Tuesday, December 31, 2013


2013 was the year that Bitcoin’s became a hot commodity, rising from $60 just two years ago to peaking over $1200 for one coin.  The hot topic is what will be of these digital coins and will the come to replace currency as we know it?

My view is that Bitcoins will stay around and will have value in the future.  I don’t foresee that they will replace the current state sponsored money that we use to buy food and cars with, but I see it more as a tool for micro payments and putting a value on transactions online.

Back in the dot com boom years of 1999, eyeballs was the currency that IPO’s were priced at.  pets.com, Netscape and other sites of that era were based on the value that individual viewership of advertisements were trackable and accountable.  These were measurable by checking the logs and hit-rate of individual advertisements.  Research studies were put in place to analyze the best placement of ads on a website and further tracking technologies such as cookies were enhanced to be able to taylor websites to individual users.

After the dot com crash, investors came to their senses and realized that you can’t make a sustained profit of blanket ad viewership alone.  At this point, Google came about and developed it’s PageRank ad system by offering free services in return for displaying ads.  These ads were free to show on websites and on Google products (Gmail, search and later YouTube).  This business model was different from before because ads only were charged per-click, not per display as in the early dot com days.

Google’s model worked very well, until Facebook came about and became the next hot thing.  Now ads were tailored to be much more specific and marketing teams were able to influence and “convert” key people within groups with selected ads placed within posts from friends and family.  This interaction between the consumer and the company is much more dynamic than car ads on newspaper sites.  Facebook (and Twitter) are the platforms where the collect money for statistics of “Likes” and the ability for companies to more effectively multicast their message.  This adds to the Google model of per-click to put a value on “Likes.”

Now enter Bitcoins.  At first it’s nothing impressive, there have been many attempts to create a digital currency (remember Second Life?).  In short the system is just a bit database (around 12G now) and you end up owning a cryptographic string on this database.  You can trade it with others and it’s not really trackable (not easily at least).  There are exchanges where you can trade the bits of the database for real money, and also buy coffee in some shops.  That’s not the interesting part.  What is interesting is that Bitcoins are not owned or controlled by anyone.  There is no Facebook or Google to regulate it.  The system is shared and the database is distributed and constantly error-checked to verify it’s integrity.

One problem today with international payments is that it’s very difficult to send money across borders.  If you want to buy software or a widget from someone in China directly, it will cost you quite a bit just to perform the transfer.  Paypal and others have tried to simplify payments, but they are still expensive for small transfers.  Bitcoin can solve that.

Currently clicking the Facebook Like button only boosts the ego and reputation of the original post creator (such as a photograph or blog post), why not have an option to transfer a fraction of a Bitcoin for a viewing a great photo or reading a interesting article.  This new business model can change existing subscription models, let photographers make money and make ordering of small replacement parts from China easier by adding value to individually created content.

Will Bitcoins replace money as we know it?  I don’t think so, but I do think that they will replace the micro payments on Facebook, Twitter and Blogs to become a new currency we base online value with.

Like this post? Donate a Bitcoin to: 1C2AhHQ3kd8bc6jXiseRmfQLnpP8m2duS4

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Rainy Frankfurt

Here's rainy day photo along a walk on Frankfurt's river front.  I like the contrast in the tree bark and the shiny cobblestones.

Monday, December 23, 2013


We were in Germany for Christmas break and decided to visit Zürich for a day trip.  I've always wanted to visit a little more of Switzerland and see how a country of four languages manages to live in the mountains.

I thought the city would be something like Munich or other Bavarian cities, but it's definitely not Germanic.  It's Swiss.

It's not that big, but it does have everything a major city would have.

I did like the little things that they have kept, like this funicular that goes up the hill to the University on top.

The view down by the river was really nice, I thought that we would have a proper winter with loads of snow, but were greeted with a Sunny Spring day.

The shopping was quite something, with the little stores selling anything you'd like.  But now days it seams to be a little too much overload as anyone can get a nice watch and honestly I believe most of these components sold here are made in China anyways.

The view from Lindenhof was quite nice, seeing the snow-capped mountains in the distance.  Lindenhof is a nice park that was once the location of a Roman fort and also the site where the Helvetic Republic was founded.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Work life in the Valley

An interesting article about work life, power and the role of women in Silicon Valley.

It is quite different working for small start-ups and large enterprises.  Also I find it quite different the work attitude in the UK, Germany and the States.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Heidelberg Sunset Photos

Here's the processed high-res photos from the Heidelberg Sunset timelapse (click to open):

Heidelberg Sunset - Paraglider Edition

A great remix of a timelapse I shoot a while back.

Now I just need to dust off my camera and get back to shooting :)

Wimbledon Windmill

I like this time of year, just before the cold sets in, the sunsets are really nice and the nature beings out it's darker colors.

This windmill is in located on the park between Wimbledon and Putney.  There's a museum and also a nice cafe in the back where you can get warm food and a drink.  The hike is quite nice, just wish they would get rid of the parking lot and make people walk to it to enjoy it like they do in Holland - but that would not be the British way of doing it would it?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Return to Simplicity

My previous post I wrote about the Samsung Siii Mini and the problems I had with it.  After giving it some thought, I decided to buy a simple phone and go back to the easier days.

Problems I had with the smartphone was this:
- Too distracting, at one point I was managing files on the train to debug crashes and clear up memory.  This started to sound like work.
- Too many bugs.  Google's music service is full of bugs, the cellular data reception is bad so it becomes frustrating trying to do anything while on the move.
-  I missed a few alarms already in the morning due to software crashes at night.  This is just unacceptable for me.
-  The navigation on system does not work, mostly because of the data problems.  Offline maps are also too slow to be useful.
- Battery management is a chore.

I started to compile a list of what I wanted and needed, the basics:
- Phone
- Time and data
- Alarm clock with days of the week (so it does not ring on the weekend)
- Long battery life

Solution was the Nokia 105.

A simple phone for 20 pounds and with a month battery life.

After using it for a week (and charging it last week) I still have half a battery, managed to wake up on time every day and have not been distracted by any software problems or bugs.

Note that I do have a iPad with a data plan, so when I need maps or check my email I still can.  But I don't feel the need to be distracted by twitter, email and software management every 15 minutes.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ordered a Brompton

I miss my old bike in San Francisco and commuting in London is not the most exciting thing in the world.  The tube does work (most of the time) and is ok, but the drawback is that it's madly expensive (I would put it up as the most expensive in the world) and overpacked for a system that is 150 years old.

Fortunately my current job is only 8 miles away from home.  I use to cycle to work in San Francisco (with real hills!) and enjoyed it quite a bit.  So it was a no brainer to get a bike in London.  My thoughts jumped around on what kind of bike I should get - a full size hybrid, a fast fixy, or a foldy.  After thinking it over the idea of a Brompton looked really attractive.

Advantages are that you can really take it everywhere, on vacation, on the tube if the weather turns sour during the day.  I also like the fact that they are built in London and are a local business employing people who I see daily.

Here's a photo of my order, it's expected to be ready by Christmas:

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Samsung S3 Mini Review

I've been using a old Blackberry for many years now.  They were the original smart phone back in the day, making devices with real keyboards and access to email systems.  The software on them was as solid as the physical design on the phone themselves.  It's no wonder that people all over praised them and thought they were the best phone on the market.

Then the iPhone came out.  At first it was a toy then the App store changed it all.  The Blackberry was a solid workhorse that kept on working, but the iPhone and later Andorid phones were sexy with their glitzy apps.  Blackberry were seen as for work and iPhones for fun.

But is it really the case?  After my wife's Blackberry Curve was stolen in Rome (a true indication they are valued!) I got the green light to get a new phone as my wife gets my old phones.  So I did a lot of research and originally wanted to get a iPhone 4, but the price tag was a little too steep for a phone.  The Android's look interesting and I liked the form factor of the S3 Mini.
About the thickness of two pens

This review is after owning it for a few months.

Things I like about the Samsung S3 Mini:
- Small and compact.  I don't like the full size S3 or S4 as it's just too big for my liking.
- Replaceable and expandable battery.  This is a major selling point for me as I travel often and forget or don't have time to charge.  I've also managed to get a expandable 3-day battery for 10 pounds on Amazon.  It makes the phone a little fatter and it's easier to grip.
- Android OS and all the apps.  I already have a iPad and was using that as my mobile data source, so the S3 Mini was to replace the heavy iPad as my mobile computer.
- Mifi feature works great and the Giff Gaff unlimited data plan is fully compatible.

The camera indent is a handy grip point

What I don't like:
- Android OS is buggy.  I've already missed a few wake up alarms due to the phone crashing in the middle of the night.  The phone also looses it's mobile signal quite often and have to reboot it.  This is just unacceptable.
- Keyboard on the Samsung version of Android is terrible.  I have a hard time writing SMS's and forget about emails or notes.
- Design is too slippery.  I feel like it's going to break by the end of the year.  Already had it stepped on now just waiting to drop it.
- Battery life on the standard model is terrible, get yourself the expanded pack and enjoy the phone for a full day without thinking of charging it.
- Maps are bad.  I use to think Apple maps are terrible but somehow Google managed to make it's maps bad on the mobile phone too.  I may just come down to the data coverage in the UK, but I ended up buying a Tom Tom for my car and not using the phone for navigation (as originally I bought it for)
- Camera is bad.  Almost as bad as the Blackberry.  Only use it for taking notes and carry my Canon S100 for real photos.

Note the red indication, that's when there was no mobile signal and had to reboot the phone.

I've thought about going back to the iPad and getting a Nokia 105 phone for SMS, Alarm and Phone.  After all, when I need to text and call I want to be able too.  Don't want to have an expensive device that doesn't work.  If I need mobile Internet I can use my iPad that works and has a proper keyboard and screen.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Goodbye Facebook

When the social websites were becoming popular in 2008, I signed up for Facebook like many others.  It seamed like a good idea, sharing photos and catching up with friends and also building connections with people I lost contact many years ago.  But over the years it lost its appeal and even became a nuisance having it as a bookmark that I checked daily and also on my mobile phone.

Then one day while on the train I read this article in Economist that basically stated that people who check Facebook are miserable.  Then I did a self assessment and realised that by checking facebook, I noticed friends vacation photos and felt jealous.  (not even thinking that next weekend I was going on vacation myself!).

So I thought about, what would I miss if I left facebook.  Close friends all have my email.  Those who want to get in touch can, I own my family name dot com.

Now I'm looking at more specific sites for interests, 500px and flicr for photos, meetup to meet people and local interest sites for things to do in London.

After a few months of no facebook, do I miss it?  Not really.  Why did I write this?  It's an answer to those who may want to friend me on facebook.

2015 Update: I'm back on facebook, but mostly follow the Bike and Nature blogs that are on facebook.  I guess it's a tool like anything else.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


This image, exhibited in the Trajan's Market in Rome shows a British commander 100 years ago on the left training Afghan soldiers.  On the right is a US Air Force major who is training Afghan helicopter pilots.

What is interesting is how no one is looking at the camera.

Roman Elevator

A perfect fusion of modern German engineering inside the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

I like the Roman paperback size bricks sticking out and forming a ruin arch where inside is a modern steel and glass elevator with a cold light and touch screen display.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Constable Country

Here's a photo from the famous Constable Country.  I liked the walk, but somehow could not make this photo interesting.  Please let me know if you like it and if there's anything that can be done to make it pop.  Perhaps that's the point, just keep it simple to nature.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

St Paul's Cathedral

Within the City, there are laws that regulate the visibility of St. Paul's Done.  No building should be built that blocks it.  But it's not the tallest building as in Munich or Rome.
St Paul's Cathedral at Sunset

A photoshoot on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral

A bus zooms by

City (2/3)

A few more photos as the sun was getting lower.

The Shard

The Tower of London

Leadenhall Market

Lord Mayor's Mansion

City (1/3)

After getting my photo permit for the City of London, I went out and took this three part series of photos.
The Cheesegrater

Lloyd's of London

Royal Exchange

The Eagle Pub in Cambridge

The Eagle is famous for being a hangout for USAF pilots and also for the first place where the DNA sequence was publicly discovered.


Went for a day trip to Cambridge, after the long and cold winter it was really nice to get out of London and enjoy the day in the park and walk around this historic university town.


King's College

View of King's College

Isaac Newton's Apple Tree