Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life: A Short Update - Renovation and a Wake-up Lamp

September and October have been quite busy months for us. I was mostly concentrated on learning Swedish (cough) and on the renovation of the apartment and it takes longer time than I expected. Some of the things I was doing for the first time with my fathers help over Skype. The doors installation was quite new to me and since the old doors were not of the same size as the new ones, there was some wall cutting and then cementing and so on. We have just finished the stone decoration by the entrance of the apartment. There are still quite a few things left to do and one room and the kitchen on the todo list. Here are some pictures from the process :).



Having the darkest time of the year at the hand, I really feel a difference waking up in the morning, since it is still dark at 7. One of our friends suggested to try a wake up lamp. That is basically a lamp that starts to light up gradually half an hour before you need to wake up. Supposedly the light makes it easier for a person to wake up. From what I have noticed, Philips is the most known in the marked. Here is an example of one of them:


These are not cheap and are in the 100+ Euros area. It does not have any special lamp and it does not even have an auto adjusting time feature, so I guess it is overpriced a bit. The people who use it say that it really helps to wake up in the morning. I was thinking about making my own lamp like this. While timer is not a problem, a device that could gradually turn on the power seems to be quite difficult to find. Well maybe I should skype Santa and ask him to get it for me for Christmas this year.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Events: Summer 2009

Even though the summer is not over yet, the live comes back to a regular pace here, in Sweden. The majority of people had their holidays in July heading up to some resorts or summer houses but now it is the time to get back to work and hope that August and September will bring some more warm weekends.

There were 3 major events during this summer for us:

First, we went for one week to and island Samos in Greece. A bit touristy place with the prices that are really European but if you are looking for the sun and sea, that is not a bad place to go.



Second, we went to Klaipeda for one week. We met almost all our friends who live there and who managed to come this time. Thank you, guys. Спасибо! It was a really memorable week and I was really sad to leave my hometown.



Third, my father came with us to Sweden to help with the on-going renovation project. We managed to do some of the major tasks that we were planning, like crashing of the doors, installing the wires into the walls, replacing the floors, painting and so on.



That is all for now. I hope all of you had a great summer.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Computers: Desktop Items Management -- Stardock Fences

There are people who keep the things off their desktops and just have My Computer and a Recycle Bin icons there. For me, the desktop is more of the workspace like on the normal table, where I keep pencils, papers, books, drinks :P, phone,a couple of CDs and so on. Yes, sometimes it is pretty chaotic there :). In the same way the computer desktop gets too much stuff from time to time and I don't know if or when I will needs a certain file. So, there are quite a few icons on the desktop of my computer which becomes a problem from time to time. Stardock has released a piece of free software called Fences that makes it possible to organize the desktops and make some scrollable containers inside the desktop where one can move items around and arrange things. It is quite an interesting approach to get things organized. Personally, I like the idea.


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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Technology: Calls from Computer

Since we do not have a landlines phone at home, it is pretty expensive to call landlines phones within Sweden. From time to time I need to call tax or migration or embassies and I was using Skype for the purposes that gave me a good deal. Not long ago my sister's friend suggested another program for that and I realized that they give 5 hours or free calls per week, which is more than I need, in this case. The rates to the destinations that I might call as well are a bit lower in comparison with Skype (http://www.skype.com/). While calling from computer to computer I still recommend Skype, calling the normal phones or mobiles can be less expensive when using the program called FreeCall (http://www.freecall.com/).


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Monday, May 11, 2009

Music: Stockholm Concert May 10, 2009

Yesterday, on May 10 2009 Marie and I went to the tour concert by Per Gessle. I must admit this was an amazing night. Even though we were sitting, I left the concert sweating and my palms were hurting from clapping. It was a very emotional concert with Marie Fredriksson appearing on the stage and the crowd going wild. This was my first time I went to a concert in Sweden (although I haven’t been to many in Lithuania) and I am hoping that Roxette will try to make a new record and would go on tour soon. Then we will get the first rows and be jumping and singing :). Here are some snippets, not really organized, I was more into singing and watching then filming. Quality is pretty bad too :P but there is going to be a DVD released from Stockholm concerts.


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Friday, May 08, 2009

Music: Roxette - Amsterdam 2009

The long anticipated Roxette performance actually happened on May 7, 2009. Marie Fredriksson joined Per Gessle on his world tour and they performed 2 songs together, It Must Have Been Love and The Look. The last time they performed live together was in 2002. Roxette also confirmed that they will be performing on the Night of the Proms which is a series of concerts in Belgium, Netherlands and Germany.







I hope that Marie Fredriksson will appear for Stockholm show this Sunday when we will be at the concert.

Well, the next thing to wish for Roxette fans is some new material that Per and Marie could do together. A single? Or maybe a whole new album?

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Security: What Would Really Happen If?

There is a huge concern about the IT security. The way I see it is the first level of the security is the education of the user. In the real world, the biggest problem with the security is actually users entering their addresses, passwords and emails themselves on the fake websites, answering phishing emails or running suspicious attachments from emails. If it gets more serious on the huge corporation or military level, people would not bother with the security, they would do something really simple like this:


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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Internet: You Must Be Kidding Me!

Browsing through the recent news, I saw a link to a website where some of the really disturbing news was published. According to this site, the European Parliament will vote for the right of the internet providers in Europe to limit access to the certain websites. In other words, the internet service providers will be able to package and price access to the internet websites differently. So, the internet will become like a TV, you have 15 channels, you can use google, msn, bbc and some others and will not be able to access other sites. If you want YouTube, you will have to buy a separate "entertainment" package or similar.

It would be a perfect joke for the 1st of April but it seems like this is not the case. I cannot even imagine this happening. Everyone who has a website of their own now will be blocked from the outside world.  Can you imagine hosting your webpage somewhere in US and not being able to access it from Europe? Holy c***p!

There are technical issues that I am not sure about, such as, how will they actually fulfill it? There are quite a few ways going around restrictions like that. Second, it directly conflicts with the existing ISPs(Internet Service Providers) contracts that people have. Would that mean that there will be no providers that will allow full access to internet?

This law is supposed to be a step to prevent the piracy. The law itself, besides immoral, I think is pathetic. Just like in most court cases that have to do with the filesharing and internet, people in the government fail to understand that it is impossible to stop people who want to share the files. Has closing of Napster or Kazaa reduced piracy? Do you see The Pirate Bay going down? It is so obvious that there are far more ways of doing piracy in comparison with the ways of preventing it. People will start creating their own independent networks and share the files anyways. As the last option that people have is to burn discs and send them around in schools, universities and at work.

We will see where this leads in the next couple of days.

web links:
Save citizens rights in Telecoms Package
Blackout Europe

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Music: Per Gessle on Tour 2009

Yesterday, Per Gessle (of Roxette) started his Party Crasher tour. The first concert was in Helsinki(Finland) and all the fans that go to the concerts later were waiting for the setlist to be revealed. Of all the concert songs more than half are Roxette songs, then some songs from his English albums and 1 cover song. It will be interesting to see him singing Roxette songs that most of people usually associate with Marie's voice. Here is a short interview with him from the Finnish TV:


and here is an approximate list of the songs that is used during the tour:

1. DRESSED FOR SUCCESS
2. DROWNING IN WONDERFUL THOUGHTS ABOUT HER
3. STUPID
4. THE PARTY PLEASER
5. WISH I COULD FLY
6. SHE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE
7. 7TWENTY7
8. I HAVE A PARTY IN MY HEAD
9. LATE, LATER ON
10. LISTEN TO YOUR HEART
11. DO YOU WANNA BE MY BABY?
12. OPPORTUNITY NOX
13. DOESN’T MAKE SENSE
14. CHURCH OF YOUR HEART
15. DANGEROUS
16. JOYRIDE


EXTRA #1
17. C’MON
18. ARE YOU AN OLD HIPPIE, SIR?
19. THE LOOK
20. IT MUST HAVE BEEN LOVE


EXTRA #2
21. (I’M NOT YOUR) STEPPIN’ STONE
22. QUEEN OF RAIN

source: sonofaplumber forum

And we are going to the concert in Stockholm on May 10, 2009.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lifestyle: Skiing 101

Last year for the first time I started skiing. My company went to a place 3 hours west from Milan/Italy where we had a conference and a couple days of skiing. The first steps were not easy. A couple of hours or rolling and falling, I managed to get a feeling of it. This year Marie, I and some of our friends went to a place 3 hours to the north of Stockholm and skied for several hours there. We went on the green (easy) lines and it was quite some fun. After that, in the end of March my company went to Italy again and then I tried the red lines (they are more steep and difficult, but black ones are the most difficult [but supposedly most of fun]) and it was the rolling time again. It was a nice practice but somehow stressful, since if you are on the red line, if you fall, it is really hard to stand up without other person’s help. Obviously if there are people waiting for you, it becomes embarrassing. Most of the time I enjoyed it. Here are some pictures:

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Gadgets: Vuzix Video Glasses

During my flight home from Italy, in the pocket of the front chair I looked through the magazines and in one of them there was a description of a device that drove my attention. The device is a pair of glasses with the monitors inside. So, basically this is a replacement for TV. The idea is not that new and around 5 years ago I saw a similar device back in Lithuania. However, at that time, I was not impressed that much. The picture was not that clear and the device was quite bulky.

So, after several years, I think I am looking at a more improved device. I haven’t tried it yet but I definitely want to give it a shot. Besides the convenience of being small and being able to position yourself in any way while watching TV or playing games, the energy consumption and price of the devices play a great role. The glasses get adjusted for every person and every eye individually, so I am pretty sure the device will work for the most of people. Authors say it replaces approximately 62” TV and is 4 times cheaper than a medium quality TV of this size. I haven’t tried it yet, so I will not jump to the conclusions. I will go to home electronics exhibition this weekend and I really hope I will be able to try them there.


vuzix.com

I think the device has a great potential in bringing some competition to the TV market. Obviously, several people can watch TV but not the glasses. Well, time will show but I am excited about this product. I love technology!


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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gadgets: Skype Phone, BeBook

There are 2 gadgets that I bought more or less recently and I would like to describe my impressions about them. The first gadget is Belkin Skype Phone and the second is BeBook book reader. The second one I got was Belkin Skype phone, since it had a good price on the Skype website, it was Skype certified and finally that Skype chose this phone to sell and not the similar phones from Netgear and SMC.


Why bother with the Skype dedicated phone, you would ask? Well, first, I never really liked running Skype on the PC. IMHO, it consumes a reasonable amount of resources (it used to almost halt my older desktop PC). Second, I thought it would be nice to sit on the sofa and talk on the phone and not to stand in front of the computer. There are advantage that Skype on the computer would give you, such as more clear sound and a webcam. Generally the device is good when you think you might be using skype while the computer is off.

I would say that Belkin Skype phone became quite a disappointment to me after I had it for a couple of days. First and one of the major problem is the battery life. Obviously, it has to be connected to WiFi all the time, but even in the standby mode it will give you 2 days maximum without a re-charge. Second, is the connection problem. It does disconnect from time to time even when you do not talk, and when you talk you really need to have the router visible to the phone (if I go around the corner to the kitchen, most likely it will start disconnecting every 3-5 minutes). In addition I did not find the way how to disable the sounds that get played when it gets connected and disconnected. The last argument that I would like to present is the design. It looks and feels a bit bulky. The screen should have been bigger in comparison with the case of the phone. The plastic feels pretty cheap. It has some sharp corners and generally it looks soo much better on the pictures than it does in real life. So, from my point of view, neither technology, nor the hardware vendors did a good job in this case. I would not recommend buying this type of phone at this point and wait for the next generation.

As about my second device, BeBook, I really like it. It has the exact features that I need and does not have the ones I do not need. I did not want a device with the full keyboard – this is a book for reading and not for writing. Second, I did not want a touch screen which again has nothing to do with reading and then uses up the battery much faster. I wanted a basic USB connection (mini USB) and not WiFi, Bluetooth or similar. It does have the SD slot for the card as well which becomes really handy. The device displays the text quite nicely, like a good newspaper; it does display images not too bad either (well, as nice as you can go with black and white newspaper). The book supports txt, doc, rtf, html, pdf, mobi, lit, fb2, bmp, jpg, chm, rar, zip and some other formats. It can play MP3 files as well. It supports any TTF type fonts that you can upload. It reads international and Cyrillic characters. The producers update the firmware quite frequently and listen to the requests of the customers quite carefully. The small disadvantage that I can point out is that it has only v 1.1 USB support which makes transfers of the bigger PDF files take longer time. I can put the books on the SD card instead that solves the problem.

A great thing about the ePaper that is used in BeBook (and other book readers as well) it that it consumes very little energy. The most power that it uses is actually to read the files and flip the pages. The actually displaying and keeping the current page does not consume energy at all (unlike the flat panel displays). So, there is nothing that illuminates there. The drawback of that is, of course, that you need a source of light to read the book. You need a source of light to read the book.
The company that makes the BeBook is planning to add the touch screen and WiFi support to the newer versions of the device (to be able to read RSS feeds, for example) and that is why I almost rushed into buying a simple device like this that server my exact needs of the eBook reader.
I read from by BeBook while traveling to and from work and during lunch as well. I am really happy with the device.

E-Paper on Wikipedia
BeBook Official Site

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Music: Yes, Pet Shop Boys, 2009

On March 23, synthpop band Pet Shop Boys will release their new album, "Yes". The album was produced by Xenomania. Most people would agree that Pet Shop Boys proudly comes from the 90's era but even these days they are still working on new material and producing hits here and there.

Recently, Pet Shop Boys received the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music and performed the medley that included their hits and 2 songs from their new album. Lady GaGa and Brandon Flowers (first time I heard this name) took part in the performance. It is a pretty impressive performance, I believe. There are quite a few songs that I like from their discography.


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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Books: Naomi Klein - The Shock Doctrine

Recently, Marie started reading a book by Naomi Klein called The Shock Doctrine. Most often, it is rather hard to impress me with a good book on economics and politics since I do not trust either of them. Marie shared the impressions and ideas that come from this book and this time it really impressed me. The book tries to show how and why US “free markets” fight their way through the world by mostly making people miserable, creating wars to gain the power and money. The book explains how the United States helped to apply the shock and therapy to economics of several countries (e.g. Argentina, Poland, Russia (USSR)) and how it never really worked, pointing out that the whole world is going down the drain of corruption. This is an extremely informative book that might shake your understanding of good and bad guys, the ideas of globalization and who is good and bad in the area of economics.

Info in english
Info in russian

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Monday, January 19, 2009

A Short Update with Some Pictures

I hope everyone had nice holidays and is already doing well in this 2009 year. For this year we were happy to invite our friends from Lithuania and then friends from Moscow. Here are some pictures from the New Year events. Thanks guys for coming. We really enjoyed your company and hope to see you some time in the summer when it is warm … well… Swedish warm.



Marie and I have a long term project for renovating our apartment. We do take it easy and my father will come this summer to help me. So, we are planning, buying tools and materials. Here is the picture of our first bedroom that we have done so far. We have done the ceiling, the walls and finally the floor. A couple more touches and this room will be done.

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