Douwe Osinga's Blog: February 2005

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Working in a coal mine

Even though cheese and chocolate fondue gathered some fame outside of the borders of Switzerland, the local food and especially the food from the German speaking part can sometimes be as subtle as a good kick in the head. There are lots of other places of course, but anything with Bierhalle or Bierkeller in the name seems to cater for people working in mines.

Johanniter is one of those places. It serves food until 4 am and has reasonable priced beer, but it pretty much looks like a Bierkeller and if you don't notice that right away, then the stuffed animals hanging from the wall should be a dead give away (Pun sort of intended). We sometimes go there with Google for lunch, mostly because it is close by.

Friendliness is not their strongest point. Last time went there, most of us ordered something solid. Roesti with fried cheese and sausages in wintry if slightly fatty sauce. It was pretty good, but none of us finished it. The waitress did not approve. Why did you not finish your meal? she said. Did you not like it? Well, we replied, we liked it, but it was just too much. If it was too much, she said, then you don't work hard enough.

I guess if you compare it to working in a coal mine, she has a point.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


So I gave up waiting for the Benq P50 or the Motorala Mpx. They are great phones, but they have one drawback: you can't buy them in the real world. When T-Mobile announced their MDA IV with even better specs, I knew what I had to do. Not keep waiting for the cellphone of tomorrow with ever better specs but that is never available, but settle for something great that exists. I bought a T-Mobile MDA Compact.

T-Mobile is just the label. It didn't come with a network (Switzerland must be one of the last countries not having their own T-Mobile). The MDA Compact is actually produced by HTC and goes with the codename Magician and is variably known around the world as i-mate Jam, QTek s100, XDA Mini and MDA Compact.

I have the phone for less than a week and I love it. It runs Windows Mobile Second Edition (which makes a lot of people around me go 'oh, evil'). It reinforces my believe that MS might just win this battle. It is not the software it comes with (though it ships with a reasonable complete set), it is the ease for third parties to develop stuff for Windows Mobile that will do it.

One thing I expect from a phone nowadays is to be able to play Seinfeld. Well, for some reason the mobile version of Windows Mediaplayer (which otherwise runs circles around anything I've seen on a Nokia phone. No wonder they're considering licensing this). But there is Betaplayer, which installed in a snap and played the Seinfeld I had on my disk without any conversion. Full screen, full frame rate, great sound.

Internet Explorer isn't too great, but Opera has a great replacement. Playing MP3s from an SD card always has the drawback that even at 1GByte, you can't put enough music on it. The iPod shuffle solves this nicely. Luckily enough there is PlayList Sync which will copy random music to your phone so you'll always have something fresh.

There is a port of putty and python and so on. Oh, it is also a great phone, though dialing without a keypad and on the touch screen isn't ideal. I also like it that it syncs and charges over USB. No stupid external adaptors (well, there's also an adaptor, but that's, well, stupid). The screen is very bright and crisp. Also, the phone is relatively small.

Syncing is kinda slow, I suspect it's only USB 1.1 and the battery life can't be that good considering all the features, but for now I'm happy

Saturday, February 5, 2005

Should you switch?

A couple of weeks ago, two friends of mine came over to visit from the Netherlands. It was great of course, but one of the things we ended up talking about mainly were a couple of riddles. I thought about it some more and now I have five variants. Some might seem familiar, some trivial, but I think the combination is very interesting.

  1. You have hundred dollars. I offer to throw a coin. If heads comes up, I half your money, if tails comes up, I double your money. Should you do this?

  2. There are two envelopes on the table. One contains twice as much money as the other. You take one. One hundred dollars. I offer you to switch envelopes. Should you?

  3. A quiz master has hidden a price behind one of three doors. You are a winning candidate. You'll have to guess which door has the price by lining up before it. You make your choice. The quiz master says, I'll help you a little, this door, and he points at one, does not have a price behind it. He then opens it to prove his point. You are now allowed to switch to the third door. Should you?

  4. A quiz master has hidden a price behind one of three doors. You are one of three winning candidates. You each choose a door. The quiz master says, we can't all win. Unfortunately you and he points at one of your competitors, didn't win. He opens the door of that person and there is nothing behind it. So your competitor leaves. Now the quiz master offers you to switch door with the other survivor. Should you?

Well, think about these for a little. Then continue reading this sentence. And a little more if you really thought about it. You're sure you thought about it and are not just continuing to read to get the answers? Ok, here is the answer. You should take the bet/switch in puzzle 1 and 3, but it doesn't matter in 2 or 4. I'm sure you can come up with some kind of explanation, but what is exactly the difference between them?