Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Fitness tracking, me too ?

October 23, 2016

miband-2

No, it is not ‘me too’, but ‘Mi 2’. I decided last week to jump into the fitness tracking world by buying myself a fitness tracker. And it is called the Mi 2 Band, from Xiaomi.

First of all: me doing fitness ? Ehh, yes, because  we all get older, and sitting behind my desk writing emails, organise meetings, developing software and typing blogs does apparently not increase my fitness.

But going out for a walk, or biking around Brussels, without any compensation is quite difficult. So I bought myself a fitness tracker. I add my targets, and the first 4 days I managed to reach my goals. Except today, because I released Octyx and wrote this blog.

So what is this fitness tracking business about ? First of all, it is about health tracking. All big companies, Apple included, are jumping on this type of business, because they say, and think, they can predict my future health (and hopefully do not share my data with any pharmaceutical companies).

Already the iPhone today, and other Android phones as well, without you knowing it, measure your sleep and walking data while being in your pocket or next to your bed.

Before buying my fitness tracker, I did some research. Which one would fit best? My first choice of course was to look to the Apple Watch, but, with a price over 350 EUR, in my opinion it is still too expensive for daily usage, even if it brings more than fitness measurements.

I also had a look to the FitBit Charge 2 tracker and similar solutions at Garmin and Misfit. Straightforward heart and fitness trackers, but mostly with prices above 100 Euro.

As I don’t know if such fitness tracking device will really help me moving around more, I found a solution at Xiaomi. As you may know, Xiaomi is sometimes called, the ‘Apple’ from China. Xiaomi is a large company, selling many devices, including smartphones, fitness trackers, and other solutions, sold under the brand name ‘Mi’. Have a look at their website here.

The product I found is called Mi Band 2. They use to sell the original MiBand for less than 15 Euro, and the latest MiBand 2 can be found on some websites in China for less than 20 Euro, but could I trust them? Several Amazon sites also sell them, but impossible to export to Belgium, where I live. So I decided to buy one in Prague at an Alza shop, as I am still regularly in Prague for my work.

The price was about 55 Euro, higher than on most mentioned websites, but at least I got one directly in my hands.  At home, unboxed directly, I started first with charging the device. Easy. In the mean time, I downloaded the accompanying app called MiFit from the Apple AppStore (it exists off course also for Android).

Finding the band and syncing was a peace of cake. At its first usage, the Mi Band 2 installed its latest firmware automatically. Data from my Mi Band 2 are visible on the band itself, in the miFit app, and in Apple Health (if you authorise this). Finding the options took some time, as the app is not totally logic.

The miBand 2 tracks my daily steps, tracks my sleep times, and shows my heart rate (via the sensor, but only manual for the moment). And it shows all this in the apps, but also on its little screen. And it shows the time when I want to see it by lifting my hand.

The Mi Band 2 has also options to  vibrate for alarms, sms messages, or several other notifications. It has an interesting notification called ‘idle alert’, with vibrates the band when I do not move for 1 hour during the day. I am trying to implement also notifications for my program Octyx and contacted Xiaomi already for this. I got a nice email reply from them, in Chinese language :-), so I am optimistic on the future.

Battery life is said to be several weeks: I use it since 5 days now, and it used 3% only, so it will probably be true.

And now, what do I do with this? I track my sleep (the data show light sleep and deep sleep), I track my heart rate (looks ok), and I walked a bit more than in the last weeks. Yes, indeed I did !

It gives indeed a boost to make me walk and do more. I am not ready yet to share this with friends (which is also an option), but my target is to loose some kilo’s and be even more in shape than before. And, as an IT guy, I will check out the Bluetooth connectivity,  the quality of the various apps, and the Xiaomi Mi account which I created on their website.

After a few days, I must say I am quite positive for ‘me too’ for fitness, and on the Mi Band 2. I will keep you updated in the future on this topic.

Take care, and have a nice day.

Bas

 

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60 ID

September 4, 2016

Een engelse en franse versie van deze blog bestaat ook. This blog is also available in English and French. Cet article est également disponible en anglais et français.

Dromen zijn geen bedrog – 60 ideeën.

Het idee achter deze blog komt uit gewone diverse ‘dagelijkse ergernissen’. Deze ‘ergernissen’ hebben te maken met diverse elementen zoals financiën, economie, infrastructuur, gezondheid, milieu, telecommunicatie, onderwijs, justitie, enzovoort. Maar ook ‘ergernissen’ wegens het ontbreken van een duidelijke visie op de toekomst van Nederland, België, Frankrijk of Europa na de ‘Brexit’.

We komen allemaal wel eens op een punt waarbij je denkt: dit zou toch allemaal eenvoudiger en beter moeten kunnen. U kent ook vast wel de situatie waarin U met vrienden en familie over allerlei aspecten discussieert en veel zaken zou veranderen, zoals samenleving, economie, verkeer, enzovoort, indien U de leiding zou hebben.

Ik heb gewoon besloten een aantal van die kleine ‘ergernissen’ in een ’60 ideeën lijst’ samen te vatten, waarbij eigenlijk al snel het woord ‘politiek’ is gevallen. Dit was te verwachten, omdat de ideeën eigenlijk allemaal zaken zijn die de politiek zou moeten kunnen regelen en organiseren. De ’60 ideeën lijst’ kunt U hier lezen. De lijst is vooralsnog helaas alleen in de Nederlandse taal beschikbaar.

Helaas zijn onze lokale, landelijke en vaak ook onze Europese politieke vertegenwoordigers teveel bezig met zichzelf en u politieke carrière, of met het klagen over hun politieke collega’s in hun eigen of andere partijen. Of met het indoctrineren van de ‘burger’ zoals de kiezers graag genoemd worden.

Politiek is niet mijn beroep: in mijn dagelijkse leven houd ik mij bezig met het leiden van teams en projecten, waarbij logica, informatica en financiële aspecten een grote rol spelen. Ik heb het geluk gehad al bijna 40 jaar in de financiële sector te kunnen werken, en daarbij ook, gewoon door hard werken, in meerdere landen heb mogen werken en wonen.

Het aanpassen aan andere culturen en het leren en spreken van diverse talen hoort daar ook bij. Maar vooral heb ik daarbij een waardering voor verschillende culturen en personen leren opbrengen. Iedereen is anders, en iedereen heeft zijn eigen normen en waarden.

Respect hiervoor opbrengen was niet altijd makkelijk, maar bleek een noodzaak voor een goede samenwerking. En respect is iets wat ik de laatste tijd veel mis.

Ik zou ook zeker geen goede politieke vertegenwoordiger kunnen zijn omdat mijn opinies en uitgangspunten al meer dan 50 jaar dezelfde zijn: wees eerlijk, wees aardig, en respecteer anderen zoveel als mogelijk. Het ‘draaien met de wind mee’ om er beter van te worden is niet iets wat bi mij past.

Indien U de tijd neemt om de ’60 ideeën lijst’ te lezen zult U zien dat ik niet ‘rechts’ of ‘links’ ben, en ook niet ‘extreem’. De ’60 ideeën lijst’ geeft gewoon aan hoe ik in het leven sta en hoe ik soms erover droom dat het beter zou kunnen.

Dromen zijn bedrog wordt wel eens gezegd, maar laat mij maar dromen dat, indien onze politieke vertegenwoordigers een aantal van mijn ideeën zouden lezen en deze in hun eigen plannen zouden opnemen, de wereld er misschien iets eerlijker en beter door wordt.

Bas Eshuis

4 september 2016

Flash Mobs

June 23, 2016

Hello,

Welcome back to my blog. Instead of writing ‘boring’ IT stuff as I did some weeks ago, today I propose to you something completely different.

At the end of the season, everybody starts to think of the upcoming summer break. Too much work, too much rain (or too much sun maybe). And what’s better to celebrate a summer break with some nice music surprises. My personal favourites are the so-called flashmobs.

Flashmobs are defined, according to Wikipedia, as a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual act for a short time. Today I will focus on musical flashmobs.

My favourites are the flashmobs with real music and small orchestras. But you will see also some surprising ones. I selected 10 of them, but off course you can always go to Google and YouTube, and search for flashmob.

Click on the links, take your time and enjoy.

  1. Vietnames : based on Avinci ‘Wake Me up’ : nice music and a flash of Ha-Noi : Listen and see it here on Youtube. This one I like most.
  2. Spain Catalonia: in the beginning of the evening. It starts with 1 musician and it ends with many more. Click here.
  3. Another flashmob in Spain : I like this one in the library : check it here.
  4. From Sydney in Australia an Irish surprise. Enjoy it here.
  5. And from Ireland: a short one, but nice. Click here.
  6. From Austria, in Vienna Central Station : listen here.
  7. And from Argentina also a nice part of Verdi: check here.
  8. In Holland, a bit shorter as usual, but focusing on an event : see it here.
  9. From Moscow in the winter, it helps to warm you up: click here.
  10. And the last in the list is from Belgium. Searching for Maria in Antwerp Central station with music and dance : click here.

And as extra the Bolero song, again from Spain. A nice one to listen too in the evening: click here.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this blog,

Take care, and have good holidays,

Bas

Turning the page

June 3, 2015
Turning the page

Turning the page

Hello to all,

Very short post, just to share why languages are sometimes so interesting.

We heard yesterday that Sepp Blatter is resigning as FIFA head, after his successful re-election last weekend. So FIFA has to turn a page.

The interesting thing is that the German word for “turning the page” is “blättern”. And this resembles a lot like Blatter. Blatter and blättern. Small difference, but big impact for FIFA and football.

Take care,

Bas

See the Zoo

May 30, 2015

Hello to all,

Just some touristic information on my visit to the Prague Zoo today. One can spend many days just visiting the city of Prague with its beautiful castle and many interesting buildings and monuments, but today I decided to visit to the Prague Zoo in the Troja district.

Although not with perfect weather, I took a Prague boat from Rašínovo Nábřeží to go for a trip on the Vltava river to the Zoo. A 75 minutes boat trip with 2 times a passage through a sluice, with several interesting scenic views along. Boat plus entry  for the Zoo costed me less then 310 CZK (around 12 Euro).

Prague

Prague

Arriving at the Zoo is on the opposite side of the Vlatva, so you have to walk about 10 minutes to the entry. You pass the wonderful Troja castle before you arrive at the Zoo..

The Zoo itself is huge, and one of the best in Europe. Opened in 1931, it is one of the biggest I’ve ever seen, and also an important difference in height between the various parts. You can take a kind of “cable car” to go up or down, if you do not want to walk up the hills.

Many interesting animals and people, and many open spaces to enjoy the environment and views. You can read all this much better in other reviews on the internet, such as on Wikipedia. The website of the Prague Zoo can be found here.

And if you want to go back to the city: just take the bus 112 at the Zoo, and go to the end (Nádraží Holešovice). Then you take the metro (line C), or a tramway (12 or 24) to return to the city.

Below you find some more photos I took today.

Take care,

Bas

The Zoo

The Zoo

The Zoo

The Zoo

The Zoo

The Zoo

Troja Castle

Troja Castle

2014 Troja Bridge

2014 Troja Bridge

The Zoo and Cable Car

The Zoo and Cable Car

Keep the customer satisfied

December 8, 2013

This morning I happened to listen to the radio, and one of my old favourites ‘The Boxer’ by Simon and Garfunkel was played.

It took me away to memories when I was finishing high-school in the Netherlands, and we were on a trip with several school camerades in Luxemburg, 1977. Many Simon and Garfunkel songs were played on the guitar by one of my friends, and we had a real nice time that summer.

That reminded me also how music has impact on memories. I imagine that many studies have been done on the effects of music on our lives: how the music puts us back to that period, or that we suddenly remember specific items we had forgotten over time. Some people do remember perfectly the texts, others do remember the music. It learns us also that we still do not know everything on how our memory works.

I jumped to iTunes and listened again to The Boxer song. And of course I listened also to all the other songs on the related album ‘Bridge over troubled water‘. Still fantastic songs: El Condor Pasa, The Bridge itself, Cecilia, you name them.

And of course also the song ‘Keep the customer satisfied’, because this is since ages the most important element for me when doing business. In all companies I’ve worked until now, and also in all departments I’ve worked, there is one element which is most important: keep the customer satisified. If it is in a bank, a telecom company, a logistics company, or in accounting, or in IT: it is the customer, external or internal, who is most important for us and pays for your job.

I am not sure if Simon and Garfunkel meant their song in the same way (check lyrics here) as all the marketing guys sell it to us in 2013. But to Simon and Garfunkel, their customers were you and me, the listeners to their songs.

And for sure, I am a satisfied customer of their music. And happy to be so, even after 40 years.

Take care,

Bas

Bridge over troubled water

This week : Modern versus old-fashioned

November 24, 2013

Hello to all,

This week my blog on 3 elements which were in the news this week, 2 of them with modern elements, and one with old-fashioned aspects.

Lego : modern

Two articles this week on Lego. One article written on the success of Lego Friends product for girls: longtime seen as a non-viable product, the new Lego Friends products have conquered the world. No reason for little girls anymore not to play with Lego. The full ownership of boys, and grown-up men, is gone.  That’s what I call modern.

According to the product manager, the Friends product line is a huge success, even too much success, because Lego ran out of stock of certain products.

The second element of Lego consisted of the opening of a specific Lego exposition in Brussels. It is called the ‘Art of the brick’: full details can be found here. This exhibit, aimed at a wide audience, showcases more than 70 imposing and fascinating works of art, made with the famous LEGO® bricks. All these wonders are the product of the wild imagination of the US artist, Nathan Sawaya. The exhibition has already attracted over 1.5 million visitors in North America, Australia, Asia and Middle East. Check it out yourselves. This is also modern.

After a difficult period in 2004, Lego has concentrated itself on their core product, the Lego brick. Full focus, huge imagination, for youngsters and for oldies, small and big products, it’ s all there. Just to mention, for grow-ups, a 2900 piece construction : the Sydney Opera (a must have for me 🙂 after my trip to Australia). Lego manages to modernize and to convince parents and children to buy their products, which is surprising and positive in this increasing digital world.

Magnus Carlsen is the number 1 of chess: modern

Sven Magnus Carlsen is a Norwegian chess grandmaster who is the reigning World Chess Champion and No. 1 ranked player in the world. His peak rating is 2872, the highest in history. Carlsen, dubbed the “Justin Bieber of chess”, won the Chess World Championship on Friday in Chennai, playing a patient game and driving defending champion Viswanathan Anand to make self-destructive mistakes.

Carlsen, just 22, defeated Anand in ten games in Chennai scoring three victories and seven draws. The young winner, who earned lucrative sponsorships such as a modelling contract and coverage on tabloid front pages, started already at the age of 8 to win chess tournaments. Fully supported by his parents, he grew very fast, and learned all phases of chess games. Garry Kasparov, who coached Carlsen from 2009 to 2010, said that Carlsen has a positional style similar to that of past world champions such as Anatoly Karpov.

In this Wikipedia post, you can read all details of this young person, of we will hear much more in the future.

Chess is of all ages. And still a modern game. With young masters. And for those of you, who wish to be the next number 1 : start here.

Diplomatic immunity rules : old-fashioned

An incident happened this week in The Netherlands: a journalist was hit on his head when asking questions to a specific embassy about a wrongly parked car. The incident was “blown up” and will be probably followed by some court actions in the near future.

My blog does not speak further about the incident itself, however the issue gained my attention on the diplomatic (and consular) immunities. As one can read on Wikipedia, Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity and a policy held between governments that ensures that diplomats are given safe passage and are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the host country’s laws, although they can still be extradited.

It was agreed as international law in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961), though the concept and custom have a much longer history.Many principles of diplomatic immunity are now considered to be customary law. Personally, I do not have any issue with this principle. I can accept that diplomats, and politicians, under certain conditions have to be protected as they represent their country.

But I do have an issue when there is abuse. And abuses, there are many as one can read regularly on various internet sites. These abuses go from parking tickets (millions of euros in several cities, such as London), traffic accidents, tax or other frauds, and sometimes the well-known spy and murder activities, as described in many books.

And do not think that this is only for specific countries. No, it happens also with UN diplomats, EU politicians in Brussels, local embassies and consulates in smaller cities, everywhere.

I suggest we should modernize the diplomatic immunity rules. My proposal is that this diplomatic immunity is only valid within the walls of their respective consulates or houses, or for politicians within the institutes. But not outside, such for cars, accidents, taxes, or any other normal part of life. Just behave as, and treat them like, normal people.

We have just to convince our politicians to vote for making this immunity rules more modern. Hmm, I guess that will probably be difficult. Maybe better focus on Lego and Chess.

See you next week. Take care.

Bas

Tramways in Brussels – the last yellow 7700

November 19, 2013

Hello to all,

As almost all 7700 series trams in Brussels are painted into the new MIVB/STIB colors, a a special event was held last Sunday, November 17, organized by a group of enthusiasts of the Brussels Tramway Museum (MTUB).

The event consisted of a special tram journey through Brussels with 2 tramways: 1 yellow (number 7725), and one in the green colors of the tramway museum (number 7725). With a large group of people we visited a large part of the Brussels tramway network.

We started at the north-east side of Brussels in Bordet, and went via Schaarbeek to the north (Esplanade and Heysel). We then travelled via West (Jette and Grand Bigard) and South (Anderlecht and Stalle) back to Schaarbeek and Bordet. A long trip, however with nice pictures and memories.

For more information on Brussels Trams, go to the MIVB/STIB website, or the Brussels Tramwaymuseum.

It was cold, a bit dark as we are in November, but I enjoyed it a lot. See you next time.

Place des bienfaiteurs

Place des bienfaiteurs

Between Buissonnets and Araucaria

Between Buissonnets and Araucaria

Esplanade

Esplanade

Heysel with the Atomium

Heysel with the Atomium

Grand Bigard

Grand Bigard

Mennekens

Mennekens

Place Meir

Place Meir

Place des Palais

Place des Palais

Shopping future

May 28, 2013

Today I focus on shopping centers (or shopping malls as they ar called in the USA) and their future. The first ones already were invented 2000 years ago in Rome. The medina in the Asiatic world is an example of an early shopping center, while the arcades in Paris or other cities can also be classified as early examples of shopping centers.

The actual shopping center concept was re-invented about 100 years ago in the United States, especially created when the first cars were launched, with a further boost after the second world war. Easy access to shopping from the suburbs was the main driver.

Shopping malls and centers exist in every country. The biggest between them have more than 1000 shops: impossible to shop this on one day. So some of them have built-in hotels, entertainment parks, and off-course always a bunch of restaurants. You find much more information on the concepts, history and examples of shopping malls in the world here.

It is easy to spend money in shopping malls. You walk, you have a look, and you buy. No problems with the weather, as most malls do have a roof these days :-). You can also visit cinema’s, and you can watch people (very interesting hobby). In fact one could live there forever.

Sometimes I do like to go there. Not always to shop, but just to see what’s new. You can touch stuff, and you can negotiate sometimes. In general, however, personally I like to visit the old little shops in the city centers, especially here in Belgium. Because they are often not part of the large chains, and they offer personalized service.

As an example for Brussels, where I live, several discussions on new shopping malls are currently taking place. This is in itself not surprising, because the Brussels Region does not have many shopping malls. In fact I know only 2 (1 east, 1 west). A very large new center is planned in the north near Vilvoorde (UPlace), ana again easy accessible by car and maybe by public transport. Also in Paris, with already a huge offer on shops, a new shopping experience called ‘So Ouest‘ (So West) was opened last year in a suburb.

But, when thinking about these discussions, I had the following thoughts. Since several years now, the internet is becoming big business. Almost everyone has already bought books, discs, televisions,  or something else on the Internet. Sometimes at the famous well-known sites, such as Amazon.com (global player) or bol.com (dutch player), but also at an increasing number of second-hand offerings web sites.

So why would one still wish to buy something in a shopping mall? Verifying prices can be done easily on the internet, and quality is checked in the mall. But buying is more and more on the internet. Because the prices are often lower than in the malls. And you have fewer people in front of you at the cashier. So much easier.

A detailed analysis was done on this phenomenon by The Economist (read here). Their conclusions are that internet and shopping malls can compete with the internet, especially through the ‘hands-on’ experience. Although, they are not sure if this will last forever.

Personally, for me it is an easy choice: shopping for day-to-day, or serving special needs, I will continue to do in the local shops near my house. Checking and touching goods I can do in the malls, but buying I will do on the internet. That’s the shopping future for me.

But off-course, with the bad weather we have had the last months here in Belgium, walking, shopping and eating in a shopping mall is probably more fun than surfing the web at home. Up to you to make your own choice.

Another blog tomorrow. Take care.

Jewish headgear explained

May 19, 2013

Yesterday we went for a visit in the Antwerp Zoo. This zoo is very well placed in the middle of Antwerp, a well-known active and touristic city in Belgium.

The zoo is located just next to Antwerp Central Station and can be reached easily. Coming from Brussels, we parked our car in one of the suburbs, and took the local tramway number 15 towards Antwerp Central Station (I have the intention to write also a blog on this impressive building in the near future).

On our way in the tram, we passed along one of the important streets in Antwerp, called the BelgieLei. In Antwerp, de ‘leien’ are the names for important city lanes. Passing this lane, we saw several jewish people walking along with their families. You have a large jewish population living in Antwerp, of which many of them work in the Diamant industry.

As you know, the Jewish people have their Sundays on Saturdays, called the Shabbat. Many Jews attend synagogue services on Shabbat even if they do not do so during the week. We probably saw them returning from the Shabbat morning services.

As we passed, we noticed the various hats or headgear the various men were wearing, followed by the immediate reaction that we did not really know who and why this headgear was worn. So I decided to write todays blog. This blog is not intended to give any particular opinion on religion, but it is only focused on explaining the main headgear.

Black Hats

Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality through the popularization and internalization of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspect of the faith. Hasidim customarily wear black hats during the weekdays, as do nearly all Haredim today.

A black hat

A black hat

Kolpik

A kolpik is a type of traditional headgear worn in families of many Chassidic Rebbes (Hasidic rabbis), by unmarried children on Shabbat, and by Rebbes on special occasions. It is made from brown fur, as opposed to a spodik, worn by Polish chassidic dynasties, which is fashioned out of black fur.

Rabbi Moshe Leib Rabinovich wearing a kolpik

Rabbi Moshe Leib Rabinovich wearing a kolpik

Shtreimel

A shtreimel is a fur hat worn by many married ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, particularly (although not exclusively) members of Hasidic groups, on Sabbath and Jewish holidays and other festive occasions. The shtreimel comprises a large circular piece of velvet surrounded by fur. It is generally worn only after marriage, except in many Yerushalmi communities, where boys wear it from their bar mitzvah.

A shtreimel

A shtreimel

Spodik

A spodik is a tall fur hat worn by some Haredi Hasidic Jews, particularly members of sects originating in Congress Poland. Spodiks should not be confused with shtreimels, which are a similar type of hat also worn by Hasidim. Shtreimels are shorter, wider, and circular shaped. Spodiks on the other hand are long, tall, thin, and cylindrical. There are many types of spodiks, some quite similar to the shtreimel.

A spodik

A spodik

Kippah

A kippah, or plural: kippot (also called a skullcap or kappel) is usually a cloth, hemispherical or platter-shaped skullcap traditionally worn at all times by observant Jewish men, and sometimes by both men and women in Conservative and Reform communities. Originally all kippot looked the same. They were small, black skullcaps worn at the apex of a man’s head. However, nowadays kippot come in all sorts of colors and sizes.

A Kippah

A Kippah

The above headgear is mainly worn by men. However, in modern times some women also choose to wear kippot as an expression of their Jewish identity or as a form of religious expression.

If you are interested to read more on this, I suggest checking Wikipedia (click here)or other sites. I hope you learned something new today. At least, I did.

Back on Tuesday with a new blog. Tomorrow a day off. Take care.