General Malawi-related

8 days a week

via Language Log:

Some rural West African languages still use their traditional eight-day week.

General Malawi-related

Why I love Africa

BBC listeners and readers share their personal experiences of the African continent.


sunday morning snow

grey, cold, and snowing… i started out on my bike but decided to change to Bus und Tram cos I couldn’t see much with the fine snow blowing into my face.
Here are some snapshots of the Basel ferry:

Basel ferry crossing the Rhine

in the middle of the Rhine

close-up of the ferry

people waiting for the ferry



some thoughts on yesterday’s vendor presentation on email marketing software, InxMail.

Inxmail Professional is the “Rolls Royce” for email marketing and e-newsletters. Apart from managing personalized and individualized email campaigns and newsletters, it automates all aspects of email marketing.

Using Design Templates, campaigns can be generated without know-how in HTML or text layout. Graphical reports show your success in real-time. Automated bounce management handles incoming mails. It operates newsletters, discussion lists, and email sequences for automated online training. It supports automated opt-in and opt-out, tracking, graphical reports and much more.

There are some really neat features for email marketing. For example, you can set up templates using DTD and XML… but the price tag is high! It runs with Apache Tomcat and any database. It’s got a Java rich client front-end, which I think are more comfortable to use than HTML. But I’m wondering if there is a low-cost, open source alternative. Any ideas?



no further explanatory words required….

saa to jo'burg



spelling variants

easyJet has plastered the following ad all across Basel:

EasyJet ad Feb 2005

my alternative spelling suggestions:

  • fussball Team
  • or even better: fussballTeam, in line with their company logo
General ubuntu


i’ve continued my forays [1] [2] into the world of Linux distributions and have now tried Ubuntu.

Install works fine. After I figured out that I needed to enter vga=771 to start setup i encountered no further problems. Very straightforward.

linux vga=771

It’s based on Debian Sarge.

Ok, the next thing to do is upgrade to the new WP 1.5… but i’ll leave that for another geek day. The reviews sound very positive.

[update, Feb 21]
I’ve updated my blog to WP 1.5.

found a review of Ubuntu at Pro-Linux:

World Domination aus Süd-Afrika
(in German)
(why do I always find this kind of stuff afterwards?!)

[update, Feb 26]
And another useful link:
Unofficial Ubuntu Guide

[update, March 01]
Ubuntu at Cebit 2005 – Get a free CD at Hall 6 Stand J44.

[update, April 10]
Hoary Upgrade Notes

Upgrade von Warty auf Hoary


ridiculous press releases block the PR wire

Sitepoint on the “new thing” in search engine optimization.

It looks like press releases to services like are going to go the same way that comments to blogs went…


some thoughts

Some of my regular readers may remember that a while back I used to regularly post links to news about Malawi. One of my initial blogging ideas was to be a news aggregator for interesting internet articles on Malawi. Nchenga’s low-budget approach to crossing the digital divide.

In the past months – actually since I moved to this new domain – I have stopped my news postings. I’m still following the news at The Nation and BBC Africa, but somehow I don’t feel I can continue postings about current affairs in Malawi.

Recent political developments have been very surprising and may also include a turn for the better. I’m certain that one year ago, nobody could have predicted or even imagined a similar development.

Yet, somewhere within me I feel a continuous sadness for my home country, and there’s something that is blocking me from following through. A layer of sadness.

Living in Switzerland where some people are *very* nationalist, I’m strangely aware of the fact that nationality is one of the few things that you can’t choose. The other thing you can’t choose is the kind of family you are born into. I’m lucky in both ways. Cos I have the best kind of family you can imagine (intelligent, caring, tolerant, funny, and international) and I don’t feel the need to nurture nationalist feelings. Rather I’ve been blessed with the positive aspects of 3 cultures and more. And counting. Cos there are a lot of things that I like about Switzerland.

This past week has been a sad one in my family. Last Friday my uncle passed away. He lived in Africa for over 42 years. In Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Swaziland, and for a long time in Masvingo, Zimbabwe. And he loved Africa.

He was very ill and his passing is in many ways a relief from years of sickness.

I have happy memories of picking him up at Chileka Airport. Unpacking his presents. Biltong and peppermint chocolate. Stopping in Masvingo on our way to Johannesburg. He had a very South African way of dressing. Pink shirts with red ties. He was my closest relative outside of my immediate family while growing up, as all my other relatives were in Germany or Australia. And I believed some of the wild stories he invented to entertain my sister and me.

He moved to Africa during a time when there were high hopes for a brighter African future. And I guess that’s my silent wish for Malawi. Hope. Suffering leads to perserverance, perserverance leads to character, and character leads to hope.

Maybe my sadness is not linked to Malawi as much as I think it is. Maybe it is linked to my awareness that our lives are so fragile and finite. And yet we spend so much of our time destroying and hurting others. With words or weapons. For our own gain.

I have some new ideas for this blog, but I don’t know when and how and if I’ll put them into practice. So far it’s been a great technical playground and lots of fun. Topics will continue to reflect aspects of software development, travel, linguistics, as well as personal thoughts and ideas that cross my digital paths. Meanwhile, feel free to leave a comment. I’ve been sending round my favorite Dilbert of the week. And needless to say. I’m addicted to email and comments.

General german language

Internet-Wörterbuch, das den Vergleich mit dem Duden nicht zu scheuen braucht


Telephon? Telefon? Televon? gibt Auskunft. Das Online-Wörterbuch wurde von zwei Schweizer Firmen* entwickelt, in Zusammenarbeit mit den Universitäten Basel und Amsterdam. Die Einstiegsseite sieht fast genau so aus wie bei Google: es hat nicht viel mehr als ein Eingabefeld. Wer hier „Telefon“ eingibt, bekommt nicht nur die richtige Schreibweise, sondern auch alle anderen Grammatik-Fragen beantwortet: Z.B. ob es „die Telefone“ oder „die Telefons“ heisst. ist ein Internet-Wörterbuch, das den Vergleich mit dem Duden nicht zu scheuen braucht und erst noch gratis benutzt werden darf.

*Just one correction: is developed and maintained by the Basel-based company, Canoo Engineering AG, in cooperation with IDSIA, Uni of Basel, and Uni of Amsterdam.


email habits

via 43folders:

  1. Shut off auto-check – Either turn off automatic checking completely, or set it to something reasonable, like every 20 minutes or so. If you’re doing anything with new email more than every few minutes, you might want to rethink your approach. I’m sure that some of you working in North Korean missile silos need real-time email updates, but I encourage the rest of you to consider ganging your email activity into focused (maybe even timed) activity every hour or three. Process, tag, respond to the urgent ones, then get the hell back to work. (See also, NYT: You There, at the Computer: Pay Attention)
  2. Pick off easy ones – If you can retire an email with a 1-2 line response (< 2 minutes; pref. 30 seconds), do it now. Remember: this is about action, not about cogitating and filing. Get it off your plate, and get back to work. On the other hand, don’t permit yourself to get caught up in composing an unnecessary 45-minute epistle (see next item).
  3. Write less – Stop imagining that all your emails need to be epic literature; get better at just keeping the conversation moving by responding quickly and with short actions in the reply. Ask for more information, pose a question, or just say “I don’t know.” Stop trying to be Victor Hugo, and just smack it over the net—especially if fear of writing a long reply is what slows your response time. N.B.: This does not mean that you should write elliptically or bypass standard grammar, capitalization, and punctuation (unless you want to look 12 years old); just that your well-written message can and should be as concise as possible. That saves everyone time.
  4. Cheat – Use something like MailTemplate to help manage answers to frequent email subjects. Templates let you create and use boilerplate responses to the questions and requests to which you usually find yourself drafting identical replies over and over from scratch. At least use a template as a basis for your response, and then customize it for that person or situation. Don’t worry—you can still let your sparkling prose and winning wit shine through, just without having to invent the wheel 10 times each day.
  5. Be honest – If you know in your heart that you’re never going to respond to an email, get it out of sight, archive it, or just delete it. Guilt will not make you more responsive two months from now, otherwise, you’d just do it now, right? Trust your instincts, listen to them, and stop trying to be perfect.

una volta

vivevo in ticino….

traffic sign in downtown Lugano


one of those blogging days…

today is just one of those blogging days, when I say to myself there are other hobbies out there… like fishing, or knitting! Hobbies which are less affected by intruders.

Woke up this morning to find a MySQL error displaying… somehow I managed to resolve that.

Sun is shining and I’m sitting here trying to figure out ways to stop comment s*pa&m. For some reason I can’t install either spam-karma or wp hashcash. Followed the instructions, but I can’t get the plug-ins to work. Don’t know yet what I’m doing wrong. Any suggestions are welcome. Maybe I’ve customized my comments php file so that it doesn’t run with the above plug-ins? Maybe my webspace provider has some restrictions? Maybe I really am ready for a new hobby?

All along I’ve had visions of wading through digital junk. The information revolution is killing itself.

Anyway I hope there’s an upward learning curve and I’ll be able to find an adequate solution.

On a more positive note, I’ve installed the Debian distribution on my old laptop. I’ve still got a couple of settings (sound card, display, ADSL) to do, but the basics are up and running. And I’m moving to a cheaper ADSL service…

p.s. is there a wordpress user group in Basel ?



I installed Picasa2 this week. Cos I am curious. Curious what Google is up to.

So far I like it… It visualizes those long forgotten .jpgs deep down in the backwater of my hard disk across all directories. It’s like IrfanView but with a better user interface. I haven’t tried the basic fixes or tuning options.
But I’ll probably stick to my oldish versions of Fireworks and Photoshop for those.


Swiss software product nominated for JDJ Reader’s Choice Award

Canoo’s UltraLightClient has been nominated for the Java Developer’s Journal Reader’s Choice Award in the Category
“Best Java Rich Client Platform”

To vote:

(I really don’t like the JDJ web site. IMHO, it’s too cluttered. The print layout is a lot better!)