May 20 2012

How Fast And Where?

Category: Kazakh Driving,Kazakhstan,PersonalChrisM @ 11:10 pm

For a few weeks now, I have been meaning to write a post about a shop here in Astana that sells car accessories. Before you scroll down to the next post too quickly, for anyone living here in Kazakhstan, or interested in GPS systems, you may want to carry on reading a little while longer…
The shop is called “AvtoNavigator”, and the staff member we have dealt with most of the time is called Oleg. I’ll try and find their contact details and amend this post/tweet them later. Anyway, first of all, why have I wanted a GPS system, as well as a in-car video recording system for our car? Well the GPS answer has two parts, and the first is quite obvious – if I end up lost in the city (easier than you might think, should a random road on a familiar route be closed), I want to ensure I can either easily get home/to a landmark I recognise, so I can re-orient myself quickly, or at the very least, phone Irina and explain which road I am on, and where would she recommend heading to. The second part of answer as to why I wanted a GPS system also ties in neatly with the camera; if a policeman pulls me over, and I believe his assessment of my driving may be based more upon a current financial shortfall he is suffering, as compared to an actual offence having taken place, I would like to a) Have cinematic proof that I did not cross a double white line/drive through a red light and b) Have my exact location and speed recorded. (I am using Navitel’s Navigator software and maps, which allows me to constantly record the track I’m taking, and analyze it later with Google Earth for example. Now, if someone tries to make a claim for a road traffic accident, and says that I was driving at 90km/hr, on the wrong side of the road, when I breezed through a red light, and consequently, I’m to blame for our cars colliding, I can turn around and provide proof that their memory is at best fuzzy, if not trying to make an outright lie seem like the truth.
There is the possibility that should push ever come to shove, the device’s evidence will be over-ruled by any witness who makes a counter claim as to the truth, but just having the peace of mind that I can replay videos at the scene should hopefully be enough to calm my nerves, and avoid confrontation on Astana’s roads.


Anyway, back to AvtoNavigator, the first GPS device I purchased from them has been working out well (a similar device purchased in Almaty died very quickly, and had a few software issues), and the initial selection process was made very easy. Oleg knew his stock well, and after explaining which features/specifications were important to us, he narrowed it down to a few devices. Rather than trying to sell us the most expensive, or simply pointing at a whole shelf, he honestly explained which ones he thought would be worth looking at, and of some use should a vehicle accident occur. Although we were not as lucky with the in-car video recording system (which reminds me, I still want to put a few videos up on YouTube when I get the time), he again didn’t try and suggest that the more expensive models were best suited to our needs, and admitted that the Chinese manufactured items sometimes had variable quality across different batches. As it turns out, we returned a couple of different models, until we found one that was reasonably good, and as long as we kept the paperwork, and the device hadn’t obviously been mistreated, the whole swapping process was incredibly quick. A lot better than I’d expect from some UK stores, certainly.
I’ll try and write a post or two on the software modifications I’ve carried out on the GPS device (it is Windows CE-based, so reasonably easy to fiddle with), as well as some beta-testing I’ve carried out for a programmer from the XDA developers forum. Anyway, enough for now, I need to crack on with some other work and try and save some money up for a possible future trip – more to come on that once I know how things stand!

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May 28 2010

Shoplifters To Terrorists

Category: In The MediaChrisM @ 8:55 pm

Another vague tie in to Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 again (a game I’ve been playing recently), as I came across a piece on high tech surveillance techniques that could be in use on battlefields within just a few years.
The fact that this concerns me less than behaviour-analysing CCTV systems that were touted in the last couple of years for domestic use is probably a purely selfish instinct. I’m not likely to ever find myself in a potential war zone, whereas the thought of being flagged for a higher level of scrutiny whilst wandering around a UK high street or shopping centre creeps me out a little. The end results should dictate a reversal of concern levels though – after all, if a security guard/policeman takes an interest in my shopping in Cheltenham or Swansea, I’m never going to encounter a predator missile suddenly being aimed at me. If the software or operators make a mistake in Afghanistan/Pakistan though, the error could lead to loss of life, not just an inconvenience.

Not Modern Warfare 2

The MW2 reference was that the article originally caught my attention as one of the photos reminded me of a level I’m trying to complete right now. Hopefully DanD will be able to come over again soon, as playing with two controllers isn’t particularly easy.

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Jul 01 2009

contd…. Us “so you/they won…

Category: TweetsChrisM @ 7:14 pm

Us “so you/they won’t tolerate us walking near them to get to the park?”
Police “no”

Policeman was polite at least 🙂

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Jun 29 2009

Visitors, Straddling New White Lines, Posters and Yurts

Category: Kazakh Driving,KazakhstanChrisM @ 5:50 pm

You can definitely tell that there are foreign visitors about to arrive in Astana (there is the “III (I’m assuming that means 3rd?) Congress of leaders of world and traditional religions” – you can normally tell when a phrase is directly translated into English from Russian, rather than re-worded to sound more natural). The white lines on the roads are re-painted, even car parks get neat new spaces clearly marked out. Any billboard posters with our beloved president’s face on tend to be replaced (at least temporarily) with normal business adverts, or motivational ‘Astana city for the future’ type messages. You can tell when the big wigs have actually arrived though, as you’ll spot a lot more policeman at traffic junctions, sometimes ‘helping’ the flow of traffic by turning off the lights, other times ensuring that as a VIP’s car cruises down the road that no other traffic is met. The easiest way to tell when a VVIP is around? The motorcades get to drive on the wrong side of the road, with scores of cars, ambulances, motorbikes and 4x4s flanking the actual limo.
Anyway, we’re off in a moment to get and inspect the progress of the preparations for Astana day in the park opposite us – there are a lot more yurts there now, on raised platforms, and they seem to be making progress with the huge scaled up yurt in one corner. We have already taken a few pictures of the erecting process for yurts, and the mock castle walls at the pedestrian entrance to the park, I’ll try and post them soon.

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Oct 06 2008

Failure Videos

Category: VideosChrisM @ 5:14 pm

These are all taken from the Fail Blog

First we have a home shopping fail. Well to be honest, the product is a big fail, but I think the male presenter should be applauded for his professionalism following the incident – not only does he carry on talking, he also continues trying to sell the product!

Now we have a frisk fail. Slightly NSFW in that your speakers will utter the word penis, but other than that nothing dodgy. Quite why it was stowed at such an angle, I’m not sure, but I guess the policeman will be a little more cautious next time 🙂

Another police fail, this time due to a handbrake not being applied.

Finally, we have a news reader thinking on her feet, trying to describe a scene following job losses. To suggest the men were play acting consolation is pushing it a bit though 🙂

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May 29 2008

Car Rules Changing

Category: Kazakh DrivingChrisM @ 1:26 am

Kazakhstan recently tightened up car regulations. For example, the main and front side windows can no longer have tinted glass. This has led to policeman pulling over even posh looking cars, with important businessmen in the back, and instructing the chauffeur he can not continue the journey until he strips off the film. Quite what they do when they come across the odd car that actually has tinted glass, rather than just the post-factory film stuck to normal glass, I’m not sure.
It also appears that motorists must turn on their headlights at all times of day, at least on roads outside of the city. Unfortunately, there is still no sign of people being forced to wear seat belts, and many cars can be seen driving around with broken tail lights and curtains in the rear window. (To keep the temperature down. I can see the logic, but you are supposed to be aware of the traffic behind you when driving…)

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Jul 08 2007

Astana Day 2007 #1

Category: Friends,Kazakhstan,Personal,PicturesChrisM @ 7:01 pm

Here is the first post on the evening we all spent out at a concert to celebrate the President’s birthday and also the day Kazakhstan celebrates it’s capital city, Astana. It has now been nine and a half years since it replaced Almaty as the capital city. The evening started off with a walk from the in-law’s house to the area where the Presidential palace is. Alex got her first real taste of the Kazakh system of non-queueing. Even though we were going to an area where only a few people had tickets to get into, so we could all sit and watch the concert, there was the usual crush, as dozens of people tried to get through the metal detector etc. We had a pregnant woman faint next to us, big fat blokes trying to squash everyone through a small gap between the policeman and barriers.
Anyway, enough of the typing, onto the photos…

Sky Ballet Astana Day 2007 Kazakhstan
This was spectacular, there were two people suspended from a crane, doing ballet type moves in time with the music. There were no harnesses or a safety net; unfortunately I missed grabbing a shot of when the woman was just holding on the man, without her own rope…

Gala Concert Astana Day 2007 Kazakhstan
That is a shot of the stage, with one of the bands that played that night.

Laser Show Astana Day 2007 Kazakhstan
Finally (for this post at least), we have a shot of the laser show, although the camera does not really do it justice. I hope to upload a video of some of the Concert, including the Rio carnival!

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May 26 2007

Life Continuing Probability Rises!

Category: Kazakh Driving,Personal,PicturesChrisM @ 12:30 am

Long term readers of this blog will remember from previous posts on driving in Kazakhstan that crossing the road, especially in front of our flat is a scary experience.
Well today I noticed that cars were seemingly randomly slowing down and even stopping on the road, with people crossing. As I couldn’t see a policeman anywhere, I couldn’t figure out what was going on till the daylight disappeared – it looks like they have installed a proper pedestrian crossing 🙂 🙂 🙂
This may not seem like much to any American or British readers, but trust me, go ask Mum, John, Nick, Dad or ChrisD if you need to hear just how much things differ over here… I’ve said it before, imagine a UK motorway with no central barrier, and even the zebra crossing at the other end of the road doesn’t cause drivers to stop – if you are lucky, they will slow down enough for you to wonder about the driver in the next lane across. No more 🙂

New Traffic Lights Installed On Sary Arka

Please excuse the low quality piccie, it is night time without a flash, and zoomed in – I’ll try and get a better quality picture tomorrow daytime. Slightly better quality picture now 🙂

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May 17 2007

Virtual Light

Category: BooksChrisM @ 4:06 am

Virtual Light – William Gibson

Having finished Neuromancer, I was definitely ready for more Gibson. This book is also classed as cyber punk by some, but I found the characters to be more tangible and felt like I actually cared what happened to them more than in Neuromancer.
Virtual Light is the first of three novels set in a not-too distant future, in San Francisco. The famous Golden Gate bridge has been unofficially reassigned as a place for the homeless, rejecters of contemporary society and criminals to live and do their business. Rydell, a policeman, is assigned to stop a burglary in a high class home, but all is not as it seems, as when he arrives on the scene, he catches the gardener and wife (NOT the gardeners) in flagrante delicto!
The role of the media and multi-national corporates are in focus in this book, with ‘Cops In Trouble’ (a somewhat trashy, tabloid reality TV show) wanting Rydell as their beau (of the moment), but once again, events conspire to severely complicate the cop’s life.

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May 08 2007

Rising Sun

Category: BooksChrisM @ 12:15 am

Rising Sun – Michael Crichton

Having not read one of Chrichton’s books in a long time, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up this novel. The basic plot outline is that a woman (most definitely not a lady) has been killed in an office tower, and on the night of the opening party for a Japanese firm. The standard ‘cop-investigating-a-murder’ section starts here, though the Japanese involvement helps to keep the story fresh, without too many clichés. The policeman is assisted by another (ex? its been a while since I read it, sorry) cop who is very experienced with Japanese culture, and is helpful as a plot device, to explain to readers some of the intricacies of the Japanese way of doing business.
If you find unabashed xenophobic writing, even in fiction, distasteful, I’d recommend giving this book a miss. If you are happy to read this novel for the suspense, and not dwell on the Japan bashing, I’d definitely say you should buy it. The writing style is compact, without too much superfluous descriptive paragraphs. Although slightly predictable in places, the plot chugs along nicely.

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