Gradually leaving google

I am unhappy about google Buzz who decided to automatically create a list of people I will be following in Buzz. I am unhappy that I was subscribed automatically to buzz via gmail although it's a service I never wanted. I am unhappy that they made the list of my friends public, and that even after disabling buzz, that list was still public. I am unhappy with the claims of Google's CEO who says "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place" - and suggests he should make everyone's search history public, so he understands why.

I am unhappy that google stays in China despite their claims not to do so, and that they will be deploying H264 in youtube instead of youtube despite massive feedback from their users.

As I do not trust google's "Don't be evil" anymore, I can't trust them with my emails, discussions, and friends, and am therefore leaving. I only continue to use youtube and search as an anonymous user, as those services don't have a good alternative. My email account went to fastmail, my jabber account too, my RSS reader will be liferea again (and maybe a hosted php app), I'll be posting videos on vimeo or dailymotion, and I'll be dropping google wave.

Farewell :)

 

Heimat

Heimat

Heimat.
And it translates into "Sans-abri" in french as well :)

 

I'm a Jamendo Fan!

Those who know me know that I like Jamendo very much :) Jamendo is a platform for musicians to post and spread their music for free - you can download all the music, for free, legally. If you want to use the music in a commercial way however, or if you want higher quality non-compressed tracks, depending on the artist you might have to pay

Anyway, the quality is very unequal - takes some time to find the best artists. I thought I would share a few I like a lot

Let's start with some ska/punk:

  

Some nice reggae:

  

Some german hip-hop:

  

French chansons (move to the second song):

  

And last but not least, a bit of Dub :)

  

Hope you enjoy this, please share your latest finds back, thanks :)

 

Don't be evil

Just wanted to point out this.

Congrats to google execs for this. Stick to your convictions and what you think is right, no matter how much it hurts - is an advice many companies (and people) should follow.

 

When chinese TV reports about Bush's retirement...

I regularly read news on CCTV.com, on the basis that you're best informed when your informations come from several different sources. CCTV stands for China Central Television, they report in english about a lot of subjects including world news. 

Today they report on the retirement of George W. Bush , and their small article ends on page 4 with a photo bearing the title "The retirement of George Bush". The picture is obviously fake (although it is presented as original), and proves that Bush might not be that popular in China (neither) :)



 

Learn french, the easy way

I've been blogging in the past about a great website to learn spanish; now I know we do a lot of work with France, and for many British the language might be a barrier that is hard to overcome. So, I thought I would post a video that should help you get started in French... or at least in an english that french people might understand :)

By the way, Renaud did many great songs, you should check a few others if you have some time!

 

Is yahoo going down?

From what I've seen in the last years, using old marketing methods for a new technology is generally not a very good idea. Google didn't made it to the top using television advertising, neither did facebook, firefox or wikipedia (at least I've never seen any ad for those). But I can think of quite a few who crashed shortly after doing so - lycos, caramail, ...

"A place to consume, buzz, share" - how exciting! Of course I've learnt nothing about Yahoo... Now note that this campaign costs a mere 100M$ - that's quite some cash that could have been spend properly on research. If I was Carl Icahn, I would get seriously worried this time :)

Time to tell yahoo you do not PAY to create a buzz, but need to make a great product people get excited about?

 

Why we don't like Sarkozy, in english.

I've been surprised by the support our president seems to get from many english people - so I want to try to explain why in France, many (me included) strongly dislike him (to say the least).

So, just a list of links, sorted by theme, for those with interest. I'll add a few when I will remember a few more of all those stories that made me emigrate...

French German relationship

Better than ever...

(1, 2, 3)

Media control

Sarkozy to appoint head of french TV

Sarkozy before an interview, asks the questions he would like to have 

Is the lift of ads on public owned TV a move in favour of private ones?

Propaganda & Image manipulation

Screenshot taken a few months before the elections. (every link is covering a different subject though)

Where noone should be taller than the president

Guy Moquets letter to be read in lycees

Separation between justice and state 

Sarkozy Accused of Interference After Police Chief Fired

Nicolas Sarkozy accused of 'takeover' of judiciary

Corsican life term upheld in sensitive murder trial

Schools

Children should be able to chose the school they want to go to

Unis should compete (This also affects research

Weapons

Where we sell weapons and nuclear material to a guy who bombed french planes, never regretted it, and said he thinks terrorism is not always a bad idea
Sarkozy goes to Brazil to sell Rafales
Where the champs elyzées become a big supermarket

Religion

It seems laicity needs to "evolve"

Francafrique

France helps tchad government to stay in power (Remember: Tchad is an ex-french colony, and Idryss Deby took power there by force 20 years ago)

Did France intervene in Gabon's elections?

State monitoring

Tag a wall, get your DNA taken
Paris to quadruple CCTVs
The school-database  (in french this one, sorry)France passes controversial antipiracy bill (this actually also goes into blocking websites on a secret blacklist) 

Corruption

Sarkozy goes on holidays on "friend's yacht":
Same story here, this time with a Microsoft executive
Obertur to make french passports (against french law - sorry only in french)

Misc

The first scooter the police ever found back
Magazine retouches Sarkozy photo
Sarkozy is supportive from George W Bush
Very effective police, part 2
Sarkozy to get a 140% payrise


 

England, Sterling and planes

It seems that despite what every banker will tell you, the bank won't give you an exchange rate anything close to what you will find on the internet when you transfer money from a sterling account to a euro account.

According to Boursorama.com, the rate on the 17th of August was 1.1655. On the 17th, I transferred 5000£ to my new euro account in germany. I was charged 15£, and I received on my german account 5591.50€ - that's a rate of about 1.118. At the rate indicated on Boursorama, I could have got 5827€ - 236€ more. Add to this a 15£ fee - that payment roughly cost me 250€.

Considering that a good currency exchange office would cost me about 1.5-2% of 5000€ (100€), it would be 150€ cheaper to exchange it here in Berlin - which is, heck, more than a return ticket to London. In other words, flying to London, getting my money cash (for any amount higher than 5000€), and changing it back here in Berlin would probably be cheaper than leaving my bank do the payment.

Maybe not the best way to get to my money, carbon-footprint-wise? Anyone experiencing the same issue? Ideas welcomed...

PS: Of course the rate you get when doing a payment is "secret" - you have no way to check it in advance, neither online or by calling your bank - and even afterwise, you have no way to check if your bank has applied the rate specified by the Bank of England, or applied a lower rate and taken a commission.

 

July 14th: French military parade

The 14th of July, like every year, France joins the list of great countries like Iran or North Korea that still demonstrate their military power by doing a military parade. Of course, the fact that France is the third world-wide exporter of arms is pure coincidence. And the fact that we want to sell military planes and nuclear factories to india has nothing to do with them being special guests this year. 

 But let's get 10 years old sing the Marseillaise in front of the president, let's demonstrate our shiny Rafales to other nuclear powers so that they can buy some, and, yaaay, let's have a free, tax-payer paid-for, concert of our president's best friend Johny Halliday, who when he doesn't try to become swiss or belgium to evade taxes also is france's most adored rock singer. Or not.

 Can't wait to read the newspaper telling us how wonderful Carla's dress was, how technologically advanced our tanks are and how much Johny rocked Paris. We also have such an history of nationalism and military successes that it's worth emphasizing, isn't it.

 I can't describe enough how much all this sh** makes me puke.


 

Interventionist Europe strikes again

Well, it seems that Europe has decided to impose us a standard phone charger. This is a move to reduce the number of phone chargers european citizens throw away every year. 

But wait - is this really a good move? Isn't it something that would be best answered by the law of the market? I mean, the article says there are about 185 millions new phones purchased every year. Every new phone comes with a new phone charger. Add to this all the ones that are lost, you have probably a market of about 200 millions phone chargers a year (just in Europe). At about 10/15€ each, well, you have quite a significant market.

 So: it is assumed that people do not need a new charger every time they buy a new cell phone, and that standardizing phone chargers will help the world get greener and the consumer spend less money. But effectively, Europe is killing a market that is generating a lot of growth and wealth. In other words - by making people consume less, the law intends to improve people's lives.

 STOP. THINK.

Obviously this is a first step toward socialism in the electric plugs market. By pushing a standard by law, Europe is clearly over-intervening, stifling english company's innovation, killing the business model of many who working in the phone chargers/adapters business, etc... Are these companies going to get any compensation for the loss of their market? Is this standard not going to evolve - at the pace technologies have been moving forward, this standard will probaly be obsolete in two or three years anyway?

But then - this also sets a significant precedent. What would happen if Europe decided to push a standard for printer cartridges? At the moment, when you buy a cheap ink-jet printer, you have to buy cartridges from the same company. By preventing the users from using lower-quality, cheaper generic cartridges, not only does the printer company cares about your printer, it also generates a huge market, making the consumer spend more - again, creating growth, and wealth. Same story for the laptop adapters. So, what's next? Is Europe going to force the UK to use the euro? To drive on the right? Gee, to use the *so* annoying metric system?

Europe, this is never gonna happen. In the UK, and in the US, people believe in Freedom, competition, growth and laws for a free market. Nice try - thanks, but no thanks.


English electric plug

 

 

PS: Hum, as it seems it wasn't clear enough, I was being cynical.  I do support standardization and do not believe the amount of money a family spends is a good way to measure its happiness :)

 

"Mi vida loca" - Spanish for beginners

Hey there, as some of you know I've been trying to learn spanish for quite some time now. I've tried everything, from spanish grammar books to watching spanish movies, to listening to mp3 courses and traveling to Spain for a month.  A few months ago I heard about "Mi vida loca", an interactive spanish course made by the BBC, and I finally have home broadband to use it. It is available here.

Mi vida loca

In short: it is amazing! It allows you to read and listen to spanish at the same time, in a fun and interactive way. It is very easy and gradually teaches you all the basics that will help you stay alive  if you ever travel to spain - say hello, introduce yourself, ask for directions, order food, ask for a price, take a cab...

And by the way, there seems to be the same to learn french, although it doesn't seem to work at the moment. Highly recommended :)


 

Working at OA

There has been some resentment against IT recently - while this isn't an entirely new thing and while I can not answer for the whole IT team, I thought clarifying what I am working on, the progress on some projects, and trying to explain the reason behind my slightly unusual  working scheme might be a step forward. 

 What I do

While there is no official job description for it, my job title is "Systems Manager". It is quite difficult to define and overlaps on some other people jobs, but very roughly: if anything is supposed to be running all the time (and is not directly related to networks) - then I am probably involved. Here we go down the list:

  • Emails (Zimbra)
  • File storage (mostly on the new servers)
  • Hosting for in-house websites (timesheets, tenders, environmental, fromelles-db...)
  • Deployment and hosting of other websites (wikis, forums, blogs, office' websites, ...)
  • Backups (to some extent, Paul and Porntep also working on that)
  • Remote access (NoMachine)
  • Monitoring (we get mails when something behaves weirdly)
  • "Virtualisation" technology - basically it is what allows us to have several servers on a physical box (run 2 windows XP, 3 windows 2000 and 10 linux Ubuntu on a single box, for example).
You can add a lot of small jobs next to this: I developed the initial version of the OACD, created the future openarchaeology.net website, was involved in the on-site recording software with ben (sadly on hold at the moment), spent a lot of time documenting our infrastructure... To give you an idea, we are managing over 100 servers (that doesn't include your laptop and desktops) accross 5 offices now (plus fromelles, st brieuc, and other significant sites).

Progress

I think everyone will have noticed that we've finally finished the move to Zimbra - which was a very painful and time consuming task. There are a few little quirks, but it is globally pretty reliable, and the amount of tickets related to this is pretty low.

Work on virtualisation is quite time consuming and also at the core of our system: we are not allowed to get this wrong, as all services would suffer. Here as well, the deployment is 90% finished (although this has probably gone unnoticed to many of you). It works well, we are working on more features and performance improvements now.

File storage is probably a big concern for many of you in OA South, where there have been numerous complaints over the current project folders - a significant number of you refusing to work with it, and using email, local pc, or other shared folders to deal with their work. There is a lot of work going on at the moment to address these concerns. Among those:

  • A cheap and big (albeit slow) storage has been purchased to solve disk space issues. This storage will be used for finished projects, archives from the archives department, backups of ex-users emails and home folders, ... The server has been purchased, installed, and is being deployed as I write.
  • All the project folders will be unified in a single server. This work is ongoing. There are permissions issues that need to be solved for some projects.
  • The old servers (server1, server3, etc) are expected to be retired by the end of autumn.

File storage is certainly our next biggest challenge - and there are drastic restrictions and controls that come with better management that many of you will probably have a hard time to cope with in a first place. I believe this is the price we will have to pay.

Remote access: working well so far. We now have over 70 people that are able to connect to a remote desktop from home. As far as I've understood the company's policy, remote work is accepted were suitable - check with your line manager.

 Backups: a lot of work is going on to improve the level of backup; more data will be backed-up off-site, more regularly. We are at the deployment stage of a new "backup to tape" system.

 How I work

Many will have noticed that I am no longer working from inside the UK. I believe other non-english nationals working for OA know how it feels do be in a foreign country for so long - as far as I was concerned staying in the UK for longer than two years wasn't an option. I love my job though (I really do) so I am thrilled to be able to continue to work from abroad.

Quite frankly: for my job, it doesn't make such a big difference. I am working exclusively on the servers that are in the server room next to the graphic office; so whether I am remotely connected from my office in Oxford or from another country, I see pretty much the same on my screen.

 I also have working hours that slightly differ from the usual ones. I hope the people who reported this are not the same complaining that a maintenance is taking place during the day :) also have to regularly deal with people in US timezones. Finally, for most of my work, it doesn't matter much at what time I do it, as it doesn't involve dealing with anyone else. I still try to be available most of the normal working hours, though, as I have to give the best response time to your support tickets (IT staff in Oxford actually has to answer queries from all offices).

 Regarding the question why we had problems dealing with people joining and leaving the company: we just have no way to guess when someone joins or leaves unless someone tells us...

 So, I hoped I answered a few questions... feel free to comment if you got others that I haven't replied to. And, why not, ask me for a blog, and blog about your experience working for OA :)






 

Porntep likes spicy food :)

So, my congratulations to Porntep, from all the people who attended yesterday, for enjoying and finishing that quite hot "Chili chili chicken" at that chinese restaurant. I hereby attest it was pretty hot (it was the "get your picture on the wall if you finish it" type of hot) - I am sure rafa would attest the same :D

Porntep and rafa:

Porntep and rafa