Feb 092009

After six fantastic months on the road I’m now officially back in my childhood bedroom in Los Angeles, California. And as usual, I’ve got weeks of blogging to catch up on.

So while I work on writing, unpacking, programming, reformatting my laptop, researching cellphone contracts, refining my Fuze’s UC scripts, signing up at a gym*, resyncing my backups, starting my taxes, enrolling in a Chinese language course at Santa Monica College (I told you I’d study Chinese!!), and setting up a number of techie conveniences I couldn’t do remotely**, please entertain yourselves with the following video… ๐Ÿ™‚

While traveling through Egypt last year, I mentioned (this post) how absolutely insane (*ahem*…nonexistent?) the driving rules seemed to be. The first time I visited China I was surprised by the chaotic mad-dash that characterized virtually every street crossing – but what I’ve since learned is that, as crazy and dangerous as they may be, China’s roads are nothing in comparison to the pandemonium of Cairo’s.

You can imagine my disappointment when my handheld camera – the only one capable of taking video – had broken. I only managed one clip of the vehicular bedlam, and felt that it didn’t even come close to representing the peak of what I’d seen.

Still, as a clip of a so-called “crosswalk,” it’s pretty damn funny ๐Ÿ™‚


*Although my dad and I have been working out at Bally’s for quite a few years, during my absence he canceled his membership and moved over to 24 Hour Fitness – so of course I did the same.

Man, have I just been in Asia too long?? In comparison to Japan, Korea, and China, I suddenly feel like everyone is a walking behemoth of ripped muscularity! I’ve gone from one of the big guys to a weak little shrimp, all in the span of a 12-hour flight. It’s gonna take some HARD work to get back to where I like to be… ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

**Little by little I’m figuring out more efficient ways to achieve my technological goals while living abroad. Overcoming the ridiculous Great Firewall of China, for instance, was a major pain – sometimes I could simply proxy my way through, but others (i.e. in the case of streaming video) the only option I found was to remotely login to a client PC located outside of the country and access from there. The problem was that doing so meant I had to leave a PC constantly powered on at home (running up my dad’s electric bill)…or call and have someone physically switch it on whenever I needed to use it.

That is until I remembered a BIOS setting I’d seen years ago but completely forgotten about: Wake-On-Lan! This nifty feature keeps only the network card in low-power mode, listening for a “magic packet” that tells it to boot up the rest of the PC. I can now power my main server on from my cellphone anywhere in the world! I just had to be here to do a first-time configuration of the BIOS and routers.

Other great discoveries:
• Vonage has released an alpha version of VonageTalk, a software client that lets me use my VOIP phone from a PC (like Skype) without having to carry around a physical SIP device (or buy prepaid SkypeOut minutes).
SyncBackSE is perhaps the best backup utility I’ve ever seen. Because most backup softwares I’ve played with opt for the typical “user friendly but functionally crippled” paradigm, I’ve pretty much resorted to performing all my backups manually – using a recursive DIFF application before just copying the files by hand (keeping multiple versions where necessary). But this thing is POWERFUL, providing detailed feedback dialogs, versioning, variables, and a great interface. Plus it permits backups over FTP. It took me the better part of a day to get all my scripts written, but I’ve now got it pretty much automating what I was previously doing by hand. What a time-saver.
• One of the pieces of software I’d setup on my previous cellphone was an anti-theft utility that supposedly aids in retrieving your device if lost or stolen. But we all saw how useful that was…when my phone actually DID get stolen in Osaka early last summer. Well, motivated by the loss, I’ve pinpointed the failures and come up with a better solution: By cooking RemoteTracker right into the ROM, even a Hard Reset won’t clear it out of the device’s memory. And unlike the previous software I’d been using, in the absence of a GPS lock RemoteTracker will actually use cell tower triangulation to position the phone and send both an SMS and EMail (if data access is available) with its position, a log of all incoming and outgoing calls, the address book, and other useful information. While I was at it, I went ahead and flashed a custom boot screen onto the ROM as well – meaning that every time the phone is turned on (even after a hard reset), the first thing a user will see is my name and contact information. Should make it tougher to sell second-hand ๐Ÿ™‚

  28 Responses to “Cairo Crossing (VIDEO)”

  1. Wow I had no idea there was such a bios setting.

    One more thing that’s changed since you’ve been away, no one embed windows media player into a web page anymore ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. i am happy that you would study Chinese!:-) For what use? a bit curious.;-)

  3. Ah yes Microsoft, the industry leader in efficient, resource-friendly, stable, and reliable software! How silly of me.

  4. Julia: Mainly personal interest; I’ve wanted to study Chinese for awhile, especially after learning so many characters for Japanese. Going to China and seeing just how much I could understand only motivated me further. Plus in today’s economic world, I think it could be a pretty useful language to know ๐Ÿ™‚

    Noz: lol!

  5. Thank you ,Justin! If you need any help,pls let me know?:-)maybe i could help you.:-)

  6. Your captions hurt my eyes.

  7. Huh? My captions?

  8. welcome back to the states!

  9. UC is Awesome!

    I love how WOL is now something that you just happened to remember….Ahem!

    Crossing the streets in Cairo is MUCH crazier than China. For ppl who haven’t been there, that video doesn’t even beging to convey the pandemonium and chaos that actually exists there. I actually came to enjoy it after a while….kinda like the video game frogger…..until I got hit by a car ๐Ÿ™‚

    The boot screen idea is great! I am loving it

    Cooking remote tracker in is also a must do…..I will need to start doing that as well

    VonageTalk almost makes me want to switch back to vonage….but then I remember how much I hated the way they treated their existing customers

    Noz….I agree……Please change your video player asap! Preferably to something that allows me to download the video and watch it when it is all done, as opposed to just streaming it! I am sure you know why I need this ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. just after reading this post i ran across this:
    things could be worse

  11. Linda: Thanx!

    Andy: Ah yes…I s’pose it was you who reminded me of WOL, hehe ๐Ÿ˜€

    Yeah, Vonage has pathetic customer service…but really, what American companies don’t nowadays? If you try to find one that actually treats their customers with respect…you’ll be left on your own, serviceless. I just choose whoever provides what I need for the cheapest.

    What video player do you suggest I use? Flash is even worse. You can always just save the .wmv first and watch it from your HD later ๐Ÿ˜›

    Aunt V: That’s actually EXACTLY how it is in many parts of Cairo ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. That video of India is awesome, and EXACTLY like Cairo ๐Ÿ™‚

    A flash player that buffered would be better….even just youtube. You could also add a link to download the .wmv as well to satisfy everyone. That player you have now is USELESS!

  13. …Well, if you really want to pre-download the video, getting a link to the .wmv from the page source is trivial. But not obviously posting one was deliberate ๐Ÿ˜›

  14. u r such a loser! if it is trivial, then who cares! And I would prefer to not have to download it to my hard drive, and delete it when done…..too many extra steps! You could also hide the wmv link too if you are super concerned, but I don’t think anyone would mind you switching to youtube or something similar (other than you that is)

  15. …Because 99% of people won’t actually bother to get a link and download the video. When I visit the video pages from here (or Japan), it starts playing within a second or two and plays all the way through without rebuffering once. I can’t help it if the Internet in China is painfully slow ๐Ÿ˜›

    …And as for YouTube, one of the main reasons I setup this site was to have a central repository to store ALL my stuff – blog, photos, videos, projects, etc – rather than having bits and pieces floating around on youtube, facebook, flickr, wordpress, etc. I’ve got a lot of crap on here and it’s just much much easier to manage if it’s ALL maintained in one central place (i.e. recoding my galleries awhile back to be managed under the same WordPress CMS as the blogs, once that feature became easily available).

  16. Maybe you can’t fix the internet, but you can use a player that isn’t crap. Maybe youtube isn’t for you….but there are also many other players that will buffer videos stored on your site. I think you do get why your current player sucks…..please implement something better!

  17. Lol…well again, this has worked perfectly for me, everywhere I’ve used it!

    I’ll keep my eyes opened for something easy, and if you have any suggestions feel free to let me know (with the videos hosted on my own site of course)…

  18. I found what looks to be a really good one…the problem is, by converting the already-compressed wmv’s into compressed flv’s, I’ll lose quite a bit more quality over the pre-existing videos ๐Ÿ˜•

  19. Why don’t you just upload your videos to youtube, and then embed the player here for the HD version? That way you still have your video available on your site, it’s still in HD, and you don’t even have to pay for the bandwidth when people watch it.

  20. “And as for YouTube, one of the main reasons I setup this site was to have a central repository to store ALL my stuff – blog, photos, videos, projects, etc – rather than having bits and pieces floating around on youtube, facebook, flickr, wordpress, etc. Iโ€™ve got a lot of crap on here and itโ€™s just much much easier to manage if itโ€™s ALL maintained in one central place (i.e. recoding my galleries awhile back to be managed under the same WordPress CMS as the blogs, once that feature became easily available).”

    (And I have so much bandwidth it’s a total non-issue)

  21. Do both! Or don’t….but DO SOMETHING! Your stupid player SUCKS!

  22. I’ve got 2 more videos already compiled as .WMV’s, so I’ll upload those as-is and perhaps change it to a flash player thereafter ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. SOOOOO much better…….Thank you thank you!

  24. I found a DVD where I had many of the videos in DV-quality avi, so getting them in a format that can be understood by a flash player wasn’t as painful as I thought ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus, this player (which is really well designed btw) supports H.264 as well as flv, so after running them through a de-interlace filter (because Quicktime is too stupid to deinterlace on its own) I can get better looking video in (marginally) smaller files!

    I think the only 2 clips I DIDN’T retain the avi’s for are the two we made together. Oh well. No more wmv’s from then on, I guess ๐Ÿ˜›

  25. Cool….I knew a simple solution existed….and I am sure that those 2 movies won’t be too tough to convert

  26. Tough, no, the issue is that they’ll look significantly crappier because I’ll be going from an already compressed .wmv to a compressed .mp4, so it looses quality twice. We’ll see. Maybe i’ll just upload those last two as .wmv’s and replace the other ones for which I have .avi’s.

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