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Southwest Australia (16.-19.02.2012)

On my second trip outside of Perth I’ve headed down to the southwest with ten travel mates from my school. We explored the wilderness and untouched nature with a reliable and comfy 12 seater Toyota HiAce. Being old also has its advantages: You don’t need to pay extra if you’re over 25 and usually you may have the D1 category in your driving licence which enables you to drive buses up to 15 passengers. Yaaay, I’m feeling much younger now ūüôā

Our journey started at Wednesday afternoon, which lasted three and a half days, till Sunday evening. Hence, as you might assume, we had to bunk off school for two days ūüôĀ Anyway, after we sweat the alcohol from last night out of our bodies, we were ready to start.

To see all the pictures of the trip you can visit my Picasa album.

Day 1 – Albany

A 430 km drive to Albany. I’m still very amazed that you can drive on a straight road without oncoming traffic for hours. You can only hope that your car will not break down. Finally we arrived in Albany. Established in 1826, shortly before Perth, it is the oldest European settlement in WA and has a population of 25’000.
We checked-in at the Backpackers, cooked a huge amount of spaghetti and went out to a nearby pub. Although its rather small size, I think it can hold up to 50 persons, it had two security guards. No wonder is the alcohol so expensive here if almost every pub needs to employ security staff.
We started telling jokes after we had been drinking a couple of beers. It was a memorable night, very amusing and I didn’t laugh that much since a long time. Just to mention phrases like “Nei, das isch super” or “Kaffi-Creme”.

Day 2 – Augusta

100212 1011-007.jpg The next day started early in the morning. Our schedule was very tight. We drove to the Torndirrup National Park, which lies 15 km further south of Albany, to see The Gap and The Natural Bridge. These spectacular rock formations, which also provide a beautiful view to the windswept rugged coastline, has been created by the massive power of the Southern Ocean.

100212 1311-030.jpg We continued to the William Bay National Park, 80 km further west of Torndirrup. This place is known for its picturesque beaches, untouched coastlines and the Elephant Rocks & Elephant Caves. The intense colors and lack of tourists amplified the breathtaking atmosphere. I got sentimental because I¬†wanted so badly to share this beautiful moment with my girlfriend, who I hadn’t¬†already¬†seen for six weeks. Elephant Rocks, as the name suggests, look like a herd of elephants in the midst of shallow water.

100212 1533-063.jpg Time was our biggest enemy but we managed it somehow to visit the Valley of the Giants in the Walpole Wilderness Area, which is 40 km further west of William Bay. A highlight in there is the Tree Top Walk, on which you can walk literally between the tree crowns of 400-year-old giants in a height up to 40 meters. If you experience fear of heights you will either get rid of your phobia or crap your pants.

After finishing our walk we headed towards Augusta. Twilight was approaching fast and we had to drive very carefully as animals moving unexpectedly on roads. Particularly in twilight or during the night kangaroos ave very active and are crossing the roads more frequently. After driving further 240 km we finally arrived in Augusta around 9:30 pm. Having checked-in at our lovely YHA, we looked for somewhere to have dinner. Augusta’s population is about 1300, therefore we had no much choice. We found a big restaurant, which was close to where we stayed, but unfortunately the kitchen had already closed. However, Joel, hungry as he was, spotted some leftovers of salad from one of the staff members and asked him I he could eat it up. The cooks had mercy on us and offered us a great deal. They would warm up any leftovers from a previous wedding ceremony and just charge us 20$ in total so that they could buy another beer for themselves. They served tons of meat, filled up with vegetables, and also various salads. A perfect deal: A big dinner for 11, not more than 2$ per person. Afterwards, we all went back to our fantastic, comfortable and low priced hostel, the Baywatch Manor YHA, which I can strongly recommend for backpackers.

Day 3 – Bunbury

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After having an extensive breakfast we continued our trip to visit the stunning crystal wonderland Lake Cave in Margaret River. To enter the cave first you need to stroll down about 350 steps between ancient Karri trees rising up to 50 meters into the sky. I mounted my Canon 50mm f/1.8¬†lens and hoped that I could take a good shoot of the crystalline beauty in extremely low-light conditions. However, this wasn’t an easy task. Without a tripod you have usually no chance at all. But with a bit of improvisation I managed to built a stable fixture with my lens hood ūüôā

110212 1429-076.jpg

Check out the picture, I really think that I achieved the task successfully. Afterwards we walked to a nearby beach, where a bunch of surfers tried to catch the two meters waves, which in my opinion were to powerful.

Later on we drove to Bunbury, which is the 2nd biggest city (or shall I say village) in Western Australia. Quite surprising because compared to the¬†1.6 million metropolis Perth, Bunbury has only 30000 inhabitants. Different cities, different manners. We stranded in a rock pub which had a clientele of all ages. Starting from 18 years up to probably 50+. Surprisingly, women are used to grab and squeeze men’s bottom cheeks without hesitation, especially the elderly. Despite that Bunbury lies to the south of Perth, which implies lower temperatures, the chicks wore shorter skirts than their fellow citizen from the state’s capital. After having an enjoyable night in the pubs we went back to the Youth Hostel and headed back to Perth on the following day. Ah, almost forgot to mention it. If you want to eat delicious pizzas in Bunbury, have a look at Bianco’s Gourmet Pizza. I will never forget the lovely taste.

CAE writing

You may expect that I’m laying on the beach everyday, sunbathing and keeping an eye out for surfer girls.¬†But the first eleven weeks of my Asia-Pacific trip are not as¬†relaxing as people might assume.¬†To achieve my goal in passing the CAE exam on the 17th of March a lot of work needs to be done. In addition to my 25 lessons a week at the Lexis English school I need to do a lot of homework.

I’ve had my first CAE mock exam last week, which was split up in five categories – Writing, Reading, Use of English, Listening and Speaking. The test results enabled me to determine my English skills and to see if I’m on my way to pass the CAE. I’m very satisfied with the overall result of 76 %, which would be a B grade. But if I want to achieve the highest level in the¬†CEFR¬†I need to pass the CAE with an A grade or more specifically 80 % and above. This level represents the mastery or proficiency of a language.

If you’re wondering how a CAE test might look like I will show you a task¬†from the writing part¬†followed by my article as the corresponding answer.¬†You’ll just get 45 minutes to read all four tasks, then you need to choose one task and write approximately 220 – 260 words. According to your chosen task this could be for example an article, a proposal, a report or an information sheet. Therefore you don’t have plenty time and you must work quickly and efficiently.

Enjoy the reading.

Task – Write an article

A technology magazine, International Technology Today, has asked its readers to submit articles on the impact of mobile phones on modern society. In your article, you should discuss the different personal and business uses of mobile phones and assess the advantages and disadvantages of this technology.

Impact of mobile phones on modern society

The aim of this article is to discuss the personal and business uses of cellular phones and their advantages and disadvantages.

Almost every reader would agree that the communication technology has changed our way of loving dramatically over the last two decades.¬†Mobile phones were dedicated to a small range of CEO’s in their early stage of development and its main purpose was to enable businessmen to stay in touch with their partners and company – anytime and anywhere!

Nowadays, cellulars are affordable to almost anyone. Calling your beloved partner, rearranging meetings just before they start or finding someone easily in a crowded place are just a¬†few of the many advantages provided by this technology. But it also has its drawbacks.¬†People expect that you need to stay on wire (almost all) around the clock. It doesn’t matter anymore if you are on holiday or enjoying your sunday’s family picnic. This development leads to people being unable to “switch-off” and generates more stress.

But the device itself has also undergone a lot of changes over its lifetime. It is not a basic phone anymore, just enabling the user to make calls and text messages. In fact, it is much more powerful than average users expect.¬†Smartphones, like the iPhone, are providing a platform to customers, highly customizable to everyone’s needs. If you get lost in a foreign town you will find your hotel easily. Just install some navigation software ¬†over the air to your smartphone, and the lovely woman’s voice, coming out of the tiny speaker, will guide you reliably to your destination.

But be aware – the sword is double-edged. Smartphones are not as easy to use as the old intuitive mobile phones. Their long lists of features are often also their doom, resulting in very complex user interaction and handling, where non digital-natives especially can’t cope that easily.

Your greatest enemy in the ocean

You might suspect that sharks, poisonous jellyfishes or crabs are the greatest natural enemies for swimmers and surfers.

Ocean-related fatality statistics, however, disprove this assumption. Underwater animals, like the scary white shark, are not the main reason for most casualties. Between five and 15 people are killed by sharks worldwide.

However, the number of casualties by rip currents ranks second after heat-related deaths. Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) estimates that between 80 and 90 people drown every year due to rip currents along Australian coastlines. They are responsible for 80 % off all surf zone rescues.

On my first day in Australia, my host-family informed me how dangerous a rip current can be. I already knew that Aussies prefer to drive on the wrong lane, but rip currents, what’s that?

A rip current, also referred to as a rip, is a moving current of water, sometimes strong or fast flowing. It will usually start near the shoreline and flow into the open deep water. It may feel like you are in a fast moving flow of water, like being in a river or you may not notice it at all.
Dragging people away from the beach, rip currents can be extremely dangerous. They often lead to drowning when swimmers attempt to fight against the current, become exhausted and begin to panic. Rips are not undertow, therefore they don’t pull people under water.

Copyright by you get caught in a rip current, don’t panic and don’t try to swim against the current. Raise your arm to call for assistance, while floating to conserve your energy. If you are confident, escape the current by swimming parallel to the beach. When free of the current, swim at an angle (away from the current) toward shore. Breaking waves can assist you back to shore.
To get a better understanding of rip currents and professional advice how to escape them just check out the SLSA and USLA websites and the following two movies.

The Aquarium of Western Australia (AQWA)

Last Saturday (21st of January 2012) was a very hot and humid day. The mercury almost hit the 40¬įC mark. I wasn’t really happy about the prospect of going down to the beach and roast in the sun like a kebap. So, I decided to go with another mate from school, Joel, to a more chilly place. And what would be more suitable as a spot in or, even better, under water like the biggest aquarium in Western Australia (AQWA). Known as the number one attraction in WA you can explore 12’000 km of WA’s coastline in just a few hundred metres.
Therefore I’ve decided to cycle to the aquarium because, as you may already know, Perth’s transportation service is &%*!#+*. Cycling up to the north was a real torture: Despite those insane wrong-way drivers I also had to cope with the heat. After 15 km and 2 litres of water I finally reached AQWA.
An absolute must see, you can explore sharks, stingrays and also very poisonous creatures in the DangerZone.

I will show you some pics here to get a better insight. You can find all the pics in my Picasa Gallery.

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I don’t care about left-hand traffic

The transportation system in Perth just ##$$%^&*, so I decided to buy me a new bicycle to commute to and from school.

But if you wanna buy a bike in a huge shopping centre like kMart or Target, you could most probably face a problem, especially as a Swiss guy.
The bikes are not assembled, you just buy a huge box with all the Lego parts inside and an assembly manual. C’mon, IKEA everywhere or what? I wouldn’t even understand the manual in German.

Wayne, two hours later I finally built my brandnew bike, which I bought for only 129 AUD, without any proper tools at all. Yes, it’s not IKEA furniture, a screwdriver doesn’t suffice.

So, very happy with my new bike, I was riding to school on the next day. And what happened, I’ve had to face a whole bunch of insane wrong-way drivers on the road.
Fortunately almost all the drivers realized their fatal mistake and stopped their cars immediately. But there was this stubborn driver in his red car, heading towards me, very determined to not turn back.

But I didn’t shrink back. Still on collision course, either he or me (and of course my beloved bike) had to give up.

You can see the result on the picture below. Booya!

WARNING: Do not use the grammar of this post as a good example of English

Meine Asia-Pacific Reise beginnt mit einem grossen Vogel

Seid gegr√ľsst.

Meine achtmonatige Backpacker Asia-Pacific Reise f√ľr das Jahr 2012 hat begonnen.

Am 30. Dezember 2011 18:40 bin ich vom Z√ľrich Flughafen gestartet.
Der erste Zwischenstopp was Frankfurt. Von dort aus bin ich dann mit der brandneuen A380-800 der Lufthansa Richtung Singapur aufgebrochen. Laut Angaben der Lufthansa, bietet ihre Version des A380 Platz f√ľr 526 Passagiere. Zertifiziert wurde das Flugzeug sogar f√ľr 853 Passagiere (wenn es nur eine Economy Klasse g√§be).
Der Flieger ist 72.73 m lang, 24.45 m hoch und hat eine Fl√ľgelspannweite von 79.75 m. Dies macht den A380 zum gr√∂ssten Passagierflugzeug der Welt. Aber das wisst ihr ja vermutlich alle, ihr habt auch Nachrichten geschaut.

Als Passagier kann man dank drei bordinternen Kameras den Flug von aussen live mitverfolgen.
Besonders eindr√ľcklich war die Kamera, hoch oben am Heck. Von dieser hohen Perspektive erscheinen Fahrzeuge wie Spielzeugautos und die Startbahn erweckt den Eindruck, dass sie nicht f√ľr den Start ausreicht, da der A380 knapp zwei Mal breiter ist.

Als der A380 nun an seiner Startposition war und das Takeoff bekam, erwartete ich ein ohrenbet√§ubendes Ger√§usch der vier Rolls-Royce Triebwerke, die f√ľr diese Phase einen Schub von knapp 130000 PS erzeugen. Aber da war kein lautes Ger√§usch zu h√∂ren, nur ein dumpfes Rauschen. W√ľrde sagen, perfekt gelungen. Leise Triebwerke, gute Isolation (in der Business und First Class sogar noch besser isoliert).
Somit konnte ich auch ein wenig schlafen (ca. 3h) auf den 12h langen Flug nach Singapur.

Aber genug geredet, hier nun einige interessante Videos zum A380.

Bilder und Erlebnisse zum Neujahr in Singapur und meiner Gastfamilie in Perth kommen noch.

HydroNet kommt in die Medien

F√ľr diejenigen, die nicht wissen um was es sich beim EU-Projekt HydroNet handelt, hier eine kurze Erkl√§rung:

Autonome Katamarane und Bojen, ausgestattet mit sensiblen Sensoren, erm√∂glichen¬†die effiziente √úberwachung der Wasserqualit√§t in Seen, Lagunen und Fl√ľssen. Eine optimierte drahtlose Kommunikationsinfrastruktur √ľbermittelt die Messdaten zur Einsatzkontrolle.

Mit Freude gebe nun ich bekannt, dass HydroNet in den folgenden Medien erwähnt wird:

Durch die Medienpr√§senz hoffen wir nat√ľrlich, dass potentielle k√ľnftige Partner auf das Projekt und die Resultate aufmerksam werden.
Nun sind es nur noch knapp drei Wochen, wo ich noch an der Hochschule Luzern arbeite bevor ich auf die lange Reise gehe.
Mit Hochdruck arbeite ich daran unser Forschungsprojekt abzuschliessen. Auch die UBICOMM 2011 Konferenz steht kurz bevor wof√ľr ich noch meinen kurzen Talk vorbereiten darf.

Erster itgirls@hslu Workshop war ein Erfolg

Der Frauenanteil ist in der Informatik leider immer noch sehr tief.
Dabei w√§ren Frauen sehr gut f√ľr diese Branche geeignet.

Viele setzen die Informatik mit dem noch weit verbreiteten (und meiner Ansicht auch falschem) Image von ungepflegten und introvertierten Nerds in Verbindung.
Dabei ist dies √ľberhaupt nicht der Fall. In der Informatik sind Kreativit√§t, Selbstkompetenz, Methodik und auch Sozialkompetenzen (Kundenkontakt etc.) gefragt. Hinter der Informatik stehen keine PC-Freaks dahinter, die tagelang im Keller vor dem PC sitzen. Es sind engagierte Pers√∂nlichkeiten, die einen vielf√§ltigen Beruf aus√ľben und Freude daran haben Herausforderungen anzupacken und diese zu meistern.

Ich bin √ľberzeugt, dass mehr Frauen in der IT-Branche einen positiven Effekt auf diese h√§tten.
Die noch von M√§nner dominierte Dom√§ne w√ľrde aufgemischt werden und es w√ľrden sich neue Synergien zwischen den beiden Geschlechtern erm√∂glichen.

Die Hochschule Luzern engagiert sich mit einem dreit√§gigen Ferienprogramm f√ľr 14- bis 16-j√§hrige Sch√ľlerinnen dem weiblichen Nachwuchs die IT n√§her zu bringen und Vorurteile ¬†aus dem Weg zu schaffen.

Das Ferienprogramm “ITgirls@hslu” besteht aus mehreren Workshops und Exkursionen und soll den Sch√ľlerinnen vermitteln, wie aufregend und vielf√§ltig Informatik sein kann.

Folgende Punkte stehen auf dem Programm:

Die Teilnahme ist kostenlos. Weitere Kurse sind f√ľr April und Oktober 2012 geplant.
Weitere Infos

Erfolgreicher Workshop

Der erste Kurs von ITgirls@hslu war schon seit längerem ausgebucht. Das Feedback der 39 Teilnehmerinnen war sehr gut. Sie hatten sichtlich ihren Spass und waren begeistert von der Vielfalt, die in der IT steckt.

Auch die Medien wurden aufmerksam und berichteten:

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HydroNet and the Babel Routing Protocol

This year I’ve had the task to develop a subset implementation of the Babel routing protocol for¬†low-power wireless devices running the TinyOS operating system. This was done to satisfy the communication requirements (especially to overcome long distances over the air)¬†for the¬†HydroNet¬†project. At the beginning of this article I will give you an overview of this amazing project. Afterwards I will explain you the¬†functionality¬†and advantages of Babel, which was primarily designed for wireless mesh networks.

HydroNet – The Guardians of Water

HydroNet is aimed at designing and developing an autonomous network of sensors to improve the monitoring of water quality in rivers, lakes and lagoons. This autonomous network consists of unmanned catamarans and buoys. Each catamaran or buoy (I will call them simply nodes) is equipped with optical, chemo- and bio-sensors to detect water pollutants like mercury, cadmium, oil and many others. The mission area is 10 x 3 km for open waters (sea, ocean) and 15 km for closed waters (creeks, rivers). Mission and measurement data is exchanged wirelessly between nodes and to the base station at the coast in real-time. Communication problems arise in the mission area due to the long distances, frequency regulations, reflections and obstacles (like ships, river bends). A communication infrastructure had to be built to overcome those challenges.

HydroNet is supported by the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) from the European Commission and involves ten partners from six countries. Two competence centers at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts were assigned to build the communication infrastructure. The CC Electronics center designed and developed the hardware and the D3S (where I work) center implemented the firmware including the routing protocol.

But first lets look at the video to get a better impression of the project:

[youtube width=”480″ height=”390″][/youtube]

The communication infrastructure consists mainly of the following components:

  • self-made antenna
  • TI MSP430 ultra-low-power¬†micro-controller (10K RAM, 48K ROM, running @ 8MHz)
  • Semtech¬†XE1205 radio transceiver operating in the 443MHz ISM band
  • An amplifier to boost the signals up to 2.5 Watt,¬†with overload protection
  • TinyOS, an open-source operating system
  • the firmware (written in nesC), interacts with the node’s main computer, handling the radio communication and routing

The hardware components are designed for low-power usage.¬†This is necessary to extend the battery lifetime of the nodes and increase the mission time without human intervention. Of course low-power is generally coupled to limited resources. Therefore you can’t add any extra sugar to your firmware and you need to develop very economically.
The amplifier and the antenna enable to overcome distances up to 3km above the sea (antenna 2m above sea level), but it’s still not enough to cover the whole mission area. Therefore a routing-protocol came into play to allow nodes to act as repeaters. Intermediate nodes on a path can forward data packets to the destination node which is out of range from the originator.

Babel, route me

As partly mentioned, several challenges needed to be achieved by the routing protocol to maintain a reliable communication within the participants:

  • minimal operational data, like routing tables, buffered messages (10K RAM)
  • small footprint (48K ROM)
  • low processing load (only 8MHz)
  • especially designed for wireless mesh networks
  • minimal and efficient bandwidth utilization (avoid collisions, routing-loops, routing overhead)
  • react fast to mobility changes (the catamarans are moving permanently)
  • low power consumption (the radio + amplifier are very hungry)
  • support research & development

Our evaluation of different routing protocols led us to Babel, because its features looked very promising to fulfill the project requirements. Juliusz Chroboczekhas specified Babel in the RFC 6126, which changed its state from draft to experimental in April 2011. He also has developed a stable daemon of Babel (babeld). More information, sources and binaries for Debian/Ubuntu and also for OpenWRT can be found on his official page. Also his slides from a talk about Babel explain well the protocol.

I will summarize some of the main, and in my opinion also very impressive, features of the protocol:

  • distance-vector routing protocol (less computational complexity, less overhead, saves memory)
    • babeld has only 8000 lines of code
  • proactive protocol, with reactive features
    • speeds up convergence by reactively requesting new routing information when a node suffers from route starvation
  • based on the ideas in¬†DSDV,¬†AODV¬†and Cisco’s¬†EIGRP
  • designed to work in wired and wireless mesh network simultaneously
  • runs on¬†IPv4 and IPv6 simultaneously
  • feasibility condition guarantees loop-freedom
  • senses link quality for computing route metrics using variant of the ETX algorithm (more adequate for wireless links)
  • also radio-frequency aware to avoid¬†interference

The subset implementation

Of course, some of the features from Babel are not required or appropriate for the HydroNet project (like IPv6, operation in wired networks). Therefore I designed and have developed a subset implementation of the Babel routing protocol for the TinyOS operating system, to fit the needs for HydroNet.

I’ve described the considerations and¬†optimizations in the Work in Progress paper Babel multi-hop routing for TinyOS low-power devices, which will be published at the UBICOMM 2011.

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Sind Z√ľrichs D√∂nerl√§den rassistisch?

3 Uhr morgens in Z√ľrich. Die Party ist vorbei und etwas Energie tanken w√ľrde nicht schaden.

Also gehe ich in einen D√∂nerladen. Doch statt dem Gebratenen Reis (Nasi Goreng) gibts einen Gebratenen Nazi ūüôā Aber seht doch am besten selbst.

Nazi Goreng

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