Monday, November 24, 2008

Customer Service...

Yesterday, I woke up to find my DSL line no longer working quite right. I was cut off from the net. Well, mostly, I did use the dial-up to get to the football score I was looking for.

Eventually, I decided to call up the big phone company and after about 15 minutes I was connected. The guy answering the phone was obviously first-level windows support and tried his best to help me. The first bit was to have me reset and power on and off my modem/router. I'd done this about ten times already, but I gave it another try. Didn't work. Then he tried to escalate my call. Being Sunday in Switzerland, this wasn't the easiest thing for him to do, and it ended up being impossible. So, he then started with my router configuration. I'd mentioned it'd been working fine for several months and that I'd not changed it. It was possible that it could be a hardware problem, but not the configuration.

Not having any other options other than my suggestion that there was a problem with the DSL line, he suggested I do a factory reset of the router. There was no way I was going to do this, after all, it'd been working fine for months. I suggested again that it was probably the line. He decided that he'd make a call to see if this was a possibility.

Yep. There was a problem with the line, and a number of folks in the neighborhood had already called it in. So there goes an hour of my life and I ended up with a cold pasta lunch yesterday. Magically, this evening the un-reconfigured DSL modem was once again functioning perfectly....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Four Years!

I just passed the four year mark of living here in Switzerland. Now that I've got a job and my German is good enough...guess I'm here for good.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thinking in German.

One interesting thing I've noticed about working totally in German is that I get used to doing pretty much everything (except for coding) in German. What this means is that I've actually slipped into thinking in German whilst working.

The past few days I've noticed that the couple of rare events where I've had to speak english, it's been a bit difficult switching back. Not horribly difficult, but it's taken a minute or so to shift gears.

Back at home, where I deal with many things in English, it's not so much a problem. Go figure.

We went to a curling class on Friday, I'll have to write something up about that in the near future....

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

First day at work!

Today was my first day at the new job. I'm not going to really say too much about it. After all, I prefer to separate my work and personal life. However, there is just one thing I want to say about the day. Somehow, I managed to survive an entire day speaking pretty much nothing but German. I had some doubts I could do it, but I did. What was surprising, is that I actually got comfortable speaking German and was able to relax and enjoy it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The end of the dream.

Well, it's happened. Someone hired me and so my life of "Living the Dream", as many of my friends call it, is soon to end. I'll be starting the new job on the 1st of October. I'm actually quite looking forward to doing something constructive again, and it'll be nice to have a paycheck as well.

I've been pretty busy with all sorts of things of late. We just got back from a trip to the US. There was some good kayaking to be had and the weather was pretty good for the most part.

I took a break from blogging as my camera wasn't always working as well as I wanted it to. So I went out and got a new Olympus E-410 with a dual zoom kit. I've now added a 25mm pancake lens that makes it really, really light for hiking. I expect to take quite a few more pictures with the new set-up. I'm also really enjoying having a D-SLR, as it's a much nicer experience taking photos than to look at my old S40's little screen.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Euro '08

On Sunday I was lucky enough to go to one of the games of the European Football Championships 2008. We managed to get four tickets in the lottery. Even better, we managed to get them to a game that Switzerland was playing against Portugal.

Switzerland didn't do so well during first two games, losing both. Still, it's always fun to go to a game in St. Jakob Stadium. I hadn't been to a game in Basel since we've moved to Thalwil and so I was looking to see what the upgrades to the stadium were like.

It was fun watching the game, and surprisingly Switzerland won. They played a good game, though many of Portugal's starters did not play. Still, a win is a win.

The only big drawback to the game was the incredible amount of cigarette smoking going on. So much, in fact, that there was a haze in the stadium.

Remote maintenance of servers...

I'm going to geek out a bit with this entry. Apologies to you non-techies.

To keep myself entertained during my time between jobs, I've decided to get myself a server to host a few projects I've been working on. I don't want to host them on a home sever because a home server is too noisy and too warm. Besides, I'd have to share the outbound traffic with my web surfing. So, rather than getting more bandwith at home, I can just put the server in a data center for just a little bit more money.

And there's the issue. It's in a data center. Behind locked doors. No monitor or keyboard. So, how do I access it? An Serial-over-IP device would be cool, but they're expensive and don't do much. I've looked into IPMI, which my server supports, but It needs a VPN to get out of the local network. I've found a KVM-over-IP device that looks pretty cool, but I need to get it shipped out from the US.

But, there's always the option of putting a DVD in the DVD drive. Most of the time it won't be used. In fact, I'll probably not use it unless I need to do an install from the console. So, I'm thinking having a Linux live dvd might be a good thing to keep in it, just in case of an emergency. I got Puppy Linux to work, but it doesn't have LVM in the package, so it looks like I'm off to figure out another option with a different distro, or trying to work out how to get LVM into Puppy Linux...

At least it keeps me out of trouble.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Frank worth more than US Dollar

I checked this morning and had updated their site with values from the weekend. Yes indeed, the Frank did officially overtake the US Dollar on Friday.

The Frank's had a long journey to this point. Back in 1970 a US Dollar was worth FIVE Swiss Franks.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dollar Frank equivalence?

On Saturday we saw that the Dollar had fallen below the Frank on Friday. However according to, the Dollar is still worth just about 1-3 cents more. Any day now.

And, I just noticed that blogger is telling me that it's saved a draft of my posting, but has told me IN GERMAN. C'mon guys, if you're going to do multiple language support, can't you do it in multiple languages?

Just as I finished that, it started talking to me in English once again. :)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Press finally picks up on Swiss Franks rise on the US Dollar

This morning's New Zurich Times' leading story has to do with the falling US Dollar vs. the rising Swiss Frank. I mentioned this earlier. They mention that prices for US goods sold in Switzerland are near twice that for those same goods in the United States. They post the price of the Dollar at about 1.01 Swiss Franks, which I haven't seen yet, as most quotes I've come across have been about 1.03.

Further inside the paper they give a chart of various goods that are overpriced when purchased here in Switzerland. They also editorialize that the prices must fall. Trademark goods are ridiculously expensive. Especially when you consider that many of these products are no longer made in the United States.

Yesterday, I wandered around a couple of shops. One was a bookstore, but I realized that at the prices involved to buy from a scant collection of English language tech books, I could order from Amazon, with overnight shipping and still save. I take hits all along the way in that transaction, first with a padded exchange rate, a fee to transfer funds to my US account, expensive shipping to Switzerland, and lastly a potential 2.3% or so sales tax and 10 Frank fee from the Swiss Government. Still, it is way cheaper to get these goods from the United States. I get a better selection and cheaper prices.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A couple stories that haven't seem to hit the English speaking news yet.

There are a couple stories out there that haven't seem to have hit the English speaking news of yet here in Switzerland....

The Swiss Frank is quickly gaining on the US Dollar
This one is quite surprising that it hasn't yet hit the news. There was all sorts of stories when the Canadian Dollar was approaching the US dollar awhile back. Now, it's the Swiss Frank's turn. Currently a Dollar is worth approximately 1.02 Swiss Franks. At this rate the Frank might achieve parity with the dollar next week, or even pass it. I'm quite surprised to not have seen any info on this.

Non-Smoking Restaurants soon in Switzerland?
This hit the German language news, but I haven't seen anything in English on it. Apparently, last week the Standerrat (Swiss Senate) voted in favor of limiting smoking in Restaurants to specifically built fumoirs, with restaurants largely being smoke-free. A law like this is already in-force in the Canton of Ticino, where there are currently only about 25 fumoirs that have been built so far.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Three year old German Students.

I was going to wax all editorial about my views on forcing three-year-olds to have High German instruction in a Swiss German speaking country, but I think I'll just put the link out there about making these kids learn a language that people don't really speak here.

Is it a good idea? I suppose only time will tell, though I've got just a little bit of doubt on this....

Monday, February 18, 2008

Old Fasnacht video

Here's some video I shot last year of Fasnacht. I'm just getting around to putting it up on the web. We wandered around with some friends that are in a Fasnacht clique.

I quickly realized that I wasn't going to get any good pictures with my camera. However, the video function seemed to work decently with the low light conditions, but the Canon S40 is a sorry replacement for my Panasonic video camera.  The quality isn't great, but it's not so bad. There's a better version at my .mac video gallery.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Back from skiing.

I just spent the past week skiing in Disentis. It was wonderful. Now I need to upload the pictures of that trip, and of the trip I took to Davos during the WEF and do a couple of postings about those trips.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Copyright - Copywrong: Michael Gisinger at BlogcampSwitzerland_2.0

I'm getting around to a few things I've dropped. This one I should have taken care of quite some time ago. I still have a couple more videos from BlogcampSwitzerland_2.0 that I haven't processed. They're in German, though, and I wasn't all that excited about the topics. However, the exception to all of this is Michael Gisinger's talk on copyright, which I thought was excellent, as was his High German presentation. Michael gives a nice history of copyright and discusses a few views on how copyright is viewed. Unfortunately, if you don't understand German, you won't understand the presentation. If anyone out there wants to tack some subtitles on it, feel free to do so. I can even provide the original video file for some better quality.

Es ist ein bisschen spät. Ich hätte ein video von Blogcamp_2.0, und ein presentation von Michael Gisinger gemacht. Dieser presentation ist sehr interresant. Er spricht von den Geschicte des Copyright. Als das Video ist auf Deutsch, wenn jemand kann Subtitle machen, dass gut ist.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A trip to Laax

From Vals

A picture of Vals will have to suffice, as I don't have any of Laax. The skiing conditions are similar, but the lifts in Vals are mostly surface lifts.

Last tuesday I took a trip out to Laax. I decided taking the train and bus would be a good way to get there, as I was going on my own. Fortunately, SBB (the swiss train service) had a deal on travel and lift tickets, so I ended up paying less than I would have for gas and ticket to get my trip. The connections are great, and the trip was more or less relaxing. Being a weekday, I didn't have to worry to much about the crowds. The views as the train headed down Lake Zurich were wonderful, and the weather was great. It is an adventure, however, to figure out what to do with your skis on the trip. The newer railcars have a luggage/skirack you can put your skis in. I was in an older car on the way down, and ended up placing my skis in the luggage rack over the seats. No problem.

Arriving in Chur for the transfer wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. Fortunately, I was in a car that ended up stopping right in front of the escalator. From there it was easy to get to the bus. The bus had a rack in the back for skis and snowboards, so all I had to do was enjoy the trip up.

The bus took me all the way to Laax, though I could have disembarked in Flims. When I arrived at the ticket counter with my coupon from SBB for my ticket, I was told I'd have to pay FIVE FRANKS for the RFID tag card that was my ticket. I was fairly unhappy about this, as nothing anywhere said anything about the extra charge. Though, they had my money at this point, and if I wanted to ski, they were going to make me pay this. Still, it's a rip-off.

It was then time to ski. I worked my way to the top, riding various lifts. I spoke to a number of fellow skiers, all in German. Most were German, though I did speak in a combination of Swiss-German and English to a middle-aged gentleman from Appenzell. All complemented me on my German. The Germans said that I didn't speak with too much of a Swiss accent. I suppose my German is better than I think.

Lunch was interesting, as I had planned on just grabbing something quick, like a burger or brautwurst. Instead, I stumbled into a gourmet restaurant on the summit. It was still fast. However, it was a very nice meal with white tablecloths. I was thinking this is a far cry from what passes for food in the US ski resorts I've been at. I had a nice meal of capuns, which are dumplings filled with bacon or sausage and wrapped in a spinach leaf. They were very good. My mother-in-law also makes excellent capuns as well.

The skiing was pretty good. There was a bit of wind up top, but I found a chairlift on the west side of the area that was servicing a nice slope and that was in the sun. I skied there for a couple of runs, and as I liked this run the best, it was of course the slowest chairlift.

After a couple of runs on the chair, I had to work my way over to the Burton Snowboard Opens. The son of one of my cousins was competing, and that was really the reason I was up at Laax. So, I went over and saw him compete and met up with him and met a few of his friends. It was nice to talk to a few Americans again. Then it was time to go catch my bus home.

All in all Laax is a pretty cool place to ski. The tickets are a bit pricey, but the lifts are great (except for that slow chairlift). The snow was good. The views wonderful. The runs were good as well. In many ways it reminded me of skiing at Crystal Mountain in the Cascades, but the food was so much better.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


I was just rightly chastised by the Global Librarian, who lives on the other side of town, for not posting a blog entry since November. December was pretty busy. I was a couple of weeks during the holidays up into the mountains, where I didn't really have much network access. Anyways....

Yesterday we got a storm that passed through, but it created some really nice rainbows. Here's a couple of pictures:

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