Thursday, February 18, 2010

Asians bombard Mobile World Congress

The Asians are everywhere at the Mobile World Congress. The conferences, exhibition grounds, restaurants, everywhere. They are not just present, you can see their footprints on some of the wonderful products and services on display.

Not only are they pushing their own products, they are also holding strategic positions in key ICT companies across the world. One of the presenters of Windows Phone Series 7 today was Asian. Asian companies like Huawei, HTC, NTT Docomo etc had some of the biggest stalls at the exhibition.

Asians even have a number of restaurants at Fira de Barcelona, the event venue. In the absence of an African restaurant, Asian restaurants were the natural choices of many compatriots, who at least know what to expect, having been introduced to Asian cuisine back at home.

Interestingly, Americans, as other nationals were seen flocking into the restaurants. The Asians are winning on every front. They sure are positioning themselves to rule the world.

When will Africa join the train?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Clean up after yourself, please

There is something to be admired in the manners of Spaniards at QSRs (Quick Service Restaurants). No matter how highly placed a Spaniard is, when he eats at a QSR, he takes the pain to dump the litters in the dust bin before leaving. Their equivalent of Nigeria’s area boys are not left out. Even some funny characters with perforated body parts and scary hairdos take their trays to the dust bin to empty before going out.

At the restaurants within the Mobile World Congress complex, when you are done with your food, you take the tray to the dust bin, empty it and return it to the tray stack. Nobody is enforcing it or anything. In some cases, there are attendants waiting for you to finish so they can pack away the litters. But most of the time, the only job left is to dust the tables and chairs. The customers have taken away the litters by themselves.

Thank God I noticed this the first time I ate in at a QSR. I blended, straight.

How I wish we could take this lesson in humility and cleanliness in Nigeria.

Tech failure

The update to my blog in the morning about the tea dispenser in our hotel is that the malfunctioning machine has been fixed. I came back to find a technician working on it. Now it is as good as new. Have not seen the aggrieved brothers to find out if they got their two Euros back.

Queue you must here

queue at MWC, Barcelona
Participants queuing to buy snacks

For nearly everything, from registration to visiting the toilet, you have to queue for a few minutes for your turn.

The registration queue on Day One was probably a kilometre long. But it moved very fast. It lived to its name, FastTrack. This was possible because everyone registered had been issued a letter containing their specific bar code. When anyone presented his letter, the officials just scanned it and the machine would print the delegate's badge. For those who forgot their letters at home, the badge collection point was different.

To buy food was another small headache. You have to queue. For those who opt for the open air restaurants, they have to queue in the cold, and sometimes rain.

There are numerous toilets on the event grounds. But when you have over 67,000 visiting an event, you should expect a crowd at the conveniences. At Hall One particularly, the queues are unbelievable. Most of the time, if you are doing Number One, you only wait a few seconds. But if you are doing Number Two, you join a queue of at least seven others. How embarrassing, that!

Cheating cabbies

Why do Spanish cabbies love to touch the metre ever so often? When you enter, they adjust, when you reach your destination they adjust, regardless of how much you shout at them.

It is always very obvious that the spirit of cheating is at play, but there is very little you can do. They smilingly Speak Spanish to you ostensibly to assure you that it is nothing irregular. And if you call in a police man, he does not speak a word of English. You do not speak a word of Spanish. It’s a scene from Tarzan, the ape man!
It’s only a few Euros, anyway. So you let them go.

I suspect very strongly that one at least deliberately drove me past my destination and did a merry go round before coming back to it, all in a bid to increase the metre reading by a few more Euros. I challenged him and he launched into Spanish, apparently explaining why we drove past the hotel. Till this moment I have no idea what he was blabbing about.
Upon it all he was all smiles, saying ‘Gracias’, repeatedly.

Cheats abound in all countries. Especially in the cabbie industry. One thing with these Spanish cabbies though is that they are courteous. At least so far.

Tech failure

The automatic tea/coffee dispenser in our hotel swallowed fellow conferees’ two Euros this morning. It won’t release money. It won’t dispense tea. They insist on having either of the two. Worst part is that they are black. It doesn’t take much to accuse a black man of robbery in a white-dominated environment. I was becoming more and more apprehensive for them as they continued to scratch, kick and punch the machine.

Sanity finally prevailed as one of the aggrieved men decided to take the matter to hotel authorities. “Oh, sorry, the machine is bad”, the receptionist said.

So why didn’t they put a notice there to say so? Apparently they thought people who lodge in hotels are somewhat clairvoyant!

Oh, just as I was banging out the above on my blog,the hotel manager came along to take charge of the situation. He had apparrently not been informed. He disconnected it after all his efforts to rectify the fault failed. A notice was hung to warn users.

Nice cartoon

I think I’ve discovered the secret of life..
You just hang around until you get used to it..

-Cartoon in International Herald Tribune Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Eye-controlled ear-phones are here

Sometime soon, your hi-fi stereo set will obey your eye commands.

At the ongoing Mobile World Congress, NTT Docomo is demonstrating a technology that allows a person to raise or reduce music volume, change track or stop the music altogether by just rolling his eyes.

All you need to do is to plug in regular looking ear-phones. The gentleman pictured above held exhibition visitors spell bound by rolling his eyes right twice to move the player to the next track and left twice to return to the previous track.

It seemed like pure magic, but it is science. The NTT Docomo explained there are negative and positive electrodes in between the two eyes. The ear phone may look regular. It is not. It is capable of detecting and measuring the levels of electrodes in the wearer’s head. It then transfers it to a processor which interprets them. A graph on display moved left when the gentleman looked left and right when the man turns his eyes in that direction. Each of these eye movements is preset with a stereo function: change track, reduce volume, increase volume etc.

The technology is still a prototype. But now that it is already on demo, it is closer to commercialisation than ever. The possibilities are enormous. Just imagine flicking through TV channels without lifting a finger.

The only flip side here is that women who love to roll their eyes for no reason may never be able to play a single track to its logical end!

Just say the word!

You can send a full email by speaking to your phone! That is the future of mobile phone.

You need to quickly do a mail to your friend but don’t want to lift a finger? No problem. Just put your mobile phone in front of you, and start dictating. What you are dictating is appearing on the phone in front of you. When it is done, send off.
NTT Docomo is introducing this service. They call it Voice Input Mail. They are partnering with a couple of handset manufacturers to deliver this service. It’s on demo here at Mobile World Congress 2010.

Snag right now is that it is principally in Japanese. Work is ongoing on English version of this service. The software can handle only a few English words. The NTT Docomo official did a Demo for me: “Hello, Mr Campbell,” he said, and it popped right out on the phone screen (pictured above).

The future is bright.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cabanes, five minutes walk from notorious La Rambla

Another shot. Can’t get anyone to snap me yet. I’m told there are two common possibilities when you give your camera to a passerby to snap you. One, he walks away as if you are not there because he suspects you are one of the numerous pickpockets who parade this area. Two, he collects the camera and runs off.
Cameras, bags, phones are reportedly snatched routinely here. Well, seeing as it was a Sunday morning when everyone was on their ‘church mind’, I braved the odds and said hello to a seemingly innocuous gentleman who chanced by. He walked past me hurriedly without a word. I didn’t wait for a second person to show up.

The reverence of a Sunday morning

One of Barcelona’s busiest streets off the Famous La Rambla deserted this morning about 10 am. All the casinos, etc are firmly under lock. Reverence for God’s day? I’m told it’s dangerous flashing a camera around here at any other time. I may still return to give you a picture of how it looks on a normal day. But, I’ll look for armed escorts first!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wanted: Teachers of social graces

It's appalling how some people behave in public places in this country. I have been roaming about looking for free mains to plug my laptop into and continue my blogging and what not.

I find one at last inside a snacks stall. I approach the lady there to allow me plug into one of her spare sockets. (No pun intended). She nicely urges me on. I settle down to work. And this babe comes along, walks past me without as much as saying hi. And lo and behold, she goes ahead to plug her phone to my adaptor, in the process knocking current off my laptop.

“Well, Miss, do you mind? That is mine!”
“Oh, sorry,” she says. Not that she has any intention of leaving, though. She only now takes special care to be unselfish, and allow current to be restored to my own connection too!

Rebranding MMIA

It’s been a while since I used the services of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport. It was in 2007 when my brand new wife and I went off to Ghana to ascertain the veracity of the claims that Ghana had moved well ahead of Nigeria. Okay, okay, I’ll cut out the political talk. We went on honey moon. That’s what you want to hear. And by the way, it was super. Ghana rocks.

Anyway, I’ve visited the MMIA many times since 2007, to see off or welcome people. Never really had to spend more than 30 minutes on any of those occasions.
Now, I am here; have been in the past 2 hours trying to catch a flight to Spain. This place has really gone to seed. The departure hall is so hot! How difficult can it be to fix an AC and ensure it stays fixed? I’m told by a fellow passenger that it works in fits and starts, like the airport’s conveyor belts.

“That’s the problem with Central ACs”, says my fellow passenger. Oh it is a central AC! Big deal. Others use central ACs too and they work. Is this fellow a government official?

How can we be talking about rebranding when we can’t even make our foremost International airport comfortable and presentable? So bloody annoying.