Woolworth’s in Germany

The Woolworth’s chain was very much in the news in the run up to Christmas in the UK. Now, it seems, it is the turn of the German Woolworth’s to enter the world of financial turmoil. Last week it was announced that they had registered the company as insolvency – a step that is similar to filing for bankruptcy, whilst at the same time giving them a chance to carry on trading under strict conditions in the hope of finding a solution to their problems.

My first visit to a German branch of Woolworth’s (technically they are called just “Woolworth”) was in Kleve, near the Dutch border, and during my first years in Germany I was a frequent visitor to the store in Bad Homburg. However, in recent years I have rarely gone there except to buy things that I have not been able to get anywhere else. Indeed, the location at the top end of the Louisenstrasse – the main pedestrian area – means that it is somewhat off the beaten track if you are only in the town centre for a short time.

Possibly there lies the problem. Much of the media criticised the UK company as being modern enough, saying that the stores had not moved with the times. The German media has been making the same sort of claims this week, and yet the two companies were completely separate entities.

Whilst the Woolworths Group PLC in the UK had already split from the main US company in 1982, it took until 1998 for the German “DWW Deutsche Woolworth GmbH & Co. OHG” to follow suit. Since then the German company has modernised the cash desks and introduced new store concepts.

But this, it sadly seems, was just not enough.

News from Photokina

As a viewer of geekbrief.tv, I was interested to hear Germany get a mention this week.  The reason was the Photokina trade fair taking place in Cologne.

For some reason, their presenter Cali doesn’t feel that there is anything new on the news feeds from the fair – I beg to differ and took a look at the news coming out of Cologne.  I also went to the Photokina part of another show taking place in Gießen at the same time to see some things for myself.

New versions of Adobe Products

Adobe showed CS4 versions of their products Photoshop, After Effects, and Premiere Pro. They use OpenGL2.0 to speed up zooming, turning the desktop, moving images, anti-aliasing and some 3D effects. They require a PC with at minimum of 128MB graphics memory. The Premiere Pro utilises NVIDIA Quatro graphics cards to make video effects quicker to calculate. It also allows more than one HD-stream to edited at a time.

GPS camera add-on

There are some high-end cameras on the market that have the ability to ‘tag’ pictures with the GPS co-ordinates of the location that the photo was taken.  These tend to be expensive and GPS is normally not a reason to buy a new camera.

A company called Jobo have invented a GPS receiver that sits on top of your camera and records the co-ordinates separately.  The data is later converged with the photos back on the PC rather than in the camera intself.

37.5 Megapixels

A single-lens-reflex-camera from Leica offering 37.5 megapixels was being shown.  It is expected to be released in Summer 2009. It has a 3 inch display and is waterproof and dustproof – two vital elements for taking it hiking with me.  But do I really need 37.5 megapixels?

The digital camera testcard

Visitors to Photokina received a free digital camera testcard (in A0 format: 841×1189mm) with which they can check out features of their camera. See it at http://6mpixel.org/?p=351 – non visitors can order it within Germany for 20EUR+VAT.

Make your own TV show

As much as I like the idea of a GPS tagger and the testcard, this one has to be my favourite of the week: make.tv. The site offer flash-based video editing, which at the moment is free.  What I particularly like is the fact that cameras can be at different locations but the output is mixed from a single computer.  The finished video podcast can then be streamed from the make.tv server.

It’s something that I’d like to try out in a future project!

British troops in Germany

You don’t encounter that many British troops in Germany these days, at least not in my part of the country.

This week I read an article about troops in northern Germany leaving after 63 years, and it brought back memories of the life in the 1980s, when there were many more of them here.

I remember…

– cars with number plates with red borders, showing that they had been registered overseas

– listening to BFBS during visits to Germany

– encountering members of the British forces on the ferries between Dover and Zeebrugge, returning to their basis after time in the UK

– it being perfectly normal to meet members of the British forces when out and about in German towns

Can you imagine that happening today?  In today’s security climate I can’t image troops travelling in uniform in specially-marked cars and going shopping without putting on civilian clothes first!

Germany was close enough to home to go on holiday to, and thus troops were not so far away from home, a situation that the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq unfortunately can’t enjoy.

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