General

I never thought I would write this post. I am truly amazed.

A few weeks ago, we decided to port our main phone line after 35 years from Belgacom to OVH VoIP service.

Now, the tricky thing was, the Internet line we have with EDPnet in the house is run via the same phone line. This worried me, thinking that I’d end up with my parents losing internet and phone and with me far away. But hey… let’s try it.

Just to make sure though, I called up Belgacom to ask them how these things normally go. After being on hold for 38 minutes in a seemingly endless queue, I decided to call OVH. A few seconds later, I was talking to someone explaining me the process, however with the disclaimer that the information is based on french operators. So I decided to give my internet provider, EDPnet, a call. There I was told that it will ‘just work’, Belgacom would terminate the line automatically, and they’ll step in with a ‘raw copper’ service. Sounds great!

So I scheduled the number port for the 21st of January. Letters arrived from OVH and Belgacom, verifying that I wanted to go ahead with this, and the 21st of January came closer.

Emails from OVH confirming the Number Port

Emails from OVH confirming the Number Port

On the day, I got 3 emails from OVH confirming every step of the number port. The phone service just switched over. Even internet didn’t disconnect. Everything went smoothly. Unbelievable right?

Next, I got a nice email from EDPnet confirming that they heard about the number port, and that they’ll provide the raw copper service on the same line without interruption.

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 22.24.57Great! To be honest, I did NOT expect this to go smoothly at all. Given my past experiences with major telephony operators and complex setups like this (with 3 operators involved), I expected to loose my number, loose internet connectivity for at least a few months etc. But no. It all works. So I’d like to thank OVH, EDPnet and even Belgacom for making this a very smooth transition. Awesome work guys!

 

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It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post here … I blame Twitter … but this story won’t fit the 140 character limit.

The plan

I was in Stuttgart for a week of consulting, so I wanted to return on Saturday to London to pack my stuff and head off to Brussels on Monday for the holidays.

However, it seems like I’ve chosen a bad weekend to travel.

The first part of my trip was from Stuttgart to London Heathrow.

Saturday, 18th of December 2010

I was booked onto the 13:20 – 14:05 flight from Stuttgart to London Heathrow. Just before leaving Esslingen to head to the airport, I checked the Lufthansa website to make sure my flight was on.

Great! Flight is scheduled, whereas British Airways decided to cancel all flights pre-emptively. Feeling smug, I was off to the Airport.

Everything was going as planned, check-in, security check, lunch and then off to the gate. Boarding time was planned for 12:50, but it took a while for Lufthansa staff to show up at the gate. At 12:55 they finally did show up and shared the bad news. They were unable to get a landing clearing at Heathrow due to the adverse weather conditions. My smugness quickly disappeared off my face and it was off to the Lufthansa Ticket desk.

Turns out, you can go backwards through the entire process at an airport to leave it. Arrived at the ticket desk, I quickly got booked onto the flight at 16:40. Ouch. That meant trying not to get bored for another 3 hours. Thank god for my iPad with Spotify and Angry Birds.

3 hours later, again at the gate, the same announcement: Flight cancelled due to weather at Heathrow. Yet another trip to the Ticket Desk, where Lufthansa was kind enough to pay for a great 4* Hotel near the Airport and 20€ for food and drinks. Compared to British Airway’s budget of 200€ for all stranded passengers, Lufthansa was great. I was afraid it would be a small, cheap hostel but it wasn’t. The Pullman Fontana was an amazing Hotel. Nice rooms, fast WiFi and a well stocked bar (gotta love Campari!). The only thing that was disappointing was the breakfast. Just a few mini-Croissants and some toast. It’s the only thing that didn’t fit the entire 4* Business Hotel setting.

And so we get to

Sunday, 19th of December 2010

Wake up call at 4:30, quick shower, mini-breakfast and then off to the Airport again. I was supposed to get the early morning flight, yet I already saw online on the Lufthansa site that it was cancelled. However, the receptionist was convinced that the flight wasn’t, so it was off to the airport again.

What a coincidence, the 6:50 flight was cancelled. So I got onto the standby list of the 13:20 flight, a ticket for the 16:40 flight and a 7€ voucher for breakfast. During breakfast, I was browsing the internets, I checked the Heathrow Airport website and saw that they closed the airport completely for all incoming flights. So it was off to the Ticket Desk again, to tell them that there won’t be any flights going out to Heathrow today.

So, what were the options? I asked about train tickets: Possible, but only to the German border, and it didn’t look like it would be easy to get a hold of Eurostar tickets. So that was a no go.
The next option was going back to the Pullman: After a lengthy talk, they offered us a second night at the Pullman, but clearly said that it would be the last one they would pay for, as this was a case of force majeure, so they can’t be held liable. Realizing that the situation at Heathrow wouldn’t change over night, and that the backlog of passengers at Stuttgart for London Heathrow was growing, this didn’t seem like a smart move. On top of that, I had a flight booked from Heathrow to Brussels on Monday at 10:50, so I would possibly miss that flight.

This is when I overheard some people mentioning a Germanwings flight to Stansted in the evening. So I asked Lufthansa to get me a seat on that flight which they did. However, seeing as this was a low cost carrier, I had to get my luggage and wait for check-in to open 2 hours before the flight was scheduled to leave. This meant killing a day worth of time.

Having met a fellow traveler at the Pullman the night before and both being booked onto the Germanwings flight, we decided to head into Stuttgart and do something there. Little did I know, Stuttgart is the dullest city in the world (no offense). Add the fact that it’s Sunday to that, and you’ve got a place where you don’t want to spend another minute in. After 2 hours of going from one Café to another and keeping the caffeine levels high, we found a “Casino”. It was a very strange place. It was an underground cellar, with 2 pool tables and 6 slot machines and a few very odd human beings. Didn’t matter, it was something to do. So we played pool. The final score isn’t relevant.

Having wasted time there, it was off to the station to get hold of some WiFi and then off to the Airport to check-in. You could immediately see that Germanwings is a low-cost carrier, as the queue to check-in was stretched around several corners. Nevertheless it was a flight to the UK.

Luckily that flight wasn’t cancelled and the plane finally left Stuttgart. A quick sidenote, the Germanwings flight was quite good. A nice amount of legroom (more than Brussels Airlines! wtf?!) and very professional and friendly on board staff.

Landing in Stansted, it was off onto the Stansted Express, then Underground (which for once wasn’t on strike) and finally South West Trains to Egham. HOME.

The experience

Overall, it wasn’t a “bad” experience. Of course, I would’ve preferred not to have been stuck at the airport for 2 days, but Lufthansa was very friendly and having a Hotel for the night and not having to sleep on the benches at the airport like BA passengers was great.

The thing they could’ve done better is communication. They could’ve told the receptionist that the flight is cancelled, so that we could’ve gotten another few hours of sleep. Also, how come we, as passengers, know that a flight will be cancelled before staff at the airport ticketing desk know? Not good. So in short, Lufthansa, get your communication sorted.

And so we’re getting to Monday.

Monday, 20th of December 2010

Getting up at 8am is horrible for any student. So being in the age of Twitter, I wanted to make sure I don’t get to the airport for nothing, so I asked Brussels Airlines on Twitter if my flight was operating.

Yay! Looks like I might get home on time. So I was on my way to Heathrow.

I am used to just finding an empty departure hall, with loads of space and hardly anyone in sight. Today was completely the opposite. Staff was checking if you’re flight was scheduled at the entrance before they let anyone inside and inside the hall people were queuing everywhere and some families lying on the floor on these aluminum blankets.

As I know where the Brussels Airlines check-in is, I didn’t bother checking the boards, and just headed over to the desk. This is where I saw a mass of people pushing and shoving each other to get to 2 check-in desks, and a woman with a bullhorn screaming at them to get back. Turns out, Cyprus Airways had a check-in desks next to Brussels Airlines. Amazed by how uncivilized that queue was, I queued up at the Brussels Airlines desks where I only saw 2092 (which was supposed to have left at 8:30 … it was 9:50). Odd. This is when I saw another tweet by Brussels Airlines.

Ouch. Oh well, I was in the queue already, so let’s see if I could get on any other flight to Brussels. Turns out, I could. An amazingly professional, calm and friendly Brussels Airlines staffer got me onto the standby list of a very delayed SN2092 which was leaving more or less now … and assured me that I would get a seat. Great!

Fast-track through Terminal 1 security and then off to the BMI Great British Lounge to get some breakfast. Turns out that a few weeks ago, BMI decided to change the access rules to it. Even though the BMI website states that BMI Diamond Club Silver card holders get access to the lounge (even with a guest), they now deny access to people not flying on BMI metal. Having booked a BMI flight (BD flight number – even though operated by another LH group member), and thus paying BMI, Silver members aren’t allowed in.

Very disappointing decision by BMI, which results in me not booking through BMI anymore. No point in paying more for LHR-BRU on FlyBMI.com compared to BrusselsAirlines.com.

So it was time to head off to the gate. I quickly got a seat on the plane and boarded.

This is when the fun began: We spent 3 hours sitting on the plane before actual take-off.

The first two hours were spent with the flight attendants counting the people on the plane and comparing those numbers to the manifesto. Seems like those numbers didn’t add up. But how come this takes 2 hours?! After they finally figured that out, it took 30 minutes to get a starting clearance, so we were off towards the runway. Heathrow decided to close the runway for 30 minutes to clear it (even though it was clear).

40 minutes later, touchdown in Brussels. Looks like we just about made it before they realized they were running out of de-icing fluid.

So I thought that was it. Quickly picking up my luggage and then home. Wrong. Turns out my luggage decided it wanted to stay in Heathrow for a bit longer. Normally not a bad thing, however Brussels Baggage hall was a mess.

BRU luggage chaos - picture by Regi Penxten

BRU luggage chaos - picture by Regi Penxten

Bags everywhere but mine wasn’t anywhere. That meant queuing. And not just queuing, but a queue of at least 200 people for the baggage claim. Add to that the fact that there were only 2 desks open to handle the lost baggage claims, this meant a long time to queue.

It took 6!! hours!! 6 hours to tell someone they lost my bag. Incredible. Why weren’t there more people working the lost and found desks?

To sum up, great ground staff from Brussels Airlines at Heathrow, 3 hours of sitting around on the plane before take-off (and seat pitches that are less than on Germanwings, a low-cost carrier!!) and then 6!! hours of queuing at the lost & found. All in all, a lot of room to improve.

Just a few last words: I just wanted to say, a great thank you to the people behind the @FlyingBrussels, @FlyBMI and @HeathrowAirport twitter accounts. You guys rock!

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Finally! I’ve got my own N900.

To be honest, it was just a matter of time, until I would get one. After having had one for 4 days, and then having it taken away from me after the XMPP Summit, I had my mind set on getting my own.

Now, the problem was the price as 649€ are not something I was willing to spend on a phone. Thankfully Vodafone UK has a great Webrelations Team, who were willing to give me the N900 for 15£ / month! Thanks guys!

So… Why Maemo Rocks and Android Sucks:

It was obvious that I wouldn’t go for another Symbian device, as S60v5 is just a hack, and S60v3 outdated, these were out of the race. That left the iPhone (which has just gotten video recording and doesn’t do multi-tasking?! .. even my old 6260 from 2004 was able to do that), an Android device (I still can’t find a reason to get an Android phone – No USP! There is no point in Android. It does everything, but nothing very well.) or the shiny toy packed with the power of full Linux and Maemo, the N900.

The beauty of Maemo is, that it’s a full Linux OS. It uses apt-get, I’ve got root access without hacking it, and allows me to run more or less anything from Asterisk over Nmap to Wolfenstein 3D. Oh, and it does Flash! During the XMPP Summit, we even went so far as to run rm -rf /* on it, which it executed without complaining.

The N900 is by far not ready for end consumer, but it’s the perfect device for people who want a Linux machine in their pocket, with a shiny UI. Maemo is like OSX. It has a very shiny and nice UI, but if you want, you can open a terminal, and do whatever you want, without anyone or anything stopping you.

As with every developer centered phone, there are some things that need to be improved:

  • Ovi Contacts Sync support
  • Better Ovi Maps with free Navigation
  • Video Calling (not only for Mobiles, but also for XMPP / Ovi, MSN, Skype…)
  • Better Battery life! It’s kinda poor at the moment. Having 3G connected, it’s about 1/2 a day
  • An official Spotify client (Yaspot works but isn’t great)

However, there’s some really cool apps on the N900 already.

The apps I’d highly recommend for anyone with an N900:

  • rootsh – Because being root is so much better
  • Hermes – A nifty little tool to sync info from Facebook and Twitter to your address book contacts
  • Angry Birds – I just love Rovio Games, but Angry Birds is by far the best game around for the N900 (In the Ovi Store for free)
  • Adblock Plus – No one likes ads.

So, I guess that’s it. My first impression of the N900: It’s a must have for every tech and gadget fanatic. It just doesn’t get better than this. Symbian^3 won’t be able to measure up to Maemo!

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It’s that time of the year again, the SU has gone mad. People all across campus are trying to get elected for different society positions, which in a way is just a big joke, as most of the positions are uncontested. As far as I remember, only 2 of them are contested, one of them being Student Radio Station Manager.

Now, these people have to run campaigns (why? – Most of them are uncontested? – Just goes to show how beloved the SU is…). But, the SU has imposed restrictions on what they can, and can’t do. The funniest I heard is, that allegedly, third party students may not promote a specific candidate.

This means, if I would like Nick Stylianou (random pick of the two options below…) to win the election, I am not allowed to tell people to vote for Nick, as I’m not on his campaign team. Why?! In politics, the candidates get to run THEIR OWN campaign the way they want!

So, because I believe in freedom of speech (and am not restricted by UK law in terms of libel), and as I did not sign anything, prohibiting me from telling everyone who to vote for, I will do this here, and now.

Please note: The candidates are in random order. No preference intended.

My picks are: Nick Stylianou or Helen Carr for Student Radio Station Manager, and Sarah for Assistant Station Manager (not that that’s a hard choice.)

Please, if you know of more restrictions imposed by the Student Union, please get in touch. I will treat all submissions confidential, of course.

Keep following this website, as I will add more election news here, as it develops.

UPDATE: Right, here are the official guidelines. This is ridiculous! Who does the SU think they are?!?!

4.2 Facebook will be the only online resource permitted for the purposes of this election with the following restrictions.  Twitter, personal websites and all other forms of online media and social networking pages will not be permitted.

6.3.  No candidate may have more than ten in their campaign team.  if a candidate is found to be receiving additional help or support from anyone, they will face disciplinary action.

Right, starting some FB Ad Campaigns, which will (according to these guidelines) disqualify everyone.

PS: Vote RON on all uncontested positions!

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Yes! The JIM Hitmix 2009 is here, and it’s amazing!

Take a look at the trailer:

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Can’t wait to see the full TMF Yearmix 2009.

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I guess you all know the track “I’m on a boat” by The Lonely Island.

Well, now there’s a new version for all you Mac users out there!

The Pantless Knights are at it again with a sequel to our “Mac or PC Rap.”

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.
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It’s official! I am a Hero!

They got some facts wrong though. I’m not Swedish but: Danish / German / Belgian, and I did not pay for a TV licence. But hey, I’m still a hero right? 🙂

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Top Gear on iPlayerDon’t you just hate the fact that you can’t access Hulu? Or BBC iPlayer? Or the good music on Spotify?

If you look up Internet on Wikipedia, it is described as:

The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) to serve billions of users worldwide.

However, as we’re getting ready for 2010, the internet is getting less and less global thanks to our “beloved” media institutions.

Services like Hulu don’t work outside the US. Why? If I can’t watch the stuff legally, on Hulu, or buy the shows on iTunes, I go about getting the same show somewhere else. It’s not that I wouldn’t pay, it’s just that no-one wants my money. How is this possible?

Hulu outside the USFrom a technical point of view, it would cost Hulu (or it’s ISP) a bit more to have traffic go out of the US through transit, but hey, I would be willing to pay a bit more for it. I thought Hulu was ad supported anyway? So where’s the problem? The license owner (the TV network) would make more money that way. They aren’t seeing a single cent if I were to get that show elsewhere.

What about the BBC iPlayer? Why isn’t that accessible globally? I can watch BBC on cable TV, or via Satellite for free too, just like people within the UK. Ok, I don’t pay any TV license, but then again, I don’t pay that in the UK either. So no real reason there either.

And then there’s my favorite app: Spotify.

Spotify Track not available in the UKIn an age, where I can get any music track within minutes, why do you still have a different catalog in every country? It’s ridiculous. I’m paying £9,99 per month, to get access to unlimited music. But then I find out, that I have to switch my account between UK and France, to get all the music I would like. That’s the only reason, I still open iTunes from time to time. It could be so much better!

It would even save Spotify storage, as you seem to be keeping the same track from different CD’s with different track IDs.

The US roll-out, I can understand. It’s all a matter of scaling the backend, but you could at least allow Premium signups in those countries. Again, you don’t seem to want to make money?

And don’t start blaming it on the music / TV / film industry. We all KNOW it’s their fault, but you are owned by them! So point out to them, that censorship is something that we can bypass. Heck, I’ve got IP blocks, and there’s VPN services for the rest, in nearly all European countries and the US, so I can get around the limits. But at the end of the day, you’re the loosing party! (I should build a product with this!)

So this is where we’ve come by 2010. The internet is getting limited on a per country basis, and net neutrality is the fancy word that the industry doesn’t like.

So I’m begging you guys: Please make more money, by making your services global. Isn’t that what the internet is all about?

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As most of you know, I’m online most of the time one way or another.

Before I left for London, I used to use my laptop or WiFi on my E61. That resulted in me getting my laptop out in Airports, Cafés and nearly any other place. Some would call it an addiction 🙂

Having left for London more than a year ago, I finally had the possibility of getting more or less unlimited internet on my phone, without having to sell my soul. That was a huge game changer. I could now check my E-mails, track support tickets – do anything really!, anywhere without having to get out my laptop. Great!

Then there were those weeks I had to head back to Belgium for family festivities etc.. I quickly realized that my 3 UK contract gave me way better rates for data in Belgium than my Belgian Proximus Pay&Go card. It wasn’t really cheap, it was just the lesser of two evils.

But now there’s a solution!

Mobile Vikings, a Belgian “next gen” MVNO finally saw what’s missing in Belgium. In the age of Twitter and hyper-connectivity, people want to be connected at all times. Either with their E71, BlackCherry or iPod Touch with phone capabilities. Pushed E-mails, Twitter streams and of course XMPP are just a few of the things people will start to use more. Just look at any other country where there’s contracts for mobile internet that are affordable.

Anyways, I immediately ordered my free SIM and ported my number. The SIM arrived 3 days after having ordered it, in a very nicely designed envelope (kudos to Mobile Vikings for that!). The accompanying letter told me to send a text from my old SIM in order to initiate the number porting process. That took about 2 hours, and I was ready to go! Topped up €15 and got my 1000 texts and 1GB of data. Worked like a charm.

Seeing as I was driving round the country quite a bit the next few days, I decided to put the Network to a test. Unlike the UK, Belgium has a mobile network that’s worth a fuck, so I was pretty optimistic. From experience, I never had any low coverage with Proximus. Never. Always good signal, and 99% even 3G (Three could learn something from them)!

Mobile Vikings use the BASE Network. First disappointment was that BASE has no 3G, but only EDGE. Having done a bit of research, it looks like BASE wants to enable the 3G network in the next few weeks, so keep your fingers crossed for that. Having said that, I was quite surprised how fast the EDGE network is. I could play Spotify tracks with only short buffering times (2-3 seconds) without any major issues. That’s really the beauty of Belgium. No one uses the data network, because it’s so damn expensive, hence it’s extremely fast! So I can’t wait until BASE fires up their 3G Network. That should be amazing.

Having spent 5 days with Mobile Vikings, I have to say, the network isn’t as bad as I expected it to be. I had issues getting signal in the Cinema (Proximus worked fine), and in some parts of Mol. But for the rest, it’s all good.

The only thing I still don’t get: How is the traffic accounted? On the site it says:

€2,50 per MB consumed,
starting from the first byte of each megabyte started.

That translates for me into: I use 1 byte, I pay 2,50€ for it, and my signal drops then, so I just paid 2,50€ for a byte. Right?! One thing I would urge every operator: charge per byte. Yes, indicate the price per MB, but the charging should occur per byte.

It’s nice to see that a group of people are getting Belgium prepped for the 21st century! So definitely get your Mobile Vikings SIM card today and join us! Just head over to: mobilevikings.com

PS: It is a great name for a Mobile Network!

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E71 with SpotifyFinally, it’s here! Spotify for S60! It was worth the wait.

I have spent all morning playing with the App, and it’s as beautiful as the client for Mac. The entire UI is not as “chunky” as Nokia’s Media Player, it’s more like an iPhone app, in the sense that it has smooth transitions between the different panels, which makes the entire experience very nice. As you can see on the picture on the side, you have something similar to Apple’s Cover Flow, which shows you the current previous, current and next track cover art. Another thing you should check out, is skipping in a track. It gives you big digits on top of the cover art.

All in all, very very sleek.

Spotify Playlist SyncOf course, it wouldn’t be Spotify, if it wouldn’t sync your playlists in realtime. This is, pardon my french, fucking awesome! Like on the iPhone or Andriod, you can select which playlists to sync, and you’ll see it syncing.

Just a note at this point: Don’t even bother syncing a few big playlists like mine via 3G, unless you’ve got a data plan that allows you to download the entire Internet. I synced my Calm Mood and Various Goodness: Dance playlist via WiFi, which generated 1,15GB of traffic. So yeah, I wouldn’t even try that.

Screenshot0010But the guys at Spotify have thought of everything. They added an option under More, which allows you to say that it should only offline-sync stuff when you’re connected via WiFi, which is probably a setting you should not change.

However, don’t be afraid to listen to Spotify tracks via 3G/HSDPA. Just listening to a few tracks on 3G won’t cost you too much traffic. It’s about 3-4MB per song.

I tested it on Three UK, and it worked surprisingly well. Just as good as the Desktop client, which I think is an amazing accomplishment!

So all in all, if this doesn’t make you upgrade to Spotify Premium, I don’t know what will! It’s amazing! The only thing missing is the possibility to queue tracks.

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