading streaming video or audio; continuous FTP uploading or downloading

Well, with an uncapped product I definitely expect to be allowed to listen to online radio streaming all day long if I wanted to, same goes for video streaming! Also, no continuous downloads allowed? That would effectively eliminate all power users. It will therefore be interesting to see how seriously MWeb enforces these conditions because if they do, I for one can't sign up with MWeb.

5.10 You may not use the ADSL Service for unattended automated operation, unless otherwise agreed. You may stay connected as long as you are actively using that connection. You further agree not to use Internet applications for the purpose of simulating network activity to avoid session inactivity disconnection.

Par 5.10 is simply ridiculous and hails from the days of dialup connections. The whole point of using ADSL is to be connected 24/7 in the first place.

Proof is in the pudding

One concern is that MWeb is not exactly renowned for their support levels if compared to other medium-sized ISP's and considering that they will get an influx of people signing up for these new packages, they will have to up their service levels considerably.

Network stability and contention ratios are also very important factors. Cheap broadband means nothing if your online experience suffers due to constant irregular browsing/download speeds. Hopefully MWeb won't have these issues because with these low prices MWeb is clearly vying for the position as market leader in the consumer broadband space in South Africa. It will be interesting to see what the rival ISP's come up with during the next few months!

The only other drawback is that Telkom owns the 'local loop' (lines from exchanges to your residence) and they charge a hefty line rental fee for it. It would be great if Telkom could lower (or drop!) the line rental in future because then South Africans will end up paying broadband prices that are truly in line with first world countries.

Related links
MWeb scraps data caps - Gadget
MWeb throws down gauntlet to rivals - TechCentral
MWeb's uncapped packages - MWeb
Read more on "MWeb announce cheap uncapped broadband"!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Netgear DG834GT router - 1.03.23 firmware released

Netgear DG834GT ADSL wireless routerThe latest firmware version 1.03.23 has been released for the Netgear DG834GT 108Mbps Wireless ADSL router.

The previous firmware versions (specifically 1.02.19 and 1.03.22) were sub-standard and frustrating to use, mainly because of DHCP problems and reserved IP address issues. According to Netgear these issues have been addressed in the latest 1.03.23 firmware version.

I upgraded to 1.03.23 and did some tests on my home LAN; the DHCP issue has been resolved. Nice!

Problem - Cannot delete Firewall Rules

There's a new bug in this version: If you select a Firewall Rule you created and select 'Delete', it just displays a blank page in the router interface. It does not delete the firewall rule! I tested it in several browsers: Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Opera. Luckily you can enable/disable a Firewall Rule but if you have a long list of Firewall Rules then it would have been nice if you could delete them to manage the list better.

Related links
108 Mbps Super Wireless ADSL Router - Official product page
My comments on previous 1.03.22 version
My comments on previous 1.02.19 version Read more on "Netgear DG834GT router - 1.03.23 firmware released"!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Forbes announces richest man in the world - Carlos Slim

Carlos Slim - Richest person in the world
Mexico's telecoms magnate, Carlos Slim Helú (age 70), has been announced by Forbes as the richest man in the world, overtaking americans Bill Gates (54) and Warren Buffett (79). It is the first time a person from outside the USA leads the rankings since 1994 when Japanese billionaire, Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, held the top spot.

Carlos Slim's net worth is estimated at US$53.5 billion! Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp holds the second spot with US$53 billion and Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, third spot with US$47 billion.

Top 10 richest people in the world (Source: Forbes)

2010: Top 10 richest people in the world

Patrice Motsepe - Richest person in South Africa
South Africa's mining magnate, Patrice Motsepe, and Johann Rupert & family are tied at #421 with a net worth of US$2.3 billion each.

Other interesting facts
  • There are 1011 billionaires in the world this year, up from 793 last year.
  • Asia's richest person is Mukesh Ambani from India, ranked 4th
  • Brazil's Eike Batista had the biggest increase in net worth from US$7.5bn to US$27bn
  • Richest woman on list is Christy Walton (Walmart) at #12

The Forbes rankings are based on information including stakes in publicly traded and privately held companies; real estate holdings; and investments in items such as art, gems and yachts; and compiled as of the close of U.S. markets on Feb. 12.

Related links
The World's Billionaires - Forbes
Slim Overtakes Gates, Buffett to Become Forbes Richest Person - BusinessWeek Read more on "Forbes announces richest man in the world - Carlos Slim"!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Make your extensions work in Firefox 3.6

Firefox logoFirefox is my default browser. I use quite a number of Firefox extensions (add-ons) to do certain functions and I've come to rely on them quite a bit. However, when you upgrade to a later version of the browser, some of these extensions are not compatible anymore.

The reason is simple, these extensions are created by external developers and they can only fix the code or release later versions of their extensions, after the newest browser version has been released. Also, some developers don't update their code at all.

Problem - Incompatible extensions

I recently upgraded from Firefox 3.5.7 to Firefox 3.6 and found that two of my extensions didn't work anymore, GMail Manager and Easy DragToGo.

There are two ways to deal with incompatible Firefox extensions:
  1. Set Firefox not to check the compatibility of the extension and ignore it altogether, or
  2. Modify the compatibility version of the individual add-on/extension
Disclaimer: Please note that if you make any changes, you do them at your own risk!

I chose option 2 (see second section on that page) because option 1 doesn't always work with all add-ons and since you're modifying the individual add-on with option 2, there is less risk.

In short, I basically changed the value of <em:maxversion> to 3.6.* in the install.rtf file of each add-on, re-installed the updated add-on, restarted the browser and everything worked again.

Related link
Why I use Firefox (and list of extensions I use) Read more on "Make your extensions work in Firefox 3.6"!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Biggest Powerball jackpot won - R91 million!

Last night one very lucky individual won the biggest lottery prize in South African history, R91 million and change! No, it wasn't me.

Powerball jackpot
[image source]

UPDATE 16 FEB - Winner claims prize

The winner of the R91m Powerball has been revealed as a 43-year old mother of two teenagers, from the Western Cape. She has requested to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons.

Related links
The R91 million winner has come forward
Powerball - New lottery game in South Africa
Powerball results
SA National Lottery Read more on "Biggest Powerball jackpot won - R91 million!"!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Springbok contracts revealed

Springbok emblem
The Springbok rugby players who signed contracts with SA Rugby have been announced. This group will probably form the nucleus of the squad who will defend South Africa's title at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Contracted Springboks

2-year contracts: John Smit (hooker), Bakkies Botha (lock), Victor Matfield (lock), Schalk Burger (loose forward), Juan Smith (loose forward), Pierre Spies (loose forward), Fourie du Preez (scrumhalf), Bryan Habana (wing), Jaque Fourie (centre), JP Pietersen (wing).

1-year contracts: Tendai Mtawarira (prop), Bismarck du Plessis (hooker), Andries Bekker (lock), Heinrich Brüssow (loose forward), Danie Rossouw (lock/loose forward), Ruan Pienaar (scrumhalf/utility), Morné Steyn (flyhalf), Wynand Olivier (centre), Adrian Jacobs (centre), Chiliboy Ralepelle (hooker) subject to a fitness test.

Overseas-based players

SA Rugby has a policy of not offering contracts to Springboks playing for clubs abroad but the following players could still feature in coach Peter de Villiers's plans for the 2011 RWC: Jean de Villiers (centre), CJ van der Linde (prop), BJ Botha (prop) and Frans Steyn (fullback). Read more on "Springbok contracts revealed"!

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Miramax closing down

I'm not a big fan of typical commercial Hollywood type movies because I love independent, art-house and foreign films. So it was quite disappointing to learn that Miramax, the movie studio that produced a lot of these type of films, will be shut down by Disney. Bad news!

Bob and Harvey Weinstein

Bob and Harvey Weinstein produced and/or distributed several of my favourite movies over the years. They left Miramax in 2005 but the studio still distributed great movies like No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood after that.

The Weinstein brothers launched the careers of directors like Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown) and Kevin Smith (Clerks). Other great movies were The Crying Game and Pedro Almodovar's Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! They are synonymous with independent movies and thrived on producing low-budget movies which brought great financial returns. The problem though is that they started producing big budget movies later on and their initial successful business model went out the window.

There are rumours that the Weinsteins want to buy the Miramax name back from Disney. Let's hope this is true because I definitely would like to see more of these movies being released to a wider audience under the brand that has done it so successfully before.


Miramax produced/distributed other favourites of mine like Trainspotting, My Left Foot, The Piano, Il Postino, Muriel's Wedding, Beautiful Girls, Swingers, Chasing Amy, Good Will Hunting, Life is Beautiful, Amelie. Here's the full list of films released by Miramax. Read more on "Miramax closing down"!

Friday, 29 January 2010

Thumbs up to Acer Support

Acer laptop
About a week ago my Acer laptop's keyboard started giving me problems. I would press a key and nothing happened. The problem was intermittent but happened more frequently over time.

I first did all the usual anti-virus scans and found nothing wrong. I then rebooted into BIOS and the problem persisted while moving around the menus, so that meant it was not a problem with the Windows OS, since the operating system has not loaded yet. So it could only be a hardware problem.

I contacted Acer Support in Johannesburg via email; they first checked if they had stock of the components for my model and the next day the fault was logged. The DVD writer also gave me hassles and stop burning DVD's a while ago, so I logged that too.


18 Jan: Contacted Acer Support via email
19 Jan: Received reply, said they had to check if they had components in stock first
20 Jan: Confirmed they did and fault was logged, received Case ID
21 Jan: Courier collected laptop in Cape Town and sent it to Johannesburg
28 Jan: Courier delivered laptop to me early morning

The keyboard and DVD writer was replaced as well as a plastic long strip which covers the internal speakers. Problem solved. I was without the laptop for five working days; so apart from two travel days they had the laptop for three days. I've dealt with Acer Support on two occasions and in both cases the experience was good. No hassles at all.

I'm just glad I had an extended warranty! Read more on "Thumbs up to Acer Support"!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Live event: Introducing the iPad - Apple's CEO Steve Jobs

Leo Laporte from Twit.tv covering the event - live video feed

Also see gdgt live for transcript and photos of the event.

Steve Jobs with the Apple iPad

Steve Jobs with the Apple iPad

Video: Apple iPad hands on

Related links
Full specs of the iPad - Apple
Apple's iPad: What you need to know - CNET Read more on "Live event: Introducing the iPad - Apple's CEO Steve Jobs"!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Car guards receive expensive Audi R8 as gift

Two car guards working at the Table Mountain Cable Car station in Cape Town was left stunned when a businessman approached them and gave them an Audi R8 car, valued at R1,4 million, as a gift! They thought he was joking but he later returned giving them the keys and paperwork.

The businessman said he had a dream to come to the mountain and told them they should use the car to do good deeds. The car guards have cut a slit in the bonnet of the car (yikes!) for messages and donations to be dropped in.

Police officers have stopped the two car guards assuming that the car was possibly stolen but the businessman has proved that he did indeed give them the car as a gift.

Audi R8

Have you ever seen the movie, Pay It Forward? Well, this story reminded me of that movie. There's still some good-natured people out there. This could well have been a big publicity stunt but since the businessman has remained anonymous, it appears to have been an act of kindness after all.

I must admit, I initially did question the validity of the story and then realised we seem to live in a world where negativity reigns supreme. Perhaps its time to change that.

Related link
Man gives Audi R8 as a tip Read more on "Car guards receive expensive Audi R8 as gift"!

Fatal shark attack in Fish Hoek

Great White shark
A man was killed on Tuesday after an attack by a Great White shark in Fish Hoek, outside Cape Town. I became aware of the attack after reading a message on Twitter, the social network: "Holy sh*t. We just saw a gigantic shark eat what looked like a person in front of our house ... That shark was huge. Like dinosaur huge". The message was posted by a resident in Fish Hoek who witnessed the attack from his home.

The giant shark attacked at an approximate two metre depth, which is considered rather shallow. There was an official warning issued earlier in the day by Cape Town's risk management centre since several sharks were spotted in the surrounding area. The beaches around the Cape Peninsula were closed after the incident but re-opened today after authorities were satisfied.

The last fatal shark attack at Fish Hoek was five years ago. Even though shark attacks are statistically quite uncommon, one should always be alert considering you're in their territory while swimming.

Here's a few things you can do to help reduce the risk of being attacked by a shark
  • Swim in groups
  • Use beaches where lifesavers and shark spotters are used
  • Stay on the landward side of wavebreakers
  • Don't go in more than waist-deep
  • Stay out of the water if mammals like whales or dolphins are spotted close to the beach
  • Stay out if fishermen with trawl nets are operating in the area

More safety tips: How to prevent a shark attack and what to do if it happens

Related links
Shark attack in water two-metres deep Read more on "Fatal shark attack in Fish Hoek"!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Broadband Bible for January 2010 released

Need help choosing an ADSL plan? Maybe this can help.

So my partner Craig and I have opened up 2010 with our official release of the The Broadband Bible, which is a 66 page pdf that compares ADSL and Wireless plans in South Africa. All in all, there are 35+ ISPs listed, and about 300+ different plans.
South Africa's confusing ADSL industry - Eve Dmochowska

Download the Broadband Bible (PDF) 892Kb Read more on "The Broadband Bible for January 2010 released"!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Burj Khalifa - Tallest building in the world

Burj Khalifa - Tallest building in the world
The tallest man-made structure ever built, the Burj Khalifa was inaugurated today. Since it's inception, the building was known as Burj Dubai but at the inauguration this evening it was renamed the Burj Khalifa in honour of the current President of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan. It was renamed since Sheikh Khalifa's emirate, Abu Dhabi, pumped billions of dollars into Dubai to help its neighbour out of financial crisis.

The Burj Khalifa stands at 818m (2684ft) and to put things in perspective, even if you put the Eiffel Tower on top of the 2nd tallest building, Taipei 101, it still wouldn't reach the height of Burj Khalifa!

It has 206 floors, excluding the basement. Aside from being the tallest building in the world, it also holds the following records:
  • Tallest free-standing structure in the world
  • Highest number of stories in the world
  • Highest occupied floor in the world
  • Highest outdoor observation deck in the world
  • Elevator with the longest travel distance in the world
  • Tallest service elevator in the world
Even if the spectacular skyscraper could eventually be considered a national icon in the UAE, there are a lot of expectations considering Dubai's recent debt-ridden status. Only time will tell whether it will be financially viable.

The structure is at the heart of Downtown Burj Dubai, a mega multi-purpose project which also hosts the world's largest shopping mall, the Dubai Mall with more than 1200 shops.

Burj Khalifa - Tallest man-made structure in the worldPhoto by Kuni Takahashi

The Burj Khalifa was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) architects and the primary builder was South Korean Samsung C&T, who also built the Taipei 101 and Petronas Twin Towers. Construction started in January 2004 and the total cost is estimated at about US$4,1 billion. The building includes an Armani hotel, about 1000 apartments, small offices and observatories.

Video: Burj Khalifa - World's tallest building

Video: A virtual representation of how the Burj Khalifa would measure up if it was located in other famous cities around the world

(If this video does not load, click here to see it)

Video: Burj Khalifa opens - fireworks display

Burj Khalifa at night

Burj Khalifa at night

Related links
The Burj Dubai: New world's tallest building shows that nothing succeeds like excess - Chicago Tribune
Burj Dubai renamed as Burj Khalifa Read more on "Burj Khalifa - Tallest building in the world"!

Friday, 1 January 2010

Somali pirates still in control

Somali pirates are now more rampant than ever. Pirate attacks almost doubled in 2009 compared to 2008, even though the naval forces of several countries have been deployed in the area.

Ransom paid

Today it was reported that a ransom of US$4 million was paid to pirates to release a Chinese cargo ship and its 25 sailors. With such high ransom money being paid, it unfortunately triggers more pirate attacks in the area. It's easy money. The pirates have even set up a "Pirate Stock Exchange" in Somalia where people can contribute weapons or any other supplies to assist the pirates and if they complete a successful hijack of a ship, the returns can be substantial. Yes, it sounds like something out of a movie, but it's not.

Gulf of Aden

The European Union Naval Force were the first (2008) to patrol the Gulf of Aden to prevent cargo ships from being attacked by the pirates. Naval forces from Britain, India, Iran, USA, France, China and other countries have since joined the fight against the pirates but since they have to cover such a vast area, their impact has unfortunately been less successful than expected. Ironically, since the naval forces of these countries have been working together with a common goal, it has led to an improvement of diplomatic relations between these countries. A big hurdle the warships face is that they usually don't have jurisdiction to try the pirates, once caught. Laws for modern piracy are sketchy at best.

Somali pirates

Earlier this year the deadline for the launch of the SEACOM undersea cable (to provide more bandwidth to countries on the east coast of Africa) was extended to accommodate extra measures that had to be taken to prevent pirates from disrupting the laying of the cable.

Piracy off the coast of Somalia has become a weekly occurrence and according to the EU Naval Force, Somali pirates are now holding eight vessels and 213 crew members, at the time of writing.

I'm really surprised that piracy on our oceans is still prevalent in the 21st century!

Related links
Piracy in Somalia
Pirate stock exchange opens in Somalia
History of piracy Read more on "Somali pirates still in control"!

2010 is here!

May you all have a prosperous 2010!

The highlight for South Africa should undoubtedly be the 2010 FIFA World Cup held in June. I'm really looking forward to it, considering it's one of the biggest sporting events in the world and the first time it will be hosted in Africa.

The nerd in me is sincerely hoping that SA broadband prices dramatically fall through the floor this year. We can only hope. Read more on "2010 is here!"!
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