Webcam a.D.

test my webcam screenshot
A flash-based web-solution to test your webcam.

Mutter: “Was heißt A-Deeh?”
Sohn: “Adeeh (ade) is Schwääbisch und heischt Uff Wiederseen”
Vater & Sohn lachen.
Familie Heinz Becker

The Candidate

There are quite a few things I dislike about my laptop, but mainly financial reasons and the lack of a much better alternative (suggestions welcome!) make me being stuck with an HP Elitebook 6930p, a laptop that’s most often operated at home on a docking station because of a) a heavy power cord (the cord, not the transformer), b) a CCFL screen (instead of an LED option which would add another 1h of battery runtime), c) an internal 2G/3G/EV-DO modem that will only work in a MS-Windows environment and d) lousy battery runtime of about 2-3h on 4cell battery (I have another travel battery that extends it for a few hours, but also adds weight).

This computer…. I don’t know. Back in the days we used to say: HP = High Price, Huge Problems. The 6930p is quite durable and well built, but the CCFL screen is so 1990s. Brilliant colours vs. battery draining. Uargh…

The Webcam


The webcam on this said laptop has no cover – like many other modern laptops. If you feel being spied on via your webcam, mistrust the LED that’s supposed to show activity on the cam or never pay attention to it anyways, there are simple and professional ways to cover your webcam. I’ve used a piece of a note-it post in the past, others use their beloved duct tape or whatever is around. And then there’s the good solution that will cost you ~ US$ 12 or EUR 15 (even though it’s a German company!). Good but also expensive for a little piece of plastic. For half the price, ok. But 15 EUR is a bit too much.

Time to build my own solution using black cardboad:





It’s cheap, it wins, it works!


The laptop lid also closes without problems. Very nice!

OtterBox Commuter, ftw!

I know I’ve already mentioned this on my Posterous blog earlier today, but the truth is: I’ve never been so excited about a gadget/ an accessory since maybe when I unpacked my Leatherman Wave some years ago.


I was looking for a decent cover for my Nokia E72 as the leather pouch it comes shipped with isn’t that great. It opens to the side and is very tight, so you’d have to push the phone inside (with some force) and pull it out (with even more force). Not that smart.

Another reason – and explanation why I went for a cover instead of another pouch/sheath – is that the E72 is rather thin, maybe too thin for a phone. It lacks a rubber back, like the one on the E63 for instance. So any potential cover would have to ensure that the phone gets a better grip on the back side.


I then checked the market and bought a cheap (3€) silicone cover. The one that came delivered wasn’t good at all – the silicone was too stubborn and didn’t even cover all the edges (as pictured above). Such a cheap quality. I threw it away after taking these pictures.

So I kept on looking and stumbled upon this OtterBox Commuter Case. There are almost only positive reviews on the cover online, the people behind OtterBox seem to be innovative and responsive to customer input (they are on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) – and such a cover costs around 29 €.

Now, I can probably get two used Nokia 1208 phones for the price of such a cover, and it took me some time to think about this investment. Why should I invest 29 € on a cover that will only add weight to my phone? And it’s a lot of money for “just a cover”



I am so glad I just bought it in the end. The cover instantly worked for me – it’s such a pleasure to handle the phone now (almost as thick as an E63 now, yay! :-). The OtterBox Commuter really is the BEST phone cover I’ve ever bought for a phone so far, makes so much sense on this particular Nokia phone and I am sure I’ll also never again waste any money on cheaper alternatives that just won’t work.


It also came shipped with a screen protector (sticker), a little card and a cleaning cloth which will help you apply the sticker onto the display. Amazing. I am yet to see something like that (the card) on other – also professional – screen protectors. Sooo… yes, I can only highly recommend the OtterBox Commuter Case to other E72 users.


on knife sharpening

I assume that about 99% of all knives and pangas sold in Kenya are Made in China. The remaining 1% are probably imported kitchen knives and/or multitools from the US and Europe.

Everyone who owns a knife probably knows that a dull/blunt knife is almost useless, so there’s a knife sharpening service available in most places like this one we’ve featured over at AfriGadget some time ago.

I also bought one of these rotating grinding stones from Uchumi (ex-supermarket chain in Kenya) many years ago (for Kshs. 265/=, actually) and have also been tempted to get one of these huge sharpening stones / hones for kitchen knives which also sold for something like 70 bob back in the days (they are much more expensive in Europe, btw – even though they are all Made in China). Sharpening a panga (machete) with a rotating grinding stone is “ok” – for kitchen knives the flat grinding stone (~ hone) is the better (and often only) alternative as you want to keep the angle of the edge.

This edge angle actually is the most important part on a knife, I think, at least when it comes to its sharpness.

Cheap and lazy as I am, I have in the past only used sharpening stones and other – cheap – sharpening tools that MAY work for the ordinary kitchen knife, but should NEVER be used on a hunting knife, or – in my case – a multitool.

Arkansas oil-stone

Just in case you didn’t know: the sharpening process itself is a peculiar task on which you’ll find various – dedicated – websites and forums that solely talk about how to best sharpen a knife. As far as I know, using a sharpening stone (with water or oil, sometimes also some polishing paste) is the best way to sharpen a knife. This, however, requires some basic knowledge on steel, how knives are usually made, what kind of steel was used on your knife and how this steel will behave under higher temperatures. Those Japanese kitchen knives (we have one at home from back in the days) for example are very sensitive to higher temperatures above ~ 160°C (of course, again, depending on the steel mixture it is made of), so you absolutely have to make sure the hone is cooled down and soaked in water anyways. The majority of all other knives in our kitchen are Made in Germany, which means they are not as sensitive as the Japanese kitchen knives and also keep their sharpness to some extent. They aren’t as cheaply made as the ones from China as I am yet to see a decent knife from China. My sister actually gave me a set of 5 really good kitchen knives from Zwilling, Germany, as a present during last christmas, and I have to admit that cooking really is a joy with these new knives. Good tools are a blessing!


As mentioned, I am a Multitool guy. I have four Leatherman multitools (the Wave I, Wave II, Charge TTi and a small Squirt P4). You won’t buy these tools for their knives because, well, the steel used on their blades isn’t that great (except for the Charge TTi which comes with an S30V blade).

The blade on my Wave II lasted about four years until it became too dull. Stupid and unknowing as I am, I of course only tried the usual tools (Victorinox Sharpening Pen = horrible, knife sharpener from the kitchen, Arkansas sharpening stone) – thereby killing the edge angle on the knife.

Left with an unability to really sharpen my multitool to a decent level, I brought it to a “professional” shop – a very popular gun & knives shop in Frankfurt downtown. For some unknown reasons, these jerks completely fucked it up, killing the edge angle even more and returning a somehow sharp knife that looked like being sharpened on a high speed sharpening wheel. That’s exactly what I had tried to avoid on my Multitool, so I backed off and told myself: Argh….maybe next time. This was half a year ago.

Ok, so I may be too German on this, but there’s this moment when things just have to be perfect. You either do it right or never. So I ended up buying this GATCO Edgemate Professional Knife Sharpening System for a hefty EUR 47.95 today any idiot like me can use to regain the much needed edge angle on a blade. The guiding rods attached to the hones are inserted into the holes on the clamp and will then glide over the edge at a constant angle. Sounds too complicated? Here’s a video on it…


And you know what? These four different hones on a guidance rod just work and allow you to set an edge angle of 11°, 15°, 19°, 22°, 25° and 30°. There also is a fifth rod for serrated knives – my multitool also has a serrated blade. I’ve been able to restore the angle on my multitool and also sharpened a really dull kitchen knife with great success. I understand that this set isn’t meant to deliver razor blade sharpness (which would probably require another hone with even finer grit and/or paste and some leather) but for everything else – and especially for hunting knives – this set is the best idiot-proof choice. Something like EUR 50 are a lot of money just for sharpening a knife, but I believe that it is well invested money that will enable me to enjoy sharp knives and send all other useless sharpening devices into early retirement.


The blade on my Wave II during the sharpening process. The – still rough – 25° edge angle is already visible (all pics taken with a Nokia N95, btw).

UPDATE: I just received a call by the main Leatherman dealer/importer in Germany who asked about the knife on my Wave II and offered a free sharpening. Amazing! Told them I’d be glad to accept this offer and will send in mine asap the become blunt again.


IF you knew what most digital cameras back in 1999 looked like – and how much they would cost back then – you’ll quickly understand that it’s rather astonishing to have these digital images from my beloved TexasInstruments AVIGO10 PDA I’ve just unearthed from a sub-sub-sub-directory on my harddisk.


It’s a rather childish mod/hack that I had done on this outdated PDA way back in 1999 and of which I was reminded just a few minutes ago while googling for a link to this weekend’s AfrikaCamp in Vienna.

Mzeecedric of and I will attend this event and I’ll also try to cover it on my blog if everything works out as planned. I am not expecting too much though, just an open meeting and exchange with interested and active folks in Europe (or let’s say Austria and Germany) who also have some sort of Mal d’Afrique on their agenda or anything else related to this matter.

Coming back to the mod: while googling for the link, I stumbled upon Robert Lender’s website – a fellow blogger who had contacted me way back in 1999 on this hack and had integrated it on his page dedicated to this PDA. I guess I may even have his e-mail somewhere. Ok, now that’s 10 years ago, and if you ask yourself what you did in 1999, you’ll probably say that you’d been online via CompuServe or AOL and probably also hosted your site on Ethan Zuckerman’s Tripod site. Yup. 1999. Long time ago.

This post is dedicated to Robert and it will be especially interesting to see a face behind this contact whose name has been around for such a long time.

The original page on has been offline for quite some time now, but I just copied everything into a PDF.


I btw still have this PDA at home. Compared to my friends who owned stupid Palm PDAs, the Avigo10 was a bit cheaper and not as popular as a Palm Pilot PDA, hence less software being available for this product. It also lacked the marketing backup from TI who quickly dropped this product from their product line for unknown reasons. Kinda sad, especially since this PDA came with a serial connector and could be hooked up to a modem which turned it into a great telnet device among other cool hacks.

Actually, it’s kinda worrying to see that even now in 2009, most mobile devices still lack such basic services (telnet, ssh, etc.) and charge you extra for a comfort we already had in 1999. As for the issue of power consumption, I think that we’ll also need to have a revolution on the energy side: something where we will not only see more efficient and energy-saving devices with smaller CPUs, but instead also devices that generate the energy the moment you need it and thus reduce our needs for stronger batteries.

@T.H.User: FFM, 1999, Nordi, MediaMarkt! Erinnerst Du Dich noch? Das Gerät hatten wir damals zusammen gekauft! :-)

telefonische Erreichbarkeit zum Festnetztarif

In 2008 haben die meisten Internetsurfer ein Konto bei Skype, Gizmo oder anderen sog. Internet Messaging Diensten. Der große Nachteil von Skype & Co ist jedoch, dass man nur online erreichbar ist (PC muss online sein), eine Weiterleitung auf ein Telefon kostenpflichtig ist und/oder bei Skype zB eine lokale Nummer – wenn überhaupt – nur gegen Aufpreis erhältlich ist. Außerdem ist Skype recht teuer – mal abgesehen davon, dass niemand weiß, ob der Dienst wirklich so sicher ist. Mein Kumpel KP sagt mir, dass Skype in China abgehört wird. Für unsere instant messaging Kommunikation zwischen Dland & China verwenden wir daher einen privaten & verschlüsselten Server in Deutschland.

Wem das jetzt alles zu kompliziert ist und wer einfach nur telefonisch über eine Festnetznummer erreichbar sein möchte, kann sich entweder einen Telefonanschluss legen lassen, einen entbündelten DSL Anschluss mit VoIP Telefonnummer beantragen oder einen O2 Handyvertrag mit zusätzlicher Festnetznummer für den Bereich im Umkreis des Wohnortes klarmachen. All diese Varianten gelten aber nur für einen festen Wohnsitz.

Wer wie ich öfters umzieht, mobil bleiben muss aber trotzdem auf den Komfort einer Festnetznummer nicht verzichten möchte, dem sei folgende Alternative ans Herz gelegt, die ich nach 4 Jahren Gebrauch wirklich nur empfehlen kann:

sipgate logoBei gibt es nach der Registrierung & Verifizierung durch ein Ausweisdokument eine kostenlose Festnetznummer (sofern verfügbar), über die man dann erreichbar ist.

Und zwar weltweit.

Früher hatte ich hierfür immer eine Bremer Telefonnummer, mittlerweile habe ich eine Frankfurter Nummer beantragt – der Wechsel fand innerhalb von 2 Werktagen statt! Neben Sipgate gibt es in Dland natürlich noch ein paar andere Anbieter, allerdings gibt es nicht überall eine lokale Festnetznummer. Lokal bedeutet hier: eine 069 Vorwahl für Frankfurt am Main (statt bundesweit einheitlicher 0180er Nummer).

Weltweit bedeutet: überall wo ich einen (breitbandigen) Internetzugang habe, bin ich über meine Frankfurter Telefonnummer erreichbar. Wenn ich also über die Weihnachtsfeiertage nach Bremen fahre, kann ich mein Telefon dort anschließen und bin weiterhin über die Frankfurter Nummer erreichbar. Gut für mich, gut fürs Geschäft. Weil: eine Festnetznummer ruft man schnell mal an, eine Mobilfunkrufnummer dagegen rufen nur diejenigen ungehemmt an, die keine andere Möglichkeit haben oder für die ein Anruf netzunabhängig gleichteuer ist. Anrufe ins Festnetz sind also oft günstiger – daher möchte ich auch übers Festznetz günstig erreichbar sein.

Hier in FFM habe ich ein Targa VoIP Telefon direkt über LAN an den DSL Anschluss des Vermieters angeschlossen. Wer kein eigenständiges VoIP Telefon hat (gibts bei eBay ab 30,- EUR), das so wie mein Telefon ohne den Umweg eines aktiven Computers direkt an den DSL Anschluss angeschlossen werden kann, greift alternativ zu seinem besseren Nokia Handy, dem iPhone oder anderen Handys, für die es eine Softwarelösung gibt. Um die ganze Funktionalität auszureizen, habe ich den Sipgate Anschluss natürlich auch auf meinem Nokia N95 Handy konfiguriert. Wenn ich jetzt also meine Frankfurt Festnetznummer anrufe, klingelt es gleichzeitig auf meinem VoIP Telefon in Bremen (natürlich grad nicht eingesteckt), auf meinem Targa VoIP Phone in Frankfurt und auf meinem Handy. Ideal!

Zwei weitere Gründe, die für Sipgate sprechen:

a) die Sipgate Website ist komplett personalisiert:
Konfigurationseinstellungen werden pro Endgerät personalisiert dargestellt, d.h., ich sehe eine Seite mit Screenshots für zB mein Handy und den nötigen Einstellungen, die nur für mein Sipgate Konto gelten. Das ist echt super praktisch!

b) Wer lediglich erreichbar sein möchte, zahlt nix.
Erst wenn man selber über Sipgate heraustelefonieren möchte, muss man sein Konto bei Sipgate aufladen. Dies kann später auch automatisch geschehen, zB bei Unterschreitung des Guthabens eines bestimmten Mindestbetrages.

Selbstverständlich gibt es bei Sipgate auch einen netzbasierten Anrufbeantworter, eine Faxfunktionalität (Faxe verschicken & empfangen) und eine eigene (vorkonfigurierte!) Softwarelösung für den PC.

Wer wirklich nur günstig übers Internet telefonieren möchte und wem die Erreichbarkeit über eine Festnetznummer egal ist, fährt natürlich mit InternetCalls besser. InternetCalls gehört zur Betamax GmbH, die auch VoIPStunt , VoipBuster und SIP Discount betreiben. InternetCalls hatte ich vorletztes Jahr auf Empfehlung von TurboDave ausprobiert, eine recht günstige Alternative. Wer eine Fritz!Box am DSL Anschluss betreibt und fürs Sparen ein paar Umstände in Kauf nimmt, kann je nach Bedarf einen günstigen VoIP Anbieter aussuchen (zB Anruf von Dland nach Kenia aufs Handy kostet bei Sipgate 0,35€/min und bei InternetCalls 0,19€/min.).

Für Entwicklungshelfer und andere Exildeutsche ist ein Sipgate Konto + Erreichbarkeit unter einer deutschen Festnetznummer (bei vorhandenem Internetanschluss) meiner Meinung nach die beste Wahl. Vor allem auch deswegen, weil sich die komplette Abwicklung der Buchhaltung und Einstellungen bei Sipgate online erledigen lässt und flexibel genug ist, Änderungswünsche zeitnah umzusetzen.