Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas in Antalya with Tchibo Resien

We booked a trip to Antalya during the Christmas week in 2013 with Tchibo Reisen. The prices were decent (€1800 for 7 days/nights for 2 adults and 2 kids with airfare from Stuttgart, airport transfers in Turkey and hotel room with meals and drinks included) and my wife wanted to get away for at least one week during the German Christmas break.

We booked really early (in September) and though we had confirmation that the trip was booked, the only other info we had received until a week before the trip was that the hotel was under renovation. Not exactly welcome news but there was nothing we could do about it as the email containing the info made clear that cancelling was not an option. A week before the trip airline tickets and all vouchers arrived in the mail.

The vouchers had a couple of unwelcome surprises. One of the selling points of the trip was that train tickets to the Stuttgart airport were included as part of the trip. Technically this was true. However, the flight to Antalya was so early in the morning that it was not possible to get to the airport with the train. It was not an option to take the train the day before either as the train voucher was only good for the day of the flight. Another surprise was that the flight back was at 6 in the morning. Meaning we ended up having to wake up at 2:30 to catch the transfer to the airport. That being said, the flights on Freebird Airlines were well organised, and everything about the flights was hassle free.

The Antalya airport was also a good experience, considering I was expecting an Indian airport type experience. Its a relatively compact airport and there are no long treks. We disembarked, got our luggage, headed outside to the kiosk for H&H touristik (which was organising the transfer) which was directly outside. Our names were on a sheet with the bus number that would take us to our hotel. We jumped on the bus, waited for everyone to arrive and about 45 minutes after we got off the plane were at the hotel. It was all super easy.

We had chosen to stay at Hotel Titanic. We got to the hotel, checked in took about 10 minutes with minimal waiting. I had read reviews about Hotel Titanic on Trip Advisor and though most of the reviews were great, there were people who hated the place (I am a pessimist more than an optimist and so was not entirely sure what to expect) The hotel was great. It was very clean overall, our rooms were in great shape, the bathrooms were super, though our room was a bit on the small side for 2 adults and 2 kids (but that came down to what we were willing to pay) We also had a pretty large balcony that faced the sea side of the hotel which we unfortunately did not use too much since it was the end of December.

The food at the hotel was also really good. There was a really good salad bar to choose from for every meal, and even though I abhor salads in general, I willingly ate salads for several meals. The real plus was that there was no fighting with the kids as the what they wanted to eat. There was always something that fit their fancy. The only downside to the food situation is that it is buffet style and I had a really tough time holding back from over eating. I gained at least 2 kilos during the week we spent there. I also had not expected that alcohol would be included but we never had to pay for anything. Beer and wine was offered with dinner and the bars on the ground floor looked like they had most of the popular hard drinks (again at no extra cost) There was also a cafe on the ground floor that had sandwiches and desserts in case you were hungry outside of regular meal times.

The hotel had a good indoor pool, a few different saunas, and a turkish bath, all free for use. Since we were here during low season, none of the facilities were ever full. We felt like we always had a run of the place. There was a great fitness room with free weights and machines which I used every day. There was also an olympic style outdoor pool with lanes that looked like it would be great for doing laps. If I had known how to swim, I definitely would've given it a shot but I never saw anyone in there.



A part of the package was a free tour into Antalya, which included the requisite stops at a jewelry place as well as a leather store where there was hardly any pressure to buy anything. Those were a bit annoying but it also included a free trip into the city, a boat ride around the harbor and a tour guide who was friendly and really interesting to listen to. For subsequent trips into Antalya, it turned out that a bus (LC 07) went right past the hotel and it hit all the tourist sights: Downtown Antalya, the archeology museum (I am not into archeology by any means but this museum was downright fascinating)


TerraCity Mall, the weekly Saturday market in Lara......etc etc. Be warned though that the bus is pretty much packed during normal hours. Expect to stand in a bus packed to the brim.


We also organised a trip to Aspendos via the taxi stand that is directly in front of the hotel. We paid €70 for the 45 minute ride there and back as well as for the driver to wait there for about 2 hours. I really enjoyed wandering around Aspendos (which is far more than just the amphitheater) and the drive there and back gave me more of a sense of what Turkey is like outside of the big city.

The weather was pretty good during the week we were there. It was generally sunny and warm in the afternoons, except for one afternoon mid week where it was overcast (which made it a bit chilly) and on the last evening, there was a pretty extreme thunderstorm that started in the late evening and was still going on when we flew out on Sunday morning. Also on the last evening, there was an earthquake of magnitude 5.8. I was in the pool with the kids and did not notice a thing. My wife came by and said there was a lot of shaking in the rooms but nothing more. Everyone was a bit frazzled but nothing more happened.

I really enjoyed the trip but I am not sure I would do the trip again as an all inclusive package. This has nothing to do with any problem we faced. It seemed like 75% of everyone at the hotel was over 60 and/or was just there for the food/drink/shopping. It was a very inactive bunch of people, who also seemed like they had little interest in experiencing any of the culture that was on offer. I had conversations with a few of the guests and most were about where we were from, rather than where we were at. No one seemed interested in talking about Turkey, at least apart from the shopping on offer. That annoyed me more than anything else. And a lot. In the end though, this trip was perfect for us at the time we took it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Linux: Installing from local deb files

In the event that you need to use aptitude to install from local deb files, try the following:
> cd
> apt-ftparchive --md5 packages ./ | gzip > ./Packages.gz
> echo "deb file:/ /" >> /etc/apt/sources.list
> aptitude update
Now you can do aptitude upgrade, aptitude install etc

Monday, December 16, 2013

rrdtool create using python in Ubuntu 10.04 raises "TypeError: argument 3 must be string"

I was trying example 2 from this page: http://oss.oetiker.ch/rrdtool/prog/rrdpython.en.html#___top

It was working perfectly for me in Ubuntu12.04 but when I tried to port my code to Ubuntu 10.04, I got the following error:
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "test.py.orig", line 14, in
    'RRA:AVERAGE:0.5:6:10' )
TypeError: argument 5 must be string


Wasted a lot of time trying to solve it before this finally worked:
rrdtool.create( 'speed.rrd',
              '--start', '920804400',
      '-s', '60',
              'DS:speed1:COUNTER:600:U:U',
              'DS:speed2:COUNTER:600:U:U',
              'DS:speed3:COUNTER:600:U:U',
              'RRA:AVERAGE:0.5:1:24',
              'RRA:AVERAGE:0.5:6:10' )

Hopefully, it saves someone a bit of time

Sunday, September 08, 2013

German Election campaign getting down and dirty

The German election campaign is in full swing at the moment, judging by the plethora of election posters that line the B31 at the moment. The RDP, in my opinion, have the most risque poster that I have seen this year.

If you can't tell what that is, or rather can't beleive your eyes, they are four buttocks in various colors. The caption is "Which ass are you going to elect this year?"

REP's website has an even more risque music video (link to the youtube upload):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJZmydFB6ug&feature=c4-overview&list=UUXrwVUL2IiYJtP5leWd2wjw

They are not a popular party in Germany (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Republicans_(Germany)) but have scored some PR points in my book with their chutzpah.

Growing up in Kerala, seeing the communist parties contest general elections was nothing out of the ordinary. It was standard fare of Kerala (and Bengal) politics. However, it was an enormous shock to see the Marxist Leninist Party of Germany posters hanging from the street lamps near Freidrichshafen.
The caption states "For the liberation of women" Obviously, given what has happened with the banking crisis, the problems in Greece, Spain, Ireland etc, there needs to be some rethinking if the way capitalism works today is in the best interests of the majority of Germans.
However, it seems to me that the MLPD need to understand what happened in 1989 in Berlin and if anybody is in dire need of rebranding, it is the MLPD, which literally stands for Marxist Leninist Partei Deutschlands. People who are completely comfortable with their platform will still feel unease voting for them given the history of governments peddling Marxism and Leninism in this part of the world. Even the ex-communists have realized this fundamental fact and rebranded themselves, Die Linke (The Left), acknowledging no debt to Communism whatsoever.

The CDU, the party on power and the odds on favourite to win again, have made an odd choice for their super large poster of Angela Merkel that sits between right outside of Ittendorf.
Germans are famously creeped out by people smiling (among the reasons cited for Walmart's exit from Germany was their insistance that the cashiers smile at the customers which creeped Germans out to such a degree that they stopped shopping there) but I find the half smile even creepier. It looks much creepier super sized.

The party that seems to have their act together (only as far as election posters on the B31 are concerned let me point out) are the Green Party. One example
This one says "People before banks. How about you?" They frame their arguments on a personal level, frame it as a conversation and all the posters are people (and one animal) outside (http://www.gruene.de/wahl-2013/gruene-wahlplakate-zur-bundestagswahl-2013.html)
In contrast, there are the poster from Die Linke, which seem to be shoving their platform down zour throat. (http://www.die-linke.de/wahlen/kampagne/themenplakate/)

In the end, this election matters not a whole lot to me. I may as well be living in North Korea seeing how much effect I have in choosing the government (none) I have also been kicked off the rolls in Texas, and am having a difficult time being reinstated as a voter. However, I can walk into any gun store in the Lone Star State and purchase a firearm without any problem. It is true what Clinton said. This is not to purely rip on the Texas. I love the state. I love the back country in Brazos county. I think Big Bend is among the most beautiful places on earth. And the cities of Texas, Dallas, Houston, and Austin are among the most diverse places anywhere on earth.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cheap great German cuisine in Friedrichshafen

This is more or less a hole in the wall that is right in the middle of the city but not very obvious.
Its called Naturkost am Buchhornplatz (http://www.bio-center-fn.de/)


https://maps.google.de/maps?q=Am+Buchhornplatz+1,+88045+Friedrichshafen&hl=de&ll=47.650945,9.482092&spn=0.002974,0.008256&hnear=Buchhornplatz+1,+88045+Friedrichshafen&t=h&z=18 

There are actually two restaurants (or counters) inside, plus its got a small selection of fresh organic food. One counter only serves vegetarian fare and their salads are fantanstic. The other counter that is at the back of the store, serves typical south German cuisine, with a different menu at least on Saturdays (I have only made it on Saturdays) The food is really tasty and surprisingly good. It is only open for lunch.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Getting PocketSphinx working

I read a lot of how-to's on how to get pocketsphinx functional on Ubuntu 10.04 but I always got stuck at some point.
These are the two failures I could never get around: 
1. Failed to open audio device(/dev/dsp): No such file or directory


2. ERROR: "acmod.c", line 88: Must specify -mdef or -hmm

After a lot of trying different things out, here are the steps that allowed me to get a raw file transcribed.

aptitude install python-pocketsphinx
aptitude install pocketsphinx-hmm-wsj1
aptitude install pocketsphinx-lm-wsj

The ps_test.py file will be located in /usr/share/doc/python-pocketsphinx/examples
Change the first line to
decoder = ps.Decoder(hmm="/usr/share/pocketsphinx/model/hmm/wsj1",
                    lm="/usr/share/pocketsphinx/model/lm/wsj/wlist5o.3e-7.vp.tg.lm.DMP",
                    dict="/usr/share/pocketsphinx/model/lm/wsj/wlist5o.dic",
                    fwdtree="yes",
                    fwdflat="yes",
                    bestpath="no")

Change line 2 to:
fh = open("test.raw", "rb")


And generate a test.raw file and put it in /usr/share/doc/python-pocketsphinx/examples

Running python ps_test.py will still generate an error but you should get a first transcription:


Decoded 35136 samples
THE DEMAND JUMPED OVER THE MILAN (000000000 -40091455)
P(FORWARD|GO) = -4.346504, 2
INFO: ngram_search.c(1046): lattice start node .0 end node .207
INFO: ps_lattice.c(1225): Normalizer P(O) = alpha(
:207:218) = -2837676
INFO: ps_lattice.c(1263): Joint P(O,S) = -2853722 P(S|O) = -16046
P(S|O) = -1.604786e+00
FORWARD is:
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "ps_test.py", line 30, in
    print "FORWARD is:", forward.word, forward.sf, forward.fef, forward.lef, forward.prob
NameError: name 'forward' is not defined


My raw file had the phrase 'The man jumped over the moon'
It was transcribed to 'THE DEMAND JUMPED OVER THE MILAN'


Changing hmm to hub4opensrc.cd_continuous_8gau, lm to language_model.arpaformat.DMP and adding the word MOON to the dictionary got me to the following transcription: 'THE MEN JUMPED OVER THE MOON'

Not bad, IMHO

Monday, August 27, 2012

ttservctl fails to start with error 'Existing process'

If you try to start Tokyo Tyrant and it gives you the following error:

root@test-tools:/etc/init# ttservctl start
Starting the server of Tokyo Tyrant
Existing process: 1255

Then try the following

> rm /var/ttserver/pid

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