Saturday, September 29, 2007

My breakfast

So I just went ahead and posted photos of my breakfast over on page 2 of that thread on the Photojojo forums. But as some of you are probably going to be to lazy to click on that link and look for my post I'm also going to attach the photos here... ;-)

So what does your breakfast look like?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Barcelona photos @ Flickr

While sitting on the train to Vienna (I'm loving it) today I went through my collection of photos from a week-long family-trip to Barcelona back in February. I have to say I'm always having a hard time sorting through photos to pick out the best ones. With this set for example I started with the ~500 photos which I had taken and quickly narrowed them down to ~250 pieces. That first round of sorting is always quite easy, you remove the obviously bad ones (out of focus, etc.) and that gets rid of quite a lot of them. But afterwards it just becomes tedious. Finding the best shot of the same motive (taken from slightly different angles with different exposure/aperture setting for example) always takes me ages. Anyway, after about 20min I arrived at ~180 photos. It took me another 10min to get down to 156. That's when my notebook ran out of batteries (and Iwas only 5min from Vienna) so now I simply uploaded them to Flickr even though I'm still not 100% with my selection.

You can find the photos by clicking on this link...

What will the perfect mobile device look like?

If you're interested in mobile phones and what these thingies could look like in the (not so) near future then I'd definitely recommend you to read this article [].

I agree with most of what's being said and I'm actually thinking about getting that Neo 1973 from OpenMoko once it really hits the market towards the end of this year...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Breakfast Photo Project

I just saw this posting [] about the so-called "The Breakfast Photo Project". The idea is simply: snap a photo of yourself and a photo of your breakfast and share it with others.

I'll definitely make my contribution (unless I forget that is) once I'm back in Vienna and university has started. And I can already tell you what these photos are going to show:

(a) a pretty miserable looking Christoph who would do everything to sleep for another hour
(b) a big cup of black tea (or a glass of Coca Cola if things are really bad) and a little portion of food, mostly bread with something, something dulce or just a chocolate or muesli bar

Speaking of sleep, it's 4 a.m. - time to turn off this machine and get to bed... Good night!

My thoughts on technology and education

I found an interesting video on YouTube called "School goes digital with UMPCs" about a school in Scottland which uses UMPCs (ultra-mobile PCs, see the Wikipedia entry for more information). My favourite comment can be found at 4 min 29 sec where it's said that "...the benefits are clearly outweighing the costs..."

Ever since I took an interest in the One-Laptop-Per-Child project back when it was first introduced and even more so since OLPC Austria was formed I've spent quite some time reading up (and thinking) about the effects of (computer) technology on education. Especially in settings such as that school in Scottland the planned implementation of the OLPC project where students spent most of their time working with their computers.

From what I know at this point there's still no real and generally accepted conclusion (as in the result of independent research, not some TV reporter saying something) on what effects, let alone benefits, introducing computers into the classroom has on students and teachers. As always there're are indications for this and that, people claiming one thing or another thing and the media reporting all of it without really looking into matters. The single best article I've found about this topic so far appeared in the Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung (link, unfortunately it's only available in German). Its main comment ("US study shows that the use of electronic media does not improve student performance") is based on the first-year findings of a study conducted by the Texas Center for Educational Research ("The overarching purpose of the study is to scientifically investigate the effectiveness of technology immersion in increasing middle school students’ achievement in core academic subjects as measured by the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS)"). Reading through the TCER's "Findings from the Second Year" report (pdf, 1.25MB, 158 pages) is probably the best thing anyone interested in this field can do. Here is a (fairly long, but it wouldn't make sense to shorten it, after all this blog isn't a media outlet that has to deal with 30-sec or 150 words limits;-) quote from the Executive Summary (pages 7 to 14 of that pdf) that seem to be a good indication of the current findings (emphasize added by yours truely):

Summary of First- and Second-Year Findings

Our first-year report—Evaluation of the Texas Technology Immersion Pilot: First-Year Results (Shapley et al., 2006a)—revealed positive effects of technology immersion on schools, teachers, and students. Findings for the second year relative to these same variables are generally consistent with first-year results. Steadfast outcomes across two evaluation years and two student cohorts show that immersing a middle school in technology produces schools with stronger principal leadership for technology, greater teacher collaboration and collective support for technology innovation, and stronger parent and community support for technology. Additionally, teachers in immersion schools are more technically proficient and use technology more often for their own professional productivity, their students use technology more often in core-subject classrooms, and teachers adopt more integration-oriented and learner-centered ideologies. Students in immersion schools are more technically proficient, use technology more often for learning, interact more often with their peers in small-group activities, and have fewer disciplinary problems than control-group students.

Also consistent with first-year results, we found no significant effect of technology immersion in the second year on student self-directed learning, and we found a significantly negative immersion effect on student attendance. Moreover, the availability of technology across two years provided no significant increase in the intellectual challenge of immersion teachers’ core-subject lessons.

First-year findings on academic achievement revealed no statistically significant immersion effects on TAKS reading or mathematics scores for Cohort 1, sixth graders. Similarly, second-year results for Cohort 1 students (as seventh graders) showed no significant effects of immersion on TAKS reading, mathematics, or writing achievement. Likewise, achievement results for Cohort 2 students (sixth graders involved in the project for one year) revealed no significant effect of immersion on TAKS reading achievement. However, for TAKS mathematics, students in immersion schools who began the year with higher math pretest scores had significantly higher mathematics achievement than their control-group counterparts. The math achievement gap favoring immersion students over control widened as students’ pretest scores increased. Although TAKS score differences between immersion and control schools usually did not differ by statistically significant margins, second-year achievement trends, in contrast to first-year results, generally favored technology immersion schools.

What does this tell us?

I'm still not quite sure to be honest and adding my thoughts below is of course a mockery of my own complaints about everyone adding their (mostly uneducated) opinion to the discussion. So, here's another uneducated guess:

The way I understand it using computers has the potential to bring (many) benefits to students, teachers and education overall. This however is a "can" and not a "will" type of situation. I believe that just introducing computers to a school will have no real positive effect. Only if all the aspects (one could actually go as far as calling them requirements) such as implementation, teacher training, learning materials, learning methods, etc. are sufficiently executed and available will we see "statistically relevant" improvements on young people's education (or "benefits outweighing costs" as others might put it). Otherwise the only benefit students will have is easier access to porn, as demonstrated by this story about an OLPC trial in Nigeria.

I'll definitely be talking more about this topic over the coming days, weeks, months...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Back during CeBIT 2007 in March me and a couple of friends ended up having a beer-fueled discussion about technology and usability, mainly with mobile phones and office software. Needless to say it was a good night!

The next day we had the idea to somehow channel our thoughts and feelings about usability into something more useful than another argument. So we discussed setting up a blog about all things usability in order to have a platform where we (and others) could dicuss various aspects of ICT usability.

Of course it never happened. We forgot, were too busy, whatever... We didn't go through with it.

Anyway, the other day my friend Igor from Vancouver (one of the finest geeks I've ever meet!) sent me the following e-mail:

"As it usually happens in the internet age, someone beat us to the idea and executed it better than we ever could =)

Complete with articles about old people, user centered design and so on....

Fine read


After reading through some of the articles there I can only agree with him that this is significantly better than anything we could have ever produced. So if you're interested in usability then I'd definitely recommend you to check out that website!

For me it's back to the drawing table to come up with another new cool idea... Luckily I do believe that I might have thought of something cool while I was in the Gobi. But I still need significantly more time to think this through before I'm ready to discuss it. So don't stay tuned... ;-)

ChristophD goes Flickr!!

I know, I know, for someone who spends as much time online as I do I'm very late to the game... But I finally went ahead and got myself a Flickr account, hooray! As a trial I uploaded 25 photos from my weekend-trip to Paris in mid-July which you can find here. I have also added a small "my photos on flickr" badge to the right-hand navigation menu for easy access to my photos in the future.

I hope to be uploading many more photos from some of my recent trips (Peru/Bolivia, Taiwan, Berlin, Barcelona, Granada) and some random shots over the coming weeks. But first I have to sort through the 3609 photos that I took on the TransSib these past 4 1/2 weeks... ;-)

Patrick's photos at pbase

While working with Flickr earlier this evening I thought that it would also make sense to link to Patrick's photos on pbase. He'll probably upload some first photos from the TransSib over the coming weeks but for now you can marvel at the stunning photos he took in places such as New York, Toscana, various Dutch cities, etc.

I have to admit that times I'm a bit jealous of him and his Olympus E-300 SLR camera which is significantly better than my trusted Kodak DX-7590 digicam. Plus he has a very good eye for amazing photo compositions. So I'm very much looking forward to his photos!

Home Sweet Home

So, here I am, back at home...

I think it's quite needless to say that everything still feels a bit weird around here. Even though my day actually was pretty much the standard day I spend while I'm here with my family: I got up for lunch even though my alarm clock was set for 10 a.m. (I didn't realize just how beat I was after those 3 days in Moscow) and spent most of my waking hours in front of the notebook, only really being interupted by reading the newspaper, having coffee with my mother and picking up my brother from the city.

But other than that I still have a hard time grasping where the hell I am. Didn't I wake up in Moscow only yesterday? Didn't we have lunch in that Azerbaijanian restaurant only yesterday? Wasn't I in St. Basil's on Red Square only yesterday? Did I really ride a camel in the Gobi? Did I really spend time wandering around Tianamen Square being completely fascinated by its size? Or was it all just a dream???

Browsing through my photos and listening to that Russian CD it's of course obvious that everything did indeed happen. But it's still odd. After all the Gobi Desert is about as far away from here as possible (with the notable exception of the North- and Southpole that is;-). Yesterday morning I was still in Moscow, on the road, travelling. Today I'm back home, wandering through my memories of that outstanding trip, thinking of all the things we experienced: the amount of crappy instant noodles that we ate, my messed up feet on Lake Baikal, the cool Belgium couple with whom travelled in the Gobi, the Vodka drinking with our driver there, the children we meet in the first Mongolian city we set foot in, ... and so much more.

It will really take some time for me to thoroughly realize just what I saw these past few weeks. In the meantime my life around here will definitly keep me busy as I'll be heading to Vienna on Friday, with university starting on Monday and lots of other things to be done, articles to be written, projects to be finished, hardware to be reviewed, friends to meet and drink a beer with, e-mails to read and reply to, photos to sort through, etc.

But for now and most of this evening I'll go back and re-visit China, Mongolia and Russia. :-)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

TransSib, Moscow, Amy... I miss you already!

Here we go, the last message I'm posting before we start our journey home... It's utterly absurd to think that I'll be back in Austria in a couple of hours, after all at this moment I'm still in freakin' Moscow, ain't I?

Anyway, we had an absolutely great time here and yesterday, last night and today turned out to be a pretty perfect ending for a great journey. Spent lots of time walking through the streets of Moscow and looking at sights, buildings, etc. In the evening we went out to a club called "Tabula Rasa" to see a line-up of young Russian rock-bands. Was a great idea to go there, cool location, (mostly) good music and nice people. Of course we ended up chatting and having a good time with the band we spent the most time bitching about, thanks to lovely and cute girl called Amy. We all managed to have a pretty good conversation, even though we had to work through an odd initial situation thanks to the omni-present language barrier (we don't speak Russian, and she was sorry for not being able to speak better English;-)

Well, gotta run... I guess some of you, at least the folks living in Austria, will hear more details about this story (and so many more stories) soon while drinking a beer or something!

TransSib, Moscow, Amy... I miss you already!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Off to the Kremlin...

So, it's again a bit before 8 a.m. as we're getting ready for another great day around here. Today we're heading to the Kremlin before spending some more time walking through the streets to see another one or two of those Stalin skyscrapers (Moscow University yesterday morning was quite the sight, I can't wait to show you some photos of that building, it's really quite impressive with its "in your face"-type of architecture). In the evening we're hoping to catch a concert with 4 local Russian rock-bands... Should be another fun day in Moscow!! :-)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Greetings from Moscow

Good morning. It's 7:45 am around here and we're looking forward to a busy day here in Moscow where we arrived yesterday after our 76h train ride from Irkutsk. The train-ride was good, we spent most of our time sleeping, eating and reading. Unfortunately the landscape, especially in Sibiria wasn't really all that interesting, however once we crossed the Ural things got much nicer. Especially yesterday morning we had an amazing scenary in front of our window, with lots of little houses (most likely weekend dachas) surrounded by a great many apple trees. It was really quite beautiful!

Once we got into Moscow we moved into our Hostel - named "Napoleon" - and promptly proceeded to the Red Square which is only a 10min walk from here. Red Square is a beautiful place, with the Kremlin, St. Basil's and the GUM Shopping Center (definitely the coolest shopping center I've ever seen, the building's style is just amazing!) surrounding it. I did however expect it to be significantly larger, compared to the Tianan'men in Beijing it does feel a bit petite so to say. Patrick and I spent the next hour taking lots of photos and just generally enjoying the first glimpse of life here in Moscow. After some walking around we headed back into our hostel and checked for going-out options for the night. We decided to go to a place called "bilingua" which happens to be very close by to see a live concert. Turned out to be a pretty good night accompanied by some very cool Cuban-style musica being played by the band.

Right now we're off to grab some breakfast before we head to Moscow State University which is housed in one of 7 skyscrapers that Stalin built and we're really looking forward to seeing it. Afterwards we'll head to the Lenin mausoleum at Red Square before we head into the Treyakov Gallery for an afternoon full of Russian art. In the evening we're thinking about going to a Laibach (a band from Slovenia) concert. So this should definitely be a great day!

Monday, September 17, 2007

From Russia with Love

As we're paying per the minute I'm forced to make this another short message... Even though I had prepared a long rant about hiking, fucked up feet and whatnot but that's going to have to wait for another day. ;-)

Anyway, we're currently on the Island Olchon in Lake Baikal, a really nice place even though the weather hasn't been the best these past 2 days. Tomorrow we're heading to Irkutsk from where we'll be taking a 76h train-ride to Moscow the day after tomorrow. Then we have three more days there before we fly back home to Austria on September, 25th.

There's really so much I could write about but unfortunately not enough time so I'll be doing some serious posting once we're back at home...

To paraphrase Futurama: "So much to write, so little time."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Yet another quickie...

We're in the progress of moving out of UB, our train to Irkutsk leaves in a bit more than an hour. As it's a 36h ride we'll get into Irkutsk early on Thursday, where we also hope to re-unite with Martina and Fernando. Then we'll head to the Island Olchon (in Lake Baikal) as soon as possible to spend a few quiet days there.

The 3 remaining days of our Gobi trip were outstanding, especially the day after our last blog entry turned out to be amazing. Can't wait to show you the photos once I'm back home.
Since getting back to UB on Sunday we've been enjoying civilization again, especially in the form of showers, water-toilets and excellent food. Yesterday we celebrated our last night in Mongolia with a great Mongolian BBQ, 12-year old Whiskey and an excellent Cohiba cigar from Cuba while listening to two Mongolians play "La isla bonita", "Hotel California" and similar classics. Needless to say it was a good night! :-)

Take care everyone, speak soon...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Quick message from the Gobi

Just a quicky to let everyone know that we (only Patrick and me because the other two decided to do their own "tour", I don't think they realize how much they're missing out) are having a great time here in the Gobi desert in Mongolia. It's an outstanding place to be, stunning landscapes, nice people, beautiful sunsets, very cool group of people, great old Soviet-style 4-wheel-drive bus,... All in all an amazing experience. Haven't felt that relaxed for a very long time!

At the moment we're in the south of the Gobi in a city which starts with "D" (aka shithole but at least some civilization such as Internet access and a market with decent food). Our 7 day tour started on Monday so we'll get back to Ulaanbaatar (capital of Mongolia) on Sunday evening.

Ulaanbaatar is a very cool and vibrant city, something we certainly hadn't expected. Plus the Mongolian girls are simply stunning, I have never seen so many gorgeous women in one place (not even at Computex in Taiwan!). I certainly think UB could be a cool place to spend my midlife-crisis. ;-)

Anyway, gotta go and have dinner in our ger and then we might just have some beer and vodka. Should be a good night! To really experience what the term night means you anyhow have to go to a desert:-)

More details to follow soon...

Patrick's free of sense corner:
No, we do not mention that everyone else we meet in this country is much cooler than we are, and it is certainly not true that many people do the transib as an in-betweener during their year-lasting world trips... But we are the prettiest;-)