South Portugal: Algarve and its beaches

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Do I need to say more? Algarve and the south of Portugal really has a nice collection of picture-perfect beaches like for example the one in the image above. Even though the weather wasn’t all that great, it was good enough to enjoy the swimming and get some sunburn. But while the coast scenery is so great one must also say that the place is VERY touristic. Albufeira for example is full of English bars and Irish pubs! You won’t find pastelarias e confeitarias there, instead you’ll have to enjoy a big English breakfast (we actually ended up going to the supermarket…). We also noticed that Algarve has a large collection of resorts, with some of them being as big as a small town! No shitty and abandoned houses there, only nice green grass, perfect houses, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, good dressed people and expensive food. Okay, I might have enjoyed the sauna, and it’s nice to see some off the luxury, but actually I don’t like it as it is all very fake. It’s not Portugal at all, it’s something artificial. People that go to Algarve and say they’ve been in Portugal, well, try some other cities up north and wake up…

So, although I liked the trip, I’m stuck with a double feeling because Portugal is actually much different (and poorer) than the resorts will let you believe. But if you really like to see it once I’d say go there but know that it’s very touristic. Oh, and try the local dish caled Cataplana, it’s very good at some places.

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Portugal and its Fado music

As a tourist Fado is one of the things you should definitely try to see once. Fado?

Fado (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈfaðu], “destiny, fate”) is a music genre which can be traced to the 1820s in Portugal, but probably with much earlier origins. Fado historian and scholar Rui Vieira Nery states that “the only reliable information on the history of Fado was orally transmitted and goes back to the 1820s and 1830s at best. But even that information was frequently modified within the generational transmission process that made it reach us today.”[1] In popular belief, fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a characteristic sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia (loosely captured by the word saudade, or “longing”). However, although the origins are difficult to trace, today fado is regarded, by many, as simply a form of song which can be about anything, but must follow a certain structure. The music is usually linked to the Portuguese word saudade which symbolizes the feeling of loss (a permanent, irreparable loss and its consequent lifelong damage). Famous singers of fado include Amália Rodrigues, Carlos do Carmo, Mariza, Mafalda Arnauth, Ana Moura and Cristina Branco.

Thank you Wikipedia. For myself, I can appreciate this kind of music… once in a while 😉 In Porto, there are many places where you can find it, we found it in the ‘restaurante típico o fado porto’. E agora, musica!

Admin site revisited

For now I’ve added a basic user interaction console method which allows to send commands  and receive responses from the XBee network. I would like to add more functionality but it is kind of hard to include specific handlers for every XBee AT command because there are really a lot. I’ll have to team up with other people involved in this project to discuss what functionality we want to support and which ones we would like to ignore and handle with the Digi software. Furthermore I also experimented a bit more with other Java Servlet webservers… As said, Glassfish really takes a lot of time to startup, same counts for Tomcat. If stumbled upon 2 more webserver applications (Jetty & Winstone) which should be a less of a burden to run. Winstone seems to be the lightest one of the two but I failed to get it running. Furthermore, this Winstone project doesn’t seem to be updated any longer, but I managed to get the Jetty webserver up and running on the Raspberry-pi and I also managed to deploy my first JSP website on the remote (Raspberry-pi) webserver. After launching the necessary processes I got the following response in my webbrowser:

Screenshot from 2013-05-14 14:41:43

For development purposes however I’ll continue to use the Glassfish webserver on my desktop computer as this one can easily be integrated into Netbeans while Jetty is currently not supported. I’ll also add a Netbeans build command which automatically copies the compiled .war website to the Jetty webserver so that I only need to “git push-pull” my code after compilation if I wanted to test it on the Raspberry-pi.

So, another goal completed, what’s left:
– make the xbee server aware of it’s connected devices
– add a command line page to the admin site
– add GUI configuration possibilities through the admin side
– add more database filtering options

This week however I’ll be writing more text for the thesis than writing program code, and next weekend I’m visiting the south coast of Portugal in between Faro and Sagres. Até à proxima!

Migrating to the Raspberry-Pi, part 2

Like I said, I was getting closer to my end-goal. What I have so far is a Java application which launches two service threads: one which handles TCP/IP requests and one which handles the IO. There is also a database connected to this server application and in case IO samples are received they will be saved in this database. I also made a JSP website which is capable of displaying the database data and should soon also be capable of sending TCP/IP requests to the TCP/IP service.

HOWEVER! It seems that the glassfish webserver is quite a burden to run on the Raspberry-Pi, the pages are showing but launching the service takes roughly 5 minutes. I have to find some lightweight service which offers the same functionality. But, this is something I’ll do later: as my deadline is coming nearer and nearer I’ll have to wrap up my work and put it into a test environment where I simulate a real life scenario. My next goal will be to make the service flexible in a way that once the application is running the user can dynamically adjust the configuration and stuff like this. I’ll have to program a console function which will allow the user to set up the XBee network and later on I can add the a more user friendly interface by using the JSP website as frontend.

Anyway, this week we have the Queima Das Fitas, a week full of ‘festivalitis’, and later on I have 3 more weeks to finish so I’m not sure if I’ll get all of  this working before the deadline (because in the meantime I also need to write up the thesis).


In between Porto and Lisboa

Previous weekend we made a little trip by car, visiting coastal places, towns and cities on the road in between Porto and Lisboa. We went to places like Nazaré, Peniche, Leiria, Figueira da Foz and Coimbra.

Nazaré is a nice small town near the ocean which has the old town center high on top of the cliffs while the commercial part of this town is located down near the beach.

Nazaré (photo from

Nazaré is also know because of the recent world record of ‘highest surfed wave’, where Garrett McNamara took a 100 foot (30 meters) high wave on the 29th of January.

Peniche is also a place where a lot of surfers go to. There is the annual world championship and the town itself is surrounded by cliffs and Atlantic ocean water, there is also the nice GeekCo where we stayed.

Peniche (photo by

Leiria is more in land and has a nice old castle and cathedral to visit. From the castle you also have a good view on the nearby soccer stadium which is very colorful.

Leiria castle (photo by

Coimbra can in some ways by compared to Porto. The city center is also very step to walk through and you have a lot of schools and universaties there, a botanical garden, bars and disco’s, good restaurants, a shopping street and there is also a river going through the town. Founded in 1290 Coimbra actually has one of the oldest universities in Europe. There is also the old Roman city that you can visit, so if you have the time you should definitely go to Coimbra.

Coimbra (photo by )

Here we also got served a very good local dish called Chanfana. It’s meat that has been put in wine for 3 days and afterwards cooked for 4-6 hours. It actually looks very very familiar with the dish called ‘stoofvlees’ that we have in Belgium!

Chanfana (photo