Sunday, January 30, 2011

CHAMPIONS !

At the end of a hard season, Freeplay Energy are league champions and We couldn't have scripted it better.

It was down to the wire on the last game of the season. Emirates Catering versus Freeplay Energy. First place versus second place. One goal difference.

We started off the game feeling really "up for it", fully confident of a win. Our movement was good, we were solid at the back and we were looking for the breakthrough. Emirates Catering, however, were no slouches. They were fast and nimble, and it turned out to be us who conceded first. In a tight opening 10 minutes, they made the breakthrough and before the half was over Emirates Catering were 2-0 up!

The second half was when the magic happened. We started off nervously. We knew we couldn't afford to concede another and a quick goal for us was vital for us to get back in to the game ... but for 10 minutes it wasn't coming. But we persevered, and when we finally scored, we relaxed and goals 2 and 3 weren't far behind. With the pressure now on the other foot, Emirates Catering tensed up and we relaxed into our game. Our passing was quick and sharp and we had time on the ball, and as Emirates Catering put all they could into getting an equaliser, we struck the killer blow.

Freeplay Energy 4, Emirates Catering 2.

A happy and proud day for the team.

Our Cliff won the award (well deservedly) for goalkeeper of the season, and our Rob missed the golden boot by one goal.

Well played and thanks for the season to the whole team !

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Moscow Domodedovo - 48 hours after the blast !

Sitting in the airport lounge, just 48 hours after the devastating and deadly blast that rocked Moscow Domodedovo airport, things are eerily quiet!

I landed 3 days ago, exactly 24 hours before the blast. It's a regular trip for me and I pass through the arrivals hall practically every month. So when I heard the news of this horrific bomb attack, I was stunned. Stunned that it happened exactly in between a 3 day trip of mine and stunned that it happened in a place I am so familiar with.

It is not altogether shocking this happened, and to be fair, it could have happened anywhere in the world. The number of crowded places there are in every busy city around the world that do not have any security becomes frightening when an example like this is set.

Moscow was of course a target because of the politics between the Russian government and the regions in the Caucuses, but I put these events down each time to sick individuals (or groups). What can be gained by killing random innocent civilians? No sympathy is gained and no cause furthered.

I had dinner last night with some people from my Moscow office and I asked them there opinion of these events. The answers were a mix of anger and acceptance.

Anger ... partly to the government and security forces, but far more towards the criminals who commit such acts, and acceptance that this is now something Muscovites have to live with. Inevitability that such events are a part of life"! I understand this point, having grown up in London during the peak of the IRA London bombings. It is sad to say that one can become almost desensitised to such occurrences.

So today I left the office to take my flight back home. Of course I was apprehensive. While not believing that lightening strikes twice, the bomb 2 days ago was so prominent, so close and so lethal that caution had to be at the front of my mind.

Another reason for apprehension was the simple practicality of what I would face upon my arrival at Domodedovo. I imagined lines of people standing outside the airport in the -15 degree cold, all being thoroughly searched before entering the airport. I imagined the aggressive police harassing all "foreign looking" people for documents, and imagined total chaos in general with flight delays due to increased security and the bureaucracy that goes along with that...

... but there was none of this !

Pulling up in the car outside, the airport looked deserted. Not many cars at all and no change in allowing them to stop freely immediately in front of the terminal.

Entering the terminal, there were indeed body and baggage scanners set up, but well inside the terminal to allow people in from the harsh winter while they waited in line. Notably, while they waited in line patiently and orderly. There was a subdued silence and an acceptance that this had to be done, and I was pleased to see it being done efficiently, politely and the lines moved along smoothly and swiftly.

Once inside, it was business as usual, but uncharacteristically quiet. I would guess it was 30% as busy as usual, and other than this, you couldn’t imagine that this facility had been rocked by 7kg's of TNT 48 hours earlier ... Well done to Domodedovo for not letting these fundamentalists bring the airport to a standstill!

Check in was fast, no additional checks, and the same with passport control and passenger security. There was extra diligence in ensuring all belts and shoes came off, and the odd additional pat down after the body scanner, but that was it. It was actually nothing more than regular US based travellers face with air travel as a routine!

So now I'm in the lounge with 2 hours to kill, having allowed plenty of time in anticipation of the chaos. I'm not disappointed, but somewhat disheartened. At the callousness and cowardice of this terrorist act and those that carried it out, and that we have to live in a world and society with an undue amount of caution. This is nothing new, but we all get on with our lives and routines and the bad memories fade away and we just accept things the way they are ... until a painful reminder like this comes along and puts it all top of mind again.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What happened in Vegas .... my review of CES 2011.

I am back in Dubai now and the 24 hour journey home was the perfect time for me to summarise my thoughts and impressions on the CES show this year.

First of the bat, the show was packed. Heaving with people. After 2 years of business frugality, this show (for one) was back, and the consequences outside the show were very apparent. A shortage of hotel rooms, massive taxi lines and lines at tehe monorail. Packed corridors in the show making it hot and uncomfortable, and lines into every eatery and coffee shop within spitting distance of the convention center.

LG were making the most of the huge attendance this year.

I started by visiting the Central Hall. The place where all the "big brands" are. Sony, Samsung, LG etc... and I saw what was expected. The big push on 3D and tablets.

3D has certainly come a long way. The picture quality has improved from all brands. Much less flicker, better overall quality and much less tiring on the eyes.

There were ever improving designs in TV's as well, and the displays put on by these industry giants was impressive indeed.

A spectacular display of TV's by LG

Samsung's new TV's where the screen goes within millimeters of the edge.

While all the hype was around the 3D developments, in my opinion, the most up and coming "technology" was the "connected TV". Every major brand had a solution to allow your main screen in the home to get connected to the internet and home networks. In addition, Google TV seems to have made some inroads and was also present in many places. I believe that this technology has come of age and is going to seriously change the way we watch TV and consider programming.

Sony pushing internet connected TV's very hard.

There were a couple of displays of "glasses free" 3D and these gave quite impressive results. If this development continues (which it will), I can't see the current crop of 3D TV's doing too well. Surely people are going to wait for the version without glasses !

The next “big thing” that was expected to dominate the show was tablets, and we weren’t let down. There was an abundance of them, but I struggle to understand how they differentiate from each other, although Samsung made a great effort with a model that has a sliding keyboard.


open fully like a traditional laptop

folding flat, the keyboard can slide away under the screen

Most of the tablets on display were Android based, the pick of this Android bunch being the beautiful Motorola Xoom. A number of Windows tablets were also on display, and then of course there is the much awaited Blackberry Playbook. A lovely looking and well styled small tablet that does differentiate itself from the iPad benchmark. It is well set up and targeted strongly at businesses as an ideal “companion” product to a Blackberry smartphone. I was sceptical on the Playbook initially, from articles I had read, but after some "hands on" time with it, I was impressed. The integration with the Blackberry smartphones is superbly executed and this device is going to keep Blackberry in the fight against Apple and Android. A launch date of Q1 is set and a variety of cases and accessories also lined up already to accompany the launch.

The Blackberry Playbook


A display of cases already available.

Moving away from the main hall gave a chance to look at some more novel items and some interesting innovations, but not before going through a whole section of Apple support products. It is incredible to see just how many businesses have been created (and flourish) exclusively by making iPod, iPhone or iPad accessories. Cases, dockers, stands, additional batteries and chargers etc…

Just one example of a stand with a plethora of i -cases
... and thats all they do!

So for the rest of the show there was plenty on display, but much of it unremarkable. However, particular stands and moments stood out ... and here they are, in no particular order:

The excellent AR Drone in action. A "quadracopter" which is controlled by an iPod / iPad, with cameras front and bottom.

Shocking new laptop colours from Sony.

A battery powered R8.

A robot massager !

Angry Birds ... from digital to analogue !

Remote balls controlled by .... you guessed it, an iPod.

Very neat and clever docking stations for iPhones

It was an interesting show overall, but unfortunately rather predictable. No real breakthrough technologies or "wow" ideas, which left me a little disappointed and underwhelmed by the whole thing.

Nevertheless, after 3 days of walking, my feet need a rest and I do come away with some nice memories, especially from the lighter side of the show ….

Classic views of Vegas ... The Mirage volcano erupting !

CNBC Live at CES
Maria Bartiromo interviewing Sony's CEO, Howard Stringer.

Some demostrations of Microsoft's excellent Kinect controller, but people look bizarre when playing with it !

Plenty of showmanship on display - Lady GaGa ... or is it ?

Street dancing.

A totally string free guitar !

The strong arm of the Las Vegas law ....

Till next year!