Speeding up your Rooted Android phone

Posted in General, Technology on January 4th, 2013 by Deems

I know, it’s been a long time since this blog was updated, but I’ve found something so juicy and newsworthy I found a reason to add a new blogpost.

So here goes, answer the following simple questions:

  • Do you have an Android-based phone?
  • Have you rooted your phone?
  • Does it lag when starting or switching between apps?

If you answered no to either of the first two questions, move along, nothing to see here. However, if you answered yes then this post is for you!

I was browsing my RSS feed, which among other topics, includes the Phandroid site feed and I spotted an interesting article about an app the claims to remove the lag on all Android phones.

Now, with most apps that claim to do miracles, you need to take them with a pinch of salt, and even more so, if you have to pay for said app. However, Google’s app store policy of 15 minutes after purchase for refunds made me less hesitant to try this out, as well as the R12 (ZAR) app cost.

It’s a small app, with only one permission (run at boot) so nothing scary there. The reviews so far have pretty much all been glowing. Good start.

So I purchased the app and had it download and install on my phone. It’s not very complicated. Once you open the app, you enable the entropy seeder and check the start automatically on boot option. That’s it, you’re good to go.

Seeder - Screenshot

So I switched back to my home screen and started firing up some apps. My phone has been on all day, I’ve been using it (no reboot) so some might say well apps are cached in RAM. But even so, they were quicker to switch to as well as being much more responsive. The notoriously laggy Facebook application (which is now native, in parts) was quicker to switch to and use. Okay, I thought – good start.

Now, how about a cold boot? So I rebooted the phone and immediately noticed that the pin and lock-screens were quicker to appear, and were responsive even during at-boot applications which were loading in memory (of which is Onavo for 3G traffic monitoring, Go Launcher EX to replace the standard launcher, Usage Timelines for showing CPU usage and Lookout for malware scanning and lost phone detection).

The usual lag during boot waiting for the launcher to become responsive wasn’t there. I could quickly fire up Facebook, Whatsapp, UberSocial, the default Camera app, the photo gallery browser and Astro’s file explorer were quick on the draw. Even switching back to the home screen and opening up GO SMS to view my SMS/MMS (which, while feature rich, is much laggier than the stock-standard SMS viewer) was near instant.

I had some app updates pending that I still wanted to install and during their install (which, again is notoriously laggy on this phone, not only because of the installing, but also post install scanning by Lookout and AVG are usually blocking processes), the phone was responsive during the install and post-install process and was usable, which it most certainly wasn’t before. Two thumbs up for that.

Some might say it’s the placebo effect. I dare you try it yourself and prove me wrong. I use my phone often enough to know when there’s a distinct difference in load/lag times of the various apps I use.

The team at LCIS that did the research and testing within the Android OS to figure this out and build this app deserve the props.

Seeder app – recommended.

In case anyone is wondering – my phone is a rooted HTC Desire running Cyanogen Mod’s CM7.2.0.1 (built on Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread)

If you go through the comments on the app in the Play store as well as on the XDA forum post you’ll see this performance improvement is more noticeable in older versions of the Android OS (i.e pre Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean). So if you’re running the latest stock Android OS (or a custom ROM built on top of the latest AOSP) you probably won’t see much, if any, improvement.

UPDATE: I’ve tried this on my wife’s HTC Wildfire (which is unbelievably painful to use because of how slow it is, but someone she manages) and it has made a noticeable improvement almost eliminating all lag between switching applications, back to the desktop and opening new apps.


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Potato and Eggplant Crop

Posted in Family, General on March 10th, 2012 by Deems

A few months ago we found some unused potatoes in the cupboard that had turned green and started sprouting.  Instead of throwing them away as they’re no longer edible, we stuck them in the ground in our veggie garden.

And today I dug them up as most of the potato plants had wilted and died off and this was what was hiding beneath the surface. Okay, they’re not your usual store-bought sized potatoes but still – the kids will enjoy them I’m sure.

And not to forget our six aubergine/eggplants that we planted as seedlings are finally bearing fruit – so guess what’s included with dinner tonight – yum.


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A Cow based Economics Lesson

Posted in Funny, General on December 1st, 2011 by Deems

This is excellent – this one never gets old, even almost 15 years later – it just evolves.

[via Sam Aminisam on Google+]

A Cow based Economics Lesson:

SOCIALISM
You have 2 cows.
You give one to your neighbor.

COMMUNISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and gives you some milk.

FASCISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and sells you some milk.

NAZISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and shoots you.

BUREAUCRATISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away.

TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM
You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.

ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND (VENTURE) CAPITALISM
You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.
The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.
The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.
You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States , leaving you with nine cows.
No balance sheet provided with the release.
The public then buys your bull.

SURREALISM
You have two giraffes.
The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

AN AMERICAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
Later, you hire a consultant to analyze why the cow has dropped dead.

A FRENCH CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You go on strike, organize a riot, and block the roads, because you
want three cows.

A JAPANESE CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
You then create a clever cow cartoon image called a Cowkimona and market it worldwide.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are.
You decide to have lunch.

A SWISS CORPORATION
You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.
You charge the owners for storing them.

A CHINESE CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.
You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

AN INDIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You worship them.

A BRITISH CORPORATION
You have two cows.
Both are mad.

AN IRAQI CORPORATION
Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
You tell them that you have none.
No-one believes you, so they bomb the ** out of you and invade your country.
You still have no cows, but at least you are now a Democracy.

AN AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
Business seems pretty good.
You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

A NEW ZEALAND CORPORATION
You have two cows.
The one on the left looks very attractive.

 


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VOTD: Voca People (a cappella group)

Posted in General on November 2nd, 2011 by Deems

If you know me, or follow this blog (which, I must admit has been in sparse in new posts the past, ahem, seven months) you’ll know that I enjoy, and promote, a cappella music and groups.

So last night I spotted this one among many Facebook status updates. They’re called the Voca People, and according to their website, they come from a planet, just beyond the Sun where all their communication comes in the form of music and singing. They seem to have been around for a couple years now, but this is the first I’ve heard of or seen them. According to the Wikipedia page, they hail from Israel.

Don’t be taken back by their cheesy looking website but rather have a look, and listen, to their performance. Looking at their schedule it looks like they’re doing some international tours, hope they make a plan to visit us in South Africa as well (hint, hint).

 


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Video Parody: Saturday kicks Friday’s ass

Posted in Funny, General on March 20th, 2011 by Deems

So, unless you’ve been living under a rock or completely disconnected from the internet and not spoken to anyone in the last couple of weeks – you’ve probably heard of Rebecca Black and her debut music video called Friday.

Her video has amassed over 25 million views – no, it’s not because it’s that good – on the contrary, it’s because it’s *that* bad. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look below – if you have, I beg of you, save yourself and don’t click play but read further. Her auto-tuned voice sounds so bad, I can just imagine what her voice sounds like unaltered.

So Brian Haner (if you don’t know is a stand-up and legendary guitarist who also joins Jeff Dunham on his shows as Guitar Guy) put together a parody video (taking a stab at Charlie Sheen by the sounds of it too). His is much better, and funnier, for all the good reasons.


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VOTD: Hot wheels 3D projection mapping

Posted in General on March 17th, 2011 by Deems

One of the best 3D projection mapping presentations I’ve seen so far, must have been great to see it in person. [via CherryFlava]


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VOTD: Volkswagen Commercial – The Force

Posted in Funny, General on February 3rd, 2011 by Deems

A brilliantly funny and cute commercial from Volkswagen – have a look below. Thanks Red for the link.


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Family Vacation – January 2011

Posted in Family, General, Photography on January 21st, 2011 by Deems

WARNING: Yes, this is a long post, I know, you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to – I just felt like sharing it with those interested in what we got up to – photos of our trip and what we encountered along the way are included below.

Before the vacation

It’s been almost five years since the last time we took a family vacation – don’t get me wrong it’s not been no time off in the last five years – we’ve made the most of the odd long weekend here and there the last few years and almost always took the week between Christmas and New year off – but it’s been that long since we actually went away, really away, not just an hour’s drive.

2010 has been a busy year, a really busy year. So much so that I don’t think I would have been able to face a new year without a break, a decent break. So after a little planning and calculating we planned another trip to Knysna again – staying at Monk’s Caravan Park.

Day 1 – Wed 5 Jan 2011

Dina packed the suitcases and car the night before so that we didn’t have to rush to do it in the morning and managed to leave the house just after 8am – I wasn’t too worried about leaving too early since we had air-con in the car (which almost ended up being a hire-car as I was worried I wouldn’t get my new car before our trip) and most of the traffic would be inbound into Cape Town while we were travelling outbound. We opted for the N2 instead of the more scenic back roads (like the R62) since it was the most direct and quickest (kids get grumpy quickly and easily, even with two boxes full of toys and a Netbook to watch movies on).

The halfway point was Heidelberg (about 240km from Cape Town) but we stopped at a farm stall about 50km or so first that everyone could have a bathroom break. Arriving in Heidelberg we stopped at the Engen 1-Stop (Garage) to eat brunch at the Wimpy.

Next stop – Knysna. The drive from Mosselbay to somewhere between George and Wilderness (town before Knysna) was completely covered in a thick fog-bank. We arrived in Knysna (470km from Cape Town) just before 2pm and checked in (Dina arranged the same cabin as last time).

The outside temp was about 28C so it was a foregone conclusion that the next thing was unpacking the car into the cabin, popping into town to buy some groceries and changing into swimming trunks as the kids couldn’t wait to get into the pool, which was probably warmer than most people’s bath water, nevertheless refreshing. After spending almost four hours in the pool we dried off so that I could make a fire and braai some spare-ribs.

The evening was ended off with some movies before heading off to bed.

Day 2 – Thu 6 Jan 2011

After a lazy start to the morning we headed off to the Knysna Waterfront to check out the different ferries and decided on the Featherbed Nature Reserve ferry trip (good thing because we got there about 5 minutes before launch time at 10am). It consists of a guided ferry trip along the Knysna lagoon from the harbour on the eastern side across to near the heads and the estuary and mooring on the western head just outside the Featherbed Restaurant.

From here we were driven through the reserve up to a look-out point for photos, where we could see across to the other head (eastern side) and across the lagoon to see the rest of Knysna, Thesen Island and Leisure Island. We were then taken further up along the mountain to our trail starting point. From here we were guided on a leisurely stroll through the forest along a 2.2 km route snaking its way back to the restaurant. Approximately 400m from the restaurant (and end point of the trail) there was an optional detour (120 steps down) to the cave at the water’s edge. Then the same 120 steps back up (Melissa and I opted to go that route while Dina and Rebecca carried on towards the restaurant). We caught up with them about 150m from the restaurant and then sat down for a very welcome (and needed in that heat) cold drink and buffet.

After a very filling and scrumptious lunch we had some time before the ferry took us back to the harbour and we took the kids down to the beach to cool off with their feet in the water (which mind you was pretty chilly, not as cold as the Atlantic, but cool nevertheless).

About 1:30pm we all boarded the ferry once again for our journey back. Once back at the waterfront we headed back to our cabin to change and hop into the pool once again. Dina took the kids up to the pool and Rebecca started getting adventurous by exchanging her water-wings for an inflatable ring (one of the other kids in the pool had a bunch of inflatable stuff that the kids borrowed).

I had just walked up to join Dina by the side of the pool, but I had not changed into my swimming trunks. Instinctively though, as I sat down I took my mobile and cabin keys out of my pockets and put them down on the table as I sat down next to Dina. Like I said, Rebecca, for one, was becoming more and more comfortable about being in the water and swimming (she’s been taking once a week group lessons for almost two years now – I attended one of those lessons and they don’t last more than about 10 minutes, since they’re in a big group) so it wasn’t more than about 10 minutes after I sat down that Rebecca (who was merrily drifting around near the deeper end of the pool now) slipped out of the inflatable ring and under water.

Now in all the times we’ve swam with the kids at other family members’ and friends’ pools, Rebecca hasn’t once showed us what she’s learnt – she just always flat out refuses and wants to swim with her water-wings on. Of course, instinct kicked in (remember I had already subconsciously prepared myself by taking out valuables from my pockets earlier) and bolted off and jumped into the pool right next to her. But by the time my feet hit the water, Rebecca had calmly kicked her way to the surface, her head bobbing above the water line and breathing normally – her instinct and lessons had kicked in too! She wasn’t scared, she wasn’t crying, she was bloody well smiling at me and laughing – silly dad with his clothes on in the pool. I caught a few of the parents off-guard at how quick my reactions were as they were re-telling the events to family members joining them later on.

From here on in, Rebecca (oh yeah, she’s only 4 and a half now) became increasingly confident about swimming without her wings, showing us how she takes a breath (and sometimes not) puts her head down under water and swims like a bloody fish for a couple meters at a time, sometimes stopping and other times just pausing for another breath, and repeats the process again. Yup, our kid can swim! She even takes her water-wings now, throws them as far as she can in the water and then jumps in from the side of the pool to swim after them.

We’ve been wanting to get Melissa to also attend formal swimming classes but never find an available space at the same place where Rebecca goes (offered as an extra mural activity at the crèche) but Melissa has always swam whenever we’ve swam (with Polly-otter or water wings) since she was about 18 months old so she’s well used to the water and comfortable in it, as long as she has her floaties.

Melissa is 8 and a half and of course you can imagine the ego bruising one feels when one’s younger sister (four years younger than you) is merrily swimming without water wings, while you do. So it wasn’t more than a few minutes after I joined them (clothes were already wet after all) that Melissa wanted to try and swim without her water wings on. It took a little coaxing for her to fully trust that I wouldn’t let her sink or if she did go under to quickly pull her back up.

I tell you by end of the afternoon even Melissa was swimming with her head in the water, albeit only in the shallow end and only half of the short length of the pool. From now on, I had to have another pair of eyes in the back of my head because now both my kids’ confidence in the pool was growing at an exponential pace. At the same time I’m not too concerned because after all, this is what I wanted to happen – they need to learn to be aware of what they are capable of doing in the water and know that should they fall in be able to surface and swim to the side to safety – for me swimming isn’t just something you might do one day, it’s a necessary life skill (there are just way too many incidents in the news of kids drowning in pools and dams in South Africa).

The evening was ended off with some hot-dogs for supper, quite a few hands of Uno, a movie and then off to bed.

Day 3 – Fri 7 Jan 2011

Another lazy start to the day, we are on vacation after all, we headed out to the Wolf Sanctuary (about 5km outside Plettenberg Bay) after breakfast. It was a scorcher of a day with the mercury sitting at 38C – you walked out into the sunlight and your body just instantly begins sweating.

Luckily there’re quite a few big trees in and around the sanctuary between the animals that you can take a break and cool off, ever so slightly before walking to the next area. We saw a number of wild dogs and wolves in the enclosures as well as your garden variety animals, like geese, ducks, sheep, goats, rabbits, pigs, tortoises and emus (all of which you can feed if you want and/or a brave enough to). The kids opted to stick to feeding only the rabbits and the goats.

We bought some drinks to cool off before climbing back into the comfort of the cool air-con in the car and drove into Plettenberg Bay and then back to Knysna just to cool off as it was blisteringly hot. Interestingly though, while the sanctuary, about 5km from Plett, was sitting at 38C, in Plett it was a more reasonable and comfortable 26C – that’s right twelve degree difference in such a short distance – South Africa is amazing isn’t it?

Back at our cabin, we made some sandwiches and the rest of the afternoon was spent in the pool again as it was just too hot to do anything else (about 31C for the rest of the day in Knysna). By the end of the afternoon, you would swear our kids have been swimming for months already they were so confident and adept already. Since there were other kids either the same age or older than Melissa they wanted to also do what they did and it wasn’t long before “Cannonball!” cries were heard and the kids were running and jumping into the deep end of the pool (water-wings on though since the deepest part of the pool was about 2.5m deep). Rebecca was quite funny because a number of times she also runs and jumps into the pool shouting “Cannon…” by which time she’s now under water and then as she surfaces she’s not even taken her next breath yet and shouts the second half “…ball!”

Later that evening I made another fire to braai some pork chops and garlic bread for supper while Dina steamed some nice veggies. The evening was concluded by more games of Uno with the kids, reading and catching up with the outside world via Twitter and Facebook on my mobile before heading to bed.

Day 4 – Sat 8 Jan 2011

I’d planned to do my second tandem sky-dive sometime while we were on our vacation so I gave Skydive Plett a call to find out how the weather and wind was and whether or not it was favourable for a jump today or tomorrow. The wind had just picked up and it was looking like it was going to stay that way for the rest of the day. I scheduled a jump for 12pm the next day (weather and wind permitting of course).

After some coffee and rusks for breakfast we got into the car and drove to about 7km outside of Plett and stopped off at the Knysna Elephant Park. Here we bought two buckets of veggies and fruit, to feed the elephants, and then sat down for the safety video. After going through all the dos and don’ts of being around elephants we were taken by tractor out into the fields where the elephants were.

These elephants are so well trained and used to people that as soon as they hear and smell (since they cannot see very far in daylight) the tractor carrying all of us coming up the hill, the instinctively walk up to the feeding area. The feeding area has a long flat A-frame structure that the elephants know they must stand behind with all of us humans, on the other side.

The guide then explains how to hand the elephants the food and we can then step closer to hand the elephants some cut up fruit and veggies. They have very dexterous trunks and carefully sniff what it is you’re offering before gently taking it with the tips of their trunks and putting it into their mouths. And don’t stand too closer or dawdle too long or they’ll help themselves!

Once the feeding is done the elephants back away and head off into the field to eat some grass. This is when we get the opportunity to stand closer to the elephants, feel their mud-covered skin with short spiky hairs. The backs of their ears feel just as soft as suede. Once we’d asked all our questions and taken our photos we hopped on to the carriages and the tractor took us back to the restaurant. At the restaurant we sat down for a really good lunch before heading back to our cabin.

Once back at the cabin, can you guess what we did next? Yup, back into the pool for the rest of the afternoon. For supper Dina made great pasta with cheese and ham followed by more games of Uno, relaxing and then off to bed.

Day 5 – Sun 9 Jan 2011

Typical lazy Sunday morning and we didn’t get up too early. After breakfast and around 10am I gave Skydive Plett a call to check if it was still looking promising to jump at 12pm – we were good to go. Woo-hoo, just two hours till my jump!

Just after 11am we all got into the car and headed off to Plettenberg Bay Airport (long dirt-road off of the N2 so wanted to leave a little earlier as I couldn’t drive too quickly on the dirt road). A little before 12pm we arrived at the airport and headed off to the landing zone to sign-in and pay for the jump. In case you’re wondering it is R1 600 per jump (and with the high cost of aviation fuel, it’s actually not bad a price at all – I think I paid around R1 200 more than 5 years ago when I jumped the first time).

The nice thing about doing a tandem jump is you don’t have to stress about remembering anything other than, smile, scream and enjoy yourself – the instructor does everything for you. While we waited for another jumper (first timer) to join us I got strapped into my safety harness. This harness has four points which clip securely and snugly onto the instructor’s harness so that where ever I go, he goes too. Four points of failure means the likelihood of falling without the instructor is pretty slim.

Since this was my second jump Jeff (my instructor) asked Dina how much of a thrill he should give me from 1 to 10. Dina replies, about a 15 should do it. Game on, I said! Once the other jumper was ready and harnessed up and gone through the pre-flight routine we walked over to the little Cessna, which has no side door mind you, to take us up to 10 000 ft for our jump. Jeff asked who’s jumping first and I said since the other guy was jumping for the first time he’s welcome to go first.

I hopped in and sat on the far side of the plane while Jeff got in behind me. Next the other two squeezed in and sat by the door. The pilot started the engine and we taxied off to the far end of the runway. If you’ve flown before you know the engines and flying makes a bit of noise – but you’re in a pressurised and enclosed cabin. Nothing quite like the sound of the propeller being revved to warm up the engine and then later the howling wind passing by the open side of the plane to drown out any sound.

Jeff asked me if I was ready for a one-way ticket to 10 000 ft – thumbs up from me! About a minute later the pilot released the brake and we were hurtling down the runway and lift-off! We made a steady climb upwards to around 5 000 ft while heading out towards the ocean. The pilot then banked right while climbing to head back over land and roughly above our landing zone. When we reached around 9 000 ft Jeff clipped himself onto my harness. He tightened it so that we were tightly attached to one another.

A quick check of the altimeter on Geoff’s wrist and we had reached our jump altitude – 10 000 ft! The other two were already harnessed to each other and making their way out the doorway. Geoff and I shuffled up to the side of the window so that we could see them as they fell out. Ever stuck your head out of a vehicle moving at 160 kph? Then you’ll know what it feels like standing out of the doorway of a plane moving at that speed – oh and not to mention the 10 000 ft below you!

Now that they were out of the way we shuffled over to the doorway too. Geoff’s one leg out on to the step then my legs out next to his, my arms crossed against my chest, his leg on the step. 1… 2… 3… a quick rock back and forward; and tumble into nothingness.

The feeling of falling through the air at close to terminal velocity (we reached 209 kph during our free fall) is a feeling next to nothing else you’ve experienced before. The usual free fall time is around 35 seconds and since this was my second jump Geoff let us free fall a little longer – the rush of air against your face is simply exhilarating (we wore goggles so that we could see through the rushing air).

Next I tilted my head back against his chest while he deployed the chute. I’m sure there’s a similar feeling to F1 car drivers as they head down the straight and come up to a corner and have to brake very suddenly because as that chute deploys you slow down very abruptly from over 200 kph to just a few!

Now that the pace has slowed down you get a chance to look around a bit more and take in the beautiful view of the area. Once Geoff had made sure the lines were untangled and the chute was completely and correctly deployed he handed me the left and right lines and showed me how to bank gently and sharply left and right as well as pulling down to slow us down to what feels like a complete stop!

This was awesome being in control for a short period of time, a few nice sharp banks left and right and slowing down every now and again Geoff took control again and brought us in for a landing (of course he threw in a couple sharp banking turns as well just to add to the fun). The landing was a nice gentle one just 100 m or so from where Dina and the kids were sitting.

What a high! If you ever want to feel alive, and I mean really alive – do yourself a favour and get one of those one-way tickets to 10 000 ft and jump out of a perfectly good aeroplane!

Thanking Geoff for another thrilling ride, adrenalin still pumping through my body, he handed me my certificate – yeah baby!

Well, nothing was going to beat that experience so we headed back into Knysna for lunch at the Spur in the waterfront so that the kids could play in the play area a little (that’s actually the reason they want to go and eat at Spur, not really for the food!).

After lunch we stopped down stairs and the kids picked out some temporary tattoos for themselves and then we headed back to our cabin for the usual afternoon activities – swimming.

It is simply amazing how much the kids have progressed in the last 5 days when it comes to swimming. Their confidence has grown ten-fold and Melissa is swimming better and better by the day – she’s even learning how to dive into the deep-end properly now and not just jumping in with her feet or doing belly-flops.

Supper was some simple sandwiches followed by the usual games of Uno a movie and off to bed for everyone.

Day 6 – Mon 10 Jan 2011

The weather was much cooler today than the previous day, which actually was very welcome. After the usual morning breakfast we headed out to the Eagle Sanctuary about 7km from Plett.

We walked around and looked at the various birds of prey in the sanctuary that were on display (outside of their cages perched on wooden perches or tree stumps). These included eagles, falcons, buzzards, kestrels and owls.

Just before 11am we followed the guide down to the other display area where we sat down in rows of benches to wait for the show to start. We each had a glove next to us on the bench which we could put on and hold up so that the kestrel could fly from one of us to the next as the guide put a piece of food on each one. Rebecca and Melissa both got a chance for the kestrel to sit on their gloved hands.

Next up was a barn owl. He too flew around the area from the guide to the cages and intermittently sitting on people’s gloved hands. When it was Melissa’s turn I shifted a little away, held my phone in my hands to take a photo and the barn owl landed right on my hands before jumping off and on to Melissa’s to feed quickly. While perching they have a surprisingly gentle grip that I barely felt him landing and sitting on my bare hands. Of course it’s a different story if you’re a little rodent being grabbed by the owl! They’re also exceptionally quiet while flying that if you’re not looking they just whizz past your head and you see them before you hear them.

That concluded the birds that were allowed to land on our hands – next up were two spotted eagle owls that took turns flying back and forth taking food from the guide. Followed by the buzzard showing us how it catches prey on the ground swooping down from high up in the air. They have an incredible wingspan for their body sizes allowing them to monitor the ground while floating in thermals. The last bird on display was the falcon. He showed us how he chases after and eventually catches a flying lure which the guide was swinging around.

Most of the birds in the sanctuary are  there for rehabilitation to be eventually returned to the wild – while some of them have too much of a human imprint, meaning they’ve either been reared by humans or been living with humans for too long that they would not be able to hunt for themselves and survive in the wild.

Once the show was over we let the kids play a bit on the home-made jungle gyms in between the trees and swing on the swings while Dina browsed the curio shop. We then made our way over to another bird farm just a few kilometres down the road back towards Knysna.

This farm contained a number of different species of exotic birds from around the world including toucans, lorikeets and galahs. There were also usual ducks, geese, peacocks and finches. There was another three displays one with a small tree squirrel and another two with sets of small capuchin monkeys.

We then headed back to Knysna, picked up some lunch at KFC and back to our cabin. We relaxed the rest of the afternoon and in the late afternoon went for another dip. Everyone clocked out pretty early that evening – it’s been a busy six days so far.

Day 7 – Tue 11 Jan 2011

Today has been a pretty much stay at home kind of day. We all had a nice two hour mid morning swim. I only took Dina and the kids into town late in the afternoon so that she and Melissa could walk around browsing the different shops on the Knysna main road, while Rebecca and I went back to our cabin to finish watching “Cloudy with a chance of meatballs” for the how-many-eth time and then played a few hands of Uno before heading back to town to pick up Dina and Melissa. Now, as I’ve finally caught up with jotting down what we’ve been up to I need to head back down (found a nice cool spot under a tree to sit and type this) and start the fire, hop in the pool with the kids for a bit and then cook up some supper (lamb chops and sausage!).

The last week has taken a bit of a toll on us and we all ended up having an early night to bed (after all the kids, and in fact us too, need to get used to going to bed earlier since we’ll all be getting up earlier from Monday onwards – you know, school and work).

Day 8 – Wed 12 Jan 2011

Last night Dina suggested we venture out a little further past Plett, about 20 km east of Plett to be precise. It’s an area called The Crags and there are a number of tourist-friendly places to visit. A little before 9am we were all up and busy having breakfast and getting ready to go out. We had decided we would attempt to visit three places: Tenikwa (a wild-cat sanctuary), Monkeyland (as you would guess a monkey sanctuary – home to 9 different species) and Birds of Eden (which is a huge enclosure of various birds (including about 7 monkeys).

Arriving at Tenikwa we were greeted by our guide, Daniel, who let us watch an introductory video about the various cats they have there and why they are there (due to poaching and farms trapping and killing them due to them hunting their livestock). All nicely wrapped up with fading titles and photos to make you go ooh and aah (with backing music that made me feel like scratching my ears out) but with one purpose – to make you feel guilty – no, to raise awareness.

Daniel then walked us around the various enclosures (open on top but with high sides and some of them electrified sections on the top each side to prevent them from getting out). Remember they are wild animals but they’re there for rehabilitation (either been captured on farms or saved from traps). Some brought in will be returned to the wild while the rest are there for education purposes. That being said, we weren’t able to get closer than a few feet from any of the cats. The closest cats we got to were a pair of young cheetahs that were lazing in the shade of a tree that allowed us to stand next to them while taking photos. In total we got to see the following cats: black-footed cat, African wild cats, servals, caracals, cheetahs and leopards. There was also an enclosure next to the restaurant that had a few meerkats and tortoises, while on the other side of the restaurant was a small pond surrounded by ducks, storks and blue cranes (for those that don’t know the South African national bird).

After our guided tour we stopped at the restaurant for a bite to eat and drink to cool off before heading down the road (only a few kilometres) to Monkeyland and Birds of Eden.

At Monkeyland we joined another guided tour through the enclosed forest containing a wide variety (nine different species) of indigenous monkeys as well as those from other countries around the world such as India, Madagascar and Malaysia. Ralph was our guide and he took us on a meandering walk through the forest stopping every now and again as we spotted a monkey or lemur.

The fence surrounding the forest is a good 20m or more from the ground and the trees have been cut at least 6-7m from each side (outside and in) to prevent the monkeys from jumping to the fence and then to the outer regions of the forest. Although with the timely feeding each day, I don’t think any one of them actually would.

We even got to meet a movie star – Julian from Madagascar – he likes to “move it” but he wasn’t in much of a dancing mood today. At least we can say we met a movie star while on vacation!

One section of the forest trail before we headed back to the start was a rope bridge over quite a high ravine which was a lot of fun to walk across – it was quite long too. Dina’s not real good friends with heights so she took it quite easy; she made it to the other side without looking too green though.

The forest is quite dense with foliage about halfway up in some parts and right on top in others which meant it creates a very humid environment – conducive to monkeys not so much for humans. We were hot when we left there.

Just on the other side of the parking lot is the Birds of Eden enclosure. We bought a special ticket for both attractions so showed our tickets and walked into the enclosure. This one, since it has birds, obviously had a wire-mesh roof and also very high sides, some sections I think were easily between 50-70 meters high.

This attraction is un-guided and you walk along a boardwalk path winding its way back and forth through the park going up and down, over and under waterfalls, as well as across another rope-bridge (however this one seemed a lot more rigid than the one in Monkeyland).

The birds here were also used to humans moving in between and past time but not tame (as it’s not encouraged by the staff) to pet them. We encountered a number of the usual small birds found in urban areas in South Africa like doves and finches but also various parrot species, loeries, flamingos, ducks, ibises and swans.

Between Monkeyland and Birds of Eden we easily spent around 3 hours walking around seeing the various monkeys and birds. The kids, especially Rebecca, were quite tired and everyone was thirsty now – we’d covered a good few kilometres of walking in those hours.

We walked back to the Monkeyland restaurant and bought some cold drinks. I sat outside drinking my coke when a small troupe of yellow spider monkeys ran around me between the outside tables (they warn patrons to sit outside at their own risk since the monkeys do become mischievous and will try and steal things from you).

I then headed back inside to sit with the kids while Dina sat outside for a little while to see what the experience was like of the monkeys so close to you while sitting down. Well, she got a little more than she bargained for. The usual troupe of yellow spider monkeys were running around over and under the tables while a bigger (smaller than chimpanzee though) black monkey walked right up to her. It first sat on the bench beside her then calmly sat on the ground between Dina’s legs and proceeded to lick her leg. Dina wasn’t quite sure whether she should be worried or not – luckily not as it wasn’t more than a minute or so that he then meandered off to the far side of the restaurant outside area and back into the forest. Dina’s little bit of an adrenalin rush for the holidays (since she’s no friend of heights as I mentioned and you wouldn’t get her to jump out of a plane with me even if you paid her).

On our drive back to Knysna we passed a snake sanctuary and a place called Plett Puzzle Place which we might try out before we go home on Saturday – will let you know whether that pans out or not. The kids fell asleep on the 50-odd kilometre drive back to our cabin since they were quite exhausted.

We got back and Dina organised some supper (leftover supper from the night before) and the kids and I splashed around in the pool to cool off (the afternoon was still quite warm). After watching Prince of Persia, catching up on the news of the world, reading and updating today’s events we headed off to bed, wondering what the next few days await us.

Day 9 – Thu 13 Jan 2011

It’s been eight days away from my bed now and I can feel it. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all enjoying ourselves but there’s no bed quite like your own, and these soft mattresses don’t do your back any favours.

After a reluctant and stiff start and stumbling to get coffee ready, to wake up, we all got ready to go out. Dina wanted to take the kids to the Waterfront as there was guy that has little sand-art sets that the kids can make. However, upon our arrival the guy wasn’t where he was the week before. Apparently he’s not there every day of the week, although Dina said she swore she remembered the sign say otherwise. She asked around and apparently there’s a store near by one of the shopping centres in town that sells the sets.

Once we eventually found the store found out that they didn’t quite sell what Dina was looking for. However, just outside, and next to the Mugg and Bean cafe, was a pirate’s ship in a sand pit – a kids play area.

This area was an inner quad of various shops with a little fountain alongside the cafe and a little gazebo in the middle with a band playing some live music. A perfect setting to sit down have a coffee (or two) and catch up on the news of the world on my phone while Dina browsed some of the shops in the area and went for a pedicure.

Two hours later, with the kids barely seen or heard from, except for the occasional visit to my table for something cool to drink before heading back; and now I was getting hungry. It was after all a little after 12pm already. Dina joined me again and we ordered some lunch for the kids and us. During which the kids played again in the sand pit intermittently or painted on a little kids easel provided by the cafe for kids to use.

About three and a half hours after we got there we coaxed (with difficulty) the kids out of the sandpit. I gave the child-minder (who doesn’t officially charge for looking after the kids in the play area) enough money to roughly cover three hours of baby-sitting, which I thought was only fair, she got a nice hug from Melissa (as you know kids bond easily so after three hours they were almost BFFs!

Back at the cabin the kids and I had another swim for an hour or so before coming back to the cabin to watch some more movies. Later on I headed into town to order some pizza from St Elmo’s (who we can highly recommend as making awesome and tasty pizzas) in the Knysna main road.

The evening was ended off with some computer games, a few rounds of Uno and a movie. It’s only 9:30pm now with the kids in their beds to try and coax them back to those earlier sleeping hours for when school starts next week.

Not sure what tomorrow has in store for us – nothing concrete planned yet but it’s our last full day here in Knysna. Saturday morning we pack up, clean up and head back home. Although by the looks of things we won’t be heading back along the N2 but making our way north-west in land to Oudtshoorn for a few sight-seeing things and then heading towards the N1 back home.

Day 10 – Fri 14 Jan 2011

Well it doesn’t look like we’ll be doing much other than being cooped up in our cabin since it’s been raining non-stop since last night. I guess we shouldn’t moan about it too much – we have had awesome weather for the last 9 days and it is the last day of our time here in Knysna.

A little before 12pm we thought we’d heat out to Spur for lunch so that the kids can play in the play area and all of us can avoid the dreaded cabin fever. Thereafter we walked down the main road and in the Knysna Mall doing a little browsing some shops before heading back. The rain had subsided but it was still very humid, so much so that the kids and I jumped into the pool for another hour or so. Not before I replaced the light-fitting in the cabin as the capacitor started leaking and smoking – even on holiday one gets to do some DIY.

The rest of the afternoon involved some packing and cleaning so that we can just get up and go tomorrow morning and get an early head-start towards Oudtshoorn.

Day 11 – Sat 15 Jan 2011

So today we woke up around 7:30am and the idea was to freshen up, pack the last few items and head out to find some breakfast on our way to Oudtshoorn. Things however, changed quite drastically when I walked in to the front cabin room Rebecca was sleeping in – the other bed on the opposite side of the room looked strangely empty. The other odd thing was that the curtain over one window was open and the window wasn’t latched open any more (we opened most of the cabin windows as it was very humid the night before).

As I gazed around the room and looked at Dina – the realisation set in – there were things missing – a lot of things missing. Sometime between going to bed last night around 10pm and this morning, someone had climbed in to the cabin through the window and stolen a number of items right from under our noses. Rebecca had been sleeping on the bed on the other side of the room at the time too!

Dina’s Dell Netbook, her handbag (which included her wallet, mobile phone, driver’s license, identification and all her bank cards as well as her digital camera – with all our holiday snaps on the memory card), a pair of headphones as well as the kids two Leapster Explorer handheld console games and a bag had all been stolen!

Well, now isn’t that just the perfect way to end off a week and a half of excellent holiday time? After getting dressed and freshened up I headed off in to town to the local police station to report the theft and get a case number for insurance purposes. The upside is that, excluding the kids’ consoles which we bought for them at Christmas, the netbook and digital camera were insured. The downside was that now Dina has to re-apply for her identification document before she can re-apply for her driver’s license and replacement bank cards.

After I got back we cleaned up and packed the last few remaining things in the car we headed back in to town to stop off at the bank to cancel all Dina’s bank cards (there had luckily been no transactions yet on any of the cards) and then took the kids to Wimpy for breakfast.

Just before 11am we drove out of Knysna, through Wilderness, George and from there took the N12 up to Oudtshoorn where we stopped off at the Cango Wildlife Ranch. Here we got to see baby Nile crocs, bats, turtles, red river (designer) pigs, some bigger crocs (for the cage dives) and an array of cats including cheetahs, white Bengal tigers and lions.

After a hot walk through the park seeing the various animals and listening to the guide we bought some ice-cold drinks to cool off and went to sit in the restaurant to order some food. All around the waiting areas and restaurants they had big fans blowing at full speed with a fine mist of water being sprayed in front of the fans – instant cool, refreshing air!

Tummies full, feeling a little cooler and refreshed we walked back to the car and hit the road once more. Does it get hot in Oudtshoorn you ask? Well, to give you an idea, we parked the car in the shade when we arrived. Two hours later the car was still in the shade and the car’s thermometer read a brisk 35C – in the shade!

With the car pointed west, we headed out of Oudtshoorn and along the famous R62 (Route 62) road towards Worcester. The R62 is a great road because it’s in a good condition, it has a lot less traffic than you would expect and best of all there are many, many hills and passes which make for an eventful drive instead of the straight and boring (and prone to falling asleep, since everyone else in the car sleeps while on a long trip) national highways. Of course the other reason to travel the R62 is so that you can drive by Ronnie’s Sex Shop, internationally known, didn’t you know?

From Worcester we joined the N1 and headed through the Huguenot tunnel (instead of going along the pass which adds to the distance and time) since we just wanted to get home now. After paying at the toll gate it wasn’t long before we were greeted by familiar neighbourhoods straddling either side of the highway and eventually glimpses of our favourite Table Mountain, somewhat covered in a lot of clouds.

We reached my folks place a little after 7pm – did the meet and greet, dropped off the kids and headed back home. With a lot of unpacking, a lot of washing to be done we relaxed and later that evening got into our bed – what a great night’s sleep!

If you’ve read this far – congratulations – and I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing our holiday experience with us – till next time!

Click on any of the photos below for a bigger version.


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VOTD: Intel i5 commercial

Posted in General, Technology on January 21st, 2011 by Deems

There are many commercials out there for various products and services. Some good, some not and then there are those that stand out, and you remember. You don’t mind seeing them more often, unlike most commercials that you can’t grab the remote and change channels quick enough!

Here’s one that I spotted that was posted on the Cherryflava feed. It’s got that action-movie trailer feel to it. Watch it more than once, you might have missed some subtleties. This one definitely gets two thumbs up from me. Want more, check these out.


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VOTD: My Blackberry is not working – The One Ronnie

Posted in Funny, General, Technology on January 2nd, 2011 by Deems

Here’s a hilarious sketch from Ronnie Corbett and Harry Enfield in The One Ronnie show – a hilarious skit about faulty and new technology. Thanks to Michelle for posting the video link.


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