Thursday, October 27, 2011

Interview with TrendPOV

A few weeks ago I received an email from Dr. Amy Vanderbilt with an invitation to appear on the TrendPOV show and chat about Augmented Reality (AR). At that time I was not familiar with TrendPOV, and I learned that this is a one hour web streaming show about certain topics for businesses.

This sounded quite interesting, and so I agreed to participate in this. I prepared a CV and sent my picture. Then I decided that it would be good to update my website. Unfortunately, weeks passed by, and I still had not found the time to prepare a new version of my web presence. So on this Monday I finally began to set up a new Google Site for a new portal to my site(s). Not much time to put any content in, so I placed a link to my site at LeedsMet which contains the most relevant Augmented Reality work.

Then I prepared for the recording of the show, which would take place today, Wednesday, 26.October. I had taken the day off because of our friends from India were here on a visit, and I joined them for a few activities during the day. But then in the evening I went back to my office at LeedsMet and set up everything for the Skype session. I was supposed to call in at 6:50pm. There was still some time, so I some other work. Suddenly I noticed that the EDUROAM WIFI started to fail around 5:50pm. The signal dropped from 5 to 1 - what was going on? It looked as if an access point was powering down... So I tried to use another laptop computer which did have the credentials for the wired Ethernet. A pity, because this meant that I would not be able to use the built-in camera of the first laptop computer. When trying to setup the second laptop computer, I was not able to get the internet going. WIFI was out, and the Ethernet connection kept giving problems regarding the proxi server. I am sure that the credentials were correct - that all had worked fine a few months ago. But now it did not... and so I had to resort to the third option: using the office PC with its two monitors. I rarely use that PC, since most of my work is on the laptop(s). But at least there I got a reasonable internet connection. So the picture here with the four monitors does really not reflect technical sophistication, but actually shows the sad state of an emergency solution.

Then another problem: how to affix the camera on top of the monitor, so that I could look right into it and see the screen at the same time? This webcam did not have a suitable base, so I had to stick it with tape onto the top of the screen. It worked ok then, and I was ready for the show to begin.

I dialed in at 6:50pm. Had a video chat with Dr.Amy first. She was very enthusiastic about the Augmented Reality concepts and was really looking forward to this show. Then the show began. On the skype monitor I only saw a logo, but I heard the show then live, the music, and then Dr.Amy speaking. And then we talked about Augmented Reality for a whole hour. I gave my opinion and assessment about the AR technology. Unfortunately I got carried away and forgot to put a plug for the ongoing ISMAR conference in Basel, something that I actually had wanted to do. And when I talked about the LeedsMet project "Our City, Our Music", I forgot to mention the main proponents Ben Dalton and Megan Smith. But otherwise I think I got everything across.

It was a fun experience!

--- Update 3.November 2011: the video is now live online, see here on the TrendPOV site.

At one point during the recording a slight technical problem happened: in my LeedsMet office, the lights are dimming off, once they do not sense any motion in the room for a certain while. And since I did not move that much while speaking into the camera, the sensing switch-off kicked in a few minutes before the first commercial break, and then the lights dimmed away, and it got quite dark. Fortunately I did have another non-dimming lamp on, which kept my face illuminated, and so I just kept talking as if nothing had happened. Then during the next break I did bring the lights back by getting up, and from then on they stayed on fine until the end.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Car Insurance - Get Comprehensive!

My annual car insurance premium was due recently. Premiums were rising, so despite me not having any claims, I would have to pay more.

As every year, I did a search using the comparison web site GoCompare. In the past years, I did have good experiences with them, and I always found the best price through them. I did also contact some insurances directly which were not among their offerings, but I very often found that those insurances were still more expensive than the cheapest listed in GoCompare, except once when my renewal and staying with the same insurance was the cheapest option.

I again tried GoCompare, because in an experiment two years ago, I concluded that they did offer the best capture of my data, relevant to my situation as a non-UK driver with EU license. The other competitor comparison sites did have some trouble with that. And now I am also too lazy to try those out again - takes a lot of time to enter all the data, and GoCompare already has them stored from my last years of searching.

Of course, if I would base my choice on the commercials which these comparison sites run, then I would definitely take Compare The Meerkat, aeh, I mean Compare the Market - these commercials are really good and not as annoying as the singing tenor or the confused cartoon lady.

When I tried this year to get a car renewal quote for the insurance with the least features (just 3rd party), I got only quotes which were the same or more expensive than what I already had. Disappointing. For fun I selected then "comprehensive" - and the quote was about £ 200 cheaper! This is quite surprising, that an insurance which would provide more cover, would cost less. Has probably to do with the average comprehensive client, who drives maybe more carefully.

The same was confirmed for another renewal - saving £ 150 then. So it appears to be well worth choosing a comprehensive insurance, if you want to save money on the insurance fee.

If you do not like to go through comparison web sites, then you may try directly with SwiftCover - in both cases they were the ones with the lowest premium (naturally, they try to sell additional items on the insurance, but these can be unchecked). They operate mostly web based, so no postal mail is sent - better back up your data and the policy then! But this approach appears to make them quite efficient. Of course I had no opportunity yet to test how they are when a claim should be filed... but I hope that I will not need to do this anytime soon.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A busy day

I knew it that 45 minutes is just simply too short for a transfer between two flights at Amsterdam Schiphol airport. This is how much time I had between the official landing time and the departure time of my connecting flight.My flight from Leeds had arrived on time, I was the very first one out of the bus, moving quickly into the terminal building. By the time I was in the queue for entering the Schengen zone, only 40 minutes were left until the next flight would continue. And there was this veeeery long queue of visitors from China, which did not seem to move at all, and I had to place myself at the very end of this queue. There was a special line for "short connections", but this was closed between 12:00 and 16:30. Fortunately someone shouted "European Passports", and a new line opened, which I joined and which was very short then. Lucky, but the border control police officers seemed to have their training day today: very young officers looked very long at each passport and asked very detailed questions.

And the day had started so promising: first a few things done in the office, then driving with Gerhard to the Old Broadcasting House to the monthly Open Coffee meeting at 10:00. Then driving back to Headingley again, to give my lecture at 11:00. Before that, ordering the taxi and arranging for car parking. After the lecture, the taxi came in time and brought me to the airport, 1 1/2 hours before departure. Plenty of time, as the Leeds Bradford airport was quite empty around noon. The only inconvenience was that the taxi let me off 200 m before the airport, because otherwise additional £ would have to be paid: there is no more free passenger drop at Leeds Bradford airport. Greedy people! Now taxis stop before the airport, passengers walk along the road, and I saw several groups who waited for a pick-up from friends along the street outside. I can predict what soon there will be: any kind of stopping in the vicinity of 1000 m around the airport will be made illegal. Then it may really be better to fly from Manchester airport.

When boarding in Leeds, I was told that I had to change the seat - it was faulty. Ok, so I got a nice wide legroom space in the emergency exit row - which usually costs extra. Had my window seat, and dozed off a little after munching the savory snack. Arrived on time in Amsterdam.

And now in that Schengen queue, where I was inching slowly forward. Behind me a guy from York who was on my flight and also had to catch another flight. Finally my turn, after the officer carefully checks my boarding pass and the passport, I can go through. Now only the x-ray procedure, then I am clear and have entered Europe. The boards show my flight is already boarding - and the signs indicate a 24 minute walk from here to gate B26! I start running now. The Amsterdam airport is very big. I use the moving walkways wherever possible and walk fast on them; on the regular hallways I just run, pulling my rolling carry-on behind me. Reach the gate - no passengers are there anymore, but I am still in time. Go down the stairs, and am the last one on the bus. After I enter, the doors close and it drives to the tarmac where the next Cityhopper is waiting.

After that little exercise I can relax in the plane on the short flight to Luxembourg. Arrive in time. Weather is warmer than in Leeds, still some remnants of the weekend heat wave. At the hotel, they cannot find my reservation. But it does not matter, because they still have a room.

Then I take a bus towards the town. With me on the bus is another participant of tomorrow's meeting, whom I already knew from a few years ago - nice to see him here already. I get off at the Philharmonie Luxembourg in Kirchberg. Pick up my ticket, have a sandwich snack for dinner, then enjoy a marvelous concert: "TerezĂ­n / Theresienstadt". Anne Sofie von Otter sings songs which were composed and played by inmates of the concentration camp Theresienstadt. Very moving.

Back to the hotel, preparing for the weekly online chat with students at California Lutheran University (in California obviously) which is from midnight until 0:45.

Yes, this was quite a busy day. But overall very enjoyable. Tomorrow is the FP7 Call 8 Info Day. Will be again quite busy.