Thursday, December 31, 2009

26C3 – Here be dragons

Back in early October a tweet by someone I follow alerted me to the fact that the deadline for submissions to the 26th Chaos Communication Congress was less than 48 hours away. In a lunch break I whipped up a quick proposal for a lecture called “After the Hype – The current state of One Laptop per Child and Sugar Labs”. A couple of weeks later I learned that my submission had been accepted.

So just like last year I spent the time between Christmas and New Year’s having a great time hanging out at 26C3. For those not familiar with the Chaos Communication Congress: it’s a yearly event organized by the famous Chaos Computer Club (Wikipedia entry) that brings together hackers, researchers, artists and many other interesting people.

I saw a ton of great lectures, got introduced to many interesting projects and learned about research into the scary security issues of GSM and the mobile phone eco-system in general. But almost more importantly I met tons of awesome people, some of which I had known previously but hadn’t seen in many months and others which were strangers only a few days ago.

It’s hard to describe the atmosphere at 26C3 to people who have never been to such an event. Things that come to mind when I think of it are energy, pure awesomeness, liberation, deep thought, an urge to understand, thinking outside the box, challenges, etc. (Oh and it’s also hard to think of 26C3 without being reminded of the perpetual sound of Club Mate bottles falling over;-) To me personally 26C3 is definitely one of the coolest spaces I’ve been to in 2009.

One thing that was also great is that all the talks were streamed over the Internet so even people who couldn’t attend the congress in person or simply didn’t make it into the often packed lecture halls could watch them. Additionally the videos are being made available for download, you can find more details and the download links here.

Two talks which I consider to be absolute must-sees are:

I saw many other great talks and more that I couldn’t attend in-person but hope to watch over the coming days and weeks.

As for my own talk I have to say that I was quite happy with it even though I literally only finished the slides 10 minutes before I went on-stage. The feedback I got after the talk - in-person, via Twitter and via the 26C3 Web site – was also very encouraging. Of course after a quick look over the recording of my talk I found a number of areas I should definitely improve on in the future but I guess it’s always an iterative and evolutionary process. If you’re interested in watching After the Hype – The current state of One Laptop per Child and Sugar Labs you can do so by downloading the video (~700MB), the slides are available for download here.

In the end I want to thank all of the people who made 26C3 happen, especially the organizers, angels and volunteers behind the scenes. Here’s to you for an awesome event!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sendung ohne Namen - Kopenhagen

Bin auf Twitter dank @smeidu über dieses wirklich genial gemachte Video von Greenpeace Österreich gestolpert um die 1.000.000 Taten für den Klimaschutz Kampagne zu unterstützen:

Friday, November 20, 2009

52 hours on the train within 6 days

As I’m typing these lines I’m sitting on a train going through Denmark at 200km/h on its way from Copenhagen to Hamburg. When I arrive in Hamburg I’ll have a couple of hours to wander through the city (which I had previously visited in 2002) before the final leg of my journey will take me back to Vienna where I’ll arrive on Thursday morning.

The reason why I went up north was that I participated in a very interesting workshop on “ICT and Climate Change” held at the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications in Stockholm on Monday. The workshop brought together about a dozen researchers and experts from across Europe to present their work, discuss various aspects within the larger context of ICT and climate change and suggest areas and topics which require further research.

(c) Serious Games Institute (www.seriousgamesinstitute.co.uk) Yours truly during his talk

Since I had never been that far north I scheduled my trains so that I could spend a couple of hours in Copenhagen on the way to/from Stockholm, another couple of hours in Hamburg and an extra day in Stockholm.

So Tuesday was spent exploring the Swedish capital which I found to be a really nice city. Especially Gamla Stan (the Old Town) and Söderalm are great places to wander around or just hang out.

I also liked Copenhagen quite a lot even though I only had 2x ~4 hours there to more or less randomly walk around the city centre.

As ever so often Wikitravel turned out to be an excellent and very useful guide when it came to exploring these cities. Especially since I had saved pdf versions of the Stockholm and Copenhagen entries onto my XO-1 which really makes for an excellent digital companion when exploring cities.

The train rides themselves were all really quite relaxing even though it sounded like an insane undertaking when I bought the tickets. I simply enjoy travelling on trains a lot and still think it’s the nicest (but of course not necessarily the most convenient or time-/cost-efficient) way to get around.

Once I’m back in Vienna I’ll pretty much stay put there until Christmas. The only exception is a short half-day trip to Salzburg next Tuesday where I’ve been invited to give a guest-lecture about OLPC at Salzburg University.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mobile phone contracts for modern nomads?

While I had previously mentioned that I was looking for a new mobile phone I had totally ignored the fact that I would of course also have to think about which contract to get. At the moment I’m signed up with T-Mobile Austria where my 2-year contract is soon coming to an end. In general I’m quite happy with it though by today’s standards I’m probably slightly overpaying for the service I’m getting, especially considering I only have 100MB of data per month at my disposal.

Now the thing is that getting a new phone would also necessitate a new contract since (a) phones are heavily subsidized when you get a new contract and (b) 100MB per month certainly won’t be enough with my next phone (regardless of which model it will end up being).

However the issue I’m running into is the 2-year minimum contract. Both in 2008 and 2009 I spent several months living and working abroad where my Austrian phone was of very limited use to me. So basically out of the 22 months of my current contract I’ve spent 7 months paying my monthly fee without really using the service. That’s ~€250 literally going down the drain…

Now while I don’t have any fixed plans yet for the next 12 to 18 months I’m again very likely to spend at least half a year living abroad again. And no, I’m not particularly keen on donating another €250 to T-Mobile Austria.

Thinking about this issue for a bit I realized that my newspaper subscription has been very flexible when it comes to me being abroad. All I have to do is send a quick note telling them how long they should stop sending me the paper, regardless of whether it’s for three days or three months. It’s an on-demand service and that’s something that I really appreciate.

Of course T-Mobile Austria isn’t nearly as forthcoming and the nice call-center lady I spoke to basically said that people in my situation were out of luck. I mean seriously, how hard can it be for them to put my contract on hold for x-months, maybe charging me a small one-time or monthly fee for the service, and then simply let me continue the contract upon my return? Companies who are in the dead tree business can do this, why can’t businesses dealing with modern ICT offer a similar service?

At the end of the day looking at this situation really makes me feel like a 21st-century nomad stuck in the dark ages…

Monday, September 28, 2009

To iPhone 3GS or not to iPhone 3GS

I somehow managed to lose my mobile phone while in Nepal so I’m not having to deal with something I had hoped to be able to avoid until early 2010: Having to get a new mobile phone.

While my previous phone, a Nokia 6120, was far from perfect it got the job done and combined with my iPod touch (1st gen) I was quite happy with my mobile communication devices. However a lot has happened since I bought the 6120 in early 2008 so now I can’t but consider buying an iPhone 3GS even though I’ve been known to rant against the iPhone, iTunes, Apple, closed systems, etc. in the past.

One thing that surprised me a bit is how limited the alternatives to the iPhone are when it comes to high-end phones. I do generally keep tabs on what’s happening in the mobile phone markets but had still expected to find some hidden germ that I hadn’t heard of before. So based on my requirements (with voice, text messages, e-mail, Web browsing and Twitter representing 99% of what I do with my mobile devices) I’m currently looking at the following options:

Apple iPhone 3GS (16GB): Can’t say much more than that this is my preferred choice at the moment even though most of my previously mentioned rant reasons still hold true. The 3GS is simply an amazing product even though there are some details that I’m not too fond of. One thing I’m really going to miss compared to my 6120 is that unlocking the screen will leave me looking at my app home screen whereas I’d much prefer to see upcoming appointments, to-dos, etc. and similar information as presented on more business orientated Symbian S60 and Blackberry phones. However at the price €150 I’d pay for the 3GS with 16GB might simply prove too hard to refuse.

Blackberry Bold: Had I lost my phone 6 months ago I wouldn’t have hesitated and gotten the Blackberry Bold. I really like it’s design and keyboard and the software seems solid enough. However now I can’t help but feel that it’s lacking the application infrastructure that make Android devices and iPhones such interesting platforms in the mid- to long-term.

Nokia E75: I hadn’t paid much attention to what Nokia was up to in the smartphone segment lately but did remember that I found the E75’s form factor to be quite enticing. After reading some reviews it seems to be a really solid smartphone that could probably fulfill 95% of my requirements with ease. The one thing that is a big letdown though is the small screen size.

Nokia N900: Now this one device that I’m seriously interested in, especially after reading these hands-on comments. While I haven’t used an N900 in person Nokia seems to have gotten a lot of things right with this device, both on the hardware and software side of things. While it remains to be seen how the software ecosystem evolves compared to the Apple and Android competition I’m confident that we’ll see many interesting Maemo applications appear in the next 6 to 12 months. The one thing that kills this choice for me is the price of >€500 and the fact that it’s not offered by any Austrian carriers at the moment (and I’m not holding my breath for that to happen anytime soon).

T-Mobile G2 (aka HTC Hero): This is proving to be the hardest competitor for the iPhone 3GS and I’m quite tempted to go with the G2. I’m really impressed with what HTC did with the software and in many ways the G2 and related ecosystem contains less restrictions than fruitland. Subsequently I also believe that over the course of the next 6 to 12 months there’s a higher chance of seeing innovative apps (mostly thinking of Augmented Reality stuff here) on Android rather than the iPhone. With this and similar arguments the G2 appeals more to my geek side whereas the iPhone 3GS is better at pleasing the customer in me (who wants something that works). However after reading half a dozen reviews I can’t help but be afraid that the G2’s hardware is simply too underpowered to be a reliable platform 18 months down the road (which is the timeframe for my next mobile phone upgrade) which is quite a downside.

It’s with these thoughts in my head that I’ll make my way to the T-Mobile store in just a bit… I’ll of course keep you posted on my decision.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My last 24 hours in Kathmandu

I can’t believe it’s already been 3 months since I posted that I was on my way to Nepal. Now it’s Friday afternoon of my last day of work here at OLE Nepal and in a bit more than 24 hours I’ll get on my plane to head home to Vienna via Doha.

It’s all a bit crazy at the moment and this last week since my return from trekking (which I’ve also still gotta blog about) has gone by unbelievably quickly. After arriving back in Kathmandu on Sunday evening we decided to indulge in civilization by going for dinner at the awesome 1905 restaurant.

On Monday we spent some time hanging out with our trekking guide and his family who had kindly invited us to their house for lunch. Afterwards we went to see the Swayambhu stupa which is quite an impressive sight and offers great views over the city. In the evening we had great Thai dinner at Yin Yang in Thamel followed by some beers at one of my favorite bars, De La Soul.

On Tuesday we still hung out in Kathmandu’s center for a bit before I dropped off my visiting Austrian friend at the airport. The evening was spent hanging out with some friends on a nice terrace overlooking Kathmandu.

Wednesday I went back to work and then to my last Sanepa poker-night in the evening and yesterday we had a great OLE Nepal dinner-party to celebrate the Dashain festival.

Today I was woken up by a call from Pablo Flores of Project Ceibal fame who arrived in Kathmandu in the early morning. After picking him up I spent several hours finishing up various remaining work tasks and in the afternoon we had an interesting meeting with him to discuss a broad variety of topics.

Now the plan for the remaining 24 hours here in Nepal is to have dinner with some friends at Bhumi in Lazimpat before heading to Thamel for drinks. Depending on how long we stay out I then might try and attend some of the animal sacrifices happening tomorrow morning. In the afternoon I’ll be going to my last Hash Run before then directly heading to the airport to make my way home…

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Notes from a Nepali deployment

As previously mentioned I unfortunately haven’t been too great when it comes to blogging about my experiences here in Nepal. The one thing I did  manage to write up are some of my impressions from a visit at two schools here in the Kathmandu Valley where students in grades 2, 3 and 6 are using XOs. The two-part article was published on olpcnews in early September, let me know what you think about it:

Notes from a Nepali deployment, Part I: Updating

Notes from a Nepali deployment, Part II: Challenges

OLPC Austria meetups in autumn

After the summer break OLPC Austria is going to restart its monthly public meetups at the Museumsquartier in Wien in October. Apart from the normal socializing component this time ‘round we have organized a series of presentations that will look at the OLPC project from a global perspective and present the current state of affairs in various countries.

For that purpose presentations about the projects in Nepal (October 3), Peru (November 7) and Graz (December 5) will take place as part of our public meetings each first Saturday in the month, always starting at 3PM at Museumsquartier Quartier 21, Room D.

I’ll of course report on these meetups as we go along and might even try to set up some live streaming of the presentations. But most importantly I hope to see you there in this thing called meatspace! :-)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Trekking

Just a quick note to say that I’m off to do some trekking in the Langtang valley region (north of Kathmandu) for the next 11 days. Needless to say I’m seriously excited! :-)

All of today was spent organizing things like the bus tickets, national park entries, figuring out the route, buying some appropriate clothes, etc. As always with these things they all took longer than expected but now I’m sure we’re well prepared for what’s ahead.

Things will get started tomorrow morning at around 7AM when we get on a 7~9 hour bus ride that will take us up north. The first day of walking will be Friday and we should arrive at Kyanjin Gompa, which will be our base, on Sunday evening. From there we plan to do one or two day-trips, of course depending on how well how things go with the walking and the altitude (Kyanjin Gompa lies on ~3800m above sea-level and one of the peaks we’d maybe like to tackle is ~4900m).

Well, I better turn off the laptop and get some sleep, seeing that the alarm clock will go off in roughly 4 1/2 hours…

Will report back in case I stumble across an Internet café (haha) or upon my scheduled return to Kathmandu in 11 days.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Blogging about Karma

Admittedly I haven’t done too great a job in keeping the blog updated with my impressions from my time here in Nepal. Looking back at the archives the entries have been mostly limited to links to my Flickr album.

(Though I am somewhat proud that I’m at least taking the time to go through all the photos as soon as I get home from taking them to compile best of selections. There’s still several thousand photos from my previous trips in China/Mongolia/Russia and USA/Canada which I haven’t even looked at!)

Anyway, one of the topics which I haven’t really talked about here is the work I’ve been doing as part of my volunteering gig at OLE Nepal. The project I’ve been spending most of my time on is Karma (Web site / entry on wiki.sugarlabs.org) which was supported by Google as part of their Summer of Code program.

In a nutshell the goal of the Karma project is to provide an easy-to-use framework for interactive learning activities based on HTML 5 and Javascript. I’ve been mostly working on several issues related to the user interface and I’ve documented some of my work over on the Karma blog:

Since this is the first time that I’m really working with HTML, CSS and Javascript things take a little longer to get done but I’m really learning a lot and having a great time doing it. Plus being able to collaborate with two awesome fellows, Bryan and Felipe, makes the project all that more more enjoyable, even those weekly IRC meetings at 8AM on Tuesdays;-)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

There’s lots of things I miss…

…and living here in Kathmandu on September 27 will definitely be one of them.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

330° panorama from the OLE Nepal offices

Admittedly I’ve been quite obsessed with panorama photos lately mainly thanks to Microsoft Research's awesome Image Composite Editor. So today I took my camera to work and sneaked up on the roof in the morning while everyone else was in a meeting;-)

I have to say that I’m really quite happy with the resulting 330° panorama! I’ve included a small version of it below but admittedly it doesn’t really do the whole scene justice so I’d recommend you to look at the full-size (8770 x 1180 pixel, 3MB) shot for an impression of the environment around our office.

On a related side-note I took two more photos today which worked out quite well thanks to the awesome late-afternoon / early-evening light:

View from the office

The hill across the Ring Road at 6PM

Hope you like ‘em!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kathmandu photos

After being here for almost 8 weeks I finally managed to spend an afternoon exploring the greater area around Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. Until today my exposure of Kathmandu had been mostly limited to Thamel which happens to be the part of town were many restaurants, bars and most of Kathmandu’s night-life can be found. Anyway, today I had a great time wandering through the city with Daniel and Vikki, hanging out on Durbar Square, climbing up the Bhimsen Tower, enjoying delicious lunch at a tiny Korean restaurant and dinner at OR2K and – I’ve never been more surprised – actually finding a quiet street in Kathmandu. To cut a long story short: I had a great day!

Not surprisingly I took a ridiculous amount of photos and I now spent the past 3 hours going through them, picking the best ones and subsequently tagging and uploading them to the Kathmandu album on Flickr.

Friday, August 28, 2009

New York City in Photos

I recently stumbled across a great ongoing series of photographic impressions of New York City by Austrian radio station FM4’s Christian Lehner. It’s quite possibly the most interesting photo series I’ve seen in quite awhile and really makes me want to go back to visit New York again.

Who’s That Guy

Here’s a list of all the collections published so far:

(Do note that while the introductory text is in German the photos all have accompanying English titles, plus the images really do speak for themselves.)

You can find a list of other articles by Christian Lehner here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Photos of the Teej festival in Patan

I spent the afternoon hanging out on Patan’s Durbar Square where I enjoyed observing the Teej festivities going on there. I took quite a lot of photos and have uploaded a small best of selection to Flickr – you can find them in the Teej Festival album.

I also took a short video of the festivities which you can find here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Technology Review’s TR35 2009

Every year since 1999 the MIT’s Technology Review selects 35 Young Innovators Under 35 whose work the magazines editors consider to be exciting and potentially world changing. Needless to say that the list always makes for a great and very inspiring read. This year is no exception and after reading through all the entries here’s a list of the 10 research efforts I find to be the most interesting:

Jeffrey Bigham (28) – efforts to enable blind people to use the Internet
Adam Dunkels (31) – Honey, I Shrunk the Internet Protocol
Nathan Eagle (32) – innovative use of mobile phones
José Gómez-Márquez (32) [Humanitarian of the Year] – inventing low-cost and appropriate tools to improve health especially in developing nations
Jeffrey Heer (30) – Protovis visualization toolkit
Anat Levin (31) – interesting use of digital cameras
Pranav Mistry (28) – Sixth Sense wearable computing project (if you haven’t seen it yet then you should really watch the TED talk on the project)
Aydogan Ozcan (30) – interesting efforts to replace microscrope lenses with a combination of inexpensive chips and software
Vik Singh (24!) – allowing third parties to make us of Yahoo’s search technology
Jaime Teevan (32) – improving search results by drawing on other available information

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Video on the “Social Media Revolution”

Disclaimer: I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of buzzwords such as social media. Additionally here’s not many words that are as over utilized when it comes to technology as revolution. However I do have to admit that this video is very nicely done and also quite thought provoking. Enjoy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bhaktapur photos now on Flickr

On Sunday I went to Bhaktapur, the third city here in the Kathmandu Valley (besides Kathmandu and Patan). While the trip back and forth was amazingly bumpy and slow it was well worth it as the city is absolutely stunning! So while I’m quite happy with some of the photos I took they simply don’t come close to doing the squares and streets there justice.

Anyway, you can find a selection of photos in the Bhaktapur album and for the lazy ones I’m including two panorama shots that I’m particularly fond of:

180° Panorama of Bhaktapur's Durbar Square

Panorama of Bhaktapur's Taumadhi Tole square

Friday, August 14, 2009

Wahlwerbespot der Piratenpartei

Die Piratenpartei Sachen-Anhalt hat für die anstehende Bundestagswahl 2009 diesen wirklich ausgezeichneten Wahlwerbespot produziert:

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Photos from Hash Run 1607

I just uploaded some photos from this weekend’s awesome but seriously exhausting (well, at least when you’re not feeling too great to begin with) Hash Run 1607. You can find the photos here.

Next weekend I hope to bring my video camera along which could make for a nice YouTube video:-)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Short film: “The Bill”

Someone mentioned this short film on Twitter the other day and today I finally had a chance to watch it. Definitely very nicely done and some good food for thought…

Sunday, August 2, 2009

More photos on Flickr

I’ve just added a bunch of photos taken this weekend to the Nepal 2009 collection on Flickr.

The first set are some impressions from Run 1606 of the Himalayan Hash House Harriers (“a drinking club with a running problem” – see the corresponding Wikipedia entry for more information on the Hash House Harriers).

I’ve also added some more photos of Patan which I took during a nice 3 hour walk through the city earlier today. You can find them in the Patan set I started 2 weeks ago.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Different country, different lifestyle

One of the things that always strikes me when spending some extended period in another country is how quickly one’s lifestyle changes and adapts to the local environment. Interestingly this includes many areas of life such as sleep patterns, nutrition, communication, etc. which are normally seen as being very ingrained and hard to change.

Anyway, below is a list of areas where I consider my Vienna and Kathmandu lives to be (radically) different.

Sleep: Back home I generally average between 4.5 and 6 hours of sleep per night during the week. Here in Nepal I normally manage to get 6 to 7 hours of sleep which really does make quite a difference in terms of how quickly I manage to get out of bed in the morning.

Food: While I could write a whole weekly column just on the topic of food I’m going to keep it short by saying that my diet here is radically different. Instead of starting into my day with a huge cup of black tea, bread with whatever the fridge offers and yoghurt my Nepali breakfast consists of bottled water and some crackers, a chocolate bar or (if we’ve been to the awesome local German bakery down the street the day before) some croissants or something. Lunch at the office is always daal bhaat (Nepali national meal which consists of rice with various vegetables with quite a bit of curry and chilies) which is served at 11:30AM. In Vienna on the other hand I tend to go out for lunch at 12:30PM or 1PM. Sometimes I buy a snack at the supermarket but most often I eat at university or one of the many eateries close to home or work. In the evenings I almost always eat at home whereas here we always go out to eat something.

Caffeine: I don’t think my caffeine intake has ever been this low in the past 6 years or so. While I’m not much of a coffee drinker - I normally might have 3 or 4 cups a week (and twice that during crunch-periods) - I do drink quite a lot of black tea, ice tea and Coca Cola back home. Around here I only drink two small cups of Chya (tea with milk and some sort of spices) a day and the occasional glass of Coca Cola. I guess it’s really the increased amount of sleep that allows me to stay productive without my regular caffeine fix.

Mobile phone: While I’m not reachable on my mobile phone 24/7 (I turn it off when I sleep) it certainly is a key communication tool for me to stay in touch with family, friends and colleagues. I also use it extensively to check my e-mails when I’m out and about and to manage my schedule, to-do lists and notes. However since my Austrian phone doesn’t work here I bought a cheap €20 Nokia phone (which comes with a very useful flashlight!) and got a local SIM last week. Now except for my daily use of that flashlight and the alarm clock I’ve maybe made and received less than half a dozen short phone calls. Which is interesting because that’s also the way I used my first mobile phone (in late 2001) before these things became mandatory and ubiquitous.

iPod touch: There’s hardly a waking hour in Austria when I don’t have my iPod touch on me or at least within an arm’s length of wherever I’m sitting. I use it to listen to podcasts from/to work or when riding the metro, check  my e-mails and tweets all throughout the day, surf the Web while sitting in lectures or cafés, etc. So I definitely use it *a lot*. In Nepal on the other hand I’ve yet to use the iPod even once. The walk to work is too short to merit listening to a podcast, when I’m out in the evenings or on weekends I prefer to take in the environment around me rather than listen to music and at home I now actually spend more time reading books and articles instead of keeping constant tabs on what’s going on in the depths of the Internet.

Books: As mentioned both above and in a previously blog entry I tend to be quite bad when it comes to reading books while I’m Vienna. However here I’ve already read two books in the 3 weeks since I arrived.

Language: Even when I’m in Austria I tend to spend a lot of time reading, writing and listening to things in English which naturally also leads to quite  a bit of my thinking seemingly being in English. However since I got here I’ve barely written a dozen German e-mails and, what’s more important, have maybe spent a total of 30min talking in German with various people. This is certainly quite an interesting experience which I haven’t really had since my exchange year in Peru in 2000-2001.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Barry Eisler – Killing Rain

One of the things I’m generally pretty bad at when I’m at home in Vienna is reading books. While I have half a dozen books sitting on the shelf right next to my bed there never seem to be enough in the hours in the day to actually open and read them. I didn’t even manage to read more than 20 pages in my Lonely Planet Nepal guide before getting on the plane even though the book was actually lying next to my cushion for several weeks.

Anyway, when I’m travelling or just generally abroad I’m normally quite good when it comes to reading and over the last few days I had quite a good time with Barry Eisler’s Killing Rain. In general it’s hardly more than your average assassin thriller with relatively predictable characters, twists and turns. However the lively and detailed descriptions of the various Asian capitals the story takes place in made it a really enjoyable read. Plus it’s a classic page-turner and I really couldn't put it down. (In both of these regards it also reminded me of William Gibson’s Patter Recognition which I had read some months ago.)

So if you’re looking for an enjoyable and not-too-deep distraction I can certainly recommend this book.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

1st school visit

Today I visited two schools in the greater Kathmandu area where OLE Nepal has distributed a total of ~180 XO-1 laptops. You can expect a full report over the coming days and for now I’m leaving you with this photo.

100_1124_Small

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Each to their own (wave)

Earlier today I stumbled across an interesting article over on mashable.com. In it the author, Ben Parr, asks: Google Wave: Is the World Ready?

(In case you haven’t heard about Google Wave [wikipedia entry]: It’s a soon to be launched service that aims to combine e-mail, instant messaging, social networking and wiki-like features into a single coherent package. If I remember correctly one of the tag lines at its introduction was something along the lines of: what e-mail would look like if it were invented today)

The article makes some good points about Google Wave breaking many of the currently established online communication patters which might not necessarily fly with many users. Subsequently the author draws the conclusion that Google Wave will either succeed spectacularly or completely bomb.

In my mind this is somewhat of an odd statement to make given that on the Internet many forms of communication are used in parallel. I for example use e-mail, blogging, twitter, forums, wikis, IRC, (to a lesser degree these days) instant messaging and (very seldomly) Facebook. All of these communication tools have their specific up- and downsides, yet at the end of the day I use all of them.

Now even if Google Wave turns out to be the best thing since sliced bread it won’t completely replace all of these other tools. Initially it would probably find a niche (e.g. communicating with my more geeky friends and university colleagues) and then slowly start taking over some of the other communication tasks. However each technology / platform has its set of advantages which will result in it being used.

I therefore view Google Wave as an additional offer that, based on what I’ve seen so far, could be quite attractive for many purposes. But it won’t take over as my single way of communication and I believe the majority of the other 1.5 billion using the Internet today will feel the same way. Hence Google Wave will probably neither be a total failure nor an astounding success but rather something in between (like most other technologies).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Impressions from Durbar Square, Patan

I’ve just finished uploading a small best of selection from the photos I took while hanging out at Durbar Square in Patan [Google Maps] on Saturday. Hope you like them!

My Nepal 2009 album on Flickr.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Signing contracts in Nepal

Today I finally managed to drag myself to a store an get a SIM card and mobile phone since only being reachable when I was online got a bit tiresome in terms of arranging meetings with people. (On a side note: I’m really quite unhappy that my regular Austrian phone is SIM locked and that the fine folks over at T-Mobile Austria don’t even have a roaming partner here in Nepal!)

Anyway, since yesterday’s attempt to get connected failed as I needed my passport and a photo (both of which I didn’t have on me) I went back there today and thought that things should go smoothly. However as it turns out one copy of my password, what the staff had told me yesterday, wasn’t enough so one of the guys working in the shop accompanied me to a copy-shop where we got another copy. Returning to the store it turns out that I’d also need a copy of my visa which they had of course forgotten to mention earlier…

However the real fun began once I started to fill out the forms in order to get my SIM card. Not being all that enthusiastic when it comes to forms to begin with I obviously ended up not filling in some of the information. So when the shop clerk subsequently inquired about my father’s name I was slightly surprised to say the least. It was only after a short chuckle on my part which was quickly ended by a very serious look by the clerk that I realized that she was serious. And to top it off the form also asked for my grandfather’s name, luckily I managed to resist the temptation to ask whether they wanted the one from my father’s side or mother’s side.

The next challenge presented itself when they asked me where I lived. Since there basically are no addresses here in Nepal you normally describe you location relative to the nearest chowk (a street corner in most cases). However I quickly realized that trying to describe where I lived was a pretty pointless endeavor. I do find my way walking around the neighborhood and manage to tell cab drivers where to go. But explaining to someone who speaks very broken English where exactly you live without actually walking or driving along the road is beyond my capabilities. So after some deliberation by the shop clerks the field, which understandably covers a third of a page, remained empty.

Next up I was asked to sign the contract at three different spots, funnily enough one signature was required to confirm the information of where I lived. Thinking I was done it took me awhile to realize that the inkpads suddenly laying on the table were waiting for me. So I confirmed the contract with fingerprints from my left and right thumb (US immigration anyone?). And just when I thought everything was over I was again asked to sign something, this time the photo which was attached to the application form.

So 30min after I walked into the store I left it being 1000 Rupees poorer, having thumbs with blue ink that probably won’t come off for a few days but proudly owning a SIM card.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why this Friday evening is different than others

I’m in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Okay, that one was too easy.)

I don’t usually crash invitation-only garden parties  where all drinks and food (and amazing food that is) are free (with neither having an invitation nor an excuse for leaving early that is).

I don’t usually remember the awesome BBQ that we had in Washington, D.C. in early June 2008.

I don’t usually meet a bunch of people where 80% of them work for one NGO or another.

I don’t usually meet people who will work in Afghanistan for extended periods of time.

I don’t usually have a girl order a drink for me (unless it’s well past the official - and even unofficial - closing time and she knows the bar staff really well).

I don’t usually happen to bump into the main country correspondent for a major international news publication while hanging out at a random bar.

I don’t usually get stopped by police and military police on my cab ride home from going out.

I don’t usually come home after an evening out in town and think it’s interesting enough to merit a blog post;-)

First photos going up on Flickr…

I just uploaded a handful of photos that I took this morning to my new Nepal 2009 album on Flickr. So far the album is limited to some initial impressions from home and work but I hope to go out and get some touristy shots (especially at the gorgeous Durbar Square in Patan) over the weekend.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thoughts on Educational Content Management

I posted some thoughts on Educational Content Management, which is one of the areas which I’m working on right now, over on the OLE Nepal blog:

One of the tasks that I’ll be working on during my brief stint here in Nepal is researching and (hopefully) implementing a way to organize all the different media objects produced by OLE Nepal as basis for their E-Paath learning activities. Currently we are talking about several thousand images, sounds, texts and videos but it’s not hard to imagine their repository containing hundred thousand or more artefacts in the not-too-distant future. Apart from the specific OLE Nepal use-case I also believe that even larger content repositories have to be a core consideration for both the larger OLPC and SugarLabs efforts.

You can find the complete blog entry here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

“Ethical living”

I’m currently reading A Life Stripped Bare: My Year Trying to Live Ethically by The Guardian journalist Leo Hickman. The title basically says what it’s all about and while I’m only on page 60 or so I’m certainly finding it an interesting read.

Similarly an upcoming documentary will focus on the efforts of Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man to live in New York City with his wife and daughter without having any net impact on the environment. Having seen the trailer I’ll definitely try and see the film (if it even hits the Austrian cinemas that is).

Both efforts are quite obviously insane on oh-so-many levels but I do think they provide some good food-for-thought and inspiration to start thinking about your own way of life and impact on the environment.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Random observations after 6 days in Nepal

Kathmandu could easily be called NGOville as the number of NGOs in this city is simply insane. Especially the part of town where I live (near Sanepa Chowk) hosts what must be at least two dozen NGOs, ranging from UN organizations to World Vision and GTZ.

Traffic here is just insanely chaotic. And watching it is an experience in itself.

There are basically no street names here in Kathmandu. Directions are given based on the closest chowk which, if I understood it correctly, is normally a major street crossing or market area.

Nepalis eat fast, seriously fast. We are served lunch at work and people are normally done with the second plate right when I’m about half-way through my first one.

Building construction here basically seems to be done without the use of machinery. There are two major construction sites on my way to work and the only machine I’ve seen on both sites is a concrete mixer.

If what the guy I met on the weekend told me was true then I actually spoke to the person who made F1 the standard help-key on PCs.

The streets and newspapers are full of advertisements for (pre-)schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions. One of them even boasts to be connected with the University of Applied Sciences in Salzburg, Austria.

Apparently Sunday is the start of the week around here. Which also means that children have to go to school on Sundays. And in many schools their only time off is Saturday afternoon.

It’s slightly odd to live in a house where a guard is on-site 24/7.

This past weekend must have been one of the most relaxing ones I’ve had in quite awhile.

I originally wanted to mention something about my new disconnected life-style here in Nepal (with only 8 hours of Internet access while I’m at work and not owning a mobile phone) but seeing how I just got connected to the Internet here at home I’ll have to revisit my thoughts on this topics.

An important point of the recently announced Nepali budget for the next year are infrastructure projects such as the road network. Apparently 3 districts are still not connected to the national road network.

Hopefully I’ll have time for a more structured post next week…

Monday, July 6, 2009

Going to Nepal…

YES, I’m back on the road! :-)

I’m typing these lines as I’m making use of a kiosk with free WiFi and charging here at Doha International Airport while waiting for my flight to Kathmandu.

I’ll be in Nepal until the end of September, hanging out with my friends of OLE Nepal and soon to be joined by the one and only Daniel Drake.

However before I get too carried away getting my online fix (and potentially missing my plane like at PDX last year;-) I’ll rather head to my gate and see that I keep this blog updated over the coming weeks and months.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

TED: Dan Ariely asks “Are we in control of our own decisions?”

I just watched another TED video since it came up during a discussion at university today. Here’s the summary:

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational, uses classic visual illusions and his own counterintuitive (and sometimes shocking) research findings to show how we're not as rational as we think when we make decisions.

Dan Ariely’s other talk on our buggy moral code is also well worth watching!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Radio Ö1 piece on OLPC

As previously mentioned I was interviewed by Austrian radio station Ö1 about OLPC last week. The piece aired today and it’s now available via the Digitales Leben podcast feed.

Science News Cycle [phdcomics.com]

I recently happen to re-discover phdcomics.com which I hadn’t read in quite some time. Among the many awesome comics this one strikes me as being one of the funniest. Enjoy!

If research papers had a comment section is also pretty damn good!

FS Misik Folge 82

Ich bin vor einigen Monaten über den Blog bzw. Twitter-Feed von Robert Misik gestolpert und seither von seinen Artikeln und Videos immer wieder begeistert gewesen. Eines der Highlights dabei ist sicherlich der FS Misik Videocast für den STANDARD (der übrigens vor kurzem sein derStandard.at/TV Portal gelauncht hat).

Die neueste Folge  beschäftigt sich mit den aktuellen Entwicklungen im Iran und die Rolle die hierbei Internet Services wie Flickr, Twitter und YouTube spielen. Es wurde in der vergangenen Woche sehr viel über das Thema geschrieben, und falls ich die Zeit finde will ich in den nächsten Tagen auch noch meinen Senf dazugeben, aber das Video ist in meinen Augen ein sehr guter Einstieg und Überblick in die Materie:

FS Misik Folge 82 - Irans Aufstand - live im Internet

P.S. Misiks Warnung ist übrigens ernst zu nehmen, einige der gezeigten Szenen sind nichts für schwache Nerven!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on creativity

I’m spending this Saturday evening catching up on reading and watching lots of online videos. Among other things I decided to re-watch (for what must be the 5th or 6th time) Ken Robinson’s talk about creativity and education at TED 2006. It’s definitely among my all-time favorite TED talks and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in education:

Friday, June 19, 2009

www.derndorfer.eu is mine

Yes, I finally did: I got my own domain! I’ve been talking about getting into the domain-grabbing business for quite some time and I’m happy that nobody snapped up www.derndorfer.eu before me.

If you check out the URL you’ll see that I’m still a bit clueless as to what exactly to do there so if you know of any cool personal Web sites I should look at for inspiration then please give me a shout.

For the moment I’ll stick with using it as a one-stop mini-bio page of sorts. However maybe at one point or another I do get around to consolidating my various online streams into a coherent something.

Lichterkette – Wien – 18/06/2009

Apologies for this post being in German…

Um gegen die vor allem in den letzten Wochen und Monaten wiedermal besonders furchtbaren politischen Zustände zu protestieren haben zwei Studentinnen die (v.A. über Facebook organisierte) Aktion Lichterkette gestartet. Der Aufruftext zur Aktion lautete:

Österreich 2009: Wahlkämpfe mit Hetzplakaten an jeder Straßenecke, gezielte Fehlinformationen durch rechte Parteien und manche Medien, rechtsextreme Burschenschafter in hohen Ämtern und Institutionen, tätliche Angriffe auf KZ-Opfer… alles ganz normal. …

Normal??? Ärgern allein hilft nicht.

Wir finden Menschenverachtung und Diskriminierung nicht normal.

Setzen wir gemeinsam ein starkes Zeichen…

FÜR respektvolles Miteinander

FÜR menschenwürdige Behandlung für jede_n

FÜR Freude an Vielfalt statt Abkapseln in Einfalt

FÜR Zivilcourage statt Wegschauen

FÜR ehrliche Diskussionen statt Propagandalügen … durch eine PROtestaktion mit anschließender Lichterkette um das Parlament am 18.6.2009, ab 19Uhr.

Es wird vor dem Parlament ein Programm mit Musikgruppen und Redebeiträgen geben, dann wird das Parlament umkettet. Tropffreie Fackeln werden von uns zu Verfügung gestellt.

Da ich mich noch (sehr) entfernt an das Lichtermeer gegen Fremdeshass Mitte der 90-er erinnern kann konnte ich mir die Sache heute natürlich nicht entgehen lassen.

War dann auch relativ pünktlich vor Ort und habe meine Eindrücke auf Twitter (einem Micro-Blogging Service, siehe twitter.com bzw. den entsprechenden Wikipedia Eintrag, mein Feed ist unter http://twitter.com/random_musings zu finden) festgehalten und zur besseren Übersichtlichkeit mit den entsprechenden Fotos hier nochmals zusammengefasst:

http://twitpic.com/7q070 - Eindruck von der Lichterketten-Aktion vor'm Parlament...

18062009(002)

Hätt ich das gewusst wär ich später gekommen;-) RT @juekop: Fackeln gibt's dann um 21h. Also noch genug Zeit zu kommen. #Lichterkette

http://twitpic.com/7q1p4 - Blick Richtung Bühne. #lichterkette

18062009(003)

Verhaltener Applaus für 'ne mässig spannende Rede... #lichterkette

Wenn mich nicht alles täuscht hab ich Eva Glawischnig und Laura Rudas grad hier in der Menge gesehen. #Lichterkette

LOL, die Rede wurde von Papier abgelesen, kein Wunder, dass sie so sch***** ist. #Lichterkette

Chefin der Wiener Grünen (vergess den Namen immer wieder) ist auch hier. #Lichterkette

http://twitpic.com/7q2zp - Die Musik ist gar ned mal schlecht:-) #Lichterkette

18062009(004)

"Eure Schande heisst Graf" T-Shirts sind hier recht weit verbreitet. #Lichterkette

http://twitpic.com/7q3me - Grüne Parteispitze mit Anti-Graf Banner. #Lichterkette

18062009(005)

Interessant, grad ein "Asyl für Guantanamo Gefangene" Plakat gesehen... #Lichterkette

RT @augeIug: martin graf und seine burschis sind auch da - und lassen sich von der polizei schützen #lichterkette

RT @pi_ya: UND es reicht für eine ringsperre!!! #lichterkette

http://twitpic.com/7q55p - Gesamteindruck von der #Lichterkette

18062009(006)

Ringsperren sind schon was feines, würd mir wünschen es wär immer so;-) #wien #ring #lichterkette

Rudas wird grad vom ORF interviewt. Kann mir nicht vorstellen, dass da viel rauskommt. #Lichterkette #Parteisoldat

Jetzt ertönt linke feel-good mucke von der Bühne. "gib nicht auf lalalala";-) #Lichterkette

Langsam kommt Bewegung in die Sache und die ersten Fackeln brennen auch schon. #Lichterkette

Sehr cool sieht's aus! :-) #Lichterkette

So langsam wird das hier ja 'ne richtige Kette! #Lichterkette

http://twitpic.com/7qhhr - Die beste Stimmung gibt's wie immer bei der Trommlergruppe #Lichterkette

18062009(011)

Ich war sehr angetan von der Aktion und es hat mich auch gefreut viele Freunde und Bekannte dort zu treffen. Die Stimmung war wirklich ausgezeichnet und besonders die Heterogenität der (laut Schätzungen knapp 3500) Teilnehmer hat mir sehr gut gefallen. Über die Nachhaltigkeit einer solchen Veranstaltung kann man natürlich immer diskutieren aber ich finde es auf jeden Fall wichtig und sinnvoll als Teil der Zivilgesellschaft ein Zeichen gegen die (leider nicht nur) aktuellen politischen Unsitten und für mehr Toleranz zu setzen. In 140 Zeichen klingt das dann so:

Zuerst die MQ-Protestaktion, jetzt die Lichterkette - vielleicht besteht ja doch noch Hoffnung für Österreich! #haha;-)

Weitere Berichte und Fotos:

derStandard.at: “Hier stehen so viele Ideen”

derStandard.at: “Lichterkette 2009” Fotos

POLIBLOG: "Ein Lichtermeer ums Parlament"

Zur Politik: “Bilder von der Anti-Rechtsextremen-Lichterkette in Wien”

Fotos von POLIBLOG und anderen auf Flickr

Thursday, June 18, 2009

80+1 Panel Discussion on New Approaches to Education

On Monday I’ll be heading to Linz to participate in a panel discussion on New Approaches to Education which is part of the 80+1 project. Here’s what the Web site has to say about the event:

Expert panel discussion and open forum on the subject of new approaches to education; panelists include Christoph Derndorfer, one of the first members of OLPC Austria, freelance writer Armin Himmelrath and, via Skype from China, Calvin Chin, CEO of Qifang.

The discussion will take place on the Hauptplatz (main square) at 7PM and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

In related news I was interviewed by radio Ö1 yesterday because they’re doing a daily (well Monday through Thursday that is) 5min piece on subjects related to 80+1. The piece on OLPC with yours truly will probably air on Monday or Tuesday at 4:55PM. If you happen to hear it please let me know what you thought of it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

ICT4D.at Stammtisch

One of the many great things that I really enjoyed during my 4-month stay in the United States last year were the regular meetups of the OLPC Learning Club DC and Technology Salon. Especially being a novice when it comes to ICT4D (short for Information and Communication Technology for Development) it was extremely interesting to be able to listen and talk to people who have been working on various projects and efforts in the field for quite some time.

Coming back to Austria I quickly started to miss these kinds of gatherings. With OLPC Austria we’ve been mostly focused on day-to-day activities, especially with regard to our small Austrian OLPC / Sugar pilot. So while we’ve had discussions about ICT in education, brain-storming sessions on future activities, etc. there was relatively little time to think about the for development side of things.

So I was very pleasantly surprised when I read that ICT4D.at, a small and relatively new Austrian NGO whose goal is to contribute to the larger and global ICT4D movement, is planning on setting up regular meetings for folks who are interested in ICT4D here in Vienna.

The first meeting took place on Saturday evening and while only a handful of people were there I really enjoyed it. It was nice to see people with different backgrounds and coming from different walks of life who are all interested in the same topic. Plus even in this day and age it’s just so much better to meet people face-to-face compared to just communicating via e-mail, Skype or whatever.

Anyway, I’m seriously excited about this opportunity and really looking forward to the next meetings!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Did You Know 3.0

I vividly remember the first time I saw the 2.0 version of Did You Know during one of the very first meetings of OLPC Austria back in mid-2007. To say that I was stunned would be quite the understatement. In fact it was probably one of the most powerful videos I had ever seen.

Now I discovered that an updated version 3.0 has been released and after looking at it and comparing it with 2.0 I’d say that it’s an outstanding update. Definitely watch it in case you haven’t seen it already!

(via elearningblog.tugraz.at)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How time flies

I just realized that it’s been exactly one year since I flew to Washington, D.C. to start my 3-month internship at the Austrian Embassy’s Office of Science and Technology. Really makes me realize just how quickly time flies by these days.

The internship, life in D.C., my subsequent month of traveling in Canada and the United States, the return to Austria, the 6-week summer internship, coming back to Vienna and university, a super-busy autumn where I got tons of things done, going to Brussels for a weekend, the relaxing Christmas holidays, all the studying and exams in January, going to back to Brussels for FOSDEM, spending a couple of days in London. All that and a hundred other things that I can’t even remember happened in the past 12 months. It’s definitely been a great ride and looking ahead I’m pretty sure I won’t have to worry about being bored in the next 12 months…

(P.S. On some level this post is a hyper-condensed version of something like A look back at 2007 which I had originally planned to write around this New Year’s. Quite obviously I relaxed a bit too much during the Christmas holidays to actually get the post written.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jon Stewart vs. Jim Cramer

I know I'm late to the game but I just now managed to watch the Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) vs. Jim Cramer (Fast Money) showdown from March 12. In case you haven't seen it yet you really should, it truly is television at its very best!

Watchmen

Last summer I somehow stumbled across the Watchmen trailer and was immediately fascinated even though at the time I had no idea what this whole Watchmen thing was all about (Wikipedia to the rescue).

Anyway, after watching Slumdog Millionaire on Tuesday I again went to the cinema on Wednesday evening, this time to see Watchmen. Just like on the day before I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Even though to my disgrace I have to admit to actually owning the printed graphic novel yet never having gotten further than the first 30 pages or so.

The movie is off to a great start, the intro sequence alone is breathtaking, never mind the initial struggle depicted after it. Then we’re slowly introduced to the different characters and the setting the story takes place in. It’s hard if not impossible not to be fascinated by the depth and intensity of the scenario and the various (former) superheros in it.

While there’s no single main character in the movie it’s not hard for me to pick my personal favorite: Rorschach.

Which directly leads to my main criticism: there are simply too many characters and too little screen time for all of them to be sufficiently well introduced. Of course this is the inherent challenge of turning a complex written original into a motion-picture and there’ll never be perfect solution.

It’s this point that I feel really breaks the movie because a bit more than a half into the 162 minute runtime I was starting to get a little confused due to a feeling of having lost sight of the original story. Don’t get me wrong, the second half is still an enjoyable experience, however with the novelty of the story and the visual (and acoustic - Leonard Cohen had probably never envisioned Hallelujah to be the background for such a scene) representation wearing off I became less enthusiastic overall.

Walking out of the cinema at the end of the night I couldn’t help but feel that things could have gone better. While admittedly realizing in the same moment that it’s probably impossible to get a better interpretation of such a complex universe on the big screen. On some level it feels like the film is really just an appetizer to convince me to finally dive into the original comic.

And you know what, it seems to work. While writing this entry I dusted off of my copy and now have the best intentions to read it within the next 2 weeks or so.

At the end of the day the question of whether I liked the movie or not is kind of hard to answer. For the major part it was definitely enjoyable and worth seeing, yet it left somewhat of a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. Overall however it was definitely an interesting experience.

P.S. Wired Magazine published an interesting behind the scenes article on the Watchmen movie and its history. Definitely well worth reading even though it might contain some spoilers for people who haven’t seen the film so be aware of that.

Slumdog Millionaire

Last Tuesday I had a chance to go to the Austrian premiere of Slumdog Millionaire. With all the excitement surrounding the movie’s 8 Oscars I had certainly read quite a bit about it but still wasn’t really sure what to expect.

As it turns out the film can probably be best described as an exotic fairy tale. And a very well crafted, thoughtful and enjoyable fairy tale at that. Plus it’s got a sort of feel-good air around it which is something that I normally don’t necessarily enjoy too much (happy endings are for wimps, right?;-) however in this case it works really well. It’s certainly been a while since I last left a cinema with such a warm and fuzzy feeling in my stomach…

Anyway, the first third of the film which gives some insights into the childhood of Jamal, the main character, very much reminded me of City of God (a real must-see by the way). In terms of the locations (slum in India vs. favela in Brazil), the main characters’ stories and the intensity of the footage both movies strike me as remarkably similar. However Slumdog Millionaire has a slight edge thanks to the great soundtrack which is nicely used all throughout the movie.

Towards the middle of the 2 hour film as Jamal swiftly proceeds in the Who wants to be a millionaire? show and the cutbacks go to more recent events the pace starts to slow down. At this point it becomes quite clear how the story will end, yet a lot of craftsmanship has gone into making sure that it’s an enjoyable experience all along. And it really works, I literally enjoyed every single minute and scene even though I was aware of the fact that if executed differently this part of the movie could have turned into a real letdown.

I really don’t want to go into more details as it would spoil a lot of the pleasure of seeing the movie yourself (which you really should!!). The one last thing I want to say is that the actors portraying the main characters, both as children and young adults, are doing an amazing job which goes a long way in giving Slumdog Millionaire (what I assume to be) an authentic touch. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Freida Pinto (who plays Latika) in several mainstream productions over the coming years. Rumor has it that she might be the next Bond girl and apparently Woody Allen is also interested in working with her for his next movie.

To cut a long story short: Go to your nearest cinema and watch Slumdog Millionaire as soon as possible, you’ll definitely enjoy it!

I’ve embedded the trailer below just in case my comments aren’t convincing enough.

P.S. Yes, I admit it, the movie makes me want to travel to India… :-)

Friday, March 20, 2009

2019 Extended Version

I just found a much longer version of Microsoft's 2019 video that I had mentioned earlier this week. To me it's certainly mind boggling to think that technology similar to the one portrayed in the video will one day really be available! Kinda puts me in a dreamy state of mind... :-)

Monday, March 16, 2009

2019

Quite an interesting video about what Microsoft thinks the world might look like ten years from now.



(via e-Learning Blog, Venture Beat)

Movies, movies, movies…

As you can see from the last couple of entries I’ve been quite good with keeping up with the insane amount of great movies these days. Unfortunately I often find myself lacking the time to really write anything up about them so here’s just a quick overview of films I saw in the more recent past and what I thought of them:

Milk

It’s hard to write anything about Milk since everything seems to have been said already... In my mind just watching it to see Sean Penn’s outstanding performance is totally worth it, never mind that the “rest” of the movie is great as well. Plus I really like the notion of movies bringing historic characters and events to a broader audience. A great movie indeed.

Revanche

What can I say, this is probably one of the best Austrian movies ever and it certainly deserved to be nominated for the Foreign Feature Oscar (which it unfortunately didn’t win). The story is very well written, the actors are amazing, the difference between urban and rural areas / people / life is nicely portrayed, etc. Austrian film-making at its best and a definite must-see in my opinion!

The Beach

As somewhat of a travel aficionado who hasn’t quite given up the dream of managing to get off the beaten track at one point or another I can’t help but find The Beach’s basic storyline to be appealing. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to visit the island described in the movie? So the first half of it was really entertaining and good, the second half however was somehow bland and predictable. Still, overall it’s an entertaining flick as long as you don’t expect too much substance.

Valkyrie

I’m certainly not a big Tom Cruise fan but found Valkyrie to be quite a good movie, though admittedly I had had quite low expectations. Definitely one of the better World War II related films in the recent years.

Frost/Nixon

Initially I wasn’t quite sure what to expect here but ended up being really drawn into the movie. It obviously wouldn’t work without the great performances by Michael Sheen (David Frost) Frank Langella (Richard Nixon) who both convey an amazing intensity and on-screen presence. Undoubtedly seeing them perform the play at West End and on Broadway in 2006/2007 must have been an unforgettable experience.

Next up on my to-be-watched list are:

Slumdog Millionaire (I won two tickets for Tuesday’s Austria premiere of the movie:-), The Wrestler and Knochenmann

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lost Generation

Truly one of the best videos I’ve seen in the past few months. An absolute must-see!


Saturday, February 21, 2009

In Bruges

After a friend’s recommendation I watched In Bruges the other night and I really liked the movie a lot. The story starts with two hitmen arriving in the Belgian city of Bruges where they’re supposed to await further instructions. It subsequently turns out that Ray, the younger one of them (played by Colin Farrell), had accidently killed a young boy during his previous job. After a couple of days his older colleague Ken (Brendan Gleeson) receives orders by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to kill Ray. Amidst the unfolding story Ray meets two very interesting characters: Chloë, a Belgian girl and Jimmy, a dwarf actor.

The film works incredibly well due to the interesting combination of very unique people, the excellent acting, the quiet backdrop of Bruges and the three unique main characters portrayed by Farrell, Gleeson and Fiennes. Definitely a well recommended movie, though some viewer discretion is advised as the f-word is used quite extensively (126 times according to IMDB) and there’s one scene towards the end that might be hard to stomach for some people.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The International

I went to see The International tonight after reading quite a lot about the film’s opening during the Berlin International Film Festival in early February. Plus being a big fan of director Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run and actor Clive Owen helped in the decision to watch this movie during a time when the list of interesting movies currently in the cinemas is ridiculously long.

Anyway, while the story is off to somewhat of a slow start the pace picks up after about 35 minutes and goes on to include some truly great action scenes and very nice locations for the unfolding plot. The highlight is undoubtedly an extensive shootout in New York’s Guggenheim Museum. The film also makes great use of the locations such as Berlin, NYC and Istanbul the characters visit. Plus there are two relatively slow on-foot chases which are a nice change from the insanely-fast-cut action sequences one sees way too often.

Apart from the slow start the only slight downside of The International are some of the dialogues. Often they look like the actors / characters are trying too hard which makes things look overly artificial.

All in all this was a very enjoyable movie and definitely among the better action flicks I’ve seen in the past year or so.