Ubuntu: Export albums purchased in iTunes on an iPhone

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If you plug your iPhone into an Ubuntu PC, you have access to a surprising level of the iPhone’s filesystem compared to when it’s plugged into a Windows PC.

In the screenshot below you can see that you not only have access to photos but also to things like purchased music and videos:iphone plugged in
Unfortunately when you enter the “Purchases” directory, you see your audio files are all in a single directory with strange numeric file names (see below).

purchased filesLuckily there’s a lot of information stored about each track in its corresponding .plist file. These plist files are in binary format, and I used the python library “biplist” to decode them:

>>> import biplist
>>> biplist.readPlist(’2828528520093492367.plist’)
{‘vendorId’: 1196, ‘playlistId’: 308856531, ‘releaseDate’: ’2002-01-01T00:00:00Z’, ‘artistId’: 5972064, ‘playlistName’: ‘Random Thoughts’, ‘year’: 2002, ‘duration’: 478920, ‘copyright’: u’\u2117 2002 Aleph Zero Records’, ‘artistName’: ‘Entheogenic’, ‘comments’: ‘(Shulman Remix)’, ‘trackCount’: 9, ‘drmVersionNumber’: 0, ‘genreId’: 7, ‘discNumber’: 1, ‘bitRate’: 128, ‘asset-info’: {‘file-size’: 17234221, ‘flavor’: ‘HQ’}, ‘discCount’: 1, ‘playlistArtistName’: ‘Shulman’, ‘com.apple.iTunesStore.downloadInfo’: {‘purchaseDate’: ’2013-11-01T08:14:06Z’, ‘accountInfo’: {‘AccountAvailableServiceTypes’: 0, ‘AccountSource’: ‘device’, ‘AccountSocialEnabled’: False, ‘AccountURLBagType’: ‘production’, ‘AccountKind’: 0, ‘AccountServiceTypes’: 0, ‘CreditDisplayString’: ”}, ‘artworkAssetFilename’: ’2757288414121063428.jpg’,  ‘mediaAssetFilename’: ‘-4087773303197301311.m4a’}, ‘trackNumber’: 5, ‘genre’: ‘Electronic’, ‘versionRestrictions’: 16843008, ‘itemId’: 308856677, ‘kind’: ‘song’, ‘explicit’: 0, ‘s’: 143472, ‘fileExtension’: ‘m4a’, ‘sampleRate’: 44100, ‘itemName’: ‘Spaced (Shulman Remix)’}

As you can see the track’s album art picture file name is stored as the value of ‘artworkAssetFilename’ and the track’s audio file name is stored as the value of ‘mediaAssetFilename’.

I wrote a quick script to read the plist data and then copy the track into an album directory, renaming it and embedding album art and other ID3v2 tags using mutagen library. The script depends on biplist and mutagen:

sudo apt-get install python-mutagen

sudo apt-get install python-setuptools

sudo easy_install biplist

The script is available here: https://gist.github.com/carelvwyk/7278213

Or you can download it here: album_export.py

Category: Coding, iphone

Heroku Resque Auto-Scaling

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Resque is a library often used by Ruby on Rails developers for creating and handling background tasks. Background tasks require a system process separate from the main rails process to execute tasks. These separate processes are called “workers”.

Heroku supports such workers, but it can be quite expensive if a worker runs all the time ($35 per month per worker at time of writing). I needed a way to automatically spawn workers on Heroku when enqueuing background jobs, and then kill those workers once the jobs are completed. This way I only pay per second for the amount of time the workers really need to be active.

I adapted the information found in http://blog.darkhax.com/2010/07/30/auto-scale-your-resque-workers-on-heroku to work with the “heroku-api” gem instead of the deprecated “heroku” gem.

Continue reading

Category: Coding

Sending a class 0 or flash SMS with the iPhone

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A class 0 SMS (or Flash SMS) is an SMS that is automatically opened and displayed on the recipient’s phone without being saved in the inbox. On Nokia phones and Blackberries there are usually an option to save a received flash SMS, but on iPhones there are only a big “Dismiss” button and best of all the sender’s number is not displayed! This means you can use this technique for much mischief…

Class 0 SMS on iPhone

On the left is an example of a Flash SMS received on an iPhone. As you can see there is no option to save it or view the sender’s number. On other phones the sender’s number is displayed.

You need a jailbroken iPhone for this to work. First read the page here:http://xsellize.com/topic/25209-flash-sms-on-iphone/
It shows you how to install Minicom from cydia and configure it to connect to /dev/tty.debug .
The post is informative but lacks three important pieces of information.

1. First step: mkdir /usr/etc
2. Before entering “at”, first press down and hold in spacebar until the cursor starts moving. You need to do this to “get the attention” of the /dev/tty.debug modem otherwise it’s just going to ignore everything you send it.
3. When crafting your Flash SMS using http://rednaxela.net/pdu.php , SMSC should be 0 and Receiver is the number of the person you’re sending the message to. Remember to set message class to 0.

Once the modem is responding to your commands in Minicom, simply enter the following:
AT+CMGF=0
AT+CMGS=(number from the site in the “Hex PDU message” column)
> (Paste the characters from the pdu site but do not press enter)
Press Ctrl+Z

That’s it. Enjoy!

Category: Cellphone, communication, iphone | Tags: ,

Started coding a game (isometric view, low res, retro style RPG)

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Against my better judgement I started working on a game called “Durune”: http://bitbucket.org/carel/durune-dev/wiki/Home

The idea is to create an Ultima 8 2.5D clone but with today’s awesome shader and other graphics effects. Of course the storyline will rock :)

Category: Programming | Tags: , ,

Windows 7 install guide + App lineup (Vostro 1700)

Win7In one of my previous posts, I wrote about my decision on whether it would be ok for me to get a free copy of windows 7 (Reason: I payed for an OS that should have been what Win7 is but received Vista instead) or not. In the end I acquired a legal and legit version of Win7. I decided that since I’m installing a clean OS for the first time in 2 years, that I would do everything right this time. I’d get only the best tools for the job. This post is about which applications works the best in Win7.

Installation:

Installing from DVD is slow and outdated. I followed Kevin’s post to create a bootable flash drive from which to install Win7. Not only is it faster than installing from DVD, but it makes it easy to add critical drivers to the install beforehand.

On Dell’s site, it is mentioned that Windows 7 is not supported on my Vostro 1700. If you’re searching around and trying to find out whether it is, I have good news: It is, and works very well. There is one catch though, search for a download for this driver: AHCI driver Intel(R) 82801 PCI Bridge – 2448 (I think I got mine from a Lenovo driver website). Make sure the driver is for windows 7 or Vista, not XP.

Extract and put the driver files on a flash drive (or the installation flash drive if you’re following that method). Without this driver, the windows 7 installation will complain about not being able to access the DVD-rom and fail.

Drivers:

I was surprised to see that Win7 detected and installed all drivers correctly for the Vostro 1700 except for one: The memory card reader. Just download the Ricoh card reader driver from dell.com: R234107

Install it, then download and install the latest display driver from nvidia.com and everything is perfectly set up and good to go. I sometimes have a problem where my headphones don’t want to work, but it doesn’t happen often.

Optimising settings:

Disable Autoplay: The first thing I do with a clean windows install is disabled autoplay (autorun) as it increases the risk of virus infection. Go to control panel -> hardware and sound -> autoplay and disable it.

Speed up boot process: If you have a multi-core system, you can reduce boot time by telling Win7 to use more cores for booting up. Open msconfig (winkey+r -> msconfig -> boot tab -> Advanced options -> Check “Number of Processors” and select the number of cores you have. Apply. This worked very well for me. Also see: http://www.intowindows.com/how-to-speed-up-windows-7-boot/

System protection:

I looked around and read reviews to find the best anti-virus and system protection suite available. At the moment it looks like the highest recommendation is for Avira (free) or Avast (free), with AVG (free) also being popular. But there’s a new player in the anti-virus arena which gets very favourable reviews from Microsoft called “Microsoft Security Essentials”. I’ve been very happy with AVG for over 5 years but decided to try out MSE this time and I have to say it’s pretty good. I don’t know the hit and detection rates off the top of my head, but to me it’s more important that AV not use too much resources, otherwise I might as well have a virus bogging down my PC. MSE is light-weight and non-intrusive.

Boot time:

At this point, my boot process takes about 35 seconds and the following processes show up in process explorer: mmc.exe, explorer.exe, dwm.exe, taskhost.exe, nvvsvc.exe, winlogon.exe, csrss.exe, msseces.exe

App Lineup:

Since I’m installing a fresh OS, I wanted just the best apps for the job so after much reading and review I’ve compiled this list. I am not going to go into detail why each is better than alternative applications, you can look it up for yourself. You just have to trust me that most of these apps are better than their alternatives.

  • Antivirus: Microsoft Security Essentials (for the reason stated above). You can also try Avira, Avast or AVG.(all free)
  • Video player: MPC-HC (mediaplayer classic home cinema) + FFDShow-tryout. In case you’re wondering, yes, this is better than VLC which I have used for many years. There’s lengthy discussion as to why MPC-HC is the best, however most forums just mention that the best video player is MPC with FFDshow. The problem is that MPC and FFDshow are dead projects and haven’t been maintained for years. I feel that people who don’t explicitly state that you have to use MPC-HC (branch of MPC) and FFDshow-tryout (branch of ffdshow) are contributing to the problem of people using crappy players. Get qtlite if you need quicktime video support. (all free)
  • Audio Player: Foobar2000. This is not debateable. Especially with the foo_w7shell plugin which integrates it nicely with Win7. Along with a clean OS installation, I’ve begun the massive task of properly organizing and tagging all my music using the extremely useful tagging tool: Musicbrainz Picard. With foobar2000, all this organizing pays off. (free)
  • Web browser: Mozilla Firefox. I’m sure many will disagree that Firefox is the best browser, but that’s not what I am saying. Firefox + firefox plugins simply provides an unrivaled browser combination. Chrome may be better than vanilla firefox, but firefox with the following plugins installed simply make it the best: Weave (online password/bookmark/settings synchronization), NoScript, PasswordMaker and Tree-style tab(!). If you can live without these plugins, then you might as well rather use Chrome which is snappier and more stable.(free)
  • E-mail reader: None. I haven’t found an email client that doesn’t suck. Just use the gmail web interface.
  • IM client: Digsby. Actually, this one is a case of preference. I like miranda-im and pidgin more, but digsby provides a vital feature that the others do not: E-mail notification. I do not want to run more than one app for communications notification and Digsby integrates e-mail, IM networks, twitter, myspace chat and facebook chat, everything but Skype in one app. The interface design could be a little cleaner, but it’s low on system resources and snappy enough.(free)
  • File manager: Altap Servant Salamander. This is a two-pane file manager similar to Total commander. This is probably the single app I use the most. Unfortunately it’s not free. ($37)
  • CD/DVD image mounting: Virtual Clone Drive I just like it a little more than daemon tools because it doesn’t require a restart to install and it uses less system resources. It doesn’t have all the emulation support Daemon Tools have though. (free)
  • CD/DVD burning: InfraRecorder or ImgBurn. Both are small (Under 4MB), lightweight, and have all of the features of bloated commercial pacakges like Nero. Apparently InfraRecorder is the more user-friendly one and ImgBurn is the hardcore one. (both free)
  • PDF Reader: Foxit PDF Reader. Far smaller and less bloated than Adobe Acrobat. A giant improvement over Adobe’s own PDF reader.(free)

If you think you know of an app that’s better than one of those in the list above, please leave a comment.

HDDCoffee

HDDCoffeeAs mentioned in my my previous post where I review the Samsung Story station, this external harddrive suffers from an annoying flaw: The drive spins down after 5 minutes of inactivity. This is highly irritating when watching a video, pausing it and trying to resume it after just 5 minutes. Notable hard disks that also suffer from this problem are some of the Western Digital WD Mybook external drives. The problem is that manufacturers provide no way to disable this annoying “feature”. Googling reveals there are many people who have a problem with their hard disks shutting down or spinning down and entering power savings mode after a couple of minutes, and I don’t really like any of the solutions presented.

So I coded HDDCoffee. It keeps your drive awake by accessing it every couple of minutes. The access interval is user defined. The program is coded in C#.NET and aimed to be light-weight and unobtrusive. It runs in your system tray and takes up minimal resources.

The app starts minimized, so just double click its icon in your system tray to select the drives it should keep awake and the access interval. Minimize it and the power-save problem is history. Download it here: HDDCoffee (HDDCoffee.zip 80KB)

HDDCoffee screenshot

HDDCoffee screenshot

You may notice that HDDCoffee is not licensed. This is because it’s barely 100 lines of code and anybody could write it in 30 minutes. If you like it, please leave a comment here. If you want to share it, be my guest. If you want to sell it, all the best!

Category: Uncategorized

Samsung Story Station HX-DU015EB Review

443026STORY_perspective_225_195

I recently acquired the 1.5TB Samsung Story station (HX-DU015EB) and I really couldn’t be happier. Initially I wanted to go for the Seagate Freeagent of the same capacity, but after seeing an almost 50% negative review rating on both newegg and amazon.com I decided to go with the Samsung instead which got excellent reviews.

The problem with the Freeagent is that the enclosure is terribly designed. Lack of padding, air-flow and heat-dissipation accumulates into a disastrous mix of  factors that result in a far higher-than-normal rate of failure. Please note that I’m not saying Seagate is bad, there’s nothing wrong with the drive inside the Freeagent, in fact the 3.5″ Seagate it’s based on is quite impressive. It is the enclosure that’s the main cause of the troubles, and unfortunately you just can’t get past that.

Enter the Samsung Story station: housing one of Samsung’s Ecogreen drives spinning at only 5400rpm it might not be the fastest beast on the planet but it does have two major advantages over the Freeagent: It runs quiet and cool. Since I only have a USB2 port available on my laptop, the lower read and write speeds didn’t bother me as the USB transfer rate would be the bottleneck anyway. Low noise levels and reliability are far higher concerns for me and in these categories the story station ranks highly. The external enclosure itself is pretty decent for its price and helps keep the drive cool with its brushed metal cover and air vents, and (to a degree) less vulnerable to small bumps with its internal padding.

I couldn’t be happier with the Samsung, but it does have one major drawback: In Samsung’s eternal wisdom and compassion for the planet, they decided to introduce a power-save feature that spins down the drive after 5 minutes of inactivity. I’ve read on forums that the Western Digital Mybook external drives also suffer from this flaw, although it seems their spin-down timer is longer. Unfortunately, this power saving mode can not be adjusted or disabled, and this makes for some frustrating video viewing when you pause for longer than 5 mins and have to wait for the drive to spin up again when you want to resume watching. Samsung, if you’re listening: for the love of Dawkins PLEASE LET US DISABLE POWERSAVE MODE. Fortunately the solution is a 30 minute coding session with HDDCoffee as the result (keeps your drive awake). I’ll write about it in my next blog post.

Category: Uncategorized

Google maps finally supporting route calculation in South Africa!

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After many years of not being able to use the route calculation function of google maps, South Africans can finally enjoy this feature. See for yourself: http://maps.google.co.za/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=paarl+taalmonument&daddr=Rhodes+Memorial,+Newlands+(Rhodes+Memorial)&hl=en&geocode=%3BCR2AVoP530HiFYTt-f0dfakZASH5KK4sIWv79A&mra=pe&mrcr=0&sll=-33.827075,18.679504&sspn=0.478576,0.920105&ie=UTF8&ll=-33.865284,18.694611&spn=0.478362,0.920105&z=11

Category: Uncategorized

To pirate or not to pirate?

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If you don’t like reading long posts, here is a quick summary: I’m not saying piracy is good. In terms of gains vs risks, piracy makes more sense than purchasing for individuals. For the individual, piracy is purely a moral issue.

START OF POST:

With the release of Windows 7 today, I had a discussion with my friend about why it is important to purchase legal software and support the developer. While arguing with him that there is no good argument for piracy, I realized with a shock that there is no good argument against piracy either.

I invite your input on this controversial claim, but let’s leave morals out of the discussion for just one second and look at this purely in terms of personal gains vs personal risks.
Pro’s of piracy:

  • You get software/media for free that would have cost you money otherwise or that you might not have been able to afford.
  • If you pirate a product and it doesn’t work on your system, doesn’t work as you expected, or is of inferior quality then there is no loss to you.
  • You get software/media that is not restricted or crippled by DRM and annoying splash screens/ads/anti-piracy announcements/menus that can’t be skipped.
  • You can get access to software/media that is not available in your country at the time.
  • There is almost no risk of being caught.

Con’s of piracy:

  • Pirated software may be more difficult to update and could lead to vulnerabilities and malware infections.
  • In the highly unlikely event that you are caught, you could face civil (not criminal) charges as long as you weren’t making money from it.

A brief look at the pro’s and con’s of obtaining media and software via file-sharing networks makes it clear that the piracy option delivers relatively massive gains for almost zero risk. Just in terms of capitalist financial theory, it doesn’t make sense for you to pay for software or media at all! What it boils down to is that if piracy is not an economic or legal issue, then the decision to pirate or not is entirely a moral issue.

Now I challenge you to make a single argument against piracy that is not in some way based on morals or ethics. For instance, you might point to the popular anti-piracy slogan “You wouldn’t steal a car”, but stealing a car is very different economically speaking. Morally, it is just as wrong to copy software as stealing a physical object, however stealing a physical object involves vastly more amounts of risk. The gains are still high, but the risk involved in stealing something becomes a much bigger factor than in the case of copying bits of data. So, again leaving morals out of it, stealing a car’s gain/risk ratio is just far lower than the gain/risk ratio for piracy and economically speaking the risk is just too high for most people to consider it. Also, stealing a car deprives somebody of their possession, but copying a CD still leaves the original owner with it to do with as he pleases.

You could say that piracy damages the economy, and thus influence us all adversely, but this is not necessarily true. The vast majority of entertainment and software that is purchased in South Africa is produced overseas. Every single sale of an international product sends money from home to another country and out of our economy thereby decreasing our GDP and contributing to a trade deficit.

Are you saying I should pirate?

No! What I’m saying is that piracy is morally wrong, but there’s no real non-moral argument against downloading a movie/music/game/software. There’s not really even a point to this post, other than it being a challenge for you to prove me wrong.

Support developers and creators of entertainment. They deserve it. Show your support by giving them your money and encouraging them to deliver more and better products. On the flip side, if you buy a movie and it sucks, or you spend a bunch of money on a game and it doesn’t deliver, or a R150 CD only has one good song, or Microsoft asks your R1500 for an OS that Vista should have been when you bought it, then where is your moral compensation for that? hmmm?

Category: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Best reason why RICA will fail

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If you don’t know what RICA is, don’t worry, not very many people aside from the internet community actually knows about it. Have a look at http://www.vodacom.co.za/rica/index.jsp. Basically, it means you have to register your name, surname, ID number and home address to your cellphone number by the end of 2010, otherwise you will get disconnected.

Now there are already hundreds of posts and comments about how this is a totally unfeasible initiative, how it’s childish to think it would do anything to help fight crime, and how the idiot that thought it would be a good idea should be fired immediately, but I haven’t seen anybody make the most obvious argument against it yet, which is this:

There is no way for an operator to distinguish between a prepaid user living in a home with access to TV/newspapers/the internet and a prepaid user living in a shack in the middle of nowhere. FICA worked because it involves money, if you don’t have money you don’t have to worry about it. RICA on the other hand affects -all- people, and you can’t make arbitrary rules like “people in rural and informal settlements don’t have to comply” or “people in informal settlements can provide the address of the nearest school/church instead” (yes, RICA actually says that), because you physically can’t tell who is who.

Statement one: It is impossible to force at least one user on your network to register his address.
Statement two: One user is indistinguishable from another (All users are the same).
Conclusion: It is impossible to force any user on your network to register his address.

If you can’t get the people with no permanent home address to comply, and you cannot distinguish them from people with permanent residence, it is impossible to force anyone to comply. The only alternative is to disconnect -all- users. Let’s see how well that turns out if that happens…

The solution: Just don’t comply. You still have about 17 months anyway, so rather wait and see how it plays out.

A South African’s guide to Prague

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Old Town Swuare

Old Town Square

Prague is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. If you ever have the slightest chance of visiting it, do so. It will be an unforgettable experience.

When visiting a country, I want to have the facts beforehand to prepare myself, and it is notoriously difficult to find all the practical info you need, even online at Tripadvisor, Travelwiki, etc. So I’ll just tell you exactly what you’ll need and what you can expect as a South African.

Money
You will be needing Czech Koruny (CZK) to pay for things in Prague, since attempting to pay in Euros is often considered an insult and will not be accepted in most places. Buying Euros with the intent of exchanging it in Prague is foolish, there are exchange kiosks everywhere but they will always rip you off unless you exchange more than 5000 euros. Buying Czech Koruny in ZA will take a while for them to order it for you, and you will lose money on the exchange rate (ZA banks give you 1.6% less per rand than the actual international exchange rate on all currencies) and you’ll pay 1.5-2% commission on top of that.

Far easier and cost effective is to take your Visa/Mastercard and draw money at a Prague ATM when you need it. The service fee is about 75CZK per withdrawal and you will get the actual international exchange rate instead of the ZA banks ripoff rate.

Communication
If you just want to be able to SMS, enable SMS roaming on your Vodacom SIM by SMSing “ROAMON” to 123. You will be able to receive and send SMSes from ZA as normal.

Otherwise, buy a Czech SIM card at the airport for 200 CZK  which gives you 200 CZK worth of airtime. You can ask the salesperson to switch you to a plan that’s more optimized for local calls/messages or more optimized for international communication. I asked the salesperson to load my SIM with a 100MB data bundle from the balance on the SIM, which worked out to under R1/MB. Not bad for mobile data in a European country. A data bundle is vital if you have a smartphone with a GPS. This will make navigation a pleasure.

Navigation and transport
Get yourself an iPhone, seriously. GPS + google maps + cheap Czech SIM is such an epic win combination it’s not even funny. If you have the 3G, take along a good old fashion analogue compass since it is sometimes hard to judge in which direction you are going in a cramped city. Pick up a map or two from your hotel and the subway stations, different maps show different information.

Prague has four major modes of public transportation: Trams, Trains, Bus and Taxis. Avoid taxi’s if you can, especially hailing one from the street. Czech taxi drivers are notorious for trying to rip you off, and a trip from the airport to your hotel could cost 750CZK where you could do it on 40 CZK using the bus/train. A public transport ticket available from dispensers at the subway entrances are valid for all Trams, trains and busses. A 18 CZK ticket is valid for 30 mins, 28 CZK for 75 mins, 100 CZK for 24 hours. If you have a large suitcase, you will need a “half-price” ticket for the luggage along with your own. The tickets must be stamped the first time you get on a tram/bus/train otherwise you could be fined 500CZK. It is easy to figure out how the trains and trams run from a decent map, so do that as soon as you get some time. To get from the airport to Prague, buy a 28CZK + 13CZK(luggage) ticket and take the 119 bus to Dejvicka. That’s the first terminal for the green subway line. From there you can take the subway into the city and onto other subways/tram lines using the same tickets.

Food and Drink
Maybe I just visited the wrong restaurants, but coming from South Africa, Czech food did not impress. Czech is big on pork, poultry, dumplings and more recently on fish. Even though I never had a bad meal, nothing really stood out and wow’ed me. Beware of non-itemized bills. Even though most eating establishments are friendly and honest, there are some tourist traps that will try to exploit you using sneaky methods. At some places, if you don’t ask the waiter to take the bread basket on your table away, you could be charged for it per-person. The one evening we ate at Staromacek restaurant near the old town square which is a “traditional czech restaurant” and they charged us 180 CZK for two bread baskets that we didn’t even eat of. We didn’t give the waiter a tip, because he tried to hide the charge from us by putting it in the middle of a list of non-itemized amounts and not notifying us of it.

As far as beer goes, Czech is big on Pilsner. Stay away from tourist traps that charge 50CZK for 500ml (50cl as they like to say), you can easily get it for 35CZK or less if you just walk a couple of meters towards Charles Bridge or away from the old town square. A good price for the same glass of beer is anything from 25CZK to 30CZK. The Pilsner was a little bitter at first, but I soon fell in love and was sad to leave it behind when I had to come back. Be sure to visit Novomestsky Pivovar (www.npivovar.za), they brew awesome dark beer and also light beer. Kozel is also very nice if you can find it.

There are three czech spirits you will most definitely read about: Becherovka, Fernet Stock and Slivovice (plum brandy). You might also see that Czech is one of two places that still legally sell proper absinth. The downside is that any absinth you buy in Prague that costs less than your left testicle is utter crap, so buy the “King of Spirits” brand with a picture of Van Gogh on the front if you can afford it, otherwise just don’t bother. Definitely try a shot of Becherovka, it is quite unique. You can buy a 700ml bottle at a tourist shop for 330CZK or in Tesco for a lot cheaper, like 260CZK. E.g. a 1l bottle costs 420CZK on the street and 320CZK at Tesco. Fernet Stock is like Jagermeister, except that it doesn’t dissolve your teeth. Slivovice is like our own “mampoer”. These spirits definitely impressed and is well worth trying out.

Accomodation
I don’t have much experience with backpackers/inns/etc, but I can say that the Czech people are very generous with their hotel star ratings. A night’s stay in a “four star” hotel is cheap enough and you’ll sleep comfortably but don’t expect too much. I stayed in Hotel Athena Palace and can definitely recommend it for its hospitality and location.

General Impression
Unbelievable experience. Prague brings you closer to your own humanity in that it shows you more about who we are as a species and what we can achieve. If that doesn’t make sense, you’ll have to go and see for yourself. Apart from the obvious tourist attractions, the two most unique and special places I was in Prague is Reon‘s art gallery on Petrin Hill and the cathedral/park with giant statues at Vysehrad. Even though Prague is very obviously tourist oriented, you can still visit places where you’ll feel like a part of the land if you just go a couple of km’s by tram.

As always, questions/comments welcome.