Skiing, holiday and travels

Over the last three weeks of December, my fiancée and I had the opportunity to do a trip through a bit of central Europe. A trip we had planned to do in August, and then postponed and then changed, and then changed again. It was great to finally get there.

We flew into Munich early on a Friday and spent the day riding trams from hostel to Paleontology Museum to Deutsches Museum to restaurants and everywhere in between.

Sunset on the Isar

Sunset on the Isar

The next morning we were picked up to start a week ski package outside Innsbruck (Austria). It was organised by SkiAustria. And I would recommend them. We had a great time. It was the two of us and a couple from ‘Maritzburg who we didn’t know previously, but got along with well. It was a pretty much all inclusive package, transport from Airport to ski-resort and back, all the ski equipment, lessons, accommodation, ski-passes, breakfast, supper and drinks.

Opening weekend at Axamer Lizum

Opening weekend at Axamer Lizum

We went early season, the Sunday we started was the opening weekend of the resort (Axamer-Lizum). And there wasn’t a lot of snow. It was a risk we knew we were taking, but it worked out just fine. Both the beginners/training slope and the main (ex-Women’s Olympic Downhill) slope were open. Which was enough for us as beginners.

Sunshine for the European winter

Sunshine for the European winter

We stayed at the Hotel Edelweiss in Goetzens. The service was wonderful and food and drinks offerings great. Rooms had a beautiful view out over the town and mountains. Staff were helpful and friendly. A nearby bus stop gave us access both to Innsbruck and to the ski resort.

View of the peaks surrounding Innsbruck

View of the peaks surrounding Innsbruck

Skiing is fun. Like super fun. I’d done it once before without instruction, and benefited greatly from our quick-witted instructor ‘Charlie’. Everyone on the slopes knew Charlie, and had a story to share. Charlie kept us entertained and skiing for 5 of our 6 days on the slopes and got us all down the big one on day 3 in one piece.

A misty lake somewhere in Austria (I really don't know where)

A misty lake somewhere in Austria (I really don’t know where)

After our first week we hired a car in Innsbruck made a quick stop at the Konnigsee and went on for a night in Salzburg (stayed in Yoho Youth Hostel). Spent some time at one of the biggest Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Markets) that we saw on our trip, and did a quick bus-tour round the city the next day before taking an extended walk. Back in the car, we drove up to Vienna.

Vienna skyscape from the Aquarium

Vienna skyscape from the Aquarium

Four nights in amazing Vienna. Lots of walking, lots of Weihnachtsmarkte (think we attended 5 different ones), Aquarium, Technology Museum, Natural History Museum, Mozart performance, more walking. If you’re there for several days I’d recommend the Vienna Card. Stayed in Enziana Hotel.

Christmas Market 1 of 1000

Christmas Market 1 of 1000

Then a train to Munich, arriving Christmas eve, and standing at the bus stop for only a couple of seconds, a local decided the bus wasn’t coming and dropped us off at our hotel. Christmas day we went into the city to have a picnic in the English Gardens and were surprised at how many people were out and about. Kids playing, music performances, runners, cyclists all enjoying the untypical sunny weather. We followed that up a viewing of the latest Star Wars movie in a packed cinema, before heading back to our hotel.

Christmas day Picnic

Christmas day Picnic

Boxing Day got us another car and a trip across Germany to the Black Forest. Spent the night in Todtmoos (Europaeisches Gaestehaus – more of a hostel). Odd little town, much more welcoming in the light of day. From there down to Switzerland. First night in Lucerne (stayed in Bellpark Hostel). Went up Mount Pilatus. Absolutely beautiful. Lots of tourists. Switzerland is very expensive. Tarryn had fondue for supper :)

View from Mt. Pilatus

View from Mt. Pilatus

Next day we travelled up to Grindelwald and had an extended walk in the forest in search of an elusive lake. Spent the night in French speaking (much to my confusion) Freibourg, at the NH Hotel (disappointing).

The Eiger (if I recall correctly)

The Eiger (if I recall correctly)

Our last day we drove to Constantz and spent the day hopping from shop to shop trying to avoid the cold. Flight out from Zurich back home.

Christmas Market food is great!

Christmas Market food is great!

We would have loved to experience a bit more snow, but with the amount of driving we did, it was probably better that our weather was as sunny and warm as it was. Most days in the 2-8degC range. Dropping a bit at night.

Majority of our accommodation was booked on Hotels.com, with one or two on Hostelworld.com. Cars booked through Hotels.com car hire interface. Do not hire a car in Switzerland, or drop one off there. Hire in Germany drive through Switzerland, and drop-off back in Germany. You will save thousands of Rands.

EU cars have steering wheel warmers. They're amazing!

EU cars have steering wheel warmers. They’re amazing!

We had an amazing time. Marvelled at the scenery, architecture and contrasting infrastructure. Skiing is definitely on our list of things to do again. Through some good fortune it seems we might be returning for a trip to South Switzerland in their summer, which we’re both looking forward to.

Being legal is frustrating

Four years ago I bought a laptop on a student special with the local universities. Pinnacle were the local distributors and the laptop came pre-installed with Windows 7 and Office professional. Wonderful. But it didn’t come with installation DVDs. I queried this with Pinnacle and they said I should use the Lenovo software (OneKey Backup) to create a backup install which would then have everything ready to go. Fine.

A few months later I buy myself an SSD and now want to install Windows on it. Do everything necessary but the 36GB original install complains that my 120GB SSD is too small to install Windows on… So I repartition my original HDD to have an 80GB windows install. Create new backup install, and successfully install on my SSD.

Fast forward to 2016 and for several reasons I haven’t once reformatted my hard drive since original install. But now it’s time. Backup everything I need. Boot up my backup DVD and try and install onto the same SSD. It complains the drive is too small. This is the same drive I installed on four years prior. No other hardware changes have taken place. I spend the next several hours rebooting trying different types of things; use an Ubuntu live CD to format the drive and remove the extra 100MB partition that Windows makes. All efforts are unsuccessful.

I give up and decide to use a legit Windows 7 install DVD I have to just do a plain install. Alas after installation it doesn’t like my key (the one stuck under my laptop), as the DVD is for Windows Ultimate, and my licence is for Windows Premium… Windows used to have their install DVDs freely available through Digital River. But discontinued this service a few years ago. After some extended searching I get hold of an ISO that, after installing, seems legit and is happy with my key. Yay.

I spent more time trying to get an audible.com audio book playing than it took to listen to the book. I have lost every other piece of DRM-locked music I have paid for.

source: https://xkcd.com/488/

But now I don’t have Office. So I begin the same search for an install for Office. I had earlier run a program to extract the CD-Key from my installed software. Again the Digital River ISOs had been discontinued. MS does offer install files for download on their website, but you have to input a valid CD-Key, and the licence for my CD-Key apparently didn’t match any of the versions they had for download. I get hold of some ISOs through different sources, but none of them are playing ball with my CD-Key…

So what eventually happens? I break down and buy Office. Through all my searching, I kept on getting adverts for MS’s Home Use Program. Basically, if your employer has some deal with MS, you can get Office 2016 Pro for like R150. My employer had never advertised this to us (that I recall), but I typed in my work email address and the next day there was an e-mail at work stating that I am eligible. So R150 later I have Office 2016 installed. My biggest gripe (besides having to pay for something I kinda already had) is that it installs everything! Skype for business (which you can’t use a normal Skype account with), MS Access, OneNote and Publisher which I don’t use. There is no option to only install specific software. And no option afterwards to remove some of the software.

But at least I have a working computer again. And I’ve made copies of all the CDs and installs I used. Stuff knows what use the Lenovo OneKey backup DVDs are to be used for.

All of this boils down to DRM, and how difficult it makes people’s lives. Those who try to do the right thing get blocked at every corner. Whereas I could easily have downloaded a cracked copy and be done with all these hassles. Argh!

Electric/Hybrid/Self Driving vehicles

I’ve long held an interest in the motor industry, and the recent developments in driverless cars are as exciting as they are frightening to me.

hero-01

Tesla Model S 90D

With that in mind, for the past few months I’ve been working on and off on a website dedicated to following the development of the autonomous and electric/hybrid vehicle market in South Africa. And I finally got it to a usable state.

I give you AutosAndElectric.co.za

Where you can find a list of currently available Hybrid and electric vehicles in South Africa as well as charging stations. Hopefully as time goes on space will be made for the influx of autonomous vehicles coming to our shores :)

Website needs some aesthetic work, and logo redesign, but for now I wanted to get it up.

Remington F4790 Partial disassembly

Recently the foil on my Remington F4790 got a hole in it, it makes the foil and cutter part of the razor unusable. While I placed replacement foils on order, I figured I’d just use the trimmer, but then trimmer stopped working.

Apologies for the poor image quality, they’re screengrabs from a video.

The foil and the cutters pop straight off with a little bit of a pull. Thereafter there are two small screws at the hinge point which can be loosened.
GP012706.MP4_snapshot_00.01_[2015.10.13_19.56.49]The foil and cutter head then comes out. Take care when reassembling to align the pop-out with the slot on the head.GOPR2706.MP4_snapshot_10.54_[2015.10.13_19.59.41]

From here there are 4 screws easily accessible that can be loosened.

GOPR2706.MP4_snapshot_01.24_[2015.10.13_19.57.57]A black rubber seal is then visible, which comes off easily to reveal two white plastic mechanisms which are driven by a motor. Align the drive shaft (1) on the motor so that the point is away from the trimmer. Plastic mechanism [2] can come straight off. Plastic mechanism [3] drives the trimmer and has a shaft going down. It can now be lifted out.GP012704.MP4_snapshot_00.53_[2015.10.13_20.09.58]There’s a round rubber seal between the trimmer and the motor housing which must be removed. The trimmer must now be fully extended. With a bit of jiggling the trimmer will come out completely. There is a metal spring near the bottom which might catch, see below.GOPR2705.MP4_snapshot_08.02_[2015.10.13_20.04.40]The trimmer is unfortunately a sealed mechanism. The outer casing is two parts which look like they clipped into each other, but looks like some heat was used to ‘seal’ it. Anyway, I pried it apart, because there was nothing left to do. Not too much seemed to break.

GP012704.MP4_snapshot_04.37_[2015.10.13_20.10.55]When I opened it up it was clogged up with hair preventing it from moving. I cleared all of it up, and the cover fortunately managed to clip back together and seemed to hold.GOPR2705.MP4_snapshot_03.06_[2015.10.13_20.02.47]I don’t really know how to disassemble the razor further. There are two screws visible, but loosening them doesn’t achieve anything. Through the clear motor housing other screws can be seen connecting it to the outer case, but no way to access them.

GP012704.MP4_snapshot_00.24_[2015.10.13_20.09.25]

I think the outer case is all just clipped together, but felt nervous in forcing it apart when I still want to use the razor. If my foils don’t make it in the post, then maybe I’ll do it, but for now I can’t see any further way to take the razor apart besides forcing the outer casing apart.