All posts by Ralf Bergs

Geek, computer guy, licensed and certified electrical and computer engineer, husband, best daddy.

Florida Vacation…

So we’ve finally arrived in Florida — in fact, we’re already here since a week.

We arrived on Monday, 26-SEP, on Orlando Intl. Airport. After we had passed the Immigration service, we went to Alamo to pick up our rental car. As usual, I had reserved a “full size” car. Last time we received a Jeep Grand Cherokee instead, because they didn’t have any “full size” cars available then. But this time it seemed we were unlucky, because they had lots of full size cars available. But they all seemed very smallish. So I went to some Alamo associates and asked whether they could give me a larger car for the same price. And the friendly lady just said, “Sure, Sir, just pick one of the minivans over there.” And this I did… 🙂

The Pontiac SV6 I picked is just awesome — it even has a DVD player and entertainment system built into it. It has three lines of seats, with the rear line easy to be flipped down so that we had lots of space for our suit cases.

From the airport we drove to my grand-cousin Brigitte and her husband, Lyle. They have a very nice house in Riverview, Hillsborough County. Brigitte and Lyle and their pets welcomed us, and we talked for a while before we went to bed.

Continue reading Florida Vacation…

IAA (Intl. Motor Show)

I’ve been to the IAA in Frankfurt yesterday. The trip was organized by the VDI, the association of German engineers, and sponsored by ZF, a well-known maker of auto parts, especially transmissions, steerings, and axles. I went there with Mona’s father. She couldn’t attend herself, because she needs to learn for her written exam next week.

As always — I’ve been there for the third time already — it was a very thrilling experience, but at the end of the day you also know what you have accomplished kilometer-wise. 😉

Some photos I’ve taken are available from my photo gallery.

As you still might remember from one of my previous posts, I look into buying me a Skoda Octavia, but I will only buy a diesel model that comes equipped with a diesel particle filter (DPF.) So this was my first question when I arrived at the Skoda stand. The hostess seemed to be quite well informed, and she told me that the Octavia with the 2.0 litre diesel engine will be equipped with a DPF starting in November, and the smaller 1.9 litre engine will be available with a DPF in January, 2006. The charge will be 565 EUR.

I hope that Skoda will finally make it. Until then, I will keep my old car and continue to commute by train. 🙂

Vodafone Mobile Connect Card

Some days ago, I got myself another toy — our Vodafone Mobile Connect Card. That’s a UMTS/GPRS CardBus (PCMCIA) card for laptops.

I use it on my way between my home and the office, while I sit in the train. I can surf the Internet, read mail, or chat with my friends. I also have a VPN client installed, that, together with an RSA SecurID token, I can use to connect to the office network, to access files or my company e-mail.

The great thing is that our UMTS network is already pretty well developped, so that I have a bandwidth available that is almost comparable to that of a DSL line. And even in places where we don’t have UMTS coverage, I can use our 2.5G network (GPRS over GSM) to surf with a somewhat limited speed.

Based on the experience I’ve made during the last few days, I can absolutely recommend our MCC card to any mobile “road-warriors.”

Samsung Z500 UMTS

I’ve got myself a brand-new toy — a Samsung Z500 UMTS mobile phone. I ordered it because I liked its compact size and light weight, as well as its stylish outlook.

Samsung Z500 UMTS

So far I haven’t found anything I dislike. The phone seems to be very robust, and the GUI is very intuitive. I can’t yet comment on the qualities of the phone when it comes to video calls, because here at my residence our UMTS network is very weak, so that the phone constantly books into the GSM network.

What I like specially much is that the phone has a TransFlash slot, which my Motorola E1000 also has. I will buy myself a 512 MB TransFlash card which should allow me to carry >100 songs with me — the phone has an MP3 player built into it.

Stay tuned for more infos to be available shortly.

Family reunion ;-)

Yesterday, we met with my “cousin” Brigitte from Florida and her husband, Lyle. “We” meaning Mona, her parents, and I. I put the word “cousin” in double quotes because she’s not really a cousin of mine, but the daughter of my dad’s cousin.

I’ve already visited her twice in Riverview, which is in Hillsborough County, about 15 mls. from Tampa. Last time (in Oct. 2004) I brought Mona with me. Mona’a dad promised Brigitte to invite them to a coffee, probably to thank them for inviting Mona to their home. We met at 6 PM in Cologne, just in front of the cathedral, and because it was already so late, we went into genuine Cologne pubs instead, the Früh and the Gaffel’s.

We had a great evening, enjoying the Kölsch beer and some fine meals. It was some 25 years since Lyle last was in Cologne, and he is a great lover of Kölsch beer, so he couldn’t get enough of it. 🙂

Anyway, Brigitte and Lyle will fly back to Florida on Saturday. But it won’t take long until we meet again — remember that I wrote earlier that we’re gonna fly to Florida in late September, so it’s only a few weeks until then… 🙂

Farewell party

Today, I gave a farewell party for my colleagues at D2. Mona spent 9(!) hours in the kitchen, baking party snacks and cake for me.

To make a long story short, the party was a great success. Everyone praised the snacks, and they all agreed this was one of the best farewell parties they have ever been invited to. What made me a lil’ bit proud is that even my heads of group and department took themselves the time to attend.

I’ve made some photos to document Mona’s great work. You will find them in a few days in my gallery.

Langen Foundation

We’re just back from a visit of the “Langen Foundation”, a museum located at the former rocket station in Neuss.

It was a very impressive experience. I must admit I’m usually not very interested in arts, but I’ve always loved the works of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. So when I watched a report on WDR TV yesterday about the exposition I thought it could be very interesting to go there. We’re currently visiting Mona’s (my girlfriend) parents in Grevenbroich, which is only a couple of kilometers away from Neuss, so we took the occasion and made a trip to the museum.

Unfortunately, it was not allowed to take photos inside the exhibition, but I took a snapshot from outside the building. I bet you know the sculpture or at least the motive, created by Robert Indiana:

I really enjoyed the visit, and I recommend it to you should you have the chance to get there.

Mongolian BBQ…

Have you ever had a BBQ? I bet you have.

But have you ever had a Mongolian one??? I bet you haven’t. 🙂

I’ve been to Mongo’S Restaurant yesterday with my colleagues from our integration team. We had a great evening, and the dinner was excellent.

So what’s so special about a Mongolian BBQ? First, you choose one of 8 marinades. You then choose among a great variety of veggies, fixings, meat, and fish, and put it all into a bowl. You then hand the bowl to the cook. Everything gets roasted on a hot stone plate. The waiter then brings your bowl back to your table. And then it’s your turn: Eat it all up! 🙂

They have some quite unusual sorts of meat and fish there. Among others, I had kangaroo and zebra filet, tilapia (some sort of perch,) and surimi. I’ve never tasted these before, but I liked everything I tasted apart from zebra, which I found to be very stringy.

Overall, I can absolutely recommend this restaurant.

Not only an emperor’s daughter…

…but also a great car is the Octavia, a great car built by Skoda.

It plays in the same league as the VW Bora/Jetta, VW Passat, Audi A4, BMW 3 series, Toyota Avensis, Peugeot 407, and many more.

What is so special about the Octavia is that it offers the most value for your (and my ;-)) money. You hardly miss anything compared against the Passat (I can tell because I drove most of the above mentioned cars myself, at least I studied the brochures,) but you pay 3,200 EUR less for the Octavia than for the Passat.

So why am I telling you this? I will probably buy myself a new car some time late in 2005, and if not something very strange happens, it will be an Octavia Elegance with the 105 HP diesel engine. The thing that is still keeping me from buying it now is that you can’t yet order it with a diesel particle filter. Considering that a diesel car without a particle filter is not exactly something I would call “environmentally friendly,” I don’t even think about getting myself one without a filter.