• Welcome to FlorianJensen.com

    Welcome to FlorianJensen.com

One of the main bottlenecks when running high performance virtualization systems is the harddisk. Now, you could of course switch your entire system over to SSDs, but that is costly and you’ll end up with a lot less storage, or a massive RAID array.

Modern filesystems like ZFS have solved this problem by allowing for ‘hybrid’ systems. These use the traditional harddisks for persistent storage, and use SSD drives in front of them to cache the read and write queries. This way you get the best of both worlds. Nearly SSD performance and the storage size of a traditional drive.

At Flosoft.biz we use Proxmox to power our VPS offers, which uses LVM and EXT4 for it’s filesystem which doesn’t have a ‘SSD caching’ method built into it. Facebook seems to have had a similar issue, so they created FlashCache. Flashcache is a kernel module that allows you to add a block caching partition in front of any other partition of your system, resulting in an amazing speedup of your system.

After having spent a night or two on getting this to work on Proxmox 2, I decided to write a small tutorial here. I’d also like to thank @toxicnaan for his l33t hax0r skillz.

 

Updating your system

Get your system up to date and make sure you’ve got the latest Kernel.

apt-get update
apt-get dist-upgrade
apt-get install dkms build-essential git
reboot

 

Kernel Headers

You will now need to install the Kernel Headers for your Kernel so that you can compile the module. Make sure you install the correct version of the headers. These need to be the same as the Kernel you’re running.

uname -a # to get your kernel version
apt-get install pve-headers-2.6.32-17-pve # to install the headers for version 2.6.32-17

 

Get FlashCache

Now that we’ve got the Kernel tools, we can get FlashCache and build it.

git clone git://github.com/facebook/flashcache.git
cd flashcache/

make -f Makefile.dkms boot_conf
make install

 

Load FlashCache

Next we need to load FlashCache into our running Kernel and make sure it’s loaded upon boot.

modprobe flashcache
echo flashcache >> /etc/modules

 

Re-purposing the SSD drives

Now it’s time to find a new use for our SSD drives, namely as cache. You can skip this step if your server doesn’t have the SSD drives mounted as /var/lib/vz

umount /var/lib/vz
vgremove pve
pvremove /dev/md2

 

Re-purposing the 2 HDD drives

Now let’s prepare the 2 HDD drives to be used as the storage for /var/lib/vz.

umount /data
pvcreate /dev/md0
lvcreate -l 100%VG -n storage pve
mkfs.ext4 /dev/mapper/pve-storage

 

Creating the FlashCache partition

Now let’s create the FlashCache partition on the SSD drives & mount it.

flashcache_create -p back pvec-storage /dev/md2 /dev/mapper/pve-storage
mount /dev/mapper/pvec-storage /var/lib/vz
echo 1 > /proc/sys/dev/flashcache/md2+pve-storage/fast_remove

 

Editing /etc/fstab

Next step is to edit /etc/fstab and remove the /data and /var/lib/vz mounts. If you forget to do this (as I did for quite a while), your server will struggle to boot on it’s own, and you’ll end up with the datacenter techs thinking you’re an idiot 🙂

vi /etc/fstab

 

The init.d file

This next step is important. We need to add an init.d file to do some operations, like mounting the filesystem and cleaning it up. It will also unmount the drive before shutting down, as if you don’t do this, your kernel will freeze on shutdown. Make sure you edit your file according to your needs.

#!/bin/sh

# Start or stop Flashcache

### BEGIN INIT INFO
# Provides:          flashcache
# Required-Start:
# Required-Stop:     $remote_fs $network pvedaemon
# Default-Start:     2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop:      0 1 6
# Short-Description: Flashcache SSD caching
# Description:       Flashcache SSD caching
### END INIT INFO

PATH=/bin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/usr/sbin

flashcache_start() {
if df -h | grep /var/lib/vz > /dev/null
then
echo "Flashcache allready running"
else
flashcache_load /dev/md2
mount /dev/mapper/pvec-storage /var/lib/vz
#mount /dev/mapper/pve-backup /mnt/backup
echo 1 > /proc/sys/dev/flashcache/md2+pve-storage/fast_remove
echo "Flashcache started"
fi
}

flashcache_stop() {
if df -h | grep /var/lib/vz > /dev/null
then
#umount /mnt/backup
umount /var/lib/vz
dmsetup remove pvec-storage
echo "Flashcache stopped"
else
echo "Flashcache not running"
fi
}

case "$1" in
    start)
flashcache_start
    ;;

    stop)
flashcache_stop
    ;;

    restart)
        $0 stop
        $0 start
    ;;
esac

exit 0

 

Enabling the init.d file.

Now we need to make the file executable and make sure it’s run on boot.

chmod +x /etc/init.d/flashcache
update-rc.d flashcache defaults

 

Give it a spin

Right, that should do it. Reboot your machine and see if it comes back.

reboot

If all went well, your drive should be mounted with FlashCache in between.

root@vh43:~# df -h
Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
none                   32G  256K   32G   1% /dev
/dev/md1               10G  1.3G  8.2G  14% /
tmpfs                  32G     0   32G   0% /lib/init/rw
tmpfs                  32G     0   32G   0% /dev/shm
/dev/fuse              30M   12K   30M   1% /etc/pve
/dev/mapper/pvec-storage
                      1.8T  196M  1.7T   1% /var/lib/vz

You can also see the statistics of FlashCache by running:

cat /proc/flashcache/md2+pve-storage/flashcache_stats

That’s it! Your Proxmox system should now have it’s VMs on the FlashCache drive.

If you have any questions or feedback, just leave them below.

References:

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This guide will guide you through the process of setting up PHP-FPM and nginx on your Mac OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion using MacPorts.

Installing XCode

For starters, you need MacPorts installed. This requires XCode and XCode’s Command Line tools. You can get XCode off the Apple Store. Once installed, go to preferences and install the Command Line tools.

Next install MacPorts. Just go to this page and download the pkg for your version of OSX.

Once that’s done, we’re ready to start.

Installing PHP-FPM

First, let’s install PHP-FPM:

sudo port install php54-fpm

Now we’ll also need to copy the config file:

sudo cp /opt/local/etc/php54/php-fpm.conf.default /opt/local/etc/php54/php-fpm.confsudo cp /opt/local/etc/php54/php.ini-development /opt/local/etc/php54/php.ini

That’s PHP sorted. If you want to install any PHP extensions, just use port install php54-EXTENSION.

Installing nginx

Next, we install nginx and copy the config files into the right place.

sudo port install nginx
 sudo cp -p /opt/local/etc/nginx/fastcgi.conf.example /opt/local/etc/nginx/fastcgi.conf
 sudo cp /opt/local/etc/nginx/fastcgi_params.example /opt/local/etc/nginx/fastcgi_params
 sudo cp /opt/local/etc/nginx/mime.types.example /opt/local/etc/nginx/mime.types
 sudo cp /opt/local/etc/nginx/nginx.conf.example /opt/local/etc/nginx/nginx.conf
 sudo mkdir /opt/local/etc/nginx/conf.d

Configuration

That’s it. Now you can go ahead and configure nginx to your liking by editing the file:

/opt/local/etc/nginx/nginx.conf

I have also changed some configuration files to make PHP work properly off my ~/Sites/ folder.

Edit /opt/local/etc/php54/php.ini:

cgi.fix_pathinfo=0

This will help with the nginx config.

Edit the fastcgi_params file:

sudo vi /opt/local/etc/nginx/fastcgi_params

It should look like this:

fastcgi_param   QUERY_STRING            $query_string;
fastcgi_param   REQUEST_METHOD          $request_method;
fastcgi_param   CONTENT_TYPE            $content_type;
fastcgi_param   CONTENT_LENGTH          $content_length;

fastcgi_param   SCRIPT_FILENAME         $request_filename;
fastcgi_param   SCRIPT_NAME             $fastcgi_script_name;
fastcgi_param   REQUEST_URI             $request_uri;
fastcgi_param   DOCUMENT_URI            $document_uri;
fastcgi_param   DOCUMENT_ROOT           $document_root;
fastcgi_param   SERVER_PROTOCOL         $server_protocol;

fastcgi_param   GATEWAY_INTERFACE       CGI/1.1;
fastcgi_param   SERVER_SOFTWARE         nginx/$nginx_version;

fastcgi_param   REMOTE_ADDR             $remote_addr;
fastcgi_param   REMOTE_PORT             $remote_port;
fastcgi_param   SERVER_ADDR             $server_addr;
fastcgi_param   SERVER_PORT             $server_port;
fastcgi_param   SERVER_NAME             $server_name;

fastcgi_param   HTTPS                   $https;

# PHP only, required if PHP was built with --enable-force-cgi-redirect
fastcgi_param   REDIRECT_STATUS         200;

And finally, add a location to your nginx configuration for PHP:

sudo vi /opt/local/etc/nginx/nginx.conf

Here’s my config:

        location ~ \.php$ {
            root   /Users/florian/Sites;
            fastcgi_pass   127.0.0.1:9000;
            fastcgi_index  index.php;
            include        fastcgi_params;
        }

That’s it for the configuration.

Tweaking .bash_profile

Lastly, we’ll add some lines to your .bash_profile to make it easier to start and stop nginx and php_fpm.

vi ~/.bash_profile

And then add the following:

# nginx
 alias nginx_start='sudo launchctl load -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.nginx.plist'
 alias nginx_stop='sudo launchctl unload -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.nginx.plist'
 alias nginx_restart='nginx_stop; nginx_start;'
#php-fpm
alias fpm_start=’sudo launchctl load -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.php54-fpm.plist’
 alias fpm_stop=’sudo launchctl unload -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.php54-fpm.plist’
 alias fpm_restart=’fpm_stop; fpm_start’
Boom! That’s it. You’ve now got nginx and php-fpm running on your Mac.
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When was the last time you stayed at a hotel? How would you rate your experience, from a safety point of view? Do you feel the hotel staff could have done something different to make you and your belonging feel better protected? Do you think there is something you could have done differently, from the second you made that call to book the room till the end of your stay there? Here are a few ideas that should help you change your hotel safety mentality and increase your odds of enjoying a secure and comfortable stay next time you need to find hotel accommodation.nationwidelocksmith.org

What To Do Before Booking A Room

  • call front desk or email the hotel and find out if they have 24/7 security personnel at sight;

  • if possible, book a room located between the second and seventh floors, as they are considered to be within the easy reach of firemen ladders – as well as harder to access by thieves climbing the escape ladders on the exterior of the building.

  • Try to get a room that is located far from elevators and stairwells and make sure the room/lobby have sprinklers.

  • Inquire about the type of locks on the hotel room door; do they have deadbolts or privacy latches installed? Are there any surveillance cameras installed in the hallways and elevators?

Add A Few Safety Items In Your Luggage

  • even if you learn there are latches and safety chains or deadbolts installed on the door of the room you will be booking, it never hurts to be cautious;

  • pack along a portable rubber door-stopper or a portable lock that you should have no problem finding with your regular locksmith or local hardware store.

  • Talk to a licensed and experienced locksmith that handles both commercial and residential locksmith services and have them recommend any extra safety devices you could pack along. Talk to the guys at https://www.nationwidelocksmith.org/about-us and see if they are willing to offer any security advice for hotels and other similar accommodation options. The best services that cater to the needs of nationwide customers usually have great customer services. You should be able to talk all the details over the phone and have a trained locksmith come over and introduce their offers in terms of portable locks, personal alarms, and so on.

What To Do Upon Arriving At The Hotel

  • do not wander in the parking lot or the space around the hotel;

  • ask relevant questions concerning the safety of the neighborhood and any peculiar local customs you should know about. Inquire about the local 911-type emergency number and learn how to use their local telephone system.

  • Prop the door open with your luggage upon arriving to the room. Turn on the lights and inspect the door lock, as well as the locks on all the sliding glass doors and windows,or any lock you might see on the interconnecting doors.

  • Maintain the doors and windows locked throughout your stay and always engage the deadbolt and privacy chain. Remember to use the doorstop you have packed.

  • No safe in the room? Keep your passport, cash, and jewelry locked in your suitcase.

  • Before going to bed at night, store your wallet, watch, jewelry, and other valuables in a drawer in the nightstand.

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Cyber threats are not to be taken lightly, but sadly small business owners live under the erroneous impression that no self respected hacker targets small companies. This is absolutely wrong and if you don’t believe it, Google “ransomware stories”. You will find lots of people who lost access to their computer because of a ransomware virus.

In such cases, you have to deposit a certain amount of money in an account if you want to regain access to your computer network. The sums can be huge and can render your business incapacitated if a big part of its activity is based on computers. For example, a computer that has an offline database of clients will be very vulnerable. 

Cyber security solutions

Let’s talk about a couple of pieces of software that can keep your computer safe from all sorts of malware including Trojan horses, bitcoin miners and ransomware viruses.

Comodo is one of the low cost solutions that offers affordable solutions to users from all over the world. Comodo won a lot of awards but the free version is not as potent as the paid one. You could try ESET that lets you make custom packages to protect all devices including phones, USB drives, and servers. They offer several types of products based on company size and industry.

Physical business securityLocksmith trying new key

You might think that if you’re not selling anything valuable there’s no reason why someone would try to break in. Well here are a few situations that business owners with no security measures have to deal with at some point:

  • Former or current employees who want to steel money/merchandise or access files they are not supposed to see
  • Regular thieves who want to steal your products for resale
  • People who want to vandalize your building/offices as retribution or just for fun
  • Thieves who steal expensive equipment like computers, company cars and electric tools

There are a few things you could do to make sure these scenarios don’t come true. For once, you should upgrade your locks. Something as simple as a hard to break lock will keep many people out including low level thieves who use force to break in.

It’s a bad idea to change locks on your own if you know nothing about them. You risk ending up with a broken lock or a poorly installed one. It’s easier and possibly cheaper to call a professional locksmith to take care of that.

Look for locksmiths in advance so that you know who to call when you have an emergency. Here’s the website of a company that’s been in the industry for years and knows how to please clients: https://www.247losangeleslocksmiths.com/your-mobile-locksmith. It’s obviously just for people who live in LA but even those who don’t should visit the website to see how much a locksmith is supposed to charge for quality services.

Apart from upgrading locks, your business will be safer if you install security cameras and an alarm system. You could have a loud alarm or a silent one if you want to prevent the thieves from escaping the scene before the police arrives.

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Are budget airlines an alternative to full service airlines?

A Thomas Cook aircraft at London Gatwick

After having scoured the internet for cheap flights to Tunisia for weeks, I’ve decided to book a flight with Thomas Cook Airlines. The price for this started out as £172 return for a flight from London Gatwick (LGW) to Enfidha (NBE). The reason that I chose this flight was that I needed to be in Monastir for a week, and no normal flights were heading that way. The only alternative was Tunisair who are flying from Heathrow to Tunis for about the same price.

So I decided to give Thomas Cook Airlines a try, knowing that I would be conned out of my money somehow.

 

The pricing scam

When you go through Thomas Cooks online booking system, it all looks nice in the beginning, but gets worse with every click.
They lure you in with a reasonable (not even low!) fare, in this case £172, but when you start to click next, you realize what’s missing.

Thomas Cook Airlines "extras"

Let’s start off with luggage. On any full service airline, you’d be allowed to take 20-30kg of hold baggage with you. As you’d expect, Thomas Cook doesn’t allow this. Traveling with a bag is an extra for a mere £32 per 20kg.
If you were expecting a complementary meal, or just even a snack on board of a 3 hour flight, think again! That option will set you back another £16 per  flight. Who needs food anyway?
Then you have countless other options to lose your money on. I tried to be smart, and didn’t select any options (like priority check-in or extended seat pitch), as I was set on not paying extra charges.

Come the day of departure, I show up at the airport with a small carry on bag and my laptop bag. I was aware that I’d be allowed to only have 5kg of hand baggage, so I packed light in the morning and made sure all heavy items were in my pockets or jacket.
After a long queue (±80 people 3 hours before scheduled departure), I finally arrived at the check-in counter. The moment of truth, the bag goes onto the scale and shows 5.1kg. Phew, I thought. Just made it! (this was a bag with 2 jeans and 2 shirts, so basically nothing!)
However, a few seconds later, I learnt that unlike full service airlines, Thomas Cook doesn’t allow for a personal item (such as a laptop bag). That meant that I had 2 carry on items which exceeded the limit by 1. That meant I was allowed to do the walk of shame to the additional payments desk (they actually a dedicated check-in counter!) and pay an additional £25 to check 5.1 kg of baggage.

However, the fun good news doesn’t stop there.

 

Outbound flight fiasco — Operational issues

One doesn’t expect much from a budget airlines like Thomas Cook. I was prepared to having to pay for excess baggage, but I wasn’t for the next one.

We’d like to point out that your flight has been delayed from 19:20 to 23:40.” No reason for this delay could be given, the only thing one got was a £5 voucher. That’s £5 for a flight you’re supposed to check in 2 hours early for! For me that meant 6 hours of waiting at the airport.

Later I found out that the reason was “operational issues”. My guess is that the flight was so overbooked that it was cheaper for Thomas Cook to fly in a bigger aircraft and fly the passengers out than it would be to offload a substantial amount of passengers.

 

The in-flight experience

TCX 1274's Boeing 757

The plane on the flight out was scarily old. I think that AlItalia actually has newer planes than some of these Thomas Cook Airlines planes. They definitely have a better seat pitch. I’ve flown quite a bit over the last few years, and I’ve never experienced such a small seat pitch as on Thomas Cook Airlines. Any StarAlliance carrier I’ve flown with in Economy has had a larger seat pitch and didn’t require me to squeeze myself between two chairs. Even Nouvelair (a Tunisian charter airline) and AirBerlin have a substantially better seat pitch. Heck! Even Easyjet!

If you decided to pay for a lunch, you would’ve gotten bangers and mash and some tea or coffee, which looked quite nice.

 

Don’t travel without your Priority Pass

The only upside of having traveled with Thomas Cook was that I was able to thoroughly try out the Priority Pass benefits at London Gatwick and Enfidha.

 

London Gatwick Nº1 Lounge (South Terminal)

Eggs Benedict in No 1 Lounge

This is a beautifully designed lounge with great service. If you travel through Gatwick Airport, this is definitely a stop you need to make.
It took away the frustration of having to wait 6 hours for the flight as you’re greeted by delightful staff in a calm environment. This lounge definitely makes my personal top 5 of lounges.

 

Enfidha CIP PrimeClass Lounge

If you’re looking for a place to take out the stress of your travels, the CIP PrimeClass lounge is the place to be. You’ll be greeted by friendly staff offering you breakfast (I was there early!) and taking care of your every need (food, drinks or other). They will also guide you through a private security checkpoint and to the front of the queue of boarding (Hah! You paid for the Thomas Cook extra?!). The only thing that does get a bit annoying is the extremely helpfulness of staff, asking you if you need anything a second after you finish your plate / drink. Just like the Nº1 Lounge, I highly recommend using this service.

The CIP PrimeClass Lounge at Enfidha (NBE)

 

Post mortem

To summarize, if you have to travel with Thomas Cook Airlines, I feel for you. For me personally this was probably the last time I ever set foot on a Thomas Cook Airlines flight (never say never), and will in future take a Tunisair flight to Tunis instead. The song that pops to mind is the following:

Sorry 🙂

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Last Friday marked a massive change in Finland. The by far largest Finnish company announced that it would drastically change its direction. Stephen Elop decided to jump from a “burning platform” into the unknown, but realized that by doing so he could not take everyone with him. Nokia’s decision to adopt Windows Phone 7 as primary operating system and terminate all long-term development of Symbian will result in many Nokians having to look for new jobs. But it’s not just the Nokia employees that will suffer, but also the countless contractors that worked for Nokia. The Minister for Economic, Affairs Mauri Pekkarinen, expects 20,000 jobs across Nokia’s sites in Finland to vanish: “You’re talking about 20000 people, it’s a big number”. One of those sites is Oulu. Nokia’s R&D facility in Oulu is currently the home of approximately 2000 engineers, of which 1500 have been working on Symbian and MeeGo. Most of them will face their jobs being axed.

Having been to Nokia in Oulu, I have met some of the most amazing people I know. And it is one of them who has come up with a rather nifty idea. Kristian Luoma, Product Manager turned Entrepreneur decided to do something about this situation.

What would happen if an extreme incubator would be set up in Oulu, where these bright minds can work together on the next big thing. Nokia started out as a small Finnish company and became the world’s leading mobile phone manufacturer with an annual revenue of €42.45 billion. What would stop the Finns from reclaiming former glory?

If there’s something that every Entrepreneur I’ve met has said to me, it was: Dream big! Achieve the un-achievable! “Oulu Fifty” is a vision for a programme with the insane goal of producing fifty start-ups in twelve months. That’s roughly 1 start-up per week! It would be a programme giving these talented people all the tools they need, such as shared office space, legal advice, exposure, chances to get in touch with VCs and much more. The goal is to create a vibrant community that fosters innovation and spins out seedable companies.

“Oulu Fifty” would run innovation and idea exploration sessions which would be open to anyone to attend. It would regularly have hackfests to perform rapid prototyping. It would seek out to consumers to vote on the best ideas – every week. It would educate its members on technology and other necessary skills – by mentoring and by leasing inspiring speakers to visit the campus occasionally.

This could be an amazing opportunity for both the Finnish government which is strongly encouraging entrepreneurship and the Nokians. But such a programme requires a few things to be successful. On one hand, “Oulu Fifty” would need support from the industry. Getting Entrepreneurs and VCs involved that would be willing to visit. On the other hand, this programme would need financial support to pay for facilities as well as a limited staff running the programme which would approximately be €0,5 million for 1 year of operation.

I personally love this idea, but all the credit has to go to Kristian Luoma who dreamt up this idea. This programme could bring Oulu back to the forefront of technological innovation and save the by Nokia abandoned local community. I sincerely hope that there is a future in this idea, but we will see what happens in the next few weeks.

Just in case you have €0,5 million lying around, and want to support this programme, do contact me: florian at florian jensen dot com

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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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Hey guys,

it’s been a while since my last post … I know … I guess my excuse is, I’ve been busy 🙂

Anyway, a friend of mine is trying to organize a Hackfest in Oulu, a nice town up north. I’m sure it’ll be an amazing event and I’m sure any help with setting it up will be appreciated.

So if you’re able to help, or just interested in joining an awesome hackfest in a different location than the usual ones, do check it out!

Oulu Open Hack, could it be done?

I’ll do my best to be there too!

–Florian

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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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