Saturday, December 01, 2007

Computers: Easy Remote Desktop

Quite some time when there is a need to explain someone how do perform a certain activity on the computer, people spend a lot of time on the phone saying go there and click this and so on. Some of the support companies use remote desktop software like VNC and PC Anywhere which are not free and require additional setups on the router, port forwarding and most of the time to have an external IP address or be in the same network.

For the daily use when I try to help my relatives and friends with some tasks, I recommend TeamViewer application that is extremely easy to use, doesn't require setups and is based on P2P network, meaning you will be able to connect to another computer even if you are behind the firewall or a router that doesn't allow forwarding ports.



The person who is the host will run a small application and it will generate an ID and a Password and then the remote person will get the details over the messenger or phone and will enter the same details to connect to that computer.

This application is free for the home users (non-commercial).

TeamViewer Website


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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Software: Word, Excel, PowerPoint

With my new computer I was thinking about actually buying Microsoft Office 2007 Home and Student edition since it gives the license for 3 computers and it is not really that expensive; one can get it for around 110 US$ from eBay. So if you have 2 computers at home and a sister of brother that need Office as well, it comes down to 35US$ per computer which is a really good price. There is another side of the story when you actually need to buy a language pack for Office separately - 25US$ per each language.

My believe is that people really get carried away with the fancy stuff and do not realize that there are alternatives to Microsoft Office. They basically do not have the information. For the businesses, on the other hand it's a part of being cool and afford having Microsoft Office and do the presentations in fancy PowerPoint. There are also macro developers as well who do some things in Access and so on. Those probably cannot live without Microsoft products. Still, there is a huge number of home users that actually do not need all the stuff that Microsoft supplies with Office. Could you imagine how may people use just Word for writing some papers and checking spelling before they send essays and so on.

For people like me, it is very often a task to suggest to a person using computers which software to choose. Especially it was so back in Klaipeda when I had to make a decision about persons needs for a certain activity to be performed on the computer. Microsoft Office was one of the must-be-there things at that time.

These days I do not use word processor much at home basically because I do not write long papers for the university. For the emails in English, Firefox and Gmail will do pretty much all I need. On the other hand, for writing emails in Russian or Swedish, there is a need for a spell checker. Well, well, well – where am I heading to? Trust me it took a really long time for me(about 2 years) to persuade myself that instead of getting MS Office I really can efficiently use OpenOffice. But I did it and now I am using OpenOffice at home. I could roll on describing that OpenOffice can actually do most of the things Microsoft Office does example by example but I will just summarize the most important ones.

1. There is a free Microsoft solution to view and print (not edit) all Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint files, including 2007 formats. So you will never end up receiving a downloading Office file that you cannot view. I can provide the links to download the viewers and support for 2007 format.
2. OpenOffice does have all the features of header, footer, section breaks, graphs, text formatting and so on.
3. OpenOffice does have the spellchecker for almost all the languages.
4. OpenOffice has the output to PDF format. It cannot edit PDF files. Neither does MS Office.
5. OpenOffice is free.
6. There are some quite handy free add-ons for OpenOffice.
7. OpenOffice cannot work with macros that were developed in Microsoft Office.
8. There is a huge knowledge base online for OpenOffice and how to achieve different results with it.
9. OpenOffice user interface is multilingual. You can get all the menus and options in Russian, for instance.

I hope I didn’t roll on for too long in this posting and I hope it will make you try OpenOffice.

 Use OpenOffice.org

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Travelling: Christmas Trip

The time has come for us to plan the next trip to Lithuania. We have booked the tickets for December 23. We will be flying to Riga and then taking a bus to Klaipeda. Marie and I will spend Christmas in Klaipeda but for the New Year Marie will go to Belarus to meet with her family. I am going back to Sweden from Klaipeda on January 3.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Computers: Russian Phonetic Layout (XP+, x64, x86)

For quite a long time I was using LithWin for Windows to add Russian Phonetic keyboard layout, so the letters/sounds pronounced in Russian would be the same letters pronounced in English. In other words, having a keyboard layout with the following layout:
A=А B=Б C=Ц D=Д E=Е F=Ф G=Г H=Х ... and so on.




With Lithwin, it worked on 2000, 2003, XP and even on Vista but only 32 bits. On the 64 bits Windows it didn't work. With the help of Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, it is possible to open he existing layouts and then create installations for other versions of Windows, including x64. So, I have recompiled the Russian Phonetic to make it possible to run on Vista x64. It will work on any windows starting from Windows 2000 as well. So, if you cannot find the Russian Phonetic layout for XP, you can use this one. In comparison with LithWin, it will automatically add the language to the installed/used ones. Download it here.

Update 1: Works on Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 both x86 and x64 editions.

Update 2: It will not be possible to install it on Windows 8 RT. There is Mnemonic Russian keyboard layout available in RT. It has the same principle but a slightly different layout (which I actually don't like as much as the Phonetic one)

Update 3: If it installs on Windows 8 but is not shown in the language menu, try adding a usual 
Russian (touch) input method first, then installing the Phonetic layout. It should all the Phonetic to the language list. After that remove the usual Russian input method.

Update 4: 2014-10-02: Just installed it on Windows Technical Preview Build 9841. Works as expected.

Update 5: 2016-01-16: It installs OK on Windows 10 (x64) new installations but requires restart for the layout to come up in the language panel (even though it does not say that explicitly).  

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Computers: Fonts, Encodings, Fun

Probably all my friends that had to deal with more than one language (Russian/Cyrillic especially) have faced the problem when a non-unicode application or the page on the web wouldn't recognize the encoding and display the question marks or the nonsence characters instead of the Russian symbols. In some Russian fairy tales, there is some kind of a knight during his long journey, on the road, faces a stone where it is written - if you go to the left, you will lose your horse; if you go to the right, you will lose your life, if you go straight ... and so on. So, I think this picture (although a pretty old one) combines both in a nice way. Very often there are things that you really need to see from the screen but it's not that easy. For the programs, things became much easier after Windows 2000 and the implementation of the Unicode. However, for the web pages it is still a problem sometimes ... Windows-1251, KOI8-R ...


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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Computers: New Computer

Finally, on Friday I picked up the last parts of my computer and around 22:30 with the help from Marie we were done putting together my new computer. It became with some disappointments, such as that motherboard only supporting the raid with one internal and one external SATA drive although on the package it said it does support RAID and nothing else. That was the first time Asus disappointed me. So, I decided not to have RAID and just have 3 HDDs in the computer. Second, the processor came boxed with the cooler but I had already bought a different Asus cooler which is much bigger and more efficient (you can see that on the picture), so I have one spare cooler now.

As about Windows Vista Business 64 Bit, I was really amazed how easy it was. First, I used Memtest and tested 8GB or RAM - it actually took some time. Then, there was an option during the installation to test the RAM which I did as well. Everything was good, and it was worth investing a bit more money into good memeory like Kingston.

The rest is pretty simple, just like with XP, installation, drivers, etc.

The software part wasn't that complicated. Most of the software will run perfectly on 64 bit vista. Some issued that might raise are the programs that use drivers - like CD Burning, video tweakers, etc. The rest is ok. From the software that I have installed so far, I didn't have any problems.

So, here is the configuration of the computer:

Date / Time 2007-11-04 / 20:30

Computer:
-- Computer Type ACPI x64-based PC
-- Operating System Microsoft Windows Vista Business

Motherboard:
-- CPU Type QuadCore Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850, 3000 MHz (9 x 333)
-- Motherboard Name Asus P5K-V (3 PCI, 1 PCI-E x1, 2 PCI-E x16, 4 DDR2 DIMM, Audio, Video, Gigabit LAN, IEEE-1394)
-- System Memory 8192 MB (DDR2-800 DDR2 SDRAM)
-- Video Adapter NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GTS (512 MB)

Monitor
-- LG L246WP(Digital)

Disks:
-- 2x Disk Drive WDC WD1600JS-55NCB1 ATA Device (149 GB, IDE)
-- Disk Drive WDC WD5000AAKS-00YGA0 ATA Device (465 GB, IDE)

Optical Drive
-- LITE-ON DVDRW SOHW-1653S SCSI CdRom Device (DVD+R9:4x, DVD+RW:16x/4x, DVD-RW:12x/4x, DVD-ROM:16x, CD:48x/24x/48x DVD+RW/DVD-RW)

Keyboard
-- Microsoft USB Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000 (IntelliType Pro)

Mouse
-- Microsoft USB Trackball Explorer (IntelliPoint)




All for now.

[G]

Friday, October 26, 2007

Security: Facebook Users Warning

One of the Swedish news pages in English thelocal.se today posted an interesting warning to some 400.000 Swedish users of facebook. I think there is something to consider. Here is the citation:
A Swedish government IT advisor has warned the country's estimated 400,000 Facebook users that the networking website's terms and conditions amount to a "slave contract."

Pär Ström, a member of the government's IT Council and integrity spokesman at think tank Den Nya Välfärden, says the 13-page contract users agree to when joining Facebook gives the US company rights over their personal information and photographs.

"People think it is free to join, but you pay with your personal integrity and your future. When you apply for a job in 30 years, the recruiter will be sitting there with what you have written," he told Metro.

I am out of facebook.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Security: Flash Drive Content

For quite some time I was having a question in my head about "how to keep the data on a flash drive in a secure way?". It's also nice to have some small applications on the flash drive as well, Total Commander, for example. For that, I must carry the license file on the same flash drive as well. The same is true about the documents. I also want to make sure that the documents that I put on the flash drive are securely stored and if I lose the flash drive, no one could open it. For that reason I bought a U3 flash drive that has U3 security system on it. A couple of weeks ago, I tried to search if there are any alternatives for this type of security that would not be hardware dependant (U3 security system will only work on the drives that have U3 hardware in them), so I could put it on my MP3 player as well or lets say my 40GB external drive. I discovered quite fast that there is a way for that and that is what people do at portableapps.com.

Although both of them (U3 and PortableApps) serve the same purpose, there are quite a few differences between them. Here is short article that compares them. There are some other differences between them such as U3 system not having exe files stored on the disc but in special compressed format. Another difference would be the way files are actually executed (U3 will extract the files to the temp directory on the hard drive while portableapps will run it right from the usb stick). Anyways, both systems are quite good and it is worth considering if you are planning to buy a new usb stick or you have one and want to have more security there rather than just compressing your documents with the password. And you can always install portableapps on your older stick to enable security.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Computers: Order is Placed

It's been now several months since I went to Lithuania and gave my notebook to my sister, thinking soon I am going to buy a normal desktop for me. My family and friends know that computers play a great (maybe too great) role in my life. So, some weeks ago the time came to make an order. For some time I was thinking should I get an AMD or Intel system. After reading several magazines, browsing the web and asking people around, I figured out that to get a powerful PC this days (almost high-end), you must go with Intel systems. AMD is lagging for almost 6 months now with not being able to release a quad processor for desktop. It was possible to get a motherboard with 2 processor slots for AMD but this would mean more heat and noise. Even with that type of motherboard and 2 duo processors, latest Intel Quad processor would still outperform that. So, I made a decision to go for Intel Quad system and I have ordered the parts already. I will receive the order by the 26th of October, go home and put the parts together for them to become my new desktop. I will put the specs and details with some pictures after I am done with the "building" process.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Job: Second Impressions from Ascade

After working for a couple of weeks at Ascade, I must admit that so far, this is the company with the best work organization I have seen so far. I am pretty sure things are quite cool at Ms and Google but I was really impressed with Ascade. First, there is training; and when I say training, I really mean it to the full extent. Mostly it consists of the lectures and they are 1-4 hours long and the total time (I am still attending the training sessions) is 3 weeks. Some days it is 4 hours total but some are full 8 hours of training. Then, there are really nice step-by-step written manuals how to do things. The only thing that you could do better that that is probably video tutorials. Otherwise, you feel pretty comfortable about being a new person in the company.

The work (sketching, developing, coding) starts with writing the documentation, describing that data flow, names of the datasets, forms, gui that will be used in the program. Then, some of the data is transferred into XML from which the documentation will be written as well as some auto-generation of the reports (tables in the database, stored procedures, etc.). The system is mostly new to me but I think as soon as I will learn it, I will enjoy working there.

Besides the technical part of the work, we get free breakfast on Mondays, cookies and cakes on Wednesdays and beer on Fridays (for the weekly Fridays meetings, no need to say that everyone attends those). I hope I didn't reveal company's secret here.

By the way, I am starting my SFI classes (Swedish) on September 13. Svenska, baby.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Music: Roxette - No More Crashing Guitars

There was as short interview with Marie Fredriksson during this summer on 13the of August during which she told that there will be no more Roxette projects in the future. She will continue working in Swedish though and will release her solo album soon. So, the project Roxette that lasted for 20 years is "officially" closed now. Both Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson are continuing there solo projects. Marie not long ago has done a solo album in English. Per, at the same time had quite a success with his project Son of a Plumber in English. So, we might expect something interesting solo projects in English in the future.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Computers: What to Buy - Classics


Since I have given my notebook to my sister and preparing myself for buying a new desktop pc, the first aspects I am looking for is processor and monitor. On the web I have found a short review from the magazine and found some information on what to see when you look at monitors and processors. I will be looking for the quad system, so I was particularly looking for these solutions. Since Intel has quad processors already, they have the advantage. AMD, on the other hand uses 2 sockets on the motherboard with 2 duo processors which it makes it into a quad system. What AMD tells on the other hand is that as soon as they release quad processors, you will be able to replace 2 duo processors with 2 quad processors which will make it into octo (8x) system without the need to upgrade the motherboard. So, I am kinda on the AMD side although before the review I was on Intel side. Well, one month to go before I will buy it and I need to find the place in Stockholm who will do a custom build for me but it’s never too bad to have some info upfront. The review has not only the guide for the processors but also for LCD monitors.

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Job: One Week at Ascade

Well, one week has passed since I have started at Ascade and I must say my happiness about working there has raised together with the days. On the fist day I got a bit overwhelmed with the information but later on I realized that there is no particular immediate rush and I will manage to catch up with the process. Before September, there are some other new people joining the company and that will be the time when the main training will happen and the actual real work will start. I got the idea about how the work is done and which tools are used. I think every company that has chosen .NET platform, does it in its own particular way, having own framework, controls, tools and so on. There are quite a few smart people in Ascade and I will learn a lot from them in the process, I like the idea of learning from people with experience rather than just reading the books. People are very friendly here. The major difference from my experience is that Oracle database is used and not MS SQL. I think I will benefit from learning Oracle SQL PL since it is widely used in the world. The next time I will have to install the database on my computer, I will have to think which one :). Technically, in comparison with Tobii, this job is much closer to one that I had at Basic Partner in Klaipeda.

The company uses Dell computers and servers. My computer is not brand new but it's P4 3.00Ghz, 2GB RAM, 150 GB HD, Radeon X300. Surprisingly, there are quite a few ergonomic devices here. First is the vertical mouse which I have talked about in my previous emails and the second one is mouse trapper which is almost in every government institution and banks these days in Sweden. I will ask if I can get one of those for me.

So, Ascade office is on the 3rd floor and there are other companies in the same big (wide) building as well. In the past, I think it used to be a brewery there but now offices are there. I have a view on the water and I can see the town hall from the window in front of me. There are quite a few restaurants outside to go for lunch and there are two food stores near the office where I can buy lunch, bring it to the office and eat it there if we are too lazy cooking at home.

The room where I work is pretty big and some 15 people are in the same room. It has a very good air conditioning system and I hope it will have a good heating system in winter as well. As about the office location, it's around 30 minutes from the place where we live. Half of the way I travel together with Marie (5 minutes by bus and then 10 minutes by metro) and then I switch to another line and travel one more stop by metro while Marie goes a couple of stops further.
Here is the picture of my working place with some view from the window:


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Friday, August 24, 2007

Fun: Music CDs Collection as my Hobby

I have got some questions about what I was doing during the time while I was on my summer holidays. Well, besides being lazy, drinking beer and gaining some extra weight, I came back to my old hobby which is collecting CDs. I spent a lot of time eBay and Tradera (Swedish eBay) and managed to get almost all Roxette CD Singles released. CD Singles are not that popular in Lithuania and I will give a short explanations what it is.

A CD Single or/a Maxi CD is a CD that might be either 5" (like a normal CD) or quite rare these days 3" (a smaller CD). Singles usually come in thinner plastic boxes or carton ones. In US, the singles come in normal CD boxes like albums. So, a single is usually a track from the album that is put on the CD with some extra material (remixes, edits, demos, live material, non-album tracks) or can be just one song and sold for a shorter period of time (unlike albums), from 2 weeks to 2 months maximum and then gets deleted from the catalog and cannot be ordered by the stores from the record companies anymore. These sales define the singles charts positions. Very often (but not always) a single gets a video promotion that is shown on MTV, Viva and so on. Sometimes single versions, album versions and video versions are slightly different. I remember that in school times I thought that the video version of the song was the "original" one. But it appears that the album versions quite often are edited for the singles. From time to time there are remixes that are release only on vinyl discs.

So, I decided to pay a tribute to the old-school times and collected quite a few Roxette singles (around 40) with various rare versions and live material. I also got their vinyl albums and some vinyl singles with the tracks that were not released on CDs. Along with my growing Roxette collection, I tried to get singles of Dr.Alban, U96, Erasure, DJ Bobo, Snap, Scooter, Westbam, Culture Beat, Haddaway, Madonna, Pet Shop Boys and some other bands from my high-school times when music was really something I was crazy about. Usually they wouldn't cost more than 5-6 Euros per CD with shipping. From time to time I try to search for the CDs like that just in case there is something interesting. I don't spend a fortune on that just from time to time here and there a couple of Euros. Obviously everyone has own taste and I have got my favorites. It's a nice feeling to have them in the collection, since there are fewer and fewer bands that could produce one good song after another. Is it us getting older or is it the world of music changing so much. Anyways there are quite a few old tracks that you do not get bored of even these days, and I am really happy that some of the old times figures are still making music and can compete with todays teenagers demand for music.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Events: Tall Ships in Stockholm

Catchin’ up a little with the events. In the end of July, in Stockholm there was a day when quite a few tall ships “parked” in Stockholm to spend a weekend and then go for the race. There were some events arrange for that. There was a parade when the teams from different countries (pretty much from all around the world) would march through the center of the city. After that there was a short concert where the same teams would present a song. After all, there was a long evening with small stages all around as well as beer and snacks. Here are some pictures of the ships. There was one ship that attracted a lot of attention. It was Russian Shtandart, which is a nice replica of the old frigate.


In 2009, the tall ships races will make a stop in Klaipeda for a couple of days.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hardware: Skype Outside the Box

For quite some time I have been thinking about getting a palm device that would work with Skype. I wanted to have a messenger separate from the computer, working with wireless. These days it’s impossible to get a palm lower than 300 Euros and it will include a camera, phone and will be running Windows Mobile 5 or 6. So, I was looking for a touch-screen device without the camera, without the phone with the thumb keyboard. It wasn’t an easy task but after several hours of research I have found that there is an iPAQ 4350 that fits my desires. It runs Windows Mobile 2003 Premium on 400 MHz processor. Well, there were 2 operating systems released after (the device is 4+ years old) that so I wouldn’t be able to run the latest software. On the other hand, I needed a Skype carrier, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi (I already had a Bluetooth GPS receiver). Combined all the things it was the best and the only choice. It took me 3 weeks to hunt it on eBay and I finally got it for 170 US$ which is a very good deal. I received the device yesterday, installed all sorts of programs, tweaks and so on, and I should say I like it better than the latest Sony Mylo communicator (mainly due to the absence of the touch screen), for instance. Email, internet, icq, msn, pdf but no Java (I don’t think any of the WM devices can run java these days. Well, here are some pictures.


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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nature: Spanish Killer Slugs

From time to time after the rain, here, in Sweden, it's possible to see interesting slugs on the roads. The rainy weather this summer made the population of them really boost. Until a couple of days, I realized that this creature isn't much of a vegetarian. I mean they do eat the vegetables in the gardens but would easily eat their brothers, the black slugs. The local newspapers printed the reports >> and one of them a list of the ways how to fight them. The killer slugs (Arion lusitanicus) resist even the boiling water. However if you put a jar with the beer, they tend to go in and drown there :P. Pretty wasteful way though.


There is one type of ducks that eats them. But when there are too many of slugs, ducks become fat and lazy.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Lifestyle: Shoelaces - Change the Look

There are quite a few different ways of tying the shoelaces than we were taught in the kindergartens. Here are some examples of them. If you want a printable document (in Russian though), let me know.


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Friday, July 06, 2007

Free: SMS for free [Updated: Not Anymore]

I have tried quite a few applications that supposed to send SMS-es for free. None of them quite worked. My sister sent me an invitation to frype.com (frype.lt as well) where it's possible to send SMS for free around the world. I tried to send to Lithuania and Sweden and it worked. It will add an advertisement in the end but you still got a free sms with 160 symbols. I am not sure if this service will last long but if you would like an invitation (they don't do open registration for now), drop me a line.


UPDATE:
Frype has changed the rules and free SMS service is not available anymore so there is no real point in opening an account with them.


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Monday, July 02, 2007

Misc: June in Stockholm

So, I am having two and a half months off this summer which I am pretty much enjoying. There are a couple of things missing that would be the sea closer to our place and some friends from Klaipeda. Well, what can we do? On June 13 I attended a record signing session for the release of the new album by Per Gessle (of Roxete) sung in Swedish. Not my favorite album but I bought it and got signed. I had to stand in the line for one our but it was worth it. I hope one of those days both Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle will be signing records as the new Roxette album will be out. Future will show.

From time to time we try to explore new parts of the city, take walks in the center, meet with friends and have a beer or just sit on the benches by the bay and drink soda and eat some cinnamon rolls. Last weekend we dropped by a flee marked. My expectation were too high for that place. I was thinking it will be something like in Klaipeda with the stuff actually look at. The place was much smaller than the market in Klaipeda with the very few things of my interest. There were mostly Asian people selling various things and the theme of everything was pretty much Asian – the cloth, music, books and so on. We spent 15 minutes there. Maybe we should search for another flee market some day.

And here are some pictures of us and of our current apartment

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Job: Next Step - Ascade


During past 2 months I have been actively searching for a new job. My position at Tobii hasn’t been very satisfactory neither to the company nor to me mainly due to the language issues. So, the 27 of May was my last day at Tobii. It’s not an easy task to search for a job in Sweden even with IT experience when you have to say, “I have just started learning Swedish.” Most hiring agencies will be glad to have you on their list and will invite you for the interview but there are very few chances you will catch anything really fast there. I have been looking for a job in Sweden 2 times now and in both time we (Marie and I) did the search on our own and that what brought the results. From the April 27 – June 25 (Almost 2 months) I have applied to almost 200+ companies that had a “smell” of .NET, C# or VB. I had gone to 4 inerviews. Well, there is actually the 5th one I will have to go on the July 2 but I guess since I have already signed the contract with the new company, I will have to cancel this interview. The most peculiar place I applied for was the internship at EA Games. Could’ve been kinda cool though.

So, the new company name is Ascade. This is multinational company and they are working with the software solutions for the telecom companies (Lithuanian Teo is the customer as well). The software searches for the fastest point between the providers in intermediate switches when the connection needs to be done. The more sophisticated example case would be if you want to call from Europe to Japan and then the connection goes through several providers in between, almost like the internet networks. To maintain who and where got and received (bought and sold) how much traffic is the goal of the software as well as sending rates and bills between the telecom providers. Well, I hope you get the idea. 2 days ago, I have signed the contract and I am starting on the August 20.

So, before the start date we are planning one more trip to Lithuania. We will be there from August 1 to August 10, since these are the days when Marie has got the holidays from work. We hope the weather will be nice during that period.

[G]

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fun: A Couple of Nice Sayings (Rus)

Человек молод, когда он еще не боится делать глупости.

Друг бесплатно достается, а врага надо заработать.

Есть только две бесконечные вещи: Вселенная и Глупость. Хотя, насчет Вселенной я не уверен.

Пустыня бизнеса усеяна костями тех, кто посчитал, что понимает все и перестал учиться.

Нет ничего сложнее, чем использовать свой шанс!

PS: кто сказал - не знаю

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Trips: On the Road Again

Last week we managed to move to a new flat closer to the center of Stockholm. We rented a small Toyota Yaris, packed it with our stuff and it was my new experience as a driver in Stockholm. There was some adrenalin during the way some wrong turns and some weird situations but we managed it alright, I think.

Since the last week, Marie went to Belarus to change her passport and I went to Lithuania to see my grandmother in Vilnius hospital, who was in a pretty bad shape. The doctors diagnosed the 4th stage of cancer. She spent 3 weeks in the hospital, wasn’t able to eat or drink anything. Later, after the operation it appeared to be a small thing with bowel, so there was no cancer. Medicine sucks big time in Lithuania. Things like that make me mad. Thanks God my grandmother is doing a bit better now.

Besides that I had a chance to meet my family and my friends and catch a couple of hot summer days here, in Klaipeda which I enjoyed a lot. The beer is good, as usual. There are some things that I missing from Lithuania but not enough to keep me there.

Marie is back in Stockholm and today is her first day at work. I am going back to Sweden on Friday. I am wishing everyone a pleasant and hot (rainy when it’s needed) summer. It might be so that I will be back to Klaipeda sometime in July – August but for now it’s kinda early to say.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Job: Marie is Junior Investment Analyst


This Friday, Marie went to her 3rd and final interview at Aberdeen (Stockholm) and the great news is that she got the job! She will be a Junior Investment Analyst. Well, what the company does, to put it into very short terms is the analysis of the risk and return on investments. So she will be dealing with all sorts of fancy words like funds, portfolios, roi, bonds, stocks, volatility and tons of other terms that we heard and not heard (I didn’t say learned :P )at LCC. But Marie has been learning it for quite a long time for her masters and half way through her studies, I gave up on trying to understand what actually she is studying and how it works. I am really happy that she enjoys what she is doing and she’s got a job like that.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Software: Classic Menus for Office 2007

With the new Microsoft Office 2007 interface, some people and companies surely stayed with Office 2003 or earlier just because of the drastic interface change. Microsoft also introduced the new docx xlsx pptx and so on formats for the files and that will keep people unhappy because there is no direct backward compatability (although you could install an addon that would do that). There is probably a good reason for not switching to Office 2007 because the company staff will need to be re-trained for the new interface. It's not very much intuitive and self-explanatory. Well there is another company that developed an additional tab for office 2007 that brings the functionality of the classic menus:



IMHO: Microsoft lost quite some market because they didn't implement this feature. Is the ribbon control really that good? Well, the time will show. I am glad Adobe didn't switch to the ribbon interface with CS3.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hardware: Headsets In-Ear

When buying an audio device, like a player or a handsfree for the phone (in my case it came bundled with the phone. I always get the regular headset which my ear suppose to hold. However it desn't work for my ears. So, I was thinking if there are any adapters that would make those headsets into the "in-ear" type, where it has some silicone that goes right into your ear. I didn't know what this type of the adapter would be called but it appears that those actually exist (I almost thought I could invent them :]). They are called iBuds and were designed for the iPods phones but I guess will fit any regular headsets. I am planning to purchase them for my mobile handsfree. It costs just a couple of bucks and can be bought on eBay and Geeks.com.

Friday, April 27, 2007

TVs: LCD or Plazma (Rus)

Не имею представления когда мы будем покупать новый телевизор, однако уже сейчас полезно прочесть информацию о том, куда движется рынок экранов и что важно знать при покупке. >>

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Fun: Optical Illusions

From all the illusions I have seen, this one is the best:



In this one the squares A and B are actually of the same color. How weird is that? Use microsoft paint if you like to cut off pieces of squares to put them together to check.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Weather: First Summerish Weekend

This weekend felt almost like a summer in Stockholm. A lot of people went outside and had picnics. Others, like us went to the center, grabbed some snacks and took long walks. Here are some pictures that I have taken with my phone. The quality is pretty bad and I don't think that I don't know how to use it. You know, phone camera.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Magazine: PC World (May 2007)

I was going through the articles of PC World magazine and there were a couple of interesting articles there. It seems like the new Microsoft Operating System that will be released in the end of 2009 (the earliest), will be 64 bit only. One more time I was convinced to buy a 64 bit PC this year.



Although the magazine is US-oriented, every time I look through it, I find a page or two worth reading.

So, there were some articles that were related to the following pages:

The best color lazer printers.

The big monitors - good or bad?

The best big monitors.

Awfully expensive in-ear headphones.

Process Explorer - A handy application to diagnose the problems.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Travelling: There is no place like ... Lithuania

We had a nice trip to Lithuania last week, spending 5 full days there. We met out friends and relatives, went to the dentist and did some shopping. Then on Saturday we went to the sauna place some 15 kilometers away from Klaipeda. It was a very nice place which was build not long ago. There were quite a few of our friends there, from Vilnius and Klaipeda. It was a nice feeling to get all together again. Our friends Anzhela and Sergei prepared some delicious chicken and ribs. And of course the beer was there as well.



After that, in the evening we went to Anzhela and Sergei apartment and after some tea and cake went to the night club Metelica. Unfortunately we had to go back to Stockholm the next morning and had to leave earlier.



The whole week was pretty cold in Lithuania, dropping down to -2 in the night and with the strong and cold wind during the day. When we had to leave on Sunday, it started to snow.
Anyways, we really hope to see you all guys some time in July when we will come to Klaipeda for a longer time. Hopefully it will be warm and sunny by that time.

G & M

Electronics: Notebook and Mobile Phones

There were three more or less major purchases that we did during the last month or so.

First, LG Z1 notebook for Marie.


It is very light, pretty fancy with the white keyboard and dark cover. It came with Windows Vista Home Premium. I must admit that this is one of the most portable notebooks I have ever seen. So, if you are on the way a lot, I would recommend this notebook. You won't be able to play the latest games but it easily outperforms any of the office-type requirements.

Second, we bought two mobile phones. I was getting sick of my huge Sony Ericsson p800 with the 2 days battery life, while Marie's Sony Ericsson T230 was basically becoming obsolete. Our choices were Samsung X820 for Marie and Motorola KRZR K1 for me. Well, mobile phones is a huge matter of the personal taste and preferences. As for my KRZR, I was looking for a small one with a good battery life. I am pretty much satisfied with it. Now it's the time to do the tweaks for the phones, like change the icons, animations, ringtones, put some games, and gmail client on it. I wish I had time for all of it. Marie's X820 is a really nice, intuitive and fancy phone. Both phones have 2 MPixel cameras which is the same as my Kodak photo camera that I bought in 2002 in US. Things got smaller and smarter in 4 years.

Samsung X820:



Motorola KRZR K1:

Monday, March 12, 2007

Hardware: Which Mouse to Get

It was the time for me to choose the new mouse. I decided to go for an ergonomic solution and I wanted to try something new. If I would've been a gamer, I would definitely go for a regular ergonomic mouse from Microsoft or Logitech. However, I am more of a developer these days and I came up with 3 possible solutions for me:

1. A Pen Mouse - works just like a mouse but you hold it like a pen. It has 2 buttons and a scroll functionality. It would've been really good but every time you need to use it you actually need to pick it up and before you go back to the keyboard, carefully put it back on the table.

2. A Vertical Mouse - a pretty good thing, I believe and I tried to imagine how it would work. you kinda need a lot of space on the table for that. Very ergonomic but very expensive.

3. The third and the solution that I have chosen is an ergonomic trackball (Microsoft Trackball Explorer). It saves a lot of space on the table, has a scroll, 5 buttons and an ergonomic design. Well, I will see how it will work. I think trackballs have been underlooked in the mice world. It's kinda fancy as well. As a personal preference, I prefer one with the ball on top to one with the ball on the left side where you have to move it with your thumb.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Weekend: A Walk Worth some Memories

Today was one of the spring-like days here, in Stockholm and our friends and we decided to take a walk in the Skansen park in Stockholm. Besides the nice talks and some tea with sandwiches, I got a feeling back from my high-school times when I was a crazy fan of Roxette. After we crossed one of the bridges there, I saw a man and a woman coming the opposite way to us and I realized it was Per Gessle and his wife taking a walk in the park. My eyes were doubled in size, I think. I had a camera and I could’ve talked to him and ask to take a picture. But guess what – I didn’t dare. I haven’t been to any Roxette concerts and I haven’t seen them live. So, you can imagine what kind of feeling is that to meet someone you adore so much. Well, he didn’t look at me but I guess his wife saw my face and smiled. After that we went to a cafe and had some tea and sandwiches but I couldn’t think about anything else. After 3 hours, I still have hard times getting over that impression.

And here are the pictures from the cafeteria




and of the flowers on our porch that appeared a couple of days ago.



Thursday, March 08, 2007

Programs: VirtuaWin

I have never found virtual desktops to be so much of a use. However today I tried one and actually found it pretty useful. The basic idea is to have several desktops with the opened windows there (the icons on the desktop stay the same but you can actually change the wallpaper). Instead of minimizing and restoring windows, use the hotkey to switch to the different desktop. For example, on the first screen at work I have my development environment, on the second web I keep chat, email related application windows, and my mp3 player with the file manager go into the third virtual desktop. System tray (aka notification area or bottom right corner :))stays the same all the time and only the taskbar is changing from one virtual desktop to another.
Mcrosoft has this utility as a part of the PowerToys for WindowsXP. However I have found similar utility that I like more, since it seems to be a bit faster and it open source:

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Programs: More Freeware

There is a website nirsoft.net packed with the freeware utilities that one might need in every day life. For example there are utilities that help to manage the context menu items, Microsoft office addons, installed ActiveX components, show active processes, show open ports, manage startup items and so on. Download them all before Microsoft buys them :P.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Holidays: Beer Vs Skiing

This time beer wins.

While planning our Easter holidays, we decided to go to Lithuania and visit our family and friends, dentist and remember the taste of Lithuanian beer. So, we will be in Lithuania on the 2nd of April and coming back on the 8th of April. Hopefully the weather will be nice by that time.

The only thing that I will probably miss is Tobii ski trip to the north of Sweden. Well, I actually don’t know what I am missing since I have never really tried real skiing (what a lame excuse :P). I guess skiing will have to wait until the next year and hopefully the global warming will not melt all the snow in Sweden.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Studying: Workarounds for the Difficult Questions

Well, you can argue with the teacher about the logic here. One asks -one gets.
Click on a picture to preview:



Monday, February 19, 2007

Filesharing: Box.Net Widget

There is an interesting way to share the files provided by Box.Net. By adding a widget to your webpage/blog you can add the files to it and then other people can download the files from your blog (but not upload [unless you give them a password]). I found it pretty interesting for the times when you need to share a file really fast, instead of sending it my email. Here is one that I have created for myself. Now, I will need to find a right place for it in the blog. For now, just on the right side at the bottom.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Travelling: Poland

Hey, we've been to Poland. Gdansk, actually. Took a bus to SKAVSTA (9 am, 03 feb 2007) airport from T-Centralen - costs as much as Ryanair tickets :)
We had a nice party in Gdansk. Pictures will come later, when they are developed and sent to us and scanned. That's what happens when we forget our digital cam. Anyways. Back by ferry. No elevator, lots of stairs. Getting bags on the ferry (5 pm, 04 feb 2007) and out was quite a challenge-really something to remember. The beginning of the ferry trip was quite an experience-elephants in my stomach! The trick is to fall asleep fast. Being back home feels gooood!

Computers: Healthy Mouse for your Wrist

I am going pretty nuts about the ergonomic software and some time ago I have found (what I think to be) the best ergonomic mouse so far. It's called Evoluent Vertical Mouse 2. So, I will definately try to get it for my new computer. It's pretty expensive but it's worth the investing into the health, is it?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Music: Before You Burn that MP3 Disc

What I have found irritating is that when I burn an Audio CD from MP3s or CD/DVD with MP3s, from time to time I have to adjust the volume of the player because different MP3 s were encoded with different volumes. I searched for a software that would adjust the volume of all MP3s to one level. So, I found one, it is Mp3Gain:

So, before burning audio discs, try to use this utility to normalize your files.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

PIctures: Software Panoramic

My friend Levon did a panoramic picture in his blog and I thought I should try it too. So I took my old Kodak dx3500 and we went to the lake near us to feed the ducks. I took the pictures there and combined them with Canon PhotoStitch (actually Photoshop CS can do it as well). So, here is the lake:





and here is our room again:

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sweden: ComHem Fixed my Problem

A small update on my case with ComHem. I think that somebody from the company read my post :) and made the changes. The guy from the support called me and told that the modem that I have bought is not receiving the settings automatically and therefore it will not work at a full speed. Well, I explained to him that another support person told me that I can buy any "modern" modem and that it should work. Then he told that then it’s the fault of the company/support and that I was kinda fooled, therefore they will send a modem to us for free, which is very sweet. Well, it took some time to solve the problem but in the end it was solved. So, now I am pretty happy and maybe ComHem got me back as a customer. We will see.

What I learned from this is that the Cable Internet is much more complicated than ADSL and people shouldn't take chances buying their own cable modems from the different countries. One way to get a cheaper modem is to find a person who has been using the modem on the same system and wants to sell the modem.

Now, I just can't wait to get my 8mbps line up and running.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Sweden: ComHem Lost Me as a Customer

updated: a small and happy update on this issue in the next post

I would like to share my experience with Swedish ComHem Internet provider. I pretty much anticipated all those things but hoped that it would be better than my experience with the cable internet provider in Lithuania.

Since we moved into the apartment only for 5 months we could not order internet for 12 months and get a modem for free. ComHem told us that we need to buy it for 100 Euros from them or we could buy our own somewhere (just any modern cable modem). Well, I thought I could buy a modem. So I did. I bought Motorola SB5100E modem from Denmark and it cost me 30 Euros to buy it. When the time came to install it, the MAC address of the modem worked but ComHem could not register the Serial Number in the system. Because of that, the modem would work at a lowest speed possible. So, I called the support and here is the sequence in which they told me to do the following:
The second time I called, they asked to measure the speed 3 times per day and call us back with the results.
The third time I called, they told me that tests do not matter and that they will forward the problem to the central support place and will call us back in case something is wrong.
Then, after 5 days I called them one more time. Now they told me that I have to get the modem from them, since they only work with their modems. Well, now I will have to buy a second hand modem in Sweden and probably sell the one I bought from Denmark to somebody else somewhere. We will manage get the internet working in a couple of days but when we move to a different place in summer, definitely will go to a different provider in Sweden, like Tele2. ComHem lost me as a customer.

The guys at ComHem should learn how to document the support question and build a normal knowledge base in their system. Maybe fix the database (so it would accept different kind of serial numbers). And stop holding people on the phone for 1 hour to get to the customer support. At least create a toll-free number so people could call from Skype or landline for free. Create a menu in Englsh (come on, even Lithuania has English in almost every service).

PS Just forget about my ComHem email support - none of my emails were answered.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Computers: To Vista or not to Vista?

When I walk around the computer stores, I see that notebooks and desktops have the stickers, like Windows Vista Capable. So, it does sound like a computer can run Vista. If you decide to buy a computer in the nearest future and you want to make sure your computer will run smoothly, do not look for the Vista Capable, look for Vista Premium Ready.





Here come the details from the Mcrosoft Page that state the differences:

A Windows Vista Capable PC includes at least:

* A modern processor (at least 800MHz1).
* 512 MB of system memory.
* A graphics processor that is DirectX 9 capable.

Windows Vista Premium Ready PCs
To get an even better Windows Vista experience, including the Windows Aero user experience, ask for a Windows Vista Capable PC that is designated Premium Ready, or choose a PC that meets or exceeds the Premium Ready requirements described below. Features available in specific premium editions of Windows Vista, such as the ability to watch and record live TV, may require additional hardware.

A Windows Vista Premium Ready PC includes at least:

* 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor.
* 1 GB of system memory.
* Support for DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver, 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum), Pixel Shader 2.0 and 32 bits per pixel.
* 40 GB of hard drive capacity with 15 GB free space.
* DVD-ROM Drive.
* Audio output capability.
* Internet access capability.



Well, knowing all that, I would say, get a 2GHz processor, 2GB RAM, 500GB Hard Drive and an upper class video card if you want to have a good feeling about your PC in a year or so.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Pictures: Workplace & KTH Lab

Here is a picture of my workplace (phone qty). It has a view on the highway, so I've got a pretty dynamc screensaver on my window.




And here is one more photo of the computer lab at the KTH. It has pretty high tables and chairs so that people could use computers while both standing and sitting.




I will probably get a table at work that can have different heights, controlled electronically. I am thinking about getting one for us at home but it costs around 570 Euros which is kinda expensive. But the I like the idea of working for an hour sitting and then for an hour standing and then again sitting and so on. Well, you get the point.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Pictures: New 2007 Year

Happy New Year Everyone!

Aaaaaalright. We moved in and happily met the new 2007 year. And we finally managed to take some pictures of the apartment that we will have until the summer. To be short, here are the pictures:

- the main hall on the floor


- the view from the door


- the computer


- the sofa


- kitchen


- the tv :)


And here are us at the New Year dinner table.