Category: Life

A week in Jozi

chaos at OR Tambo International

Day 1 – Friday: Chaos at the airport. Power failures and jetlag.

trading during power outage

Day 2 – Saturday: More power failures, this time in Sandton City (one of the biggest mall complexes in Joburg). Wandering through the shops feels like the dimly lit opening scenes from a post-apocalyptic epic where only the large chains have managed to stay alive. Also, the clothes are ridiculously expensive. G-Star jeans, admittedly not the cheapest in the world, are double the price. Started the drinks off at Schwabing, that great old German ale house, which makes edible pizza. The Bowling Club at Zoo Lake is more popular than ever, having graduated to serving something called Pimpjuice along with the usual complement of cheap beers. Bombay Blues has lethargic service, fantastic food and difficulty calculating money from various sources. Ran into many old friends at Fuel Cafe & Carfax.


Day 3 – Sunday: Breakfast at the Melrose Arch Hotel was spectacular. Crumpets and pancakes made to order, a surfeit of fresh fruit and enough cheese to kill a small pony made me very happy. Capping it all off with a shot of tequila was a completely unexpected, but not unpleasant end. The wedding was fantastic, down to the last speech, it was a wonderful celebration with friends, family and last minute dates that was perfectly pitched and paced. Pics forthcoming.


Day 4 – Monday: Ugh. Too much happy vibes at the wedding made me very hungover. Missed breakfast. Almost lost our car keys. Made it back to the city in time to meet David Frankel at JB’s Corner. Spent the afternoon exploring Muti shops on Diagonal St. Bought a pair of sandals made out of car tires. Green factor – high. Comfort – low. Also bought some awesome material for future projects. Watch this space.

Kim, Ethan & Jason

Day 5 – Tuesday: Met Matt Buckland, Jason, Kim & Ethan Norwood-Young for lunch in Rosebank. ‘Twas tramezzinicious. Snuck into Kesh’s offices before being picked up by Mignonne for a reunion with Ruth. Dinner at Bottega with Brother Mike, Melinda, Tyrone, Noo and Emilio.

Melinda, Mike & Brother Mike.

David & Frances (inverted)

Day 6 – Wednesday: Frances picked me up from Alba’s place, transported all my baggage to Kesh’s place, then we spent a lovely morning checking out David’s new gallery and driving around Craighall Park. Lunch at Corner Cafe, coffee at Vida e Caffe in Parktown North. Dinner was at Fino with loads of friends.

Claudine in her garden.

Johan in the office

Day 7 – Thursday: Met up with the amazing Claudine and Emma, her wonderful daughter. Claudine took me to a great little curio shop in Parkview, where we met Johan Schepers who whisked me off to 44 Stanley for lunch. Frances’ car packed it in that afternoon, but luckily, Wouter came along and took me to Norwood for a stroll and a chat.

Trattoria Renato

Day 8 – Friday: Sam and James took me for one last lunch at Trattoria Renato in Emmarentia – probably my favourite Italian restaurant in Johannesburg. I worked here in my last year of high school – until I was asked to leave for putting in hair extensions which “terrified” the patrons. The menu has been unchanged since the 80’s and the food is as fantastic as I remembered it. Highly recommended.

Gentlemen, start your App Engines

App Engine

Google’s new App Engine looks like an all-in-one version of Amazon’s cloud computing stack with a few differences. Here’s how things stack up:

Amazon Web Services (AWS) vs Google’s App Engine
EC2 virtual server, use any language. Dynamic webserving, using Python
S3 persistent storage Google File System (GFS) – data storage
SimpleDB – database BigTable – database with queries, sorting, transactions using SQL-like language
Send mail using exim / sendmail / whatever on EC2 Google APIs for authenticating users and sending email
Add EC2 instances as required Automatic scaling and load balancing

I’ll need to dig in a little deeper to this before I can declare an outright winner, but I do like the first app I played with – the humble To-Done app pictured below:

ToDone App

Learn more about it from Google’s official blog, Techcrunch, SAI and many others.

Camp for iPhone Developers

Iphone Developers

I’m helping to organize a Barcamp-style iPhone Development hackathon at Brooklyn Polytechnic later this month. Our official blurb describes the event as follows:

iPhoneDevCampNYC will bring together iPhone developers, explorers, professionals, and owners, to share the current state and their visions for the future direction of development on the iPhone. Topics may include – but are not limited to – learning the SDK, hacking your own phone, the limitations of the SDK, iPhone entrepreneurship, and software demos. There will be some computers with the SDK installed available for use during the event.

What can you talk about at iPhoneDevCampNYC?

You can talk about anything related to iPhone development, from code to business practices, all is welcome. If you have a topic to discuss, a problem to pose, or a session to present, check out the sessions/schedule page on the wiki and then register to attend. (the password is c4mp)

Where is iPhoneDevCampNYC?

Polytechnic University Brooklyn Campus
Rogers Hall (building A on the map)
start in RH215 (there will be signs)
Six Metrotech Center, Brooklyn, NY 11201

(iPhoneDevCampNYC is not affiliated with Apple, Inc.)

Swing on by if you’re interested in hacking, chatting or just generally geeking out about iPhones.

Thanks for the image Niall Kennedy!

Hacking a Facebook app != hacking Facebook

Silicon Alley Insider has a story with a we’re-really-not-trying-that-hard-but-sensationalism-just-comes-naturally-to-us headline boldly proclaiming that they can teach you How To Hack Facebook In 51 Seconds. Take a look a the video below and see what you think.

Wrong! Yeah, that’s what I thought too. That’s not Facebook. That’s a Facebook app. A custom application, written by an external developer who really doesn’t care about security a whole lot. There’s a big difference between hacking Facebook (exposing contact or personal details, gaining access to passwords etc) and hacking a Facebook application (in this case, changing your friend’s mood). Yes, that may cause some strange questions from your friends (“Why are you feeling like murdering kittens?”), but one poorly written app does not mean that the security of Facebook as a whole has been compromised. Great headline, totally inaccurate subject matter.

The source for this story was probably this review of the app from a day earlier which links to the Youtube video and highlights this exact problem in the environment where it is actually meaningful and would be most effective (if people actually bothered to read reviews before installing apps). The original poster even accurately characterized this as a hackable app, not a core breach of the mothership.

Here’s a fix for SAI – update the title to be “How To Hack the Facebook Moods App In 51 Seconds”. Still fairly interesting, and about 100% more accurate. This time the discussion could even focus on more relevant questions, like whether Facebook should be certifying apps once they hit a certain size.

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