Showing off his iPhoneAfter German phone carrier T-Mobile has recently started selling the unlocked iPhone for the ridiculous price of 999 Euros, now also Orange in France published their price for the unlocked version of the Apple cellphone: 749 Euros. Luckily for Germans, the EU is a customs union, so they can pretty easily order it in France and have it shipped to Germany -- even the higher shipping won't make up for the 250 Euro difference.

I also hope that the court which ordered T-Mobile to sell the phone unlocked (still a temporary injuction, IIRC) will follow up and make them sell it for a realistic price eventually. Right now, my guess is that the hefty price tag can not be considered effectively complying with the court order. Yet, even with the current price, some competitors start taking advantage of the situation: T-Mobile competitor Debitel (well, sort-of-competitors, they are resellers for carriers such as, you guessed it, T-Mobile) started handing out a 600 Euro signup rebate for people buying the iPhone over at T-Mobile and subsequently getting a contract at Debitel. Interesting.

On other news, German grocery store chains are still selling the (aging but still pretty good) Motorola RAZR for little more than 100 Euros, unlocked and without a contract.

(Image CC by-nc-nd licensed by Graft Flo on flickr).

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Part of a conversation I overheard in the dining hall today, apparently between two maybe third-semester computer scientists:

These information engineers are the worst! I have met them in my CS 2 class! They ask the weirdest questions and they don't even know basic mathematics!

Despite the insult, this amused me. Silly boy, believing anyone here hasn't been tortured with "basic mathematics" for a significant amount of time ;)

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With my discount card for young people from the French train system, sometimes buying train tickets leads to strange results: This time, because second class tickets were almost sold out (and I was unable to get anything more than a 25% rebate), first class tickets actually turned out to be cheaper:

TGV First Class Tickets

So I will soon be able to give the first class seats in the latest-generation French TGV trains a shot. If you twist my arm, I guess I can resort to this kind of traveling ;)

This will of course only happen if they figure out their little major strike problem soon over there. We'll see.

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Today, I had to spend many hours driving, so I wanted to listen to some music in the car. Sadly, my iPod's battery was empty because I forgot to recharge it soon enough.

In order not to be without music altogether even though I was running out of time, so I decided to do what every mildly geeky engineer would do: I quickly grabbed a bunch of never-before-combined parts out of my drawer, thinking "this may work", and built my own improvised iPod car kit in a minute...


  • 1 generic cellphone car charger with Mini-USB connector (such as one for Motorola phones)
  • 1 USB hub featuring a Mini-USB connector (supposed to go to the computer) and a bunch of regular ones (for the peripherals)
  • 1 regular iPod USB data cable
  • 1 audio tape adapter

Connect all pieces seemingly at random, stir thoroughly. Connect to your car and iPod. Notice the "charging" symbol show up on your iPod.

Listen to music and be happy ;)

Improvised iPod car kit

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Let me tell you a little story I learned about from a tour guide when I went to Munich on vacation in August.

This is the Sternecker Brewery (or brew pub, rather) in downtown Munich the way it looked like in 1919: Sternecker Brewery

Every week, a tiny little political party of the Weimar Republic met here to complain about life in general and in particular, and as a rule of thumb ended up every time blaming it on "the jews". Now a young corporal in the German army was sent there to spy on the group and find out if they are any danger. Instead, he liked their ideas and ended up joining the party. <!--more--> The corporal's name was Adolf Hitler and the small party was the German Workers' Party (DAP) which eventually became the Nazi party NSDAP. (They faked Hitler's member number as 555 while in fact he was only the 55th member.)

In the house where the DAP met when Hitler joined it, the Nazis created a museum to remember the "founding fathers" of the Nazi movement (faking Hitler's member number yet again: This time as 7, to give the illusion of him being one of the party founders). The NSDAP museum in the Sternecker brewery

Long story short: When the allies threw bombs on Munich, the building was destroyed, and after the war the inner city of Munich was rebuilt so it looked almost the same it did before (you know, us Germans have kept detailed plans of buildings since... forever ;) ).

You may wonder, what's located in this buildling nowadays? Another brewery? No (though that's always a good guess for Munich, I give you that). But see for yourself: Gravis Apple Store, Munich

Yup, it's the local Apple store. If they know what historic site they are located at? I am not sure.

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When I went to Oktoberfest last week, I did not take my camera with me to the "Wies'n" (which is Bavarian for "meadow", btw.) because I feared it may get stolen in the crowd.

Turns out, other people are doing the work for me: Here's a video of a quick walk through the Augustiner brewery tent which happens to be the one me and my friends found a spot in. Enjoy.

By the way: What do you think of our authentic clothing?

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Liquids on a Plane spoofThe European Parliament in Strasbourg want the European Commission to review the ban on liquids on European flights:

EU parliamentarians are to vote on a resolution Wednesday calling on the EU executive to urgently review the restrictions, which have led to widespread confiscations, confusion and delays at airports. "The European Parliament is concerned that the cost (of) the regulation may not be proportionate to the added value in terms of additional security," says the resolution, which is expected to be approved.

I hope the European Commission does relax the rules at least a little bit: The current ban on liquids on flights all over the world have, according to many security experts, while not increasing security significantly, caused much hassle and produced a great deal of cost for airlines and travelers. Apparently, people who want to smuggle liquids, succeed, and honest travelers like us get to throw away millions of bottles of water, with organizations outside the airport now happily joining the paranoia.

Easing the European travel regulations could take some time though: Each of the now 27 member countries of the European Union would have to approve.

Next step: Keeping our shoes on.

(Picture source)

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Design Agency "Information Architects" from Tokyo has released a tube map of the Web (for the second time, even), connecting the allegedly "200 most successful sites on the web":

Part of the WebTrends Map 2007 v2

The map (large version here) seems to have shrunk Firefox's "station" a little, compared to the first version of the map released around new year's. I hardly even found it at first.

While I may not agree with all of the inclusions or connections (for example, I am unsure why the awfully overrated German weblog "Spreeblick" belongs on there) I think it's an interesting and fun map to look at (rather than an accurate illustration of the current structure of the web).

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I recently mentioned flickr's questionable take on German laws by heavily restricting their German users' access to all pictures marked "moderate" or "restricted" on their service. While they recently removed the restriction for "moderated" pictures, a lot of users have lost trust in the service, mainly for their apparent inability to communicate with their user base and their failure to discuss significant changes before they happen.

Many paying users (the "against censorship" group on flickr has about 13.000 members) are considering not to prolong their "pro" accounts there, and are looking for other alternative photo sites on the web. In other words, flickr has harmed its reputation as a definitive address for photo sharing on the Internet, much to the delight of their competition.

One of the services that seems to have benefit the most is Ipernity, a quite young French photo sharing site. They currently get "700 new users a day", says their CEO Christian Conti (link, [German]). I got myself an account as well, to try it out until my flickr pro account expires at the end of the year and I need to make a decision where to keep my stuff in the future.

Ipernity is a "flickr clone", which is pretty obvious when you compare the looks of the two pages: flickr Ipernity Still, Ipernity has several points worth mentioning distinguishing it from the Yahoo product:

  • Ipernity allows you to share not only pictures but also videos and audio files. This comes in very very handy when you happen to take a little video with your digital camera, or if you want to share a song with your friends. I, for example, uploaded the German national anthem for my non-German friends to hear, if they like.
  • Ipernity features a blog. Of course, a lot of us have blogs already, but it makes it easy for people who don't, to publish their thoughts and illustrate them with their own photos right away.
  • It has a bunch of nice features, such as a variety of upload possibilities (including direct URL download or ZIP file upload), which leaves little to be desired.
  • Users can customize their personal pages. This is clearly myspace-like (and I admit I don't think I will do that) but many people seem to like it.

However, there are also some drawbacks:

  • Ipernity doesn't have groups yet. This feature is apparently "coming soon", though. (Update: It's here, see below)
  • Sometimes (yet very rarely) the site's localization is sketchy: I stumbled across a button once that said "Oui", in the English language version I am using. But actually, that made me smile rather than frown upon the apparently missing translation.
  • The upload restriction for the "pro" accounts is one gigabyte per month. That's a lot, but for real "power users", that might not be enough.
  • At last, while their user base is growing rapidly, the community is nowhere near as big as flickr.

All in all, Ipernity is a pretty good alternative to flickr: Its major advantage is that it brings together what belongs together: Audio, video, pictures and blog entries, with comments, ratings, favorites and of course RSS feeds etc. all over the place. There is an aspect of community orientation and interactiveness that flickr seems to have lost out of its sight since it was acquired by the big Y. Ipernity may have a small user base only at the moment, but they are growing constantly and arguably, a few thousand active users are better than a million not caring.

Still, Ipernity's future remains open: Will they be able to pay for their growing infrastructure/bandwidth, etc.? Can they scale their service in a manner painless for the users? And if/when they move into the focus of some big company looking for the next acquisition for their Web 2.0 portfolio, will they keep their integrity even if they sell?

The bottom line is: flickr has shown us in Europe what not to do with a Web 2.0 company. Now there are competitors out there that have more features, are more community-friendly and have been given an "invitation" by flickr to do a lot of things better.

If people like the Ipernity guys actually jump at this chance, and how they'll perform, is one of the most exciting questions on the web in the near future and something I'll certainly watch closely.

Update: A while ago, ipernity has released a group feature that works nicely and has since gained many users. Go take a look!

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Flickr: UnavailableWhen flickr recently stopped showing "moderate" (possibly offensive) and "restricted" (not for children, or your mom) pictures in Germany, people started complaining about arbitrary censorship. Yahoo!/flickr responded, this was due to strong age verification laws in Germany.

Now Friedemann Schindler, head of (which is the German government's initiative for youth protection on the Internet), responded to yahoo's claims, arguing that yahoo's "solution" "exceeds the legal requirements", because as a hosting provider, they are only required to remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence. (Which is exactly what I said about the situation in an earlier post).

A while ago, flickr responded to the censorship claims by allowing Germans to remove the "moderate" restriction in the preferences, while "restricted" stays filtered for German accounts. While this is a step into the right direction (at least we can see average vacation photos again!), at times flickr still looks like this (yes, this is a real screenshot): Grayed out pictures on flickr

If flickr wants to be (or become) "family friendly", I appreciate them banning hard pornography pictures from their platform (this is --really-- not what flickr is for). But this is a change that has to happen in the upload policies (and be enforced accordingly) and not by implementing a highly flawed filtering mechanism that relies on the uploaders' feelings about their own pictures.

After all, while yahoo keeps hiding many entirely harmless pictures from all Germans' sights, other --legally much more critial-- pictures, for example of WW2-nuts reenacting Third Reich scenes, stay unfiltered and readily available for the general public.

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