datasheets 2.0?

Is there any software solution available that generates datasheets (e.g. in PDF format) out of a database content within a given style template?

Or should this be realized by web technologies such as a CMS + database + CSS templates with the already given “save this page as PDF”-button?

I am asking because currently, ppl here? are compiling? technical datasheets in a three column MS Word document (with some sample pictures), exporting it into PDF with a proprietary PDF tool by Adobe (which of course isnt installed on all computers but instead only on one machine? due to licence costs…) and then have to beg the corporate webmaster to include the file into the weekly uploading batch.

Any hints are much appreciated. Thx!


A friend of mine forwarded this article from Der Spiegel Online to me which talks about, a new start-up that offers a remote, virtual Windows Desktop to its users.
I haven’t tested this so far, but according to the website, there’s a trial periode of 30 days and then it costs US-$ 12,99 / month. The virtual desktop is supposed to come with Windows XP, 5 GB space and a bunch of commercial and open free software.


While I appreciate any efforts towards this direction and since I believe that software should be independent from hardware issues, there’s still one thing that bugs me about this: in order to use this kind of technology, you’ll need to have a broadband connection. How fast? AT LEAST 128 kbit/s.

Sorry guys, but I think you’ve missed the target. While many users definitely appreciate the Windows desktop, what we – the users around the world who aren’t on broadband – need are secure Windows-styled GUIs that offer the same services but don’t require so much bandwidth.

Maybe something like the already mentioned Jahazi package that comes bundled with on a pre-configured USB stick or LiveCDs such as the (still alpha) ReactOS which is a WinXP clone. Something that just works and doesn’t require any virus scanners, extra firewall software and multiple installations because someone accidentally deleted a Dynamik Link Library (dll) or other horror scenarios any admin fears.

So, what’s the alternative? Simple: get a LiveCD of your favourite OS, plug it in any computer (LiveCD on a USB stick!), restart it (ok, this may not always be possible), load your favourite OS and just start working. Inet access may still be a problem though, but maybe there’s a DHCP server runing somewhere.

I would just like to see more and more ppl using their own (virtual) desktops, stored on their own USB sticks with their own preferences. This of course isn’t the best solution, but it could help having better desktop environments at internet cafés or other places where a single computer is often shared by many users.

all the way…

…from Canada via Kenya to Germany:


A very nice letter with 4 DVDs by a fellow blogger from KBW.

The story goes that I once blogged about some software installation issues in Embu, and our fellow blogger offered some help. Since he was about to send some xmas parcels home, he also managed to include this letter for me. YEAH!
Yaaani, life had other plans with me, so I was forced to return home earlier, and my mates @ Embu forwared the letter to me.

What’s inside? Hehehe….nice geekstuff + lots of ngoma :-)

Thengiu muno!

Buy me a soda Nokia N95….

Whenever I awake my WinXP laptop from standby or hibernation mode, it doesn’t allow me to surf. Skype connects fine, but my email client as well as the browser just refuse to work properly. And this also applies to my desktop computer which comes with another wlan card. Both machines are connected via WLAN to a FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN router, which is btw a very nice little dslmodem-wlan-router and has of course the latest firmware installed. I really like this router as it allows me to directly connect a normal phone to it – which I configured with my sipgate VoIP number. No need for any additional hardware or USB Skype phones etc.. Neat!

However, the standby/hibernation problem has become more and more annoying, and even the reinstallation of new drivers hasn’t changed anything to the better. My workaround for the time being is to log-off from the system and to log-in again – et voil? , Madame Winsock (and I suppose it’s a Winsock issue) is back in her working mood.

Has anyone experienced similar problems under Windows XP? And how is it on Macs? All I want is to switch on my computer from hibernation mode, and instantly start surfing the web where I stopped before. Simpoool, sindiyo?

Also, for those “aahh…lemme just check my mails” situations, I’ve started using my mobile phone and accessing my email account via GPRS. I’ve really started to appreciate this convenient and quick method during my stay in Kenya. GPRS as a prepaid customer costs Kshs. 12.60 / MB (~ 0,14 EUR) via Safaricom, and for checking your mails you won’t even need a whole Megabyte.

Now, while the GPRS is relatively cheap in Kenya (especially compared to other internet access alternatives), GPRS usage has been and, unfortunately, often still is very expensive over here in Germany. Don’t ask me why, I don’t even know about the situation in other European countries, but fact is that all four german mobile phone network operators charge between EUR 5,- and 20,- per Megabyte, unless of course you’re coughing up an extra monthly sum (monthly = at least for three months!) that gives you a lousy GPRS flatrate. For those who use GPRS on a daily basis and have their mobile internet needs, this makes sense to some extend. However, as a private consumer, who just wants to quickly check his mails and/or do a few small things online, all these packages are way too expensive.

Only recently, some resellers operating within the German E-Plus mobile phone network, started offering relatively cheap GPRS access rates at about EUR 0,24 /MB. The downside to this of course is that these often only come with prepaid offers – meaning: you’ll need to get a DUAL SIM card holder if you want to use both SIM cards on your phone (or wait for these DUAL SIM phones instead).
The other alternative is to completely switch networks, get a new number and start paying considerably less for your monthly telephone needs. I did that.

And yes, with the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) as part of the 3G mobile phone technology, downloading data through the phone becomes more and more important. If you just want to check your mails, GPRS is good enough though.

With GPRS being available at a reasonably price, surfing the net through the tiny display on your Nokia 6230i quickly becomes annoying. While it certainly fascinates to see how much content actually fits into Opera’s free Minibrowser, the materialistic part in me has started eyeing for a new toy gadget.

Since I am a complete Nokia geek, my next phone is very much likely to be another Nokia. SonyEricsson’s recent phones also caught my attention, but there’s something about them I don’t like. Maybe it’s just the menu system, but I think it’s more than that. And Nokia’s latest models during 2006 have been very disappointing for me – I initially ordered a Nokia 6233 when I extended my previous contract, but sent it back the same day as it didn’t come with some required functions I was used to (choosing different short message centers while typing SMS). That’s why I stuck to the Nokia 6230i (based on Series 40 operating system), which proved to be a very reliable and convenient phone. Compared to Series 60 phones though, it doesn’t offer the same ….phone 2.0??…functionality, and Nokia for some peculiar reason has in the past lost a few customers to the competition as they had this brilliantly stupid product managing of either delaying their market starts, and or missing a few vital functions on their phones. While the very popular SE W810i GSM phone comes with a very fast mp3 player and a normal LED that helps to substitute missing flash lights, many Nokia phones in 2006 came without any proper flash light. Stupid? Maybe.

Take the new Nokia E65, for instance. A brilliant slider smartphone for business users that comes with a camera. However, we’re in 2007 now, and the cam still only gives a 2MP resolution and has NO flash at all. Stupid? Maybe.

There are in fact a lot of things one could dislike about today’s phones from Nokia. If you directly compare Nokia phones with Sony Ericssons, the latter ones (in my opinion) are the better option. Yaniiii , me I like Nokia phones…

Nokia N95

And then there’s Nokia’s new N95. At a retail price of about EUR 649,-, the phone still is somewhat expensive. But baby, this gadgetimoja is hot!! :-)

Check these selected features:

  • Integrated GPS system (ati? GPS? kewl…)
  • 5 Megapixel (2592 x 1944) digital camera with Flickr support, Carl Zeiss Optics, autofocus & digital zoom (+ flash)
  • Video recording 640 x 480 @ 30 fps
  • Wi-Fi 802.11g with WPA2, WPA (jaabadabadooo!!)
  • HSDPA (3.5G) – 3.6 MBit/s download speed
  • Quad band GSM / GPRS / EDGE: GSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900 Singleband UMTS / HSDPA: W-CDMA 2100
  • 160MB of internal memory
  • 3.5 mm audio jack (smart, just very smart)
  • A2DP wireless stereo headphone support
  • UPnP (sexy!)
  • Fully hardware accelerated PowerVR 3D graphics from Imagination Technologies (including OpenGL ES 1.1 and M3G, see JBenchmark) (hola?)(for German readers, pls free to check out this brilliant review )

While I actually don’t need HSDPA at the moment, the combination of a decent digicam and Wi-Fi WPA access is just very very sweet for a nerd geek like me. GPS just tops it and draws the line between the N95 and the N80. Obviously, the new Nokia N95 is a great pocket device! Me I want…. :-)

(@Mentholarithmetics: get this one and make sure to properly hide it from your extended family :-)

angry mob kills hackers

Story by KBW correspondent
Publication date: Feb 28th, 2007

Alleged hackers from Gachie, Kiambu were today killed by an angry mob after they were found guilty of cheating customers on the installation of the new computer operating system Microsoft Windows Vista.

The alleged hackers apparently tried to install the free and open-source Ubuntu operating system from South Africa on their customer’s computers, telling them it would be the new Windows Vista operating system.

The bogus deal only became public when customers complained about the cheap installation costs: the killed hackers only charged Ksh. 400 for a copy of the fake “Windows Vista” operating system, which was in fact a copy of Ubuntu. Ubuntu Linux is available free of charge from the internet. The internet is a worldwide network of computers.

The police which arrived 2hrs late because of missing transport could only rescue the dead bodies of the alleged hackers. Anonymous sources told our paper that the Ubuntu OS actually performs better than the new Windows Vista which requires a faster computer and in most cases new hardware.

However, one angry customer, a Mr. Boniface Njoroge told us: “I invested Ksh. 400/= and all wot these piiporr have given me is a copy of a cheap operrating system which is not the orriginol dearr! These piipol have been chiiting castamaaahs on a grand scarr! Arr we have done now it is to protect fellow wanachi from faathaa exploitation by these thugs!”.

Meanwhile, the government today in cooperation with Microsoft Corporation declared Kenya being a Windows Vista nation. This comes one day after Microsoft donated the sum of US-$ 100.000 through the Bill Gates Foundation to HIV/AIDS awareness projects countrywide…

[via treehugger]


I was sitting on the train to Sudabaaag and reading a computer magazine, when I suddenly realized what had bugged me during my work at the WRMA in Kenya.

As a consequence of this sometimes unsuitable development aid by foreign donors, a simple IT structure and office furnitures for use in the regional and subregional offices were procured in the past. By that time, emphasis – it seems – was put on getting these offices into operation, so someone just procured a few HP desktop computers with WindowsXP & MS Office, as well as an access point to enable a wireless network. For printing needs, a networked TOSHIBA printer was bought and installed – which even supports scanning to a local file. Nice!

And then you are confronted with the prevailing circumstances in a rural area. And this “rural area” stands for anything else but the normal IT environments.

There’s no computer shop in the area that deals with hardware or software (although there are many IT users in rural towns like Embu); there are frequent power failures + unstable power supplies which make the use of Uninterrupted Power Supplies (UPS) unavoidable; there’s lots of dust and other climatic influences; people aren’t properly trained how to handle IT ….and then there’s MS Windows XP – an operating system which gives each user lots of freedom and is in use all over the world. Despite of numerous viruses which often affect MS products thus hindering ppl from effective work on their computers, MS asks for an activation of their products either by telephone or over the internet. Now, internet isn’t available all over the world, and when I was confronted with the task of activating MS products such as Windows XP & Office 2003, fellow blogger Steve adviced me to send him the numbers instead so that he could call his local MS distributor in North America (thx!) and ask for the registration code. Fortunately, I was able to unlock the copies over the internet (as both computers came with an internal dial-up modem), and also managed to obtain the telephone number you have to dial in Kenya (0202868800) once there’s no internet.

Now, there might be a reason for complicated activation procedures, but the point is that MS – and this software manufacturer is just a good example – clearly missed the market and its needs. Whereas it makes sense to have a unique standard world wide which also enables exchange of data, there’s no need of having WindowsXP computers in an office of a Government Authority if other systems (hardware & software combinations) are much more effective and also much more reliable.
What we need are simple but reliable solutions to very basic but also unexpected problems.

Think of an (expensive) SUN workstation and its (cheaper) terminals, think of open software that does the same job as MS products, think of free operating systems that offer much more reliabilty and security, think of IT hardware that consumes less energy and has less movable parts (which could brake).

We blogged about this solar computer the other day with Lady AfroM, we often talk about the US-$100 laptop and we see more and more open source & free of charge software being available over the internet. The technology is there, and all we need is a durable computer that just does the normal jobs (office, browser, email, voip, photo editing).

As far as I remember, there are in fact a few smart people out there who have already come up with such an IT structure – only: I can’t see them on the market. And neither did the guy who procured those HP desktop computers.

Could it be that Microsoft personal computers are dominating the market just because the competition has such a lousy marketing?

I don’t know. What I do know is that being forced to work with such sensitive and vulnerable systems as those based on MS software is like eating Githerii (beans&maize) with chopsticks. It could be so much simpler.

As for this OLPC initiative and the US-$100 laptop – I am very curious to see what kind of reverse engineering and further use of these machines we’ll see in future. At least, these simple computers deliver most basic needs for computer users, and I think that a similar – restricted – technology should be used in government offices (where ppl are jeopardizing the IT with their USB flash sticks and games, but that’s another story…). What I would like to see are “ready to buy” and simple but effective computers that just provide a stable environment with basic tools for every day use. Something that just works – 24/7/365.

Why? Because there’s a market out there.

Es gibt Reis, baby!

So you’re passing through Mwea and see a woman selling rice. And look, there’s another one selling rice. And another one. And another one. And another one. And another one. And another one. And another one. And another one. And….


“Waititu”, I asked my colleague the other day, “why are aaaaaalllllll these people selling rice? I mean, isn’t this confusing for customers? Now where do I buy my rice? Which is the best place?”

“Oh, customers just buy their rice at one shop and then, if they like it, they just return to the same shop next time they’re in need of rice. This is the way we do it in Kenya.”


And then you’re proceeding towards Embu, where your next small step is to get at least one of those computers at the office online. The typical landline modem dial-in connection is just too slow, and you’ve thought about connecting one of the mobile phones of your colleagues to a computer via a data caboooool and going online using the GPRS (packet data) method. These guys need to be connected and are supposed to check their emails at least once a day.

You’re taking a matatu to Nairobi and buy one of those data cables. The cable works…..sometimes…..sometimes it doesn’t, and you just wish someone at the HQ who procured all these fancy computers could be around for some serious talks:
Of course none of those ******** TOSHIBA notebooks (hi M :-) comes with an InfraRed port. Please, the person in charge of procurement at the HQ should be sacked for blatant stupidity.

Now since the cable isn’t that reliabooool, and since it somehow “walked away” (= someone took it), you think of the next best solution of connecting a mobile phone to a computer: InfraRed. Or as we pronounce it here in this area: InflaLed.

You’re taking another matatu to Nairobi and strike a deal by just spending Ksh. 1.000/= on an imported InfraRed / USB to serial adapter. A small device that provides an InfraRed port on your computer via the USB port.
You’re back at the office, connect it to a computer, and realize it doesn’t work.

“Hmmm”, you’re thinking to yourself, “now that’s Murphy’s Law. Will I be able to find an InfraRed port here in Embu that JUST works?”.

Good question, eh?

There are about 5 good shops selling a variety of interesting mobile phones – and about 20 smaller shops selling just the usual, fast-selling & low-budget mobile phones.
There are about 20 electricoooool shops selling tv sets, tv sets, tv sets, tv sets, radios, cassette players, cd stereo systems, tv antennas, solar panels and car batteries.

Is there ANY shop in Embu that sells computer spare parts? Something like hard disks, mainboards, computer cases, RAM, CPUs, optical drives, USB stuff, etc.?

No! Nothing.

And I ask you: why not? How come that computer parts are even cheaper in Nairobi than in e.g. Berlin, yaani here in this town upcountry – where people are also using computers, just as the two leading supermarkets in town are also using computerized barcode scanning cashier systems – there’s not a single shop where you can buy such parts.

There’s a market, there are customers, and there’s is money. Alafu…..?