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by SS at 12:14 pm on Tuesday 19th January

Someone's working on it - donate feature should be working soon! Apologies for the inconvenience.

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by SS at 3:13 pm on Wednesday 13th January

Packing for the Tour wasn't the hardest task in the world but it did require a fair amount of thought. I normally eschew the minimalist strategy when travelling, preferring to have options for every possible contingency. In this case however, with limited luggage storage space available (a 85x65x50cm locker ~ 150 litres of useful space) for four months worth of kit, it was necessary to prioritise.

Clothes being the simplest of all items to pack, I left this until last. It seems that if I hadn't had to take clothes then I would have been nicely under the space limitation. Adding a meagre amount of clothes (just THREE t-shirts, for four months of travelling!) filled out my duffle bags by a surprising amount.

The rest of the space within my two bags was composed of both camping equipment and bicycle equipment. The camping equipment consisted of a lightweight tent, a sleeping bag and thermarest which take a good proportion of one of the bags. This bag also stores most of my clothes.

The other bag contains a tonne of cycling spares (tyres, cables, chains, tubes etc) plus some 'rarely needed' clothes (for example, my swimming costume). It also includes various cycling accessories - such as the rack bag, bottles, lock and Camelbak I'll be taking from day to day on my bike.

My third bag contains my electronics. In the last few years I've gradually acquired more and more camera equipment with each trip abroad (photos here). However, it seemed unwise to cycle along the rough African roads with my D-SLR in tow since vibration would probably kill it slowly. At the same time, travelling through most of Africa is an unmissable photography opportunity. So I've taken both cameras with the intention of leaving the D-SLR in the van when I'm cycling. I decided against taking my wide angle lens and Gorillapod in the end because of the added bulk.

I'm taking a netbook because it'll be useful for writing purposes (I find it impossible to write anything significant on paper - my fingers just get in the way) and for backup of photos. The battery will last approximately 10 hours and we have weekly rest days on which I hope to charge it fully. Likewise, I will charge my camera batteries then.

I'm taking a handheld GPS device to provide the location updating that you can see on the Geo page. This runs on AA batteries and each set of batteries lasts (supposedly) 25 hours. I figure this should give me two or three days of usage at least if I was to tracklog all my riding. These batteries should be fairly easy to find on the ground.

In order to keep in touch with those back home and to update my coordinates (we'll see how well this works out), I'm taking a couple of mobile phones. Rather than take my smartphone, I'm taking a basic Sony Ericsson featurephone which has relatively better battery life. I have a solar panel which I can use to charge these via a Powermonkey (this is a self contained supplementary battery which can charge and be charged) - the Powermonkey can also take power from the mains or via USB from the netbook.

Finally, I'm taking a flash based mp3 player since my hard disk Walkman would almost certainly not survive the first month. This represents a cut in capacity but coupled with the ability to swap music from time to time using the netbook, this should suffice. This has a 25 hour battery life and can charge from either the Powermonkey or the netbook.

I wonder how the above reflects on the nature of our generation - that instead of embracing the opportunity to leave technology behind entirely, I've seen the more hostile operating environment as a logistical challenge to be solved.

Having arrived in Cairo and spoken to some of the other riders, the above chargin strategy seems sound except with one possibly useful addition. One of the other riders has the Solargorilla, this is the more heavy weight version of Powermonkey coupled to a solar panel - apparently it charges his Macbook in about 2 hours. They're quite expensive but for that sort of convenience, it's probably worth it!

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by SS at 11:54 am on Monday 11th January

We're leaving for the airport in an about an hour and a half. Nearly everything is packed, but there remains a lot to be in done. In particular, the Geek On A Bicycle site isn't quite finished yet!

If you're on Twitter, besides following myself, you might also consider following TDA Live, which is the official Twitter account of the Tour D'Afrique.

Goodbye from London and speak to you next from sunny Egypt!

2 comments posted so far
Anish wrote at 9:39 am on Tue 12th Jan -
You arrived in Egypt yet?
Moose wrote at 3:23 pm on Wed 13th Jan -
Calamity Jane been tiefed yet?

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by SS at 10:36 am on Thursday 7th January

While I'm away cycling, it's likely I'm not going to be very well connected at all and as such, my good friend Phil is going to act as my 'tech support'.

If the site breaks, feel free to drop an email to webmaster at geekonabicycle dot co dot uk and one of us will pick it up.

Phil is also responsible for the build of Calamity Jane (the bike I'm taking to Africa) - helping massively with component choice and pretty much building most of it! He'll be posting from time to time as well.

2 comments posted so far
Anon wrote at 2:30 pm on Sun 10th Jan -
lisa wrote at 11:38 pm on Sun 10th Jan -
Phil's everywhere! (and a genius, and a thoroughly good bloke too :)
Your trip, sounds incredible, I'll keep an eye on your progress!
Best of luck to you,
(www.lisafreemanstainedglass.com - all phil's doin!)

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by SS at 3:58 pm on Wednesday 23rd December

To astute observers, you will notice this post has been given a fancy new tag 'goab'. To those of you reading this on geekonabicycle.co.uk, you will probably wonder what I am referring to.

This is, essentially, the first post for my new website, Geek On A Bicycle. To those of you reading this on hypedark.co.uk, you will probably wonder how it ended up here.

To explain - both sites share the back end database since it would be far too much effort to post things twice. However, Geek on a Bicycle (GoaB from now on) will only show a subset of all posts on Hype Dark.

Primarily this website (and blog, as I am loathe to call it) on geekonabicycle.co.uk is here to document my journey with the Tour D'Afrique 2010 as we travel from Cairo to Cape Town by bicycle.

This is a journey of nearly 12,000 kilometres and will see us pass through ten African countries. More details can be found on the route page.

Most of the rest of this site is self explanatory. As a career Computer Scientist, and someone who likes to be deliberately different, I couldn't bear to use a customised Wordpress site, so this is hand built (just like my bicycle - more details on the equipment page). As such, it is likely to be prone to breakage (hopefully not like my bicycle), in which case you may contact the webmaster who will be connected and able to fix things.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoy reading my updates - please add the site feed to your feedreader / browser or check back regularly!

3 comments posted so far
Moose wrote at 6:59 am on Sat 26th Dec -
Are comments transferred across too?
Anon wrote at 3:28 pm on Sun 27th Dec -
Magically isn't it.
SS wrote at 7:56 pm on Fri 1st Jan -
Yep, comments are the same for both sites.

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by SS at 7:21 am on Tuesday 17th November

Lately, many new Android phones have been released or have been announced and it seems like an optimal time to make a prediction about trends in the smartphone market.

Based on information as of Q2, 2009 which will still be largely accurate (except for the addition of Palm's WebOS), the order is something like:

  1. Symbian

  2. Blackberry

  3. iPhone

  4. Windows Mobile

  5. Android

Now, I'm going to discount and ignore Symbian, purely because it is so popular because it is sold on a tonne of Nokia phones, from mid-range up, and barely used for it's smartphone capability. Nor does it have extensive touch support. In fact, Nokia's touch strategy seems to be centred on the relatively new Maemo platform. Maemo won't have the device coverage to gain considerable market share.

Looking down the list, we notice Blackberry, which is arguably a top messaging system but second rate for media and gaming. It is unquestionably popular and suited for business types and teenagers. I predict this will stay popular.

Apple's iPhone OS was revolutionary when it was first announced a couple of years ago and it does have over 100,000 applications. However, it has lost the advantage, still lacks true multitasking (only allowing for background push notifications) and the iPhone hardware is beginning to look dated. Plus, there are only two handsets you can purchase, and neither has a keyboard. Consumers like choice.

Windows Mobile 6.5 was recently released, containing some much overdue features to facilitate easier stylus-free use. However, it still sucks as an operating system and the applications are still not there. HTC and other vendors remain committed to the platform because of their extensive work customising it. It's still a dying dinosaur.

Android has been announced on tens of devices and many of these are now making their way to market. As the platform matures, new features keep getting added - with the release of the Motorola Droid recently, multitouch and free turn-by-turn navigation (courtesy of Google) made their début. As it propagates onto more and more handsets, the draw of such a large market will naturally attract more developers. Likewise, the confusing and frustrating process developers have to endure to get their applications approved for the iTunes store will push more developers to other platforms.

My prediction for smartphone market share at this time next year:

  1. (Symbian)

  2. Blackberry

  3. Android

  4. iPhone

  5. Windows Mobile

  6. WebOS

With Android getting much closer to Blackberry in percentage terms. We'll see Palm's WebOS making an entry too.
1 comment posted so far
SS wrote at 3:56 pm on Wed 18th Nov -
Wired recently ran an interesting article on Windows Mobile's failure.

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by SS at 7:54 am on Friday 29th May

The internet (news) has been more exciting than usual today for several reasons, one of which was the unveiling of Bing by Microsoft - a new search product. I haven't had a chance to try it out yet, so this is based mainly on what reviews I have read of it so far*. It is intended as a direct competitor to Google, a massive rebranding of the pre-existing Microsoft search with enough improvements to push people into actually switching.

Kudos to Microsoft for trying again (for the nth reincarnation of its search offering). Monopolies are never good (as we're told constantly by the European Competition Commission but nevertheless usually necessary for a business to make money, especially in technology (as we're told in our Business Studies course).

I digress however, since my issue is with all the internet commenters who (rather like sheep) instantly criticise Microsoft at whatever they do. For example, from Wired:

"They're desperately trying to play catch-up with Google search (which is clean, simple and just works), and they manage to ruin what sounds like a promising effort by bungling the interface and plastering it with prominent advertising."

This person hasn't even had a chance to try the site! How can (s)he jump to this conclusion so quickly?

Or like this commenter on The Register's article about Microsoft making it harder to exploit pool overruns:

"...That is sort of the point, wintards. Basically s[eaking, for the slow learners out there, a proper OS doesn't allow apps to do stuff they shouldn't do, not without explicit user authorisation anyway.

Whether itunes is crap or not is irrelevant. If it wants to do crap it shouldn't be allowed to do the OS should stop it.

Windows = Epic Fail

It's no wonder windows pc's are constantly being p0wned by every script kiddy that is out there..."

Firstly, the grammar (or lack of) in that comment wants to make me hurt myself. Secondly, his argument is wholly unsubstantiated and horribly biased. I suppose that's the beauty of commenting on the internet - you can say whatever you want and no-one cares!

In essence, I'm really just annoyed at fanboys, and more-so, people bashing the incumbent for no good reason.

A final example, my Security course supervisor Joseph Bonneau wrote an article for the Computer Lab's Security Group Blog on photos not being deleted from various social networking websites in a timely fashion. Comment #10 says:

"Read the TOS (Terms of Service) on sites like Fecesbook … they are under no obligation to delete the photos. Once you upload a photo, it isn't yours anymore. It's theirs with which to do whatever they please. If this is a problem (and yes, it is a problem) then the correct solution is DON'T USE FECESBOOK."

This is instantly *facepalm*. I wonder if he actually bothered to read the article (or at least in any sort of depth). This comment misses the point of the study and restates a fact which is mildly relevant but presumably already known to the intellectuals who authored the study (and anyone with a keen interest in privacy aspects of social networks). Why did he bother posting the comment? I suspect he just wanted to 'make a funny'. Ha-Ha.

This comment from the same article on The Register mentioned previously says it all really:

"Geeks arguing about things that dont matter make the baby Jesus cry."

I suppose the act of writing this post is futile and pointless as the comments above. Which comes to the crux of writing on the internet - anyone can do it. I think I'm going to stop reading comments on stories though, there's enough biased text in the articles themselves! Anyway, readers, you should feel appreciated. Apparently 5.6% of the blogs that Technorati tracks haven't been updated in the past 4 months.

Speaking of exiting news, Google is so win today.

*Apologies for the lack of suitable references but I haven't got the time nor the second monitor at the moment!

P.S. This is probably the equivalent of a cultured flame.

2 comments posted so far
Leszek wrote at 6:07 pm on Mon 1st Jun -
It's amazing how many people who want to write a serious article/comment immediately make their point worthless by making a pun on the name of the product/company they're complaining about; cf. Micro$soft, Fecesbook, or anything that comes out of Richard Stallman's mouth (The Amazon Swindle is the one that I remember best)
Moosra wrote at 8:13 pm on Wed 3rd Jun -
At a quick glance, Bing seems throw up better results than google. Probably won't bother switching though, my eyes are too accustomed to sifting google results.

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A Tribute
A Tribute
To my favourite building at the University of Cambridge.
7:12 pm on Sunday 24th May by SS
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by SS at 5:38 am on Wednesday 20th May

I've tried to loosely categorise some of the various major technology companies. Again, my personal opinion based on what I have read and heard about each company. No doubt some of these tend towards the edges in their respective group (well paid jobs that are interesting / interesting jobs that are well paid).

I'm pretty sure starting a business could very well fall into the middle category too, but unfortunately there weren't any logos available for this on Google.

(P.S., A similar diagram re: Comp Sci courses. Also recommend you check out Indexed. It's good.)

2 comments posted so far
Moosra wrote at 4:11 am on Wed 27th May -
How can you classify DE Shaw as uninteresting?!


Moosra wrote at 4:17 am on Wed 27th May -
Also, Deloitte is not well paid.

Introduce a third Venn set below the other two for (job security) and your chart will look like it's right hand side has had a stroke!

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Running down corridors
5:41 am on Saturday 28th June by SS
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