Raspberry Pi – technology mixology

Following my Pinkberry and Pepperberry posts, here’s Raspberry Pi – I had been hoping for a product called Raspberry to continue my occasional series featuring products with fruity names that are not phones.

Raspberry Pi sounds like a seasonal cocktail, or an novel expression of the mathematical constant, but it is actually a piece of hardware designed to help kids learn computer hacking. This is not a misprint or an innovative educational development based on recent stories involving the British press. As Chris Williams explains in The Register (see link below) the idea is based on ‘the old sense of the word hacking, that is, to ingeniously cobble stuff together to make cool new things’. Or a kind of IT mixology. However, it does have something in common with what we now think of as hacking, as it is designed to get young people involved in computing. 

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK registered charity (Registration Number 1129409) which is developing products that aim to promote the study of computer science, especially in schools, and to put the fun back into learning computing http://www.raspberrypi.org/

To this end, its first product is a low-power credit-card size computer designed to plug into a TV or  be combined with a touch screen for a low cost tablet. The expected price is $25 – or just over £20 – which is not much more than the price of a cocktail in a smart London venue, for a fully-configured system. You can find the full spec, including photos and an explanation of how it works here http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/28/raspberry_pi/

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Destination Copenhagen – restaurants and reflections

Delayed by deadlines – a belated account of my visit to Copenhagen a few weeks ago, for business and leisure. I had meetings arranged; I wanted to step away from my stressy life, and Copenhagen is one of my favourite places. I didn’t do much sightseeing, but I stayed in the centre and walked everywhere, breathing the fresh air and the atmosphere. Since The Killing has sparked an interest in all things Danish, I thought I’d share my impressions, reflections – and photos.

I start with a random flashback. One unlikely star of The Killing is Sarah Lund’s Faroese sweater, which can be found here http://shop.gudrungudrun.com/ The sweater takes me back to my childhood, and the Danish shop in London’s Brompton road which sold authentic Faroese sweaters and smørrebrød (Danish open sandwiches – not something else fashionable to wear) both of which are lovely, but surprisingly heavy. 

Getting around – and three clichés

The Copenhagen Metro, which is currently being extended, is modern, inexpensive and easy to navigate. It’s only about 15 minutes from Kastrup airport, to Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen’s largest city square. You can buy metro and train tickets in the arrivals area of the airport. Taxis are relatively expensive, but they are metered, the drivers generally speak English and you can pay by credit card.

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I got out of the metro at Kongens Nytorv, struggled up the escalator with my suitcase to find a cliché – Danish pastries! They smell as good as they look!

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I stayed at Hotel Skt Petri, a boutique hotel in the Italian quarter, near the university. It was clean and comfortable and featured another cliché:  Danish designer furniture – including Arne Jacobsen Egg Chairs

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However, Copenhagen has plenty of boutique hotels, and although the Skt Petri was conveniently located, next time I’m in Copenhagen – and there will be a next time – I shall probably stay near the harbour. The last time I visited, I stayed at the Scandic Front, where my room had a sea view. It is worth having a walk around the picturesque harbour area, where you can also see Copenhagen’s famous Little Mermaid. I took this photo on the way to one of my meetings.

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Strøget, which starts at Kongens Nytorv, is the world’s longest pedestrian street. I like this kind of thing – in Hong Kong I spent some considerable time riding up and down the world’s longest escalator. Strøget is rightly described as ‘the shopping street’ and that’s another of Copenhagen’s main attractions – a terrific selection of designer and other shops.

Walking along Strøget from Kongens Nytorv, I was rare brunette in a sea of Scandinavian blondes – a third cliché brought to life!

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Strøget has a massive selection of shops selling just about everything. One must-see for anyone interestested in design, and particularly Scandinavian style, is Danish interior design and accessory store Illums Bolighus  http://www.illumsbolighus.dk/uk/main.asp which sells classic and new Scandinavian designer products.

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Five minutes away, the Illum department store is a cross between Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, selling Scandinavian and international brands. Although Scandinavia is having a fashion moment, I particularly liked the homeware and stationery departments and spent some time looking at multicoloured Moleskine notebooks (as you would expect, Scandinavia gets all the new colours first) and ORDNINGANDREDA accessories http://www.ordning-reda.com/pages/?dom=1037

Like Sweden, Denmark has superb coffee, and coffee breaks are an essential part of any shopping trip. Cafe Europa, opposite Illums Bolighus serves a great-looking brunch. I like sitting in a window seat, writing on my iPad2 and people watching.

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Designer capuccino at Europa

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Lagkagehuset, also in Strøget, had terrific cappuccino and home made Danish pastries – and incredibly cheerful and friendly service! http://www.lagkagehuset.dk/butikker/42

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A traditional brasserie and two destination restaurants

I’m afraid the rest of this post is going to sound like a restaurant guide. This is because Copenhagen has become something of a restaurant Mecca with a reputation for creating some of the world’s best and most original cuisine.

My visit started with lunch at Café Victor http://www.cafevictor.dk/en a classy French-style brasserie just off the square. I was meeting my oldest friend in Copenhagen and one of his colleagues (to clarify: he is certainly not old in years; he was the first person I met outside of a meeting when I first visited Copenhagen). Although Café Victor is perennially fashionable, the cuisine is straightforward – perfect after a long journey. The waiter made a huge fuss of us. I have a feeling that my friend is a regular here…

I was taken to two very different destination restaurants. The first was Era Ora – a glamorous Italian restaurant that lives up to its Michelin star and fabulous reputation http://www.era-ora.dk/restaurant 

The portions are tiny delicious morsels – but each course is accompanied by a full-size perfectly matched glass of wine. The Danish wine menu is legendary, and as has happened before, defeated me after the first couple of dishes. Impressively, although it took rather longer to achieve this, it also defeated my dining companion – despite his elegant lifestyle – and we ended up having a rather fuzzy conversation and giggling a lot.

Era Ora is perfect for dîner à deux or a celebratory dinner for half a dozen people. Notwithstanding its Michelin star, the atmosphere is relaxed; the tables are spaced well apart and the acoustics are good, so the room is condusive to proper conversation, so long as you have a lot of self-control when it comes to the wine menu.. but it’s also completely brilliant if you don’t take it too seriously…

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Later in the week, I met up with two people I have seen relatively recently – a Danish friend who travels to London regularly and his gorgeous colleague who divides her time between London and Copenhagen, which strikes me as a perfect arrangement in many ways. She knows all the best places to go out in both cities! 

We went to Geist, an achingly fashionable bar and restaurant in Kongens Nytorv that attracts a hip media crowd http://restaurantgeist.dk/ On a Thursday night, it was kicking. It’s owner, Bo Bech, is apparently the Danish equivalent of Gordon Ramsay. If you sit the bar – as we did – you can watch what goes on in the kitchen. And everythng was perfectly coordinated – a bit like a modern ballet. There was music, but fortunately no drama. The food is a gastronomic oxymoron – deceptively simple, with touches of originality – innovative and arty-looking combinations like the candy floss that arrived with our coffee! It was delicious and delivered a delightful post-dinner sugar rush.

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The toilets offer more originality in terms of mirrored ceilings and sound effects! This may have been taking things a bit far…

Geist is eclectic. It is definitely worth a visit and be sure to make reservations. We had booked a table, but still had to queue for the cloarkroom and to get seated!

Designer everything! 

I can hardly believe that my waistline has survived being royally entertained by my lovely Danish friends – not all of whom I mention here – who transformed my business trip into a memorable and wonderful few days. And time to reflect – here I am in a hall of mirrors outside one of my meetings.

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Interior design is a theme that runs through Copenhagen like the stripes in a stick of rock, or Calais on the heart of Mary, Queen of Scots. The arrivals hall at Kastrup is full of egg chairs. Every cafe and office I visited combined classic elegance with different quirky touches to make it stand out from the rest. Here’s a staircase reminiscent of the Guggenheim museum.

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Even the flowers sold on the street are colour coordinated.

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Into the light

It occurs to me that Scandinavian design is about throwing shapes (a bit like dancing the focus is on finding a pure and compelling line) – objects that change, and change the shape of their surroundings – as the light falls on them in different ways. I’m signing off with another attempt at an arty photograph on the way back to the airport. I took this as the train emerged from a tunnel into the light – you can just about see me reflected in the window. 

 

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There is something cool and refreshing about Scandinavia – and something special about the light there. I returned feeling renewed in some way. But that was before things set me back again… I seem to have got into escaping to cold places to find clarity and direction…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Siri lives

Siri – the virtual assistant on my new iPhone 4S – a male voice, calls me Joanna and says ‘your wish is my command’. I find the latter unsettling. Siri responds to everything I say. I am not accustomed to this either. But then I ask about journey times from one meeting to another. Siri mishears and attempts a random call to one of the contacts in my address book. Is Siri choosing the ‘phone a friend option’? I have to move fast to stop this. This feels more familiar already… later Siri relents (another familiar scenario); I ask for my schedule and it appears. Siri responds to my ‘thank you’ with ‘I live to serve’. Siri lives… It has not taken me long to get into this AI/robot thing… tho I’m wondering how long it will take before Siri turns nasty…

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Prediction or science fiction: beyond the impossible

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Earlier this week, Jeffrey Brandt, my fellow columnist on the Legal IT Professionals website, wrote an excellent, creative feature envisioning a global law firm in 2065, DLA, Watson, Siri & Wal-Mart. The names speak for themselves, extrapolating the current trends of globalisation and technology consumerisation. But in looking ahead 54 years, had Brandt changed enough? As he was describing the structure and technology of a law firm, and the legal sector supertanker is slow to turn, the answer is probably yes, but his feature reminded me that key challenges involved in forecasting future technology are predicting the pace and direction of change.

As my readers here and elsewhere will know, I travel quite regularly. This year I have been to eight destinations: Cuba, New York, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Singapore, Nashville, Stockholm and Copenhagen. Although my work involves quite a lot of travel, arriving somewhere new never fails to uplift and inspire me. One reason for starting this blog was to write about my journeys from a personal rather than professional perspective – my impressions of the places and people I visit rather than the meetings and conferences I attend.

In October, I visited Scandinavia twice – to Stockholm and to Copenhagen – for a conference and some meetings, a change of scene that would help me think and write, and to catch up with friends. Four solo plane journeys of around two hours. Although I always have my iPad 2, I like to read a book on the plane. Not a kindle or an e-book on the iPad – an actual book. This means I am not left looking into space as we await take-off or circle London in a holding pattern waiting for a landing slot. I don’t need the table down or the armrest up; I curl up in a window seat, lean into the corner and read my book.

Looking into space in a different way, I had selected Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama for my in-flight entertainment. There is something surreal about reading about space travel when you’re flying through the clouds. On a long-haul flight I always choose the sci-fi movie.

Clarke writes sensitively about a future encounter with an alien spaceship and although the book was written in 1972, none of the human or alien technologies seem unfeasible. It has none of the glitches that commonly date novels and movies that are set in the future, or in outer space. This is down to Clarke’s incredible skill in developing and managing the reader’s suspension of disbelief. There is just enough detail to keep us believing; the characters are sensible and the applied physics is accurate, but there is not enough information about how humankind got from here to there to make us question Clarke’s vision of the future even though it includes colonies on Pluto and a new religion as well as some wonderful, intuitive communication technology. As for Rama – the alien spaceship – once you accept that a massive alien craft has entered our solar system, anything can happen.

Of course it is possible to predict future techology and for centuries it has been done wth uncanny accuracy. William Gibson, impressively, wrote about the internet and hackers long before they existed.  The joy of science fiction is that it takes you beyond the impossible to another dimension.

Cupcakes not solutions

It was with some dismay that I noticed that luxury lingerie boutiques have started to advertise ‘solutions’. I write a lot about enterprise technology, and my features regularly include case studies and examples of ‘solutions’ that help businesses manage the challenging and exponentially growing range and volume of electronic information.

Today, the window of upmarket waxing salon and lingerie boutique Strip promised a lingerie ‘solution’ for every outfit. Of course it’s important to choose appropriate underwear to complement an outfit – in the same way as the right shoes and bag can complete a fashionable look and the wrong ones can totally spoil it. 

But a ‘solution’ implies a problem and  a sensible way of addressing (dressing?) it. And although some underwear does offer a solution to certain actual and perceived physical challenges, this rather depressing image does not bring to mind the uplifting physical and psychological effect of the pretty lingerie sold in Strip and similar boutiques. For me at least, pretty lingerie and scented wax are not solutions – underwear doesn’t have to be lacy and wax doesn’t have to be chocolate or lavender scented. These are little luxuries – like the cupcakes of the fashion world – though they are relatively expensive for what they are, they will not break the bank – a sweet and glamorous treat to brighten up our lives in these difficult times…

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(Bra by Elle Macpherson Intimates)

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