Blogspot @ Head-over-Heels

The travel blog for the backpackers guide to the world

Medical marihuana legalized in Germany

Posted by: Evil Kristos | July 22, 2014 | No Comments

As of today it is legal for certain patients to not only buy but grow medical marihuana. You are surprised that Germany lifted this ban? So was I. I wasn’t aware that it is illegal in the first place.

A judge ruled today that a patient with a prescription for medical marihuana must also be given the permission to grow it by himself. The background of this decision or better the reasoning behind the complaint is that most patients cannot afford the weed from pharmacies. After all they are so ill that they cannot work and earn money. Since health insurances regularly refuse to pay marihuana bills the patients must be given the opportunity to look after themselves.

I am surprised that the jury ruled in favour of the three plaintiffs; but in a good way. What the court says is that the three patients – all three are suffering from chronical pain – must be granted the permission by the Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte (BfArM) which is a government body regulating pharmaceutical products.

That’s not exactly lifting the ban on growing marihuana but it is a good first step. We did see what happened in the US. States that lifted the ban on marihuana reported a drop in crime and healthier finances. So it was not the end of the world, anarchy on the streets or public debauchery as the critics predicted. Quite the opposite actually. And – to speak with Mr. Spock – just as logic would dictate. If we are very honest most people did not actually wait for some government to allow them smoking or eating their ganja.

A vast majority of Germans is pro legalization of marihuana and this is not because half of Germans are constantly stoned but because it is an idiotic law.

The case Uli Hoeneß

Posted by: Evil Kristos | March 14, 2014 | No Comments

Despite being at the brink of a war right in our neighborhood, German media headlines are being dominated by something – let’s face it – completely irrelevant. Uli Hoeneß, president of FC Bayern Munich, one of the best football clubs in the world, was sentenced to 3,5 years in prison for tax evasion.

Hoeneß was for many years one of the most influential public figures in Germany. On one hand he was a successful business man but even more important the driving force behind the overwhelming success of Germanys biggest name in football. And unlike many other European teams Bayern Munich did not become successful by being pampered with investor money. The club developed from a successful German club to an international super power by being cleverly managed and making sound decisions, where and when to spend money. All this thanks to Uli Hoeneß.

During this time Hoeneß as manager in Munich always polarized. He lectured, argued and bragged. He made many enemies but – and this is important to understand – was seen by many as a moral authority. He also publicly ranted against high income taxes in Germany, stating that most rich people would evade them by going to Austria and Switzerland. And that’s an option lower incomes do not have.

At the same time he pointed out that he himself didn’t. Irony? It’s not that simple. Unlike many of his peers he did pay his income tax in Germany. Tax evasion otherwise is a sport in Germany and quite a few public figures got caught when German tax offices started buying – the in itself illegally copied – CDs with bank records from tax havens like Switzerland. The most famous “victims” were women’s rights activist Alice Schwarza and former boss of Deutsche Post Klaus Zumwinkel. Unlike Uli they managed to manufacture an amended return before they officially got caught. So they got away with a fine. Uli Hoeneß was the first one prominent figure sentenced to jail.

The majority of Germans are quite pleased with this sentence. Finally a rich and famous person must face the consequences of his actions. It’s one way to look at this but quite frankly, I think they are wrong. I believe the sentence doesn’t do Uli Hoeneß justice.

A short recap of what this was all about: Last year Uli approached the tax office with an amended return. Initially it was thought he owed 3,5 million Euro to the tax office. This amount went up to 28 million during the 4 day trial. Others did pretty much the same and got away with it. Of course, the fact that the sum he owed went up significantly did not work in his favor. And 28 million Euro sounds like a lot of money. One could suspect criminal energy here. If you look at the details though, you will discover that it isn’t as bad as it looks.

Roughly ten years ago he parked some play money in Switzerland. I wouldn’t be surprised if his tax advisor encouraged him to do so. This money was earned and taxed though. Also he got some money from a “friend”. I am not sure what the status of that money is but it wasn’t an insane amount of money.

Uli started to play the stock market and – you can guess it – was very successful at first. At some stage he had almost 200 million in this account. Then, after 2005 he basically lost it all. The court case is about the money he made with investments before 2005! That he lost it afterwards was irrelevant. That he paid the insanely high German income tax on the millions he made in Germany by being a successful business man … irrelevant.

The court decided that Uli Hoeneß evaded tax. This he admitted from the start anyways. That the court sentenced him to 3,5 years in prison he probably did not expect beforehand and quite frankly; it seems very harsh. To me it looks like the judge wanted to make an example of him.

It certainly didn’t help that Uli previously ranted against colleagues and peers who broke the rules. In German there is an expression, when you lean too far out of the window. He did just that on many occasions. With his blustering in the past he opened himself wide up for retribution. Many people must have waited for a moment like this. I never particularly liked Uli Hoeneß but this looks like a raw deal. Sending him to jail is a bit too much for my liking.

He today announced that he will accept the sentence and step down as president of FC Bayern. I feel very sorry for him. I believe that prison should be reserved for criminals who hurt people. We have seen court rulings were people died and the person responsible got away with less than Mr. Hoeneß. That’s not right. While the whole republic is bashing him now there is at least a few people who feel, that this no way to thank a person who did an awful lot of good in his life and made one error of judgment a few years ago.

Shame on you people, that you are celebrating the court’s decision. Not having a chance to cheat on your taxes is different from making a conscious decision. I guess most of the people now stating that Uli got what he deserved, would do the same or even did so in the past. Who doesn’t try to get money back from the tax man. And I don’t even think this applies to Uli Hoeneß. He was probably just being stupid and thought, since there was no real gain in the long run, he is not obliged to pay for the profits he made at some stage. He certainly is not a bad person. He should be punished but I don’t think sending him to jail is appropriate.

No asylum for Edward Snowden

Posted by: Evil Kristos | February 12, 2014 | No Comments

The European Parliament today decided against granting Edward Snowden asylum and / or safe harbour on EU soil. To be precise the Committee for the Interior blocked the inclusion of a paragraph regarding the safety of Mr Snowden so the parliament does not actually have to vote.

From what I read the committee voted 33 to 7 with 17 abstentions. What I take from this; a committee prevented a proper vote in parliament regarding Mr Snowden. Within the committee there was a vast majority in favour of not being in favour of the notion but I am concerned that almost half the committee did not have the guts to say anything. Why a committee can actually prevent a vote about a subject many Europeans feel very strongly about remains a mystery. This is, what we in Europe call democracy?

I have a couple of things to say about this.

First of all: The average turnout of voters in the last election for European parliament (2009) was 43%. This tells us that 57% of eligible voters did not vote for this body. As far as I’m concerned this parliament should not even be there. If they can’t at least get 50% of the voters to get up on election Sunday they should all get sacked.

Secondly: We all applauded Edward Snowden for what he did. He basically sacrificed his future, very possibly risked his life to let us know that the Americans make Orwells big brother vision (1984) look like a pussy. They read our emails, hack in to our bank accounts, tap in to our phone calls. And we are allegedly allies.

If a Chinese dissident would come forward with this kind of information he would get a Nobel peace price and China most likely nuked. Edward Snowden does not even get our protection?

That our politicians initially didn’t care about the revelations we know. They only got pissed off when they realised they were being targeted themselves. I even understand their public ignorance. They probably participated in the spying against us the people. And of course there was nothing to gain for them. It is difficult for one country to make a stand against the US. To now learn that our United States of Europe still is so afraid of the US that they rather violate Edward Snowdens human rights than making a stand for him is more than just disappointing? I am disgusted and ashamed.

So, who do we have to thank for making us look like wimps? Well, we roughly know who voted how so lets have a look:

EVP and ECR (this includes all conservative parties so the likes of CDU and CSU) voted against the the notion.

The Social Democrats, who could have blocked this notion, did not do so. I therefore count their doing nothing as teaming up with the conservatives against the notion.

This leaves the left parties, the liberals and the Green party who voted in favour of granting Edward Snowden asylum.

The good news; there is a European election coming up. I will think very long and hard who will get my vote. I suggest you do the same.

The inevitable – Germany has Groko

Posted by: Evil Kristos | December 30, 2013 | No Comments

Germany has a new government and – as predicted – we have a great coalition between CDU and SPD. After 6 weeks of negotiations between the parties, they agreed to enter a the great coalition under the leadership of Angie Merkel. As if there was ever any doubt. I am tempted to call it “The worst case scenario”.

And we have a new word Groko. Its an abbreviation (more an abomination) and stands for Große Koalition – great coalition, except there is nothing great about it. It just means the current government has an overwhelming majority of 504 out of 631 seats in the Bundestag. It effectively means that there is no opposition anymore. Angie can rule like a queen.

There are a few lessons we learned. For a start: The Social Democrats (SPD) are a bunch of morons. They are so power-hungry that they forgot what became of them last time they entered a coalition with Angie and the Christian Democrats (CDU). They lost almost a third of their voter base.

Secondly and this is as scary: The two parties negotiated for 6 weeks and drafted a 180-page “treaty” that describes their plans for the next 4 years. Nothing in it is really binding so they wasted 6 weeks already doing absolutely nothing but writing a letter of intend. This is probably our prospect for the next 4 years: A lot of talking and absolutely no doing anything at all. Poor Germany.

Of course there are some good news as well. The Liberal Democrats got kicked out of the Bundestag. That was about time.

Even better, Ronald Pofalla is gone. He was Angies Chief of Staff and utterly useless. My favourite quote of him; after he went to the US to get some answers to Edward Snowdens NSA revelations and of what must be called the biggest spy scandal in history he stood in front of the press and told that he was assured there was no law broken so this affair is over. Of course that was right before Angie learned that even her phone was tapped.

With the FDP out it also means that Westerwelle is no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs. I consider this great news. He was most certainly the worst foreign minister of all times. Apart from alienating foreign nations he managed to remain unpopular in Germany. That’s quite an achievement considering that he had one of the most prestigious jobs the republic has to offer. Foreign ministers normally top the “most popular politicians charts” but not him. Frank-Walter Steinmeier is back and – quite frankly – he is good at this.

One interesting new assignment is our new Federal Minister of Defence. Ursula von der Leyen is the first woman becoming the first soldier in the country and my guess is she will be good at it. She has seven children and her becoming the “mother of the company” is just a question of time. She is probably the most capable of all the people in Angies cabinet so best of luck to her.

As for the rest … one way to put it is, none of us got the government we voted for. Conservatives have to live with SPD being part of the government, while the lefties have to live with the fact that Angie is still chancellor. But that is only one side of it.

The last election highlighted the flaws in our electoral system like no election before. Despite the majority the government has, the majority of eligible voters did not actually vote for this government. And I’ll prove it to you.

There is the 29,5 % of people who did not vote at all. Then we have to add these 15% of voters who voted for parties that did not make it into the new Bundestag. That’s 6,86 million votes that basically didn’t count. Adding to these 44.5% the 8.4% that voted for the Green Party and the 8.6% for the Left Party we have a staggering 61.5% of eligible voters that did not vote for a government that has the overwhelming majority (Roughly 80%!) in the current Bundestag. How is this even possible?

The CDU missed the absolute majority by only a few votes. Still looking at the numbers the CDU represents only about a third of German voters. What’s the point of running elections if a third of the votes could grant you absolute power? There is something seriously wrong in our so-called democracy.

All hail the Angie then.

Angie is pissed

Posted by: Evil Kristos | October 24, 2013 | No Comments

Since Edward Snowden first released details about the NSA and their attempt to monitor most of our internet traffic and even phone calls there has been a certain amount of outrage at the user end but almost no reaction from German politicians. They more or less acknowledged it, but there was no outcry. We could only suspect that this is because our local spooks used the NSA data as well. What legal construct they used to make this appear legal – it quite simply isn’t – we don’t know but our worst suspicions about big brother were confirmed.

When caught in the act most people blush and when there is no denying anyways, start confessing their sins. Not so our public servants in parliament. Quite the opposite actually.

Government official stated that no laws have been broken and that the US are or friends and allies. They tapped in to a few phone calls and monitor suspicious internet communication to fight terrorism. By doing this they allegedly prevented countless terrorist attacks. When asked for an example the minister could not name one of course but did not fail to point out, that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. A strange logic that is.

Even better was the advice to not use the internet for illegal things or to not publish any personal information if you do not wish to share it. We all know that most politicians are not exactly tech savvy but we also feel that – given the fact they don’t know shit about it – they should at least have to courtesy to not lecture us. Being beside the point is one thing, not knowing anything about something you are in charge off, a thing that can do potential harm to others is something else.

Shortly afterwards we learned that the NSA also hacked our online banking. At this stage even non-technical people did start to wonder when our elected government will start to act. We had to wonder for quite some time.

For you to understand how very much we wondered about our government in general and Angie in particular, how very much we were puzzled if not to say flabbergasted, let’s put this in to perspective.

Brazil for example, when they learned about the NSA surveillance efforts they summoned the US ambassador, immediately proposed an action plan to protect their infrastructure and on top president Roussef delivered a passionate speech at the UN complaining about the illegal spying.

France learned that 70 million French phone calls were recorded (in a single month?). Hollande summoned the US ambassador and the very next day he had Obama on the phone calling the spying among friends inacceptable. Strong words by diplomatic standards.

Germany learns that it is one of the NSA primary targets. Angie does … nothing. Her Minister of the Interior travels to the US, returns with a written confirmation form an NSA clerk that everything was legal and there was nothing to worry about. Not realizing that he was fobbed off he even tells this story to the press. One might ask why he travelled to Washington in the first place. He could have gotten this confirmation over the phone. Even worse; based on this “intel” the government decided that this is the end of the whole affair.

I mean WTF!

So far so bad but then something unexpected happened. Today we learned that the NSA was not only spying on us, the entire country but also an our beloved leader Angie the first and only. It looks like they tapped her phone. And now guess what. Angie is pissed off.

When I first heard it I almost pissed myself laughing. NOW she is pissed! What a surprise!

There is one thing I don’t get in this whole affair. Actually there are a few things I don’t get but let’s stick to this for the time being. Did the US really think they’d get away with it? What planet do they live on? Who needs an enemy when you have friends like this?

I guess one of the good things is that the German government finally had an epiphany. It dawned on them. They finally realized that the US government does not give a flying fart about their friends and allies in Europe. There is nothing special about our relationship.

The US is not sending killer drones and we trade but as far as government relations go … nothing. The US hardly has a government worth mentioning so what did we expect in the first place. Whoever awarded Obama the Nobel peace prize is probably kicking himself in the butt this very moment.

Call it irony but only a couple of days ago French president Francois Hollande asked Angie if she wants to support him against the US on the matter and she politely declined. Things have changed. Now that she is a victim herself she is calling the affair inacceptable and finally teamed up with Hollande to bring the subject on the agenda of the coming EU summit. Who would have thought?

Germany is „führerlos“

Posted by: Evil Kristos | October 9, 2013 | No Comments

As you may have heard, there was an election in Germany. Although utterly pointless – we all knew who is going to win this – we still went through with it.

To be honest, despite the odds I was looking forward to it. My last German election was Schröder running against Kohl, which is considered one of the toughest electoral battles in German history. A classic. Some people had to wait 18 years for the pleasure of seeing Kohl being send off. Others never even knew, that the position chancellor of Germany was up for a vote. All of their life Helmuth Kohl had been in that job. And he was crap at it. Despite what people say about him these days. When Schröder took over we did consider it a moment in history and in a good way.

The election campaign this year was a disappointment. Saying it was boring as f*ck would give it credit it does not deserve. The two big parties decided that a political program was not needed. What an insult. They were basically just showing their candidates in winning poses and with interchangeable buzzwords. They didn’t even try. The Pirates I would exclude here. They did try but had screwed up so badly early in the race that at that stage they were just wasting money.

To be fair; the CDU – despite having absolutely no political message at all – did a terrific job with their campaign (at least looking at the result). They didn’t even show the whole Angela Merkel, just her hands forming a diamond. I find it scary that they honestly thought that this was appropriate for an election campaign. I am aware that Angie – as we call her – doesn’t really have a plan or a vision. The Merkel diamond – this empty gesture – probably is what she and her party are all about: Nothing. But still! Show some respect!

They call her Mutti (mama) and that’s what she is. She is strict but of course never really mad at her own children (us the German people). She makes us (the German people) feel comfortable, warm, cozy and being looked after while at the same time scares the shit out of the neighbors.

Instead of giving directions she just waits where the majority goes and then shouts “Follow me” while running in that direction. That is why she is so dangerous and why Southern Europe – and rightfully so – is afraid of her. The crisis needs visions not turncoats.

A majority of German voters is either so disillusioned that they don’t care or so naive that they see it as her strength to have no political vision whatsoever. As long as Germany is winning many people probably don’t care.

When I say a majority by the way, I mean an almost absolute majority. She missed it by only a couple of seats. Considering that all the other parties relatively clearly stated that they are not interested in her job, this must be a bit disappointing for her.

Even worse, she lost her coalition partner. The FDP was voted out of the Bundestag first time in history. While I do find this entertaining it presents a problem for Angie. There are only 4 parties in the new Bundestag: CDU, SPD, Greens and Commies and none of the she particularly likes.

A big coalition is the most likely option but they would have an overwhelming majority, which is never a good idea. It would render opposition obsolete.

And if you look at it; technically a majority of Germany has voted left. Unfortunately neither Social Democrats (SPD) nor Green party fancy forming a coalition with the Communists. So one of the three has to swallow the bitter pill entering a coalition with Angie. The SPD when doing this 8 years ago lost almost a third of the vote coming out of the coalition, the FDP was kicked out of the Bundestag altogether. Would you fancy your chances with the Iron Lady?

As a result Germany currently has no government. There even is a possibility for a re-election. As a result Angie would probably get an absolute majority but the way I see it this would be good. Once there is no one else to blame people might realise how badly the last government sucked and that this is mainly the fault of our beloved chancellor.

Don’t get me wrong; I honestly believe that the Social Democrats suck even more. They think the rich (people with a job) should part with more money so the poor (people without a job) can have more. I’m no good with that idea at all. While I do have a job I don’t feel particularly rich. I get along and I do have to work hard for it. I should get credit for it not punishment. And this is what all the left parties get wrong. Even the people they do not want to tax higher – regular Joes like me – disagree with a higher income tax for the wealthy. It’s unfair.

Besides; a proposed higher income tax for the wealthy normally turns into a higher tax for the middle class while the really rich don’t pay anything. But that’s just a side note. The bottom line is, most people feel the country collects enough taxes. All the government has to do is not wasting it.

And for the Green Party; they have been in power before and the results were so disastrous that I honestly think, Mother Nature would not survive another green term. As far as I’m concerned the can go and hug trees somewhere else.

The Commies … at least they are entertaining. Of course they can promise what they want because they will never be in a position having to keep any of their promises, but at least they try. They do respect the voters expectation to be lied to during election campaign. My rule in such situations: Where a lie is appropriate and required at least have the courtesy of making an effort. Otherwise you insult the opposite side. From this perspective the commies did OK. Not that I’d vote for them but at least I felt respected.

So what’s left? Well nothing really. That’s the reason I was so disappointed by the campaigns. The German name for election campaign is Wahlkampf. It contains the word Kampf meaning fight. There was absolutely nothing fighty about the whole campaign. Boooooring and most disrespectful. They didn’t even come to my door. I would have loved to tell which hairy part of my body they can kiss. What a disgrace.

Being governed by a bunch of people I don’t care for … well I’m used to that. Not even getting a show for my money annoys me!

At least we are currently an anarchistic state; technically führerlos (without a leader). Hurray, even if it won’t last long.

The Berlin Airport disaster continues

Posted by: Evil Kristos | January 9, 2013 | No Comments

The word is out: BER – the new international airport for Berlin – will almost certainly not open in 2013 and it most likely won’t open in 2014 either. What a surprise.

With this new set back Berlins mayor Klaus Wowereit finally stepped down as chairman of the board of management. That of course won’t change anything and – let’s face it – was long overdue. He is being replaced with Matthias Platzeck – the premier of Brandenburg, the second stakeholder in the project. He knows as much about airports as Klaus Wowereit and he proved it. He was on the board the entire time meaning he is as much to blame as his predecessor. The airport director in charge of the project may get sacked but quite frankly, the sheer fact that he is still there is an outrage.

At least in August 2012 a new technical director was installed but at that stage the shipped had sailed. The facts this new technical director (Horst Amann) now presented to the public are shocking. The project failed on so many levels that one could ask at least two questions: a) What the f*ck and B) Who can we hold responsible? It is an insult to the taxpayers that have to foot the bill. And this stage most of us tax payers want to see someone going to jail for this.

So what’s the story?

Well it’s not that simple. Let’s start with recent events. The airport was supposed to open in June 2012. Two weeks before the grand opening day they called it off. TWO WEEKS! One would guess that they came pretty close to being ready if they only noticed the problems two weeks before the opening date but as we know now: They weren’t. A new date was set: Spring 2013. Then it was said more like October 2013. We know now that won’t be happening either which is what I suspected all along.

It took the new technical director 4 months to come up with the statement that the situation is somewhere in between difficult and shocking. You think that’s bad? He also said he will not name another opening date until he knows all the facts and that it will take at least another 6 months until they roughly know what is left to do and how long it will take. 10 months just to analyze the problem. And I believe him. It probably does take 10 months to find out just how badly this went.

Now more and more details are released and I am getting the impression that it would be cheaper to simply build a new airport. They even failed to plant the trees in the right spot. Who planned this? A chimp? And this where we are approaching the crux of the matter: Who was in charge of the project?

Well there are two ways to run a project like this. A) You can ask a professional. He will tell you a terminal will set you back 1 Billion Euro. That’s a lot of money and being a politician you have to sell it to the public. So you simply pull a figure out of your arse. The figure in this case was an estimated cost of 620 million Euro.

This figure you, a politician who couldn’t build a dog kennel in your backyard just pulled out of your arse, you present to the public and call it an estimate. Of course you will never find any professional who can do it for this price (or anyone with some sense) so you manage it yourself. That of course is our option B) Hope for the best knowing that when the shit finally hits the fan you most likely won’t be in charge anymore. At least you will never be held responsible for this utter failure.

As of today option B already cost 1.2 billion for the terminal alone and as we know this terminal is nowhere near ready. It failed the fire safety test and there are rumors the luggage handling system won’t cope with the anticipated number of passengers.

The terminal they built for 1.2 billion Euro and up until two weeks before the grand opening thought it would do is in fact so bad that at this stage a technical director looking at it for 4 month cannot say what needs to be done in order for this thing to actually be finished.

And all this happens in the capitol of Germany; the home of efficiency, the motherland of engineering, the world capitol off being a bunch of fecking smartasses that wants to tell the rest of Europe how to run their countries. If it wasn’t so sad you would laugh in their faces.

What annoys people most is probably that not one of the people involved feels in any way guilty or responsible. Klaus Wowereit, chairman since the very beginning of the construction, stepped down as chairman but not as mayor of Berlin. I am somewhat sure that he will be kicked out of office by either his own party or the voters but he himself obviously doesn’t see any failure or neglect on his part.

If he had any decency he would resign. But of course that would mean accepting responsibility for what happened. This he will not. The saddest part of this story is that the Berliners loved their mayor. He is the longest reining premier in Germany. 11 years without having any political message or idea. He was so likeable. One of his most famous quotes is: Berlin is poor but sexy. That’s how people felt in the German capitol. That feeling is gone and replaced by embarrassment. Wowi go home!

Why would you not upgrade your system to Windows 8? Well, I’ll tell you

Posted by: Evil Kristos | January 3, 2013 | No Comments

So far I was rather happy with the brand new Windows 8. 29.99 € is reasonable, the new look is rather cool, my crappy little laptop is running a little quicker and the upgrade is dead easy. So why would you not upgrade all your machines? Well, Microsoft won’t let you.

I shall explain.

While on holiday I wanted to upgrade the wife’s computer. I had nothing else to do and her laptop isn’t exactly flying either. I took the DVD and let Windows handle the rest. With my own mini laptop the procedure took a while but it did work rather well. Not this time though. After the upgrade was finished the new desktop look somewhat different and I couldn’t figure out why. The tile for the classic desktop for example was missing and on top there was no link to the app shop. For a while I was pretty much stuck. That was up until I rebooted.

Finally I was given the solution to why my user experience suddenly was pretty crappy. Microsoft had figured that I already used this copy of Windows on my other laptop so it only showed me a very limited version and on top now shows me a regular reminder to activate the system. Pardon my language but this sucks.

Don’t get me wrong. Microsoft has every right to ask for more money but to run the full update and only then tell me that I have to pay for another copy or live with the limited options is bollocks. At least give me an uninstall button and restore my old system.

The really sad part is that I actually tried to buy another copy and it wouldn’t let me. The checkout insisted that my post code is wrong. Excuse me?

It also showed the wrong price. That’s unless the second installation costs twice as much as the first. Fact is that I was stuck with a half-finished installation and I didn’t know how to undo the damage done to the system. So I started doing some research. Guess what? There are ways around the limitation.

For example; once you install Firefox and click the icon on the metro app surface it will switch to the classic desktop. Once there I managed to restore most of my applications. I kind of expected this to be done by the upgrade routine to be honest but at least they simply moved everything to a folder Most applications you can simply start from there.

Also you can get to the Microsoft App store without using the Store App. All you need is the link to one app. That ain’t so tricky to find out. Once there you can install all the metro apps you want and they do work. So the attempt to lock me out was a) futile and b) extremely stupid. If Microsoft honestly thinks the approach outlined here will make more people buy Windows 8 licenses they simply do not understand their customer base. I bought one Windows. I certainly will not buy a second one for my second computer. (Especially not at full price)

The restrictions in place now will most likely stop all system administrators that have more than just a couple of computers to look after from switching to Windows 8. Even with a corporate license they would have to individually activate each and every individual computer. And if you want to move a license from computer to another you apparently have to call Microsoft. Are they insane?

From my experience admins will rather use Windows XP for another two years and wait for Windows 9. As will I with my main laptop and PC by the way.

Nice try Microsoft. I like the system as such but it will fail on the basis that it is too restrictive. Most people have more than one computer. If you want to charge them twice they won’t give you any money. Being too f*cking anal will stop people altogether from switching to Windows 8 so don’t make this too difficult!

An honest mistake – Windows 8 now has a choice of browsers

Posted by: Evil Kristos | November 5, 2012 | No Comments

The first update for Windows 8 took me by surprise. Only a couple of days had passed since it was released so how could there be an update so critical it had to be forced? Well the answer is simple: The again forgot the “browser choice”.

Since the update when booting up the laptop a little add on pops up that requires me to pick a browser of choice. Although they do offer a good choice – half the browser mentioned there I never heard of – I find this a bit annoying. I guess they had no choice. The EU commission does have Microsoft on it’s sh*t list.

In case you never heard of it; back in the stone ages most people used Internet Explorer because it came preinstalled on their Windows PCs. Some bureaucrats thought that there can only be one explanation for it: The Microsoft Corporation abuses its dominant position in the PC market. So they started a lawsuit.

Needless to say Redmond didn’t give a damn and what followed was a long going argument between the EU commission and Microsoft over their preinstalled Internet Explorer. It ended with a record fine and Microsoft had to add a choice of alternative browser. That is part one of the story.

Part two of the story goes like this. In 2011 due to a technical error that feature disappeared from Windows 7. I honestly believe that nobody noticed the absence of this feature because it is bollocks to begin with. Very recently someone finally did notice and as a result the EU commission threatened MS with another massive fine. And don’t forget; they did pay an 899 million Euro fine already in 2009.

While someone at Microsoft was probably beaten with a stick for that mistake they also realized that Windows 8 doesn’t have that choice either. Considering the more than likely consequences they did a hotfix and forced it.

How do I feel about it? Well quite frankly, I am a little pissed off. The feud between Microsoft and the EU commission didn’t make much sense when it started and that situation hasn’t improved over the years. Let’s face it: Apple pre-installs Safari, Linux comes with Firefox. What’s the big deal? Even a complete moron can install a browser within a minute so the whole browser war between Microsoft and the EU commission is a total waste of time and resources. Adding a tool that informs me of the existence of other browsers is annoying me. I now have to uninstall it and it will probably return with every single update. ANNOYING!

The bureaucrat that started this whole argument probably typed the first draft of the lawsuit on a type writer. So dear politicians and pencil pushers, please stop this bullsh*t. People growing up in the computer age know how to use a computer. And we do know that Internet Explorer is shite. Look at the stats. Hardly any private person is using it. The vast majority of Internet Explorer use happens in companies. And they do it because they have more faith in Microsoft than Google or even worse a community written browser. You can’t blame them.

Fining a corporation billions for delivering their own browser with their own operating system because that browser may not be very good is insane. If I had anything to say in Microsoft I would sue the EU commission for bullying. Or why did you leave the corporations behind other operating systems alone? I tried Safari. It comes with iOS and it s*cks b*lls. Are you now going after Apple?

And that’s my final word.

PS. I now found two ways to disable the browser choice:

The easiest way to prevent the browser choice form being displayed every time you boot the PC is to simply disable it in auto start. Since you no longer have the “Start” button you might ask yourself how to get there. Well it is surprisingly easy. Search for it. Move the mouse to the right top corner of the screen and search for “task manager”. Or go to your classic desktop and press Ctrl + Alt + Delete. Within the task manager is a tab called startup. There you can disable the browser choice.

If you like it more difficult run the regedit and search for:

Create a new entry (right-click on the right pane) and choose “New DWORD“. Name it “Enable” and set the value to 0. Its will stop the Browser Choice screen from being displayed. Should for some reason you need to undo this set the value to 1.

Hands on Windows 8 – Today I run it on a Sony Vaio VGN-P21z

Posted by: Evil Kristos | October 30, 2012 | No Comments

Since Microsoft is pretty much giving away their new Windows 8 I decided to give it a go. I own a Sony Vaio subnotebook VGN-P21z which is very pretty and quite certainly as mobile as notebooks get BUT it isn’t designed for speed. It originally came with Windows Vista. If you ever tried to use Vista you how well that worked. Windows 7 was an improvement but still the little Vaio didn’t exactly fly.

From the Beta Tests I knew that Windows 8 once again improved in speed and weight so I reckoned it will be perfect for me. With 29.99 € for a Pro Version it wasn’t much of an investment either so I sat down on Sunday and updated my beloved little travel laptop. Here is my report.

The installation really is a piece of cake. Download the update manager from the Microsoft website. It takes it from there. What I really did like about it; update manager runs a thorough check of your hard and software and afterwards gives you a detailed report where conflicts may arise. I for example had to uninstall daemon tools. That hurt a little bit but I am sure an updated version will come out soon.

Once the update manager is satisfied (and only then) it will allow you to actually purchase Windows 8. I very much liked that approach. Check first, pay later.

The update went very smooth from there. It took forever but I reckon the Vaio is to blame for that. A couple of hours later I was all set and – believe or not – Windows 8 is quicker than Windows 7. Owning a small, cool and beautiful but annoyingly slow notebook you do appreciate even small improvements in performance.

I should mention that – once the download is completed – the install manager offers you a choice of updating the system immediately or create an ISO file which you can use to create an installation disc. I chose the ISO file of course. After I burned the DVD and the reinitialized the process the install continued exactly where I had left it. That is what I call a well-executed installation routine. I was very pleased with it.

One of the main reasons behind my update attempts was the hope for better performance. Good news! The laptop does boot up faster and from the standard desktop it seems to work better than before. There are a few drawbacks for early adopters of course. For the time being Internet Explorer is the browser of choice. It runs OK but it is hideous. I do not know if it is quicker than IE9 since I never used that in my life (the same applies to IE8 and IE7) but since Firefox is currently on Alpha and I am fed up with Chrome (which probably doesn’t have a Win8 version either) I pretty much have to use IE10 for now.

Generally speaking Windows 8 has two faces. The new and shiny desktop with its tiles is supposed to be the new Windows frontend. The choice of apps currently available is limited. And what’s available is slow. While I like the new approach Microsoft is taking the performance is questionable. Since the old desktop still exist (unless you buy the RT version) that’s not a problem. One click gets you to the old desktop with all the previously installed programs. The performance here is excellent. Even if you never want to use the new Windows frontend you will find the classic desktop faster than Windows 7.

You will have to learn a few new tricks with Windows 8. Of course that pisses people off but quite frankly; all in all I do like what they did. The idea behind the tiles is brilliant. Metro Apps are supposed to update these tiles with all the latest news. The email app will notify you of new mail and even give you a teaser, the social media app (currently flip toast is the app of choice there) automatically provides you with the latest Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn updates. I do like that a lot. Most of the apps currently available are not very good in using this killer feature though. I am sure this will change with time.

The only downside of this new look is that it was designed with mobiles in mind. All apps open in full screen. While you attach one app to the sidebar it still is a bit odd to use. I certainly like proper tabbed browsing so I tend to switch to the classic view for this purpose. I would prefer if Microsoft would make this optional so PC and laptop user can disable it. There is a chance that this is possible and I haven’t found it yet.

At first I was irritated because apps remained open all the time. It was rather complicated to close them. I now found out that you just have to grab the app at the top hold it with the mouse and swipe it down. That closes it. I am sure with time I will find solutions to all my minor issues.

The verdict then: I do like the new Windows. It looks good and is easy to use. Its strength certainly is the cross platform approach. Different devices can be synchronized easily. The “one for all” idea may not be popular with everyone but it is a step in the right direction. A few twitches here and there would improve the user experience for laptop and PC users but we should give it time before dissing the Redmond giant.

Worth mentioning is; Microsoft gives you a free cloud service called sky drive that can hold a few gigs. That’s nothing new but now integrated into the system. I’ll probably keep using Dropbox since my main PC runs Linux but I appreciate the thought.

My user experience improved with the new Windows. My small Vaio does run better with it and I do like the look. I do have two concerns though:

First: The overall performance of the metro apps is not impressive. I hope for an improvement there.

The second one is a more general concern. The new app store comes with certain rules. Bottom line is that you cannot add any adult content. By adult I don’t mean only nudity. Most games would not pass these house rules. Should Microsoft in the long run plan to get rid of the classic desktop – this thought was indeed raised in a number of forum articles – they will be in trouble. The main advantage they have over Apple is their open platform. Please Microsoft, keep it that way. There is nothing wrong with metro apps but if you want to remain the leading platform on stationery devices and laptops do not EVER change the classic Windows desktop.

If you do have a slow laptop or notebook like the Sony Vaio VGN-P21z I can absolutely recommend the update. And I suggest doing it now. Windows RT will be of no use since it doesn’t have the classic desktop. Windows 8 Pro will be considerably more expensive in the future. 29.99 € is money well spent.

I have spoken.

Death of an icon – the art house Tacheles in Berlin is gone

Posted by: Evil Kristos | September 4, 2012 | No Comments

This morning the famous art house Tacheles saw the eviction of the last tenants. This marks the end of a legal battle that lasted for years. The eviction was announced for today and the last tenants handed over their keys without any further resistance. A bailiff and the lawyers appointed by the owner HSH Nordbank entered the building 8 AM this morning and afterwards sealed the building. About 50 sympathizers accompanied the action along with a small police contingent that was put on guard just in case. The protest remained peaceful.

This is the sad end of a true icon of the Berlin art scene and subculture. The former department store was in ruins when in 1989 the wall came down. East German artists saved it from demolition by squatting it. It quickly turned into a meeting point for artists and the members of the Berlin subculture. Word spread and the Tacheles soon became not only a popular spot for artists but a tourist attraction.

Situated at the end of Oranienburger Straße it was part and highlight of the so called Scheunenviertel. The area in the early 90ies was a colorful mix of bars, restaurants, galleries but also a popular spot for prostitutes. The area could be described as a showcase for the coolness and hipness of the new reunited Berlin. East Berlins artist and intellectuals met western liberty and found a very unique solution to the question of what to do with the new found freedom. Sure it was somewhat shady but it was also new and exciting. Tourists and Berliners alike loved it and the whole area turned into a magnet and must see in Berlin.

In the years to come most of the former East Berlin city center was modernized. So was Oranienburger Straße. Many of the locals, often long term residents fell victim to this popularity. What started with increased rents soon turned in to a model case for the gentrification of a whole district. Tacheles was probably the last remaining example of these glorious days that started in the 1990ies. To see it closing down saddens many locals even if they haven’t been there in ages.

The good old days, when Berlin was a hot spot for the creative starvelings, people with ideas but no money, when Berlin for a few years was home of the bohemian world, are obviously coming to an end.

Berlin may now be the creative heart and soul of Germany but I very much doubt it would be what it is without places like the Tacheles. The local politicians should be ashamed. It is hard to believe that they let an icon like the Tacheles die. As long as the can waste billions for prestige projects there should be enough money to preserve Berlins cultural heritage and identity.

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