Teleconference scheduling made simple

teleconferencingCan we get to grips with teleconference scheduling already? Why do I always have to look for the times, the numbers, deal with people who send an invite five minutes before it starts and complain that I did not participate? What is so difficult about it?

Look, if you want to schedule a teleconference, here is what you do:

  • Set the objective. We are not interested in a teleconference “just to share information”, you can send that by e-mail, we have other things to do.
  • List people who you want to attend and make sure you have a good reason for them to attend at all. Too many conferences have too many people in them.
  • Pick a good time for all of them. Hint: a good time is never today. If you need a decision today, you will have to call each person individually and discuss.
  • Put together the teleconference call-in and call-back numbers that could be useful for all of the people you invite. I am not going to dial international to spend one hour on a teleconference, this is so passe.
  • Finally, send an invite with the objective, agenda, numbers and reminder.

It is that simple. Oh, and if you need to reschedule – start from the beginning.

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Where we get the odds wrong: marijuana

marijuanaI came across an interesting article today that talks about various things that people get wrong when estimating the risks. Some of them I knew, some not, but what impressed me was this curious bit:

If the risks of smoking marijuana are coldly compared to those of playing high-school football, parents should be less concerned about pot smoking. Death by marijuana overdose has never been reported, while 13 teen players died of football-related injuries in 2006 alone. And marijuana impairs driving far less than the number one drug used by teens: alcohol. Alcohol and tobacco are also more likely to beget addiction, give rise to cancer, and lead to harder drug use.

Makes one wonder indeed…

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Tokyo, actually

Somehow most people seem to think that Tokyo is nothing but glass skyscrapers. The reality is quite different. Tokyo is mostly low-rise apartment blocks or two-three stories private houses. Most high-rise buildings are built next to the train stations where the demand and prices are highest. Here is what Tokyo looks like, actually.

(video: Tokyo from train)

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ownCloud: “Archives of type inode/x-empty are not supported”

owncloud-square-logo-150x150I came across a strange problem while trying to install Mozilla Sync app on my ownCloud server. The application installation on ownCloud fails with a cryptic message:

Archives of type inode/x-empty are not supported

First things first, I tried to look it up and I found a few mentions of this problem on forums but no useful answers. The problem did not seem to have a direct solution, so I thought I would have a quick look myself.

The log file is actually much more informative:

…”copy( failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found at …/private/installer.php#72″,…

After some head-scratching I realized that this means the script is trying to fopen a URL with the app to download. Ah, but fopen is, of course, disabled for security reasons, so ownCloud will not be able to use it. That is what that “no suitable wrapper” means: php fails to load a file from a remote host because there is no way to do that. Simple.

So the fix for that is a manual install. There you go.

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“Safety” Driving Course

Joining a “safety” driving course is a good idea from two points of view: you learn that you can do a lot more than you think you can and you learn that your car can do a lot more than you think it can. Both are a lot of fun in a controlled environment that takes away the risk. This course is not “extreme driving” but it has all the right elements: stability control, breaking, skidding, handling turns while accelerating and skidding, things like that.

So I had a driving course and it was fairly good. Although I thought it was too simple and slow I enjoyed it a lot. It was definitely a day worth its price. I was their with my good old Mercedes M-Klasse that is usually not supposed to be a lot of fun but I learned a thing or two about this wonderful car.

One problem I discovered quite early was that my breaking distance was a little on the long side. I asked the instructor about it and he performed a thorough investigation with a quick glance at my tires. His comment was “this is not what we call winter tires, this is what we call winter slicks.” And that cleared up the matter, as I was indeed driving on nearly racing slicks with barely any thread left. No wonder I took a while to stop on the snow simulator.

Driving Training BriefingBesides having lots of fun and learning about my own car, I learned two unexpected things that day:

  1. I do not want a Lotus Elise
  2. I do not want a Renault Koleos

Lotus Elise looks like a lot of fun. I bet the guy driving it had a hell of a lot of fun there actually. The car is basically a cart, judging by the way it accelerates and corners. The problem is, it is also a cart when it comes to stopping. That stupid little car consistently had a longer breaking distance than my nearly 2 ton M-Klasse on “winter slicks”! I could not believe my eyes. Ok, I am all for fun driving but if I am out there on the road, I really want to have a car that can actually stop when necessary. But, granted, it is fun on the track!

(video: Lotus Elise)

I was not expecting much from Renault Koleos to begin with and it performed basically all right, but besides having really bad breaks, only marginally better than Lotus Elise, it developed a strange problem in the morning: it would always try to go sideways whenever the driver used the breaks really hard. That was weird and we could not understand what is wrong with it. What is wrong became apparent later when the front wheels of the Koleos lost ABS. A couple of exercises later the car had no ABS at all anymore. So, you see, the ABS started to fail on a single wheel and the car was, of course, going into a slide on that wheel, making the whole assembly skid. Once the ABS failed completely, the car became apparently more stable. Frankly, I would not want to have that kind of “technology” in my car.

(video: Renault Koleos)

But, overall, cars performed splendidly and most drivers were happy to learn a thing or two. I was particularly impressed with the breaks on this small new Fiat 500 and with the sideways stability and recovery of the Hyundai i30. Skoda Fabia predictably lost a few plastic parts during the harder shake-ups but otherwise performed on par with everyone else.

(video: Wet and snow circle)

Interestingly, the driver of this old Nissan did not know that she had no ABS at all until the first time she had to break hard. That did not interfere with her driving in the least though.

(video: 2014-03-29-01-Driving)

Again, this is a highly recommended exercise to learn more about yourself and your car. And it is a lot of fun, so I highly recommend taking such a course.


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Robert Heinlein, “Friday”

Illustration by partpencils to Friday by Robert HeinleinJust got around to reading another book from one of my favorite authors, Robert Heinlein. The story is called “Friday” and is set in a future version of Earth plus just a tiny bit of space travel and colonies on other planets. The usual for Heinlein quick-running plot about a specialist courier with a fair amount of fighting, lounging and love provides an intense level of reading pleasure.

Once I started reading, I could not stop. I read through the book in two evenings, same as it happened when I read “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and all I have to say is “Bravo!” The story contains a mind-boggling amount of information, concepts, and insights, each packed into a paragraph or two. This is really rather an outline of a huge amount of thought, something of a summary of important ideas, each of which could serve as a basis for a whole new book. Every page has several statements that I could quote on various occasions if I could only remember that much verbatim.

I found many ideas that resonate with me in this story and I will place this book right at the top of my personal favorites list.

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Deconstructing the US-sponsored, EU-encouraged Ukraine revolution

Here are a few links for those who are interested in some background reading on the Ukraine revolution:

Coupe d'Etat in Ukraine

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Democratic Ukraine? Yeah, right!

ukraine_protest_321I talked to a German friend and he asked me how to understand what is going on now in Eastern Ukraine. So I said, “imagine that you are not seeing Ukraine and Russia but Eastern and Western Germany at the time before they re-united. You separate them and people try to get back together.”

He was really shocked by that comparison and do you want to know why? Because, he says, “Western Germany was a democratic state, so we were bringing democracy to the Eastern Germany. With Ukraine, it is the opposite, Russia is trying to bring dictatorship to the democratic Ukraine now.” Now it was my turn to pick up my chin up off the floor.

Ladies and gentlemen, whatever your position may be on recent events in Ukraine and wherever you want to see it all end up, Ukraine does not have a democratic government now. Ukraine has suffered a paramilitary coup d’etat disposing of the properly elected democratic government. Whatever your opinions may be on whatever is happening between Russia and Ukraine, please, understand, that EU and US governments are embracing illegal powers that constitute, judging by recent events, a militant dictatorship in Ukraine.

Even if we go by your favorite definitions of democracy, there is none in Ukraine. The next elections in Ukraine are in May, or, quite possibly, at the end of the year. Until then, there is no democratic government there, there is only a bunch of people with guns, got it?

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Advertising blacks for whites?

I am walking through an airport in one of the Europe’s capitals. Passing along rows of monitors I cannot help watching the advertisements. As I walk, one advertisement changes another but the main theme remains. There is always a white family or a bunch of white friends and the main protagonist helping them is black. Every single time. The main character is black and he helps white people, who are, of course, helpless. Mind you, the public at the airport is uniformly white. What is that? What are we supposed to think when we see that?

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…not to lose Ukraine to the West.

флаг с пикирующим соколомWhat did they expect, precisely?

“Russia has pledged to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. But the dispatch of Russian fighter jets Thursday to patrol borders and drills by some 150,000 Russian troops — almost the entirety of its force in the western part of the country — signaled strong determination not to lose Ukraine to the West.” — AP reports.

I certainly do hope so. Of course, in our strange world all sort of weird things happen, but it would be despicable for Russia to let Ukraine and especially Crimea fall under the rule of Western Europe.

Overall, I am getting stronger and stronger feeling that this whole thing with Ukraine is just a way for the West to shift the attention of Russia from the Middle East, like Syria, Egypt and Iran, towards something more immediate and close. They probably reckon Russia will not be able to deal with several problems at the same time and will concentrate on the problem on its own border rather than far, far away. Pulling Russia into this game will get the West all sorts of political benefits, tie up Russia’s resources, allow manipulation of the country’s perception abroad and so on. Even so, I believe Russia must not abandon Ukraine.

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